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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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!

POTATO SALAD

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Potato Salad

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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DSC042351/2 bag potatoes ( 2 1/2 lbs.)
3 eggs
3 stalks celery, diced small
4 stalks scallions, diced small
Mayonnaise, 3 extra-large tablespoons
water
salt and pepper
paprika

1. Place potatoes in a large pot with skins on fill with cold water to cover potatoes. Add 3 eggs,  ( I put a pin hole in each egg before boiling, it makes it easier to peel later). Bring water to a boil. Time it for 10 minutes at a full boil. Your eggs should be done. Remove the eggs with a spoon from the pot to cool down. Run cold water over them or place them in a bowl of cold water. Peel the eggs and set aside to cool, then chop.
2. Continue to boil the potatoes for 10 to 20 minutes more on a full boil, keep checking for doneness by putting a fork in them. If the fork goes in hard, not done, goes in easy, done. Try not to overcook the potatoes if you can.
3. When potatoes are done, cool for a bit, but it is good to peel while they are warm, the skins come off easier. Dice the potatoes into small cubes.
4. Add potatoes, celery, eggs, scallions, salt and pepper into a large bowl. I add about 3 hefty scoops of mayonnaise to start, more if preferred. Secret is to add water, about 1 to 3 tablespoons depending on look and taste. The water will cream out the mayo.
5. Decorate with paprika on top if you want before serving. Serves 8.
6. ENJOY – Summer without potato salad is like summer without sunshine!

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com

During years of backyard barbeques, graduations, baby showers, and outings, a lot of potato salad has passed my lips; however, my mom’s potato salad is still the best I’ve had. Everybody loves it. I should know; I’ve been making it for years and hearing the satisfied sighs as my friends and family devour it by the forkful.

My mom, Helen, was a good cook and enjoyed cooking and entertaining. To know me is to know that I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me to always chop ingredients into small sizes, believing that it was more pleasing to the eye if the potatoes, celery, and scallions were cubed in small pieces. She did this to regular lettuce salad too. She’d cut up everything into small pieces, including the tomatoes and cucumbers. Mom was right! Smaller is better. Who wants a big chunk of potato or a huge leaf of lettuce when eating? Not me.

The only change I made to the original recipe that she gave me is that I add a bit of water. Many years ago my life-long friend, Joanne, made potato salad for a party, and I noticed that hers was creamier than mine. Her secret was adding water. At the time, I was adding a bit of milk to thin out the mayo in my potato salad. I’m convinced that water is better than milk and makes for a creamier potato salad.

Summer isn’t summer without Mom’s potato salad. When something is this good, you never get tired of making it. My family and friends will agree, because they never get tired of eating it!

ORZO WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC

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Orzo with Tomatoes and Garlic

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 lb box of Orzo or some other small pasta
3 – 4 large pulp tomatoes (egg shaped tomatoes), chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup scallions, chopped or 1/2 red onion, chopped
Basil and or parsley
olive oil

Good Seasons Italian Dressing

1. Cook orzo according to directions. Rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.
2. Chop tomatoes, garlic and scallions or red onion. Mix together with well drained pasta in an
attractive bowl for serving.
3. Make the Good Seasons Italian Dressing. My secret is this. I use less water than the
Directions call for first of all. I use half the water portion and substitute it with
vinegar. Where it says vinegar, I use half the portion with red wine vinegar and the
other half with balsamic vinegar.
4. After making the salad dressing according to your taste, pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the dressing into the pasta salad and mix together. Let that sit for awhile. Refrigerate the pasta until nice and cold. Just before serving drizzle olive oil (about 2 to 3 tablespoons, I don’t measure, I just drizzle) and some more dressing if needed. Toss and taste.
5. ENJOY – Mama Mia what a pasta for me a.

Justine, my niece, recently texted me with a request for my Orzo with Tomatoes, her “favorite recipe”! As you can imagine, that was music to my ears. For someone who takes pride in their cooking, a request for one’s recipe is a compliment of the highest order.

I told Justine she could find it on my website, only to discover this family favorite wasn’t there. So, I quickly poured through my secret stash of recipes and added it to my site. Justine, this one’s for you! I hope you won’t mind sharing it 

Scarsdale was and still is a great place to live and work; however, eating on the cheap is not something this town offered. When I worked downtown years ago, I was too busy playing Supermom to have any time to make my own lunch to schlep to work, and how much pizza can one person eat in a given week? One of my favorite places was a gourmet chicken take-out store. I would typically order a small container of chicken salad or pasta with tomato and garlic to the tune of $6 … which was about $3 too much at the time.

I always feel challenged to make something at home just as tasty but cheaper, and this pasta was just the inspiration I needed. It has become a focal point and huge hit at all my barbeques, proving, once again, that a good recipe does not have to be expensive or complicated. I do feel compelled to let you know that I did not request their recipe out of respect. Back in the day, folks believed it to be fair business practice to pay for recipes, especially if they were purchasing a food business. Well, times have changed and many folks feel it’s a compliment to be asked for a recipe. I know as I have done this many times over the years, and I have never been turned away.

The next time you enjoy something from a restaurant, a store, or even a party, don’t be shy — ask for the recipe. Go home and give it your best shot; you’ll be amazed with the results. Make this dish for the next party in your life, and I am sure you too will be asked for your recipe!

Tom’s Carrots

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2 lbs carrots

water

1 cup dry white wine

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper

1.  Peel carrots and then rinse them under cold water.  Slice thin with a food processor or by hand, but try to keep them the slice the same size.

2.  Place the carrots into a 4 to 5 quart pot.  Cover them half way with water.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn the flame down to simmer.  Cook 15 to 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.  If any water is still left in the pot, then drain.

3.  Add 1 cup of dry white wine to the carrots.  Cook another 15 to 20 minutes until carrots are tender, stir occasionally.

4.  Add butter, salt and pepper to taste, and cook 5 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

7.  Enjoy –  Carrots never tasted so good!

Every year our family’s Christmas dinner is hosted by our son, Tom, and his wife, Christine.  Tom, a chip off the old block, enjoys cooking and trying new recipes for these holiday dinners.  Though he manages to serve new dishes every year, there is one dish that always appears on his menu: Tom’s Carrots. I named it Tom’s Carrots, and I look forward to having them every Christmas.  

This year after the holidays, I asked Tom for his recipe so I could share it with my Somebody’s Mom’s audience.  He gave me instructions over the phone, so please consider that every measured amount for each ingredient is actually an estimation on my part.  Tom (hey, he’s a guy after all) just provided the ingredients for his carrot dish.  

Fortunately, I have been cooking for a long, long time and a recipe without amounts does not deter me.  Most of my recipes are creations from someone telling me the basic ingredients of a dish they made and me figuring out the rest on my own!  Not every recipe is a hit on the first try, but most of them are pretty close.  Half the fun of cooking something new is the trial and error part.  This carrot recipe was one of the easier ones to figure out. 

So, till next time and my next experiment…..umm…..recipe, enjoy Tom’s Carrots. As mom used to say, “eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!”

 

 

 

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

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ROAST BEEF

3 to 4 pound boneless silver tip roast beef
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper

1. Oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place roast beef in baking dish, fat side up. Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper over top.
3. Bake for 20 minutes per pound. After the time is up, leave oven on and check with meat thermometer by sticking it in the center top of the meat. It should be about 145 for medium rare. (Another way that I check the meat is to poke a small hole on top and if the juice comes out clear it is good, if the juice comes out bloody, the meat is still too rare and I continue to cook it.)
4. After removing meat from the oven, let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
5. ENJOY – Savory is the way for this roast beef!

YORKSHIRE PUDDING

3 Eggs
1 1/ 2 cups flour
1 1/ 2 cups milk
1/ 2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons drippings from roast beef
(substitutes can be vegetable or canola oil, or bacon grease)

1. Oven to 425 degrees.
2. Beat eggs and milk. Sift salt with flour. Gradually add the flour to the milk mixture and continue to beat until you have a smooth batter.
3. With a spoon, ladle roast beef drippings into 12 muffin cups. (Another option is to use a 9 x 13 baking pan.) Swirl to coat the bottom and sides of muffin cups. Pour batter into cups filling to 2/ 3 of the cup.
4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and center of Yorkshire pudding popovers.
5. After removing meat from the oven, remove from pan immediately. Serve warm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
6. ENJOY – Bit o’ the English taste for ya!

Roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy — you can’t beat that for a Sunday diner! If you want to go that extra mile, then add Yorkshire pudding to the menu. The combination makes for a good hardy meal to serve family and friends. Honestly, roast beef is one of the easiest roasts to make; I just keep it simple and only lightly season it. Yorkshire pudding looks quite impressive, but the level of difficulty in preparing it is quite low.

Sunday is family day. This belief was instilled in me at an early age; Sunday dinner was sacred and missing dinner was a major crime in my house. Nearly every Sunday I make a huge dinner and try to invite someone over. Family or friends, it doesn’t matter because there’s always an abundance of food. When my mom was alive, I treasured her presence at our dinner table several times a month.

I will never forget a Sunday dinner that I missed when I was about 10 years old. My girlfriend, Joanne, asked me to go with her to see her dad, a conductor with the Long Island Railroad who was divorced from Joanne’s mom. This particular Sunday was Father’s Day and Joanne was excited about giving her dad a Father’s Day present. We went up to the train station about 8 blocks away and waited; unfortunately, the train was delayed. Finally, the train pulled in and her dad jumped off. Big hugs and kisses went around, and gifts were exchanged. Joanne’s dad gave us a wave goodbye, and their mini visit was over. We headed home feeling pretty good. When I walked into the house I was met by a wall of silence, totally abnormal for a Sunday at home. Seated at the head of the table was my dad, sitting all alone. There was a big bowl of raviolis in front of him, and he was clearly unhappy. I was late, my brother was late and my mom and dad must have had a fight because she wasn’t there either. I had to sit next to my dad and listen to him for the entire dinner describing how upset he was. Repeatedly he exclaimed, “Why were you with Joanne’s dad and not your dad on Father’s Day.” Trust me, I was never late for Sunday dinner again. I learned the importance of Sunday dinner that day and every Sunday thereafter. That is, until my dad died when I was 12 years old. Those sacred Sunday dinners with my entire family stopped.

Now, I carry on the tradition of the Sunday dinner because I realize that time passes quickly and my children will be gone or I will be gone. They need family traditions, holiday traditions and memories to carry with them. They need to pass these traditions on to their families. One day they will appreciate the significance of sitting down to a meal with your family — it is so much more than just a meal, it is a memory.