Tag Archives: onions

POLLO ALL’ACETO…VINEGAR CHICKEN…MY VERSION

VINEGAR CHICKEN. Doesn’t sound too appealing on its own but say POLLO ALL’ACETO in your best Italian Accent and suddenly there’s a checkered tablecloth, a bottle of ITalian wine and the aroma of garlic and Olive Oil in the air. Right? Let’s get something straight, there’s no ONE recipe for Italian style Chicken cooked with Vinegar. OK? Now don’t we all feel better that there’s no rules we are breaking? There’s a million variations of chicken simmered, boiled, grilled, baked, roasted, fried with vinegar. And a million pairings with various vegetables, starches, herbs, spices, liquids. This is the beauty of Italian cooking. This PARTICULAR Pollo All’Aceto I made tonight is a braise after a Saute’. Stove top. Pretty easy. Great ingredients that are readily accessible. Took about 45 minutes to complete but with more chicken in the pan it would take longer. The taste and aroma will remind you of those great ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes you love. Cubanelle Peppers, Vinegar, Chicken, Onions, Garlic, Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil, Mushrooms. What’s not to love?

FEEDS: 4 TIME: 1 HOUR

POLLO ALL’ACETO

2 LBS BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS (ORGANIC ARE BEST), CUT INTO A MEDIUM DICE

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO(DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

2 VERY RIPE TOMATOES, SQUEEZE OUT THE SEEDS, THEN DICE

2 CUPS QUARTERED MUSHROOMS

2 BIG CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS, CUT INTO RINGS

1 RED ONION, DICED

3 SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/8 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR

1/8 CUP ITALIAN RED WINE VINEGAR

FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/4 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper. Add 2 tbs of olive oil to a heavy wide skillet or Dutch oven and heat. Add the peperoncino to taste (1/4 tsp gives a nice kick…) Add the chicken and let it cook for at least 8 minutes on one side on medium heat. Shake the pan and turn all the chicken to cook on the other side for another 6 minutes. Deglaze the chicken with the Red Wine Vinegar and let this come to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and the pan liquid to a bowl. Cover lightly. Add 2 tbs of Olive Oil to the pan and place on medium high heat. Toss in the Mushrooms, Onions, and Peppers. Season with salt. Cook this for 10 minutes reducing the heat to medium-low midway. The object is to get the onions, peppers, and mushroom soft. If you need more time TAKE IT…i’m only a guide..it might take longer to get the vegetables soft. When they are tender add the garlic..let this cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, season with salt. Let the tomatoes cook in the pan with everythng about 10 minutes. Then add the White Balsamic (if unavailable use Sherry Vinegar, you want a vinegar with a natural sweetness NOT DARK BALSAMIC), deglaze the pan, then add the stock. Bring to a boil and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and it’s liquid back and simmer for 20 minutes. CHECK the chicken to see if it’s tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. When the chicken and vegetables are tender, and the liquid has significanly reduced you’re done. Tear a few basil leaves and toss in , mix well. Serve. I like a drizzle of Olive Oil and a pinch more Peperoncino (personally, i add a few spoons of Pecorino Romano to my plate as well.. OPTIONAL but so good..it actually “thickens” the sauce around the chicken…feel free to do the same!! That’s it. Serve with Roasted Potatoes or Rice.

DILL MUSTARD CREAMED ONIONS, FOR THANKSGIVING OR ANY DAY

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Welcome to the end of the year holidays in the USA.  First up is Thanksgiving, the 3d Thursday of November.  Personally, it’s my favorite holiday.  It’s about being thankful for just about anything.  I like that premise.  I’m thankful for you all reading and following my blog and my social media pages.  Thank you all. Creamed onions, you like them?  There’s 2 camps out there I think.  There’s Camp “THEY TASTE LIKE WALLPAPER PASTE” and there’s Camp “WE HAVE THEM EVERY YEAR AND LOVE THE TRADITION”.  Ok, there’s no scientific proof of any of that…lol. It’s just my own personal casestudy.  I’m a newcomer to CREAMED ONIONS as part of the Thanksgiving Day Dinner. Prior to Thanksgiving 1975 I had never seen or heard of them.  I know, 1975, Ancient history.  Let me continue. My wife’s family made them.  They were totally foreign to me.  And she only lived 15 minutes away from me!! I loved creamed anything but each year I thought, this dish is pretty tasteless.  It could use A FOOD OBSESSION MAKEOVER. Using the traditional base of this dish one can add some enhancements which now turn it into a flavorful side with some personality.  Mustard and Dill are very complimentary especially with the sweet onions and the cream sauce.  After some experimenting with different combos (one included bacon or smoked ham but was too overpowering) I came up with this one.  I hope it becomes a treasured part of your Holiday cooking.  Works well with Roast Turkey, Game, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, even Seafood.  Let’s cook.  This will make enough for 8 sides. 

MUSTARD AND DILL CREAMED PEARL ONIONS

8 CUPS WATER

2 10 OUNCE BAGS OF PEARL ONIONS(FROM THE PRODUCE SECTION)

3 TABLESPOONS OF ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

4 TABLESPOONS OF KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF ALLSPICE

2 TABLESPOONS OF UNSALTED BUTTER

2 CUPS MILK, USE WHOLE MILK

1 TABLESPOON OF DIJON MUSTARD

DASH OF WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1/2 TSP OF DRY ENGLISH MUSTARD

2 SPRIGS OF CHOPPED FRESH DILL

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

In a large heavy saucepan bring the water to a boil and add 1 1/2 tbs of the salt.  Add the onions.  In 12-15 minutes they will be tender.  DRAIN.  When they are cool enough to touch trim off the root ends and pop the onions out of their skins.  A sharp pairing knife works best for this.  Lay them out on a tray to dry.   

In that same heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour and dry mustard, and allspice.  Whisk until it starts to sizzle and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Add the Worchestershire and whisk. Now the remaining flour, Dijon, and then slowly whisk in the milk.  Bring the heat down to low and let this cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep the heat on low and add the onions.  Cook slowly for another 10 minutes.  Give a few frequent stirs.  Onions should be tender and the sauce should be thick and reduced. NOW add the dill and taste for seasoning adding any salt as necessary and give a good grinding of black pepper.  Let this sit for a few hours before gently reheating and serving.  Or make it ahead of time and gently reheat after you’ve let it come to room temperature.

CLAM AND PORTUGUESE SAUSAGE STEW WITH TOMATO AND ONIONS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mediterranean is one of the most varied regions of the world in its beauty, its people, its countries and its cuisines.  It straddles Europe, Africa and a bit of Asia.  Centuries of trading and plundering brought foods from all over the globe to this region where, like the peppers and the tomato, they became part of the local cuisine.  Portugal on the far west of the Mediterranean region is actually on the Atlantic but it shares this food connection with the rest of the area.  Seafood, smoked pork sausages, abundant use of the powdered dried red pepper we call Paprika, chiles, onions, Olive Oil, herbs all factor heavily in Portuguese cuisine.  Truth be told I’ve not been there, it’s on my bucket list but thanks to living in the NYC Metropolitan area, there are many Portuguese restaurants one can visit, especially in Newark New Jersey’s Ironbound section.  One one of these visits I was introduced to the combination of Clams and Pork.  There are a few dishes that use fresh pork, fried in cubes, and sometimes sliced Portuguese sausages like chourico and linguica are used.  Combined in a saute’ of the pork,  peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, then wine, paprika, tomatoes, the clams are then added last and steam in the mix adding their oceanic brine to the liquid.  It’s amazing.  Want to try it?  Good.  Let’s cook.

TIME:  about 1 hour                            SERVES:  6

1 LB. PORTUGUESE CHOURICO OR LINGUICA (DIFFERENCE IS CHOURICO IS HOT, LINGUICA IS MILD), CHOICE UP TO YOU.  I LIKE THE EXTRA SPICE KICK FROM THE CHOURICO, SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH RINGS

1 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

1/2 CUP PORTUGUESE WHITE WINE (OR ANY MEDITERRANEAN WHITE)

1/4 CUP SPANISH OLIVE OIL

1 LARGE ONION, THIN SLICED

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND THICKLY SLICED

1 DRAINED  28 OZ CAN OF SAN MARZANO TOMATOES, COARSE CHOP THE TOMATOES, RESERVE THE JUICE FOR ANOTHER USE

1 JAR ROASTED RED PEPPERS,  SLICED

4 DOZEN COCKLES OR SMALL LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SCRUBBED AND CLEAN

2 SPRIGS OF CILANTRO OR PARSLEY

1 TSP. SWEET SPANISH PAPRIKA (HUNGARIAN WORKS TOO)

PINCH OF SEA SALT

 

In a Dutch oven, add 2 tbs of olive oil and heat.  Brown the Chourico on both sides.  takes about 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Add the onions and 1/2 the garlic.  Season with salt and the paprika.  Be careful not to brown the onion as that will turn them bitter.  Keep an eye on it and stir frequently.  When they are fairly soft, add the peppers and tomatoes. Saute’ for 5 minutes then add the wine and reserved Chourico, and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the Cilantro (or parsley) then the rest of the garlic and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil a little more olive oil, and then the clams.  With a sturdy spoon make sure the clams are all coated with the liquid. Cover and let this cook for 10 minutes,  Uncover and check for the open clams. If all clams aren’t open gently stir the pot and cook until they are all open, another 5 minutes it should take.  Let the pot sit hot and covered for 10 minutes.  Uncover. Any unopened clams discard.  Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side that you’ve drizzled the remaining olive oil over. Now dip that bread into those bowls, bring a clam up to your mouth and slurp out the juice and the clam then have a slice of chourico as a chaser.  LOL. Tastes great right?  Enjoy and Happy Cooking!!

 

 

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..

END OF SUMMER PANZANELLA STYLE SALAD

IMG_1707The last weeks of August are when tomatoes are at their peak in my region.  Jersey Tomatoes are prized for their full rich flavor after vine ripening and I happen to live in Jersey, so…there you go.  Our tomatoes are fantastic.  Truth be told I though our Staten Island, NYC tomatoes were fantastic too.  Ask my late father or my late Uncle Tony Scaramuzzi, two of Staten Island’s leading ItalianAmerican authorities and growers of tomatoes in their large home gardens.  They carried on that rivalry for years. They both grew amazing tomatoes. But I’m in Jersey where there’s a religion that worships the warm bright red orbs, big and small and this is the time of the year for them to be at their very best.  You can make sauces from them, oh yes, amazing pasta sauces but really…I’m way more interested in eating the raw product.  This is the only time of the year they will be this good.  August.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we probably eat them raw at least once a day during the season.  While I don’t grow my own our farm markets are bulging at the seams with local tomatoes of all different varieties and your friends and neighbors who grow them in their home gardens are very generous with their bags of tomatoes as gifts for you.  I have such a neighbor.  Thanks Mike!  When I walked into the kitchen earlier today the aroma of the tomatoes I picked in his garden was floating somewhere in the air.IMG_1694That’s when I knew it’s time for ……..PANZANELLA.  Ok, Panzanella, what is it?  Well let’s start with what it’s not.  It’s not made with toasted bread.  The bread has to get stale.That means you can’t force it.  STALE. Let it sit in a paper bag for 2 days after you buy it, and buy brick oven Italian bread, no seeds, if possible.  The  toasted bread is a crouton, delicious, but not panzanella. One problem in being authentic to the Tuscan Panzanella is the bread itself. In Tuscany the bread is salt-less.  NO SALT.   When I went to Italy the first time in 1986, my maternal grandmother, a native of Avellino told me “be careful when you travel up North (in Italy)….senza sale..o’pane senza sale..no good.”  LOL.  She was right. Saltless bread must be one of those “acquired” tastes. If all the bread you’ve eaten all your life contains salt, it’s a strange taste without it.  So unless you are baking your own bread chances of finding good Italian saltless bread is going to be a problem. Even in Italy, outside of Tuscany, they use their local breads containing salt for this dish.  This salad is a balance of bits of only a few things.  There’s a small amount of red wine vinegar that helps to soften and flavor the bread and that allows the tomatoes full flavor to shine through. Imagine, I can wax poetically over a salad of stale bread and tomatoes.  If you notice in my title to this blogpost I say Panzanella “STYLE”…that’s like a get out of jail card for me.  It allows me to be close to what’s thought of as the closest to the original without misnaming the dish.  My panzanella I made tonight contains no Cucumber. Why?  I love cucumbers.  One of my daughters loves cucumbers.  My wife?  Hates them (so misguided isn’t she?). So, since one cooks to make the diners happy I always make my version of Panzanella without cucumber.  Feel free to add it, or, stick with my Panzanella STYLE.  And put down that bottle of Balsamic. It’s not , never now or ever..a substitute for Red Wine Vinegar which is what you use in this dish.  Italy generally is fiercely regional.  Balsamic is a traditional aged product of Emilia-Romagna.  Panzanella is generally a Tuscan dish.  Not the same region so pay attention here!! Alright, enough of my lecturing on this salad..let’s make it now.

TIME: 2 hours                                             SERVES: 4 people

4 thick slices of STALE (remember, Stale, plan ahead her, this isn’t a salad with seasoned croutons which is what “toasting ” them in the oven would do.  coarsely chopped

3 large tomatoes, JERSEY VINE RIPENED if possible..if not, find good local homegrown or farm market tomatoes.  Dice them and leave them in a bowl.

1 SMALL RED ONION, DICED

4 BASIL LEAVES

(1 PEELED AND THIN SLICED CUCUMBER IF USING)

SEA SALT

3 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 TBS RED WINE VINEGAR

WATER

1 TSP SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Soak the bread in about 1/8 cup of water for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the water. Then season with 1/2 tsp Sea salt, 1/2 tsp Black pepper, 2 tbs, Red Wine Vinegar, blend, then add 2 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. Let this sit for 15 minutes.  Now add all the other ingredients:IMG_1697Then mix gently with…YOUR HANDS.  It’s how it’s done.  There are 2 methods, mine and then everyone elses, lol.  In Tuscany the bread is mixed by hand FIRST and then the other ingredients blended in.  I mix it all together, let it sit for 1/2 hour. Then I mix it again making sure the bread is well soaked.  Let it sit for 1/2 hour again, check for seasoning then serve. It’s that simple.  Add a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil before mixing prior to serving. Fresh ground pepper over everything.

It’s hard to enjoy this out of season which is why I’m highlighting it now.  If you attempt this in the winter months,  no matter how hard you try those winter tomatoes will stay rock hard and NOT give up the juices they do in the Summer.  Those juices are the real flavor in this salad and the soaked bread delivers it to you.  Note: seasoning. At every step give the salad a taste and if something is not quite right, a little salt and pepper will correct it.IMG_1700

 

 

POTATOES O’BRIEN…IRISH-AMERICAN RESTAURANT FOOD

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I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine; except for that I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Hmmm…while Brillat-Savarin is one of the culinary world’s historical icons, his view of the potato was pretty low.  Don’t always follow everything an expert tells you is the message to be learned here!  Is there any food that you could possibly think of that is more deliciously nutritious, universally loved, accessible to all, and easier to cook into more recipes than there are days in the year?  A native of the Americas, this potato is grown all over the world and factors in every cuisine.  That’s quite unique to most foods so I like to give it a little praise when I can, sorry Brillat-Savarin,  you’re wrong on this one. Today we will talk about a favorite Potato dish of mine, POTATOES O’BRIEN.  Google it.  There are thousands of recipes and stories about it.  Let’s get to the heart of this delicious American dish, starting with…point of origin.  It’s a  story lost in the annals of American food history.  Could be Boston.  Might be New York City.  Most legends name Manhattan as the point of invention so I’ll run with that premise.

The dish is not Irish but does work well into an IrishAmerican St.Patrick’s Dinner, or any time of the year since a restaurant cook nicknamed “BEEFSTEW  O’Brien” is said to have created it in the late 1800’s at a Manhattan restaurant he worked in.  Legend states that he was tired of serving the all brown HASH BROWNED POTATO and decided to throw in some BLING for color and additional flavor.  Green Bell Peppers and Pimentos along with onions were tossed in the skillet with the browning potatoes, cooking in bacon grease.  Sidebar here…animal fat creates the best crisp texture and color in a fried potato…think fries cooked in duck fat..lush, crisp, fantastic.  But, go one step further, and add some diced bacon to this dish.  Now we are talking.  OK, note to my vegan and vegetarian readers…remove the bacon and bacon fat from this dish and using a vegetable or coconut oil you can create a wonderful meatless O’Brien.  See, Potatoes are for everyone!

This potato dish is quite versatile as well, perfect as a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner menu item.  Make it when the mood strikes and it works great for outdoor grill/bbq meals, with meat, vegetables, or seafoods.

TIME: 1 hour                           SERVES: 4

3 tbs. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/8 cup diced  bacon (optional, but WAY better when added)
1 12 lb. boiled and cooled  potatoes, cut small cubes or chunks
1 small onion, DICED
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper seasoned to taste
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 2 tbs.bacon fat in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron for nice heat conductivity. Add the diced bacon and let this take on some color.  Give this at least 5 minutes. Now add the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and let them cook till soft, about 10 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon, pepper, onion from the pan and reserve in a bowl.   Add the last tbs. of bacon fat to the pan and when it is hot again over a medium flame/heat toss in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and LEAVE THEM ALONE for at least 8 minutes.  Now give the pan a gentle shake, with a spatula turn the potatoes over and let them brown an additional 8 minutes on the other side. Don’t panic..not an exact process, you are just trying to get a nice crust on all sides of the potatoes best as you can. Now add the bacon, onion, and peppers gently into the pan and mix with the potatoes and sort of press the whole thing down into the pan with your spatula without smashing the potatoes. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Turn onto a serving plate and garnish with the parsley, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.  Done. It’s amazing…
    Want an eye catching dish?  fry or poach a few eggs and top them on the finished Potatoes.  I think we are doing Beefstew O’Brien’s dish justice here.  Happy Cooking!!  BTW, some full disclosure here..the day I took this picture, there was no parsley (shocking) and green pepper in the house, so, that’s why the picture is missing the GREEN.  Just imagine it’s there, work with me here…LOL.

 

POTATO LATKES, FOR HANUKKAH AND BEYOND

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O Chanukah O Chanukah, Come light the menorah

Let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the hora

 

Gather round the table, we’ll give you a treat

Dreydels to play with and latkes to eat

 

And while we are playing,
the candles are burning low

 

One for each night, they shed a sweet light
to remind us of days long ago

Holidays, I love them and the foods they bring to us only for that day or season.  The anticipation of a food or foods that are eaten ONLY at that time of the year taste even better don’t you think?  One of the wonderful benefits of growing up in New York City and it’s 5  boroughs is the whole MELTING POT environment.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s before the harsh overreach of Politically correct took affect, Public schools in the City of New York allowed Christmas/Hanukkah songs to be sung at the Holiday time.  This was not cross indoctrination or promoting any religion, instead it was educational.  It taught this ItalianAmerican Roman Catholic all about some of the Holidays celebrated by others.  In 7th Grade we learned the song I posted at the top and we learned about Gelt (the gold foil chocolate coins, the latkes, the significance of the Menorah, the dreidel).  We had Jewish neighbors and friends who taught us their foods and cultures as being Jewish encompasses many nations and traditions.  Wonderful stuff.  I’ve never forgotten any of it and I appreciate the celebrations by those who follow that religion.  Latkes and Applesauce, the first homemade ones I had were made by Mrs. Miller, a friend’s very Yiddish mother.  She taught me what schmaltz is and how it’s made and used..the importance of onions..and dill..and here’s something about how EVERYONE of us cooks..we bring all those “things” we learned to our kitchen table whether we realize it or not.  When I created my LATKE (shredded potato pancakes that are a symbol of Hanukkah.  The lamp miraculously burned for 8 days and 8 nights on very little oil so foods FRIED in OIL are traditionally made at Hanukkah) recipe i added the onion and dill of Mrs. Miller’s kitchen.  Some do, some don’t, some add no flour, some add mashed potato..again, like with my usual Italian and ItalianAmerican cooking, this is home cooked recipe and it will differ from house to house.  Come, enter my kitchen with me and let’s make LATKES…good luck with having a full platter to serve though…they are incredible when they are still hot…ok, let them cool..enjoy them with a little Applesauce or Sour Cream!!

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TIME: 1 hour                    YIELDS: about 35 Latkes

  • 3 1/2 pounds peeled baking potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose  unbleached flour
  • 2 organic large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill,  fresh..not dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • neutral oil for frying, like Vegetable, Canolalatkes 002Now it’s time to make Latkes!  Using a box GRATER, taking care not to grate your knuckles (cooking can  be such a dangerous sport!!), over a large stainless steel bowl grate the potatoes.  After you are done with them, grate the peeled onion into the mix.  Let me stop here…

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    Notice something?  Let’s see if you’re paying attention.  OK, hint..the potatoes in the ingredients list are PEELED.  In the picture, they are not.  I like the peel in them.  That’s a personal preference that’s not shared by everyone. I’ll say more like the fully peeled SO you decide for yourself.  Next…in a paper towel lined colander empty the potato and onion mix into the colander.  Let this drain for 15 minutes. Then, squeeze the mix until it’s quite dry but reserve 2 tbs.  You want to keep some of that natural potato starch.  Put the whole mix back into the stainless steel bowl including the 2 tbs of potato starch water. Add all the ingredients and mix till just blended.latkes 003 Let this sit for about 5 minutes.  While that’s “sitting” heat 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron or heavy frying pan.  When you can feel the heat coming off the oil, takes about 4-5 minutes gently drop 2 tablespoons of the mix for each latke you will make.  Lightly press into the mound to flatten them a bit.  Fry for about 6 minutes per side.  latkes 007 Drain the latkes on paper towels and lightly salt them while they are draining.  DO NOT CROWD THE PAN…it will reduce the temperature greatly and cause your Latkes to be greasy.  Serve with Applesauce

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    or Sour Cream.  Or both..nice to give a choice.  They are so delicious.latkes 009  A delicious gift from the Jewish culture to our huge world of foods.  To reheat them, never use a microwave or heat them covered.  Into a hot oven, place them on brown paper bags on heavy baking sheets for 5-8 minutes.  Or heat them in a hot cast iron or heavy bottomed un-greased pan.  If making them ahead of time and refrigerating them, remove them a few hours before re-heating.  They will be better if brought to room temperature first. For those who love tradition..here’s the Hanukkah song in Yiddish:

  • Oy Chanukah oy Chanukah, a yontif a sheiner

    A lustiker a freylicher nito noch a zeyner

     

    Alle nacht in dreydlech shpiln mir

    Zudik hesse latkes essen mir

     

    Geshvinder tsindt kinder
    di Chanukah lichtelech on

     

    Zol yeder bazunder bazingen dem vunder
    un tantzen freylech in kohn

  • enjoy your Latke frying!!!  and Thanks to Miss Ericsson and Miss Vogt who taught the 7th grade orchestra and chorus the Hanukkah song at I.S. 51, Markham Junior High, Staten Island, NYC.  Some things we never forget..

 

TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD, OR ÇOBAN SALATASI

fulleuropevaca 1432  We are now in the throes of Summer.  The fresh seasonal and local produce is all around us.  My favorite time of the year!  AND it’s also when my family takes it’s annual vacation.  This year we did an “AmazingRace” like whirlwind from Belgium to Amsterdam to Germany to the Czech Republic to Poland to Slovakia to Hungary to Austria….take a breath,…then we finished the trip flying from Salzburg Austria to Istanbul Turkey.  Wonderful time, no problems, no issues, phenomenal scenery and people, many time zones, currencies and of course…THE FOOD!!!  What’s a food blogger to write about first?  Really!! I have 3000 pictures of sights and foods to remember the great trip by and the food choices along the way were varied and fantastic. Again, where do I start to share my food finds?  Last night I was at a Farmers Market here at the Jersey Shore and it came to me that my first “What did I eat on my Summer Vacation” post came to me.  Fresh vegetables.  They were at their peak wherever we went and they are at their peak here at home.  I’m going to ease my way back into blogging, I did give myself a 3 week break, so I’m happily back to work at it now.  My choice was a simple salad that was made extraordinary by the local seasonal vegetables used by the cooks.  It’s a chopped vegetable salad that is a common salad in Turkey.  First, this is my lingering view of Turkey:

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Sit back from your screen and drink that view in.  It’s of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul taken from the Karakoy Ferry we were on.  It took us from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul, the only city that straddles itself on two continents. Like that?  Good.  I’m glad.  Now we move into the kitchen to prepare what the Turkish call ” COBAN SALATASI”, a common version of a Mediterranean chopped vegetable salad.  As with most heritage and regional recipes there are variations with Feta or no Feta cheese.  The version we had, see the lead picture, contained no Feta.  The taste was crisp, clean, and refreshing.  Maybe the amount of parsley in it contributes to that too. So, I’m giving you, the cook, the option to either include the Feta or not.  Next time I make it, I’ll add some feta.

COBAN SALATASI—–TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD

SERVES: 4-5                                  TIME:45 MINUTES

2 RIPE LARGE TOMATOES, DICED

2 MEDIUM SIZED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), SLICED AND DICED

1 MEDIUM CUCUMBER,  DICED

1 SMALL SWEET ONION, DICED FINE

1/2 BUNCH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY COARSELY MINCED

1/4 CUP CUBED FETA

SEA SALT/KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE WHOLE LEMON

Whisk 1/8 cup Olive oil with the lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Let this sit for about 1 hour. Then whisk again.  Mix all the vegetables together.  Then pour the seasoned Olive Oil and Lemon over the whole thing and mix.  Let this sit for 1/2 at room temperature.

that’s it…fulleuropevaca 1490 It’s simple, clean, and goes GREAT with the usual American table of grilled or BBQ meats and seafood we enjoy through the summer.  It also makes a wonderful entree for a summer meal.  Grilled smoky pita bread, olives, cheeses..see where I’m going with this? Well, nice to be back home with lots of memories to keep my fingers typing and kitchen cranking and hopefully some new things for you to make in your kitchens!!

Before we leave this Turkish delight….enjoy this pic of the interior of AYASOFYA, or HAGIA SOPHIA.  For any fan of  World Art and Architecture this is one of the sights one wants to see.  I’ve wanted to see this since I was a kid first seeing it in a National Geographic Magazine. fulleuropevaca 1437

 

 

 

ROASTED PEPPERS, ONIONS,AND SAUSAGE…A SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT APPROACH TO A CLASSIC

539675_2943376545857_1304531591_32176322_1139794649_n Sausage and Peppers with Onions is one of THE most identifiable dishes from the Italian and Italian-American cuisines.  Yes, It’s a bonafide Italian dish that is a common combination in and around Naples and other areas of the south.  The sweet fennel sausage is the base of this dish and the better quality of the sausage, the better this dish will taste. One can only get the foods that are available in one’s area so hear me out….Most fresh made Sausage comes from Italian Pork Store and is made daily.  Supermarkets sometimes have an in-house meat department that makes its’  own daily.  Then there are factory made Italian Sausage, generally sold in family packs or in bulk made locally or nationally.  These are usually sold fresh but sometimes they will be sold frozen.  The typical profile of a Southern Italian Sweet Pork Sausage is quite simple.  There’s salt, lots of cracked black pepper, fennel seeds and a blend of fatty and lean pork.  When the mix is too lean, your sausage cooks  up somewhat dry. Proper fat content provides moisure and flavor to the cooked product.  All too often the grind of a factory made Italian sausage borders on the consistency of a hot dog…really? no Thanks.  The texture of the sausage is as important as everything else.  Ground too fine it loses it’s identity as an Italian sausage.  Suffice to say I’m a little fussy, but we are talking about Italian Sausage not Vienna Sausages. But there is something called availability.  Simply put, try to find the best of this list in your area and try to stay away from the bottom of the choices, it will just not be the same.

The typical Peppers and Onions pairing with grilled,roasted,or fried sausages is a saute’ of Italian Frying Peppers or Bell Peppers with onions,sometimes additional ingredients.  For this blog post let use a different type of pepper, the readily available  RED ROASTED PEPPER. Like that?  GOOD! Just a little recipe here for a Roasted Peppers and Onions for your Sausages.

 

SERVES:  4 people                                                         TIME:  40 minutes

2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE WITH FENNEL

3 DRAINED ROASTED RED PEPPERS, SLICED INTO 1/2 INCH STRIPS

1 LARGE ONION, SLICED

2 CLOVES GARLIC, SLICED

1/2 TSP OREGANO

3 BASIL LEAVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

1/2 TSP CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS

1 TSP BRANDY or SHERRY

1/8 cup BRANDY OR SHERRY

1/8 cup water

In a large heavy pan heat  1/2 tsp Olive Oil..then add the Sausage,and let them brown on one side, about 5 minutes each side. That should give nice color to both sides. Now add the brandy and deglaze the pan, then add the water.  Swirl it around and gentle cook this until all the water is evaporated and the sausage gets a little more browned when the water is gone. This process takes about 5-6 minutes.  Remove the sausage and add 1 tbs. of olive oil. Then add the onions. Move them around so they pick up all the flavor and browned bits from the bottom.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 3 minutes then add 1/8 cup Brandy or sherry and continue to cook until the onions  become translucent and soft.  10 minutes at least.  Then add the oregano and the garlic..continue to saute’ for another 3 minutes then add the roasted peppers.  Gently cook this for 5 minutes then add the sausage back in and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the flame.  Add the basil…Serve on a plate or in Sandwiches (Hero rolls or Italian bread…NOT soft bread…get the crusty stuff)

saseeze You may use all Sweet or Hot or a Mix..up to you!!

Drizzle the finished product with the remaining olive oil.  I can’t get enough sausage, blame my Southern Italian DNA pool for that!

STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, ZUCCHINI STEW WITH TOMATOES

004  I hope that colorful picture conjures up all sorts of warm weather things in your mind because it’s doing that to me. When the weather in my area is not to my liking (as in the entire Winter) I can “retreat” to the warmer temps by cooking something that has a bit of Summer sunshine in every bite.  Take this STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, or ZUCCHINI STEW.  A simple melange of Olive oil, onions, Tomatoes and Zucchini that is enormously satisfying and pretty straighforwad in how it’s made.  By the time November rolls around people in my region (the American North East coast)have run out of ideas for their prolific annual harvest of home grown zucchini.  Agreed, that’s the best time to make this according to Mother Nature. Did you always listen to everything your mother said?  Combine zucchini that you can still find (it’s in season somewhere else in the world when it’s not inseason in my neck o’the woods) and just make sure it’s not beat up, limp, blistered.  Clearly, those are really old and tired and should be avoided. BUT, if you can find something like this:003 well then it’s time to made Zucchini Stew.  For you types out there that love to correct online mistakes I did not mess up the title of this blog post.  ZUCCHINE is the proper Italian word for the plural ZUCCHINA which means little or smaller squash (which is termed ZUCCA).  Here in the US we use the term ZUCCHINI so before there’s a screaming match between my US friends and my Italian Friends, I’ve placed both into the title.  I’m the UN…everybody is right!! It’s a crap shoot in the Winter months to find decent Zucchini but you can tell by their look and feel that they will perk up the dark winter of root vegetables and roasted meats with a ray of sunshine.  Certainly the tomatoes will not be of the fresh variety,really need to wait for the season for that but a good can of Italian Plum Tomatoes ( I use the San Marzano DOP tomatoes) that are generally picked at the height of their season will make this Stufato di Zucchine a welcome dish in any season.  Let’s cook!

 

SERVES: 4 people                                                      TIME: 40 minutes

 

4 firm unblemished ZUCCHINI, sliced and diced into cubes, try to keep the size somewhat the same, it helps with more even cooking.

1 large diced onion

2 tbs.Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt, peperoncino

3 fresh basil leaves or pinch of oregano

1 28oz can of Italian Plum Tomatoes (San Marzanos are my preference) crushed

In a saucepan heat 2 tbs of Olive Oil adding the zucchini when the oil is hot.  Sprinkle some salt over this and make sure you CAREFULLY stir the zucchini so all cubes are covered in the oil.  Let this cook for 7 minutes stirring frequently but carefully.  Now add the onion, stir, and let this cook for12 minutes,slowly, stirring.  Add 2 tbs of water and cook until it’s evaporated.  when the onions and zucchini are soft add a pinch of peperoncino, and the oregano if that’s the herb you’ve chosen. Pinch of salt.  Now add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the zucchini and onions are sweet and soft, about 20 minutes.Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. At this point your dish should look like this:002  If you are using the basil, add the leaves now and stir.  Let this sit for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

To make this vegan simply prepare as shown.. To enhance the flavor (my preferred style) serve with lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  I also drizzle some EVOO and a pinch of peperoncino on top.     This dish can be a side dish or served over pasta.  For any Gluten Free types the recipe as written is naturally  Gluten  Free.

Now those who are familiar with this type of Italian cooking will say,   make that with sausage, or potatoes, or isn’t this a GIAMBOTTA?  This dish is this dish, a zucchini stew, period.  Now start adding other things and it turns into a Giambotta, also very good, but for me it’s charm is that it’s only a few ingredients with lots of flavor from each of them. I love all the Italian vegetable and potato and meat combos.  So many to chose from..all Vegetable, or a mix.

Happy Cooking!