Category Archives: EASY RECIPES

A TASTE OF SUNSHINE….SOUR CREAM LEMON LOAF

So here’s the story…when Stanley Tucci’s CNN Series SEARCHING FOR ITALY premiered weeks ago the first episode was on Napoli (Naples) and its surrounding region. A Spaghetti dish with fried Zucchini known as Spaghetti alla Nerano was featured and one of the key ingredients, infact what makes it the unique dish it is was a locally crafted cheese called PROVOLONE DEL MONACO. I needed to have it. A friend of mine, grazie to Angela Santarelli let me know of an online US Company that imports some hard to get Italian items so I took a look. The company is DOLCITERRA ( https://www.dolceterra.com/) and when I jumped into the website it was like a new door of possibilities opened up. Yes, they had the cheese I wanted but ohhhhhh they had so much more. One of the items was a case of LIMONE DI SORRENTO, lemons from the groves around Sorrento, the area is profumed with the most amazing lemons. They are larger, have a somewhate less sour and sweeter juice, and a thicker and tastier rind/skin than regular lemons. Oh I still love regular lemons, but these are exponentially more aromatic and tastier. I ordered. 4 weeks later my booty arrived. I’ve used them in salad dressings, cakes, savory dishes, drinks. These are prized for making Limoncello too. This is where it was invented, in Campania because of the amazing lemons. Who doesn’t like Lemon Loaf Cake? Ok, those who don’t can exit from the door on your left right now. The rest of you can stay. LOL. I’m a big fan of it so I thought i’d make an American classic, the Sour Cream Ice Lemon Loaf but use these amazing Sorrento Lemons. The result was a huge success. Now don’t look sad, I see you saying..”ughh. where am I going to get Sorrento lemons”. This recipe is for any lemons. The best to use would be fresh Organic Lemons that are firm and fragrant. And if you have Sorrento Lemons that’s just a bonus, but any lemons will work. Let’s get baking!!!

SOUR CREAM LEMON LOAF CAKE

TAKES 2 HOURS

FOR THE LOAF CAKE

3 LARGE FRESH EGGS, WELL BEATEN

1 CUP PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS GRANULATED SUGAR

1 CUP SOUR CREAM (I LIKE FAGE BRAND)

3 TABLESPOONS ORGANIC LEMON ZEST

JUICE OF ONE WHOLE LEMON (OR 2 TBS PURE LEMON EXTRACT)

*NOTE ON THE LEMON JUICE/EXTRACT. THE JUICE PROVIDES A BACKGROUND OF LIGHT LEMON ESSENCE. THE EXTRACT GIVES AN UP FRONT PUNCH OF LEMON, UP TO YOU

2 TEASPOON PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

1 1/2 CUPS SIFTED UNBLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 TEASPOONS FRESH BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR EXPIRATION DATES BEFORE USING)

3/4 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT

ICING ( LEMON GLAZE)

1 CUP PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS OF CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

3-4 TABLESPOONS OF FRESH SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE (LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT HERE, FRESH LEMONS ALWAYS, BOTTLED LEMON JUICE IS A VERY DIFFERENT TASTING PRODUCT, NOT GOOD IN THIS AT ALL)

2 TSPS. LEMON ZEST

1 TEASPOON PURE VANILLA EXTRACT.

Preheat the oven to 350 Degress F. Grease a 9X5 loaf pan with butter or spray shortening. Lightly dust with flour. Shake out excess.

Add the beat eggs to a large bowl and add the sour cream and sugar, whisk briskly. Add the lemon juice, the lemon zest, the vanilla and when fully combined slowly add the oil whisking steadily.

In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder and the salt. Gently blend with a fork till combined. Then add to the wet mixture until no lumps and fully incorporated. Don’t mix for too long.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and place onto a heavy baking sheet (why? ever had a cake decide to grow and pour over the sides? you don’t want that mess on the bottom of your oven!!!

Bake on the center rack for 60 minutes or until the center comes out clean with a knife or toothpick. All ovens bake differently so once you’ve come to the 50 minute mark check the cake, It’s what I do. If you need more time check again after 10 minutes keeping a close eye on the whole thing. If your oven normally runs hot a foil loosely placed over the top helps prevent scorching.

most important: BE PATIENT. let this cool on a rack for 1 hour.

While it’s cooling, add the confectioners’ sugar and zest to a bowl. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix until it’s the right consistency. You may need more sugar. You may need more juice.

Feel the bottom of the loaf pan after an hour has passed. If it’s still warm, give it another hour. Gently Turn the loaf out of the pan. Place on a platter/plate. Then drizzle as little or as much of the glaze as you like. As you can see from the pic i like alot. That wonderful sweet tart sunny lemon glaze is something you want more than less of. This cake tastes best on day 2 if you can make it a day ahead of serving it. However, it tastes amazing on day one as well.

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

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

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO

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

1/2 TSP GOOD SAFFRON THREADS

1/3 CUP HOT WATER

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

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

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

2 CUPS SEAFOOD OR CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

1/2 CUP SWEET VERMOUTH

1 MEDIUM ONION, SMALL DICE

1 MEDIUM RED BELL PEPPER, SMALL DICE

4 QUARTERED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES (OPTIONAL)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS BUTTER

1/2 CUP CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA

1 LEMON

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

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!!

CONCHIGLIE CON POMODORO, ZUCCHINE E ROSMARINO..PASTA SHELLS WITH TOMATO, ZUCCHINI AND ROSEMARY…

ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!

1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)

2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED

1 ONION, DICED

SEA SALT

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE

PECORINO ROMANO

In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO SALERNO STYLE, PASTA WITH A TOMATO, OLIVE OIL, ONION, BASIL, PEPERONCINO AND SAUSAGE SAUCE WITH PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO

Never stop learning. Never stop looking for new ideas from traditional places. I’m always reading and learning about the World’s cuisines.. IT’S SO BIG how could you not? I’m terribly obsession (hence my on line name) with everything about food, especially Italian. One of the points I try politely to get across to people on line who follow me is that what was made in your family’s kitchens is never indicative of the entire scope of a country’s cuisine. Italian cuisine is no different. Case in point, ALLO SCARPARIELLO. Now here’s where Italian cuisine gets confusing, especially for ITalian Americans as we have our own nomenclature for certain dishes in both Italian and ITalianAmerican food traditions. SCARPARIELLO at its heart is a Napoletana word that means pertaining to a Shoemaker. In ItalianAmerica it’s a name given to a baked or sauteed and braised Chicken dish with wine, garlic, onion, peppers, onions, potatoes, sausage…any or all of those ingredient. There no “one” Chicken Scarpariello. In Italy Scarpariello is a sauce for Pasta that was created in Naples. Originally it was leftover Sunday Sauce that no longer had any meat in it as the week went on. To make a quick meal for the shoemakers they would cook pasta in the leftover sauce and then add a very generous amount of grated cheese to it compensating for the lack of meat. Another legend is that since so many of the Shoemaker’s customers were quite poor they would pay in Cheese instead of money. Are those great reasons to want to make this dish in your home? But I have more little info for you. As is the case in ITaly and NEVER argue with an ITalian about food, there are withiin the same region different stylesof Pasta Allo Scarpariello. How’s that? In Napoli it’s the basic…a sauce of Datterini or Cherry tomatoes melted down in olive oil or lard, garlic, peperoncino, the hot pasta is finished in the sauce along with a hefty amount of grated PARMIGIANO and PECORINO. After a little cooking time it’s served with lots of fresh basil around the plate. Go only about 1 hour and 1/4 East of Naples to the city of Benevento. There Pasta Allo Scarpariello has the addition of a little Cream at the end. Drive 45 minutes south from Napoli to the city of Salerno and you’ll find the same sauce as Naples but with fresh sausages, either whole or crumbled. This post will show you how to cook the one with Sausage from Salerno. I know you’re going to like this!! In Napoli Garlic goes in the sauce, for this Salerno version with Sausage, red onion is used.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO TIME: 1 HOUR SERVES:4

1 lb PASTA (THE TRADITIONAL SHAPES ARE PACCHERI, which i used, SPAGHETTI, BUCATINI, FUSILLI) COOKED AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE

1 1/2 LBS CHERRY TOMATOES, SLICED

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 FRESH SWEET FENNEL ITALIAN SAUSAGES, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE CASINGS

1 MEDIUM SLICED RED ONION

1/2 TBS PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP OF MIXED GRATED PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE, EQUAL AMOUNTS OF BOTH MIXED TOGETHER.

6 BASIL LEAVES

SEA SALT

In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil…(the most authentic recipes used the same amount of Lard for this). Then add the sausage meat, peperoncino and let this cook until the sausage is no longer red. Add the onion and when the pan is fragrant, add another tbs of olive oil and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt, and toss the tomatoes in the sausage, onions, and olive oil. Then reduce to a simmer and COVER the pan. Let this cook for 15 minutes. The tomatoes should melt down into the sausage. While this is happening you will make the Paccheri or Pasta just till al dente. Drain reserving 2 tbs. of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of sauce and mix well. A drizzle of the remaining olive oil then the cheese. Quickly mix the cheese into the pasta and sauce and let this cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat…The cheese should make the surface of the pasta a little “creamy”. Now tear up all the basil over the top and serve. That’s it. A more “authentic” version would be to leave the sausage whole but the loose meat really flavors the sauce. ENJOY!!!

STEAK TIDBITS OVER BUTTERED TOAST POINTS, CLASSIC AMERICAN CUISINE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

STEAK TIDBITS

TIME: 1/2 HOUR FOR : 2 SERVINGS

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

1 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

KOSHER SALT

CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

3 MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1 TSP MINCED FRESH FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

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

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

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…

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!!

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO….VONGOLE AL FORNO ARREGANATA

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO!!! This dish SCREAMS “I’M ITALIAN AMERICAN”. Certainly these clams have their genesis in the Southern Italian food style of adding a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs to seafoods, vegetables and then baking them in a hot over to brown and crisp the tops. The ingredients of the breadcrumb mixture will differ from cook to cook but there are some basics. It’s called OREGANATO or ARREGANTA indicating that there’s oregano (dried) mixed as a seasoning. Add to that Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, peperoncino, olive oil, chopped parsley and a nice finish with fresh lemon. All too often the dish is overshadowed with too much breading and you lose the sweet little clam hiding under all that coating. LITTLE NECK CLAMS Are the usual size for this dish. They take no time at all to prepare and are a wonderful dish for the homecook as a starter to a meal or on a seafood buffet.

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO SERVES 4 TO 6

3-4 DOZEN FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SHUCKED OR LIGHTLY STEAMED JUST UNTIL THE SHELLS POP OPEN SLIGHTLY. REMOVE THE TOP SHELL, DISCARD.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, 1/4 CUP FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FINELY CHOPPED/MINCED TOGETHER SPRINKLED WITH A LITTLE KOSHER SALT.

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

1 TSP DRIED OREGANO CRUMBLED BETWEEN YOUR HAND TO RELEASE ALL THE OIL, SICILIAN OR GREEK OREGANO IS BEST IF YOU CAN FIND IT.

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

1 1/4 CUPS PLAIN (UNSEASONED) ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

JUICE OF 1 LEMON (NOT MEYER, USE REGULAR LEMONS)

LEMON SLICES

KOSHER SALT

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F. Mix the breadcrumbs, the oregano, garlic and parsley, the cheese, peperoncino. When it’s blended then add 1/2 the olive oil and the wine, blend in. Fill each of the clams with a bit of this mixture, maybe a teaspoon or just a little more. Lightly pat the crumbs down..Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and into the oven they go. Bake until the crumbs are browned, takes about 12-15 minutes. drizzle a little lemon juice over the tops just before serving. Careful..they are hot…!!! Serve with the lemon slices.