Category Archives: blog

CALABRIAN POTATOES AND PEPPERS…PIPI E PATATI..A TRADITIONAL DISH FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.

PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX

2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS

2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER

5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES

1/2 SLICED RED ONION

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO

SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE

1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)

In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO…SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON…COOKING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO….SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON. This is not a Risotto, the process is different, the Rice itself is different. For this dish I use a Long Grain Rice. This is also the first in a series of blogs on the foods i’ve created and cooked for my family while in self-quarantine during the 2020 Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic Cooking not only nourishes those you feed but it creates an activity, something to look forward to while being housebound. Certainly once the pandemic is over enjoy making these dishes whenever you wish. I created this dish early in March 2020 when we were first told to shelter-in-place, staying home except for going out for essentials. I keep a stocked pantry so there was lots to chose from, like Gulf Shrimp in the freezer, Red Bell Peppers, Baby Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, etc. I used some Vermouth in this dish because it’s aromatic flavors compliment seafood. Hoping everyone is coping and complying as best as they can. Let’s cook!!!

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO

1 HOUR 10 MINUTES APPROX START TO FINISH 4-6 SERVINGS

1/2 TSP GOOD SAFFRON THREADS

1/3 CUP HOT WATER

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED, DEVEINED, PATTED DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS

2 CUPS LONG GRAIN RICE, i like to use Jasmine.

2 CUPS SEAFOOD OR CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

1/2 CUP SWEET VERMOUTH

1 MEDIUM ONION, SMALL DICE

1 MEDIUM RED BELL PEPPER, SMALL DICE

4 QUARTERED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES (OPTIONAL)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS BUTTER

1/2 CUP CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA

1 LEMON

Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle until it’s all broken up. Add that to the hot water, You can alternatively rub the threads with your hands, you’ll just get some yellow on your palms. Mix the water and leave it for 5 minutes and it will change color. Should be a bright orange. Heat a heavy bottomed pot or sklllet with the oil. Add the shrimp and cook only for 3 minutes till the edges turn pink. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil. Add the peppers and onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper. Saute’ till just soft, about 8 minutes, then add the rice and blend. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the Saffron Water, blend in. Add the Stock and the Vermouth, stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and tightly cover, cooking it for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is fluffy. With a fork fluff the rice and then add the shrimp, gently blending the rice and shrimp. Cover for 5 minutes. Add the butter and the chopped arugula. Gently mix and taste for seasoning. Serve each portion with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh squeeze of lemon and a grinding of black pepper. If using the tomatoes, add them with the peppers and onions.

FROM UMBRIA, FRICCO’ DI POLLO, CHICKEN IN TOMATO, WINE, VINEGAR

IMG_9516Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes.  It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy.  I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work.  Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that.  But no.  I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis.  After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search.  FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions.  One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce.  The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix.  Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right?  Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora.  Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix.  I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?

FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL

1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

POLLO ALL’ACETO…VINEGAR CHICKEN…MY VERSION

VINEGAR CHICKEN. Doesn’t sound too appealing on its own but say POLLO ALL’ACETO in your best Italian Accent and suddenly there’s a checkered tablecloth, a bottle of ITalian wine and the aroma of garlic and Olive Oil in the air. Right? Let’s get something straight, there’s no ONE recipe for Italian style Chicken cooked with Vinegar. OK? Now don’t we all feel better that there’s no rules we are breaking? There’s a million variations of chicken simmered, boiled, grilled, baked, roasted, fried with vinegar. And a million pairings with various vegetables, starches, herbs, spices, liquids. This is the beauty of Italian cooking. This PARTICULAR Pollo All’Aceto I made tonight is a braise after a Saute’. Stove top. Pretty easy. Great ingredients that are readily accessible. Took about 45 minutes to complete but with more chicken in the pan it would take longer. The taste and aroma will remind you of those great ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes you love. Cubanelle Peppers, Vinegar, Chicken, Onions, Garlic, Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil, Mushrooms. What’s not to love?

FEEDS: 4 TIME: 1 HOUR

POLLO ALL’ACETO

2 LBS BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS (ORGANIC ARE BEST), CUT INTO A MEDIUM DICE

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO(DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

2 VERY RIPE TOMATOES, SQUEEZE OUT THE SEEDS, THEN DICE

2 CUPS QUARTERED MUSHROOMS

2 BIG CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS, CUT INTO RINGS

1 RED ONION, DICED

3 SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/8 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR

1/8 CUP ITALIAN RED WINE VINEGAR

FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/4 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper. Add 2 tbs of olive oil to a heavy wide skillet or Dutch oven and heat. Add the peperoncino to taste (1/4 tsp gives a nice kick…) Add the chicken and let it cook for at least 8 minutes on one side on medium heat. Shake the pan and turn all the chicken to cook on the other side for another 6 minutes. Deglaze the chicken with the Red Wine Vinegar and let this come to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and the pan liquid to a bowl. Cover lightly. Add 2 tbs of Olive Oil to the pan and place on medium high heat. Toss in the Mushrooms, Onions, and Peppers. Season with salt. Cook this for 10 minutes reducing the heat to medium-low midway. The object is to get the onions, peppers, and mushroom soft. If you need more time TAKE IT…i’m only a guide..it might take longer to get the vegetables soft. When they are tender add the garlic..let this cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, season with salt. Let the tomatoes cook in the pan with everythng about 10 minutes. Then add the White Balsamic (if unavailable use Sherry Vinegar, you want a vinegar with a natural sweetness NOT DARK BALSAMIC), deglaze the pan, then add the stock. Bring to a boil and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and it’s liquid back and simmer for 20 minutes. CHECK the chicken to see if it’s tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. When the chicken and vegetables are tender, and the liquid has significanly reduced you’re done. Tear a few basil leaves and toss in , mix well. Serve. I like a drizzle of Olive Oil and a pinch more Peperoncino (personally, i add a few spoons of Pecorino Romano to my plate as well.. OPTIONAL but so good..it actually “thickens” the sauce around the chicken…feel free to do the same!! That’s it. Serve with Roasted Potatoes or Rice.

STEAK TIDBITS OVER BUTTERED TOAST POINTS, CLASSIC AMERICAN CUISINE

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Down in the old canyons of Manhattan’s Financial District known as “Wall Street” small business owners catered to the thousands who worked at every income level and from janitor to CEO. Downtown as we called it was a place where people made their livelihoods and commuted in and out of the city. Today’s Downtown is a mix of the old financial center and a buzzing residential and retail community. This dish in the picture is my “ode” to the places that used to feed all of Downtown’s workers. In 1978 I started working in a Brokerage firm on Broadway, 61 Broadway to be exact. When you exited out the back of the building on its lower level you were on “Trinity Place” at the corner of “Exchange Alley”. That still exists. Opposite was the German American restaurant and bar called VOLK’S…food memory here…Their burgers were amazing, char grilled. Their drinks were big. And their Black Forest Cake was fantastic. At the corner of Exchange and Trinity on the south side of 61 Broadway was a parking lot. And next to that was a place that was the “best place ever” to a college kid working in a a financial firm in NYC. MICHAEL’S ONE was the name of this bar/restaurant and it was where the brokers and traders of the firm along with the back office and clerical workers went after the market closed to have a drink and/or something to eat. Well, the drinks were the usual suspects but at the center of this black leather, polished wood, modern dining space was a central grill and cooking space manned by the Chef known as Sylvester. His steak tidbits were a thing of beauty. Sirloin tips seasoned with salt and pepper, then sauteed in a pan with butter…garlic was added then finished with Worchestershire Sauce…cooked only till medium rare, then poured over buttered white toast points. Amazing. They left a lasting impression on this college kid working for the summer. I wound up sticking with that job and making steak tidbits to this day!!

STEAK TIDBITS

TIME: 1/2 HOUR FOR : 2 SERVINGS

1 1/2 LBS SIRLOIN STEAK TRIMMED OF EXCESS FAT. CUT INTO SMALL DICE/CUBES

1 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

KOSHER SALT

CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

3 MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1 TSP MINCED FRESH FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TRIMMED SLICES OF GOOD WHITE SANDWICH BREAD TOASTED THEN BUTTERED THEN CUT DIAGONALLY

Season the meat in a stainless steel bowl with about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a heavy pan (cast iron is wonderful) heat 1/2 the butter just till sizzling. Add the meat in a single layer and let it sit for at least 3 minutes, then give the pan a shake and let the other side cook for about 2 minutes. You may need to do this in 2 batches as you don’t want to STEAM the meat if the pan gets overcrowded. When the meat is done remove to a flat platter and you’ll add it back in after you make the sauce. add the rest of the butter and let it melt into the pan. Now add the garlic and once you can smell the fragrance (isn’t it really a fragrance? Does anything smell as good as garlic in a pan of butter or olive oil? I told you…)then add the Worchestershire Sauce (L&P is my preferred brand, no, i’m not a paid influencer, it just has the best taste for me). Swirl the pan a few times and let this sizzle. Season the meat with the black pepper and remaining salt and add to the pan and JUST WARM IT THROUGH, like under a minute. Divide the steak cubes in 1/2 and pour over the buttered toast points drizzling the remaning pan sauce over the servings. Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy each bite of the juicy and saucy tidbits with the buttery toasty bread.

SCALOPPINE VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO….CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE, PROSCIUTTO, TOMATO AND FONTINA

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SCALOPPINE in ITALIAN, SCALLOPINI in AMERICAN, both are words to describe a sliced and pounded piece of meat or poultry, quick sauteed in butter or olive oil and then finished in a sauce of various styles, ingredients. Endless possibilites in this style of dish which is infinitely popular in ItalianAmerican restaurants allowing resourceful chefs and cooks to turn kitchen ingredients into new or traditional plates. One dish that I learned when I worked with a caterer was his VALDOSTANA chicken or veal. More often clients ordered the chicken, myself I would order the veal first but love the chicken as well. The dish’s origins are in Northern Italy, the region known as the Val D’Aosta. An Alpine region of high mountains, snowy peaks, verdant meadows and all thing COW. Can you hear the cow bells now echoing thru the valleys and canyons? No? There, now you must hear it..aren’t you craving someting with FONTINA? Why Fontina, that creamy light yellow cheese with a wonderful tang and buttery finish? Because it’s synonymous with the Val D’Aosta. A cow’s milk cheese, Fontina has been produced in the region since the 12th Century. It must be good. And it is. Traditional VITELLO VALDOSTANA is simply a Veal Chop or cutlet filled with Fontina and Prosciutto and served as is or with a light white wine sauce. The caterer I worked with added diced fresh tomatoes to his dish, as I said, mostly was served as Chicken Valdostana but he also added Mozzarella to the mix. That’s pure ItalianAmerican and It was good but I felt his dish could be tweeked, and tweeked it was. I created my version of SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO. It’s amazing. Using diced shallots and prosciutto along with butter (remember this is a Northern Italian flavor profile), some Olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn while sauteeing everything and the earthy notes of Fresh Sage (SALVIA in ITALIAN) and sauce is created with White Wine and the chicken is finished in the pan sauce, topped with ParmigianoReggiano, Fontina and a ripe tomato slice. It’s going to make you very happy. Serve it over spinash leaves and let them wilt from the heat, mingle with the sauce.. oh…this is a winning dish for you. Enough babbling from me..time to cook!!!

SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO

FOR 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

8 TRIMMED CHICKEN CUTLETS POUNDED TO 1/4 INCH

1 CUP SIFTED AP FLOUR, OR TIPO 00

SALT AND PEPPER FOR SEASONING THE FLOUR

1/2 CUP UNSALTED BUTTER

1/8 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 SHALLOTS FINELY MINCED

1/4 LB PROSCIUTTO FINELY MINCED

10 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

8 TOMATO SLICES

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

8 SLICES OF FONTINA CHEESE ABOUT 1/8 INCH THICK

FRESH SPINACH LEAVES

KOSHER SALT AND CRACKED BLACK PEPPER FOR SEASONING

First we’ll start the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. In a large wide and heavy pan heat 2 tbs of butter and 1/2 the Olive oil. Saute’ the chicken till golden on both sides. Takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Do not crowd the chicken, you may have to do this in two batches. Keep checking that the butter/oil isn’t burning, add more if necessary..adjust the heat if needed. Loosely cover the sauteed chicken on a platter with foil. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil and keep at medium heat. Add the shallots and the prosciutto and gently season ( not too much salt because the Prosciutto is plenty salty. Let this saute’ for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so there’s not burning or browning. Now add 3 tbs of the white wine, 2 minced sage leaves, and let this cook on simmer for 15 minutes. This is now your pan sauce base. It’s important that the shallots are fully softened. Now add the rest of the wine and bring to a boil. Lay in the chicken and (BIG TIP HERE) make sure you pour all the accumulated juices on that platter into the pan. That’s extra flavor there!!! Baste the chicken with the pan sauce and then…sprinkle the Parmigiano evenly over the cutlets. The top each piece with the tomato, season with a little salt and pepper, then top with the fontina. Let the chicken simmer in the pan covered just until the cheese is melted. Takes about 8 minutes. Let the chicken sit in the pan for 5 minutes…then serve. Top each slice with a fresh sage leaf and extra sauce from the pan, serving them on a bed of fresh spinach. Oven Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. Enjoy!!! and HAPPY COOKING!! Have a little (OR BIG) piece of TiraMiSu’ with espresso for dessert. After all, you’re dining in Northern Italy with this meal!!

GREEK INFLUENCED LEMON, MINT, AND FETA ZUCCHINI

 

Summertime in New Jersey means zucchini.  Bumper crops of them.  Everyone with a home garden grows them and the stores are overflowing with locally grown boxes of this versatile squash.  Italians and Greeks love cooking with them.  The recipes are endless.    Clearly, for easy and relaxing summerentertaining this is a host’s dream.  The day before I picked a nice bunch of fresh mint (spearmint) from my garden.  Zucchini and mint are a very Mediterranean pairing, especially in Sicily and in Greece.  I had some Feta cheese and there you go…a dish is born.  Add some sunny lemons for a real Mediterranean freshness.  Are you exhausted with grilled vegetables?  I am,

call me blasphemous, but most times they are not grilled enough or burnt, and loaded down
with balsamic vinegar and too much oil.  Not a fan of the strongly acidic and flavored balsamic with charred vegetables, the flavors are too heavy for me. (I can see the hate mail now…)Instead of grilling, I decided to oven roast the zucchini slices and marinate them over night in
fresh lemon and mint with a little garlic…topping it with feta…a platter of Summer sunshine
reminiscent of a Summer’s day in the Greek Islands.. 
  It brings blue skies, bright Mediterranean sun,
white washed stucco houses clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, blue painted domes
that blend in with both the sea and the sky…magic.  All this from a bag of local zucchini.

Start with 5 zucchini.  Slice them into rounds, about 3/8 of an inch thick, any thinner, they
will just fall apart on you.  In a large stainless steel bowl, add the zucchini
along with 1/8cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (look for Greek Olive oil for a more “authentic”
flavor), 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper.  Toss. Pre-
heat an oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large baking pan, arrange the zucchini without overlapping.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them, bake for addtional 6 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave
them in for another 5 minutes.  check for times though,  You may need to adjust for your oven.
Don’t let them burn, they should have a nice roasted bottom, then when you turn them over,
they should be soft to the touch.gently place them into a bowl after they have cooled for at least 15 minutes.  Mix together the
juice of one large fresh lemon, 1 finely minced clove of  garlic, 2 leavy sprigs of fresh mint, a
pinch of salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  Pour this over the zucchini and
cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Arrange on a platter and crumble 1/8 cup of Feta cheese over the top.  Top with some
whole mint leaves, a little black pepper..you are done. Do not serve this cold.  Let it come
to room temperature to appreciate all the flavors on the platter…and go to your laptop and
book a trip to Greece…

PANINI DI SANT’ANTONIO….ROLLS FOR ST.ANTHONY’S DAY JUNE 13

On June 13 Catholics all over the world celebrate the Feast of St.Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan preacher from Portugal who preached and ministered to the poor all over Italy settling in the Nothern Italian city of Padua. The legends surrounding his goodness to the poor manifest themselves in the PANE DI SANT’ANTONIO meaning he feed the hungry symbolized by small loaves of bread. All over Italy various styles of Pane or Panini (the italian word for small bread or rolls) have various styles. Some are light a brioche flavored with sugar and rum, others are slightly sweet with anisette, some are simply a plain crusty loaf, and some have fennel seeds and black pepper in them. So…what’s in the picture above? The are my own version of St.Anthony’s Rolls, slightly sweet, made with lard, black pepper and topped with Fennel Seeds. It’s my personal omaggio to St.Anthony. The rolls are the perfect vehicle for a few thin slices of Mortadella. Let’s go into the kitchen and create these tasty rolls.

PANINI DI SANT’ANTONIO MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN 2 1/2 INCH ROLLS

1 PACKET DRY YEAST

1 1/2 TEASPOONS GRANULATED SUGAR

1 CUP TEPID WATER

1/4 CUP LARD

3 1/2 CUPS OF SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 IMPORTED ITALIAN FLOUR

2 1/2 TEASPOONS KOSHER SALT

1 1/2 TEASPOOONS CRACKED BLACKED PEPPER

2 BEATEN EGGS PLUS 3 TBS WHOLE MILK, MIX ALL TOGETHER

2 TBS FENNEL SEEDS

OLIVE OIL

wHISK the yeast, water, sugar, salt together. Let this sit for 15 minutes and it will bubble and froth. Now Add the flour and mix until the dough starts to come away from the bowl. You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand. When you have a smooth dough turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Then press it out into a small rectangle and add 2 tbs of the lard, Fold the dough over the lard and knead until it’s disappeared and the dough it smooth again. Repeat what you just did until all the lard is used up. Then form a smooth ball , brush with olive oil , the brush the sides of a bowl placing the dough in it and cover with a kitchen towel. Keep in a warm spot until it doubles in size. Take at least one hour or more. When it’s doubled in side cut the dough into 24 equivalent sized pieces. Lay onto parchment paper covered tray and cover them for 20 minutes. Pre heat your oven to 400 Degrees F. Roll each ball of dough into a thick “snake” or rope and tie it in a knot. Lay them on parcement paper lined baking trays. When you’ve completed this brush each one with some of the egg wash AND sprinkle some Fennel Seeds on top. You decide how many you want on top. Place into the middle racks, not the bottom one. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pans and bake for another 8 minutes OR until the bottoms have a nice brown color and the tops are golden brown like in the picture. Here’s where recipes can fail, this is how my oven works. You may need more or less time, pay attention to your oven!!! Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Plain. or with Ricotta and Jam, or with Prosciutto or Mortadella. Or simply on their own. BUONA FESTA DI SANT’ANTONIO!!

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE…this is how I make it

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE is the stuff that heated food debates are made of. A meat and tomato sauce from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy it’s morphed in many kitchens and restaurants globally as ANY tomato and ground meat sauce for Pasta. Well…..call it what you will but there really is a specific sauce with specific more or less agreed on ingredients that are what Italians know to be RAGU’ BOLOGNESE. There’s even a certified formula for the sauce filed in October of 1982 to preserve the historical food heritage of this beloved dish. Unless it’s this method or ones close to it, it’s not a Bolognese sauce but instead a Meat Sauce with Tomato for pasta. Still very delicious. Still wonderful. But not a Bolognese. At the heart of this is that to be Bolognese you need something to be from Bologna. The close to the original as compiled by people in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna is the one filed in the October. For purposes of this blogpost I’m giving you some food facts and reasons why one is called one thing and something is called another. I realize that after reading this you’re going to simply say, Who cares it’s All Bolognese!! LOL. Whatever. I’m asking though that you try this recipe as I’ve developed it and hope that you enjoy it as yet another sauce to add to your recipe file.

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE

3/4 LB GROUND CHUCK (BEEF)

1/2 POUND DICED PANCETTA

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICED

1 CELERY STALK, FINELY DICED

1 LARGE CARROT, PEELED AND FINELY DICED

1/2 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

3/4 CUP DRY WHITE WINE

1/2 CUP HOMEMADE OR LOW SODIUM/NON FAT BEEF STOCK

28 OZ CAN OF IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES RUN THRU A FOOD MILL OR IN A PROCESSOR TILL SMOOTH, OR USE THE SAME AMOUNT OF PASSATA OR POMI

3/4 CUP OF WHOLE MILK

SALT AND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. HEAVY CREAM (OPTIONAL…THE RULE IS, IF USING DRIED PASTA, ADD THE CREAM. IF USING FRESH MADE PASTA, DON’T ADD IT. WHY? THE BOLOGNESE SAID SO THAT’S WHY..LOL)

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1 LB TAGLIATELLE OR PAPPARDELLE, COOKED AL DENTE

Using your heaviest saucepan/dutch oven, cook the pancetta on low stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and let these cook for at least 10 minutes on low until they are softened. Then add the ground meat, raising the heat to medium. Let the meat mix with the pancetta and vegetables and cook this until the meat has finished browning. At least 10 minutes. Deglaze this pan with the Wine and stir. Cook this down for about 8 minutes, stirring. Add the Tomato and the 1/2 the stock blending well. Cover the pot and leave on simmer for 2 hours checking occasionally. If at any time it’s looking to dry add more stock. After you’ve passed the 2 hour mark uncover and pour in the milk and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, your sauce should be thickened and fully cooked. If it’s at all watery continue to simmer for and additional 15-20 minutes. If using the cream add it now and stir into the sauce. Now for optimal flavor do this all a day ahead of making the pasta dish. No crime is committed if you eat it all on the same day but it really does get happier overnight!! When ready to serve…Cook the Pasta according to the package instructions till al dente. Drain…In a wide pan that will accomodate all the pasta add a few ladles of the sauce. Then the pasta. Mix…heat for only 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Grate a nice amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Blend in, and then serve. 1 lb of pasta will feed 3-4. I hope I’ve done justice to one of the World’s greatest sauces. Mangiare Bene!!