limoncello cocktail

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It will be the first strike of bloggers ever.

On July 14, 2009, Italian bloggers will muzzle themselves in the Web as well as in Piazza Navona in Rome, at 7PM where they will meet to protest against an Italian government bill (the Alfano decree) introducing a number of new rules which will limit the freedom of expression in Italian internet.

The so-called “obligation to rectify” imposed to the manager of an information site (blogs, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter etc) clearly appears to be a pretext. In fact such imposition, in terms of bureaucratization of the network and of very heavy penalties for users, will make of the new decree an internet-killer.

The practical effects shall be to cause the independent sites and blogs to cease or materially reduce their publications. The apparent intent of introducing criteria of responsibility hides the attempt to make life difficult or impossible for bloggers and users of shared sites (for example: You Tube…).

The fact is that bloggers are already entirely liable, from a penal standpoint, in the event of crimes such as insults, defamation etc: there is no need to introduce unbearable penalties for “citizen-journalists” who do not intend to submit themselves to the bureaucracy and the burdens contemplated in the Alfano decree.

The plurality of information, regardless of the media, internet, newspapers, radio and tv networks etc, is a fundamental right of men and citizens, on which democracy and freedom are based. The Alfano decree is an attack to the freedom of all media, from the major newspapers to the smallest blog.

For this reason we invite all Italian blogs and sites to a day of silence, in the day in which newspapers and tv networks will also remain silent. It is a message of all operators in the media world, who jointly shout to the political world: “we do not want to be gagged”.

We therefore invite all citizens with a blog or a site to publish this logo and maintain it for the entire day of July 14 next. Defending the press, the tv and radio networks, the journalists and the Web, we firmly defend the basic freedom of information and the future of our democracy.

Alessandro Gilioli
Guido Scorza
Enzo Di Frenna

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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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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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Before I moved to here, my Los Angeles friends regaled me with their idea of life in Maine: “you know, you won’t be able to get a decent meal there.”

This is funny on so many levels.

First, it is almost impossible to get a good meal in LA. By that I mean reasonably priced unpretentious food in regular sized portions in a pleasant atmosphere. You either pay through the nose, eat garbage, or the atmosphere is too weird for words (assuming you can get past the velvet rope at the door in some cases) like disco-loud music, or ridiculously bad acoustics or frightening decor and funny seating – it’s always something.

And “service” isn’t even a word in the dictionary anymore.

There is just no such thing as going to a decent place with interesting well prepared food that that doesn’t rape your wallet or strain your taste buds (shrimp salad with strawberries? Come on! Especially when the shrimp is canned) or your back (with the funny seating).

Second, I have to say that since I moved to Maine I haven’t had a bad meal (except for a dinner I burned and that one mistaken visit to the chain “Italian” family style joint). If you stick to locally owned businesses, you’ll do great.

Mainers believe in buying local, and restaurant food reflects that. Fresh local food, well prepared, unpretentious menus, decently priced. No strange seating – like tall tables you stand at or sofas you eat on while bent over a coffee table or floor seating or bed seating whatever other crazy ideas they come up with in a place like Los Angeles to get people in the door. I guess good food is passe` as a marketing concept on the west coast.

OK, so we’ve had a good laugh at Los Angelenos’ idea of a “decent meal.” 

This is not a food blog per se, and I hesitate to write about food again so soon but I have to mention a place I ate at yesterday, for the third time this month. Normally, I rarely eat out. Mainly because my favorite food is my own. I’m on a budget. And I like to keep my health up and my weight down without dieting which means making my own foods – low in fat, almost no sat fat, and lower in salt without sacrificing any flavor or texture. And without resorting to “fake foods” like margarine. Or anything with creative spelling on the label, like “Bac-o-bits.” Or “cheese product” in a green can (you know who you are, and don’t write or sue. When you package synthetics as food, you can’t complain if people don’t like you and say so. Repeatedly).

Back to the topic at hand: Paciarino. Enough has been written about this place that I don’t need to repeat. Suffice to say that the owners, Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero are from Milano (Italy) where they owned 2 restaurants. They fell in love with Portland while visiting and moved there a few months ago, opening a little place downtown called Paciarino. Fabiana explains to me that Paciarino is Milanese dialect for – near as I can translate to English – a homemade “nosh” – not really a full on meal, not kids fare, and not something out of a box. Think “pacifier” in the Jewish sense – food that’ll make you very happy ’til your next meal.

This is Fabiana:

Fabiana de Savino - her food makes me want to cry

Fabiana de Savino - food so good it makes me cry!

Fabiana makes her own fresh pasta and sauces at Paciarino which is more of a store with a few tables than a restaurant. Fresh pastas and sauces are for sale alongside other Italian delicacies. They list 4 or 5 homemade pasta dishes on a chalkboard which can be had as take out, or you order and pay at the counter, find a place to sit, family style, and they bring you your food. Hot lunch with table service for well under $15. Not only hot but heavenly. I miss real Italian food and Fabiana hasn’t had a chance to be corrupted by what American customers think they want in an Italian dish (let’s hope she never is) – so her recipes are pure unadulterated Italian. The lasagne I had there made me want to cry it was so good. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere in the USA. It’s hard to find it that good even in Italy.

And this is her food:

Oops, (*urp*) delizioso!



Or it would have been had it not been so good it disappeared before I could get out the camera.








Paciarino is located at 468 Fore Street in Portland right by the Portland Harbor Hotel. Tel: 207-774-3500, e-mail: Closed Sunday. Take out or eat in, not yet open for dinner.

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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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Makin’ friends….

My boy Rocky (you met him in my first post) isn’t much for making doggie friends. He was adopted from a shelter (shh, he doesn’t know, he thinks I gave birth…..) when he was already fully grown so I don’t know much about his past. I think he never really learned proper dog manners as most of his problems with other dogs seem to stem from miscommunication.

All my neighbors have dogs and I was hoping when we moved here that he would make some friends among them. It was not to be. He didn’t like any of them, some he downright hates.

It is said that if a dog is removed from its mother too early, it can fail to learn the necessary communication skills to get along in a dog world. I think that is indeed what happend to Rocky. He was removed too early, but to what I didn’t know. Where was he raised? It was a mystery to me.

Imagine my surprise to learn that he was raised in a manger……..

"Are you my mother?"

"Are you my mother?"

So his first friend in Maine isn’t a dog. Things never go like you imagine they will with your children, do they?

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