Month: October 2009

Italian Appetizer: Prosciutto Wrapped Melon

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Proc and Melon

No recipe is really necessary here.  Just wrap slices of prosciutto around slices (or balls scooped out with a melon ball scooper) of cantaloupe and/or honeydew.  It makes a great salty/savory and sweet snack, and is a pretty addition to the table.

Prosciutto is also great wrapped around asparagus, shrimp, breadsticks, mozzarella, dates, figs, and just about anything else you can think of.


Italian Appetizer: Herbed Focaccia Bites and Roasted Garlic

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Roast Garlic


1 pound or 1 can premade pizza dough (a refrigerated canned dough, such as Pillsbury, works well)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ to ½ teaspoon of each of the following: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper

Preheat oven to suggested temperature on dough package.  Roll out pizza dough on nonstick baking sheet.  Brush/spread olive oil on dough.  Sprinkle basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper on top.  Bake about 10 minutes (or as package suggests), until dough is lightly browned.

 Roasted Garlic

3-4 whole heads of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

¼ to ½ teaspoon pepper

Large sheet of foil

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut off the very top portion of the garlic heads (about ¼ to ½ inch) and peel away some of the papery skin.  Place garlic heads on large piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Wrap foil around garlic heads, place on cookie sheet, and cook in oven for about 30-45 minutes (or until garlic cloves are soft).

 Cut up focaccia into bite-sized pieces and serve with roasted garlic.  Spread roasted garlic on focaccia pieces with a small knife.

October is Italian Heritage Month

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Italian Table

To all of you out there who have some degree of an Italian background (like me) and/or who love Italian things (Italian food, music, art, Italy), it’s time to celebrate.  Raise your glass of Chianti, cappuccino, or Italian soda in honor of Italian Heritage Month. 

The month of October was long ago designated Italian Heritage Month in honor of the contributions of Italians in everything from art and music to science and industry.  Coinciding with Columbus Day, which is observed on the second Monday of October (not so much in California, but more so on the East Coast), Italian Heritage Month was created to give people of Italian descent an opportunity to celebrate their ancestry via activities and events organized by various groups and communities, as well as by learning more about their family background and the Italian culture.  Now, it’s also a great excuse to just have some fun with family and friends.  And while Columbus Day can be a controversial topic, I like to think of Italian Heritage Month as something separate from that and noncontroversial. 

candel2      ChiantiBig

To celebrate, you might want to break out the Italian cookbooks, or your great-grandmother’s recipes, and cook up a feast.  Serve it on a table set with a red and white checked table cloth and colorful dripping candles held in old empty Chianti bottles.  Or, you might go out to one or a few of your favorite Italian restaurants, or even attend an Italian festival or event.

 Here are a few organized Italian-related events in honor of Italian Heritage Month.  Check back for more Italian ideas throughout the rest of this month.

 For lots of Italian events taking place throughout the U.S., visit

 Here’s the Great Italian Festival, taking place this weekend in Reno

 The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles is offering several events (including the 9th Annual Italian Language Week, October 19-25)

 The Italian Film Festival in Marin County (California) takes place on various dates in October and November:

 Here are some events taking place at the University of the Pacific, Stockton (California)


Shrimp and Crab Cocktails in Lemon Cups

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Ingredients (for 6 servings):

24 jumbo shrimps (cooked, tails on)

3 large lemons

2 cans crab meat


1 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 cloves minced garlic

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon pepper

 Wash lemons and cut them in half.  Scoop out insides of lemons (keeping peels intact).  Set lemon peels/cups aside.  Squeeze juice from lemons into a cup.  Mix together ketchup, horseradish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Add crabmeat and stir together.  Chill sauce/crab mixture until almost ready to serve.  Scoop sauce/crab mixture into lemon peel cups, place 4 shrimps around each cup, and top with pieces of avocado.

Overnight Santa Barbara Trip

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Mar Monte Hotel in Santa Barbara

             On a recent anniversary, my husband and I enjoyed an overnight celebration in Santa Barbara.  We checked into our hotel (the Mar Monte) and settled into our spacious second-floor ocean view room.  We shared a bottle of wine on our balcony while people walked, ran, skated, rode (on bikes and surreys) by on the path below.  Many of them waved at us, gave us the thumbs up, or said something like, “you’re living right.”  We smiled and raised our glasses in response. 

SB2View  SB9Hotel

State Street

             We eventually got ready and took a cab downtown.  We weren’t sure where we wanted to eat dinner so we decided to play it by ear.  While in the cab, I tried to remember the name of a romantic restaurant I had read about in the hotel magazine.  I could picture it: loungy, dimly lit, flickering candles.  I knew it was one word, and I was pretty sure it started with an E.  The driver didn’t know what I was talking about, and dropped us off in front of an Italian restaurant on State Street.  We went inside and had a cocktail at the bar.  We were considering eating there until we heard some people complaining about the service.

             We ended up walking all over State Street, browsing shops, and enjoying a few appetizers (cheese and crackers and crab cakes) at a small restaurant/bar.  Soon we were tired and ready to call it a night.  So we took a cab back to our room and ordered a pizza.

 Stearns Wharf 

             The next morning I woke up and remembered the name of the restaurant I couldn’t recall the night before: it was Epiphany.  Of course!   Since this was our actual anniversary, lunch would be our celebratory meal.  After a Bloody Mary at the hotel’s restaurant, Bistro 1111, we caught the Waterfront Shuttle to Stearns Wharf (it costs a quarter per person each way; you can’t beat it).  We lingered outside for a while because the warm sun and cool breeze felt so good.  We decided to have lunch at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.  We had eaten there a few years before and loved it.  The first time we each ordered the steamed whole Dungeness crab.  The more recent time my husband got the shrimp tacos (served over rice) and I had Alaskan king crab legs (served with onion rings and coleslaw), which I paired with a Santa Barbara Blonde (a light crisp ale). 

Monterey, Etc. 172

We then walked along the beach and back down Cabrillo Blvd. toward our hotel.  Along the way, we discovered Chase Palm Park.  It has a carousel, pond, all kinds of winding pathways, large shaded grassy areas, a fountain, and a huge playground.  We got back to the hotel feeling good for walking off a little of our indulgences over the last few days.  We hopped in our car and headed home.

 Mar Monte Hotel

1111 East Cabrillo Ave.

Santa Barbara, CA  93103


 Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

230 Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara, CA  93101


 Stearns Wharf

Located at the bottom of State Street in Santa Barbara

Cross Street: Cabrillo Boulevard

 Waterfront Shuttle and other transportation

 More information (including about Chase Palm Park, etc.)