Category Archives: oil and vinegar

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

 

Turbo Classics Meal

Think about the most stereotypical meal you see mom’s making in TV shows and movies — really think about it. 90% of the time, these moms are making some sort of chicken, potatoes, and a salad…a well rounded meal; a classic meal. Tonight I’m playing that mom with this menu. On tap for tonight is Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto-Smashed Potatoes, and Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing. Let’s get cooking!

Today was a beautiful Monday, and to celebrate this day, I decided to skip my 5pm class and go to Trader Joe’s instead. This week’s ingredients were pretty basic, so from the start I felt like it was going to be a one-stop trip. The first few minutes in Trader Joe’s were a bit disappointing. I was looking for pesto, but only found pesto-quinoa -_- This was super frustrating because I’m allergic to quinoa. Luckily, I was able to find normal pesto that wasn’t soiled by quinoa.

The only item that was completely sold out was rosemary. Trader Joe’s really played me this trip. I was so close..so, so close from not having to go to Fairway, and Trader Joe’s crushed my one-stop shop dream for the day. At least everything at Trader Joe’s totaled out to only $40!!

I stopped at Fairway for my rosemary and was out of there within 10 minutes, so altogether this shopping trip was one of the least stressful ones to date. Woo hoo!

I came home and once I cleaned some dishes I was ready to cook.

First I put the potatoes on to boil since I knew that would take a while. While the water was heating up I prepared the chicken. First I chopped the rosemary and sprinkled it all over. Next I was able to get rid of all my frustrations of the day by pounding the garlic with my mallet — that has to be my favorite cooking appliance. I then covered the chicken in olive oil, and grated some lemon zest over top before finishing it off with some grill seasoning. Finally, I tossed it all together and threw it in the oven.IMG_8264

Back to the potatoes. It was time for an arm workout! I added some chicken broth for the first round of mashing, then I added the game changing ingredient to make these potatoes unique: the pesto! I was able to smash these potatoes to the perfect consistency — not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself.

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Once the timer went off for the chicken, I had to add one more thing; the best ingredient known to mankind: wine…and lemon juice. I let the chicken marinate in the wine while I made the salad.

The salad was the easiest thing. It was only romaine, endives and walnuts. I topped the salad off with a nice Gorgonzola vinaigrette.

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This meal didn’t take as long as the last one. After one hour it was time for the moment of truth! 3…2…1… I was pleasantly surprised with the salad — the thought of Gorgonzola freaked me out, but it was a nice touch to a rather plain bowl of vegetables. The chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, and extra juicy. The potatoes…mmmmmh. Potatoes are just one of those things that you can never get wrong. All together this was a very good, well rounded meal!

Now time for the ratings. The Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was a tough thing to rate since for Easter dinner yesterday I had a roasted chicken as well. My mind was still clouded with the chicken from yesterday and how amazing it was. Also, even though I love wine, I really think this dish would have been better without it. This dish had the potential to be 5 stars, but it wasn’t up to that level. Next, the Pesto-Smashed Potatoes receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Rachel Ray has so many potato recipes —  it’s amazing how smashed potatoes can be so versatile. This one was quite tasty, but not as tasty as some previous taters. I made enough to feed a small army, but I will not be complaining about these leftovers whatsoever. Finally, the Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It can be difficult for me to eat salads…they’re just too bland and healthy for me most of the time. This salad was pretty good, though. Even though the Gorgonzola dressing scared me at first, it was a nice compliment to a rather simple salad.

I think I made a pretty good classic TV mom dinner, although I would rather make new and exciting foods that typical moms wouldn’t make. In the future, my kids better not be as picky as I was when I was younger because they’re going to be the taste testers for my new and exciting creations…if I ever finish this 30 minute meals book… This book really is never ending but I wouldn’t want to cook from anyone other than Rachel Ray.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Endless Summer

During the cold winter months, I miss one thing more than anything: SUMMER. I’m definitely more of a warm weather person and the blistering cold just drags me down most of the time. Not only do I miss the heat, but all of the amazing summer foods too. I’d do anything to be at a cookout with friends, soaking up the sun, and eating some good food. Luckily with tonight’s meal I’ll be transported to summertime (for at least a half hour). On tap for tonight is Oil-and-Vinegar Slaw, Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs, and Summer-ish Succotash Salad. Let’s get cooking!

It’s the ultimate cheat-meal day of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. Ash and I decided to host all of our friends & have a watching party. In preparation for everyone to come over I headed to Trader Joe’s around 4pm.

I stepped out of the subway at 72nd street to my worst Trader Joe’s nightmare. the line to just get INTO the store was wrapped around the block. I debated dropping everything and going home, but I knew I had to stay. Thank Goodness the line moved quickly; I was inside within 12 minutes.

This Trader Joe’s trip was not the most pleasant to say the least. There were shopping cart traffic jams every step I took, and surprise surprise….I couldn’t find half of the ingredients I needed. I prayed Fairway wouldn’t be as crowded.

Fairway was crowded, but not as crowded as Trader Joe’s. I managed to find 99% of my ingredients there. What about the last 1%? Oh, don’t get me started. I needed hot dog buns, so I went over to the bread section. A lot of times I have issues finding things — even though they are right in front of my face. I asked an employee “hot dog buns…are they right in front of me?” as I said this, someone took the LAST bag of buns. I wanted to scream. The guy even laughed as he walked away. Talk about rude.

I left Fairway in a pretty bad mood because of the whole bun situation. Thankfully I have awesome friends that helped fix the situation. Ashley Gray stopped to get me my buns before she came over. She was my lifesaver!

I came home and slowly but surely, people started bailing. I feel like I should just expect to cook alone from now on, which sucks, but it’s life. At least cooking alone gives me time to think.

I immediately started chopping 2 onions, a red bell pepper, & garlic. Chopping and dicing everything is always the slow part of cooking, but once that was done it was time for the main attraction: cooking the meat.

I slapped down some ground beef into my pan & browned and crumbled it, then added some tasty extras: onion, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Lemme tell you, it smelled heavenly! I felt like I was at a good old barbecue.

I let the chili sit a bit & moved on to the dogs. Now, these dogs aren’t just regular chili cheese dogs — they’re devilish chili cheese dogs. To make them extra devilish, the dogs marinated in melted butter and hot sauce. It’s getting spicy in here!

Once the dogs were firey enough, they were assembled and put under the broiler to let the cheese melt. While the dogs were in the oven I quickly threw together the slaw and the salad.

Finally it was time for the moment of truth….I left the hot dogs in the oven a little too long so they were all burnt, but that didn’t stop me from digging in. 3..2..1…ahhhh sweet summer time….or sweet super bowl time? Whichever….either way this meal was delicious! This was the first time I had ever had chili cheese dogs….in fact it’s the first time I ever ate a hot dog with toppings! (I liked my food very plain growing up). They were not too spicy and I could’ve eaten 5 more of them at once — they were that good! The slaw was a nice refreshing side with a little hint of sweetness; quite the pleasant surprise. The salad was also good. I’m not a huge fan of random salads with beans but this was totally acceptable for me.

Now time for rating! The Oil-and-Vinegar slaw receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This was a good surprise to me. I had never eaten any kind of slaw before, and this was a perfect touch next to the dogs. Crunchy, salty & sweet all mixed into one! It was great. Next the Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This is what a hot dog should be like. The dogs had the right amount of spice, and when topped with the chili & melted cheese it became a beautifully crafted spicy & flavorful master piece. So delicious. Finally, the Summer-ish Succotash Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish was acceptable to me, but it was nothing special. Like I said, I’m just not a huge fan of bean salads. Altogether this was a great meal and perfect for the Super Bowl.

Summer or winter, this meal will make you feel like you truly are in an Endless Summer. Now I can’t wait for summer and all of the picnics/barbecues that will entail! Only 4 more months until the time comes…the wait will be hard, but these hot dogs will keep me satisfied for the time being.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus