Monthly Archives: November 2017

STUFFED MUSSELS….COZZE GRATINATE…

flakytart 001MUSSELS!!!!  Inexpensive and Delicious Mussels are a way of life here on the Eastern Seaboard.  I live in an area where they are literally scattered all over the beaches so we grew up eating them, pulling them off of the seaside rocks and pilings, or buying them in all the seafood markets and supermarkets.  Fresh live Mussels are very available.  Oh yes, there’s also the frozen ones sold but there’s nothing like eating one that was live only moments before you are eating it.  They are salty…they taste like the ocean….and they come in different sizes.  My preference?  Thanks for asking.  SMALL. Tiny is tastier.  The meat is sweet and in two bites you’re done.  For this recipe look for the Black Mussels in the net, usually on a pile of ice.  They are live.  They are probably from Prince Edward Island or somewhere else in the North Atlantic.  Today’s mussels are cultivated in the wild or wild caught.  Wild Caught need some additional cleaning, the cultivated not so much. There are also larger black ones or the New Zealand Green ones (like at the Chinese buffet restaurants).  I can’t.  Too big.  That’s alot of mussel you’re trying to chew, no thanks. BUT, i’m putting that out there because YOU may want to make this recipe with the large mussel.  Hmmm., to each their own, but i’ve never stuffed the larger ones so I’m not sure of the cooking time on them.   COZZE GRATINATE is Italian  for Mussels stuffed with Breadcrumbs and baked or cooked under a broiler.  Like baked Clams Oreganata, same dealio.  A few years ago in my home kitchen i was tooling around with my usual Mussels Oreganata and decided I want to stuff these mussels differently than I stuff my clams. That’s how it happens.  You find a new recipe..or you use your food knowledge to come up with something new.  Now I didn’t invent the Stuffed mussel but this is my own version of the stuffing.  It’s quite orange in color.  I add San Marzano tomatoes that get pureed then added to the stuffing mix.  You’ll love it.  Let’s make Stuffed Mussels!!

SERVES : 4-6           TIME: about 1 hour

1 1/2 CUPS COARSE ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 FINELY MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

3 TBS PECORINO ROMANO

1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

PINCH OF SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

3 TBS PUREED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES or ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

 

For the Breadcrumbs…Saute’ the garlic in 1 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the Breadcrumbs and toast this for about 2 minutes, then Add the tomato, cook for 2 minutes longer and place in a bowl.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Reserve for stuffing the mussels.

 

2 lbS. CLEANED ATLANTIC BLUE MUSSELS, LIKE PEI MUSSELS, SCRUBBED AND DEBEARDED

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 GARLIC CLOVE, SLiGHTLY BRUISED

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees. Place mussels in a wide pan.  Add the olive oil and white wine, and the garlic clove.  When the steam starts to come up from the pan gently add the cleaned mussels and cover the pan, shaking it  gently every few minutes.  Check to see if the mussels are starting to open.. When they are just starting to open up remove them from the pan and take off the empty side from the shell.  Arrange the mussels in a baking pan.   Drizzle the juice from the mussels in the pan over the mussels on a 1/2 shell. Then top each mussel with the Breadcrumb and tomato mixture.  Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they look toasty on top.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  They are just fantastic!!!!

 

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

STUFFED PEPPERS WITH SWEET SAUSAGE STUFFING, PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE

00000 Let me introduce you to one of my many styles of making STUFFED PEPPERS.  This version uses Italian Frying Peppers also known as CUBANELLES.  They are a sweet variety that when cooked are even more flavorful I think than a cooked Bell Pepper.  When possible these are the pepper I use for my Sausage and Peppers and Onions because of their intense taste.  The stuffing is a mix of Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage, toasted and olive “oiled” breadcrumbs, Parsley, diced Cured Black olives, capers, garlic, and Provolone plus a bit of tomato paste to add some dramatic color.  One point I try to make when people speak to me about their cooking is to be creative and open minded.  There is no one “stuffed pepper” recipe.  All these stuffed vegetable dishes most likely were created by a thrifty or impoverished home cook who needed to stretch what they had in front of them to feed a family. When cooking regionally you can come up with dishes that evoke an area by using ingredients that are common to that region’s cuisine. I’m dipping into my favorite region of Italy with these “PEPERONI IMBOTTITI” (stuffed peppers) and that region is Napoli, the city of Naples and its surrounding towns.  Sweet Fennel Sausage, peppers, capers, breadcrumbs, tomato, cured black olives, Provola…even stuffed vegetables…they all are part of the Napoletana kitchen.  My Mom made a few versions of Stuffed Peppers, some I still make, some I’ve created from my years of cooking, traveling and researching food.  I’ve never met a stuffed pepper I didn’t like so let me introduce you to this one….PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE, Peppers Stuffed with Sausage.

MAKES 8                                               TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes

10 CUBANELLE PEPPERS, TOPS OFF, GENTLY REMOVE RIBS AND SEED FROM INSIDE

4 SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE LINKS (WITH FENNEL) OUT OF THEIR CASINGS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 1/4 CUPS OF TOASTED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP GRATED PROVOLONE

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

2 TBS TOMATO PASTE

2 TBS WHITE WINE, plus 2 TBS FOR COOKING

5 BLACK OIL CURED OLIVES, PITTED AND FINELY CHOPPED

1 TSP CAPERS

1 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, plus 2 TBS for cooking

SALT, PEPERONCINO to taste

 

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs of the Olive Oil till it’s medium hot, then add the loose sausage meat.  With a wooden spoon break up the sausage as it’s cooking and move it around the pan from time to time.  When the sausage is nicely browned, add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add 2 tbs of White Wine.  Let this simmer for 5 minutes.  In the meantime add 1 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. then add the Provolone to this mix.  Let the sausage cool down for 10 minutes, then in a large bowl mix all the ingredients except the peppers together. Taste for seasoning.  Now gently stuff them into the peppers.  Don’t overstuff, they tear easily.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Add some olive oil and wine to a baking dish.  Lay the peppers into the dish/pan and cover with foil.  Bake for 1/2 hour.  Remove from oven and open the foil (away from your face!!) and gently turn the peppers over. Close the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Then remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Done.  They should be tender and loaded with flavor.  Garnish the peppers with chopped parsley.  Serve with Italian bread to sop up those pan juices and enjoy the peppers.  The peppers are amazing the next day. They also taste their best at room temperature.  Perfect for an antipasto table.

A taste of my home cooking in your home kitchen.  A little bit of Napoli as well.  Happy Cooking!!