Recipe of the Month May: Roasted Diced Potatoes with Gorgonzola

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Buon giorno!

Potato, Po-tahhh-to, as they say. Lately growing tired of the usual cuts, I have been on a tear for preparing diced potatoes. On the surface you might think it wouldn’t make a difference how they were cut before roasting – but it does. Potatoes in this tiny shape carry more of the roasted flavor than the usual larger slices. Each little bite is FULL of flavor! I have served them more recently in all sorts of ways, but the ROASTED DICED POTATOES WITH GORGONZOLA seem to have launched the siren call in my world for the perfect side to outdoor summer dining and grilling.

My accomplished gourmet friend, Eric, consulted with me the other day on a potato suggestion for his very special dinner of Duck Confit. Immediately, my passion for the little diced spuds came to mind to compliment his luscious and ambitious French effort, and I decided that I needed to share this one with you as well.

These potatoes can be made ahead and reheated successfully. As a matter of fact, I suggest making extra, just for the purpose of having them left over for breakfast the following day served with a lovely poached egg! With that in mind, I also highly recommend using them for a special Brunch with the same poached or fried eggs – maybe served on a small bed of greens?

The great thing about these “dicey” wonders is that you can put your pearls on and serve them with a fancy beef or pork dish or “git down” in your favorite jeans and offer them with burgers, spiedies, barbecue, or a myriad of outdoor grilled items. They just seem to fit in with the occasion.

So pour yourself a glass of Brunello and start dicing!

ROASTED DICED POTATOES WITH GORGONZOLA

Serves 4-6

Prep 15 minutes

Cook 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

6 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes

4 oz. Chopped uncooked Pancetta

1 Chopped Sweet Onion

1/2 C. Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and Coarsely Ground Black Pepper

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1/2  Cup Crumbled Gorgonzola (or a creamy Blue) Cheese

(Don’t use the pre-crumbled cheese as it can be very dry – It is best to buy a small block and crumble your own)

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl except the cheese.

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese 1

Spread the diced potato mixture out in a single layer on a shallow baking pan lined with foil.

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese 2

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes and stir.

Cook 15-20 more minutes adding the crumbled cheese in the last5-10 minutes of cooking.

You can make these  potatoes ahead – early in the day and warm them just before serving.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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April:Creamed Spinach Italian Style

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Buon giorno!

Lately when I dine at a “fancy” steakhouse, the menu usually offers the obligatory Creamed Spinach as a traditional side to my choice of steak. This side dish is priced on the menu between $8-$12. depending… Wow – let’s hear it for Popeye’s favorite food! Who knew it would demand such a premium? I am about to save you a few bucks – you’re welcome! In addition, many recipes for this involve a number of steps and a sometimes involved process. I think I have an alternative that is easy, takes just a few quick minutes and does not cost anywhere near the usual menu price. Here it is: CREAMED SPINACH, ITALIAN STYLE. This one is so easy – you won’t believe it.

I have to agree though that this seems to be an ideal side dish for a grilled steak or chop. The restaurants have a point there. However, usually you find it with the spinach so pulverized that the substance you are served resembles a green goo. I tend to leave my spinach leaves whole for this dish. Not only does it make the process simpler, but it tastes less like baby food and more like a delicious leafy green. Go ahead and try this – and see why I have given up ordering it in restaurants and prefer to make my own at home.

What makes it even remotely Italian? As always, it is all about the ingredients: fresh spinach, fresh garlic, mascarpone cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano – Yum and done!

CREAMED SPINACH, ITALIAN STYLE

Serves: 4

Prep and cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients

20 Oz. Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves (approx. 2 boxes in your produce dept.)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic, sliced into thirds

1/2 Cup Mascarpone Cheese

1/3 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste (Remember that a little salt – enhances the flavor of almost everything!)

Instructions

Heat olive oil in shallow pan. Add Garlic slices and cook just a minute to infuse. Remove the garlic!

Add the spinach leaves to the pan while the oil is very hot at medium high heat.

Creamed Spinach 1

Stir them until just wilted. I like to use tongs which make it easy to flip the leaves.

Now add the mascarpone and reduce the heat. When it begins to melt in, add the grated cheese.

Creamed Spinach 2

Heat through and stir to combine as the cheese melts in.

Taste for seasoning and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately with some of the grated cheese sprinkled on top.

TIP: You will want to serve this CREAMED SPINACH, ITALIAN STYLE fairly soon after making it while its consistency is thick –  as it releases liquid if it sits awhile. It is so easy and quick – you can make it just before dining without much fuss.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Best Sweet Potatoes Ever!

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Buon giorno!

Everybody seems to have a sweet potato recipe they love and are willing to go to the mat for. Here is mine! I call it the BEST SWEET POTATOES EVER. Why – it is because over the years I have tried them all and pulled a little from one dish and a little from another – things that I love about these dishes that come together to create just – well – the Best – in my book!

As always the simple elements rule the day – sweet potatoes, apples, butter, spices, brown sugar, orange, and a topping that is the crown of crowns. Actually – this recipe pretty much states the obvious – when it works – it works – and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Now for the secret ingredient! The addition of the Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur is an old Thanksgiving secret of mine. We cannot have Thanksgiving without it!  I add it to almost everything for this holiday – the turkey stuffing – the gravy – the sweet potatoes – and the pie! This Bourbon based liqueur is made with pure honey and is simply amazing!

The best part is that you can make this days ahead and freeze it!! Then defrost and heat it through in the oven before serving.

Actually – this one is so decadent, it can serve as your dessert!

Andiamo!

THE BEST SWEET POTATOES EVER

Serves 8

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 60 minutes

Ingredients

3 Medium Sweet Potatoes

2 Large Fuji Apples

1 Cup Pecan Halves

1 Cup Brown Sugar – divided in half

1 tsp. Cinnamon divided in half

Grated Fresh Nutmeg

1 Stick butter – divided in half

1 Cup Orange Juice – divided in half

Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Heavy Drizzle of Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur (such an asset to the dish!)

Ingredients for Topping

1 Cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 Stick Butter

1 Cup brown sugar

Instructions

Peel sweet potatoes and slice thinly.

Peel apples and slice.

Grease a shallow 12 x 9 rectangular or 12 inch shallow round baking dish as in the photo.

Place sweet potato slices in pan creating a single layer.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now place apple slices making the next layer.

Top with pecan halves

Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar, half of the cinnamon, and grated nutmeg.

Cut half of the stick of butter in pieces and place over the top.

Pour half the orange juice over the top.

Give it a sprinkle of the Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur.

Now repeat with another layer of sweet potato slices.

Add salt and pepper, the remaining brown sugar, spices, butter cut into pieces, and orange juice.

Give your dish another sprinkle of  Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur.

FOR TOPPING

Place brown sugar and pecans in a bowl with 1/2 stick softened butter.

Mix together – I like to use clean hands as it is faster and mixes better. When crumbly – sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes in pan.

Bake at 350 degrees covered with foil for 30 minutes.

Uncover and bake 30 more minutes.

If made ahead – once it is cool, cover and freeze. Defrost and heat through in the oven when you are ready to serve. If you really love the liqueur, as I do, give the dish one last drizzle when it comes piping hot out of the oven. Oh my!

Enjoy THE BEST SWEET POTATOES EVER and forget the pie!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Potatoes with Tomatoes

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Buon giorno!

POTATOES WITH TOMATOES or is it tomatoes with potatoes? You say potato and I say… I digress. Sometimes the simplest things are the best, and that is a very good thing because there are days when you just don’t have the time to be clever with everything. This side dish is for one of THOSE days. It is quick and easy – a great looking dish to serve – and marone.. the flavor! Those Campari tomatoes are extra sweet and add so much to the dish that regular tomatoes just won’t contribute – so I would strongly recommend using them here. This is a great skillet side to serve with chicken, burgers, anything grilled – you choose. No matter what you serve it with – your family and guests will thank you.

You will want this dish as one of your go-to backups!

POTATOES WITH TOMATOES

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3 Medium – Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – cooked, skins left on

About 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

6 Campari Tomatoes, quartered

1/2 Sweet Onion sliced

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Pinch of Red Pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

Clean and cook your potatoes first. If you really want to save time – microwave the potatoes. You want them fork tender.

Then chop them into large chunky pieces.

Cook the garlic, tomatoes, onion, and basil in olive oil on medium high for about 6 minutes until onion is tender.

Tomatoes potatoes 1

Add the potatoes and toss in pan. Let cook through another minute.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with fresh Basil leaves and drizzle with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

If you have the time, and want to be more creative with another blast of color, add some yellow and green peppers to the pan with the onions and tomatoes.

So whether you say potato or po-tahhh- to, give this POTATOES WITH TOMATOES a whirl.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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August: Zucchini Agrodolce

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Buon giorno!

So you planted zucchini in your garden this year and now you are up to your eyeballs in green squash! Your family is tired of zucchini  – what to do? Solution: find a new and more interesting way to cook it! Italians love their zucchini – also called courgettes, and every Italian garden has it. This recipe may not be entirely new, as it is an old preparation coming from the island of Sicily, but ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE (sweet and sour) is interesting and VERY tasty. It is not your typical zucchini accompanied by tomatoes, onions, etc. This is totally different and includes some of the favorite ingredients of Sicilian recipes – pignoli (pine nuts),  golden raisins and a tiny bit of anchovies. The anchovies are very subtle in the dish. They are chopped in tiny pieces, and as in many other dishes which include them, they melt into the sauce giving it a lovely flavor. However no one sees them, or knows they are there!

Some of my family members do not care for zucchini unless it is cleverly disguised in some way. We ALL  love this, and you will love it too!

ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE

Serves: 2

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 Fresh Medium Zucchini

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 large Clove Garlic cut in half

1 Sprig Fresh Oregano (or a teaspoon dried)

2 1/2 Tbsp. While Wine Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Water

2 Teaspoons Sugar

3 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

3 Tbsp. Golden Raisins

2 Anchovies – patted dry and cut into tiny pieces

Shavings of Pecorini or Provolone Cheese for garnish (you can also use grated)

Instructions

Clean a medium fresh zucchini. Leave the skin on .

Zucchini 1

Cut off the ends and discard. Then cut the zucchini lengthwise in half – then again into quarters. If the pieces are large enough – cut them one more time so you have spears.

Zucchini 2

Heat the oil in a shallow pan, add the garlic and oregano, and cook a couple of minutes until the garlic is beginning to brown. Do not burn the garlic! Keep it moving in the pan. Then remove and discard the garlic. In this dish you only want its essence.

Zucchini 3

Now add the vinegar, water, and sugar. Mix in.

Now add the zucchini spears, tossing them in the pan to coat, cover the pan, and cook about 10-12 minutes at medium high. Stir occasionally .

Zucchini 4

When finished, add the pignoli, raisins, and anchovies. Toss a little, and cook a couple of minutes more at medium high, uncovered.

Zucchini 5

Taste and see if any salt is needed. Usually the anchovies take care of the need for salt. By the way, at this point, the anchovies are quite invisible.

Serve with shavings of Pecorino or Provolone or grated.

This ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE is so delicious, you will want to make it again and again. It is just as suitable as a side for a fancy summer meal as it is for middle of the week dining with your family. Easy and quick – you will be using up your supply of garden fresh zucchini in no time!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Orzo with Campari Tomatoes

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Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest things just hit the mark. ORZO WITH CAMPARI TOMATOES is one of those simple sides that is great with everything. It is appropriate with so many meat and fish meals, is attractive on your table, and never gets old. Is it just plain old pasta with tomatoes? NO! Orzo is a lovely “rice like” pasta without the graininess. It cooks quickly and holds its shape well. The flavor in this dish is fresh fresh fresh!

Can’t you use any tomato? The answer is of course you can, BUT if you want to get the full “bang” out of this dish – you will use only Campari Tomatoes. These are the always perfect little gems sold in the box at your grocer. They are available all year not just in the summer. The flavor of these tomatoes is distinctive and unequalled in sweetness. They are so sweet that they balance the savory quality of this side dish just perfectly. If you use other tomatoes – the dish will be fine but you will miss the unique sweet flavor that these Campari Tomatoes add to the dish.

Herbs: You will want to use FRESH herbs in this one. The result is simply not the same with dried. Choose from which you prefer of these two herbs and also from what you have – Either fresh parsley or fresh basil will do it.

Garlic: Again you will want fresh garlic here and be sure to chop it very finely.

A versatile dish! Serve it hot or cold (room temp). Either way is lovely. To add a little something – turn it into a salad with a little Red Wine Vinegar. This is especially nice in the warmer months when you are “on the patio” and eating outside. The dish travels well! If you make it ahead, be sure to taste for seasoning just before you serve as pasta often absorbs flavors and needs refreshing.

Make this one of your go-to sides!

ORZO WITH CAMPARI TOMATOES

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes + pasta cook time

Ingredients

1/2 lb. Orzo pasta cooked according to package directions

6 Campari Tomatoes – chopped coarsely (Just look at these beauties)

Campari Tomatoes roasted_001

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/4-1/3 C. Chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Instructions

Prepare your orzo as package directs.

Chop the Campari Tomatoes, garlic, and, herbs. Add them to the orzo.

Orzo

Drizzle generously with your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve!

If you like, you can prepare your Orzo with Campari Tomatoes ahead and serve it at room temp or cold by adding some red wine vinegar and making it a salad! Always refresh your seasoning when making ahead.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Braised Radicchio

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Redicchio Brasato

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Buon giorno!

Northern Italians have their favorite veggies, and Radicchio is one of them. They grill it and serve it in salads. They also use it frequently in polenta dishes and in their risottos. BRAISED RADICCHIO or Redicchio Bresato  is a Northern Italian preparation featuring this beautiful ruby vegetable, on its own, with some classic Northern ingredients. It is an easy prep, with a delicious result. Topped with one of the Cheeses of the North, Gorgonzola, it offers a beautiful combination of savory, sweet, and sharp.

BRAISED RADICCHIO

(REDICCHIO BRASATO)

Serves: about 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 Heads Radicchio, cleaned and quartered lengthwise

Finely Sliced Red Onion

1/3 C. Golden Raisins, soaked for about 1/2 hour in warm water and then drained

A couple of Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3/4 C. Wild Mushrooms – tiny ones if possible or slice the larger ones

1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

Splash Dry White Wine

Pinch sugar

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Gorgonzola crumbled into bits for topping – Try to avoid the prepackaged Gorgonzola which is dry.

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil if desired to finish

Instructions

Rinse your radicchio and cut off the bottom root area – quarter the heads.

Radicchio 1

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion until just tender – about 4 minutes.

Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.

Add the radicchio, rosemary, drained raisins, and mushrooms. Add water and and season to taste with Salt and Pepper.

Radicchio 2

Cover the pan and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Check after 8 minutes.

Place in a serving dish or individual plates and top with Gorgonzola. Drizzle with Extra Virgin if desired  – and serve!

BRAISED RADICCHIO is so easy to prepare and is a perfect choice for a side dish to grilled meats and fish.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Spiedini alla Romana

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Crostini alla Provatura

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Buon giorno!

Spiedini?? What? But there is no meat! Lesson: Spiedini refers to  the skewers and can relate to different types. SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA is an extraordinary and memorable form of kebabs or skewers made of bread, cheese, and topped with a dreamy light anchovy sauce. Anchovy ? Before you run from the room screaming , those of you who have an aversion to these little fish, consider this: In this dish, anchovies provide unmistakable but still subtle flavor without anyone knowing they are there as a really a critical ingredient in the sauce. All together, these ingredients provide an unforgettable and rather addictive first course, appetizer, or addition to any meal. Guarantee: Eat one and you can’t wait until the next one!

Clue: When anchovies are chopped into tiny pieces, added to a sauce, and cooked slightly, they seem to melt into it – providing flavor – but they are almost undetectable. Also – they are a required ingredient in this particular sauce –  so after reading all this, if you still have an aversion, advising  that there is no proper substitute, you may continue to run screaming from the room and on to another recipe.

Those of you who chose wisely to remain in the room – smile knowingly and continue reading.

A Little History: This is one of those Italian regional dishes which I love to talk about. It is from Lazio – the region of Rome – and the region from which my mother, Loretta’s family, came. The food of this region is lovely, distinctive, and has its signature dishes . SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA  is one of them and actually has another name – Crostini Alla Provatura because it is traditionally prepared from a soft egg shaped cheese, small in size called Provatura. This preparation calls for the skewered cheese and bread to be cooked over a wood fire and basted occasionally with melted butter.

Most preparations now fry the skewered bread and cheese in a pan with olive oil, although you will see the occasional recipe using batter before frying. I find the batter unnecessary and heavy, lending itself to a sometimes soggy exterior. Simply frying the bread without coating it is easy and quick and is in the Italian style of just frying the bread which Italians seem to love to do ( with good reason) every chance they get!

Style: It is your choice as to how large you make these. For a first course, you might like them a little larger. As an appetizer, served on small plates, you might like them smaller so your guests can just pick up the skewers and eat them without a knife and fork.

I also like to serve them as part of a light meal for “on the patio” dining in the warmer months. Add a stuffed artichoke and a lovely wine and you have a meal!

Spiedini Combo with artichoke

This dish is so delicious and lovely that that I can’t rave about it quite enough. You will just have to see for yourself how the flavors blend and enhance the crisply fried skewers to the point where no one really cares about the rest of the meal. Actually, think about that – this dish may save you hours in the kitchen! Just watch!

SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA

Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 4 minutes

Ingredients

4 Stacks of 4 rectangular pieces of thickly sliced bread, crusts off, (preferably a dense Italian type) – stale is best or let the bread slices sit out for a few hours

8 Oz. Fresh Mozzarella, cut into slices or cubes slightly smaller that bread slices

1/4 C. Olive Oil

6 Anchovies packed in oil, patted dry with paper towels and chopped into tiny pieces

3 Tbsp. Butter

1/3 C. Dry Vermouth or any dry white wine

2 Tbsp. Fresh chopped Basil

2 Tsp. Fresh chopped Oregano

Dash Hot Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Capers, rinsed and drained

1 good squeeze of Fresh Lemon Juice

(S&P only if needed – Usually the anchovies take care of salt needs)

Sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino

Instructions

See the ingredients list for suggestions on the bread.

Spiedini 1

Skewer your bread cubes alternating with Mozzarella cubes. I suggest using the shorter wood skewers you can find at most grocers.

Spiedini 3

Heat oil in a fry pan to VERY hot. Add your skewers to the hot oil. Leave a couple of minutes just to sear, and turn once. Having your oil hot is key here. You can peek at them to see if it is time to turn them.

Spiedini 4

Once seared on both sides, remove them to a plate and sprinkle with Parmigiano.

In the same pan, add the chopped anchovies and butter. Cook a minute, stirring, and add the wine, herbs, pepper, and capers.

Spiedini 2

Cook another minute, then squeeze in lemon juice. Stir – DONE!

Spoon this delicious sauce over your fried skewers, making sure some of the herbs and capers stay on top of each one.

Serve immediately!

OMG! You are in for a treat with these SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA!  Serve them with a beautiful crisp and dry Italian white wine  – perhaps like an Arneis from the rolling hills of the Roero area in Piemonte – light and lovely with these flavors.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Green Beans with Tomatoes and Poached Egg

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Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest and most wholesome of meals can be the very best. Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity but also for the importance it attaches to ingredients. With Lent, on its way, ingredients become even more important, as we look for meals that are hearty but light and that appeal to our senses with color, aroma, and, of course, taste. GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGG is a dish that hits all the marks. It is basically a one dish meal, it is amazingly delicious and satisfying and – it is actually good for you! It is also a good example of the use of fresh but simple ingredients coming together to forma typically rustic Italian dish that satisfies.

Vegetarians will love this one as it does not contain meat, but those who absolutely insist on a little meat can add 1/2 c. Chopped Pancetta to it. Actually, this dish will satisfy everyone without the meat. It is filling, soothing, satisfying, and comforting all at the same time.

Growing up, it was one of my favorite dishes. I loved to puncture the egg yolk with my fork and let it run into the sauce making the sauce velvety and rich. This is sooo good, I can just taste it.

The egg: As for the egg, my experience involved a poached egg, but you could just as easily serve the dish with a fried egg. The key is that yolk!

The veggies: FRESH Green beans are a must, however. You’ll want to cook them just to the point of tenderness. The tomatoes must be fresh as well for maximum flavor.

This is a mostly fresh dish that comes together rather quickly. You can serve it without the egg as a beautiful side dish, but we enjoyed it often as a main course with the egg adding protein and tremendous richness.

This dish loudly “speaks Italian” by nature, and the process will be familiar to many. MANGIA!

GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGG

Serves: 4

Prep: about 20-30 minutes

Ingredients

1/4 C. Olive Oil

3/4 lb. Fresh Green Beans

1 Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

(1/2 C. Chopped Pancetta – if you must have meat)

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 C. Water

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

10 oz. Fresh Cherry or Grape Tomatoes – sliced in 1/2

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Poached Eggs (or fried)

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

Instructions

Cook the beans, onion, garlic, parsley, water, tomatoes, and red pepper in the oil for about 5 minutes at a strong simmer – medium high heat.

Then Cover and cook until tender (not soggy!) – about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare your poached eggs, and place one at the side of each serving.

To serve your GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGGS , make sure to have plenty of grated cheese on hand for the top. Prepare for simple joy!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Brussel Sprouts with Candied Pecans and Oranges

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Buon giorno!

Before you go down the Thanksgiving rabbit hole – give this one a look! Don’t like Brussel Sprouts?? Chances are you are not roasting them which gives them such deep flavor without tasting ..well.. “cabbagy”. Another thing you are perhaps not doing is preparing them this way – BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CANDIED PECANS AND ORANGES. The flavor impact with this dish packs a wallop! Add a touch of Balsamic glaze and you just might create the tastiest dish on your Thanksgiving table. The added benefit of this recipe is the pecans – pe-cahns as they say in the South. These gems are great to snack on with a drink, to give as gifts, and to add to salads. And away we go…

BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CANDIED PECANS AND ORANGES

Serves: 4

Prep:

INGREDIENTS FOR CANDIED PECANS:

1 C. Pecan Halves

3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp. Salt

Dash of Cayenne Pepper

1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon

1 Tbsp. Melted Butter

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CANDIED PECANS

Mix first 5 ingredients together in a bowl.

Spiced Pecans 1

Add melted butter and stir.

Spread pecans out on a foil covered sheet sprayed with Pam.

Spiced Pecans 2

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven – stir as they cool. The pecans will harden within minutes.

Spiced Pecans 3

Keep in an air tight container until ready to use.

PROCEED WITH BRUSSEL SPROUTS

Ingredients

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts bottoms trimmed and cut in half

Olive Oil

1/4 C. Salt Pork chopped in bits

Zest of an orange

Leaves from 1 stalk Fresh Rosemary

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 C. Cried Cranberries

3/4 C. Mandarin Orange slices

3/4 C. Spiced Pecans – instructions above

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish

Balsamic Glaze – drizzle (optional)

Instructions

Spread the Brussel Sprouts halves on foil covered pan.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Distribute bits of salt pork on top.

Add orange zest and Rosemary.

Roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Stir once during roasting.

Sprouts 1

When finished pour into a bowl and add the cranberries, mandarin orange slices, and spiced pecans.

Toss and serve with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – and drizzle with a tiny bit of Balsamic Glaze if you like.

These BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CANDIED PECANS AND ORANGES are so delicious, you’ll want to serve them all through your holidays!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Potato Gratin with Gorgonzola and Apples

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Buon giorno!

In Northern Italy, vegetables and fruits are often mixed together in a baked form – sometimes a pie. The combination is of course less sweet and can be more of a side dish. In Abruzzo, also, you will find potato pie created by layering potatoes and cheese. The French, of course, “gratin” everything!  POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES  is a sort of variation of these ideas.

 POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES  is a lovely layered side dish using the sharper cheese made mostly in Northern Italy – Piemonte, Lombardia etc. You may use the Gorgonzola or a nice creamy Blue Cheese as well to create the desired effect. It is a given that Blue Cheese and Gorgonzola are both great compliments to apples and potatoes both. The sharp cheese is not prominent in this dish nor should it be. The flavors all blend. Even the apples are more of an essence than a main event in the dish.

It is a simple dish to create and partners well with grilled or roasted meats or as a buffet item. It is creamy and delicious with a slightly crunchy top.

POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES

Serves 6

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: about 55 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, cleaned, unpeeled, and sliced – enough for 2 layers in your selected pan

1-2 Fuji (or other sweet) Apples, peeled and sliced thinly

Flour

1/3 lb. Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese, crumbled

2 C. Half and Half

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano grated

Fresh Breadcrumbs for the top

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a final drizzle

Instructions

Oil a 9×12 or 13 inch pan

Place one layer of potatoes in the pan slightly overlapping.

Potatoes 1

Add a little salt and pepper.

Place a layer of apples over the potatoes slightly overlapping.

Potatoes 2

Sprinkle with flour and then with all of the Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese. Try not to use the pre-crumbled as it can be a little dry.

Potatoes 3

Repeat with another potato layer.

Add a little salt and pepper.

Pour the half and half over all, trying to distribute evenly.

Sprinkle top with Parmigiano.

Top with fresh breadcrumbs and drizzle a little Extra Virgin.

Potatoes 5

Bake covered at 350 degrees, with foil cover,  for about 45 minutes – placing foil or a cookie sheet underneath in case it bubbles out.

Remove the foil from the top and continue to bake another 10-15 minutes uncovered or until all is tender and bubbly.

To brown further, place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to desired golden color.

Potato and Apple Gratin finish with script

Your POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES is ready to serve! This is a great buffet dish.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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August: Pesto Potatoes

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Buon giorno!

They say that in the coastal areas of the region of Liguria, the aroma of pesto permeates the air. This is not the same pesto that you see in the jars at your grocer – far from it! Many who say they do not care for it, have only this rather pathetic version in the jar from which to draw reference. Instead, this is the real thing, made from fresh picked herbs, fresh garlic, nuts (more traditionally pignoli) and the best extra virgin olive oil.

Now THIS is pesto!

Pesto Potatoes 3 with script

Your kitchen will smell like Liguria when you make PESTO POTATOES. This delicious dish, charged with immense flavor, is a beautiful accompaniment to any grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

In Liguria, most people grow their own basil. These days many of us here in the US grow our own as well. Fortunately, in more recent times, it is now always available at our local markets. So we can enjoy this amazing aromatic fresh herb all year round. Pesto can be ours at any time, just as in Liguria, anytime we want to make it. The wonderful thing about it is that it is soooo easy. If you have a few fresh ingredients and a blender – you can make your own! Dine like a true Ligurian, and prepare their signature green sauce for your own “Italian table!”.

PESTO POTATOES are fun to serve. Not only do they taste great ,but also this potato dish makes a beautiful presentation on your table. The potatoes bathe in the beautiful green sauce and more color pops through with the addition of sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes also contribute a touch of sweetness brightening this largely savory dish.

These potatoes will disappear quickly! Serve them at your next grilling extravaganza!

PESTO POTATOES

Makes: 1 1/2-2 lb. potatoes

Prep: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2-2 lb. Small White Potatoes – skins on – cooked

2 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Large Clove Fresh Garlic

3/4 C. Toasted Walnuts

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil – chopped small

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish

Instructions

Cook your potatoes and then slice them in half – or leave them whole if they are especially small.

Place the basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper in a blender.

Pesto Potatoes 1

Run your blender while adding all of your oil slowly through the top in a stream as the mixture becomes a smooth paste. It will become a beautiful green color.

Pesto Potatoes 2

If it seems too dry – add more oil.

Taste for seasoning. It is important to add enough salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of this sauce.

Pour this pesto sauce over the cooked potatoes and gently toss.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and toss again.

Pesto Potatoes 5

Garnish with shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve at room temperature.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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July: Mac and Cheese Italian Style

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Buon giorno!

OK – Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. Usually the opposite is the case – can’t get enough of it – want it every day – can’t resist it when it is served. This one will get the attention of the all who love the cheesy oozy comforting goodness of this classic dish. Only this time – we’re giving it that Italian “edge” with MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE! If you can resist this one – Calabrisi does not end with an “I”!

 

We’re taking a slightly different turn with this though. It is not the orange colored mac and cheese we are so used to seeing from those… boxes. I make this with all kinds of short pastas – you choose! It is great with gnocchi as well. This recipe uses Fontina – the Italian melting cheese with the nutty flavor – that will take care of the OOZY. We add White Cheddar for the CHEESY. The Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago is there.. well, because why in the world wouldn’t we want it there??? The wine gives it that hint of loveliness, and we get touch of sweet from the butternut squash. You get the idea! We add one flavor level after another – until we hit the max… and then… we add (optional but incredible) seafood – lobster or shrimp. We have just cracked the ceiling of culinary heaven!

 

As if that is not enough – those who look for that something extra which makes this a truly distinctive and complex dish will finish with a “touch” of White Truffle Oil – oh YEAH!! Actually, I probably had you at Fontina – but gilding the lily is just, well, fun. So why not go for it. I think I can actually sense some palpitations here and with good reason. This is a VERY special dish!

MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Short pasta or gnocchi – cooked

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Chopped Pancetta – chops easier if partially frozen!

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Flour

3/4 C. White Wine or Dry Vermouth

2 C. Half and Half or heavy cream – warmed

1 C. Grated Fontina

1 C. Grated Sharp White Cheddar

1/2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

1/2 C. Sliced Black Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

2 C. Chopped Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 C. Sliced almonds

1 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs (not dried)

Drizzle of White Truffle Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

OPTIONAL BUT AMAZING: 1 lb. Cooked Lobster Meat or 1 lb. Cooked Shrimp

Instructions

Roast the Butternut Squash tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside.

1 Roasted Butternut Squash

Cook pancetta in oil and butter until just crisp.

Add onion and cook until tender.

2 Mac and Cheese

Add garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic!!

Add the flour and, stirring, cook the rawness out for a couple of minutes.

3 Mac and Cheese

Add the wine – cook a couple of minutes at medium high. It will thicken.

5 Mac and Cheese

Reduce heat a little and add the cream, stirring until it thickens again.

6 Mac and Cheese

Add the cheeses and melt in, stirring. Taste for seasoning. I like freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt.

7 Mac and Cheese

Add the olives, basil, squash and seafood, if using. Stir in.

8 Mac and Cheese

Toss the pasta with this sauce fully incorporating it. Use ALL of the sauce as you want it very “saucy and cheesy”.

Pour into a buttered baking pan or individual baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and sliced almonds.

9 Mac and Cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pop under the broiler  for a minute if it is not golden brown on top from baking.

Drizzle with the white truffle oil – just a bit as a little goes a LONG way with this pretty amazing addition! — or drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve your MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE as a main course or as a side at your next grilling event. Prepare for raves on this one!!! Take your bow and…

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Roasted Asiago Potatoes

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Buon giorno!

Growing up, we rarely had mashed potatoes. My father didn’t care for them. We had roasted potatoes as a side to all sorts of meats. I loved them. There was always something comforting about them.

Years have passed and Roasted Potatoes are still one of my favorite “sides”. They just seem to go with almost everything. In fact – I have to be careful not to serve them too often! ROASTED ASIAGO POTATOES go one step further than the usual roasted spuds, with the addition of the versatile Asiago Cheese. These potatoes are dynamite! You will also be happy to know that they are very easy to make.

A little about Asiago: This is a cow’s milk cheese that comes from the North of Italy. It is one of the most popular cheeses that I serve in my Classes for cheese tastings. Because it has a protected DOP status, it is produced only in the Veneto region near Vicenza. Asiago is a wonderful grating cheese that can be used instead of your traditional Parmigiano. The flavor is different. I find it to be sweeter – like the Montasio which comes from the same region – but with a little more boldness. There is something about the grasses in this area. They tend to be sweeter and when the cows feed on them, they produce a milk, and therefore a cheese, which has a hint of sweetness revealing its origin. The more age on the Asiago determines its hardness, boldness, and richer more lingering flavor. The fresher and younger Asiago offers a smoother softer texture.

I love Asiago and often use it as a grating cheese on my pastas – especially those from Northern Italy. I like its sweeter nature with the Northern dishes. It does change your dishes somewhat and offers a nice alternative to expected sharper Parmigiano.

Asiago adds a spark to these potatoes that removes them from the standard roasted category to something a little more special and lovely. Your guests taste them expecting the usual – and get a little surprise upon tasting! What’s not to like here?

ROASTED ASIAGO POTATOES

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 30-40 minutes

Ingredients

5 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes – skins on – cut into pieces – not small

1/2 C. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

1 C. Grated Asiago Cheese

Instructions

Lay the potatoes flat in a baking pan.

Drizzle the cut potatoes with the oil, and add the Rosemary, salt and pepper.

Asiago Potatoes 1

Sprinkle with the cheese.

Asiago Potatoes 2

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until fork tender. Turn once or twice during baking so that the potatoes don’t stick. The cheese will almost melt and disappear into the potatoes, leaving them with the most wonderful earthy flavor.

You’ll love these Roasted Asiago Potatoes which will soon become one of your go-to dishes!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Ciambotta

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Buon giorno!

This one might tickle an Italian memory or two. CIAMBOTTA!  Put this one on my list of  “favorite things ever”. It is a wonderful vegetable stew that usually made its entrance sometime during the summers at the Calabrisi house, when zucchini and tomatoes were in abundance. It was the kind of thing you could eat pounds of and not tire. It was always an arrow headed straight for my heart when the aroma reached my senses.

What is it? The answer to that is.. it can be several things. It is considered a stew – but it also can be a soup. Traditionally speaking, it is a vegetable stew or concoction that is a very typical Southern Italian dish – sometimes called Ciambotta Napoletana and a healthy example of the Mediterranean Diet. It can be a side dish and you might compare it to the French Ratatouille. It can also be a soup or stew used as an entrée served with crusty bread.  No matter how you serve it, be prepared to have it disappear as the flavors of the ingredients are so perfect together that it is difficult to stop consuming it. Whatever you decide to call it – it’s really good!

Variations: Actually, it can be made with pancetta or even sausage, if you like a little meat or pork flavor. It isn’t necessary, in my opinion.

Fresh tomatoes straight from the garden may be used or canned tomatoes are fine also.

You will find recipes for it using eggplant or beef or other things. I prefer, it to this day, the way Loretta served it – pure, rustic, and simple – no need to gild the lily. To me, it doesn’t seem to need anything else. Some things just don’t need embellishment!

My mother, Loretta, would often remind us that you could add shrimp or Cannellini Beans or even a little pasta in it if you wanted to. As nice as any of that sounded, I never wanted anything else in it. Like Goldilocks, I thought it seemed “just right”  the way she made it.

The way you see it here is the way Loretta, most often served it – no meat, straight from the pot, with crusty Italian bread, usually from DiRienzo’s or Di Lascia’s Bakery in Binghamton, NY, and a little grated cheese. My father usually had some red pepper flakes handy to throw on his dish. He liked the hot stuff!

More good news – CIAMBOTTA can even be made ahead and frozen for later use.

Let the chopping begin!

CIAMBOTTA

Serves: 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook:  1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

3 Medium Zucchini – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely

3 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely

1 Medium Onion – sliced thinly

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

1 Bay Leaf

42 Oz. Chopped Tomatoes with juices

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 Cheese Rind – Parmigiano or other ( just a piece for added flavor)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Instructions

Ciambotta 1

Put olive oil in a pan and add the zucchini, potatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, and bay leaf – cook and stir – about 10 minutes.

Ciambotta 2

Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, cheese rind, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Ciambotta 3

Cover and cook on medium heat for about an hour or until the potatoes are fork tender.

When finished – remove the bay leaf and rind if any is left and discard.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with Crusty Italian Bread and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or your favorite grated cheese.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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