Veal Roast (An Evolution)

veal roast platter 1*

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, roasts were a common dinner selection for most moms.   They certainly were easy. All you had to do was throw them in the oven and not think about them for a few hours.   Well, at least that’s how my mom cooked a roast. Oh yes, she’d throw some wine in the pan, and maybe an onion or a cut up carrot, but that roast never saw the light of day until it was cooked…..and cooked….and cooked.   This isn’t Sunday gravy, mom! It doesn’t get better the longer you cook it! I never saw a meat thermometer in her kitchen until well into the 80s. Oh yes, I bought it for her. I am just about positive that she never used it.

I can still see that slice of eye round, dark grey as the night, staring right back at me from my dinner plate, defying me to try to cut it.  At least when I ate dinner at my friends’ houses, they put something called “gravy” on it. This brown gravy sure was nothing like our gravy, but it certainly helped give this dry meat some flavor. As I’m writing this, I’m starting to wonder if the meat thermometer was even invented in the 1950s. Let me Google it and get right back to you…..

Sorry about that. So it appears that all meat was served cooked to death ( for health reasons) until the early 1930s, when the thermometer was introduced, as well as serving meat rare.   I guess we were a little behind the times. There was one saving grace, however. We very rarely had roasts for dinner. Until the veal roast made it’s way into her repertoire. When she made this on Sundays or a holiday (EVERY Holiday) for our large extended family, it was always delicious. But when she made a smaller veal roast for us during the week, it was awful. As you will see from her very tattered and over-used original recipe, she would cook a 6 pound veal roast for 2 ½ hrs. Perfect! However, when she cooked a 3 pound veal roast, she also cooked it for 2 ½ hours! Herein lied the problem. All roasts, no matter what size, were cooked for over 2 hours!   How do I know this to be true? Well if you look at my typewritten recipe card (this is what young brides did in the early 1970s) for veal roast, which I copied verbatim from my mother, there is no roast size.   We just cook that roast for 2 ½ hours, no matter what the size!  And I did for many years, always with disastrous results. Until one Sunday in 1981, I came across a recipe for a veal roast in The New York Times Magazine. (Just to be clear and unpretentious, I had a four year old daughter and a one year old son at this time so I really only scoured The Times for recipes. As I’ve said before, I’m a recipe junky.) And this recipe by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (two masters) was a winner. When the air gets nippy in the Fall, and I start to gear up with winter recipes (many roasts among them…..not from my mother), I always pull this one out to the delight of all.  I add a little more tomatoes than their recipe calls for so that I have a rich, delicious sauce to put over egg noodles or fettuccine.   This makes for a wonderful side dish. Mr. Claiborne and Mr. Franey may have given this recipe a fancy French name ( which I can’t even make out anymore due to the age and overuse of this recipe), but honestly, when you bite into this succulent meat with the noodles (or fettuccine) dripping in this lovely, reddish sauce, you will think of Bolognese sauce (you can find that recipe in the archives as well).   Now that’s what I call a roast with gravy.

RECIPE:   four to six servings

1 two-and-one-half pound tied veal roast

Salt ( I use Kosher) and freshly ground pepper

2 TBSP butter (add more if needed during browning)

¾ to 1 cup finely cubed carrots

¾ cup finely diced onion

1 whole garlic clove, peeled ( I mince it)

2 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dry

½ cup of dry white wine.

1 cup ( I use almost 2 cups) diced canned Italian plum tomatoes ( or squished).

2 sprigs fresh parsley, optional

  1. Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat the butter in a heavy casserole in which the veal fits snugly, but without crowding. Add the veal and brown it on all sides over moderate heat, about 10 or 15 minutes, turning often.
  3. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and rosemary. Stir the vegetables around in the bottom. Add the wine, tomatoes and parsley. Cover and let cook over low heat about one and one-quarter hours. Turn the meat.
  4. Uncover and cook about another 15 minutes.

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Orecchiete with Broccoli rabe and Sausage

orecchiette bowl***

Even though this dish is traditionally from the Puglia region of Italy, and this is the region where my father’s family originated, I have no memories of anyone on this side of the family ever making this dish.  Even the pasta shape, orecchiette, is a home-made pasta typical of this region.  I’m sure you already know that orecchiette means small ear, which if you dig deep into your imagination, you might see a resemblance.  So this traditional Pugliese dish never entered my life until it began appearing on menus in Italian restaurants.  It quickly became a favorite of mine.  However, I never made it myself at home.  I think the reason for this is that my husband is not a fan of orecchiette, so instead we often make broccoli rabe with spaghetti and no sausage (I’m not a big fan of sausage).  By the way, you can find that recipe in this blog under the pasta category.

One day when I was watching Lydia Bastianich’s cooking show on TV, she was making this traditional Pugliese dish, and I decided to copy down the recipe.  Maybe one night I would give it a try? The recipe stayed untouched for at least 2 years.  Then, to my surprise, my husband decided to make his version of this dish….even using orecchiette.  I watched him carefully, comparing what he was doing to Lydia’s recipe.  Why didn’t I just give him the recipe I had written down?  If you knew him, you wouldn’t have to ask that question.  He NEVER uses a recipe.  NEVER!  And his culinary creations are always amazing, so I was confident that I would be absolutely delighted with his version of this dish, but I still was curious to see if he and Lydia were on the same page, so to speak.  It was indeed very similar to hers, and of course, scrumptious.    I don’t know how he does it!

I’m going to share his recipe with you, but I’ll let you know what Lydia did differently.  You can try both ways, and decide for yourself which recipe you like better.  It’s a “win/win” situation.

RECIPE:  serves 4

1 pound of orecchiette

2 small bunches of broccoli-rabe

1 pound Italian sweet sausage

1/4 tsp. hot red pepper (more or less to taste)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Grated Italian cheese…Romano or Parmesan.

1.  Wash and roughly cut the broccoli rabe.

2.  Brown the sausage in a fry pan with a tablespoon or two of water.  Then remove from the pan and slice. (Lydia skips this step).

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop in the broccoli rabe and cook for 3-5  minutes.  It should still be firm.  Remove from water and drain.  (Lydia skips this step).

4.  Heat the oil  and garlic in a large fry pan.  Add the red pepper.  (Here Lydia adds the sausage, removed from it’s casing and crumbled.  Cook until it is cooked through.)

5.  When the garlic is golden brown, Add the broccoli rabe (Lydia adds it here, not par-boiled) ) and sliced sausage. Stir well to combine.

6. Add salt to taste.  (Lydia added some pasta water and covered the pan for a few minutes to cook the broccoli rabe).

7.  Meanwhile cook the orecchiette in the boiling water.  Cook until al dente and drain, reserving some pasta water.

8.  Add the orecchiette and some pasta water to the pan with the broccoli-rabe.  Cook over low flame for a minute or two to mix well.

9.  Add grated Italian cheese and serve.

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orecchiette all in panorecchiette bowl 1 orecchiette bowl 2

Bucatini with Amatriciana Tomato Sauce

bucatini dish***

It’s Fall and cherry tomatoes have lost their appeal, but Sunday comes every week and we Italians need a red sauce.  For most of my childhood, this meant meat sauce with meatballs and all sorts of “gravy meat,” such as beef and pork ribs, sausage and braciole.   (You’ll find my recipe for Sunday gravy under the post “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti”).  While I’m not complaining (I looked forward to those meatballs every week), it was a bit boring.  This course was then followed by more meat (usually a roast, such as veal, lamb or pork cooked to death for at least twice the amount of time needed…no meat thermometers in our house!)  So when Bucatini all’ Amatriciana made it into my mom’s repertoire in the 1970s, I was quite happy.  It still has that hearty, meaty flavor of meat sauce, but is so much easier and quicker to make.  It was certainly much less intimidating for a new cook, such as myself, so I would watch her make it.  She didn’t have a name for it then, nor the correct ingredients as there was no pancetta to be had at that time, let alone Guanciale (pork cheeks/jowls), which is what most restaurants use now for this sauce and can be found in some specialty markets.  She used bacon ( which by the way, I still use sometimes), and “margarine,” of all things.   Over the years, I have made a few changes to her recipe ( got rid of the margarine, for one thing), and conferred with several different cookbooks to come up with a rich, earthy sauce that is delicious on any macaroni shape, but I usually stick with bucatini, as the people of Amatrice intended.  Yes, this pasta sauce is named for the town in Italy where it originated.  This small town is just outside Rome, so it can be found on most menus in Rome, as the Romans have tried to claim this for their own.  Don’t be fooled.

There are many versions of this recipe.   Even my version has many versions.  Sometimes I use some butter, sometimes not.  Sometimes I add prosciutto as well as pancetta.  Sometimes I use only bacon.  Most times I add wine (white or red) as it gives me an excuse to have a glass myself, but wine isn’t necessary.  Crushed red pepper adds a nice kick, but I don’t usually add it.  And certainly, you don’t have to use bucatini.  Spaghetti will do just fine….or any pasta shape, for that matter.  I’m going to give you my favorite version of this recipe, and then enjoy playing around with it yourself.  Who knows, you may come up with the next best version.  Just don’t let those Romans know, as will try to claim it for their own.  They still can’t get over that their Empire once fell!

RECIPE:  for 1 of pasta

2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 ounces  sliced pancetta, bacon or guaciale, cut into small pieces (about an inch)

2 ounces prosciutto,  cut into small strips, about an inch wide

1/3 cup red wine (white is also fine)

1 28 ounce can of Italian peeled plum tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

3 TBSP freshly grated Roman cheese

3 TBSP  freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 pound bucatini, spaghetti or pasta shape of choice

1.  Put the oil, butter and onion in a saucepan and turn on heat to medium.  Saute onion until pale gold (about 8 minutes), then add pancetta and prosciutto (if using).  Cook for several minutes, only stirring once or twice.

2.  Add the red pepper and saute for a minute.

3. Add the wine.  Turn up the heat and allow the wine to evaporate a bit.

4.  Add the tomatoes and salt, and cook uncovered, gently simmering for about 25 minutes.  Taste and correct for  salt and red pepper.

5.  Meanwhile cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain.

6.  Toss pasta (either in the pan with the sauce or in a serving bowl) with the sauce.  Then add both cheeses and toss thoroughly again.

5.  Can pass additional grated cheese.

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Morning Glory Muffins

Gllory baked closeup**

If you were an avid reader of Gourmet Magazine in 1981, as I was, you undoubtably made these Morning Glory Muffins.  Or, if you were like me, you made these muffins over and over again for many years…perhaps for a decade or more.  These muffins had a cult following. Everyone I knew made them, and if they didn’t, all it took was for them to sample one, and they were off and running.  You couldn’t go to brunch or afternoon tea without seeing these muffins on the table. We were having a love affair with these muffins in the 80s. I suppose we over did it, because they seemed to disappear after that.   Oh sure, I thought about them now and then, but I was afraid to start making them again. I actually couldn’t find the recipe in my files and considered this a sign from above.   If I started, would I be able to stop?  Would it be another decade of Morning Glory Muffin mania?  My older metabolism just couldn’t take it!  I refrained until one day, I came upon the recipe inadvertently on the internet, and I knew I was soon to be hooked all over again.  I tried hard to resist.  I thought about them night and day.  I just had to make them again one more time!  I wanted to share them with you all (a likely excuse).  I remained strong for several months.

Then the perfect reason for making these muffins presented itself.  My 10 year old granddaughter was coming for a visit and she loves to cook and bake as much as I do.  I could introduce her to this wonderful recipe, and then, after I’ve had one or two (or three), I can send the rest home to her family.  I can see a renaissance happening for these muffins as a new generation delights in these moist, dense with flavor little cakes, full of nature’s bounty.  I’m not one to pass up a golden opportunity, so she and I shared a delightful morning in my kitchen preparing these muffins for their comeback.  We worked diligently shredding and chopping and stirring until we produced the flavor that I remember so well.  Can it possibly be close to thirty years since I made these muffins???  It feels (and tastes) like yesterday.

I have to thank Chef Pam McKinstry who created these muffins in 1978 for her very popular restaurant on Nantucket Island.  It was then published in Gourmet Magazine in 1981.  The rest is history.  I’d love to know if you remember these muffins and if you ever made them for your friends and family.

RECIPE:  makes 18 muffins

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 1/4 cups flour

1 TBSP. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

3/4 cup golden raisons

1 large apple, peeled and grated ( I like Granny Smith)

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

3 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1.  Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2.  Sift and whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  Add the coconut, raisons, apple, pineapple, carrots and nuts and stir well to combine.

3.  In a separate bowl (or bowl of a standing electric mixer), whisk the eggs with the oil and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredient to this and blend well.

4.  Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with muffin cups, filling each to the brim.

5.  Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

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Summer Pizza on the Grill

pizza margarita grill 2***

Perhaps I did you a favor by not posting pizza on the grill at the beginning of summer.  If I had, you’d probably be about 5 pounds heavier right now because you wouldn’t have (couldn’t have) stopped making pizzas on the grill as a weekly activity.  Besides being an enormous amount of fun and absolutely delicious, it also is easy and let’s you really get in touch with your creative side.  I didn’t even know I had one (a creative side, that is), but once I get that ball of dough in my hands, and the grill is piping hot, my imagination goes wild with all the different delicious toppings that can adorn the pizza.  The possibilities are endless.  The rolled out dough is like a canvas just waiting for you to construct a culinary piece of art, able to delight many of the senses…..eyes, nose, tastebuds.

Now for the essentials needed to create this piece of art.  One of my all time best purchases has been the pizza stone for the grill that can be purchased at William Sonoma (online or in the store).  It sits inside the grill, and makes for a perfect surface on which to cook pizza.  It’s not permanent, but you might just want it to be.  Another piece of equipment that makes this process easy is a wooden pizza paddle.  You must cover the paddle with cornmeal before placing the rolled out dough on it.  Then you “dress” the dough with your favorite ingredients, while still on the paddle.  The cornmeal allows the pizza to gently glide off the paddle and onto the hot stone.  Of course, the freshest of ingredients is of utmost importance.  Always use the best quality and freshest ingredients you can find.  I never make my own dough because within 2 miles of my house there are at least 5 places that carry spectacular dough.  No need to waste energy on making it. Exhaustion inhibits the creative juices…..or at least that’s just my excuse for buying the dough.

I am in love with the cookbook “La Pizza…The True Story from Naples” by Nikko Amandonico.  It is the bible for pizza lovers.  Whether you want it for the many recipes for different pizzas, or the magnificent photography that will make your mouth water, you will definitely want it for the history of pizza.  It contains everything you ever wanted to know about pizza, but were afraid to ask.  If you are a true pizza lover, this book is a must!

So get the canvases ready.  You are about to become the Michelangelo of Pizza art.

RECIPE:  for dough preparation

For each pizza, use approximately one pound of dough.  After you’ve made a few pizzas, you’ll know if want thicker crust (use more dough) or thinner crust (use less dough).

1.  Place dough in a bowl to rise.  I do as my mother did, and put a little bit of flour in the bottom of the bowl, then a drizzle of oil on the top of the dough.  Then I cover it tightly with plastic wrap.  My grandmother and mother always put a wool sweater or shawl (clean of course) over all the bowls of dough to help it rise.  This is totally not necessary, but it is part of my routine..just for tradition’s sake.

2.  Once the dough has risen, place it on a well-floured work surface.  Knead it a bit, and then gently manipulate it with your hands, into a circle.  Then place it back down on the floured surface and roll to desired thickness.

3.  Gently place the rolled out dough on the well-cornmealed wooden pizza paddle.

4.  Top it with ingredients of your choice (I’ll give you some suggestions below), and always finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

5.  Make sure your grill has reached 500 degrees and has been preheated for at least 15 minutes.  This is essential.  Please read the instruction for your stone as this will be most helpful.

6.  Gently shimmy your pizza off the paddle and onto the stone.  Close the lid.

7.  Try not to peek for about 4 minutes.   After that,it is fine to quickly look to make sure the pizza is cooking to your liking.

RECIPE: my two favorite toppings (always let ingredients drain a bit to get out the water and prevent soggy pizza)

Margarita

Fresh tomatoes of you choice, sliced or if using cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Mozzarella (the best you can buy), sliced

6 or 7 basil leaves per pie

salt

drizzle of olive oil

Alla Melanzana

eggplant, cubed

cherry tomatoes, halved

capers

garlic, chopped

oregano

salt

mozzarella, sliced

1.  Fry the eggplant in a non-stick fry pan with very little oil until they are crisp on all sides.  Add the well drained tomatoes, capers, oregano and garlic to the fry pan.  Mix together.

2.  Spread the mixture on the prepped dough on the paddles.  Season with salt.  Add the mozzarella slices.  Drizzle with oil

**NOTE:  Always leave an edge of about an inch around that does not have topping.  

**NOTE:  These are just two of the endless ways you can prepare pizza.  Use the ingredients that you love, and you will not be disappointed. 

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pizza stone

Tomato Salad (Salads)

 

tomato salad:onion closeup

 

I have so many memories wrapped up in tomato salad, and they’re not all good.  Well, not bad really, but my first introduction to this dish was not favorable.  Actually, I hated it. When I was in my early teens, I spent several weeks, each August at the Jersey Shore with my aunt, uncle and cousins.  My aunt was a wonderful cook, but every night, my uncle insisted on cutting up those big, red, Jersey tomatoes and making a salad of the with red onions, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Yuck!  I could hardly swallow them.  I liked my tomatoes cooked and over pasta!  My uncle insisted that this was a very healthy way to eat tomatoes, so he would insist that I eat at least 2 pieces of tomatoes every night.  It was torture, but if we wanted to go to the boardwalk after dinner, we had to eat the tomatoes.  So I did.  For these two weeks, every summer, I gagged on tomatoes at the dinner table, but made it to the boardwalk every night.  This wasn’t anything that my mom made, so I didn’t have to encounter another tomato salad until the following year.  

Years passed, and I never ate another tomato in this manner.  Sure, a slice of tomato on a sandwich was fine or in between two pieces of mozzarella, but not as a salad.  Then one day, I was served this exact same salad, and actually liked it.  Had tomatoes gotten tastier or had my tastebuds matured?  I’m not sure, but now I love this salad so much, and look forward to buying  Jersey tomatoes each summer at the farm stands.  I find I obsess over summer tomatoes, just as I do corn on the cob.  What would summer be without them?  Because of this obsession with tomatoes, I change the salad nightly.  Sometimes I make it with basil, oil and garlic.  Sometimes I add cucumbers and bread chunks.  But my favorite way is the way my Uncle Nino made it all those years ago.  I think of him when I dive back into the bowl for well over 2 pieces of tomatoes.  Isn’t there a saying, “tomatoes are wasted on the young?”  Sorry, I think that actually was “youth  is wasted on the young.”  Well, that too.  

I’m going to share the recipes for my 3 favorite ways to prepare tomato salad.  Hurry, before the summer tomatoes are gone and give it a try.  Let me know which way is your favorite.  I hope you don’t gag!  Just kidding!  

RECIPE:  tomatoes with red onion     serves 4

4 large Jersey tomatoes ( I sometimes mix in yellow tomatoes as well)

1 medium red Bermuda onion

1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2  tsp salt

1 TBSP oregano

ground pepper to taste

1 TBSP cold water

1.  Cut tomatoes into bite size chunks.

2.  Slice the onion, not too thin.

3.  Put in serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt, oregano and pepper

4.  Pour olive oil over tomatoes and add the water.  Mix well, adjusting seasonings.  Tomato taste varies, so you may need to add more seasoning.

5.  Sometimes I chill it in the fridge for half hour, but absolutely not necessary.  This is what my uncle did, so this is what I do.

RECIPE:  tomatoes with garlic and basil    serves 4

4 large Jersey tomatoes, cut into bite size chunks

4 to 5 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 cup torn basil leaves

1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1  1/2 tsp salt

ground pepper

1.  Combine tomatoes and garlic in a serving bowl. 

2.  Add the salt, pepper and olive oil.  Mix well.

3.  Add the basil and toss well.  Adjust seasonings.

4.  Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.  Mix again before serving.

RECIPE:  Panzanella Salad      serves 4 to 6

2 to 3 Jersey tomatoes, cut into small chunks

1 cucumber, thinly sliced (optional, but I love to add this)

2 cups stale Italian or French bread, cut into bite-size chunks

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup good extra virgin  olive oil

1 1/2 tsp salt

ground pepper to taste

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl large enough to hold everything.  Mix well.  

2.  Let stand for an hour or two, making sure the bread has absorbed all the liquid.

3.  You can also put this in the refrigerator to chill for half hour, if you like.

 
 

tomato salad:tomatoes


tomato salad:onion closeup2tomato salad:garlictomato salad:garlic closeuptomato salad panzanella*

 

Barefoot Barbecued Pork Tenderloins

barefoot pork sliced close up**Is it possible that Labor Day is less then a week away?   As the days start to get shorter,  I can’t help but ask myself, “Did I grill enough?”  I do admit to shoveling a path through the snow to my grill all winter long, but there’s nothing like sitting on the deck, with a glass of wine ( or 2), while taking in the warm air, fading sunlight, and delightful aroma coming from the grill while preparing dinner.  It’s just not the same, when you’re wearing your winter coat, gloves and hat, and running in and out of the house to stay warm, while watching the food cook.   Sure, the food still tastes great, but the ambience is ruined by the freezing temperatures and shivering body.   So as summer starts to fade, I’m determined to get as much grilling as possible into my culinary life.

One of my favorite grilling recipes comes from The Barefoot Contessa.  It is easy, fool-proof, and scrumptiously delicious. I have revised it a bit as I like a bit more herbs, and as you might expect, I’ve added a bit more lemon.   Grill up some corn on the cob and baking potatoes (sweet potatoes are also fab on the grill) ) beside it, and pair it all with a lightly dressed green salad, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal that screams “summer!!!”

The beauty of this recipe is that you marinate the meat overnight, or for at least three hours, in a large plastic zip-loc bag, so there is no mess, and you can forget about the meal until you are ready to put it on the grill.

 

RECIPE:

Grated zest of 3 lemons

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ( 4 to 6 six lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil

6 cloves, minced garlic

2 TBSP fresh minced rosemary leaves, plus some stalks for garnish

2 TBSP chopped fresh thyme leaves

3 Tsp. Dijon Mustard

Kosher salt

2 to 3 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each

Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard and 2 tsp salt in a sturdy 1 gallon resealable plastic bag.

2.  Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade.  Squeeze out the air and seal the bag.  Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

3.  Brush the grill with olive oil to prevent sticking when ready to cook. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade.   Discard the marinade, but any herbs that stick may remain.  Sprinkle the meat generously with salt and pepper and place on a hot grill.

4.  Grill the tenderloins, turning a few times to brown on all sides, for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the heat of the coals) until the meat registers 137 degrees at the thickest part.  Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

5.  Carve in 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices.  the thickest part of the tenderloin will be pink ( that’s okay!) and the thinnest part will be well done.  Season again with some salt and pepper and serve warm, garnished with more rosemary and thyme, if desired.

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Lemon Cake (Mamma Agata’s Dolce al Limone)

lemon cake dish **When did my love affair with lemons begins?  It began over 25 years ago, on my first trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  I’d never seen a lemon the size of the lemons that are grown everywhere there.  As you drive along the roads, or walk through secluded paths in the hills, these brilliant yellow lemons, the size of small grapefruits, are hanging from trees for as far as the eyes can see.  Just picture Van Gogh’s painting the “Sunflowers.”  Now picture large, bright yellow lemons in place of the sunflowers, and you now have the same image in your mind as I do when I recall the Amalfi Coast.  If this isn’t enough to make one fall in love with lemons, let me speak of their aroma and taste.  While walking through a small lemon grove, or even a path with a few scattered lemon trees, you are overcome with the scent of citrus wafting in the air, caressing your nostrils. Okay, I’m getting a bit carried away, but I truly can get overwhelmed by this memory.  Each time I return to this “paradise, I am overcome again.   Their taste is sweet, and can be peeled and eaten on the spot.  Sometimes, you don’t even need to peel them.  The skin is that good.  The zest from these lemons is enough to put me over the top.  So you can just imagine how I felt when I arrived at Mamma Agata’s Cooking School in Ravello, Italy this past June, and they placed a piece of this scumptous, moist lemon cake in front of me with a cup of cappuccino.  Heaven?  Yes, heaven!  The citrus aroma!  The yellowness (is that a word?) of the cake!  The taste!  The unbelievable taste!  The love affair continues!

Now how would I ever duplicate the taste of this cake back in the northeast USA?  Our lemons (even the expensive, and slightly larger ones) can’t compare.  But I had to try.  And try I did, several times, and I finally feel that I have gotten as close as I possibly can to simulating a lemon cake that was originally made where lemons abound in all their glory.

A few things to make note of are:

Use “00” flour.  This is what Italians use to bake.  You can now find it in some supermarkets.  You can try the web as well, or  even http://www.mammaagata.com .   Pastry flour will do if you can’t find it.

Use a non-stick Bundt type pan.  If you are having a large party and really want to impress, buy Mamma’s large pan off her website and double the recipe.

Use the juiciest lemons you can find.  Beauty is meaningless here.  It’s the juice that counts.

Be prepared to want to consume the entire cake yourself.  It’s not easy to share, especially when a love affair is involved!

RECIPE:

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 sticks of butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan

4 eggs

Grated zest of 3 large lemons (USA standards), or 5 to 6 small ones

A pinch of sea salt

2 cups “00” flour or white pastry flour

4 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cups hazelnuts, chopped (optional)

Lemonade Mixture:

1 1/4 cups water

Juice of 3 large lemons , or 5 to 6 small ones (use the lemons you zested)

8 TBSP sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Butter the non-stick Bundt pan and coat lightly with flour.  Shake out the excess flour.

3.  Whip the butter in a mixing bowl on high speed for at least 2 minutes.

4.  Add the sugar and continue to whip until soft cream forms.

5.  Mix the baking powder into the flour and set aside.

6.  Add the eggs, one at a time and then add the salt and grated lemon zest.

7. Alternate adding and blending a little of the flour mixture and the milk into the mixing bowl until all used up and blended into the batter.

8.  Mix the ingredients on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the batter has a light and airy consistency, similar to a mousse.

9.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes in the pre-heated oven.

10.  While the cake is baking in the oven ( do not open oven door to peek or cake will not rise properly), prepare the lemonade mixture.

11.  Squeeze the lemons into a pitcher.  Add the sugar to the lemon juice and stir until dissolved.   Add the water and stir well.

12.  Once the lemon cake is finished baking, let it sit for 2 hours outside the oven until it is room temperature.

13.  Before we start adding the lemonade, you must make sure the cake does NOT stick to the pan.  Place a plate on top of the pan and gently tip it over to dislodge the cake from the pan.  Once the cake has come nicely out of the pan, gently place it back into the pan so we can begin pouring the lemonade. If your cake doesn’t come out of the pan, place it back in the oven for several minutes.  This will warm up the butter and allow it to release.

14.  Over the course of 30 minutes, pour some lemonade over the entire cake every 10 minutes.  This allows the cake to absorb the lemonade.  After 30 minutes ( and 3 pours around), you should still have some lemonade in the pitcher.  At this point, tip the cake out of the pan and on to a serving plate.  Add the remaining lemonade to the top of the cake, distributing it evenly over the cake.

15.  Garnish the cake with the chopped hazelnuts.  If you prefer not to use nuts, a simple sprinkle of confectioners sugar will do nicely.

16.  Let the love affair begin!

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Maria’s Poolside Pasta

poolside pasta *?

This is one of my favorite summertime pasta recipes.  I already know what you’ll be thinking when you read the list of ingredients.  “Not another pasta recipe using cherry tomatoes and/or zucchini!”  I understand.  It is a bit much, but I simply must share this recipe, too.   You’ll be glad that I did.  I love these ingredients, especially in the summertime.  What makes all these recipes different from one another is simply the preparation.  There are probably countless other ways to combine these wonderful flavors of summer, but I promise this will be my last……until next summer.

My first memory of this recipe was at a Sunday dinner, poolside at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s house.  The setting was beautiful.  We sat under a beautiful trellis, overlooking their pool and gardens.  The perfume from the flowers was heavenly.  Just when we thought things could not get any better, out came this beautiful bowl of pasta.  I can still remember the beauty of this dish, with the colorful green and yellow zucchini, tomatoes, basil and pesto sauce.   But it was the aroma that really drew me in. Everything smelled so fresh and fragrant.  It was love at first bite for me.  I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed this dish on several other occasions, poolside, but eventually I was smart enough to watch my sister-in-law make it.  It wouldn’t be summer, if I didn’t recreate her dish at least once.  And when I do, I don’t even notice that I don’t have a pool. I’m just soooo happy with each delectable bite!  I know you will be too.

RECIPE:  serves 4

1 pound of farfalle pasta, Maria’s usual choice, but any short pasta will do.  I used mezze rigatoni here

2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved  or quartered

4 medium zucchini, yellow and green, sliced 1/4 inch rounds

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 cup pesto sauce (store bought is fine, but homemade is better…see my archives for recipe)

several fresh basil leaves, torn, never cut.

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup pasta water, reserved

grated Parmigiano cheese

1.  Put olive oil and tomatoes in a large skillet.  Sprinkle with the sea salt.  Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to break down a bit.

2.  Add the zucchini, stir and cover once again for 5 minutes or so, until the zucchini starts to soften a bit.  Add the pesto sauce.  Stir well, and heat through for about 5 more minutes.  

3.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente.  Before draining, reserve the pasta water and set aside.

4.  Add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet and toss well.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if you feel necessary.  Add some of the grated cheese, the basil leaves and put in a large serving bowl.

5.  Serve with grated cheese.

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Traditional Pasta with Zucchini

Mamma A pasta with zucchini bowl

I know that I already have posted several recipes  for pasta with zucchini, but it’s that zucchini time of year here in New Jersey, so I find myself constantly trying to figure out new ways to prepare them.  Of course my mind is always drawn to the idea of putting whatever it might be on top of pasta.  Generally, you can’t go wrong with this decision.  So while I was daydreaming about the situation, I recalled the many times I’ve had a pasta dish with zucchini while traveling through Italy.  This is especially true of southern Italy, where it is quite popular due to the abundance of zucchini growing everywhere.   I went to several of my cookbooks on Southern Italian cuisine, and came upon a very interesting finding.  There is always a very pungent or smoked cheese added to the dish.  I couldn’t quite understand this combination.  Why add such a heavy taste to such light ingredients, but I’m game to try almost anything when it comes to pasta.  So I added a smoked gouda, to what was basically the same recipe I grew up with and have made for years, and was pleasantly surprised.  I felt like I was back in Positano, dining at Da Vincenzo’s.   The addition of smoked cheese is what makes this recipe different from any other I have made. This is why I love to cook so much.  There is always something new to learn.  I thrilled the family with this recipe, and that too, always makes me happy.

So if you’ve been staring at some zucchini lately, and wondering what the heck to do with them, have I got the recipe for you!  

 

RECIPE:  Serves 4

1 pound pasta, penne or rigatoni

2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch discs

1/4 to 1/3 pound smoked gouda, smoked mozzarella or provolone, chopped into small chunks

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano cheese

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves thinly sliced

8 to 10 large basil leaves (torn…never cut)

 

1.  PLace the sliced zucchini in a colander or bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Let thm sit for 5 to 10 minutes , to drain some of the water from the zucchini.

2.  Add the olive oil and the sliced garlic to a large non-stick skillet.  Cook over a low flame until golden brown.  

3.  Add the zucchini, a pinch of salt and the torn basil to the oil and stir.

4.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then take the cover off and cook for another 5 minutes, or until zucchini start to soften.

5.  Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, and then drain.

6.  Add the pasta to the pan with the zucchini.  Stir all the ingredients well and continue to cook over a low flame for a few additional minutes.

7.  Add the chunks of cheese and half of the Parmigiano at the very end and stir well to combine.

8.  Remove from the heat, plate and serve with the remaining Parmigiano cheese.

 

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