I’m in Ortigia, a small island off the coast of Siracusa, Sicily. A swordfish dish I ate the first night here in local restaurant included the ingredients in this dish.
Today we decided to eat in the apartment we rented. So I bought everything I needed in a local market to cook at home for lunch. I hope you enjoy it. We did.
If you’re hungry and don’t have much time to cook, this flavorful chicken dish will be in your mouth in about 15 minutes.
I’m a breast guy but you can use thighs if you want.
The chicken is bathed in a rich sauce enhanced by the anchovy umami, garlic, capers and freshened with a squeeze of lemon. Add a little chile flakes to give a little sparkle as you finish each bite.
After you plate the chicken and pour all the sauce on top, sprinkle the chopped parsley all over for some color appeal.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or your favorite part
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
pinch of chile flakes (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and 3 smashed garlic cloves.
When the garlic starts to take on color add the chicken and saute until a golden crust starts to form, about 5 minutes.
Turn the chicken over and saute for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the chicken to a plate and set it aside. Remove the garlic cloves.
Add the anchovies, capers and minced garlic to the hot pan and saute until the garlic just becomes translucent. Be sure to break up the anchovies so that they dissolve completely.
Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and scrape the fond, the brown bits on the bottom of pan, and stir until they are melted into the sauce. (If you need more sauce, add some dry white wine, chicken stock or water.)
Put the chicken back in the hot pan, spoon sauce all over and heat the chicken for about a minute more.
Plate the chicken, pour the sauce on top and sprinkle chopped parsley all over.
I love paccheri, big fat pasta tubes that trap sauce inside and close and open as you spear one with your fork, sometimes making a smacking noise. They’re fun to eat.
Hungry, low energy? You’ll be eating this dish in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
A few quality ingredients create a sumptuous dish, pasta coated with creamy ricotta, piquant grated cheeses, a sweet tomato sauce with torn fresh basil strewn on top. I can’t stop eating it.
28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, squashed by hand
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
1 large sprig of fresh basil for the sauce and more as a garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water and more for the sauce
1 cup whole milk ricotta
Additional ricotta as a garnish
1/4 cup grated pecorino
1/4 cup grated parmigiano
Put the San Marzano tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them into small pieces with you hands. (For a smother sauce pass the tomatoes through a food mill.)
Put a big covered pot of water on the stove for the paccheri and add the sea salt.
Put another pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Saute until the garlic starts to take on color.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and add sea salt to taste.
Add the fresh basil sprig and dried oregano. Stir well.
Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce gently simmer. Stir once in a while. You want the sauce to thicken, reduced in volume by about a third.
Put the ricotta and grated cheeses in a large bowl and mix them well.
When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked reserve a cup of the cooking water, drain and add the pasta to the bowl with the cheese. Mix to coat the pasta well with the cheese mixture.
Add about 2 cups of marinara sauce to the pasta and mix well. Add more sauce or pasta water if the sauced paccheri is too dry. You want a loose creamy sauce to coat the pasta well.
Plate the paccheri, add some sauce on top, scatter with thinly sliced or ripped basil and put a dollop of ricotta on the side. Serve immediately.
Pass more grated cheese at the table.
This is a versatile recipe that I use for baked ziti too. Just add fresh mozzarella cut in small cubes and ripped basil to the pasta mixture and mix well. Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, pour in the pasta in an even layer and top with more sauce and grated cheese. Bake in a 375 degree pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until the pasta is heated through, the mozzarella melts and the top layer of ziti starts to crisp at the edges.
Maurizio Bruschi, the chef/owner of Ideale, the classic North Beach Roman restaurant on Grant for over 20 years, and his partner Giuseppe Terminiello, recently opened Piccolo Forno on Columbus.
Piccolo Forno brings another Roman culinary tradition to North Beach, pizza al taglia, pizza by the cut. You find these shops all over Rome. One of my favorites is La Ranella in Trastevere and Piccolo Forno is in that same elite class.
But I’m headed to Ideale to cook with Maurizio. We were in a springtime frame of mind and in Roma that means young spring lamb and the first crop of artichokes.
Carciofi alla Romana is a simple preparation. Maurizio cleaned a large artichoke in a flash. The artichokes went upside down in a pot with a bath of water, white wine, extra virgin olive oil and a few aromatics.
Potatoes were tossed with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and garlic and roasted in the oven.
But the star of this meal was the scottadito (“burn the finger”). The chops, simply seasoned with salt and black pepper, are so good you burn your fingers because you can’t wait to pick them up and eat those lollipops as they come hot off the grill.
Maurizio laid the crispy, creamy roasted potatoes down on a big platter ringed by tender, flavorful artichokes with a hint of mint and the lamb chops just off the grill atop the potatoes. Scatter some lemon on the plate. Squeeze a drop or two on the lamb chop, if you wish. Ah, Roman spring right here on Grant Avenue.
We always eat very well when in Rome. I have to say this North Beach meal is right up there with the best classics I’ve had in Rome.
Grazie Maurizio. Bravo!
Note: We shot this episode in April. Apologies for the late release. However, this meal is worth making any time of year as long as the ingredients are available in your local market. Buon appetito!
Baby spring lamb is in the market now. Get yourself a rack of baby loin lamb chops. Have your butcher divide them for you.
There’s no recipe here because there’s no need to mess with these tender chops. Maurizio pounded them a bit for uniform thickness.
Sprinkle the chops with salt and a grind of black pepper to taste and slap them down on a hot grill or hot grill pan atop your stove.
The scottadito only take a couple of minutes on each side. The Romans like their lamb well-done but choose the doneness you like best. You’ll be burning your fingers too. It doesn’t hurt too much.
Don’t forget to give the chops a squeeze of lemon before eating these lollipops.
Carciofi alla Romana
4 medium artichokes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
2 sprigs Italian flat parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
2-3 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put enough water to cover the cleaned artichokes in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaned artichokes.
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the lemon into the water. Put the lemon rind in the water too. (The acidulated water will keep the artichokes from discoloring before you cook them.)
Cut off the tough top of the artichokes at the point where the dark green leaves turn to light green/yellow.
Trim the remaining leaves to remove the dark green outer leave.
Peel the stem.
Open the artichoke and with a spoon, remove the choke, if any.
Put the cleaned artichoke into the acidulated water.
Put a large pot over high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil.
When the oil begins to ripple, place the artichokes stem up in the oil and push them down with your hand to open them and to brown them a bit.
Add the water, wine, garlic, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, parsley and mint and bring the pot to a boil.
Lower the heat to medium-low and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. (If need be add more water. But in the end you want about half the original volume to create a flavorful pan sauce.)
Cover the pot with a lid or cover the artichokes with crumpled damp butcher paper.
Let the artichokes steam until they are knife tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the artichokes to a serving platter.
Spoon some of the cooking pan sauce over each artichoke.
Oven Roasted Potatoes
4 potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold)
1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch cubes.
Put the potatoes, olive oil, garlic and rosemary in a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste.
Coat the potatoes with the olive oil mixture.
Roast the potatoes in the hot oven until they begin to brown and are knife-tender, about 20 minutes.
Only in America! You Can’t Get These Manicotti in Italy
I’ve been eating at North Beach’s da Flora for over two decades and never had a bad meal there. When my friends and I want to share a leisurely family-style 4-course meal we always head to da Flora on Columbus.
As the seasons change my network buzzes. Everyone wants to know what Spring bounty has made its way into the da Flora kitchen. The hand-written menu constantly evolves as spring progresses.
Jen McMahon, the genius in the da Flora kitchen, scours the local markets to find the best local organic ingredients. Jen is a master at giving her Italian inspired food a Bay Area Slow Food twist.
We’re making manicotti and this dish will certainly be controversial with my fans in Italy. You will not find manicotti (little sleeves) on a menu in Italia. Italians call this dish cannelloni (little pipes) made with either crespelle (crepes) or pasta.
Jen and I both grew up on the east coast immersed in the southern Italian immigrant food traditions they brought with them. But now our Italian ancestors were cooking in America using ingredients available in their local markets.
I loved my Mom’s manicotti. We called them “manigot” in the Neapolitan dialect.
When friends were in town recently we headed to da Flora and there on the menu were these spring manicotti. We had to have them as part of our pasta course and they were superb.
So here is Jen’s San Francisco version of manicotti for you to make in your kitchen. It’s a simple dish featuring the best of the early spring bounty, broccoli di rape for the delicate ricotta filling and early sweet red spring onions, mellow green garlic and fresh oregano for the marinara. The aged provolone grated on top makes this simple dish soar.
This recipe makes 8-10 manicotti. Serve two manicotti per person. While light, they are pleasantly filling.
2/3 cup all-purpose unbeached flour
1 cup whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
A sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.
Put all of the ingredients in a blender or mix by hand in a bowl.
Be sure all of the flour is incorporated. You want a very smooth mixture with no clumps of flour.
Chill the crespelle batter for about 15 minutes.
Put a small sauté pan (we used a 9-inch pan) over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil.
When the oil starts to shimmer lower the heat to medium and pour in about a half-cup of batter to form a thin crespelle that thinly fills the bottom of the pan.
When the crespelle starts to brown at the edges in about a minute flip the crespelle over and cook for a minute more.
Take the crespelle out of the pan and put them on a paper towel lined plate in a single layer.
Set the crespelle aside.
3 stalks green garlic, trimmed
3 stalks red spring onions, trimmed
1 bunch fresh oregano, use the leaves only, stripped from the stalk and chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano DOP tomatoes (use 2 cans if you want to have some sauce left over for future use)
Pinch of sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put a pot over medium-high heat and add the oil
When the oil starts to shimmer reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and onion.
Stir the onions and garlic and saute until translucent (you don’t want to pick up any color).
Add the tomatoes and stir.
Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer.
Add the oregano, sugar, salt and pepper to the marinara and stir well.
Cook until the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces by about a third in volume.
Take the marinara sauce off the heat and set aside to cool.
2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained if necessary
1 bunch broccoli di rabe, blanched and chopped.
Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
1/4 pound grated provolone to sprinkle on top of the manicotti before putting them in the oven.
Drain the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl if there is a lot of whey (white watery liquid).
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Blanch the broccoli di rape stalks in the boiling water for a minute or so.
Drain the broccoli di rape.
Put the broccoli di rape in a food processor and pulse several times to mince.
Add the ricotta and salt and pepper to the processor and pulse to mix the ingredients together.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Layer a casserole dish with a layer of marinara. (You can bake the manicotti in individual dishes or make them all in a larger casserole dish.)
Lay out the crespelle on a work surface and put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the crespelle.
Fold up one side and then the other.
With the folded side down, put the manicotti in the casserole.
Add a dollop of marinara on top of each.
Spinkle the grated provolone on top of each.
Put the manicotti in the hot oven and bake until the provolone melts and lightly browns, about 20 minutes.