Archive | December, 2011

Christmas Morning: Spinach Pie

31 Dec

Christmas Eve is usually the big Capasso meal.  Which means we like to scale it back on Christmas morning (sort of).  Spinach pie combines veggies and eggs in a handheld snack that’s easy to hold while you’re opening presents.  And it’s so easy, a 19-month old can help you prepare it!

1 garlic clove, crushed
2T olive oil
2 10oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2lb mozzarella cheese, cubed (use the brick cheese, not a fresh ball)
1/4C Parmesan cheese, grated
8 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 unbaked 10-inch pie crust

Swish garlic in heated olive oil. Remove from skillet and add spinach, stirring to coat with oil. Combine eggs, cheeses, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add spinach and stir to blend. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool, slice and serve.

See? I told you a 19-month old could do it. Mangia!

Sara’s Specialty: Cannoli

28 Dec

My sister-in-law Sara established herself early as the Big Boss when she met my brother, fresh out of college, almost 15 years ago.  Chicago-born and raised, she is also Italian and right away got in the kitchen and got her hands dirty.  She’s been perfecting her classic Christmas dessert for years– so dedicated she is to cannoli, my uncle Tom actually composed an original song for her one year, off-the-cuff… Cannoli Lady.  I think 2011 will be remembered as the year she outdid herself (with the addition of some mascarpone cheese to the filling and sprinkles to the outside).

She had some help from our little chef (and Little Boss) this year, too.

NOTE: we chose to make the ricotta filling for these instead of the pudding filling.  We also used store-bought shells, from our favorite Italian bakery, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the recipe to make them follows.  You’ll need a cannoli tube.

CANNOLI (Makes about 25)

2C all-purpose flour
1/4C sugar
1/8t salt
1/8t cinnamon
1 heaping T shortening
1 egg
3oz dry red wine
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Cut in shortening as you would for pie crust.  Stir in egg and add the wine a little at a time to make a manageable dough.  Knead on floured pastry cloth for about five minutes until dough is smooth.  If sticky, add a little more flour.  Place in covered bowl and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Cut dough in thirds and roll out a portion at a time into a thin sheet.  Using a one-pound coffee can, cut circles out of dough.  Dab a little water on one edge of the circle (for sealing) and wrap loosely around a cannoli tube.  Place a few at a time into hot oil and fry until lightly browned.  Remove and place on absorbent paper.  Gently remove shell from tube.

1lb ricotta cheese
1/4C powdered sugar
1T candied fruit, minced (we just used orange zest)
1/2C whipped cream
1t vanilla
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

In blender or with mixer, blend ricotta and sugar until smooth.  Fold in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

3C milk
6T sugar
6 heaping T cornstarch
1t vanilla
2 drops cinnamon oil
1T candied fruit, minced
1C whipped cream
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Place sugar and cornstarch in top of double-boiler.  Slowly add milk until cornstarch is dissolved.  Cook over boiling water until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon oil.  Fold in the candied fruit.  Cool completely.  Fold in whipped cream and chocolate bits.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

Sneaking a taste

Sara is The Cannoli Lady

These are a showstopper.  I know so many people who’ve never tried them, or say they don’t like them.  Just make these and you’ll have a room full of (fat and happy) cannoli converts.  Mangia!

Christmas Eve Dinner: Beef Tenderloin

27 Dec

Though I’m sure I’ll get some grief somewhere for this, we here at For Antonina are not traditionalists.  We don’t insist on Seven Fishes every Christmas Eve.  Though we love seafood, sometimes, we’re in the mood for meat.  Sure, it doesn’t follow religious tradition,  but I know T doesn’t mind.  She’s never been a stickler for anything.  Good food is good enough.

So here’s a recipe we cooked on Christmas Eve and I think it makes a great winter meal.  Meat me!

1 2lb beef tenderloin, skinned
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach
Salt and pepper
3oz. provolone cheese, shredded
1/4C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2t garlic, minced

1/2C porcini mushrooms
1C chicken broth
1T all-purpose flour
2oz.  red wine
1t garlic, minced

Stick skewer through the center of the tenderloin and make a hole large enough to stuff.  Cook spinach and squeeze dry.  Mix with the cheese and garlic.  Stuff tenderloin.  Rub the outside of the meat with butter.  Bake, uncovered in a 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or to desired doneness.  Remove from oven and keep warm.

Rinse porcini and soak in the chicken broth for about 10 minutes, or until they start to soften.  Place mixture in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for a few minutes.  Blend flour with butter to make a roux and add to broth to thicken.  Add wine and garlic and continue to simmer for about five more minutes.  Slice beef, place on serving dishes and cover with a little sauce.

Dinner is served

We served our meat with a simple arugula salad and a side of polenta (follow package directions).  Mangia!

By Popular Demand: Sausage Bread

25 Dec

Sausage bread has been, by far, the absolute most requested recipe I’ve heard about since I started this website project.  “When are you going to do sausage bread?” everyone asks.  My mother, cousins, brother– they all have weighed in.  I’ve been waiting until the Christmas holiday to post it, since this is a mandatory food item on our table this time of year.  Hot and cheesy with the kick of Italian sausage, it is great as a Christmas Eve appetizer, Christmas day breakfast addition, or leftover for lunch.  It’s also a super-delicious gift for friends.

Hot from the oven

Sliced and ready to eat

SAUSAGE BREAD (Serves a crowd)
3T olive oil
2T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package bread dough (we buy it from the deli counter)
1lb Italian sausage meat
1/2lb provolone or mozzarella cheese (or a mix of both!)
1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1-2T olive oil

Heat oil and butter in skillet and saute onion and garlic until onion is transparent.  Add sausage meat and break up in pan, stirring and cooking until meat is no longer pink.  Drain off excess fat and set aside.

Knead bread dough on lightly-floured cloth for about five minutes.  Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Roll dough into a large oblong about 1/4 inch thick.  Brush with olive oil.  Cover with meat mixture and spread to edges of dough.  Sprinkle with cheeses and salt and pepper.  Starting at long end, roll up tightly, tucking in sides.  Seal with water.  Shape ito a half circle and place on to a lightly greased baking sheet (or use a silpat).  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.  Let cool slightly before slicing.

Seriously, we love it.  As I type this Christmas afternoon, my brother is requesting it reheated for a snack this very moment.  Mangia!

Popo’s Breakfast: Fried Spinach With Eggs

11 Dec

My grandfather, Frank Capasso, was many things.  A professional baseball player and bus driver.  Handsome, loud, fastidious and opinionated.  He loved being the center of attention and mowing the lawn.  He also loved breakfast– up until he died last March, he had a standing weekly breakfast with his friend Ron that lasted 40 years.  And that’s not even counting the constant fried potatoes T turned out for him on Eldorado Court.  As a child, I was always fascinated and repulsed by one thing he did in particular while eating his favorite meal.  He loved putting ketchup on his eggs.










I know, I know, apparently he’s not alone… but, yikes.  So this Sunday morning, I encourage you to have an old-school meal, cook up a few eggs and have a Popo-style brunch.  Ketchup most definitely not required.

2C freshly cooked spinach
3T olive oil
4 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4C Italian bread crumbs (recipe posted 11/18/11)

Squeeze most of the liquid from the cooked spinach.  Heat olive oil in skillet, add spinach and saute for a few minutes.  Combine eggs with salt, pepper and bread crumbs.  Pour over spinach and fry slowly until underside of omelet is set.  Place a plate over the skillet and flip omelet to the other side.  Slide back into the skillet and fry until egg is cooked through the center.


A Cadre of Cousins: Pasta with Butter (Pasta al Burro)

1 Dec

As you may have gathered, I have a lot of cousins.  And, as the second oldest, I can pretty much remember all of them being born, being babies, and growing up.  First came my brother Tony and me.  A few years later, we got Robin (blonde and shy, with a wild streak), then Margaret (raised mostly out-of-state but now my L.A. dinner buddy),  T.J. (the only redhead of the bunch), Sam (the survivor; a childhood heart surgery patient, now world-traveler), Jon (nicknamed Pee-Wee by the nurses at the hospital), Gina (born in Germany, black hair and pink cheeks) and, finally, Joe (a San Francisco baby and still kind of a hippie).

At the zoo-- note the exceptional photography skills

At T and Popo's house

A few of us a few weeks back; clearly no one in my family has mastered the art of cameras

Not only did T have to keep everyone straight, she also had to feed us.  Since I lived in the same town as she did, I enjoyed the benefit of meals more frequently than some of my more well-traveled cousins, but I’m certain we all had plenty of delicious moments in her kitchen (usually healthy, but, oddly, she always had cheese puffs and fudge stripe cookies stockpiled, which I was psyched about).

So today, in honor of my gaggle of cousins, I’m giving you one of the most basic recipes in T’s book.  She cooked it for me constantly.  It’s easy to double or triple for feeding a crowd, great for kids (with a side of veggies) and extremely simple to make.  I still eat it about once a week.  Seriously.

PASTA AL BURRO (Serves 4-6)
1lb pasta, any type (for children, I like ditalini or mini penne)
1/2C butter, softened
1/2C freshly grated Romano, Asiago or Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta al dente; drain and return to the pot.  Add butter and toss well.  Add grated cheese and a few grinds of black pepper.  Serve in heated soup plates and pass additional grated cheese and pepper.