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Tomato Vegetable Medley, Teglia ai Pomodori

Tomato Vegetable Medley

Tomato Vegetable Medley

You won’t find many Greek foods in Italian markets, but feta is popular, especially among those who are trying to eat healthily. This recipe should in theory be baked briefly, but you could also lightly chill it after assembling it and enjoy it cool, especially at a picnic or cookout.

  • A scant 2 pounds (800 g) sun-ripened salad tomatoes
  • A scant pound (400 g) friarelli, the classic small mild green Neapolitan pepper (in their absence use bell peppers, not something hotter)
  • The leaves of a small bunch of basil, coarsely shredded
  • A scant half pound (200 g) feta, diced
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound (225 g) pitted Kalamata olives
  • A pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes into quarter-inch thick (about 1/2 cm) thick rounds, eliminating the seeds and the water they contain. Lightly salt the slices and set them in a colander for an hour to draw out more moisture.

Stem, seed, rib, and chop the peppers. Sauté them for 3-5 minutes in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Drain them on absorbent paper and lightly salt them.

Rinse and drain the tomatoes.

Lightly oil a casserole and line the bottom with a layer of tomatoes. Dot it with basil, feta, olives, peppers, a pinch of oregano, and salt and pepper to taste, and continue with another layer of tomatoes followed by the other ingredients, until all is used up.

Sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil over all. At this point you have a choice. You can either lightly chill the dish, or you can heat your oven to 360 F (180 C) and bake it for about 20 minutes, which will yield an equally tasty though rather different result. Your choice.

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Pizzaiola Style Hamburgers, Hamburger alla Pizzaiola

Carne alla pizzaiola, cutlets cooked in a tomato sauce of the sort that goes over pizza, is one of Naples’s signature dishes. It is only natural to do the same to a hamburger. And don’t omit the anchovies, because they add a very fine savory touch, with the freshness of the sea.

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) ground beef, shaped into 4 hamburgers
  • 1 1-pound (250 g) can plum tomatoes
  • 2 salted anchovies, boned, filleted, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • A small dried hot pepper, seeded and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A mozzarella, sliced
  • 8-10 fresh oregano leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Crush the tomatoes in the can with a fork. Heat the oil in a skillet large enough for the hamburgers to lie flat, add the crushed tomatoes and the liquid from the can, the garlic, and the hot pepper, and simmer over a brisk flame for 10 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the hamburgers in a second skillet (or, if possible, grill them), for four minutes per side. Transfer them to the tomato sauce and simmer over a gentler flame for 5 minutes more.

Flip the burgers and lay the sliced mozzarella over them. Top the mozzarella with bits of the anchovy fillets, the oregano leaves, and spoon a little of the sauce over them.

Cover and cook over a high flame for a couple of minutes or until the mozzarella has melted, shaking the pan lest the burgers stick and burn.

Serve at once, with the sauce for those who want a little more, and a light red wine along the lines of a Lacrima Crysti, or, if it’s summer and you want something refreshing, a Rosé.

More about Svizzere, Italian hamburgers, and other recipes.

Risotto coi Gamberetti, Or Shrimp Risotto

Risotto Coi Gamberetti, With Shrimp

Risotto Coi Gamberetti, With Shrimp

Elisabetta and I once had a terrible argument while we were making this. Neither of us remember what we were fighting over, but we both remember the risotto.

  • 3/4 pound fresh or frozen shrimp
  • 1 1/2 cups short-grained rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rib of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 vegetable bullion cube
  • 1 quart (1 liter) water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, warmed, or a sprinkling of vodka
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup boiled peas (optional)

Set the water to boil with the celery, garlic, laurel, and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, wash the shrimp well in cold running water. Add the shrimp to the stock and bring to a boil; let cook for two minutes (if you have to use canned shrimp, add just their liquid to the broth).

Strain out the shrimp, reserving the liquid. As soon as the shrimp have cooled, peel them and return the shells to the pot. Let them boil for about fifteen minutes, then strain the broth and return it to the fire, adding the vegetable bullion.

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Sauté the onion in half the butter. As soon as the onion’s a golden translucent color, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Next, stir in the rice and sauté, stirring, until the grains have turned translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the warmed wine and cook until it has evaporated, then begin adding the hot broth, a ladle at a time. Continue adding broth till the rice is half cooked, then stir in the shrimp and finish cooking the rice, adding broth as necessary, and stirring carefully not to break the shrimp. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente. Check seasoning, cover the risotto for two minutes, and serve.

A wine? Bubbly, and I would go with either Franciacorta or Trento DOC.

Note: If you want a richer risotto, stir in a half a cup of cream just before you let it sit. Or, if peas are in season and you like them, boil a half cup separately, and stir them in just before the risotto’s done.

Serves four to six.

How to make risotto, illustrated

Rosemary Blossom Risotto, Risotto ai Fiori di Rosmarino

Risotto with Rosemary Blossoms

Risotto with Rosemary Blossoms

Rosemary is an extremely common Mediterranean shrub, and very popular in Italian gardens, because in addition to providing the needles that scent the air (and many Italian dishes), it flowers repeatedly during the warmer months. The blossoms are pretty blue, and quite tasty. They also nicely complement Gorgonzola cheese in this risotto.

  • 1 1/2 cups (about 2/3 pound, or 300 g) short grained rice along the lines of Arborio or Carnaroli
  • A medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • A handful of rosemary blossoms, rinsed and patted dry
  • A half cup of dry white wine, warmed (30 seconds in a microwave will work)
  • A scant 2 ounces (50 g, a bit less than a half cup) Gorgonzola
  • 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) simmering vegetable broth (unsalted or low-salt canned will work well too)
  • 3 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano or Grana Padana cheese

Heat the oil in a broad moderately deep pot, and sauté the onion until becomes translucent and begins to color. Don’t let it brown. Add the rice and the rosemary blossoms and continue to cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

Sauteing Risotto with rosemary blossoms

Sauteing Risotto with rosemary blossoms

Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Then add broth, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally. After the second ladle check seasoning and continue to add more, stirring gently, until the rice reaches the proper al dente consistency.

Stir the cheeses into the risotto, cover, and let sit for a minute. Serve at once.

A wine? White, and I might be tempted by a Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli’s Colli Orientali.

Yield: 4 servings rosemary blossom risotto.

How to make Risotto: Illustrated Instructions