Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eggplant Caponata

Want a great way to use up leftover or nearly past their prime veggies? I got ya covered with my Eggplant Caponata recipe.

If you've never had the pleasure of eating Caponata, you gotta try it. Caponata is a Sicilian dish made with eggplant and a host of other veggies, depending upon who makes it. It's a super healthy and delicious, one pan meal that takes minimal time to prep and is great because besides all of the chopping, the oven does all of the work for you. It's a great recipe to have in your back pocket because it can be eaten in a variety of ways:

-Mix warmed Caponata into freshly made hot pasta for an amazing chunky pasta sauce packed with veggies and FULL of flavor.

-As a side dish next to any protein and especially great as a topping for a piece of baked fish such as cod.

-As a dip or topping for some garlic rubbed, toasted bread.

-Mixed into Italian (oil packed) tuna and eaten as a sandwich on crusty bread (this is our family's favorite way).

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Don't obsess over the exact ingredients. Use what you have in the fridge. Traditionally, pine nuts are added to the aponata but I didnt have any this time so I skipped it. This may seem like a crime to many of the other Sicilians out there but I wasn't schlepping out in the cold to hunt down pine nuts and I'm not a really big fan of the taste. Sue me! : )

Give it a try and let me know the variation you came up with!

Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large eggplant, cut into cubes (you can remove the skin if you'd prefer but we like to leave it on

1 large zucchini, cut into cubes

1 small onion, chopped small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/3 cup pitted olives

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup, basil, torn into small pieces

1 1/4 cup tomato sauce (i use whatever sauce I have made, jarred marinara works well too!)

1/3 cup water


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pour olive oil into a large rimmed baking sheet. Dump all of the remaining ingredients into the pan and toss so that everything is coated in the sauce. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes or so to promote even cooking of the vegetables.

3. Serve hot in any of the above ways or allow to cool and store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ricotta Fritters

This recipe was shared with me by our very special friend, Mary T. She's actually more like family to us and we love her dearly. She's an amazing cook and always has something delicious to share.

We usually make Ricotta Fritters around Christmas time but these are my New Years gift to you. They are similar to the Italian Street Festival food, Zeppole only way lighter and even more delicious! Didn't think that was possible, did ya? Yes, they are fried but this time of year is when we should be indulging in delicious delights like these. So, go ahead. Fry up a batch. Guilt free. You still have a couple of days left before those resolutions kick in.

Ricotta Fritters
Approx. 40 balls


2 1/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs
3 cups ricotta
6 cups canola or vegetable oil
Powdered sugar for dusting


1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and sugar. In a separate, bowl, combine eggs, vanilla and ricotta and mix well. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.

3. When oil reaches 350 degrees, drop dough by the teaspoonful into oil.

Note: Oil is very hot and you should always have kids out of the room while you are working.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls into the oil from very close range to avoid splatter. Fry balls for 6-8 minutes or until they are golden brown all over. No need to turn them. Somehow they magically know when they are ready to turn and roll over on their own. Pretty cool, huh? Remove fritters with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. These are best served the day they are made but can be made up to 1 day in advance (leave the powder sugar until the day you are going to serve them).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Struffoli

Struffoli aka Honey Balls, are an Italian dessert consisting of little bits of dough deep fried in oil and coated in honey. During Christmas time, the bakery windows all over my Brooklyn neighborhood are filled with gorgeous, glistening pyramid shaped mounds of dough. It's a sign of the season.

I became a mama 2 years ago and since then, I've been obsessed with creating little family traditions for my family of three (soon to be four!). I'm a sucker for traditon, especially around holiday time and especially when it involves food. Who doesn't get excited about the holidays because of a certain food made only once a year? Family recipes and the holidays go hand-in-hand. They connects us to the past in a way that is unique and special. It makes us feel warm and loved inside.

Many Italian families have a Struffoli recipe but not many of them are willing to share their well-guarded passed down secrets. As far as I know, no one in my family has a passed down Struffoli recipe (or at least not one their willing to share-HA!). So sad! And Nonna Isabella's recipes never seemed to make it to paper. Equally sad! I hear stories from my mom about what a great cook she was and what fun it was to be by her side as she rolled handmade pasta. I know those are moments she cherishes and those moments are exactly what I want my own children and grandchildren (say, what?!) to have with me.

I create all of my recipes with family in mind. Family is the reason I cook and the reason I started this blog. And while this recipe is not a 100 year old heritage recipe from Nonna, it is all mine and was created with love (and recorded!) in the hopes that one day my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will tell stories about Grandma Christina and her Christmas Strufolli as they make it with their own families. I love the idea that through my recipes, no matter what, I will be with them every Christmas. What's better than that?

Get my recipe here thanks to the AMAZING Stacie Billis of OneHungryMama. And while you're at it, check out her ridiculously scrumptious Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe.

Here's to all of your family traditions, new and old, may they live on forever.

Happy Holidays!

With Love,
The Salerno Family

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Toffee Squares aka 30 Minutes to Heaven

My friend Marina is an INCREDIBLE baker! We met over 10 years ago (HOLY COW!), when we both worked at Scholastic. Back then, she would amaze me with all of the yummy treats she would whip up for family and friends and to this day, she still rocks my world with her sinful sweets. She recently shared this recipe with the world via Facebook and boy am I glad she did. It's the perfect treat for those who are intimidated by baking because it doesn't even require an oven!

Feel like you should still try to make something festive? Lack time/enthusiasm? Both? Do try these then: Sweet, caramelly, crispy, salty, chocolatey. Four ingredients. Fifteen minutes to prep. NO OVEN necessary! The New York Times, to my surprise/amusement, published a version of this recipe last week as well, though theirs is needlessly complicated. But you know I would not do that to you all.

Toffee Squares aka 30 Minutes to Heaven by: Marina Padakis

Yields: 2 lbs of treats


1 sleeve (48 crackers total), saltines (Krispy Brand is preffered)

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 (12-oz) bag chocolate chips (preferably, Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)

*optional: 2 cups chopped nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts), crushed candy canes work too and add a festive touch


1) Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and whisk in. Let it bubble away without stirring.

2) Arrange saltines side by side in a grid on your cookie sheet. Broken ones can be used too. You do not need to grease/foil the pan.

3) Let butter mixture cook till it turns a caramel color--no longer yellow, but not mahogany--like a Heath bar inside. If it is all separated/curdled looking that is perfectly OK.

4) Remove from heat. Let the bubbles subside, then whisk the mixture till it comes together into a nice shiny brown goo.

5) Pour in a back-and-forth motion over the saltines. Use spatula to spread evenly over the crackers--and take care, that sh*t is hot! Do not worry if it's a mess, the chocolate covers any mistakes etc.

6) Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the whole thing. They will melt in 2-3 mins, then use the spatula to spread evenly. If you want nuts etc…on top, sprinkle on now.

7) Stick in the freezer for 15 minutes till chocolate is set (or longer in the fridge if you are not in a hurry). The whole thing should pop off the pan in one piece. Use a big knife to cut into squarish pieces; they will shatter/crumble in places, but that is part of their charm. You also get to nibble all the yummy little bits as you go.


-Put them in little cellophane bags tied with twine. Perfect for a last minute holiday edible gift!

Note: The caramel in this recipe is SUPER HOT! Use caution when having children help you in the kitchen for this recipe. Have them stand back while you are working with the hot liquidy caramel. There's plenty for them to do that isn't dangerous such as: arranging the saltines on the cookie sheet and breaking up the cooled toffee into pieces.