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Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Fall Picnic Salad and a Lazy Autumn Day...

copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
What is it about the beginning of Fall that makes me feel lazy?? but not the same lazy I feel in the 'dog days' of August..that is an extremely 'wear your flip flops' and enjoy the summer sun relax. No it is more of a realxed because it seems as if everything is beginning to take its' course for the Fall. The weather is a Fall weather, offices are back to their normal schedules,schools are filled and on their schedules..everyone is back to their normal Fall yes  I guess that is a reason to relax.

Relaxing as this weekend is I opted for something light for dinner tonight..a Tuscna Picnic slad made with the Sempre Sapori spice blend I developed to create easy Tuscan style dishes in a 'flash'. We have been getting so many calls and orders and re-orders from those of you that tried it that I had a 'voglio' to use it on something as well. Here it is a salad for a light dinner on a relaxing Fall evening.

 Tuscan Picnic Salad with  Sempre Sapori

1 lb romaine salad (or 1 pre-cut package)

2 avocados, pitted and peeledTuscan

and cut into 1” chunks

1 lb plum tomatoes cut into wedges

½ lb fresh mozzarella cut into small chunks

2 tsp of Sempre Sapori (Tuscan Picnic Blend)

Wash, clean, cut salad ingredients. Place in large bowl. Combine salad dressing ingredients in small bowl and mix with wire whisk or place in bottle and shake to mix. Refrigerate dressing for 30 minutes before placing dressing on salad. Dressing can be refrigerated for up to two weeks

Get your copy of The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:Holidays and Special Occasions  before the mad Holiday rush great for a gift for someone special or for yourself. Filled with 140+ recipes, menus, wine pairing tips and short stories of Holidays spent in Italy.

Oct 2nd- Join me for a book singing in Collngswood, NJ at the Collingswood Book Festival from 11-1 PM

October 5th-Join me for a cooking demo/sampler dinner and book signing at Horsham Library in Horsham PA. Email for reservations. Spaces limited..4 course sampler dinner and more..

October 16th-18th.. join me at the Philadelphia Food  and Wine signing, cooking demo on stage on Sunday at 3:30. Phhiladelphia Expo center, King of Prussia, Pa

Nov5-7-Christmas in Italy weekend at Harvest Moon Bed and Breakfast. Join me for a weekend of coking classes, wine pairings, in Lancaster, Pa using fresh produce from Lancaster at this beautiful bed and brakfst..just as we do at my cooking school in Italy.Email : Carl at Harvest Moon for reservations at  

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Pumpkin..the Magic Gourd

copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
Summer is over and the Great Pumpklin is starting to make an appearance at farmer;'s markets, supermarkets and fresh produce stores. As I had  made my first pumpkin sighting this week at my local farmer's market, I was tempted to get some to create some recipes for in The Basic Art of Italian Cooking Kitchen. But upon further look, I noticed that the pumpkins I could find are really best for decoration and not pumpkins to cook with. But when I find one I am ready and here is some simple info on the magic gourd and some simple ways to use them in your cooking.
Pumpkin seeds provide an excellent source of potassium and many other essential nutrients- potassium, manganese, copper, zinc ,selenium, copper, chromium and molybdenum. They are also a great source of fiber and healthy unsaturated fats. To roast pumplin seeds, roast at a low oven temperature (250 to 300 degrees) to protect their good fats. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, tossing about halfway through.

Or toss seeds in olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite spices. Try cumin, coriander, rosemary, cayenne, garlic salt. Fro a sweeter taste, try tossing with melted butter the nsprinkle with cinnmaon,nutmeg and ginger.

Beta carotene is abundant in the pumpkin's flesh. This antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body has bee nlinked to lower cancer rated,reduced heart disease and enhanced immunity. Research also indicates that consuming orange fruits and vegetables which are high in the pigment beta-cryptoxanthin, may lower the odds of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

But pumpkins can be used for more than just pumpkin pie. Roast pumpkin by peeling and cutting pumpkin into wedges and roast with sliced garlic, onions, potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary.

Or try this, pour puree of pumpkin into ice cube trays and then store in zip-lock bags in your freezer. Add the cubes to soups and stews throughout the winter for a flavorful and nutritious boost.

*Get your copy in time for the Holidays..The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions
with over 140 recipes, menus, wine pairing tips and short stories about Holidays spent in Italy

More programs and event coming up..
Sept 23rd. Big  Blend Radio Show

October 3rd- Book Signing at Collingswood Book Festival, Collingswood, NJ 11AM to 1 PM
October 5th- Horsham Library, Horsham Pa.. book signing and cooking demo
October 21-Book Signing, cooking demo, Lower Southampton Library, Feasterville, Pa 19053

Mangia Bene, Vivi Bene,

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fusilli Pasta Cooking in the Country Kitchen

copyright 2009, Maria Liberati

Wanted to share a recipe from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking Kitchen in Italy. We had a scrumptious lunch in the country with this..... and find more at

Fusili  Pasta & Sauce with a Touch of Balsamic Vinegar
Ingredients for 4 people:
  1 lb grams of fusilli pasta curls
  2lbs grams of  red, ripe plum tomatoes or tomatoes grown on the vine
  1 small onion or scallion
  fresh tyme
  olive oil
  salt and pepper
 Balsamic Vinegar

Scald the tomatoes, then drain, peel and remove the seeds.

Cut into cubes. 

Put the tomatoes into a casserole with the chopped parsley, a bit of fresh h, and the peeled and finely cut scallion. 

Add salt and pepper to taste, a few spoons of olive oil,  and 2 teaspoons of  Balsamic Vinegar . 

Cover and let rest for half an hour. 

Boil  lightly salted water for the pasta, and cook until just done. 

Place pasta  in sauce and saute for a few seconds over high heat. 

Serve immediately in heated plates.

**Just in time for the Holidays, get your copy of The Basic Art of Italian Cooking :Holidays & Special Occasions Occasions with over 140 recipes, menus, wine pairing tips, short stories of  Holidays spent in a charming mountain town in Italy

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Makes a Comeback

copyright 2009, Maria Liberati

Spaghetti alla Carbonara has made a comeback in popularity. It was one of the dishes that I had not paid too much attention to. However on a recent visit to Italy many people began asking me about this dish and a few people requested learning the recipe at some of the culinary tours I hosted. I was somewhat perplexed, as if , almost out of nowhere, this recipe was experiencing a renaissance of interest. What was the real reason for this?

The 'rebirth' of the popularity of this dish began happening during and after the Presidential elections. And so was my answer uncovered, the newly elected President Barack Obama, began expressing his fondness for this dish to the media while in Italy.. As proud as the Italians are of any of their dishes, it was an honor for them to know that an American President was so fond of one of their dishes and thence began the rebirth of the popularity of this dish. The media would proclaim that even Barack Obama had a fondness for Italian cuisine, especially one of their traditional dishes.

The origins of this recipe are uncertain. There are 3 main theories, one is that it is called 'carbonara' because it was invented by the 'carbonai' the men who worked with carbone (coal). The other is that this dish was invented by a chef who was part of a group known as the 'carbonari' that is the men who fought in the war against the Austrian occupation of Northern Italy and for Italian independence.

The 3rd appears in 1945, when the American soldiers occupied Rome at the end of the Second World War they would ask for a breakfast of 'eggs, bacon and noodles'. They would be served these items separately on a large plate. For convenience sake they began mixing everything together and unknowingly created this dish.

The 4th theory is that it was invented by Ippolito Cavalcanti of Naples in 1837. He wrote a cookbook and it includes a recipe that is very similar.

One thing remains true, many people are passionate about their Spaghetti alla Carbonara. There are a few minor differences in the recipes that exist. Some prefer to add cream, some prefer no cream, some prefer to add more egg yolks and less egg whites, some prefer smoked bacon to regular bacon, some prefer pecorino-romano cheese,others prefer parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Either way it joins the ranks of one of Italy's delicious artisan dishes.
Stay tuned for a recipe for this wonderfu ldish in one of ny upcoming blog posts

Mangia bene, Vivi Bene,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gastronomy + Astronaut=Gastronaut

copyright 2009, Maria Liberati

I have begun to use a term that "I think'decribes more perfectly what I am

(combine the words gastronomy + astronaut= gastronaut)
 Journeying to obscure towns and places,discovering flavors and guiding to find special foods and flavors that may have been easy to find in the past but now are rare and considered gourmet. Why settle for the everyday tastes at your big box supermarket when you can excite your tastebuds with real flavor..

My favorite tastes for this past week were discovered  in  the town of Offida in the province of Le Marche where they make an excellent, refreshing Pecorino wine  and  a town called Pescasseroli in the national park of Abruzzo where you can find the best Pecorino cheese because the sheep that produce the milk to make this cheese feed off the greens in the unadulterated park there...

More 'gastronautic' adventures to come..