Category Archives: BROCCOLI

FRIED BROCCOLI, BROCCOLI FRITTI

broccolifritti004 There’s a certain aroma and taste to our comfort foods that makes us feel safe.  Loved.  Part of something. Makes us feel OK.  We all have our own comfort foods that give us these needs and they help us when we are happy or sad.  Food has that astonishing quality for us.  When I think of comfort foods i think of many but the foods of my youth are the ones that work best.  ItalianAmericanism means you will have a fair share of things fried in breadcrumbs regardless of what part of Italy your family originally came from.  I’m postitive that my DNA craves fried or toasted breadcrumbs on a regular basis.  Certainly we can’t eat fried foods all the time but as a party food, a starter, a side the dish we will discuss in this post is one of the best in show.  BROCCOLI.  Specifically Breaded Fried Broccoli ItalianAmerican style.  Plenty of ways to fry up delicious cooked broccoli.  The way it was most served up was dipped in flour, then into eggs beaten with Locatelli Pecorino Romano, then into Italian Seasoned  breadcrumbs (Mom used the 4C Brand, and once in a while Colonna or Progresso.  Store sales dictated the purchases.) and then fried till golden on all sides.  Simple.  But they are a 5 star dish with all that flavor and you finish them with a squeeze of Lemon and maybe a sprinkle of peperoncino and more Pecorino.  Can you use Parmigiano-Reggiano? of course.  It’s just a more subtle taste.  I only think they can substitute for each other because they are both Italian Grating cheeses.  I don’t think they  taste even closely similar and I use them in different applications. But that’s just me and my foodcentric OCD at work.  When Mom made this it generally was a “next day” dish using Leftover broccoli.  I’d advise that as well.  Steam the Broccoli on Monday.  Make the Fritti on Tuesday.  Or let them fully cool after steaming and then use but they seem to turn out just right when the broccoli is leftover.

For Broccoli Fritti for 4

  • about 2 lbs of cooked, steamed, cooled or leftover Broccoli Florets
  • 3 eggs beated with 1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano
  •  Salt
  •  Black pepper
  • 1 cup  seasoned and sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs to which you add 1/4 cup of grated pecorino
  •  Olive Oil or Corn Oil for frying
  • 2 lemons, quartered, for serving   
  •   broccolifritti 001          Let’s start cooking the broccoli!!!  Simply dust/dredge the cooked broccoli in the flour, dip into the beated eggs, then coat completely with the breadcrumb mixture.  When this is done place in the fridge for 1/2 hr- 45 minutes.  Get a large cast iron or heavy frying pan, filled 1/4 inch with the oil. When a small cube of bread sizzles and browns in it, your oil is ready.  Remove the Broccoli from the fridge.  and without crowding add the broccoli to the pan (GENTLY GENTLY ) or as they say in Italian.. Piano Piano!! and since the broccoli is already cooked, once one side is nicely browned, turn and do the same.  Don’t overcook….burnt breadcrumbs will ruin and dish and foul the oil.  Remove to paper towels on trays to drain.  Add more oil if necessary and remember to always LET IT COME BACK TO FRYING TEMPERATURE before you add the next batch… Cook these in batches.  When complete sprinkle the broccoli fritti with a little salt, pecorino and lemon juice and wedges.     Great for parties too because you can cook them ahead of time and either serve at room temperature or gently reheating in the oven.  Thanks for letting me into your kitchens as it’s my honor to share my recipes with you.  HAPPY COOKING!!!           
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SICILIAN STYLE SAUSAGE MEATBALL STEW..SPEZZATINO CON POLPETTE DI SALSICCIA

img_3252SPEZZATINO!!!! The Italian word for STEW…although the word STUFATO means stew also, don’t ask, I don’t have an answer for that.  I think SPEZZATINO sounds nicer.  On the island of Sicily they have a SPEZZATINO culture, over in the Palermo region where they stew meatballs with potatoes.  Sounds like heaven.  A few years ago my friend Rose Marie Trapani, a native of the Palermo, Sicily region talked about her Mamma’s Meatball and Potato stew.  I had to make it. I loved everything about it.  In Sicily they also use the term SPEZZATINO AGGRESSATO DI POLPETTE CON PATATE…more new Italian and Sicilian words to increase your culinary vocabulary!! I like!!!  However, the stew I made last night was BASED on the principles of the Spezzatino Aggressato but I must drop AGGRESSATO from my recipe title.  My meatballs in this recipe are made from Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage Meat.  Into the stew I add Broccoli Rabe, Onions, Potatoes, diced Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Borlotti Beans and a nice red wine from Sicily, from REGALEALI, a NERO D’AVOLA.  What flavors in this stew! Notice I say Sicilian Style only because I created this dish in my kitchen with things from my pantry and fridge that went well together, it’s not a bona fide Sicilian dish.  I try to be careful about my Recipe titles. When I had a bowl of the Spezzatino the next day  I added some ricotta to the mix.  WOW. Not only did it taste better like all stews do the second day but the ricotta was a very tasty addition!  I’d advise making this on one day, and serving it the next.  Truly remarkable Italian-Siclian flavors.  It has that “Grandma” taste..are you with me here? Capisci??? Good.  Now we can start to cook.img_3231

First, we make the POLPETTE DI SALSICCE…the Sausage meatballs, made a bit smaller than a Sunday Sauce meatball.

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, prep and cooking                              SERVES: 4

1 LB LOOSE ITALIAN SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT

1 BEATEN LARGE EGG

1 CUP STALE ITALIAN BREAD, SOAKED IN MILK AND SQUEEZED

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PROVOLONE OR CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE

1/8 CUP RED WINE ( A RED SICILIAN, LIKE NERO D’AVOLA FROM REGALEALI IS FANTASTIC)

(do not add any salt to these meatballs as the sausage meat is already salted/seasoned and we are adding grated cheese)

Blend the garlic, parsley, bread with the beaten egg.  When combined, add the sausage meat and blend everything until it is well mixed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes covered, then form into small balls.  Fry the balls in Olive Oil. Reserve in a bowl. You will need to cook in batches.  Deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of the Red Wine scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meatballs.

for the SPEZZATINO:

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 DICED MEDIUM ONION

6 QUARTERED CREMINI MUSHROOMS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 DICED AND SEEDED TOMATO

2 CUPS of GREENS (chopped Swiss Chard, broccoli Rabe, Turnip Tops, Escarole, Spinach)

1 CUP of diced peeled POTATOES

2 CUPS OF COOKED BORLOTTI OR CANNELLINI BEANS

1 CUP OF RED WINE

2 CUPS OF CHICKEN STOCK

SALT, PEPPER TO TASTE

In a large heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil.  Add the onions,mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and then add the potatoes.img_3232 Let this cook for about 10 minutes   stirring frequently. Now add the tomato and the greens. Cook for 5 minutes, Add the garlic and when fragrant (about 2 minutes) add the beans.

img_3233  Mix.  Now add the wine first and bring to a boil.  The aroma is amazing at this point. Stir and then add the chicken stock and add stir. Add the Sausage Meatballs and any of the liquid that has collected in the bowl of sausage balls. img_3234Gently stir and bring to a boil again. Then reduce to a simmer.img_3236Now let this simmer until much of the liquid is reduced.  You want a sort of thick stew here rather than a soup (and that’s why it’s a SPEZZATINO!!!). This process should take about 40 minutes.  Keep an eye on this so it gets to the right consistency.  Frequently stir the pot.  When it’s done let it sit at least 3 hours before serving. Next day is even better.img_3238

Before serving, drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, peperoncino if you like, and of course grated Parmigiano or Pecorino. A hearty bowl of flavors with a Sicilian Twist.  Potatoes and Meatballs in a stew…Sicilian genius and comfort food.  A few other ingredients and it’s Minestrone meats Sicilian Meatball Stew…fantastico!!!  A nice Sicilian Red, like the Nero D’Avola you used in the Spezzatino goes great with it…img_3241

 

 

 

 

BROCCOLI RABE AND SAUSAGE MEATBALLS WITH ORECCHIETTE

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Chances are, you have seen recipes for broccoli di rabe, a bitter green of the broccoli family, many many times.
Perhaps you have had this delicious vegetable, sauteed with garlic and oil, and other aromatics..or stuffed into
a bread, or paired up with pasta, tradtionally orecchiette (little ears).  This pasta hails from the once dirt poor
regions of Puglia and Basilicata and is merely a mix of flour and water and some deft finger handling.  In our
family, years ago, my Grandmother and her sister in law Caterina Luberto (Zi’Caterin) would spend what seemed
like hours making a cavatelli like orecchiette like pasta and I would stare mesmerized by their quick hand
movements.  I wish I was older and had paid more attention to the intricacies of this pasta production.  Most
supermarkets now carry the factory made orecchiette which is made with the typical pasta recipe used in
most dried macaroni.   It’s good…but not great. The real texture and flavor is from the Bronze pressed Artisinal
or the handmade(best) dried orecchiette from Italy.  The bronze pressed I buy when I can’t find the handmade
ones.  Handmade are more rustic in their shape and texture..the bronze ones are delicious…OK, what are
bronze pressed pastas?  The pasta dough is forced through a special bronze press which roughs up the
exterior of the pasta.  This way, the sauces adhere much better to each piece.  Pricey, yes.  How often are you
eating orecchiette..???  I knew it.  So splurge at the specialty Italian store for a lb. of good orecchiette.  Or
you can find them thru on-line sources.  They usually retail for between 3.99 to 6.99.

Feeling like I was bored with the
usual pairing of sauteed rabe with sausage and orecchiette…I improvised and altered the ingredients..but did
not “change” the ingredients.
Ecco la!  There is the change-up.  I chopped up the broccoli
rabe and added 1/2 of it to sweet fennel sausage meat making meatballs out of them…sauteed them..
then sauteed the rest of the rabe with garlic and oil, a little red chile pepper flakes, then tossed in the pasta and
let it get sort of brown on the edges.  Then added the meatballs and there you have it.

LET’S COOK!
For 6-8 people, use 1 lb. of Orecchiette….cook according to directions, and drain.
Remove the meat from 1 lb. of good Italian Sweet Fennel Sausage in its’ casings.  Add to a bowl.  Add a 1/2 cup
of grated provolone or pecorino, 1 finely minced garlic clove, and 1/2 a bunch of well chopped steamed broccoli
rabe.  Try to not use much of the stem, stick with the tender thinner parts and the leaves.  Add 1/2 tsp. black
pepper. NO SALT!  Remember, the sausage is already salted.  Now add 2 tbs. of breadcrumbs and with your
hands blend well and form into small walnut sized balls.  In some good olive oil, fry these on medium for about
7 minutes on one side, 5 on the other..You are cooking these all the way through.
Let’s stop right here with another idea.
Party season is on its’ way…Holidays and all that (stress and/or fun)…make these as an hors d’ouevres instead
of the usual party meatball.  Sprinkle them with a little cheese and serve with toothpicks or on a platter..nice!

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Ok…sorry for the detour…Add some olive oil to a large pan, heat, add 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. of red
chile flakes..stir for 30 sec. then add the remaining chopped broccoli rabe…stir then add the pasta and mix
well.  Let the pasta get a little brown in some spots..this should take about 5 minutes. Sitr well, add 2 tbs. of
grated cheese and serve with the meatballs on top.

Check out those crispy edges on the orecchiette…the different flavors and textures in this dish make it
very satisfying.  At the end of the day, I’m feeling good about changing the look of a recipe to make
it a little (or very) different yet staying loyal to the traditional taste and ingredients.  No, you cannot use
turkey sausage,,, no you cannot use spinach…no you cannot use Bowtie pasta.  Stick with the com-
bination that has worked for years and years…Maybe someday I’ll remember Zi’Caterin’s pasta
making technique…

LARGE PASTA WITH BROCCOLI “CREAM” AND WALNUTS…PACCHERI CON CREMA DI BROCCOLI E NOCI

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Vegetables and dairy are wonderful pairings especially when they are creamy and  used as a pasta “sauce”.  I put “sauce” in quotes because the correct term in Italian would be a “condimento”…a condiment that enhances the pasta which, sorry to do this to you carb-haters out there, but the Pasta is the main event on a plate of macaroni.  The sauce or condimento just adds more flavor and nourishment, it’s an enhancer. And the sky is the limit with pasta dishes. Italy is full of heritage recipes, family recipes, regional recipes, with new ones are being created all the time.  I’m going to think that I created this but somewhere out there this dish may already be on a table in an Italian kitchen.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s create together…for more texture I’m adding crushed walnuts.  Why?  Why NOT?  They will make the dish more interesting and complex.  The crunch with play off nicely with the toothsome pasta and creamy blend of cooked Broccoli and Mascarpone.  Parmigiano sharpens the plate and it’s nuttiness works with the Walnuts. Peperoncino because I’m of Southern Italian extraction and it’s what we do.  So I’ll give you a pass here and say if dried crushed chiles are too hot for your palate, fresh cracked black pepper will work too.  I’m going to ask you to do something that you will probably have been taught not to do.  I want you to “overcook” your broccoli.  That’s right, no crisp bright green florets for this dish, it simply will not work.  It will only taste raw.  Are you up for the challenge??  Do you have the courage to turn your Broccoli into mush?  GOOD!  Continue with me into the kitchen then..let’s go..ANDIAMO!

 

SERVES: 4-6                                    TIME: about 1 hour

2 lbs. CHOPPED WELL COOKED BROCCOLI (cook the broccoli until it’s very soft, drain well and let it sit for at least 1 hour, drain off any water that collects).

1 1/2 cups MASCARPONE CHEESE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO (or fresh ground Black Pepper)

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Juice of 1 LEMON

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO PLUS MORE FOR SERVING AND FINISHING

3 TBS. CRUSHED TOASTED WALNUTS

1 TBS WALNUT OIL (if available)

1 lb PACCHERI OR RIGATONI..cooked till Al Dente according to the package directions

In a Bowl, using a potato Masher, mash the Broccoli.  A Food Processor will make this  “CREMA” too thin, I like this with some small pieces of broccoli among the mashed pieces.  If you must have it thinner pulse it in a Food Processor.

In a large non stick pan, heat the olive oil…when it’s heated, add the garlic and a pinch of the peperoncino, pinch of salt.  Do not let the garlic brown, as soon as you really can smell the garlic add the broccoli  and heat the broccoli through keeping this on a low flame.  Heat for at least 8 minutes, being careful to stir frequently. Taste for seasoning, if you think it needs some salt, add a little now.  Add the lemon.,Gently stir in the MascarponeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA until it’s incorporated into the mixture.  Next add the grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO and the Pasta.           OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gently mix the pasta into the “CREMA”. Make sure it’s well blended.

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How nice is that? So, let’s finish this up…top with the toasted crushed walnuts, peperoncino or black pepper, a drizzle of Walnut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more Grated Parmigiano.

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That is smoking “hot”.  A nice glass of wine or Sparkling Italian Water with fresh lime or lemon, or a frosty Beer or Coca-Cola…drink what you want.  Eat what you want.  You’ll want to eat this!  Happy Cooking!!

so let’s talk PACCHERI..what the hell is A FOOD OBSESSION talking about?  It’s an oversized Rigatoni like pasta that is loved in Naples (again with the Naples, sorry) and generally paired with light seafood sauces.  It’s big and toothsome and sucks into it’s center some of the Crema di Broccoli and the nuts.  Not easy to find but it’s what I use when I make the dish.  Rigatoni will work as well so, there’s your option.