Tag Archives: garlic

Baked Orzo with Lemon, Shrimp and Feta

It’s April and coming up on First Communion time at Saint Anthony church, the Catholic church where I grew up, heck, where we all grew up.  Tommy and Pamela were baptized there, all four of us made our First Communions there and Cynthia and Pamela were married there.  As an adult I discovered the beauty of Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. mass.  No organ playing, (I can’t stand organ music), no shrieking children’s choir, but more importantly, blessed anonymity.  There’s nothing worse than going to that cocktail party called “10:30 Mass”, looking out at your fellow parishioners and thinking, “Jesus H. Christ.  What does she have on?  I mean really.  Don’t tell me she looked in the mirror  and thought, “Now this is the look I want.  I am ready now.”.  That little voice inside me scolds, “What are you doing? You are in the house of the Lord.  Of our Lord.  Stop it.”  Back and forth it goes, so it’s really best if I go to the 7:30 service.  I stand in the very back… I lean against the confessionals and take in the cool quiet, the beautiful wood of the beamed ceiling and the sun streaming through the original stained glass windows, colors dancing and splashing onto terrazzo floors.  I think, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been 12 years since my last confession.  Hope you packed a lunch.”.  Those same confessional doors were there when I made my First Communion.

Dad would take Cynthia and me to confession every Friday night, around five or six.  And, sometimes after confessing, IF we had had dinner, he would take us down to the beach to a little shack where they would make fresh, hot waffles from a little machine.  Then, with a practiced hand, cut off a big slab of Neapolitan ice cream and sandwich it between the steaming hot waffles.  Heaven.  We’d always take his car, an Austin Healy, with the top down, and park in front of the church’s double doors where he would wait patiently until we came out.  Cynthia was eight and I was six.  Right after my First Communion I went on a typical Friday night to confession,  stood in line outside the confessionals, and then, when it was my turn, went in, and knelt down.  A little muslin panel was pulled across a window so only a blurry profile was seen.  I began, “Bless me Father for I have sinned.  It has been one week since my last confession.  And my sins are…”  I can only imagine what my sins were since I was only six.  I didn’t even steal change out of my mother’s purse.  What,  I talked back when it was my turn to set the table?  I didn’t make my bed?  I called somebody the positively worst word I knew… SKUNK?  Whatever my sins were, I confessed.  I knew I had been stained by original sin, thanks to Adam and Eve, but I never dreamed I had committed mortal sin.  I didn’t really feel it was just to throw me into the venial category either.  But that was the first time I felt the skies had parted and God’s wrath had been hurled down directly at me.  That man, that priest, whoever he was, bellowed from the other side of the curtain, “YOU WHAT?  YOU HAVE SINNED!  YOU ARE A SINNER AND YOU HAVE SINNED!”.  The huge, thunderous voice rained down on me until I drowned in absolute terror.  No one had ever raised their voice at me, at us.  Not my parents, not a teacher, grandparents, neighbor, no one.  I wanted to be an angel.  I wanted to be holy.  I was six.  Six.  I just crumbled.  Huge, hot and uncontrollable tears spilled over.  I slipped out of the confessional, didn’t even say my penance, and ran from the church.  Cynthia was already in the car.  She wasn’t much of a sinner so it didn’t take her very long.  I don’t remember if I told my parents, but it shook me through and through.  And, sadly, at that age, adults are always right, even when they’re wrong.  The days rolled by and, once again, it was Friday, confession time.  Cynthia hopped out of the car, brightly announcing, “I’ll be right back”.  Yeah, we know.  I didn’t get out of the car.  My father asked, “Aren’t you going in?”.  “No”, I answered.  “Why not?”  “I don’t want to.”  “Okay.”  Okay.  That’s all he said.  Okay.  Gotta love that man.  Week after week Daddy took us to confession and I stayed in the car.  Then one Friday, Dad asked, “You going in?”  Opening the door and answering at the same time I replied, “Yup.”  I strolled right into St. Anthony’s and stood in line outside the confessionals. When it was my turn, I went into the confessional.  And guess what??  Nothing happened.  One Act of Contrition, two Hail Mary’s and an Our Father later, I had a brand new soul!  AND…a waffle and ice cream sandwich.


This is the dinner I would have liked to have had on a Friday night instead of Mama’s hour-long baked fish.  It is so light and savory, the flavors compliment each other well yet surprise with their lingering tones.  The dish is quite flexible, any small shaped pasta works great.  There is a little chopping, but, hey, you will be rewarded handsomely with clever and discerning compliments and your family will love you even more.  In place of shrimp you could use scallops or squid rings.  And goat cheese or any soft, crumbling cheese that marries with the acid of the lemon and tomato could be put to use rather than feta.  It’s what you like.  It’s a pretty dish and works well for a buffet or to serve a large number of people.  The lemon, fresh oregano and feta are insanely good together but if you wanted to dress the dish up a bit, a splash or two of Armagnac or ouzo will do the trick, added when you mix the tomatoes into the sauce.  I have to confess, it’s truly superb!



Baked Orzo with Lemon, Shrimp and Feta Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 pound small shaped pasta, such as orzo
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled, deveined and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups crumbled feta, crumble it yourself.  Don’t buy that already crumbled garbage.  Really.
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, leaves chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, rough chopped with juices
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil for your pasta and cook pasta to box directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks and adding the feta last, add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine.  Add the feta, lightly mixing so as not to completely break up the cheese.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain and put back into pot.  Add all the ingredients from the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  4. Pour into a baking dish prepared with non stick spray.  I use a 4-quart or 11″ X 13″ baking dish.
  5. Spray a large piece of tin foil with non-stick spray and cover baking dish tightly, crimping edges and corners to keep the moisture in.
  6. Bake 30-45 minutes.



In Jamaica They Call It “Fish Tea”

WOW.  I just made the most outrageous, EASY, and fast, fish soup!  I’m trying to cool down with an ice-cold, crisp Pinot Grigio.  And, thankfully, it’s working.   It rained a bit today, and although the temperature dropped a stunning 4 degrees, I’m down for soup.  But I didn’t want some cook-all-day, roiling, thick, stew thing.  This is what I want… a gorgeously colored fish soup, always light and incredibly savory.  Dad gets a beautiful fish soup just about every Saturday at the Swap Shop, it’s so darned good but so darned expensive.  $12.00 for a cup.  Are you kidding?  Kiss my lily, white ass.  I looked all through my cookbooks for different recipes but they all did the “fish stock” thing.  I didn’t have any made or frozen and I just didn’t want to kill myself making it.  It’s fish soup, dammit, fish soup.  “I’m Gumby, dammit! Gumby”.  Well, that’s how I felt.  Anyway, I wanted something rich in flavor, but at the same time, light and pretty.  Apparently I wanted it all.  And guess what?  Through hard work and diligence I got it.  I started with a good knob of butter, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons, and a good splash of olive oil in a medium hot dutch oven/stock pot.  To that I added an enormous onion that I had finely chopped and when it had cooked down, soft and clear, I added 7 or 8 finely chopped garlic cloves.  My feeling is, if I don’t have a good seafood stock then I need to unquestionably produce a broth that is strong, luxurious and full-bodied.  And I did.  After the garlic had softened sufficiently, I heightened the flavor by adding three large, peeled and cubed  red-skinned boiling potatoes, two whole scotch bonnet peppers, and a large bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped.  We enjoy a lot of heat in our food and although scotch bonnets are small, they do pack a considerable amount of heat.  Fair warning!  I also threw in a good measure of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Actually, I added more than I usually would as the potatoes will soak up a lot of the salt; they need it to bring out their own flavor.  The shells of the shrimp had been saved and loosely wrapped into a bundle with cheese cloth and into the pot that went.  I found some saffron and tossed a few threads into the mix.  A little color is always good.  I chopped and included another onion to deepen the taste.  I also added a healthy glass of Pinot Grigio although a good chardonnay is lovely, too .  To the juice of four lemons I added six cups of water and into the pot that went. I brought it up to a good simmer and covered it.  I had set aside a large bowl with two pounds of shelled and cleaned shrimp and a couple of pounds of cod fillets cut into small cubes.  After poking around on the computer and watching a little junky daytime television with Jimmy, essentially passing the time, I tasted the broth to see what it needed.  Just a little salt and pepper.  After removing the bundle of shrimp shells I added the seafood and another handful of washed, chopped cilantro, to brighten the pot.  And I turned up the heat, just enough to cook the fish but not toughen it.  Two minutes later… voila.  It was gorgeous!  Just the right amount of heat, citrus and aromatics.  Even Jimmy liked it and he hates soup.  I think snapper, dolphin or wahoo would be outrageous in this and, of course, lime in place of lemon would be just fine.  Lemon grass would be lovely as would some marjoram.  Play around with it or focus on the flavor YOU like.  If you like the anise flavor use fennel in place of cilantro and add  a splash of Pernod.  I few chopped tomatoes might be nice.  And I ever so carefully took the scotch bonnets out and discarded them.  Soup is a luxury to me so if there’s any inclination to prepare it, I’m all in.  This is a fine soup, delicate and light, still satisfying and potent.  In MY kingdom, this would be the consummate meal if served in an individual, footed soup bowl in my formal porcelain pattern.  Would that it were.  Enjoy!


Homemade Pesto

Although we’re almost to the home stretch of Lent, I still try to maintain certain food items in my refrigerator.  Going completely without meat for 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS is certainly a test of self-discipline, but it can be accomplished.  And I have to be honest, each year it becomes easier and easier.  It’s not so much that we crave meat, as much as the daily meals, the weekly menus, shrink significantly in variety and assortment.  Can you visualize the undertaking of  having no chicken for this period of time?  I mean, at the very least, you’re somewhat limited as to what you can throw on the grill.  It’s easy to get bored and easier to fall into the pattern of the same few dishes done over and over and over… It’s hard if you like to cook, I can only imagine the drudgery and monotony if you don’t like being in the kitchen.  So I have something I try to always maintain in the refrigerator.  And that is homemade pesto, which is fabulous, easy, keeps well, and marries superbly with so many ingredients, not just pasta.  One day last weekend we were to be out in the evening so my cooking was just our lunch.  I sliced and toasted some whole grain bread and, when it cooled to the touch, I spread it with a little pesto.  I then topped each piece of bread with freshly sliced tomatoes and finished with a bit of Armenian string cheese I found at the Dixie.  The cheese was fabulous, with Nigella seeds running through it.  The seeds have a wonderful exotic kind of perfume flavor.  I ran the guilty little pleasures under the broiler until they were golden and bubbly.  Ohmygosh, were they EVER good!  That same pesto is light yet substantive mixed with your favorite whole grain pasta, a little of the cooking water from the pasta to thin the pesto, and some grilled chicken slices, or shrimp, or thin slices of grilled beef or pork tenderloin. Add to that some frozen edamame, shredded carrot, scallions, maybe some crisp asparagus pieces.   Can you say, “great leftovers”?  How about pesto pizza or basted on salmon as it finishes being grilled?  For a pretty and easy appetizer roll out a sheet of grocery store puff pastry.  Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of pesto all over pastry leaving a quarter-inch border without.  Roll up pesto pastry tightly, slice into rounds maybe 1/4 inch thick, and bake the pinwheels at 400° until puff pastry is golden. Oh, man, are those good.  You can make a great stuffed mushroom mixing a little pesto, remember this stuff is strong, with breadcrumbs, top with parmesan cheese and bake.  It’s delicious spread on boneless, brainless chicken breasts, cover with some thinly sliced mushrooms and top with a slice of provolone or a little grated fontina.  Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked but still moist inside.  So good.  Vegetables and potatoes are sublime tossed in this pesto after having been roasted at 425°…try brussel sprouts, bell pepper and onion chunks, whole, peeled garlic cloves and split grape tomatoes.  Here’s another fast dinner.  Take equal sized sheets of tin foil, one for each packet, and spray with non-stick spray.  In the middle of the foil, stack a few thin slices of potatoes such as Yukon Gold, a white fish fillet like dolphin, spread a little pesto on the fish and top fish with tomato slices, zucchini slices, and whole leaves of basil.  Salt and pepper to taste, crimp and seal edges of tin foil to make snug packets, put onto baking sheet with a lip and bake at 375° for 20 minutes or vegetables are fork tender.  I love that recipe.  Just make sure your baking pan has a lip because the packets are LOADED with the juices from the fish and vegetables and if any of them leak the oven won’t get soaked.  I serve the packets in a shallow bowl, like a pasta bowl, with some good, whole grain bread, sliced and toasted, most probably with a garlic clove run over the bread, a little olive oil drizzled over it and a quick toss of salt and pepper.  Heaven.  The broth which comes out of the packets is out of this world and extremely healthful.  The number of grilled or pressed sandwich combinations one can make is endless.  Grilled turkey, pesto with provolone or mozzarella.  Try thin slices of rare, roast beef.  This recipe yields quite a bit of pesto but it freezes incredibly well.  Try freezing the pesto in small, individual containers and pour a small film of good olive oil to cover before sealing and freezing.  The olive oil will protect the pesto from turning dark and will help keep it a brilliant green.  I’m tellin’ ya, it’s great stuff.

Homemade Pesto

  • Servings: approximately 3 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup walnuts, (they’re a super food and more flavorful than pine nuts)
  • 1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5-6 packed cups fresh basil leaves, no stems, they’re bitter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1-1 1/2 cups good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In the bowl of your food processor, fit the steel blade and add walnuts and garlic and process for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the basil, salt and pepper.
  3. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube and process until the pesto is well processed.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese and puree for another minute.  You don’t want it completely smooth.
  5. Use and store as needed.




In our house during the winter months, Friday nights mean one thing.  Homemade pizza for my family and lots of brown likker for me.  My husband and son are Greek Orthodox and years ago requested that I not serve meat on Friday so they could take communion on Sunday.  Okay.  I can do that. To honor their request, I began making pizza every Friday night, salsa or classic rock blaring from the kitchen radio. I love the Allman Brothers.  The kitchen door’s always open since you have to jack your oven up to at least 450° and it gets some kind of hot down here in South Florida.  And on the counter, on a pretty little napkin, will be a faceted, crystal DOF with 6 or 7 ice cubes cracking and popping around two fingers of brown.  My, how I love that stuff.  Anyway, it’s Friday, so before I begin pouring, and you know I will, let’s talk pie.  Pizza dough is quite simple if you allow yourself enough time and space.  The dough is versatile.  I use several different types of flour from all-purpose to whole wheat to white whole wheat depending on my mood or what I have on hand. If you choose a heavier flour you need to make a few adjustments.  First, I never use just whole wheat.  The end result is heavier than a door stop.  The ratio I use is equal parts, 1-1. The exception is white whole wheat. I’m using it tonight and I’ll use a full 3 cups. I think King Arthur makes an exceptional product and you can find it at all leading grocery stores.  I make the dough first since it needs a good 1 1/2 hour rising time so while it’s rising in a warm corner, I can keep on working.  I use one of two different kinds of sauce.  My red sauce consists of tomato puree, salt and pepper.  What I don’t use, I freeze.  If I choose fresh tomatoes I add draining time.  After they’ve been chopped finely, I drop them into a colander in the sink, sprinkle with just a little bit of salt and go on prepping my toppings.  Tonight I’ve decided on chopped plum tomatoes with shredded fresh basil, grated mozzarella, slivered onion and turkey pepperoni.  I know. That’s meat. But with the Greek festival coming up Jimmy doesn’t always make it to communion especially if he has a festival meeting on Sunday and he always does.  And James is back at school in North Carolina.  Go Heels.  Back to toppings. I love chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of fresh dill, crumbled feta, chopped Kalamata olives, a little scattered mozzarella,  some cooked, drained spinach and a swath of good olive oil.  Remember, cut all vegetables a uniform thickness and take comfort in knowing the combination of pizza toppings is infinite. P.S. Mint is outrageous with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and grated fontina. I’m just sayin’.




  • Servings: 2-12 inch pizzas
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pre-heat oven 450°, 500° if it goes that high

  • Sauce:
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste or
  • Fresh:
  • 8-10 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  •  fresh basil finely chopped, to taste
  • salt and pepper


  • 3 cups flour, your combination of all-purpose, whole wheat etc.
  • 1 cup water at 115°
  • 1 packet yeast or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil


Toppings: any of the following

  • fresh mozzarella
  • crumbled feta
  • grated fontina
  • zucchini slices
  • fresh tomato slices
  • kalamata olives
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • feta cheese
  • kefalotiri cheese
  • mizithra cheese
  • spinach
  • onion slivers, sautéed
  • freshly basil, chopped
  • fresh mint, chopped
  • fresh dill, chopped
  • fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • hot pepper flakes
  • the ubiquitous bagged shredded mozzarella
  • turkey pepperoni (fabulous. tastes exactly the same as conventional but not greasy)
  • turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
  1. Combine ingredients for tomato layer and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with yeast and warmed water and mix well. Add olive oil, mix well and add rest of flour. After mixing in bowl until incorporated, turn on to counter and knead until silky and smooth…5-8 minutes. Coat with a little olive oil, return to bowl, cover and put in warm corner to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. While dough is rising, prepare sauce of choice and cut any vegetable or herbs for toppings.
  4. When dough has doubled, punch down (yeah. hit it.) and divide into two or more parts. Whatever strikes your fancy and let rest for another 15 minutes.
  5. Dust baking sheet or pizza paddle with cornmeal and shape the dough by flouring lightly and flattening the dough with your finger tips and the heels of your hands. Shape into disks, stretch and flatten to desired thickness.  Don’t worry if the dough tears, just pinch back into shape and keep on going.  Shake baking sheet occasionally to keep dough from sticking and add cornmeal as needed.
  6. Add sauce or tomatoes, toppings and slide into oven.
  7. Bake 10-15 minutes depending on toppings.  Just look at it . You’ll know when it’s ready. Slice and enjoy!


Caesar Salad with Garlic Crostini

What is the one dish I’m always asked to bring to family get togethers? Yup.  Caesar salad.  Especially birthday dinners.  The kids love it.  And you know when it is hot as blue blazes here a cold, crisp salad is just about all you want.  Well, maybe a couple of  glasses of Pinot Grigio, too.  Pair that with whole grain, garlic crostini and, baby, you’ve got dinner.  Sometimes I top it with thin, very rare slices of flank steak.  Grilled breast of chicken slices are right at home.  And garlic or jerked shrimp positively sing. I use Dijon mustard to emulsify the dressing rather than egg. I did that for my mother for health reasons then found the dressing lasts a good week in the refrigerator.  Maybe more…it just doesn’t last in my house.   At least twice a week I take the salad to work for lunch.  Leftovers from the night before. I keep the dressing separate in a small food storage container and I put a crostino in a sealed plastic bag.  The romaine  has been washed, spun dry and dressed with just the parmesan and lots of black pepper.  I simply assemble the salad and munch away.  I thought of something else.  You reaIly want to include the anchovies in the dressing.  I know for some they can be foreign and scary but, trust me, you don’t want to leave them out.  Because it’s not Caesar salad without anchovies.  It’s Caesar salad food.  Or in the style of Caesar salad.  But it’s not Caesar salad.  Second, and more importantly, you won’t even know they’re there.  But you WILL if they’re not.  It’s just some sad, tired salad thing without them.  Okay?  So, relax and add the anchovies.  You’ll be fine.  And so will your Caesar.

Caesar Salad with Garlic Crostini

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce or 2 small ones, washed, dried and cut into large bite size pieces.
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese. You may want more or less.
  • 3-4 tablespoons dressing, recipe below
  • 2-3 crostini per person. Maybe one if this is the salad course. 2-3 if this is the main course.
  • More black pepper, to taste
  1. Make dressing and crostini first. When they are done, put lettuce in a large bowl and pour 3-4 tablespoons dressing over, tossing well.
  2. Sprinkle with half of parmesan cheese and grind some black pepper over.  Toss well.
  3. Add additional cheese, toss well, and serve on individual plates.
  4. Garnish with crostini.


  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 lemons, juiced. If you’re lucky enough to have Key limes, 3 juiced
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 2-ounce tins flat anchovy filets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor, blender or process with immersion blender.  Process until smooth.  Taste for seasoning.  It may need more lemon juice, mustard or Worcestershire sauce.  Should be good, though.  Set aside or chill.


  • 1 baguette whole grain bread
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Slice baguette into pieces roughly 1/2 inch thick and place cut side up on foil lined baking sheet.  (Easy clean up)
  2. Bake in oven 15 minutes then remove from oven to cool.
  3. When cool to the touch, rub garlic clove over cut side of each slice.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little salt and a lot of black pepper.