My love affair with roasted cherry tomatoes started in Italy. I was renting a room in an apartment in Rome back in 2012. I had a perfect view of a fantastic Mom & Pop pizza place across the street. Every morning I’d wake to the most beautiful aroma pushing its way into my room; robust and sweet, warm and homey, I’d lay in my bed, inhale, and smile so wide my jaw throbbed in pain. By mid-morning I was dashing across the street to buy a slice of pizza, or more like 4. The woman who owed the pizza joint wasn’t the friendliest person in the world, I think she hated me. Perhaps because I was too lazy to learn basic Italian. I pointed to what I wanted, licked my lips and showed her my cash. However, her constant scowl on her face soon became charming to me, and by the time I left Rome, she actually smiled at me. In my mind we were the very best of friends, after all who wouldn’t want an elderly lady who makes the best pizza in the world as their best friend? I’m digressing. Her pizza was covered from edge to edge with roasted cherry tomatoes, no cheese. I am not a fan of raw cherry tomatoes, but honestly, when they are roasted they’re extraordinarily flavorful. I make them all the time. I smear them on bread, on pizza, use them in omelets, eat them with cheese, toss them with pasta, place them over steamed veggies, and smash them in my ears.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, toss the cherry tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt and roast in a hot oven 400 until brown, black, and deeply red. When they are cool, place in a jar with garlic and black pepper, and cover with olive oil. Thank me.



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Porcehetta – I Told You So

I promise you this is one of the best things you will ever eat. Period.

If I had my way I would eat Porchetta every day for the rest of my life. However, since it’s a pork loin rolled in pork belly with the skin still on, it may not be the brightest or healthiest thing to do, but it certainly would be the most luxurious, wonderful, spectacular, elaborate, indulgent thing you could do, and perhaps worth the early grave you’d be heading if you ate it more than four times a year. But what the hell do I know? When I was in Italy I ate it all the time, and I’m still here to oink about it. Don’t tell Wilbur, and for that matter, Charlotte.

In Frascati it was all over the place, street venders and butchers stood proudly behind their mammoth Porcehttas that were as big as pigs, four to five feet long, slices big as dinner plates- –crispy on the outside, moist, amazing in the middle…sublime…

In Orvieto, I found one in a butcher shop, it was the star attraction, and I’m a stargazer, so I went back three times, and walked through the street like some untamed beast chopping away, people pointed and laughed at me- -herby, soft in the middle, outrageously delicious… -Yes, to die for, hand me the sword.

In Rome I found it in market across from where I lived, they kept it in a glass case. I’d spend my afternoons ogling at it- -seasoned with orange peel and fennel seeds, tangy and scrumptious… I ate it more than I should have…whatever.

It’s easy to make, the only annoying thing is that you have to dry the skin out for a few days in the refrigerator, but I’ll get to that, stay calm it’s worth the wait.

So buy a pork belly, skin-on, and a pork loin. Most butchers at your market will butterfly the loin for you. And while you’re at it, ask them for some twine.

Lay the pork loin on top of the pork belly. Okay… so now chop up fresh rosemary, sage, parsley, and garlic, rub it inside the pork loin, then get some fennel seeds, some orange zest (optional) hot peppers flakes and sprinkle it on top of the herbs, press that stuff in. Now tightly roll that baby up, tie it with butcher’s twine, each tie should be about an inch apart.

Put it on a rack and under a plate or pan, let it sit in the frig overnight, ideally though, it should sit for 3 days, the dryer the skin, the better. As moisture extracts from the skin, dry it off with a paper towel  You definitely want to get the skin dry so it will puff and crisp. You can also rub baking soda on the skin, this will help speed up the process. -Warning! Don’t use too much baking soda, it will make the outside taste a tad funky.

Heat your oven to 500. Put the Porchetta on a rack, salt it heavily, but don’t go crazy (I use sea salt). Roast it until the skins puffs and get crispy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Lower the heat to about 325. Depending on the size, it might take about 2 hours or longer to reach the internal temperature of 145. Make sure you tent it with foil if the skin starts to burn.  When done, take it out, let it sit for a half hour, then dig in…  –And yup, I told you so…


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Chicken ala Phase



It’s always a great day when you find a fantastic deal on Bell &Evans chicken thighs. It’s also a pleasant day when you have on hand all the ingredients you are currently obsessed with. This is my garlic, hot pepper, and cooking with olives phase. Kind of like Picasso’s blue period. Picasso had his blue period between 1901 and 1904. I want it noted that I’m having my cooking with olives, garlic and hot pepper period in February 2016. Let’s face it, I’m so terribly, terribly, terribly important that everyone in the world will want to know this important fact about me.

This is just easy. I heated some olive oil in my cherished Le Creuset pan (any sort of Dutch oven thingy will do). I salted and peppered the thighs, floured and browned them quickly. When done I took them out of the pan. I then tossed diced potatoes into the pot, and put the browned thighs on top. Next I added chopped fresh sage, dried cured olives, a handful of whole garlic, and then drizzled some balsamic vinegar  over all of it (a friend from Modena brought it to me, it’s amazing!) I covered the pot,  put it in the oven, this allows everything in the pot to get to know one another, and to make good. After 30 minutes, I ate it all.  -God, I love this phase.

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Bossy Kick Your Ass Pizza


If you’re looking for gooey pizza globbing with mozzarella, stop reading this and call Papa Gino’s Pizzeria. No judgments. Now if you want something increabldly mouthwateringly delicious read on and follow my directions precisely. Don’t divert, don’t add your own stuff, do exactly what I say.

Now listen closely, this pizza has a sharpness and zest that will linger on in your mouth for at least an hour or two, breath mints are not an option unless you’re a frigging coward.

First things first, roast around 20 garlic cloves in olive oil.

Okay so now grab some pizza dough and put it on a pan that is coated with virgin olive oil. Let it get room temp and loose. Stretch the dough out, work it, bring it to the corners, and let it rest about a half hour. -Go back to it, if it crawled away from the corners, stretch it out again, be gentle, but forceful, and tell it to behave. Dough is a living thing, it needs to be tamed.

Okay now get some tomato paste and with your fingers paint the dough until it’s covered in red. It should look beautiful, like a work of art that could be hanging in the Met. Now, open a can of anchovies and break them apart, put them all around, then get your roasted garlic, and spread those about. Next get your black cured oils and squeeze the pits out, the underneath of your fingernails will get black, this is good, and only means you’re earthy and soulful. Scattered those black beauties about. Now sprinkle on some hot pepper flakes, a small amount of dried basil, and then some Romano cheese. Don’t overdo the cheese, make it look like a slight dusting, like fairy dust or something. Now drizzle more olive oil on top.

Your oven should be at 500, not 350, not 456… I said 500. Place your masterpiece in the oven for about 5 to 8 minutes, watch it. Don’t burn it, you’ll never forgive yourself. When it’s done take it out, let it rest, smell it, smile, rejoice. Get a spatula, put it on your cutting board, cut it up. Eat it while sipping Chianti, or cold beer, or be like me, eat it with cranberry juice. -Quite frankly I don’t care what you drink with it, I’ll grant you that option.

You will love this pizza, you will praise me to the pizza Gods, and you will send me tickets to Naples. You will nominated me for some prize. That’s it.

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Bucatini and the Little Fishys

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A favorite dish of my Dad and I is Bucatini, olive oil, chopped parsley, garlic, hot pepper flakes, ground black pepper, and anchovies (hold the raviolis). We’ve been eating that dish together since I was a kid. It’s our signature dish, the stamp, an image, the one I cherish most, Saturday afternoon, Dad at the stove, cooking with absolute zeal, me with my eyes peeled, fork in hand.

Here’s how to do it:

Flood a sauce pan with olive oil, add a couple cans of anchovies with the oil, warm until the anchovies start to disintegrate, then shut the heat off. Add the chopped garlic, and hot pepper flakes to the warm oil. Working quickly, throw in your cooked Bucatini, and toss quickly while adding tons of chopped parsley.

I find cooking the pasta in the oil makes the pasta more flavorful, but don’t do it for too long, and for God sake, don’t burn the garlic. There you have it. Simple, delicious and devilishly good.

Please don’t let the little fishy guys scare you away, they really add a magnificent, salty kick.

In the past I have added a small amount of lemon zest and capers, which offered a nice balance and more layers of flavor.

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Bucatini or Perciatelli, it’s all good to me



Bucatini or Perciatelli, it’s all good to me, although the Perciatelli is thicker. I made this fantastic sauce. I used tons of garlic, say like 15 cloves, a small minced onion and I warmed them both in a huge amount of olive oil until soft or when your house smells like paradise or you pass out from pure rapture. Don’t brown the garlic or onion, do it nice and easy on medium heat. Now add Cento crushed tomatoes, a small pinch of sugar & salt, stew for hours, best to do this during a snowstorm. Before serving incorporate the garlic into the sauce with a hand held blender or use a potato masher. Don’t add anything else, I’m warning you. This is a total garlic extravaganza of a sanctified order. Follow the rules, I always do, no I don’t. Peace be with you.


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Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage: Time to Get Healthy Because I’m Over-Stuffed.

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I over did it with my eating this winter. I’m sorry! So shot me, and if you do, give me a chocolate cake to eat first and maybe some cheese, any kind will do, just make sure there are mass amounts of it.

Dad is spending the latest snow storm with me and I wanted to cook something healthy not only for him, but for me, “enough is enough” as  they say and considering the last three storms I ate pretty much what I wanted; the highlights being a wheel of brie, a pound of bacon, a chocolate cake with butter-cream frosting, and a homemade lasagna that I learned how to make in Italy. (That fat-tastic lasagna is made with Bolognese and Béchamel sauce and I shamelessly admit to eating a 9 by 8 pan of it in a 12 hour span, but it did have carrots in it, so it wasn’t an entire fat-fest.)

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Anyway, it’s that time of year when I look at my belly and say, “Wow, John, you’re a fat pig, you really pigged-out all winter, and it’s time to trade-in the butter for celery sticks.” Blah! -Okay, so tonight I made brown-rice vegetarian stuffed cabbage, it was practically fat free and wholly healthy and it was really tasty. The raisins I used gave a natural, earthy sweetness to the cabbage and balanced off the nutty flavor of the brown rice.

For the stuffing I used an organic brown rice, and when it was half-way cooked (about 2o minutes) I tossed into it a cup of raisins and covered the pot so the raisins would excrete their sweetness and plump.

Next, in a small amount of olive oil, I sautéed chopped onions, red peppers, carrots, and to that I added ground Allspice, salt and one small, chopped garlic clove. I added the rice to the veggies and threw in a handful of sunflower seeds and tossed it all together with a wooden spoon. I love wooden spoons. Anyway, I put the rice mixture to the side to cool a bit.

The sauce was easy to make. I boiled a cup of raisins in two cups of water and to that added a 16oz can of tomato sauce, 5 cloves, a tablespoon of French mustard salt and pepper. I let that simmer for a while.

Keep this sauce watery, don’t let it get too thick, add more water if you need too.

Boil an entire head of cabbage until you can easily peel the leaves away.

Run the cabbage under cool water, piling-up the leave as you peel them away.

Place a small amount of the rice stuffing on each cabbage leaf, tuck-in the sides and roll them into a tight little package. Lay them in a baking pan side by side, pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, cover with foil and bake  350 and after a while undercover them and continue to bake them until the sauce becomes bubbly and thick. When serving the cabbage rolls, spoon more sauce on top of them along with the raisins.

Happy Snow Storm.

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