Category Archives: big meal

Earthy Delight

When I was younger I always wondered what being an adult in my 20s would be like. 12-year-old me thought that by the time I turned 22 I’d have my shit together (still working on it), be engaged (nowhere close to that), and be enjoying life in New York City (at least she got that part right). Another thing past-me imagined was hosting large dinner parties for friends, but not in the way they’ve occurred in the last few months. I can tell you now, Little Mare never imagined my eclectic group of friends and I making this earthy menu of Sage Veal Chops, Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta, and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette. Let’s get cooking!

Unlike most of my EVOO adventures, this one was thrown together pretty much at the last minute — I’m not complaining though, random plans tend to produce the best memories. Around mid-day, Mikella and I walked up to Whole Foods on 59th Street. We decided to bypass Trader Joe’s because they don’t carry veal, and we were in the mood for a one-and-done shopping trip.

Once we arrived at Whole Foods, Kell and I split up — she scoured the produce section, while I made my way to the deli counter. I needed four veal chops for tonight, and there was quite a selection. I chose four, and was very happy…until I saw the price tag. $66 for four veal rib chops!! I found Mikella and bitched a bit, then finally decided to give the rib chops back in exchange for loin chops for 2 reasons: 1. a majority of the weight from the rib chop was the huge bone still attached — I was not about to pay for mostly bone, and 2. the loin chops were a little less expensive. I was worried the deli guy wouldn’t exchange, but since I was there 5 minutes prior it was all good. The loin chops ended up being $58, but at least I saved $8.

Remember how we said we wanted a one-stop shopping trip? Well that didn’t happen. We weren’t able to find quick-cooking polenta — there’s always that one obscure ingredient. On our walk back home we stopped at good old Amish Market. We looked through their isle of cornmeal, and for a moment I thought we had struck out again, but Kell spotted instant polenta on the very top shelf! We may have looked a little crazy rejoicing over polenta, but it was a big deal, okay?

A few hours later we walked over to 312 with all the ingredients and my camera. Before we started to cook, we filmed a wine review for my youtube channel…on an empty stomach. We only had four cans of wine spritzers to try, but by the time the tasting was over, Nico, Mikella, and I were a tiny bit tipsy. Is it safe to cook while intoxicated? Welp, it’s nothing we haven’t done before.

Once Christy and Pearce got home from Coney Island, we migrated to their apartment to pull this meal together. Last time there were only two of us (Kell and I) cooking, but this time there were 5 people helping out in this unfurnished apartment with a cramped kitchen. I divvied up responsibilities — Nico (despite his objections) chopped mushrooms with Mikella. I put Mikella in charge of the mushroom fricassee, while I set to work on seasoning the veal chops…on the floor. I wasn’t kidding when I said this apartment was unfurnished. Not to worry though — the place was spotless because Christy swiffers the whole apartment about 3 times a day.

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I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper, then rubbed sage leaves into the meat. I realized I needed more sage, and didn’t want to get up so I asked Pearce to chop bit more..his response, with a beer in hand was, “the green stuff?” Yep, the green stuff.

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Once the veal was cooking on the stove, I made the apricot vinaigrette for the salad while Madison tore the lettuce and tossed it with the arugula, pear, and blue cheese…on the floor. When you picture a bunch of 20-somethings cooking together, I’m sure cooking on the floor is the last thing you would picture. Let me paint the whole picture though: it was drunk cooking on the floor while dancing to “Proud Mary.” Yep, that’s my friend group and I.

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Nico and I had an intense dance off to “Proud Mary” while everything simmered. Once the battle was over, it was time to eat.

We carried all of the dishes up to the roof, piled our plates, then finally it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1….WOW. I’m not just saying wow because I was slightly tipsy. This food was W-O-W worthy. The veal chops were cooked to perfection — tender & juicy, aromatic from the sage, and topped with a white wine sauce. This was next level melt in your mouth. Simply fabulous. The mushroom fricassee with polenta was a a flavorful explosion. It always amazes me how mushrooms have such a meaty flavor. This dish was creamy, savory, and completely mouthwatering. The salad may have been simple, but the flavors meshed so well and danced across our palates. I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone was in awe over this meal.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sage Veal Chops receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I am so glad I spent $58 on this meat — it was impeccable. I can barely put into words how incredible the veal was, but I’ll put it this way. I made sure to get every last morsel off the bone. Exquisite. The Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Rachael Ray is a master at mushrooms, and this fricassee and polenta was a total crowd pleaser. Fricassee is usually a meat dish, but who needs a meat version when you have mushrooms this good? Unbelievable. Finally, the Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was a little skeptical about this salad since I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but this mix of flavors were completely complementary of each other, and made for one of the best salads I ever had. Extraordinary. Everyone unanimously agreed on all these ratings, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Way to go Rachael Ray!

I learned a few lessons today. 1. Tipsy cooking is a TON of fun. I’d encourage you all to try it but I don’t want to be held liable if you mistakenly chop off a finger. 2. Cooking on the floor is something everyone should do at least once in their life (as long as the floor is clean.) and 3. These dinner parties are a hell of a lot better than the ones 12-year-old Mary ever imagined. Goofy times with great company make for memories I will cherish forever. My life may not be how I envisioned it 10 years ago, but I’m glad it’s not — it’s impossible to imagine a life as amazing as this.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

Big Night Dinner

People say there’s no place like New York, but there’s really no place like New York when the weather starts to warm up. Summertime in the city calls for long days in Central Park, open-air restaurants, and my personal favorite: rooftops. Two years ago I was lucky enough to befriend some guys who have a private rooftop — now we’re pretty much family, and cook out on that very roof multiple times a week. After the first balmy grill night a few weeks ago, I knew I had to bring back weekly EVOOs ASAP — plus I have the time since I just graduated and don’t have full-time employment yet. So, this really is a big night dinner: bringing back consistent EVOOs with a menu of Brandy and Orange Chicken Topped with Stuffed Shrimp, Fruited White and Wild Rice, and a Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert. Let’s get cooking!

Mikella and I woke up on Memorial Day to sublime weather: it was 80 degrees outside with not a cloud in the sky. When it’s this nice outside hopping on the subway feels like a sin, so we decided to walk down to Chelsea Market. After an awesome, and slightly sweaty 25 block walk, we arrived at my all-time favorite fish market: The Lobster Place. I constantly rave about this place — trust me, you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere in Manhattan. We picked up eight jumbo shrimp and a tin of lump crab meat, then made our way to Trader Joe’s to continue our ingredient hunt.

We walked to the Trader Joe’s in Chelsea, and it brought me a lot of nostalgia — the Chelsea TJ’s was my first go-to when I moved to NYC…maybe it’s weird to get nostalgic over a Trader Joe’s but I’m a sentimental person, so let me be! We quickly found every item on our list…almost. I knew coffee ice cream was probably going to be a toughie to find here, and I was correct. Joe: you have the oddest ice cream flavors, why no coffee???

Due to TJ’s lack of ice cream, we made a quick stop to Fairway, then headed home.

As we were getting ready to walk over to our friends’ apartment (312) I realized my maple syrup was moldy….I didn’t even know syrup could get moldy. We needed syrup for the dessert, and no one at 312 had any, so we stopped at a bodega along the way. I have one question: why is maple syrup so expensive?! $10 for a tiny bottle is a bit ridiculous, don’t ya think?

We arrived at 312 to quite a sight: four hungover degenerates laying on the couch. The apartment had yet to be cleaned from the night before, and I was not about to cook in a grimy kitchen (guys if your reading this, sorry, but your kitchen freaks me out). Luckily my bud Christy lives across the hall and had a spotless kitchen! I prefer to have everyone assist in cooking, but I knew it was best to let the boys continue to be couch potatoes. Just Mikella and I were the master chefs of the evening.

Mikella is not very fond of raw meats, so I put her in charge of the rice dish. we chopped our respective ingredients, then she was the rice wizard while I handled the stuffing for the shrimp. The aromas of onion, pepper, and crab meat sizzling in olive oil and butter were mouthwatering. What’s stuffing without a little toasted bread too? What was supposed to be toasted bread turned out to be crispy bread (yes, there’s a difference) because I didn’t realize how quickly the toaster oven heated up. Mix a small kitchen with a girl trying to save toast and you end up burned: my one injury from the night.

I recovered quickly and let Mikella take over stuffing duties because I butterflied the shrimp. I probably should have watched a video on how to butterfly, because it was difficult, and I’m 100% positive I did not do it correctly… oh well. Once my shrimp were..uh..slightly cut, I attempted to stuff them, but they were definitely not stuffed. All of the stuffing fell out and was just sort of laying beside the shrimps. I proceeded to throw it all in the oven and hope for the best.

While the shrimp baked, I cooked the chicken. The chicken breasts we bought were some of the biggest I have ever seen in my life — I’m telling you, we got three that could feed 10 people (and they did). Due to their size, it took longer than usual to fully cook. After about 22 minutes, the chicken was tender and juicy. I promptly threw together the sauce: brandy, butter, and a bit of orange zest, then topped off our chicken.

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Once we finished our preparation, we took everything to the roof and called for the couch zombies to come eat. We all piled our plates high and had our moment of truth.

3..2..1…First bites like this are one of the many reasons I love doing EVOO. Like bitch, I MADE THAT! The shrimp, wow. Cooked to perfection and topped with buttery, delicious stuffing. Now that was amazing! It was so good I got a little greedy and took a second shrimp (sorry to whoever didn’t get to try this bite of heaven). The chicken was delightfully moist and had a citrusy hint thanks to the sauce. I was really surprised at the rice: a blend of white and wild rice dotted with golden raisins, mandarin oranges, and almonds — items you wouldn’t think would go with rice, but made a pleasant, slightly sweet mixture. I had two servings it was so yummy.

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Once everyone finished dinner, Mikella and I grabbed all of the dessert items, and spooned out coffee sundaes for everyone. A few scoops of coffee ice cream, topped with almonds and peanuts, drizzled with maple syrup, and garnished with cookie sticks — simple yet beautiful.

My tastebuds were pleasantly surprised by this dessert — I don’t particularly care for the taste of coffee, but this tasted like caramel! I’m convinced it was the syrup that made all the difference. Rachael Ray isn’t the most creative when it comes to desserts, but this one was simple and spectacular.

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Now time for the ratings. The Brandy and Orange Chicken receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This wasn’t bad, but wasn’t astounding — just another chicken dish with a hint of citrus. The Stuffed Shrimp receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish may not have exactly been stuffed shrimp, but whatever it ended up being was over-the-top GOOD. I would’ve eaten every shrimp, but it would’ve been unfair to hog all that delicious perfection. The Fruited White and Wild Rice receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Typically you expect rice dishes to be savory, but the lightly sweet rice was unexpected in a good way, and really balanced the flavors of the other courses well. Finally, the Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I consider this an adult twist on the classic ice cream sundae. No alcohol was involved, but the coffee and maple flavors just seem more mature than vanilla and chocolate. This is a dessert I’m going to indulge in all summer.

No matter what the activity — eating, exercising, socializing — it’s always better under and open sky. Thank goodness it’s summer so I can do all those activities in the fresh…well semi-fresh air of New York City. Next time you eat outside, stop to savor all flavors in your mouth and the people around you. I promise, you’re going to want to remember these moments for a very long time.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

 

 

A Meal for my Hunnies

So many new things have been happening in my life, so I had to step away from the blog for a few weeks. I started my senior year of college, I landed the internship of my dreams, and a new room mate moved in! Now that things have settled a bit, I knew it would be the perfect time to have old and new friends alike over, and cook a fabulous meal. This menu is one I’m sure we’ll remember for a long time: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce, Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux, and Margaritas Granitas. Let’s get cooking!

This Adventure started two days ago on Sunday. My good pal Christy and I took our weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, but we chose the absolute worst time possible: 7pm. Sunday evenings at Trader Joe’s are easily comparable to an active war zone. People are rude, and there is next to no inventory. There were no vegetables or chicken, and half the store’s shelves were completely ransacked. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I left nearly empty handed.

I needed a full day to recover from that fiasco, and on Tuesday morning after class I headed to Whole Foods in Chelsea to pick up the rest of the ingredients I needed. I grabbed tomatillos, cilantro, tilapia, avocados, and lime pops. This experience was painless, and pretty cheap — maybe I should shop at Whole Foods more often.

I had to make one more stop at a local liquor store to pick up tequila and Cointreau for our special margaritas tonight. I don’t go to the liquor store often (I know, that may be hard to believe) so the cashier had to guide me on where to find what I needed. $50 later, not only are we stocked for tonight, but also for the next 2 months.

Fast forward to this evening. Classes let out early thanks to a Jewish Holiday, so Krystyna and Taylor came over at 7. We immediately got to work chopping everything up. Taylor was in charge of the tomatillos, and she was so intrigued by the vegetable. For those of you who don’t know what Tomatillos are, they are Mexican green tomatoes, but oddly enough, they kind of taste like apples. Once everything was chopped, I cooked the fish while Noelle and Mikella made the margs…actually making the margaritas was more like a 5 person job. No one could figure out how to work the blender, so I stepped in and saved the day.

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While everyone enjoyed their homemade frozen margaritas, Taylor and I cooked away. I handled the sauce for the tilapia, and she prepared the avocado stuffing. Everything smelled so good, and we were all so excited…then the smoke alarm went off. Honestly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in my house, so once we shut it off we were ready to eat.

Everyone served themselves family style, and we all migrated downstairs to our massive dining room table to eat.

We all had our moment of truth together. 3..2..1.. Spicy goodness! This tilapia was cooked to perfection (courtesy of moi) with just the right amount of kick from the spices and sauce. Tilapia is so delicate, and I was worried the spices would have ruined it, but it was so delicious. The stuffed avocados were a big hit too. It was great opening all six avocados and seeing the perfect green/yellow color in every single one. We all had a tough time scooping the flesh out of the skin, but the taste was spectacular. Creamy corn and peppers overflowed each avocado half, and they were all devoured quickly.

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Christy and Nico showed up an hour late, but they still enjoyed and scarfed down the rest of the food — they showed up too late for margaritas, though.

Now time for the ratings. The Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was so much hype leading up to this recipe and it did not disappoint. It was somehow spicy, sweet, and savory, and melt-in-your-mouth — aka a masterpiece. The Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Avocados are arguably the best food in the world, and I don’t know why I never stuffed one before. The creaminess of the filling played well with the creaminess of the avocado flesh. I think I could’ve eaten 5 of them. Finally, the Margaritas Granitas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. If you know me, you know I love frozen margs (especially the ones from Mickey Spillanes) and these margaritas rivaled the best of the best. They were tangy and sweet with the perfect kick. Now whenever I’m craving a marg I can make them in minutes from the comfort of my own home. Score!

This meal was all around perfection, but I think my favorite part of tonight was seeing my friends mesh together so well. Mikella just moved in, and they made it a point to include her and make her feel welcome. These are the kind of moments with my people that make my heart full, and I can’t wait for all of us to get closer and create many more memories like the ones we made tonight.

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 Great Gathering

With all the traveling I’ve been doing, I have really been missing a nice home cooked family meal. Don’t get me wrong, experiencing European cultures through food is AMAZING, but sometimes you just want to come home to an array of different foods waiting for you on the dining room table. This week was the first week in a very long time that all of my room mates and I were actually home, so we decided to cook a family dinner feast. On tap for this week is Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos, Giardiniera, Antipasticks, and Fresh Figs and Melon with Prosciutto. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started out on Monday. After reading over the recipes, I noticed that the Giardiniera needed to be made at least 24 hours in advance so that the vegetables could marinate properly. I went to good old Conad to pick up all of ingredients: cauliflower, carrots, & peppers. I came home, quickly threw these veggies together, and poured the vinegar marinade over top. I finished this off with a good shake, then put it in the fridge for it to marinate overnight.

Fast Forward to today (Tuesday). We still had so many ingredients to pick up, so Shannon and I geared up for our ingredient scavenger hunt. We started at Conad where we managed to pick up some meat and cheese, but we still needed figs, cantaloupe, and sausage.

Next we went to the Central Market. I had never been to the Central Market before, and it was amazing! There were countless stands of fresh fruit & veggies, fresh meats, and endless pasta. I thought this would be the place we would find everything we needed, but we didn’t find anything!! I wasn’t completely disappointed though, because now I know where to go for the best fresh produce.

Our final stop on this quest for ingredients was the corner Crai market. We found all of the items within 10 minutes. Although we only managed to find dry figs, we did find the cantaloupe, so I took that as a win!

The only thing that separated the 5 of us from cooking family dinner was class. As soon as 5:30 struck I ran home to start cooking this gourmet meal! Stef and Ashley were waiting for me in the kitchen when I got home. We strapped on our aprons and began by chopping everything up.

I turned my attention to cooking the mushrooms — side note, we couldn’t find Portobello mushrooms in Italy??? We substituted with another kind of mushroom, but still so weird — The best part of cooking the mushrooms was drenching them with wine, because you know, everything tastes better with wine.

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Next I started on the stuffing while Ashley and Stef put together the antipasticks. We had a really good system going on, and everything was going smoothly, but then we hit a bump in the road. Ashley and Stef were putting together the prosciutto, cantaloupe, & fig platter when we realized we didn’t buy a freaking cantaloupe. Nope, we bought a gigantic grapefruit. A GRAPEFRUIT!! So instead of having this platter, they made dried figs wrapped in prosciutto.

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Finally everything was ready. We had a beautiful spread out on the table, and Kait poured us all a glass of wine. We filled our plates then it was finally time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Ahhh, the sweet taste of a home cooked meal. Everyone’s faces lit up with happiness. The most popular dish among our crowd was definitely the stuffed mushrooms. We had an overabundance of stuffing, so we all ate that by itself too. We ravaged through that stuffing. All of us were a bit skeptical of the Giardiniera, but were pleasantly surprised on how delicious it was! The antipasticks were also a big hit. The figs were a little iffy, but overall everyone was happy and full since we ate the whole meal — which was supposedly meant to feed 12 people — obviously Rachel Ray has never fed a group of hungry college girls.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Stuffing is such an underrated food. It was great in the mushrooms, and great on its own as well. As we were eating everyone raved about how delicious it was. This was a very successful recipe. Next the Giardiniera receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I thought this would be like a salad, but it was just pickled vegetables. Stef was super excited for this dish and encouraged us all to try it. It was different from anything I have ever eaten before, and it was pretty good. I wouldn’t eat it every day but it was still good to try. The Antipasticks receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These were pretty simple — just kebabs with provolone and sopressata, but simplicity is often overlooked, and it was delicious! Definitely would eat again. Finally the Fresh Figs with Melon and Prosciutto receives ♥ (1) heart. We tried to compromise after the grapefruit, but there was just no saving this dish. At least we tried, though.

After weeks and weeks of eating out, this meal was greatly needed, appreciated, and helped us bond a little more! Having this Italian gathering with the roomies was probably one of my favorite nights in Italy. Don’t forget the little moments like this — food and friends create the best memories. I swear by it!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus