Simple Chicken Cacciatore

There are many recipes for chicken cacciatore out there. This one utilizes the ever popular cherry tomato, which lately have become the tomato of choice for all the modern chefs. Traditional cacciatore uses white wine, plum tomatoes, onions, garlic. I flavor this cacciatore with sage and rosemary which lends an earthy flavor to the chicken. The cherry tomatoes add a unique sweetness and blush to the sauce. And like many delicious Italian recipes, less is better. Using simple fresh quality ingredients is the hallmark of many delicious Italian meals. This one is right up there. I hope you try it.

  • 3 Chicken legs, 3 chicken thighs (or any cut of chicken you prefer)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 leaves of fresh sage
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Hot pepper flakes to taste. optional

Place large non stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic clove and sliced onions. Stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes until onions are soft. Add the chicken, skin side down and cook for 4 minutes until browned. Turn the chicken over and deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add the cherry tomatoes, sage and rosemary and cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove cover and turn chicken over. Stir and mash up the cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Turn the chicken one more time and stir up the contents of the pan. The tomatoes should be pretty much cooked down by now and adding some color to the sauce and chicken. Cook uncovered another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Have some Italian bread on hand for sopping up the sauce.

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Italian Orange Cake

This orange cake is not overly sweet, but in the true Italian tradition, slightly sweet and flavorful. Perfect with the morning coffee or just a midday snack. It may seem odd but you add the entire orange, peel and all, to the batter. By mixing it in a blender the peel disappears and adds just the right amount of sweetness along with the zest of the peel. For those that have not had the experience of eating traditional Italian cakes you can always add a glaze to the top or dust with powdered sugar to add a little more sweetness to satisfy your American taste buds. I like it just the way it is.

Italian Orange Cake

  • 1 large organic orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 80 ml vegetable oil
  • 100 g sugar
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Wash the orange well. Cut off both ends of the orange. Cut the orange, peel and all, into eights. Cut each eight piece into three pieces. Place the entire orange (minus the ends) into a blender. Add to the blender the three eggs, vegetable oil and sugar. Blend all till smooth.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Now add the orange mixture to the flour and whisk till it’s completely blended and smooth.

Prepare a small Bundt pan by oiling the bottom and sides and coating with flour. Pour the cake mixture into the bundt pan and bake at 355 degrees for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, slide a knife around the sides of the pan and turn over into a dish. You can decorate the cake with powdered sugar if you prefer.

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ZUCCHINE AL FORNO

This time of year we all have an excess of zucchini from our gardens. Some might even be overgrown. But not to worry, any size zucchini can be used for this recipe. If the zucchini went to seed just cut the vegetable in quarters lengthwise and cut out the center seed chamber. The surrounding flesh is perfect to eat. Of course if you buy your zucchini in the supermarket they are nice small young vegetables. After you cut the top and bottom off you can slice them in your mandolin.

Grandma Isabella would make this as one of her many side dishes for a family meal or special occasion. But she would egg batter the sliced zucchini and fry it till golden before layering it in this “zucchini lasagna”. I found slicing the zucchini really thin, 1/8″, and layering it raw with the other ingredients works really well and saves a step frying them. I also add slices of cooked ham to the layers to add some protein to the dish so it would even be a perfect main dish with some crispy Italian bread.

Zucchine Al Forno

  • 4-5 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thin lengthwise (a mandolin slicer will help here)
  • 3/4 pound cooked sliced ham
  • 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 1/2 pound sliced provolone, slices thin, Boars Head if available
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 beaten eggs

Pour a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex or metal dish. Dip the sliced zucchini in the beaten egg and cover the bottom of the dish, alternating direction to cover. Salt & pepper to taste. Add a layer of the cooked ham. Then add a layer of the sliced mozzarella. Then a good sprinkle of the Pecorino Romano Cheese.

For the second layer add a sprinkle of the olive oil. Then add the egg dipped zucchini, salt & pepper, cooked ham and a layer of the sliced provolone. Add a good sprinkle of the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.

Continue the layers, alternating the mozzarella, provolone and grated cheeses. Finish with a layer of the mozzarella or provolone and sprinkle of olive oil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Chicken with wine vinegar, capers and olives

I went back to Brooklyn recently to celebrate my cousins 80th birthday. It’s hard to believe my cousins are that old. I’m the baby of the family but 67 is no consolation. Traveling now is a planned event, especially trips that are over 2 hours. From my house in NEPA to my sisters house in Staten Island is a two hour ride, with no traffic. So my plan was to get to my sisters house and kick back for an hour or so, and then ride with them to Brooklyn, which was only a half hour trip.

I have taken the trip from Brooklyn to Staten Island and back hundreds of times since my sister moved there in 1965. It must have been 30 or 40 years since I made that trip so the ride in was all new to me. Staten Island is another city, crowded and congested. I always knew Brooklyn was like that but it was much worse than I remembered. Maybe I’m so used to living in a rural area that I panicked when there were more than two cars on the road at any given time.

We arrived at Sofia’s Ristorante Italiano on 84th Street and 3rd Avenue. Once inside the restaurant it became apparent to me that my cousin Bobby was not the only octogenarian in the room. My sister and brother in law will be turning 80 this year, although when I confront my sister with that fact she insists she only 49. My brother will be turning 74 this year along with my cousin Ralph. We are both sides of the baby boomer spectrum, a generation I’m proud to be part of. I’m finding that this stage in my life it’s more important than ever to have close family ties. Many have come before us and we are all leaving a wonderful legacy in our wake. My boys have grown into wonderful men. I’m proud of both their accomplishments. And now I get to see my granddaughter grow into a beautiful young girl. These are the treasures we can depend on in a life well lived. Few other things are as important. Happy Birthday Bobby, I hope to see you at my 80th.

There is nothing I like better than a simple dish with little clean up and flavor explosions from the first to last bite. This is one of those dishes. A simple peasant dish that will make your house smell like Italy. These are traditional Sicilian flavors that need only to be accompanied by a good glass of red wine and a crisp loaf of Italian bread. A side salad couldn’t hurt.

CHICKEN WITH WINE VINEGAR, CAPERS AND OLIVES

  • 4 chicken thighs, 4 chicken legs, or whatever cuts of bone in chicken you like
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup pitted black or green olives (I prefer kalamata or oil cured)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, parsley)
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place chicken in a roasting pan large enough to fit. Mix all the above ingredients well, then pour over the chicken. Turn the chicken over in the marinade to coat both sides, then leave skin side down.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes then turn skin side up and cook another 20-30 minutes until chicken is crisp and done. It’s as simple as that. The aroma from the chicken will send the neighbors over so lock the doors and turn out the lights. Enjoy!

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Pork Scaloppini Marsala

This is one dish where the meat you use is very versatile. You can make this with veal, pork or chicken. The classic dish is made with veal. This week my supermarket didn’t have any good veal cutlets. They say necessity is the mother of invention, so I used pork cutlets instead. There are many times I go to the supermarket and plan my menu depending on what they have available at the particular time I’m there. If you have a good local butcher nearby, all the better.

This is another one pan meal that takes no time to cook and has really intense flavors. It’s one of my favorites. Hope you try it.

Pork Scaloppini Marsala

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds of thinly sliced pork cutlet
  • 4-6 ounces of sliced mushrooms
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/8 pound prosciutto
  • 1/8 pound sliced provolone
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Cover each slice of pork with some plastic wrap and pound it thin with a kitchen mallet. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms to the pan in a single layer and allow to cook for 4 minutes without moving them. Now stir to cook the other side until the mushrooms are a golden brown. Remove from the pan to a platter.

Salt and pepper the pork cutlets on both sides and dredge in the flour on both sides. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil to the pan and brown the pork about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the pork to the platter with the mushrooms.

Add to the hot pan the Marsala wine and cook down for a minute or two. Now add the beef broth and bring to a boil.

Add the pork and mushrooms back to the pan and cover each pork cutlet with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of provolone cheese. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook down the sauce till it thickens. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper.

Remove the scallopini to the platter and surround them with the mushrooms and pour the thickened sauce over everything.

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Sausage, Potato and Broccoli Rabe alla Beer

This is an excellent one pan meal with meat, potatoes and vegetable all in one. It’s simple, tasty and easy to prepare. If you have a non stick pan it will be easier to fry the potatoes in without sticking.

Sausage, Potato and Broccoli Rabe alla Beer

  • 1 Bunch of Broccoli Rabe
  • 2 pounds of Fingerling potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled and left whole
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds of the thin Italian pork sausage ring cut into 2′ pieces, casing removed*
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more
  • 12 ounces of amber beer divided
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano

*If you can’t find the thin Italian sausage ring in your area you can use a regular Italian sausage link, remove the casing and cut the link into quarters lengthwise.

While the broccoli rabe is still tied in a bunch, cut off about 1 inch off the bottom of the stems and discard. Cut the rest of the bunch into thirds. Untie the bunch and wash in cold water, changing the water at least 2-3 times. In the meantime in a large pot bring a cup of water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe, cover and cook 9-10 minutes or until the stems are fork tender. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

In a large frying pan over medium high heat add two tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the sausage completely on all sides.

Deglaze the pan with 6 ounces of the amber beer. Cook down until the beer evaporates. Remove the sausage to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan add another two tablespoons of olive oil add the garlic and fry the potatoes over medium low heat until golden brown. Add the fresh rosemary and fresh oregano, while tossing and stirring. Deglaze with the remaining 6 ounces of beer and cook till most of the beer is evaporated and potatoes are tender. Remove the rosemary and oregano stems and the clove of garlic.

Add the sausage and it’s drippings to the potatoes and mix gently. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to mix everything. Drizzle on more olive oil and cook till everything is heated through. Take the pan off the heat and add some more fresh rosemary leaves and oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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Cavatelli with Eggplant Sauce

I truly believe Sicilians, more than anyone, worship the eggplant. Many regions of southern Italy and Mediterranean chefs cook with the purple jewel but, at least in my house, the eggplant ruled supreme. We fried them, baked them, roasted them, stewed them and pickled them. We grilled them and marinated them and made a sweet and sour stew out of them. Just mention the word “eggplant” to my brother and his eyes roll back in his head anticipating the pleasure he gets eating them.

We always slice and salt the eggplant, many say to draw the bitterness out of them. At the least, salting the eggplant draws out the water, which the eggplant is mostly made up of. This allows you to fry them without as much splatter. Other wise the hot oil will bubble and splatter and shoot at you like popcorn. This is a hearty dish and is simple to make. I fry the eggplant earlier in the day so I break up the work. Once they are prepared all you have to do is make a simple marinara sauce, cook the macaroni and combine everything together to make a delicious meal.

  • 2 small or 1 medium eggplant
  • peanut/olive oil for frying
  • 1- 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • hand full of fresh basil
  • 1 pound cavatelli
  • salt & pepper to taste

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Once they are cooked you can cut them into quarters. It’s just easier to handle whole. You don’t want the eggplant too thin, so they hold up in the sauce and don’t break up and dissolve. Salt the eggplant with kosher salt and layer them in a colander with a plate under them to drain. Leave for about an hour. You will notice a black liquid forming on the eggplant. Remove the liquid with a paper towel wiping the eggplant on both sides, and place on a plate.

In a large frying pan place about a quarter cup each of peanut oil and olive oil. Fry the eggplant about 2 minutes each side on medium heat until golden. Add more oil if the pan runs dry and fry all the eggplant. Place the cooked eggplant in a dish covered with paper towels to absorb most of the oil. Cover with additional paper towel and place in the refrigerator.

When the eggplant is cool, cut each round into quarters and place back on the paper towels until ready to use.

Fill a large 6 quart pot with water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large frying pan. Place on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook till fragrant. Add the can of whole peeled tomatoes and mash in the pan with a potato masher or your fork to break up the whole tomatoes. Add the basil, a little bit of sugar, and salt and pepper. When the sauce begins to bubble turn the heat to low. By now your pot of water should be boiling. Add the cavatelli and stir.

At this point add the eggplant to the sauce and stir gently until combined. Cook the cavatelli till one minute less than the package suggest to cook. Drain and add to the eggplant sauce.

Cook for an additional minute or two, stirring to combine.

Serve the cavatelli with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana cheese.

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Linguine with Tuna, Capers and Olives

The addition of lemon zest brings out the freshness of this dish and complements the tuna

It’s hard to believe summer is officially over. Lots of things change after Labor Day. Living in the Poconos in North East Pennsylvania, Labor Day is the last hurrah of vacationers that come here to play. The next day you notice that things have changed. The roads are less busy, stores are not as crowded and there is a sense in the air that fall is coming. Many stay after Labor Day and many come back on the weekends and take advantage of Indian Summer, but for the most part things settle down here. The next wave are the hunters that take advantage of all the state land we have here to hunt and fish.

As the weather changes and cools so does my cooking. I start thinking more about stews and soups and different pasta dishes that warms your soul for the coming winter. This dish is sort of a transition to my winter cooking. It’s a pasta dish but the sauce does not involve any cooking. You prep the sauce in a bowl, cook the pasta and combine everything to make this tasty dish. I use canned tuna for this recipe so I suggest you use the best quality tuna you can find.

This recipe is made with 8 ounces of Linguine so adjust the ingredients if you make more.

  • 5 ounces of solid albacore tuna, packed in water or olive oil, drained and broken into small pieces by hand
  • 1/8 cup of capers, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pitted black Kalamata or Gaeta olives , finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 8 ounces of linguine
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Fill a 6 quart pot with water and bring to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt. Cook the linguine according to the package directions or until it’s al dente.

While the macaroni is cooking, in a large bowl add the chopped capers, olives, parsley and drained tuna. In a small pot melt the butter in olive oil. Combine the olive oil/butter mixture with the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well.

Drain the cooked pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Add the linguine to the ingredients in the bowl and mix well. Add some pasta water to moisten, about 3/4 cup. Add the grated cheese and grate the lemon zest over the pasta. Serve immediately.

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Pork Shoulder/Blade Roast, Boneless

I get my pork locally from my friend Noemi who raises them. This roast is what I have left from a half pig we shared last fall. I’m not a butcher but from what I can gather this cut is a boneless shoulder or blade roast. The boneless cut from what we know as country style ribs. The label that the processor put on read Pork Loin Roast. But I don’t think it’s the loin. Anyway, this is some of the adventures of cooking. This cut has a layer of fat on one side that I’m not going to trim away but let it cook down and flavor the rest of the roast. One thing about Noemi’s pork is, they are all organically raised heritage pigs and taste nothing like the “other white meat” that passes as pork from commercial farms. This pork is darker and much more flavorful. To add some sweetness I added cut up dried fruit that works very well. You can also use a cut up sweet apple if you like.

  • 2-3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, and marjoram)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, diced (pineapple, apricot, papaya, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 water
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

This is what the meaty side of the roast looks like

Lay the pork roast on a cutting board and score the fat side diagonally in two opposite directions so you form a diamond pattern. Don’t cut all the way through the fat but only half way. Pat the meat dry on both sides with a paper towel.

Rub the olive oil over both sides of the pork. Now rub your Italian seasoning and salt and pepper on both sides of the meat.

In a roasting pan place the sliced onion, dried fruit, garlic and potatoes across the bottom of the pan. Add the Red wine vinegar, white wine, water drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and mix it all well. Put the roast, fat side up, in the middle of the pan on top of the onions, spreading the potatoes around the roast.

Place the roast, uncovered in the oven and let roast for 2 hours. Stir the potatoes and onions halfway through the time. Check the roast and add some water if it dries out. The last half hour turn the oven temperature up to 375 to nicely brown everything.

Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the potatoes and onion and pan drippings.

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Roasted Pork Spare Ribs

So, It’s the middle of December and you have a hankering for some good BBQ but your smoker is put away and you don’t want to stand out in 30 degree temperature smoking some ribs. What do you do? If you’re like me you find another way to do it, short of going out and finding a good Southern Style BBQ restaurant worth its salt.

I have tried many methods of making good BBQ spare ribs in the house and this, by far, is the best way to do it. Like anything else it’s all about technique. Many people wrap their ribs in foil and cook it for hours to get that fall off the bone quality. To me you might as well boil them in water because that is what they are doing inside the foil. Granted, this method I use does not produce the pink circle that is the hallmark of properly smoked meats. But the flavor and tenderness of this method gives you a rib you can be proud of. And it taste great.

First off, you’re going to need a 18″ x 13″ sheet pan with an edge and a rack that fits inside of it to keep the ribs raised and off the bottom. Some heavy duty aluminum foil, and a good rub. That’s pretty much it for the equipment.

MY BBQ DRY RUB

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano

This recipe makes more than enough for 2 rack of ribs. After I mix it and save some for what I’m cooking I place the rest in a jar for future use.

  • 2 racks of fresh St Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • BBQ Dry Rub
  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce

Prepare your pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Take the heavy duty aluminum foil and cover the bottom of the pan. Make sure the foil comes up the sides. It will save you clean up at the end. Place the rack on top of the foil in the pan.

If you use St Louis Style ribs you will be able to fit 2 racks on your sheet pan. If you can’t find St Louis Style just trim off the top portion of the ribs, at the soft cartilage, and save those ends for another recipe. They go great with pork and beans. Pull the membrane off at the back of the ribs. Find a corner and with the help of a paper towel, grab the end and rip it off in one full sheet. Discard the membrane.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on both sides of the first rack, rub about two tablespoons of the dry rub to each side of the ribs. Repeat with the second rack. Place the rack of ribs, meaty side up, onto your rack on the sheet pan and place, uncovered, into you oven. Allow to roast for 2 hours, untouched. Don’t disturb, the ribs will brown and caramelize perfectly.

After two hours in the oven. Browning is perfect and the meat is pulling back from the bones.

At this point you can finish the ribs on an outdoor BBQ, coating them with your favorite BBQ sauce, or finish them in the oven.

Turn on your broiler to low and after brushing with your BBQ sauce, broil at least 10 minutes each side, until bubbly and caramelized. Allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes before cutting them.

Nice and browned after cooking under broiler. Notice the bones sticking out from the meat. That is a good sign of fall off the bone tender.
Slice them up and serve with extra BBQ sauce if you like.
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