Shrimp Scampi with Tri-color Spaghetti

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and all my Northeast neighbors are staying warm from the Artic blast that we are having.

I wanted to share another updated recipe of mine with all of you today and it is my classic Shrimp Scampi. The update involves using shrimp shells to add extra flavor to the scampi sauce.

Normally, I save all my rinsed shrimp shells and put them in a bag for the freezer, and when I collect a significant amount I make a seafood stock. But today I decided to use the shells immediately for additional flavor.

I gave this new idea a test and it worked out perfectly sauteeing the shells in wine, which added a deeper, richer seafood flavor to the final sauce.

Before I share the recipe, I just want to mention to be careful if you order this dish in a restaurant if you have an allergy to lobster. Some restaurants, usually old-school Italian restaurants may use “real scampi” which is a langoustine and belongs to the lobster family. However, if they use prawns they belong to the shrimp family. There are many variations of this dish but if you have allergies, it is best to ask your server first to double-check for you.

I hope this dish inspires you to try this recipe one day in your home. It is quick and easy.

I served it with tri-color spaghetti (you can use any pasta of your choice or even a simple slice of hot crusty bread for dipping) with the wine, butter, garlic sauce.

Stay well and warm and enjoy the recipe.

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients:

1 ½ lb. of LARGE shrimp – SAVE THE SHELLS

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, sliced

½ cup white wine (OR seafood stock if you prefer)

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp Calabrian crushed peppers (in a jar) OR ¼ tsp red pepper chili flakes

Black pepper, to taste

½ cup fresh chopped parsley

Juice of ½ of a lemon (save some lemon slices for garnish)

½ lb. spaghetti (OR Pasta of your choice)

½ cup reserved pasta water

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.

In a large skillet, add ½ cup white wine OR seafood stock and ADD the rinsed shrimp shells. On low heat, sauté the shells for 10 minutes to flavor the liquid- this liquid will be added to the sauce. (The shells will turn bright orange). Strain the shells and set the liquid aside.

In a second skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine or stock, salt, black pepper, Calabrian crushed peppers OR red chili flakes, 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, and the liquid from the sauteed shells and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and sauté until they turn pink and firm 2-4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp and have the tails curl up very tightly or they will be tough. Cook them until they just turn pink.

Stir in the parsley and lemon juice, mix well and serve over the pasta. Serve immediately.

**************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Stuffed Eggplants

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and if you are in the Northeast like me, I hope you are staying safe and warm. It is COLD here.

I am not a big fan of cold weather and that is when I stay in, hibernate and cook.

Today, I was going through the refrigerator and noticed I had all the ingredients for stuffed eggplant, so I decided to make that for lunch.

In the past, I have listed a recipe for “stuffed eggplant boats” but this is just an updated version with a twist on some of the ingredients.

I have added ground sausage meat to the ground beef and added some sundried tomato packed in oil to the mix. These additions really enhance the flavor of this dish.

Give it a try and I hope you enjoy it.

Stuffed Eggplant

Ingredients:

2 small long eggplants

14 oz. mushrooms (I use a combination of white button, cremini, and oyster) (OPTIONAL)

2 (1 lb.) pkgs. of ground beef or ground turkey OR 1 lb of ground meat and 1 lb of sausage meat.

3-4 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes sliced in half

3 or 4 slices of sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped

4 tbsp. grated cheese (I use Locatelli cheese)

6 basil leaves, shredded

Sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp of dried oregano (remember to rub the spice through your fingers when adding to the pan to release the oils).

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil

Mozzarella cheese, shredded for topping eggplants

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Wash the eggplant, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh. Salt the cavities, put the eggplant in a baking pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes (they should be soft but not mushy)

If usingTrim the roots from the mushrooms, wipe the dirt off with a damp cloth, and dice them lengthwise.

Add the mushrooms and the flesh from the eggplant to a food processor and pulse just a few times to make small pieces to fill the eggplant.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil with the garlic. Season the ground meats with salt and pepper. Add the ground meats (beef and sausage) to the oil and sauté until it begins to turn brown.

Add the diced eggplant and diced mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame, then increase the heat and add the fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, dried oregano, and basil leaves.

After 5 minutes, turn off the burner, stir in the parsley and grated cheese. Check the seasoning.

Stuff the hollowed-out eggplant with the filling, top with shredded mozzarella and heat them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Serve them hot or warm

**************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

La Befana & The Feast of the Epiphany…

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well and 2022 will be the beginning of a year of many blessings for all of you.

Today is January 6th and otherwise known as The Epiphany (the 12th day after Christmas).

According to tradition, trees and decorations should be removed on either the 5th or 6th of January (a practice my mother made sure was followed in our home).

For the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany on January 6th celebrates the visit of the Three Kings (Magi), Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, led by a star to meet and bring gifts to the infant Jesus.

On the Feast of the Epiphany in my home, we traditionally celebrate by eating Panettone. This marks the end of the holiday season.

Panettone is an Italian cake that is recognized by its tall domed shape. It is a sweet dough with raisins and candied fruit and today there are many varieties on the market and you can buy chocolate, pear, and chestnut to name a few. The store Eataly sells many different brands and varieties. This year we purchased our favorite, glazed chocolate.

*****************************

Along with The Feast of The Epiphany, in Italian households, we celebrate La Befana on January 6th…

According to folklore, La Befana is said to be an old woman and many refer to her as a witch who lived alone in the hills of Italy spending her days cleaning and cooking. One night she noticed a bright light in the sky but she ignored the light and went back to sweeping her home.

On this very night, the Three Wise Men arrived at the home of La Befana and asked her how to get to the road to Bethlehem and they asked her to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child.

She initially refused because she was too busy doing her housework, but then she tried to follow them.

She was unable to follow them or find Jesus and Italians say that Befana is still searching for that baby and, on her quest, she leaves treats and toys, candy and fruits for well-behaved children and the naughty children get chunks of coal, onions, garlic, and dark candy or even straw from her broom.

She rides on a broom and enters the home through the chimney and is a nice old witch, so La Befana is also said to sweep the floor for you.

When I was a child, we followed tradition and left a plate of cookies and a glass of wine for La Befana (this is similar to leaving milk and cookies for Santa). The cookies were always in the shape of a star to signify the Star of Bethlehem that La Befana saw through her window.

I had the pleasure of making these cookies every January 5th with my grandmother while she told me the story of La Befana. We always received gifts from La Befana in our Christmas stockings but my grandmother told me in Italy some children received their treats from La Befana in their shoes.

I could listen to my grandmother for hours on end and she meant the world to me. Still does...

I have posted a recipe for La Befana cookies below that I have been using for years and I don’t remember where I copied it from so I am sorry to the author of the recipe that I can’t mention your name for full credit but it is not my recipe or my grandmother’s recipe- it is a typed copy from an article but very good.

It is basically a sugar cookie with added anisette, vanilla, and orange zest and I hope you try them. Buona Befana! – Happy Befana!

Befanini - Befana Star Cookies
PHOTO COURTESY OF COOKINGWITHNONNA.COM

La Befana Star Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anisette
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Multicolored sprinkles

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

In an electric mixer (the paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy and light.

Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract, anisette, and orange zest. Beat in the dry ingredients at low speed to form a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces; work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces refrigerated. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a floured 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into stars. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on the baking sheets.

Gather the scraps together and repeat rolling and cutting until you have used all the scraps; it may be necessary to refrigerate the scraps until they are firm enough to roll again.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cream. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the cookies with a bit of glaze and decorate them with sprinkles ( I use confetti sprinkles).

Bake the cookies until they are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets, then gently remove them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.

******************************

If you are interested in reading the story of “La Befana” to your children or just want to have the book as a keepsake, the classic story is told by author Tomie dePaola and is sold on Amazon.

Have a wonderful feast day, enjoy some cookies and panettone and enjoy every day to the fullest.

****************************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

May be an image of text that says 'Happy Feast of the Epiphany!'




Welcome year 2022!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve and a relaxing New Year’s Day! I pray that this year brings us to the end of the pandemic and brings us all good health, happiness, prosperity, and our best year ever….

Bob and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve and I prepared a mini tablescape reminiscent of the days when we had entertained large groups of family and friends to ring in the new year and say goodbye to the old.

I had a great deal of fun taking out the china, the plates, and noisemakers and of course, we had to have a few 2022 items thrown in the mix.

I added something NEW to my place setting this year and they are small signs or sayings of gratitude that I had ordered for Thanksgiving and at the last minute decided they didn’t look right with the Thanksgiving china pattern that I chose.

I thought these signs made a great addition to the place settings tonight and added that special touch of gratitude I wanted to express.

The sayings of Gratitude are * Thankful * Gather * Grateful * Blessed —-

These signs made it festive and added a special touch to the other additions to the table.

To start, a simple centerpiece with a clock to countdown to 2022 and some party favors.

We started our evening with some hors d’oeuvres. I originally planned on making them from scratch but last-minute ordered frozen hors d’oeuvres and they were a very good fill-in when you don’t want to stand in the kitchen cooking all day.

We chose a great assortment of mini-filled pies filled with sauteed mushrooms, roasted chicken and a three cheese blend, black bean empanadas, spanakopita, pepperoni bites, and tikka masala samosas.

We were full after the appetizers but we never fail to continue the Italian tradition for Good Luck in the New Year of eating lentils and some sort of pork product. Pigs symbolized prosperity so my family would eat “cotechino” which is the traditional pork product for this holiday.

Cotechino is an Italian, large pork sausage requiring slow cooking. Usually, it is simmered at low heat for several hours. It is made from pork, lard, and other spices but was never a favorite of mine because it is very fatty.

This is what cotechino looks like if you have ever seen it in a grocery store or Italian butcher and wondered what it was.

New Year Traditions Italy
Courtesy of google.com

As I said, not a favorite of mine so I substitute with another pork sausage and that is a pork sausage made with added broccoli rabe and I served it over sauteed broccoli rabe with lots of garlic and olive oil.

You can also add the sausage to the lentils for a complete meal in one dish.

Lentils are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity so we had our traditional lentils and honestly, I love this dish so much, I could easily eat it every day (recipe below).

The shape of lentils represents a coin and they say that each lentil is a penny so the more you eat the more money comes your way. In addition, I added spinach which also brings good luck and prosperity because it is the green color of money.

I made lentils this year with another pork product for extra good luck and that is pancetta made from the pork belly.

Not to be confused with prosciutto which is made from the hind leg. Pancetta is similar to bacon but is not smoked.

We finished dinner with one of our favorite desserts (usually we have mini Italian pastries on New Year’s Eve but we didn’t go to the bakery this year).

My favorite dessert is creme brulee with a fabulous custard base topped with a crusty layer of hardened caramelized sugar and topped with fresh fruit.

Bob and I watched the ball drop in Times Square in NY and then at the stroke of midnight we kept another Italian tradition alive and we ate 12 grapes, one for each month of the year. (sorry no pic).

The reason behind this is that it requires a lot of willpower to save some grapes from the harvest until New Year’s Eve. When you eat the grapes, you will be wise and frugal with your newfound wealth.

When the clock strikes midnight, you should have a glass of sparkling wine in hand and we always drink Italian prosecco to ring in the new year. The LaMarca brand is our favorite prosecco.

As is the custom in many other places, it is traditional to seal the countdown to midnight with a kiss (or a double cheek kiss for friends) and to wish them all the best for the new year.

There are a few other traditions that we followed.

On New Year’s Day, Italians make sure they start the new year right by having some money in their pocket or wallet. This tradition is based on superstition.

Apparently, if you leave home with money in your pocket on the first day of the year, you’ll always have something in your pocket to spend every day of the year. My grandmother would give each of her grandchildren five dollars on New Year’s Eve to carry in our wallets. She wanted to make sure we had enough cash in our wallets at all times.

I know it sounds odd but even today after all the years that have passed since grandma gave us cash on New Year’s Eve, I always tuck the New Year’s Eve money in a compartment in my wallet and I call it the “emergency fund”. I make sure Bob and my son still have extra cash in a compartment in their wallet for their emergency fund and we carry it for the entire year. Some family traditions just don’t go away even after years and years.

The next tradition that we followed when my grandmother was alive was to ” Frighten away spiteful spirits”.

Some Italian families have fireworks for this reason (especially true in Naples, Italy where my maternal side is from). Instead of fireworks, we went out into the streets in front of our homes banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to scare away evil and spiteful spirits that were supposed to be lurking in the shadows during the transition from the old year to the new year.

As children, we loved to just make lots of noise and not get in any trouble for 20 minutes or so (it helped that grandma was front and center)….ahh, the good old days.

The last tradition that was introduced to us as children by my grandmother was to wear red undies on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck to you for the full year to come.

I had to research the reason behind this (courtesy of google) because grandma stopped at “it brings good luck”.

“Lots of market stalls and shops in Italy sell red underwear in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, in order to get the most out of this good fortune, Italians only wear red underwear on December 31st.”

“For the red underwear to be really lucky, it should only be worn on NYE and thrown out the next day. The reason behind this New Year’s tradition dates back to the ancient Romans who wore red tunics during battle which represented blood and strength and instilled fear in their enemies”.

New Year Traditions Italy
Courtesy of google

And on that note, I am going to leave you guessing if Bob and I wore red underwear this year.

***********************

I know there are so many more Italian traditions but these are the traditions that my family practiced.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Year with all the Good Fortune your heart can hold…. and thank you for being so supportive of my blog all year. I love sharing recipes, stories, and life’s ups and downs with you. Enjoy the lentil recipe…

********************************

Lentils

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 medium red onion, chopped

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 (14 ½ oz.) can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 bag of lentils (usually 16 oz.)

8 cups low sodium chicken broth (2 boxes) or homemade broth

4- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 cup grated cheese

Cooks Note: I always make lentil soup when I have the bone of a spiral ham. You could use a ham hock, bacon, pancetta or skip this ingredient entirely.

Directions:

  • Sort lentils for any stones, rinse with cold water – set aside
  • Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat
  • Add the red onion, celery and carrots and a pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables.
  • After 2-3 minutes add the garlic and pinch of red pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5-8 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes with their juices
  • Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes
  • Add the lentils and mix well to coat. Sauté 1-2 minutes
  • Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme springs, and ham bone, if using
  • Bring to a boil over high heat
  • Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes
  • Remove the ham bone; when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone. Discard the bone; dice the meat and return to the soup. Discard the bay leaf
  • Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings
  • When serving, you can drizzle soup with a little olive oil and serve with grated cheese

 Cook’s Note– salt the lentils at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.

I **************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Happy New Year!

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to wish all my members a very Happy and Healthy New Year and thank you for being so supportive of me personally and this blog these past six years.

I consider you all a part of my extended family and I wish you all the best that life offers and many blessings in the new year. May all your dreams come true.

I pray we all have Good Health, Happiness, and a pandemic-free world in 2022.

I raise my glass to all of you….salute!

Here is to the year 2022!

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Eggplant Stacks with Eggplant “Meatballs” …

Hi Everyone,

I hope you have all recovered from the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and you and your families are well, staying safe and getting ready for 2022.

I know that I have posted the recipes for eggplant parmigiana and eggplant “meatballs” before, but I have to share this story with you today that involves eggplants.

Since the pandemic started, Bob and I have been ordering our groceries from either Instacart or Whole Foods and having them delivered. I am happy to say that the majority of the time the orders arrive in good shape and I am satisfied.

However, there are some orders you just shake your head and wonder how this order was filled and today was one of those days.

The first time I had to shake my head and wonder about the order was when I ordered 2 containers of Campari tomatoes (a little bigger than a grape tomato) from Costco and received ten extremely large tomatoes on the vine (bigger than the palm of my hand large) and had to make a vat of tomato soup to use them because they were too huge for my original purpose.

Well, today another incident happened that I had to shake my head at and wonder how this happened. (Keep in mind I request no substitutions). I ordered one small bag of Brussels sprouts and instead, I received 2 large eggplants.

Now other than being a vegetable, I don’t see the logic behind this substitution. It’s not that I ordered Brussels sprouts and they sent cabbage; that would seem close to the original order.

I had some frozen sauce, but I didn’t want stuffed eggplant and didn’t have the time to make a full eggplant parmigiana so I decided to use one eggplant for eggplant stacks (breaded and baked eggplant with grated cheese, mozzarella, and sauce) and the 2nd eggplant for eggplant “meatballs” which happens to be one of Bob’s favorites.

SERVED WITH A DOLLOP OF RICOTTA OVER CASSARECE PASTA

So dinner worked out in the end after a little extra planning because of this detour. I will repost the “eggplant meatball” recipe below if anyone is interested.

This just proves you just have to go with the flow some days, be grateful for what you have and keep going forward and step over the little bumps in the road.

Enjoy the remainder of the week and I will post my New Year’s Eve tablescape and dinner this weekend……

Eggplant Meatballs

(recipe courtesy of by Lynette Marie by way of Allrecipes – 2016)

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel (I peeled the eggplant)
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • ½ cup grated cheese (recipe called for Parmesan, I used Locatelli)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (recipe called for 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet (I used a silicone mat, parchment paper can also be used). 

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and sauté garlic just until lightly browned.

Mix in the eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes.

COVER AND STEAM

Place steamed eggplant in a large bowl to cool.

AFTER 20 MINUTES, NICE AND SOFT

Mix the cheese, parsley, eggs, and bread crumbs into the eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make the mixture workable.

ADD INGREDIENTS TOGETHER

Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.

Place eggplant balls on a prepared baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

I add the cooked eggplant balls to the remaining sauce and then serve immediately.

**************************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Holiday Greetings (plus a new Cookie recipe).

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all well and you and your families are safe from the unfortunate Covid surge that is sweeping the nation.

I had every good intention to post my cookies and Christmas Eve seafood menu for the Italian, “Feast of the Seven Fishes “ on Christmas Eve, but time just got away from me with preparations and shopping for the holiday and I had to put the blog on the back burner for a little bit this holiday. My apologies….

Now that things are a little calmer I can get back to the blog. (My prayers go out to anyone that is going through any illness this time of year. We had Covid last year and I never want to go through that again and my heart breaks for anyone ill with this virus).

I did want to share with you some of the dishes I served this year. So this will be a montage of dishes for Christmas Eve- my favorite “food holiday”.

The majority of recipes I am posting today are already listed on the blog and you can find them in the right-hand column under Seafood, Christmas, and Christmas cookies categories, or just use the search box for the name of the dish you are interested in.

I did add one new cookie this year and I will post that recipe at the end of this post, but I wanted to share the pics with you.

I wish you many blessings, good health, and prosperity as we approach the end of 2021……

Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Here is a little background and definition of the meaning of the Feast of the Seven Fishes courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it is not called that in Italy and is not a “feast” in the sense of “holiday,” but rather a grand meal. …

This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Typical “fishes” include baccalà (salt cod), Frutti di mare (shellfish), capitone (eel), calamari (squid), scungilli (conch meat) and vongole (clams). Fried vegetables are also a popular accompaniment to the fish; expect fried artichokes, pickled vegetables, fried squash blossoms, broccoli rabe, cold broccoli & lemon salad, and other cold seafood salads.

The tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve comes from the Roman Catholic practice of not eating dairy or meat on the eve of some holidays, including Christmas. And the number seven is a symbol that’s repeated many times throughout the Bible – and in Catholicism, there are seven sacraments and deadly sins.

So let’s start with the first course…… the shrimp cocktail, followed by linguine with seafood sauce and then the additional fish dishes and sides, the fruit and nut course, followed by pastries, cake, Christmas cookies, assorted candies, coffee, and finally after dinner drinks… (It’s a long process).

There are other dishes that my mother used to add to her menu that I have eliminated over the years because it was just too much food for my small family and they included smelts, lobster tails, fried eel, fried shrimp, octopus, cod, salmon, tuna, and well the list goes on and on.

But no matter what, we make sure that we eat at least seven different varieties of fish. I have been known on occasion to add canned tuna to my seafood sauce just to make the official “7th fish”.

Cooks Note: the stuffed shrimp are stuffed with crabmeat, diced bell peppers, breadcrumbs, and a touch of mayonnaise & mustard (similar to a crab cake mixture).

The stuffed calamari is stuffed with breadcrumbs, shallots, eggs, parsley, cheese and I add diced shrimp and some sauteed calamari pieces.

The cold seafood salad consists of calamari, shrimp, scungilli, celery, lemon zest, olives, in a lemon vinaigrette.

****************************************

And now for the candy confections (torrone is a soft nougat with flavors of vanilla, lemon, and orange), assorted chocolates, a variety of Christmas cookies, and desserts (Italian pastries and cakes)… with espresso served with a splash of anisette liquor.

I always serve dessert with a jar of Amarena cherries on the table just like my mother did to top some of the desserts.

I am sure you have seen this famous jar in specialty shops or online shopping.

Amarena cherries are small stemless wild sour cherries in a rich syrup grown in Bologna or Modena, Italy. They can be used for gelato, cakes, and cookies and in some savory dishes as well.

We always have them in the house and I used them on the cheesecake in the picture below. They are very, very sweet so a little goes a long way.

And the new cookie this year that is added to my rotation is dead center on the tray and called “BRUTTIBONI” which translates to “ugly but good”. Ugly for the irregular shape and good for the taste.

It is a meringue cookie with a crisp exterior with a soft, chewy interior flavored with almonds, hazelnuts, and cinnamon.

My grandmother used to make this cookie when I was a child and I recently found this recipe on The Gazette.

Bruttiboni

Photo courtesy of The Gazette

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pure
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • 1⅓ cup whole almonds toasted
  • 1⅓ cup hazelnuts toasted and skins removes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Pulse almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor to obtain a coarsely ground texture. Alternatively, chop by hand. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixture), with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until they start to foam.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  • Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisk until you obtain stiff glossy peaks.
  • With a mixing spoon, fold in the nuts. Gently combine.
  • Transfer this mixture to a heat proof bowl and place over a pot of hot, barely simmering water. This mixture needs to be stirred for about 15 minutes.
  • Portion with a medium-sized scooper and place on baking sheet. 
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until tops are golden.
  • Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Notes

To roast the nuts: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position rack to the center.

Spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes to obtain a light roasting. Remove the skins from the hazelnuts.

Let the nuts cool to room temperature before using them in the recipe. 

  • The almonds and the hazelnuts can be roasted in advance and stored at room temperature until needed. This ensures the use of room temperature ingredients until you are ready to make these nut cookies.
  • Do not rush the process of adding the sugar while whisking the egg whites. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites.
  • The addition of cinnamon is optional.

*recipe adapted from The Gazette

***********************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

Baked Buffalo Style Chicken Wings

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. I just wanted to share an old recipe with you that I added a “secret ingredient” to and it seemed to work out very well for me, and I just had to tell you about it.

When my son was still living at home, it seemed that I made Buffalo-Style Chicken Wings for him and his friends on a regular basis.

Back then I deep fried them and dipped them in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and melted butter served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

(No wonder he went to school in Buffalo, NY- close to “Anchor Bar” and the original hot wings recipe.)

Since then, I now bake our chicken wings and I started to use a dry spice rub on the wings before baking and then finish with the hot sauce, butter, and addition of minced garlic and honey.

You are probably wondering what my secret ingredient is and it is BAKING POWDER….. NOT baking soda.

A few recipes I recently came across used baking powder on the chicken to dry out the skin and make the chicken extra crispy and I am here to say it worked.

The skin was crispy on the outside and the chicken was juicy on the inside. I hope you all give it a try.

So here is my new and improved recipe for

Baked Buffalo Style Wings

Ingredients:

  • 2- 3 pounds of chicken wings (whole or they can be halved into party style separated at the joint into drumettes and flats).
  • 1 tbsp. BAKING POWDER
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp dried parsley (optional)

Cooks Note: if there are other spices you prefer, feel free to switch the spices to your liking and customize your wings, just don’t forget the baking powder.

For Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • ½ cup Franks Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves

Cooks Note: if you can find “ Little Vicki’s Garlic Honey”, in your grocery store, that product is perfect for this recipe.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Line a broiler pan with foil and spray the top of the broiler pan with cooking spray OR line a sheet pan with foil and place a non-stick oven safe rack on top of the pan.

Pat the chicken wings dry with a paper towel and place them in a large bowl. Add the BAKING POWDER and the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, dried parsley, and chili powder.

Toss the chicken evenly with the Baking Powder and the spices

Place the wings on the rack in a single layer

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the wings are light golden in color and crispy

Remove the wings to a bowl and set them aside

In a small bowl, whisk the minced garlic, melted butter, and Franks Hot Sauce

Pour the sauce over the chicken wings and toss well to evenly coat

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese or ranch dressing

***********************************

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.


Potato Roses Wrapped in Bacon

Hi Everyone,

I hope your Thanksgiving was absolutely wonderful and you made wonderful new memories to add to your Thanksgiving full of gratitude and blessings.

We had a terrific Thanksgiving and this year our son was able to come home for the holiday.

The last time we were all together for Thanksgiving was 2017. Four years is a long time to wait but our son either had to work on call at the hospital, then the pandemic started and last year Bob and I had Covid during Thanksgiving so this year was an extra special blessing for all of us.

I posted my complete Thanksgiving menu the other day in my previous post and below are a few additional pictures showing some of our finished courses and side dishes along with our dinner plate and a sample of our Thanksgiving meal.

Italian Wedding Soup with escarole and mini meatballs…
Stuffed artichoke with kalamata olive bread stuffing
Thanksgiving 2021 on a plate

The side dish that was enjoyed the most was my new addition to the menu- “Potato Roses Wrapped In Bacon”…big, big, hit.

Some of you may remember my apple dessert roses or my pasta roses and this is the same idea. (I posted the “Roses… Sweet and Savory” entry in the link below…)

Potato Roses Wrapped In Bacon

The potato roses are easy to prepare and make a lovely addition to your dinner plate and the taste is out of this world. I used Russet potatoes but you can use Yukon gold because they are smaller and might give you a better petal size for the rose.

My favorite thick-cut bacon is mail order from Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse but you can use any bacon you prefer.

The link below is for the Amana Meat Shop website in case you want to browse their products.

(https://www.amanameatshop.com/product/amana-smoked-bacon/smoked-bacon)

I combined a few recipe tips from Tasty and Allrecipes sites and here is the recipe that I used. I hope you try these potato roses and they are a hit at your next special occasion dinner. Enjoy!

Potato Roses Wrapped In Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon gold or Russet potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 strips center cut bacon
  • fresh thyme, to garnish
  • grated cheese of your choice, to garnish

Equipment:

  • muffin tin
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F
  2. Using a mandolin or deli slicer and a hand guard, thinly slice the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. (My deli slicer was on opening #2- not too thin but pliable)
  3. Add olive oil, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, pepper, paprika, and salt to the sliced potatoes and toss with tongs until evenly coated.
  4. On a cutting board, lay out a long strip of bacon vertically (if the strips are too short than you can overlap two pieces).
  5. Line the bacon with the sliced potatoes (I use 7-8 pieces of potato per rose), making sure each potato is overlapping.
  6. Starting at one end, gently roll up the bacon, creating a potato rose.
  7. Place the rolled potato roses in a greased muffin tin. Repeat with the remaining bacon strips and potatoes.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Cover the roses with tin foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove foil.
  9. Top the roses with thyme and grated cheese. Bake for an addition 5-10 minutes uncovered.
  10. PLEASE WATCH THE BACON– some ovens run hot, so check the bacon and cook to your desired liking. It’s always better to start with less time and you can add a few minutes if you choose crispier bacon….

_____________________________________________________

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.

******************************************

We finished our Thanksgiving with a special “birthday cake” dessert for our son to make up for the two years of birthdays we couldn’t celebrate in person.

Rainbow Cookie Cheesecake

Thanksgiving Preparation 2021…..

Hi Everyone,

Well, the count down is on and we are all getting ready for Thanksgiving 2021. I am so excited this year because my son is coming home for the holiday.

Last year, Bob and I slept through Thanksgiving with a high fever and no sense of taste and smell when we contracted Covid 19- not a good memory.

But this year, we are grateful that we are well and we can see our son and the full menu will be served. My menu this year is listed below…

We couldn’t decide on our favorites so I decided to make scaled-down versions of each item so there is more variety and not a week’s worth of leftovers. (Have to save room for the turkey soup with tortellini the next day for lunch).

Thanksgiving 2021 Menu

Antipasto

Assorted cured meats and cheeses served with a Prosecco Holiday Toast

1st course

Italian Wedding Soup (or to us – “Uncle Vinny Soup”)

2nd course

Sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter sauce

3rd course

Roasted Turkey

Sage Cornbread Stuffing

Cranberry/Orange Compote

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole

Potato Roses

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Glazed Rainbow Carrots

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts in a Dijon Mustard / Bacon Dressing

Roasted Asparagus with Pumpkin Gouda Cheese

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Artichokes

4th course

Vertical Pear Salad with Mixed Greens, Cranberries, Pecans and Goat Cheese

Dessert Course

Apple Cake

Pumpkin Amaretto Pie

Apple Cider Donuts

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Warm roasted Chestnuts

I was cooking today in preparation, and I decided to share some recipes as I go along in case you wanted to add them to your menu.

Have a wonderful, safe, Happy Thanksgiving

____________________________________________________

Vertical Pear Salad

THIS PHOTO WAS FROM THANKSGIVING 2018

This has to be the easiest salad to pull together and the best presentation….

In a large bowl add your choice of mixed greens (I love to use fresh baby spinach for this salad), cranberries or pomegranate seeds, pecans (optional), and goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon vinaigrette*.

* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice whisked together with 1/3 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper – ADD ON OPTIONS- 2 cloves of fresh crushed garlic or 1 tsp of Dijon mustard.

Slice a pear into 3 sections and add some salad to each layer and attach the sections together with a large bamboo toothpick (can be purchased at any large chain party store). Once the pear is secured altogether, add a little extra salad to the plate and drizzle the entire pear with honey. — Guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

_________________________________________________________

Sage Cornbread Stuffing

8 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs (from a 1-lb white loaf with crust removed)

4 cups coarsely crumbled buttermilk corn bread
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 turkey liver or 3 chicken livers (2 to 3 oz total), trimmed and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup
turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread all breadcrumbs in 2 shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven until dry, about 15 minutes total. Cool crumbs in pans on racks, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in parsley, sage, salt, and pepper.

Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, and then add onions and liver and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with crumbs and toss well. Add eggs, stock, and cream and toss well.

Transfer stuffing to a buttered 2 1/2- to 3-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, in middle of oven 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

Cooks’ note:
• Stuffing can be assembled (but not baked) 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Sour cream cornbread

1 cup All-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar 

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp baking soda                                                             

½ tsp salt

1-cup sour cream

¼ cup whole milk or Buttermilk

1 egg (beaten)

2 TBSP melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a bowl, mix 1-cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup yellow cornmeal. ¼ cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, and ½ tsp each baking soda and salt. Stir in 1 cup sour cream, ¼ cup milk, 1 beaten egg, and 2 TBSP melted butter.

Pour into a greased, 8-in square pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cut in 16 squares. Best served warm.

_____________________________________________________________

Stuffed Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS:

16 Mushroom caps

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves peeled and minced

3 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP butter

¾ cup grated cheese

½ cup breadcrumbs

Salt & pepper

(1/4-cup parsley –optional)

½ cup water or chicken stock

Wipe the mushrooms with a clean damp towel and remove the stems.  Cut off the root end of the stem, and coarsely chop the rest. Heat the 3 TBSP olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onions with 1 TBSP butter, add the garlic and chopped mushrooms stems. Sauté until tender & just beginning to brown—5 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Add the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt & pepper and mix well. Place the mushroom caps flat in a baking dish already coated with cooking spray. Spoon the filling into each cap. Drizzle the tops with olive oil and fill the dish with ½ cup water.

Bake for 30 minutes @ 350 degrees or until mushrooms feels soft when pierced with a fork. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.

___________________________________

I hope you enjoy these recipes and have a wonderful holiday and make special memories you can hold dear to your heart for years to come.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Diane

Please ask your family and friends to “follow”, “like” and “share” DishingwithDiane.com 

Once you become a member, you’ll never miss a post…

Also, continue to send me your comments, I love hearing from you.