Category Archives: CHEESES

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…

SKILLET (PAN) EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA IN PADELLA

EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…what a gift Italy gave to the world!! Some commentary on La Parmigiana which is what Italians call it often as in Italy the only PARMIGIANA is Eggplant. There’s some conversation that in Sicily there was also Veal Parmigiana but mostly any other type of Parmigiana was not created in Italy but by inventive Italian immigrant cooks to the United States where they adapted their beloved eggplant parmigiana and decided to use meats, fish, poultry in the same style. It took off and became some of America’s most beloved ItalianAmerican dishes. Veal and Chicken Parmigiana when made well are simply wonderful. Pork and Beef as well as Shrimp are made into Parmigiana too. Let’s though talk about Eggplant Parmigiana. History point again to Sicily as the origins of this meltingly delicious blend of layers of cooked eggplant, Italian cheeses, some tomato sauce then baked to meld everything together. It’s a perfect food. I’m smiling as I blog this thinking of how often my mom made it. Hers was almost always thin sliced and breaded in 4C Italian Flavored breadcrumbs in her Electric frying pan. My sister AdeleMarie has one too and swears it’s the only way to fry batches of eggplant without having to change the oil. It cooks them perfectly she says confirming Mom’s love of the Electric frying pan. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I would salivate incessantly when she’d call for Dad to go down in the basement and bring up the pan. I knew there would be fried eggplant cutlets to eat out of the fryer sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano. By the way, they make amazing hero sandwiches. When we would go to the beach she’d make cold Eggplant Parmigiana sangwiches along with Ham and Cheese, Chicken roll and Swiss, Bologna and cheese sandwiches. Some plums. Some grapes, maybe some nectarines if she thought they were nice at the farmers market, usually Palermo’s or Bifulco’s. So when I think of Eggplant Parmigiana regardless of how it’s made I think of all those times Mom made it. However…the best eggplant Parmigiana in the family, as good as mom’s was, my Aunt Angie Scaramuzzi made the “most bestest”. Enough with my past Parmigiana…let’s talk about how you make it. There’s not one way and my most popular way of making it is thin sliced, dipped in flour, beaten eggs and pecorino, then fried, then layered in the typical manner with cheeses and sauce and baked. However, there’s also a way to just do it on top of the stove. The eggplants are fried in olive oil. then a sauce is made in that oil that’s been infused with garlic and basil. Then the cooked eggplant is layered into the pan, covered in abundant grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, your choice..then topped with Mozzarella, or Provolone, or Scamorza. Again, your choice. The top is covered and once the cheese has melted you’re done. Nice? Great, I thought you’d like it. This eggplant is naked…it’s just fried. This actually harkens back to most Sicilian recipes for La Parmigiana. Many Sicilian recipe have no stringy melted cheese, just the grated. See? You can make this a few different ways. I’m giving you choices here. The leftovers are amazing, infact they taste better on day 2.

SKILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES

1 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANT SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH ROUNDS

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS TOMATO PASTE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

FRESH BASIL

GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO

1 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA OR DICED SCAMORZA

In a saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on medium heat. Add the garlic and just when it’s fragrant add the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/ 2 tsp of pepper, some basil leaves, then cook for 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in a processor or with your hands, then add to the pot. Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. While that is happening, heat 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil in a heavy wide skillet. Season the eggplants with salt and pepper. On Medium heat fry the eggplant on both sides (CRITICAL HERE!!!) till they are SOFT, the eggplant has to completely cook before you can finish the dish. If your heat is too high you’ll scorch the eggplants, take your time. Should take about 15 minutes to get them soft thru both sides. Add more oil as needed. Remove the eggplants to paper towels to drain. Pour the cooked sauce into the pan. Lay the eggplants in pan…cover with grated cheese, some basil leaves, more sauce, do a second layer if you have enough, more sauce, cheese and basil. At this point you can cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes. This is a very Sicilian way, with no mozzarella, just the grated cheese. DELICIOUS. OR, top the pan with the diced cheeses and cover. Wait until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Now..remove from the heat and let it sit for 2 hours before serving for maximum flavor, just gently reheat. OR you may serve as soon are you’ve let it rest for 15 minutes. Up to you.

Now there’s plenty of flavor in this dish, and there’s not a shopping cart full of ingredients. It’s simple basic flavor which are the hallmarks of Italian cooking. Enjoy this dish..let me know how you like it!!

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

PASTA CON ZAFFERANO E CAVOLOFIORE..PASTA WITH CAULIFLOWER AND SAFFRON

Long before Cauliflower became a trendy-hipster-carb stand in food it was a real thing. For centuries. Sorry folks, you discovered nothing except that Cauliflower is just versatile and delicious. One of the most ancient ways to eat cauliflower is pairing it with pasta. Doesn’t that usually make everything better? I think so. My DNA is 1/2 Sicilian, both paternal grandparents were born in the Sicilian city of Sciacca on Sicily’s southwestern coast. My love of this vegetable I’m going to say is genetic. Maybe not. Maybe yes. There are many versions of this Sicilian pairing of pasta and Cauliflower most notably with Saffron, Breadcrumbs, Raisins and Pignoli. This version of mine is a little paired back but loaded with flavor. Another thing to note…Sicilian food will contain onion more often than garlic. On this side of the Atlantic garlic was added to many dishes that in Sicily were onion only. Oh they use both, rarely in the same dish and usually onion is the more popular ingredient. SAFFRON, or ZAFFERANO, very Mediterranean. The Sicilians due to the many thundering hoardes of invading nations across the island picked up many food ways from east, west, north, south. Food often is a road map of a country’s past. It’s a fascinating trip if you chose to take it. Makes food even more “delicious” for me knowing why, where, and how it became a defining dish for an area. Let’s make a pasta with a little Sicilian in it. It’s wonderful for Vegetarians too.

YIELDS: about 4 SERVINGS TIME: Approx. 1 hour

1/4 TSP. SAFFRON THREADS

1 CAULIFLOWER HEAD, well trimmed and then cut into smaller florets

3 1/2 TBS. SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (regular fine if that’s what you have)

1 MEDIUM DICED ONION

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 lb PENNE COOKED AL DENTE

1 TBS FRESH SQUEEZE LEMON JUICE

2 TSPS FINE MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

SEA SALT

CACIOCAVALLO OR PROVOLONE CHEESE GRATED

Start by soaking the saffron in 2 tbs of hot boiling water. Set to the side. Fill a large pot with water, add plenty of sea salt and bring to the boil. Gently add the Cauliflower florets and cook till tender…around 5-7 minutes.. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain further. Bring the Cauliflower cooking water back to the boil. In a heavy skillet add 3/4 of the olive oil and when it’s hot add the onion,pinch of sea salt, peperoncino. So many recipe tell you to cook the onions for about 5 minutes, can we talk here? They will still be crispy. Here’s a trick, AFTER about 8 minutes of cooking, add 3 tbs of the cooking water and let this dance around the pan until it’s evaporated. Don’t listen to me here, TASTE one of the onion pieces and LET YOUR MOUTH TELL YOU it’s now soft. It will NEVER take only 5 minutes to break down onions into delicious softness. The water helps the process. Take your time. Now raise the heat and add the cauliflower and let the florets get some color from the pan, then add 1/4 cup of the cooking water and the saffron with its water. Season with more sea salt and cook till the water is almost 3/4 reduced. Meanwhile you will be cooking your penne just until Al Dente in the Cauliflower cooking water. Drain. Add to the pan of cauliflower and mix well. Drizzle more olive oil over it and toss then remove from the heat and add about 1/2 cup of grated Provolone or Caciocavallo, the lemon juice and the parsley. A very pretty and tasty dish. For those who want a little more Sicily in the dish saute’ a few Anchovy fillets with the onions.

SFINCIONE…A PIZZA FROM SICILY TOPPED WITH TOMATO, ONIONS, ANCHOVY, CHEESE AND BREADCRUMBS

SFINCIONE….pronounce it with me…SFEEN-CHEE-OWNAY.  Nice, you’ve said it.  Speaking like a Sicilian because this is the pizza that our SicilianAmerican Pizzeria SICILIAN PIZZA has roots in.  A risen dough pressed into a rectangular pan, somewhat thick, then topped with a slow cooked tomato sauce loaded with onions.  On top of that is a layer of breadcrumbs, anchovies and Sicilian grated cheese, like a Caciocavallo, but Provolone or Pecorino Romano work too.  Caciocavallo isn’t always available.  A little Sicilian Oregano, Sicilian Olive Oil and this bakes into a delicious treat.  My Sicilian born Paternal Grandmother made this and hers had lots of onions on it. Maybe I get my love of anything with lots of onions from her.   Grazie Grandma Battaglia.  Sfincione made this way seems like it may have its origins in the Western part of Sicily, especially the Palermo region.  As with most Italian dishes there are wide variations and what’s most popular will always be one version that seems to be the most popular.  Mine is the more popular version.  There are Sfincione that are also stuffed, or sparsely topped.   Mine is closer to the Sfincione (also spelled Sfingiuni) Palermitano.   Sfincione denotes a larger version of Sfince or Sfingi…those fried dough creations.  The heart of the word SFINCE means “spongy” and it’s a reference to the spongy dough used to make these treats.  Interesting stuff.  Next time you bite into a wonderful square of Sicilian Pizza you’ll now know where its origins are from.  So happy to have been introduced to this dish by my grandmother who, btw, never called it Sfincione.  She just called it A’Pizz.  

As they say in Palermo…” Scairsu r’uogghiu e chin’i pruvulazzu”… meaning Top it with a little Olive Oil and lots of dust…. 

MY VERSION OF LO SFINCIONE

for the SFINGE, the Spongy Dough

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

2 1/2 TEASPOONS OF GRANULATED DRY YEAST DISSOLVED IN 1  1/4 CUP OF  WARM WATER WITH 1 TSP. SEA SALT (FINE GROUND, NOT COARSE) let this sit for 15 minutes or until it’s foamy on top.

On a large working surface or board pile the flour into a mound then create a well in the center.  Pour the yeast and water mixture into the center and gently work the flour and water together until it’s all incorportated and you can easily knead it into a ball.  Cover this with a towel and let it rest for up to 5 hours.  

for the topping:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sicilian if possible.

3 MEDIUM ONIONS SLICED THIN

1 CAN ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES, SAN MARZANO WORK

1/2 CAN ITALIAN IMPORTED TOMATO PASTE

1ANCHOVY FILET, CHOPPED

3/4 LB COARSELY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO (A SICILIAN/SOUTHERN ITALIAN CHEESE)..IF NOT AVAILABLE PECORINO ROMANO OR SHARP PROVOLONE (BOTH FROM ITALY) CAN BE USED

1 TBS. DRIED SICILIAN OREGANO

1 1/2 CUPS ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS (UNSEASONED)

In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs of olive oil.  When it gets hot add the onions tossing them well in the hot oil.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Continue to cook over high heat stirring frequently then add 1 chopped anchovy and a pinch of Oregano.  Let this cook on medium until the onions are soft.  DON’T RUSH THIS!! The longer the onions cook…the better this will taste!!  After about 25 minutes add the Tomato paste and blend in well.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Now with your hands crush the tomatoes and add to the pan.  Mix.  Add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce to a simmer and let this good as long as it has to so it becomes thick.  Rule of thumb, it will cook for at least 1 hour.  No liquid pools should be accumulating on the top.  

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Well oil (grease) a Rectangular 1/2 sheet baking pan and press the dough into the pan all the way up to the sides.  Dough should be about 1 inch thick.  Brush the top with olive oil…a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper, and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Then top with the tomato and onion mixture.    Now top with the remaining cheese mixed into the breadcrumbs along with the remaining oregano.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for at least 15 minutes being careful not to burn it.    When done the bottom is nice and browned as is the top, more of a golden brown.  It’s amazing.  As always, ovens are all calibrated differently.  My recipes are tested in my oven.  There may always be a temperature/heat difference in your oven so adjust accordingly.  If there is one thing I hope every home cook can learn, is that this recipe is a guide.  Follow it and you’ll be happy with the results but common sense always needs to come in and if your sfincione isn’t quite done when my directions say it is…bake for longer.  Just pay attention to it.  When the pie is cooled down a bit cut into squares and serve.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.   It’s a wonderful addition to a Christmas Eve La Vigilia seafood buffet.  And as a closing note…can we please stop the debate on Italian Seafood and cheese?  Here is an example of seafood and cheese being paired.  Not an Italianamerican idea, or a mistake.  It’s how it’s done.  Enjoy.

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI, POTATO CROQUETTES NAPLES STYLE, AS MADE BY MY MOM

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI!!  Potato Croquettes made Naples style, Grandma Scaramuzzi and my mom Assunta “Sue”Battaglia’s style could be one of my most favorite foods on Earth!  Grandma Scaramuzzi taught her daughter (my mom) how to make these culinary delights from the city she lived in before she immigrated to Staten Island NYC to marry my grandfather.  Now let’s discuss the word PANZAROTTO/PANZAROTTI (plural) shall we?  In every other part of Italy a Panzarotto is a “pouch” of filled dough.  They are baked or fried and depending on the region will be filled with all sorts of vegetables, cheeses, and meats.  Google PANZAROTTI PUGLIESI and you’ll see what I mean.  But for some reason, and this happens all over Italy one word will have a million different meanings regarding food.  In the language and dialect of Naples Panzarotti means a fried Potato croquette.  Growing up I watched Mom make these and she had a specific way of making them.  First of all they usually were a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes.  Certainly she’d make them on their own as well but NEVER with potatoes cooked the same day.  Something happens to the potatoes when you cook and mash them on day one and on day two form the Panzarotti and fry them.  She had some rules.  Only bits of  diced mozzarella, not too much.  Lots of Pecorino and black pepper in the mix.   Only egg yolks in the mix.  The whites would be for later when breading.  And the breading always PLAIN breadcrumbs, not the Italian Seasoned type.  Are you with me here?  Are you ready to take a stroll down the streets of Napoli and eat the foods that are sold in the Fry shops?  For those who want to be further confused they are also called CROCCHE’ DI PATATE and if you go to Sicily, they are called CAZZILLI where they can be either fried without the breading or with the breading.  Confused yet?  Don’t be…Italian and Italianamerican cuisine has lots of variations, twists and turns.  Whenever I decide to blog a new recipe or a traditional family recipe I do lots of research to see if my family simply creating these rules on their own or if they are following a hallowed ritual.  Happy to report that mostly all the recipes from Napoli I’ve researched dip the floured formed Panzarotti in beaten EGG WHITES and then into PLAIN BREADCRUMBS.  Moral of the story…don’t ever disagree with a Napoletana Mother and Grandmother!!!

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANA      NAPLES STYLE POTATO CROQUETTES YIELD ABOUT 24

3 LBS RUSSET BAKING POTATOES   PEELED AND CUT INTO QUARTERS

3/4 LB MOZZARELLA DICED SMALL

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

3/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO  (MOM USED THE PECORINO)

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 WHOLE EGG AND 2 YOLKS, RESERVING THE EGG WHITES FOR BREADING

1 CUP UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP TIPO 00 FLOUR OR 1/2 CUP SIFTED AP UNBLEACHED FLOUR FOR DREDGING

3 CUPS OLIVE OIL, PEANUT OIL, OR CORN OIL   (WE PAN FRY OURS)

First we make the potatoes.  In a large pot filled with well salted water and bring to a GENTLE boil then simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.  Do not overcook.  When a fork easily pierces the potatoes they are done.  Drain the potatoes and place on a FLAT pan in one layer. Let this cool to room temperature, then  cover with foil and refrigerate for no less than 5 hours, preferably overnight.  Trust me.  Then bring them back to room temperature  and mash or rice them.  Beat the whole egg and yolks.  After you’ve mashed the potatoes, add the eggs, the cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper.  Blend well making sure your mixture isn’t too wet or sticky.  If so a little flour will tighten that up, just a little.  Now form the mix into about 24 equal sized panzarotti.  About 3 1/2-4 inches long in the shape of a cylinder.  Place on a baker’s pan lined with parchment.  Loosely cover and chill for 1/2 hour.  Now set up a station of the flour….then the beaten EGG WHITES…then the breadcrumbs.  Gently dredge the croquettes in the flour,, then into the eggs carefully letting the excess drip off, then into the breadcrumbs, make sure they are completely coated.  Line back up on a parchment paper coated tray.  Heat 3 /4 in of oil till it gets to hot, about 350 degrees F or when you place a cube of bread in it the cube sizzles and starts to brown.   Gently add the croquettes no more than 5-6 at a time DO NOT CROWD THE PAN!!!  Use a heavy high sided wide one.  When one side is done, takes about  2 1/2 minutes or less per side, turn gently. When all golden brown you are done.   Transfer to either a cooking rack or lots of paper towels.  Add more oil and wait between batches to let the oil come up to temperature again.  There’s a nice amount of mozzarella in there so you maybe have a little mozzarella burst thru but if you don’t overfry you should be fine.   

Serve them immediately, or you can reheat them when ready to serve uncovered in a hot oven for only a few minutes.  Here’s some other ingredients you can add….Provolone, thin strips or fine dice of sopressata, dry sausage, salami, prosciutto.  If using the cured meats just a small bit will work and the finer you dice/mince the better.  What a treat to have these on their own in a paper cone from  a Friggitori in Naples or on your own table at home.  Now you’ve made NU BELL PANZAROTT o CROCCHE’.  Eat like a Napoletano!!!

POLPETTINE DI SALSICCE E MANZO, BEEF AND SAUSAGE SMALL MEATBALLS WITH SAGE, WINE, PARMIGIANO

POLPETTINE!!! I can’t get enough of these meatballs..the smaller type, from any cuisine anywhere in the world.  There are HUNDREDS of versions and every so often I create my own version based on what’s in the fridge.  POLPETTINE DI SALSICCE E MANZO CON SALVIA, VINO, E PARMIGIANO is just one of them.  How delicious does food sound in other languages?  I think very.  MINI MEATBALLS OF ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND GROUND BEEF WITH SAGE, RED WINE AND PARMIGIANO.  Sounds better in Italian don’t you think?  I’m not reinventing the wheel here, I ‘m creating using a specific traditional flavor combination.  Beef and Sausage are commonly used in meatball making.  Sage is so earthy and Parmigiano’s nutty complex flavor combined with a simmer in red wine, olive oil and garlic are simply amazing together.  Towards the end I added a spoonful of crushed tomato just to balance it all out but not turning it into a pan of meat balls in sugo di pomodoro. Let’s create this delicious pan in your kitchen now shall we?  ANDIAMO.

FOR 24 POLPETTINE:

1/2 LB. FRESH ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT (NO FENNEL IS POSSIBLE)

1/2 LB. FRESH GROUND CHUCK BEEF (80% LEAN, 20 % FAT)

1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS SOAKED IN 3 TBS. HEAVY CREAM

1 LARGE OR JUMBO EGG BEATEN

2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES FINELY MINCED

2 CLOVES FRESH GARLIC FINELY MINCED

1/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1/4 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

NO SALT ADDED BECAUSE THE COMBO OF THE SAUSAGE MEAT AND THE PARMIGIANO WILL ADD THE SALTINESS TO THE POLPETTINE

1/3 CUP RED WINE

1/3 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

PINCH OF SEA OR KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 TBS. CRUSHED ITALIAN TOMATOES

A FEW EXTRA SAGE LEAVES

1 PEELED FRESH GARLIC CLOVE

In a large stainless steel mixing bowl combine all the ingredients up to the Red Wine.  Mix well, but just until it’s a homogenized mixture. Roll into small walnut sized balls.  Place on a tray.  In a large wide frying pan heat 2 tbs. of the olive oil and place as many meatballs as you can WITHOUT them touching each other.  You may have to do this in 2 batches.  This recipe makes around 24 meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides.  Remove to a platter until you’ve finished frying them all.  Add one more TBS of Olive Oil and the Garlic clove.  Let this get fragrant and then add the wine and deglaze the pan.  Get all the bits off the bottom of the pan and then add 1/3 cup of Chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then add the meatballs all in.  Let them simmer for 15 minutes on medium/low.  When you see most of the liquid is reduced, you’re almost done.  Stir in the tomato.  Pinch of salt.  Remove to a serving platter and add a nice amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and garnish with sage leaves. OR, do it all right out of the pan (as shown in the picture).  

Now you’re done.   Serve as is, with bread to sop up those juices.  Accompany with a side of sauteed greens like Broccoli Rabe or Escarole.  Maybe some roasted potatoes or a seasoned Rice. 

FRIED STUFFED MEATBALLS, ITALIAN AMERICAN STYLE, MY SISTER’S IDEA

0000HOW GOOD DOES THAT LOOK?  Of course you  are agreeing with me.  ItalianAmerican style Stuffed FRIED Meatballs, but here’s the thing, these are not simmered in sauce after frying.  These are filled, breaded, then fried.  Served on their own or on a bed of Sugo di Pomodoro (ok, I’m getting European here, that means Tomato Sauce).  At Easter dinner hosted by my sister Joann and her family she made a version of these for the antipasto. Delicious.   I took that idea and put some A FOOD OBSESSION touches into the mix and made them a week later.  Big hit.  And….they are great for entertaining.  Party apps or Antipasto for a dinner.  You can even use them as an Entree’.  So my version of my sister’s POLPETTE FRITTE RIPIENE contain ground beef, ground pork, Red Wine, Garlic, Soaked breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, lots of grated Pecorino Romano, black pepper, a cube of either Scamorza (my preference) or mozzarella in the center.  Let’s stop here, if you follow me on Social media you know I love to use Scamorza cheese.  For those who are unfamiliar with it Scamorza is a Southern Italian cheese which starts its life out the same as mozzarella. Mozzarella is eaten fresh.  Scamorza is aged for a minimum of around 2 weeks and it becomes sort of the consistency of a Gouda cheese.  Yet it’s mild like mozzarella.  It’s actually the cheese that Southern Italians use in many “al forno” or baked dishes the way Italian Americans use Mozzarella.  It’s low in moisture and melts beautifully.  It’s perfect for these meatballs but mozzarella works too.  Scamorza looks like a small bag and it’s slightly yellow/gold in color.  Lasts a while in the fridge.  So thanks to a great meal and idea from my sister here’s my version of Fried Stuffed Meatballs.

FOR 24 MEATBALLS                                 TIME: 1 3/4 HOURS

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK

1/4 LB. GROUND PORK

2 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/2 CUPS STALE BREAD CUBES, OR 1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS, SOAKED IN MILK OR WATER, THEN SQUEEZE THE LIQUID OUT IF USING THE BREAD, OR JUST ADD ENOUGH MILK, CREAM, OR WATER TO HYDRATE THE CRUMBS AND LET THEM REST FOR 8 MINUTES.

1 1/2 CUPS GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS. ITALIAN RED WINE

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

24 SMALL CUBES OF SCAMORZA CHEESE,  LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA, OR DAY OLD FRESH MOZZARELLA. (TIP…USING FRESH MOZZARELLA THE SAME DAY IT’S MADE WILL RELEASE TOO MUCH LIQUID, USE IT ONE DAY LATER)

1 CUP SIFTED FLOUR

1 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS MIXED WITH 1 CUP PECORINO ROMANO AND 1 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY, SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

3 BEATEN EGGS WITH 1 TBS MILK

OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (YES YOU CAN FRY WITH OLIVE OIL)

MARINARA SAUCE, OPTIONAL

 

Finely mince the garlic and parsley.  In a large bowl, add the beaten eggs, the soaked bread/breadcrumbs, the wine, the grated cheese. Blend well.  Now add the meats and blend well.  Let this sit for 10 minutes.  Now make 24 -26 meatballs slightly bigger than a golf ball.  Insert a cube of the cheese into each one carefully making sure that you cover it well with the meat.  Roll the meatballs in the flour, then the egg/milk mixture, draining of the excess.  Then coat with the breadcrumb/grated cheese mixture. Place all the completed balls on a tray and chill for 10 minutes.  Using a heavy frying pan heat up 1/4 inch of Olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches keeping the heat on medium.  You want these to cook full so don’t have the oil so hot that the crumbs will burn and the insides stay raw.  Gently roll the balls until all sides are toasty golden.  Drain on paper towels. Should take 10 minutes.  Don’t over crowd…the oil temp drops and you will have steamed soggy meatballs.  They can be made ahead of time too and then gently reheated in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.  As a serving suggestion, you can plate them or serve them with Warm Marinara sauce.  Personally I love them as they are but I know many of you enjoy the sauce idea so serve them however you want.  HAPPY COOKING!!!

 

MY PIZZA CHIENA, THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN PIZZA RUSTICA, MY VERSION

{4F8CC669-34CC-4732-9E5D-2A5CCED9AE0C}05212011_Movie_Godfather1_slideshowSpring, Daylight Savings Time, Easter, Warmer weather, NO MORE WINTER…these are a few of my favorite things at this time of the year.  However one thing above all is my most favorite…and it’s the PIZZA CHIENA or PIZZA GAIN or PIZZA PIENA or PIZZA RUSTICA. We called it the second one in my house..2 generation ItalianAmericans usually from Napoletana ancestry use the Napoletana name for this pie.  PIZZA CHIENA.  CHIENA is Napoletana for the word PIENA, which means FULL.  Let’s stroll back to the real old days.  Lent in Catholic countries was a very serious affair.  No Meat or Dairy was consumed for 40 days.  This pie is an exhuberant celebration of all the foods that were “forbidden”.  It’s special.  It’s rich.  It’s wonderful.  SIDEBAR HERE:  This is my version of this pie, it’s not THE version of this pie because that doesn’t exist.  However it’s made in kitchens where the tradition is kept, that’s the “right way” to make it because it’s a personal family or regional tradition that you are keeping up with.  I’ll say that my version is a close one to that which my maternal grandmother made.  Her kitchen style was a blend of Avellino and Naples, she lived in both those towns, with a heavy dose of influence from my grandfather’s town in Matera, Basilicata.  My own research on the PIZZA CHIENA NAPOLETANA shows that our family’s version only deviates slightly.  Ours included sliced or chopped roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage in addition to the cured salumi.  We encase ours in the southern Italian short crust pastry known as PASTA FROLLA with the addition of some black pepper to the dough.  Delicious.  Some call this pie (pizza) a type of quiche.  The difference is the cheese is dense in this pie, not a smooth custard.  All the cured meats give a little bit of their flavors up to the Ricotta and/or Basket Cheese that the base along with a heavy dose of cracked Black pepper.  It’s amazing.  TANTE MILLE GRAZIE (A thousand thanks) to my family for teaching me this wonder of a dish.  Again, there’s no SET ingredients, but a core that is constant and from that you have some wiggle room.  My ingredients are Eggs, Ricotta, Diced Mozzarella and Provolone, Cracked black pepper, Diced DRY sausage, roasted sweet fennel sausage, sweet sopressata, sometimes prosciutto cotto.  Let get into my kitchen and make this Pizza which “can only be made after 3pm on Good Friday”.  Mom’s words, not mine.  Fantastic way to remember those who we’ve lost…It’s like having them next to me as I make this.

 

SERVES:  LOTS                       TIME: 5 HOURS (included dough making and resting)

 

Pasta Frolla

4 c. flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2tsp. salt

1 3/4 cup shortening or Lard

1/2 c. water (iced)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. vinegar

Blend flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Mix water with egg and vinegar; add to dry ingredients. Divide into 2 balls. Wrap in Plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then.  Roll out each with a rolling pin. Yield (top & bottom) crusts.  Makes enough for an 11 X 13 pan.  Use one for the bottom, and one for the top.  Pasta Frolla can be TEMPERMENTAL but patches back up easily for any screw ups.  I have plenty when I make this but the end product always is great.

Credit for this crust goes to fellow StatenItalian Gloria Delio Glickman.  I tried her Pasta Frolla once and have used it ever since!

FILLING:

6 Sweet Fennel Sausages, roasted until cooked, then sliced or chopped.

1 cup diced Sopressata

1 cup diced Dry Sausage

1/2 cup Cacciatorini sausage or 1/2 cup Prosciutto Cotto or 1/2 cup Salami

1 lb. diced Mozzarella (here I use PollyO type, WHOLE MILK, it holds up better in the baking, trust me. )

1/2 lb Diced Provolone (Auricchio or the same quality type of Provolone that’s FROM ITALY, not the American made one.)

6 beaten eggs

1/8 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

1 1/2 tbs. cracked black pepper (my personal addition. you can scale back if you wish…why would you though? LOL )

3 lbs. DRAINED RICOTTA

Mix the eggs with the ricotta till smooth.  Now blend the meats and cheese with the grated cheese.  Fold that mixture into the ricotta mixture till well blended.  Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour the mixture into the pan you’ve layered with one of the dough.  I roll to about 1/4 inch.  Needs lots of flour on the table/board. Then lay the other dough over the top.. Cut around the sides and crimp the top and sides together. Trim any excess.  Decorate with a cross or other decoration you chose to make with excess dough, or leave it plain   Now do what Grandma did…Poke 5 holes in the top..i do it where you can’t see it.  These holes signify the 5 wounds of Christ on the Cross.  In our home this pie is made after 3pm on Good Friday.  So much historic and cultural significance you can’t help but love it!!  Bake in the middle rack for at least and hour and 1/2 or until the a knife inserted in the CENTER comes out clean.  Let the pie rest and don’t you dare cut into it until 12:00am Easter Sunday morning.  Mom’s rules. She’s gone now 19 years but these Easter cooking rules she taught me still hang tough in my mind.    Writing this recipe and story down is like they are all here around my kitchen table.  Having “American” coffee or Espresso (demitasse), Wine, the big meal, and knibbling on this Pizza Chiena along with the other Easter traditions.  Makes it special.  Enjoy making my recipe!!

SIDEBAR:  Let this fully cool down before cutting it.  Can be served at room temp, cold, or lightly heated. GREAT dish on a buffet.

 

 

SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE PALERMITANI..SAINT JOSEPH’S SFINGI PASTRY, PALERMO STYLE

palmsunday16 044I get excited many times during the year in anticipation of a Holiday or Celebration and the foods that are part of that season, day, or time.  One of my most favorite is the annual Catholic celebration of the Feast of St.Joseph which Southern Italian culture has created a beautiful day of Springtime foods only eaten on March 19.  San Giuseppe is especially  revered in Sicily where he is one of their most beloved patrons.  Huge Celebrations in all the towns and homes flow out into the streets and special savory and sweet foods are made.  No where in Italy is this celebration as exhuberant as in Sicily, but don’t worry, the rest of Italy celebrates it with many different sweet and savory treats as well  This post deals with my most favorite of them all, the SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Sfingi is a term meaning a fried sponge of dough.  Sfingi are also the name for what people in Naples called Zeppole.  However….when the talented Sicilian pastry makers started immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s some things made some changes.  I have no idea why or how this happened because at St.Joseph’s time all Italian Pastry shops made 2 types of “St.Joseph’s Pastry”. They are now sold from the beginning of Lent thru Easter with peak production on and about March 19.  The two types are the Sicilian Sfingi which has morphed into a large, sometimes oversized cream puff, baked then filled with a Ricotta Cannoli Cream.  The top of the Cream puff is placed back on and a then a rosette of Cannoli cream added.  To this crushed pistachio or nuts, candied cherry and orange peel are added.  Crowned with powdered sugar.  The other pastry is from Naples, and is called the ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Using a pastry bag and a rosette tip a circle of the cream puff dough is piped out then slid into hot oil and fried.  It’s split and a Vanilla Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticceria) is added to the center, The top is placed on it and a rosette of the cream topped with a sour cherry (Amarena) goes on to finish it.  Both are amazing.  But so strange that the formerly fried SFINGI is now the baked one.  Whatever.  All delicious.  This is a dish that my mom made.  She loved making cream puffs.  She filled them with all sorts of fillings, puddings, whipped cream, italian creams, ricotta cream, chocolate cream.  But for San Giuseppe she made the Sicilian sfingi (she was not Sicilian!) and I watch intently as she went thru each step.  Let’s push this even further as in Palermo they leave the top off, sort of a Sfingi on the Half Shell.  These are the ones I”m showing you here.  Let’s go into the kitchen and bake!!!

First, you need to make the filling.  CREMA DI RICOTTA SICILIANA

1 lb DRAINED WHOLE MILK RICOTTA

1/2 CUP CONFECTIONERS SUGAR

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or one very very very SMALL drop of Cinnamon Oil.

3 tbs. fine chopped CITRON

2 tbs. small semi sweet CHOCOLATE CHIPS

BLEND TOGETHER UNTIL VERY SMOOTH AND CHILL OVER NIGHT

SHELLS: GLI SFINGI

1 CUP WATER

1/2 CUP BUTTER OR SHORTENING

1/8 TEASPOON OF  KOSHER SALT

1 cup TIPO 00 ITALIAN FLOUR OR 1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE UNBLEACHED FLOUR

3 EGGS

GARNISH:  CANDIED CHERRIES   CANDIED ORANGE PEELS  CRUSHED PISTACHIOS

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Add the butter or shortening and the salt.  Stir until the butter/shortening is melted and comes back to the boil.  Lower the heat and gently add all the flour in at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour leaves the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat.  Now add one egg and beat into the hot mixture until it’s fully incorporated.  Do the same with the next two eggs beating thoughroughly after each egg addition.  Place a parchment sheet on a baking pan.  PLace the mixture in a pastry bag and press out a mound about 2 inches wide.  Or form the same with tablespoons.  Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven.  Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on racks. When cool slice in half.. Remove any wet dough from the inside it there is any.   Fill each 1/2 with the Ricotta cream.  Top with a candied cherry, slice of candied orange peel and some crushed Pistachio nuts.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 doz.   BUONA FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE!!!