The other day I had a few friends over for drinks before we had out for dinner. I wanted to make a few quick appetizers to go along with the martinis.

After a short discussion we went for:

Tuna tartare on crackers
Caprese skewers
Shrimp and prosciutto
We prepared all of them in the afternoon and finished them off in the early evening before the guests arrived. The tartare is really the only one that requires at least an hour so the tuna can marinate properly.

Let’s start with the caprese skewers.

This is really easy. Ingredients:

cherry tomatoes
byte-size mozzarella
lots of basil (one of those big bags they have at the market)
olive oil
salt and pepper
toothpicks – regular skewers are really too big!
Just cut the cherry tomatoes in halves. I used two mozzarella bytes and two cherry halves for each skewer (note I used too. In the food processor add the basil, 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. When you are ready to serve just spread some of the basil-olive oil mix on top of the skewers! Super easy, super fresh and super tasty!

Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp.

This is also very easy to make. In fact, you can prepare it earlier and just cook it right before (it takes 5mins). Ingredients:

big prawn with no shells
prosciutto slices (no need to buy the most expensive one)
Wrap half slice of prosciutto around the shrimp. Done! I like to cook it over a hot non-stick pan. It almost acts like a grill and the prosciutto gets nice and crispy. The shrimp cook really fast, so you’ll need to cook each of them for couple of minutes (one minute each side).

Tuna Tartare cracker.

In this case I actually used a recipe from one of Ina Gartner’s books. You can also find it online on the Food Network website:,,FOOD_9936_28673,00.html

My take: you don’t need all the ingredients (but you have to use lemo!) or stick precisily to the quantities indicated. I made this dish, took my liberties and it always tastes good. You must use good tuna! Don’t skimp on the tuna!

A nice presentation helps!


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Recently I had the opportunity to dine at couple of Italian restaurants in Seattle. My stand on Italian restaurants has been generally along the line “I am paying too much for below quality food”. Lately I have been a little more relaxed and I am trying to checkout some of the local restaurant to really assess where they are at.

A positive note came from Volterra. The restaurant serves a more contemporary Italian food. The menu has a good selection without going crazy with the number of dishes. The appetizer (marinated calamari) was on the overpriced side and not too good (too much citrus…could not taste the calamari). The pasta was much better, although the quality was not consistent among the 4 pastas we ordered (there 4 four of us and I ordered wild boar):

Linguine with clams sauce (Linguine alle Vongole): This was just OK. This is not a difficult dish to make and with good ingredients usually a sure hit. I found it a little plain with the pasta just a bit undercooked. I would not reccomend it.
Fettucine with Shrimp and Pesto (Fettucine alla Genovese): The sauce was good. The fettucine were definitely undercooked. I mean you could taste the flour in the middle.
Wild Mushrooms and Truffles (Tagliolini Tartufati): This was a fantastic dish and the best of the entire dinner. I would highly reccomend this one.
I did not order pasta and went for the wild boar. It’s something I don’t get to eat too often and I just love it. The dish called for a gorgonzola sauce. Unfortunately I am not a gorgonzola fan. I asked if I could have a different sauce and the chef accomodated my request and I was able to get it with the wine sauce that they use for the medallions. The sauce was on the stronger side for the wild boar, but it was pretty good overall.

Overall it was a positive experience. The price was on the higher end (I think we paid about 40USD each, but we also ordered couple of bottles of wine), the service was standard good and the food good (could be very good with a little more attention…maybe that night they were rushing it a bit).

Note: at the time of this post the appetizer is actually off the menu.

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Linguini with broccoli and anchovies. I had not cooked this dish for at least two years. The first time I had it was when I was leaving in Lisbon. My friend Michele (from Bolzano) thought me how to make it.

I do agree that this may not be ideal for all taste buds and the reaction for many may be “ugh”. I guess you gonna have to try it and see if you like it… I do!

As many of the recipe I have been posting lately the great thing about this dish is that it takes very little work and it’s done in about 20-30 mins (end-to-end…you can do other thngs in the meatime).

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Here’re the ingredients (for 2-3 people, depending on how hungry their are):

1 box of anchovies
1/2 pound of Linguine (De Cecco, Del Verde or Barilla will do it)
Couple of cloves of garlic
Chilli flakes
1 pound of broccoli (I used frozen ones)
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin)
The steps:

Bring water to boil in a pot. This is the same pot you’ll use to cook the pasta as well. Before you forget you should also add salt to the water.
When the water is boiling pour the broccoli. You need to cook them for about 5 minutes, after the water starts boiling again.
Once the 5 mins are up and the broccoli cooked, take them out and save them in a bowl. If the broccoli are very big, you can just cut them quickly using a knife.
The water is already boiling and you can put the pasta in. No worries on the “soffritto” for the pasta, it will just take a few mins.
As the pasta is cooklng we start preparing the anchoviesgarlic soffritto. Warm up a deep sauce pan, add the olive oil and the fine chopped garlic. Let the garlic cook for a minute or so, until it start looking “gold”.
Add the anchovies and make sure that you stir it so that it almost create a “paste” (see pix below). Keep the heat mediumlow. This is a good time to add a few chilli flakes.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it in the sauce pan. This is also the time to add back the broccoli as well.
Stir everything well together for a minute over medium heat.
You are done..just need to plate it and add some pepper and fresh virgin olive oil.
Enjoy your dish and let us know how it goes!

Summer is in full swing in Seattle and it’s great time for “summer food”.

Couple of days ago I prepared a grilled pranw salad. It takes about 5 mins and it very tasty!


1/2 pound of prawns (medium size)
half bell pepper
a few slices of chopped hot chilli pepper
extra virgin olive oil (3-4 tablespoons)
salt, pepper
Quick steps:

1 – In a small bowl add the olive oil, chopped garlic and chopped chilli peppers.

2 – On the bbq start cooking the shrip, it really takes a few mins (couple of mins each side)

3 – Now mix the chopped tomatoes, bell pepper and olive oil mix.

4 – time to serve!


(cross-posted from the Wishpot Gift Guru blog)

Cooking books make really good gifts.  They are useful, creative, personal and not too expensive.  In other words..almost as good as it gets for a gift!

Now, having said that, what’re some good cookbooks to give?

Of course you can give one from any of top chefs from the food network:  Racheal RayMario BataliBarefoot Contessa , Emiril LagasseBobby FlayGiada DeLaurentiis, just to name a few.  These are somewhat easy bets, especially if you know that the gift recipient likes their shows.  My favorite in this mix is Mario’s “The Babbo Cookbook”.   It’s also important to highlight that as previously reported Racheal Ray’s “365 No Repeats” is the #1 book wished for on Wishpot!

Now, you could go more upscale and uber-gourmet and get either the one by Adrian Ferre “El Bulli 1998-2002” or the one from multi three-Michelin-stars Alain Ducasse.   I personally have the El Bulli one in my personal wishlist.  I mean, it’s impossible to get a reservation to Ferre’s restaurant and at least I want a chance to try a recipe (assuming I can find the ingredients!).

There are some good alternatives in the dessert area (or should I say “course”).  I have read high praises for the “Sweet Life” by Kate Zuckerman.  The pix look amazing and the Lemon Tart is supposed to be the best ever.

One last idea could be to give a book about the fundamentals of cooking and food.  Two books that come highly recommended in this subcategory:  Cookwise and “On Food and Cooking”.

I included the recommendations above plus a few others on a new list “Cooking Books Wishlist” on the Wishpot’s GiftGuru page.

Yesterday I covered the basics about frittata when I posted about “frittata con le salsiccie” (frittata with sausage).

We have a pescetarian in the house.  So, at the last brunch I had to make also a vegetarian frittata.  I used potatoes and leeks.  It’s simple and very good.

Ingredients (this makes an 8×1 inch frittata):

  • one leek
  • three potatoes
  • 10-12 eggs
  • salt, pepper and herbs (i used thyme)
  • extra virgin olive oil

The steps:

1.  slice the leeks (white part only) and dice the potatoes (small pieces).

potatoes     leeks

2.  start sautee’ing the potatoes in 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil.   It will take a good 10-15mins for the potatoes to cook properly.  After about 10mins add the leeks and let sautee for another 5mins.

potatoes  leeks and potatoes

3.  Time to add the beaten egg mix.  Let it cooked at medium-low heat for about 5-10mins (in my pan it took about 10mins).

frittata is cooking

4.  it’s now time to turn the frittata around.  When do you turn it?  A good test is to check the bottom of the frittata with a spatula.  If the bottom is a nice golden brown it’s time to turn the frittata around.  Quick steps:

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5.  Cook it now for another 3-5 mins and the frittata is ready to go!!



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I love this dish.  It’s fundamentally the way good fish is supposed to be cooked:  in the oven, light on spices and with potatoes on the side.  No creams, no heavy rubs, nothing that would spoil the flavor of good fresh seafood.

As result the list of ingredients is short, the recipe is very simple and the bill for the fish high 🙂

Ingredients (about 6 people):

  • 2 pounds of fresh halibut
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, black pepper, a bit of thyme
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • few black olives (use Kalamata or some other “salty” version)

The steps:

1.  Chop the potatoes in smaller chunks (I do something along the line of a 1/3in by 1/3in – no need to be too precise).  I wash them and add 5 tablespoon of olive oil, black pepper, salt (don’t be shy) and the white wine.  Mix everything and stick the pan in the oven at 400.  The potatoes take longer than the fish to cook and you want to give them an head start.


2.  After about 10 mins I usually take the potatoes out, give it a good stir and add the fish (with salt, pepper and thyme).  If I have lots of people for dinner and the fish is big I usually tend to already cut it in individual portions.  It requires a smaller pan, but that’s not the main reason.  It actually cooks faster.  A rule that someone mentioned to me was 10mins for each each of fish (head to tail).  When I cook individual slices (of about an inch each) I usually go for 20mins.  This is a good time to also add the olives.

3.  After about 20 mins the dish is ready!

halibut with potatoes



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First, what’s frittata?  I turned to wikipedia for the “official” definition:

“A frittata is a type of Italian omelette that frequently features fillings such as meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Like a normal omelette, a frittata is prepared in a skillet. However, whereas a normal omelette is cooked on a stovetop and served folded, a frittata is first partially cooked on a stovetop but then finished under the grill (broiler) and served open-faced

It sounds pretty accurate.  I would add couple of things:

  • A frittata is usually much thicker than a regular omellette.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for it to be about an inch.
  • It does not necessarily need to be cooked in the oven.  In fact, I have never used the oven.  Just keep the heat at medium-low with the lid on. Then turn the frittata around (see trick below) and you’ll be fine.

Like omelettes you can get very creative with the frittata.  A few weeks ago, we had friends over for brunch and I prepared two of them (1) sausage+onion, and (2) potatoe+leek.  In this post I’ll cover the first one.

Ingredients (feeds 4-8 people):

  • four spicy sausages (you can also use regular ones).  ps: get the good ones!!!
  • 10 eggs
  • one onion
  • salt. pepper, herbs (I used a bit of thyme)
  • olive oil (extra virgin)
  • I used a 8-inch pan


1. I start by cooking the sausages by themselves in just a drizzle of oil.  In the meantime beat the eggs and add salt, pepper and the herbs.  When the sausages are brown take them out.

sausages cimg2938-600.jpg

2. Now add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and start sauteeing the minced onion.  Make sure to keep the heat on medium.  You don’t want to fry the onion.  When the onion start to turn golden add the sausages back to the mix and let cook for a minute.


3. Time to add the eggs.  I usually stir the mix for 30 seconds or so.  Cover with a lid and let it cook for 5-10 mins.  Keep the heat on medium-low.  You want to avoid that the bottom of the frittata sticks to the pan or burns.


(full disclosure.  This pix is taken from the other frittata I was cooking, as i forgot to take one at this stage)

4. After 5-10 mins it’s time to turn the frittata.  The actual timing depends on the pan that you use and heat.  in general you want to see that the frittata is almost set.  The top part may still have some liquid and that’s fine.  Time to turn it.  Here’s the sequence I use:

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5.  When the frittata is on top of the lid I just slide it back in the pan.  After 2-5 mins on medium-low heat it’s ready to go.  Just take it out and you’re done!



The summer is finally here in the Pacific Northwest…that means that the temperature is above 70 and wild salmon is fairly cheap. So yesterday a BBQ was in order!

We went for a different spin of salmon on the grill and cooked it “al cartoccio”.

In Italian “al cartoccio” refer to the practise of cooking something wrapped in foil (or baking paper). There is “pasta” al cartoccio, there is “fish” al cartoccio. Now that I think about I have never seen any meat-based food being cooked using this technique. The one think that I like about it – especially for seafood – is that keeps the fish moist.

The list of ingredients is fairly flexible. The basic idea is to get a big piece of fish (or small for that matter) and a few veggies to keep it “fresh” (think tomatoes, leeks, fennel, onions, etc…). My list from yesterday:

Salmon fillet (i believe it was close to two pounds)
one tomato
red onions
few slices of lemon
italian parsley (you could also add time and/or dill)
some olive oil (extra virgin – about 3 tablespoons)
white whine (about 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
The steps are super easy.

1. Take a big piece of foil and create a “baking pan” look-a-like shape, lay the salmon fillet on top of it and add all your ingrendients (veggies should be chopped).

2. Take another piece of foil and properly cover the fish, like in the picture below.

3. Time to cook it! In this case is super easy…just cook it on the bbq!

4. Now the tricky part is the cooking time. The good news is the the wine, olive oil, veggies and cartoccio-effect will keep the salmon very moist. I usually let it cook for about 25-30 mins. The result is usually great for couple of reasons (1) when you break the cartoccio the vapor comes out and there is a big WOW effect (2) it is actually very good and fresh.

Keep it mind that you can use this technique for much smaller portions. In fact, I would advise to do so and possibly go for simple portions. The WOW factor will be even bigger as each guest can open their own cartoccio!


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I was just reading the corriere della sera and they were reporting that Forbes published the list of the top 12 most expensive restaurants in the world.

The list looks very impressing and unfortunately I have not been to any of them :(.  So, I added them to my wishpot wishlist!

  • La Pergola – This is an Italian joint in Rome
  • Tetsuya – a Japanese restaurant in Sydney
  • The French Laundry – The Napa Valley Destination (note the capital N!).  I tried to go to this one, but we could not get a table
  • Masa – THE sushi place in NYC
  • Joel Robuchon – In Vegas.  I actually went to the “cafe” version.  That was one of the the most “upscale” cafe I have been, so the real thing must be really good.
  • Alinea – in Chicago.  I’d never heard of it.  I guess it’s in my todo list for when I go to Chicago.
  • Toque – in Montreal
  • El Bulli – I really want to go to this place.  It’s a the top of my restaurant wishlist! Ferran Adrià has achieved a god-status chef level and I really want to check it out.  Hope that it’s worth the $300/person (without wine!).
  • l’Arpege – in Paris
  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – In London.  After seeing Gordon Ramsey on kitchen nightmare (not the Fox version…the BBC one is much better) he has really become one of my favorite chefs.  Too bad it’s almost impossible to get a reservation.
  • Aragawa – In Tokyo.  The rumor has it that they have one of those nice $400 steaks.
  • Bukhara – in Delhi.

The one thing that seems to be clear is that (1) wine is not included in any of the prices mentioned in the Forbes article.  Anyone should know that makes or break both the meal and the bank! (2) It seems that the rank is based solely on the “standard preset meal” – of course you could spend lots more if you ordered off the menu or you went for special menu.    There was also a good post about this sometime ago on thevinography blog and they recommended to triple the prices.

Anyway…it seems there is some good place to go, regardless from where you are.