Tag Archives: ITALIAN FOOD BLOG

TIELLA DI VERDURE NELLO STILE DI PUGLIA. VEGETABLE TIELLA (LAYERED BAKED CASSEROLE) USING THE STYLES OF PUGLIA

LA TIELLA…..La Tiella is a dish used in Southern Italian cooking to bake foods like a layering of seafood, potatoes,rice and vegetable in Puglia or to make a pastry enclosed stuffed pie with various fillings, often seafood in Gaeta. The finished recipes are known as Tiella also. One of my favorites is an All Vegetable and Cheese style made in Puglia. While it’s not as popular as the mussels, potatoes and rice one it certainly is made often and depending on the town or the cook or the season the vegetables and cheeses may vary. This is my version of a vegetable Tiella. Sliced potatoes and vegetables layered with Pecorino and Scamorza cheese, olive oil and parsley, topped with rustic, coarse italian bread cubes with olive oil and cheese create this delicious dish. I don’t have a Tiella pan in my house from Italy, do you? LOL. But…instead I used a 9 inch cake pan. Baking dishes are fine too. The traditional Tiella isn’t very Deep so a cake pan or similar deep baking pan works well. Before you start, since I often FORGET!!!! after I’ve started layering, brush the sides and bottom of the pan with a blend of melted butter and olive oil. Then dust the sides and bottom with fine Italian bread crumbs. This helps create a nice but light crust around the sides and bottom of the finished dish. So many great regional Italian dishes that are relatively unknown away from their places of origin…I really get excited when I’m sharing one with you. Can you feel it? Well, I’m excited to show you…Let’s cook!!

TIELLA DI VERDURE (VEGETABLE TIELLA) FOR 4-6 2 HOURS

INGREDIENTI:

2 POTATOES, PEELED AND SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1 PT. CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES, SLICED

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICED

1 LARGE ONION, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1/2 LB DICED OR SLICED SCAMORZA OR MOZZARELLA

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

OLIVE OIL AS NEEDED

2 TBS OF CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP OF GOOD DRIED OREGANO OR 4 BASIL LEAVES

COARSELY CHOPPED STALE ITALIAN BREAD, ABOUT 1/8 CUP TOSSED WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL AND SALT

KOSHER SALT, COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PREHEAT OVEN to 375 degrees F. Saute’ the onions in a little olive oil and salt until they are wilted. reserve. drizzle more olive oil into the bottom of your baking dish. start with a layer of potatoes. season lightly with salt and pepper, some parsley, some pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil. add a layer of the onions, then add a layer of tomatoes and some scamorza, oregano or basil, drizzle of olive oil, season with pecorino, salt and pepper, then another layer of potatoes, onions, another of tomatoes then the zucchini doing all the same things you did with the potatoes. When you’ve used up all your vegetables top with the last of the scamorza and pecorino, but then top with the coarse bread. Season that with a little more olive oil and pecorino then TIGHTLY COVER with foil and into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Best to place the baking dish on a baking tray to catch any liquid that drips out. Uncover and bake for addition 10 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. IMPORTANT…resist the tempation to eat it now!!!! Let this sit for at LEAST 20 MINUTES before cutting into it. Trust me. It’s a much better dish AND even better when you make it a day ahead and reheat it the next day. FLAVOR!!!!! a great entree’ or side dish. I like to serve it with grilled fish, fried meatballs, chicken, pork chops..

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO…SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON…COOKING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO….SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON. This is not a Risotto, the process is different, the Rice itself is different. For this dish I use a Long Grain Rice. This is also the first in a series of blogs on the foods i’ve created and cooked for my family while in self-quarantine during the 2020 Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic Cooking not only nourishes those you feed but it creates an activity, something to look forward to while being housebound. Certainly once the pandemic is over enjoy making these dishes whenever you wish. I created this dish early in March 2020 when we were first told to shelter-in-place, staying home except for going out for essentials. I keep a stocked pantry so there was lots to chose from, like Gulf Shrimp in the freezer, Red Bell Peppers, Baby Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, etc. I used some Vermouth in this dish because it’s aromatic flavors compliment seafood. Hoping everyone is coping and complying as best as they can. Let’s cook!!!

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO

1 HOUR 10 MINUTES APPROX START TO FINISH 4-6 SERVINGS

1/2 TSP GOOD SAFFRON THREADS

1/3 CUP HOT WATER

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED, DEVEINED, PATTED DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS

2 CUPS LONG GRAIN RICE, i like to use Jasmine.

2 CUPS SEAFOOD OR CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

1/2 CUP SWEET VERMOUTH

1 MEDIUM ONION, SMALL DICE

1 MEDIUM RED BELL PEPPER, SMALL DICE

4 QUARTERED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES (OPTIONAL)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS BUTTER

1/2 CUP CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA

1 LEMON

Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle until it’s all broken up. Add that to the hot water, You can alternatively rub the threads with your hands, you’ll just get some yellow on your palms. Mix the water and leave it for 5 minutes and it will change color. Should be a bright orange. Heat a heavy bottomed pot or sklllet with the oil. Add the shrimp and cook only for 3 minutes till the edges turn pink. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil. Add the peppers and onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper. Saute’ till just soft, about 8 minutes, then add the rice and blend. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the Saffron Water, blend in. Add the Stock and the Vermouth, stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and tightly cover, cooking it for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is fluffy. With a fork fluff the rice and then add the shrimp, gently blending the rice and shrimp. Cover for 5 minutes. Add the butter and the chopped arugula. Gently mix and taste for seasoning. Serve each portion with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh squeeze of lemon and a grinding of black pepper. If using the tomatoes, add them with the peppers and onions.

FROM UMBRIA, FRICCO’ DI POLLO, CHICKEN IN TOMATO, WINE, VINEGAR

IMG_9516Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes.  It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy.  I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work.  Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that.  But no.  I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis.  After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search.  FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions.  One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce.  The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix.  Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right?  Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora.  Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix.  I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?

FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL

1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!

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.

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!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI, ITALIAN AMERICAN FRIED CALAMARI AT HOME

Fried Calamari….tender pieces of Squid lightly coated with a fine dusting of flour or cornmeal or rice flour then quickly fried in very hot oil could be one of the most addictive of all the dishes that came over from the “old country” to the USA. Much of the Mediterranean makes this dish but Italy and Spain I think are where it shines and possibly is most popular. I’ve eaten it all over Italy and in Spain and the difference between ItalianAmerican style and European style is what it’s served with, meaning the dipping sauce. In Spain I’ve had it with a garlic and saffron loaded aioli, amazing. In both Spain and Italy I’ve had it simply with a squeeze of fresh lemon and maybe some sea salt. In ItalianAmerica where Americans LOVE dipping sauces the fried calamari is served with a tomato sauce often loaded with garlic, olive oil and a hefty dose of dried or ground chile peppers. The sauces can be “sweet” (mild), “Medium” (with a kick), or “Hot” (with lots of heat of varying degrees of mouth burn). How do I like my fried calamari? Love the Aioli….love the lemon, but really love a tasty hot tomato sauce with it. Tentacles are separated from the bodies and the cleaned body “tubes” are sliced into rings. Here’s where we may disagree. Often they are cut too wide for me. I like1/8 inch cuts. They cook quicker, there’s more crunch, but again ,that’s just my personal opinion. You cut into the sizes you like. You’re eating it. The coating? Let me start out with what I don’t think it should be, these are not cutlets or chicken fingers. Breadcrumbs are off the table. Beer batter or heavy floury batters also, no thanks. Instead a simple dredge thru a fine milled flour of sorts seems to work the best. You can use sifted All Purpose flour, Tipo 00 Italian flour(superfine), fine ground cornmeal, rice flour, fine semolina flour, even corn starch but that’s a tricky one to work with and I’d advise against it. The oil…MUST BE HOT….and you can use a deep fryer or a heavy high sided pan, like a cast iron pan or a dutch oven. Into it you add Peanut Oil, Corn Oil, Vegetable Oil, you can add a bit of olive for some flavor into any of them. Personally I do not like Canola oil because I get an aftertaste from it but if you don’t have that issue then Canola works too. Lard is a wonderful frying oil but the hardcore porky flavor will completely overtake the gentle nuance of the calamari taste. I vote no on that idea. Sentimentally this is a reminder of my mom’s kitchen on Christmas Eve, that magical night when you waited for Santa AND you ate what seemed like the entire ocean full of Italian seafood. Here’s to you Mom and the meals you made and the tricks you taught me. She’ll always be with me guiding me thru the process and onto the table where my hungry family awaits for one of their most favorite foods. CALAMARI FRITTI!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI TAKES ABOUT 3/4 HOUR SERVES 6

PEANUT, CORN, VEGETABLE , CANOLA OIL

OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS CLEANED SQUID (CALAMARI) WITH TENTACLES SEPARATED, AND THE TUBES CUT INTO RINGS A MIN. OF 1/3 INCH, TO A MAX OF 1/2 INCH

2 CUPS TIPO 00 FLOUR, OR SIFTED ALL PURPOSE, OR 3 PARTS FLOUR TO 1 PART FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR…OR ALL FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR. THAT’S UP TO YOU. I USE THE TIPO 00 FLOUR.

SEASON THE FLOUR IF YOU LIKE WITH SALT, PEPPER, GRANULATED GARLIC, PAPRIKA OR NOTHING, AGAIN UP TO YOU. I LIKE THE SALT, PEPPER AND PAPRIKA SEASONING IN THE FLOUR

2 CUPS WHOLE MILK

SLICED LEMONS, CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FOR GARNISH/FINISHING

SERVE WITH A SIMPLE MARINARA YOU HAVE ON HAND OR MAKE ONE USING LOTS OF PEPERONCINO AND GARLIC.

Place the milk into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Pat the calamari dry with paper towels and discard the towels. Add the calamari to the milk and blend well. Let this sit for 20 minutes. Pour at least 3 inch of oil into your frying pot/pan and heat over medium heat until you get to 350 degrees F. Have baking trays laid out covered in brown paper bags or layers of paper towels. Remove the calamari in batches from the milk…shake off excess, and dredge in the flour…place into a spider or a strainer with a long handle and then shake off the excess, then into the hot oil . The calamari should dance around the oil quickly…and with move the calamari around the oil, then let it finish frying…takes about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to get golden and crisp. Remove to the draining sheets immediately. Sprinkle with a little salt. Continue to do this in batches until you are complete. Add more oil as necessary giving time inbetween additions to come back to 350degrees F. The first batch might be darker than the remaining batches. Stick to that time limit. serve in a pile with lemon wedges and chopped parsley leaves. Serve a hot bowl of chile and garlic spiced marinara next to it and enjoy. You’ll be eating them as they are draining. Serve immediately. 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.

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!!!

 

 

 

CHICKEN SCALOPPINE WITH MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH

IMG_4141 Chicken Scaloppine (notice my Italian spelling of the American Scallopine, how’s that?  lol).  There’s no “recipe” for Scaloppine because it refers to the way the meat/poultry is cut.  Thin Slices of meat/poulty in Italian are called SCALOPPA, and thinner ones are called SCALOPPINE.  In Olde English Collops meant slices of meat so somewhere in Europe this word originated.  Scaloppine in Italy generally means a veal dish as the chicken and turkey scaloppine in the US is an ItalianAmerican creation.  Chicken Scaloppine could be the most popular of all, but any thin sliced meat or poultry can be used.  Ok, enough with the food history. How and why am I blogging this version?  Audience request!  I made this one night for dinner after work using items in the fridge and then posted it on social media and…..WHERE’S THE RECIPE ??? comments started poking me with notifications.  So..here’s how I made this Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Spinach.  I served it over plain steamed white rice.

8 thin sliced and pounded Chicken Breast cutlets (boneless)

1/2 cup sifted flour

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Hungarian Sweet Paprika

1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 1/4 cup Chicken Stock

Olive Oil

1 1/4 cups sliced button or Cremini Mushrooms

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups rinsed and dried baby spinach leaves

2 tbs. unsalted butter

 

Use your heaviest and largest skillet/pan for this.  Add 2 tbs of Olive oil.  Heat to medium.  Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic.  Dredge the cutlets in the flour on both sides, gently shaking off the excess.  In batches saute’ the chicken for about 5 minutes per side.  remove them to a platter loosely covered with foil when they are all done  Do not stack, lay them out flat.  Add the mushrooms and 1 more tbs. of olive oil to the pan.  Raise the heat to medium high.  Sprinkle the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper…Toss making sure all the mushrooms have been coated with the hot oil. Now saute’ the mushrooms till they start to take on color and are soft.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 2 minutes and then add the wine.  Bring this to a boil and let it cook for 2 minutes. Now add the Stock and bring that to the boil. Stir well to combine all the pan ingredients.  Let this boil for 3 minutes then lower to a simmer.  In a cup or container add 2 tbs of the flour and then add , stirring while you add about 1/4 cup of the pan liquid.  Keep stirring until all lumps are dissolved and you have a nice slurry.  Stir the liquid in the pan and swirl in the slurry,  keep stirring and gently bring the pan back to the boil THEN reduce to a simmer.  It should be lightly thickened by now.  Add the chicken back and top with the spinach.  Cover the pan for 5 minutes.  The spinach should have wilted and gently stir that into the chicken and mushrooms.  Your chicken should be tender now and the sauce well blended and seasoned.  Of course, check for seasoning at this point.  Add any extra salt or pepper you think it needs, if any.  Now add 2 tbs of unsalted butter to the pan and blend it into the pan.  This adds a nice finish to the pan and extra flavor.  Serve over Steamed rice.  Happy Cooking!!!!