Category Archives: SEASONAL FOOD

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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

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

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

SERVES:  4-6                       TIME: 1/2 hour

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

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

1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO

1/8 CUP FRESH CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/4 CUP TOASTED UNSALTED ALMONDS

1/8 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

3 ROUGH CHOPPED PEELED GARLIC CLOVES

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1/4 CUP OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

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

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

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

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

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

Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!

 

ROASTED GREEN BEANS…AN EASY FRESH VEGETABLE

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FRESH, BRIGHT, GREEN. All words I long to hear when April rolls around.  Living in the Northeast United States this year has held onto a really unseasonably cold Winter for way too long.  Even under normal regional weather conditions for this time of the year I’m as overdone as burnt toast pleading for something green to sprout from the ground.  Whether you celebrate Spring, Passover, Easter foods which have bright fresh flavors take center stage.  The root vegetables will finally take a back seat and it’s back to seeing new vegetables in the markets.    So to start off the Spring season and possibly  Holiday cooking let’s make some Roasted Green Beans. Stop, don’t think that this is a “Spring” thing, you can get fresh green beans throughout the year so keep that in mind.  When  in season in your area and  grown local…even BETTER.  The ingredients are few, the flavor is immense.  Green Beans, OliveOil, Garlic, Salt , Pepper.  Are you with me??  Awesome. step into my kitchen and let’s cook!!

SERVES: 5-6                            TIME:  25 MINUTES

1 1/2 lbs. TRIMMED CLEANED FRESH GREEN BEANS

2 1/2 TBS.  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1-2 SLICEDor HALVED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT

GROUND BLACK PEPPER

ONE LARGE LEMON

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Using a sturdy baking pan, lay out the green beans and coat with 2 tbs. of Olive Oil. Make sure you have them in one flat layer.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of saltand the garlic.401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_n  Now roast them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and give them a toss, continue to roast for 5 more minutes as they gently brown. Remove and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 Tbs. of the Olive Oil. Slice the lemon and squeeze 1/2 of it over the beans. Ovens like people are very tempermental and unique so as with any recipe YOU are the most important part of the recipe.  450 F in your oven may cook them faster or slower..just keep an eye on them.  You want them to be somewhat wrinkled, tender yet not mushy. Serve with lemon slices.

Good to see green on my pages and in the stores and very soon outside!  Happy Spring!!

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LET THE SUNSHINE ON YOUR SALAD WITH THIS BRIGHT CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

004  While  the dregs of the Winter are in full force please do not think this is a recipe that is limited to any particular season. It’s great for any season but ESPECIALLY when the cold has hung around for months now and Spring is just around the corner.   Florida’s citrus crop is in season and what better way to celebrate than to have those flavors enhance your meals??  There’s a hint of sweet, some spice, some aromatics..the whole thing works in this vinaigrette..btw…the word for a salad dressing in French is VINAIGRETTE…not VINEGARETTE or VINEGRETTE.  A VINAIGRETTE may or may not contain Dijon Mustard, but it will always contain an OIL and VINEGAR.  Good OliveOil is a wonderful flavor in a Vinaigrette, I know, I know..there’s that tasteless neutral oil known as Salad Oil.  Not going to preach, but those oils just aren’t the best due to how they are processed.  I like flavor.  I like the flavor of an Olive Oil and for this dressing I used a Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Above all use a good quality oil,you want that taste and the vinegar should also be of good quality. Put down the Balsamic, it’s a horrible choice for this salad.  I went with a Rice Wine Vinegar. Oils and Vinegars of different types should occupy space in your pantry. Nut based oils are wonderful too but they just turn rancid before you would probably finish using the bottle.  This post is really about the dressing and not the salad however it was a mix of chopped Romaine,torn Baby Spinach, Clementine Segments and ripe Strawberries. They are currently in my local markets, seasonal fruits from Florida, how could I not use them this week??  This recipe will make you a cup of the Vinaigrette.

MAKES:  1 CUP                             TIME: 10 minutes plus 1 hour sitting time

note: Make a vinaigrette AT LEAST one hour before serving and do not refrigerate.  Room temperature and sitting time create the flavors.

  • 2 TABLESPOONS finely minced RED ONION
  • 1TSP COARSE DIJON MUSTARD or REGULAR DIJON if Coarse is unavailable
  • 1 TABLESPOON FRESH CLEMENTINE JUICE
  • 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY (if all you have is dried, FORGET THE ROSEMARY, and use Fresh Thyme)
  • 1 1/2 TABLESPOONS RICE WINE VINEGAR
  • 3/4 CUP SPANISH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (i happen to love the flavor of the Spanish for this, feel free to use any other ExtraVirgin OliveOil
  • 1 dash of TABASCO SAUCE
  • 1 TBS HONEY
  • FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, KOSHER SALT to taste

Blend everything except the Olive Oil..When all blended in a steady stream whisk in the Olive Oil till the mixture is creamy.  Let sit for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours…rewhisk, then use on the salad of your choice.  Certainly, if you are not using it the same day you’ve made it, tightly cover it and refrigerate. This will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

To make this “vegan-Friendly” omit the Honey and use Agave Nectar,I like the dark Agave better, more flavor.

 

STUFFED MUSHROOMS PIZZAIOLA, MY MOM’S HOLIDAY STAPLE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  I hope that lead picture draws you into this blogpost because not only is it a great dish for you to make, it means so much to me.  STUFFED MUSHROOMS PIZZAIOLA..let’s explore that…what makes it (Something) PIZZAIOLA?  The SAUCE.  Simple.  A blend of crushed Italian Plum Tomatoes, usually out of the can, preferably San Marzanos, then blended with OLIVE OIL, GARLIC, OREGANO, SALT, PEPPER.  That’s it. It’s used on Pizzas in Naples and paired up with other meats or poultry then baked, and that’s the sauce that makes these Stuffed Mushrooms Pizzaiola (meaning in the style of the Pizza Maker’s wife).  While the Pizzaiolo was making the pies, the wife who was the home cook was using the sauce in inventive ways.  Ok, that’s what I think happened so I am standing by that romantic explanation.  More importantly I want you do enjoy something that was a Holiday staple for my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas Day dinner year after year.  These are my mother’s Stuffed Holiday Mushrooms.  Only when making them last night did it occur to me that her recipe contained Pizzaiola sauce.  I love when that happens.  She was Napoletana, the sauce is Napoletana, stuffed vegetables are very Napoletana, it’s a dish that defines my family’s history.  AND it tastes awesome and that is why you want to make them.  Now is this exactly like my mother’s?  Let’s say 85%, I add some other techniques or steps to Mom’s standard Italian Fennel Sausage, pecorino, garlic, herb, and breadcrumb stuffing so this is MY VERSION of Mom’s recipe.  There’s enough of Mom’s recipe in here to make it mostly her’s, soeaster79momI don’t think she’ll be looking down from Heaven on my stove without smiling.  Miss you MOM!! That picture was taken by me Easter Sunday 1979 in our dining room..where all the Holiday Meals and Special occasions went down.  While cooking this last night my kitchen had every smell of the Holidays of my youth.  Happens everytime I make these Mushrooms for Thanksgiving.  Even if we dine elsewhere, I make a tray for home.  Try a Stuffed Mushroom slider sometime. Delicious!!  And the Pizzaiola sauce after baking is further seasoned by the mushrooms themselves and all the flavors in the stuffing.  Mom’s Thankgiving table was the stuff dreams were made of, at least to this kid..Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Artichokes, Antipasto, her roasted red peppers (Holla!!),Finocchio on the table, nuts, dates, figs, fruit, Manicotti, Sausage and Meatballs, Turkey, Stuffing, Broccoli Rabe, “American” Broccoli, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Almondine, Cranberry Sauce..I’m not sure anymore if there was a salad…i’m thinking not…the dinner though would begin with chilled fruit cocktail in a stemed dish..This was as fancy as we got.  She even dressed her turkey, booties, fruits, garnishes, it was heaven.  Of course Italian Pastries but what everyone looked forward to were the pies…lots of them..apple, apple crumb, pumpkin, sweet potato, lemon merengue (my favorite), Cherry, Mince (no one at that one ),pecan, banana cream, chocolate pudding..you get the picture.  If you are at all in tune with food the heightened standard and diverse recipes and preparations during the Holidays is an excuse to do what you are really doing all year.  I love it and I hope you do to regardless of what holidays at year’s end you celebrate or do not.  It’s a time for entertaining.  My mom knew how to entertain, although, she wanted everything cleaned up too quickly…lol.  That tradition I do not perpetuate!  Relax, the mess will still be there tomorrow.  I’m not taking up precious social time to clean up..later for that!

Ready to cook?  I use regular button mushrooms for this..why you ask?  When there are beautiful huge stuffing mushrooms to be had?  Think of all that shows up at the holiday table, there’s usually a high variety of food, some of it very rich.  I’d rather serve a small bite than something that could be it’s own appetizer for a sit down dinner.  Think BIG picture, not just BIG food.

MAKES  50 MUSHROOMS

50 MUSHROOMS, STEMS GENTLY SEPARATED (finely dice the stems)

1 1/2 lbs. loose mix of hot and sweet ITALIAN PORK FENNEL SAUSAGE meat

(or just one type)

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1 large whole clove of GARLIC

Olive Oil

1 tsp. diced PANCETTA

1/4 cup RED WINE

1 tsp.Oregano

1/8 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

1/4 cup DICED LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA(not fresh made)

1/8 cup PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1 ITALIAN ROLL, day old preferably..soaked in water, then squeeze out the water

KOSHER SALT

2 TBS. FINELY CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 CAN (28 OZ) SAN MARZANO TOMATOES OR GOOD ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/2 TSP FENNEL SEED, SLIGHTLY BRUISED

BLACK PEPPER

Start by making the PIZZAIOLA SAUCE. Simple.  Crush the tomatoes with your hand or run thru the processor or a food mill.  I’m lazy.  I use my hands.  Less clutter and things to wash, but feel free to use whatever you are comfortable with.  Empty it into a mixing bowl.  Add 1 TBS. Olive Oil, I like the taste of Olive Oil, alot..so I like a good Extra Virgin in here.  Feel free to use what you like.  Add 1/2 tsp of Oregano that you RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS..key technique, you release the oils in the dried oregano..do not use fresh for this. Salt and Pepper to taste..Smash one whole clove of garlic.  Add that..Now blend the ingredients and set it aside.

mushroompizzaiola 007  How beautiful is that!!??  And btw, since this is not cooked before you add it to the mushrooms the type and quality of the tomato is very very important.  Sometimes you can help out not so good tomatoes by cooking them in a sauce.  Not so with this Pizzaiola method.  The bright fresh taste of the tomato is highlighted in this sauce.  No 1.99 tomatoes here, they should cost you at least $ 2.50 or more.  Make that mental note.

Now the stuffing…it’s a Red Wine Braised Italian Sausage stuffing with some additions.let’s have fun with this.  In a large heavy pan for caramelization! add a little olive oil.  Keep on medium heat and add the pancetta.  When that is somewhat clear and has a little color on it add the sausage.  Let it cook on one side for at least 8 minutes or until it’s browned, then chop it with a spatula and turn the sausage meat so it now will evenly brown.  Let this cook for 5 minutes. Now add the sliced garlic.  Resist the urge to season at this point because sausage meat is well seasoned and soon we will be adding cheese to this..more salt.  You can always add salt, you can’t ever remove it, so trust me here. Now add the chopped stems and blend in well.  After about 2 minutes add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes then add the wine.  What an aroma you are now getting!! mushroompizzaiola 002 Let this simmer for at least 10 minutes.  If the wine evaporates before that just add a touch more.  This process infuses that tasty sausage with the wine flavor.  It’s delicious!  OK, take a piece out for yourself…are you smiling???  After 10 minutes, remove from the heat and let this cool down for at least 20 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining oregano, the breadcrumbs,the bread, all the cheeses, the parsley, and mix together. Now add the sausage mushroom mix and 2 tbs of that Pizzaoila sauce you made…blend well.  It’s ready when it looks like this:mushroompizzaiola 003  Then gently stuff each mushroom cap with the stuffing, just to the top, if there’s left over just add a little more to some.mushroompizzaiola 005  Place them into a baking/roasting pan that you’ve drizzled with some olive oil.  Next step…pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Drizzle the Pizzaiola sauce around and over the mushrooms, another drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of some grated Pecorino Romano.mushroompizzaiola 010  You really have to be getting excited now.  Please say you are!!  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, rotate the pan.  Why?  I believe most ovens have hot spots so this just helps with an even cooking of the pan.  They are done when the mushrooms are soft.  Let them sit for about  5 minutes before serving and these reheat REAL well.  Here’s the finished product:

mushroompizzaiola 011

 

 

A wonderful starter to a big Holiday meal, or a side, or , away from the Holidays make this and serve with pasta..the sauce needs good bread for dipping or wonderful on pasta.