Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Around the World: Italy

This is Olivia ...

She may look all sweet and innocent.

But she has a secret plan to take over the world, one meal at a time. Olivia loves cooking shows. Her favorite is Cake Boss.

(She's already saved more than $300 for a trip to Hoboken to eat one of Buddy's cannoli. And yes, cannoli is the plural of cannoli. I looked it up.)

One of her newest passions is this guy.

I don't know about his cannoli, but he's certainly a bit of eye candy!

And apparently Rocco (of Rocco's Dinner Party) has some cooking chops too. On his show, chefs compete to throw the best themed dinner party for a gaggle of celebrities, chefs and foodies. A recent episode featured an Italian theme and that, my friends, was Olivia's inspiration for Sunday night's dinner (a.k.a. her next step in total culinary domination).

An ambitious menu, no doubt. This girl doesn't mess around!

So, at 4 o'clock she assembled the ingredients. (well, most of them. With 5 courses, there's no way she could get all of the ingredients in one photo!)

Let's break this down into bitesize chunks.

Appetizer: Italian Chips

  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Arrange the wonton wrappers on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush each wrapper with egg white.

3. Sprinkle them with parmesan cheese and oregano, then cut into triangles with pizza cutter.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are brown, 6 to 7 minutes.

** DO NOT burn them, like this...

(dang oven, heats up so hot! Be sure you check yours regularly during the baking process)

If you need a do-over, take it .... and ask a friend to help!

(that's Olivia with newly-minted sous chef Emma, who's visiting from Dallas)

5. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Salad: Italian Macaroni Salad (though I'm not sure how "authentic" it is... lol)

  • 1 pkg. macaroni
  • 1 bottle Italian dressing
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sm. jar pimentos
  • 2 c. chopped ham
  • 1/2 c. salad dressing
  • 1 c. shredded cheese
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni until tender but firm, drain well. Put cooled macaroni into large bowl. Pour Italian dressing over it and cover and keep in refrigerator overnight. Next day: add cucumber, onion, pimentos, ham and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Fold in salad dressing and sour cream. Mix well. Serve chilled.

Soup: Italian Wedding Soup (**problems with recipe noted below)

Ingredients - Pt. One
  • 1/2 lb. meat loaf mix (ground beef and pork)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • 1/4 c. milk
Combine the ingredients above.

Form small 1/2 inch balls.

Drop into boiling salted water or broth. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove with a straining spoon, place on paper towels to drain briefly, then refrigerate.

Ingredients: Pt. Two
  • 1 stewing chicken
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 carrot, thickly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, with leaves, cut up
  • 1/3 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 quarts water or broth

Simmer chicken with the remaining ingredients in the 6 quarts of water or chicken broth for about 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Remove skin and bones, cut up and refrigerate. Strain broth and return to pot.

Add 1 head escarole, torn into bite sized pieces, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste. Simmer 20 minutes. (WAIT!!! What do you mean escarole?!? The ingredients list doesn't include escarole!! Fatal flaw with the recipe, as posted. Thankfully, we had some extra spinach, so we threw that in)

Meanwhile, break spaghetti into 4 inch long pieces and cook according to package directions; drain. (WAIT!! What spaghetti? That's not in the recipe either! ** ding, dang Cooks.com!! But we've always got pasta in the pantry, so we threw in some shell pasta)

Add 1 1/2 cups prepared chicken and meatballs to broth. Simmer 10 minutes more. Serve warm.

Entree: Cheesy Vegetable Lasagna
(this one's pretty straightforward, folks)

  • 12 lasagna noodles (we use whole wheat -- the kids & pickier grownups don't even notice!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 (8 ounce) container small curd cottage cheese
  • 24 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot add broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, zucchini and garlic. Saute for 7 minutes; set aside.

4. Place flour in a medium saucepan and gradually whisk in milk until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Reserve 1/2 cup spinach mixture. In a small bowl combine cottage and ricotta cheeses; stir well.

5. Spread about 1/2 cup of spinach mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer noodles, ricotta mixture, vegetables, spinach mixture and 2 cups mozzarella cheese, ending with noodles. Top with reserved spinach mixture, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool for approximately 10 minutes before serving.

Dessert: Tiramisu

Yes, tiramisu is not a cannoli. But we discovered, as we were heading out to the grocery store, that to make a cannoli we needed a cannoli tube. We don't have a cannoli tube. We weren't sure where to get a cannoli tube. We were tired and wanted to get cooking. So, tiramisu it is ... prepared by sous chef Erika.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum (we used vanilla extract instead)
  • 24 packaged ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish


1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso for only 5 seconds. Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, breaking them in half if necessary in order to fit the bottom.

3. Spread evenly 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.

4. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours. Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

(PHEW! I'm tired just typing all that!!)

It took a looooong time, but by...

Olivia had everyone at the table...

and Frank Sinatra on Pandora.

We ate...

We critiqued...
chips were easy & tasty

wedding soup was spicy, but really good

macaroni salad tasted like something we'd eat at a fancy bistro in Florence at the family reunion on the farm in Iowa

lasagna was a little watery (always a risk with veggie lasagna)

tiramisu was to delicious! and not very difficult

We laughed ("that's what she said!")...

And had a lot of fun.

Watch out world (and Rocco), 'cause here comes Olivia!


  1. Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts!

    We are in our final week of Get Grillin' - Dessert is the theme and we would love if you submitted up to any 3 recipes (they don't have to be grilled) to our link up. This one would be perfect! This week we have a Rouxbe Cooking School giveaway. http://su.pr/2YaIiV

  2. Thanks Marla! It was quite delish!