CHICKPEA SALAD

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Insalata di Ceci

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Buon giorno!

 

There is nothing that tickles all of the senses like an Insalata di Ceci – or Chickpea Salad, especially when it includes fresh aromatic ingredients like oranges and fennel (finocchio), two of my favorites. The scent of the oranges permeates the kitchen when you prepare this dish, along with the unmistakably lingering anise aroma of the fennel. The vivid colors tempt the eye, and the flavor of every component is distinct, each with its own level of crunch while at the same time combining together in harmony to bring the taste buds to crescendo.

Where best to enjoy this splendid mix of color and flavor? I choose outdoors! On the patio or al fresco is undeniably my favorite place to dine. There is something about the fresh air, balmy breezes if you’re lucky, and good company of the birds and bees around you. It reminds me of of those outdoor meals, alive with chatter, in Italy served on long tables in the open air, perhaps on the loggia, that go on for hours.

As a family, we often took meals together this way on our patio in Binghamton, NY, when the weather permitted, and usually frequently in the summertime. Italians don’t know the meaning of “a quick bite”. These events often lasted all afternoon on a summer Sunday, a bottle of vino rosso on hand, and about nine of us, including family members and several “strays”, all trying to out-shout each other over seemingly endless courses of flavorful food. Even with the cacophony, I am bound to that memory. Perhaps that is why I continue to seek any opportunity for dining outdoors – to recapture those moments. In the South, there are many nights offering just such a perfect temperature and setting, and I take advantage of every one.

The grill: Very often, on these evenings, my husband, Tom, takes to the grill with all proper utensils and does the “man thing” with a great steak or firm piece of fish. It is always my task to come up with an interesting side dish. Tired of green salads with all the usual suspects, chickpeas or “ceci” as Italians call them offer an interesting canvas on which to paint something different for the occasion. I love chickpeas! You can do almost anything with them – adding them to soups, stews, throw them in salads etc.

With grilling season about to launch in a major way, much scouting will begin for that different and fresh dish that is beautiful to look at and will also marry perfectly with seared and char-broiled meats and fish. Along with your grilled favorite, this Chickpea Salad is truly “ un matrimonio fatto in paradiso!” ( A marriage made in heaven!)

About Chickpeas: Read all about the health benefits of eating chickpeas at The World’s Healthiest Foods.

By any other name: Italians love ceci – not to be confused with Cheechi, Ciccio, or Cheech – your Italian buddy’s godfather. In almost every story about the Mafia, there is always a Cheech, and every true Italian knows at least one person with that name. Rather, the ceci we entertain for today’s dish are plump, round little beans with a soft but not mushy consistency. Known also as chickpeas or garbanzos, biting into ceci properly cooked is similar to biting into a soft nougat. They combine well with endless varieties of flavors. They are available in cans or in dried form. I like using the dried whenever possible, as they tend to maintain their substance, firmness, and full flavor. The canned are good “in a pinch” but, to me, are never as satisfying to cook with as the dried. They seem to lack the distinctive flavor, and run the risk of “mushing up” when tossed. Have you ever tried the dried form of these beans? Give it a shot! It is definitely worth the extra effort.

Today, we have Insalata di Ceci! This dish is not only delicious but also very fresh tasting. It makes a great side dish for your barbeque as well as that dish you promised to bring to Zia Maria’s christening party for her cousin’s daughter’s new baby. It just seems to go with everything. You can put it together a day ahead, and it will be the most attractive offering on the table. Troppo Bella! To illustrate how delicious this is, the last time I made it, my husband ate the leftover salad for breakfast.

Let’s begin now because we first must give the Ceci an overnight swim!

Insalata di Ceci

(Chickpea Salad)

Chickpeas:

1 c. dried Chickpeas – soak in water to cover overnight – then drain

Place the soaked chickpeas in 2 1/2 qts of water with 3 cloves of garlic each cut in half, and 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt. Bring to boil and then simmer for a couple of hours. You will see a white foam form on the surface of the water. You can skim that off. Stir occasionally and add more water if getting dry. Drain the chickpeas and set aside.

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Fennel:

Prepare 2 medium or 1 large fennel bulb as follows:Cut off the base and feathery green fronds. Peel outer layer.

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Slice the bulb vertically and cut out the inner core.

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Facing one half bulb downward toward the cutting board, slice horizontally across. Repeat with the other piece or pieces until completely sliced.

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Orange:

Grate the zest of 1 orange and put aside for the dressing.

Peel the orange and divide into single sections, cutting each section in 1/2.

Instructions:

In a bowl combine:

Sliced fennel

orange pieces

9 Peperoncini (these come in a jar)- sliced into rings with seeds removed or about ½ c. presliced Peperoncini rings

1/2 purple onion sliced thinly

1 c. pitted black olives or Kalamatas (amt. depends on how much you like black olives!)

5 Campari or Cherry tomatoes – cut into quarters

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1/3 c. roughly chopped fresh basil

A little extra chopped fresh basil for the top of the salad for garnish

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Add the chickpeas and toss.

Dressing

1/3 c. Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c. Orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

1 clove garlic – chopped very finely

1 tsp. White Vinegar

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Whisk above ingredients, add to chickpea salad and toss well. Taste and correct seasoning to taste if required. Refrigerate until serving time.

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Chickpea Salad can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. NOTE: if making ahead, taste and see if it needs re-seasoning before serving. Sometimes when the salad sits, it absorbs some flavor and needs a refresher.

See you on the patio!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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WILD MUSHROOM PIZZA

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MY WILD SIDE!” Wild-Mushroom_01_thumb1 Buon giorno! Bet you think perhaps I’m about to reveal some deep dark untamed  period in my youth. WRONG! I must say the subject of my musings today is wild and rather fervent—but not of the type you may have hoped I would share. Sorrrry!… no secrets revealed here. However, I must opine about a lifetime longing or passion for which there seems to be no means to abate. I LOVE WILD MUSHROOMS!! No not in the “like to have them once in a while sense” but more like I gotta have ‘em – “kind of hopelessly addicted sense”. (Before we get too excited – I do not refer to the naughty mushrooms of Alice’s “trip” to Wonderland – let’s get that straight right from the beginning!) I have been known to specifically shop for the wild mushrooms first and then decide what I would do with them much later. The ladies can relate as many of you understand the “need” for that amazing “must have them” pair of shoes that goes with nothing in your closet and perhaps might be more comfortable or appropriate housed in a museum than on the foot. YUP! That’s it! That’s the perfect comparison. Strangely, my addiction began at a very early age. Let me explain. In our house, wild mushrooms were revered. I experienced them early and often in my childhood and thought pretty much everybody did. I just loved them. My father, Attilio, would hunt for them at the suggested time of year. He knew several types of the “wild ones” and only picked those on his own. He was extremely careful about the ones he picked and always cautioned us about never eating or cooking with any we weren’t absolutely sure of because of the toxic nature of some species. He was so meticulous about the process of picking that we never worried much about  getting sick. This is something he did not take casually. When he brought them home my mother, Loretta, froze them so we would have wild mushrooms to enjoy for months on end. One of my favorite dishes using the “wild ones” was a dish made with the mushrooms along with sausage, red wine, tomatoes, and, of course, red pepper flakes. Crusty Italian bread made this dish a runner-up to heaven.  Because she froze so many of the mushrooms, we always were able to have Loretta’s amazing Wild Mushroom Risotto on New Year’s Day!     Attilio especially loved the Popinki’s or Polish Honey Mushrooms. So we always had those at a surplus. One place he “hunted” Popinki’s was not far from our house in a wooded area on upper Glenwood Avenue in Binghamton, New York where we lived. He also picked a variety called a white, hooded type called Shaggy Manes – which he named Daisy Mae’s. (He had a name for everything and everybody! A couple of times a year Attilio would sometimes take my brother, Richard, who recalls a tree on upper Glenwood where they would harvest a large Ram’s Head (also called Hen of the Woods or Sheeps Head) mushroom every year with the permission of the owner.  This large mushroom variety looks like a cabbage or a large flower and can weigh as much as 25 pounds! It has an earthy, “gamey” flavor. The larger ones are a little tough and are often found on Oak Trees and stumps. One year they eagerly returned for the mushroom and, sadly, the tree was gone.  On many occasions, my Dad had a friend from the First Ward in Binghamton named “Coco”, who sometimes accompanied him and knew other varieties of wild mushrooms, and he would guide Attilio in picking those. As my father aged and could no longer “go picking”, Coco faithfully brought him a couple of baskets a year of the Popinki’s.  Caution: I would not advise anyone to pick and eat wild mushrooms without a good deal of knowledge and recognition of what is safe or perhaps a degree in Mycology ( the study of fungi). Few types cause fatal results, but many can cause allergic episodes. You really need to know what you are doing here. Also, some areas where you might find them are protected.  Wild mushrooms in so many varieties are not so wild anymore. My best advice is to buy them – buy them in quantity – and safely enjoy the HECK out of them! We are so fortunate now to have our local growers supplying so many different types to our Farmer’s Markets.  Think LOCAL as much as possible!  Even Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and your neighborhood grocers have gotten into the act. You will find everything you desire from the very dear Chanterelles to Trumpets to Porcinis to Creminis ad infinitum. If you haven’t tried them, you must. I insist you join me in this pursuit of these wild things!  The difference is a tasty, earthy, sometimes buttery depth of flavor you could never experience in the average button  mushroom. They add so much to every dish. You’ll be happy you did. Wild-Mushroom_021 Curiosity piqued? Just because, my enthusiasm for your trying these jewels knows no bounds – I will provide a luscious excuse for you to experiment.  The following Pizza is one of our favorites –always a winner at our table –  purely vegetarian  – with ingredients that always deliver individually – but most certainly come together for a mighty crescendo of earthy delight. I guarantee, your guests will love this one. Troppo Bella!

PIZZA WITH WILD MUSHROOMS & THREE CHEESES

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Begin with the recipe for Pizza Dough from our previous post Pizza – That’s Amore (click here for dough recipe) Or use your favorite store bought dough. Olive Oil – small amount to spread on dough Whole bulb of garlic roasted as per instructions below. Fresh mozzarella – grated or thinly sliced Assorted wild mushrooms – about 1/2 lb. Try to use some Shitakes as they provide a buttery flavor to the mix. Given a quick saute in olive oil, Kosher Salt and Pepper Fresh Rosemary and Fresh Oregano – about 1 Tbsp of each 3-4 oz. Goat Cheese Large Slivers of Ricotta Salata Cheese Extra Virgin Olive Oil Prepare dough and stretch onto stone or pan. Rub dough with a little olive oil.

To Roast your bulb of garlic: Remove the outer skins of garlic bulb. Place the bulb, with the top cut off exposing the cloves, in foil – drizzle with olive oil – add a little Kosher Salt – Seal the foil and Roast in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Roasted garlic is mild and nutty flavored and can be use in countless ways as its usually sharp, pungent and offending odor and taste is muted. When ready to apply to pizza – just gently squeeze bulb – the soft roasted cloves will ooze out easily. Squeeze roasted garlic directly onto dough- smash it- and spread over the dough with a fork.

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Place grated or sliced fresh mozzarella on dough. Saute fresh sliced wild mushrooms lightly in a tiny amount of olive oil, Kosher Salt and Pepper – Spread mushrooms over the  pizza. Sprinkle with fresh oregano and fresh rosemary.

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Dot pizza with Goat Cheese.

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Shave large slivers of Ricotta Salata Cheese over top.  Place in oven at 500 degrees for 10-15 min. til crust is golden and crisp on the bottom. PIzza_0017a

Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil to serve.

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I recommend my favorite St. Bernardus Belgian Abbey Ale with this pizza OR Hannibal Lecter’s favorite “a nice Chianti”! (Click here for Hannibal !)

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Fire In The Hole!

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Buon giorno!

It always interests me as to the motivation for “toy choices”. Why this thing and not that?

When our good friends, Barbara and Steve, told us about their new “construction project”– an outdoor wood burning Pizza Oven, I was intrigued immediately. For Pizza lovers, this is the “toy of toys”. I just had to know everything about this so that I could share it with you. When they graciously asked us to come by to see and sample, I knew this would be a treat, and I couldn’t wait.

The whole concept of having one’s own personal outdoor Pizza Oven was immediately alien to me as a small town Italian girl, born and raised in Binghamton,NY. Loretta and Attilio, my parents, (read more about them on the About Page on my website, Linda’s Italian Table < click here) made their own dough simply, added fresh tomatoes and homemade sausage or pepperoni, and just popped it into the oven. (Find out more about making pizza with Loretta and Attilio – Arugula Pizza < click here ) I thought I had “graduated” when I began using a pizza stone! Who knew?

Barbara and Steve, a couple of real Italian food lovers, have taken Pizza Making to an entirely new level. Barbara had the pizza oven idea tucked away in her mind since the 1970’s when she became serious about learning to cook. The whole idea began when they were thinking of making some adjustments to their home. Their children were grown and sprung from the nest, and Barbara and Steve thought, “What next?” So, their attention turned to something they love to do – cooking and entertaining. A few years before, the couple had completely revamped their kitchen, a project featured in an Atlanta magazine. They incorporated a very sleek and updated look to serve as the backdrop to a functional environment where Barbara could practice what she learned as apprentice in some of the top restaurant kitchens in Atlanta.

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See the exquisite Lacanche “Cluny” stove where she does her creating indoors. I have to confess, the old “green eyed monster” emerged when I first gazed upon that lovely piece. Read more about these incredible French ranges at Lacanche Coet d’Or < click here.

With the renovation behind them, what then could they possibly add to their already state of the art cooking facilities? They knew just what was missing – an outdoor wood burning Pizza Oven that was authentic and efficient. The authenticity factor was important to them, and they spent a good amount of time researching and designing the oven that would be a permanent and very important element in their home that was true to the way they enjoyed entertaining their family and friends.

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In Steve’s research, he found Forno Bravo < click here – and purchased the actual prefabricated oven from them online. He then enlisted a mason to house and build the stucco and brick facade. At the same time, the mason built an attached fireplace according to their design similar in style to the oven so that they could extend their seasonal outdoor use of their deck/patio. This fireplace incorporated the same stone used in other exterior parts of the home. An area was efficiently designated to store logs in the back of the structure. The process took an amazingly short 2 ½ weeks! It was then, that Steve could begin the process of “curing” the oven with small fires before actually progressing to making pizzas.

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Steve has the process down to a “science”. When we arrived, Steve began the quite deliberate task of starting the fire – a process that takes about an hour. He explained that his preferred method is from “top to bottom”. Instead of putting the kindling on the bottom and wood over it as is common in fire building, he places the wood on the bottom and kindling on the top.

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The heavy insulation provides the environment in which an intense fire will develop within about an hour to achieve the desired 900 degrees needed to cook a perfect pizza in 2 minutes!

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Steve monitors the temperature with an infra red thermometer while he waits for the interior of the oven to turn”white hot”. One can even bake bread in this oven by placing a door-like device in front of the opening to keep ALL of the heat inside.

During our demonstration, when the fire was deemed ready, Steve’s duties turned from fire starter to pizza tender and server extraordinaire!

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Barbara who creates behind the scenes while Steve “mans” the oven, soon appeared with her infamous dough and toppings.

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While we were there, she made it all appear easy!

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She asked everyone to create a pizza suited to their taste and delight. The guests even added some of Barbara’s beautiful and mouth watering antipasti to their pizzas as well as several types of cheeses including ricotta with garlic. Troppo Bella !

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Absolutely nothing was missed when it came to inventive ways to dress these pizzas thanks to Barbara’s innovative preparation. In addition, it was incredible fun for her guests.

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The finished products produced crusts that were light and crispy. The toppings of intensely flavorful meats, cheeses, and vegetables provided a “kid in a candy store” experience for everyone.

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When it comes to pizza, these folks know how to do it!  Thank you, Barbara and Steve!!

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Parla Come Mangi!

Also: See the NEW JANUARY RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!

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AMICI D’ITALIA

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Buon giorno!

   Recently, Tom and I attended a Christmas celebration with the Atlanta chapter of Amici d’Italia (Friends of Italy) at the lovely home of its organizer, Gina Micalizio. What a great night! Amici d’Italia does not require Italian ancestry or Italian language proficiency as a requirement for membership and encourages and celebrates all things Italian – food, culture, custom, and heritage. All that is necessary to participate is a love of Italy and the desire to learn more about this amazing country, its people, and to enjoy a community of others who do the same. It doesn’t get any better!

  Amici d’Italia in Atlanta http://www.amiciatlanta.com  hosts several events during the year where members come together in different venues to enjoy various events of Italian interest. In the past, there have been wine tastings, visits to galleries, shops, local businesses, and lectures. There are off-shoots of the main organization that are more specific in their subject matter such as Italian Genealogy. One of the members, Steve Lembo, participates regularly with this particular group which researches Italian ancestry and genealogical records in Italy dating back generations.

  The title of the holiday event we attended was “Beyond Cannoli and Tiramisu”! The evening began with a light tasting of delicious antipasti followed by a buffet of interesting Italian desserts made by a very talented pastry chef and Amici d’Italia member, Linda Boshart, of Oui Pastries http://www.ouipastries.com .  Her featured items were meant to demonstrate different types of dolci than the more common ones most of us know.

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Linda offered and described an interesting array of dolci  which included:

a Mascarpone Cheesecake – a very rich and creamy confection with a freeform pattern of Nutella Glaze;

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Espresso Cake – an intensely dark and dramatic cake which left one longing to linger over a slice in a Roman café with an accompanying Espresso;

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Sicilian Cassata  – a multi-layered chocolate version, different in its presentation with white and dark chocolate curls;

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Olive Oil Cake (my personal favorite!)- moist, light, flavorful.

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There was even a lovely faux cake, for display purposes only, constructed with inedible cardboard and decorated with real icing and sugar decorations. (See the opening photo in this post.)

  The group was generous and welcoming and engaged in lively discussion of Italian family memories and interesting travel experiences. As someone raised in an Italian home, I was very much at ease in the midst of this charming gathering. However, my husband, Tom, who is not Italian, was equally comfortable and involved in the camaraderie that dominated all conversation. What a great group! I highly recommend visiting the site at http://www.amiciatlanta.com and adding your name to their membership list. I just can’t wait until the next event when I can celebrate Italia with all of these fine new friends!

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  As a special benefit to our readers, one of the members of Amici d’Italia, Lauren Spiridigliozzi, has kindly contributed her family recipe for Tomato Pie! It reminds me so much of the “Hot Pie” offered at Bruno’s Market in Binghamton, New York when I was growing up. It was available by the slice, and they very strategically placed it near the door of the market so you couldn’t leave without walking around it. Lauren is originally from Utica, New York, home to a large community of Italian families –  not far from “my” Binghamton. We talked endlessly about upstate New York Italians and the authentic Italian pastry shops in Utica which attract a clientele from all over the state. One of these shops is the famous Florentine Bakery. Thank you for sharing your recipe, Lauren!

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Lauren’s Tomato Pie

FROZEN BREAD DOUGH
LARGE CAN OF PROGRESSO TOMATO PUREE
REGULAR OIL(NOT OLIVE OIL)
KRAFT GRATED CHEESE IN JAR
ITALIAN SEASONING
DRIED GARLIC PIECES
DRIED ONION PIECES
Instructions:
TAKE OUT TWO FULL LOAVES OF FROZEN DOUGH. WHILE FROZEN, CUT OFF
ABOUT 40% OF ONE AND PUT THAT PIECE BACK IN FREEZER. THUS, YOU
WILL HAVE 1.6 LOAVES OF DOUGH TO WORK WITH.
PUT DOUGH IN DEEP BOWL (NOT A METAL BOWL) EARLY IN AM, COVER WITH TOWEL AND LET IT RISE.  IT TAKES MOST OF DAY.
TAKE COOKIE SHEET/BAKING PAN AND SPREAD A FINE LAYER OF
REGULAR OIL ON PAN. THEN, STRETCH OUT DOUGH IN
PAN SO IT FILLS THE ENTIRE PAN. LET IT SIT 5 MIN AS IT WILL RETRACT A BIT, AND THEN STRETCH IT AGAIN IN PAN USING THE PALM OF HAND, NOT FINGERS.
WHEN DOUGH FINALLY STRETCHES ENOUGH AND FILLS OUT PAN, PUT A LAYER OF OIL , RUBBING IT ALL OVER THE DOUGH.
POUR AND SPREAD THE ENTIRE CAN OF PUREE OVER DOUGH.
SPRINKLE LIGHTLY WITH ITALIAN SEASONING, GARLIC, AND ONION.
SPRINKLE GENEROUSLY WITH THE GRATED
CHEESE, COVERING THE DOUGH.
COOK AT 435 DEGREES  FOR 15 MIN.
WITH SPATULA, CHECK IT BY LIFTING THE BOTTOM TO SEE IF DONE.

LET IT COOL FOR 10 MIN.  COVER WITH ALMUMINUM
FOIL AND LEAVE IT OUT. TOMATO PIE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REFRIGERATED.

  In the new year, I hope subscribers in the Atlanta area will give the Atlanta chapter of Amici d’Italia a serious look. It is my understanding that other chapters of this organization exist around the country. Hopefully, those outside this area can connect with a similar group. These folks have roots planted all over Italy. They have great stories to tell and have much to impart about their extensive travel experiences there as well as family lore. Even better – they’re fun!

 

PARLA COME MANGI!

Happy New Year To All!  See You in 2011 at My Italian Dish!!

Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!

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Gnocchi With Pork Ragu

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This Pig Needs No Lipstick!

 

Buon giorno!

 

When I think of Gnocchi, I automatically envision the Classic Tuscan dish, Gnocchi con Sugo Cinghiale or Gnocchi with Wild Boar Sauce. Since today’s grocery meat department is generally devoid of wild boar, my taste reverts to making MY favorite preparation of Gnocchi which is served with Pork Ragu . This sauce is, in my mind and heart, the standard among tomato sauces and can be used with so many types of pasta. It is easy and not expensive to prepare. This sauce illustrates the saying “Appetito vien mangiando” or Appetite comes with eating, as this is the sauce that brings an appetite to life! I like to use different sauces with my Gnocchi, but I suggest this Pork Ragu is the signature and reminds me most of that mouth watering Boar Sauce that is steeped in Tuscan tradition!

As I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, New York, this was the type of sauce (with a couple of minor additions from me) that my mother, Loretta, most often made. It was Sunday Sauce. I can hear her say “the most flavorful sauce is made with pork – especially the bones!” The aroma of this pork sauce would permeate the house for hours, and I would wait for the moment when she would call me to “taste” the sauce. This taste test consisted of a piece of crusty Italian bread and a spoonful of the hot sauce on top. It brought a burst of flavor on the tongue and would wet my appetite for the meal to follow. I often sneaked a second taste when her attention was diverted.

Speaking of sneaking, my father, Attilio, would inevitably “slip” something into the sauce that Loretta did not know about. If asked, he called it “Sale da Gaeta”. (Translation: Salt from Gaeta – Gaeta being a city on the water between Rome and Naples from where the famous and wonderful wrinkly olives hail) Whenever a dish was especially delicious, he announced “Ah! It’s Sale da Gaeta!” None of us ever saw this “special salt” and very often, we assumed that his little addition to the recipe was usually red pepper flakes or “hot pepper” as he called it! He always had a container of this at the dinner table where he liked to add just a little more heat! (Hear more about Loretta and Attilio at“About Linda” at Linda’s Italian Table)

Each region of Italy seems to treat this sauce a little differently. Each area uses a different meat or combination of meats. Some use boar, some venison, some pork, beef, veal or all three. My mother, using the pork, left the meat on the bone alla Napoletana instead of shredding it Tuscan style. Everyone, then, received a large piece of meat still on the bone which was served separately after the pasta course and before the salad which is the traditional Italian style of presenting the meal.

When selecting the pork for this dish, it is your choice. Some even prefer to use Italian Sausage. When I choose to use sausage in any sauce, I always like a combination of sweet (mild) and hot. My family would almost always be most likely to use a cut of pork with the bones, and sometimes would combine both sausage and pork in the sauce. For Gnocchi, my personal preference is to use just the pork with bones. After the pork is shredded, it becomes very tender and surprisingly light with the Gnocchi. Any very inexpensive cut of pork from neck bones to ribs – anything really – can be used here. The desired effect is a combination of intense flavor and tender meat. The meat will cook in the sauce so long that it will tenderize and fall from the bone making it easy to serve. Andiamo!
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

PORK RAGU!

About 3 lb pork on bones, can be ribs, neck bones or other

 

 

 

 

1/4 lb pancetta diced

4 cloves garlic – chopped finely

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion chopped – the sweeter the onion the sweeter the sauce!

1 stalk celery chopped

8 baby carrots chopped in very small pieces ( baby carrots are sweeter!)

1 c. red Italian wine (vino rosso) – could be a Chianti or Valpolicella

2 28 oz cans San Marzano Tomatoes- if you can find them because San Marzano tomatoes are by far the tastiest – if you can’t – use other- can use crushed or whole peeled and crush them

1/2 c. chopped Fresh Flat (preferable) Leaf Italian Parsley

1/2 cup chopped Fresh Basil

2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Oregano

1 tsp sugar

1 – 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (to taste)

6-7 twists of the Black Pepper grinder

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Fresh Basil chopped for garnish

Begin by just browning the pancetta pieces.

Add the olive oil and then the garlic and pork with heat at medium being careful not to let the garlic burn.

Just brown each side of the pork as it will cook thoroughly in the sauce. Remove the pork pieces, set aside, and add the onion, celery, and carrots. Stir occasionally and cook these vegetables about 5 min until just tender.

Then add the browned meat back to the pan followed by the wine.Scrape the bottom of the pan a little to release the small bits from the bottom of the pan, turning the meat to let the wine seep into both sides. Cook the wine for about 2-3 min at medium high and let it bubble.

Then add the San Marzano Tomatoes, and all herbs and remaining seasoning including the sugar. ( Loretta and Attilio would be taken aback by this last addition as they used to whisper “so and so puts sugar in their sauce” as if some law had been broken.) In ancient times, sugar was said to be used only by the wealthy as it was considered dear. In our household it was – GASP ! - the Cardinal Sin.

My personal take on this is that the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and adds a little balance to the sauce.

If you have a rind or a piece of one from your Parmigiano-Reggiano, go ahead and drop it in the sauce as it simmers! It will add another level of flavor.

Simmer this sauce on low heat for about 3 hours – stirring occasionally. I like to cover mine while simmering. You know it’s done when the meat is so tender that is falls easily from the bones.

When sauce is finished, remove the pork pieces to a separate dish. the meat should be falling off the bones and you might have to “fish” for it.

The next step is familiar to those especially in the South who make barbecue. Take 2 forks and gently use them to shred the meat pulling in opposite directions.

Discard the bones and the fat. You might want to stir a couple of tablespoons of the sauce into the meat. I like to keep the meat separate from the sauce until serving time.

To serve, prepare the gnocchi as directed in last week’s post “Making Gnocchi” and place it in a serving dish bathing it in the delicious sauce. I take the shredded pork and mound it in the middle.

Garnish with chopped Fresh Basil and present to your guests with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.

This makes a large amount of sauce, so what you do not use can be frozen for another great pasta meal – perhaps with Pappardelle!

My favorite accompaniment to this meal is a Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Doc 2007. .

PARLA COME MANGI!

**Also: See the new November RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE – for another great sauce recipe for GNOCCHI!

Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography

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