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Entries in The Box (3)


Iaciofano Family Christmas 2011 – Prep Time!

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for Santa to squeeze his corpulent figure through tiny crevices for the purpose of Easy Bake Oven delivery. Time for Aunt Emily to drink tumbler after tumbler of gin on the rocks while complaining about John's hair and the lack of grandchildren in the family. Time for The Box to don his baby blue bathrobe and distribute gifts to his 30-something children.

Let me tell you this: a good time will be had by all.

In preparation, Marmo has stocked the fridge with all kinds of edible nonsense. Behold!

I've itemized some of the more exciting residents of the fridge:

1. Grapefruit Juice: for making this drink.

2. Orange Crush: The Box's beverage of choice.

3. Truwhip: The all-natural alternative to CoolWhip.

4. Limoncello: For proper Italian digestion. Make your own like this.

5. A Lot of Seafood: Christmas Eve is all about the seven fishes. I believe Marmo has plans to combine all seven of them into one masterful, magnum opus of a seafood salad. Stand by for that.

6. Tomatoes: And a lot of them. I don't know what these are for specifically, but I'm sure we'll put them to good use.

7. Brussels Sprouts: Roast 'em!

8. A Red Pepper: Roast this too!

In addition to an overflowing refrigerator, Iaciofano HQ is also crammed to the gills with cookies. Marmo has taken to hiding them around the house because both The Box and John will find and eat them all before Santa has a chance to get his white-gloved mitts on them.

In fact, The Box has something to say about MARMO AND THE CASE OF THE HIDDEN CHRISTMAS COOKIES:

As Christmas approaches each year, Marmo devotes her considerable talents to the creation of a range of exceptionally edible Christmas cookies.  She packs these cookies always in a selection of tins intending to preserve them from consumption until the holiday actually arrives.  That is where the fun starts!
Just as Sherlock had his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, Marmo is bedeviled by John and The Box who, individually and together, do their best to locate each cookie stash and, of course, to eat all cookies found with no thought of preserving any for the holiday.  An appropriate image for the reader to have in their mind would be of two white sharks  cruising the beach of a fat farm.  In years past, total decimation of the cookie population has occurred well in advance of Christmas causing Marmo to have to engage in a fit of re-baking amidst screams, admonitions (and denials).

Over the years, Marmo has become sneakier and sneakier in her efforts to hide cookies in locations that she hopes are immune from discovery.  Sometimes these efforts work, and sometimes they don’t.

As the score sheet has not been filled in for this year, we bring you some of Marmo’s favorite hideouts.  No doubt, John and The Box will be up to their usual tricks. The Box has threatened to employ Toby in the process...

If you are ever at the Iaciofano house at Christmas time, here is where you can find the cookies:

In the laundry room above the dryer, keeping things like bubble wrap and shoe polish company:

In the bottom most drawer under the "catch-all" shelf in the kitchen:

In the cabinets where the "seasonal" and "random" dinnerware is stored:

 John Chimes in: First let me say... J.....   E..... T.....  S....... JETS JETS JETS!  Christmas could start a bit earlier this year in the Iaciofano household if Rex and Gang Green deliver a Christmas Eve, Revis Island smackdown to the stupid a$$ Giants.   Ironically, the spread of the game (last I checked, the Jets giving two and a half poitns) is the same number value assigned to myself and the Box's over/under for cookie tin's cleaned out during the game.  I devour those Christmas tree shortbreads like it's popcorn.

But aside from the Jets. It is our wish that all readers of this blog - and I suppose non-readers too - have the Merriest of Christmases/Holidays/Festivuses.  And while you cannot physically join us at the table, rest assured that you'll be hearing about all of the food, antics, and Aunt Emily sponsored Italian guilt trips in the days that follow.  Happy Holidays. 

Oh, and for those asking the obvious question - "John, aren't you going post your amazingly creative and hilarious 'Twas the Night Before Christmas poem for all to read?"  Why, yes.  It's right here.  Thank you for the compliments.



A Halloween Message from The Box

The Real Purpose of Pumpkins

History buffs will recall the Wars of the Roses, which occurred in the mid to late 1400’s.
Basically, these were a series of civil wars fought for control of the English throne.
Henry IVHenry VHenry VI

*(The above depict historically good ideas for jack-o-lantern faces)

  Certainly, the Wars of the Roses should not be confused the “War of the Roses” a rather dark 1989 comedy about a bitter divorce, starting Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Neither of these “wars” can hold a candle to the “Pumpkin Wars” that were waged in our home from many years.

For the past week, readers of this site have been subject to a variety of different pumpkin uses and concoctions. While interesting and entertaining (although I, personally, don't like the taste of pumpkin in anything, except pumpkin pie) pumpkins were really put on earth for a sole purpose…to be carved up in to Jack-O-Lanterns.  

When Elana was very young she, like most young children, was relatively easy to entertain. When Halloween came around, I carved the “traditional” pumpkin with triangular eyes and nose, and the typical half-moon pumpkin grin complete with a choice of either pointy or squared-off teeth.

A typical "Box" pumpkin creation.

 For many years in succession the “traditional pumpkin” was the standard by which all neighborhood pumpkins were judged, and was always well received by Elana.  This blissful state of pumpkin admiration continued until Elana entered her teen years and decided that the Box’s pumpkin was the equivalent of a pre-historic cave drawing.   Bhimbetka rock painting. Thus, Elana embarked on a serious of “artsy” pumpkin carvings primarily designed to demonstrate that my own carvings were, most likely, the creation of cro magnon man.   For more years than I care to remember, we were forced to endure any number of Elana’s fanciful renderings which she, somehow, figured out how to etch into a pumpkin.  

For example...

Needless to say, each successive Halloween mandated a comparison between the Box’s traditional work and Elana’s latest creation. That process became like comparing Mount Rushmore to the Guggenheim. Readers will not be surprised that, each year, Elana declared herself the winner of this contest. In fact, I am absolutely convinced that, on one occasion, she paid off little kids to comment on how great her pumpkin was while it sat next to mine on the front steps of our home. Not surprising, I am sure, for anyone that has competed against Elana including the hundreds of triathletes who have felt footsteps up their backs just milliseconds after an aggravated shout of “move it!”.  

NYC 2011

The Great Pumpkin War had a hiatus for a time while Elana lived in Southern California. As we all know, that is because, in Southern California, pumpkins are celebrated as a religious objects, and the seeds are ground up and smoked to ward off evil spirits whenever there is a mudslide, earthquake, or forest fire (which can be most days).   Readers must know, however, that there will be no armistice. The forces of good, traditional (triangular nose, eyes, etc.), pumpkin carving will triumph over artsy-fartsy dalliance again this year because a pumpkin is not an art canvas. A pumpkin is a pumpkin, is a pumpkin.  

Happy Halloween!

Elana's note: I never paid off those trick or treating kids. They recognized genius on their own. Even if it was on a pumpkin.



The Box Makes Antipasto!

 Today's post is written by our Dad, a.k.a "The Box"... 

As devoted readers of this blog have, no doubt, noticed, Elana has followed in the illustrious footsteps of Marmo and become an accomplished cook and baker…..although Elana’s approach to cooking is occasionally reminiscent of Scipio’s approach to Carthage

Indeed, even John has mastered a reasonably comprehensive cooking skill set which he is not above using to impress the fluttering moths that frequent the light of his flame.

It will probably come as no surprise that, surrounded as I am by these accomplished foodies, I have had little motivation to develop any cooking skills of note with the exception of scrambled eggs and the world’s best fraudulently homemade New England clam chowder. Rather, I have devoted my talents to consumption.

There is, however, one area in which The Box reigns supreme….the preparation of what is easily the WORLD’S BEST ANTIPASTO.

Okay, I admit that making antipasto is not “cooking”. In rebuttal, I would argue that putting together a good antipasto requires the presentational skills of a food stylist and the abilities of a chef to assemble a collection of diverse food items into a complementary tasting presentation that, in most cases, serves to get the juices flowing for a great meal to follow. That is why, in Italian, “antipasto” means “before the meal.”

A brief confession is in order: The Box has been known to create very large antipasti (note the plural), and to heavily indulge in same, leaving little or no room to partake of the “main course.”  This nefarious practice is of particular use when the “main course” consists of an item that I deem unfit for human consumption regardless of how well prepared; i.e., Turkey.

 But enough blather. It’s time to get to it.

What You Need:

The beauty of antipasto is that the choices of ingredients can include almost anything.  Over the years there have been some ingredients that have come and gone in The Box’s antipasto, but over the last few years a reasonably fixed set of ingredients has evolved.

CeCi Beans….marinated in red wine vinegar and olive oil (fuhgedabout your shi-shi balsamic vinegar).

Artichoke Hearts….not too oily.

Roasted red peppers….make them yourself, forget you ever saw a jar. (Elana's note: Since this is No-Cook Week, we can't endorse making your own roasted peppers. Until next week, when we will show you how).

Olives….your choice (go for a little color). But, your choices must include pitted black olives.

Cheeses….you need at least two, preferably a good sharp provolone (try Vanta) and some fresh mozzarella (smoked mozzarella is a good option – try both).

Genoa salami….get the good stuff! If it’s made on this side of the Atlantic give it to your dog.

Soppresata….again, please, the good stuff. Preferably homemade by a good Italian deli or butcher.  Nothing from the deli case in shrink wrap.

Composition & Assembly
This is the whole show people.

First, you need a large platter….round or oval will do. Then follow this assembly formula:

The veggie type things (ceci's, artichokes, roasted peppers, olives) can go in the middle, confined by the fat and salt-free items (salami, soppresata, cheeses). If you wish, you can incorporate a small bowl to hold some items in one place (ceci’s in particular).

Next, go to work on the perimeter.

Roll the Genoa salami into cylinders and stack along the side.

Follow with one of your cheeses. The provolone should be cut in relatively thin rectangles.

Next, go to the soppresata. Try to slice this a bit on the bias so that you get thin oval slices. 

Follow with your second cheese as you continue around the perimeter of your platter. However, if you use the mozzarella balls you will have to get creative and may want to “sprinkle” them around your creation.

This is an ITALIAN dish: Figure out how much stuff you need for the number of people coming and multiply by four. If you run out..or even come will be a disgrazia!

The only food article missing in this “recipe” is Uncle Harry’s Chicken Liver.  Chicken liver in an antipasto??  That’s right cupcake! But that’s a story for another day.