Shrimp. Italian Style

These delicate morsels are a far cry from those heavily breaded deep fried shrimp served in so many restaurants.  These are not battered fried but enrobed in a light coating of olive oil, bread crumbs and seasonings to provide a delicate protective covering and then broiled.

You must use your own judgment in the perfect amount of oil and breadcrumbs.  This will vary depending on the size of the shrimp as smaller shrimps have more surface area and will require a bit more oil.  There should be just enough oil to coat the shrimp and just enough breadcrumbs to retain the oil and provide a thin coating.  Be sure to use the best quality shrimp you can find.

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs. large shrimp

3 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T vegetable oil (I prefer peanut oil)

2/3 cup fine dry plain breadcrumbs

½ t freshly grated lemon rind

½ t minced garlic

2 t finely minced parsley

¾ t salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges

Directions

1. Peel and devein shrimp leaving tails intact.  Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

2. In a bowl large enough to generously accommodate shrimp, mix both oils and then the shrimp.  Toss.

3. Add as many breadcrumbs as needed to form a light, even coating.

4. Add lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss again and allow to rest 15 minutes before proceeding.

5. Place on a lightly oiled grill rack under a hot broiler or on a stove top grill pan for 2 to 3 minutes per side, no longer than it takes to form a crisp, golden crust.

6. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.  A bright, freshly made tartar sauce makes a fine accompaniment.

( adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan)

Tartar Sauce

2 large shallots, finely chopped

2 medium gherkins or cornichons, finely diced

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T parsley, finely chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm

A Regional Taste of Italy

Food writer par excellence, Victor Ribaudo, offers this lovely tribute to his beloved Italy.  Food photography by the incomparable Bill Brady. What a perfect introduction to my recipe for Northern Italian lasagne, the following post.

Italy. One country, yes. As for one cuisine, well, that’s another story. After all, Italy was only united in 1861. No wonder regional dialects are, in some places, still spoken among family and friends.

It’s also no surprise that each region has developed its own particular style of cooking. As for myself, I grew up in a Southern Italian household. Lots of the same fare you are no doubt familiar with. Nevertheless, the Sicilian half of my heritage did introduce me to some not so familiar flavors, as “typical” Italian cuisine goes.

But I get ahead of myself.

Let’s begin at the top of the boot. Northern Italy is a beautiful part of the country. Lots of pastures, mountains, lakes and coastal areas. The cuisine here does not live and die for the tomato. In fact, you’ll find many similarities to French cuisine in these parts. Brown sauces, buttery dishes, truffles, bacon and other cured meats, such as speck…as well as dumplings and yes, sauerkraut. Of course, rich polenta – a corn meal mush – rules in Northern Italian fare as well. That’s not to say that they don’t enjoy pasta. Nevertheless, a good polenta served with your ossobuco in Milan…well, there’s nothing more satisfying.

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo FiresideOB00170

To be more specific, each region within the Northern Italian geography lays claim to certain specialties. Venice, for instance, loves its risotto. This is a rice dish usually served with fish or seafood, but often adorned with peas or beans. I enjoyed a particularly good one at an outdoor café, with a view of vivid flowers billowing from neighboring window boxes. Quite a treat!

Milan, and the Lombardy region, is famous for its single pot stews, pumpkin filled ravioli and yes, of course, vitello Milanese – a breaded and sautéed veal cutlet served with a squeeze of lemon. Simple, but actually very exquisite. In Liguria, the focaccia takes center stage. Basically a pizza dough, it’s rolled out and baked with a variety of toppings, such as olives, tomatoes and cheese. I found it everywhere, including Portofino, one of my top 10 most romantic getaways. But that’s another article.

As we move down the map, we enter what is often considered Northern Italy but is actually the Central part of the country. In many respects, the cuisine here is similar to that of its Northern counterpart, but there are some specialties that one must indulge in when visiting.

Tuscany is its most famous region, and here you’ll enjoy a multitude of hearty dishes. One in particular comes to mind. While traveling the verdant Tuscan countryside, we happened upon a vineyard that served us a spectacular dinner with wine pairings. It was here that I was introduced to ribollita, a gorgeous vegetable soup thickened with day old bread, and served with a hefty pouring of extra virgin olive oil. Glorious! This is also a very pastoral region, so when there, be sure to indulge in the beef. Tuscan steak is a much beloved choice, simply pressed with peppercorns and grilled to perfection. The olive oils here are also famous. Be sure to sample when traveling.

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo SanRocco_00023

Emilia-Romagna, featuring that jewel of a city, Bologna, is a region rich in cured meats and cheeses. Reggiano-Parmiggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella – sound familiar? My favorite dish while visiting was lasagna – prepared the Central Italian way with a creamy béchamel and luxurious Bolognese sauce (unlike the ricotta and tomato ragout this Southern Italian grew up with.) Simply outstanding.

Lazio, home of everyone’s eternal city, Rome, boasts a very robust cuisine. Take pasta alla carbonara, featuring a rich sauce of guanciale bacon (from the pig’s jowl or cheeks), onions, egg and cheese. Or pasta all’amatriciana, a spicy dish laden with tomatoes, guanciale bacon, cheese and crushed hot pepper. Hearty indeed!

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo Pasta4586Now to the South of Italy. Here, tomatoes and pasta reign supreme. So do the olives, peppers and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Depending on where you’re situated, seafood is also a common ingredient.

Let’s begin with Campagna, and its shining city of Naples, because everyone loves it. From the noted Posillipo section to the romantic Isle of Capri. Everyone adores the cuisine, as well. In fact, this is the cooking that most Italian restaurants here in America feature. Lots of pastas with all types of tomato sauces are the main feature.
SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo FiresideOB00171Seafood also plays a major role here, especially clams, mussels, crabs and calamari. Oh, don’t forget the pizza. A simple margherita, with buffalo mozzarella, marinara sauce and fresh basil, is shear heaven.

Puglia is famous for its olives and orecchiette (ear shaped pasta). I actually had one of my most delicious food experiences here, in a small town near Bari. Orecchiette pasta – perfectly al dente – dressed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, sausages and broccoli rabe (a bitter, turnip-green type of vegetable) was so marvelous that I’ve insisted on having it at least twice a month since.

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo SanRocco_00031

Basilicata – my Mom’s home region – and Calabria, to the South, offer lots of hearty, tomato-based dishes, many featuring fresh vegetables. Ciambotta comes to mind. One of my grandmother’s favorites, this is a stew of fresh tomatoes, potatoes, onions – and well, just about any veggie – that is served as a side dish, sprinkled with grated Reggiano- Parmigiano cheese. You’ll love it. Lamb is often on the menu in my Mom’s home town of Ferrandina, studded with pockets of garlic and rosemary and roasted, often on a spit, or braised in stews. Very rich. You’ll also find that that spicy peperoncini peppers are used here more so than in other regions.

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo Calamari_00056

At the bottom of the boot lies Sicily, my Dad’s turf. The cuisine here is in many ways different than that of the other Southern regions. That’s because of the many influences past conquerors have had on this beautiful island. Greek, Norman, Spanish and Arab visitors have all influenced the cooking of these hearty people. So you’ll often find raisins, saffron, nuts, cinnamon and nutmeg throughout the savory offerings, as well as the sweet. Some of my favorites? Arancini are softball sized rice balls, filled with a center of chopped meat in red sauce, peas and mozzarella cheese, then breaded and fried to a golden-orange color (that’s how they got their name, meaning “little oranges”). Or pasta ch’i sarde e finocchio. This unique dish combines fresh sardines, wild fennel leaves, saffron, raisins and pine nuts with pasta. It is often topped with toasted breadcrumbs. See, I told you…different.

SHI Symbol Blog Taste of Italy Bill Brady Victor Ribaudo Italian Ingredients2290

Well, I’ve really only touched the tip of the iceberg, or boot, if you will. The point is, nonetheless, that eating Italian is so much more than a meatball sub. It’s an experience of regional – and epic – proportions. I hope you get to enjoy the journey. And be sure to send a postcard or two!

Victor Ribaudo

http://www.theribaudogroup.com

Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

olive-picker

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Today on the Martha Stewart Show, an audience member asked guest Mario Batali, “If you could make only one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?” And Mario answered, “Linguine with Clam Sauce.”   Yep.  Linguine with Clam Sauce, my very first post when I started this blog.  Well, if it’s good enough for Mario . . .

I’m inspired to move it up to the top of my blog hoping viewers will take a s second look because it is a pretty amazing dish.  The half hour prep time makes it great for a week night meal yet it is special enough, as Mario will attest to, for a company meal.  My recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s, but instead of using tiny Adriatic clams (which you can’t get around here anyway) I use 6 ½ oz. canned chopped (not minced) clams. I have tried fresh clams as well as  the addition of  a few fresh clams as garnish.  I actually prefer the canned chopped clams as you won’t find any of those hard bits that are part of fresh clams.

Traditionally cheese is not used in a seafood dish.  However, this is an exception.  The introduction of freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano gives the dish an extra salty complex edge.  The dish picture here is garnished with littleneck clams, but these are completely optional.

3- 6 ½ oz. cans of chopped clams

½ cup olive oil

2 T finely chopped shallots

1 T finely minced garlic

2 T chopped parsley

¼ t chopped dried hot red pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

8 oz. linguine

1 T butter

2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to serve separately)

Salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Drain the chopped clams and save the liquid.  Heat the oil in a skillet and then add the shallots and garlic.  Sauté gently.  Add parsley and hot pepper flakes.  Add wine and reduce by half.  Add 1 cup of the liquid from the clams and reduce by a third.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water, add salt and cook linguine according to directions on box.  When pasta is almost done, add clams to sauce, turn quickly, and turn off heat.  Add the butter and cheese. Add pepper to taste, but no salt. Turn in sauce.  Drain pasta and pour in skillet with sauce. Turn until nicely coated.  Serve with extra Parmesan cheese. Serves two.

Garlic bread goes well with this dish.  Place  3/4 inch  slices of good Italian bread on a cookie sheet.  Brush with enough melted butter and minced garlic for both sides of bread. Place under broiler to lightly brown one side, turn oven and brown the other..

Quotation of the Day

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again. ~George Miller

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