How easy is that? No slaving over pots and pans on top of the stove, everything just roasts in the oven. Make the easy pan gravy while the turkey rests on the counter before carving. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your friends and family around the Thanksgiving table.
There are lots of other vegetable recipes on my blog and you can get my free vegetable eBook recipes there too.
I love butternut squash and make it often, especially in the fall. A favorite is roasted butternut squash lightly flavored with honey and sage.
You can have this dish on your table in less than 30 minutes. The hardest part is cutting and peeling the squash.
The cubed butternut squash is coated with EVOO and honey flavored with fresh sage, then roasted to a rich golden brown.
The crispy, nutty exterior gives way to an explosion of sweet, creamy squash with each bite. I used an Italian chestnut honey that adds a burnt caramel note, but any honey you have on hand will work well too. The fresh sage adds earthy complexity to the dish.
I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year but I will be bringing some vegetables to add to my friend’s table.
I know, you either love or hate brussels sprouts. I happen to love these crispy little orbs and I hope you will too.
Coat the brussels sprouts with EVOO. Put them right in the hot oven along with the roasting turkey. The sprouts dusted with grated parmigiano have a nutty flavor. The toasted pine nuts add a crunchy texture and a squeeze of fresh lemon brightens the whole dish. Simple and delicious.
Cabbage stuffed with rice and flavorful browned ground beef braised in San Marzano tomatoes is a comfort food that helps me transition to early fall. I don’t give up late summer easily.
Stuffed cabbage is easy to prepare and packs a ton of texture and flavor. You can have it on your table in less than an hour. The recipe is my memory of my mom’s Neopolitan-style stuffed cabbage.
Soft, silky and sweet cabbage leave enrobe a tasty rice and ground beef filling scented with garlic, pecorino and oregano. The bundles are baked in the oven bathed in a San Marzano tomato sauce.
Each bite is complex. The tangy rice and beef filling is balanced by the sweetness of the cabbage and tomatoes. The perky garlic, oregano and pecorino notes are reinforced in both the filling and the sauce, kicking the flavor complexity up a couple of notches.
Stuffed cabbage is a comforting and filling meal all on one plate. I like it even better the next day so make sure you make enough for leftovers. Welcome to fall.
I have more late summer zucchini than I know what to do with. Well, almost. I made a fritatta with zucchini, potatoes, wild boar salami and fontina. I made ciambotta, a zucchini stew with potatoes and onions in a tomato sauce.
I used what I had left to make zucchine alla scapace, golden fried slices of zucchini marinated with garlic, mint and a squirt of red wine and balsamic vinegars.
In the south of Italia scapece denotes marinated or preserved with oil and vinegar. In the north the method is in saor.
I love to eat this dish with some prosciutto or salami and aged sharp provolone or as a side with fish or meat. The nutty sweetness of the zucchini is balanced by the vinegar and the mint’s clean fresh taste adds to the complexity.
This is one of those dishes that gets better with age. You should let it marinate for at least a couple of hours. Overnight is better and some think that the dish doesn’t reach peak flavor for about 4 or 5 days. So make a lot of it and have it on hand for about a week. See what works best on your flavor index.
Zucchini is a wonderful ingredient for frittata. Watch my fritatta video to see how to make one. You can adapt the basic recipe to use zucchini or your favorite ingredients.
North Beach’s Italian-Heritage Parade, the oldest in America, is Sunday, October 7. Book your lunch table now at one of the many caffes and restaurants on the parade route. They’re going fast. It’s a fantastic holiday. You don’t want to miss it. Everyone will be there.
We’re in for a really special treat this year. Piero and Lorenza Cipriani are flying in from Italia laden with bounty from the fall harvest. Santo Esposito who owns Cavalli Cafe is pitching a big tent outside on Saturday & Sunday so the Ciprianis can share tastes of their Italian culinary loot with anyone who stops by.
They’re bringing this year’s extra virgin olive oil from a small producer in Tuscany, just-picked truffles from Emiglia-Romagna and Umbria, just-milled Tuscan chestnut flour and fresh and dried porcini mushrooms.
I’d kill for a fresh porcini. I like to grill them with garlic-infused olive oil and a light sprinkle of oregano or marjoram and sea salt. It’s like eating steak.
All of the Cipriani goodies are for sale so grab some while you can. And stop in Cavalli Cafe before you move on for an espresso and Santo’s cannoli, the best in all of North Beach. I hope I see you there after our Parade lunch party.
I have a few seats at my lunch table if you want to join us. Send me an email and I’ll let you know the details and where to meet up.
I was hosting a 4-course birthday dinner for a friend. I asked her what she wanted. “Nothing special. You come up with something. It’s always good,” she told me. But the next morning she sent me an email. “Can you make sweet potato gnocchi? I’ve been craving them.”
How could I say no, but the pressure was on. Everyone at my dinner loves the puffy, light sweet potato gnocchi at da Flora, one of our favorite North Beach restaurants. Would mine pass muster with this exacting crowd?
I use both russet and sweet potatoes here. Sweet potatoes can be wet so I roasted the potatoes instead of boiling them in their jackets to keep them as dry as possible.
The sweet potato gnocchi were light little pillows that just about melted on my tongue. The sage butter sauce is classic in its simplicity and adds richness to the gnocchi’s sweetness. The grated parmigiano really balances the flavors and adds to the complexity of this dish.
This recipe made over 100 gnocchi. Lucky for me I had more than enough for dinner so some could be frozen to enjoy another day. Just spread them out on a cookie tray and put them in the freezer. When frozen store them in a freezer bag. Drop the frozen gnocchi right into the boiling water. They’ll take a bit longer to cook through. Frozen gnocchi are good but fresh gnocchi are better.
It’s getting near the end of the summer season so I’m putting up some eggplant to tide me over until spring.
This a simple recipe from the south of Italia. The pickled eggplant is preserved under olive oil (sott’olio) and will keep in your refrigerator for weeks, even months.
Let the eggplant sit in the refrigerator for a few days to reach its peak flavor. The vinegar mellows and the eggplant picks up a hint of garlic, oregano and bay as it marinates in the jar. The red hot pepper adds a little sparkle at the end of each bite. (I used a small Calabrian chili pepper packed in EVOO.)
The pickled eggplant is a wonderful addition to an antipasti platter. Use it as a crostini topping. Serve it as a side with meat or fish.
N.B. I have to tell you that these are not canning recipes. My stuff lasts weeks or even months in the refrigerator. Just be sure that the eggplant is always fully covered by olive oil. If you want to keep the eggplant for a long time in your pantry, follow standard canning techniques to ensure food safety.
I love fresh figs. I don’t care, black or white, I eat them all while they are in season. It all started when I was a kid.
We had 3 fig trees in our Jersey backyard, 2 black, 1 white. I couldn’t wait for the end of summer when the figs ripened so that I could eat them right off the tree, still warm in the late summer sun. My fall job was to wrap the trees with newspaper and plastic sheets and put a bushel on top so they survived the cold winters.
The figs are fantastic this summer, big, fat and sweet. I don’t peel fresh figs the way many do in Italy. I hold the short stem and bite off the whole thing to fill my my mouth with a burst of their rich flavor.
Poor me, I got stuck with 2 pints of Mission figs. No way they’d all be eaten before they spoiled. So I decided to make Galloping Figs, a simple dessert that gets its name from the plopping sound the figs make as they cook in the syrup. The figs have a jammy intensity with just a hint of lemon and bay in the background. Thanks to Lidia for this one.
For dessert, I served the sweet, syrupy figs with Robiola, a creamy soft cheese from Langhe in northern Italy. Galloping Figs make a fantastic topping for vanilla gelato too or just enjoy them on their own. Don’t forget to spoon the luscious syrup on top before serving. The figs will keep for a few days in the fridge to prolong your enjoyment.
I was navigating through the crowd waiting for the bus outside of Cavalli Cafe on Stockton and didn’t notice the hand-written sign in the window. Owner Santo Esposito saw me passing by and ran out to tell me that black truffles (tartufi neri) had just arrived from Umbria. My heart raced as we hurried inside.
Santo opened the box with the black beauties inside. The truffle aroma wafted across the counter. I was overwhelmed and had to have one. I knew exactly what I would do with the tartuffo I was holding in my hand, my take on a classic Umbrian pasta.
I had chestnut flour in my cupboard so I made fresh pasta and served it with a simple black truffle sauce. Set a plate of pasta before each guest and shave truffle on top. The aroma of the Umbrian forest fills your head as you go in for your first forkful. The tender pasta has a delicate, sweet chestnut flavor that blends nicely with the woodsy truffles. (You can find chestnut flour at Italian delis and at many supermarkets or just substitute spaghetti or your favorite imported Italian dried pasta.)
Friends in Italia supply Santo with the best products all year: Tuscan EVOO from last fall’s first press; dried porcini mushrooms; chestnut flour; white and black truffles depending on the season. These black truffles were harvested just a few days ago. Don’t delay, get fresh black truffles at Cavalli Cafe now @ $2/gram.
I love the small Italian eggplant now in the market.
Here’s a quick recipe that explodes with flavor. Just cut the eggplants in half and bake them in the oven topped with crushed San Marzano tomatoes and grated pecorino. The eggplant are soft and sweet and the grated cheese forms a crispy top.
As the eggplant cools many don’t make it off the top of the stove. Pilferers grab one to make sure they turned out well. I always have to make extra so I have enough for an antipasti platter or as a side for meat that I’m serving that day. You can keep leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days.
I like the baby eggplant hot out of the oven but I like them better at room temperature.
This is one of the recipes in my Vegetable e-book. Do you have yours? Just click on the e-book on the homepage to get one.
UPDATE (2/15/14): This blog post was so popular, I decided to show you how to do it. Check out the video above!
I never throw away bread. I use stale bread for my meatballs, for stuffings and for breadcrumbs. I always have some hanging around.
Day-old bread inspires panzanella, a simple summer tomato and bread salad. Some of you asked for this recipe based on the classic dish from Florence. I love my rustic version. You can get fancy and make crustless croutons in the oven but who wants to turn on a hot oven in the summer. Make it my way!
I’ve been making this salad a lot since prime heirloom tomatoes hit the market. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced onion bloomed in red wine vinegar, basil, cubed bread, extra virgin olive oil. That’s it. Make sure you use the best ingredients. This is the time to break out your best fruity Italian olive oil.
I only make panzanella in the summer when I can get big, juicy, ripe tomatoes. When the local heirloom tomatoes are gone from the farmer’s market, the panzanella is gone from my table.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and let the salad sit for a half-hour to create the juices that moisten the bread. How easy is that?
Try to get a little bit of everything in each bite. The tomato is sweet, the cucumber crunchy and the marinade-soaked bread ties everything together.
Serve panzanella as part of an antipasti platter or as a side for fried seafood, grilled or roasted sausage or meats. (This is the salad I paired with the fried shrimp in Sunday’s post.) Sometimes panzanella with some cheese and salami or prosciutto on the side is my summertime lunch or dinner.
When I was a kid on a steamy summer Friday night in Jersey, fried fish was one of my favorite dinners. My Mom lightly dredged an array of fish in flour and quickly fried them in olive oil. We ate the fish hot out of the oil with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt.
I liked the crispy sweet shrimp the best. I’d grab one from the stove and shove the whole thing in my mouth. If I tried to get another my Mom always shooed me away. “Save some for the table!”
The fat white Gulf prawns at the fishmonger this morning were just right for today’s lunch. I’m eating at least a half dozen with abandon.
A quick meal with the pristine taste of the sea. Fry the shrimp and serve them hot out of the oil with a squeeze of lemon. The shrimp are paired here with my version of panzanella, a summer tomato and bread salad. Just add a bottle of crisp, chilled pinot grigio to the table and eat.
Fry up your favorite fish as well. I really like a nice piece of fried sole. You can quickly fry up some squid too, as I did in my calamari fritti video.
I returned from NYC to find the first decent crop of local heirloom tomatoes. A big, fat golden and red orb in the farmer’s market had my name on it. The ripe tomato had a sweet aroma and was just firm to the touch. You don’t mess we these babies in their prime. Keep it real simple.
Tomato and mozzarella salad is a riff on the traditional Caprese, slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella separated by a basil leaf and drizzled with EVOO.
I like the chunky pieces of tomato and smaller bocconcini mozzarella balls cubed and sprinkled with torn basil leaves, EVOO and sea salt.
I let the salad marinate for a half hour before serving to bring out the sweetness of the tomato and infuse the olive oil with the basil. All of the juices create a marinade to coat everything with flavor.
Tomato salad is a refreshing start to any summer meal or as a side for grilled or roasted sausage or other meats. Just make sure you have a good hunk of bread to soak up all the juices.
I made baked stuffed mushroom caps to accompany prosciutto and smoked mozzarella on my antipasti platter. That’s them in the front of the plate.
Stuffed mushrooms are quick and easy to make and pack a lot of flavor. Serve them hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Parmigiano, garlic, parsley and EVOO flavor the breadcrumbs and the grated cheese creates a golden crust on top of the mushroom caps. Every bite is a zesty and crunchy delight. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I stuff the whole cap in my mouth and eat it in just one bite.
You can add the stuffed mushroom caps to almost any antipasti platter you create. The caps are a compact package that you can even pass around as your arriving dinner guests sip on a bubbly prosecco.
So what’s that other stuff in the photo?
I had breadcrumbs left over so I stuffed an artichoke and a couple of baby heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled the remaining flavored breadcrumbs on red bell peppers and baked them too. They each have their own special texture and taste and they are all delicious and I wanted to show you them all.
Use the artichoke as a first course. Add the roasted stuffed tomatoes and red bell peppers sprinkled with the flavored breadcrumbs to an antipasti platter or serve them as a vegetable side dish with lunch or dinner. I tell you how to handle the peppers and tomatoes in the recipe below. If you don’t know how to clean an artichoke, watch me do it. It’s fun.
Be sure to keep this versatile flavored breadcrumb recipe around. You’ll use it often with roasted vegetables or as a light topping for baked fish or roasted chicken.