Pasta cu Mudica

 A village in the Alburni Mountains of Salerno


 

 

 

Pasta cu Muddica – adapted from Lidia’s recipe

Here’s another good example of Cucina Povera.  Stale bread and pasta with a little garlic and oil – simple and cheap but delicious.

Pasta cu Muddica

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
For the breadcrumbs – Cut off the crust of a loaf of day-old Italian bread and break what’s left into irregular shreds about 1/4-inch or a bit larger. Leave it on a kitchen towel for a few hours to dry and get crisp.

Pasta cu Muddica

Once you start cooking the pasta put the torn bread crumbs into a pan with ½ cup of oil seasoned with salt, black and red pepper. Be sure the oil is hot enough so that the crumbs fry and don’t get soggy. Stir and coat the crumbs with the oil until they just start to toast and then add the garlic slices. Continue stirring and tossing and don’t let the garlic get brown. Remove the crumbs and garlic from the pan.
If the pan looks too dry add some more oil and toss the cooked pasta in it until it’s coated. Add the oregano. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle over more oil and/or a little pasta water but not too much water because the crumbs will get soggy.
Return the toasted breadcrumbs to the pan and add the parsley.  Toss well and serve.

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Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cà phê sữa đá)

Vietnamese Iced Coffee is nothing like the standard American iced coffee you might be used to. It’s really something special and requires a little patience. Whenever I’m in a Vietnamese restaurant I order it as soon as I arrive and let it brew while I’m eating and drink it just before I ask for the check.

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons Café Du Monde Coffee
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Equipment:
  • Vietnamese Phin Filter Coffee Maker –buy one here
  • 2 glasses – 1 small to brew coffee and 1 tall to mix coffee with ice
Preparation:
  • As the water is boiling add 2 tablespoons of coffee to the coffee maker and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to the small glass.

    Vietnamese Iced Coffee

  • With the coffee maker on top of the glass, wet the grounds with about a tablespoon of the hot water and put on the top of the press and push down tightly. Fill with hot water and put the cover on. The coffee will slowly drip into the glass onto the condensed milk. This should take a few minutes. You can adjust the press as needed.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

  • When the coffee is finished dripping, fill a tall glass with ice. Thoroughly mix the coffee with the condensed milk and then pour it over the ice in the tall glass.

    Vietnamese Iced Coffee

 


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Venison Ragu

Still Life with Dead Game by Frans Snyders 1579-1657

Venison Ragu

Venison Ragu

My friend Susan gave me some ground venison for my birthday. This is the first recipe I tried with it. Venison ragu is a hardy winter dish. If you can’t get venison use pork. If you do use pork, you can leave out the duck fat. That’s only necessary with lean venison.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian trinity
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. duck fat
  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 lb. short pasta
Put on a pot of water for the pasta.
Sweat one cup of trinity in oil, then add 2 tablespoons of duck fat and lightly brown the venison. Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the basil to the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking.Venison Ragu
When the pasta is almost done drain and add it to the sauce to finish cooking. If the sauce is too dry add some pasta water.  Serve with optional grated cheese.

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Creme De Violette


Creme de Violette

Creme de Violette hasn’t been available in America for decades. My father used to complain that he couldn’t get it for his Pousse Caffe recipe. Well, it’s back and quite a few brands are being imported into the US.  

Creme de Violette


Aviation
Creme de Violette is an essential ingredient for an Aviation. A cocktail invented in 1916 in New York that gets the name from its cloud-like color.

Creme de ViolettePut all of the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Creme de Violette Pousse Caffe

Creme de Violette

 Starting from the bottom up – 

Slowly and carefully pour each ingredient down the side of a narrow glass.

Creme de Violette


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Christmas Punch

Christmas Punch

My Christmas Punch is adapted from Duffy’s 1956 edition of the Official Mixers Guide

Christmas Punch
Mix and chill first 5 ingredients and strain into a punch bowl over a block of ice with citrus fruit slices frozen inside.* Add chilled wine and chilled club soda just before serving.
Christmas Punch
* FruitBerg
If you chill the punch with ice cubes, they’ll melt and dilute it. It’s better to use a large chunk of ice. It’s more interesting if you add some fruit and make it colorful.
Slice various citrus fruits. Place a few slices of each in a small (sandwich size) zip-lock bag. Add enough water to cover the slices and hold them together when frozen. Make about 4 or 5 bags and freeze them. When frozen, place the contents of each bag into a larger zip-lock bag or a Tupperware container, add more water and freeze to make a large block of ice and citrus slices – a fruitberg.
Christmas Punch
Christmas Punch

David Benoit – A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Sfincione – Sicilian Pizza

Sfincione – Sicilian Pizza (adapted from Frabrizia Lanza’s recipe)

Real Sicilian pizza isn’t covered with gooey melted mozzarella. It has a simple sauce flavored with a little onion, some grated pecorino, and breadcrumbs – with or without anchovies, it’s up to you.

Sfincione - Sicilian Pizza

(if you want to make your own dough click here – I get mine in a pizzeria)

Sauté the onion in oil with black and red pepper until it’s translucent. Add ½ cup of water and raise heat until it almost evaporates. Add the tomato puree and bring to a simmer. Allow the sauce to cool. When cool add the bread crumbs, cheese, and anchovies. Taste for seasoning. The cheese and anchovies can be salty so you may not need any additional salt.
Pre-heat the oven to 400o. Spread the dough in an oiled 9 by 13 baking sheet. Spread the sauce mixture over the dough in an even layer leaving about ½ inch of the dough exposed around the edges.Sfincione - Sicilian Pizza
Drizzle it with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes. When it’s done sprinkle with oregano.Sfincione - Sicilian Pizza

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Pan Fried Ham and Red Eye Gravy

Pan Fried Ham and Red Eye Gravy

There are lots of different recipes for red eye gravy. Some people thicken it with flour or mix in mustard, ketchup, or Tobasco. I add some molasses. Try it and see what you think, then experiment.

Add bacon fat and butter to a frying pan. Cast iron works best. Cook the ham steak on medium-high and brown it on both sides. Place the ham in a serving platter.
Add coffee, water, and molasses to the pan and bring it to boil. Deglaze the pan, lower heat and cook for a few minutes while whisking in the last pat of butter. Pour the gravy over the ham steak. This goes well with grits or biscuits.

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Celishia’s Aged Eggnog

Here’s a guest post from my niece Celishia, an excellent cook and egg nog maker.

Celishia’s Aged Eggnog

(adapted for Alton Brown’s recipe)

 

Store-bought eggnog is cloying and sweet, so thick you feel like it might be eating your tongue as you swallow it and I always wanted to like it more than I did.  So when I discovered Alton Brown had a recipe for Aged Eggnog I was intrigued, we happened to be keeping urban chickens at the time so I had plenty of fresh eggs. It was delicious!   I have been making it for years now and it is always a well received, even with Eggnog haters. This year I happened to have a bunch of empty half gallon mason jars so I decided to double the recipe and then divide it into thirds because carrying all the quart jars to and from the basement is trying.  A single recipe has always yielded about 3 quarts for me, so the math says I should end up with 3 even half gallons. The initial recipe says as long as you maintain 20% by volume alcohol content then you should be safe.   Here is Brown’s basic recipe:
Ingredients:
  • 12 large eggs (pasteurized if you need peace of mind)
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1-pint half-n-half
  • 1-pint whole milk
  • 1-pint heavy cream
  • 1 cup Jamaican rum
  • 1 cup cognac
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (plus more for serving)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preparation:
Store eggs are fine, but I really have an obsession with fresh ones.  We no longer keep chickens but I was able to score 2 dozen from a friend of mine who has a farm about 40 minutes away. First separate the eggs into yolks and whites, saving the whites for another purpose. ( I like to make meringues or fold them into an egg casserole/quiche for an easy breakfast.)  I do weigh out my sugar for this recipe, but you can use a volume conversion because the booze is what makes it safe, not the sugar content.   Take the yokes and beat them into the sugar, at first it will be bright yellow with a lumpy, grainy texture, but soon it will even out into a pale yellow liquid that should fall off the whisk in a thick ribbon. The effort required is not enough to wash a mixer, so just use a whisk.

Add your nutmeg to the eggs and sugar, whisk in.  I measure the remaining ingredients into my jar to mix them, starting with the creams and adding the booze. Closing the lid and giving them a good shake, I then began to pour them into my egg mixture while whisking.

Once the eggs, cream and booze are nicely combined you are finished!  I pour the eggnog back into my jar add the lid and take it to the basement fridge to age. It must age for two weeks but can age much longer, I think Alton once said he makes his around New Year’s day every year.  The longest we’ve ever had it is October to January, and it was great in January.

Here’s a link to Celishia’s blogFreerangering


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Excerpt from The Farm on Staten Island

Excerpt from The Farm on Staten Island

. . .  On their first Easter on Staten Island, my grandmother insisted her brother and his new wife come to Manhattan for dinner. She didn’t want them to be alone for the holiday on what she considered a remote island. A dinner guest might be expected to bring wine or dessert, but the brother I knew as Uncle Tony brought a young goat on a leash. His friends working at the ferry had let him take it aboard, but the driver wouldn’t allow an animal on the Broadway bus, and he was left to walk the three miles from the ferry to my grandmother’s on Mott Street. My mother remembered all the kids on the block being excited to see the goat, and the adults in the family, amused by her uncle’s country ways. Grandma didn’t want anything to do with a live animal so Uncle Tony took it into her tenement’s backyard, where it was slaughtered, dressed, and served at Easter dinner. The family accepted Tony’s behavior knowing that although he left the farm, the farm never left him.

. . . He had a tree I thought came out of a fairy tale. Half of its branches grew deep red apples and the other half, pale green pears. I was bewildered, but he explained that since he didn’t have room for too many fruit trees, he planted an apple tree and then grafted a branch from a pear tree onto it. This brought him close to the level of a magician for me.

. . . Everyone in the family knew I loved going to the farm on Staten Island. My mother’s brother, Uncle Jimmy, often took me along when he went to visit. One late summer day, he and I were walking through the property when we came across a fig tree heavy with ripe purple fruit.

Uncle Jimmy said, “Boy, you can’t get figs like these in a store. Let’s have some.”

He began picking them, one for me, one for him, until we’d eaten almost all the fruit on the tree. Suddenly, Uncle Tony came up behind us and said to Uncle Jimmy, “Caroline was waiting for those figs to ripen to make preserves and you, cafone, ate them all.”

It was the first time I’d ever seen him angry, but since his accusations were directed at Uncle Jimmy and not me, I wasn’t concerned. There he was, my white-haired Great Uncle Tony scolding my gray-haired Uncle Jimmy over some figs as if he were a little boy. Uncle Jimmy grinned and looked guilty while Uncle Tony seemed exasperated with his nephew. It all seemed so funny to me I couldn’t help laughing and soon my uncles were laughing too.

. . .  Aunt Caroline grew tomatoes and herbs just outside her kitchen door, and when she made a tomato-basil salad she put ice cubes in it because the ingredients were still hot from the sun. There was one dish her guests often hoped she’d make at lunch. She’d sauté chicken hearts in olive oil with crumpled dried hot peppers and wild mushrooms gathered by my uncle in the wilds of Staten Island: simple ingredients which came together as something very special. She’d hum as she chopped and the earthy smell of mushrooms and olive oil would fill the kitchen.

. . . When he went to pick mushrooms he’d be gone all day, and Aunt Caroline would say, “He thinks I don’t know, but after he gets the mushrooms, he plays poker with his friends. As long as he brings me the mushrooms, I don’t say anything.”

The first time I can remember her serving the chicken hearts, she looked at me and without asking if I’d prefer it, cut a couple of slices of crusty Italian bread and spread it with cream cheese and Welch’s grape jelly. “Robbie’s American,” she said to my mother, “so I made him a sandwich I saw on television.” Glad to get the cream cheese and jelly at the time, I did eventually acquire a taste for her chicken hearts.


The complete story – The Farm on Staten Island 

Aunt Caroline’s Recipes

Summer Tomato Salad

Chicken Hearts and Mushrooms


 



Vietri sul Mare

 

 

 

Vietri del Mare

Vietri sul Mare

Vietri sul Mare is a town just to the west of Salerno. It’s famous for its ceramic factories and shops. These colorful pieces are sold around the world. It was just a few minutes from our hotel, and we were often there for lunch, dinner, or shopping.

 

Vietri del Mare

Pomegranate juice, fresh fruit and la gastronomia that made perfect sandwiches.


I thought one of the restaurants where we ate looked familiar. Was Van Gogh ever in Vietri?


Vietri del Mare

Heavy smokers


Vietri del Mare

Fine Italian Design


Cornuto – for some good luck

Vietri del Mare

Some traditional and a contemporary piece that we brought home.


 


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