It’s that time of year again, folks. Here are some of the most frequently requested Passover recipes from our archives.
James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.
More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.
Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.
He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.
So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.
This is what I came up with — a pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.
But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.
The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.
This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.
Pasta a la Gandolfini
1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred
3/4lb fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.
1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 White Onion, sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced
1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned
4 Garlic Cloves, julienned
1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden
1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)
Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.
Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.
Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.
Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.
Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese. Toss and serve.
I love my new home in South Florida. The weather is awesome, the lifestyle is fantastic and even the food is good. But I do really miss my friends.
Being 1,300 miles apart from all my friends in Jersey has been rough, particularly being away from those who I have shared my best foodie memories with.
One of those folks who has been in my thoughts a lot lately is my friend Christine Nunn, who recently had to close her restaurant, Picnic, as another casualty of the usual economic malaise hitting everyone nowadays. Christine has instead chosen to focus on her catering business, which is still doing well.
While Picnic got incredible reviews, and the food was utterly phenomenal the financials of the place did not work out. Sometimes this happens when restaurants get too ambitious, and indeed this was without question one of the most ambitious restaurants I had ever seen in New Jersey.
Picnic was a wonderful place while it lasted, and I considered it the best restaurant in all of Bergen County. I was extremely privileged to be able to document the start-up of the restaurant and to come in for periodic visits, and get access to the kitchen where I probably shot the best food photos I’ve ever taken in my entire life.
Today while I was out shopping, I thought about Christine, her restaurant and all the good times we had.
While I was in the midst of my thought processes, I got the whiff of grilled beef, probably wafting out of a fast food restaurant near the supermarket. Hamburgers. Oh God, I wanted a hamburger, right then, right now.
The smell of burgers kicked off a taste memory in my synapses.
And then I remembered the Hamburger that was meant to end all hamburgers, the Burger Mountain. I’ve had posts about all sorts of hamburgers on Off the Broiler over the years, but none got anywhere near as much attention as that thing that Christine created.
People were emailing me (and Christine) from all over the world where they could get one, and where it was served.
The thing is, we only did that burger once, as a total goof. At her restaurant, a less complicated version was served once or twice, but it was a crazy expensive and labor intensive.
I could never attempt to make anything as sophisticated as Burger Mountain. I don’t have the culinary training like she does. But I could make a really freaking big hamburger that would taste good. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
by Rachel Perlow
I’ve recently begun experimenting with the making of tamales, the yummy Mexican treat of a savory filling surrounded by a corn meal paste known as masa. And, while I’m by no means a tamale expert, which I believe starts by being an abuela, I must pat myself on the back and say “wow, I can really make a tamale!” Making tamales is surprisingly easy, if not quick, as long as you have the right ingredients and equipment.
Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for the recipe and step by step photos…
Another oldie but a goodie.
Also Read: Make Your Own Cuban Sandwiches
A legit Sandwich Cubano has to be made with roast pork — but if you’ve got leftover Pavochon, you’ve got the next best thing. Simply get yourself a low-carb sandwich wrap, set down a layer of Pavochon, sliced pickles, low-fat Swiss Cheese, a couple of vinegar hot peppers and you’re ready to go. If you just have regular leftover roast turkey, make some of Daisy’s Wet Adobo and use it as a condiment on the plain turkey. Wrap it up and smash it flat, grab your non-stick frying pan, and coat with a small amount of olive oil. Fry on medium heat for 3 minutes per side until heated through and the wrap gets nice and crispy.
I like these so much I may be making Pavochon full-time.