Tag Archives: TRAVEL

TRY A TASTE OF AUSTRALIA’S CHILLI MUSSELS

A BOWL OF CHILLI MUSSELS, CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO, CERVANTES, W.AUSTRALIA

CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.

https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/recipes/chefs-recipes/mussels-with-chilli-garlic-and-white-wine-9229

POLISH TREATS IN KRAKOW

ICE CREAM IN KRAKOW, POLAND

It’s a new year, 2019. Time to add to my blogging style and give you wonderful followers my fantastic and memorable Travel Food memories. Through my traveling I’ve experienced so many foods along the way that I need to share them all. Keeping the photo files uploaded means they’ll never get seen really so….for 2019 I’m going to add my travels and the foods I encountered to my blog. I’ll continue to blog my recipes from my home kitchen as well. More to read. More to share. More to learn. In July of 2015 for our family vacation we did a road trip through Central Europe. Now the best airfare we found for the 4 of us routed us on Turkish Airlines so first stop was Turkey. After a sizeable layover it was off to our first destination, Belgium. From Belgium we rode a train to our second stop, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Next was renting a car there and embarking on a 1600 mile drive from the Netherlands, to Germany, to the Czech Republic, to Poland, to Slovakia, to Hungary, to Austria. There we boarded a plane for our return flight home via Istanbul. So we added a few days in Turkey at the end of the trip. Our trip itineraries usually revolve around our flights. I grew up in very ItalianAmerican Staten Island but not in an Italian neighborhood. I was raised in the Travis section of this part of New York City and it was a sleepy little town that we often called Mayberry, like the fictional town of the 60’s show, the Andy Griffith Show. Only it was filled with Polish people, some Austrian, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak, Russian. Because of this I’ve always had a very sentimental place in my heart for anything Polish. It was like my adopted 2d nationality. Hearing the language often spoken in the Catholic church we attended, St. Anthony of Padua, being familiar with the Polish Language signage in the church, the hymns, the peoples’ last names made Poland a place I’d had on my bucket list. This trip was the ticket to finally see Poland and while there see the Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp, also high on our list of things to experience. I must admit, it was one of the most heart wrenching and moving experiences of our lives. The route we mapped out (we do all our own travel planning) only allowed a few days in the city of Krakow and we made the most of it.

Poland did not disappoint us and in fact we were surprised at so many things we encountered. It’s a beautiful place. Verdant, pleasant spaces, well maintained medieval squares, churches, castles, buildings, but the people. They are wonderful. And so is the Ice Cream. I’m starting this travel food post with the ice cream. A small place on Stolarska, a medieval street that was infront of our hotel, the HOTEL SANTI was where we first had this delicious sweet creamy ice cream. Now most likely these ice creams we had were not made in Poland, Nestle Scholler is a German company and Movenpick is a Swiss company. But we had them in Poland. I had a cup with two scoops and I went for the two you see in the picture. BAKALIA is a Polish flavor made of Nuts and Dried Fruits in a Vanilla Ice Cream Base. If you like Rum Raisin you’ll love this flavor. So right there, something Polish, something new, something Travel Food. I still haven’t seen BAKALIA here in the USA which makes these memories fantastic. OWOCE LESNE was my other choice. Any Ice cream that is that color ALWAYS gets my vote. This is a popular flavor which translates as “Forest Fruit” or “Wild Fruit”. Basically is a mixed berry flavor and that rich ice cream was like eating bowls of ripe fruit. But better. Because it was Ice cream!! lol. This flavor is apparently loved by the Poles as you find teas infused with it in all the shops. Strolling back to our hotel after a full morning sightseeing, having a kielbasa and pierogi lunch, topping it off with that ice cream…Those are the dreams travel is made off. The 3 minute walk back to the hotel was only made sweeter with a street musician on one corner and Polish Caramels waiting for us in our hotel room.

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE FOR THE COLDER MONTHS, ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

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MINESTRONE….an Italian word coming from MINESTRA, a type of soup.  The ONE at the end of an Italian word means…This just got BIGGER!  It denotes a larger/bigger version of whatever that word meant before.  Having said all that please enjoy my version of MINESTRONE and realize there is NO ONE RECIPE for this soup.  Like so much of Italy’s and the World’s cuisines the end result is based on what’s available to the cook.    Some historical documentation says that the original MINESTRONE soups were always vegetable based.  Many Italians today still believe that for a Minestrone to truly be what it’s name says, there’s no meat involved.  That line has blurred.  Let’s say Minestrone is most times a vegetarian soup, with some versions having meat in them.  See?  No argument. No debate.  And my version here is NOT MY ONLY VERSION!!! I’m giving you ONE way to make it using lots of seasonal vegetables in the Fall/Winter.  The other “debate” revolves over adding pasta or rice.  Add what you want, that line has blurred as well.  Hardcore “purists” might say no pasta or rice.   And thirdly., the stock used as the base.  Purists and most likely the most original start simply with water.  Modern cooks have so much available to them that Beef, Chicken, Veal, or Vegetable stock is added as the base.  When your vegetables are at the height of their seasons water alone will help carry the flavors.  In this instance again, as you wish…use a meat or vegetable stock, or water.  Each instance will give a different nuance to the soup.  ALL GOOD.  There, no debate who makes the  best, whose recipe is correct, whatever.  It’s food people.  Did you use good ingredients and does it taste delicious?  That’s the heart of a Minestrone.  BTW, i always loved the Progresso Minestrone in a can, yes along with the hundreds of Italian and American soups my mom made while we were growing up we did have Progresso Minestrone and Progresso Chickarina.  Good Memories.  Now, let’s make MINESTRONE STAGIONALE, for the Fall/Winter.   Note:  Cavolo Nero.  Lacinato Kale  It’s one of my favorite vegetables for this soup.  Comes from Central Italy’s TUSCANY. Less “Kale-y” than other types of that vegetable.  More like a Swiss Chard with a little something something going on.  Can be found in many supermarkets and farmers markets in the fall and winter, esp. organic.   A great way to use a “new” vegetable.

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE

TAKES 3 HOURS             SERVES ABOUT 5

2 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 PEELED AND DICED CARROTS

3 STALKS CELERY, CHOPPED, USE THE LEAVES TOO

1 1/2 CUP CHOPPED RIPE TOMATOES, OR 2 CUPS CHOPPED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 CUPS CHOPPED CAVOLO NERO (LACINATO KALE) OR DARK GREEN SWISS CHARD

1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SAVOY CABBAGE

1 1/2 CUPS BORLOTTI (OR ANY ITALIAN BEAN OF YOUR CHOICE) BEANS, COOKED AND DRAINED

1 LARGE ONION, SMALL DICE

2 SLICE CLOVES OF GARLIC

4 1/2 CUPS WATER, OR STOCK

4 SMALL REDSKIN POTATOES, DICED

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED PARSLEY AND THYME

1/2 LB ORZO PASTA

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

PLENTY OF FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO

In a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven, add 2 tbs of the olive oil and heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, season with salt and pepper.  Let this saute’ for at least 8 minutes till just starting to soften.  Add all the other vegetables and beans except the potatoes.  Let this all blend together and cook for 10 minutes.  Now add 1/2 the parsley and thyme and all the liquid.  Taste for seasoning. Add more at this point. Bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 1 hour.  Add the potatoes.Check again for seasoning, add more if necessary.  Let cook for 15 minutes on medium boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Bring back to a boil and add the ORZO.  Stir well.  Cook till the pasta has just gotten to al dente. Takes about 13 minutes.  Turn off.  Let it sit for at least 6 hours before reheating and serving.  Just before serving add the remaining chopped fresh herbs.  Serve in bowls with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black pepper, and lots of grated Cheese.   Of course you will not disappoint me and there will be an amazing loaf of Italian bread served along with it.  Some nice Wine or Sparkling water…enjoy.

 

 

ON THE ROAD: POTATOES IN NEPAL.. ALOO JEERA

IMG_7725 (1)While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia.  Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries.  Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste.  To write about.  To recreate in my home kitchen.  Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up.  This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas.  I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber.  Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone.  Smarter.  This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL.  So, Nepal.  So remote.  So rough.  So beautiful.  We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas.  Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out.  August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid???  Reasons why you travel.  To find out things for yourself.  We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear.  August?  Not so clear.  The clouds hang low, the fog is thick.  But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through.  The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest.  SUCCESS.  The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month.  A rare occurance.  Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view.  But we saw it.  We really saw it.  And will never forget it.  That same day we were served these delicious potatoes.  A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food.  We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines.  Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish.  I love whole cumin seed.  I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen  But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes.  It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen  finds this a common and easy dish to make.  So there’s some legend and lore here too.  Nice. Food with color and flavor.  Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive.  Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far.  Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!

1 lb PEELED, CUBED AND BOILED POTATOES

2 TBS. CUMIN SEEDS

2  SMALL GREEN CHOPPED CHILI (REMOVE SEEDS AND RIBS IF YOU WANT LESS HEAT)

1 TSP. CHOPPED GINGER

2 TBS. OIL

1/4 TSP. POWDERED TURMERIC

1 TSP. RED CHILE POWDER

2 TSP. CHOPPED CILANTRO

SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)

 

To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan.  Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro.   Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt.  Mix well.  Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover.  Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes.  Stir a few times while this is cooking.  Your Aloo Jeera should be done now.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro.  The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads.  A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed.  In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish.  I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads.  Easy and delicious.  Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape.  Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home.  HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO CROQUETTES, CAZZILLI DI VRUOCCULI E PATATE

12301481_523460571155581_6765352164488669537_n Italians love fried little bits…fritti…and the fritti come in many forms.  Depending on the region you will often find little street stands or stores that specialize only in Fried Foods. Stop.  I see your eyes rolling.  Life’s too short not to enjoy a fried treat now and then.  The list of Italian fried bits is very long AND delicious but let me introduce you to this one from Sicily.  The CAZZILLO.  Plural, CAZZILLI.  Now pardon my comments here but Sicilians love the bawdy and love things that make you laugh in embarassment.  Cazzo is Italian for the male organ…Cazzilli is Sicilian for, well, a little one LOL.  Are you embarassed and shocked?  The Sicilians have done it again.  Have some fun, life’s too short not to laugh a little.  This dish combines the Sicilians love of a good joke with a few of their favorite foods, potatoes and cauliflower.  VRUOCCULI is actually a type of cauliflower, a little greener than our pure white American Cauliflowers.  This CAZZILLI recipe is a version of the typical Sicilian potato croquette combined with mashed cauliflower.  Sicilians make their potato croquettes either simply rolled in flour and fried OR breaded and fried.  Generally when I’m making a Napoletana style Potato Croquette (Panzarotti) I will bread them. But when making Sicilian ones I don’t bread them.  These Cazzilli have a hefty helping of grated Caciocavallo cheese in them.  Now Caciocavallo is not available everywhere so instead you can use the more accessible Provolone or Pecorino.  See, I”m not going to give you a recipe that you can’t reproduce in your kitchen.  Truth be told most cooks in their homes will use what’s on hand to make a dish so it’s fine to use any one of the three.  Caciocavallo is most Sicilian.  If you have a good cheese store by you see if they carry CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, from Ragusa, Sicily. It’s amazing.   Now here’s a few tips.  Start with leftover or day old Mashed Potatoes.  Many recipes tell you to make it all the same day.  No.  There’s a magic that happens when a cooked starch sits overnight.  Trust me.  ItalianAmerican Moms and Grandmothers would make their versions of Potato croquettes usually with leftover mashed potatoes from the day before’s dinner. Same for RiceBalls (Arancini).  The end result is just better, and they don’t fall apart.  You’ll need 3 cups of mashed potatoes of this recipe.  Steam the cauliflower the day before as well.  One head of cauliflower for 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  When the cauliflower is still warm, mash it well.  set it in a strainer and let it drain overnight.  OR if you have leftover cauliflower, simply mash it.  So those are the starting points for these CAZZILLI.  Let’s get cooking now!!

TIME: 24 hours                   SERVES: 6 (up to 3 per person)

3 cups chilled day-old Mashed Potatoes

1 mashed steamed Cauliflower head

2 beaten eggs

1 1/4 cup grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO or PROVOLONE cheese

2 tbs. All purpose flour

1 tbs. minced flat leaf Italian parsley

salt, fresh ground black pepper

Olive oil for frying

Lemon slices for serving

Simply blend ALL the ingredients and season with salt and lots of black pepper until you can form a small oval shaped croquette, about 2 inches long.  Roll each one in flour, and then chill for 1/2 hour.  In a large heavy high sided pan (pull out the cast iron skillet for this!) Bring 2 inches of  oil to 360 degrees F and start frying the Cazzilli.  DON’T CROWD THE PAN!!! 5-6 at a time works well.   Fry till golden on all sides, takes about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  When done frying transfer to a nice serving platter and garnish with lemon slices.  They are wonderful hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy your CAZZILLI!!! HAPPY COOKING.

CHICKEN CONTADINA, MY VERSION

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s make a chicken dish.  This one is a bona fide Italian dish, and it’s an ItalianAmerican one as well.  Fantastic.  However.  You will probably find a million versions of this  so let me explain what makes a chicken dish “CONTADINA”.  Take the word itself, it means the Farmer’s Wife.  Many Italian dishes are named romantically or literally after the type of person who “invented” the dish.  Invented in quotes because we seldom REALLY know where these dishes actually came from.  Part of the fun with cooking is piece together bits of national tradition and food culture to find a genesis for a dish.  POLLO ALLA CONTADINA is a term used to describe Chicken made in the fashion of a Farmer’s wife or Peasant or Country style.  Cut pieces of whole chicken are seared then simmered with pieces of sausage, onion, herbs, wine, mushrooms, lard (or olive oil), peppers and tomato.  To make it easy, think of this as the famous Chicken Scarpariello with Crushed Tomato added.  Most dishes are interelated.  A specific change creates something new.  I’ve seen recipes for this with cream as well.  I prefer no cream.  My modern version of this dish utilizes Boneless breasts.  Unlike the Farmer’s wife who was chained to her kitchen and home duties all day I’m not, so I often have less cooking time than 10 hours to prep a meal.  You can get this done in under 1 1/2 hours.  Comes out even better when you use boneless thighs with the skin on them but my family isn’t a fan of the dark meat. So I’d be lying if I gave you that recipe…lol.  But feel free to use Bone in /Skin on pieces of chicken or the boneless skin on /skinless thighs instead of the boneless breasts.  Remember, they need longer sear and cooking times so adjust accordingly.  See???  Something for everyone is what A FOOD OBSESSION likes to give you!!  Historically Chicken is not very Italian in the kitchen and the dishes that are traditional usually are whole birds or in pieces because they were old. Old and Stringy, the young chickens were too valuable to eat as they gave eggs to the family with was way more important a food.  And cheap and available to all.  ItalianAmericans created most of the cutlet intense Chicken dishes.  I say that with love, not as it being a bad thing.  It’s wonderful when a cuisine creates a new cuisine.  Honor both!!!   Enough of my babble…time to cook.

TIME:  1 1/2 HOURS                                    SERVES: 4-6

1 1/2 LBS WHOLE BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS CUT INTO CHUNKS OR STRIPS

1/8 CUP SEASONED FLOUR

OLIVE OIL

1 LB. SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 DICED ONION

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3/4 LB SLICED OR QUARTERED BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 SLICED RED PEPPER

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 28 OZ CAN ITALIAN PLUM/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WITH YOUR HANDS

1/8 CUP WATER OR CHICKEN STOCK

1 BAY LEAF

PINCH FENNEL SEEDS

ENOUGH FRESH THYME OR ROSEMARY TO MAKE 2 TBS. CHOPPED

KOSHER SALT AND FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Start by lightly seasoning the chicken  then coating it with the flour.   shake off the excess.  In your largest, widest, heaviest pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil and cook the sausage until they are well browned on all sides.  Takes about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the sausage.  Now add more olive oil if necessary and brown the chicken on all sides, in batches if necessary adding more oil as you go (again, if needed).  When done deglaze the pan with the wine scraping up all the delicious bits on the bottom.  Pour this over the sausage you already have put to the side.  Add more olive oil to the pan and saute’ the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, seasoning as you good.  When they are soft (don’t rush it…you want them soft before you go to the next step, give this 15 minutes on medium, stirring or shaking the pan/pot from time to time.). Add the garlic and saute in for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Add 1/2 the chopped herbs and the bay leafand fennel seeds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Now reduce to a simmer.  Add the Sausage, Chicken and all the collected juices.  Add the water/stock.  Let this simmer for 45 minutes and reduce the liquid by almost 3/4.  Stir occasionally, do not cover!!!  You want the liquid to evaporate and leave a deliciously concentrated sauce around the meat and vegetables.  I like to let it almost completely evaporate.  Up to you.  Realize though the longer you cook it the more you need to pay attention since you don’t want to scorch/burn that tomato in the dish.  So many rules  LOL..  Let sit for a bit before serving.   Most of all, enjoy every part of cooking.  Especially the smiles on everyone who is lucky enough to enjoy your meals!  HAPPY COOKING!!

 

 

KENTUCKY DERBY WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE PIE…FOR DERBY DAY AND BEYOND

1907996_284906375011003_4427021404753604595_nIn the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May each year the horserace known as the KENTUCKY DERBY is held.  It’s pretty much become a national event but no where is it more celebrated than in Louisville.  I remember going there 3 days after the event a few years ago to visit clients and remember all the decorations and banners that were still up for the “RUN FOR THE ROSES”.  In true A FOOD OBSESSION style I came home with a few new food ideas and some local cookbooks.  I also made my way over to the BROWN HOTEL to have the American classic sandwich, the HOT BROWN, named for it’s location of birth.  A Hot Brown is a broiled open faced sliced Turkey breast sandwich on thick white bread with Mornay Sauce, Parmigiano, Tomato and Bacon.  It’s amazing.  That trip introduced me to another Louisville cuisine creation, the DEBRY PIE.  Let’s get something out of the way first.  Unless you buy one from Kern’s Kitchen, the business which invented it in 1950 by Walter and Leaudra Kern at their Melrose Inn , Prospect , Kentucky, you cannot call it DERBY PIE.  In 1968 they smartly trademarked the name and while there’s no crime in creating a pie that is similar, you can NEVER call it DERBY PIE. So there you go.  Instead call it anything you like, but since it’s part of Kentucky Derby food culture  I will call it KENTUCKY DERBY WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE PIE.  Whew. Now I’m safe.  The Kern’s have sued over 25 times to protect there trademarked name so remember, you don’t want to be the next victim.  LOL.  The pie is sort of a mashup of a southern Pecan pie with chocolate and a Toll House Pie, sort of.  The recipe I use came from the Washington Post:

SERVINGS: 6 – 8
INGREDIENTS
  • One 8- or 9-inch unbaked pie shell
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh whipped cream for garnish(optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8 or 9-inch pie plate at hand.

Place the unbaked pie shell in the plate. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell evenly with chocolate chips.

Whisk together the eggs, 1 cup of sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the butter, then add the nuts and vanilla extract and bourbon. Carefully pour mixture over the chocolate chips, in a circular motion so it does not disturb the chips. Bake for 1 hour, until the filling is set.

Should be served warmed up…top with the Whipped Cream, over even better, which a good Vanilla Ice Cream….a drizzle of hot chocolate sauce, maybe whipped cream too, up to you.  It’s delicious..and it’s fantastic all on it’s own, it’s rich.  HAPPY KENTUCKY DERBY DAY!!!

MY PIZZA CHIENA, THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN PIZZA RUSTICA, MY VERSION

{4F8CC669-34CC-4732-9E5D-2A5CCED9AE0C}05212011_Movie_Godfather1_slideshowSpring, Daylight Savings Time, Easter, Warmer weather, NO MORE WINTER…these are a few of my favorite things at this time of the year.  However one thing above all is my most favorite…and it’s the PIZZA CHIENA or PIZZA GAIN or PIZZA PIENA or PIZZA RUSTICA. We called it the second one in my house..2 generation ItalianAmericans usually from Napoletana ancestry use the Napoletana name for this pie.  PIZZA CHIENA.  CHIENA is Napoletana for the word PIENA, which means FULL.  Let’s stroll back to the real old days.  Lent in Catholic countries was a very serious affair.  No Meat or Dairy was consumed for 40 days.  This pie is an exhuberant celebration of all the foods that were “forbidden”.  It’s special.  It’s rich.  It’s wonderful.  SIDEBAR HERE:  This is my version of this pie, it’s not THE version of this pie because that doesn’t exist.  However it’s made in kitchens where the tradition is kept, that’s the “right way” to make it because it’s a personal family or regional tradition that you are keeping up with.  I’ll say that my version is a close one to that which my maternal grandmother made.  Her kitchen style was a blend of Avellino and Naples, she lived in both those towns, with a heavy dose of influence from my grandfather’s town in Matera, Basilicata.  My own research on the PIZZA CHIENA NAPOLETANA shows that our family’s version only deviates slightly.  Ours included sliced or chopped roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage in addition to the cured salumi.  We encase ours in the southern Italian short crust pastry known as PASTA FROLLA with the addition of some black pepper to the dough.  Delicious.  Some call this pie (pizza) a type of quiche.  The difference is the cheese is dense in this pie, not a smooth custard.  All the cured meats give a little bit of their flavors up to the Ricotta and/or Basket Cheese that the base along with a heavy dose of cracked Black pepper.  It’s amazing.  TANTE MILLE GRAZIE (A thousand thanks) to my family for teaching me this wonder of a dish.  Again, there’s no SET ingredients, but a core that is constant and from that you have some wiggle room.  My ingredients are Eggs, Ricotta, Diced Mozzarella and Provolone, Cracked black pepper, Diced DRY sausage, roasted sweet fennel sausage, sweet sopressata, sometimes prosciutto cotto.  Let get into my kitchen and make this Pizza which “can only be made after 3pm on Good Friday”.  Mom’s words, not mine.  Fantastic way to remember those who we’ve lost…It’s like having them next to me as I make this.

 

SERVES:  LOTS                       TIME: 5 HOURS (included dough making and resting)

 

Pasta Frolla

4 c. flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2tsp. salt

1 3/4 cup shortening or Lard

1/2 c. water (iced)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. vinegar

Blend flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Mix water with egg and vinegar; add to dry ingredients. Divide into 2 balls. Wrap in Plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then.  Roll out each with a rolling pin. Yield (top & bottom) crusts.  Makes enough for an 11 X 13 pan.  Use one for the bottom, and one for the top.  Pasta Frolla can be TEMPERMENTAL but patches back up easily for any screw ups.  I have plenty when I make this but the end product always is great.

Credit for this crust goes to fellow StatenItalian Gloria Delio Glickman.  I tried her Pasta Frolla once and have used it ever since!

FILLING:

6 Sweet Fennel Sausages, roasted until cooked, then sliced or chopped.

1 cup diced Sopressata

1 cup diced Dry Sausage

1/2 cup Cacciatorini sausage or 1/2 cup Prosciutto Cotto or 1/2 cup Salami

1 lb. diced Mozzarella (here I use PollyO type, WHOLE MILK, it holds up better in the baking, trust me. )

1/2 lb Diced Provolone (Auricchio or the same quality type of Provolone that’s FROM ITALY, not the American made one.)

6 beaten eggs

1/8 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

1 1/2 tbs. cracked black pepper (my personal addition. you can scale back if you wish…why would you though? LOL )

3 lbs. DRAINED RICOTTA

Mix the eggs with the ricotta till smooth.  Now blend the meats and cheese with the grated cheese.  Fold that mixture into the ricotta mixture till well blended.  Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour the mixture into the pan you’ve layered with one of the dough.  I roll to about 1/4 inch.  Needs lots of flour on the table/board. Then lay the other dough over the top.. Cut around the sides and crimp the top and sides together. Trim any excess.  Decorate with a cross or other decoration you chose to make with excess dough, or leave it plain   Now do what Grandma did…Poke 5 holes in the top..i do it where you can’t see it.  These holes signify the 5 wounds of Christ on the Cross.  In our home this pie is made after 3pm on Good Friday.  So much historic and cultural significance you can’t help but love it!!  Bake in the middle rack for at least and hour and 1/2 or until the a knife inserted in the CENTER comes out clean.  Let the pie rest and don’t you dare cut into it until 12:00am Easter Sunday morning.  Mom’s rules. She’s gone now 19 years but these Easter cooking rules she taught me still hang tough in my mind.    Writing this recipe and story down is like they are all here around my kitchen table.  Having “American” coffee or Espresso (demitasse), Wine, the big meal, and knibbling on this Pizza Chiena along with the other Easter traditions.  Makes it special.  Enjoy making my recipe!!

SIDEBAR:  Let this fully cool down before cutting it.  Can be served at room temp, cold, or lightly heated. GREAT dish on a buffet.

 

 

SWEET GRILLED THAI CHILI SHRIMP

thaishrimp 003Looking for a simple Shrimp Dish?  Fantastic.  You’ve found the right blogpost.  Let me help you out here.  GRILLED Shrimp with a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is a great way to start.  A few ingredients and some good Shrimp and we are on our way to a spicy and refreshing meal.  One of the first things I looked for when I went to Thailand was “Sweet Chili or Chilli Sauce” since so much of our USA Thai inspired food includes that.  Sweet Chili Sauce was everywhere.  Some very thin. Some quite thick.  Every thing we had seemed to come with a few dipping sauces which revolved around hot chiles, something sweet or sour or both, fish sauce, some soy, garlic or shallots.  Clean tasting and simple.  In the Patong Beach Night Market on Phuket Island we enjoyed their Thai Fried chicken which came with the Sweet Chili sauce.  Later that night we had grilled local seafoods which came with a vingary pungent chili sauce and another version of a sweet chili sauce.  A name for the Sweet Chili Sauce is NAM CHIM KAI.    Let’s start with the sauce because it will be much tastier if it sits overnight.

4 Thai, Fresno, or Red Chiles plus 1 tsp dried hot chile flakes (optional)

5 whole cloves of garlic

1 TBS. Rice Wine Vinegar

1/8 cup Honey

Salt to taste

1 tbs. Ketchup

1/2 tsp. Fish Sauce

Add the Chiles and garlic and pulse in a food processor until they have coarsely broken down.  Now add all the other ingredients and pulse until they are blended.  Pour into a container and cover.  Let this sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring to Room Temperature before using on Day 2.

for 4 people.

24 16-20 size Wild Shrimp, Peeled and deveined

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp. FISH SAUCE

1 minced Thai Basil (or regular Sweet) leaf

2 Tbs. Sesame Oil

Kosher Salt

White Pepper

 

Vegetable Oil

Chopped Romaine Lettuce, about 2 heads.

2 chopped green onions

Marinade the Shrimp for 30 minutes in a mixture of the fish Sauce, Basil, 1 tbs. Sesame Oil, salt, pepper to taste.  Drain.    Toss them with the remaining sesame oil and grill over a medium flame only for about 2 minutes on each side.  Or, you can pan “grill” them in a hot cast iron pan or grilling pan just be sure to oil the surface before you heat it up.   Add the Lime juice to the sauce.  Pour the sauce into a stainless steel mixing bowl large enough to add the hot fried shrimp. Make sure each one of the shrimp is nicely coated with the sauce.   Serve on top of beds of Chopped Romaine.  Top with green onions.  Done.  Serve with sticky rice.  HAPPY COOKING!!