Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti—Sophia Loren
I love spaghetti, always have, always will. However, I can’t make the same claim as Sophia Loren. In fact, I would never draw attention purposefully to my physical attributes. And since I am approaching the time in my life when metabolism slows to a slug-like pace, I need to make changes.
I was traveling through the internet yesterday and came upon a Bob and Brad episode. These are physical therapists who are quite helpful and entertaining. They were talking about getting rid of body and belly fat. One of the first life changes was reducing pasta…I immediately suffered a mild catatonic event. I love pasta.
I did find this dish on YouTube, can’t remember who the home chef was, but I did make a few changes. So full disclosure box checked.
So that was the backdrop of my new favorite dish…zucchini noodles with lemon, butter, garlic shrimp in a sauce kicked up with a little sriracha sauce. I wanted to fix a dish that would leave my little glycogen molecules standing at the bus stop waiting for the Bad Carb Wild Ride bus line.
If there is a way I can get good carbs in my system and not give up flavor, I will do that. This is a dish that allows me to do that. The zucchini noodles had basically the same texture as pasta noodles and I couldn’t taste much of a difference in flavor. Of course my taste buds may not be as refined as Sophia Loren’s or any others with pasta-based genetics. I will repeat, I love pasta and I will not allow myself to stop eating it, just slow down my consumption.
I used a Julienne peeler to make the zucchini noodles, sauteed the shrimp in butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper, Italian seasoning, and a few red pepper flakes. I then added garlic. I removed the shrimp to a plate. I made the sauce by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, butter, vegetable broth, and some sriracha sauce for a little kick and let it thicken.
After the sauce thickened, I added the zucchini noodles to the sauce for about 2 minutes while stirring and then added back the shrimp to reheat. I topped it off with chopped basil and served.
The best thing about this dish…you can still slurp the noodles like Sophia Loren.
Twas on the isle of Capri that I found her, beneath the shade of an old walnut tree—Jimmy Kennedyfrom Isle of Capri,1934
Nothing embodies summer for the tummer (sorry I was in a lyricist frame of mind) like the Caprese Salad.
My first sign of summer in eastern Kentucky was not the oppressive heat, or the air that felt like you were wearing a wet dog, or the flowers blooming in everyone’s small gardens, or the neat rows of tobacco in the field…it was the first bite of the “garden tomato”. Nothing tastes as good as the tomatoes grown in an eastern Kentucky garden.
Now I know some may take issue with this last statement, especially the good folks I have met here in my new home in southeastern Indiana, for the tomatoes are very tasty here also. And those who grow tomatoes in southern Italy, but c’mon will any of them actually read this blog?
In the hills and hollers of eastern Kentucky, the first tomatoes were usually eaten on a bologna sandwich, or just on a plate with salt and pepper, or as my dad would just make a tomato sandwich with mayo. But for me, it’s the celebration of the first locally grown tomatoes in a Caprese Salad.
This wonderful, simple salad is believed to have originated on the beautiful island of Capri, off the Amalfi coast in southern Italy. It is probably the closest most of us will ever get to this heavenly place and as far as the taste buds are concerned that is ok.
The salad is traditionally made with only five ingredients…tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, salt, and olive oil. Thankfully it can still be called a Caprese salad with variations of ingredients. I usually add olives, sometimes cucumbers and onions. I usually top it with red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar mixed with the olive oil and add pepper. I hope the Italian chefs don’t take issue with my liberties for it still has the red, green, and white colors of the Italian flag (well, other than the balsamic and kalamata olives and occasionally the purple onions and yellow tomatoes I will use).
I know this last salad is pushing the Italian envelope here with the hard boiled egg, so if you see “insalata caprese con uovo sodo” on the menu when you are in Capri, just remember where you saw it first.
The above phrase basically means “appetite comes with eating” or explained, as people always want more than they already have.
This is Big Surf Daddy in a nutshell. I am always planning the next trip when I am on a trip. I think about the next meal while I am eating a meal. I’m not proud of this trait and it drives Mrs. Big Surf absolutely batty.
In Italy, I can’t wait to eat. I am always thinking about the next thing to eat or drink, while I am already eating or drinking something. Of course in Italy it is easy to do. My thoughts are constantly swimming in pasta, sauce, gelato, cheese, wine, coffee, pastries, and pizza.
As some of you know, who read this blog, we travel a lot with our family and that includes small grandchildren, five to be exact (6 yrs old and younger). Eating with this group takes more planning than the D-Day invasion and also the ability to bob-and-weave like being in the ring with Ali.
As you could imagine, the food on our recent trip to Milan and Lake Como was delicious and easier than I thought it would be.
Beginning with the best food for children…GELATO!!
This was a great spot for gelato, Dulcis In Fundo Gelateria on Piazza Garibaldi in the beautiful Lake Como town of Menaggio. I recommend the limone (lemon).
The Gelato Fatto Con Amore, near the Cadorna train station was a big hit with all of us. I thought the name was a subliminal message to us Americans, but actually it means “made with love”. I could taste the love. The lead photo is the gelato bar in this gelateria.
At Gelato Fatto Con Amore, you get a piece of waffle cone with your cup, so innovative.
Venchi is a really nice gelateria, chocolateria, coffee cafe, and crepe-ateria. This is a large chain with quite a few locations in Milan. We had wonderful gelato here one day and breakfast crepes the next morning along with wonderful coffee.
This crepe with chocolate sauce was so good at Venchi.
The coffee at Venchi was very good and notice the little square of dark chocolate served with the coffee, a nice touch.
Ok, the last image of gelato (because it is causing a great yearning for me to return to Italy). This lovely treat was from Veranda Beach in Calozzo on Lake Como.
A big part of eating in Italy for me is the quick bites that you can take away and eat on the piazzas. We found this at Panzerotti Luini, a small cafe about a block away from the Duomo in Milan.
At Luini’s you get the panzerotto. This simple Milan tradition is made from flour, cheese, and tomatoes. It costs about 2.70 Euro and it may have been the best thing I ate all week. Mrs. Big Surf and I took ours to the steps of the Duomo and ate while watching the activity in the piazza. I advise you to do the same. You can also get a glass of red wine at a vendor in the piazza. We complimented our panzerotto with one of those.
Miscusi served a wonderful pasta dish called Paccheri Tricolore. While we were debating about going in, a very nice young local couple convinced us to eat here. It was their go-to pasta and I must say it was a good piece of advice.
We had a simple lunch at La Marmora. We noticed a lot of young people eating here after school. Normally this would not be the information I would use to choose a cafe, but this is Italy and young people evidently like good food in Italy.
This panini sandwich was Italian bologna and cheese. It was so wonderful. I would put it right up there with Kentucky bologna. The Missus had a pizza panini and it also was very good.
This small pizzeria was located across the street from our AirBnB apartment in Milan. I hadn’t planned on ordering from here and that would have been a big mistake. We were only Milan for two nights and our other family got in later on the last night, so we had to decide what to eat with the kids, so pizza it was. Johnny Takeue was a great place for carry-out pizza. It was the best pizza I had this trip.
With this pizza oven at Johnny Takeue you know it had to be good.
On to Lake Como…
We had two wonderful evening meals and a really nice lunch. Our breakfasts consisted of walking to town and getting some breads, cheeses, and pastries.
Since Signore Clooney and his lovely wife did not invite us to dinner, we were on our own.
Our best meal on Lake Como was at La Baia Ristorante in Cremia. In addition to wonderful food and a lakefront setting, they went out of their way to accommodate our large group with our small children and made us feel welcome.
Risotto is a traditional dish in Milan and Lake Como. This dish, called Persicotto, served at La Baia Ristorante, with lightly-breaded, fried lake perch was so good. It was the best meal I had on the trip.
The lovely blue-eyed darlin’ went with another risotto dish, served with pesto and a creamy cheese with red prawn carpaccio. This is their best selling dish and I could see why…so good.
This plate of small lake fishes was gathered from some of our parties seafood dishes and eaten like fries. I loved them, some of us weren’t so sure…couldn’t get past the heads.
This beautiful restaurant is called Veranda Beach in Calozzo. It was mentioned earlier as a place to get gelato. We came back later for our evening meal. It is a lovely restaurant on the lake, with an Italian menu and operated by a very charming lady.
Quite the ambience at Veranda Beach.
This take on a caprese salad with burrata cheese was the star of the meal, we all had some of this.
Our last meal on Lake Como was at the Grand Hotel Menaggio, a beautiful old hotel on the lake. Most of us had the spaghetti, a truly wonderful dish and one of us had the Insalata Nizzarda, a salad with anchovies and tuna.
This was our lake view for lunch on the patio at the Grand Hotel Menaggio.
Spaghetti at the Grand Hotel Menaggio was a dish of comfort.
The Insalata Nizzarda tasted as wonderful as it appeared on the plate.
We had to fly out of Milan back to the US. We had to have a negative Covid test to get back into the states, so it was easier to stay at the Sheraton Hotel at the Milan Malpensa airport. This turned out to be a good thing. The kids and adults got to swim and we had a lovely meal at the hotel restaurant, IL Canneto.
I had the salmon poke bowl, a delicious choice.
Mrs. Big Surf was presented with a lovely leek soup. She felt the presentation was better than the flavor.
It was a whirlwind trip for us, not much planning since we didn’t decide to go till about a two weeks before departure to meet the rest our family. I left everything up to the next generation and they didn’t disappoint us.
Today’s egg is better than tomorrow’s hen—Turkish proverb
Sometimes I come across a dish that I just have to savor. And savor can be eating slowly, but that is never going to happen. So in this case savor is writing about it as soon as I can and keeping its memory alive amongst my hordes of readers.
This Turkish-Style egg dish is one of those meals I couldn’t get enough of. This isn’t your grandma’s or your ma’s Saturday breakfast meal to eat in a rush to begin your day. (Though it could be). My history of breakfast foods did not include these assorted tastes for my morning start-the-day. Yogurt, garlic, chili pepper, and smoked paprika give this dish a wonderful savory taste. But no worries for all you breakfast purists, there are still eggs and bites of toast and salt and butter.
This recipe came from Bon Appetite. I did not have any fresh herbs for garnish as there is a wind-chill of two degrees today and a run to the store was not an option, otherwise the recipe was followed to the letter and was so very good.
So for all of you who wonder what the Turks eat for breakfast, one more mystery solved. You’re welcome.
I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.—Totie Fields
So yesterday was kind of a Mediterranean day.
No I wasn’t on a Greek Island, or on the Italian Coast, or the south of France, or dining in a Tunisian cafe, or on beach in Turkey…I was home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. My wife and I had just returned from the closest thing we have to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Coast of Florida.
So, yesterday I decided to reinstitute a new dedication to the Mediterranean Diet. I don’t know if it was the sea, the salty air, the breeze, or the fact that I ate everything in sight for a week and it hurt to bend over and tie my shoes.
Beginning with breakfast, a Greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and berries.
For lunch (pictured above), a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, mozzarella, and topped with tuna. It was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.
For supper (pictured below), Big Surf’s stuffed peppers. The peppers were roasted and stuffed with a vegetarian chili of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, cannelloni beans, and topped with cheese.
All of these dishes were very good and I loved them all. And the bonus, I felt so good about myself.
For lunch today, I made myself a bologna sandwich and chips. Hard to get away from that Eastern Kentucky DNA.
Hey!! Wait a minute, Bologna is in Italy, right? So Italy is on the Mediterranean…
So come on self esteem, get back over here. You can’t go anywhere yet.
Life is tooshort for self-hatred and celery sticks.—Marilyn Wann
My name is Big Surf Daddy and I have a problem…
I am a snack-a-holic.
My snacking event each evening begins as a small wake and swells to a large tidal wave of power that can’t be overcome. I start with something as healthy as an apple, move on to grapes, and as the tidal wave crescendos…chips, salsa, peanut butter, crackers, and Cheez-Its all come pounding down on me in a calorie-filled billow of salt and fried breakers. Duuuude!!
Then I do the walk of shame to the bed and curl up in a fetal position and think about what I’ve done.
As I try to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into my everyday life, the Sea of Salt calls me back nightly, and the pounding of the calorie surf starts all over.
OK, enough of the metaphor.
I CAN’T STOP SNACKING AT NIGHT.
Mrs. Big Surf says I am a stress-eater. She is right, because I stress out if I can’t get enough snacks in me before going to bed.
Since the nightly Sea of Saltiness undertow drags me back into the calorie-infested deep (OK, last one), I decided to try to lessen my calorie and salt intake. I made my own crackers…less calories and less salt and less preservatives, right? Sounds like a good idea anyway.
This is such a simple recipe and easy to do. I added Everything but the Bagel spice, also extra salt, pepper, chia seeds and flax seeds. These are great with salads, cheeses, and just as a snack by itself.
I don’t know if it will lessen the shameful walks to the bedroom at night, but I feel better about myself and maybe I won’t be drawn into the seedy world of food porn.
Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education—Mark Twain
The Mediterranean Diet has been my goal since this past holiday season. It is still my goal, so no, Mrs. Big Surf and I have yet to transform our diet. It’s like we are mired in this quicksand of calories and carbs and occasionally we find a vine from the Mediterraneanus Dietus plant that we can grab and pull ourselves out.
This cauliflower dish was the lifeline that may just save us.
This delicious cauliflower recipe came out of the New York Times Cookbook, called “Cauliflower with Caper Sauce”. We ate this as an entree with a salad.
Now Mark Twain may have thought cauliflower a bit too pretentious, but some would say cauliflower is the “Work-a-day-Joe” of veggies because it is so versatile and accommodating to your mood. I love the taste of cauliflower. I eat it raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, and sauteed. This sauce elevated the cauliflower to another degree. Maybe Mark Twain would have awarded it an honorary doctorate if he would have eaten this dish.
Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?—Moe Howard
This is an appropriate quote by the leader of the Three Stooges, for Mrs. Big Surf often describes my actions in the kitchen as Three Stooges video with Homer Simpson audio.
As Mrs. BS and I try to transition to the Mediterranean Diet, it is hard to diminish our craving for our favorite foods and one of those foods is pizza. We decided two years ago to learn to fix good pizza. We bought a pizza steel and a pizza peel. We found a great dough recipe in Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More cookbook. We use it exclusively.
This asparagus pizza comes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We love this pizza.
I never really liked asparagus until I was well into adulthood (my wife is not convinced I am there yet). Now I am eating asparagus on pizza. My pizza experience, until recently, was always accompanied by some kind of meat, now it seems meat is rarely on our pizzas.
This simple pizza recipe has graded parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, shaved asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with one finely chopped scallion which is added when the pizza comes out of the oven.
I thought my wife had headed “round the bend” when she showed me this recipe. “Who would eat a pizza topped with asparagus?”, I asked. As usual, her intuition was correct. It is delicious…unless you are not an adult like me and don’t like asparagus.
A tuna steak and a salad? Seventy bucks. Welcome to Los Angeles.—Mark Zupan
Well, in eastern Kentucky, you can buy a pack of three frozen tuna steaks at Kroger for $5.99.
I’m no expert but if I can fix two tuna steaks for Mrs. Big Surf and myself for about $4.00 and it tastes as good as any I can get in a restaurant this side of the Sierra Madres, then I am a happy man and I would say to all of you LA diners, “Sorry, Charlie.”
I got the inspiration for this seared tuna by watching a Gordon Ramsay video. He fixed an incredible looking dish by encrusting the tuna in sesame seeds. I didn’t have the time or the stamina on a Wednesday night to try to tackle all he did with his tuna steak meal, so I took a different route.
I started with reducing balsamic vinegar. Then I roasted the sesame seeds. In the meantime, the tuna steaks marinated in some Ponzu sauce. After salting and peppering the tuna steaks, I rolled them in the roasted sesame seeds. I seared them for a few minutes on each side to have a rare cook. I then drizzled the balsamic reduction over the tuna steaks and asparagus to finish the meal. It was soooo simple and soooo cheap and soooo healthy and according to Mark Zupan, I saved about $136.00.
I think this Mediterranean diet may work out after all.
Look who’s the big boy, being fiscally responsible.
Too many green salads suffer from a lack of imagination—James Beard
I am currently looking out my window at the ice and snow that was dumped on us in the last few days and awaiting for the electrical currents to return from their temporary respite.
In these cold days, most normal folks think of eating something hot such as chili, soups, stews and whatnot. Not me. I am thinking of the delicious salad from last night. I love salads and can eat them at any time.
Since Mrs. Big Surf and I are trying to reform our diets to the warmer winds of the Mediterranean, I am always foraging through Mrs. BS’s many cookbooks, internet, and YouTube. But sometimes a person just wants to do something their own way. This is a constant tete-e-tete with her and I. She cooks really good food from really good recipes and I do way too much experimenting, and I am not a good enough cook to experiment as of yet.
This salad was one of my successes. I sauteed red onions, mushrooms, and a yellow pepper in extra virgin olive oil. After these vegetables cooled, I tossed them with grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, and feta cheese. I dressed the salad with red wine vinegar, more extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried oregano.
I will make this again, maybe tonight if the electric stays on holiday.