Dolce e Gabbana Meets 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce meets Dolce e Gabbana!

As we were leaving Italy this past spring, after visiting my sister Giovanna, a boutique in the Napoli airport jumped out at me! We got to the airport in plenty of time and as we settled into our gate’s waiting area, I told my husband that I was a going for a walk. I think he was a little worried when he saw that I grabbed my pocket book. I urged him not to worry because I wasn’t buying clothes! I headed towards the most beautifully decorated boutique. Entering the boutique, Dolce e Gabbana spoke to me loud and clear. I patted my side to make sure I had my pocketbook!
Just a mere 15 minutes later I lugged a beautiful shopping bag to where Jim was sitting. As he glared at me, I joyfully exclaimed that I bought pasta!

I had filled my bag full of Pasta Di Martino! Jim looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.
“But Jim! It’s a real special pasta. It’s made in Gragnano on a hilltop between Monti Lattari and the Amalfi Coast not too far from the airport! Gragnano is famous for its air-dried, bronze-extruded pasta across the world. The Gragnano townsfolk call it white gold. Even though Gragnano has been making this pasta for hundreds of years, it was only in the 18th century that Pasta di Gragnano became widely known spreading all over Italy. In the last century Pasta di Gragnano began to travel beyond Italy’s borders to the rest of the world.”

I continued to tell him that there are 4 reasons this pasta is exceptional!

1. The land where the wheat is cultivated. The town of Gragnano is situated where there’s a right mix of wind, sun, and humidity. In the 18th century, the king of Napoli decided that only two places were suitable to cultivate the wheat for the rest of the population: Naples and Gragnano. The pasta also must be made by mixing durum wheat with the calcium-poor water of Monti Lattari.
2. The second reason is the carefully-developed process, which continues to be regulated by a strict standard of production. In 2013, the European Union declared PGI (Protected Geographical Indication): the pasta made under the name “Pasta di Gragnano” must be produced in a legally defined area that still corresponds to the territory indicated by the king of the Napoli about two centuries ago.
3. The dough must be extruded through rough bronze forms and, once it has taken shape, dry at low temperatures in the mountain air. The result of this long and traditional process is one of the finest pastas in the world. This pasta is called Bronze Cut.
4. And the last reason and what attracted me to the pasta in the first place is that Dolce e Gabbana ( An Italian luxury fashion house founded in 1985 in Legnano by Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana) signed the new look of Di Martino Pasta. A special edition celebrating Italian excellence through colors, symbols and monuments identifying the country.

I was feeling all smug and self important explaining all of this to Jim. And then he tells me that this isn’t new to him. Adams Fairacre Farms where he is the grocery manager carries this very pasta. In fact he had spoken to the international buyer for Pasta di Martino at the recent Food show. He actually ordered pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look to sell at the Wappinger Falls, NY location. I am like, “Say what!!!” “Yes, we sell it at Adams”, Jim answered with his smug, self-important tone.

I couldn’t believe it. Adams Fairacre Farms is selling the Di Martino Pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look. Wow! Not only is it being sold in Neiman Marcus and Bergdoff Goodmans. It is even featured in Vogue magazine. And now it’s available in our very own Hudson Valley at Adams Fairacre Farms, Wappinger Falls, NY!
When we arrived home from our trip, I marched myself into Adams to see for myself. There it was! Rows and rows of Pasta Di Martino pasta. So far only the mezzo rigatoni were packaged in the Dolce e Gabbana signed wrappers. I noticed they even have the infamous 24 inch spaghetti wrapped in the original blue paper that the Gragnano pasta was wrapped in hundreds of years ago. No other pasta is wrapped in that way.

I am astounded that we have the Crown Jewel of pasta wrapped in Dolce e Gabbana right here in Wappinger Falls and no one even noticed! Right under our very noses!! Like who knew!
Now that I have uncovered this gem in the Hudson Valley, you all better hurry in while supplies last! Because I sure did fill my cart at Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger Falls, NY!!

Love this beautiful pasta!! Can I wear ?

 

 


 

Shrimp Marinara using the 24 inch Pasta di Martino Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce (authentic Napolitana marinara sauce to go with Napolitana Di Martino spaghetti)

1 lb of 24 inch Pasta Di Martino Spaghetti ( Each blue paper package holds 2 individually wrapped pounds of 24 inch spaghetti)

Salt
2 cloves of garlic cleaned and sliced thin
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine
Pinch of red pepper
1 lb of cleaned and deveined shrimp
3 sprigs fresh parsley – chopped
Fresh basil

Procedure:

1. Pour jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauce pan. Warm sauce on medium heat.
2. Start a big pot of boiling water.
3. In a saute pan place extra virgin olive oil, sliced garlic, pinch of red pepper, and the shrimp. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp turn from opaque to white. Careful not to overcook. Less is better because you will be finishing cooking the shrimp with the sauce. Beware that overcooking makes shrimp tough.
4. Add the white wine and the chopped fresh parsley
5. Add the cooked shrimp mixture to warm 825 MAIN Marinara sauce.
6. Add broken up pieces of basil.
7. Add spaghetti to big pot of boiling water. No need to break spaghetti. It will fold over as it softens and nudge it down with thongs. Cook it al dente. Strain saving a half cup of pasta water.
8. Put strained spaghetti back in pot with the ½ cup of pasta water and a couple of ladles of the shrimp marinara sauce. Stir over medium heat until all spaghetti is coated.
9. Divide spaghetti amongst the plates and ladle the prepared Shrimp marinara sauce over. Serve with a leaf of basil on the side of plate.

 

Bella Figura and Zucchini Flower Zeppole

I am so embarrassed that it has been so long since I have written a blog entry. Our only daughter is getting married and I have been preoccupied with making sure that everything is perfect because god forbid I make a “brutta figura”! But I ended up making a “brutta figura” with all of you by not keeping up with my blog posts! If you are Italian, you know exactly what I mean by “brutta figura”. For all the non-Italians read on as I explain in detail of this Italian phenomenon. And for all the Italians out there help me make a “bella figura” by giving me wedding planning advice.

While growing up in my big Italian family, my parents stressed to all of us the importance of always making a “bella figura” so our family looked good. We strived to make “una bella figura” versus “una brutta figura”). In literal translation brutta means ugly and bella means beautiful. Figura means figure as in body shape. Figuratively, these two phrases mean that Italians want to always make a good impression versus a bad impression. Let me give you an example. My first introduction to “brutta figura” was when we would go visit my extended Italian family. The hostess would welcome us into her home and lead us into a beautiful dining room set up with fine linens, china and would serve espresso, an assortment of desserts, and aperitifs.  This was her way of making “una bella figura”. (One time we went to a relative’s house in Brooklyn and we had to sit on plastic covered chairs that went crunch when we moved. I don’t know if this could be regarded as “bella figura”.) For us children, so as not to embarrass my parents and create “una brutta figura”, we were urged to partake of the coffee, desserts and even the aperitifs. Yes, as a child I was encouraged by the hostess to try the aperitifs along with everything else. Although I didn’t care for the aperitifs and the espresso to make “una bella figura” I had to try it. But now when I look back I should not have tried so hard with the Italian pastries. I realize now, this was the only drawback to this “bella figura”. All these good impressions I made, ended up on my “figura” which now I need to work on, so I can make a “bella figura” for my own daughter’s wedding.

As I grew up in the restaurant I watched my father and my uncle practice their “bella figura” on their restaurant customers. My father would ho, ho, ho while my uncle would ha, ha, ha, as a customer told a joke. My brother and I would recognize my father’s overly deep laugh and my uncle’s high pitched laugh as fake. We would look at each other and say, “bella figura”. We knew that our dad and uncle were pretending to understand the joke!

I passed on this “bella figura” concept to not only my husband but our kids as well. In the early years when my husband and I were dating, one day in front of my father, my husband bravely downed a glass of fresh warm goat’s milk that was just milked from our pet goat, Daisy so as to make a “bella figura’. Our youngest child absolutely hates butter. Whenever we would go out to dinner and his entre’ happened to be made with butter, he would have a meltdown. We would have to immediately return it and get something else. Now that he is older and married, he makes sure to make a “bella figura” whenever he eats with his wife’s family who use butter to their hearts content in everything they make! The oldest child who was in the Navy avoided many national incidents by practicing “bella figura”. In the Philippines he partook in eating everything that his hosts, the Philippine Navy, served in his honor. It was the first time and last time that he had roasted pigs face. Another time in Iraq he braced himself to accept a date dredged in yogurt from the fingers of his Iraquee guide. He made a “bella figura’’ and ate it as it was passed from one Iraqi’s hands to another’s and finally to his own.

But “bella figura” doesn’t just relate to food. Italians make sure their clothes are neatly pressed with accessories that match to the smallest detail. From the women with perfectly coiffured hair, to the men with their perfectly trimmed beards, Italians take their appearances seriously. But its not just the way they look! Even things must look good. A dessert, a gift, a garden, an entrance to a home, everything must be perfectly decorated with a flourish! Even with their children’s school studies would parents often ask, “hai fatto una bella figura?” when asking how they did in an exam. And let me explain their generosity! Italians always put their hand in their pocket to avoid “una brutta figura”! Even if someone is making a “brutta figura” in front of you, it is best to avoid noticing it. After all, it is a “bella figura” to not embarrass the person making the “brutta figura”!

In Italy one can even make a “brutta figura” while drinking coffee! I drink cappuccino whenever I feel like it. Whether it’s in the morning or after a meal, I have no problem ordering one. But when I am in Italy, I make sure to only order one in the morning because I don’t want to make a “brutta figura”! Apparently, a cappuccino is only a breakfast drink in Italy. They will serve you one, but rest assured, in their heads they are thinking,” Pfft……Americano!” Also, any real Italian, will never drink coffee out of a paper cup! Or even worse, walk around drinking out of one! That is a huge “brutta figura’!

And now to get back to this wedding. I am not only just worrying about the guest list so as not to make a “brutta figura”. I need to make sure the flowers are perfect on the tables, we present a good meal and it’s served with finesse, so we can make a “bella figura”. But honestly, what is stressing me out the most is my dress! I must find a beautiful dress that fits perfectly on this “figura” (literally) just so I don’t make a “brutta figura” (figuratively). Ohh the consequences of making a “bella figura” through the years and now I risk making a “brutta figura” at my own daughter’s wedding!


Zucchini Flower Zeppole

Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

It’s summer time and my zucchini plants are in full swing! We enjoy zucchini year-round, but you need the summer to enjoy the flowers! My family loves zeppole made with zucchini flowers. The flowers are edible and so utterly delicious that we can’t wait for summer to plant zucchini plants! I am going to show how to make these zeppole step by step! If you haven’t planted zucchini plants look for the zucchini flowers at your farmer’s market. Italians love their zucchini never letting them grow longer than 5 inches and are sold with their flowers still attached. In the picture above I have displayed the female flowers which are attached to the zucchini and the male flowers. I only use the male flowers for the zeppole. They have long stems with no zucchini attached. Some recipes call for the female flowers too but I prefer only the male flowers. The female flowers sometimes are bruised and fall apart.

                                     Ingredients:

10 to 12 male zucchini flowers, washed removing stamen and leaves
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder
A turn of pepper mill
1 egg
½ to ¾ cup of water depending how thick you want the zeppole
¼ to ½ cup of oil for frying depending on what size pan you use. You want to have enough to fry in. I prefer extra virgin oil to fry in for extra flavor but any frying oil is good.

 

                                  Procedure:

1. Wash the flowers thoroughly making sure that you don’t inadvertently catch a bee inside the flower!

2. Remove the tiny green leaves around the flower.

3. Next break off the stamen

Take off the stamen

4. Set aside on paper towels to dry. Now to make the batter.

5. Mix the dry ingredients separately and in a separate bowl mix water and egg. Then add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix.

Mix up the batter

6. Now you have some choices!
a. Some people love to stuff the flowers (keeping the stem on) with ricotta cheese mozzarella and grated cheese twisting the top of the flower to keep the stuffing inside. And then coating them with the batter.

Stuffed Whole Zucchini Flower

 

b. You can dip the flower whole (with stem on for presentation only) into the batter.

Frying the zucchini flower Zeppole

c. You can also tear the flower in pieces ( be sure to take stem off) and placing it in batter. And putting batter in oil to fry by tablespoonfuls.

7. Next is fry your choice of flower preparation in heated oil in a skillet. I set the burner on a medium high. I like them a golden brown and then flip it over. Check often so you don’t burn them. It can take about 3 minutes or more on each side. I like to line a plate with paper towel to drain off excess oil.

Drain zeppola on paper towels

8. Finally serve and eat. I sprinkle them with a little grated sea salt. My granddaughter likes them sprinkled with sugar!

Fried Zucchini Flower Zeppole

 

Buon Appetito!

Broiled Shrimp Scampi Recipe from our restaurant menu

Here’s a popular shrimp recipe from our restaurant menu.

Serves 4

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Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. Colossal shrimp (For information on choosing shrimp see my last blog post)
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sherry wine
1 1/2 cups butter (less butter if you don’t plan on serving over pasta)
Paprika
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
Lemon wedges (optional)
Pasta (optional)

Procedures:
1. Peel and devein shrimp leaving the tail on then butterfly the shrimp.
2. Place shrimp in a single layer of a shallow pan.
3. Sprinkle with garlic and salt.
4. Place sliced butter on shrimp and drizzle wine over the shrimp.
5. Sprinkle with paprika

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6. Broil 3-4 minutes and turn shrimp, broil 3-4 minutes more until opaque.  Remove and place over pasta of your choice. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
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Buon Appetito!
Happy New Year!

Slow Rise Panettone Recipe

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2008

Panettone 14

Ingredients:
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons gold rum
2 tablespoons hot water
3-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon warm honey
12-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (10-1/2 tablespoons softened and cut into tablespoons; 1 tablespoon melted, 1 tablespoon chilled)

Preparation:
1. In the small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum and 2 tablespoons hot water, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 8 hours. I also have forgotten to soak raisins overnight so I even have let them soak for just 30 minutes.

2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, lemon zest, and vanilla bean at low speed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2/3 cup lukewarm water, and honey.

4. While the mixer runs at low speed, pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing.

5. Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding each. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

6. Drain the raisins, and discard the liquid. Stir the raisins with the melted butter. Stir into the dough with a wooden spoon.

7. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven with the door closed for about 12 to 15 hours, until the dough is nearly tripled in volume.

8. Discard the vanilla bean. Rub your hands with flour, sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with some flour, and turn out onto a floured board. Sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough.

9. Flatten the dough and fold the edges into the center.

10.  Place seam side down into the panettone mold. Cover with a damp tea towel (not terry cloth) ( I forgot this step and used plastic wrap and it worked fine too) and let rise in a draft-free spot at room temperature about 3 to 5 hours, until dough is just above the top of the mold. If it doesn’t rise just have patience and wait a little longer.  My oven has a proofer so I proofed it for 3 hours and then turned off oven and left in the oven for 6 hours longer.  It was perfect!

Panettone 1

11. Place the rack in the lower third (closer to the bottom than the middle) of the oven and preheat to 375° (If the dough is too high in the oven, the top will brown before the middle is cooked, resulting in a burned top crust.)

12. Place the dough in the mold on a baking sheet. Use a serrated knife to score and X across the entire surface of the dough. Place 1 tablespoon chilled butter in the center of the X.

Panettone 2

13. Bake in the preheated oven about 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out slightly moist but not wet or doughy. The panettone will be very dark (but should not be burned). At about 45 minutes into the baking,  I put a piece of foil over the panettone to avoid getting it too dark.

Panettone 4

14. Pierce the skewers all the way through the panettone and through the papers. Hang the panettone upside down over a stock pot or between two objects of equal height. I used wooden skewers and the bread was too heavy for them.  Metal skewers are better.  I also skipped this step and the panettone was still very good.

More Information:

Equipment
2 small bowls
stand mixer with paddle attachment
large bowl, for rising the dough
6 x 4-inch panettone mold
baking sheet
2 (12-inch) metal skewers

Time
Rising plus prep time – 23 hours or more
Cook time – 1 hour 30 mins
Total time – 24 hours 30 mins

The following is what makes the panettone an Ischiatano one!

15. Make a pastry cream –   I used this recipe from this web

Panettone 5

16.  Either make your own candied lemon peels or buy them already made.  I made my own Julliene Candied Lemon Peel using the following method

17.  Peel paper off of cooled panettone and slice through the middle making 2 halves.

Panettone 7

18.  Spread the Pastry Cream and put halves together

Panettone 8

19.  Make a white chocolate ganache

20.  Spread the white chocolate ganache on filled panettone. and add Julienne candied lemon peel, chopped candied almonds, and a candied red cherry.

Panettone 11
Enjoy! And pretend you are in Ischia!

Chicken Scarpariello

Serves 4
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Ingredients:

4 Boneless Chicken breasts about a pound
½ cup of flour
Salt pepper
Canola Oil for frying
4 cloves of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup of white wine
½ chicken stock
½ cup of butter
4 hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar (slivered with seeds removed)
4 small Yukon potatoes (peeled and sliced in rounds boiled until tender)

Procedure:

  1. Cut chicken in chunks.
  2. Place cut up chicken in a zip lock bag with flour, salt and pepper to taste and shake.
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  4. Place in a colander and shake off flour
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  6. Fry chicken in Canola Oil
  7. Drain chicken on paper towels
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  9. Slice garlic and
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  11. Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until a pale brown
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  13. Add wine, chicken stock, and butter and cook on medium heat (salt and pepper to taste)
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  15. Add cooked chicken and potatoes and cook until bubbly.
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    Chicken Scarpariello

  17. You may add a few tablespoons of vinegar that peppers were packed in for extra tartness
  18. My Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic!
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Vegetarian: Ricotta & Zucchini Balls

Ingredients:
100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil
4 zucchini
1/2 cup ricotta drained
2 eggs
bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt
black pepper
½ cup basil chopped

Preparation:

  1. Wash zucchini and then grate with a grater with large holes then drain or squeeze all the water from zucchini with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl put zucchini, ricotta, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, basil and beaten eggs then mix.
  3. In the end add breadcrumbs until the mixture is thick enough to form balls.
  4. Scoop the zucchini mixture and either fry in plenty of extra virgin olive oil hot or bake in a 375-degree oven for 16 minutes on an oiled baking sheet.

Vegan Eggplant Balls

Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 shallot, minced
¼ + 1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-1 ½ tablespoon(s) extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired), divided
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. On a large cookie sheet, combine eggplant, garlic, shallot, a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until edges are browned. Once eggplant is removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350°F.
  3. In a large food processor (10-cup) combine roasted eggplant mixture with ½ cup of breadcrumbs, and the rest of the spices. Pulse until ingredients are just combined.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the other ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Continue to pulse until mixed. Avoid over-processing, when possible. When complete, the mixture should easily adhere into balls. (Note: Over-processing the eggplant mixture and breadcrumbs can make the mixture extra sticky and you may have difficulty forming balls.)
  5. Form the eggplant and breadcrumb mixture into 1- or 2-inch balls, based on personal preference. Per eggplant, you should yield about 12-16 balls, depending on the size of the eggplant and balls.
  6. Place balls on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Chiacchiere al Forno – a Carnevale Neapolitan Cookie

chiacchierri
I had a seminar this past weekend and I made an Italian cookie that is usually made to celebrate Carnevale (Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday).  The cookies are usually fried or baked and served with a cup of chocolate sauce to dip into.  For convenience of serving this as part of the cooking seminar I dipped the cookies in semi-sweet chocolate.  I didn’t realize these cookies were going to be such a hit and did not give out the recipe at the seminar.  So many people asked for the recipe so here it is!! I think what makes these cookies so tasty and unusual is the lemon zest and the marsala wine.  Typical of Neapolitan baking.  In the next couple of weeks I promise I will share with you on my blog the last 3 seminars with recipes and lots of information!  Talk to you all soon.  Vivi con gusto!

Chiaccheri al Forno

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups of flour
½ cup of superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine sugar you can pulse the sugar in a food processor but don’t overdo or it will turn to powdered sugar)
2 ounces of softened butter (half a stick of butter)
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of Marsala Wine
Zest of  2 whole lemons (make sure when you grate it that you don’t get the white part – it’s the bitter part)
1 tbs of vanilla
¼ tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of salt
Melted semi sweet dark chocolate for dipping – I add a little shortening to thin it out

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the ingredients except for chocolate in a mixer and mix until all combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Put dough on a flour surface and knead and keep adding flour until it’s a smooth non-sticky consistence.
  4. Roll out dough until it’s an 1/8 of an inch.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter into rectangles. Then indent the middle of the rectangle in one or two cuts.
  6. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure you space the chiarccheri so they don’t over lap.
  7. Bake in oven until they have a golden color – about 10 minutes
  8. Dip the edges in melted chocolate

Grilled Ham and Cheese on scooped out Italian

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Ingredients:
Fresh crusty Italian bread (French baguettes)
Thinly sliced boiled ham
Thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
paprika

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice the Italian bread in half through the middle to have two wedges.
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  4. Scoop out the soft middle.
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  6. Place 2 slices of boiled ham on each slice of bread. And 2 slices of mozzarella.
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  8. ightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil.
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  10. Lightly sprinkle paprika.
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  12. Bake for 12 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is crisp.
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    Don’t forget to smile while you bite into the crispy gooey Ham and Cheese on scooped out Italian!

Christmas Eve’s Clams Oreganate And My Favorite Christmas Present

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The Typewriter

This  Christmas season I got all nostalgic and  I remembered one of my favorite Christmas present from the past. Don’t be surprised if this favorite gift of mine involves the restaurant.  My thoughts brought me back to 1971 when I woke up on Christmas morning to find my very own typewriter underneath the Christmas tree and I bet you all thought I was going to say pots and pans.  I was ecstatic!  I went right to work practicing typing and learning where all the keys were located.   I still remember the feeling of pressing down each key and the joy I felt as I witnessed the perfect black letter imprinted on the paper.  I especially loved the rhythm of the typing as I got better and better at it.  I would make up songs in my head as I typed.  It really was the best gift ever.

In 1971 I was twelve years old, taking biology taught by Sister Diane at Regina Coeli School.   Returning to school after a wonderful ten-day vacation, a biology test awaited us that first week in January.   During that Christmas vacation I remembered having fun practicing on my new typewriter typing out my biology notes. Of course, I had to make the notes look good so I practiced my typing over and over again. I had always been just an average student and did not take my studies very seriously.   At that time, I had never regarded myself as studious or even having the potential to achieve high grades.  The following day after the test, Sr. Diane announced that there was one student that had gotten the highest grade in both 8th grade classes.  I sat in my desk looking on with a bored expression thinking one of the smart kids got the highest grade.  Sr. Diane looked at the class with an amused expression as she announced my name. I was in shock.  I never thought in a million years that it could have been me. Inadvertently, when I typed out the notes, the information must have gotten lodged into my brain. The pride I felt and the shocked look in the smart kids faces did something to me. I realized that I did have potential! It just required a little work on my part.  And that was the just the beginning of how that typewriter changed my life.

I became addicted to the feel and the rhythm of the typewriter keys on my fingertips. I tried to think of what I could do to keep typing.  And then it came to me.  A most wonderful idea! I typed out a daily special from the restaurant menu.  The waitresses would usually hand write these specials during the slow hours between lunch and dinner.  Coming from Catholic School where penmanship was everything I regarded their penmanship as atrocious!! I wanted to make my father proud of me so I presented him with a perfectly typed daily special and told him I could make the menus look more professional. My dad loved the idea!  But unfortunately, I didn’t think it through all the way.  At twelve I wasn’t fully aware of how many menus we had at the restaurant and I didn’t quite understand the whole concept of daily specials. In the beginning, I happily typed away and then I begrudgingly realized that I was typing the never ending daily specials for 100 menus, 6 days a week.

What started out as a great fun idea had become hard work!  That little typewriter’s keys became harder and harder to press down as I forged ahead with the daily specials.  My fingers became so sore.  I no longer wanted to type those annoying daily specials.  But there was no convincing my dad to go back to handwritten specials!  By the following year, I talked my parents into buying me a much-needed electric typewriter.  Aaah….it was so much easier of my fingers!  But it was still tedious work typing out all those daily specials.  By the time, I was a junior in high school I found an even better alternative to the electric typewriter. I graduated to a memory typewriter!  With the memory typewriter, I only had to type one special. The rest of the specials could be automatically typed by the press of a button. All I had to do was place an index card in the typewriter one at a time.  It was great!!  But that wonderful feeling quickly wore off as I sat there for hours feeding the index cards one at a time complaining and whining about it!  At this point in time, I was in college working on my grades and other interests.  These daily specials were the bane of my existence. By the 80’s the personal computer became affordable and finally I happily became a whiz at typing out the daily specials!

Not only did that toy typewriter that I found underneath the Christmas tree so many years ago, make me believe in myself but it also taught me to always look for a quicker and better way to get the job done.  But the most important lesson of all was that it taught me is to make sure to do research before I volunteer my services!  Merry Christmas Everyone!

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