I scored the first of the organic San Marzano tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms at the Thursday Galleria farmers market in San Francisco’s financial district.
I was lazy and wanted a simple sauce so I didn’t cook it at all. This pasta can be on your table in about 30 minutes.
Just pop the San Marzanos in boiling water to loosen the skin and peel them. Roughly chop the tomatoes and let them marinate with extra virgin olive oil, basil and garlic for 30 minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil.
When the pasta is cooked add the marinated tomatoes and toss to coat the pasta well. Top each serving with a ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a light shower of grated parmigiano and eat.
You can use any fresh tomato for this pasta sauce. As long as they’re ripe and sweet, cherry, pear or heirloom tomatoes work well too. The heat of the pasta will bring out their full sweet flavor.
I didn’t make my own pasta. I bought some fresh pappardelle at the market but you can use long or short dried pasta too. Make it with penne or another short dried pasta and serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled and you have an Italian pasta salad for your summer buffet table.
I love the pure raw flavors of the sweet tomatoes and basil bathed in the garlic-infused olive oil. The toothsome pappadelle captures it all and adds a nutty wheat note to every bite.
Beef brisket long braised with aromatic vegetables and herbs is a simple but flavorful lunch or dinner all on one plate.
Recipe type: Entree
2 pounds beef brisket
2 carrots, quartered and cut in 2 inches pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 2 inches pieces
1 onion, cut in half and quartered
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of Italian parsley
1 cup sangiovese or zinfandel or your favorite dry red wine
1 cup San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand
1 cup water (if needed)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper all over the brisket and rub it into the meat.
Heat the olive oil in a large enameled pot or thick bottom sauce pan over medium-high heat.
When the oil ripples brown the brisket on both sides to create a dark crust.
Remove the brisket to a plate.
Add the tomato paste, vegetables and herbs, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and cook until the tomato paste darkens and the vegetables start to caramelize. Scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
Add the wine and cook until the wine is almost all evaporated. Scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
Add the tomatoes and stir well.
Lower the heat to medium-low and put the brisket back in the pot along with any juices on the resting plate. Add some water if necessary so that the brisket is almost covered with the braising liquid.
Put the top on the pot and braise the brisket until it is fork tender, about 60-90 minutes.
Remove the parsley and bay leaf.
Slice the brisket against the grain and serve on a large platter with the vegetables and topped with gravy.
No flour in this focaccia. Riced potatoes with parmigiano and white wine form the focaccia "dough" filled with sweet long-cooked onions flavored with a bay leaf, capers and black olives topped with bread crumbs and baked until golden brown.
Recipe type: Focaccia
2 pounds onions, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
3 cups water
4 pitted Gaeta or your favorite black olive, chopped
1 teaspoon drained capers
2 large baking potatoes boiled then peeled and riced or mashed, about 1¼ pounds
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons dry white wine
¼ cup breadcrumbs and extra virgin olive oil for the top and bottom crusts
Pour the olive oil into a large enameled pot or heavy bottomed sauce pan
Add the onions, bay leaf, wine, salt, pepper to taste and the water to the pot.
Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the water is evaporated. Be sure the mixture is very dry so the interior of the focaccia is not gummy.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the capers and olives.
Boil the potatoes with the peel on until they are knife tender.
Peel the potatoes and rice or mash them.
Put the potatoes in a bowl, add the grated cheese, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and mix well.
Add enough of the wine to make a consistent dough.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with olive oil and thinly coat the bottom with bread crumbs.
Spread about half of the potato mixture in an even ¾ inch layer in the pie plate.
Next evenly spread the onion filling.
Top the onion filling with the remaining potatoes,
Brush the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs to completely cover the the top.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
I recalled a remarkable day on the northern coast where I learned of 2 new ingredients for my Italian-American cooking, couscous and saffron.
We spent a delightful day in San Vito lo Capo lounging on the soft pink beach, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea with Tunisia on the horizon and exploring the annual couscous festival in the small town that hugs the coast.
As the sun began to set we headed back to our hotel in the hills overlooking Palermo. We stopped in a tavola calda in Monreale for a quick meal.
I asked the owner Filippo if he could grill swordfish for me simply seasoned with olive oil, oregano and lemon. It was one of his favorites and he was happy to make it for me.
We talked as he brushed the fresh swordfish steak with oregano-infused olive oil, laid it on the hot iron grate over the open fire and sprinkled it with sea salt. It was on the plate in a jiffy with wedges of lemon. Simply delicious.
On the way out we thanked Filippo for the wonderful meal. He went to the counter and came back with “Zafferano: Giallo il Colore della Felicita” (Yellow: The Color of Happiness), a booklet with dozens of Sicilian recipes made with saffron. He autographed it as a gift for me.
This is one of those recipes and the dish includes saffron and couscous, 2 ingredients that I added to my Italian-American pantry after that wonderful day in Sicily. It can be on your table in about 45 minutes.
The saffron bathes everything in a golden hue. The crusted veal is tender and moist, the vegetables soft and sweet and the nutty couscous absorbs the flavors of it all. Another delicious Italian dish influenced by North African cooking.
Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron