Danielle Cavallo, 21, will start culinary school in the fall. She runs her mother's catering business, and lives with her father, brother and sister in Hicksville.
When did you find your love of cooking? It started when I was really young. My grandma, who was born in Italy, taught my dad to cook. We didn't watch cartoons growing up, we watched Lidia . When my parents got divorced I had to cook. My brother would come home from school, and I'd use leftovers to create dishes for him, like spaghetti pie instead of peanut butter and jelly.
How did your parents influence you? My dad taught me to follow my traditions and that it's OK to switch things around with the recipes but always remember where they came from. He makes the best braciole, and he taught me how to make it. I took over my mom's catering business in December when we found out she had cancer. It was an honor that my mom asked me to. She is my hero.
What is your favorite dish to create? They're chicken rollups, stuffed with mozzarella and sauteed spinach. I make a sun-dried tomato pesto, and I layer it all in the chicken. I roll it up, stick in a couple of toothpicks and dredge it in bread crumbs. We call them the Cavallo Rollups.
CAVALLO CHICKEN ROLLUPS
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed, dried
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley, packed
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Splash of milk
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
Olive or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 whole roasted red peppers, chopped, or one cup jarred
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pound chicken breasts as thin as possible.
2. Preheat medium skillet on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic. When golden brown, add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook 5-7 minutes.
3. To prepare tomato pesto, blend 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes without their oil in food processor . Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 cloves of garlic, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper. Blend for a minute and slowly add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
4. Lay chicken pieces flat, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of pesto on faceup side, stopping short of edges. Spread spinach mixture and mozzarella cheese. Roll up like a burrito (Use toothpicks to secure.).
5. Beat 2 eggs with a splash of milk in a bowl. In second bowl, mix breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
6. Dredge chicken rolls in egg mixture, followed by breadcrumb mixture.
7. Add vegetable or olive oil to medium skillet, about halfway up sides. Brown chicken 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to baking dish and bake 8-10 minutes.
8. While chicken is baking, prepare sauce. Heat skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil, add 1 chopped garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Saute for a minute and add roasted red peppers. Saute 4-5 minutes. Put mixture in a blender and blend until smooth for about 30 seconds. Return to pan and add 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2 minutes. Pour over rollups. Makes about 6 servings.