Category Archives: SUMMER FOOD

CHICKEN, PROVOLONE, PARSLEY AND BASIL PATTIES, SUMMER LOVE

401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nSummer, love it, can’t wait for it to start and hate when it’s over. This is my happy time.  Even the food changes for the most part as I migrate to being outside versus inside and what better way to start of the month of June than with a recipe of mine that is best when cooked on a charcoal or gas grill.  CHICKEN PATTIES…now don’t think a dry hockey puck of plain chicken with some seasoning, i understand that fowl (get it?? please lol) version is a thing.  Mine though reflects my world, that ItalianAmerican world of NYC and NJ that has a particular love for ItalianAmerican cuisine.  Every Summer growing up starting with Labor Day the local Salumerias (Pork Stores) would start selling certain meats just made for the Summer months.  The Cheese and Parsley ring on the crisscrossed skewers and the chicken patty made with Provolone and Parsley, sometimes Basil too, sometime diced peppers and onions in the mix too but my preference was/is the provolone/parsley and basil blend.  Easy to make, easy to cook and wonderful to eat.  These patties of my youth and current life are delicious.  You need a good sharp chef’s knife and a food processor.  What?  What about ground chicken?   It will be too dry.  It will be too processed and the texture will be off.  Your end pattie should have some chicken texture.  Trust me, it makes for a better pattie.

The recipe makes 4 patties.

TIME: 45 minutes                                     YIELD: 4 PATTIES

3 FULLY TRIMMED BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN BREAST, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE

1 FULLY TRIMMED BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGH, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE

or use all breast, or all thigh, if all thigh it will take longer to cook.

1/4 CUP FINELY DICED SWEET ONION

1 TSP WHITE WINE

1/4 CUP DICED PROVOLONE (AURICCHIO BRAND IMPORTED FROM ITALY PREFERRED)

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 CHOPPED SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 BASIL LEAVES

1 TSP COARSE ITALIAN BREAD CRUMBS

1/2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

 

Chill the blade and bowl of a food processor for 10 minutes.  Then Pulse the meat and cheese no more than 3 times. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Pulse JUST until everything is blended.  Turn out the mixture into a bowl and form into 4 equivalent patties. Place on wax paper and cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

On a well oiled grate, grill the patties on medium heat (whether it’s gas or charcoal) and grill on each side for at least 5 minutes per side, certainly make any time adjustments for your grill.  A too high grill will burn the outside and keep the inside close to undone.  A too low grill will steam the patties.  Yes, all these different temps and methods change how the end product tastes!! When they are done, place on a platter and tent with foil.  Leave them sit for 5 minutes.  Then serve on Rolls or on their own..  A very delicious taste of my “Summer”. Enjoy.

 

 

PEPERONATA, SOUTHERN ITALIAN PEPPER STEW

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PEPERONATA

 

Italian Cuisine is full of simple dishes that require one rule….look for the best ingredients you can find.  That basically translates into cook with the seasons.  In the USA we can access foods out of our regional seasons at any time of the year.  Making an out of season peperonata will still be a delicious dish but never as good as when peppers are in season.  That rule applies across the board.  Me?  I make peperonata whenever I feel like totally realizing that a Peperonata made in May will take delicious, but never as good as one you make in August thru November.The most basic form of this PEPERONATA, which is a PEPPER STEW, is  slow cooking strips of different colored peppers in Olive Oil  with onions and garlic.  Then it splits off from there into many variations.  Give this dish about 2 hours of your time and you’ll be making it over and over again.  Use a nice heavy and wide pot fot this dish, a dutch oven.  I add the umami of Anchovy to the mix.  The dish is southern Italian so as long as these are combos that appear in other regional dishes you are not committing Italian Food Heresy. 006Home grown produce that’s still warm in your hand and seconds from picking it will ALWAYS be the optimum way to get your ingredients. In the real world only a handful of us have that treat.  Next best idea is to have a local farmers or farm market where produce truly is local, from the surrounding area.  Living at the Central Jersey Shore we have quite a few great places that for those of us who don’t grow in our own gardens and the seasonal selections are fantastic. This is where I purchased the peppers for my PEPERONATA. http://www.deliciousorchardsnjonline.com/….DELICIOUS ORCHARDS in Colts Neck N.J.  Beautiful selection of local bell peppers, seasonal bell peppers from other areas, local cubanelles, cheese peppers, hot cherry peppers, Italian long hots, Italian Long Sweets, and dozens of chile pepper varieties.  For this dish we use a mix of multicolored bell peppers.  The long stewing transforms these ordinary tasting peppers into a complex and velvet like vegetable stew.  About the variations, if the core of the dish isn’t a slow cooked down pot of pepper slices with olive oil and onions and/or garlic it’s just a saute’ of peppers. A little tomato in the mix adds to the complexity.  I use a tablespoon of Imported Italian tomato paste..rich and concentrated. Lidia is telling us “layers of flavor” in most of her shows and this dish is an example of how a crisp raw pepper and some other ingredients turns into something so much greater than it was before you made the Peperonata.  Get excited!! This is an exciting tasting dish. Here is my version of PEPERONATA!

MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS                             TAKES: CLOSE TO 2 HOURS

1/2 cup OLIVE OIL

8 MULTICOLORED SUMMER BELL PEPPERS, seeded, cored, ribs cut out, and cut into as uniformly sliced cuts as you can get.

2 MEDIUM SLICED ONIONS

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/2 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED OREGANO

1 TSP. RINSED SALTED CAPERS

1 ANCHOVY FILET (ok, optional if you refuse to enjoy the umami that those delicious little fish give without making it taste like fish…just sayin…)

1 TABLESPOON OF TOMATO PASTE (i use imported Italian tomato paste)

2 TABLESPOONS OF RED WINE VINEGAR

1/8 cup WHITE WINE

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

In a large heavy pot(Dutch oven) heat 1/2 the olive oil and add the peppers. Season the peppers with salt  and make sure to coat them well with the oil.  This really helps with breaking them down.  Let this cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.  Now add the onion, garlic, anchovy, oregano and pinch of peperoncino, pinch of salt and blend well with the peppers.  Let this cook for 10 minutes.Add the wine and tomato paste  the rest of the olive oil and the capers and blend well.  Continue to cook on low for 1 hour, stirring frequently. When the peppers are nice and soft, add the vinegar and stir.  Taste. Check for seasonings at this point. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 3 hours or over night. Then use either at room temperature or gently reheated.

Some people add olive to this.  I prefer not too.  Up to you.  TUTTI I GUSTI SON GUSTI!! meaning everyone to their own tastes!!

So what are we using this in?? Again, on it’s own as a main or side with bread…in eggs, frittata, over an omelette, mixed with potatoes, on sandwiches,  with sausages and pork, over grilled chicken..on flatbreds, pizzas, bruschetta and crostini…0002More local peppers…these are from another fantastic local farm market I frequent… MATT’S FARM MARKET in Lake Como, NJ…  http://www.mattsfarmmarket.com/

 

Remember, these are not fried peppers, or sauteed peppers, they are stewed peppers, a 2 hour investment will pay off in high culinary dividends!!

 

 

 

 

 

ROASTED TOMATOES ON THE VINE WITH MOZZARELLA, GRAZIE MICHELE SCICOLONE

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Tomatoes on the vine…the sights and tastes of the Summer season and hopefully the promise of an extended period of good weather until the Autumn frosts..these are beautiful things.  Cookbooks are beautiful things to (are you thinking, “where did THAT thought come from?” and one in particular is from a favorite cookbook author, MICHELE SCICOLONE, based in New York City and has been writing wonderful cookbooks that bring good food and sentiments to your table.  She’s very easy to follow and her recipes are wonderful.  So here’s the tie in–that tomato dish picture and the focus of this blogpost is from her cookbook THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK.  Certainly this one is a favorite for all the reasons I mentioned and more..the photography is wonderful, the reading is easy, and the foods are glorious.  It’s a celebration of Italian Vegetable ideas and not once will you say..hmmm.  where’s the BEEF??? strascinati 003There’s my copy, i bought it as soon as it came out. AND doesn’t that cover look like the lead picture?? Of course it does and I’m going to share with you how I made this with many thanks to Michele Scicolone   (http://www.amazon.com/The-Italian-Vegetable-Cookbook-Antipasti/dp/0547909160)

 

This dish is a star and her version pairs the “on the vine” roasted tomatoes with Burrata.  Anything more delicious than Burrata?  Ok, maybe somethings AS DELICIOUS AS burrata. For my version though I was Burrata-less and instead used what I had in my fridge which were BOCCONCINI or CILIEGIE DI FIOR DI LATTE…”Fresh” small Mozzarella Balls in Water. I’d strongly advise either the Burrata with this (which is best because of it’s Creamy nature) or a fresh style in the water small mozzarella.  Get yourself about 1 lb of Tomatoes on the Vine..fresh picked would be even better! Pre heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat them with 1 cup of Imported Italian Olive Oil, a good sprinkle of Kosher Salt, grinding of Black pepper and place them into a baking pan lined with foil.  Try to make sure none of the tomatoes are touching so the heat reaches all sides and roasts them evenly.

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Place into the oven and roast for at least 20 minutes or until the skins are splitting away and shriveled and the tomatoes sort of collapse and are soft.  There, you are done!  To serve, open the burrata, or slice it, or used the bocconcini and drizzle with the juices from the roasting pan.  About 1 lb of cheese should do it. Add that around the tomatoes and garnish with fresh Basil.  Serve with really good bread. Thank you to Michele Scicolone for this wonderful book AND recipe.

 

*My recipe is adapted from Michele Scicolone’s Book THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK, so that means this is her idea, not mine, and i’m happy to share it.  I highly suggest purchasing the book as well.

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GET YOUR GRILL ON…IT’S MARINATED SKIRT STEAK GONE LITTLE ITALY STYLE

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SKIRT STEAK….sounds as delicious as it tastes.  My favorite cut of beef and yes I’ll take this over any tenderloin OR Kobe steak you pass under my nose.  It’s a very forgiving OR unforgiving cut of beef.  If you like well-done..hmm..this is not the cut of beef for you unless you  braise the life out of it, but at these prices why would you do that??  Skirt Steak as far as I’m concerned is meant to be cooked over really high heat on both sides, left to rest, then sliced fairly thin and eaten  where is looks like this:

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DROOLING YET?  Makes great salads, sandwiches and FAJITAS!  For this blogpost let’s discuss a favorite Sangwich of  A FOOD OBSESSION.  It’s  my version of the grilled rib eye sandwich on Hero rolls (hoagie, sub, grinder, discuss that among yourselves) with Fresh Mozzarella that they serve at the San Gennaro Feast in NYC in September,  My version here is with seasoned fresh sliced tomatoes and Baby Arugula.  I used the feast sandwich as a base and adapted it for this skirt steak version.The meat is marinated so…the other ingredients should blend in and not take over. The tomatoes are simply sliced and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, the arugula is left unadorned and the mozzarella speaks for itself.  The meat, it’s smoky char and marinade and beefy goodness are what you want to primarily hit you in the taste buds.

For 4 sandwiches…

4 NICE HERO (SUB) ROLLS

1 1/2-3/4  lb SKIRT STEAK

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

for Marinade

1/8 cup LOW SODIUM SOY SAUCE

1 tsp. Granulated Garlic

2 tbs. HONEY

2 tbs. DIJON MUSTARD

1/8 TSP. CAYENNE OR GROUND CHILES

1/8 TSP. INSTANT ESPRESSO OR ESPRESSO POWDER

2 tbs. CANOLA OIL

1/8 CUP RED WINE

1/2 TSP GOOD SWEET PAPRIKA or CHIPOTLE POWDER (flavor profile up to you..)

whisK ALL THE MARINADE INGREDIENTS UNTIL SMOOTH..do not ADD SALT TO THIS..PLENTY IN THE SOY SAUCE.

Marinade the steak for at least 2 hours, you could do it over night if you want a strong marinade flavor.  Just , and this is important…DO NOT COOK THE MEAT DIRECTLY OUT OF THE FRIDGE..ever.  Serious loss of texture and flavor there.  It must be  brought to room temperature first.  Takes about 1 1/2 hours to get it down to the right temperature.

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Here’s the hard/easy part..or I should say the most IMPORTANT PART…Skirt Steak needs a HIGH HEAT surface. If you are using your charcoal or gas grill, have it hot and the grates oiled and read…if you are using a cast iron skillet (open your windows or you may have your eardrums blown out from the smoke detectors going off) get it hot with a light film of oil rubbed into the skillet, not much you aren’t frying here.  All the steak needs is 4-5 minutes of cooking per side.  That’s it.  Then let it rest for 10 minutes.  I’m sure some of you want it more done than my picture suggests so you’re on your own with how much more you want to cook it.  If it’s dry and stringy and tough you can’t say I didn’t warn you. There are other beef cuts that hold up better with well done cooking, Skirt steak, not one of them.

Toast 4 GOOD Italian Hero Rolls, brush lightly with olive oil and rub with a raw clove of garlic while still warm. After the steak has rested then slice and divide the meat between the 4 rolls sneaking a few slices for yourself too..you made it, you cooked it..you deserve it.  Place the steak on one side of the roll. then add the a few slices of fresh mozzarella, a few slices of fresh tomato and a bit of baby arugula . How much?  Here’s where a recipe is useless.  I like more tomato and mozzarella so i’d add more, just use what you’d like.  Season the sandwich with salt and pepper right before serving (just a pinch) and dig in.

Happy Cooking!!

 

TOMATOES…TIS THE SEASON….

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It’s August, it’s Summer at the Jersey Shore, and it’s all about the Tomato, especially the locally grown ones.  No debating here please, I’m not saying you have to have a Jersey garden grown tomato for it to be good just find ripe locally grown ones that are at their peak right now.  We happen to have very good ones here in the Garden State but I’m not entering into a contest as to what state has the best or not.  I find that confrontational and boring at the same time.  It’s the time to hit your Farmer’s Markets, produce stands, or pal up with a food friend or family member who has grown them in their own yard if you aren’t growing them yourself.

The beautiful plate of tomatoes pictured came from a friend’s yard here in Wayside/Tinton Falls, NJ, less than 2 miles from my home.  HEIRLOOMS.  Again, the foodies-in-the-know will pound Heirlooms down your throat as the only tomato that has any flavor or merit.  They are insanely delicious and come in incredible variations of colors and shapes but they are not the only tomato out there.  Too much foodie bullying going on in the world today, seriously, it’s food, we all can’t get certain types of food in our area, so..I wish more food writers/bloggers, etc would bear that in mind when communicating.  However, those local heirlooms I turned into a simple salad (not a Caprese) that tasted as insane as they looked. Here’s another view..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Slice them, layer them on a plate/platter, drizzle a good Olive Oil over them, chop some fresh herbs, i used oregano and thyme here, but the sky’s the limit..sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. There’s your recipe!  Want more “tang”, add a little vinegar, but a good one, not something harsh, like a White Balsamic or a Sherry or Champagne Vinegar.  Again..take the foundation and run with it DO NOT FEEL RESTRICTED BY THE MOST COMMON SUMMER TOMATO SALADS.  In the end they will only be as good as the tomatoes you are using.

Let’s look at the other tomatoes I have hanging around my house right now…these are garden variety assorted Jersey Grown tomatoes..full of the sun and sweet delicious flavor and gorgeous..plenty of time left to enjoy these jewels from the local gardens, don’t wait, enjoy them while they are at their best.  (P.S. and not ice cold, yikes, nothing kills the taste of a tomato more than ICE COLD)

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