Monthly Archives: November 2020

CAULIFLOWER, CHEESE AND SESAME SEED FRITTERS

FRITTI FRITTI FRITTI!!! Fritti are a catch-all phrase in Italian for small fried bits of anything. Fritters if you will. In parts of Southern Italy like Naples and Sicily there’s a huge FRITTI culture. A street food phenom at feasts, events, and small shops known as FRIGGITORIE where all types of local fried foods like fish, seafood, breads, doughs, vegetables, croquettes, etc. are sold in little cones to take away. The most famous of these Fritti are Arancini (riceballs), Fritto Misto, the famous small fried fish and seafood and vegetable mix, Potato Croquettes, Chick Pea Fritters (Panelle), Zeppole, Sfingi, the list goes on. There’s lots of crossover between Sicilian and Napoletana foods because they were at one time part of the same country (before unification of the Italian state in the mid 1800’s). Using the basic fritti batter as a base I created a Sicilian based FRITTI using steamed Cauliflower florets, mint, Caciocavallo cheese, sesame seeds. The result was a taste of SICILIA without the airfare and packing. Takes about 1/2 hour-45 minutes and one head of cauliflower makes enough fritti for 4-6 people. GREAT for parties. They can be made ahead of time and reheated in a hot oven on sheet pans, but truly taste the best after they are first made. I spend so much time pouring over Classic regional recipes, pulling from my own family’s cooking, from my Travels and that’s how I create my dishes. Some are classic traditional, others are created using the regional building blocks of ingredients that naturally go together.

FRITTI DI CAVOLOFIORE ( VRUOCULI), CACIOCAVALLO E GIUGIULENA CON MENTA

CAULIFLOWER, CACIOCAVALLO AND SESAME SEED FRITTERS WITH MINT

(MINT SHOWS UP OFTEN IN SICILIAN CUISINE)

1 LARGE HEAD OF CAULIFLOWER, RINSED WELL, DRIED WITH A PAPER TOWEL AND BROKEN DOWN INTO FLORETS

2 LARGE EGGS, BEATEN WELL

2 TBS. WHOLE MILK

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT plus more for finishing

1 1/2 CUPS SIFTED SELF RISING FLOUR

3 TABLESPOONS GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH MINT

3 TBS. SESAME SEEDS

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PEANUT/VEGETABLE OIL FOR FRYING

IN a heavy large high sided pot or skillet ( I like cast iron) heat 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees F.

While that is happening, set up a station with a sheet pan triple lined with paper towels or single lined with brown paper bags.

In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients except 1 tbs of flour. Then add all the liquid ingredients and beat together to form a batter. Should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Use more milk to thin it if too thick SLOWLY, add a little, beat..continue till you get to the right consistency. Toss the tbs of flour over the Cauliflower florets. Then drop them into the batter then in batches drop them into the hot oil after it’s reached the 375 mark or when a tester dancers and splatters when it hits the oil. Using wooden sticks or heatproof tongs make sure both sides are golden brown before you remove the fritti. They should puff up somewhat and be nice and crisp on the outside, sort of fluffy on the inside around the cauliflower. Takes about 6 minutes per batch. DO NOT OVERCROWD!!!!!!!! Take your time!!! As they come out of the fryer place on the blotting trays to drain. Sprinkle with some sea salt. Continue till done.

Where’s the dipping sauce??? Italian tradition, usually there is no dipping sauces for these Fritti. ItalianAmerican? If you must dip…a homemade Marinara works OR some whipped ricotta blended with a little honey and black pepper. You’ll thank me for that one.

SPAGHETTI WITH ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS, ONIONS, SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE AND CHERRY TOMATOES

Do I love Spaghetti? Let me count the ways. Wait, the ways are countless. I have some favorites but basically I love Spaghetti in any way you make it, provided it’s a nice “condimento” that you’re pairing it with. A Condimento is whatever you’re dressing the pasta with. There’s a big world of Italian and Non Italian ingredients out there to pair with Spaghetti, but I prefer to stick with Italian combinations. I can’t tell you how much I love Sausage and Peppers and Onions, that classic Napoletana and ItalianAmerican pairing. One night when I was craving both Spaghetti and Sausage and Peppers I decided to combine them. Yeah, I’m not the first to have done that, but i created a dish that is so good I want to share it with you

Let’s start is some basics. Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage, the best is generally found at a shop where it’s made daily, like an Italian Pork Store (Salumeria) or a Butcher shop, or some of the larger regional Supermarket where it’s still made in house. I realize this isn’t an option Nationally but if you can find such places, get your Italian Sausage there. There’s a difference. What? Quite often the commerical/industrial produced sausages are over ground, they are too fine and they have lots of added flavors that really have no place in an Italian sausage. Now about the peppers. The Italian LONG HOT. Here in the Northeast in all of our ItalianAmerican concentrated areas this is a common site in home gardens or in Farmers MArkets and some supermarkets. Sort of Curly they come in Green, Green and Red, and Red. If no Long Hots are too be found, use Ripe Red Bell Peppers and add a good sprinkling of Hot Pepper Flakes in the saute’ (Peperoncino). Now let’s make some spaghetti!!!

SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGE AND ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS AND ONIONS

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE OUT OF THE CASING

4 ITALIAN LONG HOT PEPPERS, DE-SEEDED, RIBS CUT OUT, SLICE INTO STRIPS OR RINGS

2 CUBANELLE PEPPERS (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), DE-SEEDED, SLICE INTO STRIPS OR RINGS

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY TOMATOES

BASIL LEAVES OPTIONAL/PINCH OF OREGANO OPTIONAL

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 lb good IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI

Let’s make this simple. Add about 2 tbs of olive oil to a large heavy pan. Heat. Add the Sausage and cook for at least 10 minutes, till it’s caramelized (THAT IS FLAVOR!!), then remove with slotted spoon to a dish. If needed, add more olive oil, heat and then simply fry up the onions and peppers, seasoning with a little salt. (No pepper needed if using the Long Hots, if using the Sweet long peppers, season with black pepper). Fry but on medium so they can cook and soften without burning or getting too brown around the edges. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the tomatoes. When the onions and peppers and tomatoes are soft, give it about 20 minutes, then add the sausage meat and ALL the juices that collected on the bottom of the pan. Let the sausage peppers and onions now simmer on low. While that magic is happening in the pan, resist the urge to just dig in and cook the Spaghetti till al dente according to the package instructions. When the spaghetti is at the right spot remove it with tongs from the water gently and add to the pan of sausage, long hots and onions. For a more “saucy” texture add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. Or just leave as is and cook for 2 minutes. Take off the heat. At this point you are done unless you want additional flavor from basil or oregano. Toss in whichever you prefer at this time. CHEESE? for me? Yes. For many there’s this no grated (Pecorino or Parmigiano) cheese on Sausage dishes. I’m not debating it so this falls under the IT’S UP TO YOU. Personally, the salty sharpness of the Pecorino Romano just tops this dish off for me. This should satisfy 3-4 really hungry people. HAPPY COOKING!!!!