Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Berries

The persimmon is the edible fruit from a number of trees in the ebony wood family.  These winter berries are only in season from late October through early January.  They peak during December, so get at them while the gettin' is still good!


There are two major types of persimmons, the Fuyu and the Hachiya.  The Fuyu persimmon is a round, squat specimen that aesthetically resembles its cousin, the tomato.  The Hachiya persimmon is heart-shaped and is usually much larger than the Fuyu.
Fuyu on the left; Hachiya on the right.
The flavor is warm and familiar -- brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove -- the quintessence of autumn.  If ripe, there isn't much difference between the Fuyu and Hachiya varieties, however, it should be noted that an unripe Hachiya is nearly inedible on account of the high tannin levels.  Seriously, if you hang a fang on one of these before it's ready it leaves a chalky "fuzz" over your tongue – très bitter.

Beginners should stick w/ the Fuyu variety -- they are much more forgiving if you cut into them a bit early and still have an amazing flavor.

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Deep Fried Human

The screenshot below is a Google Analytics keyword report for  This is a list of keywords people have searched via Google to link to my site.  Please note #9.

That is all.

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It Is Right to Give Thanks and Praise

Indeed, Thanksgiving is a special day set aside to celebrate friends, family, love and life.  The day after Thanksgiving, however, is reserved for couch-bound binge eating, a general disregard for personal hygiene, and ignoring work related emails.


If your family is anything like mine, they over-indulge on antipasto and all but completely neglect the 12-lb bird on the table.  No matter, leftovers are part of the whole Thanksgiving experience.  What follows is a general recipe for mouth-watering curried turkey salad.  Don't let the "curry" moniker throw you; this is an incredibly mild recipe that even most non-adventurous eaters will enjoy.

For this batch I used Japanese "Kewpie" mayonnaise and jicama.  Kewpie mayo is incredibly rich and has a crisp tang to it, it can be found at any Asian mega mart.  Jicama is a sweet root vegetable, popular in South American cuisine. Jicama has the consistency of a water chestnut, but is sweet like a carrot.

Regular mayo and apple can be substituted w/ no loss of quality.

curried turkey salad, cranberry puree, toast.
Curried Turkey Salad

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup Greek yogurt 
2 TBS curry powder
1 TBS turmeric
1 TSP fennel seed
2 TSP apple cider vinegar
2 TSP salt

2 qts shredded turkey
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 cups grated celery root
1 1/2 cups diced jicama root (substitute w/ apple)
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced

  1. combine mayo, yogurt, curry, turmeric, fennel seed, apple cider vinegar and salt in a mixing bowl. 
  2. combine turkey, carrot, celery root, jicama, nuts, raisins and scallions in a large mixing bowl.  toss to combine.  
  3. add curried mayo mixture and incorporate fully.  if the mixture is too dry, add some more mayo/yogurt.  season to taste. 

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Raffetto's Ravioli Roundup

Established in 1906, Raffetto's is a gastronomical relic that pre-dates all the Yuppie condos, over-priced coffee shops and très chic boutiques that have come to define the West Village.


Raffetto's Corp
144 W Houston Street
New York, NY 10012

Raffetto's carries a number of Italian delicacies, but they are best known for their fresh pastas.  At $1.50/lb the fresh pasta is a steal, as are the 48-count boxes of ravioli for just $5.50.  How can they afford to stay in business w/ prices that low? -- they own the building, that's how.  

There are at least a dozen varieties of fresh ravioli made in-house daily -- pumpkin, wild mushroom, goat cheese, lobster, ground beef and spinach, just to name a few.  Conveniently, Raffetto's also sells several sauces that are made fresh daily.  The staff is very helpful and is quick to offer suggestions about which pasta to pair w/ which sauce.  Buy a few boxes of ravioli at a time and freeze them w/ little quality loss.

Pasta maker or torture device? You decide.
A simple brown butter sauce is a great way to enjoy most types of ravioli, especially the pumpkin and the goat cheese varieties.

Brown Butter Sauce

4 TBS unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
10 sage leaves
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup grated cheese

  1. melt butter in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat.  the butter will foam and sputter, stir frequently.  within 4-8 minutes the milk solids will toast up and turn golden brown.  add sage and orange zest.  toss w/ pasta & cheese to serve. 

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Franks n' Beanz


Posting a recipe about franks & beans would be more appropriate during the summer months -- with all the grilling, sunshine, outdoor fun and whatnot.


No one cares -- be grateful I'm sharing this coveted recipe with you in the first place.
Baked Beans
1lb navy beans, soaked 
8oz slab bacon
4oz spanish onion, small dice
4oz green bell pepper, small dice
3oz molasses
3oz brown sugar
8oz ketchup
2TBS dijon mustard
1TBS cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

--pre-head oven to 350°

  1. simmer the pre-soaked beans in salted water for 1-2 hours until tender.  
  2. cube the slab bacon into 4-6 pieces.  place cubes in a medium saute pan and allow the fat to render. 
  3. add the diced onion & peppers and cook until translucent.  drain bacon, peppers and onions of excess fat.  reserve
  4. combine the bacon-onion mixture with the remaining ingredients, mixing well.
  5. add sauce to the beans, tossing to coat thoroughly.  taste & adjust seasoning.
  6. place means in a large gratin dish and cover w/ aluminum foil.  bake in a 350°oven on a sheet pan for 1 hour. the beans should be cooked all the way.  
  • Make sure the beans are cooked 90% of the way through BEFORE you bake.  
  • For maximum depth, incorporate some carob molasses.
  • Slab bacon is good, but you can use pretty much any smoked meat you can find.  I've even used smoked rib meat.  

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tip of the Tongue

While I am a major proponent of adventurous eating, I also understand that most "variety meats" are acquired tastes.  I wouldn't advise eating kidney, tripe or brain if you aren't already an adventurous eater -- however, tongue is something everyone should try.  Depending on how it is prepared, tongue tastes very much like either pot roast or corned beef.  A typical Mexican way of preparing tongue, or "lingua", is to slow braise, then crisp on the flat-top.  Tender mouthfuls of rich, beefy flavor.  The texture is soft, but not mushy -- think braised short ribs.  

For a quick fix, I frequent the local taco truck --

El Rey Del Taco Truck 
30th Avenue, b/w 33rd and 34th Streets (near the Rite Aid)
Astoria, NY

The Taco King also reigns supreme over burritos, huaraches and of course....


© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Secrets: The Burger Joint

The Burger Joint - Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
The secluded neon sign is the only thing that gives its presence away -- that, and the entire hotel lobby smells like a McDonald's. Classy.

Beyond the curtain is a small, suburban burger shack from 1984. How the proprietors were able to trap this place in time and transport it to New York City, we will never know. My guess is sorcery or some other type of black magic of which I am unaware. Wood paneling, campy movie posters, harsh lighting and scribbled on walls -- this place has it all. The kitchen is small and hectic but surprisingly quick. The noise levels teeter on raucous.

If you don't know what you are ordering by the time you get to the register, they send you to the back of the line a la the soup Nazi.  Avoid embarrassment by just ordering a cheeseburger w/ everything, a soda and fries.  Expect a fast food style burger prepared with quality ingredients and care.

The burgers are good, but not great.  While on par with the likes of Shake Shack and Five Guys, throw-back style burgers just don't move me the same way bistro burgers do.  The french fries are standard issue spuds; well executed, but nothing special.  Dijon mustard loaded squeeze bottles on every table is a major win.

This place is perpetually packed, so if you want a seat, you are going to have to stare hard at some tourists until they are uncomfortable enough to get up and leave.

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feet Don't Fail Me Now

Pigs' feet, aka, "trotters" are a culinary punchline -- an animal product so absurd that they are only referenced as something you'd eat if you had lost a bet.  Most Americans view trotters as something only poor people and foreigners eat; they are repulsed by the thought of ever having to stomach such a barbaric edible.

Ironically, Americans love hot dogs -- see where I'm going with this?  I won't get too descriptive, but even the largest, most visible hot dog manufacturers are legally allowed to use "meat trimmings" and up to 15% "added ingredients".
What I've got here are twice-cooked pigs feet -- braised, then roasted.  There's not much of a recipe to this, but the technique is as follows:

  • Go to the market and buy 2lbs pigs' feet, halved & sectioned. Also pick up a prepackaged soup-starter kit w/ leek, potato, turnip, carrot. onion,  parsley, and dill -- most markets offer these veggie starter kits, look for it in produce.  
  • Add the trotters, veggie starter kit, and one cup white vinegar to a large pot.  Add water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 3-4 hours, or until meat is just falling off the bone.  Don't over do it, we don't want them to disintegrate! 
  • Remove trotters from the braising liquid and arrange them on a rack over a half sheet tray.  Bake in a 350°oven for one hour, raise the temperature to 450°and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes to crisp up the skin. 
A little bit of Frank's Red Hot goes a long way w/ these unctuous morsels.  
The taste is mild pork, but the texture is out of this world. The crisp skin contrasts sharply w/ the rich and gooey collagen land mines that explode with every bite.  For all the pork aficionados out there, imagine a cross between St. Louis style ribs, and pork belly -- there's your pigs' feet.

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Feast

There are a few things you should know about The Feast:
  • It's dirty, noisy, and forever-crowded.  
  • You can't find parking.  
  • It's overrun w/ bridge & tunnel types, they flock to it like moths to a flame. 
  • It's obscenely over-priced.
  • It's the same shit year after year.
That being said, I encourage everyone to check it out at least once. There are some genuinely tasty treats to be had, so long as you know where to look.  Go during the early afternoon hours, preferably during one of the first few days --  there will be less of a crowd and the food will be most fresh.

The Feast of San Gennaro dominates Mulberry Street for a week and a half each year in late September. This year,  the festivities took place between September 16th - September 26th -- so if you're reading this, you already missed it -- maybe next year.
If you only try one thing at the Feast, make it one of Mr. Fontana's Artisan Cannolis. The minis are like none you've ever had -- pumpkin pie, peanut butter & jelly, birthday cake -- some real inventive stuff.  Check out their website, they deliver cannolis to your door!  Otherwise, wait until next year and visit the stand located on the  corner of Hester & Mulberry.

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis

Pumpkin Pie Mini Cannoli

Delicious?  Absolutely.


As far as other edible goodies go -- there are plenty of places to load up on zeppoles, sausage & peppers, bracioles, and torrone, however, there is only one place to get my favorite, the mozzarella steak sandwich on garlic bread.  The stand is located on the corner of Kenmare & Mulberry.  The meat is gristly and the price is high, but I still have one every year.
Sausages & Braciole.
Clog up those arteries!


Even if fatty meats and deep fried sweets aren't your thing, you should visit just to people watch.  What a
colorful array of patrons this year!  Let's see who passed through in 2010 (extra special video footage after the jump!) --

Wasted NYC tax dollars.
1930's style freak show.

San Gennaro, the patron saint of health code violations.
Old Asian woman who picks through trash.

Guys who look like this...

A bunch of slack-jawed prancers all dressed in red.
A man you wouldn't trust alone w/ your child.
...and of course, the Mogwai Man!

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Summer Dying Fast

Sweet & sour summer veggies -- a fine accompaniment to any pasta dinner.  I've been sitting on this recipe for a while and I want to share it before the summer's inspirational bounty completely eludes us.

I like to troll the local farmer's market and lovingly harvest the finest zucchini, eggplant, and tomato I can find.  With a dish this simple, you have to make sure your produce is top notch, otherwise you're in for an epically transparent fail.

For optimal results, cut the zucchini and eggplant into uniformly sized pieces and cook over high heat in batches. Get a nice sear on the veggies without overcooking them -- we want toothsome veggies, not a mouthful of muck.

Eggplant & Zucchini Agrodolce

1 medium eggplant, 1/2 inch slices
1 large zucchini,  1/2 inch slices
1 TBS minced garlic
1 hot Italian pepper, thinly sliced.
1 tomato, diced
2 TBS basic sauce
1 TBS honey
1 tsp vincotto (balsamic to substitute)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
salt to taste
  1. sauté the zucchini and eggplant over high heat.  don't over-crowd the pan, you want to get nice color on the  veggies -- work in batches.
  2. add garlic, hot pepper, and a dash of olive oil.  sauté until fragrant; 1-2 mins. 
  3. add the diced tomato w/ its juices, the tomato sauce, and a splash of water.  simmer until the tomato starts  to break down; 4-6 mins.  
  4. add honey, vincotto, olive oil and red wine vinegar.  simmer for another 4-5 mins.  garnish w/ parsley and  thyme -- serve hot or at room temperature.  

© 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Muzzie Munchies

Plans for a “Ground Zero Mosque” have opened a fizzy can of Islamophobia all over NYC's lap. Time and time again, Muslims find themselves the ire of our entire nation.  Why? Because people fear what they don't understand, this is understandable.  My suggestion for all the ill-informed protesters out there -- replace your fear with curiosity and your hate with hunger. Exploring a culture's food is a quick and delicious way to get familiarized w/ its people -- at least enough to squelch most unsubstantiated xenophobic anxieties.

A man who clearly misses the point.
I recently spent the afternoon at an Indonesian food bazaar hosted by a local mosque.  There I was, surrounded by Muslims and would you believe that NO ONE was burning American flags, beheading reporters or crash-landing planes into financial centers?!?  Crazy, I know!  I'm pretty sure I was charged a dollar more for the shrimp toast and chicken satay than the locals, but that's pretty standard in-group/out-group shit.

Indonesian Food Bazaar
Masjid Al-Hikmah Mosque
48-01 31st Ave., Astoria, Queens
Random Sundays throughout the summer

The various nibbles were all very palatable, but the Gado-Gado was the star of the show.  Gado-Gado is a traditional Indonesian salad of shredded cabbage, string beans, carrots, fried tofu and rice cakes. The aforementioned ingredients are tossed with an explosive mortar & pestle ground peanut sauce and topped w/ crunchy shrimp chips to finish. Each batch is made to order by a skilled team of hijab-clad women.

--permissibly delicious!

 © 2010 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Could It Be Now?

Vegemite is an Australian food paste made from yeast extract, NOT vegetables, as the name might suggest.  The salty, musty flavor is an acquired taste that appeals primarily to the reptilian pallet of a native Australian -- that's not to say it's not worth a try.

A focused taste is reminiscent of a warm Olde English 40oz combined with a side of soy sauce, delicious.  For optimal enjoyment, Vegemite should be use sparingly and cut w/ cheese, egg yolk, butter, or anything unctuous enough to tame its salinated punch.  I read elsewhere online that Vegemite tastes like a cube of beef bullion -- I couldn't have said it better myself.

Aussies typically enjoy this peculiar product for breakfast, lunch or tea on butter-spread toast.  I added a poached egg to a create a breakfast that was surprisingly edible.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You Down w/ SKC?

The sandwiches from Sal, Kris, & Charlie's (SKC) have been a staple in my diet for over three years, and are the number one reason why I can't seem to reach my "target weight."

Sal, Kris, & Charlie's Deli
33-12 23rd Ave
Astoria, NY 11102

SKC is the self-proclaimed Sandwich King of Astoria, and I'm not one to disagree.  They are best known for their colossal cold-cut creation, "The Bomb", a skyscraper of meat & cheese constructed w/ nearly every deli meat they have in house -- prosciutto, salami, capicola, mortadela, bologna, roast beef, turkey, boiled ham, American cheese, and mild provolone are just a sampling of "The Bomb's" contents.

I suggest getting this sandwich cut into quarters, as it's easily enough for two feedings, even for a gavone such as myself.  

--truly a blue collar work of art.

To be honest, I don't often get "The Bomb" anymore, there's just too much going on -- too much meat, too much flavor.  Instead, I try to dream up custom combinations for the boys at SKC to interpret.  Here's a short list of some other personal favorites:

  • Roast beef, cheddar, dijon mustard, lettuce & onions.  
  • Turkey, roast beef, mortadela, American cheese, thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomato & onion.
  • Italian tuna, sharp provolone, roasted peppers, lettuce & onions on whole wheat.  
  • Roast pork, spicy capicola, Swiss, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato & onions.  
  • Buffalo chicken, thin-sliced ham, alpine lace Swiss, lettuce, tomato, onions, oil & vinegar.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Once Bitten, Twice Cooked

I've tried a number of different biscotti recipes, all w/ varying degrees of success. I've found that this simple anise & almond biscotti approach is by far the most well-rounded.

The word, "biscotti" means twice-cooked, and as you might have imagined, these cookies are indeed twice-baked -- once as a uniform log, and then again after being sliced into individual pieces. The drawn-out cooking process produces a dry, dense cookie that can double as a coffee stirrer. Naturally, biscotti cookies are the pefrect after-diner treat to enjoy w/ your coffee.

Anise & Almond Biscotti

2 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp anise seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (4oz) butter, softended
1 cup sugar
1 TBS grated orange zest
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups almonds, w/ skin, coarsely chopped

-- pre-heat oven to 325°

1. combine anise seed, baking powder, salt & flour.

2. beat butter, sugar & zest untfil fluffy; about 6 minutes. beat in eggs, one at a time. beat in extracts.

3. gradually add dry ingredients. stir in almonds. divide dough in half.

4. form low, flattened logs (14" x 3") on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. bake 40 minutes until golden.

6. reduce oven to 250°. slice logs into 3/4" slices. bake 10 minutes, flip and bake 10 minutes more. cool on a rack.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -