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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Pan Roast Sausage and Potatoes

Pan Roast Sausage and Potatoes

 

This one is easier than it sounds. You have to cook two things at the same time, using a sheet pan, a pot, and a frying pan – on the stove and in the oven and then put them together. It isn’t complicated if you follow the prep directions below.

 

Pre-heat the over to 425o.

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes to the boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the water and add the oil, pepper, and garlic to the potatoes and give the pot a good shake to thoroughly coat them. Arrange them in the sheet pan in a single layer and place them in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, turning them every 10 minutes.

                                Water                                                                 Wine

After you put the potatoes in the oven, place the sausages in a frying pan and cover ½ way up with water. Cook on high until the water almost evaporates, turning them often. Then add 1 cup of red wine to the remaining water, and continue turning and cooking until the wine is half gone. Turn off heat and add the sausages and wine to the potatoes for the last 10 minutes of cooking in the oven.

Finish with 5 minutes under the broiler.


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Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

A view of Mount Vesuvius on the way to Ravello

 

Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

A beautiful town on the Amalfi coast, so beautiful that it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.

If you go to the Amalfi Coast we highly recommend the following;

 

 

Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Ravello is a center for cameo making.


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Some early Christain iconography.


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

What we all considered a very classy no smoking sign.


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

The best coffee vending machine I ever came across – excellent espresso.


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Templar lions


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Posed by Bridget in the Villa Rufolo Gardens


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Emanuele and Vincenzo 


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

The Town of Ravello extends up the side of the mountain.


Ravello and the Rufolo Gardens

Villa Rufolo Gardens



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A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

In the Alburni Mountains

 

 

 

Lucia in her kitchen

 

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Un’infusione di olio di peperoncino rosso

After our visit to Terranova, we went to Sicignano degli Alburni to find someplace for lunch. A local guy recommended a trattoria in nearby Scorzo called Si Ma Quant Sit? Every meal we had in Italy was excellent but that two hour lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit? was the best. And we just found it by a lucky accident.

Dopo la nostra visita a Terranova, siamo andati a Sicignano degli Alburni per trovare un posto per il pranzo. Un ragazzo del luogo ha consigliato una trattoria nel vicino Scorzo chiamato Si Ma Quant Sit? Ogni pasto che abbiamo fatto in Italia è stato eccellente, ma quel pranzo di due ore al Si Ma Quant Sit? era il migliore. E l’abbiamo appena trovato per un fortunato incidente.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion
The menu was on a board on the table listing antipasti, pasta, and prima piatto. We started with the antipasto – some local cheese, prosciutto, capicola, and soprasade. We thought that would be it, but the owner, Raffale kept coming to our table adding things to our dishes – frittata, eggplant parmigiana, eggplant in vinegar, and on and on.

Il menu era su una tavola sul tavolo che elenca antipasti, pasta e prima piatto. Abbiamo iniziato con l’antipasto – alcuni formaggi e prosciutto locale, capicola e soprasade. Pensavamo che sarebbe stato il proprietario, ma Raffale ha continuato a venire al nostro tavolo aggiungendo cose ai nostri piatti – frittata, parmigiana di melanzane, melanzane in aceto e così via.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to eat the pasta course but we did.


A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

We said we were too full for dessert but Lucia gave us some strawberries in wine anyway.


A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

From Lucia’s garden


A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Raffale’s dogs wanted Bridget’s doggie bag.


Raffele and Simone


a Chili-Olive Oil Infusion


Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Raffale asked if I wanted some pepper for my pasta. He put a little jar of olive oil infused with dried chili on the table. It wasn’t just spicy, it had a distinct pepper taste. I asked how it was made. He gave me some to take home and got Lucia from the kitchen and she explained.

Raffale mi ha chiesto se volevo del pepe per la mia pasta. Mise sul tavolo un vasetto di olio d’oliva infuso con peperoncino secco. Non era solo piccante, aveva un sapore di pepe distinto. Ho chiesto come è stato fatto. Mi ha dato un po ‘da portare a casa e ha preso Lucia dalla cucina e lei ha spiegato.

a chili-olive infusionRemove the stems and coarsely chop dried red chilis

A Chili-Olive Oil InfusionHeat them in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until you can smell them.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Add some oil and sauté on low until the pepper softens. Put it all in a jar, add some more oil and in a few days, it’s ready.


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The Village of Terranova

The Village of Terrnova

Terranova in the distance.

 

The Village of Terranova

We hired a car and driver to take us to the village where my grandmother Nicolina’s family had lived and where she was born. Simone showed up at our hotel in a new black Mercedes and Nicki (Nicolina’s namesake), Bridget and I started the trip inland. We were going to Terranova, a village in the province of Salerno and the Comune (municipality) of Scignano degli Alburni.

As we drove up into the Alburni mountains the lemon groves that were along the coast gave way to chestnut trees and it got colder and mistier as we went higher. After about an hour and a half, we reached Terranova.

The Village of Terrnova

Nicki made some friends. When my Aunt Lena visited in the 1970s she saw goats in the streets. We only saw a dog and some cats.


The Village of Terrnova

The old and the new fountain.


The Village of Terrnova

Farmland in the valley below.


The Village of Terrnova

Streets too narrow for cars.


We arrived to find what I had expected – a small village, population 60, and a church – Chiesa San Giovanni Battista. Simone said he’d try to find someone to unlock the church for us. A woman came and opened the side door as Simone returned with the priest who told us some of the church’s history. The poor people were interred in the crypt below the church so we were standing over the bones of our ancestors. The church was built in 1300 and the stone baptismal fountain was at least that old although a modern cover had been made for it. Nicolina DiAntonio was born in the village in 1878 and her father Lorenzo, grandfather Luigi, great grandfather Antonio, and her great great grandfather Onofrio who was born in 1740 were all baptized there. (That’s as far back as I was able to research.)The Village of Terrnova

Chiesa San Giovanni Battista


The Village of Terrnova

The old stone baptismal font with its new cover, and San Antonio and a recently exposed original fresco of Santa Lucia.


The Village of Terrnova

Terranova


The Village of Terrnova

To be continued – Lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit and a chili-olive oil infusion.