Category Archives: HOLIDAY FOODS

STUFFED MUSSELS….COZZE GRATINATE…

flakytart 001MUSSELS!!!!  Inexpensive and Delicious Mussels are a way of life here on the Eastern Seaboard.  I live in an area where they are literally scattered all over the beaches so we grew up eating them, pulling them off of the seaside rocks and pilings, or buying them in all the seafood markets and supermarkets.  Fresh live Mussels are very available.  Oh yes, there’s also the frozen ones sold but there’s nothing like eating one that was live only moments before you are eating it.  They are salty…they taste like the ocean….and they come in different sizes.  My preference?  Thanks for asking.  SMALL. Tiny is tastier.  The meat is sweet and in two bites you’re done.  For this recipe look for the Black Mussels in the net, usually on a pile of ice.  They are live.  They are probably from Prince Edward Island or somewhere else in the North Atlantic.  Today’s mussels are cultivated in the wild or wild caught.  Wild Caught need some additional cleaning, the cultivated not so much. There are also larger black ones or the New Zealand Green ones (like at the Chinese buffet restaurants).  I can’t.  Too big.  That’s alot of mussel you’re trying to chew, no thanks. BUT, i’m putting that out there because YOU may want to make this recipe with the large mussel.  Hmmm., to each their own, but i’ve never stuffed the larger ones so I’m not sure of the cooking time on them.   COZZE GRATINATE is Italian  for Mussels stuffed with Breadcrumbs and baked or cooked under a broiler.  Like baked Clams Oreganata, same dealio.  A few years ago in my home kitchen i was tooling around with my usual Mussels Oreganata and decided I want to stuff these mussels differently than I stuff my clams. That’s how it happens.  You find a new recipe..or you use your food knowledge to come up with something new.  Now I didn’t invent the Stuffed mussel but this is my own version of the stuffing.  It’s quite orange in color.  I add San Marzano tomatoes that get pureed then added to the stuffing mix.  You’ll love it.  Let’s make Stuffed Mussels!!

SERVES : 4-6           TIME: about 1 hour

1 1/2 CUPS COARSE ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 FINELY MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

3 TBS PECORINO ROMANO

1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

PINCH OF SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

3 TBS PUREED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES or ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

 

For the Breadcrumbs…Saute’ the garlic in 1 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the Breadcrumbs and toast this for about 2 minutes, then Add the tomato, cook for 2 minutes longer and place in a bowl.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Reserve for stuffing the mussels.

 

2 lbS. CLEANED ATLANTIC BLUE MUSSELS, LIKE PEI MUSSELS, SCRUBBED AND DEBEARDED

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 GARLIC CLOVE, SLiGHTLY BRUISED

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees. Place mussels in a wide pan.  Add the olive oil and white wine, and the garlic clove.  When the steam starts to come up from the pan gently add the cleaned mussels and cover the pan, shaking it  gently every few minutes.  Check to see if the mussels are starting to open.. When they are just starting to open up remove them from the pan and take off the empty side from the shell.  Arrange the mussels in a baking pan.   Drizzle the juice from the mussels in the pan over the mussels on a 1/2 shell. Then top each mussel with the Breadcrumb and tomato mixture.  Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they look toasty on top.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  They are just fantastic!!!!

 

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ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

STUFFED PEPPERS WITH SWEET SAUSAGE STUFFING, PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE

00000 Let me introduce you to one of my many styles of making STUFFED PEPPERS.  This version uses Italian Frying Peppers also known as CUBANELLES.  They are a sweet variety that when cooked are even more flavorful I think than a cooked Bell Pepper.  When possible these are the pepper I use for my Sausage and Peppers and Onions because of their intense taste.  The stuffing is a mix of Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage, toasted and olive “oiled” breadcrumbs, Parsley, diced Cured Black olives, capers, garlic, and Provolone plus a bit of tomato paste to add some dramatic color.  One point I try to make when people speak to me about their cooking is to be creative and open minded.  There is no one “stuffed pepper” recipe.  All these stuffed vegetable dishes most likely were created by a thrifty or impoverished home cook who needed to stretch what they had in front of them to feed a family. When cooking regionally you can come up with dishes that evoke an area by using ingredients that are common to that region’s cuisine. I’m dipping into my favorite region of Italy with these “PEPERONI IMBOTTITI” (stuffed peppers) and that region is Napoli, the city of Naples and its surrounding towns.  Sweet Fennel Sausage, peppers, capers, breadcrumbs, tomato, cured black olives, Provola…even stuffed vegetables…they all are part of the Napoletana kitchen.  My Mom made a few versions of Stuffed Peppers, some I still make, some I’ve created from my years of cooking, traveling and researching food.  I’ve never met a stuffed pepper I didn’t like so let me introduce you to this one….PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE, Peppers Stuffed with Sausage.

MAKES 8                                               TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes

10 CUBANELLE PEPPERS, TOPS OFF, GENTLY REMOVE RIBS AND SEED FROM INSIDE

4 SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE LINKS (WITH FENNEL) OUT OF THEIR CASINGS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 1/4 CUPS OF TOASTED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP GRATED PROVOLONE

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

2 TBS TOMATO PASTE

2 TBS WHITE WINE, plus 2 TBS FOR COOKING

5 BLACK OIL CURED OLIVES, PITTED AND FINELY CHOPPED

1 TSP CAPERS

1 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, plus 2 TBS for cooking

SALT, PEPERONCINO to taste

 

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs of the Olive Oil till it’s medium hot, then add the loose sausage meat.  With a wooden spoon break up the sausage as it’s cooking and move it around the pan from time to time.  When the sausage is nicely browned, add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add 2 tbs of White Wine.  Let this simmer for 5 minutes.  In the meantime add 1 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. then add the Provolone to this mix.  Let the sausage cool down for 10 minutes, then in a large bowl mix all the ingredients except the peppers together. Taste for seasoning.  Now gently stuff them into the peppers.  Don’t overstuff, they tear easily.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Add some olive oil and wine to a baking dish.  Lay the peppers into the dish/pan and cover with foil.  Bake for 1/2 hour.  Remove from oven and open the foil (away from your face!!) and gently turn the peppers over. Close the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Then remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Done.  They should be tender and loaded with flavor.  Garnish the peppers with chopped parsley.  Serve with Italian bread to sop up those pan juices and enjoy the peppers.  The peppers are amazing the next day. They also taste their best at room temperature.  Perfect for an antipasto table.

A taste of my home cooking in your home kitchen.  A little bit of Napoli as well.  Happy Cooking!!

 

GRANDMA SCARAMUZZI’S EASTER PIZZA DOLCE (SWEET RICOTTA PIE)

PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!

PASTA FROLLA

2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/8 TBS ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009

1 TSP. CINNAMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TSP ORANGE ZEST

Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030

 

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
bakingnight121915-024
 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!

STUFFED ARTICHOKES…A TRIBUTE TO A BEAUTIFUL SOUL

stufarti4316 006   Cooking is sometimes called a labor of love, you have to love to do it, you have to love the whole process, and you have to love to feed people and satisfy them.  Lots of love.  There’s another type of love and it’s the love you feel because that dish you are making, the aroma, the prep, the taste, the look, all of it combines and fills your soul with someone who has touched your heart.  Many times is a person who is still living…and many times it’s a reminder of someone who has left us.  This is such a dish for me.  Stuffed Artichokes are a very common dish in the Italian-American home.  Their origin is somewhere down south, this preparation anyway.  In many articles Sicily claims it and in others the people from Naples claim it.  Truth be told I’ve never met an Italian-American whose ancestry hails from any of the southern regions that doesn’t make this.  It definitely shows up at every Fall thru Winter holiday table.  It’s festive and there’s a good amount of work in making them, all worth it.  Simply put, they are trimmed, centers are cleaned out, and they are stuffed with any number of breadcrumb combinations, usually the same with some differences from kitchen to kitchen.  Before we tackle these amazing “vegetables” let’s discuss what they are.  For me, they are as common as apples and chocolate candy but I realize you all didn’t grow up in my home.  The ARTICHOKE is the bud of a type of THISTLE plant.  They are cut before the flower blossoms and to cook they are braised, steamed, fried, the leaves are scraped against your bottom teeth to release the delicious “meat”, the bottoms are eaten, and the hearts sometimes are used in salads, fried, baked, grilled.

Here is where this Stuffed Artichoke takes on a special meaning for me.  Whenever my mom made them and my recipe is close to hers it’s not exact, but when she made them she made sure to connect herself with her late sister Luigina (Jean) Scaramuzzi Clark.  You see Aunt Dee Dee (Italian American families have a confusing habit of calling someone 2-4 different names, don’t ask) would add pignoli to her stuffing, and she crowned each stuffed artichoke with a piece of Anchovy and some fennel seeds.  My mom would almost say a prayer as she was doing it.  “This is how my sister Jean would make then”..over and over again I can hear Mom saying that.  auntdede  It was 51 years ago on October 9, 1964 that my Aunt passed away leaving a husband and 2 children.  She was only 39, complications from a surgery.  I have a huge family and each Aunt and Uncle were special but Aunt Dee Dee was something just a little more than special.  That picture is of her in her home Easter 1959.  I think you can see from the picture the loving and fun person she was.  I was only 6 when she passed away but I was heartbroken.  I’ll say my mom never recovered from losing her sister, nor did the other 6 Scaramuzzi siblings.  Aunt Dee Dee let me do things my VERY over protective mom did not, like go around the corner to the store on my own, I know, only 6 but we are talking 1964, very different times.  The Italian store, FAZZINO’S was literally in Aunt DeeDee’s backyard.  I stayed over their home that summer of 1964, so long ago, it may have only been one night but it was like the best night ever.  My cousin Eddie had stacks of horror magazines that he let me pour through, and Aunt DeeDee needed something from the store, it might have been cold cuts so she gave me the money and send me around the corner and watched me go with the list.  What a thrill that was, I was a man now !!  I guess we had a nice lunch or dinner when Uncle Ed and cousin Joyce were home and that’s where that memory of letting me do something like a big kid ended. Dad picked me up and then it was back to waiting till I was a little older to do that again, but I never forgot my Aunt for giving me that thrill.  Only a few short month later she was gone.  However I’m sure I speak for my cousins, we’ve never forgotten her and every Oct. 9 I remember, and this one I decided to make the Stuffed Artichokes “her way”….my kitchen tribute to a loved Aunt who is still missed over 50 years later.

Ok…time to cook.

for 4                    Time: 2 hours

stufarti4316 015  It would be a lie if I said..so easy..artichokes are a pain in the ass to prep.  Don’t ask me for the easy way because Nature is Nature and they are what they are. If they are very prickly you must cut them away with a very sharp knife, trim the bottom and the stem leaves, then smash them onto a hard and flat surface. Then with your hands pry them open. See, it’s really a flower and you can see this as you pry them open.  Into the center you go and at the bottom are 2 layers..one if the choke…and it will do just that to you if you don’t remove it.  It’s a slightly thorny, needle like fuzz that with a spoon, a Grapefruit spoon best if you have one of them (really, who has them anymore?) scrape it all out, using the spoon and your fingers.  The layer under that is the  HEART, the prize, to me, one of the BEST TASTING FOODS ON EARTH. The idea here is to stuff down to the choke and fill in randomly the layers of leaves surrounding the choke.  It’s random RANDOM random…meaning there’s no symmetry to this. Every leaf doesn’t need to have stuffing on it…you’ll see.

  • 4 large artichokes (PREPPED)
  • 3/4  cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated PECORINO ROMANO
  • 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 smashed cloves for the sauce
  • 1/2 mashed filet of anchovy, one filet cut in fourths, 1/2 filet for the sauce
  • 2 tbs toasted pignoli
  • 2 tbs chopped italian flat leaf parsley
  • pinch of peperoncino
  • 1/2  tsp fennel seeds
  • salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs EUROPEAN butter, if not, use Unsalted.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Pecorino, Garlic, Mashed Anchovy, pignoli, 3/4 of the fennel seeds (give them a little whack with the side of your knife), pinch of salt, a little of the lemon juice and enough Extra  Virgin Olive Oil to “moisten” them…careful not to over oil.  Fill the artichokes, center first, don’t PACK the crumbs,then the sides.  Chokes are all different sizes so you may need more filling, or less. stufarti4316 013 In a heavy bottomed saucepan that will hold all four Stuffed Artichokes,  add a few tbs. of the olive oil, add the smashed garlic cloves, then the 1/2 filet of anchovy.  Let this saute’ together, then add the water and the wine and the lemon juice. Pinch of salt.  Add the artichokes and make sure the liquid comes at least 1/2 way up the chokes.stufarti4316 011

Top each artichoke with a few fennel seeds and the 1/4 piece of Anchovy.1896946_356315294536777_6420556031303265535_n  NOW  bring to a boil for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pour some of the cooking liquid over each of the stuffed chokes . Drizzle with olive oil. COVER TIGHTLY making sure there’s no steam escaping, they will steam for 45 minutes minimum.  You will check at the 1/2 hour point to make sure there’s still enough liquid in there.  Add as needed but don’t bring the liquid to the middle of the chokes this time. Cover again .  They should be done by now BUT that’s not foolproof.  Try to remove a leaf from one of the chokes.  If it easily pulls off, you are done, if not go for 10 minutes more.  They should look like this when you remove the cover. stufarti4316 008  The breadcrumbs should have a moist look to them.

Let them sit in this hot pot, COVERED, for 10 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter.  Bring the pan liquid to a boil then a simmer and let it reduce if it hasn’t already. you may not need to do anything.  Remove from the flame and whisk in the butter.  A squeeze of lemon. Done.  Now Drizzle this over each of the Artichokes.  Serve.  And at the end of the eating you’ll be left with the PRIZE, the HEART…I was way too excited to take the picture when I got down to it so, pardon the chewed up look of my plate, but you get the idea.  BTW, that plate, not my Aunt Luigina’s, but it was another beloved Aunt’s, it was my Aunt Angelina DeSiato Scaramuzzi’s.  Food with no history and love is the stuff you eat on the run or when that’s all that is available.  In your kitchen…you are in control and I like to good with my relatives all around me, figuratively.  They made me happy as a child and their memory continues to make me smile, especially at my kitchen table.

Buon Appetito!!

 

POTATOES O’BRIEN…IRISH-AMERICAN RESTAURANT FOOD

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I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine; except for that I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Hmmm…while Brillat-Savarin is one of the culinary world’s historical icons, his view of the potato was pretty low.  Don’t always follow everything an expert tells you is the message to be learned here!  Is there any food that you could possibly think of that is more deliciously nutritious, universally loved, accessible to all, and easier to cook into more recipes than there are days in the year?  A native of the Americas, this potato is grown all over the world and factors in every cuisine.  That’s quite unique to most foods so I like to give it a little praise when I can, sorry Brillat-Savarin,  you’re wrong on this one. Today we will talk about a favorite Potato dish of mine, POTATOES O’BRIEN.  Google it.  There are thousands of recipes and stories about it.  Let’s get to the heart of this delicious American dish, starting with…point of origin.  It’s a  story lost in the annals of American food history.  Could be Boston.  Might be New York City.  Most legends name Manhattan as the point of invention so I’ll run with that premise.

The dish is not Irish but does work well into an IrishAmerican St.Patrick’s Dinner, or any time of the year since a restaurant cook nicknamed “BEEFSTEW  O’Brien” is said to have created it in the late 1800’s at a Manhattan restaurant he worked in.  Legend states that he was tired of serving the all brown HASH BROWNED POTATO and decided to throw in some BLING for color and additional flavor.  Green Bell Peppers and Pimentos along with onions were tossed in the skillet with the browning potatoes, cooking in bacon grease.  Sidebar here…animal fat creates the best crisp texture and color in a fried potato…think fries cooked in duck fat..lush, crisp, fantastic.  But, go one step further, and add some diced bacon to this dish.  Now we are talking.  OK, note to my vegan and vegetarian readers…remove the bacon and bacon fat from this dish and using a vegetable or coconut oil you can create a wonderful meatless O’Brien.  See, Potatoes are for everyone!

This potato dish is quite versatile as well, perfect as a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner menu item.  Make it when the mood strikes and it works great for outdoor grill/bbq meals, with meat, vegetables, or seafoods.

TIME: 1 hour                           SERVES: 4

3 tbs. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/8 cup diced  bacon (optional, but WAY better when added)
1 12 lb. boiled and cooled  potatoes, cut small cubes or chunks
1 small onion, DICED
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper seasoned to taste
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 2 tbs.bacon fat in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron for nice heat conductivity. Add the diced bacon and let this take on some color.  Give this at least 5 minutes. Now add the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and let them cook till soft, about 10 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon, pepper, onion from the pan and reserve in a bowl.   Add the last tbs. of bacon fat to the pan and when it is hot again over a medium flame/heat toss in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and LEAVE THEM ALONE for at least 8 minutes.  Now give the pan a gentle shake, with a spatula turn the potatoes over and let them brown an additional 8 minutes on the other side. Don’t panic..not an exact process, you are just trying to get a nice crust on all sides of the potatoes best as you can. Now add the bacon, onion, and peppers gently into the pan and mix with the potatoes and sort of press the whole thing down into the pan with your spatula without smashing the potatoes. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Turn onto a serving plate and garnish with the parsley, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.  Done. It’s amazing…
    Want an eye catching dish?  fry or poach a few eggs and top them on the finished Potatoes.  I think we are doing Beefstew O’Brien’s dish justice here.  Happy Cooking!!  BTW, some full disclosure here..the day I took this picture, there was no parsley (shocking) and green pepper in the house, so, that’s why the picture is missing the GREEN.  Just imagine it’s there, work with me here…LOL.