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We have reached another Friday! Gonna see a movie this weekend? We have some recommendations that pair well with food (of course)!

Our first film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Chow down on some garlic bread with these recipes while you watch.

Our second film: My Cousin Vinny. Streak your hair, get out your leather and go to Brooklyn for grits at Egg!

Our third film: If you fry it, they will come: Hot dogs and Field of Dreams. Magic in the Moonlight.

In other news, I’ll be traveling to South Beach today for my first Triathlon of the season. You can also get the recipe for my home made energy bars at that link. Tweeting will be light as I don’t want to take out my pre-race panic attacks on you lovely people.

Come Monday or Tuesday we might have some more BIG NEWS. So stay tuned. And we will also be continuing our Meals on Reels program. Don’t forget to send us your favorite movie/food scenes! Post ’em in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

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“Have a sangwich!”

This is a line my family uses, in jest, usually after a particularly large meal. We say it for a few reasons:

1. It’s funny.

2. No one in my family ever needs a “sangwich” or a saaaaandwich (if you must). There is always so much food around that the idea of more in whatever form, sandwich or otherwise, would be pushing the limits of space, time and elastic waistbands.

(For those of you out of the loop, “sangwich” is sort of Italian-American/New Jersey/New York dialect/accent-weirdness for “sandwich”).

But sometimes you need a sandwich, as they are surprisingly handy. And last week I was in Midtown (really) and there were sandwiches to be had. Specifically, the well-crafted Portuguese sandwiches at City Sandwich.

City Sandwich chef and owner Michael Guerrieri was born in Naples, raised in New York, and cooked in Lisbon. And now he’s back in New York bringing Midtown a selection of golden-toasted sandwiches with fusion fillings. He calls this blend of flavors “ItaLisboNyorker” which is kind of a mouthful. Sandwich pun intended.

Something I REALLY like about this place is that there is no mayo in the sandwiches. Guerrieri instead uses yogurt with olive oil (I’ll get back to this in a bit).

The Scene:
The interior is unassuming. It looks like the sandwich version of a Pinkberry with less bubble-style graphics. The menu options are posted on the walls of the long, narrow space. Tables line either side, and the counter is at the back, complemented by a beverage fridge (stocking GUS natural sodas) and a basket of Gourmet Basic’s Smart Fries.

The Grub:
We selected the following sandwiches from the wall-posted offerings:

The Todd (pictured above): A harmonious blend of smoked Portugese pancetta, seasonal lettuce (nice and dark green, none of that wilty iceburg stuff), and a tomato with actual flavor. The whole thing was accented by a healthy but not goopy drizzle of honey dijon yogurt sauce. A honey dijon yogurt sauce that I liked so much I replicated at home. There’s a (bonus) recipe below!

Next up was the Henrique. Sporting Portugese Alheira-Vinegar sausage, steamed collard greens, grilled onions, melted mozzarella, this sandwich is definitely a heavy weight. But not in a way that often induces regret in an “I just ate a brick” way. It is surprisingly light – perhaps because the bread is so delicate and crispy it could float away if it wasn’t weighted down by meaty accoutrements. I loved the combination of tangy vinegar sausage, sweet grilled onion and savory collard greens. The mozzarella could have been a touch saltier (yes, even with sausage).

The Experience: The Big Lebowski

While the atmosphere doesn’t count for much, the sandwiches are innovative, fresh and feature well-thought-out and balanced taste combinations. I enjoyed the fusion of Italian, Portuguese and New York styles and tastes. And I loved that Honey Dijon Yogurt Dressing. So much so that I recreated it and mixed it up with some Persian cucumbers and avocados for a tangy salad.

Here’s how to do it yourself:

What You Need:

For the Dressing:
makes 1/2 cup
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (NOT honey-dijon mustard)
2 teaspoons honey (I used a Acacia variety from Murray’s Cheese, but any honey that tastes good to you works)
A drizzle of olive oil

For the Salad:
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
2 Persian cucumbers, diced

What To Do:
Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and mix. Be sure to give it a taste and see if you would like more of any of the three main ingredients.

Place your chopped cucumber and avocado in a larger bowl. Add as much dressing as you would like (I added about 2 tablespoons of it) and mix until well coated. Serve with toasted bread or pita chips.

Note: This dressing is also good for dipping aforementioned bread/pita chips. This would be why I don’t have any dressing leftover.

And finally, say it with me now: SANGWICH! Have one.

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A colleague of mine told me a joke yesterday:

“How many Jets does it take to get to the Super Bowl?”

“How many?” I said.

“Two. One for the Packers and one for the Steelers!”  He roared with laughter.

“Funny,” I dryly responded.  In appreciation for the joke, I proceeded to fix him a cup of coffee.  Who’s smiling now, buddy?

Yes, I’m still bitter from the Pittsburgh loss.  Why were the Jets asleep at the wheel during the first half of an AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?  Why did they have to lose to a group of degenerates who notoriously rack up fines and suspensions like Charlie Sheen trashes hotel rooms?  Why do I continue to support a franchise which, without fail, leaves me curled up in the fetal position on the morning after each season ending loss with a brutal hangover and an empty Kleenex box, surrounded by a litter of candy bar wrappers and uncapped magic markers?

Well, it’s hope I suppose.  Because regardless of how painful your team’s season ending loss was, there is always next year. And even sooner to the rescue, is the Super Bowl: an event so commercialized and familiar that even the most left out of football (or non-football) fans feel welcome to participate in. For many, it grants us one more opportunity to watch some quality football.  For everyone, it provides quality entertainment and food.  And what better idea for a Super Sunday snack than a mixture of American and Italian greatness?  Enter, the meatball slider – the perfect handful of a mouthful which teases your brain into thinking that three of these suckers is considerably less damaging than an entire meatball sub.  Well, actually, it is… provided you subscribe to the below mentioned, from-scratch recipe:

What You Need:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork of veal
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground pine nuts
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped taragon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a couple shakes of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh basil (about 12 large leaves)
Mini Parker Rolls (or Brioche rolls)

Tomato Sauce: You can use your own recipe, or the one I describe here.

What To Do:
Place your ground (defrosted if it was frozen) meat In a large mixing bowl and mix to combine well.

Add in your breadcrumbs, ground pine nuts (you can grind them in a food processor) and everything else. Mix very well to combine. You really can’t over-mix.

Make sure the “meat-dough” is holding together. To do this, grab some with your hands (come on, you can do it!) and form it into balls. Pretend you’re making snow balls. With meat. If it’s holding together, continue making balls and setting them aside on a platter. If it’s not holding together, you can add another egg.

Once you have formed all your meatballs, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Place your raw meatballs in the pan and fry ’em up!

You will need to rotate them a bit, so they brown evenly on all sides. Don’t do this with your bare hands. Use some tongs or a spatula at least. I’m begging you. Also the fat from the meat will combine with the oil of the pan and become VERY, VERY HOT. It may just splatter. Yet another use for those safety goggles I like so much.

This whole cooking process should take about 10 minutes. If you made giant meatballs, 15.

Open up your mini rolls like buns and place one meatball inside. Top with 1 large basil leaf. You can hold this whole contraption together with a toothpick if you like. Serve the tomato sauce on the side.

Note: You don’t have to use the pine nuts if you can’t find them or are allergic to nuts. They did give the meatballs a nice, nutty and slightly sweet flavor, which I liked very much.

Also – is this still not enough to feed your team?  Keep in mind our previous football related posts seen here, here and here.

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Each passing day on the ol’ blog is a learning experience.  Originally, Elana and I had intended to treat the blog as a smorgasbord for all things food related; reviewing restaurants, posting recipes, and starring in videos – with the only common denominators  being enthusiasm and honesty.  There was not necessarily a real theme or concentration as to what we would feature.  You were just to trust our homegrown taste buds on various food related topics.

Much to our surprise, a decent amount of people actually read this thing.  Well, thanks for peepin’ the posts, peeps (hehe).  And, in order to take this blog to the next level, we feel it is appropriate to narrow the focus a bit.  An Italian focus.  I mean, that is the type of food we were raised on, experiment with most frequently, and eat too much of.

So what does this mean?  Well, like many things we do here on the blog, the focus will be an experiment of indefinite duration and potential debate.  But generally it will mean this: most of the restaurants we will review will be Italian or Italian influenced.  Our recipes and videos, will predominantly forward Italian dishes and ideas.  In fact, even the blog, is going to be written in Italian.  Comprende, amigo?

But lovers of food we are above all.  So we will still make occasional room for posts that are outside the scope.  However, according to my father (“The Box”) all foods (and generally everything else) on this planet are a derivation of some sort of Italian influence.  So, technically, even if our posts do, in fact, stray from the Boot’s roots, perhaps we are not straying at all… naw mean?  No?  Care to debate the topic with this man?

We didn’t think so.

Elana here (that was John above, if you hadn’t guessed). In keeping with this new focus, we are starting off with a very basic, Italian 101 recipe: bruschetta. I’ve talked a lot about brushcettas, but I’ve never offered you the simplest, most basic and potentially most satisfying combination: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta. Here it is:

What You Need:

Tomatoes (4 nice plum ones, or a basket of the cherry variety)
Extra virgin olive oil (as much as you like, but you really only need a drizzle or three)
Sea salt (to taste)
Fresh basil (chopped)
Loaf of Italian bread cut into slices

What To Do:
First, fire up your broiler. Place your bread slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place the cookie sheet with bread in the broiler and toast for about 1-2 minutes on each side (don’t forget to flip!). Make sure you keep an eye on the toasting process, because that broiler heats things up mighty fast, and I have pulled too many charred bread remains from its fire-y depths because I can’t seem to remember that I put them in there in the first place. But you are waaaaaay smarter. Let’s hope.

Chop up your tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Drizzle with a healthy dollop of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt to taste, and decorate with chopped, fresh basil. It really must be fresh. I can’t stress that enough.

Once your toasts are toasted, line them up on a nice platter and using a spoon, heap generous amount of the tomato mixture on top of the toast. Serve immediately. Bene?

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Maybe you are throwing a New Year’s Eve party? Or are attending one and need to bring a little somethin’-somethin’? OR you want to add yet another appetizer recipe to your arsenal. If any or all of these are true, I’ve got just the thing: Arugula Walnut Pesto.

I love regular basil pesto, but I wanted to switch it up a bit and go for a different flavor. This  version is wonderful, spreadable deliciousness with a bite – courtesy of the arugula that is a touch on the bitter side.

Two warnings about this recipe:

1. I’m going to present you with indications rather than hard-and-fast instructions. You guys cool with that? I thought so.

2. The determine the amount of garlic you should use, please refer to this handy scale:

Use 1 clove: if you would still like to talk in close proximity to others after eating this stuff.

Use 2 cloves: if you would like to breathe a tiny bit of fire and your compatriots are garlic-understanding.

Use 3 cloves: if you would like to melt the paint off your walls.

Got it? Good. Here we go:

What You Need:
1 package arugula
2 cloves garlic (I only had Toby to entertain for the evening)
Extra Virgin olive oil – about a half a cup, but you might want to use more or less
Grated Parmesan cheese – about 3/4 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (you can always leave these out if you can’t eat or don’t want nuts)

What To Do:
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, chop up your walnuts. Remove the walnuts from the processor and place in the arugula, half the olive oil and garlic. Pulse to process finely. Check the consistency. You will most likely need to add a bit more oil (throw in the rest). You can also add the cheese, salt and pepper. Give it a few more twirls in the processor and check both the consistency and taste. Is it dry? If so, add more oil. You can also add more salt, pepper or cheese if you feel it’s necessary.

Once you have got it all worked out, put the walnuts back in and combine. Scoop the entire mixture into a bowl and drizzle a blanket of olive oil over the top. You can either serve immediately on some toasted bread or you can stick it in the fridge and save it for later.

Now go get those sparkly heels on, and get to the party. You too, John!

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While our Christmas traditions have morphed over the years to accommodate people coming, going, growing, moving, coming back and getting pets, if I were to be woken up at the stroke of midnight by the Ghost of Christmas Past (who I prefer to think of as Jimminy Cricket from the Disney version) and travel back in time to see Iaciofano Christmases gone by, I would probably note that not much has changed.

However, even though most families have their own traditions, for my family these “traditions” seem more like repetitive quirks at Christmas time, verging on holiday-onset OCD.

What could squeak past as normal during other times of the year somehow becomes magnified and perhaps clinically diagnosable at Christmas.

Take, for example, The Box’s insistence on being the first to descend the stairs on Christmas morning to “check if Santa came,” while suited up in a baby blue terry cloth bathrobe and coppola hat. The rest of us have to wait at the top of the stairs until he gives the OK.

Or I could site the the note from Santa (and Rudolph – signed with a paw print) that my Dad leaves speared on a Christmas tree branch ever year. When we ignore it, which we always do, he exclaims loudly, “LOOK AT THIS, GUYS! A LETTER! FROM SANTA!” Huh. Who’d’ve guessed?

We also have constant disagreements about the proper way to decorate a Christmas tree. The Box hates the angel that graces the top and refers to it as “the turkey buzzard.” He was also wildly skeptical – and categorically alarmed – by my intention to spray paint a tree gold last year. I did it anyway and the result was magical. I recommend it.

Wrapping presents is yet another point of contention. I do all my Dad’s wrapping. Not because he asks me to, but because he dumps all his gifts in my old room with the assumption that I’ll do something about it. John has wrapping all figured out: most years, the gifts he gives are loosely wrapped in a paper towel held together by one meager piece of tape to which is attached a lined piece of paper – the card.

Somehow we all manage to sit down like civilized people (sort of) at the dinner table and eat with utensils – all the while shouting at Aunt Emily (so she can hear us) and peppering her with gin. The Christmas menu changes from year to year, as it’s more experimental than Thanksgiving, but here are a few consistent favorites:

Manicotti

What You Need:
For the crepes:
1 doz eggs
1 cup milk
12 scanty T flour
salt to taste
pepper to taste

For the filling:
3 lb ricotta cheese
1 T chopped parsley
1 egg
salt and pepper

For topping:
Marinara sauce – your own recipe!
1 lb mozzarella shredded to sprinkle on top of manicotti

What To Do:

For the crepes:
Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Grease and heat a small skillet. Ladle mixture into the skillet, turning it quickly until the bottom of the skillet is covered with batter.  The crepe will be very thin and will cook quickly.  Flip it over for a few seconds (if you can do the flip in the air, you get bonus points).  Transfer to platter and stack.

For the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and fill crepes using about 1 T of filling per crepe. Place in baking pan with the “fold” side of the crepe facing down. Pour marinara sauce over crepes and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cauliflower GratineeSilver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:
6 T unsalted butter
4 cloves of garlic minced
4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto
florets of 1 large cauliflower cut into ¼ inch slices
2 T flour
1 ½ c heavy cream
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 ½ grated swiss cheese
½ c chopped parsley

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.  Stir in the prosciutto and cook two more minutes.

Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness…3 minutes.

Stir in the flour and then the cream. Blend well. Season with cayenne and salt and pepper.  Heat to boiling and remove from heat.

Pour the cauliflower into a au gratin dish.  Top with cheese and parsley.  Bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling – about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Filet Mignonfrom the Silver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:
3-4 lbs of beef tenderloin
3 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T green peppercorns packed in water – drained
3 T coarsely ground green, white and pink peppercorns
8 fresh sage leaves
2 T butter – unsalted
salt to taste

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make a cut lengthwise down the center of the tenderloin through 2/3 of the thickness.  Spread the meat open and spread the mustard in a thin layer over the open tenderloin.

Scatter the green peppercorns evenly and press into the meat then sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the mixed peppercorn. Place the sage leaves in a row down the center.

Shape the tenderloin back to its original shape and tie with kitchen twine. Rub the outside of the meat with butter and press the remaining peppercorn blend onto the outside and sprinkle with salt. Place in a shallow roasting pan.

Roast meat for 45 minutes for rare. (10 minutes per 1 lb)
Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Finally, don’t forget the cookies!

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What else did we eat at my recent holiday party? A lot more than I posted about on Monday. Actually, it’s impressive that people didn’t start rummaging through my fridge, but not because I didn’t have enough food. Here are a few more hors d’ oeuvres that made an appearance (and then subsequent disappearance) on Saturday night:

Roasted Pork Loin Crostini with Cranberry Relish
This recipe is really flavorful. The pork loin roasts up quite juicy and savory (with the herbs and salt). Topping it with cranberry relish gives it a nice sweet contrast. The added punch from the horseradish (in the cranberry sauce) brings the flavor over the top.

What You Need:

A pork tenderloin
1 semolina baguette, cut into thin slices
Sea salt with dried, chopped herbs (you can use rosemary, basil, thyme, sage…)
Olive oil – a drizzle
Stonewall Kitchen’s Cranberry Horseradish Sauce

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Place the pork tenderloin in a roasting pan and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast until done – about 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the tenderloin.

Remove from oven and let set for about 30 minutes.

Cut in thin slices and place on sliced bread. Top with Stonewall Kitchen’s cranberry horseradish sauce and serve!

On an adjacent platter were arranged the teeny-tiniest quiches. These can be made and frozen weeks in advance, which is quite handy for party planning. When I first made them for last year’s party, there was a wonderful cheesy/pastry smell coming from the oven mixing with the pine needle smell from the Christmas tree, and it all made me very happy. Bu that’s neither here nor there! When I asked my mom for the recipe to make them, I received the following via email:

Recipes seem to be collected quite randomly in Marmo’s kitchen.

Moving on! We also had the famous Gruyere and Caramelized Onion Pizza (recipe here), which disappeared in a snap. I got a little adventurous and concocted a Raisin Mostarda, which I have been obsessed with ever since I started frequenting Anfora Wine Bar and eating all their Ricotta cheese (which is served with a raisin mostarda).

Here is the recipe that I cobbled together for the Raisin Mostarda:

What You Need:
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

What To Do:
Heat a little olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. Stir in the OJ and all the ingredients up to the cumin. Bring the whole concoction to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove it from the heat, let it chill for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the marmalade, mustard and salt. Give it a taste and see if it needs anything else. Then let it hang out in the fridge to chill until you need it (covered, of course).

It’s pretty good, though it’s not like Anfora’s. Honestly, next time I think I will leave out the curry. I liked the flavor, but I think it might be better without it. I served it with Ricotta crostini drizzled with honey.

Onto dessert! What kind of sweets do you offer a bunch of festive maniacs that have had A LOT of wine? And beer. Did I mention that John just HAD to buy PBR lights? Cuz he did. An entire case of them, in fact. Still not sure why. Anyway, I got cupcakes from Sweet in Hoboken. They have some amazing flavors, and I told them to give me a mix of their mini cupcakes.

* Picture from Sweet’s website.

The cake part of these cupcakes is really moist (impressive for the mini cupcakes) and their cream cheese frosting is award-worthy. Especially on the Red Velvet cupcake. My favorite is the Marshmallow, which is a chilled ganache cupcake topped with marshmallow meringue. Out of sight.

I supplemented the cupcakes with my Russian Tea Cakes (a Iaciofano Family Christmas special – recipe here).

Finally, it seems that my holiday parties always end up with a dance party in the kitchen. People love the kitchen. I can’t get ’em out of there. So what kind of music was on the playlist? I’ll give you the top 5:

1. Katy Perry’s Firework – John would NOT STOP playing this song.

2. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You – I couldn’t help it.

3. Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison – You should see people get down to this song. Yeah, even me.

4. Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls – Gotta love that one.

5. B.O.B’s Magic – So John and I could relive our pizza glory days.

It was all worth it, as a good time was had by all. Even if this was what greeted me in the morning:

* I wasn’t kidding about the PBR Light!

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