Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Risotto Recap

Recently I asked my blogging buddy, Dominic Condo to come up with some amazing recipe for Pumpkin Risotto. I had tasted a similar dish in Italy and fell in love at first bite. I haven't had anything like it since (and that was 7 years ago)....until Tuesday!

I actually made the recipe as featured on the Cucina Domenico blog and WOW was it yummy. The only modification I made was adding chicken. I cooked up some lightly seasoned chicken breasts (Italian herbs, sea salt, hot pepper) and then sliced them thinly on a diagonal. Then I coarsely chopped the thin slices into smaller, bite sized pieces, which I stirred into the risotto towards the end.

When I initially looked at the recipe, I thought 1 - 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree was quite a bit. Boy, was I wrong. I think I used nearly two cups because the flavor and the aroma were that awesome. It just goes to show - don't question a paisano's recipe - he probably knows what he's talking about! So have no fear and give it a shot (of amaretto). I did, and you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Last week, while in Boston I got to chatting with Mary (my dad's cousin's wife - so my SECOND cousin). She had me laughing as she constantly reminded me that she CANNOT cook, but does a "wonderful job of cleaning" up after her husband, Vinny, who cooked enough for an army last week. We arrived to homemade chicken soup with mini meatballs and ditalini, alongside homemade pizza, three varieties - broccoli rabe, italian sausage, and olives. The next night was eggplant parm with tortellini in red gravy. We probably gained an average of 10 lbs each last week...

Anyway, as we were sitting around pretending to cook, Mary pulled out her father's BISCOTTICHART. This thing was incredible. It was a handwritten graph of all different variations of biscotti, the beloved Italian, twice baked cookie that goes great with coffee, tea, or as LorraineRanalli suggests, a martini! Needless to say I took a copy home for my kitchen. It lists, in columns, each ingredient (sugar, flour, eggs, etc) and the varying amounts for each recipe (almond, chocolate, etc). Well with a little imagination, and a lot of fall inspiration, I made up a festive recipe for PUMPKIN BISCOTTI! I like to make them small - about half the size of a regular biscotti - so that they are easy to pop in your mouth. My kids especially appreciate this.


2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger (optional)
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (this can be canned pumpkin, but make sure it is NOT canned pumpkin pie filling. You want to use pure pumpkin and season it yourself)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Sift out any clumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, softened butter, and the vanilla.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and combine the ingredients. Do this gently, you don't want to overmix.

With floured hands , knead the dough lightly in the bowl. Form the dough into a large log (or small, if you want bite sized biscotti like me) and place on a lightly greased, parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the center is firm to the touch. Let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes, then slice into one inch pieces using a serrated knife.

Lower the oven to 300 degrees and bake, cut side down for an additional 15 minutes.

Now, I like my biscotti a tad chewy, so I wrap them up once they've cooled. If you prefer your biscotti to be crispy, then let it sit out uncovered for a few hours in a dry place.

TIP: I LOVE mixing in about 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. It is the perfect accompaniment to the pumpkin for all you chocolate lovers:) You might have just found the perfect accompaniment for coffee after Thanksgiving dinner!

Sausage Bread x 2

Recently I had a bunch of my friends over for "Breakfast at Tiffany's!" It was quite a hit if I do say so myself! The best part about it was that everybody brought some unique breakfast dish and we basically ate for a good three hours. Che bella!

One of the dishes I made was an experimental twist on one of my favorite Italian sides - Sausage Bread! When my family owned our Italian Deli in Vegas, my dad would roll out some leftover pizza dough, pile on some cooked, ground Italian sausage and cheese (and sometimes mushrooms) and braid the excess dough over the top. A quick brush of some eggwash and this thing was gorgeous! It tasted so good - hot, cold, or room temp - and was a great side dish to serve with pasta, soup, or even bring to a dinner party. Anyway, the thing sold like crazy. Everyone loved it, and I was trying to think of a way I could make this for breakfast.

Now, if my "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was back home and all my Italian relatives were coming over, I would feel perfectly comfortable eating this savory Italian Sausage Bread for breakfast. But since I was dealing with my med-e-gone friends (i love you all, by the way), I figured I would go easy on their stomachs that early in the morning. SO what did I do? I made a rich breakfast sausage gravy and used that in the sausage bread instead!! It, too, was a hit, and was the prefect substitute for biscuits and gravy.

I encourage you to try both the breakfast and the Italian sausage variations, because they're both amazing. And there's so much room for improvement with this bread, so let me know your variations - I would LOVE to try them:)


Ground Breakfast Sausage
4 TBSP flour
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
Pizza dough, rolled out thin

Fry the ground sausage until cooked thoroughly. Add the flour, one tablespoon at a time until absorbed. Then gradually add the milk, and cook until thickened. (NOTE: in a typical sausage gravy, you would add more milk to make more gravy. By reducing the amount of milk for this recipe, you create enough of a paste to hold the mixture together. This gives the gravy taste without the sloppy mess, and enables the mixture to stay together inside the bread.)

Spread the thickened gravy mixture over the middle of a rolled out pizza dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border on all sides. Cut diagonal strips on the sides of the excess dough, and fold over alternately until you have a braided effect on top.

Brush the top with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until golden.


2 lb sausage, removed from casing
1 lg block mozzarella, grated
1-2 TB grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
Pizza dough, rolled out thin

Fry the ground sausage meat until done, drain. Mix with grated cheese, shredded mozzarella, and 1 beaten egg. Spread over the middle of a rolled out pizza dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border on all sides. Cut diagonal strips on the sides of the excess dough, and fold over alternately until you have a braided effect on top.

Brush the top with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until golden.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Columbus Day

I love fall. It means all my favorite holidays are around the corner. Everything starts with a bunch of September birthdays for us. First my daughter's. She turned five and we made her an oreo cookie cake! Gotta love Williams Sonoma!

Then my husband's birthday, then mine. You can see that my kids took every single one of my favorite candies/junk food and decorated the table for me! Then we spent the evening eating it all up (in the name of cleaning, of course).

Sugar babies, candy corn, zebra cakes, Brach's candy pumpkins...all that sugary stuff that I tell my kids never to eat!mmm i love it:)

But the best part of fall for me is that we get a lot more quality family time together. Usually the summers are busy with fun bbq's and get-togethers where our kids run off to play with the other kids while we adults eat, drink, and be merry! Now that the weather is getting cooler, and we're seeing some more rainy days, we tend to find fun in indoor activities. For our family, it always means getting in the kitchen. The kids know just when to pull their chairs up to the counter to get a front row seat to the action. Then they, of course, help mix and stir whatever we're cooking up. Today it was pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie is so easy to make I don't think I will buy another one from the store again! Plus with all of our apple pie baking, I have the crust method down 100%! I make a mean homemade pie crust. Plus - making it from scratch means you know exactly what you're eating.

NOTE: I just watched the movie "Food, Inc." and was pretty much grossed out by every single thing I put into my mouth each day. Actually, I was mostly grossed out that I was feeding this my kids. I already know I'll probably have cancer in another 20 years or so - but my kids? Now the food industry has messed with the wrong person!

Anyway, I have a new found inspiration (which will likely diminish after a few weeks) to make everything from scratch. Like I said - we'll see how long this lasts:) But, in keeping with Longo Columbus Day tradition, we made a pumpkin pie and its already nearly gone!

So what to do when the food runs out and its still a rainy day? How about some indoor crafts? Last year, my Columbus Day articles for La Voce and Italians R Us highlighted a few Italian themed crafts that were good for young children. There are even a few that the older kids might enjoy. You can make anything from colored pasta flags to Italian themed trivets. check it out, and send me your Italian craft ideas!
Visit my article on using the link above!
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