Saltimbocca: So Good It Jumps in Your Mouth

Saltimbocca
Saltimbocca

I’m in New York City and meeting up with friends. On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning we’re off to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true NYC Little Italy.

We’ll spend the day cooking together, eating and drinking in northern Jersey. But first we have to decide on the menu and get everything we need to prepare our meal.

As is our habit, our first stop is Caffe DiLillo for a cappuccino and cornetto and to plan our menu. Our 4-course meal fell into place quickly.

My assignment is saltimbocca, the classic Roman dish, veal scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto and sauteed in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Saltimbocca is so good it’s moniker translates to “jump in your mouth”.

Saltimbocca is easy. I made enough for 8 at the table in about 15 minutes. The salty, crispy prosciutto enrobes fresh sage atop fork-tender veal scaloppine. Deglaze the pan with a dry, white wine to create a silky sauce and you’re done.

The dish works just as well with chicken. I used both veal and chicken scaloppine to satisfy the preferences of my table mates. Asparagus roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon completed each plate. Yum.

I made panna cotta for dessert too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Saltimbocca
 
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Saute veal or chicken scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto in butter and extra virgin olive oil to create a dish that "jumps in your mouth."
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound veal (or chicken) scaloppine
  • fresh sage
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the scaloppine with salt and pepper.
  2. Depending on their size, lay 1 or 2 sage leaves atop the scallopine.
  3. Cover the scaloppine with a thin slice of prosciutto.
  4. Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife to attach it to the scaloppine.
  5. Lightly coat the scaloppine with flour. Tap off any excess flour.
  6. Put the extra virgin olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
  7. When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add the scaloppine and saute prosciutto side down until the prosciutto is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
  8. Saute the other side about a minute.
  9. Put the saltimbocca on a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
  10. Saute the remaining scallopine.
  11. Over high heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the crispy brown bits on the bottom of the plan and stir to dissolve the bits in the wine. Cook until the pan sauce thickens, about a minute.
  12. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Eggplant Rollatini

Fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella baked in the oven with marinara sauce.
Fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella baked in the oven with marinara sauce.

You know how much I love eggplant and this is one of my favorite dishes.

On my restaurant’s menu in the 80s, Eggplant Rollatini was a popular main dish. I ate it often at the end of the evening service.

Make the marinara sauce, fry the eggplant, stuff and bake the rollatini in the oven. You can make this flavorful dish in about an hour.

The creamy ricotta filling is wrapped in crispy eggplant and salty prosciutto. The mild San Marzano tomato, basil and garlic sauce echoes the eggplant’s sweetness.

Watch my eggplant parmigiano video episode to see how to coat and fry the eggplant. Watch me whip up a ricotta filling in my ravioli video episode. But be sure to follow this recipe for the best Eggplant Rollatini ever.

Buon appetito!

Eggplant Rollatini
 
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Crispy fried eggplant with a ricotta and prosciutto filling is baked topped with a simple marinara sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the Eggplant
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • For the Egg Wash
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Ricotta Filling
  • 16 ounces ricotta
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Marinara Sauce
  • 28 ounce can imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese for topping the rollatini before baking
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Making the Marinara Sauce
  3. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands (or a potato masher). Remove any large stems and skin.
  4. Put the oil and the garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
  5. Saute the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the pot.
  7. Add sea salt to taste.
  8. Add the basil and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally until the volume reduces by one-third.
  9. Frying the Eggplant
  10. Cut off the ends of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in ½ inch slices lengthwise. (I don't peel the eggplant so I discard the first and last slice that is completely covered by the black skin on one side.) You should have about 15 slices to coat.
  11. Sprinkle with salt and place the slices in a colander. Put the colander in the sink or over a large plate for about 15 minutes. Bitter dark liquid will release from the eggplant slices.
  12. Wash the eggplant slices well and pat dry. Set aside.
  13. Add the eggs to a bowl large enough to hold the eggplant slices and beat them well.
  14. Add the grated cheese, parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and beat the egg mixture well.
  15. Put 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a large saute pan and heat over medium heat.
  16. Place the egg wash on the counter closest to the saute pan.
  17. Place the the flour in a dish and place it next to the egg wash.
  18. Flour both sides of the eggplant slice. Tap off any excess flour.
  19. Coat both sides of the eggplant slice with the egg mixture.
  20. Saute the eggplant slices until both sides are golden brown.
  21. Remove the slices to a dish lined with paper towel.
  22. Continue coating and frying all of the eggplant slices. Add more oil if necessary.
  23. For the Ricotta Filling
  24. Put the ricotta in a strainer to let the liquid drain, about 15 minutes.
  25. Put the ricotta in a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix everything together well.
  26. Assembling the Rollatini
  27. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a light coating of the sauce.
  28. Put the fried eggplant on a work surface and cover each with a slice of prosciutto.
  29. Put a tablespoon of the ricotta filling on each slice about 2-inches from the narrow end of the eggplant slice.
  30. Starting at the narrow end roll up the slice and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  31. Continue making the rollatini and place them in rows in the baking dish.
  32. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly over the rollatini.
  33. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the ricotta filling is hot and the mozzarella melts.

 

49ers Super Bowl Meatballs and Roasted Peppers

49ers Super Bowl Meatballs & Roasted Peppers
49ers Super Bowl Meatballs & Roasted Peppers

What do you expect from a guy in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach who hopes the Lombardi Trophy comes home with the 49ers?

Here’s an Italian-American appetizer for your Super Bowl buffet that sports the Niner’s red and gold.

The meatballs are easy to make and will be ready in way less than an hour.

If you don’t want to make them on Sunday, make the meatballs in advance and heat them in the oven when you’re ready to serve. Roast peppers yourself or just buy a jar at the supermarket.

The zesty little meatballs topped with sweet roasted peppers will be a winner no matter the outcome of the game.

Buon appetito!

Go Niners!

49ers Meatballs and Roasted Peppers
 
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These meatballs are delicious and easy to make. For Superbowl Sunday they sport the San Francisco 49er colors.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup cubed, crustless hardy (or stale) Italian bread
  • 2 cups water or milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 jar of marinated red and yellow roasted peppers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Soak the bread in the milk or water and set aside.
  3. Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the oil.
  4. Put the ground beef in a large bowl.
  5. Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and add the bread to the bowl along with the other ingredients, except the olive oil.
  6. Mix the ingredients well. (I use my hands but you can use a utensil instead.)
  7. Put a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture in your hands and roll it into a small meatball about 3-inches in diameter.
  8. Put the meatballs on the baking sheet leaving some room between them so they brown evenly.
  9. Liberally brush olive oil over the meatballs.
  10. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through.
  11. While the meatballs are in the oven, cut the red and yellow roasted peppers into 1X2 inch strips. (You want 24 red and 24 yellow pepper strips.)
  12. Put the pepper strips in a bowl and mix with the vinegar.
  13. When the meatballs are cool enough to handle put a strip of red and yellow roasted peppers on top of each meatball and skewer with a toothpick.
  14. Serve warm. (You can keep the meatballs warm in a 200 degree oven loosely covered with foil.)
  15. Makes about 24 small meatballs.

 

 

 

 

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna cotta means “cooked cream”. The classic Italian dessert now enjoyed everywhere was created in the Piedmonte region in the northwest corner of Italia.

Cows have a good life in Piemonte. They graze in beautiful Alpine pastures. It’s no wonder that their milk produces fantastic butter, cream and cheese and is the inspiration for this delicate flan-like delight.

Panna cotta is simple and sumptuous. You can eat it alone or with berries, caramel sauce or amerena cherries. I like to add strawberries macerated with a sprinkle of sugar and a little balsamic vinegar.

Panna cotta scented with vanilla and lemon melts in your mouth. The balsamic strawberries mute the sweetness and add texture to each bite.

Panna cotta takes about 5 minutes to cook. Pour the cooked cream into ramekins and chill for a couple of hours to set. That’s it. No more waiting to find it on a restaurant menu. Now you can eat panna cotta whenever you want some.

Buon appetito!

Panna Cotta
 
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Ingredients
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4½ teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • .25 ounce packet gelatin
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons walnut, almond or flavorless vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Lightly brush the ramekins with the oil. Put them in the refrigerator to cool.
  2. Put the water in a bowl.
  3. Add the gelatin. Set aside until the gelatin has softened.
  4. Put the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Heat the cream mixture to a simmer. Take off the heat as soon as small bubbles begin to form at the rim of the pot. Do not boil the cream. Remove from heat and pick out the lemon zest.
  6. Mix 1 cup of the mixture into the gelatin to dissolve the gelatin.
  7. Pour the gelatin mixture back into the pot and mix well. Set aside to cool.
  8. Pour the panna cotta into the ramekins and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until fully set.
  9. To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekin. Upend the ramekin on a plate, shake gently to loosen the panna cotta and carefully lift off the ramekin.
  10. Serve panna cotta chilled by itself or with amerena cherries, fresh berries or strawberries macerated with sugar and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad
Green Bean & Red Onion Salad

Add this recipe to your list of dishes that you can have on your table in less than 30 minutes. It’s healthy and delicious.

I love the simple taste of green beans drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Make the green beans part of your antipasti platter or as a side dish at lunch or dinner, served warm or at room temperature.

I’m not a crunchy vegetable guy. I cook the green beans until they are tender to unleash their full, rich flavor. The red onion mellows in the lemon juice and adds a sweet crunch to the salad.

Buon appetito!

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad
 
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Green bean salad is fast and delicious. Add it to your antipasti platter or as a lunch or dinner side dish.
Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound green beans
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
Instructions
  1. Thinly slice the red onion and cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the onion in a bowl, add the juice of ½ lemon and the sea salt. Set aside to let the onion's flavor mellow in the lemon juice.
  3. Put on a pot of salted water to boil.
  4. Cut off the stem end of the green bean and cut them in 3-inch pieces.
  5. Cook the green beans in boiling salted water until knife tender.
  6. Drain the beans well and add to the bowl with the onion.
  7. Add the EVOO to the bowl and mix the salad well.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Grilled Steak with Herb Sauce (Bistecca con salsa delle erbe)

Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce
Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce

Want a fast weekday evening meal? You can have this flavorful steak on your table in less than 15 minutes.

Ribeye, strip or porterhouse steaks work well. Cook the steaks on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan on top of the stove.

I was in a hurry and only had to feed myself, so I had my butcher cut ribeye steaks about an inch thick. They grill to medium-rare in just 4 minutes.

For a fancier and more classic version of this traditional dish, use a thicker steak. A 24-ounce, 3-inch thick steak will take 8-10 minutes for medium rare and serves 2-4 people. Cut the steak across the grain and serve the slices on a platter topped with salsa.

Make the herb sauce in a food processor in minutes. Start with a base of fresh basil, Italian flat parsley and EVOO. I had rosemary and oregano in the fridge so I added a little of both to my salsa. Marjoram, tarragon or fresh thyme work well too. Salsa delle erbe goes well with other grilled meats, fish and chicken too.

Serve the steak and herb sauce with baby spinach sauteed with olive oil and garlic or a green salad dressed with red wine vinegar, EVOO and sea salt and you’ve got dinner.

Buon appetito!

 
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 rib-eye, strip, or porterhouse steak, sliced about an inch thick per person
Instructions
  1. Put the herbs, garlic and ¾ cup EVOO in the food processor and pulse a few times until the herbs and garlic are finely minced, almost a paste consistency.
  2. Season herb sauce with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
  3. Put steak on a plate, season both sides generously with salt and pepper and rub with the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  4. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat on top of the stove.
  5. Cook the 1-inch steak for about 3 minutes on the first side and cook on the other side for about 1 minute for medium-rare. Adjust the cooking time if your want a more rare or more done steak or your using a thicker steak.
  6. Place the steak with the browned first side you grilled up and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon the herb sauce over the steak. Serve immediately.

 

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding
Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a buttery bread studded with raisins and candied orange, lemon and citron peel.

Italians, especially in the north, love to eat panettone at Christmas and New Year.

Dunk panettone in your morning espresso or cappuccino. Panettone for dessert pairs well with a glass of vin santo or marsala. Leftover panettone is ideal for bread pudding or even french toast.

I didn’t have any panettone this holiday season but I couldn’t pass up buying one last week at a post-holiday 50% discount. After a few days I had my fill so I decided to use it up and made panettone bread pudding.

Bread pudding takes about 10 minutes of actual work to make. The rest of the time is just waiting for the panettone cubes to toast, then to absorb the custard mixture and bake in the oven. It’s an easy recipe with a big payoff.

My bread pudding has a rich and creamy interior with a golden, crunchy top. The buttery flavor sparkles with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. A little dark rum in the custard deepens the flavor. I had to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream to balance everything out.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Panettone Bread Pudding
 
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Panettone bread pudding is easy to make with a creamy, sweet interior and a golden, crunchy top.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Panettone (1 pound loaf) cut into cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 for the egg custard and 1 for whipping
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or ameretto
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven until they lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Put the eggs, 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla, sugar and rum in a bowl large enough to hold the toasted panettone cubes.
  5. Beat the mixture well and add the panettone cubes and mix well. (You may need to push down on the cubes to ensure they all absorb the egg custard mixture.)
  6. Let the panettone cubes sit in the bowl to give them time to absorb all of the custard, about 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour in the panettone cubes and spread them evenly in the pan.
  8. Bake the bread pudding in the oven until the custard is cooked through and the top has browned, about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove the bread pudding and set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the remaining cup of heavy cream to soft, stiff peaks.
  11. Place a square of the bread pudding on a plate and top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving.

 

Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy

Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy
Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy

April Bloomfield just bought North Beach’s iconic Tosca Cafe on Columbus and will soon be serving her food there. She has a cult following at her restaurant The Spotted Pig in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I wondered what was in store for us when she arrives here in North Beach.

She describes her dishes as “British, but with Italian undertones.” I haven’t been to The Pig and I wanted to find out more about April’s British take on Italian food.

I came across one of April’s pasta recipes and decided to give it a go. I’m adding it to my list of dishes where the sauce can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta. You can get these pasta dishes on your table in less than 30 minutes.

April first had the dish in Puglia, the southern most region on Italia’s Adriatic coast where it was served by a skilled home cook she was visiting. Her hostess made it with homemade orecchiette, small ear-shaped pasta. Quality dried orecchiette from Italia works well too.

Don’t be scared off by the anchovy in the sauce. Anchovy melts in hot oil and adds dimension to any dish. It’s an umami, like miso, a preserved ingredient that is known as a “5th taste”. The anchovy in this dish adds flavor and depth to the sauce.

The little pasta hats capture the sauce. The anchovy and garlic sauce is mellowed by the sweet cauliflower with a rosemary accent.

I love this pasta and can’t wait for April Bloomfield to wow us with more of her food at the revived Tosca Cafe. Try my riff on her recipe to get a preview of what’s coming to North Beach.

Buon appetito!

3.0 from 1 reviews
Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy
 
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Orecchiette with cauliflower & anchovy is a really simple, flavorful pasta dish you can have on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 pound or 500 grams imported Italian dried orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus a drizzle to finish the dish
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 anchovy filets, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut the cauliflower florets into bite size pieces.
  3. Cook the florets in the boiling water and cook until knife-tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the florets with a slotted spoon or spider to a plate and set aside.
  5. Over a medium-low flame, put the EVOO in a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta.
  6. Add the onion and garlic, add a sprinkling of salt and cook until the onion is soft and slightly caramelized.
  7. Add the anchovy and rosemary and mix well with the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes. The anchovy will dissolve and disappear.
  8. Add the florets and a sprinkle of salt and mix well with the other vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes. (If the sauce is too dense add some boiling water.)
  9. While the cauliflower is cooking add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  10. Strain or drain the orecchiette and add to the cauliflower sauce. (If you drain the sauce, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
  11. Coat the orecchiette well with the sauce and cook for about a minute or so. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  12. Put the orecchiette on a serving platter, top with a drizzle of a good finishing EVOO and the grated parmigiano.
  13. Serve immediately.

 

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.

 

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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Author:
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)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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.

 

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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
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.