Insalata di polpo (Octopus salad)

Insalata di polpo

When Stefano was a child, he used to fish for polpi (octopuses) in the summer months when his family left the heat of Rome for their little house near the town of Latina along the Tyrrhenian Sea, a subdivision of the Mediterranean.

300px-Tyrrhenian_Sea_mapIf the boys went with their fathers – Stefano’s padre Andrea and uncle Zio Carlo, they took the car.  If not, they rode the 3 kilometers to the sea on their bicycles.

Because octopuses creep and crawl better than they swim, they like to congregate near rocks.  Thus, Stefano and his cousins used to stand on the pier that stretched out over low cliffs and fish for the eight-tentacled creatures.  To catch an octopus, they used a special lure called a polpara, which had a little weighted body surrounded by fish hooks.  The polpara was attached to a line, which they bobbed up and down to catch the octopus’ attention.


When a curious octopus wrapped its tentacles around the lure, they boys pulled the line up to claim their catch.  Back home, Stefano’s mamma, Maria, or his aunt, Zia Elena, cooked the octopus and made a delicious antipasto of insalata di polpo.

Insalata di polpoInsalata di polpo

Here in the land-locked upper Midwest of the United States, we fish for our octopus at the local seafood market, and enjoy the squeals of awe from our friends and family who’ve never handled or eaten this delicious sea creature.

serves 4

Two octopuses, approximately 500 grams or around 1 pound each.
2 carrots, or a handful of baby carrots
2 stalks celery
A bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley
Olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic

Insalata di polpoDirections
Place the octopuses and a cork from a recently opened bottle of wine into a large pot of cold water.  If you don’t have a bottle open, this is a great excuse to uncork one!  No-one knows why, but southern Italians swear that a cork in the water renders the octopus more tender.  Bring the water to a boil, and then let boil gently for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat, and allow the octopus to cool to room temperature in the water it was cooked in.

Il polpo si cuoce nell’acqua sua. 

Insalata di polpoIn the meanwhile, dice the carrots and celery finely, and the garlic super-finely.  Chop about 2 tablespoons of flat leaf Italian parsley.  Place it all together into a medium bowl.

Insalata di polpoRemove the octopus from the water and pat it dry with paper towels.  Cut into small pieces, and add it to the bowl.  Cover with extra-virgin olive oil, stir in the juice of one lemon, and salt to taste.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes for the flavors to express themselves, then serve.

Insalata di polpoInsalata di polpo







Ridiculously cold temperatures, such as those that are descending upon Minneapolis in the coming days, call for foods that warm your bones and your soul.

It’s so cold that you can toss a glass of water outdoors and it will freeze before reaching the ground.

It is so cold that there is ice on the inside of some of our windows.

It is so cold that the governor ordered all public schools closed for the safety of the children.

Here’s what predicts for tonight:

Temperatures 1.5.14

The big bold number is the actual temperature, and the “feels like” number represents the windchill factor.  The poor Befana; she is going to freeze her wart-covered nose off tonight.

We, on the other hand, have stocked up on groceries, made a giant pot of minestrone, started the (gas) fireplace, and have no plans to leave the house for the next 36 hours or so.  After dinner, we’ll sit down in the living room and enjoy some piping hot caldarroste, roasted chestnuts, with a bottle of red wine.

Prized across the Mediterranean basin, caldarroste are cold-weather street food at its best.  During winter months, caldarroste stands line the major shopping streets of Italian cities, luring residents and tourists alike with the warm, toasty aroma of the roasting chestnuts.  For a few Euros, you can walk away with a piece of butcher paper fashioned into cone-shaped container of chestnuts to keep you warm as you finish your outdoor stroll.

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It’s simple to make roasted chestnuts, which we also call castagne, at home, too.  In Italy, Stefano grew up going to the woods of Monte Scalambra to gather chestnuts with his family.  They would peel away the prickly, outside layer, which had split open by the time the chestnut had fallen to the ground, and toss the nut into a basket.  Ten or twenty kilos later, they would load up their harvest and drive back to Rome.  Traditionally, chestnuts are roasted over an open fire in a large pan with holes in the bottom of it.  However, they can also be roasted in the oven.

Cara remembers eating castagne at Stefano’s mother and father’s house in the winter months in Rome.  Much more skilled at peeling chestnuts, not to mention checking for the occasional unsavory larva, Stefano’s father, Andrea, used to peel one for her, and then one for himself, ensuring that she got her fair share.

We enjoyed our castagne with a bottle of Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto, a little brother to the powerful Sassicaia wine.  A blend of Cabernet Savignon and Merlot, this wine can be enjoyed in its early stage.



Soak your chestnuts in water for 2-3 hours before preparing them.

Preheat the oven to 205°C/400°F.

Drain the chestnuts.  Using a sharp knife, make a horizontal cut through the outer shell, slicing from one side to another of the rounded side of the chestnut.  Cover a baking tray with parchment paper, and arrange the chestnuts on top.  Roast in the oven until the chestnuts swell and open up, and the meat of the nut is golden brown and slightly charred.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.  Peel the outer shell off with your fingers, and enjoy with a glass of red wine.

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Supplì al telefono

We’ve had this recipe and accompanying photos ready for a week now, but the time and more importantly the inspiration to write a post around them have been missing.

Supplì al telefono

It arrived last night in the form of an 11-month-old bundle of smiles, curiosity and drool named Penelope.  She was our guest at dinner, along with her parents Veronica and Lauren, and our mutual friends Emily and Ben.  It was a brilliant evening to benefit the amazing students and teachers at Cara’s school, with a menu of some of our favorite seafood dishes:

Antipasto misto di pesce (Mixed seafood appetizers)
Riondo Prosecco
Pennette al salmone (Pennette in a creamy salmon sauce)

Lageder Pinot Nero
Pesce spada al cartoccio (Baked Swordfish with seafood)

Falanghina Terredora
Insalata mista (Baby Salad Greens)
Tiramisù al limoncello (Limoncello Tiramisù)

Caffè e Digestivi (Espresso and Digestif)

But, back to Penelope.  She was busy and happy.  She explored the living room, engaged playfully with the adults, and snacked on food from her own little portable, spill-proof bowl. Her parents took turns holding her, and before any of us realized it, 5 hours had passed.

It reminded us of when our oldest, Sean, was a baby.  We still lived in Rome then, and didn’t think twice about bringing him out with us where ever we went.  He was content to observe the world from his stroller or ride along in the baby carrier worn by his mamma or papà.

Some of our favorite spots to take him were Campo de’ Fiori, where we could content him with a piece of pizza rossa, the hill-town of Frascati in the Castelli Romani, or the village of Nemi, perched high above the volcanic lake Lago di Nemi, just south of Rome.  Nemi is famous for its berries, frutti di bosco, and especially the miniature wild strawberries that are bursting with flavor.  In summertime, it was a cool reprieve from the heat of Rome.  We’d take a stroll through Nemi’s narrow streets, stopping for a gelato alla crema with berries on top.  We’d bring along a banana and some Biscotti Plasmon, Italy’s quintessential baby biscuits, and ask the barman to add milk and blend up a smoothie for Sean.

Closer to home, Pizzeria Pizza & Fichi, at Via Alenda, 26 in Rome’s Giardinetti neighborhood was a favorite spot for Roman-style pizzas, filetti di baccalà and supplì, made by our friends Fabrizio, Massimo, Carmela and their mom at the family business.  We’d choose an outdoor table underneath a broad umbrella, order our pizzas, and feed Sean while we waited for our food.  Like clockwork, he would fall asleep by the time our pizza arrived.  We’d recline his stroller seat, place him back into it, and enjoy our pizza while he slept.

Supplì al telefono are a rice croquette fritter found on the antipasti menu in pizzerie all across the city.  The rice is cooked with a bit of tomato sauce, sometimes with ground beef, and let to cool.  Then, it is molded into an egg-like shape, and a piece of mozzarella is pushed into the middle of it before it is breaded and fried.  When the supplì is broken open, the melted mozzarella stretches from one piece to another, resembling the cord on an old-fashioned telephone.

for 8 supplì

500 grams Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice
1 large can of whole tomatoes (500 grams or 28 0z)
Ground beef, approximately 250 grams or 1/2 lb.
Olive oil
Fresh mozzarella
4 eggs
Vegetable, peanut or olive oil for frying

Prepare the sauce by dicing 1/4 of a small-medium onion, and sautéing in olive oil over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and brown it slowly, using a spatula to crumble the meat finely.  Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill.  Add a splash of water or red wine if too thick, and allow it to simmer for at least 45 minutes.  Salt to taste.

Cook the rice in abundant boiling water with a handful of salt tossed in, just as you would cook pasta, according to the cooking time on the package.  When the rice is done, drain off the water using a strainer.  Add the rice to the sauce and stir well until it is evenly coated.  Place onto a baking tray or into a large baking dish and spread it out in order to facilitate cooling.

Once the rice is cool, you are ready to assemble and fry the supplì.  Add your oil several inches deep into a pan suitable for frying, and place it over medium heat.

Supplì al telfono

Fill a dish with flour, another with breadcrumbs, and a final one with the eggs, which you will beat slightly.  Cut 8 small pieces of mozzarella to stuff inside the supplì.

Wet you hands to make it easier to handle the rice.  With your hands, scoop enough rice to make an egg-sized supplì.  Mold it into an oblong shape, and using your thumb make an indent in the center.  Fill the indent with a piece of mozzarella, and then enclose the mozzarella with rice so that it is tucked well inside.

Supplì al telefono

Dust the supplì in flour, dip it into the egg and rotate it so that it is well-coated, and then finally roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Some recipes suggest repeating a second coating of egg and breadcrumbs.  We tried it both ways and preferred a single layer, but you may wish to experiment and decide which option works best for you.

Supplì al telefonoSupplì al telefono

Gently place each supplì into the hot oil and fry until it takes on a rich brown hue.  Remove from the oil and set on absorbent paper towels.  Allow to cool slightly, and enjoy with a Birra Moretti.

Supplì al telefono

Crostini con prosciutto e mozzarella

Crostini con prosciutto e mozzarella

Oooh, things have been busy!  We’re at full tilt with work, school, homework, kids’ activities, and now the holidays on top of it.  When life is moving this fast, it’s hard to find time, or energy for that matter, to cook.  Or to blog.

That’s not to say we’ve abandoned our kitchen altogether.  We’ve had a few amazing meals, such as polenta with spuntature di maiale e salsicce (red sauce with short ribs and sausage), served on two large slabs of wood placed right on the dining room table, when Cara’s cousins traveled from three different states for a weekend feast.  Many meals have been quick ones, however.

Back in Rome, when things got busy at Stefano’s house and a fast meal was needed, Maria would make crostini con prosciutto e mozzarella, toasted bread topped with prosciutto and melted mozzarella.  It’s still a favorite in our house when we’re in need of comfort food.

Prosciutto crudoMozzarella

1 baguette
Prosciutto crudo (cured) and/or cotto (cooked)
Fresh mozzarella


Slice the bread, cutting at an angle to produce elongated pieces.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the bread on top of it.  Toast the bread on the top side only under a high broiler, and remove from the oven.

In the meanwhile, slice your mozzarella into thin slices, and prepare your ham.  Place a slice of ham, folded over so that it just covers the bread, and mozzarella on top of each slice of bread.  Place the baking tray of crostini back into the over under a high broiler until the cheese melts and turns slightly golden brown.  Enjoy the crostini hot.

Crostini con prosciutto e mozzarellaCrostini con prosciutto e mozzarella

Torta Rustica (Rustic Farmhouse Pie)

I’m not sure what made us crave a torta rustica this weekend.  Perhaps it was the dark and stormy week we’ve had that gave appeal to the scent of a savory pie baking in a warm oven.  Or, maybe the farmhouses and chalets situated among the rolling foothills of the Dolomites that we saw this morning while researching our summer trip to Trentino-Alto Adige and other northern Italian wine regions put us in the mood.

We don’t have a proprietary torta rustica recipe; neither Stefano’s mom nor his grandmother made it frequently.  Our sister-in-law Valentina makes one, the recipe almost certainly passed down to her from her mamma, Marinella.  Without Valentina and Marinella’s recipe at hand, though, we perused our copy of the The Silver Spoon for the perfect pie for this Sunday afternoon.

There are many different types of torte rustiche.  Many call for leafy greens, like the arugula e taleggio version that we almost made, or like .  Some are heavier on cream and cheese, like the classic torta pasqualina, or Easter Pie, recently made by fellow blogger Pola at an Italian Cooking in the Midwest.  Although many call for spring vegetables like leeks and artichokes, the woodsy mushroom pie with walnut cream inspired us to fold the corner over and make note for fall.

We settled on a rustic farmhouse pie that is a nice balance of vegetables and and cheeses, with pretty colors and complex flavors.  We put our own touch on The Silver Spoon’s original recipe, and loved the results.

385 grams (2 and 3/4 cup) flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 packages frozen, chopped spinach
30 grams (2 Tablespoons) butter, plus extra for greasing
125 ml. (1/2 cup) heavy cream
35 grams (1/4 cup) grated Parmigiano
1 bunch thyme
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
6-8 slices of thinly sliced cooked ham (deli ham)
200 grams (7 ounces) fontina cheese, thinly sliced
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper

Add a pinch of salt to the flour, and form a mound on a clean smooth surface.  Make a well in the center of the mound, and pour the wine and oil into it.  Using your fingers, gradually work the flour into the liquid, working from the center outward and gradually incorporating the flour into the dough.  Knead the dough lightly until if forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, add the spinach to boiling water and cook until tender, approximately 5 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing out as much of the water as you can.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Return the spinach to the skillet, and add the cream and Parmigiano.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.    Remove from heat and set aside.

Halve the bell peppers, removing stems and seeds.  Place the pepper halves onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and place in oven under a high broiler until the skins are deeply charred and blistered.  Remove the peppers from the oven and place them into a paper bag.  Close the bag tightly and let sit until they are cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins, and then slice the peppers thinly, keeping the strips of red pepper separate from the yellow ones.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F, and butter a pie plate or a tart pan with tall sides.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into two pieces, one piece slightly larger than the other.  Roll out the larger of the two pieces of dough on a flour-dusted smooth surface, until it is just larger than the diameter of the pie plate or tart pan.  Place the dough carefully into the the pan, allowing it to fold over the edges.

Arrange a layer of ham on the bottom of the pie. Add a layer of spinach, using half of the spinach, Parmigiano and cream mixture.  Follow with a layer of all of the red peppers.  Top with a layer of fontina, using half of the cheese slices.  Repeat the process with another layer of ham, the rest of the spinach mixture, and then the yellow peppers.  Add another layer of ham on top of the peppers, and finally the last layer of fontina.

Roll out the second ball of dough, and cover the pie.  Roll the edges of the bottom layer of dough up over the top layer, and pinch together with your fingers.  You may wish to wet your fingers to help seal the crust together.  Beat the egg yolk and add a small amount of water to it.  Prick the top of the pie with a fork, and brush with the egg yolk.

Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours, until the top is golden brown.  Let sit 30 minutes before cutting.  Serve hot or cold.

Fave e Pecorino

We’ve been nostalgic for Rome lately.  Perhaps its recent birthday has gotten us thinking about it.  Or, maybe it’s been on our minds because we’re planning a visit this July and are eager to see friends and family, and to return to some of our favorite places, like this one, or these.

When we miss Rome, we find ourselves returning to some of its best food.  Last week it was the classic Roman pasta dish, cacio e pepe.  Today it was saltimbocca alla romana, which we will write about on Due Spaghetti as soon as we can find veal scallopini that make the grade.  (Who knew that good veal would be so hard to come by?)

With May 1st right around the corner, we couldn’t help venturing out in search of another Roman springtime classic, fresh fava beans, to eat alongside Pecorino Romano cheese on May 1st.

In Italy, like in much of the rest of the world, May 1st is a holiday – International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day as it is called Stateside and elsewhere.  In Rome, tradition calls for a May 1st scampagnata (a picnic in the countryside) with friends, and fave e pecorino romano, with a glass of good wine, are always part of the day.

In many towns just outside of Rome, they celebrate the Sagra delle Fave e Pecorino.  A sagra is a town festival, often dedicated to a food that is native to the region, so it is fitting that several towns near Rome hold a sagra for fava beans and Pecorino.

It is the simplest of meals – just fresh fava beans, authentic Pecorino Romano cheese, and a glass of your favorite wine.  Many traditionalists call for red wine, but in our family it’s always been white.  Pop open the pod by running your finger along the seam that runs lengthwise up the bean, or break the pod and scoop the bean out from inside.  There’s no need to peel the bean – just pop it in your mouth, follow with a bite of Pecorino, and conclude with a sip of wine.  Buon primo maggio!


Insalata di arance

It’s time to lighten up a bit!

The Thanksgiving meal is now behind us, but December being the season of winter parties and holiday baking, more hearty, rich food awaits us.

We’re not complaining, of course.  We love this time of year and can’t wait to blog about some of our favorite seasonal foods – polenta con funghi e salsiccia, tozzetti, and panettone are a few of the recipes on deck at Due Spaghetti for the coming weeks.  We just think it’s a good idea to celebrate a few light and refreshing winter recipes, too.

Our inspiration for insalata di arance came from Luigi Vitali, baker-in-residence for Cossetta’s in St. Paul, recent recipient  of the Best Focaccia award in Minnesota Monthly.  Luigi, who comes from the village of Acquaviva delle Fonti in the Apulia region of Italy, was our guest for Thanksgiving dinner.

Serving such a traditional American meal to international guests inevitably leads to conversations about typical foods from their part of the world, and about half-way into our third wine, while musing over the presence of blueberries in our salad, Luigi told us how salt, pepper and olive oil are added to oranges in Southern Italy for a refreshing salad.

Oranges are a common winter food in many parts of Italy.  Each December, the citrusy smell of oranges and orange peel reminds us of Christmas time at Stefano’s mom’s house.  Two days following Thanksgiving, we still could not stop thinking about that orange salad! Ignoring the left-over mashed potatoes, wild rice, turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin and pecan pie in the fridge, we set about researching insalata di arance. 

Like so many recipes, there are variations on this one.  The one we settled on calls for oranges, fennel, anchovies, fresh oregano, black pepper, salt, and olive oil.  It is spectacular – the freshest, most aromatic salad you will ever enjoy, and the perfect break from the heartier foods of the winter season.

Ingredients for 2-4 servings
2 oranges*
Fennel, 1 small bulb or 1/2 of a medium bulb
2 anchovies
1 sprig fresh oregano
Olive oil

*Dark red Sicilian blood oranges would be spectacular, if you can find them.  If not, any orange will work fine.  We couldn’t find blood oranges, so we used one naval orange and one large, firm tangerine in order to have some variety in color and flavor.

Use a paring knife to cut away the peel of the orange.  Slice past the white of the peel just into the flesh of the orange to remove all of the the bitter pith.  Slice the orange lengthwise into round discs, and then cut each disc into halves and then quarters, removing any white pith from the center.  Place the orange pieces into a bowl.

Cut the stems and fronds off of the top of the fennel bulb.  Remove any damaged outer layers from the bulb of the fennel.  Remove a thin slice off of the base of the fennel and discard.  Turn the fennel on its side and cut the bulb into thin slices.  Chop the slices into smaller parts, and add it to your salad.

Cut the anchovies into small pieces, and add them to the oranges and fennel.  Chop the oregano and add it, as well.  Salt and pepper liberally, and drizzle with 3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir, and serve.

Download the recipe Insalata di arance.

Wine Pairing
Cusumano Insolia 2010

We wanted a wine that would not interfere with the zesty citrus of the oranges and the variety of flavors in the salad, but that instead would emphasize and highlight them.  Cusumano Insolia, a bright and lightly sparkling white, is produced in the same land where oranges grow under the warm Sicilian sun.  It was the perfect compliment to our insalata di arance.

Crostini assortiti

The idea to serve crostini at a party we threw recently came from this LA Times article.

It’s is a nice read.  Journalist Russ Parsons takes us away to Lago Trasimeno in Umbria, one of our favorite regions. As we read, we imagine ourselves right there with him at the frantoio, where extra virgin oil is pressed out of the nuts of freshly harvested olives.

Just like Russ, in our minds we also drizzle the new oil onto crusty bread that has been toasted over an open fire.  (Actually, in the article the bread is toasted in a “beat up electric toaster oven.  What??  Any self-respecting frantoio must have an open word-burning fireplace to toast bread in, so we chose to alter this detail in our mental vacation.) A little sea salt sprinkled on top, and this, dear readers, is the holy grail of bruschette.

Before we write any further, let’s take a moment to clarify a few things about bruschetteComplimenti, Mr. Parsons, for doing the same in your article.

First, Italian nouns have genders, and those that end with an “a” are feminine.  To make a feminine noun plural, change the final “a” to an “e”.  Therefore, bruschetta is singular, and bruschette is plural.  You can make “a bruschetta” or “a few bruschette.”  “Two bruschettas,” though, strikes a bad chord.

Second, the “ch” sound in Italian is the same as the “k” sound in English.  It’s actually a little more complicated than that, but for today, that rule will suffice.  So, all of you who have been pronouncing bruschetta as “broo-shetta,” and you are in good company, have some re-learning to do.  The correct pronunciation is “broo-sketta.”

Just replacing the “sh” sound with a “k” sound is a significant improvement.  However, the over-achievers among you may wish to also try lightly rolling your “r,” making the “e” sound more like “ay”, and hanging a little longer on the double “t.”  “Broo-SKAY-tta.”  Click here to listen to an authentic pronunciation of bruschetta.

Okay.  We now have all of that sorted out.  However, we are not actually going to talk about bruschette today.  We’re going to talk about crostini, instead.

You see, there are really only two authentic versions of a bruschetta – toasted bread rubbed with garlic with olive oil and sea salt on top, and toasted bread rubbed with garlic with olive oil, sea salt, chopped tomatoes and basil on top.  Any other version of toasted bread with something on top is better identified as a crostino.

Crostino: singular masculine noun.  To make a masculine noun plural, change the “o” to an “i.”  Singular, crostino.  Plural, crostini.  Pitfall to avoid: don’t ask for “a crostini.”  Ask instead for “a crostino” or “some crostini.”  You’re picking up on this now, aren’t you?

So, back to the party.  Sometimes we have fun serving our guests elaborate, multi-course meals, each course paired with the perfect wine.  At this party, though, we wanted our guests to mingle and visit with each other, stopping by the dining room to fill up their plates with antipasti and stuzzichini and coming back for more whenever they ran out.

At the center of the spread were crostini assortiti – a towering mountain of crusty bread surrounded by savory spreads, all based on vegetables and legumes, differing in color, texture and flavor. It’s a colorful, tasty and easy to serve option for parties.

Cannellini and garlic spread
Puree one can of cannellini beans, well-drained and rinsed, in a food processor with 1/2 clove of garlic, 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, and a few dashes of freshly ground black pepper.

Olive tapenade
Puree 2 cups of pitted kalamata olives in a food processor with 1/2 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon capers and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Halve and clean 2 red and 2 yellow peppers.  Place flat down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and roast in the oven at 425° for 30 minutes, or until the skin blackens and lifts up from the peppers.  Let cool, and then remove the skin from the peppers.  Cut the peppers into 1″ pieces, and set aside.  Sauté 1/4 cup diced onions and half a pint of halved cherry tomatoes in 3 tablespoons olive oil.  As the cherry tomatoes soften, press them flat with the back of a fork, and remove the skin.  When the tomatoes are soft and the onion translucent, add the peppers and 1/4 cup dry white wine.  Salt to taste, and let simmer until the wine cooks off. 

Eggplant Caponata
Peel one medium eggplant.  Slice it in half lengthwise, and then slice each half lengthwise again to make quarters.  Remove any heavily seeded parts.  Cut into 1/2″ slices.  Coat a baking tray with olive oil, and place the eggplant on top of the tray.  Drizzle more olive oil over the eggplant, and salt liberally.  Roast in the oven at 425° for 5 minutes.  Remove, and using a spatula turn the eggplant.  Return to the oven for 5 more minutes, and then take out and let cool.  Puree half a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon capers, and the eggplant into a food processor.

Greens sauteed with garlic, red pepper and olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Wash one bunch of mustard or turnip greens and remove the thick parts of the stems.  When the water boils, toss a handful of coarse salt into the pot, and add the greens.  Boil until tender, approximately 8-10 minutes, and drain.  Sauté 2 tablespoons olive oil, two cloves of garlic diced into small pieces, and a bit of crushed red pepper in a skillet for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is golden brown.  Add the greens and 2-3 spoonfuls of tomato sauce.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

We just can’t get enough tomatoes this summer.

Big, red beefsteak tomatoes, oblong juicy grape tomatoes, sturdy romas and ugly heirlooms – we’ve had them all.  We had the most delicious yellow tomatoes from a friend’s garden.  Mild-flavored and juicy, with a bit of salt, oil and basil they were perfect.  I thought for a moment that these would be our favorite tomatoes of the summer.

But then we saw these eye-catching little cherry tomatoes in a variety of summer colors at the Minneapolis farmers market, and all bets were off.  “They are too pretty to eat,” stated the woman next to us.  

The mixed-variety basket was fun to photograph – red, yellow, black, orange and green cherry tomatoes, and yellow, red and orange pear tomatoes.

We added little ciliegine di mozzarella (small, bite-sized mozzarella), basil, salt, and ground black pepper.  Dressed in olive oil, it became a quintessential summer salad.  And to the woman  at the farmers market – we had no problem at all eating it.

2 pints mixed variety cherry tomatoes
2 eight-ounce containers of ciliegine di mozzarella
1 bunch basil
Ground black pepper
Olive oil

Serves 4-6

Wash the tomatoes.  Quarter or halve the larger size tomatoes and place them into a salad bowl.  Toss the small ones in whole.  Drain the water from the ciliegine di mozzarella, halve them, and add them to the tomatoes.  Wash the basil and using kitchen shears, snip into pieces over the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle olive oil liberally over the salad.  Allow to sit 15 minutes at room temperature.  Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Pomodorini ripieni di tonno

Friday could not have come soon enough!

With one child at camp and the other staying with grandparents this week, one would think we’d have had ample time to prepare homemade dinners.  But instead, it was a taxing and thankfully uncommon week of 12-hour work days and too little sleep.   Except for our morning espresso and an occasional piece of toast, the kitchen went unused.

Each evening we intended add a post to Due Spaghetti, but each night we ran out of time and put it off until tomorrow.  It got so bad that today when we opened up our blog, we were asked to re-enter our user-id and password.  The “remember me” box had come unchecked; our own blog had unfriended us.

Ironically, we had a post ready to go.  We’d made these adorable stuffed cherry tomatoes, pomodorini ripieni, a few weeks back when we were trying out recipes for the Washington Post’s Top Tomato Recipe Contest.  They didn’t make the shortlist of recipes we chose to submit to the contest, but they are delicious and pretty, and deserved to be featured on Due Spaghetti.

The problem was, we didn’t measure our ingredients while we were preparing the stuffed cherry tomatoes.  This isn’t surprising, as we rarely measure when we cook.  We just add what looks right, feels right, and tastes right.  This, we believe, is part of what we love about cooking; it is not so much an intellectual endeavor, but instead an activity that engages the senses and the emotions.

When Stefano’s mom explains to us how to prepare a dish, she sometimes omits key steps or ingredients and jumps directly to the finer points of execution.  In the early days, we’d make the mistake of backing up and seeking clarification on a basic part of the recipe, only to have her smile in surprise and tell us, “Of course!” revealing that what we had asked was so obvious that it does not need to be stated.

When writing on Due Spaghetti, though, we take the time to list specific amounts for ingredients so our readers are not left guessing and recipes are authentically prepared.  In order to post the cherry tomato recipe, we needed to make it again to confirm the precise quantities of tuna, mayo and capers.

We’ve debated this topic before, with Cara taking the position that our readers deserve an accurate and specific recipe, and Stefano maintaining that through Due Spaghetti we can teach our readers to cook the way his mother and grandmother did – a superior form of cooking which develops from trusting intuition and experience to determine when more salt is needed in a sauce, or when the texture and consistency of a dough is perfect.

In the end, the week passed and we never managed to recreate the pomodori ripieni.  On the positive side, we had a few excellent meals out, including a spectacular dinner at La Chaya Bistro and an engaging conversation with chef/proprietor Juan Juarez Garcia, which we will write about soon. But we need to get back to blogging and as a result we are going to post our recipe without specifying quantities for the ingredients, trusting our readers to make wise and inspired decisions about what looks right, feels right and tastes right to them.

These tuna-stuffed cherry tomatoes are a pretty appetizer or party food.  They can be arranged on an interesting plate or platter, or skewered for easy serving.

Cherry tomatoes
Tuna in olive oil
Flat leaf Italian parsley

Wash cherry tomatoes and slice the tops off of them.  Carefully core the cherry tomatoes with a paring knife and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a small spoon.  Set the hollowed tomatoes upside down unto a baking tray and allow the juices to drain.

Dice the tomato pulp, and add it along with the juices and seeds into a bowl.  Drain the tuna and stir into the tomato mixture.  We used between 1 and 2 cans of tuna for each pint of cherry tomatoes.  Add mayonnaise to the creaminess level of your preference.  Rinse a handful of capers quickly under water, dice them add them to the mixture.  You can use more or fewer capers according to preference.  Chop a bunch of flat leaf parsley finely, and stir it into the mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully stuff the tuna mixture into the cherry tomatoes, taking care not to tear the tomato walls.  If you wish, garnish with a small dollop of mayonnaise.