Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fresh Bread!

I was never much of a baker. I suppose it was being brought up amongst a hungry bunch of Italians, that we just didn't have the "time" to bake fresh bread; the four-hour long process would not fly in my home. However, now that I have grown up a bit and no longer live in a home full of ravenous Italian men, I have more patience and a deep passion for the beautiful art that is baking.

In the recent months I have been both inspired and enlightened to start baking bread. My adorable friend, Alyssa, has a passion for baking both bread and pastries, and frankly, far more knowledge in that area of the culinary world than I thought possible for such a little person :) Despite her size (hehe sooo cute), the girl can bake a mean loaf of french bread by hand! I am amazed! So, we followed a recipe from All Recipes and got to it.

Here is the recipe we used:

As we don't have the luxury of having a bread mixer here in this small NYC apartment, everything was made my hand. By the end of the session our arms were burning like hell from mixing the dough and my cheeks were throbbing from laughing so hard. If I had known that baking homemade bread could be so fun I would have done this years ago!

Here are some photos of my first loaf of homemade french bread:

Perfect dough consistency.... Why make one when you can make two?!

To spice up our bread a little bit, we brushed it with egg whites and rolled it in fresh rosemary, garlic and pepper flakes. Honestly, what could possibly be better? A little olive oil for dipping and you are SET!

Now that I have a basic foundation of knowledge for baking, I will be back soon enough with more where this came from. My new found love for baking could get dangerous... MUhaha!

Love and freshly baked goods,

Saturday, October 3, 2009


It's a rainy, weird Saturday and I have positioned myself comfortably on the couch and have delved into my cookbook collection for tips and inspiration. A perfect way to spend this day... Bob Dylan records & cookbooks.

I'd like to share one of my favorite cookbooks...Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Located in downtown Ithaca, NY, Moosewood Restaurant has operated successfully for thirty-three years and has been acclaimed as a driving force in the world of creative vegetarian cooking. The Moosewood Collective is a crew of 14 women and 5 men and in addition to running the Restaurant, they have authored 11 cookbooks; I own 2 and I swear by them.

Anyway, I decided I needed some comfort food today (it was a late one last night!). It was a tough decision, but I opted for the Squash & Kale Risotto, page 192. To quote Moosewood, "Risottos are often considered intimidating for the less experienced cook, and that's a shame. After you've made risotto once or twice, you'll see how easy it is to prepare." SO TRUE! It takes more attention and time than other grains, but it is the process of the continuous stirring and addition of the liquid that allows for risotto's characteristic creaminess.

The dish turned out great. Here are some photos:

These books have inspired me and I know they will inspire you too.

Sold in all major bookstores or online here:



Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I finally made my own hand rolls!

Last weekend my cousin, Christian, totally hooked it up and brought over a beautiful fillet of freshly caught blue fin tuna. Not only did he surprise me with just any fresh tuna, but he once again went over the top and presented me with the fatty deliciousness that is tuna belly, or toro. Only Christian Pescatore would bring home fresh tuna belly.

If you are unaware, toro is generally considered to be the king of sushi ingredients. It is very oily and high in omega 3 and is usually very expensive. In my case, however, it was FREE.... Gotta love the fam :)

Christian wisely decided that the only way to thoroughly enjoy fatty tuna, was to eat it raw - I couldn't agree more. He showed up at my home with the complete spread: the beautiful fillet, some sliced scallions, sushi rice (premade from Wegmans -- sooo easy and of perfect consistency), nori (seaweed), wasabi, pickled ginger and sesame seeds.

So, I learned how to make the perfect hand roll and boy, was it easy! We cranked out a whole tray in minutes...

While I'm on a sushi tip, I feel inclined to share my East Village GO TO sushi restaurant - Ashiya, located on 1st Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets. Fresh, delicious, inexpensive and fun! If you're in a mood to stuff yourself silly with sushi and get super loose, this is your spot. The most popular daily special is as follows: $30.00, all you can eat (a la carte rolls and sushi) AND all you can drink (sake and Saporo)!! Nothing beats this.


I hope you venture and indulge!

Love and Sushi Rolls,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Love for Figs...

My parents just recently picked up a fig tree and the thing is so cute! I never thought that a fig tree would bring me so much joy! Not only do I absolutely love the sweet, earthy flavor of a fig, but to me, figs are the most beautiful fruit. When cut open, they expose their pink seedy flesh surrounded by its dark purple skin. Call me crazy, but that is pure beauty.

Our first fig from the new tree... so perfect.Fig trees generally grow to be about 15 to 25 feet. Our fig tree is probably only about 3 to 4 feet tall right now. It has a long way to go! Although it is pretty small, it still produces delicious figs.

This is me, perusing our new fig tree! The green figs you see here (click photo to view larger) are not yet ripe enough to pick. Once they turn to dark purple, almost black, then they are ready.... and trust me, they are delicious right off the stem!

A perfectly ripe, pear-shaped fig fresh off the tree, split in half.

Figs can be eaten in many forms: fresh (like so); preserved (made into a jam); or dried. They make for a wonderfully healthy snack...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stuffing Stuff!

Fact: It was Thomas Jefferson (well known for his promotion of horticulture) who introduced the eggplant to the United States in 1806 after receiving one from a friend in France.

I love eggplant; its spongy texture and ability to soak up any flavor make it a versatile and widely-used ingredient. Although the roof of my mouth tingles when I eat it, I am never intimidated by this allergy and I continue to indulge... I am not one to give up!

If you weren't aware, as eggplant contains numerous seeds, it is classified as a fruit. However, it is mostly cooked as a vegetable, with other savory ingredients. Eggplant is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking oils and sauces, allowing for very rich dishes, although sometimes producing soggy and mushy eggplant. Before cooking the eggplant, it is a good idea to "salt" it as this reduces the amount of oil and/or sauce that is absorbed.

I decided to try something new: baked stuffed eggplant. I've seen this done before with ground beef and other meats, however as I don't eat meat, I wanted to make a vegetarian version. In addition to stuffing the eggplants, I used the same filling and stuffed that right into bell peppers, to add some variety.

Baked Stuffed Eggplant & Bell Peppers

1 large eggplant
3 bell peppers (color is up to you!)
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces and quartered
2 bags fresh spinach
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 cups cooked quinoa (follow directions on packaging of quinoa)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated cheese (pecorino romano, Parmesan, asiago - my faves)
1/4 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Preparing the eggplant:
Remove and discard the stem and half the eggplant lengthwise. Remove inside, leaving about 1.5 inches as a shell. Place hollowed eggplant in baking dish. Cube the removed part and set aside for stuffing. Season all eggplant (both hollowed and cubed) with salt.

Preparing the peppers:
Remove and discard the tops, seeds and membranes of each pepper. Trim the bottom as well so the pepper can stand upright. Place peppers hollowed side up in baking sheet.

Preparing the stuffing:
In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil on medium high. Add shallots and saute about 3-4 minutes or until transparent. Add the garlic and saute for about 3 minutes (DO NOT BURN). Add cubed eggplant to skillet (seasoned with salt) and squash and saute for 5-7 minutes. In increments, add fresh spinach. I like to add a few handfuls at a time, allowing it to shrink down before adding more. Once all of the spinach has been incorporated, the tomatoes are ready to be added. Rather than pouring in the whole can, scoop out the tomatoes adding only some of the liquid, reserving the remaining liquid to top the stuffed eggplant and peppers. Add the quinoa and season with a little cheese and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Your stuffing is completed.

Vegetarian Stuffing Mixture

Stuffing the eggplant/peppers: the FUN part!
Fill both halves of the eggplant and each pepper half way with the stuffing. Add a little cheese, a small handful of pine nuts and a touch of fresh basil. Fill all the way up with the stuffing and layer again with cheese, pine nuts and basil. Before placing the stuffed eggplant and peppers in the oven, pour a spoonful of the remaining tomato sauce from the can of diced tomatoes onto each .

Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Serve with your favorite loaf of bread.

This vegetable dish can either be served as a side dish or as a main meal. It is the epitome of what comfort food should taste like and how it should make you feel. It warmed up my day and I sure hope it warms up yours!

Love and stuffings,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fresh Pesto!

In Italy, basil has always been a token of love.

Basil is my favorite fresh herb to have on hand. It grows fast and large, is refreshingly fragrant and can be used in so many dishes. Often I'll hand-pick a few stems, put them in a small pot of water and place it on my nightstand or on the living room table. It is magical walking in to a room to experience the pungent scent of freshly picked basil.

Last weekend while at my parent's home I was wandering through their yard and I noticed that my mother's pot of basil was growing totally wild. I mean, it almost surpassed me in height and I knew that if we didn't take control of the situation then some little creatures would sneak up and enjoy it and we would be left with chewed up basil remnants in an empty pot. That is unacceptable...

So, we agreed to utilize as much as we could of the heaping pot of basil and prepared a Fresh Pesto Farfalle with Sauteed Shrimp. Farfalle, for those of you who don't know, is a bow-tie shaped pasta... absolutely adorable. The name is actually derived from the Italian word farfalla meaning "butterfly." Farfalle is my favorite pasta to eat with pesto. Maybe it's the way the pesto gets stuck in the little crevices, or maybe it's simply that I love bow-ties; regardless, it's always my first choice.

Pesto (the Pescatore way):

4 cups packed fresh basil
4-5 cloves garlic (my mom and I used 6 -- we are nuts)
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
S&P (salt & pepper)

In a food processor, add basil and pine nuts. Pulse a few times. Add garlic and Parmesan cheese and pulse two or three more times. Slowly add olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Adding the olive oil like so, allows for a perfectly creamy pesto sauce. Add S&P to taste.

Add pesto to cooked farfalle and coat completely. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pesto Farfalle (Bow-tie pasta)


The number of shrimp you cook depends on the size of your party. Generally, I like to serve each guest 5 shrimp. Paired with the pasta and a loaf of Italian bread, this is sure to be plenty. Please keep in mind that I have a very large appetite :)

In a medium saute pan, heat about 4 tbsp olive oil and a couple pats of butter until the butter is melted. Add the shrimp so that each shrimp is lying flat in the pan. Cook on each side for 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook as shrimp get chewy when overcooked. You may have to saute the shrimp in increments depending on the number of shrimp and the size of your saute pan.

Pesto Farfalle with Sauteed Shrimp

Combine pasta and shrimp. Serve with remaining pesto sauce and a loaf of your favorite Italian bread.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Love and bow-ties,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't Play Squash... EAT IT!

Since I can remember, every Sunday my family has enjoyed pasta with homemade gravy. Sunday is a family day and goes hand-in-hand with some variation of pasta with red sauce (must be red); puttanesca, shrimp fra diavolo, red clam sauce, bolognese are just a few of my family's favorites.

As a 'Pescatarean' and on a low-carb/low-budget kick, I have decided to put a little spin on a summer 'pasta' dish -- Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Summer Vegetable Sauce.
Spaghetti squash makes for a great pasta substitute. It is extremely easy to prepare, has a delicious, earthy flavor and is totally satisfying when craving that authentic Italian taste.

Spaghetti squash at our garage sale at The York Family ranch in Chester, NJ.

Spaghetti squash can be cooked several ways; it can be baked, boiled, microwaved or even cooked in a crockpot. When it is raw, its flesh is solid. However, when cooked the flesh comes out in ribbons resembling that of spaghetti, hence forth the name of this amazing vegetable. Although I don't ever recommend cooking food in a microwave, spaghetti squash serves as one of the few exceptions; it comes out perfect every single time.

Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Vegetable Sauce

How to cook spaghetti squash:
You will need a big knife and strong muscles :)
Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Place both halves in a microwave safe dish cut-side up with about a half-inch of water. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes. Depending on the size of the squash, the time may vary. It will be done when you press the squash and it 'gives' a bit. I prefer mine al dente, so I tend to cook it for less. When it is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and discard. Hold one half in your palm and with a fork scrape out the flesh. Set aside in a serving bowl.

Chunky Vegetable Sauce:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 medium sized eggplant OR 1 small eggplant, cubed
1 zucchini, sliced about 1/4" thick and cut into half moons
6 mushrooms, sliced
(1) 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

In a medium saucepan add olive oil on medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute for 3-5 minutes or until they become translucent. Add garlic and saute for another 5 minutes. DO NOT burn garlic. Add zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms to mixture and saute for about 5 minutes to get the flavors working together. At this point, add the can of crushed tomatoes. This is usually too thick for my liking, so I fill the empty can of crushed tomatoes about a 1/4 of the way with water and add to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes. The veggies will cook thoroughly during this time.

Spoon sauce over the spaghetti squash and serve immediately. Garnish with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes (both optional).



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Culinary Conquest...

Growing up as a Pescatore has helped me realize what is really important in life -- sharing food and enjoying and appreciating every flavor. Each family member, whether it be my mother, grandmother, brother or uncle, has instilled in me a certain culinary craft that I will take with me forever. From my grandmother's gravy (or tomato sauce for those on the "outside"!) to my brother's ridiculous appetite - which I have adopted, to our traditional 7-fish Italian Christmas Eve dinner (my favorite meal of the year), these memories are implanted in my mind and keep me hungry for more.

I feel inclined to introduce you to one of the most special people in my life that has had an amazing influence on my culinary vision. My uncle, Sabri Ghoneim, epitomizes someone whose main focus and love in life is food. His culinary conquest is an extraordinarily unique story and each time I think about his passion through it all, it drives me to seek out such experiences for myself.

An Egypt native, Uncle Sabri had a lust for life; he was hungry for traveling and exploring the world. When he was 22, he left his country and went to Greece where he worked construction. Only staying for a short time, he returned back to Egypt to his family. Two years later, at age 24, he went out to sea working on a Greek cruise ship as a chef. He traveled all over Europe exploring the different nations -- their culture and cuisine. A free spirit, out at sea, he took in all he could while resting in each country. After some time, he landed in Italy where he gained much experience working in restaurants as a chef.

Uncle Sabri in Florence, Italy

It was there, in Firenze, where he met my Aunt Gloria which eventually brought him to the United States. They settled in Monmouth County, NJ where Uncle Sabri opened a pizzeria. Throughout my childhood and still to this day I watch him make pizzas for his customers, while always having a delicious healthy side project cooking up in the back. Some days it is fresh caught striped bass from the Jersey Shore which he has acquired through a barter system -- pizza for fish. I feel lucky and privileged to be his niece.

Uncle Sabri has a love for food that is absolutely remarkable. Watching him enjoy a meal, is an experience in itself. He appreciates each and every ingredient so much, and I think we could all learn something from this... I know I sure have. Good food is his main concern in life, and he truly believes that it should be this way for everyone.

Uncle Sabri and me in his NJ pizzeria

I hope you enjoyed this story. It motivates me to follow my dreams because anything is possible. Just as Uncle Sabri appreciates the art of food, I too feel the same way.


PS. Coming soon! Uncle Sabri will be opening a Trattoria in NYC's West Village. More information to come!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Simplicity is Key.

For my first post, I see fit that I post the simplest of my staples: arugula salad with sauteed mushrooms and zucchini. I eat this salad every week without fail. Living in New York City and working 10 hour days in the office, does not allow for much time to cook epic dinners for yourself every night. Not to worry! The ingredients in this salad are minimal and can be picked up at any local market -- 3 minutes, in and out!

This salad is extremely light; it actually makes me feel healthier.
After indulging, you aren't left feeling tired and full, you will be delighted and satisfied. Lemons are the key ingredient for the fresh taste and they make for a great salad dressing. The acidity brings out the flavors in the vegetables and gives it a pure taste. This light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is an extremely healthy alternative to the bottled salad dressing, filled with sugar and lots of chemicals.


Serves 2 (I have an incredible appetite)

4 Handfuls Baby Arugula
1 Zucchini, sliced about 1/4" thick and cut into half moons
10 Baby Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
Sesame Seeds (optional)

4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of Half a Lemon, a whole if you are obsessed with citrus like myself
A couple shakes of Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
**Please note: there is no pepper like fresh ground pepper.

In a saucepan, heat oil. Add zucchini and season with little salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes, until becoming slightly opaque. Add mushrooms. Cook with zucchini for 5 minutes until both are slightly soft. Turn off burner and mix in soy sauce. Let sit.

In a large salad bowl, place arugula. Add all ingredients for dressing. Toss well. Place mushrooms and zucchini atop arugula and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Eat and enjoy.

Can be served with your favorite loaf of bread.