This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.


Breakfast Nook Pizza

This blog is a window into our lives – John's and mine. It's our breakfast nook on the Internet and in each post, we invite you all in to have a look around.

We like to keep the nook upbeat and tidy (unlike John's apartment - egads!), but sometimes there are crumbs on the tablecloth and the napkins are wrinkled. Sometimes I haven't been at the nook in a few days and John's too busy golfing (or combing his hair).

But even if we're not around, we'd still like for you to feel welcome, because what we think is most important is not the state of your living quarters (every wayward sock, a harbinger of chaos!), but that your guest feel comfortable.

Which brings up a question: How comfortable can you be in someone else's space?

Where's the bathroom?

Can I get a drink of water?

Is this thing equipped with fire extinguishers should things go horribly awry?

These are all questions you may ask yourself upon entering someone else's space and this is ok.

When I have guests over to my tiny studio apartment, I like them to feel at home. Likewise, I want you readers to feel at home on this blog, too. If you visited my apartment, I'd tell you the following:

The bathroom is to the right and is decorated with an assortment of bike shorts and sports bras (sorry).

The water (which I will gladly fetch for you) is from the tap (NYC's finest!).

And the fire extinguisher is under the sink (possibility for things going awry: 65%)

More, than this, when I have guests over, I feed them. It's what a good Italian girl does.

On the blog, you don't have to worry about where my bathroom is and if you need to unleash various fire retardants. But I'm still going to feed you...digitally speaking. So have a seat in our breakfast nook, pour yourself a cup of coffee and relax. I've got a pie in the oven....a pizza, of course.

Elana's Breakfast Nook Pizza

What You Need:

For the Oat & Walnut Breakfast Pizza Dough:

1 envelope active dried yeast

1 ½ cups warm water – 100 degrees F

3 cups whole wheat flour (all purpose, bread, or 00 flour)

1/2 cups oats

½ cup walnuts

3-4 tablespoons ground flax seeds

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pizza stone and pizza peel, semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting. If you don’t have a peel or a pizza stone, you can also use a cookie sheet. If you are using a cookie sheet, it’s not necessary to use semolina flour or cornmeal. Just place your dough round directly onto the cookie sheet and add toppings.

For the toppings:

1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced

1 quart fresh blackberries

1 quart fresh blueberries

a soft, mild cheese such as a farmer’s cheese

grated zest from 1 lemon

confectioner’s sugar for dusting

For the balsamic syrup:

1 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons Colavita Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup water

pinch salt

1 cup fresh blueberries

grated zest from 1/2 lemon

What To Do:

For the Dough:

1. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water.

2. Stir in ½ cup of the whole wheat flour.

3. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let stand for 30 minutes to let the mixture bubble and rise.

4. After the 30 minutes are up, pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer. You can mix by hand as well in a large bowl.

5. Add the remaining ½ cup of warm water, salt, sugar and the olive oil to the food processor.

6. Add the walnuts, pulsing to chop them finely.

7. Combine the remaining 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour, ½ cup oats and ground flax seeds in a bowl. Slowly begin to add this mixture to the food processor, ½ cup at a time.

8. The dough will start to hold together and form into a ball.

9. When this happens, remove the dough from the bowl, and place on a floured counter top.

10. Knead the dough until it is smooth. This may take about 10 minutes.

11.  Dust the dough lightly all over with flour and place in a large bowl, covered with a kitchen towel.

12. Let it rise for 1 hour.

13.  After an hour, the dough will be doubled in size. Punch it down in the center and divide the dough into four or five equal parts.

14.  Form each part into a smooth ball and let them rise, covered, on a floured surface for 30 minutes.

 You can store the dough covered, overnight in the refrigerator, or use it immediately. If you chill it overnight, allow the dough to come to room temperature before using it.

Before you top your pizza, heat your oven to 500 degrees F. If you are using a pizza stone, place the stone in the oven and heat it up for at least 30 minutes prior to baking on it.

This dough will be slightly less bouncy and pliable, as it has less gluten than traditional white flour crust. Gently press out the dough from the center on a floured surface until you have a flat, round disc, about 6-7 inches in diameter.

Take out your pizza peel and dust it with semolina flour or cornmeal.

Place your stretched dough onto the dusted peel. Make sure that you can easily slide the dough around on the peel.

Now you are ready for toppings!

Spread the farmer’s cheese over the top of the stretched out dough.

Layer the strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries over the top of the cheese.

Slide the pizza in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the berries start to pop and ooze purple juice over the surface of the pie.

Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with fresh lemon zest and confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle with the blueberry balsamic syrup (recipe follows) and serve with coffee or tea!

For the Balsamic Syrup:

In a small sauce pan, heat the sugar and balsamic vinegar together until the sugar has dissolved. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the blueberries pop and become soft.

Set-aside. (Can be made a day in advance; heat slightly or bring to room temperature before serving)
NOTE: I used Colavita oil and vinegar products for this recipe, as this is June's Slice of the Month installment for Colavita's monthly Facebook pizza feature. Please go check them out on Facebook to download the fancy PDF cookbooklet!



Hobby's Delicatessen in Newark, NJ

I'm certainly not an authority on much.  Italian food, 90's Hip Hop, organizing bachelor parties and the movie "Heat", perhaps I'm an authority on, but not much else.  I'm certainly not an authority on Jewish Delicatessens, but, damnit, I do know a good sandwich when I have one. And at Hobby's Deli in Newark, New Jersey, I "discovered" a classic.

I say "discovered" because I think I'm the only attorney in Northern New Jersey who only recently visited Hobby's.  I heard about it, sure - most commonly during an internship at the US Attorney's Office in particular - but chalked up its praises as mere hype from the unrefined palates of attorneys.  After all, what did boring lawyers know about good food?  Alas, on a recent trip to the Federal Courthouse in the Brick City, I finally made my first stop to Hobby's and what a delicious experience it was. 

I arrived at Hobby's thanks to the heady guidance of one of my cooler bosses at my law firm, who deemed it appropriate to extend our brief stay in Newark owing to our (his, really) victory on a bail hearing.  He's also Jewish, which helped in ordering some other menu mainstays (like knish).  Above you can see a white tomato, which was actually pickled; a first for me and honestly quite crisp and delicious.  As advised by my waitress, a Dr. Browns root beer must be accompanied by my soon to be eaten corned beef sandwich.  It was quite refreshing. L'chaim!

The Root beer came in handy when washing down the flaky, moist and substantial knish.

And there she is.  A beautiful, towering, corned beef sandwich that is as tender as can be.  The corned beef is pickled on the premises, and perfectly scrumptious, salty, moist, and robust.  Each bite is faintly accompanied by a subtle "squish" sound, owing to the fine craftsmanship and delicate texture of the sliced meat.  To dress it up a bit - and this is encouraged, I promise - I slap on some of Hobby's wonderfully spicy mustard which acts as the perfect sidekick to it all.  A brilliant combination.  The bread is fresh, sturdy, but not overwhelming or distracting towards the meat.  Really an amazing sandwich.

My boss even introduced me to one of the owners, Marc Brummer, who could not have been friendlier and more appreciative of my enthusiastic praise of the corned beef. 

Overall, the entire experience at Hobby's was more than worth it and I'll definitely be coming back.  Never has a potential trip to the Federal Courthouse in Newark been so appetizing.

Overall Experience - Animal House



Super Foods Cookbook

Good morning! It's a rainy morning here in New York City. The usual cats and dogs are teeming from the gray clouds above. I'd like to bring a little color to this gray day for you... a little color in the form of food.

SUPER FOODS! I know it's been a little while since I last posted. I've been working. On this cookbook, in fact. It was released via Colavita's Facebook page last week, and I'd like to share it with you here and now.

First, pretty please with sugar in the raw on top, make your way to Colavita's Facebook page and like them. You'll be able to download all kinds of crazy goodness in the form of cookbooks. These cookbooks are usually produced by yours truly, so I have an agenda. 

And the agenda is stuffing you full of good for you food that also tastes amazing. Take for example the following, featured in the book:

The roasted beets and pineapples sit on a tart made of graham cracker crumbs and walnuts, with just a touch of sugar. A little tangy goat cheese and fresh mint make it all come alive. I made this from the Morristown satellite office and fed it to The Box and John for dinner. The Box and John don't do veggies. But they did this tart. And went in again for seconds. You should do it too.

Or how about:

This pasta is so simple your pet monkey could do it. The giant stove top wok is an asset, but not a requirement — a regular skillet or frying pan works just as nicely. As a bonus, if you're in a time crunch, you can use frozen shrimp. So get that pet monkey to work! I mean, he WAS just lying about on the sofa diminishing your supply of Kettle Chips, was he not? This is a better use of his time.

If you're into grains, you'll love this salad Farro, Beet Greens and Salmon Salad:

Did you know you could eat the green tops of beets? You can – and they are packed with vitamins and actually taste good. The cucumber and mint dressing give this salad a light and summer taste. Throw it on your outdoor picnic table this summer, with some Watermelon Mojito's on the side... Hey, I'm here to help.

I can't leave out breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. These Blueberry and Oat Pancakes are not your run-of-the-mill breakfast cake, although they will keep you running around the mill, as they're packed with good, energy-providing grains. A little blueberry balsamic syrup gives these cakes a tangy sweetness.

But this isn't all you'll get! If you call now, you get this FREE set of Japanese kitchen knives! 

No, you won't. Sorry, I got carried away. But you WILL get more recipes. The above are just a few of the featured dishes. Have I won you over? If so, click here and download your PDF. These recipes are perfect for summer time. Perfect for outdoor parties. Perfect for feeding families, or even just yourself. I've tried all of them and they have my stamp of approval. I hope they get yours too.


Solid (not spectacular, but solid) Italian Fare at Rafele

The other day, a couple of friends and I headed to Rafele - A recently-ish opened West Village Italian spot (on 29 7th Ave South) which seemed to be coupled with almost universal praise according to yelp, urban table, and this random Italian dude I met at a house party not too long ago who proclaimed that Rafele had the best Italian food he'd eaten since moving to the states (true story).  I had actually visited Rafele a couple of times for Pizza (made in a Neapolitan wood burning oven) and was so impressed that I made it a point to return so sample their entrees.  Bring it, Rafele.  Let's see what you got.

The scene inside is a pleasant one.  There is a capably staffed bar immediately to your right, ample indoor/outdoor seating, high ceilings, an open kitchen, and a seemingly friendly (and at times a heavily accented) Italian wait-staff.  Our Neapolitan waiter politely steered us into moderately priced wine, which the group appreciated.  A good start so far.

Rafele continued a strong impression with their appetizers. The highlight was actually a complimentary side dish: a deliciously sweet, syrupy Caponata bruschetta with peppers and olives.  We also ordered carciofi (fried artichokes) and a buratta mozzarella which sat over a small mound of endives.  Both were pretty freaking awesome, I must say.  The crispy, salt artichokes were complimented quite nicely by runny, tangy and slightly sour buratta.  Bravo.

Momentum nonetheless stalled for our pasta courses, I must say.  I ordered a Tagloilini ai funghi with mixed mushrooms and a truffle pate.  The noodles, which had a delicate and skillful homemade consistency, were a bit bland.  Some also stuck together, as opposed to how a homemade pasta dish should behave: where the noodles just sort of effortlessly coexist together in a frictionless, harmonious arrangement of glory and fine craftsmanship.  There was decent-to-moderately pleasing truffle flavor however, and a faint, but noticeable and appropriate level of oil throughout the dish.  I was simultaneously pleased and dissatisfied, if that is possible. My two buddies had similar blandness complaints about their pastas as well.

The slightly disappointing dinner was at least temporarily forgotten by a fine dessert performance, a rich, light, creamy slice of fresh ricotta cheesecake. 

In judging the overall experience of Rafele, I'd give it a solid score, but with some fluctuating consistency.  The appetizers, dessert, and environment were more than adequate, however the pastas were a tad disappointing... but I'd be willing to give Rafele a second try.

Ultimate experience - Black Swan



Soft Boiled Eggs to Run With

I've never made a soft boiled egg. This is a true story. I've always been slightly intimidated by the task, preferring to hard boil the bujeezes out of my eggs just to make sure they are cooked.

This, I've decided, is silly. Because I love a runny yolk. I love how it merges with toast to create that bread-eggy goo that when sprinkled with salt and a little fresh pepper is breakfast magic.

So this morning (yes, I am writing to you same day!), I went for a run. This is not unusual. But today it was. Since my biking accidents, I've been having some trouble running. There's something going on in my right leg that's just not quite right.

But today, I decided I was going to conquer two obstacles together: the lack of soft boiled eggs in my life AND this running business.

So I went for a run. I ran SLOWLY. So slowly, that stationary objects were passing me. And I had to remind myself with every step to keep it slow. I have this problem: I like to jack up the pace like a maniac, thinking faster is better. More is more and so must be better. But much like the eggs, less is sometimes more. Less cooking time, less speed, less less less...

I returned home with a 40 minute easy run behind me, groceries and these flowers in hand and set to the task of making breakfast. I looked up "soft boiled eggs" on the Internet. What a resource, this Internet. What did we do before this? Ask people? I found this article on soft boiling eggs and followed the instructions exactly.

I was not disappointed. I made two soft-boiled-to-perfection eggs, with a little whole wheat bun slathered in coconut butter. Coconut butter is my new favorite kind of butter.

So, go slowly. Make some soft boiled eggs. And stop to smell the flowers.