Category Archives: LEMON

A TASTE OF SUNSHINE….SOUR CREAM LEMON LOAF

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

SOUR CREAM LEMON LOAF CAKE

TAKES 2 HOURS

FOR THE LOAF CAKE

3 LARGE FRESH EGGS, WELL BEATEN

1 CUP PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS GRANULATED SUGAR

1 CUP SOUR CREAM (I LIKE FAGE BRAND)

3 TABLESPOONS ORGANIC LEMON ZEST

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

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

2 TEASPOON PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

1 1/2 CUPS SIFTED UNBLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

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

3/4 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT

ICING ( LEMON GLAZE)

1 CUP PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS OF CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

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

2 TSPS. LEMON ZEST

1 TEASPOON PURE VANILLA EXTRACT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAMBERI 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.

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.

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!!

VERMOUTH AND LEMON GARLIC SHRIMP

fullcamera 298 There are many types of Shrimp sautees usually involving butter, olive oil, garlic and wine.  The most popular of course is the ItalianAmerican favorite, SHRIMP SCAMPI.  Once you have a basic technique or recipe down you can mix/match on it and build up into something new.  When you change even one part of a recipe you’ve created something new.  The rule to follow though, or I should say, the rule I follow is to keep the new ingredients in the same family/cuisine and the end result will turn into a great plate of food.  Case in point, Sauteed Shrimp, or Shrimp Scampi.  By changing one ingredient you create a whole new dish…White Wine has one flavor profile, but if you switch it up to VERMOUTH, now your dish will taste completely different. VERMOUTH is an old school fortified wine, so there we have the common denominator of wine.  Seafood and Vermouth are an old school pairing.  Look through some cookbooks from the late 50’s, early 60’s.  Companies like Martini and Rossi pushed real hard with the food industry to not only use their Vermouth as a drink or a mixer, but as an ingredient for cooking.  It works very well with fish and especially seafood like Shrimp, Clams, Scallops.

Vermouth is a flavorful and interesting type of fortified wine originally made with “WORMWOOD” which in French translates to VERMOUTH. 165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n-1 In Piedmont in Northern Italy various distilleries began to sprout up and Italy along with France because Vermouth country.  As a drink ingredient Vermouth is a main component of the MARTINI which, thanks to JAMES BOND became a signature of the swinging 60’s.  Think MAD MEN and suddenly Vermouth will pop into your head. In fact, that’s what happened when I decided to make this dish.  Mad Men was about to have one of its season premieres and there was a bag of U.S. Wild Caught 16-20 Shrimp in the fridge.  Vermouth in the cabinet.  Lemons in the produce drawer.  It all came together.   Vermouth Garlic Shrimp with Lemon and Parsley.  Vermouth is such a pronounced flavor that I decided a simple addition of Italian Flat leaf parsley would be plenty.  Vermouth is a blend of citrus peels, herbs and other aromatics so there’s the flavoring, no need to add additional green herbs with strong flavors.  And that’s how you take one recipe and create something new.  A few ground rules and you’re golden. So this post will contain 2 recipes..one for the MadMen inspired Vermouth and Lemon  Garlic Shrimp and then a way to make Pierre Franey’s style of Crevettes au Vermouth…fancy right? Didn’t know I could speak French?  Only when it comes to food. I’m not that good, lol.  The Franey’s French version adds cream to the dish.  Life is all about choices, your recipes and cooking should be the same way.

 

SERVES: 4                                           TIME: 35 MINUTES, prep and cooking

  • 1 ½ pounds raw  16-20 shrimp peeled and deveined.
  • 1/8 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. Sweet Paprika (use a Hungarian or European brand)
  • tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 3 sliced garlic cloves 
  • ¼ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 lemon slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a heavy wide skillet/frying pan gently heat the butter and 1/2 the olive oil  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour mixed with the paprika and saute’ the shrimp till just golden on both sides, Takes about 5 minutes.  Do this in batches as overcrowding created steaming because of excess water created and the whole dish is ruined.  Keep the shrimp in on a platter lightly tented with foil. When you are all done saute’ the garlic for 2 minutes taking care not to let it brown or burn then add the Vermouth to the pan and deglaze it.  Add the lemon juice, the salt, pepper, parsley and the remaining olive oil.  Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer.  Add the shrimp back to the pan and gently heat through for 3 minutes.  Done.  Serve over rice or with potatoes or linguine.  Garnish with Lemon wedges.  Of course, before adding the shrimp taste the sauce and check for seasoning.

to the above recipe…if you want to make it in the style of CREVETTES AU VERMOUTH by Pierre Franey simply omit the lemon.  Omit the olive oil.  Omit the Garlic. Add the following ingredients:

4 tbs. additional unsalted butter

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

 

When you are ready to saute’ the garlic in the first recipe, instead, saute’ the onion till soft, about 7 minutes, then add the vermouth and deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce…add the heavy cream, then the additional butter. Blend well and then add the shrimp and heat thru on a simmer for 5 minutes.  French. nice.

Enjoy either. The Vermouth saute on top..and the Cream Sauce version adapted from Pierre Franey’s recipe.

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CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE

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CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE BY A FOOD OBSESSION

One of the most delicious recipe styles is “SCAMPI STYLE”.  Generally it means a saute’ of Shrimp but the style can also be used on other seafood and poultry.  Chicken has that amazing ability to retain it’s distinctive poultry flavor yet take on all the flavors you’re cooking it with.  Versatile is the word! Garlic, Olive Oil, a bit of Butter, Wine, Lemon, and Parsley are the typical ingredients in the “sauce” that is created for Shrimp Scampi. Just replace the Shrimp with Chicken, in this case cut pieces of Boneless Chicken Breast.  OK, let A FOOD OBSESSION voice his very opinionated OPINION on white meat chicken.  It’s delicious when you are using good chicken (I use Organic chicken) and when you season it well and don’t overcook it.  Oh I like thigh meat and bone in thigh pieces for various Chicken Dishes as they will perform better in certain recipes than White meat, especially off the bone.  This is a showcase recipe for the unjustly maligned Boneless breast.  Sorry, you’re not getting FOODIE points from me if you bash white meat chicken..lol. Everything has it’s place.  By the way, I once tried this preparation with boneless thighs.  There’s a reason why THEY aren’t in the picture above.  Key to any dish being its best is the quality of the underlying ingredients.  Use that rule and your dishes will excel!!  Now talking to one of my inner food circle friends, he thought this dish sounded a bit like his idea of Lemon Chicken.  I make Lemon Chicken about 1000 ways as does everyone else, it’s one of those recipes that’s just a name of any recipe of chicken and lemons.  I’m pretty much keeping to the Scampi style here so I gave this that name.  Now there are some Chicken Scampi recipes on the WEB that simply have nothing to do with the agreed on recipe or method of SCAMPI STYLE.  Sauteed Peppers and Onions in the mix do not a Scampi make.  Call me closed minded but that would be Chicken with Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Wine, etc.  Next order of Shrimp Scampi you get, check to see if it comes loaded down with peppers and onions (hello, sometimes restaurants do that just to bulk up a dish…so, just putting that out there).  Don’t confuse my recipe with the one that comes from that ItalianAmerican chain restaurant…just saying.  What would you serve it with?  As much as I love Pasta this dish LOVES Rice or oven roasted potatoes.  Those would be my choices, you like the Pasta? use the Pasta. Quinoa, CousCous..Israel CousCous..all go nicely too.  The choice is yours…now let’s cook!

TIME: 1 hour   SERVES: 4

Ingredients:

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts cut into 3 pieces and lightly pounded
1 CUP Seasoned  All Purpose Flour (Seasoned With Salt, Pepper, Granulated Garlic)
4 Tablespoons  EXTRA VIRGIN Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, SLICED THIN or MINCED
1 Cup White Wine
Juice From 1 Lemon,  5 thin lemon slices, for garnish.
1 Cup  ORGANIC LOW SODIUM Chicken Broth, preferably homemade
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh ITALIAN FLAT LEAF Parsley, plus some sprigs for garnish
Kosher Salt , Fresh Ground Black Pepper

SPLURGE HERE:  3 TBS. of EUROPEAN BUTTER, UNSALTED for finishing the sauce.  (no interest in the Euro-Butter?  ok, any unsalted butter will do. But that EuroButter….)

This recipe works best with pounding the chicken pieces.  Pound them to about 1/4 inch, no thicker.  Dredge them in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.  AFO NOTE: why are we flouring them?  creates a moister chicken at the end of the saute’, helps create some body for the pan sauce without making it “thick”.  In a wide pan, add the olive oil and heat. Saute’ the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, till golden.chicscampi 025

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chicken dredged, going into the heated olive oil and browning for 8 minutes.

Remove the chicken which you’ve cooked in batches  ( AFO NOTE: crowding creates cooking chaos!!! the oil will drop in temp, the touching of the chicken will create steam pockets and there will be no browning.  Are you in a race?  OK, good, take your time cooking.  That’s what makes a dish..attention paid to all the details!!!) to a bowl or platter and tent with foil.

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That’s what the chicken should look like after it’s been sauteed.

Deglaze the pan with a little of the White Wine and pour it over the chicken.  Now add 2 tbs. of ExtraVirgin Olive oil to the pan and when it’s heated add the garlic and saute’ just till fragrant, only takes about 1 minute.chicscampi 020 To this add the wine and the broth, pinch of salt, and when reduced by 1/4 add the chicken back to the pan. Bring this to a boil then IMMEDIATELY reduce to a simmer.  Let this cook for only about 4 minutes then add the Lemon juice and the parsley.  Mix.  The move the chicken to the sides of the pan giving you a small area in the center to melt in the butter. As soon as it’s melted (takes only seconds) make sure it’s incorporated into the whole pan and all the chicken is coated.  Remove from the heat. Gently mix in the parsley and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

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how good does that? look..oh, wait..it’s going to look even better!!

Serve immediately.  AFO NOTE:  if you over heat the butter, it separates immediately and doesn’t thicken your sauce. Make sure you don’t over heat it!

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I told you it would look even better.  Thin lemon slices and parsley garnish this dish.

Enjoy your CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE…btw, always test the chicken for it being fully cooked by slicing into a piece, it should be easy to slice into, the juices should run clear.

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and there’s the money shot..all dressed up and somewhere to go…into your mouth!! That’s the Chicken Scampi served over Rice and Broccoli Rabe, with a side of Zucchini Marinara.

 

WHEN “FUSION” IDEAS MAKE SENSE, SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO WITH LEMON AND FETA

003  FUSION CUISINE, for this home cook those words make me shudder.  Truth is I’m very closed minded about 95% of anything termed FUSION. They say good cooks need to have an open mind but let me explain myself here, and btw, my opinion is only …my opinion.  Even if I’m 100% right..LOL.  I believe Lidia Bastianich best said this, and I paraphrase..that food tastes best when the ingredients come from the same place.  Fusion when using that guideline can be a good thing.  The current craze in many 3d generation Italian American restaurants is the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe EGG ROLL.   Again, just my opinion, no thank you.  Chinese and Italian cooking have zero in common with each other on every level except they share the same regional philosophy of using great ingredients and they take great pride in their cuisines and their food culture.  I’ll enjoy the broccoli rabe and sausage filling inside of a fried calzone. That makes sense for me.  So…using that line of thinking..countries with different cuisines but sharing a general type of produce, weather, seafood, meats, etc..THOSE cuisines seem to be candidates for a fusion of sorts.  Let’s take the Mediterranean region rich in Olive Oil, Olives, similar seafoods, cheeses, produce, wines, herbs, fruits,nuts…with varying degrees many dishes are all decended from or related to other cuisines in the region.  Religious and local customs have created many of the subtle or not so subtle differences but whether it is Southern or Southeastern French, Corsican, Moroccan, Sicilian, Maltese, Tunisian, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Dalmatian, Cypriot, Lebanese..well you get the idea…there’s a common thread in the region’s cuisine which then allows for lack of a better term, some “fusion”.  When the cuisines are unrelated fusion, for me, is disastrous.

Fresh herbs are part of the Summer season so…here’s a fusion of Greek and Italian ideas in a wonderfully bright and satisfying pasta dish…SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO with FETA AND LEMON.    Let’s cook!!!

SERVES:  4-6                       TIME: 1/2 hour

1 lb IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI (or other long pasta) cooked al dente according to package directions

1/2 CUP FRESH OREGANO LEAVES, packed well..no stems, make sure leaves are gently cleaned

1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO

1/8 CUP FRESH CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/4 CUP TOASTED UNSALTED ALMONDS

1/8 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

3 ROUGH CHOPPED PEELED GARLIC CLOVES

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1/4 CUP OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/3 CUP OF GOOD QUALITY FETA CHEESE, CRUMBLED OR DICED, IMPORTED GREEK WOULD BE BEST

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Using a food processor, add the herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and almonds.  Pulse until they are all crushed.  DON’T over pulse.  Next, slowly add the Olive Oil in stream while the blade is processing.  It should look like a pesto now, nice and smooth.  Now add the feta, reserving a little for garnish, and gently pulse until is somewhat blended in.  TASTE, based on what you think, add salt if necessary to taste and add about 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper.  Gently pulse. NOW..leave it out at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in well salted water and only till AL DENTE. Drain. At that point, pour the pesto over the pasta a gently blend well. Top with some Feta and fresh sprigs of Oregano, even a little squeeze of lemon would be nice. Done..  Enjoy.

So here’s some sidebars…never cook pesto. ever.  If pesto is off colored it means it’s old or was cooked..make your own.  Herbs are one of the cheapest foods out there in the summer unless you are growing your own, even better.  The Consistency of the pesto even with the most exact and tested recipes can vary. If you find the pesto is too thick as more Olive Oil and Lemon juice to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Don’t over do the oil though as it will separated out from the mixture and it will get “oily”.  Mint (fresh) is an alternative to the grassy green flavor of the Parsley.  Feel free to use!  Fresh Thyme is another herb to use but it’s quite strong so don’t use too much of that.

Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!

 

SHRIMP SCAMPI, MY VERSION OF THIS ITALIAN AMERICAN CLASSIC

scampi 022 I hope that picture caught your attention.  I made this dish and looking at it  I’m thinking, boy, would I like to make that dish!!   It’s the colors, it’s the SHRIMP, it’s the total package.  The dish known as SHRIMP SCAMPI is almost a universal favorite because it contains so many flavors that we love.  Well here comes my lecture, you’re not going to get my recipe without me pontificating about the dish.  Sit down, get a nice glass of wine, espresso, coffee, tea, for other drink and let’s talk SCAMPI.  First lesson of the post is that what you are looking at and probably call “Scampi” is an Italian-American creation that is correctly called SHRIMP SCAMPI, hence the title of the blog.  Why is it not just SCAMPI?? GLAD YOU ASKED! This is a SCAMPI:scampi 004 Aren’t they gorgeous?  That’s a crustacean called NEPHROPS NORVEGICUS. Say that three times.  Translated it’s the NORWEGIAN LOBSTER, or most commonly called LANGOUSTINE.  It also goes by the lively name DUBLIN BAY PRAWN and possibly a host of others. It’s a slender creature win long pincers that unfortunately does not inhabit the waters of the United States.  Very unfortunate.  This is my favorite food..on earth.  How sad for me.  Let’s move on.  In Italy this crustacean is called LO SCAMPO or GLI SCAMPI.  You’re practically fluent now!  The North Atlantic and the Mediterranean are Scampi grounds.  In Italy the most common way to prepare  SCAMPI is split, then grilled with Olive Oil, parsley, and lemon.  Simple!! Did I tell you I recently found some Scamp here in the U.S. and cooked up 6 of them? Here’s the proof:scampi 016And that’s what they look like.  The bodies resemble a large Shrimp (oxymoron aside) and the immigrants to the U.S. from Italy recreated this dish and transformed it, using the available shrimp here into a dish that now took on some of those Italian traits all pressed together to create the Olive Oil, Shrimp, Lemon, Wine or Vermouth, Parsley and Garlic dish we call SHRIMP SCAMPI!  Ok, class is over, there will be a quiz tomorrow before you’ve had your first latte.  I hope that was interesting but what’s even more interesting will be cooking and eating Shrimp Scampi so let’s get cooking!!

PREP AND COOKING TIME: 1/2 hour              SERVES: 4

1 1/2 LB JUMBO SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVIENED (stop right here..did you throw those shrimp shells out?  really?  Do you like the taste of a rich shrimp bisque?  That flavor comes not from the meat of the shrimp, but from a stock that is a reduction of the shells.  The flavor in the shells is just amazing.  You can either make your stock while you are cooking the shrimp, or freeze them in a tightly closed bag for about 1 month. Then use them when you get a nice amount and make a stock similar to how you would make a chicken stock.  Don’t waste anything!!  All those flavors that a good chef/cook will wow you with are derived many times from what’s considered garbage)

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE OR VERMOUTH

KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

JUICE OF ONE LEMONscampi 019

In a wide skillet heat 1/2 the oil and 1/2 the garlic, pinch of salt. Saute’ for only under a minute, then add the shrimp.  Saute’ for a few minutes on each side then remove them and the pan contents to a platter and lightly cover with foil.  Now add the rest of the oil, the garlic, when you smell that garlic…add the wine and bring to a boil then to a simmer.  Let this cook for 2 minutes, then add the shrimp back in and coat well with the pan juices.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the parsley, the lemon juice, pinch of salt, black pepper and the butter.  scampi 021 Now be a good cook and taste one of the shrimp…(how will you know if it tastes right??)..if they are done, they are ready to serve.. If you need more seasoning..go with more lemon juice before you add salt, or just a pinch.  Now serve on their own, with rice, with pasta.  This is a clean crisp presentation.  Some recipes call for the kitchen sink to be added as well (in the 60’s they added Worchestershire Sauce..i’m pretty sure that those Italian scampi weren’t swimming in Worchestershire Sauce…so…no thanks to that in my Scampi Style Shrimp!!).

The butter is a finisher…a closer if you will..it adds a little flavor, but it pulls the dish together as opposed to cooking this in a butter “sauce”..where butter is the main fat in the sauce.  and the Lemon and parsley are last too because they add tons of flavor to it, fresh flavor.  If you add those ingredients early on..they sort of get lost in the end product.scampi 018  US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP..a  product we can be proud of and really the best type to use for your cooking and eating.  Hopefully you can find some near you to create this dish!!

 

 

CHICKEN SCALOPPINE WITH LEMON AND SPINACH

008 America’s most popular “meat” is Chicken, I know, it’s poultry not meat.  I just hate the proper culinary term for those types of foods, “PROTEINS”…it sounds so…sterile.  I chose to keep a very clean kitchen but not refer to it in laboratory terms.  So what about SCALOPPINE?  Did you spellcheck me?  Are you saying it’s SCALLOPINI? Well, we are both right..SCALLOPINI is the English spelling of the Italian word SCALOPPINE. And a Scaloppine is not a dish with a prescribed recipe, it’s a word that refers to how a particular piece of meat is cut.  Definied, it’s a thinly sliced piece of Veal, Beef, Pork or Chicken.  If you were in Italy most likely you would find Veal most often, but today’s Italy serves lots of Turkey scaloppine as well.  Chicken’s popularity is a very American tradition. Don’t get into the “which is best” because that is completely based on what YOU like best.  My preference is Veal, but Chicken is so versatile and well loved that I’m going to give you a recipe that’s full of flavor and the chicken cutlets work well with it.  The family wanted pasta with this, not me.  I used Farfalle, went nicely with it, but I prefer entrees like this paired with potatoes. Olive Oil Roasted Potatoes with salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh Rosemary.  So there are you choices…let the cooking games begin!

SERVES: 4                                         TIME: 1 1/2  HOURS
1 LEMON, JUICED AND SEEDED
4 THINLY POUNDED (NO THICKER THAN 1/4 INCH) CHICKEN CUTLETS
KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACKPEPPER
1/2 CUP SIFTED FLOUR
5 TABLESPOONS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 TABLESPOON UNSALTED BUTTER
2 GARLIC CLOVES, SLICED
1 TSP. FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY—-NOT DRIED
1 TSP. FINELY MINCED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
1/4 CUP VERMOUTH OR WHITE WINE
1/4 CUP LOW SODIUM FAT FREE CHICKEN STOCK
4 THIN LEMON SLICES
2 CUPS CHOPPED FRESH SPINACH

 

In a stainless steel bowl, which 1 tbs. of the Lemon Juice, 1 sliced clove of garlic, 1 tbs. oliveoil, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper and coat the chicken with this.  Let this marinade no more than one hour, tightly covered in a cool area or the fridge.

In a large nonstick pan heat 2 tbs. of the oil.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess and saute’ till nicely browned on both sides.  Takes about 6 minutes total. Remove the sauteed chicken to a platter and tent it with aluminum foil.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the garlic, rosemary, a bit of salt and pepper…let this cook for about 2 minutes, then add the wine/vermouth, the 1/2 the lemon juice, bring to a boil, then add the stock. Add the spinach and reduce the flame.  Add a little more salt and pepper.  Let this cook for about 8 minutes, then add the chicken back into the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes. Finish but adding the butter, swirl this around in the pan, add the parsley and top each scaloppine with a lemon slice and some of the pan juices…drizzle the remaining lemon over the top along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken on top of a bed of the Spinach.  Delicious.  Happy Cooking!!

 

LARGE PASTA WITH BROCCOLI “CREAM” AND WALNUTS…PACCHERI CON CREMA DI BROCCOLI E NOCI

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Vegetables and dairy are wonderful pairings especially when they are creamy and  used as a pasta “sauce”.  I put “sauce” in quotes because the correct term in Italian would be a “condimento”…a condiment that enhances the pasta which, sorry to do this to you carb-haters out there, but the Pasta is the main event on a plate of macaroni.  The sauce or condimento just adds more flavor and nourishment, it’s an enhancer. And the sky is the limit with pasta dishes. Italy is full of heritage recipes, family recipes, regional recipes, with new ones are being created all the time.  I’m going to think that I created this but somewhere out there this dish may already be on a table in an Italian kitchen.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s create together…for more texture I’m adding crushed walnuts.  Why?  Why NOT?  They will make the dish more interesting and complex.  The crunch with play off nicely with the toothsome pasta and creamy blend of cooked Broccoli and Mascarpone.  Parmigiano sharpens the plate and it’s nuttiness works with the Walnuts. Peperoncino because I’m of Southern Italian extraction and it’s what we do.  So I’ll give you a pass here and say if dried crushed chiles are too hot for your palate, fresh cracked black pepper will work too.  I’m going to ask you to do something that you will probably have been taught not to do.  I want you to “overcook” your broccoli.  That’s right, no crisp bright green florets for this dish, it simply will not work.  It will only taste raw.  Are you up for the challenge??  Do you have the courage to turn your Broccoli into mush?  GOOD!  Continue with me into the kitchen then..let’s go..ANDIAMO!

 

SERVES: 4-6                                    TIME: about 1 hour

2 lbs. CHOPPED WELL COOKED BROCCOLI (cook the broccoli until it’s very soft, drain well and let it sit for at least 1 hour, drain off any water that collects).

1 1/2 cups MASCARPONE CHEESE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO (or fresh ground Black Pepper)

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Juice of 1 LEMON

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO PLUS MORE FOR SERVING AND FINISHING

3 TBS. CRUSHED TOASTED WALNUTS

1 TBS WALNUT OIL (if available)

1 lb PACCHERI OR RIGATONI..cooked till Al Dente according to the package directions

In a Bowl, using a potato Masher, mash the Broccoli.  A Food Processor will make this  “CREMA” too thin, I like this with some small pieces of broccoli among the mashed pieces.  If you must have it thinner pulse it in a Food Processor.

In a large non stick pan, heat the olive oil…when it’s heated, add the garlic and a pinch of the peperoncino, pinch of salt.  Do not let the garlic brown, as soon as you really can smell the garlic add the broccoli  and heat the broccoli through keeping this on a low flame.  Heat for at least 8 minutes, being careful to stir frequently. Taste for seasoning, if you think it needs some salt, add a little now.  Add the lemon.,Gently stir in the MascarponeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA until it’s incorporated into the mixture.  Next add the grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO and the Pasta.           OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gently mix the pasta into the “CREMA”. Make sure it’s well blended.

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How nice is that? So, let’s finish this up…top with the toasted crushed walnuts, peperoncino or black pepper, a drizzle of Walnut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more Grated Parmigiano.

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That is smoking “hot”.  A nice glass of wine or Sparkling Italian Water with fresh lime or lemon, or a frosty Beer or Coca-Cola…drink what you want.  Eat what you want.  You’ll want to eat this!  Happy Cooking!!

so let’s talk PACCHERI..what the hell is A FOOD OBSESSION talking about?  It’s an oversized Rigatoni like pasta that is loved in Naples (again with the Naples, sorry) and generally paired with light seafood sauces.  It’s big and toothsome and sucks into it’s center some of the Crema di Broccoli and the nuts.  Not easy to find but it’s what I use when I make the dish.  Rigatoni will work as well so, there’s your option.