Friday, July 23, 2010

Italian Bread


 Italian Bread
makes 1 loaf*
What's an Italian meal without a loaf of yeasty, crusty Italian bread.  Having moved to a very rural area of Southeastern Utah, an area not known for its Italian communities, it was very difficult to find the bread of my youth . . . most of the "Italian" bread from the local markets were more like  unsliced "Pullman" white bread shaped to look like rustic Italian loafs so I developed this recipe to bring some of  my culture to Scandinavian Utah.
1 ½ envelopes (¼ -ounce each) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F.)
3/4 tablespoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup glutton
4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1.  Combine the sugar and the warm water in a measuring cup, when the sugar is totally absorbed sprinkle the active yeast over the surface and allow it to "bloom" (bubble and form a head) and proof.  (if the yeast fails to "bloom" discard the mixture and start again)
2.  Meanwhile place the bread flour, glutton, and salt in a sifter and shift into the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a dough hook.   After the yeast "blooms", pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture and turn the mixer on low until the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium-high to high (knead on my mixer) and mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and begins to crawl up to dough hook.
3.  Turn off mixer and remove the dough to a lightly floured, smooth, cool work surface and knead the dough (sparingly adding flour as necessary if it's too sticky) for 15 minutes.
4.  Lightly grease a mixing bowl with the oil, form the dough into a ball and place the dough ball into it and turn once to coat the ball with oil so it won't stick to the plastic wrap. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 ½  hours.
5.  Remove the dough ball from the bowl to a lightly floured, smooth, cool work surface. Roll, using the palms of your hand, the ball out into a 18 to 19-inch log  (if more than 1 loaves are being made, roll the balls out to a 16-inch log).
6.  Sprinkle a 17x12-inch baking sheet evenly with 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal. Place the loaf diagonally (if more than 1 loaves are being made place the loaves perpendicular to the long sides of the baking sheets) on a large baking sheet.  Cover the loaf (loaves) with a damp cloth and allow the loaf (loaves) to "proof" (rise) until it doubles in size, at least 1 hour (to a degree, the longer the loaf proofs the more cavities will form in the bread . . . that's a good thing!).
7.  Preheat your oven to 425° F.
8.  When the loaf (loaves) has proofed remove the cloth and make  3 or 4 diagonal slashes on the top of the (each) loaf (, about ¼-inch deep.
9.  Make an egg was by combining the white of 1 egg with a tablespoon of water and, with a pastry brush, brush the egg wash evenly over the top and sides of the (each) loaf. Place a 2 cups of hot water in an oven-proof container on the bottom of the oven.  Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake the loaves for 35 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
* to increase the yield simply increase all ingredients

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gamberetto Fra Diavolo

Gamberetto Fra Diavolo
(The Devil’s Brother’s Shrimp)
serves 6
This spicy shrimp dish is definitely not for the faint of heart, the 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes version is for, mainly, for the non-Italian while adding 1 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes is Italians and those used to spicy foods.  As always, for the tomatoes I highly recommend San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.  This dish can be served on its own or over pasta, rice, risotto, or polenta.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2  to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
1   28 ounces can whole tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 pound large shrimp; shelled, deveined and tails removed
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse Kosher or Sea salt

1 pound thin spaghetti or linguine
1.  In a large, covered sauce pot over high heat bring a large amount of salted water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
2.  While the spaghetti is cooking heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan until hot. Add onion and cook, covered, 5 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring often. Add garlic, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper; cook 1 minute.
3.  Place whole tomatoes into an appropriately sized bowl and crush by hand to desired texture.  Add the tomatoes and their juice and the ½ teaspoon salt to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium  add the parsley and red wine and cook, covered for an additional 5 minutes.
4.  Stir in the shrimp and cook, covered, 5 more minutes or until shrimp are opaque.  Taste the sauce and correct seasoning with additional red pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste.
5.  Drain pasta and add the drained spaghetti to the sauté pan and toss well to thoroughly combine the sauce and the shrimp. Either transfer to 6 separate serving dishes sprinkling each dish with parsley to dress or transfer to a large pasta bowl to serve family style. 
6.  Serve accompanied by crusty Italian bread and definitely no grated cheese please . . . remember Italians don't use cheese with seafood!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spaghetti e Salsa di Granchio

Spaghetti e Salsa di Granchio
(Spaghetti with Crab Sauce)
serves 4
This is a traditional  spicy Southern Italian seafood pasta dish and, while the traditional recipe calls for whole crabs, it works equally well with King or Snow  crab legs.  Hint: REAL Italians DO NOT use cheese as an accompaniment  with seafood pasta sauces.
1 pound dry spaghetti or linguini

4 large blue crabs or 1 pound of thawed frozen king 
   crab legs, cut into 3" pieces (2 pounds if  you can find lump crab meat)
1 pound lump crabmeat
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tablespoons softened butter
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes preferred), drained, and hand crushed
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, plus additional for garnish
1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup chiffonade fresh basil  leaves for garnish
1.  In a large pot over medium-high heat bring the olive oil to the ripple stage and add the butter. When the butter melts add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, do not allow it to brown, about 2 minutes.  Add the pepper flakes, the salt, the ground  black pepper, the basil, the parsley, the crushed tomatoes and their juices.  Stir to combine the ingredients and allow to come to a simmer.
2.  Increase the heat to high, add the crabs and bring to a boil.  As the sauce comes to a boil lower the heat until you achieve a gentle simmer,  stir in the tomato paste and cook the sauce and crabs for about 30 minutes.
3.  After the 30 minutes remove the crabs to a serving bowl and keep warm in an oven set to about 150° F.
4.  If there are large chunks of tomato still in the sauce and it's not to your liking, crush them using a potato masher to achieve the consistency you prefer, unlike Americans Italians prefer their tomato sauce to be slightly chunky.  Add the lump crab meat stirring to distribute and allow the sauce to continue simmering for an additional 15 minutes until the crab meat is cooked through.
5.  Lower the heat under the sauce to low to keep it warm.
6. Bring a large spaghetti pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.  When the water is rapidly boiling add the spaghetti and cook it until it is al dente (tender but still firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes. Drain reserving 1 cup of the cooking  water. 
7.  Meanwhile, correct the seasoning of the sauce with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.  If  the sauce is too tight, loosen it using a little of the reserved spaghetti cooking liquid (not too much, Italian sauces are meant to be a  little tight).
8.  Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to combine evenly and to reheat the pasta.  
9.  For service either divide the sauced pasta among warmed service bowls, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and  garnished with additional chiffonade basil or, for a family style service, plate the sauced pasta on a large service platter drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil and  garnished with the additional chiffonade basil and serve with the crabs on a separate platter  accompanied by plenty of crusty Italian or French bread and extra red pepper flakes for the real Italians.

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