Every so often, our local grocery store gives away something for free; sometimes it’s a protein bar; other times, a can of soup. The most recent giveaway was a kielbasa, which coincided serendipitously with the publication of a recipe for Hasselback Kielbasa on the New York Times “Cooking” website.
The site’s stunning photo of the dish, along with the above confluence of events, pulled me from my typical traditional stance in the kitchen to give this recipe a try. With so few ingredients involved, most of them, including the kielbasa, already on hand, there wasn’t too much at risk.
For the last month, our schedule has been impacted by my husband’s undergoing a 17.5-hour surgery for an hiatal hernia, hence the irregular postings to my blog as well as commenting on others. The surgery has also affected our daily menus with temporary restrictions on what my better half can safely consume.
So far, he’s been home for only a couple of days and, surprisingly, we’ve been able to have enjoyable dinners both nights. On his first night home we had skin-on bone-in chicken thighs over roasted with onions and red bell peppers. Last night, following the surgeon’s suggestion, I prepared a new recipe for a meat loaf from Hazan’s Marcella’s Italian Kitchen: Polpettone di Vitello al Sedano, or Veal Loaf with Celery. (It’s amazing how almost everything sounds better in Italian. Polpettone, by the way, is Italian for “big meatball.”)
After a rather heavy rib dinner on Friday night, we both thought dining “light” was a must for Saturday’s supper. For us, lighter fare typically means fish, and one of the lightest I know how to prepare is sole. So after a day of watching classic films on TCM, I headed off to the fish market, where I found some sparkling white, wild lemon sole.
Although I am trying to expand my limited seafood repertoire, sole for me usually equates with sole oreganata, one of the mainstays of Friday night meals and Lenten suppers from my Italian-American boyhood. Boyhood dining memories also include my father’s taking us to one of the most famous Italian-American restaurants in New York City, Patsy’s. In fact, my dad was the attorney to Patsy Scognamillo, the restaurant’s founder. This is one of the reasons I was gifted not long ago with a copy of Patsy’s Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant written by the founder’s grandson, Sal.
As I thought, the book had, along with many celebrity tales, an appealing recipe for fillet of sole arreganata and I opted to pretty much follow that for cooking the fish. However, out of deference to my Sicilian mother and Neapolitan aunt, I chose to make their breadcrumb topping.
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs Italian parsley, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, stir all the dry ingredients and then add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork until the breadcrumbs are moistened. You may use a little more or less olive oil depending on the breadcrumbs. The mixture should have just enough oil to clump together lightly when pinched with your fingers and to allow the breadcrumbs to brown and not burn when under the broiler.
1 1/2 pounds lemon sole (2 large fillets)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Bread crumb topping
Lemon wedges for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the fish fillets in a baking dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer and dot with the butter.
3. Combine the lemon juice and wine in a small bowl and spoon over the fish. The juice should be just enough to come up to the sides of the fish but not cover it. Season with the paprika.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.
5. Remove the fish and set the oven to broil.
6. Sprinkle the topping on the fillets and broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Serve with white rice sauced with the juices from the fish and with lemon wedges as garnish. Serves 2 as a main course.
Wine Pairing: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Sauvignon Blanc
Discovery. Isn’t that what the world-wide web is all about? Spurred on by curiosity, we follow threads of information only to find new threads and thereby broaden our knowledge of almost any subject, and then perhaps begin another thread.
This often is the case for me when I read a comment left by another food writer on a blog that I follow and am then led to that blogger’s website. Indeed, this is how I found the recipe for today’s post. I read a comment about Marcella Hazan by Stefano Arturi on Diane Darrow’s blog Another Year in Recipes, which brought me to his own blog, Italian Home Cooking.
My brother recently sent me a link to a recipe in the New York Times for “drunken spaghetti,” or spaghetti all’ubriaco and suggested that I do a blog post about it. I’ve seen the dish prepared several times on television by celebrity cooks like Rachael Ray and, over the years, have read about it in the press. Recipes for it also abound on the internet, some posted by travelers who first encountered it in Tuscany, others by food writers like Mark Bittman, who wrote a column about it in 1998, after having enjoyed the dish at Osteria del Circo in New York City.
I must admit that the dish, as well as its preparation, has a lot of wow factor, which makes for good television, especially when a celebrity chef dumps, with a flourish, an entire bottle of wine into a pot for cooking the spaghetti. As you might expect, some cooks go overboard and call for using status wines like Barolo or Rosso di Montalcino and the audience soaks it up with oohs and aahs. Indeed, all the razzle-dazzle associated with this dish may be the reason I’ve avoided making it until now.
Sick Days. We all have them now and then; however, I must admit that, fortunately, mine are far and few between. But last week I had one of those days, when waking up without a voice was followed by a day of coughing and sneezing. Yuck!
Nevertheless, dinner had to get on the table and it’s my job to get it there. Sure, I could have accepted my better half’s offer to get take out or order in, but I find that my own cooking, no matter how simple, does a better job of putting me on the road to recovery.
It’s been pretty wintry here in San Diego these past few weeks. Jeans have taken the place of shorts, and sweatshirts, the place of polos. The chilly temps have similarly impacted our menus, with hardier dishes taking precedence over lighter fare. A case in point was last night’s entree, punti e fagioli, or spare ribs with beans: thick, center-cut country-style pork ribs simmered slowly in tomato sauce with cannellini beans. The perfect comfort food for a winter night.
A technique article on SeriousEats.com for preparing spaghetti aglio e olio prompted me the other night to prepare it for a late-night supper.
I’ve made this dish numerous times, but the article included an interesting video that demonstrated a technique for “finishing the pasta the right way” that made me rethink my own. What struck me most in the video was the cook’s rapidly swirling and tossing of the pasta in the sauce after adding the pasta water, which resulted in a beautiful emulsion.
Today’s post is pretty much a repeat of one I did four years ago. It wasn’t until we sat down to supper that my husband asked if we hadn’t had this dish before. Well, I checked after dinner and, sure enough, he was right. There was, however, one major difference. The first time I prepared the dish, I used chicken thighs; last night, I used a whole chicken cut into 10 pieces as suggested by the recipe.
When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, we really didn’t dine out that much. My family enjoyed such good food at home that the only reason for going to a restaurant was to give my mother and aunt a break from cooking. More often than not, the restaurants we chose were Italian. In fact, two of our favorites are still going strong in Brooklyn: Michael’s on Avenue R and Gargiulo’s in Coney Island. A third favorite, Patsy’s, continues to be popular in Manhattan. All three served then, as they still do, typical Neapolitan dishes that were similar to those we enjoyed at home but, at least in my aunt’s opinion, never quite as good.
In the early 50s, however, southern-Italian restaurants were being challenged by northern-Italian competitors. These new style establishments strove to distinguish themselves and, with some condescension, frowned on the heavy use of garlic, olive oil, peperoncino, and even dried pasta like spaghetti. Butter took the place of olive oil; cream sauces replaced tomato based ones; herbs like rosemary and thyme and spices like saffron and nutmeg lent more nuance than did basil or oregano. Southern dried pasta was replaced either by the fresh egg variety or by risottos, often finished with flair at tableside.