Friday, April 30, 2010

NO THERMOMETERS BUT STICK AROUND FOR THE PASTA

    Last summer, cousin Leonardo was very sick while vacationing in Sicily. His illness seemed very serious and Rocco said, "I'm convinced that if he stays here he may not make it." I chatted with Rocco, who spent many nights by Leonardo's side in a beach chair, along with other patients who shared the room with no privacy dividers. Quoting Rocco: "this place is primitive." Aside from the awful treatment and no answers on Leo's condition, the hospital was lacking in basic essentials, like thermometers! But (and this is a big fat hilarious Sicilian but), when dinner time came, the hospital had no shortage of meals and passed out pasta to everyone, not only the patients but also the visitors! No thermometers, but plenty of pasta to go around. And, "it was pretty good," Rocco said. Only in Sicily. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

LOCAL WEDNESDAYS*: SPINACH GOAT CHEESE FRITTATA

       One of my most cherished possessions is my Grandma Isabelle's recipe tin. I love flipping through her old fashioned "American" recipes that call for lots of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. The tin is a food network of all of the great recipes she collected from her family and friends over the years and many predate me, like Fez's Spinach Casserole from 1971. There are recipes cut out from old newspapers and magazines, which show food trends of the time, like the article on bulgur wheat from Better Homes and Gardens in 1989. Pizza Bulgur Meatloaf anyone?  
     Recipes I have to try are Cream Cheese Cupcakes, Lentil Frankfurter Soup and Mrs. Keyser's Carrot Pudding, all written in Grandma's perfect handwriting. She was so organized and really had it all together, a trait I wish I inherited. I try to keep my recipe tin up to date, too, in case my Delicious account is lost or my blog disappears into the internet abyss. Going through all those recipes makes me very hungry, so I needed to prepare something to keep me from eating the index cards. (I was a glue eater as a child.) 
      I made this easy Spinach Goat Cheese Frittata, with farmer's market eggs, dairy, spinach and this awesome Queso Blanco garlic and parsley goat cheese from Patches of Star Dairy. It really might be one of my best yet.  

Local Spinach Goat Cheese Frittata

Bag of Spinach, chopped 
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
6-8 eggs
1/4-1/2 C. crumbled goat cheese
1/2 C. milk or cream (soy is okay, too!)
Salt and pepper

In a pan, sautee the onion until translucent in olive oil. Add the chopped spinach, drizzle more olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper. When the greens have wilted, set aside to cool. (Sometimes, I put them in the fridge of freezer.)

Preheat oven to 350. 

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled spinach and the goat cheese. (You might not need all the spinach; you want a dense amount of spinach with egg running through it. Either way, it will be good, it will just either be more eggy or more spinachy. After a few frittata's you get a feel for the egg/greens ratio.)

Pour the mixture into a heavy duty oven safe greased 8-10 in. skillet. (I coat it with non-stick spray.) You can either start cooking it on the stove top to get nice color on the bottom, then put it into the oven for about 25 minutes until its it firm in the middle, or bypass the stovetop step and stick it in the oven. 

Eat with Italian bread. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SICILIAN SUNDAY DINNER: PASQUA 2010

     A few posts back I told you how Nonna caused a ziti fiasco when Francesca was planning the Easter menu that almost made my parents get divorced. At least ziti is the most of their problems. It doesn't help that my Mom is married to a crazy Sicilian either, but somehow those two make it work. They have made up and Rocco has full custody of me again. I am 28 years old. 
    Easter this year, if you are in the Northeast was a glorious day. When you get weather like that on Jesus' favorite day, it makes you almost believe in God. Or you can just move to the west coast and practice atheism in nice weather everyday. Hallelujah! 
    As much as I make fun of my family and exploit them for your entertainment, I wouldn't trade them for another less crazy family. I never feel like I have to go to family functions. Knowing that my family is there motivation enough, because it is always a good time. And the delicious food helps, too.
    Fra as always was the perfect hostess. When we walked in the door, kisses all around and the eating and drinking and craziness immediately began. She is a homemade pizza maker and whipped up all sorts of yummy focaccia's and pizzas for appetizers as well as the meats and cheese and olives you come to expect in a Siclian home.    
    And to get everyone out of her gorgeous kitchen, because we tend to coagulate where the food is, she set up a long table in her sunlit living room. Twenty plus hungry Sicilians in one room and somehow Fra managed to satisfy everyone and keep them (relatively) under control. That makes her a living saint. 
    Take a look here at the menu. Everything was insanely delicious. Since Nonna only brought one tray of ziti for everyone, Fra served it as a side dish to the amazing lasagna she made, and we joked that we all got one zito. (Singular for ziti, would be zito in Italian. But get real, who eats only one piece of pasta? So I don't think the word really exists.) Both pastas were fantastic!
    One super stand out dish that Fra made really blew my mind. It was angel hair pasta wrapped in fried eggplant. What a great idea. Fried eggplant embracing delicious pasta that is smothered in sweet tomato sauce. A match made in heaven. Now I officially believe in God! 
    On the deck cousin Paul did his man grilling duties. He sure loves his meat and his Miller Hi-Life! We all enjoyed the beautiful day out back. Uncle Sal was in full beating up everyone around him mode. He thinks he is "play fighting" but he actually punches really hard. When I told him that he challenged me to punch him as hard as I could. He taunts and teases me ALL the time, so I really could not turn up the offer for a little Sicilian revenge. 
     I felt like Pam on the office when Michael gave her the opportunity to punch him in the face. Unlike Pam, instead of bitch slapping my Uncle, I punched him as hard as I could in the gut. For a sixty plus pasta eating dude he is pretty solid. But of course, my first punch wasn't hard enough for him. So I wailed on him again. All the onlookers, victims of Sal's "rough housing" were thoroughly enjoying the show. The second time, I gave it all I got and I think he tried to hide it but I could see that he flinched a little, and I think I broke my hand. It was so worth it! 
     And this is how my family spends out Easter, a young woman in her Easter dress punching an old man with all the vengeance she can muster up. And eating a lot! And this is why I would never get rid of these crazy people. 
   

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LOCAL WEDNESDAYS*: Duck Egg Pasta Carbonara

     So Local Wednesdays (like Sicilian Sunday Dinners) is another attempt to focus Morta Di Fame, give it some structure, a routine. If only I could do that for the rest of my life! Needless to say, if you have visited the Wednesday Farmer's Market at Union Square you know it is the best in the entire city. So, even if I have to get up at 5am to get there before work (who am I kidding?) I'll do my best, then make a meal with ONLY local ingredients that evening. Invite yourself over on a Wednesday (you will have to come to Queens) and enjoy a local meal with me! Or we can do it at your place.
     I am very proud to say that all components of this Carbonara Pasta dish are local, even the pasta was homemade from Knoll Crest Farms. So here is the deal: my dad hates chickens and my mom hates eggs. Hence, I have never eaten this type of pasta and until recently had no idea what it was. Did you say bacon? And eggs? And cheese? And garlic? And fresh ground pepper? On pasta? When? NOW! OKAY! 
    I used duck eggs, which is very exciting! Their eggy robustness took some getting used to. And they were gigantic; the yoke was the size of a ping pong. The shell was really resilient and I almost needed a hammer to break it. But they were beautiful and really delicious. I knew they would be perfect for Pasta Carbonara. 
     This dish is so easy, too. It takes only 20 minutes, I promise! Fry some chopped bacon until crisp, then drain on a paper towel. Meanwhile, boil your pasta. Remove some of the bacon fat from the frying pan and add chopped garlic, fresh black pepper, the fried bacon, the cooked pasta. Turn the heat off. Then crack a few eggs on top and mix into the pasta too cook them. Most recipes call for a swirl so as not to scramble your eggs, but mine were a tad scrambled. Mario Batali, as described in Bill Buford's Heat, separates his yokes and whites, mixes the whites in first, then just drops the raw yokes on top. Add some pecorino romano cheese. Serve warm and gooey with some nice local greens or broccoli rabe.

*All ingredients from the post are made exclusively from local seasonal meat and produce.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HAPPY 1 YEAR BIRTHDAY MORTA DI FAME!

     My first post one year ago was appropriately titled "About this blog," so I figured I would post an excerpt from that post:
"As a child my father would proudly feed me pasta with sardines, broccoli rabe, mussels and any other food by which most kids would be horrified. Children are described as having their father's eyes, but my Dad still says that I have his stomach. Not in appearance, thank God!"
Working on this blog this past year has been amazing. I started this blog as a creative outlet. I really needed it! I watched a lame movie called Running With Scissors about a crazy middle aged horrible poet who was diagnosed by an even crazier psychiatrist as being creatively constipated. While the movie stunk, I liked that idea. Because of this blog, things are certainly flowing.
I wanted to use Morta Di Fame as a platform to explore my writing, my food photography and most importantly food. I wanted to figure out what kind of role food would play in my life and in my career. 
It has opened many doors for me; some very special and personal to me, as well as a lot of professional opportunities. All the while, I have been having a great and delicious time. Morta Di Fame worked! Something works! And people, only a few, actually read it!
Because of Morta Di Fame, I now am a "micro-investor" in a great pizza place in Greenpoint called Paulie Gee's. I have published food photography in Edible Queens, which I am very proud. I have also done food photography for Cello Wine Bar and was the official Press photographer of Fresh the Movie, attending awesome events like a Chocolate and Beer Tasting and a Joel Salatin lecture.
In the last year I cooked non-stop and ate non-stop. I went to Supper Clubs, Take-Downs, Meet-Ups, Festivals, Tastings. Wherever I could find food (and cocktails), I went. My palate has opened up more than I ever imagined. I used to say, "I wish I could eat everything, because then I could go out to eat for a living." I am not quite a restaurant reviewer and probably won't head in that direction, but I eat things I would never have imagined eating before I started this blog: oysters, bone marrow, whole sardines, calf brains, chicken hearts, snails. Bring it on!
What I really have enjoyed most about this experience is how close it has brought me to family and friends. Eating is an experience, best shared with those you love and Morta Di Fame always reminds me of how wonderful and insane my family is and how supportive and loyal my friends are.
Now going into my second year, I plan to really focus on local eating, as I really feel very strongly about and will be doing a Local Wednesdays post each week. I will also write a weekly Sicilian Sunday Dinners post as a way to bring family and friends together and learn now to make traditional Sicilian dishes. Please invited yourself over to these weekly meals. I need someone to help me eat them! And of course I won't forget to write about the crazy antics of Rocco and Nonna. Those stories are really what makes this blog what it is.
(I plan on making a professional push in the direction of food photography and using the photography from Morta Di Fame in my portfolio in order to do high end still life of food for cookbooks and magazines as well as editorial pieces with portraits of chefs and environmental shots of the overall food experience. (Food stylists and chefs let's shoot together!) Aside from lighting food, my strength is capturing the essence of the event of eating. I am moving in a good direction in terms of developing my own unique style as was recognized by my Fresh the Movie client who wanted me to shoot their events in my style. I have a style! I hope this transition will afford me some fun travel, too!) These are my professional goals and if I write them I will stick to them and will review this post in another year and hopefully will have accomplished these goals.
Thanks a lot to everyone who reads and comments and inspires me to cook, take photos and write about it all! Let's enjoy a meal together soon.
Happy Birthday Morta Di Fame!

Friday, April 16, 2010

NY TIMES SOUTHWEST SWEET POTATO SALAD


     Marcy makes Grandpa's NY Times Stew, an unbelievable beef stew, the recipe her dad cut out of the NY Times probably before I was born. I have to keep up with the Wednesday food section; they have such great recipes in there that you want to make over and over.
     Markus reads the times and is a recipe maven, most likely because he is a follow the rules type of person, only crossing the street when the little walk man is blinking. I, who resist all rules am the the bozo who runs across Park Ave. when the red hand warns me to stop only to wait in the lobby for the elevator. We always argue about following recipes. I obviously never do and sometimes it pays off but other times its just a complete disaster. Whenever Markus follows a recipe, it pretty much works out 100% of the time. 
     Like with this NY Times South West Sweet Potato Salad recipe, which funny enough doesn't give exact measures, and when we get sweet potatoes in our share I ask him to make it. He makes it perfectly even though I think he is secretly cursing the recipe. Its peeled and roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, red onion, red peppers, and cilantro dressed with a puree of olive oil, garlic, lime juice and jalapeno. So simple, sweet and nice and spicy from the jalapeno and that fresh garlic kick. I know it will become a staple recipe like Grandpa's NY Times Stew.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where's my bag? The Sicilian Clutch

    Sadly, I have been to too many funerals this year. Funerals are never funny... I take that back, when old Sicilian people are in attendance things get ridiculous. My dear Aunt Grace, my cousin Pino's mother recently passed away. She was 90 years old and one of the most awesome people I have ever known. I only have fond memories of her and Pino asked me to deliver the eulogy, which I was honored to do, but let's start at the wake.
   If you are not familiar with wakes, let me explain: you go to the funeral home (either between 2-5 or 7-9) and basically hang out with your family while deceased is lying in a coffin on view. The Village Chapels is the funeral home of choice for our family, and is conveniently only steps away from my apartment. My cousin Paul always jokes when he comes over that he wants to go and have a few drinks over at the Village Chapels, maybe pick out his coffin.
    The protocol at a wake is you walk in, approach the body, pay your respects and say a prayer, then you go to the closest family members of the deceased, who are usually sitting in the front row, and give your condolences. Easy enough. Then you hang around for a couple of hours and everyone comments on the "work" they do on the corpse. Fascinating. Our family wakes are as loud if not louder than our family parties. Sicilian people just can't keep it down, no matter what!
     So I payed my respects and turned expecting to see Pino and his wife Roseanne, but who did I find instead? Nonna, Queen of the roost, sitting there with her leopard print cane looking fine and covered in more gold than Mr. T.
     "Jane!" She always brightens up when she sees me.
     "Nonna, I am so sorry about Aunt Grace."
     "Oh Jane, don't worry. You see ova there," she said," pointing to the casket, "Imma be up there next."
     She said it as nonchalantly as if she were telling me the weather. And she repeated this to every single person who came in. Nuts!
     The charades didn't stop there. Maria Sabella, Uncle Jimmy's sister was visiting from Sicily. She is regarded as "La Discontenta" or the discontented one. She is actually one of the sharpest most hilarious old ladies you will ever meet. Nothing gets past her. I think she actually looked a little too excited to be attending a funeral. Afterall, in Sicily a funeral is as important as a wedding; doom and gloom is celebrated there.
     If you are ever around old Sicilian women, take notice of their pocketbook. Even at family parties they hold their bags as tight as if they are riding on the F train to Coney Island at 4am. On Christmas, when I offer to take Nonna's jacket and purse, she gives me her jacket but will never hand over her purse. I am her granddaughter! She doesn't even trust me. Insanity!
    The morning of the actual funeral mass, per protocol everyone met at the funeral parlor for one last prayer. Its was a sad solemn moment, everyone standing with their eyes closed in silence quietly paying their last respects. All of a sudden, we heard a rumble. Maria Sabella, who has punk rock purple permed hair, came flying into the chapel screaming, "Where's my bag? Where's my bag?" Her tone was of complete and utter panic. You would have thought someone died.
    Everyone turned to look as she was manhandling my cousin Sally and myself, pushing us around to see if we were sitting on her bag, or better yet if we had stolen it. Sally, in an effort to calm her, gave her my purse, hoping it would shut her up. But she didn't buy it and continued to rustle through all the coats and purses until she found hers. Once she did, prayers resumed and Maria Sabella looked a little less discontented.
    Everything went smoothly until it was time for me to deliver the eulogy. I was relieved to speak at the lunch following the burial, rather than in the church. We ate at Scopello and amazing Sicilian restaurant in Fort Green. My first line was an ice breaker "This is probably the first time I am speaking in front of our family without being interrupted." I spoke prematurely because Nonna, Maria Sabella and the rest of the old Sicilians bantered loudly about the bread. And they continued to talk throughout my entire speech.
    Aside from the perpetual Sicilian chirping in the background, it was a great speech. I talked about how Aunt Grace came to this country after so many years in Genoa to start a new life and how my brothers would quiz her for her immigration exam.
    "Aunt Grace, who was the first president of the United States?"
    "Ronald Regan, very nice man."
   I talked about her amazing Calamari Stew and her awesome Pesto Sauce, both which I intend to prepare as a tribute to my great aunt. My fondest memory of Aunt Grace was that she would always come over and give us candies with a conspiring wink.
   When I asked other family members what they remembered about Aunt Grace they all said, "She was strong and tough." She basically didn't put up with a lot of crap; a lady after my own heart.
   So I finished the speech with a quotation from Pino, "My mother, she had balls!" 
   Applause. Except from the elderly Sicilians. Apparently the octopus salad was more important than the eulogy. It was delicious!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sicilian Sunday Dinner: Step out of your comfort zone homemade pasta


     Shame on me: I haven't been posting as frequently as when I first started the blog. I say: quality over quantity! I want to make each post and photograph really count. And as Morta Di Fame approaches its one year birthday (April 18th!) I realize that maybe I only had a year's worth of recipes in my noggin, hardly a lifetime. I am such a not-follow-recipes kind of person(except with baking), but after actually opening up a few cook books, I see the light: there is a reason why they make cook books! New recipes, ideas, techniques, helpful tips. I find myself saying: "oh thats how you do that!" "oh thats whats in that!" "this is easy afterall," "i can do this!" I am inspired again! And since this is a Sicilian-ish American-ish food blog that needs some focus, one of my goal is to do Traditional Sicilian Sunday Dinners using recipes from some hard core Sicilian cook books I have come across aka "borrowed" from my parents house. I love shopping there!
    This week I invited my best gal Elina over to help me "step out of my comfort zone" and for the first time made homemade pasta. Elina would explain that this is one of the first steps to success, doing something that makes you feel uneasy at first. But if you never try, you can never succeed. Another step is to surround yourself with inspirational people, like Elina, whose vibrance is exhilirating. She works for a company called University of Dreams and Elina is truly dedicated to helping students realize their vision and accomplish their goals. 
     We made dinner for 5 hours, 2 hours of actually cooking and spent the rest of the time talking. Girl chats are just so therapeutic. Before Elina comes, I am about to call a psychologist, but after she leaves, I feel like I hashed everything out. And yes, we do talk major smack, buts its okay, we need to get it out of our systems. And no, we aren't going to tell you what/who we were talking about. You will just have to come to the next dinner. 
    Elina stepped up in the food styling department. It was so hard for us to hold back from eating the beautiful dishes we were creating before photographing them, which is such a big challenge for me. I usually just rush through the photos so I can eat. But we staved off hunger and I am so happy we did because I think it paid off in the photos.
     All recipes from this dinner (aside from the fava bean sauce) were taken from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table.
    We started with Pipi Sutt'ogghiu or Roasted Red Pepper Salad. Elina gets all the credit on this dish. I merely roasted the peppers, which she then peeled, deseeded, cut into slices then layered with fresh chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil and dried oregano (from Crete) and sea salt, as the recipe calls for. For a finishing and balancing touch we drizzled the salad with balsamic creme. They were sweet and peppery and a perfect topping for Italian bread. So simple and so flavorful.
    Our next course was  Cacuocciuli Mandorlata (Artichokes with Almond Sauce). I grew up eating stuffed artichokes. When its artichoke season, Nonna buys them in bushels and prepares them for me. Nonna says, "you love artichokes, Jane!" and she is right, I do. But I never actually make them. This recipe seemed perfect. Almonds and anchovies are so Sicilian and topped with capers made, irresistible. 
The recipe calls for steaming the artichokes with water, lemon and wine, but I do think the water should also be salted. Meanwhile you prepare an almond bread crumb paste that you then season with a lemon anchovy dressing, then stuff it into the halved artichokes. Not only were these so delicious, they were just gorgeous. Instead of whole anchovies I substituted anchovy paste.
     Pasta time! For the sauce I prepared a simple fava bean puree, which if you take time to soak your fava beans overnight, is the easiest sauce to make, just the beans, garlic and some bay leaf, plenty of salt and olive oil. 
     The hand made fresh pasta recipe Pasta Frisca, called for semolina flour, eggs, water, olive oil and some salt. I love simple. And I used the best farm eggs I could find. Kneading the dough is a great way to take out your frustrations. And for me and Elina, the hand motions were in our DNA. We really worked it.     
 I think it could have been a bit moister, and it was difficult to roll very thin by hand. But, the flavor was there. A few words came to mind as we inhaled it. Elina said "rubberband" ouch! I said, "rustic." A little better. It was just too thick.       For my first try I was very happy.  But, I think I am going to fish Nonna's pasta machine out of the garage for next time. I just couldn't roll it thin enough. 
    This was the first of I hope many ongoing Traditional Sicilian Sunday Dinners I will be making with friends and family. Thanks for sharing this with me Elina! And please everyone invite yourself over for one of these delicious meals; most Sundays you will find me in my kitchen cave making a Sunday dinner. 

Pipi Sutt'ogghiu (Roasted Red Pepper Salad) adapted from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table

4-6 Bell Peppers
Dried oregano
Olive Oil
Chopped Garlic
Sea Salt
additions: sweet balsamic vinegar creme

Wash, dry and roast the peppers whole under the broiler until the skins turn black. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel and deseed the peppers then cut into strips. Layer the strips on a platter with chopped garlic, olive oil salt and oregano. Top with sweet balsamic vinegar creme. 


Cacuocciuli Mandorlata (Artichokes with Almond Sauce) adapted from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table

6 artichokes
1 1/2 C. almond meal
2 TBSP. flour
2 C. water
1/2 onion chopped finely
substitution: 2 TBSP anchovy paste (or as original recipe calls: 2 anchovies melted in a double boiler with their oil)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 TBSP. sugar
1/4 C + 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP. capers
addition: red chili flakes
black pepper

Liquid for steaming
juice and rind of 1 lemon
1/4 C. white wine
water
(additions: salt)

Cut an inch off the top of each artichoke and cut points of the remaining leaves with scissors. Spread each artichoke and run under cold water. Rub each with lemon and steam upside down until tender. (Keep an eye that you have enough liquid in the steamer or you run the risk of burning the bottom of your pot.)
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, 1/4 C. olive oil and anchovies.
Dissolve the flour in water.
In a saucepan, sautee the onion in olive oil until brown. Add the almond meal and sautee for a few minutes. Season with salt. Whisk in the flour water mixture and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick. Remove it from the heat and while whisking add the anchovy sauce and black pepper. Set aside.
When artichokes are cooked and cool, cut each in half, scrape out the middle and stuff with the almond sauce. Sprinkle with capers and red chili flakes.


Pasta Frisca (Fresh Pasta) from Vincent Schiavelli's cook book Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table
(for 2-4 servings)
1 1/4 C. semolina
2 eggs
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 TBSP. water

Mound the semolina on a large wood or marble surface. Make a crater in the middle and crack in the eggs, olive oil and salt. Beat with a fork. When its well beaten draw the flour into the middle. When you can no longer use the fork, use a metal scaper, until everything is mixed thoroughly.
Knead the dough by stretching it and folding it together on itself until it is elastic and pebbly. Make into two balls and let sit for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough using a heavy pin until its 1/4 in thick. Fold it in half and roll again. Continue this until its the consistency of damp leather. Roll it so thin you can see the work surface. Flour it with semolina and fold it in half. Flour again and fold again until it resembles a bed sheet. Let it dry for 10-20 min.
Unfold and cut the dough with a sharp knife into 1/2 inch wide strips. Flour and leave covered with a dish towel until you are ready to use it.
Boil in a pot of salted water for 3 minutes or less. When it rises, it is cooked.

Use with your choice of sauce.

Maccu ri Favi (Dried Fava Beans Sauce)
1/2 lb or just over 1 C. of dried fava beans soaked overnight
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
hot red chili flakes (pepperoncino) - optional
2 bay leaves
extra virgin olive oil

In a heavy duty pot, briefly sautee the garlic and bay leaf with the pepperoncino in olive oil. Add the beans and sautee for a few more minutes. Add about 1-2 C. of water, enough to cover the beans. Add a little salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The beans will break down to a soft chunky paste. Season with more salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta and top with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Makes enough sauce for 4 bowls of pasta. Adjust amount of pasta accordingly.

Friday, April 9, 2010

GREENPOINT FOOD MARKET

I won't have a table this time around, but you sure as heck know I will be there stuffing my face with goodies!!! Come. Its super fun! More info...

DUCK EGG OVER SWEET POTATO LEEK HASH

  
     When I saw duck eggs at the Farmer's Market I had to have them. I wanted to really taste them, so I fried them over Sweet Potato Leek Hash.
     The eggs were not easy to crack open, but when I finally smashed it against the pan a few times, what came out was gorgeous. The yoke is huge, the size of a ping pong. The flavor is very different from chicken eggs. Its very eggy and tastes almost grassy.
     The hash is really tasty, sweet and oniony and nice when it soaks up the runny yoke. A nice hearty breakfast.

Sweet Potato Leek Hash
2 Sweet Potatoes diced very small
2 leeks chopped finely
1/4 red onion chopped finely
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Sautee the leeks and red onion until translucent then add the sweet potatoes and cook until soft and caramelized. Season with cayenne and salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

F*$K CHICKEN, I WANT DUCK!


   
     Julie. Julie. Julie. What can I say? Awesome. Funny. Beautiful. Perfect! Julie has the best attitude: "you cook and I eat." Then, after we eat and drink wine and have lots of fun, "I clean." Marry me? So when she invited a few friends and myself up to her house in Carmel, I was delighted.
    Then we had to plan the menu. DUCK!!! Its expensive, especially from the Farmer's Market. Chicken? You know what I say to chicken (see blog title). So I was the duck lady. And I failed. Miserably. I went to the Farmer's Market. There it was, exactly what made me drool the week before. But the price was up there. So I figured, I can get it somewhere upstate. NOT. I couldn't find it anywhere! So we were stuck with stupid chicken.
     I was determined to make this the most delicious chicken ever. It was pretty good. I stuffed the skin with butter, garlic and rosemary and roasted the thing. But it wasn't duck! Chicken just is not duck. Can we just change the subject? Please!
     Julie's house is gorgeous, inside and out, and the view of the lake she has from her porch is so serene. For a bird watcher, it was the perfect vantage point. I saw a crested woodpecker!!! Don't get too excited! No one else but myself did anyway.
     Back to food: Julie got us started with a fantastic cheese plate. And Miguel made a vat of his infamous and the best guacamole.
     I made some pesto pinwheels. Easy. Defrost some puff pastry, spread some olive oil, pesto and grated cheese on it, roll it, cut it, then bake cut side down. A really easy appetizer.
   Some rosemary lamb chops. Bleeding. Succulent.
  Markus' Sunchoke Bruschetta.
    Along with the chicken, Miguel made a mushroom risotto, and we roasted some carrots and brussels sprouts.
    Dessert: with the rest of that puff pastry I made Elephant Ears.

 It was a fantastic (duckless) dinner. 
Next day for breakfast we had a delicious kale and mushroom frittata, some yummy fried potatoes and banana bread. Needless to say we were full and happy. Lake time and catchphrase and it was a perfect day! I did not want to leave the wonderful company and Julie's gorgeous home. Thanks for your grace and hospitality Jules! You're the best!   

Sunday, April 4, 2010

APPY EAST!

Thats how all the old Sicilian ladies in my family say Happy Easter. APPY EAST!
And if the celebration happens to be on Long Island, where all New Yorkers tend to move, Nonna will say, "Jane, fah east, I go to long aye." (Jen, for Easter, I am going to Long Island.)

PASQUA 2010  
A CASA ASARO 
MENU’ 

Antipasti: 
- Sfincione Siciliano 
- Caponata 
- Olive, Salame & Pane 

Primi: 
- Lasagne alla Palermitana 
- Involtini di Melenzane ripieni di Capellini 

Secondi: 
- Carne mista alla brace (salsiccia, agnello, 
pollo, ecc) 

Contorni: 
- Insalata di Delizie Primaverili 
- Funghi ripieni 
- Kish di Zucchine 

Dolci: 
- Gelato 
- Torta alle Mandorle e Olio d’Oliva 
Bevande: 
- Prosecco, Vino Bianco, Vino Rosso, Acqua 
San Pellegrino, Espresso, Caffe’ Americano, 
Amaro, Zibibbo. 


PS. This Event is BYOC 
(Bring Your Own Chair) 

Friday, April 2, 2010

We already screwed up Easter...

...And its only Good Friday
   Our cousin Francesca was nice (and crazy) enough to invite the Galatiotos to her house this Easter Sunday. With all of our antics (well Nonna's) my mom Marcy just keeps saying, "that poor girl is never going to invite us over there ever again!" If she is smart she won't. We have a way of taking a nice day and whirl winding it into a maniacal affair. And its all Nonna's fault.
    Fra sent out this huge Sicilian menu. I am stoked! And there are a lot of people coming, so we are each assigned a menu item and have been instructed to bring our own chair. Easy enough, right? Not when you throw an 89 year old Sicilian lady in the mix, who may not be up to the task, but will feel the weight of God on her soul if she does not make the lasagna. Lasagna is not easy and every holiday Nonna looks like she is about to keel over after she makes it. We all tell her not to make it but secretly want her to because its so good. So of course, for Easter Nonna says, "No! I'm gonna makeh the lasagna!" 
    Marcy: "Mama, its too much work."
    Rocco: "Ma, don't make the lasagna."
    Nonna: "No! I'm gonna makeh the lasagna."
   A call to Francesca, "Nonna is making the lasagna." Fra so graciously accepts the offer. Probably a relief because its such a pain, to boil that slippery pasta, then make the meat sauce, layer it all together and don't forget the bechamel sauce. 
    Then Nonna's crazy switch goes off, "No! I don't wanna makeh the lasagna."
    There is no explanation. We don't get it. Marcy is so embarrassed that I get a call. 
    My response, "Fra doesn't care. Just tell her Nonna is old and crazy!"
    "Jen, can you text Fra that Nonna doesn't want to make the lasagna."
    This is how my parents get out of it because they supposedly cannot text. I mean Marcy still can't work the VCR, but its still a lame excuse. I text Fra because I am resigned to the craziness. I am so conditioned to it that if everything went smoothly I would think something is wrong.
    Of course Fra understands, she grew up in Sicily, the crazy old lady capital of the world. But you think we would be able to leave it alone, right? Of course not.
     Nonna, who makes an art out of driving my dad more insane than he already is says, "Rocco, no! I am making the ziti!"
      Ziti is not on the menu. And she is not making enough for everyone, just one tray. For over twenty people. It makes no sense. Nod and smile. 
     I go to my parents this morning and Rocco, while working on his laptop (but he can't text) says, "Jen I can only see you on weekends from now on. Your mother and I are getting a divorce! Don't talk to me until tomorrow."
     This is all about the ziti and whether they should drive Fra even more nuts with this new development. They are actually fighting about this. Rocco is writing a crazy email to Fra, while my mother (the only sane person in our family) is saying and I (half sane) agree, "Just leave it alone! We have already made such a mess. She is never going to invite us over there again!"
     But Rocco, just like Nonna, insists, "No! I am sending it to her!"


And here it is, the crazy email:

Subject: PASCQUA (Easter)


"Bellezza, (gorgeous)

Mia madre ha trovato le forze di fare un po di ziti. Che ci puoi fare, pazianza.
(My mother found the strength to make a little ziti. What can you do? Patience.)

Vuole fare 'na tigghia.
(She wants to make one tray.)

Chiedo scusa e perdono da parte di mia madre che ha volte puo' rompere
le balle pure a quelli che  ce l'hanno d'acciaio.

(I ask your pardon for my mother who has the ability of breaking balls made of steel.)

Mi dispiace.
(I am sorry.)

ROCCO

PS

Marcy e' cosi  mortificata che non ha potuto scriverti.
(Marcy is so mortified that she is not able to write to you.)
Di nuovo, scusa.
(One more time, sorry.)
Rocco, il rappista fallito.
(Rocco, the failed rapper.)
--
Rocco G. Galatioto"

Happy Easter!!!