All My Firsts! ‘Chicken Scarpariello Recipe’

 As I reach this new phase of my life with the last of my kids planning her wedding, I wonder how I got here?  I think it all started with a bunch of firsts:

I was the first born American in a huge Italian family.

I was the first to go to school without knowing a word of English.

I was the first in my family to eat canned spaghetti. (I had no choice because it was served at the school cafeteria.  I had to eat it as the  Catholic nun was glaring at me to swallow.  I have to say it was the worst thing I ever had and so sad that mamma sent me to school without a bag lunch.)

I was the first to date a non- Italian ( It was a big revolt in the family over that first!  There was even a family council over this and major discussions with a wooden spoon. Ouch!)

And I ended being the first to marry the non-Italian ( I fought hard and won.  I think all my younger siblings and cousins should grovel at my feet for that.  Because gasp! I broke the Italian seal of approval!)

The first to go to college.

The first to get a job that didn’t involve food. ( I became an accountant)

I was the first grandchild to take my Nonna for a drive in my car. (I drove her over the bridge twice because instead of getting off the ramp I continued back on the bridge. Nonna was wondering where we were going while she held on to her rosary beads.  I lied and told her we had to take a detour while thinking I need to go to confession!)

Getting my car license really opened up my world of firsts.  Because of it, I picked up Mexican take out.  It was the first time I ate Mexican and introduced my mom and siblings to tortillas.

I had my first bagel at the Marist College cafeteria. I never tasted anything so delicious.  Who knew that bread boiled and baked could taste so good!

Not only have I come a long way but I paved the way for the rest of my American born family! When I think of my own children I am proud that I made their childhood a little more normal than mine.  Even what I keep in the refrigerator has changed big time. I go back to one odd memory of growing up. Of course, I didn’t realize it was odd because this is all my brother and I knew!  On Saturday mornings whilst my parents slept my brother and I would slyly raid the fridge. Peering in with our eyes wide open, the fridge was an adventure! While Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon played in the background we grabbed a lemon to share, cutting it in half and poured salt over the it.  We also grabbed the bottle of olives and helped ourselves to a few.  Reaching in further or I should say as I reached in because being the oldest I had the longest reach, I would find glistening in the rear  the red, green and yellow hot cherry peppers. Nick and I would grab forks and pierce a pepper each. If we were lucky there were leftover anchovies. What can I say? Was this weird? Or maybe there were other choices but our palates craved for what we knew I need to ask my children what snack did they sneak? I really do hope I gave them more normal options like bagels and cream cheese! Or maybe tortilla chips!  In honor of my Saturday ritual with my brother, I am sharing our restaurant recipe of Chicken Scarpariello.  It’s a little different than most recipes because we only used boneless chicken breasts. Hope you enjoy the hot cherry peppers as much as my brother and I do! Maybe you can put on Rocky and Bullwinkle and make it complete!

PS  I love hot cherry peppers so much that I make my own every summer!  I pickled them with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic this year! Also Scarpariello means shoemaker.  Don’t ask! It makes no sense to me why it’s called that.

 

Chicken Scarpariello

serves 4

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Ingredients:

 

4 Boneless Chicken breasts about a pound

½ cup of flour

Salt pepper

Canola Oil for frying

4 cloves of garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½  cup of white wine

½ chicken stock

½ cup of butter

4 hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar (slivered with seeds removed)

4 small Yukon potatoes (peeled and sliced in rounds boiled until tender)

 

Procedure:

 

  1. Cut chicken in chunks

  2. Place cut up chicken in a zip lock bag with flour, salt and pepper to taste and shake._DSC0121

  3. Place in a colander and shake off flour_DSC0124

  4. Fry chicken in Canola Oil

  5. Drain chicken on paper towels_DSC0126

  6. Slice garlic and                      _DSC0125

  7. Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until a pale brown_DSC0127

  8. Add wine, chicken stock, and butter and cook on medium heat ( salt and pepper to taste) _DSC0128

  9. Add cooked chicken and potatoes and cook until bubbly.

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    Chicken Scarpariello

  10. You may add a few tablespoons of vinegar that peppers were packed in for extra tartness

  11. My Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic!    _DSC0131

Spaghetti and Meatballs (American style vs Italian style)

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     One of our most popular dishes that we served in the restaurant was “Spaghetti and Meatballs”.  A big dish of spaghetti with 2 large meatballs doused with our delicious tomato sauce was a big seller.  Twice a week the chefs would be busy mixing the ground meat in a huge mixer and then rolling 500 meatballs at a time. People loved this dish! Spaghetti and meatballs is a standard Italian dish served at Italian restaurants all over the US.  Notice I said the US.  It is not a typical dish served in Italy. If you go to Italy, you won’t find this dish on restaurant menus and if you do it’s probably in a tourist spot to make the American tourist happy. Italy does have a version of meatballs called polpettes.  But they a very different.  They are usually eaten as a meal itself or in soups.  They are made with different meat from turkey to fish. And they are as small as marbles or as large as a golf ball.  Nothing like the baseball or softball sized American meatballs.

       Polpettes are usually found more at the family table than on a restaurant menu. My grandmother made delicious meatballs that I looked forward to on Sunday dinner with the family. Pellegrino Artusi was a Florentine silk merchant who in his retirement travelled Italy and recorded recipes. He became famous when he published the first regional cookbook, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well for the home chef in 1891. When he talked about polpettes he said “Non crediate che io abbia la pretensione d’insegnarvi a far le polpette. Questo è un piatto che tutti lo sanno fare cominciando dal ciuco,” which translates, “Don’t think I’m pretentious enough to teach you how to make meatballs. This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” So needless to say, Italian version of meatballs was an incredibly easy dish to make.

       So, you may ask how did those large meatballs doused with tomato sauce over spaghetti evolve from polpettes.  It’s the common story shared by all immigrants traveling to America.  They have to make do with ingredients they can find and afford.

      Four million Italians (mostly from southern Italy) immigrated to America from 1880 to 1920. Because the majority of Italians that came were from Southern Italy their cuisine made a huge mark on the Italian/American culture.  When these poor immigrants came to the US they found that their income increased so that they were able to spend more money on food.  They ended up going from eating meat once a week to eating meat every day! And meat was consumed in much larger quantities.  So, the small moist polpettes made with 50% bread and 50% meat that they enjoyed in Italy changed to larger denser meatballs made with mostly beef.

          I have to tell you as popular as the restaurant meatball was, I preferred my Nonna’s meatballs.  There was a huge difference! Nonna’s meatballs were soft and succulent while the restaurant meatballs were large and dense.   I think it’s because Nonna made polpettes not the Italian/American meatball.  Here are a few secrets to get a truly soft succulent meatball.

  1. Use 50% meat and 50% bread.

  2. Use day old bread soaked in either water or milk.

  3. Overcooking meat for too long gets dry and tough but the bread keeps it moist.

  4. Do not over mix the meatball mixture. Overmixing make a denser meatball

      Now that I have shared the secret to making a perfect meatball the rest is easy.  And this is why Pellegrino Artusi said, “everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” Not only am I going to share my Nonna’s meatball recipe but I will also include a gluten free version, a vegan, and a vegetarian recipe. My Nonna’s recipe includes raisins and pignoli ( very popular additions in Neapolitan cooking). You can omit them if not something that your family may like. The gluten free recipe I developed for my daughter who is on a gluten free diet.  They are also very good but not as light and airy as Nonna’s.  The Gluten free meatballs are dense like the Italian/American version.  Also, some recipes may ask for bread crumbs instead of the soaked bread.  These meatballs will be denser. I also included a vegetarian meatball made with zucchini and a vegan meatball made with eggplant.  In Italy polpette are made with a variety of ingredients.  Enjoy tryin the different versions!


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 Nonna’s Neapolitan Meatballs 

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices bread (2 packed cups’ worth)

2 pounds ground beef or you can use a mix of pork, veal. and beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano

1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

15 turns white pepper

4 large eggs

1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

PREPARATION:

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces,

2. Combine the bread with all the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order they are listed. Add the dried bread crumbs last to adjust for wetness: the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.

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3. Using a small scoop, scoop and level dropping the meatball evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they’re cooked through. (At this point, you can cool the meatballs and hold them in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for the future.

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4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

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5. Place the meatballs into the pan of sauce and nudge the heat up ever so slightly. Simmer the meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn’t one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it’s time to eat.

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 Gluten-Free Meatballs 

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds of meatloaf mix (veal, pork, and beef chopped meat)

3 eggs

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup of grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese

1 clove of garlic grated on the microplane or minced

½ cup of almond meal

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

Procedure:

  1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients. Don’t over mix.
  2. Using a small scoop. Scoop and level and place on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs. Small scoop makes about 40 meatballs.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

 

Vegetarian: Ricotta & Zucchini Balls  

Ingredients:

100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil

4 zucchini

1/2 cup ricotta drained

2 eggs

bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

salt

black pepper

½ cup basil chopped

Preparation:

  1. Wash zucchini and then grate with a grater with large holes then drain or squeeze all the water from zucchini with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl put zucchini, ricotta, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, basil and beaten eggs then mix.
  3. In the end add breadcrumbs until the mixture is thick enough to form balls.
  4. Scoop the zucchini mixture and either fry in plenty of extra virgin olive oil hot or bake in a 375-degree oven for 16 minutes on an oiled baking sheet.

 

Vegan Eggplant Balls 

 Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, diced

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 shallot, minced

¼ + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-1 ½ tablespoon(s) extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired), divided

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

 

Procedure:

1.Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.On a large cookie sheet, combine eggplant, garlic, shallot, a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until edges are browned. Once eggplant is removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350°F.

3.In a large food processor (10-cup) combine roasted eggplant mixture with ½ cup of breadcrumbs, and the rest of the spices. Pulse until ingredients are just combined.

4.Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the other ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Continue to pulse until mixed. Avoid over-processing, when possible. When complete, the mixture should easily adhere into balls. (Note: Over-processing the eggplant mixture and breadcrumbs can make the mixture extra sticky and you may have difficulty forming balls.)

5.Form the eggplant and breadcrumb mixture into 1- or 2-inch balls, based on personal preference. Per eggplant, you should yield about 12-16 balls, depending on the size of the eggplant and balls.

6.Place balls on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!


2016-09-05 12.03.38

“Hi Teresa, I figured you would know where I can get bushels of tomatoes.”  “Oh sorry Teresa, we can’t! We are swimming in tomatoes here!” “Hello Teresa, I have brought you a bushel of tomatoes.” So.much talk of tomatoes!! What can I say it’s tomato season in the Hudson Valley!

I always teased my kids and told them I am just not any ordinary mamma but a pasta mamma!  To this day I still can’t get this vision that I have of a pasta mamma out of my head!  I am not quite sure how old I was, but one summer in Italy I came across what I believed was a pasta mamma.  Thank goodness it wasn’t anybody I was related to.  While we were on our way to visit my aunt, we came across a neighbor.  The neighbor upon seeing my dad, ran over screaming in her Neapolitan dialect to give my dad this really exaggerated big hug. It wasn’t because she was short, robust and splattered with tomato sauce that I took notice, but it was her apron!  Her apron had two conspicuously placed well-worn patches across her chest! Mind you the apron was intact except for those two patches.  While my parents were all smiles greeting this woman, my brother and I just stood there looking on with puzzled looks on our faces. Why this well-endowed woman would want to bring more attention to herself by wearing that apron was beyond us!  Unabashed she stood so proud wearing that remarkable apron bragging about the number of jars of tomatoes she had just canned.

I keep thinking about that woman lately every time the subject of tomatoes comes up in discussions this past week. The Hudson Valley farmers as I am sure many of the farmers from where you are from are also busy harvesting tomatoes.  If you don’t have the luxury of picking your tomatoes out of your own garden, I hope you are all taking advantage of those beautiful vine ripened tomatoes from your local farmers.  I just called my co-packer who makes the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce to order more pallets.   They work with the local farms in our area.  They told me, “Teresa, have a little patience for we are swimming in tomatoes and we are busy!”.

I remember when I was a little girl, my mom, her five sisters and Nonna, would be gathered together wearing aprons (thankfully with no patches across their chests) and their hair tied up in kerchiefs at this time of the year.  My grandfather would start the fire in the pit while all the girls were busy preparing the tomatoes.  Such a happy chore with all of them laughing and singing while sorting, cutting, straining, cooking, pouring, and jarring.  I remember hearing the joyful pop of the lids as the sauce cooled and witnessing the satisfaction on everyone’s faces.

In Italy, my father’s sisters would do the same thing. There were times that we would be in Italy during tomato harvest and the canning of the delicious tomatoes. The tomatoes were so different in Monte di Procida.  The Mediterranean sun is strong and growing tomatoes in the volcanic soil yields the sweetest juiciest tomatoes! All my aunts had their own wood fired ovens to bake bread, pizza and to seal all of those jars of tomatoes.  The ovens were located in cantinas and a whole side of the building was designated for the ovens made of blocks and concrete. The cantinas were free standing buildings away from the house.   My Zia Gilda would bake so much bread that she even had customers!  A summer treat was pizza! The pizza that came out of those wood fired ovens was incomparable to anything I have ever eaten. The crust had a touch of char covered with a few really ripe garden  tomatoes, a basil leaf, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and fresh mozzarella. The pizza was unbelievably delicious! Mind you, my Zia would only make the pizza with the extra dough left over from the bread.    She never thought much of this pizza.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t make more of it! But she would often tell me that bread was her first priority.  The pizza was just a little snack. I am still searching for a comparable pizza!  The typical NY pizza we are accustomed to is not the same.

In a town not too far from my dad’s town of Monte di Procida is the ancient town of Baia where Julius Caesar had a villa there (The Castello Aragonese di Baia is open to the public now with museums). The mineral springs in Baia attracted the elite during the Roman Empire.  Most of the ancient town is under water now as a result from a volcanic eruption.  A couple of years ago my brother, sister and I met in Italy.  We decided to go to a historic pizzeria in Baia. What was unusual about this pizzeria was that it was located inside the town bread oven. Yes, you read right!  It was a bread oven so huge that there was a pizzeria built inside of it.  During the Roman Empire it was used to bake bread for the whole town.   We sat inside of this huge hollowed out oven and ate pizza and imagined Caesar eating pizza here.

Only joking about Caesar eating pizza.  The Pizza Margherita became famous in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy.  History has it that when Queen Margherita of Savoy, the wife of King Umberto I, visited Naples, a chef and his wife created a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, tomato, mozzarella and basil! To this day it is still called Pizza Margherita!

Sadly, I don’t own a wood fired oven.  Using the garden cherry tomatoes, the pizza comes out pretty good minus the char.  I have that wood fired oven on my bucket list. I did get Jim, my husband, to make me a fire pit, though!  So I am getting closer.

I hope you enjoy the following pizza recipe as much as as my family and I do.  I used the delicious tomatoes from the garden! No worries if you don’t have a garden, just be sure to visit  farm markets to get those delicious tomatoes that are all the rage.  There is nothing like fresh vine ripened tomatoes.  Even though I am in the business of selling tomato sauce, I won’t lie to you there is nothing like a fresh tomato right off the vine.  Don’t get confused with those grocery store, hot house tomatoes, though! I also have available the jarred 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce for those months of the year when we can’t get those super delicious garden tomatoes. Even tough I don’t can my own tomatoes, Continue reading

Pesto Sauce

pesto cartoon 024Part 2  Cooking for my Childhood Friends

        “As I dropped the pasta in the pot of boiling water I called out to my friends, “How do you want the pasta cooked?”  I was wincing waiting for the answer.  They all matter-of-factly answered together, “al dente!” My heart leaped for joy as I realized they have come a long way from when I first met them 50 years ago!

   Growing up in Hyde Park so many years ago, I was always taken aback whenever pasta was served.  I am not talking the way it was served in the school cafeteria.  They did have a lot of children to serve!  But I could never bring myself to eat the school cafeteria pasta.  Depending on whom the lunch lady was, the spaghetti varied between, large worm- like spaghetti swirling on my plate with runny sauce or it was scooped out with an ice cream scoop.

  Even the neighborhood deli always had cooked pasta with sauce in their display case.  I often rode my bike to the corner store with my friends to get candy.  I would find myself looking on with curiosity when the deli man  scooped up cold pasta mixed with sauce into containers. Watching him squish down the pasta to make room for more, I shuddered as the soft pasta flattened into a pudding like consistency.  I just couldn’t understand why someone would want to eat that mush!

     One day I had an opportunity to watch neighbor-hood mom cook pasta and I began to understand this phenomenon.  When we made pasta at home it was always well attended to.  Meaning when you dropped the pasta in the boiling water my mom stood by stirring and checking when the pasta was done.  Just when my mom thought it was ready she would take it out blow on it and would hand it to me. I had the privilege to tell her when it was “al dente”. “Al dente” was when it was just short of being fully cooked through, firm but not soft. The pasta was then immediately drained and plated into individual plates which was served right away. We actually had an assembly line to the table to speed up the process.

   When my neighbor cooked pasta, it was left in the pot boiling while she attended to other cooking.  The pasta boiled and boiled.  After the water was good and starchy she drained the soft limp pasta. But that wasn’t enough! She then washed the gooey pasta to make sure all the goop was rinsed away.  It was then put in a large bowl with sauce. It sat while everyone slowly came to the table.  Maybe that’s why cooked pasta was offered at the deli.  This mush pasta took all day to make!

      Years ago American pasta was not made from durum wheat. It was made from the same flour they used for soft bread. So technically it was hard to make pasta “al dente”. Besides needing a quick technique to serve pasta one also needed imported pasta from Italy made from durum wheat.  Italian pasta was so much more expensive back then and not accessible to everyone.

     America has come a long way. We have so many more options now and most pasta is made from durum wheat.  I have to believe that my Italian family had a large part in the way pasta is served today. Well at least in Hyde Park! “


Fresh Pesto

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 ½ cup chopped fresh basil

½  cup grated cheese ( parmagiana is best)

½  extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup toasted walnut or

¼ cup of toasted pignoli nuts

1 clove garlic

¼ tsp salt

½ boiled potato (1/4 mashed)  yellow potato is creamiest to use

 

Procedure:

 Add parsleyparsley 1

basil,basil

and coarsely chop

chop the basil

Toast the pignoli in a small skillet for a few minutes until lighty brownedtoast the pignoli

Add grated parmagiana cheese, garlic, olive oil and saltadd ingredients for pesto

Blend together either in blender, food processor or an immersion blender. Then add boiled yellow potato mix and then add cooked potato

 and continue blending

creamy blended pesto

 It is ready to serve.  Pesto is served mixed in with pasta.  Of course pasta “al dente”

     I made my friends a pasta that was served in the restaurant.  It was pasta that was layered with a ladle of hot marinara, a scoop of pesto, and topped with spoon of ricotta cheese.  We called it:

Pasta Amalfitano!

pesto amailfitano

Buon’ Appetito!

Chicken Manicotti

chicken manicotti
INGREDIENTS:
• 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
• 1 cup grated Parmagiana cheese, divided
• One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
• 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 2 cups half and half
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• One jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce
• 12 manicotti, cooked and rinsed in cold water

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium size bowl combine the ricotta, 1/2 of the cup parmagiana cheese, eggs, and mozzarella. Stir in the basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and chicken until well combined. Set the filling aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour, and the rest of the salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly just until the mixture starts to brown. Whisk in the half and half, stirring until becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the parmagiana cheese and nutmeg. Pour into large casserole dish, spreading around to completely to coat the bottom.
Place the filling into a large zip lock bag. Clip one corner and fill the manicotti from both sides and place over the white sauce. Repeat with the remaining manicotti and the filling. Pour the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce over manicotti evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella (or more if you like). Bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is heated through.

Why I want to be one of the winners of the Martha Stewart American Made Contest?

The 2013 Martha Stewart American Made Contest

The 2013 Martha Stewart American Made Contest

For all the times that I have been told I can’t!  That’s why I want to be one of the winners of the Martha Stewart American Made Contest .  In order to get the 825 MAIN Tomato Sauces out on the shelves I had to struggle through a lot of adversity.  I was confident that the product is the best on the market.  That is a fact.  The problem isn’t with the sauce.  It’s adversity with everything else that pertains to getting the sauce on a store shelf.

The first problem started with the name.  I can’t tell you how many times I was told that it is a stupid name. ” Why cant you call it an Italian name?”,  people would often exclaim.  “I have my reasons!” I would say.  I couldn’t call it by my family restaurant name ( nothing to do with legal issues). I just didn’t want to use that name.  I felt using the family name would be  a crutch. I needed a name that I could relate to. Something that would show my roots. The name choice was really just for myself.  The name actually keeps me grounded, reminding why I started this new business.  I call it  825 MAIN, the address of the  family restaurant that we ran for over 50 years.

Then the co- packer and the label maker urged me  to just make a small batch because it was going to be my only batch.  For 2 years now I have been bottling the sauce every 2 months.  And I have used well over 10,000 labels.

A distributor told me I  couldn’t get into Whole Foods because of the logo.  I am  in Whole Foods.

A grocery manager made me give him 8 cases for free and told me if I could sell those 8 cases then I could go in the store.  It took 2 demos and he ordered 8 more cases.

I come across lots of “sauce snobs” when I do demos.   They tell me that a jarred sauce can never be any good.    I can’t tell you how many times I  have converted a “sauce snob”!

I am a nominee in the Martha Stewart American Made Contest because I can!

Please help put out the vote. Click on my picture and click 6 votes!

PLEASE VOTE EVERYDAY!

PLEASE VOTE EVERYDAY!

Hudson Valley Basil

Basil growing at Frank L Sorebello Farm in Highland, NY

Basil growing at Frank L Sorebello Farm in Highland, NY

      Making tomato sauce is easy enough but finding the perfect ingredients is what makes it special.  This week my husband and I went searching for basil to put in our next 825 MAIN tomato Sauce batch.  We want to support Hudson Valley farms.  Our search this past week was for basil.  Our first stop was to Frank Sorbello’s Farm in Highland, NY.  We found acres and acres of crops and acres and acres of greenhouses.  Frank Sorbello showed us around.  I was surprised to find that Frank doesn’t grow his basil in the greenhouses.  He said  basil doesn’t do well in greenhouses.  It needs full sun and does not like the cold.  So it is a very short season.  He didn’t have a good crop this year with all the heavy rain.  He didn’t have any basil to harvest for us.  Frank lost 2 crops from the heavy rains in June and the heavy rain in July.  The basil leaves had turned yellow and that is a big turn off to the produce buyers.  He said as long as the weather keeps up he will have basil to harvest in September.  Frank was proud to tell us that he grows his basil in black soil brought in from a river bank. The growing season for basil in the Hudson Valley is June to September.  Gosh!  Who knew!  I grow basil in my garden and I did notice the yellow leaves but I still continue to use it. I didn’t realize that it has to be  perfect to sell at stores.  Frank had lots of other crops.  But I had to wonder how much this farmer economically suffred when  2 crops of acres of basil were lost this summer due to the weather.  All that work and money lost to the weather!  Basil is so temperamental!

continental organics     Our next stop was to Continental Organics.  Continental Organics is a sustainable agriculture company located on a former dairy farm in the Hudson Valley town of New Windsor, New York. They produce natural and organic food in a closed-loop micro environment comprised of indoor high tech RAS aquaponics equipment and restored traditional organic fields. They grow the basil using hydroponic methods.  I had no idea what Jim and I were in for.  Whenever I think of hydroponic all I think of is bland perfectly sized tomatoes.  We were pleasantly surprised. The tomato  plants were thriving .  The basil was beautiful.  As I looked on in the climate controlled greenhouses with the beautiful greens I thought of Frank Sorbello.  This poor farmer worked so hard and lost 2 crops to his short lived season for basil.  Continental Organics greenhouses were thriving.  They used all the space including the rooftop of their building.  It was amazing!

Contimental Organics hydropone basil ready to be harvested

Contimental Organics hydropone basil ready to be harvested

     I have to make a decision.  I do want to support Frank and his traditional farming methods.  There is a certain feel to traditional farming  of our land as I remembered Frank’s well weathered face.  I want to support the traditional farmer.  But then there is Keith, a disabled veteran,  who wants to sustain the economic viability of farm operations and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.  Continental Organics is a disabled veteran company, which warms my heart as well. I think I would like to use both, Frank in the short months of summer and Keith the rest of the year.

La Scuola di Eataly – Olive Oil

eataly meets 825

825 MAIN Marinara is learning so much from Eataly about olive oils!

I have been on a quest to learn more about the olive oil that I put in the 825 MAIN Marinara.  I know what I like and what I don’t like. I needed to find out why so as to know what to use in my product. I have been on a whirlwind of tasting olive oils.  I must have tasted about 30 so far from all different regions even ones from Texas. All this tasting that I have done didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. What makes a good olive oil? So I signed my husband and I for a class at La Scuola di Eataly where Lydia Bastianich is the dean. We were both going to get a better understanding of the world of olive oil.

The Flatiron Building

So we arrived to the Flatiron district of NYC to find Eataly. The beautiful Flatiron building points us to Eataly. The Flatiron was built in 1909 and was once the tallest building in NY designed by Chicago’s Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. In 2009 an Italian real estate company from Rome bought the building.  Hmm…how apropos!

The first Eataly originated in Turin, Italy in 2007 and became a fast growing chain.  Eataly in NYC is the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world.  Mario Batali partnered up with Lydia and Joe Bastianich to open up this extraordinary marketplace.  It was so busy when we got there on a Saturday.  It was overwhelming and so exciting to be amongst all this wonderful food.  It was like a condensed outdoor market you would find in any Italian city.  At this point I think there was more people jam packed in here than all of Italy.

It was like a condensed outdoor market you would find in any Italian city. At this point I think there was more people jam packed in here than all of Italy

Prosciutto, salami and sausage hanging everywhere!

When were finally pointed to La Scuola we were pleasantly surprised to see perfectly placed desks in a beautiful kitchen.  All the desks were set with brown paper placemats with Eataly stamped glasses and a big basket of artisanal Italian bread.  My husband and I were in heaven. It was going to be a very pleasant adventure with our instructors, Nicholas Coleman and Chef Dave Pasternack.

Aren’t those desks so adorable?

 

I am going to give you a super condensed version of what we learned.  My husband and I considered ourselves somewhat knowledgeable on olive oils.  We found out we don’t know anything!  I have listed some of what we learned.

We tried 4 olive oils from Italy from Liguria, Lazio, Tuscany, and Sicily

1. The only olive oil one should buy is extra virgin olive oil.  Anything that uses any other word before olive oil is substandard. Also there is no use in buying organic olive oil.  It is one of the least pesticide ridden fruit.

 

2. An olive oil in clear glass or plastic is a big no no!!  The taste of  plastic compromises the olive oil.  Clear glass speeds up the spoilage of the olive oil. Good olive oil containers are dark glass or tin containers.  Although some good olive oils are packaged in clear glass to market to the Americans.  Americans like to see what they buy. Ugh!  Let’s boycott clear glass olive oils!  Spread the word! We Americans are educated and know what’s best. Well now I do after this class!

La Scuola di Eatlay with Nicholas Coleman and Chef Pasternack

 

3. Don’t buy olive oils where the label reads “Product of Italy” with no mention of the Olive cultivator or a region specified.

 

4. Olive oil is regarded as fresh fruit juice. And is to be treated as such.  It spoils.  It does not age as fine wine. No wonder as much as I search for that olive oil taste that I experienced in Italy, I haven’t been able to find it here on the east coast of America.  What I was tasting was fresh squeezed olive oil. The fresher the oil the greener it is.  And I will never find it unless I go to Puglia and drink from a spout of freshly milled Olive oil!

 

 

5. When our recipes call for extra virgin olive oil it is a generic term.  In reality olive oil varies from country to country, region to region, even year to year from the same olive grove. Even the way the olives are harvested is important to the taste.  The best olive oils are hand harvested and thus very expensive. I figured out that taste that I absolutely can’t stand in certain olive oils.  I thought it may be the type of olive or the region. I learned what that taste is.  The cheaper olive oils are harvested by machines so even the over ripe and rotten olives are gathered.  So the quantity and speed of the olives harvested affects the taste and the price of the olive oils.

This is an olive oil spec. It lists where the olive oil is grown, what kind of olives were used, who the cultivator is,when they were cultivated, what the acid content to just name a few specs.

6.  So one of the most interesting thing that we learned was the peppery taste in olive oils.  When you taste the olive oil straight from the bottle (which is a ritual in our family with a fresh loaf of Italian bread) that peppery taste that is evident in better olive oils.  We thought it tasted hot and sometimes it catches in the back of your throat and makes you cough.  Well the more peppery taste you get the higher the antioxidants.

 

 

7.  Even the pits are crushed when making olive oil!

 

8.  Lastly, there are different uses for extra virgin olive oils.  The milder ones are used for delicate foods like fish while the robust ones are used for tomato sauces.

 

 

9.   I almost forgot.  One little bit of trivia he shared.  Truffle olive oil is a scam.  It is synthetic truffle flavor.  Truffles have water in them and water and oil don’t mix.

Pesce Crudo del Giorno

 

So all in all we enjoyed ourselves immensely. While we educated our brains our palates were getting pampered!  Sorry for so few food pictures after the first course I just dug in without taking pictures! It was a delicious learning session!  We learned how to warm the olive oil cupping the cup in between our palms.  The tasting part kind of reminded me of camels.  Haha!  We had to slurp the olive oil in our mouths and then like a reverse spit spraying the inside of our mouth so every taste bud could be coated! It was quite funny!  I had to really contain myself without bursting out in laughter!  Thanks to Nicholas and Chef Dave we tasted 4 different varieties of olive from 4 different olives from 3 regions of Italy.  They were so buttery and luscious!  The difference between the robust olive oils and the mellow ones was the grassy taste.  And some were more peppery than others.  Going to Lydia Bastianich’s La Scuola di Eatlay was a great adventure!

Everything was set up so beautifully!