Category Archives: SEASONAL FOOD

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

CONCHIGLIE CON POMODORO, ZUCCHINE E ROSMARINO..PASTA SHELLS WITH TOMATO, ZUCCHINI AND ROSEMARY…

ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!

1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)

2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED

1 ONION, DICED

SEA SALT

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE

PECORINO ROMANO

In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.

GREEK INFLUENCED LEMON, MINT, AND FETA ZUCCHINI

 

Summertime in New Jersey means zucchini.  Bumper crops of them.  Everyone with a home garden grows them and the stores are overflowing with locally grown boxes of this versatile squash.  Italians and Greeks love cooking with them.  The recipes are endless.    Clearly, for easy and relaxing summerentertaining this is a host’s dream.  The day before I picked a nice bunch of fresh mint (spearmint) from my garden.  Zucchini and mint are a very Mediterranean pairing, especially in Sicily and in Greece.  I had some Feta cheese and there you go…a dish is born.  Add some sunny lemons for a real Mediterranean freshness.  Are you exhausted with grilled vegetables?  I am,

call me blasphemous, but most times they are not grilled enough or burnt, and loaded down
with balsamic vinegar and too much oil.  Not a fan of the strongly acidic and flavored balsamic with charred vegetables, the flavors are too heavy for me. (I can see the hate mail now…)Instead of grilling, I decided to oven roast the zucchini slices and marinate them over night in
fresh lemon and mint with a little garlic…topping it with feta…a platter of Summer sunshine
reminiscent of a Summer’s day in the Greek Islands.. 
  It brings blue skies, bright Mediterranean sun,
white washed stucco houses clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, blue painted domes
that blend in with both the sea and the sky…magic.  All this from a bag of local zucchini.

Start with 5 zucchini.  Slice them into rounds, about 3/8 of an inch thick, any thinner, they
will just fall apart on you.  In a large stainless steel bowl, add the zucchini
along with 1/8cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (look for Greek Olive oil for a more “authentic”
flavor), 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper.  Toss. Pre-
heat an oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large baking pan, arrange the zucchini without overlapping.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them, bake for addtional 6 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave
them in for another 5 minutes.  check for times though,  You may need to adjust for your oven.
Don’t let them burn, they should have a nice roasted bottom, then when you turn them over,
they should be soft to the touch.gently place them into a bowl after they have cooled for at least 15 minutes.  Mix together the
juice of one large fresh lemon, 1 finely minced clove of  garlic, 2 leavy sprigs of fresh mint, a
pinch of salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  Pour this over the zucchini and
cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Arrange on a platter and crumble 1/8 cup of Feta cheese over the top.  Top with some
whole mint leaves, a little black pepper..you are done. Do not serve this cold.  Let it come
to room temperature to appreciate all the flavors on the platter…and go to your laptop and
book a trip to Greece…

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!!

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.

 

 

SUMMER CORN AND TOMATO SHRIMP SALAD..A SEASONAL TREAT

20258328_10210202426719502_1348156829950459464_nLiving in the Garden State (that would be New Jersey)Summer here produces some of the country’s finest produce, namely Tomatoes and Corn.  Our markets and backyards are bursting with this bounty and they BEG to be used in many ways.  I try to be creative keeping true to cuisines and flavor profiles.  This Warm Tomato and Corn Shrimp Salad came about while wondering what to cook one summer’s night.  The Shrimp, for this dish to be a success have to be fresh and US Wild Caught.  Our markets are getting more and more of these shrimp for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live where the Shrimp boats operate. Many of my local (Central Jersey Shore) supermarkets and seafood markets carry the U.S. caught Wild Shrimp.  They just are better looking…better tasting..better for you.  In Asbury Park near me is Local 130, a wonderful fishmonger who specializes in LOCAL fish and seafood as well as wonderfully well sourced and sustainable product from other U.S. locations.  These Shrimp came from off the coast of South Carolina.  Like little sweet crisp sea candies. The shrimp is sauteed then tossed with lightly sauteed corn off the cob and diced ripe tomatoes.  Then a dressing is poured over the whole thing that’s been infused with fresh Rosemary and its all tossed together and served on a platter over baby greens.  I like the Baby Arugula.  Baby Spinach or Baby Kale work too.  Let’s make some Shrimp Salad now!!

2 lbs shelled and deveined US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP.  The 16-20 size is what I use for this.

seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika)

Olive Oil

2 cups corn cut off the cob

2 medium sized ripe Tomatoes, medium dice

1/2 fine diced Sweet or Vidalia Onion

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups GREEK YOGHURT, drained

1 1/2 TBS, honey

1 TBS Finely diced FRESH ROSEMARY…do not use dried.

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS White Balsamic Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar

Pinch of ground Cayenne

Kosher Salt and Black pepper to taste

Baby Greens

 

First make the dressing.  Whisk together the Yoghurt, honey, 1/2 the rosemary, 1 tbs olive oil, the vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Reserve.

Lightly dust the shrimp in the flour, shake off the excess and saute’ in a wide pan with about 1/8 inch olive oil.  Saute in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary.  Cook only 2-3 minutes on first side, then 2 minutes on the other, or until both sides are golden.  Reserve and drain on paper towels.  Add the butter to the pan and when it’s melted saute’ first the onion, then add the corn and tomatoes, and 1/2 the rosemary, season with salt and pepper.  Cook this for at least 10 minutes on medium.  In a large mixing bowl add the shrimp and toss with the corn and tomato mixture.  When blended gently blend in the dressing.  When well blended let it sit for 10 minutes.  Using a large platter, make a nice bed of greens on it and then pile the shrimp salad on top.  Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve.  Feeds 4-5.

 

 

SPIEDIES, MARINATED AND GRILLED SKEWERED CUBES OF MEAT FROM NY STATE,ANOTHER ITALIAN AMERICAN CREATION

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WHO LOVES GRILLED MEATS?  I see lots of raised hands out there so this blogpost is just for you.  Ever have a SPIEDIE??  Well it’s time you did and they are extremely easy to make at home.  They are an ItalianAmerican version of a typical skewered meat/poultry dish popular around the world, but in this fashion it’s typical of the Mediterranean version.  SPIEDO is the Italian Word for KITCHEN COOKING SPIT.  italian meats threaded on skewers in some fashion generally take the name Spiedini which has different regionalities to it depending on the location in Italy or Sicily.Maybe you’re familiar with SPIEDINI, the small rolls of filled meat/poultry threaded with onions and bay leaves, sometimes slices of Italian Bread.  Or you’ve probably had the more well known Greek SOUVLAKIA which is REAL close to ItalianAmerican Spiedies with a few less marinade ingredients and the Greeks us TZATZIKI sauce and a Pita.  Spiedies just get more of the marinade on them and can be rolled up into a slice of American White Bread or an Italian long roll.

So what makes these Mediterranean treats ItalianAmerican? Let’s go back to the old country for a moment.  In the ABRUZZO region a popular dish is cubes of marinated skwered lamb called SPIDUCC’..or SPIDDUCCI. In True ITALIAN fashion each section of the ABRUZZO has local terms for this dish.  ARROSTICINI, ‘RUSTELLE, ARRUSTELLE, all pretty much are the same thing.   The term SPIEDIE though is pure ItalianAmerican.   The cubes are marinated in a simple dressing of Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (PUT DOWN THAT BALSAMIC!!! IT COMES FROM UMBRIA NOT THE ABRUZZO!! Lidia Bastianich says it best, foods from an area taste best when you use the ingredients from that area/region. Balsamic while delicious is not a substitute for all vinegar dishes, there, I’ve said it.  I know, in America it’s used on everything.  My purpose in  blogging is to give you the real deal, or close to it.  If you use balsamic, just don’t tell me LOL.), garlic or onion, peperoncino, salt, lemon juice, herbs like mint, oregano, basil, bay.  The lamb cubes would be marinated for as long as possible, threaded onto metal skewers and slow roasted over hot coals.    One of the world’s most popular ways of cooking meats yet still amazing wherever you have it.   The American connection comes in via Ellis Island during the great Italian Immigration from 1880s-1930s.  Many paesani from the Abruzzo settled in the area of Central New York State around Binghamton NY.  As is the norm they brought with them dishes from their homeland and adapted them to the new surroundings.  Lamb was first used but in the USA immigrants found ALL meats were easy to get and well priced so in true American fashion varieties of meats and poultry were used to make these Arrosticini or Spidducci which turned into the ItalianAmerican word, SPIEDIES.  Legend hotly contests who the creator of the first one in a restaurant was and who had the first “sauce” for them, but the Iacovelli family of Endicott, NY near Binghamton  in the 1920’s-1930’s gets the most credit.  Plenty of other stories about who and what but that’s where an Italian regional dish made the jump into ItalianAmerican cuisine.  These SPIEDIES were marinated in the cook’s version of SPIEDIE Sauce, and grilled, then with a piece of American White Bread (see, this is what makes things ItalianAmerican too) you roll the bread around the spiedie and pull it off into the bread.  Instant SPIEDIE SANDWICH. Italian Rolls used also.  Now let’s get your charcoal grill stoked and ready for grilling, or prep that gas grill and get this Summer on the road with a platter of SPIEDIES for your dining pleasure!!!

2 LBS MEDIUM CUBED MEAT/POULTRY..Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Turkey
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup LEMON JUICE, not the bottled stuff, use fresh Lemons
1 cup RED WINE VINEGAR
1 TSP PEPERONCINO
3 finely minced GARLIC cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1 TSP CRUMBLED DRIED MINT OR
2 TSPS FRESH MINCED BASIL, not both
1 TSP MINCED FRESH PARSLEY

1 1/2 TSP DRIED OREGANO

you will need to make 2 batches of the marinade.

SALT and BLACK PEPPER, to taste (be generous with it)

LONG HEAVY DUTY WOODEN SKEWERS (soaked overnight in water), or METAL SKEWERS

Double the marinade recipe and blend well.  Let this sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  Now separate in equal amounts.  Cover and reserve one batch for serving with the finished Spiedies.  Add the meat to the other batch and make sure all the cubes are in the marinade.  Add the squeezed cut lemons to the bowl and cover. Marinade in the fridge optimally overnight, or no less than 3 hours. Remove the marinating meat from the fridge and LET IT COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE.  Thread the cubes on the skewers, depending on the length of them make sure to leave some blank space at the tip and the end of the skewers.  On a well oiled medium heat grill start cooking them lining them up without touching each other and give them at least  7 minutes per side, or more, esp with the chicken/turkey.  You can rotate them a few times to get them more evenly grilled.  Discard the first marinade and use a little of the 2d batch to baste certainly using a new bowl. Keep the rest of the marinade for serving with the finished dish.   Remove the finished Spiedies from the grill and place on a platter. Have the extra Marinade and sliced bread or rolls handy to wrap around the SPIEDIES, PULL OFF, add more marinade and ENJOY.  Makes enough for 6-8 servings.

In the Summer an Annual SPIEDIE FEST is held in Central NY…here’s the link:

https://www.spiediefest.com/

 

Happy Cooking!!!  Oh yes, you can buy Spiedie Sauce already made.  Or not.  Make your own.

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER SALAD….TOMATO, PAN ROASTED CORN, THYME AND RANCH WITH RED ONION

0007September is in full swing,  moving us from Summer into Fall and presenting us with some of the best produce of the season.  Tomatoes are fantastic.  Corn is amazing.  Herbs are full of flavor.  It’s right before that old fashioned “Harvest Tyme” so what better time (pun intended) to create a seasonal salad that NEVER tastes as good as right now.  Corn is PAN ROASTED and cut off the cob, mixed with sweet sun ripened  tomatoes, red onion, fresh thyme (more time, i think i have too much TIME on my hands, sorry folks couldn’t resist that bit of corn (more puns, stop!!!). Toss it all with a simple Ranch style dressing and you have a great bowl of salad.  A Celebration of September!  You can make this any time of the year but it will never taste as good as it does right now..unless you’re in the southern Hemisphere. Then you will enjoy this in a few month when your Summer is ending.  I live at the central Jersey Shore and we have farms, lots of local farms that until the first frosts of the upcoming Fall will be giving us wonderful fruits and vegetables. We are called the GARDEN STATE for a reason. Contrary to the usual media images of  the urban areas of this state, we have farms.  Lots of them.  And in September they are giving us their best.  Find some farm fresh tomatoes and corn OR maybe you grow your own!  Follow my recipe and serve this salad to your family and friends.  Let’s go into the kitchen!!!

TOMATO GRILLED CORN THYME AND RED ONION SALAD WITH RANCH DRESSING

TIME : 1 hour                         SERVES: 4-6

RANCH STYLE DRESSING

1/2 CUP BUTTERMILK

1/3 CUP SOUR CREAM

2 TBS. HELLMAN’S MAYONAISE (OR DUKE’S)

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP GRANULATED GARLIC

1 TBS. BROWN MUSTARD

1 TSP. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

1 1/2 TBS. HONEY

2 DASHES TABASCO SAUCE

KOSHER SALT TO TASTE

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

whisk ALL the ingredients together till smooth and creamy.  Taste for seasoning.  Cover and leave at room temperature until the Salad is ready to “dress”.

 

SALAD

5-6 EARS OF CORN (or 2 1/2 Cups of Frozen, Drained Canned )

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 MEDIUM RED ONION, SMALL DICED

2 RIPE SEASONAL TOMATOES, DICED

2  TBS. CHOPPED FRESH THYME

SALT, PEPPER

In a hot cast iron pan lightly oil the pan and fit 3 ears of corn and let it char on one side.  Turn and do this with all the ears of corn until they are all nicely charred.  When they have cooled down strip the ear of its corn by holding it vertically in a bowl (with a damp paper towel under it to keep it from moving!)using a sharp knife cut off all the kernels from the ear.  When you are done add the fresh of the ingredients to the bowl.  Season with Salt and Pepper.Then pour the dressing over it all.  Blend well.   Taste for seasoning.Chill for at least 1 hour then serve.   Taste for seasoning.

A fitting salad to usher out the growing season and warm weather!!  Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

RICE AND ZUCCHINI PATTIES WITH A BALSAMIC REDUCTION

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Zucchini season means being creative if you are fortunate to have tons in your garden or as gifts from people you know who have a bumper crop.  You may be enticed by a fresh looking display in your farmers market or food store.  However you get your zucchini the possibilities are endless as to what you can make with them. Here’s an idea that builds on the Mediterranean tradition of mixing eggs, a starch, cheese, and a vegetable into a little fried morsel.  Southern European countries are brimming with these types of fritters and really a few well made ones can be the main event at a meal.  I love rice and always cook extra with something to be made the next day in mind.  Something about leftover rice, it just makes for nice fritters, like Arancini (Riceballs) or these patties we will now cook.  The key here is leftover rice.  Results will NOT be the same if you the rice the same day you’ve cooked it.  Please note that you have been warned, lol.  Pulling from a lifetime of eating Southern Italian food I put together this patty one day when I had some leftover rice in the fridge.  A little fresh basil, onion, and a finishing touch of Balsamic make for a really nice plate.

For approx. 14 patties       Time: (using leftover rice) 1 hour

1 3/4 CUPS LEFTOVER COOKED RICE (STRESSING THE LEFTOVER PART !!)

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI SHREDDED, THEN BETWEEN TOWELS OR PAPER TOWELS, SQUEEZE ALL THE MOISTURE OUT OF THEM.

2 LARGE BEATEN EGGS

1 CUP BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE

1/4 TSP CHOPPED FRESH THYME

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICE

1 TBS. CHOPPED PARSLEY

1/2 TSP. FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

SALT TO TASTE

1/4 CUP GOOD BALSAMIC VINEGAR, SLOWLY REDUCED TO LESS THAN 1/2 IT’S ORIGINAL VOLUME)

Mix all the ingredients till they all will stick together.  Heat about 2 tbs. olive oil or canola oil in a pan.  Make a small test patty, roll some of the mix into a walnut size ball then flatten, make sure there’s a nice sizzle when you add it to the pan.  Let the patty get nicely browned on both sides, then drain on paper towels..TASTE THIS, of course after it’s cooled off.  If you are happy with the seasoning form 14 equal sized patties, about 2 inches wide, no more than 1 inch thick.  If it’s not seasoned enough add more salt and blend well.  Add  a little more olive oil to the pan and without crowding them in the pan cook them in batches over medium heat.  Don’t rush this…why?  You want the eggs in the mix to bind with the breadcrumbs, cheese and other ingredients to hold the patties together.  Heat that’s too high will cause the outsides to burn and then leave the insides uncooked.  Slower cooking also will ensure the vegetables cook nicely.  When you have a nice golden brown color on one side flip them and let the other side get to the same color.  Transfer to a platter and tent them with tin foil and place them in the oven just to stay warm until the entire batch is done.  Arrange them  on a platter over baby arugula and drizzle the balsamic over the patties.  Great party or dinner platter..you can even make them smaller and serve as appetizers.  Take the recipe and go with it!!  And the Balsamic sauce is a winner with simply reducing it.  HAPPY COOKING!! Enjoy Zucchini while it’s in season!!!

 

 

 

END OF SUMMER PANZANELLA STYLE SALAD

IMG_1707The last weeks of August are when tomatoes are at their peak in my region.  Jersey Tomatoes are prized for their full rich flavor after vine ripening and I happen to live in Jersey, so…there you go.  Our tomatoes are fantastic.  Truth be told I though our Staten Island, NYC tomatoes were fantastic too.  Ask my late father or my late Uncle Tony Scaramuzzi, two of Staten Island’s leading ItalianAmerican authorities and growers of tomatoes in their large home gardens.  They carried on that rivalry for years. They both grew amazing tomatoes. But I’m in Jersey where there’s a religion that worships the warm bright red orbs, big and small and this is the time of the year for them to be at their very best.  You can make sauces from them, oh yes, amazing pasta sauces but really…I’m way more interested in eating the raw product.  This is the only time of the year they will be this good.  August.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we probably eat them raw at least once a day during the season.  While I don’t grow my own our farm markets are bulging at the seams with local tomatoes of all different varieties and your friends and neighbors who grow them in their home gardens are very generous with their bags of tomatoes as gifts for you.  I have such a neighbor.  Thanks Mike!  When I walked into the kitchen earlier today the aroma of the tomatoes I picked in his garden was floating somewhere in the air.IMG_1694That’s when I knew it’s time for ……..PANZANELLA.  Ok, Panzanella, what is it?  Well let’s start with what it’s not.  It’s not made with toasted bread.  The bread has to get stale.That means you can’t force it.  STALE. Let it sit in a paper bag for 2 days after you buy it, and buy brick oven Italian bread, no seeds, if possible.  The  toasted bread is a crouton, delicious, but not panzanella. One problem in being authentic to the Tuscan Panzanella is the bread itself. In Tuscany the bread is salt-less.  NO SALT.   When I went to Italy the first time in 1986, my maternal grandmother, a native of Avellino told me “be careful when you travel up North (in Italy)….senza sale..o’pane senza sale..no good.”  LOL.  She was right. Saltless bread must be one of those “acquired” tastes. If all the bread you’ve eaten all your life contains salt, it’s a strange taste without it.  So unless you are baking your own bread chances of finding good Italian saltless bread is going to be a problem. Even in Italy, outside of Tuscany, they use their local breads containing salt for this dish.  This salad is a balance of bits of only a few things.  There’s a small amount of red wine vinegar that helps to soften and flavor the bread and that allows the tomatoes full flavor to shine through. Imagine, I can wax poetically over a salad of stale bread and tomatoes.  If you notice in my title to this blogpost I say Panzanella “STYLE”…that’s like a get out of jail card for me.  It allows me to be close to what’s thought of as the closest to the original without misnaming the dish.  My panzanella I made tonight contains no Cucumber. Why?  I love cucumbers.  One of my daughters loves cucumbers.  My wife?  Hates them (so misguided isn’t she?). So, since one cooks to make the diners happy I always make my version of Panzanella without cucumber.  Feel free to add it, or, stick with my Panzanella STYLE.  And put down that bottle of Balsamic. It’s not , never now or ever..a substitute for Red Wine Vinegar which is what you use in this dish.  Italy generally is fiercely regional.  Balsamic is a traditional aged product of Emilia-Romagna.  Panzanella is generally a Tuscan dish.  Not the same region so pay attention here!! Alright, enough of my lecturing on this salad..let’s make it now.

TIME: 2 hours                                             SERVES: 4 people

4 thick slices of STALE (remember, Stale, plan ahead her, this isn’t a salad with seasoned croutons which is what “toasting ” them in the oven would do.  coarsely chopped

3 large tomatoes, JERSEY VINE RIPENED if possible..if not, find good local homegrown or farm market tomatoes.  Dice them and leave them in a bowl.

1 SMALL RED ONION, DICED

4 BASIL LEAVES

(1 PEELED AND THIN SLICED CUCUMBER IF USING)

SEA SALT

3 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 TBS RED WINE VINEGAR

WATER

1 TSP SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Soak the bread in about 1/8 cup of water for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the water. Then season with 1/2 tsp Sea salt, 1/2 tsp Black pepper, 2 tbs, Red Wine Vinegar, blend, then add 2 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. Let this sit for 15 minutes.  Now add all the other ingredients:IMG_1697Then mix gently with…YOUR HANDS.  It’s how it’s done.  There are 2 methods, mine and then everyone elses, lol.  In Tuscany the bread is mixed by hand FIRST and then the other ingredients blended in.  I mix it all together, let it sit for 1/2 hour. Then I mix it again making sure the bread is well soaked.  Let it sit for 1/2 hour again, check for seasoning then serve. It’s that simple.  Add a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil before mixing prior to serving. Fresh ground pepper over everything.

It’s hard to enjoy this out of season which is why I’m highlighting it now.  If you attempt this in the winter months,  no matter how hard you try those winter tomatoes will stay rock hard and NOT give up the juices they do in the Summer.  Those juices are the real flavor in this salad and the soaked bread delivers it to you.  Note: seasoning. At every step give the salad a taste and if something is not quite right, a little salt and pepper will correct it.IMG_1700