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YAY! It’s finally here – February 5th is World Nutella Day. Concieved as an excuse to eat Nutella guilt free and spread the word (pun intended) on its chocolate-y hazelnutty goodness, Michell Fabio at Bleeding Espresso and Sara Rosso at Ms. Adventures In Italy host this incredible event, exhorting followers to submit Nutella recipes, so we can share the resulting goodies the world over. A third cohort – Shelley Rhuele – formerly of At Home in Rome (a now defunct blog, but which is still online and is very much worth a read of the archives) was also a co-founder, but sadly she no longer participates as she no longer blogs from Italy, having moved back Stateside.

This is my first year actually making something for the event so I thought I’d start with something simple. I adapted a favorite banana bread recipe (courtesy of Family Circle) and came up with the following:

Nutella and Nutella Streusel-Topped Nutella Banana Bread

Now who among you isn’t drooling already? Anyone? Anyone?

Yes, Esther, I know you have been drooling since last night! My old high-school buddy Esther, who lives all the way in Wisconsin and has no patience whatsoever, has been hopping up and down wanting to know what I made for today’s event. So here it is my old friend, without further ado - drum roll please…..

Bread Ingredients:

(Makes 3 mini-loaves per original recipe, but I used a single 9″ round cake pan. First, this tastes more like cake anyway, second, what’s with all the extra stuff to wash?)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (3 small overripe bananas, about 1 pound)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

I changed this up a bit by adding

  • 1/2 cup Nutella
For the Streusel:
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (recipe called for light brown, I used what I had)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Once again, I changed this up by adding

  • 1/3 cup nutella, plus
  • Nutella for decorative icing – as much or as little (gasp!) as you like

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and the wet ones (mashed banana, eggs, butter) in a large bowl, beating until smooth.  Then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, beating again until smooth, adding 1/2 of the 1/2 cup of Nutella at the end, beating just enough to incorporate. Pour batter into greased pan. sprinkle top with drizzles of remaining Nutella, pushing them into the batter just enough so they are no longer visible on top.

For the streusel mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until crumbly making sure the Nutella is well broken up and evenly distributed. Sprinkle streusel over the batter in the pan, and bake in a 350º oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pan on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting to remove from pan.

This is bread so it's healthy, right? Wait, isn't the cacao bean a vegetable? Hazelnuts are good, right? Further rationalizations are offered at $1.00 each, please contact blogger directly.

For the decorative icing I put a big ole blob of Nutella in a baggie, cut off a small tip at the corner and “pastry-bagged” the squiggle you see in the picture. Hey, go nuts! The design is up to you.

The result is so good it’s hard not to eat every last crumb in one go:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Another tech related absence. This may go on for a bit but I’m hoping that the results are worth it for both you and me so please be patient, I will post as often as I am able.

Back to the food served for my mother’s 85th, we are now moving on to appetizers. I like to try to serve stuff that doesn’t tip the fat and calorie meter so that 1) there’s still room to enjoy dinner even after pigging out on appetizers and b) My brother, one of the guests that night, is a heart patient, my 85 year old mother is also a heart patient, and it is my goal to never be a heart patient. So get ready, you are going to love these for the simple reason that they are delicious as well as healthy and low on the calorie scale in comparison to the usual fare.

I made 2 dips – one easier than the other.

Ann’s Black Olive Tapenade

Black bits and red bits still visible though photo is so blurry...
Not a paste: Black bits and red bits still visible though photo is so blurry…

This is so easy you almost have to laugh.

  • 1 can black olives – rinsed and drained
  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper*
  • 1 clove of garlic – crushed through a press
  • salt to taste
  • drizzle of really good Extra Virgin olive oil

Drop the first 3 ingredients into a food processor (affectionately called “fo-pro” by Michelle over at “Thursday Night Smackdown” who is desperately trying to get that sobriquet to catch on so I thought I’d give her a boost on that as well as credit for coming up with it in the first place), and give it a few pulses while drizzling in about one tablespoon or less of the oil, until everything is in tiny pieces (see bad blurry photo where this is not visible at all) and holds together a bit. Taste, then add salt to your liking and give it one more zzhzzh in the fo-pro.

You don’t want to blend this all the way into a paste or it will be hideous. You want to still be able to see black (olives) and red (peppers) distinctively, otherwise it turns a really ugly brown that no-one will eat. Don’t ask me how I know this, I’ll burst into tears (I’ve said this more than once. Now you know that coming up with these recipes isn’t as easy as it sounds. I didn’t have me to write out these instructions and post them for me on a handy-dandy blog). I’ve garnished this plate with the leaves from carrot tops (see photo), use whatever you want or nothing at all.

You do want to press the garlic first because you are not doing a thorough blend and you don’t want to end up with large pieces of raw garlic. You want the flavor of that well blended throughout the dip. If you are averse to garlic for some reason (vampire?) you can leave it out but it is probably best you stop reading my blog now and forever. There is nothing for you here. Trust me.

* I get my roasted red peppers from the olive bar at my local Hannaford’s market. Not everyone has access to that, of course. I’ve never used the kind you get in jars, but you can give it a try, I’m sure it’s fine. Just make sure you drain it first. You don’t want any extra liquid in there.

You can also roast your own red peppers, very simply, but it does cut down on the “quick and easy” aspect of this dip just a bit. Take a large red bell pepper, and put it directly on your stovetop burner, gas or electric. Turn it as the skin blackens. The idea is to totally blacken all the skin without really cooking the pepper. When the skin is all black, put the pepper in a paper bag folding over the top a few times to seal, and let it sit. Once it has cooled, open the bag, pull out the now soggy-ish pepper and rub off all the black bits. Cut open the pepper, remove the stem and all the seeds and any white ribbing inside (this part is really indigestible) and voilá, roasted bell pepper. If you want to make a bunch of these and store them (excellent idea, they go great in everything, salads, pastas, appetizers, veg dishes, etc.) just pack them down in a glass jar and cover with olive oil. Done.

My Own Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is another one of those so easy you have to laugh things.

The Green Stuff
The Green Stuff
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained.
  • 1/2 to 1/3 bag baby spinach (do not try to use frozen variety)
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • salt to taste
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Top with a few toasted pine nuts and garnish with a few leaves of parsley or whatever you’ve got handy.

Again, toss everything except the oil and salt into the fo-pro and give it several pulses, stopping to scrape down the spinach so it all gets well blended. The object of this dip is a paste so you will be doing more blending with this dip than the olive dip. Drizzle a little oil down the opening as you blend, and use your own judgement as to how much. Just barely enough to help bind all this together into a paste. Taste, add however much salt you want, give it a last few zzhzzhs in the fo-pro. The result will be a bright green paste very light and fresh in flavor. Completely vegetable based, no saturated fat.

NOTE: For some reason that I’m sure Alton Brown could tell you but I can’t because I have no understanding of the chemistry of food, the garlic flavor in this particular dip just intensifies exponentially as time goes by. I recommend making this just before serving or if you have to make it in advance, use half the garlic or it will be overpoweringly strong, and the idea is that this is an artichoke-spinach dip, not a garlic dip.

I like to serve these 2 dips with crackers and or mini-pumpernickel bread as well as some crudite` for dipping. At the party the other night I had both cracker stix and the the mini-pump as well as a couple of handfuls of baby carrots and celery sticks from the heart. The visual effect is stunning and it takes almost no work. The hardest part is washing the fo-pro afterwards.

OK, thirdly, I served a Pinzimonio, which is a fennel salad, contrary to whatever you may read through Google results. Take it from someone who lived in Rome for 20 years. My knowledge does not come from books, a class, or Maryann Esposito, but from neighborhood kitchens in Trastevere, my old neighborhood in Rome where at the time, we were the only Americans for miles.


Pinzimonio in progress
Pinzimonio in progress
  • 1 fennel (finocchio in Italian, and close as I can write it out, pronouced “Fee-Nah-Kee-Oh”).
  • Coarse sea or Kosher salt
  • Fresh coarse-ground black pepper
  • Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Rinse the fennel, cut off the green tops, slice off the bottom (thin slice just to remove connective heart) and cut down the middle vertically from where the green tops were, through the bottom. Rotate and make another similar cut at right angles to the first. Peel apart the layers, and you will end up with sections. Cut these down (see picture) so you have manageable sized wedges, spread them on a platter so that they can be dressed, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper. Serve. I know, that was hard. You should rest now. Have a glass of wine. You earned it.

So that’s three appetizers that take minutes, are all healthy and relatively low cal, serve up nicely, will be universally liked, and no one will miss the nachos, believe me (unless you are serving for a Super Bowl game and then I don’t even want to know how badly you get beaten to a pulp for skipping the buffalo wings and fried stuff).

Cheese board: not much was needed....
Cheese board: not much was needed….

To round out the offerings, I added some stuffed olives (from said olive bar at Hannaford’s) and 2 cheeses, a gorgonzola dolce (creamy in texture, buttery in flavor, almost too good to be true) and a chevre, both budget busters, but how many times does your mother turn 85 (only once, lets hope)? Besides, with the plethora of other stuff, not much cheese was needed, and there was even a tiny bit of each left over along with a few olives (but the rest of everything disappeared).

Appetizer plate
Appetizer plate with my olive tapenade, cracker stix, baby carrots, celery, assorted stuffed olives and Pinzimonio

Not shown on this page: Basket of mini-pumpernickel bread.

Served all this with, what else, my Limoncello Cocktail

FREE BONUS: Both the dips made here make excellent and very tasty next day sandwich spreads in lieu of mayo or other fatty spread. That is of course, assuming you actually have any left.


As with all my recipes, these are not necessarily for beginners. I don’t always give exact proportions, expecting you to be able to adjust to your liking and dietary needs. And as always, I live to hear what you made, how you liked it and what modifications or improvements you made. Feedback is key, people – use the comment box and let ‘er rip!

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I’m still bogged down in computer troubles, not all of which are related to the move to my own domain here, but all of which seem to be keeping me from posting as regularly as I’d like (or hopefully as regularly as you’d like), but I’m going to try to get this out to you tonight anyway.

Unfortunately I can’t upload the photos I want, so you are going to have to be satisfied with one that you have already seen, and that only gives a limited view of what I’m trying to show you. I apologize for this, but we are going to have to try to be flexible here and roll with the punches, OK?

Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah, my mother’s 85th birthday party and the sumptuous feast that was served. 

I’m not going to post the dishes in the order in which they were served, because right off the bat, a lot of interest was expressed in regards to this photo below. This dish was served alongside the main course, but you can serve it whenever you want. If you make it you get to call the shots, right?

Are those red onions?

Are those red onions?

As requested, I’m moving this to the top of the list and posting it first. The most oft-asked question here was “are those red onions?” and the answer my friends, is yes.

This is an Italian delicacy, a blood orange salad. This is one of my mother’s favorite food memories and I must say I am also a fan. It may sound a little strange but trust me this is delicious. It is also so easy to make it’s ridiculous.

So there is no reason not to try it and if you don’t like it you never have to make it again (Oh-oh, I just this very minute turned into my mother. Yup. “Eat this now just this once and I’ll never make you eat it again.” Of course she was talking about liver and onions – and lying about not making me eat it again – and I’m not, on either count).

For those of you that don’t know what a blood orange is, they are oranges with dark red flesh inside (as you can see from the photo). Sometimes the skin is also dark in parts but not always. There are several varieties – like Moro or Sanguinello, and your grocery may carry only one, if any, or a few. Try them all, why not? They are really good for you, and loaded with anti-oxidants and all kinds of good stuff. As a dish, I believe this salad originates in Sicily (the Italian blood oranges do anyway), but I could be wrong.

These oranges are deeper in flavor than a regular orange. Sweeter and and more tart all at the same time, they taste much richer and are very juicy. Delicious all on their own, peeled and eaten in wedges or even juiced. But in this salad they are truly even more special.

Blood Orange Salad (insalata d’aranci)


  • Blood oranges of whatever variety (as many as you like)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced as thin as you can get it (I don’t have a mandolin, and was in a hurry so my slices came out a little thick here). You won’t use the whole onion unless you’re trying to feed an army.
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh, coarsely ground black pepper.

Peel the orange and remove as much of the pith as you can (the pith is the white stuff inside the peel, which sometimes tends to stick to the orange. Peel as much of this off as you can, pith is bitter tasting).

Slice the orange across so you get nice circle slices. See my nice slices? No? Maybe that’s because mine all fell apart. Guess what? Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change the flavor one bit. Just maybe doesn’t present as nice.

Lay thin slices of red onion over the orange circles. Not too many, you don’t want to completely overpower the orange, one or 2 rings of onion per orange slice is plenty.

Drizzle with really good extra virgin olive oil.

Pepper freely with the fresh ground coarse black pepper.

Done. That’s it. Uh-huh. You’ve just made a completely authentic Italian dish that will wow your taste buds and your friends.

Moro oranges are only available in late winter – now as a matter of fact so you’d better hurry and make this now or you’ll have to wait until next year!

And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to let me know how you like this and how it turned out for you, I’ll be sitting here biting my fingernails and waiting…..

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Last night we celebrated my mother’s 85th birthday. Why am I telling you this? Two reasons.

1) Hosting this party took a lot of time over the last few weeks for planning and cooking up a storm and that is one of the reasons that posting lately has been sporadic (the other being the blog migration drama, which is still ongoing).

2) I got a boatload of post topics out of it for you, centered around the menu (yup, more food. Live with it. Food is a big part of me, so love me, love the food). As a matter of fact, I think I’ve got one post per dish, which should take us almost to next year (OK, slight exaggeration) but you won’t be getting them all at once. All that food was exhausting to make and I can’t possibly write it up all at once without reliving all the tired, and really, who wants to do that? Giving you my tips and recipes from the party needs to be fun, not more work.

We all had a lot of fun, my mother was surprised and delighted by everything, everyone darn near licked their plates, so all in all I’d put this one in the win column.

My brother the professional photographer, and my iGeek nephew the very talented amateur were both in attendance and clicking away madly with their digital cameras (it was almost like having a gaggle of paparazzi every time a dish came out of the oven!), so this time I have photos. And any shots I don’t have, well, its all their fault, not mine. Hey, whadda ya know? Another win for me!

I’m not going to start this series of Party Posts now, because it’s Sunday, I’m tired and achy, and I’m gonna do the Sunday thing (lazy brunch, newspaper, nap on couch) instead. So really I’m just introducing the theme, but thanks to my own personal gaggle of paparazzi, I can give you a little tease:


Are you hungry yet?

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I was out of coffee pots.

I had broken my 3 cup Bialetti espresso stovetop pot (called a Moka), which I use daily for my morning coffee. I was forced to switch to my rarely used drip pot, one that I keep in case I have drip-drinking guests.

The drip pot hates me. See, I happen to know that big boulders of grind do not espresso-strong coffee make. Every time I grind beans, I try to find that fine line between too fine and just right for a strong-brewed drip. About 5 times out of ten I go over the line, ending up with too fine of a grind, clogging up the filter, and resulting in a countertop, toaster oven, cupboard front and floor full of weak coffee and trails of wet grinds. This last happened yesterday. I had turned on the pot and left the room. When I came back…..well I just described what happens right?

Fed up, I remembered that I had an old French press somewhere, managed to find it, and made a pot. Tried to drink it. It pretty much spit itself out it was so bad.

You know, I know we all know that the French, while culinary geniuses in general….well, don’t make very good coffee. What I don’t understand then, is why there is such a market for their coffee pots.

No angry cards and letters please, I gave you the “culinary geniuses,” you can’t have everything. If any of you actually like a cup of French press coffee, I won’t stop you from drinking it. But I do reserve the right to turn up my Italy-reared coffee-snob nose at you while you do it.

Obviously, I need to go out and buy another Moka pot, which I was prevented from doing yesterday by Mother nature, who in Maine, is currently having an affair with Mr. Snow (who’s first name is “Wholelotta”), and they are both in cahoots with the city plowman to make sure the mouth of my driveway is absolutely not useable as an exit. I had to wait until this morning after my plowman cleared it out so I could run out before breakfast in search of a pot. I stopped at the local kitchen store to find, as a sad reminder of the current economic conditions in this country, that it is closed for good. The Maine Roasters coffee shop I tried was out of stock. And it was through this series of seemingly non-events, that I drove to the next town up the coast for a Moka pot and a serendipitous Only-in-Maine occurrence.

After yesterday’s severe blizzard, we were left with a huge pile of snow and the parking lot for this 2nd Maine Roasters was pretty deep in it although it was plain to see that efforts to plow it out had been made. As I parked, the woman in the car next to mine was pulling out and her wheels started spinning uselessly in the snow. We made commiserating shrugs at each other as she rocked back and forth trying to dislodge and reverse out. I went around her to see if there were any large hard snow clumps blocking her tires, as it seemed (and there were), and she rolled down her window laughing as I kicked at the clumps that she was in her mother’s old car and “gee, I guess she doesn’t have snow tires on it.” I suggested a lower gear and laying off the gas, which she did and she started to move as her wheels finally gripped. Just a quick moment, 2 strangers, barely connecting, over living in the snow. As I walked towards my new coffee pot, she yelled out “wait, I have something for you.” Turns out she was at the coffee shop pushing her wares, and had a last sample.

Eat Me!

Eat Me!

She gave me what looked like an ordinary sesame bagel, individually wrapped. The last in a large sample box she had in the car. Sesame happens to be my favorite bagel and I hadn’t as yet eaten breakfast, having, if you recall, left the house in search of a coffee pot before eating. 

“Take it” she said. They are wholesalers only, so she wasn’t selling any, it was just a gift. A small kindness – 2 strangers. This is the essence of Maine. I had to ask her for a card. This old mailer was all she had (see left) to give me. 

The bagel, I was informed, is made of spelt, is all organic, healthy, natural, and made locally (click on the image on the left for more info – interesting facts on spelt and the bakery too) in an old mill building powered by the Royal River in Yarmouth. Right up my alley. Made locally, I mean. I am a big supporter of local business and am always looking for new ways to make sure that any money I spend stays right here in Maine. Plus, a water-mill powered bakery? How cool is that?

So, I went in to the shop with a big smile on my face, bought my coffee pot, went home, and made breakfast (and coffee – ahhhh!). 

Can you spelt "Breakfast?"Since I had this beautiful fresh bagel, I couldn’t not eat it, right? I’d never eaten anthing made from spelt that I know of and decided to try it. Karma seemed to be flowing in that direction. I cooked up a few egg whites (my favorite, for those of you groaning “ew” – it isn’t about health or diet, I just like them that way), toasted the bagel, spread a little whipped cream cheese on it, and made an open face sandwich. 

IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!! The taste is hard to describe, like regular wheat bread but with a nutty undertone. Crunchy, light (not overly dense) yet quite filling, great texture, like a good bakery whole grain, but didn’t scratch the roof of my mouth the way whole grain breads do when toasted. 

All in all a great breakfast, eaten with a smile due to a stranger and a shared snow moment. And, what do you know, I just discovered that I like spelt. Or, that I like Spelt Right baked goods. For those readers in Maine, look for Spelt Right products at a store near you (too Madison Avenue? Comment and let me know. But Spelt Right has no idea that I’m writing them up here, ’cause that’s the way I roll – no pun intended).

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Michelle over at Bleeding Espresso has a regular weekly feature called “Love Thursdays” on her blog that she writes from Badolato, Calabria (in Italy for those of you that are geographically challenged).

She’ll usually post a photo of something heart shaped that isn’t usually heart shaped or thought to be heart shaped. Like a christmas ornament or a grape tomato or a pebble or some other love “related” photo or story that usually involves “P,” her other half.

It is really very sweet and not icky at all. Plus she gets a post out of it every Thursday. As far as post topics go, Michele is the queen of finding stuff to write about.

One night, inspired by one of Michelle’s “What’s Cooking Wednesday” features (I told you she was the queen of blog topics, right?), I set to making an artichoke pasta dish that I now rightly call “Carbonara Michelle” since one of her recipes inspired it (I’ll post that recipe someday too, just not today).

As a second course, I butterflied a chicken breast and lo and behold, this is what happened:

I heart chicken.....

I heart chicken.....

I immediately thought of Michelle and her “Love Thursdays” and took photos and emailed them to her on a lark. I didn’t think she’d actually use them! But she did because she’s extremely cool like that and has mentioned me on her blog more than once. Also because she knows a free post topic when it falls on her lap. So today, she posted my chicken photos, giving me yet another plug on her very widely read blog. Michelle is a true pal, and I owe her.

To boot, I now have a topic for today thanks to her, because it only seems fitting that I now post the recipe for said chicken.

Which I hereby dub “Chicken Bleeding Espresso.” But I promise, folks, that there is absolutely NO espresso in this chicken.

I didn’t think I was going to post this recipe and don’t have a “Cast of Characters” shot so you’ll just have to take my word for it:

  • One boneless skinless chicken breast (multiply by number of servings)
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • A good sized drizzle of olive oil
  • A fat dollop of brown mustard (teaspoon of Guildens is fine)
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
  • A few turns fresh coarsely ground black pepper


Butterfly the chicken breast (by cutting in half horizontally) and set aside.

Crush the garlic in a press and into a small bowl, and mix with the oil, the mustard and the thyme leaves (take the leaves off the stem by running your fingers down the stem in reverse, and chop them roughly to release the oils), the lemon juice and the pepper. Brush the chicken breast all over with this mixture and let sit for 20 minutes – not in the fridge. The chicken needs to be close to room temperature when you cook it.

I heart Bleeding Espresso!

I heart Bleeding Espresso!

Cook the chicken using your favorite dry method – on a barbeque, in a hot iron skillet, under a broiler or whatever your method of choice. The chicken is done when it is no longer soft to the touch – a few minutes (3 or 4? never timed it) for each side*.

When done, this is what you get:  

Now go check out Michelle’s “Love Thursday” for this week and you get to see the now world renowned Chicken Bleeding Espresso as a vehicle of love….(too corny? too bad)!


* Folks, my blogged recipes are not for beginners. If you don’t know how long to cook a butterflied chicken breast, you need to start somewhere else, not here.

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During a trip to the Whole Foods in Portland the day before this year’s Super Bowl, I found they were hosting what amounted to a rollicking party, buffet style.  

Taking advantage of the uniquely American tradition of stuffing your face with finger food while watching the grandaddy of all football games, Whole Foods was featuring Super Bowl party fare – New England Style. That is to say, not New England style foods, but foods made or grown in Maine.

We may think of a lot of things when we think “Maine” (like “snow”), but I’m betting “salsa” is not one of them. Well, guess again. I was truly amazed at the selection of locally made salsas – and after having lived in Southern California for 25 years, I like to think that I know a little something about good salsa. Well, this selection blew my socks off.

I thought I might make a regular feature showcasing local foods, and you can consider this the first of many such posts.

Here is the best of what I found at Whole Foods that day:

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

This is Roy of Guzman’s Gourmet Salsa. I ate enough for a whole first quarter at this one table alone. They have enough flavors to start their own Salsa Supermarket. Flavors like Tequila Lime and Mango Tango and Black Bean Corn, which you would expect in a salsa and most likely have seen before, but Guzman’s takes that extra step and has flavors like Tropical Passion, Blueberry and Cranapple. All fresh tasting and truly divine. I was loathe to leave, plus Roy was a nice guy and didn’t mind feeding my endless pit of a stomach. Hi Roy! Guzman’s has a whole line of foods made right here in Maine, check out the link above.


John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper
John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper

Meet John from Tiger Teeth Pepper. See that hat he’s wearing? That’s not because he’s a chef. It’s because the top of his head has been blown clean off by the Fiery Habanero Salsa he makes. Boy that stuff had a kick! I adore spicy but am not one of those people that lives by “the hotter the better,” to me flavor is very important. Heat alone just doesn’t cut it. This stuff is sublime. Not only is it spicy but you can really taste the pepper flavor. Delicious. John is homegrown, and his salsa is produced right here in Maine too.


Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

This is Pam, of Pam’s Black Bean Salsa. This stuff was awesome and I don’t even like beans!! You can really taste the “fresh.” Let me interject here and inform you that my cellphone was doubling as an inferior camera that day so you (and Pam) will have to forgive the glaring, well, glare, right smack dab in the center of her logo sign… Pam is a nice lady too and I know she will forgive me. Pam’s isn’t Maine produced – she’s from a bit further south in some state we don’t like to mention. But it is still New England, and she helps prove that the western states don’t have a lock on salsa!


So with all these salsas, we really need some chips. I found these while meandering through the market that day:

Fox Family Potato Chips

Fox Family Potato Chips

How about that? The only Maine made potato chip. These were yummy. Very crispy and fresh tasting, more substantial than your regular chip (strong enough to dip) but not as thick as some kettle chips. The result is crunchy and light, very tasty but not too salty. De-licious. It’s really hard to believe that they have no cholesterol, no trans-fat and no preservatives as advertised on the label – they are that good.

Not everything I tried that day was delicious. Some stuff was OK, but wasn’t worth writing about and I wouldn’t waste your time or mine. But these foods were truly special – check out the links for complete product lines and information on where to find them near you.

Did your team win on Super Bowl Sunday? Mine sure did – Team FOOD that is.

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Yesterday I posted my recipe for homemade beef broth as a base for the soup recipe I’m posting today. By now you’ve made the broth, you’ve let it sit in the fridge overnight, defatted/descummed and reduced it by half and are now ready for the next step…So lets make soup! 

Cast of Characters:

Now appearing in Only in Maine's production of "Soup" the new must-eat hit of the season!

Now appearing in Only in Maine's production of "Soup" the new must-eat hit of the season!

1/4 cup or less of olive oil

4-5 large sweet onions and 2 medium brown onions

5 stalks of celery* and 5 carrots, chopped small

1/4 tsp salt and 2 large bay leaves

1 lb. lean stir fry beef (optional) cut in small cubes

Parmigiano Reggiano rinds**

1/2 cup Marsala wine


Not shown in the photo is the pre-cooked barley and 8-10 cups of your homemade broth.

I use quick cooking barley (15 min), make the whole box in advance, and then freeze whatever I’m not using right away in quart size Ziplocs for later use in other dishes – which I’ll also probably be showing you how to make, but some other time. Use however much or little barley you like in the soup (see photo below for reference). 

You want the broth simmering hot when you are ready to use it so have it in a pot on the stove over a low flame while you are preparing the soup.

Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a large soup pot, peel and cut all the onions into very thin half rings, toss into the pot, drizzle a little more olive oil over the top and sauté over medium low heat. You need very little oil here, the onions will give off a lot of their own liquid. Yes these are A LOT of oinons:

Yes, these are ALOT of oinons.

Yes, these are ALOT of oinons.

But do not freak out. They will melt down to nothing given time and heat and pressure (as in “hurry up and melt darn it!”).

Add a pinch or two of salt to draw out the onion juices. Cook slowly, stirring frequently until wilted all the way down and transparent and a soft beige-brown. Sauteeing the onions is the longest process here, everything else is fairly quick, so make sure your broth is simmering at this point.

Add the meat and sauté until browned. Add chopped carrot and celery and sauté just a bit more until just starting to soften (2 minutes, maybe). Seperately combine the 1/4 cup Marsala wine with about 3/4 cup of your simmering beef broth and use this mixture to deglaze the soup pot, scraping up all of the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pan. If you don’t mix the wine with the broth first the sweet wine will evaporate and burn immediately before you have a chance to draw your next breath. And if you burn the soup at this point you will be mighty unhappy. Trust me. And don’t ask how I know this, I’ll burst into tears.

Add the rest of the heated broth, and stir. Add bay leaf,Parmigiano rinds, celery leaf*, and cook for another 30 – 45 minutes to allow the flavors to meld skimming off any scum or fat with a spoon. Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop. DO NOT EAT NOW even though you might think it tastes pretty good. You’ve come this far, trust me and wait.

Voila` Zuppa Patrizia!

Voila` Zuppa Patrizia!

The next day, to serve, bring to room temp over low flame then heat on medium low ’til hot (not boiling), add cooked barley, stir and let heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

When all is hot and just at a simmer, serve it up with some toasty crusty peasanty or whole grain bread and a nice salad. The soup should be rich in flavor, fairly low in fat, and will warm your toes! And it will be incredibly delicious – so delicious that you will thank your trusting stars that you waited overnight before eating. Be sure to avoid the Parmigiano rind and bay leaves when serving. When you do serve your Zuppa Patrizia, it will look like this (see picture above).  

Then within minutes, this is what happens:

All gone.....!

You should be able to feed 6 for dinner and still have leftovers. This soup is very dense and filling. To recap: Day one, several hours simmering broth. Day two, a few hours reducing broth. To make soup: at least an hour to reduce onions properly, another 30 – 45 minutes cooking once soup is put together plus prep time. Total: Too long for any other recipe but totally worth it for this one. Anyone you feed with it will be your slave for life.

*Reserve any celery leaf whole with their little stems, and add them to the soup with the Parmigiano rind and the bay leaf. Avoid any larger pieces when serving. Adds wonderful flavor.

**Note on the Parmigiano. Only cheese labeled “Parmigiano Reggiano” is the real thing. Anything else is a poor substitute and not worth buying. Really. If you buy that stuff in a green can, skip this recipe altogether and just buy a can of beef barley soup and be done with it. The difference between Parmigiano and that stuff in the green can is that Parmigiano is cheese, and the stuff in the green can is, well, not.

Special Tip: Don’t buy Parmigiano already grated, it goes stale immediately – when you pay that much for cheese, buying it pre-grated is just a low down dirty shame. A whole chunk will last about forever in your fridge, and the best part is that you end up with a rind which you can then save in a Ziploc baggie in the fridge. Add one or two rinds to the pot when making soups, stews, and sauces. The rind doesn’t melt away (it will need to be fished out before serving or avoided when dishing out), but will soften during cooking, imparting the most incredible flavor to whatever dish you are making. It also adds salt, which is why there is almost no salt added in the making of this soup – so please adjust any recipe to which you add a rind accordingly. Any hard cheese rind can be used in this manner.

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TA-DA! Finally, the long awaited beef-barley soup, as promised many days ago. I call this soup Zuppa Patrizia, named after my mother. Not because she makes it (far from it, she’s still trying to figure out which appliance in her kitchen is the stove), but because she loves it so. So much that she always wants a cut of every batch, and since she’s such a loyal fan (and wields guilt quite effectively), I very happily make sure she always gets her share – like a tithe!

So without further ado:

This soup is made in 2 stages. Stage one is homemade broth, stage two, at least one day later, is soup made from that broth. This recipe will also be posted in 2 stages (hence the post title). I am very tricky and am not above using any means to get you to keep clicking back to my blog, but enough about me and more about homemade broth…….

There is really no substitute for making your own broth, it is the only way to control the seasoning in your finished dishes. All commercially available broths that I’ve managed to find, even those labeled “stock,” are basically cans of salt. When you figure the per “portion” sodium, allow for reduction in cooking, and then for actual serving size, you are eating a week’s worth of salt at one sitting. Never mind the artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Making your own broth is really easy and definitely worth the trouble.

Broth needs to be made at least a day prior to use so that it can be properly and easily de-scummed and de-fatted (more on that later down the page) and also so that the flavor has a chance to “bloom.” It can also be made as far in advance as you like and then frozen for future use if need be. Trust me, I’m all about the “easy.”

Tip: You may want to get into the habit of saving and freezing any bones from roasts for future broths – leftover bones with whatever attached meat give additional layers of flavor that raw bones do not.

Cast of Characters:

Cast of Characters from Only in Maine's new production of "BROTH" - the new must-eat hit of the season!

Cast of Characters - Broth


Beef soup bones (at least 2) and any other beef bones.

4 or 5 brown onions, halved, whole if small.

4 or 5 celery stalks, cleaned and cut in thirds.

4 or 5 large carrots, cleaned but not peeled, cut in thirds

Optional: a few bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few allspice berries.


I happened to have a leek in the fridge that was close to past its prime, so I cleaned and tossed that in as well. I’m a big believer in using what you have.

Throw everything into a stockpot and fill to within a few inches from the top with cold water. You can leave  any clean brown skins on the onions, which will supposedly add a little color to the broth, but this is not necessary. 

Everyone into the pool....

Everyone into the pool....

Put the pot over a medium flame until it boils, then turn it down and let it simmer for a minimum of 3 or more hours and up to “as long as you like.” The idea is to leach every last ounce of flavor from the beef, the bone, and the marrow. When the bones are removed, they should look like they’ve been bleached by a desert sun for weeks and everything else in the pot should be falling apart.

For those of you that have a dog, well, he’ll be very lucky tonight! Note that the only bones recommended as safe for dogs are the big soup bones (thigh), discard any others, as they can splinter and severely injure your dog. Enough about dogs. Back to the broth.

Strain the solids from the liquids. Do not taste the broth, do not try to season the broth, and do not be alarmed that it looks like greasy dirty dishwater – this is what you want. Let it cool, and refrigerate (I place the pot in my unheated garage with outside temps below 32 degrees). You cannot skip this overnight step. Because the next day, when you remove the pot from the fridge (or your frozen garage), all the fat will have risen to the top bringing any scum with it and will have formed a nice soft crust that you can lift off like a loose layer of wax, using a slotted spatula. Toss this layer in your fat jar for later disposal (when it gets to room temperature it will liquefy so probably not best to toss directly into the trash unless you are absolutely sure that your bag won’t develop a leak). If any bits of fat or scum are left, skim off with a spoon. You will end up with a broth that is virtually completely fat free with very little effort. I told you, I’m all about the “easy.”

After de-fatting, back on the stove it goes over medium heat until it comes to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until it reduces by half or you end up with about 8 to 10 cups of liquid. It will darken a bit as it becomes more concentrated.

Voila, beef broth. It will smell better than it tastes. This is fine. Remember that this is basically just watered down extracted beef flavor with virtually no seasonings – so far not even one milligram of salt. This is what you want, don’t worry. You will be adding all the seasonings while making the soup. Which will have to wait until tomorrow, after all your fat rises to the top, solidifies in the cold, and you remove it with a slotted spatula. Isn’t it too bad that this fat removal method doesn’t work on humans?


See you tomorrow!

Any questions or need clarification on the finer points? Leave your question in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.

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No soup tomorrow…..

I know I promised to write an epilogue to yesterday’s post but I was too busy stocking provisions for the blizzard that was clearly coming my way, based on the prediction of, if you recall, fair weather with a side of alerts.

My “From away/Mainer” dictionary apparently needs tweaking, as it full-on failed me this time. The weather was none of the above. It was just grey and COLD. Like in the single digits cold. Instead of the usual “one inch” of foot deep snow, we got NO SNOW. And now, after yesterday’s pointless flurry of activity, I have a house unnecessarily full of food and firewood – which, now that I think of it, can never be a bad thing.  

Today was going to be day 2 of delicious beef-barley soup making for Monday’s blog post but the beautiful giant beef bones I had bought on Thursday just for photographing and posting said soup recipe, mysteriously went bad – very bad.  So bad that they were actually stinky when I went to start the soup yesterday afternoon. Which means no soup post tomorrow. Even worse, (for me), no delicious hot soup for the next few single-digit-cold days. Since I did something very stupid yesterday to my right foot during my marathon survival-preparedness exercise, I’m not about to trek out to the market for more soup bones today just for you guys – even though I love each one of you loyal, forgiving readers with all my heart, because another trip to the market would be redundant – did I mention that I have a house full of food (except soup bones)? So while I will eventually be adding a few recipe posts here and there….you’ll have to wait until I get back on my feet (foot?) and out to the market to get a peek at my yummy beef-barley soup recipe. And I’ll have to come up with some other clever subject for tomorrow’s post.

So this entry? Not really a post, more like a litany of excuses……..

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