Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia

¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
2 T melted butter or margarine
4 tilapia fillets
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. In a shallow dish, combine the cheese with the bread crumbs. Coat the fish with butter and dredge in the cheese/bread crumb mixture.
  3. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque in the thickest part, 15 to 17 minutes. Serve the fish with the lemon wedges.

I really don’t have a clue where this recipe came from.  James Beard has a recipe for chicken that is similar and when I looked up my Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia recipe it was different than what I’ve presented here.

It was a Rachel Ray recipe.  I had to change it.


The Butcher’s Info Blog: On A Beef Chuck Roll

The Butcher’s Info Blog: On A Beef Chuck Roll.

via The Butcher’s Info Blog: On A Beef Chuck Roll.

I know the economy is pretty bad but I am absolutely convinced one of the reasons why some items in the grocery store go unsold is due to the fact that people don’t know what it is or don’t know how to cook it.  My local market deep discounts meat a day or two before the last sale date.  I love a bargain and the other day I found Country Style Boneless Beef Ribs selling for $2.29 a pound.  The original price was $6 a pound.  There were four packages begging passers by please buy me.

So I did.  I’ve used this cut before and found the resulting dishes to be extremely flavorful so I wanted to know where on the animal it came from.

Chuck.  Now you know.

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

In the North End of Boston there is a marvelous Italian restuarant named Giacomo’s.  The place is small and cramped, service is brusque.  The food is exquisite which certainly explains this eatery’s well deserved reputation.  My first encounter was many years ago when my brother and I stopped in for dinner.  I ordered Seafood Linguine and the waiter asked

“Red, white, or pink?”

“I know what red is and I know what white is.  What’s pink?”

“Red and white together.”

Imagine a pasta dish with the consistency of a good macaroni and cheese plus a rich hearty ragu.  I bought back my memories and created a baked pasta with two sauces.

Turkey Ragu (about a quart, more if you like your pasta moist)
Parmesan sauce (see recipe below)
One pound box of penne (rigatoni works well also, or use your favorite pasta shape)
Grated parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese, about two cups
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook pasta until barely al dente.  The pasta should still be firm to the touch and will cook through during the baking process while absorbing the sauces.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

2.  While the pasta is cooking prepare the parmesan sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and cook briefly.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly to remove all lumps.  Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. When the sauce begins bubbling at the edges and thickens, turn off heat and set aside.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Take a baking pan large enough for the pasta and grease the pan with extra virgin olive oil.

5.  Place partially cooked pasta in the pan, add parmesan sauce, and mix well.

6.  Cover pasta mixture with ragu, mixing gently.  If your family likes pasta moist, use more ragu.

7.  Sprinkle grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheeses on top.

8.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.  If your family likes pasta a little drier, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

9.  Serve with a nice fresh green vegetable, salad, and bread.

Parmesan Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Giacomo’s Restaurant
355 Hanover St
Boston, MA

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup all-purpose white flour
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 cup low fat milk

In a medium mixing bowl stir together flours, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, baking
soda, and salt. Make a well in the center. In a small mixing bowl combine egg, buttermilk, and oil. Add
egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Stir batter just till blended.
For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto a lightly greased preheated griddle or heavy
skillet. Cook several pancakes at a time over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or till the tops are evenly
bubbled and the edges are dry, then turn and cook until golden brown on the second side. Repeat with
remaining batter.

Weekend guests at the house are treated to a rather substantial breakfast before they head back home.  The menu varies but usually consists of pancakes or waffles, scrambled eggs or omelettes, sausage or bacon, toast, breakfast potatoes (if I wake up early enough), juice and plenty of hot coffee.  This pancake recipe started as a variation of an old recipe from Jane Brody called Wholesome Pancakes.  There’s not much difference between her recipe and mine, so I figured I better give Jane some credit.  This morning we had omelettes because the fresh mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onions and cheddar-jack cheese said OMELETTE.

Prep Tips – Mix the dry ingredients for the pancakes the night before and add the wet in the morning.  Crack your eggs the night before too.  Rinse and slice your veggies first, then saute in a little butter or margarine.  Set aside.  Start your pancakes next.  After the first batch comes off the griddle, start cranking out the eggs.  Skip the potatoes because they take too long to cook, everyone will complain, you won’t need them anyway and they won’t be missed.

Turkey Ragu

Note – there is an updated version of this recipe.

I decided to leave the original intact.

Turkey Ragu

3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh green pepper, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey (use 85/15 or 93/7 mixtures.  DO NOT use 100% breast meat)
2 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
Pinch of Thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 28 oz can tomatoes, finely diced, with juice
1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Brown sugar

1.  Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat in a large saucepot.  I
prefer the taste of Spanish olive oils and Borges is my favorite.  If you can’t find
Borges look for the Star brand which is made by the same company.  Substitute your
favorite regular olive oil if desired.

2.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and onion.  Saute for a few minutes until limp.

3.  Add more olive oil to prevent sticking and add the ground turkey.  Break up the
meat and brown.  Add basil, oregano, and thyme and continue browning until the
herbs become aromatic.  With the heat still on high, add the wine and cook until the
wine is almost completely evaporated.

4.  Add the can of diced tomatoes with juice.  Toss in the bay leaves, mushrooms, and
green pepper.  Stir until well mixed and lower heat to medium.  The sauce ingredients
should be bubbling mildly.  Leave uncovered until the tomatoes release their juices
and the liquid in the pot is mostly evaporated.  This step concentrates the flavors and
will take 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  When the sauce becomes thickened, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can
of tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate well.  Partially cover, turn the heat to low, and
simmer for a minimum of one hour.

6.  Taste for seasonings and add more basil or oregano if desired.  Salt and pepper if
you must but there is plenty of salt in the canned tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are
highly acidic, add brown sugar a half teaspoonful at a time until the acidity is reduced
to your liking.  A little bit of sugar will cut the acidity and add smoothness to the

7.  Find some cooked pasta and plenty of grated cheese.  Eat!

I used to make my meat sauce with ground beef.  Somewhere along the way I started using ground turkey.  You get a lighter sauce than a ragu made with beef.  Try it.  You’ll love this ragu.

Pantry Tip

Always have good quality canned tomatoes and paste in the pantry.  A couple of cans of stewed tomatoes are also good to have on the shelf, especially if you open your fridge and find limp celery, one carrot, and no onions.  If this sounds like your fridge, you might want to keep some dried onion flakes and garlic powder in the spice rack too.

Another Pantry Tip

San Marzano tomatoes make a big difference.  The stuff from Italy is expensive so I’ve used San Marzano style organic from California.  Over time I’ve come to appreciate the flavor boost you get from using dried versions of onion and garlic.  I’m no longer a food snob who insists about everything fresh.  It’s all about the flavor.  Turkey Ragu 2 is the updated version of this ragu which incorporates some of these flavor boosting ingredients.


Iki Marinade

Iki Marinade

1/4 C. olive oil

1/4 C. soy sauce

2 T. brown sugar

2 T. apple cider vinegar

2 T. ketchup

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Dash red pepper flakes

Makes enough marinade for 1 to 1.5 pounds of meat.  Double the marinade recipe if you are cooking larger quantities.  Works well with chicken and beef, but was originally crafted for pork.

The Story Behind Iki

A long time ago when the kids were small we had wonderful neighbors with a pool.  Naturally I befriended them.  We got into this entertaining rhythm where during the cooler months we would fix suppers befitting the season.  And during the summers we were over to the neighbor’s backyard for grilling poolside.  Our friends had friends from whom they got this marinade recipe.  I remember these people well.  Sam was from Venezuela and in the oil business.  His wife was from the Philippines.  Her name was Iki.

We really didn’t know what else to call this recipe.  It was Iki’s marinade recipe.  Over the years it just got shortened to Iki.

How about some Iki tonight?  Certain to become a family favorite.


Flatten boneless chicken breasts so that the pieces cook evenly on the grill.  If the breasts are large, halve them, then flatten.  I prefer boneless thighs with this marinade.  Again, flatten a bit before grilling.  Marinate your meat at least one hour before cooking and bring the meat to room temperature before grilling.

Boneless country style pork ribs are wonderful with Iki.

If you’re not grilling, try marinating chicken breasts or thighs on the bone and roast in the oven.

Honey Soy and/or Maple Marinade

Honey Soy Marinade

3/4 cup soy sauce

2/3 cup honey OR pure maple syrup

1/3 cup pineapple juice

The story behind this marinade is odd.  Where do I begin?  I’ll begin by saying I love marinades.  You’ll love marinades too once you figure out that the factory farmed protein we pass off as real meat in this country really doesn’t have that much flavor.  Remind me to tell you the story of the first steak I ate in Argentina.  Yes, I’d move there for the beef!

For several years I’ve been making a simple baked salmon with Maple Soy Marinade.  When I looked in my recipe file, I found this marinade.  Honey, not maple syrup. 


At this point the best I can figure out is somehow, somewhere along the Path I substituted maple syrup for honey.  It works.  So I kept this simple marinade in my head until now when I realize it’s not the marinade I started with.

Try both.  The maple syrup version works extremely well with salmon.  I know I used the honey version with chicken.  Play with it.  Have fun.  Eat well.

Warning.  Use real maple syrup.  I once used fake maple flavored syrup that consisted mostly of high fructose corn syrup and it is not the same.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Growing up in New Jersey a lot of comfort food was Italian.  I’m not bragging, but I cook some mean Italian.  The only problem was my Italian never quite tasted the same as the Italian I grew up with.  So you keep searching, trying different recipes until you come across The One.  Well, almost.

This recipe is a new find, liberally adapted from Giada De Laurentiis‘ recipe of the same name.  The last time I made this dish I used fresh chicken sausage seasoned with feta cheese and spinach.  The time before I used chicken sausage with basil and added boneless chicken thighs.  Try pork sausages in this dish.  I’m pretty confident the end result will be tasty.

Serve over rice or pasta.  A nice red California Zinfandel would be awesome.  Don’t forget the crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Napkins!  Don’t forget the napkins!

Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

4 to 6 servings


2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian Chicken sausage

1 red bell pepper sliced
1 sweet yellow onion sliced
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes


Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain.

Over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala wine and tomatoes. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer.

Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.


A simple green salad or fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil and garlic completes the meal.  Doubling the recipe will give you plenty of leftovers for sandwiches later in the week.  This dish freezes well.

Addendum – sweet Marsala wine.  The original post omitted sweet.  But if you use dry Marsala, let me know how it turns out.