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

 

 

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

TV Dinner

With finals quickly approaching, there is nothing more I want to do than sit in bed with a huge dinner of all my favorite foods while watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. Anything like that is way better than studying for finals. It’s my lucky night tonight, because although this menu isn’t my favorite food (sushi) I can still watch Netflix while eating it! On tap for tonight is Chicken Cacciatore Subs and Al Fredo’s Popcorn. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started yesterday (Sunday) at the grocery store. Trader Joe’s was the last place I wanted to be at 8pm on Sunday. I had a long weekend celebrating Ashley’s 21st and all I wanted was to curl up in bed and sleep for at least 15 hours. But I still dragged my butt to the store. I was expecting the store to be overflowing with people, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was absolutely no line! This was one of the most bearable shopping trips of my life — until my Sherri Hill shopping bag broke. RIP to that bag, it had been with me since I moved to New York. I had to carry the bag like a baby the whole way home so it’s contents wouldn’t spill everywhere.

Fast forward to today (Monday). After my first round of classes I stopped by the Food Emporium to pick up my last two ingredients: rolls and diced tomatoes. I wasn’t cooking until my last class was over at 6:30, but I texted Martina to remind her to bring the wine…she said she couldn’t come anymore ): I thought I’d finally be cooking with friends after so long, but I guess not.

I was starving by the time class was over and ran home as quickly as I could to start cooking. I didn’t have much to chop tonight which was a relief and the chicken cooked pretty quickly. All was going well until one of the chicken breasts literally flew over my counter and onto the floor. I just about had a heart attack. Luckily the chicken didn’t get dirty (5-second rule) and I placed it back on the plate to be chopped.

While my veggies cooked I cut the chicken. I didn’t have time to go out and buy more red wine, but I’ve had some sitting in my kitchen since January (I know gross) but I didn’t have any other options so I used that and prayed my food would still turn out okay.

Once the sauce was complete and the chicken was submerged into it, I piled the concoction onto my rolls, topped it with some provolone, and put it under the broiler to melt.

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I decided to clean up a bit while the cheese melted, but I took to long and burned it a bit, but no worries, it was still edible! So here comes the 1st moment of truth for the night. 3…2…1… Just what I needed! This sub was oh so delicious. The combination of my favorite veggies (mushrooms, bell peppers, & onions), and perfectly cooked chicken was stupendous! I made two since I was so hungry and I situated myself on the floor to watch Gossip Girl while I ate.

I was so full from my subs, so I waited until Ashley got home to make the popcorn. I realized last minute that we were out of Parmesan, so I ran over to Duane Reade in my apron to pick some up. The line at Duane Reade was worse than the line at Trader Joe’s, I was there for a while before I finally made it home.

When I finally got home I topped my popcorn with garlic butter & Parmesan, then Ash and I had another moment of truth in front of the TV. 3…2…1…meh. This popcorn was so buttery and cheesy. I’m not much of a cheesy popcorn person — I prefer for my popcorn to be cooked in coconut oil and lightly topped with salt.

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Now time for the ratings. The Chicken Cacciatore Subs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. My dad always says that the bread makes a sandwich and I couldn’t agree more. This bread held everything inside and never got soggy. The contents were also very flavorful and made for one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while. Bravo to these subs. Al Fredo’s Popcorn receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. It doesn’t take much to mess up popcorn, but Al Fredo must’ve been high when he made this recipe. Too much cheese, too buttery, too bleh. No thank you. I only ate it because it was in front of me but Ash and I threw half of it away.

All in all, you know it’s a good night when you can sit on the bed and watch TV while you eat..but let’s be real. When your apartment is the size of a shoe box, the only place there’s room to eat is the bed…so a tv dinner is my dinner every night. Although I try to make it seem like I eat fancily…or at least cook fancily…okay whatever, goodbye ya’ll!

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