Buona salute!


POSTED: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Former KITV news anchor Janet Zappala's whole philosophy in life is “;Buona salute!”; which means “;to your health”; in Italian.

“;Eat well, live well, be well,”; said Zappala, who was in Honolulu last week to sign her newly published, inaugural cookbook “;My Italian Kitchen, Home-Style Recipes Made Lighter & Healthier”; ($19.95, Addicus Books).

The Emmy award-winning television journalist, whose career spanned more than 25 years, is returning to her Italian roots while transforming her late mother's home recipes into lighter, more healthful versions.

Among the dozens of recipes she shares in the book are Mom's Marinara Sauce, an Italian-style avocado spread and one of her childhood favorites, Save-the-Day Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

The coffee cake brings back childhood memories for Zappala, who remembers waking up on Saturday mornings to the comforting aroma of her mother's baking in the kitchen.

Zappala said her goal was to offer simple, easy recipes that were healthful yet delicious, and that she wanted readers “;to feel like I'm there, holding your hand through these recipes and taking you through every step.”;

Many of the recipes are practical for everyday cooking, with fewer than nine ingredients and a cooking time of 20 to 40 minutes.

Fish Under Wraps, for instance, takes five minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook, with three ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, tilapia fillets and minced capers. That's it.

“;It's delicate, it's juicy and you can taste the capers,”; she said.

While Zappala's cookbook is 95 percent Italian, she tossed in a few other favorite recipes as well, including a Homemade Salsa with Oven-Baked Tortilla Chips, Hummus and French Onion Soup.

Despite a successful journalism career, Zappala said her mother's death from cancer five years ago caused her to look inward and change directions.

“;(Journalism) was everything I wanted to do, but I also have other passions and I decided to reinvent myself,”; said Zappala.

Her mother, Mary, was a spectacular cook who loved life. She was someone “;who always knew how to stir things up.”; So, for nearly a year, Zappala re-created her mother's recipes, adding her own healthy twists. Since her mother never wrote down her recipes, Zappala had to record them from memory and figure out measurements.

In 2008, she also became a certified nutritional consultant. She had always been health-conscious, and that became an even more important consideration when her mother fell ill.

“;I read labels and I watch what I eat,”; she said. “;It is not difficult to eat more healthfully. It's just a different mindset. When you eat better, you'll feel better and add a few more years to your life.”;

Zappala substitutes whole-wheat pasta for regular, enriched pasta in many dishes, for instance, and often opts for the part-skim ricotta cheese or low-sodium chicken broth.

One page in the cookbook details these alternatives, and many recipes clock in at less than 350 calories per serving, but Zappala said she worked hard not to compromise on flavor.

The recipes were all tested in Zappala's own kitchen, as well as by family, friends and professional chefs. A registered dietitian provided nutritional analyses for each recipe.

While she worked in news, Zappala always loved to cook but only had time on the weekends.

“;It's always been a creative, cathartic experience,”; she said. “;It's therapeutic. The best part is I get to eat while cooking, which makes me very happy.”;

Now living full time in Philadelphia, Zappala recalls her time in Hawaii as special. Fresh out of college, she was recruited in the late 1970s to work as a news reporter at KITV and, not long after, became an anchor. She worked with Don Rockwell, as well as Matt Levi, Paul Guanzon and Emme Tomimbang.

“;The memories I have of Hawaii are the people who took me in, guided me and really embraced me,”; she said. “;I feel like it's my second home. I will always have a special place in my heart for Hawaii, and I will always come back.”;

Looking toward the future, Zappala is in talks with PBS to start a travel/cooking show in which she returns to southern Italy to search for her roots and new recipes. The show will hopefully debut in 2011.

But no matter what she's working on, whether journalism, cookbook or television show, there's one piece of advice Zappala carries with her from her mother.

“;You must cook with heart,”; said Zappala. “;Everything tastes better when you cook with heart. That's what my mother did.”;


Recipes from Janet Zappala's collection of Italian dishes


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed)
2 28-ounce cans of whole, peeled tomatoes, preferably Hunt's All-Natural, pureed
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce, preferably Hunt's All-Natural
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water (optional)

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat 1 minute. Add garlic and basil; saute until garlic turns golden.

Add pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and stir; partially cover. Simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional analysis, per serving: 141 calories, 5 g fat, 157 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 2 g fiber



4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tilapia fillets
1/2 cup minced capers

Preheat oven to 390 degrees. Lay out four 14-by-12-inch sheets of foil. Spoon 1 tablespoon olive oil on each sheet. Place fillet on each sheet, turning to coat both sides. Top fillet with capers. Fold foil over the top and sides to form an envelope, leaving a little room for fish to “;breathe.”; Bake 20 minutes. Serve fish in foil. Serves 4.

Nutritional analysis, per serving: 93 calories, 1.5 g fat, 37 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, 9.5 g protein, 1 g fiber



2 large, ripe avocados
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

Rinse avocados, cut in half and remove pits. Scoop pulp onto plate and mash. Place in bowl; add garlic powder, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly until smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately with chips and tacos. Serves 4.

Nutritional analysis, per serving: 50 calories, 4.5 g fat, 133 m sodium, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 3 g fiber