Category Archives: POTATOES

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

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

PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX

2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS

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

5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES

1/2 SLICED RED ONION

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO

SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE

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

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

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!!!

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE FOR THE COLDER MONTHS, ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

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

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE

TAKES 3 HOURS             SERVES ABOUT 5

2 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 PEELED AND DICED CARROTS

3 STALKS CELERY, CHOPPED, USE THE LEAVES TOO

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

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

1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SAVOY CABBAGE

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

1 LARGE ONION, SMALL DICE

2 SLICE CLOVES OF GARLIC

4 1/2 CUPS WATER, OR STOCK

4 SMALL REDSKIN POTATOES, DICED

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED PARSLEY AND THYME

1/2 LB ORZO PASTA

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

PLENTY OF FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO

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

 

 

ON THE ROAD: POTATOES IN NEPAL.. ALOO JEERA

IMG_7725 (1)While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia.  Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries.  Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste.  To write about.  To recreate in my home kitchen.  Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up.  This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas.  I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber.  Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone.  Smarter.  This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL.  So, Nepal.  So remote.  So rough.  So beautiful.  We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas.  Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out.  August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid???  Reasons why you travel.  To find out things for yourself.  We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear.  August?  Not so clear.  The clouds hang low, the fog is thick.  But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through.  The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest.  SUCCESS.  The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month.  A rare occurance.  Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view.  But we saw it.  We really saw it.  And will never forget it.  That same day we were served these delicious potatoes.  A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food.  We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines.  Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish.  I love whole cumin seed.  I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen  But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes.  It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen  finds this a common and easy dish to make.  So there’s some legend and lore here too.  Nice. Food with color and flavor.  Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive.  Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far.  Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!

1 lb PEELED, CUBED AND BOILED POTATOES

2 TBS. CUMIN SEEDS

2  SMALL GREEN CHOPPED CHILI (REMOVE SEEDS AND RIBS IF YOU WANT LESS HEAT)

1 TSP. CHOPPED GINGER

2 TBS. OIL

1/4 TSP. POWDERED TURMERIC

1 TSP. RED CHILE POWDER

2 TSP. CHOPPED CILANTRO

SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)

 

To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan.  Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro.   Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt.  Mix well.  Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover.  Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes.  Stir a few times while this is cooking.  Your Aloo Jeera should be done now.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro.  The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads.  A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed.  In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish.  I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads.  Easy and delicious.  Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape.  Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home.  HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!

 

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO CROQUETTES, CAZZILLI DI VRUOCCULI E PATATE

12301481_523460571155581_6765352164488669537_n Italians love fried little bits…fritti…and the fritti come in many forms.  Depending on the region you will often find little street stands or stores that specialize only in Fried Foods. Stop.  I see your eyes rolling.  Life’s too short not to enjoy a fried treat now and then.  The list of Italian fried bits is very long AND delicious but let me introduce you to this one from Sicily.  The CAZZILLO.  Plural, CAZZILLI.  Now pardon my comments here but Sicilians love the bawdy and love things that make you laugh in embarassment.  Cazzo is Italian for the male organ…Cazzilli is Sicilian for, well, a little one LOL.  Are you embarassed and shocked?  The Sicilians have done it again.  Have some fun, life’s too short not to laugh a little.  This dish combines the Sicilians love of a good joke with a few of their favorite foods, potatoes and cauliflower.  VRUOCCULI is actually a type of cauliflower, a little greener than our pure white American Cauliflowers.  This CAZZILLI recipe is a version of the typical Sicilian potato croquette combined with mashed cauliflower.  Sicilians make their potato croquettes either simply rolled in flour and fried OR breaded and fried.  Generally when I’m making a Napoletana style Potato Croquette (Panzarotti) I will bread them. But when making Sicilian ones I don’t bread them.  These Cazzilli have a hefty helping of grated Caciocavallo cheese in them.  Now Caciocavallo is not available everywhere so instead you can use the more accessible Provolone or Pecorino.  See, I”m not going to give you a recipe that you can’t reproduce in your kitchen.  Truth be told most cooks in their homes will use what’s on hand to make a dish so it’s fine to use any one of the three.  Caciocavallo is most Sicilian.  If you have a good cheese store by you see if they carry CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, from Ragusa, Sicily. It’s amazing.   Now here’s a few tips.  Start with leftover or day old Mashed Potatoes.  Many recipes tell you to make it all the same day.  No.  There’s a magic that happens when a cooked starch sits overnight.  Trust me.  ItalianAmerican Moms and Grandmothers would make their versions of Potato croquettes usually with leftover mashed potatoes from the day before’s dinner. Same for RiceBalls (Arancini).  The end result is just better, and they don’t fall apart.  You’ll need 3 cups of mashed potatoes of this recipe.  Steam the cauliflower the day before as well.  One head of cauliflower for 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  When the cauliflower is still warm, mash it well.  set it in a strainer and let it drain overnight.  OR if you have leftover cauliflower, simply mash it.  So those are the starting points for these CAZZILLI.  Let’s get cooking now!!

TIME: 24 hours                   SERVES: 6 (up to 3 per person)

3 cups chilled day-old Mashed Potatoes

1 mashed steamed Cauliflower head

2 beaten eggs

1 1/4 cup grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO or PROVOLONE cheese

2 tbs. All purpose flour

1 tbs. minced flat leaf Italian parsley

salt, fresh ground black pepper

Olive oil for frying

Lemon slices for serving

Simply blend ALL the ingredients and season with salt and lots of black pepper until you can form a small oval shaped croquette, about 2 inches long.  Roll each one in flour, and then chill for 1/2 hour.  In a large heavy high sided pan (pull out the cast iron skillet for this!) Bring 2 inches of  oil to 360 degrees F and start frying the Cazzilli.  DON’T CROWD THE PAN!!! 5-6 at a time works well.   Fry till golden on all sides, takes about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  When done frying transfer to a nice serving platter and garnish with lemon slices.  They are wonderful hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy your CAZZILLI!!! HAPPY COOKING.

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.

 

 

 

POTATOES STEWED IN TOMATO, PATATE IN UMIDO, WITH GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL

12924567_1312429585441165_3820909032551130529_nDo you have a dish that brings you back to your childhood kitchen table?  I’m sure , like me, you have many.  Most of mine are simple dishes that my stay at home Mom fed us day after day and while they all left an impression on me some were just more special to me.  Coming in from P.S.26 in Staten Island, NYC at 3:10pm every day would always be made better when the aroma coming from Mom’s kitchen reached out..grabbed me by the nostrils and pulled me in.  These are things you don’t ever forget.  Let me not bore you AGAIN with my ethnic background, OK, I’ll bore you..I’m ItalianAmerican, second generation born in the U.S. and our meals were mostly Italian foods, or ITalianAmerican foods and peppered up with American and other international cuisines.  Mom gave us a great meal every night (not so much on breakfast, Mom hated the mornings). Come Spring I start to miss Mom more than usual (#italianamericanmommasboy), she loved her Spring and all the holidays it contained.  March is a bridge month I think.  A little Winter , A little Summer.  It takes us from the cold barren ice into the budding green and flowers.So winter or colder weather dishes are still great thru the month.  PATATE IN UMIDO…Stewed Potatoes, doesn’t sound to great does it?  Let me change your mind.  I’d eat this dish every night. On it’s own with a nice piece of Italian bread.  In the Summer when Dad’s garden was bursting she’d throw handfuls of his many varieties of green beans into the pot as well.  In that one move she took the hearty Wintry Patate in Umido and turned it into a Summer’s dish.  I smell her Aqua Net shellacked hair do along with her perfume as she’s passing me by as I write this. I’ll bet she wants to make sure I don’t screw up her dish as I share it with you!  LET’S COOK!!!

3 lbs of peeled potatoes

3 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, run thru a blender to puree or 2 cups of Passata

pinch of dried Oregano

salt, pepper

3 fresh Basil leaves

water as needed

Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated to taste

Peperoncino, to taste

Like most rustic Italian dishes not a lot of ingredients, all of these are very obtainable.

Cut potatoes into equal but cubes or slices.  Heat, in a heavy bottomed pot 2 Tbs. Olive Oil.  Pinch of salt, a bit of the Oregano, a bit of the pepper. Now add the potatoes and let them cook for 5 minutes stirring as you go.  Add the garlic and saute’ till fragrant.  Blend well.  Now season the potatoes with salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Stir.  Now let this pot simmer for 40 minutes.  Test a potato for doneness. Make sure you gently stir without breaking up the potatoes. If they are cooked through you are done.  Remove from the heat.  Tear up 3 basil leaves and gently blend in. DONE!  This makes large servings for 4, or a side dish for 4-6.  Check the dish for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as needed/to your liking.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the pot. Let your diners add their own peperoncino and Grated Cheese.

Thanks again for stopping by and HAPPY COOKING!!

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SICILIAN STYLE SAUSAGE MEATBALL STEW..SPEZZATINO CON POLPETTE DI SALSICCIA

img_3252SPEZZATINO!!!! The Italian word for STEW…although the word STUFATO means stew also, don’t ask, I don’t have an answer for that.  I think SPEZZATINO sounds nicer.  On the island of Sicily they have a SPEZZATINO culture, over in the Palermo region where they stew meatballs with potatoes.  Sounds like heaven.  A few years ago my friend Rose Marie Trapani, a native of the Palermo, Sicily region talked about her Mamma’s Meatball and Potato stew.  I had to make it. I loved everything about it.  In Sicily they also use the term SPEZZATINO AGGRESSATO DI POLPETTE CON PATATE…more new Italian and Sicilian words to increase your culinary vocabulary!! I like!!!  However, the stew I made last night was BASED on the principles of the Spezzatino Aggressato but I must drop AGGRESSATO from my recipe title.  My meatballs in this recipe are made from Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage Meat.  Into the stew I add Broccoli Rabe, Onions, Potatoes, diced Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Borlotti Beans and a nice red wine from Sicily, from REGALEALI, a NERO D’AVOLA.  What flavors in this stew! Notice I say Sicilian Style only because I created this dish in my kitchen with things from my pantry and fridge that went well together, it’s not a bona fide Sicilian dish.  I try to be careful about my Recipe titles. When I had a bowl of the Spezzatino the next day  I added some ricotta to the mix.  WOW. Not only did it taste better like all stews do the second day but the ricotta was a very tasty addition!  I’d advise making this on one day, and serving it the next.  Truly remarkable Italian-Siclian flavors.  It has that “Grandma” taste..are you with me here? Capisci??? Good.  Now we can start to cook.img_3231

First, we make the POLPETTE DI SALSICCE…the Sausage meatballs, made a bit smaller than a Sunday Sauce meatball.

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, prep and cooking                              SERVES: 4

1 LB LOOSE ITALIAN SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT

1 BEATEN LARGE EGG

1 CUP STALE ITALIAN BREAD, SOAKED IN MILK AND SQUEEZED

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PROVOLONE OR CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE

1/8 CUP RED WINE ( A RED SICILIAN, LIKE NERO D’AVOLA FROM REGALEALI IS FANTASTIC)

(do not add any salt to these meatballs as the sausage meat is already salted/seasoned and we are adding grated cheese)

Blend the garlic, parsley, bread with the beaten egg.  When combined, add the sausage meat and blend everything until it is well mixed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes covered, then form into small balls.  Fry the balls in Olive Oil. Reserve in a bowl. You will need to cook in batches.  Deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of the Red Wine scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meatballs.

for the SPEZZATINO:

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 DICED MEDIUM ONION

6 QUARTERED CREMINI MUSHROOMS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 DICED AND SEEDED TOMATO

2 CUPS of GREENS (chopped Swiss Chard, broccoli Rabe, Turnip Tops, Escarole, Spinach)

1 CUP of diced peeled POTATOES

2 CUPS OF COOKED BORLOTTI OR CANNELLINI BEANS

1 CUP OF RED WINE

2 CUPS OF CHICKEN STOCK

SALT, PEPPER TO TASTE

In a large heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil.  Add the onions,mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and then add the potatoes.img_3232 Let this cook for about 10 minutes   stirring frequently. Now add the tomato and the greens. Cook for 5 minutes, Add the garlic and when fragrant (about 2 minutes) add the beans.

img_3233  Mix.  Now add the wine first and bring to a boil.  The aroma is amazing at this point. Stir and then add the chicken stock and add stir. Add the Sausage Meatballs and any of the liquid that has collected in the bowl of sausage balls. img_3234Gently stir and bring to a boil again. Then reduce to a simmer.img_3236Now let this simmer until much of the liquid is reduced.  You want a sort of thick stew here rather than a soup (and that’s why it’s a SPEZZATINO!!!). This process should take about 40 minutes.  Keep an eye on this so it gets to the right consistency.  Frequently stir the pot.  When it’s done let it sit at least 3 hours before serving. Next day is even better.img_3238

Before serving, drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, peperoncino if you like, and of course grated Parmigiano or Pecorino. A hearty bowl of flavors with a Sicilian Twist.  Potatoes and Meatballs in a stew…Sicilian genius and comfort food.  A few other ingredients and it’s Minestrone meats Sicilian Meatball Stew…fantastico!!!  A nice Sicilian Red, like the Nero D’Avola you used in the Spezzatino goes great with it…img_3241

 

 

 

 

POTATOES O’BRIEN…IRISH-AMERICAN RESTAURANT FOOD

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

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

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

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

TIME: 1 hour                           SERVES: 4

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

 

ST.PATRICK’S DAY CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE

 

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Growing up there was always an excuse to throw a party, make a special meal…o it wasn’t always a party, life growing had some rough patches too.  However the overall picture always brings to mind large groups of family and friends, special decorations, music, and foods to mark the occasion.  By now you know what my ethnic background is but on the 17th of March each year my Mom would transform the dining room into a wee bit o’Blarney for St. Patrick’s Day.  Living in NYC, with St.Patrick’s Cathedral and the

St.Patrick’s Day parade as cultural landmarks, one could not escape the Erin Go Bragh pins, the Kiss Me I’m Irish shirts, the bar crawls, the scents of Corned Beef and Cabbage wafting from people’s homes.  Staten Island did and still does have a huge celebration in honor of the patron saint of Ireland along Forest Avenue, chockablock with Bars and restaurants, many owned by people of Irish decent.  Tradition was (is) to follow the parade route keeping in step with the bagpipers and going from one bar to another.

At home Mom decorated in the typical bright green colors associated with St. Patty’s Day.  Tablecloths, crepe paper streamers, napkins, plates..everything screamed it’s St. Patty’s Day.  The center of the table would have a vase filled with carnations dyed green.

It was a real festive day and after I started going out with my girlfriend, Debi Cooney

(yes, she’s Irish) my mom would always invite her widowed dad, John Myles Cooney over for her corned beef and cabbage, boiled parsley potatoes, homemade Irish Soda Bread, slices of rye bread, brown mustard, beer, whiskey, shamrock cupcakes, Irish coffee and Irish crème.  Mom always invited him (he became my father-in-law) over for this special day, he got a huge kick out of it he would tell me…”she’s more Irish than what my own family does”, and laugh.  We looked forward to the St.Patty’s Day greeting card Mom and Dad would send us every year after we got married.  I wish more people would follow my Mom’s example and learn and share in other ethnic groups holidays.  Since our children were born in China I am very open to celebrating and learning about all the world’s celebrations and the traditions and foods that are part of them.  Isn’t that more fun than just waiting for your “own” holidays every year?  I think so…stpats 008(One of the many St.Patrick’s Day greeting cards my Mom sent to my wife and I every year.)

Well here’s my gripe with lots of ways Corned Beef and Cabbage is prepared.  It’s one of the fattiest and toughest cuts of beef, the brisket.  Whether you are a bubbe in a Yiddish family, or a Romanian, or an Irish American, if the brisket it not cooked long and slow you will have a tough, fatty and greasy piece of meat.  To often I’ve had corned beef out, especially at some bar restaurants (think Blarney Stone, Pig & Whistle) where it’s just not braised long enough.  You have a mouthful of salty chewy grizzle and meat that doesn’t break up no matter how long you chew it.  What’s the problem and what’s the secret?  It’s all the cook’s fault.  Boiling Brisket should be a capital offense.  It’s the quickest way to toughen up those meat fibers and they only will again relax after a long long simmer in water that is not allowed to boil.  Long cooking gets all the heat and moisture deep into the brisket and begins that process where every piece of connective tissue is broken down into melt in your mouth goodness.  This principal is paramount in making Pot Roasts too.  And like a good soup or stock your braising liquid should be well seasoned full of bright and spicy flavors, sweet, sour.  The other death to your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef is when it’s improperly served, meaning, you didn’t take the time to trim it of all the fat that NOBODY will or wants to eat.  Surest way to keep you from eating corned beef ever again is to put a big floppy piece of corned beef fat in your mouth when you’re not expecting it.   This will put you off from eating this traditional meal FOREVER.  St. Patrick does not want to see that.  He wants you to enjoy this meal that honors his memory. stpats 018How could I write a St.Patrick’s Day blog without one of the most IRISH pictures I took when Deb and I visited the country of Ireland in August of 1982.  This was taken outside of the Derragarra Inn in County Cavan on the way from Northern Ireland to Dublin.

Lastly, for those who are sticklers for authenticity (I count myself in this OCD like group) Corned Beef is not even remotely Irish as in from Ireland.  It’s an Eastern European meat processed  like pastrami, from those parts of Europe that what miserable winters and needed ways to preserve the meat from the fall.  NYC being the initial entry point for most of those waves of immigrants invariably would have various ethnic groups living side by side with each other.  The Eastern Europeans pastrami and corned beefs were commonplace in those early immigrant years.  The Irish that came in those early days were pretty much dirt poor and the meat that they simmered with cabbage was a big piece of bacon, not an American bacon, but Irish bacon, more like a cured pork loin.stpats 002

Corned beef, braised with cabbage and potatoes has since become almost as American as apple Pie (although the origins of that may be in merry olde England or France) and certainly a cornerstone of Irish-American cuisine.

 

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE THIS ITALIAN-AMERICAN’S WAY

 

Corned Beef, about a 4 -5 lb. piece, (flat cut is the nicest for an even cut)..this will feed about 4-5 people…this is one piece of meat that really shrinks as it cooks…and MUST be cut thin to really enjoy it..i hate big fatty chunks of it…Place the corned beef in a large pot and cover it with water plus 1 cup of beer, 1/4 cup of Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, or Jamesons’, must be real Irish whiskey.  Add 1/2 cup of honey, 2 bay leaves, 2 chopped onions, 6 of the large outer cabbage leaves, torn, peppercorns, 4 whole cloves, 3 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt, 3 tbs. brown sugar, 3 tbs. mustard. 3 chopped celery stalks, 3 chopped carrots.  Add 1 head of cabbage, cored and quartered to the pot.,handful of fresh dill. Blend, bring to a boil, then simmer for 60 minutes per lb, covered.stpats 004

Now you have plenty of time to cook the rest of the meal.  Cube 6 medium sized redskin potatoes. Boil them in plenty of salted water to which you have added 1/2 onion, and 3 smashed garlic cloves.  Cook till done, this takes about 15 minutes

or when a fork or knife will easily slide through a cube.  Gently drain them.  Add 1/4 stick unsalted butter (or get somestpats 024Kerrygold Irish butter if your store sells it…)to the pot.  Dice together 1/2 a red onion and 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley together.

Add them to the butter, it will be melting from the heat of the pot, now add the potatoes, some salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.  Keep stirring this and the potatoes begin to “smash”, you will be left with a pot of smashed well seasoned potatoes…don’t over work them, the’ll just turn into mashed potatoes with skins.  Cover and just reheat gently when ready to serve.

The corned beef  needs to sit in its braising liquid for a good 5 hours (even better if you do it the day before and reheat it, then slice it) before you slice it.  If you can push your finger through the meat, it’s done.  Firm Corned beef has no place on your plate.  This is brisket, the same rules apply.stpats 020

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Serve the cabbage quarters on the side, add a little butter if you like, but they are seasoned and savory enough from all that stewing in the meat braising liquid. Cabbage is a tough hardy vegetable..it will stay together for this long cooking.  You want fork tender cabbage, this isn’t Cole Slaw.

And here is Cook O’A Food Obsession with his St.Patrick’s Day Spread…stpats 029

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!   Gaelic for…St. Patrick’s Day Blessing On You!!