Little Bites Party

Going on vacation is always fun — there’s relaxation, no worries, and ENDLESS FOOD. I recently returned from a semi-vacation (more like a work trip) with constant snack food. Designers will spend hundreds of dollars to create a dress, but will refuse to spend more than $5 on food. My diet consisted of cheese cubes, popcorn, and questionable alcohol concoctions. Needless to say I’m very happy to be back home and able to cook some REAL food…even though it may be in the form of little bites, it’s still real food. Today’s menu consists of Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders, Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips”, and Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos. Let’s get cooking!

It’s been a super rainy day in the city, which always puts a damper on having to go to the grocery store, but since I have a buddy, it makes things a little better! My pal Christy recently moved to the city from upstate, and let me tell you guys we’re practically soulmates — we always go to Trader Joe’s together. I went over to her place around 12:30, and after having a spiked seltzer – or 2 – we made our way uptown.

This Trader Joe’s visit just happened to be the most monumental visit ever because I was able to find Every. Single. Ingredient. I don’t think that has happened once in all of evoo. I was literally jumping for joy — I looked like a mad woman…if only the other shoppers understood.

I headed home to take a nap, then walked over to Christy’s at 5:30 to get down to business…too bad she was still napping so our cooking adventure was delayed by like 30 minutes.

Once she was awake and ready, we threw on our aprons and got to work — sort of. See, it was a busy evening at 312 because everyone was preparing for a major roof party. How major of a party, you ask? Let’s just say an ice luge in the shape of the Eiffel Tower was arriving as I was trying to prepare the marinade for the chicken. I was unable to help lift the luge up 7 flights of stairs since I was busy mixing together lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil, but I assure everyone that it made it to the roof safely.

Once the ice sculpture was in place, Christy cooked the chicken while I threw the ingredients for the dip in the food processor *cue the ‘that was easy’ button.* Then we both prepared the portobellos while Christy simultaneously did her makeup for the party. It was sort of a hectic cooking experience because people started to arrive while we were still in the kitchen. Honestly, everything was a blur, but somehow we managed to put it all together and make it look pretty, too!

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We created a little space in all the chaos to sit down and have our moment of truth. 3..2..1…Diving into that stuffed mushroom was all I needed – no seriously, it was the first thing I ate all day and I was starving. I have never been a huge fan of artichokes, but spinach and artichokes mixed together inside of a mushroom completely changes the game. We waited a little too long to eat the chicken tenders and they were a bit cold, but still the flavor was fabulous, and that dip…I can’t call it dip anymore it’s freaking rosemary hummus RACHAEL RAY!! The hummus was out of this world! Although, the zucchini chips were meh, so we replaced them with Triscuits. I actually took the hummus next door where Kansas and I ate it all instead of being social at the party — because priorities.

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Now time for the ratings. The Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I am actually disappointed because these could have been so much better if they were actually served warm. This is totally my fault though, I need to get better and making sure all the dishes are completed at the same time. These were still delicious, though, and super lemony. The Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips” receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was definitely the hit of the night. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make hummus, and I think this is my new party dip (plus it’s healthy!) This would’ve received  5 hearts if it wasn’t for the Zucchini Chips — they were completely bland and probably would’ve been better if they were seasoned and/or baked. Finally, the Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. this was spectacular and filling, although I would’ve been happier with less artichokes…those things can really be overpowering.

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I learned one very important thing today: cooking before a party may seem like a good idea — ya know, fuel up before you poison your body with alcohol — but this cooking adventure was so hectic. Hopefully next week will be calmer for my own sanity…but knowing me and my friends, we’ll probably do it all over again just like this — kids in our 20s, we just never learn.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

Snack Attack Party

When I was younger, I always pictured myself throwing fabulous dinner parties once I was married. The kind of dinner parties with hors-d’oeuvres followed by a mouth-watering feast that the guests would rave about for weeks — all made by moi. While those dinner parties are between 12-15 years away still, I see no harm in practicing for them now…which is exactly what this menu was made for. Tonight we have Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham, and Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites. Let’s get cooking!

I headed out to Trader Joe’s in the afternoon after a leisurely morning of reading. The items I had to pick up were pretty basic, and the line wasn’t unbearable for a weekend afternoon. I really prayed that I wouldn’t have to go to Fairway, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find fresh oregano or lavash bread at good ol’ TJs. Luckily, it was a quick skip through Fairway to get the two items I needed.

I headed home content that I bought everything I needed, and that my friends were bringing over the last few ingredients…or so I thought. We were supposed to cook at my friend Christy’s apartment, but she called me as I was about to head over saying she was ill, aka still hungover. Once again drinking got the best of one of my friends. Since we lost Christy, I quickly tidied up to cook at my place. It was the first time doing evoo at my apartment since I moved, so it needed to look nice and neat.

Instead of having Taylor and Krystyna pick up the items Christy was supposed to bring, I ran over to Food Emporium…mainly because I knew the ingredients would be difficult to find, and I didn’t want to wait too long to start cooking.

I know I have said in the past how much I dislike Food Emporium, but seriously DON’T SHOP THERE!! I only picked up a jar of roasted red peppers, a jar of kalamata olives, an itty-bitty bottle of evoo, and paper towels and my total was $25. Twenty-five freaking dollars for four items. I almost fainted at the price. The amount of money I spend for evoo really gets to me sometimes.

I hurried home to wait for Krystyna and Taylor, but they got held up at the same Food Emporium! They were in the check out when the cashier asked another employee to price check theIR thyme. She disappeared and still hadn’t returned 10 minutes later. Everyone was getting antsy and confused — it turned out this girl decided to go on her break instead of price check. Food Emporium: get your shit together!!

After what felt like an eternity, my friends showed up and we got down to business. While I chopped some ingredients, I assigned both Taylor and Krystyna to char some jalapeños over the stovetop flame. I gave them wooden skewers without thinking…and they caught on fire multiple times. Luckily, both girls were quick enough to react and blow them out every time.

Once the jalapeños were blackened, we chopped them and threw the peppers in the food processor along with paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, onion, and garlic to make the marinade for the chicken. We plopped the chicken into the marinade with some evoo, and Krystyna stirred for about 10 minutes to make sure everything was well covered.

While Krystyna manned the chicken, Taylor and I worked as a team to clean the food processor for the Roasted Red Pepper Salsa. I made the salsa and grilled the polenta while she made the lavash pizzas — we had some great teamwork going on. Since the pizzas only took about 8 minutes to make, Taylor also grilled the chicken.

Things were finally coming together: Krystyna topped each polenta “cracker” with salsa, and I cut up the pizzas. Together we made a lovely spread on my dining room table, and a few minutes later the chicken was ready, too.

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Before we took the first bite we popped open a bottle of wine, and poured ourselves some into red solo cups, ya know, cause we’re classy. We then piled our plates with each little bite-sized delight.

Finally, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… These little bites had some of the biggest flavors. I had to stop myself from eating so fast. I first tried the polenta and salsa, and man, there were so many textures and aromas going on at once, I simply could not understand how all of it was happening in one little bite. Next, I tried the pizzas, and though they were a little soggy from the fresh mozzarella, they were still delicious…I think I ate 4 squares in under a minute. I tried the chicken last, and you know what they say: always save the best for last. The sauce on these chicken bites was unlike anything I had ever had before. All of the herbs surprisingly blended together beautifully and the chicken itself was extremely juicy. We all stuffed ourselves full from these tiny bites, but it was so worth it.

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Now time for the ratings. The Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Though this was delicious and flavorful, the more we ate, the more olive-y the salsa became. None of us are huge olive fans, so that is why this dish is one heart shy of 5. Also, this is a snack that should be eaten before it gets cold — the polenta started to get a bit soggy from the salsa which wasn’t the best. The Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. These pizzas took my tastebuds back to Italy — it reminded me of their light pizza pies in bite-size form. It doesn’t get better than the simplicity of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula…plus any pizza is good pizza. Finally, Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This chicken was the juiciest I have had in months, and I’m pretty sure we have the sauce to thank for that. Seriously, this was one of the best sauces EVER. I think I may have to incorporate it into more of my meals — which is saying a lot since I rarely make any dish twice. These little bites made huge lasting impressions on all of us.

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Little bites made by 3 girls with big personalities. I know I said at the beginning of this post that I want to wow all my neighbors and friends with hors-d’oeuvres like these one day, but if I make snack bites like these in the future, I’ll end up eating them all before anyone arrives…sorry in advance future dinner guests!!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

Another Tapas Party (With People this Time)

Hello, my faithful readers! I apologize for my 5-month hiatus, but I just could not handle another grocery trip for evoo in Italy…it stressed me out too much. But now that I’m back in the greatest city in the world — the city that has every single food item known to man — I’m ready to get back to evooing every single week! To celebrate this return to New York I’m having a tapas party — with friends… don’t worry I’m not making food for 20 people and eating it all by myself this time. This comeback menu includes Meat Tapas with Garlic & Sherry, Warm Chili and Cheese Dip with Tri-Color Peppers, Tomato and Garlic Bread Rounds, and *most importantly* Sangria Slushes. Let’s get cooking!

As with every cooking adventure, this one starts out at the grocery store… not just any grocery store, though. This adventure started at the king of grocery stores; a place I missed so dearly: Trader Joe’s. I teared up when I walked through the doors of this beautiful establishment… I was just so happy to be back. Ya’ll don’t even understand how terrible Conad was — that grocery store was the source of 75% of my stress while abroad. Stepping into Trader Joe’s was like stepping into a warm embrace from an old friend I hadn’t seen in years; it made me feel whole again.

Luckily, almost all of the ingredients I needed were fresh produce, which Trader Joe’s has an abundance of at a great value (Trader Joe’s really needs to start sponsoring me). I honestly didn’t even mind that I wasn’t able to find canned jalapeños or lemon ice since I was simply overwhelmed with joy to be back in my favorite store. After a quick wait in the checkout line, I headed over to Fairway to finish my shopping.

I did not miss Fairway like I missed Trader Joe’s. Everyone at Fairway was getting on my last nerve because they all moved in slow motion. I was trying to get in and get out, but I was stuck behind some turtles for a good 20 minutes — not even while I was waiting in line! People just wouldn’t move out of my way — how rude.

Once I finished up in that fiasco of a store, I headed to my good friends, Nico & Kansas’, place.

Now, mind you, this was Sunday, aka world cup day, and by the time I arrived at 5pm everyone was hammered out of their minds. I joined in with some Sangria Slushes — simply red wine and lemon ice — but that’s about as far as our cooking skills took us that day. I was afraid someone would chop a finger off.

Those Sangria Slushes were perfect for the hot day, though. I give the 3 glasses I had ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts because red wine on a scorching day was just a little too harsh, but when I added the lemon sorbet it turned into this refreshing summer drink.

Fast forward to Tuesday when everyone sobered up enough to finally cook together. I headed back to Nico and Kansas’ apartment around 7:15 to start cooking the feast to end all feasts. We planned on eating on their awesome roof deck, but of course, it was pouring, so we had to settle for eating and cooking inside.

Nico is a pretty good chef, but he had to follow my chefly orders this time around. I put him in charge of the meat: a combination of chicken, pork, and steak.  He chopped everything up into cubes, then skillfully sauteed them with garlic and sherry. I put Kansas in charge of cutting the bread. Unlike Nico, his chef skills are, well…let’s just say he orders seamless most nights, so I wanted to keep his task simple.

I handled the dip, which was pretty basic — all I had to do was throw the chili, cream cheese, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese into a pot and let it melt until it was smooth. That *warmed out* (get it, instead of chilled out) in the oven with the bread for a bit, then I dusted the bread with some garlic oil and rubbed tomatoes across each slice to finish it off.

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Nico and I piled our plates (we were the only the only two that actually ate) and prepared ourselves for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… Ahhh the sweet taste of a well-cooked meal. The various meats were all so juicy, and there’s just something about cooking with sherry that elevates the experience and makes the meal feel fancier than it actually is. The bread, well, it was bread, you really can’t go wrong with that. The slight hint of garlic and tomato was a nice, delicate touch to an otherwise simple slice. The dip: wow, that was a joyous experience for my taste buds. I went back and had 4 servings of it. I couldn’t get enough.

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Now time for the ratings, which Nico and I both agreed on. The Meat Tapas with Garlic & Sherry receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Although this was delicious, we both thought it could have been better, and was rather mediocre. I have never actually cooked different types of meat together before, so that may have thrown the flavor off a little bit — something to think about in the future. The Warm Chili and Cheese Dip with Tri-Color Peppers receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dip tasted like summer happiness in my mouth. Dips are also hard to mess up, but this may take the cake as my favorite dip ever. I dare say it passes up my love for buffalo chicken dip. What was nice about this dip was the recipe said to use bell peppers instead of chips, so it made it just slightly healthy, which is always a good thing. Finally, the Tomato and Garlic Bread Rounds receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. No meal is ever really complete without some sort of bread. These were traditional, with a slight twist due to the tomato, plus they doubled as another thing to dip into the dip.

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Another tapas party meant for 20 people, only to be eaten by two. Honestly, we made a pretty big dent considering the enormous quantity of food, but I’m also glad Tupperware exists for leftovers. Luckily, next week’s menu is meant to serve only 8, so maybe we’ll get lucky and 3 people will show up to eat…slowly, but surely increasing the number of hungry mouths to feed every week. I’m ready to build evoo back up!

Until next week! (Forreal, I promise)

-Mary Honkus

Tapas Party (For one)

I’ve made it to the party section of my Evoo book — take a guess what that means… it means endless amounts of recipes that are designed to feed 20 people. But, I don’t know 20 people…and it is one of those weeks where the only people I want to cook with are me, myself, and I. So, although this tapas menu is supposed to feed 20 people, it will be feeding only one: me. Tonight’s menu consists of Potato Tortilla, Herbed Chicken Tapas, Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla, and Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started on Monday at Conad. It had been a frustrating day so far. My roommate Mel and I had been going back and forth with a travel agency that jipped us out of $25. It may not seem like a lot of money, but when you’re in Europe without a job for a year, it is A LOT. Once again we left the agency annoyed, and I thought it would be the perfect time to go grocery shopping. I don’t know why I thought that would be a good idea — my track record with Conad has not been a good one.

Though, this trip to Conad was the easiest, most calming grocery trip since I arrived in Italy 6 months ago. I was able to find every ingredient easily and quickly. To make things even better, All of the items came out to less than €30! I consider that a huge success since this meal is meant to feed 20 people.

I sat down at my kitchen table and said a little prayer since I was about to make a TON of food. I was scared. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I kept thinking “This menu will be the end of me.” So I decided to split this menu into two cooking days.

The first day I made the Potato Tortilla and the Herbed Chicken Tapas. To start, I created the marinade for the chicken which consisted of lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, evoo, and salt & pepper. The chicken swam around in that while I chopped up the potatoes and onions for the tortilla. 48005872_Unknown

I was nervous about making the tortilla. I have a Spanish friend who explained to me that they are pretty difficult to make. The instructions terrified me as well — there was a lot of flipping involved. I can’t even flip pancakes correctly, so I wondered how on earth I would be able to flip a tortilla correctly.

I sauteed the vegetables then apprehensively poured the eggs in. So far, so good. The eggs began to set and I attempted to let the top layer run to the bottom to set…that worked too. It finally came time to flip, so I grabbed a plate, but the plate was smaller than the pan. I was anticipating a disaster. I called my roommate Sara over to help, and we both handled the flip with ease. It was nearly effortless. The tortilla cooked for a few more moments, then voila! I made my first tortilla and it turned out beautiful.

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I quickly cooked my chicken, then sat down for my first moment of truth.

3..2..1… Ay caramba! This was more than I could have hoped for. The tortilla was amazing!! For those of you who don’t know what a tortilla is (I didn’t know), it’s basically like a Spanish omelet. It had been ages since I had eaten a potato so the taste of that was like heaven in my mouth. Absolute perfection! The chicken was also marinated perfectly and oh, so juicy. I probably could’ve eaten all 20 servings in one sitting, but I managed to have a little bit of self-control and saved the rest so I could have leftovers this coming week.

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I had a busy week at school, so I wasn’t able to make the second half of this evoo menu until Friday (Today). Luckily I had so many delicious leftovers to tie me over until I was able to cook again.

I came home from the gym ready to make more delicious tapas for myself! I was much more prepared to make a tortilla this time around. This tortilla sounded like a “fully-loaded fries” version of a tortilla because it is topped with sausage, onions, red & green peppers, and peas. While the tortilla set, I cooked the mushrooms and doused them with wine. The aromas coming from the kitchen were utterly mouthwatering.

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This tortilla proved to be more of a challenge since it was double the size of the last one. But fear not — I successfully flipped the beast TWICE! I could barely contain my excitement.

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My stomach was grumbling so loudly, and it thanked me when the moment of truth finally came. 3…2…1… I’m telling you, it does not get better than this. I’m going to start making tortillas regularly because damn are they delicious! The mushrooms were impeccable as well.

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Now time for the ratings. the Potato Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I’m telling you, this omelet thing was out of this world! Potatoes, onions, and eggs are the best combination. No one argue with me. The onions became slightly caramelized as I was sauteeing them, so there was a hint of sweetness which made for a firework explosion of flavors in my mouth. Amazing. The Herbed Chicken Tapas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Homemade chicken dishes are often hit or miss, but this one was a home run! The marinade was one of the best I have ever used, and throughout the week the chicken stayed juicy and delicious. Usually, I get tired of rosemary after eating it two days in a row, but I just could not get enough of this chicken. The Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I didn’t think I would be able to top the first tortilla, but 2nd times the charm? I loved how it was filled with numerous vegetables — it made me feel very healthy, and who doesn’t love a delectable healthy dish? I am still in awe of this tortilla. Finally, the Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, and when you cover them in a savory garlic sauce…just wow. Juicy, tender, and delicious! This meal was simply incredible.

After reading “serves 20 people,” most people would cut a recipe to serve just themselves…Not me. I will never do that, and anyone who says I can’t eat 20 servings worth of food is not a friend of mine. I think I’m going to turn all of these cooking “parties” into parties of one…because I can never have enough food. Thank goodness I have a gym membership this semester…

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

Make Your Own Burrito Bar

Living in Italy is great, but sometimes you just get so sick of Italian food. When my friends and I want something different our go-to is Mexican, but the only Mexican restaurant in Florence is a bit pricey. So how do we solve our craving without breaking the bank?… with our own burrito bar night! This menu is one that can put any Mexican restaurant to shame. We’re making Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro, Spicy Black Bean Filling, Chicken, Red Peppers, and Chorizo Filling, and Refried Beans. Let’s get cooking!

This cooking adventure started last Monday. I knew that I was going to have a tough time finding many of these ingredients, but Mel informed me that there was a Walmart sized supermarket a short bus ride away. I truly thought this supermarket would be the solution, so I purchased a ticket and ventured off to this store.

When I arrived 20 minutes later, I was completely overwhelmed by the size of this place! I was also excited because I had a feeling I would easily be able to find everything…if only I had been able to find everything. It did not matter that this store was 10 times bigger than Conad, it still had the same things!! I couldn’t find beans, cilantro, cheese, or even cumin! I had never been so frustrated in my life. It was a complete waste of a grocery trip.

I came home with light shopping bags and headed to grocery store number 2 – Vivi Market. Vivi is a grocery store that specifically imports foods from different countries including China, Japan, the USA, and MEXICO!! I managed to pick up some black beans and jalapenos, but I still did not have all the ingredients I needed.

I was becoming so frustrated that I thought about emailing the Mexican restaurant, Tijuana, and asking them where they get their shredded cheese and cilantro from. I was becoming desperate at this point and considered even buying the cheese straight from the restaurant.

After a brief mental breakdown, I headed over to grocery store number 3 – Conad. I should’ve just started at Conad to begin with. I gave up on trying to find every ingredient. I ended up settling for parsley over cilantro, and cheese slices over shredded cheese. There was one item I still could not find — cumin. So I desperately wandered into Tiger and they had taco seasoning which is what I settled on. I was so happy that this disastrous shopping trip was finally over. I needed a glass of wine to help me recover from my traumatizing day once I got home.

Two days later on Wednesday I had recovered from that horrific shopping experience and was finally ready to cook! My friends were all finished with class around 6:30 so they came over shortly afterward. I handled some chopping but once they arrived I assigned everyone a job. Mel was in charge of the salsa, Saoirse handled the meat, Ashley chopped a bit, and Sara took care of the refried beans, all while I cooked the fillings.

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I was pretty surprised at how smoothly everything went. Time flew by so quickly and before I knew it, Saoirse was heating up the tortillas, and we were ready to eat! We all overstuffed our burritos, and could hardly wait for the moment of truth.

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3…2…1… woohoo! These burritos were fabulous! I tried each of the fillings, but my favorite was the chicken, red pepper & chorizo filling. It had just the right amount of spice and was so scrumptious! I threw in some salsa as well, and I can honestly say I have never tasted a mint salsa. It was a nice change from the typical run-of-the-mill salsas. I can’t forget about the bean filling and the refried beans! Both of those were delicious as well.

Now time for the ratings. Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Like I stated earlier this was a nice change from normal salsa, but the mint was a bit overpowering. The Spicy Black Bean Filling receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Although this was not my favorite, Ashley adored it and that’s what was most important to me since it was the vegetarian filling for her! To me, it was a little bland, but she loved it. The Chicken, Red Peppers and Chorizo filling receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was so sad that there wasn’t any of this left. I could have eaten it all week. This filling was meaty, juicy, and packed the perfect spicy punch! Finally, the Refried Beans receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I don’t think these beans were a hit solely because they looked like vomit…oh well.

All in all, this burrito night was a hit! I love when my friends come together and bond over food. We can cross Mexican night off our list…what kind of food party will we get ourselves into next week?

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

 

A Walk on the Wild Side

A relaxing break back home in the states was much needed, but I’m happy to be back in Italy — mostly for the food. This semester I’m really going to try to limit my pasta intake, but I won’t deprive myself of it either. Tonight is one of the nights I will happily indulge. On the menu is Wildly Delicious Wild Mushroom Fettuccine. Let’s get cooking.

I arrived in Florence on Friday around 2:30, and the first thing I did was go grocery shopping, of course. There is a different Conad pretty much across the street from my new apartment so I went there….never again. This store was so cramped and congested. I thought I didn’t like the old Conad, but this one was simply atrocious. I left unhappy, and decided to continue my shopping trip on Saturday.

After a night out on the town, the first thing I did when I woke up at 2pm was go to the old Conad, which is only a 5 minute walk away. I can’t believe I was happy to see this grocery store, but I was.

I couldn’t find the 3 types of mushrooms that I needed — portobello, crimini, and shiitake. I was very surprised about the portobellos and criminis since they are ITALIAN mushrooms, but I digress. Conad had 2 types of mushrooms…I don’t even know their names, but I picked them up since I didn’t have any other options. I still couldn’t find Romano cheese, so I can’t believe I did this, but I dragged my butt back to the smaller Conad and found the cheese. Now I swear I will never set foot in that store again. EVER.

I came home and napped a bit before I started to cook. Neither of my room mates are big fans of mushrooms so I was alone on this cooking adventure. The prep for this didn’t take long — cutting up shallots and mushrooms is a piece of cake.

Creating & cooking the sauce for this scrumptious pasta dish was also a piece of cake. I just threw all the ingredients together, and voila! I had a delightfully smelling mushroom cream sauce to toss with my pasta.

While everything was still being cooked to perfection, I chopped up the garnishes: green onions and hazelnuts. I bought a tiny bag of hazelnuts, and as I tried to open them they exploded all over my kitchen! I even called that that was going to happen. I think I spent more time cleaning up the nuts than I did actually preparing the meal.

Finally I made my little bowl of pasta and made it picture perfect with the onions, nuts, and a sprinkle of cheese. Then, my stomach was beyond excited for the moment of truth.

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3..2..1…YUM-O! It’s dishes like this that really baffle me on how people don’t enjoy mushrooms. The noodles were perfectly coated in this creamy, tender sauce and the cheese was the perfect touch to compliment all of the flavors. My room mates were definitely missing out, but that also meant more food for me!

Now time for the rating. Wildly Delicious Wild Mushroom Fettuccine receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Mushrooms + pasta = one happy Mary. Even though I told myself I was going to go easy on the pasta this semester, this dish was definitely worth the extra carbs and calories. I would love to make this dish again with the three original types of mushrooms to see how mush the flavors change.

It honestly feels great to be back in Florence, and even better to have a bit of pasta back in my system…let’s see if I’ll actually be able to limit how much pasta I eat this semester…

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

Lemon Heaven

I can’t believe it’s already that time of year where it is 100% acceptable to eat double your body weight in turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Really, Thanksgiving is such an underrated holiday — and when I say underrated I’m talking about all those people who go straight from Halloween to Christmas (screw you) — But I also mean underrated because it is just now hitting me that I won’t be eating all of those age old delicacies since I am still in Florence. I figured I’d still cook this holiday, even if it wasn’t Thanksgiving food. So for my mini Friendsgiving day feast I decided to make it into an evoo extravaganza by making Broiled Cod and Amalfi-Coast Lemon Linguini. Let’s get cooking!

This grocery adventure started at the Central Market. After a weird fish experience at Conad, I knew that I had to go to a *trusted* place for fresh fish. Stef and I wandered through the market looking for the fish vendors who sold cod, or merluzzo in Italian. I was a little apprehensive to ask the vendor for it, because I was afraid I wouldn’t ask for the correct thing when I spoke Italian. I managed to choke out “Un kilo merluzzo.” The vendor happily weighed out my fish, and even gave me a one euro discount. Feeling accomplished was an understatement — I was ecstatic that I managed to order my fish in Italian. That was my first win of the day.

Next we marched over to Conad for the other ingredients. I was that annoying vlogger on this food adventure because I needed to film something for my youtube channel. So, we went around the store filming my ingredients and what not. I was pumped because I found every single ingredient at Conad, and to make it even better, the total was only 10 euros! Happy thanksgiving to me!!! I went home exceptionally satisfied with today’s shopping experience.

Fast forward to around 6pm. I decided to start the cooking prep a little bit before everyone arrived. My first task was to prepare the fish fillets. When I unboxed my cod, I realized that the vendor gave me the big hunk with the whole spine still in the fish. I had no idea how to debone a fish, and it was near impossible for me to do. I basically went full barbarian on the fish attempting to make edible fillets from it. I think I did a decent job, but after a while I simply gave up. I was the only one eating the fish anyways, so its not like I needed a large amount.

Claire arrived as I was seasoning the fish with butter and mayo.

We both diligently worked in the kitchen. I took care of the lemon sauce, while she sautéed a hodgepodge of vegetables. I was a little nervous that the lemon sauce would be too lemon-y since the recipe called for the juice of 4 lemons and the zest of 3, but as always I try not to question Rachel Ray.

This meal really did only take 30 minutes to make! The pasta was ready in a jiffy, and the fish was cooked through in 6 minutes. Ashley arrived with the wine just as I was setting the table.

After a long day, or should I say week of working on homework, we were so excited for the first relaxing bit of our day: The moment of truth. 3..2..1…Hold up. Can I redo this moment of truth over and over again? This pasta was literally out of this world! All of us were speechless. I love lemons, but this took the fruit to a whole new level. The cod was also a perfect complement to this pasta. I made a full kilo of linguini, and the three of us powered through the pot like it was nothing. Absolutely freaking amazing.

Saoirse arrived about an hour later, and we really had to hold ourselves back from devouring all of the pasta. I know she was thankful that we restrained ourselves.

Now time for the rating. without a doubt the Broiled Cod and Amalfi-Coast Lemon Linguini receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts, but in reality it broke my scale. I dare to say that this pasta dish may have been the BEST pasta I’ve had since being in Italy. I know that if I made this in the US there would have been a dramatic difference — Italy is known for their lemons, and the US just doesn’t even compete in the lemon department. I need to try a restaurant’s lemon pasta now to see how it compares….but either way lemon pasta is now my favorite type of pasta in the world!

I’m totally okay with the fact that I didn’t have a traditional Thanksgiving this year. Although it was weird at first, it ended up being one of the best Thanksgivings ever. I learned a very valuable life lesson today: When life gives you lemons, make lemon pasta!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus