Sunday, July 25, 2010

Food Challenge Results: Chicken Artichoke Picatta and Pollo con Carciofi e Pomodori

So as we all know, artichokes (carciofi) were the winning ingredient for the "Mamma Meets The Cucina" Food Challenge. You voted and we heard ya loud and clear!!! So what you are about to read is the result of long hours of inventing and preparing the (hopefully) WINNING recipes for this challenge:) we both know we've got some hefty competition - but it's all in good fun....for now.

Let's start with Cucina Domenico's
Chicken Artichoke Picatta

This is a traditional Italian dish with the addition of artichoke hearts, which makes for great flavor and texture. Although this recipe calls for chicken cutlets, it would also work well with veal cutlets, flounder or tilapia.

Two quick, but important notes about this dish:

1. Piccata is fairly quick and easy to make. As long as you stay on top of your timing, you'll end up with a perfect dish.

2. Whenever you are using wine to cook with (you will be using white wine for this dish), never use anything less in quality than you would drink or serve to guests. Better tasting ingredients make for better tasting dishes!

2 large or 4 small thin cut chicken cutlets
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
juice plus zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
4 tblspn olive oil
2 tblspn butter
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoon capers
1 small jar artichoke hearts

Mix together the flour, garlic powder, dash of salt and pepper, and lemon zest, dredge cutlets in flour mix

In a large pan heat 4 tablespoons olive oil, add 2 tablespoons butter.

Add cutlets, cook 3 minutes each side.

Add 1/3 cup white wine, 1/3 cup chicken broth and juice from lemon, lower heat, let simmer for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons capers and 1 small jar artichoke hearts. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Serve over rice.

And now, here's Una Mamma Italiana's original
Roasted Artichoke and Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breasts

.....or if you want to sound really Italian, Pollo con Carciofi e Pomodori! The roasted taste of the artichokes and the tomatoes is what makes this dish. Don't skip that step...and the creamy sauce, though somehwat of an indulgence - is so worth it because it's the perfect, rich finish to the chicken....I'd serve this with a green salad tossed with none other than - artichoke hearts!



4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 can artichoke hearts
2 TSP Italian Seasoning
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
4 TBSP grated romano cheese
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 LG chicken breasts

Place quartered tomatoes and artichoke hearts on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and season with 1 tsp Italian Seasoning, kosher salt and black pepper (enough to coat). Roast in the oven (under the broiler) for about 5 minutes, or until the vegis get dark and crispy.

While these are cooking, make pockets a pocket in each of your chicken breasts. (NOTE: this is much different than butterflying the breasts. Simply cut a slit in the middle, leaving the back and sides of the breast intact. This creates a pocket for your stuffing to fill.

Roughly chop the roasted artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stuff the pockets of the breasts generously with HALF of the chopped veggie mixture. Season the outside of the breasts with salt and pepper.

Saute up some of that garlic in the e.v.o.o. As soon as they start to get golden, add the chicken and brown on each side, flipping them with EXTRA CARE so as to keep the filling inside:) Once browned, remove from the pan and place the breasts in a warm oven (350 degrees for 10 minutes or so) to finish cooking.

In the meantime, add the remaining roasted artichokes & tomatoes mixture to the pan. Saute briefly, then deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook on med-high until reduced by about half (and the alcohol cooks out) and then add the heavy cream. Stir in some of the grated cheese and the rest of the Italian seasoning. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken back into the sauce to heat everything through and meld all the flavors.

Then, plate and serve!

NOW it's time to vote again! Use the poll on each blog's sidebar or the Cucina Domenico Facebook Group Page to cast your vote for which recipe YOU think should be the winner!
Happy voting!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Easy Vanilla Pizelle!

Pizelle cookies are an Italian favorite! (and a favorite in my household too) They are flat, round cookies (which is basically what "pizelle" means in Italian) that are generally cooked on a flat iron (kind of like a waffle maker). I happen to still have the one we used to use when I was a kid. So I put it to the test the other day for no special reason at all. No birthday or feast day - just my own sweet tooth..... Well, it proved to be a success:) Here's my recipe for vanilla (my favorite)...

3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 - 1 cup flour (less flour = thinner pizelle)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add and beat ingredients together. The batter will be thick but flow from a spoon. Place about one tablespoon of batter on the griddle.

Close lid. Allow to cook until steaming stops (about45- 60 seconds) Remove with fork.

Trim excess around edges with a knife. Allow to cool on a rack or on a kitchen towel.

While they are hot, try rolling them into a cylinder or placing them inside a cupcake pan to make a mini bowl. Then they are perfect for serving pudding or yogurt or other creamy concoctions in:) You can dust them with powdered sugar and serve once cooled....

OR you can do what I did and eat them all before anyone else sees you.

Pizelle cookies are so diverse. You can switch it up simply by changing out the vanilla for anise extract or even lemon extract and lemon peel. Try what you like best, and definitely let me know the results. Buon Appetito!

Monday, July 19, 2010

And the winner is....


It looks like Carciofi will be the battling ingredient for the first "Mamma meets the Cucina" food challenge! So stay tuned as each blogger posts their homemade original recipe containing artichokes! Then you can vote AGAIN on which one you think looks like a winner!

A big GRAZIE to every one who voted!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Chicken Breast stuffed with crab meat

This is yet another awesome recipe by my blogging partner and extremely talented chef from Cucina Domenico! Gourmet recipe with easy ingredients and awesome taste, I'm sure. Don't miss this one!

This dish is a two-for-one special. The seasoned chicken breasts and the crab meat filling are delicious stand-alone recipes. Other options for the crab meat filling are stuffing it in flounder or tomatoes, or serving it up with crackers as a dip. Honestly, I probably ate half of the crab meat filling alone while gazing out my kitchen window, waiting for my grill to heat up.

Yet the taste of the seasoned chicken with the crab meat filling gives you the best of both worlds. Enjoy!


4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz. canned crabmeat*
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Old Bay Seasoning to taste

Heat butter in a pan until melted. Add onions and celery; heat until soft. Add crab meat, wine and lemon juice; stir. Add breadcrumbs; stir. When warmed, remove from heat, place crab meat filling in a bowl; set aside.

Butterfly cut** the chicken breasts, fill with crab meat filling, fold closed and secure with tooth picks.

Drizzle both sides of chicken breasts with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning (eyeball seasoning to your liking).

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Spray grill grates with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Place chicken breasts on grill, close lid. Flip every so often until chicken breasts are completely cooked on all sides and throughout, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Serves well with grilled asparagus and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

*I suggest buying the large, 16-oz cans of crab meat that are located in the seafood section of your supermarket. While they can be a bit pricey at times, they are packed with 100% crab meat. The smaller cans that are found near the cans of tuna are packed with about 1/3 water, so you are getting your money's worth with the larger cans. You will use 1/2 of a can for this recipe.

**To butterfly cut the chicken breasts means to slice the breast open horizontally, almost but not completely through, so you can fold the two pieces open. For specific instructions on how to butterfly a chicken breast, click here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NEW: The Mamma vs. The Cucina: Food Challenge!

Calling all foodies! Una Mamma Italiana and Cucina Domenico are ready to go head-to-head in their first Food Challenge Throwdown, and we need YOUR help! We have decided to let YOU, the readers, pick which key ingredient we'll use. The ingredient that gets the highest vote will be used by both Una Mamma and Cucina Domenico in a unique recipe developed by each of us. The winning prize? Two fantastic home made recipes to be shared with all of you, of course!

Here's the rules:
Select an ingredient from the list below, then vote in one of the following THREE WAYS!

• Place your vote via the poll on the right sidebar of this blog.

• E-mail your choice by this Sunday, July 18th to either or

• Post your vote on the
Cucina Domenico Facebook Group Page.

The votes will be tallied and the Mamma and the Cucina will get to work developing recipes.

Next week, the winning ingredient will be revealed, followed by both Una Mamma Italiana's and Cucina Domenico's recipes using that special ingredient.

This week's ingredient choices are:
A: Lemon
B: Artichokes
C: Olives
D: Pesto

We look forward to receiving your suggestions. Now start voting!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Italian "Onomastico" and Shrimp Fra Diavolo

(Shrimp Fra Diavolo)

Friday, July 9, marked the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti, a young Italian saint from Anzio, Italy. The Feast of Saint Maria Goretti is the 'name day' for my "Maria Fiorella!" Also, the day that Maria Goretti received her first Holy Communion is the day after my Maria Fiorella was born! So there's definitely a special connection there!

Being that I am both Italian and Catholic, I am a sucker for all these symbolic things and turn them into a huge festa! (any excuse for a party in the Longo household!) So on feast days such as this, we are celebrating the Saint whose name our children bear, or their "name day." In Italian, this is called the "onomastico" and is largely celebrated even today throughout Italy.

She was a poor farm girl, who, when her father passed away of illness, was left with her mother and four siblings to take care of a man's farm. This man's son, Alessandro, would constantly taunt Maria, and one day, when she would not cooperate with his evil ways, he tried to kill her. All the while, Saint Maria Goretti was warning him to stop for fear of the loss of his soul - not caring about her own life. She was terribly injured by his knife wounds, and taken to a nearby hospital where she died.

Maria publicly forgave Alessandro on her deathbed. Later, while in prison, Alessandro had a dream about Maria Goretti handing him some lilies (the symbol of purity) and saying she would pray for him. He began visiting with the local Bishop and eventually repented, spending the rest of his life after his release as a monk. The lessons of purity and forgiveness are ones the world could use a little more of these days! And that's why I chose to name my daughter after her.


We celebrated by reading a short story on the life of Saint Maria Goretti to the kids and having cake! Simple as that! It doesn't take much effort, and yet the children will remember the celebration (and hopefully the message of her story) for years to come.

My very sad baking skills were put to the test (again) for The cross cake with what are supposed to be lillies on top!

And whats an Italian Festa without a great Italian meal? We made Shrimp Fra Diavolo which is a spicy red sauce with shrimp and WOW is it spicy!! The trick is to use hot pepper to season not only the shrimp and the sauce, but most importantly - the oil! Hot oil is the BEST way to infuse the dish with the flavors of garlic and hot pepper. Here's my oh-so-simple version of the dish for a quick (and EASY) pasta dish that is sure to impress:

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
(measurements are approximate because I am Italian and therefore learned EVERYTHING I know from my parents or grandparents!)

4 TBSP Extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves minced garlic (adjust this to your liking)
1 TBSP crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. Shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and sliced in half LENGTHWISE *
Already made marinara sauce or 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes**

Heat the e.v.o.o. in a large deep, skillet and saute the minced garlic until slightly golden. Add the crushed red pepper flakes directly into the oil. Toss in the shrimp (seasoned lightly with salt and black pepper) and cook for about a minute on each side (WATCH CLOSELY - this happens fast) until pink in color. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

**NOW: you have two options here. You can either toss this entire mixture (oil and shrimp) into the pre-made (that DOES NOT mean store bought) marinara sauce. I like to use one I made a few days before, and throw it on the stove while I'm cooking the shrimp.....then your sauce is done and ready to serve with your choice of spaghetti or cappellini (my choice).

OR - you can remove the shrimp from the pan, leave the oil on med-low heat and (provided its deep enough) add the can of crushed tomatoes, season with some black pepper and Italian seasoning (or whatever you like). Simmer for 20-30 min and then return the shrimp to the pan. Serve with your favorite spaghetti/angel hair/capellini/spaghettini/etc.

*Cutting the shrimp in half lengthwise ensures that the shrimp does not get too tough after cooking for too long. The smaller pieces of shrimp allow for the shrimp to cook thoroughly without being OVERcooked. And it makes everything bite size!

This is such an EASY way to make a quick shrimp pasta dish. Typically, Fra Diavolo is very spicy so adjust the hot pepper as you prefer. I am somewhat conservative with my seasoning because I am feeding four kids under the age of six. I want to break them in slowly (they are learning to LOVE spicy food) but I don't want to traumatize them either!

So give it a shot and give me your feedback. What adjustments would you make? What thickness of spaghetti is YOUR favorite? Buon Appetito!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tips for the perfect Pot Roast!

I often get questions from readers on how to make a large pot roast that is not dry and tasteless. I am here to tell you that it is not as difficult as you think to make a juicy, tender roast, out of an otherwise tough piece of beef! The secret is good seasoning and slow cooking.

Here's my tips:

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT use specific measurements and directions. The fact that I am Italian is enough of an explanation for that. If you can't handle my style of cooking, then I sincerely apologize, and feel very badly for your pot roast.)

Start with a seasoning rub that you will coat your roast in. I prefer using a variety of chopped FRESH herbs like thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, etc. I mix all the herbs with EXTRA VIRGIN Olive Oil and KOSHER SALT and cracked black pepper. Don't skimp on the olive oil and the be sure to use the Kosher salt, it just dissolves so well and adds such amazing flavor. And DON'T forget the minced garlic!

Coat the meat with this mixture and broil it in the oven until you have a nice brown crust on it. Put in your meat thermometer (You're gonna want to invest in one of these, they are pretty awesome!) Then turn the temperature down to 250 degrees and bake until your meat has reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees for rare-medium rare. You may cook it until it reaches a higher temperature for a more well done roast.

I personally, just keep watching my meat thermometer until its ready. But as a guideline - you could estimate somewhere around 20-30 minutes per pound of meat. But that is ONLY a guideline!

When you take your roast out of the oven, LET IT SIT! This is a good chance to work on your patience for about 20 minutes:) If you do not follow this step, you WILL end up with a dry roast. When it cooks in the oven, all of the juices travel to the center of the meat. If you cut it right away, you would be losing all this goodness! So let it sit, let the juices redistribute, and you're golden!

The only other advice I can give you for achieving the perfect mouth-watering roast is to serve it with some mascarpone mashed potatoes. Then, my friends, you've got the perfect meal.

Buon Appetito!

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