Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Gift 2010--Cosmic Dressing

During this past Thanksgiving, my sister Marisa, from California came for a visit. Together, we decided what the Thanksgiving menu would be, and she made a complete grocery list of all the items needed for all the delicious dishes that we would share on Thanksgiving. 

One of the recipes she brought with her was this amazing dressing that can be used for salad and many other dishes. You get to decide. A friend of mine proclaimed that he hated cilantro and would never eat it. Well, needless to say, he loved the dressing, even after I told him that there was a large amount of fresh cilantro in it.

If you aren't lucky enough to be on my list of folks that will receive a jar of this delicious dressing, you can give me a call and I can whip up a batch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

September Crisp

After taking the summer off, I am back at it and it feels great. The summer was filled with friends, cooking, and travelling. My mind is always thinking about food and what recipes I can make that others will enjoy. The summer is always a fabulous time for using local fresh ingredients right out of the garden. I visited many different farmers markets and I wonder why I get such excitement out of seeing a purple carrot or a yellow beet. Thanks to all the farmers who keep the cycle going! 

The menu:


cream of tomato-fennel
made with local organic tomatoes 

arugula surprise
local organic baby arugula tossed with pistachios, blueberries, radishes, and beets...a sweet balsamic vinagrette dressing

Main course:
grilled shrimp
shell on shrimp marinated with lemon and fresh garden herbs served with cucumber-pinneaple salsa and homemade guacamole sides include jasmine rice and grilled seasonal vegetables
grilled vegetables
marinated with lemon and fresh garden herbs served with cucumber-pinneaple salsa and homemade guacamole sides include jasmine rice and grilled seasonal vegetables

homemade dark chocolate coconut milk ice cream sweetened with agave
homemade vanilla strawberrt coconut milk ice cream sweetened with agave

In addition to all the great food this month, my sister-in-law sang for my guests.

Save the date for October 23 for the next Crisp dinner. I am working on the menu, which I am sure will include all the delicious fall veggies that are upon us. If you aren't currently on the evite list, or know someone who you think would like to come, please let me know!  --Joyce Monaco (

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sruti Yoga Studio Opening

My friend Amy Web has just opened Sruti Yoga Center in Great Barrington, MA. She has a new, beautiful studio and she is continuing to hold Mysore classes along with workshops. Check out her web site for schedules and events at

Previously, Amy came to one of my dinners, she really liked the food and asked me to cater the opening of her studio for approximately 30 people. We decided on the following menu:


veggie sushi rolls
veggie summer rolls
beet and apple salsa
date bars
dried fruit rolls

I have become quite the expert in rolling....sushi, summer, and dried fruit rolls. It seemed like an underriding theme. I was also able to use fresh herbs from my herb garden, which always makes the food more special and fresh.

The evening was very special and it was exciting to be able to share this evening with Amy,her friends, and students.

Monday, May 10, 2010

About Crisp

Growing up in a family of Italian immigrants, I learned to cook at a very young age. Dinnertime was a time for our family—me, my three sisters, and my parents—to gather around the table, and the food. We grew a large garden and canned a bit of the harvest for the year, always enough tomatoes to last through the next season. Holidays were always about the food and, of course, the Italian dishes that dominated the table. I didn’t realize the importance of cooking until I left home and started a life of my own. After getting married and having a son, I began experimenting with cuisine from all over the world and inviting friends—sometimes 15 or more! —to help eat my prepared feasts. What memories are made around a table of friends and good food!

Now, I am creating a table for friends to meet and enjoy my cooking exactly where it is meant to be enjoyed: in the home. Any home will do! You can attend my monthly Crisp dinners, or I can come to your home and create a special dining experience for any occasion from start to finish. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or just bringing friends together, Crisp services include helping to create the perfect menu, setting a beautiful table, cooking and serving the meal, and clean-up. As the host or hostess, you get to relax and enjoy yourself with your guests and Crisp does the rest. Please contact us at 518-956-0534 to discuss your special event.

This past weekend, I decided to open my house to friends to come and try out some of my treats. I served some of my past favorites along with a couple new dishes. The menu:

veggie sushi rolls

summer rolls
beet and fennel salad
spinach salad with orange wedges, dates, and a orange blossom vinaigrette
spicy chicken wings
date, fig, and almond pastries

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fiesta Sonsole: March 26, 2010

new friends and exquisite
food in an inspired setting

Let me tell you, when I am preparing food for an event, unlike other chefs who talk about tasting everything, I seem to do the opposite. Normally I eat very little and sometimes don't even test what I am serving. I will confess that since my strong cooking skills are not in the dessert area, I did taste it, just to be sure.

Good news...the vegetable paella was good. I didn't tell anyone that I had never made that version before, but how can you go wrong with fresh artichokes, fennel, shitake mushrooms, tomatoes, and homemade veggie stock.

I also broke out a bit and ended up with several guests that had never attended. I was so excited and a bit nervous. The mix of the group was really special.  I really love getting a group of folks together that are strangers, serve them some yummy food and see at the end of the night everyone has met and made new friends.

for starters:
tapas trio that included manchego cheese, marinated olives, and mushrooms and garlic. my friend kate, who did an awesome job helping me, did a great job plating these and they looked fabulous.

next came:
roasted vegetable salad that included red and yellow peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and eggplant. A light dressing of olive oil and vinegar was all it needed.

the main course:
meat/seafood paella or vegetable...some of my guest who requested one version also asked to try the other.

something sweet:
burnt cream--which was more like a custard than a creme brulee.

I try to have time at the end of the evening to mingle with the guests and I know I miss out on the conversations and stories that happen during dinner, but so happy to provide a space for this to happen.

If you are interested in any of the recipes or would like more information about how I can help you create a special evening (birthday, family gathering, anniversary) for you please contact me at 518.956.0534.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crisp Pizza Party, guest chef, Mike Watson 1-22-10

Well, it has been a few months since my last event....during the holidays we invited  a few friends over and my husband made pizza, I made chicken wings, and my son made a flourless chocolate cake. It was a party.

Everyone raved about the food, so I thought, why not do a crisp event featuring pizza.

Trying to serve eight guests hot pizza, while only using a conventional oven with two pizza stones was a bit of a challenge.....but I think that in the end everyone loved the pizza. My pizza-making husband, Mike, sure makes a delicious pizza and the only way he can do it is by making a huge mess.  Thanks to my trusty helper Natasha, she was able to help in keeping Mike on track and helping him along.

We started out with the chicken wing course. I started to prepare these wings at about 2:00 pm that day.  They take a long time to cook, and the longer you cook them, the tastier and tender they get.  I also needed to get them out of the oven in time to heat up the oven for pizza.  I did use my trusty gas outside grill to keep them warm.

Next, the salad--which was a traditional Italian-style salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, carrots, roasted red peppers, and cured black olives. The dressing, a simple oil and vinegar, that included salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil.

On to the main course. Three different pizzas: cheese, sausage and mushroom, and feta and spinach. I was told from one of the guests, that she didn't like spinach, but loved the pizza. In my opinion, spinach is a tuff veggie, done correctly I believe many folks who say they don't like spinach could change their minds.

Lastly, homemade ice-cream sundays....all homemade--the ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Topped with a fresh cherry and walnuts.

My guests graciously let me take their was  a really great evening, see for yourself .

Thanks Jess A. for your support in my endeavor, and being a supporter by attending many of my dinners....much luck for you in Boston!

Friday, January 1, 2010


Since I am on a roll I have one last post to start the new year.....the holiday season. This year I took a break from hosting the holiday feast at my house and enjoyed being with friends and families. I did decide to host my own birthday part, with the help of my husband Mike, and son Dylan, who was visiting from Chicago. It was a last minute idea, but I had 10 friends come. We ate chicken wings, pizza (homemade of course) made by my incredibly talented pizza-maker husband, salad and a flour less chocolate birthday cake that Dylan made for me. It was a really nice time and it was fun to celebrate my birthday, since my birthday is on December 25. Another really fun thing that I did for my birthday was to go to NYC with my friend Laura and mosh the the most awesome tunes of Gogol Bordello.

We spent bringing in the New Year with a few close friends.....we hoola hooped, we danced, we of course ate, and manifested all of our dreams for 2010 with friends on skype, we took a walk, and we lit sparklers at midnight. The last thing we did was we picked our words for both English and Italian. Louver won according to the American Heritage, definition: a framed opening, as in a wall, door or window, fitted with fixed or movable horizontal slats used in such an opening; and Innesto from the Italian dictionary, which means connection. Based on these words, I am confident that 2010 is going to be most excellent.

Bringing in the New Year I decided to make Cinnamon rolls--something I have never made, but saw a recipe that included cottage cheese and buttermilk. I had to make them since I had the two ingredients, two items I would not typically have on hand, especially at the same time.

Speaking of 2010 I am starting Crisp events beginning on January 22, with upcoming dates of February 26 and March 26. With menus featuring Mike's homemade pizza, braised beef ribs, and a tribute to my Spanish friend, with a Paella main course. I hope to see you soon

Holiday Gifts 2009-Marinara Sauce

What to make for a holiday gift? It took me a while to decide what it would be. I wanted something simple, and something that wouldn't cost me a ton of money. I also wanted it to be something that I could give to many of my friends that have special diets. What would be more appropriate than to make marinara sauce. I grew up on this stuff....homemade canned tomatoes from our huge garden waiting for Sunday to be opened and eaten. You could smell the sauce stepping outside your door. It was a tradition on Sunday, in my family, and in many families around, to eat pasta with homemade sauce on Sunday at, no later than 2:00 pm.

The recipe is simple, unfortunately, I don't measure when I cook, but I will give you approximates based on 2-14.5 ounce cans of tomatoes.

2 cans San Marzano tomatoes
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 teaspoons oregano
splash of olive oil
salt & pepper to your liking

Simmer for no less than 2 hours and viola....homemade marinara sauce that can be used for pasta, pizza, eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, or as my one friend who received a bottle told me she did with the sauce--put it on a brown rice tortilla, topped with cheese and into her toaster oven.