Linguine with Clam Sauce

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3 ½ to 4 ½ dozen small little neck clams
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons margarine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 / 2 cup white wine
1/ 4 cup parsley, chopped
Oregano
Basil
Salt and pepper

1 16 ounce box of linguine

1. Scrub clams well under cold water. Place in a large pot with ½ cup water. Cover pot and simmer until clams pop open (about 10 to 15 minutes). Remove opened clams from pot. Take clams from shells, place in a bowl, then discard empty shells. Strain clam broth from pot through a cloth. Reserve clam broth in a bowl, set aside. Chop clams into smaller pieces on a cutting board, then return to bowl.
2. In a large frying pan heat butter and margarine with olive oil. Add chopped garlic and onion, sauté until tender. Add oregano, parsley, basil, clam broth, white wine, salt and pepper, continue to cook. Add clams last. Continue to simmer on a low flame
3. In the meantime cook the linguine al dente.
4. In a large serving bowl, place cooked linguine. Pour clam sauce over center of pasta bowl. Toss .
5. ENJOY – Pasta with clams, seafood made at home!

What happened to the family dinner?

I miss Sunday family dinners. In the good old days, we’d gather for the 2:00 pm Sunday dinner because that’s what you did on Sundays with immediate or extended family. It was the norm; no questions asked. After I had my own family, I tried to continue hosting Sunday family dinners. More often than not, my mom, aunt and uncle would join us. It has been difficult to carry on the tradition as my children no longer live nearby. Most Sundays I will cook up a storm and my husband and I will have a nice dinner together, with leftovers for Monday’s dinner and maybe a lunch for work. Just the two of us at the table is too quiet for me. So, whenever I get an opportunity to have a family dinner with all of our children and grandchildren, I usually go all out.

Recently, I had the chance to have a family dinner with everyone on a Saturday night instead of on a Sunday. As I shopped for the big dinner, planning on preparing shrimp, I spied these little neck clams. These little clams inspired me to prepare something different, like linguine in clam sauce, a favorite of my husband’s. Once the main dish is established, it’s easy to put together a menu.
My daughter, Marisa, requested stuffed mushrooms and her wish was granted. Luckily, my kids eat pretty much anything; I am the fuzzy eater in the family.

My Saturday night menu: stuffed mushrooms, antipasto platter with Italian bread, fresh vegetables with hummus dip, chips and sour cream dip, and to my grandkids’ delight, deviled eggs as appetizers.
The main dishes were linguine in clam sauce, a tray of sausages with peppers, meatballs, a tray of stuffed shells (for anyone who doesn’t like clams) and salad.

Dessert consisted of strawberries, homemade cookies and mini cheesecakes, and donuts for the kids. I thought this was a lot of food. Apparently not, from my daughter, Marisa’s, comment, “Mom you didn’t make as much food as you usually do!” Really, come on. At the end of the day, there was very little food leftover.

Whether it is too much food or too little food, Sunday afternoon or Saturday night, at the end of the day, I am happy because we had our family dinner together. Life just doesn’t get better than that!

Grandma Nanni’s Bread Box Cookie Jar

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A cookie jar can be anything that contains cookies! The cookie jar is easily reachable and usually holds a place of honor and importance on the kitchen counter. A kitchen that has a cookie jar instantly makes me feel comfortable with the person who owns it. My kitchen has had many a cookie jar over the years. They were usually big ceramic holiday theme shaped figurines that lasted through the season.

But there has been one cookie jar that has been in my kitchen for over 30 years. It is a large white enamel bread box. At one time it was my husband, Tom’s, Grandma Nanni’s cookie jar. Grandma Nanni kept her bread box which was used as her cookie jar within arm’s reach from her kitchen table. Inside were homemade cookies or store bought biscotti. The first time I met Grandma Nanni, I was just a young, nervous, teenage girl who was dating her grandson. With open arms she welcomed me into her kitchen and took cookies out of the bread box to serve Tom and I. From that moment on, I was hooked on Grandma Nanni. Tom and I shared a special common bond of living in the same house as our Italian grandmothers, both named Mary. Even though Grandma Nanni and the bread box had seen better days, together they were a wonderful sight to see on any given day. Grandma Nanni made not only me but everyone who came into her home and into her kitchen, happy just to see her. With a cookie or a meal, she was all about feeding you the minute you walked in the door.

The bread box in my kitchen is a constant reminder of Grandma Nanni and her love of family. It is on top of my refrigerator, as my kitchen is very small and the bread box is very large. But it is a part of Tom’s and my own past that is too precious to give up. The mere presence of the bread box from days gone by represents the love of grandmothers for their families. As a grandmother myself, I can only hope my grandchildren will one day cherish something of mine with as much fondness as I have for Grandma Nanni’s bread box!

Cannoli Cake

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1 package butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup marcaspone cheese
mini chocolate chips

16 ounces heavy cream
powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
mini chocolate chips
powdered cocoa

1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions ahead of time. Use 2 8 or 9 inch greased and floured baking pans.
Cool after baking for 15 in pan and then remove to cool completely on wire racks. Set aside till later. (I bake the cake the day
before or 4 hours before preparing the rest of the recipe)
2. In a large bowl or mixer, add ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and marcaspone cheese. Beat until creamy but try not to over mix the filling.
Remove bowl from mixer and add mini chocolate chips 1/2 cup at a time stirring with a spoon, depending how much chocolate you want in your
cannoli cream filling.
3. In the meantime, slice the cakes in half to get four layers. Layer cake, cannoli, cake, cannoli until you have 3 layers of cannoli filling.
Whip the heavy cream with powdered sugar to taste adding the almond and vanilla extracts. Spread whipped cream over the entire top and sides
of cake. Put toasted almond sliced all around the sides of the cake. On top around the edges of the cake add mini chocolate chips to make
a boarder. Sprinkle powdered cocoa through a mini sifter over the top center of the cake. Store in the refrigerator till ready to serve.
4. ENJOY – Best cake ever! Let’s get this party started!

My daughter and her husband, Marisa & Jeff, prepare a special cake for Christmas Day every year which is beautiful to the eye as well as delicious to the palate. This year was no exception; they prepared a new recipe, cannoli cake. The original recipe is on Taste of Home website and it is called Marvelous Cannoli Cake. Marisa and Jeff were inspired by it and proceeded to create their own version. They recently made it for their son’s christening party to be enjoyed by family and friends. As usual, it was made to perfection, with not only two layers of vanilla cake, but also two layers of chocolate cake.

The cake was so exceptional that I felt compelled to make it myself. My husband and I were invited to our good friends, Patti and Eddie’s home for a New Year’s Eve dinner. I offered to make the dessert. Not having all the ingredients in the house didn’t deter me one bit; I thought I could wing it. I prepared the cake early in the morning and let it cool. Running around all day, I suddenly realized I had to finish preparing the rest of the cake. Haste makes waste! While toasting the almond slices, I got distracted and burnt almost all of them. The little bit of mini chocolate chips that I scoured the house for went into the cannoli cream. Oops — the filling didn’t include the usual vanilla and almond extracts. Improvise is my motto, especially when it is too late to run to the store. I made due by placing a few toasted almond slices on top in the center of the cake and sifted powdered cocoa to create a border. Having run out of chocolate chips, I used chocolate sprinkles for the decorations all around the sides of the cake. When I was done, I sent the photo to Marisa and Jeff in a text to show how proud I was. Jeff immediately text replied, “Hope it tastes better than it looks!” Not the best way to win over the mother-in-law, if you know what I mean! No hurt feelings, I know Jeff was only kidding.

When I finally unveiled my version at Eddie & Patti’s, I received praises all around. After everyone enjoyed a slice, made very obvious by the sighing going on, even more praises came my way.

Moral of this story: Never judge a cake by it’s frosting!

RITA’S RISOTTO BALLS

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3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cup + 3 ounces water

3 egg yolks
1/ 2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Italian bread crumbs
Canola oil

1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add risotto and cook a few minutes. Add some of the water just to cover the risotto and simmer. Continue sly stir with a wooden spoon. As the risotto thickens, add more of the water at about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition of water is almost completely absorbed before adding the next. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes or more and most of the liquid has been incorporated, continue to cook a few more minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Do not overcook. When done, remove rice from the stove and scoop into a bowl.
2. Cool the risotto completely, not warm, cool (wait a few hours). Option – cook risotto and store in refrigerator overnight, before continuing recipe.
3. Take the cooled risotto and stir in the Parmesan cheese, parsley, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. Use your hands when ready to roll the risotto balls. Make them 1 to 1 1/ 2 inch round. The risotto will be sticky. Then roll the balls into the Italian bread crumbs. Place the risotto ball on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. This recipe makes 30 to 36 balls, depending on the size.
Place cookie sheet of balls into refrigerator for another hour.
4. When you are ready to fry, heat canola oil in a pot or deep fryer. Fry 6 to 8 balls at a time in the fryer basket for 3 to 4 minutes. Check balls, they should be a golden brown color. Drain the balls on paper towels. Serve immediately while still warm. Option – serve homemade tomato sauce on the side for dipping.
5. ENJOY – You say Rice, I say Risotto, either way it tastes Buona!

Risotto Balls? I have had risotto and I have had rice balls, but risotto balls? My reaction exactly, until I tasted Rita’s last Christmas. I’ll never forget the lovely experience of my very first risotto ball.

Maria, my good friend for many years, had her mom staying with her over the holidays. I stopped by for an impromptu visit to say hello and spread some Christmas cheer with a platter of my homemade cookies. Of course, within minutes, I too was offered some of their cookies, but I declined since I was just about cookied out. However, when I was offered what appeared to be a rice ball, I was intrigued and went for it. I thought to myself, wait a minute – hold the show. I didn’t see the familiar sight of meat or peas in this small and delicate ball. The appeal was instantaneous, and I scarfed it down. I knew then that I had to make them myself!

Maria’s mom, Rita, has been making these risotto balls for years, just as long as her own mother, Gelsomina, had before her. Generational recipes handed down from mothers to daughters are my favorite kind of recipes. When the Christmas holidays ended and a new year began, I kept thinking about those risotto balls. Maria, I begged, “Can you get me your mom’s risotto ball recipe?” Finally, I got the call I’d been hoping for. It was Rita calling from her home in Florida, “Maria told me you want my risotto ball recipe.” When I asked her what brand of risotto she used, her response was, “I don’t know what it is, but they sell it in Florida.” Ya gotta love it!

After making the risotto balls, and receiving my family’s praise, I thought to myself – honestly, they’re good, but Rita’s are better. I believe this is one of those dishes that will get better over time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that after another 10 or 20 years, just maybe, my risotto balls will be just as good as Rita’s!

Rochelle Coffee Shop Breakfast Review

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I live in New Rochelle and I read my local New Rochelle paper, The City Review faithfully. I want to know what is happening in my hometown.

In the summer there was an article in The City Review written about a new diner and coffee shop that opened. The picture of the owners, Taso, Helen and Spiros Michialis, struck me as nice friendly people. As I read the article, I paid attention to the fact that they are open seven days a week early in the morning, and serve breakfast. We all know, Mela and I love to meet for breakfast. We now had a new place to check out.

On a recent Thursday morning, Mela and I pulled right into a parking spot in front of the Rochelle Coffee Shop inside the Quaker Ridge Shopping Center, located right near the Post Office. Immediately upon entering the coffee shop, we noticed its cozy, retro diner décor. Almost all of the stools at the counter were taken with what seemed to be regular customers, who were relaxed and chatting away. Mela and I took a seat at one of the many booths.

We were off to a great start with the coffee, which was tasty and smooth. Later on I asked Helen about the coffee and she told us that her husband and she herself tasted a lot of coffees before deciding on which one to serve. After all coffee is part of their name, so it better be good and it was.

The breakfast menu had a large selection to choose from. Mela and I chose a waffle and a spinach mozzarella egg white omelet with home fries and 7 grain toast to share. Everything was delicious. But in our haste to enjoy breakfast, I forgot to take a photo of the dishes.

My second trip to the Rochelle Coffee Shop was with my friend, Vivian. We shared the Challah French Toast and a western omelet with home fries and 7 grain toast. Truthfully, the coffee tasted even better the second time around if that is even possible. Everything was cooked to our liking. You just have to ask and your home fries can be made crispier. There is real butter pats but no real maple syrup. Surprisingly the syrup they do use is not too sweet, as some commercial syrups can be. Since my first visit to Rochelle Coffee Shop, it has become my go to place. Helen is always friendly, gracious and easy to talk to, which makes it an extra special treat to patron there.

Mela and my breakfast was $13.80, without tip, which I feel is very reasonable. Apparently, there is a special starting at 6:00 am and ending before 11:00 am breakfast Mondays through Fridays.

The sign, “Friends Gather Here”, hanging on the wall of Rochelle Coffee Shop, really is the place to go to for this new friend!

Rochelle Coffee Shop, 8 Quaker Ridge Road, New Rochelle, NY 10804 (914) 336-2727

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OLIVE OIL AND ROSEMARY CAKE

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3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Oven 325 degrees.
2. Grease a 10-inch loaf pans, (or 6 mini loaf pans ).
3. In a medium bowl cream together eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add olive oil slowly and beat thoroughly blending well.
4. Gently stir in chopped rosemary into the batter.
5. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to wet ingredients.
Beat on a low speed until mixed well.
6. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 35-50 minutes or until cake is done.
( Test with a toothpick in center, until it comes out dry.)
7. Cool cake in pans 20 minutes. Remove from pan and place on racks until
completely cooled.
8. ENJOY – Savory and sweet, makes this cake complete!

Summer is over and fall is here! On my deck and awaiting my attention is my herb garden, now overgrown and ready to be stored for winter use. A seemingly delicate and fragrant herb, my rosemary has proved to be the hardiest of all. For the last few years I felt a calling to use her creatively, and the result is this rosemary olive oil cake.

I surfed the Internet and browsed through my many cookbooks, and the one recipe for rosemary olive oil cake that I thought was the best was Chef Mario Batali’s version. I remained faithful to his recipe except for the amount of rosemary used. As soon as I read that he used 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, my gut told me that it might be too potent. Pungent and actually related to mint, I realized that a little rosemary will go a long way in any recipe. Whether preparing roasted potatoes, a pork tenderloin roast, or baking a cake, just a little bit of fresh rosemary added to any dish will do the trick in my opinion.

My version of rosemary olive oil cake uses only 1 tablespoon of rosemary, and I feel it is just the right amount. My family and friends, aka taste testers, all agree that the rosemary in the cake was powerful enough and twice the amount of rosemary would have been too much. However, if you’re really into rosemary, follow Mario Batali’s version.

SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS

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2 lbs sausages (sweet, hot and/or chicken)
1 large onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
olive oil

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. In a 9 x 13 pan, drizzle olive oil on bottom of pan, sparingly. Add sliced onions and peppers. Lastly, arrange sausages on top of peppers and onions. Cover pan and bake for 30 minutes.
3. Remove cover from pan and with a fork, poke the sausage to allow the steam to come out. Continue baking in oven for another 20 minutes with the cover off.
4. Check on the sausages, they should be starting to brown. Turn sausages over to brown the other side. If the pan seems dry, (no juices) add a couple of tablespoons of water. Continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the topside of sausages are browned.
5. Optional – Serve on semolina Italian bread with melted provolone or mozzarella cheese if you like. Otherwise serve over pasta. Serves 4 to 6.
ENJOY – It’s a sandwich or it’s a meal, either way what a deal!

Oh boy, what a summer I had! Talk about bad timing, the first day of my vacation I slipped and fractured my ankle. The next three weeks were spent on my couch staying off my foot. I wasn’t able to climb stairs or drive a car for at least 5 weeks since my foot was encased in an awkward cast that was starting to grate on my last nerve. Cooking became a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t stand on my foot too long. Preparing dishes that were easy to prep while sitting at the kitchen table was fine, and cutting, slicing, and dicing veggies and salads was also manageable. But let’s face it dear readers, sometimes cooking is work even in the best of times! However, this sausage and peppers recipe isn’t.

Many years ago, my mom told me to fry the sausages on the stove in a large frying pan, which I did in my early years of marriage. But, I like to change things up a little and not take too many unnecessary steps while cooking. Preparing many dishes at once is a welcomed challenge, so I try to take shortcuts that will give me more time to make several dishes simultaneously. So, I improvised by baking the sausage and peppers in the oven. They are just as delicious as if prepared on the stove. Sometimes, I add potatoes and bigger chunks of peppers to create a heartier meal. Either way, oven cooking is often better time wise and taste wise than stove top cooking for some recipes. One example is bacon. I bake it in the oven on a rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet. The bacon is crispier and less greasy. I also bake “fried” eggplant and meatballs in the oven on lightly olive oiled cookie sheets. I turn often so the eggplant is browned evenly on both sides. It’s delicious, doesn’t have to be monitored so closely, and the stovetop stays a whole lot cleaner!

Baking is better, and no one can seem to tell the difference anyway. So, let’s keep this between us!

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