Un’Caffe! Please!

In my last blog post I shared how disappointed I was that I couldn’t go visit my sister this spring.  I must tell you as much as I so wanted to see my sister there was one other thing that I was so looking forward to.  I have been dreaming about it!  I am drooling right now as I think about it.  No! It’s not Italian men! 

It’s the coffee!  Some of you know that I went to Italy this past fall. For some reason I became obsessed with the espresso.  Every morning I had a cappuccino.  In the afternoon I had an espresso after lunch.  In the late afternoon I had a macchiato.  By late afternoon I became very fluent with my Italian or so I thought as I hysterically waved and greeted every person I came across. I need to admit to you all that I have a caffeine problem.  For some reason it makes me talk nonstop.  My daughter always knows. When I go into a fast-long-winded story, she scolds me as I am panting out of breath, “You had coffee. Didn’t you?”

  But! OMG!  The coffee that was enjoying every day while I was in Ischia was delicious!  It wasn’t acidic or burnt tasting.  It was so smoooooth and creammmmy!  And I am not talking about the cappuccino. Just plain espresso is thick and creamy.  They only fill those little espresso cups half-way.  That’s why at the coffee bars in Italy there are no seats.

  • People go in.
  • Stand at the bar with no stools.
  • Order un’caffe.
  • Down the espresso.
  • Share a greeting with the barista and fellow coffee drinkers.
  • Out the door they go!

The morning is the only time the cappuccino is enjoyed by Italians.  They won’t drink it after 11.  If you order a cappuccino during the day, they will exclaim, “Pffttt Americano!”.  I was very careful not to order one because I wanted to be inconspicuous ( yeah right, as I hysterically wave and greet)! But I did order a macchiato.  The macchiato was heaven!  There was a little but more in the cup than espresso with a thick foamy caramel colored top. Not like a cappuccino at all.  The cappuccino is served in a large cup with a 3/ 4 filled cup of white foam.  The macchiato is served in an espresso cup with ¼ of the cup filled with a dark caramel colored foam.  Such a thick and creamy espresso drink.  If I had my way I would have asked for a triple.  I don’t think my sister, her husband and the rest of the people in the bar would have been happy with me.

Ever since I got back from Italy, I keep searching for the perfect espresso drink.  I tried all the chains from low end to high end.  I went directly to coffee roasters to try their espresso, restaurants that tout their espresso drinks, and bakeries.  I even bought high end coffee beans and would grind them myself. I just can’t replicate that delicious taste.  I started researching and reading.  Some say it’s the way they roast the coffee bean.  They said that in the US we over roast the coffee bean to get the bean extra dark which is a mistake. Others say it’s the water.

As I sit here with my cup of espresso made with my moka pot, dunking an S shaped Italian cookie into the espresso, I pretend I am gazing at the Mediterranean Sea alongside my sister. I really do miss her so. Maybe it wasn’t the espresso. I think it was my sister’s company!

Italian S Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

      Egg Wash

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon milk

2 teaspoons demerara sugar for sprinkling on egg wash

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on medium-high speed until nice and frothy (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. Slowly add sugar. Continue to whisk until well combined and slightly thickened (about 2 minutes).
  6. Add the oil, extract, and the zest. Combine well.
  7. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix with wooden spoon until well combined, dough will be soft.
  8. Scoop dough with medium sized cookie scoop and drop on a lightly floured surface (about 2 tablespoons).
  9. Roll out each piece in a 4-5 inch strand about 1/2 inch in diameter.
  10. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and form into an S shape.
  11. Brush tops of cookies with egg yolk mixture.
  12. Sprinkle with demerara sugar
  13. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned (this is a pale cookie).
  14. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Let’s bake while we wait!

     It’s been such a whirlwind of a few months.  I am writing this blog post today sitting at my desk.  But if all was right with the world, I would it to be sitting under a lemon tree on the Island of Ischia in Italy with my beautiful sister.  In January while the news from China was just coming out about the Coronavirus, my daughter and I oblivious to the severity of the situation planned a fun trip to trip to Europe.  Our first stop was to be in Lisbon, Portugal and then we were flying to Naples to finish our trip visiting my sister Giovanna who lives in Ischia. Alas, a few days after I booked the trip the news started to get more and more serious.  My daughter, my sister and I started to become obsessed with watching the news. It was the strangest thing.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill this coronavirus epidemic was becoming bigger and bigger each day. We didn’t even need to make the decision to cancel the trip. Every week the flight kept changing. First the flight’s destination was changed to land in Rome instead of Naples. Then as Italy put in more restrictions the flight’s destination was changed to Lisbon.  Finally, 5 days before we were to leave all flights were suspended. 

     As we followed whatever was going on in Italy, we knew it would be a matter of time that we would be the doing the same thing here in the states.  When US advised us to limit our gatherings to 10 people, I hurried up and finished my sauce deliveries not knowing if they were going to close travel between states like the provinces of Italy. I even made a last run to stock up my grown children who live in Connecticut and Westchester with the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce, 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce and pasta.

    Because I was so preoccupied with keeping up with the news and tying up loose ends, I inadvertently forgot about St. Josephs Day on March 19th.  Not only is St. Joseph the national Italian holiday for Father’s Day but we always celebrated the holiday because Joseph was my dad’s name, followed by my son and husband whose middle name is Joseph. We all celebrated by making zeppole. aka Sfingi di San Giuseppe, aka Cream Puffs.

     Since I am settling in at home now, I am catching up with my baking.  So, I made St. Josephs Cream Puffs!  Here is an easy recipe that I used for the Cream Puff and the Pastry Cream.  I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as my husband and I did!  Stay safe while we are making history!

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:

  •  1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 to 4 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash

Directions:

  1. To make the cream puffs: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and granulated sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds
  2. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 3 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy, and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining egg and mix until incorporated.
  3. You can use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in 2-inch diameter rounds or balls.  But I used a tablespoon and dropped the dough on the baking. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Brush the surface of the rounds with the egg wash to knock down the points (you may not use all the egg wash). Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until puffed up, and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet.
  4. To fill the cream puffs, place a pastry tip on your finger and poke a hole in the bottom of each puff.  Or you can slice the cream puff and insert pastry cream by a spoon.

Pastry Cream

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise or 1 tsp of pure vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

      

Directions:

  1. Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add in the flour and the salt, mix to combine.
  3. When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean.
  4. Very slowly dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring all the time. When about half of the milk has been added, place all the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all the corners of the pan when you stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.
  6. Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days.

Tour of Northern Italy’s Pasta and Sauces

These past two weekends I enjoyed giving seminars to the customers of Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie and in Wappinger Falls.  During the dreary winter months in January and February Adams Fairacre Farms gives the customers an opportunity to learn and enjoy some interesting subjects!  I was invited to share what I know as well.  So I gladly jumped in the fun.  I decided to bring everyone on a tour of Northern Italy’s pasta and sauces.  Not only did I set the mood with Italian music I set up the props.  On display was a painting of Tuscany set on an easel.  The table was set with an vivid Italian table cloth set with grapevine baskets filled with oranges.  Incidentally my grandfather made the huge basket from the vines from his vineyard. A separate table was set up with my portable kitchen.  My wonderful husband and daughter helped serve while lots of customers came to experience the fun event.  It was so fun that I decided to share with you all the fun facts and experience of this Tour of Northern Italy Pasta and Sauces.  But let me start off with some of my observations with our American pasta culture versus Italian.  Let me say I am an American in an Italian restaurant family so I am fully aware of our American pasta culture.  But when I go to Italy the differences are so obvious.  Is one wrong and the other right? No!  It’s just a cultural difference.  But it’s fun to compare!

Tour of Northern Italy’s Tour of Pasta and Sauces Seminar @Adamsfairacrefarms in Wappingers, NY

Some Pasta Facts

I will start off with talking about some misconceptions we Americans have about pasta.

 Americans seem to think that pasta to be good must be made freshly by hand.

    1.  Best way is made by an Italian grandmother using a rolling pin

    2. or by a machine that some of us have in our kitchen

    3.  or ready-made fresh pasta that we can find right here at Adams.

Americans think of dry pasta or in Italian (pasta secca)  found in boxes and plastic bags as substandard.

But no! In Italy most Italians eat dry pasta that comes out of a box! An exception is the northern region!  In Northern Italy fresh pasta is quite popular and most families make their own.

Fresh Pasta Facts

Northern Italy uses more fresh pasta than Southern Italy

Fresh pasta is usually made from softer wheats, though some durum semolina can be mixed in, and some is made with just durum, but that takes a lot of strength to work with.

In the south, some fresh pasta is made with just flour and water, but in the north it is almost always made with flour, eggs, salt and water. If it is to be used for stuffing, as in ravioli, a little milk is sometimes added.

6 major differences with the way we make pasta in the US

  1. We overcook the pasta

      According to Italians the biggest mistake that we Americans make is overcooking the pasta. We all know what aldente is. But pasta must be served as soon as it is drained. It gets a little crazy at my house when we drain the pasta.  My husband dishes out pasta.  I sauce it.  The kids pass out the dishes.  We must be fast!  Pasta is very important.

2. Cook in too little water

But another problem with making pasta is using too little water.  A pound of pasta should be cooked in 5 quarts of salted water vigorously boiling.   Too little water stews the pasta making it gummy and overcooked. Believe me, I too am guilty of this.  Sometimes I am too lazy to go to the cupboard and get the big pasta potout thinking it’s just my husband and I.  It’s a big mistake.  The pasta doesn’t cook evenly and the pasta sticks together.

Cooking the perfect pasta.

  1. Make sure its 5 quarts of water per pound of pasta. 
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  4. Place pasta in boiling salted water
  5. It will quickly come to a boil again.
  6. When pasta is done.  5-6 minutes (more for thicker pasta less for thinner like spaghettini or angel hair.
  7. Remove and drain but not too thoroughly.  Save 2 ladles of pasta water

3. Adding Oil to water

When you add oil to the cooking water for pasta will only make the pasta slippery and harder for the sauce to get absorbed into the pasta. Your pasta will lack the flavor of the sauce.

 

4. Huge Portions

When it comes to eating pasta, Italians are very measurement conscious. And it’s a very easy formula to follow: 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) or less of pasta per person.

It is never a heaping portion like one you would expect in the States.” In the ’90s, Los Angeles Italian restaurants routinely served pasta in giant bowls, each portion enough to feed three or four.

The point of the dish is not the sauce but the pasta.  There should be just enough sauce to coat each strand lightly. There shouldn’t be puddles of sauce congealing in the bottom of the dish.

 5. Oversauce the pasta

A way to get the most flavor into the pasta about a minute or 2 before it’s done strain it.  Saving a ladle of pasta water then toss it in with the sauce and a ladle of the pasta water.  Let it finish cooking on the stove. And then quickly serve it.  This is called “pasta saltata in padella”.  But some further explanation of the sauce.  They don’t call it sauce or salsa.  They refer to it as condimento or condiment.  The condimento is just about a ¼ cup per serving

6.  Too much cheese on pasta

      Cheese is just a scant teaspoonful per serving.  In Italy the waiters come and quickly grate a little cheese on the pasta.  In our restaurant if the waitstaff weren’t attending each table to grating the cheese they would go and try to sprinkle a teaspoon of cheese.  But typically, the waitstaff we be grating and dumping loads of cheese on top of pasta!

Authentic Italian cooking is an art of simplicity and balance. It’s recognizing that less is often so much better than more.  AS I often talk about in my seminars.  Just like my sauces the 825 MAIN.  It’s very simple.  But it’s about the quality of the ingredients.  I am very picky about the ingredients.  As you will find out as I continue…… And as we try the different pasta and sauce for each region in the northern part of Italy you will begin to understand what I am talking about.

 So, let’s get to the fun part.  I am going to cover 4 northern regions of Italy.  I am picking a pasta that is popular in that area with a sauce or I should say condimento of the area.

Northern Italy Pasta Map

Piemonte

Agnolotti/Tortelloni

Most commonly crimped, square-shaped and stuffed with meat, agnolotti (or ‘priest hats’) is the primary pasta of Piedmont, in the northwestern region of Italy. Located in the lush-green foothills of the Alps and the Apennines, and surrounded by a wooded wilderness, Piemontese cuisine is typically tinged with the musky aromas of its mountainous backdrop. Perfect for poaching, agnolotti can also be added to a broth, but are best pan-fried in a sage and butter sauce and finished off with a dusting of white truffle.

For this recipe I use Rana brand of Tortelloni.  They are a fresh pasta found in the dairy section of Adams.  I used the Cheese Tortelloni and also the Spinach and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni.  I have to say I was partial to the Cheese one. I put it in a very simple butter/sage sauce.  The recipe follows. But the highlight of this dish is the shaving of truffles. In the Poughkeepsie Adams Fairacre Farms I was able to order a fresh black truffle that came from Burgundy, France.  While in Wappingers I had available the revered White Truffles that were sold in jar.  The truffle products are sold in the pasta section in the Wappinger store.  If you would like to read about some Truffle Facts continue on while the recipe follows.

Truffles

Truffle is a fungal tuber from Burgundy, France

     Truffles are quite unique in feature that separates them from other common fungi. Truffle has a rounded, below the earth fruiting body that can be lobed, with shallow to deep furrows and has yellowish, tan to dark brown skin. The interior is solid, white, marble like in white species and black in black species with narrow, white veins that tend to radiate from the base. Mature specimens possess a pungent, rich smell.

     Several species of tuber (truffle) mushrooms found naturally in the dense forests of Northern Hemisphere, especially Italy, Balkans, and France.

     The black perigord (French black) truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is mainly found the wooden forests of Southern Europe. They feature mottling pattern with streaks of white veins. They are the most sought after by the chefs all over the world for its very aromatic flesh.

      Other important black species are black summer truffle (T. aestivum) and Burgundy truffles (T. uncinatum) are also prized for their culinary values.

     The white truffles (T. magnatum) are the largest of truffles and found in the Northern Italy. White truffles are also highly accolade by the chefs for their powerful fragrance likened to mould, garlic, and smell of cheese.

     Some other species include those found in the US such as Oregon black truffle (T. gibbosum), Oregon brown truffle are also noted for their culinary values. Pecan truffle (T. lyoni) is found in the southern part of United States near the pecan tree cultivation.

Truffle harvesting

   ruffles are grown the wild close to oak, poplar, hazelnut, elm, pecans and beech trees. Mature truffles develop odors and emit volatile organic compounds and pheromones that attract wild animals. Truffle hunters search for them from autumn to winter with the help of trained dogs in these wooded forests.  In the past, hunters used to rely on pigs to sniff out these prized discoveries. Problem was, the pigs loved to eat them. In the 70’s they stopped using pigs. These days, well-trained dogs who don’t care for the taste are used for foraging.

Reasons why Italy has best truffles

    1. IT’S THE HOME OF THE WORLD’S BEST TRUFFLES

There are dozens of varieties of truffles in the world, but Italy’s white truffle is one of the most elusive, most delicious and most expensive. It’s found only from September to December and in just the right conditions, growing on the roots of trees under layers of damp leaves and dirt. 

     2. IT’S ALSO THE HOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE TRUFFLE

In 2007, two of the family’s hunters – Luciano and Cristiano Savini – unearthed a 1.28-kilogram (2-pound, 13-ounce) truffle that sold at auction for a whopping USD 330,000. That price is recognized by Guinness World Records as the most money ever paid at auction for a white truffle. You can check out a replica of the truffle at the headquarters. Fun fact: The dog that found the original was 14 years old.

White truffles are a rare delicacy: The short season for the mushrooms, the stratospheric prices ($2,000 a pound is not uncommon) and the intense aromas and flavors make this mostly something for the world’s super rich. Shaving a few grams of a white truffle on a dish such as risotto can send the price at a restaurant soaring into the triple digits.

Selection and storage

Fresh truffles are usually sold in the areas from which they are harvested. Choose firm, fleshly truffles, without bruises.

    In the markets one can choose dried truffles in airtight containers. Other novelty products such as truffle flavored sugar, salt, truffle honey, truffle oil, etc can also be found in the supermarkets. Truffles canned in water are also available in some stores.

   Eat them as soon as possible. To store, place them in the fridge fresh up to 1 week. Place cut truffles in an airtight container and cover them with Madeira or white wine. Canned truffles that are cut and covered with Madeira or a little oil for a month.

   Once at home, use them early. Place them in cool dry place in a wooden basket away from sunlight and moisture. Keep in the fridge for a few days, in a paper bag or a dish covered with a clean cloth.

Preparation and serving methods

    Truffle’s rarity in the nature makes them the most expensive items to use liberally in the dishes. Their usefulness counted just as gourmet food and to some extent as appetizer. Do not wash truffles -rub them gently with a soft brush. Cut them in slices, slivers, cubes or shaving.

Agnolotti or Tortelloni del Plin
 

Ingredients:

Package of Rana Tortelloni

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
8-10 tablespoons butter
10 sage leaves
1 cup grated Grana Padano
1 fresh white truffle (optional!)

Procedure:

  1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh agnolotti/ tortelloni, stirring gently, and cook them for 3-4 minutes or until the agnolotti are bobbing on the surface of the water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Lay the sage leaves in the pan and heat until the butter is sizzling gently. Toast the leaves for about 1 minute, then remove them.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the butter, then swirl the pan and simmer for about 2 minutes, reducing the liquid by half. Keep the sauce hot over very low heat.
  4. Drain the agnolotti and add them to the sauce in the pan. Toss and cook them for about 1 minute over medium heat until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat, add the grated cheese.
  5. Optional: Shave fresh white truffles over the pasta! 

Lombardia

Farfalle

Universally recognized as the ‘bow-tie’, farfalle borrows its name from the Italian word for ‘butterflies’. Despite its intricate design, this good-looking variety remains the signature pasta of the northwestern Italian region of Lombardy. Habitually blended with beetroot, spinach or squid-ink, farfalle is also available in an array of brilliant color combinations to include the vivid hues of the Italian flag. Owing to its sauce-holding-abilities, this pasta is best served with a simple tomato and basil concoction.

The Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie has Delverde Bow ties but the Adams in Wappingers has colorful artisanal Farfalle (bowtie) Pasta called Tarall’oro.  This dish is highlighted by my own 825 MAIN Marinara!

 Farfalle ala 825 MAIN Marinara

Ingredients:

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves and then very thinly sliced

1 lb. dried farfalle pasta

Grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese

Procedure:

  1. In a 10- or 11-inch sauté pan, heat the jar of 825 MAIN Marinara over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is heated. Remove from the heat.
  2. Sprinkle on the basil and stir to combine thoroughly.
  3. While the sauce is warming up, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a vigorous boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it well.  
  4. Toss the pasta with three-quarters of the sauce and divide among individual serving bowls.
  5. Spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each serving and sprinkle on the cheese, if you like.

Emilia Romagna 

Strozzapreti: (larger version of Cavatelli)

Strozzapreti, (or ‘priest-choker’), is a hand-rolled variety of pasta from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Its dubious name origin is unclear; one legend suggests that ‘Strozzapreti’ stems from the story of the gluttonous priests who choked on their pasta as a result of their insatiable appetite, another claims that housewives ‘choked’ the dough in such a rage, violent enough to ‘choke a priest’. Irregular in size and shape, strozzapreti is the larger version of cavatelli (‘little hollows’), and is made of flour, water, parmigiano-reggiano, and egg whites.

 The Cavatelli  that I used is in the frozen food section of Adams those are  made with ricotta cheese, eggs, flour, and salt.

Sauce is Adams marinara, mozzarella cheese, and grated cheese.

Cavatelli ala Adams Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

  1 jar of Adams Marinara Sauce

1 lb. of cavatelli or if you are lucky to find the larger version called Stozzapreti

Small ball of fresh mozzarella cut into chunks

Lots of grated Parmagiana Reggiano cheese

Procedure:

  1. In a pasta pot , heat the jar of Adams Marinara sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is heated. Remove from the heat.
  2.  Start a pot of salted boiling water for spaghetti.
  3. Add cavatelli/strozzapreti and cook according to directions
  4. Drain pasta saving a ladle of pasta water
  5. In pasta pot add the cavatelli adding a ladle of Adams Marinara Sauce and a ladle of pasta water.   
  6.  Add Mozzarella and grated cheese

Veneto: Venice

Venetian Bigoli –  The bigoli are a type of long pasta, which looks like a big spaghetto; they’re from Veneto, but they’re quite common and popular in the Eastern Lombardia. The name “bigoli” seems to result from the dialect term “bigàt” which means “worm” with regard to the shape of the pasta.

Bigoli in salsa  

Bigoli in salsa, long pasta cooked in a tasty fish sauce, is the only inclusion of pasta in the city’s traditional cuisine

Bigoli are a kind of pasta made with semolina flour (semola di grano tenero), salt, and water. They are like thick spaghetti, and similar to Tuscan pici or bringoli. The name is also used for a kind of wholewheat spaghetti typical to the town of Bassano del Grappa in the north of the Veneto and so these are also sometimes used. Normal spaghetti would works well if it’s all that you can find. In fact, in many Venetian restaurants today, spaghetti are served as bigoli. Most letter L ls are not pronounced in Venetian and so you will often see the word written as it’s said: bigoi.

Salsa

Salsa is the general word for sauce, but in this dish it refers to something very specific. The condiment is made from three ingredients only: white onions, water, and salted sardines or anchovies. White onions are a speciality of the town of Chioggia in the south of the Venetian lagoon. Sardines and anchovies are native to the Venetian lagoon. Although the sardine is the traditional ingredient of this dish, it really doesn’t matter which one you use. The two are very similar indeed and in Venetian have almost identical names. Sardine is sarda and anchovy sardon.

 This dish was the most time consuming.  It takes an hour for the onions to melt down before you add the anchovies.  I saved this dish for last because it is very aromatic and has a long lasting taste and I didn’t want to corrupt the tasting of the other pastas.  It’s the most different and not a popular dish in the US.  I was pleasantly surprised that the customers really enjoyed this dish!

     I also need to add that cheese if served in Venice is a huge No No!  But we are in America and we can do whatever we like!  I used La Bella fresh spaghetti for this dish since it was the most similar to Bigoli.

Bigoli in Salsa

  Ingredients:

2 white onions, finely chopped

2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil

water

25 salted sardine or anchovy fillets

1 pound of bigoli or fresh thick spaghetti

parsley, finely chopped

black pepper

 Procedure:

  1. Place the onions in a large frying with EV olive oil. 
  2. Cook on a low heat seating them until so soft that they are falling apart adding a little water so as not to color the onion. You are almost melting the onions! Takes about an hour.
  3. Finely chop the sardine/anchovy fillets and add the fish to the pan
  4.  Stir until the fish has dissolved in the into the onion mixture.
  5. Continue to cook for about five minutes.
  6. Bring a pan with 4 quarts of unsalted water to the boil.
  7. Cook the bigol/ spaghetti according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the frying pan with the sauce in it.
  9. Mix the pasta into the sauce, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary, and then serve topped with chopped parsley and plenty of ground black pepper.

Thank you for taking the journey through Northern Italy’s pasta and sauces!  Buon apetitto!!  I cant help but be Italian when I talk and talk and talk…especially with my hands!!

Tradition

According to the Cambridge Dictionary the definition of Tradition is a way of acting that people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a longtime.

      This past year I struggled with finding my path.  As you have noticed I really slacked off with keeping up with my blog and my recipes. I am not sure what has happened.  I think with the marriage of my last child maybe I lost myself.  I lost who I was and started thinking that I needed to slow down.  But I found I am not comfortable with this new me. In my quest to find myself again I realized that maybe I need to go back and reflect on how things used to be.

My Great Grandfather Isidoro Amalfitano with his fishing crew circa 1930s.

      I found a picture of my great grandfather on my mother’s side.  He was a fisherman along with his brothers on the island of Ischia in Italy.  The Amalfitano men made a living as fishermen.  Unlike most other Ischitanos living on the island the Amalfitano brothers stood out by their tall muscular stature. They had a good life until World War 1 and the Spanish Flu of 1918.  The soldiers coming home from the war brought with them the Spanish Flu and it spread to so many Ischitanos!  It was a deadly flu.  It is said that by the spring of 1919, the influenza pandemic had sickened an estimated one-third of the world’s population and may have killed as many as 50 million people. And Ischitanos were part of that statistic.  The townspeople couldn’t keep up with individual grave plots and ended up having to have mass burials.  My great grandmother became one of those casualties leaving behind a husband and four children.  Soon things leveled off and my great grandfather remarried.  He continued his fishing business with his family and life went on.  My grandmother became of age and she married starting her own family.  Soon afterwards WW2 hit, and my grandfather went off to serve as a medic leaving his family behind to struggle.  The island of Ischia entered another sad time as they dealt with food and water shortage.  Families struggled as the heads of household were off to fight in the war.  After World War 2 ended Ischia struggled economically. My grandfather looked to move to another country for a better life for his family.  He tried out Argentina for 3 years hoping to bring his family there, but Argentina’s economy crashed, and my grandfather soon came back to Ischia.  Instead of feeling defeated he continued his dream of making his family’s life better and made plans to move to the United States. In 1955 he moved half of his family to Marlboro, New York. My grandfather along with my mom and two of her sisters worked to make enough money so that they could bring my grandmother and the rest of the siblings to join them in the US.

Even though the family moved to the US, they continued to follow their Italian traditions.   One of the traditions they never forgot was fishing. Even though my grandmother and grandfather settled inland away from the ocean they couldn’t let go of the love for the sea.  I don’t how they found this place in Norwalk, Connecticut but they did! With the little bit of English that they knew they found a place to rent a motorized rowboat and go fishing in the Long Island Sound.  Many of my summer memories included going to Norwalk, CT to go fishing with my grandparents.  My dad grew up on the mainland of Italy, but his town was a small mountain surrounded by water on three sides so he too enjoyed fishing.  It was a huge family excursion with 3-4 boats getting rented.  We brought steak sandwiches and we always included spaghetti pizza. Once I got married and had children my dad also introduced my children to fishing on the Long Island Sound in Norwalk, CT.

My grandfather Giovan Giuseppe Mazzella fishing on the Long Island Sound near the Norwalk, Connecticut Marina circa 1960

Life got busier and we no longer went on fishing excursions. But just a few years ago a restaurant was recommended in Norwalk, Ct and my husband and I and our children went to try it out. When I arrived, I immediately recognized the spot even though the dock, bait shop, and boat rentals were no longer there.  But now a beautiful seafood restaurant took over the spot. 

  So, as the old year is left behind and a new year is started, I rethink my purpose in life. Maybe I need to go back to my roots. To go forward, one must go back first and ponder.      This past week my husband and I took the family out to dinner to the seafood restaurant in Norwalk.  I handed them all pieces of paper from the oldest to the youngest (who happens to be my granddaughter Emma) to write down their dreams for the new year.  I thought what a perfect place to ponder our dreams.  As I looked out to sea, I thought of my grandfather who never gave up his dream to make a better life for his family. He didn’t succeed at first but that didn’t stop him.  I sat and looked around the table and I realized that I really am living my best life surrounded by my family.  The least I can do is to not give up my dreams!  And you know what?  In order to fulfill our dreams, we must never forget where we came from and who we are.   I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!  May all your dreams come true!  Tradition! It’s the fuel to follow your dreams!

My husband, children. spouses and grandchildren eating dinner in Norwalk, CT at the same place my grandparents went fishing ….2019

Spaghetti Pizza

My mom always made spaghetti pizza for our picnic when we went fishing in Norwalk, Connecticut. Here’s our recipe. There are quite a few versions of it. My grandmother would make a sweet variety. While my Zia in Monte di Procida would make a savory one and sprinkle it with a bit of sugar on top. But I thought I would share my mom’s version which my kids also love! One time when my son was three he got all excited when he saw my mom making it and got all excited thinking we were going fishing!

Ingredients:

1 pound of cooked spaghetti al dente

1/2 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup of cubed prosciutto

1/2 cup of cubed fresh mozzarella

1 1/2 cups of shredded dry mozzarella

1/2 pound of cubed Auricchio Provolone

3 eggs

1/4 cup of Grape seed oil or corn oil. I like to use grape seed oil.

Procedure:

1. Mix all the cheeses and the proscuitto

2. Beat eggs and add to pasta to mix.

3. Add the cheese and prosciutto mixture to the pasta

4. Heat 1/4 cup of grape seed oil in a skillet

5. Add pasta mixture to pan and spread out tucking the cheese inside the pasta.

6. Let fry about 10 minutes or more until you can easily slide spatula underneath the spaghetti feeling that it’s crispy.

7. Flip the pizza over and cook 10-15 minutes long until the other side is crispy.

8. Take out of pan and let sit on paper towel to drain some of the oil and then serve!

Buon Appetito!

Happy New Year with lots of Good Luck serving Lentil Soup. Memories with Toscanini

I have been trying to get over this writing slump that I have been in lately. I really want to write about something special before the end of the year. I kept thinking and thinking but alas nothing went through my mind. So, I decided to look through my scrapbook to hopefully spur a memory. And I came across a letter written by a customer on July 3,1977 on the back of our Coppola’s Restaurant placemat. It’s a letter from Walfredo Tocanini. Not only is this man a councilman from New Rochelle, NY (he left his business card), but his grandfather was the famous Metropolitan Opera House conductor, Arturo Toscanini. He wrote the letter in Italian letting us know that he came to Coppola’s Restaurant to enjoy a delicious Italian meal in the Hudson Valley, celebrating the 4th of July and Garibaldi’s birthday. He emphasized how much they thoroughly enjoyed the Shrimp Scampi and Veal Scaloppini ala Marsala but also wanted to correct something on the menu. Our 1970’s menu was decorated with pencil drawings of famous Italian contributors in the United States. One of the drawings depicted Walfredo’s grandfather, Arturo Toscanini whom we mislabeled as the manager of the Metropolitan Opera House. Walfredo corrected that Arturo was the artistic director of the Metropolitan Opera and that Giulio Gatti-Casazza was the manager of the metropolitan Opera.
So, I thought to myself, “ehh maybe I will write about Tocanini.” But as I looked up the grandson, Walfredo Toscanini I found so much written about him. And then I came across his obituary. He died December 31, 2011! How eerie is that? I came across this on his 7th anniversary! Now I must write about him!
As I am reading about the councilman Walfredo Toscanini I realize that not only was his grandfather a famous conductor but Walfredo made his mark on the world too!
Walfredo Toscanini was born in Milan in 1928. He was an only child and the oldest of Arturo Toscanini’s grandchildren. Walfredo parents were vehemently anti-fascist. They decided to not allow Walfredo to attend Italian public schools under Mussolini’s strict control. Instead he was sent to a Swiss-run private school in Milan. There he learned German and French and was not subjected to fascist propaganda.
In 1938 after his grandfather Arturo had a run in with Italian government because of his anti-fascist beliefs, the whole family moved to America. Walfredo enrolled in New Jersey public schools when he arrived at 9 years old. Later, Walfredo went on to Yale and graduated as an architect. He worked for over 50 years in the New York area as a senior architect and various other jobs. He lived in New Rochelle where he was a long-serving district leader for the Democratic Party and was very active in preserving the arts.
Walfredo’s passion was to preserve and publicize the artistic legacy not only of his grandfather but also of his mother, Cia Fornaroli, a prima ballerina at La Scala in Milan during the 1920s, and of his father, Walter Toscanini, a man of letters, dance historian and anti-fascist activist.
Walfredo Toscanini also arranged to have Arturo Toscanini¹s archives and recordings made available to scholars and music lovers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In 1987, he co-authored an illustrated book, Toscanini with longtime friend and Opera News Associate Editor John Freeman.
As I am writing about Walfredo and his famous grandfather I realized that I have something in common with him! Our families lived through Mussolini’s reign. Although I didn’t experience Mussolini’s fascist reign in Italy, my parents did. I have in my possession my mother’s report card where allegiance to Mussolini is all over the front of her report card. She often told me how they had to practice marching in honor of Mussolini during school. But the most important thing that we both share is the love of our family and trying to keep their legacy alive. Walfredo in keeping his famous conductor grandfather, dance historian father and prima ballerina mother memories alive worked hard preserving their work. My story, although not as grand but it is just as important to me, is preserving my father’s impact in the Hudson Valley with Italian food. My dad died way too young and I keep his memory alive through the bottling of the 825 MAIN Sauces and sharing the many restaurant stories whether it be from our family or our customers. And of course, our many recipes! Even though I am not related to Walfredo Toscanini I hope this story helps in preserving the efforts Walfredo Toscanini made to keep his family’s memory alive.

Happy New Year’s from our family to yours!


Lentil Soup for Good Luck

(Italians traditionally serve lentil soup to enjoy on New Year’s Eve or Day in hopes of bringing greater abundance and prosperity in the coming year) Lentil soup was one of the ‘soups of the day’ at our restaurant anytime during the year!

Ingredients:

2 cups lentils, rinsed twice in a colander under cold water (preferably Umbrian lentils)
6 cups chicken broth
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. bacon or pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks with leaves attached, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, stems removed, washed, and minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup freshly minced basil
1 12-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes (crushed with your hands (or buy it already diced/chopped)
2 cups fresh spinach leaves or escarole, rinsed well and chopped
(optional) pinch of hot red pepper flakes
2 rinds of parmigiana reggiano cheese
1 bay leaf
1 short sprig fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper

Instructions:

1.Rinse the lentils in cold water in a colander.
2. Drizzle olive oil into a pot. When the olive oil is hot, add the chopped pancetta and sauté’ for 2 minutes.
3. Add the chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Stir.
4. Cook, stirring often, until the onions, carrots, and celery are semi-soft, for about 2 minutes.
5. Turn off stove. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, chicken broth and bouillon cube.
6. Bring everything to a boil.
7. Add the lentils, parsley, seasonings, and cheese rinds.
8. Cook for 45 minutes
9. Taste and add additional salt and pepper to taste preferences if desired.
10. Add the spinach or escarole allow to wilt

Serve with: freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, pass around to guests

Buon Appetito!

Dolce e Gabbana Meets 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce meets Dolce e Gabbana!

As we were leaving Italy this past spring, after visiting my sister Giovanna, a boutique in the Napoli airport jumped out at me! We got to the airport in plenty of time and as we settled into our gate’s waiting area, I told my husband that I was a going for a walk. I think he was a little worried when he saw that I grabbed my pocket book. I urged him not to worry because I wasn’t buying clothes! I headed towards the most beautifully decorated boutique. Entering the boutique, Dolce e Gabbana spoke to me loud and clear. I patted my side to make sure I had my pocketbook!
Just a mere 15 minutes later I lugged a beautiful shopping bag to where Jim was sitting. As he glared at me, I joyfully exclaimed that I bought pasta!

I had filled my bag full of Pasta Di Martino! Jim looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.
“But Jim! It’s a real special pasta. It’s made in Gragnano on a hilltop between Monti Lattari and the Amalfi Coast not too far from the airport! Gragnano is famous for its air-dried, bronze-extruded pasta across the world. The Gragnano townsfolk call it white gold. Even though Gragnano has been making this pasta for hundreds of years, it was only in the 18th century that Pasta di Gragnano became widely known spreading all over Italy. In the last century Pasta di Gragnano began to travel beyond Italy’s borders to the rest of the world.”

I continued to tell him that there are 4 reasons this pasta is exceptional!

1. The land where the wheat is cultivated. The town of Gragnano is situated where there’s a right mix of wind, sun, and humidity. In the 18th century, the king of Napoli decided that only two places were suitable to cultivate the wheat for the rest of the population: Naples and Gragnano. The pasta also must be made by mixing durum wheat with the calcium-poor water of Monti Lattari.
2. The second reason is the carefully-developed process, which continues to be regulated by a strict standard of production. In 2013, the European Union declared PGI (Protected Geographical Indication): the pasta made under the name “Pasta di Gragnano” must be produced in a legally defined area that still corresponds to the territory indicated by the king of the Napoli about two centuries ago.
3. The dough must be extruded through rough bronze forms and, once it has taken shape, dry at low temperatures in the mountain air. The result of this long and traditional process is one of the finest pastas in the world. This pasta is called Bronze Cut.
4. And the last reason and what attracted me to the pasta in the first place is that Dolce e Gabbana ( An Italian luxury fashion house founded in 1985 in Legnano by Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana) signed the new look of Di Martino Pasta. A special edition celebrating Italian excellence through colors, symbols and monuments identifying the country.

I was feeling all smug and self important explaining all of this to Jim. And then he tells me that this isn’t new to him. Adams Fairacre Farms where he is the grocery manager carries this very pasta. In fact he had spoken to the international buyer for Pasta di Martino at the recent Food show. He actually ordered pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look to sell at the Wappinger Falls, NY location. I am like, “Say what!!!” “Yes, we sell it at Adams”, Jim answered with his smug, self-important tone.

I couldn’t believe it. Adams Fairacre Farms is selling the Di Martino Pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look. Wow! Not only is it being sold in Neiman Marcus and Bergdoff Goodmans. It is even featured in Vogue magazine. And now it’s available in our very own Hudson Valley at Adams Fairacre Farms, Wappinger Falls, NY!
When we arrived home from our trip, I marched myself into Adams to see for myself. There it was! Rows and rows of Pasta Di Martino pasta. So far only the mezzo rigatoni were packaged in the Dolce e Gabbana signed wrappers. I noticed they even have the infamous 24 inch spaghetti wrapped in the original blue paper that the Gragnano pasta was wrapped in hundreds of years ago. No other pasta is wrapped in that way.

I am astounded that we have the Crown Jewel of pasta wrapped in Dolce e Gabbana right here in Wappinger Falls and no one even noticed! Right under our very noses!! Like who knew!
Now that I have uncovered this gem in the Hudson Valley, you all better hurry in while supplies last! Because I sure did fill my cart at Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger Falls, NY!!

Love this beautiful pasta!! Can I wear ?

 

 


 

Shrimp Marinara using the 24 inch Pasta di Martino Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce (authentic Napolitana marinara sauce to go with Napolitana Di Martino spaghetti)

1 lb of 24 inch Pasta Di Martino Spaghetti ( Each blue paper package holds 2 individually wrapped pounds of 24 inch spaghetti)

Salt
2 cloves of garlic cleaned and sliced thin
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine
Pinch of red pepper
1 lb of cleaned and deveined shrimp
3 sprigs fresh parsley – chopped
Fresh basil

Procedure:

1. Pour jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauce pan. Warm sauce on medium heat.
2. Start a big pot of boiling water.
3. In a saute pan place extra virgin olive oil, sliced garlic, pinch of red pepper, and the shrimp. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp turn from opaque to white. Careful not to overcook. Less is better because you will be finishing cooking the shrimp with the sauce. Beware that overcooking makes shrimp tough.
4. Add the white wine and the chopped fresh parsley
5. Add the cooked shrimp mixture to warm 825 MAIN Marinara sauce.
6. Add broken up pieces of basil.
7. Add spaghetti to big pot of boiling water. No need to break spaghetti. It will fold over as it softens and nudge it down with thongs. Cook it al dente. Strain saving a half cup of pasta water.
8. Put strained spaghetti back in pot with the ½ cup of pasta water and a couple of ladles of the shrimp marinara sauce. Stir over medium heat until all spaghetti is coated.
9. Divide spaghetti amongst the plates and ladle the prepared Shrimp marinara sauce over. Serve with a leaf of basil on the side of plate.

 

Bella Figura and Zucchini Flower Zeppole

I am so embarrassed that it has been so long since I have written a blog entry. Our only daughter is getting married and I have been preoccupied with making sure that everything is perfect because god forbid I make a “brutta figura”! But I ended up making a “brutta figura” with all of you by not keeping up with my blog posts! If you are Italian, you know exactly what I mean by “brutta figura”. For all the non-Italians read on as I explain in detail of this Italian phenomenon. And for all the Italians out there help me make a “bella figura” by giving me wedding planning advice.

While growing up in my big Italian family, my parents stressed to all of us the importance of always making a “bella figura” so our family looked good. We strived to make “una bella figura” versus “una brutta figura”). In literal translation brutta means ugly and bella means beautiful. Figura means figure as in body shape. Figuratively, these two phrases mean that Italians want to always make a good impression versus a bad impression. Let me give you an example. My first introduction to “brutta figura” was when we would go visit my extended Italian family. The hostess would welcome us into her home and lead us into a beautiful dining room set up with fine linens, china and would serve espresso, an assortment of desserts, and aperitifs.  This was her way of making “una bella figura”. (One time we went to a relative’s house in Brooklyn and we had to sit on plastic covered chairs that went crunch when we moved. I don’t know if this could be regarded as “bella figura”.) For us children, so as not to embarrass my parents and create “una brutta figura”, we were urged to partake of the coffee, desserts and even the aperitifs. Yes, as a child I was encouraged by the hostess to try the aperitifs along with everything else. Although I didn’t care for the aperitifs and the espresso to make “una bella figura” I had to try it. But now when I look back I should not have tried so hard with the Italian pastries. I realize now, this was the only drawback to this “bella figura”. All these good impressions I made, ended up on my “figura” which now I need to work on, so I can make a “bella figura” for my own daughter’s wedding.

As I grew up in the restaurant I watched my father and my uncle practice their “bella figura” on their restaurant customers. My father would ho, ho, ho while my uncle would ha, ha, ha, as a customer told a joke. My brother and I would recognize my father’s overly deep laugh and my uncle’s high pitched laugh as fake. We would look at each other and say, “bella figura”. We knew that our dad and uncle were pretending to understand the joke!

I passed on this “bella figura” concept to not only my husband but our kids as well. In the early years when my husband and I were dating, one day in front of my father, my husband bravely downed a glass of fresh warm goat’s milk that was just milked from our pet goat, Daisy so as to make a “bella figura’. Our youngest child absolutely hates butter. Whenever we would go out to dinner and his entre’ happened to be made with butter, he would have a meltdown. We would have to immediately return it and get something else. Now that he is older and married, he makes sure to make a “bella figura” whenever he eats with his wife’s family who use butter to their hearts content in everything they make! The oldest child who was in the Navy avoided many national incidents by practicing “bella figura”. In the Philippines he partook in eating everything that his hosts, the Philippine Navy, served in his honor. It was the first time and last time that he had roasted pigs face. Another time in Iraq he braced himself to accept a date dredged in yogurt from the fingers of his Iraquee guide. He made a “bella figura’’ and ate it as it was passed from one Iraqi’s hands to another’s and finally to his own.

But “bella figura” doesn’t just relate to food. Italians make sure their clothes are neatly pressed with accessories that match to the smallest detail. From the women with perfectly coiffured hair, to the men with their perfectly trimmed beards, Italians take their appearances seriously. But its not just the way they look! Even things must look good. A dessert, a gift, a garden, an entrance to a home, everything must be perfectly decorated with a flourish! Even with their children’s school studies would parents often ask, “hai fatto una bella figura?” when asking how they did in an exam. And let me explain their generosity! Italians always put their hand in their pocket to avoid “una brutta figura”! Even if someone is making a “brutta figura” in front of you, it is best to avoid noticing it. After all, it is a “bella figura” to not embarrass the person making the “brutta figura”!

In Italy one can even make a “brutta figura” while drinking coffee! I drink cappuccino whenever I feel like it. Whether it’s in the morning or after a meal, I have no problem ordering one. But when I am in Italy, I make sure to only order one in the morning because I don’t want to make a “brutta figura”! Apparently, a cappuccino is only a breakfast drink in Italy. They will serve you one, but rest assured, in their heads they are thinking,” Pfft……Americano!” Also, any real Italian, will never drink coffee out of a paper cup! Or even worse, walk around drinking out of one! That is a huge “brutta figura’!

And now to get back to this wedding. I am not only just worrying about the guest list so as not to make a “brutta figura”. I need to make sure the flowers are perfect on the tables, we present a good meal and it’s served with finesse, so we can make a “bella figura”. But honestly, what is stressing me out the most is my dress! I must find a beautiful dress that fits perfectly on this “figura” (literally) just so I don’t make a “brutta figura” (figuratively). Ohh the consequences of making a “bella figura” through the years and now I risk making a “brutta figura” at my own daughter’s wedding!


Zucchini Flower Zeppole

Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

It’s summer time and my zucchini plants are in full swing! We enjoy zucchini year-round, but you need the summer to enjoy the flowers! My family loves zeppole made with zucchini flowers. The flowers are edible and so utterly delicious that we can’t wait for summer to plant zucchini plants! I am going to show how to make these zeppole step by step! If you haven’t planted zucchini plants look for the zucchini flowers at your farmer’s market. Italians love their zucchini never letting them grow longer than 5 inches and are sold with their flowers still attached. In the picture above I have displayed the female flowers which are attached to the zucchini and the male flowers. I only use the male flowers for the zeppole. They have long stems with no zucchini attached. Some recipes call for the female flowers too but I prefer only the male flowers. The female flowers sometimes are bruised and fall apart.

                                     Ingredients:

10 to 12 male zucchini flowers, washed removing stamen and leaves
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder
A turn of pepper mill
1 egg
½ to ¾ cup of water depending how thick you want the zeppole
¼ to ½ cup of oil for frying depending on what size pan you use. You want to have enough to fry in. I prefer extra virgin oil to fry in for extra flavor but any frying oil is good.

 

                                  Procedure:

1. Wash the flowers thoroughly making sure that you don’t inadvertently catch a bee inside the flower!

2. Remove the tiny green leaves around the flower.

3. Next break off the stamen

Take off the stamen

4. Set aside on paper towels to dry. Now to make the batter.

5. Mix the dry ingredients separately and in a separate bowl mix water and egg. Then add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix.

Mix up the batter

6. Now you have some choices!
a. Some people love to stuff the flowers (keeping the stem on) with ricotta cheese mozzarella and grated cheese twisting the top of the flower to keep the stuffing inside. And then coating them with the batter.

Stuffed Whole Zucchini Flower

 

b. You can dip the flower whole (with stem on for presentation only) into the batter.

Frying the zucchini flower Zeppole

c. You can also tear the flower in pieces ( be sure to take stem off) and placing it in batter. And putting batter in oil to fry by tablespoonfuls.

7. Next is fry your choice of flower preparation in heated oil in a skillet. I set the burner on a medium high. I like them a golden brown and then flip it over. Check often so you don’t burn them. It can take about 3 minutes or more on each side. I like to line a plate with paper towel to drain off excess oil.

Drain zeppola on paper towels

8. Finally serve and eat. I sprinkle them with a little grated sea salt. My granddaughter likes them sprinkled with sugar!

Fried Zucchini Flower Zeppole

 

Buon Appetito!

Traditions and Memories! Broiled Shrimp Scampi

What is General Patton doing at Coppola’s?

As 2017 comes to an end I wanted to share a memory of the restaurant.  You see our restaurant wasn’t all about my family and I.  It was also about our customers.  Their memories became our memories.  I learned so much from our customers. The following story is about a picture that hung on the wall in Coppola’s Restaurant men’s room.  Ever since the picture was hung up on the wall in Coppola’s Restaurant men’s room it stirred up a lot of commotion. The infamous picture was of General Patton on June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and invaded Europe. The Rhine River was Germany’s ancient line of defense; when American troops crossed the Rhine on March 7, 1945 at Remagen near Cologne, it was all over for the Nazis. General George S. Patton showed his contempt for the Germans by relieving himself into the river. On the rare occasion I went into the men’s room the only thing that I noticed about that 8 x 10 picture was that it looked oddly out of place lost on a blank wall.

General Patton - American troops crossed the Rhine on March 7, 1945
In the early 1990’s before my dad passed away, a loyal customer, the late Jim Quinn, brought in the picture because he said our men’s room needed some sprucing up.  I found this extremely odd but it’s a men’s room and what do I know! Suffice to say that not only has this picture become a conversation piece for years but it has also provoked people to steal. The picture had been stolen so many times that we kept copies to replace the stolen copy. What’s funny about it is that they always left the frame! But that picture stirred up so many interesting conversations.

A conversation that really stood out was when an out of town gentleman (here for the Vassar College Graduation) after returning from the men’s room wanted to speak to someone about that picture. My face flushed from embarrassment, I just couldn’t get the words out on what General Patton was actually doing trying to explain the picture. The customer was an older stately gentleman and I kept stumbling for words. It was at the end of the evening so I just directed him to the kitchen to speak to Jim. My embarrassment was all for naught since the only reason he wanted to talk about the picture is that he wanted to share his story that he was there with General Patton. This gentleman was one of the engineers from the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion that crossed that Rhine River many times during WW2. Well, I had to look up what exactly did an engineer do during the crossing of the Rhine River over 60 years ago. After reading about the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion, I was extremely impressed. I thought I would take an excerpt from the information I found so you can be equally impressed!

“It was during this week, in late March of 1945, that the U.S. Third Army under Gen. Patton, began its famous bridging and crossing operations of the Rhine. After the completion of the Battle in The Ardennes, Patton and his Army turned to the south and east attacking toward the Rhine. Without the luck of the 9th Armored Division, further to the north, who were able to capture the only intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, Patton’s Third Army faced the necessity of bridging the wide river with their own resources. There had been a total of 22 road and 25 railroad bridges spanning the Rhine into Germany, but with the exception of the Remagen Bridge, they had all been destroyed.

In a special order to his men, Patton stated that from late January to late March, “You have taken over 6,400 square miles of territory, seized over 3,000 cities, towns and villages including Trier, Koblenz, Bingen, Worms, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, and Ludwigshafen. You have captured over 140,000 soldiers, killed or wounded an additional 100,000 while eliminating the German 1st and 7th Armies. Using speed and audacity on the ground with support from peerless fighter-bombers in the air, you kept up a relentless round-the-clock attack on the enemy. Your assault over the Rhine at 2200 last night assures you of even greater glory to come.” (After Action Report, Third U.S. Army, page 313)

The first unit to cross was the 5th Infantry Division that used assault rafts to cross the raging Rhine at Oppenheim (west of Darmstadt and south of Mainz) in the early morning hours of March 23. The 150th Engineer Combat Battalion (EC inflated the floats for the bridge in the rear area, moved them to the river in trucks, and by daybreak had assembled them into rafts. By 1880 that evening, a class 40 M-2 Treadway bridge was taking traffic. The following day, a second 1,280-foot class 24 bridge was completed in the same area. It was later upgraded to a class M-40 bridge. Without the benefit of aerial bombardment or artillery preparation, units landed quickly and established a beachhead that was seven miles wide and six miles deep in less than 24 hours. Several amphibious tanks of the 748th Tank Battalion crossed with the men of the 5th ID.

When daylight came, the Luftwaffe attacked the enclave with 154 aircraft in an attempt to dislodge the foothold on the east bank. Effective anti-aircraft fires brought down 18 of the attacking planes and destroyed 15 more.

By March 27, five divisions with supporting troops and supplies had crossed the three bridges constructed at Oppenheim. The entire 6th Armored Division crossed in less than 17 hours. During the period of March 24-31, a total of 60,000 vehicles passed over these bridges. After consolidating on the east bank, the Third Army continued its drive to the east, capturing Darmstadt on March 25, and arriving in Frankfurt the following day.

Working as a well-coordinated unit, the Third Army relied upon trained veteran soldiers, dedicated leadership, an excellent working relationship with the XIX Tactical Air Command, a logistical train that moved all classes of supplies and personnel replacements quickly to the front.}

* See Barry W. Fowle, editor, Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II, Office of History, US Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Belvoir, VA, 1992. See especially Fowle, “The Rhine River Crossings,” pp 463-476]

But on this very night that the engineer from the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion from WWII had dinner at our restaurant and proudly recounted his experience with General Patton, we had an unusual coincidence occur.  It was 10 pm and I had just locked up the front doors and turned off the sign when someone was knocking at the door.  I didn’t know his name but his face was familiar so I couldn’t turn him away. It ended up being Jim Quinn’s son and grandson to have a drink at the bar.  If you remember at the start of my story it was Jim Quinn who originally gave us the picture of General Patton.  At the time I was thinking that General Patton relieving himself at Coppola’s is still keeping Jim Quinn alive in all of our memories. I really do believe that Jim Quinn must have telepathically sent a message to his son to come in to Coppola’s and have a Manhattan in his honor while he was remembered by all of us!

May all your traditions and special memories keep your loved ones alive this holiday season! 

* After reading this memory to Jim he recalled another General Patton memory. Mind you that General Patton picture was always a conversation starter.  This particular time started with accusations! It came from the mouth of a much younger gentleman. He was actually screaming at my husband, calling him a thief. Apparently, this young man’s grandfather was the photographer who took this particular photograph.  He said there were only two originals and what was one doing in the Coppola’s men’s room. It took some coaxing to calm the young man down and convince him that it was only a copy! Sheesh who knew that a picture could cause so much turmoil! That Jim Quinn knew what he was doing when he wanted to spruce things up or should I say rile up?

See our popular Broiled Shrimp Scampi recipe from our restaurant menu.

Take a Walk through Ischia Ponte and enjoy a recipe for Panettone di Ischia

Castello Araganese

Castello Aragonese

This post is going to be a little different.  Different is that I will be living surreptitiously through my sister in this story.  Even though she lives thousands of miles away in a different time zone we keep in touch through all the current forms of communication.  Not only do we FaceTime on our iPhone, we email, use Skype,  WhatsApp and Snapchat.  Giovanna and her husband Davide have just recently moved to the island of Ischia, located in the Gulf of Naples.  Ischia is our mamma’s native island.

If you have been following my blog, one of my passionate topics I talk about is about my mom and Ischia.  My mom, suffers from Alzheimers and can’t remember anymore and because of that we try to remember for her. Growing up we took many trips with my parents to Ischia taking for granted everything mamma told us.  Both my sister and I remember bits of things that she has told us and we try to piece it all  together by researching.  We both read as much as we can about Ischia.  I even belong to many Facebook groups that have to do with Ischia.

Now, I will make sure to take full advantage of Giovanna living there.  I love taking virtual food tours of Ischia.  If I see something interesting, Giovanna will go investigate and/or taste it for me.  Not only is Giovanna having fun in Ischia imagining walking in our mom’s shoes and remembering her life but I am too.

Giovanna lives in Ischia Ponte where her apartment faces Il Castello Aragonese (the small medieval  castle on a large volcanic rock connected by a bridge).   The apartment is in the same neighborhood mamma grew up in. This area is where the “Crimson Pirate” was filmed in 1951 starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Bartok.

On New Years Day Giovanna told me she was going for a walk to Cartaromana.  Cartaromana is a small beach about a 20 minute walk from Il Castello Aragonese.  It’s a beautiful small beach complete with hot springs. Every time we visited Ischia we made sure to go there.  Even when I was older I brought my children there and they had the pleasure of experiencing this beach.  We always made sure to eat at Ristorante da Maria on the beach, which is still there.  My mom loved for all of us to enjoy the coniglio Ischitana, the famous rabbit recipe that Ischia is famous for.  There is nothing like Ischitana cuisine.

While Giovanna took her leisurely walk I asked her to take pictures along the way and share with me. And she did through snap chat!  I saved the pictures so you can all experience the walk to Cartaromana through Giovanna’s camera lens and perhaps you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Starting the walk to Cartaromana on Via Soronzarao, an antique paththat the farmers and fisherman used to exchange their products. Going up the hill.

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This walk will take about 20 minutes. The path connects Ischia Ponte and Cartaromana and the cultivated hills.

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Signs were everywhere directing Giovanna to Cartaromana Beach!

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The first glimpse of the Castello Aragonese as she walked up the hill.

Castello Araganese

At the top of the hill she saw the full view of the medieval castle.

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Giovanna turned around at the Torre de Guevara and is on the way down. Just beyond this hill is the path leading to the beach. The Cartaromana beach can also be accessed by boat.

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It’s getting dark as she’s nearing the Castello.

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Each time she passed the man on his scooter Giovanna cheerfully greeted him. The second time he gifted her a fresh lemon and orange and wished her happy new year! He said he was impressed by her cheerfulness!

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Going back down to the piazza in front of Il Castello Aragonese

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It’s night now and Giovanna continued to walk to the other side to La Mandra Beach. La Mandra is the beach my mom and her family used when they all lived in Ischia. Goodnight Giovanna and Davide!


I came across Panettone di Ischia on Instagram.  I asked Giovanna about it.  She said she has been seeing them in all the bakery shops.  I decided to make one so I can feel like I am there.  So while I walk with Giovanna through Cartoromana I have been enjoying a piece of panetonne with a cup of espresso. Tell me if it doesn’t look the same!  It was delicious.  Here’s the recipe I used!

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Panettone di Ischia by instagram voraciinsud

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My version of Panettone di Ischia. Sip an espresso while munching on this panettone and let’s pretend we are with Giovanna and Davide in Ischia!

See my recipe for slow rise panettone.

Shrimp Marinara for Feast of Seven Fishes

Just days away from Christmas Eve, I have been thinking about what seven fishes I should make for our traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner.  Being that both of my parents grew up near the Gulf of Naples in Italy (my dad from Monte di Procida on the mainland and my mom on the Island of Ischia) fish was a focal part of many meals.  My mom came from a long line of prominent fishermen.  Her uncles and grandfather were tall strapping men who made fishing their living.  While my dad’s family on the other hand, made their living farming.  Fishing was just a favorite past time, a perk of living just a mile from the sea. Because of my family’s passion for salt water fishing, my siblings and I spent a major part of our summers fishing on the Long Island Sound.  So needless to say, getting fish for our Christmas Eve dinner was always an adventure for choosing the freshest and tastiest fish.  All this passion for fish also resonated into our restaurant menu.  Our restaurant was one of the first restaurants in the Hudson Valley to introduce calamari to their clientele. For this month’s recipe I thought I would give you our Shrimp Marinara recipe. It’s a simple recipe using our authentic marinara sauce that we used in the restaurant, the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce.  As a recurring theme with all of my recipe,s the attention to all the ingredients is what sets us apart from the rest. To make this Shrimp Marinara truly special and mouth watering, I would like to share my knowledge from my family’s passion for seafood. There is so much to know when choosing your shrimp for this recipe!

There are dozens of different species of shrimp.  Shrimp are available with the heads and tails on or off, with the shell on or cleaned, and deveined or intact.  One can choose from pre-cooked, frozen, fresh, or previously frozen. And then one has to wonder whether to buy shrimp or prawns.

I have included some information to help you decide on some of the following questions:

1.What size shrimp to get?
A shrimp’s size is measured by the number of individual shrimp it takes to make up a pound. A label of 16/20 means that there are between 16 and 20 of these shrimp in a pound.
The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. These labels like “medium” or “jumbo” aren’t regulated and vary depending on the fish monger.  Here’s a general guide when picking shrimp for a recipe.Small  – 51 shrimp or more per pound
Medium –  36 to 50 shrimp per pound
Large –  26 to 40 shrimp per pound
Jumbo – 16 to 25 shrimp per pound
Colossal  – Fewer than 15 shrimp per pound

2. What types of shrimp are there to choose from?
By color:  When one thinks of shrimp you think about the color like brown, white, or pink shrimp.
Brown shrimp mostly come from the Gulf of Mexico, though they’re found down the entire Atlantic coast. They like it warm, so they’re found in shallow waters, and tend to be fairly small with a purple-ish coloring on the tail. Firm in texture, their flavor isn’t the strongest, though they’re thought to have a distinctive mineral-y iodine shrimp flavor.
White shrimp tend to be a little more tender and sweet. With a slightly lighter color and a green-hued tail, they’re found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in shallow, muddy waters. There’s also a good number of white shrimp imported from Latin America—especially Mexico and Ecuador—Thailand, and China, all with varying levels of sustainability ratings (see the seafood watch reports for more details.)
Pink shrimp are some of the tastiest shrimp you can find, mild and sweet without the distinctive ammonia taste some of the brown and white shrimp have. Just don’t expect a vibrantly hued patch of shrimp at the market—pink shrimp can range from white to gray in color. You can recognize them by dark blue coloring on the tail; they usually also sport a spot on either side of the body, about three quarters of the way to the tail.
By name: Tiger shrimp, Spot Prawn, Rock Shrimp
Tiger Shrimp are found mostly in Asia, especially in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China, tiger shrimp have telltale brown striping on their bodies.  They can get enormous in size, up to a foot long, and are the most commonly farmed shrimp in the world. Formed or fresh, they can have a distinctly shrimp flavor, you’ll frequently find them frozen in five-pound blocks in Asian markets. These shrimp have a soft texture.
Spot Prawn– Prawn is a word generally used, among English-speakers, in the UK, Europe, and Australia, while the word “shrimp” is more common in North America. Some people may have the mistaken impression that a prawn is necessarily a bigger creature than a shrimp (possibly due to the other meaning of the word shrimp). In reality, there’s no difference between the two words. Yet for whatever reason, even in the US, the spot prawn is always referred to as a prawn and not a shrimp. It’s found along the Pacific coast from Alaska down to Mexico, and is a delicacy in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. A fairly large shrimp, at up to a foot long, spot prawns are prized for their sweetness and tenderness.
Rock shrimp are deepwater inhabitants, growing tough and hardy in the cold waters off the Atlantic coast from Virginia down to the Gulf. A few species also live off the Pacific coast. They don’t look at all like their warm water cousins, boasting a very hard (dare I say rock-like) shell and segmented flesh that looks more like a lobster tail than anything else. It tastes, not surprisingly, kind of like lobster, more firm than other varieties of shrimp, but also sweeter. It’s excellent in preparations that typically call for lobster, and a whole lot cheaper to boot. It’s pretty much impossible to remove that tough shell without a dedicated machine, so it’s usually sold pre-peeled.

3. How do you know if they are fresh?
Shrimp are highly perishable, so it’s important to know how to pick out the freshest shrimp available, not just for taste and texture but also for safety. First off, you don’t want any shrimp that smell like ammonia—this is a telltale sign of spoilage, and it’s worth asking your fishmonger if you can take a sniff before buying. You’ll also want to avoid shrimp that are limp, slimy, or falling apart, all of which are signs of decay.

A more advanced sign if you’re buying head-on fresh shrimp: look for black spots on the head first, then the body.

In most cases, you’re better off buying frozen shrimp, even when “fresh” shrimp are available.

4. Do you get fresh or frozen?
Most shrimp sold in the supermarket or at the fishmonger were deep frozen at sea and delivered to the retailer in that state. That display of “fresh” shrimp you see are just the same   bags of frozen shrimp you find in the freezer that have simply been allowed to thaw out in the store before going on display. There’s no way to know how long they’ve been there defrosted, so you’re better off buying the frozen shrimp and defrosting them yourself at home where you have more control over the process and can guarantee that your shrimp don’t spend too long out of the freezer before being cooked. You can also ask the fishmonger for a box of shrimp.

The one exception to the always-buy-frozen rule is when you have access to live shrimp, either fresh from the ocean, or stored in tanks at the shop. In those cases, cook the shrimp as soon as possible after purchasing for best flavor and texture.

5. Block or IQF?
Shrimp tend to be frozen either in large five-pound blocks or by using the IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) method. We recommend opting for the second. IQF shrimp tend to show less damage during freezing. They also make it easy to thaw only the shrimp you need for a single meal at a time.
If you’re buying from a grocery store freezer, take a peek in the little transparent plastic to make sure there is no freezer burn.  Freezer burn indicates that the shrimp have either partially thawed before being refrozen, or have been poorly handled during their freeze, both of which are bad for texture and flavor.

6. How do you thaw frozen shrimp?
Frozen shrimp should always be thawed before cooking. To thaw frozen shrimp take them out of their bag and place them in a bowl under cold (not warm) running water. They’ll be good to go in just a few minutes. Dry your shrimp on paper towels before proceeding with your recipe.

7. Do you get them with shells?
I recommend shell-on shrimp.  Shelled shrimp are often mangled and unappetizing. Shell-on shrimp also tend to be much cheaper. Finally, those shells pack a sweet, flavorful punch, whether you grill the shrimp directly in the shell, or use the shells to add flavor to the final dish like in this Spanish-style shrimp.
EZ-peel shrimp are already split and deveined—you’ll be able to hold onto those flavorful shells and they’ll make your job that much easier.  And they are much more expensive.  If you’re making something where the shrimp’s appearance doesn’t matter—dumplings, for instance—go for it. But if you want a good looking array for something like shrimp cocktail, you’ll probably want to peel ’em yourself. In either case, be sure to hold onto your shells: they can be simmered with aromatics to make a flavorful seafood stock, sauce, or oil.

 8. Does one devein or not?
The “vein” of a shrimp is actually its digestive tract, typically a thin, dark line aka shrimp poop. It’s not bad if you eat it, but it could be sandy and bitter and it’s easy enough to get rid of it. There are a few methods to devein a shrimp. The first and easiest is to just ask your fishmonger to do it. No tools are required for this method.

But it’s pretty easy to do it yourself, as well. You can, with a paring knife, make a shallow incision right through the shell on the shrimp’s back, from its head to its tail, and then pick out the vein.

9. What about choosing Pre-Cooked Shrimp?
“Pre-cooked” shrimp are usually “overcooked” shrimp. They’re  rubbery and bland, and since they’re already cooked, offer no room for flavor improvement and will end up dry when added to dishes. I say don’t bother!

10. Do we check for additives?
Shrimp are occasionally treated with chemical additives designed to increase their thawed shelf life or to get them to suck up and retain excess moisture so that they can be sold as larger shrimp. Check your label and make sure that it lists only “Shrimp” before purchasing.

See our Shrimp Marina recipe.