Italian Easter Pie

ProciuttoA Lot of EggsPie CrustMozzarellaRicottaPecorino Romano
Cheese & Meat MixEggMeat, Cheese, EggInto the CrustDSC_1030Top Crust
Pizza RusticaSoppresatta

Italian Easter Pie, a set on Flickr.

A traditional Italian Pie served on Easter – also known as Pizza Rustica. They’re all similar in the fact that it’s meat and cheese baked into a crust. The differences lie in the type of meats and cheese used and the crust it’s baked in. This is a simple version that features ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino Romano, soppressata, dry sausage, prosciutto, and is baked in a pie crust. Very tasty, easy, and makes a great addition to the Easter spread.

..Happy Easter..

Starting Veggie Seeds Indoors

there’s something magical about going from seed to plant to plate…

…start out by grabbing some seed starter equipment. i like seed cells with the compacted soil pellets that expand when water is added…

Seed Cells

Seed Cell w. Soil Pod

…drop a few seeds in each cell…

…i use mostly heirloom and rare varieties to keep things interesting…

Seed Cells; Soil Pod Expansion

…label everything so nothing gets mixed up…

San Marzano

…pop on the dome – this will simulate a greenhouse…place out of direct sunlight…

…the seeds should sprout within a week…

Green House Dome

…here’s what i’m starting indoors for ’12…

  1. tomatoes
  2. swiss chard
  3. beets
  4. spinach
  5. basil
  6. thyme
  7. dill
  8. parsley
  9. scallions
  10. hot peppers
  11. sweet peppers
…after about a week when majority of seeds have sprouted, take the dome off…
  1. cherokee purple
  2. san marzano
  3. amish paste
  4. roman striped
  5. roma VFN
  6. riesentraube (cherry)
Tomato Seedlings

…swiss chard & beets…

Swiss Chard & Beets

…scallions – spinach – thyme…


…lots of basil for pesto sauce…



Tomato Grid

…after ~2 weeks, when majority of seedlings have sprouted, place by a window for some sunlight…

…the tomatoes are standing strong…

Tomato Seedlings; Two Weeks

…the basil is growing towards the sun…

Basil; Two weeks

Seedlings; Two Weeks

…normally pepper seeds won’t sprout as quickly as the rest since they prefer warmer temperatures, so we have to hack the system…

…plant seeds, except this time you’re going to place the seed tray on a heating mat…set mat on high every morning until sprouts begin to appear. once majority of seeds have sprouted, take off the dome. keep tray on mat and continue to heat every day to keep the soil warm and until all of the seeds have sprouted…

Hot & Sweet Peppers

…hot peppers…

  1. scotch bonnet
  2. tam jalepeno
…sweet peppers…
  1. quadrato di asti rosso
  2. friarello di napoli
  3. red mini bell

Pepper Grid

…once it’s consistently in the 50’s outside and the nights don’t get too cold you can transplant into the ground…about the second week in april…

…the rest of the veggies will be sown directly in the ground…

  1. romaine paris cos
  2. cucumber
    1. beit alpha
    2. delikatasse
  3. rotonda bianca sfumata (sicilian eggplant)
  4. ping tung eggplant (thai eggplant)
  5. melon charentais
  6. arugula
  7. zucchini lungo bianco
  8. swiss chard
  9. beets
good luck!

Oven-roasted Tilapia with Fresh Tomato and Zucchini Pan Sauce

  • 1lb Tilapia fillets (~4)
  • 3 Pints of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Zucchini, large cubes
  • 6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • Red Pepper Flakes, a pinch goes a long way
  • 1/2C White wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/4C Sherry Wine
  • 4T EV Olive Oil
  • 4T Roasted Garlic Butter
  • Basil, ~20 leaves, chopped
  • Parsley
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper

Printable Recipe

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a saute pan over medium-high heat, saute red pepper flakes and minced garlic in 2T olive oil until fragrant. Toss in the whole cherry tomatoes and cubed zucchini, toss to coat and sprinkle with s&p. Saute until tomatoes begin to soften, shrivel up, and release their juices – ~5 minutes. Zucchini will still be firm so cover and let steam for ~10mins until fork tender.

While zucchini steams, prep the fish. In an oven-safe skillet add remainder of oil to bottom. Place filets on top.  Add 4T of roasted garlic butter around the filets. Splash with 1/4C white wine. Sprinkle with s&p, chopped basil, and lemon zest. Roast in oven until edges start to turn opaque.

Back to the tomatoes – uncover, splash in the sherry and remainder of white wine and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Tear up the basil leaves, toss in and mix. Sauce should have thickened up a bit. Taste and adjust for s&p.

Remove fish from oven. Carefully remove fillets to a dish. Dump the tomato and zucchini sauce into the skillet and carefully place fillets on top. Pop skillet back in oven for ~10 minutes or until fish is uniformly white and flakes when plucked with a fork.

Serve fish atop rice (I like rice pilaf with this dish) with a heaping ladle of tomato and zucchini sauce. Finish off with a squirt of fresh lemon, parsley, basil, a light drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of fleur de sel if you have it, and a few twists of the pepper mill.

You’re gonna love this one.

Damn, it feels good to be back!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’m not sure what’s going on at the ‘bucks, but I haven’t been happy with their pumpkin spice latte’s as of late. My theory is that the drink got super popular and they cut costs by cheapening the pumpkin spice syrup…because something is seriously askew. Sugar substitute?? Perhaps it’s the unenthusiastic high school kid playing pretend barista that just can’t get it right??

Anyway, I’m not a coffee snob by any means, but over the years I got to liking this pumpkin spice latte – only to be let down on several occasions at a variety of shops, so you can imagine my frustration. It seems simple enough: robust espresso, undertones of pumpkin spice (i.e. ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon), and frothy milk with whipped cream and extra spice on top. Lately it’s more like: bitter espresso with a hint of pumpkin flavored robitussin – not cool. So I decided to take matters into my own hands – I mean how hard could it be to make a pumpkin flavored syrup?? Turns out it’s pretty easy.

Printable Recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

first things first – make a simple syrup by combining:
1C water: 1C sugar – heat over medium-high heat until all sugar is dissolved
than get some of that good ol’ Libby’s Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

~2 (heaping) T should do the trick

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

Spice mix: 1T cinnamon, .5t nutmeg, .25t ginger, .25t cloves

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

whisk everything together over medium flame – simmer for about 5mins

off the flame whisk in 1T vanilla extract

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

strain off the liquid – there will be some sediment in the bottom of the strainer just dump it

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

store in a mason jar…

Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup

or better yet – put it in a squeeze bottle…

Here’s how I make my coffee:
-add 1/4C milk to mug and froth until milk fills mug 3/4 of the way ( OR if you’re a fancy pants with an espresso machine, steam your milk

-brew your espresso (single or doppio)

(working quickly now)

-add 1T pumpkin spice syrup to espresso and mix (you can always add more later)

-pour espresso into mug with frothed milk

-add a little sugar

-stir it up

-whipped cream (optional)

-sprinkle some spice on top

now go up to the barista at the nearest ‘bucks, put your hands at the side of your head with thumbs in your ears, wiggle fingers, stick out your tongue, then say “nana-nana poopoo, your pumpkin spice latte is stupid”

Greek Lamb Souvlaki w. Grilled Flat Bread

This is rugged, rough around the edges, uncomplicated, and unpretentious – just the way we like it. It’s a meaty, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty kinda meal. Every now and then it’s cool to delve into dishes characteristic of other cultures and try to eat as they would. Imagine living in old world Greece – where the lamb was slaughtered that morning, herbs were all picked fresh from the garden, and the dough rose on the counter under a cotton towel while tzatziki sauce was stirred together by a wooden spoon gripped by a rough and weathered hand. Meals don’t exactly come together like that in this house – but like I said it’s cool to imagine. Regardless though, this dish is money, and putting all cultural characteristics aside I think you will agree – this is damn close to authentic Greek Souvlaki.

p.s. I know this recipe is so far from something you would cook in fall/winter when everyone else is cooking with root veggies, making beef stew, and cozying up with hot toddy’s and apple pie…but when that inevitably gets played out and you start yearning to fire up the grill – you can break out this recipe and get your Greek on.

Printable Recipe:

Boneless Leg of Lamb

grab the beast – trim excess fat – slice into big chunks

Cubed Lamb

season lamb with kosher salt and cracked pepper

Fresh Herbs

finely chop the parsley and mint


time for the marinade – combine lamb, oil, vinegar, herbs, onions, and garlic in a Ziploc and mix it up

Marinate in Ziploc

cubes should be coated with marinade – now forget about it for a while

Grilled Lamb

grill lamb chunks over medium high a few minutes on each side – yard will smell like the San Gennaro feast

Grilled Flat Bread

my new addiction is grilled flat bread – take my recipe for effin’ Artisan bread and instead of making a loaf you make a pizza round – brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper – grill ~5mins each side – make some now…

here’s how I get down and dirty: grab some flat bread – slap on some tzatziki – pile on the meat – top with thinly sliced tomato, red onion, and lettuce – drizzle more tzatziki – finish off with a sprinkle of feta

roll up your sleeves and dig in!

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

What up people?, I’m back! Intended to take the summer off from blogging, but turned into half the fall too, my bad. No worries though, I had my sidearm locked and loaded to capture any impromptu cooking.

For a little summer reading I picked up, A Tuscan in the Kitchen: Recipes and Tales from My Home. Helped reinforce the idea that cooking is about creativity and the freedom to improvise, not necessarily exactness – unless you’re whipping up a souffle or something. So here’s to less measurements and more freedom, just don’t burn the garlic!

Moving on…let’s talk about this pasta dish I whipped up the other night. It just so happened that I had a ridiculous amount of cherry tomatoes lining my windowsill, ready to be used, and basil overflowing in the garden.

Let’s get to it.

Printable Recipe:

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

ripe cherry tomatoes – slice in half – toss into a baking dish

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

tear up all of the fresh basil – toss half in with tomatoes

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

add in olive oil, sherry wine, garlic, s&p – mix it all up

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

roast @ 450F for about 30 mins – stir a few times  so nothing burns

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

spaghetti will take about 5-7mins,  cook pasta when tomatoes are almost done

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati

when tomatoes finish leave in roasting dish and toss in remainder of fresh basil and a handful of pecorino romano – drain pasta – save 1C pasta water – scoop pasta in roasting dish – mix it all up – you want it saucy, so if dry add in pasta water a lil at a time

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Over Spaghetti Rigati
mix well – you wanna get all the sauce stuck on the pasta – serve with more pecorino romano and fresh cracked black pepper – if you have an aversion to tomato skin than pulse the sauce when it’s finished in a food processor or put it through a food mill – don’t ever say I didn’t try to help…

enjoy, this pasta is muy yum

Triple Orange Granita

This granita will blast your taste buds with  seriously orange, seriously cold, seriously triple frickin’ naranja deliciousness. This Italian version of a shaved ice is probably the most refreshing thing you can put to your tongue on a hot summer day. If you have never witnessed the glory of granita, then you are in for a good time. If you are a fan of granita then this is going to set your granita standard way high…

Get yourself:

  • 2 Oranges, ~1C fresh juice
  • .5C Sugar
  • .5C Water
  • 1T Triple Sec
  • .25t Pure orange extract
  • Shallow glass Pyrex
  • Citrus juicer thingie

Printable Recipe

Juice them oranges

Not from concentrate…

mmmmm sugar…

Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pot and heat over medium-high until sugar dissolves

Let cool

Add the triple sec and extract to the orange juice

Combine juice and sugar-water

Mix it up good

Add the mixture to a shallow Pyrex dish

Cover and toss this orange nectar of goodness into the freezer

After about an hour or so…

…the granita will begin to freeze around the perimeter…

…scrape the perimeter with a fork towards the center…

…let liquid settle, re-freeze…

…check again after ~30-40mins…

Repeat scrape method until entire mixture is frozen and has been scraped into a pile


Should be rough and jagged frozen scrapings of orange delight

Pile that ish high and enjoy every last cold refreshing bite

Re-freeze the remainder and just re-scrape before serving