Simple & Easy Italian-Style Celery Salad

I was watching the Barefoot Contessa this morning and she was making an Italian inspired meal which included a celery salad.  Her recipe although I am sure is very good seemed a little more complicated then the one I make –as do most celery salad recipes (too many ingredients overpower the delicateness of the main ingredients in my opinion) so I thought I’d post my recipe here today.

Italian Style Celery Salad with Parmesan                                                                            4-6 servings

  • One medium to large bunch thinly sliced celery including the tender leaves, sliced on an angle (approx. 5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup  freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • Fleur-de-sel sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 + ounces aged Parmesan cheese shaved

Put the sliced celery and coarsely  chopped (you still want to have the leaf form somewhat) leaves in a mixing bowl.  Add the lemon juice, olive oil, about 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese.  Toss together and taste.  Now add the  salt ( if you don’t have fleur-de-sel sea salt you can substitute any sea salt or even kosher salt)  and pepper to taste.

Put the salad in either a serving bowl or in individual serving cups/ bowls (I sometimes like to put this salad in a martini glass or a fancy ice cream cup) and sprinkle the balance of the shaved Parmesan and a few more cranks of the pepper mill on top.  That’s it.  Simple and easy celery salad fresh and delicious.



Crudo Restaurant Review- A Hidden Backstreet Gem With Serious Good Eats

Crudo Restaruant and Bar CrudoI have finally found a restaurant in Arizona that leaves me thinking–even dreaming about what I ate and drank weeks after having a meal there.  I am not suggesting that there aren’t others out there but in the 10 years that I’ve returned to live in Phoenix / Scottsdale area, Crudo— chef / owner Cullen Campbell‘s creation– is the first I can say…”Don’t talk to me while I’m eating this because it is so good that I have to savor every single second of this bite.” Hint* squid ink risotto– see below.

From the moment you approach Crudo you get hit with the aroma of the wood buring grill…that warmth and comforting smell that immediately hits your senses and opens your appetite for the gifts you are about to receive. As you walk up the few steps to the foyer you get transended to a place resembling a restaurant on one of the small side streets in Venice, California–an open, clean, airy feeling that is soothing and refreshing.

To the left is the entrance to Bar Crudo owned by Micah Olson where the magic begins with the perfect concoctions of various libations reinvented and newly created by serious mixologists.  Watching them make your drink whether it be from their drink menu or a new concoction made just for you it’s like watching a live performance of a great chef preparing a special treat– brings back a time when making drinks was an art not just a job.  These guys know their stuff and just wait until you taste what’s been created for you.  In our case it was the perfect start to ‘a foodie’ experience…

The Crudo dinner menu is comprised of small to medium portioned food creations broken down in to four main categories- Crudo/Raw, Mozza/Mozzarella, Cotto/Cooked, Griglia/Grilled in addition there is also Lati/Sides and Dolce/Desserts.  Chef Cullen Campbell also offers a Corso option which allows the patron to choose from 3, 4 or 5 courses from the menu at a prix-fixe for each of the three options.  The wine list is not too big but the selections are very nice.  Since we were not familiar with some of the wines on the list we asked for recommendations which were excellent choices each time and paired very well with our meal.  We especially liked the ‘wine-on-tap’ concept served in a carafe type vessel.  On to the food…

Although I enjoyed all the menu items we ordered,  below were my favorites:

Any of the Crudo’s – Delicate ‘Italian Style’ sashimi so cleverly put together with an array of quality condiments.  Whether it be black garlic, smoked olives or a hint of truffle oil they are Albacore Crudospectacular.  Albacore – Ultra-fresh thin slices of albacore with julienned apples, small pieces of black garlic all drizzled with truffle oil.

Butterfish- Thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth butterfish with plumped up oven dried tomato pieces (a real treat), lardo andmicro arugula which adds just the right amount of bite– seasoned just right.

Ricotta- Fresh ricotta with the oh-so yum plumped up dried tomato (plump, moist, tangy, Ricotta Mozzanaturally sweet yet savory, rich tomato morsels) dressed perfectly with a nice olive oil, a chiffonade of basil and gracefully seasoned with salt and pepper and a few slices of wood-fired grilled crusty bread.  This mozza is so delicate, light and creamy and all the embellishments to the dish don’t in any way detract from the star of the show…the Ricotta they merely act as an enhancement.

Burrata –This burrata is decadent in it;s own right and dressed with a pancetta vinaigrette that cut the richness factor in a way that makes it melt away in your mouth leaving you craving the next bite and just the right amount of arugula to cleanse the palette. Also accompanied with slices of the wood-fired bread.  Serious good eats.

Mushroom – An assortment of in-season mushrooms made in a ‘gratin style’ with mozzarella and topped with a sunny-side up egg and drizzled with truffle oil.  I always say if you can add an egg to a dish unexpectedly and make it work well– that’s what separates the men from the boys so to speak.  Mission accomplished!

For me the pièce de résistance was the Squid ink Risotto. Tender creamy squid ink risottoSquid Ink Risotto at Crudo with pieces of “almost like” tuna confit , roasted tomatoes and pickled chilis that gives it a nice spicy kick.  This one is like pure heaven.  Just close your eyes, stop talking and just savor every single bite.

As for the Desserts they are generally made by Tracey Demsey Originals and the tarte I had on the first visit was very good.  On my next visit chef Campbell made a breading pudding and panne cotta combination that was fabulous.

In closing my husband said that my review might sound too subjective and that everything I wrote was favorable.  My response was “why shouldn’t I sing its’ praises if I have nothing bad to say?”  Crudo is a must-go-to restaurant from the first moment you walk in you will have an evening to remember at this backstreet gem.

3603 E. Indian School Road Phoenix

Brussel Sprout Slaw

Made this quick little brussel sprout slaw recipe on-the-fly today for lunch.  Served it with a Brussel Sprout Slaw / Saladsmall hot crusty loaf La Brea Bakery bread and nicely aged room temperature Bijou Crottin goat cheese from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.  It was worth noting…

Served 1 (me)

1 cup of baby brussel sprouts slice very thin (chiffonade)
1  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil  (add more or less to your taste)
a small handful of freshly shaved parmesan
juice of 1/2 small lemon
pinch of fleur-de-sel (sea salt)
a few grinds of the pepper mill

Toss it all together and enjoy…crisp and refreshing.

Viva Italia! Italian Dinner Night At Home

Italian dinner at homeThe following is my first official post. I wrote it about 6 months ago hoping that I would have put my blog up shortly after but obviously I didn’t.  So here it is now! 

Tonight I was in the mood for Italian dinner. Italian food is always a hit at my house and generally pretty easy to make. I had made a trip to Trader Joe’s earlier today.  It always feels like a treat when I go to Trader Joe’s good fine quality products at a great price.  So in addition to what I had in my pantry and fridge I thought I’d add a few quality products from TJ’s to enhance my meal.  The menu for tonight was:

  • Baby Arugula Salad with shaved Parmesan, red & yellow baby tomatoes with lemon & extra virgin oil dressing
  • Rotini Puttanesca / Arrabiata ‘a la Me’ with spicy italian sausage
  • Fresh Fruit– sliced pears and white grapes

Baby Arugula Salad  serves 4-6
The inspiration for this salad came from a little tiny Italian resturant in the back bay area of Boston on Newbury Street called Piattini.  My family and I went there this summer and the meal was abosuletly fabulous but it was the salad that sang to me.  So here’s my take on it. Enjoy.

1 bag baby arugula from Trader Joe’s
10 red & yellow baby tomatoes halved
2 oz. Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan from Trader Joes’s–crumble 1/3 of the cheese (Parmesan reggiano would be my first choice but for a Thursday night meal the Grana Padano Pramesan is a good alternative)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de Sel to taste (remember that the parmesan is salty too so keep that in mind when seasoning)
Tri-color (pink, green, black) freshly ground pepper to taste

Mixed the olive oil, lemon juice, the crumbled parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Set asside. In a salad bowl put the baby arugula top with baby tomatoes and the remainder of the shaved parmesan. Keep the dressing and the salad separate until just before serving.  Toss well.

Rotini Puttanesca / Arrabiata ‘a la Me’ serves 4-6
I was tired today and didn’t want to make the whole deal from scratch so I opted for the semi-homemade quick tasty and easy version. Turned out great!

Note:  Some foodie’s might shun this idea of ‘semi-homemade’ (honestly if they do then they really aren’t foodies anyway) but my philosophy on this especially with tomato sauce is  the longer it cooks the better it tastes.  If you use a good quality pre-made sauce (check the ingredients) and if they use good ingredients…that are similar to what you would use if making it from scratch then why re-invent the wheel. The store bought one has cooked for hours already…just doctor it up.

6 Italian sausages (hot or mild)
1 12-16 oz box Rotini pasta  (I like to use the Ronzoni ‘Smart Taste’ it tastes great and has 2.5x the fiber)
1 jar of Arrabiata Sauce from Trader Joe’s
6 cloves of garlic sliced length wise
1 can of flat anchovies chopped fine (keep the oil–you’ll use that too!)
2-3 tablespoons capers finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
1/2 of a small or 1/4 of a large yellow onion sliced length wise very thin and then rough chop
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 oz shaved parmesan cheese to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Hot chili flakes if desired can be served on the side.

Put the italian sausages on a baking sheet and place in the broiler on low turning once halfway until they are fully cooked and nicely browned. (No need to put oil on the the baking sheet since the sausages will secreet oil on their own while cooking)

While the Sausages are cooking bring a large pot of water on the stove top to boil with a couple of tablespoons of salt.  Once the water boils cook the pasta as directed on the box.

For the sauce:
Put the Extra Virgin olive oil and the reserved anchovy oil in a sauce pan on medium high heat.
Add the onions, garlic and anchovies and saute until nice and brown with a bit of carmelization going on.
Then add the Arrabiata sauce, capers, and the parsley (reserve a couple of pinches of parsley for garnish) stir and lower the heat to medium low and cover.  Cook for about 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.

All three steps of the pasta dish kind of goes simultaneously so you need to keep an eye on the sauce, the pasta and the sausages and time them accordingly.

Once all three are cooked and ready to go it’s time to assemble.  Mix the sauce in with the drained pasta and toss well pour into a nice pasta serving bowl and garnish with the shaved parmesan cheese and parsley and finally arrange the italian sausages in a ring around the bowl for a nice presentation.  Serve immediately.  This dish would go fabulous with a nice medium to heavy body red wine–like a nice argentinian malbec.

This meal was a hit as I suspected it would be.  My daughter said she couldn’t decide which she enjoyed more the salad or the pasta but she was leaning towards the salad.

Ciao for today!

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