Philly Italian Market

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Need a little ethnic inspiration? Take a tour of the 9th Street Market in Philadelphia. One piece of advice….arrive hungry and preferably with a brother who has completely mapped out all the stores and restaurants he wants to see.

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Our first stop was Fante’s Kitchen store. Filled with quality products from all over the world I quickly gathered up a few things I did not know I needed including this adorable heart-shaped cutter. Suffice to say I felt like a kid in a candy store.

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The streets are lined with vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables among other things. It feels a little bit like a flea market married a farmer’s market and this is their baby. Prices are competitive. Locals are sniffing melons and filling bags with beans, mushrooms and blueberries. One can even buy mangoes by the crate. I just loved this box full of baby eggplants. Bring cash.

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By now we are getting hungry. Family owned Isgro’s Italian pastries are in order. Eat dessert first. My niece shares a bite of her chocolate mascarpone cannoli and my brother shares his sfogiatella. It makes sense why this bakery has been in business since 1904. These pastries are pure perfection and bring me back to just about every extended family gathering  I have ever enjoyed my whole life.

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Cheese, meatballs and pasta follow. Further, we enjoy a chocolate shop, spice shop and more than one butcher. Take your pick of restaurants and bring a cooler bag to take home fresh pasta and other delicacies.

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Still hungry? Feel free to wait in line for this guy’s recommendation.

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Completely inspired I knocked out a big pile of fettuccine for Sunday dinner. Making fresh pasta is easy. For every pound of semolina flour mix in 2 to 3 eggs, a pinch of salt, a touch of olive oil and some water to mix into a smooth dough. Knead the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. Then, crank it out. It cooks in just a few minutes in boiling salted water.

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Mother’s Day Hot Wing Donuts

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Mother’s Day usually means brunch or better, yet, breakfast in bed. When I wondered what recipe to share with you today I thought I could celebrate my own mom by pulling out one of her old cookbooks for inspiration. She loved this pamphlet from the 60’s and the recipes and brand behind it. I can still hear her voice saying, “Polly-O is the best. Buy the best”. Good advice, mom.

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Flipping through I came across a spattered, well loved page that included ricotta pancakes, cheese blintzes and a peach torte. However, it is the ricotta puffs or fritters that grab my attention and bring me back to an Italian street fair where fried donuts called zeppole were the treat of the day. Crispy fried puffs smothered in cinnamon-sugar and purchased by the dozen still warm in a brown bag. A deliciously good and inspiring memory.

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hands-free frying these donuts flip themselves

But you know me. I can’t just follow a recipe. It’s time to change it up and honor another mom or two I love very much. Like mother like daughter….Caitlin and I like deep frying and donuts on occasion. We also like it spicy.

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Can a mother thank a daughter for becoming a mother? What fun it has been for me to be “Kiki”, aka, Annabelle’s grandmother. Annabelle is such a joy, but more incredible than that joy is watching your own daughter being an amazing mom. My Caitlin loves with her whole heart. Her mothering instincts are spot on. Being a new mom is an exhausting, self-less experience that she is doing with such grace. It makes me feel so proud to be HER mom. Caitlin continues to lift me up and remind me life is good. I’m ever so grateful for her and for that reminder.

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Another mom I love and appreciate is a lady named Suzy. You know her best as the creator of the spectacular  Saucy Mama brand. Suzy not only pours her whole heart into creating amazing sauces, mustards and marinades, but also into investing and empowering women like me. Being a part of Team Saucy Mama is a dream and a privilege. All the women on the team inspire me to be a better cook, a better person and a better mom. I am ever so grateful for their kindness, generosity and friendship.

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Here comes today’s recipe inspired by my mom, Caitlin and Suzy.  I tweaked the original recipe from the Polly-O pamphlet substituting vanilla bean paste for brandy and eliminating dusting the donuts in powdered sugar. Instead the donuts are coated with a mixture of granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt creating a bit of a crispy/crunchy contrast to the soft, almost pudding like ricotta interior. For the perfect spicy heat they are finished with a drizzle of Saucy Mama’s Total Domination Wing Sauce No. 2. The combination of scotch bonnet peppers and blackberry lift this simple donut to another level of goodness. Yes, mom..it’s the best.

Ricotta Puffs or Fritters

  • Servings: 2 to 3 dozen
  • Print

10 ounces ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

oil for deep frying

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Saucy Mama Total Domination Wing Sauce No. 2

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 1-tablespoon of sugar and vanilla bean paste; blend well with a spoon. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and fine salt; pour into ricotta mixture and stir until mixture is moth and well mixed. Let batter stand for 30 minutes to thicken up slightly. Heat oil to 350F. Drop batter by small, round scoopfuls (depends on size you like) and brown on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan as the puffs need room to flip themselves. Drain on paper towels. With a fork mix remaining sugar, cinnamon a salt in a small bowl. While still warm toss donuts in sugar mixture. Serve with hot wing sauce either drizzled on top or as a dip on the side. Makes 2 to 3 dozen puffs.

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Feel free to dip instead of drizzle. And I hope someone serves you breakfast in bed next Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day in advance. I will be taking next Sunday and a few others off from here in the coming weeks as life is getting a bit busier than usual.

What I Miss & Perfect Pairs

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Yesterday was William’s 29th birthday. Cheers to my boy. His birth was truly one of the best days of my life. Missing him more than I can express I celebrate him in the best way I can. In the garden planting seeds and in the kitchen creating a few recipes inspired by him he continues to be a bright light in my heart. I’m thankful for my hobbies and my passion to want to learn and try new things. Getting through tough times? It’s all about the distraction. Cooking, baking and gardening do it for me. How do you do it?

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I have been practicing my food photography with a new camera and have already received some very exciting feedback from some recipe/food sponsors. Can’t reveal what that is right now, but it sure made me feel good about trying something new and difficult. These days’ recipe contests require quite a bit of work. I miss the old days when all I had to do was create a recipe, write it down and mail it in. Now, in addition to preparing an original recipe, I am required to be a food stylist, food photographer and a creative writer. My poor husband. He knows he is not allowed to eat anything in the house until I have photographed it…on many a day we eat the food cold.

Probably one of the more wonderful things that have been on my plate lately is teaching two really smart and joyful young ladies, ages 11 & 9 how to cook. Sharing what I know about cooking and baking with the younger generation is quite fun and exciting. We are cooking our way around the globe and just finishing up Mexico with a Mango Tres Leches Cake. I think I was channeling my favorite teachers of Mexican cuisine Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Too Hot Tamales. I miss those cooking shows that really taught me and helped build my knowledge in the kitchen.

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Mango Tres Leches “Celebration” Cake is perfect for a birthday or Cinco de Mayo

Are there any famous chefs that you have learned from and would like to meet? Wouldn’t it be great fun to travel  to the 2017 Vegas Uncork’d Expo food & wine event happening next week? Take a look at that celebrity chef schedule. Famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Giada de Laurentiis will be preparing their dishes alongside perfectly paired cocktails. There are a few I would love to learn from, but if I could only pick one my heart still belongs to Mary Sue & Susan as they opened up a whole new world of Mexican cuisine and especially cheeses to me.

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queso fresco on scrambled eggs makes a perfect pair

Speaking of cheese and back in my own kitchen I have been working on some new recipes for grilled cheese sandwiches. After a hard day in the garden cooking up something like a grilled cheese and dining out al fresco on the deck is an easy and delicious way to end the day. Heading into the warmer weather we often enjoy a cool glass of rosé wine with a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a rustic perfect pairing, but who says wine has to be fancy? Rosé matches quite well with just about any cheese and bread. It’s not as elaborate as some famous celebrity chef dishes, but it works.

Cheers!

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Here is one of my winning cheese sandwiches from yesteryear. The salty bacon and olives with the sweetness of fruit, peppery arugula and luscious burrata pairs perfectly with a glass of Rosé.

Burrata & Bacon Ciabatta, Oh My

3 slices thick cut bacon

¼ cup apricot jam

1 (4-inch) ciabatta roll, toasted

2 tablespoons Mezzetta Napa Valley Bistro Homemade Style Basil Pesto

¼ cup arugula leaves

2 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, seeded, diced

1-ounce burrata cheese (1/2 of a 2 ounce ball)

1 ripe apricot, sliced

4 pieces Mezzetta Sliced Greek Kalamata Olives, chopped

1-teaspoon balsamic vinegar syrup

Heat oven 400F. Line bottom of broiler pan with foil. Coat both sides of bacon with jam; place on broiler pan rack set over foil-lined bottom. Bake 30 minutes; transfer bacon to a plate. Spread bottom half of roll with pesto. Layer with arugula, cherry peppers, bacon, burrata, apricots and olives. Drizzle with balsamic. Cover with remaining bread slice.