OK – I know everyone would rather see news about our guys, but we still have to eat while we await the return of our beloved Il Volo. IT IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!!!! Yay
In the meantime, let’s eat. Now that summer is upon us and no more snow – let’s cook out – Italian style!!!!!
I received the following from our very own Ann. Thank you, Ann, for your suggestions.
For an APPETIZER, how about:
Grilled Marinated Shrimp
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic, mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus sprigs for garnish 3 tablespoons olive oil plus oil for brushing shrimp 16 jumbo shrimp (about 10 per pound) Four 12-inch bamboo skewers Lemon wedges as an accompaniment
In a large bowl stir together garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, and 3 tablespoons oil and add shrimp. Marinate shrimp, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight. In a shallow dish soak skewers in water to cover 60 minutes and prepare grill. To grill, thread 4 shrimp on each skewer and brush with additional oil. Grill shrimp on an oiled rack, set about 5 inches over glowing coals, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. Alternatively, brush shrimp with additional oil and grill in a hot well-season ridged grill pan, covered, over moderately high heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Garnish shrimp with rosemary sprigs and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.
Olive oil flavored with garlic, fresh basil, or rosemary. 1 loaf of crusty Italian bread cut into 1-inch thick slices 1/4 cup extra -virgin olive oil Prepare barbecue (medium-high-heat). Brush both sides of bread generously With oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden, about 1 minute per side. 6 servings.
For a MAIN COURSE, how about the following:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves or chicken cutlets 2/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs 1/3 grated pecorino Romano cheese 2 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley 3-4 tsp lemon zest 2 garlic cloves, minced Good quality mozzarella (not shredded or sliced) Fresh bay leaves or fresh basil Olive oil Melted butter
1. Place chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until very thin. If you are using the cutlets, they do not need to be pounded. 2. Combine bread crumbs, cheese parsley, lemon zest and garlic 3. In another bowl combine even amounts of olive oil and butter 4. Dip chicken into butter mixture and then into the bread crumb mixture 5. Place a chunk of the mozzarella on the meat and roll up tight 6. Slice into 1 inch thick pieces 7. Skewer, using two skewers on each end of the meat to keep it from turning. Using two will make it easier to turn and handle on the grill, as the chicken won’t just roll around the skewer. Skewer the bay leaves around the chicken. 8. Grill over med hot coals, covered, and cook about 5 minutes per side. I use charcoal and have a bottle of water handy for any flare-ups.
It is very important to use fresh ingredients in this recipe. Do not use dry parsley, garlic powder etc. Do not leave out the lemon zest…It is the key ingredient!
Now for some:
3 small yellow squash (about 3/4 pound) 6 Vidalia onions or large shallots, peeled and cleaned and sliced 4 yellow and/or red bell peppers, seeded and each cut into 6 pieces 2 medium red onions, peeled and each cut lengthwise into 6 wedges with root ends intact 2 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl toss vegetables with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grill vegetables in batches on a rack set about 4 inches over glowing coals turning them, 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender, transferring them to a platter as they are done. Serves 6
Grilled Peaches with Raspberry Sauce (Pesche Dolci)
5 oz raspberries,- preferably fresh (frozen will do if fresh not available) 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice 2 medium fresh peaches, peel, halved 5 tsp brown sugar 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp butter
In a blender or food processor, process raspberries and lemon juice until pureed. Strain and discard seeds. Cover and chill. Place the peach halves, cut side up, on a large piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 x 12″). Combine brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle into peach centers. Sprinkle with vanilla; dot with butter. Fold foil over peaches and seal. Grill over medium-hot coals for 15 minutes or until heated through. You can also place in a broiler for 8-12 minutes for a similar result. To serve, spoon the raspberry sauce over peaches.
To make Bellini: 1 ounce white peach puree 5 ounces chilled Prosecco Pour peach puree into a champagne flute, then add the prosecco. The peach puree can either be made from ripe fresh peaches that have been peeled and pureed or you can use a commercial peach puree.
I know – you are all wondering “What is Prosecco?” Prosecco is a sparkling wine, or in other words, Italian Champagne. Prosecco is made from an Italian grape called Glera. Italian tradition dictates that Prosecco is only drunk in the springtime, but I’m sure they won’t mind if it is extended into Summer (wink). Alas, do not fret. If you cannot find Prosecco, a nice Champagne will do.
Mangiare, Bere e Divertirsi (which means Eat, Drink, and be Merry – at least according to Bing)
Another yummy Italian recipe and a little history from Alicia (Leelee). She may be a bit confused though. Leelee, you eat pasta and strum a guitar, honey.
In honor of that special someone’s birthday this month (I wonder who?), I tried to find recipes from Montepagano, but because Montepagano is so small, I broadened the horizons to find foods from Abruzzo. I found the following website very informative.
“Abruzzo is one of Italy’s little-known treasures: a tranquil mingling of mountains and coastline, it is sparsely populated and rarely visited by tourists. Home to one of Italy’s highest peaks (the Gran Sasso, at an altitude of over 9,500 feet) and a busy port (Pescara, the most populous city in the region), it boasts a rich repertoire of robust mountain dishes and an abundance of seafood specialties. The regional capital is L’Aquila, a charming city with a view of the Gran Sasso that was founded by Frederick II of Swabia in 1254; today, L’Aquila is home to 70,000 people. Near L’Aquila is the Parco Nazionale dell’Abruzzo, an enormous natural reserve (about 200 square miles) where hundreds of rare animal species roam free. Other important Abruzzese cities are Teramo (whose first-century A.D. Roman theater is still used to host shows), Chieti (an ancient Roman settlement), and, from a culinary standpoint, the village of Villa Santa Maria (where some of Italy’s finest chefs honed the art of Italian cuisine). “
“Pasta is the preferred Abruzzese first course, and none is as typical as maccheroni alla chitarra (“guitar pasta”): sheets of egg dough are cut using a flat rolling pin on a wooden box with strings (hence the name “guitar”).”
I chose this recipe as it seems to be the preferred method of making pasta for the region. For those who are brave and wish to make this from scratch, then this recipe is for you. However, for those of us (ok – me), who don’t cook or cook often, I’m sure there are some shortcuts that can be improvised in place of making handmade pasta. Ronzoni comes to mind (I know, not the same, but what the heck!).
Maccheroni alla Chitarra al Pomodoro Piccante “Guitar Pasta” with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Abruzzo is queen of handmade noodles. Pastas include fettuccine sauced with onion, parsley, basil, and Pecorino; spaghetti with garlic and chili, as in Molise; and vermicelli in a saffrony sauce infused with zucchini blossoms. Maccheroni alla chitarra, the region’s proudest pasta, derive their name from the instrument (a wooden frame on which parallel strings are mounted) used to cut the pasta. Fresh maccheroni alla chitarra have a rough texture that grabs onto sauce splendidly; if you don’t have a “guitar,” use 1/2 pound of dried maccheroni alla chitarra instead. For this recipe, you will need:
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
24 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 fresh chili pepper, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 pound fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta:
1 and 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus extra as needed
2 large eggs
To cook and serve:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (optional)
Make the sauce: Place the olive oil, garlic, basil, and chili in a wide skillet.
Turn on the flame and allow the aromatic ingredients to warm gently for about 1 minute. It is essential that they release their aroma into the olive oil without burning. This is best achieved by starting the aromatics in cold oil and warming the oil along with the aromatics, rather than adding the aromatics to hot oil as most recipes indicate.
Using a wooden spoon, stir well and add the tomatoes to the skillet.
Season the tomatoes with the salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil over a medium-high flame, then cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook without uncovering the skillet for about 5 minutes, shaking the skillet every minute or so. The tomatoes will break down into a nice, chunky sauce. Once the liquid surrounding the tomatoes takes on a warm orange hue, the sauce is ready and the flame should be turned off. This sauce tastes best if cooked quickly, not simmered a long time.
The raw ingredients for homemade maccheroni alla chitarra are simple: just semolina flour and eggs. The standard formula used by most Abruzzese cooks is 3 and 1/2 ounces of semolina flour in all per egg. If you like your pasta less rich, you can replace 1 of the eggs with tepid water.
Make the dough: Place the semolina flour on a counter. Make a well in the center and crack the eggs right into the well.
You can use a fork to beat the eggs if you like, or simply use your fingertips like I do to mix the eggs into a nice frothy mess.
Then start drawing in the flour from the edges of the well, little by little, until the eggs become a thick slurry. It will be a bit messy and may seem sticky at first, but as you draw in more flour, the dough will start to come together and form a shaggy mass. It will gather around your hands.
When almost all of the flour has been incorporated into the eggs, begin kneading the dough by hand. The goal is to incorporate all the flour into the eggs, so don’t stop just when it seems the dough has come together; remember, this has to be a firm dough, so if it is sticky, it will be a problem later on.
Begin to knead the dough with the palms and heels of your hands.
If the dough is dry, add a touch of water; if it is moist, add a touch of flour.
Alternately, place the semolina flour in a bowl, make a well in the center, and add the eggs to the well. Work the eggs into the flour in the bowl, then turn the resulting dough out onto the counter and knead it as above; this method may be easier for beginners.
Use a dough scraper (sometimes called a bench scraper) to scrape up any flour or egg that is stuck to the counter. (You can buy this handy tool at any good kitchenware shop or baking supply store; it makes cleaning up after working dough a snap.)
Incorporate these bits into the dough while the dough is still in its initial stages; if you wait too long to incorporate these drier or shaggy bits, and you add them to a nearly finished dough, they will ruin the smooth texture you have already achieved in your dough.
Knead the dough until it is smooth and supple with your hands; it will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Use all the strength you have in your hands; this is a rather firm dough, nothing like bread dough; it is quite dry, and needs to be pushed, compressed, turned so that the flour absorbs the eggs and the resulting dough becomes smooth and supple.
The aim of kneading the dough is not to develop the gluten in the dough, as in bread-making, but rather to produce a dough that is homogenous and workable. This will take a few minutes of vigorous kneading.
Now it is time to let the dough rest about 30 minutes so the gluten relaxes and the dough is easier to roll out. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or with a clean, dry towel, and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has rested, lightly sprinkle a counter with semolina flour and start rolling the dough out into a thin rectangle with a rolling pin.
If you have a long wooden dowel, or thin, tapering rolling pin, this will be easier. But even a regular rolling pin works.
Try to keep the dough rectangular as you roll it out. The length should be slightly shorter than the stringed portion of the guitar. The total thickness should be about 1/4 of an inch.
In essence, maccheroni alla chitarra are square spaghetti; so they should be as thick as the strings are wide. Since most guitars have 2 settings, select the setting you prefer and roll out the dough into a rectangle of that thickness.
Cut the dough with a pastry wheel into rectangles similar to the stringed portion of the guitar.
It is much easier for the guitar to cut the dough into strands when the dough has had a chance to dry out a bit at room temperature. The metal of the guitar cuts better through a slightly dry dough than through a dough that is still rather moist. So let the dough rectangles sit about 15 minutes before cutting on the guitar.
One by one, place the dough rectangles on the stringed portion of the guitar.
Place the rolling pin on the bottom-most portion of dough and roll with all your strength up, towards the top. The dough should cut into nice, even strands. Ideally, you will only need to roll upwards once if the guitar strings are really sharp.
If the strings do not cut the pasta well, it may be that they need tightening, or that you need to apply more strength on the rolling pin as you roll.
When the pasta is cut, it will look like square spaghetti. Toss with semolina flour and place on a semolina-dusted tray, separating the strands so they do not stick together.
The pasta can be held at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerated for up to 24 hours, as long as you make sure to toss it with semolina flour once in a while to prevent sticking.
To cook the pasta: Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the salt.
Add the pasta and stir well to separate the strands. Cook about 3 minutes, or until al dente. This is a thick, toothsome pasta, so it will take longer than most fresh pastas to cook through. In fact, when rolled to the same thickness, all semolina flour pastas take longer to cook though than pastas made with all-purpose flour.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Toss the pasta with the warm tomato sauce, the olive oil, and the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute to a coating consistency. You may not need all of the reserved pasta cooking water.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Pecorino if desired and serve hot. Serves 2 hungry people.
Mangiare Bene, Alicia
Alicia, then Can you play El Mondo on the guitar while eating?
Come in and share the love of life, friends and Il Volo!