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Tuscan-Style Fried Sage Leaves
Oct 11th, 2015 by

The light batter is reminiscent of tempura.

The light batter is reminiscent of tempura. (Photo by Mark Micheli)

This recipe was printed in the Boston Globe’s food section at least 15 years ago, probably closer to 20 years ago. I cut it out of the paper then and used it to make these today but unfortunately, there’s no date on the clipping.

The headline on the article was “Tuscany’s last secret,” and the recipe for the frying batter, which can also be used with vegetables and zucchini blossoms, was taken from the Fine Art of Italian Cooking, by Giuliano Bugialli. I think the Globe should ask readers for their favorite recipe from the Globe’s food section over the past fifty years and then print an article based on the top 10 selections.

Here’s the recipe:

TUSCAN FRYING BATTER

Ingredients:

  • All purpose unbleached flour, 1 1/8 cup
  • Kosher salt, a pinch
  • Ground black pepper, just a little
  • Nutmeg, a pinch
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Egg yolk, one from an extra-large egg
  • Dry, white wine, 1/4 cup
  • Vodka, unflavored 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Cold water, 1/2 cup

What to do:

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Make a well in the center of the flour, then add the olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, mixing very well and incorporating just a little of the flour from the rim of the well.

Add the egg yolk, wine, and vodka and incorporate more flour.

Finally, add the water and mix everything together very well. The batter should be very smooth with no lumps.

Let it rest at least one hour in a cool place.

FRYING THE SAGE LEAVES

Heat about an inch or two of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Insert a wooden spoon in the oil and if bubbles form about it, it’s hot enough to cook the leaves.

Dip the leaves quickly in the batter, being sure to coat well on both sides and cook in the hot oil in several batches. Cook each leaf about one minute or two on each side. Remove from the oil when they turn golden brown and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow the oil to drain.

Sprinkle salt on the leaves and a squirt of lemon juice.

Find More Recipes in the RootsLiving Recipe Index

Gourmet (Magazine) Guacamole
Jan 11th, 2014 by

This recipe from Gourmet Magazine is 24 years old. Where does the time go?

This recipe from Gourmet Magazine is 24 years old. Where does the time go? (Photo by Mark Micheli)

I got this recipe on Epicurious.com. It’s from the December 1990 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I didn’t follow it exactly because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand.

Instead of using a jalapeno pepper, I added about 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes. Instead of using lime juice, I used lemon juice. I also cut down on the amount of onion too (to about a 1/4 cup, chopped fine). And I didn’t have any coriander, fresh or dried, so I didn’t use anything. Oh hell, I better just rewrite the recipe here:

Ingredients:

  • Avocados, 2 ripe.
  • Onion, about 1/4 cup chopped fine or minced.
  • Garlic, 1 clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Lemon juice, about 2 teaspoons or to taste
  • Ground Cumin, 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Red Pepper Flakes, about 1/4 tsp.

Making the dish:

Halve and pit the avocados and scoop the flesh into a bowl.

Mash the avocados coarse with a fork and stir in the onion, the garlic paste, the lemon juice, the cumin, and the red pepper flakes.

The guacamole may be made 2 hours in advance, its surface covered with plastic wrap, and chilled.

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

Appetizer Eureka! It’s Pub Kettle Chips!
Dec 17th, 2013 by

These would go good while watching football or just watching the snow fall.

These would go great with watching a football game or just watching the snow fall.

It isn’t often that I strike gold while dining out but I did on a recent visit to Providence, Rhode Island.

By striking gold, I mean tasting something so incredibly delicious and yet so simple to cook it makes you think “Why didn’t I think of that?” This happened on a visit to Union Station Brewery in downtown Providence. The dish? Pub Kettle Chips.

For a mere $7.99 you get a large platter of homemade kettle potato chips with melted cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream.

I recreated them at home by doing the following:

Spread a layer of Utz Mystic Gourmet Dark Russet Potato Chips on a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with extra-sharp cheddar cheese and bake in 350 degree oven until cheese melts and chips are hot.

Cook bacon and crumble it or cut it into small pieces and then sprinkle on top of chips.

Sprinkle with chopped green onion. And put a couple of large dollops of sour cream on top.

Mmmm! Goes well with beer (but then again, what doesn’t?)

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto
Sep 4th, 2013 by

Nepitella is a natural with mushrooms.

Nepitella is a natural with mushrooms.

It came to me in a dream: nepitella pesto. I thought that maybe I had invented the idea but a quick search online turned up one reference to it at a restaurant in New York called Osteria Morini.

There they team nepitella pesto with buffalo mozzarella on crostini or with fresh whipped ricotta topped with peas and asparagus. I’m sure that doesn’t taste bad, but what were they thinking? Everyone knows nepitella pairs perfectly with mushrooms and artichokes: everyone, in the small minority of people in this country who have heard of nepitella.

So let me let you in on the secret. Nepitella is an herb that grows wild in Tuscany (and in my driveway after I transplanted a small plant from my grandmother’s garden about 15 years ago). Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And I wouldn’t think of cooking mushrooms or artichokes without it.

So when I was inspired to try to make nepitella pesto the logical use for it was to stuff mushrooms with it. And the result was perfect.

The pesto by itself, without any cooking, was much stronger than a basil pesto: more earthy and with a sharp bite, almost spicy flavor. But when it cooked inside the mushrooms, the taste mellowed into a more mild buttery flavor: still very earthy but without the sharpness of the raw nepitella pesto.

If you’d like to try this, finding nepitella will be a challenge, but a search online revealed a few places that sell the plant. Or just stop by my driveway: there this evasive plant grows wild in cracks and along narrow dirt patches along the fence.

NEPITELLA PESTO:

Ingredients:

  • Nepitella leaves (washed, about a half a cup)
  • Pignoli nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • Garlic (4-6 cloves)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/4- 1/2 cup; Imported, freshly grated. Don’t use the stuff they sell in a jar; Or use freshly grated Romano and/or Pecorino if you’d like to save some money.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper.

What I did:

Put nuts and garlic in food processor with a steel blade and process for about 15 seconds.

Add nepitella leaves, salt and pepper.

With processor running slowly add the olive oil until it’s completely pureed.

Add cheese and process for another minute.

If you don’t use it right away, put in refrigerator with plastic wrap touching the top or with a film of olive oil on top. This will prevent discoloring.

To Stuff Mushrooms:

Pull off stems, clean caps with paper towel.

Put clean caps in a baking dish that has been greased with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon in nepitella pesto and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

You can serve it as is or with a shaved piece of parmesan cheese on top and/or a pignoli nut.

Have Crostini - Will Travel
Jul 16th, 2013 by

This is a quick and easy appetizer and one I'll be sure to make all summer.

This is a quick and easy appetizer and one I'll be sure to make all summer.

Traveling is great for sampling new food and getting new recipes but I didn’t have good food in my mind when I checked into a hotel directly off the highway in New York this past weekend. It just goes to show that you can be inspired in the least likely of places.

And the least likely place I expected to find culinary creativity was at the Renaissance Hotel in White Plains, New York.

Sitting at the bar we were a little hungry so I ordered several appetizers. One of them was a guacamole crostini where the avocado melted in our mouth and fresh salsa refreshed our palates. This one I knew would be a keeper and one that could be easily reproduced. Here’s how I recreated it:

Ingredients:

  • Guacamole (Buy already made or make it yourself by mashing two avocados with half a small onion, chopped. Add a tablespoon or two of lime juice or lemon juice if you don’t have lime; one mashed garlic clove; a 1/2 tsp. of cumin. Recipe here.)
  • Sliced Italian bread, toasted.
  • Fresh salsa (You could make this too but I used the store-bought fresh salsa found in the produce section of most supermarkets)
  • Olive oil, salt.

What I did:

Drizzle toast with olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt.

Spread avocado on bread and then top with fresh salsa.

So easy. Why didn’t I think of it first?

Fall Treat: Pumpkin Gnocchi
Oct 4th, 2012 by

A small plate of gnocchi can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.

A small plate of gnocchi can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.

In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.

Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.

But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.

I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.

The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
  • Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
  • Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
  • Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
  • Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)

What I did:

Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )

Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.

In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!

Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.

Serves three to four people as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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