Happy Halloween!

The Kitchens Wish You All

A

SAFE & HAPPY

HALLOWEEN!

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(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

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(Comments have been closed to allow you more time for Tricks ‘n Treats.)

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It’s Columbus Day!

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Here in the States, today is a holiday set aside to commemorate the “discovery” of America by that navigator from Genoa, Christopher Columbus, or as we call him, Cristoforo Colombo.

Two years ago, to celebrate, I shared a musical number with you, while last year we cooked octopus. Today I’ve chosen to highlight how the Italian language is passed from generation to generation … kinda-sorta. Watch how Great Grandma teaches her Little One the intricacies of the Italian language. The only problem is that the video is far too short. I could watch these two “talk” for hours.

Have a great Columbus Day and to our good friends and neighbors to the North, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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There was Something in the Air … And Fried Chicken was on the Stove Top

Fall's First Colors - Mid-August!!!
Yes, there was something in the air, all right, and I’m not talking about leaves changing color in mid-August. Mid-August!!! You see, I had Max groomed the afternoon before we left for Michigan. Lucy would never forgive me if she had to share a car for seven hours with a dog that smelt. Early that evening, I picked up Max at the groomer’s, drove home, and parked my newly repaired car in the garage. Walking through my yard, I stopped to set the timer for the garden sprinkler, meeting Max on the porch no more than three minutes later. It’s amazing how much can happen in three teeny, tiny minutes, especially when skunks are involved.

Those whose dogs have encountered skunks will tell you that their attacks come in three forms. The first — and most foul — is the “direct hit”, where the dog gets sprayed with everything the skunk can throw at it. I had a Cairn Terrier that chased a skunk into a culvert, taking a direct hit to the mouth. His head was soaking wet, as were my shirt and arms after carrying him to a tub for the first of many baths. He was terribly ill for three days and reeked both inside and out, if you catch my drift. The second strike is the “glancing blow”, where just a little of the skunk’s spray hits the dog. Though the dog still smells awful, at least its coat isn’t sopping wet with the stuff, contaminating everything the dog rubs up against. The third — and preferred — encounter is best described as “collateral damage”. It’s when a dog comes in contact with an area that was very recently sprayed. Lucky for Lucy, Max was a victim of collateral damage, apparently having stuck his nose where it didn’t belong. His muzzle carried only faint traces of skunk and, from past experience, only if his snout were to get wet would the full effect of the skunking become noticeable. What, me worry? Like Max was somehow going to get his muzzle wet …

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(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

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Max’s muzzle finally dried out while in the car during our return to Chicago. Lucy was — and is — so not happy.

 My “fuming” dog and angry bird aside, I had a wonderful visit back home. Zia’s Eldest Son and my Nephew arrived on their Harleys and spent the weekend with us, making Max one very happy dog. He adores my Cousin and won’t leave his side whenever he comes to visit his Mom. He takes Max on “nature walks” that can last hours, covering terrain that I can no longer walk — at least that’s what I’ve always thought. Max is not one to talk but, this time, my Nephew, also, walked the walk and, when they returned, he talked about the walk. It’s safe to say that this is one walk unlike any I’ve experienced and if duty calls, Max is ready to serve in the Canine Corps of the Navy Seals.

With Max away for hours at a time, Zia and I had our own little vacation. I’d brought my chitarra and we made a few pounds of pasta together. In fact, I made sure that her pasta board was covered with pasta when I left for home. I, also, made gelato — over 2 gallons — for Zia and her friends. One night, I cooked us a Moroccan-inspired chicken dish and, on another, we conspired to roast a goat shoulder. That recipe will be featured in a future post, as well as on my own table. We really did enjoy it.

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Rising Lake Levels

Adding another 6 inches of water since June, Lake Huron’s water level is about 14 inches higher than last year.

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All facts considered, it was a great visit that ended too quickly. The weather was warm though not as warm as it should have been, a complaint heard throughout the Mid-West this year, I’m afraid. Heavy rains, too, caused flooding throughout much of South-Eastern Michigan and Lake Huron’s water level continued to rise. It hasn’t been this high in at least 15 years. For me, though, seeing leaves already turning color was a bit of a shock and I couldn’t help  but wonder what sort of Winter lies ahead. Best get the snowblower tuned up.

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You might recall that I had scheduled our recipe for roast duck for today’s post. That was before I returned home to find that the WordPress gods were angry and once again had me in their cross-hairs. Just as was the case when I was in Italy, I no longer receive notifications of most of your posts and, again, they’re to be found in my SPAM folder — all 800+ of them. As a result, I’ve had no time to finish up the roast duck post but will have it done for next week. I guess the WP gods don’t like me being away which is most unfortunate, for I’ll be leaving again in a few weeks. The Honey Man will soon be open for business and Zia and I will be there to get our share.

As for today/s Fried Chicken recipe, I cannot think of a better recipe to post. This weekend, we in the States will be celebrating a three day weekend for the Labor Day Holiday and what picnic or yard party is complete without a platter of fried chicken? For me, the colder the chicken the better. Make it as much as a few days in advance and stick in the fridge until party time.

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BACON!!!*     *     *

No, the above pic is correct. That’s a photo of bacon frying to start a post about fried chicken. There’s really nothing so shocking about that but my using lard with the bacon fat to fry chicken may raise a few eyebrows.

Mid-Winter, I learned of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that serves my area of Chicago. Granted, much of their Winter offerings were “imports” — there’s nothing growing in these parts — but all were organic and the quality was very good. It was nice, too, not having to hunt for Meyer lemons, kumquats, Mandarin oranges, and, later, ramps. Then, one day while browsing the website, I saw that they had fresh, organic lard. My search had ended.

You see, I’ve been looking for fresh lard for some time now. Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the stuff you might see on your grocer’s shelf. That stuff is hydrogenated so that it will “keep” and should be avoided. Fresh lard, though not perfect, is a far healthier choice. Speaking of healthier choices, the bacon used is low-sodium and uncured, with no nitrites and nitrates used in its processing. As is the case with any fried foods, though, moderation is the key. In the past three years, I’ve fried chicken twice. Now, I’d like for you to believe that it’s because I’m so health conscious but the reality is that I hate having to deal with a pot of used grease. Shallow frying, as I did here, minimizes the amount of grease used but its disposal is still a problem. So, when I do fry chicken, I fry quite a bit, freezing future dinners in the process. And a couple pieces of fried chicken is a nice treat to enjoy during a seven hour drive. Place the frozen pieces in the car when you leave home and, by the time you’re hungry, it will be thawed but still cold — just how I like it.

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Fried Chicken 1

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Fried Chicken Recipe

 Ingredients

  • chicken pieces with skin and bones — I used legs and thighs
  • 1 quart (950 ml) buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce – optional
  • 4 rashes/slices bacon
  • 1 lb (2 cups or 455 g) lard 
  • 1 cup all-purpose (AP) flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl, non-reactive pot, or plastic bag. Combine buttermilk with Sriracha, if using, and pour over the chicken pieces. Cover/seal the chicken and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  2. In a large, seal-able plastic bag, combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, and cinnamon. Mix until well blended.
  3. In a large (cast iron) frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve for another use.Fresh Lard
  4. Place the lard into the pan with bacon grease, raise the heat to medium, and melt the lard. Do not allow the pan to be filled more than halfway with grease. (See Notes)
  5. Meanwhile, drain the chicken, raise the heat to med-high, and when the grease reaches a temperature of 350˚ F (177˚ C) (see Notes), place 5 or 6 pieces into the bag with the flour. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the chicken pieces.
  6. Shake off the excess flour and place each piece individually into the hot grease, skin-side up. Watch out for splatters and do not over-crowd. Fry for 7 minutes.
  7. Turn each piece over, lower the heat to low, cover the pan, and fry for 12 minutes.
  8. Uncover, turn each piece over, raise heat to med, and fry for another 5 to 7 minutes. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches a temperature of 165 F (75 C). (See Notes)
  9. Place cooked chicken on a rack over a baking sheet, season with salt, and place in a pre-heated, 200˚ F (95˚ C) to keep warm while the remaining chicken is fried.
  10. Serve immediately.

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Fried Chicken 2*     *     *

Notes

No matter what type pan you use to fry, never fill it more than halfway with grease. Higher than halfway and you’ll run the risk of the grease bubbling over once the food has been added. Serious burns and/or fire may result.

I like to fry chicken in oil at a temperature between 350˚˚ to 355˚ F (177˚ to 180˚ C). If the oil’s temperature is a little higher at the start, that’s fine. Adding the chicken to the pan will drop the temperature down to what I consider to be acceptable levels.

A chicken’s dark meat takes more time to fry than does the white meat. Here I cooked only dark meat. When frying both white and dark meat, start the dark meat pieces a couple minutes before adding the white meat pieces. When frying a large amount of chicken, I’ll fry a batch of only dark meat and another of white.

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Now, about that reserved bacon …

BLTA bacon, lettuce, & tomato sandwich for lunch the next day.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Zia's Corn RelishIn this part of the country, it’s corn season and our groceries and farmers markets have bins of sweet corn for sale. Fresh corn is one of Summer’s great gifts and I take full advantage. Unfortunately, like all of Summer’s bounty, its season is far too short, leaving us corn lovers seeking the prized kernels in our grocer’s frozen foods aisle. Today’s look back is one way to enjoy Summer corn in mid-Winter without having to defrost it first. Zia has made this corn relish for years and it’s a family favorite. You can learn her recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Preview

The Once-Postponed Roast Duck

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Homemade Garganelli Pasta

Garganelli Fatti in Casa

The draft of today’s post has been waiting a couple of years to be posted. This is, in fact, the 4th intro that I’ve written for it. Something has come up to prevent its publication every time I’ve penciled it into my schedule. This, though, is definitely its time. You see, I was “introduced” to garganelli while in Rome — twelve years ago with Zia.

Rome was the last stop of our vacanza and I found a restaurant with the same name as that of my family’s surname. Mind you, it’s not like we have the Italian version of “Smith” or “Chang” as a surname —  quite the contrary. Yet, there is a restaurant or trattoria with our name above the door in just about every city in Italy and in many major cities here, across The Pond, as well. Be that as it may, I noticed a dish of penne being delivered to a nearby table and, when the time came, mentioned to our waiter that I would like the same as my primo piatto. He politely pointed out that it was garganelli and not penne. I decided right then and there to learn how to make garganelli once I got home — and get my eyes checked. Not long after, I was back home making garganelli — but the story doesn’t end here.

Last May, upon arrival to our flat in Rome, the owner went out of her way to make us feel at home, describing in detail each of the flat’s amenities. She was especially anxious to show us the terrace. With a view of the Colosseum, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument, it was easy to see why she couldn’t wait to show it to us.

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A Flat with a VIew*     *     *

When we returned from the terrace, she presented us with her own guide-book to Rome, paying particular attention to the flat’s locale. When we got to the page with her restaurant recommendations, the first on the list was a restaurant bearing my family’s surname. I thought it a coincidence — until we arrived there later that evening. The route looked so familiar, especially a long flight of stairs along the was very much like the one that had troubled Zia a dozen years before. Any lingering doubts I may have had vanished upon entering the establishment. This was, indeed, the same restaurant in which Zia and I dined and where I “discovered” garganelli. Surely, this was a sign that I should finally publish my garganelli post as soon as I returned to WordPress.

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Similar in shape to penne, garganelli are a tubular pasta that come from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy. With Bologna as its capital, Emilia-Romagna is known for its hearty meat sauces. (Pasta Bolognese, anyone?) Garganelli, like penne, is particularly well-suited for such sauces and its use has spread to other areas of Italy because of that. In fact, Abruzzo, a mountainous province just south of Marche, is known for its lamb ragu and very often garganelli is the pasta of choice. Lamb not your thing? Well, go north a bit and into Tuscany. There you’ll find they make a rich veal ragu and it, too, is used to dress garganelli. Before you start googling, I can save you the keystrokes and send you to  Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide, for a veal ragu recipe that’s about as authentic as you’ll find anywhere on the web. (Greg, by the way, introduced me the movie, “Big Night“, in which garganelli is handmade in preparation for the film’s climactic feast.)

Whereas it’s quite difficult to create perfect penne by hand, garganelli is very often handmade and has a “flap” where the pasta is joined to create the tube. Just like penne rigate, garganelli traditionally have ridges on each tube’s outer surface; the better to hold on to that rich tomato sauce. Now, you can search the web and you’ll find gadgets made just for putting ridges on your garganelli, but not me. Years ago, much to the amusement of Mom & Zia, I bought a gnocchi board that is used to put ridges on gnocchi. (In my defense, I needed a few more dollars in my order to qualify for free shipping and a gnocchi board was just the ticket.) As you’ll soon see below, and I was quick to point out to Zia, putting ridges on garganelli is yet another (of two) uses for this wonderful kitchen gadget. Now, don’t fret if you haven’t this nifty little gadget taking up space in a junk drawer. You can just as easily use the back of a fork, like you would when making gnocchi, or leave them smooth, like normal penne. No matter. Don’t let the absence of a few ridges cause you to miss out on this great tasting pasta!

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How To Make Garganelli

Begin by making a batch of Mom’s Pasta dough. That will give you 1.5 pounds (680 g) of dough. Roll the dough to a thickness of 6 or 7 on a pasta machine, where 1 is the widest setting. Pictures will tell the rest of the tale.

Note: I use a straight edge here because I could neither cut nor draw a straight line if my life depended upon doing so.

Use a straight edge to divide a dough sheet into 2 strips about 2 inches wide

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Use the straight edge to cut the strips into 2 inch squares

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Place a square on the gnocchi board and moisten the lower corner

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Use the dowel, begin with top corner, and roll the square to form a tube

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Create ridges by applying pressure while square is rolled to bottom of board

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My garganelli have ridges, thanks to my gnocchi board!

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A Gaggle of Garganelli

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Just One Thing More

Some of you have requested that I post photos from my trip and I’m in the process of getting them all identified and organized. As you may well imagine, I’ve literally dozens of photos shot during my recent holiday and I intend to share some of the more memorable ones. Unfortunately, several dozen were “lost” when I tried to upload them to my iPad and the Cloud. (Ironically, I was uploading the photos to insure I wouldn’t lose them should I encounter a problem with one of my flash memory cards.) As a result, I have only a few pictures of Bologna and San Marino. Luckily, the photos of my family were spared, as they were on another flash card and I discovered the problem before I attempted to “save” them. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Italy so that I can re-shoot those pics.

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Bologna proved to be a wonderful start for my holiday. It’s an old city and there are plenty of medieval structures still remaining. At one time, some 180 towers reached for the skies, though only about 20 remain today. Of those, the Two Towers, Due Torri, are the most famous and dominate the city’s skyline. Walking about the city, you can’t help but notice that many of its walkways are covered, with columns forming the street-side “wall”. They’re a photographer’s dream, so long as you don’t botch the memory card upload. (Sigh.)  As capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna offers the best foods of the district and, some would say, all of Italy. I certainly found no evidence to the contrary. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to return one day. I’ll be sure to stay longer, though, so that I can more fully explore the city.

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(Click to enlarge)

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

michigans bountyIt’s tart cherry season once again in my former home state of Michigan. Having a season of barely 3 weeks, now’s the time to head to the orchards and get your share. If you miss out, the best you’ll probably be able to do is to buy them canned or in jars. In the past, I’ve used them to bake pies and muffins, as well as to make jam. Click on each item to see its recipe.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Fried Sage PreviewFried Sage

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Be It Ever So Humble …

IMG_1018As bad as that photo might be — I should know better than to try to snap a shot through my windshield while driving 70 mph — its meaning is clear. I’m back home again after a wonderful visit with my Zia in Michigan. She loved hearing about my trip and many of my photos reminded her of our Italian holiday a dozen years ago. We both laughed — as did my siblings earlier — whenever I mentioned my Zia in San Marino. She really did keep me entertained and I cannot help but smile when I think of my stay with her and my cousins. I cannot wait to get back to San Marino but, next time, I’ll stay longer.

While in Michigan, Zia and I cooked up a storm, as we always do. As luck would have it, though, only one dish, roast duck, will make it to the blog. The recipes for the rest of what we ate — from homemade sausage to pasta e fagioli to risotto — have already been posted. I really have shared quite a bit of the Bartolini cookbook.

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Fetch!*     *     *

Though the weather was a bit cool, even for that part of Michigan, we did have one nice warm day and Max and I headed for the beach. That dog loves the water and playing fetch is a great way to burn off some of his excess energy.

Due to the severity of last Winter and the fact that all 5 of the Great Lakes were completely ice-covered, the water levels are the highest they’ve been in years. One report predicted that Lake Huron’s water level will rise at least 8 inches this year. This part of Lake Huron’s shore has a very gradual slope going into the water. You can walk 50 yards and the water isn’t even waist deep. With a slope so slight, a rise of only a few inches can really eat up the beach. The photo on the left (click to enlarge) is of the cement pier in Fall, 2012. The shoreline is about 25 feet beyond the pier’s end. (It’s interesting to note that, at one time, the water level was high enough to keep the pier top wet. At some point, each of us fell on it, slipping on its algae-covered surface.) The photo on the right is the pier’s end today, with the water’s edge just several feet beyond. Looking at the left photo again, the water now reaches up to the point where the reeds first started to grow. Inch by inch, the lake is reclaiming the beach.

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Pier 2*     *     *

Now for some unfinished business …

In my last post, I wrote that I’d sent an email to WordPress Support because I was no longer receiving a blogging friend’s posts. While I was in Europe, they “fixed” it and I no longer received notifications for all but a few posts. Sometime while I was in Michigan, the missing notifications started appearing in my Google mail spam mailbox. I’ve no idea what WordPress could have done to get all of them treated as spam within Google Mail. Some days later, the notifications started showing up in my inbox, just as they should. In the end, I’ve got almost 1800 messages in my Google spam mailbox and some 500 in my inbox. I know I’m still missing some of you and will have to seek you out. Oh! And the blog that I first wrote to WordPress about? It’s still missing. Go figure.

See you in a few weeks.

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Briefly …

Fontana 2

Bernini’s “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” (Fountain of the Four Rivers), with the “Obelisk of Domitian”, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

Yes, I’m back! Although it was wonderful revisiting Florence and Rome with my two good friends, the highpoint of my holiday was reconnecting with my family in the Republic of San Marino. They treated me royally, making sure that I saw all the sights, including a tour of the tiny country; the medieval castle that now serves as its government’s seat; a day on the beach at Riccione on the Adriatic; and a visit to the property that was once my family’s farm. I must say that it was quite an experience walking about places that I only knew from stories told to us by Dad. It was truly remarkable.

Thank you all that followed my trip’s progress on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Your “likes” and comments were all greatly appreciated. I’m not “back” yet, though, as I’m preparing to leave for a much-anticipated trip to visit Zia in Michigan. I hope to return to WordPress in July — if some problems can be resolved.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I notified Support that I was not receiving notifications of a blogging friend’s posts. I know this is a fairly common problem and had hoped I could pass along their resolution to any who needed it. Well, we traded a few emails, each of theirs requesting further clarification. Their final request was for a screen print, which I supplied. Aside from a “form” email asking me to rate their response, that was the last I’ve heard from them about the matter.

While I was away, the problem grew worse and now I am only receiving notifications of no more than 5 blogs that I follow. I have sent another email to Support and await their response. Since I’ll soon be in the Land that the Internet Forgot, there’s little I can do about the situation, no matter their response. I do hope this will be resolved before my planned return in July and will let you know of any progress, or lack thereof.

Thank you all for your understanding and I look forward to “seeing” you in July.

 

On the Road Again …

On the road again… Virtually speaking, at least for now.

My good friend, Judy, Savoring Today, recently underwent surgery and asked a few of us to write guest posts for her while she convalesces. How could anyone refuse? Not only is her fantastic blog filled with plenty of mouth-watering recipes, Judy is about as nice a person you’ll meet in the blogosphere. Of course I agreed to help out and scheduled a post about making garganelli at home. Well, events got in the way and, with an unexpected bounty of fresh ramps in my possession, I was suddenly creating ramps pesto and a post detailing the recipe. Being ramp season is so short, I substituted the pesto post for the garganelli. You can learn how to make this earthy pesto for yourself by heading over to Judy’s blog to read my recipe for Ramps Pesto.

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Ramps Pesto Preview *     *     *

One more thing. The Kitchens will remain closed for several weeks while I do a little touring. Consider this a belated 60th birthday gift to myself. You can learn a bit more of my upcoming travels over at Judy’s place.

Take care and I’ll see you soon.

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We’re Celebrating St. Joseph’s Feast Day with a Sicilian Strata

Oh, happy day! As some of you already know, today, March 19th, is the feast day of the Christ Child’s earthly Father, St. Joseph. Celebrated in towns and villages throughout Italy, the life of this humble carpenter is especially commemorated in Sicily, where it is believed his intercession saved the island’s inhabitants from a drought-induced famine during the Middle Ages. Today, in the States, his feast day is remembered wherever an Italian community calls home. Here in the Bartolini kitchens, we celebrate St. Joseph with music. In years past, we assembled a band and sang a song. All that’s left to do is dance.

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Since today we celebrate Sicily’s Patron Saint, why not feature a dish from that beautiful island? That’s a great idea, though I doubt that this dish is actually Sicilian in origin. Chances are it’s an American-Italian creation, if that. Well, at least half of its name is Italian, strata being derived from the Italian word for layer, strato.

As its name suggests, a strata consists of layers of ingredients and these are held together with a custard-type mixture. Strata come in many flavors. When Zia’s youngest Son’s family comes for a visit, ofttimes 3 of her Grandsons will work together to serve brunch. One mans the smoker while the other 2 bake a strata and prepare a few side dishes. They perform like a well-oiled machine and no one leaves that table hungry.

With a Sicilian strata, it’s all about the sausage, so, be sure to use your favorite Italian sausage, or homemade if you have it. You’ll find that today’s recipe is relatively benign but you can spice it up as much as you like. This can be easily accomplished by using “hot” Italian sausage, sautéing diced hot peppers with the vegetables, and/or seasoning the vegetables with red pepper flakes.

Your strata may be served hot or at room temperature, making it perfect brunch fare. Assemble it the night before and bake it anytime before your guests are seated at the table. Add a salad, some jam for bread/toast/bagels, perhaps some fruit, and brunch is served. Best of all, instead of being stuck in the kitchen playing short-order cook, you’ll be sipping Bloody Marys with your guests.

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Sicilian Strata 1*     *     *

Sicilian Strata Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage meat, from links or patties (See Notes)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 Spring onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, divided – Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted
  • 8 oz (225 g) ball of fresh mozzarella, grated, divided (See Notes)
  • 1 dozen cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced, divided (See Notes)
  • 9 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste (See Notes)
  • chopped parsley for garnish

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Sicilian Strata 2*     *     *

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan over med-high heat, sauté sausage meat until browned. Remove to a dish and reserve.
  2. In the same pan, sauté mushrooms until just about cooked through, about 5 minutes. If needed, add some additional olive oil.
  3. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and sauté until soft, another 5 minutes.
  4. Return sausage to the pan, mix, and heat through. Remove from heat and reserve.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until well-combined.
  6. Use oil spray, vegetable oil, or butter to lightly grease a large baking dish.
  7. Build the strata:
    1. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of bread slices.
    2. Sprinkle half of the sausage mixture over the bread.
    3. Add half of the tomatoes.
    4. Sprinkle half of the grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
    5. Finish this layer by adding half of the mozzarella cheese.
    6. Add another layer of sliced bread.
    7. Cover this layer with the remaining sausage mixture and tomatoes.
    8. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the top of the entire dish.
    9. Finish the strata by sprinkling the rest of the Pecorino Romano and mozzarella on top.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  10. Remove cover and bake in the center of the pre-heated oven until the eggs are set and the top is lightly browned, about 40 to 50 minutes. It should have a reading of no less than 165˚ F (74˚ C) on an instant-read thermometer. (See Notes)
  11. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before garnishing with parsley and cutting into squares for serving.

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Still not quite what you had in mind?

Then head on over to my blogging friend Nancy’s blog, Feasting with Friends. Just days ago she posted a recipe for a strata with Ham & Asparagus and it sounds delicious.

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Notes

Use whatever sausage you like, though Italian is suggested. It is a Sicilian strata, after all. I use our family sausage though you might prefer something a little sweeter or a bit more spicy. If using links, be sure to remove the sausage meat from the casings before cooking.

If using fresh mozzarella, it will be much easier to grate if you place it in your freezer for 30 to 45 minutes before grating.

As you may have seen in the photos, 8 oz of fresh mozzarella, when grated, will not result in enough mozzarella to completely cover each layer. Use more if that is what you prefer.

In Summer, I use a couple of “regular” tomatoes that I chop before adding to the strata. Being this is Winter, good tomatoes are practically impossible to find here, so, I use cherry or grape tomatoes that I slice in half. Use the best tomatoes you can, given the season.

The amount of salt you use will depend greatly upon the sausage and cheese you’ve chosen. Both can add quite a bit of salt to your strata.

Allowing the strata to come up to room temperature before baking will reduce baking time. As a precaution since you’re using raw egg, do not let the raw strata sit unrefrigerated for more than a half-hour, especially if you’ve a warm kitchen.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Bartolini Cannelloni 1Since we’re in a celebratory mood, I thought today’s blast from the past should take us back  to a recipe that was shared to commemorate a previous St. Joseph’s Feast Day. It was just about a year ago that I showed you all how to make Bartolini cannelloni, affectionately labeled a crown jewel of the Bartolini family recipe book. For a refresher course, all you need do is click HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Harissa Thighs 3Harissa Chicken

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Egg-Filled Ravioli

Uova da Raviolo

Ravioli-7

Although my family made plenty of ravioli, only two filling recipes were prepared, one for ravioli served in tomato sauce and the other for cappelletti served in soup. I’ve been told that Mom and Zia experimented with cheese-filled ravioli but were never satisfied with them and gave up trying after a few attempts. Then, a few years ago, after having mastered the recipe for Bartolini sausage, I used it to fill ravioli and I was off and running. Since then, I’ve made a number different fillings, most dependent upon what was fresh and in-season at the time. Never, though, did I make today’s recipe, Egg-Filled Ravioli, Uova da Raviolo.

Last year, my blogging friend, Sarah, prepared these delectable ravioli using chicken eggs. Though she no longer maintains her blog, the memory of that dish stayed with me and I decided to surprise Zia with the dish. Since my family never made ravioli large enough to encompass the yolk of a chicken egg, I thought that if I used quail eggs, the ravioli would be much smaller and more in line with my family’s traditions. Well, when I went to buy the quail eggs in September before my trip home for honey, the vendor at the farmers market didn’t have any. My plans would have to wait until my next trip. In the meantime, my friend Celi posted her delicious recipe for these extraordinary ravioli and, not long after, my friend Eva posted her “delightful” recipe. Luckily, Zia saw neither post so my plans remained secret. Weeks later, before my last trip home, I went to the vendor to buy the quail eggs. Not only did the vendor remember me, she gave me 2 packs of eggs for the price of one. Already into November and with her birthday to come in a few weeks, my surprise dinner became Zia’s birthday dinner, with these ravioli as primo piatto.

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Uova da Raviolo, served

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In the past, I’ve mentioned that Mom loved Swiss chard (silverbeet), even managing to secure a small piece of Grandpa’s prized garden to grow some. Although our ravioli recipes normally use spinach in the filling, I substituted chard as a means of bringing Mom to Zia’s birthday dinner. The substitution worked so well that Zia mentioned she may use chard the next time she makes ravioli.

Now, when you look at the recipe, you’ll undoubtedly notice that there are few, if any, ingredient amounts listed. The fact that I didn’t have a proper scale is part of the reason but certainly not the sole cause. The proportion of the ingredients will rely upon the amount of chard that you have and your own tastes. Once the chard is cooked and readied for use, add the Pecorino Romano cheese and then enough ricotta until it tastes and looks like you prefer. At this point, there are no raw eggs in the filling, so, you can taste it without fear of becoming ill. Just remember the filling should be stiff enough to support an egg’s yolk.

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ETA

Since this was published, my good blogging friend, Minnie of The Lady 8 Home, posted an entry using scissors to open quail eggs. If you’re interested in making these ravioli, be sure to check out Minnie’s post.

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Ravioli Filling Ingredients*     *     *

Uova da Raviolo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough — recipe to be found HERE
  • 1 dozen quail eggs — you’d be wise to purchase a few extra (See Notes)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ricotta cheese — recipe to be found HERE
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • ground nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt & pepper
  • butter

Directions

Prepare pasta dough, set aside to rest, and make the filling.

to make the filling

  1. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a sauté pan over med-high heat. Add the Swiss chard, season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sauté until cooked. Allow to cool, place in a clean kitchen towel, and wring out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. To your food processor, add the cooked chard, ricotta cheese, and a handful of Pecorino Romano cheese. Process until smooth. Set aside.

to make the ravioli

  1. Place a strip of thinly rolled dough on a lightly floured work surface. (See Notes.)
  2. Most machines create strips that are 6 inches wide. Place a tbsp of filling, at about 3 inch intervals, in a straight line about 2 inches from the strip’s edge.
  3. Use a spoon to indent each tbsp of filling, creating a nest.
  4. Carefully break each quail egg, separate the yolk, and place one yolk in each filling nest.
  5. Use a pastry brush to lightly moisten the opposing side of the pasta strip.
  6. Carefully cover the nests with the moistened side of the pasta strip. Use a glass or biscuit cutter to seal and cut each raviolo.
  7. If air is trapped in a raviolo, use a toothpick to pierce the underside, being careful not to damage the enclosed yolk. Gently squeeze the trapped air out of the raviolo.
  8. Place ravioli on a lightly floured, wax paper covered baking sheet. Cover the ravioli with a clean kitchen towel. Ravioli should be cooked as soon as possible. Keep refrigerated until ready for use.

to cook and serve

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Add the ravioli and when the boil returns, lower the heat and gently cook the ravioli for about 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt a few tbsp of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  4. Use a spider strainer to remove the ravioli, placing them in the sauté pan with the melted butter.
  5. Gently toss the ravioli until all are well-coated with butter.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Variations

Although I served the ravioli dressed with melted butter, they may also be served with a sage-brown butter sauce or a fine extra virgin olive oil. Just be sure to garnish the dish with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Notes

The pasta should be rolled very thin. The thicker the pasta, the longer it will take to cook the ravioli and you’ll run the risk of over-cooking the eggs. The yolks should be runny and not at all hard.

I had planned to serve these ravioli with a sage-brown butter sauce. When it came time to prepare the sauce, however, the sage went missing. With dinner already started and the nearest supply of fresh sage some 30 miles away, I decided it really wasn’t all that necessary and used butter and cheese to dress the pasta. As luck would have it, I was back here in Chicago when Zia came across the sage in her fridge, right where I’d left it.

These were served as a primo piatto. Frankly, there aren’t enough hours in a day to make enough of these ravioli for a main course. I had intended to make 6 per serving but, some time and a number of broken yolks later, I decided that 5 per serving would be plenty.

Quail eggshells are remarkably strong and the inner membrane is even more durable. Together, they make it difficult to break each egg and get to the yolk without it breaking. Buy more quail eggs than needed to allow for the inevitable loss of a yolk or two or three or …

Chances are, once you’ve made your ravioli, you’re going to have some pasta dough left over. Don’t throw it away but follow Mom’s example. She used the scraps to make quadretti pasta, which she kept sealed in an airtight container, adding to it every time she made pasta. These little pasta squares were added to broth and made a great meal. Click HERE to see step-by-step instructions for making quadretti pasta.

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Tutto Fatto

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

In the old two-flat, it wouldn’t be Christmas if there wasn’t a platter of ravioli on the table. WIth today’s post sharing a new ravioli recipe, I thought today we’d also look back to the original Bartolini Ravioli Filling recipe, as well as the instructional post demonstrating how to use a ravioli form to make the pasta pillows. You can see each post by clicking on the caption under each photo below.

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Filling Recipe for Bartolini Ravioli

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How to use a Dye/Mold to Make Ravioli

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Turkey Risotto Preview

Turkey Risotto

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What I Did During My Fall Vacation

On the Road

I’m back from what was, for the most part, another wonderful visit with my Zia. We cooked, we talked, we talked about cooking, and, as one might expect, I’ve a few recipes to share in the weeks to come.

First, having located the surprisingly illusive 1 lb. octopus, I revisited the recipe posted a couple of weeks ago and prepared “Polipo in Umido“, Stewed Octopus. Although I won’t create a new post for the recipe, I’ve added the recipe to the end of this post and have added a link to the original post. I will not include the recipe for the bread I baked that afternoon simply because I evidently failed to bookmark the webpage’s address.

RIccetteOn another night, I reached into the box of Bartolini pastas that our ever-so-thoughtful friend, Lidia, had sent us, and prepared a Pasta alla Verdure, Pasta with Vegetables. It’s a delicious vegetarian dish — if you’re willing to overlook the guanciale that was rendered in the first step.

Since I’ll be unable to visit Zia for her birthday at the end of this month, I prepared a birthday dinner for the two of us. Our primo piatto was L’Uova da Ravioli, Egg-Filled Ravioli.  Our secondo was Osso Bucco, Braised Veal Shanks, while our dessert was a Pear Tarte Tartain. I do not plan on sharing the tart recipe for it wasn’t my finest hour. Knowing that a number of you had recently posted recipes, I attempted to find one of them but the 10 minute/post load time wore me out, so I sought help from the Almighty, the one and only Martha Stewart. Her recipe produced a tasty dessert but my “flip” was a matter of great disappointment and resulted in a presentation that was anything but “a good thing.” So, we took off our eyeglasses and enjoyed it immensely.

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One thing you may not know about my Zia is that she enjoys a bit of jam every now and Strawberry-Cranberry Jamagain. Well, recently, our good friend BAM, of Bam’s Kitchen fame, shared her recipe for Bammer’s Jammers. Made with cranberries, strawberries, and ginger, this quick jam is delicious. The mix of tart and sweet is a winning combination, if ever there was one, and Zia loved it. Be sure to check out her recipe and, while you’re there, have a look around BAM’s blog. Guaranteed, it will be time well-spent. And a big “Thank You!” to BAM for the recipe.

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Unfortunately, all was not good food and talk during my visit. While I was with Zia, we received word that my Dad’s remaining Brother, Uncle Leo, “Zio Leo”, passed away in a suburb of Detroit. Zia and I travelled to the wake later that week. You may recall that the Apple Cake recipe that I shared 2 weeks ago belonged to his Wife, my Aunt Mary, “Zia Mariolla”.  He was a kind, wonderful man, as was Dad’s other Brother, Uncle Dominic, “Zio Mingo”, who passed away just 5 weeks earlier in his home in San Marino. Both men will be missed terribly. May they rest in peace.

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I hope to resume posting recipes next week. I live in a two-flat and the back porches and stairwell needed repair and a fresh coat of paint. I soon learned that, though repairs could be performed, our building codes have changed recently. It would be best to replace it all now, rather than in a couple years. As I type, workers are removing the old structure, just beyond the wall behind me. Max, thankfully, is in doggy daycare for the day — but he’ll be here tomorrow. Admittedly, this is nowhere near the scope of the construction projects some of you have endured over the past few months. Even so, there are foundations to be dug, cement to be poured, and a structure to be built, with a couple of inspections along the way. Whether I post the Green Tomato Relish recipe next week will depend on how the re-build progresses and Max’s reaction to seeing workers in his yard.

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Stewed Octopus Recipe

(Polipo in Umido) 

Ingredients

  • 1 one pound (500 g) octopus
  • reserved blanching water
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 large can, 28 oz (800 g), whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1 small can, 14 oz (400 g) whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp fresh)
  • 3 to 4 oz dry white wine
  • fresh, crusty bread for serving

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Polipo in Umido

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Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, bring to boil enough water to cover the trimmed octopus. Add the octopus and allow to simmer for 2 minutes after the pot returns to the boil. (Small octopi should boil for 1 minute. Larger should be allowed to boil closer to 2 minutes.) Remove the octopus and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and reserve. Reserve the blanching liquid, too. (See Notes) (Refer to Strangozzi post for further details on prepping the octopus.)
  2. Place the blanching liquid back into the sauce pan and, over med-high heat, reduce it by half.
  3. Over med-high heat, add olive oil in a medium sauce pan.
  4. Add red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper before sautéing until the onion is translucent and garlic fragrant — about 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, wine, and marjoram, stir to combine. Bring to a boil before reducing to a soft simmer.
  6. After the sauce has thickened and darkened a bit — about 30 minutes — add the chopped octopus and reduced blanching liquid before continuing the simmer.
  7. Taste a piece of octopus after another 15 minutes to test for doneness and to check the seasoning. If necessary, continue to simmer another 5 minutes before tasting again.
  8. Serve immediately, accompanied with crusty bread. Alternately, some prefer to ladle the octopus over a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl.
  9. Like all mildly flavored seafood dishes, grated cheese is not recommended for it will overpower the dish.

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Notes

As mentioned above, more complete instructions for cleaning and chopping the octopus may be found HERE, the only difference being the size of the chopped pieces of octopus. For an in umido preparation, we prefer the pieces to be from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.5 to 5 cm). That means the octopus you buy should be about 1 lb. in weight. Anything less will require a smaller chop and, in our estimation, won’t be as suitable for an in umido preparation.

The idea for reserving and reducing the blanching liquid came from a suggestion from our blogging buddy, Stefan. It worked like a charm, adding additional flavor to the sauce. Thanks, Stefan! You can find out what other good things Stefan has to offer by visiting his fantastic blog, Stefan’s Gourmet Blog.

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