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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Give fat a second chance

Food trends can make or break an ingredient’s reputation. All it takes is the publication of a silly carb-less diet or the disclosed eating habits (or lack thereof) of a swanky A-lister and your favorite ingredient could go MIA – either blacklisted at most restaurants or too taboo to enjoy even in your own home. On Monday, Mark Bittman introduced a contest on his NYTimes blog, Bitten, to make a mayonnaise using the residual fat from your bacon. Before you go into a panic attack, take a deep breath and follow me. It’ll be OK.

mise en place
mise en place

First off, since this is a Mediterranean blog, I decided to revisit the idea of a BLT using med-inspired flavors. No monstrous portions here, either. I chose to make pancetta, arugula & tomato crostini and used the fat from the pancetta for the mayo.

pancetta + pancetta fat: waste nothing
crisp pancetta

Right from the beginning you’re getting double use out of your pancetta. The fat has a distinct, almost nutty, flavor that you won’t be able to achieve any other way. If you’re still having qualms about the pancetta fat, just see it as being resourceful and putting everything to good use. 

spread the love
spread the pancetta mayonnaise

The mayonnaise is wonderful and nothing like what you would find in a jar – not even close for that matter. The pancetta flavor is bold and pairs well with the subtle undertone of the dijon. The egg brings everyone together and the lemon takes care of any heaviness you might’ve been worried about. It’s a well-executed team effort.

Pancetta, Arugula, Tomato Crostini
final crostini

The size of this dish is deliberate. It agrees with the philosophy that everything in moderation is acceptable. Granted, these crostini in no way constitute a full meal, nor are they meant to; but if you’re in the market for an afternoon snack or an antipasto to enjoy with your friends and family, you’ve got yourself a winner. Break open a bottle of wine and enjoy life.

Pancetta Mayonnaise

yields about 1/2 cup


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup liquid pancetta fat, room temperature

Putting them all together

  1. Combine egg yolk, dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small food processor or a blender and pulse until well combined.
  2. While the machine is on, gradually drizzle in the fat until the mixture stiffens and you reach an emulsion. At this point you may add the fat a little more quickly.
  3. If your mayonnaise is too thick, blend in 1 tsp of boiling water to thin it out. 

adapted from FatAn Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes

notes: To make the crostini, toast slices of baguettes or ciabatta until golden brown. Spread a thin layer of the mayonnaise on each and top with baby arugula leaves, crisp pancetta and heirloom tomatoes.


just peachy

Right now I should be in Seattle spending quality time (i.e. karaoke-ing)  with my friend Jess.  Just like this past weekend I should’ve been in sunny southern California at Diane & Todd’s blogger bash… but, no. Instead, I was informed (on my way to the airport on Friday) that my airplane would be delayed to the point that I would miss my connection. Mind you, this was the last connecting flight to southern California that evening. So, does the airline offer to put me up at a hotel for the night?  Does the airline even care to compensate me in any way? No and no. I just barely got my money back from the extremely rude supervisor and had to turn around and go home.

I make it a habit not to let things to get under my skin and so I tried to have a good weekend despite all the mishaps. As is the case with most foodies, our best weekends always tend to start with a visit to the local farmer’s market. I did just that.

Eastern Market in DC:

spring colors
spring colors

The flowers speak for themselves. Everywhere I turned there were different patterns and colors… it always baffles me how these things just grow on the ground (is this just me?).

we had our food, the bees had theirs
fruits and bee

Even though I’m usually freaked out by bees (and most other flying creatures for that matter), this one looked so calm eating and minding its own bee-sniz. I opted for the other food at the market and snacked on a the wide array of fruits and heirloom tomatoes on display that day (definitely one of my favorite things about farmer’s markets). 

my inspiration
my inspiration

How could anyone resist? Seriously, these peaches tasted as ripe and juicy as they look. I took some home and on the metro ride thought of the possibilities. I narrowed it down to peach cobbler or peach galette and since a galette is more Mediterranean, I went with that. 

mise en place
mise en place

Galettes (or crostatas as they’re known in Italy) are rustic looking tarts. This means no fuss with tart pans or delicately crimping edges. That’s exactly what I did not need this past weekend.  No; galettes are super easy and you can pretty much fill them with whatever fruit you would normally bake with.

every good dessert has butter
every good dessert has butter

OK, so even though the crust already has a ton of butter to begin with, I just couldn’t resist adding a tiny sliver on top… Since we’re topping these with a sprinkling of sugar, we need something for the sugar to stick to, right?  Sound logic, especially when you’ve been having such a crummy weekend.  

peach galette
every good dessert has butter

If I wasn’t going to be able to see my good friends on the West coast, I was going to need a few of these tarts (3 to be exact) to cheer me up. In my defense (ahem, Adam), I did go to the gym shortly afterwards. If you haven’t already tuned into Adam’s blog, umm… you should. He’s a foodie/health guru who allows the occasional indulgence (if executed properly, of course).

Peach Galettes

yields approx. 4-5 individual galettes


  • 225 g flour
  • 115 g butter, unsalted (1 stick)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp amaretto, chilled
  • 2 tbsp water, chilled
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • half a peach per galette
  • slivers of butter & sugar for topping

Putting them all together

  1. Pulse cold butter and flour in the food processor until you reach a mealy texture.
  2. add the lemon zest, salt and sugar.  Slowly add one tablespoon of liquid at a time until the dough just barely begins to come together.
  3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. Once dough has chilled, divide it and roll out each piece to 1/4 inch thickness.
  5. Slice peach halves and fan on top of dough. Fold edges inward to contain the peaches.
  6. Top with a sliver of butter and a healthy sprinkling of sugar.
  7. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. 


can I plant these?
peach pits

I just started gardening last month and so I’m relatively new to all this… does anyone know if I can grow a peach tree from these pits?


Glasses filled with wine, bursts of laughter, plenty of food to nibble on – this, to me, is the Mediterranean way of life. Even though there is no way I can convince my boss to let me take a siesta in the middle of the day, I can still lead a Med lifestyle vicariously through the food I make. This month I’m entering Jenn’s popular Royal Foodie Joust, where bloggers have to strategically incorporate three featured ingredients into their entries. Kittie, last month’s winner, chose to feature whole grains, ginger and citrus. YUM!

mise en place
mise en place

I decided to make a traditional Middle Eastern salad called Tabbouleh alongside citrus-marinated swordfish spedini (Italian word for skewers).  I snuck some grated ginger into the swordfish marinade, used bulgur wheat in the salad and incorporated citrus into both dishes.

parsley bouquet
parsley bouquet

In order to get most of the leaves from the parsley (and not a lot of the tough stems) you want to bundle little bouquets of parsley and mince the leaves ultra fine with your sharpest knife. I remember for large social events and holidays, all the women in my family would gather in the kitchen to chop mountains of parsley and exchange juicy gossip. 

lemon juice + olive oil dressing
tabbouleh dressing

Now that we’re on the subject of Tabbouleh, I want clear up the common misconception that Tabbouleh should have only a tiny bit of parsley and a TON of bulgur wheat – NO! The only reason many (non-authentic) restaurants go heavy on the bulgur is because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than chopping up all that parsley. And don’t try to whip out your fancy food processor here… nope, it’ll only make parsley pesto and that’s a totally different post.

swordfish skewer
swordfish skewer

When it comes to fish, I don’t like to overdo it with too many harsh herbs and spices. I purposefully chose a combo of clean flavors – specifically, basil, mint, lemon & orange zest, ginger, olive oil, salt & pepper. Let them all mingle in the fridge for a couple hours before throwing the fish on the grill. 

swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives
swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives

Next time you want to take a break from life and jet off to the Mediterranean, invite friends over for some tapas, mezze, antipasti, whatever you want to call it (small food?) and open a nice bottle of wine. It’s lots of fun and definitely my preferred way to host. Spread the Med LOVE!

tabbouleh salad
tabbouleh salad


yields approx 10 small servings


  • 3 cups parsley, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp bulgur, fine-ground*
  • 2 tbsp water, lukewarm
  • 1 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • ½ qt. cherry tomatoes
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml lemon juice (approx 1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup mint, minced
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur in lukewarm water (until all the water is absorbed).
  2. Finely mince parsley with a sharp knife (make sure parsley is completely dry before chopping)
  3. Prepare the rest of the vegetables by chopping them as well (they don’t need to be as finely minced as the parsley). 
  4. At this point you could store everything in the refrigerator (well covered) for up to a day.
  5. To assemble, toss soaked bulgur wheat, minced parsley and prepped vegetables in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and spices together and pour over salad.
  6. Wash some hearts of romaine to serve alongside the tabbouleh and enjoy!

* My supermarket carries fine-ground (aka #1 ground) bulgur in the bulk and ethnic isles, but if yours doesn’t, Dayna’s Market will gladly deliver.


swordfish spedini
swordfish spedini

Swordfish Spedini

yields approx. 10 small skewers


  • 1.25 lbs swordfish
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 2 tbsp ginger, grated
  • basil, chopped
  • mint, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak bamboo skewers in water.
  2. Cut swordfish into 1 inch cubes
  3. Marinade with the rest of the ingredients in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  4. Skewer the cubes and grill (or broil) for a couple minutes on each side.  Until the inside is no longer translucent. 
  5. Serve with lemon wedges

notes If you can’t find swordfish, you can make this dish with any hearty fish that can hold up being skewered and grilled. Tuna is a great fish that comes to mind.  Measurements for the marinade don’t have to be exact, just use what you’ve got.  


Zabaglione with a heaping tbsp of THANKS!

Ever since I could reach the stove, I’ve been cooking in the kitchen (refining my taste along the years). I remember mixing melted cheese with ketchup one time, but I’ll spare you the details of my culinary mishaps. My family, however, has always been extremely supportive and perfected the art of masking their displeasures with the widest grins on their face.  I, after all, was their favorite little chef.

once a foodie, always a foodie
drinking tea

Next month will be Olive Juice’s 1st birthday and I suck at keeping things under wraps.  Last week, one of my dreams came true when I finally made it on TV to showcase two of my signature dishes: pasta alla zarina and baba ganoush. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a support network that has grown beyond my family to include my friends and fellow food bloggers around the world.  I wish I could one day meet the faces behind all the delicious-looking blogs I visit on a regular basis; but for now, I would like to dedicate this post to everyone who has tuned in and especially to those who’ve taken the moment to comment and send e-mails.  You have inspired me to keep doing what I love and this Italian zabaglione is for you – buon appetito!

mise en place
mise en place

Zabaglione (or Sabayon as it is known in France), is a basic dessert sauce made from whipped egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine.  I took the liberty to add a splash of amaretto, I hope you don’t mind.

zabaglione never met a berry it didn’t love
zabaglione with berries

The sauce is super easy to put together all while having the benefits of sounding extremely elegant.  All it takes is whisking all the ingredients over a double boiler until the sauce is light and fluffy and you could form ribbons like the one shown above.

zabaglione con frutta
zabaglione con frutta

Fresh summer fruits is my preferred canvas for this rich sauce just because it brings a refreshing note to each bite.  Of course, it goes well with just about anything.


yields approx. 325 ml


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 110 g sugar
  • 125 ml marsala
  • a splash of amaretto

Putting them all together

  1. With an electric mixer, whisk the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl until well blended.
  2. Transfer to a double boiler and continue whisking for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is light and fluffy.
  3. Remove from the double boiler and continue whisking until the sauce has cooled down slightly.
  4. Serve slightly warm over fresh fruit.



Clips from the morning show!


Pasta alla Zarina

Creamy Spinach Pesto


Baba Ganough

Middle Eastern Roasted Eggplant Dip

Rebecca & Me
Rebecca & Me
Pretend News Anchors
Pretend News Anchors

foodies (not so) anonymous

Are you a food blog junkie? Do you stop your friends from eating your culinary creations before they’ve been thoroughly photographed? Do you wake up and check your feed for new posts from your fave food blogs?  Most importantly, have you made online foodie friends?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, it must come at no surprise that you’re a foodie.

foodie haiku
foodie haiku

Last week, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple sent me the best graduation gift a foodie could ever ask for.  It was a care package filled with a bottle of epicurean extra virgin olive oil, a hand-crafted wooden serving platter, exquisite dark chocolates, Vietnamese goodies and pretty party napkins that made for excellent shock absorbers during delivery. The gift also came right after they inspired me to plant my own herb garden (READ: 1 basil and 1 rosemary plant).  This week, as you can tell, my basil plant is out of control.  I pluck and it just keeps growing!  So to show my thanks, I’ve decided to write a post using my homegrown basil and a couple of their gifts. 

mise en place
mise en place

When I opened the bottle of extra virgin olive oil they sent, I was immediately taken aback by its bold fragrance. It was like sticking my nose up close into a big bowl of Mediterranean olives. This kind of oil is certainly not meant to go anywhere near heat and is perfect for salads and dunking bread.  I opted for the latter choice, and went with a warm baguette from my local baker.

basil confetti
basil confetti

Infused oils is something my mom always makes for when guests are coming over. It’s extremely simple and tastes even better when made a day in advance. This recipe is for a spicy basil-infused olive oil and it is by far my favorite variation from my mom’s collection. 

good quality extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil

The oil is out-of-this-world! The minty subtleties from the basil play really well against the robust flavors of the unfiltered olive oil.

bread’s best friend
bread's best friend

After the oil has had about a day to rest (overnight if you’re too impatient), there’s probably not much that wouldn’t taste amazing with a little drizzle of this concoction.  Seriously, drizzle this over some grilled chicken, spread some inside your sandwiches, heck, go at it with a spoon? OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but that’s not to take away any of its awesomeness.

basil-infused olive oil
bread's best friend

Thanks again, D & T for the amazing gifts!  I’m looking forward to using the rest of the oil and the other treats you guys included.  The chocolates were gone by the second day, but that was to be expected.  You guys are the best!!

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

(yields approx. 300 ml)


  • 250 ml extra virgin olive oil, high quality
  • lots of basil leaves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Chiffonade your basil leaves (i.e. make basil confetti)
  2. In a pretty container, combine basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt & pepper and cover with the oil.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the oil to sit over night.
  4. Serve with bread (or anything, really) and enjoy.

Note:  You can store the oil in the refrigerator, but make sure to bring it back to room temperature before using again.  It is normal for the oil to congeal in the fridge.