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Filtering by Category: Contorni

Tenerumi

Rosetta

Are you wondering what in the world these summer greens called “tenerumi” are? Tenerumi are the leaves and tender shoots of the long squash plant called “cucuzza” found all over Palermo markets. These greens are eaten all over Sicily and also in Calabria where they are known as “taddi di cucuzza”. Here is a picture I took in Palermo’s market last summer, showing the tenerumi next to the long squash.

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Insalata di Pomodori e Cipolle Calabrese

Rosetta

I have missed my favorite tomato salad until these past two weeks, when our tomatoes finally decided to ripen. This recipe was going to be in my cookbook but it didn’t make it in the last cut, so here it is for you to try.

You might not think you need a recipe for tomato salad, but we Calabrians are particular about ours. The tomatoes must be firm, even a little greenish; we consider them too soft for salad when they are ripe. The onions must be red and sweet, like the elongated torpedo-like cipolle di Tropea or those labeled “Italian sweet.” Calabrians also use dried wild oregano in this salad, either home-dried or purchased at a farmers’ market. And most would add a generous amount of chopped fresh peperoncini (hot red peppers), but you can omit them.

I salt the salad 10 to 15 minutes before serving to draw out the juices; we always soak them up with bread. For an easy summer lunch, I sometimes fold in a jar of top-quality Calabrian tuna.

I could eat this salad almost every day!

Insalata di pomodori e cipolle calabrese

(Calabrian-Style Tomato and Red Onion Salad)

1 large red onion, ends removed, halved, and peeled

1 pound firm tomatoes, either plum or round salad type

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 small fresh hot red pepper, such as cayenne or Thai, chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Slice the onion halves thinly from stem end to root end.  Place the slices in a bowl and cover with cold water for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Core the tomatoes. Cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 2 or 3 wedges. If using round salad tomatoes, cut them in half through the stem end, then cut into wedges. Place the tomatoes in a non-reactive bowl.

Drain the onions and add them to the tomatoes along with the garlic. Add the oregano, crumbling it between your fingers as you add it, and the hot pepper, if using. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the olive oil. Toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to draw out some juices before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Melanzane arrostite (Marinated Grilled Eggplant with Garlic and Mint)

Rosetta

Marinated eggplant

Marinated eggplant

One of my favorite ways to eat eggplant during the summer months is to grill and marinate them with a simple sauce of olive oil, vinegar, garlic and fresh mint, a minty vinaigrette.

These are so good and easy to make that you will make them all the time, just as I do.   Please read last year post on how to buy eggplants.

For this recipe I tend to use the globe eggplant sliced crosswise but I also use the Italian eggplant sliced lengthwise. Whatever type you use, be sure to cook the eggplant until it is tender all the way through.

Prepare the marinade in a baking dish while you heat the grill. Mix the olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, chopped mint, salt and pepper in a baking dish.  If your vinegar is too strong you can add a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar to cut down on the acidity of the vinegar.

Set the marinade aside while you prepare and grill the eggplant.

Slice the eggplant crosswise into rounds about 1/2 inch thick

sliced eggplant

sliced eggplant

Season both sides of the eggplant with salt and brush generously with olive oil.

Grill the eggplant until fully cooked on both sides. Don't be afraid to brush them with additional oil while you grill them. If you don't have a grill, you can use a grill pan.

Grilled eggplant

Grilled eggplant

When the eggplant slices are done, transfer them to the baking dish with the marinade. Turn them to coat  generously with the marinade.

Coating eggplant in marinade

Coating eggplant in marinade

Transfer the eggplant to a platter. Spoon any unabsorbed marinade over the eggplant. This dish is best served when the grilled eggplant has had a few hours to soak up the marinade. If possible, prepare it 3 to 4 hours before serving and keep at room temperature. Serve with crusty bread for soaking up the juices.

Marinated eggplant

Marinated eggplant

I always grill more than one eggplant, since they are as good or better  in a sandwich the next day.  They also keep well in the refrigerator for few days. Just remember to bring them to room temperature.

Melanzane Arrostite

(Marinated Grilled Eggplant with Garlic and Mint)

For the marinade:

1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (you can add one or two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar if your wine vinegar is too strong)

3 cloves garlic, very finely minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large globe eggplant, about 1-1/2 pounds

1 teaspoon kosher salt

About 1/4 cup  extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the marinade: Put the first six ingredients in a 2- to 3-quart (2- to 3-liter) baking dish and whisk with a fork to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Prepare a moderate charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. You can also cook the eggplant over moderate heat in a ridged grill pan on the stove.

Remove the eggplant stem, then cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick (12-millimeter-thick) rounds. You should have about 12 slices. Using the 1 teaspoon salt, season both sides of each slice. Brush both sides generously with the olive oil, reserving any excess oil for grilling.

Grill the eggplant without turning until it is nicely colored on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes, then brush the top surface with olive oil and turn. (You may not need all the oil.) Grill the second side until the eggplant is cooked through but still holds its shape, another 3 to 5 minutes.

As the eggplant slices are done, transfer them to the baking dish. Turn them to coat them generously with the marinade. As necessary, overlap the eggplant in the dish, spooning marinade over each slice. Transfer the slices to a serving platter and spoon any unabsorbed marinade over them.

Serves 4 to 6 Copyright 2004, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Cipolle di Tropea (The Sweet Red Onions of Tropea)

Rosetta

Calabria is famous for its sweet red onions named after the glamorous beach town of Tropea. During the month of May and June you can buy them freshly harvested at roadside farm stands.

Later, in June and July, they are sold at markets strung in a ristra.

The main growing area is south of Tropea, around Ricardi and Capo Vaticano. You will find these onions grown all over Calabria but the ones grown close to the sea are extremely sweet because of the sandy soil and the mild climate throughout the year. They come in two shapes, torpedo and flat round. I grow both types in my garden. If you want to grow them you can order the seeds online from Seeds from Italy or Garden Edibles and start them in early fall. You will then need to transplant them in October, and by June they'll be ready to eat. Here is what they look like in my garden right now:

In Calabria these red onions are eaten raw in salads; cooked in sauces; roasted or grilled; placed on top of pizza or in frittate; made into jam, and even added to ice cream!

Last year when I was in Calabria in May, right when they were being sold as young fresh red onions, I enjoyed them roasted under salt at Casa Janca in Pizzo. I never had them prepared this way and it was the most wonderful side dish of the evening. Signora Rita Callipo roasted them under a crust of salt and then served them with only a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I could have made an entire meal out of them. They were so good that when I got back home I pulled some young red onions from my garden and prepared them the same way. I just made them again last night and decided to share this simple recipe with you.

If you have never cooked under salt don't be afraid of the quantity required. The salt seals the food and keeps it moist, yet it doesn't get into the food. I roast whole fish under salt and it is truly the best way to prepare it. You can get my recipe for seabass under a crust of salt in my cookbook due out this fall.

Red onions just pulled from my garden:

Clean the fresh red onions by removing their roots and stems.

Mix 1.5 lbs of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (a half box) with enough water (about 1 cup) to make it the consistency of sand. Use only Diamond Crystal kosher salt; other brands are made by a different process, so the crystals have a different shape and are less absorbent.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, which will make cleaning easier, and make a bed of salt.

Lay the onions on top and cover them with the wet salt. Pat the salt down and make sure that no part of the onion is exposed.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Crack the salt crust.

Remove the onions and clean any salt that sticks to them. I also remove the outer layer of the onion.

Cut the onions in half and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt if needed.

Give it a try.  They are so good!

Melanzane ripiene (Stuffed eggplant)

Rosetta

In Calabria, eggplant is stuffed with different kinds of filling and cooked in different ways. If you're serving it as an appetizer or side dish, you would use a simple filling. But a hearty filling, like the recipe below that we prepared in my last class, makes a substantial main dish. Most cooks fry or blanch the  eggplant shells before stuffing them, baking the filled shells for only about 20 minutes. Because this recipe uses a filling with raw meat, and therefore requires a longer cooking time, it's not necessary to cook the shells before stuffing them.

I typically use the small Italian eggplant variety when I make this recipe, but very small Globe variety eggplant will work as well.

Here is the cooked pulp:

Here are the rest of the ingredients that will go into the filling:

And this is what the eggplant look like after they are filled:

Right before you put them in the oven:

And here they are, ready to eat:

Enjoy!

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Melanzane ripiene

(Baked stuffed eggplant)

8 small Italian eggplants

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1 pound ground pork

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see note below for the recipe)

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

3/4 cup water

2 cups simple tomato sauce

Grated pecorino cheese for topping eggplants

1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Remove the pulp, leaving the shell about a quarter inch thick. Be careful not to tear the sides or bottom. Chop the eggplant pulp finely and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped eggplant pulp, garlic and parsley. Sauté for a few minutes until the eggplant pulp is tender.

3. Remove from the heat and add the ground pork, breadcrumbs, basil, pecorino cheese, and egg. Add the water and mix all gently by hand. Add the teaspoon of salt and season with pepper to taste.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

5. Lightly salt the eggplant shells and fill them with the stuffing.  Spoon a layer of tomato sauce in a baking dish and place the stuffed eggplants alongside each other on top of the sauce. Spoon a little more tomato sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with pecorino cheese.

6. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The eggplant can be served hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

For the breadcrumbs:

How to Make Fresh Breadcrumbs

Use a dense, day-old Italian or French loaf. Do not remove the crusts. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and process them in a blender, filling it no more than halfway, until they are as fine as possible. You can freeze the leftover breadcrumbs for future use.

Piselli Stufati (Peas sautéed with onions)

Rosetta

Today I picked my first large batch of fresh spring peas. My kids ate most of them right off the vines, because the peas are so sweet.  This is one of the vegetables to consider growing in your garden, as it is difficult to find freshly picked peas and there is nothing like the taste. Peas are best eaten right after they are picked.

Look for fresh peas at the farmer's market. Make sure the pea pods are fresh, firm and shiny. Open one and taste the peas. They should be sweet and full of moisture. If they are starchy and tough, don't buy them. They have been sitting too long and the sugar has turned into starch.

Growing up in Calabria, my mother would always fix pasta with fresh peas, cooking the tiny pasta tubes called "ditalini", and adding the peas in the same pot with the pasta towards the end of the cooking. She mixed the drained pasta and peas with a simple tomato sauce. I used to love this dish as a child because a lot of the peas would hide inside the tiny pasta, as if someone had filled the tubes with peas.

Another way I enjoy fresh peas is to sauté them with onions and olive oil as a side dish.  It is so simple that you don't even need a recipe, but I will attach one so if you find fresh peas at the farmers market you can try it. Kids love peas prepared this way.

Piselli Stufati

(Peas sautéed with onions)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 large onion or a bunch of spring onions, chopped 1 lb fresh peas shelled 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

In a 12-inch sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.   Add the chopped onion and sauté over high heat for about 2 minutes until soft.   Add the peas, salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté for 4-5 minutes until peas are tender.

Serves 4 - 6.