Some Simple Kitchen Tips

Some Simple Kitchen Tips


Anchovies – Lots of people don’t like them but when dissolved and used as a spice in a recipe most people can’t tell that they’re eating anchovies. It’s all about umami.anchovies


Basic Salernitano Rules (from Grandma):

  • Red onions are better left raw. Don’t cook them unless you have to.
  • Don’t overdo it with the aromatics, i.e. if you’re using garlic as a base, don’t add onions, especially in red sauce.
  • The same is true for basilico and oregano – try to stick to one or the other. Typically, basilico with red meat and oregano with chicken & fish.
  • If your bread needs butter to be edible maybe you should be buying better bread.
My grandmother with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street
My grandmother, Nicolina, with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street

Bouquet garni – 3 sprigs each, rosemary or parsley and thyme tied around 3 bay leaves.

boquet garni


Breadcrumbs If you don’t make your own (a blender and two day old bread – simple) always buy unseasoned breadcrumbs and use your own seasoning.  To toast – put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.  Add a cup of the unseasoned bread crumbs and keep them moving until they darken.  Don’t walk away to do something else because they’ll burn.  When they reach the right color remove them from the pan immediately or they’ll keep cooking.  They should smell like toast, not burnt toast.  You can use this on many pastas in place of cheese and there are some sauces where you can only use toasted breadcrumbs – fish sauces like pasta con sarde or baccala.

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Browning meat – just put small batches in the pan. If you crowd it, instead of browning, it steams.

browning meat


Eggplant – for almost all eggplant recipes:

“Peel the eggplants but leave some of the skin on to ‘hold them together.’ Slice them into rounds and place the slices into a scolo pasta (colander). Salt the eggplants and place a heavy plate on top and set the colander in the sink for about 1/2 hour.” – Nicki Filipponi

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Grated cheese – Use Parmigiana, Loccatelli, Romano or whatever you like but don’t think you can put it on everything because it can conflict with and overpower delicate flavors. If you really want cheese, eat a piece of cheese.

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Oil – when a recipe calls for oil, it’s always regular olive oil unless otherwise specified. Only use extra virgin when it’s not going to be cooked because it burns and looses its fresh taste at a very low temperature.images4SG1W92H


Parsley – always flat leaf/Italian. Even French cooks use it because curly/French parsley has no taste.

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Pasta –  First, use more water than you’d think you’d need, about four quarts for one pound. Add a lot of salt, at least 2 tablespoons (it can only absorb so much). Pick a pasta shape that compliments the sauce. Cook it until it’s done the way you like it and don’t worry about the Al Dente Police raiding your kitchen.

pasta


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Essentials of Sicilian Cooking

Essentials of Sicilian Cooking

Not too long ago my wife Bridget and I, my sister Nicki and our neighbor Susan signed up to take a recreational cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education.  The course we chose was Essentials of Sicilian Cooking. It was taught by by Giovanna Bellia La Marca, a professional chef and author of the cookbook Sicilian Feasts.

Giovanna making Cassata
Giovanna  showing us how to make the cassata

The first part of the 4 hour class began with Giovanna giving a talk on Sicily and its cuisine. There were 12 of us in the class. We broke up into small teams and divided the menu between us. ice menu

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Almost ready to serve

Some of us knew how to cook and some were beginners but we all worked together with help from Giovanna. It took about 2 hours to prepare the meal and when everything was ready we sat down to dinner with wine right on the work tables where we prepared the dishes . Full time I.C.E. students served and cleared. It was a great was to spend an evening. The cooking was fun and we really learned something. The meal at the end of the evening was great and we got copies of the recipes to take home.ice4

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Cocktails Made with Gin

Cocktails Made with Gin

Invented by the Dutch 350 years ago, this colorless spirit, flavored with juniper berries was originally called genievre or jenever. Lately, it’s been replaced in popularity with vodka but for the four cocktails made with gin listed here, there is no substitute.


Belmont Cocktail

belmont bbelmont

Very simple – just shake the 3 ingredients with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.


Pink Lady

pink b

pink

Put the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake vigorously & strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.


White Lady

white awhite

Everything goes into the shaker and shake thoroughly because of the egg white.


Old Tom Martini

martini b

tom

An early Martini recipe – put gin and Vermouth in a mixing glass and stir (never shake) with ice. Pour into a chilled Martini glass and add bitters and olive.

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Pineapple Glazed Chicken

Pineapple Glazed Chicken

(adapted from Bon Appetite)

roasted chicken with pineapple ingredients

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Preparation:

Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Remove the backbone from the chicken and cut it in half (you can have your butcher do this). Season the room temperature chicken with salt and pepper. Mix the spice rub in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with spice mixture and rub it in. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Cook chicken, skin side down, until browned and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes.

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The Spice Rub

Meanwhile, bring the glaze ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until thickened and syrupy, 12–15 minutes. Discard garlic.

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The Glaze

Transfer the chicken to a plate and arrange pineapple slices in pan and baste them with the glaze. 20160630_182740

Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the pineapple. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 40–45 minutes.

When chicken is done, brush it with glaze and roast just until glaze is bubbling, about 2 minutes; repeat with any remaining glaze. Let it rest 10 minutes. Serve chicken and pineapple with any juices from skillet alongside.

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Cheese Spreads

Cheese Spreads
Two recipes for cheese spreads with similar preparation techniques but different results.

Ingredients for both - blue and butter with Worcestershire and cheddar and horse radish, also with Worcestershire

Ingredients for both – blue and butter with Worcestershire – cheddar and horse radish, also with Worcestershire


Blue Cheese Spread

My father’s recipe, it goes well with cocktails or beer. Even people who don’t like blue cheese like this.

blue cheese

Crumble a piece of room temperature blue cheese and mix 4 to 1 with good quality room temperature butter. The butter takes some of the sharpness and even some of the stinkyness away from the blue cheese. Mash with a fork, adding a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce until smooth.

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Cheddar Horseradish Spread

I got this from a waiter at Fin, a seafood restaurant at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. They serve it alongside the butter with their bread basket.

cheddar

Grate some good quality sharp cheddar and mix with prepared horseradish 5 to 1. Mash with a fork, adding a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce until smooth.cheddar

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