CAULIFLOWER, CHEESE AND SESAME SEED FRITTERS

FRITTI FRITTI FRITTI!!! Fritti are a catch-all phrase in Italian for small fried bits of anything. Fritters if you will. In parts of Southern Italy like Naples and Sicily there’s a huge FRITTI culture. A street food phenom at feasts, events, and small shops known as FRIGGITORIE where all types of local fried foods like fish, seafood, breads, doughs, vegetables, croquettes, etc. are sold in little cones to take away. The most famous of these Fritti are Arancini (riceballs), Fritto Misto, the famous small fried fish and seafood and vegetable mix, Potato Croquettes, Chick Pea Fritters (Panelle), Zeppole, Sfingi, the list goes on. There’s lots of crossover between Sicilian and Napoletana foods because they were at one time part of the same country (before unification of the Italian state in the mid 1800’s). Using the basic fritti batter as a base I created a Sicilian based FRITTI using steamed Cauliflower florets, mint, Caciocavallo cheese, sesame seeds. The result was a taste of SICILIA without the airfare and packing. Takes about 1/2 hour-45 minutes and one head of cauliflower makes enough fritti for 4-6 people. GREAT for parties. They can be made ahead of time and reheated in a hot oven on sheet pans, but truly taste the best after they are first made. I spend so much time pouring over Classic regional recipes, pulling from my own family’s cooking, from my Travels and that’s how I create my dishes. Some are classic traditional, others are created using the regional building blocks of ingredients that naturally go together.

FRITTI DI CAVOLOFIORE ( VRUOCULI), CACIOCAVALLO E GIUGIULENA CON MENTA

CAULIFLOWER, CACIOCAVALLO AND SESAME SEED FRITTERS WITH MINT

(MINT SHOWS UP OFTEN IN SICILIAN CUISINE)

1 LARGE HEAD OF CAULIFLOWER, RINSED WELL, DRIED WITH A PAPER TOWEL AND BROKEN DOWN INTO FLORETS

2 LARGE EGGS, BEATEN WELL

2 TBS. WHOLE MILK

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT plus more for finishing

1 1/2 CUPS SIFTED SELF RISING FLOUR

3 TABLESPOONS GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH MINT

3 TBS. SESAME SEEDS

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PEANUT/VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING

IN a heavy large high sided pot or skillet ( I like cast iron) heat 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees F.

While that is happening, set up a station with a sheet pan triple lined with paper towels or single lined with brown paper bags.

In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients except 1 tbs of flour. Then add all the liquid ingredients and beat together to form a batter. Should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Use more milk to thin it if too thick SLOWLY, add a little, beat..continue till you get to the right consistency. Toss the tbs of flour over the Cauliflower florets. Then drop them into the batter then in batches drop them into the hot oil after it’s reached the 375 mark or when a tester dancers and splatters when it hits the oil. Using wooden sticks or heatproof tongs make sure both sides are golden brown before you remove the fritti. They should puff up somewhat and be nice and crisp on the outside, sort of fluffy on the inside around the cauliflower. Takes about 6 minutes per batch. DO NOT OVERCROWD!!!!!!!! Take your time!!! As they come out of the fryer place on the blotting trays to drain. Sprinkle with some sea salt. Continue till done.

Where’s the dipping sauce??? Italian tradition, usually there is no dipping sauces for these Fritti. ItalianAmerican? If you must dip…a homemade Marinara works OR some whipped ricotta blended with a little honey and black pepper. You’ll thank me for that one.

SPAGHETTI WITH ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS, ONIONS, SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE AND CHERRY TOMATOES

Do I love Spaghetti? Let me count the ways. Wait, the ways are countless. I have some favorites but basically I love Spaghetti in any way you make it, provided it’s a nice “condimento” that you’re pairing it with. A Condimento is whatever you’re dressing the pasta with. There’s a big world of Italian and Non Italian ingredients out there to pair with Spaghetti, but I prefer to stick with Italian combinations. I can’t tell you how much I love Sausage and Peppers and Onions, that classic Napoletana and ItalianAmerican pairing. One night when I was craving both Spaghetti and Sausage and Peppers I decided to combine them. Yeah, I’m not the first to have done that, but i created a dish that is so good I want to share it with you

Let’s start is some basics. Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage, the best is generally found at a shop where it’s made daily, like an Italian Pork Store (Salumeria) or a Butcher shop, or some of the larger regional Supermarket where it’s still made in house. I realize this isn’t an option Nationally but if you can find such places, get your Italian Sausage there. There’s a difference. What? Quite often the commerical/industrial produced sausages are over ground, they are too fine and they have lots of added flavors that really have no place in an Italian sausage. Now about the peppers. The Italian LONG HOT. Here in the Northeast in all of our ItalianAmerican concentrated areas this is a common site in home gardens or in Farmers MArkets and some supermarkets. Sort of Curly they come in Green, Green and Red, and Red. If no Long Hots are too be found, use Ripe Red Bell Peppers and add a good sprinkling of Hot Pepper Flakes in the saute’ (Peperoncino). Now let’s make some spaghetti!!!

SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGE AND ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS AND ONIONS

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE OUT OF THE CASING

4 ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS, DE-SEEDED, RIBS CUT OUT, SLICE INTO STRIPS OR RINGS

2 CUBANELLE PEPPERS (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), DE-SEEDED, SLICE INTO STRIPS OR RINGS

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY TOMATOES

BASIL LEAVES OPTIONAL/PINCH OF OREGANO OPTIONAL

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 lb good IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI

Let’s make this simple. Add about 2 tbs of olive oil to a large heavy pan. Heat. Add the Sausage and cook for at least 10 minutes, till it’s caramelized (THAT IS FLAVOR!!), then remove with slotted spoon to a dish. If needed, add more olive oil, heat and then simply fry up the onions and peppers, seasoning with a little salt. (No pepper needed if using the Long Hots, if using the Sweet long peppers, season with black pepper). Fry but on medium so they can cook and soften without burning or getting too brown around the edges. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the tomatoes. When the onions and peppers and tomatoes are soft, give it about 20 minutes, then add the sausage meat and ALL the juices that collected on the bottom of the pan. Let the sausage peppers and onions now simmer on low. While that magic is happening in the pan, resist the urge to just dig in and cook the Spaghetti till al dente according to the package instructions. When the spaghetti is at the right spot remove it with tongs from the water gently and add to the pan of sausage, long hots and onions. For a more “saucy” texture add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. Or just leave as is and cook for 2 minutes. Take off the heat. At this point you are done unless you want additional flavor from basil or oregano. Toss in whichever you prefer at this time. CHEESE? for me? Yes. For many there’s this no grated (Pecorino or Parmigiano) cheese on Sausage dishes. I’m not debating it so this falls under the IT’S UP TO YOU. Personally, the salty sharpness of the Pecorino Romano just tops this dish off for me. This should satisfy 3-4 really hungry people. HAPPY COOKING!!!!

TIELLA DI VERDURE NELLO STILE DI PUGLIA. VEGETABLE TIELLA (LAYERED BAKED CASSEROLE) USING THE STYLES OF PUGLIA

LA TIELLA…..La Tiella is a dish used in Southern Italian cooking to bake foods like a layering of seafood, potatoes,rice and vegetable in Puglia or to make a pastry enclosed stuffed pie with various fillings, often seafood in Gaeta. The finished recipes are known as Tiella also. One of my favorites is an All Vegetable and Cheese style made in Puglia. While it’s not as popular as the mussels, potatoes and rice one it certainly is made often and depending on the town or the cook or the season the vegetables and cheeses may vary. This is my version of a vegetable Tiella. Sliced potatoes and vegetables layered with Pecorino and Scamorza cheese, olive oil and parsley, topped with rustic, coarse italian bread cubes with olive oil and cheese create this delicious dish. I don’t have a Tiella pan in my house from Italy, do you? LOL. But…instead I used a 9 inch cake pan. Baking dishes are fine too. The traditional Tiella isn’t very Deep so a cake pan or similar deep baking pan works well. Before you start, since I often FORGET!!!! after I’ve started layering, brush the sides and bottom of the pan with a blend of melted butter and olive oil. Then dust the sides and bottom with fine Italian bread crumbs. This helps create a nice but light crust around the sides and bottom of the finished dish. So many great regional Italian dishes that are relatively unknown away from their places of origin…I really get excited when I’m sharing one with you. Can you feel it? Well, I’m excited to show you…Let’s cook!!

TIELLA DI VERDURE (VEGETABLE TIELLA) FOR 4-6 2 HOURS

INGREDIENTI:

2 POTATOES, PEELED AND SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1 PT. CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES, SLICED

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICED

1 LARGE ONION, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1/2 LB DICED OR SLICED SCAMORZA OR MOZZARELLA

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

OLIVE OIL AS NEEDED

2 TBS OF CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP OF GOOD DRIED OREGANO OR 4 BASIL LEAVES

COARSELY CHOPPED STALE ITALIAN BREAD, ABOUT 1/8 CUP TOSSED WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL AND SALT

KOSHER SALT, COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PREHEAT OVEN to 375 degrees F. Saute’ the onions in a little olive oil and salt until they are wilted. reserve. drizzle more olive oil into the bottom of your baking dish. start with a layer of potatoes. season lightly with salt and pepper, some parsley, some pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil. add a layer of the onions, then add a layer of tomatoes and some scamorza, oregano or basil, drizzle of olive oil, season with pecorino, salt and pepper, then another layer of potatoes, onions, another of tomatoes then the zucchini doing all the same things you did with the potatoes. When you’ve used up all your vegetables top with the last of the scamorza and pecorino, but then top with the coarse bread. Season that with a little more olive oil and pecorino then TIGHTLY COVER with foil and into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Best to place the baking dish on a baking tray to catch any liquid that drips out. Uncover and bake for addition 10 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. IMPORTANT…resist the tempation to eat it now!!!! Let this sit for at LEAST 20 MINUTES before cutting into it. Trust me. It’s a much better dish AND even better when you make it a day ahead and reheat it the next day. FLAVOR!!!!! a great entree’ or side dish. I like to serve it with grilled fish, fried meatballs, chicken, pork chops..

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO…SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON…COOKING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO….SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON. This is not a Risotto, the process is different, the Rice itself is different. For this dish I use a Long Grain Rice. This is also the first in a series of blogs on the foods i’ve created and cooked for my family while in self-quarantine during the 2020 Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic Cooking not only nourishes those you feed but it creates an activity, something to look forward to while being housebound. Certainly once the pandemic is over enjoy making these dishes whenever you wish. I created this dish early in March 2020 when we were first told to shelter-in-place, staying home except for going out for essentials. I keep a stocked pantry so there was lots to chose from, like Gulf Shrimp in the freezer, Red Bell Peppers, Baby Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, etc. I used some Vermouth in this dish because it’s aromatic flavors compliment seafood. Hoping everyone is coping and complying as best as they can. Let’s cook!!!

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO

1 HOUR 10 MINUTES APPROX START TO FINISH 4-6 SERVINGS

1/2 TSP GOOD SAFFRON THREADS

1/3 CUP HOT WATER

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED, DEVEINED, PATTED DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS

2 CUPS LONG GRAIN RICE, i like to use Jasmine.

2 CUPS SEAFOOD OR CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

1/2 CUP SWEET VERMOUTH

1 MEDIUM ONION, SMALL DICE

1 MEDIUM RED BELL PEPPER, SMALL DICE

4 QUARTERED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES (OPTIONAL)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS BUTTER

1/2 CUP CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA

1 LEMON

Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle until it’s all broken up. Add that to the hot water, You can alternatively rub the threads with your hands, you’ll just get some yellow on your palms. Mix the water and leave it for 5 minutes and it will change color. Should be a bright orange. Heat a heavy bottomed pot or sklllet with the oil. Add the shrimp and cook only for 3 minutes till the edges turn pink. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil. Add the peppers and onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper. Saute’ till just soft, about 8 minutes, then add the rice and blend. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the Saffron Water, blend in. Add the Stock and the Vermouth, stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and tightly cover, cooking it for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is fluffy. With a fork fluff the rice and then add the shrimp, gently blending the rice and shrimp. Cover for 5 minutes. Add the butter and the chopped arugula. Gently mix and taste for seasoning. Serve each portion with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh squeeze of lemon and a grinding of black pepper. If using the tomatoes, add them with the peppers and onions.

FROM UMBRIA, FRICCO’ DI POLLO, CHICKEN IN TOMATO, WINE, VINEGAR

IMG_9516Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes.  It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy.  I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work.  Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that.  But no.  I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis.  After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search.  FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions.  One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce.  The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix.  Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right?  Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora.  Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix.  I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?

FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL

1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS….FRITTI DI VRUOCCULI

FRITTI….they come in all shapes, sizes, batters, breadings, fillings, foods and depending on where you are are in Italy they are called Fritti, Pettole, Pittule, Crispeddi, the list goes on. NEVER argue with an Italian about what they call a dish!!! Everyone is right!! Often blanket terms like “Sicilian” mean something from a particular region of Sicily, oh that’s right, not all Sicilian cooking is the same. But it’s all Sicilian cuisine. I started with a basic flour and egg batter for these which is a common way in Sicily to make these. I was bringing them to a family holiday dinner to I wanted to make them special. I dipped into my bag of “what are some good complimentary ingredients that echo the Isola di Sicilia and I came up with Caciocavallo cheese, Mint (yes, Sicilians love the herb), and Sesame Seeds. The Arab conquest of Sicily for centuries brought many of their food traditions, the sesames are one of them and now are emblematic in many of Sicily’s foods/sweets like Cubbaita and Biscotti Regina, topping many panini and loaves of bread. So why not fold them into a savory batter and get the taste of Sicily in every bite? By the Way, Sicily has an ancient language which often borrows from Italian and Cauliflower, in Italian called Cavolofiore is often called Vruocculi, Vruocoli.

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS

TIME: 2 HOURS MAKES; ABOUT 2 DOZEN

1 LARGE FRESH CAULIFLOWER HEAD, STEAMED, COOLED, THEN SEPARATED INTO FLORETS

2 TBS. AP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER

2 LARGE ORGANIC (IF POSSIBLE) EGGS, BEATEN

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR CONTAINER’S FRESHNESS DATE)

3/4 WHOLE MILK

1 TSP SICILIAN SEA SALT

3 TABLESPOONS ROASTED SESAME SEEDS

1 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED MINT

1/8 CUP GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

OIL FOR FRYING ( I USED CORN OIL)

2 LEMONS, SLICED OR IN WEDGES

10 SPRIGS OF FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

sprinkle the seasoned flour over the florets in a bowl and gently get each floret coated in flour. Add the milk and grated cheese to the eggs, beat well. Now add all the other ingredients and slowly create a thick batter. When all is blended well, reserve to the side. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided pan/pot ( i use my Cast iron pan) and bring to 325 degrees F. When the oil is ready, coat one of the florets with the batter, let excess drip off and test one. If it’s ready it will immediately sizzle and start fo puff up in size. About 2 minutes per side. Place the florets in the batter in batches and fry no more than 6 at a time our your oil temp drops and we have a greasy finished product. As each batch is done and draining sprinkle sea salt over them. They should be salted when hot, not when cooled. Continue battering and frying until you’re all done. Serve them piping hot on a platter with lots of lemon wedges or slices. Squeeze over the top when serving, extra on the side. Add some chopped parsley leaves as garnish. Enjoy!!

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO…BAKED SHRIMP LAYERED IN BREADCRUMBS, OLIVE OIL, BUTTER, BASIL, LEMON AND GARLIC

IMPANATE…your Italian culinary word of the day. Basically it means coated in breadcrumbs, like when you fry something like a Milanese, or when you top with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is the topped style. It’s a variant of ItalianAmerican Shrimp Scampi but Impanati i make a little different, yet it’s basically the same ingredients all baked together. Olive oil, then seasoned shrimp, then chopped garlic, then white wine, then a layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and minced fresh basil, then dot with butter and into a hot oven for not too long. It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly, then a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve. There’s the whole dealio. I’d eat anything treated with breadcrumbs in one or another form. Maybe it’s my Southern Italian DNA, there’s really no breadcrumbed dish that I don’t love. This is one of them for sure. I can tell you how to cook this since it’s my recipe I’ve created but I can’t dictate the shrimp you should be buying. I CAN however tell you that for this and almost all Shrimp dishes I cook I seek out never Frozen, fresh smelling Wild caught Shrimp from the USA. I realize that’s not an option for everyone. My second choice is wild caught or sustainably farmed frozen shrimp from safe waters. Places like Whole Foods usually carry those, or reputable seafood markets. I get my fresh shrimp at local seafood markets or my local Shop Rite. The hardest part of this dish is simply cleaning and deviening the shrimp. It moves very quickly after that. I love placing 8 shrimp in those baking dishes I have. Looks so much like a good seafood restaurant style. Family background note on that picture. As always you should bake items on a larger tray just to catch any bubbling up. Notice in the picture the simple pizza pan they are on. I baked them on the pan. No mess and keeps the bottom of your oven clean. The pizza pan itself could be 75 years old or so. It was given to my mom from her Dad, Grandpa Innocenzo Scaramuzzi, and was given to him by his brother in law, my Great Uncle Pasquale Pucillo. I never met Great Uncle Patsy, he passed away on the day I was born. This pizza pan was from his restaurant bar in Staten Island, NYC on Manor Road. I believe the name of the place was the Blue Manor. Family stories tell me he was a good cook along with his wife, Great Aunt Maria Giuseppe Scaramuzzi Pucillo. Whenever my mom made a homemade pizza she used this pan. Bringing the family history into my kitchen makes my dishes taste even better.

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO

SERVES 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

2 POUNDS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED (SAVE THOSE SHELLS FOR SHRIMP STOCK, TIGHTLY WRAP AND POP IN THE FREEZER FOR LATER USE)

4 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL

3 TABLESPOONS DRY WHITE ITALIAN WINE

4 THIN SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/2 CUP DRIED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

SALT

PEPPER

4 MINCED FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/2 TSP SWEET PAPRIKA

1 STICK BUTTER, CUT INTO CUBES

PREHEAT your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat your shrimp dry then season with salt and black pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, salt, pepper to taste, paprika and basil together. Blend Well. In a square or round gratin dish, or smaller ones, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan(s). Place the shrimp in tail side up. Scatter the garlic over the tops of the shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the wine. Then lightly pat the breadcrumbs on top of everything. Dot the top of the dish with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a little paprika, and evenly place the butter around. Into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I like to let it go for 6 minutes, then I rotate the pan and give it another 5-6 minutes or so, just till it’s bubbly and browned on to. Remove from the oven. While it’s bubbling squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. The aroma will get you wild. It’s Amazing!! Let it sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately with…..steamed rice, that’s my favorite accompaniment. A sauteed or steamed green vegetable. Bread to sop up the buttery shrimpy garlicky juices. Enjoy.

LA GENOVESE, THE MEAT AND ONION SAUCE OF NAPLES

LA GENOVESE….one of the main sauces and dishes of Napoletana Cuisine, that is, the food of Naples, Italy. Growing up it was just Italian Pot Roast, later on I learned of it’s proper term, LA GENOVESE. Wait…doesn’t that mean it’s from Northern Italy’s city of Genoa? Well yes and no. Naples and Genoa are both active seaport cities in Italy and sailors work and sail between ports all the time. My great Grandfather was the pilot of the ferry between Naples and Sicily and Capri. All of this interaction brought many dishes to different coastal ports and La Genovese is probably one of them. In Genovese cuisine there’s a meat sauce called Tocco alla Genovese, or Sugo di Carne alla Genovese. This is a sauce with onions, celery, carrots, tomato, mushrooms and veal or beef, wine and cooked until the meat is tender. Most likely this sauce was brought to the port city of Napoli and Genovese cooks introduced the style. THEN, it makes the change and becomes Napoletana. The Napoletani use beef, sometime veal, sometimes pork. but they triple the amount of onions, traditionally the local red or bronze onions. They remove the mushrooms. They use Beef (although some families prefer using veal or pork). The sauce is started in lard and often with a little cured pork bits. The tomato, unlike the usual Napoletana amount of tomato, is almost non-existent. A ration of 1 lb for 1 lb of meat to onions is the rule. The sauce is cooked low and slow for hours until the meat is forktender. Tradition says to serve the onion sauce first over long tubes of broken Ziti (Zitone) and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The meat is sliced and served as a secondo. Think Pot Roast, specifically a Jewish or Eastern European pot roast heavy on the onions. That’s the flavor of this… It’s amazing. Every kitchen in Naples and in Italian America has its own version of this most flavorful sauce. I’m happy to share mine with you now!

FOR 4 PEOPLE

3 1/2 LB THICK CHUCK STEAK,  CAN BE IN TWO PIECES  IF NEEDED

2 TBS DICED GUANCIALE OR PANCETTA OR 2 TBS LARD OR 2 TBS OLIVE OIL

3 1/2 LBS DICED RED ONIONS OR WHITE OR A MIX

2 STALKS FINE DICED CELERY WITH SOME OF THEIR LEAVES (NEVER THROW THEM OUT!!)

1 LARGE FINE DICED CARROT

1 TBS. TOMATO PASTE

1 CUP WHITE WINE

1 CUP BEEF STOCK OR WATER, OR CHICKEN STOCK

1 LARGE BAY LEAF

SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

IN A LARGE heavy pot, like a dutch oven slowly render the guanciale or pancetta until there’s a nice amount of lard in the pot….let the diced pieces get a little crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve them for later.  Season the meat with generous Kosher Salt and Cracked Black pepper and sear it in the hot lard for at leat 5 minutes per side.  you want a nice brown crust on both sides.  Remove to a platter and loosely tent with foil.  Now add the onions, celery and carrots to a bowl.  Season them with salt and pepper.  Add this to the pot and stir them with the drippings in the bottom of the pan.  Cover and let this cook for 15 minutes on medium.  Stir it a few times so there’s no real browning on the onions.  Now  add the wine and the stock and the tomato.  Blend together.  Add the meat and let it get completely covered by the pot mixture.  Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer.  Add the bay leaf.  Give it a good stir and let this simmer for 3-3 1/2 hours.  Keep it covered for the first 1 1/2 hours.  Stir every 1/2 hour.  For the remaining time leave it 1/2 covered.  Look for a few things while this cooks.  It will reduce.  The color will change to a light rusty tan.  The onions, MUST be soft and melted.  And the meat, it must be fork tender.  Follow what I did and you’ll have a pot of Genovese that you will make again and again.   

POLISH CHOPPED CHICKEN CUTLETS..KOTLETY POZARSKIE, IN SOURCREAM DIJON AND DILL SAUCE

Often there’s something that “triggers” in a good way my cooking or blogging. These inspirations come from everywhere, including just scrolling through FaceBook. Today a FB friend posted his Polish Grandmother’s obituary. While I’m not Polish I was raised in a Polish neighborhood so all things Polish seem very familiar to me. Reading about this woman’s life and family brought up these “Polish” sentiments. Reminded me of a dish I first had at a Polish deli in Jersey City NJ’s Paulus Hook neighborhood. The dish is called KOTLETY POZARSKIE and it’s amazing. Ground/Chopped Chicken or Veal, sometimes Turkey is mixed with eggs, seasonings, then breaded and fried slowly in butter. Served as is. For a dinner one night I created a “sauce” thinking along Polish flavor lines and came up with a sour cream, Dijon mustard and fresh dill sauce. Really tasty. The genesis of this recipe is actually Russian but it became a popular dish in Polish cuisine. Take your cooking inspiration from the wide world around you, you’ll never get bored in the cooking department. I hope this inspiration is worthy of a Polish grandmother’s praise and memory.

KOTLETY [POZARSKIE FOR: 4 TIME: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES, APPROX.

3 BONELESS AND TRIMMED CHICKEN BREAST HALVES, CHOPPED IN TO A FINE DICE

2 EGGS SEPARATED

1 KAISER OR HARD ROLL TORN INTO PIECES AND SOAKED IN A LITTLE MILK

1 TBS. SOFTENED BUTTER

1 TBS OF FINELY CHOPPED PARSLEY

PINCH OF MARJORAM

SALT, BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS. SEASONED FLOUR (KOSHER SALT, SWEET PAPRIKA, GRANULATED GARLIC)

1 BEATEN EGG

DRY UNSEASONED BREADCRUMBS

2 TBS BUTTER, 1 TBS CORN OR CANOLA OIL

FOR THE SAUCE

2 TBS OF BUTTER

3 TBS. SOUR CREAM

1 TSP. CHOPPED FRESH DILL

1 TBS. DIJON MUSTARD

SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat 2 egg yolks, blend in the butter. Squeeze the milk out of the roll and mix with the eggs yolks and butter, beat the 2 egg whites till stiff and reserve. Blend the chicken with the yolks and bread mixture. Add the parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste. When this is all blended gently add the stiff egg whites. Form into 2 1/2 inch oval patties. If too sticky to work with add a small amount of breadcrumbs. Not too much, just enough to make them easy to form. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Now flour them , dip into beaten eggs, then into the breadcrumbs. Chill for 10 minutes. Using a heavy pan heat the butter and oil. When hot , remove the cutlets from the fridge and fry on medium heat for 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. When done with all the cutlets place in an ovenproof dish and place them in the oven for 15 minutes. While they are baking, create a sauce by melting 2 tbs of butter in the pan over low heat, Then add the sour cream and whisk it into the butter, then the Dijon Mustard…whisk till smooth then add the dill , salt and pepper to taste. Remove the Kotlety from the oven and on a platter pour the sauce and arrange the Kotlety on top. Makes about 8 kotlety. What to serve with? Mashed or Boiled potatoes, steamed green peas or sauteed cabbage. HAPPY COOKING!!