Archive for Italian Cuisine

Beautiful Marinated Mozzarella Made Easy – and Inexpensive!

Home marinated mozzarella with sliced grape tomatoes

Home marinated mozzarella with sliced grape tomatoes

I confess. We love appetizers. There’s something great about a small plate of things. You eat a little, you drink some wine. You slow down a little and get ready to truly enjoy the main meal. It’s. . .kinda civilized!

One appetizer I love dearly is marinated cheese. You can marinate most any fresh, firm cheese – I like to marinate fresh Mozzarella. And marinated cheese plays beautifully with so many other things you can put on a plate, like charcuterie, fresh sliced veggies (crudites), citrus segments, citrus zest, lots of fresh herbs – marinated Mozzarella is just a compatible kind of appetizer ingredient.

Good quality fresh mozza, however, is pretty pricey. I quiver at the minute, 8-oz packages selling at our local supermarkets for about 5 bucks. You’d need at least 2 of them to make a decent amount for marinating.

That’s one reason I love CostCo! They don’t just stock good quality olive oil by the jumbo, 5 gallon pack, they also offer great quality fresh, pre-sliced mozzarella logs (sold as 2 1-lb. logs per package, each individually wrapped) that can, with minimal work and a little waiting time, be transformed into gorgeous marinated mozzarella.

Full disclosure, I have zero, zip, nada interest in CostCo, except that I shop there.

Using a log of CostCo mozzarella, preparing a couple of pints of marinated cheese takes about 10 minutes and a little patience. Here’s how:

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Everybody loves Cauliflower! OK, not everybody – but you’ll love *this* cauliflower

Who wouldn't love this cute little cauliflower head?

Who wouldn’t love this cute little cauliflower head?

Cauliflower is a tricksie beast.

Some of us love it – some of us (shudder) even eat it raw. With relish. We like it roasted, we like it boiled, we like it sauteed. Some of us are indifferent to cauliflower’s taste, but eat it because the truth is, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse.

But some of us Don’t Like Cauliflower. There is nothing that can be done to this mild-mannered crucifer to make it lovable and delicious to us – even its tempting nutritional characteristics are not enough.

Until now.

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Carpe Pepper! Tuscan Peposo – The Other Beef Stew

Peposo – A Fiery Love Story

Peposo simmering in the pot

Peposo simmering in the pot


I love simple dishes. Many simple dishes come to us from medieval times – though they may sometimes use ingredients that are no longer easy to find, most dishes in the 12th century used bread, meat, fish, veggies – just as we do today, only differently, because – half a millennium and more!! And they were often quite simple, particularly if they were dishes of the people.

People learned clever ways to make inexpensive cuts of meat tender and delicious and ways to use spices to enhance that flavor.

One of my favorite old dishes is peposo – Tuscan pepper stew. Peposo is sometimes called Tuscany’s answer to chili. It’s a rich, savory stew that emphasizes simplicity of preparation and long slow cooking. This particular dish also emphasizes lots and lots and lots of black pepper, both cracked and ground.  Sometimes, it is said, pepper was used so liberally to disguise a cut of meat that may have gone off a bit.

That’s not what we’re doing here.

The dish originated in the 13th century and is documented as having fed the laborers working to create tiles – an incredible-for-the-time 4,000,000 terracotta tiles – for the dome, or Duomo, of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence (1420-1436).

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – the Duomo – Home of “The Original” Peposa

These workers were not wealthy, and used a cheap cut of meat that – I *think* – is today known as the shank. I didn’t have a shank when I made this dish, so I cut up a piece of chuck roast and it worked beautifully. I think any cut of beef like the shank or beef short ribs, boned, or skirt steak, or shin, would work just beautifully in this dish. It is definitely fun to experiment!

The first time I made Peposo, I followed the recipe closely and was pretty sure I was going to fry everybody’s esophagus. Except, of course, mine, as I am immune (gasp, wheeze!).

I was delighted to find that the large quantities of black pepper called for in the recipe just melted into the dish, which ended up peppery but not overly so, and entirely delicious.

So, of course, I tried using a bit more pepper – particularly the cracked pepper – and it was wonderful.

I’ve made a few other modifications to this dish so check out the recipe below – this is a different kind of beef stew and I think you’ll like it. The Italian workers certainly did!!
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