Posts Tagged With: Italian Food

Time travel through your taste buds


You’ve seen lots of folks “cry in their beer.”  But, I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on the planet seen crying over cooked pig’s feet.  As I slurped the meat and fat off the bones cooked to perfection in parrozz, I could feel my nonna hugging me and hear the squabbling of my Italo-Americano family fill the Flagtown farmhouse kitchen. Parrozz- what the heck is parrozz? Thank you Angelamaria Addona of B&B Calvello for whisking me – and our group of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo September 2017 cooks – back in time.  To the time when subsistence farming, foraging and eating every single bit of the animal you raised was the norm.

Kathy, one of my best foodie buds, couldn’t believe it when I called her about this dish. I literally had started crying when I ate it and when I talked about it. Crying for my Nonna Rosa, Zia Caterina and all the elders of my family who not only had made this dish after foraging for dandelions and wild fennel but passed me the mapeen so I could wipe my hands on the communal towel after sucking the meat off every bone in my bowl.  Pig parts and weeds, I said to Kathy. Pig parts and weeds – so delicious that I could have stayed at B&B Calvello long after the van came to pick up the American cooks and kept on eating. Kathy suggested that I stop calling the dish “pig parts and weeds”. In dialect it is called Parrozz con Cacchiarella!

In her turn of the 20th century kitchen, Angela made parrozz  – vegetable and meat soup/stew – and cacchiarella – unleavened corn bread. Parrozz con cacchiarella is a dish that dates back to the time my ancestors scampered over our Sannio hills searching for what today’s foodies call edibles.

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If you are not afraid to forage, here is how you make it. Go out in the field and pick what ever vegetable green is in season. Verdure di compagnia– greens from the countryside. She used the white part of bietola, which is in the rhubarb family.  Cicoria, chicory, was raising its green head on the countryside so that was the second veggie. She washed the veggies and cut them in big chunks. They were tossed in a pot and covered with water with a dash of salt. When the water came to a boil the veggies simmered for half an hour.

Angela cooked some local cabbage leaves while pig parts were cooking away in yet another pot.  These are the parts of the pig I LOVE  – pig’s ear, feet, cheeks etc. Boiling softens them and lets some of the grease out. After the pork had cooked, she tossed out most of the water and layered the cooked vegetables on top of the pork pieces. Chunks of garlic were tossed into the fray. Do not mix it up! Top it with the pre-cooked cabbage. Think of this as a green lid. Toss a wee bit of salt on top and a tiny bit of olive oil. Not a lot since the pig parts are full of fat. Cover the pot and cook it very slowly on a low heat. It is great with wild fennel – but they weren’t in season now – so Angela added fennel seeds.

A wee bit later, Angela took the lid off the parrozz to let the extra water evaporate. She lowered the flame even more and pushed the cabbage down on in the pot. Do not turn the pot! The pig parts stay on the bottom and the vegetables stay on the top! The minestra will be bubbling, you will smell the pork and veggies and keep on wanting to stir it up.  DON’T!  Leave the pot alone and let it simmer along until the weeds – oops – I mean greens are cooked and the scent of pork wafts through the kitchen.

When the liquid comes to the top and the veggies sink. Turn it off!!! It is finished. But what about the cornbread called Cacchiarella?  You would have been working on it while the soup/stew was bubbling away.

The first step to making the cacchiarella made no sense to me – until my ah ha moment later. Take giant cabbage leaves and cut off the bottoms and slit the core a wee bit. Wet them and put them in the sun so that they will wilt and get flat. Then go out to the fields and cut some sambuca tree branches to make a broom. Why? You will of course be using a wood burning oven and need the broom to push the coals back to the side while maintaining the temperature of the oven. Wet a second broom to really clean the base of the oven. Oops, guess I forgot to mention that Angela’s kitchen has a wood burning oven and stove!

Back to the corn bread. Make a flat circle out of four or five flattened cabbage leaves. Flatten them further. They are now the tray or parchment paper for the corn bread. The corn bread she made with our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo cooks included 600 ML of water, 1 kilogram of corn meal, 4 spoons of salt – well they were spoons, a hand full of wild fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Knead it up!  Take your aggressions out on the dough! Meanwhile, for a few hours your wood burning oven has been filling the air with the scent of days gone bye. Oh, only use olive tree wood in the oven and when the bricks turn white sweep the coals over to one side with a broom made with sambuca leaves.  Then take the dough and spread it out on the cabbage leaves and with your handy pizza peel slide it into the prepared wood burning oven.  Wheeeooo, this is a lot of work.  Watch it rise and fall and turn a golden brown.   Then pull it out and remove the cabbage leaves – let it cool a second or more first.  Rip up the corn bread and add it to the top of the soup/stew pot.  Serve it immediately and watch me salivate. Watch the tape and enjoy.

 

You too can learn traditional Southern Italian cooking.  Join us.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 19 -26 and September 8-15, 2018

For more information, send an email to info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

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Ciambotta & Pasta Simple Zucchini Recipes.

 

The zucchine elf - Zia Vittoria!

The zucchine elf – Zia Vittoria!

Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all too busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms     Don’t forget – all recipes are posted in the recipe section.  Look above the Tower Picture to find the tabs.

Ciambotta

I thought I knew how to make ciambotta!  Take whatever summer vegetables were starting to turn ugly in the fridge, slice them, dice them and sauté them with ground meat, dump in a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, add a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves.  Easy peasy.  Since everyone in New Jersey grew zucchini, the first ciambotta I ever ate featured zucchini, more zucchini and nothing but zucchini.

EEEEEEE. Midgeee, questo non e ciambotta.  I got my hand slapped by Santina the butcher when I ordered carne macinato – ground meat – and she asked what I was making.  I got my head smacked by every other elder who I asked about ciambotta.  But, I swear my mother or grandmother or someone always added ground meat.

Simply put, ciambotta is a beautiful blend of fresh – not almost rotting in the fridge – vegetables.  Zucchini, green beans and eggplant are pleantiful now.  Carrots spill over in the market with fresh white onions and tomatoes.  I add tomatoes but my cousin and ace cook Carmella Fusco didn’t and her ciambotta was magic.

The trick I have learned here in Pontelandolfo about cooking some vegetables is to not add any liquid.  The vegetables have all the liquid you need.  Put a nice thick layer of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a pan and add the vegetables in order of how long they take to cook. I always start with the onions, then toss in carrot slices, then add the beans, zucchini and eggplant.  Rats, Jack hates eggplant – he puts it in the ‘tofu category’.  Don’t tell him that the perfectly formed cubes are eggplant.  I toss in so little salt that it doesn’t count and add a handful of crushed fennel seeds.  Note:  No added liquid like that can of  squashed tomatoes that I used to use.  The vegetables do have enough liquid to create their own sauce.  Also, I’m the only one that seems to add carrots to the mix. Yummy.

I can not tell too many lies – I often still add ground meat to the onions and when it is brown add the vegetables.  I also often dice up fresh tomatoes and toss them in too.

Carmella’s Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers

When cousin Carmella sends me a “WhatsApp” text that says –Venite a pranza oggi?   I always quickly respond with a SI!  Carmella is a world class cook and lunch at her house might be the simplest of ingredients but they are always tossed together delectably.  Check out Carmella’s cooking on her Facebook Page A Pranza dalla Nonna.

Today we had another variation on the zucchini theme, Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers.  Fresh, local ingredients easily tossed together and delicious.  Zucchini flowers, zucchini, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, hot pepper, spaghetti and pecorino cheese round out the list of ingredients. (You lucky New Jerseyans who belong to a CSA like Hillsborough’s fabulous Martenette Farms have access to lots of zucchini and zucchini flowers this time of year.)

As I was slowing chewing my spaghetti, I asked Carmella her secret.  Simplicity is the secret.  She cut the flowers into little pieces.  They added great orange color to the pasta.  A few cloves of garlic were chopped and after cutting a zucchini in quarters it was thinly sliced.  She put a walloping helping of olive oil in the pan – it thickly covered the pan – and added the garlic.  She let that sizzle for a second and then added the zucchini and flowers.  Next came a tazzino – espresso cup of water – or two fingers in a Nutella glass – and salt.  The veggies cook until the water has evaporated and then they sauté for a couple of minutes more.

At this point the salted spaghetti water should also be on the stove.  Cook the spaghetti as you normally would.   When the pasta is done, drain it and add it directly to the pot that has the oil and sautéed zucchini.  Carmella said, saltare in patella.  Toss it and let it cook a wee pit in the pan.  At this point she also added a hint of hot pepper and freshly grated pecorino cheese.

That was our primo piatto!  Zucchini heaven!

(Carmella is one of the cooks who opens her home for the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  Interested? Message me.)

Ci vediamo

Midge

 

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Festa at Terra di Briganti!

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Tante Auguri a Jack!

Jack was turning 70 – that meant I had to throw a humongous bash.  The problem is I had thrown Jackstock when he turned 60 and folks are still gazing numbly out from tents in our back yard.  How could I top three nights of music and mayhem?  Hmm, what’s a girl to do when she is in Italy and without the resources of her home team?  1. Make sure her BFF, Janet, is in Italy in time for the party. 2. Sit in the piazza, stare up the the hills and come up with a gimmick.  While staring at the grape vines that range up and down the mountain it hit me – take over a winery – it would be a blast from the past.

My first call was to Tony at our favorite winery, Terra Di Briganti. (Remember the story I did a few months back – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-ji)  Tony was a tiger and roared out ideas – starting with come on over and let’s pick out the wine.

Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!

Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!

Tony, his dad and his brother were pouring us a glass of Pidirosso. Then a glass of Aglianico.  How about a Falanghina.  Wait did you taste?  We tasted and knew that we would have a cocktail hour with a lovely sparkling – well it doesn’t matter just know it is all good.

Then came the menu.  Tony works with a chef – Gennaro – who by day is a policman!  But Gennaro is a foodie who relishes the dishes of historic Casalduni.  This is what we ate:  Quenelle di baccalà, Risotto al’aglianico e salsiccia profumato al rosmarino, controfiletto di pelatella casertana al Martummè con papacelle al’agro, Zuccotto con ricotta di pecora e ciccolato!  Notice that the Italian sings with the dialect of Casalduni.

Let’s just go to the video and you can see Jack’s 70th birthday at Terra di Briganti!  Click on the link and be sure to sing “tante auguri a jack!”

https://vimeo.com/107592027

To find out more about Terra di Briganti visit their website at www.terradibriganti.it

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Zucchine Sono Arrivate! Recipe 1

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Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all to busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms

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This year, I didn’t get invited to imbibe as much in my favorite fried flower.  Now I know why.  People let the blossoms grow into long green meaty vegetables.  But what is a woman to do with them?  I can’t say no thank you – half the time I don’t know where they come from and the other half – well it would just be rude.  I remember making tons of zucchini bread in Flagtown but we’re in Italy – so it is time to start finding out what the elders do.

Zia Paulina taught me how do make a simple zucchini topping for pasta.  Actually, she tortured me with a little knife by insisting that I cut paper thin zucchini slices without using a cutting board, mandoline slicer or food processor.  None of my slices were thin enough – come carta – like paper!  When I finally got the thinness just right she was pleased.  Then I watched her dump some olive oil in a frying pan, sauté the zucchini slices and toss them with pasta and a healthy dose of parmigiana.  Prima piatta was finished.

I decided to see if anyone else tossed zucchini with pasta – a quick web search found lots of recipes.  Being an independent type, I ignored all the advice and just followed my instinct –  the pinch of this, a handful and there you go style of cooking. The first step was to create the paper thin slices that really worked in Zia Paulina’s dish.

Note - I slice towards my thumb!  How dumb but it works.

Note – I slice towards my thumb! How dumb but it works.

My smart ass husband watched me get closer and closer to lopping off a finger and he decided to show me how to get those paper thin slices.  First he took out the potato peeler and peeled the skin off one cucumber.  Then he cut it in half and started making short thin slices with the peeler.

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Master chef makes quick work of the zucchini – but where is the cute green? Oh, next to the cutting board.

 

Jack’s system would absolutely work.  But I wanted the zucchini – which I know had absolutely  no yucky chemical crap on them – to have that cute green trim.  White zucchini against white pasta couldn’t look very appealing.  So I finished up the rest using the potato peeler on unpeeled zucchini.

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Cripes, they didn’t teach me this in 4-H. What a cool use of a peeler.

The actual cooking of the dish was much simpler.  I sliced up some onions and a red pepper.  Why the red pepper?  Because I had it and I liked the color – back to white pasta and white onions and white zucchini – you get the idea.  The olive oil that we have here is literally from the trees in our yard and pressed locally.  It is heaven on the tongue all by itself.  It really helps to use good olive oil for dishes like these.  While the water for the pasta was getting up to boil, I quickly sautéed the onions and peppers.

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What a beautiful red color! They do not sell green bell peppers here – because red means ripe!

Salt, pepper, a touch of garlic powder – I noticed that none of my Italian relatives cook with onions and garlic in the same dish.  Loving garlic anyway I can get it, I tossed in the garlic powder.  When I added the zucchini, I happened to look out the window at the basil growing madly and thought – why not.  The basil added at the end gave the dish more color and a little zing.  Here is the final product – I added grated cheese to the dishes before I tossed them.  Buon appetito!

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The “New” Fountain!

When my nonna told stories about life in Pontelandolfo she often mentioned the fountains.  There is a massive one in the main piazza but there are others scattered among the hills.  Some of these fountains date back to Roman times. These fountains were a hub for gossip, doing laundry, getting a quick drink on a hot day and gathering water to drink, cook with and wash in.  For generations, mountain spring water has run through ancient pipes and spurted out into jugs that were carried home.

The fountains still exist – but there is a new kid in town! This year when we drove into the center of Pontelandolfo we noticed this big stainless steel box – Acquaself – and a bunch of people  hanging around with plastic bottles.  Holy smokes – they are getting water!  It costs only €.05 a liter for spring water – sparkling or plain.  Oh no, I thought, yet another rural ritual blown out of the water.

Years ago, Jack joined Mario Mancini and went up into the mountains to one of five or six ancient fountains.  Mario, a foodie and mountain gatherer, knew where to take his bottles to get the best tasting water.  They drove miles away from the village center and what did they find – other men filing bottles.  Jack was flabbergasted when one of the men turned to him and said in English – where are you from – “New Jersey” – “Me too – Livingston”!  That is the magic that happens around the fountain.

The Pontelandolfo main fountain has been a meeting place, photo op and life blood of the community.  In the summer kids fill water balloons from the constantly flowing spring water.  When that happens I run in the other direction – cross fire can be pretty wet. Can Acauself – a stainless steel box – really replace all that?  Interesting question.  I’ve gone for our water – I mean .05 for a litter of sparkling water – and chatted with folks who were filling their bottles.  Maybe the conversation will continue at the box but I can’t see anyone doing their laundry. The talented Annalaura Iacovella will explain how Acquaself works – so those of you who speak Italian can test your skills – those of you who don’t can read the titles.  Happy mineral water to you.

 

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How Many Bags of Fava Beans Are There?

Fava beans are sprouting in everyone’s gardens!  Yea, these protein filled little fellows make a yummy dinner.  Last year, when the fava beans kept gracing my doorway, it was the first time that I had ever seen a fresh one.  Well, maybe I did when nonna was alive and had the garden the size of a campo di calcio (soccer field) – but I don’t remember.

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Pods are really green giants!

Seriously, this is a question that merits exploration.  How many bags of fava beans are there in Pontelandolfo?  When people pop in after pranza for caffè they usually bring something to share – like what ever is growing in the garden or was baked that morning.  Now me, I like the “what was baked” this morning – no fuss, no muss, just yummy delight.  My neighbor, Zia Vittoria, has an incredible garden.  It is chock full of every vegetable you could possibly imagine – including fava beans.

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Bursting with protein the pods just wait to be picked, gifted and gifted again.

Yet, as other women pop in to visit Zia Vittoria, so do giant bags of fava beans.  H’mm when women visited these women they too brought fava beans.  One day it hit me.  What if there was really only a finite number of bags of fava beans and in any given span of two days the same 15 bags got re-gifted from house to house.

The bags stop here!  Well, when a bag appears on my door step I don’t re-gift it.  I say “guess whose coming to dinner.”  Last year Mr. Fava came often. The top picture is of my first bag of this season.  I pulled out the colander, a knife and a bag for the compost pile.  The sky was blue and I cheerily began popping beans out of the pod.

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Eat local and touch your food first.

So there I am shelling beans and wondering how I was going to cook them when my nipote (Italian for any kid in your family that you are related to and older than) popped by, reached into the bag, ripped open the pod and tossed the beans in his mouth.  RAW!  Who knew!  I was forced to try it – I mean I’ll taste just about anything.  The bean was sweetly good and obviously picked this morning.  I discovered that the day they are picked they are deleeeeesh as a salad – tossed with tuna or just a few slices of onion or whatever you can imagine.  That is also an abundantly easy lunch or dinner.

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If you can find the “zipper” these are pretty easy to open. Or stick the tip of the knife in the top and give it a slice. Then pop the beans into a bucket – just like a carnival.

I kept at the de-podding for a while.  My brain taking journeys back to the early seventies when with my long hair braided, I shelled beans, baked bread, grew sprouts and didn’t inhale.  It seems to me that it used to be fun.  This ain’t fun but it is worthwhile.

How many more are there?  And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?

How many more are there? And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?

One of the things I remembered while I was mindlessly popping beans, was an article in the New York Times that I read last year. A snotty assed food writer had gone to Rome. ordered fava beans in a restaurant and was appalled that they weren’t peeled!  I had no idea what the hell Miss little anal retentive was talking about.  In all the homes I’ve visited for pranza, all the fava bean stew, soup, frittata I’ve eaten, no one peeled off the outer shell.  I was taught to par- boil the beans before creating the dish.  Apparently, after this par-boiling part you can take off the outer shell.  Hell lady, I just spent an hour popping pods and now you want me to spend two hours popping par-boiled beans?

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It looks like a nursery of wee ones nestled on a flannel bed.

I caved and decided to try it.  After boiling the beans and dumping them in the ever faithful colander, I burnt my fingers trying to pop them out of their little shells.  What?  Wait till they cool?  What a thought!  Ten minutes is the maximum of waiting time I give anything.  I popped a few and tasted them.  Damn, it did make a taste difference.  They tasted sweeter and less meaty than they do with the shells on. I looked at the bowl of about a pazillion beans and I looked at Jack.  He gave me the “are you crazy” look – no one here takes the shells off.  When in Rome……

Without skinning the par-boiled beans, I made a simple recipe.   First I sautéd a couple of large onions in local olive oil, toss in cubes of pancetta and let that all get caramelized and crispy.  I always buy un etto of cubed pancetta – 100 grams – so that is probably what I used.  H’mm, from all the veggie tops and pieces I had languishing around, I made vegetable broth yesterday.   I tossed some broth in the pan, added the beans, a dollop of red wine – this is Italy – and let it simmer.  That and crusty bread made a perfect “cena.”

What’s that outside my door?  FAVA!

Thank you Rachel for my present!

Thank you Rachel for my present!

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La Macelleria – Carnivore Heaven

Take a moment and imagine small town America before ugly strip malls and giant box stores polluted the landscape.  See happy healthy people greeting their neighbors as they walk to those wonderful, small family owned shops.

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Turn of the 20th century shopping in Pontelandolfo!

Clutching your mom’s hand you visit the butcher, who knows your name and gives you a big smile.  You mom says she wants to have a pork roast for dinner – the butcher asks for how many people?  “Just six” she says.   The big walk-in fridge is opened and you see giant hanging slabs of meat – half a cow, a whole pig – is that goat? 

Meat hooks at a butcher.

Meat hooks at a butcher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 He pulls down the pig carcass and brings it to the giant wooden shopping block.  Like a sculptor wielding sharpened knives and a dancer moving to the  crack of the cleaver, the butcher magically creates the perfect  pork roast just for you. Wrapped in white butcher paper and tied with twine, the gift of good eating is ready to carry home.   Hmmmm – no porcine growth hormones, no chemical enhancements just farm grown – the way nature intended it  – meat.  

Growing up in Flagtown, NJ – when the area was still rural/agrarian – I actually played in fields that held cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and lots of piles of @#$%.  My grandmother taught us how to butcher and clean poultry and game.  Our little village even had a butcher shop.  Aniello De Scala moved from Brooklyn to Flagtown long before I was born to open a small shop and get away from the Brooklyn mob (so his daughter told me).  When I was a kid Aniello’s son George was the butcher.  (One of the De Scala butcher blocks is currently feeling lonely in my garage.)  Then the developments started eating up the farm land and “progress” brought us supermarkets.  Small stores faded away…..

Living in Pontelandolfo is a return to a kinder and gentler way of living and eating. We are in carnivore heaven in Pontelandolfo – there are not one, not two but three butcher shops in our little village – great food means a lot to  Pontelandolfesi.   The shop I visited the most was  Marcelleria, Cinque M.A.M. S.R.L., located at Via Falcone E Borsellino. (I have no clue what the initials mean – they’re all on the sign.) My cousin Carmella explained that this shop was a cooperative for the local farmers – a big plus for me.

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Santina Guerrera, ace butcher
and charming woman.

Santina Guerrera (h’mm is she related to me?) would greet me every time I went into her Macelleria with a big smile and once with a great question – “Hai intenzione di parlare un buon italiano oggi o cattivo italiano?” (Are you going to speak good Italian today or bad Italian?)  I paused, shrugged my shoulders, smiled and repied “Sempre cattivo!” (Always bad.)  Clean up your minds – this wasn’t about talking dirty but speaking Italian properly – something I still haven’t mastered. Santina would smile as I fuddled through my orders.  The first time I wanted chicken for my extended family of eleven, I learned what an Italian meat portion was.  I originally asked for 7 chicken breasts and four full thigh/legs.  Santina looked at me and asked “how many are you cooking for?”  When I said eleven she cut the order in half and got the cleaver out to separate thighs from legs and cut each breast in half.  I thought, this won’t feed eleven.  In the USA everybody gets 1/2 pound each!  She was right, my Italian cousins eat small healthy portions.

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Santina prepares beef and pork for grinding.

One day, I decided to make an “American” meal for my extended family.  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and some green thing or another.  I told Santina what I wanted to make – un grande polpettone – and couldn’t understand why she took huge hunks of meat out of the walk in fridge.  Midge, you silly girl, she is going to grind it fresh!

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She tossed  a hunk of beef and a hunk of pork in the giant grinder and out came ground integrated meat.  I started to drool on the counter.  Of course everything I bought was beautifully wrapped up for me.

The other butcher I visited was Macelleria Perugini Franco on Via Falcone Borsellino, 4.  Franco made incredible sausage.  At first I had to figure out what days he was grinding meat and adding his magical spices – because until I got the schedule down there wouldn’t be any left!  He made the sausage fresh.  I just found an old receipt and it only cost me  € 3,87 (about $5 for 4 servings of freshly made exceptional sausage.)

No matter where we are in the world, I try never to buy supermarket meat – schifoso – wrapped in plastic, pumped full of chemicals, grown in small crowded cages – gag me – chicken and beef that  – well I better stop so I don’t ruin your appetite. When Jack and I are in Flagtown we buy most of our meat directly from local farmers – Farview Farm (http://www.farviewfarm.com) in Readington and Lima Farms (http://limafamilyfarms.com) in Hillsborough.

Carnivores of the world unite behind your local butcher and family farm!  We are blessed to have ours in both of our home towns.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Subscriber Dirties Her Hands With Dough!

This post was sent to me by an incredible cook, Kathy Hall.  I know she’s a great cook because I have sat at her table and practically licked the plate clean every time she invites me over.  She has been following “Nonna’s Mulberry Tree” and sent me this pictorial post of her own.  Enjoy!

Kathy:

Homemade fresh pasta has always ranked high on my kitchen bucket list. I have always cooked almost everything from scratch and still have a fond memory of a pasta party at my  friend Grace’s college apartment. She was the first in our crowd to get a Cuisinart and we watched in amazement as in less than two minutes the flour and eggs formed a ball of dough right in the bowl. We liked it so much we did it three times. Luckily, being Italian, she had a pasta maker so we all took turns cranking away for about an hour then happily stringing fresh strands on the back of every available kitchen chair.

That was over 40 years ago. This summer my friend Midge traveled to Italy to reconnect with her Italian heritage and I am following along virtually via  this blog.  One of her first posts was a recipe for homemade pumpkin ravioli with walnuts, parmesan and speck. It looked and sounded heavenly so I dug out my rolling pin and borrowed my neighbor’s ravioli cutter.

It was not a complete success. The filling was a savory rustic delight. The pasta, which I insisted on rolling by hand, was way too thick and cooked up into a gummy mess of semi raw dough not worthy of it’s yummy filling.

Time for technology. I ordered a pasta machine from Amazon and watched a bunch of Youtube videos on how to make home made pasta. This is my second batch in four days (We ate the first one too fast to photograph.)

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Mound of flour and one egg – here’s looking at yah!

The recipe is simple, one egg, about 2/3’s of a cup of all purpose flour, a small splash of olive oil and a little salt (if I remember to add it). I mix it old school starting by making a hole in a mound of flour big enough to hold one broken egg. I scramble the egg, olive oil and salt with a fork and then slowly incorporate the flour working from the inside of the volcano out.

Scramble that egg!

Scramble that egg!

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Make sure you washed your hands!

When the fork gets coated with the thick egg flour mixture I switch to my hands continuing to incorporate flour until I have a  not too wet, not too dry dough. It’s not as magical as the Cuisinart but it’s a lot less clean up.

The next step is where practice makes a difference as I transform that sloppy doughy mess by manipulating it with my hands. Pasta making is similar to bread making. You have to experience how the dough should feel as you knead it. Ideally your Italian grandmother shows you this. I’m Irish so I learned by experimenting and seeing how different doughs perform as pasta.

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Who kneads a gym?

For those non bakers, here’s how to knead. Flour your hands and the board. Stretch the ball of dough you formed by pushing down and away from you with the heel of your hand, then rotate 90 degrees, fold in half and push again. If it’s too wet sprinkle a little more flour on the ball and keep working it. If it’s too dry wet your hands and incorporate that little bit of water as you knead. A lot depends on the size of the egg, how much olive oil you put in and the humidity in the air. Relax, work slowly and enjoy. In time you will know when you have the right combination of flour, eggs and water. Eventually the dough will stop sticking to your hands and start to become silky.

Keep pushing away, folding and rotating until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked. It takes between six and ten minutes total and is a nice upper body workout. Then form the dough back into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Some recipes say to flour the ball before wrapping it, others say to coat it with a little olive oil. I flour if the dough seems a little wet, oil if it seems a little dry.

While the dough rests, I make a sauce and put on a big pot of salted water to boil. One night my sauce was fava beans, garlic and olive oil. The next it was tomato sauce with turkey sausage and mushrooms that I had in the freezer. The classic combination of butter and cheese is also good.

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Looks amazing!

After the dough rests, and the sauce and boiling water are ready. Either try to roll the pasta out by hand or dig out a pasta machine and follow the instructions. I strongly recommend the pasta machine. Unlike the Cuisinart, it never has to be washed, just dusted off with a pastry brush.

Roll your pasta dough til it’s thin enough to see your hand on the other side, cut into your favorite shape, cook for two to four minutes depending on thickness, toss with sauce and enjoy. . I can’t speak about left overs since we have had none. This recipe serves two people if you are used to 2 ounce dry pasta servings.

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Yummy!

Next week I’m tackling those ravioli again.

Buon appetito!

Kathy Hall

Categories: Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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