Fabulous Fabio Viviani at Casa Tua, Miami

The affable, fabulous Fabio!

Darlings!  Well, it's been SOME TIME since I've had time to really sit, ponder, write and post my bloggity blog but here I am, finally!

Back in February, a publicist for Bertolli olive oil spotted my blog online and invited La Diva to attend a special, private demonstration of Top Cheftestant Fabio Viviani.  It was a side event for the South Beach Food and Wine Festival called the Chef Viviani Cooking Experience (sponsored by Bertolli olive oil and products)

I was thrilled!  Not only is Fabio one of my very favorite past cheftestants from Top Chef, but Casa Tua is one of the most highly regarded, romantic and beautiful restaurants in Miami.  What a WONDERFUL WAY to start the day!

The private demo started at 9 am.  NINE A. to the M!    Though La Diva is usually up hours before 9 am, I really don't TALK before that time!  And here I was, a slightly tired, not-quite-awake-yet La Diva, chatting with Fabio, like we were old buds, about "What type of pasta he prefers, fresh or dry?"

Fabio:  "It depends on the sauce," he wisely stated!  And then went on to talk about various sauces with pastas.

"What do you think about cheese with seafood?  Traditionally, Italians don't really combine the two."

Fabio:  "It's different for you in America...shrimp and grits come to mind, but not usually!"

I then tell him about my divine recipe for oysters a la Carl grilled with prosciutto and parmigiano (and other secret delights) which he agrees sound delicious.

While Fabio and I chatted, other bloggers and food writers began to file in and he excused himself to meet them.   We were encouraged to take a seat around a large rectangular table in front of the open kitchen, naturally, I was already near the kitchen so sat up front center!

A gorgeous open kitchen of Casa Tua restaurant...wish I had this space for my classes and demos!

Casa Tua chefs directly from Italy, both lovely and talented, in front of the Bertolli oil and vinegar display.  And how about that big hunk of beef filet?  La Diva was drooling!

The ingredients for the fresh pasta and beef dishes are displayed.  Those oyster mushrooms are AMAZING!  Chef Viviani prefers to use oyster mushrooms as they are "perfect for roasting."  

Fabio began the demonstration by speaking about HOW EASY IT IS to make fresh pasta and asked if anyone had made it before?  Surprisingly, only a few people put up their hands, including myself.  I found that I was one of the few chefs to be invited as I write AND cook....most of the attendees were reporters and bloggers and were a bit hesitant to speak up.  Fabio ASSURED US that it was super easy...

He then made the entire lot in a food processor!  Fabio explained that one egg should be used per person.  After the dough formed a ball, he took it out and put it through the pasta maker.

If you remember Fabio from Top Chef (and how could you forget?), you remember how utterly charming and funny he is.  Especially when he speaks with his mangled Italian pronunciations of English-American words!  He had everyone laughing when he asked the staff for a spoon and was given a very large spoon for tasting.  He asked for a smaller one, exclaiming in his broken English:  

"Thatza big-ass-uh spoon!"

He also made me guffaw loudly over his remarks about "being picky."  Fabio:  "Hey, I lost Top Chef TWICE!  How can we be peekee?  (picky!)"


 The pasta sheets are rolled up and cut into ribbons.  Then Fabio "fluffed" the pasta up, separated the ribbons and created several small nests, then put them aside.

Within a 10 minutes, Fabio had created perfect pasta  before our very eyes, indeed proving that making fresh pasta was quick and easy for even a novice.

 The magical kitchen elves making large pans of delicious pasta bolognese for the attendees to try.

This smelled and TASTED divine!  I could have eaten the whole dish myself....

Chef Fabio Vivian's Fettuccine with Bolognese Sauce 

Serves 4
5 tbsp Bertolli Classico Olive Oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tbsp of rosemary sprig
1 & 1/4 cups chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrot
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1.5 pounds ground beef
2 cups dry red wine
3/4 cup tomato paste
2 cup fresh crushed tomato from a can
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus additional for passing
1 lb Fettuccine
12 heaping tbsp flour
4 eggs
1 tbsp Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
Quickly beat eggs in a food processor with a pinch of salt and pepper. (Use 1 egg per person you are feeding).   Add heaping “Italian” tablespoons of flour and Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to food processor and mix until dough begins to form into a ball.  
Pass dough through pasta press twice until ¼ inch thick.  Roll dough onto itself into a burrito shape and chop width-wise to create fettuccine.
Add fettuccine to boiling water over high heat, stirring occasionally until it floats, approx. 5 to 8 minutes.
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add next 5 ingredients. Cook until vegetables are soft but not brown, 12-14 minutes. 
Add beef, increase heat to high. Cook until meat is brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon, for about 15 minutes.
Stir in the wine, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until sauce is thick, flavors blend, and juices are reduced, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  

But wait, there's more!  Fabio was now going to demonstrate filet mignon with oyster mushrooms, rosemary and a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Fabio states to the guests:  "You can use any Bertolli brand you like!"  At that time of the morning, he certainly kept everyone engaged and smiling.

Chef Fabio says that oyster mushrooms are "perfect for roasting" and suggests blanching them first to allow them to crisp while retaining moisture inside.

Now dat's what I'm talkin' 'bout!  Beautiful, bloody, tender meat at 10 am....sign me up!

Chef Fabio Viviani's Filet Cutlets with Mushroom
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

4 (6-oz.) pieces filet mignon, cut in half lengthwise (for total of 8 pieces)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. Bertolli Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil 
1 lb. Oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced, or your favorite variety of mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2/3 cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. of Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp. flour 
1 cup Bertolli Balsamic Vinegar of Modena 
1 tsp. sugar
Pound beef until ½-inch thick. Season both sides of beef with rosemary, salt and pepper.
Heat Bertolli Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and cook beef, turning once, 6 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove beef and set aside.
Add mushrooms, garlic and shallots to same skillet and cook, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until wine is reduced almost completely . Add  broth and cook 3 minutes. Combine 1 tablespoon Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil and flour. Add oil mixture stirring until dissolved and cook until sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. 
Heat Bertolli Balsamic Vinegar and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until liquid is reduced by a quarter.
Place mushroom mixture on serving plate. Top with steaks. Drizzle beef with Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil and balsamic reduction, season with pepper.

Oh man.  The food was really delicious;  simple, hearty food that let the quality ingredients shine, a cooking style La Diva heartily embraces and employs.

After the demonstration, guests mingled and asked more questions while La Diva made a bee line for Fabio's business partner, Jacopo Falleni, master mixologist at their restaurant Cafe Firenze in Los Angeles.  Jacopo creates unusual, custom cocktails and then pairs each with food.  I told him about my "small bites, BIG DRINKS" cooking and cocktail class, where I do the same, and he gave me his card and told me to "call him."  Nice guy, truly.

I talked to a few more reporters and guests, handed out cards, thanked Fabio and the publicist profusely and headed off to Casa La Diva to conduct my own demonstration for bachelorettes from the Caymen Islands, Part Two of a DELICIOUS DAY was about to begin.

You can get more info on Chef Fabio Viviani along with recipes and videos by going to his website HERE.

PS:  Darling, want to keep up on all things Top Chef? Then head over to my blogging bud's site called All Top Chef by clicking HERE!  Enjoy, darlings!

Delicious and Easy Lentil Salad DONE Four Ways!

Succulent grilled organic chicken with lemon over black lentil feta salad with greens is one way La Diva enjoys tasty lentils!

Darlings, I just LOVE lentils!  I love them first and foremost because they are delicious, but also because they so versatile, come in so many different colours and sizes but mostly because they are so quick cooking!  Within 15 minutes, one can have a savory and filling dinner, even a vegetarian dinner, using lentils!

These small black lentils are tiny...about the size of a fat sesame seed, so that means they cook super quickly!  And to tell the truth, you WON'T find these at the regular super market but DO try to find them, as they are a great pantry staple.

This is Bertolli extra virgin olive oil.  I am plugging it in this post.  La Diva RARELY plugs products.  And for this reason, I am not given loads of free foodie stuff.  I feel my blog is about my self expression and MY company, not an advertisement for other company's products because they give me samples.  (yeah, I've got integrity like that)  HOWEVER....I REALLY DO USE BERTOLLI and have used it in my kitchen for years.

So, when the publicist for Bertolli invited me to the Fabulous FABIO VIVIANI'S cooking demonstration back in February, I was happy and thrilled to attend. (A post on the charming Fabio and his lively cooking demo will be coming up NEXT POST, promise!)   Apparently, Viviani is a spokesperson for the brand, so hey, two Eyetalians can't be wrong, right?   

Along with the demo, I got product info and several bottles of their oils and balsamic vinegar.  And because, again, I REALLY DO LIKE BERTOLLI, I am going to show you a few ways to use it!

I boiled the lentils in water for about 10 minutes or until tender (you can taste them and if they are chewy, leave it for another minute or two)  When cooked, drain them in a colander and, pay attention, this is important...I add the flavorful and fruity extra virgin olive oil and sea salt while they are draining in the sink, still hot.  By adding the oil and salt at this time, it allows the lentils to absorb MORE FLAVOR as they cool.  Go on, taste them!  Now, tell me those aren't the tastiest little lentils you've ever made in ten minutes!

You should be able to discern the lovely flavors of the olive oil and salt in the lentils.  Season to taste and allow to cool completely.

You now have a KICK ASS base for a few light meals.

Now, I'm going to combine these simple ingredients to create a favorite salad of mine.  I like to use good quality feta cheese that is in a brine and is imported; I like it's creamy texture and salty taste.  A lot of "pre-crumbled" feta is too dry and flavorless...avoid it at all costs!  I also like using organic spinach as it holds up well in the dish after a day or two.  Just these three ingredients make for a tasty, versatile salad.

Chiffonade the spinach and crumble the cheese into the lentils, mix well.

Add more salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil if needed.  EAT!

This salad, as is, is perfect for picnics and setting out at a buffet as it tastes great at room temperature, is satisfying and holds up very well being out of the refrigerator as the spinach does not easily wilt.

OR....you can add the lentil salad to greens and tomatoes!

OR...add it to warm rice and use as a base for a hearty vegetarian lunch of sliced, marinated heirloom tomatoes with sweet spring onions!

And of course, the lentil salad is JUST DIVINE when served under simple grilled chicken!  All I did was season the breast with Bertolli olive oil (the regular stuff is for cooking, the extra virgin stuff is for AFTER cooking, to add FLAVOR!) grill it til the chicken is just done, allow it to rest until slightly cooler, and then sliced it up.  Spread the chicken over the lentils and additional greens, douse with fresh lemon juice and freshly cracked pepper, sea salt and lemon zest!  Light, satisfying and delicious.  And perfect for warmer weather meals.

See what a few little black lentils can do for your pantry?  (and Bertolli olive oil, natch!)  How do YOU like to cook lentils, darling?  Do you even cook lentils?  Why or why not?  DO TELL La Diva all about it.