With the holidays fast approaching, especially Christmas Eve, the Mother of all Fish Meals, this recipe is quick, easy, and great to transport for a last minute show stopper for Friendsgiving or even Brunch. I call it Cheater Oysters Rockefeller. It was developed over Manhattans and dinner with my dear friends MD and AF while eating some creamed spinach from our favorite butcher, DellaPietra in Brooklyn Heights. For ingredients for four persons as a starter (3 per person), you need a dozen oysters, 12 Tablespoons of the aforementioned creamed spinach, grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano if that is what you have), and a splash of Pernod or Sambuca or even fennel seed or fennel pollen if you have for that taste of sweetness and licorice.
To prepare, heat your over to 500. You will be steaming the oysters open but not cooking them through. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil and crunch in spots to make a small pocket for the oysters to save the liquor that may seep out, you will want to use that later. Place the oysters on the sheet pan rounded side down and let them cook in the oven until the flat top starts to separate from the bottom; watch carefully, this only takes a few minutes. Take them out as this happens so that early openers don’t overcook. Let cool until you can handle, I use a potholder for this step, and pry the top from the bottom. When all are opened, pour any oyster liquor into a bowl and place the oysters back their shells. Usually the top comes off without the oyster attached, but if that does not happen, just scrape it off with a knife and place into the shell. This step requires a bit of patience if the tops don’t pop easily. Just work at them gently and they will open. I have an oyster knife but it isn’t necessary, use whatever you think will make the job easier for you. Even a flat head screwdriver works. Add any liquor that may have accumulated in the pan to the reserved juices and strain to remove any nasty shell bits that may have come off. Remove the tinfoil and replace with a new piece and cover that with a wire pan grate. Next, add the liquor to the creamed spinach and also add the splash of Pernod (or a pinch of ground fennel or fennel pollen) and salt and pepper to taste. You can preheat the spinach if you want but I don’t find that a necessary step. Spread each oyster to cover the entire opening with about a tablespoon of spinach and place on the wire grate. Top all with the grated cheese to your liking (isn’t more better?) and place back into the oven until the cheese is melted and the spinach warm.
If you are making to transport, place the shells, oysters, juice and spinach in separate containers and combine just before heating.
Serve, maybe with a glass of champagne? After all, it is the holidays and they are called Oysters Rockefeller!
Unbeknownst to me, my fish market closed for good and I promised Linguine Vongole for dinner. So no vongole to be had. What to do? Buy the best canned clams you can find and make the recipe without the shells. Here is what you need for two people: 1/2 pound linguine; 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced; pinch red pepper; 1-2 cans best chopped clams you can find-drain the juices and reserve; 1-2 tablespoons white wine; handful of arugula; 2 tablespoons butter to finish the sauce.
Set a large pot of water on high heat and when it comes to a boil salt to bring taste of the water to the taste of seawater. Meanwhile, thinly slice the garlic, drain the clams (reserving the juices) and rinse them thoroughly to remove any tinny taste. 2 minutes before the pasta is done, in a separate pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and add the sliced garlic. Add a bit of the reserved clam juices (or water if not using the clams, more on that later) to the pan and allow the garlic to steep a bit. This process slows the cooking of the garlic and ensures that it will not burn while you are preparing the rest of the sauce. When the water comes to a boil, add the linguine and cook it to within 2 minutes of the recommended cooking time. Back to the pan for the sauce, add a pinch of red pepper flakes (or to your taste for heat) and stir. When the pasta is done, drain it reserving a cup of the pasta water for use if needed. Add the white wine to the sauce pan and and cook for a few seconds to remove the alcohol taste. Add the clams and their reserved juices to the sauce pan and warm through, no more than a minute, you don’t want to overcook the clams. Toss in the pasta and give everything a good stir. If the sauce looks dry, add a bit of the pasta water. Finish cooking everything together, about another minute or so and taste for seasoning. Add a handful of arugula and the butter and stir, emulsifying the sauce and melting the arugula.
If you don’t eat clams, you can make the sauce the same way just omit the clams. You will need to use more of the pasta water to create the sauce but it will taste just as good. Instead of Linguine Vongole, you will have made Linguine Aglio. If you add a splash of oil to the finished Linguine Aglio, you will have Linguine Aglio ed Olio.
Pour into a warm bowl. Serve with some good bread to soak up the juices. That’s it. It took longer to type this up than it will take to cook! 10 minutes start to finish. Not even enough time to finish a glass of wine! And you won’t miss the clam shells.
You have the ribs cooking, the burgers prepped, the dogs waiting patiently for their turn on the grill. Salads, cupcakes, all the stuff that make a BBQ on the Fourth what it is. So what’s missing? Scratch your head, um, er, aha! you forgot the garlic bread, what fourth of July celebration should be without it? (Well most of them if you aren’t of Italian heritage, but a post for a different date). So this is as easy as it gets. What you need is a loaf of Ciabatta bread (or loaf of your choice, but Ciabatta works best), a stick of butter (per loaf), chopped garlic (I use my microplane, this way you don’t get big chunks and the garlic melts into the butter), a rimmed baking sheet, and that’s it. If you want to get fancy and add chopped herbs, have at it, but wait until the butter garlic mix is done. Slice the Ciabatta loaf in half as shown so that you have two pieces. Grill the bread to get nice marks (or put under the broiler to toast), and set aside. While bread is grilling, place the butter and garlic in the baking pan and melt, stirring to make sure all blended. You can do this on the grill or in the oven as well. When the butter is melted and mixed with garlic (slightly toasty NOT BURNT) place the grilled sides of the bread on the sheet pan into the butter mix and let the bread soak up the mixture. Place the two sides back together, slice lengthwise, and VOILA! Best Easy Garlic Bread! You will never make it another way, I promise.
Just in time for America’s favorite holiday, I bring you Red, White, and Blue Berry Salsa. This beautiful side is can be served in a multitude of ways with a multitude of savory or sweet items, is easy to make, doesn’t require a great deal of time to prepare, involves a minimal amount of chopping and no heat, and looks gorgeous on the plate! What more could you ask for in a party food? And how and what do you need to prepare it? Think your regular salsa ingredients: onion–use Vidalia, white, or the white part of scallions; pepper-use Fresno to keep the color theme, but if you can’t find them, Jalenpeno works fine, even a pinch of red pepper flakes in a pinch-you need some heat; a splash of Balsamic to keep the sweet, a splash of olive oil and coarse sea salt to keep the savory; finally, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, even blackberries, whatever you like to keep the red and blue idea. Mix the ingredients together and let sit for about 1/2 hour to allow the flavors to marry. Serve along side grilled steak, hamburgers, or sausages. Serve atop vanilla ice cream. Leftovers? Serve the next day on some toast or yogurt for breakfast. See? Berries, they’re not just for whipped cream and scones, and certainly not boring! One more thing, as it is a celebration, don’t forget the champagne! Happy Birthday America!
I come from a family with a lot of Josephs: Mother, grandparents, brother, cousins, you know, a lot. So March 19 has a special place in my heart, not only because it is the St. Patrick’s Day equivalent for Italians, but also because of the fried dough nibbles my mom (and my grandmother, my aunts, my sister, you get the picture) would make to celebrate the date. So today, I bring you zeppole. Not a very sophisticated recipe, but so good. For ten zeppole each consisting of a quarter cup raw product, you will need one package of yeast dissolved in 1 1/4 cup warm water (proof to make sure it bubbles), 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour, and a pinch of salt. Mix the flour into the proofed yeast and water mixture, add pinch of salt and set aside to rise for about an hour and a half. You can make this the day before and let mixture rise in the fridge, just bring it to room temperature before cooking. Your mixture should be a bit soupy as shown in photo. When ready, bring about a cup of oil to high heat and set a paper bag-the paper bag is important, it is part of the tradition-aside and next to your pot. Add a 1/4 cup of mixture to oil and watch it fry. When the zeppole is cooked on one side, it will turn itself over, but if it doesn’t, just give it a nudge; you want both sides a golden color. That’s it. When ready to serve, dust with a bit of powdered sugar, or a mix of powdered sugar and cocoa powder or whatever you think you might like. You can probably serve them with something savory, but I am worried that my Italian ancestors will haunt your dreams for a year. In any event, enjoy. And if your name is Joseph or any close derivation thereof, I wish you a very happy feast day!
Did you know that tomatoes are called love apples in some circles? What better day for this great recipe that is a riff on something I saw in Milk Street Magazine, and it comes together in under an hour. It is perfect for your pre Valentine’s Day dinner aperitivi. It utilizes those pint sized containers of grape or cherry tomatoes that are always around and gives them an elevated status beyond a toss in for a salad. For one pint of tomatoes (a container), you will need 2 cloves of peeled and smashed garlic, 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, a bay leaf, and 1/2 cup of water. In a heavy duty pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden, about a minute. Add the remainder of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until all the tomatoes have burst, about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the tomatoes from sticking. After all have burst, reduce heat and continue to cook another 15-20 minutes until the mixture resembles a thick sauce. The oil will come to the top and at that point the mixture is cooked. Set aside to cool. It will continue to thicken. Serve on a slice of good toasted bread for a take on bruschetta with a bit of basil and there you have it. Gluten Free? Just use your favorite gluten free loaf. Or add to an endive leaf. Don’t forget the champagne and a kiss. Happy Valentine’s Day!