My friend Joe gave me two recipes, one for sausage and peppers and the other for gnocchi, that he found in the Wall Street Journal of all places. When I hear Wall Street Journal I think of finance, markets and banking, not Italian recipes. I tried them and they were both very good.
Sausage and Peppers
You can make sausage and peppers by simply frying some sausage and peppers. But a little extra effort can make it something special. In this version by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, the key ingredient is the vinegar. It really brightens up the flavor. I adjusted her recipe down a bit from four lbs. of sausage to one.
Cook sausages until browned on all sides. Remove them and set aside. In the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and stir gently to coat. Simmer until tomatoes reduce, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry.
Until I saw this recipe from Gail Monaghan, gnocchi were round, made with potatoes and boiled. Here they’re square, made with semolina and baked in the Roman style. The finished product reminded me of polenta. You can serve these with different kinds of sauce. We used a simple marinara.
Bring milk and nutmeg to a simmer. Off heat, whisk in semolina. Cook over low heat, stirring, until mass pulls away from pan, 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 cup cheese and yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Pour hot semolina mixture onto a foil-lined, buttered sheet pan. Use an offset spatula to spread mixture into an even rectangle ½ -inch to 1-inch thick. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack in the highest position. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut semolina into 2-inch squares.
Set gnocchi ½-inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Dot with remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 minutes. (a minute or two under the broiler at the finish isn’t a bad idea)
It looks like Eggs in Purgatory is finally going main-stream. Melissa Clark, one of my favorite NYT food writers, just did an article and recipe. Growing up, it was a standard Monday lunch. My mother never made sauce specifically for Eggs in Purgatorylike Melissa. She would use leftover Sunday gravy.
Melissa’s sauce recipe isn’t too far off, except for the anchovies, which might be an interesting addition. The idea of butter in tomato sauce would have been out of the question for my mother.
Aside from this popping up in the Times, about 2 years back I found myself in a trendy restaurant in Williamsburg called Fabbrica. They had ‘Pugatorio’ on the menu. I ordered it and it was standard Eggs in Purgatory, very good too.
I’ve heard it’s North African, or Middle-Eastern and it’s definitely very popular in Israel. Whatever it is, it’s a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner. The first time I had shakshuska was in an Israeli run diner in Rockaway. I asked the waitress what it was and the way she described it sold me. It was served in a small cast iron pan right from the stove. You can’t get just anywhere so I started making it myself. This is similar to Eggs in Purgatory.
Start by frying the onion, red pepper, and chili in olive oil. Cook until edges start to turn brown. Pay attention and don’t let it burn.
Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Mix in the paprika and cumin and add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes, check for seasoning and add the parsley.
The sauce should be thick enough to make five indentations in it using a spoon. Break an egg into each one. Cover and reduce the heat and cook it until egg are done.
A friend gave me some jalapenos from his garden and here’s what I did with them. A very simple sandwich but a perfect combination. You can substitute a green bell pepper if jalapenos are too hot for you.
Cut the stem ends off the peppers. Cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out most of the seed and veins.
Fry them until they soften and char a little bit.
Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper and combine.That’s it. All that’s left to do is put it on bread and eat it.
My aunt used to make this, or something like it. I never got her recipe but this is pretty close. It’s a simple dish (especially if you buy pizza dough instead of making your own).
If you want to make your own dough instead of going to a pizzaria, here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart .
Escarole filling –
Remove the base and cut the escarole into 1 inch slices and clean it. Drain it but it should be wet so it steams.
Heat the garlic and oil with some salt, black pepper and red pepper. Add the damp escarole and stir to coat with the oil. After a few minutes, it should begin to wilt. Add the olives and capers if you’re using them. Add some water if necessary, cover and steam until it’s completely wilted and tender. It may seem like too much when you start but after it’s wilted, it’s just the right amount.Uncover and keep it on a low heat until it begins to dry. If there is still too much liquid, drain the excess. Add some olive oil and let it cool.
Preparing the pie –
Pre-heat oven to 375o. Coat the baking pan with oil. Cut off about ¼ of the dough for the top of the pie. Roll out the rest and cover the bottom and sides of the baking pan with it. Place the cooked and cooled escarole in the pan (it should be moist but not dripping) and tamp it down.
Roll out the smaller piece of dough to the size of the top of the pan and cover the escarole. Squeeze the edges of both pieces of dough together and trim the edges at the top of the pan.
Make some small slits on top of the pie with a sharp knife to let the steam escape. Brush the top with olive oil and bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool and serve at room temperature.
There’s a pizzeria/Italian restaurant called Capone’s on North Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach, Florida. The last time I was there I had this and gave it a try at home. It was easy and worked out perfectly. I’m not sure what they call it on their menu but it looks like a sandwich.
Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice vertically. Discard the first and last slice which will be mostly skin. You need 9 slices to make 3 sandwiches.
Beat the eggs with some salt and black pepper. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg wash and then in the breadcrumbs. Fry them in oil until deep brown. Drain on paper towels and let them cool.
To make the sandwiches –
Start with a slice of eggplant and cover with mozzarella. Add another slice of eggplant and cover with one layer of sliced tomato. Add another slice of eggplant and cover with more grated mozzarella.
Place the 3 sandwiches on a baking sheet and cook in a pre-heated 300o oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts. When done, sprinkle with the parsley and drizzle with a little balsamic and some olive oil.
It might look like a triple-decker sandwich but serve it with a fork and knife.
Two recipes for cheese spreads with similar preparation techniques but different results.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Subs, hoagies, grinders – that’s fine but in New York, it’s a hero. Sandwiches Italian-Style doesn’t necessarily mean 8 different kinds of meat and cheese and a bunch of other things, where each flavor cancels out the next. It shouldn’t be that complicated.
For a good Italian-Style sandwich the most important thing is the bread. On the right bread, cream cheese and Welch’s grape jelly can be something special. Then comes basic but high-quality ingredients. After that, the main condiments are simply salt, pepper and maybe a few drops of olive oil. Here are a few standards.
Sausage & Peppers – Fry some bell peppers and an onion. Then fry the sausage in the same pan. Simple
Tuna with Lemon and Onion – Use imported tuna packed in olive oil, add some thinly sliced lemon (with skin) and onion. A little romaine if you like.
Ricotta on a Roll – Scrape some of the bread out of the top of the roll to make room for the ricotta so it doesn’t squeeze out.
Mootz & Tomato – Fresh cold mozzarella with sliced tomatoes and basil if you have it.
Escarole – Add just washed and still wet escarole leaves to a pan where you’ve sautéed some garlic in oil. Simmer until it wilts. It’s as easy as that.
Note that only one of these sandwiches contains meat, another fish and the last three are vegetarian. That says something about the Mediterranean Diet.
Eggs Two Ways – I hope you weren’t expecting scrambled and fried.
Eggs in Purgatory
This one is fairly simple. Start with left-over tomato sauce, the thicker the better. Pre-heat the over to 400 degrees. Heat the sauce in a frying pan large enough to hold as many eggs as you want to cook. Use the back of a spoon to make indentations in the sauce and break the eggs into the indentations. 10-12 minutes in the oven and it’s done. Sprinkle a little cheese and serve.
Potato and Egg Frittata
A classic meatless Friday lunch. It’s good with a little ketchup.
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high and add the thickly sliced potatoes, salt and black pepper. After they cook for about 8-10 minutes add the onion. After the onion softens, with the edge of a metal spatula, chop and blend the potatoes and onions making an even mixture. Cook until the potatoes are tender and what you have looks like home fries.
In the meantime beat the eggs with the milk, parsley and salt and black pepper. Add the egg mixture to the pan, mix thoroughly with the potatoes and onions then spread it out to an even layer. Lower the heat and allow it to set for about 5 minutes. The top of the mixture will still be wet so place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn. Remove it when the top is lightly browned.
The omelet can be served in the pan, hot or at room temperature. Slice as you would a pie.
This is a round whole wheat loaf, baked, cut in half, then baked again. It’s thin, very dry, crisp and crumbly. It’s about 6 or 7 inches across. You can get them in a good bakery in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn or on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.
Dip it in, or hold it under running hot water to soften it a little. Shake off excess water. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano and drizzle with oil. You can stop right there and eat it as is or you can add:
sun dried or fresh tomatoes,
shavings or provolone or parmigiana,
red pepper flakes,
etc. (you get the idea)
Serve it with a knife and fork like any open face sandwich. I’d be very surprised to ever see this on a restaurant menu.