Lemony Shrimp and Cannelini Beans with Couscous


It’s Tasty Tuesday over at the Craft Dictator, so if you’re stumped what to make for dinner, I suggest you head on over there for some tasty inspiration.

So over in the city, we’re in the polar vortex. Sounds all si-fiey, but I promise you this is real.

It is absolutely frigid out in New York, and, actually, across the country.

When it’s this cold, you probably want to go the warming comfort food route – lasagna, chili, and chicken cacciatore come to mind.

But sometimes I just want to take my mind off the cold and make a bright summery dish to ease away those winter blues.

Nothing like some shrimp and a bright citrusy burst of lemon to bring you thoughts of beaches and crashing waves as you cozy up at home while the wind blows outside the windows.

So tonight, I am defying the polar vortex and making a lemony shrimp and cannelini bean dish.

I’m serving over couscous, but this can easily be tossed over pasta. Use what you have on hand and what you like.

For this dish you will need

  • One pound of shrimp peeled and de-veined
  • one can of cannelini beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • juice from one lemon
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • black pepper
  • couscous

Start by heating butter, olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Also, prepare your couscous or pasta according to directions.


When the garlic starts to brown, toss in the spinach and stir.


When the spinach wilts, add the scallions and let them warm through.


The add the shrimp and season with black pepper.



When the shrimp are cooked through on both sides, add the cannelini beans and the lemon juice.


Stir and cook for an additional three minutes or so. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp but you want the beans to warm up.


Serve up in bowls over couscous or pasta.


Can you hear the waves lapping the sand?

Meme’s Manti

When pepe and meme were first married, pepe woke up in the middle of the night with a craving. He didn’t know the name of the dish, so instead, in the wee hours of the morning, he described the dish to his (very patient, might I add) wife. Instead of being totally annoyed with him for waking her up, she surprised him the next day with the dish that woke up from his dreams. Manti.
Manti is an Armenian dumpling, almost like an Armenian tortellini stuffed with meat instead of cheese.
The basic recipe is ground lamb, onions, garlic and some Armenian spices, all mixed up and  stuffed inside of pasta dough. It’s then boiled and served with a garlic yogurt sauce and mint in melted butter.
But that’s the basic recipe.
This is meme’s recipe.
And meme’s recipe involves frying the dumplings before boiling them.
That’s right, we’re going to mix the meat, make some pasta dough, roll little dumplings, fry them all, then boil them.
You ready?
I suggest doing this when it’s snowing or raining out and there’s a good football game on TV. You’re going to be here for a while.
For the filling you will need:
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  •  blob of crushed garlic
  • bunch of parsley
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon halebi biber (For more on this check out the comments on this post)
For the dough, use your favorite pasta dough recipe, or wonton wrappers if you want to cheat a little.
For the sauces for serving you will need:
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chopped Garlic
  • Mint
  • Butter
Are you ready?
Are you sure?
Okay. Let’s go.
Start by pulsing the onions and parsley in the food processor. Then place the mix in a strainer and press to remove the liquid.
Place the drained parsley and onions in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
To the onions and parsley, add the crushed garlic (a blob is about 2 large cloves), salt, halebi biber and coriander.
Last, add the lamb and sirloin and mix until completely combined.
Set the mixture aside and roll out your pasta dough.
Trim the edges so you have a rough rectangle.
Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into one inch squares and drop about a teaspoon of the meat mixture into the center of each square.
Pick up a square, dip your finger in a bowl of water, and run along the edges.
Fold so the corners meet and the square is now a triangle. Be sure to press and seal the edges.
Fold the top point of the triangle in and over the meat mix, so they almost look like tortellinis. Repeat until all the meat is used up.
Now, take a break. Trust me. Get a drink or a snack.
Okay, ready for the next part?
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with enough vegetable oil for the manti to be almost submerged. Turn the heat to medium, and start frying the manti.
They take about 2-3 minutes on each side. Flip using tongs.
Then, place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain slightly.
Then put them in tupperware to store.
Or, if you’d like to eat them right away, place the desired amount of manti (less than you think per person as these are very heavy) in a pot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Not a boil. Just a simmer. The manti will absorb some of the broth and soften.
Finally, top the manti with a garlic yogurt sauce (just some chopped garlic stirred into Greek yogurt) and, if you want to be very traditional, some melted butter with torn mint leaves tossed in. We left that out, opting for just yogurt instead.
And there you have it. Manti.
This is not a fast and easy dish to make, but it is delicious. And if you make a large batch, you freeze the rest and have some Armenian dumplings ready to go.
You know, in case you have a late night craving like pepe.

Lemon Garlic Basil Pasta

It sounds fancier than it is.

Last night we were both supposed to not be home. But we both ended up at home. For dinner.

And I really had no plan for feeding both of us.

So I opened a cabinet.

And then another cabinet.

And then I rummaged around the fridge.

And I came up with angel hair pasta, olive oil, garlic, a lemon and some basil leaves.

If you have pasta and some olive oil, you can always make a meal.

So here we go, pasta sauce on the fly.

Pour some olive oil into a pan and add two cloves of garlic chopped. Remember, the oil is going to be the sauce, so don’t skimp out here.


When the garlic starts to brown a bit, add in the juice of one lemon and tear a few basil leaves into the sauce. Give a few grinds to the pepper mill. If you want to add a touch of richness, add in a tablespoon of butter.



Toss some angel hair pasta in the sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.





A few key ingredients and you won’t panic when you need to whip up a  last minute dish.

Cavatelli and Broccoli – the right way

If you’re going to make cavatelli and broccoli the right way, you first need to learn to say it the right way.

Your eye scans the menu and your immediate response is oh! Ca-va-tell-ee! I haven’t had that in ages.

But say it with me now. Ga-va-deal.

What rules of pronunciation dictate that the ca becomes a ga?

I don’t know. But that’s the way my family says it. That’s the way I grew up saying it.

So I kind of cringe when I hear ca-va-tell-ee. Much the same way I cringe when I hear sauce instead of gravy or ca-know-lee instead of ga-nawl.

Is it the region of Italy we’re from? Is it the town in which we settled upon arrival to the States?


It’s probably just my family.

But I digress.

Cavatelli and broccoli.

The right way.

Okay before I can tell you how to make it, I have to let you in on the little inside joke about making it the right way.

My Grandma Grace (my mom’s mom) is one of four sisters. She had brothers too, a big Catholic Italian family, but it’s the sisters that are important in this story.

I grew up with a very Italian grandma and three very Italian great-aunts.

My mom grew up with a very Italian mother and three very Italian aunts.

When I say very Italian what I mean is very loud, very bossy, very opinionated, very loving, and did I mention very loud?

One louder than the other.

I laugh when my Auntie Anna calls me and says “Jacky, it’s your Auntie Anna.” Oh trust me, Auntie Anna. I know it’s you.  I would know that voice anywhere.

These aren’t your average hard-headed and head-strong Italian women. These are Romano women. They are a breed unto themselves.

When my great grandmother was told she could no longer go to Florida by herself, she shrugged and said, fine, then I’ll die.

And guess what, despite her good health, she did.

She willed herself to die. Stubborn woman.

The Romano women are the strongest most independent women I have met in my life and I am grateful to count them as family and as role models.

They taught my mom, and later me, how to run a household, how to stand on your own two feet, how to hold your ground, how to support yourself, and how to curse.

They also taught us how to cook. It’s their recipes that I turn to most often.

So the cavatelli.

My mom always cooked for the whole family for Christmas. Aunts, Uncles, Great-Aunts, Great-Uncles, Grandparents, they all piled into our house.

And our house shook with their voices.

And I usually hid upstairs in my room. (Only child, remember?)

Christmas dinner starts at 2 O’clock with antipasti, moves onto pasta around 4 O’clock, continues with Turkey and the trimmings around 6 O’clock and concludes with coffee and dessert some time around 8 O’clock. There is copious amounts of wine necessary in between.

After the marathon of eating, and the even more intense marathon of cooking required to turn out the spread, everyone would contentedly sit back and thank my mom for the meal.

With one exception.

My Aunt Josie was the oldest of my grandma’s siblings. She never married. She worked as a waitress and had a big old house in Orange that everyone at one time or other lived in and that she later rented out to boarders.

She was a pip.

(When we went through her house when she sold it to downsize, there was a sign in one of the drawers that said “Keep the F* out. This means you.” My mom laminated and has it in her office now.)

She looked at my mom one Christmas, after my mom had slaved away over four courses of delicious food, and said, next time, if you want to make the cavatelli the right way…

The right way!

My mom and I will always and forever tease each other and ask the other if she is making the recipe the right way.

Recently I asked her, what is the right way?

She didn’t know.

I called my Grandma. Grandma, what’s the right way to make cavatelli?

Well, this is how I make it, was her response.

Meaning, well, my way is the right way.

I don’t think any of us know the right way to make it anymore, since Aunt Josie left us a few years ago. Maybe she’s making it the right way for St. Anthony. Maybe if we pray to St. Anthony we will find the right way to make it.

(For you non-Italians, Anthony is the Saint you pray to when you lose something. Don’t believe me?  Next time you lose something, say “”St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something’s been lost and cannot be found.” I lost the bracelet my boyfriend gave me for our one year anniversary (twice, once in Port Authority and once in Duane Reade) and after praying to St. Anthony, I got it back (twice).

But I don’t want to bother him about the recipe.

Instead, I’ll make it Grandma’s way and I’ll call it the right way.

This is a fantastic recipe for those nights when you think take out is the only option. It’s super fast and pretty much fool proof. And because it can be served hot or cold, it’s also a great recipe to make ahead if you know it’s going to be one of those weeks where you’ll be lucky to get out the door with two matching shoes. You can also dish this out into Tupperware for a grab and go lunch.

For cavatelli and broccoli you will need:

  • Cavatelli
  • Broccoli
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic

See, four ingredients. Super easy. You can add parmesan cheese at the end if you want, but that’s entirely up to you.

Also, this is a one pot meal since you’re going to cook the broccoli and the cavatelli in the same water.

So bring a pot of water to a boil.

Chop the broccoli into bit-size florets and drop into the water once it is boiling.

You don’t want to overcook the broccoli here. You want it to still be crisp. Give it 30 seconds to a minute tops, then scoop out of the water and into a big bowl.


Set aside the broccoli and add the cavatelli to the boiling water.

There is a lot of debate surrounding pasta water. To salt or not to salt?

I’ve seen Scott Conant rip chefs to shreds on Chopped when they don’t salt the water.

So I am going to quietly and quickly say that I don’t salt my water, but it’s because my grandma doesn’t either.

Scott, you can’t yell at my grandma. And you can’t yell at me because I am making this dish her way.

While the cavatelli cooks (follow the instructions on the packet for time), dice up two or three cloves of garlic. We’re not cooking the garlic, so you want as small a dice as possible.


When the cavatelli is cooked, drain and pour the hot pasta over the broccoli.


Drizzle with olive oil to coat and then add the garlic. A few grinds of black pepper can be added, too, if you wish.

Toss to combine. The pasta will warm the olive oil and the garlic and form a sauce that will coat the crisp broccoli and the tender cavatelli.


If you want a burst of freshness, you can squeeze half a lemon over the warm pasta. Or, you can sprinkle over a handful of parmesan. Or you can get crazy and do both.

Serve hot, immediately. Or refrigerate for a cold dish later.

Much as we joke about there being a right way to make the dish, the truth is that the beauty of cooking is that you can take your family’s recipes and make them your own. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Add a twist that’s uniquely yours.


If anyone gives you trouble, you just channel Frank Sinatra and say, Hey, I did it my way!

Linguine in Clam Sauce in a Flash

I thought the song was Manic Monday?

Well, today’s Tuesday and boy was it manic.

Why is it that the day after a long weekend is always crazy? Shouldn’t everyone be coming back into the office nice and calm and relaxed?

Well, that’s unfortunately never the case.

So after a long weekend of lazily preparing meals and relaxing with wine, I’m coming home from a busy day, ravenous and in need of an easy dinner.

This is also what comes to mind when I’m in need of comfort food.

Comfort food is different for everyone. It totally depends on what you grew up eating and what will transport you back to mom or grandma’s house. For you it may be meatloaf or mac and cheese or spanikopita.

For me, it’s a big bowl of pasta. Comforting, warm and easy.

This dinner is so easy, I even have the time to make a quick appetizer.

Linguine in clam sauce.

The real world way.

Yes, if I had the time, I’d prefer to use fresh clams. But I don’t have the time to stop at the store, nor do I have the patience right now to cook clams.

I didn’t get to eat lunch today, and I know that if my day were that hectic, then my boyfriend’s was probably at least three times worse. And he’s probably hungry. And he gets cranky, and a little angry when he’s hungry.

Like his dad says, an angry man is a hungry man.

Hangry. That’s what men are when they’re hungry and angry from the hunger.

You don’t want a hangry boyfriend on your hands after a long day.

Get this recipe started by bringing a pot of water to a boil. While the water starts to bubble, make the sauce.

This sauce is a great friend of the itty bitty city kitchen because 1. it’s made entirely of pantry staples and 2. it doesn’t take a lot of assembly – chopping garlic then the rest happens in the frying pan.


  • 1 can minced clams, drained of juices (this is the real world way to make the sauce, replace with fresh clams if you have time)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • white wine
  • black pepper

This is the easiest sauce you will ever make.

Drizzle a pan with olive oil and add the chopped garlic; turn to medium heat and let the garlic start to brown.


Add the drained clams, pour in the white wine and cook until the alcohol is gone. Or cook just a little and leave some of the alcohol if you had that kind of day.

Add a few grinds of black pepper and let the sauce hang out on the stove over a low flame. Odds are, the sauce is done and the water hasn’t boiled yet.


Which gives you the perfect amount of time to make an appetizer. Also known as something to hand to the hangry man at the door to quell the hanger.

Bruschetta is one of those highly versatile and highly underrated foods.

There’s nothing better than crispy bread in my book. Crispy bread topped with some fresh and yummy accouterments (you like that word, don’t you?) is even better.

For a really quick bruschetta, slice a baguette and toast the slices at 400 for a few minutes. If you don’t have time to preheat the oven (or forgot like me) throw the slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet and pop under the broiler for a few minutes. Just watch the bread because it can burn quickly.


Peel a garlic clove and slice in half.

When the bread is toasted, pull from the oven and rub with a garlic clove half. The heat from the bread will melt the garlic, and the crusty texture will provide an abrasive surface that will rub the garlic flavor off onto the bread.

You can sprinkle with some olive oil and parmesan cheese and pop it back in the oven for a minute and, ta-da, garlic bread.


You can also take it a step further and chop up some tomatoes, toss them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and set on the table with the garlic bread for a make your own tomato bruschetta station.


This should keep your hangry man occupied while you cook the linguine.


Linguine takes like four minutes to cook, so it’s the best option here.

A side salad with a simple dressing, tomatoey, garlicky bruschetta and a steaming bowl of linguine topped with the winey, oceany, peppery clam sauce. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Dinner on the table in under ten minutes.


And there’s nothing more satisfying or comforting than a steaming bowl of pasta.

Hangry man be gone.


Oh- S*- what’s- for-dinner-broccoli-pesto

I have a confession.

I, I who touted simplicity in kitchen equipment and who tut-tutted at fancy gadgets, own a food processor.

I said it.

I got it off my chest.

I feel a little bit better now that I am being honest with you.

I know. Bitty kitchen. And high rent. Where do you put it and how do you afford one?

Let me explain.

My boyfriend is Greek. Well, Greek and Armenian, but this story concerns his Greek side.

His father’s mother, my boyfriend’s yia-yia, passed away a number of years ago, long before i knew him, long before we knew of each other’s existence even.

I’m close with my boyfriend’s father. He and I are both only children, so we get each other. I understand his independence and stubbornness and his occasional need for solitude and for quiet because, well, I’m the same way.

My boyfriend and I were discussing the other day, that everyone always focuses on the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. But father-in-law and daughter-in-law is a very under valued relationship. His dad has two sons and no daughter. It’s nice for him to add a female to his family. Especially since it’s great practice for the four granddaughters I pray he gets!

But back to yia-yia. I didn’t get to meet her, but my boyfriend’s dad says I remind him of her. From what I’ve heard, she was an elegant and incredibly intelligent woman (spoke 7 languages and had a Masters degree from NYU! A Masters. At the time! Imagine!). So I happily take the comparison as a compliment.

When yia-yia passed, the contents of her house were moved to her son’s basement. This was more than ten years ago, keep in mind.

So, we were at their house. And I happened to mention wanting a food processor one day.

His mom jumped right up to say she had one in the basement, unused, still in the box. It was yia-yia’s.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you yia-yia’s ancient Cuisinart!


This thing weighs a ton.

It’s a great weapon in case someone ever breaks in.

But guess what? It works. Perfectly.

I don’t care that it’s ancient.

It’s a little bulky, but I made space for it. It’s yia-yia’s!

And I kind of like that it was hers. It brings her into our kitchen and gives our home that feeling of history and of family that’s not always easy to get in a rental apartment.

So now, I can make one of my favorite things ever.


I know I could have made it before with a mortar and pestle the old-fashioned way.

But, I want more than just basil.

I want to spice things up and mix up tradition.

Get it? Mix up? Food processor? Tradition? yia-yia’s food processor?

Also, we were away all weekend celebrating my boyfriend’s brother’s graduation from college.


After getting back at like midnight on a Sunday from a weekend of heavy dinners, too much wine and lots of running around to sit in auditoriums, I just don’t have the time.

I need something ridiculously easy.

And when I’m standing in the kitchen going Oh s*, what’s for dinner? I always turn to broccoli pesto.

I always have parmesan cheese, olive oil and garlic in my kitchen. If you keep so frozen veggies in your freezer, you’re good to go for any last minute guest or any moment of crap, there’s no food in my house!

I make this in the morning before work sometimes so it can hang in the fridge all day. You can make this in advance and freeze it too.


Broccoli pesto.

You will need

2-3 cloves of garlic

olive oil

broccoli florets

parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Or, if you’re using frozen broccoli, follow the defrosting directions on the package.

Or, put a little bit of water in a microwave-safe bowl, toss in the broccoli and zap!

You don’t really want to cook the broccoli, you just want to take away the rawness.

I throw mine in a pot of boiling water for like thirty seconds, until the florets turn a bright green.


Meanwhile, throw the garlic cloves into the food processor and pulse.

I put the garlic in by itself to get it all chopped up so it combines more evenly with the broccoli. But you can put everything in at once.

Remove the broccoli from the water and put in with the garlic. Pulse to chop a bit.

Drizzle in some olive oil and blend.

If the mixture seizes, add more oil. Or, if you want to keep this lighter, add a little bit of the water from boiling the broccoli.

I try not to use a lot of oil. Especially after the four course meal we ate in Baltimore this weekend.


Blend until you have the consistency you want. I get it fairly smooth with little bits of broccoli peeking out so you can tell this is not your ordinary basil pesto.

If you’re serving immediately, throw in a handful of parmesan cheese and blend.

If you’re storing this for later, hold off on the cheese for now.

I’m putting this into Tupperware and refrigerating until dinner.

Tonight, I’ll boil some hot water, toss in some angel air and pour the pesto over.

A sprinkle of cheese on top, a crispy romaine side salad and some bread to mop the bowl.