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Easy Lemon Salad

20 Oct

Many of you have suggested that you would like to read recipes of what I cook at home. Granted, as I’ve explained in posts before, I’m not good at the “ready in 20 minutes for dinner” kind of cooking. I’m much more about the “all day, from scratch, making grandma Toscano’s brajoile” kind of cooking.

To my surprise, that seems to interest a great many of you, so I’ve decided to begin to post some family recipes. In some cases modified slightly to not give away all our family secrets.

My first recipe is actually very simple and not at all time-consuming, unlike many of the others to follow.

Lemon Salad – serves 4

1 thinly sliced lemon

3 basil leaves

oilive oil



Thinly slice the lemon, and lay slices on a plate, drizzle oil all over the slices.

Add the chopped basil, salt, and sugar to taste.

Serve! (see I told you it was easy!)

In my family we usually serve this as a side salad to whatever the main dish is, usually our famous broccoli pasta, a recipe I will be posting shortly.

Birthday Cookin’

26 May

I’m going to be talking about this birthday a lot. Go easy on me it’s a decade birthday and those kinda suck. My new coping method is to cook. I did a test round of the birthday chicken cutlet and since I was in to frying and breading stuff, I decided to make eggplant parmesan as well. This is of course after making the marinara sauce too.

It is a cardinal sin in my home to use sauce from a jar. Ew. 

The Chicken came amazingly well, I mean look at that bubbling cheese!

The eggplant also good, but not as magical as the chicken.

I make the eggplant more so maybe I’m just desensitized to the awesomeness.

I’m planning to make a bigger batch of chicken this weekend. Thinking about posting the recipe, for the first time ever. Anyone interested?

Big Birthday Plans

8 May

This year for my birthday I’ve decided instead of going out for a big fancy dinner, I’ve decided to make one of my favorite family recipes from childhood. Chicken Parmesan. I’ve also been asked to make Eggplant Parmesan, it’s going to be a weekend devoted to Italiana.

I’m very excited since I’ve never tried this on my own using my family recipe. As many of you know, I have many skills, but cooking isn’t way up on the list of core competencies, which as I’ve explained before is why I surround myself with chefs and good cooks, and Italians.

Also, I can’t wait for fresh grown tomatoes out of the backyard!

I’m planning to document my progress and recipe, that is if I’m allowed to share the Toscano Family recipes.

More soon!

Family Recipes

4 May

I am in the unique position in my family in which everyone I’m surrounded by loves to cook. This being the case I don’t get a ton of time in the kitchen, unless we are short-handed in which case I end up the sous- chef. Although my seven-year old has taken such an interest that she usually beats me to it. My husband, father and mother all are creative, talented cooks and I am the beneficiary of some sincerely amazing food.

Examples are our family’s special broccoli pasta recipe, invented in part by a family friend who is one of the other 6 Italian’s in the Twin Cities and a brilliant artist, Joe Giannetti.

In addition to broccoli pasta my husband has come up with some amazing recipes such as Salmon and Orzo, pork ramen, Inari sushi, red beans and rice, and a teriyaki chicken, which is such a precious family recipe that I am sworn to secrecy under pain of great sadness.

What kind of family recipes do you have? Don’t worry, I’m not asking for the recipe, only what it is.

Split Pea Goodness

27 Feb

As most of you know I’m not much inclined to cook, but every once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet to want to cook a specific something, usually something I’m craving.(Although, I’m usually helping out my husband cook.) Tonight it was split pea soup.

First we started with olive oil, garlic and onions

Then we added the smoked ham hocks.

Let those caramelize at the bottom, which is a tricky skill I’m not good at. I have very little patience when I cook. Part of the reason I let the experts step in.

Then we added the veggie broth/water. And the three cups of peas.

Brought that all to a boil, stirring occasionally (oh yeah, and added some carrots, a wee bit late, as I forgot them!)

then waited….more patience requited from me.

Finally! Its done and it smells and tastes heavenly!

Mini Chef in Training

23 Feb
Bella’s first caprese salad

I think that one of the many reasons I don’t often cook, or even attempt to sous-chef at home is that my seven-year old also LOVES to cook. She’s also very good at it. (I think I’ve cut myself more than she has, but that’s another issue entirely.)  She’s an expert dicer, garlic peeler and taste tester. She can tell you to the minute how long the pasta has before it’s perfectly al dente. (Such an Italian child!)

Bella waiting for her food at Oceanaire

My daughter was helping my husband cook while I entertained the baby (typical dinner routine for us). I looked over at the spread for this evening and was shown this beautiful caprese salad made entirely by my daughter. Not only did it look pretty, it tasted better than any caprese salad I’ve had in any restaurant in town. To be completely fair most places don’t use the good tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. And it shows. She also told me that she put special ingredients in, and like her father has patented trade secrets to her recipes. If this keeps up I’ll have my very own gourmet chef in-house. My dream come true!

Cooking with Grandma

12 Jan

I remember as a small child one of the highlights of the Christmas holiday season was my father’s parents coming to town. When my grandfather was still alive he would go down to his local Italian grocery store in the morning before getting on the airplane and buy up all the fresh baked bread. He would fill an entire suitcase with Italian bread and check it with the rest of his baggage. One of my most treasured memories as a small child was watching him or my father open that suitcase in the middle of the dining room and you could almost hear the “awww” sound of cherubs singing when the suitcase was opened. I remember my father’s favorite was the round rolls with the sesame seeds covering the entire crust.

My favorite Italian Deli in New Jersey

My grandparents would come for two weeks during Christmas and during that time we would cook at least one big from scratch Italian meal. It ranged from eggplant parmesan, hand made gnocchi, bracciole (pronounced bra-zhole), meatballs or chicken cutlet. Most of my memories are of grandma directing myself and my parents as she was a bit older when I was little and enlisted my help as she couldn’t see as well as she used to be able to. She taught me how to make the gnocci from scratch and how to roll them out with my two little fingers to get them just the right shape. She showed me how to pound the garlic and the meat then roll them up for bracciole and how to cook them in the marinara sauce so they would soak up the flavors in the sauce.

It’s amazing to me that there is so much more to cooking than just the mechanics. Throughout my adult life I have tried to replicate the recipes that she taught me but no matter how I try it never tastes exactly the way grandma makes it.

My grandparents are in the middle

She passed away at 99 1/2 on January 10, 2010 and in thinking about this first anniversary of her death, I was thinking of all the memories of cooking with her. Those were my most favorite memories of my times with her, that and playing cards with her. She and my grandfather taught me how to play cards as a small child and I remember pestering them mercilessly when they were in town to teach me a new card game.

I digress, I still haven’t figured out the recipe thing. My sister and I were discussing this, as she was telling me she has had the same experience. She had theorized it may have something to do with the pots that grandma used, or a specific brand of tomatoes. It amazes me all the permutations that can cause the taste to vary slightly, thus making it nearly impossible to replicate completely.