“Mallard to go, anyone? Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient thermopolium—aka the Roman equivalent of a street food vendor—at the Regio V site in Pompeii. The well-preserved stand is decorated with multiple frescoes featuring a nereid (nymphs of Greek mythology) riding a sea horse, tall jars with two-handles that commonly were used for storage, and some of the formerly available fare, like mallards and chickens. A rendering of a muscular dog adorns another side of the stand with the insult, “Nicia cineadecacator,” scribed nearby. Various food-based remnants were found, as well, including duck bones, fava beans, wine, and a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, alongside cooking dishes, flasks, and storage vessels.”
Meatloaf isn’t one of my favorite things. I generally prefer my ground beef in the form of a medium-rare, charred on the outside, hamburger. But this Cajun meatloaf is different. It has interesting spices (no ketchup), and because there’s so little filler it looks and taste meatier.
If you have a meatloaf pan, great. If not, you’ll have to improvise. Cover a rack with foil and punch holes in it with a skewer. This will prevent the fat from accumulating at the bottom of the pan and making the meatloaf greasy.
Add the breadcrumbs, tomato puree, Cajun seasoning, minced garlic, and Cajun trinity, and Worcestershire to a bowl and mix it. Add the chopped meat and mix it. The best way to do that is with your hands. Get it thoroughly mixed and form a loaf.
Grease the foil with olive oil spray. Put the meat mixture in the pan or on the rack (whichever you’re using) and form a loaf. Roast for 50 minutes.
To make the topping, mix the Worcestershire, tomato puree, and paste in a small bowl. After 50 minutes remove the meatloaf and coat it with the sauce. Put it back in the oven and roast for another 20 minutes.
When it’s done, let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting it. It’s great for dinner and the leftovers make perfect sandwiches.
My Aunt Lena made the best gingerbread. Whenever she made it, usually after I asked her to, I’d have it for dessert and breakfast. I recently tried some gingerbread recipes and came up with this one that’s a lot like hers.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup coffee
2/3 cup mild-flavored molasses
4 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9-in square pan with butter. Mix dry ingredients 1 to 5 in a bowl.
Heat but don’t boil the coffee, molasses, butter, and brown sugar in a small pot. Let it cool and then whisk in the egg.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth. Pour it into the buttered pan and bake for about 35 minutes.
Gingerbread is perfect plain but you can also dress it up with fruit and heavy cream.
For this one I used clams, mussels, shrimp and lobster tails. Add what you like, crabs, scallops, octopus, fish filets, etc. It’s important to steam the clams and mussels separate from the sauce. One sandy clam or mussel can ruin a whole pot of sauce.
Lightly sauté the garlic in oil in a pot large enough to hold the sauce and shellfish. Add salt, red, and black pepper to taste and the oregano. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
The clams and mussels need to be steamed in a separate pot in case any are sandy. Heat one & a half cups of water and add the shellfish. (Clams and mussels take different amounts of time so it’s easier to do them separately.) Cover the pot and let it steam 8 to 12 minutes (until they open). Discard any shellfish that didn’t open. Add the shellfish to the tomatoes sauce and carefully pour the remaining broth into the sauce leaving any sand behind.
Start to cook the linguine and at the same time add the lobster and shrimp to the sauce. When the pasta is done the sauce will be too. Put the pasta, and shellfish sauce in a serving platter and serve. Please, it’s seafood so no cheese on this sauce.
The Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crècheat the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Typically, Italians have a big celebration on the Eve rather than Christmas day. It used to be a fast day, so no meat but lots of seafood and we still keep that tradition. We’d generally have dinner at our place (we have a big dining table) for 15 people. But this year because of COVID 19 and social distancing it will just be a few of us and Skype. We won’t cook as much food, but we’ll still have a variety of seafood and deserts to share with our neighbors.
It’s the pepper that really makes a Black Pepper and Beef Stir Fry. If your pepper mill can’t grind it coarse enough, put the pepper corns on a dish towel and whack them a few times with the bottom of a frying pan.
3 minced garlic cloves
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. black pepper (very coarsely ground)
1 lb. sirloin steak, cut into ¼ in crosswise slices
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
½ head green cabbage thinly sliced
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 cup sliced scallion (optional)
Combine the garlic, brown sugar, corn starch, and coarsely ground black pepper in a bowl. Add the sliced steak, mix, and let sit 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and cook the steak until it starts to brown (4 or 5 minutes). Add the soy sauce, toss with the steak, and remove it leaving the juices in the pan.
Add the cabbage to the pan and cook until it wills and begins to brown. Add the vinegar and return the steak to the pan. Add 3 tbsp. water, toss for a few minutes and remove to a serving dish and serve with rice.
Pasta with Broccolini, Sausage and Beans can also be made with broccoli or broccoli rape. There’s an informative article about their differences here.
1 ½ lb. broccolini, washed & stems removed
¼ cup olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or sweet, skins removed
2 gloves, minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 15 oz. can white beans strained and rinsed
2 tbsp. butter
½ cup grated Parmigiana cheese
½ lemon – zest & juice
Start a pot of salted water for the broccolini and later the pasta.
Remove the rough stem tips and roughly chop the broccolini and boil on high for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove the broccolini and add the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, in another pot add the olive oil and break up and cook the sausage meat. When it’s lightly browned, add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes then add the wine and deglaze the pot and stir for a few minutes.
Add the cooked broccolini and the beans. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the pasta and a cup of the pasta cooking water and toss.
Remove the pot from the heat. Add the butter, cheese, juice of ½ the lemon and zest. Mix until the butter is melted and serve with additional cheese.
Too late for Thanksgiving but in time for Christmas and Hanukkah. Cranberry Lemon Bars have a sweet-tart topping on a butter cookie base. I got this in the New York Times.
Cranberry and Lemon Topping –
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 large lemons
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 large room temperature eggs
The Crust –
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
9 by 13 inch pan, lined with foil and coated with cooking spray
Combine the cranberries, ¾ cup of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of water, and the zest of 2 lemons in a small pot. Bring it to a boil, stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the berries burst.
The Crust (heat oven to 350o)
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the vanilla and butter. Mix until dough forms. Press the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until brown around the edges.
While the crust is baking squeeze the zested lemons for ½ cup of juice. Squeeze another lemon if needed. Mix the ¼ cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, and the beaten eggs until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and mix until smooth.
After the crust has cooled for a few minutes spread the cranberry topping over it. Then slowly pour the lemon topping on the cranberry.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the topping is set. Let it cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Use the foil to lift it out of the pan. Cut into bars and sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar.
This is a traditional Caesar Salad recipe. It contains raw eggs and anchovies. Caesar Salad was invented in Mexico by Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who lived in San Diego but operated a restaurant in Tijuana where he could serve alcohol during Prohibition.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup day old Italian bread, crust trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt & black pepper
1 clove garlic, halved
2 large eggs
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 minced anchovies (or more)
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan large enough to hold the bread in a single layer and turn heat to medium-high. When it’s hot, add the bread, salt and pepper. Toss and brown lightly. Remove and set aside.
Rub the inside of a salad bowl with the garlic clove and discard it.
Beat the eggs and pour into the salad bowl. Slowly add the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons oil, constantly beating. Stir in anchovies and Worcestershire.
Taste for seasoning. Keep in mind that the anchovies and cheese are salty but add lots of pepper. Toss to coat the lettuce. Add the Parmesan and croutons, toss again and serve.