Shorty’s Lunch

First appeared on eatpgh.com on October 29, 2014

“So you have never had a Short’s Hot Dog?”

That was the question posed to me when I first moved to Washing County. Every local spoke so highly of this luncheonette, I needed to go in search of this place and have a Shorty’s dog. I do adore a good hotdog and places that are frequented by locals are usually spot on.

If you have never heard of Shorty’s Lunch, well that is because they don’t advertise. Everything is word of mouth, and they have been a thriving business since in Washington, PA since the 1930’s. They have 2 locations, the original shop on West Chestnut St in Washington and another newer location in Washington on Jefferson Ave, Wolfdale.

Both places have their own unique charm with a strong lunch counter vibe to it. The food is equally delicious and it is served quickly. So it is a matter of preference where you would like to eat your Shorty’s Dog.

The menu at Shorty’s Lunch is not extensive, nor terribly expensive! There is only about a dozen of items to order from on the menu board on the wall. They have a couple of sandwich choices like Roast Beef and Fish both for under $3 dollars, as well as hamburgers ($1.60) and hotdogs ($1.55). The French Fries come with or without gravy and in two sizes, the large is around ($2.05) and the gravy will have an additional charge of 30 cents.

They are known for their hotdogs and most people are there for these tasty morsels of goodness. So don’t fret because about the lack of choices because the taste of these hotdogs will make up for it. Yes, they are that amazing.

shortydogsHow can I best describe these hotdogs? It is like comfort on a plate, nirvana on a warmed bun with a layer of blissful chili sauce on top. Your mouth will taste every delicious morsel, while you mind will slip into a state of ultimate enjoyment. It is a true eating experience!

The hotdogs have a unique chili sauce that is not overly meaty nor overly spiced, it is just right flavor combination to go with the hotdogs. I like mine all the way with onions, mustard and chili sauce. You can get them any way that you would like.

The perfect accompaniment with your Shorty’s Dog, a warm plate of French fries with frieswgravy (1)gravy. I balked at first, but eventually I came around. It is like Poutine or Disco fries sans the cheese, it is a must while you are dining here.

Shorty’s Lunch is a friendly and welcoming place. At any given point the lunch counter seats filled with a melting pot of individuals, from chefs, attorneys, construction workers and families with small children. It has a wonderfully eclectic feel about it, and has that buzz that only a small town eatery can have.

Even though is where all the locals go to eat and visit, everyone is treated like they are returning customers. That is a hard concept to achieve, but Shorty’s Lunch does do a nice job of it.

It is Washington, PA best kept secret. I highly recommend you make the trip and get yourself a Shorty’s Dog.

Shorty’s Lunch (the original location) 34 W Chestnut St, Washington, PA (724) 228-9919 and Shorty’s Lunch 2301 Jefferson Ave, Washington, PA (724) 228-1327.

frieswgravy (2)

eatPGH latest and greatest

first appeared on the Food Tasters Guide, October 22, 2014

eatpghBookWell, the amazingly talented writers at eatPGH have done it again. They have come out with the second edition of the Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh. This is the quintessential food book for all the best places to eat, drink, and buy food in and around the city of Pittsburgh.

The eatPGH bloggers are a dynamic team of writers who keep their readers updated on Pittsburgh’s ever evolving food scene. These bloggers are great at keeping abreast of what is happening in and about the city with all things related to food.

The second edition of the book has everything the first book had but with updated information; restaurant reviews, highlights of food festivals and events, noteworthy specialty shops and local libations. It still features sidebar stories, and they are now updated with new food places that highlight interesting Pittsburgh foods and notable Pittsburghers in the city’s culinary industry.

The newest addition includes a bakery section, it is a rundown of where to get the best baked goods in the city. If you want to find great homemade donuts, pies, cookies or bread in Pittsburgh, let this list be your guide.

I was also happy to see that there was still a recipe section in the book. Several Pittsburgh chefs have recipes in here, and the newest one comes from the downtown restaurant Grit & Grace. Chef –Owner Brian Pekarcik and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Gamble have come up with their take on the side dish of peas and carrots: Roasted Carrots, Fresh Cheese, Toasted Edamame, Little Gems Lettuce, and Chili Vinaigrette. I am putting this on my list of recipes to try because not only does it looks really good, but the list of ingredients sound just amazing in itself.

One of the recipes that was brought over from the first edition, was the Spaghetti Carbonara from E2’s Chef Kate Romane. This has been an elusive dish for me, because it is not something I grew up eating. Many Italian dishes were made in my family, but this was not one of them. I recognize the peasant style elements to this dish; the ingredients are pantry staples and the cooking method isn’t complicated.
Eggs, bacon, peas, cream, Parmesan Cheese and pasta, I have these things in my kitchen but the thought of these ingredients cooking together with pasta, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I know it will yield a hearty and amazingly tasting dish because all of those items by themselves are all so delicious. I had wanted to make this recipe, yet for some reason I had never attempted it.

After seeing the recipe in Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh again, I knew that I needed to make this dish.

I wanted a Spaghetti C4cookingarbonara tutorial, and I had the best person to show me how to do it. I called my friend Blair Hohn. Blair is a graduate from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts (Pittsburgh). He is the chef and Co- Owner of The Salted Pig. Blair did his apprenticeship at the Oakmont Country Club and is currently a chef at a private county club in Pittsburgh.

Who better to teach me than a chef? A Pittsburgh chef teaching me to make a recipe from another Pittsburgh chef. It was the perfect situation and it was something that needed to happen.

So Blair packed up his knives and apron, then came to my house to show me how to make a proper Spaghetti Carbonara. He is a chef who takes his craft seriously. However, he is always willing to share his knowledge and is so generous with his insights and cooking tips.

Watching a trained chef cook it is like poetry in motion. The knives move in fluid motions, the way they sauté and flip vegetables in a pan is just mesmerizing. These movements are effortless but meaningful, graceful and yet intentional.

However, if I were to copy these moves I would look like a Muppet’s character trying to dance the tango, it just wouldn’t work!

teaching me how to plate the final productTrying to write everything down was a little challenging. For you see, chefs are always several steps ahead in the cooking plans and work at such a lightening quick pace. Thankfully Blair was able to stop mid-course to make sure that I was able to capture every step in the process.

There may appear to be many steps in making this recipe, but by do each one succinctly it will guarantee the success of this dish.

We used the recipe in the book as a guide, so the measurements were basically the same. The techniques and the steps are slightly varied, and some of the ingredients are different than what the original recipe called for. For example, we used Pancetta instead of bacon, but either one will work well. Also we used organic eggs instead of the farm fresh eggs that were originally called for. The pasta we used is dried, but fresh is a great option if you can get it. For the cheese, we used Parmigiano-Reggiano, but Parmesan cheese will work too. Lastly, we used frozen peas for this recipe. If you can locate fresh peas, you need to blanch them and then drain them well first before incorporating in the dish.

2final product spaghetti carbonaraThis is such a flavorful dish, so rustic and so simple. Don’t let the numerous steps in the directions sway you from making it, because once you have done it you will be able to condense the steps.

Like any peasant dish, use it as a guide and have fun with it. It is a forgiving dish and the perfect recipe to satisfy a hearty appetite during these cold winter months here in Pittsburgh. I guarantee you will add this to your recipe collection once you have made it and you will be happy you did.

I hope you enjoy it.

Buon Appetito,
Nicky

Adapted Spaghetti Carbonara from Food Lovers’ Guide to Pittsburgh.
1/2 lb dried spaghetti
3 slices of Pancetta (chopped)
3/4c – 1c heavy organic cream
1/3- 1/2c frozen peas (defrosted)
Fresh ground black pepper & Kosher Salt
1 organic egg (cracked)
Chopped Parsley (2-3 tablespoons)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions

In a stock pan, heat water for pasta according to directions. Do not add salt to the water- this will come later. Reserve some of the pasta water for later use. By not adding the salt, this will yield a pure pasta flavor to the water- trust me on this step.
In another pan, heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat, add the chopped Pancetta and cook until the pork pieces become golden brown and crispy. Be careful not to burn them. Remove the pork pieces from the pan, put them on a paper towel to drain and set aside.

You will have brown bits of pancetta and rendered fat at the bottom of this pan. To this now add the cream and a pinch of salt (1/4 tsp) on a medium heat, cook to reduce the cream about 5-7 minutes. This will be done when the cream will coat the back of a spoon and has a gravy like consistency to it. Take the pan off of the heat and set aside.
Put peas in a colander and run under hot water, this get your peas to room temperature. Drain them and set them aside.

Cook pasta to before al dente (according to directions go a minute or two before the al dente time), drain the pasta and now add a pinch of salt to the hot pasta, sprinkling all around the pasta and set aside. Make sure to toss it around the colander to spread the salt flavor all around. This is a trick that was shown to me by Blair, and it works.

Get the rest of the ingredients to assemble the dish. Put the pan with the cream back on the stove top at a medium low heat. Immediate add the cracked egg, now stir it, add the peas, pinch of salt and a handful (about ½ c) of the cheese and stir. Add more cheese to taste if needed, and adjust the salt taste to your satisfaction.

The sauce will be thick now, if you want a thinner sauce, add a little of the pasta water now, a tsp at a time. You want a gravy consistence, something to easily coat the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta now and keep stirring until the pasta is coated and finished cooking in the sauce, about, be careful not to burn the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with the cooked pancetta pieces, parsley and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately, you can add more grated to taste.

Check out Nicky D Cooks on Cookspeak

First appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh, October 10, 2014biopic

Please join me this Sunday October 12th at 11am. I am being interviewed by the host of the Cookspeak podcast series Tom Totin. I will talk with Tom about food, cooking and the fun filled adventures that I had being raised in an Italian American family.

Tom Totin has been hosting the podcast series for about 6 ½ years. When he is not interviewing guests for his show, he works as a chef at Frescos in Wexford. He has worked in the culinary industry for 39 years. Tom has had a bevy of guests on his show some of which included; food writers, scientists, actors, columnists, and even a former astronaut. The home base for the podcast is the Pittsburgh Public Market.

You can listen to the interview by going to talkshoe.com a few minutes before the interview. The Cookspeak icon will appear on the screen and you can then access the podcast. Or if you want to listen by phone, call the same number that you will call to access the show- 724-444-7444. If you miss the live broadcast, the archive of the podcast will be on this webpage as well.

For more information on Tom Totin and his podcast, check him out on twitter @cookspeaktom or on talkshoe.com

I hope that you join in with me this Sunday.

Ciao,
Nicky

100 Foot Journey through a Chef’s Eyes

“Food is memories”, no truer words have ever been spoken. One smell can bring you back in time, put you in a moment. Eating a simple dish can evoke such a strong memory, which is something that we never quickly forget.

This was the thought that I had going through my mind as I sat watching the movie 100 Foot Journey.

The_Hundred_Foot_Journey_(film)_posterSpoiler Alerts Ahead! If you do not want to know about the movie, then stop reading now! If you do want to read about seeing this movie through the perspective of a chef and foodie, then continue on.

It is the story of a young chef Hassan Kadam’s culinary journey from Indian to France. He and his family finally settle in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in France. While there his father opens an Indian restaurant. Hassan cooks at his family’s restaurant but then begins to discover a new world of food and French Cooking.

 

Hassan Kadam is a young chef with a gifted palate. Throughout the story Hassan experiences a culinary metamorphosis. In doing so, this movie gives people an insight into what it is like to have a chef’s gastronomic passion in life.

What is most extraordinary is the food. The food, the cooking scenes and eating are as central to the story as the characters. The close ups, the way the scenes are shot, and the food are always front and center.

I know that I was enthralled, and I let out a few audible gasps of delight when the magnanimous shots of breath taking foods filled up the entire movie screen. There were so many foodie type people in the audience, we all shared in our admiration for the food cinematography.

I had one gnawing thought once I left the theater, was this an accurate portrayal of food in the film? Fusion of two distinct and steadfast cuisines are blended, but can it actually happen?

I had a myriad of questions about this movie. So I did what any foodie would do, I went to get answers. I decided to ask a friend of mine for some help on this matter.
I asked a friend who is a chef.

blair@workBlair Hohn III is a classically train chef from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts (Pittsburgh). Blair is the chef and Co- Owner of The Salted Pig. He has worked in various places in an around Pittsburgh. He did his apprenticeship at the prestigious Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh and is currently a chef at a private county club near the city.

I have had samples of his food, and it is just simply delicious. He will occasionally bring me some of his homemade fudge as well as Italian sausage. Pork and chocolate, oh my goodness it is so amazing and I love it when we get together.

So I asked Blair to go to the movies with me. I know that he was curious about this because of my incessant food questions since my first time seeing the film. I did bring him some of my homemade anise biscotti as a small bribe and that made him happy.

Afterwards I sat down and hit him with a barrage of question. Blair is passionate about his craft and loves to share his knowledge. He is a kind person who doesn’t mind explaining things to people who are not in the food business or as I like to say “people who don’t speak chef”. Chefs have their own language and acronyms. Blair will explain and share helpful hints but do it in a way that is easy to understand and home cook friendly.

The premise of the movie is that this Hassan infuses his natives spices into traditional French Cooking and reaches the culinary greatness. When I asked Blair about the blending of the 2 cuisines, as it was demonstrated in the movie, he said that “it can be done”.

French Cooking “has been around a long time, it had a very strict rules to be considered classical French Cuisine”. The chef (main character) was “thinking outside of the box, I like to think outside of the box… just because (a style of cooking) it has been done for 200 hundred years doesn’t mean that it is the only way to cook something”.

He added that “this (movie) was written for chefs who have passion…. (Hassan) has passion and knows how to push boundaries and that boundaries sometimes need to be pushed”.

For example the Hollandaise Sauce scene he pointed out to me. The fat that was used was olive oil and in traditional French Cooking it is butter. Blair makes his Hollandaise Sauce with butter but if you “want to think outside the box and use olive oil, then make it that way“.

During the omelet scene Blair let out a guffaw. I questioned him about this afterwards. “It was the banging of the omelet pan that is the way they teach you to do that”. He laughed because he remembers learning that technique in school. He looked at me and then said “that is the right way to make an omelet”.

Hassan possess an extraordinary palate and this is what separates him from other chefs. Hassan has the “gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch”.
I asked Blair if this something you are born with it or is it something you can be taught?

He pondered this for a moment and said “both”. In culinary school “you are taught how to cook and blend spices (for cooking) but that doesn’t make you a chef”.
“Cooking and knowing what goes together, how they blend and taste together though experience (and working)…. that is how you learn and become a chef”.

I gathered through our conversation that you can have an idea about how tastes blend together, and build upon that. Some people are better than others at it and know how to push the boundaries in tastes.

At one point in the movie the main character Hassan Kadam reaches culinary success. He get his Michelin Stars and becomes a chef de cuisine at a premiere restaurant in Paris. I was curious about these elite chefs.

Blair’s first response to me was that “chefs of this caliber, Michelin Star, are like no other, they eat, sleep and drink food, and they are intense”. These stars are about just more than the food, they are about the restaurant as a whole.

He has cooked dishes that are on par with Michelin Star cuisine, however these restaurants comprise only a small segment of where people go to eat. He assures me that when a chef reaches this level it is because they are very good and have a talent, but it is also their whole life.

I asked him what happens if a chef loses a star, he smiled and said that some “don’t take the news so well” and he left it at that.

We finished up and left our separate ways. I believe that I had thoroughly picked his brain and was satisfied with all of the answers.

Did I like the film, absolutely? Will I add this to one my collections of foodie favorites, most definitely? I enjoyed the feel good aspect of the film along the food cinematography. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it with Blair and discussing it with him, I guess I was able to see this through a chef’s eyes. It was an enlightening experience and I will do it again.

If you want to see a fun food themed movie, I highly recommend 100 Foot Journey. It is a chef endorsed and a foodie approved film.

Ciao,
Nicky

blair knivesSome of the knives in the photo that Chef Blair Hohn uses were made by local Pittsburgh knife company Berkhouse Knifeworks.

Italian Heritage Day at Heinz History Center

first appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh on 9/19/14

Please come and join me on Sunday, October 5th at the Heinz History Center. I will be at the Italian Heritage Day at Heinz History Center, and I will have some of my fresh made pizzelle on hand to share.

Hx CenterItalian Heritage Day at the Heinz History Center is a full day of interactive activities designed with K-12 students in mind. In honor of Italian Heritage Month, local community groups and museum staff will facilitate educational activities on every floor of the museum. Activities are conceived in a manner that will allow all members of the family to work together to learn about Italian American history and culture.

Intergenerational participation is encouraged, so bring tua madre, tuo padre, tua nonna, tuo nonno, tua zia, tuo zio, e tutti i tuoi fratelli, sorelle e cugini. Children 17 & under get into the museum for free on Italian Heritage Day, so this is a great way to have the kids involved in this activity.

There are many fun and exciting activities scheduled for this day; learning how to play bocce with Major League Bocce, preparing and taste traditional Italian American foods with Slow Food Pittsburgh, experience Old World Farming with the Italian Garden Project and learning basic Italian vocabulary with La Scuola d’Italia Galileo Galilei.

For a complete list check out the events page at the Heinz History Center.
http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/events.aspx?EventID=441

Besides fun family activities, Italian Heritage Day will also feature an Italian American bazaar in the Mueller Center with vendors, live entertainment, and information tables about local Italian heritage groups.

I will be there with the team members from Ciao Pittsburgh, please come by and visit us. We will be the ones with the delicious pizzelle. Check out the link on Ciao Pittsburgh.

http://www.ciaopittsburgh.com/italian-heritage-day-at-heinz-history-center/#more-2102

Italian Heritage Day is made possible through a generous donation from Mascaro Construction. For questions regarding Italian Heritage Day or the Italian American Program, please contact Melissa Marinaro at 412-454-6426 or memarinaro@heinzhistorycenter.org..

heins logo 14

I Got a Shout Out

I have come to appreciate the value of social media, and tried to embrace all of it despite my efforts to hold on my CD collection and my passion for snail mail.
Twitter is a wonderland for food bloggers, it is a great place to connect and see what is happening. Recipes exchange and food ideas are abound, it is a cornucopia for foodies.

It was through twitter that I came in contact with a talented blogger named Sean at Snack Fixation.

Nicky-D-Cooks-Spicy-Zucchini-Bread-3_4

photo: Sean Weber @snack fixation.com

It was a zucchini bread recipe that caused our paths to cross. I was working on a blog about zucchini bread and Sean asked for my recipe. The thing about Sean is that he had never baked a zucchini bread before, and my spicy zucchini bread was something that he wanted to try.

I emailed him my recipe with careful instructions and helpful hints, I know what it is to read a recipe and not have things explained. I wanted Sean’s first experience to be a good one with baking a bread because there is nothing worse than a failed recipe.

The date was set and Sean was going to make the breads, he emailed me the pictures of his results: SUCCESS! I couldn’t have been happier for him and I was glad to hear that his adventures in baking zucchini bread went well.

Sean blogged about his foray into baking, and the results were this amazing blog post!
http://www.snackfixation.com/nicky-d-cooks-spicy-zucchini-bread/

Thank you Sean for such a great blog and for the kudos.

Aunty Judy’s Zucchini Bread

zucchini breadWhen I first met Judy, I could tell that she was a great person. She welcomed me into her house, offered me something to eat and a cup of coffee. I felt like I was walking into a home of one of my relatives, I was so comfortable yet it was the first time I was meeting her.

Judy is my husband’s aunt. I was at her house for a big 4th of July Party with all of her family. Judy married into a big Italian family. Like a typical Italian gathering, there were so many people and an abundance of food. It was just so impressive to see that many generations of a family gathered in one place.

Judy is a talented cook and baker. I am always impressed with the massive amount of food that comes from her kitchen. If there is a family event at her house, there is always a plethora of hot dishes that comes from her oven. I ask her in jest where does she hide the multiple stoves in order to produce this much food.

She smiles and laughed because Judy is also of Italian descent. Like many Italian woman who have already raised their family, Judy knows how to cook for a large crowd. She is a pro, and has been cooking and baking for many years.

It was at this gathering that I first had her zucchini bread. When I first bit into it, I was completely hooked. I do believe I let out an audible “yum” sound while devouring down my first piece. I told Judy that this was so delicious and it was the first time I had ever eaten zucchini bread.

Yes, I know it is hard to believe that a person could be in their late twenties and have never eaten zucchini bread before.

Judy laughed at my revelation and told me that she would share her family recipe with me. She told me that the recipe “was a simple one and that she has been making this for years”.

Before I left, as promised, Judy had written the recipe down for me. As she hugged me good-by, she told me that “I could call her anytime if I had questions about the zucchini bread recipe”.

fresh-zuccPittsburgh has the perfect environment for zucchini to grow. In the late summer when it is plentiful, I soon put this new recipe into my baking repertoire. My family tended to like a spicy version of this bread, so I played around with this the spice combinations. I like to use cinnamon and nutmeg, however ground cloves and ground ginger work well in this recipe too.

I have been making zucchini bread for many years since receiving the original recipe. It makes a delicious moist bread that is perfect for a snack or breakfast. It is also the prefect recipe for beginning bakers to start off with because it is not complicated.

I have included my recipe for Spicy Zucchini Bread. Here are a few tips that I have learned along the way that I would like to pass along. Make sure that the zucchini is drained before you mix it in the batter, if not it can add extra liquid to the batter and cause your loaf not to bake properly. If you happen to get an extremely large zucchini, I just remove the seeds and use the skins only. The large seeds tend to leave a bitter aftertaste in the bread. I tend to double the batch and freeze the loaves; they really freeze and defrost nicely. They will last for about a month or two in the freezer if they are double wrapped in aluminum foil. Lastly, because I do make so many at a time, I use cake pans to bake the bread in as well as loaf pans. The baking times changes slightly, I just bake it until the center comes out clean on a toothpick.

I hope you enjoy it.
Buon Appetito,
Nicky

Nicky D Cooks Spicy Zucchini Bread

Every time I whip up a loaf or two of zucchini bread, I always think of Aunt Judy and meeting her that day. Now we all can make these breads and bring smiles to my family and friends just like she does.

Ingredients
3 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups zucchini, grated and well- drained.
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
Mix together eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Set aside. Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add this to the first mixture. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake 350 degrees for approximately 45-50 minutes. Or until the center springs back when touched (until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).

The Nomad Cooks

I had the opportunity to review a new cookbook, Healthy Venezuelan Cooking by The Nomad Cook. I was intrigued by this book and this type of cooking. I knew very little about this cuisine, it was something I always wanted to learn about.

The cookbook is easy to follow, and has helpful hints when preparing many of the dishes. The author provides recipes for healthy versions of traditional Venezuelan dishes, many of which are gluten free (low gluten), Paleolithic and vegetarian friendly. I liked that I already owned many of the herbs and spices that were required for many of the dishes. There are variety of recipes listed in the book to choose from to start your journey into Venezuelan cooking. This includes soups, salads, main courses, dips, fillings, sauces and rice dishes.

toms&beef2 (1)I wanted to do something different for this cookbook review so I enlisted the help from my fellow food blogger Terri from the Parmesan Princess. We decided to cook the same recipe from the book, but come up with different ways to serve it. The Ground Beef & Tomatoes recipe would be the perfect choice. I would serve mine as an entrée with rice. Terri is a great baker, she would make the beef and tomatoes and use it as a filling for empanadas.

The date was set. We would cook our dishes, meet up, eat and compare our plates. Honestly it was one of the best experiments with a recipe that I have done, it was really so much fun. I highly recommend doing this.

empanadas1Terri made some phenomenal baked empabeef&rice1nadas! The Ground Beef & Tomatoes encased in the dough were so tasty. The flavors married beautifully, and did not dull in the baking process. They were seriously delicious.

I made the Ground Beef & Tomatoes as a main course, served along some rice pilaf. The beef has a rich and flavorful broth, which went really well with the rice. I served it in a large soup bowl, the broth softened the rice the longer it sat.
It was a scrumptious dish.

Our beef and tomatoes had the same taste, and we agreed that both ways served were equally delicious. It came down to personal preference on which way we would eat the Ground Beef & Tomatoes.

There were some differences in our cooking, but it didn’t seem to alter the taste of the final product. I used dried oregano while Terri used fresh. The type of ground beef mattered. I used an organic 80/20 and I had to drain off some of the excess fat while I was browning the meat, Terri used 93/7 and didn’t encounter this problem. I used the suggested amount of beef broth in the recipe, while Terri used less because she was going to use hers as a filling. We both simmered our beef and tomatoes longer than the recipe suggested, just to help thicken the mixture.

I like the empanadas so that maybe my next adventure with the beef and tomato mixture. It is a great recipe and I am planning on making it again.

This cookbook is a keeper! Healthy Venezuelan Cooking broadened my cooking palate and it something that I will go back to again and again.

Here is the recipe as I made it for the Ground Beef & Tomatoes. I followed the directions exactly, and this dish can easily be doubled.

Ground Beef & Tomatoes adapted from Healthy Venezuelan Cooking                       by The Nomad Cook

1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (organic)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ lb ground beef (grass fed / organic)
1Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tsp ground cumin
Iodized sea salt
1 tsp oregano (dried)
1 organic medium tomato, chopped
¼ c beef broth (organic)
Pinch of tabasco sauce

Rinse the ground beef with water in a colander before cooking. Beef will lose some of its color, turning pinkish. Heat olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Lightly brown the ground beef with the onion for 10 mins. Add the Worcestershire sauce, cumin, salt and oregano. Stir to combine and add the tomato beef broth and tabasco. Stir and simmer on medium high until sauce thickens about 15 more minutes.

For more information please visit The Nomad Cook websites here below:

http://thenomadcook.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/NomadCook

A Special Father’s Day Treat, Mondo’s Wine Biscuits

first appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh, June 6, 2014

When I was growing up there was a simple table cookie that I particularly favored. It was ubiquitous and it seemed to appear in all of the bakeries and kitchens that I frequented. It was a plain cookie, not flashy but what could be described as a peasant cookie. What it lacked in appearance it make up for in taste.

I am talking about an Italian American classic, the wine biscuit.wine bis 2 (1)

This is a popular treat in the Italian American communities in New England, especially in my home state of Rhode Island. There are many variations of this cookie, but the main component to this treat is wine. Some recipes will use white, some reds, or blends. I have a preference for the use of the red wines because it will yield a beautiful purple hue to this cookie with a spectacular taste.

A few people I know will also use their own homemade wine in these cookies. That is a special treat, and I do enjoy getting a hold of those rare cookies.

For many years I tried to make the recipe that was given to me by my grandmother. The wine biscuits were passable, but I was truly never happy with them. Then a friend of mine Lisa Starnino Mallinson was talking about making them and was happy to share her recipe with me.

Lisa is a childhood friend of mine and she just happens to be a fellow foodie. Lisa and I went to the same elementary school and grew up in the same neighborhood. We shared the similar lifestyles of growing up in an Italian American home.

Lisa’s wine biscuits are delicious, they are the perfect combination of sweet from the sugar and mild bite from the wine. They are the perfect accompaniment with a cup of coffee for breakfast, or tea for an afternoon treat.

She learned to make these “about 20 years ago from her grandmother on her mom’s side” and she has been making these wonderful treats for family and friends ever since. There was one particular person who adored her wine biscuits, it was her dad Armando Starnino.

Lisa and her Dad, Mondo

Lisa and her Dad, Mondo

Mondo as he was called, liked the other dishes that his daughter made but it was the wine biscuits that were his favorites. Lisa told me that when she was still living at home her “dad’s face would light up when I would make them ….and he would eat them as fast as they came out of the oven”.

Mondo was born in Providence, RI and grew up in Federal Hill which is the Little Italy section of the city of Providence. He grew up surrounded by good Italian food. Lisa said that her dad liked other Italian delicacies however, it was her homemade wine biscuits that he liked the most. Lisa continued to make these treats for her dad long after she was married and had a family of her own.

I must admit that every time I make the wine biscuits I think of Lisa and her dad, and that makes me happy. My children do light up when they walk into my kitchen and see that one of their favorite treats are coming fresh out of the oven. I guess there must be a little bit of Mondo in all of us because seeing freshly made wine biscuits makes us all smile brightly.

Lisa was kind enough to share her family’s recipe with us. I highly recommend that you give this a try. You don’t need to be an advanced baker to do this. It is a very forgiving recipe and perfect for beginners who want to try out a new type of cookie recipe.

The recipe calls for using a red wine, feel free to use your favorite brand or blend. I grantee you will be so happy you made these cookies, they will change the way you think about using wine in your baking. You will definitely have all of your family and friends lighting up with delight when you give them one of these tasty treats.
I hope that you enjoy it.

Buon Appetito,

Nicky

Lisa’s Homemade Italian Wine Biscuits by Lisa Starnino Mallinson
In memory of her Dad Mondo Starnino

Ingredients:

4 cups flours
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
1 full cup of Fortissimo Red Wine

Mix ingredients well. Bake at 350 for 7 minutes on bottom rack of oven 6 minutes on top rack. Don’t forget to brush top of biscuits with egg.

Note- the shape of these wine biscuits can be varied, some can be rolled onto ball shapes and baked others rolled out and braided then baked. Here is a simple way to roll out to get a ring shaped cookie; roll out dough 3-4” long rope pieces then press the ends together to make a ring. Put them on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake until the bottoms are golden brown and crisp.
Cooking times will vary for each oven, so keep the cookies in longer until the bottoms are golden brown, and be careful they don’t burn