My father’s family came from Laurenzana, a small town in the hills of Basilicata.
Cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Boil in salted water until slightly soft and drain. Fry green pepper in a hot dry pan until it starts to brown. Remove the pepper. Sweat the onions in oil with salt and black pepper then add the potatoes. Sprinkle liberally with powdered red pepperand fry, chopping with spatula until done with brown edges. Return the green peppers.
I know some people don’t get Italians referring to tomato sauce as Sunday gravy. In this case it’s justified because there’s so much beef flavor in it.
The key to this one is using the right cuts of beef. It has to have lots of collagen, that is, connective tissue which is water soluble and breaks down in slow, moist cooking. I’m using short ribs and ox tail – collagen, bones and marrow. With that as the flavor base you can add, sausage, meatballs, etc.
Some tomato sauces can be a simple as the 4 ingredient marinara sauce included in my Eggplant Parmagiana post. This one is more complex.
Season the room temperature meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in a pot with olive oil. Remove meat and sauté the onion. Deglaze the pot with the liquid released by the onion.
Add the tomato paste and mix with the onion. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, beef stock and stir. Add the sachet and return the browned meat with its juices. Simmer on medium heat, partially covered for one hour.
This is enough sauce for one pound of pasta. Since this is meat sauce and not seafood, serve with grated cheese.
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.
My Aunt Lena made a few bottles of this once a year around Christmas time. She always sent some to my elementary school’s convent. The Sisters of Charity loved this stuff. We didn’t get the recipe from my aunt before she died but after some trial and error Bridget & I managed to come up with it.
Make double strong espresso (10 heaping teaspoons / 850 milliliters water) and filter twice with paper filters. Heat in double boiler until it’s reduced to half.
Combine: 450 milliliters of 190 proof alcohol with 300 milliliters of syrup and stir.
Add 380 milliliters of coffee concentrate and stir. It’s ready as soon as it cools.
The end result should be about 70 proof
Bridget & I made this one up.
Filter the juice of 6 medium pomegranates (about 500 plus milliliters)
Reduce in a double boiler to 475 ML
Add 300 milliliters of 190 proof alcohol and 160 milliliters of simple syrup for about 70 proof.
Scotch Bonnet Infused Tequila
This is meant to be sipped and savored, un-mixed and no ice. It’s very HOT.
Pour 1 liter of tequila into a wide mouth bottle or jar. Take 8 Scotch Bonnet peppers and pierce with a knife and add to the jar. Set aside one month and strain into a bottle.
Pick through and wash the cherries and put them in a jar. Heat the Luxardo and fill the jar to the brim. Wait two weeks. Done.
* It’s really better with pit but remove them if you’ve got time on your hands.
Using syrup makes mixing cocktails much easier.
1 part water / 2 parts sugar
Heat until clear
Pinot Noir Punch
This was adapted from Duffy’s 1956 edition of the Official Mixers Guide
Mix and chill first 5 ingredients and pour into a punch bowl over a *block of ice with citrus fruit slices frozen inside and add chilled Pinot Noir (or Burgundy). Add chilled club soda just before serving.
*Slice some lemons, limes and tangerines and put them into 4 sandwich size zip lock bags. Add water and freeze. When frozen, put the frozen contents of the bags into a large zip-lock, add more water and freeze. This should leave you with a colorful block of ice to keep the punch chilled.
My mother made these. Start with 1/2 a cup of fruit (cherries, berries, peaches, etc.) I used blackberries for this one. Put it in a blender with a few ice cubes, a 1/2 cup of milk and a teaspoon of sugar if you like. Blend it until the ice dissolves and it’s done.
This was a candy store specialty only available in Summer. A squirt each of cherry and lemon-lime syrup. Add seltzer, stir and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Also a standard in candy stores, it was a couple of ounces of chocolate syrup (U-BET), a couple of ounces of milk, and stir with seltzer. The sum much more than the parts.
You could get this one in cafes, some pastry shops and Italian owned candy stores. A few ounces of Orzata syrup poured over ice and then fill the glass with water or some preferred seltzer. Simple and refreshing. It tastes a bit like marzipan.
An easy and tasty meal and I got it all from a butcher shop. Schaller and Weberis on 2nd Avenue near 86th Street. They have fresh and smoked meats, goose and venison and all kinds of German wursts. The also make their own salads and other prepared food as well as carrying European imports like preservers, pickles, spätzle, coffee and candy.
I had lunch at the Heidelberg yesterday. I sat at the bar and ordered a Bitburger and steak tartar – light on the onions and heavy on the Tabasco. The barmaid served my beer and then walked out of the front door. She returned a few minutes later and waved a small package wrapped in butcher paper at me.
“Here’s your lunch,” she said as she brought it to the kitchen.
It was the freshly double ground sirloin from Schaller and Weber for my steak tartar. The Heidelberg only serves it during the hours that Schaller and Weber is open and can supply the fresh meat.
After lunch I went next door and did a little shopping. I got bauernwurst, bratwurst and knockwurst as well a few sides – red cabbage, sauerkraut, German potato salad, cucumber salad and mustard. The only thing that needed to be cooked was the wursts – simple..
Caponata I’ll call this caponata for the sake of the search engines but in our dialect it’s gabaladine. It’s a standard component of any good antipasto. This is my Aunt’s recipe which she passed on to my daughter Kristina. My sister Nicki precisely measured all of the ingredients so I’ll turn it over to her.
Her given name was Celeste; we called her Aunt Tootsie, Grandma called her “Toots”. Aunt Tootsie lived with Grandma her whole life (even after she married, twice). Living with Grandma had its advantages for her because she cooked just like Grandma, which was excellent. We would go “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house”, which was in Brooklyn for a holiday or special occasion and Aunt Tootsie did all the cooking under Grandma’s supervision. She always had the phonograph on, singing along with Jimmy Roselli and Louis Prima. She would belt out, “Ti voglio bene” at any given moment. Here is her recipe for caponata.
1 eggplant, unpeeled and cubed
¾ cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4″ pieces
2 tablespoons capers
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ pound Kalamata olives (pitted and halved)
¼ cup tomato paste
½ cup water
2 tablespoons Sugar
Fry the eggplant in 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook until brown and set pan aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil to another pan and sauté the red peppers until tender then add it to the pan with the eggplant.
Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions and celery until soft.
Add the capers and give it a quick mix with the vegetables.
Add the tomato paste, sugar, water and vinegar. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add to the eggplant and peppers.
Add the pignoli nuts and olives and cook for 5 minutes, stir to blend the flavors.
Note that salt is not included in this recipe. The capers and olives are salty. When it is cooked – TASTE and then add salt and pepper to taste.
Cool before serving. Caponata will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. I’m sure it will not be in the refrig for that long. It is so delicious it will not be left over.
More serious cucina povera. This isn’t for everyone. When my daughter Kristina was about 10 years old, I gave her $5.00 to try it. She took one bite, took the money and never touched brains again. But some people love them. The worst part is the preparation. My wife leaves the kitchen until I’m finished (she won’t eat them either). Another hard part if finding calf brains in a market. I live in New York City and any butcher on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx carries them. If you want to try this, ask your butcher to make a special order.
Clean the brains – Remove any of the really ugly parts, i.e. brain stem, membrane, etc. Rinse them in cold water for 10 minutes. Bring some water to a boil and put the brains in it for 5 minutes. Change the water and do it again. Now they’re ready to prepare for cooking.
Pat them dry and season with salt & pepper. Coat them with oil and roll them in plain breadcrumbs. Pack them snuggly in an oiled baking pan or cast iron frying pan. Cover the top of them with the following mix: breadcrumbs mixed with finely chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Drizzle, or better yet, spray oil over the top until the breadcrumbs are well saturated then sprinkle the capers over it. Bake them at 350o until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve with lemon, Italian bread and salad.