Category Archives: Italian

Passport to Sicily

The only thing I miss terribly about Italy is the food — eating endless pasta for 9 months was delightful…until I stepped on the scale. I’m disappointed in myself since I really only tried pasta while I was abroad — I didn’t explore other Italian specialties such as the many varieties of salads and meat dishes. Thanks to Rachael Ray, though, I can now try a few delicacies thanks to this menu. This menu consists of Olive Rosemary Crostini, Pesce Spada Rollotini (Rolled Swordfish) and Fennel Slaw Salad. Let’s get cooking!

This past week I headed to my very rural hometown in Pennsylvania to have some downtime with my family before school started. My dad always enjoys evooing with me, so we decided to take on these recipes together.

I ventured to good old Giant Eagle on Friday to pick up all of the ingredients. Johnstown is so small that it doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s — it’s tragic. Giant Eagle isn’t too bad, though. Finding all the produce was easy, but I did have to substitute fennel for bok choy… this town is so small I knew I wouldn’t be able to find fennel anywhere. I almost had a perfect run here, but I was being picky. I wanted to buy fresh swordfish instead of frozen, so I went on a mad hunt around town for it.

My next stop was Walmart, which I should’ve known would be a bust because, let’s be real, Walmart isn’t classy enough to carry fresh fish. My last option was to drive 20 minutes to the opposite side of town and try my luck at the other Giant Eagle in Westmont. Once again, I was let down, and had to settle on frozen swordfish. I should’ve seen this coming from the start.

This meal was super important because not only was my immediate family eating, but my grandma Honkus was coming too, and I really wanted to impress her with my cooking skills (I don’t think she even knew I could cook). When she arrived I told her dad and I were preparing a special meal for her, then we all headed into the kitchen to get down to business.

Dad and I started with the slaw salad — we chopped up all of the vegetables: bok choy, radicchio lettuce, scallions, and parsley, and threw that in a bowl together. We let that sit while we each worked on our respective recipes. I put dad in charge of the crostini while I handled the swordfish.

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The first thing I had to do with the swordfish steaks was pound them until they were as thin as possible. I’m not going to lie, I had been looking forward to pounding this fish all week — it was a stress filled week, and this was a great way to let go of all my pent up tension. Next, I mixed the breading which consisted of bread crumbs, lemon zest, parsley & garlic. I covered the fish until they were fully coated, then rolled them up into tight bundles. Finally, the rollups were placed on the stove and cooked for 6 minutes total.

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While the fish cooked, I went back to the slaw salad, and added the few finishing touches: golden raisins soaked in orange juice, pine nuts, olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Dad handled the crostinis beautifully, and everything was ready to eat at the same time!

As a family, we sat down for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… Magnifico! The first bite of swordfish melted in my mouth. It was almost everyone’s first ever bite of swordfish, and everyone loved it. The crostini was the perfect side dish — bread is an absolute necessity. Since it was topped with fragrant herbs and olives, it was taken to a whole different level of tasty. The slaw salad was also a pleasant surprise. Slaw has always freaked me out, but this was refreshing and much needed with a heavy meal. Grandma kept saying how impressed she was with every dish — that’s when you know everything was good.

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Now time for the ratings. The Olive Rosemary Crostini receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Personally, I am not a big fan of olives, but they were perfectly prepared in this bread spread. Every herb complimented each other perfectly. The only thing holding this dish back from 5 hearts is the fact that it was just a tad bit too salty, but other than that, it was fabulous. Next, the Rolled Swordfish receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Swordfish is such an underrated fish, and every time I’ve made it, I’ve fallen more in love with it. The breading made for a crispy outside, with a tender, meaty inside. It was simply delicious. Finally, the Fennel Slaw Salad receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It was a shame that I wasn’t able to find fennel, but this was still a winning dish. As I stated above, the vegetables really balanced out a rather heavy meal. The slaw did have a slight bitter taste that I think would’ve been less prominent if all of the juices and vinegar were given a chance to sit and combine a little while longer.

It was great to impress Grandma today…and I’m totally fine with her thinking that this was a meal I learned to cook while in Italy. What she doesn’t understand about evoo won’t hurt her. I hope to surprise her with my cooking skills for many more years to come.

Until next week!

Mary Honkus

 

Snack Attack Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

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

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. ):

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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Destination: Couch

Everyone has those days where all they want to do is come home, and curl up in front of the TV with their dinner and have a nice, chill night. That’s all I wanted to do today after the weekend I had, and because my sophomore year of college is officially over!! What better way to celebrate than with a lazy dinner of Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica, and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies. Let’s get cooking!

After last week’s visit to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday, I figured this Sunday trip would be just as easy, but I should’ve guessed it all depends on the time of day — and man, did I choose the wrong time. I went to Trader Joe’s at 5pm and the place was PACKED. I did most of my shopping in the line that wrapped the whole way around the upper level. I felt like I was never going to get out of the store. Luckily I did, only to do the exact same thing at Fairway. I waited for my turn at the deli counter for almost 20 minutes!! I had better things to do than wait for a half a pound of sweet sopressata (like go chill on my friends rooftop) but these are the things I do for my loyal EVOOers…what is my life?

The trip home from the grocery store was also a stressful one. Lately downtown trains have only been running express on the weekends so I had to go all the way to times square then transfer to an uptown train to get back to 50th street. Talk about a pain when you’re carrying about 20 pounds of groceries. Whatever.

I actually had a friend come cook with me tonight for the first time in AGES!! I forgot how amazing it was to have a cooking buddy. Martina came over and even brought some ingredients — she’s the real OG man.

In the past when Martina has cooked with me, “cook” has been a relative term — usually she supervises, but tonight she actually partook in the cooking! We chopped everything together and caught up on our pretty much nonexistent love lives. I started to cook the pizza filling while Martina cut the bread, but it should’ve been the other way around because she completely butchered the bread. Our pizza crust was almost ruined, but I swooped in to save the day and we switched cooking stations.

When the filling was done we stuffed out *saved* crusts, and topped them off with mounds of mozzarella then tossed them in the oven. While our pizzas cooked, we made the dip. I almost forgot I had my ratchet food processor, but it made an appearance tonight. I’m amazed that the piece of cardboard shoved into the slot does the trick, but that’s what you get from a cheap kitchen tool. All the ingredients were quickly processed into a lovely smooth dip, and by the time that was complete our pizzas were done too!

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Like the title of this menu says, our destination was the couch for this meal and we finally had our moment of truth. 3…2…1…OOOOO yes. This was exactly what my taste buds and stomach needed. It may not be a New York slice, but this is so much better than I could’ve imagined it to be. I must admit I was fearful because I usually prefer plain pizza, but all the meat and veggies in this dish was fabulous! The dip was also a nice touch and was a flavorful side dish.

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Now time for the ratings! Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts without a doubt. Before we even tried this dish Martina said she could tell it was going to be a 5 hearts meal, and she was right. I haven’t had pizza in two weeks (which is a super long time, since I’m hopelessly devoted to pizza) and this completely satisfied my craving. I have no problem eating this for the rest of the week. The Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also very good, and since it was served with some veggies it made me feel healthy, but after digging in to the pizza, the dip didn’t even come close to comparing to it whatsoever.

Although every meal I eat is on my couch, this one is probably at the top of my list. Like I said in my last post, when your apartment is the size of a shoe box, the only place that there’s room to eat is the couch. Next apartment I have I really need to make sure there’s table space.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Italian Stick-To-Your-Ribs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus