Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hot Artichoke Dip

If there is one thing you can always find in a Schmitt pantry (besides olives, anchovies, and tomato paste) its artichoke hearts. This appetizer always made an appearance at family parties and would go super fast. My younger sister and I also made it a few times as an after-school snack (no joke...that's how we rolled).
14oz can of artichokes, in water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Paprika (for garnish)
Couldn't be simpler: 
Mix the first 3 ingredients.
Spread evenly into an 8x8 (or 9x9) casserole dish. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly along the edges.
Sprinkle with paprika.
Serve with tortilla chips or Triscuits.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mrs. T's Brownies

This recipe comes via the mom of my best neighborhood friend growing up. I was at her house just about everyday after school between the ages of 5 and 10 and I swear her mom made these every one of those days. She probably made them more like once a week. They are best enjoyed straight out of the oven and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Make these once and you will never make (or eat)brownies out of a box again.


2 sticks butter, softened
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 c unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp pure vanilla)
1 1/2 c flour
Powdered sugar

A couple of notes about the ingredients:

1) Its very important to use really good cocoa. The brownies will taste exactly like the cocoa you use so its worth it to splurge for the good stuff. I like to use Ghirardelli.

2) Pure vanilla vs. vanilla extract also makes a big difference. I use vanilla that I smuggled out of Belize but I often see Mexican vanilla in the grocery store.
Essence of the Gods

Beat butter and sugar together.
Add eggs, vanilla, cocoa and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the flour. The batter will get very thick as you add the flour. Finish mixing with a spoon to make sure all of the flour is combined. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool slightly. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pork Spareribs & Sauerkraut

My mother grew up in this house in Rockland County with her 4 siblings, her parents and her grandmother. Quite a lot of mouths to feed !

Lots of memories

My grandparents made sure to spend every dollar they earned wisely; going to multiple markets to get the best deal each weekend and making dishes such as this, which can feed a whole family with just a few inexpensive ingredients.

This is an easy (1-2-3), one-pot dish, ideal for a weeknight meal or any cold winter day.

2 lb pork spareribs (you could also substitute pork shoulder or kielbasa)
27oz Sauerkraut
1-2 Potatoes (optional)

1) Start by separating the ribs and add them to a large pot.

2)  Cut the potatoes into large chunks and add them to the pot.

3) Add the sauerkraut and simmer on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

The pork should be falling off the bone, of course. As you stir the pot, the pork will combine with the kraut giving it a delicious flavor and cutting down on some of its sourness.

Season with salt & pepper and enjoy !

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stuffed Bread

This dish is something my grandfather, Joseph Martorana, used to make and one that my whole family loves. Its great as a light meal or game day snack.
16 oz frozen mild pork sausage roll, thawed (Jamestown or Parks brands)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 loaf fresh Italian bread (not too skinny, not too fat)
1 egg
garlic salt
Begin by browning the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a spoon. Transfer to a medium bowl using a slotted spoon and put aside. Reserve a few tablespoons of the remaining oil for later.
Add the onion and celery to the same pan and saute until browned. Add to the bowl containing the sausage.
Next, prepare the bread for stuffing. First, cut off both ends of the bread and put aside. Using a long, serrated knife, begin to cut the bread out of the center of the loaf, trying to get as much bread out as possible without compromising the outside. I try to cut out as much as possible and then continue to run the knife up and down the sides, shaving out as much as I can.
Holy Bread
Break the removed bread into small pieces and add to the sausage mixture along with the egg. Mix until combined.
Now stuff the mixture back into the hollowed loaf. Begin by standing the bread on one end and adding the stuffing with a spoon, pushing the mixture down each time. About halfway through, turn the bread over and stuff from the other side. Make sure to pack the stuffing as far down as possible so that it fills the entire length of the loaf. Depending on the size of your loaf, almost all of the mixture should fit. If you have any leftover, you can stuff the ends that you removed earlier and use a toothpick to attach to the rest of the loaf. 
Stuffing Position
Place the loaf on a baking sheet. Brush the top with the oil reserved from the sausage earlier and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and then cut into 1 inch slices and serve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Friday Sauce (Tomato Sauce with Anchovies)

Being the good Catholics that they were, the Martorana family did not eat meat on Friday's. This abstinence was meant to serve as a form of penance. It was also thought that meat brought about concupiscence or lust and freeing one from that desire, freed one to worship God more freely. Whatever. We still need some sauce !

In lieu of meat, they made this sauce, appropriately called Friday Sauce, with an anchovy base. I assure you, it does NOT taste like anchovies. The fish dissolves giving it a subtle, savory flavor contrasted by the sweetness from some sugar and added texture from a layer of caramelized bread crumbs. A Holy Trinity.

I'm sure my Great-Grandmother Marianna thought she was doing right by her boys by curbing their desires with this dish. It doesn't curb mine because I LOVE it !

(from Left: Benjamin, Francisco, Rosario, Joseph (my Grandfather), Marianna Martorana)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
1 can flat anchovies in oil
1 can tomato paste
3 c water
1 tbsp + 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 lb Rigatoni

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Cut the onion into half-inch pieces and saute until medium-brown (you want to get some color on the onions to really bring out the flavor without burning them).

Coarsely chop the anchovies and add them to the pan along with about half the oil they came in (if you're scared, you can skip the oil). Stir until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 min.

Onion/Anchovy Slurry

Add the tomato paste plus the 3 cups of water and stir or whisk until all of the paste has distributed.
It will look like tomato soup at this point.

Let come just to a boil and then lower heat and simmer on low, stirring occasionally for 2 hours. Sauce will thicken.

Meanwhile, caramelize the breadcrumbs. In a small pan, melt the butter. Add the breadcrumbs and sugar and stir continuously over medium heat. The breadcrumbs will take about a minute until they start to brown but once they do, they continue to brown very fast. As soon as they are medium brown, immediately pour them into dish. They should look like this:

Now its time to serve. Place a layer of rigatoni on a plate or in a pasta bowl, sprinkle about 2 tbsp of the breadcrumbs over the pasta and top with sauce.

Enjoy ! (but not too much)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cauliflower Pie

The Italians are experts in the art of vegetables. You will see many recipes here where vegetables are the star but none as famous in my family as the Cauliflower Pie.

My Great-Grandfather Francisco and his brother Charlie owned a fruit & vegetable market in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn called "Martorana Bros". Family legend has it that they chose that location after following a well-dressed woman there in their horse and buggy and then began selling "unusual" vegetables to her wealthy neighbors. They likely sold things like artichokes, cucuzza (or "goo-gootz") and cauliflower, the second-cousin to the broccoli.

This recipe is simple in its ingredients (just three) but tricky in technique. I suggest starting with a small pan until you're able to master "the flip".

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 head of cauliflower
First, chop the cauliflower into even-sized pieces and boil until well done (about 15 minutes). Drain and let cool.

Next, pour half the oil into a medium pan (cast-iron works best) and heat until it shimmers. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs evenly over the oil and heat on medium until it just starts to brown.

Lower the heat and begin adding the cooked cauliflower to the pan. I like to begin the "mashing" process by squeezing it through my hands.


Turn the heat back to medium and with the back of a fork, begin mashing and flattening the cauliflower into the bottom of the pan. Keep mashing for about 2 minutes.


Here comes the tricky part - Turn off the heat. Take the fork and poke it around the edge of the pan to loosen the cauliflower from the sides. Place a large plate over the top of the pan. With one hand on the top of the plate and the other on the pan handle, flip the pan over and release the pie onto the plate.

2 comments here: 1) do this over the sink. I am the reigning Queen of the Flip in my family and have never dropped a pie but I still do this over the sink just in case. And 2) This will likely not look great after the first flip but don't worry as the top is about to become the bottom.

Next, heat the remaining oil and then coat with the remaining breadcrumbs. Heat until just beginning to brown. Slide the pie, breadcrumb-side up into the pan. Mash with the back of a fork over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and repeat "the flip": Take the fork and poke it around the edge of the pan to loosen the cauliflower from the sides. Place a large plate over the top of the pan. With one hand on the top of the plate and the other on the pan handle, flip the pan over and release the pie onto the plate.

Let cool slightly, cut into slices and serve !

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Schmitt/Martorana Family Cookbook Project

I may have gotten caught up in the Christmas spirit or perhaps I was just full of Christmas spirits, but over the holidays I volunteered to take on the year-long task of creating the family cookbook.

Over the course of this year, I will cook, photograph and reminisce about my family's favorite recipes.

Many of these recipes are from my Italian/German ancestors and others just favorites passed along by family friends. At the end of this project, I hope to have all of my family's favorites in one cookbook so we can stop bothering my mother (and aunts, and friends) for "that recipe".

My challenge will be to actually create the recipes for many of the foods that I learned from cooking them with my mother and to turn "a little bit of this and that" into actual measurements. My second challenge will be to photograph the foods, and often the steps. This is not as easy a task as you think.

So, I invite you into my kitchen.....Mangia !