Category Archives: fritti

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!!

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SAGE AND CRANBERRY ITALIAN SAUSAGE PATTIES…

003The Fall Season seems to turn even our foods in to rust, red, orange and muted green colored fantasies.  Seasons also affect my recipe development as was the case on a blustery autumn day when there was Italian Sweet Fennel Sausage, Calabrian N’duja(a chile spike Calabrian spreadable salami), fresh sage sitting in my fridge.  Grey and chilly outside meant something warm and fall-ish needed to be cooked in the kitchen and I came up with making sausage patties with the ingredients plus some pantry items like a bag of Dried Cranberries.  The pairing of savory minced meats with sweet dried fruits is a gift from the Arab countries and was brought to the Western Mediterranean during their conquests of those areas.  Raisins, currants, pignoli, almonds and so forth show up in ground meat and fish dishes quite often in places like Italy and Spain.  I pooled those resources to develop this VERY tasty SAGE AND CRANBERRY SAUSAGE PATTY.  There’s flavors from Southern and Central Italy here but I’m modifying the recipe for the blog since N’djua is a ridiculously tough food to find for most people.  Instead I’m going to use Spanish Pimenton (Smoked Paprika) and Peperoncino (Italian dried hot pepper) to replicate the flavors in the Calabrian N’duja.  A little finishing of the cooked patties with Marsala or Sherry nicely rounds it all out.I’m such a fan of the sweet /savory foods.  This is one of them.  Serve with bread, or a vegetable or even rice.

TIME: 35 MINUTES                                     SERVES: 2-3

2 lbs. the BEST ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT YOU CAN GET (simply slit the casings and remove the meat)  you can use ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE as an alternative.

2 TBS DRIED CRANBERRIES

1 MINCED SHALLOT

3 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, FINELY CHOPPED, plus some whole leaves for garnish

4 TBS MARSALA OR SHERRY

1 TSP. GROUND RED CHILES (or PEPERONCINO)

1 TSP. SPANISH PIMENTON (SPANISH SMOKED PAPRIKA)

(if you want less “heat” from the chiles, go with 1/2 Tsp and replace with 1 tsp of sweet paprika..but use the Pimenton as well.  Paprika is simply an Eastern European word for red peppers)

OLIVE OIL

Mix everything except the olive oil and only use 1 tbs of Marsala or Sherry in a bowl.  Combine till well blended. Let sit for 10 minutes. 401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nNow form into 4-6 patties. In a pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and place on medium heat, and cook the patties until crusty and golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes per side.  Remove the finished patties to a platter and lightly cover with aluminum foil.  Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and deglaze it with the remaining Marsala or Sherry. Add  a little more olive oil and then return the patties to the pan and simply heat them up in the pan sauce, about 2 minutes.  Done.  Garnish with dried cranberries and, although I didn’t when I made them in the picture, I’ve toasted almond pieces and garnished with them too. Sweet, savory, hot, porky, Mediterranean, herby, and with the almonds, crunchy.  This is when food talks back to you and you response, GRAZIE or Thank you.  Happy Cooking!!

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note:  no salt added, why? Sausage is well salted.  Adding salt to these patties would make them way too salty.

 

ZEPPOLE…THE ITALIAN AMERICAN STREET FEAST TREAT, MY STYLE

001The smell of the ItalianAmerican Summer…Zeppole frying in oil..big vats of them…their steam wafting in every direction pulling you closer to the stand.  You are mesmerized by the bobbing of the hand pulled balls of dough sizzling on their sides in the molten oil.  You await, impatiently for the fresh hot balls to be drained.  Then with the deft hands of a master the Zeppolaio places your hot zeppole into a paper bag, brown or white, and adds a blizzard of powdered sugar.  Next they fold the bag and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and hand it over to you.  Your heart is pounding (isn’t it??) and you reach with childlike anticipation at what’s waiting for you in that little sack.  You reach in and without hesitation bite long and hard on one and for a moment you’re impervious to the scorching heat from the steam that’s scalding your tongue.  Who cares?  It’s worth it. Every blister is worth it soothed by the chilly feel of the powdered sugar with a sweet finish.  Deep breath, of course not with a zeppole by your mouth or you’ll asphyxiate from the sugar dust…deep breath and then another bite, damn it just eat the whole thing.  Now you’re happy.  Sound familiar?  Please don’t tell me this is a unique experience for me, lol.  I KNOW you are with me.  Now just so you know, I like them with powdered sugar which is how most street feast vendors make them, or with granulated sugar which is how many restaurants and home cooks make them.  They are great both ways, infact they are awesome with a pinch of cinnamon in the coarser sugar.  What’s a zeppole anyway?

Well it’s simply a regional Italian term for a type of fried dough THAT IS usually ring shaped or a roundish ball. Zeppole come in many varieties.  This blog will make the one’s similar to the street feasts, but other zeppole contain lemon and ricotta in the dough, some use mostly eggs and pipe it through a bag to create a French cruller like small ring.  That is a more specific type of Zeppole that is cut and filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with an Amarena cherry for March 19th’s  St.Joseph Day. It’s a very Napoletana thing. There are also many savory types of zeppole.  So take away from this that there’s more zeppole than the one you may be used to.  In other parts of the  USA Italian Americans call zeppole by different names, like Pizza Fritta, or Fried Dough.  I’m from NYC so I use our regional term.  Here’s a beautiful tray of zeppole hot out of the fryer at NYC’s San Gennaro Feast:008 Now today is Aug.15, it’s Ferragosto the Italian End of Summer celebration that coincides with the religious FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, or Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ASSUNTA is a national holiday in Italy and it’s a popular girls’ name.  My great grandmother on my mom’s mom side was named Assunta…006 Assunta Prisco Melito, born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and died in Napoli. My grandma passed this name onto my mom, Assunta Scaramuzzi Battaglia, but she went by Susan as most first generationers did to fit in more in America.  We used to celebrate her NAME DAY each August 15, here’s a picture from the 1976 celebration.0002 A delicious Cassata from Alfonso’s in Staten Island helped make it a festive day!  Zeppole are not specific to Ferragosto but they are fun and celebratory and you CAN make them in you own kitchen in a regular pan.  Here’s how I make them…:

2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR

1/2 TBS KOSHER SALT

1 1/4 CUP WARM WATER

2 PACKAGE YEAST

SOY, VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL at least 1 gallon

2 CUPS POWDERED SUGAR OR GRANULATED SUGAR

In a large stainless steel bowl add the water, salt , and yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for at least 15 minutes. It should be frothy on top by then.  Now add the flour and blend well until all the flour is incorporated.  This is almost a bread dough BUT you are not going to tighten this up or knead the dough.  Cover and let this rise for no less than 2 hours.  You should have a yeasty aroma dough that’s not quite as tight as many bread doughs.  Spongy and sort of loose.  Heat in a deep high sided heavy flameproof pot or cast iron pan (pot better, less chance of oil spillage and the ensuing disaster and/or mess.) and fill 1/2 way with the oil you’ve chosen and place on medium to high heat.  Most feasts use those large soybean oil containers. I use what I have on hand.  When the temp gets up to 350 degrees F, or when you gently place a small ball of the dough into the oil and it immediately starts to sizzle frantically your oil is ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels ready to receive the hot zeppole.  This recipe should make about 36.  Using a damp hand pinch a small ball of dough and add to the hot oil. repeat until you are almost full in the pot, don’t overcrowd though.  Flip them as they turn golden brownish. When both sides are the same color it’s time to gently remove them using a kitchen spider or similar long handled implement that lets the hot oil drip out.  Remove the finished zeppole to the lined tray.  Now  continue to make more zeppole until you’ve used up all the dough.  Here’s when you need a kitchen assistant, it’s sugar time.  While the zeppole are still hot. add them to a bowl filled with 1/2 of the sugar. Roll the zeppole in batches in the sugar.  THEN in a paper bag, add the rest of the sugar and shake the zeppole  until they are all coated again, certainly you will do that in batches.  If needed, use more sugar. EAT. delicious.

TIPS or SIDE NOTES:  Every pan/pot and stove top are different so..while i’m giving you directions here PLEASE let your common sense guide you.  You may have the oil too hot, or too cool. So you may need to play around till you get the hang of it. PLEASE DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If it’s your first time HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE A PRO AT IT?? Be patient and you’ll find your way. As always, have fun cooking!!!

 

 

 

 

 

RICOTTA BALLS…PALLINE DI RICOTTA..CREAMY CHEESE MORSELS

 

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RICOTTA..one of the most popular Italian Cheese throughout the world prized for it’s versatility and mild taste. It’s a star player in certain types of Lasagne, Ravioli, a host of Baked Pasta dishes, the main ingredient in the Cannoli cream, pastries, gnocchi, cavatelli, rustica holiday pies, calzones. This cheese is a work horse and I’m going to give you yet another use of it..PALLINE…translated, that mean “little balls”  (stop giggling).  As with most cultures Italians love small ball shaped foods, especially of the fried variety.  Can these be baked for those who prefer that?  No idea. I’m a purist.  This dish was created to be fried.  I stick with that. So take a look at the picture….you know you want to make these.

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This recipe will make about 24-30 depending on how adept you are to rolling same sized balls. Apparently from the picture I am not, nor will I ever profess to be, lol. Some are more round than others,  some are bigger than others, some are slightly out of shape. This is homecooking. Don’t stress. Enjoy it!  In my area we have so many Italian Pork Stores make these and there are sometimes additional ingredients, like prosciutto,pesto, etc.  This recipe I’m sharing with you is strictly a PALLINE DI RICOTTA..Ricotta and other cheeses, no meats, or other vegetables.  Let’s talk for a minute about ingredients. Too much can be too much.  Researching other ricotta ball recipes there sometimes is a preponderance of overkill.  I don’t try to be a native Italian, because quite frankly that’s an impossibility for me.  I do try to keep most of my cooking and blogposts to adhering to some general food concepts that one might find in Italy where less is more, the quality of ingredients is the main event. So ,having said all of that let me add that as tempted as you might be DO NOT ADD garlic to this. I’d be very dishonest if within my own blog I wasn’t honest with my own cooking styles.  Garlic does not make a dish Italian,ie: Italian foo doesn’t have garlic in everything.  Generally cheese,soft cheese fillings are without garlic.  Like a calzone or layers of Lasagne, the cheese is mixed with a minimum of ingredients. The garlic overpowers the cheeses in this application.  A delicious light crispy shell that breaks into a soft cheesey center…this  is a sensory delight.   Let start cooking!!

TIME:  2 hours

MAKES:  25-30 WALNUT SIZED BALLS

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (not seasoned)
12 cup PECORINO ROMANO, FRESHLY GRATED
13 cup DICED MOZZARELLA, don’t use fresh mozzarella, low moisture type is best
1 TBS. finely chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
1 1/2 CUPS DRAINED RICOTTA
3 LARGE EGGS, SEPARATED
14 cup flour
1/2 CUP UNSEASONED DRY BREADCRUMBS
OIL  (I use olive oil, you can use Vegetable, or Canola)
Kosher Salt, Black Pepper
Beat the egg yolks then  the add in the pecorino, 1 cup breadcrumbs, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, parsley, ricotta, mozzarella.  When this is all well blended and you can easily roll it into a walnut sized ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
Set up your breading station..a pan of the flour, a pan of the egg whites, beaten, and a pan of the plain breadcrumbs.
Remove the ricotta mixture from the refrigerator and form into about 25-30 walnut sized balls.  Then roll each one in the flour, shake off excess, then into the egg, shake off excess, then into the breadcrumbs.  Line up on a tray.  When completed refrigerate for 15 minutes.
In a heavy high sides pan heat up 3 inches of Vegetable/Canola or Olive Oil and when it gets to 320 degrees F then test one ball…it should fry on all sides only till it gets golden, should take about 4 minutes or so.  Drain on paper towels.  Do one first to get the hang of it. Then continue the rest, i’ll advise only 6 at a time..no more…Let the oil rest for 1/2 minute before adding the next six.  Do this in batches until done.  Serve!  you can even cook ahead and reheat.  But they are never as good as right out of the pan.  They freeze well too.

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Enjoy this treat!!  Great for dinners and parties!!

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