Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roll Out

The Italian word "involtini" roughly translates to "little roll up".  Pretty much anything can be constituted as an involtini, so long as there is a thin layer of meat or vegetable wrapped around a stuffing.  Guests love rolled/stuffed food items -- it says to them, "I care enough about you to put food inside of food."

Involtini can be a laborious and time consuming task -- take, braciole, for example -- or as simple as rolling a piece of prosciutto around asparagus.  This roasted pepper & mushroom roll-up is middle of the road in terms of difficulty and top of the heap in terms of flavor and presentation.  

"Now, where'd you get those roasted peppers w/ them mushrooms in'it?"
Roasted Pepper Involtini

2 qt (16oz) sliced mushrooms 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 TBS capers
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken or veal stock
1/4 cup half & half
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS grated cheese
2 TBS parsely, chopped
2 roasted peppers, seeded

  1. saute the mushrooms in a thin layer of canola oil over high heat until they take on a deep brown color.  cook in batches as to not over crowd the pan.  season w/ salt & pepper.  remove to a warm plate, cover and reserve. 
  2. add a splash more oil and saute the onion, garlic, and capers over medium-high heat until limp and translucent -- about 6 minutes.  
  3. return the reserved mushrooms to the frying pan.  add the fresh thyme and marsala wine; reduce by half.  add the stock; reduce by half.  add the half & half and cook long enough for the mixture to thicken.  kill the heat.
  4. combine the bread crumbs, parsley, grated cheese and olive oil in a small bowl, making sure to coat evenly.  apply the bread crumb mixture as a thin layer over the mushrooms.  place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes -- just enough to get some color, don't burn the mushrooms!
  5. allow mushroom mixture to cool.  meanwhile, slice each roasted pepper open down the side and "unravel" so that you have an open-faced roasted pepper canvas.  add about half of the mushroom mixture to each pepper -- mushrooms go on the right; roll it over to the left.  serve whole, or slice in half.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Friday, May 13, 2011


Pho (Vietnamese pronunciation: "fuh") is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served w/ chicken or beef.  A rich, clear broth is the hallmark of a high quality pho, and while the recipe will vary from place to place, you should expect a deep beefy flavor that is accentuated by a subtle sweet twang reminiscent of the Chinese "five spice" flavor profile.  The crisp, refreshing broth makes pho the ideal summer soup, which makes sense considering the weather in Vietnam is "sauna" year-round.

Pho Grand
277 Grand St # C
New York, NY 10002-4468
(212) 965-5366

Adventurous eaters will enjoy the various cow parts that are traditionally served as part of the meal: tripe, tendon, and cartilage -- the good stuff.  The flank, brisket and eye-round cuts will be more inviting to the more pedestrian pallet -- everyone wins.
Most establishments encourage the diner to self-garnish by providing a dazzling array of dipping sauces, fresh herbs and vegetables. Hoisin sauce, Sriracha, fresh cilantro & basil, bean sprouts, onions, peppers, and lime are all at your disposal.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fil'er Up

You should never judge a convenience store by its appearance -- no matter how cheap the awning, dim the lighting or close in proximity to the Ravenswood housing projects.

Fil-Site Food Mart
23-25 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11102

From the outside, the Fil-Site Food Mart looks like your garden variety bodega, but you won't find malt liquor & loose cigarettes here. This sleepy Pacific Rim importer specializes in foods and products from the Philippines. They stock a sizable variety of dried noodles, fish sauces, house-prepared meals, and exotic sweets.

This order of sapin-sapin was $2.50.  Sapin-sapin is a layered glutinous rice and coconut dessert. It's made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and water. It is often enhanced with coloring and toasted coconut flakes.

The overall experience is sweet, but mild and has a flavor and texture similar to Japanese mochi. The different colors are pretty to look at, but otherwise all taste the same.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -