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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

There’s something consistently comforting about homemade meatballs and tomato sauce for Sunday supper.  Maybe it’s the act of mixing and rolling the meat with your bare hands; an organic and ritualistic labor of love. Or, perhaps it’s just the sweet warm aroma of onion, garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes wafting off the stove.  Whatever it is, we couldn’t get enough of it this week when we tried Lidia Bastianich’s “polpette” with our spicy tomato-basil sauce. Instead of serving the dish over spaghetti, we baked a pan of polenta and then fried the squares in olive oil.  Light crunch on the outside with a soft, warm, heartiness on the inside — perfect with a dollop of tangy sauce.

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Veal, or meat from a young calf, is not something I eat or cook with often, but when done right it’s amazingly tender and flavorful and much lower fat than other cuts of beef. The classic Italian veal preparations of piccata (with lemon and capers) and milanese (with arugula or basil and tomato salad) are my favorites.  Both start with a basic seasoned, breaded, pan-fried cutlet.

To make the perfect “schnitzel,” as the Austrians like to call it, you dredge your veal cutlet first in flour, then in egg wash, and then in seasoned bread crumbs.  Over medium-high heat, pan-fry in olive oil for just a couple of minutes on each side.  The key to a great piece of veal is not to overcook it, otherwise it will become tough and chewy.

Top off your schnitzel with a wonderful summery salad of diced tomato, cubed fresh mozzarella, and strips of fresh basil — all tossed in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. And on the side, add any steamed fresh vegetable that catches your eye in the produce section or your local farmers’ market.  Tonight the beans were looking fantastic, and they tasted even better.

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After a little hiatus from this space in March, I’m kicking off April — and capping a beautiful Easter Weekend — with this wonderful, simple shrimp and pasta dish. I find myself increasingly drawn to “simple” preparations, like this one, in which the flavors, colors, textures of the individual elements of a dish shine for what they are.   The vibrant colors of the fresh Roma tomatoes, crisp Italian parsley and wild caught shrimp play big when tossed lightly with spaghetti in an olive oil, white wine, onion, garlic sauce.  The juices from the shrimp give the sauce added depth and a couple pinches of dried red pepper flakes give it a little punch. The dish does not have a lot of ingredients and doesn’t take long to prepare, but it’s packed with flavor.  I really love how healthy and light this is, too. Perfect for a warm spring or summer evening meal with a tossed salad and crusty bread.

Spaghetti with Shrimp Sauce

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 pound ripe roma or plum tomatoes

3/4 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

Red pepper flakes, salt/pepper to taste

(1) Boil spaghetti, drain and set aside.

(2) Saute onion and garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes over low heat in a large fry or saute pan.  Then add shrimp and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, being careful not to overcook.

(2) Add the white wine and cook until liquid begins to evaporate, about 2-3 minutes. Then, add tomatoes and seasoning to taste, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.

(4) Toss spaghetti in the pan with the sauce and shrimp, topping with the fresh chopped parsley.

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Chicken Piccata and Chicken Milanese have always been favorite dishes of mine. Both are relatively light and summery. But I’ve never had much luck making a truly “crispy” chicken filet, and that is the best part about a Milanese dish.  So, I had never tried making Milanese until this week.  Much to my surprise, I was successful, and the chicken was crispy, crunchy and delightful.

The recipe I was using called for “toasting” Italian breadcrumbs in the oven.  This involved tossing a cup and a half of crumbs with around a fourth of a cup of olive oil and then spreading them out on a cookie sheet.  I put it in the oven at 425… and forgot about it until the smoke started billowing out from the oven door. Oops!  Unfortunately, I didn’t have lots of extra Italian breadcrumbs for the second try, so I had to mix my remaining half cup with around a cup of Japanese Panko breadcrumbs (this was going to be a Japanese-Italian hybrid Milanese!). I began the toasting process again…

Meanwhile, I mixed pounded out chicken fillets to about half-inch thickness, using my meat tenderizer. Then, I dredged them in flour before dipping in egg. And the final step was coating them in the toasted breadcrumb mixture.

Instead of baking the chicken directly on a cookie sheet, as I have done in the past, I put a small wire rack on top of the sheet to hold the chicken. I think this proved to be the secret in producing a crispy, baked fillet. After about 12-15 minutes, I pulled the sheet out of the oven and the golden brown breasts looked amazing.

To top it off, I tossed a little spring mix with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. This lent a perfect tart and saltiness to the crunchy chicken.

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This is a fantastic dish, compliments of the Pax Christi church cookbook. (Thanks, Auntie Mary Ann!)

The pan-sauteed chicken is topped with a zesty fresh tomato sauce made with fresh basil and capers. Mashed potatoes and a spinach salad were excellent accompaniments.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 Roma or plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons capers

6 large basil leaves cut in thin strips

(1) Trim chicken. Using a meat mallet, lightly pound chicken between sheets of wax paper to 1/2 inch thickness. 

(2) Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Coat chicken. 

(3) Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook through until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm.

(4) Add garlic and wine to skillet and stir up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and reduce the liquid by about half. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir in capers and basil and heat through, another minute.

(5) Pour sauce over the chicken and serve. 

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