North Beach’s Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar Opens

Salvatore, the pizzaiola at North Beach's new Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar
Salvatore, the pizzaiola at North Beach’s new Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar

A couple of months ago I told you about Il Casaro (the cheese maker), the soon-to-open North Beach pizzeria and mozzarella bar. Well it finally happened a couple of days ago and I stopped in to wish my friend Francesco “Buona Fortuna”.

He sat me at the end of the immense white marble bar. I almost cried when I opened the menu filled with Neapolitan street food (cibo da strada), fried rice balls, bacala cakes, potato crocchette. Then I saw the homemade and imported mozzarella, fior di latte, burrata and the pizza. It’s a tantalizing menu.

“Where should I start my first time here?” I asked Francesco. “Pizza” he said without missing a beat. As I glanced toward the tomato-red beehive wood-burning oven I saw that I knew the pizzaiola standing in front of it. That sealed the deal. “Pizza Norma” I told Francesco without missing a beat either.

It was Salvatore, who I knew. I waved and in his honor ordered pizza alla Norma topped with grilled eggplant. Salvatore is a very talented pizza maker. He checked my pie lifting it high in the oven a few times just before he pulled the pie out to make sure it was perfect, slid it on a plate and delivered his masterpiece to me himself.

Il Casaro's Pizza Norma with grilled eggplant
Il Casaro’s Pizza Norma with grilled eggplant

Francesco wasn’t wrong. The tender pizza came out of the oven with dark puffy blisters all around the edge. The sweet eggplant played against lightly salted homemade fior di latte mozzarella.

I ate the whole thing starting with a knife and fork that I soon abandoned. Fold the slice in half and pick it up with your hands. It’s much easier and fun that way.

Those Calabrian peppers are small but deadly. Just the right addition to the last 2 slices of Pizza Norma.
Those Calabrian peppers are small but deadly. Just the right addition to the last 2 slices of Pizza Norma.

That single pizza was a wonderful trip around southern Italy. I started with a Neapolitan pizza that swung by Sicily to pick up the classic alla Norma eggplant topping and finished in Calabria after Francesco doused my last 2 slices with that tiny red-hot Calabrian pepper and its oil.

Before I left Francesco gave me a plate with ribbons of shaved raspadura, a delicate, nutty, young grating cheese. Once the paper cups arrive you can get curly shavings to eat while you roam North Beach. If you sit where I did you can watch them shaving the big cheese wheel with a special thin metal band.

I’ll return to Il Casaro soon. I gotta continue eating my way through the menu. Wanna join me? 5 stars so far in the early Yelp reviews.

If you’re inspired to make pizza at home my Pizza Margherita episode will show you how.

Did you see my new pasta primavera episode we released yesterday? You gotta make this easy, simple spring vegetable pasta dish part of your kitchen repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Celebrate St. Joseph’s Day

The dessert of Italian Father's Day.
The dessert of Italian Father’s Day.

Move over St. Patrick. The Feast of St. Joseph, Father’s Day in Italy is this Wednesday.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe is one of my favorite Neapolitan pastries.

But I only make these pastry cream filled puffs topped with an Amarena cherry once a year, on March 19.

Watch me make zeppole 2-ways so you can make zeppole this year too..

Here’s a quick, light menu for Wednesday so you have room for zeppole at the end of the meal. Serve a traditional St. Joseph’s Day spaghetti followed by my early Spring asparagus frittata.

Pair the fritatta with a simple mixed green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Some crusty bread and you’re all set.

Then get ready for a stupendous finish, your homemade zeppole.

Buona festa! Buon appetito!

Cardi Fritti: Fried Cardoons

Crunchy fried cardoons that taste like its artichoke cousin.
Crunchy fried cardoons that taste like its artichoke cousin

In the spring when I was a kid in Jersey I went foraging for cardoons with my Uncle Frank in the “wild” West Orange hills. He married Aunt Florence, my Mom’s sister, and they lived downstairs from us.

Uncle Frank was born in Calabria and didn’t speak much English but he knew how to forage and I loved trapezing through the woods with him.

Back home with our cardoons, Aunt Flo fried them until golden. I’d always steal one hot out of the oil and I’d always burn the roof of my mouth as I scarfed it down.

I don’t see cardoons in the market often but when I do I grab some. I found these at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The guy I bought mine from said nobody buys his cardoons but chefs. “Nobody knows what to do with them,” he said.

Don’t be afraid of cardoons. Now you can be in on a culinary secret ingredient that I grew up with. Cardoons can be scary looking but they’re really easy to cook up once you know how. Here’s how my Aunt Florence did it.

Blanch the cleaned cardoons and bread them after a dip in egg wash. Fry them until golden all over. Give the cardi fritti a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt and you’ll be in for a rare treat.

Cardoons are cousins of the artichoke and that’s the flavor you bite into after you get through the crunchy exterior of my cardi fritti.

Serve cardi fritti as part of your antipasti or as a side with meat or chicken.

Oh, and those SF chefs  who buy up all the cardoons at the farmers market, here’s Aziza’s Mourad Lahlou’s cardoon salad recipe. So what if it’s not Italian. It’s delicious.

Buon appetito!

Cardi Fritti: Fried Cardoons
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Cardoons taste like their artichoke cousin. They're easy to prepare once you know how.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cardoons
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • canola oil
Instructions
  1. Put on a pot of water to boil.
  2. Cut off the leaves on the cardoon so you're left with only a clean stalk.
  3. Trim both ends of the cardoon.
  4. Pull off the tough strings or remove them with a veggie peeler.
  5. Cut each stalk into 4-inch lengths.
  6. Put the cardoons in the boiling water and cook until tender.
  7. Drain the cardoons and set aside to cool.
  8. Put the eggs, parsley, grated cheese and sea salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl and beat well.
  9. When the cardoons are cool tear the larger cardoons strips in half.
  10. Dredge the strips in the flour and coat well, put the strips in the eggwash and then in the breadcrumbs. (Some of the strips will stick together to form "patties" and some will be single stalks.)
  11. Put a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan over high-heat and add an inch of the oils (half olive/half canola) .
  12. When the oil ripples lower the heat to medium and fry the breaded cardoons until golden on both sides.
  13. Drain on paper towel.
  14. Serve immediately with a light squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt.

 

 

 

Family Survives 2 Weeks on Gianni’s Food!

Chicken & Potatoes: Lazio vs. Campania
Cook Off: My chicken cutlets and potato croquetta

A fan wrote to tell me she just returned from a 2-week Florida vacation with her father and husband. Usually to satisfy one of her Dad’s woolies (craving) they cooked up a whole bunch of my dishes.

I’m dizzy from the list. Chicken & escarole soup, chicken cutlets & potato croquette (at 7:43 in the Cook Off episode), sauteed kalegnocchi twice once with San Marzano sauce and once with the gorgonzola dolce sauce, eggplant parmigiana, and spinach & ricotta cannelloni morphed into a lasagna. The “boys” looked pretty happy in the pic of them about to devour the lasagna. They gave it “Two thumbs up!”

She made baci hazelnut & chocolate candies for friends & neighbors before they headed north. The Valentine’s Day gifts “were a big big hit,” she told me.

Now that they’re back home in the snow “as high as an elephant’s eye” her father wants pasta e fagioli. She shared her Mom’s version of the hearty pasta and beans soup we called “pasta fazool” in Jersey). Just the ticket on a cold night.

“Mom…used to make a version with olive olive oil, garlic, onions, parsley, white wine, potatoes, cannellini beans, some sauteed greens and grated pecorino romano.”

“Thank you for all the fun and good eats!” she wrote.

Piacere. My pleasure. I’m happy when folks make my recipes their own so thanks to my “snow bird” friends for sharing their story with me.

The family missed my food in the long car trip back home. They said I should shoot an episode on food you can take with you for a picnic or car trip. I know some of the lunches my Mom packed for Sunday summer escapes to the beach at Coney Island will be included.

Let me know if you want me to include one of your favorite Italian dishes in an upcoming video episode. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss a one released every Saturday.

Buon appetito!

Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses

Homemade Baci
Homemade Baci
Nothing says “I love you” like homemade Baci.

 

We shot 3 new video episodes yesterday. Don’t miss any of my new YouTube cooking shows released every Saturday. Subscribe today.

Even though I was busy shooting I had time to make these too.

Perugina Baci, the chocolate covered hazelnut kisses with little love notes tucked inside are a must for Valentine’s Day.

Why not have fresh? Make your own with this simple recipe. Even you guys can make this one for someone special. And if you don’t want to write your own note go to Perugina for love note ideas.

I was inspired by this video clip to show you how to make baci.

My friend and superb teacher Viola Buitoni sold out her Valentine’s Day event at the SF Italian Cultural Institute. Her family started Perugina Chocolate in Perugia and have been making baci they invented since 1922. Call the Institute. Sometimes you can score a ticket if someone cancels. If you get lucky you’ll learn how Viola makes baci and hear her family stories.

If you need Valentine inspiration here are some other suggetions for that special day. Stay home and cook. The restaurants will all be insane.

Make my romantic spaghetti in a pocket or how about super easy baked ziti. If you insist on going out here are some romantic North Beach restaurant suggestions.

And if you want to get a little weepy read how a parental spat created an accidental heart when I was growing up in Jersey.

Don’t forget to add love notes to your baci gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Buon appetito!

Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses
 
Homemade chocolate & hazelnut baci. These kisses are easy to make. If you like intense chocolate flavor with roasted hazelnuts this one's for you.
Author:
Recipe type: Candy
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts, roasted
  • 6½ ounces Nutella or chocolate-hazlenut butter if you want organic
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Roast the hazelnuts in a 425 oven for 10 minutes. Remove the skin from the nut.
  2. Set 20 whole hazelnuts aside.
  3. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor to break the nuts into small pieces or chop them by hand.
  4. Put the chopped hazelnuts, the Nutella and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  5. Mix them well with a spatula to form a smooth dough.
  6. Form 20 balls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently push a whole hazelnut on top of every ball. (If the dough gets too hard to shape chill it in the freezer.)
  7. Place the sheet in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Dip the chilled “baci” into the melted chocolate. (I hold it on a fork in the chocolate and spoon chocolate on top to cover it all over.)
  10. Put the baci back on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. Allow them to dry a few minutes. (If the baci aren't firming up well put them in the freezer for a few minutes.)

Il Casaro: North Beach’s New Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar

Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon
Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon

Ever had panmozza?

You won’t have to go to Napoli to eat some when Il Casaro Pizzeria and Mozzarella Bar opens in a week or two after a final inspection.

Francesco Cavucci who owns the wonderful Calabrian restaurant on Green Street and his partner Peter Fazio have put together a casual place with an impressive white Italian marble bar in the former Steps of Rome space on Columbus right across from Molinari’s.

“We’re celebrating the food of Naples,” Francesco told me this morning.

I was ecstatic.

Since both Pulcinella and Caffe Macaroni Sciue Sciue closed a few years ago North Beach hasn’t had a real Neapolitan spot.

“We making true Neapolitan pizza and our own mozzarella & buratta that you can eat while it’s still warm,” he said with a big smile on his face.

Francesco beamed more brightly when he told me “And we’re making panmozza found everywhere on the streets of Napoli.”

Panmozza are folded sandwiches made with a pizza dough that has shreds of mozzarella kneaded into the dough. Add your favorite sandwich goodies, fold over the dough and bake in a hot oven.

Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro's beehive oven
Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro’s beehive oven

Il Casaro’s pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is certified by the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza in Naples.

In fact, the whole operation is certified.

You gotta use San Marzano tomatoes, certain mozzarella and zero-zero flour. The dough mixer for proper dough aeration and the wood-burning beehive oven have to be certified by the Association too.

I applaud the efforts to keep the traditional ways pure.

“This will be a casual neighborhood place where you can drop in every day,” Francesco said.

I can’t wait for Il Casaro to open.

I’ll be sitting at the bar right in front of the red beehive oven eating my panmozza.

You should drop in too. I’ll let you know when the doors finally swing open. And maybe I’ll post a panmozza recipe too.

Mama’s on the Move in North Beach

Is the Piazza Market space a new Mama's?
Is the Piazza Market space a new Mama’s?

You know Mama’s at Stockton/Filbert across from Washington Square. It’s the one with ridiculously long lines winding up Stockton everyone waiting to get a fantastic breakfast or lunch.

The family behind Mama’s plans to open a second location in the long abandoned Piazza Market space on Vallejo around the corner from Molinari’s.

The Mama’s and Lil Mama’s space plans have been in the window for months now but I didn’t see any work going on inside so I thought the deal was stalled or dead.

But Paolo Lucchesi’s Chronicle item says the deal is happening. The Sanchez family signed a lease. Here are the Inside Scoop details.

Mama's restaurant plans
Mama’s restaurant plans

The space has a retail permit so the Lil Mama’s Market plans could be ready to go.

No so fast for the restaurant operation. The application for a restaurant permit has been filed. They’re tough to snag in North Beach.

With no neighborhood opposition I hope the permit issues quickly. No more long lines for breakfast.

Lil Mama's specialty grocery store plans
Lil Mama’s specialty grocery store plans

But I’m most excited about Lil Mama’s Market, the retail specialty grocery store part of the operation.

For months I was wondering what those merchandize cubbies in the drawing would hold.

Mama’s baked goodies and jams and an array of curated (ala Bi-Rite Market) local produce and food products too.

I can’t wait for this new North Beach treasure to open.

Pasta with Prawns & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Recipe

Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce
Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce

I love the intense sweet roasted red bell pepper flavor of this quick sauce.

It’s a perky fresh topping for chicken, meat or fish and fantastic as a sauce for pasta.

I’m using it to dress strozzapreti (choke the priest) pasta and prawns.

Roasted pepper sauce is easy to make in the food processor. The prawns fry up quickly.

Once you have the roasted peppers you can have this dish on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta water. OK, maybe a few minutes more.

The sauce is sweet, the prawns crunchy, briny and tender. The toasted pinoli adds a nutty note and the paprika a smoky sparkling hot finish to every bite.

The intense flavors meld really well and are brightened by the fresh basil. A little sweet, a little hot and complex.  I couldn’t stop eating this really simple pasta and shrimp dish. Don’t think we’ll have any leftover today.

Be sure to subscribe to Gianni’s YouTube channel so you don’t miss the new video episodes from Hungry Village. The first of the new Gianni’s North Beach series is coming real soon.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

Roasted Pepper Sauce for Shrimp & Pasta Recipe
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) strozzapreti or you favorite short dried pasta
  • 12 large prawns, shelled and deveined
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • 2 large red bell peppers (or use jarred drained & rinsed well)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ onion, cut in half and then in thirds
  • ¼ cup toasted pinoli
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Prawns
  • Flour for dusting
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Roast the peppers on an open flame atop your stove or in the oven at 425 until the skin is charred all over.
  3. If roasting atop the stove put the charred peppers on a plate and cover with a bowl for about 5 minutes.
  4. When the peppers are cool enough to handle remove the charred skin, stem, and seeds.
  5. Scrape off the remaining charred skin and seeds and trim any large membranes.
  6. Cut the roasted peppers in pieces.
  7. Put them in the food processor bowl.
  8. Saute the onion in a large pan over medium heat until translucent.
  9. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  10. Put the onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts, roasted peppers, paprika, olive oil, and sea salt and black pepper to taste in the processor bowl.
  11. Process to a paste consistency.
  12. Add enough water or broth to bring the paste to sauce consistency.
  13. Put the saute pan back over medium-high heat. Add more oil if necessary to fry the prawns.
  14. Dust the prawns with flour, sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
  15. When the oil is hot, saute the prawns until the first side is golden, about 2 minutes or so.
  16. Turn the prawns over and carmelize the second side, about a minute more. The prawns should be firm to the touch.
  17. Put the prawns on paper towel to drain.
  18. Pour out any excess oil in the sauté pan if needed and over medium heat warm the saute panl.
  19. Add the roasted pepper sauce and sauteed prawns back to the saute pan and warm the sauce and prawns over medium-low heat as the pasta finishes cooking. (Sink the prawns into the sauce while they warm.)
  20. Add the torn fresh basil to the sauce.
  21. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix to coat all the pasta and prawns with the roasted pepper sauce.
  22. Arrange the prawns atop of the strozzapreti.
  23. Drizzle a little good finishing extra virgin olive oil.
  24. Serve immediately.

 

Pizza Maker’s Meatloaf Recipe

A zesty meatloaf with your favorite pizza toppings
A zesty meatloaf with your favorite pizza toppings

A pizzaiola (pizza-maker) always has tomato, mozzarella, pecorino, basil and oregano on hand so why not make a meatloaf?

Got 30 minutes? Then you have time to make this tasty meatloaf.

Everything goes into casserole dish and bakes in the oven for 20 minutes.

A variation of my meatloaf recipe forms the pizza “crust”. Top it with chopped San Marzano tomatoes right out of the can, the herbs and cheeses and bake it in a hot oven.

Serve the pizza meatloaf with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread and you have a meal in about a half-hour.

The crusty tender meatloaf is the perfect base for this pizza with a tangy gooey tomato & mozzarella topping.

I like to make sure I have meatloaf leftover. Just heat up a slice or make a sandwich for a quick meal. The meatloaf is even better the next day.

Buon appetito!

Pizza-Maker's Meatloaf Recipe
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of chopped beef
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 2 slices stale bread, soaked in water or milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated pecorino
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, ripped in pieces
  • sea salt and freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 cup canned San Marzano tomato
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Squeeze out the water from the soaking stale bread.
  3. Put the beef, eggs, bread, 3-tablespoons of the grated pecorino, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the ingredients well with your hands or a spatula.
  5. Put the meatloaf mixture in a well-buttered 10-inch round casserole or pie dish.
  6. Pat the meatloaf down to form a "crust" on the bottom and about 2-inches up the side of the dish.
  7. Cover the top of the meatloaf with the chopped tomatoes.
  8. Scatter the ripped basil and sprinkle the oregano over the tomatoes.
  9. Scatter the mozzarella evenly over the tomatoes.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining grated pecorino on top of the mozzarella.
  11. Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and the cheese on top is melted.
  12. Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes before serving,

 

New Year’s Eve Italian Rules & Recipes Galore

Lentil Soup with Cotechino
Lentil Soup with Cotechino

Are you ready for your New Year’s Eve celebration?

Be sure to include these Italian tips and recipes in your plans. You won’t be sorry in 2014 that you did.

There’s an Italian saying that what you do on New Year’s Eve you’ll do all year so be careful.

  1. Wear something red as a wish for good luck in the new year.
  2. Hang mistletoe near your door to ward off evil spirits.
  3. Open a window in a dark room just before midnight to let out evil spirits.
  4. Then open a window in a lighted room to let in good spirits to help you through the new year.
  5. While the window is open throw out something old as a sign that you are willing to put the past behind you and accept what is to come in the new year.
  6. Eat lentils. The small “coins” represent all the money you will earn in the new year. The more you eat the richer you will be in the new year.
  7. Eat grapes. If you have fresh grapes this late in the season it’s a clue that you will prosper in the new year.
  8. Drink something sparkling, spumante or prosecco. A special bubbly toast to a loved one guarantees love all through the new year.
  9. Enjoy fireworks and sparklers to ward off evil spirits.
  10. “Anno nuovo – vita nuova!” “New year – new life!” Italians repeat this often tonight and tomorrow. You should too.

Here are some of my favorite dishes for you to consider.

  1. Lentils with sausage is a lucky dish. The lentils represent all the money you’ll accumulate in 2014 and the fat pork sausage the opulence you will enjoy.
  2. The crab season this year is fantastic. Try a couple of my favorite dungeness crab recipes. Crab salad is quick and light. How about linguine with a spicy crab sauce?
  3. If you didn’t make my cioppino yet this holiday season it’s not too late. Make it the star of your celebration.
  4. Want a full dinner menu for your New Year’s table?  This 4-course meal features a veal roast with spinach stuffing.

Buon appetito! Buon Capodanno! Happy New Year!

New Year’s Hearty Bean, Ham & Cabbage Soup Recipe

Leftover baked ham was the inspiration for this cabbage & cannellini bean soup
Leftover baked ham was the inspiration for this cabbage & cannellini bean soup

I’m just back from Christmas in the redwood forests overlooking the Pacific on the northern Sonoma coast a few hours north of San Francisco.

Our Christmas dinner on top of the ridge included roast turkey and baked ham.

When I got ready to head back to San Francisco my hosts insisted I take leftovers with me, including a big hunk of ham. I got inspired to make this hearty soup today.

Whether you have a big piece of ham sitting in your fridge or not you can make this sumptuous “lucky” soup for your New Year’s table too. The beans represent the abundant good fortune that is in store for you in the new year.

Salty ham, creamy beans and silky sweet cabbage all in one bite, simple comfort food from heaven.

Add a glass of prosecco and a hunk of crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a wholesome light meal ready in less than an hour.

If you we’re overserved New Year’s Eve, this is the best remedy to settle your queasy stomach. The soup is even better the next day.

Buon appetito and Happy New Year!

New Year's Hearty Bean, Ham & Cabbage Soup Recipe
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans or 1 cup dried beans soaked over night
  • ¼ pound baked ham, shredded or cubed (or get a thick slice of your favorite cooked ham)
  • ½ head of cabbage, cut in half again and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves, cut like the carrot
  • ½ onion, sliced in half again and cut in thick slices
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 small branch fresh rosemary or 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put the olive oil in a pot and over medium-high heat bring to a ripple.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt and sauté until the onions are translucent. (You don't want to pick up any color on the vegetables.)
  3. Add the beans and cabbage and mix everything together well.
  4. Add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
  5. When the cabbage leaves have wilted a bit add the water and bring a to a rapid boil.
  6. Simmer with the cover ajar until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the rosemary branch or bay leaf and serve hot with a sprinkle of finishing olive oil, chopped parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano.

 

Christmas Eve Focaccia in North Beach

Waiting for Liguria Bakery's fantastic focaccia
Waiting for Liguria Bakery’s fantastic focaccia

Everyone’s out this morning to get the last few items they need for their holiday table.

The lines are out the door at North Beach’s Molinari Deli and Victoria Pastry.

Look at all those hopeful people in line at 100-year old Liguria Bakery trying to score some focaccia for Christmas Eve dinner.

Liguria will run out of focaccia soon and those still in line will have to go without. If they lock the door before you get inside why not make some focaccia for yourself.

Here are 2 recipes, one for tomato and onion focaccia and one for a walnut and grape focaccia.

I’m making some pizza for tonight’s dinner. Why don’t you too? Make a margherita pizza or make a gorgonzola, prosciutto and pear pizza. They will both add sizzle to your holiday table.

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale. Happy Holidays.

 

Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci?–A Sweet Crackly Holiday Recipe

Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci? Bugia? Delicate fried sweet ribbons
Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci? Bugia? Delicate fried sweet ribbons

I love these delicate fried dough ribbons that show up on the table at the end of the meal this time of year.

I have 2 problems with them though. I don’t know what to call them and once I start eating them I can’t stop.

We called them bow ties or cenci (rags) in Jersey, wandi (gloves) in Rhode Island and bugia (liar’s knot) here in San Francisco. My favorite name is chiacchiere (to chatter) for the noise they make frying in the hot oil.

Call them what you want just make them for your table. I’m making extra so I can bring a plate of bow ties along when I visit friends this holiday season.

The simple dough is made in a food processor, kneaded briefly by hand and then rolled out with a rolling pin or put through a pasta machine to achieve a thin dough. I cut the ribbons with my ravioli cutter. Tie the ribbons in a bow and fry them quickly in hot oil until they are golden. Dust the bow ties with lots of powdered sugar all over.

The nutty bow ties shatter with each bite, light as air and just sweet enough for the end of a big meal with an espresso.

Be careful eating these crispy puffs so you don’t get powdered sugar all over your holiday outfit.

Some put honey I bow ties. I don’t. I reserve the honey for Struffoli, Holiday Honey Balls. These sweet nuggets are another staple at a Neapolitan Christmas table.

Buon appetito! Buon Natale! Happy Holidays to all.

Crispy Bow Ties, Wandi, Cenci Holiday Cookie Recipe
 
Prep time
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Fry up a batch of these light, crispy holiday cookies for your table or to bring as a gift when visiting friends and family this year,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • lots of powdered sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to aerate the dry ingredients.
  2. With the machine running add the eggs
  3. The dough is ready when it balls around the blade.
  4. Turn out the dough to a lightly floured board and knead until a soft dough forms and it doesn't stick to the work surface .
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  6. Unwrap the dough and cut the ball into thirds.
  7. Work with one-third at a time and keep the others wrapped in plastic.
  8. With a rolling pin roll out the dough to about a 1/16th inch thickness or use a pasta machine to get the right thickness. I roll it through to the thinnest setting for crispy ribbons.
  9. Using a fluted pasta wheel cut the dough into 1-inch strips and cut the strips into 7-inch lengths.
  10. Pull the strips gently until they're about 9-inches long and tie the strip into a loose bow and set aside on parchment paper or a floured kitchen towel. (You want thin strips so the bows turn out light and crackly when you bite into one. If you don't want to make bows just put a small slit in the ribbon.)
  11. Put a couple of inches of oil in a deep pot and heat the oil to 375 degrees.
  12. Drop in a few bow ties at a time, turning them so that they are golden all over.
  13. Put the bows on paper towel to drain.
  14. When ready to serve sprinkle the bow ties with lots of powdered sugar. (Don't be skimpy with the powdered sugar dusting. There's not much sugar in the dough so the dusting adds most of the sweetness to the bows.)
  15. This recipe will yield about 5 dozen bow ties. (Keep them in an airtight container and they will last for days. Don't dust with powdered sugar until you're ready to serve some.)

 

North Beach is San Francisco’s Heart

Worth the wait!
Santo’s Cannolo at Cavali Cafe–A North Beach Treasure

So says Carl Nolte in today’s Chronicle.

“People will tell you that South of Market is the new center of San Francisco. But North Beach has all the contradictions that made San Francisco what it is. And for my money the heart of the town is North Beach.”

Molinari’s Deli, early morning tai chi in Washington Square, lunch at Original Joe’s where a mistress may be at the next table, Liguria Bakery’s fantastic focaccia, Carl surveys it all in his ode to North Beach.

You know how much I love North Beach. Come along with me as I scour what’s left of North Beach’s Italian-American neighborhood to get all the fixings for a 4-course meal with friends last weekend. Homemade ricotta and mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano tomato-basil sauce were the star of that 4-hour meal. Santo’s incredible cannoli weren’t too bad either.

Wayne Thiebaud's Laguna Rising
Wayne Thiebaud’s Laguna Rising

Only one week left to see the incredible Memory Mountains, the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit at the Paul Thiebaud Gallery on Chestnut Street at the fringe of North Beach.

You may know Wayne Thiebaud from his luscious cake paintings or the gum ball machine. I love his landscapes as well.

At 94 Wayne remains a prolific artist. The exhibit features his recent work and older food and landscape paintings that give the exhibit context over time.

Don’t miss this extraordinary collection of art. See which new ridge painting resembles a cake good enough to eat and another like a swirl of chocolate gelato ready to be scooped up.

What’s not to love in North Beach?

I know, the messy and disruptive subway to nowhere dig, loss of old Italian businesses. Don’t get me started. I’m in a wonderful mood this morning.

North Beach Shopping Spree Ends with Shadow Ravioli

Homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano basil sauce
David Fagan’s shadow pic of homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli

“Make homemade ricotta ravioli for Saturday’s dinner,” my Seattle friend told me before she boarded her plane. And so started a day of shopping and eating in North Beach with friends.

Those are my shadows on the dining room wall. I’m holding a tray of ricotta & mozzarella ravioli while tallying how many ravioli each of the 7 friends at my table would eat.

These are big ravioli. Most chose 2 or 3.

Early Saturday morning we headed down the hill to North Beach to buy what we needed for dinner. Santo let us use Cavalli Cafe on Stockton Street as our staging area.

As we sipped our coffees Santo packed up cannoli ingredients for us to assemble after dinner. We didn’t want the shells to get soggy if they were filled too soon before we devoured them.

We left the fruits and vegetables from Union Produce with Santo and headed to Molinari deli for the antipasti fixings. We dropped the bags back at Cavalli and crossed the street to Little City Meat Market for 3 types of sausage to roast and serve with the ravioli.

Italian wines from Coit Liquors and Acme bread from Little Vine and we were ready to head back to my place. My friends insisted that we had too many bags to carry up the hill. We hailed a cab. How civilized, a ride right to my front door.

Back in my kitchen, we got the San Marzano basil sauce going and left it to simmer. Then 3 of us made the pasta dough and ran it through my hand-cranked pasta machine until we had long, wide pasta sheets.

As the sheets dried we whipped up the simple creamy ricotta and mozzarella filling. My friends jumped in and made one sheet of ravioli under my careful supervision. We ended up with 27 large ravioli.

Watch my fresh ravioli with San Marzano sauce video episode and make some yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Antipasti Platter
Antipasti Platter

Here’s the antipasti platter that started off our meal. It’s a good example of what you can put together for your next holiday party.

Starting with the top middle dish:

Marinated mixed olives and black oil-cured olives; sharp provolone & a young pecorino with pistachios; marinated giant Corona beans; homemade pickled eggplant; gorgonzola dolce; taralli; steamed green beans with lemon & olive oil. In the center dish: prosciutto di San Daniele, mortadella and coppa picante.

Use my pickled eggplant recipe to make some to have handy in your fridge.

My green bean salad recipe is quick and easy. Add something fresh and delicious to your antipasti platter too.

Remember those cannoli fixings Santo packed up for us?

Three and a half hours after the meal started and 6 bottles of wine later, I just passed the shells, filling, chocolate chips and orange peel syrup around the table for each my guests to make their own cannolo. They didn’t mind doing it themselves. Santo’s cannoli are fantastic and the crispy shells shattered with each creamy bite.

Champagne grapes and roasted chestnuts ended our meal. A wonderful evening with friends at my table.

Treasure your times together around the table this holiday season.

Buon appetito!