Monday, March 27, 2017


This is now my favorite drink. It is so refreshing and delicious!

3 to 4 oz vodka
2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz Campari
1 oz Cointreau

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.

Add the vodka, lemon juice, Campari, & Cointreau and shake well.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Makes 2 drinks

Sunday, March 26, 2017


There is something wonderful about the combination of sautéed olives and fennel. Crostini con Olive Nere e Finocchio.

1 French baguette, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 medium bulb fennel, fronds removed (save some for garnish), diced
2 T avocado oil or extra-light olive oil
¼ medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pitted and chopped Italian black olives
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

Grill bread slices on a grill pan over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides.
In a skillet over low heat, sauté the fennel in oil for 10 minutes.
Add the onion and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sauté another couple of minutes.
Add the black olives and extra-virgin olive oil and heat through.

Spoon the olive-fennel mixture on top of each slice of bread and top with some fennel fronds.

Monday, March 20, 2017


If you love chicken noodle soup and you love cheese tortellini, you will love this soup. Since the weather is still cold, this soup will warm you up on a crisp Spring evening.
I served it with garlic bread and a green salad.

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes, optional
4 cups good quality chicken stock
1 t freeze-dried or dried basil
1 t freeze-dried or dried oregano
1 package fresh cheese tortellini
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with water.
Simmer, partially covered until chicken is cooked through.
Drain and place chicken on a plastic cutting board to cool.
When cool, chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-low heat, add the oil and sauté the carrots, celery, and onion for 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two.
Add the chicken stock, basil, and oregano.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the tortellini and simmer until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chopped chicken and simmer another minute or two.

Add the parsley and ladle into warm soup bowls.
Sprinkle on some grated cheese and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Aperol and Campari are known as Italian bitters and served as an aperitivo. Aperol is made with licorice, fennel, aniseed, poplar buds, bitter clover, wormwood, valerian, gentian, bitter orange, cinchona, and rhubarb. It became popular after the First World War. Aperol contains only 11 percent alcohol. This is a delicious and refreshing cocktail to have before an Italian dinner.

3 oz ruby red grapefruit juice (about 1 grapefruit)
½ cups Prosecco sparkling white wine, chilled
¾ cup Aperol (Italian apéritif)
2 oz vodka (optional)
2 oz San Pellegrino water or other sparkling water
Ice cubes
Ruby red grapefruit slices, for garnish

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit and pour into a pitcher.

Stir in the Prosecco, Aperol, vodka, and San Pellegrino.
Pour into 4 cocktail glasses ¾ filled with ice cubes.
Garnish with grapefruit slices and enjoy.

Makes 4 drinks 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SPAGHETTI, PIRATE STYLE - Spaghetti alla Bucaniera

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno in southern Italy. Very ripe little tomatoes called pendolini (little hanging ones) are used in making fresh sauces. This pasta dish reminds me of the one I had in the small town of Praiano at the ristorante “Il Pirata” sitting above the emerald water of the Marina di Praia. This is very important: read through the recipe and have everything chopped and set aside, ready to add to the skillet. If you love seafood with pasta, this recipe is for you! You can choose any type of shellfish that you like...frutti di mare del giorno.

10 fresh mussels
½ lb small fresh clams
6 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
½ lb medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 to 2 t red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lb spaghetti or linguine
½ lb squid, cleaned and cut into ½-inch rings, including tentacles
1 bunch arugula, coarsely chopped

If using wild mussels, remove the beards with a pair of “kitchen only” needle-nose pliers.
Scrub the mussels and clams with a brush under cold running water.

In a large skillet big enough to hold the pasta and sauce, heat half of the oil over medium heat.
Add the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are pink about 3 to 4 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet and sauté the shallot for 3 minutes, or until soft.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
Add the white wine and tomatoes and simmer for 3 more minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan fitted with a lid, add 1-inch of water and bring to a boil.
Add the mussels and clams, cover and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they open. Scoop the mussels and clams out of the pot with a large slotted spoon into a bowl (save the liquid), discarding any that failed to open. Cover with a plate to keep warm.

In the meantime, boil the pasta in salted water for about 7 to 8 minutes, until al dente.
Drain and set aside, saving about ½ cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce, if needed.

Add about ¼ cup of the shellfish water to the sauce in the skillet and cook another minute.
Add the squid and cook another 2 minutes and then add the arugula.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix, adding the pasta water.
Divide between 2 warm pasta bowls, leaving a little sauce and juice in the skillet.
Arrange the shrimp, mussels, and clams around each bowl and pour the sauce and juice on top.
Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Serves 2

Sunday, March 5, 2017


Make the spread in the morning and put together the panini in the afternoon, for lunch, or evening, for dinner. I served the panini with a warm bowl of Tuscan Bean Soup. 
The panini are my take on two famous panini made at All' Antico Vinaio in Florence, Italy. One is called La Dante and the other is L'Inferno.

Lee's Kitchen Tips:

One sandwich is - un panino
Two sandwiches are - due panini
Vinaio in Italian translates to vintner or wine merchant

Spicy Eggplant & Zucchini Spread
1 T avocado oil
8 cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and diced
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
½ small jar sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, diced
½ jar artichoke hearts, drained and diced
2 T minced Italian parsley
1 T minced basil or basil paste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until golden and crisp.
Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
Add the eggplant and cook until golden and crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon to bowl with mushrooms.
Add the zucchini and cook until golden and crisp, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook one minute more.
Return the mushrooms and eggplant to the skillet with the zucchini and garlic.
Cook another minute then turn off heat and add the sundried tomatoes, artichokes, parsley, and basil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Spoon into a bowl and serve over bruschetta, crostini, or a spread for panini.

Ciabatta bread brushed with a little extra-virgin olive oil and warmed in the oven
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Spicy Eggplant & Zucchini Spread
Prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Cut bread in half and add a couple of slices of mozzarella on one side.
Place in oven under the broiler for a minute, just to melt the cheese; do not burn.
Spread the other side with the Spicy Eggplant & Zucchini Spread.
On top of the eggplant side, add some slices of prosciutto, top with arugula and drizzle with olive oil
Place the mozzarella side on top and serve.

Buon appetito!