Tag Archives: Oregano

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

Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.

PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX

2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS

2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER

5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES

1/2 SLICED RED ONION

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO

SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE

1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)

In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!

MARINARA SAUCE 101, MY VERSION

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At the heart of ItalianAmerican cooking are the pasta sauces, the tomato based ones in particular.  Red Gold, this is priceless stuff.  Everyone has their particular style and signature methods of making their pasta sauces so this isn’t a post about what’s right..and what’s wrong.  It’s a guide.  It’s using my style to sauce your pasta, but it’s one particular type.  Italians do not use a single sauce every time they pair pasta with a tomato based sauce.  There’s types with meat, like that one that’s turned into the typical ItalianAmerican Sunday Sauce/Gravy we all love.  Depending on the region the sauces will change and signify a completely new dish.  And then there’s the basic tomato sauce which ALSO will change from region to region, kitchen to kitchen.  This post is a guide for what we Italian Americans call MARINARA SAUCE.  It denotes a light fragrant sauces of tomatoes, aromatics, olive oil and NO MEAT.  On the other side (Italy) it’s referred to as SUGO DI POMODORO.  Marinara in Italy means something to do with the sea, a dish using some type of fish or shellfish..nothing to do with tomatoes.  I suppose the early immigrants used the term Marinara to simply mean a tomato sauce “senza carne”, without meat, like one you could use for fish and seafood.  Drop some lobster, or crabs, or clams, mussels, shrimp or calamari into a Marinara and you have…Frutti di Mare Marinara.  So there’s the connection.  Order something on an Italian menu that says Marinara, it will be a fish/seafood dish of some sort.  By the way, NEVER feel foolish when that happens. How are you supposed to know if you don’t live there and for your whole life you were told Marinara means a meatless tomato sauce??  Just a little tip for traveling or general food knowledge now. ragudomenica 021  No debating or judgements here but but the best advice I can give regarding cooking is that the better the ingredient the better the finished product.  My choice for all my Italian and ItalianAmerican tomato sauces and dishes are the D.O.P. San Marzano imported form the Sarnese-Nocerino area of Campania (Naples) Italy. DOP means the government certified them as genuine.  The cost from 2.89 up to 9.00 depending on which brand you choose.  I’m not married to any brand, as long as I’m satisfied with their taste.  San Marzanos are usually softer (one of the key qualities) than other Plum tomato varieties.  They tend to cook quicker and have more flesh to seed ratio so they are a chef’s choice for sauce for this reason.  Also, they are low in acid and therefore sweeter.  Ok, I love them, I eat them straight out of the can.  Now you know!! LOL.

The other advice I will give is to limit the list of ingredients.  Italian cooking, with some exceptions relies on a handful of ingredients to make a dish.  I’m going to give you my Marinara Sauce recipe, add or subtract if you like, but it’s pretty delicious just as is.  I’m in the less is more when it comes to Italian food.  My sauce is made with the canned DOP San Marzano but you can use a like amount of your homegrown bottled tomatoes.  The most important element of this sauce is the TOMATO. Tomato should be the fresh overriding flavor at all times.  All the other players “support” the lead.  This version of tomato sauce comes from the Napoletana (Naples) tradition.

MARINARA FOR A POUND OF COOKED MACARONI (PASTA)

1 28 oz can of SAN MARZANO D.O.P. TOMATOES (or a good brand of Italian plum tomatoes) termed POMODORI PELATI, or PELATI

1/8 cup EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED FRESH CLOVES OF GARLIC

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO (DRIED CHILE FLAKES, the RED ONES, not A CHIPOTLE TYPE)

1 TEASPOON SEA SALT or KOSHER SALT (or to taste)

6 FRESH BASIL LEAVES OR PINCH OF OREGANO

Use a wide skillet if using 1 can.  For doubling or increasing the amount of sauce you’re making use a sauce pot.  For the one can of tomatoes though a wide skillet works best. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic when hot, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt.  Add 3 basil leaves, or the oregano, and the peperoncino.  You’re flavoring the base of the sauce.  Crush the tomatoes in the case with your hands (pour into a bowl and crush). After about 1 minute or so, the garlic will have flavored the oil..do not let it brown.  Now add the tomatoes,  Blend well.  Add about 1/4 of an inch of water to the can and swirl it around, then add to the pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.  When the sauce is at your preferred consistency  taste for seasoning, add more salt if necessary and the rest of the basil, another pinch of oregano if using oregano. PINCH of oregano is what I mean by the way…so often Italian food gets muddled down in too much oregano…only a small bit between the finger tips is needed. A little goes a long way.  Use either or (basil or oregano). Let the sauce sit off the heat now for about 2 hours. Then reheat and use. Once it’s all at the heated preferred temperature it’s done.  DON’T OVERCOOK THIS!!!  The long simmered sauces are different, not marinara.  Use on your preferred pasta, this is good for 1 lb. of cooked.

Happy Cooking!! BUONA CUCINA!!!

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STUFFED ESCAROLE NAPLES STYLE gone ITALIAN-AMERICAN

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Here is a dish that brings together all the mutlicultural flavors that make up the area of Italy known as Naples.  This city was ruled by the Spanish, the Greeks.the Italians, the French, and others and each group left its mark on the city’s architecture, style, and cuisine.  A land of garden treasures,with the gifts from the sea and the mountains, help make this Italian regional food so full of bold and striking flavors.  One of the most popular vegetables in the area is Escarole..or as it was called in my home, “Scharole'”.It was eaten as a side dish, chopped with garlic and oil, or with anchovies, breadcrumbs, hot pepper, raisin and pignoli. It found its way in many soups, notably the Minestra Maritata( Grandma’s meatball soup), or with beans in the famously popular ‘Scarole and beans…This Baroque filled plate stars all of Naples’ finest ingredients…pecorino romano, garlic, raisin, pignoli, anchovy, San Marzano tomatoes, good olive oil, Gaeta Olives(make sure you are using CURED black olives, not ones packed in brine), ground meat and soaked Italian bread..all served over Naples’  popular Pasta Secca…or dried pasta…in this case,
Ziti.

Start this escarole dish with a cleaned head of ‘scarole.  To accomplish this, you must open the head up without breaking any leaves off.  In a large bowl 1/2 filled with cold water submerge the escarole head stem side up.
For some reason, more so than any other fresh vegetable I have cooked with, escarole captures an ungodly amount of grit, sand, dirt deep within its green and white crevasses.  You must let this sit for 15 minutes, then in a colander, rinse the head under running cold water. Empty the bowl, you will see the sand and dirt in it. Fill it back up 1/2 way, and repeat this process 3 times.  Maybe 4.  Give it a final rinse. Then, in a large pot of salted
water, bring it up to a boil then place the escarole in it stem side up and bring to a low boil.  Cook this for a good
20-25 minutes.

Now let this cool in the colander for about 15 minutes.  While
it is cooling, let’s make the filling…a celebration of Naples’ best ingredients.  The choice of the ground meat is up to you…veal is my preference, then pork, lastly beef.  This dish is called in the Napoletana dialect, I MUCILLI, meaning little kittens and you stuff the whole head in the center with the leaves, then tie it all up.  My version is more like Eastern European Stuffed Cabbage, par cooked leaves, turned into individual rolls that are baked in sauce….but we call it Stuffed “Scharole”..   For 1 head of escarole which makes about 20 bundles, use 1/2 lb.ground meat, 1/3 cup grated Locatelli Romano, 1/8 cup raisins, 1/8 cup pignoli, 1 finely minced garlic clove, 1 tsp.red wine, 2 slices of bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/8 cup chopped pitted Gaeta olives,
1 anchovy filet, 1/8 fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt.
Mix this all together well and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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you will need 1 lb of cut ZITI, cooked till  al dente. Best to make this after the Stuffed Escarole have finished cooking. While you are waiting for the escarole to relax in it’s sauce, just make the macaroni as normal, drain well, make sure it’s, as always, al dente!

Why are we letting this sit?  Flavor melding, it give a chance for the ingredients to give up some of their essential oils and
makes for a tastier end result.
Now take the cooled head of escarole and hold it by the stem, gently, with a knife, cut around the core to release the leaves.
lay them out on a flat clean surface and add about 1 tbs. of the mixture to the stem end of the leaf, then roll them up tuckingthe sides in on the way.  Lay them into a large oiled deep pan.  Continue till you are done. When you are done rolling the “mucilli” bundles, pour some olive oil over them, then 1/2 cup of white wine or stock, then 2 cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes.  A little salt, pepper, 1 clove of garlic, a sprinkle of oregano,and a shake to the pan.  Cover and bring it to a boil , then lower to a simmer and let cook for 40 minutes on a lowflame.  This will further soften the escarole and let all the flavors get happy.  You can also bake this in a 350 degrees F oven, tightly covered for 1 hour 15 minutes, just check mid way thru that the liquid isn’t drying out.
The mucilli will soak up some of the sauce,not an overly liquid dish when it’s finished, great concentrated flavors…important tip here…DON’T SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY.
Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Serve 3 of the mucilli over a pasta portion, ziti my preference…that has been tossed withpecorino, olive oil and black pepper…pour some of the tomato over it as well…If you are looking for a more authentic Italian dining experience, dress the pasta with some of the sauce and serve first, then have the stuffed escarole rolls as a “secondo”.  (I will depart from authenticity right here..the dish is much better all served together, imho).

Just an afterthought…the reason I like the veal the best is because it’s so very mild that it really tastes like the sauce through and through and allows the ingredients in the filling to be stars of the show as well.  Purely my taste buds.  Another postscript here…the most “authentic” or traditional stuffed escarole contain no meat..it’s pretty much the same ingrdients I’ve used but..no meat.  Feel free to make them that way for a vegetarian/meatless dish…it’s very delicious either way.  Classify mine Italian-American Napoletana.  There’s a mouthful!!  HappyCooking!!

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WHEN “FUSION” IDEAS MAKE SENSE, SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO WITH LEMON AND FETA

003  FUSION CUISINE, for this home cook those words make me shudder.  Truth is I’m very closed minded about 95% of anything termed FUSION. They say good cooks need to have an open mind but let me explain myself here, and btw, my opinion is only …my opinion.  Even if I’m 100% right..LOL.  I believe Lidia Bastianich best said this, and I paraphrase..that food tastes best when the ingredients come from the same place.  Fusion when using that guideline can be a good thing.  The current craze in many 3d generation Italian American restaurants is the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe EGG ROLL.   Again, just my opinion, no thank you.  Chinese and Italian cooking have zero in common with each other on every level except they share the same regional philosophy of using great ingredients and they take great pride in their cuisines and their food culture.  I’ll enjoy the broccoli rabe and sausage filling inside of a fried calzone. That makes sense for me.  So…using that line of thinking..countries with different cuisines but sharing a general type of produce, weather, seafood, meats, etc..THOSE cuisines seem to be candidates for a fusion of sorts.  Let’s take the Mediterranean region rich in Olive Oil, Olives, similar seafoods, cheeses, produce, wines, herbs, fruits,nuts…with varying degrees many dishes are all decended from or related to other cuisines in the region.  Religious and local customs have created many of the subtle or not so subtle differences but whether it is Southern or Southeastern French, Corsican, Moroccan, Sicilian, Maltese, Tunisian, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Dalmatian, Cypriot, Lebanese..well you get the idea…there’s a common thread in the region’s cuisine which then allows for lack of a better term, some “fusion”.  When the cuisines are unrelated fusion, for me, is disastrous.

Fresh herbs are part of the Summer season so…here’s a fusion of Greek and Italian ideas in a wonderfully bright and satisfying pasta dish…SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO with FETA AND LEMON.    Let’s cook!!!

SERVES:  4-6                       TIME: 1/2 hour

1 lb IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI (or other long pasta) cooked al dente according to package directions

1/2 CUP FRESH OREGANO LEAVES, packed well..no stems, make sure leaves are gently cleaned

1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO

1/8 CUP FRESH CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/4 CUP TOASTED UNSALTED ALMONDS

1/8 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

3 ROUGH CHOPPED PEELED GARLIC CLOVES

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1/4 CUP OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/3 CUP OF GOOD QUALITY FETA CHEESE, CRUMBLED OR DICED, IMPORTED GREEK WOULD BE BEST

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Using a food processor, add the herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and almonds.  Pulse until they are all crushed.  DON’T over pulse.  Next, slowly add the Olive Oil in stream while the blade is processing.  It should look like a pesto now, nice and smooth.  Now add the feta, reserving a little for garnish, and gently pulse until is somewhat blended in.  TASTE, based on what you think, add salt if necessary to taste and add about 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper.  Gently pulse. NOW..leave it out at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in well salted water and only till AL DENTE. Drain. At that point, pour the pesto over the pasta a gently blend well. Top with some Feta and fresh sprigs of Oregano, even a little squeeze of lemon would be nice. Done..  Enjoy.

So here’s some sidebars…never cook pesto. ever.  If pesto is off colored it means it’s old or was cooked..make your own.  Herbs are one of the cheapest foods out there in the summer unless you are growing your own, even better.  The Consistency of the pesto even with the most exact and tested recipes can vary. If you find the pesto is too thick as more Olive Oil and Lemon juice to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Don’t over do the oil though as it will separated out from the mixture and it will get “oily”.  Mint (fresh) is an alternative to the grassy green flavor of the Parsley.  Feel free to use!  Fresh Thyme is another herb to use but it’s quite strong so don’t use too much of that.

Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!

 

CROSTINI GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL, TOMATO, OREGANO AND PECORINO

IMG_0027  The commercials on TV are popping corks, the bubbles from the Champagne and Sparkling Wines are tickling your nostrils and face.  Trays of nibbles of various sizes are displayed for the taking around you or they are whisked to your face by servers who dart in and out of the party space keeping you satiated and happy.  You want for nothing, except maybe more to drink…a shot, a cocktail, a wine, a flute of champagne.  It’s party season and we are approaching  what’s either anticipated or loathed, we are approaching  NEW YEAR’S EVE.  Think what you will about it, it’s another excuse to let loose, enjoy one’s self or quietly relax.  I’ve been through Guy Lombardo years which for sure were as much New Year’s Eve as that wonderful Ball in Times Square. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ncPPArxEk&list=RDQ-ncPPArxEk#t=80) Ok  Click on the link for what was the last of an era, Lombardo’s last New Year’s Eve show which WAS THE show to watch for almost 50 years.  Of course concurrently was the upcoming New Year’s Rockin Eve   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBdZUmAWfkw)  hosted by the late Dick Clark which we were always switching back and forth on because suddenly New Year’s Eve had 2 show that had to be watched, one for us youngster…(ok, i was a kid back then) and one for the parents and grandparents, the Guy Lombardo show, but we respected it because it was the only show for so many years.  After Lombardo’s passing Dick Clark’s show became THE show to have on if you weren’t going to be out at a party. For many years my wife and I and other family members attended the New Year’s Party at the old Assumption Columbian Lyceum in Staten Island, like Dick Clark and Guy Lombardo, it no longer exists.  Great memories and every year you get a chance to create new ones, whatever they may be..a cup of tea and cookies…a tray of Jello Shots….a huge party ..a small gathering, you alone, or with a ton of people..but it’s another chance to create a New Year’s Memory.  I hope nothing but the best for all of you and to make it even more delicious don’t you think you should be eating something fun and tasty?  I think so.

MAKES: about 2 doz or a little less                     TIME: 1/2 hour

2 loaves of good ITALIAN BREAD, sliced on the bias (slanted cut) in no more than 1/4 inch slices.

3 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 finely minced cloves of Garlic

1 cup cooked Tomato sauce, preferably one that contains no meat or fish

1 tsp. dried Oregano

pinch of salt

pinch of fresh ground black pepper

2 tbs. freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO or PARMIGIANO REGGIANO cheese

Heat the olive oil gently in a saucepan. when you feel some heat coming off the oil add the garlic..they will gently give up their flavor to the oil. There will be slight sizzling as long as you don’t have the flame or setting too high.  Remove from the heat when you smell that wonderful garlic aroma.  Turn on the stove to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place all the cut bread on the sheet and toast for 5 minutes, or until they turn golden.  Remove from the oven.  Now brush the other un toasted sides of the bread with the garlic oil.  Place into the oven for 5 minutes.  While that is happening, heat up the sauce until it’s just warm.  Remove the tray from the oven and place just about 1 tsp. of sauce on the middle of the oiled crostini.  when complete, place in the the oven again until they are just golden brown on the sides (see the pic).  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, a little oregano, and some grated cheese.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

Not a difficult one but really, it’s not too heavy..it’s some ingredients you probably already have on hand, nothing exotic or stressworthy and LOTS of delicious flavor.

As full as the flavor in these crostini are may your New Year be full as well..Enjoy your holiday and thanks for following me and supporting my blog.  CHEERS!!!!

to make this VEGAN..omit the cheese..

MORE MEATBALL MADNESS..VEAL AND LEMON POLPETTINE WITH GRAPE TOMATOES

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If you plan on coming on this culinary ride with me just be warned, I love meatballs in every shape, size, meats or other ingredients, any cuisine, but of course I’m going to always fall back onto my Italian roots.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs open your mind to the reality of the Italian meatball, it’s not one type or recipe.  Most likely when you hear the word you are seeing the Sunday Sauce type served up with pasta.  Very delicious, everyone loves them.  However there’s a bunch of regional varieties that are sure to become a welcome addition to your recipe file.  Meatballs are served as their own main course, along with vegetables and potatoes.  In Italy the pasta will always come as a PRIMO and be a course before the SECONDO, or second course.  This recipe is a mix of different types of this POLPETTINE which is made delicious with the addition of ground Mortadella and lemon and it’s more of an Italian Salisbury steak, a patted down small oval rather than a ball.  Don’t be confused my friend, it’s all good.  Very good!  Years ago I had a similar dish which I was told was from the Abruzzo , a region in Central Italy.  I’ve also heard that this type might be found in Sicily OR Tuscany. Either way it’s moist, full of flavor and very very satisfying.  Ready to cook?  I am.  Let’s GO!!

SERVES:  4-5                                    TIME: 1 HOUR

1 LB. GROUND  VEAL

1/4 LB. FINELY CHOPPED MORTADELLA

1 LARGE BEATEN EGG

1 MINCED CLOVE OF GARLIC

4 SLICES OF GOOD WHITE BREAD OR 1/2 CUP STALE CRUST REMOVED ITALIAN BREAD, SOAKED IN MILK, THEN  SQUEEZE  THE MILK OUT.

1/2 CUP PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

2 TBS. OF CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

SALT, FRESH GROUND PEPPER

PINCH OF GROUND NUTMEG

OLIVE OIL

sifted FLOUR (about 3 tbs)

1 PT. SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

JUICE OF 2 LEMONS

1 TBS. SALT CURED CAPERS

2 TBS. VERMOUTH

SALT, PEPPER

3 sprigs FRESH OREGANO

ADD THE CHEESE, GARLIC, PEPPER, NUTMEG, ABOUT 1/4 TSP. SALT, LEMON ZEST AND JUICE ALL WITH THE EGG. Then using your hands mix the bread in followed by the ground mortadella and ground veal.  Continue to mix until it’s all well blended.  Form into about 8-10 patties no more than 2 1/2 inches long.  Dredge on all sides in unseasoned unbleached flour. Let sit for a moment.  In a large skillet heat about 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil and gently brown the POLPETTINE, about 5 minutes per side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Don’t crowd the pan and don’t rush this!! Have a glass of Vermouth for yourself, just sayin. Relax. Cooking is fun.  You should have fun.  I want you to have fun!  I’m having fun so you should too!  Remove the polpettone to a platter and cover with foil.  Add a little more olive oil to the pan and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAadd the garlic and when they are just above golden, like in 2 minutes then add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil then reduce for 3 minutes.  Now add the polpettine back into the pan and make sure the sauce has covered all sides of meat. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For whatever reason I didn’t take a pic of the polpettone in the pan, but  let this cook for at least 8 minutes.  Now add the juice of 2 lemons and the capers.  Check for seasoning, adjust if possible.  Let this cook now on low until the juice is reduced by 1/2.  Then you are done!  Garnish the platter with fresh oregano.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Of course I’m thinking I”m the pro food stylist for this photo shoot (lol..hardly any of that..I just had radicchio in the fridge so it became a bed for the polpettone.  Arrange on a plate and coat the polpettone with tomatoes and garlic, there should not be a ton of sauce..but it’s deliciously concentrated. The egg, cheese, and the soaked bread plus the mortadella add moisture to the patties and they do not dry out.  Wanna see inside of one?? Ok. Here is it—>OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Shoe String or Thin Cut French fries and a plate of sauteed greens goes great with this dish.  A crisp white wine, or sparkling water with lemon are a great accompaniment for the Polpettine.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Doesn’t that look good?? Believe me yet about the world of meatballs?  And they are NOT all Italian either!  More to come…

Happy Cooking for now and enjoy the Lemon Veal Polpettine!  I love when you are cooking with me!!

 

 

 

 

A SAUCE OF CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS FOR PASTA AND FERRAGOSTO MEMORIES

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August 15 is a special day…it’s the major secular and religious Italian holiday known as FERRAGOSTO, the public holiday where the whole country takes off.  Trust me, I know.  We were in Southern Italy (Basilicata to be exact) on August 15, 2006 and there wasn’t a store or business open.  An ancient holdover from Roman Times it’s a day to hang with one’s family and friends doing all sorts of Summer things, of course eating is a very Italian pastime so there is much feasting that goes on.  On the religious side it’s also the Feast of the Assumption, known as LA FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, a day for church going and honoring the Mother of Christ and all those who are named ASSUNTA.  Here’s my family angle to this story, it was my beloved mother’s name, ASSUNTA SCARAMUZZI BATTAGLIA, although as with many Italian-American people of her generation there was an American name that sort of corresponded with it and that was Susan.  scan0001 There’s a treasured  picture from my vast photo archives that I took of my mom on August 15, 1976 with my new Honeywell Pentax (got it for my high school graduation) of Mom cutting a Cassata cake (a Sicilian ricotta cream filled sponge cake with fondant and candied Sicilian fruits around it) for her “name day”.  Italians not only celebrate a birthday, we also celebrate the feast day of the Saint you were named after.  That sure is a special picture.  Although my mom used Susan most of the time back in the 70’s when wearing a gold first name initial, usually with a diamond on it became real popular. My Dad bought one S for my mom.  Her mother , Grandma Scaramuzzi took one look at it and said.. in her Avellino-Naples accent “S ???    What’s this S??? Your name starts with an A” .  Never disagree with your mother. Here a better view of the cake, and it’s my favorite cake, still favored for special occasions by me so if you ever wonder what kind of cake to get me, this is it.

scan0002  Don’t you love the Demitasse cups for the Italian coffee?  Notice the paper plates though..Mom was in Summertime mode..didn’t want to wash any dishes so she pulled out the paper plates. No company was over, just us, so no need to fuss.

This sauce we will discuss here has zero to do with FERRAGOSTO and/or August 15.  Yet, my mother’s many types of pasta sauces with tomatoes is the tie in, she loved a tomato sauce with onions in it, sort of a Marinara, although that was generally tomatoes and garlic.  Whether it’s genetics or just from mom making those sauces I too love a sauce with an infusion of delicious sauteed onions sometimes and the other night, having an overload of red onions I decided to tweak my usual tomato/onion sauce.  In the pantry was a can of POMODORINI, imported Italian Cherry tomatoes, 15 oz can and they generally cook up quicker than a 28 oz can of San Marzanos.  Simma down, I love my San Marzanos above all but right underneath I love these canned Cherry tomatoes and they are very popular in Italy.  Let’s start cooking the sauce for the pasta now.

Serves 4        Takes: about 45 minutes

Sauces one lb of pasta

1 15 oz can of POMODORINI, Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes..try finding these in an ItalianDeli, Salumeria, Italian Market, your local Supermarkets or online..or use a can of Imported Italian San Marzanos or Plum tomatoes but really, the sauce rocks it with the pomodorini.  OR 2 pts of cleaned and sliced ripe cherry tomatoes.

4 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

pinch of oregano

salt, pepper

1/8 cup White Wine

1 large red onion FINELY DICED! can’t stress that enough.

1 lb pasta with indentations or holes, like Creste di Gallo, Orecchiette, Medium Shells, Casareccie, Farfalle, Mezzi Rigatoni, Pipette and cook till Al Dente according to package directions. As always the dish will rise on the merits of your ingredients.  Store brand pasta will not ever taste as good as an Imported Italian or premium US brand like a Barilla.  It’s only a 2.00 difference at most and you’ll be glad you did.

plenty of freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the olive oil, seems like a lot but it’s necessary for the taste and the cooking of the onions.  Add the onions and season with salt and the oregano.  The onions need to get soft but you want to draw out moisture and let them intensify in flavor.  Cook them on medium for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, you don’t want them to brown.  Then add the wine slowly. Stir.  Smell that!! WOW…it’s an amazing fragrance!  Let this cook for another 8 minutes on medium low.  Taste an onion bit and see if it’s soft now because if you add the tomato before the onions soften in the oil, they will pretty much stay hard, only add the tomato when the onions are soft.  Stir and let this simmer for 20 minutes.Taste the sauce for seasoning (Salt and pepper at this time).

When it’s thickened, cook and drain the pasta and add the al dente pasta to the pot with the sauce.  Coat well. Let this cook for 1 minute then remove from the heat.  Drizzle with a little more of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 1/4 cup of the grated PECORINO.  Blend well.  Done.  No, there is no extra sauce on the side (I’m giving you ITALIAN tips here so work with me…lol..it’s not a pasta dish swimming in excess sauce, the concentrated flavors are carried by the tomato and the olive oil…).

Let me add that there is NO ONE WAY TO MAKE A POT OF PASTA AND SAUCE.  There’s Sunday Sauce, There’s Bolognese Sauce, there’s Meat Sauce, there’s Amatriciana Sauce, there’s Carbonara sauce, there’s  etc etc etc.  And certainly there is NO one tomato sauce for pasta. I hope this stroll down my family memory lane, the smells and tastes of our dinner table give you as much joy making and eating this as it’s given me my whole life.  Happy Cooking!!

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MEATBALL CLASS IN SESSION: SAUSAGE, FONTINA AND ARUGULA SIMMERED IN WINE AND OLIVE OIL

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MEATBALLS!!  I’m calling this blogpost a cooking “class” because I hope to impart some openmindedness about cooking, especially MEATBALLS here.  I will bet ca$h that people hear the word MEATBALL and have a singular type or recipe in mind and never leave that safe insular world of that ONE version they have lodged in their heads.  Let me help you out of that space, it’s too confining.  There’s a world of meatballs out there from all different regions and cuisines.  I’ll start off this Cooking Class on meatballs with one I developed last night for dinner.  Freshly made Italian Sweet Fennel Sausages, Fontina Cheese, Baby Arugula, White Wine, Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil are a few of the ingredients that went into this version.    There are meatballs with specific guidelines or recipes…like Swedish meatballs or all the Frikadeller, Kottbullar, Albondigas, Polpette for Sunday Sauce (Gravy) but away from those specific traditional recipes there’s many types made from all types of meats with all types of other ingredients.  Here’s where I just through a requirement out there, when creating your own meatball recipes have a region or cuisine in mind and stay true to those ingredients or you run the risk of creating a disaster.  The Fontina led me to be a little more Northern Italian in my approach, certainly this is not a Northern Italian recipe just leaning on some of it’s ingredients for a delicious meatball that works.   A really nice response on Facebook and Instagram after my posting the finished balls is what is prompting this blogpost.

What is making me call these Northern Italian?  Fontina mainly, a delicious creamy and nutty cheese from Northern Italy (also, Wisconsin, Denmark, Sweden) which melts beautiful.  It set off the whole flavor pallette for me.  The meatballs are fried and finished off in a pan of White Wine, Garlic and Olive Oil, a hint of oregano, sort of a sauce that is pretty popular in lots of Italian, North and South  scallopine style dishes..certainly it leans to the North.  The Sausage is used all over Italy but it’s important for this dish you use Italian Sweet Sausage.  There’s also no tomato in this dish.  I also used Parmigiano-Reggiano in the dish, so let’s start cooking shall we?

FOR 4-6, MAKES ABOUT 18 MEATBALLS   TIME: ABOUT 45 MINUTES

1 1/2 LB. GOOD QUALITY SWEET ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE OUT OF IT’S CASING

1/2 CUP DICED FONTINA CHEESE (MAKE SURE IT’S CHILLED FIRST OR IT WILL MELT AND STICK TO THE KNIFE AND CUTTING SURFACE, SMALL DICE SIZE)

1 1/2 CUPS FINELY CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA LEAVES

1 TBS. WHITE WINE (I USED ONE FROM THE VENETO, FIND ONE FROM NORTHERN ITALY TOO, MAKES YOUR DISH A LITTLE MORE TRUE TO A REGION)

1 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 TBS. GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE

1/8 CUP SOAKED ITALIAN OR WHITE BREAD, MILK OR WATER, SQUEEZE OUT EXCESS.

1 FINELY MINCED SMALL CLOVE OF GARLIC

FOR SAUCE:

1 CUP WHITE WINE

2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 SMASHED CLOVE OF GARLIC

PINCH OF DRIED OREGANO (CERTAINLY A SPRIG OF FRESH THYME WOULD WORK WELL ALSO)

Start the balls…break up the bread into a bowl, add all the ingredients and when all blended (wait, where’s the salt and pepper??? do not add any extra..you are using Italian sausage, it’s already seasoned).  Same with the garlic…before I write out my recipes I always research “like” recipes because it’s good to make sure you are giving proper instructions and there’s always a tip or two to pick up here and there.  What I do notice is the overkill in many ingredients which turns a dish in to a  ONE note flavored dish.  Most of the sausage “meatball” recipes I’ve seen have up to 3 cloves of garlic in them.  I love garlic but 3 cloves of garlic will turn this recipe into a “Garlicball” recipe. I want you to taste the olive oil, the sausage, the wine, the Fontina and the arugula..not just garlic.  So, that’s why is a relatively small amount that goes into this recipe.  When forming the balls, about walnut sized for more even cooking, try to press the cheese into the centers as best as possible.  Some will melt out, that’s ok and creates a kick-ass tasty crust, don’t panic.  After you’ve formed the meatballs, begin to fry them in a wide pan, about 1 tbs of olive oil om medium heat for about 8 minutes on side one…then turn and fry for 5 minutes, now…carefully add a little more olive oil and one smashed clove of garlic, as soon as it’s taken on light color, remove.  Add a pinch of oregano, then the white wine, shake the pan up to distribute all the sauce or before you start remove the meatballs, start the sauce and add the meatballs back. See!! There’s lots of ways to get to the same spot.  NO KITCHEN PANIC HERE!!!

007  See that crust on them?  OK,, yes, yes I did , i picked at one.  Delicious.  Since these are made with pork there is no medium rare, the balls must be fully cooked.  You finish them by slowly simmering them for an additional 20 minutes in the olive oil and wine bath.  Check for them being done by simply cutting one in half.  You see pink? 5 minutes more.  But after the initial frying then the simmering process you should be done.

Let them sit in the wine for about 5 minutes after removing from the heat, then serve.

006  Platter the meatballs and pour the pan sauce over it..this is not a thick gravy so don’t think it needs to be thicker.  Serve this with a pasta dish. or with some good bread and sauteed greens.

Happy Cooking!  Have I changed your concept of what a meatball is?  If it kills me my mission will be to pull you all out of the one food(meatloaf, meatballs, pasta sauce, etc)  one recipe mindset and you’ll start to create great versions of your own never saying “I just am sick of making   (insert food here) the same way all the time!”.

 

 

 

ROASTED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES WITH OLIVE OIL, OREGANO AND GARLIC

165440_567438039954937_956085305_n   TOMATOES.  Just the sound of the word gets me salivating and roasting them, especially this time of the year when they are seasonal just concentrates and intensifies their flavor.  A ton of flavor can be brought out of them by simply roasting them.  Do you really think you can’t do it as well as you had them in a restaurant?  Of course you can do it.  All you need is a pint or two of grape or cherry tomatoes, off the vine, on the vine, it doesn’t matter.  Crank your oven up and have a few other ingredients on hand.  My view of Italian cuisine is that there is more simplicity to most of it’s dishes than complex ingredients and techniques. What are some ways to used your home roasted tomatoes?  Glad you asked.  Toss them with drained pasta, either dried or fresh pasta.  Add a good grated cheese, and don’t stop at Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino.  Provolone, Ricotta Salata, Scamorza, Smoked Scamorza, Mozzarella, Asiago, Grana Padano, Caciocavallo, Caciotta, just to name a few will all enhance that dish.  A little peperoncino or Anchovy filet are awesome too.  But, I digress.  This roasted dish at room temperature (it’s best temperature to enjoy it fully) is a wonderful sidedish or part of an antipasto or a vegetable plate. Serve the tomatoes with a delicious fresh mozzarella or burrata …THAT’S A TREAT!!!!.   They even go wonderfully on toasted slices of bread (bruschetta or crostini) as a starter.  Have I convinced you yet on how this one recipe will open up many options for you?

For a lb of pasta or nice side or platter with cheese let’s start with 2 pts of CLEANED, RINSED, AND ABOVE ALL, DRIED OFF Cherry or Grape Tomatoes.    This is a key point in basic cooking technique.  You do not want the tomatoes to steam at all and moisture on the outside will not roast them as well as if they are dried.  Not to self…have paper towels handy at all time, indispensible kitchen tool.

3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp. crumbled dried oregano, crumble them between the palms of your CLEAN hands till it becomes a “powder”.

3/4 tsp. of Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

1 clove sliced garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl mix the olive oil, salt, and oregano, then add the tomatoes till they are all coated.  Empty the bowl into a baking sheet and have only one layer of tomatoes (do not let any sit on top of each other).  Into the oven they go for 10 minutes.  Add the garlic at this point, then gently rotate the pan and roast for another 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.Here’s where a recipe will sometimes fail you.  I don’t have your oven nor do I know how it’s calibrated.  The most important cooking tip I can give is that your eyes and sense of smell are your most precise cooking tools.  Your oven may be hotter or cooler than mine so these times are approximate.  It’s a pretty quick cooking time that can go from perfect to burnt in a NYC minute.  Stay in the kitchen with this and just keep an eye on it.  You want to have a nicely caramelized and soft tomato.  Not burnt. Make sure at all times that the tomatoes are not burning.  Tomatoes are fruit and they do contain a high amount of natural sugar which means they will burn.  This is easy but needs you to pay attention. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes before using them.

Toss in fresh basil or oregano or (pick your herb) at this point if you like.  Or leave as is, it’s pure tomato love.  The tomatoes are the star here, not garlic, not the herbs, so, that’s where I like this dish to be..tomato rich with a few background supporting ingredients.

Have fun with this and I think it will become a popular go-to dish for you.

PERNIL BORINQUEN…A SLOW COOKED PUERTO RICAN PORK ROAST

PERNIL BORINQUEN…A SLOW COOKED PUERTO RICAN PORK ROAST

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If you are a PORK lover this is your ticket to Nirvana.  I am a Pork lover and the best treats for me are always the long roasted versions, like our American style BBQ smoked Ribs, the Italian Porchetta, Pulled Pork, and what I consider the best of them all, the Spanish influenced Roast Pork Shoulder, in particular the one made by the Puerto Ricans called PERNIL.  Other Hispanic cultures use the same term for it but each culture, from Filipino to Dominican, Mexican to Venezuelan to Hawaiian Kalua pig , they all rub the meat down in a mixture of salt, pepper, Abodo seasonings, and lots of garlic.  The Borinquen( Puerto Rican) version contains my favorite condiment Vinegar.

This tough and fatty piece of meat is broken down by the slow oven roasting and flavored from within by piercing the roast with a long knife in various places and pressing into the holes what is known as “ADOBO MOJADO”, or wet adobo, a paste of fresh garlic, dried oregano, black pepper, kosher salt, olive oil and vinegar. 004

Wow. Between the self basting of this piece of meat and all the internal flavors you infused it with, it breaks down into a pulled pork -like consistency and is served with rice and/or beans.  Heaven.  Muy bueno!  Make your Adobo first.  No clear cut recipe for this, just the same ingredients all the time…family to family this mix may have a little more of this or that…for a 4 lb Picnic cut pork shoulder (1/2 it’s normal size) make a paste of 4 sliced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano, 1 tsp. of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper; 4 tbs. of olive oil and 3 tsp. of red wine vinegar. Mash together in a mortar and pestle, best implement for this as it does a better job at re- leasing the oils in the oregano and garlic..if you dont have one a quick pulsing in a food processor will do it.  Rinse off the pork roast and pat dry with paper towels.  With a long sharp knife blade pierce the thick skin all the way through to the inside of the roast in at least 10 spots.  If the pork skin is too hard for your knife PLEASE don’t force it, instead, pierce the meat side in the same manner.  Into each of the holes with your finger add the paste in all the holes until you’ve almost used it up.  Rub what’s left over the whole roast, then salt, pepper, granulated garlic and oregano gets sprinkled all over the roast.  Pour 1/8 cup of vinegar over the roast after you placed it into a roasting pan.  Cover and let sit in your fridge for up to 2 hours, but even better letting it sit for up to 24 hours.

Be generous with the salt and pepper! For the novice to the cut known as the Picnic Roast…it’s one of the most unadulterrated butcher items left…the thick pigskin is still attached…this will crisp up and roast to become another Puerto Rican treat known as the CHICHARRON, or crackling…It’s KEY to this roasts unctuous quality.  Do not remove until after cooking.  Then, for the heartier pork lovers in the house, this will be like dying and going to porcine heaven.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  When it’s at temperature add the roast, uncovered. and let it cook for at least 1 hour.  Then add 1 cup of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar to the pan,2 bay leaves, lower the temperature to 375 and roast for 2 hours.  If the roast starts to blacken at all towards the end of the 2hour time, cover with foil.   The key to this dish, besides the cut of pork and ingredients, is that the meat pulls apart, you should be able to shred it. To test, take 2 forks and see if you can easily pry the meat from the bone.  If you can’t, roast uncovered for additional 20 minutes.  When it’s at that point, let it rest for at least 15 minutes.  The rule of thumb with the cooking time is 38-45 minutes per pound.  For a larger than 4lb Shoulder just double everything OR add more.  This is a dish that loves extra flavor. You can’t go wrong.  Some people add more things to theirs but there’s not ONE way only, remember.  This is how mine is made so try it out this way then tweak as you wish.  It’s always a winning dish.

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Then pull all the meat apart, re- moving any visible fat pieces.  Pry the top skin off and discard all the white fat between the skin and the meat.  Mix the shredded meat with the meat juices and cover, heat in oven for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.  Serves 5-6.  Works best with yellow rice (Arroz Amarillo), or rice and beans.  Something to make when you have the time, a lazy day in the house.  The flavor is sutble and strong at the same time (makes no sense, does that?) but you will know what I mean when you eat it.

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