Category Archives: Tomatoes

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

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

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

1/4 lb. TUBETTINI

1/2 LB. TUBETTI

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

1 fine diced ONION

1/2 stalk CELERY, fine diced

pinch of OREGANO or a few fresh BASIL LEAVES

3 SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TBS. TOMATO PASTE

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL RIND, PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 COARSE CHOPPED HOT VINEGAR CHERRY PEPPERS

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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CLAM AND PORTUGUESE SAUSAGE STEW WITH TOMATO AND ONIONS

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

TIME:  about 1 hour                            SERVES:  6

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

1 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

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

1/4 CUP SPANISH OLIVE OIL

1 LARGE ONION, THIN SLICED

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND THICKLY SLICED

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

1 JAR ROASTED RED PEPPERS,  SLICED

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

2 SPRIGS OF CILANTRO OR PARSLEY

1 TSP. SWEET SPANISH PAPRIKA (HUNGARIAN WORKS TOO)

PINCH OF SEA SALT

 

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

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

GET YOUR PASTA ANGRY!!! PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA!!! PASTA WITH CHILES AND TOMATO

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PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA…translated it means ANGRY MACARONI.  A descriptive term referring to the spicy heat in the dish from the PEPERONCINO, or dried crushed red chiles that are used all over the world including many regions of Italy.  The dish is said to have originated in Rome and often it’s catalogued in La Cucina Romana (Roman cuisine) but Southern Italy has so many instances of chile-infused oil , or lard based , or tomato based sauces for pasta that it’s really a tough call.  What is generally thought of as the right pasta to serve with Arrabbiata sauce is PENNE, or PENNETTA.  Perfect when some of the tomato and chile flecks get caught inside of the penne.  I also love it with spaghetti…as illustrated in this ridiculous poor quality grainy Selfie..IMG_9327  Don’t be bullied.  Penne is the most popular pasta used  for a reason, it’s just a great match. But Spaghetti and any other pasta you like works too.  Shh..just don’t say that in Italy.  LOL.   In the town of Marigliano outside of Naples in Campania the beginning of July is given over to a Sagra, or a Celebration in honor of PENNETTA ALL’ARRABBIATA.  Imagine?  A feast celebrating a dish of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, hot peppers and penne? 02-Locandina-01-701x1024This year’s announcement for the Sagra.  Music, Drink and Pennetta All’Arabbiata.  I think I like the sound of this.  The sauce for Arrabbiata, like SO many of Italy’s pasta sauces is a simple affair.  Olive Oil, Chiles, either Fresh or dried, garlic (some use onion), Italian Tomatoes, basil or not..Salt, and Penne. Really. That’s it.  From what my amateur research has gathered, recipes calling themselves “true” Roman recipes all use fresh chopped chiles.  Southern Italian recipes and Italianamerican recipes use Peperoncino, the same pepper,  but dried.  While they may be the same vegetable they do have different tastes.  One imparts a fragrant fresh taste with it’s heat and the other gives a deep earthy flavor and heat.  One day I will try this dish with fresh chiles, for now I use the dried.  While it’s a very quick dish to make the best way to get maximum chile flavor and heat is to slowly “fry” it in the Olive Oil rather than add it to the simmering sauce or only when ready to eat.  For dinner for 4-5 here’s how I do it.

TIME: 1 hour or less                                 SERVES: 4-5

1/2 cup good quality Olive Oil or Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1 TBS. PEPERONCINO (crushed dried red hot pepper flakes), plus more for serving

2 sliced cloves of Garlic, or 1 small onion finely diced

Kosher Salt

2 28 oz cans SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES (or Italian Plums) crushed with your hands

1 pound Penne (I use imported ITalian Pasta )

4 Basil leaves

In a large pan or heavy pot heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the peperoncino and let this sizzle and pop on medium heat for a good 4 minutes.  This releases the oils in the dried peppers and helps to carry all of it’s flavor through the sauce.  Add 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt.  Add the garlic and  (tricky here) saute’ until you just bring the slices to where they begin to get golden color than add the Tomatoes. Blend well and bring to a boil, then  back down to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to thicken, this will take some time, maybe 1/2 hour.  Then taste for seasoning.  If the sauce is thick enough (not watery) add the basil leaves and stir.  If it needs more time, keep it on low simmer until you get a thicker sauce.  Arrabbiata’s beauty is that it’s not “supposed” to be scorching…unless you want it to be.  At this point you can add more peperoncino to taste.  I find when feeding the family, less is more.  I’ll add more on my dish when I sit down anyway to get it to my heat threshold.  While the sauce is cooking , during the last 10 minutes, make a pound of Penne or Spaghettti till just al dente. Drain and add to the sauce and let it cook in the sauce for only 3 minutes.  Tear in the Basil leaves…mix, taste for seasoning, then serve.

IMG_9328IMG_9329IMG_9332 Dress the pasta with some Grated Pecorino Romano, a drizzle of Olive Oil, and more Peperoncino.  GET ANGRY!!! ARRABBIATA!!!!!  A grating of Pecorino or Parmigiano if you like!  I like.

Here’s a variation…PASTA ALL’ARRABIATA con SPINACI SALTATI.  Saute’ some fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil. Serve on top of the Sauced Pasta.  Then mix it all in after you’ve taken a nice pic for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook…ok Twitter and Pinterest too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a tip regarding Italian tomato sauces from South to North…only a handful are more complex requiring a sizable list of ingredients.  The vast majority are but a handful of ingredients.  What makes people NOT angry with this Arrabbiata is that you control your anger..an anger management of sorts  LOL.  The amount of peperoncino heat is up to you but it needs to be more than just a pinch since it’s not just Sugo di Pomodoro or Marinara, but a wake up call for the taste buds..feel the burn!!!  Happy Cooking!!

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

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

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

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

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

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

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

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

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

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

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

 

 

 

 

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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FENNEL AND TOMATO BAKED CHICKEN, COMBINING DELICIOUS ITALIAN FLAVORS

fennelchicken-003As the weather moves towards the colder side we look to our ovens again.  The aromas that envelope the home as a dish is roasting or baking bring on anticipatory hunger and a generally good feeling all around.  I find Baking/Roasting Chicken can turn a cold rough day into a warm hug everytime.  The combinations and cuisines are endless. Chicken is a blank canvas that pays off with a masterpiece when completed.  CHICKEN SKIN!!!  The flavor center.  It gives up its flavor to the meat and to the cooking juices while keeping some in that skin which makes it a delight.  My cooking is done mostly, almost 99% of the time in absence of a recipe, instead, i use my cooking experience and research to put together dishes that make sense.  Some are actual regional dishes with a set list of ingredients in a particular manner.  Then there are the other times when I use a basic template for a dish and play around.  Like I did one night after work with this BAKED CHICKEN WITH FENNEL, TOMATOES , AND MUSHROOMS.  Fennel (oftentimes LIKE TONIGHT AT THE SUPERMARKET, it’s mislabeled as ANISE, similar tastes but not the same) is in the fall and winter markets.  The type is actually FLORENTINE FENNEL, or FINOCCHIO, and is part of the ItalianAmerican holiday table.  That’s why I bought a big knob with stalks and beautiful fronds tonight.  But I once had some post-Thanksgiving finocchio hanging around in the fridge.  Fennel is often made as a side dish, roasted in the oven. SO….there were some Grape tomatoes and onions in my view, a nice pack of Organic chicken cut into pieces and I thought…let’s make a dish.  The chicken is well seasoned, the tomatoes are thrown in the pan along with some whole mushrooms, chopped fennel, olive oil, some cloves of garlic and White Wine and stock…and then baked. That’s it.  With those ingredients you CAN’T GO WRONG..your home will smell like a country restaurant somewhere in Italy or Sicily where Fennel is king.  Let’s make some chicken with fennel!!

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS                                     SERVES: 4

1 ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN, CUT INTO 8 PIECES

2 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP OLIVE OIL

1 FENNEL BULB, TRIMMED AND SLICED

10 CHOPPED FENNEL FRONDS  (THE TOPS OF THE STALKS)

2 PINTS CHERRY TOMATOES

1 LB. WHOLE CREMINI OR BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 MEDIUM ONION DICED

2 SMASHED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

1 TSP. HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a bowl, liberally season the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil. In another bowl, do the same with the fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic.   In a baking pan add the vegetable mixture. Then fit the chicken into the pan. fennelchicken-005

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, then the wine.  Place into the oven in the middle rack and let it cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.  Baste the chicken with the pan juices and rotate the pan. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until the chicken is reading 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer (so you know, that’s my BFF).  When the chicken is at that temp, remove from the oven. baste with the pan juices and then cover and serve in 5 minutes.Delicious and clean tasting. Meat and a plate of vegetables cooked in the pan juices.  So good.  I like roasted potatoes, or rice, or simply some good bread with this…up to you. fennelchicken-004That pan is DYING for what the Italians call FARE LA SCARPETTA!!  Scooping up those pan juices with a really well crusted piece of Italian bread.  Do it before someone else does…you cooked it, it’s your treat. You deserve it.  Now enjoy your meal!  Happy Cooking!!