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Zia Agnese and why Red, White and Green isn’t only special because of Christmas

November 28, 2010

Okay, I have a confession to make. This one might come as a bit of a shock to you…..Here goes….

…at the risk of sounding culturally chauvinistic….

I am kind of extremely bias to all things Italian.

I had to say it. For my moral sanity. I had to be honest with you. There’s something about the culture, the food, the wine, the people….the country…that just gets me. You know what I mean? When you just feel so in sync with something. Everything Italian just fits me like a glove.

I could sit here forever and list all the reasons why I would wear red, white and green everyday gladly to show my pride, but I think I’ll skip to my main argument…the one that’ll drive my point home I’m sure.

As I’ve mentioned (countless) times before, I grew up in an Italian/Lithuanian household. Although the Lithuanian culture and traditions are still very much alive and thriving in our family functions, the fact that I grew up in a predominantly Italian neighbourhood meant that I had much more exposure to that side of the fence.  My dad was born in Terraccina, and despite growing up most of his life here in Canada, a lot of that culture was entrenched in his, and subsequently, our daily lives. But aside from the unrivaled family meals, the lively traditions, and the homemade wines, it is the people, my relatives, that make me truly proud to announce my Italian heritage.

I am a family girl, to the core. Not only do I strongly advocate that I have the most supportive, loving and thoughtful family ever, but they are indeed the coolest.

Seriously. I am actually way at the bottom of the cool charts in comparison to them. Most of my aunts and uncles can out drink me (classic example: a recent family reunion: cut to me passed out upstairs, not recalling how I got there, while my family continues to knock back shots of Stoli downstairs).

Perfect example of the pinnacle of coolness=my Zia Agnese. Not only does she own a wardrobe that would rival any woman with a shopping addiction, she sports a bleach blonde hairdo, drives a brand new Camaro (that doubles as the true love of her life), is fitter than most people I know, has a wicked sense of humour, promotes body piercings, and, on top of it all,  is 65 years old.

Since she works at the hair salon in The Bay at Yorkdale, I spent my four years of university commuting with her. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your energy level on any given morning. Oh, did I mention that she is more energetic than most of my 23-year-old friends.

All. Day. Long.

And I’m positive I mentioned this too, but I’ll remind you, that I am far from a morning person. Not a healthy match, I tell you.

But I must admit, she will perk you up on those mornings when you might be feeling particularly down.

Especially those mornings when Zio Joe decides to take the wheel….and Zia Agnese spends the duration of the ride telling him to “Cambia Lane-ah” in an attempt to get around the standard traffic back up on the 400 from the 401 east ramp. And Zio Joe spends the duration of the car ride informing Zia just whose driving.

Or those mornings when particularly reckless drivers force words like ‘HEY RIMBOMBI from Zia’s sweet innocent mouth.

Or those mornings, in January and February, when it’s minus 30 degrees outside, but Zia picks you up wearing tapini (flimsy little house slippers), with white socks, and asks you if it’s ok if she opens the windows because she’s “sooo hawt”.

No matter how much of a non-morning person you might claim to be, I promise, in these situations, you really can’t help but laugh.

So when I’m in the mood for a comforting Italian staple, and Zia’s not around to whip one up for me, there’s only one lady I can trust won’t let me down….


Hello, heaven

I don’t know what took me so long with this one. Seriously.  It wasn’t until the first time we tried out this recipe that I finally understood GF’s somewhat obscene love obsession with Giada de Laurentiis.

This is exactly the reason why Giada is now my kitchen superhero. (Okay, not the only reason…but one of the main ones) And another argument to add to my list of why Italian’s rock my socks (and tapini…)

Swordfish Panini with Lemon Aioli

Lemon Aioli

For the Lemon Aioli:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Swordfish Panini:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces swordfish, about 1-inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 loaf focaccia bread
  • 2 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh arugula greens


For the Lemon Aioli: Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the Swordfish Panini: Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, season the fish with salt and pepper. Rub the herbs de Provence and minced garlic all over the fish. Cook the fish in the skillet until just cooked through and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Cut the bread into 4 sandwiches that will accommodate the size of the fish fillet. Cut the bread in half to make a top and bottom for the sandwich. Spread the Lemon Aioli on both halves of the sandwich. Top the bottom half with a handful (about 1/2 cup) of arugula greens. Top the arugula greens with the cooked swordfish, and top the sandwich with the remaining bread.

Serve immediately.

We used spinach instead of arugula

14 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2010 10:08 pm

    This sandwich looks good!!! =)

  2. November 29, 2010 3:23 am

    Wow….girl, you brought me right into your family for this whole time I read the post! I loved and love how you have so much passion and love for your family! Being proud and in love with your heritage is something so beautiful!

    When I ate fish, I loved swordfish……this sammy looks divine!


    • December 1, 2010 1:05 pm

      haha thank you!! My family is quite the entertaining bunch! Are you a vegetarian or vegan now??

  3. December 1, 2010 1:57 am

    I adore swordfish but have never had it in a sandwich. This looks awesome!

  4. December 1, 2010 2:56 am

    am a sucker for all things chocolate. Now THAT’s what I call a BROWNIE! nice one.

  5. December 1, 2010 6:47 am

    YUM! And I can actually say that I’ve witnessed your aunts energy on more than one occasion!

  6. December 1, 2010 2:38 pm

    I love the sound of your family. And I LOVE the look of this panini. What a fantastic post!

  7. December 2, 2010 6:17 am

    I’ve never had swordfish but this post makes me want some right now (and I loved the story) 🙂

  8. December 2, 2010 11:17 pm

    I’ve never had any kind of seafood in a panini before (I obviously lead a sheltered life, lol). This sounds fabulous, especially with the lemon aioli. And I adore Giada! I can picture your family so well! You did a wonderful job bringing them to life. :o)

  9. December 3, 2010 11:36 pm

    Ton blog est délicieux. J’ai hâte d’essayer quelques unes de tes recettes!

  10. December 4, 2010 11:31 am

    what a marvelous pannini! wow perfect for a holiday party/brunch!

  11. December 4, 2010 6:42 pm

    Zia Agnese sound awesome to be around! And this sandwich looks great, even if I have a fish and sandwich mental block. Aioli makes everything good.

  12. December 4, 2010 11:48 pm

    Loved hearing about your awesome Italian family! This panini looks like it rocks!

  13. January 4, 2011 12:27 am

    I love hearing about your family background. I agree with you about Italians (Sicilians;). This is a gorgeous pannino. I will give it a try…I need to eat more pesce!

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