Incredible Gingerbread Houses

by 2gourmaniacs on December 24, 2014

My sister’s gingerbread houses are certainly some of the most beautiful ones you will ever find anywhere.  Francesca has been creating these masterpieces for over 15 years, starting when my nieces were little girls.  These lovely holiday productions have been featured in many homes every Christmas, including ours.  They are too beautiful to eat (take some pictures first!), but when you do finally cave in, there’s no stopping!  Enjoy the images of the process and the final product, below, as well as the story behind them.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!



Thank you so much to my friend, Francesca Sammaritano, for sharing this lovely Christmas tradition with us. These images are a compilation of the last three years of creating these amazing Gingerbread houses! Francesca is Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Parsons The New School for Design, and we blogged about “Inside the Parsons Studio” here!


Gingerbread House Tradition

Family traditions make the Holidays special and magical. Growing up in Sicily one of my fondest memory was that of making “cuddureddi” (traditional Christmas cookies filled with fig jam-all homemade and locally grown) with my mother and my aunts.  We made so many cookies to last us through the season and enjoyed them at every gathering during the Holidays.

When my daughters were in preschool, I began my family tradition of making gingerbread houses and cookies.  The cookies would double as tree ornaments and make great gifts.  We have been making houses and cookies for the last 15 years; creating new designs, testing the template in cardboard first and then making it in the gingerbread dough.  Through the years we have made all sorts of houses: French Chateaus, Medieval Castles, Log Cabins, Victorian, New England even Gaudi style houses!  We make a variety of houses and keep one for our family and we give the rest out as Christmas gifts to our friends, as well as the cookies.  I save one house to raffle off and give proceeds to charity or donate to a local needy family or organization.

As my daughters grew and went off to college, we still kept this tradition; I would leave part of the house for them to decorate when they would come home for winter break.

It is a wonderful sensation that from all the baking, our house smells like gingerbread through the season, and that to us feels like Christmas and a time to celebrate with our very own tradition.













And see some of the “in process” shots below…




Lobster A l’Americaine

by 2gourmaniacs on October 19, 2014



Back in the day, especially when I lived in coastal Massachusetts, I made Lobster a l’Americaine regularly.  It was probably the first complicated Julia Child recipe that I mastered.  Now, living on the Eastern End of Long Island, I still have excellent access to great, fresh lobster.  For the past decade or so, I’ve prepared lobster in myriad ways; but my go-to method has been lobster either butter poached or sous vide in butter. Hungry for lobster the other day, I proposed to the other gourmaniac that we go old school and that I’d make Lobster Americaine. Dishes prepared à l’américaine consist of a luscious tomato-wine sauce.

I pretty much relied upon Julia Child here: although, instead of her suggestion for an accompaniment of risotto, I made fresh linguine .

Ingredients (Serves 4 people):

3  1-½ to 2 lb lobsters (hard shell, not shedders that are found during the late summer)
4-5 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 medium stalk of celery, peeled and finely diced
1 medium white onion, finely sliced
4 Tbsp finely minced shallots
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/3 cup of cognac
5 medium fresh tomatoes on the vine, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup fish stock (preferably home-made)
1-½ cup white wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 Tbsp chopped parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
6 Tbsp soften unsalted butter
Basil florets for garnish
The reserved coral (the red and / or green stuff  inside the lobsters)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Kill the lobsters. Separate the claws and knuckles, and the tails from the lobster bodies, reserve the coral and/or the green stuff inside the lobster bodies. With a heavy a kitchen knife or poultry shears, cut the tails into three pieces, detached the claws from the knuckles and crack each claw.

Coat a large Dutch oven (or casserole) with the canola oil and place on high heat on the stove top. When it’s hot, but not smoking, throw in the lobster pieces. Move them around with a wooden spatula, turning them. Cover with a lid and continue to heat, checking on the lobster pieces until the shells are red. (The lobster meat inside the shells shoul not be cooked by this point.) Transfer the lobster from the Dutch oven to a bowl. Immediately place the carrot, celery and onion in the Dutch oven, lower the heat and cook until tender, about five minutes.

When the aromatics are cooked, season the lobster pieces with salt and pepper, then return them to the Dutch oven, and increase the heat to high. Add the garlic and shallots and cover to build up the heat: don’t let the aromatics or the garlic and shallots burn. After a minute or so, remove the lid, pour in the cognac, and ignite with a long neck igniter. (Careful here!)

After the flames subside, pour in the wine and fish stock, and incorporate the tomato paste. Add the chopped tarragon. Reduce the heat and cook on the stovetop for several minutes until everything is simmering. (The aroma is intoxicating.)  Remove from the stovetop; cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place in the 350 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a simmering stockpot of salted water to a boil, and just as the lobster comes out of the oven, cook the linguine or fettuccine until al dente.

In a small bowl, blend the coral/green lobster stuff with the softened butter. It will look like a paste. Remove the lobster pieces from the Dutch oven and transfer to a bowl. Take ½ cup of the cooking liquid from the casserole, and add it to the bowl of the butter-coral mixture, whisk quickly, and immediately return to the Dutch oven. Whisk until combined; you’ll notice the cooking liquid begin to thicken. Add the lobster back in and coat with the thickened sauce.

Drain the pasta, plate with the lobster pieces on top of the linguine. Ladle some of the scrumptious sauce into each dish, and garnish with chopped parsley and basil florets.





Onion Soup

May 3, 2014

Perhaps my all time favorite comfort food is onion soup gratinee, or Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée . I have what you might call a passion and devotion for the stuff; I’ve been making it for over three decades.  If you’re thinking about making incredibly delicious onion soup, let me first say that unless you’re willing to […]

Read the full article →

Pennoni and Cheese with Kale, Peas, and Mint

April 14, 2014

Some time ago I glanced through a recipe for paccheri, the giant round tubes pasta, with fresh peas and mint. I don’t recall the source, but I remember that it wasn’t fresh pea season. So I waited until I could get some fresh peas and by the time I was ready for the recipe, I had […]

Read the full article →

Plum Tart

October 1, 2013

On the East End of Long Island, September is the season of mild temperatures and low humidity, bountiful harvests at local farms, and the greatly anticipated exodus of summer’s tourists. It’s also the season for prune plums; that wonderful small, purple-black fruit which begs to be eaten by the handful, or to be used in […]

Read the full article →

Grilled Oysters with Chicken Sausage Buttersauce

April 13, 2013

I just returned from a week in Western Canada. To be exact I was skiing in Banff, Alberta. In fact, one mountain I skied several times sat on the border between western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. Have I ever mentioned how much I love all edible things that come from the northwest Pacific ocean? […]

Read the full article →

Swordfish in Chilli, Coconut and Lime-scented Sauce

March 24, 2013

Swordfish in Chilli, Coconut and Lime-scented Sauce with Jasmine rice, Naan, and Herb Chutney The remarkable thing about Indian cuisine for my family is that we inevitably want more. That is, every mouthwatering bite which we cannot possibly consume during a dining feast shared at our favorite Indian restaurants (unless you happen to be my […]

Read the full article →

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Ganache Tart with hearts on top

February 14, 2013

This morning, I woke early to Mother Nature’s Valentine gift to all of us on the East End of Long Island; an inch or so dusting of fresh snow clinging to tree trunks and branches just as the sun came up. I’ve been away from Southampton for a little over a week and I missed […]

Read the full article →

Pad Thai Noodles

January 28, 2013

Ever since our latest excursion to Chinatown in lower Manhattan, where we filled our car trunk full of Asian provisions, all I’ve been cooking is Chinese, Thai, and Japanese – and loving it! Here is one dish I made recently; an easy Pad Thai without the tamarind. According to some sources, the original pad Thai […]

Read the full article →

Kimchi City

January 13, 2013

  In my experience, kimchi is something you either love or you’re running from the room if someone offers it to you. Needless to say I fall into the “love it” camp; in fact, consider me the camp counselor. But that wasn’t always the case. My first experience with it was decades ago in a […]

Read the full article →