A Souvenir from Florence: Fried Sage

Salvia Fritti

Fried Sage 2I’m usually not one to bring home many souvenirs from my trips abroad. There were exceptions, of course, but these days I’m more prone to bring home recipes or ideas for enhancing my own. Last week’s garganelli post was one such souvenir. This past trip was no exception.

Just like here now, Italy was at the end of the Spring pea season when we arrived. Still, though, I was served a number of dishes in which fresh peas were an ingredient. Whereas I cook peas fully whenever I add them to pasta, these were served relatively al dente. The result was a much fresher tasting pea, giving the pasta that Primavera flavor. Since returning home, I’ve been buying fresh peas every week and doing little more than heating them before serving. Try it next time you make pasta with peas and let me know what you think.

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On our first night together in Florence, we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The menu offered an antipasto called “Salvia Fritti”. We knew that it was fried sage but that didn’t seem like anything special. After all, we’ve all used fried sage leaves for a garnish. When asked, the waiter explained that the sage leaves were used to enclose anchovies before being dipped in batter and fried. Get outta here! I immediately placed my order, as did my fellow anchovy lover sitting across from me. His wife chose something else; a decision she would soon regret.

This dish was just incredible. It was so good that the next night, when we discovered our preferred restaurant was unexpectedly closed, we high-tailed it over to the previous night’s restaurant to enjoy another round of fried sage.

Salvia Fritti

The restaurant version

Happy to get a table and eager to taste these delightful treats, we could hardly wait to place 3 orders for Salvia Fritii. That’s when it happened. Our waiter told us that they had just served the last of the tasty delicacies. The 3 of us gasped so loudly that the restaurant’s other diners must have thought we had just received terrible news. Well, in fact we had. To be sure, we enjoyed our dinner but, all the while, we knew that we wouldn’t be served salvia fritti again during our holiday. That’s when I decided to make them at home. So, I asked the waiter how they were made and, this trip, along with a change in my pea cooking ways, I brought home today’s recipe for fried sage.

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This is such an easy recipe that It’s hardly worth its own post and if it weren’t for the photos I’ll be sharing, I would have combined this dish with another. You see, to make this dish, all you need do is place some anchovies between 2 sage leaves and coat them with batter before deep frying until golden brown. The only thing to consider is the thickness of the batter. As you can see in the photo, we were served sage that was coated with a thick batter. My batter, however, was a bit thinner and, therefore, crisper after frying. The choice is yours. If you’re unsure, start with a thicker batter, fry a couple, sample, and then adjust with more sparkling water, if needed. Don’t worry about the sampling. Just like when cooking bacon, sampling is to be expected.

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Fried Sage 1*     *     *

Fried Sage Recipe

Ingredients

  • Large fresh sage leaves
  • anchovies (see Notes)
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 corn starch (see Notes)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • sparkling/carbonated water
  • olive oil or a substitute for frying

Directions

  1. Prepare the batter:
    • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
    • Add the egg and then the water, whisking until a smooth batter results.
    • Set aside until needed.
  2. Pre-heat frying oil to 350˚ F (180˚ C).
  3. Pair the sage leaves according to size.
  4. Place anchovy fillet(s) in-between the 2 paired leaves. Use the palm of your hand to press the leaves together.
  5. Dip the sage “packets” into the batter and gently shake off the excess before placing in the hot oil. Repeat for the other packets though be careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  6. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning each over once in the process.
  7. Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt. If working in batches, keep warm in a pre-heated 200˚ F (95˚ C) oven.
  8. Serve immediately.

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Salted AnchoviesSalt-packed anchovies, anyone?

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Notes

Anchovies are the biggest concern for this recipe. If you can find fresh, by all means use them. They will give this dish the best flavor possible. If, like me, you cannot find fresh anchovies — and believe me I’ve tried — your next best option is salt-packed anchovies. Though not the same as fresh, they are a very good second choice. Just be sure to rinse them very well before using. Whether you use fresh or salt-packed anchovies, be sure to clean them, removing the head if necessary, and to check for and remove the spine. If unable to find fresh or salt-packed anchovies, by all means use tins of anchovies packed in olive oil. The bottom line is that you really have to taste anchovies sandwiched between sage leaves, battered, and fried. It’s a simple as that.

You’ll notice I used cornstarch in my batter. I find that it makes things more crisp, Omit it if you disagree.

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What if you don’t like sage?

Fried AnchoviesWell, not very long ago, a group of us went to a restaurant owned by a winner of America’s Top Chef. While there, we were served deep-fried anchovies. Can I get a “YUM!”? That dish is recreated here, using the same batter that was used for the sage. Just batter the fillets and fry them. Be sure to make extra, though. The kitchen elves love them and tend to snack on a few during the cooking process.

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Now, on to the Republic of San Marino

After a far too brief stay in Bologna, I rented a car and drove to Rimini before turning towards the Apennines and the Republic of San Marino. Founded in 301 CE and only 24 sq mi (64 km2), San Marino lays claim to being the world’s oldest republic. {In comparison, Chicago is 228 sq mi (591 km2).} The city of San Marino is located atop Mount Titan, Monte Titano, offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and, to the East, Rimini and the Adriatic Coast. I truly regret losing those photos but feel very lucky that the most valuable ones, those of my family, were saved

San Marino

San Marino’s Municipalities,                             I Castelli del San Marino,                             (Source: Wikipedia)

As small as it is, the country is divided into 9 districts called castelli, castles, including the city and capital, San Marino. My Zia lives in the municipality called Domagnono and our family owned a farm in the Castello di Montegiardino. Don’t let what appears to be relatively short distances between the locales fool you. The country sits atop the Apennines and the terrain is hilly, at best. My cousins, and especially my Zia, were fearless behind the wheels of their cars, day or night. I, on the other hand, white knuckled it on the way into — or was it “up to”? — and out of — “down from”? — the Republic. (Have I mentioned my fear of heights?) They all did their best to show me all the country’s sites, as well as those places having special meaning for my family. We even managed to spend an afternoon at the beach, having dinner with my cousin and her family at their beach-front restaurant in the coastal village of Riccione, a suburb of Rimini.

Before I knew it, I was packing up the car and driving to Florence. (Unbeknownst to my family, the flat owners were already calling me for an estimated arrival time.) I did promise them all, however, that I would be returning, hopefully with a sibling or two in tow. Guaranteed, it won’t take another 40 years to do it!

Here, then, are a few of the photos from this leg of the journey. Forgive the poor quality but these are quite literally some of the only photos of the countryside that I have.

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

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The government occupies part of the old fortress atop Monte Titano, and there’s a walk that will take you up along the old wall to the tower, giving you spectacular views of the countryside. Along with the castle, you’ll also find a church and a museum on the mountaintop, while much of the surrounding area is devoted to the tourist trade. At one time, collectors the World-over flocked to San Marino to purchase the Republic’s postage stamps. With the advent of email and social media, however, the stamp market and its tourist industry have fallen on hard times. Looking around town — and ignoring the fantastic views — there’s not much to distinguish this tourist area from dozens around the globe except for one thing: the incline. These photos do not do it justice and I cannot imagine making my way around town when the streets are snow-covered in Winter.

By the way, see those 2 beige awnings in the lower left of the photo on the right? That was once a leather goods shop that my Zia and Zio owned and operated. When they retired, the hotel bought the space and, after some renovations, it now serves as the hotel’s main entrance.

S. Marino Tourist Area*     *     *

During WW2, as the Allies worked their way up the Italian peninsula, the people of the region took refuge in the area’s railroad tunnels that had been dug through the mountains. Here is one such tunnel in which a couple thousand people lived, along with their farm animals for months until the War had moved further North and they could safely return home. Midway through, this tunnel has a large opening, providing the people back then some much-needed fresh air, and today, a beautiful view to Rimini and the Adriatic coast.

Tunnel and View*     *     *

Now for a bit of family history. Towards the end of San Marino’s participation in WW2, an Italian pilot was shot down over my Grandparents’ farm. They gave him shelter in a pit they dug under a large word pile. (I was taught that it was under a chicken coop.) Using a rope, my Nonna would lower food and drink to him through a hole, at about 1:00 AM every night, until it was safe for him to come out of hiding — well over a month later. This picture shows what was once part of my family’s farmland. In the distance, on the left, is a white building. Before it is where the wood pile once was.

Zio's HideawayI bet you’re wondering what happened to the pilot. After the War, he stayed on at the farm and later married my Dad’s Sister. They eventually immigrated to New York City, where they raised their 3 children.

Next stop: Florence

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

couscous 2They sure took their time getting here but Summer temperatures have finally arrived. For me that means my stove and oven are used less as the temps rise. Today we’ll look back to a no-cook salad that has couscous as its base. Whether you serve it for a light lunch or tasty side, you won’t be disappointed. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Spaghetti alla ChitaraSpaghetti alla Chitarra all’Amatriciana

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Roasted Mackerel with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Scombro Arrostito con Patate e Pomodori

Mackerel ServedI’m back and the Kitchens are open! Thank you all for the birthday and well-wishes. I had a wonderful birthday and, though there’s more to come, I’ll leave that reveal for a later date. As for my much neglected projects, though not all are done, I’ve made good progress and am very pleased.

Some of you may be interested to learn that I’ve added a “Translation” page to the blog. You can find it listed above, between the “Home” and “Welcome” pages, or, if you’re on my blog’s homepage, there’s a translate button on the right. Click on either link and you’ll go to a page that will offer you a translation of my blog in your choice of 52 languages. Note that less than perfect results my be returned, especially when colloquialisms and slang are encountered, as is the case with most universal-type translators. Considering that I am barely fluent in English, I’ve no way of knowing whether an individual translator is working properly. Should you find that a particular language isn’t translated clearly, please let me know and, if need be, I’ll remove that translator from the list.

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Today’s recipe is another that resulted from a walk around the Italian market. My walk started at the fish counter, as it always does, where the monger pointed out his “very fresh” mackerel. That’s code for “buy it” and I did without a second thought. While he cleaned my fish, I walked over to the produce area and bought some potatoes and tomatoes. A few minutes later, having grabbed some olive salad and herbs, my dinner for that night was all set. Unfortunately, I still had a full shopping list to buy but a fresh mackerel is one impulse buy that I don’t mind purchasing.

This dish couldn’t be easier to prepare. Stick some potatoes on a baking sheet, roast them for a spell, add some vegetables, put the fish on top, and bake until done. In the meantime, prepare a salad, slice some bread, and open a bottle of wine — if you haven’t already. Not many dinners are easier to prepare than this one.

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Raw Mackerel*     *     *

Roasted Mackerel with Potatoes and Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) mackerel, cleaned and scaled
  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) new potatoes, halved or quartered for uniform size
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 lb (455 g) cherry tomatoes
  • 6 oz (170 g) olive salad (misc olives, carrots, celery, peperoncini), roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste

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M - Veggies 2*     *     *

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450˚ F (230˚ C).
  2. Place potatoes and onions in a large bowl, sprinkle with olive oil, and gently mix till evenly coated.
  3. Place on baking sheet, season with salt & pepper, and roast on center rack in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile place tomatoes and olive salad into same bowl used for potatoes and onions. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
  5. Place rosemary and thyme into the fish’s cavity.
  6. After 20 minutes, reduce oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Remove potatoes from oven, stir, and add tomatoes & olive salad to the tray. Place mackerel on top of vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and place in oven.
  7. Roast until fish is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish. When done, fish flesh should flake and be opaque when cut.

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Baked Mackerel *     *     *

Notes

I had originally intended to use lain olives in this recipe but that marinated olive salad looked too good to pass up. You may prefer to use just the olives or, for that matter, neither option.

I like my tomatoes to be a little firm when served. If you like them cooked more fully, add them to the roasting pan earlier.

I’ve prepared this dish using one, two, or three dressed mackerel. Although the preparation is the same, cooking times may vary and will usually be a few minutes less for the smaller fish.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Nonna2

Mine wasn’t the only birthday celebrated at the end of last month. My Cousin shared her birthday, the 26th, with our dear Nonna. Although we all have wonderful memories of her, one of my most favorite involves her in the kitchen — imagine that! — preparing me something very special. The dish was tripe, trippa, and you can learn how to prepare and serve it, as well as a little bit about this dear woman, by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Quail PreviewStewed Quail

Linguine with Seafood in Parchment

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartoccio

Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - 1

Yes, everyone, it’s Christmas Eve and, as many of you who’ve been with me for at least one Christmas already know, it’s a night of great anticipation and luscious seafood for many of us Italians. In fact, more than a few households will celebrate tonight with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In the past, I shared a rather tongue-in-cheek story of the origins of this Feast but, instead of sending you there, I thought I’d reprint it for you here. What’s this? You already know the tale? Well, just skip the paragraph that follows and head straight to the video. That should keep you occupied until the others catch up. So, here is one version of how the Feast of the Seven Fishes came about …

Prior to the changes brought by Vatican Council II in the 1960′s, Christmas Eve was a “fast & abstain” day, meaning only 1 main meal could be consumed and no meat was to be eaten all day. For most Catholics around the World, it was a day of contemplation and that one meal was nothing special. With Christmas coming within hours, all eyes — and appetites — were focused on the big day — and dinner — soon to come. Not so the Italians.  If tomorrow’s a big holiday and today you can only have one meal, why not make that meal special? And so they did. Can’t have any meat? No problem. With Italy being both peninsula and island, fish was very often more readily available than many meat products. And so it became a seafood banquet. Wait a minute! The Church may frown upon so grand a celebration on the eve of the birth of the Christ Child. Again, no problem. They made a point of serving seven fish, each one representing one of the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Faith. In one masterstroke, their seafood feast became an Act of Faith. What priest, bishop, or even Pope would dare interfere with these devout Catholics as they used the day’s only meal to commemorate the Seven Sacraments? (The fact that the clergy themselves were probably dining on an even more spectacular seafood supper didn’t hurt “the cause” either.) And so the Feast of the Seven Fishes was born and survives to this day wherever Italians call home.

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OK then. Is everybody here? Let’s continue …

I first saw this dish prepared almost 20 years ago. An Italian chef, Nick Stellino, hosted a cooking show on PBS. That one episode not only showed me how to cook seafood pasta, Pasta dei Frutti di Mare, but it introduced me to the wonders of using parchment paper to envelope a dish. Since then, although I’ve made this dish a few times, I’ve made seafood pasta often and baked fish and/or vegetables in parchment or foil even more frequently.

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Now, this one dish will give you 5 of the 7 fish needed for your feast. Please resist the urge to go for broke and add 2 more fish to the pot. All that will do is muddle the flavors or, worse yet depending on the seafood chosen, completely overpower the others. If you’re looking for suggestions, how about oysters on a half-shell, a nice octopus salad, a small salad with seared tuna, or a bit of baccalà salad. (A serving of baccalà in some fashion being the overwhelming choice of many Italian families.) Still not happy? Then do what I once did. Late one Christmas Eve afternoon, I was among the horde in a grocery store when I realized I was 2 fish shy of the required 7 for my own little feast. Not willing to spend any more time in the store while I weighed options, I went to the sushi counter and picked up a spicy tuna roll, before heading to the deli section to get a jar of pickled herring.  Fish are fish, after all.

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Speaking for my Zia and the rest of the Bartolini Clan,

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

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Frutti di Mare - Crudo

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Linguine with Seafood in Parchment Recipe

yield: 3 servings (See Notes)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb (225 g) fresh linguine, spaghetti, or tagliatelle — dried pasta may be substituted
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated, divided
  • 4 tbsp chopped parsley, divided
  • 2 tbsp basil, chopped
  • 1 small can (14.5 oz; 400 g) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c white wine, divided
  • 1/2 cup clam juice or shrimp stock (see Notes)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp if fresh)
  • 6 mussels, (see Notes)
  • 6 cherry-stone or manila clams, (see Notes)
  • 6 scallops, cut in half (see Notes)
  • 9 shrimp (see Notes)
  • 3 calamari (see Notes)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • chopped parsley and basil for garnish

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(Click any photo to enlarge)

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Directions

  1. At least 30 minutes before you are to begin preparing the sauce, place the clams in a bowl filled with cold water. Change the water at least once and be sure to brush the clam shells before cooking them.
  2. Prepare a simple tomato sauce:
    1. Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a small sauce pan over med-heat. Once hot, add the onion, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsp of parsley, stir, and continue to sauté for another minute or so.
    3. Add 1/4 c wine, the tomatoes, 1 tbsp basil, season with marjoram, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil before lowering heat to a simmer.
    4. Allow to simmer until sauce has deepened in color and thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
    5. Put aside 1/2 cup for the recipe and reserve the rest for another day.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C).
  4. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until 2 minutes before the package indicates it will be al dente. (See Notes)
  5. In a large, deep fry pan with a lid, add remaining olive oil over med-high heat. Add remaining oil, garlic, and parsley to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add the clams and mussels, cover the pan, and sauté for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the squid, shrimp, scallops, clam juice, tomato sauce, and the remaining basil and wine to the pan. Cover, increase the heat to high, and boil the ingredients for about 2 more minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, remove the seafood from the pan, and place in a covered bowl. Reduce the sauce by half,
  8. By now, the pasta should be drained. Add it to the boiling sauce, stir to evenly coat, and sauté for a minute.
  9. Add the reserved seafood to the pan, mix, and heat till warmed throughout. At this point, discard any shellfish that have yet to open.
  10. Meanwhile, take a large piece of parchment paper — or aluminum foil — fold in half and place on a large serving platter.
  11. When the seafood and pasta are ready, place them along the fold of the parchment paper. Garnish with parsley and basil. Working quickly, use interlocking folds to join the top and bottom halves of the parchment paper. (See Notes)
  12. Alternately:
    1. Use separate sheets of folded parchment paper, one per serving.
    2. Split the pasta and seafood evenly among the sheets. Garnish with parsley and basil. Fold each, as indicated in Step 11 above.
  13. Place the parchment packet(s) on a baking sheet and place in the middle of a pre-heated oven.
  14. Bake for 5 minutes and remove to a large serving platter or individual plates. Do not pierce the parchment until at the table.
  15. Serve immediately and watch as your dinner guests open their parchment presents and get a whiff of that steam. This is why you go through the trouble of putting seafood pasta in parchment.
  16. Do not serve with grated cheese for it will overpower rather than enhance most of the dish’s seafood components.

Inspired by Nick Stellino, “Cucina Amore”, Pasta al Cartoccio di Mare

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Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - 2

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Notes

To store the fresh seafood

If you are to prepare this on Christmas Eve, the last place you want to be that afternoon is standing in line at the fishmonger. Fresh seafood will easily keep in your fridge for 24 hours if treated properly. I would not recommend storing beyond 24 hours.

  • Remove the clams and mussels from their packaging and place in a colander. Cover with damp — not sopping wet — paper towels. Place the colander in a bowl in which some ice as been set. Do not use so much ice that it will immerse any of the colander’s contents when it melts or the mollusks may drown. Place the bowl with colander into your refrigerator until needed.
  • Leave the shrimp, squid, and mussels in their packaging and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not freeze.

To prepare the seafood:

  • The Clams: At least 30 minutes before they are to be used in the recipe, place in a bowl of cold water and soak. (Some believe adding a couple tbsp of corn meal to the water will cause the clams to eliminate any sediment.) Change the water at least once before the clams are needed. Just before use, scrub clean the shells with a small brush. Discard any that are open and that won’t close on their own power.
  • The Mussels: Before use, remove the beard (a thread mass on one side) and use a brush to clean the shells. Discard any that are open and that won’t close on their own power.
  • The Shrimp: remove the shell including the tail section, if desired. Save the shells to be used to make shrimp stock. Use a sharp paring knife to slit the top of each shrimp. This will reveal a dark-colored vein that should be removed.
  • The Scallops: these may be sold with a muscle attached to one side. It is about an inch long and /14 inch wide. This should be removed as it is tough and unpalatable.
  • The Squid: Use a sharp knife to cut each tube, creating rings that are a half-inch wide. If using the tentacles, cut them in half or quarters.

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Homemade Linguine Cut Two Ways

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You may find it easier to enclose your seafood in aluminum foil rather than parchment paper. The choice is yours to make.

Do not forget — as I did — to add a garnish of parsley and basil to each packet just before you seal them. Their presence adds to the aroma upon tearing the parchment.

Timing is everything with this dish. The seafood cannot be kept waiting for the pasta to be cooked lest it become tough and rubbery. If you feel that you cannot properly time the dishes together, go ahead and cook the pasta so that it finishes within a few minutes of starting the sauce. Pasta should be cooked about 2 minutes shy of al dente, as indicated on the package’s instructions. Drain the pasta, return it to the now-empty pot, coat very lightly with olive oil, and cover until needed.

You needn’t be an origami expert to fold and seal the parchment packets. That’s why the gods gave us staplers and don’t be afraid to use one.

As written, this recipe will give you 3 nice servings. If you wish, it will yield 4 primo piatto-sized servings, though you may want to adjust the amounts of seafood used.

The keen-eyed among you may have noticed that there seemed to be more seafood in the photos than was required by the recipe. You’d be correct. I usually buy a couple extra clams and mussels to account for any that may be spoiled and must be discarded. Not knowing that I had already done so, the fishmonger added a couple more, for the same reason. When I joked that the scallops looked “bad”, he agreed and added another 2 scallops to their previously weighed container. He then added 2 shrimp and another squid to their respective containers. This is how you earn life-long customers.

If you like, you can skip the parchment packets altogether and use this recipe to prepare a very good frutti di mare pasta. To do so, follow the recipe but cook the pasta for another minute before draining. Place the drained pasta into the sauce, as before, but cook it for only a minute before adding the seafood. Stir to combine, heat everything through, and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped parsley and basil.

This dish does not make good leftovers. None of the seafood will re-heat well at all. Try to prepare just enough to ensure your dinner guests are satisfied without having anything left on the serving platter.

As you may have noticed, I used a pastry brush to lightly coat the sealed parchment before placing it in the oven. There was no discernible effect to the parchment paper by doing this. Perhaps it’s because the oven temp was relatively low and the packet was in the oven so briefly. Whatever the reason, I won’t do it again for this recipe and excluded it from the recipe’s directions.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Zuppa Inglese - 1No series looking back at my family’s traditional Christmas dishes would be complete without including our recipe for Zuppa Inglesi. This highly anticipated dessert consisted of lady fingers that were “lightly flavored” with alcohol before being covered in lemon-flavored custard. There’s even an alcohol-free version so that no one seated at the table need go without. You can take a look at the recipe for this family favorite just by clicking HERE.

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Coming New Year’s Eve to a monitor near you …

Two Cellos and a Cherry

Booze

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Roasted Arctic Char with Fennel, Onions, and Potatoes

Salmerino Alpino Arrostito con Finocchio, Cipolle, e Patate

Arctic Char 1

I think the fishmongers have learned my shopping habits and display their “wares” accordingly. Oh, I enter the store with a list in-hand but, unlike for most, my list is merely the starting point. I need to walk around the store before the real buying begins — and that’s where my fishmongers enter the picture. Knowing that I will come their way, they never fail to have something on display that is sure to catch my eye, and then they simply reel me in. One week it might be a collection of the smallest and sweetest of clams. Another time, it could be merluzzo so fresh I expect them to flap around in the display case. Not so surprisingly, last week, after writing that I was on a mission to find a 1 lb. octopus, I saw the octopus of my dreams perched atop its smaller, inferior brethren and I swear one of its arms motioned for me to come over and have a look. Coincidence? I think not.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that when I walked up to the counter recently, there, in the center of the display, where only the week before rested snow-white fillets of cod, was today’s arctic char. With flesh more red than salmon (see Notes), these fillets were farm-raised, most likely in tanks on land. (Thank you, Seafood Watch.) Of course, I bought a nice fillet, just like the fishmonger knew I would.

Stepping away from the counter, I realized I didn’t know what to do with my purchase. My only experience with the fish, if you can call it that, was to watch it prepared on “Iron Chef.” The one thing I did know for certain was that I should cook it that night. What’s the point of buying fresh fish if it’s going to sit in the fridge or, worse yet, the freezer, waiting to be called into duty? Moments later with phone in-hand, I googled “arctic char recipes” and, lo and behold, one of the search results was a recipe from Seafood Watch. That is the dish I’m sharing today, with a couple of modifications to suit my tastes.

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Ingredients

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Roasted Arctic Char with Fennel, Onions, and Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (340 g) arctic char fillet
  • 1 large bulb of fennel, sliced thick
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thick
  • 12 new/fingerling potatoes, halved and quartered to make them equally sized
  • 1 orange, juice and zest, divided
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper
  • fennel fronds, chopped
  • orange slices, garnish

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Veg Cooked

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Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450˚ F (235˚ C). Place 1 oven rack in the upper third of the oven, and, another rack in the lower third.
  2. Place potatoes in a baking dish, season with salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Stir to evenly coat. Place on upper rack in the pre-heated oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Place fennel and onion into a bowl. Add half of the orange zest, the rest of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix to evenly coat the ingredients.
  4. Lightly oil and season both sides of the arctic char. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  5. After 20 minutes, add the fennel and onion to the potatoes and stir to combine. Return to oven for 15 minutes.
  6. After 15 minutes, place the baking sheet with the arctic char on the lower rack of the oven. Stir the roasting vegetables and return to the oven’s top shelf. Continue to roast for another 10 to 12 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish fillet. The fillet is cooked when the flesh flakes easily and is opaque in the center, not translucent.
  7. Meanwhile, place remaining orange zest, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and brown sugar into a small sauce pan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and reduce sauce to the consistency you desire.
  8. When fish is cooked, remove to a plate and serve with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle sauce over both fish and vegetables and garnish with a sprinkling of fennel fronds. Place orange slices on the plate, the juice of which may be squeezed on the fillet.

Inspired by a recipe found on the Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch site.

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Roasted Arctic Char 2

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Notes

As mentioned, the flesh of arctic char can be more red than salmon — usually indicating the fish has been farm-raised — but it can be a lighter hue, as well. It is said to taste like a cross between salmon and trout, and not quite as strong as salmon. For this reason, some may feel it tastes a bit more like trout. As a general rule, prepare arctic char as you would salmon and you will not be disappointed.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium created and maintains the Seafood Watch site and App. The App is free and can be loaded into your Apple or Android smart phone and tablet. It is meant to encourage us, the consumers, to purchase seafood that is “fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment.” The App rates seafood as “Best Choice” and “Good Alternatives”, as well those which we should “Avoid.”  Whether at the market or in a restaurant, I use the App to guide my seafood purchases. Unfortunately, Seafood Watch only covers the United States and Hawaii, though there may be a similar App for your corner of the World.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Homemade dog jerky

Recently, “hits” on my dog jerky post have soared and it has become this blog’s most popular post for each day since dog treats came back into the news. Once again, something in store-bought jerky treats is causing dogs to become ill and far too many have died. (TIME: The FDA has No Idea Why Jerky Treats Are Killing Hundreds of Dogs.) Every dog that I have owned has loved these treats but they are hardly worth the risk, especially when it is so easy to make jerky at home. Before you buy another bag of jerky for your dog, please click HERE to see how easy — and inexpensive — it is to make your own beef & chicken jerky for your pupster.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Apple Cake Preview

Aunt Mary’s Apple Cake

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This Recipe has Legs: Strangozzi Pasta with Octopus

Strangozzi al Polipi

Recentlyour good friend Tanya, of Chica Andaluza fame, shared a recipe for Carpaccio of Octopus. (Do check out that recipe and, while you’re at it, take a few minutes to explore the rest of her fantastic blog.) I’d not thought about octopus in years and that post reminded me that my family once cooked octopus, polipo. I spoke to Zia about it and we decided to prepare it the next time I visited her. That visit took place last month and, with Monday having been Columbus Day, I thought octopus would make a fine way to commemorate his voyage across the Atlantic. After all, there were those that believed his ships would be sunk by a giant octopus long before they fell off the edge of the Earth.

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Strangozzi al Polipi

Strangozzi al Polipi

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It’s been quite some time since an octopus was given the place of honor at a Bartolini dinner — more than half a century, but who’s counting? We really have no reason for it not being served since then. The dish is delicious, reminiscent of calamari in umido, and it isn’t at all difficult to prepare. No matter. The dish was prepared by my family at one time and thereby has earned a page on this blog.

Back in the day, we would have prepared the octopus in umido, which in this case means stewed in a tomato sauce. Served in bowls with a chunk of good, crusty bread, the dish is delicious and, in some homes, is one of the dishes on the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Originally, I had planned to prepare today’s recipe in umido until reality intervened.

As of now, I know of only one place to buy octopus and that’s at my Italian market. Unfortunately, they only sell very small or very large octopi and each poses a problem for us. When you cook something in umido, it is best that the protein be in large pieces. This is not a soup but a stew, after all, and the pieces should reflect that. Well, the small octopi are so small that it would take 4 to equal a pound (450 g). When chopped, the

Octopus over Polenta

Octopus over Polenta

pieces are far too small for in umido presentation. In fact, Zia and I attempted to serve them over polenta and, though tasty, all but a few pieces were too small even for that. On the other end of the spectrum, the market sells frozen octopi that are 4 and 5 lbs. apiece. Though that would be wonderful to prepare for a Bartolini family dinner, an octopus that size is far too large for a meal for Zia and I. So, although we had to change the dish to suit the circumstances, the search is on now for an octopus weighing 1 pound. When I find one, I’ll either create a separate Polipo in Umido post or amend this one to include that recipe. Bear in mind, though, that the ingredients used in the in umido recipe are the same as those used here for this sauce. Differences, if there are any, will be in the amounts listed. I’ll only be sure of that once I find an octopus in the right size.

Since we couldn’t serve the octopus as we had originally intended, in umido, Zia and I served it over polenta. As I mentioned earlier, that dish didn’t quite work as well as we Bartolini Strangozzi Pastathought it would. Again the octopus pieces needed to be larger. Once home, I bought 3 more small octopi and decided to serve them over pasta. As luck would have it, a few weeks earlier my blogging friend, Lidia, had noticed something while shopping and sent her discovery to me. (Not only does she share the name of one of my favorite chefs, Lidia has a wonderful blog, Oh Lidia, and I hope you take time to have a look.) You can imagine my surprise when I opened the carton and found 3 pastas manufactured by a company called “Bartolini”. I can’t think of a better pasta to serve with this old family recipe than one that shares our family name. So, of the 3 sent, I chose to prepare strangozzi.

In an earlier post, I demonstrated how to make strozzapreti pasta and gave an account of how it got its name. (See It’s déjà vu all over again … ) Strozzapreti, you see, means priest choker and one legend states that this pasta was so delicious that priests choked when eating it for the first time. What does this have to do with strangozzi? Well, it is thought that the word strangozzi is derived from the Italian word for shoelaces, stringhe, yet this pasta has come to mean priest stranglers. Huh?  Stay with me. Centuries ago, in Umbria, the clergy was not looked upon kindly by the villagers. Legend says that they chased down the worst of the clergy and those that were caught were strangled with their shoelaces. These long pasta ribbons are thought to resemble those shoelaces. Death by shoelace immortalized in pasta. Ya gotta love it!

In reality, strangozzi are about the size of what we would call linguine, the only difference being in their thickness. Our linguine are cut from thin pasta sheets; strangozzi is cut from sheets twice as thick. The result is a hearty pasta that is perfect for heavier or meat-based sauces.

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Before beginning the recipe, the octopus must be cleaned and readied. The head is actually a hood and the contents of its interior need to be removed. It is easy enough to do and you can slice its side to make it even easier. Next, the eyes must be removed. Make a small slice on either side of each eye, creating a small wedge. Remove each wedge and the eye with it. Since these octopi were so small, I sliced the octopus just above both eyes and again below, creating a ring. I then cut the eyes off of the ring. One last thing to be removed is the beak. Turning the octopus upside-down, you’ll notice a small whole at the center of the 8 legs. With your fingers, carefully feel the beak and note its size. With a sharp knife, cut around the beak and remove. Now that it’s cleaned, cut the legs section in half, creating 2 parts with 4 legs apiece. Cut those pieces in half again, and then again. In the end, you will have separated all 8 legs. Do not chop them but leave them whole and proceed with the recipe.

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Click to see any/all photos enlarged.

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Strangozzi Pasta with Octopus Recipe

Ingredients

  • octopus (See Notes)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 large can, 28 oz (800 g), whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp fresh)
  • 3 to 4 oz dry white wine
  • 1 lb  (450 g) cooked Strangozzi pasta — or whatever pasta you prefer — cooked al dente
  • reserved pasta water

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, bring to boil enough water to cover the octopus. Add the octopus and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes after the pot returns to the boil. Small octopus 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. Once cooled, see Notes for chopping considerations.
  2. Over med-high heat, add olive oil in a medium sauce pan.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wine, and marjoram, stir to combine. Bring to a boil before reducing to a soft simmer.
  5. After the sauce has thickened and darkened a bit — about 30 minutes — add the chopped octopus and continue to simmer.
  6. If using small octopi, it should be finished cooking in about 20 minutes. Taste a piece after 15 minutes to test for doneness and to check the seasoning. If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water. (See Notes)
  7. Meanwhile, the pasta should have been cooked al dente and strained. Be sure to reserve some of the pasta water.
  8. In a large bowl or serving platter, combine the octopus sauce with the cooked pasta and mix. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  9. Serve immediately.
  10. Like all mildly flavored seafood pastas, grated cheese is not recommended for it will overpower the dish.

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Notes

The dish will determine the size of the pieces when chopping the octopus.

  • For pasta dishes, I would suggest chopping small octopi into pieces about 3/4 inches (2 cm). These pieces will shrink a little during cooking and will be easily managed no matter what pasta you choose.
  • For in umido, a larger octopus should be used and, when chopped, the pieces should be larger. Ultimately, the size will depend upon how comfortable you are dealing with the pieces while eating. Even so, I would suggest that all pieces be no less than an inch (2.5 cm) long. (Since this recipe was posted, I did find and prepare a 1 lb. octopus in umido. You can see that recipe by clicking HERE.)

No matter the preparation or the size of the pieces, do try to keep them all the same size. Doing so will ensure that all the octopus is evenly cooked.

Understandably, the larger the octopus, the longer it should simmer in the tomato sauce. A small octopus should take 15 to 20 minutes, as was stated in the recipe above. Larger octopi will take up to 30 minutes, maybe more. Be careful not to overcook lest the octopus become rubbery. If in doubt, taste a piece to see if it is cooked to your liking.

For reasons unknown to me, we’ve always discarded the water used to blanch the octopus. Even though the octopus is in it only briefly, the water does darken in color.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Strozzapreti with Pesto

Strozzapreti with Pesto

With all of this talk of strangling priests, it’s only logical that today’s look back would be to the strozzapreti post. Not only will you learn how to make the pasta by hand, you’ll also learn how a few of the common pastas got their names. All this can be yours just by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Damson Plum Jam Preview

Damson Plum Jam

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Salted Cod Salad

Insalata del Baccalà For some, the timing of today’s post may seem rather odd. A salted cod salad is very often served in Italian households as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve — but not in our house. We Bartolini prepared this salad virtually any time throughout the year except during the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we served our salted cod stewed in tomato sauce, baccalà in umido. Frankly, I prefer it this way, with a stew served in Winter and a salad served in the warmer months.

This is the third recipe I’ve shared that features salted cod. The first, Baccalà alla Marchigiana, is the stew that we served on Christmas Eve. In the second post, the cod was barbecued, although the same preparation could be used to bake the fish. Today’s recipe is a salad and a snap to make, once you’ve re-hydrated and rinsed the cod.

Briefly, in the days long before refrigeration, cod was dried and salted as a means of preservation. To make it suitable for cooking, the cod must be soaked in cold water for at least one day and no more than three. During that time, the water should be changed three times daily. The longer the soak, the less salty the taste. It is up to you to decide what level of salinity is acceptable.

With the cod re-hydrated, the dish, like most green salads, is really quite simple to prepare. Though the ingredients may have varied from one salad to the next, we always dressed our salad with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil. You, like many, may prefer to use lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Even so, with absolutely no cooking involved, you can easily see how this salad would make a perfect meal during Summer’s dog days.

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Salted Cod Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1lb (455 g) of baccalà (See Variations)
  • pickled bell peppers, chopped (See Notes)
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • red onion chopped
  • nonpareil capers, rinsed
  • Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red wine vinegar — lemon juice may be substituted
  • salt & pepper, to taste

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Directions

  1. To ready the baccalà: Place the fish in an oblong glass dish or pan. Add enough water to cover, dump the water, and repeat a few times. Add enough water to cover and set aside. Change the water 3 times daily for at least 1 day and no more than 3. When ready, the cod will be considerably thicker than when your started and will taste far less salty. (See Notes)
  2. Remove any bones and skin before proceeding,
  3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the re-hydrated baccalà into chunks from 3 to 4 inches apiece.
  5. When the water is boiling hard, add the baccalà and, when the water returns to the boil, reduce the heat to a soft simmer.
  6. Simmer until the baccalà can be easily flaked, usually about 5 to 8 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove the baccalà from the water and set aside.
  8. Once cool, carefully flake baccalà and place in another bowl.
  9. To that bowl, add the peppers, celery, onion, capers, olives, and parsley. Gently toss the ingredients until combined.
  10. Add enough of the olive oil to lightly coat the salad, followed by the vinegar/lemon juice to taste. Season with pepper but be sure to taste before adding any salt.
  11. If not to be served immediately, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to do so.

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Variations

This recipe used raw salted cod, baccalà, to make the salad. The salad could also be made using left-over baked, broiled, or grilled baccalà, as well. When using left-over cod, there’s no need to boil or cut it up into chunks. Skip those steps and start flaking the pieces.

You can vary the salad ingredients to suit your own tastes. Carrots, shallots, garlic, etc., can be added or used to substitute for any of the ingredients listed.

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Notes

You’ll note that I used bell peppers twice in this recipe. The first were miniatures, “Tulip Bells”, that I pickled last August. They added color and a vinegar element. The yellow bell was added for both color and crunch. Neither pepper brings any heat to the salad. If you like, you can add cherry bomb peppers, jalapeños, or Serranos, raw or pickled, to kick up the heat.

One sure way to know whether the baccalà is ready to be cooked is to taste a very small piece of it, once it seems fully hydrated. If it is still too salty, keep soaking the fish until it reaches the level of salinity that you prefer, bearing in mind that it will be boiled once it passes your inspection.

Do not add any salt to the dish until the very end.

This salad will keep for 2 days if refrigerated, though we’ve rarely had left-overs.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Today’s post featured a recipe tailor-made for Summer’s hottest days, when we’re all loathe to turn on the stove. The same can be said for today’s blast from the past. Two years ago I shared a recipe for a couscous salad that requires not one bit of cooking. Just put the ingredients in a bowl, give them a toss, and set your salad in the fridge while you sip Long Island iced tea on the patio. A few hours later you’ll have a tasty salad for lunch or dinner without ever touching a pot or pan. You can see how it’s prepared by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pickles

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Baked Haddock

Eglefini al Forno

Today’s recipe once again calls upon my family’s breading mixture to keep the fish fillet moist as it adds flavor to the dish. There really is no need for me to explain the breading much more than that for fear of boring you to tears. And I wish I had a great story to tell about haddock but, the truth is, I had originally planned to use baccalà for this post. Then I saw fresh haddock on sale and, well, that piece of salted cod will be used to make a fine salad.

Haddock is a popular fish on both sides of the Atlantic. Having once been over-fished, its numbers have increased and it is now considered a success story here in the US. In our Northeast, specifically the Boston area, young haddock may also be called scrod. That’s a bit of a misnomer, however, because that name is used for both young cod and young haddock. Needless to say, haddock is very similar to cod in both taste and texture, with haddock having a slightly stronger flavor. Like cod, it flakes when cooked so be careful if you try to grill haddock. If you do, it’s probably best to use a grilling basket.

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As I’ve mentioned in other posts, this breading mixture is used in a number of the Bartolini dishes. To be honest, I never realized how many until I started documenting my family’s recipes. Depending upon its use, it can be more/less moist and with/out lemon juice. Combine bread crumbs, diced garlic, chopped fresh parsley, and salt & pepper in a bowl. In this case, I used the juice of a half-lemon and then enough olive oil to moisten the mixture but not to the point that it’s sopping wet. How much of each ingredient you need will depend upon how many fillets there are to cook and whether you’ve plans for the excess breading. (See Notes.) Under normal circumstances, you’ll want enough breading to adequately cover each fillet, as well as to form a thin layer underneath each piece of fish so that there’s little chance of it sticking while baking. And what if you make too much? Spread it on the baking dish/sheet and roast it along with the fish. Excess breading can be frozen for later use with pasta.

Once the fillets have been breaded and placed on a baking sheet, place them in the center of a pre-heated 375˚ (190˚ C) oven. Your fish should be ready in about 15 minutes, maybe 20 depending upon the thickness of the pieces.  Haddock fillets will be opaque white and flake easily when fully cooked, very much like cod. Remove the baked fillets to a serving dish, garnish will lemons slices, and serve. In the photo, the haddock was accompanied by sautéed artichokes.

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Notes

Normally, my family would only put a small amount of bread crumbs under the fish to prevent the fillets from sticking while baking. Here I placed the haddock on a bed that was about 1/3 inch (.85 cm) thick because I had use for those bread crumbs. Once the fish was removed to a serving platter, I used the now-roasted bread crumbs left on the baking sheet to garnish a side dish of pasta aglio e olio instead of cheese.

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An Update

I telephoned a 5th company today to inquire about getting the vine removed. Within an hour, they were here and removed the vine within the next hour. They will be back to haul it away at the end of the week. The only real damage sustained was to a single rosebush but it is early enough in the season that it should recover without a problem. Thank you all for your concern and well-wishes.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Though the weather may not be cooperating, it is definitely grilling season here in the US & Canada. If you’re at all like me, a burger just isn’t a burger if there aren’t pickles on top. Now, as much as I love a good kosher dill, for my burgers and sandwiches, I crave Bread & Butter pickles. Easier to make than you might think, my original recipe didn’t require canning and the pickles were stored in the refrigerator. I’ve since added instructions for canning them. Either way, I think you’ll agree that a few of these tasty slices is the only way to top a burger. Click HERE to learn how to make these great tasting pickles.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

“Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN”

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Broiled Halibut with Mushrooms

Halibut alla griglia con funghi

Broiled Halibut

With the arrival of Easter on Sunday, today’s post will mark the end of the series of seafood dishes. And what a good one to end with: Broiled Halibut!

Some may be surprised to learn that halibut is what’s called a “flatfish”, meaning that it has evolved into one that lives on the ocean floor. Think flounder or sole, only very much larger. Like most flatfish, at birth halibut fry appear and swim like the young of other fish. Around 6 months of age, however, one of its eyes begins to migrate to the other side of the fish. As it does, the fish goes from being left and right-sided to having a top and bottom-side. The top-side (the side with both eyes) develops a gray color while the bottom-side (the side that rests on the ocean floor) becomes white. As is so often the case with seafood today, halibut is in trouble in some areas. Look for Alaskan, wild caught, and do not buy Pacific halibut caught with gill nets nor Atlantic halibut caught through bottom trawling. If your fishmonger doesn’t know how or where his halibut is caught, it’s a sign to buy seafood that you know to be sustainable. My experience has been that fishmongers are proud to tell you when their stock is sustainable and harvested correctly.

Halibut flesh is not oily, as was the swordfish of a few weeks ago. The flesh is every bit as firm as was the swordfish and stands up to grilling very well. And if a fish fillet works well on the grill, it will do very well under the broiler, too. Halibut has a good, clean taste that I very much like. As such, I prefer not to do anything to prepare it — no marinades, for example — other than salt, pepper, and olive oil. When preparing the mushroom accompaniment, I chose 2 that were delicately flavored and shiitake, which has a bit of a smoky taste. The idea is for the flavors to co-exist and not for any one to obliterate the others.

Broiling is a wonderful way to prepare meats and seafood, though one should probably learn how to use one’s broiler with something other than an expensive halibut fillet. When I broil a fish fillet, I’ll use a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil that has been lightly coated with olive oil or butter, depending upon the recipe. My oven’s first rack’s setting is about 5 inches beneath the heat source, perfect for broiling fish. Remember that the distance away from the heating element and thickness of the fillet(s) will affect cooking times, so, be sure to keep an eye on any kind of fish you put under your broiler. I’ve included more guidelines for broiling within the recipe, as well as how to test your fillet(s) for doneness.

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Broiled Halibut with Mushroom Recipe

Ingredients

  • Halibut steak(s)
  • Olive oil
  • salt & pepper

for the mushrooms

Maitake (t -l), Oyster ( t - r), Shiitake (bottom)

Maitake (t -l), Oyster ( t – r), Shiitake (bottom)

  • 12 oz assorted mushrooms, sliced (used here: Maitake (hen of the woods), Oyster, and Shiitake)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

for the mushrooms

  1. Clean and slice the mushrooms (see Notes), chop the herbs & shallots.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over med-high heat.
  3. Add the shallots and sauté until they soften, about a minute.
  4. Add the mushrooms, lower the heat to medium, and continue sautéing for another 7 or 8 minutes, stirring often. Mushrooms will be ready when they have given up their liquids and darkened in color.
  5. Add the wine, increase the heat to med-high, and sauté until wine has all but evaporated.
  6. Add the herbs and stir to combine.
  7. 1 minute later, remove from heat, add parsley, stir throughly, and serve.

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for the halibut

  1. Lightly brush the fillet(s) with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  2. Place fillet on a lightly greased baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Pre-heat broiler for 15 minutes. Place an oven rack about 5 inches from the heat source.
  4. Place fillet(s) directly under the heat source and broil from 7 to 9 minutes. If more than 1 fillet is being broiled, turn the baking sheet midway through the broiling.
    1. To test if this or any fish is cooked: use a metal skewer or sharp knife to pierce the fillet at its thickest point. Keep it there for several seconds. Remove it and use it to touch the inside of your wrist or the area beneath your lips. If cold, the fish isn’t cooked. If warm, the fish is cooked rare. If hot, the fish is done. If very hot, the fish is over-done.
  5. Serve immediately, using the mushrooms as an accompaniment.

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Variations

These mushrooms  can be served with any number of dishes. I use white wine when serving mushrooms with seafood, pork, and poultry, but red wine for beef and then I’ll use crimini mushrooms rather than the more delicate tasting funghi. And though I don’t use garlic when serving this with seafood, I will add it for other dishes. You can easily alter this recipe to suit your own tastes.

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Notes

Do not use water to clean these mushrooms. Use a damp paper or kitchen towel to gently wipe them.

The stems of Shiitake are tough and inedible. They should be cut off.  The same may be said of the base of Maitake mushrooms. Some believe the base of Oyster mushrooms to be edible. I find them to be a little tough and trim them away, as well. Earlier I mentioned that you should save the mushroom bits and pieces. Why toss them when you can easily use them to make stock? Once I trimmed and sliced the mushrooms used in today’s recipe, I was left with about 4 oz (114 g) of stems and woody parts. These were roughly chopped and placed into a medium saucepan, along with an onion, a celery stalk, a carrot, a couple of parsley stems, a sprig of thyme, and a bay leaf but no salt nor pepper. I added a quart of water, brought it to a boil, and then reduced it to a simmer. Since I had relatively few stems, I wanted to concentrate the flavors, so, I left the cover  off of the sauce pan while it simmered and reduced. Had there been more mushroom parts, I would have covered the pan for there would not have been as great a need to reduce the stock. In any event, after an hour, I had 12 oz (355 ml) of stock headed for the freezer. I’ll use it the next time I make risotto, soup, a gravy or sauce.  And there’ll be no need to worry about its salt content ruining my dish.

If leftover, mushrooms cooked like this are worth their weight in gold. Use them for an omelet the next morning or to top off your burger for lunch. Yes, you can always use them to accompany your next supper’s protein but — and perhaps best of all — you could reheat them with a little more oil and some red pepper flakes. Add your favorite pasta and you’ve got a fantastic dinner, ready in minutes.

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It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Cavatappi with TunaEaster is right around the corner and today’s Blast from the Past features a dish that graced our table any number of Fridays, both in and out of Lent. Our Tomato Sauce with Tuna is a simple tomato sauce with tuna as its protein. It’s easy enough to prepare and doesn’t require a long simmer, unlike its meaty cousins. If you’re at all curious, you can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

This is the First Way

Bourbon & Coke Soused Ham, Two Ways

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Grilled Swordfish with Salsa Verde

Pesce Spada alla Griglia con Salsa Verde

Broiled Swordfish

As Lent continues, so does our fishing trip. Today’s catch is swordfish, a large fish that can be found primarily in the coastal waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. A favorite of cooks everywhere, its firm, relatively oily flesh is most often cut into steaks and is considered perfect for grilling. Well, considering my recent (highly unusual) successes on the grill, I’d little choice but to put away the broiler pan and return to the barbecue one more time.

Now, though I may continue to grill throughout the Winter, there’s nothing complicated in what I do, for it’s too cold for fancy schmancy. Instead, it’s Grilling 101. Heat the grates. Go back in the house. Clean the grates. Go back in the house. Oil the grates. Put the fish on the grates. Go back in the house. Flip the fish after a specified amount of time. Go back in the house. Remove, rest, and serve – in the house.  The only prep work for the fish involves seasoning the fillets with salt and pepper and lightly brushing them with oil. No, it doesn’t get much easier than this. And, to be honest, preparing the salsa verde, green sauce, isn’t much more difficult, as you’ll soon see.

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Raw Swordfish with Salsa Verde

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Green sauce, in one form or another, is common to countries in Europe and the Americas. Easy to prepare, with ingredients common to each area, this sauce can be used as a dip, condiment, and/or accompaniment for meat and fish dishes. Even so, the green sauce you find in Frankfurt, Grüne Soße, is quite different from that which you’d be served in Mexico, salsa verde. In Italy, there is no one salsa verde recipe. It varies from district to district, town to town, and probably house to house. So, when you look at my salsa verde recipe, use it as a guide. If you don’t like anchovies, drop them but be sure to add a bit of salt to make up for the change. Want a little mint? Swap some of the parsley for it. Just keep in mind that Italian salsa verde is meant to be a relatively simple sauce. Try not to get too exotic with the ingredient list. And no matter what recipe you follow, be sure to let your salsa rest at least an hour — hopefully 2 — before serving, giving the flavors a chance to blend and mellow.

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Grilled Swordfish with Salsa Verde Recipes

Ingredients

  • swordfish steaks
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon wedges

Salsa Verde

  • 2 cups fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 2 – 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pepper, to taste

Directions

for the salsa verde

  1. Place parsley, capers, anchovies, shallot, and lemon juice (or vinegar) into a food processor and run, forming a paste.
  2. Scrape the bowl’s sides and resume processing for a couple more minutes.
  3. While the processor is running, pour the olive oil in a slow stream into the bowl. Continue until well-mixed.
  4. Taste before seasoning with pepper.
  5. Cover and set aside. Refrigerate if not needed for hours, though, best when served at room temperature.

for the swordfish

  1. Start grill. Will require a med-high heat.
  2. When grill is ready, thoroughly clean the grilling surface before using a towel soaked in vegetable oil to coat the grill plates.
  3. Lightly coat fish with vegetable oil, season with salt & pepper, and place on grilling surface. Do not move or disturb once placed on the grill.
  4. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for a few minutes.
  5. Place swordfish filets on a serving platter and serve with salsa verde accompaniment

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Grilled Swordfish

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Notes 

Please note that the recipe for salsa verde requires 2 cups of chopped parsley and not 2 cups of parsley that you chop. Make that mistake and you’ll have one runny batch of salsa. Now, should your salsa be too thin for your tastes, there’s no reason to panic. You can always add more chopped parsley to the food processor and try to correct the problem. In Italy, some recipes call for a slice or 2 of bread to thicken the salsa. Having tried both over the years, I’ve come up with Option 3. Pour the salsa through a fine-mesh sieve, draining as much liquid as you wish. Once the salsa has been allowed to rest, taste it and correct the seasoning as required.  Believe me, that’s the easiest way around the problem and doesn’t involve a run to the grocery to buy more parsley.

Variations

This salsa verde is the one that I use when serving fish. When seafood isn’t on the menu, I’ll make a few changes, resulting in a salsa that’s a better fit for the protein being served. Instead of the lemon juice and zest, I’ll add 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar. I’ll, also, chop 2 cloves of garlic in place of the shallot. Whether you follow my suggestions, with just a few substitutions you can create a salsa verde to go with any dish.

So, maybe you’re thinking that as much as you like swordfish, this salsa verde thing just isn’t for you. Not to worry. The Bartolini kitchens aim to please. Perhaps you’d be happier with a different cuisine. Might I suggest taking a trip to a kitchen located on the other side of the World? This Hong Kong kitchen is run by a blogging buddy, BAM, who recently shared a GF recipe for swordfish cooked in the Thai style. Believe me, this is one recipe and post you don’t want to miss.

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It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

A couple of weeks ago, I sent you to Naples for a peek at my Pasta Puttanesca recipe. This week, we’ll head to Sicily for a look at my recipe for Pasta alla Norma, another of Southern Italy’s great dishes. This meatless pasta features chopped eggplant and is garnished with ricotta salata, a firmer, saltier version of the creamy ricotta that we all know and love. If you’re interested, you can see the recipe by clicking HERE. 

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Cannelloni

Bartolini Cannelloni

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Next week we’ll be taking a break from our fishing trip in honor of the pending St. Joseph’s Feast Day. 

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Grilled Salted Cod

Baccalà alla Griglia

Grilled Salted Cod

Today’s post is the 3rd straight recipe involving seafood of some sort — and we’ve 4 more to go. For today’s dish, we return to the grill but this time, after some discussion, a grill basket is used.   You see, fresh from my success with the grilled sturgeon, I wanted to try grilling salted cod, baccalà, directly on the grill plates. What could go wrong? Well, when I spoke with Zia about my plan, not only did she mention what could go wrong but she also pointed out that we Bartolini always grilled baccalà lightly breaded and in a basket.  How could I fight that kind of logic? This is, after all, a place for documenting our family’s recipes. So, moments later, she was explaining how baccalà was grilled in the Old Days and I was wondering where I’d put my grill basket. You needn’t worry, however, if you’re a fan of grill marks on you fish. We’ll return to the grill next week, when swordfish is on the menu.

With the grilling method out-of-the-way, let’s briefly recap baccalà and its preparation. For centuries, cod was caught, cleaned, and dried primarily in Scandinavia before distribution across Europe. If the cod is salted and then air-dried, it’s called salted cod, baccalà in Italy. If the cod is hung and air-dried, it is called stock fish, stoccafisso in Italy. (In Italy, all stoccafisso is cod but that’s not necessarily the case elsewhere.) Before either form of cod can be prepared, each must be re-hydrated and, if necessary, rinsed free of salt. To do so, place the cod in a flat baking dish, deep enough to hold enough water to completely submerge the entire fish. Keep the cod in the water for at least 12 hours but no more than 2 days. Replace the water 3 times daily. You can speed up the process a bit by letting a slow, steady stream of water flow into the dish but not on to the cod or you might damage the fillet. You’ll know the fish is ready by the way it looks, feels, and smells.

Once the cod is ready, remove it from the water and place it on (paper) towels while you make the marinade. You do not want to allow the cod to completely dry out but do remove the surface moisture. In a small mixing bowl, add about 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs; 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley; 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary; 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (grated or diced); 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil; and pepper to taste. (Salt should not be needed and ingredient amounts may vary depending upon the size of the fillet.) Return the cod to the now-dry baking dish and cover with the marinade, coating it evenly on all sides. This is not a “true” breading, so, there’s no need to completely cover the fish. Use plastic wrap to cover the dish and set aside for a couple of hours. It may be necessary to refrigerate the cod, depending upon your kitchen’s temperature.

Pre-heat the grill when you’re ready to cook your cod. Clean the grilling basket and oil it liberally just prior to placing the cod in its center. Once secured, lay the basket on the grill and sprinkle a bit of olive oil over the fillet’s top side and close the grill’s lid. Lower the heat to med-high. Depending upon your grill’s temperature, how the basket rests on the grill plates, and the thickness of the fillet(s), baccalà will take from 8 to 11 minutes per side. Be sure to check it midway through the cooking of each side and be prepared to adjust cooking times, as required. Once you’ve flipped the basket over, sprinkle the fish’s “new” top side with the juice of a half-lemon. Continue grilling until done.

When cooked properly, cod will easily flake. Keep this is mind as you carefully remove the cod from the grilling basket.  Place on a serving platter and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

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Notes

As mentioned earlier, the marinade is not meant to be a breading that completely covers the fillet. Though it contains bread crumbs, there is no way that all of it will remain on the fish as it is grilled. Once the marinade has done its job, the bread crumbs will offer some protection for the fish, helping it to remain moist as it’s grilled.

Depending upon where you live, you may be able to purchase a piece of baccalà that is just about equal in size to the fillet I used in this recipe.  I have no such luck and must purchase a large piece of baccalà, probably around 18 inches (46 cm) long, that is the entire side of the fish, from the gill opening to its tail. On Christmas Eve, the entire piece can be cut up and cooked, as I showed you HERE. Any other time of the year, that piece of cod is far too big for me and I divvy it up for 3 different dishes. First of all, do not re-hydrate the cod until you’re ready to use that particular piece of fish. Even though dried, you’ll notice one side, the fillet section, that is thicker than any other part of the fish (shown in RED on the right). Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to remove that piece. This is the piece I used in today’s recipe. On the other side of the fish, is another, equally sized portion, though not as thick (GREEN). Remove that section and return it to the packaging. This piece will be used to make a salad and I’ll show you how in a future post. The remaining section BLUE), about a 10 inch (25 cm) “tail”, should be returned to the packaging and, once re-hydrated, can be baked or broiled. I’ll be showing you how to do that, too, at a later date. Properly sealed and kept dry, these 2 remaining pieces will keep for months although, if you enjoy baccalà like we do, you needn’t worry about it being around for weeks, much less months.

And for those of you keeping track, this is pretty much the same bread crumb mixture that was used in last week’s recipe, as well as a number of other Bartolini recipes. Guaranteed, it will be making at least one more appearance in the weeks ahead.

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In my rush to get last week’s entry posted, I failed to include anything about my visitors. For those not in the know, that previous Friday, Miss C and The Matriarch, of The Kitchen’s Garden fame, rode into town on a brisk, but sunny, Friday morning and left the very next morning, heavily laden with packages of every kind. It was a whirlwind tour of some of my favorite food haunts, topped off with a late lunch at a favorite Thai restaurant. They were, without a doubt, perfect guests, as we ran from store to store, aisle to aisle, letting me prattle on as if I was personally responsible for the contents of each. By any measure, it was a very good day, one that I hope we can repeat, weather and Farmy permitting.

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It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Easter is still several weeks away but it’s never too late to plan. Besides, if you like this bread as much as all who’ve baked it, you’ll need time to bake another loaf for the Holiday. Crescia al Formaggio is baked in the Bartolini homeland, Le Marche, every year at Easter. With over a cup of grated cheese in its dough, this bread not only tastes good but it fills your kitchen with a fantastic aroma while it’s in the oven. Believe me. This is one bread that is sure to please everyone seated at your dinner table. You can read my post by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Grilled Swordfish with Salsa Verde

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