Gamberi Oreganati


For a rather warm spring-into-summer evening, I wanted something quick, easy, and light. Tuesday’s a fish day for us, so I thought some kind of shrimp dish might fit the bill. I found the perfect recipe in The Southern Italian Tableby Arthur Schwartz: Gamberi Oreganati.

All too often, Italian restaurants serve oreganato dishes (scampi, clams, etc.) on sizzling platters, reeking of burnt garlic, covered with greasy bread crumbs, and overwhelmed with herbs. This recipe, however, shows the more austere side of southern Italian, with large shrimp baked in a crunchy crust of lightly seasoned breadcrumbs. The restrained use of olive oil, finely minced garlic, and dried oregano allows the flavor of the shrimp to come through the crisp breading.

Gamberi Oreganati
Shrimp Baked with Flavored Bread Crumbs from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz
Serves 2 to 3

1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon hot paprika
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound cleaned large or jumbo shrimp (20 to 24 to the pound)
Lemon wedges

Place a rack on the top rung of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Combine the bread crumbs, salt, garlic, oregano, paprika, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Stir well.
Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss until all the shrimp are coated with crumbs.
Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a 10-inch baking pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining crumbs.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Wine Pairing: Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina, Pinot Grigio

Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms


Being somewhat of an impulse shopper, I managed to amass quite a stash of dried porcini, woodsy dried mushrooms that, when rehydrated, impart loads of flavor to a dish. Although these mushrooms have a good shelf life, they won’t last forever. To their rescue, another recipe from Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian: Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms.

Rather than cutting up a whole chicken as called for by the recipe, I used only thighs. The chicken is browned on all sides and then braised with sautéed thinly sliced onions, chopped pancetta, re-hydrated dried porcini, tomatoes, parsley, and the mushroom soaking liquid for 40-45 minutes with the pan cover slightly askew. This makes for a thick rich sauce with deep mushroom flavor.

Here’s a link to the recipe online. Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms.

Wine Pairing: Rosso di Montalcino

A Date for Baked Ziti


Every so often, my menu is determined not by choice but by one or more expiration dates. (Alas, I remember when the dates that influenced my cooking were of a more romantic variety.) But getting back to the present: Looking in the fridge, I found some mozzarella leftover from pizza making last weekend and some ricotta that I had purchased for eggplant involuting about a week ago. Both were soon approaching their best used by date and there was about 8 ounces of each—too much to throw out without feeling guilty.

Growing up Italian, the two typical ways of putting leftovers to work were frittatas or pasta. Last night, I opted for the latter and decided to make some baked ziti.

I preheated the oven to 350°F .

Next, I made a 20-minute marinara sauce with a small clove of garlic, olive oil, crushed tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. I minced the garlic and added it to the pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, until it was aromatic but had not taken on any color. Next, I added about a teaspoon of chopped basil and sautéed that with the garlic for about 30 seconds and then added a 16 ounce can of chopped tomatoes. I brought this to a simmer over medium heat and let the sauce simmer uncovered over low for about 15 minutes.

As the sauce was cooking, I added an egg yolk to the ricotta, together with some Pecorino-Romano (1/4 cup), chopped fresh basil (1 tablespoon) and a little salt and pepper. I beat this mixture with a spoon until it was creamy.

Meanwhile, I cooked some left over whole-wheat penne, about 8 ounces, that had also been around a tad too long, to about a minute before the al-dente stage.

When the pasta was done, I transferred it to the ricotta mixture and stirred it until well coated.

I then placed a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a small baking dish. I followed this with a layer of half of the pasta and ricotta mixture. Over this layer, I spread about half of the sauce and about 3 ounces of mozzarella which I pulled into chunks from the ball. Over the top of this layer, I grated some pecorino. I repeated this process to form a second layer ending with the mozzarella, grated cheese, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

I placed this in a 350°F oven and baked for 30 minutes. After removing it from the over, I let it rest tented with foil for 10 minutes before serving.


Keeping with the left-over theme, our wine was a half bottle of Chianti.

Would enjoy hearing how my readers use up their about-to-expire ingredients.

Asian Grilled Salmon


Friends are always surprised when I cook something other than Italian. But once in a while, a little change is good.

Tuesday is typically a fish night for us, and we hadn’t had salmon in quite some time. So I turned to one of my go-to recipes for it: Ina Garten’s Asian Grilled Salmon. (The link will take you to the recipe.) It’s perfect for a weeknight meal, with minimal prep and maximum flavor.

Salmon fillets marinate for around 10 minutes in a blend of olive oil, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Half the marinade is reserved for a sauce. Rather than mincing the garlic, I use a microplane rasp and also add some rasped fresh ginger.

The fish grills for about 4 to 5 minutes a side and is served with the reserved marinade.

As a side, I prepared a quick cooking couscous tossed with some cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, zahtar, and olive oil.

When you don’t have a lot of time and want something homemade, this salmon and side can be on the table in under an hour.

For wine, I chose a 2013 Mille Sauvignon Friuli Grave DOC. Not as grassy as some new-world entries, it’s fresh and crisp with good citrus notes. At around $17 for a liter bottle, it’s a wonderful value.



Eggplant Involtini


Perhaps the only way I can justify subscribing to so many cooking magazines is to occasionally cook from them. After some pretty hearty meals over the past few days, I decided to look for a vegetable entree for supper.

My search took me to the recent issue of “Cook’s Illustrated” (July-August 2014), which has a wonderful recipe for Eggplant Involtini. What especially attracted me to it first was that the eggplant is baked rather than fried; next, the filling uses considerably less ricotta than many others and is, almost counter-intuitively, kept creamy with the addition of fresh white breadcrumbs; finally the tomato sauce is simple, quick cooking, and fresh tasting.

Just taken from the oven
Just taken from the oven

Another thing I liked about this recipe was that it skipped the traditional sweating of the eggplant with loads of salt to reduce the its bitterness. In fact, the article that includes the recipe explains why this salting process may no longer be necessary given today’s selective cultivating methods.

Rather than providing an edited recipe, I’m providing a link to the magazine’s website, which has a video on how to prepare this dish: Eggplant Involtini Video. The magazine says that the recipe will be online for the next four months. If you’re like me and want a hard copy, I’d say the recipe is well worth the $6.95 cover price of the magazine.

I realize that southern Italian cooking may have fallen out of fashion, but give this recipe a try to see how good it can be when it’s well prepared.

We enjoyed this dish with a wine from one of Chianti’s smallest sub-zones, Montespertoli. The producer is Sonnino, who still uses some white grapes in the blend and does not age the wine in wood. The wine is aromatic with good acidity and rich black fruit flavors.


Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Alsatian Riesling

Veal Stew Revisited


Recently, my friend Arthur Schwartz, an expert on southern Italian cooking, told me about an extremely simple tomato sauce made from just four ingredients: olive oil, garlic, concentrated tomato paste, and milk.

In a sauté pan, sauté a peeled and smashed garlic clove in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Remove the garlic just before it takes on any color. (Your nose should let you when.) Next, add two full tablespoons of imported Italian tomato paste. (The one that comes in a tube.) Stir for about two minutes or until the paste has dissolved into the oil. Finally, add a scant cup of milk, season with salt and pepper, and cook uncovered until the sauce has slightly thickened. That’s it. I knew I would eventually make this sauce.

Well last night, I remembered some veal stew with mushrooms that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. (See my June 6th posting.) There wasn’t enough meat for two servings, so I thought I could stretch and even refashion the stew as a sauce for some fresh pappardelle.

The stew, however, even when we had it the first night, didn’t have a lot of sauce. And after several days in the fridge, there was even less. That’s when I thought of my friend’s tomato and milk sauce.

After preparing the sauce as described above, except for enriching it with just a touch of cream, I added the stew to the sauté pan and let it reheat partially covered for about 15 minutes. I then added about a half cup of frozen peas and cooked the sauce until the peas were warmed through.

While the stew, now a sauce, was still on the heat, with a spider strainer I transferred the cooked-a-minute-before-al-dente pappardelle to the pan, tossing the pasta to coat with the sauce. After less than a minute, I removed the pan from the heat. Over the pasta, I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano, sprinkled some torn basil leaves, and gave it all a final toss.

Served accompanied by a Rosso Piceno from Italy’s Marche region, our revisited stew made a perfect Sunday night pasta.

In a comment to this post, please feel free to share any of your recipes for refashioning leftovers.

Grilled Tuna Steaks



Except for shellfish and calamari, I’m not a fish lover. Nevertheless, we try to have fish twice a week and for that reason, I purchased Fish: Complete Guide to Buying and Cookingby Mark Bittman. It’s given me confidence not only in the kitchen but also at the fish market.

It was a great night for grilling and I can’t think of any fish better for the grill than thick tuna steaks—especially for a meat-lover like myself. I chose Bittman’s “Basic Grilled Tuna,” which calls for a simple marinade that seems to enhance the meaty character of the fish.

For sides, I prepared a simple couscous and roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red-pepper flakes.

Basic Grilled Tuna Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish.
1/3 cup high quality soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 thick yellowfin tuna steaks about 3/4 lbs each
Ground black pepper
Lemon wedges and extra virgin olive oil for finishing.

1. Mix the soy sauce and olive oil.

2. Place the tuna in a square baking dish just large enough to hold the fish and sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper.

3. Cover the fish with the marinade, cover, and let the fish marinate in the fridge for no more than one hour. Marinating for too long a period may overwhelm the subtle flavors of the fish.

Tuna steaks marinating
Tuna steaks marinating

4. Heat a grill pan greased lightly with some olive oil. When hot, grill the tuna on one side for about 5 minutes, basting occasionally.

5. Turn with a fish spatula and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. This timing should yield a steak that’s still somewhat rare in the middle. You can cook longer if you like, testing for your desired level of doneness by lightly prying open the tuna with a thin bladed pairing knife. Avoid overcooking.

6. Place the steaks on warmed plates and finish with a nice drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc


Veal Stew with Mushrooms


It was raining yesterday while I was searching for a recipe for dinner. Somehow the weather made me want a stew but one that wasn’t too heavy for spring. It wasn’t long before I settled on having veal and found a wonderful recipe for a veal stew with mushrooms in Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan.

It’s amazing how just a few ingredients, veal, onion, mushrooms, sage, with a little butter, olive oil, wine, and cream, can come together to create such a delicious dish. Like his mother, Marcella, Giuliano uses techniques that are simple and straightforward.

However, this type of minimalist cooking requires using the best ingredients: milk-fed veal, fresh sage, young mushrooms, and drink-worthy wine.

This recipe makes for a stew with extremely tender meat and concentrated flavors. It yields enough for 4 servings.

Veal Stew with Mushrooms adapted from Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan.

1.5 lbs of boneless veal trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
2-3 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
1/4 cup dry Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
3/4 pound large white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Heat butter and olive oil over medium hight heat in a large dutch over, preferably enameled cast iron.

2. When the butter finishes sizzling, brown the veal on all sides, working in batches so that the meat will brown and not steam. Remove each batch to a platter and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the onion to the pot and sauté stirring until it is soft for around 3 minutes, scraping up any of the browned bits from the veal on the bottom of the pot. The onion will take on a brown color from the pot.

4. Add the wine to the pot and let the alcohol evaporate for about 30 seconds.

5. Return the browned veal to the pan, along with any of the juices that have accumulated on the platter.

6. Reduce the heat to low and let the meat cook at a steady simmer with the lid of the pot slightly ajar for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes, adding a small amount of water if all the liquid in the pot evaporates. This can be tricky, The amount of liquid is minimal and much less than there is in a typical braise. Being quick with the stirring will reduce the evaporation.

7. After the hour’s cooking, add the mushrooms, season with a little more salt and pepper, and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, at the same temperature and with the lid ajar for at least 30 minutes or until the veal is very tender.

Stew just before adding the cream

8. Uncover and raise the heat to medium-high and let most of the liquid in the pot evaporate. Then add the cream and cook until the cream thickly coats a wooden spoon.

9. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot on warmed plates with steamed white rice.

Wine Pairing: Soave, Pinot Grigio, Chablis



Pizza Margherita

blogpizzasmallYesterday, I had an early evening engagement and wouldn’t be home in time to cook for dinner. So I thought: pizza. It’s really easy to make at home, even in a small NYC kitchen and, in my opinion, is far better and maybe even quicker than delivery.

Just before noon, I made the pizza dough following one of the best recipes I know. It’s from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table. It makes a thin crust that perfectly balances crispy and chewy. The dough can rest covered for about 8 hours if you want to make it ahead of time like I did.

I sauce my pizza with a raw sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of oregano, some crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and cook the pizza for about 10 minutes before adding the cheeses and basil. I then top the pizza with some grated Romano, torn pieces of fresh Mozzarella, a few ripped fresh basil leaves, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and cook for about another 7 minutes or until the crust is brown and the cheese melts.blogprepizzasmall

Here’s a link to Lynne’s recipe online: Classic Pizza Margherita. It includes the dough recipe as well as one for the sauce.

Wine Pairing: Chianti, chilled Lambrusco, Zinfandel

Fregola with Manila Clams


Last night we had a tasty dish of fregola (Sardinian couscous) with Manila clams. The attached recipe is from BBC television cook Nigella Lawson. The link below to the BBC site also has a helpful video of the recipe.

Lawson calls for tomato puree, which is actually a concentrated tomato paste. I used an imported one from Italy that comes in a tube. After adding it to the pan, I let it toast slightly while stirring it before I added the broth and the vermouth. I think toasting the paste makes for a deeper tomato flavor.

For the small clams called for in the recipe, I used the Manila variety, which I find have a delicious briny sweetness to them. Note that the clams may take a minute or two more to open than the 3 minutes called for in the recipe. Shaking the covered pan may help the clams to open.


This is a quick and easy to prepare dish for a weeknight meal.  And if you don’t have fregola in the cupboard, it’s worth a trip to your Italian specialty store or an online search to find some. Here’s a link to the BBC Recipe.


I paired the dish with a 2013 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, a Rhone-style blend rosé. A crisp dry rosé, with hints of strawberry on the nose and an earthy minerality, it was the perfect complement to the briny fregola.

Wine Pairing: Dry Rosé, Dry Riesling, Pinot Grigio