Italian Wedding Season (and Soup...)

posted May 12, 2009, 7:26 AM by Guy Barbato

well... after attending a wedding this weekend, and coming to work only to find that the was 'italian wedding soup'.. i need to rant.


here's the deal: once upon a time, a longlonglongtime ago, in a land ohsofaraway, the people had leftover cured meats in the winter and the only thing growing outside was dark green, leafy plants. the meat was too tough and the greens too bitter. in a fit of inspiration, both were soaked in boiling water -- adding whatever else was lying around -- and, velò, a perfect marriage (or, maritata). there's also probably a little play on words from the italian word for soup, minestra -- i'll let you figure it out. since this was italy... once in the states, the name was bastardized into 'italian wedding soup'. duh. no italian weddings at all. but, great soup!! read on: here are two of my favorites, and not a crappy little meatball between them!!!

one last note: i ALWAYS use more crushed red pepper than the recipes call for.....
so it goes.

Sausage And Escarole Soup

Yield: 8 Servings

2 Pounds Italian Sausage, Cut Into ½" Pieces
2 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoon Garlic, Sliced
5 Cups Water
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Cup Escarole
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Fry the sausage with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water (yes, H2O -- trust me) until nicely browned and mostly cooked. Add garlic and red pepper, sauteing briefly. Drain fat and set aside.

Bring water to a boil on the stove and add salt and peppers to the water. Meanwhile, rinse escarole thoroughly, and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. While stirring, add escarole to the water and simmer for 10 minutes (not too long or the escarole will get mushy -- more on this later). Add the escarole to the pan that has the drained sausage, adding sufficient water to make it as 'soupy' as you want -- I like the consistency of a thick soup. If possible, use chicken stock instead of water, it's much tastier. Cook for 5 minutes, adjust seasoning and serve. Having said that, my father (and grandfather before him) LOVES this soup with an added can of cannellini beans (i.e., great northern beans), and served the next day -- when everything is REALLY mushy (Editorial note: Yuck!). To each his/her own.

Per Serving (without beans): 403 Cal (80% from Fat, 17% from Protein, 3% from Carb); 17 g Protein; 36 g Tot Fat; 13 g Sat Fat; 16 g Mono Fat; 3 g Carb; 0 g Fiber; 46 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 2608 mg Sodium; 86 mg Cholesterol; AccuPoints = 11.0


Yield: 8 Servings

1 Pounds Chicken Breast, Cooked/Sliced
7 Cup Chicken Stock
6 Egg, Beaten
1/2 Cup Ditalini
1/4 Cup Parmesan, Grated
2 Cup Fresh Spinach, Chopped
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Onion, Chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 Tablespoon Garlic, Minced

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic, onion and red pepper until translucent. If your chicken breast is uncooked, or there is no meat left over from making the chicken stock, then you can slice the chicken breast into thin strips and saute the meat in the onion mixture at this time.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil adding the dilatini (feel free to use your own favorite pasta shape!). When the pasta is nearly cooked, beat the eggs and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. While stirring the boiling soup in a circular fashion, drizzle the egg mixture into the soup. This will turn the eggs into broad 'shreds' or 'rags' (the English translation of 'stracciatella') and adjust seasoning. At this point, add the chopped spinach (you can substitute escarole or even frozen spinach), until heated through. Serve with extra cheese on the side. [as a possible variation for this dish, prior to adding the pasta, you can also add a 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes.]

Per Serving: 277 Cal (43% from Fat, 43% from Protein, 13% from Carb); 29 g Protein; 13 g Tot Fat; 3 g Sat Fat; 6 g Mono Fat; 9 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 95 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 897 mg Sodium; 209 mg Cholesterol; AccuPoints = 6.5

BBQ Season: White (chicken, of course... )

posted May 12, 2009, 7:23 AM by Guy Barbato

a recent post in lifehacker about 'barbeque sauce' reminded me that i hadn't posted by 'white' or oil&vinegar bbq sauce.  it also reminded me that most people don't acknowledge the difference between grilling and bbq.  for grilling (sometimes called "smoke roasting"... the temperature of the coals (or gas grill!) is usually between 350-500F for burgers, steaks and chops.  larger cuts of meat, bone-in poultry and sausages usually range between 240-350F.  true bbq-ing occurs between 160-240F.

smoking (either hot [90-160F] or cold [60-90F]...  is a horse of a different color ... i'll try to get some smoking recipes up in the fall)

this oil&vinegar bbq sauce is meant for chicken (usually done in a charcoal pit -- see the picture) and is only slightly modified from my days as a grad student (assigned to help bbq chicken at the Virginia State Fair back in 1978).

VA chicken bbq sauce
  • 1 gallon (yes, a gallon!) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 gallon (yes, again.. ) vegetable oil
  • 4 oz poultry seasoning (use the good stuff -- with lots of sage)
  • 2 oz salt
  • 2 oz black pepper (more will make the chicken spicier)
  • 2 oz garlic powder
  • 1 oz crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 oz oregano
mix in a bucket;  apply liberally after the chicken begins to brown (preferably using a toilet brush -- there is considerable debate surrounding the issue of this item).  i find that this recipe works well on a gas grill if you cut the vegetable oil back to 1/3 gallon -- which avoids a lot of flareups).
notably, towards the end of the cooking process, usually during the last 2-3 turns of the chicken -- add a small bottle of texas pete (or your favorite hot sauce) to the bucket.  it adds a nice flavor; but, be warned, if you add it too early in the cooking process; the hot sauce will burn off -- leaving a bitter aftertaste... ).

BBQ Season: Red

posted May 12, 2009, 7:22 AM by Guy Barbato

i suppose it's officially barbeque (barbecue?) season!! which always leads to the never-ending controversies of "what kind of bbq sauce is best?"!! red or white, is the usual question -- though i completely disregard the entire 'mustard' issue... i will NOT use mustard in my bbq. if you like it .. check out south.carolina! naturally, i have my own opinion in this matter.... we'll start with the best of the reds ...

This is an old (and barely modified) recipe from my days at Va.Tech. We used it pretty liberally for pork bbq, whole-pig roasts, and grilling anything.

Va.Tech Pork BBQ Sauce

  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 1 box brown sugar
  • 1 - 10 oz bottle catsup
  • 2 tbsp black pepper (fresh ground)
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 small bottle hot sauce (Texas Pete is traditional; but the Chipotle Tabasco is quite nice!)

mix all the ingredients in a bucket. thanks to all the vinegar, you can store it in an empty vinegar bottle in the fridge. like all red bbq sauces, it should only be used at the END of the grilling process (so the sauce doesn't burn). but, this can be used as a 'mop' for the real thing.

this next recipe comes from an old NYTimes clipping (in a column by Craig.Claireborn and Pierre.Franey), entitled (i think) Lillian Duncan's Superior BBQ Sauce. I've never seen the reference since... but, here is our modified version. it's just...

Superior BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup coffee (espresso is best!)
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce (go ahead, use Lea&Perrins -- it's gluten free!)
  • 1 cup catsup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 med onion (chopped)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • get a non-reactive saucepan... saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp butter. as the onions begin to wilt, add the spices -- and continue to saute for a few minutes. add the liquids. squeeze the juice of the lemon into the saucepan, then quarter the half-lemon and toss into the pan. add the sugars and chocolate and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. taste the sauce and add more brown sugar or vinegar to taste. the longer you let it sit, the more flavor develops. verrry tasty.

worlds best appetizer

posted May 12, 2009, 7:18 AM by Guy Barbato

ok, it's getting late on a friday -- and a boy's mind turns to food and beverages. this is the BEST snack and goes particularly well with your favorite adult beverage... it's called "Tarongia" (in italian). essentially a giant deep fried pizza crust topped with good stuff. as with all things eaten on weekend; it has zero calories. here's our version.

Tarongia With Fennel

Yield: 8 Servings (or... 2, depending on your serving size...)
  • 1 Pizza Dough
  • 2 Ounce Provolone Cheese, around 6 Slices
  • 2 Cup Fennel Bulb, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Cup Vidalia Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoon Garlic, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (go on... use more. i know you want to!)
Prepare (or buy -- yuk!) enough pizza dough (if you really need a recipe; i can post it). Saute the fennel and onion in the olive oil until they begin to sweat, then add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute until the vegetables are transparent. Allow to cool. Prepare a 10-12 inch diameter pot for deep frying (use a lower quality pure olive oil or corn oil or, heck, mix them 50:50), about 350 degrees F. Split the dough into 2 rounds (if you will use a 12 inch pot) or 3 rounds (for a 10 inch pot). Deep fry the tarongia until golden brown on each side. Place the tarongia on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and top each with the sliced provolone and then the sauteed vegetables. Bake in a 400 degree F oven until the cheese begins to melt and the vegetables warm through. Remove from the oven and finish with some fresh cracked black pepper, shreds of good parmesan cheese and the remaining fennel fronds. Slice with a pizza wheel. (In Italy they might also top these with anchovies; but each to their own taste [said the lady as she kissed the cat]! ). if you don't like anchovies; go ahead and add a 1/2 cup of pitted oil cured olives before tossing it into the oven -- just the right amount of saltiness to complement a decent scotch. obligatory estimated nutritional info. Per Serving: 236 Cal (30% from Fat, 12% from Protein, 58% from Carb); 7 g Protein; 8 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 4 g Mono Fat; 34 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 73 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 782 mg Sodium; 5 mg Cholesterol

shrimp and mango salad

posted May 12, 2009, 7:14 AM by Guy Barbato

Recently, 'A' found a recipe in Gourmet Magazine for shrimp and mango salad with glass noodles.  It's listed as serving 4 and a 20 minute prep time.  Honestly, this was enough for the two of us (with 2 shrimp and a few noodles left over).

my modifications included;
  • the use of fresh cilantro instead of basil,
  • we had 1/2 a cucumber in the crisper... so i peeled, cored and sliced the cuke into linquini-like slices
    (ok... i admit to having a MingTsai Ceramic Knife....)
  • i also added a tsp of crushed red pepper (no fresh jalapeno's from the garden in april in central.PA),
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced (with the same knife!)
  • 1 tbsp. minced red onion (left over from the other night... )
  • salt, white pepper
  • oh yeah.... use about 1 tsp toasted sesame oil... or, if you're like me; liberally sprinkle the following hot red oil!!!
Red Hot Oil
  • 1 cup peanut or canola oil (your choice)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
heat the oil til just smoking (about 375F) and remove from heat.  Add all peppers.  the longer you leave the peppers in the oil (i usually go overnight), the hotter the oil gets.  strain the oil through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. pour into a 'shaker' bottle (i use old worcestershire sauce bottles... cleaned, of course) -- then add the sesame oil.

as an aside, i usually don't throw out the toasted crushed red peppers. i put them in a separate container and cover with extra virgin olive oil (not the super-premium... but, the regular stuff).  this can then be used to top your spaghetti.  [at least until the fresh hot peppers come into season!!]

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