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Jar of Calabrian chili paste
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

Have you brought Calabrian chili paste into your kitchen? If you like Sriracha, Tabasco, or other spicy additives, you really should try this condiment. I recently made a delicious shrimp recipe with it after trying to find it for quite a while.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

After last week’s book review, I’ll show you the dish I cut my kitchen basil to make. It’s a delicious Italian recipe to add to your repertoire that’s anything but boring. Plus a couple of updates.

From The Last Blog

Since last week’s edition, I had a couple of email exchanges with Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press regarding Apartment Kitchen Gardening. He enjoyed my blog and loved the paint buckets, too. I sent him a few pictures, including the little plants that are now on the windowsill and will be planted soon. I have several tomatoes growing, and two strawberries, one of which will be ripe shortly. He suggested trying to plant the chickpeas, even after all this time. I’ll be doing that soon, too.

Christopher was surprised to find out that in the US, SNAP recipients can buy seeds and plants to grow their own food. Inspired by this info, he wrote a letter to the UK’s environment minister to suggest doing something similar there to help reduce the strong reliance on food banks. I don’t know if they have a program like SNAP there, but that would certainly help UK folks, too, especially if they could learn to grow in apartments. If it happens, I’m glad I could help, just a little.

Inflation

In a subsequent email, Christopher said that the “food front” in the UK also has a long road ahead. There is an effort to increase the standing of cooking classes in schools, as well as encourage people to grow their own food. He said that in time, there could be a shift in the UK’s culture. They are also experiencing a crisis with the higher cost of living now that will require a solution with multiple factors.

The man isn’t kidding. BF and I talk about this often. Inflation is getting worse with no end in sight, and it happened quickly. Public discourse can bring about needed changes, such as more people growing their own gardens. In example: on Sunday, I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at Walmart that have gone up to $15. The price normally goes between $6 and $9, maybe $10. But after paying $13.33 for the last box just one week prior, it’s now over $15. I need to start looking for local chicken folks who sell their eggs, even if they’re the same price. I bought more white rice—yes, plain white rice, which I only restarted eating when I moved here. We’ll be getting more of that sort of thing in the coming months.

On a nicer note, I showed Christopher the blackberries that are growing here now, and I even picked four yesterday morning.

Four ripe blackberries on a tablecloth

Aren’t they beautiful? More to come soon.

He said he has some type of cultivated berries growing, but after a few jars of jam and giving away many little baskets, he’s done with them. Our berry season is short, so I pick as many as I can until they’re gone. Maybe I should learn to make jam too.

He also picks wild sloes to make sloe gin for the winter. Sounds like Amy’s basil pesto obsession, doesn’t it?

Christopher was also surprised that I prefer the British brands of tea, and I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming blog post. I may have omitted the fact that I generally drink them from a cup with the Texas flag. Separately, I’ll be chatting with him again soon one day about the next book they’re planning.

The New Addition

This weekend, BF got a text message from one of his car-guy friends. The man and his wife were out somewhere and came across a scrawny little kitten. Unfortunately, the man is horribly allergic to cats, to the point where he has been hospitalized twice. So, knowing I love the cats (or at least, I did), he texted BF, who brought it up to me. He showed me the pictures of the fluffy orange and white cat.

Remembering our experience with the Christmas kittens five years ago, I was not thrilled with the idea of another cat in here. This kitten is a little bigger than the previous rescues, and of course, BF couldn’t say no. Well, I couldn’t either. I tried.

Dirty, scrawny, starving, and scared, they put her in a little carrier and brought her over. After some food and water, she didn’t waste any time making herself comfortable in the Casa de Rurale, either.

Cat resting on cloth

There she is.

She likes sitting on the sewing machine table, but pretty much anywhere she likes. I was trying to work.

Cat on my arm

Do you think she likes me?

She didn’t take long to discover great places to nap:

Tiger Cat on futon

Where Catmandu and Kismet have gone before

Just make yourself at home, why don’t you?

Tiger Cat sleeping on bed

Awwww. . . .

We did give her a bath, which went about as well as you think it did. BF has a few scratches on his back despite the claw clipping prior to the washing.

Unfortunately, Tab E. Cat isn’t as thrilled with the new addition and let us know about it:

Tab E. Cat on dog cushion

He asserted his feline dominance, and left his “scent” behind on the dogs’ cushion, too.

Just as Broccoli Stirfry is starting to learn how to dog, Tab E. Cat restarted his antics. Thank heavens for Angry Orange, that’s all I’m saying.

The pit bull tried his favorite “get to know you” move, chasing her into a corner of the bathroom, and requiring me to pull him off by his collar. Earlier in the day, he and the now-30-pound puppy took off running after two people minding their own business on horseback. An 85-pound pit bull decided he was going to defend the homestead against horses. I’m sure the horses were laughing to themselves. It could have ended badly, but thankfully another neighbor saw it and stopped his Ford F150. The incident was mostly annoying and embarrassing.

I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page for the beasts.

Giada’s Italy: My Recipes For La Dolce Vita

This is Giada’s cookbook released in 2018, prior to her newest book, Eat Better, Feel Better. I bought a “signed copy” of Giada’s Italy at the Barnes & Noble in Mandeville one evening in April of 2018.

Ok, it was an “unauthorized purchase,” just something I wanted and there it was. It’s not something I do often (especially now), but I’m still a fan of Giada’s, so I bought one. However, I didn’t stand in line as I had before with a couple of her previous books—it was already signed, but likely not by Giada herself. That’s OK.

When I had the time, I read through the book and the recipes. It’s a marked departure from the previous formats of her books. After filming a couple of seasons of Giada in Italy in Positano and Florence instead of the usual California settings, there are plenty of pictures from both cities. One thing hasn’t changed: pictures of Giada, her daughter Jade, locals, and a few other family members enjoying the Italian seaside.

The Shrimp Recipe

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp is a recipe on page 41 of the book. Giada’s description says:

My version of a shrimp cocktail has a lot more kick than the steakhouse standard, thanks to the Calabrian chili paste. I use this spicy condiment in many of my recipes; it’s kind of like the Italian version of sriracha. If you can get your hands on fresh Thai basil, which has a slight licorice flavor, it’s really nice here, but if not, regular basil is just fine.

When BF saw the picture on page 40 of the shrimp, he said, “Oh, make that for me!” Sure, honey!

There was just one problem: Calabrian chili paste.

Remember, I now live in Central Louisiana, 300 miles away from Houston. Here, people get upset when you put salsa on cooked eggs as if you’ve committed a felony. Remember BF’s reaction years ago when I told him I needed allspice to make apple pie spice. Pointing at a huge rack of different local spice blends in Winn-Dixie, he said, “here’s all the allspice you need!” He didn’t know what I was talking about, and if he’d made that mistake in the Navy, he would have been thrown in the brig.

Nobody Had Any

Now, that link above will take you to Amazon’s entry for the condiment, but that wasn’t always the case—when they carried it, the site was always out. I literally couldn’t find the stuff.

A search turned up one brand on Nonna Box, a website that offers Italian ingredients shipped straight to your door, including the Calabrian chili paste. It’s currently out of stock, as it was before, but to buy it on this website would have been about $25 with taxes, shipping, and handling. OUCH.

I called the local outlets I thought should have such a thing, but nobody knew what I was talking about. (This was pre-pandemic.) Surprisingly, Rouse’s didn’t have it, considering their focus on Italian foods. I both visited Martin Wine & Spirits (formerly Martin Wine Cellar) in Metairie on one of my monthly jaunts and called the Mandeville store to no avail. I also called Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, they didn’t know what it was either.

My last resort: Phoenicia Foods in Houston. I sent an email, thinking, surely, they would have it, right?

Nope. And they still don’t, but they do offer to ship to addresses outside of Houston. Maybe I should take another look at their website. I so miss being able to shop in that huge place on Westheimer on the west side of town. They have the most interesting things imported from nearly everywhere.

Calabrian Chili Paste-Finally!

BF has not forgotten this recipe, and occasionally asked when I would make it for him. I reminded him that I still couldn’t get the chili paste. The look on his face made me think I think he didn’t get that part. He says I was just telling him a story to get out of making it, but that’s not the case.

One irony was that Ree Drummond used this hot stuff on her own TV show one day. In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, famous for its “middle of nowhere” vibe. And then she makes a comment about how easy it is to find now. Sorry, what?

Jar of Calabrian chili paste

There it is, the magical stuff.

Y’all, I’m in the middle of Louisiana. When you talk about shrimp, they are either fried or boiled and only grilled if you ask for it specifically. Most people don’t know what cumin and coriander are used for, much less something like chorizo. Calabrian chili paste is just not something anyone knows here, and that became obvious quickly, even with many alleged “gourmet cooks.” (Yes, I’m still writing legal copy.)

A few weeks ago, The Giadzy, Giada’s online magazine and brand, published this article on her love of Calabrian chili paste. I saw it on Facebook. They even sell it on their website. Hmmm. . .OK, should I look again on Amazon?

BINGO! It was the same brand Giada uses, and it was finally in stock.

I needed something else from Amazon, so I ordered the paste along with the other item to get free shipping. (And why not?) The order arrived a few days later. We bought a bag of frozen shrimp at Winn-Dixie and made our dinner plans.

When I was getting ready to cook, BF said, “so we’ll have this with pasta, right?” Say what? No!! I read him what Giada instructs to cook with it, but. . .well, let me get to the making of this dish.

Shrimp For Dinner

Here’s the recipe to print.

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

Amy
Giada de Laurentiis' version of shrimp cocktail, made spicy with Calabrian chili paste. From Giada's Italy, c.2018.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
  • 2 tsp Calabrian chili paste
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest from one-half lemon
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined tails intact
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil or Thai basil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 425F
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  • Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve warm.

BF was quite happy that I was finally going to make it for him, four years after he first saw the recipe.

It’s simple to make, and Giada even tells you what to serve with it: Veal Saltimboca Milanese-Style on page 198 and Asparagus with Grilled Melon Salad on page 216. A teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste also goes in the salad along with cherry tomatoes, sliced cantaloupe, lime juice, Ricotta Salata cheese, and a few other ingredients. These ingredients are not the stuff of salads in this part of the US, save for cherry tomatoes, even in a restaurant that purports to be “Italian.”

One look at those recipes and I knew a) I would have more trouble finding ingredients, especially a 12-ounce veal chop and Ricotta Salata cheese, and b), he wouldn’t eat either of those anyway.

We’re not talking about the refined palates you see in Houston. No, we’re talking about a guy who spent three tours overseas: one with the US Army and two with the Navy Seabees, eating in chow halls. BF grew up not realizing that mac & cheese didn’t have to come from a box. He’ll eat ravioli from a can, but that little container of cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s is still in the freezer because he’s not sure what it is or if he’s going to like it.

Spaghetti for him, and cauliflower rice for me.

I also realized I would need some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and might have to head to Rouses to get some. Nope—I already had a quart-sized bag in the big freezer, bought some time ago, and grated for whenever I need some.

Quart freezer bag of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

A delicious cheese, but you don’t need much.

Now you’re cooking with gas.

Making The Recipe

So, once you’ve got your ingredients together—including the hard-to-find chili paste—it all comes together quickly.

Ingredients for Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

The Setup

Preheat your oven to 425F. Then, mix up the ingredients:

Mixing herb ingredients inbowl

Two teaspoons are plenty of chili paste, trust me.

Add in the shrimp, mixing well to coat:

Shrimp in herb cheese mixture

Just like that.

Let them marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. Then spread the shrimp out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until they’re pink and cooked.

While that’s cooking, chop the basil:

Basil on cutting board

That’s all I had, but I didn’t need much of it, thankfully

Chopped basil

Then just set that aside with the lemon juice

Chopped basil in pinch bowl

Just like that.

When the shrimp are cooked, sprinkle the lemon juice and chopped fresh basil over them and serve warm.

Naturally, I don’t have pictures of the finished product, even though I thought I took some.

Guess what? He liked it! So now I can make it for him whenever we want, long as I have shrimp, the cheese, and the other ingredients.

Other Recipes In Giada’s Italy

The book has more delicious recipes, and I’ve tried a few:

  • Avocado white bean dip, page 25“smooth & creamy,” as I noted in the book on 4/11/2018
  • Apricot Mostarda, page 38—delicious and sweet with a charge of spice. It’s intended for the antipasto platter, a sweet/hot bit among the meats, cheeses, and olives—much like a charcuterie board, really. It just really looked good to me, and I made some, but only once. BF wouldn’t touch it, so more for me.
  • Zucchini Sottolio, page 226—someone gave us a couple of very large zucchini from their garden, and I wanted to do something different with them. Giada did not disappoint. Made on 6/18/2018, I noted “bold flavors with vinegar tang.” BF doesn’t like anything tangy or a vinegar taste, nor any type of squash, so again, it was just for me. The zucchini is sliced and quickly cooked in water and apple cider vinegar, drained, then added to a mixture of herbs. Put zucchini in a jar and cover with extra-virgin olive oil Add a tight-fitting lid before stashing in the fridge. This helps the zucchini last about three weeks in the fridge. Serve at room temperature as a side dish or other accompaniment.
  • Roasted Parmigiano-Reggiano potatoes, page 219—BF liked this one too, and it was simple. I like the fresh rosemary, but I can’t seem to keep the plants growing here for some odd reason. I haven’t made it in a while but I should make it again, especially if we grow some potatoes.

 

Mind you, when I read this section aloud to him during proofreading, BF began his retching noises.

There are several recipes here I’d still like to try, like the Hazelnut Chicken on page 202. It’s a weekend meal for sure, but again, getting ingredients like Cerignola olives, Frangelico, and skinless hazelnuts requires some searching before I can make the plans. And of course, the question of if BF will eat it—but that’s why we keep cans of ravioli and Wolf Brand Chili around, too.

Until Next Time

I’ve been gifted a wonderful collection of things from across the pond, but not by Mr. Crompton. Pictures and explanations will come later in a blog post, including an explanation of some British biscuits (cookies) called Chocolate Hobnobs. Oh, yes, BF loved those, too.

I also have a couple of updates on some recently made recipes, and will again use the recipe plugin to create them so you can print them for yourself. A guest blog is also coming, as I mentioned last week.

Spring is here, so enjoy all the asparagus, fresh berries, and other delicious things that are becoming available.

Happy Dining!

 

Building Sign Angelo Brocato's
Angelo Brocato’s

For coffee and dessert, you have a lot of choices. In New Orleans, you have Angelo Brocato’s in the Mid-City area. Come along with me and The E-Man for a quick visit.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Well, unfortunately, I broke my “streak” again. There’s a reason for it, as I’ll explain. But because it’s been a while, I’m taking another one out of the “draft” file for you. It’s about time.

Let’s get started.

Aunt Nancy

Before I moved to BF’s house, I was introduced to a very nice lady who lived in Folsom, LA, about 45 minutes from here. The occasion was a video sent to districts around the US of SGI-USA members with experiences to tell. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew her partner, PB.

Surprise! A year later, I found myself in BF’s house, and they came to visit in short order. I didn’t want them to visit, because everything was such a mess. PB is a nice man, but he insisted they needed to do a home visit. Over time, it’s gotten better, but it’s still, shall we say, “disorganized.” Not for lack of trying.

Her actual name is Nancy Mallory, and she moved down here in 2013 from Pennsylvania to spend her life with PB. He drove up to Pennsylvania to get this woman. BF only had to drive five hours to Houston to get me.  They lived on his acreage in Folsom, and very happy together.

The Fight

Somewhere, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. Over time, she fought it hard, and along the way was a great friend to everyone, including me and BF. She asked about him one day, and I said, “he’s still going around telling people I’m trying to kill him.” Nancy’s reply: “you mean because of healthier food?” Yes. “Oh, so everything’s OK then.” Aunt Nancy got it.

I still don’t want to have company because I just don’t feel like the house is yet “company ready.” Mind you, we were ready to host the GER, Miss Alice and her daughter, as well as Neighbor E during the February freeze if they needed it. But they would have been warned about the disorganization.

Aunt Nancy wanted to do a “home visit” a couple of years ago, but I just didn’t want it here. She said, “so meet me somewhere!” We decided on the local PJ’s, and she drove up. I took this picture, and now I’m very glad I did.

Nancy Mallory In PJ's

A great candid shot, taken November 1, 2019

I called her “Aunt Nancy” for the same reason I call two of the blog’s readers Aunt Kathy and Aunt Ruth. They’re like aunts to everyone. At least, that’s the way I see it, and I use it as a term of endearment. We’re not actually related, and nobody has complained.

One More Home Visit

Unfortunately, Aunt Nancy lost the fight on Friday, June 18th, in the evening. I went to visit her about a week before, and, let’s just say she didn’t look like this picture. The strong, vibrant woman was now someone who was “all beat up” from fighting. Her daughter and grandson were around, as well as her longtime friend from New Jersey. I didn’t know what to do, so her daughter said, “just talk to her.” That’s what I did, knowing it would likely be the last chance I had.

I gave Aunt Nancy updates about me and BF, how we were doing, and about some of our benefits. I sent her an email in January about one benefit we had but didn’t get a response. That’s OK–some people read them and don’t respond. But for Aunt Nancy, she gets a pass. Mostly, I wanted her to know what we’ve been up to, and that we’re doing OK. I didn’t want her to worry about us. She chanted for us more than once, and I believe that because of it , BF and I will be fine.

PB is carrying on, as he has a business to run and bills to pay. But we all miss her already.

More Website Issues

So, if you’ve come to the website a few times, you may have found that ridiculous spam redirect–again. Banana Rat and I have removed more of these nasty plugins, and we think we got it this time. Feel free to notify me if it returns and you get it.

On June 15th, I received an email from JetPack (one of my security add-ins) that stated:

Our security systems identified unusual behavior on your account. This usually happens when the password used for your WordPress.com account is also used on another service that had a data breach, or the password is weak, insecure, or easily guessable. Because the account behavior indicated that someone else might have access to your account, we reset the password and revoked any app tokens associated with the account.

Great! So I didn’t go back to the website until today. But since I had already changed the password, it was fine. Frequently, solving tech problems on the blog takes a LOT of time. Banana Rat is skilled in these things and has taken care of several on my behalf. Please give him your thanks. We think it’s OK now, and we hope so. That was highly annoying.

Iced Coffee, Anyone?

Well, now that it’s officially summer in the US, it’s iced coffee “season.” I get that iced coffee is an acquired taste–I didn’t actually like it until about 2008 when I got a coupon in my morning Houston Chronicle for a free one. I started actively drinking it in 2011, when we had a hot summer with drought in Houston, and later learned to make it at home.  A couple of years ago, it got easier when I bought Kitchenaid’s cold brew iced coffee maker.

Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective has again published a blog on making iced coffee at home, with some updated equipment. The blog includes links to some other recipes, plus a review of the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot and the Asobu cold-brew coffee maker. As I said the last time, there are many ways to make iced coffee, I just chose the one from Kitchenaid.

Coffee On The Way Home

So, as I mentioned in the post on Katie’s of Mid-City, I am frequently in need of a coffee for the 90-minute ride home from New Orleans. I usually stop at either Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or PJ’s Coffee. All three are along the stretch of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which is Metairie’s “main drag.” Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and very large Rouse’s are also on Veterans in different places. After shopping, I get my coffee, and head back to the I-10, or occasionally, north on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, for the 90-minute drive.

There are two PJ’s on either side of Veterans, and, to my knowledge, two Starbucks. Dunkin sits next door to one of the Starbucks, and I like Dunkin’s iced coffees. But then, the ‘rona struck. We haven’t had any in-town meetings in 18 months. The only trip to New Orleans was for last year’s socially-distanced wedding at Southern Oaks.

Why Starbucks? Two reasons: one, until recently, I saved up my “stars” in the Starbucks Rewards program just to get a “free thing” for the trip home. Two: Since Starbucks in Louisiana doesn’t have as many stores as Starbucks in Houston, there are no salads. That means I’m having either their Egg Bites or some form of a coffee on the way out. I’ve exhausted my “stars,” because I haven’t been collecting them like I used to, and the last 50 were about to expire. The Hammond store has been fully opened since April, but I just don’t drop in as often.

Angelo Brocato’s

So one day, The E-Man says to me, “forget Starbucks–you should get coffee at a local place.” Got anyplace in mind, Dude? “Angelo Brocato’s.”

Now, I grew up in the New Orleans area, but there are many places that I was never familiar with. This is one of them. I’ve seen the name here and there, but not in a long time.

So we park a couple of blocks away, as you do in Mid-City, and walked here:

Building Sign Angelo Brocato's

An old New Orleans kind of place.

Angelo Brocato's Front Door Sign

A most friendly, welcoming place

It’s a lovely place where you can have a coffee, as we did, as well as all manner of delicious Italian pastries, cookies, gelatos, and more.

Angelo Brocato's mezzanine area

The mezzanine inside the cafe. Isn’t it lovely?

My first question: “Are we fancy enough for this place?” I guess we were, they served us.

Gelato

If you’re not familiar with the term, gelato is the richer and more Italian form of ice cream. There are many brands available around the US, and Giada de Laurentiis has a recipe for it here.

Angelo Brocato’s serves it in the cafe as well as sells it in different retail locations. For me, they’re all an hour’s drive, but that’s OK.

In-store, you have a choice of them:

Gelato case at Angelo Brocato's

A lot of delicious!

I’m sure I had that chocolate at the top right. The E-Man had a slice of this delicious spumoni.

More gelato in Angelo Brocato's

Spumoni! (Sorry about the foggy)

They can pack up a quart of their gelato in the store for you to take home. They also sell the gelato and other treats at many local retailers.

Cookies And Bakery Goods

Because this visit was in July, there was no way I could get a pint of ice cream back to the Casa de Rurale intact without an ice chest and a pound of dry ice. Not knowing where to procure such a thing, I chose to bring BF a little white paper bag of tasty cookie treats.

Angelo Brocato's first bakery case

Delicious treats that make the trip home

But wait! There’s more!

Angelo Brocato's second bakery case

Such lovely things

You can buy these one at a time:

Angelo Brocato's cookie jar

I have a weakness for these, but was good that day.

I brought home to BF a small selection of the things I knew would survive the trip, including a couple of these little amaretti cookies. He ate them happily, one at a time.

Visit With The E-Man

I asked for some cappuccino, which the nice lady expertly made for me:

Cappuccino Angelo Brocato's

Absolutely delicious

The E-Man preferred to stick with coffee:

 

The E-Man and his coffee i

He bought some of their bagged “day-old” baked goods (biscotti, I think) and we talked with some nice folks while we were there. Then it was time for me to head home to the Casa de Rurale.

Naturally, I let BF know what we were doing. He knew I was bringing back some tasty things for him. Because I always do.

The Pandemic Takeout Window

Angelo Brocato’s is a very busy place most days, and on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s a line outside. Just about every week, I’m told. 

But a pandemic couldn’t keep them down. They’ve been around for over 100 years! Hurricane Katrina took them out for about a year, and they came back strong.

When the world closed up last year, Angelo Brocato’s decided to do what most restaurants did–open for takeout, including an exclusive take-out window.

Angelo Brocato's Takeout window

The very modern pandemic solution for an old-world business (Source: The Times-Picayune)

I’m guessing those lines are back on Friday and Saturday nights now that the state has re-opened.

A Great Place To Visit

I’ve said this before: if you’re visiting New Orleans, skip Starbucks and find someplace local. Angelo Brocato’s fits that bill, even if it’s just for a morning coffee. It’s a delicious and elegant “old world” cafe that will make you glad you did.  You can also order online for shipment anywhere in the continental US.

They’re located at 214 N. Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans’ Mid-City area. They are closed on Mondays like many New Orleans businesses. It’s a thing there. They’re open 10 am to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday.

Happy Dining!

Dinner
Cookbook Review: The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook

Italian food fan? I’ve got the book for you! Prefer easy, quick meals? I’ve got a new book for you, too!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Remember the two free cookbooks I received last week? Well, I used the first one over the weekend. I also had two surprise dinner guests who didn’t know they would be taste-testers. I also heard from Neighbor E, who was visiting our HEB over the weekend and had. . .free ice cream! Oh, the things I miss here. Let’s get started!

National Ice Cream Day

Ok, somewhere, it became this holiday, and I heard about it on Facebook. HEB brought out a truck to the Clear Lake Marketplace to celebrate, and Neighbor E was kind enough to send some pictures.

HEB Ice Cream Truck

Next to Blue Bell, HEB ice cream is one of the best. Ask anyone in Texas!

I’m sure that in the heat of this summer, everyone was happy to see that when the arrived.

HEB Ice cream float

Look! An ice cream float! On wheels!

Is that not a happy sight?

HEB ice cream truck

There was ice cream all around.

Speaking of friendly faces:

Miss Lei in HEB

Look who it is!!

Hi, Miss Lei!! I was so happy to see your face when he sent me this pic. Hang on, what were you serving?

Speaking of friendly faces, Neighbor E enjoyed his ice cream and hammed it up with one someone from the local aerospace community:

Neighbor E with Astronaut pic

Looking good, Dude!

Loved this picture too.

Ahh, HEB ice cream. . .another thing to look forward to one of these days.

The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo

As I mentioned last week, I was gifted two cookbooks by Callisto Press, and this book was one of them. I really like this book, even though it doesn’t have as many pictures as one by Giada de Laurentiis. It has good food and some pictures, as well as good info. That’s a good one in my book (pardon the pun.)

When I explained it to BF, I reminded him that “Italian food isn’t all about spaghetti.” We’ve been to Olive Garden a few times, and he responded, “If you’ll notice, I order the Alfredo.” As in Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s still like spaghetti, and it’s PASTA. I giggled at him and explained the difference. He looked at me funny, as usual.

The introduction answers the question, “What Is Italian Cooking?” Ms. Montillo goes into the regions, and the different things you’ll find in each. “When it comes to Italian cooking,” she says, “the quality of ingredients far outweighs quantity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Italian food in Italy is cooked in this fashion, while Italian food cooked in American kitchens tends to have more ingredients because it can. Everything is clearly explained, with cooking time, designations like “kid friendly,” “family friendly” and “30-minutes or less.”

The Accidental Dinner Party

Let me say here that I always appreciated Neighbor E’s honest input when I tested recipes in Houston. And that I’m going to test his resolve now, but will post the recipe soon.

So, Sunday BF was home, and asked his cousin from Mississippi to come for a visit and help him work on a car. He did, and I figured I’d cook for him. At some point, I went outside and asked BF in an officious voice, “has this man been notified that he will be used as a taste-tester?” He was, but right before I began cooking, he was called home. The man lives about 30 minutes away, just north of the LA/MS border on the “L” part of the state, so it wasn’t like going back to Houston. But he had to leave, and then it was just me and BF.

I worked until 7 pm, and then got started right as he left. When it was ready, he said, “Oh, JE is here!” Say what? Yes, JE and his wife J dropped by to drop off a motor for BF to evaluate. They drove up from Baton Rouge, about an hour away. Now, he gets those calls frequently: “I’ll drop by after while,” and they never show up. But not this time!

I was getting hungry, annoyed, and it was getting late, so I sat down by myself and had some of this delicious chicken. When I was finished, BF walked in and said, “I’ve got two more taste testers for you!” Again–say what? He invited this husband and wife to dinner!

Let me say at the outset that they are very nice people, and I certainly didn’t mind them coming to dinner. As a rule, I’m not really happy to get surprises. But this one was good, and they enjoyed themselves. They didn’t even know what I cooked up, unless he told them “chicken.”

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Dinner was from page 103, Saltimboca alla Romana, or “Jump-In-Your-Mouth Chicken.” That, Ms. Montillo says, is what “saltimboca” means. I also made the stir-fry broccoli from one of Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks to go with it.

Broccoli stir fry

A quick stir-fry with olive oil, toasted sesame oil, frozen broccoli, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a quarter-cup of soy sauce

But the chicken is the focus here, so I won’t bore you with the broccoli stir fry.

Ingredients

The Setup. The prosciutto was already in the freezer

The recipe calls for 4 thin breast cutlets that are pounded out to a 1/8″ thickness. Of course, this was the day Walmart didn’t have any, so I asked BF to get whole boneless/skinless breast pieces. I cut them flat:

Slicing chicken breasts in half

Sometimes you have to make do with what you can source when you don’t live near HEB (Photo courtesy BF)

And pound them a little:

Pounding Chicken flat

Hit it, but not too hard (Photo courtesy BF)

And then slice it in half:

Breast half slices

Just like this. It doesn’t come out perfect like the cutlets (Photo courtesy BF)

Next up is a light salting (kosher salt is fine) and adding the next step:

Chicken and sage

Fresh sage from the HeatCageKitchen garden!

Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:

Chicken topped with ham

Handle the prosciutto with care, it tears easily

Then dredge it in flour, and carefully shake off the excess. In this case, I used coconut flour, the same stuff I used in Gumbo La Casa. I could have also used oat flour too, but this was what I put my hands on first:

Coconut flour

Just a half-cup

Grabbing the first dish I could find, I started coating the chicken, which is difficult when you’re trying to hold the prosciutto and sage in one place.

Flouring chicken

Just a little coating, not a full breading.

Cooking The Chicken

Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to fry them in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons olive oil:

Butter and olive oil heating in the pan

A good start to any chicken dish!

Although the pan was big, I had to cook them two at a time:

Chicken cooking

Cook prosciutto side down first

At this point, BF started talking to me, and I forgot to take additional pictures. But what you end up with is this when they’re finished cooking:

Cooked chicken

This is what it looks like out of the pan

Then you add to the pan the other two tablespoons of butter and the quarter cup of broth and let it boil. Put the chicken back in the pan for a couple of minutes in the sauce, and it’s ready.

Another thing I did differently was to put a cover on the pot so the chicken would cook faster. They were cooked and done but didn’t have a “crust” on them like they would if the pan was uncovered. Didn’t affect the taste at all, and BF said it was just fine.

The Reaction–Dinner Is Served

So, this is what we all had for dinner:

Dinner

A delicious dinner is served

Understand that these two drove an hour from Baton Rouge, and, as I was told later, were actually talking about where they were going to get some dinner when BF invited them in. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

They take two bites of the broccoli and tell me that it’s really good. The husband takes a bite of the chicken, looks up, and asks, “are you married?” We respond: “no.” Husband: “She cooks like this and you ain’t married? You better marry this one!” We were laughing at that one, but normally, it’s one of those topics not for discussion. We didn’t mind, but I think he’s going to take BF ring shopping one day.

Dinner was three thumbs up, plus I liked it too. BF and I knew what the broccoli tasted like, but nobody knew what the chicken would be like.

Dessert

I didn’t make a dessert, but BF bought one of those frozen “chocolate silk” pies when he thought his cousin would be having dinner with us.

Well, I asked them to try a bit of my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. Once they did I explained that they were made with oat flour, coconut oil and erythritol, but no sugar. Two thumbs up, and the husband said that you’d never know it didn’t have any sugar in it.

Then BF cut the pie and brought each of them a piece, which they didn’t refuse. Needless to say, J&J left very happy–and full.

Success!

I’m sure J&J will be back for dinner again one day, so I’d better make sure I have a menu ready and in my pocket for them. Many thanks to them for sticking around for dinner, giving me another opinion, and great conversation that lasted a little later than we should have been up.

I’ve got another book to review and try, this one on Keto, so that will be in an upcoming blog post.

Meantime, if you’re interested in delicious Italian food you can make on a weeknight, quickly without a lot of ingredients, check out The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, priced at under $20 (last time I checked.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a fast, delicious dinner that’s as good or better than any takeout you can find.

Buon Appetito!

July Updates

Can you believe it’s already July?

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here it is, the middle of July, and I’m still trying to find time to a) blog, b) exercise regularly, c) cook in advance more, and d) enjoy the summer while it’s here. Haven’t changed the futon cover to the “summer fern” one, either. I’m having enough trouble keeping up with the laundry.

It’s been a month since my last post, and although I have topics, I haven’t gotten around to writing about them. What I did write about last night was a legal principle called “The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree Doctrine. “ It has nothing to do with agriculture. It’s a legal principle related to illegally obtained evidence that makes the evidence inadmissible in court.

And the truth is, I knew exactly what it was, because I’ve written about it before. So I’m writing this on the fly to send out so you know I haven’t forgotten to write.

Afternoon Coffee

What I am able to do is enjoy my Barista Cup, and use it just about every afternoon. A month later, I’m still thoroughly in love with it, and tell coffee lovers about it. However, Aunt Ruth let me know that she wasn’t a coffee drinker–but that’s OK, you know someone who is, right?

One of BF’s “car guy” friends, JJ, has finally purchased her own Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Maker. I noticed it was on sale on their website recently, so I mentioned it on Facebook one day, and tagged her so she’d see it. She ordered one immediately, it arrived two days later. JJ and her kids love iced coffee, but not the expense of getting it in the coffee shop. We saw her at a 4th of July party, and she was so happy to finally have it. However, she said that she had to rescue it from her teenage son, who was under the impression that it was a Halloween decoration of a decapitated head. He’s 17, we have no idea where he got that idea.

BF, despite 22 years in the National Guard with two stints on active duty, including a year-long stint in Iraq, still doesn’t drink coffee.

Visitors

Last weekend we were supposed to get a visit from BF’s former roommate. The occasion was the memorial service of regional radio personality John Walton, part of the duo of Walton & Johnson. He passed away on Monday, July 1, after being ill for some time.

He was receiving treatment, but decided to stop treatment for whatever it was he had, and he passed away a few days later. (They didn’t disclose what the treatment was for.) According to their producer, Ken Webster, he had a number of conditions such as arthritis, and had periods where he couldn’t walk very well. He also didn’t follow doctor’s orders well, scarfing down a BLT when he should have been eating better. “Producer Kenny,” as he’s called, began filling in when Walton took ill, and they were under the impression he would return to the airwaves on Monday July 8th. However, Ken will continue the show with radio veteran Steve Johnson, who supplies the character voices. They will continue the long-running show “as long as the listeners want it.” Fortunately, John Walton mentored Kenny very well, so he was able to pick up on air where Walton left off.

The Houston memorial service for John Walton was on Friday, July 12th in Katy, TX. Walton wanted a big New Orleans style sendoff, complete with a brass band and second-line. The New Orleans “celebration of life” was scheduled for Sunday, July 14th. Unfortunately, a guy named Barry decided to barge in that weekend, so the New Orleans memorial was rescheduled for July 28th. BF and I plan to attend.

The Roommate

BF’s former roommate was planning to attend the NOLA service, having been a huge fan of W&J. This guy met them on one or two occasions, and has the picture of the three of them plastered on his Facebook page. He called the show regularly, although less regularly since he moved to Pennsylvania. Roommate also called in when they did their first show after Walton’s passing on Wednesday the 3rd, and called in right before 8:00 am. Both BF and I heard it from our respective locations; I was home, he was on his way to work.

Roommate is planning to return with a friend to attend the memorial on the 28th, and they were able to reschedule from the 14th. I’m happy, because we’ll be able to give him the rest of his rubbish he left behind when he moved. But if and when he comes in the house, he will be in for a shock. Lots has changed since he’s been here, and since I’ve been here. I’m hoping the reaction is positive, but you never know.

Surviving Barry’s Visit

I really didn’t think it would be a big deal for us, and it wasn’t. East Texas got some rain out of it, but in Houston, it was more hit-and-miss. But BF was sure we were going to need the generator and the camping stove, so he bought extra batteries, gas bottles, and of course, a case of bottled water, which now sitting unwrapped under the kitchen counter. We moved things and battened down the hatches, waiting for this middle of July event.

Someone posted a warning meme on Facebook that if you eat all the hurricane snacks too early, you might not fit in the rescue basket. Another said to post a picture of yourself without the filters so that when your body floats by, everyone will know who it is.

July Storm Prep

We gathered up all the flashlights, bought extra batteries, and put them all on the table. I even made a pot of what I called Hurricane Crockpot Beans. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of it.) Two cups of baby green lima beans, some cut bacon ends, some cumin and coriander, and water, of course. Cooked it all night on Friday the 12th, so we would have food on Saturday during the hurricane. What did we do? We ate beans and rice all day!

Barry was like a bad date that arrives late and wouldn’t end (another FB meme.) He’s making landfall in the morning, then late morning, then mid-afternoon, and finally Saturday night, he showed up onshore. We got the visit sometime on Sunday, mid-morning, when the power went out. . .for fifteen minutes. Seriously. That was it. It flickered a few times, and out it went. Didn’t even rain that much. I figured I’d be doing all those things I didn’t have time for when I had power. Nope. BF wasn’t even awake yet when I told him. By the time he started shuffling around and became somewhat upright, the power came back on. Oh, well.

Books

I subscribe to a number of blogs, including those related to working from home, copywriting, marketing, and law. One of those blogs is The Work At Home Woman, written by Holly Reisen Hanna. She recently published her book on time management, and announced it in her blog. I planned to get it when it was released, until I got an email from the publisher asking if I’d like a free review copy in exchange for a review on Amazon.

A free book? Thank you!

I got the book the day before it was released, and I read it as fast as I could, then left a lengthy review. I also notified the publishing company that it was posted and live.

And More Books

On Monday, I got another email from the publisher. . .we have more books to review, are you interested? I clicked on the link and saw.  . .two cookbooks. No kidding, two new free cookbooks. I clicked on both, and they arrived today. They are The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, and Keto In 30 Minutes, by Jen Fisch of KetoInTheCity. I’ve never heard of this blog (which means nothing) but I might have to check it out. She’s actually published her fourth book called Keto In An Instant. However, I do not have an Instant Pot, nor do I really want one.

I already know what recipes I want to try from the Italian cookbook just by flipping through it, and I think BF will enjoy the chicken bundles if I don’t use the word “Braciole.”

In addition, I have also purchased Laura Pennington Briggs’ new book on starting a freelance writing business, and participated on the launch team. I didn’t get any money for it, but she did send out some great free stuff. As much help as she has given me, I felt like I owed her one.

All three of these books arrived today. I’m way behind on reading!

Gazpacho Update

I am still enjoying the Gazpacho that I wrote about last time; I make it when I run out and have it at about lunchtime. It’s as delicious as the first time I made it.

I was so happy to find out how good it was that I wrote an email to Ina Garten, explaining that I tried it, mentioning Red Dwarf and Gazpacho soup is served cold! Included a link to the clip and warned that it was frat-boy humor. About three weeks later, I got a short email from one of her assistants. She said that Ina was “delighted” to read about how I got to trying the Gazpacho and that I liked it, and sent her best wishes.

What do you want to bet that they watched the YouTube video?

Until Next Time

I’ve got to get it together and find time to blog. Maybe I should set a time, like Monday morning, and get started. I do some marketing on Monday, but like most writers, I’m always marketing, really. So I’ll have to figure something out. I have more to talk about. And with the new cookbooks, new recipes to try and report.

Happy Dining!

 

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