I want to start off this week with a question for YOU !! What is the best thing for you to eat when the weather is hot ?? If you say ice cream, that is a GREAT thing to eat when it is hot, but the BEST thing for you to eat are fruits and vegetables !! For June we are celebrating National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month with three very fresh, very delicious, very EASY recipes for you enjoy. In my new cookbook Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, I offer even MORE recipes than you can find in this magazine ; )

As we all know, June is the beginning of the Summer season, so we see hotter temperatures, and that equals riper fruits for everyone !! Especially tomatoes, Summer is peak tomato season, so if you want to make a big batch of tomato sauce with fresh, perfectly ripened tomatoes, now is the time !! Make sure you try them first for the flavor, because a tomato can LOOK very sexy, but the beauty is only skin deep ; ).

Here are some of my favorite fruits and veggies that really bring the BOOM for the summer months, and some tips to pick the BEST of the bunch !!

Watermelons – May, June, and July are the prime months for picking watermelon, so of course I am gonna give you all of my tips on how to choose the PERFECT watermelon at the PERFECT time of the year !! You want to pick one that is dull, not shiny. The first instinct is to go for whatever is shiny, but shiny means unripe in watermelon language. When you look at the watermelon you can also go CSI and can see how long the melon has been ripe by checking for the spot where it was sitting in the watermelon patch. There should be some kind of circle where it was sitting, like a foot for the watermelon, and it goes from green to white to yellow. The closer to yellow the foot is, the more ripe the melon will be. Do not get too ripe !!

Strawberries – When it comes to strawberries, the easiest way to pick them is by tasting them first. Normally you can do this at pretty much anywhere, including the farmer’s market. Some people are scared to try the fruit, they are afraid that the police will tackle them for stealing a fruit without paying, but you can even ask the people working there to try it, they may laugh at you, but they will always say yes. When it comes to strawberries, try before you buy !!

Peppers – Peppers are just now coming into season and will be until autumn, not that long, so you should get them while you still can !! Green, yellow, and red peppers are all the same peppers, but the different colors depend on how long they have been ripening. Red is the most ripe and the sweetest, and will give you the best value for your nutrition with a ton of vitamins A and C. They also go great on kabobs ; )

Corn – In California, the peak of corn season is June, so it is the ideal time of year to pick some fresh corn for your summer barbecues !! For the perfect corn, take a peek at the top of the corn and make sure there are kernels all the way to the top. When you’re taking a peek, check the little silk strands inside the husk and make sure that they are not too dry.

Squash – Whether it is zucchini, patty pan, or the classic yellow squash, now is the time to shine for the summer squash family. For zucchini and yellow squash, look for a squash no larger than 8 inches with little to no scratches or blemishes. As they get bigger they get bitter. The perfect patty pan squash are on the smaller side, so look for the babies. These will not always be in season, you never miss it until it is gone !!

Eggplant – and of course we have our lonely friend eggplant who is always sitting at the store with no one to cook with him !! I am here to help make that food connection ; ). Try out my caponata, or my easy eggplant parmesan. For picking eggplant, think average, average everything. The size of the eggplant and the firmness should be somewhere in the middle. If it is too squishy it is going bad, if it is too hard it is not ripe. If it is too big it is too ripe and the seeds are gonna be annoying. Also make sure there are little if any marks on the outside.

What is your favorite summer fruit or vegetable ?? Comment below or tweet me @Fabioviviani #fruitandveg !!

Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments

Hello #Teamfabio !! Happy June to everybody. June is National #Seafood Month, so we are gonna be celebrating this week with three new seafood recipes I have created just for you : ). I have a whole seafood section in my new cookbook Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, so if you have not yet, you should take a look at it and get a copy ; ) Some of the recipes include Roasted Mussels With Lemon-Wine Sauce, Seafood Cioppino, and Braised Octopus. Yum !

You know how people talk about the promised land, “the land of milk and honey?” Well to many Europeans like myself, when we are going to America, it is like we are going to the promised land of meat. America, land of the free, home of the brave, meat of the animals ; ).

But of course we hear exaggerations, and when we get to America it is not always what we hear. America has plenty of meat, but you never hear about America’s fish !!

The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve come to learn how enormously rich in fish and seafood America’s oceans, lakes, rivers, brooks, and streams are. In fact, it was FISH, not beef, that was at the heart of the United States’ early history.

It’s believed that the Vikings first stumbled upon North America as they searched for cod. The vast fishing grounds they found became the backbone of colonial New England’s economy—so much so that Barnstable County in Massachusetts is still known as Cape Cod because of the teeming schools of fish found in the icy Atlantic waters that surround it. And this bounty wasn’t limited to cod.

In the seventeenth century, it is said that New York Harbor contained half of the world’s oysters, and lobsters were so common on the northern Atlantic coast that they were gathered by hand from the shoreline and considered fit eating for only servants and prisoners.

How the times have changed !! But this is typical with many foods. Bread for instance. At one time the very grainy wheat breads which we keep on the top shelf at the bakery TODAY was the least desirable bread to be eating. When they first invented white bread, it was the best thing ever and it was the classy option for bread eaters. Now whole grain is back in style, and lobsters are fine dining. Maybe 200 years from now instant soup will be a delicacy ; ).

Across the country, you can find as many ways to prepare fish as you can find types of fish. Whether it is the Gulf shrimp of Louisiana and the salmon and halibut of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, or the yellowtail and poke of Hawaii and the grouper and conch of Florida, or the cod of New England and the walleye of the Great Lakes, Americans put this amazing catch to good use.

We see these all come out to shine with regional classics as Maryland crab cakes, New England clam bakes, Florida conch fritters, and midwestern Lenten fish fries.

And as newcomers flocked to the United States, they brought in them their own ways of preparing fish as well. Today in most places you can find sushi, ceviche, and fish tacos alongside fried grouper, grilled salmon, or blackened catfish.

For Italians like me, of course we love fish. We have over 5000 miles of coast, so the wonderworld of fish of America is truly a home away from home. It is also a great place to learn so many different, authentic regional recipes and styles of cooking fish, and as a chef it is important to have diversity in your skillset. You never know when you have to cook something that you are not used to, so get used to cooking everything !!

What is your favorite seafood dish ?? Comment below or tweet me @Fabioviviani !!

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments

Happy National Burger week #TeamFabio !! We are celebrating this delicious holiday with SEVEN of my favorite #burger recipes ALL WEEK LONG !! I know, me and burgers have had a rocky relationship, but we only got off on the wrong foot. Now we are best friends : )

When you think of American food, the hamburger is one of the top, if not the first food that comes to mind. I think it is funny because the word hamburger is actually referencing Hamburg, Germany, but that itself is American too – people from everywhere trying to make a better life for ourselves : ) !! Did you know that during World War 2 people actually STOPPED calling hamburgers by their names ?? It is like the whole freedom fry thing a few years ago, looking back on it, it is so silly. Come on people it’s food !! Would a hamburger be as delicious by any other name ?? ; )

It seems like only yesterday when I was on Top Chef All-stars going up to the stage and taking the picture of the burger. Of all the things I could pick it had to be burgers !! The biggest problem for me personally was that I just didn’t know what I was doing. Burgers are not so big in Italy, and at all of the restaurants I have worked at I had never made a burger before in my LIFE !! So of course right off the bat I am troubled by the dish – and that is a problem too, you need confidence.

So here I am, buying all kinds of things at the store to prep for the challenge, and I am wondering how I should even BEGIN. What kind of burger: should I go with the old fashioned burger, or should I reinvent the wheel on this one ?? But then why reinvent the wheel when the wheel is so perfect ?? Put all of this together and there you have it, my failure. On top of that I couldn’t even say burger !! “Booger” “Boorger” I still hear that sometimes from Top Chef fans !!

It has been a little bit more than two years since then, and things have changed a lot. Burgers are delicious, I love burgers – if you have ever been to In-n-out in moorpark maybe you have seen me there ; ). Or if you have seen Life After Top Chef you may have seen me going to get a double double in the middle of the night. It was amazing.

I have learned a lot about the hamburger in two years, enough for me to make my OWN recipes with some twists on the traditional hamburger, INCLUDING a few meatless choices for all of you vegetarians out there : ).

Here is my Chow Ciao episode of the perfect burger full of my take on losing on Top Chef and how to cook the best, classic hamburger ever. Let’s face it, my Top Chef burger sucked, I did not know what I was doing, but I have learned from my mistake !!

What is your favorite kind of burger? I know there are THOUSANDS of different kinds of burgers all over the place – so much that I do not have time to go through them all. So you tell me: what is your ultimate burger ?? Comment below or tweet me @Fabioviviani #burger.

Posted by on May 10, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments

#TeamFabio, this week is Mother’s Day – a holiday that is worth celebrating all week, all month, all year for that matter. Some people like to say that I am a mamma’s boy, and to that I say, “what’s wrong with that?!”

In my life, my mother was always there for me and she always guided me in the right direction, and I really did need it !! If you saw in my cookbook, I was a really crazy kid. Setting grandma on fire, trying to steal the pope’s hat, or just being annoying around the house, I was always getting into trouble.

I am always grateful to my mamma because she was able to deal with my energy, and she was also able to take this energy and focus it on something that I have made my living off of since I first began working, my passion, cooking !!

When I was five years old I was the little kitchen helper for my mamma and nonna, I did the little things, I felt important, and it was fun !! I took this to the restaurant business still as a kid and worked my way from the bottom up peeling veggies and eventually owning restaurants and eventually being on Top Chef, Life After Top Chef, cooking on Chow Ciao with amazing people, and even sharing our family recipes in my new cookbook Fabio’s Italian Kitchen.

None of this would be possible if my mamma never took me into the kitchen and introduced me to the world of food and cooking.

I know you all love your mothers ALMOST as much as I do ; ), and so I think you should really do something special for her this Sunday to celebrate her love for you and your love for her. If you know me by now, for my family, cooking and food are the second most important thing in holidays after family and love, so my suggestion is to make food WITH love for your mamma this weekend. This may be difficult because moms LOVE cooking for their babies, but you should insist this year on cooking for her yourself with the help of my amazing recipes.

Really, the recipes I share with you this week are like the glue for family, fun, and love. So use them !!

Here is me interviewing my mom LAST year for mother’s day on Chow Ciao: http://screen.yahoo.com/mothers-day-bonus-fabios-mom-070000646.html. I love you mamma !!

Now I know I have told you a lot about my mamma and our stories these past few weeks with my Cookbook, and now I wanna hear yours !! What is your fondest memory of your mamma ?? When is the memory you look back on and think “I can’t believe I did that” or “I can’t believe she didn’t kill me?” Tweet me @Fabioviviani #mothersday or leave your comment below !!

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments

Hey there #TeamFabio !! Cinco De Mayo is right around the corner, and I know I’m excited for all the food to come !! Tacos, burritos, salsa, guacamole !! I’m excited just thinking about it !! Before we can enjoy all the mouth watering food… What IS Cinco De Mayo…?

Drinko de Mayo…. I mean Cinco de Mayo ; ) is Spanish for the “Fifth of May” Did you know that Cinco de Mayo marks the day of the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 !! Talk about putting some history behind your Cinco De Mayo Margarita !! ; )

Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Parade, Fiesta, Food, Drink, and other festivities. So I thought: what better way than to spice up your Fiesta with some of my fusion recipes ?? We all know the most important part of your Cinco De Mayo celebration is good times with your friends and family, so we’re gonna move on to the SECOND best part… the drinks !! You have the beer of course… the tequila… and do not forget, the SANGRIA (click here for an amazing sangria recipe) !!

Now that I have quenched your thirst, it’s time to move on to the 3rd best part…. THE FOOD. So much to choose from: Chicken Rojo Tacos, Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Tacos, Pinto Bean and Butternut Squash Enchiladas…. I’m making myself hungry now… !!

Since Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, I think it’s really important to know that Mexican food isn’t just burritos, enchiladas, tacos, etc. There are so many dishes in Mexican culture that aren’t recognized as much as tacos might be, but are just as if not more delicious : )

One of my favorites is actually very popular in Puebla; the place where the Mexicans had victory over the French: Mole sauce !! Mole sauce is popular to put on chicken and in certain occasions pork tamales…. yum !! Mole’s is like the Mexican version of my whatever you have that is available vegetable minestrone – you can make it a MILLION different ways !! Depending how and who makes your Mole, it can turn out spicy, sweet, or bitter !! It’s all what you prefer, but it is AMAZING on chicken. I’m going to work in Nutella again, and say “What if you replaced the peanut butter OR the chocolate with Nutella…. ; ) “

Another favorite I have for the upcoming summer weather is: Horchata !! Horchata’s key ingredients are usually rice, cinnamon stick, and lime zest !! Horchata has been described to taste like milky cinnamon rice water …. but believe me it taste a lot better than it sounds ; ) If you want to give your Horchata a kick this summer add some rum to it : ) It is a great mix of fun and delicious.

Is there a certain Mexican food that YOU enjoy that I didn’t mention ?? Be sure to tweet me @Fabioviviani and tell me what I should try this #Cincodemayo : )

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments

Happy Tuesday #TeamFabio !! Guess what everybody ?! My new cookbook is here !! So for today, I am gonna tell you a little about my new cookbook and what you should be expecting. Here is a warning for you: this is not your everyday cookbook !!

What makes this cookbook so special is the stories. Through the over 150 recipes there are tons of stories about growing up in Italy and learning to cook with my family for 26 years !! That includes the time when I lit my grandma on fire when I was five too, so get ready to read about my childhood terrors ; ).

You will get to know me on a more personal level when you are reading this cookbook. The recipes are from my amazing mother and grandmother that have been passed down for generations in my family. They give anyone reading them a good idea of how life was like for me growing up in Florence, experiencing cooking all over Italy, and learning the best traditional recipes that Italy has to offer.

As for the food, I normally like to give you quick and easy recipes on fabioviviani.com. In my recipe book however, some of these recipes take some time, especially if you are braising. But I do try to keep it as simple and traditional as possible. You do not need a 50 ton super deluxe food processor or the laser guided butcher knife to make these recipes – they are good for ANY kitchen !!

Another thing you can learn from my cookbook is common sense !! Whether it is not taking naps while you are cooking or learning what a handful of salt is, you can learn a lot of the untaught rules of cooking from Fabio’s Italian Kitchen. It really has it all. If you have not ordered it by now, you should !! It is hilarious, it is fun, and it is full of my family recipes along with beautiful pictures of them, and some of baby Fabio too ; ) .

I am proud of my new cookbook and I am proud of you for sticking with #TeamFabio and for making my delicious recipes week after week. Thank you for all of the support, without you I would not be where I am today, you rock !!

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in blog, Fabio Viviani's Kitchen Academy Blog | 0 comments