Cavatelli with Broccoli and Italian Sausage

This dish has all the flavors I grew up eating from my grandmother’s kitchen. Pork and broccoli with garlic and oil with the olives. The cavatelli turn this into a complete meal that is very tasty and satisfying. This is an old school dish, do not make the broccoli crunchy, it has to cook down well so it’s soft and melts into the rest of the disk. I don’t add any salt until the end and taste if it even needs it. I hope you enjoy it.

Cavatelli with broccoli and Italian sausage

  • 1 pound sweet Italian Sausage, casing removed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound or large head of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup oil cured or Kalamata olives, pitted and rough chopped.
  • 2 teaspoons of chicken soup base or two bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound of Cavatelli

In a large pot bring plenty of salted water to a boil and cook the broccoli for 6-7 minutes. Drain the broccoli but reserve the liquid. Allow the broccoli to cool. Rough chop into bite size pieces, set aside.

In a heavy frying pan with the heat on high, break up the pieces of sausage and brown till they caramelize. Lower the heat and add the olive oil, and cook the garlic for 1 minute till fragrant. Add the white wine and broccoli and cook down till the alcohol evaporates. The broccoli should be cooked well, old school. Add the chicken soup base and olives. Stir everything well.

In the meantime bring the pot of broccoli water to a boil and cook the cavatelli in it 7-8 minutes. Add more water if needed.

Before you drain the cavatelli, add about two ladles of the water to the broccoli and sausage in the frying pan. Drain the cavatelli and add to the fry pan with the sauce. Cook while stirring about 2 minutes then take off the heat and add the grated cheese and red pepper flakes. Taste for salt.

Posted in Pasta, Pork | Tagged | 2 Comments

WHITE CLAM PIZZA

The simple clam. Italians have found many ways to savor this delicate mollusk. Raw right out of it’s shell, sprinkled with flavored bread crumbs and baked, sautéed with a mixture of garlic and oil and served over pasta, just to name a few. I grew up eating raw clams as part of a ritual when my father would take me to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. After a day at the beach we would walk to Sheepshead Bay and stop at a strip of restaurants that were opposite the rows of charter boats that would take you out for a day of fishing. We would stop at Joe’s Clam Bar, an unpretentious restaurant that had an open outdoor window that you could walk up to and order the tasty clams. Little Necks and Cherry Stones were both $1.25 per dozen, quite a difference from todays prices. Of course we would order two dozen of the Cherry Stones because they were larger and gave you more value for your money. The man on the other side of the window stood in front of a large metal sink filled with the clams covered in ice. We watched him shuck each clam and place them on a heavy paper plate, waiting in anticipation for the cool, briny mollusk we would suck down. Once he was finished he put a couple of lemon wedges and a little cup of cocktail sauce on each plate and served them to us. At once I squeezed the lemon wedge over the clams and place a dot of cocktail sauce on each clam. There were bottles of vinegar with hot peppers marinating in them close by but I liked mine with just lemon and cocktail sauce. I sucked the clams out of their shells and enjoyed the chew of each one and the taste of the sea that flavored them. The dozen was gone in an instant and I knew I could eat more but my father warned me that my mother was preparing supper and we did not want to go home full.

This dish combines two of my favorite food groups, pizza and clams. It’s a simple recipe that highlights the taste of the clam. Unlike other traditional toppings, clams add a delicate flavor to the pizza and you don’t want to over power it with other strong flavors.

For the Pizza Dough (makes 2 – 10″ x 14″ trays of pizza)

  • 600 g of bread flour
  • 1 packet of instant dry yeast
  • 18 g of salt
  • 440 g of warm water

In a large mixing bowl add the yeast to the warm water. Add the flour and mix with a heavy spoon until all the flour is moistened. Add the salt and mix for another minuet. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes you can turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook in your stand mixer and mix for 10 minutes. Avoid added too much additional flour, this is a wet dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and flip coating both sides with oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

After 2 hours your dough should look like this.

In the meantime you can prepare the pizza topping.

  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons per pan
  • 1 cup of shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese, about 8 ounces
  • 2 – 7.5 ounce jars of baby clams, juice drained and reserved. I used Bellino whole shelled baby clams
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano for each pizza
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese for each pizza
  • 2-4 tablespoons of reserved clam juice per pizza
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Red pepper flakes to taste, optional

Mix the garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small bowl.

Turn out the pizza dough onto a floured surface and cut into two portions. Place one of the portions back in the bowl and cover while you prepare the first pizza.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread out two tablespoons of plain olive oil in each of the two pizza pans.

Take the first portion of pizza dough and spread it out with your hands to reach the edges. If it doesn’t stretch all the way, wait 5 minuets to let the dough rest and it will be easier to finish.

You can now do the same for the second pizza pan.

Brush the garlic and oil mixture over the dough of each pizza. Season with salt and black pepper. Scatter the mozzarella and clams over each pie. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the reserved clam liquid over each pie. Add the oregano and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Let pizza rest for about 15 minutes. Bake in the oven for 17- 20 minutes. When you remove the pizza from the oven squeeze about a quarter lemon over each pie. Cut and serve.

Nice crisp bottom!
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Chicken Vesuvio

There is absolutely nothing that comes as close to comfort food as chicken and potatoes. My mother would bake some form of chicken with potatoes at least two Sundays out of the month. Nothing was more welcomed than a pan of golden chicken with crispy potatoes and bits of caramelized onions, that my father and I would fight for, stuck to the bottom of the pan.

My mother had an unusual set up for her baking, she never used the oven in the main kitchen. We had a full kitchen in the basement and she would always use that oven, saying it kept the house cooler. Not sure why she would mind from November through March. But that was mom’s logic. You see, before I came into the world my grandparents, who lived on the second floor of our two family house, rented the back rooms of the main floor to other tenants. My mother and father and brother and sister lived in the front rooms of the main floor and the basement. So naturally we had a full bathroom and kitchen in the basement. It wasn’t till I arrived that my parents needed more room and my grandfather made the tenants move out and gave the entire main floor to us, basement included.

Just before dinner was ready my mother would pick one of us to go downstairs and get the roast. How we managed to carry that hot pan of food up a full flight of steps without only one disaster is a amazing. And of course that one time that my father tripped on the last landing spilling the beans was just that. I heard words I never heard before coming from my fathers mouth. It was epic.

There are many variations of chicken and potatoes. Chicken Vesuvio is said to have originated in Chicago around the 1940’s. It’s an Italian/American dish that most likely came from someone in the south of Italy. Naples would be a good guess being the the name of the infamous volcano is part of the recipe’s name. The ingredients are few, but the flavors just all come together in a simply wonderful chicken and potato meal. And it’s made in one pan.

Chicken Vesuvio

4 chicken drum sticks

4 chicken thighs ( you can include the breast, as long as it’s on the bone)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 -4 large cloves garlic, whole

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks. ( you can add as many potatoes as you need for the amount of servings you want).

1/2 medium onion, rough chop

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

3/4 cup dry white wine

Package or 10 oz of frozen peas or artichoke hearts, or both.

Salt and pepper to taste

Salt and pepper your chicken on both sides. Place a large fry or sauté pan on medium high heat, large enough to hold all the chicken. Add the olive oil and garlic. When oil is hot add the chicken pieces skin side down.

Brown for about 4-5 minutes then turn the chicken to brown the other side. Remove the chicken and garlic and place on a plate.

Add the potatoes and onions to the hot pan along with the thyme. Salt and pepper the potatoes. Cook till onions become translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Lower the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook down about 1 minute. Push the potatoes and onions off to the side and add the chicken along with the garlic back to the pan, skin side up. Mix the potatoes all around the chicken.

Place in your 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or when the chicken is fully cooked. After 20 minutes add 1/2 cup of water if chicken is too dry, if you want more crisp potatoes don’t add any water.

The last 10 minutes add the peas/and or artichoke hearts to the pan and mix with everything else.

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Sourdough Starter – FEED ME!!!!

I have had a sourdough starter dormant in my refrigerator for over 10 years. It made the move with me from New York to Pennsylvania and today I thought I would try and revive it. I read that this culture is hard to kill. When it goes into a dormant state the culture settles on the bottom of the jar and forms a thick white sludge. A dark water like liquid forms on the top and it’s commonly called hooch. It’s actually a layer of alcohol formed by the culture that protects everything below it. Sort of a well balanced environment for the dormant culture. I took the jar out of the refrigerator and stirred up the hooch into the culture below. When done it was like the consistency of heavy cream. Everything above the hooch was nasty so I just poured the stirred mixture into a clean mason jar. I fed it a half a cup of flour, stirred it well, and will now wait to see what happens. Once it reaches room temperature, if it’s still alive, I should start to see bubbles forming and the culture start to grow. I’ll give it 24 hours and empty about a cup of the liquid down the drain, then add another cup of flour and filtered water.

It took three days to regenerate the culture. When I checked this morning it was a bubbly mass inside the jar and almost doubled in size. One more day of feeding and I should be ready to make a loaf. These little beasties are amazing. A living organism that can go 10 years without eating and still survive. They got my respect.

It’s time I start digging through all my recipes on making sourdough bread. The years of experimenting and baking are all down on paper. The wonderful thing about sour dough is the flavor. This is a natural yeast, not like the commercially grown yeast that rises quick. The slow rise process goes through a fermenting process and that is what adds the flavor to the bread. There are some cultures that are hundreds of years old. Some bakeries in Europe are using the same culture that they used during the time of Napoleon. They just keep feeding the pot of culture every time they take some. If I use a cup of active culture in my recipe I always add a cup of flour and cup of water to the pot, and keep it going. If I don’t bake for a while I’ll just put the active culture in the refrigerator and when I’m ready to use it just repeat the process.

Pane Cafone (Country man’s bread)

500 Gm (3 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour

235 ml (1 cup) water

235 ml (1 cup) active sourdough culture

2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap loosely and proof at least 5 hours at room temperature. 80 degrees is the ideal temp so I put the bowl in the oven with the oven light on and that holds the oven at a constant 80 degrees.

Once the dough doubles in size, I pull a corner of the ball and fold it over itself. I do this to the other three sides. I flip it over and place it on a piece of parchment paper on my cutting board, cover it with a towel, and return it to proof for another 3 hours. Before I put it in the oven I make a slash or two on the top.

Bake in a preheated oven on a baking stone at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour before you slice.

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Pasta all’Amatriciana

When you get a hold of guanciale from Italy you put it to good use. Guanciale is produced with whole pork cheeks. It is rubbed with salt, sugar , and spices and cured for three weeks. It has an earthy flavor that is stronger and richer than pancetta and its texture is more delicate and silky. When cooked, the fat melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces you use it in. This month I made authentic Pasta Carbonara with guanciale and now I would like to redo another pasta dish I previously posted, Pasta all’Amatriciana.

Once again this is a pasta dish with few ingredients, but it’s important to use the best possible quality ingredients. If you don’t have Italian specialty stores in your neighborhood the internet is a wonderful thing. There is nothing you can’t get online from around the world, for a price. For me, this was well worth it.

Please note, this recipe has NO onions, No garlic, and specifically calls for San Marzano tomatoes.

1 -2 ounces of Guanciale, cut into small dice.

1/2 cup white wine

1 – 28 ounce can of San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed by hand

1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 pound bucatini pasta, or other thick spaghetti product

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

Salt & black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil for the pasta.

In the meantime, in a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta, cook the guanciale over medium low heat until the guanciale is crisp and most of the fat is rendered. Put the crisp guanciale in a small dish for later and add the white wine and red pepper flakes to the pan with the rendered fat. Cook off the wine for about a minuet.

Add the crushed San Marzano Tomatoes to the pan and bring the heat to medium high. Stir well and bring to a simmer, uncovered. The sauce should only cook for about 10-15 minuets. After that cooking time, taste the sauce for salt and pepper. When the water comes to a boil add the pasta and stir. However long the pasta takes to cook, drain it two minutes earlier, it will finish cooking in the pan of sauce. Reserve one cup of pasta water if needed.

Add the drained pasta to the pan of sauce along with the reserved crisp guanciale and cook on medium heat while stirring for the additional time it takes to cook the pasta al dente.

Plate the pasta and add a generous amount of Pecorino Romano cheese. Enjoy! Simplicity at its finest.

One of three feral cats that come to visit was watching me the whole time through my patio door as I prepared this meal. They know when something good is cooking in my house.

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Authentic Pasta Carbonara

My Mother always made Pasta Carbonara when I was growing up in Brooklyn. But she made it her own way. Unlike the original way, she would include regular bacon, onions, garlic and butter. The rest of the ingredients were the same. I have my original post for Past Carbonara they way my mother made it here: https://cookingitaliancomfortfood.com/2010/05/27/pasta-carbonara/ Don’t get me wrong, I love this version, grew up eating it as one of my original comfort foods and make it till this day. But I thought I would show you the authentic way of preparing Pasta Carbonara. We don’t use cream or butter, no garlic or onions, and instead of hickory smoked American bacon we use guanciale. Pancetta is the alternate pork product to use, and easier to purchase than guanciale. Pancetta is from the pork belly like bacon, but is cured without smoke. Guanciale is like pancetta but does not come from the pork belly. Guanciale is from the pig’s jowls. The flavor is more intense and is the true ingredient for Pasta Carbonara. If you can’t find Guanciale at your grocer or Italian Specialty store, Pancetta works fine.

Pasta Carbonara is best eaten fresh, so make only enough for your current meal. It doesn’t do well as leftovers. This recipe is for serving 4 people, or 3 really hungry people. The best pasta to use is thick spaghetti, bucatini or linguini. The ingredients are few and simple, like many other great Italian dishes. The secret is to use the best ingredients available.

PASTA CARBONARA RECIPE

12 ounces of Thick Spaghetti, Bucatini or Linguini

4 ounces of Guanciale or pancetta cut into small dice or cubes

2 ounce of Pecorino Romano cheese grated

2 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt and plenty of Black Pepper

Cut the guanciale into strips and dice into small cubes.

Mix the two egg yolks in a small bowl with the grated cheese, pinch of salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Mix until creamy then set aside.

In a large frying pan over low heat, cook the guanciale. You want to render all the fat from the guanciale until crisp. Don’t burn it.

Once the guanciale is crisp and browned remove from the pan and set aside. Keep the rendered fat for later.

At this point you should have a pot of salted water on the boil. Add the pasta and cook till al dente. Take a cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta and set aside. Drain the pasta. With the heat on low, add the pasta to the fat from the meat along with the pieces of crispy guanciale and half your saved pasta water. Mix together well until some of the water is absorbed.

This is very important, remove the pan from the heat before you add the egg and cheese mixture. You don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs and pasta. Add a few tablespoons of the hot pasta water to the egg and cheese mixture while stirring to temper the eggs. Now add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta while constantly stirring quickly. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg. Add more pasta water as needed to give you more moisture , this water makes more of the sauce and give the dish a creamy finish. Keep stirring well until you get the desired creamy sauce.

Add some more black pepper and top with additional grated cheese. Serve immediately.

I have to say that I have had Pasta Carbonara prepared in every way possible, and except for my mother’s version, this by far is the best. The creaminess and cheesy sauce on the pasta combined with the crunchy outstanding pork flavor of the crispy guanciale puts this dish in a class of its own. It’s like nothing you ever had.

Posted in Pasta, Pork | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

One skillet Italian Sausage and Pepper with Rice

Fads

Fads, short lived popularity of objects or behavior that quickly fade away. Can you think of any you experienced as a child?  Thinking back  one  comes to mind,  and it involved my brother Richard. He would get obsessed with things. Back in the early 60’s the song Wipe Out was playing on the radio. My brother must have been in high school. I could remember him driving everyone in the house crazy while he played the drum solo of wipe out with his hands slapping at the dinner table, dining room table and any other flat surface he happened to be sitting near.  Glasses would shake, plates would rattle and my sister’s eyes would roll. She  would scream and tell my mother to make him stop. Of course, he only did it louder, until my father intervened. You didn’t want him to tell you a second time to stop. That year for Christmas, my mother bought my brother Richard a snare drum. Really. My sister played the piano, I dabbled on the keyboards, and my brother played the snare drum. The drum remained in the basement. Honestly, I think my brother sounded better playing Wipe Out with his hands on the kitchen table than with the snare drum.

In addition to drum sticks the snare drum came with a set of brushes so my brother was able to tone down the noise and produce a gentle shuffle sound from time to time, with and without the snare sound. Nothing ever came of my brother’s drumming interest. After Wipe Out, there wasn’t much left of his repertoire. He might have asked for a cymbal or hi-hat but my mother realize the mistake of getting him the snare drum and ignored him. Another passing fad. I do remember one year my brother got a set of bongos. That too passed.

Hula hoops were another fad, but more popular with the girls. I have to admit, they were much better at keeping their hips in motion and keeping that hoop up then the guys. And then one summer someone bought a spinning top. Like any other fad, it all started with one kid. Within days, everyone else on the block were trying to spin tops. What frustration! Point up, point down, over hand, under hand, we all tried different techniques to get that top to spin. Those that gave up came back the next day with a Duncan YoYo.

And who can forget Click Clacks? They consisted of two stone hard acrylic balls which hung on either end of a heavy string. The two balls would swing apart and together, making the loud clacking noise that gave the toy its name. Once in full swing they would hit each other in the up swing and down swing.  Until the swing lost its course and they clonked you in the head. I believe they finally were banned in the 80’s, going the way of the Lawn Darts. A much less deadly fad was the wooden paddle ball. At least the ball at the end of the rubber band was a soft pink ball. So a shot to the face didn’t leave any marks.

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This dish will not disappoint. Simple ingredients, bursting with flavor.  My son Joseph texted me this the other day and said I should try it. I trust my son. He knows good food. So I collected the ingredients and made it for a Saturday night supper. It was delicious. Easy to make, easy clean up because it’s made in one pot, and sticks to your ribs. This one is a keeper, add a side salad and your meal is complete.

Italian Sausage and Pepper with Rice

  • One Pound Italian Sweet Sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 /2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, rough chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, thin sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes, or to taste. Optional
  • 1 cup of extra long grain rice, like Carolina
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 – 80z can of low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 green onions, rough chop
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, rough chop
  • 3 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, rough chop

In a large skillet or sauce pot with a lid, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and salt and cook down for 3-5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, paprika and garlic, stirring and cook for another three minutes. Turn the heat to high and push the vegetables to one side of the pot to brown the sausage. Pick off little pieces of the sausage and place in the pot. Stir till the sausage is browned and the veggies start to caramelize.  Add the raw rice and red pepper flakes and cook while stirring for about two minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, for about a minute. Add the chicken broth and stir to incorporate all the flavors. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and cover. Cook for about 18 minutes. Check and stir to make sure the rice is not burning. When the rice is cooked and all the moisture has evaporated, take off the heat and add the green onion, tomato and parsley. Stir well. Cover and let sit for about five minutes before serving.

Posted in Pork, Rice | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Tomato Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes

Most backyard gardeners have picked their last tomato by now. This time of year is when I love to make fresh tomato sauce using the Roma and plum tomatoes I grew myself and allowed to ripen on the vine. It’s a simple process, a little labor intensive, but well worth the reward of having the freshest, sweetest tomato sauce for my macaroni. Earlier in the season I bought a half bushel of plum tomatoes from a local farm and canned about 7 jars of tomato sauce, the next best alternative to making a fresh tomato sauce.  This is not so much a recipe as it is a procedure for making fresh tomato sauce.

You are going to need about 5 pounds of vine ripened plum tomatoes. That should make about 32 ounces of tomato sauce before you cook it down. Although you use this procedure for preparing sauce to can, this is just to make a fresh sauce your are going to use that day.

Wash all the tomatoes in cool water and place on a dish towel on your counter.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a stainless steel sauce pot. After adding half the tomatoes, place on medium heat and stir until you see liquid form at the bottom of the pot. Don’t allow the tomatoes to sit too long without stirring if there is no liquid on the bottom, they might burn.

Once the tomatoes release their juices process the remainder of the tomatoes, cutting in half and placing in the pot, while occasionally stirring.  As the tomatoes soften mash down with a potato masher.

Cook the tomatoes until they are all soft. The softer the better.

If you have a food mill choose the screen with the smallest holes. You can also use a food strainer and sauce mill. Either will remove the skins and seeds and strain the sauce. If you don’t have either, you can always blanch the tomatoes, remove their skins, and remove the seeds with your fingers. Place the flesh into a blender and puree.

Place the stewed tomatoes into the food mil and process.

In between batches be sure to scrape the strained sauce from under the food mill into your bowl. Then discard the seeds and skins and add another batch.  You should be able to process 5 pounds of tomatoes in two batches.

That’s about it! You now have about 32 ounces of fresh pureed tomatoes. Now it’s time to make the sauce.

I use a wide saute pan to cook the sauce. The sauce will thicken quicker because of the large heating surface. Add about 4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil to the pan on medium heat. To the hot oil add about 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook till just fragrant, about a minute, then add the pureed tomatoes.

Throw in about 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves torn into little pieces. Add salt and black pepper to taste. That is all I add to my fresh tomato sauce. Cook the sauce over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until thickened and reduced by about half. Taste again for salt.

While the sauce is cooking you should have a large pot of salted water boiling. I like to use linguine, but use whatever macaroni you like. Add the macaroni to the boiling water just as the sauce is ready. I cook the macaroni about a minute less that the box calls for for al dente. The macaroni will continue to cook in the sauce.

Strain the macaroni in a colander and add directly to the sauce. Stir and mix well for the additional minute or two over medium heat until the macaroni is done  to your taste. Remove from the heat and add  additional fresh basil leaves torn into little pieces.

Add some grated cheese, a glass of red wine, and enjoy!

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German Sausage with Apples and Sauerkraut

I know, I’m off the reservation again. But I don’t eat Italian food every night! I actually grew quite fond of this dish and it’s real easy to make on a work night. I’ve been making it for years for my family and in the fall when I have my Oktoberfest party (just another excuse to get together with friends, drink beer, and eat German food) I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of this dish, I made it and ate it quicker than I could photograph it. But I wanted to share it with all of you because it’s one of my favorite dishes, that’s not Italian. To all my German friends out there, i’m not sure how authentic this recipe is, but like I said, I’ve been making it for years and have added some of my own touches. Another thing I like about this recipe is how flexible it can be. You’ll see what I mean as I explain it to you.

German Sausage with Apples and Sauerkraut

  • 4-5 links of knockwurst or any style German or Polish Sausage
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large apple (Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious or whatever you have on hand) peeled, cored and sliced thin or cut into small chunks
  • 1 – 2 pounds of Sauerkraut (depending on how many people) drained and slightly rinsed
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon chicken base
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

In a large or medium pot, depending on how many sausages and pounds of sauerkraut you are using, heat the olive oil on a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and saute a couple of minutes until they soften. Add the apple and continue to stir till the apples soften, about 5 minutes. At this point add the wine. I used red wine, it doesn’t matter. The red wine gives it a little color. Cook the wine down for a few minutes. Now add the cup of water and chicken base. You can also use a chicken bullion cube if you don’t have chicken base. I prefer the base.

I like to rinse my sauerkraut about 20 seconds in cold water and let it drain in a strainer. Add the drained sauerkraut ,  caraway seeds and dark brown sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring everything well. Lower the heat to low and add the sausage. I like to cut the knockwurst in half so they don’t burst.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

 

That’s it! Serve with some spicy brown mustard and you have a quick meal. If you have some crusty rolls this makes a great sandwich. Just put some mustard on the roll, cut up the sausage and top with the sauerkraut.

Posted in Beef, Pork | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pane di Granturco – Corn Bread

Friends from Womb to Tomb

When do you remember playing with your childhood friends for the last time ? I thought so. Neither do I. At some point in your childhood, there came a day when it was the last time you played with your buddies. I don’t remember that day. Maybe it was when we graduated high school. Maybe it was when we graduated Junior High School. I guess it’s not important, but at some point you played that last game of stick ball or stoop ball or game of catch and never played it with them again. It’s kind of sad to think about it. When you went from childhood to adult hood. Maybe it was when you started college. Or met that wonderful girl that you became totally absorbed in.

This picture was taken at my 13th Birthday. LtoR: Angelo Volaro (Junior), Ralph S., Me, Anthony Merola (Mayor)

Over 52 years later old friends can’t stay apart. Junior, Me, and Mayor got together at my home in NEPA for a day of reminiscing, friendship and good food. I lost touch with Ralph S after Junior High School, he didn’t live on the block. I hope he’s well.

 

Two of my childhood buddies from 77th Street Brooklyn came up and payed me a visit in North East Pennsylvania. Angelo Volaro, who we called Junior, and Anthony Merola, who was and still is known as Mayor. They came up with their wives and took the long drive to pay a visit to an old friend. Junior was my neighbor on 77 Street. We shared a common driveway. Since we were able to walk, Junior and I played together. That driveway and our backyard was our world. And between the plastic green army men we shared and plastic horses with it’s own cowboy figure, our backyard was the backdrop to every war battle and cattle roundup we could imagine. Our parents were friends and we always got together for birthdays, graduations, and other milestone events. We each had siblings that were common in age so there was always a lot of activity between the two houses.

Anthony Merola lived a few doors down, and when we were old enough to venture away from our backyard and driveway we met Mayor and he became a member of our pack. In Brooklyn you didn’t need your parents to drive you to meet and play with your friends. If they lived on your side of the street, you had a playmate. George Galgano was another member of the group but he lived at the corner of the block. We were a little older when we got to meet him.  And then there was Christine Gemarino. She was the girl of the group. She played all the female parts in our games of army and cops and robbers. We loved a show called Riverboat back then and used to make believe we were the characters from that show. With the help of a metal garbage can cover hooked up to a fence, it made a great riverboat steering wheel. And of course, Christine was always the damsel in distress. Me and George always fought over who would save her first. We were only 4 or 5 years old, but we all knew our gender roles back then.  Of course Christine was always the nurse in our games of war and we all got wounded very early in the play so she could give us a little TLC.  We made use of everything around us. A long stick made a great rifle, if we didn’t get that cap gun for Christmas. And then there were the “dirt bombs”. Some how dirt bombs only appeared at a certain time of year, usually in the spring. We didn’t know why, but as adults it became abundantly clear. Dirt bombs appeared in the neighborhood gardens about the time the Italian men in the neighborhood “turned” the soil getting ready to plant the seasons tomatoes and cucuzzi. And just like that, little balls of dirt about the size of a golf ball appeared like magic. Dirt bombs were the weapons of choice to lob at your opponents. They really stung if you got hit in the head. But, that’s war.

As we got older the games turned more to some kind of sport using a pink ball and the small group that started with Junior, Mayor, George and Christine grew. We used to play a game called “punch”. We played it in the driveway where the steps leading to the side entrance to each of our houses became first and third base. Second base was further down the driveway and we marked it with chalk. Two or three kids played the field while the “batter” would toss the ball up in the air and swing at it with either a side arm swing or over head swing, hitting the ball with your fist and sending it soaring down the driveway. Mayor was the best punch baller and used to drive the ball out past the driveway and into the street. The rest of the game was played like regular baseball. We ran bases and had foul balls if they hit the houses before first and third base. Once the ball passed first and third it was fair play no matter where it went.

It was amazing the games we were able to play with just a pink ball. Punch ball, stoop ball, box baseball, slap ball, hit the stick (usually an old Good Humor ice cream stick). And as summers progressed and we were older, stick ball and two hand touch football were played in the street in front of our houses. The group grew larger, kids from across the street joined in the fun. At any given moment, at the beginning of another summer day, 77 Street was full of friends and playmates that made up the day of fun and games . I could fill volumes with all the games that made up our day. It’s a wonder when we came home from the fun, usually when the street lights came on, and our mothers ran a bath for us, the rings of dirt that lined the tub was epic.

But, enough of the past. When Junior and Mayor showed up Sunday afternoon with their family it was like we had just gotten together the other day. That’s what true friends feel like. You could be apart for years, but the moment you get together it’s like you never were apart.  After their 2 and 1/2 hour long ride from Brooklyn I’m sure they felt good getting out of their car to stretch their legs. It was great having “company” again with old friends. And as if it wasn’t enough seeing them all again, Junior and Mayor bought an abundance of Brooklyn treats. Three loaves of Italian bread and a seeded twist, which Junior knew was my favorite (it’s amazing the things he remembers) three balls of homemade mozzarella, two regular and one smoked, a bottle of wine and a large bottle of Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda, and a box of over a dozen miniature Italian pastries, which included Sfogliatella, Lobster Tails, Pasticciotto, regular cannoli and chocolate covered cannoli. All my favorite. The best of Brooklyn, including my friends, arrived at my door!

It was great seeing them all and catching up on what has happened since our last visit. They were curious about where I had settled to live and asked a lot of questions about living in NEPA. I gave them my best sales job in selling the pros of living outside of Brooklyn. Maybe I could convince one of them to leave Brooklyn and move near me. But I don’t think there is a chance of that happening. If they haven’t left Brooklyn by now I don’t think it will ever happen. I put out a simple spread for them. Not the usual antipasti. They get that all the time in Brooklyn. I put out a tray of Roasted Red Pepper Humus with Pita Chips and a salsa with tortilla chips. The Hummus was new to some of my friends, they never had it before. It was a good choice. I put together some easy cook out items. I picked up a couple of pounds of ground chuck I got at Clark’s Sunrise Market in Honesdale. Some of the best around, and made my own patties with just a little salt and pepper added to the meat. I also got some hot dogs from The Alpine Wurst House, also in Honesdale. The Alpine is a real German sausage house. They make all their own hot dogs and wursts in house. They have a great deli and restaurant as well. My friends loved the hot dogs because of the “snap” from the natural casing and the flavor was awesome. I rounded off the meal with marinated Flap Steak. It’s similar to skirt steak and flank steak but much more tender and flavorful in my opinion. The grains are larger which makes it ideal for soaking up the marinade.  I believe this cut is also used for sirloin tips. The marinade works well with beef as well as chicken. Here is the recipe:

MARINADE FOR GRILLING

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder

Mix well in a small bowl

I prefer to lay out the flank steak or chicken breast in a 9″x 13″ Pyrex baking dish. Cover with the marinade and cover the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4-8 hours, turning halfway through. Bone in chicken parts I use a gallon Zip Lock bag to marinate in.

Needless to say, with all those flavors, the Flap steak was also a hit. I made a big salad with a olive oil and balsamic dressing and put out some potato salad and macaroni salad. The simple menu gave me more time to spend with my friends and we all enjoyed the day together. Of course the highlight of the meal was when I made coffee and we broke out the Italian pastries. My friends controlled themselves and made sure I had enough left over for the week. They only lasted till Monday. Oh well, you only live once.

 

This corn bread recipe was a favorite of Grandma Isabella. She would make dozens of little loaves and dry them out so they kept for months. We would use them in fresh tomato salads broken up like croutons. The bread would absorb the sweet tomato juices and vinegar and olive oil. When the loaves were fresh they were great eaten with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Either way, they tasted great. Please give it a try.

*Please note, I made some changes to the recipe from the original posting. Grandma Isabella never wrote anything down and things got lost in the translation, so this is what the ingredients should be. I also added a first rise to the dough, which was suggested by my son Michael.

Pane di Granturco

To prepare the yeast

  • 1/2 ounce dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Put all ingredients in a cup. Yeast is ready to use when bubbling begins.

Dough Preparation

  • 12 oz stone ground corn meal
  • 36 oz semolina flour
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 -1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 8 cups all purpose  flour

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl

Add to the dry ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or corn oil
  • the yeast mixture
  • and approximately 5 cups water

Mix until all the flour is wet and well incorporated. Start mixing with your hands until it all comes together, then place on a floured board and knead for at least 10 minutes. Dough should not be sticky if it is add some more flour. Cover with a cloth and let rise for one hour.

Now, cut small fist size pieces and roll into logs, then close them like a bagel. Add them to an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 1  1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Do not open oven door for the first 7 minutes. The top of the bread should be lightly browned. Make the bread in batches until all the dough is used up.

After the little loaves are baked, remove from the oven and slice in half when cool enough to handle. Position back on the cookie sheet. Lower oven temperature to 200 degrees and place back in the oven until the bread is dried. The finished bread should be as dry as a crouton. Cool and store in airtight containers, like a zip lock back. Will keep for months in a cool dark place.

 

 

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