House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year

I am already looking forward to House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year.

I know it’s still a while off, but I am already looking forward to House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year.  It’s a great opportunity to see new products and appliances.

Last year’s Kitchen of the Year by Mick De Giulio featured a design that I absolutely loved.  It was so simple and beautiful.

Bright and open with a touch of glamor!
A stunning custom cabinet.
Including a cozy seating area in the kitchen is genius.
Love the casual, mismatched chairs in the dining area.

Another past Kitchen of the Year that made an impression on me was designed by Christopher Peacock in 2008.  His use of CaesarStone allowed clients and other designers to feel OK with using man-made materials.  In general, I think the Kitchen of the Year is a good gauge of the direction kitchen design is moving and which brands are reliable and comfortable for both client and designer.

Christopher Peacock’s kitchen design with CaesarStone.

I’d imagine House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year will be on display and open to the public at Rockefeller Center in NYC as in years past.  Show kitchen visitors will be able to enjoy demos and tastings from a variety of chefs, making this much more than a display kitchen.  It needs to be as functional as it is beautiful.

The 2008 Kitchen of the Year in Rockefeller Center.
NY Chef Marc Murphy cooks for a crowd in last year’s Kitchen of the Year.

I can’t wait to see this year’s kitchen!

Superfoods for 2013

Superfoods are known to prevent disease, help control weight, and maintain overall health.

Here we are at the start of the New Year, when many people are feeling more health conscious!  Between the television shows, tabloids, and fitness club offers, we’re all reminded of our options for eating and staying healthy.  Hopefully, the motivation to create healthier eating habits and consistent exercise routines will turn into long-term commitments that last throughout the year.

I recently came across a recipe for kale and knew I wanted to try it.  Then I thought, “Why not write about healthy eating in general?”  While looking through magazines and websites for ideas and recipes, I came across a Cooking Channel article called Superfoods:  Nutrient-Rich Foods to Eat Every Day.  These superfoods are known to prevent disease, help control weight, and maintain overall health.

Here are a few of the 21 foods recommended by the Cooking Channel.  To see the rest of the list, click here for the full article.

Kale: High in lutein and several vitamins, lowers the risk of cancer, and helps detoxify the body.
Sweet Potato: Great source of Vitamin B-6 and dietary fiber as well as Vitamin A. Good for eye and skin health.
Wild Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids provide a number of important health benefits. Salmon is also a good source of Vitamins D and B-12, selenium, and protein.
Almonds: Protein, healthy fats, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and Vitamin E. Enjoy them whole, raw, and without salt for maximum benefit.
Dark Chocolate: A powerful antioxidant with many benefits for the heart.

I hope you enjoy this recipe for kale from Giada DiLaurentiis.  She is a favorite chef and author of mine!  Her cookbooks are great, and her recipes are delicious and easy to follow.  Her Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale will convince you that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating bland or boring!

A beautiful and healthy side dish!

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (about 14 mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and slice into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), rinsed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan


Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, green beans, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat and serve immediately.

SERVES: 6 (SIDE); Calories: 138; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 5 grams; Total carbohydrates: 15 grams; Sugar: 5 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 1 milligram; Sodium: 830 milligrams

Cacciucco — Mediterranean Fish Stew

Cacciucco is one of my favorite meals, especially when the weather turns colder.

Guest Post from Debbie Aidinis

Cacciucco is one of my favorite meals, especially when the weather turns colder.  I originally had this for dinner years ago in a restaurant and loved it.  I always try to make meals I enjoy, so I searched through cookbooks and found a few recipes that were close to the restaurant meal I’d liked.  This is a hearty stew that tastes just as good -if not better- the next day.  I serve it with crusty bread seasoned with an olive oil mixture and placed in oven until it is crispy.  This bread is delicious when dipped in the Cacciucco broth.

Crusty Bread

For this recipe, I prefer to use prawns, when available, with the shells still on.  The flavor is superb in the stew.  Another option is using lobster tails with the shells on.  I also like to use Halibut as the fish, which is a very mild white fish.  As always, everyone has preferences when cooking with seafood and this dish lends itself to many variations in the type of fish used.  The amount of seafood used can also be adjusted to your own liking.

Cacciucco — Mediterranean Fish Stew


1 large onion, finely chopped

1 stalk of celery with leaves, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

2 oil packed anchovies

1 can (14 ½ oz) San Marzano plum tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved

Pinch of Saffron threads

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup white wine

4 cups fish stock (see Note)

1 cup water

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1 ½ to 2 lb white fish fillet, such as Halibut, skin removed

12 little neck clams, cleaned

12 black mussels, cleaned

8 jumbo shrimp or prawns shelled and deveined

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Warm Crusty Bread


Sea Scallops

Lobster Tails with shells, cut in half lengthwise

Note: If fish stock is not available, you can substitute 2 cups (16fl oz) bottled clam juice plus 2 cups vegetable stock.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy deep skillet.  Add onion, celery with leaves, and carrot to skillet and sauté.  Add red pepper flakes and thyme. Chop anchovies and add to skillet.  Sauté until anchovies have melted, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the fish stock and 1 cup of water.  Add the saffron, bay leaf, rosemary, basil, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add some of the reserved tomato juice if you want more liquid or tomato flavor.  Adjust seasoning if needed.

Cut the fish into 2 inch pieces, add to broth, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add clams, mussels and shrimp.  If using any additional seafood, add to mixture at this time. Cover and cook until shrimp is pink and clams and mussels have opened.  Discard the bay leaf before serving.

Slice bread in half to open, and spread with a mixture of olive oil, chopped basil, parsley, black pepper. Place in the oven at 400 till crisp and brown. Cut bread into long pieces.

Ladle the stew into bowls, place bread on the side, and serve.



Cooking with Williams-Sonoma

On those evenings when I do have some more free time to plan and prepare a nice dinner, I usually turn to my Williams-Sonoma cookbooks.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but cooking is not something I often find time for in my busy schedule.  As a matter of fact, I do so little cooking that I’ve been teased about burning water!  The truth is, I can cook, I just can’t usually fit it into my daily routine of family and work.

On those evenings when I do have some more free time to plan and prepare a nice dinner, I usually turn to my Williams-Sonoma cookbooks.  I love the imagery in these books as well as the recipes themselves.

Williams-Sonoma Salad
Williams-Sonoma Grilling

These dishes can be prepared by anyone and really make you feel like an accomplished cook.  There’s such a nice sense of satisfaction that comes with presenting your family with a meal that looks and tastes amazing!  Williams-Sonoma has a great brand in general, from the cookbooks to cookware to prepared foods, they offer high quality products that both look great and perform very well.

Grilled Pears
Chicken with Mustard and Walnut Coating
Spices, oh my! My mother uses basil in almost everything she prepares.

Browsing through all of the gadgets and kitchen products offered by Williams-Sonoma just makes you crave the idea of cooking.  From a design perspective, I can easily imagine filling a kitchen with these great items.  They are thoughtful and smart, and just so well presented.

Le Creuset Signature Deep Saute Pan in Ocean: What a great color!
Bamix Professional SliceSy Attachment
Littledeer Cooking Utensil Set
Rösle Vegetable Chopper – Quick and easy!
Le Creuset Winged Corkscrew Wine Opener, Antique Chrome – The best gadget we should all have in our kitchen drawer!
Cuisinart Soup Maker & Blender

Do you have a favorite source for recipes and/or kitchen gadgets?





Veal Rollatini

With the cooler weather upon us, we start to look forward to meals that are warm and hearty. Veal Rollatini is a great dish for this season.

Guest Blog by Debbie Aidinis

With the cooler weather upon us, we start to look forward to meals that are warm and hearty. Veal Rollatini is a great dish for this season.  It may take a little time to prepare, but it is well worth the effort.  For those who do not eat veal, this dish can also be done with chicken.  I like to serve this with a marsala sauce and a mushroom risotto on the side.  There are many good packaged risottos available, so you do not have to make your own from scratch unless you have the time to do so.

Mushroom Risotto

With this recipe, I have found that using specific ingredients is a must.  For example, the cheese.  I use an Italian Scamorza, belonging to the same family as Mozzarella, but it is firmer, drier and has more flavor.  It melts evenly, making it perfect for this dish.  You will probably have to go to an Italian deli that carries specialty items to buy this cheese.  Make sure it is hard; if the cheese is soft, it is not ready to use. I also use Prosciutto di Parma, but not a domestic brand, which can be too salty. The  Veal Demi Glace gives the sauce a good flavor, but if you can’t find any you can use 1 cup veal stock in place of the water called for in the recipe.

Scamorza Cheese

I always enjoy going to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to shop for the food I need.  Mike’s Deli in the market is where I find the cheese and prosciutto, plus many other items.  Biancardi’s is my stop for meats, and Madonia Bakery for excellent breads.  On 187th Street, you will find Borgatti’s for fresh pasta and, of course, you cannot miss Egidio’s for some delicious Italian pastries.  With so many stores to choose from, you definitely will not come home empty handed!  It is a true culinary experience and well worth the trip in order to stock up on the best ingredients to make this Veal Rollatini dish a truly authentic and memorable meal.

Veal Rollatini

Veal Rollatini


8        Veal cutlets, sliced and pounded very thin

1        Scamorza, sliced thin and cut in half or thirds, depending on size of the veal cutlets

½ to ¾ lb    Procciutto di Parma, or enough to use 2 slices per cutlet

½ cup        Seasoned breadcrumbs

¼ cup        Grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup        Marsala wine

¼ lb        Shitake Mushrooms, sliced

2        Shallots, chopped

8 oz        Vegetable stock

½ tsp        Veal demi glace

1 cup        Water

3 tbsp        Butter

2 tbsp        Olive oil

¼ cup        Basil, finely chopped

¼ cup        Parsley, finely chopped

1                  Sprig of Rosemary

Salt and Pepper to taste

4”  skewers


In a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and a small amount of the basil and parsley.

Place one veal cutlet on a flat surface and spread the breadcrumb mixture on the cutlet.  Place 2 slices of prosciutto di Parma on top of the breadcrumb mixture, then place a slice of scamorza cheese on top, covering cutlet but not hanging over the sides of the cutlet.  If the cheese is cut too thick, it will make the cutlet difficult to roll.  Roll the cutlet and secure with skewers.  Repeat with remaining cutlets.

In a large, deep skillet, melt 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Season veal rolls with black pepper and place in skillet.  Cook, turning rolls to brown on all sides. The total cooking time will depend on the size of the rolls, but typically a few minutes per side or total of not more than 15 minutes is sufficient.  Remove rolls and keep warm.

To the same pan, add 1 tbsp of butter, the shallots, and the mushrooms and sauté until tender.  You may need to add a bit more butter while they cook.  Next, add the marsala wine and cook for a few minutes.  Stir in the vegetable stock, 1 cup water, and veal demi glaze.  Let mixture cook, stirring often.  Season with salt and pepper, add rosemary sprig, remaining basil and parsley, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Place veal rolls and juices they’ve exuded into the sauce,  turning to coat, then let simmer for about 30 minutes.  You may need to add more water or stock, especially if your rolls are on the large side.  Before serving, remove the rosemary sprig.

Place Veal Rolls on a platter with mushroom sauce.  Serve with a risotto, salad, and a warm crusty bread.


Linguine with Seafood

One of my favorite meals to make anytime of the year is Linguine with Seafood. This is one dish that we all enjoy as a family!

Guest post from Debbie Aidinis.

One of my favorite meals to make anytime of the year is Linguine with Seafood.  This is one dish that we all enjoy as a family.  I typically prepare this meal with clams, shrimp and lobster.  When the local fish market has fresh cleaned calamari, I will add it as well.  Mussels and scallops can also be used.  I like that this dish can be done with a variety of seafood, with any combination being used depending on availability and preference.

Growing up, we always had the benefit of a garden with fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. My Grandfather immigrated here from Reggio Calabria, Italy, and brought his knowledge of gardening, which has been passed down through the generations, with him.  My family still has the garden, though it’s not as large as the original and there are always fresh tomatoes and vegetables to go around.

Knowing what a difference it makes, I like to use the freshest ingredients when I cook, using garden herbs that I grow.  In the summer, I will use fresh plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Using cherry tomatoes will give you a much lighter sauce, but you will need quite a lot.  There is nothing like using fresh pasta and I highly recommend cooking with it.  As always, I do not measure my ingredients so the following  amounts are estimated and may need to be adjusted. The amount of seafood used may also be adjusted according to what is being used to make the dish.


½ cup Olive Oil

A large bunch of Green Onions or one large Yellow Onion, chopped

½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Course Black Pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

1 cup of White Wine

½ cup chopped Parsley

½ cup chopped Basil

3 dozen Littleneck Clams, scrubbed

1 lb cleaned and deveined Large Shrimp

½ to ¾ lb cooked Lobster Meat {usually 3 cooked Lobster Tails)

3 to 4 lbs fresh plum tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can 35oz San Marzano Plum Tomatoes


3 to 4 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, whole, or 3 14oz cans Cherry Tomatoes

1lb Linguine

Locatelli Romano Cheese, freshly grated

1 loaf Ciabatta or crusty Italian Bread of choice


Clove of minced garlic

1 to 2 lbs of Mussels

1lb of Sea Scallops

½ lb of cleaned Calamari sliced into ½ inch rings


In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat,then add the onions (and garlic if including) and cook till tender.  Add the coarse black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Let mixture cook for few minutes, then add wine and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then simmer.  If using cherry tomatoes, leave them whole and let them cook until they eventually break apart.  Add the parsley, basil, and salt to mixture and let cook, occasionally stirring sauce.

Wash clams and steam in a separate pot.  Clean shrimp and set aside. Cut Lobster into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Once the sauce has cooked for about 30 minutes, add the shrimp and cook until pink, then add lobster meat and transfer the steamed clams with shells into the sauce. If using mussels, calamari or scallops, add them in with the shrimp

Boil water for pasta and cook as directed, reserving some liquid from the pasta.  Place the pasta into a large, shallow bowl; add just enough of the reserved liquid to coat the pasta. Spoon seafood with sauce onto pasta and mix.  Sprinkle some fresh chopped basil on top.

Ladle into individual bowls and top with fresh grated cheese.  Serve with your favorite crusty bread. Enjoy!

Olive Oil

We all have our go-to favorite meals for a quick dinner or a simple way to entertain guests, and mine certainly includes olive oil.


We all have our go-to favorite meals for a quick dinner or a simple way to entertain guests, and mine certainly includes olive oil.  An arrangement of antipasto with oil for dipping is a simple, beautiful, and delicious way to end a hot summer day or feed guests without turning on the oven or stove.  My husband and I (but especially my husband!) love to try new olive oils, so creating a simple meal with fresh foods and different olive oil varieties is something we do regularly.  Besides being good for the soul, olive oil has the added benefit of being good for your health.  Extra virgin olive oil has more monounsaturated fatty acids than other oils and also contains more polyphenols, which may have benefits for your heart.

Thelo EVOO, from Greece
Chocolate infused olive oil. I think I’m in heaven!
Ascolano Certified EVOO. Superb, award-winning quality.

Choosing an olive oil from the many varieties at the store can be a little overwhelming.  What’s the difference between virgin and extra virgin?  Do you want cold press or first press, and what about light olive oil?  Generally speaking, extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality oil, made from olives that have been pressed to extract the oil without using any chemical means.  Cold press indicates the oils have been extracted without any added heat, and first press is a rather meaningless term because olives are only pressed once.  Virgin olive oil is produced the same way as extra virgin, but with a slightly higher acid content.  For dressings and dipping, extra virgin olive oil is the way to go.  Light olive oil is lighter in color with little flavor, making it a better choice for cooking.  You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive olive oil to enjoy the best quality, but you do typically get what you pay for.  I’d suggest choosing a light, less expensive oil for cooking and a higher quality extra virgin olive oil for everything else.  When stored properly, away from light and heat, a bottle of olive oil will keep for about a year, so go ahead and splurge on a decent bottle!

If the thought of choosing a good olive oil is still intimidating, try looking for a shop that offers olive oil tastings.  One I keep hearing so much about and can’t wait to visit myself is Olivette in Darien, Connecticut.  Olivette carries over 20 varieties of high quality olive oils which are all available for tasting.  When you find the perfect olive oil for your needs, it is bottled for you right there in the store.  Olivette also has everything you need to complement your olive oil, such as fine balsamic vinegars, breads, olives, and other treats such as preserves, honey, and sea salts.  It’s the perfect way to experience different oils and choose the right variety for your tastes without committing to an entire bottle up front.

Olivette Tasting Room
EVOO sampling at Olivette
Gorgeous tasting area! I can’t wait to go in myself.

Do you have a favorite olive oil or a preferred way to use it?


Mom’s Tuna Salad

My mom is a very talented cook and gardener. She is also my new guest blogger! Please welcome Debbie Aidinis as she contributes her first post, her amazing tuna salad recipe.

My mom is a very talented cook and gardener.  She is also my new guest blogger! Please welcome Debbie Aidinis as she contributes her first post, her amazing tuna salad recipe.    –Amy

This is a great summer dish that can be a light main course on a very hot day or to start as an antipasto or appetizer. I am not one who measures the ingredients.   If I follow a recipe, I will only do so at first and then make changes after I’ve made the dish a few times.

This Tuna Salad is a recipe I decided to try one night after having a similar dish at a restaurant.  It is a lot like a scungili salad or a combination seafood salad.  You can definitely substitute another seafood for the tuna.

You will need:

2 cans of Solid White Albacore prime fillet in water or Tonno, which is an Italian tuna

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 small onion, chopped (optional)

½ to ¾ cup  green olives, pitted and sliced into halves

½ to ¾ cup large black olives, pitted and sliced into halves

1/3 cup 0live oil

Handful of fresh basil

Handful of fresh parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Coarse black pepper, to taste

Salt to taste, optional

Romaine lettuce, for serving

To make:

Place the green and black olives and the tuna in the refrigerator until they are cold.  Chop the celery and onion, if using, and place into a medium bowl.  Slice the olives and add them to the bowl.  Drain the tuna and pull it apart, then add this to your bowl as well.

In a food processor, chop the parsley and basil together.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, parsley/basil mixture, black pepper, and lemon juice.  Whisk together thoroughly and add to the tuna mixture.  You may need to add a bit more olive oil, just to hold the ingredients together.  Combine all ingredients well and season to taste with salt.   Place in the refrigerator until chilled through.

For individual portions, place lettuce on each plate and top with tuna salad.