Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.
PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX
2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)
2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS
2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER
5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES
1/2 SLICED RED ONION
2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF
1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO
SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT
1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE
1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)
In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!
FRITTI….they come in all shapes, sizes, batters, breadings, fillings, foods and depending on where you are are in Italy they are called Fritti, Pettole, Pittule, Crispeddi, the list goes on. NEVER argue with an Italian about what they call a dish!!! Everyone is right!! Often blanket terms like “Sicilian” mean something from a particular region of Sicily, oh that’s right, not all Sicilian cooking is the same. But it’s all Sicilian cuisine. I started with a basic flour and egg batter for these which is a common way in Sicily to make these. I was bringing them to a family holiday dinner to I wanted to make them special. I dipped into my bag of “what are some good complimentary ingredients that echo the Isola di Sicilia and I came up with Caciocavallo cheese, Mint (yes, Sicilians love the herb), and Sesame Seeds. The Arab conquest of Sicily for centuries brought many of their food traditions, the sesames are one of them and now are emblematic in many of Sicily’s foods/sweets like Cubbaita and Biscotti Regina, topping many panini and loaves of bread. So why not fold them into a savory batter and get the taste of Sicily in every bite? By the Way, Sicily has an ancient language which often borrows from Italian and Cauliflower, in Italian called Cavolofiore is often called Vruocculi, Vruocoli.
SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS
TIME: 2 HOURS MAKES; ABOUT 2 DOZEN
1 LARGE FRESH CAULIFLOWER HEAD, STEAMED, COOLED, THEN SEPARATED INTO FLORETS
2 TBS. AP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER
2 LARGE ORGANIC (IF POSSIBLE) EGGS, BEATEN
1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR CONTAINER’S FRESHNESS DATE)
3/4 WHOLE MILK
1 TSP SICILIAN SEA SALT
3 TABLESPOONS ROASTED SESAME SEEDS
1 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED MINT
1/8 CUP GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO
1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER
OIL FOR FRYING ( I USED CORN OIL)
2 LEMONS, SLICED OR IN WEDGES
10 SPRIGS OF FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
sprinkle the seasoned flour over the florets in a bowl and gently get each floret coated in flour. Add the milk and grated cheese to the eggs, beat well. Now add all the other ingredients and slowly create a thick batter. When all is blended well, reserve to the side. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided pan/pot ( i use my Cast iron pan) and bring to 325 degrees F. When the oil is ready, coat one of the florets with the batter, let excess drip off and test one. If it’s ready it will immediately sizzle and start fo puff up in size. About 2 minutes per side. Place the florets in the batter in batches and fry no more than 6 at a time our your oil temp drops and we have a greasy finished product. As each batch is done and draining sprinkle sea salt over them. They should be salted when hot, not when cooled. Continue battering and frying until you’re all done. Serve them piping hot on a platter with lots of lemon wedges or slices. Squeeze over the top when serving, extra on the side. Add some chopped parsley leaves as garnish. Enjoy!!
ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!
1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)
2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL
2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED
1 ONION, DICED
1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO
1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY
1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE
1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE
In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.
Summertime in New Jersey means zucchini. Bumper crops of them. Everyone with a home garden grows them and the stores are overflowing with locally grown boxes of this versatile squash. Italians and Greeks love cooking with them. The recipes are endless. Clearly, for easy and relaxing summerentertaining this is a host’s dream. The day before I picked a nice bunch of fresh mint (spearmint) from my garden. Zucchini and mint are a very Mediterranean pairing, especially in Sicily and in Greece. I had some Feta cheese and there you go…a dish is born. Add some sunny lemons for a real Mediterranean freshness. Are you exhausted with grilled vegetables? I am,
call me blasphemous, but most times they are not grilled enough or burnt, and loaded down with balsamic vinegar and too much oil. Not a fan of the strongly acidic and flavored balsamic with charred vegetables, the flavors are too heavy for me. (I can see the hate mail now…)Instead of grilling, I decided to oven roast the zucchini slices and marinate them over night in fresh lemon and mint with a little garlic…topping it with feta…a platter of Summer sunshine reminiscent of a Summer’s day in the Greek Islands.. It brings blue skies, bright Mediterranean sun, white washed stucco houses clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, blue painted domes that blend in with both the sea and the sky…magic. All this from a bag of local zucchini.
Start with 5 zucchini. Slice them into rounds, about 3/8 of an inch thick, any thinner, they will just fall apart on you. In a large stainless steel bowl, add the zucchini along with 1/8cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (look for Greek Olive oil for a more “authentic” flavor), 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper. Toss. Pre- heat an oven to 400 degrees F. In a large baking pan, arrange the zucchini without overlapping. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them, bake for addtional 6 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave them in for another 5 minutes. check for times though, You may need to adjust for your oven. Don’t let them burn, they should have a nice roasted bottom, then when you turn them over, they should be soft to the touch.gently place them into a bowl after they have cooled for at least 15 minutes. Mix together the juice of one large fresh lemon, 1 finely minced clove of garlic, 2 leavy sprigs of fresh mint, a pinch of salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Pour this over the zucchini and cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Arrange on a platter and crumble 1/8 cup of Feta cheese over the top. Top with some whole mint leaves, a little black pepper..you are done. Do not serve this cold. Let it come to room temperature to appreciate all the flavors on the platter…and go to your laptop and book a trip to Greece…
RAGU’ BOLOGNESE is the stuff that heated food debates are made of. A meat and tomato sauce from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy it’s morphed in many kitchens and restaurants globally as ANY tomato and ground meat sauce for Pasta. Well…..call it what you will but there really is a specific sauce with specific more or less agreed on ingredients that are what Italians know to be RAGU’ BOLOGNESE. There’s even a certified formula for the sauce filed in October of 1982 to preserve the historical food heritage of this beloved dish. Unless it’s this method or ones close to it, it’s not a Bolognese sauce but instead a Meat Sauce with Tomato for pasta. Still very delicious. Still wonderful. But not a Bolognese. At the heart of this is that to be Bolognese you need something to be from Bologna. The close to the original as compiled by people in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna is the one filed in the October. For purposes of this blogpost I’m giving you some food facts and reasons why one is called one thing and something is called another. I realize that after reading this you’re going to simply say, Who cares it’s All Bolognese!! LOL. Whatever. I’m asking though that you try this recipe as I’ve developed it and hope that you enjoy it as yet another sauce to add to your recipe file.
3/4 LB GROUND CHUCK (BEEF)
1/2 POUND DICED PANCETTA
1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICED
1 CELERY STALK, FINELY DICED
1 LARGE CARROT, PEELED AND FINELY DICED
1/2 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER
3/4 CUP DRY WHITE WINE
1/2 CUP HOMEMADE OR LOW SODIUM/NON FAT BEEF STOCK
28 OZ CAN OF IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES RUN THRU A FOOD MILL OR IN A PROCESSOR TILL SMOOTH, OR USE THE SAME AMOUNT OF PASSATA OR POMI
3/4 CUP OF WHOLE MILK
SALT AND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE
2 TBS. HEAVY CREAM (OPTIONAL…THE RULE IS, IF USING DRIED PASTA, ADD THE CREAM. IF USING FRESH MADE PASTA, DON’T ADD IT. WHY? THE BOLOGNESE SAID SO THAT’S WHY..LOL)
1 LB TAGLIATELLE OR PAPPARDELLE, COOKED AL DENTE
Using your heaviest saucepan/dutch oven, cook the pancetta on low stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and let these cook for at least 10 minutes on low until they are softened. Then add the ground meat, raising the heat to medium. Let the meat mix with the pancetta and vegetables and cook this until the meat has finished browning. At least 10 minutes. Deglaze this pan with the Wine and stir. Cook this down for about 8 minutes, stirring. Add the Tomato and the 1/2 the stock blending well. Cover the pot and leave on simmer for 2 hours checking occasionally. If at any time it’s looking to dry add more stock. After you’ve passed the 2 hour mark uncover and pour in the milk and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, your sauce should be thickened and fully cooked. If it’s at all watery continue to simmer for and additional 15-20 minutes. If using the cream add it now and stir into the sauce. Now for optimal flavor do this all a day ahead of making the pasta dish. No crime is committed if you eat it all on the same day but it really does get happier overnight!! When ready to serve…Cook the Pasta according to the package instructions till al dente. Drain…In a wide pan that will accomodate all the pasta add a few ladles of the sauce. Then the pasta. Mix…heat for only 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Grate a nice amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Blend in, and then serve. 1 lb of pasta will feed 3-4. I hope I’ve done justice to one of the World’s greatest sauces. Mangiare Bene!!
EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…what a gift Italy gave to the world!! Some commentary on La Parmigiana which is what Italians call it often as in Italy the only PARMIGIANA is Eggplant. There’s some conversation that in Sicily there was also Veal Parmigiana but mostly any other type of Parmigiana was not created in Italy but by inventive Italian immigrant cooks to the United States where they adapted their beloved eggplant parmigiana and decided to use meats, fish, poultry in the same style. It took off and became some of America’s most beloved ItalianAmerican dishes. Veal and Chicken Parmigiana when made well are simply wonderful. Pork and Beef as well as Shrimp are made into Parmigiana too. Let’s though talk about Eggplant Parmigiana. History point again to Sicily as the origins of this meltingly delicious blend of layers of cooked eggplant, Italian cheeses, some tomato sauce then baked to meld everything together. It’s a perfect food. I’m smiling as I blog this thinking of how often my mom made it. Hers was almost always thin sliced and breaded in 4C Italian Flavored breadcrumbs in her Electric frying pan. My sister AdeleMarie has one too and swears it’s the only way to fry batches of eggplant without having to change the oil. It cooks them perfectly she says confirming Mom’s love of the Electric frying pan. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I would salivate incessantly when she’d call for Dad to go down in the basement and bring up the pan. I knew there would be fried eggplant cutlets to eat out of the fryer sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano. By the way, they make amazing hero sandwiches. When we would go to the beach she’d make cold Eggplant Parmigiana sangwiches along with Ham and Cheese, Chicken roll and Swiss, Bologna and cheese sandwiches. Some plums. Some grapes, maybe some nectarines if she thought they were nice at the farmers market, usually Palermo’s or Bifulco’s. So when I think of Eggplant Parmigiana regardless of how it’s made I think of all those times Mom made it. However…the best eggplant Parmigiana in the family, as good as mom’s was, my Aunt Angie Scaramuzzi made the “most bestest”. Enough with my past Parmigiana…let’s talk about how you make it. There’s not one way and my most popular way of making it is thin sliced, dipped in flour, beaten eggs and pecorino, then fried, then layered in the typical manner with cheeses and sauce and baked. However, there’s also a way to just do it on top of the stove. The eggplants are fried in olive oil. then a sauce is made in that oil that’s been infused with garlic and basil. Then the cooked eggplant is layered into the pan, covered in abundant grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, your choice..then topped with Mozzarella, or Provolone, or Scamorza. Again, your choice. The top is covered and once the cheese has melted you’re done. Nice? Great, I thought you’d like it. This eggplant is naked…it’s just fried. This actually harkens back to most Sicilian recipes for La Parmigiana. Many Sicilian recipe have no stringy melted cheese, just the grated. See? You can make this a few different ways. I’m giving you choices here. The leftovers are amazing, infact they taste better on day 2.
SKILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES
1 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANT SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH ROUNDS
KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER
1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES
2 TBS TOMATO PASTE
2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO
1 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA OR DICED SCAMORZA
In a saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on medium heat. Add the garlic and just when it’s fragrant add the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/ 2 tsp of pepper, some basil leaves, then cook for 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in a processor or with your hands, then add to the pot. Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. While that is happening, heat 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil in a heavy wide skillet. Season the eggplants with salt and pepper. On Medium heat fry the eggplant on both sides (CRITICAL HERE!!!) till they are SOFT, the eggplant has to completely cook before you can finish the dish. If your heat is too high you’ll scorch the eggplants, take your time. Should take about 15 minutes to get them soft thru both sides. Add more oil as needed. Remove the eggplants to paper towels to drain. Pour the cooked sauce into the pan. Lay the eggplants in pan…cover with grated cheese, some basil leaves, more sauce, do a second layer if you have enough, more sauce, cheese and basil. At this point you can cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes. This is a very Sicilian way, with no mozzarella, just the grated cheese. DELICIOUS. OR, top the pan with the diced cheeses and cover. Wait until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Now..remove from the heat and let it sit for 2 hours before serving for maximum flavor, just gently reheat. OR you may serve as soon are you’ve let it rest for 15 minutes. Up to you.
Now there’s plenty of flavor in this dish, and there’s not a shopping cart full of ingredients. It’s simple basic flavor which are the hallmarks of Italian cooking. Enjoy this dish..let me know how you like it!!
PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI!! Potato Croquettes made Naples style, Grandma Scaramuzzi and my mom Assunta “Sue”Battaglia’s style could be one of my most favorite foods on Earth! Grandma Scaramuzzi taught her daughter (my mom) how to make these culinary delights from the city she lived in before she immigrated to Staten Island NYC to marry my grandfather. Now let’s discuss the word PANZAROTTO/PANZAROTTI (plural) shall we? In every other part of Italy a Panzarotto is a “pouch” of filled dough. They are baked or fried and depending on the region will be filled with all sorts of vegetables, cheeses, and meats. Google PANZAROTTI PUGLIESI and you’ll see what I mean. But for some reason, and this happens all over Italy one word will have a million different meanings regarding food. In the language and dialect of Naples Panzarotti means a fried Potato croquette. Growing up I watched Mom make these and she had a specific way of making them. First of all they usually were a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes. Certainly she’d make them on their own as well but NEVER with potatoes cooked the same day. Something happens to the potatoes when you cook and mash them on day one and on day two form the Panzarotti and fry them. She had some rules. Only bits of diced mozzarella, not too much. Lots of Pecorino and black pepper in the mix. Only egg yolks in the mix. The whites would be for later when breading. And the breading always PLAIN breadcrumbs, not the Italian Seasoned type. Are you with me here? Are you ready to take a stroll down the streets of Napoli and eat the foods that are sold in the Fry shops? For those who want to be further confused they are also called CROCCHE’ DI PATATE and if you go to Sicily, they are called CAZZILLI where they can be either fried without the breading or with the breading. Confused yet? Don’t be…Italian and Italianamerican cuisine has lots of variations, twists and turns. Whenever I decide to blog a new recipe or a traditional family recipe I do lots of research to see if my family simply creating these rules on their own or if they are following a hallowed ritual. Happy to report that mostly all the recipes from Napoli I’ve researched dip the floured formed Panzarotti in beaten EGG WHITES and then into PLAIN BREADCRUMBS. Moral of the story…don’t ever disagree with a Napoletana Mother and Grandmother!!!
PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANA NAPLES STYLE POTATO CROQUETTES YIELD ABOUT 24
3 LBS RUSSET BAKING POTATOES PEELED AND CUT INTO QUARTERS
3/4 LB MOZZARELLA DICED SMALL
1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT
3/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO (MOM USED THE PECORINO)
1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER
1/4 CUP FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
1 WHOLE EGG AND 2 YOLKS, RESERVING THE EGG WHITES FOR BREADING
1 CUP UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS
1/2 CUP TIPO 00 FLOUR OR 1/2 CUP SIFTED AP UNBLEACHED FLOUR FOR DREDGING
3 CUPS OLIVE OIL, PEANUT OIL, OR CORN OIL (WE PAN FRY OURS)
First we make the potatoes. In a large pot filled with well salted water and bring to a GENTLE boil then simmer for at least 15-20 minutes. Do not overcook. When a fork easily pierces the potatoes they are done. Drain the potatoes and place on a FLAT pan in one layer. Let this cool to room temperature, then cover with foil and refrigerate for no less than 5 hours, preferably overnight. Trust me. Then bring them back to room temperature and mash or rice them. Beat the whole egg and yolks. After you’ve mashed the potatoes, add the eggs, the cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend well making sure your mixture isn’t too wet or sticky. If so a little flour will tighten that up, just a little. Now form the mix into about 24 equal sized panzarotti. About 3 1/2-4 inches long in the shape of a cylinder. Place on a baker’s pan lined with parchment. Loosely cover and chill for 1/2 hour. Now set up a station of the flour….then the beaten EGG WHITES…then the breadcrumbs. Gently dredge the croquettes in the flour,, then into the eggs carefully letting the excess drip off, then into the breadcrumbs, make sure they are completely coated. Line back up on a parchment paper coated tray. Heat 3 /4 in of oil till it gets to hot, about 350 degrees F or when you place a cube of bread in it the cube sizzles and starts to brown. Gently add the croquettes no more than 5-6 at a time DO NOT CROWD THE PAN!!! Use a heavy high sided wide one. When one side is done, takes about 2 1/2 minutes or less per side, turn gently. When all golden brown you are done. Transfer to either a cooking rack or lots of paper towels. Add more oil and wait between batches to let the oil come up to temperature again. There’s a nice amount of mozzarella in there so you maybe have a little mozzarella burst thru but if you don’t overfry you should be fine.
Serve them immediately, or you can reheat them when ready to serve uncovered in a hot oven for only a few minutes. Here’s some other ingredients you can add….Provolone, thin strips or fine dice of sopressata, dry sausage, salami, prosciutto. If using the cured meats just a small bit will work and the finer you dice/mince the better. What a treat to have these on their own in a paper cone from a Friggitori in Naples or on your own table at home. Now you’ve made NU BELL PANZAROTT o CROCCHE’. Eat like a Napoletano!!!
MINESTRONE….an Italian word coming from MINESTRA, a type of soup. The ONE at the end of an Italian word means…This just got BIGGER! It denotes a larger/bigger version of whatever that word meant before. Having said all that please enjoy my version of MINESTRONE and realize there is NO ONE RECIPE for this soup. Like so much of Italy’s and the World’s cuisines the end result is based on what’s available to the cook. Some historical documentation says that the original MINESTRONE soups were always vegetable based. Many Italians today still believe that for a Minestrone to truly be what it’s name says, there’s no meat involved. That line has blurred. Let’s say Minestrone is most times a vegetarian soup, with some versions having meat in them. See? No argument. No debate. And my version here is NOT MY ONLY VERSION!!! I’m giving you ONE way to make it using lots of seasonal vegetables in the Fall/Winter. The other “debate” revolves over adding pasta or rice. Add what you want, that line has blurred as well. Hardcore “purists” might say no pasta or rice. And thirdly., the stock used as the base. Purists and most likely the most original start simply with water. Modern cooks have so much available to them that Beef, Chicken, Veal, or Vegetable stock is added as the base. When your vegetables are at the height of their seasons water alone will help carry the flavors. In this instance again, as you wish…use a meat or vegetable stock, or water. Each instance will give a different nuance to the soup. ALL GOOD. There, no debate who makes the best, whose recipe is correct, whatever. It’s food people. Did you use good ingredients and does it taste delicious? That’s the heart of a Minestrone. BTW, i always loved the Progresso Minestrone in a can, yes along with the hundreds of Italian and American soups my mom made while we were growing up we did have Progresso Minestrone and Progresso Chickarina. Good Memories. Now, let’s make MINESTRONE STAGIONALE, for the Fall/Winter. Note: Cavolo Nero. Lacinato Kale It’s one of my favorite vegetables for this soup. Comes from Central Italy’s TUSCANY. Less “Kale-y” than other types of that vegetable. More like a Swiss Chard with a little something something going on. Can be found in many supermarkets and farmers markets in the fall and winter, esp. organic. A great way to use a “new” vegetable.
MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE
TAKES 3 HOURS SERVES ABOUT 5
2 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 PEELED AND DICED CARROTS
3 STALKS CELERY, CHOPPED, USE THE LEAVES TOO
1 1/2 CUP CHOPPED RIPE TOMATOES, OR 2 CUPS CHOPPED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES
2 CUPS CHOPPED CAVOLO NERO (LACINATO KALE) OR DARK GREEN SWISS CHARD
1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SAVOY CABBAGE
1 1/2 CUPS BORLOTTI (OR ANY ITALIAN BEAN OF YOUR CHOICE) BEANS, COOKED AND DRAINED
1 LARGE ONION, SMALL DICE
2 SLICE CLOVES OF GARLIC
4 1/2 CUPS WATER, OR STOCK
4 SMALL REDSKIN POTATOES, DICED
HANDFUL OF CHOPPED PARSLEY AND THYME
1/2 LB ORZO PASTA
KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER
PLENTY OF FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO
In a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven, add 2 tbs of the olive oil and heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, season with salt and pepper. Let this saute’ for at least 8 minutes till just starting to soften. Add all the other vegetables and beans except the potatoes. Let this all blend together and cook for 10 minutes. Now add 1/2 the parsley and thyme and all the liquid. Taste for seasoning. Add more at this point. Bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 1 hour. Add the potatoes.Check again for seasoning, add more if necessary. Let cook for 15 minutes on medium boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Bring back to a boil and add the ORZO. Stir well. Cook till the pasta has just gotten to al dente. Takes about 13 minutes. Turn off. Let it sit for at least 6 hours before reheating and serving. Just before serving add the remaining chopped fresh herbs. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black pepper, and lots of grated Cheese. Of course you will not disappoint me and there will be an amazing loaf of Italian bread served along with it. Some nice Wine or Sparkling water…enjoy.
While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia. Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries. Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste. To write about. To recreate in my home kitchen. Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up. This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas. I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber. Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone. Smarter. This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL. So, Nepal. So remote. So rough. So beautiful. We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas. Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out. August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid??? Reasons why you travel. To find out things for yourself. We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear. August? Not so clear. The clouds hang low, the fog is thick. But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through. The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest. SUCCESS. The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month. A rare occurance. Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view. But we saw it. We really saw it. And will never forget it. That same day we were served these delicious potatoes. A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food. We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines. Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish. I love whole cumin seed. I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes. It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen finds this a common and easy dish to make. So there’s some legend and lore here too. Nice. Food with color and flavor. Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive. Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far. Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!
1 lb PEELED, CUBED AND BOILED POTATOES
2 TBS. CUMIN SEEDS
2 SMALL GREEN CHOPPED CHILI (REMOVE SEEDS AND RIBS IF YOU WANT LESS HEAT)
1 TSP. CHOPPED GINGER
2 TBS. OIL
1/4 TSP. POWDERED TURMERIC
1 TSP. RED CHILE POWDER
2 TSP. CHOPPED CILANTRO
SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)
To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan. Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro. Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt. Mix well. Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover. Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes. Stir a few times while this is cooking. Your Aloo Jeera should be done now. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro. The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads. A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed. In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish. I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads. Easy and delicious. Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape. Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home. HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!
Italians love fried little bits…fritti…and the fritti come in many forms. Depending on the region you will often find little street stands or stores that specialize only in Fried Foods. Stop. I see your eyes rolling. Life’s too short not to enjoy a fried treat now and then. The list of Italian fried bits is very long AND delicious but let me introduce you to this one from Sicily. The CAZZILLO. Plural, CAZZILLI. Now pardon my comments here but Sicilians love the bawdy and love things that make you laugh in embarassment. Cazzo is Italian for the male organ…Cazzilli is Sicilian for, well, a little one LOL. Are you embarassed and shocked? The Sicilians have done it again. Have some fun, life’s too short not to laugh a little. This dish combines the Sicilians love of a good joke with a few of their favorite foods, potatoes and cauliflower. VRUOCCULI is actually a type of cauliflower, a little greener than our pure white American Cauliflowers. This CAZZILLI recipe is a version of the typical Sicilian potato croquette combined with mashed cauliflower. Sicilians make their potato croquettes either simply rolled in flour and fried OR breaded and fried. Generally when I’m making a Napoletana style Potato Croquette (Panzarotti) I will bread them. But when making Sicilian ones I don’t bread them. These Cazzilli have a hefty helping of grated Caciocavallo cheese in them. Now Caciocavallo is not available everywhere so instead you can use the more accessible Provolone or Pecorino. See, I”m not going to give you a recipe that you can’t reproduce in your kitchen. Truth be told most cooks in their homes will use what’s on hand to make a dish so it’s fine to use any one of the three. Caciocavallo is most Sicilian. If you have a good cheese store by you see if they carry CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, from Ragusa, Sicily. It’s amazing. Now here’s a few tips. Start with leftover or day old Mashed Potatoes. Many recipes tell you to make it all the same day. No. There’s a magic that happens when a cooked starch sits overnight. Trust me. ItalianAmerican Moms and Grandmothers would make their versions of Potato croquettes usually with leftover mashed potatoes from the day before’s dinner. Same for RiceBalls (Arancini). The end result is just better, and they don’t fall apart. You’ll need 3 cups of mashed potatoes of this recipe. Steam the cauliflower the day before as well. One head of cauliflower for 3 cups of mashed potatoes. When the cauliflower is still warm, mash it well. set it in a strainer and let it drain overnight. OR if you have leftover cauliflower, simply mash it. So those are the starting points for these CAZZILLI. Let’s get cooking now!!
TIME: 24 hours SERVES: 6 (up to 3 per person)
3 cups chilled day-old Mashed Potatoes
1 mashed steamed Cauliflower head
2 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cup grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO or PROVOLONE cheese
2 tbs. All purpose flour
1 tbs. minced flat leaf Italian parsley
salt, fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Lemon slices for serving
Simply blend ALL the ingredients and season with salt and lots of black pepper until you can form a small oval shaped croquette, about 2 inches long. Roll each one in flour, and then chill for 1/2 hour. In a large heavy high sided pan (pull out the cast iron skillet for this!) Bring 2 inches of oil to 360 degrees F and start frying the Cazzilli. DON’T CROWD THE PAN!!! 5-6 at a time works well. Fry till golden on all sides, takes about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. When done frying transfer to a nice serving platter and garnish with lemon slices. They are wonderful hot or at room temperature. Enjoy your CAZZILLI!!! HAPPY COOKING.