“Consider the eggplant, shiny purple, tight skin. Like something Prince would wear.”
Aaaah, it seems like yesterday we uttered those words. They ring with the poignancy of Edison’s “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” It may just as well as been yesterday as it was three years, and four kitchens ago that we shot our first episode of DIO! Where does the thyme go, I tell you. It goes in the pantry, you know that.
Sista Sal and I lived together in a tiny little cottage on the sleepy CT Shoreline. Yes, Yankee Key West as I liked to call it. And I maintained the outdoors for she and I. We had hanging baskets, decorative barrels, pots, cans and window sills. There was a festive Perennial Love Garden chock filled with hasta, Allium and black-eyed susan’s. I grew giant-sized sunflowers that stopped traffic. There was bamboo. Side note, the bamboo grows spreads like, well you know, it spreads crazy like. It spread under the neighbors fence who thought he might harvest it. He was sure it was asparagus. Oh, Yankee Key West. My point was around here and I know it will resurface. Like bamboo.
The size of our vegetable garden grew each year. It was lined with brick (we’re Italian) and subject to many trips by Ma (The Tomato Thief). Eventually a fence was put around it to prevent rabbits, deer and
yes, Ma. Every fall I buried fish breakdowns in the native american traditions to fertilize the soil. Our bounty was always amazing. The tomatillo plants and the eggplant plants were the most amazing. Their leaves and branches had a jaunty raconteur nature to them. These plants were the “Zoot Suit Riot” of my 90’s garden life. Take a moment and smell the Seattle Coffee. Such a fun time.
Sista Sal asked recently if there was a great recipe for her bounty of eggplant and if it could be kid friendly. Sista Sal speaks, Li’l Bro listens.
- 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (I like Tillamook)
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup oil for frying
- Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Place eggplant in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on medium-high 3 minutes. Turn eggplant over and microwave another 2 minutes. Eggplant should be tender, cook another 2 minutes if the eggplants are not tender. Drain any liquid from the eggplants and mash.
- Combine cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, onion, garlic and salt with the mashed eggplant. Mix well.
- Shape the eggplant mixture into Patties. Heat oil in a large skillet. Drop eggplant Patties one at a time into skillet. Fry each side of the Patties until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes on each side. Freezing Patties for half hour prior to frying help with keeping their shape.
Not that we’re ever in need to celebrate, the holidays just seem to find us. And look here, buns!! Desert served at breakfast! A great way to feel like you’ve stepped over the drudgery and gone directly to sweetcity. Put a smile on your face, and probably a little sugar residue. Make the time to treat yourself on this cold February day and bun-ish the blues, get a sticky bun. (photo via Food Network)
Our favorite to the date was one we had at the little Whistle Stop Cafe in Deep River, CT. Owner/Chef/Magician Hedy Watrous fresh bakes her buns and if she’s sweet on you, she’ll drop it french toast batter and griddle you up a slice of heaven. It was a time-stand-still kind of moment. It was Christmas in 2011 but we’re still tasting heaven. Thanks Hedy! Go see her and read about Whistle Stop Cafe here…
The Whistle Stop Cafe
108 N. Main Street
Deep River CT 06417
Where we’ve been and where we’re going is a matter of Grace. We’ve had amazing meals and events for which we are extremely grateful. We are looking to the future with great friends and loyal family, Thank-you to All!!! Hopefully our next season will be filled with brioche, ganache and the panache we relished last year. Dish It Out! experienced such great reception, we count ourselves blessed in its creation. People came hungry and are ready for seconds.
It should also make mention that both halves of the creative team mounted their weddings Season One’s inception, gracefully. Director Christopher Gregson and the lovely Operations Manager (muse) Marie Pettit
tied the knot in the great state of Texas among family and friends. Chris’s guiding eye has made DIO! a treat to the eye as well to the tummy. And the poor many has to hear Tony’s damn laugh ad nauseam in post production. Marie wears many hats in the studio, all of them in grande style. You also know Marie from her juggling garlic in Episode 5. Planning weddings long distance can be trying from the logistical stance, planning a wedding period is trying. The happy couple showed amazing verve on their first to day to taste a better life. Gracefully their exeunt flourish from the church was to the coronation music played at the end of first ‘Star Wars’ movie. Their humor resulted in a fantastic day of joy (Chosen) and jam sessions.
Producer Michael Vinton and Tony Spatafora gained a hyphen in the Blue state of Connecticut. Michael keeps all the visiting talent craftily entertained (Red Vines and Pellegrino) and the crew on schedule. Tony keeps getting in the way of the camera, for better or for worse. They married out doors by the CT River. The autumnal beauty behind them. Also not far behind them was a massive down pour driving guest to flee for shelter under tarps, gazebos and suit jackets. The happy grooms and invited loved ones accepted the blessing from above gracefully, and laughed all the way to the “I do’s”.
It’s pretty terrific to be able to do what you love, with people you love. It’s a blessing really. And for this especially we say thanks. We are coming back to you full force in Season Two. Guests, Goblets and Elves will be filling your monitors as lustful as an episode of ‘Game Of Thrones’. Okay, maybe not that lustful, we’ve dumbed down the inbreeding, and still cook on natural gas. DIO! has been on a great journey, mostly tasteful. We’ve married, we’ve tarried. We’ve tried, and fried and plied. We’ve catered, belabored. and tailored many wonderful food events that we’re gonna share with you, oh are there some great stories to share. Sound good? Well than pull up a chair we saved you a spot for you and your friend. Glad to see you, we hope you came hungry…..
Grace. I said it.
Happy Happy, and nice nice.
If you haven’t already, we are so likeable on FB https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dish-It-Out-With-Tony-Spatafora/136142373142982?fref=ts
, and followable on Twitter, @GetDish
Our lives are open, so burn up those lines like a Baked Alaska……..operators are standing by.
A couple lifetimes and botox appointments ago, I was a gardener. I did it for the gladiolus, not as a source of income. Situated in sleepy Westbrook, CT (Yankee Key West) There was this little cottage by the sea with knotty pine. I lived there with Sista Sal in my, ha- ha, salad days. I was an ideal tenant with christmas flaire and a penchant for landscaping. The seasons were (ivy) covered in great style. My gardening included maintaining containers, bulb planting, vegetables, herbs, annuals and perennials. I had this mad idea that the lawn should be covered in daffodils every spring. Each year the lawn got a little closer to Holland. It was great recreation to bring color and produce to our table.
Every year the “Perenial Love Garden” running the length of the property was introduced to new and inspired cast members. Hosta, bleeding hearts, anemone, phlox, allium; we had them all. One magical day friend Robin asked if I wanted some bamboo. Sharing ‘starts’ of new plants is common practice in Yankee Key West. She brought me a couple innocent looking pots. The Garden was going to look so cool. The bamboo turned out to be a last straw (as it were). I didn’t realize it was so virile. So agro. Bamboo spreads like a, well, like a bad idea in your early twenties. And it popped up everywhere. The Love Garden, the lawn, the adjacent driveway. The second season it made it’s way into the neighbors yard who assumed it was free white asparagus and served it with lamb one night. 86 the bamboo from the Perennial Love Garden Sista Sal asked. DIO READERS: I moved it to the far corner of my folks yard, thinking the shade would keep it dwarfish. It’s proximity to the marsh brought it a new life. Here’s a pic from a recent visit.
Twelve years later it looks like a location shot for “Crouching Tiger, Sleeping Dragon”.
I would continue to experiment in my Garden Of Good and Evil. I had a corn period, fail. I got fascinated with castor bean plants, also known as mamones. They were freaky leaved tropicals that grew wicked gnarly (remember, it’s New England) flower buds resembling blackberries. We had to say “No to Mamones”. Mile high sunflowers and morning glories were a triumph. I planted broken down fish remnants in the steps of our New England forefathers as an amazing fertilizer. My garden beds came to be the stuff of Johnny Appleseed legends. They could turn it out.
Now I told you that story to tell you this one. Every year the veggie garden got a little bigger, a little more daring. There would always be a featured guest star for each growing season. After Habanero-Hot Summer circa 1977 I thought to cool it down with planting tomatillos. Tomatillos are little fruit popular in mexican cooking.
Tomatillos grow in this charming little husk that splits open as the fruit ripens. The husks resemble chinese lanterns that I thought would match the bleeding hearts and bamboo in nearby garden beds. They produce a lot of fruit in charming little lanterns. So much so that at you can’t keep up with them as they ripen. So they may have fallen into the soil and rotten. There was so much fruit. I didn’t even think it would matter. Until the next year.
I had moved to new digs a mile away but retained liberal visitation with the Gardens. Sista Sal calls me to come over and see the fruits of my labors. All that fruit seeded the veggie garden, now in her care. Tomatillo plants were popping up all over her well appointed vegetable garden. Bamboo Redux! Almost overnight they spread like crazy. For the remainder of the growing season, there were tomatillos for everyone. Sista Sal, the neighbors, friend Robin, Uno and Due all got there fill of the tasty fruit popular in Mexican cooking. We’d leave them on doorsteps with notes saying “Freshly grown, not to be thrown”. We had to get up on what to do with this bounty, actually I had to get up on what to do with it as Sista Sal had organized a mutiny on the bounty. I had left the garden beds better than I had found them and my fruit needed to be dealt with.
I pickled tomatillos. I fried tomatillos. I baked tomatillos. I made beautiful sauces for enchiladas.
My most successful recipe for the tomatillos was for salsa. People seemed to eat it up. It was easy to assemble and always thought of as a nice gift and not “here comes Tony again with his GD tomatillos”. I thought you might like to give this a try for your summer snacking.
When you take your first taste please think of a tiny cottage surrounded by little flowers and a madman burying fish carcasses in the backyard. You’ll understand what Sista Sal got to live with and some very special summers.
Taste a Better Life!!!!
1 lb. tomatillos chopped
4-5 radishes chopped
1/2 cup red onion chopped
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
1 jalapeno chopped (seeded if you need not sweat)
3 scallions chopped
juice of one lime
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.
We love us some sandwiches. Give us two (or more) pieces of bread and a couple items in between and the happy dance will commence. On the run, on the lawn or after a major holiday they have mass appeal and by that we mean that church services can make you think of sandwiches. Mass appeal. We digress. The joy of the sandwich is that you get to eat with your hands and it’s okay. It’s revered. Lift and chew, ahhhh the simplicity of it all.
We will eat them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or midnight snack. Dessert is not out of the question either, hello ice cream. They are compact, filling and inspirational. The refrigerator becomes your palate and the bread your canvas. And may we say right here that your palate is very becoming. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)Your ingredients have the possibility of achieving masterpiece status. We send thanks to that famous Earl that is credited with coining the term. Bread meet meat. Meat meet bread. His reasoning in ordering it was that he wanted to keep his hands clean while playing cards. We can dig that.
in our hearts and often on our minds, the sandwich has so many wonderful little variations and names too. There are submarines, pockets, hoagies, and grinders. The Dagwood, the Club, the Melt and the Hero. We wrap, we open-face, we dip our bread and stuff our little faces. Po’ Boy is one such alias. From Louisiana like so many of our favorite things (Cajun and Creole cooking, zydeco music, Chef John Besh) the Po’ Boy serves up sandwich joy in many varieties of fish, meats and veggies. It’s history stems from a store owner feeding local street car operators during a strike. The workers were considered poor boys for the situation, and the cajun dialect edited the name. It’s the Big Easy y’all, laissez bon temps rouler. The great gumbo/melting pot that makes New Orleans special allowed many different cuisines to spin the Po’ Boy. Cajun shrimp, southern fried catfish and the tasty muffalata are great examples of heritage cooking showcased as easy as slicing bread. The Vietnamese entry is called Banh Mi. Again, great bread keeps it all together. Open a baguette and add a center protein, usually barbecue’d then jazz it all up with pickled vegetables, jalapenos, cilantro and lime. They had us at Ba-.
We’ve been accused of obsessing. When a recipe grabs us we become their slave. We’ll eat it many many many times over. We will stalk the ingredients down to fill our pantry in case we need to improvise in the middle of the night. We will buy multiples and not blink. Walt’s Market on Main Street in Old Saybrook CT has an Italian Combo grinder that became a monday tradition before work. Mind you the market was two towns past where work was, but that didn’t matter when we made our way to checkout then to work. In Santa Monica CA all you need say is Godmother and Bay Cities Deli and people nod their heads reverently. We have mentioned the Cajun Chicken Grinder of Creative Cooking in Westbrook CT. “The Temple Of The Unusual” ‘s owner Master Chef Sunil Malhotra enslaved the Yankees of sleepy little CT Shoreline town with his cajun seasoning. People would return two and three times a week to get their
fix fill of tasty tasty saucy sauce. And now in accordance with the prophecy, sorry wrong tangent there. Bewiched our latest banh mi-bsession has gained accomplices. Dear Sista Sally is made to pick up what’s arguably the best Banh Mi in the country from a little market in Philadelphia. She then must drive it to CT or mail it to Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter if it’s eaten the next day, this sandwich RULES. The most popular one they offer is with a marinated tofu so good you’ll lick the paper it was wrapped in.
Point is Po’ Boy. We’re sandwiching together many things DIO adores in the next episode. We’ve got grinders, pickled vegetables, New Orleans and tofu. We’ve got joy, we’ve got fun, we’ve got Season One almost wrapped. Banh Mi to you is our gift to eat with your eyes and hands. Our veggie Po’ Boy is so good (and easy) you’ll swear Sista Sally just delivered from PA. And if you needed any more teasing. , we’re featuring the beautiful Colleen Foy as our guest sous chef. More on her soon………
You know the drill babies, Come hungry and get ready to taste a better life because we’re……gonna Dish It Out!