Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two Easy Recipes: Tomato Cucumber Salad and Crisp Rosemary Potatoes

Mom's Tomato Cucumber Salad
Are you ever at a loss for what to make with that grilled steak or chicken? Here are a couple of go-to recipes that I love making in a pinch. Easy, a lot of flavor, and minimal effort. How great is that?  Weekly dinners should always be like this!


The first is a basic recipe my Mom has been making as long as I know. It is the traditional summer tomato cucumber salad. Fresh, cold, zesty, and filling. This recipes combines two of my favorite summer veggies. I usually make a large batch for two or three nights. You can add onion if you want a bit more zestiness to it. But be warned, with the Italian dressing and onions, you may want to make it on the nights you don't have a date planned. :-)  

The second recipe, crisp rosemary potatoes, is my go-to recipe if I am making rosemary chicken or just grilling chicken breast. It is a great side dish!  I prefer to leave the potatoes in to bake for more time as I like them pretty crispy.


Marinated Tomato Cucumber Salad
by Abby Deeds (MOM!)


-6 Roma tomatoes, diced into bite size pieces (or 3 of your favorite large beefsteak variety tomatoes)
-3 cucumbers, peeled and diced into bite size pieces (seeded or not, your preference)
***Thanks to friends Becky Kitchmire for the cucumbers and Leah Emerich for the tomatoes!
-1 small or medium red onion, chopped up fine (optional, or use a sweet vidalia)
-Italian dressing (I used the 4 Seasons dry box mix which you add your own olive oil and vinegar)
-salt and pepper to taste 
Ingredients all ready! 
-fresh basil cut into fine strips (My addition, optional)

You basically want equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers. The onion is completely optional. Realize that if you use a red onion, it will definitely have a stronger more pungent flavor. Add a little onion, taste, add more, taste, etc. Mix all ingredients. Top with basil strips. Cover with plastic wrap in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serves 2-4 people.

Also remember, you can make your own Italian dressing if you are so inclined. I like the dry box packets or the pre-made bottled dressing because it lessens the prep time. Sometimes, it's all about convenience!

I like mixing up the vinegar and oils I use in this. For the vinegar, besides red wine, you can also try pomegranate or balsamic. For the oils, experiment with regular olive oil, extra virgin, or flavored oils such as lemon, basil, or garlic-infused.


Crisp Rosemary Potatoes
from Gourmet Magazine

-2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
-1 tablespoon olive oil
Crispy Rosemary Potatoes (the crispier the better!) 
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary(I've also used dried and the recipe came out great.)
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and generously oil 2 large baking sheets
Arrange potatoes in 1 layer on the sheets. 
Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. (I always use alot of rosemary.)
Roast potatoes in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden and edges are crisp, about 20 minutes. Serves 4.
***I usually keep them in longer, checking every 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them! 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Three Lucky Memories of my Mom

Mom at 6 yrs (1948)
On August 24th, it was my dear Mother's birthday. She would've been 74. Hope she had a great birthday up there doing shots of her favorite Hot Damn liquor. Maybe she sat on the edge of a cloud in Heaven. spying on her kids while sipping Baileys, she loved that too. I can picture her enjoying herself, listening to some salsa, watching people walk by (if they have such a thing up in heaven). She was a people watcher. 

More recently before she passed in 2009, Mom just loved to sit on my sister Sheryl's front porch in Philly and watch the world walk by. Mom said it reminded her of growing up in Newark, sitting in the front of her building as a child. By now, my readers know that I often tell of memories of her as a sort of a record for my brother and sister and my niece and nephew, Angelica and Johnny as well. One day, I hope it will help them get to know their Nana better. 

Mom grew up in Newark, NJ, in an apartment building on Goldsmith Avenue next to Weequahic Park. It's comforting to know the building is still there. During some of those hot city summers, Nanny and Grandpop sent Mom to Camp Kalmia in Blairstown, NJ. She told me she used to enjoy camp but one evening she almost lost her life. A huge summer thunderstorm rolled through the area taking everyone by surprise. A huge stately maple tree stood next to the cabin soaring into the sky as far as she could see.
Camp Kalmia lake

A building from Camp Kalmia where Mom used to stay.
The strong winds took down that maple tree that stormy evening. The tree fell away from the cabin. If it had fallen into the cabin, it would've smashed right down the center onto where my Mom lay huddled in her sleeping bag hiding from the storm. She was lucky.


Mom also told me of how she was cruising with friends one weekend evening during high school around 1959. She opted to ride in the back area of the rambler station wagon. There was an accident, the car crashed, and she literally flew out the back of the rambler. 

Mom told me she landed on the base of an old oak tree. She was injured but thank G-d did not break her back. She often told me her back continued to hurt her through the years due to this accident. She was lucky though again.

The last story is a funny one. During my Mom's high school years, she was addicted to the dance show by Clay Cole, disc jockey and host of the teenage dance party, The Clay Cole Show, which was the New York City's counter-part to Philly's American Bandstand.

Mom used to watch Clay Cole every day during her later high school years. She once told me of how she and her best girl friend played hooky one day from school to go on the dance show (unbeknownst to my Nana) . They cut class and took the train in to New York City to appear on the show. 

The girls got on the show, but then realized that my Nana watched it every day as well! So every time the camera panned the dancers, Mom and her friend would hide behind people, hoping that Nana wouldn't spot them dancing. Well, my Mom had luck on her side once again, and Nana never spotted them cutting class. 
Clay Cole with Annette Funicello circa 1960

I have to say, I love these stories about my Mom. I always knew she was a fiesty fun gal but knowing she was like that in high school too is just great. You need to ask your parents about their experiences growing up my friends. My sister, brother and I are lucky enough we have some of these stories. 

You can read more about The Clay Cole Show at these links: 

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20091121/former-teen-dance-party-host-recalls-rocks-early-days

http://www.jerseygirlssing.com/claytributes.html




Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pulsing My Way to Pesto!

Last Year's basil crop!
Blogger's Note: I began writing this last Fall (2015) and for some reason put it aside and didn't come back to it until now. I wanted to complete it and share the recipes with my readers since I'm growing basil again on my deck. Both recipes below came out great and I highly recommend them. One change though for this year, I am going to freeze the remaining basil at the end of the growing season instead of dry it. In addition, this blog post is dedicated to my fraternity brother Alex Spiezio, who has encouraged me to continue writing about food and recipes. Thanks Alex!

Removing and cleaning the basil
I always seem to fail at my attempts at gardening. I have a great green indoor thumb but the outdoor garden seems to falter, probably due to my lack of patience or it becomes completely overgrown and unruly. What I am good at is growing herbs. Last year, my tomatoes faltered until the very end and my banana peppers only produced 4 peppers after something came by and ate every last damn pepper blossom off the plant. My herbs though did extremely well. I grew thyme, dill, catnip, chives, catnip and basil. I planted two Italian basil plants which did awesome! What to do with all that basil?

Over the past years, I have dried the basil out and used it over the winter for cooking.  I have also seen that you can freeze it in ice cube trays to use throughout the year. I decided to make pesto. I had never tried it but always have wanted to. I think it was my unnatural fear of food processors. LOL I've had a pesto recipe with tomatoes forever and have wanted to try it. I figured this was the year to make pesto! I reserved a third of it for use over the winter.

After about an hour of searching I finally found my food processor, a Black and Decker which was won at a bar raffle about two to three years ago, There it was, sitting in the basement in a dusty box never used, still wrapped in plastic, just waiting to take off a finger or two. Well I figured nothing like the present ... and I sure as heck wasn't gonna chop up and mix all that basil by hand. I'm a hands-on kinda cook but anyone who knows me knows that if I can use a machine to do the work, I will.

The food processor had so many parts, I felt like I was putting together R2-D2 from Star Wars; not to mention the possibility of slicing yourself just trying to figure out how the blades went in! But I have to say Thank G-d that the contraption has so many safety features because if it didn't, I'm sure my finger would be part of the 2015 pesto season. Once finally put together, the Black and Decker beamed back at me as if it were saying, "Well it's about friggin' time!"

Using the processor was actually a joy. It made things so much easier. Clean up ... again watching those sharp blades ... was pretty easy too. I don't' know how often I'll use it, but at least I can say I have! One observation when it comes to using it for the recipes: when you run the processor, keep an eye on the pesto. You don't want pesto soup.

One of my besties, Jen, gave me this great cook book, Giada's Family Dinners for one of my birthdays many moons ago. It is one of my favorites and Giada's recipes are so easy to follow and make. The one pesto recipe below comes out of it. Thanks again Jen!

Basil Pesto by Giada De Laurentiis  

2 cups fresh packed basil leaves
Giada's Pesto over rotini pasta
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
About 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender/processor still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Makes 1 cup.

Saved some to dry and use over the winter
Toasted Pine Nuts by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup of pine nuts

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pine nuts in the hot skillet and stir them until they become fragrant and golden brown on the outside, and pale golden throughout the inside, about 5 minutes.

*********************************************************************************


I found this next recipe in a newspaper years ago and have always wanted to make it. Well I finally got the chance! I had enough picked basil to make both.

Pesto Al Pomodoro (Tomato Pesto)

Tomato Pesto and Giada's Pesto
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup packed fresh parley leaves
4 cloves, garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled, seeded, finely diced ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium sized)
freshly ground black pepper

Place basil, parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender. Roughly chop. With machine running, add olive oil. Shut off machine and scrap sides. Run machine again and slowly add tomatoes. Process until blended.Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.