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Filtering by Category: Recipes

Bruschetta with Fresh Fava Beans

Rosetta

My garden is a little behind from last May. The weather has been unusual for California this year, with lots of rain and cold. We have planted all the tomatoes, eggplant and romano beans, but have not planted our peppers yet. Fresh peas are still on the vines because they were late coming out this year.

And of course we have been picking lots of fava beans on a daily basis.

Eating fava beans every day prompted me to write about them. We plant the variety of beans that we brought over from Calabria. The bean pods are very long compared to the ones that you find here at the farmers' market. Typically fava bean pods are about six inches long with 5 or 6 beans inside, but our variety is 10 to 12 inches long with 8 to 10 beans inside the pod. Each plant produces lots of pods.

Here are the beans inside the pod.

The beans themselves have an outer skin that most people here in the United States always remove, making for lots more work. Calabrians usually leave them on when making pasta or minestra with fava beans  but I do remove them for certain dishes. The recipe for a fava bean "spread" that I will show you is one of these. You can put it on top of bruschetta or serve it with grilled fish, toss it with pasta, or fold it into a risotto. It is so easy to make that you can just follow the photos below to make it at home.

To make enough for six people you will need about four pounds of fava bean pods. Shuck the beans from the pods,  blanch the beans in boiling water for about a minute, put them in cold water to stop cooking, drain them and then remove the outer skin.  Place them in a skillet with a good amount of olive oil, three cloves of  minced garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme.  Cook until soft for about  20 minutes, adding a little water if dry. Remove the thyme sprig and mash with a potato masher. Add some lemon juice to taste.  If the puree is still dry add some good extra virgin olive oil at the end.

While it is still warm spread it on top of bruschetta and top it with some shavings of ricotta salata or pecorino.

The next time you go to the farmers' market grab the fava beans because their season is short. Look for bright fresh pods. If they are wrinkly or brown don't buy them. And remember to buy lots of pods. Five pounds of pods give you only about 2 pounds of shelled beans.

P.S.  Here is a formal portrait of my chickens. They have finally lost their fear of open spaces and have become proper country chicks. This photo was as hard to take as one of kindergarten children (they just wont stand still). I managed to corral all four of them in one corner of the yard.  They love being outside and eating greens. Can't wait for that first egg!

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Bruschetta con Fave Fresche (Bruschetta topped with fresh fava bean spread)

Ingredients

4 pounds fava beans
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
One small sprig rosemary
One small sprig thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Six slices of grilled country-style bread

1. Shell the fava beans and discard the pods.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the shelled fava beans. Cook the beans for about one minute. Drain and place in a bowl of ice-cold water, to cool. Drain them again. Using your thumbnail, break the outer green skin and squeeze the pod between your thumb and forefinger - the bright green bean inside will pop right out. Discard the tough, outer skin.

3. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a medium size skillet. Add the fava beans, garlic, rosemary and thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of water.

4. Cook over low heat until the fava beans are soft and absorb the flavors of the garlic and herbs, about 20 minutes. Add more water if the beans are drying out. Remove from the heat. Remove the herb sprigs and mash the mixture to a coarse puree or use a food processor and briefly process the mixture, if you prefer a smooth paste. Taste for salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and the lemon juice to taste. If the mixture seems dry, add more olive oil.

5. Spread the bean mixture on the grilled bruschetta. You can finish the bruschetta with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and topped with some shaved, fresh pecorino cheese or ricotta salata if you like.

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Bocconotti calabresi

Rosetta

The Calabrian town of Mormanno is famous for sweet pastry tartlets called bocconotti, a word that literally means “small bites”, because they can be eaten in one bite. They are traditionally filled with grape jam or cherry preserves and covered with pastry dough. I baked a couple of them with grape jam (mostarda d’uva) so you can see what they look like.

Someone wrote to me last week saying that her relatives in Rende used to make bocconotti with an almond chocolate filling, and wondered if I had a recipe for them. I had never heard of this particular filling for them, so I promised her that I would do some research in my collection of Calabrian cookbooks and pamphlets. These books, by the way, are usually self-published, very small, and always have recipes for local food. You can usually find them in little stores and markets in Calabria.

I went through my collection and lo and behold, I found a recipe for bocconotti from Amantea, in the province of Cosenza, that are filled with almonds and chocolate. They sometimes have a bit of cinnamon and cloves when they are made at Christmas time. I also found other recipes for bocconotti with just an almond filling, like a frangipane.

Unfortunately a typical Italian cookbook usually gives you the ingredients but not all the amounts, so in a way I had to create my own recipe for the filling. I used my basic recipe for the pastry dough. I like the traditional bocconotti filled with jam but these are even better, a heavenly treat, especially when made with cocoa and good dark chocolate like Valhrona. I made them without a pastry cover as you see in some recipes, but you can add a cover of pastry dough to look like the traditional ones from Mormanno.

Make a batch of my pastry dough as follows in the recipe below. Take a small amount about the size of a ping pong ball and using your fingers press the dough into 1 1/2" tartlet forms (measured across the bottom). Trim the edges.

To make the filling, grind all the dry ingredients in a food processor.

Make sure you grind the whole almonds with the rest of the dry ingredients until very fine.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in the dry ingredients, about a quarter at a time. You should have a thick fluffy batter.

Spoon the batter into the dough-lined tartlet shells and bake for 15–18 minutes at 375 F.

Here are my beautiful bocconotti dusted with powdered sugar.

The bocconotti in the center are the traditional shape covered with pastry dough. If you prefer, you can fill them with any jam you like, or with Nutella. Below are the bocconotti with the chocolate almond filling.

If you make them let me know what you think.

Bocconotti Calabresi

Pastry dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch kosher salt

4 ounces unsalted butter, chilled, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Filling:

1/2 cup almonds, about 3 ounces

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 ounces dark chocolate

1/4  cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Make the dough: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times to blend. Add the butter and pulse four to five times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and lemon zest. With the food processor running, add the egg mixture through the feed tube. Process just until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently, just until it comes together into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. If refrigerated for more than 1 hour, you will need to soften the dough slightly by removing it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to use it.

Preheat the oven to 375° F

Make the filling:  Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor and grind them until you have a fine powder.  Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the dry ingredients in the egg whites, about ¼ at a time.  When all the dried ingredients are folded in the egg whites, add the vanilla and stir.

Take a small amount of dough, about the size of a ping pong ball, and using your fingers press it into the tartlet mold up against the edges.  Trim excess dough.  When all the tartlets are done, place a heaped tablespoon of filling in each tartlet.  Place all the filled tartlets on top a cookie sheet and bake at 375F for 15 to 18 minutes until the dough is lightly colored.

Cool on a rack. When cool remove the bocconotti from the tartlet forms.   Dust with powder sugar.

Makes 16 bocconotti

Copyright 2010, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Calabrian Easter bread

Rosetta

At Easter time, in my town of Verbicaro everybody baked a sweet bread that we called buccellati, also called cuzzupe, cuculi or cudduraci in other parts of Calabria. Thesesymbolic breads are decorated with whole eggs still in the shell. The eggs are nestled into the surface of the dough, held in place with criss-crossed strips of dough, representing the crucifix, and baked along with the bread. These decorative breads, symbols of Christ’s resurrection, are given to children, with boys receiving a braided loaf and girls a loaf in the shape of a doll.

My mom used to bake these breads every year when we lived in Calabria and I always looked forward to my “pupa" ("doll") at Easter time. For some reason she didn’t continue this tradition after we moved to California--I guess I was too old for a doll --and not having a written recipe she had forgotten the amounts of each ingredient. So this past week we started talking about this lost tradition and it fired me up to bake these breads for my kids. She made a call to a relative in San Francisco that still makes the buccellati every year and I quickly had a recipe that I slightly modified, adding my favorite flavorings: vanilla and grated lemon peel. The recipe below will make three large breads or two of each of the three shapes in the pictures

Buona Pasqua!

Dough after kneading, ready for first rise:

Shaping the dough into ropes to form the braided bread:

Breads in three shapes ready for second rise:

Breads ready for baking; you can sprinkle the breads with nonpareils if you like:

Buccellato di Pasqua

Easter Bread

1 cube butter (4 ounces)

2 cups milk

2 packages Rapid Rise yeast

3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks

2 cups sugar

one teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons anisette liqueur or brandy

One teaspoon vanilla

grated zest of one lemon

8 cups flour or more if needed

Whole Eggs in the shell, to bake in the bread

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of sugar (for egg wash)

Nonpareils to decorate (optional)

Melt the butter with the milk.  Add the yeast in the warm milk (make sure it is not hot) and stir to dissolve the yeast.

In a large bowl, mix the whole eggs and egg yolks with the sugar, salt, olive oil, anisette, vanilla and lemon peel.  Add the warm milk with butter and yeast to the egg mixture. Slowly add the flour and stir with a fork to incorporate all the flour.   Mix with your hands and add more flour if needed until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead it until you have a smooth dough.

With the dough placed in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Shape the dough into ropes and braid into the various shapes.   Nestle the whole eggs in their shells in the braids and cover with thin ropes of dough.   Let the dough rise again for another hour.

After the second rise, brush the dough with the egg wash.  Decorate with nonpareils if you desired.

Bake at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Crema di Limoncello

Rosetta

What do you do when life gives you lemons? I make limoncello with the Meyer lemons from my tree.

Last week I made a batch of limoncello and crema di limoncello, which I learned to make from my cousins. In Calabria people make all types of liqueurs, infusing grain alcohol with different fruit, herbs, flowers, even hot peppers. (The most unusual liqueur I have ever tasted in Calabria was at Villa San Domenico in Morano Calabro where the owner had infused the alcohol with porcini mushrooms.) It is a custom to offer a bicchierino (little glass) of liqueur when someone comes by to visit. Most waiters in Calabria won’t leave you alone until you have a little glass of limoncello or other infused liqueur after dinner.

Limoncello is very easy to make: you just need some lemons that haven't been  sprayed or waxed, a bottle of Everclear and some sugar. Crema di limoncello, the recipe for which I give you below, has one extra ingredient: milk.

Wash your lemons and remove the peel with a very sharp peeler or knife, being careful to remove only the yellow part of the lemon.  You don’t want any of the white pith--this will make the limoncello bitter.

Place the peels with the alcohol in a  jar with a hermetic seal.  I use this jar that is large enough to hold the peels and the alcohol, and has a tight seal.  Leave the peels in the alcohol for a week.

After a week, strain the alcohol and add the cooled sugar syrup, made with either water for plain limoncello, or milk for crema di limoncello.  That is all there is to it. Leave it alone for a week and then enjoy a little glass as an after-dinner drink.

Crema di Limoncello (left) and Limoncello (right)

Crema di Limoncello

(Creamy lemon liqueur)

Ingredients:

Peeled zest of eight lemons

1 bottle of grain alcohol (750ml)  (Everclear 151 Proof)

6 cups of whole milk

4 cups of granulated sugar

1. Remove the peel of the lemons taking care to peel only the yellow part and none of the white.  If any white pith is left on the peel it will make the limoncello bitter.

2. Pour the alcohol in a bottling jar that will hold at least three quarts and add the lemon peels.  Close the jar with a tight fitting lid and leave to infuse for one week in a dark cool place.

3. After this time, place the milk and sugar in a pot over a low flame and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  When the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Make sure that the sugar mixture is completely cooled.  For making regular limoncello this is very important; if the sugar syrup is still a little bit hot the limoncello will turn out cloudy instead of clear. Remove the lemon peels from the alcohol and then add the cold milk syrup to the jar and mix well.

4. Pour the crema di limoncello through a fine sieve lined with clean cheese cloth and decant it into bottles.  Close the bottle with a cork or lid. Leave to rest for at least a week in the freezer before using it.

Crema di Limoncello is always served cold.  I keep it in the freezer once opened.

Limoncello Variation: If you wish to make limoncello, just replace the milk with water.  Boil the water and sugar and let it cool.  Follow the rest of the recipe.  Keep refrigerated or in the freezer once made.

Makes 3 quarts.

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Peperoni Cruschi

Rosetta

December is a month of many celebrations, both religious and secular. Often each celebration is accompanied by the serving of a particular food or dish. December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Roman Catholic Church, and marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday season and its wonderful dishes in Calabria. My town also has a non-religious celebration that day, known as “Perciavutta” day. The word “percia” means “to make a hole” and “vutta” means“barrel”; therefore “put a hole in the barrel”, and as I remember it when I lived in Calabria, Perciavutta is the day when all the townspeople that made wine that year would go to each other's cellars and taste the new wine. Two snacks are traditionally served to the guests. One is grispelle, in which dried peppers are softened and folded in yeasted dough. I'll be writing more about this Calabrian specialty as the holiday season continues. The second snack that is brought to the wine cellars is peperoni cruschi, called pipi arruschkati in my dialect.

For peperoni cruschi, you need sun-dried sweet Italian peppers. Peperoni di Senise are ideal but any dried sweet Italian pepper will work. In future posts, you will see how we use these dried peppers in various dishes throughout the winter months.

To make peperoni cruschi, first remove the seeds and stems from the dried peppers and cut into pieces. Place the cut peppers with some extra virgin olive oil in a pan.  Toss to coat with the olive oil and place the pan over medium heat.

Keep on stirring them with a fork as the oil in the pan warms up. As soon as they puff up and become crispy you can remove them from the heat; be careful not to burn them.  Add a sprinkle of salt and you're done. They are sweet and smoky, unbelievable good and downright addictive!

If you have bought peperoni cruschi that are packaged and exported, you've wasted your money. They need to be eaten as soon as they are prepared, not months later out of a cellophane bag. So plan to dry some sweet Italian peppers next summer or buy the whole dried peppers and then make this easy dish yourself.

Zuppa di Zucca (Roasted Butternut Squash Soup)

Rosetta

As I promised you last week,  here is my recipe for butternut squash soup, a dish that always shows up on our table on Thanksgiving day. It is extremely simple to make because it has only a few ingredients. If you can, make your own chicken or vegetable broth for it; it will make a world of a difference in the taste. Cut the butternut squash in large chunks, removing the seeds. Place the cut-up pieces in a baking dish along with an unpeeled onion cut in half vertically and an unpeeled head of garlic, with its top cut off to expose the cloves.

Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and drizzle with olive oil

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 1 hour or more until soft.

Once cool, using a spoon remove the squash pulp from skin and place in a food processor with the onion (remove outer skin) and squeeze as many garlic cloves as you like into the bowl.

Puree until smooth.

Place in a pot and thin it out with 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth.

Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped parsley; or you can fry a few sage leaves and place them on top of the soup.

Enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving!

Zuppa di Zucca

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 pounds butternut squash, unpeeled, seeds removed, cut into 10 pieces

1 unpeeled garlic head

1 large onion, unpeeled cut in half, vertically

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 fresh thyme sprigs

2 cups (or more) chicken broth or vegetable broth

Minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut 1/3 inch off the top of the garlic head, exposing the cloves.  Arrange the garlic, squash and onion cut side up in large baking dish.  Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil.  Scatter the thyme over the vegetables.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.  Uncover the vegetables and cool for 10 minutes.

Scrape the squash from the skin into the processor work bowl.  Peel outer layers and trim root end from onion halves.  Add onion to processor.   Separate 6 garlic cloves from head and squeeze the garlic in the bowl.   Puree the vegetables until smooth.  Add more roasted garlic if desired.

Transfer the puree to heavy large pot.  Wisk in 2 cups of chicken broth.  Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth if thinner consistency is desired.

Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.  You can serve the soup with crostini (toasted bread) spread with the remaining roasted garlic.

Serves 6

Zucca con la menta (Butternut squash marinated with garlic and mint)

Rosetta

This is the time of the year when I have to buy some vegetables at the market. (My family lives off what we grow in our backyard until November.) All the summer vegetables are winding down in my garden, and I can start buying my favorite fall vegetable, butternut squash. The easiest way to use butternut squash is to peel it, cut it in small cubes, and toss with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then roast the cubes at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until soft.

How do I love butternut squash? Let me count the ways: tossed in pasta or farro, added to a risotto, as a filling for stuffed pasta, tossed with arugula for a salad,  pureed  as side dish, or on top of pizza. Another of my favorite ways to use it is to make a simple roasted butternut squash soup for Thanksgiving. I will share this recipe with you next week in time for you to make it for the holidays.

Two of my most favorite methods of preparing butternut squash are the Calabrian, as zucca con la menta, and the Sicilian, as zucca in agrodolce. They can be served as a side dish or part of an appetizer buffet. I can’t give you the recipe for the Calabrian version word for word as it will be included in my upcoming cookbook, but I can show you with pictures and, it being a simple dish, you can make it right now rather than wait until next year!

Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds from the lower half, and slice it into ¼ inch slices. You will get half moon slices from the upper section and C shapes from the lower section.

The slices are fried in olive oil until golden.

As you fry them, place them on a platter and sprinkle them with salt. Drizzle with red wine vinegar, and add some sliced garlic and fresh mint.  Continue this layering process until done.  Drizzle with additional olive oil if it seems dry. Let it marinate for at least a couple of hours.

If you want to make the Sicilian version, zucca in agrodolce,  meaning a dish that is sweet and sour, which my mother-in-law makes,  do the same layering processing by adding the garlic and the mint, but skip the vinegar on each layer and do the following instead:  keep two tablespoon of olive oil in the pan in which you fried the squash, and add 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of sugar.  Heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour over the fried pumpkin slices.

Crostone con i Funghi (Grilled Bread with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Taleggio Cheese)

Rosetta

When I was growing up in Calabria my family never purchased cultivated mushrooms from the supermarket. My parents mastered the secrets of mushroom hunting at an early age. They knew where to look for them and which ones were edible and which were not. We foraged for porcini, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and many other varieties. Although we live in the San Francisco Bay Area now, my father still manages to find the same mushrooms. In Calabria we cooked wild mushrooms in many different ways. We grilled them, baked them with a sprinkling of fresh breadcrumbs and herbs, layered them with sliced potatoes, cooked them with tomatoes, and preserved them in oil. I can still taste my grandmother's wild porcini dish; she would slice them thickly and quickly sauté them with olive oil, garlic and parsley. It is still one of my favorite ways to cook wild mushrooms; I will give you a variation of this recipe below.

A couple of years ago a student asked me to teach a cooking class based entirely on wild mushrooms. The class was so successful that I now offer the class annually at the beginning of November called “A Feast of Wild Mushrooms”.   In this class I bring my favorites: porcini, chanterelles, and oyster mushrooms. Here is a basket that I brought to class last week filled with these three types:

This is the only time of the year that they are available at the market, so try them now. For my all-mushroom class I like to purchase them at Monterey Market in Berkeley. They have an extensive selection of mushrooms foraged in California and Oregon.

And please please PLEASE--don’t venture out to pick mushrooms unless you are trained to identify them or are with a mycologist. Some wild mushrooms are poisonous and can lead to severe illness or death.

Here are the porcini mushrooms:

...and some beautiful chanterelles:

...and wild oyster mushrooms that my dad foraged last week!

My cooking class features wild mushrooms from appetizer to dessert.  Well, not quite.  The dessert just looks like a truffle; but it is a dessert specialty of Calabria called “tartufo di Pizzo”. You will have to wait for the recipe for when my cook book comes out next year. In the meantime, I will share with you, the recipe for an appetizer from the class, that  I had in Rome many years ago at a “bruschetteria”, a restaurant where all they serve are large bruschettas and salads. The "appetizer" was an over-sized bruschetta called a “crostone” topped with melted taleggio cheese and mushrooms.  I created my own version by topping a bruschetta with wild mushrooms cooked the way my grandmother used to. With this simple technique you can create many dishes. You can toss the sauteed mushrooms in pasta or risotto, or eat them as a side dish with grilled meats.

To make the appetizer as a crostone I like to use Acme Bread pain au levain or as a bruschetta their Italian loaf. As a crostone it is great for a lunch with a nice salad of winter greens.

Brush the bread generously with olive oil and grill or broil on both sides.

Rub with garlic and top each toast with a slice of Taleggio:

Melt the cheese in the oven

Saute the wild mushrooms

and top the crostone with them:

Give it a try and enjoy it as an appetizer or as a light vegetarian meal!

Crostone con i Funghi

Grilled Bread with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Taleggio Cheese

Four 3/4-inch-thick slices crusty Italian bread 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 4 cloves garlic: 1 cut in half, 3 grated on Microplane or finely minced 4 ounces Taleggio, cut into four 1/8-inch-thick slices 1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, porcini, shiitake, oyster) cleaned and cut into 1/4-inch slices 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat a charcoal, gas, or stovetop grill to high heat or preheat broiler with an oven rack positioned about 6 inches below the heat source.

Generously brush both sides of bread with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Grill until toasted with a little color on both sides. Transfer to a baking sheet and rub both sides of toast with the cut garlic. Discard garlic. Top each toast with Taleggio and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. When oil is hot enough to sizzle a mushroom, add mushrooms and salt. Don't stir until steam starts rising from sides of pan. Sprinkle with grated/minced garlic and sauté quickly, stirring frequently, just until mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Add parsley, stir, and taste for seasoning--add more salt, if necessary. Set aside. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point.)

Just before serving, place toast under broiler just until cheese melts. Transfer to individual dinner plates, top with mushrooms, and serve immediately with a knife and fork.

Serves 4

Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Roasted peppers Casa Janca Style

Rosetta

Here is my newest favorite pepper recipe that escaped my mom's repertoire. I learned this recipe just last year when I was staying at Casa Janca, a rustic agriturismo near the fishing village of Pizzo, just northeast of Tropea. The owner, Rita Callipo, is a highly regarded cook that runs a restaurant out of her home. Eating there is like eating at my aunt’s house. She makes the best Calabrian dishes, and always bases her meals on what she finds that day at the market. Every time I am there I barge into the kitchen to see what she is cooking. I have included a few of her recipes in my book, My Calabria, but this one wastoo late to submit, so you can try it out now in anticipation of additional delicious recipes when the book is released next year. I watched her make this dish; she just sprinkled "a little of this and a little of that" of what was available in her kitchen. I took notes so that I could duplicate it at home and it has become a favorite at our house. It's very easy to prepare and has all the flavors of Calabria.

Peperoni ripieni della Casa Janca

(Roasted peppers Casa Janca style)

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (see note below)

1/4 cupgrated pecorino cheese

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped

4 large red or yellow bell peppers

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon capers, chopped if using large capers

6 anchovy fillets cut in small pieces

18-20 small cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarter if large

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese, garlic and parsley.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the stem and seeds.

Coat a 9x13 baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and place the peppers cut side up. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of salt evenly over all the peppers. Add chopped capers, anchovy pieces, chopped tomatoes and a nice coating of the breadcrumb mixture inside each pepper.

Drizzle generously with the remaining four tablespoons of olive oil and bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or so, until the peppers are soft and fully roasted.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Note: to make fresh breadcrumbs use day-old bread (good Italian or French loaf), cut it up in cubes and place it in a blender. Puree until you have fine, even breadcrumbs.

Copyright 2009, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved

How to make mosto cotto

Rosetta

This past weekend we had our annual wine-making day. We buy Zinfandel grapes from a farmer (no, we don’t grow our own grapes here in the Bay Area) and then crush them in my dad's basement, which is where he makes and stores wine, and cures salumi.

My entire family works for a couple of hours until all the grapes are crushed. I then steal some of the juice to make mosto cotto.

The ancient Greeks in Calabria were the ones who began cooking grape juice and using it as a sweetener. In fact the original mostaccioli cookies were made with flour and mosto cotto. People in Calabria would even drizzle it on top of freshly fallen snow for a scirobetta. It is very sweet, with a concentrated grape flavor and a taste of caramel. Nowadays it has been replaced with honey. In other regions of Italy mostocotto is also known as sapa.

There are many traditional desserts still made in Calabria that use mosto cotto, most of them at Christmas time. People use it to sweeten cuccia, a porridge-like dessert of cooked wheat berries for Santa Lucia Day, December 13. It is also used in the filling of petrali, cookies filled with dried figs and nuts, as well as a tossing for turdilli, a sweet fried dough.

I think it's wonderful to drizzle on top of pecorino cheese and pears, or ice cream, or homemade ricotta. You can use it wherever you would use a dark honey.

To make mosto cotto you must buy wine grapes that are high in sugar, which means that ordinary table grapes won’t work. After crushing them, you get unfiltered grape juice:

You can see the seeds and skins still in the juice. After you filter it, bring the juice to a boil in a pot, then skim it:

Slowly cook it until it is reduced by 2/3 the original volume.

This will take close to 2 hours. Watch it carefully towards the end so you don’t over-reduce it or burn it. It should have the thickness of maple syrup:

Cool the syrup, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve, and decant it into clean bottles with a cork or clasp seal. Store it in a cool, dark pantry or refrigerate. It will keep for at least a year.

I hope that some of you who have access to wine grapes will try this out; making it has become a lost art, even in Calabria.

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.

Involtini di melanzane ripieni di pasta (Eggplant rolls filled with pasta)

Rosetta

Here is the second recipe I promised you from my August cooking class menu, the one that uses eggplant from appetizer to dessert. This dish is a clever way to combine eggplant, pasta, and cheese in a beautiful presentation. It was supposed to be in my cookbook, but I already had too many recipes, so you're in luck. The recipe calls for frying the eggplant slices, which is how I had it in Calabria, but for the class I decided to grill them instead, and I've grown to like it better that way. You can also bake the slices, if you prefer. For this dish, I use large globe eggplant. Here is what the slices look like on the grill:

Once they are done you place on each eggplant slice some spaghetti that has been lightly tossed with tomato sauce, and then you top it with a piece of cheese:

Roll the eggplant slice around the pasta and cheese. You now officially have an involtino:

Then you finish with some more tomato sauce and grated cheese, such as ricotta affumicata (ricotta that has been smoked) or grated pecorino.   This is what the involtini look like in the baking dish:

And here they are, ready to eat. Yummy!

Here is the recipe:

INVOLTINI DI MELANZANE RIPIENI DI PASTA

Eggplant rolls filled with pasta, mozzarella and tomato sauce

In Calabria, caciocavallo cheese or provola is typically used in place of mozzarella, for their stronger flavor.  The eggplant can also be grilled as a light alternative to fried.

Serves 8

2 eggplants (1 pound each)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Olive oil for frying

3 cups of fresh tomato sauce

1/2 pound of spaghetti

20 fresh basil leaves, chopped

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino crotonese or ricotta salata

1. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 3/8-inch thick slices. You should get 8 slices from each eggplant. Lightly sprinkle the slices with the salt on both sides and set aside. Heat enough olive oil in a 10-inch skillet to come 1/2 inch up the side of the pan.

2. Pat the eggplant slices on both sides with a paper towel, drying thoroughly.

3. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle, add a few slices of the eggplant and fry until soft and golden on both sides. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the remaining eggplant to the skillet and fry as before. Set aside the cooked eggplant.

4. Prepare the tomato sauce using your favorite recipe.

5. Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook the pasta until al dente, slightly undercooked, as it will continue to cook in the oven.

6. When the pasta is ready, drain, and toss with half of the tomato sauce and half of chopped basil, stirring until the pasta is well coated.

7.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.

8.  Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. On a plate or a cutting board lay flat a slice of the cooked eggplant. Place a few strands of spaghetti on top of the eggplant slice; the strands should drape over the slice on both sides. Add a slice of cheese over the pasta and make a roll of the eggplant slice around the pasta and cheese. Place the roll in the baking dish, making sure each roll sits snugly next to its neighbor. When all the rolls are in the baking dish pour a little of the sauce over them and place another slice of cheese on top of each roll. Dot the top of each roll with a little more sauce, sprinkle the remaining basil, and dust with grated pecorino or grated ricotta salata.

9.  Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese melts and forms a light, golden crust.

10.  Serve carefully with a spatula so that each involtino doesn't unroll.

Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Melanzane al cioccolato (Eggplant layered and filled with ricotta and chocolate)

Rosetta

As I promised you in the last post here is the recipe for the eggplant dessert that is prepared during August in towns along the Amalfi Coast. I'll show you what all the steps look like, along with some commentary. The actual recipe will be below the photos. First, the ingredients. Two eggplants, peeled and sliced thinly, and coated with flour:

A mixture of sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest will be used to coat the fried slices:

For the filling, you'll need homemade or good store-bought ricotta:

Amaretti cookies, toasted almonds and candied orange peel complete the filling:

The first layer of eggplant will cover the bottom of the baking dish and also be draped over its sides. So, after you add the first layer of sweetened ricotta and chocolate sauce, the results  should look like this:

You will be topping the  third layer of filling with more eggplant, and then covering the whole dish with the overhanging slices. It should look like a package:

Here is a cross section after it's been baked:

Give it a try...

... and let me know what you think!

Melanzane al Cioccolato

(Eggplant layered and filled with ricotta and chocolate)

This recipe, as is prepared in the town of Maiori, near Amalfi, is a slight variation from the one more widely found, in that it contains ricotta in the filling. To make the original version, omit the ricotta and egg from the filling and refrigerate to set, without baking. Just serve, accompanied with a small glass of iced limoncello.

2 eggplants, about one pound each

Flour for coating the eggplant

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Grated peel of two lemons

Chocolate Sauce (see below for the recipe)

Filling

1 cup ricotta, passed through an extra-fine strainer

1/4 cup sugar

1 ounce amaretti cookies, crushed

2 ounces whole blanched almonds, toasted and finely chopped

1 ounce candied orange peel, chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Butter and sugar for coating baking dish

1. In a large, shallow dish, mix the cup of sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel and set aside.

2. Peel and thinly slice the eggplants lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick. Heat enough olive oil in a 10-inch skillet to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan.

3. Lightly coat the eggplant slices in flour and fry until golden on both sides. Remove and place on a platter lined with paper towels. Continue frying until all the eggplant slices have been cooked.

4. While still warm, dip each slice of eggplant in the flavored sugar and press to coat both sides. Set aside until ready to assemble.

5. Make the chocolate sauce (see attached recipe).

6. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, ¼ cup sugar, amaretti cookies, chopped almonds and candied orange peel in a bowl.  Blend in the eggs and set aside.

7. To Assemble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a baking dish (9 x 9 x 2 inches) and coat with granulated sugar. Line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with slices of eggplant, arranging them so there are eggplant slices draping over the sides of the dish. Spread one third of the ricotta filling over the eggplant, and top the ricotta filling with a light layer of chocolate sauce. Without draping any eggplant over the sides this time, repeat the layering of eggplant, ricotta filling and chocolate sauce two more times, so you have three layers of each.  Finish the dessert by topping with a fourth, and final layer of eggplant and fold the eggplant draped over the sides of the dish back over the dessert to close it like a package.

8.  Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, placing a cookie sheet underneath the baking dish to catch any sugar syrup that bubbles over. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to cool.

When the dessert has cooled, it can be sliced and served with additional chocolate sauce or powdered sugar.

This dessert can also be made using individual ramekins following the same layering process as described above, spreading the ricotta filling to about ¼ inch thick.  Turn the dessert out of the ramekin before serving.

Serves 12.

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

And here is the recipe for the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, cut in small pieces

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl.

2. Place the heavy whipping cream in a small pot and bring it just to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let set for two minutes without stirring, then gently stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let the sauce cool until it reaches the desired thickness and consistency.

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Gelato alle more (Wild Blackberry Ice Cream)

Rosetta

This is the time of year that I forage for wild blackberries, which grow wild here in Northern California. Luckily I don't have to go very far to pick them: they grow all over the sides of a trail right behind my house.

Picking blackberries brings back a lot of memories of growing up in Calabria. I would pick wild blackberries (called more in Italian), wild alpine strawberries and raspberries along the trails to get to my dad's mountain farm. Going to the mountain farm was a fun hike, as I would fill my belly with berries. The ones I didn't eat right away I used to thread on a strand of grass rush (Juncus tenuis); this way I could carry a lot more of them than if I kept them loose in my hands, and I could keep my hands relatively clean and completely free for picking other things!

I taught my son this trick last week when we went foraging. We took the pictures below to show you what they look like on the grass strand:

This is a great example of how in Calabria we always used what nature gave us. We had no plastic Ziploc or plastic containers; we were always green!

We'll be picking blackberries at least once a week for approximately another month. We ventured out again yesterday and managed to pick the equivalent of eight  pints in about 45 minutes. My son ends up eating more than he puts in the basket, just as I used to when I was a kid. I let him decide what to do with all the berries that he doesn't eat right away, so we spent the entire afternoon making a crostata with blackberries and nectarines:

We also made gelato (see my recipe below)...

...a wild blackberry mousse, and pureed some as a sauce that we used on top of french toast for breakfast. Next week I'll be making some jam with the blackberries I pick.

If you see bushes of wild blackberries, give yourself a treat straight from nature. Just be careful of the thorns: they like to scratch your legs and arms, so it helps to wear jeans and a long sleeved shirt.

Gelato alle more (Wild Blackberry Ice Cream)

1.5 cups blackberry puree (about 3 cups of berries)

2 cups milk

5 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 tablespoon Maraschino or Kirsch

1. Puree the blackberries in a blender and strain through a fine sieve to remove all the seeds. Measure 1.5 cups and set aside. If you have leftover puree, save it and make a sauce with it by adding sugar and some lemon juice to taste.

2. Place the milk in a medium-size, heavy saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

3. While the milk is heating, in a medium size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the yolks are pale yellow and the mixture is thick and creamy.

4. Slowly pour half the hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture, whisking until well blended. Pour the milk/egg mixture in the bowl back into the milk remaining in the saucepan, whisking as you pour. Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Stir constantly and cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Transfer the mixture to a large, clean bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Add the blackberry puree, the cream, the liqueur and mix well. Place in the refrigerator to chill. When sufficiently chilled, transfer to an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

Serve with some blackberries or with the remaining puree sweetened to taste.

Makes about 2 quarts

Copyright 2009, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Frittelle di fiori di zucchine (Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella)

Rosetta

It is that time of the year again, when my prolific zucchini plants start producing beautiful blossoms. I picked the first ones last week and since I planted six plants I pick lots of zucchini blossoms on a daily basis. So far I have enjoyed them stuffed and fried, one of my favorite way to eat them. In Calabria zucchini blossoms are very popular. In fact you can see from the picture below how they are sold at the market: in beautiful bunches, picked in the morning and brought to market that day.

The most common way to eat them in Calabria is coated in a batter and fried, or mixed in with pasta.  Last year while in Calabria at one of my favorite restaurant, Dattilo, I ate them in spaghetti with clams. They are wonderful in a frittata or on top of pizza. I have a recipe for pizza with stuffed zucchini blossoms in my upcoming cookbook.

If you grow your own zucchini, you will notice that the plant produces two types of blossom, a male and a female. The female blossom is attached to the zucchini and falls off as the fruit matures. The male flower, with the long stem, serves no purpose other than fertilization, so these are the ones you'll want to pick and cook.

I pick the male blossoms early in the morning while they are still open and place them in a glass of water if I plan to use them the same day. When I want to make a dish that requires lots of blossoms, I put them in a plastic bag, blow some air into it, and close it tightly. I then store the bag in the refrigerator upright until I collect enough flowers for the dish.

If you are buying them at the farmers' market, look for flowers that are fresh and perky, and avoid the limp or wilted ones. Once they are closed it is very hard to open them (which you need to do to stuff them) without damaging the flower. You can use closed flowers in dishes where they will be chopped or sliced.

Here are the many ways I cook with zucchini blossoms:

  • Stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, and coated in a batter and fried;
  • Stuffed with ricotta and fresh herbs and baked;
  • Mixed in at the last minute in a risotto;
  • Tossed with pasta;
  • Cut in strips and added to a frittata;
  • Stuffed with goat cheese on top of pizza.

If you are interested, please join me in my July 10 cooking class and we'll prepare the blossoms picked from my garden with the following recipe:

Frittelle di Fiori di Zucchine

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Mozzarella

Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cold water

Olive oil for frying

12 zucchini blossoms, stems attached if possible

6 ounces whole milk mozzarella

6 salted anchovies filets, cleaned, rinsed and cut in two pieces

For the Batter: Place the flour and salt in a bowl and make a shallow well in the center. Place the beaten egg in the well and mix it into the flour with a fork. Stir in the water, pressing any lumps with the back of the fork to remove. Mix to a consistency that resembles thin pancake batter. When you lift some batter with the fork, it should fall in a ribbon. If the batter is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time. If too thin, add a little more flour. Set aside.

Heat the Oil: Heat about 1 inch of oil in a Dutch oven or frying pan over medium heat until it is hot enough to sizzle the end of a wooden chopstick (about 365 degrees F for olive oil).

Prepare the Blossoms: Just before frying, rinse blossoms, remove the pistil and any insects that might be hiding inside.

Slice the cheese into squares or "logs" small enough to fit deep inside the blossoms so that you can fold over the petals to fully enclose the cheese. Place a piece of anchovy in each blossom along with the cheese cube and fold over the petals to close the opening.

When the oil is hot enough, dip a flower into batter and turn with a large spoon to coat. Using the spoon, transfer the battered blossom to the oil, pouring any batter that accumulates in the bottom of the spoon back atop the frying blossom, making sure it is coated. Fry the blossom on both sides just until the batter is cooked through, about 1 minute total. When done, the batter will be lightly golden, not brown. Drain on paper towels and repeat battering and frying the remaining blossoms 2 or 3 at a time without allowing them to touch each other in the oil. As necessary, regulate the temperature to keep oil at 365 degrees F while frying. Be careful when turning the blossoms as they tend to splatter when any residual water spills into the hot oil.

Serve immediately with a napkin and a salt shaker, if desired. Be careful of the molten cheese inside when you eat these.

Serves 4 (makes 12 blossoms)

Copyright, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

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.

Scarole e Fagioli (Escarole and Beans)

Rosetta

My cooking students always ask me this question. This time of the year is a transition period. I am finishing picking winter vegetables such as escarole, chicory and cabbage.

I also pick borage, which grows wild in my garden. The broccoli rabe is gone.

I had enough escarole last night to make scarole e fagioli, one of my favorite comfort foods, with dried borlotti beans from the garden. You can probably still find escarole at your farmers' market. But the soup is even better with chicory.

The other vegetables not quite ready to be picked are fava beans, peas and sweet red Italian onions from Tropea, a resort town on the west coast of Calabria. (Yes, I actually brought the onion seeds from there.)

And of course my herb garden has beautiful Italian parsley, rosemary, oregano and thyme that thrive all year long.

My dad just started the seeds for the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. I will share some of his gardening secrets when he starts preparing the dirt.

And here is my recipe for scarole e fagioli

Scarole e Fagioli

Escarole and Bean Soup

In Calabria, my mother would make this winter minestra (thick soup) with wild greens, such as the dandelions and various chicories that grew everywhere. Nowadays we make the dish with escarole from our garden.

Typical of Calabrian minestre, this soup is thick, not brothy, with just enough liquid to bathe the beans and vegetables. The escarole should be very soft, offering no resistance. We leave the whole hot peppers in the soup and enjoy them in small bites.

1/2 pound dried cranberry (borlotti) beans, or dried cannellini beans or about 3 cups of cooked beans Kosher salt 2 pounds escarole, both ribs and leaves 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 to 3 small dried hot red peppers, tops removed and slit 3 cloves garlic, halved

Soak the beans 8 to 12 hours in water to cover generously. Drain and place in a large pot with fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook uncovered until the beans are tender, 45 minutes or more, depending on their age. Season the bean broth with salt, stirring well to dissolve the salt, then let the beans cool in the broth. You should have about 3 cups cooked beans. You can prepare the beans to this point a day or two ahead, cover, and refrigerate.

Stack the escarole leaves and cut crosswise at 2-inch intervals. Fill an 8-quart pot half full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole, pushing it down into the water. Cook until the white ribs are very tender, about 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Taste a piece to check for doneness. Drain and return the escarole to a clean pot. Add the olive oil, hot peppers, garlic, 3/4 cup bean broth and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and simmer briskly for 3 minutes. Add the beans, leaving the bean broth behind, and simmer 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot or warm

Serves 6