Today, I was featured on the Thanksgiving Day Special on WCIU, You and Me This Morning. It was a blast because I found a way to sneak some booze into all of my food... and of course pair each dish with a complimenting cocktail. I mean, a little booze helps to make it through the crazy holiday season, am I right?! I covered the 3 major food groups, Vodka, Bourbon, and Cachaca. Here's what I made!Read More
Filtering by Tag: italian food
I love taking dishes from ethnic cuisines and putting my Italian spin on it. It's particularly easy to do with Mexican food since many of the ingredients have an Italian counterpart, ex. cilantro and parsley, chili peppers and giardinera, roasted poblanos and roasted red peppers. Here is my take on a light and summery Italian chili that happens to be quite healthy, I made it for my fellow food blogger friend Everything Erica the other night, and she went crazy for it.. hope you enjoy it too!!
3 links of Jennie-O spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 half onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
1 large zucchini chopped into small cubes
Basil- 5 larges leaves, chopped for garnish
2 Cans Cannelini beans
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
1/4 tsp Crushed red chili flakes
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or oregano)
Ricotta cheese (can use part skim)
1/3 cup white wine
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté the zucchini (that has been salted for a few min) for 1 min then add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Season with S&P. Sauté for 1 more min and then crumble the sausage (removed from casing) into the pot. Stir until sausage is browned. Turn heat to medium. Add wine and cook down for 2 min. Add the 2 cans of beans (drain out half of liquid), and can of tomatoes in sauce (you can crush or chop tomatoes if they're whole). Add garlic powder, chili flakes, Italian seasoning and season again with S&P. If Chili is too thick, you can add 1/4-1/3 cup water or stock if desired. Cover and cook on low-simmer for 30 min.
When ready to serve, stir in 1/4 cup of ricotta into chili and half of basil. Serve into 4 bowls and garnish with remaining basil, and a dollop of ricotta in each bowl.
Healthy Italian Quinoa SaladRead More
Thanks to all who came out to the first Eat Travel Rock Unplugged event at Chop Shop last night! Robbie Gold performed and we had some great wines by Fabio Viviani Wines. It was a blast and I had so much fun teaching my simple and tasty Italian Valentine's Day recipes. In case you missed it... the recipes are below!
Appetizer: Figs and Prociutto di Parma
Take approx 12 fresh figs (if you can't find fresh you can rehydrate dried figs by boiling water, adding figs and turning stove off, and letting them soak for 2 hours). Wrap the figs in a long thin slice of the prociutto (should be di Parma.. it's the legit imported from Italy prociutto...the best) seal with a toothpick and add a small dollop of raspberry preserves on top.
Salad: Crazy Caprese- My version of Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese)
1 container ciliegine -fresh mozzarella (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes red (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes yellow (halved)
1 red pepper diced
1/3 cup kalamata olives (halved)
1/4 cup good quality IMPORTED FROM ITALY/SICILY extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp good quality imported balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar on top, add spices and fresh herbs. Mix together well and serve. Can be chilled in fridge for up to a couple hours before serving.
Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
2 large or 4 small Zucchini
1/2 large onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes (imported italian if possible)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
5 oz. goat cheese
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Fresh Basil (chopped)
1/2 lb Pasta (Rigatoni or other wide tube pasta)
Peel and Chop Zucchini (I live a bit of skin on for color and nutrients) into cubes. Put in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp salt and toss. Set aside for 10 min until moisture starts to come out. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet and add onion. Cook 2 min and add zucchini. While zucchini cooks (3-4 min), boil water in a medium/large pot and cook pasta according to instructions. Add 50% of can of crushed tomatoes to zucchini, add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 min over medium heat. Add goat cheese and basil and stir until creamy and smooth. Strain pasta into skillet and mix to combine. Pour into serving platter/bowl and garnish with a lot of fresh shredded italian cheese and a bit more basil.
Kelly's Version of Pork Chops Pizzaiola
2 thin cut Bone-in Pork Chops (please use local/sustainable i.e. Slagel Farm)
1/2 onion sliced into long skinny pieces
1 large clove fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Remaining 50% of can of crushed tomatoes from pasta recipe
1/4 cup chopped hot red cherry peppers in brine (Mazetta's)
1/4 cup chopped mild red cherry peppers
salt and pepper to taste
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to heavy cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Once hot add pork chops and sear... appox 2 min on each side. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil and onions, then add garlic, scrape up all the little brown bits from the bottom while sautéing the onion. Add the white wine to help deglaze the pan. Salt and pepper. Cook for 2 min. Add the crushed tomatoes, cherry peppers, and more salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork chops back into the sauce. Finish cooking for approx 2 more minutes or until pork chops are cooked through (no pink) but NOT dry or over cooked. Transfer all to a serving platter and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a LOT of grated cheese.
My Italian Zucchini Soup or "Zuppa" is one of my favorite dishes to make. It is SO easy, versatile, healthy, and comforting.... oh and it's vegetarian and gluten free. Whenever you can make "healthy" comfort food, that is delicious AND warming...it's a win-win. My Nanna has been making a variation of this for me since I was born, so it's a Sicilian staple in my family. I've adapted it over the years but I've stayed true to it's honest simplicity. The great thing is that you can make it your own... there are SO many ways to add to the recipe (see tips below) I hope you enjoy it!!
5-6 Medium Size Zucchini
1/2 Diced onion
3 tblsp Olive Oil (Good Italian or Sicilian Olive Oil)
1 Can Cannelini Beans
GRATED (not shredded) Incanestrato Cheese (can use Parmiggiano or Romano)
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Red Chili Flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper
2 cups water (can substitute chicken or veggie stock)
Cut ends off of and roughly peel the zucchini (leave a bit of skin on for color and vitamins). Slice lengthwise and again, and chop into cubes (about 1/2 inch each). Put in a bowl, season with a 1/2 tsp of salt and set aside until moisture comes out. (5-10 min).
Next, over medium-high heat put olive oil in a very large skillet or large sautee pan .... Sautee diced onion until soft (approx 2 min) Add the zucchini and cook until softened, approx 5-7 min, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.
Add approx 2 cups of water- or enough to JUST cover veggies. (can substitute with chicken or veggie stock but not necessary... even water will be VERY flavorful) Add chili flakes, garlic powder and turn heat to Medium and cook for approx 4 minutes. While you're cooking, continuously and gently mash the zucchini to release some of the seeds and flesh in order to thicken soup.
Add Cannelini beans and cook for 5 more minutes. Gently mash the beans as well to thicken soup. Season again with salt and pepper.
Once soup has reached desired consistency. Add the cheese (incanstrato is a strong grated Sicilian cheese, it can be very hard to find, so use Parmiggiano if necessary) and chopped basil (about 5 big leaves). Season with more salt and pepper if necessary (more garlic if you like too).
Pour into serving bowls and garnish with more chopped basil and cheese. This is also AMAZING for leftovers. Buon' Appetito!! Makes 4 servings.
Tips: You can also add pasta (pastina), eggplant, fresh garlic, chopped chicken, tomatoes, anything you can think of!! So versatile!
My Chicken Marsala has become the go-to recipe everyone in my family always wants me to make (I made it for my beloved fam on Christmas). My mom insists it's now "famous". I'm not quite so sure about that, but I will say it's damn good, and probably one of the best dishes I cook at home. Now a warning: I've never put the recipe on paper, I've always done it all in my head, so this was a bit of a challenge. The good part is, you can add and subtract a bit here and there and season to your liking and it will still be DEELISH!! Please enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!! Buon Appetito!!
2 lbs of thin cut ORGANIC chicken breasts (the butcher can cut them)(approx 6-8 pieces)
1 large package of organic baby bella mushrooms (can substitute white or button)
1 half large organic yellow onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
1/3 cup organic low-sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp Wondra flour (a bit more or less to thicken)
Fresh parsley or basil for garnish
Grated parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. First we need to make the dredging station. Fill a medium size tray or tupperware with the all purpose flour, garlic powder, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. After thoroughly washing chicken and patting dry, lightly dredge chicken in flour mixture and set aside on another tray.
Heat half olive oil in large non-stick skillet. Sautee chicken approx 3 min on each side until golden brown. Chicken should NOT be cooked through yet. Place chicken in a baking dish that's large enough to fit all the chicken in one layer along the bottom (or close to it).
Rinse out or wipe skillet and heat remainder olive oil in pan on medium high heat. Add onions first, then garlic, sautee for 2 min then add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. After they soften, add the Marsala wine. Let the wine cook down with the veggies for approx. 3-4 min until very fragrant and slightly (but not completely absorbed) then add the chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 3 more min. Start adding the Wondra flour a hefty sprinkle at a time. There isn't a perfect science to this and I always eyeball it. I will add a bit and let thicken until I reach my desired consistency. I'm not a fan of clear and runny Marsala sauce, I like mine creamier. So that's the reason for the milk and flour. Once you get it how you like it (salt and pepper again to taste), let it simmer for a few more min.
Pour the mixture over the chicken and make sure to spread it evenly and coat everything. Bake covered in tinfoil for approx 30 min. Check chicken to make sure it's cooked through as bake time can vary based on chicken thickness. Do NOT overcook as chicken can become dry.
Sprinkle with fresh basil or parsley and grated parmiggiano (or incanestrato cheese if you can find it) Makes 6-8 servings. (Great as leftovers too!)
Ciao Tutti! If you're asking, "What's burrata?" It means one of two things: Either you're not Italian, or you haven't been out to a notable restaurant in the last year or so. Burrata (or "buttered" in Italian) has long been known to my fellow countrymen as a delicious delicacy that can be enjoyed any time of day...as a main course, or as an antipasto. Fortunately, it has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and is springing up on more menus everyday. For those of you who don't know exactly what it is, here's a little lesson: Originating from the Puglia region in Southern Italy, it's a fresh cow's milk (and sometimes buffalo's milk) cheese, and is made in a similar way to fresh mozzarella. It actually consists of an outer shell of fresh mozzarella and a filling of stracciatella and cream. Stracciatella is basically the leftover shreds of the cheese curds mixed with a heavy cream. The fresh mozzarella is formed into a pouch and then filled with the stracciatella mixture and then tied off. It is HIGHLY perishable and must be eaten within 1-3 days after it's made. There are some reputable burrata producers in the U.S., however, the best stuff still comes from Puglia, and luckily, its import is becoming more common.
I decided to shoulder a huge burden and go out there and find the best burrata in Chicago...so that my trusty readers wouldn't have to take this miserable task upon themselves. See how selfless I am?? My arduous and backbreaking journey of burrata eating carried me to 5 different venues...shockingly not all of them were in River North :-). The first three on my list have outstanding burrata are STRONGLY recommended. (It's important to note that I've tried burrata at several other venues as well, but these were the most unique and memorable...for various reasons.)
Prosecco, a beautiful and upscale River North Italian spot, really knows how to showcase their burrata. My sister, Kimberly, and I went in strictly to try the burrata appetizer and had no idea we would end up having such a fulfilling experience. Upon sitting, they offer their patrons a complimentary glass of Prosecco (how appropriate) and a delicious spread of Sicilian caponata...a great intro. I mentioned to the manager and server that I was going to be writing about their burrata and how I was really looking forward to it...they told me they actually feature TWO daily burratas. I said "Bring 'em on!" and "Kimmy, you better eat for once...don't you dare leave me with two huge piles of cheese." She happily obliged when she saw what was presented to us. One burrata had a bit of a Caprese vibe, with basil and a balsamic/olive oil drizzle, yet featured sun-dried tomatoes and prociutto...delicious. The second variation, their "special", was brilliance on a plate. The marriage of grilled peaches with pistachios and a honey-balsamic glaze was sublime. Even Chef Mark Sparacino came to greet us and explain how they import their burrata directly from Puglia twice weekly so it really is the best of the best. He also noted that their daily special is always made with the freshest fruit of the season and designed to compliment the daily dinner and wine specials.
Many of you know I really can't shut up about RPM Italian, and their burrata is one of the main reasons why. A traditional preparation for burrata, especially as an app, will usually have some greens (likely arugula), some sort of sweet component on toasty grilled bread. RPM stays true to tradition and serves their incredibly high quality burrata with fresh arugula, a delicious sweet and tangy tomato jam on crusty crostini all topped with a nutty and fragrant olive oil. It's really a show stopper and how I always start my meals at RPM.
My third restaurant (although I would rate the burrata as "tied" with RPM) is a bit unexpected as it's NOT an Italian restaurant. Tavernita does, however, like to incorporate several different Mediterranean influences into it's cuisine... and bringing in the burrata was an excellent choice. Even though Chef Ryan Poli traveled around and lived in Spain for 2 years, burrata was not something he typically ate while there. He came up with his "Pan con Burrata" on his own, as he felt burrata was the most luxurious cheese available that would compliment the toasty crostini with the complex sweetness of the tomato marmalade. A drizzle of Spanish olive oil finishes off this small bite of perfection. I also love how the dish is already assembled for you...with the perfect ratio of ingredients, as most restaurants require you to mix/build everything yourself.
Gilt Bar was another non-Italian restaurant to have burrata as an appetizer. The burrata they feature threw me off a bit because it is very non-traditional, yet it intrigued me. It is served on a colorful bed of smashed peas and mint along with pickled green onions. The presentation was gorgeous yet I felt the flavor was lacking. There was a minty sweetness from the peas and the burrata was fresh with great flavor, but it lacked a kick from an acid (such as vinegar or fruit) that should usually accompany the dish. An interesting concept that didn't fully deliver.
Last on my list is the "Burrata and Sea Urchin" from Nelcotte. Nelcotte has an eclectic "small plates" menu that gets it right on so many levels (like their milled in-house pizza). That ain't the case with the burrata. In order to be fair, I actually went back TWICE to try this dish...in case my palette was a bit "off" the first time. Turns out my palette was just fine... the mixture of the salty/fishy sea urchin with the creamy cheese flavor of the burrata did not work. In fact it scared me. Sea urchin is not too big on my list of favorite delicacies to begin with, and to mix it with an Italian cheese like burrata was highly unorthodox. The burrata itself was a sparse portion which featured more of the "mozzarella shell" and less of the creamy interior mixture. I can understand and appreciate how they were trying to accomplish a bold flavor profile, but somethings are just not meant to go together. This is a classic example of why seafood and cheese should usually be kept separate.
If you only have one night out and are just dying to try the best burrata in Chicago, go to Prosecco. Not only do they have the freshest and tastiest preparation, but they have a version that changes daily, so you're always in for a pleasant surprise. If you can actually get a table at RPM Italian or Tavernita, then you must try their burrata as well...some of my favorite dishes in town. Regardless, whether you're a big fan of this Italian delicacy or a newbie, hopefully you'll get out there and order it for you next meal! Buon' appetito!!