Tag Archives: ITALIAN SEAFOOD

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.

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.

STUFFED MUSSELS….COZZE GRATINATE…

flakytart 001MUSSELS!!!!  Inexpensive and Delicious Mussels are a way of life here on the Eastern Seaboard.  I live in an area where they are literally scattered all over the beaches so we grew up eating them, pulling them off of the seaside rocks and pilings, or buying them in all the seafood markets and supermarkets.  Fresh live Mussels are very available.  Oh yes, there’s also the frozen ones sold but there’s nothing like eating one that was live only moments before you are eating it.  They are salty…they taste like the ocean….and they come in different sizes.  My preference?  Thanks for asking.  SMALL. Tiny is tastier.  The meat is sweet and in two bites you’re done.  For this recipe look for the Black Mussels in the net, usually on a pile of ice.  They are live.  They are probably from Prince Edward Island or somewhere else in the North Atlantic.  Today’s mussels are cultivated in the wild or wild caught.  Wild Caught need some additional cleaning, the cultivated not so much. There are also larger black ones or the New Zealand Green ones (like at the Chinese buffet restaurants).  I can’t.  Too big.  That’s alot of mussel you’re trying to chew, no thanks. BUT, i’m putting that out there because YOU may want to make this recipe with the large mussel.  Hmmm., to each their own, but i’ve never stuffed the larger ones so I’m not sure of the cooking time on them.   COZZE GRATINATE is Italian  for Mussels stuffed with Breadcrumbs and baked or cooked under a broiler.  Like baked Clams Oreganata, same dealio.  A few years ago in my home kitchen i was tooling around with my usual Mussels Oreganata and decided I want to stuff these mussels differently than I stuff my clams. That’s how it happens.  You find a new recipe..or you use your food knowledge to come up with something new.  Now I didn’t invent the Stuffed mussel but this is my own version of the stuffing.  It’s quite orange in color.  I add San Marzano tomatoes that get pureed then added to the stuffing mix.  You’ll love it.  Let’s make Stuffed Mussels!!

SERVES : 4-6           TIME: about 1 hour

1 1/2 CUPS COARSE ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 FINELY MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

3 TBS PECORINO ROMANO

1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

PINCH OF SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

3 TBS PUREED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES or ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

 

For the Breadcrumbs…Saute’ the garlic in 1 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the Breadcrumbs and toast this for about 2 minutes, then Add the tomato, cook for 2 minutes longer and place in a bowl.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Reserve for stuffing the mussels.

 

2 lbS. CLEANED ATLANTIC BLUE MUSSELS, LIKE PEI MUSSELS, SCRUBBED AND DEBEARDED

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 GARLIC CLOVE, SLiGHTLY BRUISED

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees. Place mussels in a wide pan.  Add the olive oil and white wine, and the garlic clove.  When the steam starts to come up from the pan gently add the cleaned mussels and cover the pan, shaking it  gently every few minutes.  Check to see if the mussels are starting to open.. When they are just starting to open up remove them from the pan and take off the empty side from the shell.  Arrange the mussels in a baking pan.   Drizzle the juice from the mussels in the pan over the mussels on a 1/2 shell. Then top each mussel with the Breadcrumb and tomato mixture.  Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they look toasty on top.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  They are just fantastic!!!!

 

VONGOLE ARRABBIATA, CHILE SPICED CLAMS

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This is a great idea for hanging around on the weekends watching games, or casual get togethers, even works for a weeknight  meal.  America LOVES Chiles, after all it’s one of our indigenous plants.  We go crazy for hot sauce, for whole chiles, for all foods made with them in their fresh, cooked, or dried states.  America is a CHILE CRAZED nation.  From the Americas the rest of the world learned how delicious they are…with a seemingly addictive nature they have regardless of where in the world they are being consumed.   Let’s explore Italy (shocker) for a moment, in particular Southern Italy.  Chiles are a mainstay in all hot climates and the southern regions of Italy are hotbeds (pun intended) for growing these peppers.  Depending on the region they are referred to as PEPERONCINO or DIAVOLiCCHIO .DIAVULLILU, and many others.  Just an aside, don’t confuse PEPERONCINO with the Italian-American pickled Vinegar pepper known as PEPPERONCINI as they are 2 very different foods including their spelling.

Basilicata where my paternal Grandpa comes from LOVES the chile pepper in it’s cuisine.  Shows up in so many of the regional dishes.  We grew up with that tradition which was further cemented by my Dad who grew tons of redhot chiles and dried them every year strung up all over the basement rafters. Dad’s been gone since 2003 but I have the last jar he gave me. It’s my most prized “food” possesion. A pinch of peperoncino is a usual cooking method in COUNTLESS Southern ITalian dishes but sometimes it becomes the dominant flavor as in ARRABBIATA style, or FRA DIAVOLO(more ITalian-American) meaning ANGRY.  A colorful way to describe a dish..it’s a popular tomato sauce for pasta.  Here I take that southern Italian seafood and chile tradition and elaborate on it.  I rarely say this, but certainly adjust the amount of peperoncino that you are using to your taste but if anything spicy is not in your wheelhouse this isn’t the recipe for you.  My suggestion for how to serve this is as you would serve a pot of steamers…just the clams…and some good bread.

TIME: 1/2 HOUR                               SERVES:  4

4 TBS OLIVE OIL

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

4 DOZ LITTLE NECK CLAMS, or COCKLES, or MANILA CLAMS, well scrubbed and rinsed

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

SEA SALT

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and the 1 tsp. of the Peperoncino. Let this cook on medium for 2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic brown, then add the wine.  Bring to a boil then to a simmer. Add the clams.  With a heavy spoon get all the clams coated with the wine and garlic liquid.  THEN, cover tightly and keep on simmer and STEAM the clams until they have opened, takes about  8  minutes.   Shake the pot midway thru GENTLY.  Carefully remove the cover  and give the clams a good but gentle stir.  Remove any that did not open.  Add the lemon juice and the balance of the peperoncino and gently stir again. SERVE! with some good bread.  That’s it!! Now,are you wondering why I have salt in the ingredient list?  Taste that liquid.  I will venture a guess that it’s totatlly seasoned.  Why?  The liquor from the clams is salt water.  That will season the juices. Adding salt will put it over the top, unless you feel you need to, SO,before you serve, taste..then season if you need to, and drizzle with good Olive oil, then serve.  COOKING RULE…you can always add, you can NEVER subtract salt from a dish. There’s also a lack of greenery here..it’s no needed. Those clams look beautful without the green addition.  If you feel you need it…a little chopped flatleaf Italian parsley I guess (can you see my displeasure?? lol)..but one should always eat to one’s taste and pleasure.