Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Tales of Risotto

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Several years ago I visited Lake Como and was given a cookbook “Tales of Risotto, Culinary Adventures from Villa d’ Este”.

Tales of Risotto

Tales of Risotto

It includes 50 risotto recipes typical of northern Italy; and has some worthwhile tips. While most risotto recipes call for Arborio rice, this book recommends Carnaroli rice.  Although Carnaroli might have been selected because of geographic preferences, the authors point out that the rice has an advantage. Carnaroli rice doesn’t get mushy as you overcook it; which is a real plus for the home chef because you don’t need to watch it as closely as the more popular Arborio.

Carnaroli Rice

Most risotto recipes begin with sauteing onions or shallots in olive oil, but this cookbook suggests using butter. We should not be surprised, because butter is often substituted for olive oil in northern Italy. Although the butter will not make the dish more dietetic, it does make the risotto rich and creamy.

Lastly, while you constantly read how Italians frown on adding cheese to seafood dishes; this cookbook heartily recommends fresh Parmesan cheese be added to seafood risottos.

I made a Shrimp risotto with asparagus; and I added a healthy amount of Parmigiano Reggiano on top.

Risotto with Shrimp & Asparagus

Carnaroli rice, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano will make your shrimp risotto delizioso.

Carrots – Boil, Steam or Roast?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

While we are all anticipating the arrival of Spring vegetables, I think we still have a few more weeks. I suggest that we stick to the classics like carrots. But should we boil, steam or roast them?


I prefer roasted carrots because the caramelization heightens the flavor. Usually I just add olive oil, dill, salt and pepper and roast the carrots at a high temperature. But I have 2 other variations that you might find interesting.

To brighten the flavor of the carrots, while also adding a touch of sweetness, I add a few splashes of pear or fig vinegar (Il Fustino is a good for vinegars)to the above mixture.

Another way to roast your carrots is to add spices; which will  add more complexity. I add cumin, coriander, paprika, and a touch cayenne pepper. These Turkish seasonings add an earthiness and a bit of zip.


Champagne & The Oscars

Friday, February 15th, 2013

The 85th Academy Awards is Sunday February 24th and I’m hoping for a great show. I’ll be cheering for the cast of Silver Linings Playbook; they were all sensational.

The Oscars are a celebration and what better way to enjoy it than to toast with a glass of Champagne. Although “Champagne” must officially come from the Champagne region of France, I’m referring to all sparkling wines. Champagne doesn’t have to be served with caviar; it goes equally well with egg rolls or popcorn.

So what bubbly should you serve on Oscar night? I have asked 4 friends, each with over 20 years of experience in the wine industry, to suggest a favorite or two…

Phill D’Ancona picks Taittinger ($50), a true classic from the Champagne region, which not only tastes great but it’s also sophisticated. He also likes a more budget friendly option, Carpene Malvolte Prosecco ($15) from northern Italy.

Taittinger Champagne


Tom Clare recommends Iron Horse ($30), a standout from Sonoma County. Iron Horse has been served at the White House for the past 5 consecutive presidential administrations.

Winnie Burwell thinks that color is important for the Oscars;  and therefore suggests two roses.  Calixte Cremant d’Alsace Rose ($20) from the Alsace region makes stunning wines and won the gold medal at the Effervescent du Monde 2011. The second is  Maso Martis Brut Rose ($35) from northern Italy.

Bill Malloy selects an Italian wine with very sleek packaging, but promises a high quality experience as well. His choice is Voga Sparkling wine ($16) from the Veneto. This wine is sexy and would be great for Oscar night.

I am going to start my Oscar night with an appetizer of goat cheese, thyme, pink peppercorns, and a crusty bread; here is the recipe from Bon Appetit.

Thanks to our wine aficionados; these are some terrific options for the award show.  Enjoy and Cheers!



Cooking with Mike Colameco

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Chef Mike Colameco taught a cooking class last night at the Viking showroom in NYC. This class is part of a series sponsored by the 92nd Street Y. Last night’s focus was on One Pot Winter Dinners.

Chef Mike Colameco

Mike started his career as a chef in the ’70’s, and his first job was at The Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. Currently he is hosting “Mike Colameco’s Real Food”  on PBS, “Food Talk” on WOR Radio, and is the author of “Mike Colameco’s Food Lover’s Guide to New York City”. He certainly has a few years of cooking under his belt, but that’s not why he is such a good teacher. He has the perfect temperament with such a warm conversational manner. He intentionally does not hand out recipes because he prefers that the class focuses on technique. He wants everybody to understand how to make substitutions based on what is available at the market, and not follow a fixed recipe.

There were about 40 students in class, and it was a demonstration rather than a hands-on class. At first I thought that this would not be very effective, but in hindsight I think you can learn more. In a hands-on class you are too busy peeling carrots and focusing on just one aspect of the meal, rather than seeing the big picture. I thoroughly enjoyed the class; and learned a few things.

He prepared two dishes last night. The first was lentils with root vegetables and merguez sausage.  Merguez is a spicy sausage that can be found at Pino’s Prime Meats on Sullivan Street and occasionally at the Union Square Farmers market.The lentil dish included celeriac, carrots, onions and turnips. So simple. Start by sauteing the onions for a few minutes and then add the root vegetables. After 5 minutes or so he added lentils and water (use twice as much water as lentils). Cover and cook for 35 minutes. After the first 25 minutes, add the sausage on top of the vegetables to steam (sauteing the sausage would add more flavor, but that’s one more pot). When almost finished add chopped parsley on  top. The dish was both healthy and hearty, and got a big kick of spice from the sausage.

Hearty Lentil Dish


The second dish was cod over a bed of steamed vegetables. You could substitute any white flaky fish like halibut or hake. The key is to saute some vegetables like onions and bok choy.You can substitute other watery vegetables like Napa cabbage. Add garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to give the dish an Asian flair. For the last 10 minutes of steaming, add the fish on top of the vegetables (the cooking time of the fish will vary depending on the thickness). Add chopped cilantro just before serving.

The class last night was fun. Everyone enjoying drinking wine and sampling the tasty two dishes. I certainly recommend these classes with Mike; and I will take another class in a couple of months. There are 5 more classes this Spring, held the last Thursday of the month. Here is a link to the class schedule.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Pistachios

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The other day I made a Pumpkin Ravioli with a butter sage sauce. An easy dish that’s made with ravioli, butter, sage, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This simple dish is in dozens of cookbooks, so I won’t bore you.

But did you ever think that one more ingredient could make a great dish extraordinary? I believe in “less is more”, but I don’t think we are over doing things if we add 5 ingredients rather than 4. When I was buying Pumpkin Ravioli the other day from Rana Pastificio in Chelsea Market in NYC, my wife Nora suggested I add the pistachio nuts that we had in the pantry.  Brilliant.

Pumpkin Ravioli

I was amazed how adding a little nutty crunch transformed this dish into something special. What’s lurking in your pantry that could transform tonight’s meal?

Buon Appetito.