Food, Family & Friends

Making My Mom's Lasagna with My Godson
Passing It On–Making My Mom’s Lasagna with My Godson

How often do you get to put something inside someone’s body?

No this ain’t a sex post but it’s close.

I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy when I sat down with my friends at Hungry Village. Cameras rolling I riffed on what draws me back to Italy each year and what fuels my passion for sharing my food with family and friends in my home and with you on my blog.

I hope you enjoy a short video of my time living in a Roman neighborhood and my Italian-American lifestyle in San Francisco’s North Beach.

The folks at Hungry Village shoot and produce my video episodes. Check out these talented Hungry Village friends on Facebook and on the Hungry Village website.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce

Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.
Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.

Are you afraid of squash blossoms that are flooding farmers markets now?

Don’t be. The blossoms are versatile and easy to cook up. Grab some if you can.

Stuff the blossoms with mozzarella and anchovy and fry them coated with a light batter. Use them as a topping for a tomato-less pizza. Or make this really simple pasta cream sauce that will be on your table in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Slice the blossoms into 1-inch ribbons. Saute the shallot with butter and extra virgin olive oil. When the shallot is translucent add the blossom ribbons and saffron. Finish with heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens.

Add the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce to finish cooking. Shut off the heat. Add grated parmigiano and a sprinkle of grated black pepper and toss well.

That’s it. Sit down and eat.

Most of the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta and some will coat it too. The yellow-orange blossoms pleasingly speckle the saffron-tinted pasta and add a hint of zucchini flavor. Mild shallot deepens the flavor of the mellow parmigiano cream sauce.

Every eye-pleasing bite is a mouthful of delicate complex flavor. So simple and so delicious.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce
 
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Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams fresh tagliatelle, linguine or fettuccine. Or use a long dried pasta. I used fettuccine here
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, sliced into ribbons
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil.
  2. Cut off the dark green base of the squash blossom and the stem. The pistil should fall out. Discard the pistil and stem piece.
  3. Slice the blossoms horizontally into 1-inch ribbons.
  4. Put the butter and olive in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  5. When the butter begins to bubble add the shallot and cook until the the shallot is translucent, about 1 minute.
  6. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  7. Add the sliced blossoms and sea salt to taste to the pan and stir to coat the blossoms with the butter and oil.
  8. Cook until the blossoms soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  9. Add the saffron and mix well.
  10. Add the cream and cook stirring well until the cream begins to thicken.
  11. In the meantime, when the water is at a rapid boil. add the fresh or dried pasta (Fresh pasta should take less than 5 minutes to rise to the surface and be perfectly al dente. Follow the package directions for dried pasta. Cook until al dente.)
  12. While pasta is cooking warm the sauce over low heat.
  13. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and the grated parmigiano. Mix well to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce and cheese.
  14. Serve immediately with extra grated parmigiano on the table for your guests.

 

Grilled Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

Grilled swordfish with Samarglio Sauce
Grilled swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

The Sicilian summer heat came early one morning.

Rows of fish packed on ice sparkled in the morning sun as we searched the open-air fish market for the perfect catch for dinner.

I almost bumped into this guy in the picture below swinging a long stick with neon orange plastic strips on the end to keep the flies moving.

With this heat we’d cook on the grill when we got back to our house in Ortigia on the Ionian coast.

We settled on 1-inch steaks cut from a huge swordfish just out of the sea.

To finish the dish I made Salmoriglio, a light uncooked sauce with fresh oregano and parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and garlic popular throughout southern Italy and perfect for grilled swordfish steaks.

Mix up a batch as you get the fire going. I takes about 5 minutes to make the sauce. Let it sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors meld.

Lightly brush the sauce over both sides of the swordfish steaks and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Grill the steaks over medium coals or medium-high heat in a grill pan. Grill the first side giving them a quarter turn halfway through to create the hatched grill marks, about 4 minutes total. Finish them quickly on the second side so that they are still moist and tender when you take them off the grill, about 3 minutes more.

Put the swordfish on a plate and drizzle with the Salmoriglio sauce. Put the extra salmoriglio in a sauce bowl so you guests can add more if they want.

The firm and moist swordfish steak is smoky from the grill. The fresh oregano and parsley are front and center in the clean and light lemon and olive oil sauce with garlic and hot red pepper in the background. A wonderful combination that lets the fresh briny swordfish shine.

I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Buon appetito!

Salmoriglio Sauce
 
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Quick grilled swordfish steaks with a light olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh parsley & oregano sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried chili flakes or a small hot red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Sicilian Open Air Fish Market

Eggplant “Meatballs”

Eggplant Meatballs
Eggplant Meatballs

An old woman in a soiled white apron stood at the top of the stairs leading to a basement trattoria a cigarette dangling out of her mouth.

We were wandering around the backstreets in Naples behind the big fancy hotels facing the marina and Castel dell’Ova (The Egg Castle).

We were hungry. It was just after noon. Too early for lunch? I went up to the woman to ask is the restaurant was serving yet.

“We’re open. I’m taking a break from frying eggplant meatballs” she said in Italian.

I never had eggplant meatballs (polpette di melanzane) so we had to go in. Were they just eggplant or did they have meat too?

That Neapolitan memory floated into my culinary consciousness this morning so I had to fry up some eggplant meatballs.

There’s no meat in this easy recipe. The hardest part is forming the small balls in your hand. Make a big batch for your antipasti course or serve them as a side for roasted or grilled meats or fish.

Pop one of these zesty marble-sized balls in your mouth whole. The crunchy exterior gives way to the soft mellow eggplant center flavored with pecorino and garlic.

You can also fry eggplant meatballs without the breadcrumb coating, add a simple tomato sauce and serve them with pasta. This is a versatile recipe. Make it part of your Italian kitchen repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Eggplant Meatballs
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 eggplant, about 1 pound
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat Italian parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fine breadcrumbs for coating
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Cut the eggplant with the skin on into 1-inch cubes.
  3. When the water is boiling put the eggplant in. Press them down once in a while because they like to float on the surface.
  4. Boil them for about 10 minutes until the cubes are tender.
  5. Drain them in a colander and press them down with your hand or wooden spoon to get out more water. You want the eggplant as dry as possible.
  6. While the eggplant is boiling, put the rest of the ingredients (except the olive oil and the breadcrumbs for coating) in a large bowl and mix well.
  7. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle mince it fine.
  8. Add the eggplant to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix everything well.
  9. Roll the eggplant mixture in your hand to form 1-2 inch diameter balls. Lay them out on a plate or baking sheet in a single layer.
  10. Put the breadcrumbs for the coating in a shallow bowl and lightly coat the balls. Put them back on the baking sheet or plate in a single layer.
  11. Heat enough extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan (I use my 9-inch cast iron pan) to a depth of at least ½ inch. You need sufficient oil or the balls won't fry evenly.
  12. Fry the balls until they are golden all over. Turn them gently so they don't break apart. Take them out of the pan and drain them on a plate lined with paper towel.
  13. Serve immediately.
  14. Makes about 2 dozen eggplant meatballs.

 

 

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages
Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages

Here’s one of my favorite dishes that’s easy and quick to make for a weeknight dinner. You’ll be eating in a half hour or so.

Roast the sausage in a hot 425 degree oven until they’re golden brown.

While the sausage is roasting steam/saute the broccoli rabe in a big covered pot with garlic, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil.

The broccoli rabe is infused with garlic and the hot chili flakes add a perky sparkle as you swallow.

I chose two Little City Meats homemade sausages to diversify a bit. One is the mild Sicilian with fennel seeds the other a hot Calabrese with dried chili.

Sometimes I want to extend the heat and I’ll grab a hot Calabrese. Sometimes I want to calm it all down and go for the mild Sicilian instead. Either way with a crusty chunk of Italian bread you’ll be in heaven.

For a vegetarian alternative I often just have a bowl of broccoli rabe with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the cooking broth.

Either way quick, healthy and delicious. Your dinner all on one plate.

Buon appetito!

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ pounds your favorite Italian sausages
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the sausages in a roasting pan large enough so that they have room between them so they'll roast and not steam.
  3. While the sausage is roasting prepare the broccoli rabe.
  4. Remove any wilted or discolored leaves and the tough large leaf from each broccoli rabe stem.
  5. Cut off the tough bottom end of each stem. (You can peel the lower end of the stem but I usually cut it at the juncture of the floret stem and the lowest leaf.)
  6. Wash the broccoli rabe and drain them.
  7. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  8. Add the broccoli rabe and sea salt to taste.
  9. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  10. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes.
  11. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is evaporated and the broccoli rabe is tender, about 5 minutes.
  12. (If you want a milder broccoli rabe blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and drain them before adding to the hot olive oil. Finish cooking as above.)
  13. Return the sausages to the pot to warm them through.
  14. Serve the sausages on a platter, with the broccoli rabe on the side.