Hey there! How have you been?
I’m happy the semester is finally over! My presentation went really well for my healthy cooking class, at least for me it did, Chef DiGaetano really liked my healthy version of creamy Caesar dressing! I used fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and/or mayonnaise and I did not add any egg yolks. But, we’ll see how some of my other group members have done…
Yesterday was “Iguandi Sunday” (Iguandi = Italian ribbon cookies) traditionally iguandi sunday was only for the ladies in my family – Boddie (my grandma), aunts & female cousins on the D’Arienzo side. I actually had to teach my father how to make them a few years ago! But, Dad and I made Iguandis; wanted to keep the tradition alive, especially since both of my grandparents passed away this year. It’s actually pronounced wandee, and well, these are my favorite cookies on earth and the D’Arienzo’s only make them for Christmas… the old-fashioned way, of course!
So simple, yet so delicious. I will admit, I am guilty of eating almost a whole bucket of iguandis – well, with Alex’s help.
These cookies are actually a slightly different version of the traditional Iguandi you would find in Italy. This recipe comes from my grandma’s side of Italy – Lippa, her maiden name.
Saturday, Alex and I made our trip to the Rochester Public Market for our Scott’s breakfast sandwich (voted best breakfast sandwich in Rochester) and I made my weekly trip to Irving the fish guy. Chef Brinkman told me to go to him and that’s where I got the clams for my white clam sauce. Last week, he had some amazing-looking squid, literally fresh from the water even Brinkman was so excited at how fresh the squid was he had to buy some.
Last Monday, Brinkman was bragging about how delicious it was and saying, “Why didn’t you get any? You should’ve gotten some…” —- ‘Chef, I don’t know how to prepare it and I don’t have the utensils for it.’ —- “What are you talking about? Yes you do.”
What the hell does he know what I have and what I don’t have? LOL… whatever! (Actually, he was 100% right…..)
But, Irving had that same amazingly-looking-fresh squid this past Saturday and Brinkman’s bragging really got me thinking. I really do like squid, but I have never, ever prepared it before and I was really nervous. (Honestly, preparing squid is so freaking easy!) I asked Irving for 2 whole squid and instead, he gave me 2 whole and 1 body (which actually still had the ink sack, score!) for only $2.00! Seriously people, a gourmet dinner cannot get any cheaper than that!
I also found these cute baby eggplant at the market and I just had to buy them… OMG, so freaking cute – you must agree!
I did not want to do much to these cute purple babies, so I just cut them in half, leaving the green tips on (it’s too pretty to remove) and roasted them in the oven.
Roasted Baby Eggplant – no exact measurements
~8 baby eggplant, washed & sliced in half, green tips still intact.
EVOO, lightly drizzle
dashes of dried Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & fresh ground black pepper.
2-3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Lay eggplant, flesh side up on the sheet pan and sprinkle over the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. Toss to coat – make sure you coat the skins, too.
- Roast in oven, flesh side up for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on the eggplant and roast for 5 more minutes, or until soft.
I also figured that since I am purchasing whole squid, why not use the ink sack? Okay, I know it sounds gross – who wants to eat ink? But, did you know that black squid ink helps fight cancer and tumor cells and it – it has a mild flavor. As I was cleaning the squid, I was able to reserve the ink from each of the 3 sacks and I was going to use it in a risotto. Well, I did use it in the risotto but I didn’t have nearly enough to make the risotto look like it had squid ink in it. But hey, I got some in there!
Squid doesn’t have much flavor to begin with so I decided to marinate before grilling it – it was absolutely delicious. You just need to prepare the squid a few hours before grilling because it should rest in the fridge for about two hours. I was so fortunate to take advantage of this wonderful weather we have been having – yes, in Rochester, NY you can grill during the winter … but might have a snowstorm the next day.
Grilled Squid + Marinade
2-3 fresh, whole squid
1/2 C. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Meyer lemon, zested & juiced
1 medium shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
EVOO, enough to cover squid and herbs/spices
salt & pepper to taste
- Clean your squid – this was an extremely useful website for me and it’s actually really easy to clean, I am not exaggerating!
- Add all ingredients into a bowl then add the clean squid.
- Mix and let sit in fridge for at least two hours.
- Once ready, grill for 2 minutes on each side – squid cooks extremely quick.
- Ready to serve!
I made risotto by the box directions but I used 2 C. of rice, instead of white onion I used shallot and I also added 1/2 C. white wine (this was a really tasty wine to cook with – the Meyer lemon in the wine was great with the fresh Meyer lemon zest) before adding the chicken broth (remember, your broth should be hot when adding to the rice). Once the rice was just about cooked, I added the little squid ink I had and the parsley/mint pesto. When I served it, I topped the risotto with a small dollop of the pesto and a sprinkle of Meyer lemon zest.
I made a parsley/mint pesto thinking I would pair it with the grilled squid but the squid was delicious the way it was so I added the pesto to the risotto and it gave it a sharp delicious flavor.
1/2 C. fresh Italian parsley
1/4 C. fresh mint leaves
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 Meyer lemon, zested & juiced
4 small anchovy fillets
1/2 C. – 1 C. EVOO
- Put everything except the EVOO into a blender and pulse until everything is chopped.
- Add the EVOO while the blender is still going and make a paste. You may have to stop the blender and scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure everything is completely blended.
- Once blended, pour in a bowl and let sit in fridge until usage.
I’m lucky enough to have free parsley and mint – my father has an amazing flat leaf Italian parsley bush in the backyard and a weed-like growing spearmint plants next to the house. These plants really need little care to keep alive and prosperous. Growing your own herbs greatly increases the quality/taste of your food!
I am so proud of myself for making this simple, gourmet dinner for myself and Alex. I was worried about Alex liking it but he loved it. It was so incredibly easy and really, really simple – probably one of the simplest seafood dishes I have made. Making use of the freshest, local, seasonal ingredients I believe automatically makes your meal a bit more gourmet without even trying because they are the best quality and best tasting ingredients.
It looks like I am going to have to make arancini tomorrow with all the leftover risotto I have. I’m thinking of making them a bit smaller than the traditional because I feel that the traditional is just a bit too big… maybe bite-sized arancini popper thingy?? Hmmmm………
What’s your favorite type of risotto?
What about your favorite kind of pesto – traditional basil or something more unique?
How do you prepare a simple dinner with a gourmet twist?