Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Cook Out Calamity

BBQ“I’ll gain ten pounds over the 4th of July weekend,” my friend lamented.  “Everyone thinks the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are the toughest time of the year to maintain your weight – but it’s the fifteen weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day that’ll get you.  I’m in the middle of one long cook out calamity!”

She made me hungry as she described what she’d eaten at the backyard party she’d most recently attended.

“From the minute I got there, I was like a Hoover vacuum cleaner,” she confessed.  “A hot dog – three, four bites tops, and it was gone.  Ribs dripping with sugary barbecue sauce.  Fried chicken cooked to crispy perfection.  The potato salad and the macaroni salad – carbs swimming in mayonnaise.  And don’t get me started on the desserts…”

When I weighed all this (no pun intended) against Turkey Day (which is really only one meal), a few holiday parties where you stand with a flute of champagne in one hand as you nibble on tiny hors d’oeuvres, and a tin of homemade Christmas cookies it takes you a good two weeks to polish off, I’ll admit, she had a point.

Still, this wasn’t a calamity.

There was an easy solution to her dilemma.  I offered her a simple, healthy, delish summer salad that looks pretty and transports well.  The perfect dish to bring to a cook out.

Cold Veggie Salad

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Life Lessons

My Dad – the Ad Man

The Ad Man 001Back in the day, my father was a G-rated version of Don Draper – one of the original “ad men” of the 1960’s.  For most of his career, he worked in the advertising department at NBC.  As a child, I didn’t understand what he did, but I surmised it was important because he worked in Rockefeller Center and had a view of the skating rink from his office windows.

Years later, I understood just what his job entailed.  His department was responsible for all the print advertising for the network.  The graphic artists and copywriters created ads and he produced them, by working closely with engravers and typesetters.  He then bought space in the various newspapers and magazines that would run the ads.  Faced with the pressure of constant deadlines, he often schmoozed and negotiated with the printers, all the while cajoling the artists to get them to turn their work in on time.  My father worked long hours.  And he suffered from migraines.

My father’s immigrant father owned a small, independent, neighborhood fruit and vegetable store in Queens, New York.  My grandfather spent his life lifting and carrying crates.  Despite how tired my father must have been from his long work week at NBC, he sometimes helped out at the family store on Saturdays, and I doubt he and my grandfather ever talked to each other about work.  I’m not sure if my grandfather understood the power of the media or saw the work my father did as meaningful.

When my father retired, he traded in his suit and briefcase for a set of golf clubs.  These days, he goes out to breakfast with the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out), wearing the Life is Good baseball cap I gave him a few years ago.  He thought the slogan was a reference to his retirement.  But it was also meant to acknowledge how hard he worked to give our family a good life.



Thank you, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.




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Pop Culture

The Coffee Culture

cup of joeOn an early morning train bound for DC, I made my way to the café car.

“How’s the coffee?” I tentatively asked the guy behind the counter.

“It’s hot, brown, and there’s plenty of it,” he replied with a hint of irony.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I smiled because his reference to the movie City Slickers wasn’t lost on me.

“I’ll have a small one.”

“You’ll be back for more,” he warned.

How’d he know I come from a family of java junkies?  That my dad’s addicted to his Keurig?  That my grandmother always started her day with a pot of espresso?  She’d say it wasn’t strong enough unless the spoon stood up by itself.  As for me, I started drinking coffee for medicinal purposes.  The caffeine was my first line of defense when a migraine hit.  Now, of course, I’m hooked.

As I drank what was, at best, a serviceable cup of joe, I recalled the luncheonettes of the forties and fifties where patrons sat at a counter with a proper cup and saucer and a piece of pie, and the smoked filled coffee houses of the sixties where young people congregated to talk politics and listen to folk music.  When did cars start coming equipped with cup holders so commuters could drive-through their favorite coffee chain in the morning on their way to work?  Today, teenagers are more apt to hang out at Starbucks than to try and get into a bar and, for most of us, “let’s meet for drinks” has been replaced by the “coffee date.”

The coffee culture is not only thriving – it’s taken over.  Did our 24/7 mentality cause it?  Maybe it’s because caffeine is an acceptable and legal drug.  Or because coffee just tastes and smells so damn good.

There are 30 coffee shops within an eight-block radius of my apartment.  Seriously.  I’ve counted them.  And I’m not complaining.  After all, it’s nice to have options.  So whether you like French roast, espresso, or Turkish coffee, prefer it hot or iced, frequent one of the big chains or a small indie like Thinking Cup or Wired Puppy – coffee is a must.

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Girl Talk

The Power of Shoes

red stilleto heels2I know, I know – women love shoes.  It’s been over three decades and they’re still making Imelda Marcos jokes.  Let’s face it, women like shoe shopping because it does not require looking in a full-length, three-panel mirror, in the harsh, critical light of the try-on room.  You can gain twenty pounds, and your shoe size won’t change.  Shoes are a sure thing.

Contrary to popular belief, shoes are not a mere accessory, like the common scarf or the utilitarian purse because shoes transcend.  Like DNA, shoes are the building block of the whole wardrobe – even more so than the dress – because shoes possess a certain power that only some women understand, and nearly all men fall prey to, at one time or another.  Shoes send subliminal messages.  What does a brown loafer say?  A sensible, low-heeled navy pump?  A red pump with stiletto heels?

There’s more to a shoe than its toe, body, or heel.  Like just about everything in this world – it’s all in the details.  Straps matter.  And any shoe that shows off the toes (and a fresh pedicure) commands a certain amount of respect.  Then there’s toe cleavage, an amazing phenomenon that occurs when the shoe is low-cut enough to reveal the magical little spot where the toes emerge from the body of the foot.  It is a smart woman, indeed, who speaks to a man with her shoes.  And it’s a lucky man who listens.

italyI maintain that shoes (scarpe in Italian) are works of art, and should be treated as such.  Just as a dedicated art collector hunts for that obscure masterpiece, a gal on a shoe shopping expedition must seek out shoes that are truly unique, and therefore foot-noteworthy.

Here’s a thought:  Could it be that my deep understanding and appreciation of shoes has anything to do with the fact that my ancestors all came from a country that’s shaped exactly like a boot?

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