Category Archives: onions

PASTA E PATATE…MACARONI AND POTATOES..FROM SOUTHERN ITALIAN ROOTS

batann 001I am determined to never lose those dishes which I loved and learned as a child.  Along with Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches and Hot Dogs, Fried Chicken and Burgers the dishes of the Southern Italian Immigrant kitchen of the late 1890s to 1920s is the single largest pool of dishes I draw on in my own kitchen.  The dishes that Grandma and Grandpa brought with them, the American additions or deletions, how Mom interpreted them, these are the things that shape what happens at my stove. BASTABADANN, say it quickly with a long emphasis on the ANN at the end and now you’re talking like my father.  This blogpost is all about the Southern Italian dish PASTA E PATATE, or Potatoes and Macaroni.  Think Pasta e Fagioli and remove the beans and insert the potatoes.  The typical southern Italian kitchen of those days used what was available in ways to stretch the paltry amounts they had to work with.  Sad premise but as with much of the world’s cuisine extraordinary dishes with very little have been passed down to us.  In 2018’s often misguided food and eating world two hardcore carbohydrates in the same dish can be off putting.  Consider this, these soups or stews if you want to give them a label were not meant to be consumed as part of a larger meal.  They ARE the meal.  Keep an open mind and plan your eating around that and they are not CARB BOMBS.   A little tomato, onion or garlic, olive oil, pasta and potatoes, peperoncino to taste are the whole dealio. To those items I add a seasoning, a pinch of oregano or a basil leaf or two and I love to garnish the finished bowl with pieces of hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar.  Add Pecorino or Parmigiano to that and you have an amazing bowl of food. Some good bread on the side works too but watch for any Food Police that are lurking by.  A few years ago I posted my Pasta e Patate on Facebook and was scolded by someone for over “Carbing” my food.  That person the previous day posted a Tuna with Mayo Sandwich on White Bread (toasted) with a layer of Crushed Potato Chips.  Ahhh…the Food Police.  Watch out for them and ignore them.  Common sense says if you’re eating this many carbohydrates pair it with a good bracing salad of greens and maybe some tomatoes or a side of sauteed greens in garlic and olive oil.  Balance friends not preaching and bad messages.  We will all eat happier that way.  Ok, enough of my preaching and onto the PASTA E PATATE.  One more note..Pasta e Patate has a tradition (not a rule, and not everyone follows it) of using MIXED MACARONI, ie: different shapes.  I like using two together, but they are basically the same shape just in different sizes,  TUBETTI and TUBETTINI, one is bigger than the other.

TIME: about 1 1/2 hour or less                                   SERVES: 4-6

1/4 lb. TUBETTINI

1/2 LB. TUBETTI

1  1/4 LBS. PEELED AND CUBED POTATOES, or COARSELY CHOPPED, up to you.

1 fine diced ONION

1/2 stalk CELERY, fine diced

pinch of OREGANO or a few fresh BASIL LEAVES

3 SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TBS. TOMATO PASTE

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL RIND, PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 COARSE CHOPPED HOT VINEGAR CHERRY PEPPERS

PECORINO ROMANO or PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO for grating the finished servings.

Use a large heavy bottomed pot.  Add 2 tbs. of the olive oil and add the onions, a pinch of salt, a pinch of peperoncino and the celery  Saute’ till soft, about 10 minutes on medium to low flame.  Now add the tomato, oregano or basil, parsley, blend, Then add a 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and add the potatoes and season with more salt.  Add the Parmigiano Rind if you have it.  Cook these on a low boil.  Keep an eye on this so that the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate, stirring frequently.  If more liquid is needed add it in 1/2 ladle increments. While this is cooking bring a pot of water to the boil, well salted of course and cook the 2 pastas.  When they are just al dente, remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the pot of potatoes.  Mix well.  Add a little olive oil and then check the consistency.  Some like this dish “dry”, some a little thick, and some more soupy.  This is when you add some of that reserved pasta cooking water to achieve your desired texture.  And don’t let the food police tell you your preference is wrong. Throw them out of your kitchen.  This dish is made a million different ways.  Blend the water and then remove from the heat. Important step here. LET IT SIT.  ItalianSoups, maybe soups in general, stews too, get better when they sit for a while, especially over night.  Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour.  (Longer is better but I’m sure you’re hungry by now!!). TASTE THE DISH AT THIS POINT before you reheat. It may need more salt, or add some grated cheese and see how it tastes, More peperoncino, more olive oil.  This is where you learn to not be dependent on a recipe and instead on your cooking intuition.  Serve the Pasta e PAtate in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of peperoncino, let your diners GRATE THEIR OWN CHEESE INTO THE BOWL.  Wow. Done.  Delicious. Ask your diners if they would like some hot vinegar cherry peppers on top.  Don’t assume they will like that. I like that, you may not. Serve the peppers in a bowl on the table next to the cheese!!!  Fantastic.  Buon Appetito!! Happy Cooking!!

 

Works for Vegetarians.  Omit the cheeses and it should work for  Vegan and Plant Based Diet followers.

 

 

 

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CLAM AND PORTUGUESE SAUSAGE STEW WITH TOMATO AND ONIONS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mediterranean is one of the most varied regions of the world in its beauty, its people, its countries and its cuisines.  It straddles Europe, Africa and a bit of Asia.  Centuries of trading and plundering brought foods from all over the globe to this region where, like the peppers and the tomato, they became part of the local cuisine.  Portugal on the far west of the Mediterranean region is actually on the Atlantic but it shares this food connection with the rest of the area.  Seafood, smoked pork sausages, abundant use of the powdered dried red pepper we call Paprika, chiles, onions, Olive Oil, herbs all factor heavily in Portuguese cuisine.  Truth be told I’ve not been there, it’s on my bucket list but thanks to living in the NYC Metropolitan area, there are many Portuguese restaurants one can visit, especially in Newark New Jersey’s Ironbound section.  One one of these visits I was introduced to the combination of Clams and Pork.  There are a few dishes that use fresh pork, fried in cubes, and sometimes sliced Portuguese sausages like chourico and linguica are used.  Combined in a saute’ of the pork,  peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, then wine, paprika, tomatoes, the clams are then added last and steam in the mix adding their oceanic brine to the liquid.  It’s amazing.  Want to try it?  Good.  Let’s cook.

TIME:  about 1 hour                            SERVES:  6

1 LB. PORTUGUESE CHOURICO OR LINGUICA (DIFFERENCE IS CHOURICO IS HOT, LINGUICA IS MILD), CHOICE UP TO YOU.  I LIKE THE EXTRA SPICE KICK FROM THE CHOURICO, SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH RINGS

1 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

1/2 CUP PORTUGUESE WHITE WINE (OR ANY MEDITERRANEAN WHITE)

1/4 CUP SPANISH OLIVE OIL

1 LARGE ONION, THIN SLICED

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND THICKLY SLICED

1 DRAINED  28 OZ CAN OF SAN MARZANO TOMATOES, COARSE CHOP THE TOMATOES, RESERVE THE JUICE FOR ANOTHER USE

1 JAR ROASTED RED PEPPERS,  SLICED

4 DOZEN COCKLES OR SMALL LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SCRUBBED AND CLEAN

2 SPRIGS OF CILANTRO OR PARSLEY

1 TSP. SWEET SPANISH PAPRIKA (HUNGARIAN WORKS TOO)

PINCH OF SEA SALT

 

In a Dutch oven, add 2 tbs of olive oil and heat.  Brown the Chourico on both sides.  takes about 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Add the onions and 1/2 the garlic.  Season with salt and the paprika.  Be careful not to brown the onion as that will turn them bitter.  Keep an eye on it and stir frequently.  When they are fairly soft, add the peppers and tomatoes. Saute’ for 5 minutes then add the wine and reserved Chourico, and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the Cilantro (or parsley) then the rest of the garlic and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil a little more olive oil, and then the clams.  With a sturdy spoon make sure the clams are all coated with the liquid. Cover and let this cook for 10 minutes,  Uncover and check for the open clams. If all clams aren’t open gently stir the pot and cook until they are all open, another 5 minutes it should take.  Let the pot sit hot and covered for 10 minutes.  Uncover. Any unopened clams discard.  Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side that you’ve drizzled the remaining olive oil over. Now dip that bread into those bowls, bring a clam up to your mouth and slurp out the juice and the clam then have a slice of chourico as a chaser.  LOL. Tastes great right?  Enjoy and Happy Cooking!!

 

 

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

007Time to discuss one of my favorite food subjects…the MEATBALL.  Let’s start out with this tidbit, there’s no such thing as the “ITALIAN MEATBALL”. Why you ask?  Because I said so.  And here’s why…there are meatballs of all shapes and sizes and ingredients made all over Italy.  Most likely you’re assuming the meatball in the big pot of sauce is the “Italian Meatball”.  Well that’s certainly one of many. Meatballs as a cocktail party or party food are fantastic since they are small.  They work well at a party and are generally a one bite affair.  For parties one of the meatball recipes I’ve developed is the SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALL.  What is that all about? Scenario, you’re at a party…you’re dressed up..nice suit, shirt, dress, whatever.  You pick up the meatball out of the pan or platter and it’s dripping with sauce.  YIKES! Big sauce stain on your tie…or your chest and the shirt.  Down your blouse or onto the front of your dress or skirt.  Now you’ve done it!!  But you really want that delicious sauce flavor with the meatballs right?  Let’s mix this up a bit…for a cocktail party…or any party..add the sauce TO the meatball mix, then make the meatballs and simply serve on a tray, platter or bowl with toothpicks.  This recipe is made in two parts. first the sauce, then the meatballs.  To start:

THE SAUCE (which becomes one of the ingredients in the meatballs)

1 28oz Can SAN MARZANO DOP Tomatoes, or any good variety of Imported Italian Plums or Domestic Plum Tomatoes

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion, season with salt and peperoncino.  Let this cook until the onions are translucent and soft.  TIP: if you get impatient the onions will never really soften in the tomato sauce and you’ll have crunchy onions in the mix.  Be patient.  Take your time.  No rush.  Once your onions are soft add the tomatoes which you will crush with your hands first in a bowl, then add them to the pot.  Add one basil leaf and bring this to a boil, stir, then to a simmer and let this reduce for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until it’s reduced by about 1/2.  Add the remaining 2 basil leaves, taste for seasoning and let it sit off the flame to cool completely.  Should take about 2 hours.

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of the Sauce you made (that recipe above ^^^^)

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, S & P, Sauce, Garlic together.  Let this sit for 20 minutes. Why? we want the sauce to hydrate those breadcrumbs.  Your Panada (write it down, it’s the Italian word for a breadcrumb/bread mix moistened with eggs, herbs, oil,liquids like milk or water, etc. which forms the binding for the meatballs.  See, we are learning…I love teaching and sharing my food with you!!)  Since there’s a significant amount of liquid in the sauce (which is why we reduced it) you want those breadcrumbs to suck up all that moisture which in turn doesn’t steal moisture from the meats and balances the end product…dry crumbs on their own suck moisture from the meat and other sources.

Blend all the meats together.  Then add to the Panada after it’s sat for a while.  If it’s still too loose, add more breadcrumbs, but only a little at a time. Mix gently with lightly moistened hands (lightly, or you’re adding more water to the balls).  When fully mixed let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  NOW start rolling walnut sized meatballs and line them on a parchment or waxed paper lined tray.  Chill for 10 minutes.  In a heavy skillet add 2 tbs. olive oil and heat.  Fry the meatballs for at least 5 minutes on each side without overcrowding.  Fry in batches.. Add more Olive oil as needed letting the oil get hot before adding more balls in the pan.  (why? the balls will soak in the oil..frying actually prevents that from happening).  When finished frying all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with the White Wine and gently add the meatballs back and simmer until the wine has evaporated.  Done.  Now serve with toothpicks to hungry guests OR let them cool…wrap them in pans and you can reheat them on trays in the oven for serving at your event/ party/dinner.  Meatballs and sauce all together  No drip. No stains.  No mess.    It was great cooking with you…hope to come into your kitchens again real soon!!!

 

 

 

 

MEATBALLS WITH A SICILIAN INFLUENCE, CREATING A RECIPE, POLPETTINE IN BIANCO

0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.

 

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  Happy Cooking!!

TOASTED SPINACH GNUDI WITH A SAGE AND PUMPKIN SAUCE..GNUDI CON SALVIA E ZUCCA

002GNUDI!!!  pronounce it  NYUU-DEE, an Italian food from Tuscany is as it’s name implies, sort of a Nude Ravioli.  It’s a dumpling made with ricotta, eggs, spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and just enough flour to bind it so it’s not quite a gnocchi but close.  Italian cooking is wonderfully full of dishes that closely resemble each other but nuances in ingredient amount or region make them separate and unique.  Fantastic!!  Let me give a foodie PSA here while I have your attention.  You know that TUSCAN recipe or dish you are eating in a restaurant or making at home?  You know, that ULTIMATE TUSCAN soup, chicken, whatever?  It’s more than likely NOT TUSCAN.  Drives me crazy.  As someone who shares food ideas and knowledge calling something TUSCAN when it’s not drives me insane.  Imagine this for a minute…in Italy…at a restaurant or supermarket/store selling American foods…there’s an item called….NEW YORK CAJUN GUMBO….or KANSAS LOBSTER…or MIDWESTERN CLAM CHOWDER….clearly you get my drift.  Louisiana gets the gumbo…Maine gets the Lobster…New England or Manhattan get the Clam Chowder.   The term TUSCAN gets placed on any dish someone (usually a corporate boardroom) wants to for marketing purposes. People are attracted to that term thinking it’s bona fide Tuscan food, or the implication is that all Italian food is Tuscan, or that the American created dish is Tuscan.  Let me do my part to promote real Tuscan influenced food by giving you this recipe I came up with using a Tuscan dumpling and some of the more common Tuscan ingredients..spinach, pumpkin, sage.

Gnudi can be eaten out of the pot, or with butter, or pan toasted, or lightly sauced with butter based sauces, or tomato sauce. A recent batch of gnudi I made, after poaching them i let them “dry” for 2 hours then toasted them in butter till they took on a golden brown crust then simply sauced them with sauteed onions, pumpkin puree, butter, sage, parmigiano-reggiano or Grana Padano, black pepper, and Vin Santo (Spanish sherry makes a decent substitute if you can’t find the Vin Santo).

serves: 4                                          time: 3 hours (which includes the time to let the gnudi dry)

First, the GNUDI

1 CUP  WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED

1 CUP CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH, THAWED AND SQUEEZED VERY DRY (important!!)

1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO

3 LARGE EGG YOLKS (ORGANIC WORK BEST) at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY

1/8  TSP EACH OF  FRESH GRATED NUTMEG, KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

You can use a food processor or bowl for this.  Mix together the Ricotta, Spinach, Parmigiano, and yolks.  Pulse or mix till blended.  Add the nutmeg, salt and black pepper.  Mix.  Now gently add in the flour until fully incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.  NOW to form the GNUDI.  Some are made in the small oval shape like I do and some are made in the same size, just under 1 inch, in a ball. Keep the size and shape uniform for consistent cooking. As you make them, lay them onto a kitchen towel covered baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.   When you have finished the gnudi and they’ve rested, gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them cook  and as they are ready, they will float to the top of the pot.  Takes up to 5 minutes.  I use the 5 minute mark as my gauge.  Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider transfer the drained gnudi to a parchment paper lined sheet pat.  Leave these to dry out now for no less than one hour.

SAUCE:

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE

6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER (EUROPEAN STYLE OR EUROPEAN WORKS BEST)

2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY

1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)

1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER

2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE

FOR GARNISH:

4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES

FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE

SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER

In a wide heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and then add the onions…bring to medium and let them slowly get soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 2 sage leaves.  Now add the Vin Santo or Sherry.  Let cook for 2 mintues then stir in the pumpkin puree.  Add the reserved cooking water and bring pan to  boil then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.   Now back to the GNUDI.

In a skillet heat the 2 tbs of butter and gently toast the gnudi on both sides, taking care not to overload the pan.  You may need to do this in 2 batches.  TOO MUCH CROWDING IN A PAN CREATES STEAM AND YOU LOSE THE BROWNING AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED!!!!!! When you have a nice color on the GNUDI like this:156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_nyou are now ready to sauce them.  Bring the pan of Pumpkin Onion Sage sauce up to medium heat and gently add the gnudi and make sure you coat all the gnudi with the sauce.  TAKE NOTE: I’m saucing it in the Italian manner…as Lidia tells us..”Sauce is merely a CONDIMENTO, the star is the pasta!”…You always want the pasta to shine through, however I understand that most Americans are used to much more sauce on their pasta then they would have in Italy.  Want more sauce on this? Simply double the recipe. Tutti i gusti son gusti!! (Everyone to their own tastes)…back to my recipe.  After you’ve coated all the gnudi and it’s heated thru for a good 3 minutes remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped sage, nutmeg and grated cheese to taste.  Serve.  I’m starving now as I type all this.  It’s such a tasty dish.  0041As always, thank you for letting me into your kitchens….enjoy this little bit of Tuscany, I actually think the region around Siena is noted for their gnudi.  BUONA CUCINA!!

 

 

 

 

 

VERMOUTH AND LEMON GARLIC SHRIMP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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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