Foreplay (Appetizers)

Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Sauce

The first time I made this dish, I put so much wine, that’s all it tasted like. So, I got my husband on board to help me and we managed to get it pretty much right. It’s not an exact science, like all recipes like this. It’s more of what you like. How much garlic, to or to not add red pepper flakes. That kind of thing. Adjust to your preference.


  • 1 2lb bag farm-raised mussels
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/2 cup of wine, approximately

1. First thing you need to do is clean the mussels. The mussels I buy are already de-bearded, but I do go through them and make sure there is no residual beard lingering anywhere. If there is, take a small paring knife and and scrape it off. Rinse several times and scrub them thoroughly. Discard any that are open. Place in a bowl with ice and refrigerate until you are ready to put them in the pan.

2. Heat a large pan and add the olive oil and butter. When that is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until a light golden brown.

3. Add the wine. Pouring slowly and carefully. Add parsley flakes.

4. Add the mussels, including the ice. Cover the pan and let simmer until they all open. This takes about five minutes or so. Just keep checking. As soon as they are open, you want to get them off of the heat. Nothing worse than a chewy mussel.

5. Serve with spaghetti or linguine and, most importantly, a very large loaf of bread for sopping up all of that incredibly delicious sauce. It’s the best part.



Let me see. Take some risotto, stuff a chunk of mozzarella cheese in it, bread it and then fry it. Does that sound like a little bit of heaven to you? Well, it is.

This is not something I can say I enjoyed making. I am not one for getting my hands all gooed up.  And all gooed up, they will get. I’m the type of person who goes through a pack of napkins when eating wings or ribs or something messy like that. So, plan on rinsing, a lot. Unless, of course, that doesn’t bother you. 

In either case, this is what you will need:

  • One batch cooked risotto, cooled
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Panko or Italian bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying

First, you’ll need to make Basic Risotto. You can use my recipe or your own. Either is just fine.

Next, you’ll need to set up a breading station consisting of:

Flour. Beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and bread crumbs. I used Panko.

Once you have that set up, next thing you’ll need to do is cut some fresh mozzarella into small chunks. 

Take about a soup spoon-sized portion of risotto in damp hands and form it into a ball, tossing it back and forth between both hands. 

Next, get a piece of the cheese and stuff it into the middle. Reform into a ball. You may need to add an extra bit of risotto, so it’s completely covered.

Now get ready to get down and dirty with the balls.  

Start by rolling them, one at a time, in the flour first, then the egg and, finally, the bread crumbs. You may have to reform them into ball-form at this point.

After you have them rolled, prepare your pan for frying. Heat about a half-inch of oil, I used canola, in a skillet.

Begin frying each ball, until golden brown on all sides. 

Transfer to a wire rack, with paper towels underneath to drain oil. Sprinkle a little bit of salt on while hot.

Let cool for a few minutes and eat when ready.


Roasted Chick Peas

These are a quick and healthy snack, especially if you’re craving something crunchy and salty. Good replacement for chips. These take literally no effort. Unless, of course, you consider opening a can of chick peas work. Now that I think about it, it sometimes is.

Three ingredients. Simple, simple, simple.

  • 1 large can of chick peas, garbanzo beans or ceci beans. Whatever you call them, they are the same thing.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. of some sort of seasoning blend. I use McCormick’s Vegetable Seasoning.

After opening the can of beans, pour them into a strainer and rinse well. Shake off all the excess water. Place in a bowl and toss with oil and seasoning. Transfer to a cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 400º for about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until nicely browned and rather crisp.

Remove and cool.

Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

I eat them just like that or they are also good on salad in place of croutons.

The Best Guacamole Ever

I had an amazing guacamole one time at El Vez over in Philadelphia. Good thing for me, it was made table side.  I was able to watch how they made it and then was able to make it for my family.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • half of a red onion, diced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped tomato
  • juice of half a lime
  • kosher salt to taste – about 1/2 tsp.

Prepare all of the ingredients and set aside.

To prepare the avocados:

Cut avocado lengthwise around into two halves.  Carefully, with the heel of your knife, remove the stone.  Or pop it out if it’s ripe enough.  Score the fruit into a checkerboard pattern and scoop or squeeze it into a bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Lightly stir.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with chips or as an accompaniment to dishes such as Fire-Roasted Chicken Enchiladas.

Prosciutto and Provolone-Stuffed Long Hot Peppers

Outside in my garden, we have a large bush flourishing with long hot peppers. I have fried quite a few, but needed to something different.  Thinking back to one of my favorite restaurants, I remembered an appetizer I had.  Long hots stuffed with provolone cheese and prosciutto ham.  So, I decided to try making my own.  Let me tell you. They are delicious.

First things first.  These are HOT.  Some aren’t, but mine are.  I suggest you do a taste test before preparing.  If they are too hot, remove all of the seeds and the ribs from the pepper by cutting off the top and making a slice all the way down one side.  Make sure it’s a side so that the pepper will lie flat on the board.

Next, rub each pepper with some olive oil to aid in the roasting.

I bought a quarter pound of Daniele Prosciutto from the market today.  This is enough to stuff about 10 peppers.  Peel off a piece and tear it to fit in the pepper’s cavity.  Fill each pepper this way.

Next, comes the provolone cheese.  I purchased a block of sharp imported Provolone today and shred it fresh.  I shred about 3/4 cup or so.  Take this and stuff into the peppers.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay the peppers on it.  Cook in oven, upper rack, for about 20 minutes or until peppers start to wrinkle.  The cheese will be melted before this.  Remove and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Grab a hunk of Italian bread and enjoy!