I’m Back and the Kitchens are Open!

The Gift

My little hiatus lasted far longer than I had expected but it has finally ended. When last I wrote, I mentioned that I had 2 projects to complete, one a bit of remodeling and, the second a secret endeavor. Well, the secret project was far more involved than I had anticipated and a couple of physical mishaps caused further postponement of the remodeling. (I will get that done!)

Now that it’s complete, I can tell you all about the secret project. I’m very happy to announce that I’ve written a cookbook of our family recipes and stories. Zia has asked me repeatedly to write this book and, well, with almost all of the family recipes now recorded, I couldn’t refuse her any longer. With a great deal of cooperation from my family, this project has remained a secret and she only just learned about the book days ago, when I gave her the first copy.

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Blog Cookbook Page

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Paper Trail 3To say that I underestimated the task at hand is to put it quite mildly. It was through trial and error — with every trial ending in error and then another trial — that I finally settled upon a self-publishing company affiliated with Amazon. (Thank you, Eva!) Then, after a few rewrites, a couple reformats, and plenty of editing, the book is finally ready for release. Yay!

Much like this blog, the cookbook is a compilation of my family’s recipes and stories of life in that old two-flat. I’ve included a few recipes that have yet to be shared here, as well as some as-yet unpublished family photos. There’s even a little something just for you, my ever-faithful WordPress family. I’ve included a game “Dove è Garibaldi?”, “Where is Garibaldi?”, and I’ll make no further mention of it anywhere but right here in this post. Hidden within the book’s pages is an image of Giuseppe Garibaldi, “the George Washington of Italy”, and Grandpa’s personal hero. Can you find him? Now, don’t get discouraged if you can’t. Within the book, I’ve also included a clue pointing to Garibaldi’s whereabouts. When you do find him, however, please NO SPOILERS!

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No, not here. In the cookbook!

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Affiliation with Amazon does come with advantages, mainly that it may be purchased on Amazon here in the US and in Europe. Shipping charges will be assessed at the time of purchase, just like any Amazon purchase. If you live in an area outside of Amazon’s reach, an eStore has been created where you can purchase directly from the company. You will need to create an account, however, in order to purchase anything from the eStore. Each book is made-to-order and should be shipped within days of being purchased. Its arrival will depend upon the shipping priority you select at time of purchase.

There’s no need to bookmark this post for future reference. I’ve created a page — look for “Cookbook” directly beneath the header photo — which includes everything presented here, as well as pricing information for each point of purchase.

Since I will have nothing personally to do with your orders or shipping, please accept my thanks now to those of you who purchase a copy.

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Next Wednesday, as promised, I’ll be sharing a recipe for New York-style cheesecake. See you then!

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NYC Cheesecake Preview

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Happy Birthday – Zia


It’s our dear Zia’s birthday and Sheila, our good friend Celi’s star pig, had a party in Zia’s honor. Do take the link to read — and see — all about it.

Buon compleanno, Bella!

Originally posted on thekitchensgarden:

One of the Fellowship has a birthday today. We call her Zia. She is the Master Memory behind her nephew’s blog From The Bartolini Kitchens.  Their food is amazing. Her nephew Chicago John gave his Aunt a most unusual Birthday present.  Feeding Sheila for the day.  Zia’s birthday day. So all day today Sheila is having a birthday party for Zia.  And she is going to get as fat as a pig.  Sheila not Zia.  I made them both a carrot cake.  But only Sheila gets to eat it. Though I am sure she would share it with Zia is asked nicely.

Happy Birthday Zia. (Zia is 90 something,  but I  am not at liberty to tell you the ‘something’ as she looks ridiculously young for her age and no-one would believe it anyway.)




pig and cake6





And because your todays are my yesterdays. Sheila posed for Zia’s photo shoot yesterday for today’s blog…

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Happy Halloween!

The Kitchens Wish You All




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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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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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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) 


  • 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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  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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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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