Shrimp Marinara

Serves 4
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Ingredients:
1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce
1 ½  lb of 12/16 shrimp ( On the chart it would be either a jumbo shrimp or colossal) 5 shrimp per person
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
¼ cup of sherry wine
¼ tsp of salt (optional)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

Procedure:

1. Peel and devein the shrimp washing them in cold water. You can leave the tails on for extra flavor when sautéing.  Remember how I said that the shrimp peels are very flavorful.

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2. Add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, thinly sliced garlic and shrimp to a skillet.

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3. Over medium heat cooks until the shrimp turn opaque to white.  Probably takes about 5 minutes.  Immediately turn off heat and deglaze with sherry wine and put in parsley.

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4. Add jar of 24-ounce 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce. Heat over medium heat until sauce starts to bubble. It cooks quick.  Don’t overcook or the shrimp will become rubbery.

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5. Ready to serve.  You may serve it over pasta of your choice.

Buon Natale e Buon Appetito!

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.

See our Chicken Scarpareiello recipe.

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.
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  4. Place in a colander and shake off flour
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  6. Fry chicken in Canola Oil
  7. Drain chicken on paper towels
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  9. Slice garlic and
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  11. Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until a pale brown
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  13. Add wine, chicken stock, and butter and cook on medium heat (salt and pepper to taste)
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  15. Add cooked chicken and potatoes and cook until bubbly.
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    Chicken Scarpariello

  17. You may add a few tablespoons of vinegar that peppers were packed in for extra tartness
  18. My Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic!
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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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See our recipe for Nonna’s Neapolitan Meatballs.

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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See our recipes for
Gluten-Free Meatballs
Vegetarian: Ricotta & Zucchini Balls
Vegan Eggplant Balls

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.

Chiacchiere al Forno – a Carnevale Neapolitan Cookie

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I had a seminar this past weekend and I made an Italian cookie that is usually made to celebrate Carnevale (Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday).  The cookies are usually fried or baked and served with a cup of chocolate sauce to dip into.  For convenience of serving this as part of the cooking seminar I dipped the cookies in semi-sweet chocolate.  I didn’t realize these cookies were going to be such a hit and did not give out the recipe at the seminar.  So many people asked for the recipe so here it is!! I think what makes these cookies so tasty and unusual is the lemon zest and the marsala wine.  Typical of Neapolitan baking.  In the next couple of weeks I promise I will share with you on my blog the last 3 seminars with recipes and lots of information!  Talk to you all soon.  Vivi con gusto!

Chiaccheri al Forno

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups of flour
½ cup of  sugar
2 ounces of softened butter (half a stick of butter)
2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons of Marsala Wine
Zest of  2 whole lemons (make sure when you grate it that you don’t get the white part – it’s the bitter part)
1 tsp of vanilla                                                                                                                              1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
Melted semi sweet dark chocolate for dipping – I add a little shortening to thin it out

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the ingredients except for chocolate in a mixer and mix until all combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Put dough on a flour surface and knead and keep adding flour until it’s a smooth non-sticky consistence.
  4. Roll out dough until it’s an 1/8 of an inch.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter into rectangles. Then indent the middle of the rectangle in one or two cuts.
  6. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure you space the chiarccheri so they don’t over lap.
  7. Bake in oven until they have a golden color – about 10 -12 minutes
  8. Dip the edges in melted chocolate

Ham and Cheese on Scooped Out Italian!

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This holiday season I bumped into a longtime customer of ours while shopping.  We were on a long line together at Toys R Us and chatted as we waited patiently.  Patience is a great virtue to have during the holiday rush. But I was happy to have this time with her because she shared her very first memory of the restaurant. As she spoke she brought me back in time.  She woke up those old memories of yester year when the restaurant was located in downtown Poughkeepsie.  I remember the holiday season being so much fun.  Downtown Poughkeepsie was hopping with shoppers and workers alike.  Everyone greeted each other on the side walk with reciprocated Merry Christmas’ and Happy Hanukkahs. People carrying fancy packages, coming into the restaurant for a quick dinner all knew each other.  I remembered all the happy faces with big smiles as my dad and uncles greeted each and every customer by name. Downtown was so festive!  It wasn’t just the store fronts beautifully decorated! Even the people were beautifully dressed!  The best department stores were located on Main Street.  There was Schwartz and Co.  were all the men purchased the finest suits.  It was the Up To Date where I learned all about fashion. And let us not forget Santa! The real Santa was at the Luckey Platts!  And there was a jewelry store with beautiful gemstones gleaming in the windows on every block.   My mom introduced me to perfume. Every Christmas I received ‘Up To Dates’ newest scent.  Poughkeepsie was like a mini NYC 5th Avenue!

For the first five years, we lived above the restaurant so I was right in bird’s eye view of downtown Poughkeepsie.  It was electric! The streets were full of people shouting to each other with joyous voices.  The restaurant lunch crowd was mostly business people while at dinner they all brought their families. Back then having a Martini or Manhattan at lunch was common.  There was one lawyer who didn’t drink would order a water in a martini glass with an olive just to be part of the “Martini Lunch Clique”.   Owning a restaurant sometimes makes you privy to people’s secrets.  You would think I saw some not so nice things but I have to say those were rare.  It was all good experiences back then.  All I remember is my dad and mom being so happy.  My dad’s smile was so big.  I think his smile must have been contagious because everyone that came into the restaurant had that same smile when greeting my dad.  How I loved those days!

I had to shake my head a little to bring me back to the present as the woman continued talking.   She had a familiar smile on her face as she recalled her very first introduction to the restaurant.  Back in 1970 when she was pregnant with her first child, she and her husband travelled from Westchester to interview for a job at law firm in downtown Poughkeepsie across the street from the restaurant.  As she recounted that she had been waiting in the car for her husband, I stood there starry eyed as I imagined that they had parked in the large municipal lot behind the restaurant. The very lot that I could see from out the window of our apartment. As part of the interview process the firm’s partners brought her husband to have lunch at our restaurant.  While she was laughing as she told me her story, I was thinking, “Goodness gracious!  She must have been starving while waiting for her husband!” When her husband got back to the car he explained that they brought him to an Italian Restaurant.  The menu was full of the most delicious Italian entrees.  The woman said that her mouth was watering as he described the entrees.  But what shocked the husband was that everyone at his table did not order Italian food! To his surprise, they all ordered grilled ham and cheese on scooped out Italian bread.  As I looked at her big smile as she finished her story my heart warmed because I saw my father’s smile in her.  It never occurred to me how weird it must have been that we served Grilled Ham and Cheese at our Italian restaurant. I thought it was normal that dozens of plates of Grilled Ham and Cheese flew out of our kitchen.  Lunch was served fast to accommodate the workers!  I can still hear the wait staff ordering Grilled Ham and Cheese on scooped out Italian.  I guess from an outsider it really was weird for Italians to be serving Ham and Cheese but not in Downtown Poughkeepsie!

So, as we start a New Year I want to leave you with a memory of the years gone by.  I wonder why an ordinary Grilled Ham Cheese was so special back then.  But maybe it was because the smiles were contagious! Everyone smiled!  So, I am making my New Year’s resolution this year to smile more and I hope all of you will too!  I bet our smiles will be contagious and we will make memories out of the ordinary!

See our Grilled Ham and Cheese on scooped out Italian recipe.