Creative Cuisine at Ornella Trattoria

Paula and I were invited to attend a tasting at Ornella Trattoria in Astoria, Queens. As we walked in the door, you could smell the garlic wafting from the kitchen, this was my first indication we were in for a treat.

Owner Giuseppe Viterale recognized us immediately, “the bloggers!”. As I would soon learn, Giuseppe recognized all this patrons. His trattoria has a feeling of warmth and it’s because of Mr. Viterale’s charismatic presence in the dinning room, night after night.

We sat down, the vino was poured and the flood gates of food started to pour from the swinging kitchen doors. To start, Giuseppe served us Bruschetta di Nduja. This spiced meat spread originated in Calabria, the “toe” of Italy. It was considered a peasant food because the spread is made from the “poor cuts”  of meat. But this sausage spread is rising in popularity for it’s savory flavor and spice. Giuseppe’s version was indeed spicy and rich. Served on warm bread, it was the perfect starter to our non-traditional Italian eating experience at Ornella. IMG_8493Mr. Viterale cures his own meats on his farm in the Catskills – his salt-cured prosciutto and salami were brought out next.

In between courses, Guiseppe sat with us explaining his past history in New York running restaurants, about his philosophy on taking traditional Italian food and re-imagining the recipes he learned as a child in Sicily, and of course about food. Like Italians before him, he is taking advantage of locally sourced ingredients and improving on familiar dishes to create new flavor combinations.

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The next course was the pastas, the later two being handmade. A summer orecchiette pasta with melon and prosciutto. The  famous,  chestnut pasta in a cream pistachio sauce with truffle oil and a buckwheat pasta with potatoes, cabbage and whole cloves of garlic (below).

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All three dishes are tasteful in distinctive ways; the orecchiette is light, sweet and salty, a true summer pasta. Pizzoccheri, the buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, fontina cheese was unique in that it didn’t taste like pasta! If you’re a “meat and potatoes” person this is the perfect pasta for you. Lastly, we tried the Pasta di Castagna, Ornella’s famous chestnut pasta in cream and pistachio sauce with truffle oil. It’s rich, creamy and earthy, an indulgence you must try. These dishes are perfect examples of Giuseppe’s unorthodox recipes. Don’t expect traditional American Italian pasta’s like spaghetti and meatball or fettuccine alfredo at Ornella!

After we gorged ourselves on the pasta, the main dish arrives, mushroom, prosciutto fontina cheese stuffed pork marinated in wine sauce. We were so full, we tasted and the rest of the suculant main we took home.

An offer of desert was made, but we refrain and Giuseppe brings us a lemon sorbet wine cocktail – it was like a lemon ice with just the right amount of alcohol. Paula struggled with her nose in champagne glass issue, but enjoyed thoroughly.

We finish the meal off with an espresso, table side.

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Giuseppe takes the first percolated espresso and hand whips it with sugar. Giuseppe proudly procures the sweetener and cream – it’s like a magic trick! He dollops some of the “whipped sugar” into each espresso glass and when the espresso has fully percolated, pours it over the cream. The espresso had a strong, well balanced flavor and the perparation was so impressive!

Ornella gets a top billing review, an over-stuffed 4 tomatoes!

★★★★☆

Ornella Trattoria Italiana
29-17 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY 11105
718.777.9477
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tagged in italian, queens

Episode 7: 4 Ideas for Tomatoes

Y’all, its too damn hot to cook!! My mom gave me a bunch of tomatoes and basil on Sunday and I thought “how can I eat all of these without turning on the oven?” Here are some simple recipes I came up with. I hope you like it and I hope you are not forced to use your oven too much in this heat! You can add anything of your preference to these recipes, some cured meats in the pasta salad, cucumbers to the salad, whatever your heart desires! Let us know if you come up with some interesting variations.

 Check out episode 7 here:

Avocado Basil Pesto (makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion
1/2 avocado diced
juice of 1 lemon
30 basil leaves ( about a cup)
1/2 cup of argula
3 tbps olive oil or avocado oil
sprinkle of cheese ( asiago or parmesan)
salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the above ingredients into a small chopper or blender. Chop until the consistency is smooth.

Recipe 1: Avocado Pesto Toast
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Ingredients:
4 tbsps Avocado Basil Pesto
1 cup of cherry tomatoes halved
2 slices of toast

In a medium size bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes in 2 tbsps of the pesto. Spread the toast with the remaining 2 tbsps. Add the cherry tomato mixture onto the toast. Enjoy with any style of egg.

Recipe 2: Caprese Skewers
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Ingredients:
8 cherry tomatoes
8 Mozzarella balls
8 basil leaves
2 tbsps olive oil or avocado oil
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Skewer 1 tomato, 1 mozzarella ball and one basil leaf on to a toothpic. Continue until you have skewered 8. Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Use the balsamic mixture as a dip or drizzle over the top. As an alternative to the balsamic dip, use 4 tbsps of the Avocado Pesto as a dip.

Recipe 3: Cherry Tomato and Arugula Salad
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Ingredients:
4 tbsps Avocado Basil Pesto
1 cup of cheery tomatoes halved
3 cups of Arugula

In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients together and mix. Add more Avocado Pesto as needed.

Recipe 4: Cherry tomato Pasta Salad
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Ingredients
4 tbsps Avocado Basil Pesto
1 cup of cheery tomatoes halved
4 oz cooked elbow pasta ( or any other pasta)

Toss the ingredients together. Add in more pesto if desired and serve!

tagged in newlyfed, tomatoes

Beach 91st Street Community Garden

If I haven’t mentioned, I have a plot in the Beach 91st street community garden.  It’s across the street from our house. There’s been two potluck garden dinners so far, where members bring dishes with food they’ve grown from the garden. It’s been fun to meet everyone and talk shop over supper. I’ve been meaning to take some photos of what’s growing and what’s going on behind the gates.

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We keep bees! About a month and a half ago we adopted a bee hive from NYC beekeepers.

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I love seeing how everyone “decorates” their plots. Shells are big.

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Tomatoes!

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..And a tomato plant growing out of a haystack, yee-haw!

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This is the back half of the garden. We have a water tower hooked up to a short hose to fill water cans up. If it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, Tim Hill (garden founder) brings out the fire hose which he hooks up to the hydrate the tank can be refilled. A great garden requires much watering.

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I’m hoping in the next year I can host events here, a fall festival or container painting party could be on the horizon!

 

tagged in garden, tomatoes

Episode 6: Basics of the Wok

I love cooking with a wok, and in this episode we go through a random recipe to exemplify some of the basics of cooking in a wok. (random meaning off the top of my head) We have a recipe here we posted a while back that will help with your first wok experience. Below are some tips to cooking in a wok, and hopefully the episode gets you familiar enough to start experimenting yourself!

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A few highlights on cooking in a wok:

1) Use a high frying temperature oil (peanut, sunflower or canola will work)
2) Don’t overcrowd the wok
3) If the wok looks like its getting dry, add chicken stock instead of more oil
4) Slice components (some basics below) in a uniform length and width
5) Move the contents of the wok around while cooking to avoid burning anything

A few basics of what to cook in a wok:

1) Proteins: you can use any protein you like in a wok, it should take  about 4-5 minutes depending on what protein you use. Always slice thin to ensure quick cooking.

2) Aromatics: onions and garlic are great, ginger is a must! I would recommend you slice the garlic so it doesn’t burn on the high temperature wok. 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent works.

3) Veggies: anything you like can be done! heartier veggies will take longer to cook like brocolli, but generally should take 3-4 minutes as well. If you like a crunchier veggie, maybe even less.

On sauce, there are a lot of jars out there you can use for an easy weeknight meal. The sauce in our recipe is an easy sauce to do as well.

Take a look at this weeks episode and Wok it gurl! Recipe below in case you are interested in what I made in this episode.

 

Ingredients

Sauce:
1tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp dry sherry
4 tbsp chicken stock
4 tbsp light soy source

For cooking:
4 tbsps sunflower oil (or peanut oil)
8 oz chicken stock
1lb chicken breast slice thin
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 in fresh ginger finely cut
2 red peppers cut lengthwise (about a 1/2 inch each)
8oz snap peas
2 “nests” of Chinese noodles

Blend cornstarch, sherry, stock and soy source and set aside. Heat 2 tbsps of oil over high heat for about 1 minute. Cook the chicken about 3-4 minutes until the chicken is no longer opaque. Set aside.

(add in more oil if needed) Add in the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes on high heat until the onions are translucent. Adjust heat if it looks like the aromatics may be at risk of browning or burning. Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

(add in more oil if needed, or chicken stock: 2 tbsps) Add in red peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

Once the water is boiling, add in Chinese noodles and cook as directed.

Add in the snap peas and cook 2-3 minutes or to desired texture.

Once the snap peas are done, add in the noodles, chicken, aromatics and the vegetables over high heat. Add in the sauce and incorporate all the ingredients. Bring to boil and cook over high heat for 30 secs.  Once the sauce has thickened, plate and enjoy!

tagged in newlyfed