ZUCCHINI TOTS

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Olive oil

4 zucchini, grated

Salt

1/ 4 cup Mozzarella, shredded

3 eggs, beaten

1/ 2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/ 4 cup Romano and or Parmesan cheese

1/ 2 teaspoon basil

1/ 2 teaspoon oregano

1/ 4 onion, minced

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

  1. Oven 400 degrees
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then brush foil with olive oil.
  3. Place grated zucchini in a colander (place in the sink) and add a few sprinkles of salt. Toss the zucchini and salt a few times and then let it sit. After 5 minutes or more, place tossed zucchini on paper towels to drain excess water.
  4. Place the drained zucchini to a large bowl. Add beaten eggs, mozzarella and grated cheeses, Panko crumbs, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  5. With your hands, form zucchini into 1-inch approximately sized tots. Place tots onto oiled cookie sheet leaving a bit of space between tots.
  6. Bake 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven. Turn tots two times during baking, to get a golden brown color on both sides. Serve warm or hot.
  7. Optional – After completely cooled, you can place in a Ziploc bag and freeze for future use.
  8. 6.   ENJOY – It’s not Potato Tots it’s Zucchnini Tots!

 

If you work in Manhattan or Westchester or anywhere, buying lunch every day can be very expensive.   My daughter, Mia, who works in Manhattan and I, who works in Westchester, bring our lunches to work as often as possible. 

Our lunches don’t necessarily fit the norm all the time for regular packed lunches. Today for example, Mia took some baked ziti with a side container of marinating home grown tomato slices and some corn cheddar muffins.  She loves to take my homemade chicken soup, potato patties, eggplant or spinach balls, etc.   You get the picture; you never know what is going to be in that brown paper lunch bag.  Mia tends to eat small portions.  So, she will either split her lunch into two days or she will share it with her co-workers.  That is where these zucchini tots come into play.  I made so many zucchini tots last week; I gave her quite a few to take to work.  Being Mia, she shared them with her two co-workers, Jessica and Kendyl.  Mia would definitely tell me if she liked or disliked something I made.  Well, there was no reason to worry if she liked the zucchini tots because they were such a big hit that her co-workers asked for the recipe. Happily, she not only liked the zucchini tots but asked if there were any zucchini tots left over to bring to work for lunch again.  That is all I needed to know to make these zucchini tots a part of my personal recipe collection. 

 “Sharing is Caring” really means, “Do you have any extra zucchini tots?”

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Chicken Skewers

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Chicken Skewer

  • Difficulty: easy
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Chicken thighs, skin and bone removedDSC04687
Scallions
Japanese Yakitori sauce
Bamboo skewers

1. Soak bamboo skewers in a pan of water. Rinse and set aside.
2. Cut chicken thighs into bite size pieces
3. Cut scallions into bite size pieces.
4. Skewer chicken bits and scallion bites alternating.
5. Pour Yakitori sauce over skewers.
6. Grill skewers on medium heat, turning a few times, serve immediately.
7. ENJOY – Is this really cooking?

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com


My good friend and neighbor, Charlie, prepared this chicken appetizer for us one hot summer evening. I loved these chicken skewers. I couldn’t get enough of them. The next time Charlie and Laurie, my other good friend and neighbor, came to our house for dinner, I made these chicken skewers. Of course, Charlie’s tasted better. Why, you may ask? Because Charlie is the ultimate cook and will travel near and far for the best ingredient for any recipe he is preparing. Charlie went to a Japanese food store to purchase his Yakitori sauce, whereas I purchased mine at the local food store. There is a difference. The extra trip to the Japanese food store to buy an authentic Yakitori sauce was well worth the trip in taste. The morale to this story is you get what you yen for, a good Yakitori sauce!

Polenta

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Polenta

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: medium
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DSC045903 1 / 2 cups chicken broth, homemade or 2 14 1/ 2 ounce cans of chicken broth
1 1 / 2 cups yellow corn meal
3 / 4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 / 2 cup milk
olive oil

spaghetti sauce, homemade preferred
Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium pot bring chicken broth to a boil. Gradually whisk in corn meal.
Reduce heat to a medium flame Continue cooking until mixture is very thick and creamy, about 10 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and milk, blending well.
3. In the meantime grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with olive oil. Pour Polenta mixture into pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to touch. Let it sit and cool a few minutes before removing from pan.
4. Cut into 8 square pieces. Brush both sides of polenta lightly with olive oil and then place onto a medium flame grill. Grill both sides for a few minutes. Serve immediately with homemade spaghetti sauce over the top and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 8.
5. ENJOY! – Great appetizer or anytime dish!

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com 

This column is dedicated to my mom, gone but never forgotten, for Mother’s Day!

(One of my friends, Nancy, asked me how do you cook Polenta? She received a store bought polenta as part of a gift and gave it to me. She had never used Polenta before and didn’t know anything about it.
I decided to conduct a taste test of the store bought Polenta along with my mom’s homemade Polenta recipe. My husband and I sampled both Polentas, prepared the same way of brushing olive oil on both sides and grilling. My husband said both were good, but I preferred my mom’s for two reasons. First and foremost, my mom’s had more flavor and second was the texture. The store bought polenta slice was too grainy and tense for me, and my mom’s was more softer and creamier on the inside while crispy on the outside.)

Food is a very strong influence in my life. If you read my column you know me and you know my relationship with food. Food is part of who I am. All special occasions in my life conjure up memories of food and that is how I relate to them. For others, it is visions or smells. My friend, Maura, can tell you what color clothes a person was wearing on a particular day from the past. Every memory for her is a color. She has extraordinary total recall of many events from our shared childhood for which I have none. But if food is involved, I can remember what we ate and with whom.

I realize that food is very powerful for most people in my circle of friends and family. My friends all cook certain foods for certain reasons. Jean will serve sausage in memory of her father because he really enjoyed it, even though her dad has been deceased for over 20 years. When another friend’s daughter left for college, she still faithfully brought home chicken cutlets because her daughter liked them so much. My own daughter, Mia, became very emotional when she went to an Italian restaurant after her godfather, Uncle Dom, passed away. She was reluctant to order Tortoni ice cream, which he always ordered for her when he took us all out to dinner. She felt she couldn’t bare have to have it with him not there. I, myself, always think of my father whenever I have raviolis. That was our favorite dish and I always remember him sitting at the head of the table on a Sunday afternoon with a big bowl of raviolis in front of him. These memories of people and their recipes make me feel as if everyone I have written about is honored and a part of my life, even if they are no longer physically with us.

Cooking for loved ones, gone but not forgotten, brings me to this recipe for Polenta. I have such a vivid fond memory of my mother taking out a pan of Polenta from the oven on a Friday evening with everyone home at the dinner table. When I asked her for her Polenta recipe years ago, my mom could only remember that she made it with chicken broth and corn meal. I had this quest to make Polenta and remember a happy time from my childhood family home life. I searched cookbooks and talked to many people about it. Unfortunately, I could not find a recipe I liked until now. In a homemade pasta shop in New Jersey, I noticed that they sold a grainer corn meal used for Polenta. I talked to the woman behind the counter and we connected over cooking and she told me the way she made Polenta. I promised to mail her one of my recipes, and I made some scribble notes on her polenta recipe which called for water instead I followed my mom’s advice of using chicken broth, and it tasted great! Every time I eat Polenta I happily relive fond memories of sitting around our Formica kitchen table in Woodside, Queens. We didn’t have enough chairs to fit around the table, so I sat on a little wooden stool my dad had made. I never minded because we certainly had more than enough love to go around that old table even without all the chairs!

RITA’S RISOTTO BALLS

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Rita's Risotto Balls

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: difficult
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3 tablespoons butterDSC04318
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!

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com

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!

BUTTERMILK CORN FRITTERS

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1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups corn
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons canola oil, plus extra

1. I use leftover corn from a dinner. But if do not have using frozen corn, cook and then drain. If using canned corn, just drain and set aside. In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Sift together, then add melted butter, buttermilk and egg. Beat on a low speed. With a wooden spoon, stir in the corn and mix well. Set aside.
2. In a cast iron skillet, if you have one, if not, use a medium frying pan, add the canola oil and heat on a medium flame.
3. Drop tablespoons of the corn batter into the oil. Brown the fritters on both sides, using a spatula to flip the fritter.
4. Drain the corn fritters on paper towels, serve warm. Makes 12 to 16 fritters, depending size.
5. ENJOY- Leftover corn never tasted so good!

Sometimes I feel the need to cook or bake a memory. I miss my mom and her cooking.

Some people find relaxation and bliss in art, music, meditation, yoga, or even knitting; I find it in baking and cooking. The art of preparing food is a ritual and an act of love, and makes old memories come alive and feel fresh again. I frequently feel the need to connect with my mom, and when I cook and bake, it brings us together again in spirit.

Memories of my mom cooking at the stove are all happy ones. She genuinely seemed to enjoy it, and never used a cookbook or followed a recipe. I vividly recall our family eating dinner together at the kitchen table (we didn’t have a dining room) every night. We took turns hosting Sunday dinners with my aunt and uncle; our tables were filled with Italian food, wine and laughter. The image of my mom’s colander (which I still have and use regularly) filled with a few cheese raviolis sprinkled with grated Romano cheese cooling off and waiting to be tested for doneness, is by far one of my favorite memories. My dad and mom would gently remove 2 or 3 raviolis from the cooking pot to cool and test, and I was lucky enough to taste one of those special raviolis. My dad would make a special trip to a little shop to purchase freshly made ravioli after going to church. They were a treat and reserved for special Sunday meals.

Even though my mom cooked mostly Italian dishes to please my Dad and my Italian grandmother, other times were spent cooking good old American fare. Those American dishes my mother cooked bring back the best memories of her to me, especially her corn fritters. Corn fritters were something she would make randomly, for no special reason. However, it was always love at first bite! Everything that meant love and home was felt and remembered in that instant. When I cook my mom’s corn fritters for my family it brings back the same feeling of love and joy! There is no better feeling than that.

We hardly ever eat anything fried anymore. Everything is baked nowadays. Leftover corn sitting in the refrigerator is always a cue for me to start cooking those fritters. Mom never used buttermilk in her recipe, but I thought it would only enhance the flavor of the fritters. I was right, and you’ll find it in this recipe.

So, if you want to create some new memories with your loved ones, break out the pots and pans and start making your own corn fritters!

Bruschetta with Micro Arugula and Basil

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1 to 2 large loaves Italian bread seeded
1/3 cup olive oil
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
3 to 4 large pulp tomatoes
1 bunch micro arugula
1/4 red onion
garlic cloves
1 handful micro basil
salt and pepper

1. Oven 375 degrees.

2. Wash fresh micro arugula and basil. Rinse and put on paper towels
drain. Cube the mozzarella, set aside. Chop tomatoes into small
cubes. Dice the red onion. Place the arugula and basil into a
medium bowl, add mozzarella, tomatoes and red onion and toss
together and set aside.

3. Slice Italian bread and put on a cookie sheet. Toast the bread slices 8 minutes each side
or until golden. Remove bread from oven and rub cut garlic
cloves on one side of bread. Not too much.

4. Drizzle olive oil and red wine vinegar over micro tomato and arugula mixture, sprinkle in
salt and pepper. Place tablespoonfuls of tomato mixture over
toasted bread slices and serve immediately.

5. ENJOY – A slice of bread or a slice of heaven !

During a visit in July to my brother Jim’s home in Montauk, he took me on a tour of Good Water Farms as a treat. Jim appreciates my passion for cooking and my interest in searching for those special ingredients that make a meal memorable.

Good Water Farms is unique in that it is a micro farm, and it’s owned by my brother’s friend, Brendan. Well, my interest was definitely peaked as I had never heard of micro farming!

Brendan was a most gracious and generous host to Jim and me. His tour was fascinating and educational. Not only did he show us around, but he explained his passion for micro farming. When Brendan first offered me a taste of the micro arugula, I declined. Truthfully, I was afraid that it would show on my face if I didn’t like it; I am not great at disguising my feelings. Once I accepted this odd little green morsel, I was astonished by the rush of flavor that just burst in my mouth! I am totally into micro now; Brendan got me hooked!

Before Jim and I departed, Brendan gave us a tray of micro basil and micro arugula. The Bruschetta featured in this blog is prepared with…guess what! You got it — micro arugula and basil. Although tiny in size, they are mighty in flavor.

When I crave these delicious greens, I can always go to Whole Foods to purchase micro greens by Good Water Farms. Give them a try, and you’ll be glad you did.

My thanks to Brendan for his generosity and tour of Good Water Farms. I hope to be back soon to see him and sample some other micro greens.

I can’t wait to see what other recipes I can come up with using micro greens – stay tuned!

Biscuit Sandwiches

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1 pkg Pillsbury Grands biscuit

spinach, sauteed

chicken, cooked and sliced

mozzarella cheese, sliced

salt and pepper, optional

1.  Oven 350 degrees.

2.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminun foil.

3.  Open biscuit container.  Take one bisquit at a time out and gently press it with your fingers to shape it into a small pizza that can fit in the palm of your hand.

4.  Place the flattened biscuit on the aluminum covered cookie sheet.  Add spinach and with a fork, spread it evenly over the biscuit.  Next place your chicken over the spinach.  Lastly add two thin slices of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken.

5.  Take another biscuit, flatten it out the same way.  Place the second biscuit over the cheese slices, pressing the edges together all around the two biscuits to seal.

6.  1 package will make 4 biscuit sandwiches or slice the biscuits in half to get eight smaller sandwiches or appetizers

7.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until biscuits are evenly browned.  After taking the biscuits out of oven, with a spatula gently loosen the biscuits from the aluminum foil while still they are still hot to prevent them from sticking.  Leave on cookie sheet till ready to eat to keep them warm.

8.  Enjoy –  Bread sandwiches; not when I can have a biscuit sandwich!

Not too long ago, I experienced the meaning of that great little proverb; necessity is the mother of invention.  It happened one night when two hungry people, me and hubby Tom, arrived home late from a long, hard day’s work to find nothing ready to eat. 

After several minutes of staring at Tom’s back in anticipation as he searched the refrigerator for something that resembled dinner, he came up for air cradling leftover cooked sliced steak, sautéed spinach, and cheddar cheese.  Tucked under his arm was our real ace in the hole, a tube of refrigerator biscuit dough.  Honestly, the man never looked so good!

When I volunteered to help in the kitchen, he shooed me away so he could create his now legendary biscuit sandwiches as a surprise.  They were so good, I made them again the next week, using leftover roasted chicken, mozzarella, and sautéed spinach.  Both combinations in the biscuits were delicious.   The filling options are endless, and I look forward to coming up with new ones.

Want something delicious, satisfying, and quick?  Try Tom’s biscuit sandwiches as your new go-to dinner.  You’ll be happy you did!