Monday, May 24, 2010

Polpette di Tonno Tuna Cakes

We have been enjoying crab cakes for quite a while now, thanks to our New England friends. In the Veneto region of Italy polpette di tonno, or tuna cakes, have been around forever, but are sadly so undiscovered in the United States. Polpette di tonno are delicious, simple to make, and leftovers are especially tasty.  They would commonly be  found in a Venetian wine bar as a "cicchetto" or  appetizer along with a glass of white wine. They can also be served as a main course. I like to put them on a nice bed of  arrugala, nothing else needed. (Except your favorite white wine.) Nothing could be simpler or more satisfying.
Ingredients (for about 6-8 polpette):
2  5oz. cans tuna in olive oil
3 pieces of white sliced bread (like Wonder bread)
1/4 cup flat leaf parlsely, finely chopped
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
oil for frying
salt to taste
Drain the oil from the 2 cans of tuna, and put the tuna in a mixing bowl.  Remove the crust from 3 pieces of white sandwich type bread, and moisten it slightly with milk or water. tear the bread into little pieces, and put it in the mixing bowl. Next add the parsley and the egg. At this point get your oil hot and ready in a fryer.
With your hands, combine the above ingredients until they make one homogenous mixture. Form the tuna into 6-8 balls, depending on the size you desire, then flatten them slightly into a patty shape. Coat the tuna cakes generously with the bread crumbs, and set aside until ready to fry.
Once all the polpette have been formed, begin frying them a few at a time, for about 2 minutes. When they have a nice golden brown color, remove from oil and  salt lighlty with sea salt. Put them on a paper towel lined baking dish until ready to serve.
I think they are nice served on a plate on a bed of arugula. Pour yourself a nicely chilled glass of your favorite white wine. I love to eat them hot, but they are also good room temperature. Leftovers are delicious as well the next day. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Peperonata is a delicious side dish that originates in the Puglia region of Italy. It makes a GREAT accompaniment to any meat dish. One nice thing about peperonata is that it can be made ahead of time, and reheated just prior to serving. It is also tasty served room temperature. The peppers and onions make this side dish a very colorful addition to any meal.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
About 6 sweet peppers, preferably a combination of red, orange, and yellow, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes, or about a pound of fresh diced roma tomatoes.
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot, and then add the onion and garlic.  Saute them until they get a nice golden color.
Add the peppers, and cook over a medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the canned or fresh tomatoes to the peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Reduce the heat a little, and let the pepper and onion  mixture continue to cook until the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.  This will probably take about another 10 minutes more.
The peperonata can be served immediately, or can be reheated later. It is a fresh, simple classic. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Funghetti Trifolati

I truly love mushrooms! For a lot of different reasons. They remind me of when I was younger and used to take huge hikes in September in the Alps. I love the smell of the trees right after it has rained, and that earthy scent is very characteristic of places where you can find a nice bunch of porcini. There are infinite varieties of mushrooms, and the beauty of this vegetable is that the flavor and aroma are so intense and delicate that most of the time you do not need to cook them for a long time or add any particular spices. The versatility of mushrooms is so vast that you can have them pretty much with anything you like; pasta, rice, chicken, meat. I really enjoy this particular recipe because it is very simple, fresh and easy to cook.

1 pound mixed variety of mushrooms, such as cremini
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of fresh Italian parsely, chopped
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine

First, in a large skillet  let the oil get hot. Then add the garlic saute until it takes on a golden color, without burning it. When the garlic is ready, add the mushrooms and let them release their juice and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes. At first the mushrooms look big, but they will shrink a lot.  Don't worry if it appears to be a lot at first.  When the mushroom has released all the liquid and it is reduced a bit, add the white wine and let it reduce for another 5 minutes , until the juice reaches a nice consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, sprinkle the parsley on top.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marinated Three Bean Salad

This three bean salad is my mom's recipe, and I suspect it has been around a while, because my copy was typed on a typewriter. Three bean salad is a classic American side dish for a reason. It's delicious, it is simple to make, and it is especially ideal for picnics and outdoor gatherings since it doesn't demand refrigeration.  There are many variations of three bean salad, but most all are composed of various types of beans, and a sweet vinaigrette. It is best when made at least a day ahead of time so that the beans can marinate overnight and gain more flavor. It's great at picnics, and as an accompaniment to grilled meat.
1 aprox. 14 oz. can cut green beans
1 aprox. 14 oz. can yellow wax beans
1 aprox. 14 oz. can red kidney beans
 1/2 cup minced green pepper
1 diced onion
For the vinaigrette combine the following:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. black pepper
In a large bowl, preferably one with a lid drain and combine all of the beans.  Add the diced onion and the minced green pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the bean mixture, and refrigerate it overnight.  Stir the three bean salad mixture occasionally to continually blend the marinade over the beans. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  It is tasty chilled or at room temperature.  Simple and enjoyable!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Risotto with Shrimp and Arugula

Risotto is a classic Italian rice dish  . The beauty of risotto is that it is so versatile. Whether it's meat, fish, or vegetables the key to a delicious risotto is using the finest and freshest ingredients that the season has to offer.
Risotto originates in northern Italy, and is quite prevalent in the regional cuisines of Piemonte, Lombardia, and Veneto. When I make risotto I always use arborio rice, which in my opinion gives a nice texture. In Italy, risotto would never be served as a side dish, it is the first course. This risotto with shrimp and arugula is simple enough to do on a weeknight, yet elegant enough to serve on a special occasion with a nice bottle of white wine. While most risotto is served with a generous sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano cheese, notice it is purposely omitted from this recipe. To combine cheese with your shellfish, or any fish for that matter is a cardinal sin of Italian cuisine. If you want to garnish this dish, go for the fresh parsley.
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, tail off
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh arugula
2 cups arborio rice
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tbsp butter
vegetable bouillon cube (optional)
In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable broth to a simmer. Keep it simmering while you cook the risotto.
In a large heavy bottom skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then saute the onion and garlic until they soften and take on a nice golden brown color.
Next add the rice to the saucepan, and saute it with the olive oil and onion for a minute or two, so that it gets slightly golden.
Now it is time to add the broth. Using a ladle, Add the broth to the rice mixture. You want to cover but not drown the rice. Stir in the broth almost constantly until it is mostly absorbed by the rice. As the liquid is absorbed, continue to add more. The amount of liquid a rice will absorb varies, but on average it will take about 20 minutes for the rice to reach the desired al dente tenderness. You might use most of the vegetable broth, in the case that your rice needs more liquid, you can dilute the broth with water. You can add a vegetable bouillon cube if you want to give the broth a stronger flavor. Continue the process of stirring and adding more broth until the rice is tender but firm. After about 15 minutes (or when you think the rice is about 5 minutes away from being done.) of adding broth and stirring,  add the shrimp to the rice mixture. Continue stirring. When the rice is al dente, the shrimp is cooked through, and the broth has been mostly absorbed, stir in the arugula. At this point your can stir in the last tablespoon of butter to give the risotto a glossy finish. No garnish is necessary except perhaps a bit of freshly chopped parley if you've got it on hand. Enjoy with a nice prosecco or other favorite white wine.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Everytime I mention the word sangria, everyone always says, "MMMmmmm! I love sangria!" But how rarely we actually drink it. I am always so hesitant to order it out, because for my taste it is usually syrupy sweet. That ruins it for me. I like my sangria somewhat dry, with the nice fruit flavor in the background. In my book, the wine is should still be the star of this show. Sangria is REALLY simple to make, and it is a real crowd pleaser.
The word "sangria" is a derivative of the Spanish word sangre(blood) or sangrar(to bleed). In many ways sangre is a part of the lifeblood of Spanish culture. Depending on your meal pairing, it can be made with red or white wine. I personally only make it with red wine. You can experiment with different types of wines and fruits. While you can choose whatever red wine you have on hand, my first choice would be a Spanish rioja. Ideally you would make it at least a day or two before you intend to drink it, to allow time for the flavors to come together.
1 bottle (750ml) red wine (riojs is a good choice)
1/2 cup triple sec
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2 lemon sliced
1/2 cup sliced fresh stone fruit, such as peaches, plums or apricots
Some people add soda water, I don't.
When I make sangria, I combine all of the above ingredients in a hermetically sealed jar, and I refrigerate it for at least 24 hours before serving. Serve the sangria in a red wine glass, you can add some ice if you wish. Give the sangria a stir before serving, and enjoy with some nice tapas, or perhaps with a steak meal. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Linguine al pesto genovese

The origins of pesto genovese go way back in time, to Genova, in the Ligurian region of Italy. The word pesto comes from the verb "pestare" which loosely translated, means to crush. Traditionally, pesto genovese would be made with the mortar and pestle. You would grind the ingredients until they reached the consistency of a paste.  While that method is surely tasty, and much more romantic, in my household convenience wins over on this one. The food processor is a pesto making champion. I can not stress enough the superiority of homemade pesto over anything you will buy in a store. Envelopes or jars? Yuck!!! Refrigerator section of Trader Joe's? Still not quite there. There is no substitute for making it fresh. So, here we go:
4 ounces fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted is better, raw is okay)
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese, or parmigiano reggiano
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
a few shakes of sea salt
1 pound linguine (I suggest Barilla)
In your food processor combine all of the above ingredients. Pulse the food processor until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. All of the ingredients should be blended together to form a kind of thick paste consistency. You may need to add more olive oil. Set the pesto aside until you are ready to use it.
In a large pot, bring your pasta water to a rapid boil. Add a handful of rock salt. Then cook your pasta according to package directions, or until it is al dente. When pasta reaches desired doneness, strain it and set aside. Put the pasta pot back on the burner over a low heat, and put all of the pesto in the bottom of the pot. Then pour in all of the pasta. Turn the heat up to medium, and stir the pasta until the pesto is uniformly distributed, and the pasta is nice and hot. If the pasta seems sticky or dry, add more olive oil. Serve your pasta with a nice additional sprinkling of the pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese. Enjoy, it is going to be delicious. I like a nice dry white wine with this dish, like a chardonnay.
This pesto recipe can also be used to make a cold pasta salad.   You can get some farfalle instead of linguine, throw in a half pound of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes. Toss, chill, and serve cold. It is a tasty favorite for a summer lunch or a picnic potluck.