Italian Stir-fry Improv

November 14, 2010 | Filed Under Italian Cuisine, Italian Recipes, Pasta, Poultry | 7 Comments 



The other day, I pulled out the only food left in my fridge — some chicken cutlets. I had no idea what to do with it. So, I e-mailed a friend who likes to cook. 

"Got any suggestions of what to do with chicken cutlets? Hmmm… I’m cooking for my mom and myself." 

He responded:

1) – Dice them into 1/2" cubes, add Olive oil, salt, oregano, "Italian seasoning" to taste. Chop onions, carrots (very thin), mushrooms, chunks of pineaple, fresh tomatoes, and stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.

2 – leave them whole, put them in a 2" deep sauce pan or baking dish, cover with 1/2 bottle of ranch dressing, add 2 big handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff, the fresh hard Parmesan. bake for an hour (give or take) then serve over pasta or with baked potatoes.

3) – Season and salt to taste, pan fry at a high heat, server over a fresh salad with the best thai peanut dressing you can find.

4) – Put cutlets on sheet of Saran wrap. Wrap and seal. Put all cutlets in a zip lock bag, pressing the air out. Seal back, stick in freezer, go out to dinner.


I laughed at suggestion #4 and emailed him back to let him know that I was going to try suggestion # 1. Except that I had to go grocery shopping for the rest of the ingredients — mushrooms, pineapples and carrots… etc… My fridge was empty. 

He wrote back: 

Italian stir fry is my "what’s left in the fridge?" recipe. Add anything you want. Be careful with the pineapple. It’s a strong flavor, so don’t use too much.  Season to taste. This is improvisational cooking at its best.

Ready to start cooking, I went grocery shopping.  Okay… Okay… I didn’t go shopping.  Instead, I had the grocery store deliver my groceries. When I finished preparing the meal, I garnished it with cilantro, my favorite herb (parsley would have been nice, too.).  And since I like a little bit of heat, I added some chili sauce.  Loved it!   Delicioso!  I should do some more improv cooking, for sure.




Italian Stir Fry Improv

Chicken cutlets (diced into 1/2" cubes)
Olive Oil
Italian seasoning
Onions (chopped)
Carrots (sliced thinly)
Pineapple (chunks)
Tomato (fresh, diced)

In pan, add olive oil, diced chicken cutlets.  Add salt, oregano, Italian seasoning to taste.  Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, chunks of pineapple, fresh tomatoes.  Stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.

Adventures of an Italian Food Lover

July 22, 2007 | Filed Under Books, Food Blogging Events, Italian Cuisine, Italian Recipes | 20 Comments 

Penne with Fish Sauce

Adventures of an Italian Food Lover


Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Catherine of A Blithe Palate joined together to host a food blogging event in celebration of the release of cookbook/travelogue, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger.  The rules for this event were simple:  Instead of writing a review, participants were asked to choose and prepare a recipe from the book and share a story about a friend or family member with whom they’d share the dish.  Or the participants could share a story  about a friend or family member who inspired them to prepare the dish.   

Many recipes, from this book with beautiful watercolor illustrations that took me to Italy, caught my eye.  I decided to make the Penne with Fish Sauce.  Penne is one of my favorite pasta types and I was intrigued with the idea of the fish sauce. 

My friend Francine inspired me to make this dish.  A wonderful cook, I think it’s something that she’d like.  She’s one of  my best friends from my college days.  I still remember the times when we  suffered breezed through our Classical Latin classes together, trying to remember those damned challenging declensions and conjugations.   We studied very hard and prayed (very hard) that our translations of the authors and poets’ works, like Virgil, were correct.  We prayed that our professors wouldn’t pick on us.  *Sigh* Those were the days.  Thankfully, we passed our Latin classes with good marks. 

For many years when I didn’t cook, my friend would invite me over her place and prepare meals for me.  She’d encourage me to cook and give me simple recipes with which to start. 

The recipe calls for fish to be cut in small strips.  I cut the fish in strips but as it cooked and I stirred the pot, it crumbled.  Probably it was because of the type of fish that I used — blue fish (one of my favorites).  However that didn’t detract from the taste.  The combination of the fish sauce, lemon zest, parsley and penne make the meal delicious.

I think that if Francine tasted this meal I prepared , she’d like it alot and I hope think hope that she’d say I did a good job. 



Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda

February 23, 2006 | Filed Under Italian Cuisine, Italian Recipes, Seafood, Tilapia | Leave a Comment 


Image hosted by A recipe by celebrity chef, Giada, this Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Caôda (also spelled Bagna Cauda) is very good! From Ivonne, I learned that bagna caôda means ‘hot bath’ in Italian.

The recipe made for an easy cooking adventure for me. I prepared the bagna caôda sauce first — the main ingredients included anchiovies, olive oil, and orange juice.

Then I fried the fish. When cooked, I drizzled the sauce over the fish and served it with rice and salad.

Mmmm, Mmmm, good! Good to eat and easy to prepare! The tilapia fish was light and fluffy, and the citrus bagna caôda added a special explosive taste to the fish.

In a previous recipe post where I used tilapia (Fish with Tomato Sauce/Peixe com Mollo de Tomate), the question came up whether one could find tilapia in Italy. According to Helen of Beyond Salmon, the answer is ‘no.’ However, there are many other substitutes, such as:

Catfish Cod Hake Haddock Pollock Red Snapper Bass Sea Bream (Orata in Italian) Mediterranean Bass (Branzino in Italian)

Helen says that you can use, pretty much, any white or cream colored fish that is delicate or slightly firm as a substitute for tilapia. Thanks for the advice, Helen!


Ed. Note: Gia has informed me, in the comments section, that while not popular, tilapia is available in Torino.


Ed. Note:  Feb. 1, 2011 – Seems like I’ve lost half of this post, including the recipe.  I’m reposting the recipe, which is by Giada De Laurentis of Food Network.


Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda

Giada De Laurentis (Food Network)



  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 (6-ounce) skinless tilapia fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Cook the butter and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over low to medium heat just until the butter is melted, stirring frequently. Add the anchovies and stir until the anchovies dissolve, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Stir in the orange juice, basil, and lemon and orange zests. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt.


The bagna cauda sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before using.


Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees F.


Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and brush both sides of the fish with remaining 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Working in 2 batches, fry the fish until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while cooking the second batch of fish. Drizzle the sauce over and around the fish and serve.







White Fish with Lemon Vinaigrette

October 5, 2005 | Filed Under Italian Cuisine, Italian Recipes, Lemon Vinaigrette, Seafood, Tilapia, Vinaigrettes/Salsas/Sauces | Leave a Comment 


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Last night, I made a fish dish from Giada’s show, Everyday Italian — Tilapia fish, covered with cannellini beans, mixed with radicchio and fish broth; lemon vinaigrette drizzeled over the talapia.

The vinaigrette consisted of fresh lemon juice, Italian parsley leaves, garlic, finely grated lemon zest, extra virgin oil, salt and pepper – just the right finishing touch.

The tilapia fish was tasty and flaky. The cannellini beans, soft and melted in my mouth.

Everything about this dish was perfect. Well almost.

The radicchio tasted bitter. Very bitter. Is that the way radicchio is supposed to taste or was it spoiled? Yuck!

I liked the dish and tried again. This time, I used a different kind of beans (I don’t remember which) since I didn’t have cannellini available. Unfortunately, I had the same problem with the radicchio. Again, it tasted bitter — so bitter that it was inedible. I will try the recipe again, but I will not use radicchio. It’s official. I do not like it radicchio.



White Fish with Lemon Vinaigrette


8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 3 shallots, thinly sliced 1 large head radicchio (about 12 ounces), coarsely chopped 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 1/3 cup fish broth Salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 (5 to 6-ounce) whitefish fillets, such as tilapia All-purpose flour, for dredging Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows


Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth, and cook until the beans are heated through, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season the radicchio mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 14-inch (or 2 smaller) nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge the fillets in flour to coat completely. Shake off the excess flour and fry 3 fillets in each pan until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Spoon the radicchio mixture over the center of the plates. Top with the fillets. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette: 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves 2 cloves garlic 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper.






Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken)

September 16, 2005 | Filed Under Italian Cuisine, Italian Recipes, Poultry | Leave a Comment 


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I felt like having some fried chicken (pollo frito), something I haven’t had in a long time. Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network channel has a nice recipe, which I tried for the second time.

The first time I prepared this recipe, I didn’t fry the chicken in the oil long enough. The outside was golden brown but the inside was still raw. I tried to ignore that fact and act as if everything was fine. My sister brought me back to reality very fast! She refused to eat the chicken. I was highly annoyed. She could have eaten it, after all the work I went through slaving over a hot stove with a pot of hot oil! Just joking. I don’t blame her.

I’m happy to say that today, my chicken came out perfectly! I had no problems putting the ingredients together and results came out very well – a light lemony-tasting fried chicken.

Paz Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken)


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (2 to3 lemons, depending on size) 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 cups olive oil (approximate amount) 1 cup all-purpose flour (approximate amount) Lemon wedges, for garnish 6 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, for garnish


In a large casserole dish, whisk the lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt to blend. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day, turning the chicken pieces occasionally.

In a large cast iron frying pan or other heavy frying pan, add enough oil to come 1/3-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, drain the marinade from the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with pepper. Working in 2 batches, dredge the chicken in the flour to coat completely. Shake off the excess flour and then carefully add the chicken to the hot oil. Fry until the chicken is golden brown and just cooked through, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.

Arrange the fried chicken on a warm platter and serve with the lemon wedges and parsley.


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