serendipity spreads

a delicious selection of Serendipity Spreads

I am a strong supporter of everything local–I will do whatever possible to make sure most of my ingredients are locally grown.

With this said, once in a while I like to see what other people are doing with their local produce and ingredients.

My friends from Serendipity Spreads in Santa Cruz, CA are a great example. Family tradition, many years of experience and only the best ingredients are the components to these great products.

Kristen Cederquist sent me a sample of a few of their great offerings. Brandied Apricot Preserves; Spiced Tangerines; Spiced Carrot Jam; Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade; Caramelized Onion, Fig, and Balsamic Spread; East Meets West Peach Preserves; and Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons. All of them look great and taste even better. These would make an excellent gift for any foodie.

spiced tangerines
CA spiced tangerines and PA red cabbage

I had so many options here that I didn’t know where to begin, so I went with the Spiced Tangerines. I was using red cabbage for one of my side dishes that night and I decided to finish it off with the Spiced Tangerines. Something so simple elevated this side dish to another dimension–my Pennsylvania red cabbages were touched by sunny California Spiced Tangerines and together they were delicious.

For more information on Serendipity Spreads, visit: or


desarme, a traditional October stew
Picture recipe for desarme, a traditional Asturian stew

Maybe because of this time of the year, or perhaps because I can eat it anytime–fish is on my mind. Salted cod to be more specific, which brings me to this recipe.

Salted Cod with Garbanzo Beans and Spinach, known in Asturias and probably all of Spain as “Desarme,” is one of the most typical salted cod recipes of the Asturian region, and a dish that brings me back with every bite. Every year in October, Asturias celebrates war triumphs of the past with this dish. Desarme itself is a culinary triumph. It’s called “desarme” because it supposedly was so good that it “disarmed” opposing forces: they laid down their guns to enjoy a bowl of this soup. This dish reminds me of how good something so simple can be, anytime of the year. Enjoy!


  • 1 pound dry garbanzo beans
  • 1 pound salted cod
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • 1 onion small diced
  • 1 slice of bread (preferably from a few days old baguette)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1/2 cup of parsley
  • olive oil

Soak the garbanzo beans in plenty of cold water over night. Follow the salted cod directions for soaking and preparation. Some salted cod might require an overnight process.

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. You could use canned garbanzo beans, but I wouldn’t recommend it for this recipe. They don’t make as good of a stock for your soup.

Cover the garbanzo beans with warm water. The garbanzo beans should be below the surface of the water by at least two fingers of water–about an inch and a half.

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil onto the water, add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cook your eggs until they are hard boiled. Cool and set aside.

In a sauté pan add two tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the bread on both sides, remove from pan and put in a food processor. Lightly toast the garlic cloves making sure they won’t burn, and add to the bread. Add the parsley.

At this point the garbanzo beans are probably boiling. Reduce to medium heat and skim off the white foam from the surface of the water.

Add a little extra oil to the same pan where you cooked the bread and garlic, and sauté the onion. Add the pimenton to the onion and mix in for a few minutes. Pour the sauteed onion mixture in the garbanzo pot.

Remove the egg yolks from the eggs and add to the food processor. Add a half of a cup of the garbanzo stock to the food processor and blend until you have a creamy paste.

Once the garbanzo beans are tender, tear the cod into small pieces with your fingers and incorporate into the soup.

Stir in the bread and egg yolk paste into the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add spinach. Allow it to cook for at least ten more minutes for all flavors to come together.

Vivo restaurant nourishes foodies of all ages

Chef Daniel "supervises?"
Chef Daniel "supervises?"

Much has been written about the DiBattista family. Bellevue has enjoyed this family’s ventures for many years and very few in the food industry in Pittsburgh have not heard of them.

I grew up in a restaurant much like this one. I have known and worked with these folks for a few months now. In this short period of time I have witnessed their strong commitment to good food, good service, and a special warmth that keeps everyone coming back for more.

An informal gathering in the Vivo kitchen

Sam, Vivo’s patriarchal figure and chef, would agree with me when I say that restaurants like Vivo are abundant in Europe, but not in the States. The menu changes daily, pleasantly surprising the dinners with the freshest ingredients available.

brie en croute
Whenever a group of restaurant people -- particularly chefs--get together, we like to eat! When "Fat Club" convened at Vivo, there was an amazing array of food, from parmesan bread pudding with berry/balsamic coulis to homemade soprasetta to chipped beef sliders! This brie en croute was one of the snacks we enjoyed that evening, brought by chef Dan from Toast! on Baum Boulevard.
How to raise a foodie
Making your own dessert is almost as fun as eating it!

Seeing Lori, Vivo’s matriarchal figure and pastry chef, working in the kitchen or interacting with the customers brings back many fond memories. I have turned around to find Lori assisting children of guess at the restaurant make their desserts and later on I encountered the parents of these children thanking both Lori and Sam for another great meal.

And you’ll always have great service from Martina and Danina, the younger generation of Vivo, they’ll make you feel like a regular from the moment you come in.

Even local chefs from other restaurants (including me!) can’t resist when a chef/foodie gathering is organized by these great people. This passion for our most basic of needs–food–is well understood here, so please, come spend a little time with us, share with us and I can promise you that you will go away with more than a great meal.

marrow bones
Marrow bones served as an appetizer at Vivo--delicious!

565 Lincoln Avenue
Bellevue, PA 15202-3531