Category Archives: CUCINA SICILIANA

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS….FRITTI DI VRUOCCULI

FRITTI….they come in all shapes, sizes, batters, breadings, fillings, foods and depending on where you are are in Italy they are called Fritti, Pettole, Pittule, Crispeddi, the list goes on. NEVER argue with an Italian about what they call a dish!!! Everyone is right!! Often blanket terms like “Sicilian” mean something from a particular region of Sicily, oh that’s right, not all Sicilian cooking is the same. But it’s all Sicilian cuisine. I started with a basic flour and egg batter for these which is a common way in Sicily to make these. I was bringing them to a family holiday dinner to I wanted to make them special. I dipped into my bag of “what are some good complimentary ingredients that echo the Isola di Sicilia and I came up with Caciocavallo cheese, Mint (yes, Sicilians love the herb), and Sesame Seeds. The Arab conquest of Sicily for centuries brought many of their food traditions, the sesames are one of them and now are emblematic in many of Sicily’s foods/sweets like Cubbaita and Biscotti Regina, topping many panini and loaves of bread. So why not fold them into a savory batter and get the taste of Sicily in every bite? By the Way, Sicily has an ancient language which often borrows from Italian and Cauliflower, in Italian called Cavolofiore is often called Vruocculi, Vruocoli.

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS

TIME: 2 HOURS MAKES; ABOUT 2 DOZEN

1 LARGE FRESH CAULIFLOWER HEAD, STEAMED, COOLED, THEN SEPARATED INTO FLORETS

2 TBS. AP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER

2 LARGE ORGANIC (IF POSSIBLE) EGGS, BEATEN

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR CONTAINER’S FRESHNESS DATE)

3/4 WHOLE MILK

1 TSP SICILIAN SEA SALT

3 TABLESPOONS ROASTED SESAME SEEDS

1 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED MINT

1/8 CUP GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

OIL FOR FRYING ( I USED CORN OIL)

2 LEMONS, SLICED OR IN WEDGES

10 SPRIGS OF FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

sprinkle the seasoned flour over the florets in a bowl and gently get each floret coated in flour. Add the milk and grated cheese to the eggs, beat well. Now add all the other ingredients and slowly create a thick batter. When all is blended well, reserve to the side. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided pan/pot ( i use my Cast iron pan) and bring to 325 degrees F. When the oil is ready, coat one of the florets with the batter, let excess drip off and test one. If it’s ready it will immediately sizzle and start fo puff up in size. About 2 minutes per side. Place the florets in the batter in batches and fry no more than 6 at a time our your oil temp drops and we have a greasy finished product. As each batch is done and draining sprinkle sea salt over them. They should be salted when hot, not when cooled. Continue battering and frying until you’re all done. Serve them piping hot on a platter with lots of lemon wedges or slices. Squeeze over the top when serving, extra on the side. Add some chopped parsley leaves as garnish. Enjoy!!

PENNE WITH “SICILIAN” SAUCE, U’ CAPULIATU RAGU’

Sicily…a land where so many of our ItalianAmerican food culture comes from. Wonderful dishes from Sicily’s coast and Mountainous inland capture the tastebuds and imaginations of food lovers all over the world. this meat sauce is termed “CAPULIATO or CAPULIATU” which means minced in Sicilian…the tomatoes can be minced, the meats are minced,,the vegetables are minced. Sicilians love peas….they ingeniously combine them in places you might not expect them, like in tomato sauce. My own Sicilian born Paternal Grandmother years ago made her very sweet thick Sicilian sauce with tomatoes, mostly paste, onions, olive oil, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and PEAS. Peas simmered in a sauce of onions, ground beef and sieved tomatoes are truly a popular style in traditional Sicilian cooking. Here’s my version of the ground meat, peas, onions, and tomato Sicilian pasta sauce. This Ragu’ of minced or chopped meats is often called U’Capuliatu. Let’s “go” to Sicily now and start a pot of U’Capuliatu.

U’ CAPULIATU’ RAGU….SICILIAN MEAT RAGU

1 LB. MINCED OR GROUND BEEF

3/4 LB MINCED OR GROUND VEAL OR PORK

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES, CRUSHED TILL SMOOTH

1 CAN IMPORTED ITALIAN TOMATO PASTE

SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 FINELY MINCED CARROT

1 FINELY MINCED STALK OF CELERY

1 LARGE SIZED ONION, FINELY MINCED

1 CUP WHITE WINE

1 CUP OF WATER

1 CUP FRESH OR FROZEN PEAS

KOSHER OR SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE FROM ITALY OR SICILY

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large heavy bottomed pot or saucepot heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t rush this step. The vegetables need to “sweat” and give up their flavor to the oil and soften. Saute’ for at least 15-20 minutes making sure the vegetables DO NOT BROWN.Once they are soft add the meats and raise the heat making sure to have the sauteed vegetables well mixed into the meat. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the meat till nicely browned for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and blend in. Cook until the wine is evaporated then add the paste and the water. Bring to a boil and blend well. Let cook for 5 minutes, then add the Tomato and 1 basil leaf. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer. Let this simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the peas and the remaining basil. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. Let this sit overnight before using. Reheat gently and toss with pasta of your choice….I love it with Penne Rigati or Rigatoni…Toss the al dente pasta in the hot Ragu’ and then add 1/2 cup of grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO to the pan, a drizzle of Sicilian Olive Oil, and blend in. Add more cheese to taste. ENJOY!!

Now here’s a bit more on the CAPULIATU…this is a Recipe for the Capuliatu’ Ragu….the minced meat and tomato sauce. You can make or buy CAPULIATO in Sicily and it’s a chopped dried tomato, garlic, basil, chile pepper and Extra Virgin Oil condimento that is used as is, tossed with cooked pasta and toasted breadcrumbs. My recipe is the Ragu’ Capuliatu…making sure I add this addendum so the SicilianFood Polizie don’t come after me…lol.

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!!

MAIALE CON PEPERONATA (AGRODOLCE), PORK COOKED WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPER STEW

PORK WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPERS AND ONIONS

Italy is filled with Pork recipes and ItalianAmerica added more to the scene. This one is one that shows up often in Southern Italian Cooking, the combo of Pork with Peppers. Sometimes it’s with Hot Vinegar Peppers. Sometimes it’s with a simple saute’ of Peppers and Onions. Sometimes it’s AGRODOLCE, meaning sweet and sour peppers and onions. Creating this recipe I used the Sweet and Sour Pepper and Onion stew of Southern Italy known as PEPERONATA. This dish tastes best if you make the peperonata and let it sit in the fridge for 3 days. This allows all the AGRODOLCE components to work their magic on the peppers and onions. So my eager cooks out there, start with this, my recipe for Peperonata.

https://afoodobsessionblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/peperonata-southern-italian-pepper-stew/

Let the finished Peperonata sit for up to 3 days to fully develop. Cooking is layering. Each layer needs to be the best flavor it can be. Too often cooking has become a dump in the crock, Instant Pot type of process. While they have their uses approaching every meal you cook with “how quickly can I get this done” doesn’t give the end result that it should have. Certainly don’t cook a dish/meal that needs a ton of time if you are limited. Wait till you have the time, maybe a weekend, a special dinner, etc. and don’t short cut. Peperonata on day one is vastly different from what it tastes like in 3 day or later. Trust me. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a short cut now and then when it doesn’t compromise the end result just to get it done with quickly. The Sugar and Vinegar need to marinate the Peperonata for it to taste properly. Ok, i’ve beated this dead horse enough. Let’s cook.

1 RECIPE OF FINISHED PEPERONATA

1 3/4 PORK LOIN SLICED IN STRIPS OR SMALL PIECES

1/3 CUP SEASONED SIFTED FLOUR

1/3 CUP WHITE ITALIAN WINE

PINCH OF OREGANO OR MARJORAM

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL

In a Large heavy pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and in batches brown the pork. Loin of Pork cooks fairly quickly. When the batches of pork are done add the oregano and peperoncino, salt…and toss together for 5 minutes. Now deglaze the pan with the White Wine. Blend well. Now Add the Peperonata and mix gently. Let this simmer for 1/2 hour. Done. Basta. Simple. I like serving this with whole small potatoes roasted in Olive Oil, garlic and Rosemary. And some Crostini you’ve dipped into the cooking juices It’s heaven on a plate Mi Amici. Pork and peppers really brings out my Southern Italian Roots. Let’s hope you feel the same! Happy Cooking!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI, ITALIAN AMERICAN FRIED CALAMARI AT HOME

Fried Calamari….tender pieces of Squid lightly coated with a fine dusting of flour or cornmeal or rice flour then quickly fried in very hot oil could be one of the most addictive of all the dishes that came over from the “old country” to the USA. Much of the Mediterranean makes this dish but Italy and Spain I think are where it shines and possibly is most popular. I’ve eaten it all over Italy and in Spain and the difference between ItalianAmerican style and European style is what it’s served with, meaning the dipping sauce. In Spain I’ve had it with a garlic and saffron loaded aioli, amazing. In both Spain and Italy I’ve had it simply with a squeeze of fresh lemon and maybe some sea salt. In ItalianAmerica where Americans LOVE dipping sauces the fried calamari is served with a tomato sauce often loaded with garlic, olive oil and a hefty dose of dried or ground chile peppers. The sauces can be “sweet” (mild), “Medium” (with a kick), or “Hot” (with lots of heat of varying degrees of mouth burn). How do I like my fried calamari? Love the Aioli….love the lemon, but really love a tasty hot tomato sauce with it. Tentacles are separated from the bodies and the cleaned body “tubes” are sliced into rings. Here’s where we may disagree. Often they are cut too wide for me. I like1/8 inch cuts. They cook quicker, there’s more crunch, but again ,that’s just my personal opinion. You cut into the sizes you like. You’re eating it. The coating? Let me start out with what I don’t think it should be, these are not cutlets or chicken fingers. Breadcrumbs are off the table. Beer batter or heavy floury batters also, no thanks. Instead a simple dredge thru a fine milled flour of sorts seems to work the best. You can use sifted All Purpose flour, Tipo 00 Italian flour(superfine), fine ground cornmeal, rice flour, fine semolina flour, even corn starch but that’s a tricky one to work with and I’d advise against it. The oil…MUST BE HOT….and you can use a deep fryer or a heavy high sided pan, like a cast iron pan or a dutch oven. Into it you add Peanut Oil, Corn Oil, Vegetable Oil, you can add a bit of olive for some flavor into any of them. Personally I do not like Canola oil because I get an aftertaste from it but if you don’t have that issue then Canola works too. Lard is a wonderful frying oil but the hardcore porky flavor will completely overtake the gentle nuance of the calamari taste. I vote no on that idea. Sentimentally this is a reminder of my mom’s kitchen on Christmas Eve, that magical night when you waited for Santa AND you ate what seemed like the entire ocean full of Italian seafood. Here’s to you Mom and the meals you made and the tricks you taught me. She’ll always be with me guiding me thru the process and onto the table where my hungry family awaits for one of their most favorite foods. CALAMARI FRITTI!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI TAKES ABOUT 3/4 HOUR SERVES 6

PEANUT, CORN, VEGETABLE , CANOLA OIL

OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS CLEANED SQUID (CALAMARI) WITH TENTACLES SEPARATED, AND THE TUBES CUT INTO RINGS A MIN. OF 1/3 INCH, TO A MAX OF 1/2 INCH

2 CUPS TIPO 00 FLOUR, OR SIFTED ALL PURPOSE, OR 3 PARTS FLOUR TO 1 PART FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR…OR ALL FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR. THAT’S UP TO YOU. I USE THE TIPO 00 FLOUR.

SEASON THE FLOUR IF YOU LIKE WITH SALT, PEPPER, GRANULATED GARLIC, PAPRIKA OR NOTHING, AGAIN UP TO YOU. I LIKE THE SALT, PEPPER AND PAPRIKA SEASONING IN THE FLOUR

2 CUPS WHOLE MILK

SLICED LEMONS, CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FOR GARNISH/FINISHING

SERVE WITH A SIMPLE MARINARA YOU HAVE ON HAND OR MAKE ONE USING LOTS OF PEPERONCINO AND GARLIC.

Place the milk into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Pat the calamari dry with paper towels and discard the towels. Add the calamari to the milk and blend well. Let this sit for 20 minutes. Pour at least 3 inch of oil into your frying pot/pan and heat over medium heat until you get to 350 degrees F. Have baking trays laid out covered in brown paper bags or layers of paper towels. Remove the calamari in batches from the milk…shake off excess, and dredge in the flour…place into a spider or a strainer with a long handle and then shake off the excess, then into the hot oil . The calamari should dance around the oil quickly…and with move the calamari around the oil, then let it finish frying…takes about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to get golden and crisp. Remove to the draining sheets immediately. Sprinkle with a little salt. Continue to do this in batches until you are complete. Add more oil as necessary giving time inbetween additions to come back to 350degrees F. The first batch might be darker than the remaining batches. Stick to that time limit. serve in a pile with lemon wedges and chopped parsley leaves. Serve a hot bowl of chile and garlic spiced marinara next to it and enjoy. You’ll be eating them as they are draining. Serve immediately. Enjoy.

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.

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

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

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

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

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

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

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

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

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

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

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

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

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

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

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

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

POTATOES STEWED IN TOMATO, PATATE IN UMIDO, WITH GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL

12924567_1312429585441165_3820909032551130529_nDo you have a dish that brings you back to your childhood kitchen table?  I’m sure , like me, you have many.  Most of mine are simple dishes that my stay at home Mom fed us day after day and while they all left an impression on me some were just more special to me.  Coming in from P.S.26 in Staten Island, NYC at 3:10pm every day would always be made better when the aroma coming from Mom’s kitchen reached out..grabbed me by the nostrils and pulled me in.  These are things you don’t ever forget.  Let me not bore you AGAIN with my ethnic background, OK, I’ll bore you..I’m ItalianAmerican, second generation born in the U.S. and our meals were mostly Italian foods, or ITalianAmerican foods and peppered up with American and other international cuisines.  Mom gave us a great meal every night (not so much on breakfast, Mom hated the mornings). Come Spring I start to miss Mom more than usual (#italianamericanmommasboy), she loved her Spring and all the holidays it contained.  March is a bridge month I think.  A little Winter , A little Summer.  It takes us from the cold barren ice into the budding green and flowers.So winter or colder weather dishes are still great thru the month.  PATATE IN UMIDO…Stewed Potatoes, doesn’t sound to great does it?  Let me change your mind.  I’d eat this dish every night. On it’s own with a nice piece of Italian bread.  In the Summer when Dad’s garden was bursting she’d throw handfuls of his many varieties of green beans into the pot as well.  In that one move she took the hearty Wintry Patate in Umido and turned it into a Summer’s dish.  I smell her Aqua Net shellacked hair do along with her perfume as she’s passing me by as I write this. I’ll bet she wants to make sure I don’t screw up her dish as I share it with you!  LET’S COOK!!!

3 lbs of peeled potatoes

3 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, run thru a blender to puree or 2 cups of Passata

pinch of dried Oregano

salt, pepper

3 fresh Basil leaves

water as needed

Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated to taste

Peperoncino, to taste

Like most rustic Italian dishes not a lot of ingredients, all of these are very obtainable.

Cut potatoes into equal but cubes or slices.  Heat, in a heavy bottomed pot 2 Tbs. Olive Oil.  Pinch of salt, a bit of the Oregano, a bit of the pepper. Now add the potatoes and let them cook for 5 minutes stirring as you go.  Add the garlic and saute’ till fragrant.  Blend well.  Now season the potatoes with salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Stir.  Now let this pot simmer for 40 minutes.  Test a potato for doneness. Make sure you gently stir without breaking up the potatoes. If they are cooked through you are done.  Remove from the heat.  Tear up 3 basil leaves and gently blend in. DONE!  This makes large servings for 4, or a side dish for 4-6.  Check the dish for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as needed/to your liking.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the pot. Let your diners add their own peperoncino and Grated Cheese.

Thanks again for stopping by and HAPPY COOKING!!

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FENNEL AND TOMATO BAKED CHICKEN, COMBINING DELICIOUS ITALIAN FLAVORS

fennelchicken-003As the weather moves towards the colder side we look to our ovens again.  The aromas that envelope the home as a dish is roasting or baking bring on anticipatory hunger and a generally good feeling all around.  I find Baking/Roasting Chicken can turn a cold rough day into a warm hug everytime.  The combinations and cuisines are endless. Chicken is a blank canvas that pays off with a masterpiece when completed.  CHICKEN SKIN!!!  The flavor center.  It gives up its flavor to the meat and to the cooking juices while keeping some in that skin which makes it a delight.  My cooking is done mostly, almost 99% of the time in absence of a recipe, instead, i use my cooking experience and research to put together dishes that make sense.  Some are actual regional dishes with a set list of ingredients in a particular manner.  Then there are the other times when I use a basic template for a dish and play around.  Like I did one night after work with this BAKED CHICKEN WITH FENNEL, TOMATOES , AND MUSHROOMS.  Fennel (oftentimes LIKE TONIGHT AT THE SUPERMARKET, it’s mislabeled as ANISE, similar tastes but not the same) is in the fall and winter markets.  The type is actually FLORENTINE FENNEL, or FINOCCHIO, and is part of the ItalianAmerican holiday table.  That’s why I bought a big knob with stalks and beautiful fronds tonight.  But I once had some post-Thanksgiving finocchio hanging around in the fridge.  Fennel is often made as a side dish, roasted in the oven. SO….there were some Grape tomatoes and onions in my view, a nice pack of Organic chicken cut into pieces and I thought…let’s make a dish.  The chicken is well seasoned, the tomatoes are thrown in the pan along with some whole mushrooms, chopped fennel, olive oil, some cloves of garlic and White Wine and stock…and then baked. That’s it.  With those ingredients you CAN’T GO WRONG..your home will smell like a country restaurant somewhere in Italy or Sicily where Fennel is king.  Let’s make some chicken with fennel!!

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS                                     SERVES: 4

1 ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN, CUT INTO 8 PIECES

2 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP OLIVE OIL

1 FENNEL BULB, TRIMMED AND SLICED

10 CHOPPED FENNEL FRONDS  (THE TOPS OF THE STALKS)

2 PINTS CHERRY TOMATOES

1 LB. WHOLE CREMINI OR BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 MEDIUM ONION DICED

2 SMASHED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

1 TSP. HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a bowl, liberally season the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil. In another bowl, do the same with the fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic.   In a baking pan add the vegetable mixture. Then fit the chicken into the pan. fennelchicken-005

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, then the wine.  Place into the oven in the middle rack and let it cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.  Baste the chicken with the pan juices and rotate the pan. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until the chicken is reading 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer (so you know, that’s my BFF).  When the chicken is at that temp, remove from the oven. baste with the pan juices and then cover and serve in 5 minutes.Delicious and clean tasting. Meat and a plate of vegetables cooked in the pan juices.  So good.  I like roasted potatoes, or rice, or simply some good bread with this…up to you. fennelchicken-004That pan is DYING for what the Italians call FARE LA SCARPETTA!!  Scooping up those pan juices with a really well crusted piece of Italian bread.  Do it before someone else does…you cooked it, it’s your treat. You deserve it.  Now enjoy your meal!  Happy Cooking!!