Monthly Archives: February 2015

LET THE SUNSHINE ON YOUR SALAD WITH THIS BRIGHT CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

004  While  the dregs of the Winter are in full force please do not think this is a recipe that is limited to any particular season. It’s great for any season but ESPECIALLY when the cold has hung around for months now and Spring is just around the corner.   Florida’s citrus crop is in season and what better way to celebrate than to have those flavors enhance your meals??  There’s a hint of sweet, some spice, some aromatics..the whole thing works in this vinaigrette..btw…the word for a salad dressing in French is VINAIGRETTE…not VINEGARETTE or VINEGRETTE.  A VINAIGRETTE may or may not contain Dijon Mustard, but it will always contain an OIL and VINEGAR.  Good OliveOil is a wonderful flavor in a Vinaigrette, I know, I know..there’s that tasteless neutral oil known as Salad Oil.  Not going to preach, but those oils just aren’t the best due to how they are processed.  I like flavor.  I like the flavor of an Olive Oil and for this dressing I used a Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Above all use a good quality oil,you want that taste and the vinegar should also be of good quality. Put down the Balsamic, it’s a horrible choice for this salad.  I went with a Rice Wine Vinegar. Oils and Vinegars of different types should occupy space in your pantry. Nut based oils are wonderful too but they just turn rancid before you would probably finish using the bottle.  This post is really about the dressing and not the salad however it was a mix of chopped Romaine,torn Baby Spinach, Clementine Segments and ripe Strawberries. They are currently in my local markets, seasonal fruits from Florida, how could I not use them this week??  This recipe will make you a cup of the Vinaigrette.

MAKES:  1 CUP                             TIME: 10 minutes plus 1 hour sitting time

note: Make a vinaigrette AT LEAST one hour before serving and do not refrigerate.  Room temperature and sitting time create the flavors.

  • 2 TABLESPOONS finely minced RED ONION
  • 1TSP COARSE DIJON MUSTARD or REGULAR DIJON if Coarse is unavailable
  • 1 TABLESPOON FRESH CLEMENTINE JUICE
  • 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY (if all you have is dried, FORGET THE ROSEMARY, and use Fresh Thyme)
  • 1 1/2 TABLESPOONS RICE WINE VINEGAR
  • 3/4 CUP SPANISH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (i happen to love the flavor of the Spanish for this, feel free to use any other ExtraVirgin OliveOil
  • 1 dash of TABASCO SAUCE
  • 1 TBS HONEY
  • FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, KOSHER SALT to taste

Blend everything except the Olive Oil..When all blended in a steady stream whisk in the Olive Oil till the mixture is creamy.  Let sit for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours…rewhisk, then use on the salad of your choice.  Certainly, if you are not using it the same day you’ve made it, tightly cover it and refrigerate. This will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

To make this “vegan-Friendly” omit the Honey and use Agave Nectar,I like the dark Agave better, more flavor.

 

POTATOES CREATE AN ELEGANT CAKE, THE GATTO’, NAPLES’ POTATO CAKE

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This blog post will take us again back to Naples, Italy.  I’ll admit that the cuisine of Naples just makes me happy.  In large part it’s the cuisine that I grew up on along with the other regions my grandparents came from, but Naples in particular just makes me happy.  So many associate potatoes with the Northern European cuisines like Irish, English, German, Russian, etc. but the winds of exploration brought potatoes as well as tomatoes over from the Americas many centuries ago.  Italian cooking throughout the boot and it’s islands incorporates regional potato dishes from simple to more complex, yet, as with most Italian cooking the complexities are layers of flavors, not intricate and difficult cooking techniques only a top chef can master.  This is what I think makes Italian cooking so popular, only a few ingredients, a little fuss or none at all and you have platters of outrageously fabulous food.  Take the star of this blogpost..the GATTO’ (gah-TOH)a Mashed Potato cake mixed with some savories and eggs and baked. It comes from the kitchens of Naples, handed down from the old days of Bourbon rule when the French imparted some of their skills and styles to the wonderful ones that already were in place.   For those of your who are familiar with the French language, GATTO’ is simply the Italian (Neapolitan) word for GATEAU, or cake.  This recipe is basically 2 recipes in one but I’m only going to focus on the GATTO’.  The mix can be turned into another Napoletana dish, PANZAROTTI DI PATATE also known as CROCCHE’ DI PATATE, breaded Potato Croquettes.  Let’s save that for another day.  My Mom made this in a springform pan which I used as well until Sandy took that sentimental relic from me so when I made this one I used a 9 inch cake pan.  The cake is rich as it’s a mass of eggs, cheese, potatoes and cured meats.  A little goes a long way.  It’s beautiful when cut and served on a plate.gatto 008  Love the “action” shot of the diced sopressata falling out of the cake slice (I cut it while it was too hot, but, it is what it is…lol).  If creamy potatoes dishes and Italian flavors excite you this is perfect for your palate.  It’s time to walk into my kitchen and cook with me, my mother, and my grandmother (virtually as they both have passed but are ALWAYS with me at my stove).

FOR A 8 INCH CAKE PAN which will serve 4-6 people

Time: 2 days (hold on you thought I said simple, well there’s 2 parts..i truly believe that the mashed potatoes need to be made a day ahead of time and chilled overnight in the fridge..why?  I’m going to get a little Alton Brown here, I could be wrong, just my opinion but it always works out..something about the moisture in the potatoes that just makes them easier to use when they are day old.  Maybe it’s an absorption by the natural starches?  Sounds good, I’ll stick with it.)  On actual day of cooking, it will take about 1 1/2 hours.

2 LBS. OF MASHED POTATOES, MADE A DAY AHEAD OF TIME AND CHILLED IN THE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.   Make mashed potatoes using 2 lb. of peeled Russets.Simply mash with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.  Do not add liquids like cream, milk, half n half. You can either rice them if you have a ricer, or mash or whip them well.  Tightly cover and keep over night in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO (MY PREF IS ROMANO)

3 BEATEN EGGS

3 TBS. CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSELY

1/8 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SALAMI, OR SOPRESSATA (SWEET NOT HOT), OR PROSCIUTTO, OR PROSCIUTTO COTTO

1/2 CUP GRATED SMOKED SCAMORZA (IF YOU CAN FIND IT IT’S THE REAL DEAL)

1/2 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA (IF USING FRESH, PURCHASE IT A DAY AHEAD)

KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. MILK

BUTTER FOR GREASING THE PAN, 6 PATS OF BUTTER TO TOP THE CAKE

ENOUGH COARSE BREAD CRUMBS(PLAIN) TO COAT THE PAN

you can use an 8 inch SPRINGFORM PAN, or CAKE PAN.  Heavily grease the panwith Unsalted butter (definitely use butter for this for flavor). Then coat the pan with a light layer of the coarse breadcrumbs.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

gatto 001 Add all the ingredients to the Mashed Potatoes and blend in well, MAKE sure all the cheeses, meat and parsley are not CLUMPED up.  Want to cook more professionally?  That is one of those details that many times causes a dish to fail.  Incorporating ingredients like this sometimes when not done carefully will cause all the flavors to clump up in spots and not be equally distributed throughout the mixture.. TAKE YOUR TIME, there’s no rush!! A well blended mixture should look like that picture above.  “PAGEENZIA” (Pazienza in proper Italian, PATIENCE) would be what my Mom would say…that was a common outburst of her’s dealing with us kids AND my father…Alright, back to work now, after the mix is done press it into the pan keeping the top smooth.. Top with breadcrumbs and some grated pecorino or parmigiano.  Today’s Naples will most likely use Parmigiano.  The world I learned to cook from which is the southern Italy of the very early 1900’s used Pecorino for most things so that’s the taste I expect when eating this.  Use either one, Pecorino Romano will always be a more sharp taste, Parmigiano will be somewhat nutty.  Now dot the top with a few pats of the unsalted butter.  Why unsalted all the time?  Because this dish contains 3 different cheeses and salted cured meats.  Nothing worse than OVERSALTED food, under is bad too, but you can always add more to adjust that, oversalted is a kitchen FAIL.  There is no going back. Now bake this GATTO’ for 30-40 minutes or until it looks like this:gatto 003 I’m sure you want a piece.  Well you can’t.  PAGEENZIA!! which of course I didn’t have.  No wonder why Mom kept saying that to me!!  Please, let this cool for 20 minutes in the pan on a rack.  Then remove it from the springform or gently remove it from the cake pan as you would remove a layer cake from it.  Then invert it back onto the plate for serving..see, Like this:gatto 004How great does that look!!??  On one of my Mom’s plate too…all is right with the world on this one. Now slice it into wedges for serving.  gatto 007   Some recipe writers out there refer to this as a sidedish, ok, it CAN be but it’s more of a main dish.  That’s the big difference with how us American eats and how they eat in Italy.   Much of what we pile onto a table is meant to be eaten as a standalone I mean, this is a hefty group of ingredients and you really want to enjoy the flavors. OR add it to a buffet service.  I like it being served on it’s own with some greens and tomatoes.  That will be up to you.  Either way, a great idea for something to be made ahead of time too.  It reheats really well. Most of all enjoy yourself while making this and of course while eating it.

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MOZZARELLA MILANESE..EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ITALIAN CHEESE IN A CUTLET

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Name the most popular Italian Cheeses in America? Parmigiano (Parmesan) and Mozzarella will probably at the top of the list.  Being of Southern Italian, especially Napoletana DNA my tastebuds gravitate towards Mozzarella in any of it’s forms, especially when crisply fried with breadcrumbs and soft and very stringy on the inside.  Those “strings” gave the Roman version of Arancini(Rice Balls ) the name of SUPPLI AL TELEFONO..because of the mozzarella inside, when you bite into it the cheese wonderfully pulls.  Like in a Lasagne or on a Pizza it forces you to take another bite.  Fresh mozzarella though on the day it’s made, unless you have a 1000 degree oven like a Napoletana pizza oven, you will overcook it and will have lots of water come out from it.  For conventional ovens block mozzarella, or low moisture is better suited.  Save that fresh to be eaten as the cows or buffalo is came from really wanted you to..soft, fresh, and warm, and just made. Nothing like it.  BUT..and there’s always a but, if you have leftover fresh mozzarella, on day 2 you will be able to use it like you would a block or low moisture cheese.  Something chemical happens when it’s refrigerated and out of the water so that’s a great idea for you if you don’t care to use the commercially produced type.  Mozzarella sticks are a favorite but what if you turn that American treat a little upside down and be more Italian with it?  Well, you then have MOZZARELLA MILANESE!  Mozzarella Cutlets..so let’s start..come into my kitchen with me and put on an apron.

SERVES: 4                         TIME: 30 minutes

12 1/4 INCH SLICES OF MOZZARELLA  (USE WHOLE MILK MOZZARELLA)

3 LARGE OR JUMBO EGGS, BEATEN

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO (for eggs)

3 TBS. GRATED PECORINO (for breadcrumbs)

1/4 CUP DRY PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 TBS CHOPPED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP FRESHLY GRATED BLACK PEPPER

KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP FLOUR SEASONED WITH A PINCH OF SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

OLIVE OIL OR VEGETABLE OIL

PEPERONCINO, FENNEL FRONDS, LEMON (OPTIONAL)

Lay all of your pans/plates the you are using on a counter starting with the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.  Make the breadcrumb mix first..combine the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt, the parsley, 2 tbs of  the cheese.  Add 1 tbs cheese and the pepper to the eggs, blend it well.  Have a sheet pan covered in foil or parchment paper at the end of your breading line. Dip each slice of cheese into the flour on both sides, gently shake off the excess, then into the egg, let he excess roll off, then into the crumbs pressing lightly on both sides to completely coat the cheese.  lay onto the covered baking sheet.  When you are all done loosely cover the cutlets with foil and refrigerate for 10 minutes. toptomato 048  When using fresh mozzarella (as in made within only hours of you buying it) for this dish, let it sit overnight.  Fresh mozzarella is meant to be eaten before it ever sees a refrigerator. And it’s loaded with liquid which will make your frying a dangerous nightmare.  Again, I suggest fresh but used the day after you purchased it, or any of the block Low Moisture varieties. I live in an area where fresh mozzarella made daily is commonplace.  This piece of mozzarella was from a local Italian supermarket, TOP TOMATO.    (http://toptomatosuperstorenj.com/).  Heat about 1 inch of olive oil or vegetable oil in a high sided pan.  When a cube of bread “dances” and starts to immediately start to brown, your oil i ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels, or brown paper, or some racks over a tray on the side and spatula and long tongs ready to go.  Only fry 2 cutlets at a time…just till each side gets golden and crisp taking care when turning.  This Doesn’t take long at all.  If they are in too long the cheese will ooze and the crumbs will burn.  After they are drained eat immediately! or place on an oven proof platter and loosely cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven (about 200 degrees F).  When serving garnish with optional grated cheese, peperoncino, chopped basil or oregano or fennel fronds, a squeeze of fresh lemon.  DELICIOUS.  You can now throw that stale box of Mozzarella Sticks away.  You’ve mastered another dish!!!   This dish also comes from the school of FRITTI NAPOLETANA..the fried snacks of Naples.

 

Happy Cooking!!