Category Archives: tomatoes

Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti and Nona’s Fresh Tomato Sugo

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mortadella

Artisan Meat Share Mortadella

Ever since I saw Craig Deihl’s post on Facebook, showing his house made mortadella at Artisian Meat Share, I have been looking forward to trying it. I am inspired by Chef Ken Vedrinski’s (Tratoria Lucca) Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti (little meatballs). Tratoria Lucca is one of my favorite Charleston restaurants and the reason is Ken Vedrinkski. He is a hands on chef owner who absorbs himself in his cuisine in a way that most chefs simply do not hold a candle to. He sources many Italian delicacies on his frequent trips across the Atlantic, finding the most special olive oils, wines and cheeses to bring  back to Charleston. He also has special relationships with fishermen, ranchers and farmers who bring their goods to the back door of his restaurant.

Ken-Vedrinski

Gnudi are gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, with very little or no flour. The result is often a lighter, “pillowy” dish, unlike the often denser, more chewy gnocchi.

There are three elements to this meal, they come together in a perfect symphony of flavor and texture.

Tomato Sugo Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • Salt to taste

Method: 

  • Place olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and chili flakes
  • Saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add tomatoes and butter, blend well and add salt to taste
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Butter in the sauce

Mortadella Polpetti Ingredients: 

  • 4 slices of day-old ciabatta, crust removed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 ounces ground pork
  • 5 ounces ground mortadella (if you cannot find it, then use good quality bologna and finely chopped pistachios along with some black pepper)
  • 1/4 cup porcini powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup ground Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:

  • Soak cubes in milk for 5 minutes,then squeeze dry.
  • In a large bowl add remaining ingredients until well combined. Cover bowl, then refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Form Polpeti into 1 inch balls.
  • 45 minutes before serving time, add the polpetti to the sauce and put on a simmer burner at very low temp.

Meatballs cooking

Gnudi Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces good quality fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces microplaned Locatelli Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup 00 flour (available at Italian specialty stores or online), plus more for dusting.

Gnudi Method: 

Gnudi before boiling

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till a dough forms. Be gentle when mixing. cover bowl and chill for 1 hour
  • Dust the bottom of a sheet pan with flour.
  • Place dough on a floured work surface and roll into a 1 1/4 inch diameter log. cut on the bias into one inch pieces.Place on the floured surface
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
  • Shake extra flour from gnudi. gently place in the pot cooked till cooked through. Put in a bowl and toss with the sauce.
  • Serve with freshly grated parm.

gnudi in sauce

Easy Tabbouleh (Tabouli)

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Tabouli

This is such a nutritious and delicious thing to have on hand. It can be served with grilled pita bread, rustic breads, slices of radishes, carrots or cucumbers or eaten as a salad on its own. There are a lot of recipes out there, this one is based on a Palestinian version, basically a parsley salad. Chop and stir! This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I used fresh and dried parsley to get different levels of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat, soaked for 2-4 hours in boiling water, then strained
  • 1 pound of grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley 
  • 2 large bunches mint (not peppermint) finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Baharat seasoning (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp Sumac (more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper (I use a four peppercorn blend)
  • Sea salt to taste

Baharat Spice Mix

To make spice mix: Toast all but the nutmeg in a dry pan, being careful not to burn. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder).  Add the nutmeg and stir. Keeps for 8-10 weeks

To make Tabbouleh:

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with additional lemon quarters.

The Best Lobster Bisque

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Bisque 2

I make this every time we get live lobsters, which is only a few times a year. Over the years I have tweaked this. I always have to buy an extra lobster or two tails to add some meat to the soup. It is the best soup I have ever tasted. While it is rich, a single bowl and some bread make a fine supper with champagne.

Lobster

Lobster Bisque 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 1- 2 pound live lobsters

For the stock:

  • Lobster shells
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of lobster cooking water
  • Water to cover shells

For the Bisque

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, large dice (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia)
  • 1 large celery stalk, rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 grape tomatoes (or one large tomato rough chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Lobster Stock (about 4 cups)
  • Chives and fresh black pepper for serving

Method:

To make stock:

  • Bring large pot of water to boil.
  • Add 1/4 sea salt.
  • Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl.
  • Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters
  • Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.Or you can serve the lobsters and save the shells, reserving extra meat for the bisque.
  • In a clean pot add shells, onion, carrot and reserved cooking liquid. Add enough water to cover the shells with an additional 2″ of water.
  • Cook low and slow for several hours (I have a simmer burner and let it simmer over night), until the stock has reduced to the level of the shells. Strain over a large pot.
  • You can cool and save this in the freezer or refrigerator or use straight away.
  • Discard solids

Bisque:

Bisque beginning

  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
  • Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. *Note, if you are using tails for the meat, put them in with veggies and cook till meat is white, about 4 minutes Use one tail per serving. 
  • Add lobster stock
  • Simmer 1 hour.
  • Remove bay leaves
  • Use a stick blender to puree
  • Strain soup through sieve set over a pot, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Add sherry and cognac.
  • Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate at this point)
  • Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.
  • Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with a pile of lobster meat, some fresh chives, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of sherry. 

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade