Italy Meets Greece

Three weeks into living in Italy, and surprisingly I’m not sick of eating pasta. Well, I’m sick of restaurant pasta because that equals me blowing $$$$. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was when I read tonight’s menu and realized I’d be making an Italian pasta dish of my own. On tap for tonight is Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta, and a Greek Diner Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I used to think that traveling to Trader Joe’s was a trip and a half, but nothing could prepare me for Italian grocery stores. Before I even left to go shopping I had to research translations of all the ingredients just in case I had to ask an employee where to find an item. Looks like my grocery trips are now going to be a part time language class for me too.

I started out at Conad at 10:30AM. I was able to find all of the produce…but that was about it. I wasn’t in the mood to ask any of the employees where things were, plus I was in a hurry to get to class.

After class, I decided to have another go at a different supermarket: Pam. Pam is more like an express super market, so I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I managed to find feta cheese, pepperoncini, and chicken broth, but I still needed to find sweet Italian sausage….I really thought that would be the easiest thing to find because, oh, I don’t know, I’m in freaking Italy??!! Mama mia!! I stumbled upon another random market across the street from me and decided to give it a go. I found sausage, but I couldn’t tell if it was sweet sausage (yes I get super anal about ingredients). I stared at the package for about 10 minutes before my eyes found “DOLCE” and I nearly yelped for joy. I still needed to find oregano, but I was so done with this scavenger hunt through Florence, so I just gave up on that one.

I had to run to class after the endless grocery trip, but after 2 and a half hours it was cooking time…almost. I come home to see my room mate Shannon at the door of our building saying she broke her foot, so I helped carry her to the hospital. Once she was checked in our other roommate Stef stayed with her & I hurried home because if I didn’t eat soon I was going to pass out.

Before I could even cook I had to stop back at the random market to buy a new pan because all of the pans provided by our apartment sucked.

Finally after hours it was time to cook! As the sausage browned I chopped up garlic, onions and fennel. Fun fact about fennel: it smells like licorice, which is interesting because once I threw the vegetables in the pan I smothered them with sambuca which is licorice flavored liqueur. The whole sauce was a random concoction of spices, veggies, and cream, and they all seemed odd to pair together, but Rachael Ray’s weirdest combinations tend to be the best.

 

As the sauce simmered and pasta boiled, Kait joined me to chop up the salad ingredients. Chopping is always quick and easy whenever you have a helping hand! Before I knew it, it was time to eat.

Kait got all cute and set the dining room up for a roomie dinner, then we all sat down (minus Shannon because she was still at the hospital) and had the moment of truth.

3…2…1…No exaggeration, this pasta was the best since I’ve been in Italy! At first I thought it tasted so good because I was beyond starved, but everyone had the same reaction. I’d say it was a success! The salad was just a salad, nothing extravagant about it. Just salad.

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Now time for the ratings. Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This pasta was so unique because it was sweet. Most people would be like “a sweet pasta? gross!” but hear me out, this was great. There was a slight licorice flavor to it from the fennel and sambuca, but not overwhelming. It was the perfect balance of salty and semi-sweet. Fabuloso! The Greek Diner Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I realized after we cleaned up that I forgot to put the feta cheese in. -_- Cheese always makes everything better, so this was just a meh salad. There was literally nothing special about it, and anyone could’ve made it — simply unimpressive.

Rachael Ray has perfect timing: as soon as I move to Italy, all of the upcoming recipes just happen to be Italian! I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I think making Italian food in Italy makes it taste better…I’m definitely right. Pasta has always been the most difficult thing for me to make, but I’m gonna come back to the US a pasta master. Just you wait!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

PS Because of the ridiculous wifi here I couldn’t upload the pictures. I tried for 14 hours. So sorry about no pictures of this awesome meal. ):

At Home Sunday

It has been a crazy ride in New York with this blog — From my love/hate relationship with Trader Joe’s to masterpiece and failure recipes, this blog and my love for cooking have flourished in this city. But now, it’s time to take EVOO international!! For those of you who don’t know, I moved to Florence, Italy for a year, but I knew I couldn’t leave EVOO or my faithful readers behind. I packed up the cookbook, and safely made it to Europe. After settling down (and eating more pasta than I’d like to admit) I finally made the time to continue this cooking adventure in my new apartment. On tap for tonight’s first Italian EVOO is Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken and Blanched Green Beans with Parsley. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure is sort of confusing and all over the place because 1. I don’t know how to get around the city yet and 2. all the food labels here are in Italian. It’s going to take some time to get used to grocery shopping here. I first tried this marketplace called Vivi, and I was honestly petrified when I went inside. It was small, dingy, and I felt like there was no way the place would pass US department of health standards. The owner’s toddler was also riding around the tiny store on his tricycle, and bumped into me a few times. I left there empty handed but I knew it was for the best.

The next place I tried actually felt like an American supermarket. Stepping into Conad was somewhat relaxing — I knew it was clean and I knew this would become my regular grocery store. It was pretty easy to find all of the ingredients (considering all I needed was a chicken, green beans and parsley), but the way you buy the produce was slightly confusing.

Europeans are so much more trusting in the grocery store. To buy produce you put as much of one item in the bag as you want — in my case green beans — then you weigh it, and the scale prints out a price sticker according to weight. A pretty easy process, but anyone could put more in after they print the sticker….grocery stores in the USA are definitely not that trusting.

I didn’t cook until the next day (today). A majority of my room mates almost convinced me to go out to eat for the 5th night in a row, but I held my ground and stayed behind to cook instead. Rachael Ray warned in the recipe that it would take over 30 minutes — finally something she was honest about. Although cooking time was longer, it was honestly the easiest recipe in the history of this blog. All I had to do was rub my chicken with herbes de Provence, and then let it cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

I ran out while it was cooking (don’t worry, one of my room mates was home to watch it) to buy some tupper ware. When I returned the chicken was supposedly done, but when I cut it open it was still a little pink so it went back in the oven for another 20 while I made the green beans.

Now the recipe says that both of these items should be served cold….but ain’t nobody got time to let a full roasted chicken cool to room temperature (and why would you want to eat cold chicken) so I ate both of these hot. I’m sure that it was 100% better than it would’be been cold. Sorry, Rachael Ray.

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I was starved, so when this moment of truth finally came around I was so happy. 3..2..1… I was so hungry that this meal was better than I thought it would be. You all know I’m not a fan of green beans, in fact I’m allergic to them… but these were stomach-able. I gladly scarfed them down. The chicken was cooked beautifully too. I don’t care what anyone says, the skin is the BEST part! The whole bird was juicy and delicious. I could’ve eaten the whole thing but stopped myself and only ate half instead. Not too shabby for my first home cooked meal in another country.

Now time for ratings. Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I loved this chicken. It had a simple spice yet was so flavorful and cooked to perfection. The only thing that prevented it from receiving 5 hearts was that I never realized how difficult it was to eat a full chicken off the bone. I felt like a savage while eating and wasn’t sure if I got all the meat or not, which was kind of frustrating honestly. The Blanched Green Beans with Parsley also receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I hate green beans, but this dish was more than tolerable for me. I will never LOVE green beans, but at least I didn’t hate them. I definitely can and will eat these for leftovers the rest of the week.

Cooking in a different country is oddly different, not just because of the shopping, but also having to learn how all of the appliances work. Though this cooking adventure didn’t require much work, I look forward to becoming more comfortable with this culture and my kitchen. Hopefully Rachael Ray will bless this next year with lots of Italian recipes to come. I’m ready to become a master *Italian* chef! Here’s to the next year of new food and new adventures! Ciao!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

Go Fish!

I have had summer on my mind for months — not just the weather, but summer food as well. I imagine having some freshly caught seafood on the shore accompanied by a nice refreshing salad… Okay the salad part was a lie, I rarely like salad… But, with summer right around the corner, tonight’s menu is giving us a little taste of summer nights to come. On tap for tonight is Swordfish Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I knew today (Monday) was going to be a very busy day. I somehow was able to squeeze in my grocery shopping after my classes were done at 2. I only needed to pick up a lemon, an onion, arugula, and swordfish — aka the smallest evoo shopping list in the history of this blog!! Since I was already at school I just walked 3 blocks down to Whole Foods where I was able to find Every. Single. Item.. Even swordfish! But I didn’t buy the swordfish there. Why didn’t I buy it? Because after Whole Foods I went down the the Lobster Place seafood market inside Chelsea Market. This is the only place I will buy seafood because I know it will be guaranteed fresh — they never disappoint!

After I picked up the fish I stopped by Bowery Kitchen Supply for metal skewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so I reluctantly settled for the wooden ones. The only reason I was reluctant about wooden skewers was because we are cooking the fish using the broiler, and I just imagined the skewers catching fire…well I guess we’ll just have to see tonight!

Fast forward to tonight. This is the first evoo EVER that is taking place in someone else’s apartment…and the second ever date night evoo. We all remember how the last date night evoo went: I never saw the guy again…maybe because I’m too demanding in the kitchen? Who knows, I just hope this adventure doesn’t end the same as the last one.

I arrived at Sergio’s place, and was greeted by Sneakers the pup. (Little backstory, I met Sergio through an app…but not a dating app. Oh no, we met through a dog walking app because I walk his dog walker. How’s that for a funny story?) Anyways once Sneakers got over the excitement of seeing me…and peeing everywhere…she went in her crate and we got to cooking.

The first step was to preheat the broiler. Now, Sergio had some sort of high tech oven that didn’t say “BROILER” like most ovens do. This one just had a bunch of weird symbols, and he didn’t know which one was for the broiler. Before we could even start he had to find the manual to figure out how to turn it on. Moral of the story: always learn your oven symbols before you have a cooking date.

Anyways, once that was taken care of, I skewered the fish, and made the rub from lemon zest, garlic, parsley and salt. I covered the fish and we plopped them in the oven.

I’m sure all of you know that when I cook with people, they are not just sitting on the sidelines. So, I gave Sergio the task of cutting the onion. I gave him the onion because I didn’t feel like crying tonight — I know I’m evil. Sneakers kept crying in the crate, so I let her out and she turned out to be our little sous-chef. It was the cutest thing ever!

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Sergio had to chop a 1/2 cup of onions, but he totally messed it up. He didn’t take the skin off the onion before cutting it. I thought it was basic knowledge to take the onion skin off before chopping but I guess not. I made him re-cut it, and he gave the skin covered onion to Sneakers. Needless to say, Sneaks was pretty excited that her dad’s mistake equaled food for her.

Now we came to another dilemma: the kebabs needed flipped, but Sergio didn’t have any oven mitts! I was flabbergasted! How does someone not own such a basic kitchen necessity?? He used dish towels to take the fish out and in, and I’m amazed he didn’t burn himself.

While the fish finished cooking we chopped the tomatoes the salad together. Before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1…WOW! This fish was absolutely amazing!! I haven’t had swordfish in ages (actually since the last time I made it through evoo, which was in the summer) and I forgot how much I loved it. The paste/seasoning I put on the fish was perfect and light — it reminded me so much of summer. The salad was a great compliment too, and so delicious! For such a simple salad it packed a big flavor punch. We were both so impressed with how it turned out.

Now time for the rating. The Swordfish Kebabs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was nothing that could have made this any better. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the seasoning was simple but fabulous. I could eat this every day and I wish there would have been leftovers. The Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. You all know I’m not a big salad person, but this completely blew me away. I am now a believer in salad thanks to this.

I’d say this evoo date went 10x better than the last one, plus we had a cute little velcro dog to help out. Who says cooking with puppies is impossible? Tonight I just proved the whole world wrong and made a scrumptious date night feast. Talk about an all around win! Woohoo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Turbo Classics Meal

Think about the most stereotypical meal you see mom’s making in TV shows and movies — really think about it. 90% of the time, these moms are making some sort of chicken, potatoes, and a salad…a well rounded meal; a classic meal. Tonight I’m playing that mom with this menu. On tap for tonight is Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto-Smashed Potatoes, and Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing. Let’s get cooking!

Today was a beautiful Monday, and to celebrate this day, I decided to skip my 5pm class and go to Trader Joe’s instead. This week’s ingredients were pretty basic, so from the start I felt like it was going to be a one-stop trip. The first few minutes in Trader Joe’s were a bit disappointing. I was looking for pesto, but only found pesto-quinoa -_- This was super frustrating because I’m allergic to quinoa. Luckily, I was able to find normal pesto that wasn’t soiled by quinoa.

The only item that was completely sold out was rosemary. Trader Joe’s really played me this trip. I was so close..so, so close from not having to go to Fairway, and Trader Joe’s crushed my one-stop shop dream for the day. At least everything at Trader Joe’s totaled out to only $40!!

I stopped at Fairway for my rosemary and was out of there within 10 minutes, so altogether this shopping trip was one of the least stressful ones to date. Woo hoo!

I came home and once I cleaned some dishes I was ready to cook.

First I put the potatoes on to boil since I knew that would take a while. While the water was heating up I prepared the chicken. First I chopped the rosemary and sprinkled it all over. Next I was able to get rid of all my frustrations of the day by pounding the garlic with my mallet — that has to be my favorite cooking appliance. I then covered the chicken in olive oil, and grated some lemon zest over top before finishing it off with some grill seasoning. Finally, I tossed it all together and threw it in the oven.IMG_8264

Back to the potatoes. It was time for an arm workout! I added some chicken broth for the first round of mashing, then I added the game changing ingredient to make these potatoes unique: the pesto! I was able to smash these potatoes to the perfect consistency — not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself.

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Once the timer went off for the chicken, I had to add one more thing; the best ingredient known to mankind: wine…and lemon juice. I let the chicken marinate in the wine while I made the salad.

The salad was the easiest thing. It was only romaine, endives and walnuts. I topped the salad off with a nice Gorgonzola vinaigrette.

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This meal didn’t take as long as the last one. After one hour it was time for the moment of truth! 3…2…1… I was pleasantly surprised with the salad — the thought of Gorgonzola freaked me out, but it was a nice touch to a rather plain bowl of vegetables. The chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, and extra juicy. The potatoes…mmmmmh. Potatoes are just one of those things that you can never get wrong. All together this was a very good, well rounded meal!

Now time for the ratings. The Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was a tough thing to rate since for Easter dinner yesterday I had a roasted chicken as well. My mind was still clouded with the chicken from yesterday and how amazing it was. Also, even though I love wine, I really think this dish would have been better without it. This dish had the potential to be 5 stars, but it wasn’t up to that level. Next, the Pesto-Smashed Potatoes receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Rachel Ray has so many potato recipes —  it’s amazing how smashed potatoes can be so versatile. This one was quite tasty, but not as tasty as some previous taters. I made enough to feed a small army, but I will not be complaining about these leftovers whatsoever. Finally, the Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It can be difficult for me to eat salads…they’re just too bland and healthy for me most of the time. This salad was pretty good, though. Even though the Gorgonzola dressing scared me at first, it was a nice compliment to a rather simple salad.

I think I made a pretty good classic TV mom dinner, although I would rather make new and exciting foods that typical moms wouldn’t make. In the future, my kids better not be as picky as I was when I was younger because they’re going to be the taste testers for my new and exciting creations…if I ever finish this 30 minute meals book… This book really is never ending but I wouldn’t want to cook from anyone other than Rachel Ray.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Italian Stick-To-Your-Ribs

There are some nights where it’s in your best interest to have a big carb-filled meal…usually it’s best to have a meal like that before you go out to party. This menu includes the perfect pre-party feast, and good thing I’m going out after this! On tap for tonight is Italian Mini Meat Loaves with Mac ‘n Three Cheeses, and Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar. Let’s get cooking!

My adventure started on Wednesday at none other than Trader Joe’s. I knew that my grocery bill would be expensive…which I was dreading. I also knew I would definitely not be able to find everything I needed at Trader Joe’s…double the dread. I walked out spending a whopping $65. I think that’s the most I’ve ever spent at Trader Joe’s at once. I also spent $15 at Fairway. All I’m saying is these dishes better be worth the money.

Fast forward to Saturday. All of my friends and I were gearing up to head over to Hoboken for a party. What better way to prepare than with some homemade mac & cheese, am I right? Well, almost everyone works on Saturday. Guess who almost cooked alone again…me!! Luckily Saoirse got off work around 6:30 and cooked with me.

We began how we always do by chopping. There wasn’t much to chop which made everything a lot easier.

I created the meatloaf patties first by throwing meat and a secret concoction of stuff together in a bowl. I formed 4 little patties and placed them in the oven.

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Saoirse cooked the pasta since I still have yet to figure out how to cook pasta effectively, and then I got started on the cheese sauce. It was so beautiful to watch the cheese melt together in the pot. Cheese is perhaps the most beautiful creation on this earth.

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In the middle of cooking we got the notification that the party was canceled…looks like this was turning into just a regular cheat meal.

While the mac & cheese finished baking, we made the seared greens — they smelled delicious.

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This 30 minute meal actually felt like 3o minutes because before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… MAC & CHEESE HEAVEN YES! The mac & cheese was to die for. Homemade mac & cheese is a million times better than store bought. Wow, so freaking good! The meat loaf patties were yummy as well..and (kinda) healthy with all the veggies in them. Finally, the greens added a nice flavorful punch at the end.

Now time for the rating. Italian Mini Meat Loaves receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. The thought of meatloaf has always freaked me out…maybe that’s why I couldn’t give it 5 hearts? No the actual reason is I just don’t like tomato paste, and although there was only 3 tablespoons of it in there, the flavor was a little overwhelming for me. The Mac ‘n Three Cheeses receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mac & cheese is another thing I didn’t really like growing up. Currently, I usually only like it with lobster but this mac & cheese made me a believer that all mac & cheese is good. I can’t wait to eat this for dinner all week. Finally, the Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also super good, but something about it was just a little too healthy for me on this night (I know I’m weird).

Although my plans for the night ended up being a bust, this meal was definitely not! I am now a firm believer in all things mac & cheese. I also encourage everyone to make homemade mac & cheese because it doesn’t even compare to the boxed crap.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus