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Earthy Delight

When I was younger I always wondered what being an adult in my 20s would be like. 12-year-old me thought that by the time I turned 22 I’d have my shit together (still working on it), be engaged (nowhere close to that), and be enjoying life in New York City (at least she got that part right). Another thing past-me imagined was hosting large dinner parties for friends, but not in the way they’ve occurred in the last few months. I can tell you now, Little Mare never imagined my eclectic group of friends and I making this earthy menu of Sage Veal Chops, Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta, and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette. Let’s get cooking!

Unlike most of my EVOO adventures, this one was thrown together pretty much at the last minute — I’m not complaining though, random plans tend to produce the best memories. Around mid-day, Mikella and I walked up to Whole Foods on 59th Street. We decided to bypass Trader Joe’s because they don’t carry veal, and we were in the mood for a one-and-done shopping trip.

Once we arrived at Whole Foods, Kell and I split up — she scoured the produce section, while I made my way to the deli counter. I needed four veal chops for tonight, and there was quite a selection. I chose four, and was very happy…until I saw the price tag. $66 for four veal rib chops!! I found Mikella and bitched a bit, then finally decided to give the rib chops back in exchange for loin chops for 2 reasons: 1. a majority of the weight from the rib chop was the huge bone still attached — I was not about to pay for mostly bone, and 2. the loin chops were a little less expensive. I was worried the deli guy wouldn’t exchange, but since I was there 5 minutes prior it was all good. The loin chops ended up being $58, but at least I saved $8.

Remember how we said we wanted a one-stop shopping trip? Well that didn’t happen. We weren’t able to find quick-cooking polenta — there’s always that one obscure ingredient. On our walk back home we stopped at good old Amish Market. We looked through their isle of cornmeal, and for a moment I thought we had struck out again, but Kell spotted instant polenta on the very top shelf! We may have looked a little crazy rejoicing over polenta, but it was a big deal, okay?

A few hours later we walked over to 312 with all the ingredients and my camera. Before we started to cook, we filmed a wine review for my youtube channel…on an empty stomach. We only had four cans of wine spritzers to try, but by the time the tasting was over, Nico, Mikella, and I were a tiny bit tipsy. Is it safe to cook while intoxicated? Welp, it’s nothing we haven’t done before.

Once Christy and Pearce got home from Coney Island, we migrated to their apartment to pull this meal together. Last time there were only two of us (Kell and I) cooking, but this time there were 5 people helping out in this unfurnished apartment with a cramped kitchen. I divvied up responsibilities — Nico (despite his objections) chopped mushrooms with Mikella. I put Mikella in charge of the mushroom fricassee, while I set to work on seasoning the veal chops…on the floor. I wasn’t kidding when I said this apartment was unfurnished. Not to worry though — the place was spotless because Christy swiffers the whole apartment about 3 times a day.

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I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper, then rubbed sage leaves into the meat. I realized I needed more sage, and didn’t want to get up so I asked Pearce to chop bit more..his response, with a beer in hand was, “the green stuff?” Yep, the green stuff.

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Once the veal was cooking on the stove, I made the apricot vinaigrette for the salad while Madison tore the lettuce and tossed it with the arugula, pear, and blue cheese…on the floor. When you picture a bunch of 20-somethings cooking together, I’m sure cooking on the floor is the last thing you would picture. Let me paint the whole picture though: it was drunk cooking on the floor while dancing to “Proud Mary.” Yep, that’s my friend group and I.

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Nico and I had an intense dance off to “Proud Mary” while everything simmered. Once the battle was over, it was time to eat.

We carried all of the dishes up to the roof, piled our plates, then finally it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1….WOW. I’m not just saying wow because I was slightly tipsy. This food was W-O-W worthy. The veal chops were cooked to perfection — tender & juicy, aromatic from the sage, and topped with a white wine sauce. This was next level melt in your mouth. Simply fabulous. The mushroom fricassee with polenta was a a flavorful explosion. It always amazes me how mushrooms have such a meaty flavor. This dish was creamy, savory, and completely mouthwatering. The salad may have been simple, but the flavors meshed so well and danced across our palates. I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone was in awe over this meal.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sage Veal Chops receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I am so glad I spent $58 on this meat — it was impeccable. I can barely put into words how incredible the veal was, but I’ll put it this way. I made sure to get every last morsel off the bone. Exquisite. The Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Rachael Ray is a master at mushrooms, and this fricassee and polenta was a total crowd pleaser. Fricassee is usually a meat dish, but who needs a meat version when you have mushrooms this good? Unbelievable. Finally, the Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was a little skeptical about this salad since I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but this mix of flavors were completely complementary of each other, and made for one of the best salads I ever had. Extraordinary. Everyone unanimously agreed on all these ratings, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Way to go Rachael Ray!

I learned a few lessons today. 1. Tipsy cooking is a TON of fun. I’d encourage you all to try it but I don’t want to be held liable if you mistakenly chop off a finger. 2. Cooking on the floor is something everyone should do at least once in their life (as long as the floor is clean.) and 3. These dinner parties are a hell of a lot better than the ones 12-year-old Mary ever imagined. Goofy times with great company make for memories I will cherish forever. My life may not be how I envisioned it 10 years ago, but I’m glad it’s not — it’s impossible to imagine a life as amazing as this.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

Big Night Dinner

People say there’s no place like New York, but there’s really no place like New York when the weather starts to warm up. Summertime in the city calls for long days in Central Park, open-air restaurants, and my personal favorite: rooftops. Two years ago I was lucky enough to befriend some guys who have a private rooftop — now we’re pretty much family, and cook out on that very roof multiple times a week. After the first balmy grill night a few weeks ago, I knew I had to bring back weekly EVOOs ASAP — plus I have the time since I just graduated and don’t have full-time employment yet. So, this really is a big night dinner: bringing back consistent EVOOs with a menu of Brandy and Orange Chicken Topped with Stuffed Shrimp, Fruited White and Wild Rice, and a Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert. Let’s get cooking!

Mikella and I woke up on Memorial Day to sublime weather: it was 80 degrees outside with not a cloud in the sky. When it’s this nice outside hopping on the subway feels like a sin, so we decided to walk down to Chelsea Market. After an awesome, and slightly sweaty 25 block walk, we arrived at my all-time favorite fish market: The Lobster Place. I constantly rave about this place — trust me, you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere in Manhattan. We picked up eight jumbo shrimp and a tin of lump crab meat, then made our way to Trader Joe’s to continue our ingredient hunt.

We walked to the Trader Joe’s in Chelsea, and it brought me a lot of nostalgia — the Chelsea TJ’s was my first go-to when I moved to NYC…maybe it’s weird to get nostalgic over a Trader Joe’s but I’m a sentimental person, so let me be! We quickly found every item on our list…almost. I knew coffee ice cream was probably going to be a toughie to find here, and I was correct. Joe: you have the oddest ice cream flavors, why no coffee???

Due to TJ’s lack of ice cream, we made a quick stop to Fairway, then headed home.

As we were getting ready to walk over to our friends’ apartment (312) I realized my maple syrup was moldy….I didn’t even know syrup could get moldy. We needed syrup for the dessert, and no one at 312 had any, so we stopped at a bodega along the way. I have one question: why is maple syrup so expensive?! $10 for a tiny bottle is a bit ridiculous, don’t ya think?

We arrived at 312 to quite a sight: four hungover degenerates laying on the couch. The apartment had yet to be cleaned from the night before, and I was not about to cook in a grimy kitchen (guys if your reading this, sorry, but your kitchen freaks me out). Luckily my bud Christy lives across the hall and had a spotless kitchen! I prefer to have everyone assist in cooking, but I knew it was best to let the boys continue to be couch potatoes. Just Mikella and I were the master chefs of the evening.

Mikella is not very fond of raw meats, so I put her in charge of the rice dish. we chopped our respective ingredients, then she was the rice wizard while I handled the stuffing for the shrimp. The aromas of onion, pepper, and crab meat sizzling in olive oil and butter were mouthwatering. What’s stuffing without a little toasted bread too? What was supposed to be toasted bread turned out to be crispy bread (yes, there’s a difference) because I didn’t realize how quickly the toaster oven heated up. Mix a small kitchen with a girl trying to save toast and you end up burned: my one injury from the night.

I recovered quickly and let Mikella take over stuffing duties because I butterflied the shrimp. I probably should have watched a video on how to butterfly, because it was difficult, and I’m 100% positive I did not do it correctly… oh well. Once my shrimp were..uh..slightly cut, I attempted to stuff them, but they were definitely not stuffed. All of the stuffing fell out and was just sort of laying beside the shrimps. I proceeded to throw it all in the oven and hope for the best.

While the shrimp baked, I cooked the chicken. The chicken breasts we bought were some of the biggest I have ever seen in my life — I’m telling you, we got three that could feed 10 people (and they did). Due to their size, it took longer than usual to fully cook. After about 22 minutes, the chicken was tender and juicy. I promptly threw together the sauce: brandy, butter, and a bit of orange zest, then topped off our chicken.

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Once we finished our preparation, we took everything to the roof and called for the couch zombies to come eat. We all piled our plates high and had our moment of truth.

3..2..1…First bites like this are one of the many reasons I love doing EVOO. Like bitch, I MADE THAT! The shrimp, wow. Cooked to perfection and topped with buttery, delicious stuffing. Now that was amazing! It was so good I got a little greedy and took a second shrimp (sorry to whoever didn’t get to try this bite of heaven). The chicken was delightfully moist and had a citrusy hint thanks to the sauce. I was really surprised at the rice: a blend of white and wild rice dotted with golden raisins, mandarin oranges, and almonds — items you wouldn’t think would go with rice, but made a pleasant, slightly sweet mixture. I had two servings it was so yummy.

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Once everyone finished dinner, Mikella and I grabbed all of the dessert items, and spooned out coffee sundaes for everyone. A few scoops of coffee ice cream, topped with almonds and peanuts, drizzled with maple syrup, and garnished with cookie sticks — simple yet beautiful.

My tastebuds were pleasantly surprised by this dessert — I don’t particularly care for the taste of coffee, but this tasted like caramel! I’m convinced it was the syrup that made all the difference. Rachael Ray isn’t the most creative when it comes to desserts, but this one was simple and spectacular.

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Now time for the ratings. The Brandy and Orange Chicken receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This wasn’t bad, but wasn’t astounding — just another chicken dish with a hint of citrus. The Stuffed Shrimp receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish may not have exactly been stuffed shrimp, but whatever it ended up being was over-the-top GOOD. I would’ve eaten every shrimp, but it would’ve been unfair to hog all that delicious perfection. The Fruited White and Wild Rice receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Typically you expect rice dishes to be savory, but the lightly sweet rice was unexpected in a good way, and really balanced the flavors of the other courses well. Finally, the Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I consider this an adult twist on the classic ice cream sundae. No alcohol was involved, but the coffee and maple flavors just seem more mature than vanilla and chocolate. This is a dessert I’m going to indulge in all summer.

No matter what the activity — eating, exercising, socializing — it’s always better under and open sky. Thank goodness it’s summer so I can do all those activities in the fresh…well semi-fresh air of New York City. Next time you eat outside, stop to savor all flavors in your mouth and the people around you. I promise, you’re going to want to remember these moments for a very long time.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

 

 

Fireside Feast

Hello my faithful readers! I have to apologize once again for another 5-month hiatus. Sometimes life just gets in the way — between class, my internship, and my job it was impossible to set time aside to do some serious cooking. After dreaming of this recipe for months on end, I finally cleared my schedule for some good, old-fashioned kitchen time. On tap for tonight is a scrumptious meal of Veal Dumplings and Egg Fettuccine. Let’s get cooking!

Mikella and I decided we needed a weekend to recharge and be productive, and thought it was the perfect time to bring back evoo! Today was beautiful winter day, so we chose to walk up to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. I thought it would be best to skip Trader Joe’s because I knew they wouldn’t have ground veal, and I was not in the mood to grocery hop today. Unsurprisingly, Whole Foods was a madhouse; but we managed to find everything we needed in a timely manner.

We spent a majority of the time trying to select the best cheese — cause ya know, cheese can really make or break a dish. We went back and forth between the parmigiano reggiano that was on sale and the one that was full price. Ultimately, we decided to splurge a little since it was evoo’s comeback night. In total we only spent $32 which is a freaking steal when it comes to any of the recipes in the party section of the cookbook.

A little while later after we watched a crazy conspiracy video, we made our way to the kitchen and got to work.

We started as we always do with chopping. I let Mikella take her pick on what to chop — she chose the onion, which I was secretly pumped about because I was not in the mood to cry. She actually had to grate the onion which is something neither of us had ever done before. She handled that like a pro while I minced the garlic and thyme.

Kell is afraid to touch raw meat, so I switched spots with her when it came time to form the dumplings. I mixed together the veal, egg, bread crumbs, onion, nutmeg, and parmigiano reggiano cheese then formed mini meat balls…er dumplings. I don’t even know what they are. Rachel Ray says dumplings but they’re just meatballs so I guess I’ll call them dump-balls.

As I plopped the dump-balls into a pot of boiling water, our pal Lindsey arrived with the wine! I told her it was totally okay to skip on helping in the kitchen as long as she brought the libations. She went above and beyond — even asking the liquor store guy what wine pairs best with veal (cabernet sauvignon). What an angel!

Kell took care of the pasta — I trusted her Italian genes to cook it perfectly — and once the dump-balls were done I quickly made the sauce: a simple concoction of butter, garlic, thyme and crushed tomatoes.

We threw the dump-balls and noodles into the sauce, and tossed it all together. Before we knew it, it was time to eat! This recipe was ridiculously easy to make and is one of the few that actually takes 30 minutes (yay!) We filled our plates, and headed downstairs to our dining room.

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I had been waiting 5-months for this moment of truth. We piled a little bit of everything onto our forks, and counted down for the moment of truth. 3…2…1… Yum-o! I don’t know if this dish tasted so good because of the anticipation for it, or because it was actually superb. Kell had cooked the noods to perfection, and the dump-balls were super savory. It was the first time Lindsey and Mikella had ever tried veal, and they both gave it a big thumbs up. I loved the dish so much I happily helped myself to a huge plate of seconds.

Now time for the ratings. We all collectively agreed that the Veal Dumplings (Dump-Balls) and Egg Fettuccine was a solid ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This meal was hearty and delicious, but ultimately could’ve used more seasoning. All-in-all a great introduction back into regular evoo feasts!

I say this time and time again, but nothing brings people closer than cooking together. While I’ve been busy these past few months, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing in my life — I found what I was missing tonight. Although I may not be able to bring my friend’s together once a week to cook and feast, I’m definitely going to make it happen at least twice a month. If you haven’t cooked with your friends, I seriously encourage you to try it. I promise your life will change for the better.

Until next time!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

A Meal for my Hunnies

So many new things have been happening in my life, so I had to step away from the blog for a few weeks. I started my senior year of college, I landed the internship of my dreams, and a new room mate moved in! Now that things have settled a bit, I knew it would be the perfect time to have old and new friends alike over, and cook a fabulous meal. This menu is one I’m sure we’ll remember for a long time: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce, Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux, and Margaritas Granitas. Let’s get cooking!

This Adventure started two days ago on Sunday. My good pal Christy and I took our weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, but we chose the absolute worst time possible: 7pm. Sunday evenings at Trader Joe’s are easily comparable to an active war zone. People are rude, and there is next to no inventory. There were no vegetables or chicken, and half the store’s shelves were completely ransacked. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I left nearly empty handed.

I needed a full day to recover from that fiasco, and on Tuesday morning after class I headed to Whole Foods in Chelsea to pick up the rest of the ingredients I needed. I grabbed tomatillos, cilantro, tilapia, avocados, and lime pops. This experience was painless, and pretty cheap — maybe I should shop at Whole Foods more often.

I had to make one more stop at a local liquor store to pick up tequila and Cointreau for our special margaritas tonight. I don’t go to the liquor store often (I know, that may be hard to believe) so the cashier had to guide me on where to find what I needed. $50 later, not only are we stocked for tonight, but also for the next 2 months.

Fast forward to this evening. Classes let out early thanks to a Jewish Holiday, so Krystyna and Taylor came over at 7. We immediately got to work chopping everything up. Taylor was in charge of the tomatillos, and she was so intrigued by the vegetable. For those of you who don’t know what Tomatillos are, they are Mexican green tomatoes, but oddly enough, they kind of taste like apples. Once everything was chopped, I cooked the fish while Noelle and Mikella made the margs…actually making the margaritas was more like a 5 person job. No one could figure out how to work the blender, so I stepped in and saved the day.

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While everyone enjoyed their homemade frozen margaritas, Taylor and I cooked away. I handled the sauce for the tilapia, and she prepared the avocado stuffing. Everything smelled so good, and we were all so excited…then the smoke alarm went off. Honestly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in my house, so once we shut it off we were ready to eat.

Everyone served themselves family style, and we all migrated downstairs to our massive dining room table to eat.

We all had our moment of truth together. 3..2..1.. Spicy goodness! This tilapia was cooked to perfection (courtesy of moi) with just the right amount of kick from the spices and sauce. Tilapia is so delicate, and I was worried the spices would have ruined it, but it was so delicious. The stuffed avocados were a big hit too. It was great opening all six avocados and seeing the perfect green/yellow color in every single one. We all had a tough time scooping the flesh out of the skin, but the taste was spectacular. Creamy corn and peppers overflowed each avocado half, and they were all devoured quickly.

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Christy and Nico showed up an hour late, but they still enjoyed and scarfed down the rest of the food — they showed up too late for margaritas, though.

Now time for the ratings. The Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was so much hype leading up to this recipe and it did not disappoint. It was somehow spicy, sweet, and savory, and melt-in-your-mouth — aka a masterpiece. The Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Avocados are arguably the best food in the world, and I don’t know why I never stuffed one before. The creaminess of the filling played well with the creaminess of the avocado flesh. I think I could’ve eaten 5 of them. Finally, the Margaritas Granitas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. If you know me, you know I love frozen margs (especially the ones from Mickey Spillanes) and these margaritas rivaled the best of the best. They were tangy and sweet with the perfect kick. Now whenever I’m craving a marg I can make them in minutes from the comfort of my own home. Score!

This meal was all around perfection, but I think my favorite part of tonight was seeing my friends mesh together so well. Mikella just moved in, and they made it a point to include her and make her feel welcome. These are the kind of moments with my people that make my heart full, and I can’t wait for all of us to get closer and create many more memories like the ones we made tonight.

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

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