A sunny dish for this rainy day: Zucchini alla scapece

zucchini alla scapece 1

Oh my . . . how long has it been! So long that I almost feel as intimidated as I was when I wrote my first post. In fact, one of the reason why I haven’t been writing is because I did not know how to come back. I kept thinking: “Am I supposed to explain my absence or just pretend I never left ? “. I felt like a child cheating in school, trying to find a good excuse to explain why I had not completed my homework. I have been debating about the right story or topic to return to my blogging, but nothing felt adequate.

Last month, on my FaceBook page, I posted a photo of a dish I had prepared for dinner, ” zucchini alla scapece“. The kind comments that I received and my subsequent promise to post my recipe gave me  the push I needed to come back. I finally realized that I didn’t need to justify my absence and certainly I did not need a big ‘scoop’ to make a come back. So here I am!

The heat wave of last month reminded me a lot of my summer days in Italy, especially when I was a child. The house would get very warm in the afternoon, my mom would open all the windows to facilitate air circulation which really didn’t help much. Despite the heat, my beautiful mother, wearing her sleeveless dress, her hair gathered into a fancy chignon, and tiny sweat beads trickling down her forehead, would spend many afternoon ” ai fornelli” ( by the stove). While thinking of her and those hot days, the one dish that came to mind were the “zucchini alla scapece“, I could almost smell the oil frying.

I am keeping my promise and here it is is my mother’s recipe of  ‘Zucchini alla scapece’, which is simply fried zucchini, marinated in wine vinegar.

The ‘zucchini alla scapece’ are usually served as ‘antipasto’ (appetizer), however, they are also delicious layered on top of some fresh mozzarella in a sandwich made with focaccia or ciabatta bread. In my family we also like to eat them as side dish.

I must admit that my mother’s original recipe includes an additional step which I have omitted. My mother used to slice the zucchini into roundsnot to thick and not too thin, but just right. She would laid the slices on a large tray covered with a kitchen towel and then she set the tray on a chair on the balcony in the sunshine. The slices of zucchini would dry in the sun and a slight curly edge would form. As a child I really didn’t know why she would do that; Only many years later – when I started to show some interest in cooking – I realized that drying the zucchini prior to frying would prevent them from absorbing too much oil; it would also make them slightly crispy.

My decision to make the zucchini alla scapece came suddenly and in the early evening. I had not time to dry the zucchini in the sunshine, however, I lined a tray with paper towels and I arranged the sliced zucchini on top.  I also sprinkled them with salt to facilitate the releasing of water.  I let the zucchini rest for 30 minutes then patted dry with a kitchen towel.

Zucchini alla scapece2

I hope the result would have satisfied my mom. It sure satisfied my husband!

Zucchini alla scapece

Cosa serve (What you need):

6 small zucchini sliced  into 1/4 inch thick rounds

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

A small bunch of fresh mint leaves minced plus few whole leaves to garnish

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

Cosa fare (What to do):

  • The first step is the prep of the zucchini as explained above. Prior to slicing the zucchini, remember to rinse them thoroughly under clod running water, rubbing with your hands to remove any grit.Zucchini alla scapece 3
  • Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. The oil should be enough to come 1/4 inch up the pan’s sides.
  • When the oil is quite hot, fry the zucchini in one layer, without crowing the pan. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle in contact with the zucchini.

zucchini alla scapece 4

  • Watch the zucchini and turn them over when they become golden on one side. When they are golden brown on both sides, with a slotted spoon transfer them into a serving bowl.

zucchini alla scapece 5

  • Drizzle with the vinegar, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, finally add the minced leaves of mint. Gently toss and set aside to cool down at room temperature.
  • Before serving garnish with few leaves of mint.

zucchini alla scapece 6

It’s a rainy and gloomy day here in Frederick today, I hope this dish will brighten your day.

Which dish reminds you of the summer hot days of your childhood?

Advertisements

The Recipe of the Neapolitan Ragu` . . . Dedicated to my Father.

“Babbo” and I at the beach, Paestum 1964

Today is Father’s Day in USA and although in Italy we celebrate this holiday on March 19th, it feels appropriate to dedicate this post to my father.

It was June 5, 1998, it was a sunny afternoon and I was sitting on the sideline of the soccer field where my children were training. Unexpectedly, I saw my husband walking toward me, his expression was gloomy and when he asked me to step aside, my heart skipped and I just knew that something terrible had happened. My father, 4600 miles away, had died, suddenly, of a stroke. I don’t need to explain what or how I felt then, but today what still hurts the most, is that I could not say goodbye.

No time for tears, just let me tell you about the Ragú Napoletano,  that wonderful, comforting slow cooked meat-based sauce, synonym of pranzo della domenica (Sunday family supper). My mother was an excellent cook and she would make handmade pasta, tagliatelle, gnocchi, fusilli, strascinati, orecchiette . . . like no other, yet my father was the king of the ragú.

My father would wake up at 5:30 AM every Sunday and after his caffè and his first cigarette he would start the ragú. First he would prepare the braciole (slice of meat rolled -up), one made with beef and one with cotica (pork rind). He would season them with with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, pine nuts, raisins and grated cheese. The braciole, along with the rest of the meat, were going in the pot with the onions, then the wine, last the passata di pomodori (tomato pureed) – which we usually bottled at the end of summer. For the next 4-5 hours, my father would tend to the ragú  like it was a work of art . . .  Letting the sauce pippiare – an onomatopoeic word that describes the sound of the sauce that barely simmer producing tiny bubbles – stirring once in awhile, tasting for salt and pepper.

My brothers and I would wake up to the aroma of the ragú and my best treat of the morning was a small slice of bread smothered with sauce.

The  sauce usually serves as condiment to the ziti spezzati – my mom used to buy the long ziti and it was my job to cut them into short pieces – or to the paccheri, or to the handmade pasta that my mom had prepared. The meat, covered with sauce,  was the second course along with the obligatory patatine fritte (fried potatoes) and  insalata verde  – just plain green lettuce – simply seasoned with olive oil and squeezed lemon.

Now, to find an original, traditional recipe of  ragú it is not easy task, so I have always relied on my memories and some research. The ragú, is prepared with large pieces of meat that are browned together with a lot of onions. The choice of  meat cuts seems to be the main issue, and not just for me . . . If you have 3 minute to spare,  you might enjoy this clip from  Sabato Domenica Lunedì, an Italian movie, starring Sofia Loren. Rosa Priore (Sofia Loren) is shopping for the perfect ingredients for ragú; in the macelleria (butcher shop), she gets into an argument  with another client about which meat cuts to use.  I am sorry the clip is in Italian – actually Neapolitan – however, tone of voices and expressions tell it all . . . and who doesn’t want to see the beautiful Sofia Loren!

Italian meat cuts have such distinctive names, cappello del prete, piccione, locena and so on, that I often find very difficult to translate them into an English equivalent. So many times, I show up at the butcher counter with a meat chart  and I point out the cuts I need. So here is a picture for you.

One of the more traditional recipe advise to use the following cuts of meat (The numbers correspond to the cuts in the picture, I also added the English equivalent):

Scamone (#14 – beef rump), annecchia (veal stew), one slice of locena (#2 – beef brisket), noce di vitello (#16 – veal sirloin), pork ribs, and one piece of cotica (pork rind).

In my recipe, I follow the traditional cooking method, however, I do not use the lard – originally used instead of olive oil – and the pork rind. For the meat cuts, on this particular day, I used what I found available – pork and beef.  Keep in mind that I often cook for only 3-4 people therefore I need to adjust my recipes accordingly.

Ricetta

RAGÚ NAPOLETANO

Ingredients for 8 persons:

1 pound rump (#14)

1 large slice of brisket (#2) not too thick.

1 pound veal sirloin (16)

1 pound veal stew

1 pound pork ribs

2 large Vidalia onions – sliced

6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon butter (I use butter-oil combination as substitute for lard)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup of red wine

1-1/2 pound tomato pureed

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil leaves

fresh parsley

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon raisins – previously soaked in water

½ cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

Directions:

First prepare the braciola: lay the slice of meat on a chopping board, season with salt and pepper. Add parsley (hand-chopped), pine nuts, raisins, and grated cheese. Roll-up the meat and tie with cooking twine.

Season the rest of the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to keep the shape.

In a large pot heat the oil and melt the butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.

On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften until almost disappear. To achieve a perfect result you must tend to each step with care. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a cucchiaia (wooden spoon) and start adding wine if necessary to keep moist and facilitate the melting of the onions.

Once the onions have dissolved and the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.

Time to add the tomatoes pureed, season with salt and black pepper and stir.

Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar, you can place a wooden spoon under the lid. The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours.

Remember, as they say in Naples, the sauce must “pippiare”.

Pippiare . . . can you see the tiny bubbles?

After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.

IMPORTANT: Half way through, don’t forget to dip a piece of bread into the sauce and have your first taste of heaven!

During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in awhile and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Carne al ragu`

The sauce, as I mentioned can be use as condiment for different kind of pastas. This sauce is also used in the preparation of the lasagna napoletana and the parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmigiana).

On this particular occasion, I used my ragú to make fusilli e strascicati al tegamino – my husband had just returned from Italy and brought me back these fresh homemade pasta. See in pictures the steps and final product.

Before I leave . . .HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE DADS!!!

Fusilli and Strascicati directly from Italy!

April 25th . . . That’s when it all started.

Today, Italy celebrates the 67th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi-Fascist dictatorship.

I could enlighten you about this, indeed important, piece of Italy’s history; however on second thought, I am going to tell you about my own special anniversary.

On April 25th 1991, my family’s journey to the United States started – my husband and I, and our two sons, respectively 2-1/2 years old and 3 months old. A journey that should have lasted 11 months, but guess what . . . it hasn’t ended yet!

Twenty-one years have passed; I consider the States my adopted land and home, yet for some reason, it still feels like an ongoing adventure; that’s why I celebrate. Or, it must be because every time I meet someone new, after my “hello”, the first question I am still asked is: “Where are you from?”. Perhaps I should be offended and at times, depending on my mood, I am; most of the times, however, I just carry the conversation on until my acquaintance feels compelled to say: “Oh, what a lovely accent!” and then: “I LOVE Italy, my favorite place in the world!” or: “Oh, my great-great-grandparents were from Italy!

Anyway, back to my anniversary.

In August 1990, my husband was offered a grant to work in cancer research in United States, for a period of eleven months. At that time, I was 4 months pregnant, we had a 21 months old son, and I was preparing to discuss my thesis to become an architect. Yet, I jumped at the idea and I started making plans. We were going to leave on April 25th 1991. By then, our baby would have been 3 months old, and I would have received my degree and completed my registration to the Board of Architects. It also seemed appropriate to depart on Liberation’s Day to assert our longing for something new.

On April 24th 1991, the night before our flight to United States, we finished packing our six suitcases – thank God there were no luggage charges at that time! –  plus one carrozzina (baby carriage), one passeggino (baby stroller), and three carry-on bags. To avoid the morning rush, we decided to park everything in my parents’ apartment building’s  “sottoscala” – a sort of storage space below the first floor’s  central hall; it was a safe place, or so we thought. . .

On April 25th 1991, at 4:00 am, both my husband’s family and mine drove us to Rome Airport.

The United States, at that time, was engaged in the Gulf War and many precautionary measures were taken at the airport. We were asked if our luggage had always been under our direct surveillance, of course we told the truth and guess what? Yes, all our heavily stuffed luggage needed to be inspected. . . the carillon was playing “Per Elisa”, the stuffed animals went flying on the floor, and so were my bras, books, and everything else.

This was all happening while my two years old was horsing around at the airport, my baby was screaming for hunger, my husband was arguing with the security, and my relatives were witnessing the whole scene in disbelief. Then . . . it was time to kiss and say ‘arrivederci’.

On April 25th 1991 at 6:30 am, we were on Flight TWA-0841 to JFK, New York.

Our boarding pass stubs

The flight was completely booked; no room for the baby carrier, our beautiful family of four was accommodated in the last row, just before the smoking section . . . no, I am not kidding!

April 25th 1991, Baby's first flight

On April 25th 1991 at 2:30 PM we landed at JFK, our first stop in USA. After, a first horrible experience with the immigration service we were finally on our way to our final destination: Washington, DC.

Immigration stamp

On April 25th 1991 at 7:00 PM we landed at Washington National Airport . . . that’s when it all started.

It has been a long day!

A friend picked us up at the airport; of course he didn’t imagine he should have rented a U-Haul! I remember driving the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the first view of the Potomac River, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument . . . how beautiful! I knew then, that it was going to be a wonderful journey.

First view of Washington Monument

Today, April 25th 2012, I woke up to a beautiful Spring day in Frederick, Maryland. I have loved every minute of my last twenty-one years in USA, so pardon mylovely” accent . . . My American journey has yet to end!

Day two of My Easter Baking Marathon . . . Pizza Piena

Peasant Woman with basket
Image from foto.inabruzzo.it
http://foto.inabruzzo.it

The Pizza Piena is a traditional Neapolitan recipe very typical during Easter time. In Naples they call it “Pizza Chiena and it is a must on the Easter Sunday table.

It’s a traditional country pie and, as I mentioned in my previous post, it is called Chiena or Piena (full) because it’s very much stuffed with salami, sheep cheese and eggs.

All the ingredients have a symbolic value: sopressata (type of salami) as symbol of wealth for the farmer’s tables, pecorino (sheep cheese) as symbol of innocence (sheep milk = food of the lamb), ouva (eggs) as symbol of birth and therefore symbol of resurrection. And of course the farina (flour), as bread, prince of the table.

One of the most important ingredient is the fresh sheep cheese, called primo sale (literally “first salt”). The name is used to describe the early stage of its aging. The primo sale is rindless, with a bright white color, and a semi-soft texture.

When I was a child, a contadina (peasant woman) used to bring the cheese, the fresh eggs, the fresh ricotta, and also greens and herbs to our door.

We lived on the third floor of an apartment building without elevator.

How amazed I was watching the not so young woman balancing a large cesto (basket), full of her fresh products from the farm, over her head, while climbing up the three flight of stairs! Under the basket a rolled up rag to protect her head. She would stop to deliver her goods, catch her breath, and accept a glass of fresh water. Then, with the basket on her head again, she was back down the stairs on her way to the next building and then the next, until her basket was empty.

As you can imagine, I haven’t been using the primo sale in a long time . . I substitute it with fresh pecorino.

Enough with the nonsense, time to share My recipe.

Ricetta Pizza Piena di Pasqua

For the dough:

5-2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 packet of yeast

salt and pepper

1/4 cup milk to dissolve the yeast

8 tablespoons butter or lard (cubed)

1 cups lukewarm water (if necessary)

For the filling:

500 gr. fresh pecorino diced

1 sopressata sliced (or neapolitan dry cured salami)

10 eggs beaten

1 dry scamorza cheese

salt and pepper

1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions:

In a bowl add the diced pecorino and the sliced salami. Add the slightly beaten eggs. Lastly add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and the black pepper. Stir to combine and let rest.

 

Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of warm milk and a pinch of sugar.

In the bowl of the standing mixer, pour flour, pepper, butter, and dissolved yeast. Mix everything together, then add salt. Work until you obtain a soft dough that detaches from the sides of the bowl (add a little lukewarm water as necessary).

Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes.

Take a baking sheet with sides high enough, in the oven, while cooking the pizza will grow. Grease the pan with oil.

Preheat the oven to 360 degree.

Divide the dough into two balls (1/3 and 2/3). Roll out the larger ball of dough to a ½ inch thick disk. The disk of dough has to be large enough to cover the sides and exceed the edge of the pan. Line the dough into the pan.

Roll out the second ball of dough and keep it aside.

Pour the mixture and cover with the second disk of dough.

Seal the border pressing the edges to each other with your fingers. Prick the top with a fork and brush with olive oil.

Bake for about 1 hour, the pizza will swell. The pizza is ready when the surface is crunchy and golden.

This pizza develops its full flavor 2-3 days after baking so, plan in advance. I know it is hard to resist to this inviting dish while is sitting on your kitchen counter, but let me tell you, the wait is worthwhile.

Don’t come forget to come back tomorrow for My last recipe: Pastiera Napoletana

Related post:
Easter baking marathon – Pizza con l’erba – Recipes and Memories

Day 3 of my Easter baking marathon – Pastiera

Easter Baking Marathon . . . recipes and memories

Since Easter is only three days away, this post is probably overdue. Nevertheless, I am sure some of you out there are still looking for traditional Italian Easter recipes.

In the next three days I will share with you one recipe a day: the pizza co’ l’erba, the pizza piena and the pastiera. So, don’t forget to come back to my blog everyday!

NOTE: I am sorry but I don’t have step by step pictures for the recipes. I can only show you few pictures from last year. As I’ll bake in the next few days I might be adding pictures to the post.

Easter baking is not just about the food, it is also about rituals, traditions and timing.

My childhood memories of Pasqua (Easter) are really happy ones. During the weeks heading into this Holiday, my mom would take me shopping for a my new Easter Sunday dress. This was also the first new dress of Spring. With the dress, of course, came new shoes. . . that’s where all started!

It was also time for Spring cleaning, but I have to admit that I was never a big help in that department.

By Domenica delle Palme (Palm Sunday) we were ready for the week ahead. My mom was very religious so the Settimana Santa (Holy week) was marked by specific events.

Religion, however, progressed step by step with the food planning and preparation.

On Thursday my mom would prepare the Pizza co’ l’erba (a savory Greens Pie). After one day of resting, the pizza was ready to be enjoyed on Venerdi` Santo (Good Friday), when only frugal and meatless food could be consumed.

Pizza co’ l’erba is the recipe that I will share with you today.

On Thursday we would also go to visit i Sepolcri (the tombs). The correct designation is: Altar of Repose, the altar where Jesus Eucharist is worshiped. The fact that the altar is adorned with flowers and candles favors the idea of the tomb. Each church dressed the altar in a different way and by the end of the evening everyone discussed which display they liked best.

On Venerdi` Santo (Good Friday), during the day, the kitchen was always a busy place. The Pizza Piena (stuffed pizza) was prepared on this day.

This a typical recipe of the Irpinia, my hometown’s countryside. It is called stuffed pizza because it is – quite literally – stuffed with salami, cheese and eggs. The pizza piena develops its full flavor a couple of days after it has been baked. This is why it must be prepared not later than Friday (even better on Thursday) to be enjoyed on Easter day.

Friday evening was back to church for the Via Crucis. In Rome, the Via Crucis is particularly inspiring, as the Pope leads the procession around the Colosseum.

Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday), was when some of my relatives from out of town would arrive. The home was full and my mom, in between chats, would just keep on baking.

Beside the traditional Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Easter Pie), my mom would also prepare the Casatiello dolce (Neapolitan Easter cake) whose recipe she inherited from my grandmother. This cake starts with the pasta madre (mother dough or pre-ferment). It has a very long prep time but the result is unique. The choice of the baking pan is also very important. You must use an aluminum ruoto (baking pan) with a diameter of not less than 16 inch and with a height of at least 8-10 inch. The dough takes 8-10 hrs. to rise. My mom used to leave the dough to rise overnight into these oversized baking pan. She would usually catch up with her sister and sister-in law through the night while keeping an eye on the dough and making sure it would not overflow.

My mom was the only keeper of my grandmother’s recipe, and unfortunately, since my mother passed, my brothers and I have not been successful in finding it yet. I have, however, done some research and I might have found a recipe that appear to be very close to my mom’s. It will be next year’s Easter experiment.

Of course, the Pastiera Napoletana was always the star of the show.

Finally, la Domenica di Pasqua (Easter Sunday). After three days of silence, the church’s bells are ringing again, and it is time to get ready for mass before the big feast.

I still cannot figure out how it was possible to spend almost two hours at church and then come home where a full – and when I say full I really mean it – meal was served at 2:00 pm.

Il pranzo di Pasqua ( Easter lunch), always started with hard boiled eggs, sopressata (a type of salami), and pizza piena. Il primo ( the first course) was usually tagliatelle con spezzatino di agnello ( tagliatelle with a lamb and egg white sauce). Il secondo (the second course) was baked leg of lamb with potatoes and peas. Then of course a little more pizza piena, a little bit of cheese, a slice a of pizza co’ l’erba, and finally. . . i dolci ( the sweets), my mom special casatiello dolce, the pastiera, the Colomba (Easter Dove bread), and l’Uovo di Pasqua ( Easter chocolate egg).

La Colomba e l' Uovo di Pasqua

In Italy we don’t have the Easter Bunny, but we do have the Easter egg, which is one of my favorite tradition and the one the every child cherishes. A large chocolate egg wrapped in colorful paper and with a surprise inside. You can find eggs in different sizes and made with milk or dark chocolate. My favorite is the one with very coarse pieces of hazelnut blended into the chocolate; this egg has a very rough texture compared to the traditional chocolate eggs which are less thick and have a smooth finish. For the first few years after I moved to the States, I had asked my brother to send me the hazelnut Easter egg but then, I stopped asking. This year, however, when my Italian friend told me she was going to spend Easter in Italy and she asked me what to bring me back, I knew what I wanted: The chocolate hazelnut Easter egg!

Over the years I have always managed to find an Italian Uovo di Pasqua for my boys. It has became a tradition for them too and I hope they will carry it on.

Here we are with the first recipe of this Easter baking marathon, the pizza co’ l’erba.

This is a traditional greens pie of my homeland. It is called con l’erba (with grass), because some wild herbs are used. Typically, four different greens are used for the filling: scarola (escarole), borragine (borage or start flower), cardilli selvatici (young leaves of thistles ) and agrifoglio (chervil). You use equal parts of the first three ingredients while a small bunch of chervil is all you need to give this pie its distinct aroma..

I haven’t always been successful in finding the right ingredients, so over the years I have made some adjustments and you might have to do the same.

  1. You can substitute the borage with chard
  2. You can substitute the thistles with dandelion or chicory

For the dough I use a typical pizza dough recipe.

Ricetta Pizza co’ l’erba

Pizza from last year. . . made a square one this year.

Ingredients (for a 12 inch pie dish):

For the Dough:

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2-1/8 cup warm water

2 teaspoons olive oil

1-2/3 tsp salt

½ packet dry yeast (1tsp)

1 teaspoon sugar

For the Filling:

1 lb. Escarole

1 lb. Borage (or chard)

1 lb. Young leaves of thistles (or chicory)

1 small bunch chervil

6 salted anchovies (or 12 anchovies in olive oil)

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

¼ cup of pine nuts

¼ cup of raisins (soaked in warm water)

abundant extra-virgin olive oil

salt to taste

Directions

Prepare the Dough: Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it foam. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the hook attachment, add the flour, the yeast, the olive oil, the remaining water work for two minutes then add the salt and work until the dough is elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Prepare the Filling: Wash the vegetables well.

Cook them in boiling salted water (15-20 minutes). Drain, let cool, and squeeze to remove the excess water. Chop them into pieces (not too small).

In a large pan heat the olive oil, add the garlic and half of the anchovies. Cook until the anchovies have dissolved.

Add the remaining anchovies (previously chopped), the pine-nuts, and the raisins.

Stir gently so that everything is coated with oil. Add the vegetables, stir and cook for 5-8 minutes, add salt to taste, stir again. Let cool.

Preheated oven at 425° degree and brush with oil a pie dish.

Roll out 2/3 of the dough and place it into dish.

Used a square dish this year!

Arrange a thick layer of the filling (at least 1 inch).

 

Roll out the remaining dough and cover the pizza, fold the edge of the dough and press it using your finger. Prick the surface using a fork. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

This pizza is best enjoyed after resting overnight.

 

Related posts:
Day 2 of my Easter baking marathon, Pizza Piena

Day 3 of my Easter baking marathon – Pastiera

March 19th, celebrate St. Joseph’s and Italian Father’s Day with a Neapolitan sweet treat: The Zeppole di San Giuseppe

My Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Auguri a tutti i papa` (Best wishes to all of the fathers). Today, March 19th, in Italy we celebrate La Festa del Papa` (Father’s day).

When I was a child, on the afternoon before Father’s Day, my mom and I would go to a nearby field to pick-up the fragrant mammole (violets). The next morning, I would set up a breakfast tray for my dad with the violets nicely gathered in a small glass. A small handcrafted gift and a short letter was usually on the tray as well. This past winter I received, from my brother in Italy, some boxes full of mementos from our mom’s home. In one of the boxes, to my surprise, I found a little red velvet sketch book with a small round cutout window through which you could glimpse a picture of my dad and myself. It was a gift I had made for my dad on Father’s Day, March 19, 1971, I was 8 years old.  Inside the book, dedicated to my dad, there was a prayer, a poem, and a short letter. I guess he loved it and I am so glad that 40 years later I can share it with my children.

If you have been following my blog, by now, you have realized that most of the Italian Holidays are tightly connected to the religious calendar; Father’s Day is no different.  Today, March 19th, the Catholic Church celebrates  San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s day), foster-father of Jesus and therefore, symbol of all fathers.

I have, however, recently learned  that Father’s day was first celebrated on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia. It was then officially formalized  on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington where Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, (unaware of the celebration in Fairmont) inspired by the celebrations for Mother’s day, organized the first festival to honor the paternal figure. Mrs. Dodd chose the month of June because that was her father’s birthday.

Once the Holiday arrived in Italy it was decided that it would have been more appropriate to celebrate on March 19th.

In Italy the festivity also coincides with the ancient pagan propitiatory rites of the end of winter, with the burning of the crop’s residues on the field. The rites were accompanied by the preparation of the zeppole, which is the typical sweet treat of this Holiday.

As you can imagine, I make my Zeppole di SanGiuseppe the way they make it in Naples where the first recipe was put on paper, in 1837, by the famous Neapolitan gastronome Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino.

I am pretty sure I have already told you that I tend to give an Italian flair to any holiday. So, when this past Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, I was invited to dinner by some very dear friends, I offered to bring dessert,  I made my zeppole di San Giuseppe and I just sprinkled them with green sugar sprinkles.

The zeppole can be deep fried or baked. I do bake mine.

Ricetta Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Ingredients

For the pastry dough

6 eggs

2-1/3 cup flour

3-1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

2-1/8 cup water

For the pastry cream

2-1/8 cup whole milk

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup flour

2 strip lemon peel

To garnish:

powdered sugar

drained cherries is syrup

Directions:

Pour the water into a saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt, turn heat to medium and when the water begins to make the first bubbles, but not boiling, pour the flour all at once and stir vigorously for 10 minutes with a wooden spoon until the mixture will detach from the edges of the pan.

Turn off the heat and add the 6 eggs, one at a time.

Stir vigorously, with a wooden spoon. Each egg must be well incorporated throughout the mixture, before you add another egg (this is not easy, you can also use your standing mixer with the hook attachment or, you can use your hands).

Let stand for 20-25 minutes.

Now prepare the Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream)

In a pot work the sugar with the egg yolks until mixture is white and fluffy.

Add the sifted flour, stirring to avoid lumps. Slowly add the milk and lastly the two pieces of lemon peel.

Place the pot on the stove and thicken the cream over medium heat without boiling, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a whisk.

Remove the lemon peel and cool. Take a piece of plastic wrap pushed on the surface of the cream to avoid the formation of a crust on the surface.

Preheat the oven to 430 degree.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag or pastry syringe, attached with a 1/2 inch star tip, with the pastry dough and press the mixture onto the sheet giving it a spiral shape.

Bake the zeppole for 10 minutes then turn the temperature down to 400 degree and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove form oven, transfer to a cooling rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar once they’ve cooled slightly.

Before you top with the pastry cream make sure the zeppole are completely cool.

Place the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 12mm star tip.  Into the center of each zeppole, pipe the pastry cream.

Now, as I mentioned to honor St. Patrick’s Day I sprinkled my zeppole with green sugar sprinkles.

Pretty in green!

The Neapolitan zeppole are topped with amarena cherries, you can use any kind of sour cherries, in syrup or, simple maraschino cherries.

They should be eaten the day they’ve been made.  Enjoy!


A place of my childhood . . . Paestum

Paestum is an ancient Graeco-Roman city in the Italian Region of Campania. It is located in the Cilento and Valle di Diano National Park, near the Tyrrhenean sea.

Paestum was founded in 600 B.C. by Greek colonists and its original name was Poseidonia in honor of the Greek’s Sea God, Poseidon.

In 273 B.C. the Romans took possession of the city, and they renamed it to Paestum.

In the 9th century, the Saracens’ incursions, along with the mosquitoes infected by malaria, forced the inhabitants to abandon the  city that was later buried by swamps caused by the river Sele. Paestum remained hidden until 1748, when the excavation for the construction of a new road brought to light the well preserved Greek-Roman temples.

If you visit Paestum you will be astonished by the grandeur of the standing remains of three major temples. These temples are  the best preserved Doric temples in the world, outside of Greece. The temples have been traditionally identified as the Basilica and the temples of Neptune and Ceres. In reality, however, they were dedicated to Hera and Athena.

In Paestum you will also able to visit the National Archeological Museum of Paestum that documents the evolution and transformation of the city; here, you will be able to admire some architectural and sculptural decoration from the excavation, and the painted slabs of so-called Tomba del Tuffatore (Tomb of the Diver), the sole example of painting of the Greek age of Magna Grecia.

But Paestum is not only an archeological site, on your way to Paestum you will travel along the so called Strade della Mozzarella (Roads of the Mozzarella). It appears that at the beginning of the 9th century AD, the Muslim Arabs introduced the water buffalo in the area. More than 1000 years later, Paestum and the plain of river Sele are home to the tame herds of water buffalo whose milk is used to craft the delicious mozzarella di bufala. Both sides of Route 18 are pullulated with cheese factories where you will be able to savor the freshly made mozzarella and many more specialties, all derived from water buffalo’s milk.

Few years ago, on an afternoon trip to Paestum with my family we stopped at one these caseifici (cheese factories) and my youngest son, Mattia, could not stop eating the still warm bocconcini di mozzarella (mini bites). With his mouth full, he kept saying : “ Oh my God, this is the best thing I have ever eaten! “. You would never know until you taste the real thing!

For me Paestum is not just about the magnificent temples or the tasty mozzarella. Paestum has a special place in my heart. I have spent most summers of my childhood on the sandy beaches just north of the archeological site. When people ask me why I wanted to be an architect, my mind goes always back to Paestum, to the memory of the temples and to the end of summer when, back home, I used my wooden blocks to recreate the temples.

How many beautiful memories I have, the soft and warm sand, the cavalloni (giant swells), the sandcastles, the merry-go-round on the beach, the quiet afternoon on the shaded porch playing with the lizards, the smell of pines from the vast pineta (a large area of pine trees), the foraging for blackberries, the sweet figs, the artichokes’ fields, the bright red tomatoes, the herds of water buffalo in the field along the road and the freshly made mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella), the gelato at the bar of the lido (bathing establishment), the afternoons horsing around at the Greeks temples, the stairs to the top of the Saracen Tower, the strolls with my big brothers, the lingering fragrance of the gigli di mare (sea lily) growing out of the sand, the color of the oleanders, the waves of velvety ‘piante di sigari’ (cattail), the hours spent learning how to swim, the evening watching my parents dancing under the stars, the fuochi d’artificio (fireworks) to celebrate the Ferragosto, the dark nights brightened by the miryads of fireflies. . .

Lately, I also learned that my two wonderful older brothers used their cute little sister (me) to attract all the pretty girls on the beach. I have not memory of that and  it seems hard to believe considering how jealous of them I was. . . I remember that!

My boys

Few years ago, I went back to Paestum with my children because I wanted to share with them this place so special to me, and today I share with you few of the pictures I shot on that lovely afternoon.

I hope you will all have a chance to visit this beautiful place.