Tonight's dinner was brought to you by the fine people at Goya.

I was passing through the frozen aisle at the grocery store on Monday and espied Goya Empanada Disks. Impulse buy of the day. I have not made empanadas in quite a while according to a blog search - or - I just didn't write about it. More likely the former since Nonna really doesn't do Mexican food...

Mexican/Central American/Southwestern-style flavors used to be my go-to dinners when I didn't have any idea what I wanted. The first solid food I ate as an infant was a chili bean, according to my mother. That pretty much set the tone. I love chilis, spice, and that blend of flavors.

I have never been into Mexico, proper... I've been to Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas - all in the '60s and '70s - but haven't yet made it into Mexico City. Maybe one of these days.

I have, however, eaten the foods of 24th Street in San Francisco back when immigrants could afford to live there.

Empanada dough is pretty easy to make, but, impulse buys being what they are, I decided to go for the frozen ones. They're actually pretty good - and really easy to work.

I made a filling of ground pork, fresh sweet peppers, cumin, ancho chili powder, Mexican oregano, garlic, hatch chili salsa, green onions, and a bit of S&P. Not exactly authentic, but close enough for a gringo dinner. The beauty of empanadas is you really can fill them with anything.

The package has 10 disks.  I had filling for about 16, so I made taquitos with some corn tortillas in the 'fridge. They went into the freezer with the empanadas I didn't cook.

I need to work on my crimping technique, but they came out really good. I fried them, but you can bake them, as well. I like them fried, better.

I made yellow rice and refried beans as side dishes - with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa for dipping and dunking.

Nonna had a ground beef patty, yellow rice, and her favorite canned green beans.

All-in-all, a successful south of the wall dinner!




One of the fun things about being married to an Italian is the recipes with the funny names. One of the fun things about having friends who are Italian is even more recipes with funny names - and links to websites with even more.

Our friend Judy turned us on to a site called Everybody Loves Italian and Victor has been having a blast reliving a lot of the recipes of his youth. Victor laughs and says he has the only Italian mother who didn't cook. There's a reason, though... She was number 10 of 11 kids and her older sisters did it all. The cookies and whatnot came from Aunt Tessie or Aunt Emma. You don't reinvent the wheel in an Italian family. The one who knows how to make something the best is the one who makes it. And if that something happens to be a signature dish, you really don't make it when they're around for fear of possibly showing them up. A Big Mistake.

Whether Zeppoles were in the family repertoire is questionable, but Aunt Emma, especially, used to make several different sweet and savory fritter-type items, so these could be a variation on one of her themes. Or not. it doesn't really matter, though, because he just made them and they are fantastic! They evoked a childhood memory and that's what's important. Well... that, and the fact that they're freakin' delicious. They're also easy to make, so... No excuses. Head into the kitchen and make some, now!

This recipe is adapted from Everybody Loves Italian


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • neutral oil for frying
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oil 2" deep to 375° in a pan wide enough to fry several zeppole without crowding.

Mix two eggs into mixing bowl. Add all dry ingredients and follow with ricotta, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Quickly mix until combined. Batter will be thick.

Using a 1 tbsp scoop or spoon, carefully drop into the hot oil, being careful not to let them touch. Turn them for even browning and cook about 3 minutes or until cooked through.

Drain on paper towels.

When still warm but cool enough to handle. sieve powdered sugar over them and consume!


They really did come out great. Very light and airy, not very sweet, and with a nice lemon hint. We figure there are lots of things we can do with these, from cinnamon in the batter to different liqueurs.

Methinks we shall have some fun with these!



Tempura Scallops - and more...

Saturday.  My dinner day of surprises.

Sometimes I'll come home and cook dinner.  Other days, something wondrous and fabulous is awaiting me when I walk in the door.

Today was the latter.

As I was leaving for work this morning I pulled some scallops out of the freezer to thaw.  I didn't have a plan but I knew there were any number of things I could do with them.

Off to work I went.

When I got home, I was greeted with Victor in the kitchen with a platter of vegetables, scallops, and the deep fryer.

Three words:  Beer Battered Tempura.

Be still my heart!  I was psyched.  While I had a few ideas going through my head, tempura definitely was not one of them.  I really was psyched!

Victor is the tempura king.  It was something he had on the menu at Montserrat when he owned the restaurant on South Street and he's never lost his touch with it.  It rocks.

The batter is flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, finely chopped parsley - and beer.  Proportions?!?  Uh... Mix the flour with the dry spices and parsley and add beer until it's the consistency of thin pancake batter.  It's roughly 1 cup flour to 1 cup beer but it's not an exact science.

The parsley really adds a nice sweetness.  It's not something I ever included when I made tempura batter.  I really like it a lot.


We had carrot sticks, peppers from the garden cut into rings.  onion rings, snow peas, and the scallops.

Everything was great - but the scallops were awesome!  They were so moist and delicate they were like eating clouds.  They seriously were some of the best scallops I've ever had.  Victor floured them before dipping them in the tempura batter so it would stick better.  And just about three minutes in the oil was perfect timing.

Definite gastronomic heaven!

My job was to make some dipping sauces.  That was the easy part.

The top sauce was honey-mustard.  About a quarter-cup of honey and a heaping teaspoon of Strong Irish Mustard.  I didn't have any Chinese mustard but this stuff worked well.  The sauce on the left was a lingonberry sauce.  Lingonberry jam, soy sauce, a splash of rice wine and sambal oelek for heat.    The sauce on the right was straight-from-the-bottle Soy Vey Very Teriyaki.  All three worked well.

It was just unbelievably good.

And cherry-studded brownies just came out of the oven.

This is definitely a good day!

All-Day Dining with Linda and David

Hors d'Oeuvres started at 2pm.  Cheesecake was served at 7pm.

We ate all day.

It's pretty much what yer supposed to do when you get together with good friends.  And we all believe in following the rules when it suits our purpose.

This has been a tradition since we moved back here 10 years ago.  Victor has known Linda since childhood.  She was our real estate agent when we bought our house.  David was our mortgage broker.

Good friends with a lot of history.  Friends you can say anything to without having to filter.

And friends who like to eat!

We started off with hors d'oeuvres.  Just three, because we didn't want to spoil our dinner.

First off was a puff pastry dish Victor came up with based on something Ina Garten makes.  She does a puff pastry, ham and cheese.  Victor took it to a whole new level.

Puff Pastry with Pancetta and Dates

  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 4 oz thin-sliced pancetta
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1 cup chopped dates

Roll puff pastry to fit sheet pan - 10" x 16" or so.  Brush with sun-dried tomato pesto, them layer pancetta, cheese, and dates.

Roll second sheet of puff pastry and place on top.  Crimp edges and brush with egg.  Cut slits to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a preheated 450° oven about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

These were definitely a hit.  They were easy to prepare and the fillings can be switched out a million and one ways!

Definitely a keeper.

I decided we needed to do at least one deep-fried hors d'oeuvre because...  well...  we do have that deep fryer!  I went with a crab fritter because I just couldn't think of anything else savory that I wanted to do.  This was a totally wing-it recipe from the fritter to the dipping sauce, but it turned out great.  The test fritters I made were still a bit doughy in the center so I really was caredul about the size.  1 tablespoon cooked up perfectly!

Crab and Green Chile Fritters

  • 8 oz crab
  • 1 4 oz can green chilies
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • salt and pepper

Mix crab with chiles, buttermilk, chives, and egg.  Add a bit of salt and pepper, to taste.  Add enough flour to make a moderately-stiff dough.

Drop tablespoon-sized balls into hot oil and cook until well browned.

Serve with dipping sauce.

For a dipping sauce I decided to go sweet and spicy.

We had homemade cranberry sauce in the fridge, apricot cookie filling in the fridge, and chipotles in adobo in the fridge.

I made a cranberry apricot chipotle dipping sauce!

Cranberry Apricot Chipotle Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, chopped (or to taste)

Place ingredients in small saucepan.  Heat.  Mix briefly with immersion blender to blend and to break down larger berries or apricot pieces.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

And finally, we had bruschetta.

I love bruschetta in any and all its various incarnations.

Anything on toasted baguette with cheese is my idea of good.  This was mere open-a-jar.

We had a jar of Harry and Davids Charred Pineapple with Candied Peppers on the shelf for quite a while.  Today it was spooned onto baguette slices, topped with cream cheese, and placed under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

This was so simple and a total hit.

By 4:30pm, it was getting time to sit down to dinner.

We started off with a simple Calabrese Salad.

Red and Green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

I drizzled the whole thing with that nice, expensive olive oil Nick gave us for Christmas and some 15 year old balsamic.  And a pinch of salt and pepper.  It didn't need anything else.

And then it wan on to the main attraction:

Handmade pasta with a lobster sauce.

Oh yes, you read that right.  Handmade pasta with a lobster sauce.

Oh yes.

Victor made the pasta from a recipe he saw on Ciao Italia with MaryAnn Esposito. She serves the pasta with a clam and mussel sauce, but Victor had a better idea.  Lobster.


  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil or parsley leaves


Place egg, 1/3 cup milk, olive oil and salt in bowl of food processor and whirl until smooth. Add flour and cheese and pulse until mixture is grainy looking. Add parsley and pulse just until dough begins to leave the sides of bowl. If dough is too dry, add a little of the remaining milk until you can pinch a piece of dough between your fingers and it does not crumble.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Place a bowl upside down over the dough and allow to rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten and make it easier to roll.

Divide the dough into quarters and keep three covered while working the first piece. Flatten the dough to a four inch wide piece. Place it through the rollers of a hand crank pasta machine set to the fattest setting (#1). Set the rollers to the next fattest setting down (#2) and run the dough through again.

Use a small knife to cut 1/8 inch wide strips and place the strips on a clean towel. Repeat with the remaining dough.

It made a wonderful and delicious pasta dish, but we think next time we make it, we'll (that's *we* as in *Victor*) roll it a bit thinner.  It's supposed to be a thick pasta, but our tastes tend to go for thinner.

The sauce was a variation on a La Cucina theme...

Aragosta al Limone

  • Chunks of Lobster Tail
  • 4 Large Egg Yolks
  • 2 Lemons
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbls Grana Padano grated plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbls heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbls whole milk
  • 3 tbls finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbls finely chopped chives

Sauté lobster chunks till just done, about 3 minutes or opaque. (Don’t over cook)

Place egg yolks in a large bowl. Grate the zest of 1 lemon into the bowl. Add cheese and pepper, whisk to combine, then whisk in the cream, milk, parsley, chives and a generous pinch of salt.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and return to the pot. Immediately add the egg mixture and lobster meat then toss together to combine. Serve immediately with more Grana Padano.

It was gooder than good.  It was great watching both Linda and David go back for more.  It was everything it could be and more.

And then, finally, it was time for dessert.

Linda is just a bit of a chocaholic, so we decided a cheesecake with a chocolate crust was in order.  And this morning, I decided the cheesecake needed a chocolate ganache to cover it.

The ganache was pure over-the-top decadence.  I loved every calorie of it!

I made my favorite "Worlds Greatest Strawberry Cheesecake" except I didn't use the strawberries...

World's Greatest Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

The Crust:

  • 3/4 cups walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 3/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 1 3 oz Valrhona chocolate bar
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted

The Filling:

  • 4 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

The Topping:

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tbsp vanilla

Putting it together: Preheat oven to 350º.  Mix crust ingredients and press evenly into bottom of 10″ springform pan.  Set aside.

Cream the cheese until light and fluffy.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream, mixing until smooth and light. Pour into pan and bake 60 – 70 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 15 minutes.  Keep oven on.

Mix topping ingredients and spread onto top of cheesecake to within about 1/2 inch from edge.  Return to oven and bake about 7 more minutes.  Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate at least 24 hours (2-3 days is best.)

On day you’re going to serve, make ganache.  Heat cream.  Remove from heat and stir in grated chocolate.  Stir until smooth.  Add vanilla.

Remove cake from pan.  Spread ganache over cake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

It really was a stellar day.  And while we did eat a lot, at least it was spread out over 5 hours.

Our next feast with them is tentatively scheduled for July at their house to celebrate my and Linda's birthdays.

I can't wait.

They feed us the same way.

Shrimp Cakes and Sweet Potato Fries

I knew at 5:30 this morning that dinner was going to be shrimp.  By 8am I had figured on shrimp patties on rolls.  By 10am I had a recipe in my head.  Such is the creative process.  Pick an ingredient, let it simmer a while, and a recipe, idea, or concept is bound to present itself.

There are just so many things one can do, it's often difficult to narrow things down.  I find if I start with an ingredient (in this case, the shrimp), and then find another ingredient (the rolls), it's easier to focus on and/or come up with the final idea.  And, of course, everything is subject to change the minute I start cooking.

I thought a fairly basic shrimp cake would be dine if I jazzed up the roll with some of our fried peppers.  Lots of sweet  heat.  It worked.

Shrimp Cakes

(makes about 6 small cakes)

  • 8 oz raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 2 tbsp celery
  • 2 tbsp red pepper
  • 2 tbsp onion
  • 2 tbsp panko bread crumbs (plus additional for coating cakes)
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Chop celery, pepper, and onion.  Add to food processor.  Add shrimp and pulse until fairly well chopped.  Add mayonnaise, spices, and 2 tbsp bread crumbs.  Mix.

Divide into 6 portions - about 1/4 cup each.  Roll and press in panko bread crumbs.  Fry in olive oil until browned and cooked through.

I served them on small egg twist rolls with a bit of mayonnaise and fried hot peppers I made on Monday.

And I broke out the deep fryer for the sweet potato fries.  I do have to admit that I cheated.  I bought frozen sweet potato fries instead of cutting and frying my own.

And they were really good.

I'm off to make blackberry ice cream right now.

It's to make up for slacking on the fries.

Sausages and Waffle Chips

I love our deep fryer!

While I planned on grilling sausages and making baked beans, I originally planned to make a bit of potato salad.  And then I looked across the room to the fryer.

Waffle Chips!

Waffle chips are easy to cut with your trusty mandoline.  Using the ripple cutting edge, it's just a matter of doing a half-turn after each cut.

Accompanying the chips were grilled Hungarian sausages and Phoebe's Baked Beans.

I really do like the fact that I can make something like waffle chips without a lot of effort - or waste.  Stove-top frying has never been something I've enjoyed.  Everything thus far has come out crisp and not even remotely greasy.

I like.

I am trying to be reasonably responsible with this thing.  I have this vision of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution where the house he went to had a deep fryer that was in constant use.  They were not a petite family.  I think if I keep that in the forefront of my mind, I won't go overboard.  I don't want to have to bury this one in the yard like they did.

The Birthday Boy Gets Fried

Thirty years ago, the statement would have been the same, but the means would have been quite different.  My, how things change!

Last night, Victor gave me a brand new deep fryer.  All because I had made an offhand comment that if I could have but one commercial piece of kitchen equipment at home, it would bee a deep fryer.

Now...  we have a standing rule that we don't buy each other birthday presents and we don't buy single-use kitchen gadgets.  He broke two rules.  I am quite pleased!  I was also quite oblivious.  Victor wrapped the present while I was in the office and placed it right in the middle of the living room.  I walked right through the living room into the kitchen and didn't even see it.


My first thought after opening it was to fry some chicken.  But I quickly changed my mind.  Onion rings, zucchini, jalapeños stuffed with cheese, and shrimp ended up being the menu.

We made a really classic batter of cake flour, beer, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley - the same recipe Victor used when he owned his restaurant on South Street.  I floured the items before battering them, and used corn flour on the onion rings.


Everything was crispy-crunchy.  I had actually forgotten just how good - and not greasy - fried foods can be.  Hot oil is the trick, and it's hard to manage on a stove.

Everything came out perfect except the jalapeño poppers.  I put them in too fast and they stuck together a bit.   Patience has never been one of my strong points.  Oh well.  They tasted fantabulous and that's what matters.  Just hollowed out peppers with monterey jack cheese.  As basic as one can get.

This has been one of the most fun presents!  I'm thinking there's just a bazillion things we can make.  I love fritters - corn, apple, peach...  Fried calamari... Definitely more jalapeño poppers .  I'll probably come up with a different batter for those.  There's a lot of fun experimenting in store.

But tonight the final piece is something I am making once and will probably never make again.

A Deep-Fried Snickers Bar.

Because it's my birthday.

Crab Fritters

Mike's done it, again!  He has the uncanny knack of knowing just when I'm brain-dead but need to update the blog!  And he takes great pictures, too!  His Crab Fritters sound fantastic!  Methinks I'll be making them really soon!

Crab Fritters

Crab Fritters

Mike Amason

The rural South of the early 20th century was never known for haute cuisine. Money was limited most of the year, and cooks were constrained to find new and creative ways to use the few ingredients that were available to them. There was always flour and corn meal, and breads of all types really were the “staff of life”. Most women baked a couple of times a week, but every meal saw a quick bread of some type – cornbread, biscuits, hoecakes, hushpuppies, and, when the garden was producing, corn fritters.

A fritter is as simple to make as it is delicious. It’s essence is nothing more than a pancake with onion, corn and black pepper added (canned corn will work, but fresh kernels scraped from the cob turns this into food for the gods), and the result is a far greater delight than the sum of its parts.

These have been updated, “citified” if you will, by the addition of a few ingredients, and the product is suitable for entertaining the pickiest company. Serve with a good fish chowder, seafood gumbo, or vegetable soup.

I use a cast iron skillet for these and wipe it with oil between batches, but a nonstick frying pan will work just fine. These are fried, but they are not greasy.

Serves: 6-8 Can be made ahead and reheated, but do not freeze well.



  • 16 oz can whole kernel corn, drained, or two large ears fresh corn, kernels cut and cob scraped
  • 1 pound claw crab meat
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • two green onions, chopped with tops
  • ½ stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh parsely, chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup half-and-half or whipping cream
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour

Put crab meat, chopped vegetables, spices, and liquid ingredients into a large bowl and stir to mix well and coat everything with milk and eggs mixture. Stir in flour just before cooking.

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a nonstick frying pan or lightly greased skillet or griddle and cook 3-4 minutes until bubbles rise to the top of the batter and bottom is brown. Turn them over to finish cooking. Serve hot or cold.


Turkey Croquettes

Here's another recipe from Mike!  Bein' that I still have some leftover turkey in the freezer, I may just have to make these this weekend!

Turkey Croquettes

Back just before the year 2000 there was a business plan that made the papers where a company would be formed to buy the leftover food from the world’s great restaurants and freeze it for shipping to gourmets around the world.  I don’t know whether it worked or not, but it was a novel approach to the question of what to do with leftovers, especially after the holidays.

Here is a good idea for something to get rid of a little more of the Thanksgiving Monster.   They are especially good to make and freeze for a quick meal later  when you’ve had a long day at the office.

Any poultry will work, and you get a whole new flavor if you substitute crab meat for the turkey.  If you bake these, they are low in fat, high in fiber, and addictive.  They have more flavor fried (OK – so what doesn’t?) which is fine if you can stand the calories.

Turkey Croquettes

Mike Amason

Makes about 24 croquettes 2-1/2” diameter.   Leftovers freeze well.


  • 2 pounds leftover turkey (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked)
  • One large onion, any color
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½  green bell pepper
  • One whole green chili or jalapeno pepper or ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp paprika to sprinkle the patties if baking them
  • ½ cup sour cream or mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups SR flour

Baked:  Preheat oven to 375° and grease a cookie sheet with Crisco
Fried:  Preheat ½” of your favorite vegetable oil in your favorite frying pan

Run chicken and vegetables through a food processor one item at a time and combine in a two quart mixing bowl.  Adding the olive oil to the carrots makes them chop better. Mix sour cream, beaten eggs, and spices in well before adding flour.  You will end up with a bowl of sticky paste that can be formed into patties that will hold their shape.

Scoop out balls of the paste to whatever size you like.  The quantity mentioned above assumes balls slightly larger than a golf ball flattened into patties roughly 2-1/2” in diameter by ½-3/4” thick.

Arrange on cookie sheet, sprinkle with paprika, and bake 30-35 minutes, or fry in oil and turn when edges turn brown. They are done when brown on top and bottom.  Drain on paper towels before serving.  Baked croquettes will not get as brown as the fried ones, but that doesn’t hurt a thing.

Baked Croquettes

These are wonderful served with a pot of large dried lima beans cooked with a ham hock, zucchini strips salted and peppered and sprinkled with parmesan cheese and roasted in a 375° oven for 15 minutes (Why waste the heat when the oven is hot?  You have two racks in there for a reason), steamed broccoli, or just a plate of fresh biscuits.  These make outstanding leftovers and are a good finger food hot or cold.

A good red pepper sauce or a hot pepper vinegar is a great accompaniment for these as is a good chow chow.