Italy

Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Smoked Sausage, Garlic Seared Spinach, Feta and Rice

These crunchy juicy sweet red bell peppers were just asking to get stuffed and baked, so we obliged with lots of savory stuff like spinach seared in tons of garlic and Italian olive oil, smoked Cajun sausages and Italian sausages, lots of feta cheese along with three other cheeses like Pecorino Romano grated inside with smoked Provolone and Gruyere on top, held together with our own spiced Jasmine rice… all made really creamy with roasted red pepper and tomato sauce.   They are crazy tasty awesome wonderful.

Chicken Roulade (Roll) in Mushroom & Thyme Cream Sauce with Dijon Mustard

This is the Chicken Roulade of our dreams, the one we first experienced in Florence and the hill towns of Tuscany… the extravagant chicken roll that incorporates every savory ingredient we ever wanted to include. Each roll is packed with so many layers of delicious that they must be tied together with cord, like culinary presents from the Umami Gods. Ingredients… First, air chilled free range chicken thighs pounded thin. Then a very thin layer of aged Prosciutto ham from Italy for that crazy umami ham vibe. Then the thin layer of bright green fresh basil from the garden. Then a layer of smoked Provolone cheese, even more savory and when it melts together with all the other crazy stuff, just fabulous. Now a layer of creamy fragrant Piquillo peppers from Basque Country, with that eye dazzling iridescent red color. And finally, at the center of this Roulade, a core of caramelized onions, garlic seared spinach, olive tapenade, creamy goat cheese with the herbs of Provence, bright red sun dried tomatoes and sauted porcini mushrooms to complete the roll. In a 14 inch cast iron pan, we saute in olive olive oil these cord wrapped packages until they are seared and melty inside, about 20 minutes. When each Roulade is sliced open, revealed are all these layers of savory other worldly flavors. But THEN we serve this crazy sumptuous Roulade with a Mushroom & Thyme Cream Sauce with Dijon Mustard for an umami explosion. Ingredients for the sauce… 1 pound brown cremini or porcini mushrooms, cut into thick slices2 – 4 shallots (depending on size) or 1 large onion, minced4 – 5 garlic cloves, crushed1/2 cup chardonnay1/2 cup Marsala (or Sherry)1/2 cup chicken broth (bone broth)1 1/2 cups cream1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil2 oz butter (1/2 stick)1 tablespoon duck […]

Italian Meat Loaf (Polpettone)

We first saw this gorgeous meatloaf (named Polpettone) in Tuscany, when we came across one of those big glass storefronts you find on the main streets in Florence, and the hill towns, with endless mind boggling dishes of food stretching from the doorway all the way across the wall, behind glass cases, with the whole store a dizzying aroma of umami goodness. When I tasted the amazingly complex flavors of this meatloaf, I instantly realized this was not my mom’s meatloaf.

Chicken Thighs in Mushroom & Thyme Cream Sauce with Dijon Mustard

This feast is your ticket to Umami City. This is a fusion feast, as if it were cooked by two lovers, a lady chef from the South of France, bringing her thyme, cream, bacon, duck fat, Dijon mustard, butter and Chardonnay… and her chef lover from Tuscany, with his Porcini powder, Marsala, olive oil and garlic. It’s a magical dish for all lovers.

Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions

The first time I had this classic Italian-American delight was in New York at the Feast of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. It was a savory revelation, an umami bomb inside some awesome hot toasted and buttered buns. I was hooked for life.

Cioppino

Beginning in the late 1800s, the commercial fishing fleet out of San Francisco’s North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf was dominated by Italian fisherman, usually from the port city of Genoa.  But some boats were manned by a mix of fisherman from many other nations.  Working side by side with the Italians were Portuguese from Lisbon, Mexicans from Baja, Spaniards from Barcelona, Frenchmen from Marseille, Chinese fisherman who had been in the city for many years fishing for shrimp, and there were even some highly skilled long range seafarers from Basque.   Cioppino became so popular among the families in the bay area that it began to be served as street food for laborers along the wharf and by 1906, after the devastating earthquake, it was served in several restaurants in town.  It is a classic San Francisco feast and always eaten with the wildly popular local crusty sourdough bread.

Sicilian Lemon Chicken with Green Olives and Capers

Early in the Tenth Century, the Moors of North Africa conquered Sicily and for more than 200 years they transformed the cuisine of this ancient, once Greek island. To this day, many of the classic Sicilian meals trace their origin to the highly sophisticated Moors, who brought with them oranges and lemons, rice and saffron, cloves and nutmeg, raisins and cinnamon, and crucially they brought couscous to soak up all those exotic flavors. I have always loved the aromatic and intoxicating spices and aromas of the cooking of North Africa, and this meal is a fusion of that exotic cuisine with this haunting and somehow tragically beautiful rugged land called Sicily.

Chicken Piccata with Creamy Artichoke Hearts and Lemony Sauce

Piccata is an Italian style of cooking in which either veal or chicken is pounded flat into cutlets, dipped in egg whites, dredged in flour and Parmigiano cheese, and then pan fried.  Like all Italian cooking, very fresh and high quality ingredients are the secret.  We find that Parmigiano Reggiano that has been aged two to three years makes a big difference, as well as extra rich chicken bone broth, free range air chilled chicken thighs (much richer tasting than chicken breasts), and high quality virgin olive oil.  The combination of creamy young artichoke hearts and a lemony butter sauce make this meal a crowd favorite.  And if that crowd is your family and close friends, this meal will be the one they barge back into the kitchen for… to ask for seconds and thirds, and most of all, for more sauce.