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Celeb Chef's Mom's Day Brunch with Italian Twist

What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than with a special brunch for Mom?

And you might want to make it even more special with some delicious Italian cuisine.

So, who better to prepare it than Donatella Arpaia -- and her mom, Maria Arpaia?

And how about making it "on a shoestring," to boot?!

Donatella accepted "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge on this day before Mother's Day.

She's an acclaimed restaurateur and TV star, and she just finished the book, "Donatella Cooks: Simple Food Made Glamorous."

"Early Show" recipes galore!

Donatella opened her first eatery, Bellini, in 1998, then added a string of successful and heralded restaurants such as Mia Dona, davidburke & donatella (now known as the David Burke Townhouse), and Kefi.

The New York Post recently named Donatella as one of the most powerful women in Manhattan, and she's head judge on two Food Network staples, "Iron Chef America" and "The Next Iron Chef."

As our "shoestring" chef, Donatella (and Maria!) sought to make a scrumptious three-course Mother's Day brunch on our paltry $40 budget. The highlight - a Cherry Tomato, Mint, Asparagus, and Gruyere Frittata - an Italian omelet.

Shoestringers are automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition. The one with the lowest total ingredients cost will be invited back to whip up the meal for our year-end holiday extravaganza.

Oh, and Donatella and Maria were joined for good measure by co-anchor Chris Wragge's mom, Bev Heissenbuttel, who helped her son handle the segment!

A Collection of Mother's Day Recipes


Bocconcini with Peaches
Cherry Tomato, Mint, Asparagus, and Gruyere Frittata
Sparkling Watermelon with Yogurt Cream and Mint


Bocconcini: Small nuggets of fresh mozzarella. Bocconcini are generally sold packed in whey or water. (Source:

Shallot: The name of this onion-family member (Allium ascalonicum ) comes from Ascalon, an ancient Palestinian city where the shallot is thought to have originated. Shallots are formed more like garlic than onions, with a head composed of multiple cloves, each covered with a thin, papery skin. The skin color can vary from pale brown to pale gray to rose, and the off-white flesh is usually barely tinged with green or purple. (Source:

Gruyere cheese: Swiss Gruyère is named for the valley of the same name in the canton of Fribourg. This moderate-fat, cow's-milk cheese has a rich, sweet, nutty flavor that is highly prized both for out-of-hand eating and cooking. It's usually aged for 10 to 12 months and has a golden brown rind and a firm, pale yellow interior with well-spaced, medium-size holes. It's made in 100-pound wheels that are cut into wedges for the market. Gruyère is also produced in France and several other countries. (Source:

Frittata: An Italian omelet that usually has the ingredients mixed with the eggs rather than being folded inside, as with a French omelet. It can be flipped or the top can be finished under a broiling unit. An omelet is cooked quickly over moderately high heat and, after folding, has a flat-sided half-oval shape. A frittata is firmer because it's cooked very slowly over low heat, and round because it isn't folded. (Source:


Bocconcini with Peaches

Italians don't really go for fruit in savory dishes, preferring to eat it fresh and whole after the evening meal. Though this combination of mozzarella and peaches may never have shown up on one of my Puglian aunts' tables, I can just hear them saying, "Ahhh, l'Americana" and know they would come to love it although they wouldn't admit it. Fresh peaches are a must, if they're not ripe they obviously won't taste good and they won't come lose from the pit easily. Store any leftover bocconcini in the container you purchased them in, covered in water, I've made this salad on the fly without grilling the peaches, and it is still very good.

4 ripe peaches, halved, putted and each half cut into three wedges
1 pound of bocconcini, packed in water
20 small basil leaves plus more for garnish
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Brush a cast-iron stove top grill pan with a little olive oil and heat over high heat.

Grill the peach wedges about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until nicely charred. Transfer them to a large bowl and add the bocconcini, basil, shallots, olive oil and vinegar. Toss gently until everything is well coated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes. Divide among salad plates or transfer to a rimmed platter. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.


Cherry Tomato, Mint, Asparagus, and Gruyere Frittata

In Italy, frittatas are typically eaten at the lighter evening meal (lunch is the main meal of the day), but I find they are perfectly appropriate for brunch, picnics, lunch or dinner American style-even cut into small bites for hors d'oevres. Humble as it may seem, this mixture of eggs, vegetables, and cheese puffs up soufflé style thanks to the addition of beaten egg whites, to bring a little drama to the table.

8 extra large eggs
1/2 cup of light cream
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup of grated Gruyere
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into bite sized pieces plus a few sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn into bite sized pieces Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound of slender asparagus, ends trimmed, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F with a rack in the center.

Separate 4 of the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a large one. Add the remaining four eggs to the yolks and whisk in the cream, Pa rmigiano, Gruyere, basil and mint. Beat the egg whites with a clan whisk or electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the egg mixture until there are no streaks. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the asparagus and cook about 3 minutes, until they are slightly softened and bright green. Add the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes more, until they are softened. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook, lifting the edges of the with a spatula to allow the undercooked egg to flow to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the edges are frittata are firm and the center is still a bit runny, 7 to 10 minutes then transfer the pan to the oven and bake about 8 minutes, until set, puffed and golden. Cool slightly, then cut into wedges and garnish each with a few sprigs of basil.

Sparkling Watermelon with Yogurt Cream and Mint

I have long felt that in white tablecloth establishments, it's important to have a little fun. And it turns out that my high-flying professional clientele agrees. The same is true of this dessert, which incorporates that explode in your mouth phenomenon from childhood, Pop Rocks. They can make a crowd of snobby food lovers lose control and laugh out loud.

Yogurt cream
18 ounces of full fat plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 cup of heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon

1 small seedless watermelon cut into 1 inch cubes
Sea Salt
Pop Rocks
1/4 cup tiny mint leaves

To make the yogurt cream, place the yogurt in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the sugar and the egg whites in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture forms soft peaks, about the consistency of shaving cream. Fold the egg white mixture into the yogurt until no whites appear. Fold the heavy cream into the mixture until combined and stir in the lemon juice.

To Assemble: place 5 pieces of watermelon on a dessert plate. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the yogurt cream over them. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Top with a generous portion of Pop Rocks and some mint slivers.

So, how did Donatella do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

Bocconcini with Peaches
peaches $2.99
bocconcini $3.49
basil $1.29
shallots $0.79
total $8.56

Gruyere Frittata
eggs $1.89
light cream $0.99
Parmigiano Reggiano $3.50
Gruyere cheese $4.99
mint $1.29
asparagus $1.69
tomatoes $2.99
total $17.34

Watermelon with Yogurt Cream
Greek yogurt $5.29
heavy cream $1.49
lemon $0.66
watermelon $2.99
sea salt $1.49
pop rocks $0.99
total $12.91

Grand total: $38.81

Our Leaders Board:

1. Amanda Freitag $37.17
The Harrison

2. Kelly Liken $37.20
Restaurant Kelly Liken

3. Sebastiaan Zijp $37.31
Bar Blanc Bistro

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