Category Archives: VEGETARIAN

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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BUTTERMILK RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH LEMON AND STRAWBERRY SYRUP

strawricottaplns 004PANCAKES!!!  For Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, Middle of the night…always a good time.  One of the staples of the AMERICAN BREAKFAST SCENE the pancake is like a hug.  Easy to make,  quick to cook, what’s not to like?  The addition of Italian Ricotta to these pancakes gives them a slightly lighter and international flavor.  A bit of lemon is added and a syrup of Strawberries, Limoncello and Lemon Zest add color and flavor to your tall or short stack.  You decide how many you want.  First we will make the Syrup and have that ready for when you delicious cakes are hot.  Oh, why am I talking about Strawberries in the dead of Winter?  Florida knows best.  It’s Strawberry season there and most National stores are carrying the sweet treats right now.  I’m giving this whole meal a little ItalianAmerican mash up…so enjoy!!

STRAWBERRY LIMONCELLO SYRUP

1 PT. SLICED STRAWBERRIES

2 CUPS GRANULATED SUGAR (VANILLA SUGAR IF YOU HAVE IT)

2 TBS WATER

1/8 TSP FRESH LEMON JUICE

1 TBS LIMONCELLO

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add the Water, Strawberries, Lemon juice, and the Sugar..Mix.  Keep on Low heat and stir frequently.   As this cooks the berries release their juices.  Bring to a low boil once there’s liquid in the pan.  Then reduce to a simmer and add the Limoncello.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Done.  You should have a pan of beautifully fragrant and red syrup and berries.  Place to the back of the stove.

PANCAKES

2 JUMBO EGGS

3/4 CUP BUTTERMILK

1 CUP RICOTTA CHEESE, WHOLE MILK, DRAINED

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TBS MELTED BUTTER

2 TBS. VANILLA EXTRACT

1 CUP UNBLEACHED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, SIFTED

1 TBS. GRANULATED SUGAR

1/2 TSP. BAKING SODA

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

BUTTER FOR GREASING THE PAN BETWEEN COOKING

EUROPEAN BUTTER ( OR A GOOD AMERICAN BUTTER), BROUGHT TO ROOM TEMPERATURE

In a large bowl blend everything up to the flour still it’s all well mixed.  Slowly add the flour, baking soda, sugar, salt to the bowl and gently mix the dry with the wet ingredients.  Mix till smooth.  Let this sit for 5 minutes only.  Heat a non stick or regular skillet.  Grease the surface with butter.  Pour 2 pancakes into the pan leaving some space inbetween.  Or make them as large or small as you want.  The bigger the pancake the harder the “flip” so I like 2 medium small sized ones.  MAKE SURE YOU ARE ON MEDIUM HEAT or they will burn before you are supposed to flip them.  When there’s a bunch of bubbles on the surface, it’s time to flip!   You’ll not have to cook them as long on the other side.  As you stack them add a little of that room temperature butter to them.  How many does it make?  no idea since your size will determine that but this should work to feed at least 3 hungry eaters.  Serve with extra butter and Pour the sauce over the pancakes.  Fantastic.  Happy Cooking!!!

 

 

BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO (BAKED WITH BREADCRUMBS)

christmas2015 154BROCCOLI DI RABE aka BROCCOLI RABE, Rapini, Brucculi di Rape, Friarielli, Broccolini…a family of similar bitter broccoli greens loved by Southern Italian. On  Italy’s southern Eastern coast it’s Cima Di Rape…a type of Turnip Green, but they all have the same earthy, minerally, bitter and broccoli like undertone.  Some people are always asking, “How do you make them Less bitter?” Well, here’s my answer.  Use Spinach. If you don’t like that Southern Italian taste for Bitter things, this isn’t your vegetable but you can always make any broccoli rabe recipe with a host of the mild greens, especially in the winter.  Consider Swiss Chard, Escarole, Spinach, Mustard Greens (ok, maybe not, they have a nice bite to them too..but expand the greens you cook with. Not only are the very nutritious for you but they are generally dirt cheap.)  The key to this BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO is getting the Rabe soft.  This is a BISCOTTO dish, meaning it’s cooked twice.  Once to soften rabe. Then again in a baking pan with the breadcrumb topping.  I promise you once you taste this you’ll be making it again and again.  Let me just point out that your kitchen repetoire should NEVER be “ONE” of any dish.  In my years of blogging and posting on Social Media the most common comment when I post a dish like this is  “that’s not how I make it”, or “I make it like my mom did” or “I didn’t know it could be made any other way”.  There is no “ONE” Broccoli Rape recipe.  There’s always the most popular, garlic, olive oil, peperoncino, maybe a piece of anchovy, ok, or not..simma down…salt and the rabe…finished with water, or wine, or stock then eaten as is or with sausage and cavatelli or orecchiette. Most foods enjoy a host of ways to make them.   I chop Broccoli Rabe into Minestrone, roll it in a stuffed bread, pair it with beans, use it to stuff rollatini (get the picture??) or BAKE IT AND LET’S DO IT NOW!! ANDIAMO ALLA CUCINA (off to the kitchen we go).

TIME: 2 HOURS               SERVES : 4

 

2 Fresh Heads of Broccoli Rabe, taking about 1 1/2 inches off the bottom, rinsing then drying between a few paper towels.

1/8 cup OLIVE OIL

8 GARLIC CLOVES, mince 3 of them. leaving 5 whole.

1 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 ANCHOVY FILET (oh, you like them?  add 2, no? you don’t? add none)

KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE

4 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS *in a hot dry pan, gently toast the breadcrumbs just until they START to turn color. They will go from untoasted to BURNT in a NY Minute, keep shaking the pan). Once they take on some color add them to a bowl.  When they’ve cooled off add 3 tbs. grated Pecorino Romano.  then drizzle with a little olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of peperoncino or black pepper, your preference. Then reserve for later.

OPTIONAL: 1 TBS RAISINS SOAKED IN WHITE WINE….1 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a medium sized baking pan and lightly coat with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Chop the Broccoli rabe into `1 1/2 inch pieces.  This makes it easier to eat out of the baking dish.  In a large heavy skillet or pot, heat the olive oil and add the broccoli rabe and make sure you get all the oil mixed in with it.  Add the garlic (all of it, minced and whole), anchovy and peperoncino.  Cover the pan and let this cook for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and stir.  Season with salt.  Add the wine..Mix. Cover and let this cook on low for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and let it cook until the liquid is evaporated. Turn the cook rabe into the baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Drizzle with more olive oil.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the crumbs are toasty and browned.  Let is sit out of the oven for at least 5 minutes before serving.  It’s wonderful at room temperature.  It’s a great side dish to seafoods and grilled foods.  Perfect for a buffet table.  That’s another reason I like to chop the rabe smaller than you’d normally serve it.  Easy access, easy to eat.  Hopefully you’re going to add this to your recipe files.  I might just have to make this again today!! HAPPY COOKING!!!

 

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

FRIED BROCCOLI, BROCCOLI FRITTI

broccolifritti004 There’s a certain aroma and taste to our comfort foods that makes us feel safe.  Loved.  Part of something. Makes us feel OK.  We all have our own comfort foods that give us these needs and they help us when we are happy or sad.  Food has that astonishing quality for us.  When I think of comfort foods i think of many but the foods of my youth are the ones that work best.  ItalianAmericanism means you will have a fair share of things fried in breadcrumbs regardless of what part of Italy your family originally came from.  I’m postitive that my DNA craves fried or toasted breadcrumbs on a regular basis.  Certainly we can’t eat fried foods all the time but as a party food, a starter, a side the dish we will discuss in this post is one of the best in show.  BROCCOLI.  Specifically Breaded Fried Broccoli ItalianAmerican style.  Plenty of ways to fry up delicious cooked broccoli.  The way it was most served up was dipped in flour, then into eggs beaten with Locatelli Pecorino Romano, then into Italian Seasoned  breadcrumbs (Mom used the 4C Brand, and once in a while Colonna or Progresso.  Store sales dictated the purchases.) and then fried till golden on all sides.  Simple.  But they are a 5 star dish with all that flavor and you finish them with a squeeze of Lemon and maybe a sprinkle of peperoncino and more Pecorino.  Can you use Parmigiano-Reggiano? of course.  It’s just a more subtle taste.  I only think they can substitute for each other because they are both Italian Grating cheeses.  I don’t think they  taste even closely similar and I use them in different applications. But that’s just me and my foodcentric OCD at work.  When Mom made this it generally was a “next day” dish using Leftover broccoli.  I’d advise that as well.  Steam the Broccoli on Monday.  Make the Fritti on Tuesday.  Or let them fully cool after steaming and then use but they seem to turn out just right when the broccoli is leftover.

For Broccoli Fritti for 4

  • about 2 lbs of cooked, steamed, cooled or leftover Broccoli Florets
  • 3 eggs beated with 1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano
  •  Salt
  •  Black pepper
  • 1 cup  seasoned and sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs to which you add 1/4 cup of grated pecorino
  •  Olive Oil or Corn Oil for frying
  • 2 lemons, quartered, for serving   
  •   broccolifritti 001          Let’s start cooking the broccoli!!!  Simply dust/dredge the cooked broccoli in the flour, dip into the beated eggs, then coat completely with the breadcrumb mixture.  When this is done place in the fridge for 1/2 hr- 45 minutes.  Get a large cast iron or heavy frying pan, filled 1/4 inch with the oil. When a small cube of bread sizzles and browns in it, your oil is ready.  Remove the Broccoli from the fridge.  and without crowding add the broccoli to the pan (GENTLY GENTLY ) or as they say in Italian.. Piano Piano!! and since the broccoli is already cooked, once one side is nicely browned, turn and do the same.  Don’t overcook….burnt breadcrumbs will ruin and dish and foul the oil.  Remove to paper towels on trays to drain.  Add more oil if necessary and remember to always LET IT COME BACK TO FRYING TEMPERATURE before you add the next batch… Cook these in batches.  When complete sprinkle the broccoli fritti with a little salt, pecorino and lemon juice and wedges.     Great for parties too because you can cook them ahead of time and either serve at room temperature or gently reheating in the oven.  Thanks for letting me into your kitchens as it’s my honor to share my recipes with you.  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!

 

 

 

 

 

ZUCCHINI AND SPINACH PASTINA..FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS

397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n Stop stressing over what to do with “all those zucchini” your garden is producing.  Remember the Winter will come and you’ll be looking at a bleak frozen patch of ground soon enough wishing Summer’s bounty was still showering you with fresh produce.  I get it though.  Most people have only a few zucchini recipes they use and it could be tiresome eating/cooking the same old same old.  A Food Obsession will help you out.  Zucchini is pretty much a neutral tasting and fairly quick cooking vegetable.  So many possibilities and combinations.  One of my favorites is with pasta.  During a visit to Italy we were served a local pasta with a sauce of Zucchini, Clams, olive oil, basil and garlic.   Amazing.  Hopefully that gives you some ideas to run with besides the usual Fried Zucchini, Zucchini Pie, Zucchini Bread options.  I love it combined with Pastina, the little star shaped pasta that is pure ItalianAmerican comfort food.  Add some fine diced zucchini and spinach to a pot of pastina with butter and grated cheese and you have a delicious dish in front of you. Summer is short so let’s get cooking this dish I created with my ItalianAmerican roots.

TIME:   45 minutes                        SERVES: 6

1 Box (12 oz) PASTINA

6 cups water or chicken stock

1/2 stick unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped  spinach, Baby spinach is ideal.

2  medium sized  zucchini diced small

2 thin sliced cloves of garlic

Olive oil

1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano (Locatelli Brand) or Parmigiano, your choice

 

First make the vegetables.  They will take the longest.  In a heavy pan add some olive oil (about 2 tbs) and bring to medium heat.  Add the zucchini and season with salt. Saute this until the zucchini is soft, stirring occasionally. When the zucchini is soft (about 10 minutes ) add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant.  Remove from heat.  Move to the back of the stove.

Cook a box of Pastina according to the package directions.  When the Pastina is cooked add the butter and season again with salt and pepper. Blend well.  Add the zucchini and the spinach (yes, add the spinach raw..it will wilt nicely in the hot pastina) and blend well.  Now add the grated cheese.  Blend.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve.  That’s it.  Elevates a pot of pastina to a more substantial meal with good vegetables.

The beauty of this dish comes from the tiny dice and chop of the zucchini and spinach.  My preference is using Pecorino because that’s how I grew up…pastina and every other pasta/macaroni was showered in Pecorino.  Only once in a while would Mom buy Parmigiano.  Harkens back to the cooking traditions of the late 1800’s /early 1900’s in Southern Italy.  Today’s Italy North and South uses Parmigiano in most recipes.  Me, I like to hold onto the tastes of my family’s kitchen.  The choice is up to you.  Enjoy it either way!!  Buona Cucina!!!