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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recipes Of Our Mothers - Mama Benizzi's Lasagna

Len Evans, owner of NYC-based Project Publicity often wonders how he manages to remain so svelte. His mother is Mama Benizzi, an Italian cook whose mouthwatering lasagna dish can make any man discard his diet. She shares her recipe with you here on Evenings With Peter and we double dare you to try it.

Mama Benizzi's Lasagna
3 cans of crushed tomatoes
1 chopped onion
Garlic to taste
Fresh Basil
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 can of water

In a pot, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until golden brown, add 3 cans of crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper, 2-3 leaves of fresh basil and then add the 1 can of water. Simmer on low heat for 4-5 hours. Stir every 15 minutes.

1 box no boil lasagna
1lb. ground turkey
1 package of Italian sausage
32oz. of whole milk Ricotta
16oz. whole milk Mozzarella Cheese
8 oz. of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 egg
Fresh parsley
Salt and a pinch of pepper

In bowl mix the ground turkey and sausage (taken out of casing). Add about a cup of bread crumbs, 1 egg, chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, mix together and fry it loosely in a large fry pan with olive - Now, you'll need a deep glass baking tray to assemble the Lasagna...Start by putting enough sauce in the bottom of the tray, then start layering with the lasagna noodles, put more sauce on top of noodles, add the meat mixture and then spoon in the ricotta , grated cheese, the sliced mozzarella cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese. Repeat to make 3 layers, do not put cheese on the top layer. Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour. It's done when knife goes through it. Let sit for about 10 mins. before serving and...enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Invitation to Murder

My friend Bear loves a good murder and over the last few years endeavored to tackle all of Agatha Christie's novels (totaling somewhere around 80) and did. So when he had a recent milestone birthday (he'd kill me if I told you exactly which), Moose and I conspired together to create a celebratory murder mystery weekend. Basically I'm talking about a fiendish bar crawl plotted out over the course of a Saturday afternoon.

The affair began with a mysterious letter on Nancy Drew stationery that he received in the mail a few days ahead of time that held clues we wrote of where it was all to begin...
"Sidecar, Mainbrace, Between the Sheets, all of the above or none
Be on the sundeck for the noonday gun
Remember monsieur, everywhere there is Evil Under The Sun."

This was the first of the clues that would lead him to the various venues that tapped upon Christie's extraordinary canon and where the "murder weapons" awaited him. We started out at my apartment with a vintage Clue board game spread across the coffee table and then onto the sundeck, where Evil Under The Sun inspired we murderous hosts. I had classic, chilled cocktails at the ready, which included a White Lady, Sidecar, Mainbrace and Between The Sheets, as referenced in the film. An utterly bizarre platter of appetizers including some smoky dogs and maraschino cherries were stabbed with skewers and canapes were thrown about outfitting half of an orange, in my attempt to recreate the cocktail party scene in the film too, as seen here.

No time to linger! Bear cleverly figured out the next location, one of his favorite haunts, The Rusty Knot with this clue:
"Sometimes the ropes that are tried to be tied are better left undone
And with so many knots still quite tangled, we find in time they're loosed one by one
To discover...And Then There Were None."

And what do you imagine he should he find there as a murder weapon? Well, a copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope on dvd of course!

Hudson Bar & Books provided respite after discovering the secret in this message:
"Who would suspect these days with everybody being so arbitrary
One picks up a drink while stopping to think
Only to find The Body In The Library."

The weapon revealed was the Beatles' Revolver cd!

The following confounding bit of collusion proved to be the most difficult destination, as Bear had never heard of the joint and we had to clue him in to find Bell Book and Candle--but it proved to be one of the funnest places we went!
"It's Pyewacket that's causing such a racket but don't go searching just for smidgens
Grab a thing to ring, to read, to light
And find the culprit Cat Among The Pigeons"

We were going for a candlestick here as a weapon, a blunt instrument so often found at the hands of a murderer, but we resorted to something less dastardly, a dvd of the film Bell, Book & Candle starring Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart.

We ended up at the Jane Hotel lounge for more cocktails, in honor of the greatest female sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, as created by Agatha Christie with this clue as evidence:
"Although on the water, it's not quite The Botel
Find clues from the first lady of crime, when trying to find the reason and rhyme
At a place such as Bertram's Hotel."

There Moose handed over the final weapon to the birthday boy, an engraved pocket knife from Tiffany's with his initials as well as proof to commemorate the date. But unlike so many mysteries, we gleefully confess that there were many witnesses for this particular prosecution--which ended up being very well executed!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Peg O' My Heart

I hadn't seen my dear friend Peg in 8 years! We finally arranged a visit that lasted only about 24 hours but what a visit! I won't go into all the details but I will tell you this--it involved karaoke, swimming and Champagne on my sundeck.

Peg is a physical trainer and naturally follows a regimen involving dietary restrictions (Champagne is not necessarily one of them). We needed to chat our heads off, so I had a healthy breakfast and lunch that I wanted to mostly prepare at home the day before that wouldn't require a lot of kitchen time and impede on our conversation. Otherwise I made dinner reservations at Blossom, a local vegetarian joint. So the challenge was what could we eat? My thoughts immediately went to Joy Bauer's Slim & Scrumptious cookbook that I featured here recently on Evenings With Peter and also an old mainstay, In The Kitchen With Rosie, written by Oprah's former chef, the spa-trained Rosie Daley. So here are recipes for Apricot Almond Oats and Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches (I omitted the bread and just spread the veggies out on a plate). Although there were just the two of us eating and these recipes supposedly serve four and six people, respectively, make the whole lot even if it's just a meal for one because this is food where availing yourself to further helpings is the only option. Wash it all down with fruity iced tea!

My comments in italics.

Apricot Almond Oats
Adapted from Joy Bauer's Slim & Scrumptious Cookbook
Serves 4 (Serving Size: 1 cup)
1 cup steel-cut oats
15 whole dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract (or substitute vanilla extract)

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the oats, chopped apricots, and salt. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oats are soft and creamy, about 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the brown sugar and almond extract.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Adapted from In The Kitchen With Rosie by Rosie Daley
Serves 6
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt I pureed extra firm tofu instead
3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons nonfat cottage cheese
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce I used Sriracha chile sauce
2 tablespoons minced shallot (1 small shallot)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/4 -inch rounds
1 medium yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 red onion, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Light vegetable oil cooking spray I ran out halfway through so I splurged with extra virgin olive oil
2 roasted red bell peppers To do this yourself, halve the peppers, core and remove the seeds and broil for 5 minutes or so until the skin blisters, throw in a tightly sealed plastic bag and when cool, pull off the skin and quarter them
2 baguettes Entirely optional
1 large tomato, cored and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper I omitted this
8 fresh basil leaves and 8 arugula leaves Roll up and cut on the bias for a chiffonade

Preheat the broiler.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender and mix at low speed until smooth. Set aside.
Arrange the eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and onion in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning and cayenne pepper over all of the rounds. Spray the vegetable oil over to coat lightly. Broil the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until brown, turn the rounds over, and brown the other side. Remove the cookie sheet, leaving the broiler on.
Toast halved baguettes if you wish 2 minutes per side. Layer your vegetables either on the baguettes or on a platter, drizzle your dressing, gussy it up with your chiffonade and do enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pucker Up!

Beam Global has amped up Pucker (yes, that Pucker) featuring a line of brand new vodkas. Mixologist Stephanie Schneider from Huckleberry Bar in Brooklyn paid us a visit to show us how to shake up the following clever concoctions. She brought the hooch, the mixers and even the glasses and exquisitely crafted cubes of ice! The whole affair was a lot of fun and the actual Pucker itself a surprising pleasure and far more civilized than we expected. After a sip or two of these elevated cocktails, you may even be able to separate yourself from images of overwrought, excessively inebriated girls doing shots of the stuff at rodeo bars with their tops off.

Note the random magazine caught in the background that presumes to have Mr. Tony Bennett tending bar as well.

Sweet & Sour Apple
2 parts Pucker Apple Flavored Vodka
¼ part Maple Syrup
1 part Lime Juice
¼ part Anisette Cordial
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake ingredients and strain into a cocktail glass. Spray Anisette Cordial on top of cocktail.

Citrus Mist
2 parts Pucker Citrus Flavored Vodka
½ part Lemon Juice
½ part Ginger Cordial
1 Egg White
1 Lemon Peel
Combine and dry shake first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously several times. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze oils of lemon peel on top and then discard peel.

Main Squeeze
2 parts Pucker Citrus Flavored Vodka
½ part Ginger Cordial
½ part Lemon Juice
5 parts Lemon Thyme
1 part Q Tonic
Lemon Wedge
Muddle the herb with a few cubes of ice. Combine Pucker Citrus Flavored Vodka, Ginger Cordial and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and shake with more ice. Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice, top with tonic and garnish with a lemon wedge.

First published in part for Next magazine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pea Soup and Mint Jelly

Marc Veyrat, a French chef who was on the Martha Stewart show about ten years ago once made Pea Soup and Mint Jelly. I've never forgotten it and have recreated it many times since myself. Using bouquets of fragrant, fresh mint leaves and peas, it's completely refreshing, stunning in appearance and perfectly suited for summer--and it's a soup to be sipped out of a glass! Although the recipe calls for pouring hot pea soup over the firm minted jelly, suspended above in a separate layer, I like to chill the soup first before topping the jelly and then serving it with a long, elegant spoon for my guests to combine as they may. Set up a humble arrangement of chairs on a shady back porch and do enjoy!

As always, my comments are in italics.

Fresh Pea Soup and Mint Jelly
Adapted from
Serves 8
6 1/2 cups Marc's Vegetable Broth (or resort to using cubes)
60 mint leaves
2 tablespoons creme de menthe
1 sheet gelatin (the equivalent of roughly two gelatin packets)
1/2 medium leek, well washed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 pounds fresh peas, shelled Coarse salt

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups vegetable broth to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1 1/3 cups. Add mint and creme de menthe. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree to break up the mint leaves. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Soak gelatin in cold water to cover for 4 minutes (just dissolve as below if using packets). Remove, and squeeze out excess liquid. Add gelatin to broth mixture, and stir to dissolve. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into eight 5- to 6-ounce heat-proof glasses. Each glass should be one-third full. Transfer glasses to freezer, and chill until just set, about 10 minutes (I find it takes more like 20 minutes or so).

Combine leek, butter, and peas in a medium saucepan. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer until peas are tender, about 10 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve (and let chill n the refrigerator if you like!). Season with salt. Remove glasses from freezer. Pour hot soup over minted jelly. Wait 4 minutes, and serve immediately.

Thanks to for the image.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Friend Writes...

About Shrimp and Fish Creole! She didn't have all the ingredients at home and added some things here and there, but as I told her, improvisation is a wondrous thing.

"We didn't have tomato sauce or whole tomatoes but we did have tomato puree (we make lots of pizza) so I added that and water to thin it out with some chopped fresh cherry tomatoes we had on hand. I added a lot more Tabasco cause 6 drops ain't nuttin'. For the shrimp, we had less than 1 lb so I decided to also add some frozen talapia we had to make up the pound. I'd add chicken next time. Also, it didn't say if you should simmer lid on or off so I started lid on then off after I added the shrimp and fish so it would thicken a little. The cook times were actually shorter than the recipe called for, so just keep an eye on it. I browned white rice in oil, added water to cover and a little tomato puree and some chicken bouillon for seasoning. Reduce heat cover until rice is done. In the future, I will use a more mild fish and maybe cayenne pepper would be a nice addition."

Shrimp and Fish Creole
1 1/2 C chopped celery
1 1/4 C chopped onion
1 C chopped bell pepper
1- 8oz. can of tomato sauce
1- 28oz. can whole tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 drops of Tabasco sauce
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled

Saute in olive oil the celery, onion, and bell pepper until still a little crunchy
Add the rest of the ingredients except shrimp
Simmer 30-40 mins.
Add shrimp and simmer 30mins.
Serve with rice

Thanks Beth!