Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tuscan Meal

Last night, we enjoyed the stimulating company of two wonderful couples. One wife and one husband arenot only friends, but former colleagues. Since one couple is going to Tuscany soon, I prepared a Tuscan meal. Of the five dishes, I was happy with how four turned out.

One couple presented us with a nice gift of candied Italian chestnuts which they had brought from Europe. The other, with whom we share an interest in wines, brought a nice bottle of Passo dei Caprioli (Passage of the Deer), a Toscana IGT red from Montalcino.

The dishes I prepared were:

1. Fettunta (also called Panunto or Bruschetta). I used a recipe from the cookbook "Tuscany, the Beautiful Cookbook" by Lorenza de Medici. I was not happy with the results. The results were nowhere near as tasty as what I have had in Tuscany. I'm not sure what I did wrong.

2. Ribollita, the famous Tuscan soup whose name means "reboiled." There are many versions of this soup. The version I made was from page 61 of the same cookbook as the Fettunta. I was very happy with the results. It was much tastier than a version we had in Siena last October. Like many Tuscan soups, one of the ingredients is slices of toasted or day-old bread. It also had cannellini beans, savoy cabbage, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, olive oil, & tomato paste. Making it was a bit of work - but well worth the effort.

3. Arista alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style pork roast). I found this recipe on the web page - It was edlicious and very easy to make. There are several stories regarding the origin of the name of the dish. One is that it was served to a Byzantine Patriarch visiting Florence for an ecumenical council in 1439. The patriarch was so delighted with the dish that he exclaimed in Greek, "Aristos!" meaning, "The best."

4. Cipolle alla Grossetana (Grosseto-style Onions). This dish was delicious. It involves stuffing yellow onion with Italian sausage, beef, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and egg, and then baking in white wine, olive oil, and water. (I used Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine to add to the Tuscan flavor.) This recipe is on page 190 of the same cookbook as the Fettunta and Ribollita. (The town of Grosseto is near the southwestern coast of Tuscany.

5. Panna Cotta al Caramello (Panna Cotta). This was the only dish I had made before. I love it and it's very easy to make. I cheated and used store-bought caramel sauce. The recipe can be found at  (Some say this dish is originally fro Tuscany and others from the Piedmont.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Really Good Chili Recipe

Last night, we had our friends J & M for dinner. I made chili, corn bread, cole slaw, and chocolate espresso cakes. This was the first time I had made chili or cole slaw. I found very nice recipes for both on the Internet. 

The recipe for the chili was from
I added a couple of cloves of garlic.  The creators of the recipe use venison in their version, but I used ground sirloin. The recipe is a bit spicy, but not firey. I chose the recipe because it had many, many terrific reviews.The recipe is:

    •  1 lb ground beef
    • 2 onions, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 green peppers, diced
    • 1 tablespoon jalapenos, finely chopped
    • 1 (14 ounce) cans Mexican-style tomatoes ( like Rotel)
    • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
    • 2 tablespoons cumin
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika ( smoked if you can find it)
    • 1 (14 ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 cup water
    • sour cream
    • cheddar cheese
    • green onions
  1. Cook ground meat with onions and peppers in dutch oven.
  2. Drain excess grease and add tomatoes, seasonings, and water, bring to a boil.
  3. Add beans, cover and simmer 1-2 hours.
Serve with toppings.

The cole slaw recipe is from: I added bacon and only use one teaspoon of celery salt. I also used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar.

The corn bread is easy to make and always turns out good. This recipe, which has had many good reviews, can be found at:

I learned to make the chocolate espresso cakes, which are delicious and made in ramekins, at Publix' Aprons Cooking School. (I'm too lazy to type or scan the recipe.)

Tasty not "Lazy Greek" in Venice, FL

My wife & I enjoyed a delicious Greek meal at the Lazy Greek Cafe ( in Venice, FL last  Friday evening.

We started out sharing two appetizer plates, each of which cost $8.99:
1. Athenian Thunderbolts with slices of Loukaniko sausage, slices of gyro meat, and tzatziki dip. The tzatziki is made with yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. (For those who care, "gyro" is pronounced "yeero" like the English word "hero" starting with a "y" instead of an "h" rather than like "gyro" in "gyroscope.")
2. Athenian Polis which had stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, and olives.

We were each given a small plate of pita bread with our appetizers.

My wife's entree was mousaka - eggplant, potato, and meat sauce covered with bechamel sauce, nutmeg and parmiggiano reggiano cheese - for $8.99.

For an entree I had:
1. A plate of several spanakopites (singular - spanakopita) for $4.99. Spanakopita is a triangular shaped pie made with filo dough and stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, and mitzithra cheese.
2. A plate of tiropites (singular - tiropita) for $4.99. Tiropita  is a triangular shaped pie made with filo dough and stuffed with feta cheese, and mitzithra cheese.

For dessert, my wife had an order of two baklava for $4.

I had an order of two kataifi for $4. Kataifi is like baklava but is covered with what looks like shredded wheat. It is stuffed with a mixture that includes ingredients like chopped walnuts and almonds, sugar, and ground cloves. It is soaked in honey.

I had order galaktoboureko, a custard-like dessert, but they were out of it.

All of our food was very tasty.

Our wine was a Greek merlot for $8 a glass. It was drinkable, but not much more. We also sampled a wine from Crete, but it was worse than the merlot. All of their wines were Greek, but they did not have a wine list. Someone should advise them that there are some very nice, reasonably priced Greek wins like those from Domaine Mercouri, Domaine Sigalas, and Domaine Skouras.

Our waitress was very pleasant and helpful.

We arrived there early, just after 5 p.m. (we were in Venice for an art exhibit and decided to have dinner before returning home.) The restaurant was filled by about 6:30, so it would be best to have reservations.

There are both outdoor and indoor tables.

There is belly dancing on Saturday nights.

The restaurant is located in the Brickyard Plaza at 530 US 41 Bypass South in Venice, FL. Phone 941-375-1268, about half a mile south of Venice Ave. The Brickyard Plaza is a pleasant, U-shaped plaza that is paved with brick and has a fountain in the center. There is also a Mi Pueblo restaurant there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Terrific Sicilian Meal in Bradenton

We had a great meal tonight at Ortygia ( in Bradenton.  Chef-owner Gaetano "Guy" Cannata is friendly, creative, and an excellent chef.

My wife had an appetizer of Pate di Pollo con Pistacchio for $9. This to-die-for pate had chicken, pistachios, caramelized onion, garlic and basil.

Her main course was Timballo di Penne for $13.50. It was pasta with meatballs, egg, mozzarella, provolone, roasted pepper, balsamic, and parmiggiano reggiano with tomato sauce. It was delicious.

My appetizer was Torta Rustica for $8.50. It was a tasty tort with ricotta, provolone, and parmiggiano reggiano on prosciutto.

My main course was Farsumagru for $18. It was sirloin rolled around prosciutto, provolone, sweet sausage, egg, asparagus, pancetta, and braised in red wine and tomato. It was very nice.

My wife's dessert was a chocolate pate with raspberry chocolate coulis for $6. It was also to die for.

My dessert was called "Lemoncello," for $6. It was made with ricotta, toasted almonds, and limoncello. It was decent, but did not have a noticeable lemon flavor.

Our wine was a 2008 Feotto del Jato Nero d'Avola for $25. It was very nice. We have had many Nero d'Avolas, and have enjoyed them all.

We ended our meal with a nice espresso.

Our waitress was Guy's daughter Felicia. She did an excellent job and loved her work. She was also very proud of her dad.

The restaurant is located at 1418 13th St. West in the Village of the Arts art community ( near downtown Bradenton. Phone 941-741-8646. It is in an old house and does not have many tables, so it might be a good idea to make reservations. The walls were decorated with the art of Janet Mishner and probably other artists.