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

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

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

Food for Sports Fans

One thing that I never really appreciated until I left the US was game day food. Now, I never actually went to any game day party (except for the superbowl…funny because I don’t even watch football) but watching all the little sports food cooking videos on Facebook made me really miss good old ‘Merican food. Luckily this weeks menu will help me get my fix. Today we’re cooking Pigskin Potatoes and Super Sub Balls. Let’s get cooking!

This trip to the grocery store wasn’t anxiety inducing for once! I first stopped by Vivi market since they’re known for importing odd American products. I figured that would be the one place I’d be able to find Worcestershire sauce, but alas, they didn’t have it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find in anywhere in Italy so I sadly scratched that off my shopping list.

Next I headed to Conad where I was able to find every other ingredient I needed. I never thought in a million years that that would happen. I didn’t feel rushed while loading all of my groceries into my bags either. This shopping trip = a total win.

I arrived home, and shortly after Stef and I got to work. As always, we started with chopping. Stef chopped up all the potatoes, threw some spices on them, then we let them roast in the oven. She chopped up so many that we had to cook them in two batches since we only have one baking sheet.

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I took care of forming all the meatballs since meat freaks Stef out, but I didn’t mind. I felt as though I was a sculptor creating award winning beautiful meatballs. I’m not very artistic, but these turned out beautifully! If there was a beauty pageant for meatballs these would win. They were also beautiful on the inside because they were stuffed with provolone cheese — which I might add was the BEST provolone cheese I’ve had in my whole life. No exaggeration.

While I formed the balls, Stef made an herby marinara sauce for dunking. As the meatballs cooked, the smell wafting from the kitchen was nearly irresistible. We were so excited when it came time for the moment of truth.

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We dunked the meatballs in the sauce then piled them into our subs. Our mouths were watering for this moment of truth. 3…2…1…. SCORE! I’m a newly found meatball lover and these may be the best I have ever tasted. I downed the sandwich so quickly. The potatoes were also a hole-in-one! Probably the best potato wedge recipe to date from Rachel Ray. I would’ve eaten more if I hadn’t stuffed my face with provolone while everything was cooking.

Now time for the ratings. The Pigskin Potatoes receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I don’t think anyone can ever go wrong with potatoes, but Rachael Ray hit these out of the ball park with the spice mixture: salt, pepper, paprika, & garlic powder. I plan on making these often since they’re extremely easy and so delicious. The Super Sub Balls also receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. These balls were a knockout! I love meatballs, but I was a little skeptical about slam dunking them into the sauce — I’ve never been a sauce person — but the whole sandwich was a home run!

Sports food is great food, and this week’s menu made me want to host a watch party…I’m not very into sports though, so I’ll just make this for next year’s Miss USA watch party. Pageantry is the top tier sport, don’t even try to argue with me! Maybe I’ll make this at a watch party for my future husband and his friends…only time will tell.

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

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Mmmmm Pasta!

I have honestly been pretty bored lately….well, really just this weekend since all of my friends went to France, and I decided to stay home. (Don’t ask me why, it was a lame choice on my part). But, what’s the perfect way to cure boredom? Cooking of course! Today’s menu is another scrumptious sounding pasta dish: Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Let’s get cooking!

As I stated above, all my friends went to the French Riviera this weekend leaving me alone to sit around and be a vegetable. Friday I watched the whole first season of Sex and the City, so on Saturday I decided to be a little productive with my life. I got my lazy butt up to go to the grocery store. I only needed to pick up 4 things: crushed red pepper, crushed tomatoes, bucatini (hollow spaghetti), and pancetta. Seems like a simple enough grocery list, right? Well, I don’t think any trip to the grocery store in Italy is going to be simple.

Finding the pepper and the bucatini was easy enough, but I got stuck when it came to the tomatoes. I even translated “crushed tomatoes” before I left, but I couldn’t find that translation on any can. Eventually, I gave up, grabbed a random tomato can and prayed there would be crushed tomatoes inside.

The final thing I needed to pick up was pancetta. Pancetta is like in an Italian cured bacon, I’ve used it before in various recipes, so I know what it looks like. I decided to test my Italian language skills, so I marched up to the deli counter and waited my turn. I said to the butcher: “cinque slices pancetta,” (I didn’t know the word for slices, okay) I felt very proud of myself except this man picks up finocchiona, not pancetta. I don’t know if he thought I was stupid and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, and I knew I didn’t pronounce it incorrectly!! I just didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure if it would’ve been insulting. So, here I am with this meat instead of my pancetta…I was disappointed and frustrated, so I payed and left.

I stopped by Conad to pick up prepackaged pancetta instead. That’s the last time I go up to a deli counter in Italy.

I was too lazy to cook last night, so when I woke up at noon today I decided it was the perfect time to cook!

This recipe was pretty simple to make. Boiling water is probably the most annoying part because it literally takes forever to bubble! I chopped up the *real* pancetta, an onion & garlic, and let that all cook together. When it came time to open the tomatoes I prayed they would be crushed…they were not, but they were close enough. I dumped the tomatoes in, and let the sauce simmer while the pasta cooked.

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This meal really did only take 30 minutes to make which only happens once in a blue moon. I happily scooped my pasta into a bowl and attempted to take an appetizing picture, but alas, the lighting in my apartment stinks. At least I tried!

I sat down, and was so ready for this moment of truth. 3…2…1…. ahhh, it’s just a pasta dish — a red sauce pasta dish. I’ve never been a huge fan of red sauce but this wasn’t bad. It had a little heat to it because of the red pepper too. I gladly helped myself to two portions.

Now time for the rating. Bucatini all’Amatriciana receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I seemed to be bashing this recipe above, but in all honesty it was good. The tomatoes here are so different than the ones in the US…they’re actually delicious. This red sauce pasta was nothing like I’ve had at home, and it has everything to do with the freshness aspect of all the ingredients. I have enough of this to last me the next week too, so I’m pretty excited to come home and enjoy this every night. It’s unbeatable.

Though being alone in a foreign city with absolutely no friends this weekend was kind of intimidating, it was a much needed break to focus on myself. Nothing relieves stress quite like cooking while blasting Kesha’s new album. Really, although I preach cooking with friends, cooking by yourself just may be the medicine you need sometimes.

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

Italy Meets Greece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

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

One-Hot-Pot

I often recall simple times when I lived on an alpaca farm and ate simple food like buttered noodles (I had an interesting childhood). I was a very picky eater back then, but now I’m open to try anything and everything as most of you know. Instead of cooking in the city this week I’m back at my humble abode in the middle of nowhere, and while there are not alpacas anymore, I’m very excited to have a simple dish with some close hometown friends. On tap for tonight is Chili Verde. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure doesn’t start at the grocery store, but rather at the doctors office. Since I am an *adult* now, I took myself to the doctors by myself. It was just an annual check up but I had to get a shot. Normally I wouldn’t complain a huge amount, but they made me stay an extra 20 minutes since I drove myself. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go grocery shopping. It had been about 3 weeks since I had last shopped for groceries and I missed the feeling of wandering through the isles looking for my ingredients — it’s kind of like an adult scavenger hunt if you think about it. Finally they let me go and I made my way over to the Giant Eagle.

My list of things I needed to pick up was rather simple today, but there was one ingredient I feared that I would not be able to find: tomatillos. As I stated before, I live in the middle of nowhere, so I did not have high expectations for this store to have such an exotic vegetable, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found them! They were right beside the tomatoes (since the are Mexican green tomatoes) and I nearly jumped for joy when I found them. It was so refreshing to be able to pick up all of my ingredients at one place (yes I am throwing shade to you Trader Joes…but I still love you).

I went to pay for my items, and the cashier had the most confused look when he picked up the tomatillos. he said to me “uhhhh….I have no clue what these are.” I told him and explained exactly what they were, and continued to tell him how surprised I was they they had them in the store. He said, “You never know what you’ll find here, it’s always full of surprises.” Isn’t that the truth.

I came home and waited for Molly and Hussein to come over at 7. Hussein told us he’d be late because he was cutting down trees, but Molly and I knew it was just an excuse so he didn’t have to help cook — Sorry Hussie, nothing gets past us.

Molly arrived and we got straight to work. First we dug through my kitchen supplies boxes to find my cutting boards. I find it amazing that my parents only have 2 cutting boards — I have about 10 (okay big exaggeration, but seriously you can’t just have 2 cutting boards!!). Once we found the boards, we could get onto the fun part. We threw the turkey into a pot and seasoned it with cumin, grill seasoning, and hot sauce. I finished off all the cumin, which was a big accomplishment: it was the first spice I used the whole way through. I’m basically a master of cumin now.

While the turkey cooked we chopped up so many green vegetables: zucchini, a green bell pepper, the tomatillos, cilantro, and thyme. I realized I forgot to pick up jalapenos, which made me sad for a minute but I quickly got over it. This recipe was relatively simple — we just tossed everything in the pot, let it cook for a few minutes and voila! We were ready to eat.

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We dressed up our chili with a little cheese and some scallions & brought out a whole bag of tortilla chips as well. We sat out on my back porch to enjoy some fresh air and watch the sunset as we had our moment of truth. 3…2…1… ahhh, that was so delicious. This dish was as simple as could be, yet so satisfying. All of the ingredients were so fresh too, which made a huge difference in the dish. I had 2 heaping bowls of this stuff, and that’s saying a lot since the thought of chili freaked me out for most of my life.

Hussein ended up missing the whole meal (it wouldn’t have mattered if he eventually showed up anyways because we ate it all), but we met him at Shaffer’s for ice cream. It was the perfect ending to a lovely summers night.

Now time for the rating. Chili Verde receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was not only flavorfully satisfying, but it also meshed perfectly with our surroundings. This is one thing that I don’t think many people think about. For example: seafood tastes better when you’re near the ocean. Chili is a simple dish to make, and we made it in a simple place: in the wide open country setting next to a few farms and a corn field. The whole atmosphere made this dish a million times better than I thought it could ever be. This was definitely and unforgettable meal.

While I adore living in the city, sometimes its good to step back and enjoy the little things and the quieter places. Cooking with childhood friends, and making memories we’ll remember when we’re old and gray is such a wonderful feeling. I’m excited to do the next evoo in an exotic place, and hopefully make many more cooking memories abroad as well.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Big Soup!

Ever have those nights where you just want to stuff your face and eat like a normal person? That has been me for the past two months while I was preparing for a pageant I was competing in. I have not tasted bread, or sugar, or any of my favorite things for the past two months….I HAVEN’T EVOOD IN TWO MONTHS!!! WHO AM I?! Thank goodness I’m back to discovering so many delicious recipes, and I wouldn’t want to get back into the swing of things with a different 3-course menu than tonight’s. On tap for tonight is Green Minestrone, Tomato Basil Panzanella, and Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake. Let’s get cooking!

I started this cooking adventure like any other at Trader Joe’s on Tuesday. This was no ordinary Trader Joe’s run…it was my LAST Trader Joe’s run since I move out in a week. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually going to miss that place and all of the great deals it had — even if it was a pain in the ass most of the time.

I was really hoping this trip would be quick and painless but it didn’t look too bright when I was stuck on the subway for 20 minutes in between stations. Train delays are one thing but when you’re trapped in an over packed unairconditioned car, you just want to die. When I finally reached my destination I felt like I was breathing in fresh air for the first time in years.

Despite the rocky beginning, this grocery run could not have gone any smoother. I found all of the ingredients I needed (besides white cannellini beans and ditalini pasta), but I knew my friends would be able to pick those up no problem. Everything was also super affordable which I can always count on Trader Joe’s for! I’d say this was a very successful last trip — see you in a year Trader Joe’s!

Fast forward to today (Thursday). After a long day of dog walking, I was so excited to come home and have a wonderful home cooked meal. I’m so happy I didn’t have to cook alone either! Girl’s night: cooking edition coming atcha. Chela, Amy & Krystina all joined me for a feast.

Amy brought the beans & Krystina brought the pasta (Krystina went all fancy and bought the pasta from Eatily!) We started how we always do with chopping. It was mainly Amy and I doing all the work since Chela brought her own pizza (typical) and Krystina doesn’t trust herself with knives (can’t blame her).

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Once all of the chopping was complete everything else was pretty simple — all I had to do was throw everything in a pot to make the soup and let it simmer for a while. While the soup was brewing I turned my attention to the Panzanella. This recipe really confused me because it told me to let the bread soak in water, then to wring it dry because you don’t want soggy bread…why is the bread supposed to be drenched in water if it shouldn’t be soggy??? Rachael Ray were you high when you created this recipe??? Whatever, I always do as the recipe says, but I let Amy dry the bread so I wouldn’t be at fault if it was weird…sorry Amy…

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I couldn’t let Krystina sit and do nothing, so I gave her some cheese to grate which she did beautifully. I threw the cheese into the soup, while Amy mixed the Panzanella together, and then it was time for the first moment of truth.

3…2…1….It feels so good to eat real food again!!….JK the soup is something I could’ve eaten on my diet since there was no sugar, but it was still good and I didn’t feel bloated or gross while eating it. Thumbs up from me! The soggy bread though….it was still soggy. Someone please explain to me why one would drench bread in water if you don’t want it to be wet? This is so mind boggling to me. Once you got past the sogginess of the bread, the rest of the dish was pretty dang good — very Italian.

We scarfed down our dinner so we could move on to dessert. Now, I didn’t go full out pastry chef here, (I bought a pre-made angel food cake), all I had to do was dress it up a little bit. I heated up some lemon curd and added a little lemon zest, then skillfully drizzled it all over the cake. Finally I topped it off with shaved coconut, and I have to say, it looked like a masterpiece! If it wasn’t so pretty we would’ve dived in sooner.

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So now for the second moment of truth: 3…2…1… BEST DESSERT IN EVOO HISTORY. I’m serious! This was so simple, yet sweet and out of this world. Maybe I’m freaking out since I haven’t had any sugar in 2 months, but this was absolutely glorious. I honestly could’ve eaten the whole cake. It is taking all of my willpower to save Ashley the last slice of cake..I’m such a good room mate.

Now time for the ratings. Green Minestrone receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This soup was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was very bland. This could’ve been 10 times better if a few spices were added for good measure, but it was boring. Onto the next. The Tomato Basil Panzanella receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Flavor wise this dish was fabulous, but I just could not get over the soggy bread. Why would you wet the bread, Rachael Ray?? I will not rest until this question is answered. Finally, the Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Talk about a strong finish! This dessert was light and airy, yet sweat and satisfying. I could eat this all day every day (I’m a sucker for fruity desserts) plus it was super easy to make! I loved it!!

It felt great to get back on the EVOO train, but also bittersweet considering this is the last EVOO in my first NYC apartment. Don’t worry, now that I’m back, I’ll be evooing every week. But where in the world will the next blog take place? You’ll find out next time! Thanks for reading!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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Italian Stick-To-Your-Ribs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus