Marinated Zucchini (Zucchine alla Scapace)

I have more late summer zucchini than I know what to do with. Well, almost. I made a fritatta with zucchini, potatoes, wild boar salami and fontina. I made ciambotta, a zucchini stew with potatoes and onions in a tomato sauce.

I used what I had left to make zucchine alla scapace, golden fried slices of zucchini marinated with garlic, mint and a squirt of red wine and balsamic vinegars.

In the south of Italia scapece denotes marinated or preserved with oil and vinegar. In the north the method is in saor.

I love to eat this dish with some prosciutto or salami and aged sharp provolone or as a side with fish or meat. The nutty sweetness of the zucchini is balanced by the vinegar and the mint’s clean fresh taste adds to the complexity.

This is one of those dishes that gets better with age. You should let it marinate for at least a couple of hours. Overnight is better and some think that the dish doesn’t reach peak flavor for about 4 or 5 days. So make a lot of it and have it on hand for about a week. See what works best on your flavor index.

Zucchini is a wonderful ingredient for frittata. Watch my fritatta video to see how to make one. You can adapt the basic recipe to use zucchini or your favorite ingredients.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:107]

 

North Beach Parade & Fall Bounty from Italia

Cavalli Tuscan Treasures

North Beach’s Italian-Heritage Parade, the oldest in America, is Sunday, October 7. Book your lunch table now at one of the many caffes and restaurants on the parade route. They’re going fast. It’s a fantastic holiday. You don’t want to miss it. Everyone will be there.

We’re in for a really special treat this year. Piero and Lorenza Cipriani are flying in from Italia laden with bounty from the fall harvest. Santo Esposito who owns Cavalli Cafe is pitching a big tent outside on Saturday & Sunday so the Ciprianis can share tastes of their Italian culinary loot with anyone who stops by.

They’re bringing this year’s extra virgin olive oil from a small producer in Tuscany, just-picked truffles from Emiglia-Romagna and Umbria, just-milled Tuscan chestnut flour and fresh and dried porcini mushrooms.

I’d kill for a fresh porcini. I like to grill them with garlic-infused olive oil and a light sprinkle of oregano or marjoram and sea salt. It’s like eating steak.

All of the Cipriani goodies are for sale so grab some while you can. And stop in Cavalli Cafe before you move on for an espresso and Santo’s cannoli, the best in all of North Beach. I hope I see you there after our Parade lunch party.

I have a few seats at my lunch table if you want to join us. Send me an email and I’ll let you know the details and where to meet up.

Read more about my Parade experiences.

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I was hosting a 4-course birthday dinner for a friend. I asked her what she wanted. “Nothing special. You come up with something. It’s always good,” she told me. But the next morning she sent me an email. “Can you make sweet potato gnocchi? I’ve been craving them.”

How could I say no, but the pressure was on. Everyone at my dinner loves the puffy, light sweet potato gnocchi at da Flora, one of  our favorite North Beach restaurants. Would mine pass muster with this exacting crowd?

I use both russet and sweet potatoes here. Sweet potatoes can be wet so I roasted the potatoes instead of boiling them in their jackets to keep them as dry as possible.

The sweet potato gnocchi were light little pillows that just about melted on my tongue. The sage butter sauce is classic in its simplicity and adds richness to the gnocchi’s sweetness. The grated parmigiano really balances the flavors and adds to the complexity of this dish.

This recipe made over 100 gnocchi. Lucky for me I had more than enough for dinner so some could be frozen to enjoy another day. Just spread them out on a cookie tray and put them in the freezer. When frozen store them in a freezer bag. Drop the frozen gnocchi right into the boiling water. They’ll take a bit longer to cook through. Frozen gnocchi are good but fresh gnocchi are better.

Watch my gnocchi video episode to see how to make them.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:108]

 

 

Pickled Eggplant

Pickled Eggplant

It’s getting near the end of the summer season so I’m putting up some eggplant to tide me over until spring.

This a simple recipe from the south of Italia. The pickled eggplant is preserved under olive oil (sott’olio) and will keep in your refrigerator for weeks, even months.

Let the eggplant sit in the refrigerator for a few days to reach its peak flavor. The vinegar mellows and the eggplant picks up a hint of garlic, oregano and bay as it marinates in the jar. The red hot pepper adds a little sparkle at the end of each bite. (I used a small Calabrian chili pepper packed in EVOO.)

The pickled eggplant is a wonderful addition to an antipasti platter. Use it as a crostini topping. Serve it as a side with meat or fish.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:106]

Take advantage of the end of the summer bounty. If you like this recipe try my giardiniera and pickled vinegar peppers.

N.B. I have to tell you that these are not canning recipes. My stuff lasts weeks or even months in the refrigerator. Just be sure that the eggplant is always fully covered by olive oil. If you want to keep the eggplant for a long time in your pantry, follow standard canning techniques to ensure food safety.

Square 5 Best in SF

North Beach’s Graffeo Coffee Roasting Co.

The Chronicle’s food writers just completed a year-long culinary tour of San Francisco, one square mile at a time.

The city was divided into 49 “squares”. Each Sunday the culinary adventurers shared their take on the best restaurants and food attractions in each square. After exploring all that San Francisco has to offer, one square topped the heap.

Square 5, including North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Jackson Square, is the best in all of San Francisco. Woohoo!

What’s not to like? It’s one of the oldest parts of the City, home to the first public square, the first air-dried salami, the bawdry Barbary Coast, vibrant Italian and Chinese neighborhoods, and coffeehouses loaded with colorful locals.

Why Square 5 over all the others?

If I was going to pick one square to explain the quirkiness, vibrancy and ethos of San Francisco, it would be Square 5. Here lies the heart and soul of San Francisco. This square mile encapsulates the city’s beginnings, its forced acceptance of ethnic diversity, its independent entrepreneurial spirit, its love of life.

So what to pick as the best of Square 5? There are so many fabulous restaurants and food outlets in these rich neighborhoods.

It was a tough choice. “Yet in the end we picked Graffeo Coffee because it represents the type of creative and entrepreneurial spirit the city embraces.” Interesting choice.

Graffeo Coffee Roasting Co. is one of the country’s oldest artisan coffee roasters. The’ve roasted beans on Columbus every day since 1935. That’s all they do. Only go there if you want to buy some of their world-renowed coffee.

While you’re at Graffeo’s, if caffeine isn’t enough and you need a chocolate fix too, stop by XOX Truffles across the street for some of the best chocolate anywhere.

Here’s the Square 5 article.

 

Chicken Cacciatore

Hunter’s Style Chicken–Pollo alla Cacciatore

Flavor memories of my Mom’s hunter-style braised chicken overwhelmed me. I headed down the hill to get what I needed to make this easy, rustic dish.

I’m a breast man but go ahead and include all of your favorite chicken parts. The breasts take less time to cook so just simmer dark meat pieces a bit longer. Use bone-in and skin-on chicken for more flavor.

My recipe includes my father’s “secret” ingredient. He always added a sweet vinegar pepper to his chicken cacciatore. If you’re really energetic make my easy vinegar pickled peppers. (If you don’t have vinegar peppers use a dozen vinegar-brined capers or just a few drops of red wine vinegar. The acidity balances the sweetness of the peppers.)

I served the chicken cacciatore up with creamy polenta so I didn’t lose any of the sauce on the plate. Boiled rice works well too. You can also use the sauce for pasta.

The chicken is moist and tender, bathed in the chunky, sweet tomato-pepper sauce. I like to get a piece of bell pepper with each bite of chicken. Sometimes when I’m lucky, I get a piece of the piquant vinegar pepper too. Heaven!

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:105]

Ciao Caesar’s

Last Day Crowds at Caesar’s Restaurant

It’s the end of a North Beach era.

After 56 years as a destination for locals, Caesar’s Restaurant near Fisherman’s Wharf, closed yesterday.

The family-owned restaurant is a victim of changing San Francisco and North Beach demographics, changed tastes at the table, and a sour economy.

Eat Where the Italians Eat Caesar’s proclaimed. For more than a half-century, this was the place for wedding receptions and other large family gatherings.

Caesar’s was also famous for the North Beach Italian-American 7-course meal.  Locals lingered over the huge meal at lunch or dinner: salad, antipasti, soup, pasta, entree, dessert and coffee. Who eats this way anymore?

When I moved to North Beach twenty years ago there were a bunch of these family-style restaurants. The Gold Spike, New Pisa, La Felce, San Remo, Fior d’Italia, are all gone. Gone too is the North Beach community that supported these businesses.

Here’s a glimpse of those bygone days from the Caesar’s website.

Caesar’s was established in 1956 by Caesar Fabrini and his three partners, who all came to the United States as youngsters and knew each other from playing soccer at the Italian Athletic club still in existence in North Beach today. At that time the neighborhood consisted of many small factories and there was a big Italian community made up of workers and fisherman and their families. Caesar Fabrini had the inspiration to serve a seven course dinner at a moderate price for this community and so Caesar’s Italian restaurant was started.

That North Beach Italian community is much smaller today. Businesses closed. Families moved to the suburbs. There aren’t enough of the old-timers and their progeny around to support these old-time places.

But, if you’re in the mood for this North Beach Italian-American culinary experience, you can still have a family-style dinner at Capp’s Corner on Green & Powell.

Caesar’s owners’ note announcing the closing is heartfelt, as is the Chron’s Carl Nolte’s Caesar’s farewell story.