I was at the Metropolitan Market looking for a dinner inspiration and saw that they had lobster tails.  H likes pasta really spicy, so I decided to make a pasta alla Fra’ Diavola (known also as devil sauce).  There are different ways to make this pasta and some require way too much work for my taste.   I like a variation which is simpler to make and less prone to mistakes.   I had a package of pasta called “bucatini”.  This is a very common type in Italy, but a bit more difficult to find here.  It’s a “bigger” sp

Here’re the ingredients for two people (about 1/2 poung of pasta):

  • two small lobster tails (or two big ones – noboby will complain about too much lobster!)
  • couple of fresh tomatoes
  • one can of crushed tomatoes
  • onion (shallots are better)
  • half glass of white wine (the same that you’d be serving)
  • parsley, pepper, salt. extra virgin olive oil
  • spicy pepper

It’s not super quick, but it should take about 25mins for the sauce to be ready.

Step zero:  cut the lobster tails in chunks of about one inch each.  In a different pot start boiling water.

Step one:  in a pan over medium heat add three tablespoon olive oil and the shallots.  When the shallots turn translucent add the lobster chunks.  Let the lobster cook (changing sides every couple of minutes) until the shell turns red.  At this point add the white wine.  This is a good time to add the freshed tomatoes (chopped).

Step two: as the white wine starts reducing add the the crushed tomatoes.  I used a small can for two people.  This dish is not supposed to be overly saucy.  This is also the time to spice up the sauce – add the spicy pepper, salt, black pepper and if you want a bit of other spices.  This is also the time of start cooking the pasta in the boiling water (don’t forget to add salt).  This is how my sauce was looking at this point:

lobster sauce 

Step 3: as the sauce starts boiling again lower the heat to medium/low and let it cook until the pasta is ready (about 10mins).   Drain the pasta (it should be al dente) and mix it with the sauce.  Cook together for about a minute.

Step 4:  you’re done!  Plate the pasta and serve it.

lobster pasta

Enjoy!

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I love this dish.  It’s fundamentally the way good fish is supposed to be cooked:  in the oven, light on spices and with potatoes on the side.  No creams, no heavy rubs, nothing that would spoil the flavor of good fresh seafood.

As result the list of ingredients is short, the recipe is very simple and the bill for the fish high 🙂

Ingredients (about 6 people):

  • 2 pounds of fresh halibut
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • salt, black pepper, a bit of thyme
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • few black olives (use Kalamata or some other “salty” version)

The steps:

1.  Chop the potatoes in smaller chunks (I do something along the line of a 1/3in by 1/3in – no need to be too precise).  I wash them and add 5 tablespoon of olive oil, black pepper, salt (don’t be shy) and the white wine.  Mix everything and stick the pan in the oven at 400.  The potatoes take longer than the fish to cook and you want to give them an head start.

potatoes 

2.  After about 10 mins I usually take the potatoes out, give it a good stir and add the fish (with salt, pepper and thyme).  If I have lots of people for dinner and the fish is big I usually tend to already cut it in individual portions.  It requires a smaller pan, but that’s not the main reason.  It actually cooks faster.  A rule that someone mentioned to me was 10mins for each each of fish (head to tail).  When I cook individual slices (of about an inch each) I usually go for 20mins.  This is a good time to also add the olives.

3.  After about 20 mins the dish is ready!

halibut with potatoes 

Enjoy!

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Yesterday I covered the basics about frittata when I posted about “frittata con le salsiccie” (frittata with sausage).

We have a pescetarian in the house.  So, at the last brunch I had to make also a vegetarian frittata.  I used potatoes and leeks.  It’s simple and very good.

Ingredients (this makes an 8×1 inch frittata):

  • one leek 
  • three potatoes
  • 10-12 eggs
  • salt, pepper and herbs (i used thyme)
  • extra virgin olive oil

The steps:

1.  slice the leeks (white part only) and dice the potatoes (small pieces).

potatoes     leeks

2.  start sautee’ing the potatoes in 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil.   It will take a good 10-15mins for the potatoes to cook properly.  After about 10mins add the leeks and let sautee for another 5mins.

 potatoes  leeks and potatoes

3.  Time to add the beaten egg mix.  Let it cooked at medium-low heat for about 5-10mins (in my pan it took about 10mins).  

 frittata is cooking 

4.  it’s now time to turn the frittata around.  When do you turn it?  A good test is to check the bottom of the frittata with a spatula.  If the bottom is a nice golden brown it’s time to turn the frittata around.  Quick steps:

cimg2939-600.jpg  cimg2940-600.jpg  cimg2941-600.jpg

5.  Cook it now for another 3-5 mins and the frittata is ready to go!!  

cimg2942-600.jpg

Enjoy!!!

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First, what’s frittata?  I turned to wikipedia for the “official” definition:

“A frittata is a type of Italian omelette that frequently features fillings such as meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Like a normal omelette, a frittata is prepared in a skillet. However, whereas a normal omelette is cooked on a stovetop and served folded, a frittata is first partially cooked on a stovetop but then finished under the grill (broiler) and served open-faced

It sounds pretty accurate.  I would add couple of things:

  • A frittata is usually much thicker than a regular omellette.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for it to be about an inch.
  • It does not necessarily need to be cooked in the oven.  In fact, I have never used the oven.  Just keep the heat at medium-low with the lid on. Then turn the frittata around (see trick below) and you’ll be fine.

Like omelettes you can get very creative with the frittata.  A few weeks ago, we had friends over for brunch and I prepared two of them (1) sausage+onion, and (2) potatoe+leek.  In this post I’ll cover the first one. 

Ingredients (feeds 4-8 people):

  • four spicy sausages (you can also use regular ones).  ps: get the good ones!!!
  • 10 eggs
  • one onion
  • salt. pepper, herbs (I used a bit of thyme)
  • olive oil (extra virgin)
  • I used a 8-inch pan

Steps:

1. I start by cooking the sausages by themselves in just a drizzle of oil.  In the meantime beat the eggs and add salt, pepper and the herbs.  When the sausages are brown take them out. 

 sausages cimg2938-600.jpg

2. Now add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and start sauteeing the minced onion.  Make sure to keep the heat on medium.  You don’t want to fry the onion.  When the onion start to turn golden add the sausages back to the mix and let cook for a minute.

 cimg2937-600.jpg 

 3. Time to add the eggs.  I usually stir the mix for 30 seconds or so.  Cover with a lid and let it cook for 5-10 mins.  Keep the heat on medium-low.  You want to avoid that the bottom of the frittata sticks to the pan or burns.

 cimg2935-600.jpg

 (full disclosure.  This pix is taken from the other frittata I was cooking, as i forgot to take one at this stage)

4. After 5-10 mins it’s time to turn the frittata.  The actual timing depends on the pan that you use and heat.  in general you want to see that the frittata is almost set.  The top part may still have some liquid and that’s fine.  Time to turn it.  Here’s the sequence I use:

cimg2939-600.jpg  cimg2940-600.jpg  cimg2941-600.jpg

5.  When the frittata is on top of the lid I just slide it back in the pan.  After 2-5 mins on medium-low heat it’s ready to go.  Just take it out and you’re done!

 cimg2942-600.jpg

Enjoy!!! 

If you like food and you are in my region (Abruzzo) then there is one restaurant you MUST visit: L’Angolo da Filippo (also known as “Angolino” – “the little corner”).

The restaurant is one of my town institutions. It was founded in 1891 and it’s rocks! Wow!

Over the course of the years the menu has changed, the restaurant was extensively remodelled, but it always carries a great of “tradition” forward.

I went there with friends a few days before I left and I took pix of what we ate.

We started off with a round of cold appetizers (mostly carpaccios):

appetizer one  appetizer two

followed by a round of warm appetizer:

appetizer warm warm appetizer two clams 

It’s easy to spot the prawns and clams in the pix.  The middle one is a lot more interesting, aside from the prawn there is a fantastic fried zucchini with shrimp paste, baccala’ with bell peppers\onions and one of my favorites – cuttlefish with potatoes.

We moved to the pastas:

pasta pasta 2

The first pasta is “spaghettoni with bottarga e pannocchie” (pannocchie is typical in my region and close to prawns).  It was just amazing…  but the next pasta was even better “gnocchetti with pesto and shrimp”… holy $%$% it was soo good! The pesto was very light, the gnocchetti would just melt in your mounth.  Wow…

After the pasta we decided to also order the “secondi” (second dish).  The good news is that since we ordered late we got about 20-30mins to rest :).  We were ready for what was coming next:

arrosto misto dentice

Some of us ordered the “arrosto misto” (left).  I was one of the lucky ones to go for the “dentice in crosta di pistacchio”.    The dentice (still trying to find the english name) was just amazing.  I was extremelly impressed.

We closed the meal with a mix of “semifreddi” and coffee.

Overall the meal was impeccable.  Loved it.  Service was also great.  If you ever go there tell Carlo that Max sent you! 

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The other day I had a few friends over for drinks before we had out for dinner. I wanted to make a few quick appetizers to go along with the martinis.

After a short discussion we went for:

  • Tuna tartare on crackers
  • Caprese skewers 
  • Shrimp and prosciutto

We prepared all of them in the afternoon and finished them off in the early evening before the guests arrived.  The tartare is really the only one that requires at least an hour so the tuna can marinate properly.

Let’s start with the caprese skewers.

This is really easy.  Ingredients:

  • cherry tomatoes
  • byte-size mozzarella
  • lots of basil (one of those big bags they have at the market)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • toothpicks – regular skewers are really too big!

Just cut the cherry tomatoes in halves.  I used two mozzarella bytes and two cherry halves for each skewer (note I used too.  In the food processor add the basil, 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.  When you are ready to serve just spread some of the basil-olive oil mix on top of the skewers!  Super easy, super fresh and super tasty!

 Caprese skewers

Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp.

This is also very easy to make.  In fact, you can prepare it earlier and just cook it right before (it takes 5mins). Ingredients:

  • big prawn with no shells
  • prosciutto slices (no need to buy the most expensive one)

Wrap half slice of prosciutto around the shrimp.  Done!  I like to cook it over a hot non-stick pan.  It almost acts like a grill and the prosciutto gets nice and crispy.  The shrimp cook really fast, so you’ll need to cook each of them for couple of minutes (one minute each side).

Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp

Tuna Tartare cracker.

In this case I actually used a recipe from one of Ina Gartner’s books.  You can also find it online on the Food Network website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_28673,00.html 

My take:  you don’t need all the ingredients (but you have to use lemo!) or stick precisily to the quantities indicated.  I made this dish, took my liberties and it always tastes good.  You must use good tuna!  Don’t skimp on the tuna!

A nice presentation helps!

Tuna Tartare Crackers

Enjoy!!!

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Friday night I was having drinks with my Italian friends and the topic came up.  We talked about it for a good chunk of time and it seems that by the end there was good agreement on the ranking.

Before I started writing this post I checked the pizzeria rankings on citysearch.  wow…in the audience top five there is none of the pizzerias that we have in our top 5.  It seems we are more in sync with the editors.  We both have the Tutta Bella Pizzeria in Columbia City as our #1.

There is another important point to make.  This entry ranks the best pizzeria and not the best pizza.  I will post about the best pizza later, for today let’s focus on the pizzeria.

#1  – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Columbia City
what we like:  everything – atmosphere, pizza, staff/service, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like:  it’s a little out of the way

#2 – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Wallingford
what we like:  the space, the pizza, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like: nothing really.  This is where we go the most, but the atmosphere is not quite the same as #1

#3 – Pizzeria da Guido in Crossroad
what we like:  pizza is great, place is reminiscent of some off-beat Italian pizzerias, no line
what we don’t like:  a little out of the way, crossroad mall it’s pretty sad at night

#4 – Via Tribunali in Capitol Hill
what we like: pizza can be very good, atmosphere
what we don’t like: waiting line, you cannot customize pizza (unbelievable!), unfriendly

#5 – La Vita e’ Bella in Belltown

Have fun at your next pizzeria trip!

What others think?

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (Wallingford) on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Guido on Urbanspoon

Via Tribunali on Urbanspoon

La Vita E' Bella Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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