Tag Archives: PORK

MAIALE CON PEPERONATA (AGRODOLCE), PORK COOKED WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPER STEW

PORK WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPERS AND ONIONS

Italy is filled with Pork recipes and ItalianAmerica added more to the scene. This one is one that shows up often in Southern Italian Cooking, the combo of Pork with Peppers. Sometimes it’s with Hot Vinegar Peppers. Sometimes it’s with a simple saute’ of Peppers and Onions. Sometimes it’s AGRODOLCE, meaning sweet and sour peppers and onions. Creating this recipe I used the Sweet and Sour Pepper and Onion stew of Southern Italy known as PEPERONATA. This dish tastes best if you make the peperonata and let it sit in the fridge for 3 days. This allows all the AGRODOLCE components to work their magic on the peppers and onions. So my eager cooks out there, start with this, my recipe for Peperonata.

https://afoodobsessionblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/peperonata-southern-italian-pepper-stew/

Let the finished Peperonata sit for up to 3 days to fully develop. Cooking is layering. Each layer needs to be the best flavor it can be. Too often cooking has become a dump in the crock, Instant Pot type of process. While they have their uses approaching every meal you cook with “how quickly can I get this done” doesn’t give the end result that it should have. Certainly don’t cook a dish/meal that needs a ton of time if you are limited. Wait till you have the time, maybe a weekend, a special dinner, etc. and don’t short cut. Peperonata on day one is vastly different from what it tastes like in 3 day or later. Trust me. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a short cut now and then when it doesn’t compromise the end result just to get it done with quickly. The Sugar and Vinegar need to marinate the Peperonata for it to taste properly. Ok, i’ve beated this dead horse enough. Let’s cook.

1 RECIPE OF FINISHED PEPERONATA

1 3/4 PORK LOIN SLICED IN STRIPS OR SMALL PIECES

1/3 CUP SEASONED SIFTED FLOUR

1/3 CUP WHITE ITALIAN WINE

PINCH OF OREGANO OR MARJORAM

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL

In a Large heavy pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and in batches brown the pork. Loin of Pork cooks fairly quickly. When the batches of pork are done add the oregano and peperoncino, salt…and toss together for 5 minutes. Now deglaze the pan with the White Wine. Blend well. Now Add the Peperonata and mix gently. Let this simmer for 1/2 hour. Done. Basta. Simple. I like serving this with whole small potatoes roasted in Olive Oil, garlic and Rosemary. And some Crostini you’ve dipped into the cooking juices It’s heaven on a plate Mi Amici. Pork and peppers really brings out my Southern Italian Roots. Let’s hope you feel the same! Happy Cooking!!!

TOMATO, ONION, AND BACON JAM…A HEAVENLY COMBO, AN EASY RECIPE

18765994_10209606262095759_5350010286680538053_nHere’s my recipe for a tasty “jam” that takes advantage of the sweet small cherry or grape tomatoes and smoky salty porky American Bacon.  Throw Sweet Vidalia onions in to the mix and you have my TOMATO, BACON AND ONION JAM.  A Sweet and Sour mix of heavenly flavors that really work on grilled meats like Burgers, Hot Dogs,  and even tasty over a block of cheese or sliced cheeses on a crouton or cracker.  The trick is to be patient, the bacon needs to fully cook or you have rubbery, wobbly unwanted surprises in the jam.  Nobody wants that.  Let make some JAM! My favorite application of this jam is on a cheeseburger, as pictured above.

1 lb.   CHOPPED AMERICAN BACON, some like thick cut for this, i do not. Regular cut is what I use.

2 pts. CHOPPED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES, tossed with some Kosher Salt to taste

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

2 MEDIUM SIZED VIDALIA OR SWEET ONIONS, FINELY DICED

1 CUP DARK BROWN SUGAR

3 TBS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

pinch of Allspice or Cinnamon

1 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP BLACK PEPPER

1 TSP. TABASCO SAUCE

1 SPRIG ROSEMARY OR THYME

2 TBS PURE MAPLE SYRUP

Use your heaviest bottomed pot (always a good idea when cooking anything with lots of sugar, helps prevent burning).  Add the bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently to evenly cook the bacon.  After 10 minutes your bacon should be at the proper texture,  remove the bacon and add the butter.  Stir.  When the butter is melted add the onions.  Slow cook these stirring frequently for 10 minutes.  Then add the Tomatoes.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften.  Should take 20 minutes.  Now add the all the other ingredients except the maple syrup and rosemary.  Bring to a boil.  Now add the syrup and rosemary/thyme, stir and simmer until it’s thickened, about 30 minutes.  Stir frequently.  Remove from heat and let it COMPLETELY COOL DOWN.  Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.  Store in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks on the BOTTOM SHELF.  That’s the coldest part of your fridge.   ENJOY!!!

SPIEDIES, MARINATED AND GRILLED SKEWERED CUBES OF MEAT FROM NY STATE,ANOTHER ITALIAN AMERICAN CREATION

fullcamera 552

WHO LOVES GRILLED MEATS?  I see lots of raised hands out there so this blogpost is just for you.  Ever have a SPIEDIE??  Well it’s time you did and they are extremely easy to make at home.  They are an ItalianAmerican version of a typical skewered meat/poultry dish popular around the world, but in this fashion it’s typical of the Mediterranean version.  SPIEDO is the Italian Word for KITCHEN COOKING SPIT.  italian meats threaded on skewers in some fashion generally take the name Spiedini which has different regionalities to it depending on the location in Italy or Sicily.Maybe you’re familiar with SPIEDINI, the small rolls of filled meat/poultry threaded with onions and bay leaves, sometimes slices of Italian Bread.  Or you’ve probably had the more well known Greek SOUVLAKIA which is REAL close to ItalianAmerican Spiedies with a few less marinade ingredients and the Greeks us TZATZIKI sauce and a Pita.  Spiedies just get more of the marinade on them and can be rolled up into a slice of American White Bread or an Italian long roll.

So what makes these Mediterranean treats ItalianAmerican? Let’s go back to the old country for a moment.  In the ABRUZZO region a popular dish is cubes of marinated skwered lamb called SPIDUCC’..or SPIDDUCCI. In True ITALIAN fashion each section of the ABRUZZO has local terms for this dish.  ARROSTICINI, ‘RUSTELLE, ARRUSTELLE, all pretty much are the same thing.   The term SPIEDIE though is pure ItalianAmerican.   The cubes are marinated in a simple dressing of Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (PUT DOWN THAT BALSAMIC!!! IT COMES FROM UMBRIA NOT THE ABRUZZO!! Lidia Bastianich says it best, foods from an area taste best when you use the ingredients from that area/region. Balsamic while delicious is not a substitute for all vinegar dishes, there, I’ve said it.  I know, in America it’s used on everything.  My purpose in  blogging is to give you the real deal, or close to it.  If you use balsamic, just don’t tell me LOL.), garlic or onion, peperoncino, salt, lemon juice, herbs like mint, oregano, basil, bay.  The lamb cubes would be marinated for as long as possible, threaded onto metal skewers and slow roasted over hot coals.    One of the world’s most popular ways of cooking meats yet still amazing wherever you have it.   The American connection comes in via Ellis Island during the great Italian Immigration from 1880s-1930s.  Many paesani from the Abruzzo settled in the area of Central New York State around Binghamton NY.  As is the norm they brought with them dishes from their homeland and adapted them to the new surroundings.  Lamb was first used but in the USA immigrants found ALL meats were easy to get and well priced so in true American fashion varieties of meats and poultry were used to make these Arrosticini or Spidducci which turned into the ItalianAmerican word, SPIEDIES.  Legend hotly contests who the creator of the first one in a restaurant was and who had the first “sauce” for them, but the Iacovelli family of Endicott, NY near Binghamton  in the 1920’s-1930’s gets the most credit.  Plenty of other stories about who and what but that’s where an Italian regional dish made the jump into ItalianAmerican cuisine.  These SPIEDIES were marinated in the cook’s version of SPIEDIE Sauce, and grilled, then with a piece of American White Bread (see, this is what makes things ItalianAmerican too) you roll the bread around the spiedie and pull it off into the bread.  Instant SPIEDIE SANDWICH. Italian Rolls used also.  Now let’s get your charcoal grill stoked and ready for grilling, or prep that gas grill and get this Summer on the road with a platter of SPIEDIES for your dining pleasure!!!

2 LBS MEDIUM CUBED MEAT/POULTRY..Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Turkey
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup LEMON JUICE, not the bottled stuff, use fresh Lemons
1 cup RED WINE VINEGAR
1 TSP PEPERONCINO
3 finely minced GARLIC cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1 TSP CRUMBLED DRIED MINT OR
2 TSPS FRESH MINCED BASIL, not both
1 TSP MINCED FRESH PARSLEY

1 1/2 TSP DRIED OREGANO

you will need to make 2 batches of the marinade.

SALT and BLACK PEPPER, to taste (be generous with it)

LONG HEAVY DUTY WOODEN SKEWERS (soaked overnight in water), or METAL SKEWERS

Double the marinade recipe and blend well.  Let this sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  Now separate in equal amounts.  Cover and reserve one batch for serving with the finished Spiedies.  Add the meat to the other batch and make sure all the cubes are in the marinade.  Add the squeezed cut lemons to the bowl and cover. Marinade in the fridge optimally overnight, or no less than 3 hours. Remove the marinating meat from the fridge and LET IT COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE.  Thread the cubes on the skewers, depending on the length of them make sure to leave some blank space at the tip and the end of the skewers.  On a well oiled medium heat grill start cooking them lining them up without touching each other and give them at least  7 minutes per side, or more, esp with the chicken/turkey.  You can rotate them a few times to get them more evenly grilled.  Discard the first marinade and use a little of the 2d batch to baste certainly using a new bowl. Keep the rest of the marinade for serving with the finished dish.   Remove the finished Spiedies from the grill and place on a platter. Have the extra Marinade and sliced bread or rolls handy to wrap around the SPIEDIES, PULL OFF, add more marinade and ENJOY.  Makes enough for 6-8 servings.

In the Summer an Annual SPIEDIE FEST is held in Central NY…here’s the link:

https://www.spiediefest.com/

 

Happy Cooking!!!  Oh yes, you can buy Spiedie Sauce already made.  Or not.  Make your own.

 

 

 

 

FRIED STUFFED MEATBALLS, ITALIAN AMERICAN STYLE, MY SISTER’S IDEA

0000HOW GOOD DOES THAT LOOK?  Of course you  are agreeing with me.  ItalianAmerican style Stuffed FRIED Meatballs, but here’s the thing, these are not simmered in sauce after frying.  These are filled, breaded, then fried.  Served on their own or on a bed of Sugo di Pomodoro (ok, I’m getting European here, that means Tomato Sauce).  At Easter dinner hosted by my sister Joann and her family she made a version of these for the antipasto. Delicious.   I took that idea and put some A FOOD OBSESSION touches into the mix and made them a week later.  Big hit.  And….they are great for entertaining.  Party apps or Antipasto for a dinner.  You can even use them as an Entree’.  So my version of my sister’s POLPETTE FRITTE RIPIENE contain ground beef, ground pork, Red Wine, Garlic, Soaked breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, lots of grated Pecorino Romano, black pepper, a cube of either Scamorza (my preference) or mozzarella in the center.  Let’s stop here, if you follow me on Social media you know I love to use Scamorza cheese.  For those who are unfamiliar with it Scamorza is a Southern Italian cheese which starts its life out the same as mozzarella. Mozzarella is eaten fresh.  Scamorza is aged for a minimum of around 2 weeks and it becomes sort of the consistency of a Gouda cheese.  Yet it’s mild like mozzarella.  It’s actually the cheese that Southern Italians use in many “al forno” or baked dishes the way Italian Americans use Mozzarella.  It’s low in moisture and melts beautifully.  It’s perfect for these meatballs but mozzarella works too.  Scamorza looks like a small bag and it’s slightly yellow/gold in color.  Lasts a while in the fridge.  So thanks to a great meal and idea from my sister here’s my version of Fried Stuffed Meatballs.

FOR 24 MEATBALLS                                 TIME: 1 3/4 HOURS

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK

1/4 LB. GROUND PORK

2 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/2 CUPS STALE BREAD CUBES, OR 1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS, SOAKED IN MILK OR WATER, THEN SQUEEZE THE LIQUID OUT IF USING THE BREAD, OR JUST ADD ENOUGH MILK, CREAM, OR WATER TO HYDRATE THE CRUMBS AND LET THEM REST FOR 8 MINUTES.

1 1/2 CUPS GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS. ITALIAN RED WINE

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

24 SMALL CUBES OF SCAMORZA CHEESE,  LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA, OR DAY OLD FRESH MOZZARELLA. (TIP…USING FRESH MOZZARELLA THE SAME DAY IT’S MADE WILL RELEASE TOO MUCH LIQUID, USE IT ONE DAY LATER)

1 CUP SIFTED FLOUR

1 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS MIXED WITH 1 CUP PECORINO ROMANO AND 1 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY, SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

3 BEATEN EGGS WITH 1 TBS MILK

OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (YES YOU CAN FRY WITH OLIVE OIL)

MARINARA SAUCE, OPTIONAL

 

Finely mince the garlic and parsley.  In a large bowl, add the beaten eggs, the soaked bread/breadcrumbs, the wine, the grated cheese. Blend well.  Now add the meats and blend well.  Let this sit for 10 minutes.  Now make 24 -26 meatballs slightly bigger than a golf ball.  Insert a cube of the cheese into each one carefully making sure that you cover it well with the meat.  Roll the meatballs in the flour, then the egg/milk mixture, draining of the excess.  Then coat with the breadcrumb/grated cheese mixture. Place all the completed balls on a tray and chill for 10 minutes.  Using a heavy frying pan heat up 1/4 inch of Olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches keeping the heat on medium.  You want these to cook full so don’t have the oil so hot that the crumbs will burn and the insides stay raw.  Gently roll the balls until all sides are toasty golden.  Drain on paper towels. Should take 10 minutes.  Don’t over crowd…the oil temp drops and you will have steamed soggy meatballs.  They can be made ahead of time too and then gently reheated in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.  As a serving suggestion, you can plate them or serve them with Warm Marinara sauce.  Personally I love them as they are but I know many of you enjoy the sauce idea so serve them however you want.  HAPPY COOKING!!!

 

SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS MEATBALLS, PARTY TIME FAVORITES

IMG_4685More meatballs…can one ever have too many meatball recipes?  Imagine a world where instead of eating the same meatballs at every cocktail party, you know….the frozen bag of balls added to a slow cooker with Ketchup and Grape Jelly….those ones or added to brown gravy..those ones too? Imagine if there were different meatballs..all the time. A world of so many meatball recipes and styles you could eat a different one every day of the year.  That’s my goal.  To give the home cook ideas to move out of the same old same old.  Ok, sounding harsh here maybe but not my intent.  Variety.  Mix it up.  Like getting new clothes or a hair cut.  Bringing a fresh idea to a food type that everyone loves especially at parties.  I created this meatball recipe for a party where they wanted sausage and peppers but didn’t want big  links, or the rolls, or slices, or the mess associated with eating Sausage and Peppers at a party.  An appetizer party where everything is small, compact and can be juggled with a drink in one hand and a small plate in the other. Thinking outside of the old box.  I thought…put all the components of the Sausage and Peppers and Onions dish into a meatball.  There.  Done.  Easy.  The chopping of the peppers and onion and the rolling of the balls might be the most work involved.  Not sloppy.  Compact.  East to handle AND DELICIOUS. Get the flavor of a serving of Sausage and Pepper in a small meatball.  Are you excited? I’m excited.  Let’s go into the kitchen together and get this party started!!

1 1/2 lbs. SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT (PREFERABLY WITH FENNEL) OUT OF ITS CASINGS

1 LARGE EGG. BEATEN

1/4 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

3 FINE DICED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 FINE DICED MEDIUM SIZE ONIONS

2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TBS HEAVY CREAM

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO OR PARMIGIANO CHEESE

PINCH OF BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS  RED  ITALIAN WINE

OLIVE OIL

Add olive oil , about 2 tbs to a wide skillet and when the oil is heated add the onions and peppers.  You will need some patience here, this is not a quick saute’.  Instead your really “sweating” the peppers and onions to slowly soften them.  Season with just a small bit of salt.  Shake them a few times to prevent them from getting crisp or brown on one side.  When they are soft, about 10 minutes into it, add the garlic and let this cook for about 3 minutes.  Now add the wine. and let this cook until the wine is just about evaporated.  Move off the heat and let this mixture cool.  Pour the heavy cream over the breadcrumbs and let them hydrate.  Takes about 5 minutes.  Now add that to all the other ingredients (including the peppers and onions)  and gently blend well. Let this mixture sit for 20minutes covered in the fridge.  Now form into small balls and fry them on all sides for at least 10 minutes.  Break one open to make sure it’s cooked thru.  Makes about 25-30. Serve on toothpics, or pics on the side.  You can also use a longer pick and do a meatball and a small ball of mozzarella for a party platter.  Or you can freeze or refrigerate for use later.  They reheat wonderfully on a lightly oiled sheet pan.  Sausage and Peppers without the mess…serve a few in an Italian Roll..delicious!!  See folks, so many ways to cook a dish….be creative, have fun, Happy Cooking!!

 

 

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

007Time to discuss one of my favorite food subjects…the MEATBALL.  Let’s start out with this tidbit, there’s no such thing as the “ITALIAN MEATBALL”. Why you ask?  Because I said so.  And here’s why…there are meatballs of all shapes and sizes and ingredients made all over Italy.  Most likely you’re assuming the meatball in the big pot of sauce is the “Italian Meatball”.  Well that’s certainly one of many. Meatballs as a cocktail party or party food are fantastic since they are small.  They work well at a party and are generally a one bite affair.  For parties one of the meatball recipes I’ve developed is the SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALL.  What is that all about? Scenario, you’re at a party…you’re dressed up..nice suit, shirt, dress, whatever.  You pick up the meatball out of the pan or platter and it’s dripping with sauce.  YIKES! Big sauce stain on your tie…or your chest and the shirt.  Down your blouse or onto the front of your dress or skirt.  Now you’ve done it!!  But you really want that delicious sauce flavor with the meatballs right?  Let’s mix this up a bit…for a cocktail party…or any party..add the sauce TO the meatball mix, then make the meatballs and simply serve on a tray, platter or bowl with toothpicks.  This recipe is made in two parts. first the sauce, then the meatballs.  To start:

THE SAUCE (which becomes one of the ingredients in the meatballs)

1 28oz Can SAN MARZANO DOP Tomatoes, or any good variety of Imported Italian Plums or Domestic Plum Tomatoes

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion, season with salt and peperoncino.  Let this cook until the onions are translucent and soft.  TIP: if you get impatient the onions will never really soften in the tomato sauce and you’ll have crunchy onions in the mix.  Be patient.  Take your time.  No rush.  Once your onions are soft add the tomatoes which you will crush with your hands first in a bowl, then add them to the pot.  Add one basil leaf and bring this to a boil, stir, then to a simmer and let this reduce for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until it’s reduced by about 1/2.  Add the remaining 2 basil leaves, taste for seasoning and let it sit off the flame to cool completely.  Should take about 2 hours.

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of the Sauce you made (that recipe above ^^^^)

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, S & P, Sauce, Garlic together.  Let this sit for 20 minutes. Why? we want the sauce to hydrate those breadcrumbs.  Your Panada (write it down, it’s the Italian word for a breadcrumb/bread mix moistened with eggs, herbs, oil,liquids like milk or water, etc. which forms the binding for the meatballs.  See, we are learning…I love teaching and sharing my food with you!!)  Since there’s a significant amount of liquid in the sauce (which is why we reduced it) you want those breadcrumbs to suck up all that moisture which in turn doesn’t steal moisture from the meats and balances the end product…dry crumbs on their own suck moisture from the meat and other sources.

Blend all the meats together.  Then add to the Panada after it’s sat for a while.  If it’s still too loose, add more breadcrumbs, but only a little at a time. Mix gently with lightly moistened hands (lightly, or you’re adding more water to the balls).  When fully mixed let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  NOW start rolling walnut sized meatballs and line them on a parchment or waxed paper lined tray.  Chill for 10 minutes.  In a heavy skillet add 2 tbs. olive oil and heat.  Fry the meatballs for at least 5 minutes on each side without overcrowding.  Fry in batches.. Add more Olive oil as needed letting the oil get hot before adding more balls in the pan.  (why? the balls will soak in the oil..frying actually prevents that from happening).  When finished frying all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with the White Wine and gently add the meatballs back and simmer until the wine has evaporated.  Done.  Now serve with toothpicks to hungry guests OR let them cool…wrap them in pans and you can reheat them on trays in the oven for serving at your event/ party/dinner.  Meatballs and sauce all together  No drip. No stains.  No mess.    It was great cooking with you…hope to come into your kitchens again real soon!!!

 

 

 

 

STUFFED ESCAROLE NAPLES STYLE gone ITALIAN-AMERICAN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

SWEET N SOUR RETRO MEATBALLS…MEMORIES FROM MOM

newyears16 001  The hardest blogpost to compose is the first one of the year.  So many are  profound, dripping with sweet sentiments, hopes for the year ahead…so, after a day of getting stressed for absolutely nothing the idea came to me.  It’s New Year’s but blog a recipe that is “non-holiday specific” but works well for New Year’s Eve.  How do I know that?  I know that because my Mom used to make this, a close version to the one I make every New Year’s that we were home.  She also made it for all of her and Dad’s cocktail parties  before their VFW dinner-dances and affairs back in the 60’s and 70’s.  This whole recipe is RIGHT out of a MadMen script.  I’ve A FOOD OBSESSIONED it up a bit, leaving some of Mom’s RETRO ingredients right where they should be.  They cannot be changed.  They are the underlying taste of this recipe.  I’ve made this with fresh pineapple and mandarins. Omitted the Maraschino Cherries. What made the dish so….MOM…and wonderful was gone.  So I went back to the original canned Pineapples, in their own juice…Maraschino Cherries with that almondy cherry taste…and the unique taste of the canned mandarin.  I did change the size of the red peppers in the sauce…Mom’s were a chop..too much pepper.  I fine dice so they basically add flavor without getting in the way.  I am thinking like the amateur food historian I think I am (I said I THINK I AM, lol) and i’m going to say the genesis of this type of meatball recipe comes from that late 50’s early 60’s fascination with the American notion of POLYNESIAN culture..  Trader Vic’s, Hawaii Kai…these were trend setting restaurants from San Francisco to New York City.  “Exotic” ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, curries were being mixed into typical American bar foods, like meatballs and chicken on sticks, Beef on sticks.  Truth be told nothing in the Polynesian food culture ever was this sweet or sour at the same time.  Add a Pineapple to your cooking, you were soooo Polynesian.  Stick some palm trees and the hanging monkeys on your drinks with some umbrellas, that was 60’s retro “Oriental-Polynesian” food and drink to us on the mainland unless you were of Polynesian or other Asian extraction.  Then you knew better but fed Americans these sweet and sour concoctions at the eateries, but maintained your real food culture at home.  Today we live in a much better time to be eating…we know the difference and we appreciate both versions when done right.  Sweet and Sour meatballs to many mean Ketchup and Grape Jelly in the crockpot with a simple seasoned meatball.  Let me take you to BALI HAI…to BORA BORA…to RARITONGA….thru the eyes of the 60’s…vv6 Some memorabilia from those days..from the Trader Vic website.  The American-Polynesian cuisine was full of fruity syrups and tastes.  Trader Vic sold a sweet and sour style meatball in their restaurants.  I was fortunate to have been to a few before they changed or closed.  Mai Tai anyone??   Let’s travel from a Trader Vic or Hawaii Kai into my kitchen with my Mom watching us recreate one of her “specialities”!  Trader Vic’s may have called them PUPU meatballs…PUPU signifying an appetizer.  You can make these as a PUPU or as a main dish. over fluffy steamed Jasmine rice with a bit of chopped cilantro in the rice.

 

MAKES: 36 or so MEATBALLS                    time: 1 1/2 hours

 

MEATBALLS:
    • 1 1/2 lbs  ground beef and  ground pork blended together
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • ½ cup PANKO breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tsp. Sri Lankan or Madras Curry
    • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
    • 3 diced strips of  bacon and 1 medium onion, diced, sauteed till the bacon is cooked and the onion is soft
    • 1 ½ teaspoon Soy Sauce
    • 1 finely minced garlic clove
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp. sambal olek or ground chile garlic paste
    • 1/2 can drained crushed pineapple
    • flour for dusting
Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 (14 0z) cans of crushed pineapple (less 1/2 cup of the drained for the meatballs above)
  • 1 can Mandarin Oranges
  • 2 tsp. finely minced red peppers
  • 1/8 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup ketchup
  • 1 (14 oz) can pineapple tidbits
  • 1/8 small bottle of maraschino cherry juice plus 10 cherries
  • pinch of cloves, nutmeg, ginger

First let’s dice that bacon and onion.  In a large skillet cook them down until the onions are soft and the bacon is cooked and add the sesame oil. Now add the breadcrumbs and let them soak those bacon drippings and get a little toasty. Add the garlic. remove from heat. Let this cool.  Now add the dry spices and blend well.  In a large bowl add the eggs. Then the breadcrumb mixture and the pineapple.  Mix.  Then add the meat and work until it’s a homogeneous mixture.  Form into about 36 walnut sized balls, you may get more. Then roll in flour.  Fry them in a lightly oiled non stick pan till browned on all sides.12459533_10205459127099976_1330698243_n  Cook the meatballs in batches as you need room between them all so they don’t STEAM. STEAMING is not an optimum cooking method for meatballs.  Keep the meatballs on a platter, lightly covered with foil while you are cooking the balance of them.  Done?  Good.  Time to make the aromatic sauce.  In a saucepan, gently heat all the ingredients except the cornstarch.  Bring this to a boil, REDUCE to a simmer.  In a bowl whisk together about 1 ladle of the simmering sauce and while whisking slowly add the cornstarch until it’s smooth.. Then while stirring the sauce with a whisk slowly pour in the cornstarch and lightly whisk till blended.  Bring to a slow boil and then stir and lower to a simmer.  Keep stirring until the sauce is thickened.  Now Add the meatballs to the sauce, or place them in a baking dish and pour the sauce over them.  Let this cool down and then tightly wrap and refrigerate when totally cooled down overnight.  You can reheat them in the oven, at 350 Degrees F covered for 25 minutes.  Or into a crockpot to keep warm.   Or on the stove pot, just stir them gently.  Your finished product will look like this: 001 How good does that look?? Like 1965?? I think this will change your mind from the frozen bags of meatballs heated thru in a ketchup and grape jelly sauce.  I’m not knocking that..but I think this recipe will make you happy.

 

 

PORK CHOPS WITH VINEGAR PEPPERS, COSTOLETTE DI MAIALE CON PAPACCELLE

12583652_10205563126459895_473867487_nSometimes your cravings take hold of you and nothing will get in the way of satisfying it.  That’s how most of my evening meals become a reality.  There are too many variables and speed bumps that create detours between the work day and getting home so I am not that cook who works off of a weekly planner.  I couldn’t survive on that type of grid.  The seeds are planted though with what  I already know is sitting in the fridge, like a pack of 1/4-1/2 thick PORK CHOPS.  Midday I started thinking about Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers, one of my favorite ways to prepare pork chops.  There are many ways to make this dish, stove top, or in the oven. Nice to have choices!  Marinate the chop, or not.  Up to you.  This dish is one of the most Popular in the Italian-American suite of recipes and it’s an actual dish that is part of Napoletana (from Naples) cuisine.  In Naples it’s a heritage dish called Costolette di Maiale con PAPACCELLE.  Don’t try to translate PAPACCELLE let me help you out.  As will all Italian regions there are languages within the region or province which exist nowhere else.  PAPACCELLE is a Napoletana word for a specific type of squat, round, small pepper, very close to a cherry pepper.  In Naples they are prized and are generally prepared “SOTT’ACETA or SOTT’OLIO..in Vinegar, or Olive Oil, or a combo of both. The basic Napoletana recipe is simply searing the pork loin chops on the bone (sidebar…please do not ask if you can make this off the bone..ok, you can, but this dish is an on the bone dish, so work with me here!!), add some olive oil, garlic, and a few sliced Vinegar peppers, let it cook till the pork is done.  That’s the most basic version and I’ll go out on Campanian limb and say…that’s probably the most authentic.  My version is slightly jacked up but I don’t use any wine like many other recipes out there do.  It turns the dish into a Scarpariello tasting dish..very good, but the wine sort of steals the thunder from the vinegar.  I try to preserve that tang in the dish without the winey boozy flavor Wine or Vermouth would add.   Time to come into my kitchen, ANDIAMO!

TIME: 1 HOUR                                        SERVES: 4

4  1/4-1/2 INCH THICK PORK CHOPS ON THE BONE  (Loin are great, Rib are better, more fat, more flavor, more interesting flavors on the meat)

2 VINEGAR PEPPERS PROCESSED WITH 1 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, 1 SMALL CLOVE OF GARLIC, 1/8 TSP KOSHER SALT,  1/4 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES) into a paste

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

2 WHOLE CLOVES OF GARLIC

6 VINEGAR PEPPERS, SEEDS AND CORE REMOVED, SLICED OR SIMPLY SLICED

1 CUP of the VINEGAR PEPPER JAR LIQUID OR 1/4 CUP RED WINE VINEGAR

(sidebar…PUT DOWN THAT BOTTLE OF BALSAMIC!! no, you cannot substitute it in this dish.  Why? not just because I say so, although in some cases that is good enough, right? But because this is a dish from Naples..not Modena.  The cooking styles and products are very different.  Balsamic is NOT a substitute for all over Vinegars, it’s it’s own ingredient and it will discolor this dish as well as add a sweetness to it.  Now is that a bad thing?  No, but then you are making another dish.  Let’s stick to this Maiale con Papaccelle  dish shall we?  Good.)

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY  (not dried, it doesn’t cook long enough to soft those dried Rosemary needles up, and the flavor will be different)

1/2 TSP KOSHER SALT

To start, pat the chops down with a paper towel.  Discard (the paper towel…). Rub the chops down with the paste you made with the  Vinegar peppers.   Place on a plate and loosely cover in a cool dry area and let marinade for 1/2 hour.  In a heavy skillet,  heat the olive oil and sear the chops for 8 minutes, then turn, and sear for 3 minutes, add the garlic. Let it take on a little color (that little bit of garlic browning is the taste of most Italian American restaurants)) then add the sliced vinegar peppers.  Saute’ the peppers for 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times.  Add the Vinegar or the Jar liquid along with the sprig of rosemary.  Taste this liquid after you bring it to a boil, then reduce it.  See if it needs any more salt.  If you are using the jarred liquid I’m going to say NO ADDITIONAL SALT.  If not add salt to taste. Let this simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, maybe 10 minutes.  Let this sit in the pan for 5 minutes off the heat before you serve. 0002  Now if you cannot find the jarred peppers  here’s a solution…Find some sweet cherry peppers, or Cubanelle (Italian Frying Peppers),  Seed them and slice them (maybe 6) and boil in Red wine vinegar and a little water until tender.  Add a pinch of salt.  Let them sit in that hot brew for 2 hours.  Then use them as the recipe instructs you to as if you were using the jarred peppers.  Use that liquid as well, or if you want more Vinegar punch, go with the straight up 1/4 cup of Red Wine Vinegar.

Serve this with Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. Not pasta.   A simple Escarole or other greens dressed with anchovies, capers, olive oil and garlic. Nice.  What a meal this is.

004

SIDEBAR:  Feel free to adjust the thickness of the chops. Most Restaurants make this with monster chops, just adjust your cooking times as they will differ.

If you want to roast this, simply add all the ingredients to the pan and roast in a pre-heated oven for 1/2 hour or till pork it tender.