Category Archives: Appetizers

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

007Time to discuss one of my favorite food subjects…the MEATBALL.  Let’s start out with this tidbit, there’s no such thing as the “ITALIAN MEATBALL”. Why you ask?  Because I said so.  And here’s why…there are meatballs of all shapes and sizes and ingredients made all over Italy.  Most likely you’re assuming the meatball in the big pot of sauce is the “Italian Meatball”.  Well that’s certainly one of many. Meatballs as a cocktail party or party food are fantastic since they are small.  They work well at a party and are generally a one bite affair.  For parties one of the meatball recipes I’ve developed is the SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALL.  What is that all about? Scenario, you’re at a party…you’re dressed up..nice suit, shirt, dress, whatever.  You pick up the meatball out of the pan or platter and it’s dripping with sauce.  YIKES! Big sauce stain on your tie…or your chest and the shirt.  Down your blouse or onto the front of your dress or skirt.  Now you’ve done it!!  But you really want that delicious sauce flavor with the meatballs right?  Let’s mix this up a bit…for a cocktail party…or any party..add the sauce TO the meatball mix, then make the meatballs and simply serve on a tray, platter or bowl with toothpicks.  This recipe is made in two parts. first the sauce, then the meatballs.  To start:

THE SAUCE (which becomes one of the ingredients in the meatballs)

1 28oz Can SAN MARZANO DOP Tomatoes, or any good variety of Imported Italian Plums or Domestic Plum Tomatoes

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion, season with salt and peperoncino.  Let this cook until the onions are translucent and soft.  TIP: if you get impatient the onions will never really soften in the tomato sauce and you’ll have crunchy onions in the mix.  Be patient.  Take your time.  No rush.  Once your onions are soft add the tomatoes which you will crush with your hands first in a bowl, then add them to the pot.  Add one basil leaf and bring this to a boil, stir, then to a simmer and let this reduce for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until it’s reduced by about 1/2.  Add the remaining 2 basil leaves, taste for seasoning and let it sit off the flame to cool completely.  Should take about 2 hours.

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of the Sauce you made (that recipe above ^^^^)

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, S & P, Sauce, Garlic together.  Let this sit for 20 minutes. Why? we want the sauce to hydrate those breadcrumbs.  Your Panada (write it down, it’s the Italian word for a breadcrumb/bread mix moistened with eggs, herbs, oil,liquids like milk or water, etc. which forms the binding for the meatballs.  See, we are learning…I love teaching and sharing my food with you!!)  Since there’s a significant amount of liquid in the sauce (which is why we reduced it) you want those breadcrumbs to suck up all that moisture which in turn doesn’t steal moisture from the meats and balances the end product…dry crumbs on their own suck moisture from the meat and other sources.

Blend all the meats together.  Then add to the Panada after it’s sat for a while.  If it’s still too loose, add more breadcrumbs, but only a little at a time. Mix gently with lightly moistened hands (lightly, or you’re adding more water to the balls).  When fully mixed let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  NOW start rolling walnut sized meatballs and line them on a parchment or waxed paper lined tray.  Chill for 10 minutes.  In a heavy skillet add 2 tbs. olive oil and heat.  Fry the meatballs for at least 5 minutes on each side without overcrowding.  Fry in batches.. Add more Olive oil as needed letting the oil get hot before adding more balls in the pan.  (why? the balls will soak in the oil..frying actually prevents that from happening).  When finished frying all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with the White Wine and gently add the meatballs back and simmer until the wine has evaporated.  Done.  Now serve with toothpicks to hungry guests OR let them cool…wrap them in pans and you can reheat them on trays in the oven for serving at your event/ party/dinner.  Meatballs and sauce all together  No drip. No stains.  No mess.    It was great cooking with you…hope to come into your kitchens again real soon!!!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

MEATBALLS WITH A SICILIAN INFLUENCE, CREATING A RECIPE, POLPETTINE IN BIANCO

0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.

 

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  Happy Cooking!!

VERMOUTH AND LEMON GARLIC SHRIMP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There are many types of Shrimp sautees usually involving butter, olive oil, garlic and wine.  The most popular of course is the ItalianAmerican favorite, SHRIMP SCAMPI.  Once you have a basic technique or recipe down you can mix/match on it and build up into something new.  When you change even one part of a recipe you’ve created something new.  The rule to follow though, or I should say, the rule I follow is to keep the new ingredients in the same family/cuisine and the end result will turn into a great plate of food.  Case in point, Sauteed Shrimp, or Shrimp Scampi.  By changing one ingredient you create a whole new dish…White Wine has one flavor profile, but if you switch it up to VERMOUTH, now your dish will taste completely different. VERMOUTH is an old school fortified wine, so there we have the common denominator of wine.  Seafood and Vermouth are an old school pairing.  Look through some cookbooks from the late 50’s, early 60’s.  Companies like Martini and Rossi pushed real hard with the food industry to not only use their Vermouth as a drink or a mixer, but as an ingredient for cooking.  It works very well with fish and especially seafood like Shrimp, Clams, Scallops.

Vermouth is a flavorful and interesting type of fortified wine originally made with “WORMWOOD” which in French translates to VERMOUTH. 165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n-1 In Piedmont in Northern Italy various distilleries began to sprout up and Italy along with France because Vermouth country.  As a drink ingredient Vermouth is a main component of the MARTINI which, thanks to JAMES BOND became a signature of the swinging 60’s.  Think MAD MEN and suddenly Vermouth will pop into your head. In fact, that’s what happened when I decided to make this dish.  Mad Men was about to have one of its season premieres and there was a bag of U.S. Wild Caught 16-20 Shrimp in the fridge.  Vermouth in the cabinet.  Lemons in the produce drawer.  It all came together.   Vermouth Garlic Shrimp with Lemon and Parsley.  Vermouth is such a pronounced flavor that I decided a simple addition of Italian Flat leaf parsley would be plenty.  Vermouth is a blend of citrus peels, herbs and other aromatics so there’s the flavoring, no need to add additional green herbs with strong flavors.  And that’s how you take one recipe and create something new.  A few ground rules and you’re golden. So this post will contain 2 recipes..one for the MadMen inspired Vermouth and Lemon  Garlic Shrimp and then a way to make Pierre Franey’s style of Crevettes au Vermouth…fancy right? Didn’t know I could speak French?  Only when it comes to food. I’m not that good, lol.  The Franey’s French version adds cream to the dish.  Life is all about choices, your recipes and cooking should be the same way.

 

SERVES: 4                                           TIME: 35 MINUTES, prep and cooking

  • 1 ½ pounds raw  16-20 shrimp peeled and deveined.
  • 1/8 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. Sweet Paprika (use a Hungarian or European brand)
  • tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 3 sliced garlic cloves 
  • ¼ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 lemon slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a heavy wide skillet/frying pan gently heat the butter and 1/2 the olive oil  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour mixed with the paprika and saute’ the shrimp till just golden on both sides, Takes about 5 minutes.  Do this in batches as overcrowding created steaming because of excess water created and the whole dish is ruined.  Keep the shrimp in on a platter lightly tented with foil. When you are all done saute’ the garlic for 2 minutes taking care not to let it brown or burn then add the Vermouth to the pan and deglaze it.  Add the lemon juice, the salt, pepper, parsley and the remaining olive oil.  Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer.  Add the shrimp back to the pan and gently heat through for 3 minutes.  Done.  Serve over rice or with potatoes or linguine.  Garnish with Lemon wedges.  Of course, before adding the shrimp taste the sauce and check for seasoning.

to the above recipe…if you want to make it in the style of CREVETTES AU VERMOUTH by Pierre Franey simply omit the lemon.  Omit the olive oil.  Omit the Garlic. Add the following ingredients:

4 tbs. additional unsalted butter

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

 

When you are ready to saute’ the garlic in the first recipe, instead, saute’ the onion till soft, about 7 minutes, then add the vermouth and deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce…add the heavy cream, then the additional butter. Blend well and then add the shrimp and heat thru on a simmer for 5 minutes.  French. nice.

Enjoy either. The Vermouth saute on top..and the Cream Sauce version adapted from Pierre Franey’s recipe.

383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n

 

 

 

 

SAGE AND CRANBERRY ITALIAN SAUSAGE PATTIES…

003The Fall Season seems to turn even our foods in to rust, red, orange and muted green colored fantasies.  Seasons also affect my recipe development as was the case on a blustery autumn day when there was Italian Sweet Fennel Sausage, Calabrian N’duja(a chile spike Calabrian spreadable salami), fresh sage sitting in my fridge.  Grey and chilly outside meant something warm and fall-ish needed to be cooked in the kitchen and I came up with making sausage patties with the ingredients plus some pantry items like a bag of Dried Cranberries.  The pairing of savory minced meats with sweet dried fruits is a gift from the Arab countries and was brought to the Western Mediterranean during their conquests of those areas.  Raisins, currants, pignoli, almonds and so forth show up in ground meat and fish dishes quite often in places like Italy and Spain.  I pooled those resources to develop this VERY tasty SAGE AND CRANBERRY SAUSAGE PATTY.  There’s flavors from Southern and Central Italy here but I’m modifying the recipe for the blog since N’djua is a ridiculously tough food to find for most people.  Instead I’m going to use Spanish Pimenton (Smoked Paprika) and Peperoncino (Italian dried hot pepper) to replicate the flavors in the Calabrian N’duja.  A little finishing of the cooked patties with Marsala or Sherry nicely rounds it all out.I’m such a fan of the sweet /savory foods.  This is one of them.  Serve with bread, or a vegetable or even rice.

TIME: 35 MINUTES                                     SERVES: 2-3

2 lbs. the BEST ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT YOU CAN GET (simply slit the casings and remove the meat)  you can use ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE as an alternative.

2 TBS DRIED CRANBERRIES

1 MINCED SHALLOT

3 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, FINELY CHOPPED, plus some whole leaves for garnish

4 TBS MARSALA OR SHERRY

1 TSP. GROUND RED CHILES (or PEPERONCINO)

1 TSP. SPANISH PIMENTON (SPANISH SMOKED PAPRIKA)

(if you want less “heat” from the chiles, go with 1/2 Tsp and replace with 1 tsp of sweet paprika..but use the Pimenton as well.  Paprika is simply an Eastern European word for red peppers)

OLIVE OIL

Mix everything except the olive oil and only use 1 tbs of Marsala or Sherry in a bowl.  Combine till well blended. Let sit for 10 minutes. 401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nNow form into 4-6 patties. In a pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and place on medium heat, and cook the patties until crusty and golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes per side.  Remove the finished patties to a platter and lightly cover with aluminum foil.  Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and deglaze it with the remaining Marsala or Sherry. Add  a little more olive oil and then return the patties to the pan and simply heat them up in the pan sauce, about 2 minutes.  Done.  Garnish with dried cranberries and, although I didn’t when I made them in the picture, I’ve toasted almond pieces and garnished with them too. Sweet, savory, hot, porky, Mediterranean, herby, and with the almonds, crunchy.  This is when food talks back to you and you response, GRAZIE or Thank you.  Happy Cooking!!

383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n

 

note:  no salt added, why? Sausage is well salted.  Adding salt to these patties would make them way too salty.

 

PEPERONATA, SOUTHERN ITALIAN PEPPER STEW

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

RICE AND ZUCCHINI PATTIES WITH A BALSAMIC REDUCTION

006

 

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!!!

 

 

 

ZEPPOLE…THE ITALIAN AMERICAN STREET FEAST TREAT, MY STYLE

001The smell of the ItalianAmerican Summer…Zeppole frying in oil..big vats of them…their steam wafting in every direction pulling you closer to the stand.  You are mesmerized by the bobbing of the hand pulled balls of dough sizzling on their sides in the molten oil.  You await, impatiently for the fresh hot balls to be drained.  Then with the deft hands of a master the Zeppolaio places your hot zeppole into a paper bag, brown or white, and adds a blizzard of powdered sugar.  Next they fold the bag and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and hand it over to you.  Your heart is pounding (isn’t it??) and you reach with childlike anticipation at what’s waiting for you in that little sack.  You reach in and without hesitation bite long and hard on one and for a moment you’re impervious to the scorching heat from the steam that’s scalding your tongue.  Who cares?  It’s worth it. Every blister is worth it soothed by the chilly feel of the powdered sugar with a sweet finish.  Deep breath, of course not with a zeppole by your mouth or you’ll asphyxiate from the sugar dust…deep breath and then another bite, damn it just eat the whole thing.  Now you’re happy.  Sound familiar?  Please don’t tell me this is a unique experience for me, lol.  I KNOW you are with me.  Now just so you know, I like them with powdered sugar which is how most street feast vendors make them, or with granulated sugar which is how many restaurants and home cooks make them.  They are great both ways, infact they are awesome with a pinch of cinnamon in the coarser sugar.  What’s a zeppole anyway?

Well it’s simply a regional Italian term for a type of fried dough THAT IS usually ring shaped or a roundish ball. Zeppole come in many varieties.  This blog will make the one’s similar to the street feasts, but other zeppole contain lemon and ricotta in the dough, some use mostly eggs and pipe it through a bag to create a French cruller like small ring.  That is a more specific type of Zeppole that is cut and filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with an Amarena cherry for March 19th’s  St.Joseph Day. It’s a very Napoletana thing. There are also many savory types of zeppole.  So take away from this that there’s more zeppole than the one you may be used to.  In other parts of the  USA Italian Americans call zeppole by different names, like Pizza Fritta, or Fried Dough.  I’m from NYC so I use our regional term.  Here’s a beautiful tray of zeppole hot out of the fryer at NYC’s San Gennaro Feast:008 Now today is Aug.15, it’s Ferragosto the Italian End of Summer celebration that coincides with the religious FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, or Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ASSUNTA is a national holiday in Italy and it’s a popular girls’ name.  My great grandmother on my mom’s mom side was named Assunta…006 Assunta Prisco Melito, born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and died in Napoli. My grandma passed this name onto my mom, Assunta Scaramuzzi Battaglia, but she went by Susan as most first generationers did to fit in more in America.  We used to celebrate her NAME DAY each August 15, here’s a picture from the 1976 celebration.0002 A delicious Cassata from Alfonso’s in Staten Island helped make it a festive day!  Zeppole are not specific to Ferragosto but they are fun and celebratory and you CAN make them in you own kitchen in a regular pan.  Here’s how I make them…:

2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR

1/2 TBS KOSHER SALT

1 1/4 CUP WARM WATER

2 PACKAGE YEAST

SOY, VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL at least 1 gallon

2 CUPS POWDERED SUGAR OR GRANULATED SUGAR

In a large stainless steel bowl add the water, salt , and yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for at least 15 minutes. It should be frothy on top by then.  Now add the flour and blend well until all the flour is incorporated.  This is almost a bread dough BUT you are not going to tighten this up or knead the dough.  Cover and let this rise for no less than 2 hours.  You should have a yeasty aroma dough that’s not quite as tight as many bread doughs.  Spongy and sort of loose.  Heat in a deep high sided heavy flameproof pot or cast iron pan (pot better, less chance of oil spillage and the ensuing disaster and/or mess.) and fill 1/2 way with the oil you’ve chosen and place on medium to high heat.  Most feasts use those large soybean oil containers. I use what I have on hand.  When the temp gets up to 350 degrees F, or when you gently place a small ball of the dough into the oil and it immediately starts to sizzle frantically your oil is ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels ready to receive the hot zeppole.  This recipe should make about 36.  Using a damp hand pinch a small ball of dough and add to the hot oil. repeat until you are almost full in the pot, don’t overcrowd though.  Flip them as they turn golden brownish. When both sides are the same color it’s time to gently remove them using a kitchen spider or similar long handled implement that lets the hot oil drip out.  Remove the finished zeppole to the lined tray.  Now  continue to make more zeppole until you’ve used up all the dough.  Here’s when you need a kitchen assistant, it’s sugar time.  While the zeppole are still hot. add them to a bowl filled with 1/2 of the sugar. Roll the zeppole in batches in the sugar.  THEN in a paper bag, add the rest of the sugar and shake the zeppole  until they are all coated again, certainly you will do that in batches.  If needed, use more sugar. EAT. delicious.

TIPS or SIDE NOTES:  Every pan/pot and stove top are different so..while i’m giving you directions here PLEASE let your common sense guide you.  You may have the oil too hot, or too cool. So you may need to play around till you get the hang of it. PLEASE DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If it’s your first time HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE A PRO AT IT?? Be patient and you’ll find your way. As always, have fun cooking!!!