Last Thanksgiving I posted the Italian-American menu for the 4-course Thanksgiving dinner I served at my house in San Francisco. I gave you great wine suggestions for your meal.
This year I’m sharing my recipes for the roasted turkey, chestnut and sausage stuffing and gravy that I’ll make with my family in northern Jersey. I love this meal but I only make it once a year so I’m always happy when Thanksgiving rolls around.
The turkey is golden brown and scented with rosemary, sage, lemon and garlic. The chestnut and sausage stuffing has a crispy crust and adds big flavor to your Thanksgiving table. The gravy is scented by the herbs and garlic and ties everything together.
I don’t know what vegetables we’ll make or what the antipasti or dolce (dessert) courses will be. We’ll decide when the family gathers next week. We’re very democratic about these things.
I do know one thing. My sister Rose will assemble her famous pedestal fruit bowl to accompany an assortment of roasted nuts to help end our Thanksgiving meal. I know Rose’s will be better than the one I made last year. And I know that it will be the centerpiece for our table, has been since we were kids.
I can’t wait to see everyone. A bunch of us will hit the markets to get the best ingredients. Six of us spanning 3 generations will be in the kitchen cooking together. Best of all 20 will be at the table for a day of feasting.
I’m finally giving in to the reality that winter is coming. I think it was setting the clocks back last weekend that did it. By 5 it’s getting dark now and I’m not sure I like that.
In reaction to shorter days and winter nights I’ve been putting up marinated vegetables for my pantry. I was compelled to make vinegar peppers (peperoni sott’aceto) and eggplant caponata. And I’m about to break into the Giardiniera, a jar of marinated vegetables.
Giardiniera is an Italian kitchen staple. Make up a big batch and keep it in the refrigerator. Giardiniera is a great snack with salumi or cheese. I like it on sandwiches. It’s great on an antipasti platter or even as a side for a roboust star, grilled sausages maybe or even roasted pork.
Cutting up the vegetables takes the most energy. I gotta be honest about making Giardiniera though. You have to brine the vegetables overnight and they have to marinate for a couple of days before they’re ready to eat. Of course, if you’re impatient, you can take a taste or two in the interim.
1 small head cauliflower
1 celery rib
12 pearl onions
12 pitted green olives
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small serrano or jalapena chile
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup EVOO
1/4 cup sea salt for the brine
Remove the seeds and ribs from the red, yellow and serrano peppers. Cut into 2 inch strips and then 1/2 inch slices.
Cut the celery and carrot in quarters and cut in 1/2 inch slices.
Cut the pearl onion in half.
Cut the cauliflower in quarters and cut out the core and large stem. Break the florets into pieces about the same size of the other vegetables.
Place the green, red and serrano peppers, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower in a bowl. Stir the salt into enough water to cover the vegetables and pour the water into the bowl to cover the vegetables completely. Add more water if necessary.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day drain salty water and rinse vegetables well.
Cut the olives in half.
Mix the garlic, oregano, black pepper and olives in a bowl. Pour in vinegar and EVOO and mix well. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and mix well.
Spoon the giardiniera into a liter or quart jar, fill to the top with the oil mixture and seal the jar tightly.
Refrigerate for 2 days before eating.
Gardiniera will keep in the refrigerator of at least 2 weeks.
Cioppino has been on my mind lately. Some of my fans asked me to share my recipe so I just had to make it today.
Cioppino is a San Francisco original created by the Italians on Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1800s. The local story is that when the boats came in at the end of the day a big pot with tomatoes was put on the fire and the fisherman “chipped in” pieces of that day’s catch. They’d call to those who hadn’t donated yet. “Hey Guiseppe you gonna chip-in-o? Ciopinno was born.
More likely Cioppino comes from the Ligurian dialect. Some of the earliest Italians who settled in North Beach were from Genoa and other parts of the region of Liguria. They were fisherman in Liguria and they became fisherman on the Wharf. Cioppino is probably derived from “ciuppin” which in the Ligurian dialect means “little soup”, a fish stew.
This is an ecumenical dish. Sicilians later joined the Genoese on the Wharf along with Portuguese fisherman. They all added their own touches to this dish and the pot on the Wharf probably had different fish each day depending on what was left over on the boats.
I’m using local halibut, clams, mussels, calamari and prawns. Oh, and dungeness crab. I couldn’t find any in the fish markets. We’re out of season here in San Francisco. I was desperate. I went to see my friend Gigi at Sotto Mare in the Village. Gigi wasn’t there but Louisa hooked me up with a big, beautiful crab from the waters off Oregon.
This is really an easy dish to make. Saute the vegetables and herbs, add the tomato and simmer until you reach the consistency you want. I like a thicker tomato sauce but still with enough broth to dunk a piece of toasted sour dough garlic bread. Once the sauce is to the proper consistency put in the fish, cover the pot and simmer until the mussels and clams open. Top with basil, parsley, a drizzle of a good finishing EVOO and your ready to dive in.
The fish is just cooked through, tender and sweet bathed in the tomato sauce scented with onion, garlic and herbs. The sparkle of the red pepper flakes hits the back of your mouth as you swallow each bite. The zesty flavor of the sea in a bowl.
Make the tomato base and use any fish that you like. Make Cioppino you’re own. Here’s mine. Buon appetito.
The toughest part of this meal is cutting the toy box tomatoes in half. You can be eating dinner in about an hour.
The crusty, tender slices of pork tenderloin are bathed in a pan sauce scented with garlic, sage and rosemary. The marinated toy box tomato and cucumber salad served over a bed of baby arugula is the perfect simple side.
Just marinate the tenderloin as you make the tomato salad. Brown the pork on top of the stove and roast in a hot oven. Slice and serve with the tomato salad on the side. Add a crusty loaf of bread and a bottle of sangiovese, aglianico or other zesty red and you’re all set. Buon appetito!
A simple healthy dish that can be made in a jiffy any time of the year.
Choose the fish you like best–usually halibut or cod fillets for me. Quickly roast the potatoes and tomatoes put all the ingredients in a parchment or foil pouch and roast in a hot oven for just 15 minutes or so until the fish just starts to flake. Dinner’s ready!
If you like fish you’ll love this dish. Everything is bathed in the sauce created in the pouch while the fish roasts. The fish is moist and flavorful. The tomatoes add sweetness offset by the tangy olives. The creamy potatoes absorb all the flavors and bring the whole dish together.
Making liquore di fragole is one of my end of summer traditions. I love strawberries–I want their flavor and aroma with me all winter long.
Hull a pint of strawberries and let them steep in grain alcohol or vodka–wait 24 hours and you have strawberry essence in a bottle. How easy is that?
When I can’t stand the cold winter rain anymore a sip of this aromatic nectar with a kick does the trick. Spring and the first strawberries can’t be that far away.
Serve the liquore di fragole in a cordial glass to top off a dessert course, or pour some liquore over vanilla gelato and you got the whole dessert course in a bowl!
So it’s just strawberries here. Make sure you get the last of the organic ripe summer harvest still at their peak. I like Everclear, a grain alcohol that’s 151 proof (75.5 percent alcohol) because it has very little flavor of its own. If 151 is too big a punch for you 80 or 100 proof unflavored vodka works well too.
Saturday’s annual SF Italian Athletic Club’s Festa Coloniale Italiana on North Beach’s Washington Square was quite an event–food stalls, wine tastings, live music, even a fountain temporarily installed in the Club’s ballroom.
Guys from Tony’s Pizza from down the street pleased the crowd with a dough throwing demonstration.
All that pizza tossing inspired me to make a couple when I got back up the hill. They’re both really easy to make especially if you don’t have to make your own dough. Dough from A.G. Ferrari, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s will always work in a pinch. If you have an hour or so, try my pizza dough recipe–it can’t be beat.
Stretch the dough to your favorite thickness. Top the dough with a thin drizzle of EVOO starting in the center spiraling to the edge. Then scatter some thinly sliced ripe tomatoes and give them a sprinkle of sea salt, fresh basil, salami and smoked mozzarella. Sprinkle some torn basil leaves on top as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven. The other pizza has squash blossoms (fiori di zucca), ricotta (fresh mozzarella works well too), a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind of black pepper on top of the EVOO drizzle. Heat your oven to its highest setting and bake on a pizza stone or baking sheet for about 7 minutes. Check out my video if you want to see me making pizza from scratch.The dough takes 90 minutes–not too much work–most of the time is just waiting for the dough to rise.
The heat of the Calabrian salami and the mild smokiness of the mozzarella blends well with the sweetness of the tomato and basil. You won’t believe the concentrated zucchini flavor that the blossoms infuse into the cheese–a simple 2-note pie.
I’m hooked on a few local cheesemakers and love that I can get locally made cheeses for my Italian dishes.
The ricotta for the squash blossom pizza came from Bellweather Farms, a family farm in Sonoma. The ricotta is packed in a basket for wonderful texture. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had–could be that this ricotta is made with Jersey cow milk! I love their sheep’s milk pepato and their Crescenza too.
The naturally smoked mozzarella from Belfiore Cheese Company in Berkeley has a light dusting of alder, apple and cherry wood smoke that gives it a light tan color–not like the liquid smoke bronzed ones you see in the supermarket. The taste of the mozzarella shines through. I love Belfiore’s mozzarella and fior di latte a fresh cow’s milk mozzarella. The ricotta is perfect for stuffing ravioli and lasagna.
Finally got my first harvest of San Marzano tomatoes at the North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market–a sign of the end of summer. The first crop was OK but not at peak–we’ll see how they are next week… I think this year’s crop will be less than ideal–didn’t get the hot sunny days they needed this summer. Some of my farmer friends said they weren’t happy with the San Marzanos they canned this year.
So, is it Fall yet?
The Festa Italiana in the Village on Saturday was the first sign for me to move on. It kicks off North Beach’s premier Fall festival season culminating with the Sunday Italian Heritage Parade on Columbus Day weekend. I have a table on the Parade route–can’t wait.
See what else is in the bowl with the San Marzanos? Yup, couldn’t do it last week but I bought some of the new crop of apples–another sign of Fall.
I don’t care what the calendar says–I’m declaring Summer 2011 over. It’s just clean-up harvests now. Get ready for some of these sweet and juicy fall grapes, apples and pears and lots of leafy greens, brocolli, cauliflower and root vegetables.
Figs will be around to enjoy for a little longer and the last of the summer strawberries are fantastic. They’ll be gone soon too. I’ll share a recipe to keep the strawberries with you all winter in my next post.
We’re nearing the end of summer and the plums have been superb. I wanted a final plum celebration to tide me over until next season.
I was on a mission–looking for those tiny Italian prune plums at the Sunday North Beach Farmer’s Market. As we tasted several varieties of purple plums at Inzana Ranch & Produce (Hughson, CA) we heard a story about the farmer’s visit to his ancestral village near Messina Sicily. For days they were constantly surrounded by family and villagers in awe of the special guests from America. With that Sicilian embrace how could you not get in touch with a part of your cultural DNA.
The prune plums weren’t quite at their peak yet. I needed something more mature for the rustic crostata I had in mind. The winner of our taste test were the relatively new varietal Tulare Giants–sweet as sugar and a beautiful purple-yellow in color. Not too juicy so they’re great for baking.
A little dollop of whipped cream is all you need to garnish and finish the crostata. The crust is tender and lends a crumbly buttery finish to each bite. The plums caramelize on top in the open center and remain soft and sweet beneath the crust.
But I’ll have to make this again. The small Italian prune plums are my favorite and they may just be sweeter and riper next Sunday at the North Beach Farmer’s Market. You can go to market at noon or later and still have your pick of all the bounty.
Stop by Sunday–say hello to friends and neighbors–get some great local organic produce. Maybe you’ll hear a cello or maybe a guitar and song. You’ll be inspired for sure….
So here’s the crostata recipe many of you have been asking for since my Il Pranzo post last summer. Can’t believe it’s that time of the year again!
The farmer’s market is still awash with the bounty of late summer and though it was crowded with neighbors and friends, I was still disappointed.
The San Marzano tomatoes weren’t ready for harvest, “next week, we hope” –but I’ve heard that before. Please God, just a hot day or two would do it.
But all was not lost. See that big golden red heirloom in the picture? It weighed in at about 1 1/2 pounds–turned out to be the best I’ve had this slightly disappointing heirloom tomato season–meaty with rich sweet flavor.
So what else is in the picture? The jar holds Rusty’s Farm Daly City Wildflower Honey. Yeah Daly City–don’t laugh, it’s delicious. The purple fingerling potatoes are for a salad and the heirloom, cuke and onion for another. Sweet white corn may end up on the Labor Day table. I’ll bake a crostata (open tart) with the yellow-purple Tulare Giant plums. The white Calimyrna, striped Panache Tiger and Black Mission figs were picked yesterday and are at their peak. The sesame braid and the rolls are from the Italian-French Bakery (Grant at Union).
You gotta grill on Labor Day right? Here’s the single plate menu.
My burger mash-up inspired by Venice, Jersey diners and meatballs
Heirloom tomato cucumber salad
Italian purple potato salad
Venice and Jersey burger memories inspired me to grill my special burger and share this simple recipe for you to enjoy. You’ll never eat a dry, tough, tasteless burger again.
It was late as we made our way back to our Venice apartment. We were tired. There it was–a McDonald’s. No way I said but the crew was determined. I got the Il Mac on the controversial new McItaly menu. Leave it to the Italians to add something really good to the standard McDonald choices. Il Mac was a special grind of locally-sourced meat grilled topped with fontina cheese served on a specially baked local ciabatta roll with lettuce and tomato. It was delicious.
At diners in Jersey, such as Buff’s, White Castle, or the Short Stop you just tell them what you want—no special instructions. Cheeseburger? The counter cook with the dirty waist apron took a ball of ground beef and threw it on top of grilling onions. With a rap of his spatula he smashed the meat into the onions, some now in the burger some still frying on the grill. The burger was cooked through with a crispy crust covered by melted cheese and served on a poppyseed kaiser roll. I always had 2.
My burger recipe is inspired by Il Mac, Jersey diner burgers and my meatballs and has 2 special ingredients to keep the burgers juicy, tender and flavorful. I top the burgers with Italian fontina sprinkle on sauteed cipollini onions and serve the big juicy burger on a toasted soft rosette roll.
The accompanying tomato cucumber salad with diced onion and fresh basil is sprinkled with sea salt and EVOO. It marinates for a while to form its own dressing. The boiled purple potatoes just get some EVOO, parsley, shallot bloomed in a little red wine vinegar and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Retail Update–Upper Grant is exploding with new shops. I finally got a chance to visit Park & Pond and Therapy (Grant between Green/Union). Park & Pond is loaded with “Goods from Near”. A few weeks ago Bay Area sisters Jessica and Abbey Herman realized their dream to open a business of their own. They decided upon this unique shop when they realized a coffeehouse was not for them. Lucky for us. The shop is full of artisanal goods–jewelry, stationary, ceramics, soaps– all produced within 100 miles of North Beach. I was in the back of the shop with my new friend Gigi Giraffe when I espied the NT salted chocolate dipped bacon caramels. We ate them immediately. These Nosh This chocolates from Kai Kronfield are delicious. We left with some great Olivina soap and my personal treasure–NT’s Bacon Crack. I’ll be back here soon.
Therapy is just across the street. It features an interesting mix of goods from clothes to toys. It’s a fun shop. I was surprised to learn that Therapy is a small chain. How did it open in North Beach where chain stores with more than 11 outposts have been banned since 2005? The controversial ordinance is designed to maintain the unique character of our Village by keeping out businesses that you can find anywhere. Therapy has 8 locations scattered around the Bay Area. Welcome to North Beach Therapy! Happy to have you in the Village.
Coming up this week–my plum crostata and all-in-one-pan pork chops with crispy potatoes and vinegar peppers.
Belated Happy Labor Day to all–especially in this difficult and tumultuous year. Good food with family and friends will help you get through it.
Off to a friend’s birthday party. He asked me to bring an appetizer. I had a hard time coming up with one that would work–too messy, won’t travel well, can’t serve it at room temperature….
It had to be something special–this was my birthday gift. I needed the inspiration I knew I would find at the North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market. There they were–in the last stall at the bottom of the street.
The tiny tomatoes glistened like jewels. They inspired a gift to celebrate late August in San Francisco–a red and gold cherry tomato and young onion focaccia. These little gems burst with sweet tomato flavor when you pop them in your mouth. The gold ones were especially sweet.
They probably don’t need it but I knock the flavor up a couple of notches with an EVOO marinade. The tomatoes and onions will caramelize while baking on top of the focaccia for more sweetened intensity.
This focaccia recipe is simple and quick to make –especially if you don’t count the time it takes the dough to rise.
Cut Up Red & Gold Cherry Tomato and Young Onion Focaccia
Guess the focaccia turned out good. Several plates didn’t last long at the party. The crust was crunchy at the edges and the interior airy and light. The tomatoes and onions were reduced to their sweet essence. I drizzled some of the marinade on top to moisten the scattered dry oregano as soon as the golden focaccia emerged from the oven.
Ah you gotta love the late August bounty even if everything is 2 or 3 weeks late this year. It’s been a chilly summer. My tomato guy says he’ll have the first crop of San Marzano tomatoes next Sunday if they get some good sun and heat this week. He only watered them once all month. They’re gonna be meaty. I can’t wait.
Another great weekend in the Village. The SF Mime Troupe was in Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon along with an interesting art show in the park. Lots of visitors too. I had a hard time making my way down Columbus but the boys at Molinari say they can sense that the tourist season is coming to an end. Luckily the farm bounty continues unabated.
Sunday was a chilly, foggy morning and the Village was still abuzz. North Beach denizens flocked to the Farmer’s Market near the library (Columbus/Mason). Each Sunday a dozen farmers bring in their organic harvest and are joined by others selling bread and baked goods, olives and olive oil, nuts, salmon and other goodies –even a couple of food trucks make it out.
We strolled the stalls accompanied by the sweet strains of a cello playing at the end of the short street. The fruits, vegetables and flowers were picture-perfect. I couldn’t resist the zucchini flowers that I stuff with mozzarella and anchovy and fry in a light batter. The chard was colorful. I’ll saute it in olive oil infused with garlic to accompany veal rollatini stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. Friends report San Marzano tomatoes in some markets but I haven’t seen them yet. The farmers tell me the San Marzanos won’t be in for a couple of more weeks. Let me know if you score any–I’m anxious!
Support the North Beach Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning. It’s a great Village asset that we don’t want to lose!
Kerouac Alley (between City Lights Books and Vesuvio off Columbus near Broadway) was busy Sunday as they set up A Fair to Remember— clothes, antiques, paintings, crafts, photographs (including color ’60s pix from the first North Beach strip club).
Kerouac Alley is a great Village venue during the entire year. You never know what will pop up there–a jazz quartet one time, R&B the next, and local artists exhibiting their works.
Keep an eye out on SFGate for what’s happening next on Kerouac Alley.
As a head’s up, I know artists will be in the Alley over the Columbus Day weekend. The North Beach festivities on Sunday October 9 include the Italian-Heritage parade–the oldest in the country. Can’t wait!
Don’t know why but I’ve been putting off making basil pesto–a simple salsa verdi (green sauce) from Genoa. I couldn’t wait any longer when I got a deal on a couple of bunches of small leaf organic basil this morning. By early afternoon, the kitchen was sweetly perfumed by the fresh basil marinating in the morning sun when I returned to make the pesto.
Yeah the Genoese insist you must use a mortar and pestle to make this pesto. I don’t have one so if you don’t either, use a food processor to mince the basil, garlic and pinoli and then mix in the grated cheeses and the butter to give the pesto more texture. Not the authentic Genoa way, but taste is never sacrificed.
Just a few ingredients and you’ve got this pesto in 10 minutes. Use it to dress fettuccine as they do in Genoa (they call the dish trenette) or with spaghetti as I did this time. This pesto is really versatile. Use it as a sauce with roasted meats, as a pizza topping with fresh mozzarella and grated pecorino romano, or add a dollop to a soup like minestrone.
Gotta love this time of the year when so many fantastic vegetables are in season. I get excited in anticipation of each farmer’s market visit. Sometimes my favorite farmers give me a preview of what’s about to be harvested and brought with them on their next trip to the City. But most often I revel in the joy of discovery wandering from one stand to the next.
Romano beans (aka Italian flat beans or pole beans) are plentiful this time of the year. I saw them this morning at the market and grabbed up a bunch.
Here’s a simple recipe that brings out the full flavor of the bean. You can enjoy them as soon as you make the dish but they are at their peak if you let them stand in a covered bowl for a few hours or even overnight so the dressing is absorbed by the beans.
The Romano Bean Salad can be served as a side with meat or fish or as part of an antipasti.
If you are into crunchy vegetables this recipe is not for you. It’s important to cook the beans in boiling salted water until they are tender. They will take on the color of an olive.
A fan reminded me that zucchini is overflowing the garden. Here’s a delicious, fast and easy recipe to help you use up this prolific summer vegetable. Use ciambotta as an accompaniment for fish or meat or as part of an antipasti.
Gagootz is an Italian-American word for zucchini. It derives from the name of an Italian squash cucuzza. I eat a lot of gagootz. I love it in a frittata (egg pie), baked with a savory rice and ground meat stuffing, fried and marinated, or in a dish similar to eggplant alla parmigiana.
But one of my favorite dishes is a version of ciambotta or in my slang jambot. It’s a stew that includes any of your favorite summer vegetables. My version is just zucchini, onions and potatoes in a tomato sauce. I’ll eat just a big bowl of jambot with some great crusty bread for a simple lunch or dinner. Make a lot–it keeps well for several days.
Viola Buitoni was holding a cooking class in the kitchen at the Italian Consulate on top of Pacific Heights last week, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was invited. Le delize di primavera (springtime delights) were on the menu. Viola is a wonderful cook and teacher. I learned some great recipes and kitchen tips as we celebrated spring vegetables with simple and quick preparations.
We set out some fava beans, thinly sliced pancetta and a young Tuscan pecorino cheese so we could nibble as we began our work.
As we munched, I put the sliced rustic Acme bread in the oven to toast and made a fava puree. We prepared two more spreads in about 10 minutes – sheep ricotta flavored with orange zest, nutmeg, fresh majoram and drizzled with EVOO and a lardo spread.
Our tummies satisfied for now we made pasta with fave, green garlic and guanciale. A torta with ricotta, baby chard and prosciutto was put in the oven. Peas sauteed with spring onion and prosciutto and a frittata with fava and borage leaves were cooked on top of the stove as the torta baked. For dessert I made a cooked crema topped with cherries cooked in their own liquid.
Here’s my adaptation of Viola’s pasta recipe for you to enjoy. It serves 4-6 people. The sauce can me made in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito!