Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Capital Grille at UTC - Outstanding Meals

My wife and I have enjoyed three terrific dinners at The Capital Grille restaurant at the new University Town Center Mall near Lakewood Ranch, FL ( 

In addition to the excellent food, nice atmosphere, and good service, the tables were spaced farther apart than at most restaurants. This was particularly helpful in accommodating my wife's wheelchair, and in reducing the noise from nearby tables.

A. The First Dinner

My wife chose as her entrée the sliced filet mignon with cipollini onions and wild mushrooms for $45. Her side was the parmesan truffle fries for $11. The steak was perfectly cooked and tender. The fries were fantastic. When we took the leftover fries home and reheated them in the toaster oven the next evening, they were even better!

My entrée was the dry-aged steak au poivre with courvoisier sauce for $46, and my side was roasted wild mushrooms for $12. The steak was fantastic, and the mushrooms were good.

Our wine was a Spanish red - a 2012 La Vilella Alta Black Slate, a Priorat from Bodegas Mas Alta, for $55. It is a blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Carignan, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a creation of Michelle Tardieu, Philippe Cambie, and Eric Solomon. It was very nice. 

B. The Second Meal 

That meal involved trying their incredible hamburgers. They're expensive, but fantastic.

C. The Third Meal

The most recent meal was last night, when we celebrated a special occasion. My wife and I had the same entrée - seared tenderloin steak with butter-poached Maine lobster tails for $51. The tails were about from Maine and were about 3 oz. each. There were two modest-size pieces of tenderloin. Both the steak and the lobster were cooked to perfection and were delicious.

My wife chose the Parmesan truffle fries as a side for $11. This is a large dish and easily serves two. They also offer smaller servings. We've had them each time we were there, and love them.

I had a cup of lobster bisque mixed with sherry for $12. Unlike most lobster bisque, this one had very, very large chunks of lobster. It was fantastic.

For dessert, my wife had the flourless chocolate cake. It was a gift for our special occasion. I had the apple cobbler with caramel ice cream for $10. It was incredible.

Our wine was a bottle of Castello Banfi Toscana which was a mix of Brunello Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was wonderful and cost $83.

Our server, Patrick, was exceptional.

Interestingly, the wine list was on a tablet, and included a section of 90+ wines. The tablet allows the display of more information about individual wines. 

A nice service of Capital Grille is that they will let you email tasting notes to yourself.

When I mentioned my interest in wines to our server, he brought the sommelier to our table. We had a very nice chat with him. He mentioned that the Capital Grille chain's management allows him some freedom in wine selection. 

The restaurant offers private wine lockers to lease at $350 per year. When leasing the locker, you have to buy one case of any of the many wines on the Capital Grille wine list. The locker owner can then stock the locker with any wines, and the normal $25 corkage fees are waived. Locker owners are invited to special tastings and other events.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Super Easy & Delicious Glazed Carrot Recipe

I love this really easy maple and brown sugar glazed carrot recipe from (I only used 1/2 lb of carrots, but made no other changes.) 

- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed (dark or light)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 lb baby carrots (or whole carrots chopped into chunks)

In a medium skillet, heat the butter, sugar, and maple syrup over medium heat, stirring until smooth and the butter is melted.

Add the carrots and toss to coat.

Cover and reduce the heat to low.

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and glazed.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grilled Zucchini - Tasty, Fast, & Easy

It doesn't get much easier than this to produce a fast and tasty side dish. I found this wonderful zucchini recipe at all ( It is also very easy to scale up or down.

- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 zucchini (or as many as you want), sliced 1/4" lengthwise. Cut off the ends first, but no need to peel.
- 1 tbsp of grill seasoning (or any seasoning you like - I used a French sea salt mixed with Herbes de Provence, Lavander, and Cornflower (Beluet) from Les Délices d'Ophelie)

1. Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grill.

2. Drizzle zucchini slices on both sides with olive oil & season with grill seasoning.

3. Grill zucchinis on preheated grill until tender - 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eye of Round Roast - Incredibly Easy & Very Tasty

Motivated by a sale at Publix, I decided to try my hand at cooking an eye of round roast steak. I had no idea how easy this would be. With a very short Internet search, I found a terrific recipe at ( It had 1,615 reviews, of which 1,181 gave it 5 stars and 225 gave it four stars. I can see why. The recipe easily transforms a normally tough piece of meat into a very tasty dish, with very little effort.

It is important to allow a total of about 3 hours in the oven before serving.

1. A 3-pound eye of round roast. You can actually use any size roast, and adjust the roasting time - 7 minutes per pound. I used a 2 & 1/4 pound roast and cooked it for 17 minutes (+ the 2.5 hours resting time in the oven as described below). It turn out medium inside.
2. Salt, pepper, and spices to taste - I used Montreal steak seasoning.

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Season the roast with salt and pepper (and whatever other spices you'd like), and place in a roasting pan or baking dish. Do not cover or add water.

2. Place the roast in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 475 degrees F. Roast for 21 minutes (7 minutes per pound). Then turn off the oven and let the roast sit in the hot oven for 2 and 1/2 hours. Turn off the cooking, but do not open the oven at all during this time.

3. Remove the roast from the oven. The internal temperature should have reached at least 145 degrees F. Carve into thin slices to serve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Curried Waldorf Salad - Nice & Easy

This New York Times recipe is delicious, as well as very easy and fairly fast to prepare. I made a couple of changes based on what I had available at home. (

(The impetus for me to search for a recipe like this and the braised celery I made a day earlier, was my purchase of a Publix Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) sale of two bunches of celery, when I only needed three stalks for a sausage stuffing I'm going to make for Thanksgiving.)

a. For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used bottled)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup plain low-fat-yogurt (I used regular sour cream)
- 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt to taste

b. For the Salad
- 2 Fuji apples (I used Honeycrisp)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (bottled)
- 1/3 cup lightly toasted walnut halves
- 1 cup thinly-sliced celery, from the heart of the celery
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup celery leaves or flat-leaf parsley (or 2 tablespoons each), coarsely chopped

1. Mix together the lemon juice, yogurt, mayonnaise, curry powder, cumin, and salt. Set aside.
2. Cut the apples into 12 wedges. Cut away the core of each wedge and slice into thin crosswise slices. Toss in a large bowl with 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together.
3. Shortly before serving, toss the salad with the dressing.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Delicious & Easy Celery Side Dish

I never thought I'd love a celery side dish, but I think this one is really delicious; and it's very easy to make. It was a nice accompaniment to a ravioli dish I served. This one is an Alton Brown recipe, courtesy of Food ( It is a 5-star recipe with 31 reviews.

It takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and serves four. Since there were only two of us, I only used 3 stalks of celery rather than the 8 called for below. (I wish I had used 4 or 5 stalks because it was so tasty.) That's the only change I made.


8 stalks of celery, rinsed and trimmed, leaves chopped and reserved
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good quality beef stock or broth


Peel any of the fibrous outer stalks of celery with a vegetable peeler and slice into 1-inch pieces on the bias.

Heat the butter in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the celery, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes until just beginning to soften slightly.

Add the beef broth and stir to combine. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the celery is tender but not mushy - approximately 5 minutes.

Uncover and allow the celery to continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the liquid has been reduced to a glaze.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved leaves.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweet Spiced Roast Carrots

It seems like there is no end to the number of easy, tasty carrot dishes. This one, from an Australian web site, is super simple to prepare, and the results are very nice. (

While the recipe calls for about 1 & 3/4 pounds of carrots, I only used half a pound for the two of us. I did not change any of the sauce ingredients. I did put aluminum foil on the roasting pan to make cleanup easier.


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 & 3/4 pounds (800 grams) carrots
olive oil cooking spray

1. Heat oven to 430 degrees

2. Place oil, honey, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Mix well to combine. Add carrots. Toss well to coat in spice mixture.

3. Spray a roasting pan with oil. Place roasting pan into oven for 3 minutes to heat.

4. Add carrots and spice mixture to roasting pan. Roast, turning occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.

String Beans with Garlic - Very Easy & Nice with Salmon

This easy side was a very nice accompaniment to a grilled salmon dish I made this evening. The beans end up nice and crisp. It seems like the dish could easily be changed by adding any of a variety of spices. The recipe is an Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network (


1 & 1/2 pounds French string beans with both ends removed
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper


Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 & 1/2 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking. When they are cool, drain and set aside.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing occasionally until lightly browned. Add the string beans, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss together. Reheat the string beans and serve.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Brio Tuscan Grille - Delicious Meal, Nice Atmosphere, Outstanding Service; A Touch of Tuscan Influence

Several days ago, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a dinner at Brio Tuscan Grille ( in Sarasota's new University Town Center Mall. It was an excellent way to celebrate.

The food was delicious, the atmosphere was pleasant, and the service was excellent. Another nice feature was that there was no corkage fee for the wine we brought with us.

Brio is a chain of 55 restaurants that has a presence in 22 states. It is part of the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group.

I think it's important to distinguish between our excellent dining experience and authentic Tuscan cuisine. I'll describe our dining experience first, and then discuss Tuscan cuisine.

When I called to make reservations, they asked if we were celebrating a special experience. I mentioned our anniversary. When we arrived at the restaurant and throughout our meal, various employees congratulated us on our experience. 

Prior to going to the restaurant, I sent an email to BBRG asking if there was a corkage fee. Within minutes, I received a response that there was no corkage fee.

I decided I'd like to bring a wine because when I checked the Brio wine list, I did not see a Tuscan wine-winery combination that interested me for an anniversary celebration, so I took a 2006 Terre di Talamo Tempo Riserva. It was very nice. (I would like to have taken a Poggio Antico Brunello, but it would not have had time to open properly.)

We started our meal with a special seasonal bruschetta that had a topping of onion jam; applewood-smoked bacon; a sauce of heavy cream, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese; and a topping of parsley. It was terrific. (Six pieces for $10.95.)

For a main dish, my wife chose the grilled 8 oz. Filetto di Manzo Toscano (Filet of Tuscan Beef - $28.95). It was tender and cooked to perfection. Her side dishes (and mine) were mashed potatoes and a wonderful mix of roasted vegetables).

My main dish was the 14 oz. Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style Steak - $27.95.) It was also cooked just the way I requested and tasted wonderful. In Tuscany, this traditional steak is normally a 2 lb monster, and the taste is incredible, especially when the source of the beef is the huge Val di Chiana cattle.

For dessert, my wife had key lime pie ($2.99). I had a trio of desserts - creme brulée, caramel mascarpone cheesecake, and butterscotch pecan bread pudding ($9.95). The desserts were all wonderful.

We also had very flavorful espressos.

Our server, Alicia, was terrific in every respect - professional, quick to notice and take care of our every need, and interested in learning about Tuscan food. We could also see that she was watching her other tables to ensure that all was well there.

The restaurant was a bit noisy, but that could be a due to a deliberate effort to create a lively atmosphere.

While Tuscan is in the restaurant's name, the chain does not claim to focus on genuine Tuscan cuisine, but to use authentic Italian cooking methods to serve food "similar to what one would fine in an authentic restaurant in Tuscany."

In fact, when I looked through the menu, I saw very little that appeared to be authentic Tuscan cuisine. Instead, I saw many dishes that were either from other parts of Italy or were Italian-American dishes. 

As an article on Tuscan cuisine in the Examiner ( states, "Tuscan is one of the most widely abused adjectives when it comes to describing decor and food, at least Italian food."

For example, Brio's menu offers 11 types of pasta. However, the Tuscans have not been big pasta eaters. Their main traditional pastas are Pici (also called Pinci), and Pappardelle. They also enjoy, Tortelli, which are like Ravioli. (Beans have been a more important part of Tuscan cuisine, than pasta and other Italians have called the Tuscans "mangiafagioli" (bean-eaters).)

There are a number of traditional Tuscan dishes that Brio could offer that would undoubtedly be popular. They are delicious, easy to make, and not usually found at U.S. Italian restaurants. One good example is Carabaccia - a Florentine onion soup that some describe as a predecessor to French onion soup.

(I know a little bit about Tuscan cuisine, with incredible dining  experiences throughout Tuscany - from major locations like Florence, Siena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Cortina, San Gimignano, Volterra, Pienza, Greve, and Porto Santo Stefano, to small villages like San Giovanni d'Asso and at restaurants in the countryside like Badia a Passignano and il Risotoro di Lamole. At those restaurants, I have generally focused on sampling authentic and traditional Tuscan dishes. I also cook some traditional Tuscan dishes.)

The wine list is decent, including six Tuscan reds and a Tuscan white, in addition to other Italian and non-Italian wines. It could be improved by including a couple of Tuscan reds that have interesting stories and great taste - such as Ricasoli and Antinori wines. (Ricasoli is the oldest winemaker in Italy and the second oldest in the world, with a history that dates to 1141 a.d. Baron Bettino Ricasoli developed the modern formulation for Chianti wine. He was the second Prime Minister of a reunited Italy in the 19th Century.) 

Antinori is another iconic winemaker, with a history dating back over six centuries. The current head of the family, Marquis Piero Antinori, has been a major leader in the major advances in Italian wine quality in the last several decades. His firm produces a super range of wines, including one of our favorite Chianti Classicos - Peppoli. (Piero and other Antinoris have visited Sarasota.)

The bottom line is that we will probably return to Brio, but I'd return much more often if they would offer a variety of dishes that are uniquely Tuscan.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Incredible Empanadas & Fresh Pasta in Sarasota

This evening, we had wonderful empanada dinner from Peperonata Pasta in Sarasota. It is run by a family of Italian immigrants from Argentina, which accounts for the strange-sounding combination of empanadas and pastas.

As we were leaving Trader Joe's this afternoon, I remembered recently reading a Herald Tribune article about a place that had some kind of specialty food in the shopping center on the south side of Trader Joe's. We drove into the shopping center parking lot, and quickly realized the place I had been thinking about was Peperonata Pasta (

I went inside and was delighted with what I found. First, there was a counter with many types of empanadas - at least 12 varieties, including:

Arabian lamb "fatay"
Cheese & Onion
Four Cheese
Ham & Cheese
Mediterranean beef
Spicy Chicken
Steak & Cheese

I chose the Arabian Lamb, Humita, Spinach, and Margarita. They were all fantastic. The ingredients were:
1. Arabian lamb - ground lamb, lemon juice, onion, tomato, red bell pepper, spices. These were created from the cuisine of Arab immigrants to Argentina - principally from Lebanon & Syria. The flavor reminded me very much of the Arab meat pies my mother used to make.
2. Spinach - spinach, onion, canola oil, nutmeg, garlic, and béchamel sauce.
3. Humita - caramelized onion, corn, peppers
4. Margarita - mozzarella, basil, tomato

The empanadas cost $3 apiece. They are fully cooked and can be reheated in 6-7 minutes in an oven at 450 degrees. The heating time depends on the type of empanada. For example, the open-top fatay only take 6 minutes.

In addition to the empanadas, Peperonata Pasta produces an incredible variety of fresh pastas, including a number that I had not seen before. The pastas included: amori, angel hair, bucato, bucatoni, campanelle, canestri, casarecce, creste di gallo, fettuccine, fusilli, linguini, mafalda, pappardelle,  penne, radiatori, rigatoni, rotini, and tagliatelle. They also sell ravioli and gnocchi. They carry a line of vegan soy flour pastas.

They also make their own chimichurri sauce and pasta sauces, etc., etc., etc.

You can dine in or order to go. Additionally, you can buy their pastas on line.

Their pastas are so good that they sell to Whole Foods.
Mr. Fochi, whom I assume is the owner spent a lot of time explaining his products.

The bottom line is that if you like empanadas and/or pastas, it is well worth a visit to their store or their booth at the Saturday Sarasota Farmers Market.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Potatoes Braised in White Wine - Patate all'Umido

This nice Tuscan side dish is from the book Tuscany the Beautiful Cookbook, by Lorenza de' Medici. The book has authentic recipes from throughout Tuscany. This one if from Siena, a town that we love.

This versions serves 6

- 1 tbsp. tomato past
- 1/4 cup light meat stock
- 3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 2 lbs boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
- 1 cup dry white wine
- salt & freshly ground black pepper

- Dissolve the tomato past in the stock and set aside
- Warm the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, and potatoes, and cook until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the wine, lower the heat, and continue cooking gently. As the liquid evaporates, gradually add the stock to keep the contents moist.
- After about 20 minutes, the potatoes should be tender. Season to taste. Remove and discard the rosemary. Serve very hot.

Pork Chops with Apples - a Delicious & EasyTuscan Dish

One of my favorite sources of Tuscan recipes is a delightful book entitled, "A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany." The author describes one-day trips to different areas of Tuscany. She found wonderful small eateries and chose delicious dishes from each.

One nice and easy recipe is Pork Chops with Apples - Costolette di Maiale alle Mele. This recipe is from Ristorante Pizzica in Campiglia Marittima, which is south of Livorno near the Tuscan coast.

This recipe is not only easy to make, but can easily be scaled up or down to serve different numbers of diners. This version serves six.

- 3 slightly tart green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into half-inch widths
- 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- s tablespoons cognac
- 3 tablespoons cream
- 6 thick pork chops
- salt and freshly-ground black pepper

- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan and sauté the apples until just soft and browned.
- Throw in the cognac and allow to evaporate for a minute.
- Add the cream, cook for another minute, and remove from heat.
- Salt and pepper the pork chops, and brush with the remaining olive oil.
- Either grill or fry the pork chops, and serve with the apples and their sauce.

The way that I generally cook pork chops is as follows:
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees
- Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-safe skillet or grill pan
- Heat the olive oil on the stove over medium-high heat
- Put the pork chops into the skillet, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side (turn the pork chops over with tongs, not a fork.)
- Put the skillet in the oven and cook for 4-5 minutes
- Remove the skillet from the oven, using oven-safe gloves or other protection to hold the skillet.

Crostini with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Fig Jam

This is a wonderful appetizer, which I found at the Italian Dish Blog (

- 1 fresh baguette
- 1/8 cup of olive oil
- sea salt or kosher salt
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons fig jam
- 3 slices prosciutto, each cut in half
- 6 fresh basil leaves

- Preheat over to 375 degrees
- Slice six 1/2 inch slices from the baguette. Slicing on the diagonal yields longer pieces
- Place on a baking sheet and brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt on each slice.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, or until crisp and slightly golden. Watch that they do not burn. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
- Spread some goat cheese on each crostino (singular of crostini).
- Spread about a tablespoon of fig jam on top of the goat cheese.
- Fold the half slices of prosciutto and place on top of each crostino.
- Lay a fresh basil leaf on each, and serve.

A Nice Tuscan Dinner

When our niece and her boyfriend visited us from Ontario in January, my nice and I prepared a mostly Tuscan dinner for them and our family. The reason I chose Tuscan is because she accompanied my wife and me on a trip to Tuscany and Umbria several years ago. In addition to sharing our love for food and wine, she has a sparkling, exuberant personality which made our trip a fun, unforgettable experience.

During her visits, she and I love to cook dinner together.

Four of the five dishes were Tuscan, but the dessert was a cheesecake gift from a family member. the wines were also Tuscan. I'll post each of the recipes separately, but thought it would be useful to post the menu:

- Crostini with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Fig Jam
- Three types of Tuscan pecorino cheese from Pienza
- Carabaccia (Florentine onion soup - I have previously posted this terrific dish.)
- Pork Chops with Apples - Costolette di Maiale alle Mele
- Potatoes Braised in White Wine - Patate all'Umido

When many Americans think of pecorino, they think of Pecorino Romano, which is used for grating in many dishes. However, pecorino simply refers to cheese from sheep milk. There are many types of Tuscan pecorino, aged with a variety of flavors. Pienza, Tuscany produces terrific pecorinos. Our niece, my wife and I stopped at a small restaurant in Pienza and had a fantastic lunch with an assortment of pecorinos.

Tuscan pecorinos are generally not easy to find. However, I found these at the terrific cheese department in Mazzaro's Italian Market, St. Petersburg, FL.

The wines were:
- 2012 Vecchia Cantina Chianti with the appetizer and pre-dinner chatting
- 2007 Poggio Antico Madre, 50% Sangiovese & 50% Cabernet Sauvignon

I chose wines from these two wineries not only because they worked perfectly with the meal, but because we visited both wineries during our trip with our niece. Both wineries treated us wonderfully. I have been to Poggio Antico three times. They produce some of the very best Brunello, which is one of my favorite Italian wines.

For those looking for a reliably good everyday red wine, the Vecchia Cantina Chianti sells for about $7.99. Vecchia Cantina, which is a coop in Montepulciano, produces a nice variety of quality wines.

Carrots and Pineapple Side

This carrot and pineapple side dish was the perfect accompaniment to the maple-glazed ham steak I described in my previous post. This one, from Taste of Home (, serves four, is very easy, and takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks, undrained
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter

1. In a saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Place carrots in a steam basket over the water. Cover and steam for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
2. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Set pineapple aside.
3. In another saucepan, combine cornstarch and cinnamon. Add the brown sugar, butter, and reserved pineapple juice. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes, or until thickened.
4. Stir in the carrots and pineapple, and heat through.

Maple-Glazed Ham Steak - Delicious, Fast, Easy

If you're looking for a delicious, fast, and easy ham steak recipe, chances are you'll like this 5-star recipe from ( The side that I made to accompany it was carrots and pineapple, which I'll describe in my next posting.

It serves 3-4 and takes about 25 minutes.

- One (1 lb) ham steak. I actually used two small ham steaks from Publix.
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used the incredible Sauble River Farms maple syrup from Ontario.)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

- Mix maple syrup, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl
- Brush one side of ham steak with mixture and place glazed-side down in skillet over medium heat.
- Brush top side of ham steak.
- Cook over medium heat, turning frequently, until cooked through and glaze has thickened.

Sauble River Farms Maple Syrup - Wow!

My wife and I are not only blessed with terrific children and grandchildren, but with wonderful nieces and nephews.

One of our nieces, who lives in Ontario, came to Florida in January to bask in the warmth of weather, family, and friends. She brought us an incredible gift of Sauble River Farms 100% pure maple syrup. While she has previously brought us delicious maple syrup, this one is extra special. It is has a very rich flavor.

Since she brought us a large bottle (1 liter), we have not only used it on pancakes & waffles, but I have also used it in recipes like maple-glazed ham steak and maple-glazed salmon. The results are mouth-watering.

The syrup is produced by Bob & Donna Lesperance, who started their farm in 1981. I see that they sell their product on their web site ( The prices range from $4 Canadian for 125mL to $57 Canadian for 4 liters. Shipping is extra. I do not know if they ship to the U.S.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fried Cabbage with Bacon, Onion, and Garlic - A Delicious Side

In my search for an easy recipe to use some leftover cabbage, I came across this keeper on ( It does take about and hour and a quarter to prepare and cook. It serves six, but it was so good that I ate a couple of servings.


6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head cabbage, cored and sliced (My leftover cabbage was only about 2/3 of a head. That worked fine.)
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika


- Place the bacon in a large stockpot and cook over medium-high heat until crispy - 9-10 minutes. (At this point, I removed the bacon, although that step is not included in the original recipe.)
- Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion caramelizes, about 10 minutes.
- Immediately stir in the cabbage, and continue to cook and stir another 10 minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. At this point, I put the bacon back in the pot. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes more.

Superb Lunch at Ziti, Westfield Southgate Mall, Sarasota

While shopping at Sarasota's Westfield Southgate Mall, my wife and I had a superb lunch at Ziti (, a restaurant offering a fusion of American, Italian, and Asian cuisines. The only downside to our lunch was that we both chose the same wonderful dish, so my review is more limited than I'd like.

We both had the Braised Lamb Risotto with asparagus and wild mushroom blend finished with lemon thyme crème fresh (sic - should be crème fraîche). It was fantastic. We also had the hot ciabatta bread with tomato butter that they offer free with the meals. It was delicious.

I had a glass of Ruffino Chianti for $7.

The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches & burgers, flatbread pizzas, pastas, and a mix of entrées. It included some very interesting sounding dishes, including Asian Calamari, Wasabi Scallops, Asparagus Shiitake Bisque, Asian Sesame Salad, Salmon Burger, Grilled Ginger Teriyaki Shrimp, Vietnamese Scallops, Roasted Miso Haddock, and Cioppino.

The service was excellent. I was very impressed with how the maître d' and a waiter bent over backwards to please a customer who was unhappy with her order. They were extremely professional.

We look forward to enjoying another meal there.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Salmon with Brandy or Bourbon & Brown Sugar Glaze - Fast & Easy

It's amazing how many easy and delicious salmon recipes there are. While I was buying salmon at our local Publix last night, the seafood seller and I discussed ways to prepare salmon. He mentioned that one customer uses a bourbon, orange juice, and honey recipe. When I returned home, I did an Internet search for salmon - bourbon recipes. I found one that sounded good, but then I discovered that I had no bourbon. I decided to use brandy instead. I was delight with the results, and the preparation was really easy.

The recipe I used was from ( It has only four ingredients and is really easy to prepare.

The recipe below is the full recipe which serves four. I cut it in half because there were just two of us. The brandy I used was Montmartre Extra Fine Napoleon French brandy. Despite the name, it was inexpensive - about $10 for a .75 liter bottle.

- 4 (6-ounce) salmon steaks
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup bourbon (or brandy)

- Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
- Stir in brown sugar.
- Place salmon fillets on top of brown sugar mixture.
- Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Turn salmon fillets, and pour bourbon/brandy around the fillets.
- Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.
- Spoon glaze over the salmon and serve.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mazzaro's Italian Market - St. Petersburg, FL

Two to four times per month, I stop at Mazzaro's Italian Market ( in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has lots of Italian goodies that I like. It is very easy and quick to reach from I-275. It's just about a mile west of Exit 24 of I-275. Among the items they carry are:
1. Fresh, homemade pasta, both plain and stuffed. The fresh pastas are made daily and change daily. Some examples are - ravioli filled with lobster or pumpkin or local wild boar or cheese or spinach and ricotta; manicotti, linguini, fettuccine.
2. A very large selection of dried pasta, including some difficult-to-find varieties.
3. Handmade pasta sauces
4. Handmade pizzas - ready to cook
5. A nice selection of olive oils and vinegars
6. A butcher section with beautiful meats, including their own sausages, meatloaf, etc., and seafood, some local.
7. A terrific cheese room staffed with cheese experts who are happy to help. They have many, many specialty cheeses from all over Europe and the U.S. This is where I have found several Tuscan pecorinos for a Tuscan dinner I prepared.
8. A very nice wine department with emphasis on Italian wines, but with many other international and domestic wines. The prices tend to be higher, but they have many wines that are difficult to find elsewhere. An example of a higher price is the Antinori Peppoli. They charge $26.99, but I can find it elsewhere for as low as $19.99. An example of a wine that's a bit different is the Sangue di Giuda (Blood of Judas), from northern Italy for $11.99. It's a slightly sparkling red wine that's a bit sweet. Normally, we don't care for that type of wine, but we like this one. They usually have a selection of decent, inexpensive wines like various Stemmari wines.
9. An excellent baked goods section with sinful desserts. My wife loves their tiramisu. They also carry a variety of breads and rolls baked there. I've tried a couple of the breads, but they don't excite me. One item I love is the chocolate-covered bacon, which they sell by the piece for $1.50. When I first heard about chocolate-covered bacon, I thought it sounded terrible. However, when I tried it at Mazzaro's, I was hooked.
10. A large deli and sandwich counter with a nice variety of prepared salads, sides, and entrées, and with sandwiches to order. They also carry lunch meats and cheeses, including San Daniele Prosciutto, Prosciutto di Parma, Serrano Ham, Pancetta, and a number of dried Italian sausages. Some items, such as stuffed rice balls (arancini) are hard to find elsewhere. I occasionally buy some of the salads or arancini.
11. A gelato section with about 10 types of gelato.
12. A nice coffee bar with a selection of fresh roasted coffee. They also carry a variety of coffee beans for $9.99 a pound.
13. A section with a wide variety of spices.
14. Seasonal Italian specialties such as a number of different brands of Panettone at Christmas time.

In another building on the property is Casa di Mazzaro, which carries culinary equipment, home décor, ceramics, etc. It's a nice place to look for a gift.

The address is 2909 22nd Ave N.

The hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10 to 2:30 on Sat, and closed Sun.

Tasty, Quick, & Easy Chicken provided me with yet another easy & tasty recipe - this one for chicken. Most home kitchens are likely to already have all of the ingredients except the chicken breast and perhaps the onion. About the only preparation that takes more than a few seconds is chopping the onion.

I found the recipe at

The recipe serves four. Since there were just the two of us, I used only two chicken breast halves. I didn't change the amounts of ingredients in the sauce recipe.


2 tbsps. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 tbsps. ketchup
2 tbsps. soy sauce
3 tbsps. sugar
2 tbsps. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground black pepper


Sauté onion in oil until translucent

Add chicken, and brown lightly

Combine ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice, and pepper; mix well. Pour over chicken, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Modified Version of a Traditional Italian New Year's Eve Sausage & Lentil Entrée

As many of my posts reflect, I love authentic Italian food. At the last minute, I decided to try to find a traditional New Year's Eve entrée. I chose Cotechino con Lenticchie - Cotechino Sausage with Lentils. This is a main dish that is served at the big, traditional New Year's Eve dinner - the Cenone di Capodanno. The lentils represent coins - money that will come to the diners in the coming year.

The only problem was that I could not get to an Italian market to buy Cotechino, a salami-like sausage, (, so I substituted mild Italian sausage from Publix. The results were nice, but not authentic. We also fresh had grapes, another Italian New Year's food. Next New Year's Eve, I intend to try the real thing.

I found this recipe on -

This meal serves six, is very easy to make, and takes a little over an hour to prepare.

a. For the pot with the sausage
- 1 pound cotechino
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 whole black peppercorns
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 7 cups water
b. For the pot with lentils
- 1 pound dry green lentils
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 clove garlic (I used two)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large carrot, quartered
- salt and pepper to taste
c. For use on the plated food
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1. Pierce the cotechino with a fork in several places. In a large pot, place the cotechino, chopped onion, 1 bay leaf, peppercorns, and thyme. Cover with the 7 cups of water and bring all to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 45 to 50 minutes - if using fresh cotechino. For precooked cotechino, simmer for 20 minutes.

2. In another large pot, combine the lentils, quartered onion, garlic, bay leaf, carrot, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with the 4 cups of water. Bring all to a boil; cover; reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Add additional water if necessary.

3. Remove and discard the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and carrot. Spoon the lentils into a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil, and slice rounds of the cotechino over the top. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, and serve.