Spring Asparagus Frittata

Spring Asparagus Frittata

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Spring Asparagus Frittata
Pencil-thin asparagus is just barely held together by egg in this spring frittata.

I made this asparagus frittata last spring while in Rome. Allesandro, my friend and produce vendor in Campo de Fiori, the huge open air produce market in the historical center of Rome, showed me wild asparagus he had foraged the night before. It took him all night to collect 2 kilos.

That’s Allesandro in video episode showing me those skinny wild asparagus that quickly went into a frittata for my mates back in our apartment near Piazza di Spagna.

I found some really thin asparagus at the farmers market. They reminded me of the frittata I made in Rome and I had to make it here in San Francisco.

I roasted the asparagus with olive oil and sea salt to intensify its bright flavor. This is a thinner frittata than I usually make because I want the egg mixture to just hold the asparagus together and let the concentrated springtime flavor shine.

Watch me make a sausage and potato frittata and see another asparagus frittata recipe where I don’t roast the asparagus but cook it in the same pan that I use to cook the frittata.

Serve frittata as a part of your antipasti or as a light lunch or dinner with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread. When I’m not in the mood to cook frittata is my go to recipe. It’s ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. Buon appetito!

Asparagus Fritatta
 
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Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 8-10 asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino, parmigiana or grana padano
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the asparagus on a cooking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Toss the asparagus to cover them all with the oil.
  3. Roast in the oven until the asparagus begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn them at least once.
  4. Take the asparagus out of the oven and when cool cut them on the diagonal in 2-inch pieces. Set the asparagus aside.
  5. Add the eggs to a large bowl and beat them well.
  6. Add the asparagus, parsley, grated cheese, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Put a 9-inch cast-iron or saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Swirl the olive oil so it coats the sides of the pan well to avoid the sides of the frittata from sticking.
  8. When the oil starts to ripple the add the egg mixture to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  9. As the frittata begins to set stir the bottom of the frittata with a fork. With a spatula lightly pull the edge of frittata away from the side of the pan. Genly slide the spatula under the frittata. Be sure the frittata is loose and moves easily when you shake the pan.
  10. Place a plate over the pan and flip the pan so the frittata ends up on the plate.
  11. Slide the frittata back in the pan.
  12. Finish cooking the frittata until it is solid.
  13. (If you don’t want the flip the frittata, finish cooking it in a 375 degree oven until the top sets and browns.)
  14. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate and serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

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
 
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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.

 

 

 

Risi e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas

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Venetian Rice and Spring Peas
Risi e bisi is the perfect first course to celebrate early spring vegetables!

In the run-up to Ash Wednesday earlier this week Venetians ended their 12-day Carnevale celebration. It was their last raucous blow-out before the arrival of Lent and 40-days of fasting.

The traditional festivities and the arrival of the first of the spring vegetables in the market compelled me to make this simple yet elegant rice and spring pea Venetian classic. Wearing my Venetian Pulcinella mask in the kitchen didn’t hurt getting in the mood either.

Risi e bisi is best made early in the spring when the peas are small and sweet. You can make this dish with larger peas later in the season or frozen peas too but it’s at it’s best when those first shiny green pea pods first appear in the market. This is not a risotto it’s a very thick soup.

Vegetarians don’t miss out on this one. Just switch out the beef broth for vegetable broth. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee.

You can eat it with a fork but I prefer a spoon so I get some of the creamy broth in each bite. The slightly firm center of the Arborio rice lends just the right textural balance to the soft, sweet peas. The earthy beef broth adds remarkable flavor depth to the dish. A sprinkle of nutty grated parmigiano and the simple but complex risi e bisi is ready to start your eating celebration.

I love to have risi e bisi as a first course or as a side for fish and meats. And if you have any left over make my suppli al telefono, fried rice balls with a surprise in the center.

Before you go, have a listen to Wynton Marsalis’ Carnival of Venice. I hope you’re inspired. Buon appetito!

Riso e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas
 
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Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds fresh unshelled peas
  • 3½ cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the butter and when melted add the onions and saute until the onions take on a light golden color.
  2. Add the peas and sea salt to taste and saute for 2 minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add 3½ cups of broth and cook at a rapid simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and parsley and stir. Cover the pot and cook at a rapid simmer until the rice is tender but still firm, about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. The rice and peas should still be a bit soupy. Add a bit more broth if necessary.
  5. Off the heat add the grated parmigiano and stir well into the rice and peas.
  6. Add a grind of black pepper and sea salt if necessary and stir well.
  7. Put the risi e bisi in individual bowls or a large serving bowl, top with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano.
  8. Pass additional grated parmigiano at the table in case your guests want a bit more.

 

Torta di Riso: Sweet Orange-Scented Rice Cake

Torta di Riso

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Torta di riso for Lent, by Gianni.tv
Torta di riso is the perfect thing to eat just before giving up sweets for Lent.

As a kid I pigged out this time of the year. I knew I’d have to give up stuff for Lent and usually that included a favorite sweet.

So if chocolate was on the 40-day “don’t do” list I ate as much chocolate as I could during the run-up to Ash Wednesday.

If you observe Lent and you’re giving up sweets you gotta make this special rice cake right away. You only have 4 days before Lent starts.

It really doesn’t take much effort to make and you get a huge payoff that will hold you over until Easter.

Just boil the rice in milk flavored with a vanilla bean, lemon and orange zest. When the rice is cool mix in raisins, orange zest and egg yolks spiked with orange liqueur. Then fold in fluffy beaten egg whites pour it into a baking pan and stick it in the oven. How easy is that?

The orange and vanilla bean scented arborio rice is tender, light and moist. The plump raisins add a touch of sweetness and the orange zest a fresh perky note. The golden crustless edge is an extra tasty treat. A dollop of whipped cream finishes the cake in style.

If you love rice pudding this cake will take you to a whole new level of ecstasy.

Rice cake is even better the next day so make sure you make enough. That way you’ll be sure to satisfy your craving and have a leg up on making it through Lent.

I usually didn’t. I cheated.

If you do make it all the way through be sure to watch me make my classic Neapolitan Easter treat, pastiera so you’ll be ready when Easter rolls around and your fast finally ends.

Buon appetito!

Torta di Riso: Sweet Rice Cake
 
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An easy sweet rice cake flavored with vanilla bean and the zest of orange and lemon.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1½ cup arborio rice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, just strips of the peel
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 orange, just the zest
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • butter and flour for the baking pan
  • powdered sugar
  • whipped cream
Instructions
  1. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform cake pan.
  2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
  3. Put the milk, the vanilla seeds, sugar and lemon peel in a pot over medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar and slowly bring the milk to a rapid simmer.
  4. When the milk forms little bubbles around the edge of the pot add the rice, stir so the rice doesn't stick, cover and simmer about 40 minutes or until the rice is tender stirring occasionally.
  5. Put the cooked rice in a bowl to cool. Remove the lemon peel.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Separate the eggs.
  8. Beat the yolks with the orange liqueur.
  9. Whip the whites to a stiff peak.
  10. When the rice is cool zest about ¾ of the orange peel into the bowl, add the yolks and raisins and mix well.
  11. Add the whites and fold gently into the rice mixture.
  12. Pour the rice batter into a springform pan and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry, about 60 minutes.
  13. Let the rice cake cool for about 10 minutes then take it out of the pan.
  14. Shower the top of the cake with powdered sugar and a sprinkle the rest of the orange zest on top.
  15. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.

 

Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew

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Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.
Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.

Beef stew was my favorite lunch when I trudged home from elementary school on a cold wet winter’s day. I liked to squash all of the tender ingredients together to form a shepherd’s pie mash-up on my plate that I scooped up with a spoon.

Not so many cold wet days here in the Bay Area during the California drought but I’m making this comforting stew anyway. It’s still one of my favorite dishes. I like to make sure that I have some left over because it is a tasty and quick dish to heat up after a long day when I don’t have the energy to cook.

The beef adds deep flavor to the stew but to be honest I’m in it for the most flavorful ingredients, the vegetables.

You may have noticed that many of my recipes reflect my tendency to eat more vegetables and less meat. Often meat is a flavor agent in the dish not the star. The beef stew is a good example. If you have a paleo at the table just pile that dish up with lots of meat.

Food writer and cook Mark Bittman recently shared his thoughts about more vegetables, less meat in his NY Times article.

Bittman seems to have stirred to pot so to speak with his ribollita recipe, the humble but classic Tuscan vegetable soup.

If you want the real deal, check out my ribollita recipe that I learned from Stefania at North Beach’s fantastic BaoNecci on Green. Her ribollita goes back 5 generations in her northern Tuscany family.

If you don’t have the 2 days to make ribollita stop at Day 1 and enjoy a wonderful healthy minestrone.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew
 
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Italian beef and vegetable stew
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound beef chuck, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 2 celery stalks, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in small cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs Italian parsley, 3 on the stem and roughly chop just the leaves from one
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (I misspoke in the video and said 3 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 cups water
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Trim excess fat from the beef. Cut in 2 inch cubes. Season with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lightly dust the beef with flour.
  2. Quarter the carrots and potatoes then cut them into in ½ inch slices. Cut the celery stalk in half and cut into pieces the same size as the carrots and potatoes.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons of EVOO in an enamel or heavy-bottomed pot. Put the pot over a high flame until the oil starts to ripple then lower the heat to medium-high.
  4. When the oil is rippling add the beef. Cook the beef and let the beef develop a dark brown crust on all sides. (A fond will form on the bottom of the pot. Those brown bits will eventually melt into the braising sauce and add flavor. Lower the flame if necessary or add a little water so the fond doesn't burn.)
  5. Add another tablespoon EVOO if there is not enough fat in the pot to brown the vegetables.
  6. Add the vegetables and bay leaf to the pot.
  7. Stir the vegetables to coat well with the oil and cook until they pick up some brown color.
  8. When the vegetables are done clear a small spot on the bottom of the pan. Make sure it has a coating of oil adding some if necessary.
  9. Add the tomato paste to the hot spot and cook the tomato paste until it darkens. Stir to coat all of the vegetables with the paste.
  10. To braise add enough water to just cover the stew. Be sure to scrape up (deglaze) all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. (You can use stock but I don't think the dish really needs it. You can deglaze the bottom of the pot with ¼ cup dry red wine to add another layer of flavor. Just cook off most of the wine before adding the braising liquid.)
  11. Add 3 stems of parsley and stir into the stew.
  12. Cover the pot and simmer the stew for about 60 minutes.
  13. Stir the stew occasionally to ensure it does not burn on the bottom.
  14. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. The stew should be just lightly bubbling at the edge of the pot.
  15. Put the lid ajar atop the pot if the stew is not thick enough and simmer for 30 minutes more.
  16. Braise until the beef flakes when speared with a fork and the vegetables are knife tender.
  17. Spoon the stew into a bowl and sprinkle a bit of finishing EVOO on top and chopped parsley for color.
  18. Serve immediately.

 

Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

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Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

Baked Italian baby eggplant is a favorite blog text recipe post so we decided to show you how to make it. Let me know if there are other recipe posts or other Italian dishes you want me to cook and maybe we’ll add them to our upcoming video episode list.

We’re in the worst drought ever here in California.

My produce guys tell me prices are already on the rise because of the drought. 60% of America’s produce comes from California so we’ll all be paying 15-20% more.

Even as prices rise, keep on buying local organic produce. The quality of the ingredients is vital. There are only 4 key ingredients in this dish so they all have to shine.

The only two days of heavy rain this whole winter had to be when I’m out food shopping over the weekend for the 3 episodes shot on Monday. I know we need the rain but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain.

I was a man on a mission. Off I went to the Ferry Building Saturday farmer’s market in the rain. No Italian baby eggplant. I hit at least six other markets and baby Italian eggplant were nowhere to be found. All I got was wet.

I panicked. I needed eggplant for Monday’s shoot. While scouring the city I caught a glimpse of dark eggplant on a sidewalk stand as the bus passed Grant Street in Chinatown. I made my way back to the produce stand and there I found not the Italian baby eggplant I desperately needed but Japanese eggplant instead.

I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

I was about to pass them up when I said to myself “Hey, you got a show to shoot. Whaddaya gonna do? Buy these. Stupido! This happens to other people too, so it’s an improvisation lesson.”

After chasing all over the city, I had developed a “woolie” (a craving) for these baked eggplant. I had to make them.

So that’s why I’m using Japanese eggplant that are readily available in the market. If you can’t get the Italian baby eggplant, use the Japanese.

The taste and texture is as good as baking the small black-purple Italian ones. But if I find them in market, I go for the baby Italians every time.

Zesty crispy tomato and pecorino top sweet creamy soft eggplant inside the flavorful shriveled skin. The essence of eggplant in every single bite. Serve it by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course. Just add some prosciutto & cheese to the platter and some olives too.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
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Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili

Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan black kale will make you want to devour your veggies!

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I love leafy vegetables cooked using this easy steam/saute method. You can have delicious and healthy vegetables on your table in about 15 minutes.

Heat up olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a big pan. Throw in the leafy greens and coat them all with the oil. Add a little water and bring it to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan.

In a few minutes take off the lid and let the water evaporate. Saute the wilted greens in the garlic-infused oil until they’re tender.

All of the healthy vegetable goodness stays in the pan and the perfectly cooked tender greens flecked with garlic and chili flake glisten in the sheen of the olive oil.

Choose your favorite leafy vegetable, chard, brocolli rabe, escarole. But don’t be limited to greens. The steam/saute method works with most vegetables.

I cooked a vegetable with many names. Black kale because of its color. Dino(saur) kale because of the large leaf’s rough surface. Tuscan kale from the region in Italy where it is a favored ingredient for ribollita, the famous Tuscan twice boiled soup.

Call it what you want. Just make some soon. It’s vegan, Mediterranean, and if you leave out the bread, it’s even paleo!

The intense slightly bitter kale flavor is mellowed by the buttery olive oil. The heat of the chili flake warms your throat with each swallow.

Eat a bowl of kale as a light lunch or serve it as a side for your main course. Have a hunk of crusty bread handy to sop up the sauce that’s left on the plate.

Italians eat fantastic food but the Mediterranean Diet, most prominent in southern Italy, is healthy as well. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits locally grown and in season, legumes, nuts and grains. I love fish. Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice. I eat meat in moderation and sweets from time to time.

My meals are delicious and nutritious. Yours can be too.

So eat your vegetables! Roast some sausage to serve with steam/sauteed broccoli rabe for a complete meal. Or for something entirely different make a green bean and red onion salad.

Gianni’s Tip: I removed the thick tough stem at the base of each kale leaf. I saved the stems as I do with all my vegetable trimmings. Set the trimmings aside and throw them in the pot the next time you make a broth or soup for extra flavor. If you don’t use the trimmings immediately, just bag them and put them in the freezer for later.

Use it all up. Head towards zero waste in your kitchen. You’ll be happy and the planet will be too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili
 
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Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of kale (look for "Lacinato" on the tag) or your favorite leafy vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Wash the kale well.
  2. Cut out the tough stem as the bottom of each leaf.
  3. Cut the kale into 2 inch ribbons.
  4. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  5. Add the kale and sea salt to taste.
  6. Pour in the water, bring to a rapid simmer, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  7. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

 

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
 
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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.

 

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
 
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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.

Start Thanksgiving Dinner with Crab & Vegetables in a Hot Bath

Anchovy Garlic Hot Dipping Sauce for Crab & Veggies
Anchovy Garlic Hot Dipping Sauce for Crab & Veggies

The dungeness crab season started a couple of weeks ago and the harvest is superb.

So here’s a simple delicious start for your Thanksgiving dinner, steamed crab and vegetables with bagna cauda, a flavorful anchovy-garlic hot dipping sauce.

This is a super easy dish. Buy some fresh-steamed and cleaned crab, dungeness here in the Bay Area, blue crab on the east coast.

Cut up your favorite vegetables. Serve the vegetables raw or blanch them for a couple of minutes in boiling water if you like. Slice some cubes of crusty, rustic bread.

Make the bagna caulda dipping broth in 5 minutes. Keep it hot on the stove until you’re ready to eat. You can serve it over a flame in a fondue pot or a small earthenware pot over a candle-warmer.

I just put the steaming bagna cauda in a small pot on the table without a flame. It’s usually all gone before it cools off.

Crab, multi-color carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper and green beans and crusty bread surround the bagna calda. You can leave the cracked crab in the shell to dip but I wanted to make it easier to enjoy. Drizzle some bagna calda over the crab pieces so your guests can scoop up some of the pieces too small to dip .

Dip the large crab pieces and the vegetables in the bagna cauda. Hold the bread underneath to catch any drippings as you transport the crab and vegetables to your salivating mouth. Dip the bread in the sauce, eat it and start all over again. It’s a fun antipasto to share.

The mellow briny anchovy-garlic infused oil is a perfect boost for the sweet meaty crab and crunchy veggies .

Here are some other suggestions to add a bit of Italy to your American Thanksgiving meal.

Best wishes for a wonderful time with family and friends at your Thanksgiving table.

Buon appetito!

Bagna Cauda-A Hot Dipping Sauce
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and then finely chopped
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Put the olive oil and butter In a small sauté pan or small pot over low heat.
  2. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter is melted and just starts to foam add the garlic and sauté briefly, until the garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute. (Don't allow the garlic to take on any color.)
  3. Add the anchovies to the pan and cook stirring frequently until the anchovies dissolve.
  4. Add the parsley and stir well.
  5. Serve the bagna calda immediately in a small crockery pot or bowl along with the crab, vegetables and bread.

 

Mighty Minestrone–A Hearty Vegetable Soup Recipe

A hearty & healthy vegetable soup
A hearty & healthy vegetable soup

There’s been a chill in the air so I decided to make my first soup of the fall season.

Minestrone was at the top of my list. It’s easy to make, delicious and good for you.

The most difficult part of this recipe is chopping the vegetables. Otherwise, you just let the minestrone simmer away for an hour and a half, stirring from time to time.

The flavorful kale is a perfect companion for the tender meaty borlotti beans surrounded by bits of cabbage, potatoes and zucchini floating in the full-bodied vegetable broth. If you get lucky you may get a piece of nutty pancetta in your next spoonful.

Slice some crusty bread and you’re ready for a hearty lunch or serve minestrone as a substantial first course for your next dinner on a chilly eve.

Leave out the pancetta for a vegetarian version. Either way minestrone is even better the next day so make sure you have some leftover.

Now I’m fortified for whatever fall has in store.

Buon appetio!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mighty Minestrone--A Hearty Vegetable Soup
 
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Combine your favorite vegetables into this easy soup. You'll be eating delicious, healthy minestrone in about an hour.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • ¼ pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 carrot, quartered and cut in 1" slices
  • 1 celery stalk cut the same as the carrot
  • 1 zucchini cut the same as the carrot
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut the same as the carrot
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ cup fresh Italian flat parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup borlatti or cannelini beans, soaked overnight and drained, or from a can, drained
  • 8 kale leaves, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • ½ head cabbage, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • Grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. (Do not add salt until the beans are fully cooked so the beans don't toughen.)
  2. Over medium-high heat put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot.
  3. When the oil is hot cook the pancetta until it takes on some color.
  4. Add the onions to the pot and saute until translucent.
  5. Add the bay leaf, garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini to the pot, mix well to coat everything with olive oil and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add 2 quarts water and bring the soup to a boil.
  7. Add the beans to the pot and cook until the beans begin to soften, about 40 minutes.
  8. Add the kale and cabbage to the pot and stir well.
  9. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of soup, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are tender.
  10. When the minestrone is done add parsley, sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir well.
  11. Sprinkle grated parmigiano atop each bowl and a drizzle of good olive oil as you serve it to your guests.