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Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Salata

March 28, 2017 Menu, Salads No Comments

Recently, I shared with you my recipe for game-day empanadas, and one of the fillings that I decided to use in my empanadas was ricotta salata. Up until this point, I had not really been all that familiar with this particular cheese. Ever since, it has become a staple in our house. For those of you who are still not familiar with this flavorful gem, it is an Italian cheese made from whey that is re-cooked (ricotta), and has been pressed, salted (salata) and aged for at least 90 days. The end result is a beautiful, milky white cheese with a slight nutty flavor, that is perfect for slicing, shredding or crumbling. Texture-wise, it is more like a feta than a traditional soft ricotta, with a taste that packs a delightful punch. It is also a very reasonably priced cheese, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

While my wife and I were perfectly content with simply enjoying slices of this cheese drizzled with a little balsamic, the wheels in my mind quickly started spinning on how to incorporate it into recipes. The first, and most obvious recipe that came to mind was the classic Caprese Salad, which of course is simply made up of fresh sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and herbs. My thought was that not only would the texture of the cheese hold up well with the tomatoes and fresh basil, but also that the lively flavors would not require any additional seasonings. My hunch was correct. The in-your-face, vibrant flavor marries perfectly with the sweetness of fresh chopped basil, swirled together with a splash of rich, golden olive oil. The crumbly, chunky texture plays well with chunks of juicy tomato. Traditional Carpese Salad may be one of my all time favorites, but the ricotta salata version is definitely a nice and inviting alternative.


Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Salata

This is a very simple recipe. Measurements can be adjusted to your preferred serving size.

one chunk of ricotta salata
1-2 roma tomatoes
fresh chopped basil
Extra virgin olive oil

Chop the cheese and tomatoes into slices or cubes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve and enjoy!


Book Update 2.0

March 7, 2017 Menu 1 Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a status on my book project, so I thought I should let you know what I’ve been up to and where things stand.

I’m happy to say that I am very optimistic with the progress that’s been made so far.

All of the written material has been compiled and edited, and photos are being gathered. There’s a nice variety of new recipes, along with many of my classic recipes…some which have been modified and updated.

Why the updates to some of the my original recipes, you ask?
As I have continued to use my recipes over the years, I have found that some adjustments have worked for the better – maybe due to a measurement modification, or maybe due to what ingredients are more fresh, available and in season at the time. You can read more about my thoughts for these updates in the book, but I promise that you will enjoy the modified versions.

The book will not only feature my recipes, but also the story on how I’ve had this incredible food journey and the fun paths that I have taken as a food blogger. I’ve been very fortunate with the opportunities that have come my way. I am very excited to share this memoir with you.

I have also finally settled on a book title, cover design and interior layout. This is where my years as a graphic designer have come in to play, and where much of my focus on this project has been spent. The visual appeal was one of my top priorities with this project, so I hope you find it just as appealing to look at as it is to read.

The next steps are to combine all of the written material into the layout, and make sure that it all looks nice and pretty. After that, it will have to go into a final proofreading phase…then it’s off to the races!

I’d say that we’re about 70% there. I started this project in the summer of 2016 and gave myself a solid year to finish it, and I think I’m right on target. There is still a solid, hard working 30% left to do, but slow and steady wins the race. We’re movin’ and shakin’!

So stay with me on this. I promise you good things to come. And thank you for the continued encouragement and kind words along the way…it’s been the additional fuel needed to get this project up and running!




Honey-Butter Salt and Pepper Wings

February 16, 2017 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

I was never a huge fan of easy pickin’ foods that are slathered with sauce. Whenever I grill ribs or chicken, I always opt for a nice dry rub as opposed to brushing it with barbecue sauce. Because of this, chicken wings are not usually on my radar. And when they are, I am very particular on how they are prepared. I don’t like them breaded, I don’t like them fatty and I don’t like them floating in a sauce bath. This past Superbowl weekend, I decided it was time to give it go and figure out how to prepare wings to my liking.

The last time that I had enjoyed wings, they were prepared with just a salt and pepper rub on them, and they were finger-licking good. The salt and pepper blend was baked perfectly into the juicy chicken meat, making the plate of tiny wings and drumsticks truly addicting. This was the recipe that I decided I was going to start with for my game-day party plate.

Te recipe that I used was very simple: 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, combined, for each pound of wings (which is approximately a dozen wings). Making the adjustments for a larger batch would be simple using the ratio of 1:1:1 (meaning 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper per 1 pound of wings). The challenge that I had was how to properly cook them. Frying is the traditional method used to cook the perfect crispy and meaty wing, rendering off any of the unnecessary fat. But my preference is almost always baking over frying. However, baking wings often leaves the skin a bit fatty, which is one of my wing no-nos. In order to achieve the desired crispness, you really have to crank your oven temperature up to at least 425˚. While the higher temperature will help achieve the desired texture, the high-heated fat will start to splatter, which will lead to a smoky oven. Not fun if you have a smoke alarm close to your kitchen quarters.

This is where celebrity chef Alton Brown’s admirable food and science knowledge comes in to play.

Alton’s method is to steam the wings prior to baking them. As Alton says, “the trick is to steam them first to render out a lot of the fat. Then you cool them to tighten the skin.” This step, which does involve a little bit of labor, will help cut back heavily on oven splatter, since much of the fat has been rendered off. The end result is a beautiful crispy and flavorful wing, without a smoke-filled kitchen when you remove the tray from the oven!

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a big fan of wings that are slathered in sauce. But I also did not want serve wings that were too dry. Because my wife and kids do not like hot or spicy food, I opted to make a sweet honey-butter sauce that I would quickly toss over the wings. This quick sauce was just enough to coat the wings, and was a great complement to the salt and pepper rub. Just enough of a sweet coating without over-saturating the wings.

Below is the step-by-step process to my wings. Again, you can use the ratio method of 1:1:1 for the salt and pepper rub. The honey and butter measurements for the coating can be increased per pound as well.  The ingredients are simply a starting point. Additional spices can be added to the rub, and hot sauce can be added to the honey-butter coating to your liking.


Honey-Butter Salt and Pepper Wings

Makes approximately one dozen wings.

1 pound party chicken wings
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
(optional – fresh chopped parsley for garnish)


Step 1: Steaming the Wings

This is Alton Brown’s method for steaming the wings. This step helps render the chicken fat, which will reduce the amount of splatter and oven smoke while baking. You can eliminate this step if you do not have a steamer basket, but there will be some oven smoke and splatter made while baking.

For Alton Brown’s complete Buffalo Wing recipe, click here

Load a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1 inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and refrigerate for one hour. You can do the wings in batches if you can’t fit them all into the steamer basket at once.


Step 2: Coating and Baking the Wings

Preheat the oven to 425˚. Combine the salt and pepper. Once the wings have completely cooled and dried, coat the wings on both sides with the salt and pepper rub. Either place the wings on a small rack sitting in a baking dish (my preference for even cooking), or place the wings on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake the wings on the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutes. Flip the wings and bake for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


Step 3: The Honey-Butter Coating

While the wings are in the final 20 minutes of baking, you can prepare the honey-butter coating. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the honey, stir well and continue to heat until warm and thoroughly combined.

*Note – you can add hot sauce or spices to your liking to add heat to the honey-butter coating.

Once the wings are done, toss them with the honey-butter coating. Sprinkle the wings with some fresh chopped parsley, serve and enjoy!




Game Day Empanadas!

February 2, 2017 Menu No Comments

Superbowl Sunday is like the Thanksgiving holiday for party foods. Everything from pizza, wings and ribs, to sandwiches, salads and dips are all well represented at any game day festivity. And not unlike turkey day, you will most likely overindulge. But it’s one day out of the year, so strap on your stretchy pants and enjoy!

The key to a successful game day party, and the reason why this menu works so well, is because you want to have easy access to low maintenance food. Even if you’re not fully wrapped up in the game, you’ll still be entertained by other party goers, the commercials, and maybe even the half time show. This leaves little time to sit down and enjoy a traditional meal that requires significant time away from the action. The idea that I’m sharing with you today can incorporate just about any of the go-to game day foods into a convenient, almost bite-sized pastry pocket.

Empanadas, a Latin-American inspired dish, are pastry pockets that are fried or baked, and can be stuffed with just about any combination of food and spice. You can find recipes that have various fillings, from savory (beef, chicken, pork, rice, vegetables with herbs), to sweet (chocolate, fruit, custards). Fried empanadas will give you more of a crunchy exterior with a soft inside, while baking will make more of an even-cooked, pie-crust texture. You can decide which method is best, based on your choice of filling or your cooking preference.

You can click here for a basic empanada dough recipe.

As I mentioned earlier, there are countless recipes available online that you can search out based on what you have in mind. Or you can get creative and come up with your own filling combination. Many of the game day foods that I mentioned earlier would make for fantastic empanada fillings. For example, you can go with:

  • A buffalo or barbecue chicken filling.
  • How about a cheese steak or a roast pork filling?
  • Better yet, a meatball mozzarella filling!
  • A jalapeño popper filled empanada would be considered a real touch down (yeah, I went there).
  • You can go all in this year and serve Superbowl team-related foods, like New England lobster empanadas as an appetizer and Georgia peach empanadas for dessert.

As you can see, you can cover all of your party foods by serving them empanada-style. What’s nice about this method is that you can take care of all preparation well ahead of time if you are hosting. Baking the empanadas during the party will allow you plenty of free time to mingle with your guests. And if you are bringing empanadas to a party, have the empanadas prepared and ready to be baked at the party, so they are served fresh. Just be sure to let your party host know that you will need use of their oven for about a half an hour.


image courtesy of


As I’m sitting here writing, I’m still unsure of what fillings I am going to use in my game day empanadas. I do know that I will in some fashion be using ricotta salata, which is a pressed, dried and salted ricotta that can be shaved, grated or cut into cubes…and according to my cheese monger, will make for a perfect empanada filling. I’m thinking I’ll mix it with some fresh herbs, but that’ll most likely be a game day decision. My daughters also put in a request for chicken, bacon and cheddar filled empanadas.

Below is a link to my Apple Cinnamon empanada recipe, which I shared as a Cinco de Mayo feature a few years back. I have also shared my recipe for Mini Inside-Out Pizza, which pretty much qualifies as an empanada. The link to that recipe is also below.

Dom’s Apple Cinnamon Empanadas
Dom’s Mini Inside-Out Pizza


While doing my research for this post, I came across some great resources, one of which really offers incredible ideas for a wide variety of empanadas., which is a fantastic food website, has an entire section dedicated to empanadas. Everything from basic dough recipes to cooking techniques to a beautiful and extensive list of tasty suggestions…it is the Empanada 101 guide, and you can find a link to that site below as well.

Laylita’s Empanada 101 Guide


Whatever empanada recipe you decide to use or create, be sure to make plenty. These are a guarantee party food touchdown!

image courtesy of



If you really want to score some extra crowd points, don’t forget the beer! My game day pick is anything by Samuel Adams or Sweetwater Brewing Company. Both breweries produce quality beer, and are a good choice to represent the New England and Atlanta regions at your game day party.




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