Because the best things in life are simple

Tag: italian

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

All that blogging about nepitella made me hungry and so for dinner tonight, I whipped up this tasty dish with ingredients I had on hand. If you don’t have nepitella, you’re forgiven this time, and can substitute a mixture of basil and mint. So what is nepitella? Find out here.

Nepitella plant
(Nepitella is in the mint family and the plant looks like mint.)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

October 16, 2018
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • One pound of spaghetti
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (a quarter of a cup should do it)
  • Button mushrooms, sliced. (About 12-16 oz.)
  • Capers (about 1 tablespoon.)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh. A little less if using dried.) (A mixture of basil and mint can be used as a substitute.)
  • A pinch of red crushed pepper
  • A half-pinch of nutmeg (this spice is powerful, use caution and add just a little. You can always add more if you desire.)
  • Garlic (one clove, sliced)
  • Butter (About a 1/2 tablespoon for taste.)
  • Parmesano (aka: parmesan) cheese (about 1/4 cup.)
  • Salt (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Boil water in a large pot. When water boils, add spaghetti.
  • Step 2 While water is boiling, cook mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with nepitella and salt.
  • Step 3 Half-way through cooking, add the red pepper to the mushrooms. Add the capers too.
  • Step 4 Cook mushrooms until well done. During the last five minutes, add the garlic (be careful not to burn). And add a half pinch of nutmeg (be careful, this spice is strong).
  • Step 5 Drain the spaghetti and put it back in the empty pot. Add the mushroom mixture and stir. Add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste and serve.
Quick Tomato Sauce

Quick Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe comes from the classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook, the Artusi. Although it’s a bit more complicated and time-consuming than opening up a jar of sauce, it’s still pretty simple and quick to make. And it’s definitely worth the effort as it creates a very plain, simple tomato sauce that you can use in a variety of dishes.

Quick Tomato Sauce (From the Artusi)

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr
: Easy

It doesn't get any more authentic than this. From a classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook. It's easy to make and worth the effort.

By:

Ingredients
  • Tomatoes (About 1 1/2 pounds, preferably Roma or plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper (Just a dash, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Blanch the tomatoes: that means drop them in boiling water for about a minute. This makes it easier to peel them.
  • Step 2 Peel, de-seed and chop them.
  • Step 3 Drop the tomatoes into a pot with just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Step 4 Simmer the tomatoes until done (About 20 minutes. No more than 30 minutes). Stir occasionally. And add salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
Torta d’patata

Torta d’patata

(Above: Torta d’patata before putting it in the oven where it develops a light, brown, crust.)

This is a recipe from my grandmother Bruna’s kitchen. It’s a very thin and savory potato cake made with swiss chard.

Peeled potatoes in a colander.
Mashed potatoes is the starter for this dish.
Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Spread the mashed potato mixture out onto a floured cookie sheet.

You basically make mashed potatoes and then add some savory ingredients before spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking it.

My grandmother was born in the hills of northern Tuscany, so I believe this recipe is very much a Tuscan specialty. I made this as part of the “Julia (Child) Meets Bruna” dinner party meal plan, and a version of it also showed up in the “Southern France Vegetarian” meal plan.

Here’s the recipe:

 

 

 

Torta d'Patata

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr 15 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut in half (about 4 pounds)
  • Onion, chopped fine (1 large)
  • Garlic (1 clove, smashed or split in two)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (a small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage, chopped (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Fresh mint, chopped (A small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Swiss chard, chopped (1 bunch, about 8 leaves with stems trimmed)
  • Chicken bullion cube (1/2 a cube)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put potatoes in boiling water and cook until very tender. Drain in a colander and then make mashed potatoes with them. (I put the potatoes through a ricer so there are no lumps.
  • Step 2 In a frying pan, saute the onions until translucent and then add the garlic, parsley, sage, and mint. Stir for about a minute and then add the swiss chard. Cover and cook until swiss chard shrinks and is ready to eat.
  • Step 3 Dissolve half a chicken bullion cube about 3/4 cup of hot water.
  • Step 4 Add all ingredients (from frying pan and the chicken stock you just created) to the mashed potatoes and stir.
  • Step 5 Add the grated cheese, the 2 eggs and the butter to the mashed potatoes and stir until the eggs and everything are well blended.
  • Step 6 Grease a cookie sheet with Crisco shortening. Sprinkle flour over it to cover the pan. Turn out excess flour.
  • Step 7 Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread mashed potato mixture evenly over cookie sheet.
  • Step 8 Place in a 350 oven until lightly golden brown (be careful not to let bottom burn). This should take about 20 minutes, give or take 5 minutes or so.
  • Step 9 Take from the oven and sprinkle salt over the top. Cut into large squares or rectangles.

 

 

Ma’s Stuffed Peppers

This is an easy one and the kids like them too. Feel free to dip them in ketchup.  (more…)

Best Super Bowl App: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings

Best Super Bowl App: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings

This is the killer app for Super Bowl Sunday or for all those games leading up to it. (more…)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

My friend Antoinette (who was born in Italy and is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it.

These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it. Here’s what you need to do:

Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: 2 min
: 30 min
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
Directions
  • Step 1 Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick. (Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary). Note: I suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the deep frying goes very quickly.
  • Step 2 Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet).
  • Step 3 Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.
  • Step 4 Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.

 

 

Chickplantasagna is born

Chickplantasagna is born

Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-sagna was born out of necessity.
Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-asagna was born out of necessity.

We were hungry.

I had eggplant, zucchini, some leftover cheddar cheese and a new block of Parmesan Reggiano in the refrigerator. All day long I thought of those ingredients and asked myself what I could make for dinner. Around 4 p.m., the answer came to me.

I just needed chicken cutlets so I stopped at the supermarket on my way home and found some chicken tenders that looked better than the other cuts of chicken there. I brought them home and flattened them between two pieces of aluminum foil (I had nothing else). And that’s where our story (recipe) begins.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken tenders (About 9 or 10, flattened by pounding them with a rolling pin between two pieces of wax paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.)
  • Eggplant (1 dark, purple — firm, but not bruised — beauty).
  • Zuchinni (1)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup shredded)
  • Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup, grated)
  • Fresh salsa (about 1 cup)
  • Tomato Paste, imported and from a tube (about 3 or 4 good squirts)
  • Red wine (about 1/3 cup), and a little water too.
  • Garlic (1 clove, torn open with your fingers)
  • Olive oil, regular, not extra-virgin (about 1/2 cup)
  • Lemon pepper

Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.
Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.

The Process:

Take the skin off the eggplant by peeling off strips of it using a vegetable peeler. The eggplant will look like it has stripes as some of the skin remains.

Cut thin (about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick) slices of the eggplant. Brush olive oil on one side of each slice. Brush olive oil on a cookie sheet and put eggplant, dry side down. Cook in a 450 degree oven, turning over once, until both sides are brown.

Cut thin slices of zuchhini (about 1/4-inch to 1/2 inch thick). Put oil on both sides. Cut long strips of red pepper (about 1/2 inch thick) and put oil on both sides. Cook zuchhini and red pepper on a baking sheet in a 450 degree oven until done.

Fry chicken cutlets in a little olive oil and the clove of garlic. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.

When chicken is done, heat frying pan again. Add the tomato paste and the wine and water and stir. Add salt and pepper. Let the wine and water evaporate a little bit. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan. Add about 1 tablespoon of butter and stir some more. Turn off heat.

Assemble the dish by putting a little olive oil on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, along with a few tablespoons of the fresh salsa. Add half of the chicken cutlets. Pour over half of the tomato paste sauce. Add half of the cheeses. Top with half of the zuchhini, red peppers, and eggplant slices. And then repeat this with the remaining ingredients, ending with the rest of the cheese and some fresh salsa.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

The dish was delicious but it still needed a name. I posted a photo of it on Facebook and asked for suggestions. My friend Katie M. suggested Chickplantasagna. It was the perfect name for a perfect dish.

The End

Find more recipes in the Food Section.

Giant Peruvian Lima Bean Soup (From Taranta Restaurant in Boston’s North End)

Taranta Restaurant in Boston’s North End is unique. It serves a combination of Italian and Peruvian cuisine following the ethnicity of chef/owner Jose Duarte.

Here’s a recipe I got when I was shooting Dorm Room Chef videos for the Boston Globe. It’s delicious and very healthy.

Watch the video to get the recipe. It’s only 2 1/2 minutes long and the recipe is pretty easy to make. I also wrote the recipe below.

I’ve made it dozens of times and plan to make it again soon, now that the weather in this part of the country is getting colder.

Giant Peruvian Lima Bean Soup From Taranta Restaurant

October 19, 2015
: About 6 servings
: 10 min
: 6 hr
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Giant Peruvian lima beans (About 1 1/2 cups). I couldn’t find anything labeled “Peruvian lima beans” at the supermarket so I just bought the largest ones there.
  • Water (About 1 1/2 cups)
  • Chicken stock (About 3 or 4 cups)
  • Garlic, chopped (A few cloves)
  • Celery, chopped (About 1/2 cup)
  • Carrots, chopped (About 1/2 cup)
  • Potato, diced (About 1/2 cup)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (3 or 4 tablespoons)
  • Egg (1 large egg per serving)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  • Step 1 Add the lima beans, the water, and enough chicken stock to completely cover the beans (about 1 1/2 cups) to a crockpot and cook for about 6 hours.
  • Step 2 Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the celery, garlic, carrots, and potatoes and cook until tender (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Step 3 Add the lima beans and the remaining chicken stock to this pot and cook until nearly boiling.
  • Step 4 Add one egg at a time and stir gently to cook the egg. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Step 5 Serve each portion of soup with one egg. Pour a little olive oil over the top of each serving too.

 

 

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

(Above: Caponata on slices of Italian bread makes crostini.)

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

The original recipe called for salting and draining the eggplant presumably to make it less bitter. I don’t believe in this procedure and find that picking a fresh eggplant that is dark purple and firm and with few, if any scars, works better. I also suggest peeling off the skin to create long white and purple stripes.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week. Enjoy!!

CAPONATA, AKA: SWEET AND SOUR EGGPLANT

September 20, 2015
: 20 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 lb eggplant (preferably small but not Asian)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably Sicilian)
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 11 garlic cloves (from 2 heads), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably from a tube)
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole Italian tomatoes, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 5 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup large green Sicilian olives (6 oz), pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Directions
  • Step 1 Peel the eggplant to create long purple and white stripes. Then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Step 2 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté three fourths of garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  • Step 3 Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Step 4 Add tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Step 5 Bring 2-3 cups of salted water to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, then cook celery until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • Step 6 Heat 1/4 inch oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it’s hot but not smoking and then fry the eggplant in 4 batches, stirring and turning constantly with a slotted spoon, until browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. (Heat oil between batches.) Transfer to paper towels.
  • Step 7 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then reduce heat to moderate and cook onion, bell pepper, and remaining garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Step 8 Add tomato sauce, eggplant, celery, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon sea salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  • Step 9 Cool to room temperature, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 6-8 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley and basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

(Above: This gnocchi dish 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.

Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

October 4, 2012
: 4

This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.

By:

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)
Directions
  • Step 1 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. )
  • Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
  • Step 3 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!
  • Step 4 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.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.
Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

It’s Time For Bolognese

It’s Time For Bolognese

Here a bolognese sauce is paired with pasta and meatballs (aka: polpette).
Here a bolognese sauce is paired with pasta and meatballs (aka: polpette).

I’ll admit I made bolognese sauce a couple of times over the summer. But this rich, thick, meaty sauce is usually more appropriate with cooler times.

One way to look forward to the cooler seasons approaching is to think of all the seasonal delicacies you can make. And bolognese should top the list.

Here’s a recipe I adopted from my “Biba’s Taste of Italy” cookbook. It takes a couple of hours to cook but it isn’t very difficult. I chop up the vegetables and the pancetta separately, using a food processor. And feel free to experiment with the meats you use. I always have plenty of ground veal on hand, but if you don’t, you can use just ground beef and ground pork.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (3 tbsp.)
  • Unsalted butter (2 tbsp.)
  • Yellow onions, finely minced (1/4 cup)
  • Carrots, finely minced  (1/4 cup)
  • Celery, finely minced (1/4 cup)
  • Pancetta, finely minced (2-3 ounces)
  • Ground beef (2/3 pound)
  • Ground veal (1/3 pound)
  • Ground pork (1/4 pound)
  • Red wine, medium body such as a Chianti (1/2 cup)
  • Tomato paste (3 tbsp.), diluted in meat broth (see next entry below)
  • Meat broth (3 cups. You can used canned meat broth or even canned chicken broth)
  • Whole milk (1/2 cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What I did:

Heat the oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

When butter foams, add the minced vegetables and minced pancetta.

Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has a nice golden color (about 5 minutes).

Add the ground meat, raise heat to high, and break up the meat with a wooden spoon while stirring.

When the meat and vegetables have a rich brown color and the bottom of the pan is glazed (about 7-8 minutes) add the wine. Stir until most of the wine has evaporated.

Stir in the diluted tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.

When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover the pan, and simmer for 2 hours. Continue to stir and check the sauce every 10-20 minutes.

The sauce should end up being thick, with an appealing nutty brown color and just slightly liquid. Add a bit more broth or water if the sauce looks dry.

Add the milk, partially cover the pan, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Add the sauce to freshly cooked pasta. This goes wonderful with thick macaroni bands. I usually use the dry pasta made in italy that resemble small bird nests.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Make Biba’s Mother’s Fried Meatballs For Your Valentine

Make Biba’s Mother’s Fried Meatballs For Your Valentine

These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.
These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.

These are so delicious they’re an act of love. Like all good things they take a little work but aren’t the loved ones in your life worth it?

Restaurant owner and cookbook author Biba Caggiano has the best recipe for meatballs or polpette (as the Italians call them).

What makes them truly great and different is that she uses a variety of meats, including mortadella, and each ball is dipped in egg and breadcrumbs before fried, giving them a tender crust.

They’re so delicious you can eat them plain, without tomato sauce. But I like them with a light sauce: one that isn’t overcooked and where you can taste the fresh tomatoes.

I also deviate a little from her recipe by adding some ground beef. Biba’s mother’s recipe just uses the following meats: ground veal, pork sausage, and mortadella.

Here’s my recipe based on her’s:

Ingredients:

  • White bread (4 slices or 2 large and thick slices of Italian bread)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Ground veal (1 pound)
  • Ground beef (1 pound)
  • Ground pork (1/2 pound)
  • Mortadella, chopped finely (1/2 pound)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Grated Imported Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) (2 cups)
  • Large eggs, lightly beaten (6)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Dried bread crumbs (2-4 cups)
  • Olive oil (Enough for frying)

What I did:

Remove crusts from bread and soak in milk for about 5 minutes.

Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Add the veal, beef, pork, mortadella, nutmeg parmesan cheese, and 3 eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined well.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hand into a ball about the size of small egg. Place on a plate and continue to do this until all of the meat mixture is used.

Lightly beat the remaining 3 eggs in a bowl. Dip the meatballs in the egg mixture and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Flatten them slightly with the palms of your hand and put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. They can be refrigerated for several hours. Just be sure to tightly cover them with plastic wrap.

Heat an inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, lower the meatballs in batches with a slotted spoon. Do not crowd the pan as this will cause them to cook unevenly and burn. When they’re golden on one side (about 1-2 minutes), turn them over and brown on the other side. Once they are cooked through, transfer them to a dish or platter lined with paper towels to drain.

You can serve them just like this. Or you can put them in a large pot of your favorite tomato sauce over low heat and cook them a little more.  You can use this tomato sauce recipe (adapted from my mother’s recipe) but I’d omit the sausage and possibly add a fresh tomato, chopped fine, or a can of diced tomatoes to give it a fresh taste.

Stir occasionally being careful not to break apart the meatballs. Serve this and it will strike a chord in the hearts of people you love, stronger than an arrow from Cupid’s bow.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Easy Weeknight Pasta, Part Two

Easy Weeknight Pasta, Part Two

My friend Michael enjoyed a plate of this updated pasta dish on a recent visit to the RootsLiving kitchen.
My friend Michael enjoyed a plate of this updated pasta dish on a recent visit to the RootsLiving kitchen.

Tweaking basic recipes with some of your favorite ingredients keeps things exciting, fresh and new.

This basic pasta recipe from the bible of classic Italian cooking, the Artusi, was featured in a post here a year ago. I recently upgraded it to include one of my favorite ingredients: eggplant.

The differences between the original recipe, called “Neapolitan-Style Macaroni II” and this updated version are as follows:

  • I added eggplant. Buy a firm, dark eggplant. Cut off the bright green top. Take a vegetable peeler and make vertical stripes from the top to the bottom of the eggplant. Cut thin slices (less than a 1/4-inch thick). Dip in an egg scambled with a splash of milk and dredge in bread crumbs. Fry in olive oil and drain on a plate with a paper towel.
  • I substituted penne for the thick macaroni that is packaged like small bird nests inside a plastic bag.

Cut up the eggplant and add with the other ingredients to the pasta.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi di pollo e patata sounds so much better than chicken and potato gnocchi. But they both taste the same: light, savory, elegant.

This recipe, from the classic Italian cookbook from 1894 The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi, makes many gnocchis so it’s great to make and freeze. And then when you crave gnocchi, you’ll always have it on hand.

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

November 28, 2010
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • For the broth:
  • A whole chicken (1)
  • Celery Stalk (1, split in half)
  • Carrot (1 whole, peeled and cut in half)
  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)
  • For the gnocchi:
  • Mealy potatoes, peeled, boiled and pressed through a ricer or strainer (1/2 pound)
  • Small chicken breast, boiled and minced (Use one from the chicken you used to make the broth).
  • Parmesan cheese (3/4 of a cup)
  • Egg yolks (2)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Nutmeg (a pinch)
  • Flour (3-4 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 To make the broth: Put a whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  • Step 2 Add celery and carrot, and salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for an hour or more.
  • Step 4 Remove chicken. Pour broth through strainer into a large plastic container and refrigerate over night.
  • Step 5 The next day, take the fat off the top of the broth with a soup spoon.
  • Step 6 To make the gnocchi: Mix all of the ingredients, except the flour, together well.
  • Step 7 Work the flour into the mixture to bind it.
  • Step 8 Roll the mixture on a floured surface into a snake, the diameter of your little finger.
  • Step 9 Cut the snake into 1-inch lengths. Put what you don’t use into a large freezer bag and put in a freezer for later use.
  • Step 10 Simmer the gnocchi in the broth. They are very delicate and may fall apart. Don’t be too concerned as when they fall apart, they flavor the broth.
Lasagna, from The Figs Table

Lasagna, from The Figs Table

This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.
This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.

Chef Todd English makes a good lasagna.

I still remember one I had at his Olive’s Restaurant in Boston that was made with veal.

He has a knack for taking an old standard and then being innovative, without being preposterous, paying more attention to the flavors of a dish than the flair.

On Sunday I made one of his lasagnas from his other restaurant, Figs. Figs is more casual and family-friendly, and so is this lasagna.

He deviates from the traditional lasagna recipe by using no-boil noodles, Fontina cheese and fresh mozzarella. But I have a confession to make: I bought the standard, rubbery, mozzarella by mistake, instead of the fresh balls of mozzarella, and the result was still very good.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil (1 tbsp.)
  • Garlic cloves (5, thinly sliced)
  • Onion (1 small, chopped)
  • Sweet Italian Sausage (1 1/2 pounds, casings removed, and crumbled) (English says you can experiment here with different types of sausages and recommends trying spicy chicken.)
  • Diced Canned Tomatoes (6 cups). (I actually used a box of diced tomatoes; a can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, chopped up; and one large fresh tomato from the farmers market, chopped.)
  • Fresh Basil Leaves (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • Kosher Salt (1/2 – 1 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1/2 tsp.)
    For the layers:
  • No-Boil Lasagna Noodles (About 1 1/2 boxes)
  • Fresh Mozzarella (1 1/2 pounds, cut in large dice)
  • Italian Fontina Cheese (3/4 pound, sliced thin)
  • Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese (2/3 pound)
  • Fresh Basil (1 bunch; several leaves)
  • Kosher Salt (2 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1 tsp.)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1 to 1 1/2 cups, freshly grated)

What I did:

To Make the Sauce:

Stir occasionally as needed.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and toast it for about 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook until fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and discard any excess fat.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the basil and cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.
Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.

To Assemble the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put a light coating of olive oil on a 9 x 12 roasting pan or lasagna pan.

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip the noodles and then drain.

Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles.

Spread some sauce over the noodles.

Top with a little mozzarella cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with a little Fontina cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese. Place pieces of fresh basil on top.

Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Repeat this five times.

Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until golden brown, hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve immediately or put in refrigerator to eat later.

This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.
This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.

Lasagna often takes best the second day. To reheat, put in a 350 degree oven and cook until heated through, about 30-40 minutes.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Making Dinner During a Heat Wave

Making Dinner During a Heat Wave

This ancient Italian recipe is quick and easy to make and won't heat up your kitchen.
This ancient Italian recipe is quick and easy to make and won't heat up your kitchen.

Afternoon thunderstorms gave some relief from the Greater Boston area heat wave today.

And so, I returned to the kitchen after a week of take out, cold cereal, and quick omelette dinners.

But it’s still hot. So what’s a well-intentioned cook to do?

Tonight, I’m making some “Easy Week Night Pasta.” Here are some other recipes that won’t heat up the house (too much) but are certain to bring a warm smile to your face:

1.) Beach Salads and Bruschetta

2.) Octupus’s Garden Gazpacho With Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches

3.) Mortadella and Ham Salad Tapas

4.) Grilled Braciole Fit for a Saint

5.) Breakfast for Dinner: Gingerbread Pancakes

6.) Soup & Sandwich Night With Style (Instead of Take Out)

Find more dinner ideas in the Food section.

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.
This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This lightly sweetened bread is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. The recipe comes from “The Italian Baker” cookbook, by Carol Field.

I’ve made this several times before but this time it tasted better than ever. The texture was light and more like soft Italian bread. In the past, it’s had more of a cake consistency. I think the difference was sifting the flour (actually I don’t own a flour sifter and instead push the flour through a fine sieve with a butter knife) and using a food processor (instead of working it all by hand).

And oh yes, in the past I’ve spread cream cheese over each slice but this time I splurged and used Mascarpone. I’ll never use anything else or make it any other way.

Recipe: Makes 2 round or oval loafs

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp, warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (sifted or pushed through a fine sieve with a butter knife)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp, sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut up into four pieces
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

What I did:

Stir the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy (about 10 min.)

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Process with several pulses to mix well.

Stir 1 1/4 cups of cold water and the egg yolk into the dissolved yeast.

Put the pieces of butter ontop of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it and process it until the dough gathers into a ball.

Process for another 40-45 seconds, pouring the chocolate chips through the feed tube during the last 10 seconds.

If necessary, knead dough a little more on a floured surface until it is velvety, elastic, and moist.

First Rise: Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).

Second Rise: Punch the dough down and cut it in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into a round or oval loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Spread Mascarpone cheese on a slice and enjoy. Makes a good dessert or breakfast treat.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Kathy’s Fried Olives

Kathy’s Fried Olives

(Photo and recipe by Kathy Micheli)

Someone’s aunt took her recipe for fried olives to the grave.

So that someone told my sister-in-law about this wonderful Italian delicacy and asked if anyone in our family had a recipe. They didn’t, so Kathy thought about it for awhile and came up with this.

She served them to us last weekend as an appetizer and they’re delicious: crusty, but not greasy, on the outside; tangy, sweet and hot on the inside. I can’t be sure what that good-cooking aunt would think of them, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if you don’t love them.

Kathy's Fried Olives

November 10, 2009

By:

Ingredients
  • Large Sicilian green olives, pitted. (If you buy unpitted olives, you can whack them with the flat end of a big knife and pick the pit out.)
  • Boursin cheese
  • Flour, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup), mixed with grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup).
  • Olive oil for deep frying
Directions
  • Step 1 Fill each olive with cheese (if the olives break apart when pitting, the cheese will hold them together.)
  • Step 2 Dredge the olives in flour
  • Step 3 Dip olives in beaten egg
  • Step 4 Roll olives in breadcrumbs
  • Step 5 Deep fry in olive oil
Corn, the Way Mario Makes It

Corn, the Way Mario Makes It

Corn-on-the-cob Batali-style. This is not your grandmother's corn.
Corn-on-the-cob Batali-style. This is not your grandmother's corn.

Mario Batali is very clever. In his new book, “Italian Grill,” he offers a recipe called “Corn, as Italians would eat it.”

He never says this is a recipe he got in Italy or this is an Italian recipe, passed down from generation to generation. Instead, he makes it clear that this is a recipe he made up: one he believes Italians would love. And if any of them in the old country are reading his book, I’m sure they’re making it and loving it.

The inspiration for the corn came from Batali’s visit to Mexico where he saw street vendors poaching ears of corn and then “painting” them with mayonnaise, dusting them with chili flakes and grated queso fresco (fresh cheese), and then squeezing lime juice all over them. He then clearly states, “they do not do this in Italy, but this is what they might do.”

Try it. It’s very different from the usual butter and salt treatment we’re all familiar with, but it’s a welcome change.

Be adventurous. It’ll cost you only a little time and only a little money, as corn is pretty cheap this time of year. Salute!

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (this is the imported parmesan cheese)
  • About 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped mint
  • Hot red pepper flakes

A sprinkling of fresh mint and red pepper flakes makes a nice finish.
A sprinkling of fresh mint and red pepper flakes makes a nice finish.

What I did:

Place corn on the hottest part of the grill and cook for three minutes, or until grill marks appear on the first side. Roll each ear over a quarter turn and cook for two or three minutes, then repeat two more times.

Mix the oil and vinegar on a large flat plate. Spread the Parmigiano on another flat plate.

When the corn is cooked, roll each ear in the oil and vinegar mixture. Shake off extra liquid and dredge in the Parmigiano to coat lightly.

Place corn on a platter. Sprinkle with the mint and red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Find more recipes in the Food section

Grilled Braciole Fit For a Saint

Grilled Braciole Fit For a Saint

This braciole is easier to make and tastes even better than the more traditional braciole that is cooked in an oven.
This braciole is easier to make and tastes even better than the more traditional braciole that is cooked in an oven.

No need to sweat in a hot kitchen for this one. This braciole is cooked outside on the grill and with outstanding results.

“San Rocco Braciole” is a specialty of the St. Rocco Feast in Malden, Mass. and was created by Malden City Controller Domenic Fermano.

I attended the outdoor block party on Pearl Street earlier this month and had the pleasure of buying one of these from a street vendor for only $5. They serve it in a French roll to make it convenient to eat, but I omitted that here as it makes a good dinner without the bread when served with a side dish.

Ingredients:

  • Sirloin beef, sliced thin. (You can use butterflied sirloin or top of the round too. Pound it if necessary between two pieces of waxed paper or saran wrap with a rolling pin. The key is to make sure the meat is tender.)
  • Imported ham
  • Imported salami
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Crushed garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Roasted Cubanelle pepper
  • Your favorite tomato sauce

Cover the meat with the cold cuts and cheese.
Cover the meat with the cold cuts and cheese.

What I did:

Lay the sirloin flat. Drizzle olive oil ontop and then the crushed garlic bits.

Add a slice of the ham and a slice of the salami and then the mozzarella cheese.

Place the meat on a hot grill and cook for three to four minutes. It will cook through on the one side so there’s no need to worry about not flipping it over.

When done, roll it up on the grill or on a plate. Be careful not to burn your fingers.

Place Cubenelle peppers on the grill and turn over so it cooks on all sides.

Presentation:

Place roasted pepper on a plate. Put rolled up braciole on top. Spoon tomato sauce over the braciole and serve.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

Find more recipes in the Food section

Italian Fried (not really) Chicken

Italian Fried (not really) Chicken

Any grilled green vegetable, such as zucchini, makes a good side dish.
Any grilled green vegetable, such as zucchini, makes a good side dish.

I call this dish, Italian Fried Chicken, which is a misnomer because there is no frying involved. But the end result — with it’s moist, breaded, and savory crust — is reminiscent of that traditional American favorite.

I got the basic recipe for this dish from Mario Batali’s Italian Grill cookbook. However, I tried making it his way and didn’t find the breadcrumb crust flavorful enough. So I substituted Ritz Crackers instead. I also omitted his suggestion of drizzling the chicken with “olio piccante,” a spicy oil made with 5 jalapeno peppers and a half cup of hot red pepper flakes. I’m not sure if he wants to be Italian or Mexican?

The other thing I did was to finish off the crusty brown succulent pieces of chicken with a sprinkling of course Kosher salt and fresh dried crumbled sage.

If you’re looking for something different to cook out on the grill — an easy recipe that doesn’t take much more work than grilling a few hamburgers, and is probably less expensive — try this:

Italian Fried (not really) Chicken

Ingredients

  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 good squirts of anchovy paste (or 2 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, and patted dry, or 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups of crushed Ritz Crackers (about 1 1/2 sleeves)
  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (although I used 10 bone-in, thighs with skins and the same directions worked well.)
The indirect grilling method calls for piling up the hot coals on one half of the grill and then placing the meat on the other side. Don't forget to close the cover.
  • Combine the garlic, 1/2 cup of oil, anchovy paste, parsley, and Ritz Crackers in a food processor and mix until smooth.
  • Put chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with the Ritz Cracker mixture, turning and applying pressure to coat well.
  • Arrange chicken in a single layer on a platter or cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and put in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  • Prepare grill for indirect grilling. For a charcoal grill, this means lighting the coals in a pile and when they’re ready to cook on, push all the charcoal to one half of the grill.
  • Place chicken skin (or skinned) side up on the cooler part of the grill. Cover the grill and cook for 15 minutes before turning over and cooking the other side for 15 minutes.
  • Put cooked chicken on a platter and sprinkle with course Kosher salt and chopped fresh sage or dried sage.

Good side dishes include grilled zucchini or asparagus or green beans and a side arugula salad.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

Find more recipes in the Food section.

A Must-Have Wild Italian

A Must-Have Wild Italian

This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.
This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.

Nepitella completes the trifecta of Italian herbs that are a must-have in any Tuscan kitchen. You know about oregano and basil, but what is nepitella?

It’s an herb like no other and one I wouldn’t dream of living without. Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. In reality, it’s in a league by itself.

So what do you use it for and where can you get it? Find out the answers to these questions and more.

More on nepitella at AllThingsTuscan.com

And try this recipe for Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

(Photo by Mark Micheli)

Lenten Spaghetti (From the Artusi)

Lenten Spaghetti (From the Artusi)

(Above: Good Italian food isn’t all about red sauce, as this dish proves.)

This is a little different, but very good, simple and easy to make.  Pellegrino Artusi, in his famous 1891 cookbook, said that some might exclaim, “What a ridiculous dish!” But we both like it. It’s Romagnan and a little sweet.

Lenten Spaghetti (From the Artusi)

June 30, 2009
: 5-6

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 ounces of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 lb of spaghetti
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of spices (Spezie Fini, see below)
  • For the Spezie Fini:
  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 2 ounces stick cinnamon from Ceylon
  • 1 ounce (4 1/2 tablespoons) all-spice
  • 4/5 ounce (4 tablespoons) cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet almonds
Directions
  • Step 1 To make the Spezie Fini (choice spice mixture): Grind the spices “in a bronze mortar” (or chop in a mini food processor or however you choose to grind).
  • Step 2 According to Artusi, you “Strain the powder through a silk strainer” (or whatever) and store it in a glass bottle. It should keep for years with the same potency.
  • Step 3 To make the Lenten Spaghetti: Mash walnuts with bread crumbs, and add some confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of the Spezie Fini spices.
  • Step 4 Drain the pasta, season it with oil and pepper, stir in the walnut spice mixture.
Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

A good companion to the grilled pork chops and peppers dish is grilled artichokes (recipe follows).
A good companion to the grilled pork chops and peppers dish is grilled artichokes (recipe follows).

This was the first recipe I made out of my newest cookbook, Mario Batali Italian Grill, and the results were amazing. My wife Trish commented that she had a hundred flavors mingling in her mouth while she ate this. And although the recipe says it serves six, three of us finished it off as we all had seconds.

(Note: Recipe calls for pork chops to sit in brine overnight.)

  • Ingredients:
  • For the brine:
  • 4 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
    —————————-
  • 6 pork rib chops
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 3 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 8 bulb onions, trimmed and quartered, or 2 red onions, halved and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, with their brine
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
It doesn't get more colorful or flavorful than this pepper, onion, and caper mixture.
It doesn't get more colorful or flavorful than this pepper, onion, and caper mixture.

What I did:

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of the water, the salt, and brown sugar and heat over high heat, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Pour into a large deep bowl or another container large enough to hold the pork and the brine.

Add the peppercorns, the bay leaves, and the remaining 4 quarts of water. Stir to mix well.

When brine is completely cool, add the pork chops. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, heat olive oil in large pot over high heat until very hot. Add the peppers, onions, olives, red pepper flakes, and capers and cook, stirring for 10 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are beginning to soften. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and set aside.

Drain the chops and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Place chops on hottest part of the grill and cook for 7 minutes, unmoved. With tongs, carefully rotate the chops 90 degrees to create nice grill marks and cook for 4 minutes more. Turn the chops over and cook for 5 to 9 minutes more, making sure they are cooked inside.

Transfer the chops to a platter, spoon the pepper mixture over it and serve.

This dinner was so good we had two pork chops each.
This dinner was so good we had two pork chops each.

Also, try the Grilled Artichoke recipe

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)