Recipe of the Month August: Sausage and Clams

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Buon giorno!

So I just returned from my 50th high school reunion in Binghamton, NY, where I was fortunate to rekindle friendships with some of the finest people I have ever known. In a word, it was somewhat surreal! Since this event, I have thought of little else, along with memories of all sorts of fun times and yes, even some mischief. Some of the memories that came to mind involved clambakes at a place called “Mountain Top” where we consumed more clams on those warm days than you might think possible in a place so far inland and also sausage and pepper sandwiches, on the bill of fare at well attended Italian festivals.

I began to yearn for those flavors and decided to put together a little Italian dish in honor of those good folks with whom I reunited, combining the distinctive flavors I remembered so well at the clambakes and festivals of my youth. Here we have it – – SAUSAGE AND CLAMS. (I should have called this “Bowls of Heaven”!)

You might wonder how this duo might be at all complimentary, but I assure you that when the briny/sweet clams come together with pork sausage, it is magic time. The broth that is so simply created in this recipe makes good crusty Italian bread an essential ingredient to make this dish truly complete. The broth itself is so extraordinary as to enchant even the most skeptical of gourmands at your table. The looks you will receive and the sounds that you will hear upon serving this dish, laden with the golden broth in particular, are sure to please you and validate your efforts.

Clams and Sausage 1

This dish is surprisingly easy to prepare and an especially good one to choose for a crowd. Your Italian guests will appreciate the flavor similarity to an old fashioned sausage and peppers sandwich especially when they begin to scoop up the peppers and onions from the broth.. but then of course the twist of the added clams will surely send them into outer orbit. Obviously, the merging of the special flavors of the clams and the sausage might be wonderful enough, but the real secret to a truly successful preparation is one that is true of almost any Italian dish – FRESH INGREDIENTS! The freshness makes all the difference in this recipe. Just look at the ingredients below, and you will see that almost everything involved is fresh.

This amazing dish is almost a soup, could be a stew, but is definitely a flavor bomb! You can’t take a wrong turn with it. It is easy, fairly quick to prepare, and will make you a star in your own kitchen. Get the bowls ready… and don’t forget the bread!

Yeah. yeah, I know THE WINE!!! I am a fan of the beautiful Italian white wine, Falanghina, with any seafood dish. It is simply made to order for seafood and almost bears the very essence of the Mediterranean. For those who might like a red which would actually be lovely with the sausage, I might like a lighter red, like a Dolcetto or even a Barbera – but nothing too heavy.

I will leave you with a cautionary tale…When you buy your fresh clams, do NOT close the bag before cooking them. Clams are living things and need to breathe just like you do. I remember going to my local fish market and while waiting for my turn, overheard the gentleman customer ahead of me rudely berating my fish monger for handing him an open bag of clams.

CUSTOMER: “You are not going to even bother to close the bag?? What kind of service is this?” he said in a very loud voice. My fish monger was speechless and seemed embarrassed.

ME (sticking my nose where it did not belong – a bad habit): “Sir, do you plan to eat those clams?”

CUSTOMER: “Well, of course, I am”. (Responding in a very haughty and mind your own business tone)

ME: “ If that is the case, you better leave that bag wide open or you will have dead clams for dinner! This man did you a favor giving you an open bag allowing the clams to breathe!”

He never said a word of apology and stalked off with the open bag of clams. I, on the other hand, got free fish that day!

Now while I am off to Mountain Top or an Italian festival in my dreams, or maybe just the patio –  here are the keys to the kingdom:

SAUSAGE AND CLAMS

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 Stick (4 Tbsp.) Butter

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 lb. Italian Sausage, sliced

I Onion, thinly sliced

1 Green Pepper, sliced thinly

2 Cups Sweet Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

Red Pepper Flakes – amount up to you but at least 1/4 tsp recommended

3 Fresh Cloves Garlic, chopped finely

A good handful fresh flat leaf Italian Parsley – chopped

About 50 Clams – I like Littleneck, scrubbed and rinsed

3/4 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1/4 cup Bottled Clam Juice

Zest of one fresh lemon

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a good one – for drizzle

Instructions

In a wide pan, place butter and oil and heat. Add Sausage, onion, pepper, tomatoes,  red pepper flakes and cook until sausage is browned and veggies are just tender – about 10-15 minutes.

Clams and Sausage 2

In last 5 minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic, black pepper, and parsley.

Clams and Sausage 3

Give a quick scrub to the outside of the clams with a brush under running water. This is important! Then add the clams to the pan. Pour the wine and clam juice over them. Add the lemon zest .

Sausage and Clams 4

Cover and cook about 8-10 minutes. Uncover and check to see if any of the clams did not open. If there are some, you might cook another minute or two. Sometimes if the clams are larger, they need more time. If any remain unopened, discard them!

Sausage and Clams 5

Taste the broth for seasoning – You should not need salt at all – but if you would like it – add it now.

Garnish with fresh parsley and served in bowls with plenty of Italian bread for dunking.

A drizzle of good Extra Virgin Olive oil before serving finishes the dish!

It’s showtime!!!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

 

 

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Pasta with Shrimp and Greens

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Pasta with Shrimp and Greens Finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Pasta is a great energy food. Bikers, runners, and those who need to pack the carbs for a sports event have known this for years. Of course, Italians have always known there was something good and wholesome about it. When you add healthy ingredients which combine to offer great flavor it is a match made in — well you know where! PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is an easy dish to prepare and has a freshness about it that should please everyone.

In the photo, I have used an artisan pasta made from tomato pesto. You certainly do not have to select artisan pasta. Any Spaghetti or Capellini of your choice would work perfectly. The sundried tomatoes bring a touch of sweetness to this that would be missed if not included. I was fortunate for this preparation to get some freshly dried ones at the Farmer’s Market and some fresh Georgia shrimp that came right off the boat the day before – ahhhh!

Warning – there will be no leftovers! Marone what a dish!

PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS

Serves: 2

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 15 minutes

Ingredients

8 oz. Spaghetti, Cappellini etc. prepared according to package directions – or pasta fresca!

1 Bunch Fresh Swiss Chard – Rainbow is nice! (you can also use spinach if you like)

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2-2/3 Cup Sundried Tomatoes – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped

1 lb. Large Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Rinse your Swiss Chard and chop coarsely. Drop into a pot of boiling lightly salted water and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain well. Set aside.

In a pan, saute the garlic and sundried tomatoes for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!

Add the shrimp, red pepper, basil, and Swiss Chard. Then add the wine. Toss in the pan and cook  over medium-medium high until the shrimp is just opaque – about 3-4 minutes – no more!

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

Pour over your cooked pasta and prepare for an amazing taste experience!

This PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is one of those pasta dishes that is just perfect for patio dining or “date night” with a bottle of Falanghina – the Italian white just made for seafood!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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July:Frutti di Mare On the Grill

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Buon giorno!

There is no shortage of recipes for Frutti di Mare. Literally it means “fruits of the sea” – more to the point: seafood! The term and recipes are most closely associated with the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples, although you can find them from other regions sometimes given different names. the term, Frutti di Mare, is more often seen in recipes for spaghetti and linguine but the preparation is similar also to the Italian fish soup, Zuppa di Pesce.

In the featured recipe here, we are taking the traditional idea of Frutti di Mare and cooking it on the grill in packets – thus, FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL!  If you love seafoood, will be right at home with this one especially after you see the ease with which you can prepare it. The flavor is amazing and you will be transported immediately to the Italian coast with the resulting aroma. It is simply…divine!

Part of the fun of this recipe is choosing the seafood. It is totally up to you as to what you ultimately select. Choose your favorite shellfish items or even chunks of cod or haddock. It is your “oyster” – choose everything you love!

The key to this recipe is organization – having everything ready to go and distributing the ingredients into the assorted packages. This is sooo easy and everyone will love you for it! It is not only fun to serve but your guests and family will have a ball with it – each person focusing and plowing through his packet – noting with hoots and hollers about all of the favorite seafood items inside.

Although you can serve it any time of year, the recipe cries out for a balmy patio evening, a gentle breeze, and an amazing wine – perhaps a Rosato! But please don’t forget the Italian songs that will lull your guests so beautifully into thinking they are dining on a high patio overlooking the fabulous Amalfi Coast.

FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL

Serves: 4

Prep: About 30 minutes

Cook: About 20 minutes

Ingredients

4 Large Pieces of Foil – about 18 “

CHOOSE ANY ASSORTMENT OF FISH YOU LIKE BUT THIS IS WHAT I LIKE!

1/2 lb. Calamari (Squid) Tubes (tentacles also if you like) cut into rings

16 Large Fresh Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

12 Fresh Mussels, with outside of shells cleaned with a brush under running water

20 Small Clams  ( I like Littlenecks or Cockles for this dish but any will do!) – outer shells brushed under running water to clean

Clams-Risotto02_thumb

2  6-8 oz. Lobster Tails, each cut in half with meat loosened from the shell

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS

2-3 Italian Sausage Links – cut into rounds

2 Large Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

3-4 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes – cut up in small pieces – skins on (I like to microwave these for a couple of minutes first to begin the cooking process.)

1 Fennel Bulb, sliced thinly

4 Springs Fresh Tarragon

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

4 Slices Fresh Orange + 1 Squeeze of fresh juice per packet

Dash Red Pepper Flakes per packet

Pinch of Saffron per packet

Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

About 1/2 Cup Crushed San Marzano tomatoes per packet

Splash of Dry White wine per packet

Splash of Clam Juice per packet

Dash of Sambuca per packet (optional but a great addition!)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per packet

Instructions

DON’T  be discouraged by the number of ingredients here. This recipe comes together 1-2-3! Enlist your guest to help!

Get all of your ingredients ready and lined up to go.

Lay out the foil sheets and evenly distribute the seafood, sausage, potatoes, fennel, and garlic on the bottom half of each sheet.

You might want to curl the foil edges upward a bit so that liquid does not run out.

Then top these ingredients with the tomatoes next – followed by the herbs, orange, orange juice squeeze, red pepper, saffron, salt, pepper, wine, clam juice and Sambuca.

End with a nice drizzle of Extra Virgin.

Frutti di mare 1

Fold the top half of foil sheet over the bottom half with the ingredients on it and quickly roll up the edges around 3 sides tightly!

Place them on a platter and take them to the grill.

Frutti di mare 2

The grill should be very hot – around 450 degrees. Close the top of the grill and cook 20 minutes.

Remove the packets and give each guest one of them. Caution them to open carefully as the steam coming out is HOT! If any of the clams or mussels have not opened, return the packet to the grill for 4-5 minutes. Some of these  are stubborn! If still not open, discard them.

Place a bowl in the center of the table for discarded shells.

SO MUCH FUN!

When you see how easy FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL is to make – you’ll want to make this all summer long!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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July: Amalfi Clams

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Simply the Best Clams Ever!

Amalfi Clams 3 with script

Buon giorno!

Did I just say the best clams EVER??? I did and I do! You will want these AMALFI CLAMS on your summer menus. Whether you offer them as a first course, appetizer, or main event, prepare yourself for the raves! In fact I highly recommend making twice a much as you planned. These are just that wonderful. This is truly a dish to remember.

The Amalfi coast is known for their phenomenal seafood and seafood preparations. The squid, the mussels, the crab, the clams, the cuttlefish and sea urchins – it is a treasure trove of wonder when one thinks of the bounty that comes from this area.The tiny clams, in particular, that they serve are tender and sweet.

In making the clams for this recipe, I highly recommend using Manila Clams or the small Littlenecks. You can use the larger ones but this dish is a little more delicate and I think better with the smaller clams. The clams will emit liquid, salt, and flavor. Therefore you will not see salt in the ingredients list. If you taste them, after cooking, and still think they need it – then add the salt – but this is one of those flavor experiences that is best created by the ingredients themselves. All you need to do is add them!

I would serve this dish anytime, but it just seems better in the heat of the summer when you let your senses drift to dreams of the gentle Amalfi breezes during this season. Simply taste the broth, and just float, as they say.

If you serve this one as a main course, I would suggest rice rather than pasta. This is such a delicate dish that pasta is almost too much for it. I especially love serving it, on its own, in bowls, as a first course or appetizer, with plenty of broth and a crusty grilled sliced of bread with olive oil. You need nothing else — unless of course, it is the remainder of that bottle of Prosecco you just used to make it!

Does the tiny bit of Sambuca make a difference and what is Sambuca doing in the dish anyway? Good question – who asked it? Oh! that was moi! The Sambuca gives it a slight edge. It is similar to the use of Pernod by the French in Bouillabaisse and by me in my Zuppa di Pesce! Without this little kick – it just isn’t the same – but please just a touch.

Vieni sul mar,
vieni a vogar,
sentirai l’ebbrezza
del tuo marinar.

(la – la la – la -la…)

AMALFI CLAMS
Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 16-18 minutes

Ingredients

2 dozen Fresh Littleneck Clams or Manila Clams

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot (usually a double bulb)

1 Cup Finely chopped Sweet Peppers – I like the mini peppers

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

Dash Red Pepper flakes

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Cup Prosecco (or Cava or Champagne)

1-2 Tsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

A generous squeeze of fresh Lemon

Some Fennel fronds for garnish – These are the fine and delicate greens that emanate from the fennel bulb. They smell wonderful and make a great garnish.

Instructions

Scrub your clams lightly with a brush under some running water and set them aside in the refrigerator while you prepare. Do not seal them up as they are living things and need to breathe. Think about it – you wouldn’t want someone sealing you up in a ziploc bag until dinner time!

Melt your butter in the olive oil and add the peppers, shallots, fennel and red pepper flakes. Cook on Medium High about 5 minutes.

Amalfi Clams 1

Add garlic and cook another minute being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.

Add your clams!

Crush the saffron threads with your fingers and add them to the Prosecco. Now pour the Prosecco and Sambuca into the pan.

Amalfi Clams 2

Add the parsley and quickly cover the pan.

Simmer about 8-10 minutes. If your clams are large you may need a few more minutes. Make sure ALL the clams open, and discard any that do not. Larger clams might take a couple of minutes more.

Give a quick squeeze of the lemon.

There are two ways to serve the loveliness of these AMALFI CLAMS:  Serve them piled high in a bowl with a large grilled slice of crusty bread brushed with olive oil OR you can serve them over rice. Either way – you will love them and serve them often as I do. There is simply no better summertime seafood dish than this one!

Amalfi Clams finish with script

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Soft Shell Crabs Italian Style

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Mangia le moleche!

Softshell crab 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Sometimes being “crabby” is a good thing!

crabs 2

It’s that time again! Yes, it’s that special time of year, from late spring and through the summer months, in the US when crabs shed their hard shells like the ones you see in the photo above. The soft shell crabs are soft enough to eat WHOLE! Ahhhh—When their season arrives, I can’t wait to see them in the fish markets. One scrumptious way to enjoy them is lightly fried with a little roasted red pepper sauce – or as I like to call them – SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE. Once you try these – you too will become one of those who longs for their season each year.

Italian crabs? Really? Si!  In Italy, the crabs are much smaller, but no less delectable than the blue crabs of the US. Their seasonal shedding of their shells is quite similar, though to our crabs here in this country. Italian crabs or moleche (mo-lekka) two seasons, fall and spring. The seasons are short and usually celebrated in Northern Italy in the Veneto region. You either time it right or you don’t – che peccato!  In the Venice area, you can actually find farms where they raise them. Often they are served with polenta.

Probably my favorite way to enjoy these amazing critters is coated and lightly fried  – open face on fried Italian bread  – with a cold roasted red pepper sauce. You will be amazed at how easy this is to achieve! The dredging mixture and the red pepper sauce can both be made ahead, and the frying takes just a few minutes. Another good thing – you don’t use much oil.

SOFT SHELL CRABS WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves: 2

Prep: one hour approx.

Ingredients

2 Soft Shell Crabs (they should be ready to cook when purchased – if necessary remove the eyes and mouth)

Olive Oil for frying

FLOUR MIXTURE FOR DREDGING

1/2 Cup Flour

1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (found in spice section at grocer or at fish counter)

1 Tsp. Dried Oregano

Dash Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper

RED PEPPER SAUCE

3/4 Cup Roasted Red Peppers (make your own or from the jar, drained)

1/3 Cup Mayonnaise

1 Fresh Clove Garlic

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley

FOR OPEN FACED SANDWICH

2 Thick slices Italian bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Romaine Lettuce

Italian Parsley for garnish

Instructions

For the flour dredging mixture – Just mix the ingredients for dredging together well. This can be made ahead and kept in a covered container in the pantry.

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce – This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Roast your own peppers or use the ones in the jar, making sure to drain them. Place them in your blender or food processor along with the garlic and whirl until smooth. There will still be tiny bits of pepper – all good! Add the other ingredients for the sauce and whirl to combine. This makes about a cup of sauce. Use the leftover sauce on chicken, fish, or sandwiches!

Sauce ingredients

To construct the sandwich:

Brush the bread with the Extra Virgin – both sides – and lightly fry in a pan or griddle until both sides are golden and crisp.

Place some Romaine Lettuce on top of each slice and drizzle with Extra Virgin and light squeeze of fresh lemon.

Dredge the crab in the flour mixture, coating both sides well.

Heat Olive Oil in a pan and get it very hot. Place the crab in the pan and at medium high, fry the crab lightly on each side until a beautiful golden brown. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Then place the crab on top of the lettuce, belly side up, and drizzle very lightly with Extra Virgin.

Top with the cold or room temperature Red Pepper Sauce and garnish with fresh parsley.

Now your SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE are ready to eat! Prepare to fall in love! I like mine with a glass of champagne or prosecco  – but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve a gorgeous Rosé or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Crab Oreganata

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Crab finish with script

   Buon giorno!

Anything “oreganata” always reminds me of my Dad, Attilio. My CRAB OREGANATA is really a tribute to him. He loved to cook in the Napoetana style, and he was clearly good at it. When it came to seafood, in my opinion, he had no competition. He always seemed to know how to treat the treasures from the sea, respected them as an avid fisherman would, and knew how little actual cooking time they needed. We were raised with his seafood dishes and pretty much took them for granted. Looking back – they appear as gifts now to his family, as we try and mostly fail to equal his talent.

There was a ritual on Christmas Eve involving my father and his Clams Oreganata. As adult children, each year when we arrived at the back door (no one used the front door!), the captivating aroma of those clams was the first invitation to our senses, drawing us in. He greeted us personally with a hardy “Buon Natale”, along with a glass of champagne and one of his amazing clams! He smiled and his eyes sparkled knowing that he had created something very special for his family. It was always the same – we expected it – we loved it  – as this was the start of an evening of Italian seafood delights.

It is my belief that the Oreganata style of seafood preparation is so wonderful that it should not be reserved for holidays. The CRAB OREGANATA that we talk about here is a great dish for patio and outdoor dining as well. It is so simple – can be prepared hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator to be baked quickly right before serving. This dish can be made in shells as you see here – the large ones for a sit-down appetizer or first course or in small shells for a crowd. If you don’t have the shells – you can prepare it just as successfully in a baking dish.

Some tips: As with all Italian dishes, it is all about the ingredients. I always instruct in my classes that anything you make will taste like the ingredients you use. That is why I always recommend the freshest ingredients for the most part. Using fresh herbs in this dish makes all the difference along with fresh garlic. I like Lump Crab or Jumbo Lump Crab here. Your flavor is better – the consistency is better – and this type of crab meat is always cleaner of tiny shell pieces. It is more expensive but worth it! I caution you not to break up the crab pieces too much and to mix gently. A gentle hand keeps the “integrity” of the meat. When these wonderful larger pieces of lump crab hit your tongue, it is sweet ecstasy! The best part of this preparation is that it is one of those “one bowl wonders” – easy! Lastly – bringing out your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil for that last drizzle before serving is a touch you don’t want to miss. Be generous with it.

Hey! The patio is ready – the sun is going down  – and the glasses are poured – ANDIAMO!

CRAB OREGANATA

Serves: 4 as a first course; 10-12 if served in small shells

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 10-12 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 lb. Jump Lump or Lump Crabmeat

2 C. Fresh white breadcrumbs + extra to sprinkle on top

2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano Leaves – chopped + extra for garnish

1 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

2 Tbsp. Capers, rinsed and drained

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano grated

2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/3 C. Olive Oil

Coarse Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle prior to serving

Instructions

Pick through the crabmeat a little to check for shell pieces. Lump and Jumbo Lump are usually clear of these. Leave the crab pieces as whole as possible – not need to shred.

Make your fresh white breadcrumbs in the food processor. A good white Italian bread is always good for this – but any white bread is fine.

Gently mix the all the above ingredients together in a large bowl except the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and herbs for garnish. Try not to break up the crab pieces.

Crab Oreganata 2

Spray your shells with cooking spray and then fill them with the crab mixture. This can be made in a baking dish if you prefer and spooned out to serve on small plates.

Crab Oreganata 1

Sprinkle some extra breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Then put the shells under the broiler until the tops are golden brown. Watch that you don’t scorch them!

Crab Oreganata 3

Crab Oreganata 4

Drizzle generously with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil – garnish with some fresh oregano and serve!

Your CRAB OREGANATA will be the hit of your next gathering. Serve it with some Prosecco, Champagne, or a lovely Falanghina or Vermentino. Prepare for applause!!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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Calamari and Beans

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Squid and Beans - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Each year at the season of Christmas, Italians everywhere scurry to prepare dishes that will fulfill a spot on their menu of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. In some families, the same dishes are prepared each year. In others, they vary somewhat from year to year. This year, we look at a dish, Florentine in origin, CALAMARI AND BEANS  or as it is sometimes called, Squid and Beans.

Although the Florentines are not on a seacoast, they are no less observant of tradition, and they value dishes of the sea, as if they were a coastal city. CALAMARI AND BEANS is a traditional offering from this area and is just about perfect for any Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. It is simple in its preparation and very easy to create unlike some other dishes of its kind.

In our household – years ago – my parents, Attilio and Loretta divided some of the labor connected with this yearly feast. My father prepared the baked clams and one of the calamari dishes that was especially spicy. My mother carefully sewed the stuffed squid tubes and made the sauce for them along with 2 preparations of Baccala (Baccala Salad and Baccala Soup). They came together on some of the dishes such as the fried smelts and the cannoli shells. It was a meal that took weeks of prep.

This calamari dish takes only a few minutes and is sooo delicious especially served with crusty bread. It is made with the squid rings – easy to cut from the tubes. Some complain about their calamari being tough and chewy. I have never had that issue. Served with a crusty bread, I think you’ll find this dish is a winner!

CALAMARI AND BEANS

Serves: about 4

Prep: about 40 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Squid tubes – cleaned and cut into rings

1 15 0z. Can Cannellini Beans – rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

1 Fennel bulb – cleaned and sliced thinly

1 Medium Onion – sliced thinly

1 Large Can (about 28 0z.) San Marzano Whole Tomatoes – crushed with your hands – better!

3 Tbsp. Chopped fresh Sage

1 Piece of Fresh Orange Peel

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Coarse Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Instructions

Clean your squid tubes and cut into rings.

Squid 3

Heat your oil in a pan with the garlic, onion & fennel.

Cook 5 minutes – do not burn garlic. Keep things moving in the pan to coat and so as not to overheat.

Squid 1

Squid 2

Add the squid rings and cook just 5 minutes.

Squid 5

Then add the tomatoes, sage, Orange peel, Red Pepper Flakes, salt & pepper.. I like to crush my tomatoes with my clean hands as this gives them the perfect consistency and doesn’t over process them.

Cook over a moderately high heat to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally. for about 30 minutes.

Squid 6

Squid 7

Add the beans and cook a couple of minutes more until heated through. Remove the orange peel. Check for seasoning and add if needed.

Squid 8

Serve as is with fresh sage or fennel fronds for garnish.

CALAMARI AND BEANS  just screams for crusty bread – So feed the beast and serve it! OOOOO this is good!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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July: Grilled Shrimp and Tuscan Beans

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Gamberoni E Fagioli – 

Grilled Shrimp and Tuscan Beans-2

Buon giorno!

Regarding regional Italian cooking, you can’t get more authentic than Tuscan style beans. These beans are white, often Cannellini, prepared with olive oil, sage or rosemary, a little red pepper flakes and—away we go. They are just that simple. You might think – what’s the big deal? The big deal is that when certain ingredients converge, no matter how simple it sounds, the results can be close to perfection. I’ve said it often, “Italians love their beans!” While that may be true  – the Tuscans revere them! They are most often the side of choice with the famous Florentine grilled steak (Bistecca Alla Fiorentina) – the only way to grill steak in my opinion.

This time, instead, of serving the beans with meat, we are off to the coast for a dinner of fresh catch! The dish we tackle in this post, GRILLED SHRIMP AND TUSCAN BEANS is a special one, not because you spend hours in the kitchen preparing it – because you won’t. Shrimp and Beans—really?? Trust me on this one – it is a dynamite entrée  – made to order for al fresco dining and worthy of fine restaurant dining. However, it just might be the one dish, you’ll want to serve guests and family again and again, especially during the warmer months.

You will not believe how well the shellfish pairs with the beans. The shrimp (the bigger, the better!) are barely cooked – marinated first, and then seared on the grill quickly – a couple of minutes each side. The beans can be the dried variety which you soak overnight, if you want to go to the trouble. Have at it! But – in this case – the canned cannellini beans are just great as long as they are rinsed well and drained. Once they cook for just a few minutes – they become almost creamy tasting.

Along with the creamy beans we’ll add fresh sweet tiny tomatoes which will balance the dish with a little acidity. You won’t believe how perfect this combination of ingredients and flavors can be – not to mention, healthy too. I’m excited just talking about it! I really LOVE this dish!

Sound like one of those “peasant” dishes again? You bet it is – not only in its simplicity – but also in respect to the high regard in this dish given to fresh herbs and mostly fresh ingredients.

I listened to a conversation the other day – where someone said they were trying a dish for the first time with fresh ingredients to see if there was a difference. Really? Do we think it’s actually possible that those herbs that sit in little tin cans in our pantries for months (sometimes years – shudder) taste just like the fresh ones from our gardens and markets? I know the answer to that one – but –  hmmm…I’ll let you be the judge.

Here we go – a peasant dish, with authentic roots, from the heart of Tuscany, all dressed up, with some fresh grilled shrimp. Let ‘s cast our nets and hope for bounty!

GRILLED SHRIMP AND TUSCAN BEANS

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes + 2-3 hours to marinate the shrimp

Cook: about 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/4 lb. Large fresh shrimp, cleaned with shells removed

  Marinade for Shrimp:

1/3 C. Olive Oil

1 Large Fresh Clove Garlic – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1 Generous squeeze fresh Lemon Juice

1/3 C. Dry White Wine

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste (the salt will bring out the flavor in the marinade)

  Beans:

2  14 oz. Cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 C. Fresh Ripe Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half – Note: these little tomatoes will hold their shape better than large tomatoes in this dish.

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary for garnish

Instructions

   Shrimp:

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Add your shrimp to the bowl and mix well, covering all the shrimp.

Grilled shrimp - marinade 1

Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

When ready to grill – pour off the marinade and grill both sides of shrimp for a couple of minutes each side only. Do not over cook the shrimp. You want them crunchy and juicy – not dry and tough!

 

Grilled shrimp 2

   Beans:

Make sure to rinse and drain the beans.

Place them in a pot or pan with the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garlic, Rosemary leaves, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

 

Grilled shrimp 4

Stir gentle, heating through – about 10 minutes. During this time, the tomatoes will soften.

Serving:

For each dish, spoon some of the Tuscan Beans on the plate. Place some shrimp on the top and garnish with fresh Rosemary sprigs.

This wonderful GRILLED SHRIMP AND TUSCAN BEANS is just screaming for a crisp dry Falanghina or an Arneis! Now, without missing a beat, hit the patio!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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May: Branzino–Fire Roasted on the Grill!

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Branzino-5

Buon giorno!

This is one of those “looks complicated – but  easy slide” dishes that makes you look like the hero/heroine of the patio scene. BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL is a dish you’ll want to eat and serve over and over during the grilling season. What? A whole fish – I can’t do that! O yeah – O yeah – you CAN!

Growing up, I ate a lot of fish from both fresh water and sea. My father, Attilio, was not only an avid and committed fisherman – but he also knew how to cook each and every type of fish he brought home to us.  He cleaned and filleted his fish in seconds with surgical finesse and artistry. He taught me, but I never could master his speed and precision. He often served his fish whole and grilled. Not having access to Branzino, we frequently enjoyed Striped Bass and Bluefish – fresh caught off the beach at Cape Cod during the summers.

So what is Branzino anyway? Branzino (plural – Branzini) is actually referred to as the “sea bass” of the Mediterranean. It was touted as the “fish of the year” in the New York Times for 2012. It is slim and silvery – a beautiful fish really. It used to be that you would see it on the menu as a special entry at only the finest Italian restaurants. Thankfully, it is now available to all of us through our local fish markets in generous supply. It is often served whole. It is meaty and takes the high temperatures of the grill well.

Branzino-1

Whole? Really? Uh-huh! The whole Branzino of about a pound to a pound and a quarter is the perfect size for 2. Most fishmongers now carry it. It definitely can be found at Whole Foods.

How to prep this thing? So you have found your Branzino at the market. What now? Ask your fishmonger to scale it, remove fins, gut it, and clean it for you, leaving the head and the tail on. The rest is easy. When you get it home – give it a rinse in and out and pat it dry. That’s it! Now you’re ready to cook it.

The Cookin! Although you could easily bake this fish in the oven, it is sooooo perfect for the grill. It responds quickly to a smokin’ hot fire, cooking through very rapidly, delivering a tasty, tender, white meat. The fun is in the flavoring.

This recipe: I used just a few fresh ingredients for this FIRE ROASTED BRANZINO –  combining fresh garlic, orange, tarragon, fennel, and scallions. To add perfection to perfection, I recommend using your best and favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I used a beautiful Greek Koroneiki Extra Virgin from Virgin California Olive Oil Company.

Branzino-2

The result: Your beautiful Branzino cooks in a flash and makes a show stopping presentation served whole at the table. Just reach inside and carefully lift the backbone which pulls out easily. That’s it! This is so easy and quick to prepare, you won’t believe it. You’ll make this easy BRANZINO – part of your grilling repertoire for the coming season.

Fire up the grill!

BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL

Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: approx. 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 Whole Branzino (about 1 lb.) (plural – Branzini)

Your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Make it a good one!

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

2 Garlic Cloves – chopped

1 Fennel Bulb, cleaned and sliced

Fresh Tarragon Sprigs

Several Fresh Orange Slices

Juice of 1/2 Fresh Orange

Chopped Fresh Scallions for garnish

Instructions

Ask your fishmonger to take the scales off your Branzino, remove the fins, and clean out the inside (gut).

Prepare your grill fire. I recommend soaking and using some wood chips to create good smoke.

Rinse off your fish and pat it dry.

Drizzle the fish inside and out with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Salt and pepper the inside.

Holding the fish open, sprinkle in the garlic and lay some fennel, orange slices, and tarragon sprigs inside as well.

Squeeze the orange inside the fish. Close the fish and drizzle some of the orange on the outside.

Branzino-3

Place your stuffed Branzino on a grilling pan with holes or in a grilling basket. Lay the extra fennel and orange slices on the pan also as they will be delicious grilled and charred. Drizzle them also with some of the oil, orange juice, salt and pepper.

When the fire is hot and your wood is smoking – place your grilling pan on the grill and close it.

Branzino-4

Roast it for about 6 minutes – turn over and grill for another 6 minutes  on the other side.

Garnish with fresh chopped scallions and orange slices.

Serve your beautiful BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL with a crisp Pinot Grigio!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Shrimp and Polenta –

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Shrimp and Grits – a Southern cousin?

Shrimp Polenta-1

Buon giorno!

There is something about spring that makes me think brunch! Folks are starting to entertain again after the winter doldrums. They are looking for lighter dishes. They even begin to think of – dare I say it? – eating outside!

Shrimp and Grits is one of the traditional dishes of the American South. It is always on brunch menus and there are a gazillion ways to make it. It is the “southern cousin” to Italian SHRIMP AND POLENTA. And yes – if your weather permits, by all means, get thee to the patio with this one!

Living in the South, we have come to know grits as a staple. They eat grits with everything. Likewise, Italians regard their polenta just as highly and serve it so many different ways. To learn more about polenta visit my posts: Serving Polenta and Polenta – It’s So Corny.  You can find Italian polenta at many grocers and markets now. It is easy to make and “instant “, unlike the old days when you had to stir it for hours. You can just follow your package directions, and your resulting polenta should be very good. In the posts I recommended, you’ll see that I like to add a special ingredient, near the end of preparation, to my polenta – mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese). No matter which brand or package of polenta you choose, you can add the mascarpone right before serving. It definitely makes a difference. Your polenta will be richer and creamier, if you add this lovely creamy cheese. (And YOU will be happy you did!)

This is one dish that cooks up very quickly. You can make it ahead if you like, but it is so easy and quick to make that I never mind preparing it just before I need it. It is better, I think, freshly prepared.

Get those Bellinis and Proseccos poured – here it comes!

SHRIMP AND POLENTA

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes approx.

Ingredients

Polenta – any type or package you prefer – prepared according to package instructions or as described here.

1/4 C. Mascarpone Cheese stirred into the polenta – recommended

1/3 C. Pancetta – chopped

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Bulb Fennel – cleaned and sliced

1 – 1 1/4 lb. Large Fresh Shrimp – cleaned and shells removed

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/2 C. Dry Vermouth

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

3 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Tarragon

Juice of 1/2 Fresh Orange

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

Garnish with Fresh Tarragon and some grated Orange Zest

Instructions

Prepare your shrimp before your polenta. Instant polenta cooks quickly – I like mine made just before serving.

Cook your chopped pancetta in the olive oil in a large fry pan for 3-4 minutes.

Add the fennel and cook a couple of minutes more.

Shrimp and Polenta 1

Add your tomato paste to the vermouth and dissolve.

Then add the shrimp, garlic, tarragon, orange juice. Toss a little while your heat is medium high.

Shrimp and Polenta 2

Add the wine with the paste dissolved in it. Stir and let the shrimp cook through and the liquid cook down by about 1/2. This should take just a few minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

Shrimp and Polenta 3

At the end, add the butter and let it melt in, stirring into the sauce.

Shrimp and Polenta 4

Prepare your polenta according to package directions with the addition of the Mascarpone at the end.

Spoon the polenta on each plate and top with shrimp and sauce.

Garnish with fresh tarragon and grated orange zest.

 

I recommend serving your SHRIMP AND POLENTA with a crisp dry white wine like Falanghina! (Terradora di Paolo is a good one!) Prosecco is always nice as well.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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March: Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash and Pears

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Capesante – 

 Scallops A

Buon giorno!

Getting my springtime groove on and the thought of SEARED SCALLOPS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEARS sets my heart “atwirl”. I just love fresh Sea Scallops, and grilling or searing in a pan, to me, are cooking methods just made for  them. Since my mojo always dictates the need for something for scallops to perch upon, instead of the expected risotto or pasta, I’m taking a turn to a beautiful mixture of vegetables – a little bit healthy while maintaining  a little bit rock and roll with the snappy visual – great color – and the addition of the ever flavorful touch of pork – pancetta.

 

Scallops in Italian cooking: Scallops go so far back in time relative to the Mediterranean that it almost can’t be pinpointed. Marco Polo mentioned them in his writing, but they long pre-dated him. They are called “capesante”  in Italy and are cooked all sorts of ways – breaded, in sauces, risottos, pastas etc. It is recommended whether in Italy or anywhere to purchase and eat them as freshly as possible for the best results.

Linda's Shells sm

Searing scallops: There are just a few things to keep in mind for a successful sear. Dryness of your scallops is probably the most important thing. If your scallops are wet – they won’t sear – they will steam – and that lovely sizzled look will not be yours. Pat them dry first ,as much as you can, with paper towels. Then 2-3 minutes at a high heat will do the trick!

 

You will love this preparation. It is fresh. It is fairly simple. It is a most delicious dish. The recipe is made for two for a reason. This is a very special dish for a special evening – so much so, that I suggest pairing this with a bottle of your favorite champagne! Go for it!

Champagne 1-2

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEARS

Serves: 2

Prep: 50-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 C. butternut squash cut up, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper added, then roasted at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until tender

1/4 C. Finely Chopped Pancetta

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Sliced Fennel

1/2 C. Chopped Pear

1/4 C. Dry White wine

1/4 C. Heavy Cream

8 Sea Scallops (4 per person)

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Plenty of Chopped Fresh Chives for garnish

2 Tbsp. Toasted Pignoli (pine nuts)

Scallops 2

Instructions

After roasting the butternut squash, cut it into very small pieces (diced). Set aside.

Scallops 1

In a pan, cook the pancetta in the olive oil and butter about 2 minutes.

scallops 5

Add the fennel and pear – Cook about 5 minutes.

Seared Scallops 7

Add the roasted squash, toss, and then add the wine. Cook down for a

about 3-4 minutes.

Adjust seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cream. Heat through.

Seared scallops 8

For Scallops: Smell the scallops to make sure they smell sweet and are fresh. Pat them dry with paper towels. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan until very hot. Add scallops – sear about 2 minutes and turn over, cooking another minute. (or 2 if extra thick)

Scallops 3

Scallops 4

Divide the vegetable mixture between two plates. Top with Seared Scallops

Garnish the dish with chopped fresh chives and toasted pignoli (pine nuts) and serve immediately.

Now pop that champagne for a very special dinner for two with SEARED SCALLOPS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PEARS!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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February: Fish with Roasted Caponata

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Pesce Alla Caponata Arrosto-

Swordfish-with-roasted-caponata

Buon giorno!

I am often asked for ideas on preparing fish. For some, there is a little fear involved. For others, they think perhaps they just can’t do it properly at home. FISH WITH ROASTED CAPONATA will take all those worries away. It is easy, versatile, and I think, foolproof!

Fish was almost a staple in our house when I was growing up. My family prepared and ate it often – all kinds of fish. Because my father, Attilio, was a joyful and avid fisherman of fresh and salt water, we experienced many types of fish at our table. There was never a shortage of ways to prepare them. When it came to gifts from the sea, he often baked the fish simply with olive oil and a few herbs. This is the way I prepared my fish for this recipe.

When baking, roasting, or grilling fish, your greatest success will be with “meatier” or more firm varieties such as swordfish, cod, sea bass, or halibut. These types of fish can stand the heat longer and tend not to fall apart in the process. For this demonstration, I selected swordfish, but the choice is yours.

About caponata: Caponata is one of the wonders of the Sicilian culinary world. It is a mixture of vegetables most often including eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, olives etc. You might liken it to the French Ratatouille. The difference is that caponata is usually spicier and has a sweet/sour flavor. Usually, it is prepared on top of the stove. However, here, I elected to roast it. Why? I love roasted vegetables and the roasting makes a much easier and quicker preparation. To me, a roasted caponata is the perfect way to dress baked fish and take it from bland to “out of sight” delicious! Everyone will love fish prepared this way.

Tip: If you have leftover caponata – you are in for a treat. Add it to your cold cut sandwiches or paninis. – OR – Serve it at room temperature with crackers or bread as an appetizer. Heaven!

A word about Castelvetrano olives: Everyone who frequents my website and facebook page,knows how much I LOVE olives of all kinds. Perhaps, my favorite, definitely my husband’s favorite is the Castelvetrano Olive.

Castelvetrano Olives

The Castelvetranos are grown in western Sicily and are named for a town in the Trapani area. These are the almost blue-green olives you find at olive bars. They are also found in jars now in the condiment section of your grocer. They stand out from the rest with their vivid color. They are mild, sweet, and meaty. Many people, who are not fond of olives, love the Castelvetranos. Just pop one of them in your mouth and you’ll know what I mean. They almost melt in your mouth with their wonderful buttery flavor – not tart or tangy or sharp or salty like many others. These are special — which is why I decided to use them in this recipe instead of a sharper choice.

This fish dish will astound you with its flavor. You take a very ordinary, otherwise plain piece of fish to a totally different place with the addition of the roasted caponata. It is a memorable dish that is as suitable for an elegant table as for a family meal.

FISH WITH ROASTED CAPONATA

(PESCE ALLA CAPONATA ARROSTO)

Makes: 4 servings

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: Cook 20-25 minutes

Ingredients

For fish:

2 lb. Halibut, Sea Bass, Cod or Swordfish about an inch thick (1/2 lb. per person)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

For the caponata:

2 C. Cubed eggplant

1 Clove Garlic – chopped

1/2 Onion – chopped coarsely

1 C. Halved Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

1/3 C. Olive Oil

1/8 C. Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 Tbsp. Sugar

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1/4 C. Chopped Roasted Red Peppers (For instructions on roasting your own peppers easily, visit this post: Sovana and the Mystery Dish

2 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Parsley

1/2 C. Castelvetrano Olives – halved (Read about these in the above text.)

2 Tbsp. Capers, rinsed and drained

Chopped Fresh Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Prepare your fish by brushing or drizzling with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Then use the cooking method you prefer: grilling, baking (400 degrees for about 20 minutes), etc.

Fish - caponata  3

For the caponata: Chop your eggplant, garlic, onion, and tomatoes.  Mix them together in a bowl.

Combine your olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pour this over your vegetables in the bowl and toss.

Spread this mixture out on a baking pan covered with foil.

Roast this in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until tender.

Fish - caponata 1

In the last 5 minutes of roasting, add the roasted peppers, parsley, olives, and capers. Toss together and finish roasting.

roasted cap

Pour the Roasted Caponata over the top of your cooked fish, garnish with more chopped fresh parsley, and serve.

This recipe takes all the stress and complication out of serving fish. You will love serving your FISH WITH ROASTED CAPONATA almost as much as you will enjoy eating it!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Rosato Sauce Takes the Stage for the Holidays

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Shrimp-Rosato-Risotto03-300x225

Buon giorno!

As we scramble to find that “special dish” for the holidays that is still light and won’t send everyone to the fainting couches for a nap – think fish! Need a choice for “Feast of the Seven Fishes” that might be a little different? Look to your wine rack or wine cellar or wine merchant and select a delicious Rosé Wine – with a lovely pink tint well suited to candlelight. There are some really great Italian, French, and even Spanish Rosés out there to choose from. Then consider a dish like SHRIMP WITH ROSATO SAUCE or SALMON WITH ROSATO SAUCE.

These dishes have all the right elements for the famous Italian Christmas Eve feast, but also are lovely to serve at a dinner party for New Year’s Eve or that “special dinner for two”! They are easy, light, and so pretty to look at. At the same time, it gives everyone an opportunity to sample the endless list of great Rosé Wines available.  Your table will be an eye catcher with glasses poured with the pale rosy-hued wines, and even better – you’ll surprise your guests with your choice of both food and wine. Don’t wait for summer time to enjoy these beautiful light wines.

 

   SHRIMP WITH ROSATO SAUCE

(Served with Risi e Bisi – Risotto with Peas)

Serves: 4

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 1/2 lb. Large Shrimp, shelled, de-veined, cleaned

1 Medium Onion or 2 shallots- chopped

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 c. Rosé or Rosato Wine

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves

8 oz Mascarpone Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Lots of Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves for garnish

Cook onion in butter and olive oil  about 3 minutes. Add raw shrimp and cook about 2 minutes. Add wine with tomato paste mixed in and dissolved. Reduce down  – takes just a few minutes. Add the 2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil.Turn off heat and add the mascarpone. Stir in.

Serve over Orzo with a little olive oil, fresh Basil, salt and pepper OR Serve with Risotto and Peas (Risi E Bisi) (recipe below)

RiSOTTO WITH PEAS

(RISI E BISI)

This lovely and light risotto from the Veneto region is great on its own or as the ideal companion to the Shrimp With Rosato Sauce. It is usually made with English Peas – fresh or frozen. In this presentation, I have used the Southern Lady Peas – sweet and fresh.

Serves: 4-6

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Chopped Onion

2 c. Arborio Rice

1 c. Fresh or frozen Peas or Fresh Lady Peas

6 c. Warm Chicken Broth

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Montasio Cheese – grated

Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter and olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add Arborio Rice, stirring to coat well and slightly toast – about 5 minutes. Add the peas. Begin ladling in the warm broth starting with a cupful. Let the risotto absorb it. Then add another ladle of broth. Keep stirring  on medium high heat until absorbed. Do not let dry out. Continue this adding and absorbing process until the broth is gone. Taste the rice. It should be tender with a slight “bite”. Turn off heat and add the butter. Stir until melted butter. Pour in the grated cheese, stir and it’s ready!

SALMON WITH ROSATO SAUCE

Salmon with Rosato Sauce

If you like Salmon, you’ll love this one! This is a great presentation for a light Salmon meal with just a little something extra.

Serves: 4 ( Just cut the recipe if making less)

4 Fresh Salmon Fillets

Rosato Sauce ( as in the Shrimp With Rosato Sauce above with a couple of changes below)

3 Fresh Ripe Roma or 3 Medium Tomatoes – chopped

Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish

This is so simple! Just make your salmon your favorite way – grilled, baked, or broiled. You can even poach it if you like. If grilling or baking, I like to drizzle it with just a little olive oil and add Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper. That’s it!

Make the Rosato Sauce as you see it above in the recipe for Shrimp With Rosato Sauce – except omit the shrimp. It makes enough sauce for about 4 servings. When I make the sauce for salmon, I also like to add 3 chopped fresh ripe tomatoes ( I like Romas). I add them just after the saute of the onion. Let the tomatoes cook with the onion until soft and they emit juices – just a few minutes. Then proceed with the wine etc. to finish the sauce.

Plate the salmon.

Pour a little of the sauce over each fillet. Top with chopped fresh Basil Leaves.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Codfish Balls With Marinara Sauce

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Cod Fish Balls

 

Buon giorno!

The season of light is upon us! Christmas in Italy is a religious feast day with much preparation underway in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Like most other feast days of note in Italy, Natale (Christmas) is as much about the cuisine as anything else. The food is everything!

The endless courses prepared for this feast in Italian households frequently vary as to their preferences and the region of Italy of their parentage. One dish, prepared in many homes, is CODFISH BALLS. There are all kinds of recipes for these, but one of them is a mixture of cooked potatoes and flaked cod – a very easy mixture to achieve. The mixture is formed into balls and served with sauce. This is the preparation used here.

Growing up in an Italian home, the days and weeks before Christmas were almost as exciting as the day itself. The sights, smells, and tastings coming from the kitchen were tantalizing reminders of what was to come. For a child, the excitement was almost overwhelming. As I grew, I became familiar with the repetition of the same dishes, pastries, candies, and more that appeared from year to year. I never tired of the ritual or of the endless parade of special foods that were associated with this holiday. I welcomed and anticipated their arrival.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, served on Christmas Eve in most of Southern Italy, has become well known even among non-Italians. When I was a young girl, this special meatless meal was dictated as much by religion as custom. In those days, Christmas Eve was a day of abstinence for Catholics, meaning—no meat. Often, the bishop would give a last minute dispensation for meat to be served. However, this dispensation was not observed or accepted in the “Calabrisi” house! It was fish and seafood all the way and, like most Italians, we loved it.

In almost all Italian homes, it is safe to say that some form of codfish is always served at this feast of fishes. Sometimes the cod is served several different ways. CODFISH BALLS  (or Codfish Cakes) is an easy choice for one of the fish menu selections. Some like to use the salt cod (baccala) which is more traditional. Others use fresh cod. Either is fine.

Let’s go fishing!

CODFISH BALLS

Makes: 15-20 balls

Prep: 60 minutes (plus soaking time if using salt cod)

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb salt cod

OR

1 lb fresh cod

3 Medium Potatoes – skinned, boiled and mashed

2 Tbsp. Butter softened

1/2 Onion chopped finely

1/4 c. Chopped Fresh Parsley

1/4 c. Capers, rinsed and drained

Kosher Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg beaten

Dry breadcrumbs (can be seasoned or not)

Marinara Sauce – Recipe Below

Instructions

If using salt cod – rinse and soak fish in cold water for a day or two – changing the water several times. When finished, boil the cod about 15 minutes. Cool and flake the fish with a fork.

If using fresh cod – cook first. Baking it is probably a good method – 400 degrees until it is cooked through and flakes easily. Cool it and flake with a fork.

Cod 1

Add butter to the mashed potatoes and mix.

Mix together: cod, mashed potatoes, onion, parsley, capers, salt and pepper.

cod 2

Add the beaten egg.

Mix together and form balls. Some people like to form cakes instead of balls. It’s up to you.

Roll the balls in the dry breadcrumbs.

cod 3

Fry in oil at about 380 degrees, turning so that they become evenly golden.

cod 4

Drain the balls on paper towels.

cod 5

Serve with Marinara Sauce – in the sauce or with sauce on the side..

Marinara Sauce

(Sauce Pomodoro)

Makes enough sauce for about a pound of pasta. Double the sauce recipe if you like more sauce.

1 Large (28 oz) Can San Marzano Tomatoes – crushed with fingers or  with a couple of turns in blender or processor

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

4 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

 

Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Do not let the heat get too high and burn the garlic!

Add the tomatoes to the pan.

Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chopped fresh basil.

Bring to a bubble and simmer steadily at medium heat about 20 minutes or until much of the water is cooked off leaving a thick concentrated tomato sauce.

Taste again for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Enjoy your CODFISH BALLS in the sauce or on the side – with or without pasta! Let the feasting begin!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Spicy Hot Shrimp Pizza

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Pizza di Gamberi  all’ Arrabiata-

 

Spicy Shrimp Pizza_5

Buon giorno!

Pizza has endless possibilities. For me, when I go to the trouble to make a pizza, it needs to be memorable. Just plain pizza will never do. Often when I am in the mood for something hot or spicy, my preference is SPICY HOT SHRIMP PIZZA or Pizza di Gamberi all’Arrabiata. This is a fun pizza and one that you will remember eating!

Arrabiata generally means angry. However, it can run the gamut from mad to enraged or infuriated depending on how passionate you want to be. In the case of pizza, that would include how hot and spicy you want to be. Arrabiata Sauce is a hot pasta sauce that is most often attributed to Rome or Central Italy. When you want heat, this is the sauce, baby, and the amount of heat is up to the chef. Of course, the more gentile among us might prefer a little less intensity and can enjoy the sauce with less hot pepper. It’s your call.

The good news is that this is an easy pizza to make. It is one of the more interesting ones and satisfies both the need for pizza as well as seafood.

The best and easiest pizza dough or crust I can recommend – one that you can make ahead and freeze – is the recipe from my post Pizza-That’s Amore. 

I always keep a couple of loaves in the freezer. They thaw quickly. That way I can have perfect pizza anytime I crave it.

You’ll see me break one of the rules with this pizza – you know – the one about no cheese with seafood. In this case the mild mozzarella provides a creamy base for the shrimp and does not overwhelm it. I think it has something to do with the presence of the hot pepper also. It all seems to make sense.

OK! So let’s put on our red hot shoes and reach for the large container of red pepper flakes for this occasion—and prepare to be infuriated, or enraged, or — WHATEVER!

SPICY HOT SHRIMP PIZZA

(Pizza di Gamberi all’Arrabiata)

Makes: 1 pizza

Ingredients

1 loaf pizza dough – See recipe: Pizza—That’s Amore

1 C. Marinara Sauce or Sauce Pommodoro (Olive Oil, fresh garlic, San Marzano Tomatoes, salt, pepper, Fresh Basil)

1/2-3/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1/4 C. Heavy Cream

1/2 lb 16-20 Count Raw Shrimp, cleaned and peeled

1 1/2 C. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (grated or sliced thinly)

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

A few capers – optional

Instructions

Make a simple Marinara Sauce (this is a basic recipe – make as much or as little as you like): Add some garlic to a little Olive Oil in a pan. Cook a couple of minutes. Add some San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed with your fingers. Add Salt, Pepper and Fresh Basil. Add the Red Pepper Flakes to the pan, and simmer about 10-15 minutes until the water is cooked out of it leaving a concentrated sauce.

Take 1 cup of sauce and add the heavy cream – Stir.

Take a little of the sauce and add it to the raw shrimp-just enough to coat, mix, and set aside.

Prepare your pizza dough for your pizza and roll or stretch to desired size.

Put a few drops of olive oil on the pizza dough and spread with your fingers coating the dough.

Put some of the remaining sauce on the pizza shell.

Spicy Shrimp pizza process 1

Top with Fresh Mozzarella.

Spicy shrimp pizza process 2

Arrange shrimp around the top of the cheese.

Spicy Shrimp pizza process 3

Sprinkle fresh basil over the top.

Spicy Shrimp Pizza process 4

Add a few Capers for brightness if you like.

Cook your pizza as you normally would indoors or out on the grill. For a step by step method to grilling great pizza, check my post: Pizza On the Grill.

Enjoy your Spicy Hot Shrimp Pizza with your favorite Italian red wine or some ice cold Peroni. As for me, I’d go for a nice Valpolicella with this one.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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