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Articles by: Michele Scicolone

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Le Marche Food and Wine Dinner at Felidia Restaurant


         “Wine is to the body what love is to the heart”, said the great composer Gioachino Rossini, who was born in the Marche region of Italy.  Those of us fortunate enough to taste the wines of the region at Felidia Ristorante on Thursday surely agreed.

     

                The dinner was hosted by Alberto Mazzoni, Director of the Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela, Giuseppe Cristini, a Marche wine expert, and Fabio Trabocchi, a Marche native who is the recently-named head chef of New York’s Four Seasons Restaurant.  


                Le Marche is a small region that borders on Umbria and Tuscany to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east.  Using the natural ingredients from the region, including mushrooms, sheep's milk cheeses, seafood and truffles, 
    Chef Fabio prepared a menu to highlight Le Marche's extraordinary white and red wines.

     

                The evening began with a Fazi-Battaglia Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi DOC 2008, the classic white wine of the region.  It was a perfect compliment to the baccala salad stuzzichino, served in little china spoons.   Once seated, we were treated to a salad of scampi on a bed of chunky mashed potatoes mixed with olive oil, basil, and tomato.  I loved the simplicity of the flavors and can’t wait to try to recreate this one at home.  The Boccadigabbia Le Grane Maceratesi Ribona DOC was a great match.  This wine is made with 100% ribona grapes, a variety unique to the Macerata area of Le Marche. 

     

                Handmade passatelli pasta tinted black with nero di seppia, and sauced with calamari, mussels and crab in a light tomato sauce was next, served with the La Monacesca Mirum Verdicchio di Matelica DOC made from 100% verdicchio grapes.  Risotto with Pecorino di Fossa, pears, and black pepper showcased the cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk and aged in specially dug caves where it matures and develops an assertive flavor.  The Luciano Landi Lacrima DOC 2008, a red wine made in the Morro d’Alba section of the Marche, was a daring but delicious match with the risotto.

     

                I really enjoyed Chef Fabio’s version of Steak Rossini.  Instead of the typical beef filet, the chef braised flat iron steak until it was fork-tender, then topped it with the customary foie gras (a favorite of the great composer’s) and a slice of black truffle from the Marche.  The foie gras melted onto the beef creating a rich, luscious sauce. Organic polenta on the side was earthy and full of flavor and the dish was paired with the robust Umano Ronchi San Lorenzo Rosso Conero DOC 2006. 

     

                Three different pecorino cheeses from the Marche were drizzled with honey and accompanied by the last wine of the evening, the Le Terrazze, Sassi Neri Conero DOCG 2004.  The evening ended on a sweet note with piconi, sweet ravioli filled with sheep’s milk ricotta served with tangy sheep milk ricotta ice cream. 

     

                The superb wines and foods were an inspiration for me to plan a return to this gorgeous region of Italy. 


    REMINDER:  Charles and I will be teaching an Italian wine and food class at De Gustibus at 

    Macy's on Thursday, December 3.  For more info, go to www.degustibusnyc.com.   Hope to see you there!

     


  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Time for Tenerumi Soup


              Fresh sheep’s milk ricotta still warm from the dairy, artichokes so tender you can eat them whole, and tenerumi cooked into a soup -- my friend Salvatore, who comes from Sicily, was listing the foods he missed the most. I couldn’t help him with the first two, but, I told him, I had just seen tenerumi (also spelled tinirumi) in the market.

     

                Tenerumi are the leaves, buds, and vines of the cucuzza, a pale green squash that can grow as long as 6 feet.  The plants grow rapidly and produce an abundance of vegetables and vines.  The cucuzza itself doesn’t have much flavor and Sicilian cooks make it into ciambotta (a vegetable stew), or use it to make a sweet green preserve for pastries called zuccata.  The tenerumi are mild tasting, too, but they add a nice texture to a simple soup that Sicilians make this time of year.  My husband, 100% Sicilian, loved it.

     

                Look for tenerumi at produce stores in Italian neighborhoods, or at the Greenmarket.  I bought two big bunches at the Migliorelli Farm stand in Union Square.  If you can’t find tenerumi, Swiss chard would also be good in this simple soup.  


     

    MINESTRA DI TENERUMI

     

                The first cool nights of September are ideal this satisfying Sicilian soup.  It’s good with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or if you prefer, some grated pecorino cheese.

     

    Serves 4 to 6

     

    2 large bunches tenerumi (about 2-1/2 pounds)

    Salt

    1 medium onion, finely chopped

    3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    1/4 cup olive oil

    3 cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes

    Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    6 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-size pieces

    6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

                Discard the tough vines, tendrils, and stems of the tenerumi and wash the leaves and tender buds.  Chop them into bite size pieces. 

     

                In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to boiling.  Add the greens and salt to taste.  Return the water to boiling and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. 

               

                In a large skillet, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden.  Stir in the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes.

     

                Pour the tomato sauce into the pot with the greens.  Stir in the pasta.  Cook 10 minutes more or until the pasta is tender.   Stir in the basil.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  



  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Finding Peperone Friariello -- A Favorite Neapolitan Pepper


     Peperone friariello, also known as peperoncini verdiis the name of a small bright green pepper that grows in the Naples area in the spring and early summer.  (Don't confuse it with the similarly named, but not at all the same friarielli broccoli, a Neapolitan type of broccoli rabe, which is in season in the winter time and is eaten as a side dish or pizza topping.)  The peppers are long, cone shaped pods range from about 1 to 3-inches in length and typically are fried whole, seeds and all, until blistered and browned.  When fully ripe, they turn bright red and look like chilies, but they are mild and sweet.  You can eat the whole pepper in one or two bites.  I love their delicate flavor and find them much more appealing than green bell peppers.  

     

                I ate peperoni friarielli often when I was in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast earlier this summer.  I ordered them in restaurants and bought them in the markets whenever I saw them.  Back in our rental apartment kitchen, I fried them in olive oil to serve with grilled sausages, or tossed them with tomatoes to sauce linguine.   Like the view of Capri, or the scent of the sfusato lemons, I figured they would be one of the many things I would miss when we returned home. 

     

                Back in New York, I was shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket and stopped at Yuno’s farm stand.  Yuno’s has some of the brightest, freshest, and most unusual produce in the market and I often shop there for things like zucchini flowers, crisp greens and buttery avocado zucchini.  That day, samples of a small green Japanese pepper known as shishito were being fried and offered to shoppers.  They smelled great so I took one.  It tasted just like a friariello!  I took a closer look at the raw peppers and noticed that they were very similar except for a slightly ribbed surface.  I bought a bagful and brought them home. 

     

                I trimmed off the ends of the stems and I fried the shishitos just the way I did the peperoni friarielli in Praiano.  I added some tomato, and a handful of basil from my garden and simmered them a few minutes more.  I tossed them with linguine and they looked just right.  Charles was so delighted to see them that he popped a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina, one of my favorite white wines from the Naples area.  It was a perfect quick summer meal and for a little while at least, we felt just like we were back on vacation. 

     

                I have bought shishitos several times since and notice that the latest ones are somewhat hot.  It was a nice surprise, and we enjoyed that little bit of a kick. Yuno’s farm stand is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays and Fridays.

     

                Peperone friariello seeds are available here by mail order through websites that specialize in Italian culinary seeds.  You can be sure I will start them early next spring and grow them on my terracein the summer. 

    Linguine with Friarielli (or Shishitos) and Tomatoes          

    LINGUINE WITH PEPERONI FRIARIELLI (OR SHISHITOS) AND TOMATOES

     

    Serves 4

     

    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    8 ounces peperoni friarielli or shishito peppers, stems removed

    1 large garlic clove, smashed

    Kosher or sea salt

    2 cups canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped

    6 - 8 fresh basil leaves, torn

    8 ounces linguine

     

                In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.   Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes.  Discard the garlic.  Add the peppers and cook, stirring often, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt.  Add the tomatoes and their juice and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. 

     

                Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boiling on high heat.  Add salt and linguine and stir well.  Cook, stirring often until the pasta is slightly undercooked.  Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water.  Pour the pasta into the skillet with the sauce.  Add the basil and cook, tossing and stirring, until the pasta is tender.  You don’t need cheese with this pasta, but a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil would be a nice finish.

    Serve hot.

     

                Charles recommends:  Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina

     

     

                

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    The Perfect Summer Pasta


          Some years ago, Charles and I spent a month in Rome.  Every day, we would explore a different section of the city, but our favorite neighborhood was between the Piazza Navona and the Tiber.  Most days we would head there for lunch at a favorite trattoria, and most days we would order Pasta alla Checca.  It is the perfect pasta for a summer day, light and fresh, and the ideal way to celebrate the great flavors of juicy summer tomatoes, fresh basil, and milky mozzarella.  The sauce is not cooked, just marinated for a short time and warmed by the hot cooked pasta.   At the restaurant, the chef used tubetti or ditalini pasta, the ideal choice because the tomatoes and cheese were cut into the same size pieces.  


         When I stopped at Di Palo's the other day and saw the pile of still warm and freshly made mozzarella piled on the counter, I knew the time was right to make Pasta alla Checca.  I had some beautiful ripe beefsteak tomatoes from the Greenmarket, and my Sicilian basil has grown to the size of a bush.  There are many variations on  this pasta recipe, but I think the version we ate in Rome is still the very best.  Here is a recipe from my book 1,000 Italian Recipes:

    Pasta alla Checca

    Serves 4 to 6


    3 medium size ripe tomatoes

    1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    1 small garlic clove, minced

    Salt and freshly ground pepper

    20 basil leaves

    1 pound tubetti or ditalini

    8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice


    1. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores, Squeeze out the tomato seeds.  Chop the tomatoes and place them in a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients.


    2. Stir in the oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stack the basil leaves and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons.  Stir the basil into the tomatoes.  Cover and leave at room temperature up to 1 hour.  


    3. Bring at least 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot.  Stir well.  Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet still firm to the bite.  Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the pasta.  Add the mozzarella and toss again.  Serve immediately.



        This is not a pasta salad.  It should not be served chilled.  In Rome we often ordered grilled anchovies to follow it.  Sardines, or another grilled fish, would be just as good.  What's the ideal wine?  Charles recommends chilled Frascati.



  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Back to Amalfi. Delightful Colatura



    This article is part of our Special Issue on the Fancy Food 2009

    The 55th annual New York Summer Fancy Food Show held from June 28 to 30 at the Javits Convention Center featured a vast variety of products from all over the world.  I focused my attention on the Italian section where I found everything from sublime 24-month-old Parmigiano Reggiano and buttery soft prosciutto di Parma, to peculiar gnocchi in a microwaveable cup.  A few new products stood out.   

    At the Agostino Recca booth, a small bottle of reddish brown liquid caught my eye.  It was colatura, the juice extracted from preserved anchovies.  Colatura is believed to be descended from the Roman garum, a fish sauce or condiment that the ancients prized more highly than caviar. Vincenzo Recca, director or the company, told me that his colatura is on its way to the United States, and should be in stores in about a month.  I opened the bottle and took a sniff:  the aroma was mellow and rich with anchovies.  Instantly I felt transported back to the Amalfi Coast as I remembered the sensational linguine with colatura I ate at the Restaurant La Cala delle Lampare at the Hotel Tritone in Praiano.  Though the town of Cetara on the Amalfi Coast is best known as the source of colatura today, the Recca brand colatura is being produced in Sciacca in Sicily where the company packages its line of preserved anchovies and sardines.  Their high quality products have always been favorites -- the little fish are always meaty and flavorful, not harsh and salty. In addition to pasta, colatura is good in a salad, on vegetables or cooked beans, in mayonnaise, devilled eggs, and so on.   
          At a nearby booth, I met Joe Cimino who offered me a sample of cuccidati, a traditional Sicilian-style fig cookie produced by Cosi Duci of Boca Raton, Florida.  Mr. Cimino said his sister Giovanna started the company because she wanted to raise funds to help find a cure for her son Giuseppe and others who are stricken with Multiple Sclerosis.  Her cookies have a tender pastry crust wrapped around a filling of dried figs, chocolate, nuts and spices and each one comes individually wrapped.  The cookies have an authentic flavor and I am glad to see that they can be purchased through the company's website. They would make a fine gift during the holiday season.  A portion of the proceeds benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  


    Every time I passed the Panificio Biscottificio Colacchio booth, I could not resist trying a sample of their taralli or breadsticks.  They were crunchy and flavorful and perfect as a snack on their own or to accompany a meal.   This company also has an extensive line of frese and freselline, toasted whole grain breads that, after a light soaking in water, make a perfect base for a summer tomato salad or a hearty seafood stew. 


     
          After leaving the show, I stopped at Locanda Verde, where Anna Dente, one of Italy’s most famous chefs was appearing at a reception sponsored by Lotito Foods and Gabriella Cheese. Anna, who has been called the “Queen of Roman Cooking”, had been at show demonstrating Bucatini alla Matriciana.  
          Here is a quick recipe for linguine with colatura.  If you can’t find colatura, substitute a few finely chopped anchovies.  They are not as subtle as the liquid, but the flavor will still be good.


       








    Linguine with Colatura  
    Makes 4 to 6 servings 
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    Pinch of crushed red pepper
    1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    3 or more tablespoons colatura (or substitute anchovy fillets)
    Salt
    1 pound linguine 

     
    In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook, stirring often until the garlic is lightly golden.  Stir in the parsley and colatura.  Turn off the heat.  
    Bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Add salt to taste.  Add the linguine and stir well pushing the pasta under the water.  Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is almost ready.   
    Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water.  Add the pasta to the skillet.  Toss well over medium high heat.  If the pasta seems dry add a little of the cooking water.  Serve hot.


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