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.


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.


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.


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

Your New Favorite Meal

You can never go wrong with one thing. That thing is pizza. Pizza is my ALL TIME favorite food…I could eat it all day every day (literally). It’s dangerous to live in the land of $1 pizza. $1 might not seem like a lot but I bet I’ve spent over $100 on dollar pizza this past year…yes, I eat that much pizza. I’ve been on a health kick lately, so I’ve been trying not to have as much, but as soon as I saw the recipe for tonight I knew this pizza would pass off as healthy…or at least semi-healthy. Tonight we are making a Pizza Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I started this adventure on Tuesday (yesterday). After my last trip to Trader Joe’s I vowed to never go back on a Sunday, and only do my shopping on the weekdays. What a better way to spend Valentine’s day than at the grocery store — am I right? Well, Trader Joe’s was like a loving boyfriend to me today. Not only did I find all but one ingredient (I knew I wouldn’t find prosciutto there), but there was also NO LINE!!! Having no line at Trader Joe’s is basically unheard of. I fell in love with Trader Joe’s a little bit more yesterday. Thanks for being my Valentine.

I ran to Fairway to pick up my prosciutto and headed home.

Fast forward to today (Wednesday). I had a very busy day full of dog walks and class, so I wasn’t able to come home and cook until 9pm. That may seem really late to cook and eat, but that’s usually around the time I eat every night…it’s the only time during the day I’m free!

I was all alone to cook tonight, which I was okay with because I was tired and ravenous so I quickly got started.

The only thing that needed chopped was two cloves of garlic which took 3 minutes, and then came the fun part: rolling out the dough.

Compared to my friends, I have a pretty extensive collection of cooking supplies. But I don’t own 2 of the most basic items – both of which I needed tonight – a rolling pin and a pizza cutter. I just had to make do with what was laying around my kitchen.

I spread out some flour on my counter and started to knead the dough. I tried to do that spinning trick that so many pizza chefs do…. but I just looked like a flubbering idiot. After I kneaded the dough for a while I grabbed a wine bottle (I know, classy) and used that as my rolling pin. I thought forming this dough into a pizza crust would be simple, but I was so wrong. It took me a good 20 minutes to finally roll it out to a good size. Every time I tried to expand it, it kept shrinking down to the original size. It was somewhat frustrating but I finally got it after switching wine bottles. I really need to invest in a rolling pin.

Once the dough was rolled, everything afterwards was easy peasy. I layered *fat free* pizza sauce, mozzarella, garlic & red pepper flakes onto the crust and popped it in the oven for 12 minutes. While the pizza cooked I just ate some mozzarella…that is the best cheese ever, I swear!

When the pizza was done I topped it with prosciutto and lemon arugula. It looked beautiful. I don’t think pizza could ever be ugly, but this was like the queen of pizza —  looks wise. I prayed that it would taste just as good.

I cut the pizza in quarters and then it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1… That’s it, that’s it. I’m dropping out to become a pizza chef. This was the mother of all pizzas..NO this was the GOD of all pizzas!! I couldn’t stop eating it. Everything about it was simply delicious. Wow is all I can say, WOW.

Now time for the rating. Pizza Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts even though it easily broke my scale. I’m a plain Jane when it comes to pizza, but these toppings were spectacular and made me feel a bit healthy. The recipe said this pizza was only 2 servings, but I’m a firm believer that any pizza can be a personal pizza. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

Pizza is a wonderful beautiful thing, and I truly believe it was given to us from the heavens. How could something that amazing not come from heaven??? I will definitely  be making this again. Heck, I’m just convinced I’m a master pizza chef. I think I’ll open my own pizza place. Mama mia it’ll be Murr’s pizzeria!! Just kidding, my uncle has a pizza shop and South Carolina, so I’ll let him be the pizza man of the family. But be warned Uncle Dave…I bet I could beat you in a pizza making contest now.


Until next week!

-Mary Honkus