Archive for the ‘General’ Category


You all know how reluctant people are to cross bridges and go through tunnels.  Last night I went all the way to Beaver to spend the evening with the folks from the Beaver Counter Medical Society.  The draw?  Cheesecake.  Not the cloying, overly sweet and decadent kind from the restaurant of the same name.  These were actually made by Phyllis Loffreda-Mancinelli (of Ravioli Lady fame) from a recipe I got from my mother.  They are barely sweet with a hint of lemon flavor and a creamy texture.  Phyllis must have stayed up all night baking and cooling all these cakes.  And they all came out looking (and tasting) perfect.  We served them with fresh berries.

After dinner and the cooking demonstration, they started dance lessons and that was my cue to head back East to Regent Square.  My thanks to the Medical Society for inviting me to the dinner, to Phyllis for doing all the hard work and to her husband, Claudio, for his hospitality (and two great bottles of wine to try at home.)  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try this at home.


6 eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 pounds ricotta, drained

1 pound of cream cheese or mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pint sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan.  Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the vanilla.  Beat in the cheeses and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth.   Fold in the sour cream and then pour into the prepared springform pan.  Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for 3-5 hours.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.


They have been cooking for weeks over at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Greek Catholic church in Ambridge.  In preparation for the 17th Annual Rusyn Food Festival, John Righetti (one of our QED COOKS Church Lady Cooks) and his own army of church ladies have made 150,000 pirohy!  They’re also serving halushky, chicken, kulbassi and kraut, halubki (stuffed cabbage), pagach (Rusyn Pizza), three different soups and Rusyn summer salads.  In the bakery area they have nut, apricot and poppyseed rolls, palachinky, paska, Rusyn torte and cheregi (as seen on our cooking marathon).   The food is served cafeteria-style in the church’s air-conditioned parish center on Fifth street in Ambridge and there will also be demonstrations of traditional Carpatho-Rusyn folk art, music and dance.  As Righetti says, “This festival captures the total Rusyn cultural experience – the arts, music, dance, tastes, costumes – it’s like going to Europe, but easier and cheaper.”

I’ll be there on Thursday from 11am to 4pm.  Say hello if you see me there.

For more information about the schedule for entertainment, etc. you can call John Righetti directly at 724-822-6709.

An Evening in Sicily

Last night, the most delicious and extravagant dinner in Pittsburgh was not served at a swanky restaurant on Mount Washington, it was presented in 11 fabulous courses at a pizza place in Beaver!  Phyllis Loffreda-Mancinelli, with the assistance of Patricia Colavincenzo, Lynn Clayton and Joanne Wright, assembled each dish from locally sourced suppliers for a special SLOW FOODS dinner.  We started with two kinds of caponata served on locally baked bread slices.  That was followed by a beautiful plate of cold seafood dressed with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon.  Next came the tiniest and tenderest little neck clams swimming in a saffron tomato broth.  No one let a drop of that broth get away.  The antipasti were rounded out with a refreshing orange and sliced fennel salad in a balsamic vinaigrette.

For primo piatto we sampled two different pastas.  The first was linguine topped with a shaving of bottarga (cured tuna roe) that gave a more subtle and deeper seafood flavor than I had expected.  Kind of a seafood umami.  That was followed by thin strips of curly edged pasta called “lasagnetti” with a light cream sauce and crushed pistachio nuts.

Secundo Piatto included an unctuous red snapper that had been baked in a salt crust to contain all the flavor and moisture during baking.  It was not in the least bit salty but melted on the tongue.  The plate was beautiful with a drizzle of olive oil,  lemon slices, some long chive fronds and a sprinkling of red peppercorns.  That was followed by two perfectly marinated and grilled little lamb chops and some locally produced Sicilian sausage, grilled on a skewer with a fresh bay leaf on the end.  These were accompanied with braised swiss chard that was flavored in the traditional Sicilian agro dolce method and accented with pignoli nuts and the sweetest white raisins.

Dolci was a fabulous Cassata Siciliana with layers of liquer infused sponge cake, ricotta cream, chocolate and candied orange peels.  Beside it on the plate was a Semifreddo al Torrone, a frozen mousse dessert with hazelnuts and chocolate – my two favorite flavors in the world.

I don’t know if we can ever talk Phyllis into doing another of these fabulous dinners – once may have been enough for her! – but if it’s possible I’ll  be sure to let you know in advance.  It was an unforgettable and totally authentic dining experience that you could never duplicate in a restaurant.

I’ll try to post some pictures as soon as they are available.


I’m putting the finishing touches on our show for Saturday FROM THE GARDEN. It starts at 10am and we’ll be making Zucchini Casserole, Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Asparagus with Garlic Aioli Sauce, Fresh Pesto, Gazpacho, Corn Fritter, Ratatouille, Rhubarb Oatmeal Crisp and Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. Whew. See you there.

Summer Refreshers

When I signed up for Pittsburgh Seltzer delivery, all I could think about were Chocolate Egg Creams.  And they have been delicious.  But for the summer I’ve been looking for something a little bit lighter.  On a recent trip down to the Strip district I wandered into the Polish Deli on Penn Ave. between 22nd and 23rd streets.

Along with delicious prepared foods, smoked meats and sausages and pierogies, they have an amazing display of fruit syrups that are perfect for home made sodas.  Raspberry, Strawberry, blackberry, red current, wild cherry, and so many more.  The flavors are intense and so you only need about a teaspoonful for an 8 ounce glass of seltzer.  Talk about refreshing! Let me know if you use these syrups for anything else.  You can visit the site for the deli at

Candied Orange Peels

The holidays just aren’t the same if you don’t have the traditional foods you associate with those special occasions.  One of the things my mom always made for Easter is Grano Pie.  It’s basically just a cheese pie but with the addition of cooked wheat berries for texture and candied orange peel for flavor.  For the last few years, the responsibility for bringing these pies to our annual spring gathering has fallen to me.  I’m not sure why.  My sister Pauline is a better baker than I am and my sister Pat has been our annual source for candied orange peels for many years.  But, just in case you’d like to try these delicacies for yourself, here are the recipes.



Three large navel oranges

2 cups sugar

1 cup water


Peel the orange in 4-6 fairly large wedges.  Soak the peels overnight in a bowl of salted water using a plate on top to keep the peels under water.  Rinse the peels and put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Discard the water and repeat two more times.  Using a spoon, scrape the white pulp (or pith) from the inside of the peels.

In a large heavy saucepan make a simple syrup by dissolving the two cups of sugar and 1 cup of water.  Put in the orange peels and let them simmer until they become translucent and have absorbed much of the syrup.  Store in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator

GRANO (Easter) PIE



1 3oz. package cream cheese

1 lb ricotta

2/3 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs whiskey

2/3 cup cooked grano (hulled barley oats)

1 tsp grated lemon or orange peel

2 tbs chopped candied orange peel


1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 1/2 tbs shortening (melted and cooled)

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

ice water


Crust:  Mix together all ingredients except the ice water.  Add just enough water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a ball.  Allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out on a floured surface and place in pie pan. (If too difficult to roll, you can just press it into the pie pan.  This is very delicate dough.)

Mix first six ingredients together then add the grated lemon or orange peel, candied orange peel and grano.  Pour into a 9″ pie shell and bake at 350 for one hour or until knife inserted in pie comes out clean.

SUBMITTED BY: Mary Ann Fennimore, Coral Springs, Florida


Every year my Mom would celebrate my Father’s name day with a batch of Cream Puffs filled with ricotta cream.  She called them Sfingi di San Giuseppe.  The dough itself (pate choux) is a kind of kitchen miracle.  First you boil a cup of water with 8 tablespoons of oil and a half teaspoon of salt.  Then you dump in a cup of flour.  Instead of turning into a lumpy mess, the dough comes together into a smooth,shiny ball.  You take it off the heat and stir in four eggs, one at a time.  With the addition of each egg it looks like you are going to end up with a lumpy mess and then it suddenly comes together.  Then you add the next egg…

pate choux

You heat the oven to an impossibly high 450 degrees.  Drop the batter by spoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  They puff up magically creating crispy exteriors and empty centers.  Cut a small slit in each to allow steam to escape so the outsides don’t get soggy.

I always loved the irregular shapes they form, individual as snowflakes. You really need to let them cool before filling.

I use a sweetened ricotta filling (one pound of drained ricotta to 3/4 cup powdered sugar, mixed well in the food processor) and then flavored with a teaspoon of vanilla or some amaretto.  If you like you can dd finely chopped candied orange peels and tiny morsels of chocolate.

I could eat this cream for breakfast on toast.  Let it set up in the refrigerator while the cream puffs cool.  Then just split each puff open and spoon in a nice dollop of cream.  Put them on a platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  This is the first year my dad isn’t around for his name day.   I’ve made a batch for my son, his namesake.  And so the tradition goes on.


I’m having post Home Show Let down.  All that planning and shopping and cooking and it’s all over in the blink of an eye.  Thanks to all of you who stopped by for one of our demonstrations and a sample of the dishes we prepared.  It was great to see both ends of our audience spectrum represented.

One of our Saturday RegularsJenel Faust


 We even had a few couples who came to the kitchen stage for every demonstration in a day – sort of a blitz cooking experience.

As usual, it would be possible to do all these shows (and not nearly as much fun) without the generous help of some of Pittsburgh’s finest Chefs and cooks.  We had Gaynor Grant from Gaynor’s cooking School on Carson Street, KC Lapiana (the Gadget Queen) from IN THE KITCHEN on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, Chef Eric Fisher from the Sewickley Golf Club (making Italian Wedding Soup), nie Ricci and his wife Sherry from Ricci’s Italian Sausages(making delicious Sausage Rolls), Randy Tozzie from Market District (making enough food for an army) and Chef Pat Joyce from the 17th Street Cafe on the South Side who brought 5 trays of stuffed hot banana peppers. 

Chef Pat Joyce from 17th Street Cafe

Chef Pat is one of our Steel City Chefs and a great supporter of WQED. 
And then there was Barbecue Stu who came by with his friend Chris and about five pounds of the most tender and succulent pulled pork this side of North Carolina.  The audience got to sample three of Stus fabulous barbecue sauces while he told us the secrets to award winning barbecue.
And then there was Carol Pascuzzi, the cheese lady from Penn Mac.  She brought with her a variety of Italian Cheeses of different styles and from different regions of Italy.  We nearly had to send for crowd control help when she put out a half dozn trays of cheeses, sausages, ham, olives and peppers for everyone to sample.

If you see Carol, ask her about the cheese from the north of Italy that is like a creamy version of Gruyere.  It has a flavor that grows in your mouth.

Dear Heart

Thank you, Dear Heart!

Lining up for cheese from Penn Mac


On my way back and forth from the parking area to the Kitchen stage, I passed Aunt Carol’s Gourmet Dips where they had the most amazing flavor combinations.  My favorite this year? – Bacon Chedder Burger.  No kidding.  You can see all their flavors at  Thank you ladies.  I’ll see you next year.

Aunt Carol's Dips