Dinner on Lake Como



I recently spent a week in a villa on Lake Como in the Italian Alps. On our last night we had a local chef come in to cook us dinner. He was the brother of the villa’s owner and worked for a restaurant in Bellagio. He suggested a menu made up of local foods and, with a few adjustments to our group, we eagerly agreed.


Lake Como is in the Lombardy region of Italy and is known for its risottos and polentas. They boast a wide variety of cheeses and the fish in the lake is abundant. We watched people fishing just outside our villa and it took them less than a minute to catch something. Normally fish would have been on our menu but some in our group couldn’t eat it.


We started with a typical Antipasto of meats and cheeses including mortadella, salami, mushroom pate and local cheeses accompanied by a local white wine “Le Calderine” from the Angelinetta Winery in Domaso.






The next course, we were told, was a local peasant dish called Pizzocheri. It was a pasta made with buckwheat flour. The chef and his sister hand rolled it into fat wormlike noodles. These were boiled and finished with cream, herbs, walnuts, and cheese. This was the dish we all liked the least. It was heavy and a bit sour. We all thought it might have been better if it was cooked a bit longer but having nothing to compare it to, we couldn’t be sure. Most of us could not finish it.
















Our main course was roast pork shank with porcini mushrooms and a polenta cake. The pork was magnificent. It fell off the bone and melted in your mouth and the mushrooms were the perfect accent to the dish. We asked if the mushrooms were fresh, they were so delicious, but were told they were not in season. They had been preserved locally in jars. A “ca del Mot” red wine from the same local winery accompanied this dish.


For dessert we had frittelle stuffed with apples and raisins. These are deep fat fried yeast risen pancakes similar to a doughnut and sometimes called Venetian Doughnuts. The frittelle were served hot, dusted with sugar and cocoa and drizzled with honey. They were quite good but kind of heavy on top of a heavy dinner.






The grand finale was the Grolla. It originated in a region to the west of Lombardy also on the Swiss border, the Valle d’Aosta. It is a drink that requires a special container, or Grolla, the cup of friendship. It is carved out of one piece of wood and has openings for each person at the table to drink out of. The saying goes that the people who drink from the same Grolla will be united in eternal friendship but everybody must drink from their own opening and the entire contents must be finished.

The traditional recipe is one cup coffee and one cup hot grappa and a spoonful of sugar per person, add an orange peel, a lemon peel and light. When the flame burns out, let it cool a bit and start drinking.  I’m not sure this recipe was followed exactly but the drink was delicious and we enjoyed it very much.

Food Friday: Gringo Enchiladas






These are American Mexican Enchiladas adapted for Gringos. Not really very Mexican. I think of them as the ultimate comfort food.

I ran this before using leftover turkey.  I think it is worth a re-run with pictures.


Gringo Enchiladas

Place the following in a saucepan over medium heat:

1 lb chicken boiled and shredded

1 green onion chopped

Add and combine until melted:

¼ cup cream cheese

2/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterrey Jack, or a combination)



8 oz can tomato puree

1 cup prepared salsa (however you like it, medium or hot… or mild)

1 tsp adobo or coriander or some fresh cilantro


Add about ½ cup of tomato mixture to the chicken.


Oil a baking dish and heat oven to 350 degrees

Heat about 8 flour tortillas

Place 2 tbsp (or more) of mixture into each tortilla

Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish


Once you have used up all the stuffing, cover the tortillas with


Shredded cheese


Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes

Remove foil and cook another 5-7 minutes if you want, but you don’t have to.


Serve with Guacamole

1 avocado mashed

1 tbsp lemon juice

Dash salt

Mash the avocado in the lemon juice, add salt if desired


Food Friday: Kaas Spaetzle



















When visiting Switzerland we enjoyed Kaas Spaetzle on several occasions. We had it mit speck (with bacon) and with veal. But it is good plain, too. It is kind of like macaroni and cheese but infinitely better.  I tried to make the noodles but for some reason it didn’t matter how much flour I added, it was sticky. I happened to have a box at the ready so I cheated. If you are feeling adventurous, I am including the recipe.


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1.5-2.0 cups shredded Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives















In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.















Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.















Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzle; tossing to coat. Cook the spaetzle for 1 to 2 minutes to give the noodles some color.  Add the cheese and stir until completely melted and coating the spaetzle.  Sprinkle with the chopped chives and season with pepper before serving.

Food Friday: Cauliflower Pie with Potato Crust
















Cauliflower Pie

Potato Crust

2 cups grated raw potato

½ tsp salt

¼ of an onion, grated
















Mix well, let stand a few minutes, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can.















Mix in:

1 egg beaten

Oil a pie plate and pat potato mixture into the dish making sure it goes all the way up the sides.
















Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake 30-40 minutes until browned















Turn down oven to 375 degrees.


1 med cauliflower broken into small pieces















Sauté for 5 minutes:

3 tbsp butter

1 clove crushed garlic

1 cup chopped onion

dash thyme

½ tsp basil

½ tsp salt

Add the cauliflower
















Cook, covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally


2 eggs

¼ cup milk

black pepper

Grate enough cheddar cheese to make 1 cup


Spread half the cheese into baked crust, then the sauté mixture, then the rest of the cheese.  Pour custard over the top.















Bake 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees.


















Food Friday: Spinach Lasagna







Last week I was in a hurry after work and decided to make a quick and easy spinach lasagna.  Unfortunately, I got distracted and ended up overcooking it so my final product was not that great.  I hope you pay attention and do a better job!!


Spinach Lasagna

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped

2 eggs

1 lb ricotta cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced

25 oz tomato sauce

3/4 cup parmesan, grated or shredded

1/2 pound lasagna noodles  (I use the kind you don’t have to cook first.  If you have to cook it, then cook it first.)

Combine the ricotta and the eggs.  Throw in some black pepper to taste.


Take a 9X13 glass baking dish.  Lightly cover the bottom with tomato sauce.  Cover with noodles.



Pour the ricotta mixture on top and cover with spinach.



Put another layer of noodles on top.



Cover with tomato sauce and the Mozzarella cheese.



Put another layer of noodles with remaining tomato sauce on top.

Sprinkle parmesan on top.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes.  It should be just brown and bubbly.



Food Friday: Potato Lamb Casserole



















Potato Lamb Casserole

I originally set out to make Moussaka but since I didn’t have any eggplant on hand, I decided to substitute potatoes for the eggplant.  It turned out pretty good. After doing a little research, I discovered that this dish is made in Eastern Europe with potatoes and it can have either eggplant or potatoes or both.  I love flexibility!
















4-5 large potatoes (1.5 lbs)

1.5 lbs. ground lamb (you can use beef but it’s not the same)

1 large onion, finely diced

1 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red wine

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

0.25 tsp. ground allspice

1.5 cup tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)

2 tbsp. tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

1.5 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or more, sometimes I use a mixture of different cheese I have on hand)












White Sauce:

6 Tbsp salted butter

6 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk, warmed

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Pinch of ground nutmeg











Peel the potatoes and cut them in half so they cook faster.  Boil them in water for about 15-20 minutes – they should be just barely done (still firm).

Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.













Make the Meat Filling:

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large sauté pan.  Add onion, garlic and meat.  Meat should be cooked through with no pink.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes.

Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.











White Sauce:

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Add a little to the egg yolks and whisk to mix.

Add the mixture back into the sauce and mix well.

Add a pinch of nutmeg.

Stir until sauce thickens.

Set aside.















Lightly grease large casserole dish.

Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom.

Top with a layer of meat sauce.

Spoon over 1/3 of the sauce.

Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.


Top with remaining cheese.













Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until cheese is a nice golden brown color.














Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before serving.


Food Friday: Spinach Souffle




















Mirriam-Webster:  French, from soufflé, past participle of souffler to blow, puff up, from Old French sufler, from Latin sufflare, from sub- +flare to blow 

First Known Use: 1813


Souffles are light and fluffy.  You can eat a lot because it is mostly air.  Don’t be afraid to make a soufflé.  They are very easy to make.  The hardest part is washing the dish after baking!  Try it, you will love it!


Spinach Souffle


Melt in a pan on top of the stove:
1/4 cup buter
1/2 tst salt
1/4 cup flour














Make a paste and add:
1 cup milk,  gradually so it thickens


Separate 4 eggs


3/4 cup cheese and mix into white sauce
3/4 cup spinach, chopped
4 egg yolks  stirring quickly and remove from heat.
Cool the sauce.
















Beat egg whites with 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

















Fold egg whites into cooled sauce.













Pour into un-greased baking dish with high sides.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes

















Serve with crusty garlic bread and a big salad.


Food Friday: Beer Cheese Soup






The state of Wisconsin is known for Beer and Cheese.  Come people call Wisconsinites, Cheeseheads.  It makes a perfect combination.  Beer and Cheese. So why not… Beer Cheese Soup?  Coincidentally, I am on my way to Wisconsin so this is going out a bit early this week.  Enjoy!














1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup flour

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1 cup chicken broth

3 cups milk

1 12 oz bottle beer

3 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar)














Cook onion and butter

Blen in flour and seasoning

Stir in broth, milk & beer

Stir constantly over medium heat















Boil & stir until thick

Add cheese

Garnish with popcorn


Drink beer!


Food Friday – Leftover Enchiladas














Ok, I know what you are thinking.  Mexican again?  Well, no, not really.  Although the original concept is Mexican, this recipe is about as American as you can get.  At a stretch it could be Tex-Mex.  It is homemade fast food.  Quick and easy.  It is a great way to use turkey leftovers but you can use chicken if you are all out of turkey.

Leftover Turkey Enchiladas

1.5 cups shredded or chopped cooked turkey

1 cup picante sauce

1 (3-oz) packet cream cheese, cubed

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp oregano

1.5 cups shredded cheese (monterey jack and/or cheddar)

8 flour tortillas

Lightly grease a 7×12 inch baking dish.  Combine turkey, 1/4 cup picante sauce, cream cheese, green onion, cumin and oregano in skillet.  Place over low heat until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally.  Add another 1/2 cup shredded cheese to melt.

Spoon 1/3 cup turkey mixture down the center of each tortilla, roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish.  Spoon remaining 3/4 cup picante sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas, cover with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until hot.

Food Friday: Budin Azteca
















Today we land in Mexico.  One of my favorite food places.  This is a layered casserole that is really worth the effort.  Vegetarians can leave the chicken out.  For a variation, use pork instead of chicken.

Budin Azteca  (Aztec Casserole)

2 tablespoons oil

½ cup chopped onion  (125g)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped








Heat up a pan with the oil and cook onion and garlic until transparent.  Watch it so you don’t burn the garlic.


3 cups tomato puree (750g)

1.5 tsp salt

Cook until heated through








To another pan add:

1 tbsp butter

3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 small zucchini (courgettes) chopped

Cook a 2-3 minutes and add:

1/3 cup water

Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes until the zucchini is tender.








Prepare and cut into strips:

2 chiles poblanos (roasted, pealed, membranes removed)

If you don’t want to go through the roasting and peeling process, you could buy tinned whole green chiles and use them.








You will also need:

1 cup cooked shredded chicken

1 cup grated manchego, muenster, monterey jack or white cheddar cheese

1 cup (250ml) thick cream (crème fraiche)

corn tortillas – warmed


Oil a large baking dish.

Place a thin layer of vegetables on the bottom

Cover with warmed tortillas (5-6)






Add about half the tomato sauce to cover

Top that with half the remaining vegetables






Then half the chiles

Half cup cream

half the chicken






and half the cheese

Repeat the layers finishing with the cheese on top.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted (might be a little longer)

Serve with avocado and salad.