ROASTED CAMPARI TOMATOES

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Campari Tomatoes roasted_005

That Little Red Dress

Buon giorno!

A rose may be a rose, but a tomato is definitely NOT a tomato! (…and no you have not just stumbled into a bad poetry blog) The truth is that not all tomatoes taste the same, are interchangeable, and can be counted on for flavor. This brings me to the subject of one of my favorite fresh tomatoes which happens to be in season at this very moment – summer. The Campari Tomato is special in so many ways. It is the very best tomato, in my estimation, for the easy, healthy, and delicious preparation of Roasted Tomatoes as a side dish. Let’s talk about why Roasted Campari Tomatoes are worthy of that review.

What is a Campari Tomato: It is not in any way related to the wonderful tart Campari liquor that is the basis of so many Italian aperitivi . Ah! But that vivid red…yes they do have that bright show-stopping red color in common. That is where the similarity ends. Unlike the tart, biting, liquor, the Campari tomato is very sweet and very juicy. This tomato makes you savor its flavor, taunting you to let it to linger on the tongue, and promising more to follow it. They are small, round, and plump. Unlike its distant relative, the less flavorful cherry tomato, the Campari bursts with sweetness when bitten and packs very little acidity. The name Campari not only defines this special variety of tomato, but also designates a trademark.

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The little red dress: To further elevate this tomato, think of it this way. The Campari is a lot like that “little red dress”. You know the one. It hangs in your closet, waiting. It is not selected often or for just any occasion. Instead, it waits patiently.. for that special evening – that singular event for which no other frock will do. It is sassy, ripe, a little siren. You save it when you want to make a statement. The red dress is the one your mother keeps telling you to wrap up with a sweater or shawl. Your girlfriend wants you to adorn it with some tacky necklace. YOU know better! You know that all it needs is a simple pair of pumps – just high enough. You know you don’t have to work that “little red dress” as it does all the work for you. OK – I digress. You get the idea. Similarly, Campari Tomatoes need no elaborate cover-ups, no sauces, no frills. They do it all. Just let them shine. They will work the runway – uh – the plate – in an understated manner while leaving your guests wondering how something so simple just rocked the meal and their taste buds.

Keeping Campari’s happy:  Always, always store your Campari Tomatoes at room temperature. Never refrigerate them as this causes them to lose their flavor as it does with most tomatoes. In this case, it would be a tragedy to lose such sweetness. Try to use them soon after you purchase them to get the full benefit of their flavor and goodness.

The KISS method: You all know this one! KISS as in Keep It Simple Stupid. Such is the way to reap the most success from Campari Tomatoes. My favorite preparation for these little stars is to roast them in halves, simply, with just a few fresh ingredients. They will perform perfectly on the most formal menu as well as on the most casual. As a side to roasted or grilled meats and fish, they serve as the perfect choice always complimenting the other flavors. Another way I love to serve them – is oiled and just lightly roasted whole, still on the vine – served with an oozy cheese like Buratta or even a creamy goat cheese like the one made at Caly Road Creamery.

On the outside chance: It probably won’t happen, but if you possibly have any leftover: throw them over pasta or make sandwiches with them the next day – just killer!

Here’s how to do it!

ROASTED CAMPARI TOMATOES

Serves: 6

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

12 Campari Tomatoes washed and split in half and rubbed on the outside with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped very finely

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Oregano

1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

About 1/3 c. Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

Instructions:

Oil a baking dish. Place tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

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Sprinkle garlic and salt and pepper over the top of tomatoes.

Sprinkle fresh oregano over the top.

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Sprinkle with cheese.

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Give a generous drizzle of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over all.

Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

When finished, sprinkle with Chopped Fresh Basil and Fresh Lemon Juice.

Warning:  The aroma of the ROASTED CAMPARI TOMATOES will be intoxicating!

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July: Frittata Margherita

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FRITTATA MARGHERITA, the July Recipe of the Month, has a little history. Sometimes you wonder how things get started. There are very few pizza lovers who are not aware of the famed Pizza Margherita. One might ask was there a real person for whom this pizza was named? Who was Margherita? Why does a pizza bear her name?

Well, she was indeed real. She even has a Facebook page! All of this “Margherita” hoopla honors Margherita of Savoy, Queen consort of Italy. She was the wife of Umberto of Piedmont, her first cousin…ahem! Her only child was Umberto, Prince of Naples, who became Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. It is believed that she deserves much credit for the unification of Italy with her enthusiastic promotion of things Italian and thus conducting her life in the traditional Italian style of the time including mode of dress, jewelry etc.

She was particularly beloved in Naples, and they named a pizza after her, the Pizza Margherita, which consists of a traditional thin crust with a topping of sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

FRITTATA MARGHERITA is similar in ingredients to its famous “pizza cousin”. It is a simple, healthy recipe, with a beautiful blend of fresh ingredients creating a versatile dish, lovely in its presentation of the vibrant colors of the Italian flag. It says “summertime” with its freshness, and, yes, it is one of those dishes that calls me to the patio again and again for brunch, lunch, or as a before dinner appetizer. It is best made in these summer months when tomatoes “talk back to you” with sweetness and flavor. The FRITTATA MARGHERITA is also my husband, Tom’s, favorite frittata!

FRITTATA MARGHERITA

Frittata-Margerita_01

 

Serves: 6 as an appetizer

4 as a brunch or lunch dish

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Olive Oil

2 cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

9 eggs beaten together

1/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2 Large Fresh Tomatoes –  sliced

1-1 1/2 cups Whole Fresh Basil Leaves

8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella – sliced

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Rub a 10 inch fry pan with a little olive oil.

You are going to build this frittata in layers.

Sprinkle a  third of the chopped garlic on the bottom of the pan and saute lightly a minute.

Lay some of the tomato slices on the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

Then add half of the basil leaves over the top.

Sprinkle half of the mozzarella slices over the basil.

Follow with another layer of tomato slices – salt and pepper and chopped garlic.

Add another layer of basil leaves and mozzarella slices.

Gently beat the heavy cream and cheese into the beaten eggs, and add some Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – mix together.

Then pour the egg mixture over the layers in the pan.

Put in on the stove at medium high. It will puff up a little. When the sides firm up and just the center is still liquid (about 10 minutes) – put the fry pan in the oven at 350 degrees until the frittata is firm in the middle – about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and invert onto a plate.

Serve warm or cold, slicing in wedges for brunch or lunch and squares for appetizers. If serving straight from the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.

For wine: A lovely Pinot Noir would suit if you would like to serve red. For white wine, I would enjoy a crisp cold Pinot Grigio or Soave.

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BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA

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Florentine Steak

How to Rock a Steak Like a Tuscan!

Steak_18a

Buon giorno!

Here’s the beef! Do Italians really eat steak? We thought pasta was their thing. WRONG! Italians are definitely about more than pasta. Not only do they eat  and prepare steak with the same simplicity and respect for ingredients that you see in their other dishes but their preparation is given the same precision. Nowhere do they do it better than in Tuscany, home of the infamous Bistecca Alla Fiorentina or Florentine Steak, among the most classic of all Italian dishes. (Fiorentina – means in the style of Florence) The preparation of this dish is so simple and easy, you might wonder – what’s the big deal? I’m here to tell you that this simplicity IS the big deal.

I know, I know – everyone has his/her favorite method of cooking steak. This is a little different, and I offer only guidelines, as I am not right there to peer into your grill detecting the hotness or intensity of the fire. All I can say  is – this is different –it is the Florentine way – and it results in an amazing piece of meat.

First, back to the pasture: Italy is not known for its abundance of grazing land. Thus, less beef is eaten in many regions than other meats. The finest of these areas are located in the North. Ah – but then… there’s Tuscany! A drumroll please… It is here in the renowned Val di Chiana near Arezzo that the revered Chianina cattle make their home and provide the steak for the authentic preparation of Bistecca Alla Fiorentina. These animals are always white and provide some of the finest steaks in Italy. Pronounced: kya-NEE-na, these cattle are the largest breed in the world and among the oldest dating back over 2200 years. Because of the high quality of tender and juicy meat and the nutritional value they have been cross-bred with cattle throughout the world.

The Tuscan Way: Typically, Tuscans cook very simply with the best of ingredients. They do not douse their culinary creations in fancy complicated sauces. Aside from relying on good ingredients, the Tuscans, look more to method – how a dish or a meat is prepared. In this case, Tuscans follow some definite rules. The authenticity of the steak dish is all-important. Aside from using the Chianina beef, the cut needs to be perfect – from the vitellone or young steer (not a calf) – uh – and well hung, as they say. No joke – it’s true!  Alas, in this case, folks, size does matter. The steak must be at least an inch thick and cut from the rib. The usual portion designated for two is 2 1/2 pounds, and the cut is preferably Porterhouse with the filet and contre filet. However a T-bone is a fine choice. A 2 1/2 inch thick steak or “three fingers” is perfect.

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Dry, Dry, Baby: Obviously, dry-aged is the way to go if you can, but the pocketbook does not always allow. To go the extra mile, and get the most out of what you have, you can dry your steak a little beforehand as described by the blog,  Memorie di Angelina : Try propping the steak up on chopsticks  for a few hours so that air can travel underneath and take some of the wetness out of the meat. This is definitely worth doing, folks. You can also repeat this chopstick idea after grilling when you are letting the steak rest for a few minutes.

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Burn Notice: Never, never, never overcook a Tuscan steak. It’s a rule! (and a tragedy)  Customarily, the steak is grilled over charcoal or wood fire. Just a few short minutes on each side, you’re done. A true “Fiorentina” is traditionally served rare – but the idea is to enjoy it – so if you must have it a little more “done”, have at it.

The Slicing: You will always see this steak cut in one characteristic fashion which is straight across the meat, with the filet removed first ( if you have a Porterhouse) and then then the contre filet or strip steak.

Oh By the way: My husband, Tom, likes to take the leftover steak (“as if” there is any left) and lightly fry it up in a little olive oil with a fried egg the morning after. He says this is not your Waffle House Steak and Eggs –it’s the best you will ever taste. Put it on your bucket list. A “must do”.

Perfection: You can find Bistecca Alla Fiorentina virtually anywhere in the Florence area. When it’s good – it’s perfection!

Fire up that grill for the best steak you’ll ever have! Move over, “favorite steakhouse” – you no longer need their services.

BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA

Serves: 2

Cook time: about 20-24 minutes for the size indicated–for rare Fiorentina style

Rest: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients:

1  2 1/2 pound Porterhouse or T-Bone Steak about 2 – 2 1/2 in. thick – or even 3 if you like!  We’re talkin’ thick here. Go with the 3 finger rule!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for brushing and drizzling

Sea Salt or Coarse Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Lemon Wedges or Grilled Lemon Halves

Instructions:

Important: Take steak out of refrigerator at least an hour before cooking (2 is better) and bring down to room temp – results will always improve by doing this. Try the chopsticks method mentioned in the text.

Sprinkle with Sea Salt and fresh pepper generously just after you take it out. This helps to form a crust when grilled. Lots of Sea Salt or coarse salt is necessary before and after the grilling.

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When ready, heat up your grill to very hot – preferably using charcoal or wood fire (You’re going to want some good smoke here – I prefer wood – oak, hickory etc)

Grill the steak 3-4 inches from the fire.

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Plan on about 8 minutes per side for the rare Fiorentina style, (plus a few minutes standing on the bone) if your steak is in the 2 1/2 inch range, but the time will depend on how you like it. The time will ultimately be determined by how hot your grill is and how you prefer the meat. This is only a guide. Keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook a little after you remove it from the grill. The thicker the steak – the longer the cook time. If 3 inches – plan on about 20-24 minutes total on a hot and smoking grill for rare meat alla Fiorentina.

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When the first side is done – flip the steak over and cook that side.

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When the second side is finished, some like to stand the steak on the grill upright on the bone side for about 4 minutes. This forces the blood away from the bone and provides more even cooking.

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A note: Be careful – the tenderloin side will cook faster than the strip or contre filet side. Move the steak around to accommodate as necessary.

Let the steak rest for about 5-10 minutes after removing from grill.

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Just before serving, Salt and pepper again and drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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The slicing is part of tradition and authenticity. It is done this way:

Cut the filet out first.

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Then cut out the contre filet or the strip steak.

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Then slice each section. It is usually served as you see here.

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Serve with lemon wedges or grilled lemon halves. I like earthy choices for sides here: some beautiful sauteed wild mushrooms along with a bowl of Tuscan white beans seasoned with a little olive oil, coarse salt, and fresh Rosemary.

The Finish: A steak like this prepared in an authentic fashion must always, in my book, be served with the very best you can afford in a beautiful red wine. Many like Barolo, but my first selection would be the smooth and always lovely Brunello di Montalcino. Casalino 2006 DOCG is a beauty. A fine Chianti Classico Riserva would also give this fine steak its proper due.

Not another word necessary!

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GRANITA DI CAFFE CON PANNA

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MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS

Granita di Caffe_11

Buon giorno!

Memories can be such nuggets of bliss! It’s funny how some of the little ones just stick with you. Many years ago, when I was very young, my mother and father (Loretta and Attilio) visited Italy for the first time after my father’s initial crossing to Ellis Island as a child. It was a huge event for them, and they returned home with so many stories of fabulous eating and sampling. The one that always jumps to my mind is Attilio’s account of his first encounter with GRANITA DI CAFFE CON PANNA – an icy form of espresso with cream. He talked about it longingly afterward. It always remained a part of the special memories of his return to Italy.

Years later, on a visit of my own, I arrived in Rome very late at night and hurried from Leonardo da Vinci Airport to a small pensione on the Via Porta Pinciana called the Bellavista Milton (probably long gone by now!) overlooking the gorgeous Villa Borghese Gardens. I dropped my bags and beat a hasty path around the corner to the Via Veneto and a sidewalk café – to do what? That’s right! The very first thing I did in Rome was to sample that special iced espresso treat that my father had talked about for all those years before. Was it really THAT special? Answer: to a coffee drinker – it was heaven! You can bet, I enjoyed several more before I left.

Whether you like coffee or espresso – you will love this – especially in the summertime. Using espresso, it has every bit of the “jolt” you’d expect, but tempered with a sweetness and the velvety smooth texture of whipped cream. Now, there is no reason why you can’t make this with regular coffee or even decaf. However, I will say that the espresso carries it to a height that coffee cannot reach and offers the sharpest contrast to the cream. So I’ll leave the choice to you! It is a wonderful summer pick-me-up on a hot afternoon or at the end of a beautiful evening or dinner whether in Roma, On the Patio, or anywhere.

Pronounce: To say Granita – think: Grah-nee-tah – with emphasis on the NEE.

What is it: Granita is just ice crystals made from any liquid. The liquid can be fruit as well as coffee or espresso. In this case, the coffee is frozen and scraped to form little ice crystals. The “edge” from the jolting caffeine is softened somewhat with a little sugar and whipped cream. Iced coffee it’s NOT! So, what’s the big deal? There is something wonderful about those cold slivers of coffee hitting your tongue on a hot day – followed by the smoothness of the whipped cream that sneaks into every mouthful.

When in Rome: Rome is perhaps the most famous city in Italy for Granita Di Caffe Con Panna. It can be found in many cafes and in almost any gelateria. However, the hunt for the very best narrows to two espresso bars: Sant ‘Eustachio and Tazza D’Oro near the Pantheon. There is a huge battle that rages between the two for the top spot. The rivalry extends even to how the sugar is combined with the espresso including the timing and temperature. The sugar is very important because it is said to be the key ingredient  which produces the highly prized crema in the espresso. The baristas are secretive and even hide when they add the sugar so as not to release their technique. There is not a soul in Rome who is not familiar with it, and they all know where to get their favorite preparation.

How to serve: This “almost” espresso, “almost” ice, “almost” dessert find its perfect season in the summertime when it is sometimes just too hot to serve a heavy dessert. On a hot afternoon, it can be a great icy “pick-me-up” – perfect after a bike ride or a run. After dinner, it is a light and settling end to a great dinner when you don’t want a heavy course – yet you don’t want the meal to end just yet. Served outside – it can’t be beat!

Not what you expect: I recently served Granita di Café Con Panna to our good friends visiting from Maine, Tom and Kathy Byrnes. Tom Byrnes said he expected something heavy and strong from the espresso. They were not anticipating the light nature of the Granita , the brightness in flavor, and how much they enjoyed it over all. Surprise! Surprise!

Options: If you don’t care for espresso, you can use regular coffee. Just make sure it is fresh. I do recommend trying it with espresso first as it is amazing! The deep dark richness of the espresso is an experience you will not get with regular coffee. You can also add some flavoring to your coffee or use a flavored coffee, if you like. I like to serve it in glasses so that you can see the contrasts of light and dark in the ingredients. Wine glasses or “Old Fashion” (the drink) glasses are great for this. However, you certainly can offer it in espresso cups or coffee cups as well.

Here’s my take on it:

GRANITA DI CAFFE CON PANNA

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 Measuring cups of Fresh-Brewed Espresso (Substitute reg. coffee or decaf if preferred)

2 Tbsp. Sugar

1/2-3/4 cup Heavy Cream whipped to soft peaks with a little vanilla or cinnamon and 1/2 Tbsp sugar ( you may have some left over but this will give you plenty to work with)

Good dense dark chocolate – grated or shaved

Instructions:

Prepare your coffee or espresso for enough to fill 2 measuring cups full.

While still piping hot, add the sugar, stir, and dissolve completely. Let it completely cool.

When cool, pour into a pan and place in the freezer. When it starts to freeze, take a fork and scrape it, mix it to make crystals. Initially it will be wet as the crystals form.

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Keep doing this every few minutes – repeat this step until you have a container of frozen ice crystals or slush which appears dry. It will set up fairly quickly. This slush is the Granita! See how it sets up in stages:

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(If you want to make it a day ahead, you can use the above method. The Granita will harden -  so just leave it out for about 5 minutes and loosen again with a fork.  An alternative is to freeze the espresso or coffee in an ice cube tray. Just before you want to use it, pop the cubes of coffee into a food processor and pulse til you have slush or Granita. I personally prefer the scraping method as I feel like I have more control over the process.)

The frozen coffee crystals seem almost dry when ready to use.

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You are now ready to create!

Begin by adding some Granita to your glass.

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Then add some of the whipped cream.

Sprinkle on some of the dark chocolate.

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Follow that with another layer of Granita.

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Then one last dollop of the whipped cream, and top the whole thing off with some of the dark chocolate. DONE!

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For Fun: Try adding some cocoa to the espresso powder when making the espresso for this. The result is a little added mocha flavor. Another nice touch is to drizzle a little liqueur over the crystals in each glass – perhaps Frangelico, Amaretto, Sambuca. You probably figured I might work my candied citrus peel in here somewhere, and you’d be right! Serve some chocolate dipped peel along with this icy wonder or even place one on the top. It pairs perfectly with the espresso.

More Fun: Try different types of shaved dark chocolate with this. Have fun with it and try some of these:

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Lindt Smooth Dark 70%, Lindt Intense Orange Dark, Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70% or Green & Black’s Ginger Dark Chocolate

I hope Granita Di Caffe Con Panna becomes your go-to summer surprise for your family and guests. Coffee enthusiasts will love this. You won’t have to go all the way to Rome to get it – but then, that’s not a bad idea either! Til then – see you On the Patio!
Coffee Granita on FoodistaCoffee Granita
 

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CHICKPEA SALAD

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Insalata di Ceci

Chick Pea Salad_0025

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!

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PIZZA ON THE GRILL

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GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA

SOMETIMES CHANGE IS GOOD

Grilled PIzza_3

Buon giorno!

I have found that sometimes change is a good thing, and sometimes we just need to be flexible and “go with it”. Outside of the Ten Commandments, nothing is written in stone, and that includes pizza.  After making literally scores of pizzas over the years, I have discovered that making PIZZA ON THE GRILL is just my favorite new thing. Of course, this means another excuse for eating On the Patio – which can’t be too bad. I spent years of cranking my oven up to 500 degrees and heating up the whole house – including in the middle of Hot-Lanta summers. I even cracked the inner glass on my oven door when I inadvertently let the pizza stone rest against it while making one of the Linda’s Italian Table specials. I experienced major appliance envy while visiting our good friends, Barbara and Steve, who had installed an authentic state of the art pizza oven, and I lamented my inadequate “equipment”. (Read about this amazing “gadget” in our January blog post. FIRE IN THE HOLE!  Well, times they are a-changin! You, too, have a pizza oven in your outdoor grill, and I bet many of you didn’t know it.

Thanks to the prodding of my husband, Tom, who is always game to try something new – I grudgingly agreed to try making pizza on the grill – something he had heard and read about. After a little research – we tried it. OMG!! Once again, Tom rocked my world – or so he says! Gone are the days of maneuvering the pizza in and out of the oven, turning the kitchen into Dante’s Inferno in mid-July, and sweeping cornmeal off the floor afterward. I am about to change your pizza-making ways forever. Follow my lead and you’ll never cook another pizza indoors.

The keys to the kingdom – the tools: Nothing new here – you’ll use all the same things I recommended in my Pizza Post “THAT’S AMORE” : Cornmeal, pizza stone, large spatula, a pizza peel, the best ingredients – good dough preferably homemade (we’ll chat about this later) fresh mozzarella, good sausage, fresh herbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, good olive oil. Last but not least – scissors! My mother, Loretta, always cut her pizza with scissors and did not use a pizza cutter. Thank goodness, or I’d still be sitting in her little kitchen waiting for the pizza to be cut. I’ve never seen a pizza cutter beat the scissors. I have seen people hack away repeatedly at a pizza trying to get a quick and good cut. Some morsel always seems to remain attached. If you like your pizza cutter, by all means use it, but I will continue to use my scissors. Truce declared!

The Secret – HEAT: An actual pizza oven heats up to about 900 degrees. What we realized was that by heating up your grill ahead of time like you would do with your oven – and adding wood chips if you want to achieve the real wood-fired effect – you actually turn your grill into a pizza oven with temperatures way above the 500 in the kitchen oven – or around 800 degrees. This, of course, means that your cook time will be far less than cooking the pizza indoors which is usually about 15 minutes. You’ll want to heat that sucker up with the lid down and with the pizza stone on the grill for about 15 minutes. This pre-heat time is what it’s all about.

The path to enlightenment: While you’re heating up the grill with the stone inside, get all of your ingredients together and be ready to go. Put some cornmeal on the pizza peel. Stretch or roll your dough out to the desired size, and place it on the prepared peel. Now to construct your masterpiece! Always start with a sprinkle of olive oil, and spread it all over the dough with your very clean fingers. This helps to seal the crust and prevent the toppings from making it soggy. Then place your ingredients on top usually ending with the cheese. A last drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil is nice. Do not leave your pizza sitting there waiting for peace in the Middle East. Get that puppy to the grill as quickly as possible.

Stairway to heaven: Open your very hot grill,and then sprinkle the stone with some cornmeal. Ease the pizza off the peel with a large spatula and a little shake. The cornmeal on the peel makes it slide off easily. Quickly put the lid down. Your cook times will vary, as your grill may take longer or less time than mine. The cooking time I will offer is only a guideline, and yours may be different. However, I’ll testify – experimenting is fun! Once the pizza is on the grill, I cook the pizza for approximately  3-4   minutes, and then I peek at it by raising the grill lid, lifting the edge with a spatula. You should look for a golden brown, crisp bottom and a lightly charred edge. Now you are operating like a true pizzaiolo (the guy who cooks pizzas in Naples). Peeking is good. Here is a peek at the crust of one of my pizzas:

Grilled PIzza_4

If almost there, let it go another minute. Keep peeking. You may want to rotate the pizza a little with the spatula to get an even bake. Usually 5-6 minutes total will do it. Here is one that is almost there:

Grilled PIzza_6

This is totally according to the heat level in your grill. Depending on your grill – going beyond this time may burn the bottom. Watch it!

When you have the desired “doneness”, gently slide the peel under the pizza, and lift it off the stone and onto the plate. DONE! Pizza in 5-6 minutes – see the lovely “fired” edge – Troppo bella!

Pizza-2 with script

A word about the dough: I make my dough using my mother’s recipe which calls for regular flour. I know that many like to use the Italian flour referred to as Double Zero. This is traditionally used in Italy for pizza and pasta making. I always use it for making my pasta fresca. I do not use it for pizza, as I like my mother’s recipe, using all purpose flour, which I offer in my post, “THAT’S AMORE”. It is easy and delicious, and I think more folks would be inclined to make their own dough if they could use ingredients that would be found in their pantry. I have made some adjustments to that recipe recently that I have found to make a better and thinner crust. You might want to take a look on the post!

It Ain’t Heavy: Pizza isn’t always laden with the worst of the worst for you. I am offering you a look at my GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA. You know this one. It’s the one given the nod by Queen Margherita “just a few years ago” – in 1889. Back in the old days in Binghamton, my grandmother used to refer to my mother as La Regina Margherita. I can only imagine why!  This pizza is light, fresh, quick and easy. There are many variations of this recipe, but I like this one as most of the ingredients are fresh and healthy. Some of these ingredients can probably even be found in your garden!

GRILLED PIZZA MARGHERITA

Pizza Grilled_0003

 

Makes: 1 large pizza

Prep for grill: 15 minutes

Prep for pizza: 7 minutes

Cook: Approx. 6 minutes

Dough: Follow the instructions for the dough in the post, “THAT’S AMORE”. Suggestion: Make the dough ahead and store it in the freezer, if you like. One recipe will make 4 loaves of dough for a thinner crust. Each loaf  is perfect for this recipe. If you like a thicker crust, just make 2 loaves, and use one of those for this recipe.

Topping:

Olive oil

Several Fresh Campari Tomatoes sliced. I like Campari’s which are in season right now because they are soooo sweet. If you can’t find Campari Tomatoes, use the freshest tomatoes you can find.

Salt and Pepper

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Fresh Mozzarella – sliced thinly not grated

Fresh Basil Leaves –at least 1/2 cup – more if you like. Leave the leaves whole.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions:

Follow the instructions in the preceding text for tools and preparing the grill.

As instructed above, place the dough on the peel topped with cornmeal.

Rub the surface of the dough with a little olive oil.

Lay the Tomato Slices on the top of the dough.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Top with sliced Fresh Mozzarella.

Add the fresh Basil Leaves.

Drizzle with a nice Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Grilled PIzza_2

Follow the directions in the portions of the above text called The Path to Enlightenment and Stairway to Heaven for grilling the pizza.

The long and short of it is: In approximately 6 minutes total -  you’ll be eating it!

VINO: With this one, I’d say go alla Napoletana, as they know the most about pizza in any form. For white – I’d suggest Fiano di Avellino or Falanghina. For red – try an Aglianico. Just sayin…

PARLA COME MANGI!

** I love receiving your comments! Don’t forget – you can leave comments at the end of each blog post. If you receive your post in your email, just click on the post title and go straight to the blog on the website where you can leave your thoughts! Looking forward to hearing from you.

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May: Capellini w/Tomatoes, Basil, & Goat Cheese

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May is the perfect month to begin thinking about al fresco dining. Capellini with Tomatoes, Basil, and Goat Cheese is just the dish to kick-off this merry month when all eyes  turn to bright new blooms and chirping birds. This is always my “go-to” spring pasta dish when I want something fresh, fresh, fresh! It is easy, quick, and requires very little cooking. The freshness of the ingredients makes me want to quickly RUN outdoors with a chilled white wine to enjoy my first experience of the season dining On the Patio. So grab a nice Sauvignon Blanc and follow me to my Italian Table!

CAPELLINI WITH TOMATOES, BASIL, and GOAT CHEESE

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 min.

Cook: 15 min.

Ingredients:

1 lb Capellini Pasta (very thin long pasta) cooked according to directions

3/4 c. Olive Oil

2 large cloves of FRESH Garlic – chopped finely

2 c. Grape tomatoes cut into halves – grape tomatoes are so sweet and will sweeten the dish  (The equally sweet Campari tomatoes cut into quarters are fine as well – cherry tomatoes can also be used but usually are not as sweet)

Juice of 1/2 FRESH Lemon

1/2 c. White Wine (preferably the same as the wine you will serve with it)

1 tsp. Kosher Salt – or to taste

Freshly ground Black Pepper

1 c. FRESH Basil – chopped

3-4 oz Goat Cheese crumbled in bits ( do not use pre-packaged crumbled goat cheese)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling at finish

Instructions:

Use all FRESH ingredients where indicated.

Heat olive oil and add chopped garlic.

Cook  a couple of minutes to tenderize the garlic – do not brown it. Just let it infuse the oil.

Add tomatoes and stir.

Capellini_02

Add lemon juice and stir

SEE MY VIDEO HERE! –> Linda’s Capellini VIDEO

Add wine  – then salt and pepper

Cook on medium high a few minutes until reduces by 1/2.

Sauce will thicken slightly and turn a beautiful golden color.

Capellini_03

Add Pasta and toss.

Add Basil and Goat Cheese.

Capellini_04

Drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil before serving. I like Olio Carli – It is sweet and seems to make every dish perfect.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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GRILLED BUTTERFLIED LEG OF LAMB

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How to Prepare a Great Butterflied Grilled Leg of Lamb

Hunka – Hunka Burnin Love!

1303_Easter 2019_006

Buon giorno!

Today we’re dishin Butterflied Grilled Leg of Lamb and you don’t want to miss a thing! I must share with you my recent experience opening my refrigerator door and what I found waiting for me. There he was, the “hunk” of my dreams. Such rapture! I had been musing about just this moment, and the anticipation was almost more than I could stand. Overjoyed and ever so slightly blushing, I uttered, “Well, hello, Lover!”  Looking back at me was the most handsome, tanned specimen of musculature with a come hither stare. Heart fluttering, I thought perhaps it could be one of those Steven Tyler moments. Ahhh – Sweet Emotion. Would I have my way with him, or would I fold like a cheap suit? I was in trouble now. Whatever, shall I do, Scarlett? Suddenly I knew. No Love in an Elevator necessary. I threw this “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” down on a cutting board and went after him with a blade!

Whoa! Before you think you hit the wrong key or received a “naughty” email – Relax!  Now you know I am passionate about food, but you probably weren’t expecting my fervor to reach this level. Think again. This is more than just another pretty piece of meat. I am crazy about this dish.

OK – down girl! Take a breath. Get it together, and let’s talk about this amazing lamb preparation. Walk This Way

Tradition: Traditionally found at the Italian Easter table, Leg of Lamb has been the “go-to guy” for many Italian families throughout the years. We always had Roasted  Leg of Lamb at the Calabrisi Easter feast — unless, of course, we were having goat. However, that is a story for another day. The lamb was always very young, milk fed, the most tender. It was thought that once the little critters started eating grass, it affected the flavor of the meat – negatively. The classic preparation is “al forno”  or roasted, with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary. Lamb is so tender and tasty – much more so than beef or pork loin. The lamb leg used to be difficult to get and had to be specially ordered in advance. However, now with the introduction of the delicious Australian and New Zealand lamb, it is usually found in good supply. It is not to be confused with mutton or older meat which has a stronger and not altogether pleasant flavor in my estimation.

To Butterfly or not to Butterfly: Of course, there is the traditional preparation of the Leg of Lamb with bone-in, found either whole or in halves, and roasted in the oven. However, my favorite way to make it is butterflied, marinated, and grilled. Butterflies involved??? No, not the fluttering type. The term “butterflied” refers to the way the meat is cut. The bone is removed and the meat is “opened up” almost like a steak. Haven’t seen one of these at your grocer recently? Uh – you probably won’t. No worries! All you have to do is find a nice leg of lamb, boneless or bone-in, at your grocer. Then present it to your butcher or “guy behind the counter” and ask HIM to take the bone out and butterfly it for you. While you’re at it, ask him to trim the fat a little for you as well. You’ll want some fat left on it, but a little trim is nice. Easy enough!

Serving: The great thing about this beautiful way of serving Leg of Lamb is that it is not just for Easter anymore. It makes a great “anytime” grilled meat entrée served, of course, On the Patio. It is easy to make and serve – and it is always the center of attention. It is flavorful and melts in your mouth. I have to say, that it is soooo much tastier than a grilled steak. You’ll find that it feeds a crowd, and you can build so many side dishes around it. Wait – so maybe you won’t want to feed the crowd once you taste it and find that it is so delicious. For those of you who do not share well, this dish is GREAT leftover and cold. It makes delectable sandwiches the next day or days.

How easy is it: When I said easy – I meant it. I bone and butterfly my own, as my dad, Attilio, taught me how to do it years ago. You can leave your “butterflying” to your butcher. First, you’ll cut little slits in the meat and insert fresh garlic slices. No technique or surgery required – just slit and insert. Next, you make a scrumptious marinade in one bowl. Pour it on your meat, and let it sit overnight. Grill and you are DONE! You will then be crowned King or Queen of the day as everyone will be thanking you.

Now where is my olive oil…

GRILLED BUTTERFLIED LEG OF LAMB

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 30-35 minutes

Serves: up to about 8

Ingredients:

5-6 lb Leg of Lamb – boned and butterflied – fat trimmed

4 fresh cloves garlic – slice thinly

MARINADE:

3/4 c. olive oil

3 additional fresh garlic cloves – chopped finely

1/2 c. Country Dijon Mustard

1/2 c. red wine (Cabernet is good here)

Juice of 1/2 of a Fresh Lemon

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped (Italian Flat Leaf always preferable)

2 Tsp. Fresh Mint Leaves – chopped

1 Tsp Kosher Salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

Instructions:

Cut small slits in both sides of the lamb and slip a slice of garlic in each slit. Set meat aside.

Lamb_02Lamb_03

Make the marinade by putting all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk well so all are incorporated. The result will be a beautiful deep raspberry colored marinade.

Lamb_01

Put 1/2 the marinade in a large baking dish.

Lamb_04

Place the lamb into the dish.

Lamb_05

Pour the remaining marinade over the top of the lamb.

Lamb_06Lamb_07

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take the meat out of the refrigerator and let sit out on the counter about an hour before grilling to bring down to room temperature.

Fire up the grill to very hot and place the lamb on the grill.

Lamb_08

Sear both sides on high heat 3-4 minutes. You might even want to close the cover to do this. Then lower your heat and let each side cook about 15 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, just move the meat to a part of the grill that is getting less intense heat. Now, this cook time will vary depending upon how hot your grill is – how thick your meat is – how done you prefer it. So, be vigilant, and keep an eye on this little fella. When ready, it should be pink in the middle. Lamb is best served medium rare to rare. To overcook it or dry it out is a waste of great lamb in my book. Hockey pucks are best kept on the ice and not served to your guests. Some thinner parts of the lamb will cook faster and be more done. You’ll see from the photos that I like my lamb on the rare side. My best advice here is to watch the meat, and be the judge according to how you like it. If you use a meat thermometer – 140 is a good gauge.

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The next step is VERY IMPORTANT! After removing the meat from the grill, let it rest for 15 minutes. It will continue to cook a little during this time and should be just perfect after resting. After this little nap, you can then slice it. This process will keep the meat moist as it retains the juices.

Slice the meat against the grain, and garnish with Fresh Basil or Fresh Mint if you like. Drizzle with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I especially like Olio Carli Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The flavor is sweet and memorable.

1303_Easter 2019_007

Vino: As for wine pairing: I like a good Cabernet Sauvignon with the lamb. You might also like a Barbaresco. I like the fuller bodied reds with my lamb. I know that some recommend something lighter with milk-fed lamb or spring lamb like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, but they are a little light for my taste here. It is always a preference and personal. But…No Surprise – You really can’t go wrong with a nice Cab!

So, share my excitement. Fire up that grill, uncork a good one, and you won’t be Cryin! Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lambwhat a great presentation!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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April: Easter Frittata

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Buon giorno!

Easter-Frittata_03-Slice

The Easter Frittata was always a much anticipated part of our Easter meal – served and eaten cold, usually the second course behind the antipasto – and after the blessing always offered by my father. Every year, he told an old tale that cautioned us not to eat the Frittata until it was blessed lest a serpent might emerge. As a child, just in case I might have wanted to sneak a bite – I heeded this warning with great trepidation!

Tradition: My parents, Loretta and Attilio, made the Frittata, a day ahead – a huge ritual – using a cast iron frying pan. The ingredients for the Easter Frittata were always the same and reflected some of the freshness of spring. They always included my father’s homemade sausage – the best I ever had or will probably ever have again. My memory is still vivid, picturing us all gathered round, hoping a crumb would drop for us to catch. We watched them prepare the ingredients and create the finished product together. This process involved much drama in the flipping and turning of this giant omelet in the very heavy pan with all the appropriate Bravo’s and gasps at the finish.

Today: For today’s kitchen, it is surprisingly easy to make, can be made a day in advance, and chilled. Besides the Easter presentation, this Frittata has many “anytime” uses: as a preliminary course to a meal, a meal in itself, a brunch dish, or as a delicious appetizer cut into small pieces and served with cocktails. It is a perfect selection for serving On the Patio – making it a great “go-to” dish for my favorite place to dine.

With the holiday and spring fast approaching – let’s get to work! Andiamo!

EASTER FRITTATA

This recipe makes one large frittata. For a smaller version – just cut the ingredients in half!

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: About 20 minutes

1 dozen eggs

¼ c. heavy cream

Salt, pepper

¾ c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

1 bunch fresh asparagus

Olive oil to drizzle asparagus

Salt, pepper

1 ¼ lb Italian Sausage -out of casings – broken up into bits (combination of hot and mild is always good)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

4 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

1 bunch of green spring onions – with green tops – coarsely chopped

¾ lb-1 lb Basket Cheese or Fresh Mozzarella – cubed

(Basket Cheese is a bland and very moist cheese made from cow’s milk and very traditional to this dish. It is very difficult to find in Atlanta and some other areas. Fresh Mozzarella is a perfectly good substitute.)

Instructions:

Whisk the eggs together with ¼ cup heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, and ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – Set aside.

Roast the bunch of asparagus – I like the flavor provided by roasting the asparagus. Cut off the ends and bake drizzled with a little olive oil and a little salt and pepper at 400 degrees for about 12-15 min. til just fork tender – do not over cook! Cut the roasted asparagus into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large non-stick fry pan, saute 1 ¼ lb Italian Sausage in 2 tbsp. Olive oil til no longer pink. Remove sausage from pan with slotted spoon and set aside. Take the fry pan and swirl the drippings around so that the sides are coated. Now add 1 tbsp butter – melt in pan and swirl around the sides again.

Place this fry pan over medium high heat, and add the garlic and green onions. Saute a couple of min. til just tender.

To this pan over medium high heat, now add the parsley and basil – mix together – followed by the eggs. Give it a quick stir. Add the asparagus, sausage and cubed cheese – stir just a little to distribute.

Continue to cook over medium high heat being careful not to burn. After a bit –it should be set on the sides and bottom and be just a little runny in the middle – peek at the bottom – it should appear golden brown. At this point, place it in a 400 degree oven until completely set and firm in the middle.I always tap it with a knife in the middle. If it shakes – it is not yet set. Do not over cook or it will be dry. It should be just set throughout – takes just a few minutes depending on your oven. Check it after about 10.

Two ways: There are two ways to serve this:

1. You can either pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top and then gently slide it onto a plate (use your spatula to coax if needed). OR -

2. You can invert it onto a plate. In this case you don’t need to use the broiler step as it will appear browned on the top when you invert it.

Easter-Frittata_01-whole

This Easter Frittata a very easy dish to make – just takes a few steps, and it can and should be made a day ahead and served cold! How can you beat that?

BUONA PASQUA!

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Sovana & the Mystery Dish

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Buon giorno!

How Antipasto di Melanzane e Peperoni came to My Italian Dish:

   Not long ago, Chick, a cycling friend of my husband Tom, asked if I knew about an extraordinary Eggplant and Peppers dish that he had experienced in Sovana, Italy. Chick, an avid cyclist, is naturally concerned about eating healthy foods that at the same time give him the energy to pedal on and pedal fast! This is one of those dishes. Chick mentioned that he and his group enjoyed this so much while visiting Sovana, that they asked the servers at the restaurant to please continue to bring more of it to the table. See the photo of Chick enjoying a splendid moment dining in Italy during a break from riding.

Chick

This “mysterious” dish had been in his mind every since. When he asked me about it, I was immediately intrigued as I knew little of Sovana. However, the dish he described was somewhat familiar in ingredients. Fortunately, he also provided a clear photo of the half eaten platter which offered a good view of the basics. I decided to accept the challenge, and I will be ever-grateful to Chick for bringing it to my attention. Besides, this kind of stuff just “makes my merry go round” or whatever!

To get a feel for the region and cuisine of the area, I first researched Sovana as I knew little about it. Sovana is a very small village in the province of Grosseto in the heart of Tuscany and near the Lazio region. It is not usually considered to be on the “beaten path” of most tourists, as it is tiny and rural with the open Tuscan terrain so classic and frequently photographed and painted . However, there is much history there. The village dates back to Etruscan times and is known for its tombs and the frescoes of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is also said to be the birthplace of Pope Gregory VII.

After much research and pondering, I took to the kitchen with my newly starched Linda’s Italian Table apron to attempt re-creation of this splendid dish that I call Antipasto di Melanzane e Peperoni. Chick described the flavors and ingredients to me which really helped. Let’s see…a saute of eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, olive oil, maybe parsley. It reminded me of two dishes my parents, Loretta and Attilio, used to make. One was a simple dish of peppers and oil served in antipasti – usually cold or room temperature. The other which my father more often made called for the addition of sausage  – the very classic Sausage and Peppers – served hot with crusty bread. While I wanted to remain true to the dish Chick described , I landed somewhere in between the dishes that were familiar to me as well.

The resulting recipe provided for Tom and me one of those perfect late afternoon fall lunches On the Patio that Tuscany has made famous – sunshine, crisp air, a balmy breeze, good wine, and simple yet memorable food. The added benefit here is that this dish is nutritious and vegetarian. There is very little fat in this dish, and the fat used is olive oil which provides its own benefits. On that lovely afternoon, it offered the perfect light course. The planets were aligned indeed!

I decided that this could be a perfect antipasto or even a side dish to meat – to be served hot, warm, or room temperature. It also occurred to me that the dish would be more flavorful if the vegetables were roasted first – HEALTHY – and would provide an opportunity for a fun and easy tutorial for roasting your own peppers.  By roasting the peppers first, you bring a slightly smoky flavor to the dish which will give it an added level of flavor. You can also roast them ahead if you wish. The roasted peppers will also be more tender because you remove the skins. Roast your own peppers, and it is not likely you’ll want to buy the jarred ones too often again! It is EASY and just takes a few minutes. There are several ways to roast the peppers from using a blow torch to holding them over an open flame on a gas stove. The method described below is SO EASY, can be used to roast and skin peppers for any dish, and requires no more equipment than your broiler. You will be amazed at the simplicity of this procedure.

We will also roast the eggplant which will again enhance its flavor. Also, eggplant tends to act as a sponge when frying, and roasting it first will eliminate the need for so much oil. You will be happy with this dish! It can be used in different ways, and you will see how easy it is to roast peppers. This antipasto is light, yet buttery tasting – without actually adding butter – and so delicious. I have added just a touch of fresh lemon juice to balance the flavors with a little acidity. This addition, I feel, is important. Aside from balance, the lemon adds complexity and freshness. Don’t you agree that a crusty bread merits a very necessary invitation to this party for dipping into the luscious sauce? Mmmmm. This recipe is full of nutrients and ALL VEGGIE! TROPPO BELLA!

Let’s begin!

ANTIPASTO DI MELANZANE E PEPERONI

 

ROAST PEPPERS

4 peppers – one of each color: green, yellow, red, orange

Olive oil for brushing

Arrange the 4 peppers whole on a baking sheet – brush with olive oil on all sides.

Peppers Eggplant_02_s

Place pan in oven under broiler as close as you can get to the broiler without touching it.

When one side starts to blotch and blacken, using tongs turn the peppers and blacken each side. See photo. Watch them carefully, and do not let peppers get too black or scorch. Results are rapid. Don’t walk away. This is not a time to call your best friend to brag that you are roasting your own peppers. FOCUS!

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When finished, using tongs, place the peppers in a bowl and quickly cover tightly with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. This will steam the skins and make removal easy.

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Peel all of the skins off the peppers. They will slide off easily. Assist with a fork if needed.

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Remove the stem from each pepper – this will practically fall off. Scrape the seeds off with a fork. You don’t want to see seeds in this dish.

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Cut the peppers into large pieces- 2-3 inches. Do not chop in small pieces. See photo.

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Set aside.

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ROAST EGGPLANT

1 Med.-Large Eggplant – skinned & sliced, ready for pressing (see below)

Olive oil for brushing

Kosher Salt

Slice lengthwise in 1/2 in. thick slices – usually 4-6.

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Then press the eggplant for a couple of hours as described in instructions in my post for Pasta Alla Norma <(Click to link directly to this post) This dish is sweet and you do not want any bitterness to detract from the sweet buttery flavor.

After pressing, place eggplant slices in pan and brush with oil. Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn once halfway through.

Cut eggplant into large pieces.

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TO SAUTE

2 tbsp. oil

3 cloves garlic sliced lengthwise

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2 1/2 c. Sliced Baby Bella or Cremini Mushrooms ( these give an earthier flavor)

Roasted Peppers

Roasted Eggplant

3/4 c. White Wine

1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1 tbsp Fresh Oregano (2 tsp if dried)

1/2 c. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1 tsp Kosher Salt or to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Fresh chopped basil for garnish

Saute garlic in oil. When just becomes golden, add mushrooms and saute til just tender.

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Add eggplant, peppers, wine, lemon and herbs, salt, pepper at med. high. Stir occasionally and let wine cook down. A lovely sauce should remain. If you “must” add butter, this would be the time – but only a tablespoon. I find it rich, delicious, and buttery without the added fat.

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Garnish with fresh basil.

Don’t forget the crusty bread and a lovely crisp white wine of your choice. I would suggest a Pinot Grigio – crisp and cold – ON THE PATIO!

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Isn’t it gorgeous? This is so easy, and you will have created a beautiful and authentic dish with so many uses and much versatility. You can serve this warm or cold as an antipasto, first course, or side dish. Try something different by adding roasted zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and/or roasted potatoes – even sweet potatoes. Serve it over roast chicken – so many options – all good for you.  Buon Appetito!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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