Shrimp Marsala

Submitted by John on Sun, 11/15/2020 - 17:37

Shrimp MarsalaThis is another of those dishes that you see more often in American restaurants than in Italian ones, but this one is authentically Sicilian, as Marsala wine comes from Marsala town on the western tip of Sicily.

The original recipe calls for grilling the shrimp on skewers, but I do this even in inclement weather by pan-frying the shrimp instead. 

Polenta con Funghi

Submitted by John on Mon, 11/09/2020 - 17:28

Polenta with MushroomsThis is a humble classic dish of Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta, in the mountainous northwestern corner of Italy.

Mushrooms are common in the cooking of the mountain regions, especially in the fall and winter months. Here, a mix of varieties is sauteed and served atop a hearty polenta enriched with a bit of aromatic local Fontina cheese.

Cod in a Bright Red "Infuocato" Sauce

Submitted by John on Tue, 11/03/2020 - 23:03

Cod This is a pretty dish with a tasty sauce of very lightly cooked tomatoes flavored with roasted green bell pepper. That's an ingredient I haven't seen much, but it works very well in this sauce with this fish. In fact, I saved the leftover sauce and had it with some broiled haddock, and it was great there too.

After the first time I made this, I liked the sauce enough that now I make double the amount of it to ensure some left over. The recipe below is for the double amount.  

Baked Potato

Submitted by John on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 20:55

Baked Maine PotatoA simple, homey favorite that opened our eyes when made with the right potato! We had recently made a long weekend trip to Maine's Aroostook County, where I had bought a 20-pound bag of local [[nodetitle:potatoes]] of the Green Mountain variety. I had read that this variety is considered the tastiest and the best baking potato of all the types grown in Maine, and indeed was the potato that "put Maine on the map". 

We were so surprised that the next night I baked a couple more, and then the following night I bought and baked an Idaho russet potato alongside another Green Mountain potato for a real comparison.

There was no contest. The Maine potato had a far superior flavor. They both baked up nice and fluffy with nicely crispy skins, but the Idaho potato tasted like nothing. 

Now I am glad that I bought 20 pounds! 

Cozze Tarantine

Submitted by John on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 20:18

Cozze TarantineTaranto is and industrial port city and naval base way south in Italy in the instep of the boot, facing North Africa. Its food is heavily influenced by that of nearby North Africa, as shown in this dish. With the layered aromatics and potatoes and other vegetables, the limited liquid and the slow cooking, this is clearly descended from the North African Tagine. In fact, the next time I prepare this, it will be in my tagine dish rather than the baking dish shown here.

It looks like a big dish, but it's not heavy and it's really good; the two of us ate the whole thing! 

Pasta Aglio e Olio

Submitted by John on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 19:40
Pasta Aglio e Olio

This has to be the recipe with the name that's the most fun to say - say "ahl-yo ee ohl-yo" three times fast!

This piquant pasta preparation was a favorite lunch of mine many years ago when I worked in Milford, MA, and could get lunch at an unassuming watering hole that had a few old Italian specialties like this and Porchetta

It's not as spicy as you might think, but it's easy to amp up the basic recipe for more punch if you like it that way. 

This is one of those superfast dishes that you can whip up in the time it takes to boil the pasta!

Sole Piccata

Submitted by John on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 19:19

This is an American dish, unknown in Italy except through American tourism. In Milan, veal gets the treatment that we think of as piccata. That's because in Italian, the word piccata means a thin escalope of meat, usually veal. It's commonly dressed with a lemon or lemon-caper sauce, and called Piccata al Limone or something similarly descriptive.

In the USA, the Italian-Americans from Lombardy served it in the traditional Milanese fashion, and restaurants would call it Veal Piccata, or escalopes of veal served in the usual way. Americans came to think of Piccata as being the sauce rather than the cut, and extended it to chicken and fish as well.   

This treatment works great for sole, too, and Lorna doesn't eat veal, so here you have Sole Piccata.

Cod Cheeks or Halibut Cheeks

Submitted by John on Fri, 10/30/2020 - 17:07

Halibut CheeksHere's an old Yankee favorite! 

I'm told that it used to be that a fisherman who caught a halibut would sell the fish but keep the cheeks for his own dinner. I don't know if it's still done that way sometimes, but I got these from a fisherman who didn't eat them. 

They are tender and delicious, and they can be prepared pretty much any way you would use sea scallops. I like them dredged in cornmeal and fried in butter or baconfat.

Some people add a dipping sauce of some kind, but I like them hot from the skillet with nothing else.

Pumpkin-Artichoke Risotto

Submitted by John on Wed, 10/28/2020 - 01:47

Pumpkin-Artichoke RisottoThe original recipe for this was tasty but difficult, so I've modified it slightly: please see the notes below for details.

The flavor is good, and the combination of pumpkin and artichoke is a fine one to open an autumn dinner with friends.

Mussels with Mushrooms, Parsley, and Chives

Submitted by John on Sat, 10/17/2020 - 14:42
Mussels with Mushrooms, Parsley, and ChivesThis delicious dinner came from an old cookbook that has great photos and numerous text errors. Every recipe must be thought through carefully to see if anything is missing, measurements are suspicious, etc. But it has some great ideas, like this one. For example, this one is called "Mussels with a Sea Tang", but there's nothing that I see as maritime except for the mussels themselves! Anyway, it's delicious.

Pasta alla Sangiovannino

Submitted by John on Sat, 10/17/2020 - 14:24

Spaghetti alla SangiovanninoHere's a colorful, simple, and delicious pasta recipe, traditionally served with spaghetti or other long dried pasta, and never served with cheese.

This old recipe took a while to bring into the 21st Century. It uses air-dried cherry tomatoes, which are much more tender and delicate than sun-dried tomatoes. In the old days in southern Italy, cherry tomatoes would be threaded onto strings and hung to dry as a means of preservation and to contentrate their flavor. Today's tomatoes are bred to be shipped to markets far from where they are grown, and their skins are tougher so they don't dry as well. However, preserved semi-dried cherry tomatoes have the same concentrated flavor, see the Notes below. 

Feast: Beef Fancy and Plain

Submitted by John on Fri, 10/16/2020 - 20:35
The Chianina beefsteak

On Friday, 9 October 2020 we had a Beef Fancy & Plain feast in the backyard of Lance and Lynda Hylander. There were 8 diners, of which the 6 men stayed outdoors but the two women went indoors when it got too cool for them. We were dining outdoors to limit the risk of Covid19.

The steak

This whole event came about through seven different kinds of luck, starting with the improbability of the celebrated Tuscan Chianina cattle now being raised by an enterprising rancher in El Paso; see the TuscanCattle link below. On top of that, we had friends with a roomy backyard, perfect weather, (mostly) great wines from the cellar, a truly skilled grillmaster, and best of all, great dining companions!

Here's what we had:

Trofie Genovese

Submitted by John on Fri, 10/16/2020 - 00:09

Trofie con Pesto GenoveseI'm told that this is the most common way of serving pasta with pesto in Genoa, the home of Pesto Genovese, or basil pesto.

Trofie is a dense, chewy pasta with a short, twisted shape that holds lots of little flecks of basil and tiny fragments of pine nuts. With fresh pesto, you get a real mouthful of flavor! A small serving is a great introduction to a larger meat or seafood course.

Pasta alla Carbonara

Submitted by John on Thu, 10/15/2020 - 23:21
Pasta Carbonara

I don't know why this is called Carbonara, literally "in the style of the charcoal-makers", but it's rich and delicious, and (as my sister pointed out to me) with some kinds of pasta, it's low in carbs!

I remember this as a sort of "breakfast pasta" because it's made with bacon and eggs. It's easy and very fast to make, but you may want a big bowl for the last-minute tossing with the eggy-cheesy dressing if your skillet isn't big enough for that messy step.

Braised Pumpkin with Rosemary

Submitted by John on Wed, 10/14/2020 - 23:07

Braised Pumpkin with RosemaryHere's a great savory fall dish that highlights that autumn star, sugar pumpkin, in a way that complements both meat and fish dishes, and is excellent on its own for the vegetarians.

An awful lot depends on your pumpkin, both the size and how long since it was picked, as well as how thin you slice it. A fresh new pumpkin can be cut thicker and be ready sooner, but it's hard to overdo it, so don't get stressed - it's going to be terrific.

This would be a fine side dish to go with the Thanksgiving turkey!