Monthly Archives: January 2015

BUFFALO CHICKEN MEATBALLS, FOR GAME DAY AND BEYOND

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Alrighty then my cooking friends and family, here’s a new one for me that I came up with for the upcoming SUPER BOWL 2015.  What’s more Super Bowl Party than Chicken Wings, especially Buffalo style Chicken Wings…the answer is…BUFFALO CHICKEN MEATBALLS.  How does that sound?  Sounds pretty damn good to me.  Did I invent this dish?  Am I the first to turn the wing from Buffalo into a meatball?  Not even close since there are already about 1000 versions of this out there on that there interwebs.  With all things food I do quite a bit of research just to see what’s out there and as said there are many existing recipes for this dish but none of them moved me.  So I developed my own that in a little ball form gives you the pleasure of those wings without the bones, skin , dipping sauce mess, etc. Truthfully, I don’t see why you wouldn’t make BOTH!  I love the wings. So no contesting here, just a great recipe for a party or game watching.  When reading some of the existing recipes it occurred to me that they all were missing something. I thought and thought about it because the last thing I wanted to end up with was a meatball that bears no resemblance to the flavors in a Buffalo Chicken Wing.  Ground chicken meat is bland, there..i’ve said it. To bring up the flavor in this ball I added a little fresh grated nutmeg, diced onions and pecorino cheese.  My style and mark is all over this ball so let’s have some fun and get  into the kitchen and cook.

MAKES: about 36 meatballs                             TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes or so

1 1/2 lbs GROUND CHICKEN MEAT

1 SMALL ONION FINELY DICED

1 EGG, BEATEN

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO CHEESE

1/8 CUP BLEU CHEESE CRUMBLES

3 TBS FRANK’S HOT SAUCE  (so I feel compelled to say, use whatever hot sauce you like, but I’m not going to say that.  Teresa Bellissimo in the early 60’s created this dish and the sauce is made from FRANK’S HOT SAUCE and butter. so , Frank’s it is)bufchixballs 002

1/8 CUP FINELY DICED CELERY LEAVES

1/8 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 TSP FRESHLY GRATED NUTMEG

1  FINELY MINCED CLOVE OF GARLIC

OLIVE OIL, BUTTER

for Sauce:

1 STICK OF UNSALTED BUTTER (why unsalted?  because there’s plenty of saltiness in Frank’s Hot Sauce, no need to add more)

3/4 of BOTTLE OF FRANK’S HOT SAUCE (the 12 oz size)

2 TBS FINELY DICED CELERY STEMS AND LEAVES

1/8 CUP BLEU CHEESE CRUMBLES

In a large bowl combine all the meatball ingredients.bufchixballs 003and blend well so that each bite of that meatball will consistently have the same flavor.  No quick short cutting. When that’s well blended cover and chill in a freezer for 10 minutes.  DON’T FORGET IT!  Form into about 36 no bigger than a golf ball sized meatball.  Ground chicken has a very odd feel to it and it soft (that’s why we chilled it before rolling the balls).  TIP: Keep your hands wet slightly while rolling them, it will make it easier.  In a large non-stick skillet, add 1 1/2 tbs olive oil and 1 tsp of butter.  Let this heat up and begin to fry the meatballs on all sides, till they are lightly browned.bufchixballs 004  This should take about 12 minutes, about 4 minutes on each side, definitely don’t move them for at least 3-4 minutes.  You want that crust to form. Remove all the meatballs to a platter and keep covered.  In the same pan, now that it’s empty, add the 3/4 of the bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce with the flame on medium.. Do not let this boil.  Then add the stick of butter stirring slowly on it melts in.bufchixballs 005  If you let it boil the whole thing will separate and be..not so nice.  Be gentle! When the butter has completely melted and you’ve blended it in nicely, add the meatballs back in and make sure they are well coated all around with the sauce. Let this cook together on low for 10 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Then, turn off the flame and let them rest for another 10 minutes.  At this point you can serve them OR let them cool down and store overnight.  My choice?  Overnight.  The flavors bloom, pop, explode, they wake up overnight.

When serving, Add more Frank’s if necessary and top with the garnishes of the chopped celery and the bleu cheese crumbles.  10509749_408482592653380_812769741123730275_nAren’t you ready for your GAME DAY Party now??  If not, don’t worry, make them for yourself or for Party food.  If you love Buffalo chicken, these balls have it all…

 

STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, ZUCCHINI STEW WITH TOMATOES

004  I hope that colorful picture conjures up all sorts of warm weather things in your mind because it’s doing that to me. When the weather in my area is not to my liking (as in the entire Winter) I can “retreat” to the warmer temps by cooking something that has a bit of Summer sunshine in every bite.  Take this STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, or ZUCCHINI STEW.  A simple melange of Olive oil, onions, Tomatoes and Zucchini that is enormously satisfying and pretty straighforwad in how it’s made.  By the time November rolls around people in my region (the American North East coast)have run out of ideas for their prolific annual harvest of home grown zucchini.  Agreed, that’s the best time to make this according to Mother Nature. Did you always listen to everything your mother said?  Combine zucchini that you can still find (it’s in season somewhere else in the world when it’s not inseason in my neck o’the woods) and just make sure it’s not beat up, limp, blistered.  Clearly, those are really old and tired and should be avoided. BUT, if you can find something like this:003 well then it’s time to made Zucchini Stew.  For you types out there that love to correct online mistakes I did not mess up the title of this blog post.  ZUCCHINE is the proper Italian word for the plural ZUCCHINA which means little or smaller squash (which is termed ZUCCA).  Here in the US we use the term ZUCCHINI so before there’s a screaming match between my US friends and my Italian Friends, I’ve placed both into the title.  I’m the UN…everybody is right!! It’s a crap shoot in the Winter months to find decent Zucchini but you can tell by their look and feel that they will perk up the dark winter of root vegetables and roasted meats with a ray of sunshine.  Certainly the tomatoes will not be of the fresh variety,really need to wait for the season for that but a good can of Italian Plum Tomatoes ( I use the San Marzano DOP tomatoes) that are generally picked at the height of their season will make this Stufato di Zucchine a welcome dish in any season.  Let’s cook!

 

SERVES: 4 people                                                      TIME: 40 minutes

 

4 firm unblemished ZUCCHINI, sliced and diced into cubes, try to keep the size somewhat the same, it helps with more even cooking.

1 large diced onion

2 tbs.Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt, peperoncino

3 fresh basil leaves or pinch of oregano

1 28oz can of Italian Plum Tomatoes (San Marzanos are my preference) crushed

In a saucepan heat 2 tbs of Olive Oil adding the zucchini when the oil is hot.  Sprinkle some salt over this and make sure you CAREFULLY stir the zucchini so all cubes are covered in the oil.  Let this cook for 7 minutes stirring frequently but carefully.  Now add the onion, stir, and let this cook for12 minutes,slowly, stirring.  Add 2 tbs of water and cook until it’s evaporated.  when the onions and zucchini are soft add a pinch of peperoncino, and the oregano if that’s the herb you’ve chosen. Pinch of salt.  Now add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the zucchini and onions are sweet and soft, about 20 minutes.Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. At this point your dish should look like this:002  If you are using the basil, add the leaves now and stir.  Let this sit for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

To make this vegan simply prepare as shown.. To enhance the flavor (my preferred style) serve with lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  I also drizzle some EVOO and a pinch of peperoncino on top.     This dish can be a side dish or served over pasta.  For any Gluten Free types the recipe as written is naturally  Gluten  Free.

Now those who are familiar with this type of Italian cooking will say,   make that with sausage, or potatoes, or isn’t this a GIAMBOTTA?  This dish is this dish, a zucchini stew, period.  Now start adding other things and it turns into a Giambotta, also very good, but for me it’s charm is that it’s only a few ingredients with lots of flavor from each of them. I love all the Italian vegetable and potato and meat combos.  So many to chose from..all Vegetable, or a mix.

Happy Cooking!

 

PANINO OR PANINI? WHAT IS IT REALLY?

abatepanino 008  Sometimes a blog is just a random thought off the top of one’s head (actually, that’s what they REALLY are supposed to be) but now they are a mashup of those random thoughts and a well documented or researched website with nice pictures.  This blog post really is a random thought I had while putting together my dinner which was that sandwich you see above.  Hero?  sure. Sub? whatever. It’s a sandwich but hey, I love to get caught up in the “Italian” of it all and I actually (now you’ll hear my inner voice) call it a PANINO.  Sound familiar?  I’m sure you’ve had a PANINI right? That hot pressed sandwich that turned into a new food style and industry in the United States..supposedly just like they make them in Italy?  Well that’s only partly true.  There’s a difference between the PANINO of Italy and the PANINI marketed in the United States.  First of all to be most correct, PANINI is just the plural of the Italian word for roll (small bread, bread in Italian is PANE, drop the E add the INO which means LITTLE and we have PANINO). There are many types of Panino breads in Italy, mostly round, or they will use a Bastone cut into pieces but it’s simply a sandwich.  Most are served at room temperature and there are some hot pressed versions.  There is generally a lot less in terms of cheeses and ingredients on the Italian versions.  European sandwiches are never the staggering jaw breaking size of our supersized monsters.  I remember seeing my first European sandwich in France and though..how cheap is this place??? There’s hardly anything in there!!  Well I got used to it and when in Europe eat European.  At home here in the States I like more American style but truth be told I hate anything that’s too big.  So am I going to give you are recipe for a PANINO? Not at all.  Just some info on how a more Italian PANINO is made.  A few layers of sliced meats, some cheese, a dressing of some sort that can be as simple as Extra Virgin Olive Oil or some Lardo, or Mayo and maybe some tomato or onion or greens, but manageable.  The single most important part of the more Italian PANINO is the bread…as we say, “Always get the Good Bread”.  That means a sturdy Italian or Artisanal bread baked properly, not mush.IMG_5407  How’s that for “GOOD BREAD”???  Those loaves are a sampling of what I mean by a good piece of bread baked by Melone Brothers Bakery in Staten Island. The “CONDIMENTO” I made for tonight’s PANINO could not be more simple.  In a bowl mix 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 6 finely chopped basil leaves, 1 large well minced clove of garlic, pinch of Peperoncino, pinch of oregano.  Then add  2 pints of sliced Grape or Cherry tomatoes in quarters.  Mix.  Let this sit for 3 hours at room temp. (covered of course).  When making you PANINO drizzle some of that oil on both sides of the bread, then layer with sliced cured Italian meats, no more than 2 layers, and add some fresh mozzarella slices or sliced Sharp Italian imported Provolone and over that add some of the tomatoes and more of the dressing.  This should make about 3-4 PANINI.  No heating. No pressing. Just a sandwich with a load of flavor and kick.

You can add 1 tsp of vinegar to the mix too but I don’t care for the vinegar used when you are making a PANINO with fresh mozzarella.  It’s one of those Italian rules that Americans break all the time.  I’m with the Italians on that one.

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PASTA E PISELLI, ITALIAN-AMERICAN MACARONI AND PEAS..SENTIMENTAL FAVORITE

pastapiselli 004  In this blog we go back to my mother’s kitchen (get used to it) and recreate a soup that I make in my own kitchen quite frequently.  It’s a dish from Naples called PASTA E PISELLI, known in Italian-American speak as BASTA BAZEELS.  The dish as I make it uses a can of peas and it’s liquid…REALLY?? DID HE JUST SAY THAT?? yes, yes I did. In Italy, or Naples the dish is somewhat different and many Italian-Americans adhere to that style which is tubettini mixed with peas that have been cooked with lots of diced onion in olive oil.  Some add prosciutto or pancetta. (unless you are a new immigrant from Italy there’s no way that back in 1940 any Italian household in America was using pancetta except for maybe a select few that cured their own varieties. It was just not available until much more recently.) So for the families that added the cured pork it most likely was chopped sopressata or prosciutto rind.  The dish that came down to me via Grandma Scaramuzzi (from Naples) and my Mom, (from Staten Island, NYC) is a dish of broken spaghetti, onions, tomato, olive oil, pinch of oregano, and black pepper finished with pecorino. There it is.  I don’t think I can stress enough that most Italian dishes except a few elaborate ones, but the majority of them rely on not a very big ingredient list.  There is no Olive Gardening (my term for too many ingredients in a an Italian dish) here.  The massive flavor comes from a few places.  1. the peas and their canned liquid, I use, as Mom did, LeSueur Peas.  Feel free to use the canned peas of your choice, there’s lots of great organic varieties out there now too. 2. the onions (see, no garlic, stop thinking that EVERY dish that’s Italian needs or uses garlic..I love garlic..but it’s not in all our food, never way) which cook till sweet and soft, it gives the flavor. 3. Black pepper..AHA! you say! Finally, Battaglia cooks without Peperoncino.  Well this dish is more aromatic with the spicy notes from black pepper.  Be generous. 4. the tomatoes. Mom used Tomato sauce or some crushed Italian plums (again back in the Stone Age 1960’s, San Marzano Tomatoes were something you HAD to get in Italy, they were really not imported here like they are now)..but I use something slightly different, in fact it’s a very Napoletana addition to the canned tomato family and used very often, it’s the POMODORINI, or the cherry tomatoes that you can get here now imported from Southern Italy.  They are packed in a 14-15 oz can.  They also cook quickly.  So there you have it…reasons why I make this dish the way I do..Nods to it’s roots, to my family’s heritage recipe and just a bit of making it A FOOD OBSESSION’S.  You will like what you me here for sure.

SERVES: 3-4                     TIME: 40 minutes

1 CAN LE SUEUR PEAS AND THEIR LIQUID

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED

OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 tsp. KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

1 CAN POMODORINI OR 1 CUP OF CRUSHED ITALIAN/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES

8 OZ. BROKEN SPAGHETTI OR FIDEOS (ALREADY BROKEN SPAGHETTI IN A BOX..AWESOME!)

1/8 CUP WATER

In a saucepan, heat 2 tbs. of Olive Oil, Extra Virgin will add more flavor, up to you…then add the onions and the oregano and let them saute’ for a good 10 minutes.  About 1/2 way thru, add the 1/8 cup of water to the pan. and let it continue to cook.  While this is all happening cook the broken Spaghetti according to the package directions till just al dente. Drain and keep the pasta loosely covered.  Now add the tomatoes to the onions, BUT, make sure they are soft, if not, let them cook longer. Bring to a boil and then add the peas and their liquid. Stir to mix giving a taste..add salt at this point just in case you need to.  Remember, there is salt in the canning liquid and the tomatoes.  Don’t be afraid, you just do not want to over salt, you are adding cheese at the end. Pecorino is salty AND delicious. Let this now cook for 15 minutes on low.pastapiselli 005 Then add the pasta and stir.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low, then remove from the heat. Add 2 tbs. of grated Pecorino Romano.  A good amount of black pepper and a drizzle of a little more Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Let it rest.  Check for seasonings to make sure it’s not over or under seasoned.  Adjust accordingly.  There, it’s all done. Reward yourself with this vegetarian friendly bowl of Pasta E Piselli.  If you omit the cheese it’s a vegan delight but the only label that is deserves is Italian-American.  When done right it’s a cuisine that one can be proud of.

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VINEGAR AND GARLIC CHICKEN WINGS, BAKED AND CRISPY

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Chicken Wings…so good, so versatile, so many ways to cook them.  Wings are my favorite part of the bird for a few reasons with flavor being the most important one. Because of their compact side and the phenomenal ratio of skin to meat all that good stuff that bakes or fries on top of the wings you get in every single bite.  Apologies to the breast, legs and thighs, they all have more meat and less skin, a wing guarantees you that prize each time to reach the wing to your mouth.  Delicious!  Chicken skin, while it’s not for eating every day certainly contains whatever it is that makes things taste good (i’m sure it’s the fat content, let’s be honest) so for those who are careful with their fat intake make this an occasional treat.  Skinless or boneless wings…no interest..they are silly.  I’ll stick with boneless thigh or breast if that’s the road I’m taking.  Wings need bones and skin, the whole package is what makes them rarely a dry piece of meat, unless they are way overcooked or as old as your collection of 80’s cassette tapes.  The meat, let’s talk about it..it’s not really all white meat, and it’s not really dark meat…hence it’s that perfect balance of both.  Self basting I may add because it’s not all white meat and those bones add moisture and flavor.  This is not my only wing recipe but it’s one of my favorites, especially for a crowd.  Vinegar is one of my preferred condiments/ingredients in much of my cooking.  Blame my southern Italian genes as chicken baked with vinegar, olive oil, garlic and herbs is a mainstay of that cuisine.  I grew up on that and Mom applied that vinegar and oil approach to her grilled wings as well.  She’d either pour her own over the chicken or a bottle of Italian Salad Dressing, however when we would grill the bottled ones they always scorched quicker than her own mix.  Why?  The reason why processed foods contribute to all that’s wrong with our eating, there’s sugar or corn syrup in many of those bottled dressings.  I’m not anti sugar, i have a sweet tooth but long ago I guess I realized that adding sugary ingredients is not really necessary. Certainly there are great wing recipes with sugar glazes in them, however this isn’t one of them.  newyearseve14 023  That’s achieved without using a bottle of processed salad dressing.  Let’s have some fun with acid and aromatics and let this chicken sing.

 

SERVES: 6                                  TIME: 1 hour cooking, 6 hours marinading

36 WING PIECES (SEPARATED)FIND WINGS ON THE LARGER SIDE, THE SMALLER ONES REALLY SHRINK DOWN

1/2 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR, OR APPLE CIDER VINEGAR,plus more for seasoning while cooking.

1 TSP. BELL’S SEASONING OR 1/2 TSP GROUND THYME AND 1/2 TSP GROUND SAGE

1/8 CUP OLIVE OIL, PLUS EXTRA FOR DRIZZLING

1 TSP. KOSHER SALT, plus more for seasoning for cooking

4 GARLIC CLOVES

1 TSP. PAPRIKA, plus more for seasoning while cooking.

1/4 TSP. BLACK PEPPER, plus more for seasoning while cooking.

GRANULATED GARLIC (IT’S BETTER THAN POWDER BECAUSE IT’S JUST GARLIC)

In a food processor add all the ingredients except the chicken (lol.please don’t process them!!) and the granulated garlic. Blend them so the garlic has become sort of a paste. Make sure the chicken wings are dry, then add them to a LARGE bowl and pour the marinade over them.  Toss till they are all coated. Cover with plastic wrap tightly and place in the fridge.  After 3 hours, turn then so the wings on the bottom move up to the top.  Re-cover for an additional 3 hours, OR overnight.  Chicken loves marinade, the longer the better.

If you want a smoky flavor to the wings that wonder spice from Spain, PIMENTON, Smoked Spanish Paprika can be used in place of the sweet paprika.   I like the sweet Paprika from Hungary.  It also comes in Hot as well.  If going the Hot Paprika route use 1/2 sweet, and 1/2 hot.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil (or not, up to you but the clean up is easier with the foil liner).  remove the wings from the bowl and let them drain for 10 minutes on racks.  Line them up on the pan or in two pans and then give them a good sprinkle of more salt, pepper, and the granulated garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil (drizzle, not drown) then sprinkle of more vinegar.  Then another dusting of Paprika.  Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove them,  turn the wings and season again with the salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic.  Let them cook another 15 minutes,  Remove, flip the wings to the top side up again and bake for 5 minutes more. At the end of this process they will look like this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Resist the temptation to have one.  Part of good cooking is having patience and the chicken actually will taste better as it cools down.  Plus you will not accidentally rip the lining of the roof of your mouth out.  Let them rest.  Serve 10 minutes out of the oven. (have you ever really held anything that was 425 degrees in your hand without some severe discomfort??  you need those fingers to eat these delicious treats!!)

NOTE!!:  ALL OVENS ARE DIFFERENT. WHAT IS WORKING IN MINE MIGHT BE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT THAN YOURS.  DO NOT MAKE THE FOLLOW THE RECIPE MISTAKE OF NOT USING YOUR SENSE OF SIGHT AS AN IMPORTANT COOKING TOOL/GAUGE.  IF THEY ARE BROWNING TOO QUICKLY, LOWER THE OVEN A BIT…IF THEY ARE COOKING FAST IN ONE SPOT ROTATE THE PAN…IF THEY ARE LOOKING DONE BEFORE THE RECIPE TIME SAYS SIMPLY TEST ONE.

America, thanks to our corporate Restaurant mentality insists on pairing everything with a dipping sauce.  These do not need a dipping sauce but if you are not happy with the prospect of a wing with no sauce to dip, whisk some olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic together and dip it in that.  No bleu cheese dressing on this wing.

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There it is.  Vinegar and Garlic wings.  Baked, That accumulated pan juice you can either hoard for yourself with massive amounts of bread to dip into it…or platter the wings and pour the jus over them.  Make sure there are plenty of napkins!!