Category Archives: HERBS

CALABRIAN POTATOES AND PEPPERS…PIPI E PATATI..A TRADITIONAL DISH FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.

PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX

2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS

2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER

5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES

1/2 SLICED RED ONION

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO

SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE

1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)

In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!

FROM UMBRIA, FRICCO’ DI POLLO, CHICKEN IN TOMATO, WINE, VINEGAR

IMG_9516Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes.  It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy.  I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work.  Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that.  But no.  I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis.  After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search.  FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions.  One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce.  The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix.  Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right?  Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora.  Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix.  I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?

FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL

1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO…BAKED SHRIMP LAYERED IN BREADCRUMBS, OLIVE OIL, BUTTER, BASIL, LEMON AND GARLIC

IMPANATE…your Italian culinary word of the day. Basically it means coated in breadcrumbs, like when you fry something like a Milanese, or when you top with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is the topped style. It’s a variant of ItalianAmerican Shrimp Scampi but Impanati i make a little different, yet it’s basically the same ingredients all baked together. Olive oil, then seasoned shrimp, then chopped garlic, then white wine, then a layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and minced fresh basil, then dot with butter and into a hot oven for not too long. It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly, then a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve. There’s the whole dealio. I’d eat anything treated with breadcrumbs in one or another form. Maybe it’s my Southern Italian DNA, there’s really no breadcrumbed dish that I don’t love. This is one of them for sure. I can tell you how to cook this since it’s my recipe I’ve created but I can’t dictate the shrimp you should be buying. I CAN however tell you that for this and almost all Shrimp dishes I cook I seek out never Frozen, fresh smelling Wild caught Shrimp from the USA. I realize that’s not an option for everyone. My second choice is wild caught or sustainably farmed frozen shrimp from safe waters. Places like Whole Foods usually carry those, or reputable seafood markets. I get my fresh shrimp at local seafood markets or my local Shop Rite. The hardest part of this dish is simply cleaning and deviening the shrimp. It moves very quickly after that. I love placing 8 shrimp in those baking dishes I have. Looks so much like a good seafood restaurant style. Family background note on that picture. As always you should bake items on a larger tray just to catch any bubbling up. Notice in the picture the simple pizza pan they are on. I baked them on the pan. No mess and keeps the bottom of your oven clean. The pizza pan itself could be 75 years old or so. It was given to my mom from her Dad, Grandpa Innocenzo Scaramuzzi, and was given to him by his brother in law, my Great Uncle Pasquale Pucillo. I never met Great Uncle Patsy, he passed away on the day I was born. This pizza pan was from his restaurant bar in Staten Island, NYC on Manor Road. I believe the name of the place was the Blue Manor. Family stories tell me he was a good cook along with his wife, Great Aunt Maria Giuseppe Scaramuzzi Pucillo. Whenever my mom made a homemade pizza she used this pan. Bringing the family history into my kitchen makes my dishes taste even better.

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO

SERVES 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

2 POUNDS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED (SAVE THOSE SHELLS FOR SHRIMP STOCK, TIGHTLY WRAP AND POP IN THE FREEZER FOR LATER USE)

4 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL

3 TABLESPOONS DRY WHITE ITALIAN WINE

4 THIN SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/2 CUP DRIED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

SALT

PEPPER

4 MINCED FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/2 TSP SWEET PAPRIKA

1 STICK BUTTER, CUT INTO CUBES

PREHEAT your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat your shrimp dry then season with salt and black pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, salt, pepper to taste, paprika and basil together. Blend Well. In a square or round gratin dish, or smaller ones, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan(s). Place the shrimp in tail side up. Scatter the garlic over the tops of the shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the wine. Then lightly pat the breadcrumbs on top of everything. Dot the top of the dish with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a little paprika, and evenly place the butter around. Into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I like to let it go for 6 minutes, then I rotate the pan and give it another 5-6 minutes or so, just till it’s bubbly and browned on to. Remove from the oven. While it’s bubbling squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. The aroma will get you wild. It’s Amazing!! Let it sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately with…..steamed rice, that’s my favorite accompaniment. A sauteed or steamed green vegetable. Bread to sop up the buttery shrimpy garlicky juices. Enjoy.

POLISH CHOPPED CHICKEN CUTLETS..KOTLETY POZARSKIE, IN SOURCREAM DIJON AND DILL SAUCE

Often there’s something that “triggers” in a good way my cooking or blogging. These inspirations come from everywhere, including just scrolling through FaceBook. Today a FB friend posted his Polish Grandmother’s obituary. While I’m not Polish I was raised in a Polish neighborhood so all things Polish seem very familiar to me. Reading about this woman’s life and family brought up these “Polish” sentiments. Reminded me of a dish I first had at a Polish deli in Jersey City NJ’s Paulus Hook neighborhood. The dish is called KOTLETY POZARSKIE and it’s amazing. Ground/Chopped Chicken or Veal, sometimes Turkey is mixed with eggs, seasonings, then breaded and fried slowly in butter. Served as is. For a dinner one night I created a “sauce” thinking along Polish flavor lines and came up with a sour cream, Dijon mustard and fresh dill sauce. Really tasty. The genesis of this recipe is actually Russian but it became a popular dish in Polish cuisine. Take your cooking inspiration from the wide world around you, you’ll never get bored in the cooking department. I hope this inspiration is worthy of a Polish grandmother’s praise and memory.

KOTLETY [POZARSKIE FOR: 4 TIME: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES, APPROX.

3 BONELESS AND TRIMMED CHICKEN BREAST HALVES, CHOPPED IN TO A FINE DICE

2 EGGS SEPARATED

1 KAISER OR HARD ROLL TORN INTO PIECES AND SOAKED IN A LITTLE MILK

1 TBS. SOFTENED BUTTER

1 TBS OF FINELY CHOPPED PARSLEY

PINCH OF MARJORAM

SALT, BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS. SEASONED FLOUR (KOSHER SALT, SWEET PAPRIKA, GRANULATED GARLIC)

1 BEATEN EGG

DRY UNSEASONED BREADCRUMBS

2 TBS BUTTER, 1 TBS CORN OR CANOLA OIL

FOR THE SAUCE

2 TBS OF BUTTER

3 TBS. SOUR CREAM

1 TSP. CHOPPED FRESH DILL

1 TBS. DIJON MUSTARD

SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat 2 egg yolks, blend in the butter. Squeeze the milk out of the roll and mix with the eggs yolks and butter, beat the 2 egg whites till stiff and reserve. Blend the chicken with the yolks and bread mixture. Add the parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste. When this is all blended gently add the stiff egg whites. Form into 2 1/2 inch oval patties. If too sticky to work with add a small amount of breadcrumbs. Not too much, just enough to make them easy to form. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Now flour them , dip into beaten eggs, then into the breadcrumbs. Chill for 10 minutes. Using a heavy pan heat the butter and oil. When hot , remove the cutlets from the fridge and fry on medium heat for 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. When done with all the cutlets place in an ovenproof dish and place them in the oven for 15 minutes. While they are baking, create a sauce by melting 2 tbs of butter in the pan over low heat, Then add the sour cream and whisk it into the butter, then the Dijon Mustard…whisk till smooth then add the dill , salt and pepper to taste. Remove the Kotlety from the oven and on a platter pour the sauce and arrange the Kotlety on top. Makes about 8 kotlety. What to serve with? Mashed or Boiled potatoes, steamed green peas or sauteed cabbage. HAPPY COOKING!!

SCALOPPINE VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO….CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE, PROSCIUTTO, TOMATO AND FONTINA

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SCALOPPINE in ITALIAN, SCALLOPINI in AMERICAN, both are words to describe a sliced and pounded piece of meat or poultry, quick sauteed in butter or olive oil and then finished in a sauce of various styles, ingredients. Endless possibilites in this style of dish which is infinitely popular in ItalianAmerican restaurants allowing resourceful chefs and cooks to turn kitchen ingredients into new or traditional plates. One dish that I learned when I worked with a caterer was his VALDOSTANA chicken or veal. More often clients ordered the chicken, myself I would order the veal first but love the chicken as well. The dish’s origins are in Northern Italy, the region known as the Val D’Aosta. An Alpine region of high mountains, snowy peaks, verdant meadows and all thing COW. Can you hear the cow bells now echoing thru the valleys and canyons? No? There, now you must hear it..aren’t you craving someting with FONTINA? Why Fontina, that creamy light yellow cheese with a wonderful tang and buttery finish? Because it’s synonymous with the Val D’Aosta. A cow’s milk cheese, Fontina has been produced in the region since the 12th Century. It must be good. And it is. Traditional VITELLO VALDOSTANA is simply a Veal Chop or cutlet filled with Fontina and Prosciutto and served as is or with a light white wine sauce. The caterer I worked with added diced fresh tomatoes to his dish, as I said, mostly was served as Chicken Valdostana but he also added Mozzarella to the mix. That’s pure ItalianAmerican and It was good but I felt his dish could be tweeked, and tweeked it was. I created my version of SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO. It’s amazing. Using diced shallots and prosciutto along with butter (remember this is a Northern Italian flavor profile), some Olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn while sauteeing everything and the earthy notes of Fresh Sage (SALVIA in ITALIAN) and sauce is created with White Wine and the chicken is finished in the pan sauce, topped with ParmigianoReggiano, Fontina and a ripe tomato slice. It’s going to make you very happy. Serve it over spinash leaves and let them wilt from the heat, mingle with the sauce.. oh…this is a winning dish for you. Enough babbling from me..time to cook!!!

SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO

FOR 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

8 TRIMMED CHICKEN CUTLETS POUNDED TO 1/4 INCH

1 CUP SIFTED AP FLOUR, OR TIPO 00

SALT AND PEPPER FOR SEASONING THE FLOUR

1/2 CUP UNSALTED BUTTER

1/8 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 SHALLOTS FINELY MINCED

1/4 LB PROSCIUTTO FINELY MINCED

10 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

8 TOMATO SLICES

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

8 SLICES OF FONTINA CHEESE ABOUT 1/8 INCH THICK

FRESH SPINACH LEAVES

KOSHER SALT AND CRACKED BLACK PEPPER FOR SEASONING

First we’ll start the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. In a large wide and heavy pan heat 2 tbs of butter and 1/2 the Olive oil. Saute’ the chicken till golden on both sides. Takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Do not crowd the chicken, you may have to do this in two batches. Keep checking that the butter/oil isn’t burning, add more if necessary..adjust the heat if needed. Loosely cover the sauteed chicken on a platter with foil. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil and keep at medium heat. Add the shallots and the prosciutto and gently season ( not too much salt because the Prosciutto is plenty salty. Let this saute’ for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so there’s not burning or browning. Now add 3 tbs of the white wine, 2 minced sage leaves, and let this cook on simmer for 15 minutes. This is now your pan sauce base. It’s important that the shallots are fully softened. Now add the rest of the wine and bring to a boil. Lay in the chicken and (BIG TIP HERE) make sure you pour all the accumulated juices on that platter into the pan. That’s extra flavor there!!! Baste the chicken with the pan sauce and then…sprinkle the Parmigiano evenly over the cutlets. The top each piece with the tomato, season with a little salt and pepper, then top with the fontina. Let the chicken simmer in the pan covered just until the cheese is melted. Takes about 8 minutes. Let the chicken sit in the pan for 5 minutes…then serve. Top each slice with a fresh sage leaf and extra sauce from the pan, serving them on a bed of fresh spinach. Oven Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. Enjoy!!! and HAPPY COOKING!! Have a little (OR BIG) piece of TiraMiSu’ with espresso for dessert. After all, you’re dining in Northern Italy with this meal!!

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…

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!!!

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.

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE FOR THE COLDER MONTHS, ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

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MINESTRONE….an Italian word coming from MINESTRA, a type of soup.  The ONE at the end of an Italian word means…This just got BIGGER!  It denotes a larger/bigger version of whatever that word meant before.  Having said all that please enjoy my version of MINESTRONE and realize there is NO ONE RECIPE for this soup.  Like so much of Italy’s and the World’s cuisines the end result is based on what’s available to the cook.    Some historical documentation says that the original MINESTRONE soups were always vegetable based.  Many Italians today still believe that for a Minestrone to truly be what it’s name says, there’s no meat involved.  That line has blurred.  Let’s say Minestrone is most times a vegetarian soup, with some versions having meat in them.  See?  No argument. No debate.  And my version here is NOT MY ONLY VERSION!!! I’m giving you ONE way to make it using lots of seasonal vegetables in the Fall/Winter.  The other “debate” revolves over adding pasta or rice.  Add what you want, that line has blurred as well.  Hardcore “purists” might say no pasta or rice.   And thirdly., the stock used as the base.  Purists and most likely the most original start simply with water.  Modern cooks have so much available to them that Beef, Chicken, Veal, or Vegetable stock is added as the base.  When your vegetables are at the height of their seasons water alone will help carry the flavors.  In this instance again, as you wish…use a meat or vegetable stock, or water.  Each instance will give a different nuance to the soup.  ALL GOOD.  There, no debate who makes the  best, whose recipe is correct, whatever.  It’s food people.  Did you use good ingredients and does it taste delicious?  That’s the heart of a Minestrone.  BTW, i always loved the Progresso Minestrone in a can, yes along with the hundreds of Italian and American soups my mom made while we were growing up we did have Progresso Minestrone and Progresso Chickarina.  Good Memories.  Now, let’s make MINESTRONE STAGIONALE, for the Fall/Winter.   Note:  Cavolo Nero.  Lacinato Kale  It’s one of my favorite vegetables for this soup.  Comes from Central Italy’s TUSCANY. Less “Kale-y” than other types of that vegetable.  More like a Swiss Chard with a little something something going on.  Can be found in many supermarkets and farmers markets in the fall and winter, esp. organic.   A great way to use a “new” vegetable.

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE

TAKES 3 HOURS             SERVES ABOUT 5

2 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 PEELED AND DICED CARROTS

3 STALKS CELERY, CHOPPED, USE THE LEAVES TOO

1 1/2 CUP CHOPPED RIPE TOMATOES, OR 2 CUPS CHOPPED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 CUPS CHOPPED CAVOLO NERO (LACINATO KALE) OR DARK GREEN SWISS CHARD

1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SAVOY CABBAGE

1 1/2 CUPS BORLOTTI (OR ANY ITALIAN BEAN OF YOUR CHOICE) BEANS, COOKED AND DRAINED

1 LARGE ONION, SMALL DICE

2 SLICE CLOVES OF GARLIC

4 1/2 CUPS WATER, OR STOCK

4 SMALL REDSKIN POTATOES, DICED

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED PARSLEY AND THYME

1/2 LB ORZO PASTA

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

PLENTY OF FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO

In a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven, add 2 tbs of the olive oil and heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, season with salt and pepper.  Let this saute’ for at least 8 minutes till just starting to soften.  Add all the other vegetables and beans except the potatoes.  Let this all blend together and cook for 10 minutes.  Now add 1/2 the parsley and thyme and all the liquid.  Taste for seasoning. Add more at this point. Bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 1 hour.  Add the potatoes.Check again for seasoning, add more if necessary.  Let cook for 15 minutes on medium boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Bring back to a boil and add the ORZO.  Stir well.  Cook till the pasta has just gotten to al dente. Takes about 13 minutes.  Turn off.  Let it sit for at least 6 hours before reheating and serving.  Just before serving add the remaining chopped fresh herbs.  Serve in bowls with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black pepper, and lots of grated Cheese.   Of course you will not disappoint me and there will be an amazing loaf of Italian bread served along with it.  Some nice Wine or Sparkling water…enjoy.

 

 

SUMMER CORN AND TOMATO SHRIMP SALAD..A SEASONAL TREAT

20258328_10210202426719502_1348156829950459464_nLiving in the Garden State (that would be New Jersey)Summer here produces some of the country’s finest produce, namely Tomatoes and Corn.  Our markets and backyards are bursting with this bounty and they BEG to be used in many ways.  I try to be creative keeping true to cuisines and flavor profiles.  This Warm Tomato and Corn Shrimp Salad came about while wondering what to cook one summer’s night.  The Shrimp, for this dish to be a success have to be fresh and US Wild Caught.  Our markets are getting more and more of these shrimp for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live where the Shrimp boats operate. Many of my local (Central Jersey Shore) supermarkets and seafood markets carry the U.S. caught Wild Shrimp.  They just are better looking…better tasting..better for you.  In Asbury Park near me is Local 130, a wonderful fishmonger who specializes in LOCAL fish and seafood as well as wonderfully well sourced and sustainable product from other U.S. locations.  These Shrimp came from off the coast of South Carolina.  Like little sweet crisp sea candies. The shrimp is sauteed then tossed with lightly sauteed corn off the cob and diced ripe tomatoes.  Then a dressing is poured over the whole thing that’s been infused with fresh Rosemary and its all tossed together and served on a platter over baby greens.  I like the Baby Arugula.  Baby Spinach or Baby Kale work too.  Let’s make some Shrimp Salad now!!

2 lbs shelled and deveined US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP.  The 16-20 size is what I use for this.

seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika)

Olive Oil

2 cups corn cut off the cob

2 medium sized ripe Tomatoes, medium dice

1/2 fine diced Sweet or Vidalia Onion

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups GREEK YOGHURT, drained

1 1/2 TBS, honey

1 TBS Finely diced FRESH ROSEMARY…do not use dried.

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS White Balsamic Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar

Pinch of ground Cayenne

Kosher Salt and Black pepper to taste

Baby Greens

 

First make the dressing.  Whisk together the Yoghurt, honey, 1/2 the rosemary, 1 tbs olive oil, the vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Reserve.

Lightly dust the shrimp in the flour, shake off the excess and saute’ in a wide pan with about 1/8 inch olive oil.  Saute in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary.  Cook only 2-3 minutes on first side, then 2 minutes on the other, or until both sides are golden.  Reserve and drain on paper towels.  Add the butter to the pan and when it’s melted saute’ first the onion, then add the corn and tomatoes, and 1/2 the rosemary, season with salt and pepper.  Cook this for at least 10 minutes on medium.  In a large mixing bowl add the shrimp and toss with the corn and tomato mixture.  When blended gently blend in the dressing.  When well blended let it sit for 10 minutes.  Using a large platter, make a nice bed of greens on it and then pile the shrimp salad on top.  Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve.  Feeds 4-5.