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with Chef Domenica Catelli

Domenica Catelli's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community.


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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Lamb

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Roast Lamb

It’s almost Easter Sunday. Growing up in an Italian American family, we had our Easter meal traditions. There may have been a variety of side dishes depending on the weather or what month Easter fell on in a given year, but there was one entree for certain: lamb. Usually we made a boneless leg of lamb, roasted with garlic and rosemary. Some years we varied it with rack or chops.

Some people, however, tend to hesitate when I suggest lamb for dinner. Many had bad childhood experiences with a strong, muttony, overcooked piece of meat that set the tone for the upcoming decades.

I remember one Easter dinner in particular when dear family friends joined us for a meal. They are a brother and sister in their fifties and had bonded over their dislike of lamb since they were kids, so they hated this entrée for most of their life. When I put the lamb on the table and persuaded Sugar (that’s the sister’s name) to give it a try, her brother Bill felt like she had betrayed him.  He stayed firm in his 40+-year belief that he didn’t like lamb. Sugar, throwing caution to the wind, faced her food fear and LOVED it!

Give this simple recipe a try and see if you can create some “Sugars” around your Easter table.

Roasted Rosemary Leg of Lamb

2.5-3 pounds boneless leg of lamb

6-8 fresh garlic cloves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ cup minced fresh rosemary

Cracked black pepper

Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

If lamb is rolled or in a roast net, take out.

Mix herbs, oil, salt and pepper together.

Rub both sides of meat generously with mix while reserving 1 tablespoon.

Place lamb in a baking dish.

When oven is to temperature add lamb and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until it turns a nice golden color.

Cover loosely with foil and continue to cook for another 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of lamb and how you like your meat cooked. I prefer medium rare for taste and texture. Try to avoid well done because the meat will dry out and take on a much stronger taste.

Remove from oven and let meat rest for about 5 minutes. Slice thin, drizzle with the remaining herb and oil mix, and serve.

Makes great lamb sandwiches for leftovers as well.

Photo: Photodisc

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 3:46 pm

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Comfort Food Without the Guilt

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Mashed Potatoes

It’s freezing and damp here. The sun is trying to poke through, but the rain is winning. On a day when you can stay in by the fire, this weather is fantastic. However, when you have to run errands in it, not so much.

I find that my craving for comfort foods goes up 200% when the rain starts to pour down. How to enjoy these types of meals while staying healthy is important to me. This is a great time to enjoy my guiltless mashed potatoes. This dish is so flavorful you would think that it is packed with butter and cream (and there is neither). It is wonderful served with a lean beef stew or chicken simmered in tomato, garlic, and herbs.  You can also make these potatoes ahead of time, then spread them in a baking dish and top with some Parmesan cheese and reheat for a great side dish.

The reason these are so creamy and flavorful is because of the Yukon Gold potatoes. You can find them at just about any grocery store. If you can’t find Yukons try yellow creamers. You can make these with Russets but they won’t be as creamy.

Guiltless Mashed Potatoes


6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 box chicken broth

1-2 cups water

3-5 cloves garlic

Pinch salt and pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


Place potatoes in pot with broth, a bit of salt and garlic cloves. Add water to cover two inches above the potatoes. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until soft but not falling apart. Drain most of the liquid into a large measuring cup. Smash potatoes with a hand masher, whisk or with electric beaters. Add Parmesan cheese and extra broth or water until you reach desired consistency. Finish with fresh cracked black pepper.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 12:44 pm

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Top 4 Reasons You Aren’t Cooking

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Family Cooking

I am no longer surprised by some of the responses I get when I ask people throughout the country why they aren’t cooking more. Studies show that we are watching more cooking-related shows on TV and yet are at an all-time low for the number of minutes, (yes, minutes, not hours), spent in our kitchens.

You are right on track if you think the #1 response is: “I don’t have enough time.” We all feel that end-of-the-day crunch where work and/or kids have worn us down and we don’t want to make another decision so we pick up take-out food. I want to remind us all that there are things we can throw together in 15-20 minutes that will be delicious, easy, and leave us feeling so much better physically and emotionally if we take the time. If you have time to catch 1-4 hours of your favorite TV shows in the evening, or be updated on the latest Facebook postings of hundreds of your not-so-closest friends, you have 15-20 minutes to make something for yourself and your family.

#2 “I don’t know what to make”

I’m a spontaneous person, so planning a meal a week ahead of time isn’t in my wheelhouse. However, I know that if I don’t go grocery shopping on Sunday or Monday to purchase some basic ingredients I am going to fall into the take-out rut as well — and I cook for a living! You have to get to the store and keep a few easy things at your fingertips. For example, keep some boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin in your freezer. You can pull these out and have them thawed out in less than 10 minutes. Keep a few lemons on hand and some sort of fresh herb. These three ingredients can lead to 10 different chicken dinners, including:

  • A lemony stir fry
  • Chicken noodle soup with lemon and dill
  • A grilled chicken salad with chopped veggies and black beans
  • Chicken tacos
  • Pasta with basil and chicken

If you are a red-meat eater, the next time you make a roast, make extra and freeze. Have it cut into stew-size chunks, then toss with a can of white beans, chopped up carrot, canned tomatoes, and sautéed garlic for a last minute stew.

#3 “Everyone in my family is so picky (they only like chicken nuggets and pizza)”

We created these picky eaters. If you are forty plus you most likely didn’t grow up in a family where mom was a short order cook bending to the whim of everyone in the family. We have let our 2-18-year-old determine our dinner choices. If your child will eat chicken nuggets they will be able to make the leap to grilled chicken. Be strong, excited about what you are serving, and understand that you are not a bad parent for saying no to the drive thru.

#4 “I don’t like my kitchen; I don’t have enough space”

AKA: “I don’t like my kitchen equipment so I avoid cooking.”

I hear these responses as often as I hear about not having enough time. Some quick and inexpensive solutions are:

  • Get yourself an extra large cutting board that will cover your entire sink area. When you are prepping your food this instantly gives you an extra 1-2 feet of counter space which is often all you need to feel like you have a little elbow room to get the job done.
  • Get yourself 1-2 sharp knives. The great news is there are new, colorful knives available at grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. that are around $15! They are bright and sharp and make the chore of chopping into something almost fun!
  • Check out the kitchen section in discount stores like TJ Maxx and Ross. There are bargains to be found and high-quality cookware at ½ the price most of the time.
  • Keep your eye out in the department stores sales on kitchenware. Forgo that new pair of shoes or top that you will forget about by next season and invest in something that you can use daily for years! You won’t regret it.

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: Pixland

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 8:52 am

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blood Oranges

By Chef Domnica Catelli

Blood Oranges

We are in the last ¼ of blood orange season. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular fruit, let me introduce you.

I first met this special citrus back when I lived in Italy 20 years ago. Since that time they have become readily available in the U.S. during the winter months. They have a bit of a burgundy wash to the otherwise orange rind and the color inside is a deep red.

Blood oranges can be substituted in any recipe that calls for an orange, although the juice is a bit more tart. I love to use them segmented in salads–epecially kale or spinach salads.

Blood oranges make a fantastic topping for fish, chicken, steak, or pork. We have a special right now at Catelli’s restaurant of seared California coast wild halibut with a blood orange and cilantro salsa. It’s very easy to make and versatile — I also enjoyed the salsa on a grilled chicken breast with couscous for a quick and delicious dinner last night.

To make a blood orange salsa, cut 2-3 oranges into ½-inch chunks, skin removed. Mix with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup finely chopped shallot or red onion, and ½ to 1 finely minced jalapeno (depending on how spicy you prefer). Stir together and use on grilled fish tacos, chicken, or tri-tip steak. The salsa will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

You can also use the juice of the oranges for interesting and beautifully colored cocktails, mocktails, and spritzers. Again, substitute anywhere you would use orange juice.

The zest and juice of these oranges provides a unique color to some of your favorite desserts or sweets, including muffins, pancakes, and puddings.

Until next time stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 10:19 am

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homemade Chicken Soup Time

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Chicken Soup

Never underestimate the power of homemade chicken soup. From the comforting aromas that fill the kitchen to the soothing taste, there is something about it that is uplifting and comforting at the same time. My daughter was home sick with a cough this week that seems to be traveling in an endless circle around her school. Soup was on her mind and I happened to be working from home on Monday.

Here is my outline for my soup. Use this as a guide and inspiration but also to help you use up veggies and herbs you may have at home already. For those of us who tend to bite off more than we can chew at the grocery store and fill up our veggie drawer at home, this may be a good way to use these up just before they start to go bad!

Also, another tip—the next time you have leftover rice, freeze it. Then when you decide to have soup night, it is ready for you! You just have to throw it into the hot broth for a few minutes to thaw out and you have instant chicken and rice soup!

I use a whole organic chicken, a large pot, a few onions (skins on), at least 1 head of garlic, cloves pulled off and smashed with the back of a pan or knife (again, you can leave skins on), a few stalks of celery, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, 2-4 large carrots, and if I have ginger in the frig I’ll put in a 1-2 inch piece, smashed.

I start with a bit of extra virgin olive oil in the pot and add the onion, cut into large chunks, the garlic, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, and all the veggies and stir. I then add the chicken, whole. I let it get a little brown before filling the pot with water. I add a few generous pinches of kosher salt and bring this to a boil. From there I turn down the heat and simmer about 2 hours.

At this point, the chicken is falling off the bone. Strain your broth (and all veggies and casings that were in there will be strained out as well) and pull meat off of the bones when it’s cool enough. Add the chicken meat back to a pot with the broth that was strained earlier, reheat and add your rice. At this point you can add new small diced-up carrots and celery for an extra crunch, or a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves. Before you serve, add fresh or dried dill, and the juice of 1-2 lemons. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This soup is always a hit at my house and seems to get anyone cheered up.

Until next time stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 2:54 pm

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Early Spring

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Asparagus Pasta

I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but right now in Northern California where I am based, we are having an unusually warm winter.

I have to say that by this time we are usually bogged down with rain and chilly temperatures. But today (and for the better part of the past few weeks) it has been in the seventies.

Tulips and daffodils are blooming everywhere. I have sandals and a sundress on and am ready to enjoy first-of-the-season organic asparagus. I know you can get asparagus year round but the growing season in the U.S. is February-June-ish depending on where you are.

One of my favorite dishes is a pasta dish I had in Italy made with freshly picked wild asparagus. One of my best friends, Gia, and I were up in a small hill town outside of Rome and saw these little old ladies gathering the asparagus. When we stumbled into our dinner spot, there was the same wild asparagus on the menu. While we may never get that specific pasta again we can create something similar and delicious here at home.

Remember this easy-to-cook vegetable is a nutritional giant! Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, the B vitamin folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Asparagus Pasta

Serves 2-4


1 bunch thin asparagus, rinsed

1⁄2 pound spaghetti or pasta

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pinch red chili flakes

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley




1. Snap the ends off the asparagus and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces 2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spaghetti, and stir.

3. Place olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes in a large sauté pan.

4. Cook garlic over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

5. Add asparagus and stir.

6. Drain spaghetti when cooked “al dente” (a bit firm to the bite). Reserve about a 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water.

7. Add the pasta to the pan with asparagus, toss with the Parmesan and basil and pepper. Add a bit of the pasta water to give more moisture.

Until next time stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: Creatas

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 12:53 pm

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food & Romance After the 14th

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Romantic Treats

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. For many of us that day is filled with chocolates, flowers, and a dinner out. For others it’s trying to get 40 school Valentine’s cards filled out with our child while managing their sugar meltdown after all the classroom parties. Since food is my thing I try and plan a menu that has a combination of what are considered to be “aphrodisiacs”. This year, with the holiday falling on Tuesday, my husband working out of town, and me serving up hundreds of dinners to those celebrating their love at my restaurant, I lost track of my own celebrating. The good news is that we can all stretch this romance out throughout the year.

Just slowing down to make a special meal at home is a good place to start. Taking the few extra minutes to put candles and a small bunch of flowers on the pre-set table starts the mood out right. And then there’s the food: did you know that many aphrodisiac foods have other health benefits (beyond the obvious!)?

We have all heard about oysters being aphrodisiacs, but here’s the reality: most of us are not going to go home after a long day at the office or with the kids and shuck our own oysters. Fortunately, there is just as much love power in other more accessible foods.

For their shape there is asparagus, cucumbers, and bananas. Simply drizzle extra virgin olive over asparagus and sprinkle with kosher salt and roast on a sheet pan at 450 degrees for 3-7 minutes depending on how thick they are (the pencil-thin ones cook fast). Serve on a platter at dinner and try feeding them to each other!

Another sexy food is honey. This natural sweetener can be used throughout a dinner. Use it in a blender salad dressing to offset pungent vinegar. Drizzle over goat cheese and serve as an appetizer. Use as a glaze with mustard for chicken.

According to nutritionist Elizabeth Ward’s article “Eat your way to a spicier sex life,” the term “honeymoon” came from an old European tradition in which newlyweds “drank honey wine during the first month of marriage to improve their sexual stamina. As a bonus, the long-ago lovebirds also got small amounts of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from honey.”

And of course there is always chocolate. Not many of us need much coercing to have a little extra chocolate. The fact that dark chocolate has a nice amount of antioxidants and is linked to love…what other excuse do we need?

So whether it’s the 16th,the 21st or the 5th of the month, try and keep the romance alive with time together sharing a special meal.

How do you keep the romance alive throughout the year? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments below!

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 1:03 pm

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Addicted to Kale?

By Chef Domenica Catelli


A few weeks ago I added a kale salad as an appetizer at my restaurant. It was born from the memory of a salad I had had at Il Buco in New York last year. I was craving kale (yeah, I know that may sound weird but it can happen to you too), and I wanted to create an easy, fresh seasonal option with several levels of flavor. It is Meyer lemon season where I live and we have an abundance of them on our tree. Once I was inspired to use this delicious citrus, the recipe quickly came together.

Since I have added this salad to the Catelli’s menu I have people coming in two to three times a week for it and saying: “I’m addicted to your kale salad.” They are always surprised when I tell them the main ingredient is kale. They are convinced that they are not kale eaters because they think of kale as tough or bitter. The lemon tenderizes the texture and the other flavors balance each other beautifully.

By adding grilled chicken you turn it into a complete meal that is not only delicious but so nutritious. The good news for all of you is you don’t need to travel to my restaurant in California’s wine country to enjoy this. You can make it for yourself tonight!

Easy Kale Salad

1 bunch dinosaur kale, rinsed, dried and cut into ¼-inch strips

2 Meyer lemons (you can substitute regular lemons)

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup of crushed croutons (smash them in bag to bits, but not crumbs)

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put kale in a bowl. Squeeze the lemons into the bowl, add the walnuts, cheese, crouton bits, and olive oil. Toss. Taste for salt and pepper.

Add grilled chicken to turn it into a full meal. A good compliment to this kale salad is chicken brushed with pesto.

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: Digital Vision

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 10:32 am

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Summer in January

By Chef Domenica Catelli

I had the privilege of spending the past three days working with the wonderful team from Better Homes & Gardens magazine on a story they are going to be running, featuring me, in the June issue.

Nancy Hopkins, the food editor, gathered the team up at Catelli’s (my restaurant) to bring to life the casual, summer entertaining meals that evolve when my friends and family get together. When she mentioned the story to me I was thrilled and honored. When she clarified that we have to shoot for June in January I was petrified. In the Northern California town I live, late January is typically very cold and rainy. They were convinced shooting the story outside would not be a problem. And guess what? They were right!

The team from Iowa brought the sun with them! We were blessed with clear skies and weather that reached almost 70 degrees one day. They left this morning and…it is cold and rainy!

I did want to remind you how important it is to stop and gather with the people that make us laugh, love and think about life from a different perspective. Our group of nine included three of my closest girlfriends, my 16 year-old daughter, my husband, brother, cousin, and cousin-in-law. We dressed in bright summer colors and forgot the photo shoot for a few hours and just truly enjoyed being together. The clinking of glasses and laughter drowned out the thoughts of homework, work deadlines, and the doldrums of winter.

There were candles, kale salad, great wine, and plenty of cheer. The simplest recipe of time well spent with those we love can bring a summer moment into any winter day. I encourage all of you to have a dinner party for no reason and invite those you love and have not seen in a while.

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 1:44 pm

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Grocery Rut

By Chef Domenica Catelli

Do you walk into the store after a long day at work or with the kids and feel overwhelmed and exhausted? If the answer is yes, you are in the majority.

For those of us who actually get excited while in the aisles of mystery produce and products, I have to tell you, we are the exception.

I know many people who go on auto pilot: bananas, eggs, bread, milk, cereal, chicken. “This is what I know, and what I go to,” says my friend Jen. Also, there are many families that have diverse needs. Someone is a vegan, someone else is gluten intolerant, etc. These specialty needs can become another overwhelming process of hunting down and decoding ingredients…sometimes at several different stores!

If we wait too long to eat, don’t have a plan, and get overwhelmed, without fail, the guilt foods start to fill the cart. The potato chips, cheddar popcorn, cookies, etc. end up half eaten on our way to the check out, and the calories pile up, and the guilt settles in.

* Beat the snack to the punch: To make the trip smoother try going in with a list with at least three things on it that sound good to you and that are good for you.

* Do your best not to shop when you are hungry. This leads to better choices. If you get there and you are famished, grab a yogurt, some string cheese or some hummus and carrots to munch on while you are shopping to avoid the high-cal junk food. (I have a tough time with this. You will see me 9 out of 10 times with a bag of spicy chips in hand when I’ve reached the low-sugar breaking point. I’m really trying to switch this up this year!)

* Quick Recipe Search. Take a quick look online before you head out of the house or office and find a simple recipe that you can print out and take with you. This will keep things interesting and expand your horizons.

Check out the following sites for quick, easy recipes:

and another favorite of mine,

Type in an ingredient you have been wanting to try and see what pops up.

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 4:15 pm

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