THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
But i have to be honest and the thought of people freezing in New York City does not make me feel any warmer or luckier.
What made me feel warmer however, was a comfort dish that evokes so many memories in my mind from my early childhood when my mom prepered it on a Sunday morning: ‘Puntine al sugo con polenta’ – Pork spare ribs tenderly cooked in tomato sauce poured over warm polenta.
Polenta is a commonly served in the mountains in Italy, but not only. An extremely inexpensive and humble food, polenta was one the main, and only, course served in the poorest households even though today it is considered a side dish. Believe it or not polenta dates back centuries, but not as far back as corn – from which it is made. Corn was brought to Europe after the discovery of America, where it was pounded and cooked in water before being consumed by ancient populations.
Even the name polenta has ancient origins. It comes from the Latin word “puls”, meaning a sort of mush made of wheat, generally mixed with milk, cheese or meat, as polenta is toady. When corn began to spread through Europe in the 17th century, cornmeal polenta was the natural evolution of the wheat version. Now polenta became one of the staples of northeastern Italy and is often spread on a large wooden board in a thin layer and is dressed with different sauces.
So here i am, showing you a couple of easy recipes, perfect for the cold weather and for a Sunday gathering with friends and family. Spare Ribs with San Marzano Tomatoes and Grilled Polenta (see below), and also and Italian version of the all-American Sliders with Arugula and Pesto Aioli (see below).
Now that you have everything you need, get in your kitchen and start cooking.
Because these are two dishes people will have cravings for…
SPARE PROK RIBS WTH SAN MARZANO TOMATOES & GRILLED POLENTA
5 pounds lean country-style pork spare ribs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chopped italian parsley
2 large bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
pinch of ground cinnamon
generous pinch ground allspice
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups basic tomato sauce (recipe follows) OR a 2 cups of Pomodori di SanMarzano
1 bunch fresh basil cut into chiffonade
salt and pepper
Trim the excess fat from the meat. If the pork is in 1 piece, separate it into pieces by cutting between the ribs. Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat in a single layer. Take about 15 minutes to brown it slowly, until dark brown and crusty on all sides. Remove the meat to a platter.
Keep the heat at medium as you stir in the onion and parsley. Cook 10 minutes, or until golden brown, taking care not to burn the glaze in the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently. Stir in the bay leaves and spices. Return the meat to the pan, turning to coat it with the vegetables and seasonings. Pour in the wine, adjusting the heat so that it bubbles slowly. As the wine cooks down over 10 to 15 minutes, use a wooden spatula to scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.
Add the SanMarzano tomatoes or the tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a very slow bubble over low heat. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 2 or 3 hours until the meat is tender and comes off the bones easily. Season with salt and pepper. If you want you can skim any fat from the surface of the sauce even if that adds more flavor to the sauce.
Sprinkle basil over and serve with grilled polenta.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
2 carrots finely chopped
2 celery steams finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes or SanMarzano tomatoes crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt and Pepper
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme, carrot and celery, and cook 5 minutes more, until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil,nstirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 50 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Yield: 4 cups
3 cups water
1 cup quick cooking polenta
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
In a medium saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta, gradually, stirring constantly with a whisk. Lower heat to a simmer, season with salt, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the consistency of thick oatmeal. Add the butter and the cheese. Pour the polenta into a clean, but not greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
Preheat the grill or broiler. Cut the polenta into quarters, then halve each quarter diagonally to make 8 wedges. Brush the wedges with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, set over thegrill, and cook until slightly charred and crispy, about 10 minutes.
If you want, you can also serve the ribs on warm polenta. Follow all the steps but do not grill. Place on a plate and pour the ribs and the juice on top.
iL TOCCO SLIDERS WITH ARUGULO AND PESTO AIOLI
2 pounds premium ground beef (80 percent lean and 20 percent fat)
1 tablespoon good Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons good olive oil plus extra for brushing the grill
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped rosemary
6 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese (or Blue cheese if you can’t find it)
12 small Brioche buns
4 ounces baby arugula
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
Aioli Sauce (see recipe below) – This can be substitute with Mayo to save time. Fresh Pesto
Build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill.
Place the ground beef in a large bowl and add the mustard, olive oil, thyme, garlic, rosemary salt, and pepper. Mix gently with a fork to combine, taking care not to compress the ingredients. Shape the meat into 12 (2-inch) patties of equal size and thickness.
In the meantime, take the cherry tomatoes and place them in a over-proof pan. Add enough olive oil to coat them, salt and pepper and put in the over at 350F for approximately 30 minutes or until the tomatoes look roasted and soft. Take the pan out and let them rest until they reached room temperature.
Follow the same procedure to roast the onions, bud add a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. Roast and when onions are soft and brown take them out the oven and let them rest.
When the grill is medium-hot, brush the grill grate with oil to keep the sliders from sticking. Place the sliders on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the sliders over with a spatula and cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, until medium-rare, or cook longer if you prefer the sliders more well done. For the last 2 minutes of cooking time, place 1/2-ounce of Gorgonzola cheese on the top of each burger and close the grill lid. Remove the sliders to a platter and cover with foil.
Slice the buns in half crosswise and toast the halves cut side down on the grill.
To prepare the sauce, mix the Aioli (or Mayo if you want) and the pesto. You can add a spicy sauce of your choice to add a little kick to it.
Divide the baby arugola among the 12 bottom buns that you previously coated with the Aioli Pesto sauce, top each with a slider, and finish with a couple of roasted cherry tomatoes and caramelized onions. Coat the top bun with some more Aioli Pesto sauce and Enjoy!