Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno)

Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups
Tuna Stuffed Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups

This is getting to be a habit. Another gathering of friends and another request to bring an appetizer. “No meat and no cheese please, and make sure the appetizer is “finger food.” OK, I’ll take the challenge.

I’ve been thinking about these stuffed pepper roll-ups and they fit the bill.

Roast yellow and red peppers right atop the flame on your stove or in the oven. Clean the roasted peppers and cut them into wide strips. Whip up imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil with chopped anchovy and capers, stuff the pepper strips and you’re done. If you don’t want to roast your own peppers, use store-bought roasted peppers in a jar. You’ll be done even faster and they’re almost as good.

Oh, I forgot the “finger food” part.  Just cut each pepper roll in half and add a toothpick. You’re all set. No fork needed. Usually I serve the whole pepper roll-up as part of my antipasti platter. I always have forks on my table.

The meaty, sweet peppers are a mellow wrapper for the zesty tuna stuffing. I always eat more than one.

The tuna stuffing makes a fantastic panino or use it as a crostini topping too.

Buon appetito!

Tuna Stuffed Fire Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno)
 
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Meaty, sweet fire-roasted peppers with a zesty tuna stuffing.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 6-ounce imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 anchovy filets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped and more for garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. You can roast the peppers on the top of a gas stove or under the boiler.
  2. If using the stove top method, place a pepper directly over the gas flame until the skin is wrinkled and slightly charred all over. (I use all my 4 burners and char at least 4 peppers at a time and use long tongs to turn the peppers to char them evenly.)
  3. Or, place the peppers on a baking sheet and under the broiler on the high setting, place the peppers on the top shelf under the broiler. Turn the peppers until their skins are wrinkled all over and slightly charred.
  4. Put the blackened peppers in a paper bag or on a plate covered with a bowl. Set the charred peppers aside to cool.
  5. When cool enough to handle, rub the charred skin off with your hands.
  6. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem, core and seeds.
  7. Cut off the top and bottom to even off the pepper and lay out the pepper flat on a work surface. Use a knife to scrape off any skin or seeds that you missed.
  8. Cut the half pepper in half again. You want strips about 2-inches wide.
  9. Set the pepper strips aside while you make the filling.
  10. Put the tuna in a bowl. Break the tuna into very small pieces.
  11. Add the EVOO, anchovy, capers, parsley, vinegar, mayonaise and mustard to the bowl and mix well with the tuna. The mixture should be whipped almost into a paste consistency.
  12. Try the stuffing and add salt and ground pepper to taste. Mix well.
  13. Lay the pepper strip flat inside facing up and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.
  14. Tightly roll up the pepper strip.
  15. Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle the chopped parsley evenly over the rolls. (If you serve this as finger food, omit the EVOO drizzle, cut the roll in half and insert a toothpick to hold the roll together.)
  16. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

 

Una Pizza Napoletana’s Mangieri Back in the News

Una Pizza Napoletana
Pizza Napoletana

I’ve been following Anthony Mangieri for years on both coasts. Actually I’ve been following his pizza.

The guy had a reputation for making pizza Napoletano, pizza as made in Naples where it all started, my personal favorite. Some even said that Anthony’s pizza was better than you can get in Naples and certainly the best in America.

The only problem was that his pizzeria in New York City’s East Village was only open until he ran out of dough and you had to wait on the sidewalk a couple of hours to get in. Hey, it’s only pizza. I ain’t waiting, so I never went.

I got excited when I heard that Mangieri was closing his New York place and moving to San Francisco. The city’s beauty beckoned. Hell, he could make pizza anywhere, right?

I followed the progress at his new SOMA pizzeria, Una Pizza Nepoletana on 11th near Folsom. Anthony didn’t like the first brick oven he imported from Naples. He ripped it out and 40 grand later he had a new wood-burning beehive brick oven that suited him better. Mangieri’s pizza is artful.  No less would do.

When he finally opened, same thing. The wait on the sidewalk was 2 hours. Hey, it’s only pizza. I ain’t waiting.

I got a chance to walk right into Una Pizza Napoletana one night at a private event. No waiting. There was Mangieri, a solitary figure standing at a stainless steel worktable in the middle of a large room. The Maestro was at his alter. The brick oven was behind him, watched over by Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of fire. Read all about that special night at Mangieri’s Una Pizza Napoletana and some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

In Paolo Lucchese’s article about Mangieri in Sunday’s Chronicle, Anthony says that some nights the pizzeria is empty now. What happened to the 2-hour waits?

When Anthony first started making true pizza Napoletana in Jersey years ago, nobody knew what it was. In just the last few years, pizza Napoletana became famous. Lots of places making Neopolitan-style pizza opened in San Francisco. Farina, Zero-Zero, Tony’s Pizza Napoletano, Pizzeria Delfino, Flour and Water, Mozzeria, the list goes on and on.

We’re in a pizza bubble and I’m think it’s about to burst. Can all these places survive as the glow of pizza oven fades and the crowds more on to the next new craze?

I think Anthony will be making pizza for a long time, no matter what. It’s in his blood. If you haven’t been to Una Pizza Napoletana visit Mangieri soon. You won’t be disappointed. Just don’t ask for a salad.

Here’s Paolo Lucchese’s Anthony Mangieri article from Sunday’s Chronicle and some extra “scenes” with Anthony that Paolo didn’t include in the article.

Pasta with Broccoli & Garlic

Gemelli with Broccoli & Garlic
Gemelli with Broccoli & Garlic

My friend Susan called from Jersey and the subject of her renowned cavatelli with broccoli came up during our conversation. Actually, we talked about “gavadeal” and broccoli, as cavatelli is known in the Jersey southern Italian-American argot.

The broccoli in my fridge had to be used soon. After sharing recipes with Susan, I had to make a broccoli and garlic sauce for the gemelli pasta sitting on the shelf.

Gemelli means twins and it got its name from the two strands curled around each other to form the pasta. Use gemelli, cavatelli, or your favorite short-cut pasta.

Pasta in a broccoli and garlic sauce packed with flavor is ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. The garlic and olive oil enliven the mellow broccoli. The pasta absorbs the sauce and echoes all the flavors. The chili pepper flakes give you a little hot sparkle with each swallow.

I like to dissolve an anchovy fillet or two in the hot oil to deepen the sauce’s savory flavor. It’s your choice to add anchovy or not. If you don’t like hot, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes too. Make pasta with broccoli and garlic your way.

Add this basic pasta sauce technique to your repertoire and you will open the door to a dozen variations. To spark your imagination, here’s a look at cavatelli with 2 sauces, broccoli rabe and a vodka cream sauce, that we made when “Cavati Carol” was in town with her special pasta machine. Carol hails from Rhode Island where cavatelli are known as cavati. Here’s another twist on this basic pasta sauce using arugula and cavatelli.

If you’re hungry and in a hurry, use dried pasta imported from Italia and this dish can be on your table in way less than an hour.

Buon appetito!

Pasta with Broccoli & Garlic
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 pound of gemelli or another short pasta
  • 3 cups of broccoli florets
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1-2 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water plus salt to taste for the sauce
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut the florets in bite-size pieces.
  3. When the water is boiling add the florets and cook them to your desired doneness. I like mine just as they are knife tender. Take them out earlier if you like a crunch.
  4. While the florets are cooking, in a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta add the EVOO, anchovy if using, the garlic and red pepper flakes. Over medium-high heat saute the garlic until it is translucent and the anchovy has dissolved into the sauce, about 2 minutes.
  5. With a spider take the florets out of the boiling water and add them to the saute pan and mix to coat the florets well with the oil.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  7. With a spider drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan. You want some of the pasta water for the sauce so don't drain the pasta well as you add it to the sauce. (If you drain the pasta instead of using a spider, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
  8. Mix the pasta and broccoli together well to coat everything with the sauce. (If the sauce isn't wet enough add some of the pasta water. The pasta will absorb the sauce as it finishes cooking in the saute pan so it won't be watery when you serve the pasta.)
  9. Off the heat mix in the grated cheese.
  10. Place the pasta on a serving platter. Drizzle with a good finishing EVOO and a sprinkle of grated pecorino.

 

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)

Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar
Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar

Frying is an important Neapolitan cooking technique practiced by generations of southern Italian-Americans.

One of my fans wrote that he continues his wife’s grandmother’s Christmas tradition by making savory fried fritters with an anchovy filet in the middle for the family to enjoy every year. I was inspired to fry up some.

Savory or sweet, I ate a lot of these fried dough balls growing up in Jersey. We’d crowd around the stove as my Mom pulled the golden orbs out of the frying pot to drain on a big brown paper bag and grabbed one as soon as she set them down. I get some anytime I’m on the east coast and I make them often in my kitchen.

Besides their proper name, pasta cresciuta, southern Italian-Americans in Jersey call these fried fritters zeppole. The fried dough is omnipresent at Italian street fairs dusted with powdered sugar.

In Rhode Island they dust them with powdered sugar and call them doughboys. Mix fresh chopped clams into the risen batter and Rhode Islanders call them clamcakes. When I’m in Point Judith I devour Iggy’s clamcakes with a bowl of chowder and finish the meal with a couple of doughboys for dessert.

I love frying and I’ve been doing a lot of it over the holidays. Frying is a quick cooking method that requires your full attention and you’ll get better at it over time. Just be patient and make sure that the oil in your frying pot is always at 375 degrees.

I like both savory and sweet pasta cresciuta. On the savory side, I enjoy mixing in chopped anchovies, chopped squash blossoms or chopped fresh clams after the batter rises. On the sweet side, I just fry up the fritters and shower them with confectioner’s sugar. The irregular golden fritters have a crispy exterior and are light and airy inside.

Pasta cresciuta should be eaten hot out of the oil, as soon as they drain a bit. The fritters don’t hold up well and are not not as tasty when reheated.

These fried yeast fritters are very different from sweet custard filled zeppole enjoyed in Campania, the region around Naples. Watch me make zeppole di San Giuseppe where I fry some and bake some.

But be forewarned, the cooked dough in the zeppole di San Giuseppe episode is not the same as the batter I use in this recipe. The one I use here is an uncooked batter that resembles a very loose or wet pizza dough.

Here are a couple of my other favorites that I fried up this holiday season, struffoli and calamari, one sweet and one savory.

Happy frying. Buon appetito!

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2½ teaspoons yeast (one package)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • Safflower or your favorite frying oil
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, using a fork or whisk dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of warm water (about 100 degrees), mix in a ½ cup of flour and let it stand for about 15 minutes until it starts to bubble up.
  2. Add the remaining 1½ cup of warm water and the salt and mix well.
  3. Add ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  4. When the flour is well incorporated add another ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the last ½ cup of flour a little at the time and mix well. You may not have to use it all. You want to end up with a soft, smooth dough that is on the wet side and very elastic.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour until the batter is bubbling and double in volume.
  7. (If your making savory fritters, add chopped fresh clams, chopped anchovy or chopped squash blossoms to the bowl and mix them well into the batter.)
  8. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep wide pot or cast iron skillet to 375 degrees. (I use a candy thermometer hung on the side of the pot to ensure the oil stays at 375 degrees while frying.)
  9. Drop an overflowing tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil. Add more tablespoons of batter to the oil but don't overcrowd the pot.
  10. Move the fritters around so they have plenty of room to fry.
  11. When the bottom side of the fritters frying on top of the oil start to turn golden, flip them over and fry the other side.
  12. When the fitters are golden all over drain the fritters on paper towel.
  13. Dust sweet fritters with powdered sugar and savory fritters with a sprinkle of sea salt and serve immediately.

 

Year of Italian Culture in America

Italian Consulate in San Franciscco
Italian Consulate in San Francisco

2013 is the Year of Italian Culture in America, a campaign by Italy’s Foreign Minister to create renewed buzz and help Americans learn more about Italia. Events are planned throughout the U.S.

San Francisco will play a leading role in the festivities.

I can’t wait for spring when Adoration of the Shepherds, a major painting by Caravaggio, one of my favorite Masters, arrives at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum.

Mauro Battocchi, the new Italian Consul in San Francisco, is heading up the festivities here. The Consul, who assumed the post last September, has his own blog, San Francisco Italy. I’ll be following him to stay on top of all things Italian in the Bay Area.

Here’s a SF Chronicle piece on the Consul and the 2013 festivities.

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Garlic

Spaghetti Squash Sauteed in Sage & Garlic Infused EVOO
Spaghetti Squash Sauteed in Sage & Garlic Infused EVOO

A friend suggested a winter squash as a side for my New Year’s Eve veal roast stuffed with spinach. Spaghetti squash was a perfect choice.

The yellow spaghetti squash balanced the colors on the plate. The slightly sweet squash accented by mild sage and garlic infused EVOO was a nice contrast to the roast with a zesty spinach stuffing.

Stumped about how to handle spaghetti squash? It’s actually easy to cook. The hardest part is carefully splitting the squash in half.

Bake the squash for an hour and pull out the long spaghetti strands. Quickly saute the spaghetti squash in EVOO or butter gently flavored with your favorite herbs and aromatics. Or top it with marinara sauce and grated parmigiano. It is spaghetti squash after all.

Spaghetti squash is a versatile, simple and delicious side dish that you can enjoy often.

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Garlic
 
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Spaghetti squash is easy to turn into a versatile side dish for your next meal.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squasth
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and smash the garlic clove.
  3. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. (Use a big, heavy, sharp knife to safely cut through the squash.)
  4. Drizzle the cut sides with the other tablespoon of EVOO.
  5. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for an hour, until the squash is knife tender.
  6. Remove the squash from the oven, turn it cut side up and set aside to cool.
  7. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out all the seeds and discard them.
  8. Use a fork to gently pull out all of the spaghetti squash strands. Keep the strands as long as possible. (I like to start at the top and scrape towards the bottom of the squash.)
  9. Put the EVOO, sage and garlic in a sauté pan.
  10. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  11. When the oil is hot add the spaghetti squash and quickly saute to cover all the squash with the infused olive oil.
  12. When just heated through remove to a serving platter. Dust with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  13. Serve immediately.

 

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing
Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing

North Beach’s Little City Meats was an inspiration for my New Year’s Eve dinner. A boneless leg of veal caught my eye. Mike trimmed it up for me to make a stuffed roast.

This is a butterflied roast. Lay it down flat, spread on a layer of zesty spinach stuffing, roll it up and tie it tightly. The veal roast lies on a bed of carrot, onion, celery, porcini, parsley and rosemary that flavor the pan gravy as it roasts in the oven for a couple of hours.

The slices show off spinach stuffing on the serving platter. The veal is moist and tender with a crispy crust. A drizzle of the flavorful pan gravy over the slices finishes the dish. I left the kitchen twine on so you could see how I tie the roast so it holds its shape as it cooks.

At the request of one of my dinner guests, I served the roast with spaghetti squash quickly sauteed in garlic-infused olive oil and dusted with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A yummy introduction to the new year.

My mom made a stuffing like this for veal breast, a hard cut to find. I’m glad I came up with this roast to bring back those childhood food memories.

Veal Roast with Spinach Stuffing
 
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Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Stuffing
  • 1 cup country bread, cut in 1-inch cubes, crusts removed
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ pound pancetta (or mortadella), cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery , cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons pecorino, finely grated
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups sauteed fresh spinach, chopped
  • For the Veal
  • 1 2-pound veal boneless leg of veal roast
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or crystal kosher salt
  • For the Roasting Pan
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 2 stalks celery , cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 fresh rosemary branch
  • 2 full stems Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled or chopped in small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Stuffing
  2. Soak the bread in a small bowl filled with the milk. Toss so the milk absorbs the milk. Set aside.
  3. Put the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the food processor with a steel blade and process them for 30 seconds into fine bits.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process briefly until everything is a finely minced.
  5. Pour the olive oil into a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. When the oil is hot add the contents of processor bowl and sauté over medium-low heat for 3 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the onions translucent.
  7. Squeeze the milk from bread cubes, scatter them over the sauteed vegetables and mix well.
  8. Add the chopped parsley and mix well.
  9. Mix the spinach into the stuffing well and cook the stuffing for a minute more.
  10. Put the stuffing into a bowl to cool.
  11. When the stuffing cool stir in the pine nuts, grated cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and the beaten egg. Mix the stuffing well and set aside.
  12. The Roast
  13. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Soften the porcini in hot water. Remove from the water. Reserve the soaking liquid.
  15. Lay out the boneless leg of veal roast on a work surface, cut side up.
  16. Spread the stuffing evenly over the roast.
  17. Starting with the wider end, roll up the roast tightly. Tie tightly with kitchen twine so the roast stays together while roasting. (I tied it once lengthwise and around the roast close to each end and one more tie in the middle.)
  18. Rub the outside all over with the olive oil.
  19. Sprinkle sea salt and ground black pepper to taste all over the roast.
  20. Spread the rosemary, parsley, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and porcini on the bottom of a roasting pan to form a bed for the roast. Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper.
  21. Lay the roast in the middle of the vegetable bed.
  22. Add the water, wine and porcini soaking liquid. (Be careful pouring the soaking liquid so that you leave any sediment behind.)
  23. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour.
  24. Uncover the roast and put it back in the oven until the veal is tender has a golden crust.
  25. Remove the roast to a plate to rest.
  26. Pan Gravy
  27. Strain the pan drippings into a small pan.
  28. After it cools, skim off any fat floating on the surface.
  29. Keep warm over a very low flame.
  30. Slice the roast and layer slices on a serving platter.
  31. Moisten with the pan gravy.
  32. Serve immediately.

 

 

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year’s Eve Menu

Dungeness Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab Salad

San Franciscans love dungeness crab this time of year. The crabs are big and meaty this season. I’m making a celebratory dungeness salad with celery and shallot, EVOO and Meyer lemon.

The lemon perks up the briny sweetness of the crab bathed in mellow olive oil. The celery and shallot add a background crunch to the crab salad. Simple and sinful.

If your have steamed, cleaned and cracked crab the salad is done in 10 minutes. Use the recipe below and put a celebratory crab salad on your table. Add fried calamari and giardiniera and your antipasti is complete.

Lentil soup with cotechino is a traditional New Year’s Eve first course. It brings you good luck in the new year. The dish full of tiny lentils represents the coins you will amass in the new year and the fat boiled sausage your impending opulence.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the New Year’s Eve dinner menu I posted the other day. Something was amiss. As often happens I found inspiration in the market.

There it was, a beautiful boneless leg of veal roast sitting in the display case at Little City Meats. The roast with a zesty spinach stuffing will be the anchor of my meal. I’ll post this recipe soon.

I’m all set for New Year’s Eve dinner at my place. Are you?

Except for the Prosecco, we’re drinking some nice California reds.

Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year! Buon appetito!

Gianni’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Antipasti

Calimari fritti. Fried calamari served with vinegar pepper confetti.

Fresh dungeness crab salad with celery, shallot, EVOO and fresh Meyer lemon (recipe below).

Giardiniera

Zeppole. (fried savory, light doughnuts with anchovies)

Prosecco, a sparkling dry wine from the Veneto in northern Italia

Primo Piatto

Lentil soup with cotechino

Pinot Noir, Beulieu Vineyard, Carmeros Reserve, Napa, 2007

Secondo Piatto

Leg of Veal Roast with spinach stuffing

Roasted spaghetti squash

Cabernet Sauvignon, Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, Napa, 2010

Dessert

Sfogliatelle (crispy Neapolitan pastries filled with sweet ricotta)

A sip or two of my homemade limoncello and my strawberry liqueur

Italian still and sparkling bottled waters throughout the meal

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year's Eve Menu
 
A fresh clean taste of the sea, dungeness crab salad with shallot and celery,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 steamed dungeness crab
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Steam the crab or buy steamed, cracked crab at the market. (Blue crab or boiled shrimp can be substituted for the dungeness crab.) Put the crab meat in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Clean and crack the crab. Pull out out all of the meat leaving the pieces as intact as possible.
  3. Cut the celery in very thin slices.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Mince the shallot and add to the lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes to mellow its flavor.
  6. Add the EVOO and whisk well.
  7. Pour the dressing over the crabmeat.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the crabmeat. Mix well.
  10. Put the crab salad on a serving dish and serve chilled.
  11. Serves 4-6.

 

A Lucky New Year’s Eve Dish

Capellini with Crab Sauce
Capellini with Crab Sauce

Just back from Christmas with friends and family in Jersey. Now it’s time to plan my New Year’s Eve menu. I’ll share this year’s menu when I’m done.

In the meantime, here are a couple of classic dishes to get you started with your planning. I know I’ll make both these dishes this year.

Like many other cultures, Italians and Italian-Americans serve a bean dish as a talisman for a successful new year. The lentils in my dish symbolize all the money you’re gonna make next year. It’s a delicious, nutritious lentil soup with sausage. Add it to your New Year’s table.

Thank God the San Francisco dungeness crabber strike is settled so we’ll be eating fresh crab. I’m making linguine with a zesty dungeness crab sauce. Any long pasta will work. I like it with capellini too.

Check out the New Year’s meal I served last year. It was quite tasty and lasted right up to the Times Square ball drop.

Christmas Eve Seven Fish Feast

Fish Market Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia, Sicily

Cena di Vigilia (Christmas Eve meal) is a Neapolitan tradition.

I’m cooking with my friend Susan in her New Jersey kitchen. Along with her brother Joe, we’ll prepare our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner for 20 friends.

I’ll miss the dungeness crab this year. The San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf crabbers are back after a brief strike over wholesale prices. I’ve eaten some since the crabs came back on the market last week so I think I can survive without them on Christmas Eve. If you’re in town buy some crab. They’re fresh, big and meaty.

Create your own Cena di Viglia with these recipes and an extra fried shrimp recipe too. I’ll definitely be frying up some calamari and shrimp for my Jersey Christmas Eve.

Buon Natale e buon appetito!

Neapolitan Christmas Salad

Neapolitan Christmas Salad
Neapolitan Christmas Salad

I just love this classic Neapolitan Christmas Salad, insalata di rinforza, in Italian. Insalata di rinforza translates into Reinforced Salad. How did such an important part of the Christmas table get such a silly name?

Here’s the tale. Giardiniera, vegetables stored in a vinegar bath, is a main ingredient. Neapolitans make their giardiniera with the last of the summer bounty. Of course, after a few days of marinating, you have to eat some, and then some more. To make sure there is enough at Christmas, they add more vegetables as their giardiniera stash gets low.

By the time Christmas comes around the giardiniera has been “reinforced” several times by adding more vegetables to replenish the jar. And so the restored giardiniera lends its name to insalata di reinfoza, the Neapolitan Christmas Salad.

Don’t worry, if you don’t want to make giardiniera, just buy some at the market.

This is a really simple salad to put together and it looks beautiful on your holiday table all by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course as I served it at my lunch today. With the giardiniera in hand, all you have to do is boil some cauliflower florets and compose the salad. How easy is that?

Buon Natale. Happy Holidays. Buon appetito!

Neapolitan Christmas Salad
 
Author:
Cuisine: Neapolitan Christmas Salad
Ingredients
  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
  • 1 large bunch frisee (aka curly endive)
  • ¼ pound Gaeta olives, pitted (or your favorite dark olive)
  • ¼ pound Calamata olives (or your favorite green olive)
  • 3 anchovy filets, roughly chopped (optional)
  • ½ pound Giardiniera
  • ½ cup EVOO
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add sea salt to taste and the whole peeled garlic.
  3. Cut off the cauliflower florets from the stem. Discard the stem.
  4. Put the florets in the boiling water and boil until just knife tender but still firm, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the florets to a serving dish and set aside to cool.
  6. Arrange the frisee around the border of a large serving platter.
  7. Put the pitted Gaeta olives, green olivess, capers, anchovy if using, and giardiniera in a large bowl. Season with a little sea salt, a bit more if you're not using the anchovy. Mix well.
  8. Arrange the cauliflower florets atop the serving platter with the frisee.
  9. Distribute the mixed ingredients evenly over the florets. Scatter the whole green olives over the salad and serve.
  10. (This salad is typically served with taralli with fennel seeds.)

 

Holiday Lunch at My House

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Our Last Office Lunch

It’s a Jersey Christmas this year. I’m cooking a Seven Fish Dinner on Christmas Eve with friends. Christmas Day is with my sister Rose’s branch of the family. We’ll be 3 generations in the kitchen.

My office-mates convinced me to cook for them before I take off. We couldn’t decide on a restaurant for our annual holiday party so we’ll celebrate at my place instead. I’m preparing a traditional 4-course Italian meal.

The picture is from the last office lunch I prepared. That’s really old balsamic vinegar I brought back from Modena going into the baby field green salad.

One of the guys in the office can’t stop randomly saying “pasta fazool” ever since I posted the pasta and beans recipe. So we had to include that dish. Otherwise, I would have made the lighter, fancier Italian Wedding Soup for this holiday meal.

The Neapolitan Christmas Salad includes giardiniera, marinated vegetables that you can store in the fridge for weeks. I’ll post the insalata di rinforzo recipe tomorrow and tell you how it got its name.

Antipasti

Insalata di rinforzo (Neapolitan Christmas Salad)

Prosciutto and soppresata salami

Aged sharp provolone

Pecorino with truffles

Taralli

Pizza Oreganata

Prosecco, a dry sparkling wine from the Veneto near Venice (Foss Marai)

Primo Piatto

Pasta e Fagiole (Pasta Fazool/Pasta & Beans)

Lacryma Christi, a robust red from the hills of Vesuvius near Naples (Terradora di Paolo)

Secondo Piatto

Chicken cutlets topped with sauteed wild mushrooms and melted mozzarella, garlic/olive oil smashed potatoes, sauteed broccoli rabe (recipe in my free vegetable eBook)

Pagiu, a full-flavored ruby-red sangiovese from the heart of Umbria (Brogal Vignabaldo)

Dolce

Vanilla gelato and lemon sorbetto topped with homemade limoncello

Sparkling and still Italian waters throughout the meal

Happy Holidays! Buon appetito!

Holiday Sausage @ Little City Meats

Little City Meats
Little City Meats @ Stockton/Vallejo

I was excited when I walked into North Beach’s Little City Meats this morning.

The Christmas sausage stuffed with pork, fennel, imported provolone and basil was in. Run, don’t walk. Get some before they’re all gone. I absolutely love these holiday sausages and can’t wait for them to appear this time of year.

Father and son Ron and Mike Spinelli at Little City have been my butchers for over 2 decades. They have fantastic meats and just as importantly, they both have hard to find Old-World meat cutting skills.

Want cutlets? They pound out lovely, thin scallopine. Need braciole or a butterflied pork roast. No worries. They do it all.

Little City is the place to go if you want Italian pork sausage. All year round I cook up their mild Sicilian sausage with fennel and their spicy hot Calabrese sausage.

In case you’re in the mood, here’s my recipe for a one-pan sausage and peppers.

Recently Little City was a Chronicle pick for one of the 5 best sausages in the Bay Area.

Ron and Mike are getting too famous. Bold Italic just posted Joseph Schell’s piece about making sausage at Little City.

You just have to try this stuff.

Buon appetito!

Strufolli (Holiday Honey Balls)

Stuffoli
Struffoli (Fried Honey Balls)

It wouldn’t be Christmas in a Neapolitan house without struffoli, little round fritters bathed in a boiling honey glaze and then topped with colorful sprinkles.

The little marbles are crispy outside with a nutty flavor sweetened by the honey. The inside is light and airy. The sprinkles are just for show.

Some families mound struffoli into a pyramid reminiscent of a Christmas tree. Others form a wreath to celebrate the holiday. At my house in Jersey we always built a pyramid and I still do today.

Struffoli keep well. My mother made them a day or two before Christmas and set them on the dining room buffet. The arrival of struffoli was a harbinger of Saint Nick’s imminent arrival.

When I was little, I’d sneak by and quickly snatch one or two struffoli with my fingers, stuffing them in my mouth as I walked through the dining room. It wasn’t long until my Mom saw a dent in the side of the struffoli pyramid and brought my pilfering to an abrupt end.

This is one of those things I only make once a year. I got an early start this year but I’ll be making more for the Christmas table back in Jersey.

Oh, you don’t have to eat struffoli with your fingers. Give each of your guests a couple of heaping mounds on a plate and a spoon.

If you want another holiday sweet this season make bow ties a/k/a cenci, wandi and bugia. I love the blisters that form on the bow ties as they quickly fry. No honey glaze here just a powdered sugar dusting before eating. Watch out, the delicate bow ties splinter with each bite and sometimes send out a puff of powdered sugar. They sure are fun to eat.

Struffoli (Honey Balls)

Dough

1 3/4 cups                      all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon                 sugar

1/8 teaspoon                salt

zest of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1/2 orange

3                                        eggs

1 tablespoon                  rum, grappa or vanilla

Honey Glaze

1 cup                                 honey

2 tablespoons                sugar

1/4 cup                            water

1/4 cup                            colored sprinkles

Directions

  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in a large bowl. Mix well.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour.
  3. Add the eggs and rum (or grappa or vanilla) to the well and beat the eggs.
  4. With a fork or your hand mix the flour slowly into the eggs to form the dough. The dough should be sticky.
  5. Turn the dough out on a floured board and knead briefly until the dough comes together. (Do not overwork the dough or the strufolli will be dense.)
  6. Form the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough back out onto a floured surface. It still will be sticky, roll it around in the flour and form it back into a ball.
  8. Cut the ball into 8 equal pieces and form each into a ball. Dust lightly with flour so they do not stick together and put all but one of them back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  9. On the floured surface roll out the dough ball with your hands into a rope about a half-inch in diameter. (Be sure to cover the bowl so the remaining balls do not form a crust.)
  10. With a knife or pastry scrapper ut the ropes in half-inch pieces.
  11. Roll the cut pieces into a ball about the size of a marble and put them in a single layer on a lightly floured baking pan. (Forming the round shape is important. Strufolli derives from the word for rounded.)
  12. Repeat with the other 7 dough balls.
  13. Put 3 cups of safflower or your favorite oil in a large pot and over medium heat bring the oil to 375 degrees.
  14. Shake off any excess flour and fry small batches of the dough balls in hot oil, turning occasionally until they are a dark golden color all over. They should be done in about a minute or so.
  15. With a slotted spoon, remove the struffoli to a large platter lined with paper towel to drain.
  16. Put the honey, sugar and water in a pan large enough to hold all the struffoli,
  17. Over medium-low heat stir until the sugar is melted.
  18. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking the glaze until it comes to a boil, starts to foam up and darken in color, about a minute or two. (The foam should dissipate soon after it foams up.)
  19. Remove the glaze from the heat and add all the strufolli.
  20. Mix well to cover all of the strufolli with the honey glaze.
  21. With a slotted spoon transfer the strufolli to a serving platter and mold them into a pyramid or a wreath.
  22. Drizzle some of the honey glaze left in the pot over the strufolli and scatter the sprinkles on the top of the strufolli mound.

Serves 6-8.

Loosely cover the strufolli with plastic wrap. If you are lucky you can eat strufolli for several days.

Buon appetito!

Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli Cookies

Want an easy and sweet treat for your holiday table? Bake some almond cookies topped with pine nuts.

We always have a stash of pignoli cookies for our Christmas table. You can make them in less than an hour.

A fan asked for this recipe. She has fond pignoli cookie memories but the recipe slipped away.

She got excited when I told her I’d make some. “Thank you thank you thank you! I can’t wait! I want to surprise my mother with them. Our recipe was lost to the last generation. I should have paid more attention.” Well here you go. I hope these cookies match your memories.

Pignoli cookies are moist and soft with crunchy toasted pine nuts on top. Eat them right away or store them for up to a week in a sealed container. Only problem is I usually don’t have any left to store.

I love pignoli cookies so much I can’t wait for Christmas and make them all year long.

Buon Natale. Buon appetito!

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