Panzanella (Summer Tomato & Bread Salad)

I never throw away bread. I use stale bread for my meatballs, for stuffings and for breadcrumbs. I always have some hanging around.

Day-old bread inspires panzanella, a simple summer tomato and bread salad. Some of you asked for this recipe based on the classic dish from Florence. I love my rustic version. You can get fancy and make crustless croutons in the oven but who wants to turn on a hot oven in the summer. Make it my way!

I’ve been making this salad a lot since prime heirloom tomatoes hit the market. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced onion bloomed in red wine vinegar, basil, cubed bread, extra virgin olive oil. That’s it. Make sure you use the best ingredients. This is the time to break out your best fruity Italian olive oil.

I only make panzanella in the summer when I can get big, juicy, ripe tomatoes. When the local heirloom tomatoes are gone from the farmer’s market, the panzanella is gone from my table.

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and let the salad sit for a half-hour to create the juices that moisten the bread. How easy is that?

Try to get a little bit of everything in each bite. The tomato is sweet, the cucumber crunchy and the marinade-soaked bread ties everything together.

Serve panzanella as part of an antipasti platter or as a side for fried seafood, grilled or roasted sausage or meats. (This is the salad I paired with the fried shrimp in Sunday’s post.) Sometimes panzanella with some cheese and salami or prosciutto on the side is my summertime lunch or dinner.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:100]

Crispy Succulent Shrimp (Gamberi Fritti)

When I was a kid on a steamy summer Friday night in Jersey, fried fish was one of my favorite dinners. My Mom lightly dredged an array of fish in flour and quickly fried them in olive oil. We ate the fish hot out of the oil with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt.

I liked the crispy sweet shrimp the best. I’d grab one from the stove and shove the whole thing in my mouth. If I tried to get another my Mom always shooed me away. “Save some for the table!”

The fat white Gulf prawns at the fishmonger this morning were just right for today’s lunch. I’m eating at least a half dozen with abandon.

A quick meal with the pristine taste of the sea. Fry the shrimp and serve them hot out of the oil with a squeeze of lemon. The shrimp are paired here with my version of panzanella, a summer tomato and bread salad. Just add a bottle of crisp, chilled pinot grigio to the table and eat.

Fry up your favorite fish as well. I really like a nice piece of fried sole. You can quickly fry up some squid too, as I did in my calamari fritti video.

Buon appettito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:99]

Hello Milwaukee

Porchetta
Porchetta
Porchetta–Herb Filled Pork Roast

A while ago a post, Forget Food Network! 7 Cool Online Cooking Shows, appeared on Milwaukee Radio’s website. Gianni’s North Beach was #5.

After all this time many of my site visitors come from Milwaukee Radio, 88.9 on your FM dial. So here’s a shout out to my friends in the heartland. Thanks for visiting.

Milwaukee Radio’s cool site celebrates Milwaukee music, diversity and culture. I’m tickled that my Porchetta, an herb-filled pork roast, was included in the Top 7 along with NY Times’ Mark Bittman and 5 other passionate cooks.

Some people disagree with the Giada De Laurentiis reference in the Cool Online Cooking Shows piece. What do you think?

Here’s my Porchetta video episode that still plays well in Milwaukee. The video also includes 2 more recipes for sides to serve with the Porchetta–onions in a sweet & sour sauce and truffled roasted potatoes. Buon appetito!

Summer Heirloom Tomatoes Are In

Caprese Salad

I returned from NYC to find the first decent crop of local heirloom tomatoes. A big, fat golden and red orb in the farmer’s market had my name on it. The ripe tomato had a sweet aroma and was just firm to the touch. You don’t mess we these babies in their prime. Keep it real simple.

Tomato and mozzarella salad is a riff on the traditional Caprese, slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella separated by a basil leaf and drizzled with EVOO.

I like the chunky pieces of tomato and smaller bocconcini mozzarella balls cubed and sprinkled with torn basil leaves, EVOO and sea salt.

I let the salad marinate for a half hour before serving to bring out the sweetness of the tomato and infuse the olive oil with the basil. All of the juices create a marinade to coat everything with flavor.

Tomato salad is a refreshing start to any summer meal or as a side for grilled or roasted sausage or other meats. Just make sure you have a good hunk of bread to soak up all the juices.

Enjoy the summer bounty. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:98]

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms (& Friends)

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms & Friends

I made baked stuffed mushroom caps to accompany prosciutto and smoked mozzarella on my antipasti platter. That’s them in the front of the plate.

Stuffed mushrooms are quick and easy to make and pack a lot of flavor. Serve them hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Parmigiano, garlic, parsley and EVOO flavor the breadcrumbs and the grated cheese creates a golden crust on top of the mushroom caps. Every bite is a zesty and crunchy delight. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I stuff the whole cap in my mouth and eat it in just one bite.

You can add the stuffed mushroom caps to almost any antipasti platter you create. The caps are a compact package that you can even pass around as your arriving dinner guests sip on a bubbly prosecco.

So what’s that other stuff in the photo?

I had breadcrumbs left over so I stuffed an artichoke and a couple of baby heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled the remaining flavored breadcrumbs on red bell peppers and baked them too. They each have their own special texture and taste and they are all delicious and I wanted to show you them all.

Use the artichoke as a first course. Add the roasted stuffed tomatoes and red bell peppers sprinkled with the flavored breadcrumbs to an antipasti platter or serve them as a vegetable side dish with lunch or dinner. I tell you how to handle the peppers and tomatoes in the recipe below. If you don’t know how to clean an artichoke, watch me do it. It’s fun.

Be sure to keep this versatile flavored breadcrumb recipe around. You’ll use it often with roasted vegetables or as a light topping for baked fish or roasted chicken.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:97]

Chinese Bakery Replaces Victoria Pastry

Victoria Pastry’s New Home Taking Shape

Victoria Pastry has been in North Beach since 1914. The Vallejo and Stockton corner bakery closed last month to move to a new space on Filbert and Powell on the other side of Washington Square Park.

As word about Victoria’s closing spread many wondered whether the south side of Vallejo would maintain its North Beach ties or solidify its ties to Chinatown.

I learned that a Chinese bakery will open in the Victoria Pastry space. The windows are covered and the renovation is underway. The only Italian business left on that side of Vallejo is Tony Gemignani’s new Capo’s restaurant and bar opening in a couple months.

While taking a Sacramento group on my North Beach walking tour I was happy to see some signs of progress at Victoria’s new spot. The build-out is well underway and this mural on the side of building was recently completed.

I can’t wait until I can buy Victoria Pastry’s St. Honore cake, a rum-soaked sponge cake filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with cream puffs. That’s the St. Honore cake in the first panel of the new mural.

Pasta alla Norma: Rigatoni in a Tomato & Eggplant Sauce

Rigatoni alla Norma (Tomato & Eggplant Sauce)

A classic from Catania on the eastern shore of Sicily, this wildly popular pasta took on its name in honor of favorite-son Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma 180 years ago. You’ll find it on menus all over Sicilia now.

A couple of you asked about this dish so I thought I’d make it. It’s almost 2 years since my last exquisite week in Sicilia and I’m in the mood for a taste memory of that beautiful island.

The shiny black-purple eggplant in the market are superb. Get the firm small to medium ones. They don’t have many seeds. Even though it’s July we won’t have good local Bay Area tomatoes for about 6 weeks, so I used imported San Marzano tomatoes from Campania.

My Rigatoni alla Norma is inspired by my Catania cousins-in-law. The creamy tomato-eggplant sauce coats each fat pasta tube. The grated salty ricotta salata (dried ricotta cheese) sprinkled on top balances the sweetness of the sauce. Celebrate summer with this easy 2-step recipe. It brought me back to the heat and sun of Sicily’s Ionian coast eating Pasta alla Norma al fresco with a glass of Nero d’Avola wine.

If you’re enjoying a summer bounty of local tomatoes at the height of flavor here’s my fresh San Marzano tomato sauce video. San Marzano tomatoes are best but you can use local Roma or other tomato varieties to make a great sauce in place of one made with imported canned San Marzano tomatoes.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:96]