Some cultures – Irish, Indian, Chinese, etc. – drink tea and others prefer coffee. Italians like coffee and they’re fussy about how its made. Caffés and patisseries have large high-pressure espresso makers that are too big and expensive for home use and the traditionalists among us don’t use pods, percolators, Mr. Coffees, or Chemexes for our espresso.
For a long time, at least 200 years, a typical home espresso maker has been the Napolitano Maganette. This is the one where you add the coffee and water in the pot, put it on the stove upside down, and when the water boils, flip it over. That’s the type of pot my mother used when I was growing up.
We also had a Vesuvianna. It’s made of one piece of cast aluminum in a mid-century modern design. It makes great espresso and is beautiful to look at. The one I have is electric. They aren’t made any more, but you can still find them on EBay.
The espresso pot we use most of the time is our Moka. It was invented in Italy just after World War II and is the most ubiquitous coffee pot in the world. It’s easy to use and makes perfect espresso.
1957 ad for a Moka
Translation – “Where’s Dad?” “He’s in the kitchen with the Moka Express.”
Nice cups are important too.
Medaglia D’Oro is the espresso brand I grew up with and still use today.
I’ve been doing the Multiple Sclerosis ( #BikeMS ) charity bike ride every year since 1999. They have a few different routes you can take – 2 of them go from the starting line on 48th Street and the West Side Highway through the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey but my favorite starts at the same place and goes around the 30-mile border of Manhattan island.
It’s still dark when we start to lineup. They serve a breakfast of protein bars, bananas and water. I have coffee at home. The sky is just starting to brighten when we take off downtown toward Battery Park. NYPD keeps all the roads closed so it’s just you and about a 1000 other cyclists.
After we make the turn at the southern tip of Manhattan the sun is coming up over the East River. Then it’s straight up the FDR and Harlem River Drives to a rest stop at Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan.
Inwood Hill is a great location – including bike repair, porta-sans, water, protein bars and apples. I usually make a stop about a mile before at the Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace on 207th Street for a ham and egg sandwich and coffee to go.
From Inwood Hill it’s a little over 10 miles to the finish on Pier 92-94 with it’s beer garden and hamburgers.
The relationship between caffé and the city of Naples can only be called love. La tazzulella di caffé is the way Neapolitans welcome the day, recharge throughout it and show friends they enjoy their company. It is the occasion to socialize, share opinions and discuss about the latest news and gossip.
La relazione tra il caffè e la città di Napoli non può che essere d’amore. La tazzulella di caffé è il modo in cui i napoletani accolgono il nuovo giorno, si ricaricano e mostrano agli amici che amano la loro compagnia. E’ l’occasione per socializzare, condividere opinioni e parlare delle ultime notizie e fare pettegolezzi.
” . . . there’s little doubt that Italian coffee remains the best in the world: it’s a typical case of “why should you change or improve something that’s already perfect?” Italian coffee is not a matter of variety, but of extremely high quality: from the selection of the coffee, to the way it’s toasted and brewed, every drop of caffé has to be absolutely perfect. And whoever had coffee in Italy knows it pretty much always is.”
Vietnamese Iced Coffeeis nothing like the standard American iced coffee you might be used to. It’s really something special and requires a little patience. Whenever I’m in a Vietnamese restaurant I order it as soon as I arrive and let it brew while I’m eating and drink it just before I ask for the check.
2 glasses – 1 small to brew coffee and 1 tall to mix coffee with ice
As the water is boiling add 2 tablespoons of coffee to the coffee maker and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to the small glass.
With the coffee maker on top of the glass, wet the grounds with about a tablespoon of the hot water and put on the top of the press and push down tightly. Fill with hot water and put the cover on. The coffee will slowly drip into the glass onto the condensed milk. This should take a few minutes. You can adjust the press as needed.
When the coffee is finished dripping, fill a tall glass with ice. Thoroughly mix the coffee with the condensed milk and then pour it over the ice in the tall glass.
There are lots of different recipes for red eye gravy. Some people thicken it with flour or mix in mustard, ketchup, or Tobasco. I add some molasses. Try it and see what you think, then experiment.
Add bacon fat and butter to a frying pan. Cast iron works best. Cook the ham steak on medium-high and brown it on both sides. Place the ham in a serving platter.
Add coffee, water, and molasses to the pan and bring it to boil. Deglaze the pan, lower heat and cook for a few minutes while whisking in the last pat of butter. Pour the gravy over the ham steak. This goes well with grits or biscuits.
Everybody does it. Some out in the open and others in private. It may seem a little sloppy but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
I was with a friend and his 7 year old daughter. She asked us what our favorite things to dunk were. Her father liked Oreos and milk and my favorite was donuts and coffee. Hers was pretzel sticks and Pepsi. An interesting variety and all valid dunking combinations.
And it doesn’t end there. British people like to dunk biscuits (that’s what they call cookies) in tea.
Lots of people who wouldn’t dream of dunking anything in tea or coffee think nothing of dunking bread in soup.
And it’s considered pretty classy in some restaurants to dip (they don’t call it dunk) biscotti in Vin Santo for dessert.
There was recently an article in the Sunday Times Magazine that dealt with this issue. It featured bread in wine and cake in orange soda –
One last combination – Reginas dunked in espresso, a perfect Italian breakfast.
December is coming so here’s Nicki’s recipe for a Christmas standard.
“Struffoli or as my family calls them, Ceci, are made for the Christmas Holidays. Time consuming to make, but well worth it. They are a delicious treat. They are especially good for breakfast on Christmas day; float them in your coffee cup and scoop them up with a spoon. So good!” – Nicki
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, the 1/4 cup of Crisco and eggs in a mixing bowl. Work the dough with your hands. Then turn the dough onto a floured board. Knead the dough until pliable. Form it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Flour the board. Cut the dough into ½ inch strips. Roll the strips into rope-like pieces about 8 – 10 inches long. I prefer rolling the dough in my hands but you can roll it on the board. Leave each roll to rest on the floured board as you roll the others. Cut each roll into ½ inch pieces. Roll each of these pieces into balls the size of a ceci (chick pea). I roll them by hand and can do two at a time. (Practice makes perfect). The board should be sufficiently floured so that the Struffoli do not stick together.
Put the Crisco (about four inches deep) in a large heavy-duty pot over medium heat. Drop in one ceci to check the heat of the Crisco. It should brown in a minute or two. Fry the dough in batches until golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon or a spider spoon and drain them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Heat the honey and water in a pan until it blends. Add the ceci and toss and coat. Arrange in a serving bowl and dust with powdered sugar and sprinkles.