Musing: Thinking about Frittate

A frittata slice

An insightful essay by food-and-wine mavens Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca on the evolution of Italian-American cuisine brought me back to growing up in Brooklyn with a family that had survived the Great Depression. Although my parents and aunt were better off than most, having been gainfully employed and comfortably housed, during that dismal era, they nonetheless were deeply affected by it. My mother especially, who frequently recounted woeful stories of having witnessed people on breadlines in her youth, was extremely frugal, despite being the wife of a successful attorney. Moreover, as a family, our weekly dinner menus closely reflected the Depression-Era pattern described in Darrow and Maresca’s essay:

“Pasta three days a week was common; soups and frittate (Italian-style omelets, usually with vegetables or cheese sufficed for two or three other days. Monday, in almost every household, was soup night. Sunday was sacred to un buon’ pranzo. . . antipasto or soup, or at least a broth, followed first by a pasta course, then by a roast meat, most often a chicken. Dessert in the time-honored form of fresh fruit usually concluded the meal.”

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Skillet Chicken with Cumin, Paprika, Turmeric, and Mint

Skillet Chicken with Cumin, Paprika, and Mint

Among the many advantages of living in New York City, perhaps the one we miss the most since moving to San Diego is the profusion of ethnic restaurants. They offer its residents ready, and often affordable, access to a wide variety of cuisines. Oftentimes, the chance to savor an esoteric dish you’ve just read about is no more than a quick subway ride away.
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Braised Pork Chops

Braised Pork Chops

With a successful braise, the whole is typically, and understandably, greater than the sum of its parts. This low, slow cooking method melds the flavors of the braising-liquid and the meat components to yield a dish with elevated layers of complementary flavors. Given the rather quick braise in this New York Times recipe, however, the individual parts, while good on their own, never achieved the synergy of a successful slow one. Yet despite its lack of greatness, this dish was nonetheless enjoyable.

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Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew, Peposo

Peposo

Sunflowers brought home by husband from our local farmers market evoked intimations of Tuscany that motivated me to prepare the subject of today’s post, peposo, a peppery Tuscan beef stew with a long history.

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No-Fry Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana

About four months ago, my better half sent me a link to a recipe for “Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan.” It took me to an adaptation of the British chef’s version of the dish by Marian Burros, who substituted roasting for Oliver’s grilling of the eggplant. When I make this dish again, I will probably opt for grilling, since the roasting method required a lot of coaxing to render the eggplant slices “golden brown.” After 10 minutes in the oven, the slices had only the slightest shade of brown; even after an additional 5 minutes, I had to resort to broiling to give them some color. Eventually, however, after almost 30 minutes of roasting, the eggplant acquired sufficient color for me to consider them done.

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Pressure-Cooker Porcini Risotto

Pressure-Cooker Porcini Risotto

A serendipitous confluence of my birthday with Amazon’s Prime Day led to the arrival of an Instant Pot at our door. This trendy pressure cooker, which has sparked a passion for the appliance, was a gift from my husband, who knew I wanted one but was reluctant to replace my serviceable, though less advanced, Cuisinart model. Well, yesterday, while unboxing my shiny new toy, I felt some nostalgia for my tried-and-true cooker that’s served me well for quite a few years. So, I thought I’d make one last dish in it before its retirement.

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Balsamico Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Balsamico Roast Chicken & Potatoes

In this post Julia Child era of cookbooks penned by celebrity chefs or celebrities posing as chefs, it’s heartening to return to books researched and written by cooks whom I regard as culinary scholars–writers who took up the gauntlet from Julia, writers like Paula Wolfert, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Fred Plotkin, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the source for today’s recipe. If you’re thinking that “scholarly” means “dry and dull,” just pick up one of these authors’ books and you’ll find just the opposite.

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Summertime Lamb Stew

Summertime Lamb Stew

Looking through a number of recently acquired cookbooks, I came across a recipe for a Tuscan beef stew called peposo (peppery) owing to its liberal use (up to 6 tablespoons) of black pepper. As I researched the recipe both in my books and online, my mouth started to water. But the more I read, the more it appeared that this tasty dish was better suited for winter than early summer. So, I placed peposo on the back burner and began to search for a more seasonal recipe, which eventually led me to Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca’s insightful collection of authentic recipes, The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen.

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30-Minute Chicken Cacciatore

30-minute Chicken Cacciatore

Ever have unexpected guests show up for dinner? Such was the case when my husband failed to tell me he had invited some friends to dinner. “It was a casual invitation,” he said. “I didn’t think they had accepted.”

We had just gotten back from doing errands on Saturday when the call came and Andrew’s friend said he and his wife would be arriving at 7. “Great,” Andrew stammered. “Looking forward to seeing you.” That gave me, who wasn’t looking so forward, about two and a half hours to get dinner ready. Read more

Chicken Thighs with Saffron, Green Olives, and Mint

Chicken Thighs with Saffron, Green Olives & Mint

An old favorite found its way to our table this weekend, Chicken Thighs, with Saffron, Green Olives and Mint. I had forgotten how good this dish is with its sweet and savory onions, tangy olives, and whiffs of saffron and fresh mint. The long cooking time, actually a braise, renders chicken thighs with meat that falls of the bone and a rich sauce just waiting to be sopped up by couscous.  The saffron and mint lead me to believe the origins of the dish are Sicilian, or perhaps even Moroccan.

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