Here’s a twist on potato salad that I’ve loved since I was a kid.
Don’t get me wrong I love potato salad with mayonnaise but every once in a while I have to make this one flavored with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
It’s simple to make and really flavorful. Cube boiled potatoes while they’re still warm. Add chopped parsley and onions, a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper, and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. That’s it.
Creamy potatoes bathed in buttery olive oil, the sweet crunch of onion, all balanced by the red wine vinegar. A simple peasant dish with full and complex flavor.
Serve the potato salad warm or at room temperature. Perfect for any table, inside or out.
A northern Jersey friend enjoyed this yellow onion and anchovy whole wheat pasta dish several years ago at da Flora, one of my favorite North Beach restaurants. The food memory haunted her ever since.
She hasn’t been to San Francisco since that dinner at da Flora so I made my version of the dish when 10 of us gathered at the table back East last week.
Two of my Jersey friends picked 3 of us up in Manhattan and we headed to Arthur Avenue, NYC’s Little Italy in the Bronx to finalize our menu and buy what we needed for our 4-course meal from our favorite purveyors.
Then it was off to Clifton NJ for a day of cooking and eating together. 8 hours of conversation, laughter and fun fueled by fantastic food and wine.
The chance to be with family and friends around the table is what drives my cooking passion and warms my heart.
This is a simple recipe with few ingredients. Start making the sauce when you put on a large pot of salted water over high-heat to boil and the sauce will be done by the time the pasta is cooked.
The nutty toothsome whole wheat pasta is coated with the onion-anchovy sauce. The sweet onions play off the salty anchovies and the sweet acidic sherry vinegar adds a piquant finish to each bite. Savor a full-flavored pasta made from a few simple ingredients.
Flora is somewhat of a technophobe. I’m so happy that she finally decided to create a da Flora website. Take a look at this unique place. Meet the 3 remarkable women who prepare your meal with local seasonal ingredients, the best imported products and lots of love.
Book a table for your next dinner in North Beach. God bless Flora. She’ll only go so far on the web. You’ll have to call to make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
A quick zesty sauce that's ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sweet onions play off the anchovy-garlic sauce and nutty whole wheat pasta for a full-flavored pasta dish perked up by a bit of sherry vinegar.
Recipe type: Pasta
1 pound or 500 grams, imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta
2 yellow onions, halved and then slivered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup sherry vinegar
10 anchovy filets, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, slivered
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups pasta cooking water
3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
drizzle of good finishing extra virgin olive oil
Put on 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat to boil.
When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta and stir so the spaghetti strands don't stick together. Cook until very al dente.
In the meantime, place a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti over medium-high heat and add the extra virgin olive oil.
When the oil ripples add the thinly sliced onions, sprinkle the onions with sea salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned.
Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Remove the onions and sauce to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan.
Add the anchovies and thinly sliced garlic to the pan and cook until the anchovies dissolve and the thinly sliced garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute or 2.
Return the carmelized onions and sauce to the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pasta water and rapidly simmer until the sauce reduces by about half.
When the pasta is cooked to al dente, using tongs or a spider, add the pasta to the pan. (If you drain the pasta in a colander reserve a cup of the cooking water.)
Add the chopped parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Toss the spaghetti in the sauce. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it finishes cooking. (If the spaghetti is too dry add a bit more pasta water and toss again.)
Serve the pasta in warm bowls and lightly drizzle each bowl with a good finishing olive oil.
Flavor memories of my Mom’s hunter-style braised chicken overwhelmed me. I headed down the hill to get what I needed to make this easy, rustic dish.
I’m a breast man but go ahead and include all of your favorite chicken parts. The breasts take less time to cook so just simmer dark meat pieces a bit longer. Use bone-in and skin-on chicken for more flavor.
My recipe includes my father’s “secret” ingredient. He always added a sweet vinegar pepper to his chicken cacciatore. If you’re really energetic make my easy vinegar pickled peppers. (If you don’t have vinegar peppers use a dozen vinegar-brined capers or just a few drops of red wine vinegar. The acidity balances the sweetness of the peppers.)
I served the chicken cacciatore up with creamy polenta so I didn’t lose any of the sauce on the plate. Boiled rice works well too. You can also use the sauce for pasta.
The chicken is moist and tender, bathed in the chunky, sweet tomato-pepper sauce. I like to get a piece of bell pepper with each bite of chicken. Sometimes when I’m lucky, I get a piece of the piquant vinegar pepper too. Heaven!
Italian-Americans celebrate their patron saint with a neighborhood street festival each year. Festa San Gennaro in NYC’s Little Italy may be the biggest. My Rhode Island friends call these fairs Our Lady of Sausage and Peppers because the streets are lined with stalls grilling sausage and peppers for sandwiches on an Italian roll. I always have to eat at least one.
Here’s an easy one-pan recipe for this Italian-American classic. It’s a really flavorful dish you can make in less than an hour for a quick dinner or for sandwiches. The trick to this recipe is cooking the ingredients in stages and then putting them all together in the pan at the end.
I used hot Calabrian and mild or “sweet” Sicilian sausages from North Beach’s Little City Meats (Stockton and Vallejo) with Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers preserved in vinegar. G.L. Mezzetta Inc. started in the 30s as a small North Beach mom-and-pop store. Now located in the North Bay and run by the fourth-generation of the Mezzetta family their products are available nationwide. If I don’t have vinegar peppers I made myself I always use Mezzetta.
Serve the sausage and peppers on a plate for lunch or dinner with some crusty bread or make sandwiches on an Italian roll. Either way it’s a mouthful of flavor with each bite.
Cotechino with Lentils (Image from Cellartours.com)
Still recovering from a wonderful Christmas? Rest up and get ready for New Year’s Eve.
We eat late on New Year’s Eve so that at the end of the meal we can flow right into the midnight ball drop. I minimize my time in the kitchen so here’s a simple menu to maximize your time with friends and family.
A glass of Prosecco, the light Italian bubbly, gets things moving in the right direction as your guests arrive.
Start with some antipasti. Keep it simple, maybe some prosciutto di parma with fresh mozzarella drizzled with a great finishing EVOO, or soppressata salami and young pecorino. Scatter some olives around the plate and you’re done. My giardiniera or sweet vinegar peppers make an nice addition to this antipasti platter and my celery mostarda (relish) is always a hit.
Serve the lentils and sausges as your primo piatto, your first course. You can make this dish ahead and just heat it before serving. Make sure you have some good crusty bread on the table to soak up the broth. A fruity, dry red goes well with this dish, a Dolcetto d’Alba or Nero d’Avalo pairs nicely.
For the main course, cioppino is really easy to make so you won’t be away from the party for long. It’s a great fish stew from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf all cooked in a single pot, less than 30 minutes start to finish. The sour dough bread is a must have with this delicious dish from the sea. I like a Chianti Classico with the fish in a zesty tomato sauce.
For dessert, affogato, a scoop of vanilla gelato showered with a shot of espresso. This is the ultimate simple dessert and the espresso will help you make it to the ball drop.
It never hurts to have a panettone around. The sweet dome bread is studded with candied citrus and raisins. If you have any left over it makes great french toast the next morning.
I’m feeling generous as 2011 draws to a close, so here’s another menu suggestion for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
UPDATE: There is now a video recipe for Cioppino, the simple and easy seven-fish San Francisco stew: WATCH NOW
Italian-American families have their favorite dishes for Christmas Eve fish dinner – some serve 7 fish (for the 7 sacraments or 7 virtues), some serve 10 (for the 10 stations of the cross) and others 13 fish (for Jesus and the 12 apostles). I serve 7 fishes not for the religious symbolism but to draw family and friends to the table to enjoy a great 3-course fish meal and each other during the holiday season.
When I was growing up my family ate fish because it was a Catholic rule, no meat on Christmas Eve. We loved this meal so much we still cook it many years after the meat ban was dropped by the Church. It’s a big part of my holiday tradition. You can catch some of my excitement in the video we just released. I fried up some squid.
If you want to eat some fish on Christmas Eve or any day of the year check out some of my fish posts from the past year. Cook one dish or a bunch at the same time. You’ll be eating well in any case.
Let’s see if we can get to 7 fish dishes. Your first one is Calamari Fritti above.
Continuing the antipasto (before the meal) theme, how about some steamed mussels and clams with a hunk of garlic bread for dunking in the broth? (Like the calamari fritti eat these as soon as they’re done.)
Cod fish cakes anyone? If I was serving the cakes with other dishes in the antipasto I’d make the cakes much smaller, almost bite size. (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)
Maybe arancini (fried rice balls) stuffed with bay shrimp and served with a spicy aioli? (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)
Here’s one that you can put out in the antipasto course or use as a secondo piatto (second course) dish. I always have to have some sole on Christmas Eve.
Here’s a great secondo piatto (second course), halibut baked with roasted cherry tomatoes, potatoes and green olives. I like to roast the whole fish, a branzino or sea bass, using this recipe. Just put the herb(s) inside the fish otherwise follow the original recipe. Debone the fish before serving.
Fried squid (calamari fritti) is a quick antipasto that has to be eaten hot right out of the oil. Often my guests eat this first course in my kitchen standing around the hot stove. The calamari is crispy and tender. The vinegar pepper confetti adds a nice kick. The calamari is great on its own too with just a squeeze of lemon.
My friends and family always ask me to make calamari fritti. I make a big batch to enjoy as part of our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner but you can have this delicious, fast dish anytime of the year.
No heavy batter here or breadcrumb coating to mask the taste of the calamari, just a light dusting of flour. No dipping sauces to get in the way either. Just enjoy the fresh, clean taste of the ocean.
Here’s a really simple recipe to capture the bell pepper bounty in a jar for your winter pantry. Just slice the peppers into strips, make the vinegar brine and put everything in a jar.
Pickled peppers, or “vinegar peppers” as my family calls them, keep in the refrigerator for a long time. I usually eat them all before I even get close to the end of their shelf-life. These peppers are great as a crunchy snack, on an antipasti platter, on a panino, and as a bright, piquant ingredient in some of my recipes. I always keep some of these peppers around. You never know when you’ll need them.
The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning and cutting the peppers. Everything just goes in the jar. Let them cure for at least 24 hours and enjoy. The pickled peppers just keep getting better as they sit in the brine.