Yippee, today on Home and Living Examiner we have guest-celebrity chef, Donatella Arpaia. Wow, this is such an honor. I would normally be speechless but I’ve got an interview to share–PLUS, a recipe–and some really great photos, so let’s have at it immediately. Donatella’s line of merchandise for HSN is very cool, love the Italian food genre and we tested out some great food and equipment. This is jam-packed today.
Q.: Did your mother/grandmother teach you recipes or influence your cooking?
D.: Like most Italian women my mother and grandmother are not good at teaching recipes because everything is in their head! I learned a tremendous amount about cooking from them during my summers in our farm in Puglia. Most importantly I learned to eat seasonally, follow a Mediterranean diet, cook without recipes and make the best homemade pasta and meatballs you can ever have.
Q.: What dishes are indigenous to your region/hometown?
D.: -Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage- provide recipe (as featured on Martha Stewart)
-Ragu with meatballs
-Fava bean puree – provide recipes
-Zucchini fritters- provide recipes
Q.: What is your favorite piece of kitchen equipment and why?
D.: A sharp chef’s knife
Q.: What is the one tool/ingredient you cannot live without?
Q.: How does one get an “educated” palate?
D.: I was fortunate to be exposed to great cooking and excellent chefs through Iron Chef America. One can develop his or her palate by thinking about what we put in our mouths. Instead of eating mindlessly train yourself to eat consciously, think about why you like a particular food and consider the balance of flavors.
Q.: Do you use a lot of herbs or spices?
D.: Yes, I love fresh herbs and more and more I’m experimenting with different spices in my cooking.
Q.: Did you always aspire to become a chef?
D.: Although my father was a restaurateur, I never thought I could make a living by doing something that was so much part of my life. I was trained to be an attorney but my love of food and the restaurant business kept calling to me.
Q,:. What is your favorite meal/food?
D.: My dad’s focaccia
Q.: How can cooks at home save more time, yet eat healthy homemade meals?
D.: I suggest shopping on the weekends and planning your meals. It’s ok to create partially homemade meals by buying high quality premade products like my meatballs and adding fresh vegetables.
Q.: What is on the horizon for you?
D.: I’m continuing to grow my line on HSN and particularly excited to expand the food line with more Italian offerings.
Q.: How do you stay slim?
D.: It’s a constant struggle as I’ve become older. My husband is a wonderful influence. As a heart surgeon he constantly encourages me to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle. I also make sure that all my calories count and follow a Mediterranean diet.
Q.: Do chefs share secrets?
D.: In general chefs are generous with their knowledge. But when you become known for one or two particular things you keep it close to the vest. Like my meatballs!
Q.: How did you choose your products on HSN?
D.: I work to develop products that make life easier for the working woman or mom and bring fun, drama and personality to the table. I take great pride in elevating the culinary experience by offering beautiful stoneware that looks expensive but doesn’t act expensive. My products bring the highest level of quality and ingredients to foods people love.
Q.: What is the one chef skill more valuable to you?
D.: proper technique
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(Yields 4 TO 6 Servings)
4 medium zucchini, finely diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the Zucchini, eggs, parsley, Parmigiano, and extra-virgin olive oil and stir until the zucchini is coated. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add ¾ cup of the flour just a sprinkle at a time and stir. Continue adding until the mix is the consistency of pancake batter, add more if the zucchini is very wet.
Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pan with 1/4″ olive oil. Heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, spoon the zucchini mixture into the pan in 2-tablespoon mounds. The fritters should be three-quarters submerged in the oil. If bits of zucchini stray, scoop them up and return them to the fritters. Reduce the heat slightly and fry until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Allow the oil to return to medium heat before proceeding with the next batch.
Serve the fritters on a parchment-lined tray. The leftover fritters will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a low oven.