Monthly Archives: September 2016

PEPERONATA, SOUTHERN ITALIAN PEPPER STEW

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PEPERONATA

 

Italian Cuisine is full of simple dishes that require one rule….look for the best ingredients you can find.  That basically translates into cook with the seasons.  In the USA we can access foods out of our regional seasons at any time of the year.  Making an out of season peperonata will still be a delicious dish but never as good as when peppers are in season.  That rule applies across the board.  Me?  I make peperonata whenever I feel like totally realizing that a Peperonata made in May will take delicious, but never as good as one you make in August thru November.The most basic form of this PEPERONATA, which is a PEPPER STEW, is  slow cooking strips of different colored peppers in Olive Oil  with onions and garlic.  Then it splits off from there into many variations.  Give this dish about 2 hours of your time and you’ll be making it over and over again.  Use a nice heavy and wide pot fot this dish, a dutch oven.  I add the umami of Anchovy to the mix.  The dish is southern Italian so as long as these are combos that appear in other regional dishes you are not committing Italian Food Heresy. 006Home grown produce that’s still warm in your hand and seconds from picking it will ALWAYS be the optimum way to get your ingredients. In the real world only a handful of us have that treat.  Next best idea is to have a local farmers or farm market where produce truly is local, from the surrounding area.  Living at the Central Jersey Shore we have quite a few great places that for those of us who don’t grow in our own gardens and the seasonal selections are fantastic. This is where I purchased the peppers for my PEPERONATA. http://www.deliciousorchardsnjonline.com/….DELICIOUS ORCHARDS in Colts Neck N.J.  Beautiful selection of local bell peppers, seasonal bell peppers from other areas, local cubanelles, cheese peppers, hot cherry peppers, Italian long hots, Italian Long Sweets, and dozens of chile pepper varieties.  For this dish we use a mix of multicolored bell peppers.  The long stewing transforms these ordinary tasting peppers into a complex and velvet like vegetable stew.  About the variations, if the core of the dish isn’t a slow cooked down pot of pepper slices with olive oil and onions and/or garlic it’s just a saute’ of peppers. A little tomato in the mix adds to the complexity.  I use a tablespoon of Imported Italian tomato paste..rich and concentrated. Lidia is telling us “layers of flavor” in most of her shows and this dish is an example of how a crisp raw pepper and some other ingredients turns into something so much greater than it was before you made the Peperonata.  Get excited!! This is an exciting tasting dish. Here is my version of PEPERONATA!

MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS                             TAKES: CLOSE TO 2 HOURS

1/2 cup OLIVE OIL

8 MULTICOLORED SUMMER BELL PEPPERS, seeded, cored, ribs cut out, and cut into as uniformly sliced cuts as you can get.

2 MEDIUM SLICED ONIONS

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/2 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED OREGANO

1 TSP. RINSED SALTED CAPERS

1 ANCHOVY FILET (ok, optional if you refuse to enjoy the umami that those delicious little fish give without making it taste like fish…just sayin…)

1 TABLESPOON OF TOMATO PASTE (i use imported Italian tomato paste)

2 TABLESPOONS OF RED WINE VINEGAR

1/8 cup WHITE WINE

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

In a large heavy pot(Dutch oven) heat 1/2 the olive oil and add the peppers. Season the peppers with salt  and make sure to coat them well with the oil.  This really helps with breaking them down.  Let this cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.  Now add the onion, garlic, anchovy, oregano and pinch of peperoncino, pinch of salt and blend well with the peppers.  Let this cook for 10 minutes.Add the wine and tomato paste  the rest of the olive oil and the capers and blend well.  Continue to cook on low for 1 hour, stirring frequently. When the peppers are nice and soft, add the vinegar and stir.  Taste. Check for seasonings at this point. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 3 hours or over night. Then use either at room temperature or gently reheated.

Some people add olive to this.  I prefer not too.  Up to you.  TUTTI I GUSTI SON GUSTI!! meaning everyone to their own tastes!!

So what are we using this in?? Again, on it’s own as a main or side with bread…in eggs, frittata, over an omelette, mixed with potatoes, on sandwiches,  with sausages and pork, over grilled chicken..on flatbreds, pizzas, bruschetta and crostini…0002More local peppers…these are from another fantastic local farm market I frequent… MATT’S FARM MARKET in Lake Como, NJ…  http://www.mattsfarmmarket.com/

 

Remember, these are not fried peppers, or sauteed peppers, they are stewed peppers, a 2 hour investment will pay off in high culinary dividends!!

 

 

 

 

 

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ANOTHER ITALIAN PASTA SAUCE..FROM BASILICATA,SUGO L’INTOPPO

004There couldn’t be a more appetizing picture for me than a pot of any  of Italy’s many tomato based pasta sauces.  Add a regional spin to them and now I’m even more excited.  Today is Sant’Innocenzo Day383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n in my paternal grandfather, INNOCENZO SCARAMUZZI’s Southern Italian town of his birth.  He lived in Grassano, Matera, Basilicata until he immigrated to NYC at the age of 25 in 1915.  What better day than September 22 to share a sauce that comes from his region?  FYI, not sure if he ever made this as Basilicata is a region with 2 provinces, Potenza (West) and Matera (East) and this sauce is made in and around both Provinces. Potenza is probably where it’s native to. It’s called in proper Italian… SUGO L’INTOPPO….in Basilicata or Lucanian dialect it’s called ‘NTRUPPC.  Sidebar here for a second…reasons why Italians are always arguing that THEIR version of any is the right one is because there’s never ONE definition, word, or pronunciation ,let’s just nod our heads and say, “I got it.”  Please do not call it a meat sauce or Bolognese or Ragu’Napoletano because there are many similaries in method and ingredients but there are some differences that make it a wonderfully unique regional sauce.  I will, on this patronal feast day remember my grandfather 156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n by blogging a wonderful sauce from his region.  What better way for a grandson who cooks and reveres his grandfather’s memory then to blog a new recipe for you all?  Right?  I thought so…Let’s cook.

 

SUGO L’INTOPPO   or  LU ‘NTROPPC…..SAUCE WITH OBSTACLES or A HITCH…what does that mean?  no idea…i’ll guess maybe all the meats in it are being called obstacles SINCE, most Pasta dishes in Italy serve the meats from their sauce as a secondo. Here the meats are served in the pasta so, they are “obstacles” to the pasta…That’s my thoughts and I’m sticking with them. ENJOY!!

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE sliced or removed from their casings

1/2 LB STEW BEEF, MINCED

1/4 LB VEAL STEW, MINCED

6 14 oz CANS OF IMPORTED ITALIAN POMODORINI (most come from Potenza which is probably where this sauce originated), or 3 28 oz Cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 DICED MEDIUM ONIONS (Don’t even think of adding garlic)

1 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

SEA SALT

HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL

In a large heavy stock pot heat a 1/2 the olive oil and sear all the meats until they are nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl or platter and add the rest of the olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions and rapidly stir them around..why?The liquid in the onions will release all the nice caramelized bits from the meats at the bottom of the pan.  It will also give the onions some color and flavor.Add some sea salt and the peperoncino.  Slowly cook this until the onions are soft, NOT BROWNED.  When the onions are soft, should take about 10 minutes…then add the tomatoes.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then add the meats, bring down to a simmer.  Add some basil.  Pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally.  Drop in the remaining basil leaves and let the sauce sit for about 2 hours before using. Done.

Now what pasta is most traditional?  STRASCINATI which you can make or buy in good Italian markets and pork stores.  It’s a flour/semolina and water rustic pasta that resembles a stretched out orecchiette or cavatelli.  BTW, in lieu of STRASCINATI orecchiette or cavatelli are fine .plenty of PECORINO ROMANO over the servings.003The finished dish using STRASCINATI I bought in a local Salumeria (Italian Pork Store).  Fantastic!!!

The recipe yields enough sauce for up to 3 lbs of Pasta.

Enjoy this view I snapped while coming down the road from Grassano in 2008.

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RICE AND ZUCCHINI PATTIES WITH A BALSAMIC REDUCTION

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Zucchini season means being creative if you are fortunate to have tons in your garden or as gifts from people you know who have a bumper crop.  You may be enticed by a fresh looking display in your farmers market or food store.  However you get your zucchini the possibilities are endless as to what you can make with them. Here’s an idea that builds on the Mediterranean tradition of mixing eggs, a starch, cheese, and a vegetable into a little fried morsel.  Southern European countries are brimming with these types of fritters and really a few well made ones can be the main event at a meal.  I love rice and always cook extra with something to be made the next day in mind.  Something about leftover rice, it just makes for nice fritters, like Arancini (Riceballs) or these patties we will now cook.  The key here is leftover rice.  Results will NOT be the same if you the rice the same day you’ve cooked it.  Please note that you have been warned, lol.  Pulling from a lifetime of eating Southern Italian food I put together this patty one day when I had some leftover rice in the fridge.  A little fresh basil, onion, and a finishing touch of Balsamic make for a really nice plate.

For approx. 14 patties       Time: (using leftover rice) 1 hour

1 3/4 CUPS LEFTOVER COOKED RICE (STRESSING THE LEFTOVER PART !!)

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI SHREDDED, THEN BETWEEN TOWELS OR PAPER TOWELS, SQUEEZE ALL THE MOISTURE OUT OF THEM.

2 LARGE BEATEN EGGS

1 CUP BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE

1/4 TSP CHOPPED FRESH THYME

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICE

1 TBS. CHOPPED PARSLEY

1/2 TSP. FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

SALT TO TASTE

1/4 CUP GOOD BALSAMIC VINEGAR, SLOWLY REDUCED TO LESS THAN 1/2 IT’S ORIGINAL VOLUME)

Mix all the ingredients till they all will stick together.  Heat about 2 tbs. olive oil or canola oil in a pan.  Make a small test patty, roll some of the mix into a walnut size ball then flatten, make sure there’s a nice sizzle when you add it to the pan.  Let the patty get nicely browned on both sides, then drain on paper towels..TASTE THIS, of course after it’s cooled off.  If you are happy with the seasoning form 14 equal sized patties, about 2 inches wide, no more than 1 inch thick.  If it’s not seasoned enough add more salt and blend well.  Add  a little more olive oil to the pan and without crowding them in the pan cook them in batches over medium heat.  Don’t rush this…why?  You want the eggs in the mix to bind with the breadcrumbs, cheese and other ingredients to hold the patties together.  Heat that’s too high will cause the outsides to burn and then leave the insides uncooked.  Slower cooking also will ensure the vegetables cook nicely.  When you have a nice golden brown color on one side flip them and let the other side get to the same color.  Transfer to a platter and tent them with tin foil and place them in the oven just to stay warm until the entire batch is done.  Arrange them  on a platter over baby arugula and drizzle the balsamic over the patties.  Great party or dinner platter..you can even make them smaller and serve as appetizers.  Take the recipe and go with it!!  And the Balsamic sauce is a winner with simply reducing it.  HAPPY COOKING!! Enjoy Zucchini while it’s in season!!!

 

 

 

LEFTOVER SPAGHETTI, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT…PAN FRIED SPAGHETTI

14232416_644181959083441_9086273294542237012_nLeftovers…they CAN be one of your most delicious dishes. Do you ever have leftover sauced Spaghetti? I hope you said yes because If you do not do this already I will now become your new best friend.  Reheating leftover spaghetti in the microwave should be a criminal offense.   Maybe that’s harsh, and….maybe not. The ultimate goal of eating to to keep the body fueled and functioning.  Why make everything quinoa puffs and kale? There’s no shame in making food that tastes exceptional.  Nature gave us taste buds that help us to enjoy    the various foods and dishes that mankind has developed over our history.  A bowl of leftover spaghetti can become an even better dish (and I know you loved it when you made it) the next day, with a little help..and I mean, a little.  First of all, and I do research a dish before I blog my own version of it, you can’t make this fresh.  Food undergoes chemical/physical changes and for some reason, if you fry the spaghetti in a pan after you’ve just cooked the dish is a fail.  Epic fail.  You’ve wasted a pound of good spaghetti. Your spaghetti needs to sit at least one night in the fridge and I think the texture and taste actually get better if you make it a few days after it’s first been made.

Some history…My Mom and countless other  ItalianAmerican mothers or fathers and grandparents have made this for generations.  It’s what we do with our pasta/macaroni leftovers.  Every bite of this dish is a trip back into my childhood kitchen in Staten Island, NYC where my mother reigned as queen of her kitchen.  Ever miss a loved one who has passed on?  Make a dish that connects you to them and you’ll never eat without them ..again!!

So how do you give a “recipe” for a dish that is really already cooked?  here’s how…Simply take your leftover spaghetti and let it come to room temperature.  In a heavy wide cast iron skillet preferably, add 2 tbs of olive oil.  No measurements here because…you’ll never know how much you have, they are leftovers!!! In the pictures on here I used just under 1/2 lb of cooked, sauced left over spaghetti.  Add this to the pan and make sure you hear a strong sizzle. DO NOT MOVE THE SPAGHETTI AROUND!~!  After 6 minutes sprinkle 2 tbs. of PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS (no seasoning)over the top…mix that into the spaghetti. Flip the spaghetti and let this cook on that side for 5 minutes or longer, looking at it to see it there’s caramelizing going on. If not, let it be…this dish is not good if it’s simply heated in the pan. You want to see THIS:14202621_644181965750107_7802179799922542959_nsee those spaghetti strands getting toasty?  It’s fantastic.  Side note, do not confuse this with the other very popular Southern Italian or ItalianAmerican FRITTATA DI SPAGHETTI, or Spaghetti Frittata, Spaghetti Pie.  That has eggs beaten into it to create a pie like dish that can be cut into slices.  That’s for another blogpost.  If you have leftover meatballs, by all means, smash them into the pan too…continue to flip this spaghetti until it’s somewhat toasty on all sides.  Easy.  Now…how to serve it?  Grate lots of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano over it and place a side of Ricotta next to it.  Sprinkle with peperoncino to taste and you are ready to eat.

SIDEBAR:  When saucing the spaghetti  on the day you actually made it DO NOT OVER SAUCE!!! Too much sauce creates a soft less crispy dish.  I know you’re saying you like the extra sauce, but hold off before storing the leftovers in the fridge.  It will never really caramelize if it’s too wet.  Happy Cooking…Happy Eating!

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