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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.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO SALERNO STYLE, PASTA WITH A TOMATO, OLIVE OIL, ONION, BASIL, PEPERONCINO AND SAUSAGE SAUCE WITH PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO

Never stop learning. Never stop looking for new ideas from traditional places. I’m always reading and learning about the World’s cuisines.. IT’S SO BIG how could you not? I’m terribly obsession (hence my on line name) with everything about food, especially Italian. One of the points I try politely to get across to people on line who follow me is that what was made in your family’s kitchens is never indicative of the entire scope of a country’s cuisine. Italian cuisine is no different. Case in point, ALLO SCARPARIELLO. Now here’s where Italian cuisine gets confusing, especially for ITalian Americans as we have our own nomenclature for certain dishes in both Italian and ITalianAmerican food traditions. SCARPARIELLO at its heart is a Napoletana word that means pertaining to a Shoemaker. In ItalianAmerica it’s a name given to a baked or sauteed and braised Chicken dish with wine, garlic, onion, peppers, onions, potatoes, sausage…any or all of those ingredient. There no “one” Chicken Scarpariello. In Italy Scarpariello is a sauce for Pasta that was created in Naples. Originally it was leftover Sunday Sauce that no longer had any meat in it as the week went on. To make a quick meal for the shoemakers they would cook pasta in the leftover sauce and then add a very generous amount of grated cheese to it compensating for the lack of meat. Another legend is that since so many of the Shoemaker’s customers were quite poor they would pay in Cheese instead of money. Are those great reasons to want to make this dish in your home? But I have more little info for you. As is the case in ITaly and NEVER argue with an ITalian about food, there are withiin the same region different stylesof Pasta Allo Scarpariello. How’s that? In Napoli it’s the basic…a sauce of Datterini or Cherry tomatoes melted down in olive oil or lard, garlic, peperoncino, the hot pasta is finished in the sauce along with a hefty amount of grated PARMIGIANO and PECORINO. After a little cooking time it’s served with lots of fresh basil around the plate. Go only about 1 hour and 1/4 East of Naples to the city of Benevento. There Pasta Allo Scarpariello has the addition of a little Cream at the end. Drive 45 minutes south from Napoli to the city of Salerno and you’ll find the same sauce as Naples but with fresh sausages, either whole or crumbled. This post will show you how to cook the one with Sausage from Salerno. I know you’re going to like this!! In Napoli Garlic goes in the sauce, for this Salerno version with Sausage, red onion is used.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO TIME: 1 HOUR SERVES:4

1 lb PASTA (THE TRADITIONAL SHAPES ARE PACCHERI, which i used, SPAGHETTI, BUCATINI, FUSILLI) COOKED AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE

1 1/2 LBS CHERRY TOMATOES, SLICED

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 FRESH SWEET FENNEL ITALIAN SAUSAGES, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE CASINGS

1 MEDIUM SLICED RED ONION

1/2 TBS PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP OF MIXED GRATED PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE, EQUAL AMOUNTS OF BOTH MIXED TOGETHER.

6 BASIL LEAVES

SEA SALT

In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil…(the most authentic recipes used the same amount of Lard for this). Then add the sausage meat, peperoncino and let this cook until the sausage is no longer red. Add the onion and when the pan is fragrant, add another tbs of olive oil and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt, and toss the tomatoes in the sausage, onions, and olive oil. Then reduce to a simmer and COVER the pan. Let this cook for 15 minutes. The tomatoes should melt down into the sausage. While this is happening you will make the Paccheri or Pasta just till al dente. Drain reserving 2 tbs. of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of sauce and mix well. A drizzle of the remaining olive oil then the cheese. Quickly mix the cheese into the pasta and sauce and let this cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat…The cheese should make the surface of the pasta a little “creamy”. Now tear up all the basil over the top and serve. That’s it. A more “authentic” version would be to leave the sausage whole but the loose meat really flavors the sauce. ENJOY!!!

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

SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS STUFFED BREAD

IMG_4252Stuffed breads are Iconic Italian-American food.  They are sold everywhere ItalianAmerican live and then some, sometimes known as one of their most popular names “STROMBOLI”.  Food Legend says the Stromboli was invented as the American cousin of the PIZZA IMBOTTITA, the Stuffed Pizza, also part of the CALZONE family.  In true ItalianAmerican fashion there’s a bunch of cousins, they are all related yet they are all different.  Strombolis usually have Italian Cold cuts and cheeses with a thinner rolled out dough, then rolled up (jelly roll style) and baked.  It’s sliced in thinner pieces or in half for serving.  Pizzeria culture in American serves it with a dipping sauce, usually a marinara.  Homecooks make these stuffed breads in any one of a few popular styles.  My Sausage, Peppers and Onions stuffed bread is somewhere between the Stromboli and Calzone style.  I like a thinner bread to hold the sausage and peppers in .  The last thing you want is a stuffed bread that’s just…bread.  Or too thick and you don’t taste the filling. Balance.  Pane Imbottito (Stuffed Bread) is popular in Campanian/Napoletana Cuisine.  Often the filling is distributed through the dough,  sometimes it’s thinly rolled out then spread with the filling and tightly rolled (Rottolo di Pane) and often a thicker dough with the filling tucked inside.  Italian food=many variations.  ItalianAmerican communities are known for homecooks and businesses that specialize in all variations of these stuffed breads.  My favorite of them all is when I make it with a filling of chunky roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage, fried onions and Cubanelle peppers, olive oil, pinch of oregano, pinch of Peperoncino, dash of Red Wine Vinegar, small dice of Provolone.  When baked in a delicious dough it’s amazing.  Let’s make a stuffed bread with Sausage and Peppers…oh the things I learned in my Mom’s kitchen.

FOR THE DOUGH:

2 1/4 cups SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, or my preference, 2 1 /4 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR

1 cup warm water

1/8  cup Whole Milk

1 TSP Kosher Salt

Black pepper (coarse)

1 1/2 TSP HONEY

1 packet YEAST

1/4 CUP LARD

OLIVE OIL

In a bowl add the water, yeast, honey and leave it for 15 minutes.  When it’s fragrant and bubbling on top it’s ready.  In a large mixing bowl add the flour , salt, 1/8 cup of lard.  Using a mixer or a fork blend the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/water mixture.  Gently blend the dry into the wet and when it’s all come together knead it for 5 minutes.  Roll it into a rectangle.  spread 1/2 the remaining lard over it.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Fold it over and roll it into a rectangle again.  Repeat with the remaining lard and the black pepper.  Fold it over and then knead it for 5 minutes.  Cover with a light coating of olive oil  and a kitchen towel over the bowl.  Let sit for 2 hours.  Should double.  While that’s doubling..let’s make the filling.

1 1/2 LBS of FRESH SWEET FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 LARGE SWEET ONION,SLICED

3 SLICED CUBANELLE PEPPERS (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/2 CUP SMALL DICE IMPORTED ITALIAN PROVOLONE

PINCH OF OREGANO

PINCH OF CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS

SALT, PEPERONCINO

PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

GRATED PECORINO, BLACK PEPPER

1 egg beaten with some heavy cream for an Egg Wash

Roast or pan fry the Sausage.  Let it cool. Then cut into small chunks.  In a heavy wide frying pan, heat 2 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive oil, add a pinch of Peperoncino and then add the Fennel Seeds.  Let this saute’ for about 1 1/2 minutes then add the peppers and onions…the oregano, salt…and saute’ till the peppers and the onions are soft.  When that happens, add the sausage and the collected drippings and simmer for 10 minutes.  Then let it sit and cool down.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F or as high as it will go.  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or two smaller ones.  Sprinkle them with some grated cheese and breadcrumbs (helps keep the dough from getting soggy).  Then layer in the sausage and peppers on 3/4 of the rectangle. Scatter the cubes of provolone over it. Starting at the left side where you’ve layered the sausage gently roll up.  with some pf the egg wash press the roll into the end of the dough.  The egg wash will help it adhere and not pop open in baking.  Pinch the ends of the roll doing the same.   Then brush the whole top with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper, grated Pecorino, and kosher salt.  Lay onto a well oiled baking pan and into the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes checking to see it’s not burning.  All ovens are different.  Remove from the oven when the bottom is hard and well baked and when you tap on it it sounds hollow.  Let this cool for 15 minutes before cutting.  Use a serrated knife.  Eat as is.  Slice in whatever size you want.

As seen in the above pic I like to make party apps out of them.  I make them a day ahead, then slice and bake as needed.  Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA, my wife’s version..with Prosciutto Cotto, Peas, Cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

dellanonna 006Things go in and out of fashion in all facets of human life.  Music, Clothing, Styles, FOOD, etc.  Some dishes have a white hot flash in the pan #hashtagged Social Media celebrity status life for a few months, years, decades while others are looked back on with a scratch of the head or maybe a sentimental hug.  Where do I place this dish that was one of the most popular ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes in the late 70’s-early 80’s?  TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA.  That era boasted a sauce called DELLA NONNA, which in true Italian fashion can point to 1000 things at the same time.  None of which are even closely related but the name is a term of endearment given by a cook to a dish when it evokes feelings of one’s Nonna, or Grandmother.  The French term many dishes “Gran Mere” in the same way.  Something your Grandmother made, or close to it, however in my case, My Grandmothers were both in Italy (one in Avellino and one in Sicily).  There was no cream saucy pasta being made in their kitchens.  That was restaurant food or the food of Central and Northern Italy.  To them, those regions were the same as saying “Austria,  Norway, or the North Pole”.  dellanonna 006  Even the use of Tortellini was unheard of in my family’s kitchens.  This was a pasta introduced to the ItalianAmericans of southern Italian ancestry via the American Italian restaurant.  Without those “Northern Italian” restaurants introducing these foods and dishes from Italy’s Central and Northern regions unless we travelled there, we’d be unaware of the complete treasures of the full Italian landscape.  So much food, So little time!!  During those years I mentioned one could order these dishes and recipes would be posted in magazines and in cookbooks or written down on a napkin by a cook in a restaurant to diners interested in making the dish at home.  I’m not sure when or how my wife Debi got this recipe.  Did I give it to her?  I can’t take credit for that. She’s not sure but maybe one day we’ll both remember.  She loved the dish, although prefers it with Cappellini.  Me?  I prefer it with Tortellini.  I feel it just married best with that. She enjoys Cappellini with everything.  After 42 years with her I’m not going to change her pasta eating habits no matter how hard I’ve tried. 00 There she is, our little Della Nonna Sauce maker with our two daughters. So consider this recipe a compromise, like any good marriage.  Her sauce with my pasta choice.   I hope you love her recipe for Della Nonna Sauce as much as I love her….and her sauce.

Time: about 1 hour              Serves: 4

 

1 lb. Cheese or Cheese and Spinach Tortellini

2 1/2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

8 OZ. PROSCIUTTO COTTO (COOKED SLICING HAM), DICED SMALL

1 LARGE FINELY DICED SHALLOT

1/8  CUP VERMOUTH

1 1/2 CUPS HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC WOULD BE OPTIMAL

1 CUP FROZEN PEAS

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

KOSHER SALT,  FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

3/4  CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR ASIAGO, GRATE IT FINELY

EXTRA PARMIGIANO/ASIAGO FOR TOPPING

1 LB. TORTELLINI OR TORTELLONI FILLED WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA OR PROSCIUTTO, COOK TILL AL DENTE.

 

Start with melting the butter in a wide high sided heavy pan/skillet.  Add the shallots and season with some salt and pepper.  Do not let them brown, takes about 2 minutes.  Now add the ham and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the meat around in the pan.  Add the wine and let this cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the heavy cream and gently stir until all is mixed. Add a few basil leaves and the peas.

Let this simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently.  The sauce “transitions” from a loose liquid into a thicker liquid.   KEEP STIRRING!!  Now add the tortellini and coat well.  Add the grated Parmigiano and blend it into the pasta.  Taste.  If it needs more seasoning, add more cheese, or more salt (never both) and a nice grinding of the pepper.  Blend.  dellanonna 005How does that look?????  And it tastes even better.  Now here’s my style of saucing this pasta, there will not be a pool of sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  I make this like these pastas are made in Italy.  With a wonderful coating of the sauce on the pasta, not enough for the pasta to go swimming.  If you like more “sauce” in your bowl, increase the Heavy cream to 2 full cups.  So if you want my wife to cook for you, this is basically her recipe with a few of my notes thrown in.  Make no mistake, I’m the daily cook in the house, she had zero interest in cooking. Which is another reason why we are together for so long, the kitchen is mine. LOL. When she does decide to cook I enjoy my plate of Tortellini and she enjoys her Angel Hair.  All the ingredients in this dish work well together, like any good marriage.  Happy Cooking.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

TIME: 1 hour or less                                 SERVES: 4-5

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

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

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

Kosher Salt

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

1 pound Penne (I use imported ITalian Pasta )

4 Basil leaves

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

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

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

GRANDMA SCARAMUZZI’S EASTER PIZZA DOLCE (SWEET RICOTTA PIE)

PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!

PASTA FROLLA

2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/8 TBS ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009

1 TSP. CINNAMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TSP ORANGE ZEST

Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030