I don’t bake much and don’t make too many desserts either but this is an exception. I happened to catch a cooking show on PBS and was very impressed by the chef. Her name is Annabel Langbeinand the show is The Free Range Cook. It’s recorded at her home and on location in New Zeeland.
Here’s a recipe for an Annabel’s apple cake (she calls it One Pot Spiced Apple Cake). There are no fussy measurements, techniques and temperature controls to deal with. You don’t need a food processor or blender or any other special equipment. It’s simple and the result is good for dessert or breakfast.
(I converted grams and centigrade to US equivalents)
Pre-heat oven to 325o. Grease and flour the base and sides of spring cake pan.
Melt butter in large sauce pan on medium heat. Turn off heat and mix n apples and sugar, then eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and raisins. Stir to blend.
Pour it into the pan and bake for 1 hour 25 minutes, until risen and browned and top springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes and remove from pan. Let cool on a wire rack.
Oyster Bread – a New Orleans recipe adapted by Nicki.
Mix the spices in a small bowl. Put the oysters with the liquid in a bowl. Stir half the spices into the oysters. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Drain the oysters. Put the flour and the rest of the spices in a bowl and mix well. Dredge the oysters in the flour mixture. Fry them in hot oil (the oil should be at least 2 inches high in the pan) until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Mayonnaise spread: Mix the mayonnaise, onions and Tabasco well.
Cut the Italian bread in half (DO NOT CUT THE BREAD AS YOU WOULD FOR A SANDWICH) and scoop out the inside doughy part down to the heel. Spread the mayonnaise mixture into the bread. Stuff the bread with the oysters. Slice the bread into one-inch pieces and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Oyster bread is an excellent appetizer.
“… A standard is baccala, dried cod fish, prepared both as a salad and a stew. It’s so dry it resembles a plank of wood when you buy it. Although caught and processed in the North Atlantic, dried cod has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries where the Norwegian klippfisk became the Italian baccala and the French morue. It must be soaked in cold water for days, changing the water often, to soften it and remove the salt used in the drying process before you can even think about cooking it.” – La Cucina Povera
Two family baccala recipes from Nicki –
In order to prepare baccala it must be soaked in cold water at least two days prior to cooking. Baccala can be bought in a supermarket. It comes in a package. Buy the boned baccala. If the supermarket doesn’t have it you can go to an Italian market. This baccala will be dried and resemble a fossil. Either one is fine, but both must be soaked in cold water. Put the baccala in a container and cover with cold water. Loosely cover the container and change the water two times a day by running cold water over it for a few minutes.
Rinse the baccala and put it up to boil in a large pot of water. Do not salt the water.
The fish may still be salty. Season to taste afterwards. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for five minutes. Drain in a colander. Flake the baccala with your fingers when cool.
Place the fish in a large bowl and add the sliced onions, celery and avocado. Mix it well. Add the oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with the oregano. Drain the liquid from the jar of olives and add to the bowl. Mix well. Taste the salad before adding salt. Add pepper to taste. This salad can be prepared in advance then refrigerated.
Although the ingredients are similar to the baccala salad this stew has an entirely different flavor.
Coat the bottom of a deep baking pan with oil. Add the baccala, par-boiled potatoes, onions and celery, olives, oregano and bay leaf. Mix them well. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes over the top of the mixture. Sprinkle the oregano over the top. Make sure the tomatoes get down to the bottom of the pan. This can be done by jiggling the pan carefully or by placing a slotted spoon in the mixture and moving it around a bit. Bake in a pre-heated 350o oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Serve hot with Italian bread.
This seafood salad is from my sister Nicki. It’s a traditional Christmas Eve appetizer.
Calamari (Squid) – Cut the cleaned calamari (not lengthwise) into 1/2” circles. If you did not buy cleaned calamari you must clean the calamari under cold running water. Pull the head out of the body, making sure to get the clear “bone” out. Squeeze the body from the tail to the opening to get out any residue. Then peel the thin skin off the body. Snip off the eyes and make sure you get the small beak out. (Go for the extra buck and buy cleaned calamari). Boil the calamari in rapidly boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. They should be tender not rubbery. Drain and set aside.
Scungilli (Conch)– Fresh scungilli can be purchased at an Italian fish market. If you choose to use the fresh you should buy more than a pound because there is a lot of waste when you clean it. Rinse the fresh scungilli thoroughly under cold running water. Boil the whole scungilli in rapidly boiling salted water for about 7 – 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Slice each piece thinly, discarding the “tail” section and any hard pieces along the edges. There is really quite a bit of waste cleaning scungilli. Canned scungilli saves time, makes your life easier and is very good. I have found that La Monica is the best-canned brand and I have been using the canned for the past few years.
Pulpo (Octopus) – Rinse under cold running water before submerging the whole octopus into salted boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes or more until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut off the octopus’ head and cut to separate each tentacle. With a kitchen scissor nip the dark purple skin and run your fingers along the “suckers” to release any loose particles. Cut each tentacle into small rounds.
Put all the seafood salad ingredients in a large bowl with the celery and garlic. Add the parsley, oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. These salads can be made the day before and refrigerated.
My mother made zucchini soup often. My sister Rochelle still makes it and gave me the recipe.
In a pot, sauté a finely chopped onion in oil until tender and transparent. Don’t brown. Add the zucchini and just cover with hot water – about 2 cups. Season to taste. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Scramble the eggs with the grated cheese and add to pot. Add one cup of marina sauce (see below) and stir until well mixed. Serve with additional cheese.
Marinara Sauce –
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic (cut in large pieces so they can easily be removed)
1 ½ lbs of fresh tomatoes or 1 28oz con of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
Lightly brown garlic in the olive oil. Add about a pound and a half of chopped fresh or one large can of crushed tomatoes (approx. 28 oz.). Add salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer ½ hour on medium heat and it’s done.
We just spent a lazy week and a half at the Marriot on Hollywood Beach. The hotel is on the beach, only separated by the Broadwalk, a 2.5 mile long, 30 foot wide pavement open only to pedestrians and bikes. I say lazy because except for a lunch in Little Havana and a dinner in South Beach we never left Hollywood. We spent most of our time on the beach and were able to walk to plenty of very good restaurants, either right on the Broadwalk or the Intercoastal.
Capones Flicker Lite – Chicago-style deep dish pizza – MENU
“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” – Sophia Loren
Cooking – Let’s start with the basic cooking of pasta – you boil it. 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) and don’t pay attention to what the celebrity chefs say and add a few drops of oil if you want. Some people think it keeps the pasta from sticking together as it cooks and others think it prevents the sauce from adhering to it. Make up your own mind. 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. If you have room in the pot you can finish cooking the pasta in your sauce. Save a cup of the pasta water. You can use it if you need to thin the sauce.
Secca vs. Fresca
One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different. Secca is the most common one. It’s the dry pasta you find in every grocery store – think Ronzoni or Buitoni. It’s made with semolina flour (hard durum wheat) and water and can handle the mechanical process required to make it. It lasts for months. Secca is more popular in the south of Italy, it’s cheaper than fresca and can be used with heartier sauces. Fresca is made from bread flour and sometimes eggs. It lasts about 5 days in a refrigerator. It’s tender and absorbent and works with light sauces – try sage and butter.
My mother used almost only secca but on special occasions she would make fresca. Cavatelli, which she pronounced in the Salernitano dialect gav-a-deel, was so simple that I would often help. I’d roll out a snake-like section of her dough, cut it into one inch pieces and then sort of smear them with my thumb. Mine weren’t as pretty as hers but still not bad.
On very special occasions we’d have ravioli. My mother, aunts and grandmother never used anything but a ricotta mix for stuffing. Since we never ate in Italian restaurants I didn’t know they could be made with meat or anything else (pumpkin?) until I was almost an adult. My family’s ravioli were square, large, sealed by crimping with a fork and laid out on a clean sheet on the bed to dry before cooking. You can get good ones at Piemonte on Grand near Mulberry Streets or Pastosa.
Pasta Asciutta – Not a very common term but it’s nice to know. That’s pasta served with sauce as opposed to minestra, a soupy pasta with vegetables i.e. Pasta Piselli, or Minestra and Zuppa
Noodles – There are American egg noodles and Chinese rice noodles but as far as I know there are no Italian noodles.
Grated cheese – Since cheese is so closely associated with pasta I’ll mention it here. Use Parmigiana, Loccatelli, Romano or whatever you like but don’t think you can put it on everything because it can overpower a delicate dish. If you really want cheese, eat a piece of cheese. Instead of the hard grating cheeses, try dry ricotta salada sometime or maybe a tablespoon of fresh ricotta in your dish before you put in pasta with tomato sauce. Instead of any grated cheese at all, try toasted breadcrumbs. And remember – never, never put cheese on seafood.