“Not So Gourmet Egg Sandwich”

Every so often, on a Sunday morning I will make myself an egg sandwich. Now this is not by any stretch of the imagination a gourmet treat. It is simplicity in its purest form. This humble breakfast reminds me of the many Saturday nights I spent sleeping over my best friend, Karen’s, house in the sixties. Hard to imagine that a few eggs, scrambled soft, placed between two slices of soft white sandwich bread covered with Heinz ketchup could taste so good! Well, when it brings back those wonderful childhood memories, there is nothing like it….period!

Now, I have to paint a clearer picture, perhaps to explain why this humble little offering is such a craving of mine.

When I slept overnight on a Saturday, of course, the next day would find us and her five brothers and sisters at nine o’clock mass. And every Catholic knows, that back in the day, you had to fast three hours before receiving Holy Communion. Yes, that meant, my friends, no breakfast or morsel of anything was eaten until we traipsed back to her house after mass which was a good twenty minutes. This put our estimated time of eating anything at around 11 o’clock. By the time we reached her house, her mom was busy in her kitchen assembling these egg sandwiches for us to devour as soon as we entered, kicked off our shoes and gathered around the formica table. Each of us grabbed a half of a sandwich and downed it with a glass of milk. Then another, then another until the plate in the center of the table was holding only a few leftover crumbs. Something about that milk, whole milk that is, fresh from Aupke’s farm was heavenly. We were so hungry, we could have eaten anything placed before us! Oh, and the bowl of blueberries, sweet and tart at the same time was another added attraction to that meal.

You see, I was introduced to so many new foods that never made an appearance at my house.
Eating at the DeFazios’ was always an adventure. I had Imperial Crab, Bavarian Strawberry Cream, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Shrimp dip, I could go on and on…. Mrs. D was always making something new for her card club ladies and Karen and I would sometimes help but mostly would sample what was being served. I feel this was the precursor for my love of cooking especially adventurous cooking. I did learn all of the basics at home, but was thrown into a more creative mode of cooking by spending time in her kitchen. (She did go on to open a very successful Italian restaurant called Le Cresta for 15 years.)

Back to the egg sandwich, I do find myself craving it and when I do make one, I am sure to eat it slowly, conjuring up all the beautiful memories that are served up as a side.

Published in: on June+00:00bMon, 11 Jun 2012 00:36:37 +0000000000Mon, 11 Jun 2012 00:36:37 +0000amMon, 11 Jun 2012 00:36:37 +000012 9, 2008 at 2:20 p06  Comments (1)  
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Fall Harvest

Well, it’s September, my favorite time of year.  It’s also a busy time of year for me.  In the past two weeks I’ve canned tomatoes (that I’ve picked), made plum cordial (from plums that I’ve picked), and recently made roasted red peppers for the winter (that I’ve picked)!  The “fruits” of my labor will be greatly appreciated every time I open a can of that rich, red tomato sauce for Sunday dinner or sip on that rosy pink liqueur in front of a cozy fire this winter.  The red peppers were ‘put up’ in freezer bags rather than jars…I’ve succumbed to making my life easier in many respects.  Now with all this behind me, I’m ready to scour the farmers’ markets and grab what produce I can to make the fall dishes that I long for this time of year.  Roasted squash soup, pumpkin ravioli, fig crostata, apple dumplings with hard sauce….my mouth is watering!

I will plan several fall dinners and hope that the weather holds up for some outdoor eating and entertaining over the next few months.  Then it will be time to plan Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas baking Christmas Eve Feast of the Fishes , January is usually reserved for making soups, breads and homemade pasta…..It never ends, this love affair with food , cooking and eating! Thank God!!

Published in: on September+00:00bWed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +0000000000Wed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +0000pmWed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p09  Comments (1)  
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Panettone, Apple, Sausage Stuffing

I usually host our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, whether here or in Hilton Head. I always like to include one new dish to the menu already filled with family traditions.  A few years ago I prepared this stuffing recipe adapted from FoodNetwork’s very own Giada DeLaurentis.  It was a big hit and I haven’t made it since , so I decided to make it again this year.

It’s unusual yet very Italian as it’s main ingredient is a loaf of Panettone bread.  If you’re not familiar with that, it’s the Italian version of the tradition  fruitcake that everyone loves to hate!  Only this bread is really good.  It’s light and not too heavily filled with fruit, and it is great sliced and toasted for breakfast.  This year Panera has added it to it’s menu throughout the Holiday season.  You can also purchase it at any TJMaxx’s or Marshall’s store.  (Which is where I buy mine).  It comes in a decorative box, ready for gift giving. You can certainly make your own, (which I did try one year) but, believe me, it’s just too much work!

So here is one of the many offerings served alonside our turkey this year:

One loaf Panettone bread, cubed

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (out of the casings) browned and drained

2 tart apples , peeled and diced

1 red onion, peeled and diced

2/3 c dried cranberries

1 egg, beaten

1 stick butter

1 or two cans chicken broth

a pinch or two red pepper flakes

Saute onions and apples in butter, add cooked sausage, combine with bread cubes and egg. Add pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Turn into buttered baking  dish and pour chicken stock over just to moistened.  You don’t want it too soggy!

To make it even more Italian and yummy, sprinkle with parmesan cheese!

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

I’ll still have to make the traditional stuffing for the picky eaters in our family.  Oh, and as every other year, the dish of pasta will have it’s usual place on the holiday table. This is what we Italians do!!

Published in: on November+00:00bMon, 24 Nov 2008 15:12:34 +0000000000Mon, 24 Nov 2008 15:12:34 +0000pmMon, 24 Nov 2008 15:12:34 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p11  Leave a Comment  
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Festa Italiana

I just spent three days at the Italian Festival in Bloomfield, one of Pittsburg, Pa.’s many ‘little Italy’s’.

I was there seated at the same spot for three days, which was located right beside the center stage, with a display of my book”Always on Sunday”, selling and signing copies to members of that Italian community.  I can still hear Che la luna, Volare, Oh Marie, and the Tatentella ringing in my ears!  It was nonstop music, food, laughing, dancing, kissing, hugging long lost friends….tutti Italiani, everything Italian….and the outfits!!  mama mia!  You don’t have to be a genius to figure out just how proud Italians are of their heritage, judging by the amount of red, green and white outfits were floating around. Even the dogs had Italian flag scarves around their necks and someone was selling a terrible Italian towel!

It was a very festive atmosphere and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I especially liked the strolling guitarists Edwardo and Vincenzo, playing their romantic serenades, encouraging couples to dance on the sidewalk, which they did!

It was very interesting talking to those who would stop ata my table, inquiring about my book, which is a story of my childhood in the Italian neighborhood of Sharpsburg located across the river.  You could litereally tell the same stories from my book and just change the names and neighborhoods!  Comparing these stories with total strangers made for an enjoyable afternoon.

And need i talk about the smells of the hot sausage, peppers and onins, the tomato sauce wafting everywhere and those walking around with homemade cannolis with the sweet ricotta filling oozing out…

The shouts of those participating in the ongoing bocce game across the street made for some lively entertainment!  I felt so at home, hearing little snippets of Italian conversations all around.

Viva Italia,  and God BLess America!!  I can’t wait until next year!

Published in: on September+00:00bSun, 28 Sep 2008 23:17:26 +0000000000Sun, 28 Sep 2008 23:17:26 +0000pmSun, 28 Sep 2008 23:17:26 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p09  Leave a Comment  
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Pomme Frites, Anyone?

The other night, my husband and I took our son, Anthony, to his favorite restarunt to indulge in an order of steamed mussels and pomme frites.  I’m not sure if calling french fries ‘pomme frites’ or having them in a little Belgium influenced cafe makes them taste so much better, but boy, were they good!  And the basil flavored mayonnaise served for dipping instead of ketchup…delicious!

We felt as though we were on vacation having a late night supper in a little European sidewalk cafe.  The atmosphere was very friendly, relaxed and interesting with an eclectic group of patrons enjoying a meal in this small eatery located in one of Pittsburgh’s unique neighborhoods, Point Breeze.

Lately, the inner city has been flooded with many of these small cafes opening up in a concentrated effort to revitalize parts of the city’s older  and depressed neighborhoods.

The Point Brugge Cafe, where we ate, has been established since the late 70’s and is still very popular.  The mussels can be ordered in two different sauces, both very distinct and equally good.  We usually order the tomato based sauce flavored with fennel and herbs, but last night we tried the white wine, garlic sauce which was slightly creamy… both excellent for soping up the extra juice with bread ( the best part, for me).

If you love mussels like we do, I highly reccomend this small neighborhood cafe.  You won’t be dissapointed. However, you may have to increase your work out routine,  but it’s a tradeoff well worth it!

Published in: on September+00:00bMon, 08 Sep 2008 01:10:59 +0000000000Mon, 08 Sep 2008 01:10:59 +0000amMon, 08 Sep 2008 01:10:59 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p09  Leave a Comment  
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Let me start my post with this proclamation: HE IS RISEN, INDEED!!!

This Easter at the Russotto House, there was no baked ham to be found.

I decided to make a stuffed flank steak, thanks to Bobby Flay’s persuading and mouth watering episode one day last week.

Consesus was….a unanimous “compiments to the chef”.

I believe this was the first year ever that porky the pig did not make an appearence on Easter Sunday. This flank steak, that I marinated the night before and then stuffed in the morning took all of 20 minutes on the grill. I’m sure it will make numerous reappearances in the future.


One 3 pound flank steak, butterflied. It’s best to let the butcher do this for you.

Marinate steak in 1 cup cabernet wine, 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 or 3 shallots, sliced. Add salt and pepper to taste. Marinate at least 4 hours.

Open up steak, like a book and layer with thinly sliced ham of your choice, I used proscuitto, sliced provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, and baby spinach leaves. Close with top layer of steak and secure with tooth pics. Brush both sides of steak with olive oil.

Place on hot grill and cook 10 minutes on each side, being careful when flipping. Take off grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing it against the grain in two inch slices.

We served this delectible entree with oven roastd cauliflower, a side of fettuccine cabonara, and a salad of mixed greens, oranges, sliced red onion and fennel. Dessert was our traditional sweet ricotta pie.

Can’t wait till next Easter!!

Published in: on March+00:00bMon, 24 Mar 2008 16:24:53 +0000000000Mon, 24 Mar 2008 16:24:53 +0000pmMon, 24 Mar 2008 16:24:53 +000008 9, 2008 at 2:20 p03  Leave a Comment  
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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 February+00:00bWed, 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 February+00:00bTue, 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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