SEMOLINA AND PECORINO CRUSTED CHICKEN CUTLETS
Cook for 2-3 minutes per side in a skillet with olive oil on medium to medium-high heat.
Heat at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until warm in the center.
NDUJA AND BEEF MEATBALLS WITH SIMPLE POMODORO SAUCE
Roast the meatballs in a baking dish in a pre- heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Heat sauce while meatballs are browning and add them to the sauce to finish cooking.
Leeks should get more of a star treatment than they do. How about a gratin, layered with roasted leeks, parmigiano and breadcrumbs? Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse well to get rid of any excess dirt. It tends to hide pretty well so wash thoroughly. Season with olive oil and salt and place on a sheet pan. Put into a 350 degree oven and roast until just tender with a little color. These will go back into the oven so you don’t want them to cook too far. Remove them from the oven and place in a small baking dish. Layer with grated parmigiano, a couple tablespoons of butter, then season with the black pepper and nutmeg. Cover the top layer with more Parm and breadcrumbs and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Over the years many people have told me they don’t like scallops. I think, for the most part that means you simply have not had it properly prepared. When cooked just until warm in the center, or thinly sliced, or even raw and simply dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, you will hopefully be quite pleased. Heat a sauté pan to high heat (or a grill), add a touch of olive oil to the pan and season the scallops with kosher salt. Add them to the pan and turn down to medium high heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes until golden brown and then flip over. Cook for another 20 or seconds just until it’s slightly warm in the center. Remove from the pan. Simply dress with pearly leaves, lemon juice, capers and olive oil.
PERSIMMONS, RICOTTA, PISTACHIOS
Everyone looks forward to the fall apple and pear harvest, but one fruit that is a little more difficult to find, is the persimmon. Persimmons usually grow on the west coast here in the states, and are very popular in Italy (called Cachi in Italian). My favorite memory of eating this fruit in Italy was at a rice farm in the North. It was incredibly ripe and soft with a dollop of mascarpone. Basically dessert for breakfast. I go a little more savory in this preparation. If you end up with one that is hard, keep on the counter for a few days to soften, ideally next to some apples. Cut the persimmon into wedges, and lay flat on a plate. Squeeze a lemon over the top and drizzle with your best olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Grill or toast a piece of bread and smear with whipped ricotta. Garnish with basil and chopped pistachios.
LINGUINE DIAVOLA WITH MUSSELS AND CLAMS
A little twist on traditional vongole! Make sure to rinse your shellfish very well. In a large pan on medium heat, add garlic, chili flakes, olive oil, clams and mussels. Add white wine and cover. Checking every 30 seconds or so, remove each piece as they open and set aside on a sheet pan. When they have all opened, add diavola sauce or any of the MP red sauces to the pan. This will marry the juice from the seafood and the wine to enhance your sauce. Remove all of the shells from the mussels and clams and add back into the sauce. Immediately set aside as to not overcook. Drop your spaghetti into heavily salted water and cook until al dente. Remove with tongs and drop straight into the sauce. Turn heat for the sauce back on and cook for another 30-60 seconds to marry. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley. Will bring your soul right to Southern Italy!
PARSLEY ROOT WITH ANCHOVY VINAIGRETTE
Preheat and oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cut the root into disks, about a 1/2 inch thick. Toss with olive oil and salt and place on a sheet pan. Place in the oven and cook for appox. 20 minutes until tender and caramelized. Remove from the oven and toss in a vinaigrette made from chopped anchovies, chopped parsley, chili flake, black pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Garnish with whole parsley leaves.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RIBOLLITA
There is nothing more satisfying on a chilly day than a hearty bowl of ribollita soup (it is really more of a stew). It's a Tuscan classic that I upgraded a bit with the use of squash. Peel and cut squash into small cubes, about 1-2 inchs large. Place on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 until you see a bit of color and the pieces are still quite firm (it will cook more in the soup). Cut a soffrito of onions, garlic, celery, and fennel. Set aside. Tear bread into large pieces and leave to sit out a bit to dry. In a large dutch oven, add olive oil and cook the soffrito on medium heat until slightly softened. Add beans (white cannelini or butter) that have been soaked overnight. Add water and a touch of san marzano tomato, a parmigiano rind, rosemary, thyme, sage and chili flake. Cook on low heat and add the squash once the beans are tender. Add the torn bread, and let cook until it starts to break down. Add a hearty amount of kale. Let sit for a solid hour to allow all the ingredients absorb together. It should be thick. Spoon into large bowls, garnish with parmigiano, fresh rosemary and a splash of your best olive oil.
WHOLE ROASTED CELERY ROOT
Earthy and hearty, this is a dish you can enjoy on its own for dinner. Today I am roasting it whole on a bed of salt tossed in olive oil. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1-2 hours until it is fork tender and slightly crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven and slice into thick disks. Heat a large saute pan to medium and add olive oil. Roast on each side 3-5 minutes until golden. Garnish with pecorino and hazelnuts.
CHARRED SHISHITO PEPPERS
Shishitos have become fairly popular in restaurants and when done well, can be quite satisfying. They're a quick appetizer, cocktail snack or side dish. I love them grilled, but you can roast as well if preferred. Toss the peppers in a little olive oil and season with salt. Place on a hot grill and cook until charred. Place in a bowl, toss with garlic powder (one of my very secret weapons - I like one that is bit coarser in texture), fennel pollen, chopped lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you don't have a grill you can also cook them on a sheetpan in an oven set to 450 degrees!
BAKED RICOTTA & HOT HONEY
We all know ricotta & toast and ricotta filled pastas. So here is something new to try! Baked ricotta is one of my go-to dishes for either a sweeter appetizer or a savory dessert. Today we're landing somewhere in between with a drizzle of hot honey over the top. To begin, drain the ricotta in a colander to rid the excess water. If you can do this overnight, great. If not, a few hours will do. Line a nonstick muffin pan with olive oil and fill the cups as high to the brim as possible until you have used all the ricotta. Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees and place the muffin tin in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes until the tops are golden and the ricotta has set a bit. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Place a cookie sheet lined with parchment over the muffin tin and flip it over gently so the ricotta is now on the tray. You may need to tap a bit or loosen with a paring knife first. Drizzle a little more olive oil and top with rosemary, thyme, lemon and orange peel. Place the ricotta back in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the outside is caramelized. Remove the herbs and citrus and place on a serving platter. Drizzle MP hot honey over the top and garnish with fresh rosemary and thyme leaves.
Ok.. we've mastered roasting, grilling and spatchcocking this summer. So onto fried chicken, with a Missy twist. Certainly on the spectrum of more indulgent dishes, but well worth it. Break your chicken into 8 pieces, keeping the bone in. Generously salt the pieces on all sides and let sit for 30 min to one hour. Once salted, place pieces in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. While the chicken is soaking, make a mixture of 50% flour and 50% polenta. (You can also use only flour if you do not have polenta) Mix with crushed fennel seed, ground chili flake and paprika. It should have enough spices that you can see them in the mixture. Dredge each piece of chicken completely in the flour mix and place on a parchment lined tray. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour (overnight is ideal - you will get a crispier skin). Heat a large dutch oven or cast iron pan to medium high and pour 50% canola oil and 50% olive oil. Add the chicken one piece at a time. You will most likely need to fry it in a few batches. Fry on medium heat so that the pieces cook all the way through and the skin becomes crispy and golden, about 10-12 minutes a side. (If you need to finish in the oven to ensure its cooked all the way through, you can at a low heat). Keep in mind that the wings will take a little less time than the rest - fry the first and snack on them while cooking the rest! Remove pieces from the oil and place on a serving platter. Finish with fennel pollen, ground chili, and salt.
This is a family recipe from my grandmother that I've improved over the years. One thing that hasn't changed is the use of caraway which lends an earthy, hearty note to an otherwise fairly simple dish. It has been on the table at every holiday and reminds me of festive times. It is essentially comprised of a cream-less gratin, instead using chicken fat (aka schmaltz) to add richness and depth. Since I like to Italianize everything, I sub out schmaltz for olive oil and add lemon zest, garlic, onions, parmigiano, and rosemary. Slice the potatoes, onions and garlic very thin. Begin layering them in a small casserole dish. Each layer should have potato, garlic, and onion. Top with finely chopped lemon zest, parmigiano, salt, caraway seed and a drizzle of olive oil. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven uncovered until fork tender and crispy.
BRAISED FORTEX BEANS
We've been eating every variety of green bean all summer long, mostly grilled or in salads. As the season for beans winds down and colder weather calls for heartier cooking, we turn to braising beans simply in tomato sauce. Start with a bit of garlic and olive oil in the pan. Sweat the garlic without adding color, and then add the beans. Toss until coated with the oil and garlic. Add tomato sauce and slightly thin out with water. Turn the heat to low and cook until the beans are slightly softened but still have a bit of bite. Remove from the pan and place into a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, crushed red pepper and pecorino romano.
Short ribs are the first thing I think of first when leaves start to turn color and fall slowly off the trees. I love braising meat almost as much as I love grilling it, and since I only do it a few months out of the year it's made even more special. I love a simple braise with soffrito (carrots, onions, celery, fennel), lots of herbs, red wine, a touch of tomato and a bit of balsamic. This one takes some time, but is a great Sunday afternoon project. Make sure to heavily salt your ribs and let them sit for a minimum of 3 hours. If you have time you can let them sit covered overnight in the fridge. Place a large dutch oven on medium high heat, add olive oil and sear the short ribs on all sides until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan, and scrape out any burned bits. Add the soffrito and cook until softened on medium heat, 8-10 minutes. Add the shortribs back to the pan and add red wine. Reduce it by about half to cook off the alcohol. Add the herbs (thyme, bay, rosemary), a touch of tomato and a drizzle of balsamic. Add stock or water to just an inch or two below the top. Cover and place in a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours, until meat is just falling off the bone. Skim any excess fat, place in bowls and drizzle a touch more balsamic over the top. Serve with toasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic for dipping.
OSSO BUCO STYLE BRAISED CHICKEN
Braising season is upon us and there is nothing quite as satisfying as a hearty, meaty stew. For years I have had a go-to Osso Buco recipe and have recently adapted it for poultry - first for a Thanksgiving turkey leg and then again for chicken. While there is some work involved, I promise it will bring a great amount of joy to your table. Cut your chicken into 8 pieces. Reserve the breasts for another day. Salt the thighs, legs, and wings and set aside. Make a soffrito by cutting a small amount of celery, onion, carrot, and fennel. Slice five cloves of garlic. Heat a large dutch oven to medium. Add olive oil and then add the chicken pieces skin side down. Cook slowly to render some of the fat from the skin; about 5-8 minutes until golden brown. Turn over and lightly brown the flesh side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the soffrito and a touch more olive oil (if needed) and cook the vegetable about 8-10 minutes while occasionally stirring. You want them softened with color but not mushy. When the vegetables are finished add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute. Add a cup of white wine and reduce slightly to cook off the alcohol. Add the previously cooked chicken, san marzano tomatoes and their juices, and water or chicken stock. The liquid should come about 3/4 up the chicken pieces but not fully covered. Cover with a lid, turn to a slow simmer and cook for about 45-1 hour until meat is almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken skin, plate into serving bowls, drizzle your best olive oil, and sprinkle some fennel pollen.
HOT PEPPER VINAIGRETTE
Hot peppers can be, well, HOT. I am always looking for new varieties, new uses, and how to balance them whilst cooking so they do not burn my mouth off. This summer I started making a simple condiment of very finely chopped hot chilies, garlic and vinegar. The vinegar tempers the chilies a little without taking away their dynamic flavors. You can use right away but it can also sit in a jar over a few days and the flavors will only improve. I love this over grilled meats, fish and vegetables. It adds just the right amount of heat and acid.
SWEET WHITE FINGERLINGS
Toss in a touch of olive oil and season with salt. Lay on a sheet pan and roast the sweet potatoes whole at 350 degrees for about a 1/2 hour, until tender when pricked with a fork. I love to balance these little sweet potatoes with something extremely savory to counter some of the sweetness. Make a very simple yogurt sauce by adding grated garlic and sea salt. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with cracked coriander and chili flake.
BLACK BASS AND ARTICHOKES
Part of our goal in bringing MP to you is to make your cooking easier, using the best products possible. We all need nights where we can do a quick, easy, and healthy dinner. While the MP SPECIALTIES Artichokes are fantastic on their own, I encourage you to incorporate them into other dishes. For this one, preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Season the bass with salt and place skin side up in a baking dish. Add olive oil, white wine, a touch of water and chili flake. Take your MP Artichokes out of the jar and cut in half. Place around the fish in the baking dish. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add those as well. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 10 minutes until fish is cooked through. Remove from the oven and gently place the fish into serving bowls. Spoon the vegetables on top. Finish with parsley and breadcrumbs.
CELERY, POTATOES, AND OLIVES
Celery is underrated in my opinion. It is the star of the show in this dish, offering crunch and saltiness to a simple but robust salad. Place your fingerling potatoes in a pot with cold water, a few sprigs of thyme and some chili flake. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from the pot and cool. Slice the potatoes into disks and set aside. Remove the celery leaf from the stems and set aside. Peel your celery stems and slice on a bias. Add the potatoes, celery, celery leaf and black olives to a bowl. Dress with black pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Serve on its own or to accompany any fish dish.
This little cabbage seemed to enter the market out of nowhere a few years ago and has been trending ever since. It's popped up on menus all over New York in every cooking method possible. While I love a long braised cabbage in the cold winter months, this particular variety and this time of year lends well to grilling or pan searing. Split the cabbage into quarters and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Season with salt. Place on a hot grill and cook for 15-20 minutes while turning to cook evenly on all sides until leaves are wilted. Remove dark leaves from exterior, cut off the core, and juice a half lemon on top. Place on a serving plate and finish with grated parmigiano, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
CAULIFLOWER AND CARROTS SOTT'ACETO
Some people will think of this as giardiniera, to others it’s just a pickled vegetable. My version is a sort of quick pickle, marinated version. It’s tangy and spicy and a great way to bring these humble vegetables to life. Cut small florets off the cauliflower and set aside. Peel and slice the carrots thin, about 1/8 of an inch. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the carrots for 5-10 seconds and shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Add the cauliflower to the pot and cook for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove and cool in an ice bath as well. Drain the vegetables and pat dry with a towel. Add white wine vinegar, chile flake, thick sliced garlic that has been sweated in olive oil, fennel seed, cracked coriander seed, bay leaf, and cracked black pepper. Cover with a touch of olive oil. Let sit for a bit to marinate. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.
I love to roast these whole and slowly. Cut the top off and scoop out the seeds. Fill the cavity with sage, butter, olive oil, rosemary, garlic and a Parmigiano rind. Place in a preheated 325 degree oven, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, uncovering to get some color in the last 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the cooking herbs. Add fresh leaves of sage and rosemary, olive oil, chili flake and grated Parmigiano. Serve with a spoon and some grilled bread on the side. Scoop the flesh out onto the bread for a great starter or side dish.
I love a good frittata. I learned to make them with vegetables bound by egg, instead of the other way around. I love the sweet acidity of a tomato frittata. Crack six eggs and whisk gently being careful not to add too much air. Place a large no-stick sauté pan on a medium flame. Add a touch of olive oil, and then add the cherry tomatoes until they slightly burst open. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the eggs in and swirl to get them in one layer. Add dollops of ricotta and return the pan to a very low flame. Cover with a lid and cook for 8-10 minutes, just until the eggs are set. Slide out of the pan onto a plate. Finish with fresh herbs.
OLIVE OIL POACHED TUNA
We all know that tuna is delicious when seared to rare or eaten raw, but one of the preparations I enjoy the most is slow poaching in olive oil with a ton of aromatics. This does require a lot of olive oil, but it is well worth the results. Season the tuna with salt and set aside. Place olive oil into a sauce pan (enough so that the tuna is completely submerged, plus an inch). Add lemon peel, orange peel, smashed garlic cloves, black peppercorns, crushed red pepper, thyme, marjoram, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds. Slowly warm the olive oil on low heat. When warm, but not boiling hot, add the tuna to the pan and gently cook on low heat for 5-10 min until cooked through but not well done. Remove pan from heat and let tuna cool in the oil. Use right away or store in the oil in a tightly sealed container. Great for a quick salad for lunch, a Mediterranean style sandwich or mixed with Calabrian chiles and herbs for an aperitivi snack.
BRAISED YUKON GOLD POTATOES
Peel and slice the potatoes about ¼ inch thick. Place them in a large saute pan. Season with salt. Add equal parts olive oil and water, a few cloves of garlic, thyme, rosemary, and lemon peel. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until cooked through but not too soft. You don’t want them to fall apart. Finish with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve as a side to any fish, chicken or beef dish.
ANCHOVY GARLIC BUTTER
This is a simple thing to keep in the fridge and use throughout the week, to simply dip a radish in, spread on toast with the last of season tomatoes, drizzle on roasted escarole or toss in pasta for a quick dinner. Chop anchovies and set aside. Soften the butter by leaving it out at room temperature for an hour or so. Finely chop garlic and sweat it in olive oil on low heat until aromatic. Let the garlic cool. Chop anchovies. Gently fold the garlic and anchovies into the butter. Store in a tightly sealed jar or roll into a cylinder with parchment paper for easy slicing.
BITTER GREEN SALAD WITH APPLES AND BACON
This salad screams fall to me, a perfect balance of bitter, sweet, fat, and acid. Use all the greens including puntarelle, radicchio, and escarole. Render bacon into crisp pieces, reserving the fat. Toss with red wine vinegar, bacon fat, and sliced apples. Shave parmigiano over the top and a few grinds of black pepper to finish.
Pears are not the most prevalent item in my cuisine, but when you get a good one it’s worth it. I prefer pears raw, crisp, and used in savory dishes. Try thinly slicing them and dressing them with a squeeze of lemon, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and crumbled Pecorino Romano for a salty and sweet salad. Add fresh picked thyme leaves to finish.
Delicate squash is one of my favorite varieties. For instance, it is much less sweet than a butternut. As always, I try to balance any sweetness with heat. In this case, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place a few tablespoons of butter in each cavity. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs, along with salt, crushed red pepper, and olive oil. Place in a 350 degree oven uncovered and roast for 25-30 minutes until golden in color and the flesh is tender, but not too soft. Remove from the oven. Remove the herbs. Sprinkle with sea salt, and more fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs. Add a generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano to finish.
I’m sure most of you are surprised to see these in the bag this week. While not typically used in Italian cuisine, there are rare occasions where I veer in a different direction when cooking at home. Tomatillos have the acidity of tomatoes with a little less sweetness. This week, try making a grilled tomatillo vinaigrette for fish or chicken. Remove the husks and rinse with cold water, place on a grill and cook until softened and charred on the outside. Cut onion slices and place on grill as well until softened and charred on the outside and any fresh hot chili of your choice. Roughly chop all of the ingredients. Add salt and lime juice. You may need to add a touch of water as tomatillos tend to thicken as they sit. Use on any grilled fish or it is also perfect on a grilled spatchcock chicken (see last week's tips!).
Beets seem to have lovers and haters and not many in between. Beets, when cooked and dressed properly, can be great. I like to wrap them in foil with salt, a touch of water, olive oil, and aromatics. Coriander seed, black peppercorns, and a cinnamon stick work great. We are dealing with another vegetable with natural sweetness so I like to balance that with acid. Once the beets are wrapped, place them in a oven at 325 degrees. Cook for 30-35 minutes and remove from oven. To test doneness, put a paring knife into the flesh. It should go through easily. Let cool. Put on some gloves and remove the skin by gently rubbing it off. This is a messy job! Dress the beets with orange zest, red wine vinegar, black pepper, chili, and chopped dill.
This style of cooking a whole chicken is one of my favorites, yielding a crispy but moist bird. With poultry sheers or a sharp knife, remove the backbone of the chicken so that it lies flat. Salt for a minimum of a half hour and rub with a mixture of garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, and oregano and crushed red pepper. Light a grill to low medium heat and place the chicken skin side down. Let cook for 10-15 minutes, while moving it around on the grill so it crisps and colors evenly. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Cut into pieces and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with more fresh herbs.
Figs signify late summer and the beginning of fall. They are around for a short time each year and have the versatility to be used savory or sweet. I prefer to use them in savory dishes, balancing their inherent sweetness with the char of a grill or a quick roast in the oven, paired with black pepper, basil and balsamic. When served with grilled bread and ricotta you have the perfect aperitivi snack to serve with a negroni or spritz.
SLOW ROASTED FENNEL
By now you have seen me use fennel many, many, many ways. In case you can’t tell, it’s one of my favorite vegetables and I am determined to make you fall in love with it too. From raw, to grilled, to caramelized, I find it to be one of the most interesting vegetables, often underutilized. What I love is that each cooking technique brings out a different flavor and texture. In this method, wrap in foil, drizzle olive oil and salt over fennel bulbs with a splash of water (the water allows it to steam) and roast it slowly on a low temperature of 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the foil. Cut in half and drizzle with more olive oil, sea salt, and lemon. Finish with fennel pollen and fennel fronds.
A late summer and fall luxury, these are one of my favorite mushrooms. Nutty, earthy and textured, they are great on their own, in pasta, or egg dishes.
The trickiest part is making sure they are clean. Lightly brush the top and bottom of the cap with a pastry brush or kitchen towel. (You don’t want to put them in water as they are like sponges.) To clean the stem, run a small paring knife down the side to gently scrape off the very outer layer. Once clean, sauté on low heat with olive oil, butter, and a sprig of thyme and rosemary until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
Corn season will soon come to an end so I am trying to get as much of it in as possible. Corn on the cob, corn and tomato salad, simple buttered corn. How about an Italian riff on an American classic, creamed corn? Cut your corn off the cob. Gently sauté it with butter and garlic on low heat, just until it warms through. I like my corn with a lot of bite to it. Instead of adding cream, I gently fold in whipped ricotta while off of the heat. Make sure to continually stir so the ricotta does not break. Finish with Parmigiano Reggiano and black pepper.
A variety resembling the San Marzano of Italy. Great to use for a quick tomato sauce. Score the bottom of the tomato with a small x. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set up an ice water bath on the side. Put the tomatoes in for 10-15 seconds. Remove from the boiling water and shock to stop the cooking in the cold water. Remove from the water once cool and gently peel the skin away from the tomato. Cut the tomato in half and squeeze out the seeds. Rough chop the remaining flesh of the tomatoes. Heat a sauté pan to low, add a generous amount of olive oil. Add garlic and sweat for 15-20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes until they start to break down. Season with salt and use with pasta, poached eggs or even cook fish in it. The simplest of tomato sauce as the end of the season draws near (not yet, but soon).
SALT ROASTED FISH
One of my favorite ways to cook a whole fish is in a salt crust. Its simpler than it looks and its elegant.
Fill the cavity of the fish with lemon slices, garlic cloves and herbs. Make a mixture of salt (approximately 3 pounds), coriander seed, fennel seed, and chili flake. Gradually add water until you have the consistency of wet sand. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place approximately ½ the salt mixture on the paper and shape into an oval slightly larger than the fish. Place the fish on top and add the rest of the salt on top, packing in the fish.
Place the fish in a preheated 450 degree oven. Cook for approximately 25-30 min. The salt should be completely hard. Remove from the oven. Tap a spoon on the crust and remove gently from the fish.
Place the fish on a serving platter. Squeeze lemon juice and your best olive oil over the top. Gently remove the flesh from the bone and serve.
When carrots are prepared with love they go from ordinary to extraordinary quickly. Wash thoroughly and toss in olive oil and salt. Place on a medium grill and cook for 15-20 minute until charred and softened slightly. Remove from the grill and toss in Calabrian chili, a squeeze of lemon and orange, and finish with chopped almonds and fresh marjoram.
Also known as ground cherries or gooseberries and covered in a little husk (like a tomatillo) that needs to be removed before eating. Think of this fruit as a very sweet tomato that can cross the lines between sweet and savory. Mix into a tomato salad for an unexpected surprise, use with yogurt for breakfast, or put over vanilla gelato with almonds and honey for a sophisticated sundae.
Swordfish is a rich and flavorful oily fish. The most common mistake with swordfish is overcooking which makes it dry and dull. Swordfish should be cooked to a medium rare/medium. Simply season with salt and rub with finely chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and parsley. Place on a hot grill and cook for 3-5 minutes a side. Remove from the grill and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Serve with capers, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, oregano and crushed red pepper.
Also referred to as the sunchoke, think of this as a more flavorful, earthy, nutty potato. Toss in olive oil and salt. Place on a sheet pan with some garlic cloves and thyme. Place in a 350 degree oven and cook until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Serve as is or let cool, cut in half and crisp in a sauté pan flesh side down for extra flavor and texture. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, thyme leaves and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
When a quality egg is cooked properly there is nothing better. One of my favorites is a perfect 7 minute egg yielding a creamy yolk and set white. I use them for breakfast with simple garnishes like black pepper and pecorino, or for the more adventurous Calabrian chili and anchovy. Bring water to a boil. Add the whole eggs and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the water and run under cold water while peeling the shell.
While cherry tomatoes have my heart, beefsteaks have their place. Maybe nothing better than a sliced tomato on a piece of grilled bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Sicilian sea salt.
If you have unpacked your bag, it must be clear by now that I have a huge love for herbs. For me, the uses are endless, from salsa verde (parsley and chives) to marinades (rosemary), to using them as an ingredient to tie a whole dish together, just by using it as a garnish. Using herbs is a simple and quick way to add a ton of flavor to your food. While rosemary, parsley, chives, mint, marjoram and basil make up the core of my herbal toolkit, summer gardens bring a few more options into the mix. This week we included anise hyssop and lemon basil. Anise hyssop has a lemony, earthy, licorice flavor and lemon basil has bright acidic lemon notes to the background of basil. Both are perfect additions to salads, and work especially well with cucumbers.
Fennel is one of my favorite and most used ingredients. From salads to roasting to grilling as well as using it in soffrito for ragus and soups, I find it to be one of the most versatile vegetables in the mix, and one of the most interesting. While when used raw it has a strong anise flavor and crunch, when you roast it, it becomes more dynamic. The natural sugars caramelize and it brings out a sweetness. The longer you cook, the more flavor you can draw from it. Cut it into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle fennel seeds and chili flake over the top with a few sprigs of rosemary, and then slowly roast it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Check on it occasionally and when it is nice and golden brown sprinkle with a generous amount of grated Parmigiano and place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese crisps and browns a bit. Remove from the oven, drizzle with balsamic, and a julienne of orange zest. Dust with fennel pollen and grind some black pepper over the top.
Puntarelle is a tough ingredient to find, so when I see it on a farmer's list I grab it. Most commonly found in Rome all over the markets, it is a crunchy, slightly bitter green in the chicory family, almost always simply dressed with an anchovy vinaigrette. The Italian varietal uses mostly the inner core but the variety found stateside you can use the leaves and stems. Break up the leaves and cut the stems into small pieces. Make a simple vinaigrette with chopped anchovies, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar and chili flake. Remove the puntarelle from the ice bath. Dry with a towel, mix with the vinaigrette and serve. This is one of the classics that needs to stay a classic. And since none of us are traveling to Rome this summer hopefully it will make you feel like you’re there.
Steam, roast, sear, braise. This is one versatile piece of fish. Try grilling it this week. Season with salt, brush with a small amount of olive oil. Heat your grill to medium high heat and brush the grill with a tiny bit of oil to prevent sticking. Place the filets of bass on the grill skin side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes skin side down. The fish will cook almost all the way through. Flip it for 30 seconds just to finish cooking. While the fish is cooking, make a salad of Juliet tomatoes cut in half, capers and olives dressed with salt, a tiny bit of red wine vinegar and the best olive oil you have in your home. The juices from the tomatoes will start to seep out as it sits and create the sauce for your fish. Remove the fish from the grill, top with the salad and garnish with both types of basil.
TROMBONCINO SUMMER SQUASH
An heirloom variety being made popular again by local farmers, this varietal is super sweet and not too seedy. I love to cut it into small pieces about 2 inches big and cook until soft in heavily salted boiling water. While I usually like my vegetables like I like my pasta, AL DENTE, this preparation takes the squash to a softer place which brings out its flavor. Cook for 5-8 minutes until you can mash it slightly with a fork. Strain from the water and place in a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork and drizzle extra virgin olive oil in along with a squeeze of lemon juice and course sea salt. This for me, is the essence of Italian cooking. It is all about the main ingredient and extracting the best from it. Nothing more. As my mentor, Tony Mantuano always says, the most important ingredient in Italian cooking is the one you leave out.
Cauliflower, in my opinion, is under appreciated. I think many of us grew up with the overcooked steamed variety and could never get over that. It wasn’t until recently that I learned to really appreciate it. Best when cut into little planks, caramelized slowly in a pan with olive oil and then tossed with red wine vinegar, chopped garlic, coriander seed, chilies, and a touch of honey. Finish with whole parsley leaves.
One of my favorite dishes from the MISI menu is the roasted leeks with anchovy vinaigrette. Simply roast the leeks in the oven (at 350) with olive oil and salt until they are tender but still have texture. They are small so about 20 minutes will do in the oven. Make a vinaigrette with chopped anchovy, chopped garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar and Calabrian chilies. Dress the leeks generously with the vinaigrette and garnish with whole parsley leaves and chopped pistachios.
Most people don’t think of celery as the star of a dish. But it can be and especially when you have great quality product from a farm. The leaves and stalk are equally as tasty. In fact, I may love the leaf even more.
For a great salad, peel and thinly slice the stalk. Roughly chop the leaves. Toss with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil and chopped walnuts (or almonds or pistachios). Add generous shavings of pecorino cheese.
Summer squash comes in all shapes and sizes. This week you have a small round variety called 8 Ball. One of my favorite varieties, and best when slowly roasted whole. It brings out the sweetness and gives a creamy texture. Place the squash in a deep pan on a bed of salt. Cut a few slashes in the skin. Sprinkle with more salt and olive oil. Place a few garlic cloves in the pan, along with chili flake and herbs (marjoram and thyme work great). Cover with a top or foil. Place in a pre- heated, 325 degree oven for about 1 hour until fork tender. Remove the top from the zucchini, and smash down a bit so the flesh is showing. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, with generous amounts of olive oil, toasted breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano or pecorino and basil leaves.
SUNGOLD TOMATO SAUCE
For a simple Sungold tomato sauce for pasta or even fish, cook some thinly sliced garlic for 10-15 seconds in a pan in olive oil. Add your Sungold tomatoes and cook until they start to burst open about 35 minutes. Add a touch of chili flake and salt. Cook pasta of your choice and add a bit of pasta water to the sauce while finishing to marry it all together.
Heirloom tomatoes in the peak of the season need nothing more than your best quality olive oil, thinly sliced Tropea onions. A splash of red wine vinegar brings balance and coarse sea salt brings out all the best flavor. And always, finish with herbs and spices. You have fresh coriander seeds which will lend an earthy, lemony note. It's a truly special ingredient only available in the peak of summer.
JIMMY NARDELLO PEPPERS
Jimmy Nardello peppers. They are great roasted over a grill until charred or in a high oven. I love to marinate them afterward in Calabrian chilies, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and capers. They work well as their own side dish or spooned over fish or chicken
Best way to cook potatoes: Wrap in foil with olive oil, garlic cloves, rosemary ( or really any herb you like) Cook in a 325-degree oven for about one hour ( fingerlings are small) or until softened.
We all think of mussels in broth. Change it up by opening them on a grill. Place on a hot grill and cover with a large saute pan or bowl. Cook until they just start to open. Remove from the grill. Let cool slightly. Break off the part of the shell not holding the meat. Melt some butter over low heat. Add finely chopped parsley and chives, finely chopped lemon zest, and finely chopped garlic. Place mussels on a plate in their shell. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, spoon the herb butter over each mussel. Garnish with fennel pollen and a touch of course sea salt.