Stay Healthy–Eat Italian

Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome
Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome

You may have seen the news reports about the Mediterranean diet study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

People who eat lots of beans, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits, use extra virgin olive oil and drink wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart disease and other medical problems.

In Italia, you’ll find locally grown, seasonal produce markets in every city neighborhood and town. Campo di Fiori is one of the most famous. I shop it often when staying in the historical center of Rome.

Italians cherish fresh produce. They eat fish often. Nuts often end a meal. Extra virgin olive oil is an Italian kitchen staple. Meat is eaten in moderation.

Italians eat most of of their food at the midday meal. Supper is a simple, light meal.

I get a lot of exercise every day in Italia, including a delightful passagata or stroll after the evening meal. I’ll be enjoying the local bounty in Italia soon. I’ll share what I cook in Rome and Naples with you.

I try to maintain an Italian diet here in North Beach. Luckily I have ample access to local, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and locally caught seafood. Beans and grains are a significant part of my diet. And, I always use extra virgin olive oil except when frying.

Adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle and you’ll never need another diet scheme to lose weight or stay healthy. Eat Italian. It’s delicious and it’s good for you. Try this simple vegetable recipe and fish recipe to get a taste for yourself.

Here’s the New York Times article and a link to the Journal report.

Buon appetito!

Oscar Worthy “Moonstruck” Eggs

Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by "Moonstruck"
Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by “Moonstruck”

In anticipation of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards I cooked up some Oscar-worthy eggs this morning.

Ever see Norman Jewison’s 1987 movie about a Brooklyn Italian-American family? “Moonstruck” won Oscars for Olympia Dukakis and Cher.

There’s a kitchen scene where Dukakis is making these eggs for herself and Cher.

“Moonstruck” eggs were a popular item on my restaurant’s brunch menu. There’s no better combination than peppers and eggs. We served them with roasted pork and fennel sausage.

In Italy this dish is known as “birds in a nest”. They are super simple and they make a big impression for that special Saturday or Sunday morning. Add your favorite potatoes and breakfast meat and that’s it.

Here’s the “Moonstruck” kitchen scene that is the basis of my recipe.

Buon appetito!

Moonstruck Eggs
 
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A simple but fancy egg dish inspired by Olympia Dukakas cooking breakfast for Cher in the 1987 movie "Moonstruck".
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1 slice rustic bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Punch out a whole in the middle of the bread slice big enough to hold the egg.
  2. Put a skillet over medium high heat and add just enough of the EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan well.
  3. Place the bread slice in the pan. Toast briefly on both sides.
  4. Cut the roasted pepper into small strips and heat them in the skillet.
  5. Crack an egg in the whole in the bread.
  6. Let the egg cook until the white sets up well, about 2 minutes.
  7. Carefully flip the egg over to cook the yolk side to your taste.
  8. (If you're scared of flipping the egg, just put a cover over it and let it set to your desired doneness.)
  9. Top the egg with the roasted pepper and salt and black pepper to taste.
  10. Serve immediately by itself or with your favorite breakfast potatoes and breakfast meat.
  11. (If your making more than 1 Moonstruck egg, cook as many as fit comfortably in your pan. I can eat 2 of these for my breakfast or brunch.)

 

 

Beef Brisket Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket in the Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

When I was in New York City a couple of weeks ago I ducked into a deli for a beef brisket sandwich before heading to the airport to come back home.

Unfortunately, the sandwich sucked. I left most of it uneaten on the plate.

Back in San Francisco, I still had a craving for tender, succulent long-braised beef brisket in a rich gravy. I couldn’t get it out of mind.

Luckily, on my last visit to Little City Meats on Stockton at Vallejo, the boys had plenty of beef brisket in the case. I had to get a hunk to satisfy my desires.

Here’s my take on how this dish might be made in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. I’ll let you know if I find it on a menu when I’m in Rome this spring.

Beef brisket isn’t that hard to make. Most of the time is spent waiting for the brisket to slow-braise in the pot for a couple of hours in a broth flavored with aromatics.

You end up with fork-tender beef in a rich, mellow gravy. Serve the brisket with the carrots and celery scattered on top, pour the gravy all over and dinner is ready.

Make sure you get a big piece of brisket. Thick slices moistened with gravy make a fantastic sandwich. You want to have leftovers so you can stuff a crunchy Italian roll the next day.

Buon appetito!

Beef Brisket from the Roman Jewish Ghetto
 
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Beef brisket long braised with aromatic vegetables in the style of the Roman Jewish Ghetto
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds beef brisket
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large stems Italian flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the celery and carrots in 2-3-inch pieces.
  2. Smash the garlic cloves and peel.
  3. Cut the onion in half and then quarter.
  4. Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dust the brisket with the flour.
  6. Put a large enameled or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO.
  7. When the oil is hot put the brisket in the pot, fat side down.
  8. Brown the brisket on all sides.
  9. Put the brisket on a plate and set aside.
  10. Drain out the oil.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO to the pot.
  12. Add the tomato paste and toast it in the oil until it's color darkens a bit.
  13. Put in the celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and onion, mix the vegetables with the tomato paste and saute until the onion is just translucent.
  14. Add the red wine and deglaze the pot, scraping all the brown bits on the bottom.
  15. Simmer about a minute or 2 to let the wine alcohol burn off and the brown bits dissolve into the broth.
  16. Put the brisket and any juices on the plate back in the pot.
  17. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and about half of the brisket.
  18. Bring the pot to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours until the brisket is fork tender.
  19. Put the brisket and some of the carrot, celery and onion pieces on a platter and set aside.
  20. Pour the gravy and the vegetable pieces through a strainer into a bowl.
  21. With a big spoon push down on the vegetables pieces in the strainer to get all of the flavorful liquid into the bowl.
  22. Return the gravy to the pot, simmer to reduce and thicken the gravy, about 3 minutes.
  23. Slice the brisket and put the slices on a platter. Serve some of the carrots, celery and onion on the side. Pour the pan gravy on top.
  24. Serve immediately.

 

Spring has arrived.

Buon appetito!

 

Farro with Tuna & Tomato

Farro with Tuna and Tomato
Farro with Tuna and Tomato

Farro is the new kitchen darling. A few years ago most people didn’t know anything about this nutty, nutritious ancient grain. I just love it.

I usually make cold farro salads of one kind or another. But, here’s a delicious hot dish that you can serve as a first or main course.

Farro is easy to make. Cook farro as you do rice or barley. Dress it up like pasta and it’s ready to enjoy. Fast and easy.

This dish is from Puglia, the southern Italian region on the Adriatic.

The nutty, toothsome farro is enrobed in a sweet tomato sauce flavored by briny cured tuna and capers. The red pepper flakes add a hot sparkle at the end of every bite.

Want a break from pasta? Make farro.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna, Tomatoes & Capers
 
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Farro dressed with a cured tuna, tomato and caper sauce, a wonderful mix of farm and sea. Easy to make and full of zesty, nutty flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Rinse the farro and drain in a strainer.
  2. Put the farro in a pot with 5 cups of water, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of EVOO
  3. Over medium-high bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and let the farro simmer with the lid ajar.
  5. Cook until the farro is tender stirring occasionally.
  6. If the water is not absorbed, pour it out and remove the bay leaf. Put the cover on the pot and put the farro aside.
  7. Pour 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a pot or large skillet.
  8. Add the garlic slices and the pepper flakes.
  9. Saute until the garlic starts to take on some color, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and the capers.
  11. Heat to a slow boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl.
  13. Flake it into large pieces and add it to the tomatoes. Stir well.
  14. Cook for 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are reduced and thicker.
  15. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  16. Add the farro to the pot and stir well into the tomatoes.
  17. Cook until the farro is heated through.
  18. Add the chopped parsley and stir well with the farro.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Italian Grilled Cheese

Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese
Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese

Here’s an Italian twist on the wildly popular grilled cheese sandwich, mozzarella in carozza (mozzarella in a cart).

My Dad made this Neapolitan treat when I was a kid and I still make it often.

You have to construct the “cart” to carry the mozzarella. I skewer the corners of the sandwich with toothpicks so the mozzarella doesn’t fall out when I dip it in the egg wash and fry it in the pan.

Forget about tomato soup on the side with this grilled cheese. A quick, lemon, caper and anchovy sauce is the perfect companion for the melted mozzerella oozing out of the egg-dipped bread.

My recipe is for 2 at the table. Make more if you need them. The recipe is scalable. Serve a salad on the side and you have a meal.

Buon appetito!

Italian Grilled Cheese
 
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An Italian grilled cheese sandwich with caper-anchovy sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 thin slices of sturdy white or whole wheat bread, crust removed
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of water or milk
  • Canola oil (or your favorite) for frying
  • 1tablespoon Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Make the sauce.
  2. Put the olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook until the garlic just starts to color.
  3. Add the anchovies and capers and stir until the anchovy dissolves.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  5. Pour in the white wine and lemon juice and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half and thickens. Set aside.
  6. Lay out 2 slices of bread on a work surface and cover each with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Don't let the mozzarella hang over the edge of the bread.
  7. Lay a bread slice on top and skewer each corner with a toothpick to hold the sandwich together.
  8. Put the flour on a dish.
  9. Beat the egg and water together in a shallow bowl.
  10. Put a about a ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. (Test the oil with a crust of bread. It's hot enough if the crust sizzles.)
  11. Dredge the sandwiches in the flour. Be sure to cover both sides and the edges too. Tap off the excess flour.
  12. Dip both sides of the sandwich in the egg. Moisten the sides too. (I use my hands but use tongs to maneuver the sandwich if you wish.)
  13. When the oil is hot enough, put the sandwiches in the saute pan and fry until they are golden brown on both sides and the mozzarella is melted, a minute or 2 on each side.
  14. Put the sandwiches on paper towel to drain.
  15. Heat the sauce, stir in the parsley and spoon some on each plate.
  16. Cut the sandwiches in half and put them on the plates.
  17. Serve immediately.

 

Baked Ziti for Valentine’s Day?

A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.
A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.

Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).

Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.

A fresh, crunchy and complex Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives is a perfect first course. Prosecco or Pinot Grigio pairs well with the salad in a citrus vinaigrette.

Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.

The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.

By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.

And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.

Still want to go out for Valentine’s Day dinner? Try one of these North Beach restaurants.

Buon appetito! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Baked Ziti alla Sorrentino
 
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Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Marinara Sauce
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large branch of fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Baked Ziti
  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Instructions
  1. Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Marinara Sauce
  3. Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Set the sauce aside.
  7. Baked Ziti
  8. Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
  9. Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
  10. Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
  11. Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
  12. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
  13. Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
  14. Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
  15. Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
  16. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives
Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

I’m hoping for spring. The quince blossoms are in bloom so spring can’t be far away. For me, this classic salad from Sicily is a prelude to the change of seasons.

Start or end your meal with this perky salad. The licorice and sweet orange notes float in the citrus vinaigrette. The intense wrinkled, meaty, oil-cured olives add surprising complexity to this crunchy salad.

Usually I eat salad at the end of a meal but this one goes to the top. It’s fresh and complex and easily fills the bill as a simple first course or add it to your antipasti platter.

Buon appetito!

Fennel & Orange Salad with Olives
 
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A simple, complex from Sicily. The fennel's anise flavor enhances the orange sweetness and the oil-cured olives add intensity to the crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs, about a pound
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut off the top of the fennel and the stalks where they connect to the bulb.
  2. Cut the bulb in half and remove the tough outer leaves.
  3. Cut out the core.
  4. Slice the fennel very thin or use a mandolin.
  5. Put the fennel in a bowl.
  6. Cut off the top and bottom of the orange.
  7. With a cut end on the work surface cut off the rind. Be sure you remove all of the bitter white pith.
  8. Holding the peeled orange over the bowl with the fennel cut out each section of the orange by running a sharp knife close to the membrane. (You can cut the orange in slices instead.)
  9. Put the orange sections in the bowl with the fennel. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl.
  10. Add the salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice and toss well.
  11. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

Saltimbocca: So Good It Jumps in Your Mouth

Saltimbocca
Saltimbocca

I’m in New York City and meeting up with friends. On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning we’re off to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true NYC Little Italy.

We’ll spend the day cooking together, eating and drinking in northern Jersey. But first we have to decide on the menu and get everything we need to prepare our meal.

As is our habit, our first stop is Caffe DiLillo for a cappuccino and cornetto and to plan our menu. Our 4-course meal fell into place quickly.

My assignment is saltimbocca, the classic Roman dish, veal scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto and sauteed in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Saltimbocca is so good it’s moniker translates to “jump in your mouth”.

Saltimbocca is easy. I made enough for 8 at the table in about 15 minutes. The salty, crispy prosciutto enrobes fresh sage atop fork-tender veal scaloppine. Deglaze the pan with a dry, white wine to create a silky sauce and you’re done.

The dish works just as well with chicken. I used both veal and chicken scaloppine to satisfy the preferences of my table mates. Asparagus roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon completed each plate. Yum.

I made panna cotta for dessert too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Saltimbocca
 
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Saute veal or chicken scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto in butter and extra virgin olive oil to create a dish that "jumps in your mouth."
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound veal (or chicken) scaloppine
  • fresh sage
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the scaloppine with salt and pepper.
  2. Depending on their size, lay 1 or 2 sage leaves atop the scallopine.
  3. Cover the scaloppine with a thin slice of prosciutto.
  4. Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife to attach it to the scaloppine.
  5. Lightly coat the scaloppine with flour. Tap off any excess flour.
  6. Put the extra virgin olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
  7. When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add the scaloppine and saute prosciutto side down until the prosciutto is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
  8. Saute the other side about a minute.
  9. Put the saltimbocca on a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
  10. Saute the remaining scallopine.
  11. Over high heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the crispy brown bits on the bottom of the plan and stir to dissolve the bits in the wine. Cook until the pan sauce thickens, about a minute.
  12. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca and serve immediately.