Monthly Archives: June 2015

CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF THE SEA ON SAN PIETRO DAY in SCIACCA, SICILY WITH A SPECIAL PASTA

A PASTA DISH CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF SAN PIETRO (St.PETER)blending a few Sicilian ingredients…try this delicious sauce and pasta blend for any meal any day.

A FOOD OBSESSION

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

BENVENUTI A SCIACCA PER LA FESTA DEL MARE IN ONORE DI SAN PIETRO….Welcome to my paternal grandparents
town of their birth, Sciacca , in the province of Agrigento, Sicily…A beautiful seaside town on the South side of the island,
it faces Africa separated by the vast Mediterranean Sea.  On June 29, the Christian world honors the life of St.Peter the
Apostle and Fisherman, but in Sicily, and in Sciacca in particular, the day is more special as San Pietro is the Patron Saint
of Sicilian Fisherman.  Being an Island, and a rough and arid terrained one at that many people turn to the sea for their
jobs.  It is a celebration of the blessings the Saint provides to them, their safety, and a celebration of the treasures that
come from the sea. Anchovies, or ALICI are one of the most prolific and lucrative catches in the town…the Anchovies of
AGOSTINO RECCA…

View original post 873 more words

SHRIMP SCAMPI, MY VERSION OF THIS ITALIAN AMERICAN CLASSIC

scampi 022 I hope that picture caught your attention.  I made this dish and looking at it  I’m thinking, boy, would I like to make that dish!!   It’s the colors, it’s the SHRIMP, it’s the total package.  The dish known as SHRIMP SCAMPI is almost a universal favorite because it contains so many flavors that we love.  Well here comes my lecture, you’re not going to get my recipe without me pontificating about the dish.  Sit down, get a nice glass of wine, espresso, coffee, tea, for other drink and let’s talk SCAMPI.  First lesson of the post is that what you are looking at and probably call “Scampi” is an Italian-American creation that is correctly called SHRIMP SCAMPI, hence the title of the blog.  Why is it not just SCAMPI?? GLAD YOU ASKED! This is a SCAMPI:scampi 004 Aren’t they gorgeous?  That’s a crustacean called NEPHROPS NORVEGICUS. Say that three times.  Translated it’s the NORWEGIAN LOBSTER, or most commonly called LANGOUSTINE.  It also goes by the lively name DUBLIN BAY PRAWN and possibly a host of others. It’s a slender creature win long pincers that unfortunately does not inhabit the waters of the United States.  Very unfortunate.  This is my favorite food..on earth.  How sad for me.  Let’s move on.  In Italy this crustacean is called LO SCAMPO or GLI SCAMPI.  You’re practically fluent now!  The North Atlantic and the Mediterranean are Scampi grounds.  In Italy the most common way to prepare  SCAMPI is split, then grilled with Olive Oil, parsley, and lemon.  Simple!! Did I tell you I recently found some Scamp here in the U.S. and cooked up 6 of them? Here’s the proof:scampi 016And that’s what they look like.  The bodies resemble a large Shrimp (oxymoron aside) and the immigrants to the U.S. from Italy recreated this dish and transformed it, using the available shrimp here into a dish that now took on some of those Italian traits all pressed together to create the Olive Oil, Shrimp, Lemon, Wine or Vermouth, Parsley and Garlic dish we call SHRIMP SCAMPI!  Ok, class is over, there will be a quiz tomorrow before you’ve had your first latte.  I hope that was interesting but what’s even more interesting will be cooking and eating Shrimp Scampi so let’s get cooking!!

PREP AND COOKING TIME: 1/2 hour              SERVES: 4

1 1/2 LB JUMBO SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVIENED (stop right here..did you throw those shrimp shells out?  really?  Do you like the taste of a rich shrimp bisque?  That flavor comes not from the meat of the shrimp, but from a stock that is a reduction of the shells.  The flavor in the shells is just amazing.  You can either make your stock while you are cooking the shrimp, or freeze them in a tightly closed bag for about 1 month. Then use them when you get a nice amount and make a stock similar to how you would make a chicken stock.  Don’t waste anything!!  All those flavors that a good chef/cook will wow you with are derived many times from what’s considered garbage)

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE OR VERMOUTH

KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

JUICE OF ONE LEMONscampi 019

In a wide skillet heat 1/2 the oil and 1/2 the garlic, pinch of salt. Saute’ for only under a minute, then add the shrimp.  Saute’ for a few minutes on each side then remove them and the pan contents to a platter and lightly cover with foil.  Now add the rest of the oil, the garlic, when you smell that garlic…add the wine and bring to a boil then to a simmer.  Let this cook for 2 minutes, then add the shrimp back in and coat well with the pan juices.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the parsley, the lemon juice, pinch of salt, black pepper and the butter.  scampi 021 Now be a good cook and taste one of the shrimp…(how will you know if it tastes right??)..if they are done, they are ready to serve.. If you need more seasoning..go with more lemon juice before you add salt, or just a pinch.  Now serve on their own, with rice, with pasta.  This is a clean crisp presentation.  Some recipes call for the kitchen sink to be added as well (in the 60’s they added Worchestershire Sauce..i’m pretty sure that those Italian scampi weren’t swimming in Worchestershire Sauce…so…no thanks to that in my Scampi Style Shrimp!!).

The butter is a finisher…a closer if you will..it adds a little flavor, but it pulls the dish together as opposed to cooking this in a butter “sauce”..where butter is the main fat in the sauce.  and the Lemon and parsley are last too because they add tons of flavor to it, fresh flavor.  If you add those ingredients early on..they sort of get lost in the end product.scampi 018  US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP..a  product we can be proud of and really the best type to use for your cooking and eating.  Hopefully you can find some near you to create this dish!!

 

 

ST. VITO’S PIZZA..SFINCIONE DI SAN VITO, A SICILIAN STUFFED PIZZA

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stuffed Pizza, or more specifically Sfinciunu di San Vitu (Sfincione di San Vito)..a specialty from the
sunny Island of Sicily which is eaten to celebrate St.Vito’s Day, June 15.  Actually the St.Vito piece of
this food puzzle comes from where the savory pie was first made, at a Convent of San Vito in Sicily.
The nuns did some job in putting together some of Sicily’s favorite ingredients.  A Sfincione is a
Sicilian word denoting their  regional pizza..a spongy doughed rectangular pie topped with a slow
and sweet cooked tomato sauce, anchovies, sauteed onions, caciocavallo, black pepper, olive oil
and bread crumbs.  This morphed in America to our Sicilian thick crust pie.  A St.Vito Sfincione is
a calzone or a two layered crust covered pizza, differing from the other Sfincione.  Confused? You
should be.  No matter…follow me on this St.Vito’s Pizza journey.  Let’s go to the namesake.  St. Vito
himself.  One of those early Saints of the Christian period who are part of various legends, in
addition to Central Europe, St. Vito became a popular saint throughout Italy, especially down south
and in Sicily where there is a huge following.  One of the prettiest towns in all of Sicily to the west of
Palermo is the beach resort of San Vito lo Capo (Cape of St.Vitus) where there is a huge cous cous
festival held every year.  Interestingly enough, this Pizza is more associated with New Year’s Eve than with the actual feast day of S.Vito.  I like to highlight though for this June 15 feast day.

0002

This is my personal card of St.Vito which I got in the old San Vito Club in NYC..  My first introduction to St.Vito was when I was a kid and
exploring the old sections of Little Italy in NYC which then extended above Elizabeth St and below
Mulberry St.  In fact, the section of Little Italy now known as NoLita was once the first home in America
for thousands and thousands of Sicilian immigrants, Elizabeth Street.  Each group of people (paisani)
from a particular town would inhabit one or two adjacent tenanments and would provide a safe place for
new immigrants from that town to stay in upon arrival in the New Country.  My grandparents, both from the
town of Sciacca in Sicily lived in opposite buildings, all with other paisani from their town.  At one end
by the former Old Church of Our Lady of Loreto a group from the Sicilian town of Cimina settled and in
Our Lady of Loreto was a shrine to St.Vito. Every town had a Society on that street, and one of them was
the Mutual Aid Society of St.Vito for the people of Cimina.  All gone now.
So there’s a little history of St.Vito to get you in the mood to cook a pizza named after him.  This stuffed
gem is loaded with flavors and fun to make and eat.  It would be a great party food, or a full entree,
served with a salad.  This recipe will make one Sfinciuni (say it, you’ll feel Sicilian!).  Start with the dough.
Don’t be afraid, it sounds scary to make your own dough, but it’s not only tastier and healthier, but it’s
theraputic.  8-10 minutes of kneading is a great stress reducer!  In a bowl, add 1 cup of warm water. To
that add 1 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1 packet of dry yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for up to 15 minutes. The top
will be frothy..IT’S ALIVE!  Add 1 cup of sifted bread flour and blend in well with a wooden spoon.  Now add
an additional cup.  Keep stirring, it should be getting more difficult to stir and the dough will be moving from
the sides of the bowl.  It will still be somewhat sticky. Slowly add an additional cup of flour now mixing with
your hands.  This should give you an elastic, smooth ball of dough. If it is still sticky sprinkle a little more
flour on.  Turn this out onto a floured board and knead for 8-10 minutes.  Rub olive oil over it and place it
in the bowl, kitchen towel over the top and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.
On to the filling…you’ll love this.  Saute’ 1 lb. of loose sausage meat in a little olive oil still just cooked, about
10 minutes.  Remove from the pan.  While the sausage is cooking, slice 1 large onion and dice one medium
sized potato.  Now add the potato to the pan with a little more olive oil, some salt and pepper and fry the
potatoes for about 10 minutes, till done.  Add to the sausage.  In the same pan fry the onions for 10 minutes
till soft and sweet, then add 1 sliced clove of garlic and when fragrant add 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1 anchovy filet
and cook for 2 minutes.  Now add 1 14 oz Can of Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes (my new favorite in-
gredient).  add some salt and pepper, and stir.

Add all of the sausage and potato to the tomato and onion and cook it on medium-low for 25 minutes.  Some versions, and there are many of this, will include 1/2 tsp of ground Cinnamon. That’s up to you.

Now add 1 cup of coarsely chopped black olives, then a sprinkle of oregano and 3 torn basil leaves.
Cook for additional 5 minutes.  Turn off the flame and add 1/8 cup grated pecorino, and 1/4 cup diced
caciocavallo.  Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes.  Pre-heat your oven to 450 now.

So from friend Michael Gottuso who used my recipe when I originally posted this a few years ago, this is his picture of the filling after it was completed:0002

Time to stuff!  Pat down the dough and turn it out onto a board or stone counter.  With your hands press
it out into a circular shape about 3/16 of an inch (get our your kitchen ruler..lol) and let it rest for about
5 minutes.

Add the filling to the center of the dough and smooth it out so it’s all the same thickness.  Gently
pick up one side of the dough and fold it over the filling..gently gently  so you don’t tear the dough.
If you do you can always patch it up.  Roll of the edges and tightly crimp them in a semi-circle where you
overlapped the dough.  This will form a crust.
Dust the top of the Sfinciunu with black pepper
and bake for 16-20 minutes, or till golden brown on top and bottom.  When done, tap on the top and
it should be firm and sound hollow.
Let this rest for 10 minutes before you cut into it, it lets all the juices go back into the filling.  Cut and
serve, feeds 4-5.  A very Sicilian combo here…serve it with a Sicilian red or white…a side of broccoli rabe or a salad.
Let me confuse you even further..as with many recipes centuries old there are many versions.  One presses the dough into a round pan and it resembles a Chicago style DeepDish Pizza.. The top crust is covered with tomato sauce.  My preference is the calzone style.  You make it as you like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy Sfinciunu i San Vitu making!  Enjoy your St.Vito’s Pizza.

FILETTO DI POMODORO CON PROSCIUTTO, PASTA WITH TOMATO FILETS AND CRISP PROSCIUTTO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Everyone loves PASTA.  I LOVE PASTA!  I love it in any cuisine too and of course in my own heritage cuisine, Italian.  Sometimes bad things happen to good pasta like bad sauce, incorrect recipes, oversaucing, undercooking.  The variety of shapes and sauces is endless and let me share one of my favorites with you, FILETTO DI POMODORO with PROSCIUTTO.  This sauce most probably based on one from Italy had a real day in the sun a few years ago. It showed up on every menu.  Too often I found that the sauce was nothing more than a cooked tomato sauce, sometimes with the actual “filets” of tomato visible with garlic or onion in the olive oil saute’ and many times with bits or pieces of Prosciutto.  Each kitchen has their own view of how this should be made.  I have no tolerance for ho-hum food that I’m paying for so I studied this dish and came up with a version of my own which sets it apart from just another tomato sauce.  I mean it’s CALLED Filetto di Pomodoro..shouldn’t that be the most notable quality?? If not why bother?  (Extreme? perhaps, however, it’s how I roll).  I think the type of tomato is important too and my choice is the San Marzano.  I also like the inclusion of sort of crisped Prosciutto, for taste and texture.  OH you will love this.  The ingredients are important, as always.  The Prosciutto should not be paper thin, but not thick either. Have it cut thin enough to fold it but not thin enough for it to come apart. Size of a food, shape, thickness will make or break a dish. Here’s the ingredients in my FILETTO OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGarlic, Prosciutto, San Marzano tomatoes from Italy seeded and cut into strips and fresh basil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything fresh!  That basil came out of my backyard.  Grow a pot or two at your own home if you don’t have room in a garden during the Summer months. Fresh picked is so much more fragrant.  And no pre chopped garlic.  It resembles real garlic about as much as a Tic Tac does.

SERVINGS:  4-6

TIME:      about 30 MINUTES

28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes (drain the can juices, reserve for some other use, seed the tomatoes and slice them into strips. then lay them on paper towels)
1 lb. IMPORTED ITALIAN TAGLIATELLE, FETTUCCINE, LINGUINE..oh, ok…that’s my preference, use whatever pasta shape you like..(but it will be better with the long and flat type…)
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
6 fresh Basil leaves
4 ounces prosciutto, sliced 1/8-inch thick, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 tsp ground black pepper (or less to taste), 1/2 tsp KOSHER SALT
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

In a large heavy pan, heat 1/2 the olive oil and add the prosciutto.  Let the prosciutto saute for about 3,minutes per side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions  (i love DeCecco or Delverde Imported Italian Pasta) till just at al dente.  Then drain. While the water comes to the boil, you can do the following:

Then add the garlic and let it cook for about 3 minutes longer.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve on a plate. Now add the tomatoes and cook for 4minutes per side letting them caramelize a bit. FLAVOR!!!  Concentrates the tomato flavor and absorbs the flavors of the already sauteed prosciutto and garlic.  Remove them,  Now add a few pieces of the prosciutto back till they are just crisp..it will not take long. Reserve and save to garnish the finished plates. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt and remaining garlic,prosciutto back into the pan. Let this heat together for about 3 minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

add 2 basil leaves.  Then gently add the drained al dente pasta, the rest of the olive oil and coat the pasta well letting it cook for no more than 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.  add 1/2 the grated cheese and mix in..Tear up the remaining basil leaves and use them to garnish everyone’s plate. Also, coarsely crumble the crisped prosciutto and top each plate with that.  Nice textures.  You can alternately the finished pasta to a large serving bowl and top with the basil and prosciutto.  A sprinkle of Pecorino over it all.  MANGIARE BENE!! EAT WELL!!

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

AFFOGATO,ITALY’S COFFEE AND ICE CREAM TREAT

0002

 

An amazingly flavored dessert/drink that comes from Italy is the perfect idea for your Summer entertaining (ok, not just Summer but i’m trying to play up the seasonal thing here).  It’s called AFFOGATO and it means DROWNED.  A scoop (s) of usually VANILLA GELATO is placed in a chilled glass, cup , or bowl and hot ESPRESSO is poured over it.  Let’s talk here for a moment.  I’m American so I will have to say, you can use a good creamy naturally flavored VANILLA ICE CREAM and a good strong BLACK COFFEE for this treat.  It’s way better though when you stick to the original and proper when possible and find (or make if you’re into that) Vanilla Gelato and make a pot of Espresso.  Now again, since I’m American I’m almost forced into telling you that you can top this with Amaretti Crumbs, Shaved Chocolate, I guess the sky is the limit.  I will also tell you that now you are making an Ice Cream Sundae of sorts and you’ve sucked the Italian soul completely out of the mix.  Americans LOVE having lots of varieties especially when it comes with toppings. Me, I’m more the purist and I prefer this as the Italians intended it to be made.  Lots of overkill “recipes” for this on the web.  Why complicate???

To  make this tasty treat…simply scoop Vanilla Gelato or Ice Cream into a chilled glass that can withstand heat, we want no accidents here..or into a bowl (safer),then for each scoop, 1 1/2 ounces of hot espresso over the top.  Serve…eat/drink enjoy.    This, along with a platter of cut Summer fruits and berries and some biscotti is a great way to end a Summer’s meal.

The picture is of an AFFOGATO I enjoyed for dessert at the OBICA’ MOZZARELLA BAR, Canary Wharf, London     ( I know, that’s not Italy, but so what,It’s Europe..LOL) in July 2014 on family vacation (or should I say Holiday since it was in London???).  Just to keep my authenticity badge, I have had this in Italy but there’s not corresponding picture.  So there’s that.  Now enjoy the Summer and enjoy the foods and gatherings that make it the great season it is.

Now if you want to expand on the basic “affogato” as nature intended it…here’s some ideas, for you boozy adults, a bit of your favorite Liquore, think ones that go well with vanilla and coffee like Amaretto, Fra Angelico, Kaluha….or for the non boozy types some Nutella, Chocolate or Caramel Syrup.  I’ll keep mine gelato and espresso.  Enjoy!!