Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Artichokes Stuffed With Salami & Mushrooms

Nothing says spring like fresh, green vegetables. My favorites are asparagus and artichokes. Knowing that bright, red, plump tomatoes and sweet corn-on-the-cob will soon be in market bins makes my heart sing. At our Easter meal, stuffed artichokes are enjoyed. I can never understand anyone relishing steamed artichoke leaves dipped in a mayonnaise based sauce or melted butter. I guess it looks like dainty-eating, but come on, hearty is so much better. A stuffed artichoke is the way to go!

So the artichokes at the market were deep green, fragrant and heavy.  They squeaked when squeezed, so they were keepers. The price was right. I bought only two as I'm the only one who will dine on these beauties. No company's the weekend after Easter and most everyone is still coming down from the excitement of this sacred holiday. My husband, Steve, isn't a big fan of this wonderful vegetable, so two were enough. Of course, once I had made them....four would have been better!

Eating an artichoke is an experience similar to eating a crab, a hands-on affair. The tender "meat" on each leaf is removed by putting it between your front teeth and pulling the leaf through. It's a slow, methodical process that elicits sighs of contentment. Every leaf is scraped clean, the stuffing that clings to it savored, then a hearty mound of center stuffing is enjoyed...finally the prize is unearthed, the heart or flower of the artichoke.

mushrooms, salami, onion, garlic
sauteing in skillet
A stuffed artichoke isn't a side dish...nope, it's a meal in itself. It takes some preparation time, but considering it's a main course, it's not much more work than any other meal.  I stuffed these with sauteed mushrooms, diced hard salami, and breadcrumbs among a few other ingredients. The artichokes depicted are over-stuffed. The moist filling is enough for four, but since I only had two, I packed these babies to overflow. I didn't want to serve this with anything too heavy, so my choice was a cup of zucchini soup and plain, sliced tomatoes.  This meal is the epitome of an eating experience and more delicious than words can describe. And that's Italian!

Artichoke Stuffed With Salami & Mushrooms
2-4 fresh Artichokes, each leaf snipped, middle of choke cleaned out
4 slices of Hard Salami, diced (a 1/4 lb chunk will do fine)
8 oz of button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
2 tablespoon onion, diced
1 egg
2 cups flavored breadcrumbs (1 1/2 c will do for 2 artichokes)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup white wine
3 fresh basil leaves, snipped into pieces
5 cloves garlic, reserve 2 for the cooking pot
olive oil

In a skillet, saute mushrooms, onion, & 3 cloves of garlic in a bit of olive oil. When almost golden add salami.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then set aside to cool. While this is sauteing and cooling,  prepare the artichokes. Turn upside down and rap artichoke on the counter to open the leaves.  Cut off stem, so the artichoke can sit up on the plate. Snip tip of each leaf, then with a spoon clean out the center removing any of the prickly inside. Rinse in cold water and let dry upside-down on a paper towel.  In a bowl, add
mushroom & salami mixture
with breadcrumbs
           breadcrumbs & beaten egg and cooled mushroom/salami mixture. Mix well and add fresh basil leaves. Mix. Fill center and in between leaves with breadcrumb mixture.
Drizzle olive oil into a wide pot. Heat and add remaining 2 cloves of garlic. Combine vegetable broth and white wine in a measuring cup. When garlic is just golden, add 1/4 cup of the liquid. Stir. Place stuffed artichokes in pot.  Drizzle tops with a bit of olive oil. Lower heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 45 minutes. As often as possible, check that bottom of artichokes arent' burning. Baste with remaining liquid to keep vegetables moist. Test a leaf to be sure it is soft.
Enjoy the artichokes either warm or cold.
Artichokes with tips snipped
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Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fried Mozzarella Sandwich (Mozzarella in Carrozza)

I'm sure many Italian friends and family members are wrinkling their foreheads at my posting this recipe. It's so common, so spaghetti-and-meatball simple. With all the fancy-schmancy recipes found everywhere these days, why Mozzarella in Carrozza? Because like in my post, Simple Chicken Cutlets, we often forget the tried & true recipes.  Mozzarella in Carrozza (mozzarella in a carriage) is an easy, traditional Italian cheese sandwich. It’s rich, gooey on the inside and crispy on the outside.
 I remember, as a kid, having lunch at an all-American friend's house. It was soup and sandwich. Fine. The soup was canned tomato and the sandwich, Grilled Cheese. Now, we lived in the Bronx (NY) and it was winter. There wasn't a grill, so a skillet on the stove was the appliance of choice. I never enjoyed tomato soup..reminds me of watered down tomato sauce, but melted cheese sandwich was on my like-list.
Mrs. Monroe melted butter in a skillet, took two slices of white bread, slapped on two slices of yellow American cheese, put together the sandwich and grilled the bread on both sides until the cheese melted. Now, dear reader, I'm not that much of a food snob and there's nothing wrong with a melted cheese sandwich, so I ate it, happily, with the soup. I didn't think much of it....until Friday night rolled around.
Mama Eugenia didn't make the ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. Nope. She made Mozzarella in Carrozza. It's similar to the Grilled Cheese sandwich, but a couple of extra steps makes this panino special. Canola oil goes into a heavy skillet, the bread is dipped in seasoned, beaten eggs like French Toast, mozzarella is sliced thin and it's fried between the bread. OMGosh. When this wonderful, creamy, white, cheese can darn near faint. Mom served this sandwich with a tomato salad and the soup could be pasta e fagioli (pasta with cannellini beans) or escarole soup with tiny meatballs...a far cry from canned tomato soup. This sandwich is great for lunch, supper or even cut into small squares for an appetizer. Sometimes, it's served with a marinara sauce on the side, but we never did. To keep it warm, heat your oven on low and place the sandwiches on an oven-proof dish lined with a paper towel.
I don't make this panino as often as I should considering how wonderful it is, but it will never, ever go out of favor. Great recipes don't. This childhood favorite is right up there with other simple meals like warm Zeppoli (fried dough) sprinkled with salt served with  fresh, plump tomatoes in quality olive oil, a bit of warm water, garlic, salt and basil. When Mama put these sort of meals on our table, memories were always made.

Mozzarella in Carrozza

This is the method my family traditionally prepared this sandwich. After dipping into egg mixture, I always fry two slices of bread on one side first. Flip the slices over, layer the cheese on one fried slice of bread,  place the other slice-fried side- on top of cheese. You now have a sandwich that you will fry on both sides until the cheese in the middle melts.

4 eggs, beaten
6 slices of soft bread (white or wheat)
9 slices of mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
dash of garlic powder
dash of salt
1 tsp. parsley
canola oil for frying

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. In a bowl, beat eggs, garlic powder, salt & parsley. Dip both sides of one slice of bread in egg mixture. Let excess drip back into bowl.  Place in skillet. Immediately, repeat with a second slice of bread, frying both at the same time. Follow the above method to finish sandwich. Serve warm
Yields: 3 sandwiches
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Remember To Make Memories At The Table