Monthly Archives: September 2015

ITALIAN EGG DROP AND SPINACH SOUP…STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA

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Today’s  blogpost will introduce you to a favorite soup of mine, STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA..translated it means Little Rags in the Roman Style.   Some of you may be confused because there’s a gelato flavor called STRACCIATELLA as well, a Vanilla gelato with ribbons of Chocolate throughout the mix.  When the ALLA ROMANA is added be assured it means a delicious rich clear meat  broth to which chopped spinach is added..and THEN, feel the excitement?, a mix of eggs beaten with black pepper and Parmigiano cheese is drizzled into the hot broth while you gently whisk  till the egg and cheese forms pieces/ribbons and then you are done.  The CLASSIC recipe will use a clear strong BEEF or MEAT Stock…Italian-Americans usually use a clear strong Chicken Stock.  Both are delicious.  The tradition of Stracciatella alla Romana was that it is a dish served in the dead of Winter at Christmas time.  In my Italian American home growing up with it’s Napoletana-Basilicata-Sicilian roots this was a common soup that Mom made.  No Roman in our house.  I do remember seeing it on Italian Restaurant menus during the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s not as popular now but when you bring it up when talking Italian foods people do perk up.  I think this falls under that Italian-American Comfort food umbrella, you know, the one where PASTINA resides.  Adding the Spinach might be a very Italian-American touch.  The original is made without it.    More often than not Mom used Grated Locatelli Pecorino for her soup not the usual Parmigiano SO I leave that up to you. Nutty and Mild is the flavor profile for the Parmigiano cheese..and Strong and Salty is the flavor profile of the Pecorino.  What do I like better?  Pecorino.  Don’t let me sway you.  Choose for yourself and make this wonderful soup.  I love when I can introduce people to something that once was so popular and now is…almost gone.  This soup was even served at my high school prom at the Hollywood Terrace in Brooklyn, 1979.  (YES, good food has always existed in Brooklyn, long before it was discovered by hipsters in the 2000’s…lol).  I considered this Italian Egg Drop Soup as opposed to Chinese – American take out EggDrop Soup.   I love them both.   So, ANDIAMO ALLA CUCINA..let’s go into the kitchen!

 

STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA ———TIME:  1/2 HOUR     SERVES: 6

3 QUARTS CLEAR MEAT OR CHICKEN BROTH

2 CUPS FINELY CHOPPED CLEANED BABY SPINACH

3 EGGS

3 TBS. SEMOLINA

1 TSP. FRESHLY GROuND BLACK PEPPER

4 TBS. FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO or LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO

1/4 TSP. GRATED LEMON ZEST (optional, i don’t use it, many recipes do)

PINCH OF GROUND NUTMEG

KOSHER SALT

Heat the BROTH  till boiling then add the SPINACH.   Reduce to medium.   While that is happening beat the eggs with the pepper, nutmeg, semolina,  and cheese.  Then drizzle it into the pot of simmering broth gently and CAREFULLY whisking the egg mixture in.

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Keep whisking until all the eggs have formed the “STRACCI”, or RAGS..the colorful name given to the coagulated egg mixture that looks like torn rags.  Now Stracciatella is very Roman but it’s also made in Le Marche and other Italian regions.  Let the soup cook for 2 minutes longer then turn off the heat.  Season with salt to taste if necessary

Ladle into the 6 bowls and sprinkle with more grated Cheese.   Serve.  Great memories of a soup my Mom used to make.  I add a little peperoncino to mine.

So when planning your Christmas menu remember this fits right in during that week between  Christmas Eve and Santo Stefano.  (Dec.24-26) but why wait?  Make it anytime!

 

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ROASTED TOMATOES ON THE VINE WITH MOZZARELLA, GRAZIE MICHELE SCICOLONE

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Tomatoes on the vine…the sights and tastes of the Summer season and hopefully the promise of an extended period of good weather until the Autumn frosts..these are beautiful things.  Cookbooks are beautiful things to (are you thinking, “where did THAT thought come from?” and one in particular is from a favorite cookbook author, MICHELE SCICOLONE, based in New York City and has been writing wonderful cookbooks that bring good food and sentiments to your table.  She’s very easy to follow and her recipes are wonderful.  So here’s the tie in–that tomato dish picture and the focus of this blogpost is from her cookbook THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK.  Certainly this one is a favorite for all the reasons I mentioned and more..the photography is wonderful, the reading is easy, and the foods are glorious.  It’s a celebration of Italian Vegetable ideas and not once will you say..hmmm.  where’s the BEEF??? strascinati 003There’s my copy, i bought it as soon as it came out. AND doesn’t that cover look like the lead picture?? Of course it does and I’m going to share with you how I made this with many thanks to Michele Scicolone   (http://www.amazon.com/The-Italian-Vegetable-Cookbook-Antipasti/dp/0547909160)

 

This dish is a star and her version pairs the “on the vine” roasted tomatoes with Burrata.  Anything more delicious than Burrata?  Ok, maybe somethings AS DELICIOUS AS burrata. For my version though I was Burrata-less and instead used what I had in my fridge which were BOCCONCINI or CILIEGIE DI FIOR DI LATTE…”Fresh” small Mozzarella Balls in Water. I’d strongly advise either the Burrata with this (which is best because of it’s Creamy nature) or a fresh style in the water small mozzarella.  Get yourself about 1 lb of Tomatoes on the Vine..fresh picked would be even better! Pre heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat them with 1 cup of Imported Italian Olive Oil, a good sprinkle of Kosher Salt, grinding of Black pepper and place them into a baking pan lined with foil.  Try to make sure none of the tomatoes are touching so the heat reaches all sides and roasts them evenly.

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Place into the oven and roast for at least 20 minutes or until the skins are splitting away and shriveled and the tomatoes sort of collapse and are soft.  There, you are done!  To serve, open the burrata, or slice it, or used the bocconcini and drizzle with the juices from the roasting pan.  About 1 lb of cheese should do it. Add that around the tomatoes and garnish with fresh Basil.  Serve with really good bread. Thank you to Michele Scicolone for this wonderful book AND recipe.

 

*My recipe is adapted from Michele Scicolone’s Book THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK, so that means this is her idea, not mine, and i’m happy to share it.  I highly suggest purchasing the book as well.

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OVEN BAKED CHICKEN WINGS WITH VINEGAR AND BREADCRUMBS

syd17 014  Chicken Wings can be a party planners best friend.  These packets of flavor have the best of all possible snack or starter (or entree) worlds all in a small hand held piece. The skin creates a self basting packet which keeps the meat inside moist and adds tons of flavor and texture. Chicken is like the flavor chameleon.  It readily takes on the flavors of what ever spices or sauces or coatings you’re giving it.  Who doesn’t like wings?  OK, those of you who raised your hand, you can leave the room now, but not until you share this post with someone you know who DOES love wings.  That’s a suitable punishment for such an offense.  Wings, gotta love them.  Wings are yet another food in your recipe arsenal that should have 1000 different varieties to choose from.  Ok, you probably have fried, or Teriyaki, or Buffalo, or some kind of grilled, but….DO YOU HAVE VINEGAR MARINATED AND BAKED WITH A FINISHING COATING OF SEASONED BREADCRUMBS???? I’ll venture a guess and say, no, no you do not.  My hope is that you sincerely thank me for this Foodcentric PSA that will have you making them over and over again.  I just made 72 for 13 kids who came over for my daughter’s birthday.  We also had 6 pizzas and a huge bowl of salad with Blue Cheese Dressing.  All the wings…GONE.  That should be your expectation!

The choice of chicken for this is also key.  Look for organic or natural chickens.  I don’t advise making this with Perdue wings. Why? The skin.  Perdue skin is entirely too thick and you will have flabby texture when you bite into them.  Not putting out a hate on Perdue, but they do not bake the way the whiter, thinner skinned chicken wings do.  You’ve been warned.syd17 003  See the color of those wings?  It’s not that golden yellow.  These will cook way better for you.  OK, onto the cooking..

FOR 36 WINGS                                     3HOURS TOTAL

36 WING PIECES

1/8 CUP APPLE CIDER OR SHERRY VINEGAR

1/8 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

1/2  TSP. KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/2 TSP. SWEET PAPRIKA

1/2 TSP SMOKED PAPRIKA

1/2 TSP CRUMBLED DRIED OREGANO

1 TSP. GRANULATED GARLIC OR 3 CLOVES finely minced or pushed through a Garlic Press

1/2 TSP GROUND THYME

Whisk all the ingredients and  pour over the wings, Let them soak in this marinade for at least 1 hour, longer if you like.

1/2 cup BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO OR PARMIGIANO CHEESE

pinch of OREGANO

1/2 TSP KOSHER SALT

1/8 TSP CAYENNE

1/8 TSP, GRANULATED GARLIC

mix this together till blended.

3 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER (you will be melting this later)

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking  tray with foil.  (When you are cleaning this up you will again THANK ME for the foil tip).  Arrange wings on one or two trays depending on space. I made a double batch in this picture:syd17 002

Pour the remaining marinade over the wings.  OH..make sure you oil the foil first…sorry. Let’s move on now. Place in the oven on the bottom and middle rack and let this bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven carefully and top each wing with about 1/2 tsp of the crumb mixture.  Melt the butter and drizzle a small bit over each wing.  Back into the oven for an additional   15-20 minutes or till browned and done. This is how they will/should look:syd17 008and up close they will look like this:sydbday15 008 I love a food close up!! Want another angle? ok, here it is:syd17 012 Let them sit for at least 8 minutes before removing them to a serving tray. Gently move a spatula under them to loosen from the foil and try really hard not to pop them in your mouth.  Ok, are you asking…where’s the sauce?  America loves it’s dipping sauces.  Seriously, for these? You don’t need any. It’s a lazy cooks way of making a hybrid of breaded chicken with baked chicken.  Just enough coating on the top to make a difference from no breading at all.  If you did need a sauce…ok…tabasco and honey or just tabasco or tabasco and ranch…up to you..it’s a no win situation figuring that out because  …you really don’t need any..BUT…i’ll leave that bit of creativity up to you.

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SUMMER PEACH CAKE WITH RASPBERRIES AND LIME

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Peaches and Raspberries are a classic fruit pairing and a little bit of citrus makes all those flavors pop.  Isn’t that what you want your food to do?  Pop with exciting flavors?  Desserts especially are better with great flavors or they tend to be too sweet.  I do like a sweet dessert but that little citrus really changes the dish and changes it for the better.  Peach Melba, peaches and raspberry sauce over Ice Cream is a Classic,  although sort of out of style dessert but good flavor pairings never fade, you just keep reinventing ways to make them.  So here we have a simple cake baked with peaches. How do you get to the next level?  Think about what might go well..did you say Cool Whip?  hmmm. not on my cakes, sorry…whipped cream would be a good answer.  Go back to the Peach Melba idea…what if you made a basic peach cake and then drizzled Raspberry Lime sauce over it with fresh raspberries and lime zest?  Do I have your attention now? Awesome.  This dessert I created one night out of sheer boredom, nothing “original ” about it other than the addition of lime.  I think i invented that.  Work with me here, say GREAT IDEA PETE!!! But as every recipe developer, food creator, chef, cook must come to terms with, there probably is a dish pretty close to the one you just “invented” out there already.  I’ll be content with knowing that maybe I just brought the idea into your kitchen . That makes me happy.  For this dish find the freshest peaches.11035447_492007387634233_714482008616250832_n  These are New Jersey grown local peaches and they were delicious.  Also, find some fresh raspberries:

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You are going to turn these into a quick sauce by taking 1 pt, reserving at least 10 for garnishing the cake later…simply add the raspberries to a heavy saucepan along with 3 tablespoons of sugar and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until they are soft and have released their juices..add 1/2 tsp. of fresh lime juice.  Add to a food processor and simply pulse a few times.  Now you can run this thru a sieve to remove pulp and seeds, or simply use at is. Leave the sauce at room temperature, but covered for when the cake is ready.

for the cake:  use a 9 inch cake pan, well greased with butter.

Preheat oven to 350F.

 

5 TABLESPOONS SOFTENED UNSALTED BUTTER

 

1EGG

 

1/ CUP of SUGAR

 

1/2 CUP WHOLE MILK
1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

 

1 CUP SIFTED UNBLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

 

GENEROUS PINCH OF KOSHER SALT
1 1/2 TABLESPOONS BAKING POWDER
1/2 TSP. GROUND NUTMEG

4 FRESH SEASONAL PEACHES, PEELED AND SLICED

SUGAR FOR THE TOPPING, PLUS MORE NUTMEG

1 TSP LIME ZEST

Cream the butter and sugar in your mixer till fluffy and light in color. Add the egg , milk, and vanilla and beat till mixed in .   Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and the nutmeg . Beat for 5 minutes.  Pour into the cake pan.  Place the slices in a circle on the top of the cake.  Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg, pinch of ground cloves and sprinkle over the top of the peaches.  Dot with small pieces of butter, about 2 tbs.  Bake in 350 Degree F oven for 35 minutes or when the cake is firm to the touch at the center. 

When the cake is done, let it cool on a rack for a good 2 hours.  Drizzle some of the sauce over the cake along with the lime zest. Top with the reserved uncooked rasbperries.  Slice and serve with more of the sauce.  Ok, some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream to if you like.

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I hope you find some good fruit to make this cake with.  Not overly sweet and highlights the seasonal peaches.  Raspberries are like grated cheese, they made everything TASTE better!!  The hint of spice is a great background flavor, you know, like in a cake doughnut.  Nutmeg enhances the flavors.