Stuffed Olives

May 29, 2012 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

I always enjoy finding items on a menu that were once considered everyday survival food to our ancestors. Polenta, for example, was once nothing more than peasant food, because it was affordable and could be made in abundance. Nowadays, you can find polenta offered as a special appetizer at a fancy Italian restaurant.

Another food item from yesteryear that is making its way into the hearts of modern food lovers is stuffed olives. Now, by no means were stuffed olives considered peasant food. They have always been a delicacy that were enjoyed during the holidays. For some older generations, the labor of slicing and stuffing has lost its luster, but they continue with the tradition.  My Aunt Marie still makes them for special occasions, its just that after years of precisely slicing the olives, the thrill is gone. On the flip side, to this day my Mom still raves about the stuffed olives that my Aunt Tina made for a New Years Eve party back in 1970! I always knew that someday I would like to give this recipe a try. After recently enjoying stuffed olives at Le Virtu in South Philadelphia (one of their signature appetizers), I knew it was time to step up and give it a go and to continue with this delicious tradition.

The biggest trick to preparing the olives is using a sharp paring knife. You want to spiral cut the olives from top to bottom in one even slice, as if you were peeling an apple. If your knife is dull, you risk breaking the olive. So be sure that your knife is nice and sharp to ensure a clean and easy slice. You also want to use large green pitted olives. The larger, the better  because it gives you more flexibility to slice and more room for stuffing. Once all of your olives are sliced, it’s time to fill them with your prepared stuffing. Traditional stuffings for olives usually consist of a meat filling, such as sausage, pork or lamb. You can also stuff the olives with feta, bleu or provolone cheese and serve them as is. Of course, you can get as creative or exotic as you want! For this recipe, I am using a crab meat filling. Since this was the first time that I made these, I made sure to have enough filling mixture…which turned out to be too much filling anyway. If you decide to use this filling, I suggest still making the amount listed below and putting the rest to use as a stuffing in chicken, tilapia or beefsteak tomatoes.


1 8oz jar large green pitted olives
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups vegetable oil

1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz. canned crabmeat
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Heat butter in a pan until melted. Add onions and celery; heat until soft. Add crab meat, wine and lemon juice; stir. Add 1/3 cup breadcrumbs; stir. When warmed, remove from heat, place crab meat filling in a bowl; set aside.

Using a sharp paring knife, spiral cut the olives in one clean cut from top to bottom. To stuff the olives, simply grab about a half teaspoon of filling, shape it into a ball, and wrap a sliced olive around it. You’ll then be able to judge exactly how much filling is required to stuff an olive. Once all of the olives are sliced, you ‘ll want to bread them by dipping them in the beaten eggs and rolling them in 1 cup of breadcrumbs.

Next you’ll want to heat up the vegetable oil in a small sauce pan. Once heated, you’ll want to carefully place the olives into the oil, about 3 or 4 olives at a time. Let them cook for about a minute, or until the breadcrumbs are browned. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and let dry on a paper towel covered dish. You can serve them either warm or at room temperature!


Mamma’s Peperonata

A few months back, Una Mamma Italiana and I shared with you another of our fun and creative food battles, going head-to-head with a vegetable dish. Her zucchini fritters came out on top, but apparently my peperonata dish was still strong enough to coax Una Mamma into trying it! This past week, Una Mamma put together her own version of peperonata, and what a great job she did with it. Nice job, Una Mamma! Now when’s the next challenge?


If you are an avid “Mamma Meets The Cucina” fan, then you might recall when my foodie friend and blogging nemesis…(jk) Dominic Condo…. made Peperonata for our Veggie Challenge.  It was pretty awesome, I must admit.  But I had to do what I always do andtry to show him up!

Peperonata is one of those dishes that is very hearty and can be a side dish or a meal in and of itself.  The way I make MY twist on Peperonata, is a bit spicier and, actually quite different all around.  It lacks the onions seen in Cucina Domenico’s recipe, and it uses whole baby peppers instead of sliced bell peppers. Throw in a couple Jalepenos for some kick and you’ve got a trendy twist on an Italian classic!!

The instructions for my recipe are minimal – you wash and pan sear your peppers in a bit of e.v.o.o. and pancetta.  The flavor from the rendered panceta is the secret in this dish.  Then you finish them off in the oven, roasting at around 400 degrees, turning occasionally.  Serve alongside crispy Italian bread or with chunks fo fresh Parmiggiano!  Buon Appetito!

Mamma’s Peperonata!

Mothers Day Desserts!

May 11, 2012 Dessert, Menu No Comments

Mothers Day is here again! It’s that beautiful time of year when we honor the ladies in our lives who proudly carry the title of MOM to their names. It’s also probably one of the busiest days of the year to got out to eat. Understandably, there are many fellas out there who prefer a nice meal at a restaurant for the ladies, as opposed to giving a home cooked meal a shot. And that’s perfectly fine. The key is to make sure that the Moms get the day off, one way or another, right? But even if you aren’t the most skilled person in the kitchen, there are still a few ways that you can impress the ladies at the table, specifically for dessert. I’ll sum it up for you in two simple words: Pound Cake.

Now I am not saying that you have to attempt making a home-made pound cake (although that would be one helluva nice surprise). Instead, by using a store bought pound cake as the back bone for a simple dessert, you will be sure to please. Below are a few suggestions on quick desserts using pound cake.

 one is very simple and quick. Simply place a slice of of pound cake on a dish, spray some whipped cream, top with fresh cut berries. If you want to get fancy, you can add more whipped cream and some chocolate drizzle to the plate for decoration. You can also get the kids involved with plating this dessert. My kids love any opportunity to spray whipped cream. Having the chance to actually assemble a dessert for Mommy is both fun and memorable for them!

Same basic idea as the fresh berries and whipped cream, except you place a nice scoop of ice cream on the cake, then top with some whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce (or hot fudge sauce if you prefer). Don’t go too cheap on the ice cream, either. Get yourself a good brand, or even try an exotic fruit gelato. It is Mothers Day, after all!

For the caramel sauce, you don’t have to go too far to add a little extra love. Simply place some caramel sauce from a bottle or jar into a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 15 seconds and drizzle with a spoon. For a little extra loving kick, try adding a capful of spiced rum before heating. Stir it in and you’re good to go! Just make sure to leave the rum caramel sauce out of reach from the kids!!!

This trick came to me from my friend, Jessica, who is not only a great Mom herself, but also a lover of all things ricotta. She sent this idea to me a few months back, when I wrote about making your own ricotta. Of course, you don’t have to make your own for this. But if you are ambitious, give the home made recipe a shot.

You take a whole poundcake and slice it length-wise (as if your were slicing open a sandwich roll). You can slice it once or twice, depending on how many layers you want to make. Spread thee ricotta filling* in between each layer, then reassemble the pound cake. Ice the cake with Nutella..and enjoy every bite!

*Ricotta Filling
This is a basic ricotta filling that is used for cannoli. You can either use store bought, or you can make your own ricotta.

1lb ricotta
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tspn vanilla extract

Drain excess water from ricotta, then place into a bowl. Mix with sugar and vanilla. YOu can also add chocolate chips or dried fruit to the mixture if you wish.


For more Mothers Day meals, please check out my recipes for:

Apple Cinnamon French Toast 

Asian Pot Stickers



Italian-style Quesadillas

Whether you are enjoying a traditional Mexican meal at home or at a family-friendly restaurant, you are sure to find quesadillas on the table at some point. The popular and tasty dish, made up of a flour or  corn tortilla stuffed with cheeses, vegetables, meats and beans is perfect dish to either share as an appetizer with friends, or (as in my case) enjoyed on its own as a main course. This week, to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I am going to put an Italian spin on this Mexican favorite.

First, let’s start off with the filling. Instead of the traditional quesadilla filling, I will be using some of my favorite go-to Italian vegetables. You will need:

1 green zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 small jar artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper (to taste)

Mix all of the above in a bowl. Add some olive oil and stir together until well-mixed. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to allow all of the flavors to come together. Pour in a baking dish, bake at 350˚ for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside.

If you want to add some meat to the filling, traditional chicken or shrimp would work well. Or for a little more Italian spice, try adding some cooked ground sausage!

Next, we’re going to add some cheese. While quesadillas usually use cheddar, colby or monterey jack cheese, we’re going with shredded mozzarella and some parmesan.

Assembling the Italian quesadillas is the same as the traditional version. You start by heating up a pan over medium heat, lightly coated with butter or oil. Place a tortilla shell into the pan, let heat for about 15 seconds. Add some of the filling to one half of the tortilla, topped with the cheeses and some fresh herbs (fresh chopped basil is my choice here!). Fold the shell in half to make a half moon shape. Carefully flip the quesadilla so that it even cooks on both sides. Remove from pan, cut into three equal triangles. You may need to add more butter or oil to the pan before each additional quesadilla. Serve with a side of marinara sauce or bruschetta for dipping (in place of traditional salsa).


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