Category Archives: VEGAN

HEARTY SAUSAGE AND CANNELLINI BEANS WITH SPINACH, ITALIAN SALSICCE E FAGIOLI CON SPINACI

fullcamera 490A hearty one pan Italian Stew made with Sweet Italian Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Spinach is just waiting for you to make it.  Read on and I’ll tell you how to create this dish of Italian Comfort Food.  About the most difficult part of this dish is taking the sausage out of the casing.  It’s pretty simple but tastes like you are eating something that took all day to cook.  Pretty cool huh?  SALSICCE E FAGIOLI CON SPINACI, looks better when you say it in Italian.  I can’t tell you how often my mother would pop open a can or two of beans and suddenly the house was filled with amazing aromas and we just couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy one of the many dishes she created from her kitchen, or from her mother’s.  File this under CAST IRON COOKING (although it’s not a requirement) as it’s one of my favorite cooking pieces to use.  Hold heat.  Evenly cooks.  Durable.  Perfect for this dish or use any other high sided heavy bottomed pan.  Sometimes I sit back and can’t believe all I remember that came out of our kitchen in Staten Island, NYC.  Often I take those memories and dishes and build on them always staying true to the original and respecting it.  So let’s get started on this fairly “quick” dish which draws on my Southern Italian-American roots.

 

TIME:  1 hour 15 minutes                                  SERVES: 4-6

5 SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGES , slit the skins and remove the meat.  Break it up into a bowl.

2 CANS CANNELLINI BEANS, DRAINED

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

KOSHER SALT

1/2 CUP WHITE ITALIAN WINE

1/2 CUP CRUSHED TOMATOES

2 CUPS CHOPPED FRESH SPINACH

PECORINO ROMANO FOR GRATING

See, not too much to worry about here!! Let’s Cook!

 

In a Cast Iron Pan or a high sided heavy bottomed pan add 1 TBS of the Olive Oil.  Heat on medium.  Break up the sausage meat and add to the pan.  Let the sausage meat brown well on all sides by moving it around the pan every 6 minutes or so.  Should take about 15 minutes.  Add an additional TBS of the Olive oil, wait 3 minutes,  and then add the garlic.  Let this saute’ for 2 minutes and then add the wine.  Deglaze the whole pan (LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN SAUCE YOU JUST MADE!! SMELLS GREAT RIGHT??).  Now add the tomato and bring to a boil.  Add the Beans, Mix well and check for seasoning.  Let this cook for 20 minutes.  Chop the spinach and add it at this point.  Stir.  Continue cooking for 20 minutes on low.  Now you’re done.  Check for Seasonings. Cook this dish till it gets to a consistency you like.  It like it when it’s at a thick stew consistency.  Much of that happens if you cook in on one day, and let it cool down and reheat it the next.  Serve the finished hot dish with Pecorino for grating, Extra Olive Oil for Drizzling, and Peperoncino for the spice.  Will last in the fridge up to 3 days.  BUON APPETITO!!! HAPPY COOKING!!! serve this is great bread!!

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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.

 

 

 

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!!

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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MARINARA SAUCE 101, MY VERSION

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At the heart of ItalianAmerican cooking are the pasta sauces, the tomato based ones in particular.  Red Gold, this is priceless stuff.  Everyone has their particular style and signature methods of making their pasta sauces so this isn’t a post about what’s right..and what’s wrong.  It’s a guide.  It’s using my style to sauce your pasta, but it’s one particular type.  Italians do not use a single sauce every time they pair pasta with a tomato based sauce.  There’s types with meat, like that one that’s turned into the typical ItalianAmerican Sunday Sauce/Gravy we all love.  Depending on the region the sauces will change and signify a completely new dish.  And then there’s the basic tomato sauce which ALSO will change from region to region, kitchen to kitchen.  This post is a guide for what we Italian Americans call MARINARA SAUCE.  It denotes a light fragrant sauces of tomatoes, aromatics, olive oil and NO MEAT.  On the other side (Italy) it’s referred to as SUGO DI POMODORO.  Marinara in Italy means something to do with the sea, a dish using some type of fish or shellfish..nothing to do with tomatoes.  I suppose the early immigrants used the term Marinara to simply mean a tomato sauce “senza carne”, without meat, like one you could use for fish and seafood.  Drop some lobster, or crabs, or clams, mussels, shrimp or calamari into a Marinara and you have…Frutti di Mare Marinara.  So there’s the connection.  Order something on an Italian menu that says Marinara, it will be a fish/seafood dish of some sort.  By the way, NEVER feel foolish when that happens. How are you supposed to know if you don’t live there and for your whole life you were told Marinara means a meatless tomato sauce??  Just a little tip for traveling or general food knowledge now. ragudomenica 021  No debating or judgements here but but the best advice I can give regarding cooking is that the better the ingredient the better the finished product.  My choice for all my Italian and ItalianAmerican tomato sauces and dishes are the D.O.P. San Marzano imported form the Sarnese-Nocerino area of Campania (Naples) Italy. DOP means the government certified them as genuine.  The cost from 2.89 up to 9.00 depending on which brand you choose.  I’m not married to any brand, as long as I’m satisfied with their taste.  San Marzanos are usually softer (one of the key qualities) than other Plum tomato varieties.  They tend to cook quicker and have more flesh to seed ratio so they are a chef’s choice for sauce for this reason.  Also, they are low in acid and therefore sweeter.  Ok, I love them, I eat them straight out of the can.  Now you know!! LOL.

The other advice I will give is to limit the list of ingredients.  Italian cooking, with some exceptions relies on a handful of ingredients to make a dish.  I’m going to give you my Marinara Sauce recipe, add or subtract if you like, but it’s pretty delicious just as is.  I’m in the less is more when it comes to Italian food.  My sauce is made with the canned DOP San Marzano but you can use a like amount of your homegrown bottled tomatoes.  The most important element of this sauce is the TOMATO. Tomato should be the fresh overriding flavor at all times.  All the other players “support” the lead.  This version of tomato sauce comes from the Napoletana (Naples) tradition.

MARINARA FOR A POUND OF COOKED MACARONI (PASTA)

1 28 oz can of SAN MARZANO D.O.P. TOMATOES (or a good brand of Italian plum tomatoes) termed POMODORI PELATI, or PELATI

1/8 cup EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED FRESH CLOVES OF GARLIC

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO (DRIED CHILE FLAKES, the RED ONES, not A CHIPOTLE TYPE)

1 TEASPOON SEA SALT or KOSHER SALT (or to taste)

6 FRESH BASIL LEAVES OR PINCH OF OREGANO

Use a wide skillet if using 1 can.  For doubling or increasing the amount of sauce you’re making use a sauce pot.  For the one can of tomatoes though a wide skillet works best. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic when hot, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt.  Add 3 basil leaves, or the oregano, and the peperoncino.  You’re flavoring the base of the sauce.  Crush the tomatoes in the case with your hands (pour into a bowl and crush). After about 1 minute or so, the garlic will have flavored the oil..do not let it brown.  Now add the tomatoes,  Blend well.  Add about 1/4 of an inch of water to the can and swirl it around, then add to the pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.  When the sauce is at your preferred consistency  taste for seasoning, add more salt if necessary and the rest of the basil, another pinch of oregano if using oregano. PINCH of oregano is what I mean by the way…so often Italian food gets muddled down in too much oregano…only a small bit between the finger tips is needed. A little goes a long way.  Use either or (basil or oregano). Let the sauce sit off the heat now for about 2 hours. Then reheat and use. Once it’s all at the heated preferred temperature it’s done.  DON’T OVERCOOK THIS!!!  The long simmered sauces are different, not marinara.  Use on your preferred pasta, this is good for 1 lb. of cooked.

Happy Cooking!! BUONA CUCINA!!!

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OLIVE OIL, BLACK PEPPER, AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

tday2015 073 This will  become a favorite recipe in your collection I promise!! FOCACCIA!!! that square or rectangular shaped Italian bread of varying thickness.  Topped with nothing or with a variety of items, none more delicious as the simple and very traditional Olive Oil, fresh Chopped Rosemary, and Black Pepper topping.  Are you looking at the picture?  Take a look.  There’s a white something on it too and that’s the scary sounding Italian LARDO.  Now I did not title the blog with LARDO in it for a good reason, it’s simply another item to add to the top.  More later on why it’s SO delicious, but to make this recipe accessible to as many as possible, it’s a basic focaccia that you can add on to if you like.  Let’s talk a little about Italian Focaccia, baking, and my home memories.  None of focaccia.  Not sure when that became something here in America but the term generally at one time was used regarding the baked square breads of Central Italy.  My heritage is southern Italian so the word was not used until one day when it was used everywhere.  Same with Ciabatta bread..recent to me, but always fiercely Central Italian, not new.  Bread baking or any YEAST baking can be scary to some.  Get over it and you will be spinning your own Pizza doughs and coming up with your own types of focaccia.   tday2015 068What is FOCACCIA??  It’s an Italian bread which generally contains more olive oil and yeast than a pizza dough.  It’s usually baked in a square or rectangular pan, cut into squares and is served as a starter, part of an Antipasto with salumi, olives, and cheeses on the side.  Or it is served as the bread with one’s meal, or as the meal itself.  Rarely will you see Italians in Italy eating sandwiches using Focaccia as the bread as that practice is more of an American or out of Italy practice.  Personally, (  you know I’m throwing my 2 Euros into the pot here) it’s too much bread and too much of a food on it’s own to make a sandwich out of it.  It’s a great addition to a buffet table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  One of the most popular forms is the Olive Oil rich Rosemary, Salt and Black Pepper Focaccia version.  Similar breads are made through Italy with other names.  SCHIACCIATA is a Tuscan bread many times made with grapes, rosemary, or just olive oil.  Consider my version here, especially if you go that extra mile with the LARDO as a Tuscan Inspired version.  Baking breads at home reminds me of a very DARK period in my parents’ kitchen growing up.  They would from time to time get on these “kicks” or phases.  Their bread baking phase was particularly hard for my sister and I . Their breads all tasted the same…almost saltless, dense and crumbly, overly yeasty, hard to cut, you get the picture.  “HEY PETE, TODAY LET’S MAKE A HONEY WHEAT BREAD”..and my sister and I were running for the last slice of real out of the house made Brick oven Italian bread.  Hated that period in their cooking experimentation.  Basically every bread they made tasted the same..everything.  Most childhood kitchen memories for me are sentimental, heart warming…this one is not. Living in Staten Island we were never 5 minutes away from an amazing Italian bread bakery so…..no need to bake at home!!  Focaccia falls into a different category than loaf bread does.  Let get the flour out and start making some Focaccia together!!

 

SERVES: up to 8              TIME: 4 hours or so

2 CUPS WARM WATER (around 110 degrees, F)

2 TEASPOONS DRY YEAST

1/2 TEASPOON SUGAR

2 TEASPOON SALT

4 1/2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR *All purpose works, but TIPO 00 from ITALY IS BETTER*

3 TABLESPOONS GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL *you want to taste the olive flavor in this*

2 TEASPOONS FINE CHOPPED FRESH ROSEMARY (do not use dried)

1 TABLESPOON FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

SALT FOR TOP, FLAKED SEA SALT IS BEST, COARSE OR KOSHER is fine also.

OLIVE OIL FOR BRUSHING

6 STRIPS OF LARDO (OPTIONAL)

LARDO..don’t be scared…Lardo is an Italian Cured Pork Cut..It’s the Cured portion of FatBack, very little meat if any is included.  Generally it’s snowy white.  Cured with secret regional herbs and spices, Rosemary  being one of them, so it’s a natural accompaniment to this Focaccia.  Serve in thin slices as an antipasto, the most prized comes from Aosta in the Northwest of Italy, and Colonnata in Tuscany.

In a large bowl add the water, mix the salt and sugar till dissolved. Then sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently stir.. Let this sit for 15 minutes until it bubbles and froths on top.  Now in slow batches, add the flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil and work the dough till it comes together.  If it’s still too tacky gently add more flour in small increments.  When it’s no longer sticky knead it on a floured board/surface for no less than 10 minutes.  Now place in a large bowl, add 1 tbs of OliveOil making sure the whole ball of dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm area to raise for 2 hours.  Punch down the dough and knead for 2 minutes and reform into a ball, back into the bowl, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.    Oil a baking pan and press the dough into the pan (11 X13) or larger..the larger the pan the thinner your focaccia.  Try to press the dough till all the sides, if it shriks back some what, it’s ok… Now with your finger poke the dough in random spots, do not rip through the dough.  Brush the top of the focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle about 1 tsp. of coarse salt (like Kosher) over the top, the black pepper, and the rosemary (again, do not use dried rosemary for this..the flavor is wrong, the texture is wrong and it will only crisp up more in the heat…use FRESH).  Let this sit on top of the stove for 20 minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 475 degress F.tday2015 052

Bake the focaccia until it’s browned on the bottom and golden brown on the top, about 20-25 minutes.  Some ovens might get it done sooner, just keep an eye on it.  When it’s done it should look like this:tday2015 067  If you are using the LARDO, drape the slices over the top after you’ve let the focaccia sit out of the oven for 10 minutes.  The risidual heat will allow the lardo to melt into the bread.  It’s out of this world.  If you want to keep it VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN certainly omit the Lardo.  Cut with a sharp knife.  Enjoy.

 

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TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD, OR ÇOBAN SALATASI

fulleuropevaca 1432  We are now in the throes of Summer.  The fresh seasonal and local produce is all around us.  My favorite time of the year!  AND it’s also when my family takes it’s annual vacation.  This year we did an “AmazingRace” like whirlwind from Belgium to Amsterdam to Germany to the Czech Republic to Poland to Slovakia to Hungary to Austria….take a breath,…then we finished the trip flying from Salzburg Austria to Istanbul Turkey.  Wonderful time, no problems, no issues, phenomenal scenery and people, many time zones, currencies and of course…THE FOOD!!!  What’s a food blogger to write about first?  Really!! I have 3000 pictures of sights and foods to remember the great trip by and the food choices along the way were varied and fantastic. Again, where do I start to share my food finds?  Last night I was at a Farmers Market here at the Jersey Shore and it came to me that my first “What did I eat on my Summer Vacation” post came to me.  Fresh vegetables.  They were at their peak wherever we went and they are at their peak here at home.  I’m going to ease my way back into blogging, I did give myself a 3 week break, so I’m happily back to work at it now.  My choice was a simple salad that was made extraordinary by the local seasonal vegetables used by the cooks.  It’s a chopped vegetable salad that is a common salad in Turkey.  First, this is my lingering view of Turkey:

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Sit back from your screen and drink that view in.  It’s of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul taken from the Karakoy Ferry we were on.  It took us from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul, the only city that straddles itself on two continents. Like that?  Good.  I’m glad.  Now we move into the kitchen to prepare what the Turkish call ” COBAN SALATASI”, a common version of a Mediterranean chopped vegetable salad.  As with most heritage and regional recipes there are variations with Feta or no Feta cheese.  The version we had, see the lead picture, contained no Feta.  The taste was crisp, clean, and refreshing.  Maybe the amount of parsley in it contributes to that too. So, I’m giving you, the cook, the option to either include the Feta or not.  Next time I make it, I’ll add some feta.

COBAN SALATASI—–TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD

SERVES: 4-5                                  TIME:45 MINUTES

2 RIPE LARGE TOMATOES, DICED

2 MEDIUM SIZED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), SLICED AND DICED

1 MEDIUM CUCUMBER,  DICED

1 SMALL SWEET ONION, DICED FINE

1/2 BUNCH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY COARSELY MINCED

1/4 CUP CUBED FETA

SEA SALT/KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE WHOLE LEMON

Whisk 1/8 cup Olive oil with the lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Let this sit for about 1 hour. Then whisk again.  Mix all the vegetables together.  Then pour the seasoned Olive Oil and Lemon over the whole thing and mix.  Let this sit for 1/2 at room temperature.

that’s it…fulleuropevaca 1490 It’s simple, clean, and goes GREAT with the usual American table of grilled or BBQ meats and seafood we enjoy through the summer.  It also makes a wonderful entree for a summer meal.  Grilled smoky pita bread, olives, cheeses..see where I’m going with this? Well, nice to be back home with lots of memories to keep my fingers typing and kitchen cranking and hopefully some new things for you to make in your kitchens!!

Before we leave this Turkish delight….enjoy this pic of the interior of AYASOFYA, or HAGIA SOPHIA.  For any fan of  World Art and Architecture this is one of the sights one wants to see.  I’ve wanted to see this since I was a kid first seeing it in a National Geographic Magazine. fulleuropevaca 1437