Family Sicilian Chicken

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This is the simplest and most delicious chicken recipe ever. Ah-ha! Hard to believe? Well, it’s true. 😜 It’s been in my family for a couple of generations at least.

And it has a very Sicilian name: spizzadeda. That’s the best spelling I can come up with. I never saw it written down; I’ve only cooked it  after seeing it cooked by my mom. She attributes it to Palermo, home base for the Sicilian side of my mom’s family.

All you do is add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

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Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine.


Add back chicken. Add water to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti.


When done, mix spaghetti with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

Sound simple? Soooo surprisingly good!

Spizzadeda

8-10 pieces bone-in chicken

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion, peeled, thin slices

1/4 dry white wine (optional)

1/2 lb. or 1 lb. spaghetti  (you can use more water in the cooking if you use a full pound.)

grated Parmesan for sprinkling

Add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté  chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine. Add back chicken. Add water to fill to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Boil spaghetti until al dente. When done, mix with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

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Pork Pizzaiola

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What is pizzaiola? It’s either the guy making your pizza or a dish cooked “pizza-style.” In this case it’s a dish cooked pizza-style– which means it has tomato sauce and oregano in it. Those are the ingredients that are the signature tastes of pizzaiola.

Usually it’s made with steak. Here I’m using pork “chops” instead, but they are chops without the bone and really just thickish slices of pork loin.

It’s an easy dish and comes together in a half hour. Perfect! Serve it with a little pasta using the pizzaiola sauce.

All it takes is browning the pork coated in breadcrumbs (I got a trick from my mom– season pork with salt and pepper, then give them a light coat of olive oil for the breadcrumb to stick on). After they get golden on both sides, take them out of pan…

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…and saute onion until soft.

Build your sauce. Then add back chops for 5-6 minutes more. It’s so tasty. Try the same process with chicken cutlets. Oh yes!

Pork Pizzaiola

6-8 boneless pork chops

olive oil for drizzling and sautéing

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 medium onion, peeled & thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Lay chops out on a plate or pan. Season them well with salt & pepper on both sides. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil across them and then turn them to get lightly coated in the oil. In a medium shallow bowl, add the 2 types of breadcrumb. Season crumbs with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan. When hot, press the chops onto the crumbs to adhere, on both sides. Place crumb-coated chops in pan. Sauté till golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Take them out to a paper-towel-lined plate or pan.

If needed, add a little more oil to pan, keep hot. Sauté onion until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add oregano. Add splash of wine. When wine evaporates, add tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Let tomato sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Add back chops. Spoon sauce on top. Let simmer with a cover askew for 5-6 minutes more. Serve.

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Mini Pies with Fresh Orange

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mini pies with fresh orange

Let’s celebrate a winter fruit: here’s a dessert that makes fresh oranges the center of attention. Mix them up with mascarpone, some sugar, and some extract boosts…and these mini-hand-pies are the perfect perk-you-up bite for a snack, with afternoon tea, or a morning coffee friend.

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I found the best way to get the flesh sans peel and pith is to cut off the peels and pith by sliding a knife all around the edges (careful—do it on a cutting board). Then cut flesh of oranges into slices then cubes.

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I added a vanilla glaze to drizzle on top with some crushed walnuts. (Don’t you always find the possibilities are endless?? 🙂

I did a demo on Nashville’s WSMV-TV “Today in Nashville” with Kelly Sutton and Carole Sullivan…here’s the segment on YouTube. (I also show you how to cut the orange.) And find the recipe below. Have fun!

Orange Mini Hand Pies with Mascarpone

3 navel oranges

2 sheets store-bought puff pastry

8 ounces mascarpone, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 egg (for egg wash)

Vanilla Glaze & Topping

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup walnuts, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Zest all 3 oranges. Cut off the peel and pith off the oranges. Cut oranges into slices and then into small dice.

Add the mascarpone to a medium mixing bowl. Add sugar and extracts. Stir to combine well. Stir in the orange pieces and orange zest. 

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough pieces until just slightly larger and thinner. Using a 3-inch square cutter, cut out squares of dough. Add a tablespoon of mixture in the middle. Fold to make triangles. Press along the edges to seal. Then use the tines of a fork to press closed more securely. Place triangles on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Re-roll dough scraps to make more — you should have about 30 mini hand pies.

Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash on each triangle. Poke a small hole in the center of each one. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Make the Vanilla Glaze:

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces. Add the vanilla and mix well. Run the kitchen faucet until very hot. Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir rapidly to combine. If frosting seems too thick, add more hot water until it becomes the right consistency for drizzling.

Wait until mini pies are completely cool. Drizzle glaze on top in a zig-zag design. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.

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We called them the “White Cookies”

fullsizeoutput_149cI was the one in our family who could devour a whole batch of “white cookies” in just a couple of sittings. So when my mom would say — should I make the white cookies? I had a push/pull feeling. Yes! I love them. No! I’ll be only one to eat them and here comes some extra pounds. Grr. BUT they’re so good.

Why was it only me who liked them? Well, they’re not too sweet (I’m not big on too sweet), they have a cakey almost biscuity body with a lemony vanilla-y icing. Ohhhh. Very good. Soft to the bite, exciting to the palate. Maybe they’re very sophisticated and that’s why I’m the only who recognized that (ha ha, just kidding).

Make them. Bake them. They’ll stay nice in a tin (after icing sets) for a week. But they won’t last that long. Because you’ll eat them first. And, yes, they’re from my Italian-American background, and despite our simple name for them I’ve seen similar cookies in Italian bakeries with the name: anginetti. But those bakery cookies never lived up to the ones coming from our home kitchen. So now…from your home kitchen!

“White Cookies” or Italian Lemon Cookies

For the cookies:

½ stick unsalted butter (four tablespoons)

5 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft (room temp)

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar

2 drops lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the cookies:

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Beat to combine until a dough forms. Don’t over mix. Pinch off one-inch pieces of dough and shape into balls. Place on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 15 minutes until cookies are slightly colored golden-tan. Use a spatula to gentle move cookies from baking pan to a rack to cool (or open a brown paper bag flat and let cool on that). 

Make the icing:

In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to mash the butter flat. Add the sugar, and mix roughly. Run tap water until it is very hot. Drizzle in a little hot water – just start with about a teaspoon – and stir to combine, mixing vigorously and quickly to incorporate the butter. Add more water little by little until you reach a good consistency…like honey.

When cookies are cool, dip them top-first into the icing, then stand them icing-side up on a flat surface. Continue with all the cookies. You can store cookies in airtight tins once the icing has dried and set.

Sautéed Peas Roman-Style

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Why Roman style? Simply because I learned this recipe when I was a student in Rome — many years ago. It’s a recipe that one of my professors talked about in the hallway between classes. It’s never left my repertoire.

It’s so easy. So lovely. A perfect accompaniment to meat, fish, seafood. And so pretty, too!

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Sautéed Roman Peas w Onion & Pancetta

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/3 cup pancetta, diced

1 medium onion, peeled, halved, thinly sliced

¼ cup wine

1 lb. bag frozen peas

salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the pancetta. Cook until lightly browned. Add onion & cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine. Let it simmer for a minute or so and mostly evaporate. Add peas and a ¼ cup of water. Cook until peas defrost and water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil. Serve.

BOOK peas roman

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

When I make stuffed mushrooms it’s always a last minute thought. And that’s okay. Because it takes near nothing to do.

You can make this recipe with 5 mushrooms, 12 mushrooms, 20. As long as you have a shallot (my favorite for this) or an onion (and some breadcrumb) you’re ready. Turn on the oven to 375 or 400. Line a sheet pan with foil. And go!

They are so tasty, and look so enticing and elaborate, you’ll never use a mushroom in any other way. (Well, of course, you will.)

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

12 medium to large white or cremini mushrooms (I love having the usual array of mixed sizes)

1 shallot

Olive oil for sautéing and drizzling

1/2 cup panko

2-3 sprigs parsley, leaves minced, stems discarded

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle a thin film of olive oil on foil. Gently pop out the stems of the mushrooms and line up the empty caps on the sheet pan. Mince up the stems. Peel and mince the shallot. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a medium frying pan. Sauté the chopped stems and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. When softened — about 2-3 minutes — add the breadcrumb & parsley. Drizzle a little more olive oil. Stir and coat crumbs with mixture. Add a little more salt. Take off heat. Let cool for a minute or so.

Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over caps, and very lightly salt caps. Using a small spoon, spoon mixture into caps until heaping. Place pan with mushrooms in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until tops are golden or lightly brown.

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms