Tag Archives: BLOGGER

CALABRIAN POTATOES AND PEPPERS…PIPI E PATATI..A TRADITIONAL DISH FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

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!!!!

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO…BAKED SHRIMP LAYERED IN BREADCRUMBS, OLIVE OIL, BUTTER, BASIL, LEMON AND GARLIC

IMPANATE…your Italian culinary word of the day. Basically it means coated in breadcrumbs, like when you fry something like a Milanese, or when you top with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is the topped style. It’s a variant of ItalianAmerican Shrimp Scampi but Impanati i make a little different, yet it’s basically the same ingredients all baked together. Olive oil, then seasoned shrimp, then chopped garlic, then white wine, then a layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and minced fresh basil, then dot with butter and into a hot oven for not too long. It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly, then a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve. There’s the whole dealio. I’d eat anything treated with breadcrumbs in one or another form. Maybe it’s my Southern Italian DNA, there’s really no breadcrumbed dish that I don’t love. This is one of them for sure. I can tell you how to cook this since it’s my recipe I’ve created but I can’t dictate the shrimp you should be buying. I CAN however tell you that for this and almost all Shrimp dishes I cook I seek out never Frozen, fresh smelling Wild caught Shrimp from the USA. I realize that’s not an option for everyone. My second choice is wild caught or sustainably farmed frozen shrimp from safe waters. Places like Whole Foods usually carry those, or reputable seafood markets. I get my fresh shrimp at local seafood markets or my local Shop Rite. The hardest part of this dish is simply cleaning and deviening the shrimp. It moves very quickly after that. I love placing 8 shrimp in those baking dishes I have. Looks so much like a good seafood restaurant style. Family background note on that picture. As always you should bake items on a larger tray just to catch any bubbling up. Notice in the picture the simple pizza pan they are on. I baked them on the pan. No mess and keeps the bottom of your oven clean. The pizza pan itself could be 75 years old or so. It was given to my mom from her Dad, Grandpa Innocenzo Scaramuzzi, and was given to him by his brother in law, my Great Uncle Pasquale Pucillo. I never met Great Uncle Patsy, he passed away on the day I was born. This pizza pan was from his restaurant bar in Staten Island, NYC on Manor Road. I believe the name of the place was the Blue Manor. Family stories tell me he was a good cook along with his wife, Great Aunt Maria Giuseppe Scaramuzzi Pucillo. Whenever my mom made a homemade pizza she used this pan. Bringing the family history into my kitchen makes my dishes taste even better.

GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO

SERVES 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

2 POUNDS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED (SAVE THOSE SHELLS FOR SHRIMP STOCK, TIGHTLY WRAP AND POP IN THE FREEZER FOR LATER USE)

4 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL

3 TABLESPOONS DRY WHITE ITALIAN WINE

4 THIN SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/2 CUP DRIED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

SALT

PEPPER

4 MINCED FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/2 TSP SWEET PAPRIKA

1 STICK BUTTER, CUT INTO CUBES

PREHEAT your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat your shrimp dry then season with salt and black pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, salt, pepper to taste, paprika and basil together. Blend Well. In a square or round gratin dish, or smaller ones, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan(s). Place the shrimp in tail side up. Scatter the garlic over the tops of the shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the wine. Then lightly pat the breadcrumbs on top of everything. Dot the top of the dish with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a little paprika, and evenly place the butter around. Into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I like to let it go for 6 minutes, then I rotate the pan and give it another 5-6 minutes or so, just till it’s bubbly and browned on to. Remove from the oven. While it’s bubbling squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. The aroma will get you wild. It’s Amazing!! Let it sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately with…..steamed rice, that’s my favorite accompaniment. A sauteed or steamed green vegetable. Bread to sop up the buttery shrimpy garlicky juices. Enjoy.

STEAK TIDBITS OVER BUTTERED TOAST POINTS, CLASSIC AMERICAN CUISINE

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Down in the old canyons of Manhattan’s Financial District known as “Wall Street” small business owners catered to the thousands who worked at every income level and from janitor to CEO. Downtown as we called it was a place where people made their livelihoods and commuted in and out of the city. Today’s Downtown is a mix of the old financial center and a buzzing residential and retail community. This dish in the picture is my “ode” to the places that used to feed all of Downtown’s workers. In 1978 I started working in a Brokerage firm on Broadway, 61 Broadway to be exact. When you exited out the back of the building on its lower level you were on “Trinity Place” at the corner of “Exchange Alley”. That still exists. Opposite was the German American restaurant and bar called VOLK’S…food memory here…Their burgers were amazing, char grilled. Their drinks were big. And their Black Forest Cake was fantastic. At the corner of Exchange and Trinity on the south side of 61 Broadway was a parking lot. And next to that was a place that was the “best place ever” to a college kid working in a a financial firm in NYC. MICHAEL’S ONE was the name of this bar/restaurant and it was where the brokers and traders of the firm along with the back office and clerical workers went after the market closed to have a drink and/or something to eat. Well, the drinks were the usual suspects but at the center of this black leather, polished wood, modern dining space was a central grill and cooking space manned by the Chef known as Sylvester. His steak tidbits were a thing of beauty. Sirloin tips seasoned with salt and pepper, then sauteed in a pan with butter…garlic was added then finished with Worchestershire Sauce…cooked only till medium rare, then poured over buttered white toast points. Amazing. They left a lasting impression on this college kid working for the summer. I wound up sticking with that job and making steak tidbits to this day!!

STEAK TIDBITS

TIME: 1/2 HOUR FOR : 2 SERVINGS

1 1/2 LBS SIRLOIN STEAK TRIMMED OF EXCESS FAT. CUT INTO SMALL DICE/CUBES

1 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

KOSHER SALT

CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

3 MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1 TSP MINCED FRESH FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TRIMMED SLICES OF GOOD WHITE SANDWICH BREAD TOASTED THEN BUTTERED THEN CUT DIAGONALLY

Season the meat in a stainless steel bowl with about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a heavy pan (cast iron is wonderful) heat 1/2 the butter just till sizzling. Add the meat in a single layer and let it sit for at least 3 minutes, then give the pan a shake and let the other side cook for about 2 minutes. You may need to do this in 2 batches as you don’t want to STEAM the meat if the pan gets overcrowded. When the meat is done remove to a flat platter and you’ll add it back in after you make the sauce. add the rest of the butter and let it melt into the pan. Now add the garlic and once you can smell the fragrance (isn’t it really a fragrance? Does anything smell as good as garlic in a pan of butter or olive oil? I told you…)then add the Worchestershire Sauce (L&P is my preferred brand, no, i’m not a paid influencer, it just has the best taste for me). Swirl the pan a few times and let this sizzle. Season the meat with the black pepper and remaining salt and add to the pan and JUST WARM IT THROUGH, like under a minute. Divide the steak cubes in 1/2 and pour over the buttered toast points drizzling the remaning pan sauce over the servings. Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy each bite of the juicy and saucy tidbits with the buttery toasty bread.

GRANDMA BATTAGLIA’S ICED ESPRESSO WITH ORANGE

Summer is here and it’s time for icy refreshing drinks to cool you down when the temps and humidity get high. One of my favorite thirst quenchers was taught to me by my Sicilian born paternal Grandmother, Giuseppa (Josephine) Lucia Vizzi Battaglia. Born in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily she immigrated to the USA with her Mom and siblings around 1900. Her Dad already had established residency on NYC’s street of Sicilian immigrants, Elizabeth St. Grandma married my Grandfather, Francesco Battaglia in 1912, they were neighbors on Elizabeth St. He too was born in Sciacca, Sicily and immigrated around the same time. After having 3 children (my Dad being one of them) they moved to the “country”, the NYC borough of Staten Island settling in one of many Italian enclaves during those years. In 1923 they bought a home in the Mariners Harbor section and continued growing their family. Nine children later (one dying as a young child from pneumonia) their family grew exponentially. You couldn’t ask for a Grandma who loved her Grandchildren more, I believe a little more than she loved her own kids. All 24 of us were the apples of her eye. When I think of Grandma Battaglia I think of hugs, great big bear hugs and pinches with those Sicilian mits of hands she had. When you went to her house she fed you, even pushing food into your pockets as you left. One of my favorite memories of “things Grandma made” was her SICILIAN ICED ESPRESSO WITH ORANGE. In true Sicilian tradition her Iced Espresso was strong, very sweet, and infused with the juice and peel of sliced Oranges. Today, June 19 is the 45th anniversary of my beloved Grandma’s passing. Every time I make a pitcher of this it’s as if she’s opening her fridge in her big kitchen and taking the tupperware or Plastic pitcher loaded with Iced espresso, sugar, ice, and oranges and pouring a big glass for me, of course the glass was loaded with ice so it was the sweetest, coldest, most refreshing tumbler of a drink..EVER. Simply brew 10 cups of Espresso, use a good Italian coffee for this. Pour it into a pitcher. Dissolve 1/2 cup of Sugar (super fine works best if you can get it)..what? You’re staying away from sugar? OK, just remember, Sicilians love SWEET things. Since I’m making this Grandma’s way, use the sugar (or keep it unsweetened, not very Sicilian, just sayin….or use Splenda, or any other sugarless sweetner to taste). Slice 2 oranges into wedges. Squeeze each wedge into the coffee. Then add the wedges. Stir well. Taste…sweet enough? If not, add more. Let it chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Then add lots of ice. Stir. Let stand in the fridge for 1 hour. Serve. You’ll be addicted. Pour in Glasses filled with more ice. I’m smiling from ear to ear sharing this with you, a gift from my Grandmother’s kitchen. Everyday I am grateful that I had both my Italian born Grandmothers in my life. When you have your glass, raise it and toast my Grandma Battaglia…Salute’ e Cent’Anni.

1971..Grandma Battaglia in the center surrounded by her children…Anna, Betty, Accursio (Gus), Angelina, Pietro(Pete, my dad), Jennie (Jean) and in front, the twins, Margaret and Lillian. Staten Island, NYC

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO….VONGOLE AL FORNO ARREGANATA

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO!!! This dish SCREAMS “I’M ITALIAN AMERICAN”. Certainly these clams have their genesis in the Southern Italian food style of adding a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs to seafoods, vegetables and then baking them in a hot over to brown and crisp the tops. The ingredients of the breadcrumb mixture will differ from cook to cook but there are some basics. It’s called OREGANATO or ARREGANTA indicating that there’s oregano (dried) mixed as a seasoning. Add to that Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, peperoncino, olive oil, chopped parsley and a nice finish with fresh lemon. All too often the dish is overshadowed with too much breading and you lose the sweet little clam hiding under all that coating. LITTLE NECK CLAMS Are the usual size for this dish. They take no time at all to prepare and are a wonderful dish for the homecook as a starter to a meal or on a seafood buffet.

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO SERVES 4 TO 6

3-4 DOZEN FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SHUCKED OR LIGHTLY STEAMED JUST UNTIL THE SHELLS POP OPEN SLIGHTLY. REMOVE THE TOP SHELL, DISCARD.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, 1/4 CUP FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FINELY CHOPPED/MINCED TOGETHER SPRINKLED WITH A LITTLE KOSHER SALT.

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

1 TSP DRIED OREGANO CRUMBLED BETWEEN YOUR HAND TO RELEASE ALL THE OIL, SICILIAN OR GREEK OREGANO IS BEST IF YOU CAN FIND IT.

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

1 1/4 CUPS PLAIN (UNSEASONED) ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

JUICE OF 1 LEMON (NOT MEYER, USE REGULAR LEMONS)

LEMON SLICES

KOSHER SALT

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F. Mix the breadcrumbs, the oregano, garlic and parsley, the cheese, peperoncino. When it’s blended then add 1/2 the olive oil and the wine, blend in. Fill each of the clams with a bit of this mixture, maybe a teaspoon or just a little more. Lightly pat the crumbs down..Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and into the oven they go. Bake until the crumbs are browned, takes about 12-15 minutes. drizzle a little lemon juice over the tops just before serving. Careful..they are hot…!!! Serve with the lemon slices.

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE, CAPRESE CHICKEN, MY VERSION

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE

CAPRI!!! Have you been there? It’s a wonderful rocky island in an azure sea off the coast of Napoli. It’s romantic. It’s scenic. It’s Campanian. It’s loaded with good food. It’s Italian. Americans are very familiar with the Namesake Salad from there called INSALATA CAPRESE. At its most basic this is a salad of Fresh made Mozzarella layered with ripe sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and fruity delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Some sea salt and black pepper (or not) and you’re done. Sorry, no Balsamic on mine, that’s an addition created over here, not in Capri. Balsamic Vinegar is a product of Modena, hundreds of miles away on the Italian Mainland many provinces away from sunny Campania in the south. Southern Italian food should always be…SUNNY…bright, colorful, especially when you’re invoking an Island with cliffs, beaches, sun drenched days and warm nights. Get the picture? I’m much too logical for my own good, or is it OCD? I’m sure it’s a combo of both but when Mozzarella and tomato are baked into something it falls into the Al Forno or Sorrentino style of Southern ITalian dishes. Caprese is a room temperature combination of some ingredients. I’ve poured over CrockPot, InstantPot, Airfryer, baked, roasted, fried, and microwaved versions of Chicken Caprese and haven’t liked one yet because somewhere in all of them something is lost in translation. See, there’s my OCD or Logic. Caprese is a raw salad..why are you cooking it. If you add it to chicken should the chicken be grilled, then marinated and tossed or layered with the typical Caprese salad ingredients? Good, but not spectacular. The chicken became a distraction from the salad components instead of a compliment. My Chicken Caprese is more like what some people today call Chicken Milanese in the restaurants. A Fried Chicken cutlet topped with a salad, with or without mozzarella. Delicious but still not what i was looking for. So I decided to lightly bread whole boneless breasts and bake them. When they were done I let them cool and then topped them with a salad of sliced cherry tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, chopped fresh basil, sea salt, black pepper and the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can get your hands on. When the chicken was out of the oven for about 10 minutes over the top of it goes the tomato salad. The salad should be made no less than 2 hours before serving, this way the tomatoes leech their juices and the resulting marinade is a heady mix. It soaks right into the breading on the chicken and it’s an amazing

THE SALAD: First we start making the salad. For 4 serving portions use :

3 pts. RIPE CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

1 1/2 CUPS DICED MOZZARELLA

(OPTIONAL!!!) 1 1/2 TBS FINE DICED RED ONION OR 2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC, not both.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 CHOPPED OR TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES (WARNING, WARNING, do not use dried basil. Its flavor is markedly different than fresh, and it’s really not used in Italy. It’s an American convenience herb. If fresh is unavailable, the dish is just not worth making. )

SEA SALT TO TASTE, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE.

Mix all together and let sit covered in a cool place for at least 2 hours.

8 THIN, POUNDED ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN BREASTS

1/4 CUP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SEA SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

3 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/4 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

KOSHER SALT, PAPRIKA, BLACK PEPPER

OLIVE OIL for FRYING

Set up a station for frying. First the cutlets. Then the bowl of seasoned flour. Then in another bowl mix the breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley, and salt, paprika and black pepper to taste. Cover a sheet pan with a few layers of paper towels. One by one, dredge the cutlets in the flour…shake off excess. Then into the eggs. Then let the excess run off, then press into the crumb mixture making sure you’ve well coated both sides. Line these up on a line baking sheet. When done move them to the side and set up your frying station. In a cast iron or other heavy frying pan heat 1/2 inch of olive oil until a bread cube place in it starts to sizzle and brown. Now your oil is ready. Give it 6 minutes or more. Without crowding the cutlets add a few at a time Give them 3-4 minutes per side, till nicely golden and tender. Add more oil as needed letting it come back up to temperature between batches. Drain the finished cutlets on the paper towel covered tray. Serve one or two cutlets per person (if feeding 4) and pour a nice amount of the Caprese Salad over them Let them sit for 2 minutes, then serve. I like to add a grating of Pecorino over the warm draining cutlets, along with a grinding of black pepper. That’s just me. Adds additional flavor. Serve!!

So many ways to create this ItalianAmerican classic but this is my way. You can switch out the Pecorino with Parmigiano or Grana Padano but my preference is the Pecorino. When frying the cutlets be mindful of your stove top and pan…you may need to adjust the heat on it in the beginning so you don’t burn the crumbs before the chicken is fully cooked. Just an FYI. Happy Cooking!!!

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE FOR THE COLDER MONTHS, ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

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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.

 

 

POLPETTE DI PANE, MEATLESS “MEATBALLS”, FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

ragudomenica 012Meatballs, Meatballs, Meatballs…so many kinds, so little time. This post is going to discuss one of the most inventive types of “meatballs”. no meat at all, but a POLPETTE DI PANE, a Bread “Meat”ball.  This is the Southern Italian version but by no means can the Italians lay claim to the bread and egg poached ball.  As you travel in the North of Italy and to the countries of Central Europe you’ll find a thriving kitchen culture of DUMPLINGS of all kinds.  This Southern Italian bread meatball is really a Dumpling.  Dumplings in the central european region often are breadballs poached in a liquid.  What makes these so tasty is that they are the flavors of a southern Italian or ItalianAmerican meatball without the meat.  They make for a nice change, oh I’m not going meatless, but this is just another dish in the vast universe of Italian cuisine and should definitely be tried.  Standard recipes call for Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Not me.  The taste of the cheese gets lost in this dish.  Pecorino Romano is my choice here.  It stands up to the braising and makes the balls taste so amazing.   Simply make your Marinara Sauce as you normally make it.  To make 12 POLPETETE DI PANE follow these instructions:

2 CUPS OF STALE ITALIAN BREAD

1 1/4 CUPS FRESH GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 TBS MINCED ITALIAN FLATLEAF PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

4 LARGE EGGS

1/2 TSP FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PINCH OF SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

Have your medium to large pot of sauce simmering while you make the “meatballs”.  Using a food processor pulverize the bread into crumbs.  Add the cheese, garlic, and parsley and pulse until they are blended.  Add the salt and pepper. Pulse a few times.  The next step needs to be taken care with.  Add the crumb mix to a bowl.  Beat 2 of the eggs and pour into the mixture.  Blend well.  Once that’s well combined, beat a 3d egg and mix in.  Test your mixture now.  Your mixture should be hydrated enough but needs to be firm so you can roll it into balls.  If it’s still too dense, beat the 4th egg and blend.  Conversely if the mixture suddenly becomes too loose, add some dry breadcrumbs till you get it to the right consistency.  WHAT’S THE RIGHT CONSISTENCY???  You can form golf ball size Polpette di Pane without them falling apart or “drooping”.  Line up the balls on a baking tray and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and gently drop the balls into the sauce gingerly stiring so they do not mash or break up.  Let them simmer in the sauce for 20 minutes.  Let them sit in the sauce for at least 1 hour before reheating and serving.  What to serve with them?  well….you can have them as a starter, an antipasto.  OR you can serve them as a side (Italian lesson here…side dishes are called CONTORNI) with a salad, with grilled meats, or vegetables, or a roast.  Be creative.  I like them just on their own with a nice shower of grated Pecorino on top, some fresh basil.  HAPPY COOKING!   BTW, I say it makes 12, but it could be less or more 12 is a good average.