Friday, July 15, 2016

Submarines versus Italians vs. Hero's vs...................

Boy, this was a tough nut to crack. Especially because of the various names used for basically the same sandwich. To nail down who was first to make, what we know consider, the Italian sandwich was easy. What was difficult was finding the origin of, and the components of, each sandwich. Let me explain, with my conclusion at the end.

The TRUE Italian

Submarine Sandwiches(or Subs for short) that we here in New England, with Maine in particular, refer to, are cheese, meat and veggie-laden sandwiches. They are also called Italians, although each should be given a stand-alone distinction, they are even alluded to as Italian Subs at times. 
But why are they called Italians? No, they aren't Italian in origin or components, but because they were first prepared by an Italian immigrant named . That's right! The same man as the current restaurant chain is named after. The Amato family decided to name these popular sandwiches after their home country and self proclamation, a sort of reverence and dedication, if you will.

Giovanni owned a small bakery/sandwich shop on India street in Portland, Maine in 1902.  The brunt of his noontime clientele were the dock workers on the ocean front. Come lunch time, Giovanni was selling his bread by the slice, and then the meat and cheese to order and separately to these workers.
After leaving Amato's shop to enjoy lunch, these same workers had to take the time to assemble their own sandwiches. It didn't take a genius to understand that if Giovanni were to make this sandwich ahead of time, throwing in some sliced green peppers, onions, olives and tomatoes, sans the pickles and lettuce-he could sell them at a higher profit and make his dock workers satisfied to the point they would come back time and again.
The construction of this early sandwich consisted of good, dry-cured ham(not salami as many food historians may allude to) and as mentioned, did NOT include lettuce and pickles. Both of these came many decades later during the early 70s, along with the cheaper boiled ham.
Many deli's and "Sub" shops continue to produce an almost exact copy of this original, including Bratt's Store in Stetson, Maine.

All you have to do is walk in to this neighborhood store and say "I will have an Italian please.". In a couple of minutes, you will have a 'sub' roll filled with ham, American cheese, pickles, green peppers, onions and olives.....NO LETTUCE! Those kinds of stores are few and far between so kudo's to my great friends at Bratt's, they are well worthy of a plug here.
I must also add that I was somewhat underhanded when I called my local Amato's in Bangor, Maine. I wanted to see for myself if they, too, lived up to the same standard as Bratt's. When a worker answered the phone, I asked him outright, "If I were to order simply an Italian, what would you put in it?" Gladly, and luckily I might add, he rattled off everything a true Italian should contain. Bravo to you folks as well.

(See paragraph below on Dominic Conti for the name of the sandwich that DOES consist of lettuce, but keep it out of my Italian!)

The Submarine
There was a certain Dominic Conti(1874-1954)an immigrant of Italian heritage from Montella, Italy. who moved his family to New York at the turn of the 20th century. He uprooted his family once again to move to Paterson, New Jersey a number of years later and opened a grocery store/deli in 1910 on Mill Street. For about 8 years, he was selling his version of a meat and cheese sandwich without a name.
In 1918, he marveled at a sunken submarine(the Fenian Ram) as it was being displayed at the Paterson Museum and noted that the hull looked just like his sandwiches. He immediately started calling his sandwiches Submarines. The main sticking point, of which actually separates a submarine sandwich from an Italian, is the lettuce that Dominic added to it from the beginning.
Another story, as related by his granddaughter Angela Zuccaro, is that Dominic didn't see the submarine until 1927, and that is was called the Holland I. She goes on to say that her grandfather saw the Holland I at Westside Park in Paterson, not the museum.
Many say that Benedetto Capaldo was the originator of the Submarine sandwich. Benedetto, who was a restaurateur from New London, Connecticut during the WWII era, made his "Grinder"(as he first referred to them as) with salami, onions, cheese and tomato. Benedetto changed the name of these sandwiches when he noticed that his sandwiches were little replicas of the submarines being built in the local shipyard. I will state, rather unequivocally, that I don't believe this story for one main reason, although several exist. It is way too similar to Conti's story, which is at least a dozen years earlier, and even up to over 20 years older, whichever the references you believe.

We also have the Hoagie, which has been around since the '30s in and around the Philly region.
Wedges are a New York term for the same sandwich. It is said to be a shortened version of the word sandwich.

Bombers in upstate New York are, in essence, the same as the Italian.

Also from the New York area is the Hero. These are said to have been "invented" at the turn of the 20th century by Italian immigrants. The story goes on to relate a beginning that is eerily duplicate to Dominic Conti, so this author will pass. The name, itself, however, is usually assigned to Clementine Paddleford, a writer for the New York Herald Tribune. She is said to have remarked "You'd have to be a hero to finish one."
 Grinders are rightfully NOT Italians! They refer to any hot sandwich that contains both meat and cheese. Why are they so called Grinder? That will be up to future food historians to figure out.
Many historians have cited the Oxford English Dictionary with relation to the beginnings of each of these names, but fail to take into account that a term or word does not make it into a standard dictionary until it has been in circulation for many years.
And lastly we have a combination of both names, as seen by an advertisement for Charley's Italian Submarine Sandwich Shop, on his grand opening. According to the 4 December 1936 issue of the Journal-Every Evening (Wilmington, DE), pg. 37, col. 4, he advertises for people to come and buy one of his:
              "Italian Submarine Sandwiches"
So Portland, Maine can rightfully proclaim to be the birthplace of this sandwich, regardless of the spin offs and names. We can all thank Giovanni for the introduction of this purely American sandwich as well as the purely American......way of confusing things. Sa-a-a-a-lute! 
 Here is an interesting reference to the Submarine Sandwich:
Box 385, Pandora, Ohio
Split a coney roll: hollow out: butter completely. Fill fore n 'aft and in the middle with three different fillings. Baked beans with onions, chopped egg and mayonnaise, diced ham with relish."
               -- The Lima News. Lima, Ohio. 12 April 1943. Page 5.

Sunday, July 3, 2016



Now that I am done with creating recipes, I am also bringing to a close another chapter of my culinary life, writing. Starting in September, I will no longer be accepting requests or offering my weekly food column to both online and print newspapers.
Already in dozens of sites and newspapers across the country, with special emphasis on New England states, my time is quickly catching up to me and there are exciting opportunities arising at each passing day that I MUST take advantage of.
But, I will give everyone a heads up. Between now and September, I will honor and write for any publication FREE OF CHARGE if they contact me before September. Those who are currently accepting my columns...don't worry one bit. I will continue to honor my commitment to you for many years to come, and I will also continue to write for any publication that signs up in the next 2 months for as long as you carry my column.
I can't thank everyone enough for standing beside me all these years and I hope to continue writing for my current clients, as well as any new subscribers.
It is very difficult to give quality content when you have children at home, extensively travelling to judge food festivals and, at the same time, continue to do appearances to promote ANYTHING New England related.
And for those interested, know that my columns are geared toward your geographic location. I do not write a column devoted to New England cooking if your publication is based, or is geared toward a different audience other than the Northeast or even America for that matter.
I write with ease of preparation, cost effectiveness and the bounty of nature as my backdrop and inspiration.
Please feel free to contact me at for more information.

It's Just That Simple!™

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Button Up and Belly Up

Puff Dough Recipe

This recipe is perfect for that pot pie you have been wanting to make or a great substitute for any recipe using puff pastry. It cooks up tender with a slight puffiness and layers of flakiness that works every time.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick(1/2-cup) cold butter or margarine
1/2 cup cold sour cream


In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder well. Add the butter, in pats, and mash into flour mixture using a fork or pastry cutter until it is half the size of peas. Using a sturdy wooden spoon or equivalent, vigorously stir in the sour cream until well incorporated.

On a well floured work surface, with additional flour at hand, begin kneading for a minute or so, until smooth, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll out dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin, with the dough about a half inch thick. Fold over one of the ends a third of the way, repeating with the opposite end. Roll out again to the same size as the original rectangle, working quickly.

Repeat this step 4 more times. fold over one more time without rolling out. Wrap tightly with a couple of pieces of film wrap as airtight as possible. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days before using.

To use, roll out to desired shape and size while cold between two large pieces of film wrap to prevent sticking.

Pork Button Pie
A true meat pie but the mushrooms are the star of the show here. Instead of flavoring this pie with meat, I flavored the mushrooms with this spicy Italian sausage.

1 Puff Dough recipe, above
4 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 link hot Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced thick
1/2(6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese


Make Puff dough and refrigerate 60 minutes. Meanwhile, make Pork Button Filling.

Using a large skillet over medium high heat, add shallots and sausage, stirring to break up sausage. Cook, while stirring frequently, until sausage is cooked through. Drain fat and add mushrooms, stirring to combine. Cook until all the moisture has come out of mushrooms and they are cooked, about 10-12 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together tomato paste and broth. Add to mushroom mixture and continue cooking until thickened, another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crumbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool until ready to fill pie.

Roll out half the dough between 2 sheets of film wrap until large enough to cover a 9-inch pie pan; set aside. Repeat with remaining dough. You may also dust work surface with flour and roll out accordingly.

Place one dough circle in pan, empty mushroom mixture on top, spreading out evenly. Top with remaining dough and crimp edges. Poke holes in the top to vent, brush egg over the top and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until well browned on top. Remove to cool slightly before cutting to serve.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lest We Forget.....

.....the deliciousness of tapioca. I remember as a child, tapioca pudding could be enjoyed at most restaurants, school cafeteria's and at home. We never blinked an eye when we were served this "soft-lumped" sweet, vanilla-tinged pudding. But that was the extent of the flavor...vanilla!

I don't even remember anything but a firm glob of whipped cream sitting on top, only to be folded in before we lifted a spoonful into our mouths.

I do believe, however, that it is a sign of the times that we rarely see this pudding served anywhere and anymore. Not because our palates have changed, per se, but because parents do not cook at home nearly as much as they did many years ago. Don't you agree?

It was a treat to have home baked cookies, pies, cakes and puddings because not only did our parents take the time to cook for us, but the array of sweet treats found at any store was miniscule compared to today's inventory.

With the vast array of candies, pastries and sweets found on counters, next to the cash registers, now, our taste transcends just simple and sweet. We have choices of flavors that we didn't have a generation ago, but those flavors are manufactured.

And because of our "fake food" indulgences of today. our bodies are slowly begging for change. Accepting the man-made treats with ingredients that are manufactured in a lab, is universally accepted by our bodies, forgoing anything natural and homemade.

Let's take a few minutes and prepare this classic dessert, but with something that compliments this dish, and ingredients our body desires.....fruit and flavor!

Beautiful Lemon-Coconut Pudding 


Such a gorgeous presentation, only "one-upped" by the flavor of lemon, coconut and strawberries, all mingling on your tongue as brightly as the visual impact of this Brazilian-inspired dessert. The coconut water is widely available in most supermarkets and if desired, add a couple drops yellow food coloring to the pudding before refrigerating.

Nonstick cooking spray
3 cups coconut, plus more for dusting
3 cups small pearl tapioca *
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups fat free or low fat sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups coconut water, divided
Grated rind from 1 lemon
Juice from one lemon
1 cup lemon curd
1 pint fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Lightly grease a 9 x 12-inch pan(or equivalent) with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, combine coconut, tapioca and sugar; set aside. Bring milk, 1 cup coconut water, lemon rind and juice to scalding over medium heat, stirring frequently. When just starting to come to a boil, immediately remove from heat and pour over coconut mixture. Blend in the curd completely and pour into prepared pan. Cover(without film wrap touching the pudding)and refrigerate until completely cold and firm.

Meanwhile, hull strawberries, slicing and setting aside 3 of them. Roughly chop remainder and add to a small saucepan with cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly and add remainder of coconut water. Mash with a sturdy fork while bringing to boiling over medium high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble, cut firm pudding into 12 equal-sized squares. Place 1 square on a serving dish, add a couple tablespoons macerated strawberries and top with another square of pudding. Repeat and serve cold, dusted with additional coconut.

* Or use 10 ounces(Four 2.75-ounce boxes) minute tapioca

Enough for 6 servings

Strawberries and Cream Tapioca


Tapioca is quite confusing. It is marketed in several forms, with each company portraying their product in different manners. To put all this in a nutshell, minute, quick cooking and instant are all the same. This is the type of tapioca I use in this "best of the best" strawberry pudding. There is also pearl tapioca, coming in small and large pearls. These can be substituted in this recipe as well by simply doubling the amount of tapioca and adding 1 additional egg. Cook as directed below, and you will have a treat even the hesitant children will love.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
2 1/2 tablespoons(25g)minute tapioca minute
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla


Place the milk in a container that is marked with volume measurements, such as a large measuring cup or blender container. Slice strawberries into the milk to bring it up to 3 cups total volume. Puree until as smooth as possible. Transfer to a medium saucepan with remainder of ingredients, except vanilla. Bring to scalding over medium heat, stirring almost constantly as it heats up. When thickened and hot. remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour into large bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until completely cold.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and stir in as many chopped, fresh strawberries as desired. Spoon into serving bowls and add whipped topping if desired.

Serves 4

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Last Month

I am been truly blessed with the outpouring of people who took advantage of the past 11 months with regards to creating recipes for particular websites, businesses and companies. I have been nonstop(with the exception of 2 weeks at the beginning)developing and creating unique dishes and there is only 1 month to go.

This will be the last month, the last time actually, that I will be doing this because of a number of projects I am involved with.

I want to thank over a dozen businesses for taking advantage of the "cheapest" rates anywhere for developing recipes. I began this promotion because it is the 100th anniversary of The Yankee Chef name, so I drastically cut my rate over 50% and boy, did that bring out the folks.

Again, this is the last month and the last time I will ever do this, so take advantage now because this is it people.

Want recipes that EVERYONE will enjoy, but in a way NOONE else can prepare? Yup, that's me!

It's Just That Simple!™

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Who Would Have Thought?

One of the last ingredients you would expect in a creamy and decadent dessert would be a staple on both borders of America.....corn.

Dried, ground corn to be precise. Our forebears used Southern grits and yellow cornmeal in both savory and sweet dishes, but in the past couple of centuries, this practice has all been forgotten. And that is a shame.

Naturally gluten free, cornmeal of any type offers a taste of the past as well as a surprisingly tasty, contemporary addition to puddings. If the word gritty first comes to mind when using cornmeal, put that right out of your mind because cornmeal is now almost flour-like in texture.

Here are two recipes that use both types of corn in a way that will have you scratching your head as to which will be your new favorite.


Southern Sweet Pudding with Apricot Sauce

Sweet and satisfying. That is the best way to describe this coconut-laced pudding with a hint of almond flavor.

2 1/4 cups almond milk
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup old fashioned grits
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 apricots
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

In a large saucepan, add almond milk, orange juice and coconut. Mix and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly add grits, in a thin stream, while whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until very thick and creamy. Uncover, remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla. Spoon into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile make topping by peeling, pitting and finely dicing apricots into a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the orange juice with cornstarch and add to saucepan with remainder of orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until apricots are tender and sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, scoop some pudding into a bowl and top with Apricot Sauce. Serve cold.

Enough for 3


New England Sweet Polenta Pudding 

Have you ever thought of using yellow cornmeal as a dessert, let alone a pudding? If you want what will turn out to be one of your favorite puddings, try this recipe. It turns out super smooth and without the grit you may think is inevitable. A surprisingly simple, sweet and true Yanked recipe.

1 cup frozen blueberries
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup almond milk
1 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
6 tablespoons cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Add blueberries and honey to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, mashing blueberries as they thaw. Reduce heat to low once all berries are thawed and mashed, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until thickened. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or until cold.

Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients to a medium saucepan, whisk well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes. You will have to constantly stir the first minute, then frequently for the next 4 minutes. When thickened and smooth, remove from heat and transfer to 4 serving dishes, Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, about an hour. To serve, simply remove both items from refrigerator and stir blueberry topping before equally dividing on top of each pudding.

Enough for 4 servings

NOTE: If desired, place the cooked polenta in one large bowl and refrigerate. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator, vigorously stir until smooth and transfer to individual serving dishes.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Foremothers, not Forefathers!

I don't think I have ever seen the word foremothers in print in any history book....ever! And what a shame. The work they did, along with the end result of cooking over a literal fire, must have been something to be proud of. (I know I hold them in the highest regard.) Using what little they had or could reap, the bellies of all family members were content and ready for each new day.

And if I could name just 2 desserts that screamed New England, they would be Brown Betty and Buckle. Of course Grunts, Cobblers, Crisps and Charlottes are at the top of the list, but because these two recipes have been almost entirely forgotten, they hold a sentimental place in my culinary thoughts.

My, the smells that must have been wafting through each household back "in the day" when our foremothers were cooking. And I am talking about the wealthy AND the backwoods, log cabins. The chatter that graced each table when they sat around enjoying not only the fruits of their labor, but as a family unit to boot harkens those days to my thoughts all the time.

And labor intensive they were. In order to make the Buckle, the wild berries needed to be hunted down(although I am sure most households knew where the picking was)and gathered. Making it home before eating them first must have been the hardest chore of all.

Once home, then the cooking began. But if you think I am frugal, households of old were much more careful with using ingredients, especially flour, sweetener and eggs. That is why Buckle is made with just enough batter to hold it all together.

As for the Betty, apples were plentiful in the countryside's of New England and most families had them on their own property. They weren't much to look at, with scabs covering half the skin, but once peeled, no one knew the difference.

So with wishful thinking and a salute to our forefath......err, foremothers, let's take a culinary trip back in time and enjoy age old recipes.



Real New England Apple Brown Betty

Brown Betty. Yet another New England original. The origin of the name Brown Betty is in dispute everywhere you look. Some say it is from some English teapot, while others ramble on and on. Again, this is one of those simple names with an equally simple beginning. The term brown obviously refers to the color of both the apples(when baked) and the bread topping. Breads in colonial America were brown because of the wheat used. So when you add them to this dessert, it goes without saying that the brown color seen throughout is par for the course. As for the name Betty. There can only be one answer. Like the dish itself, it came from whoever first made it, with word(along with the recipe itself)being shared and passed on. Simple, delicious and a great dessert that has withstood time and palates.

3 cups diced, firm apples
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1 tablespoon molasses
Betty Topping:
3 slices bread, diced small
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons orange marmalade, optional *
Vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Toss apples, raisins, cornstarch and cinnamon together well. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk together apple juice and molasses and pour over the top. In a separate bowl, mix diced bread, cinnamon and marmalade so that all bread is moistened with marmalade, adding more if needed. Evenly sprinkle over the top of the apple mixture, loosely cover with tin foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are softened and the topping is crispy. Remove to cool slightly before serving with ice cream or whipped topping.

* If you don't use marmalade or even your favorite preserves, you will need to substitute the same amount of melted butter or margarine.

Triple Berry Buckle 

Not at all what other sites tout as authentic Buckle. This is truly the way to do it, with just enough cake batter to hold together the rich, syrupy fruit that is bubbling up through the batter that "buckles" as it is cooking. Enjoy this classic New England dessert as it should be made.

3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon apricot preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups(1 pound bag)frozen or fresh berries *
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder and brown sugar until blended well. Add milk, egg, preserves and vanilla, stirring until just combined: set aside. (Lumps are perfectly fine.) In another bowl, toss berries with cornstarch and transfer to an 8-inch square pan. Pour batter over the berries evenly without mixing. Bake 34-36 minutes, or until browned on top and the liquid is bubbling up as a syrup. You will not be able to test doneness by touching because of the berries. Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot or wait until completely cooled for an even sweeter dessert.

* Any combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. As long as you use the correct amount, even one type of berry will work perfectly.