My new outdoor kitchen

Frankie and his new Italian Pizza Oven

I have just fulfilled a decades long dream!  I recently completed the addition of a beautiful outdoor kitchen at my home in Redmond, Washington.  I am a happy camper as they say.

My new kitchen includes an Italian wood-burning pizza oven made by Fontana Forni, a beautiful new Delta Heat grill made right here in the good old USA, a Blaze double ring power burner (that will boil a huge pan of pasta water in just minutes), and I built in a spot for old favorite stand-by… my wood charcoal burning Big Green Egg which I’ve had for about a decade (to which I added a rotisserie).  We also installed an outdoor heater to keep the covered portion warm and useable all winter.

Humble beginnings

The process started last spring.  I researched pre-fabricated islands and talked to others about building some or all of it for me, but when all was said and done I decided the only way to get what I wanted, in a timeframe I wanted, and at a price I could afford, was to build it myself.  Luckily I am now semi-retired so was able to devote a lot of time to it.

Siding begun

Forms for countertop complete

 

 

 

 

 

 

So last May I began to do just that.  It took a little convincing with my wife, who didn’t want to deal with a torn-up patio all summer, but I promised to keep the mess to a minimum (which I managed to do except when doing stonework), and get the project done as quickly as possible.

My original goal was to complete it before going on vacation in early July.  I wasn’t quite there but did manage to have it mostly complete and useable by the end of July.  There were finishing touches which took a few additional weeks but now it’s complete and I am extremely happy with the results.  AND, I managed to hit my budget!  It still was not cheap but I’m certain I would have spent at least twice what I did if I’d have had a contractor do the work.

Concrete work

I did hire out two things.  I had an electrician friend wire the outlets and the electric heater.  And I hired someone to do the concrete counter top, for which I built the forms.  I did the rest myself, including drawing up the plans, the framing, siding, stonework, tile, and cooking equipment installation (well I did hire my teenage grandson and his buddy to carry that big pizza oven).

Coming along

The remarkable part is that I was not experienced at much of what I did.  I’ve done some framing but had never done any stonework.  That’s where having good friends comes in.  I picked the brains of three contractor friends (and found out there are multiple ways to skin a cat!).  I received guidance from another friend who had done stonework (and borrowed his stonecutter).  And I utilized YouTube videos to fill in some gaps.  It’s amazing what you can learn on-line these days!

Joetisserie added to my Big Green Egg

Using my power burner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy seeing these pictures of the job in progress, and a few of the meals we’ve been preparing.  I had a great time with this project and it was very rewarding.  The only thing better is the fun of cooking with all of my new toys!

Fontana Forni Pizza Oven

 

 

 

 

Celebrating with family. My son Chris.

Family fun. My sons Noah and Chris making pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPCOMING:  With this job complete I am ready to get back to some regular food blogging.  My ambition is to do a series on pizza making.  Look for the first post soon.

 

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Pizza Rustica (AKA Torta Rustica, AKA Easter Pie)

Is it a pizza?  No, not really.

Ciao amici!  With Easter coming early this year I wanted to post this in time for you to consider making it for your Easter brunch or dinner.  It is well worth the effort involved.

This is not really a pizza in the traditional sense. It is often referred to as a torta, which I think is more accurate. In Naples and southern Italy it is traditionally served on Ash Wednesday and again on Easter so it is also known as Easter Pie.

 

This dish is very unique in that it combines a sweet, tender, egg pastry dough (what the Italians call pasta frolla) with savory fillings such as prosciutto, salami, eggs, and a blend of cheeses. The sweet-savory combination comes alive in your mouth. It is one of my personal favorites.

If you are having a party or an Easter brunch, and don’t mind going to a little trouble—this delightful, unusual dish will impress your guests like few others. It looks gorgeous. It’s delicious. And it tastes unlike anything they’ve ever had before. We made it for one of our Frankie’s wine dinners and it was one of the most popular dishes we’ve ever served. It may be served hot or at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

Pizza Rustica Recipe PDF

 

 

Frankie’s Chicken Marsala… perfect for a special dinner

This recipe is is my cook book, but for those who do not have a copy I wanted to post it here. This would be a great recipe for Christmas Eve or New Year’s or any time you want to impress your friends or family. And it really is fairly easy to prepare. No special skills needed!

I tried many different recipes before developing this one. I took the best from each and developed my own recipe which I think tops them all.

Marsala is a fortified wine from the Island of Sicily.  It comes in a “sweet” or “dry” version. The recipe calls for Sweet Marsala but I’ve used Dry and liked it just as well. It is just slightly less sweet.

Hope you enjoy!  Buon appetito e buon Natale!

Chicken Marsala Recipe

Grilled Tuscan Pork

The first time I made this I almost cried because it was so good.  I had made it for some guests who raved about it.  As you know, that makes it all the more rewarding.

I have cooked this on my Big Green Egg with a light addition of smoke from apple or cherry wood.  It is amazing.  But I also made it on

someone’s gas grill recently.  I brought along my little smoker box with wood chips and set it on top of the burners.  The resul

 

ts were nearly as good.  Even if you were to oven roast it, or grill it with no wood smoke it would be delightful.


To make this you cut into the roast and lay it out, fill it with wonderful things, then roll it back up and tie it.

I am basically a klutz and no pro at cutting meat or rolling and tying it up, so if I can figure it out I am confident you can as well. One of the keys to this is not to overcook it.

Recommended cooking temperatures for pork are lower than they used to be.  I cooked mine to 145 F and it was perfect… moist, tender, and full of flavor.

You can serve this a variety of ways. I have typically served it on a bed of white beans but you can serve it with potatoes, polenta, greens, roasted squash… the options go on-and-on.

Buon appetito!

Grilled Tuscan Pork Recipe

Beef Braciole … why did it take me so long?!

Braciole is a beef roll up which hails from southern Italy. I saw a recipe which claimed to be a hundred year old family recipe, so it’s been around a long time.  For some crazy reason though, which I cannot for the life of me understand, I waited years before trying it.  Then I wondered what the heck took me so long!  It is not only delicious, but it’s really not that complicated or time consuming.  If you’d like you could serve it with pasta or over some polenta.

I’m not sure I’d classify this as a fancy dinner or rustic peasant food?  Either way I think it will impress your family or friends.

The steps are easy.  You (or your butcher) cut the steak thin, pound it out thinner, and then layer it with cheese, breadcrumbs, herbs and prosciutto… roll it up, tie it and cook it in some good tomato sauce and you’re ready to eat with a grateful heart.

Buon Appetito!  Frankie

Braciole Recipe