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My Best Dish Experience: Take 1

January 21, 2016 Menu No Comments

Over the years of writing my food blog, I’ve had a handful of opportunities come along for the chance to appear on televised cooking segments. The first, which was an opportunity to be a contestant on Rachael Ray’s Great Philly Grill-Off competition, almost seemed promising. I made it to the second phase of the phone interviews, but unfortunately the adventure ended there. Not long after that, my wife and I were both approached to interview for a potential Food Network competition show, featuring married couples in the kitchen. That opportunity went as far as a Skype interview with the Food Network, but it seemed as if that project fizzled out all together soon after that. Seeing how a lot of hope and excitement could quickly lead to nothing, I stopped pursuing opportunities to appear on TV. By this time, my food blog was really starting to take off. My recipes were being shared in both the DelCo Times and in the Philadelphia RowHome Magazine, I had a regular guest spot on Lorraine Ranalli’s Cucina Chatter radio program, and would occasionally appear with the Cucina Chatter cast on The Heron’s Nest video podcast with host Philip Heron. Considering that this food blog was all just a passionate hobby of mine, things were really working out well for me. Shooting for a spot on TV was never really part of my plan, and I was totally fine with that.

Just around this time last year, our dear friend Karen (who also happens to be a member of our extended family…South Philly Cousins!) had sent me a lead for a new cooking show based in Philly, that was looking for a host. Karen, who has always been one of my biggest supporters since day one, thought that the opportunity would be great for me. Being that I had started my podcast at this point (which I will be continuing with, I promise), along with the time that I spent on the radio and on the Heron’s Nest, I felt that I may have a chance at this. I was becoming more comfortable with actually talking about food, and was discovering my voice, so why not? I sent in the application, kept my fingers crossed, and just kept on moving along. Time went by, and the application process just became another thing of the past.

Fast forward to July…

Thinking that the opportunity to host a local cooking show was all just another pipe dream, I was both surprised and elated to be contacted in early July for an audition. I had never been on an audition, so I had no idea what to expect, and surprisingly enough my nerves were very much under control. When I showed up at the appointed location, I was asked if I was auditioning to be a host or a contestant. Contestant? I didn’t know that this was even an option! While hosting a cooking show would be fun, actually being a contestant on a cooking show was way more in my wheel house. I explained this to the person at the front desk, and she agreed to ask the people running the auditions if I could interview as a contestant. When it was my turn to head into the audition area, I was told that I would be auditioning as a contestant. Yes!

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Image courtesy of 4 Lion Productions

I walked in with coolness and confidence. Again, I never auditioned for anything, and I felt that I had absolutely nothing to lose here. I was told to stand in front of a video camera, under a bunch of hot studio lights. The set-up looked exactly like an audition scene from a TV reality series. My goodness, this was really happening! Seated behind a table in front of me were three gentleman (including producers Chris Kelly and Paul Tucker of 4 Lion Productions) who proceeded to ask me about myself, my cooking style and other various food/cooking-related questions. Surprisingly, I felt very comfortable answering each question that was fired at me. I made sure to reference my food blog as often as I could…after all, it was the passion and dedication to my food blog that brought me to this situation in the first place. Deep rooted family values and the goal of sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers has always been my main focus, and I made sure to stress this while answering the questions. The audition took all of about 10 minutes, but when it was over I felt very confident and happy with the answers that I gave. After a round of cordial handshakes and thanks to the team that hosted me that day, I walked out of the audition feeling like a winner. The gentlemen who interviewed me had nothing but the kindest words to say to me as I left, which was the perfect ending to this unique experience. Regardless of whether I was called back for another audition, or whatever the next step would be, I was given the opportunity to speak truthfully and honestly about my passionate hobby..and it was all captured on film. This was already a crowning achievement for me. I drove back to meet my family for Sunday dinner, and after sharing the highlights of the day’s events, I was brought back to the beautiful reality of making Sunday dinner with my kids, my wife and my wife’s family. Life was good.

Fast forward to mid-December…

Once again, a few months went by and I never heard anything more on the audition. As I just said, having the opportunity to audition alone was both gratifying and an honor…but I did wonder if anything would ever come of this? Well, I would soon get my answer as I listened to a message that was left on my phone…”Hi Dominic, we’re calling to let you know that you have been selected to be a contestant on the pilot episode of Best Dish!”

YIKES!!!!!

 

Next, I’ll be sharing with you my experience of taping the pilot episode of Best Dish. It was an amazing opportunity, and aside from getting to cook on camera, I also got to spend the day with a group of super talented people. You’ll be able to read all about it right here. Stay tuned!

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Stuffed Sausage Meatballs

January 13, 2016 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

Meatballs and sausage. Two staples on an Italian-American menu. Sunday gravy would not be the same without them! For today’s recipe, I’m combining the two into one, with a surprise stuffing in the middle. Mind-blowing, right? The easy thing about making sausage meatballs is that you don’t have to put as much effort or ingredients into it as you would a traditional meatball. The meat is already seasoned, and there are more fats contained within it to help hold the shape of the meatball without adding breadcrumbs and eggs. You can, of course, add these ingredients if you like. But they are not necessary. Another good thing about using sausage meat for meatballs is that there is a wide variety of sausages available. From your basic hot or sweet Italian sausage, to chicken or turkey sausage, to gourmet sausages filled with ingredients such as spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Dare I say you can even use the Gimme Lean vegetarian sausage substitute, if that is your preference. Any of these would make for fantastic meat for these sausage meatballs. And if you can find ground sausage loose (not in the casing), all the better! It will save you some time from cutting the meat out of the casing when you are ready to get rolling (see what I did there?).

I’m not going to get into specifics on ingredients for this dish, because you can really get creative and go in whatever direction you desire. However, I will list some interesting filling combinations that would work well with ground sausage. Keep in mind that you will need a decent amount of meat to surround the filling that you are using. Certain cheeses that you may decide to use may get very soft within the meatball. This is a good thing, but you want to make sure that the filling is fully encased, otherwise the cheese will ooze out of any crevices or openings within the meatball. You are looking at about 6 large meatballs per pound of ground sausage meat. To help contain the shape and texture of the rolled meatball, simply roll the meatballs into some breadcrumbs. This will also make for a nice, crunchy texture.

Filling Suggestions

For my sausage meatballs, I am using a nice chicken and cheese sausage that I bought from my local butcher, and am stuffing them with broccoli rabe and extra sharp provolone. Here are some of my other suggestions that would make for great stuffings in a sausage meatball.

Roasted Red Peppers
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Provolone Cheese (mild, medium or sharp)
Mozzarella Cheese (a smoked mozzarella would be fantastic!)
Feta Cheese
Black or Green Olives
Pesto
Prosciutto
Shrimp

 

Step 1: select your key ingredients. I’m going with chicken sausage, broccoli rabe and extra sharp provolone cheese.

 

Step 2: pat down a handful of meat, top with a small amount of filling. Do not overfill, otherwise the meatball may fall apart.

 

Step 3: roll the meatballs tight.

Step 3: roll the meatballs tight.

 

Step 3: roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. Lightly spray, and bake at 375˚ for 45-50 minutes, until crispy.

Step 4: roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. Lightly spray the meatballs, then bake at 375˚ for 45-50 minutes, until crispy.

 

Step 4: serve with a side of your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Step 5: serve with a side of your favorite sauce and enjoy!

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Pesto Bread Twists

December 30, 2015 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

The big New Year’s Eve party is just hours away…and you’re still trying to figure out what appetizer to bring or serve? This easy recipe is a quick and perfect solution. Before I get into the steps, yes you can use your own pizza dough recipe or your own pesto recipe if you wish.  But for a quick time-saving solution, a jarred pesto and pre-made pizza dough will definitely do the trick.

Assuming we’re going the quick route, you’ll need one tube of thin crust square pizza dough, or your favorite pizza dough rolled into a thin square, one jar of pesto and one egg. And that’s it. Seriously! Simply pre-heat your oven to 425˚, follow the steps below, and in under 15 minutes you will have a tasty and zesty appetizer that will be sure to please.

 

 

Step 1: roll out the dough, making sure to keep it thin.

Step 1: roll out the dough, making sure to keep it thin.

 

Step 2: Cut the dough in half, length-wise.

Step 2: Cut the dough in half, length-wise.

 

Step 3: Top one of the halves with pesto, leaving at least 1/2"border on all four sides.

Step 3: Top one of the halves with pesto, leaving at least 1/2″border on all four sides.

 

Step 4. Place the second half of the dough on top of the pesto-coated piece.

Step 4. Place the second half of the dough on top of the pesto-coated piece.

 

Step 5: Cut the layered dough into 1-1/2" wide strips.

Step 5: Cut the layered dough into 1-1/2″ wide strips.

 

Step 6: Twist the slices, place them onto a greased baking sheet, and brush with an egg wash.

Step 6: Twist the slices, place them onto a greased baking sheet, and brush with an egg wash.

 

Step 7: Bake in 425˚ oven for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops start to brown. Serve and enjoy!

Step 7: Bake in 425˚ oven for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops start to brown. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

pestotwist10

 

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Biscotti di Amaretto

December 16, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

It’s Christmas time! The season of giving, family traditions, good will towards others…and cookies! Lots and lots of cookies! If your family is anything like mine, there will be generous plates of home made cookies and baked good at every house that you visit this season. While I am more than happy to sample every variety that I possibly can, I always find myself drifting back to the classic, old fashioned Italian-style cookies…the ones that are a perfect complement to a nice, hot cup of coffee. I refer to these as the ‘dunkers’.

The cookie recipe that I’m sharing with you today is the perfect example of an old fashioned dunker. It was originally inspired by an Italian biscotti recipe by Father Giuseppe Orsini, that used whiskey and anisette in the ingredients, and would be served with a glass of wine. I modified the recipe to have a sweeter taste by replacing the whiskey and anisette with amaretto and vanilla extract. I also shaped the dough into individual knots instead of the traditional biscotti loaf. You can shape them into knots or rings, or prepare it as a biscotti. Either method would work well with this cookie.

 

Biscotti di Amaretto

Inspired by a recipe by Father Giuseppi Orsini,
author of Italian Baking Secrets

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
2 tbspn amaretto
2 tbspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 tspn baking powder

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, until absorbed. Add amaretto, vanilla extract, and almonds. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder and blend thoroughly into the sugar mixture. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Divide the mixture into four pieces. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each piece to approximately a 2″ x 6″ rectangle. Continue to keep the surface lightly coated with flour to avoid sticking. Cut each piece into 1/2″ strips, and shape the strips into knots or circles (your choice). Place on slightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven, let cool on a wire rack.

Drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoons milk
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, until spreadable (mixture will thicken slightly as it sets). You can add more milk to make it thinner, or more sugar to make it thicker.

*To use the dough for biscotti, shape the dough into flat loaves, 1/2 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and as long as your cookie sheet. Place no more than two loaves parallel and well apart per sheet. Bake in 375˚ oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Cut in diagonal slices 1/2 inch thick. Return to sheets and bake at 375˚ for 15 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

 

Cut the dough into 1/2" strips.

Cut the dough into 1/2″ strips.

 

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

 

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

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Recent Comments

  • Tom Casey: Can't wait for the book to come out Dom! I know it will be ...
  • Dom: I'm very happy to hear that! Thank you for reaching out to m...
  • M. Melillo: When I was growing up, this was the only stuffing my mother ...
  • Gale: This looks absolutely amazing! Cannot wait to try it!!...
  • bob minardi: My mother made this bread, and my sister kept up the traditi...
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