The Lost Recipes of the Mob

First, a few disclaimers: Names, dates and locations have absolutely been changed for the safety of the real people involved in this story. It is absolutely true.

My wife and I were married in north San Diego County in the Spring of 2007. It was before the housing crisis hit, and it was before we had children, so we were happy, and still pretty young. I had a job at an internet company specializing in audience and data segmentation, and as near as I could tell at the time, it was mostly fraudulent. But they had a sweet ping pong table and an above average free snack deal, so life was good. They also paid me pretty well. My wife taught 2nd grade a fancy private school for wealthy families, so her life was also good. We lived in a rented, one story house in the nicer part of Del mar, a swank beach community. Our house up on a hill a few miles from the beach, but we spend the weekend biking, walking our dog, enjoying the beach and boozing with our friends. We were pretty normal 30 somethings.

About 2 months after we were married and moved into our house, we noticed a neighbor of ours. He was in his early 60s and began waving to us as we came and left, and was general smiling and friendly. One Sunday afternoon we bumped into him at the supermarket and we introduced ourselves. His name was Carmine. Carmine was a cool looking guy. He had slicked back dark hair, a nice suntan and a some quality threads. He also was wearing, the day we met him, the sweetest white loafers you’ll ever see. At any rate, he was stocking up on some pretty fancy ingredients, and my wife asked him if he was cooking for someone. He said only for himself and his dog, and then promptly invited us over for dinner the following Sunday. We accepted.

As the following Sunday approached, we considered cancelling (it was along hot day at he beach) but showed up at his house at 6:30 with a bottle of $25 Chianti. Carmine answered the door, and we were hit with an array of sensations: Auditory (Frank Sinatra), visual (a gold necklace, and open collared shirt, graying chest hair) and olfactory (exquisite aromas of pasta dishes, mixed in with cheap cologne). Carmine, whatever and whomever he was, was authentic if nothing else.

That night he made us a fantastic meal of antipasti, pasta, salad and more pasta. We drank our wine and bunch more of his. One of which was an expensive Barolo. We rolled out of there and fell into a deep coma, barely able to wake for the Monday morning bell. About 2 weeks later we did it again, and thus began a weekly tradition that lasted about a year, with a few missed Sundays. We would watch football during the Fall, and gorge ourselves on incredible food. As we drank and ate and got to know each other, Carmine would start surprising us with new parts about himself. One time he broke out a giant joint that we smoke between courses. He told us that would help us regain our appetite for the next two courses. The meals got finer and more fun and the wine got fancier. Once we had house guests and brought them over. Another time we invite some local friends to enjoy Carnie’s hospitality. He was something else.

All this time, my wife was quizzing him on how he was able to make such amazing meals, and he told us his mother taught him how to cook when he was a young man. This lead to question about his upbringing, and he told us he was from Philadelphia. And, in a stunning disclosure straight out My Blue Heaven, he confessed that he was a former mobster turned government witness, and that he was in ‘The Program’. Carmine was a real life member of the mob, living in secret 4 doors down from us in Del Mar. You can’t make this stuff up.

As our friendship with Carmine evolved, he slowly began divulging certain culinary tricks that made his plate special. The Marsala sauce had a dash of plum sauce, the Pesto had a pinch of walnuts, and the Bolognese has a bit of ground sausage from Italy. Eventually my wife got pregnant, I lost my job, and before we knew it we were off to San Francisco for our next adventure. At our farewell dinner with Carmine, he gave me copies of some of his recipes after we promised not to share with anyone. But later via email after his mother had passed away, he agreed to let me share them with the world. So here you go, in no particular order, the 4 greatest lost recipes of the Mob.

Veal Marsala

You can eat this over veal or pasta, it really doesn’t matter. The sauce is what is so special.

  • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil (use the good stuff from Europe)
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • ½ pound mushroom stalks (don’t use the caps, just the stumps or stalks)
  • ½ cup Marsala wine
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 ½ cups beef stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of plum sauce

Heat up olive oil in a sauce pan, add in garlic, onion, mushrooms stalks. Sauté mushrooms for 2 minutes on low heat, add in flour, and then a minute later add in wine and stock. Cook until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste

Classic Pesto Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Percorino cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Combine basil, garlic, pine but and walnuts in a food processor and chop. Add in ½ cup of the oil and blend until smooth. Add salt & pepper to taste. Stir in remaining olive oil and cheese right before consumptions

Lousie’s Bolognese

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion, medium sized
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¼ pound Italian sausage
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) of crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pecorino cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Stir in garlic and onion, sauté until soft. Add in celery and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Raise heat and stir in ground beef and sausage, cook for about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley and basil leaves. Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in Pecorino cheese.

Beans, 3 Ways

Though kale, quinoa and chia may be the most buzzed-about super foods, there’s another secret (and inexpensive) item you’re probably not cooking with enough: Beans. A longtime staple of many cuisines worldwide, beans are a nutritional powerhouse that can — and should! — find a way into your weeknight meals.

What Makes Beans So Healthy?
Loaded with fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and folic acid, beans play a pivotal role in a healthy diet, with one cup of cooked beans providing approximately 14 to 18 grams of protein, said Vandana Sheth, a CDE, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beans are also rich in lignans (a group of chemical compounds found in plants) which are known to play an important role in helping with heart disease, osteoporosis and preventing some types of cancers. While all beans are nutritious, Sheth’s top picks include garbanzo, black and kidney beans.

How to Cook with Beans
Dried beans can be purchased in bulk bins from your local grocery store then soaked in water overnight and prepared on the stovetop in a pot, in a pressure cooker or on a slow cooker (Sheth prefers using her pressure cooker, as it speeds up the process). You can also cook with canned beans by simply draining and rinsing the beans before cooking. To make things easy, consider preparing a large batch of cooked beans then varying the ways you use them.

“Cooked garbanzo beans can be made into hummus, added to a soup, or tossed with herbs and vegetables in a salad,” Sheth says. “You can also make garbanzo bean burgers.”

Ideas for Cooking with Beans
Beans can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and can easily be incorporated into your diet. Use beans whole in salads, soups or casseroles; puree them into dips, such as hummus, or spreads for wraps and sandwiches. Even combining them with Hunt's® Tomato Sauce to create a plethora of delicious chili recipes and sauces! Sheth’s favorite bean-centered recipes include vegetarian chili, bean burgers and bean burritos — all completely different from each other with one central ingredient! Here are some more of our favorites:

  • Two-Bean Vegetable Chili—this easy chili uses canned beans and Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes with Sweet Onion as a base for an easy, and hearty, dinner.

  • Southwestern Breakfast Burritos—combine black beans, Hunt's® Petite Diced Tomatoes and cilantro with scrambled eggs and cheese for a breakfast wrap with a kick.

  • Stuffed Peppers—use a large bell pepper in lieu of a tortilla and fill it with your favorite burrito ingredients, like beans, brown rice, corn and Hunt's® Tomato Sauce.

  • White Bean Minestrone Soup—this recipe uses white beans, kale and pasta as ingredients for a classic and comforting soup in just 30-minutes.

Do It Up with Deviled Eggs

Forget your typical way of whipping up the all-American classic. Deviled eggs are best served with a little creativity and a good amount of untraditional flavor! Put the finishing touches on your recipe with a handful of ways of refashioning the favorite, including truffle, fig, avocado and more twists. 

But first things first -- let’s review your basic deviled eggs recipe. You’ll want to hard-boil eggs in a pot. Don’t crowd the pot, or else they may bump into each other while cooking and crack. Also, try using older eggs closer to their expiration, which may be less delicate and better for these purposes. Then, cover eggs with about 1-inch of cool water and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.

When water reaches a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let eggs sit 12-15 minutes. Transfer eggs to a bowl full of ice water to stop them from cooking. Peel and split in half lengthwise.

Now, the fun part! Experiment with your deviled egg fillings to jazz up these flavorful appetizers:

  • Horseradish: Mix yolks, mayonnaise, horseradish, salt, paprika and parsley. Adjust the horseradish to control the degree of spiciness, suggests registered dietitian nutritionist, and editor of PaleoBarbie.com, Jenny Champion.
  • Sweet relish: Instead of mustard, add sweet relish to add a little crunchy sweetness in every bite, she adds.
  • Tomato ‘n’ Paprika: For a spicier version of your standard eggs, says Champion, cut back on the mayo and add around 2 tablespoons of Hunt's® tomato paste, fresh ground garlic to taste, and top with smoked paprika, a pinch of Hunt's® canned crushed tomatoes and cayenne pepper.
  • Avocado: One of Champion’s favorites for an extra creamy, healthy fat-filled version of deviled eggs, “cut back on the mayonnaise a bit and add ripe avocado in its place,” she says. Not counting calories? Add a bit of chopped bacon for garnish and a nice crunch.
  • Truffled: First, mash your hard-boiled eggs (~6 eggs) with ¾ cup mayo, 1.5 teaspoons of truffle oil and a pinch of cayenne. Serve in the center of a white oval place (it will look like one large deviled egg!). Top with a fig jam for a sweet finish!

BLT Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dry whole grain penne pasta, uncooked
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes-No Salt Added, drained
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 pkg (6 oz each) refrigerated diced oven roasted chicken breast
  • 10 slices fully cooked bacon, heated, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together drained tomatoes, mayonnaise and garlic salt in large bowl. Add pasta, chicken and bacon; toss to combine ingredients. Add spinach; gently toss together. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Artichoke Turkey Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 prebaked thin pizza crust (12-inch)
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (1-1/2 cups = 6 oz)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano, drained
  • 1 cup chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 can (14 oz each) artichoke hearts in water, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (2.25 oz each) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place crust on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Top with drained tomatoes, turkey, artichokes, olives and Parmesan cheese.
  2. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into 6 slices.