Frannie’s Favorites from The Producer’s Palate

By Fran Montagnino

I am so very grateful to bring The Producer’s Palate to our NYWIFT blog audience. It is a beautifully put together collection of recipes from NYWIFT community leaders, each presented with a short introduction about the recipe’s personal significance. While all the recipes look delectable, what I found most appealing was the Italian offerings in the book. Having grown up around Italian food (my grandparents owned an Italian restaurant in Queens for 50 years), these recipes are irresistible and after reading the fascinating stories behind them, I thought what follows would make a nice dinner for indoor dining. The book is divided into Soups, Entrees, Side Dishes, and Desserts, so everyone can choose their own favorites, but these, with my own modifications, are my favorites for a great meal you can share with a loved one.

Kathyrn O’Kane’s “Busy K’s Focaccia Bread” stood out as a starter which she learned in Italy while filming for a culinary and travel series with James Beard. In the tiny seaside town of Moneglia, she made Focaccia bread (a distinctly Italian bread) with the local baker. They traveled to the coast of Liguria for olive oil. And to start off a meal with the dipping of delicious bread in olive oil is the most eccellente starter to a great meal, so I was excited about this. For those of you who don’t have the time to make your own olive oil, I will recommend an imported one which I myself like a lot: Riviera Ligure extra virgin olive oil, which you can order through Amazon Prime with free shipping or from Parmashop. This makes an awesome dipping sauce for the bread.

There are two Italian entree dishes which I found appealing as well. Jamie Zelermyer’s “Spaghetti Pie” looks delicious and I naturally found Terry Lawler’s recipe for “Ragu Badia a Coltibuono” also very appealing as an entree to try for dining in at home. She learned the recipe, she writes, in the hills of Tuscany. “We learned to make pasta – we made pasta every day – and Ragu, among other great dishes.” I like to make an organic homemade sauce with zucchini and sweet peas but I also very much like the idea of trying these recipes with my own vegetarian modifications as I lean towards the vegan side about 70% of the time.

For these delicious looking recipes, non-vegans will only have to follow the recipe in order to make the best meal. I personally would have to take up the challenge of plant-based substitutions for some of the ingredients. For example, there are some very delicious plant-based sweet Italian sausages and meat which can serve as meat substitutes for vegetarians and vegans who want to make the recipe and these are available at various supermarkets and health food places nowadays, as well as mozzarella and other cheeses.

For dessert, Barbara Vasconez’s recipe for Vegan Cheesecake made my mouth water – along with an optional strawberry sauce. After struggling to find sweet alternatives, when she landed on this one, she said “this is it.” I agree!

Lots of gratitude for all the recipes shared and the wonderful stories behind them. This book of recipes and the presentation bring a sweet and warm feeling to my palate. Divertiti con tutti!


The Producer’s Palate is available to purchase online for $29.99. Proceeds from book sales will support NYWIFT’s professional development and advocacy initiatives. Buy it now at www.nywift.org/publications.


Fran Montagnino

Fran Montagnino Fran Montagnino is a writer, producer, creative consultant, and an American dreamer – and potential host – who has been part of the vibrant cultural landscape of New York for many years. Her academic background is in Television and Film. She is a summa cum laude graduate of the New York Institute of Technology and has studied at Columbia University. She has worked on and been associated with various projects in both fiction and non-fiction genres and is currently working independently on treatment ideas for television and film.

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