Pizzelle (Italian Anise-Flavored Wafer Cookies)

December 6, 2017

Pizzelle punctuated my childhood.

Pizzelle were present at every holiday, birthday, wedding, and festive event as well as at random times throughout the year.

They usually came from Aunt Margie, though other folks made pizzelle, too.

My mother never did. Though she liked to bake, and made some wonderful pastries, pizzelle were not part of her repertoire.

The classic flavor is anise, though vanilla, and to a lesser extent lemon and orange, are common as well.

Aunt Margie would use pizzelle to make ice cream sandwiches. She would roll them around a tube to make faux cannoli. She would even roll them into ice cream cones. Of all the permutations, though, my favorite is just the classic, flat, crispy anise-flavored cookie.


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I don’t know anybody who doesn’t use an electric pizzelle iron these days but originally Aunt Margie used one of cast iron that was heated on the stove. It came from Berarducci Brothers in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and is most definitely iron, not aluminum. I have the pizzelle maker in its original box.

Aunt Margie’s original cast iron pizzelle maker

The original box for the pizzelle maker

Unfortunately Berarducci Brothers is no longer around. Not only did they manufacture stove-top and electric pizzelle irons, they made ravioli molds, crank-handle vegetable strainers, and an array of other culinary tools.

A modern pizzelle maker

In my experience, anise oil is essential. Anise extract simply does not pack enough flavor to give pizzelle the punch they need.

When I was young, anise oil came from the pharmacy. It was not uncommon in those days for pharmacies to routinely compound medications to a physician’s specific instructions. Compounding is now limited to a few specialty pharmacies but not so back then. Anise oil was commonly used to flavor what might otherwise be a noxious medication.

It was common practice among the Italian families in my hometown to go to the pharmacy to buy a bottle of anise oil. One upside, besides the easy availability of the stuff, is that it was pharmaceutical grade and, therefore, very pure.


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I tried that in Santa Fe after my mother-in-law kept failing to get enough anise flavor out of anise extract. We even have actual compounding pharmacies in Santa Fe as well as pharmacies that specialize in herbal and homeopathic medications that also make up their own medications. No dice. Not one of them carried anise oil.

Amazon to the rescue. There are other on-line sources, too, like the King Arthur Flour people. So, if you want to try your hand at pizzelle, get anise oil, not anise extract.  If you don’t like anise you could give vanilla, lemon, or orange a try.  If you do, I suggest the lemon and orange oils from Boyajian rather than extract.

The brand of Anise oil I have been using lately

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Pizzelle
Anise extract does not work well. Anise oil is an absolute requirement for the authentic taste. As with many "old Italian recipes" in my collection, this one provided a range of amounts of flour. 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour worked well and was pretty much right in the middle of the range. The batter will be quite stiff until the melted butter is stirred in.
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Mix well. Reserve.
  3. Combine eggs and sugar.
  4. Mix until well combined.
  5. Stir in vanilla and anise oil.
  6. Stir dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture.
  7. Stir in melted butter.
  8. Lightly grease the pizzelle maker (with lard, preferably) before the first ones are baked. After the first, additional greasing is not needed.
  9. Add a rounded tablespoon of batter to the center of each shape, depending on the size of your iron.
  10. Cover and cook until light golden but not really brown. The length of time will vary based on the specifics of your pizzelle iron. With mine, it took 30-45 seconds per batch.
  11. Cool the pizzelle on racks.
  12. You can dust with powdered sugar if you'd like but I rarely do unless it's a really festive occasion.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Cuban Black Beans

December 1, 2017

Black beans are ubiquitous on tables in Cuba.

Getting beans to the right texture and the liquid to the right thickness is almost an art form.

Food is scarce in Cuba…at least if you’re a Cuban paying in Cuban Pesos. Not so much if you’re paying in CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos), which is what foreigners use. The CUC is pegged to the US Dollar but if you change Dollars for CUCs you pay a 10% penalty as opposed to exchanging another currency, say the Euro, for CUCs.


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Prices in Cuban Pesos at a locals’ only market

One view of a locals’ only market
Another view of a locals’ only market

I visited a butcher shop in Havana which pretty much now only sells chicken; when chicken is available, that is. If you notice the door to the cooler is open. That’s because the cooler isn’t on because there’s no inventory.

A butcher shop in Havana

The butcher is just waiting around for chicken to arrive.

When that chicken does arrive, it will likely be frozen Tyson chicken from the United States. Even though, when this picture was taken, the US embargo of Cuba was in full force.

Most of the chicken in Cuba is frozen Tyson chicken from the United States

The same is true of hot sauce. If one asks for hot sauce at a restaurant in Cuba one is likely to get a bottle of Tabasco shipped in from Avery Island, Louisiana. Clearly there are exceptions to the embargo for some American companies!

If you pay in CUCs, the food available increases dramatically.

One stall in a multi-vendor market where prices are denominated in CUCs
Another stall in the same market
Locally prepared beverages in the CUC-denominated market

The disparity in prices for food purchased with Pesos vs CUCs is so large that average Cubans cannot afford to buy food with CUCs, even if they can get them. It takes 25 Cuban Pesos to buy one CUC. Paying in Pesos limits one to shopping in pretty-much locals’ only stores, with limited inventory where the products, like rice and beans, are sold at subsidized prices.

Rum is widely available regardless of the currency.  You’ll pay more if you’re a foreigner, however.

Havana Club is a popular brand of rum in Cuba
A well-stocked bar ready for the day’s customers
Cuban cigars for sale at the bar

After returning from the trip to Cuba in 2014, I tried but couldn’t get the texture of my “Cuban” black beans right. But then, my mother-in-law got a recipe from Beatriz (Betty) Scannapieco. Betty is from Cuba. She was in the exercise group my in-laws attend. Betty’s recipe, using a pressure cooker as is common in Cuba, works like a dream. It’s really pretty effortless, too. The green pepper, onion, and garlic add tremendous flavor but are removed after cooking leaving just beans and the silky cooking liquid.

I made three changes to Betty’s recipe. She called for 1 teaspoon of white wine. I use 1 tablespoon. Betty didn’t use tomato paste or black pepper but both are common ingredients in many Cuban black bean recipes.


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Cuban Black Beans
This recipe came from Beatriz (Betty) Scannapieco in my in-law’s exercise group. Betty is from Cuba. I added the tomato paste and black pepper to Betty’s recipe. I also increased the wine from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. It can be challenging to get the bell pepper, onion, and garlic out of the beans as they very soft after cooking. If you want to make it easier, you could tie them in cheesecloth.
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Wash the beans.
  2. Cover beans with water by a couple of inches and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. The next day, cut the bell pepper in half and remove ribs and seeds.
  4. Cut the onion into 4 or 6 wedges, but do not cut the whole way through the root end.
  5. Bruise the garlic by laying the blade of a chef's knife on top and gently pounding the knife blade.
  6. Drain the beans. Put the beans in a pressure cooker along with 3 ¼ cups of fresh water.
  7. Bring the beans to a boil, uncovered.
  8. Skim the foam from the beans then remove the pot from heat.
  9. Add the green pepper, onion, garlic and bay leaves to the beans.
  10. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to 10 pounds pressure.
  11. Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  12. Remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to dissipate naturally.
  13. Uncover the pressure cooker.
  14. Add the olive oil, tomato paste (if using), wine, vinegar, salt and black pepper (if using).
  15. Bring to a boil uncovered and boil for 5 minutes.
  16. Remove from heat. Cool slightly and remove bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, and garlic.
  17. The beans can be served immediately but are better if refrigerated overnight.
  18. Serve the beans in a shallow bowl with pieces of finely diced raw onion in the center. Black beans are customarily accompanied by white rice.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Cabbage and Noodles (Halushki)

November 27, 2017

One of the interesting consequences of working on this blog is that it is getting me to cook more Slovak food.

We ate way more Italian food than Slovak food when I was growing up but, nonetheless, Slovak food was a significant presence on our table.

Things that only lived in my memory, like the Chicken Paprikash that I posted a few weeks ago, and my Grandma Mihalik’s Butter Cookies that are coming up in a week or two, are now real. And it’s not only the Slovak food. The Chinese Five-Spice Roast Pork from last week hasn’t been on my table in more than 40 years!


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Part of the reason is that, as much as I enjoy cooking, I hadn’t devoted as much time to planning what I was going to cook as I did when I was younger.  That is, until I got deep into this blog (and the restaurant cookbook I’ve been asked to write).

In Junior and Senior years of college there was a plan for dinner for every day of every week. Sometimes there was a plan for lunch, too!

Good provisions weren’t conveniently located to the University of Pennsylvania campus except for some specialty items from the ethnic markets near campus or the occasional very basic item from one of two nearby (in-super) supermarkets. Grocery shopping was done weekly and involved a trip to Ninth Street (sometimes called the Italian Market), and to the Pathmark supermarket in Broomall, PA.

Every meal got planned and a shopping list was created.

The planning was usually done in the evenings when I needed a break from studying (which I know some of you think I never did!). I would sit down with a cookbook or two, or my box of recipes handwritten on 3” x 5” index cards, or the typewritten recipes from Mrs. Hugh, my roommate’s mother and, over the course of the week, generate a list of what my roommate and I were going to have for dinner each night. Some were favorites but many were new, like the whole poached fish I made from Marcella Hazan’s first cookbook or Mrs. Hugh’s Crispy Duck (see the photo embedded in this blog post).

One of my favorite books was a slim volume by Charmaine Solomon. Charmaine was from Sri Lanka and two of the resident advisors in my college house, Reggie and Nanacy Rajapakse, were also from Sri Lanka and knew Charmaine. Charmaine’s Far Eastern Cookbook was copyrighted in 1972 (the year I started college). The edition I have was printed in 1973 so it was quite new when I bought it in 1974 shortly after entering the International Residence Project. I read that book cover to cover, like a novel, many times. I could sit for hours and pore over Charmaine’s recipes.

My dog-eared and much beloved copy of Charmaine Solomon’s Far Eastern Cookbook

In 1976, when I graduated college, Reggie and Nanacy bought me another of Charmaine’s cookbooks as a present, The Complete Asian Cookbook.

Another favorite cookbook was the [Ceylon] Daily News Cookery Book which was in the collection of the Van Pelt library at the University of Pennsylvania. I would check it out, keep it as long as I could, return it, and then check it out again. It was a hardcover book with a red cloth cover. It was simply titled the Daily News Cookery Book.  Reference to Ceylon was nowhere to be found in the title.  Many years later, on a trip to Sri Lanka, I was able to get a reprint of the book (with the word Ceylon added to the title).

My point, though, is that my cooking repertoire expanded because I worked at it. Ray and I planned every meal, we went grocery shopping, we cooked, and we most certainly ate. I was still able to keep up a good cooking pace through medical school but after that, as I got busier and busier, it became harder and harder.

While I can put food on the table any given night without much thought, recreating past favorites or trying out new recipes requires more planning. I now have a calendar specifically devoted to cooking. Dishes get planned out weeks, if not months, in advance. It’s a lot of work, yes, but it’s tremendously rewarding to prepare my favorite foods, many of which I haven’t had in many years, and introduce them to others.

Cabbage and Noodles, sometimes called Halushki, was frequently on our table. I remember it particularly being served with Salmon Patties, one of my favorite Friday meals when we didn’t eat meat. We had it other times, too, but the association of Cabbage and Noodles with Salmon Patties is very strong.


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Cabbage and Noodles (Halushki)
Although three pounds of cabbage sounds like a lot, it cooks down a tremendous amount. If you wish, you can add a teaspoon or two of caraway seed to the cabbage during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Though my family did not do that, it is not unusual to do so.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Quarter and core the cabbage.
  2. Slice each quarter crosswise into ½ inch wide ribbons.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the cabbage comfortably melt four tablespoons of the butter.
  4. Sauté the onion in the butter until golden.
  5. Add the cabbage. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Sauté on medium heat, stirring often, until the cabbage wilts.
  7. Reduce the heat if the cabbage starts to stick to the pot.
  8. Continue to cook on medium low, partially covered and stirring often, until the cabbage is silky, golden, and sweet. This will take 1 ½ to 2 hours total from start to finish.
  9. The cabbage can be cooked several hours in advance to this point. Warm the cabbage before proceeding.
  10. Bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1/3 cup of salt.
  11. Cook the egg noodles in the salted water until just done. They should be slightly toothy and definitely not mushy.
  12. Drain the noodles.
  13. Add the noodles to the cooked cabbage along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Toss well.
  14. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Chinese Five-Spice Roast Pork

November 22, 2017

My food horizons expanded slowly during freshman and sophomore years in college. I was exposed to Chinese food through Dennis and Martha Law, a graduate student couple from Hong Kong who were the resident advisors in my college house during freshman year. I got exposed to Indian food thanks to the proximity to my dorm of the now long-gone Maharaja Indian Restaurant.

As sophomore year came to a close things were about to get kicked up a notch, to steal a phrase from Emeril Lagasse.


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In spring of sophomore year I applied to live in the International Residence Project, another of the University of Pennsylvania’s college houses, during my junior year.

I was accepted into the program and invited to a “meet and greet” with the other students later that semester. The resident advisors were Ambrose and Najma Davis and Reginald (Reggie) and Nanacy Rajapakse. Ambrose was from Jamaica, Najma from Bangladesh and Reggie and Nanacy (whose name was often Anglicized to Nancy) from Sri Lanka.

At the “meet and greet” I was introduced to Ray Hugh, who was to be my roommate. Ray, of Hakka Chinese ancestry, hailed from Guyana. We started hanging out together for the remainder of the semester and then, since we were both staying in Philadelphia for the summer, decided to find a summer sublet together.

Ray and his father, Dr. Hugh, in Georgetown, Guyana, 1974

As I had done the previous summer, we sublet an apartment in Graduate Towers (as discussed in my post on Homemade Applesauce).


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Then we started cooking! Guyanese food. Chinese food. Italian food. Indian food. The list went on.

The number of cuisines we cooked exploded beginning in junior year when we moved into the International Residence Project. We got recipes from other residents in the Project who came from all around the world. I (very tentatively) started my cookbook collection which now numbers close to 5000 volumes.

Ray (front center) with from right to left, his mother, sister Fay, sister Shelly, and Shelly’s boyfriend in the suburbs of London, 1975

Some dishes we made became regulars (like this roast pork). Others we made once for the sheer challenge.

Ray’s mom’s Crispy Duck was in the latter camp. Mrs. Hugh sent us a sheaf of recipes carefully typed out on onion skin paper. Her recipe for plain white rice, included in those pages, was my tutorial on making steamed white rice.  I followed that recipe consistently, with unfailingly perfect results, until we moved to Santa Fe where the elevation, and its effect on cooking, rendered the directions unusable.

Included in that same sheaf of recipes was Crispy Duck. We started with a whole duck, head and feet included, which we purchased on Ninth Street in Philadelphia. The duck was hung for 24 hours from a hook we screwed into the ceiling while we carefully lacquered it, repeatedly, with a mixture of soy sauce and other ingredients, before roasting.

Me (left) and Ray with Crispy Duck in the early stage, hanging from the ceiling in our dorm apartment, 1975

Compared to the duck, this pork is a breeze. Though Ray, with whom I am still in contact, now recommends marinating it for a day (refrigerated!) if possible, when we were in college the marinating occurred in an hour as the meat was coming to room temperature. I also think that he often used garlic powder rather than fresh garlic. Actually, I think garlic powder works really well to season chicken to be roasted or steaks to be broiled. As I recall, it was pretty tasty on this pork, too.

Everything in this pork is classically Chinese, except, of course, the rum! Likely a rice-based spirit would be used in China but in Guyana the Chinese used rum. Let’s face it, fusion food happens everywhere! Besides, the rum “plays” really nicely with the five spice powder and brown sugar.

Five spice powder is the main flavor and it is important that you use a good quality brand. Not all five-spice powders are created equal. If you don’t have a Chinatown near you, there’s always Amazon. That’s what I did. Despite the existence of a good Asian grocery store in Santa Fe, the five-spice powder that I bought there was not up to my standards.


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Chinese Five-Spice Roast Pork
Boneless pork shoulder steaks work well because they contain some fat to keep the meat moist. However, because shoulder steaks contain different muscle groups the texture can change from bite to bite. Well-marbled pork chops with a little fat cap around the edge would work, too. If using bone-in chops, I would use 3 pounds rather than 2 ½ pounds. Be sure to use a good quality five spice powder.
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Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Chinese, West Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Chinese, West Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
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Instructions
  1. Five spice powder
  2. Combine all ingredients except the pork. Mix well.
  3. Boneless pork shoulder steaks
  4. Add the pork and toss to coat with the marinade.
  5. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for 24 hours if possible. Turn the pork once or twice while marinating.
  6. One hour before cooking the pork, remove it from the marinade and put it in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan.
  7. Allow the pork to come to room temperature for an hour.
  8. Meanwhile, boil the marinade quickly until it is reduced to approximately 4 tablespoons.
  9. Cool the marinade and pour it over the pork.
  10. Preheat the broiler.
  11. Put the pan with the meat approximately 8 inches below the broiler.
  12. Cook the pork, turning once or twice, until just cooked through, 15-20 minutes.
  13. Allow the pork to rest 10 minutes before carving into bite-size pieces.
Recipe Notes

Unlike the brown sugar typically available in the United States, which is a mixture of white sugar and molasses, the brown sugar available in Guyana is actually a less refined sugar, hence the brown color.  There's not enough brown sugar in this recipe to make a difference so feel free to use standard American brown sugar.  Closer to what is available in Guyana is this brown sugar packaged for the Korean market that I bought in an Asian grocery store, and this brown sugar that I purchased in Ecuador.

Brown sugar packaged for the Korean market but bought in the United States

Brown sugar purchased in Ecuador

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Eduardo’s Chimichurri

October 20, 2017

We’ve been to Argentina at least three times. Once as part of a trip to explore wine country in Chile and Argentina, once as part of a trip to Antarctica for which the ship left from Tierra del Fuego, and once with my in-laws to visit relatives who lived in Patagonia.

Tierra del Fuego, the starting point for our Antarctic adventure!
Penguins
Icebergs really are blue!

On each trip we spent some time in Buenos Aires, some more than others. And on each trip we did the Argentine thing of eating copious quantities of meat.

Eateries abound selling meats of various types cooked over live charcoal. The less fancy, but no less good, ones are often outdoor affairs with pots of chimichurri on each table. Often, the maestro de parrilla (grill master) is standing just feet away tending several large parrillas (grills) brimming with various cuts of meat. One of our most memorable meals of grilled meats was at just such a place in the suburbs of Buenos Aires with a friend from the States who married an Argentine and moved to Buenos Aires.

I developed a true appreciation for the extent to which Argentines love meat, however, at several family dinners at my husband’s Great Uncle Duilio and Great Aunt Juliana’s house in Puerto Madryn, Patagonia. Duilio is Fidalma’s brother. I’ve mentioned Fidalma several times in this blog.

We spent a week in Puerto Madryn and had two Sunday dinners with Duilio’s family (daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren).

To accommodate large family gatherings, one of Duilio’s daughters converted an outbuilding to host bacchanalian feasts. There was a large indoor parilla with grill racks, an iron cross to hold an entire lamb near the charcoal, and a hook to hold a cauldron over the heat. There was another parilla just outside the door, in the courtyard. The rest of the interior space was given over to a very, very long table and chairs.

Indoor parilla with a whole lamb and sausages

When we arrived for the second Sunday dinner, Eduardo, one of Duilio’s sons-in-law was frying 15 kilos (that’s 33 pounds!) of calamari in a large cauldron set over a fire in the indoor parilla. This was just to keep us from getting restless and hungry as the rest of the meal was prepared.

Outdoor parilla with chicken and brochettes

When we sat down to eat, the first course was grilled chicken. The grilled chicken course was followed by grilled sausages. The grilled sausages were followed by grilled lamb. The grilled lamb was followed by grilled beef.

Yep, each course was a different meat!

Truth be told, there were some vegetables on the table. But that doesn’t mean they were eaten by most of the family and the quantity certainly paled in comparison to the herd of animals that made its way onto the table in succession.

The seating arrangement was in strict age progression. Duilio and Juliana sat at the head. On either side of them sat my husband’s parents. Next to them on opposite sides of the table was where my husband and I were seated. After that came Dulio and Juliana’s daughters and their husbands. The remainder of the table was filled with grandchildren.

The vegetables started at “our” end of the table. Duilio and Juliana, as well as my in-laws and the two of us actually put vegetables on our plates. Duilio and Juliana’s daughters took a bite or two, as I recall. The sons-in-law and grandchildren wanted nothing to do with anything that was suspiciously related to a root!

And there you have it. Course after course of meat, no veggies for the “true” Argentines, a bit of dessert, and the obligatory cup of mate passed around the table.

Eduardo cooked all the food magnificently. This is his chimichurri recipe. It contains a few ingredients that might seem unusual but since his family has been in Argentina for many generations who am I to argue?

In addition to serving as the typical condiment for grilled meat, chimichurri is also as a marinade for the same meat. It will keep a week in the refrigerator so be sure to make enough to both marinate the meat and serve as a condiment.


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Eduardo's Chimichurri
While a few of the ingredients may seem unusual, Eduardo’s family has lived in Argentina for several generations so I don’t doubt the traditional nature of this recipe. Make extra and use some to marinate the meat before cooking. Pass the remainder at the table. You can use either red or white wine vinegar but I prefer white as it does not dull the bright green color of the herbs.
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
cups
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid large enough to hold the finished sauce, combine the mustard and water.
  2. Allow the mustard-water mixture to stand approximately 7-10 minutes to develop the mustard’s flavor.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small blender jar, combine the garlic and one-half of the olive oil. Blend until garlic is finely minced.
  4. Add the basil to the garlic-oil mixture and blend again until basil is finely chopped but not pureed.
  5. Add the garlic-oil-basil mixture to the mustard mixture.
  6. Combine the remaining oil and parsley in the blender jar and blend until parsley is finely chopped but not pureed.
  7. Add the parsley-oil mixture to the herb mixture.
  8. Use the wine to rinse out the blender jar and then add it to the herb mixture.
  9. Add all other ingredients. Mix well.
  10. X
  11. Cover and allow the chimichurri to sit at room temperature for approximately three hours to develop flavor.
  12. The chimichurri can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to a week.
Recipe Notes

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Bertha’s Flan

October 11, 2017

Bertha Kravicas left Lithuania in 1927 with her family. They were hoping to get to America but when the quota was full they went to the closest place they could.

They thought their sojourn in Cuba would be brief but as the months turned into years, Bertha made a trip back to the Old Country where she met Victor Ashman in Latvia.

They married and returned to live in Cuba in 1931. Over the years, they became Cubans in the way that immigrants to the United States become Americans no matter their background.

Bertha in Matanzas, Cuba in the 1940s

Victor even decided to run for public office. Because his name was not Cuban enough he officially changed it to Victor A. Larriga, in honor of his birthplace, Riga, Latvia.

One of the ways that Bertha adapted to her new country was through cooking.

Flan is made throughout the Spanish-speaking world but is especially popular in Cuba where it is the most common dessert. Flan is a source of family pride with each family believing that its flan is the best. (This sounds very familiar to me coming from a Southern Italian background where the same belief attaches to tomato sauce).

Flan recipes are passed down from generation to generation and fall into two general categories, those that contain canned milk and those that do not. Cubans smile approvingly when hearing that flan contains canned milk. After all, that’s how it should be!

Bertha’s flan is made entirely from canned milk; two kinds actually. That, and the generous amount of egg, makes a substantial flan.

After the Cuban Revolution Bertha and Victor took advantage of President Eisenhower’s offer for Cubans to immigrate to the United States. They arrived in late 1960 along with their son, Stuart.

Bertha and Victor on their Harley in the 1940s

Stuart is now the Executive Director of the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. It was at a CCA event earlier this summer that I tasted this remarkable flan made by Stuart’s wife Peggy Gaustad. Peggy is now the flan maker in the family, having taken over from Stuart. For the CCA event, Peggy made flan for 100 people but she recalls once making it for 150!

Stuart remembers that as a child, when his mother would make flan, he would be given the empty can of condensed milk and a chopped up banana to sop up the last bit of sweetness!

This recipe is actually double Bertha’s original. It’s the way Peggy makes it because there never seems to be enough from the original.


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Bertha's Flan
Before caramelizing the sugar in the pan you’re going to use for the flan, put the empty pan inside of the larger one that you’re going to use for the water bath then add water to the large pan to come at least one inch up the side of the pan that will hold the flan. Remove the pan that you’ll use for the flan.
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Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. For the flan, choose a 12-inch diameter pan with straight sides that can be heated on the stove and put in the oven.
  2. Put enough water into a pan large enough to hold the pan with the flan so that the water comes one-inch up the sides of the pan with the flan.
  3. Put the sugar into the pan selected for the flan.
  4. Heat the pan with the sugar on medium heat until the sugar melts and turns dark brown. (A series of pictures follows showing the progression of the caramelization.)
  5. Do not stir the sugar or caramel. Simply swirl the pan from time to time to mix the caramel. Rotate the pan on the heat occasionally to reduce hot-spots.
  6. If the pan has a very heavy bottom, the retained heat will continue to brown the sugar off the heat. Stop caramelizing the sugar a little before you think it’s done otherwise it might burn. If it turns out that the caramel is not quite dark enough, you can heat the pan again briefly.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool during which time the caramelized sugar will harden on the bottom.
  8. While the caramel is cooling, bring the water in the water bath to a simmer on the stovetop then put the pan into a 350°F oven.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix well.
  10. When the caramel is hardened, pour the milk-egg mixture on top.
  11. Cover the pan tightly, either with foil or with a lid.
  12. Put the pan into the water bath in the 350°F oven.
  13. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes at 350°F.
  14. A knife inserted in the center of the flan should come out clean. If not, cook a few minutes longer.
  15. Remove the flan from the oven and cool to room temperature.
  16. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. Overnight is best.
  17. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan.
  18. Put a large platter upside down on top of the pan with the flan. Quickly flip the entire set-up over. The flan should come out of the pan in one piece. Pour any remaining caramel syrup onto the flan.
  19. Serve very cold.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Mom’s Ravioli

September 27, 2017

My strongest olfactory memory of childhood is gradually waking up on Sunday morning to the smell (perfume is a better characterization as far as I’m concerned) of garlic being sautéed in olive oil.

That was how most Sundays started.

My mother would get up early and start making her long-simmered Southern Italian Tomato Sauce (referred to as Ragu or Sugo if one’s Italian roots were close, “Gravy” if one grew up in New York or nearby, and often just “Sauce”). We unceremoniously called it “Spaghetti Sauce” though it was used on much more than spaghetti!

I think the better part of my culinary-cultural history is represented by that sauce. Every Italian family’s sauce is different, even if stylistic similarities can be identified. The sauces made by my mother and her two sisters that I knew, Aunt Margie and Aunt Mamie, were clearly related but also different. Each was good but it’s not as if they didn’t deviate from my Grandmother’s recipe. They were similar in that garlic and meat were browned in oil; tomato products, water, and seasonings were added; and the whole thing simmered for hours. The meats varied, the tomato products (tomato paste, tomato puree, whole canned tomatoes, etc.) and the proportions of them definitely varied as did the seasonings and other aromatics.

My mother’s “Spaghetti Sauce” to call it by its “historic” name, a name that I no longer use, is, without doubt, my most precious culinary treasure. I have only ever given the recipe out twice. In the 1970’s I gave it to John Bowker and his wife Margaret Roper Bowker. John was the dean of Trinity College in Cambridge, England. Recently I gave it to Robert Reddington and John O’Malley in Palm Springs after Bob lamented the loss of the recipe for the long-simmered tomato sauce he learned to make while living in Chicago.

With my mother’s sauce as the near-constant backdrop to our Sunday dinners, the rest of the meal varied. The sauce could be served with spaghetti or some other cut of dry pasta, or with my mother’s home-made fettuccine, or with ravioli. Although my favorite pasta is gnocchi, we never had those on Sundays as my father didn’t like them. Gnocchi (always home-made) were reserved for a weeknight meal during the times that my father worked out of town.

The sauce has an abundant amount of meat in it, pork, always cut in big pieces, never ground or chopped. Nonetheless, the pasta was often accompanied by my mother’s slow-cooked roast pork or maybe a roast chicken.

It seems incongruous now, but in the 1960s, before the widespread use of antibiotics, chickens were expensive! (I’m not in favor of the prophylactic use of antibiotics but I’m just saying that’s why chickens are relatively inexpensive now.) I still have a handful of my mother’s “City Chicken” sticks from the 1960s. They are round, pointed sticks slimmer than a pencil but thicker than bamboo skewers. Pieces of pork and veal would be skewered in alternating fashion on the sticks, breaded, and fried like chicken drumsticks. This was less expensive than chicken!!

City Chicken sticks

But back to Sundays…

Sometimes, after the sauce was bubbling away, my mother would make ravioli. Next to gnocchi, they are my favorite pasta, but manicotti and lasagna aren’t far behind.

We would eat our big meal around 1 PM on Sunday and my mother would get all of this done in time for that meal, including taking time to go to church, during which my Aunt Mamie, who lived upstairs, would be tasked with stirring the “Spaghetti Sauce.”

My mother’s (now my) ravioli mold.

Making ravioli in a group is a lot more fun. I also find that making the ravioli on a different day from the day they are cooked and eaten means that I am not as tired and I enjoy them more. The pictures in this post are from a Sunday when I got together with Rich DePippo, Susan Vinci-Lucero, and my in-laws, Marisa and Frank Pieri, to make ravioli. I think we made about 30 dozen ravioli!


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Mom's Ravioli
The filling can be made a day in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Ravioli freeze well. To do so, lightly flour a sheet pan that will fit in your freezer and put the ravioli in a single layer. Freeze about 30-45 minutes, until firm. Quickly put the ravioli in a zipper-lock bag and return to the freezer. Repeat with the remaining ravioli. My mother always made her dough by hand but I use a kitchen mixer and the beater, not the dough hook. Years ago, ground meat was not labeled with the percent fat. My mother would select a cut of sirloin, have the butcher trim off all visible fat and then grind it. I find that 93% lean ground beef replicates the experience.
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Prep Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
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Filling
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Prep Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Filling
Dough
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Put the frozen spinach in a small saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is completely thawed.
  2. Pour the spinach into a large sieve.
  3. After the spinach has cooled enough to handle, squeeze handfuls of the spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan until shimmering. Add the beef.
  5. Cook over high heat until the liquid has evaporated, breaking up the meat while cooking.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper to taste. Continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes more.
  7. Add the spinach to the beef.
  8. Continue to cook over medium to medium-low heat while breaking up the spinach and completely combining it with the beef.
  9. When the beef and spinach are well combined and no obvious liquid remains in the pan, add the beaten egg. Stir well and cook two minutes more. The egg should completely incorporate into the filling and no longer be visible.
  10. Adjust salt and pepper.
  11. On low heat, add 1/4-1/3 cup of breadcrumbs and combine well to absorb any remaining liquid or oil. If necessary to absorb any remaining liquid, add another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs. If you cooked off all the liquid when browning the beef, and used lean beef, 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs should be enough.
  12. Cool the filling to room temperature before filling the ravioli.
Dough
  1. Put the flour, egg, and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle.
  2. Mix on low until combined.
  3. Add the water, a little at a time, until the dough just comes together. The dough should not be the slightest bit tacky. You may not need all the water.
  4. Remove the dough from the mixer and roll into a log. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before rolling out.
Assembly
  1. Set up your pasta machine, either a hand crank version or an attachment for your mixer.
  2. Cut off a small handful of dough.
  3. Flatten the dough, dust with flour, and run it through the pasta machine on the thickest setting.
  4. If the dough is catching on the rollers it may be too wet. Sprinkle liberally with flour.
  5. Run the dough through the same setting one more time.
  6. Run the dough through the pasta machine narrowing the setting by one notch each time. If the dough is getting too long to cover much more than two lengths of the ravioli mold, cut off the excess and continue.
  7. When rolling out the dough, use slow, even motion. If the dough is not rolling out to the full width of the machine, or at least wide enough to cover the width of the ravioli mold, fold it in half crosswise and run it through the machine again on whatever the last setting was.
  8. If the dough is not rolling out smoothly, and the issue is not that it is too damp, run the dough through the machine again on the same setting.
  9. On most pasta machines with five settings for thickness, you will want to stop rolling out the dough on the next-to-thinnest setting.
  10. Put the rolled out dough on a lightly floured surface and cover with a kitchen towel. Repeat with 2 or 3 more portions of dough.
  11. Allow the remaining dough to rest, covered, while filling and cutting the first batch of ravioli.
  12. To fill the ravioli, take the rolled out dough and lay it across the ravioli mold.
  13. Add a slightly rounded teaspoonful of filling to each ravioli. Do not overfill or the ravioli may break when being cooked.
  14. Fold the dough over the top.
  15. Lightly pat the top sheet of dough.
  16. Using a rolling pin, cut the dough along the zig-zag edges. Be careful to fully cut through the dough around the edges as well as between each raviolo.
  17. Remove the ravioli and place on a lightly floured surface. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel.
  18. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
  19. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze the ravioli.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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New Mexican Green Chile Sauce

September 22, 2017

Those of you who haven’t spent time in New Mexico may not know that chile (definitely spelled with an “e”) has cult status in the state.

New Mexican food wouldn’t be the same without “red” or “green.” Chile, that is. Those are the standard sauces used in New Mexican cuisine.

When ordering most dishes in a New Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe, the first question from the server, if the customer hasn’t specified, is “Red or Green or Christmas?”

Just 70 miles away in Taos, the question is “Red or Green or Caribe?”

It’s not that you can’t get Christmas in Taos, which as you might have guessed is half red chile sauce and half green chile sauce, it’s that never, ever is Caribe an option in Santa Fe. It just isn’t. I believe this speaks to the development of related, but different, foodways in the historically isolated towns and villages of New Mexico.

The most famous of all New Mexico chile is Hatch. There are about six varieties of chile grown in Hatch but, if they’re grown there, they can all be labeled as Hatch Chile. The tiny village of Chimayó, just under 30 miles from Santa Fe in northern New Mexico, grows good chile, too.

When I buy roasted green chile at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, I usually head for the vendor selling chile from Chimayó. That’s exactly what I did last week to make a batch of Green Chile for this blog post (honestly, we don’t add the word “sauce” to the end as the context indicates whether one is talking about the sauce or the fruit. And, yes, chile is a fruit!). Chimayó has a multi-hundred year history of growing heirloom chile and I feel good supporting that history, if even in a very small way.

A typical chile-roasting set-up found throughout parking lots in New Mexico in the late summer.

I served that chile during a dinner party for a group of close friends. Among the ten of us, only one was born and raised in New Mexico, Pat Assimakis (aka Pat Paris if you’re a maître d’ and she’s ever made a reservation at your restaurant). I gave Pat a taste of my green chile, she thought for a second and said, “Chimayó?” She nailed it! It’s got a slightly different taste from Hatch chile.

New Mexicans have strong opinions about their chile, be it red or green. The usual divide is between those who put almost nothing but chile in their chile (see, you knew the first meant the fruit and the second meant the sauce, right?) except for a bit of onion and/or garlic and those who add herbs (like oregano) and spices (like cumin). I am firmly in the former camp. Onion and garlic help to round out the flavor but, to my taste, herbs and spices detract from the pure chile goodness.

The other divide is degree of heat. Back to the restaurant scenario above, a frequent question from the customer after the server says “Red or Green?” is “Which is hotter?” Restaurants stake out their territory, not only in how they make their chile, but in terms of which is hotter.

Since I’m a bit of a chile-head, given a choice between the medium-hot and the hot Chimayó chile at the Farmers Market, I opted for the hot. So, I was more than a little concerned when Doug Howe, one of the other friends at our dinner, and the first to ladle some green chile onto his plate, took three large spoonsful. Before I could warn him, he took a bite and was in agony. I relieved him of his green chile, putting it on my plate, instead. Pat and I sure enjoyed the chile, Doug not so much. As for the other seven diners, I’m not sure.

In case you missed it, here is my recipe for Red Chile.


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New Mexican Green Chile Sauce
This is classic New Mexican Green Chile. There are just a few aromatics and no herbs and spices to muddy the flavor. Removing the skin and seeds can be a chore as they want to stick to your fingers. Dipping the chile and your fingers in water makes the task a breeze however, you want to use that water as part of the sauce because all of the tasty liquid that collects inside the chile as it roasts would be lost otherwise.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Roasted green chile ready to be cleaned.
  2. Put two cups of water in a small bowl.
  3. Holding the chile over a bowl to catch any juice, use your fingers to remove the skin of the roasted chile. Most of the skin should slide off easily. You may need to work on a few bits here and there. Remove as much skin as possible but a few bits of stubbornly sticking skin aren’t a problem.
  4. Shake whatever skin you can from your fingers (it has a tendency to cling desperately to your fingers) then dip your fingers and the chile in the bowl of water to remove the clinging skin.
  5. Still holding the chile over a bowl, remove the stem end. You can usually do this by pinching the top of the chile but a pair of kitchen shears works well, too.
  6. Discard the stem end and any seeds that cling to it.
  7. Split the chile in half lengthwise. Again, this is pretty easy to do with a fingernail.
  8. Dip the chile into the bowl of water and scrape away the seeds.
  9. Put the cleaned chile into a clean bowl and repeat the process with the remaining chile.
  10. Cut the chile into long strips.
  11. Cut the chile crosswise into small squares
  12. Add any liquid that has collected in the bottom of the bowl from the chopped chile to the bowl of water.
  13. Strain out seeds and bits of flesh from the water using a three step process. Strain the water through a large sieve.
  14. Strain the liquid through a fine, small sieve.
  15. Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth or a paper filter.
  16. Chop the onion.
  17. Mince the garlic.
  18. Combine ½ cup of chopped chile, onion, garlic, strained water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  19. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender puree the chile mixture. This will help to thicken the chile sauce without using a thickening agent.
  20. Add the remaining diced chile and two cups of water to the puree and simmer until the chile is soft to the bite, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes, adjusting salt approximately 10 minutes into the simmer. If you used a regular blender in the previous step, use the water to rinse out the blender jar before adding it to the pot.
  21. The green chile can be refrigerated or frozen. It will become softer if frozen so best to cook it for a shorter time if it is going to be frozen.
Recipe Notes

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Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)

September 18, 2017

When I was growing up, we mostly socialized within the extended family plus a very few close family friends (that’s you, Joe and Betty Slivosky!).

It was a time (the 60’s) and place (small-town Western Pennsylvania) where it was rare to call in advance of a visit. One just showed up. This usually happened in the evening after dinner, though almost never on Monday or Thursday when the stores downtown were open until 9 PM and we dressed and went shopping after dinner.

Everyone would sit around (usually in the kitchen) drinking coffee (with caffeine), chatting…and smoking. Oh, the smoking! Occasionally the men would drink beer but unless it was a holiday or celebration of some sort, hard liquor was a rarity.

On Sundays, visiting frequently occurred (or at least started) in the afternoon and there might be two or three stops before heading home.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard the same stories. It’s one of the ways I developed a connection with family members, like my maternal grandparents, who died when I was very young.

To be sure, sometimes my cousin Donna and I would abandon the adults and pursue some childhood activity but we still hung out in the kitchen much of the time.

Often times the conversation would veer towards food; things my grandmother would make, the huge platters of cannoli one of my great aunts would make, what was eaten on holidays, and on and on.

There was the oft-repeated reminder of how my grandfather could come home late at night with a group of friends and how my grandmother would cook for them near midnight. There were stories of my grandmother cleaning and cooking chicken feet. My mother would talk about the time she killed a chicken in the basement and it got away from her and ran, headless, around the room. My father would remind everyone that the only food he didn’t like was gnocchi.

Food was a central feature of our lives.

So was conversation.

There were also times I would just sit in the kitchen and chat with my mother for hours. Relatives and food were common topics of conversation. There were dishes my grandmother made that I heard about over and over but never tasted because my mother never made them for some inexplicable reason. One of them was a quickly sautéed veal chop with a pan sauce made of the drippings in the pan, crushed canned tomatoes, peas, and seasonings. Back in the days when I cooked veal, I actually made it. Now I do it with pork chops.

The other dish that stands out in my memory from these conversations is Tiella. My mother talked of it frequently but never made it. The instructions were basic, a layer of pasta, a layer of potatoes, a layer of zucchini, and a can of tomatoes crushed by hand and poured on top. The whole thing was then baked. There wasn’t much of a discussion of which seasonings to use or proportions of ingredients. It was just assumed it would have garlic (of course it would have garlic) and the herbs that were commonly used in our family. Proportions…well…it just needed to look “right.”

For the number of times my mother rhapsodized about this dish, I can’t figure out why she never made it.

The first time I tried to make it was in the early 1990’s at our little house on Griffin Street in Santa Fe. That first time around, it didn’t live up to the hype, for sure, but it christened the house in an odd way.

In November 1992 my mother, my husband’s mother, and my husband’s grandmother traveled to Santa Fe with us for Thanksgiving week. We looked at property and fell for a little (1151 square foot) house on Griffin Street. My mother was terminally ill at the time. When we got back home, my mother insisted that we use her money for the down payment, which we did. She kept saying that she wanted to live long enough to return to that house in the spring. It didn’t happen. She died in early January.

All of the kitchen gear, china, and glassware for the house on Griffin came from my mother’s house. So, it was fitting that I should make this dish for the first time using my mother’s kitchenware in a house that we owned thanks to her.

It took me many years of working (off and on) on the seasonings and proportions to get it to taste great. (Well, I think it does.) The only real liberty I took with the dish is to use fresh tomatoes rather than canned when I make this in the summer.


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Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)
This is a wonderful late summer dish when tomatoes are at their peak. If you make it at other times, use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes in place of the tomato puree and fresh tomatoes. Pour the liquid in the can over the potatoes instead of the puree. Crush the tomatoes by hand, add the seasonings described for fresh tomatoes, and arrange the crushed tomatoes on top.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the olive oil and crushed garlic in a small sauté pan. Sauté garlic until lightly browned. Remove the garlic and reserve the oil.
  3. Put the raw ditalini in the bottom of a deep, circular casserole, approximately 10 inches in diameter. The pasta should form a single layer with a fair amount of extra room for it to expand.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and mix well.
  5. In a bowl, toss the sliced potatoes with half the rosemary, ⅓ of the oregano, ¼ of the basil, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Arrange the potatoes neatly in overlapping layers on top of the ditalini. Do not wash the bowl.
  7. Season the tomato puree with salt and pour over the potatoes.
  8. In the same bowl used for the potatoes, toss the zucchini with the remaining oregano, ¼ of the basil, the remaining rosemary, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  9. Arrange the zucchini on top of the potatoes. Do not wash the bowl.
  10. Neatly arrange half the tomatoes on top of the zucchini. Season with half the remaining minced garlic, half the remaining basil, and salt and pepper.
  11. Arrange the remaining tomatoes on top and season with salt and pepper as well as the remaining garlic, basil, and all the parsley.
  12. Put the tiella in the preheated oven.
  13. Remove the crusts from several slices of day-old Italian or French bread. Whiz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.
  14. While the tiella bakes, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining garlic oil in the bowl used for the potatoes and zucchini.
  15. After the tiella has baked for 90 minutes, sprinkle the oiled crumbs on top and bake till golden, approximately 30 minutes more.
  16. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes before serving. The tiella can be served warm or at room temperature. It can also be reheated in the oven briefly before serving, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Here’s the link for my recipe for homemade tomato puree (passata di pomodoro).

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Angie’s Pickled Hot Peppers

September 13, 2017

With one set of grandparents and many relatives hailing from Southern Italy, hot peppers and foods containing hot peppers were staple features of the cuisine I grew up eating.

Hot sausage, with fennel seed, was frequently on our table and, since it was often homemade by Uncle Joe Medile, it could be as hot as we wanted. When it wasn’t Uncle Joe’s sausage, it would typically have been from Lopresti’s Market in Geistown, a suburb of Johnstown, PA.

Spicy foods more often showed up at lunch, though. There was spicy salumi, including Calabrese salami, capocollo (of which there are several types but in our house it was always the spicy one), and sopressata, among others.

There were hot banana peppers fried until tender, usually with onions. The fried peppers could be a condiment or they could be used as the filling for a sandwich. Fried hot pepper sandwiches are still one of my favorite lunchtime treats!

There were various pickled, spicy vegetables like giardineria and pickled peppers of various types. These were usually store-bought except for my cousin Angie’s pickled hot peppers.

Angie is the daughter of my mother’s oldest sister. Angie, however, was born six months before my mother. It’s kind of interesting to think about the fact that my grandmother was pregnant with my mother at the same time that my grandmother’s daughter was pregnant with Angie.

Despite their inverted ages, Angie always called my mother Aunt Theresa.

Angie’s mom, my Aunt Rosie, died at a young age. I never knew her. Aunt Rosie’s husband, Uncle Dominic lived with their other daughter, Marie.

Uncle Dominic grew vegetables, including hot peppers, in the back yard. He’s the one who taught me about fried hot pepper sandwiches for which I am eternally grateful!

Usually I would make Angie’s Pickled Hot Peppers with Italian Banana Peppers but fresh New Mexico Green Chile is far more abundant in Santa Fe than Banana Peppers and the substitution works just fine. Years past, when we lived in Chicago and grew lots of peppers, I would even make these with jalapeno peppers.

These peppers are a breeze to make, just some slicing and dicing and pulling together a quick pickle. No actual canning or processing is required. They will keep for months and months in the refrigerator.

The recipe calls for a peck of peppers. A peck is an interesting measure. It is eight dry quarts. A dry quart, however, is not the same as a liquid quart (unless you use the British Imperial system in which case a dry quart and a liquid quart are the same volume but not the same volume as any quart used in America).

Confused? Oh how I wish we used the metric system!!!

A dry quart is slightly larger than a liquid quart. Eight dry quarts equals 9 1/3 liquid quarts. If you go to a farmers market, chances are you’ve seen produce displayed in baskets that are one peck in size. Not to worry, though. First off, the measurements aren’t that critical for this recipe, so plus or minus a quart (dry or liquid) isn’t a big deal. Second, if you have any type of large container, pot, or bucket marked in liquid measure, just fill it up a little beyond the 9 (liquid) quart mark and you’ll be good to go.

If you’re buying peppers in the supermarket and don’t want to carry a bucket to measure a peck, I suggest buying approximately four pounds of banana peppers. I found that amount of New Mexico Green Chile came very close to a peck when I measured it out.


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Angie's Pickled Hot Peppers
Though usually made with hot Italian Banana Peppers, I made this batch with hot New Mexico Green Chile which is far easier to source in Santa Fe than are large quantities of Banana Peppers. Four pounds of peppers should come pretty close to a peck. A peck is 8 dry quarts which is the equivalent of 9 1/3 liquid quarts. If there isn’t enough pickling liquid to fully submerge the peppers, make a little extra following the proportions in the recipe. These peppers will keep well in the refrigerator for many months. Try to let them mellow at least a couple of days before eating them…if you can!
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Prep Time 75 minutes
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
quarts
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Prep Time 75 minutes
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Wash and dry the peppers.
  2. Cut off the stem ends.
  3. Cut the peppers crosswise into rings a little more than 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Cut the celery into ¼ inch dice.
  5. In a non-reactive container large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the vinegar, water, oil, garlic, salt, and oregano. Mix well.
  6. Add the sliced peppers and diced celery.
  7. Mix thoroughly. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, ladle the peppers and celery into clean jars.
  9. Once the jars are filled, ladle the pickling liquid into the jars. Mix the liquid well with each ladleful so that you get the right proportions of vinegar/water and oil.
  10. If there is not quite enough liquid to cover the peppers make a small amount more using the same proportions.
  11. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Recipe Notes

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