Grilled Steak with Herb Sauce (Bistecca con salsa delle erbe)

Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce
Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce

Want a fast weekday evening meal? You can have this flavorful steak on your table in less than 15 minutes.

Ribeye, strip or porterhouse steaks work well. Cook the steaks on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan on top of the stove.

I was in a hurry and only had to feed myself, so I had my butcher cut ribeye steaks about an inch thick. They grill to medium-rare in just 4 minutes.

For a fancier and more classic version of this traditional dish, use a thicker steak. A 24-ounce, 3-inch thick steak will take 8-10 minutes for medium rare and serves 2-4 people. Cut the steak across the grain and serve the slices on a platter topped with salsa.

Make the herb sauce in a food processor in minutes. Start with a base of fresh basil, Italian flat parsley and EVOO. I had rosemary and oregano in the fridge so I added a little of both to my salsa. Marjoram, tarragon or fresh thyme work well too. Salsa delle erbe goes well with other grilled meats, fish and chicken too.

Serve the steak and herb sauce with baby spinach sauteed with olive oil and garlic or a green salad dressed with red wine vinegar, EVOO and sea salt and you’ve got dinner.

Buon appetito!

 
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 rib-eye, strip, or porterhouse steak, sliced about an inch thick per person
Instructions
  1. Put the herbs, garlic and ¾ cup EVOO in the food processor and pulse a few times until the herbs and garlic are finely minced, almost a paste consistency.
  2. Season herb sauce with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
  3. Put steak on a plate, season both sides generously with salt and pepper and rub with the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  4. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat on top of the stove.
  5. Cook the 1-inch steak for about 3 minutes on the first side and cook on the other side for about 1 minute for medium-rare. Adjust the cooking time if your want a more rare or more done steak or your using a thicker steak.
  6. Place the steak with the browned first side you grilled up and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon the herb sauce over the steak. Serve immediately.

 

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding
Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a buttery bread studded with raisins and candied orange, lemon and citron peel.

Italians, especially in the north, love to eat panettone at Christmas and New Year.

Dunk panettone in your morning espresso or cappuccino. Panettone for dessert pairs well with a glass of vin santo or marsala. Leftover panettone is ideal for bread pudding or even french toast.

I didn’t have any panettone this holiday season but I couldn’t pass up buying one last week at a post-holiday 50% discount. After a few days I had my fill so I decided to use it up and made panettone bread pudding.

Bread pudding takes about 10 minutes of actual work to make. The rest of the time is just waiting for the panettone cubes to toast, then to absorb the custard mixture and bake in the oven. It’s an easy recipe with a big payoff.

My bread pudding has a rich and creamy interior with a golden, crunchy top. The buttery flavor sparkles with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. A little dark rum in the custard deepens the flavor. I had to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream to balance everything out.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Panettone Bread Pudding
 
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Panettone bread pudding is easy to make with a creamy, sweet interior and a golden, crunchy top.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Panettone (1 pound loaf) cut into cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 for the egg custard and 1 for whipping
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or ameretto
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven until they lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Put the eggs, 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla, sugar and rum in a bowl large enough to hold the toasted panettone cubes.
  5. Beat the mixture well and add the panettone cubes and mix well. (You may need to push down on the cubes to ensure they all absorb the egg custard mixture.)
  6. Let the panettone cubes sit in the bowl to give them time to absorb all of the custard, about 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour in the panettone cubes and spread them evenly in the pan.
  8. Bake the bread pudding in the oven until the custard is cooked through and the top has browned, about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove the bread pudding and set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the remaining cup of heavy cream to soft, stiff peaks.
  11. Place a square of the bread pudding on a plate and top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving.

 

Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy

Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy
Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy

April Bloomfield just bought North Beach’s iconic Tosca Cafe on Columbus and will soon be serving her food there. She has a cult following at her restaurant The Spotted Pig in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I wondered what was in store for us when she arrives here in North Beach.

She describes her dishes as “British, but with Italian undertones.” I haven’t been to The Pig and I wanted to find out more about April’s British take on Italian food.

I came across one of April’s pasta recipes and decided to give it a go. I’m adding it to my list of dishes where the sauce can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta. You can get these pasta dishes on your table in less than 30 minutes.

April first had the dish in Puglia, the southern most region on Italia’s Adriatic coast where it was served by a skilled home cook she was visiting. Her hostess made it with homemade orecchiette, small ear-shaped pasta. Quality dried orecchiette from Italia works well too.

Don’t be scared off by the anchovy in the sauce. Anchovy melts in hot oil and adds dimension to any dish. It’s an umami, like miso, a preserved ingredient that is known as a “5th taste”. The anchovy in this dish adds flavor and depth to the sauce.

The little pasta hats capture the sauce. The anchovy and garlic sauce is mellowed by the sweet cauliflower with a rosemary accent.

I love this pasta and can’t wait for April Bloomfield to wow us with more of her food at the revived Tosca Cafe. Try my riff on her recipe to get a preview of what’s coming to North Beach.

Buon appetito!

3.0 from 1 reviews
Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy
 
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Orecchiette with cauliflower & anchovy is a really simple, flavorful pasta dish you can have on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 pound or 500 grams imported Italian dried orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus a drizzle to finish the dish
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 anchovy filets, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut the cauliflower florets into bite size pieces.
  3. Cook the florets in the boiling water and cook until knife-tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the florets with a slotted spoon or spider to a plate and set aside.
  5. Over a medium-low flame, put the EVOO in a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta.
  6. Add the onion and garlic, add a sprinkling of salt and cook until the onion is soft and slightly caramelized.
  7. Add the anchovy and rosemary and mix well with the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes. The anchovy will dissolve and disappear.
  8. Add the florets and a sprinkle of salt and mix well with the other vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes. (If the sauce is too dense add some boiling water.)
  9. While the cauliflower is cooking add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  10. Strain or drain the orecchiette and add to the cauliflower sauce. (If you drain the sauce, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
  11. Coat the orecchiette well with the sauce and cook for about a minute or so. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  12. Put the orecchiette on a serving platter, top with a drizzle of a good finishing EVOO and the grated parmigiano.
  13. Serve immediately.

 

New in North Beach

HRD Smokin Grill on Green in North Beach
HRD Smokin Grill on Green in North Beach

Lots of good things happening in the Village food scene.

Dogfather’s on Green is now HRD Smokin Grill, right next to Golden Boy Pizza on Green Street. The folks from the SOMA’s HRD Coffee Shop have staked a claim that they can draw a crowd for their famous spicy pork kimchi burrito and Mongolian cheesesteak. Dinner only for now. Here’s Guy Fieri’s video of his visit to the original HRD Coffee Shop.

Tony Gemigniani got 2 1/2 stars in Michael Bauer’s Capo’s review in Sunday’s Chronicle. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana on Stockton is a blockbuster and Tony has scored with his latest endeavor that celebrates Chicago’s Italian-American food traditions. I agree with Bauer, hats off to Tony for creating some nostalgia in North Beach. We’ve lost too many old-time places. Capo’s with its ’30s look and feel is most welcome.

Tosca Cafe has been facing eviction since the fall. Would the North Beach icon go the way of Caesar’s and other North Beach institutions that were shuttered over the last few months? The answer is a resounding no. New York City celebrated chef April Bloomfield and her partner restauranteur Kevin Friedman who own The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village and other spots, bought the place.

They pledge to keep Tosca as it has always been.  That may include keeping the former owner Jeannette Etheridge around to reign over the place as she had for decades. The new owners are adding a full food menu. I can’t wait to see what the talented Bloomfield has in store for us.

Fior d’Italia re-opened late last month after a brief hiatus. Chef-owner Gianni Audieri promised a come back when he closed the restaurant last year. Now that it’s back I wonder if will regain the title “oldest Italian restaurant in America”.

Geppetto, the Italian deli across the street from Capo’s has been “on vacation” for months. Pete Mrabe who owns the popular Don Pisto on Union and Chubby Noodle, the just-reopened permanent pop-up in Amante’s on Green, is taking over the space. Fresh pasta and sandwiches are on the menu. I haven’t seen much activity in the space so it may be a while before it opens.

Txoko, the Basque place on Broadway closed on New Year’s Eve. The outrageous sandwich shop Naked Lunch took over the space and opened this weekend.

So when’s the last time you visited North Beach? Lots of fantastic new and well-established food choices beckon. What are you waiting for?

Buon appetito!

Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno)

Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups
Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups

This is getting to be a habit. Another gathering of friends and another request to bring an appetizer. “No meat and no cheese please, and make sure the appetizer is “finger food.” OK, I’ll take the challenge.

I’ve been thinking about these stuffed pepper roll-ups and they fit the bill.

Roast yellow and red peppers right atop the flame on your stove or in the oven. Clean the roasted peppers and cut them into wide strips. Whip up imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil with chopped anchovy and capers, stuff the pepper strips and you’re done. If you don’t want to roast your own peppers, use store-bought roasted peppers in a jar. You’ll be done even faster and they’re almost as good.

Oh, I forgot the “finger food” part.  Just cut each pepper roll in half and add a toothpick. You’re all set. No fork needed. Usually I serve the whole pepper roll-up as part of my antipasti platter. I always have forks on my table.

The meaty, sweet peppers are a mellow wrapper for the zesty tuna stuffing. I always eat more than one.

The tuna stuffing makes a fantastic panino or use it as a crostini topping too.

Buon appetito!

Tuna Stuffed Fire Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno)
 
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Meaty, sweet fire-roasted peppers with a zesty tuna stuffing.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 6-ounce imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 anchovy filets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped and more for garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. You can roast the peppers on the top of a gas stove or under the boiler.
  2. If using the stove top method, place a pepper directly over the gas flame until the skin is wrinkled and slightly charred all over. (I use all my 4 burners and char at least 4 peppers at a time and use long tongs to turn the peppers to char them evenly.)
  3. Or, place the peppers on a baking sheet and under the broiler on the high setting, place the peppers on the top shelf under the broiler. Turn the peppers until their skins are wrinkled all over and slightly charred.
  4. Put the blackened peppers in a paper bag or on a plate covered with a bowl. Set the charred peppers aside to cool.
  5. When cool enough to handle, rub the charred skin off with your hands.
  6. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem, core and seeds.
  7. Cut off the top and bottom to even off the pepper and lay out the pepper flat on a work surface. Use a knife to scrape off any skin or seeds that you missed.
  8. Cut the half pepper in half again. You want strips about 2-inches wide.
  9. Set the pepper strips aside while you make the filling.
  10. Put the tuna in a bowl. Break the tuna into very small pieces.
  11. Add the EVOO, anchovy, capers, parsley, vinegar, mayonaise and mustard to the bowl and mix well with the tuna. The mixture should be whipped almost into a paste consistency.
  12. Try the stuffing and add salt and ground pepper to taste. Mix well.
  13. Lay the pepper strip flat inside facing up and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.
  14. Tightly roll up the pepper strip.
  15. Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle the chopped parsley evenly over the rolls. (If you serve this as finger food, omit the EVOO drizzle, cut the roll in half and insert a toothpick to hold the roll together.)
  16. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

 

Una Pizza Napoletana’s Mangieri Back in the News

Una Pizza Napoletana
Pizza Napoletana

I’ve been following Anthony Mangieri for years on both coasts. Actually I’ve been following his pizza.

The guy had a reputation for making pizza Napoletano, pizza as made in Naples where it all started, my personal favorite. Some even said that Anthony’s pizza was better than you can get in Naples and certainly the best in America.

The only problem was that his pizzeria in New York City’s East Village was only open until he ran out of dough and you had to wait on the sidewalk a couple of hours to get in. Hey, it’s only pizza. I ain’t waiting, so I never went.

I got excited when I heard that Mangieri was closing his New York place and moving to San Francisco. The city’s beauty beckoned. Hell, he could make pizza anywhere, right?

I followed the progress at his new SOMA pizzeria, Una Pizza Nepoletana on 11th near Folsom. Anthony didn’t like the first brick oven he imported from Naples. He ripped it out and 40 grand later he had a new wood-burning beehive brick oven that suited him better. Mangieri’s pizza is artful.  No less would do.

When he finally opened, same thing. The wait on the sidewalk was 2 hours. Hey, it’s only pizza. I ain’t waiting.

I got a chance to walk right into Una Pizza Napoletana one night at a private event. No waiting. There was Mangieri, a solitary figure standing at a stainless steel worktable in the middle of a large room. The Maestro was at his alter. The brick oven was behind him, watched over by Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of fire. Read all about that special night at Mangieri’s Una Pizza Napoletana and some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

In Paolo Lucchese’s article about Mangieri in Sunday’s Chronicle, Anthony says that some nights the pizzeria is empty now. What happened to the 2-hour waits?

When Anthony first started making true pizza Napoletana in Jersey years ago, nobody knew what it was. In just the last few years, pizza Napoletana became famous. Lots of places making Neopolitan-style pizza opened in San Francisco. Farina, Zero-Zero, Tony’s Pizza Napoletano, Pizzeria Delfino, Flour and Water, Mozzeria, the list goes on and on.

We’re in a pizza bubble and I’m think it’s about to burst. Can all these places survive as the glow of pizza oven fades and the crowds more on to the next new craze?

I think Anthony will be making pizza for a long time, no matter what. It’s in his blood. If you haven’t been to Una Pizza Napoletana visit Mangieri soon. You won’t be disappointed. Just don’t ask for a salad.

Here’s Paolo Lucchese’s Anthony Mangieri article from Sunday’s Chronicle and some extra “scenes” with Anthony that Paolo didn’t include in the article.

Pasta with Broccoli & Garlic

Gemelli with Broccoli & Garlic
Gemelli with Broccoli & Garlic

My friend Susan called from Jersey and the subject of her renowned cavatelli with broccoli came up during our conversation. Actually, we talked about “gavadeal” and broccoli, as cavatelli is known in the Jersey southern Italian-American argot.

The broccoli in my fridge had to be used soon. After sharing recipes with Susan, I had to make a broccoli and garlic sauce for the gemelli pasta sitting on the shelf.

Gemelli means twins and it got its name from the two strands curled around each other to form the pasta. Use gemelli, cavatelli, or your favorite short-cut pasta.

Pasta in a broccoli and garlic sauce packed with flavor is ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. The garlic and olive oil enliven the mellow broccoli. The pasta absorbs the sauce and echoes all the flavors. The chili pepper flakes give you a little hot sparkle with each swallow.

I like to dissolve an anchovy fillet or two in the hot oil to deepen the sauce’s savory flavor. It’s your choice to add anchovy or not. If you don’t like hot, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes too. Make pasta with broccoli and garlic your way.

Add this basic pasta sauce technique to your repertoire and you will open the door to a dozen variations. To spark your imagination, here’s a look at cavatelli with 2 sauces, broccoli rabe and a vodka cream sauce, that we made when “Cavati Carol” was in town with her special pasta machine. Carol hails from Rhode Island where cavatelli are known as cavati. Here’s another twist on this basic pasta sauce using arugula and cavatelli.

If you’re hungry and in a hurry, use dried pasta imported from Italia and this dish can be on your table in way less than an hour.

Buon appetito!

Pasta with Broccoli & Garlic
 
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of gemelli or another short pasta
  • 3 cups of broccoli florets
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1-2 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water plus salt to taste for the sauce
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut the florets in bite-size pieces.
  3. When the water is boiling add the florets and cook them to your desired doneness. I like mine just as they are knife tender. Take them out earlier if you like a crunch.
  4. While the florets are cooking, in a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta add the EVOO, anchovy if using, the garlic and red pepper flakes. Over medium-high heat saute the garlic until it is translucent and the anchovy has dissolved into the sauce, about 2 minutes.
  5. With a spider take the florets out of the boiling water and add them to the saute pan and mix to coat the florets well with the oil.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  7. With a spider drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan. You want some of the pasta water for the sauce so don't drain the pasta well as you add it to the sauce. (If you drain the pasta instead of using a spider, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
  8. Mix the pasta and broccoli together well to coat everything with the sauce. (If the sauce isn't wet enough add some of the pasta water. The pasta will absorb the sauce as it finishes cooking in the saute pan so it won't be watery when you serve the pasta.)
  9. Off the heat mix in the grated cheese.
  10. Place the pasta on a serving platter. Drizzle with a good finishing EVOO and a sprinkle of grated pecorino.

 

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)

Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar
Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar

Frying is an important Neapolitan cooking technique practiced by generations of southern Italian-Americans.

One of my fans wrote that he continues his wife’s grandmother’s Christmas tradition by making savory fried fritters with an anchovy filet in the middle for the family to enjoy every year. I was inspired to fry up some.

Savory or sweet, I ate a lot of these fried dough balls growing up in Jersey. We’d crowd around the stove as my Mom pulled the golden orbs out of the frying pot to drain on a big brown paper bag and grabbed one as soon as she set them down. I get some anytime I’m on the east coast and I make them often in my kitchen.

Besides their proper name, pasta cresciuta, southern Italian-Americans in Jersey call these fried fritters zeppole. The fried dough is omnipresent at Italian street fairs dusted with powdered sugar.

In Rhode Island they dust them with powdered sugar and call them doughboys. Mix fresh chopped clams into the risen batter and Rhode Islanders call them clamcakes. When I’m in Point Judith I devour Iggy’s clamcakes with a bowl of chowder and finish the meal with a couple of doughboys for dessert.

I love frying and I’ve been doing a lot of it over the holidays. Frying is a quick cooking method that requires your full attention and you’ll get better at it over time. Just be patient and make sure that the oil in your frying pot is always at 375 degrees.

I like both savory and sweet pasta cresciuta. On the savory side, I enjoy mixing in chopped anchovies, chopped squash blossoms or chopped fresh clams after the batter rises. On the sweet side, I just fry up the fritters and shower them with confectioner’s sugar. The irregular golden fritters have a crispy exterior and are light and airy inside.

Pasta cresciuta should be eaten hot out of the oil, as soon as they drain a bit. The fritters don’t hold up well and are not not as tasty when reheated.

These fried yeast fritters are very different from sweet custard filled zeppole enjoyed in Campania, the region around Naples. Watch me make zeppole di San Giuseppe where I fry some and bake some.

But be forewarned, the cooked dough in the zeppole di San Giuseppe episode is not the same as the batter I use in this recipe. The one I use here is an uncooked batter that resembles a very loose or wet pizza dough.

Here are a couple of my other favorites that I fried up this holiday season, struffoli and calamari, one sweet and one savory.

Happy frying. Buon appetito!

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2½ teaspoons yeast (one package)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • Safflower or your favorite frying oil
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, using a fork or whisk dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of warm water (about 100 degrees), mix in a ½ cup of flour and let it stand for about 15 minutes until it starts to bubble up.
  2. Add the remaining 1½ cup of warm water and the salt and mix well.
  3. Add ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  4. When the flour is well incorporated add another ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the last ½ cup of flour a little at the time and mix well. You may not have to use it all. You want to end up with a soft, smooth dough that is on the wet side and very elastic.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour until the batter is bubbling and double in volume.
  7. (If your making savory fritters, add chopped fresh clams, chopped anchovy or chopped squash blossoms to the bowl and mix them well into the batter.)
  8. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep wide pot or cast iron skillet to 375 degrees. (I use a candy thermometer hung on the side of the pot to ensure the oil stays at 375 degrees while frying.)
  9. Drop an overflowing tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil. Add more tablespoons of batter to the oil but don't overcrowd the pot.
  10. Move the fritters around so they have plenty of room to fry.
  11. When the bottom side of the fritters frying on top of the oil start to turn golden, flip them over and fry the other side.
  12. When the fitters are golden all over drain the fritters on paper towel.
  13. Dust sweet fritters with powdered sugar and savory fritters with a sprinkle of sea salt and serve immediately.

 

Year of Italian Culture in America

Italian Consulate in San Franciscco
Italian Consulate in San Francisco

2013 is the Year of Italian Culture in America, a campaign by Italy’s Foreign Minister to create renewed buzz and help Americans learn more about Italia. Events are planned throughout the U.S.

San Francisco will play a leading role in the festivities.

I can’t wait for spring when Adoration of the Shepherds, a major painting by Caravaggio, one of my favorite Masters, arrives at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum.

Mauro Battocchi, the new Italian Consul in San Francisco, is heading up the festivities here. The Consul, who assumed the post last September, has his own blog, San Francisco Italy. I’ll be following him to stay on top of all things Italian in the Bay Area.

Here’s a SF Chronicle piece on the Consul and the 2013 festivities.

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Garlic

Spaghetti Squash Sauteed in Sage & Garlic Infused EVOO
Spaghetti Squash Sauteed in Sage & Garlic Infused EVOO

A friend suggested a winter squash as a side for my New Year’s Eve veal roast stuffed with spinach. Spaghetti squash was a perfect choice.

The yellow spaghetti squash balanced the colors on the plate. The slightly sweet squash accented by mild sage and garlic infused EVOO was a nice contrast to the roast with a zesty spinach stuffing.

Stumped about how to handle spaghetti squash? It’s actually easy to cook. The hardest part is carefully splitting the squash in half.

Bake the squash for an hour and pull out the long spaghetti strands. Quickly saute the spaghetti squash in EVOO or butter gently flavored with your favorite herbs and aromatics. Or top it with marinara sauce and grated parmigiano. It is spaghetti squash after all.

Spaghetti squash is a versatile, simple and delicious side dish that you can enjoy often.

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Garlic
 
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Spaghetti squash is easy to turn into a versatile side dish for your next meal.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squasth
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and smash the garlic clove.
  3. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. (Use a big, heavy, sharp knife to safely cut through the squash.)
  4. Drizzle the cut sides with the other tablespoon of EVOO.
  5. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for an hour, until the squash is knife tender.
  6. Remove the squash from the oven, turn it cut side up and set aside to cool.
  7. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out all the seeds and discard them.
  8. Use a fork to gently pull out all of the spaghetti squash strands. Keep the strands as long as possible. (I like to start at the top and scrape towards the bottom of the squash.)
  9. Put the EVOO, sage and garlic in a sauté pan.
  10. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  11. When the oil is hot add the spaghetti squash and quickly saute to cover all the squash with the infused olive oil.
  12. When just heated through remove to a serving platter. Dust with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  13. Serve immediately.

 

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing
Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing

North Beach’s Little City Meats was an inspiration for my New Year’s Eve dinner. A boneless leg of veal caught my eye. Mike trimmed it up for me to make a stuffed roast.

This is a butterflied roast. Lay it down flat, spread on a layer of zesty spinach stuffing, roll it up and tie it tightly. The veal roast lies on a bed of carrot, onion, celery, porcini, parsley and rosemary that flavor the pan gravy as it roasts in the oven for a couple of hours.

The slices show off spinach stuffing on the serving platter. The veal is moist and tender with a crispy crust. A drizzle of the flavorful pan gravy over the slices finishes the dish. I left the kitchen twine on so you could see how I tie the roast so it holds its shape as it cooks.

At the request of one of my dinner guests, I served the roast with spaghetti squash quickly sauteed in garlic-infused olive oil and dusted with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A yummy introduction to the new year.

My mom made a stuffing like this for veal breast, a hard cut to find. I’m glad I came up with this roast to bring back those childhood food memories.

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Stuffing
  • 1 cup country bread, cut in 1-inch cubes, crusts removed
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ pound pancetta (or mortadella), cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery , cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons pecorino, finely grated
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups sauteed fresh spinach, chopped
  • For the Veal
  • 1 2-pound veal boneless leg of veal roast
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or crystal kosher salt
  • For the Roasting Pan
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 2 stalks celery , cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 fresh rosemary branch
  • 2 full stems Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled or chopped in small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Stuffing
  2. Soak the bread in a small bowl filled with the milk. Toss so the milk absorbs the milk. Set aside.
  3. Put the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the food processor with a steel blade and process them for 30 seconds into fine bits.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process briefly until everything is a finely minced.
  5. Pour the olive oil into a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. When the oil is hot add the contents of processor bowl and sauté over medium-low heat for 3 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the onions translucent.
  7. Squeeze the milk from bread cubes, scatter them over the sauteed vegetables and mix well.
  8. Add the chopped parsley and mix well.
  9. Mix the spinach into the stuffing well and cook the stuffing for a minute more.
  10. Put the stuffing into a bowl to cool.
  11. When the stuffing cool stir in the pine nuts, grated cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and the beaten egg. Mix the stuffing well and set aside.
  12. The Roast
  13. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Soften the porcini in hot water. Remove from the water. Reserve the soaking liquid.
  15. Lay out the boneless leg of veal roast on a work surface, cut side up.
  16. Spread the stuffing evenly over the roast.
  17. Starting with the wider end, roll up the roast tightly. Tie tightly with kitchen twine so the roast stays together while roasting. (I tied it once lengthwise and around the roast close to each end and one more tie in the middle.)
  18. Rub the outside all over with the olive oil.
  19. Sprinkle sea salt and ground black pepper to taste all over the roast.
  20. Spread the rosemary, parsley, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and porcini on the bottom of a roasting pan to form a bed for the roast. Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper.
  21. Lay the roast in the middle of the vegetable bed.
  22. Add the water, wine and porcini soaking liquid. (Be careful pouring the soaking liquid so that you leave any sediment behind.)
  23. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour.
  24. Uncover the roast and put it back in the oven until the veal is tender has a golden crust.
  25. Remove the roast to a plate to rest.
  26. Pan Gravy
  27. Strain the pan drippings into a small pan.
  28. After it cools, skim off any fat floating on the surface.
  29. Keep warm over a very low flame.
  30. Slice the roast and layer slices on a serving platter.
  31. Moisten with the pan gravy.
  32. Serve immediately.

 

 

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year’s Eve Menu

Dungeness Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab Salad

San Franciscans love dungeness crab this time of year. The crabs are big and meaty this season. I’m making a celebratory dungeness salad with celery and shallot, EVOO and Meyer lemon.

The lemon perks up the briny sweetness of the crab bathed in mellow olive oil. The celery and shallot add a background crunch to the crab salad. Simple and sinful.

If your have steamed, cleaned and cracked crab the salad is done in 10 minutes. Use the recipe below and put a celebratory crab salad on your table. Add fried calamari and giardiniera and your antipasti is complete.

Lentil soup with cotechino is a traditional New Year’s Eve first course. It brings you good luck in the new year. The dish full of tiny lentils represents the coins you will amass in the new year and the fat boiled sausage your impending opulence.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the New Year’s Eve dinner menu I posted the other day. Something was amiss. As often happens I found inspiration in the market.

There it was, a beautiful boneless leg of veal roast sitting in the display case at Little City Meats. The roast with a zesty spinach stuffing will be the anchor of my meal. I’ll post this recipe soon.

I’m all set for New Year’s Eve dinner at my place. Are you?

Except for the Prosecco, we’re drinking some nice California reds.

Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year! Buon appetito!

Gianni’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Antipasti

Calimari fritti. Fried calamari served with vinegar pepper confetti.

Fresh dungeness crab salad with celery, shallot, EVOO and fresh Meyer lemon (recipe below).

Giardiniera

Zeppole. (fried savory, light doughnuts with anchovies)

Prosecco, a sparkling dry wine from the Veneto in northern Italia

Primo Piatto

Lentil soup with cotechino

Pinot Noir, Beulieu Vineyard, Carmeros Reserve, Napa, 2007

Secondo Piatto

Leg of Veal Roast with spinach stuffing

Roasted spaghetti squash

Cabernet Sauvignon, Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, Napa, 2010

Dessert

Sfogliatelle (crispy Neapolitan pastries filled with sweet ricotta)

A sip or two of my homemade limoncello and my strawberry liqueur

Italian still and sparkling bottled waters throughout the meal

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year's Eve Menu
 
A fresh clean taste of the sea, dungeness crab salad with shallot and celery,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 steamed dungeness crab
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Steam the crab or buy steamed, cracked crab at the market. (Blue crab or boiled shrimp can be substituted for the dungeness crab.) Put the crab meat in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Clean and crack the crab. Pull out out all of the meat leaving the pieces as intact as possible.
  3. Cut the celery in very thin slices.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Mince the shallot and add to the lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes to mellow its flavor.
  6. Add the EVOO and whisk well.
  7. Pour the dressing over the crabmeat.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the crabmeat. Mix well.
  10. Put the crab salad on a serving dish and serve chilled.
  11. Serves 4-6.

 

A Lucky New Year’s Eve Dish

Capellini with Crab Sauce
Capellini with Crab Sauce

Just back from Christmas with friends and family in Jersey. Now it’s time to plan my New Year’s Eve menu. I’ll share this year’s menu when I’m done.

In the meantime, here are a couple of classic dishes to get you started with your planning. I know I’ll make both these dishes this year.

Like many other cultures, Italians and Italian-Americans serve a bean dish as a talisman for a successful new year. The lentils in my dish symbolize all the money you’re gonna make next year. It’s a delicious, nutritious lentil soup with sausage. Add it to your New Year’s table.

Thank God the San Francisco dungeness crabber strike is settled so we’ll be eating fresh crab. I’m making linguine with a zesty dungeness crab sauce. Any long pasta will work. I like it with capellini too.

Check out the New Year’s meal I served last year. It was quite tasty and lasted right up to the Times Square ball drop.

Christmas Alley, Naples

Nativity Scene on Naples' Christmas Street
Nativity Scene, Naples’ Santa Chiara Church and Monastery

I call it the “Holy Mile”, one of my favorite areas in the old part of Napoli. Baroque churches abound and a beautiful garden loaded with frescoes and majolica ceramic tiles is hidden behind the Santa Chiara Church and Monastery.

Via San Gregorio Armeno, a pedestrian-only street in the heart of this part of Naples, is known locally as Christmas Alley. It houses dozens of workshops that create everything you need for a precepe, everything you need to set up your own nativity scene.

They’ve been making the sculpted, hand-painted terra cotta figures and creche sets there since the reign of Charles II in the 1700s. Dozens of diminutive figures–angels, the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men, villagers, camels, donkeys, sheep, even Pucinella, the impish commedia dell’arte character loved by Neapolitans, are all in the crowded workshops.

My favorite craftsman on Christmas Alley is maestro Ugo Esposito. I have several of his pieces. He carries on a proud tradition in his studio and showroom. The Maestro loves to talk about his craft and the long tradition of Neapolitan manger scenes and characters, both sacred and profane.

Nativity scenes abound all over Napoli, in churches and other public places, and in homes throughout the city. You could spend a whole day finding all the gorgeous public displays.

If you’re in New York City don’t miss the Neapolitan Baroque Creche surrounding the Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum. It appears every holiday season and includes beautiful figures and creche pieces from the 1800s. I visit every time I’m back east for Christmas.

Got your nativity set up under your Christmas tree? That was my job growing up in Jersey and I still love them.

Happy Holidays! Buon Natale!

Christmas Eve Seven Fish Feast

Fish Market Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia, Sicily

Cena di Vigilia (Christmas Eve meal) is a Neapolitan tradition.

I’m cooking with my friend Susan in her New Jersey kitchen. Along with her brother Joe, we’ll prepare our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner for 20 friends.

I’ll miss the dungeness crab this year. The San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf crabbers are back after a brief strike over wholesale prices. I’ve eaten some since the crabs came back on the market last week so I think I can survive without them on Christmas Eve. If you’re in town buy some crab. They’re fresh, big and meaty.

Create your own Cena di Viglia with these recipes and an extra fried shrimp recipe too. I’ll definitely be frying up some calamari and shrimp for my Jersey Christmas Eve.

Buon Natale e buon appetito!