My Top 10 of 2019
A look back on my favourite time-saving, crowd-pleasing recipes and tips of the year
I began to write the Bread & Olive Oil column earlier this year for two reasons: Foremost, I wanted to share the story of our family, and particularly of my late husband, Cosimo Pusateri, who turned his parents’ neighbourhood Italian grocer into one of Toronto’s very first destinations for gourmet food. The second reason for the column was to share a handful of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned in more than 30 years in the grocery business and as a home cook. I’ve come to rely on these timesaving, flavour-enhancing, crowd-pleasing recipes and techniques particularly while hosting our big family gatherings. Now that 2019 is almost over, I wanted to compile my favourites in one list. In no particular order, here’s my top 10 list from Bread & Olive Oil columns past.
- There’s no better bread for making French toast than eggy, fluffy Harbord Bakery’s Braided Challah, found in our baked goods department at Pusateri’s. My most decadent recipe for this breakfast staple can double as dessert: It’s stuffed with Venchi Chocolate Hazelnut Suprema, which blows Nutella out of the water for depth of flavour, and topped with coconut flakes for an extra layer of flavour.
- As I wrote in May, barbecuing is a kind of science: It’s best to use the two side burners on your grill and leave the middle burner off. Keep the meat just off-centre so it’s not cooking over direct heat. Start by giving a quick sear on both sides at super-high heat setting to lock in the juices, then bring the temperature down to cook to medium rare. And always let the meat rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.
- One of my favourite keto-friendly dishes is Green Eggs and Ham, a satisfying combination of eggs, pancetta, pesto and chef Chuck Hughes’s amazingly versatile Hot Pepper Spread. My favourite pancetta (which has a great fat to protein ratio) is Piaceri D’Italia Pancetta Coppata, a delicious product we carry at Pusateri’s.
- Olives and olive oil are essential to any Italian kitchen. I absolutely love Sarafino’s Homestyle Baked Olives, prepared with hot pepper, garlic, oregano and fennel seeds. Baking these black olives makes them especially salty and dry (in the best sense) and great as a topping for homemade pizza.
- For a twist on extra-virgin olive oil, I often use Agrumato Citron from Abruzzo. It’s made by crushing lemons alongside the olives and it totally elevates my go-to side-dish recipe for crisp rapini sautéed with sweet shallots and garlic and served with spicy chilies.
- The ideal ingredients for a charcuterie board? Easy. Keep the cheese selection down to the classics: quality parmigiano-reggiano, with a mix of a soft brie or boursault, a bold gorgonzola and a sharp cheddar. Then add beautiful meats—prosciutto, salami and bresaola—as well as cerignola olives, figs and candied nuts for sweetness.
- This mango smoothie recipe is a nourishing fix for busy days when you’re running around. It does double duty as a brain and body booster, thanks to ingredients like MCT oil, coconut milk and collagen.
- Roma or San Marzano tomatoes (fewer seeds) are best for making your own pasta or pizza sauces. Start by cutting the ripe tomatoes (not too hard) in half and cooking them down in a big pot for about 45 minutes. The tomatoes then get passed through a mill, which separates the skin and seeds from the juice. Jar the juice in a glass container with a few leaves of fresh basil until you’re ready to use.
- I’m a sucker for good panettone, and not just at Christmas time. I love it best on a cool, crisp winter morning, toasted with mascarpone or thick cream and jam for breakfast. One particularly pillowy panettone, made by Fratelli Sicilia, comes with a side jar of a sweet, spreadable crema di pistachio—a hot flavour this year.
- When I asked celebrity chef and Pusateri’s collaborator Stefano Faita to name his pantry must-haves, he singled out two things in particular: unseasoned breadcrumbs and anchovies. “Adding them automatically enhances the flavour of practically any dish,” he said. “They’re a game-changer when I’m cooking.”
I hope this list gives you a few easy techniques and ingredients to throw into the mix when you’re cooking and entertaining your loved ones. Above all, here’s to a happy holiday season, and a healthy and delicious 2020.