madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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fried Sicilian pidoni (you can also bake them)

endive stuffed Sicilian pidoni

PIDONI FRITTI ALLA MESSINESE. The Pitoni or Pidoni are parcels of a pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and a tiny bit of anchovy. Not dissimilar to calzoni but fried, they are a typical and most appreciated dish from Messina. In Sicily you can find them in the friggitorie, the Italian equivalent of fish and chips shops.

The dough it’s made with more fat than regular pizza, so it becomes deliciously flaky once is fried.

I know, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t fry”. The pidoni in the picture are actually baked and fabulous. However if you can, do fry them please. Just once, you won’t regret it.

For this recipe you need a summer evening, a bunch of friends and family, kids running around in the garden, plenty cold drinks and a huge bucket of fruit salad as a dessert. They are filling so it’s a one dish dinner. It’s party food, make it once and I promise, they’ll want it forever.

Recipe

For the dough:

  • 400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
  • 200 gr ( 2 cups) Manitoba or strong bread flour
  • 300 ml (1 and 1/3 cup) water
  • 2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 40 gr (6 tablespoon) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the filling:

  • 500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
  • 600 gr /18 oz diced canned tomato
  • 400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
  • 6-8 anchovy fillets
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Schedule and method:

  1. Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough using  my instructions for slow focaccia. Basically you need to mix the dough ingredients , oil the dough, cover it and let it raise in a draft-free area. About half way the proving period knead it briefly to knock off the gas and cover again.
  2. A couple of hours before dinner, make the filling. Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely. I pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour. It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary. Transfer in a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
  3. One hour before dinner, divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inch) in diameter.
  4. Now assemble the pidoni. You’ll need to work fast so they don’t fall apart. Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge. Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
  5. It’s time to cook them. Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan,  until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds. Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork,  drop them carefully  into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden . Drain on kitchen towel and set aside while you continue making the next batch. Continue until all are finished and serve.

If you decide to bake them, brush the pidoni with olive oil on both sides, place them in an oven tray lined with parchment paper and bake them in a very hot oven until golden, 15- 20 min.

Serves 6-8


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slow dough focaccia

melt-in-the-mouth onion focaccia

I have always been one for slow things. My husband makes fun of me because when he tells me a joke I laugh 5 minutes later. Years ago I have embraced the Slow Travel movement. It was 2003 and we had just opened our B&B. I discovered this group of Italy lovers who wanted to convince the world that sipping a cappuccino on a terrace overlooking some rolling hills was better than sitting in a crammed bus herded towards the 10th museum stop of the day. Eccentrics.

Of course I do a lot of slow cooking. This does not necessarily mean that all my food needs 3 hours to be ready. Actually most of my recipes are ready in 10 to 30 minutes, but I do love to simmer sauces over very low heat, with a lid on, so flavor does not evaporate while boiling. Feels slow even if it is fast.

Recently I have discovered slow-raising dough. Characteristically, I have been slow at discovering it. The whole world has been making Lahey’s no knead bread or Hertzberg’s artisan bread for years.

Those lovely golden crusts and airy crumbs are obtained with minimal amounts of yeast and a wet dough.  The result is a less acidic, lighter and more digestible product. I wanted it for my pizza , I made a few experiments, I figured it. Happy.

Recipe

focaccia dough:

  • 1 gr. (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 250 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 450 gr. (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

topping

  • 2 large onions, halved and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon evo oil
  • 2-3 leaves sage or a sprig of rosemary
  • 200 gr/ 7 oz fresh mozzarella, diced

The dough recipe above is the exact copy of my pizza recipe but uses 1/4 of the original amount of yeast. The recipe has been divided in two steps which are implemented in two subsequent days.

Day 1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let it stand 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves. In a food processor, combine flour, olive oil, sugar and salt. Mix briefly. Add the yeast mixture and mix at maximum speed until a soft dough forms. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Make sure to make the dough as wet as possible but still firm enough to obtain a soft ball. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a draft free area of your kitchen, covered by a tea towel.

Day 2. In a covered pan, slowly soften the onion slices in a couple of tablespoon of evo oil until translucent. Do not caramelize or they will burn in the oven.

Preheat the oven at maximum temperature. Allow enough time for the oven to stay at maximum temperature for at least 15 min before cooking the focaccia.

About one hour before dinner, knead the dough briefly, roll it and transfer into an oiled pizza pan. I generally lightly coat the pan with ½ olive oil and ½ sunflower oil. Again, place the pan  in a draft-free place, cover with a tea towel and let it rise until doubled in bulk, about 1/2 an hour.

Distribute the mozzarella, onions and chopped sage leaves over the focaccia dough. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons evo oil , season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake for 8 min or until golden below and around the sides.

For my daughter, who likes everything plain, I make mini focacce (pizzette)  sprinkled with olive oil, rosemary and salt. Once cooked, I freeze them in individual bags so they are handy to bring to school for a mid morning snack.

mini rosemary focaccia


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ministry of protection of mistreated foods

there is no limit to bad imitations

there is no limit to bad imitations

If Jamie Oliver has a ministry, I also want one.  I need it for Italian food.  For all those recipes of our wonderful cuisine that have been mistreated to the point of becoming unrecognizable, unhealthy and often unpalatable. My ministry will make laws so the following offense will be punished:

1) adding fruits, corn, nutella or anything sweet to a pizza topping

2) using oregano in a bolognese  sauce and virtually in any traditional pasta sauce. Oregano is used sparingly in Italian cooking and hardly ever in a pasta sauce.

3) using ketchup, curry, tandoori powder, coriander, ginger on a dish and calling it Italian

The Ministry will also promote a ban on canned ravioli, microwave lasagna, spagbol, thick cheese crusts and any starbucked elaborations of proper espresso and cappuccino.

Please note that most Italians, and surely those who do not travel abroad, have never heard of Alfredo or marinara  sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, veal Parmesan, butter garlic bread and even macaroni cheese.

Even though some of these recipes might be delicious when well prepared they are “Italian style”, not Italian.

The Ministry will take all measures to avoid confusion.

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