Baccala

Baccala

dried baccala

“… 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.

Baccala Salad

baccala salad

baccala salad ingredients

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.


Baccala Stew

baccala stew

bacalla stew ingredients

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.

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Seafood Salad

Seafood Saladseafood salad

This seafood salad is from my sister Nicki. It’s a traditional Christmas Eve appetizer.

seafood salad ingredients

 calamari2

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

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

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.

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Corn Soup

Corn Soup

Navajo Corn Soup ingredients

No, corn soup isn’t an Italian recipe but I replaced the salt pork in the original with pancetta. You can use either.

Ingredients:

Navajo Corn Soup (2)zz

 

Salt pork or pancetta
Your choice, salt pork or pancetta
Green poblano and a red bell
One each, a green poblano and a red bell

Preparation:

  • Brown pancetta & cubed pork and remove.
  • Sauté onion, add peppers, garlic & oregano and cook until softened.
  • Return meat to pot. Add stock and simmer covered for 1 hour.
  • Taste and add salt and black pepper.
  • Add corn a few minutes before serving.

corn

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Zucchini Soup

Zucchini Soup

zucchini soup

My mother made zucchini soup often. My sister Rochelle still makes it and gave me the recipe.

Rochelle
Rochelle

ingredients

Preparation:

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.

Zucchini flower
Zucchini flower

 

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.

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Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach20151113_122705

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.

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Capones Flicker Lite – Chicago-style deep dish pizza – MENU

capones


Ocean Alley  – seafood on the Broadwalk – MENU

The waitress took this pic and I don't know how she got those colors.
The waitress took this pic and I don’t know how she got those colors.

GG’s Waterfront Bar & GrillMENU

GG's Waterfront Bar and Grill


Taverna Opa – on the Intercoastal – MENU Hollywood, FL _ Greek Restaurants And Dining At Taverna Opa Restaurants_Page_2


Rocco’sMENU

rocco


The Taco SpotMENU

taco


Little Havana

 

El Pub Restaurant, 1548 SW 8th Street (Calle Ocho) MENU

elpub aa


La Tradicion Cubana – Calle Ocho & 13th Avenue


South Beach

 

The Delano – Rose Bar

Delano Rose Bar

 

Dolci – MENU

DOLCE ITALIAN


 

IMG00496-20121002-1418a (2)

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Pasta 101

Pasta 101

sophia-loren-spaghetti

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” – Sophia Loren (probably not true but should be)

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

pasta-secca 1
Pasta secca
fresa
Pasta 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.

Cavatelli

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.ravioli

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.

sophia
Sophia – che bella!

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.

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Escarole, Broccoli & Cardoons

Escarole, Broccoli & Cardoons

Three green recipes –  simple and cheap.


Escarole

Usually a side dish but it makes a great vegan sandwich. 

escarole (2)Escarole ingredients

Preparation:

Cut of the base of the stem off 2 heads and cut the leaves in half. Soak in sink full of cold water.

Place leaves in a pot, cover with cold water and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large pan with 1 tsp salt, black pepper and garlic. Drain the leaves and add to the pan while they’re still slightly damp. Toss and simmer for a few minutes. Remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with a little more oil in its serving dish.

escarole sandwich


Broccoli Salad

broccoli salad

Broccoli Salad ingredientsRinse broccoli & trim florets and stems. Boil in a salted water until stems are tender and drain.

Add salt and black pepper, thickly sliced cloves of garlic, oil and lemon juice and toss. Chill and serve.


Cardoons

(This is for Bea)

growing wild

This is a rare edible weed that you seldom find commercially, even at the best markets. Whenever I’ve eaten it, it was only because someone went to a rural area in New Jersey or upstate New York in spring and picked it where it grew wild.like celery

It’s a leafy plant that grows close to the ground. The leaves are inedible. It’s the stems that you want. When cleaned they look something like a stalk of celery but don’t attempt to eat them raw. They have to be boiled to soften them with the thicker ones split down the middle to make them all about 1/2 to 3/4 inch width.

Dry them and dip them in an egg wash. Then coat them with bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper and maybe a little finely chopped parsley. Fry them until golden brown in olive oil. They are worth the troublefried

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Caffé Roma

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I grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy and was fortunate enough to be able to walk to two very good pastry shops – Ferrara on Grand St. and Caffé Roma on Broome St. Caffé Roma was a little more homey but I liked them both.

seats

A few years ago, when Easter was approaching I stopped into Ferrara to see if they had started making pizza con grana*, an Easter specialty.

I asked the manager, “Do you have pizza con grana yet?”

He replied, “If you want a slice, go to the pizzeria across the street.”

I lost my temper and said “What’s wrong with you? Do I look like somebody who would go to a pasticcera for a slice of pizza? I asked for pizza con grana.”

“Senor, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand. We don’t make that any more.” As he indicated the crowds of tourists eating pastry with their early evening cappuccino** he said, “These people who come here don’t know what that is.”

So they decided to cater to their tourist customer’s pedestrian tastes instead of attempting to show them something different and traditionally Italian that they might like. That was the last time I ever went to Ferrara.

I left and walked up a block to Caffé Roma, which still hasn’t been Disneyfied with the rest of Little Italy. They had some of their tables pushed together and covered with freshly baked pizza con grana. They also still have zeppole di San Giuseppe around his feast day in March and struffoli at Christmas. They remain old school.

counter 1

Caffé Roma is a classic so don’t order like you’re in Starbucks. They serve excellent espresso, tea and even hot chocolate. For cold drinks they have the standard Italian sodas and orzata: gelato too. But it’s the pastry & biscotti you should go for, baked daily and right there. It’s been run by the same family since 1881 and I hope they keep going.counter 2

They’re located in what’s left of Little Italy at 385 Broome St. on the corner of Mulberry.

* Pizza con grana – a sweet pie made from wheat berries, ricotta and orange flower water, traditionally served at Easter time.

** from Wikipedia – cappuccino is consumed only up to 11 a.m., and Italians consider it very “strange” to ask for a cappuccino after that hour.  Espresso with milk is for little kids and breakfast. I suppose you can drink it any time, just like you can have corn flakes for dinner if that’s what you want.

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