If you follow my blog, you probably have gathered that I’m not the handiest thing in the kitchen. (On more then one potluck occasion I’ve been asked to bring the paper goods or the drinks!)
It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s that I need direction. Guidance. A plan.
In search of tips to help me with dinner, I went to HEB last Friday. Turns out what I really needed was Chef Fabio Viviani.
Chef Fabio has been traveling around the country to show people how batch cooking can save you time and money in the kitchen and he’s literally giving away his secrets to cooking success on his website, www.fabioviviani.com. Each month in 2012 he is releasing a FREE, downloadable cook book featuring different ingredients or food categories. Last month’s was all about soup. This month…meat. March will cover recipes for risotto.
When I visited with him before his cooking demonstration at HEB in Houston, he told me that he doesn’t want to be the best chef in the entire world, he wants to be like everyone’s grandmother….passing down information that will help ease the burden of preparing wonderful, home-cooked meals for the family.
Sigh. If only my grandma had such a great Italian accent.
He believes that if you are going to cook a wonderful meal, why not make a lot and save some for later. “Freakin’ freeze it!” he said. “Cook two times a month for three to four hours and that’s it. You’ll save money and time.”
A Bit About Fabio
Born in Florence, Italy, Fabio grew up poor. “Poor like I never had food on the table, poor,” he said. He worked at a bakery when he was just 11 years old (at night because he was so young) and for a restaurant when he was 14. “I never asked for a day off for seven years.” At 27, he was running six of his own restaurants in Florence when he decided to pack his knife and head for America. “I was bored with managing people, I wanted to work with food.”
Today he owns two restaurants in California (a third is opening up soon), has appeared on the TV show Top Chef, is the National Ambassador for American Humane Association (non profit for the protection of children and animals) and travels to help others learn the art of cooking. “I’m living the American Dream,” he said.
Some of Fabios Cooking Tips
1. Use herbs to add flavor without calories in cooking. When cooking food you’ll freeze, use dry herbs – they last longer. After you reheat the food, garnish with fresh herbs.
2. To help get your kids to eat vegetables, make popsicles! Use Spinach or brocoli (both have no flavor after they are boiled) and blend with your child’s favorite fruit (like strawberries). Add drops of Stevia and freeze into popsicles. Fabio said a popsicle can hold one pound of spinach!
3. His favorite, easy, go-to meal is meatballs with fresh pasta.
He actually made this meal while at HEB in front of a large crowd…several of which had taken off work to come see him.
His good humor made the demonstration fun and the result was delicious. I was so inspired that I went home that night and cooked a batch up myself! See?
Perfect Italian Meatballs Recipe by Fabio Viviani
Cook time – 25 minutes, yields 8 meatballs
1 pound ground beef (90/10)
4 ounces of whole milk Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – Grated
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 each garlic cloves, minced and shallots, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
fresh parsley for garnish
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand until combined and uniformly firm. Coat your hands in olive oil and form mixture into 3-4 ounce balls. Drops the meatballs into pan with tomato sauce and add some water so that the sauce can reduce and simmer. Cook for 10 minutes on one side and turn them over, add more water cook for another 10 minutes….covering in sauce with a spoon as they simmer. Let rest for five minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley, salt and pepper, shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
Check out me with my two Houston blogging friends Nora from Coupon Contesssa and Christina from Rant Rave Roll. We are holding the Saute pan by Taste of Italy – Bialetti. Chef Fabio endorses this line as a great value (this one was only $9.99). You can find them at HEB.
In addition to Chef Fabio’s e-cookbooks, he has a beautiful hard-back cookbook called “Cafe Firenze”…Food and Drink Recipes from the Tucson Sons! I have an AUTOGRAPHED copy for one, lucky Still Living The Dream reader! Just leave me a comment with your favorite, go-to meal. A winner will be selected at 11:59 p.m. CST on February 16, 2012. Open to those in the U.S. only.
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