Mazzaro’s Italian Market

Mazzaro’s Italian Market on 22nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg, Florida is genuine trip into an Old World European market. The only market like this that Ample Bites has experienced in the U.S. is Freddy’s Pizzeria in Cicero, Illinois (see earlier post). Mazzaro’s is Freddy’s “on steroids”.

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Mazzaro’s offerings include produce, a full butcher counter, fresh and frozen seafood, coffee roasting, a coffee bar, beers and wines, cheeses, a bakery, a deli, and a counter with prepared foods and fresh-made pasta. On top of all of the aforementioned delicacies is a vast selection of canned goods and grocery items, most of which are Italian favorites and brands.

Ample Bites made a first (and definitely not a last) visit at the tail end of the lunch hour and the place was packed with patrons. The prepared food counter and deli were 15 to 20 people deep. Many were ordering a sandwich or pasta for lunch. Some where picking up prepared items for dinner tonight. The traditional Italian favorites like Eggplant Parmesan, the Meatball Sandwich with Sauce and Provolone, and the Panini all looked delicious but the seared Sesame Tuna Wasabi, which is served on grilled bread with pickled ginger and alfalfa sprouts, caught my eye.

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The coffee bar was full of folks enjoying an espresso or cappuccino and a pastry. Many appeared to be people watching or observing the adjacent bakery and fresh pasta preparation areas.

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The sweet bakery items are all authentic and beautifully prepared. The fresh pasta shapes seemed endless and the fresh pasta dishes looked amazing. The Cheese Manicotti with Lobster looked particularly intriguing to Ample Bites.

The wine cellar and cheese area was a very active area. The cheeses ranged from prepackaged brands to fresh mozzarella, provolone and many varieties of aged gorgonzola. The wine selection is not huge but Mazzaro’s sells a quality spectrum from a domestic Napa Valley offering to Tuscan Chianti Classico and Brunello.

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Outside the store is a small covered seating area where patrons can dine-in and enjoy prepared items.

A thirty-minute spin through Mazzaro’s barely scratched the surface of the Italian market experience. Thankfully I had just finished lunch or my basket would have been filled with much, much more than the Gorgonzola Cheese Spread, a prepared pizza (to be frozen and baked later), a can of clam stock, a loaf of fresh-baked bread, two dark chocolate candy bars, a block of Fontina cheese, a jar of San Marco pizza sauce, some Farina 00 flour, and a bottle of 2011 Banfi DOCG Chianti Superiore.

Thankfully these provisions won’t last very long and a return visit will be necessary soon.

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Apricot-Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

After doing the non-traditional barbecue it was time for Ample Bites to do something a little more mainstream. Pork tenderloin is a perfect vehicle for fruit glazes. This apricot-balsamic glaze was inspired by ingredients in my pantry including a jar of apricot preserves and a bottle of The Olive Mill Blackberry Ginger Balsamic vinegar.

Apricot-Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
(Recipe by Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs trimmed pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp Creole Seasoning (such as Emeril’s Essence)
4 ounces apricot preserves
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp Olive Mill Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring pork tenderloin to room temperature. Season evenly on all sides with the Creole seasoning and let stand for 30 – 45 minutes. Drizzle pork with olive oil before grilling.

In a small bowl mix the apricot preserves, ginger, garlic, and vinegar, Whisk until fully combined.

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place tenderloins on the grill and sear on all sides, about 1 – 2 minutes each. Reduce heat to medium indirect and grill the pork for 10 – 12 minutes until reaching firmness. In the last 5 minutes of grilling glaze with the Apricot-Balsamic mixture. Glaze and turn every minute until all sides have been covered.

Removed the meat from the grill and let stand for 2 – 5 minutes before carving and serving.

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Sauteed Spinach with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan

I make sauteed spinach frequently. It is a great side dish for salmon, pork chops, steak or even a pasta entree.

I really like the flavor of roasted garlic and I often use it in mashed potatoes or as a spread for crostini. My sauteed spinach recipes typically include minced garlic, that is softened before the spinach is sauteed, but until I saw this recipe I never before thought about incorporating roasted garlic with sauteed spinach.

Sauteed Spinach with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan
(Adapted from Chicago Foodies)

Serves 4

1 pound fresh spinach
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
About 25 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Olive Mill extra-virgin lemon olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup thinly grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

First, preheat oven to 400F. Put your garlic in a pan and cover it with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with tin foil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and lightly browned.

Using a large pan, saute the butter on medium-high heat. As it begins to melt, add the spinach. When it has wilted, add in the juice from the lemon. Stir in the garlic cloves whole, along with some of the remaining olive oil. Mix in salt and pepper, and top with the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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An Orange-infused Simply Asian Dinner

I adapted both of these orange-infused recipes from Simple Asian Meals cookbook by Nina Simonds using products from two of my favorite sources, Adoboloco, a Hawaiian hot sauce maker, and The Olive Mill, a local purveyor of quality olive oils and vinegars.

The prep time for both of these dishes combined is less than 30 minutes making this healthy Asian dinner combination perfect for a busy week night or a quick but elegant meal on a weekend.

Orange-Maple Salmon

Serves 4

1 ½ Tbsp orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 ½ Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp Adoboloco jalapeno sauce (or other mild hot sauce)
1 Tbsp Olive Mill Blackberry Ginger balsamic vinegar
1 4 salmon steaks about 6 oz each
3 Tbsp olive oil, for oiling the grill

To make the Orange-Maple sauce: mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour half into a bowl and cool slightly. Keep the other half warm.

Arrange the salmon in one layer in a shallow pan, add the cooled sauce and turn the fish so all sides are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for not longer than 15 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium-high temperature. Brush the grill with oil and arrange the salmon on the rack. Grill until the flesh is just opaque, about 6-7 minutes per side, brushing with the sauce from the pan. Carefully slide the fish off the grill and serve with the remaining warmed sauce spooned over the top.

Spicy Orange Fennel Slaw

Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs (about 1 ½ pounds)
3 large seedless oranges
¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 tsp chopped or grated orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp Olive Mill Lemon Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
1 tsp Adoboloco Jalapeno Sauce (or other mild hot sauce)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 ¼ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Trim the root end of the fennel bulbs and cut away the stalks and discard, reserving the fronds. Cut the fennel bulbs in half. Cut out the core and discard; cut the bulbs into very thin slices. Coarsely chop the fronds and set them aside.

Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange, set aside. Peel the remaining 2 oranges cut away the white pith. Separate the orange sections and cut each section crosswise in half. Mix the fennel and orange sections with the chopped fennel fronds and the cilantro in a serving bowl.

Combine the zest, juice, ginger, oil, vinegar, garlic and seasoning in a bowl and mix thoroughly to create the dressing. Pour the dressing over the fennel and orange sections and toss lightly to coat. Cover and let sit or refrigerate to chill slightly before serving.

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An Evening Visit to Third Street in Geneva

Last night Ample Bites enjoyed an early dinner at Cotto A Legna in Geneva. This relatively new restaurant features wood-fired pizzas and a wide variety of Italian dishes. The wine list is excellent and features some very good Chianti Classico and Super Tuscans. This was Ample Bites second visit to Cotto A Legna and it did not disappoint.

We enjoyed a prosciutto-wrapped shrimp appetizer that was served with an Asian sweet and spicy glaze.

We then shared a salad of mixed greens, smoked salmon, beets and fresh goat cheese that was supposed to be dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette. The salad was very good but either dressing was so light we couldn’t taste it or it was missing entirely.

Finally, we split one of the wood-fire pizza’s for which Cotto A Legna is known. We chose the mushroom pizza to honor the upcoming National Mushroom Day (Monday, April 16th – check back for posts of some outstanding mushroom recipes). The pizza was as good as billed. The crust was thin but just thick enough to be chewy. The light application of sauce and cheese allowed the mushrooms to be the star of the dish.

After dinner we strolled Third Street feeling like Romans or Florentines. One of our stops was the The Spice House, which was located directly across the street from the restaurant. This small store has a huge assortment of dried spices from all over the world. After browsing for a good 15 to 20 minutes, we purchased some dried chanterelle and oyster mushrooms – some of which will undoubtedly be used this weekend. The clerks at the Spice House were very friendly and helpful and the store is well-designed with spice arranged by regions and classifications. Ample Bites will undoubtedly be returning to The Spice House again very soon.

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Two More Recipes from The Olive Mill

Ample Bites will not be cooking again until Sunday because of family plans tonight and tomorrow night. The Sunday menu will be a good one, so please check back for the recipes and photos.

Here are a couple more great recipes using the olive oils and balsamic vinegar from our friends at The Olive Mill:

Marinated Mushroom Salad

A simple salad is always a welcome compliment to any entree.

1 Tbsp OLIVE MILL Cherry Balsamic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
1/8 tsp each Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp OLIVE MILL olive oil, such as Kalamata
1 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup cherry tomato halves
8 pitted ripe olives, halved
Lettuce, rinsed, dried and chopped

In a small bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Gradually whisk in oil until blended. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and olives and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Toss the mushroom salad with the lettuce and serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Red Onion

The Ample Bites family loves Brussels Sprouts. This recipe is a very easy and savory way to prepare these healthy vegetables.

2 – 3 lb Brussels sprouts, rinsed, trimmed and halved
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp OLIVE MILL olive oil, such as Ascalana
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp OLIVE MILL White Lemon Balsamic

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with a thin coating of olive oil.

In a large bowl, toss the sprouts, onion, oil, sugar, and salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Toss well, re-season with salt and pepper to taste and serve while warm.

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Field Trip to Freddy’s Pizzeria

To describe Freddy’s as a pizzeria is a colossal understatement. Freddy’s does have their own pizza but their menu includes dozens of homemade Italian speciality dishes that are available for lunch, dinner and catering. This storefront operation opened in 1968 and has served generations from the same location at 1600 South 61st Avenue in Cicero, Illinois.

Our field trip today included three generations of the AmpleBites’ family including my father-in-law, who grew up with his parents less than two blocks from Freddy’s and my wife, Sandy, who visited the store often while teaching 2nd grade at an elementary school in the neighborhood on Austin Boulevard.

The store, not including a small three-season’s dining area, is slightly larger than the typical living room. It is packed with shelves brimming with dried pastas, sauces, oils and vinegars. One wall is lined with a freezer case loaded with stuffed pastas, all ready-to-cook, as well as, waters, juices, and soft drinks. The ceiling is hung with dried sausages and prosciuttos.

The balance of the store is dedicated to an array of delectable breads, cheeses, and hot and cold prepared dishes — from which it is nearly impossible to make a meal selection because they all look so appetizing. Finally, if you have any room left — or if you came to Freddy’s just for this — they have a case of different flavored gelatos and ices that rivaled any I have seen in Rome or Florence.

Our trip was ostensibly to visit the old neighborhood and stop for lunch, which we did. To order our lunch meal we jumped in a tightly packed line with the local residents, police and fire personnel, and a few more of us outsiders. The authentic Italian sub sandwiches and fresh seafood salad, loaded with calamari, mussels and shrimp, were amazing. My daughter’s slice of pizza, made this morning, was saucy, cheesy and, by her account, as good as advertised.

Despite the chaos of lunch line the service was efficient and we were soon eating our meal thinking about what we should bring home to reheat for dinner.

For an appetizer, we enjoyed slices of the home-cured pepperoni and crusty italian bread and, of course, some of the leftover seafood salad from our lunch.

Then for dinner, after a lengthy debate about the delicious choices, we selected a lemon chicken and artichoke hearts dish that we supplemented with some leftover stuffed red peppers and potatoes.

Freddy’s is about an hour or less from most suburban Chicago locations and is well worth the trip. I know AmpleBites will be back very soon.

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Field Trip to The Olive Mill in Geneva, IL

Yesterday I visited a favorite local food store called The Olive Mill. It is located less than two miles from home, just off of 3rd Street in downtown Geneva, Illinois, so my field trip was quite short. If you don’t live as close as I do you can order at their website The Olive Mill.

The Olive Mill stocks a large and diverse selection of olive oils and vinegars. Sandy and I have been buying better oils and vinegars from this store since shortly after they opened a few years ago. The store sells these cooking liquids in their own labeled bottles which can be cleaned and reused when you return to purchase more product. A frequent buyer program offers a free bottle of oil or vinegar after purchasing ten bottles. All of their oils and vinegars can be tasted before purchasing and the store offers numerous recipes using The Olive Mill products. Many of these recipes have been provide by customers of the store.

During my visit I bought a bottle of their Persian Lime olive oil and a bottle of Blackberry Ginger Balsamic vinegar.

A simple recipe using the Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar uses it in a vinaigrette.

Spring Mix Salad with Blackberry Ginger Vinaigrette

8 cups of mixed lettuces (romaine, endive, frisee, spinach, etc.) rinsed and spun dry
1/2 lb feta cheese crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts (optional)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 mandarin orange or tangerine peeled and separated into sections
3 Tbsp OLIVE MILL Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp dried mustard
1/4 cup OLIVE MILL extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare greens, cheese, nuts, onion and fruit by arranging on a serving plate or bowl. Thoroughly whisk vinegar, pepper and mustard together in a small bowl. Add the oil while whisking. Pour the dressing over the salad or serve on the side.

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