Pug’s Minest’ (Minestrone)

I’ve been thinking about my Dad lately, Frank Pugliese, aka “Pug”.  I was remembering how his group of friends from the Sharpsburg Senior Citizen Highrise played poker every Friday night.  He was the organizer which also entailed providing the food for the night.  And boy, was that right up his alley!  He would go to Shop N’ Save and purchase every day old pastry he could get his hands on at half price.  The guys  loved this, you know how ‘seniors’ are about spending unnecessary money!

The group was made up of the most eclectic characters.  One of the fellows, Pierre, was blind.  How he was able to play cards, I’ll never know!  When I questioned my dad about this once, he said, “Oh, whoever is sitting next to him helps him out, no problem.”  Yeah, I bet!  I’m sure Pierre never went home a winner.

My Dad liked to cook, was pretty good at it, too.  He occasionally made hot sausage sandwiches or homemade pizza or pepperoni bread for these poker nights.  One of his specialties was his Minest’ (Italian dialect for Minestrone soup).  He once was featured in the local newspaper for preparing this soup for the poker gang.  He was quite proud of that, so was I.   Here is his recipe.   All of these recipes can be found in my cookbook, Always on Sunday: Recipes from an Italian Childhood”.  http://www.alwaysonsunday.com

Pug’s Minest’

1 large bunch          fresh spinach leaves or escarole

2 quarts                     chicken stock

1 pound                    sweet or hot Italian sausage, sliced

1 large                       onion, chopped

1 green pepper      chopped

2                                 whole garlic cloves

1 large can              crushed tomatoes

1 can (15 oz)          red kidney beans

1/2 tsp                     dried oregano

1/2 tsp                     red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste.

Rinse and trim and cut off stems of spinach or escarole, cut in strips.  Place in large stock pot with chicken broth and cook till wilted.  Meanwhile in skillet, brown sausage, onion, pepper and garlic till cooked through and vegetables are soft.  Add to the stockpot containing the spinach, along with the tomatoes, the beans and seasonings.  Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.  Add water to thin, if needed.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


Published in: on AprilUTCbMon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +0000000000Mon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +0000pmMon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p04  Comments (1)  
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A Gift from the South Hummingbird Cake

I recently discovered this wonderful cake while visiting Charleston.  It was one of the most flavorful, moist cakes I’ve ever tasted.  So, of course I had to try making it myself, it did not disappoint!   I found several versions of the recipe, Paula Deen’s was my favorite. (She is  a southern belle, after all).

Paula Deen Hummingbird Cake

By thillin

.  This is from her book Paula Deen Celebrates!

3 Cups self-rising flour

2 Cups granulated sugar

3/4 Cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 very ripe large bananas – mashed

1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 large eggs, beaten


1 pound box confectioners’ sugar

8oz package cream cheese- room temp

6 tbs butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs milk, more if needed

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325*

Grease and flour three 8 inch round cake pans.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil, 1/2 cup pecans, bananas, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon and beaten eggs.  Stir well until smooth.

Pour batter into the 3 pans and bake for 26-28 min, or until tops spring back.  Let cool in pans for 10 min.  Then cool on racks completely.

Make the icing by mixing the sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla and 1 tbs milk in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Mix until smooth.  If needed add more milk, 1 tsp at a time for proper spreading consistency.  Ice between each layer and on the top and sides.  Sprinkle the top with pecans.  Keep refrigerated.


Published in: on MarchUTCbWed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +0000000000Wed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +0000pmWed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p03  Comments (1)  

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Here is a delicious snack and fantastic use of the pumpkin seeds that will be all over your newspaper-lined kitchen tables as you carve those Jack-O -Lanterns this weekend!

Enjoy them now while you can…….I guarantee you’ll be craving these nutty, crunchy morsels until next fall!

Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and let them soak in a large bowl filled with water. Wash them by rubbing them with your hands to remove the stringy bits from the seeds.  Dry them off with paper towels and spread them on clean newspaper to dry.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large heavy skillet until bubbly. Add the seeds and toast until brown and crisp, around 4 or 5 minutes. Season with a few shakes of garlic salt and a tablespoon of worchestershire sauce. 

You could also season the seeds FIRST, mixing them with the melted oil and butter  and spread them on a baking sheet and bake for 15 or 20 minutes.  Let them cool to room temp and munch away.  Your mouth will thank you!

Published in: on OctoberUTCbFri, 30 Oct 2009 00:29:47 +0000000000Fri, 30 Oct 2009 00:29:47 +0000amFri, 30 Oct 2009 00:29:47 +000009 9, 2008 at 2:20 p10  Leave a Comment  
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The Best Summer Pasta Sauce…and no cooking, honest!!

Every summer I wait till we are able to pick the first of our juicy ripe tomatoes to make this dish, which I dream about all winter long!  It can only be made with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil leaves…believe me canned or dried will simply not do.

It is so simple and delicious you will probably make it from now until Sept. at least twice a week! ( if you’re not worried about your waistline). Ha!

Here is the much anticipated, number one summer recipe in my book!

In a large bowl, place four ripe tomatoes, cubed (any kind but plum, they aren’t juicy enough)

1 # of brie (remove skin if you like) chopped in one inch cubes

1 cup of fresh basil leaves

1 cup olive oil

2 teas. salt

1 teas pepper

1 # linguine

Let all ingredients except pasta, of course, marinate in the bowl for at least two hours.  Cook the pasta, you can use any kind you like, I prefer linguine, till al dente.  Drain pasta and combine with sauce in a larger serving bowl until the brie melts and everything is well mixed.

Serve with Parmesan cheese and lots of Italian bread to soak up the sauce.

You’ll love this!

Published in: on AugustUTCbSat, 16 Aug 2008 14:54:25 +0000000000Sat, 16 Aug 2008 14:54:25 +0000pmSat, 16 Aug 2008 14:54:25 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p08  Leave a Comment  
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Nana’s Pizza Bianca

My grandmother was an excellent cook, baker, wizard in the kitchen. Her Italian background didn’t hurt, either. She made the simplest things seem fit for royalty. That was her style; pure and simple.

Her basic bread dough produced a lineup of baked goods, pizzas, rolls that were award-winning and stellar quality. And she and we (her family) had no clue, we just ate and enjoyed whatever she whipped up for us.

Lately, I’ve been craving her “pizza bianca” (white pizza) which is really more like a foccacia.

I’ve made it twice in the past week. Here is an easy version of the recipe:

Unroll one tube of Pillsbury refridgerated pizza dough. Place on a well greased pizza pan with olive oil. Place about 1/2 cup of pitted black cured Italian olives on the dough pressing them into the dough. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, parmesean cheese, salt and pepper to taste, dried oregano and some red pepper flakes (optional). Drizzle with some olive oil and bake in 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Good hot, better at room temp. Enjoy!!

Published in: on AprilUTCbMon, 07 Apr 2008 19:14:54 +0000000000Mon, 07 Apr 2008 19:14:54 +0000pmMon, 07 Apr 2008 19:14:54 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p04  Leave a Comment  

Riding the wave

No other state shouts organic! louder than California; a fact I discovered on a recent trip to San Diego.

The trend toward restaurants serving organic foods or the sale of organically grown foods in grocery stores is not new by any means. But because California is the leading agriculturally productive state in the country, no wonder it boasts the largest number of organic farmers.

I’ve experienced first hand the difference in freshness of taste from organically grown artichoke pizzas to fish tacos topped with fresh guacamole to the unusually sweet blood orange juice served in trendy California establishments.

Unlike here in Pittsburgh, Pa., the word “organic” on the west coast is just as common place as the wet-suit clad sufers who dot the Pacific on any given day from sun up to sun down.

Since I will not be joining these wave worshippers any time soon, I’ll ride the wave of another growing lifestye trend– searching out and consuming anything organic.

In honor of Califronia being the largest (I think maybe the only) producer of artichokes, here is a recipe for a Marinated Artichoke, Ham and Provelone Panini ( I’m still in love with my panini grill!)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 slices ciabatta bread, or other rustic Italian white bread, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced provolone
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
2 ounces thinly sliced genoa salami, or ham of your choice

Whisk 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to blend. Arrange the slices of bread on a flat work surface and, using a brush, divide the vinaigrette equally among 1 side of each slice. Divide the provolone equally among the bread slices. Top 6 of the slices of bread equally with the sliced artichoke hearts and sliced genoa salami and then place the remaining 6 slices on top. Brush the outsides of each sandwich with some of the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.Heat a grill, large skillet or grill pan over medium heat.

Add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, pressing occasionally to compact with a large spatula or the bottom of a heavy small saucepan, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Or, if you’re lucky to own a panini grill place on grill and press according to instructions, about a total of 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove the sandwiches from the grill, cut in half and serve.

Published in: on FebruaryUTCbWed, 27 Feb 2008 20:03:34 +0000000000Wed, 27 Feb 2008 20:03:34 +0000pmWed, 27 Feb 2008 20:03:34 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p02  Leave a Comment  
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Panini Paradise

I love everything about cooking. Especially the numerous time-saving gadgets and appliances on the market for the well equipped kitchen. I can spend hours in William-Sonoma or Sur La Table and often do! The most recent object of my affection (thanks to Santa) is my new panini press/grill. You cannot believe the various delicious sandwiches that can be created on this nifty little kitchen helper. For those of you who just landed on the planet earth, a panini is an Italian grilled sandwich filled with any combination of meat, cheese and condiments to you liking and then pressed between a grill similar to a waffle maker. My favorite so far is the Turkey/Apple/Brie sandwich. Here is the recipe, enjoy! (Don’t worry, you can still make it the tried and try method used by my resourceful father. Just wrap a 4×8″ brick with alum. foil and use it to weigh down the sandwich as you grill it. It works just fine!)

Use any firm, crusty bread…Italian, sourdough, French baguette.

Brush the outer slices of bread with olive oil. Spread the inside with mango chutney, or whole cranberry sauce, your preference. Fill sandwiches with thinly sliced or shredded granny smith apples, turkey breast, and a slice of brie cheese. Close sandwiches and grill as directed on press or with your foil covered brick till golden brown.

Good-bye to ho-hum grilled cheese!!

Published in: on FebruaryUTCbTue, 19 Feb 2008 01:59:56 +0000000000Tue, 19 Feb 2008 01:59:56 +0000amTue, 19 Feb 2008 01:59:56 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p02  Comments (1)  
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Apple Cake

Apples are considered the perfect food, after all, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. God’s word is the perfect food for our spiritual well being. His daily bread nourishes our souls and keeps us balanced and connected to him. This recipe keeps me connected to my mother and a childhood filled with good food, and a loving home.
Here is my mom’s fresh apple cake recipe:
3 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup oil 2 cups sliced apples
1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups flour
Beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla together in mixer. Add flour, soda, pinch of salt and cinnamon and mix till well blended. Stir in apples and nuts. Spread in either prepared bundt pan or 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with french vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with cinnamon.
Published in: on FebruaryUTCbSat, 09 Feb 2008 20:50:17 +0000000000Sat, 09 Feb 2008 20:50:17 +0000pmSat, 09 Feb 2008 20:50:17 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p02  Leave a Comment