Wow, was I excited when I walked into Cavalli Caffe for an espresso macchiato on a recent Saturday morning. Piero, the truffle guy from Tuscany, was there and he had truffles, the “Diamonds of the Kitchen”, dug up in Tuscany just 2 days before.
He had white truffles, smaller in early spring , called “bianchetto.” And he had the last of the larger black winter “tartuffo nero.” Later in the season the spring truffles, tartuffo bianco, will be bigger.
Truffles are fragile and you need to use them within about a week of harvest. White truffles should not be cooked but black truffles can be used in cooked dishes.
Black truffles pair well with eggs so I had to make a frittata. Piero said his wife made the best. Now I’m in trouble. How could mine compare?
Piero described his wife’s frittata and I realized her Tuscan rendition was similar to mine. I made a few adjustments and I was ready for the kitchen.
I didn’t want the egg mixture to overwhelm the black truffles so I just added salt, pepper, chopped parsley, grated parmigiano reggiano and diced fresh mozzarella. I grated a large black truffle into the mixture. Save some to grate atop the hot frittata hot out of the pan to maximize the tartuffi aroma.
Lucky for me, Piero enjoyed my frittata. Whew!
The frittata didn’t last long.
If you are in the Bay Area, Santo will post the availability of truffles all season. You can find fresh truffles for sale online. If you don’t use them all right away, make a truffle butter or truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil so you enjoy their aroma and flavor for months.
Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles
6 extra large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (depending on the size of your pan you may need to add more to lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan)
2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, roughly chopped.
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
3-ounces fresh mozzarella, diced in small cubes
30 grams fresh black truffle (or as much as you can afford)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
Grate 2/3 of the truffle saving a piece to grate atop of the frittata
Add the parsley, parmigiano, mozzarella and 2/3 of the grated truffle to the eggs and mix well.
Over medium-high heat add the olive oil to a 9” inch cast iron or sauté pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan (if you use more eggs, use a larger pan)
When the olive oil begins to shimmer pour in the egg mixture.
As the frittata begins to set up, gently break up the center of the frittata with a fork and with a spatula move the frittata away from the sides of the pan. (You want to continually move the egg mixture to the hot pan surface to cook.)
Lower the heat to medium-low.
Continue to gently pull the frittata away from the side of the pan to allow the egg mixture to flow onto the hot pan surface.
Gently move the spatula under the frittata to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
When the frittata is fully set on the bottom, put a plate on top of the pan, flip the frittata and slide it back in the pan to cook the other side.
Loosen the frittata from the pan with the spatula.
When the frittata feels solid to the touch, flip the frittata onto a serving platter. (If you don’t want to flip the frittata, place it in a 375 degree oven or under the broiler to set the other side of the frittata.)
Grate the remainder of the black truffle on top of the frittata.
Some say that the most important meal this season is the Christmas Eve fish dinner. I’m doing the Neapolitan-inspired Feast of Seven Fishes, La Festa dei Sette Pesci.
But you gotta eat after everyone is done opening all their presents Christmas day, right? When I’m back east with family for Christmas, we cook up a fantastic four-course dinner.
3 generations will cook together and our Italian-American dinner will include some dishes that my family has made since they first immigrated to America over a hundred years ago.
We gather around the table at about 2 in the afternoon. The leisurely meal will last until early evening.
Create your own Christmas feast. We’re still working on our final menu but here are some of the dishes that are on our list.
Antipasto (before the meal)
The antipasto is a preview of the meal to come. It’s the icebreaker as your guests settle in at the table. It starts the conversation and tantalizes your taste buds to let you know of the culinary delights to come.
And to end the meal, maybe just some fruit and roasted chestnuts.
Or try these dolci (desserts) that you can make the day before for a bigger end to you meal.
Tiramisu is really not that hard to make. After you make the mascarpone filling and the espresso-rum dip for the ladyfingers it’s a snap to assemble.
This time of the year most Italian and Italian-American households have panettone in the house. This sweet bread studded with raisins and candied citrus makes a fantastic panettone bread pudding. It’s ready in no time and even better if you make it the day before.
A Finishing Touch
Some espresso and maybe one of my homemade liqueurs and you can call it a wrap. Make my liquore di fragole (strawberry liqueur) with its beautiful Christmas hue or limoncello a few days in advance and you’re good to go.
A little Christmas gift for you at the end of the limoncello video, a suggestion for an easy sweet end to your meal
I’ll be with family and friends for Christmas. Our Neapolitan family tradition is to prepare a 7-fish Christmas Eve dinner, La Festa dei Sette Pesci.
Seven fish unless I’m with the Sicilian branch of the family, then it’s 13!
I hope you will be with the ones you love too.
Here’s a collection of my fish dishes that you can make for all your friends and family around your Christmas Eve dinner table to enjoy.
Buon Natale! Happy Holidays!
All in One
If you want all 7 fish in one pot make cioppino, the San Francisco fish stew treat.
This is my go-to recipe if I want to make something fast and easy for the guests around my table. All 7 fish are cooked in one pot. A hunk of grilled bread scraped with garlic and you’re good to go.
The hardest part of cioppino is the trip to your fishmonger. You can have cioppino on your table in about 30 minutes.
If a 3 or 4-course feast is what you have in mind make these dishes for an antipasto course, many ready in less than a half-hour.
Arancini, everybody loves rice balls. They are a perennial favorite at my table.
They come in many different shapes with various fillings.
This version is from my friends at North Beach’s da Flora restaurant.
The arborio rice has shrimp hidden in the middle of the crispy orb. Eat these arancini with or without the aioli. But if you don’t make the dipping sauce you’ll be missing a real treat.
You gotta be careful with this one. Often my fried calamari never makes it to the table. Everyone gathers in the kitchen around the stove and grabs a tender fried ring or crunchy tentacle as soon as they come out of the hot oil. If that happens to you make sure you quickly sprinkle some sea salt on the calamari as they drain on paper towel.
If the fried calamari survive poaching in the kitchen make sure that you get them to the table while they are hot out of the oil. That’s the way to maximize your enjoyment.
The halibut is wrapped in parchment or foil with the potatoes, tomatoes and olives so you get it all.
Drizzle some olive oil and dry white wine over the fish and vegetables and when you open the pouch you have a complete plate for your table. Quick, easy and oh so flavorful.
For these holiday meals we often buy some of our favorite pastries to end the meal. If you have the time make cannoli.
But if you want something homemade and light make strufoli, little fried dough balls in a honey glaze sprinkled with colorful holiday confetti. Another traditional sweet is to end your meal on a traditional holiday note is cenci, those delicate bow-ties. Be careful, the powdered sugar doesn’t get on you.
The turkey is infused with rosemary, sage, garlic and lemon. The stuffing studded with sausage and chestnuts is a perfect flavorful partner for the moist and tender turkey. The easy pan gravy brings it all together.
A Thanksgiving dinner that you can cook in under 2 hours. You won't believe the complex flavor of the moist tender breast and the mellow spinach and salty prosciutto stuffing.
1 4 Pound turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
2 pounds fresh spinach
½ onion, finely diced
½ cup grated parmigiano
6 slices prosciutto
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
3 lemon slices
4 leaves fresh sage
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water or broth
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Over medium heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot.
When the oil is hot saute the onions until they are translucent and tender.
Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and raise the heat to medium-high.
Add as much of the spinach as you can to the pot and turn it to mix it with the onions and to help it all wilt. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Add more spinach until all of it is wilted.
Put the spinach in a bowl and mix in the grated parmigiano and set the spinach aside to cool.
Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. (Save time. Ask your butcher to butterfly the breast for you.)
Spread the spinach mixture across the breast, leaving a 1½ inch border all around.
Put the prosciutto slices in a single layer over the spinach.
Beginning at one end, firmly roll up the turkey breast and use 4 equally spaced kitchen lengths of kitchen twine to secure the roast well.
In a casserole lay out the parsley, sage and lemon slices to form a bed for the roast.
Rub a tablespoon of olive oil well all over.
Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper evenly over the roast.
Pour in the white wine, water (or broth) into the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle olive oil over the liquid.
Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The temperature will rise to 160 degrees as it rests. (I'm using an off-the-grid organic turkey but if your roasting a supermarket turkey you may want to leave it in the oven longer, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.)
Baste the roast with the pan juices several times during roasting. (Add more wine and water to maintain about an inch of liquid in the casserole.
Remove the breast roll from the pan and loosely cover with foil.
Pour the pan juices through a strainer into a pan. Skim off excess oil.
Keep the pan gravy over very low heat to keep it warm.
After the roast has rested for about 20 minutes, slice it thinly and arrange the spirals on a serving platter.
Pour the pan gravy over the slices. (If you have more gravy, serve it at the table.)
I love this ricotta cheesecake with pumpkin as an end to a fall meal. It’s a nice change from the heavier New York cheesecake.
Pumpkin ricotta cheesecake is easy to make. It doesn’t have a pastry crust so you can have it in the oven in 10 minutes and out in 90.
I’m not a purist so I don’t care if the cheesecake cracks on top. Looks rustic, right? Ask Martha Stewart if you want to get rid of the cracks.
Add a dollop of whipped cream and you have a wonderful end to a wonderful holiday meal.
Creamy, airy, rich pumpkin flavor with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg lingering in the background. The nutty crust that forms around the edge is my favorite bite. Make this one of your fall favorites.
The cheesecake is even better if you make it the day before so it has a chance to set-up nicely in the refrigerator. One less thing to worry about on the big day. Just bring it back to room temperature before serving.
Thanksgiving is coming. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss Thursday’s episode, a quick spinach & prosciutto stuffed boneless turkey breast.
This is part one of a 2 part Thanksgiving special. Stay tuned for part two next week.
Easy and delicious, mashed potatoes flavored with mellow roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil, pairs well with meat, fish or poultry.
My Mom didn’t call them mashed potatoes, she called them “smashed” potatoes and I still do. I like chunks of potato for that toothsome feel. But I like a smoother or whipped version of mashed potatoes too.
Make your mashed potatoes anyway you like them. Mash them more, whip them with a whisk or a hand beater, or put the hot potatoes through a ricer if you want a smoother or whipped consistency, then add the roasted garlic and olive oil.
Any way you make them just get them to your guests while they’re still piping hot. .
For Thanksgiving this year I’m serving with my smashed potatoes with a roasted boneless turkey breast stuffed with sauteed spinach and prosciutto that’s in and out of the oven in less than 90 minutes.
It’s a complete easy and quick dinner with protein, veggies and carbohydrates all on the plate.
The Italian Homemade Company opened in North Beach on Columbus between Filbert & Greenwich a few days ago. I visited this morning for the first time. It was like stopping by someone’s kitchen in northern Italy.
I’m making a light pasta cream sauce with zucchini blossoms and was looking for fresh pasta. I bought some of Homemade’s fresh tagliatelle. But I couldn’t resist this morning’s crop of tiny spinach and ricotta ravioli for my delicate sauce.
Mattia Cosmi and Alice Romagnoli, the gracious owners, are settling into their new space. Alice makes fresh pasta every day. She hails from Rimini on the northern Italian Adriatic coast where they make beautiful fresh pasta. Mattia, is from the Marche region.
Another owner, Carlo Ciccardi, was jet-lagged after arriving a few hours ago from a trip back home near the beautiful beach town between Naples and Rome, Sperlonga.
Stop in soon for fresh pasta, salumi, cheeses and imported products. Italian Homemade will make several fresh pasta choices each day along with other fresh dishes to take away.
Today Alice made a lasagna with bechamel and ragu. She suggested a baked in-house piadina (flat bread) sandwich with your choice of stuffed baked tomato or pepper inside. Add some prosciutto and mozzarella and you have a fresh street-food meal to eat at the long communal table or to take away to enjoy in Washington Square, just a block away.
Benvenuti e buona fortuna! A warm welcome and best wishes to our new neighbors. Thank you for bringing another slice of Italia to North Beach.
My lunch turned out beautifully.
The Italian Homemade Company spinach and ricotta ravioli are delicate but toothsome. The tasty little ravioli are bathed in the shallot-flavored cream sauce accented by the sweetness of the zucchini blossoms and the nuttiness of the parmigiano. Even with just a few ingredients, these ravioli explode with complex flavor in every bite.Here’s the recipe for the squash blossom cream sauce. It works well with delicate stuffed pasta or flat fresh or dried pasta like fettucine or tagliatelle.
Mix in some chopped garlic, parsley and Worcestershire sauce to perk up the beef.
I stuff mine with fresh mozzarella and add nutty and creamy Italian fontina on top for more flavor punch.
The burger is fine with or without a cheese stuffing or with no cheese at all. Your choice.
With all the scares about contaminated ground beef sold on the grid the best hamburger you eat may be the one made at home with ground beef or chuck you grind yourself from your trusted local butcher.
With the start of the summer you can cook the hamburger on your outdoor grill or in a stove-top cast iron grill pan. Some chefs think it’s best to cook hamburgers in a flat-bottomed cast iron pan so it cooks evenly and the juices stay inside.
If you’re making hamburgers at home make sure you have a good sturdy bun. I’m using a pain de mie from my favorite Bay Area bakery Acme Bread. It has a sturdy soft crust and a slightly sweet small crumb inside, a perfect hamburger bun.
Add your favorite condiments. For me, no mayo, ketchup or mustard. I prefer a grilled onion and a slice of heirloom tomato on my burger.
The toasted bun is just right for the juicy, tender burger pumped up by garlic and Worcester. The mild mozzarella oozes from the center complemented by the melted nutty fontina on top. The sweet grilled onion and summer tomato finishes the package in style.
A few days ago in a post on my pasta e fagioli video episode, Markus asked that I make panzanella, a simple Tuscan peasant summer salad.
I said I would when the summer tomatoes hit the farmers market. The first crop of Early Girls won’t be in for a few more weeks and the big heirlooms won’t be ready until the end of the summer. I thought I wouldn’t be making panzanella for a while.
But I couldn’t get panzanella out of my mind since Markus’ post. So when I saw a huge selection of tomatoes at Bruins Farms booth at the Ferry Building Farmers Market yesterday I had to buy some and give panzanella a go.
If you’ve been to Tuscany in the summer you’ve enjoyed panzanella. It’s made with days-old dark salt-free Tuscan bread. Recipes for this peasant dish date back to the days of Michelangelo according to Tuscan food maestro Giulliano Bugialli.
This is my modern San Francisco version. While you’ll see recipes with peppers, cucumbers and all sorts of other ingredients in today’s panzanella recipes, I keep it simple.
Tomatoes and a good crusty rustic bread soaked in the olive oil and tomato juices are the stars. My mix today is Lemon Boy, Black Zebra and Beefsteak.
These tomatoes are grown about 70 miles inland from San Francisco, in greenhouses on the farm a bit west of Sacramento where it’s sunnier and warmer than it is here in the City.
Panzanella only has a few ingredients so you have to make sure you’re using the best. These Bruins Farms tomatoes fit the bill and that makes it easier to wait for the big field-grown heirloom tomatoes later this summer.
Make panzanella with day-old rustic bread or switch it up and make it with taralli, those small boiled then baked crunchy rings. You can buy taralli in North Beach at Molinari Deli on Columbus or at A.G. Ferrari’s stores around the Bay Area or online.
The onion and basil round out the flavor of the sweet tomatoes and the juicy, creamy bread cubes perk up each mouthful with a lingering acidic vinegar tingle.
Serve panzanella chilled or at room temperature as an antipasto or as a side for grilled meats or poultry.
Find out more about New York City’s Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. If you’ve been disappointed with what’s left of Little Italy in lower Manhattan visit Arthur Avenue. You’ll find everything you’re looking for.
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Easter is a relaxed holiday. There’s a saying “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” Christmas with your family. Easter with whomever you like. In Italy the Easter celebration spills over to Monday, called La Pasquetta, when Italians like to eat al fresco or go on a picnic.
Torta Pasqualina, Easter cake, is traditionally served as an antipasto on the Easter table. Torta Pasqualina is best at room temperature so it’s good to go for your picnic too.
The torta includes traditional symbolic Easter foods. Before modern production, eggs were costly and only available this time of year so eggs and tender leafy greens are a reminder of spring awakening.
The dough for the crust is fun to make. It’s pliable enough so that you can stretch it and roll it out really thin. If making dough doesn’t sound like fun to you, use puff pastry instead.
Chard and baby spinach sautéed with onion in olive oil and brightened by fresh marjoram forms the first layer. Ricotta whipped light and fluffy with egg and parmigiano creates the second layer topped with a golden phyllo-like crust.
Spring lamb, “the Lamb of God” in all those Renaissance paintings, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. So baby spring lamb is another traditional Easter food. If you’re looking for an Easter main course check out my abbacchio video, baby spring lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic served with golden potato wedges. And if you want help with the other courses, check out my Easter recipe roundup.
You want to end up with 4 sheets, 2 for the base of a 10" inch spring form pan and 2 for the top crust.
Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
Roughly chop the greens.
Chop the onion.
Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
Put the ricotta in another bowl. Beat 3 eggs and add them to the ricotta along ¼ cup grated parmigiano, parsley, nutmeg (which I forgot to add in the video) and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together so that the ricotta mixture is well blended and fluffy.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the dough in 4, roll 2 larger dough pieces (about 10 oz. each) to a thin sheet about a 13-inch diameter and the smaller balls (about 7 oz.) and roll out to to a thin sheet about 10-inches.
Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
Brush the pastry all over with oil.
Put the second pastry sheet, put it on top of the first sheet and pat it so that the second sheet adheres to the first.
Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
Make an indentation with the back of the spoon in the center and then 5 indentations spread evenly mid-way between the center and the edge of the pan.
Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
Lightly beat the egg whites and spread a thin layer of the whites on top of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle grated parmigiano all over.
Completely cover the top the ricotta layer with one of the smaller sheets. Press it to adhere to the side crust and brush it with olive oil.
Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
Cut off any dough that hangs over the side of the baking pan. Roll down the remaining dough on the sides, crimp with your fingers to form the edge of the crust an the circumference of the cake. Gently depress the edge with a fork to create a pretty top edge.
Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
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I love this time of year when the first of the early spring vegetables start to hit the market. Pencil-thin asparagus, tiny peas, and tender fava beans are among my favorites, so I just had to make pasta primavera with these spring farmers’ market beauties.
But the nice thing about pasta primavera is that it’s versatile enough to work well with all kinds of produce. Asparagus not looking so good? Use artichokes instead! Are those gorgeous ramps on sale this week? Use those! Just pick whatever’s fresh and delicious in your market and you can’t go wrong.
This dish is inspired by the original Spaghetti alla Primavera from Sirio Maccioni, co-owner of Le Cirque restaurant in New York City–it’s a real Italian-American classic. I’ve lightened the dish up by using no butter and less cream, and this keeps the spring vegetables in sharp focus. Instead, pasta water creates a flavorful broth as the base of the sauce and bow tie pasta instead of spaghetti guarantees you get some veggies with every bite.
I prefer the more robust ricotta salata flavor instead of parmigiano as a finishing note, but different strokes, right? And extra virgin olive oil does put some fat back into this really healthy, full-flavored taste of springtime, I’ll give you that, but come on, a little ain’t gonna kill ya.
I made farfalle alla primavera a few years ago at my cooking demonstration and tasting at The Villages in San Jose. I was cooking for 50 Italian-Americans and wannabes and I needed a boat-load of vegetables, so while setting up for the show I enlisted a dozen of my students to shell the peas and fava beans and cut the asparagus. When all the work was done, one of my prep helpers said “Next time use frozen!” Well, of course you can, but it won’t be as good as using fresh from the farmer’s market–the extra work means extra flavor and who don’t want that?
The full flavor of the spring vegetables rule this simple, uncluttered pasta dish that is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. After you shell the peas and fava that is. Just make sure none of your helpers throw them pea pods at ya.