Wednesday, April 16, 2014


There is an Italian bakery in Bridgeport, CT called Del Prete, and they make these great mini biscotti. They are the perfect size for dunking in an espresso or a glass of vin santo. I usually get the chocolate and the almond from Del Prete, but have been making butterscotch biscotti off and on for a few years, and thought I would try making them smaller like those from Del Prete. I also wanted to try making chocolate.
The recipe I have adapted for the butterscotch biscotti is actually one my mother clipped from a newspaper 20 years ago. I don’t know what newspaper it was, but the recipe is one that was sent in by a reader, and it was called Grandmom Arcuri’s Butterscotch “Biscotti”. The quotes around the word biscotti were apparently because they eliminated the second baking in their recipe. Since biscotti actually means twice baked, I guess you could say they were not technically “biscotti”. Anyway, Grandmom Arcuri wherever you are, thanks.

Butterscotch Biscotti Recipe

Prep time:  | Cook time:  | Total time: 
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 large egg beaten in a bowl
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in butter and almond extract until combined.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together flour and baking powder, then stir it into the egg mixture in the large bowl and fold in the butterscotch chips.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a log and transfer two logs to each baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.
  5. Stretch and flatten out the logs until they are the length of the baking sheet and 2 inches wide.
  6. Brush the tops of the dough with the beaten egg, then place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Using a serrated bread knife, cut each log diagonally in to 1 inch thick slices. Place biscotti back on baking sheet, return to oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how hard you like your biscotti.
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Roasted Rabbit with Sausage and Potatoes

I thought about calling this rustic dish Coniglio alla Contadina, which would loosely be translated to Farmer’s Style Rabbit. Especially, because I used my own homemade sausage and home cured bacon, when I made it, as I imagine would be done on a farm in the Italian countryside.
Rabbit is a lot more common on the menu in Italy than it is in America, because many people here don’t want to eat the cute little “Easter Bunny”. However, attitudes here are changing, more people are appreciating it and it is appearing on more menus. Of course, if you don’t want to do rabbit or can’t find it, this recipe works very well with chicken also.
What are your feelings on rabbit? Do you eat it? Would you eat it? Please share in the comments.

Roasted Rabbit with Sausage and Potatoes

Prep time:  | Cook time:  | Total time: 
Serves 4
1 pound yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
8 ounces pancetta, diced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 3-4 pound rabbit cut into serving pieces
1 pound italian sausage
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. In large bowl, toss together the potatoes, rosemary, thyme, garlic, pancetta and two tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Transfer into a roasting pan, pour in the white wine and place in the oven. Cook the potatoes by themselves for 40 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, season the rabbit with salt & pepper, and heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the rabbit, brown on all sides and transfer to a plate. When done browning the rabbit, do the same with the sausage, then cut the sausage into one inch pieces.
  3. After the potatoes have been cooking for 40 minutes, add the browned rabbit and sausage to the pan and cook for 20 more minutes, until potatoes are tender. Transfer to warm serving plates and serve.
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Saltimbocca alla Romana

Saltimbocca is a classic Roman veal dish. In fact, it is so typically Roman that the name Saltimbocca alla Romana seems redundant to me. But, that’s what it was called on my father’s menu, so I am sticking with it.
This is a great dish to serve for company. Plate it over some sautèed spinach and it will make quite an impression. The literal translation of saltimbocca is “jump in the mouth”, and that’s precisely what this tasty combination of veal, prosciutto, sage and white wine will do.

Saltimbocca alla Romana Recipe

Prep time:  | Cook time:  | Total time: 
Serves 4
8 slices prosciutto
8 veal scalloppine, thinly sliced and pounded
flour spread on a plate for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place one slice of prosciutto on each veal scalloppine and pound in lightly with a meat pounder.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Dredge both sides of the scalloppine in flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Place them prosciutto side down in pan and cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a warm plate.
  3. Drain oil from pan, place back over heat and add butter. When butter is melted add sage and sauté for one minute.
  4. Add the white wine and scrape loose any bits from bottom of pan, then add the chicken broth and salt and pepper.
  5. Place scalloppine back in pan, prosciutto side up and cook until sauce is reduced by half and scalloppine are heated through.
  6. Transfer veal to serving plates, two scalloppine per person, spoon sauce over top and serve.
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Stracciatella Gelato

Stracciatella Gelato is kind of like American chocolate chip ice cream, except completely different. Instead of the chips and sometimes chunks you find in American product, Stracciattella has fine bits of chocolate throughout, which results in a smooth texture with just the slightest crunch in every bite. This is achieved by drizzling in a thin stream of melted chocolate during the final stages of churning, which hardens on contact and gets broken up as it churns. My two previous gelato recipes, chocolate and pistachio, were Sicilian style gelato, which has no egg or cream and is thickened with a crema rinforzata made from milk, sugar and cornstarch. Here, for a little variety, I went with a Northern Italian style vanilla gelato, made with an egg based custard.

Stracciatella Gelato Recipe

Prep time:  | Total time: 
Makes About 1 Quart
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  1. Stir the milk and sugar together in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add the vanilla bean. Heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and steep for 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks and transfer the mixture back to the sauce pan. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, 8 – 10 minutes and remove custard from heat.
  3. Pour the cream into a large bowl and place a mesh strainer on top. Pour the custard through the strainer, discarding the vanilla bean, and stir it into the cream. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Remove custard from refrigerator and process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. While ice cream is churning melt chocolate in a sauté pan over low heat or in the microwave. Drizzle a very thin stream of the chocolate into the gelato during the last few minutes of churning.
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Sausage Lasagna

The magic of sausage! It can take an ordinary lasagna and turn it into something special. Yet, even before the sausage, this is no ordinary lasagna. Fresh homemade pasta for the noodles, the Ricotta-Béchamel sauce from Chef Silvia’s Hand Rolled Lasagna and fresh mozzarrella already take this to another level. Add the sausage and it’s breathing down the neck of the venerable Lasagna Verde Bolognese in the race for the title of my favorite lasagna.

Sausage Lasagna Recipe

Prep time:  | Cook time:  | Total time: 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1 pound sweet Italian sausage meat (stuffing from 4 links)
1 35oz can of imported Italian tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
3 fresh basil leaves
1 recipe Ricotta-Béchamel (see below)
1 pound of fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese
1 recipe of homemade fresh pasta rolled out and cut into 13 inch long pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sautè, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add sausage meat, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally until sausage is browned approximately 10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, crush the tomatoes with your hands then add them with their juices to the pan. Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and let simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. At the very end of cooking, tear the basil leaves into pieces with your hands and stir into the sauce. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In 3 batches add the lasagna sheets to the boiling water and cook until just under al dente. Remove the noodles from the pot using a slotted spoon, place in a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and spread out on clean kitchen towels.
  6. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of a 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Cover with a layer of 2 to 3 lasagna noodles, overlaping slightly to fit. Spread 1/3 of the Ricotta-Béchamel mixture on the noodles, top with 1 cup of the sauce. Spread 1/4 of the mozzarella over the sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of parmaggiano-reggiano and top with a layer of lasagna noodles.
  7. Repeat this 2 more times. Cover the final layer of lasagna noodles with the remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining cup of mozzarella on top.
  8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil, place in oven and cook for 60 minutes. Remove foil and cook until cheese is melted about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Ricotta-Béchamel Filling

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep time:  | Cook time:  | Total time: 
  1. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until it forms a paste.
  2. Slowly add the milk to the butter and flour mixture, whisking until smooth.
  3. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and smooth, it should coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Remove from heat and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from refrigerator, add the ricotta, salt and pepper, and stir until well combined.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cooking Play date Inspiration: Pad Thai

Clearly, things have been busy around here.  I just realized that I hadn’t written about one of the big highlights from our Thanksgiving trip to visit family in Virginia.  We have never travelled cross-country over the “busiest travel holiday of the year” before, and to be honest, I wasn’t not looking forward to the journey.  Most likely, my reluctance was from years of watching fear mongering news stations showing hordes of people stranded in airports,  but perhaps it was just because I like to stay cozy during the holidays and nest at home.   Fortunately, my concerns were ungrounded and we had a nice time.
Highlights from the trip included spending time with family, visiting the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia, and spending time at the Smithsonian.  Another high point was an impromptu cooking lesson by Caro, my sister-in-law, who recently befriended a Thai woman in her neighborhood.   The two of them found a common love in the kitchen and started weekly cooking sessions, with Caro sharing tips for baked goods from Germany, where she was raised, and her neighbor sharing family recipes from Thailand.
The evening after Thanksgiving, she taught me to make Pad Thai, along with some strategies I never knew about.
If you have ever tried making Thai rice noodles and didn’t pay close enough attention to the directions on the package, you may have boiled them….and them immediately regretted not paying more attention!  Instead, the ideal way to prepare these “rice sticks” is to soak them in very warm water until just al dente (firm in the middle).  Otherwise, you will end up with a sticky mess…(yes, I am speaking from experience!).  Don’t worry – they will finish cooking in the work when you are assembling the dish.

One of the biggest keys to successful Pad Thai, I learned, is to have all of your ingredients ready before you begin, and then to add them in a particular order, based on how quickly they take to cook.  You wouldn’t want to add shrimp to your hot wok too early, for example, or you would have little rubbery bits in your finished dish.
If you are cooking with kids, they love to crush the peanuts with a rolling pin.  Just be sure to squeeze out the air before they start rolling or else you might pop the zip top bag.  If you love your Cuisinart as much as I do, you might be tempted to crush your nuts in there – but beware – if you let them stay in one whir of the blade too long, you may end up with peanut butter!

Food Network is Looking for Kid Chefs – Casting Now

If your child dreams of being on the Food Network, now is their chance!  The show Rachael vs. Guy is casting now for their second season and is looking for 8-13 year olds who have mad skills in the kitchen.  For more information, please visit their website Rachael vs. Guy.

New Beginnings…and Trout in the Classroom

I love teaching environmental science.  It is an opportunity to connect science to life.  Real life…so students NEVER have to wonder why the class matters.
This year, I took a Project Wild workshop and got certified by the Fish and Wildlife Service to hatch RainbowTrout in my classroom.  My mentor for this project is my former high school biology teacher, which makes the experience even more special.  He is currently a full time fly fishing instructor.  I realize that it seems a bit odd to have a “hunter” coaching me to produce the “hunted”,  but avid fly fisher-folk have to posses a deep understanding of ecology, ecosystems and the life cycles of both fish and their prey.  I hope that watching our trout develop will inspire my students to be stewards of the environment and to pay more attention to how their behavior impacts others (…and not just members of the opposite sex! Spring is in the air, after all!)
In case you are wondering, yes, the tank IS sitting inside a styrafoam box.  In order for our babies to survive, the water temperature needs to be maintained in the low 50 degree range.  There is a “chiller” device resting on the top of the tank that is slightly submerged in the water, which helps to cool the water.  That, in combination with the foam cooler, helps to keep the temperature in a zone that our babies (they are called alevin “Al-uh-vin”) comfortable.

Larry Lack, teacher extraordinaire and fly fishing instructor in the Bay Area

If you look closely, you can see tiny eggs, each with an eye spot.

Student looking for alevin, teeny baby trout
At a time when I might otherwise feel bitter over an unexpected change in my employment status, I am trying to look ahead and be optimistic.
Our babies hatched last week – and that gives me hope.

Promoting Stewardship – Trout in the Classroom

There are days when I act like a “traditional” teacher, telling stories (lecturing) or promoting literacy (encouraging students to use the text book), but most of the time, I like to use “out of the box” teaching strategies…like this:
We worked with Trout Unlimited, an incredible organization to make this project come to life.  Not only did they provide me with a mentor (my very own former high school biology teacher!!!), but they provided all of the equipment, helped me to set up the tank, and delivered the rainbow trout eggs.  They even came with us to Bon Tempe, a creek on Mount Tamalpais, to release our fry.
Aside from spending time in the classroom watching our young trout develop, my students also enjoyed a game of Oh Trout and a Campus Debris Survey that demonstrated the importance of protecting resources in the environment and treating the ecosystem with respect.  I hope that they carry these lessons with them as they mature and move forward.
It’s hard to imagine that a school district wouldn’t embrace this type of learning.  That’s why I have had such a hard time processing the news that my temporary teaching contract at this school was not renewed for next year.  The district’s reason for this decision was “confidential.” Yes, you read that right.  The reason to not hire ME back is confidential to ME.
I am trying to look on the bright side.  We hope that our son will come home this summer, and without a full time teaching job, I’ll be able to devote more time to his transition back home…at least, that’s what I am telling myself for now.

From the mouths of babes – Thoughts on Fast Food

Goodness knows, we have had challenges raising our 12 year old son.  But he actually listens to us, bless his heart.  And when he was given the assignment to write a persuasive essay in school, he chose the topic of Fast Food.  Despite his dyslexia, he worked his hardest – and this is what he created…
What restaurants make healthier choices? Here in my essay are some  examples.
Chipotle is an example of a place that does take care of their animals such as pigs. Many pigs are raised in bad places like factory farms and don’t have a good life. At Chipotle the pigs live in back yards with big pens. The pigs don’t get hormones, but they do get organically fed. McDonald’s is not taking care of  their meat. They use MSG. MSG  causes cravings and makes you want more. McDonald’s adds other ingredients to their meat.
Taking care of your self is important, as well as paying attention to where you choose to eat . McDonald’s is not the best choice because if you eat it a lot, like every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will get fat, and next thing you know you’re plump with all of those calories. A more healthy option is Chipotle.
Organic is healthier for us and the environment. Organic is the most earth friendly way of growing. The food is much better than the fake food with MSG. The chemicals are not good for the bugs like lady bugs, worms, and other the good bugs.  Organic might not look as good, but it is better for you.  At Chipotle, you get to choose what you put in your food and can make healthier choices than at McDonald’s, where you don’t get to choose what goes in your meal.
Some farms feed animals organic scraps, and it is good for them (the  chickens, pigs, and other animals). They don’t get shoved in a tight pen. They don’t get diseases that spread to the others. There are some bad things in the world; fast food is one of them.
(Disclosure: My son wrote this essay – all thoughts and opinions expressed are his…)