Tag: appetizer

Mushroom Turnovers (canapés)

Mushroom Turnovers (canapés)

(Above: The dough used to make these canapés is sweet and rich.)

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Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you look through your old cookbook collection. I was perusing my collection of approximately 100 books when I discovered this gem from 1963: “The Boston Globe Cookbook for Brides.”

Globe cookbook coverCookbook title pageAt first I thought maybe I had picked it up at a library book sale a few years ago but then I opened it and discovered my mother’s signature on the title page (see photo at right). She passed away some 31 years ago in 1988, so seeing her signature after all these years was a little surprising and emotional.

Published in 1963, this was analog social media as the recipes were submitted by readers to “Confidential Chat,” found in the “women’s pages” of the Boston Globe.

I planned to look through it more carefully and see if I can find a recipe or two that she made. But first I was on a mission to find an appetizer and so this one caught my eye: mushroom turnovers. It looked easy enough and didn’t seem like it would take too long to make.


Rounds of dough cut out.
If you put just a little filling in the middle, it’s easier to fold over and seal the small turnovers.


These are really canapés. Turnovers conjure up something much larger in my mind and these delicious treats are small, just three-inches long.

They’re perfect for a cocktail party or as an appetizer before a dinner party. But be careful, eating three or four might ruin your appetite for dinner.


Mushrooms, onions, sour cream.
You only need about six large mushrooms to make the filling. Other ingredients include chopped onions and sour cream.


The dough is an interesting one. It’s made with cream cheese, butter, and flour, so it’s a little sweet and very rich. Already, I’m thinking of other ways to use it: maybe by filling it with a small piece of ham and some swiss cheese; and maybe by adding a bit of rosemary to the dough. I’ll keep you posted if I try that concoction.


You need to cover the dough up with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before rolling it out.


These take a little work to make but it’s fun work. After refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes, you roll it out and then cut it with a 3-inch biscuit cutter. I don’t have one of those, so I used a 3-inch mug and it worked perfectly.


Turnovers on a cookie sheet.
Don’t grease the cookie sheet. Don’t worry, they won’t stick.


Put a little filling (about 1/2 tsp.) on each round; fold it over to form a crescent; and use a fork to seal the edges. Then prick the top with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape when you bake them.

Bake them in a very hot oven (450 degrees) for about 15 minutes, until golden brown on top. Don’t turn them over as they won’t look as good. I made that mistake with one batch, but discovered that they tasted just as good.


Mushroom Turnovers (canapés)

May 6, 2019
: Makes about 30
: 1 hr 15 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium


  • For the dough:
  • Cream cheese, 9 oz.
  • Butter, softened, 1/2 cup
  • Flour, 1 1/2 cups
  • For the filling:
  • Butter, 3 tbsp.
  • Onion, chopped, 1 medium or half of a large onion.
  • Mushrooms, chopped, 1/2 pound (about 6 large)
  • Thyme, 1/4 tsp.
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Flour, 2 tbsp.
  • Sour cream (or sweet cream), 1/4 cup
  • Step 1 To make the turnovers: Mix the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a fork.
  • Step 2 Add sifted flour and combine together with a pastry blender or with your hands.
  • Step 3 Chill in a refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Step 4 Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Step 5 Roll dough to 1/8-inch thick on floured surface and cut into 3-inch rounds using a 3-inch biscuit cutter (or a glass or a mug).
  • Step 6 Place a tsp. of mushroom filling (see below) on each round and fold dough over. Seal with a fork. Prick each turnover with a knife to allow steam to escape when baking.
  • Step 7 Place turnovers on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake until lightly brown (about 15 minutes).
  • Step 8 To make the mushroom filling: Heat butter, add onion and brown lightly.
  • Step 9 Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often (about 3 minutes).
  • Step 10 Add thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • Step 11 Stir in flour and then cream. Cook gently until thickened.




7 Super Apps For A Super Bowl Party

7 Super Apps For A Super Bowl Party

I’ve got nothing against chicken wings, but there’s more to eat on Super Bowl Sunday than just them.

I’m not sure how it happened but the most popular appetizer for Super Bowl Sunday is chicken wings. We have you covered (see number 3 below) in that department with a unique recipe that uses both Asian and Italian spices.

And here are some other things that are just as tasty or maybe even more delicious to go along with the big game. They’re all quick and easy to make, but some are easier than others.

For your convenience I put them in order of how easy I believe they are to make.

1.) EASIEST: 10-Minute Crostini

This is by far the easiest and quickest recipe ever. Slice some bread, spread guacamole and salsa on top. That’s it.


2.) Pub Kettle Chips
Pub Kettle Chips

Melted cheese and bacon over some well done potato chips. Mmm!

3.) Asian Italian (AI) Chicken Wings
Chicken Wings

The quick marinade for these juicy wings includes soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

4.) Guacamole 

Homemade guacamole is much better than store bought. The secret is the right balance of spices. You don’t want it to be bland.

5.) Tzatziki 

I got this recipe from a cookbook I bought in Greece. It’s authentic.

6.) Hummus and Pita Chips
Hummus and pita chips

I started using this recipe a long time before hummus was available in supermarkets. It’s much better than store-bought.

7.) Antipasti Platter
Antipasti platter

This platter isn’t difficult to make but you do have to spend some time looking for the right ingredients.

Veggie Turkey Platter and Dip

Veggie Turkey Platter and Dip

That’s right. This is a turkey made out of vegetables. And this one was made by Trish. She can’t resist a cute dish, which is why she married me (or is it because she has a fondness for turkeys?)

But enough of that nonsense. Here’s the easy-to-assemble (no-cooking required recipe). (Note: Trish didn’t have any red peppers so she left them out, but I included them in the recipe below. )

(To show my appreciation for you putting up with my lame jokes, I’m giving you this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter. I promise, the cookbook contains no feeble attempts at humor. Happy Thanksgiving!)


Veggie Turkey Platter

November 21, 2018
: Easy


  • For the turkey:
  • Broccoli (just the heads)
  • Yellow pepper, cut into strips
  • Red pepper, cut into strips
  • Carrots, baby carrots
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Egg, 1 large hard-boiled
  • Black olive, 1 (to cut eyes out)
  • For the dip:
  • Knorr's Vegetable Recipe Mix
  • Sour Cream, 16 oz
  • Mayo, 1 cup
  • Frozen chopped spinach, 10oz box (optional)
  • Water chestnuts, 8 oz can (optional)
  • Scallions, 3 chopped (optional
  • Step 1 On a large platter, layout the vegetables as shown in the photo (you can put the red pepper slices above the carrots).
  • Step 2 Mix all of the dip ingredients together and fill a small bowl with it.
  • Step 3 Put the hardboiled egg into the top half of the bowl of dip and cut out eyes from bits of black olives. Attach the eyes with toothpicks.
  • Step 4 Cut out a triangle for a nose and attach that with a toothpick.
  • Step 5 Cut out wings and feet from a yellow pepper and place them in the right spot in the dip.
  • Step 6 You can also cut out a long red pepper strip and have it dangle below the egg, like a turkey wattle.



Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

Turkey soup is much heartier than chicken soup. It has a stronger, bolder, deeper flavor.

The thing I like about making broth is that it’s economical. You eat a turkey one day (or maybe several) and then when there’s not much meat left, you use the carcass to make delicious soup, which can be another meal on its own or an appetizer.


Turkey carcass in a soup pot
It may not look pretty, but boiling a turkey carcass will make your kitchen smell great.


Turkey and chicken soup is also pretty easy to make once you know a couple of tricks. Here’s a brief summary of those tricks that we’ll review later (see bolded instructions below):

  1. Refrigerate the broth overnight so that the fat congeals and is easy to skim off.
  2. Throw away the vegetables you used to make the broth. Boil new ones in a separate pot of water to add to the soup when it’s done.
  3. Make servings of soup as you need them. You can make a big pot of soup with all of the noodles, pasta, or rice that you plan on using but I find it easier to make it as I need it over a few days.

The first thing you do is throw the carcass in a large soup pot and fill it with water. You add a few vegetables and some salt and pepper to help flavor it, and that’s it. You bring it all to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or more, with the lid askew on top.

Turn off the heat, and let the soup cool awhile before straining it through a strainer into a clean pot. Then put the soup into the refrigerator and leave it overnight. The next day, the fat has congealed and is floating on top where it’s easy to remove with a tablespoon.

Next, figure out what you want to add to the soup and the trick here is to boil those items separately in a small pot of water. Do not boil these items in the soup itself or you risk having all the flavors of the soup turn to steam and burn off.


Pasta, carrots, and celery
Discard the vegetables you cooked the soup in and then boil some fresh ones in a separate small pot of water.


I usually use some chopped carrots, celery, and some type of pasta: pasta noodles; or tortellini; or even tiny pastina work well. Depending on how large your turkey carcass is, you’re sure to enjoy this soup for several days. And why not, it tastes great and has plenty of nutritional value: I’m guessing it’s even more powerful than chicken soup.


Turkey soup in a bowl
Trim off some of the meat before putting the carcass in a pot and save it. You can add it to the soup later when you’re ready to serve it.


Lastly, use the soup to make servings as you need them. For instance, the first night you may only need to make four servings. So measure out enough of the soup for four servings and put it into a pot.

As you heat the soup up slowly being careful that it doesn’t boil, take another pot of water and bring that to a boil. Add your noodles or pasta to that pot (or make rice if that’s what you’re using) and cook until al dente. Remove the pasta or noodles from the boiling water and add them to the hot soup. Also add the reserved pieces of turkey.

Next cut up enough carrots and celery for four servings (use your judgement) and boil them in that separate pot. When done, add them to the soup.

Serve the soup with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional, but I wouldn’t make soup without it).

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)


Turkey Soup

November 20, 2018
: Easy

Once you know a couple of tricks, turkey soup is easy to make.


  • To Make the Broth:
  • Turkey carcass, take most of the meat off before boiling
  • Carrots, 1 or 2 broken in 2 or 3 pieces
  • Celery stalks, 1 or two broken in a few pieces
  • Onion, medium, quartered
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Fresh herbs (optional), such as parsley, sage and/or lovage.
  • To Make Soup Servings:
  • Carrot, 1 or 2 cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Celery, 1 or 2 stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Pasta or cooked rice or noodles. You can use macaroni noodles, tortellini, or even pastina.
  • Turkey pieces
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (optional)
  • Step 1 Strip carcass of any good meat that is left and then put it in a large soup pot. Put good turkey meat aside.
  • Step 2 Fill the pot with cold water until it covers the carcass.
  • Step 3 Add carrots, onion, celery, salt, pepper and herbs (optional).
  • Step 4 Bring pot to a boil and then reduce heat and let it simmer for at least an hour.
  • Step 5 Take pot away from heat and let the broth cool for awhile until it’s safe to strain.
  • Step 6 Strain soup into a clean pot. Discard the vegetables and the carcass. Put the soup into the refrigerator overnight.
  • Step 7 The next day, the fat will congeal and will be floating ontop. Take a tablespoon and carefully skim the fat off the top and discard it.
  • Step 8 Heat up the broth, but don’t let it boil.
  • Step 9 In a separate smaller pot filled with water boil pasta, noodles or rice. When it’s tender or al dente, add it to the soup.
  • Step 10 Next, boil the carrot and celery pieces until tender. Add them to the soup. Also add the reserved turkey pieces to the soup.
  • Step 11 Serve soup hot with a side of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional).


The Secret to Getting Everything to the Table Piping Hot

The Secret to Getting Everything to the Table Piping Hot

One of the biggest challenges to hosting Thanksgiving dinner is getting all of the side dishes to the table piping hot (or at least not cold).

So what’s the secret? PREPARATION!!

And how do you that? By making lists. I’m a big believer in writing a list of things to do. I do this every day for daily tasks and also have a “bigger picture” list for projects I’m working on, which may take several months to accomplish.

Now Is The Time To Start Planning

With Thanksgiving only a week away, now is the time to start planning. The first thing you need to do is decide on a menu. Here are some recipes you may want to consider making, along with an overall Thanksgiving prep schedule.


Nan’s Mashed Potatoes are the killer side dish for Thanksgiving. If you make just one thing from this menu, make this.



Here’s the Rootsliving Thanksgiving Day menu:

  1. Antipasti Platter (You don’t have to make all four. Pick, choose and then assemble.)
  2. Root Soup (our signature dish)
  3. Classic, No-Fail, American Roasted Turkey
  4. Triple Cornbread Stuffing
  5. Nan’s Mashed Potatoes
  6. Green Bean Casserole (the healthier version)
  7. Cranberry Sauce (homestyle or chunky, from a can. Hey, you can’t do everything.)
  8. Quick, Easy, Nutella Cookies (If guests ask what they can bring, tell them pies.)
A tray of breadsticks, stuffed red peppers, and more
You can make any, or all four, of these appetizers on Thanksgiving Day. You just assemble the ingredients (no cooking required).


To make your own cooking schedule, I suggest working backwards. Start at Thanksgiving Day and figure out what food has to be made on that day. In other words, what food can’t you make ahead of time?

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to make the turkey the night before because you wouldn’t be able to serve it moist and hot. Reheated turkey isn’t as good as freshly cooked.

If you plan to make the Rootsliving Thanksgiving Day menu (or a pretty good facsimile), you can follow this schedule.

You’ll notice that I start with cooking a chicken on Sunday. That’s only if you intend to make your own chicken stock for the Root Soup. Store bought is fine and if you decide to use that, then skip that part of the plan.

TODAY-SUNDAY: Decide on your menu. Make a list of ingredients. Order your fresh turkey and make time to food shop.


  • Roast a chicken (optional, only if you intend to make your own stock) and eat it for Sunday dinner.


  • Make chicken stock with the leftover chicken carcass and put it in the refrigerator overnight. (optional)


  • Spoon fat off chicken stock and make Root Soup.


  • Make Nan’s Mashed Potatoes (but don’t sprinkle with paprika or dot the top with butter just yet. Instead put it in a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Wait to bake it on Thursday.)
  • Mashed potatoes in baking dish.
  • Make Green Bean Casserole (but don’t sprinkle the final layer of French’s crispy fried onions on top. Instead put it in a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Wait to bake it on Thursday.)
  • Make Quick, Easy, Nutella cookies 


Finally,  don’t forget to relax. The holidays are for remembering and celebrating what’s important in life — family and good friends. The food, spirits, and material gifts are secondary.

And if cranky aunt gladys complains that the green bean casserole isn’t warm enough, smile and pour her another glass of wine (it’s counterintuitive, but she’ll be less whiny).

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with a free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)



Shrimp Saute, “Fresh From Maine”

Shrimp Saute, “Fresh From Maine”

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy
and Lose Weight.”  

This can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish.

It’s pretty easy and fast to make. In fact, you have to work pretty quickly so be sure to have all of the ingredients assembled before-hand and placed into small bowls so that you can add them to the frying pan when needed. The French call this “mise en place,” which literally translates to “everything in its place.”


Pepper, tomatoes, garlic in bowls
Prepare the ingredients and put them in separate bowls before cooking.


The first thing to do is to roast the red pepper and the half of jalapeno pepper in a hot oven (400 degrees or higher). This could take 10-15 minutes and you should turn them over at least once. You want the peppers to become soft with a nice black char on them.


Charred peppers
You can roast the peppers on a cookie sheet.


Then, while the peppers roast, you can chop the tomato and garlic and start assembling the rest of your “mise en place.”

Shrimp Buyer Beware!

As far as shrimp goes, buy American and buy wild! This is because there are no regulations in place in Asia and Central America (where most of our shrimp comes from) to ensure the shrimp are healthy to eat. Shortcuts in farming shrimp in these places include practices that are unhealthy and some shrimp farms use antibiotics that are not allowed in the U.S. The FDA looks the other way and allows this food to be sold here.

I use shrimp that is labeled, U.S. frozen wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also uncooked. I find pre-cooked shrimp doesn’t have as much flavor.


Shrimp cooking in a frying pan
You finish this dish by adding butter and white wine to the shrimp in the frying pan.


Fresh From Joshua’s Restaurant in Maine

I got this simple and delicious recipe from a book called “Fresh From Maine, Recipes and Stories from the State’s Best Chefs.” It’s from Joshua’s Restaurant in Wells, Maine.

The book features more than 50 recipes and interviews with chefs from 20 restaurants in Maine, all of which get their ingredients from local farmers and fishermen to create all-natural and organic dishes.


Shrimp Sautée in a bowl.
It’s best to serve this dish in shallow bowls as you want to pour some of the tasty liquid over it.


My friend, Russell French took the photographs for the book and his friend, Michael S. Sanders, wrote the text. You may remember Russ as a guest photographer on Rootsliving when he took photos for my grandmother’s chicken and polenta recipe.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)


Shrimp Saute From Joshua's Restaurant

November 13, 2018
: 4 as an appetizer; 2-3 as a main course
: 20 min
: 10 min
: 30 min
: Easy-Medium


  • Olive oil (3 tablespoons)
  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined (1 pound, 21-25 count)
  • Tomato, chopped in 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
  • Red pepper, roasted, thinly sliced. (1 large)
  • Jalepeno pepper, roasted, thinly sliced (1/2 pepper)
  • Garlic, chopped. (2 tablespoons)
  • Dry white wine (1 cup)
  • Butter, unsalted (4 tablespoons)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Step 1 Preheat saute pan. Put oil in pan and when almost smoking, add shrimp, tomato, peppers, and garlic.
  • Step 2 Let cook for about 1 minute, then toss thoroughly just once to create a caramelized flavor.
  • Step 3 After another minute when shrimp is about half-way cooked, add the wine and salt to taste.
  • Step 4 Reduce wine by half, cooking off the alcohol. Then add butter and parsley to finish.
  • Step 5 Serve immediately with a few pieces of grilled baguette, which is perfect for soaking up the sauce.


Antipasti Platter: Assemble and Serve

Chef Gina Palmacci from Legal Oysteria in Boston created these four antipasti dishes for the Dorm Room Chef video series I shot and produced for the Boston Globe.

I’ve made them at home for special dinner parties. They’d work well for a small cocktail party as well. Think of them as Italian tapas: small plates that are easy to make and very delicious.

You can make one, two, or any combination of these for your platter. I’d suggest using the ingredient list below for your shopping list and then watching the video above to find out what to do. Seeing someone do it is much easier and faster than reading about it.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)


Antipasti Platter

October 17, 2018


  • For the Breadsticks Wrapped in Prosciutto:
  • Breadsticks (sesame or whatever you like)
  • Prosciutto di Parma (this is the imported stuff)
  • For the Stuffed Peppadew Peppers:
  • Peppadew peppers (these are small red peppers that come in a jar and are available at most large supermarkets)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • For the Marinated Olives:
  • Olives (get a variety
  • 3 types will do)
  • Rosemary (crushed)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Toasted almonds
  • Fresh juice from an orange
  • Olive oil (optional, use only if olives are dry)
  • For the Tuna Crostini:
  • French bread, sliced
  • Tuna fish (Italian, from a can)
  • Mayo
  • Capers (chopped)
  • Salt, pepper
  • Parsley (chopped)
  • Lemon juice
  • Red onion (chopped and soaked in red wine vinegar)
  • Step 1 To make the Breadsticks Wrapped in Prosciutto: Take a breadstick and wrap a slice of prosciutto around it. Put them in a glass to serve.
  • Step 2 To make the Stuffed Peppadew Peppers: Cut small pieces of the cheese and put them in the peppers. Serve on a small tray.
  • Step 3 To make the marinated olives: Mix the olives in a bowl. Add all of the ingredients and toss.
  • Step 4 To make the tuna crostini: Toast the bread slices. Sprinkle olive oil, salt and pepper on them. Mix all of the other ingredients in a bowl, except for the red onion. Spread this mixture on the toasted bread slices and top with slices of the red onion.


Martini Party Penguins

Martini Party Penguins

(Above: Study these birds carefully, then figure out what to do. That’s what Tricia did.)

Trish made these a few years ago for a martini/jewelry party.

Friends of ours make their own jewelry and she thought throwing a party would be a good way to give everyone a head start on their holiday shopping.

Trish found this idea for penguin olives. It didn’t come with any instructions so she studied the photo and then used her imagination to assemble them herself.

Here’s what she did:

Martini Party Penguins

October 16, 2018


  • Extra-large pitted black olives (1 can)
  • Small pitted black olives (1 can)
  • Cream cheese
  • Carrot (1)
  • Chives
  • Toothpicks
  • Step 1 Stuff the the extra-large olives with cream cheese.
  • Step 2 Slice the carrot into 1/4 thick circles and then cut out a piece of pie from each one.
  • Step 3 Place the large stuffed olives on top of a carrot circle and then attach the small olive with the opening facing you on top of the large olive. Connect it all with a toothpick.
  • Step 4 Cut small peaks out of the carrot and stick them in the small olive olive hole.
  • Step 5 Tie a chive between the large olive and small olive so that it looks like a scarf.

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella


Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy
and Lose Weight.”  

Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants: La Zucca Magica, in Nice. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed a few years ago, but I have fond memories. It was an Italian vegetarian restaurant that got much acclaim from guide books and the New York Times.



Stuffed chard in a bowl
It’s best to serve these individually, surrounded by a little broth and topped with some lemon zest.


Don’t let the vegetarian label fool you into thinking the dishes were light there. La Zucca Magica served hearty meals laden with butter, oil, and tomato sauces. I can assure you no one left there hungry.

We didn’t have this dish at the restaurant but I made it when we got home using a recipe that was posted on the New York Times site that has since disappeared. And I was able to save the written recipe (see below).



Stuffed chard in a baking dish
Choose a baking pan where the chard just about fit and are close together.


There are multiple flavors and textures that work well together in this tasty delicacy. The fresh healthy green of the soft swiss chard leaves; the light mellow taste of saffron; the bite of the lemon zest; and the sweetness of the Parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheese all make your taste buds dance.


A hand-held lemon zester
This recipe calls for lemon zest. This hand-held lemon zester works great, catching the zest as you scrape. It works much better than using a cheese grater. I just got this tool as a gift and will now use nothing else.


I served this as the third course in a three course meal I created from recipes I got in Southern France. Although none of the courses contained meat, the three courses were very filling.  I’ve also served it in the Rootsliving dining room on Christmas Eve as a second course, before the main meal of Vegetable Lasagna Masterpiece.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)


Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

October 15, 2018
: 6
: 1 hr
: Medium

There are some skills required to making this dish, including making a good risotto.


  • Vegetable broth (6 cups)
  • Arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Saffron (1 large pinch)
  • Lemon (1 small, zested)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated
  • I recommend using the best, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Swiss chard leaves (6 large)
  • Mozzarella (1/2 pound cut into small cubes)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to drizzle over the leaves)
  • Step 1 Make risotto by heating up 1 tbsp of butter and adding the rice. Stir and let the rice get warm (about a minute or two) before adding the first ladle full of hot vegetable broth. The secret to making good risotto is to use hot broth and only add about a ladle full at a time, just enough to cover the rice.
  • Step 2 Keep the heat on low to medium. When the first ladle full of hot broth is nearly absorbed (the liquid should still be covering the rice), add another ladle full and stir until all three cups are used. Stir just enough so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not leave the pan unattended until you’re done making the risotto. The rice should end up being barely tender.
  • Step 3 Dissolve saffron in juice of one lemon. Add to rice, along with butter, Parmesan, zest of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit. Rice can be made in advance at this point (up to 1 day), but do not refrigerate it.
  • Step 4 Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups of the remaining broth for about 45 seconds. Take out, drain on a dishcloth, and cut out the hardest part of central stem. Reserve cooking broth.
  • Step 5 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With wet hands, form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in each ball and insert mozzarella. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.
  • Step 6 Put the stuffed chard in a close-fitting oven pan, with enough reserved broth to come about a half-inch up the sides of the balls. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Step 7 Serve balls topped with a little more broth, more lemon zest, Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.


Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

October 15, 2018
: 6
: 1 hr
: Medium


  • Vegetable broth (6 cups)
  • Arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Saffron (1 large pinch)
  • Lemon (1 small, zested)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated
  • I recommend using the best, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Swiss chard leaves (6 large)
  • Mozzarella (1/2 pound cut into small cubes)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to drizzle over the leaves)
  • Step 1 Make risotto by heating up 1 tbsp of butter and adding the rice. Stir and then add one up of the vegetable broth. Keep heat on low to medium. When the liquid is absorbed add another cup and stir until all three cups are used. Rice should be barely tender.
  • Step 2 Dissolve saffron in juice of one lemon. Add to rice, along with butter, Parmesan, zest of one lemon and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit. Rice can be made in advance at this point (up to 1 day), but do not refrigerate it.
  • Step 3 Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups remaining broth for about 45 seconds. Take out, drain on a dishcloth, and cut out the hardest part of central stem. Reserve cooking broth.
  • Step 4 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With wet hands, form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in each ball and insert mozzarella. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.
  • Step 5 Put balls in a close-fitting oven pan, with enough reserved broth to come about a half-inch up the sides of the balls. Bake 20 minutes.
  • Step 6 Serve balls topped with a little more broth, more lemon zest, Parmesan and olive oil.

Recipe Videos From Boston’s Best Chefs

This is one of my favorite recipes from the weekly Dorm Room Chef series I produced for the Boston Globe. (more…)

Tuscan-Style Fried Sage Leaves

Tuscan-Style Fried Sage Leaves

This recipe was printed in the Boston Globe’s food section at least 15 years ago, probably closer to 20 years ago. I cut it out of the paper then and used it to make these today but unfortunately, there’s no date on the clipping.

The headline on the article was “Tuscany’s last secret,” and the recipe for the frying batter, which can also be used with vegetables and zucchini blossoms, was taken from the Fine Art of Italian Cooking, by Giuliano Bugialli. I think the Globe should ask readers for their favorite recipe from the Globe’s food section over the past fifty years and then print an article based on the top 10 selections.

Here’s the recipe:

Tuscan-Style Fried Sage Leaves

October 11, 2015
: 15 min
: 20 min
: 35 min
: Easy


  • Sage leaves, fresh whole
  • All purpose unbleached flour, 1 1/8 cup
  • Kosher salt, a pinch
  • Ground black pepper, just a little
  • Nutmeg, a pinch
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Egg yolk, one from an extra-large egg
  • Dry, white wine, 1/4 cup
  • Vodka, unflavored 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Cold water, 1/2 cup
  • Step 1 To Make the Batter: In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  • Step 2 Make a well in the center of the flour, then add the olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, mixing very well and incorporating just a little of the flour from the rim of the well.
  • Step 3 Add the egg yolk, wine, and vodka and incorporate more flour.
  • Step 4 Finally, add the water and mix everything together very well. The batter should be very smooth with no lumps.
  • Step 5 Let it rest at least one hour in a cool place.
  • Step 6 Frying the Sage Leaves:  Heat about an inch or two of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Insert a wooden spoon in the oil and if bubbles form about it, it’s hot enough to cook the leaves.
  • Step 7 Dip the leaves quickly in the batter, being sure to coat well on both sides and cook in the hot oil in several batches.
  • Step 8 Cook each leaf about one minute or two on each side. Remove from the oil when they turn golden brown and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow the oil to drain.
  • Step 9 Sprinkle salt on the leaves and a squirt of lemon juice.


Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

(Above: Caponata on slices of Italian bread makes crostini.)

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

The original recipe called for salting and draining the eggplant presumably to make it less bitter. I don’t believe in this procedure and find that picking a fresh eggplant that is dark purple and firm and with few, if any scars, works better. I also suggest peeling off the skin to create long white and purple stripes.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week. Enjoy!!


September 20, 2015
: 20 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium


  • 2 lb eggplant (preferably small but not Asian)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably Sicilian)
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 11 garlic cloves (from 2 heads), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably from a tube)
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole Italian tomatoes, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 5 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup large green Sicilian olives (6 oz), pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Step 1 Peel the eggplant to create long purple and white stripes. Then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Step 2 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté three fourths of garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  • Step 3 Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Step 4 Add tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Step 5 Bring 2-3 cups of salted water to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, then cook celery until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • Step 6 Heat 1/4 inch oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it’s hot but not smoking and then fry the eggplant in 4 batches, stirring and turning constantly with a slotted spoon, until browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. (Heat oil between batches.) Transfer to paper towels.
  • Step 7 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then reduce heat to moderate and cook onion, bell pepper, and remaining garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Step 8 Add tomato sauce, eggplant, celery, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon sea salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  • Step 9 Cool to room temperature, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 6-8 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley and basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.




Fresh guacamole is much better than store-bought and it’s pretty easy to make. You also don’t have to worry about all those preservatives. It’s always good to know exactly what you’re eating.

However, some homemade guacamole can be bland. The garlic, salt, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes in this recipe will ensure this guac will stand out.


January 11, 2014
: Easy

If you make this ahead of time, cover the surface with plastic wrap (so that it touches the guacamole) and put it in the refrigerator. This will keep it from turning brown.


  • Avocados, 2 ripe.
  • Onion, about 1/4 cup chopped fine or minced.
  • Garlic, 1 clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Lemon juice, about 2 teaspoons or to taste
  • Ground Cumin, 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Red Pepper Flakes, about 1/4 tsp.
  • Step 1 Halve and pit the avocados and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
  • Step 2 Mash the avocados coarse with a fork and stir in the onion, the garlic paste, the lemon juice, the cumin, and the red pepper flakes.
Pub Kettle Chips

Pub Kettle Chips

(Above: These chips would go great with watching a football game or just watching the snow fall.)

This was an appetizer eureka!

It isn’t often that I strike gold while dining out but I did on a recent visit to Providence, Rhode Island. By striking gold, I mean tasting something so incredibly delicious and yet so simple to cook it makes you think “Why didn’t I think of that?” This happened on a visit to Union Station Brewery in downtown Providence. The dish? Pub Kettle Chips.

For a mere $7.99 you get a large platter of homemade kettle potato chips with melted cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream. Mmmm! Goes well with beer (but then again, what doesn’t?)

I recreated them at home by doing the following:

Pub Kettle Chips (From Union Station Brewery in Providence, RI)

December 17, 2013
: Easy


  • Potato Chips (Use kettle chips, such as Utz Mystic Gourmet Dark Russet Potato Chips.)
  • Extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped into pieces
  • Scallions, chopped
  • Sour Cream
  • Step 1 Spread a layer of potato chips on a cookie sheet.
  • Step 2 Sprinkle with extra-sharp cheddar cheese and bake in 350 degree oven until cheese melts and chips are hot.
  • Step 3 Cook bacon and crumble it or cut it into small pieces and then sprinkle on top of chips.
  • Step 4 Sprinkle with chopped scallions. And put a couple of large dollops of sour cream on top.


Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

It came to me in a dream: nepitella pesto. I thought that maybe I had invented the idea but a quick search online turned up one reference to it at a restaurant in New York called Osteria Morini.

There they team nepitella pesto with buffalo mozzarella on crostini or with fresh whipped ricotta topped with peas and asparagus. I’m sure that doesn’t taste bad, but what were they thinking? Everyone knows nepitella pairs perfectly with mushrooms and artichokes: everyone, in the small minority of people in this country who have heard of nepitella.

Nepitella plant

So let me let you in on the secret. Nepitella is an herb that grows wild in Tuscany (and in my driveway after I transplanted a small plant from my grandmother’s garden about 15 years ago). Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And I wouldn’t think of cooking mushrooms or artichokes without it.

So when I was inspired to try to make nepitella pesto the logical use for it was to stuff mushrooms with it. And the result was perfect.

Stuffed mushrooms

The pesto by itself, without any cooking, was much stronger than a basil pesto: more earthy and with a sharp bite, almost spicy flavor. But when it cooked inside the mushrooms, the taste mellowed into a more mild buttery flavor: still very earthy but without the sharpness of the raw nepitella pesto.

If you’d like to try this, finding nepitella will be a challenge, but a search online revealed a few places that sell the plant. Or just stop by my driveway: there this evasive plant grows wild in cracks and along narrow dirt patches along the fence.

Nepitella Pesto (And Stuffed Mushrooms)

September 4, 2013
: 45 min

Making the pesto probably takes about 15-20 minutes; add another 20-25 minutes to make the stuffed mushrooms.


  • Nepitella leaves (washed, about a half a cup)
  • Pignoli nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • Garlic (4-6 cloves)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/4- 1/2 cup
  • Imported, freshly grated. Don’t use the stuff they sell in a jar
  • Or use freshly grated Romano and/or Pecorino if you’d like to save some money.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper.
  • Mushrooms
  • Step 1 Put nuts and garlic in food processor with a steel blade and process for about 15 seconds.
  • Step 2 Add nepitella leaves, salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 With processor running slowly add the olive oil until it’s completely pureed.
  • Step 4 Add cheese and process for another minute.
  • Step 5 If you don’t use it right away, put in refrigerator with plastic wrap touching the top or with a film of olive oil on top. This will prevent discoloring.
  • Step 6 To stuff mushrooms:
  • Step 7 Pull off stems, clean caps with paper towel.
  • Step 8 Put clean caps in a baking dish that has been greased with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Step 9 Spoon in nepitella pesto and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You can serve it as is or with a shaved piece of parmesan cheese on top and/or a pignoli nut.
10-Minute Crostini

10-Minute Crostini

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy
and Lose Weight.”  

Have crostini – will travel.

Traveling is great for sampling new food and getting new recipes but I didn’t have good food in my mind when I checked into a hotel directly off the highway in New York this past weekend. It just goes to show that you can be inspired in the least likely of places.

And the least likely place I expected to find culinary creativity was at the Renaissance Hotel in White Plains, New York.

Sitting at the bar we were a little hungry so I ordered several appetizers. One of them was a guacamole crostini where the avocado melted in our mouth and fresh salsa refreshed our palates. This one I knew would be a keeper and one that could be easily reproduced. Here’s how I recreated it:

10-Minute Crostini

July 16, 2013
: 10 min
: Super Easy


  • Guacamole (Buy already made or make it yourself by mashing two avocados with half a small onion, chopped. Add a tablespoon or two of lime juice or lemon juice if you don’t have lime, one mashed garlic clove, a 1/2 tsp. of cumin.)
  • Sliced Italian bread, toasted.
  • Fresh salsa (You could make this too but I used the store-bought fresh salsa found in the produce section of most supermarkets)
  • Olive oil, salt.
  • Step 1 Drizzle toast with olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt.
  • Step 2 Spread guacamole on bread and then top with fresh salsa.
Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

(Above: This gnocchi dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.)

In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.

Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.

But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.

I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.

The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.

Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

October 4, 2012
: 4

This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.


  • Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
  • Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
  • Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
  • Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
  • Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Step 1 Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )
  • Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
  • Step 3 In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!
  • Step 4 Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.
Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Here’s another recipe from our Southern France meal plan, courtesy of La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course there and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Instead of spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet (shown above), put it in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake it.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard and use a vegetable broth bullion cube instead of chicken broth bullion cube if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.

They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.


Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:


First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.


Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta


Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.


If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce


And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)


Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

(Above: My recreation of a sweet and savory soup I was served in Nice.)

Our trip to southern France last week was inspiring, causing me to want to recreate several memorable meals we had in Nice.

This recipe was inspired by lunch at Le Comptoir where I was served a cold, gazpacho soup made from cantaloupe.

Cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto is often served as an appetizer but I’ve often thought it a bit clumsy to eat. You either have to pick it up with your fingers or use a fork and knife to cut through the slippery meat.

This recipe blends the two complementary flavors together and delivers the sweet, savory blend easily to your mouth via a soup spoon.

Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

July 28, 2012
: 30 min
: Easy


  • Cantaloupe (1 very large melon, or 2 small ones, peeled and cubed)
  • Water (1/2 cup)
  • Shallots (1 tablespoon, minced)
  • Lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
  • Sherry cooking wine/vinegar (1 teaspoon)
  • Salt (preferably Kosher, 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Prosciutto (1/4 pound, thinly sliced)
  • Olive oil (2 teaspoons)
  • Fresh mint (4 teaspoons, chopped)
  • Black pepper (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (one for each bowl of soup).
  • Step 1 Place first six ingredients in a blender and process until smooth (don’t overdo it). You’ll need to do this in batches. Place in freezer to chill while prosciutto cooks.
  • Step 2 Heal olive oil in a frying pan and cook prosciutto strips until crispy (about 5 minutes). Turn over as necessary. Drain on paper towels.
  • Step 3 Ladle soup into bowls. Place sun-dried tomato in center. Place four strips of prosciutto coming out of the tomato like the rays of the sun. Sprinkle a little mint and pepper over the top of the soup. Serve cold.
Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

This is a very special, yet very simple recipe, I got from my brother-in-law Billy Kelley, who spends several months each year in Florence, Italy. He isn’t a cook. He’s an artist who paints in his studio all day and then goes out to eat in some of that city’s best restaurants.

A few years ago he brought me back a small booklet from Trattoria del Carmine which contained several recipes including this one. They filled the parmesan cheese basket with a yellow squash risotto. Here I stuffed it with a plain risotto made with onions and celery. You could also use the lemon flavored risotto recipe for this dish, just follow steps 1-3.

A light plain rice dish would work too. Just be sensitive not to overpower the crisp tangy taste of the parmesan cup. Be creative. Use your imagination. What else could you fill this with?

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

March 21, 2012


  • Imported parmesan cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano is best. (Don’t skimp here. I once tried using the cheese they sell in a jar at the supermarket and it didn’t work. The cheese would not melt and it made me wonder if it was cheese at all.)
  • Equipment: A nonstick frying pan.
  • Step 1 Warm up the nonstick frying pan.
  • Step 2 Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the cheese in a circle in the hot pan.
  • Step 3 Let the cheese melt until it becomes an intense yellow color.
  • Step 4 Detach the sheet of cheese with a spatula and place it flat over a small cup or 2-3-inch ramekin. Poke it down into the cup or ramekin with your index finger to give it a bowl shape.
  • Step 5 Once it cools, remove it from the cup or ramekin. Put it on a plate and fill it with risotto or whatever you decide will work.
What Do You Do With Watermelon Radishes?

What Do You Do With Watermelon Radishes?

This is as simple (and colorful) as it gets.

My friend Kristi recently gave me some watermelon radishes she got from a local farm as part of her CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery. I never heard of them and asked how to prepare them.

“Eat them raw,” she suggested. “They’re very good with hummus.”

So I washed and peeled them, and then sliced them into disks. They go well with hummus and make a colorful, healthy appetizer.

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi di pollo e patata sounds so much better than chicken and potato gnocchi. But they both taste the same: light, savory, elegant.

This recipe, from the classic Italian cookbook from 1894 The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi, makes many gnocchis so it’s great to make and freeze. And then when you crave gnocchi, you’ll always have it on hand.

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

November 28, 2010
: Medium


  • For the broth:
  • A whole chicken (1)
  • Celery Stalk (1, split in half)
  • Carrot (1 whole, peeled and cut in half)
  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)
  • For the gnocchi:
  • Mealy potatoes, peeled, boiled and pressed through a ricer or strainer (1/2 pound)
  • Small chicken breast, boiled and minced (Use one from the chicken you used to make the broth).
  • Parmesan cheese (3/4 of a cup)
  • Egg yolks (2)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Nutmeg (a pinch)
  • Flour (3-4 tablespoons)
  • Step 1 To make the broth: Put a whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  • Step 2 Add celery and carrot, and salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for an hour or more.
  • Step 4 Remove chicken. Pour broth through strainer into a large plastic container and refrigerate over night.
  • Step 5 The next day, take the fat off the top of the broth with a soup spoon.
  • Step 6 To make the gnocchi: Mix all of the ingredients, except the flour, together well.
  • Step 7 Work the flour into the mixture to bind it.
  • Step 8 Roll the mixture on a floured surface into a snake, the diameter of your little finger.
  • Step 9 Cut the snake into 1-inch lengths. Put what you don’t use into a large freezer bag and put in a freezer for later use.
  • Step 10 Simmer the gnocchi in the broth. They are very delicate and may fall apart. Don’t be too concerned as when they fall apart, they flavor the broth.
Cheesy Khachapuri From ‘The World’

Cheesy Khachapuri From ‘The World’

(Above: Khachapuri is easy to make but takes time as the dough has to rise twice.)

One of the best ways to understand a people and their culture is through food, and the people at “The World” (a radio program produced by the BBC, PRI, and WGBH) understand that.

On their website I stumbled upon this recipe for a sweet bread stuffed with cheese. It was on the “Geo Quiz” page and it asked readers to guess the country on the Black Sea where khachapuri comes from.

Give up? It’s Georgia and it’s so popular there the government wants to trademark the recipe. After making it, I understand why. Its golden brown, sweet flaky crust, stuffed with a savory blend of hot cheese melts in your mouth. Served with salad or soup, it’s a very filling meal.

“The World” gave links to two recipes, one from MasterCook on the RecipeSource website and the other from Gourmet Magazine. Now usually I’d follow the Gourmet Magazine recipe as I’m a big fan of that now defunct publication, but I liked the sound of the MasterCook recipe better.

The dough fills a springform pan nicely.
The dough fills a springform pan nicely.

The traditional recipe calls for a cheese called sulguni but it’s either too difficult or impossible to get in this part of the world, so both recipes suggest alternatives. The goal is to try and get a stringy cheese that is flavorful and a bit salty. The MasterCook recipe suggests using a combination of Muenster, Jarlsberg, and White Cheddar. The Gourmet Magazine recipe suggests using a combination of Mozzarella and Havarti.

I decided to use all five cheeses and it was a hit at the RootsLiving table tonight.

Since the recipe I used called for 24 ounces of cheese, I used about 5 oz. of each cheese.

I might do some more experimenting with stuffings for this dough. It was great to work with. It rolled out easily, was very soft, but not delicate.

The flavor of the dough is sweet and might lend itself to an appetizer or after-dinner delicacy.

The RootsLiving kitchen could be busy for awhile with this one. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Here’s the recipe I followed (don’t be afraid to experiment with your own blend of cheeses):


Khachapuri (Cheese Bread)

April 27, 2010
: 6-8 as a meal
: Medium


  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup room-temp milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 5 ounces of muenster cheese
  • 5 ounces of Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese
  • 5 ounces of white cheddar cheese
  • 5 ounces of mozzarella cheese
  • 5 ounces of Havarti cheese
  • 2 eggs (beat slightly)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • Step 1 Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water and let stand 5-10 minutes to proof until foamy.
  • Step 2 Add milk, 2 tbs sugar, butter, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.
  • Step 3 Place in greased bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover and let rise until double in bulk.
  • Step 4 Shred cheeses, combine all filling ingredients and refrigerate.
  • Step 5 Grease a 9-inch springform pan very well.
  • Step 6 Punch down dough, shape into a ball, and roll into a 20-inch circle. Ease dough into pan (fold in half to lift and unfold in pan) letting excess hang over the edge.
  • Step 7 Mound cheese filling onto dough in pan and bring dough up over the filling, folding to make 8-12 evenly spaced pleats.
  • Step 8 Twist and pinch ends together to make a rough knob.
  • Step 9 Cover with a buttered 12-inch square of waxed paper and let rise until double in bulk.
  • Step 10 Brush loaf with glaze of 1 egg white + 1 tbs water (or use marg).
  • Step 11 Bake 40-50 min. @ 375 or until deep golden brown.
  • Step 12 Remove bread from pan, place directly on oven rack, and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown bottom crust.
  • Step 13 Cool on rack for 45 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve with soup or salad for a full meal.


Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

(Above: The passing of the stuffed artichokes at the RootsLiving table on Easter Sunday.)

In the Three Stooges episode, “Sock-A-Bye-Baby,” Moe, Larry, and Curly feed a baby they find Limburger cheese, spaghetti and artichokes.

Curly calls an artichoke a smarty-choke, a party-smoke, an okey-doke, a feathered apple, and a barbed-wire pickle.

(Photo courtesy of “Insomnia Cured Here” on Flickr)

For some reason I think of this when cooking and eating them.

I recommend getting baby artichokes. They’re more tender than the bigger variety. And I always use the italian herb, nepitella. It grows wild on the RootsLiving estate, but is difficult to get outside of Italy. Instead, you could use a combination of dried basil and dried mint — or fresh for that matter, chopped up fine.

Nepitella growing wild along a fence
(Nepitella spreads quickly and will grow just about anywhere including along this fence.)

I never measure anything when making the stuffing either. Below are suggested measurements to stuff 12 artichokes. Just be sure to make enough to fill them all generously and be sure to follow the proportions below and you can’t go wrong.

Three artichokes

How to Eat an Artichoke

And if you’re like that Three Stooges’ baby and don’t know how to eat one of these babies, fret not. Here’s what you do:

  • Tear off an outer leaf. Hold the harder end between your thumb and forefinger and scrape the leaf with your front teeth. You’ll get a little bit of stuffing and a little bit of tender artichoke leaf coating too: a miraculous combination.
  • If the leaves are tough you can discard them after doing this on your plate. However, these baby artichokes are usually so tender you can eat them, whole leaf and all.

Stuffed Artichokes

April 7, 2010
: 12
: 40 min
: Medium


  • Baby artichokes (12)
  • Lemon wedge (1)
  • Bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Nepitella (or dried basil and mint) (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (enough to drizzle over each artichoke)
  • Step 1 Cut off the stem of each artichoke with an even slice, so each artichoke can stand up on its own.
  • Step 2 Peel off the top 2-4 layers of the artichokes until you get to the tender leaves. (Throw away the tough leaves.)
  • Step 3 Cut off the top of each artichoke, about 1/4 of the way down. For the small artichokes, that’s probably about 1/2 an inch or so.
  • Step 4 Using your fingers, open up each artichoke like a flower so there’s room to spoon in the stuffing between the leaves. Take the lemon wedge and rub each artichoke with it. This prevents the artichoke from turning brown and also adds a little flavor.
  • Step 5 In a small bowl make the stuffing by combining the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and nepitella (or dried basil and mint), salt and pepper.
  • Step 6 Hold each artichoke over the stuffing bowl while you stuff it. Using a teaspoon, spoon in as much stuffing as you can between the leaves of each artichoke and set aside.
  • Step 7 In a small pot that can hold all of the artichokes standing up, pour in about 3/4 to 1-inch of water. Place the stuffed artichokes standing up in the pot. Drizzle a little olive oil over each artichoke.
  • Step 8 Cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes over low heat. Be sure to continuously check the pot to make sure all of the water has not evaporated. Add a little water as needed while it cooks. (These are usually served hot, but taste great cold too — even leftovers right out of the fridge.)
Mortadella and Ham Salad Tapas

Mortadella and Ham Salad Tapas

When my friends, Mary and Ray, invited us over for a tapas and wine tasting party I went looking through my tapas cookbook to see what would be quick, easy and tasty to bring. I found this dish in a book I bought in the mid-’80s called “Tapas, The Little Dishes of Spain,” by Penelope Casas.

Blending these ingredients together may sound a little strange but it created a savory, sweet dish that even my finicky 13-year-old loved.

Mortadella and Ham Salad Tapas

March 28, 2010
: 20 min
: Easy


  • Imported mortadella (1/4 pound
  • thinly sliced and then cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips)
  • Boiled ham (1/4 pound
  • thinly sliced and then cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips)
  • Imported pimiento or garlic peppers (About 3 ounces)
  • Dill (2 tbsp., minced)
  • Parsley (2 tbsp., minced)
  • Carrot (1 small, scraped and then cut into 1-inch-long julienne strips)
  • Mayonnaise (1/4 cup)
  • Ketchup (1 tbsp.)
  • Worcestershire sauce (1 dash)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Step 1 In a bowl mix together the mortadella, ham, pimiento, carrot, dill, and parsley.
  • Step 2 Make a dressing by stirring together the mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 Fold the dressing into the ham mixture, blending well.
  • Step 4 Serve immediately or let marinate for several hours in the refrigerator.
The Best Ribollita Soup Recipe

The Best Ribollita Soup Recipe

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and Lose Weight.”  


This is one of my most requested recipes. Also known as “Tuscan Bean Soup,” it is a real crowd pleaser. I’ve tripled this recipe and fed nearly 50 people with it at our annual Christmas open house party.


Bowls filled with vegetables
There’s a lot of chopping required to make this soup. Using a food processor makes it easier and quicker.


It’s an Italian vegetable soup, with a jolt of meat. I got this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, but incorporated a few short cuts so you can make this in about 1 1/2 hours. There are other ribollita soup recipes out there, but trust me, this is the best. I’ve been told this by other Italians.


Pancetta in a bowl.
Don’t try to make this soup without pancetta. It’s what gives this soup a deep, smoky, flavor.


If you’re not familiar with pancetta, think of it as Italian bacon. You can find it in the deli section at most supermarkets and it comes either as a whole piece, sliced, or cubed. I bought mine as a whole piece and then chopped it up into small cubes. It is made from pork and then cured, but it needs to be cooked before you can eat it.


A bowl of Ribollita soup.
Colorful, hearty, delicious and nutritious describes Ribollita soup. Make sure you use sourdough bread too. It’s an essential ingredient.


The taste is sweet and a little sour with a punch of heat from the crushed red pepper flakes. It’s a great, hearty soup on a cold winter night.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)


Ribollita Soup

December 6, 2009
: About 12
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: Easy-Medium


  • 1 large can of cannellini beans (about 19 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 pound diced pancetta
  • 2 cups chopped onions (about 2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 3 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I always use Kosher as it’s the most flavorful.)
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (preferably the imported Parmesan Reggiano), for serving
  • Step 1 Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot.
  • Step 2 Add the pancetta and onions. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 3 Add the carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 4 Add the tomatoes with the puree, the kale, and basil. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 5 Rinse the cannellini beans under cold water. Puree half of them in a food processor with about 1/2 cup of water.
  • Step 6 Add pureed beans to the soup. And then add the remaining half of the whole beans. And stir.
  • Step 7 Add the eight cups of chicken stock.
  • Step 8 Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Step 9 Add the bread cubes to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes.
  • Step 10 Serve hot in large bowls. Sprinkle a little freshly grated parmesan cheese on top. And then drizzle a little olive oil over it.
Kathy’s Fried Olives

Kathy’s Fried Olives

(Photo and recipe by Kathy Micheli)

Someone’s aunt took her recipe for fried olives to the grave.

So that someone told my sister-in-law about this wonderful Italian delicacy and asked if anyone in our family had a recipe. They didn’t, so Kathy thought about it for awhile and came up with this.

She served them to us last weekend as an appetizer and they’re delicious: crusty, but not greasy, on the outside; tangy, sweet and hot on the inside. I can’t be sure what that good-cooking aunt would think of them, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if you don’t love them.

Kathy's Fried Olives

November 10, 2009


  • Large Sicilian green olives, pitted. (If you buy unpitted olives, you can whack them with the flat end of a big knife and pick the pit out.)
  • Boursin cheese
  • Flour, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup), mixed with grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup).
  • Olive oil for deep frying
  • Step 1 Fill each olive with cheese (if the olives break apart when pitting, the cheese will hold them together.)
  • Step 2 Dredge the olives in flour
  • Step 3 Dip olives in beaten egg
  • Step 4 Roll olives in breadcrumbs
  • Step 5 Deep fry in olive oil
Asian Shrimp Salad

Asian Shrimp Salad

Good recipes endure. And Trish has been making this recipe for more than 20 years. It’s a favorite appetizer at Christmas time in the RootsLiving house, but she also made it this week when we had our next-door neighbors over for a cookout.

She found the recipe in an old cookbook that a previous tenant left in her apartment before we were married.

Asian Shrimp Salad

August 13, 2009
: About 6 as an appetizer
: 15 min
: 15 min
: 1 hr
: Easy


  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 4-6 spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • For the Dressing:
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut or light sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons of vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of grated, fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
  • Step 1 Cut the ham into ribbons.
  • Step 2 Halve the pepper, remove the seeds, and slice finely.
  • Step 3 Cut the spring onions (scallions) diagonally.
  • Step 4 Rinse the bean sprouts and nip the ends.
  • Step 5 Combine the shrimp and ham with the vegetables in a bowl and chill until ready to serve.
  • Step 6 For the Dressing: Place all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and beat with a fork or whisk until it thickens a little.
  • Step 7 Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly.