Showing posts with label Italian food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian food. Show all posts

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Gigi Pandian #Italian #recipe and #giveaway

Today our Mystery Lovers Kitchen welcomes Gigi Pandian with a new book featuring a cooking class and ghost stories in Italy—plus a recipe and a giveaway for a set of Gigi’s book-themed recipe cards with recipes from around the world!

GIGI PANDIAN: One of the best things about writing a cozy treasure hunt mystery series is that it gives me a perfect excuse to travel around the world and visit locations that aren’t the usual tourist spots. (Aberdeenshire, Scotland for Artifact. The southern tip of India for Pirate Vishnu. Nantes, France for Quicksand.) Venturing off the beaten path is great way to find the best local foods, with regional dishes that are often cooked by chefs who’ve lived in the area for generations.

The latest Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place in Italy’s fabled Renaissance garden, the Park of Monsters—a spooky sculpture garden located in the middle of the Italian countryside. It’s in between Rome and Florence and not easily reached by train, so most visitors are Italian, even though everyone with an interest in the mysterious would enjoy it. I traveled there to get the setting right for a present-day mystery involving a centuries-old ghost story. The sprawling sculpture garden, surrounded by a wild forest, was as otherworldly as I imagined.

The nearby villa where I stayed offered cooking classes. I was in Italy for research and writing, but how could I refuse an Italian cooking class taught by a local chef? Especially since the chef selected the seasonal dishes based on what looked good in his hilltop vegetable garden next to the thoroughly modern kitchen inside a medieval walled village.

The cooking class made it into an important scene in the book—although I must admit my own class wasn’t interrupted by devious bad-guys disguised as a ghost, so I had to improvise when I wrote the scene! This is fiction, after all. However, many of the dishes I describe in Michelangelo’s Ghost were recipes I ate in Italy.

In spite of several food restrictions, I ate wonderfully in Italy. After being diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, I completely changed the way I eat. I now eat close to a vegan diet, meaning one of the things I gave up was cheese—but there’s no need for sympathy! Over the last few years I’ve learned how to adapt recipes to turn them into healthier versions that are even tastier than what I ate before cancer, and also how to eat well while traveling. I brought the flavor of Italy home with me. Here’s one of my favorite easy Italian-style recipes I use regularly, because it’s both healthy and delicious.


A flavorful topping that takes 5 minutes to prepare and can be kept for weeks in a jar on the counter—though in my house it never lasts that long!

¾ cup roasted cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
½ tsp garlic powder (again, more or less to taste)

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is the consistency of grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of Italian dishes for added flavor. My favorite use is to sprinkle on top of pasta dishes, and it works great on both tomato sauces and olive oil pasta tossed with garlic and roasted vegetables.

Leave a comment below to enter to win a set of six book-themed recipe cards, with Gigi’s recipes inspired by Scotland, India, France, the U.S., and Italy.

MICHELANGELO’S GHOST: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

“This book has everything a mystery lover could ask for: ghostly presences, Italian aristocrats, jewel thieves, failed actors, sitar players, and magic tricks, not to mention dabs of authentic history and academic skullduggery.” 
 Publishers Weekly
A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… Can treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones unmask a killer ghost?

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over their vegetable garden. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Penne a la Vodka

by Peg Cochran

I have a vodka pasta recipe that an acquaintance gave me thirty years ago (I remember being pregnant with my daughter and she is now thirty!)  She had cut it out from Bon Appetit Magazine and they, in turn, had gotten the recipe from some fancy restaurant in Rome.  The sauce had obscene amounts of butter and cream in it and also called for pepper vodka (you can buy it or make your own by soaking a hot pepper in some vodka for a few days.)  I can't, in all good conscience, eat something that rich anymore.  I am always mindful of my next doctor's check-up and what my blood test will reveal about my cholesterol!  So far I have avoided needing medication, and I'd like to keep it that way.

I experimented with the basic sauce ingredients and came up with this lighter version.  It's still not exactly diet food, but with portion control, isn't too bad. Of course controlling the portion is the hard part!  This is supposed to serve four (3 ounce portions each) but realistically three people could probably do it justice.

12 ounces penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook penne according to direction.  Personally I like mine al dente so I check it a bit earlier than it says on the box.   

Cook your sauce first--remember, the sauce waits for the pasta, the pasta never waits for the sauce! This is very quick and perfect for a weeknight dinner that is fast but tastes like it comes from a gourmet restaurant.  

Saute the shallots  in the oil over medium heat until softened--about three minutes or so.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for a minute (be careful not to burn the garlic.)  Remove from the heat and add the vodka.  Add diced tomatoes and bring to a boil (to burn off alcohol.)  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.  Stir in the Parmesan.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss.  Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

Note:  you may want to add salt to the sauce -- I try to keep my sodium intake to a minimum, but if it's not an issue for you, season away!

Mince shallots

Saute shallots in olive oil

Add garlic, red pepper and tomatoes

Stir in cream and cook until thickened slightly and stir in Parmesan

Serve with extra Parmesan on the side

Buon Appetito!

Lucille Mazzarella, the Italian Jersey housewife in my Lucille Mystery Series, would definitely make something like this for her family.  Confession Is Murder and Unholy Matrimony are available now.  I also write the Gourmet De-Lite books including Allergic to Death, Steamed to Death and Iced to Death.  Funny, but there's food in all of them!  Well, I love to cook and I do like to eat!

I'm on Facebook! or visit my web site.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Passover Ravioli – How to make Italian Malfatti using Matzo Meal by Cleo Coyle

Malfatti, which translates to "badly made," are fun little Italian dumplings. They're also known as "gnudi" because they look and taste like "naked" ravioli—ravioli filling without the pasta pillow. 

There are many popular recipes for malfatti out there, some of which use flour. My family prefers bread crumbs, which is why I was easily able to turn my malfatti recipe into a Passover dish. To my happy surprise, I found the matzo meal worked even better than bread crumbs. Perhaps it’s the unleavened nature of the crumbled matzo that does the trick. It gives the malfatti a great structure, helping the dumplings stay together while cooking.   

Malfatti are also a great deal of fun to form, and I'll show you how to do this using a simple wine glass. I even made a little video to help illustrate the step.

As for finishing the dish, malfatti can be served with many kinds of sauces, just like ravioli. In my photos, you see a simple marinara sauce with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano. The sauce is a big part of the taste of this dish so use a good quality jarred sauce or make your own from a favorite recipe. If you’re not a fan of red sauce, try a cream sauce, or simply sauté slices of garlic in butter and olive oil. Throw in some chopped basil and thyme and pour the buttery herb sauce over the malfatti. It’s absolutely delightful!

Gluten Free Note: Thanks to Avery/Daryl for sharing the info that gluten-free eaters can now get gluten-free matzos, as well.

Cleo Coyle, fan of naked
ravioli, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Happy Passover!

Cleo Coyle's
Matzo Malfatti 

Free Recipe PDF!
To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes about 16 pieces – 4 servings of 4 each


For the Malfatti:

2 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning mix
   (*or your own mix of herbs,
     see my note at the end of this recipe)
1 cup whole milk ricotta (pour off any visible liquid)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan or aged Asiago)
1/2 cup matzo meal + about 1/2 cup more for finishing

(optional) A few cloves of garlic and more salt for the boiling water

Variation: For Spinach Malfatti,
see my note at the end of this recipe.

Step 1 – Make the dough: In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs well. Add oil, salt, white pepper, and Italian seasoning mix. Add the ricotta and whisk vigorously until the mixture is completely smooth (no lumps!). Stir in the grated hard cheese. (If creating the spinach or kale version, add the pureed spinach onion and garlic mixture now.) Finally, stir in the 1/2 cup of matzo meal.

Step 2 – Chill the dough: Cover the bowl with plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. Do not skip this step. Chilling the dough makes it easier to work with and gives the matzo meal time to absorb the liquid in the dough.

Step 3 – Form the naked ravioli: Watch the video below to see exactly how to do this. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough into a bowl of matzo meal and lightly coat. Drop the dough ball into a large wine glass. Hold the glass by the stem and spin it vigorously in your hand as if you were swirling wine. The dough ball will knock against the sides of the glass, forming a smooth elongated oval, like a little football. Gently slide the finished dumpling onto a plate. Repeat with a new lump of dough. 

My 30-Second Video:
How to Form Malfatti with a Wine Glass


FREEZE (or not): If you have time, and for the very best results, freeze the dumplings before cooking. Otherwise, move to the next step and cook without freezing. 

Step 4 – To cook: Fill a deep pan with water, generously sprinkle with kosher salt and add a few cloves of garlic. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Gently add the malfatti to the water. Do not crowd, be sure the dumplings have room to expand while cooking. Boil for about 12 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove. Place them on plates covered with paper towels to remove excess water.

Step 5 – Cool: Allow the hot malfatti to cool to room temperature. As they cool, the texture changes, becoming more dense. To serve, move gently to plates, cover with well-heated marinara sauce, sprinkle with grated Pecorino, Parmesan, or aged Asiago cheese and…eat with joy!

*NOTE ON HERBS: In the recipe, I suggest using a standard "Italian mix" of dried seasonings to save time, but you can certainly create your own combination of dried or fresh herbs. I suggest oregano, rosemary, parsley, and basil, perhaps some garlic and/or onion powder. The final mix is to your own taste.

**NOTE ON SAUCE: If you’re not a fan of red sauce to finish the malfatti, try a cream sauce, or simply sauté slices of garlic in butter and olive oil. Throw in some chopped basil and thyme and pour the buttery herb sauce over the malfatti. It’s absolutely delightful!

(pictured below..)

This is a delicious and highly nutritious variation. To make it, simply dice up 1 large onion (3 cups roughly chopped) and 4 cloves of garlic. Warm a bit of olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions and garlic. After the onions have caramelized into a light brown color, add no more than 2 cups of chopped frozen spinach (or kale). Stir and cook the spinach for a good ten minutes (see more on this below). 

You're watching for steam to rise from the spinach, which means the liquid is evaporating. That's your goal here--to dry out the spinach. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree. This spinach-onion-garlic mix should measure about 1 cup packed. If you have more than that, do not use the extra. Use only 1 cup packed. Pop the mixture into the fridge or freezer to cool it quickly to room temperature and add where indicated in Step 1 of the recipe. Then proceed as directed and...


Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 
To learn more, click here. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

4 Tips for Making Italian Breaded Chicken Cutlets from Cleo Coyle

Photos by Alice Alfonsi, who writes as Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle, who likes to 
pound keyboards as well as 
cutlets, is author of The 
The skinless, boneless chicken cutlet is one of the most user-friendly ingredients for whipping up a quick, tasty meal. Slap it on a crusty roll and you've got the perfect hot sandwich. Add mashed potatoes and gravy, and you have the easiest fried chicken dinner imaginable. Grate mozzarella and Parmesan over the top, add a splash of red sauce, a glass of wine, and you'll be singing Rossini.

No matter how you choose to finish these babies, you'll want to start things off right, and today I'm happy to share my tips for making the perfect, golden chicken cutlet, the kind that delights with a crunch of breading on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness on the inside...

Tip 1 - Give the bird a whack: It’s not enough to start with fresh, thin sliced chicken breast fillets, you need to give each breast a blow (or three) with the business end of a meat hammer for the kind of tender cutlet that you can cut with a spoon. 

Tip 2 - Spice up your breading: Some cooks use panko and that’s a nice way to go. But I prefer the traditional flour, egg, bread crumb coating with a twist. Start with your favorite brand of Italian seasoned bread crumbs and boost that  flavor with additional ingredients. I add grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and dried herbs (see recipe). Optional red pepper flakes nicely spice things up for those days when I want a little heat with my meat.

Tip 3 - Oil temperature is key: If you start with oil that's too cold, your chicken will absorb too much grease and the breading may be soggy. If your oil is too hot, your chicken will burn on the outside and be raw in the center. Wait for the oil to ripple and then test it carefully by adding a few drops of water into the pan. If the water "dances" on the oil, it's ready. See the recipe below for more tips on frying.

Tip 4 - Finish with freshness: Nothing tops off a perfectly sautéed chicken cutlet like fresh squeezed lemon juice. It's also a delicious finisher for side dish vegetables like dorati e fritti zucchini (for my recipe, click here) or broccoli rabe (for my recipe, click here).

Broccoli Rabe 

Click the photo for a
free PDF of the recipe ->

(aka "dorati e fritti")

Click the photo for a free PDF of the recipe ->


Cleo Coyle’s 
Chicken Cutlets


1 ½ - 2 pounds boneless breast fillets, sliced thin (about 9 cutlets)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, beaten + 1 teaspoon water or milk

2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried parsley (if you like rosemary add, as well)

1 Tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese

Dash of garlic powder or red pepper flakes (optional)

olive oil or vegetable oil (at least 1/4 cup, see directions for more info)

1 lemon sliced thin


Step 1 - Prep the fillets: Rinse fillets in cold water. One at a time, place the fillets on a clean, flat surface. Using the tenderizing (spiky) end of a meat hammer, whack the breast a few times to flatten it even more, then flip it and repeat. Dredge each breast well in all-purpose flour and set aside on a plate.

Step 2 - Prep the breading: Pour the Italian seasoned bread crumbs into a shallow bowl, pie plate, or cake pan, and boost the flavor by adding the oregano, dried parsley, grated cheese, and (optional) rosemary, garlic powder, and/or red pepper flakes. Whisk until blended.

Step 3 - Coat the chicken: Crack the eggs into another shallow bowl or pie pan and whisk to blend, adding a teaspoon of water or milk to thin the mixture a bit. Now dredge each flour-coated breast into the beaten egg mixture, coating both sides of the chicken fillet. Allow excess to drip off and transfer to the seasoned breading. Coat both sides of each fillet completely with the breading. Allow excess breading to fall away. Keep the breaded fillets in a single layer. (I use flat plates or a sheet pan.)

Step 4 - Cook and finish: Place a large skillet over medium heat and pour in oil until it reaches the depth of about 1/2 inch. When the oil is rippling and a drop of water dances on it, you're ready to cook. Don't crowd the pan. The more fillets you place into the oil, the more you are reducing the oil's temperature and risking a greasy, soggy end.

Once the chicken hits the oil, saute two to three minutes. This is (admittedly) a tricky endeavor. You may need to decrease the heat a bit if the chicken is cooking too quickly or increase it if the oil's temp. is dropping too fast. 

When the chicken is golden brown, flip it. Cook on the other side for another two to three minutes. Hold finished cutlets in warm (200 degree F.) oven while you cook additional batches. If you're cooking multiple batches, the oil will need to be replaced. When it becomes brown or full of crumbs, pour it out, wipe the pan and start with new oil.

Just before serving (and not too early or the chicken will become soggy) squeeze on some fresh lemon juice, and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

* * * 

Just Released: The NEW
Coffeehouse Mystery...

Join amateur sleuth Clare Cosi as she
sets out to caffeinate our nation's capital
and solve a capital crime.
It can get a girl killed...

To buy now click links for...

This culinary mystery
includes more than 25

 delicious new recipes! 

Download the free
Recipe Guide by...

* * *

The bestselling Penguin hardcover 
is now a bestseller in paperback!

Once Upon a Grind 
by Cleo Coyle

To learn more, 

A Best of the Year Pick ~ Kings River Life 
"Fresh and fun...clever" ~ Booklist
A Mystery Guild Selection 

Join coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi as she solves the crime against "Sleeping Beauty," opens secret doors (uptown and down), and investigates a cold case that's been unsolved since the Cold War.


Wonderful recipes are also featured
in Cleo's 14th culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind including...

* Dairy-Free "Cinderella" Pumpkin Cake
* Dairy-Free Almond Milk Custard
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaway Cookies 
* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
* Poor Man's Caviar
* Snow White Chocolate Mocha

...and many more recipes, including 
a guide to reading coffee grinds...

See Once Upon a Grind's 
Recipe Guide by clicking here.

* * *

*Starred Review 
~ Kirkus

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews
"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See Billionaire Blend's
Recipe Guide

* * * * * * 

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
14 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

(with mini plot summaries)

* * * 

Book #1 of
The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries,
which Cleo write 
under the name
Alice Kimberly

Haunted Bookshop 

Get a free title checklist, with 
mini plot summaries, by clicking here.

Or learn more about the books
and meet Jack Shepard,
our PI ghost by clicking here.

* * * * * *

Subscribe to Cleo's Coffeehouse Newsletter and you are entered in her weekly drawings for a free pound of coffee....