Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma

My HP Production crew devouring spaghetti cacao e pepe I cooked in my Rome kitchen
My HP Production crew devouring saltimbocca I cooked in my Rome kitchen

The last time I was in Italy I hooked up with my friend Luca and the crew from his video company, HB Productions. We spent days together shopping and shooting episodes of me cooking in my apartment near the Spanish Steps.

Here’s the first of those HB Production episodes just in time as early spring vegetables hit the farmers market.

I shopped every day in Campo dei Fiori, the huge open air market in the historical center of Rome. I was lucky to meet Alessandro who had a produce stand there. He was my guide to the spring vegetables he had to offer.

This day he had wild chicory, cicoria, he foraged early that morning in the hills near his home outside of Rome. He sold me the chicory with a condition. “Cook it with olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s all.” “And chili pepper,” I said. Alessandro agreed and added “but no lemon, no lemon.” Boy, these Italians are strict but that was my plan anyway.

What a wonderful Slow Food moment, scoring locally foraged cicoria to cook in my Rome apartment a few blocks away from the market! Watch me use a versatile, simple method to respectfully coax maximum flavor from this humble wild green. Here in the U.S. curly endive is the closest to the wild chicory I cooked in Rome.

You may have seen some of the Rome footage in this Hungry Village production. Get a peek of Luca and his aunt Giulia, the best cook in the family, who joined me in the kitchen for a couple of episodes.

I hope to have the other Rome episodes ready to post soon. Stay tuned but in the meantime here’s my saltimbocca recipe.

So You Want To Be An American? is the music in the episode. I love the tune. Here’s hip Neapolitan crooner Renato Carosone’s 1958 rendition of his Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma
 
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A simple chicory preparation that you can use for other leafy greens too.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound chicory (curly endive)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • pinch of chili flake
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot.
  2. Add the chicory and blanch for a minute or two.
  3. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just begins to take on some color.
  4. Drain the chicory and add it to the sauté pan. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Stir well to dress the chicory with the oil.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

 

New Gianni Video Now Live

Rome's Campo di Fiori, an open-air produce market
My produce guy in Rome’s Campo di Fiori

Sorry if you couldn’t access the video episode Gianni: From Italy to North Beach in my earlier post.

You can watch it now.

Here’s the Hungry Village video. Meet some of my friends from a week living in a Roman neighborhood and how that experience colors my Italian-American lifestyle here in San Francisco.

More from the Hungry Village people on Facebook and their website.

Keep on cooking.

Buon appetito!

Food, Family & Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron

Couscous with veal, cauliflower and peppers
Couscous with veal, cauliflower, red peppers and saffron

Sicily has been on my mind.

I recalled a remarkable day on the northern coast where I learned of 2 new ingredients for my Italian-American cooking, couscous and saffron.

We spent a delightful day in San Vito lo Capo lounging on the soft pink beach, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea with Tunisia on the horizon and exploring the annual couscous festival in the small town that hugs the coast.

As the sun began to set we headed back to our hotel in the hills overlooking Palermo. We stopped in a tavola calda in Monreale for a quick meal.

I asked the owner Filippo if he could grill swordfish for me simply seasoned with olive oil, oregano and lemon. It was one of his favorites and he was happy to make it for me.

We talked as he brushed the fresh swordfish steak with oregano-infused olive oil, laid it on the hot iron grate over the open fire and sprinkled it with sea salt. It was on the plate in a jiffy with wedges of lemon. Simply delicious.

On the way out we thanked Filippo for the wonderful meal. He went to the counter and came back with “Zafferano: Giallo il Colore della Felicita” (Yellow: The Color of Happiness), a booklet with dozens of Sicilian recipes made with saffron. He autographed it as a gift for me.

This is one of those recipes and the dish includes saffron and couscous, 2 ingredients that I added to my Italian-American pantry after that wonderful day in Sicily. It can be on your table in about 45 minutes.

The saffron bathes everything in a golden hue. The crusted veal is tender and moist, the vegetables soft and sweet and the nutty couscous absorbs the flavors of it all. Another delicious Italian dish influenced by North African cooking.

Buon appetito!

Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron
 
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Veal with cauliflower, red bell pepper and saffron served over couscous.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound veal, cubed
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cauliflower
  • 2 tomatoes cut into 2 inch pieces or 12 small cherry or pear tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 carrot, cut in ½ inch slices
  • 1 red pepper, cored and seeded, cut 2-inch strips and then in 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • pinch of saffron (the dish is almost as good without saffron)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the veal and brown all over.
  3. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
  4. Pour the white wine, scrape the bottom of the pot and cook until the wine is evaporated.
  5. Continue cooking until the vegetables are knife tender, about 20 minutes. Add some vegetable broth or water if the pot is too dry.
  6. Add the saffron and gently mix all the ingredients well. Reduce the heat to low to keep the stew warm.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the couscous in a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  8. Put the vegetable broth in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  9. Pour in the couscous, stirring gently.
  10. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the couscous rest for 2 minutes.
  11. Add the remaining butter, stir and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring the couscous with a fork.
  12. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let cool for about 8 minutes.
  13. Place the couscous on a platter and top with the veal stew.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples

Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples
Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Napleslams at the fish monger. They’re all over Naples.

Neapolitans love clams. The outdoor fish stalls have clams of all sizes just out of the bay on display in buckets of water. For me, the smaller the better.

I love vongole verace, those clams the size of your thumb, but you have to cook a lot so everyone gets plenty of the tiny, tender clams. Sometimes I want a fatter clam and these larger ones were perfect, meaty but tender. Just right.

This is a dish that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Just put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the spaghetti goes into the boiling water, make the clam sauce.

Heat olive oil, with garlic, parsley and chili flakes in another pot. When the oil is hot and the garlic is translucent, add the clams and a splash of  white wine, cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.

When the spaghetti is cooked very al dente add it to the clam sauce and mix well. The spaghetti will finish cooking as it absorbs the clam broth. Sprinkle the spaghetti with chopped Italian parsley, drizzle on some extra virgin oil and serve. You’ll be eating in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

The spaghetti sticks to the tooth. The briny tender clams are redolent with garlic. The chili flakes add a sparkle to every bite and when I’m done my tongue tingles for a while. The pristine taste of the sea in bowl. Delicious.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples
 
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Spaghetti in a clam sauce flavored with garlic.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 24 clams
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Italian flat parsley sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. Bring 5 quarts of water in a large pot to a boil for the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons sea salt.
  2. Wash the clams well. (I put mine in a bowl of water and sprinkle polenta on them to help clean out the grit as the clams eat the cornmeal.)
  3. Put the olive oil, garlic, parsley and chili flakes in a pot big enough to hold the clams.
  4. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  5. When the oil is hot and the garlic translucent, add the clams and the wine.
  6. Cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.
  7. Take the clams out of the pot and set aside in a bowl,
  8. When the pasta is very al dente, drain it and add it to the pot with the clam sauce.
  9. Toss the spaghetti as it finishes cooking. The spaghetti absorbs the clam sauce. (If you don't have enough liquid, add some pasta water to the sauce.)
  10. When most of the liquid is absorbed, put the clams back in the pot. (I take most of the clams out of the shell and save a couple for each plate of spaghetti as a garnish).
  11. Toss the spaghetti well with the clams.
  12. Put the spaghetti with clams on a large serving platter and scatter the clams in the shell all around.
  13. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

Roman Kitchen Inspiration

Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market
Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market

I met up with Alessandro, my produce vendor friend in the Campo di Fiori farmers market as the sun began to break through the early morning clouds.

I was especially interested in what he harvested from his garden and from the wild. He had these wispy asparagus stalks no bigger than a thin straw that poke up from the ground for a brief spell this time of year.

I had to buy some for a frittata, a thick Italian flat omelet, the eggs flavored with grated pecorino, salt and freshly ground black pepper that would tide us over as we set up for the video shoot in my Spanish Steps apartment kitchen.

Fans suggested that I make on camera some of the classic Roman dishes that I made in North Beach to get ready for my trip.

Alessandro had wild cicoria, tender chicory shoots that inspired the first episode. It’s an easy dish but a universal method for preparing green leafy vegetables in a pan with olive oil, garlic and dried chili.

The second episode was vignarola, the Roman spring vegetable stew with baby purple artichokes, fava beans so young and tender they could be cooked right out of the pod and sweet spring peas.

Antica Norcineria Viola (pork store) right behind Alessandro’s stall had guanciale, cured pig jowl, to flavor this classic spring vegetable dish. Benedetto was my 4th generation Norcineria guide that his family opened in 1890.

I checked off the last item on my shopping list and we headed back to my apartment to cook.

In my next post you’ll meet Giulia, a wonderful Roman home cook, who happened to show up in my kitchen as we were shooting the video episodes.

In the meantime if you’re in the mood make an asparagus fritatta for yourself.

Buon appetito!

 

A Working Roman Holiday

Campo di Fiori Rome
Campo di Fiori Rome

Campo di Fiori, the farmer’s market in the historical center of Rome was ablaze in the morning sunshine.

The stalls were overflowing with spring bounty. Peas, artichokes, fava beans, chicory and other leafy treats, even early tomatoes, were everywhere.

I was scouting the market as I waited for Luca, my producer to show up with his video crew so we could plan tomorrow’s shoot. I wanted to see what I would cook in my apartment kitchen.

I came across Alessandro cleaning artichokes. When I took his picture he looked up and said I had to either give him one euro or a kiss. We settled on a Roman welcome embrace.

I can’t wait to share my market and cooking experience with you. New video episodes from North Beach and Roma are coming soon.

Buon appetito!

 

 

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.

 

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 alla Carbonara from Roma

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A Roman friend’s son Luca shot a video of Claudio, the chef/owner of Osteria Dar Bruttone making spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman pasta dish. I had to share it with you.

Claudio is passionate about Roma and about its food. His osteria in the San Giovanni neighborhood where he serves simple traditional Roman fare is popular with locals and tourists alike.

Claudio beams as he talks about the virtues of the most beautiful city on earth and Roman culinary tradition, a vital part of Roman life. Walk with Claudio as he shops in the markets near his osteria for the food that he will cook at his restaurant that day.

The spaghetti alla carbonara video is in Italian but even if you don’t speak the language watch it anyway. The shots of Rome, the markets and the kitchen techniques are priceless. Everyone I know who watched the video, fluent in Italian or not, had to make spaghetti alla carbonara right away. Here’s my translation of Claudio’s recipe for you to enjoy in your kitchen.

Spaghetti alla carbonara only has 4 ingredients and is ready to eat in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. Search out guanciale. It’s integral to the dish. (In a pinch you could use pancetta.) Use a dried durum wheat pasta extruded through bronze dies imported from Italy so the sauce will cling to its rough surface. Don’t be shy with the black pepper. Use pecorino for it’s more robust flavor, not parmigiano.

The spaghetti takes on a golden hue. Creamy, silky sauce coats every strand. Rich pecorino flavor plays off salty, crispy guanciale and black pepper tickles your throat with every bite.

I miss Roma. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:92]

Join Gianni for a Culinary Tour of Emilia-Romagna

Bologna Produce Stall

The crowds have thinned and the September weather is glorious. The markets overflow. It’s one of my favorite seasons to visit Italia.

It’s a fine time to settle into the region of Emilia-Romagna the culinary heart of Italia. Prosciutto and parmigiano come from Parma and Reggio. Balsamic vinegar has been made in Modena for centuries. Bologna’s fabulous food has earned it the nickname “La Grassa” (The Fat One).

Join me for a fabulous 8-day culinary tour September 23-30, 2012. We’ll pick you up at the Bologna airport and then take care of all the details so that you can just enjoy your culinary adventure in Italia. We start on the Adriatic coast and make our way to Bologna at a leisurely pace.

  • Learn pasta-making from a real Sfoglina, a dying breed of dedicated pasta wizards
  • Hunt wild mushrooms in the Apennine foothills
  • Explore medieval villages and lesser-known food markets
  • Taste parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di parma and balsamic vinegar where they’re made
  • Join home cooks and chefs for cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes featuring classic Emilia-Romagna dishes
  • Savor the food at unique and inspired restaurants

My travel partner Vanessa DellaPasqua of Global Epicurean and I will be your hosts and your guides. Join us for a journey that will heighten your appreciation and deepen your understanding of Italy’s food culture. You’ll meet a bunch of wonderful Italians too. They’ll share their culinary wisdom and kitchen secrets with you.

Get all of the Emilia-Romagna culinary adventure details. The tour is limited to 24 people. It will be like family.

Bella Napoli

Vesuvio Overlooking the City and Bay of Naples

Naples as you may have realized by now is one of my favorite cities in all of Italia.

My Italian roots are in Campania and Napoli is the region’s capital. I’ve felt as if I belonged there since I first visited. I love the food, culture and vivacious spirit of the people.

I was with my sister as we strolled the markets in the Spanish Quarter our first day together in Napoli. All of a sudden she looked at me kinda startled. “They all look like us!”, she exclaimed. Maybe an overstatement, but it was a recognition that we had a DNA connection to this chaotic, wonderful city and its people. I think this is why I’ve been so passionate about saving the North Beach Song of Pulcinella mural that reflects the Bella Napoli that I love.

Here’s a Napoli post from Italian Notebook— great pix of the city, the Bay of Naples, the active volcano Vesuvio, all from the cliffs of Vomero high above the city. Take a look at Spaccanapoli, a broad avenue from the Greco era when the city was known as Neapolis. Spaccanapoli literally means “Naples Splitter”.

There’s a cool funicular that runs from the city center and climbs all the way up to Vomero and the St. Elmo Castle.

It’s incredible to me that more than 3 million people live in the shadow of Vesuvio. It has erupted more than 3 dozen times since it buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D. Neapolitans are a tough people always living it seems just on this side of disaster.

But they have their patron San Gennaro, martyred in the 4th century, to protect them. His dried blood is kept in a vial and brought to the Duomo on his feast day, September 19. Thousands of people crowd the Duomo with even more outside. They pray, they chant and they wait for the Cardinal to wave a white handkerchief up at the altar, a sign that the dried blood has liquified. I saw the miracle for myself when I was last there.

The tradition holds that if the blood doesn’t liquify great tragedy will strike. That happened twice in the recent past. Vesuvio erupted in 1944 and in 1980 a massive earthquake hit Campania killing 2,000. San Gennaro’s blood didn’t liquify in both those years.