Healthier version of Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant, also called aubergine, or melanzane (in Italian) is so versatile, and by far one of my favorite veggies. I love to make it different ways, and enjoy experimenting with them. This time, I decided to make an eggless and breadcrumb-free eggplant parm, an Italian dish believed to have originated in the Southern part of Italy. The result of this dish is  surprisingly delightful. First and foremost,  make sure you pick very fresh eggplants, preferably on the day you are cooking them.  I realize that it’s  not always possible in today’s busy lives. If that’s the case, get it a day or two before cooking it. You do not want an eggplant that’s been sitting in your veggie bin for 2 weeks. I assure you, that will make a world of difference.  You want to look for an eggplant that is smooth, without any bruises, and firm to the touch. Parmigiana is a style/method of cooking, using  tomato sauce and  mozzarella cheese.

Broiled Eggplants
Broiled Eggplants


  • 2 large eggplant cut lengthwise
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lots of olive oil ( make sure you have a full bottle on hand)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 basil leaves
  • 1 container chopped tomatoes 26.46 oz.  Pomi brand
  •  1/2 jar of Mid’s sauce or (about 16 oz of your favorite meatless tomato sauce)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  •  Parmigiano Reggiano, Parmesan cheese to taste

    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, let them sit for 10 minutes. Place on a metal tray, drizzle them with olive oil and broil for about 7-8 minutes on each side.  Do this in 2 batches. Set aside.
    2) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
    3) In the meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, on medium-heat, heat 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Sautee the garlic for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, basil.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn the burner off and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
    4) Time to start mounting the eggplant as if you are making a lasagna. Smear some sauce on the bottom of a large glass casserole (Pyrex) pan, line up the eggplant (as shown on my photo) top with sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Repeat once more and finish with mozzarella. Cover with foil.
    5) Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover, and broil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Use a spatula. Hope you will try this delicious version of Eggplant Parmigiana. It has no breadcrumbs and no  eggs. However, it will soak up some olive oil (which is healthy, but beware of calories)

    Please check out my traditional eggplant recipe:  Chicken & Eggplant Parm recipe (chicken is optional) Notice, I use different sauce, that’s because I like to change things up. ———>

    Cook’s note: Never place glass dish on the bottom of the oven rack. Use the second from the bottom.

    Wine pairing suggestions: Chianti, Chianti Classico or any medium-bodied red wine will work.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

The Ultimate Shrimp Creole

img_1943Shrimp creole is a dish that originated in  Louisiana.  It consists of shrimp, tomatoes, the Holy trinity, some spices and hot pepper sauce. It’s very easy to prepare and packed with flavors. This dinner can be put together in 20 minutes.

Serves: 6 Level of difficulty: Easy


– 1.5 lb. extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 tbsp. olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 1 green pepper, diced
– 2 celery ribs, diced
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 8 oz. diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
– 8 oz. tomato sauce, of your choice
-1/2 cup water
– 3/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
-1/2 tsp. oregano
– Salt to taste
– Louisiana hot sauce, a few dashes
– Flat leave parsley for garnish


1) In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Saute onions, peppers, celery for about 3 minutes. Add garlic, sauté for 1 minute. Stir well.

2) Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, hot sauce.  Bring to a boil. Cover,  and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.

3) Add shrimp,  cover and cook on low heat for an additional 3-4 minutes or until they become opaque.

Traditionally, this dish is served over white rice. Garnish with parsley.  I suggest you start cooking the rice. Follow the instructions on the package.  While the rice is cooking, prepare the shrimp dish.

Wine pairing suggestions: A chilled Riesling to balance the heat in this dish!

Recipe for Shrimp Creole by Foodiewinelover
Photo by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Bon Appetit!

My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles




Baccala Mantecato, A Venetian Delicacy

img_2237 img_2236I first found out about this delicacy when I was visiting Venice in 2007 with my beautiful family. I was intrigued because I had never savored baccala that way before. Baccala is Italian for dried salted cod fish. It’s a delicious spread (dip) that originated in the region of Venice, Italy. It’s not that difficult to prepare but it can be a bit tricky. If you follow my instructions carefully, your spread will be a success just like mine. You will be using fillet (boned) code fish that’s cured in salt. It’s usually found in a plastic bag near the seafood department of your grocery store. I am certain, you can also find it in the outdoor markets without the plastic, depending what part of the world  you live in.  Fear not, it’s cured with lots of salt and it’s not easily perishable. If  you don’t properly prepare it, you will be left with a dish that is inedible due to the high sodium content. You will need a little less than two hours from start to finish to obtain the final results. Today, I am using a food processor and not my hands, which could be a daunting task. This is the perfect appetizer for an Italian-themed party, and pairs lusciously with Prosecco or any bubbly of your choice. I promise you, if your guests like seafood, they will be impressed with your culinary skills.

Serves: 8-10 as an appetizer –  Level of difficulty:  Medium


  • 16 oz. Salted Cod Fish boned
  • Water to boil the cod fish and potatoes
  • 2 medium gold potatoes, peeled, cut up
  • 4 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Parsley for garnish, optional
  • Garlic bread, crostini,  or polenta

    1) Rinse the salt off the fish. Next, In a large plastic bowl, place the cod fish and cover it with fresh room temperature (tap)  water. Let it soak for about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse, and repeat the same process for another 45 minutes. (You will be adding fresh water and let it soak a second time)  for a total of at LEAST 90 minutes. Drain again.
    2)Place in a large saucepan, cover with fresh water and boil for 5-7 minutes until it becomes a little flaky.  There will be large chunks and it will not fall apart at that point.  Drain. Set aside.
    3) In the meanwhile, boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. *
    4) It’s time to put it all together. In a food processor, put the cod, potatoes, garlic, half and half and PULSE for about 40 – 60 seconds or so, until all the ingredients come together nicely. At that point, you should see some little chunks of fish, and the mixture will appear a little dry.
    5) Slowly, add the oil and run the food processor on HIGH until you obtain a mousse-like texture as in mashed potatoes. (about 30-60 seconds). Always, check your food to make sure you do not over process it. You will run the risk of changing the texture by liquefying it too much. The spread will look creamy, with flakes or little shreds of fish. It’s done. Look at my pictures!
    6) Spread it over bread,  drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with black pepper and parsley.  You can also serve it in a bowl, and let your guest dig in. Traditionally in Venice, it’s served over polenta. Either way, you eat it, it will be delectable and very enticing to the taste buds.
    I hope you have enjoyed this delicious and healthy recipe, and plan to make it soon. Let me hear about your experience. From what I gather, people are having a difficult time obtaining the right consistency. It may take some practice.
    Cook’s notes: * You can use the same pan you used for the cod to boil the potatoes to avoid a mess in the kitchen.
    Make sure the sauce pan is large enough, if not, the water will overflow and create a mess when cooking the fish.  I have a few tricks up my sleeves, having been in the kitchen for nearly 30 years. To make the bread, drizzle with olive oil, and a dab of butter. Broil for 1-2 minutes. Voila!

    Salted Cod fish



Baccala Mantecato – Exclusive pictures by Foodiewinelover

All photos are exclusively mine except for the small picture of the bag – I wanted to show you what it looks like. If it says boned, chunks, it will work also. It’s IMPORTANT that you used the fillet (without the bones) Keep in mind, there are probably different companies depending on where you live.
This recipe was created in my kitchen and I take full credit for the measurements and method of preparation.

I hope you will try this delicious spread and share your thoughts with me. I would love to hear your feedback. I may come back to add some personal photos from our trip to Venice. I need to publish this today, as my followers on social media are patiently waiting for the recipe.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas – Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles


Delicious Fresh Snapper Ceviche

Fresh Snapper for Ceviche
Fresh Snapper for Ceviche
Freshly-caught snapper
Freshly-caught snapper
Ceviche by Foodiewinelover
Ceviche by Foodiewinelover

My son PJ loves the ocean and is passionate about all sea creatures. He enjoys fishing, and once in a while, he brings home a nice catch. He recently caught a nice mutton snapper and fileted it. The first thing that came to his mind was a ceviche. This dish originated in Peru and Ecuador, South America. It is often spelled seviche or cebiche depending on the region. Ceviche consists of raw fish that’s marinated and cooked in an acidic juice instead of heat.  Lime is usually the preferred method to prepare it. The Peruvian use Aji Amarillo, an indigenous chili pepper to give it some kick. It is widely used in their traditional dishes. It’s hard to find but you can substitute for jalapeño peppers. Ceviche has quickly become a trendy and popular dish in the US.  Famous and aspiring chefs are putting their own spin on it to give it a modern touch.  Let’s get busy in the kitchen!

Level of difficulty: Easy  – Serves: 3-4 as an appetizer


  • 1 medium-sized mutton snapper, filleted, and diced
  • 3 lime, juiced
  • 1 handful  of cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Aji Amarillo, or jalapeño, optional
  • Avocado pieces as an accompaniment

    Combine the fish, lime juice, cilantro, salt and hot pepper.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours. The fish will have an opaque color on the outside. This would be a sign that it’s done and ready to be savored. Serve the Ceviche with some avocados.

    Wine pairing suggestions: 
    A dry Riesling from Germany or Torrontés, a crisp white wine with floral notes from Argentina.  When in doubt, pair it with a fruity Prosecco or a Brut bubbly of your choice. The choice is  yours, but stay away from a wine that has too much acid as it will clash with the lime juice. A clerk at your local wine store is usually trained to help you in selecting the perfect wine to pair with your food.Happy Marinating!

    Gina – Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

    Photos taken by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover (except for the peppers) Proper credit is given.
    Recipe by Foodiewinelover

Aji Amarillo, chili pepper
Aji Amarillo, chili pepper (stock photo, image source provided)


Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine over Polenta

Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta
Enjoying some short ribs
Enjoying some short ribs

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta

After a long absence, I needed to get back in the kitchen and prepare some home cooked meals.  My son PJ suggested that I make Gordon Ramsey’s short ribs. It was a collaborative effort with him and the result was a Grand Slam. Of course, he thought he was Gordon Ramsey and acted like him, but, I had to take control in Gina’s Kitchen. Let’s just say, we were each other’s sous chef! I was feeding 6 hungry people and I came up with the following measurements.  This recipe can easily be divided in half for a smaller crowd.

Serves: 6-8  Level of difficulty: Easy-Medium

Time: Allow a minimum of 3 hours from start to finish


  • 8 lbs. beef short ribs
  • Olive oil as needed for searing the ribs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 oz. of tomato paste
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in halves (unpeeled)
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Chianti, Pinot Noir or Cabernet
  • 28 oz. of beef broth low-sodium
  • Italian parsley for garnish, optionalSide dish:

    1 cup Polenta for 4 cups of water, salt to taste

    Mushrooms topping: 

  • 8 oz baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1 tbsp.  olive oil


    1) Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. ( I keep my house on 75 degrees F.)2)  Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees F.
    3) In a very large and deep pan, over medium-high heat on the stove top, pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sear the meat on both sides for about 3-4 minutes each side. Rotate the meat in the middle of the pan where the heat is, using a set of tongues.

    4) Place the garlic face-down randomly. Add  tomato paste and stir it in all over the bottom of the pan. Cook until it obtains a rust color. Deglaze with the wine. Cook until it reduces 3-4 minutes.

    5) Add the beef broth, and control the sodium if necessary. Bring to a quick boil. Turn stove top off.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 2.5 hours. Just forget about it, figuratively speaking.  (please do not leave oven unattended)

    6)  In a small frying pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and the oil, and pan fry the mushrooms until they are golden brown. Set aside.

    7) Prepare the polenta 20 minutes before the ribs are done. If you do it too soon, it will clump up.  Follow cooking  instructions on package.  Keep on the lowest heat until you’re ready to serve.

    8) Remove the ribs out of the oven and place them in a large platter. Take all the garlic out.  Pass them through a sieve and put the garlic paste in the sauce.  Stir well. Now it’s time to serve. Either buffet style or  you can plate it, by placing some polenta on the bottom of a platter, put the ribs on top and garnish with the mushrooms and parsley.
    Wine pairing suggestions: A bold Cab, Chianti or any red wine of your choice.It’s good to be back in the kitchen after a long absence.This blogpost is in Memory of My Beloved Dad, John.  I will always remember him in the kitchen as my potato peeler, my pot scrubber and my right hand daddy’s little girl. I will miss savoring delicious pasta dishes with him, but his legacy will live in my heart forever.

    RIP DAD- 1936-2016


    This dish is an adaptation of Gordon Ramsey’s recipe on YouTube. These measurements are mine based on 8 lbs. of ribs.
    Photographed by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

    Happy Braising!
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Delicious Field Greens & Strawberry Salad

Field Green Salad, Rotisserie Chicken, Sourdough bread
Field Greens Salad, Rotisserie Chicken, Sourdough bread

imageNo one wants to cook during the hot days of summer. For this reason, I like to create different salads and pair them with a protein. Today, I picked up a rotisserie chicken and some sourdough baguette to go with my delicious salad. It’s easy and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Recently, I started using a nice wooden bowl.  I prepare the dressing right in it, and then, I toss the salad. This way, you avoid more cleaning and save time.   Follow me in the kitchen and watch me whip a quick meal.


Warning: If you are allergic to nuts  or any type of seeds, omit the pumpkin seeds.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish
Level of difficulty: Easy


  • 1  – 5-oz bag of mixed field greens
  •  1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  •  1 tsp. honey
  •  1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 organic strawberries, sliced
  • 1 handful of pumpkin seeds
  • 4.5 oz. garlic and herbs goat cheese, broken into pieces

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar. Slowly, pour the olive oil and continue whisking until it emulsifies. Drop the greens, strawberries, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. Toss well.

I served it with 2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, (only 1 in picture)  and some sourdough bread.  My family smeared the goat cheese on the bread and it was divine.

Cook’s note: You can substitute pumpkin seeds for pecans or walnuts.  If you don’t like goat cheese, use another soft cheese of your choice.

Happy Tossing from My Kitchen to Yours!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe & Ricotta Salata

Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage, Brocolli Rabe & Ricotta Salata Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage, Brocolli Rabe & Ricotta Salata
Here is another one of my mouth-watering pasta recipes to include in your weekly repertoire. It is a classic southern Italian dish from the Puglia region. Some people use Pecorino Romano cheese and hot Italian sausage. This my variation of  an easy-to-follow recipe and super tasty. If you like spicy food, I recommend using the hot Italian sausage to add some kick to this dish. Let’s have some fun in Gina’s Kitchen.

Serves: 6 -8 Level of difficulty: Easy to medium


  • 1 lb Orecchiette, pasta shape (little ears)
  • 3 lbs. sweet Italian sausage with fennel, cut up in pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to drizzle
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe, (rapini) rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup of garlic, chopped
  •  1/2 -3/4 cup  low-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb. Ricotta Salata cheese, cubed


  1. In a medium-sized pot, boil the sausages for about 15 minutes. Drain well. Add 1/4 cup olive oil in same pot, and sear them on each side until they obtain a nice golden brown color. You may have to this in 2 batches. Remove, cut each link  in 2-3 pieces. Set aside.
  2. In the meanwhile, in another pot, bring salted pasta water to boil, and cook according to package directions. 5 minutes prior to cooking time is up, add the broccoli rabe and cook in same water. This will save you time and less cleaning.  Drain well. Drizzle with a little oil to avoid clumping. Set aside.
  3.  In an extra large skillet, on medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, sautee the garlic, deglaze with chicken broth,  cook for 1 minute, add the pasta with the broccoli rabe, sausages, season with salt & pepper, and finish with the cheese. Add more chicken broth if necessary. Lower the heat, stir well to incorporate all the ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and serve at once.

    Wine pairing suggestions: A chilled Gavi, Pinot Grigio, Verdicchio, or a Riesling if you are using the hot Italian sausage. Always cook with love and your food will love you back!

    Recipe written by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for FoodiewineloverFoodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine, & Travel Lifestyles
    Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage, Brocolli Rabe & Ricotta Salata

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