Category Archives: HOLIDAY FOODS

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!!

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.

PANINI DI SANT’ANTONIO….ROLLS FOR ST.ANTHONY’S DAY JUNE 13

On June 13 Catholics all over the world celebrate the Feast of St.Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan preacher from Portugal who preached and ministered to the poor all over Italy settling in the Nothern Italian city of Padua. The legends surrounding his goodness to the poor manifest themselves in the PANE DI SANT’ANTONIO meaning he feed the hungry symbolized by small loaves of bread. All over Italy various styles of Pane or Panini (the italian word for small bread or rolls) have various styles. Some are light a brioche flavored with sugar and rum, others are slightly sweet with anisette, some are simply a plain crusty loaf, and some have fennel seeds and black pepper in them. So…what’s in the picture above? The are my own version of St.Anthony’s Rolls, slightly sweet, made with lard, black pepper and topped with Fennel Seeds. It’s my personal omaggio to St.Anthony. The rolls are the perfect vehicle for a few thin slices of Mortadella. Let’s go into the kitchen and create these tasty rolls.

PANINI DI SANT’ANTONIO MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN 2 1/2 INCH ROLLS

1 PACKET DRY YEAST

1 1/2 TEASPOONS GRANULATED SUGAR

1 CUP TEPID WATER

1/4 CUP LARD

3 1/2 CUPS OF SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 IMPORTED ITALIAN FLOUR

2 1/2 TEASPOONS KOSHER SALT

1 1/2 TEASPOOONS CRACKED BLACKED PEPPER

2 BEATEN EGGS PLUS 3 TBS WHOLE MILK, MIX ALL TOGETHER

2 TBS FENNEL SEEDS

OLIVE OIL

wHISK the yeast, water, sugar, salt together. Let this sit for 15 minutes and it will bubble and froth. Now Add the flour and mix until the dough starts to come away from the bowl. You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand. When you have a smooth dough turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Then press it out into a small rectangle and add 2 tbs of the lard, Fold the dough over the lard and knead until it’s disappeared and the dough it smooth again. Repeat what you just did until all the lard is used up. Then form a smooth ball , brush with olive oil , the brush the sides of a bowl placing the dough in it and cover with a kitchen towel. Keep in a warm spot until it doubles in size. Take at least one hour or more. When it’s doubled in side cut the dough into 24 equivalent sized pieces. Lay onto parchment paper covered tray and cover them for 20 minutes. Pre heat your oven to 400 Degrees F. Roll each ball of dough into a thick “snake” or rope and tie it in a knot. Lay them on parcement paper lined baking trays. When you’ve completed this brush each one with some of the egg wash AND sprinkle some Fennel Seeds on top. You decide how many you want on top. Place into the middle racks, not the bottom one. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pans and bake for another 8 minutes OR until the bottoms have a nice brown color and the tops are golden brown like in the picture. Here’s where recipes can fail, this is how my oven works. You may need more or less time, pay attention to your oven!!! Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Plain. or with Ricotta and Jam, or with Prosciutto or Mortadella. Or simply on their own. BUONA FESTA DI SANT’ANTONIO!!

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.

CALAMARI FRITTI, ITALIAN AMERICAN FRIED CALAMARI AT HOME

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

CALAMARI FRITTI TAKES ABOUT 3/4 HOUR SERVES 6

PEANUT, CORN, VEGETABLE , CANOLA OIL

OLIVE OIL

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

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

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

2 CUPS WHOLE MILK

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

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

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

STRUFFOLI….FRIED HONEY BALLS FROM MY MOM’S KITCHEN

There is no Christmas Season without Struffoli. That’s that. At least in my home anyway. Struffoli are a holiday treat made during the Christmas season throughout Southern Italy. They go by various names depending on the region, people from in and around Naples called the STRUFFOLI. Further south in Calabria they are Turdilli. In Sicily they go by the term PIGNOLATA. The recipes vary as well. It’s a sort of pastry dough, rolled and cut into small pieces and fried. After that they are given a bath in warm honey mixed with citrus juices, or something alcoholic or toasted nuts, confetti, etc. This dish came right over with the Great Wave of Southern Italianimmigrants in the years from 1890-1940 and has become almost an Icon of the ItalianAmerican Christmas celebration. In Naples there’s a specific traditional recipe but in Italian America there are many versions, styles, types of dough that are used. My mom had 2 recipes she used, the first one is same recipe as the Anginetti (Ciambelline) cookie that i’ve previously blogged. The second one is a close recipe to that and it produces a semi-soft Struffolo. I’m going to blog that one now. The joy of Christmas and the Holiday season is due in large part to the memories created either watching or helping my mom make her annual Italian dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Especially since my parents and grandparents have passed away my siblings and our families keep the recipes alive, get together and recreate most or all of them and have something that no matter what tells us who we are and where we came from. We’ve passed this on to our own children who jump in and look forward to recreating this family recipes. The Struffoli is one of them. Oh don’t ask for an EASY or quick version. It’s time consuming and that’s why you pay up when you buy them at a Bakery. With some Italian Christmas Music on, and a few espresso under your belt you’ll enjoy yourself while you make these. Takes a few hours, how many? I’ve never counted. Do you really need to count when you’re connecting to your past and your present? I don’t think so. Mom never rushed through hers either. Enjoy the process. Merry Christmas!!!

STRUFFOLI , MY MOM’S RECIPE MAKES ABOUT 3 1/2-4 DOZEN

6 EGGS BEATEN IN A BOWL

1 STICK BUTTER SLIGHTLY SOFTENED

1/2 CUP SUGAR

2 1/2-3 CUPS OF SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 TSPS. BAKING POWDER

1 TSP. VANILLA

1 TSP EACH OF FINELY MINCED LEMON AND ORANGE ZEST

2 TBS. BRANDY, GRAPPA, ORANGE BRANDY, UP TO YOU

1/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

6 CUPS FRYING OIL

2 CUPS HONEY

1/4 CUP SUGAR

JUICE OF 1 LEMON

JUICE OF 1 ORANGE

CONFETTI (MULTI COLORED NON PAREILS)

TOASTED SLIVERED ALMONDS (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar in a Mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Now add the beaten eggs in a stream as you have the mixer on. When This is all well blended add the vanilla and the zest. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup as the mixer is on medium. When it’s well blended and pulls away from the bowl knead it till smooth. Have a well floured surface prepared. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Then make ropes out of the pieces cutting them into small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used up. I place them on parchment paper covered baking sheets.

In a deep fryer or a heavy pot filled with the oil, heat it until it’s at 375 degrees F or when you add a struffolo it does the tarantella in the pot…(ie: i sizzles and turns around and around). Add a few struffoli at a time, like 10-15 and gently move them around with a spider or frying spoon with holes in it. When they are golden brown all around remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels. When you are done, start the honey by simply Heating it on a low flame with the juices and the 1/4 cup sugar. Stir until all the sugar has been disolved. Add the struffoli about 20 at a times and give them a “bath” in the honey. Using a slotted spoon keep basting the struffoli in the honey for about minutes. Pile them up onto a serving tray or bowl. Continue until all the struffoli are piled. Pour the honey over the top and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkle with the confetti (and toasted Almonds if using). You can even make small rings out of the batch. Again, up to you. Mine go into a big tin and we pick out of it thru the holidays.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from A FOOD OBSESSION AND FAMILY TO ALL OF YOU!!

CALAMARI AL FORNO CON PANGRATTATO, BAKED CALAMARI WITH BREADCRUMBS, GARLIC, OLIVE OIL

CALAMARI!!! Abundant and delicious.  One of the most popular of all Italian Seafoods it lends itself to many different recipes.  Calamari Fritti is the one most widely eaten but there are many way to cook Squid.  I’d like to share one with you and needs a hot oven to cook it in (an outdoor grill with the cover down even better because you get that smoky flavor too!).  CALAMARI AL FORNO CON PANGRATTUTO, Squid Baked with Breadcrumbs!!!  Now don’t shake your head, this isn’t breaded calamari but a simple mix of garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley, lemon, peperoncino, plain breadcrumbs and yes…Pecorino Romano.  Follow me, that old wives’ tale about never pairing Italian seafood with cheese has 1000 exceptions.  This is one of them.  It’s integral to the dish.  Since it’s December I’m all about the traditional Southern Italian-ItalianAmerican  La Vigilia Seafood dinner on Christmas Eve.  Last year I overbought calamari and had some whole ones in the fridge after Christmas.  Didn’t want fried calamari again since we had much of it on Christmas Eve so I came up with dish using some easy ingredients.  Let get into the kitchen.

3/4 LB SLICED FRESH CALAMARI (SQUID) RINGS AND TENTACLES

1/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TABLESPOONS FRESH PARSLEY

JUICE OF 1/2 FRESH LEMON

PEPERONCINO

KOSHER SALT

1/3 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS TOASTED IN A DRY PAN, COOLED, THEN ADD 2 TBS. GRATED PECORINO ROMANO AND MIX TOGETHER WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL, RESERVE

PreHeat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Rinse the calamari in cold water, drain, pat dry with paper towels.  In a heavy pan heat all but 1 tbs of the olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute’ until fragrant, about 2 minutes being careful not to let it burn.  Add the squid and saute’ for only 1 minute on high heat. Remove from heat, add the parsley and a good pinch of peperoncino…Toss well, then place into a baking pan with the additional olive oil.  Top with the breadcrumbs , drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt…and into the hot oven for no more than 6 minutes.  Test the calamari for doneness, should be tender.  When it’s done simply blend in the toasted breadcrumbs from the top and drizzle with the fresh lemon juice. Serves 3-4.  It’s amazing.  If you need more cooking time only go maybe another 2 minutes in the hot oven.    Serve with lots of Italian bread.  You can do this all on an outdoor grill too. 

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.

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI, POTATO CROQUETTES NAPLES STYLE, AS MADE BY MY MOM

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI!!  Potato Croquettes made Naples style, Grandma Scaramuzzi and my mom Assunta “Sue”Battaglia’s style could be one of my most favorite foods on Earth!  Grandma Scaramuzzi taught her daughter (my mom) how to make these culinary delights from the city she lived in before she immigrated to Staten Island NYC to marry my grandfather.  Now let’s discuss the word PANZAROTTO/PANZAROTTI (plural) shall we?  In every other part of Italy a Panzarotto is a “pouch” of filled dough.  They are baked or fried and depending on the region will be filled with all sorts of vegetables, cheeses, and meats.  Google PANZAROTTI PUGLIESI and you’ll see what I mean.  But for some reason, and this happens all over Italy one word will have a million different meanings regarding food.  In the language and dialect of Naples Panzarotti means a fried Potato croquette.  Growing up I watched Mom make these and she had a specific way of making them.  First of all they usually were a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes.  Certainly she’d make them on their own as well but NEVER with potatoes cooked the same day.  Something happens to the potatoes when you cook and mash them on day one and on day two form the Panzarotti and fry them.  She had some rules.  Only bits of  diced mozzarella, not too much.  Lots of Pecorino and black pepper in the mix.   Only egg yolks in the mix.  The whites would be for later when breading.  And the breading always PLAIN breadcrumbs, not the Italian Seasoned type.  Are you with me here?  Are you ready to take a stroll down the streets of Napoli and eat the foods that are sold in the Fry shops?  For those who want to be further confused they are also called CROCCHE’ DI PATATE and if you go to Sicily, they are called CAZZILLI where they can be either fried without the breading or with the breading.  Confused yet?  Don’t be…Italian and Italianamerican cuisine has lots of variations, twists and turns.  Whenever I decide to blog a new recipe or a traditional family recipe I do lots of research to see if my family simply creating these rules on their own or if they are following a hallowed ritual.  Happy to report that mostly all the recipes from Napoli I’ve researched dip the floured formed Panzarotti in beaten EGG WHITES and then into PLAIN BREADCRUMBS.  Moral of the story…don’t ever disagree with a Napoletana Mother and Grandmother!!!

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANA      NAPLES STYLE POTATO CROQUETTES YIELD ABOUT 24

3 LBS RUSSET BAKING POTATOES   PEELED AND CUT INTO QUARTERS

3/4 LB MOZZARELLA DICED SMALL

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

3/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO  (MOM USED THE PECORINO)

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 WHOLE EGG AND 2 YOLKS, RESERVING THE EGG WHITES FOR BREADING

1 CUP UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP TIPO 00 FLOUR OR 1/2 CUP SIFTED AP UNBLEACHED FLOUR FOR DREDGING

3 CUPS OLIVE OIL, PEANUT OIL, OR CORN OIL   (WE PAN FRY OURS)

First we make the potatoes.  In a large pot filled with well salted water and bring to a GENTLE boil then simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.  Do not overcook.  When a fork easily pierces the potatoes they are done.  Drain the potatoes and place on a FLAT pan in one layer. Let this cool to room temperature, then  cover with foil and refrigerate for no less than 5 hours, preferably overnight.  Trust me.  Then bring them back to room temperature  and mash or rice them.  Beat the whole egg and yolks.  After you’ve mashed the potatoes, add the eggs, the cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper.  Blend well making sure your mixture isn’t too wet or sticky.  If so a little flour will tighten that up, just a little.  Now form the mix into about 24 equal sized panzarotti.  About 3 1/2-4 inches long in the shape of a cylinder.  Place on a baker’s pan lined with parchment.  Loosely cover and chill for 1/2 hour.  Now set up a station of the flour….then the beaten EGG WHITES…then the breadcrumbs.  Gently dredge the croquettes in the flour,, then into the eggs carefully letting the excess drip off, then into the breadcrumbs, make sure they are completely coated.  Line back up on a parchment paper coated tray.  Heat 3 /4 in of oil till it gets to hot, about 350 degrees F or when you place a cube of bread in it the cube sizzles and starts to brown.   Gently add the croquettes no more than 5-6 at a time DO NOT CROWD THE PAN!!!  Use a heavy high sided wide one.  When one side is done, takes about  2 1/2 minutes or less per side, turn gently. When all golden brown you are done.   Transfer to either a cooking rack or lots of paper towels.  Add more oil and wait between batches to let the oil come up to temperature again.  There’s a nice amount of mozzarella in there so you maybe have a little mozzarella burst thru but if you don’t overfry you should be fine.   

Serve them immediately, or you can reheat them when ready to serve uncovered in a hot oven for only a few minutes.  Here’s some other ingredients you can add….Provolone, thin strips or fine dice of sopressata, dry sausage, salami, prosciutto.  If using the cured meats just a small bit will work and the finer you dice/mince the better.  What a treat to have these on their own in a paper cone from  a Friggitori in Naples or on your own table at home.  Now you’ve made NU BELL PANZAROTT o CROCCHE’.  Eat like a Napoletano!!!

DILL MUSTARD CREAMED ONIONS, FOR THANKSGIVING OR ANY DAY

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Welcome to the end of the year holidays in the USA.  First up is Thanksgiving, the 3d Thursday of November.  Personally, it’s my favorite holiday.  It’s about being thankful for just about anything.  I like that premise.  I’m thankful for you all reading and following my blog and my social media pages.  Thank you all. Creamed onions, you like them?  There’s 2 camps out there I think.  There’s Camp “THEY TASTE LIKE WALLPAPER PASTE” and there’s Camp “WE HAVE THEM EVERY YEAR AND LOVE THE TRADITION”.  Ok, there’s no scientific proof of any of that…lol. It’s just my own personal casestudy.  I’m a newcomer to CREAMED ONIONS as part of the Thanksgiving Day Dinner. Prior to Thanksgiving 1975 I had never seen or heard of them.  I know, 1975, Ancient history.  Let me continue. My wife’s family made them.  They were totally foreign to me.  And she only lived 15 minutes away from me!! I loved creamed anything but each year I thought, this dish is pretty tasteless.  It could use A FOOD OBSESSION MAKEOVER. Using the traditional base of this dish one can add some enhancements which now turn it into a flavorful side with some personality.  Mustard and Dill are very complimentary especially with the sweet onions and the cream sauce.  After some experimenting with different combos (one included bacon or smoked ham but was too overpowering) I came up with this one.  I hope it becomes a treasured part of your Holiday cooking.  Works well with Roast Turkey, Game, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, even Seafood.  Let’s cook.  This will make enough for 8 sides. 

MUSTARD AND DILL CREAMED PEARL ONIONS

8 CUPS WATER

2 10 OUNCE BAGS OF PEARL ONIONS(FROM THE PRODUCE SECTION)

3 TABLESPOONS OF ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

4 TABLESPOONS OF KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF ALLSPICE

2 TABLESPOONS OF UNSALTED BUTTER

2 CUPS MILK, USE WHOLE MILK

1 TABLESPOON OF DIJON MUSTARD

DASH OF WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1/2 TSP OF DRY ENGLISH MUSTARD

2 SPRIGS OF CHOPPED FRESH DILL

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

In a large heavy saucepan bring the water to a boil and add 1 1/2 tbs of the salt.  Add the onions.  In 12-15 minutes they will be tender.  DRAIN.  When they are cool enough to touch trim off the root ends and pop the onions out of their skins.  A sharp pairing knife works best for this.  Lay them out on a tray to dry.   

In that same heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour and dry mustard, and allspice.  Whisk until it starts to sizzle and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Add the Worchestershire and whisk. Now the remaining flour, Dijon, and then slowly whisk in the milk.  Bring the heat down to low and let this cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep the heat on low and add the onions.  Cook slowly for another 10 minutes.  Give a few frequent stirs.  Onions should be tender and the sauce should be thick and reduced. NOW add the dill and taste for seasoning adding any salt as necessary and give a good grinding of black pepper.  Let this sit for a few hours before gently reheating and serving.  Or make it ahead of time and gently reheat after you’ve let it come to room temperature.