Tag Archives: Vegetables

TIELLA DI VERDURE NELLO STILE DI PUGLIA. VEGETABLE TIELLA (LAYERED BAKED CASSEROLE) USING THE STYLES OF PUGLIA

LA TIELLA…..La Tiella is a dish used in Southern Italian cooking to bake foods like a layering of seafood, potatoes,rice and vegetable in Puglia or to make a pastry enclosed stuffed pie with various fillings, often seafood in Gaeta. The finished recipes are known as Tiella also. One of my favorites is an All Vegetable and Cheese style made in Puglia. While it’s not as popular as the mussels, potatoes and rice one it certainly is made often and depending on the town or the cook or the season the vegetables and cheeses may vary. This is my version of a vegetable Tiella. Sliced potatoes and vegetables layered with Pecorino and Scamorza cheese, olive oil and parsley, topped with rustic, coarse italian bread cubes with olive oil and cheese create this delicious dish. I don’t have a Tiella pan in my house from Italy, do you? LOL. But…instead I used a 9 inch cake pan. Baking dishes are fine too. The traditional Tiella isn’t very Deep so a cake pan or similar deep baking pan works well. Before you start, since I often FORGET!!!! after I’ve started layering, brush the sides and bottom of the pan with a blend of melted butter and olive oil. Then dust the sides and bottom with fine Italian bread crumbs. This helps create a nice but light crust around the sides and bottom of the finished dish. So many great regional Italian dishes that are relatively unknown away from their places of origin…I really get excited when I’m sharing one with you. Can you feel it? Well, I’m excited to show you…Let’s cook!!

TIELLA DI VERDURE (VEGETABLE TIELLA) FOR 4-6 2 HOURS

INGREDIENTI:

2 POTATOES, PEELED AND SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1 PT. CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES, SLICED

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICED

1 LARGE ONION, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1/2 LB DICED OR SLICED SCAMORZA OR MOZZARELLA

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

OLIVE OIL AS NEEDED

2 TBS OF CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP OF GOOD DRIED OREGANO OR 4 BASIL LEAVES

COARSELY CHOPPED STALE ITALIAN BREAD, ABOUT 1/8 CUP TOSSED WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL AND SALT

KOSHER SALT, COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PREHEAT OVEN to 375 degrees F. Saute’ the onions in a little olive oil and salt until they are wilted. reserve. drizzle more olive oil into the bottom of your baking dish. start with a layer of potatoes. season lightly with salt and pepper, some parsley, some pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil. add a layer of the onions, then add a layer of tomatoes and some scamorza, oregano or basil, drizzle of olive oil, season with pecorino, salt and pepper, then another layer of potatoes, onions, another of tomatoes then the zucchini doing all the same things you did with the potatoes. When you’ve used up all your vegetables top with the last of the scamorza and pecorino, but then top with the coarse bread. Season that with a little more olive oil and pecorino then TIGHTLY COVER with foil and into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Best to place the baking dish on a baking tray to catch any liquid that drips out. Uncover and bake for addition 10 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. IMPORTANT…resist the tempation to eat it now!!!! Let this sit for at LEAST 20 MINUTES before cutting into it. Trust me. It’s a much better dish AND even better when you make it a day ahead and reheat it the next day. FLAVOR!!!!! a great entree’ or side dish. I like to serve it with grilled fish, fried meatballs, chicken, pork chops..

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS….FRITTI DI VRUOCCULI

FRITTI….they come in all shapes, sizes, batters, breadings, fillings, foods and depending on where you are are in Italy they are called Fritti, Pettole, Pittule, Crispeddi, the list goes on. NEVER argue with an Italian about what they call a dish!!! Everyone is right!! Often blanket terms like “Sicilian” mean something from a particular region of Sicily, oh that’s right, not all Sicilian cooking is the same. But it’s all Sicilian cuisine. I started with a basic flour and egg batter for these which is a common way in Sicily to make these. I was bringing them to a family holiday dinner to I wanted to make them special. I dipped into my bag of “what are some good complimentary ingredients that echo the Isola di Sicilia and I came up with Caciocavallo cheese, Mint (yes, Sicilians love the herb), and Sesame Seeds. The Arab conquest of Sicily for centuries brought many of their food traditions, the sesames are one of them and now are emblematic in many of Sicily’s foods/sweets like Cubbaita and Biscotti Regina, topping many panini and loaves of bread. So why not fold them into a savory batter and get the taste of Sicily in every bite? By the Way, Sicily has an ancient language which often borrows from Italian and Cauliflower, in Italian called Cavolofiore is often called Vruocculi, Vruocoli.

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS

TIME: 2 HOURS MAKES; ABOUT 2 DOZEN

1 LARGE FRESH CAULIFLOWER HEAD, STEAMED, COOLED, THEN SEPARATED INTO FLORETS

2 TBS. AP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER

2 LARGE ORGANIC (IF POSSIBLE) EGGS, BEATEN

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR CONTAINER’S FRESHNESS DATE)

3/4 WHOLE MILK

1 TSP SICILIAN SEA SALT

3 TABLESPOONS ROASTED SESAME SEEDS

1 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED MINT

1/8 CUP GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

OIL FOR FRYING ( I USED CORN OIL)

2 LEMONS, SLICED OR IN WEDGES

10 SPRIGS OF FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

sprinkle the seasoned flour over the florets in a bowl and gently get each floret coated in flour. Add the milk and grated cheese to the eggs, beat well. Now add all the other ingredients and slowly create a thick batter. When all is blended well, reserve to the side. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided pan/pot ( i use my Cast iron pan) and bring to 325 degrees F. When the oil is ready, coat one of the florets with the batter, let excess drip off and test one. If it’s ready it will immediately sizzle and start fo puff up in size. About 2 minutes per side. Place the florets in the batter in batches and fry no more than 6 at a time our your oil temp drops and we have a greasy finished product. As each batch is done and draining sprinkle sea salt over them. They should be salted when hot, not when cooled. Continue battering and frying until you’re all done. Serve them piping hot on a platter with lots of lemon wedges or slices. Squeeze over the top when serving, extra on the side. Add some chopped parsley leaves as garnish. Enjoy!!

DILL MUSTARD CREAMED ONIONS, FOR THANKSGIVING OR ANY DAY

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

MUSTARD AND DILL CREAMED PEARL ONIONS

8 CUPS WATER

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

3 TABLESPOONS OF ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

4 TABLESPOONS OF KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF ALLSPICE

2 TABLESPOONS OF UNSALTED BUTTER

2 CUPS MILK, USE WHOLE MILK

1 TABLESPOON OF DIJON MUSTARD

DASH OF WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1/2 TSP OF DRY ENGLISH MUSTARD

2 SPRIGS OF CHOPPED FRESH DILL

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

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

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

BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO (BAKED WITH BREADCRUMBS)

christmas2015 154BROCCOLI DI RABE aka BROCCOLI RABE, Rapini, Brucculi di Rapa, Friarielli, Broccolini…a family of similar bitter broccoli greens loved by Southern Italian. On  Italy’s southern Eastern coast it’s Cima Di Rape…a type of Turnip Green, but they all have the same earthy, minerally, bitter and broccoli like undertone.  Some people are always asking, “How do you make them Less bitter?” Well, here’s my answer.  Use Spinach. If you don’t like that Southern Italian taste for Bitter things, this isn’t your vegetable but you can always make any broccoli rabe recipe with a host of the mild greens, especially in the winter.  Consider Swiss Chard, Escarole, Spinach, Mustard Greens (ok, maybe not, they have a nice bite to them too..but expand the greens you cook with. Not only are the very nutritious for you but they are generally dirt cheap.)  The key to this BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO is getting the Rabe soft.  This is a BISCOTTO dish, meaning it’s cooked twice.  Once to soften rabe. Then again in a baking pan with the breadcrumb topping.  I promise you once you taste this you’ll be making it again and again.  Let me just point out that your kitchen repetoire should NEVER be “ONE” of any dish.  In my years of blogging and posting on Social Media the most common comment when I post a dish like this is  “that’s not how I make it”, or “I make it like my mom did” or “I didn’t know it could be made any other way”.  There is no “ONE” Broccoli Rape recipe.  There’s always the most popular, garlic, olive oil, peperoncino, maybe a piece of anchovy, ok, or not..simma down…salt and the rabe…finished with water, or wine, or stock then eaten as is or with sausage and cavatelli or orecchiette. Most foods enjoy a host of ways to make them.   I chop Broccoli Rabe into Minestrone, roll it in a stuffed bread, pair it with beans, use it to stuff rollatini (get the picture??) or BAKE IT AND LET’S DO IT NOW!! ANDIAMO ALLA CUCINA (off to the kitchen we go).

TIME: 2 HOURS               SERVES : 4

2 Fresh Heads of Broccoli Rabe, taking about 1 1/2 inches off the bottom, rinsing then drying between a few paper towels.

1/8 cup OLIVE OIL

8 GARLIC CLOVES, mince 3 of them. leaving 5 whole.

1 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 ANCHOVY FILET (oh, you like them?  add 2, no? you don’t? add none)

KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE

4 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS *in a hot dry pan, gently toast the breadcrumbs just until they START to turn color. They will go from untoasted to BURNT in a NY Minute, keep shaking the pan). Once they take on some color add them to a bowl.  When they’ve cooled off add 3 tbs. grated Pecorino Romano.  then drizzle with a little olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of peperoncino or black pepper, your preference. Then reserve for later.

OPTIONAL: 1 TBS RAISINS SOAKED IN WHITE WINE….1 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a medium sized baking pan and lightly coat with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Chop the Broccoli rabe into `1 1/2 inch pieces.  This makes it easier to eat out of the baking dish.  In a large heavy skillet or pot, heat the olive oil and add the broccoli rabe and make sure you get all the oil mixed in with it.  Add the garlic (all of it, minced and whole), anchovy and peperoncino.  Cover the pan and let this cook for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and stir.  Season with salt.  Add the wine..Mix. Cover and let this cook on low for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and let it cook until the liquid is evaporated. Turn the cook rabe into the baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Drizzle with more olive oil.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the crumbs are toasty and browned.  Let is sit out of the oven for at least 5 minutes before serving.  It’s wonderful at room temperature.  It’s a great side dish to seafoods and grilled foods.  Perfect for a buffet table.  That’s another reason I like to chop the rabe smaller than you’d normally serve it.  Easy access, easy to eat.  Hopefully you’re going to add this to your recipe files.  I might just have to make this again today!! 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!!

 

 

 

STUFFED PEPPERS WITH SWEET SAUSAGE STUFFING, PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE

00000 Let me introduce you to one of my many styles of making STUFFED PEPPERS.  This version uses Italian Frying Peppers also known as CUBANELLES.  They are a sweet variety that when cooked are even more flavorful I think than a cooked Bell Pepper.  When possible these are the pepper I use for my Sausage and Peppers and Onions because of their intense taste.  The stuffing is a mix of Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage, toasted and olive “oiled” breadcrumbs, Parsley, diced Cured Black olives, capers, garlic, and Provolone plus a bit of tomato paste to add some dramatic color.  One point I try to make when people speak to me about their cooking is to be creative and open minded.  There is no one “stuffed pepper” recipe.  All these stuffed vegetable dishes most likely were created by a thrifty or impoverished home cook who needed to stretch what they had in front of them to feed a family. When cooking regionally you can come up with dishes that evoke an area by using ingredients that are common to that region’s cuisine. I’m dipping into my favorite region of Italy with these “PEPERONI IMBOTTITI” (stuffed peppers) and that region is Napoli, the city of Naples and its surrounding towns.  Sweet Fennel Sausage, peppers, capers, breadcrumbs, tomato, cured black olives, Provola…even stuffed vegetables…they all are part of the Napoletana kitchen.  My Mom made a few versions of Stuffed Peppers, some I still make, some I’ve created from my years of cooking, traveling and researching food.  I’ve never met a stuffed pepper I didn’t like so let me introduce you to this one….PEPERONI IMBOTTITI CON SALSICCE, Peppers Stuffed with Sausage.

MAKES 8                                               TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes

10 CUBANELLE PEPPERS, TOPS OFF, GENTLY REMOVE RIBS AND SEED FROM INSIDE

4 SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE LINKS (WITH FENNEL) OUT OF THEIR CASINGS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 1/4 CUPS OF TOASTED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP GRATED PROVOLONE

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

2 TBS TOMATO PASTE

2 TBS WHITE WINE, plus 2 TBS FOR COOKING

5 BLACK OIL CURED OLIVES, PITTED AND FINELY CHOPPED

1 TSP CAPERS

1 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, plus 2 TBS for cooking

SALT, PEPERONCINO to taste

 

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs of the Olive Oil till it’s medium hot, then add the loose sausage meat.  With a wooden spoon break up the sausage as it’s cooking and move it around the pan from time to time.  When the sausage is nicely browned, add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add 2 tbs of White Wine.  Let this simmer for 5 minutes.  In the meantime add 1 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. then add the Provolone to this mix.  Let the sausage cool down for 10 minutes, then in a large bowl mix all the ingredients except the peppers together. Taste for seasoning.  Now gently stuff them into the peppers.  Don’t overstuff, they tear easily.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Add some olive oil and wine to a baking dish.  Lay the peppers into the dish/pan and cover with foil.  Bake for 1/2 hour.  Remove from oven and open the foil (away from your face!!) and gently turn the peppers over. Close the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Then remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Done.  They should be tender and loaded with flavor.  Garnish the peppers with chopped parsley.  Serve with Italian bread to sop up those pan juices and enjoy the peppers.  The peppers are amazing the next day. They also taste their best at room temperature.  Perfect for an antipasto table.

A taste of my home cooking in your home kitchen.  A little bit of Napoli as well.  Happy Cooking!!

 

ROASTED TOMATOES ON THE VINE WITH MOZZARELLA, GRAZIE MICHELE SCICOLONE

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Tomatoes on the vine…the sights and tastes of the Summer season and hopefully the promise of an extended period of good weather until the Autumn frosts..these are beautiful things.  Cookbooks are beautiful things to (are you thinking, “where did THAT thought come from?” and one in particular is from a favorite cookbook author, MICHELE SCICOLONE, based in New York City and has been writing wonderful cookbooks that bring good food and sentiments to your table.  She’s very easy to follow and her recipes are wonderful.  So here’s the tie in–that tomato dish picture and the focus of this blogpost is from her cookbook THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK.  Certainly this one is a favorite for all the reasons I mentioned and more..the photography is wonderful, the reading is easy, and the foods are glorious.  It’s a celebration of Italian Vegetable ideas and not once will you say..hmmm.  where’s the BEEF??? strascinati 003There’s my copy, i bought it as soon as it came out. AND doesn’t that cover look like the lead picture?? Of course it does and I’m going to share with you how I made this with many thanks to Michele Scicolone   (http://www.amazon.com/The-Italian-Vegetable-Cookbook-Antipasti/dp/0547909160)

 

This dish is a star and her version pairs the “on the vine” roasted tomatoes with Burrata.  Anything more delicious than Burrata?  Ok, maybe somethings AS DELICIOUS AS burrata. For my version though I was Burrata-less and instead used what I had in my fridge which were BOCCONCINI or CILIEGIE DI FIOR DI LATTE…”Fresh” small Mozzarella Balls in Water. I’d strongly advise either the Burrata with this (which is best because of it’s Creamy nature) or a fresh style in the water small mozzarella.  Get yourself about 1 lb of Tomatoes on the Vine..fresh picked would be even better! Pre heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat them with 1 cup of Imported Italian Olive Oil, a good sprinkle of Kosher Salt, grinding of Black pepper and place them into a baking pan lined with foil.  Try to make sure none of the tomatoes are touching so the heat reaches all sides and roasts them evenly.

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Place into the oven and roast for at least 20 minutes or until the skins are splitting away and shriveled and the tomatoes sort of collapse and are soft.  There, you are done!  To serve, open the burrata, or slice it, or used the bocconcini and drizzle with the juices from the roasting pan.  About 1 lb of cheese should do it. Add that around the tomatoes and garnish with fresh Basil.  Serve with really good bread. Thank you to Michele Scicolone for this wonderful book AND recipe.

 

*My recipe is adapted from Michele Scicolone’s Book THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK, so that means this is her idea, not mine, and i’m happy to share it.  I highly suggest purchasing the book as well.

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ROASTED GREEN BEANS…AN EASY FRESH VEGETABLE

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FRESH, BRIGHT, GREEN. All words I long to hear when April rolls around.  Living in the Northeast United States this year has held onto a really unseasonably cold Winter for way too long.  Even under normal regional weather conditions for this time of the year I’m as overdone as burnt toast pleading for something green to sprout from the ground.  Whether you celebrate Spring, Passover, Easter foods which have bright fresh flavors take center stage.  The root vegetables will finally take a back seat and it’s back to seeing new vegetables in the markets.    So to start off the Spring season and possibly  Holiday cooking let’s make some Roasted Green Beans. Stop, don’t think that this is a “Spring” thing, you can get fresh green beans throughout the year so keep that in mind.  When  in season in your area and  grown local…even BETTER.  The ingredients are few, the flavor is immense.  Green Beans, OliveOil, Garlic, Salt , Pepper.  Are you with me??  Awesome. step into my kitchen and let’s cook!!

SERVES: 5-6                            TIME:  25 MINUTES

1 1/2 lbs. TRIMMED CLEANED FRESH GREEN BEANS

2 1/2 TBS.  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1-2 SLICEDor HALVED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT

GROUND BLACK PEPPER

ONE LARGE LEMON

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Using a sturdy baking pan, lay out the green beans and coat with 2 tbs. of Olive Oil. Make sure you have them in one flat layer.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of saltand the garlic.401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_n  Now roast them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and give them a toss, continue to roast for 5 more minutes as they gently brown. Remove and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 Tbs. of the Olive Oil. Slice the lemon and squeeze 1/2 of it over the beans. Ovens like people are very tempermental and unique so as with any recipe YOU are the most important part of the recipe.  450 F in your oven may cook them faster or slower..just keep an eye on them.  You want them to be somewhat wrinkled, tender yet not mushy. Serve with lemon slices.

Good to see green on my pages and in the stores and very soon outside!  Happy Spring!!

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CAULIFLOWER “SCAMPI”

cauli 005  Inspiration for cooking, where do you get it?  Books, TV, the store, a friend or family making something, the seasons, it comes from many places…ahhh..from Facebook or Instagram? Twitter? Certainly we are bombarded with images today and sometimes they give us our ideas for cooking.  On Friday while shopping for pecorino at a local Salumeria I noticed their Catering menu and saw the words “CAULIFLOWER SCAMPI” on the list.  HMMM, I said, i guess you take out the shrimp and add cut Cauliflower and cook it in the style of Italian-American Shrimp Scampi.  Cauliflower is a wonderful cooked vegetable AND very Italian/Sicilian I may add, although we take no ownership of it, it’s loved in cuisines around the world but most people don’t associate it with Italian cuisine.  Anyway the idea intrigued me and having a head of cauliflower at home meant that I would have to experiment with this idea over the weekend.  I played around with a simple, basic “Scampi” style preparation and was very happy with the results.  Took the pictures using the wonderful light that was bouncing off the fresh falling snow and beaming through our windows.  Perfect for some indoor amateur food photography.  I posted on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and suddenly I was in demand, well, not me…but people were asking for a recipe…YIKES!!!  Know this about me, A FOOD OBSESSION, I don’t have a recipe when I cook, i have an idea in my head of what I need to do to get a dish to the table, what type of cuisine, flavors, etc.  So when asked on the spot for a recipe this is something I can’t give back, i need to backtrack my steps and tweak it to make sure YOU will be able to make it like I did in your kitchen.  So….here goes…

SERVES: 6                                        TIME: around 45 minutes

2 heads of Cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (the thicker they are, the longer they will take to cook, keep it to 1/2 inch)

2 1/2 TBS OLIVE OIL

2 CLOVES GARLIC, SLICED

1/8 CUP DRY VERMOUTH OR WHITE WINE

JUICE OF 1/2 LEMON

KOSHER SALT, CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

3 TBS CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

 

In a large skillet heat the olive oil, then in a single layer add the cauliflower, you may need 2 pans or to do it in batches. Let them cook for at least 12 minutes on medium, checking the bottoms to make sure they are only browning, and not burning.  Sprinkle with salt and turn.  Let them cook an addition 10 minutes.  Test one, it should be nicely colored and al dente or medium tender.  Now add the garlic, raise the flame a bit and gently shake the pan.  Let the garlic cook for about 2 minutes then add the Vermouth or White Wine…hear that sizzle?? how’s that aroma that’s coming off the pan?? HOLLA! you’re loving this!!, now let this cook for 8 minutes on simmer as the cauliflower absorbs all those flavors.  Remove from the heat and add the parsley and the fresh lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.  Done.

If you want to increase that lemony flavor, 1/2 tsp of Lemon zest added at the end will do that for you.  Cheese?  Parmigiano or Pecorino, a little..i personally prefer this with no cheese (can you imagine that I just said that? I just think in this dish no cheese is better but , that’s up to you).

This dish is Vegan and  Vegetarian Friendly.

cauli 004

STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, ZUCCHINI STEW WITH TOMATOES

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

 

SERVES: 4 people                                                      TIME: 40 minutes

 

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

1 large diced onion

2 tbs.Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt, peperoncino

3 fresh basil leaves or pinch of oregano

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

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

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

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

Happy Cooking!