Monday, December 10, 2012

So I returned to blog again, then I disappeared. My Mom has been very ill. She is a little better, but we had to move her to the Care Center and then empty her apartment,  so time has been a difficult thing to hang on to.  Always a list of things to do....blogging never had a spot on that list.
But, I am back for now.....but way behind when it comes to our fast approaching holiday.  This may be yet another Christmas when I don't do baking, don't entertain,  don't do shopping.....time will tell.

While sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, I picked up a copy of an Italian cooking magazine.  I was pleased to find an article on cicchetti.
Cicchetti (chee-keh-tee)
What a great word….cicchetti…..In Italy, particularly Venice, there are very special places where you can go to get cicchetti. You can also get an ombra. Getting an ombra and some cicchetti is a good thing!

So here is the scoop….both of these things are available to you if you go to Italy and find a bàcaro.  A bà a small place that sells ombra, a small glass of wine and cicchetti, little bites of wonderful food, not unlike the small plates we are becoming familiar with here in the United States. Cicchetti is the Italian relative of the Spanish tapas.

Bàcari are small, dark establishments, down dark little side streets where you can go get a simple little plate of food and a glass of wine, something to hold you over until dinner time, which is much later than here in America. Actually you could go there and get the same to hold you over until lunch! Maybe even breakfast! They are open all day!

The wine is always local, and the food is always as fresh as it comes. The idea of the Slow Food movement was born in Italy. Always fresh, always local, always sustainable.

Are you wondering what kind of cicchetti you might find in a bàcaro ?
Try these….and of course, don’t forget the ombra.

Polenta Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms
about 50 spoonfuls

Polenta Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms
photograph by Napa Style

For the polenta:
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup polenta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

For the mushrooms:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
Finely ground salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves

Cook the polenta: In a medium, heavy pot over high heat bring the cream, stock, salt, and nutmeg to a boil. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, switch to a wooden spoon and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 15 minutes. Add the Parmesan and stir. Keep the polenta warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. If the polenta gets dry as it sits, stir in about 1/4 cup of warm stock or cream.
Saute the mushrooms: In a medium skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, sprinkle in the mushrooms in a single layer. Don't stir them! Let them sizzle until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 minutes. When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them once and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add the butter and cook until it begins to brown, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the thyme and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the lemon juice and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the wine, and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce. Add the parsley. Then stir and remove the pan from the heat.
Place or pipe about 1 tablespoon of warm polenta onto a spoon. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the mushroom on top of the polenta. Garnish with grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Polpette (Meat Croquettes)
1/2 cup milk
2 slices white sandwich bread
1 1/2 lb. ground veal or pork
2 cups mashed potatoes
2/3 cup finely chopped parsley
8 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup flour
1 cup plain bread crumbs

Pour milk over bread in a bowl; let soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze bread to drain milk; discard milk. Place bread in a bowl and mix with veal, potatoes, parsley, 4 eggs, garlic, and salt and pepper. Shape mixture into about thirty 1″ balls; place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and chill. Pour oil to a depth of 2″ in a 6-qt. Dutch oven; heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Place flour, remaining eggs, lightly beaten, and bread crumbs in three separate bowls. Working in batches, dredge each meatball in flour, coat in eggs, and coat in bread crumbs; fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Peperoni con Acciughe (Stuffed Cherry Peppers)

SERVES 10–12
5 oz. canned tuna in olive oil, drained
8 anchovies in oil, drained
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tbsp. capers, minced
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 32-oz. jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, and stemmed (jar reserved)

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley, and salt and pepper in a bowl; stuff each pepper with tuna mixture. Transfer to reserved jar; pour remaining oil over peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

I think Kay's bàcaro will have to be open one evening during the holidays. It is a great way to entertain!

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