Iota (also Jota) is always a delight to eat and to talk about with friends, many of them surprised to discover that it is a regional and traditional Italian dish from Trieste, a town in the region of Fruili Venezia Giulia and north of Venice.
The fat content in Iota can be high, but there are ways to make Iota less fatty.
Borlotti beans, soaked overnight and then cooked.
Pork Hock, placed in cold water and simmered until soft and used to make broth. Add potatoes about 30 minutes before the end of cooking. Remove the lean meat and use this for the. Skim the fat off the pork hock broth.
Use the broth to cook the sauerkraut . When the sauerkraut is cooked add half the borlotti beans and potatoes and with a potato masher mash the contents.
Add more whole beans the rest of the potatoes (cubed) the pork hock meat and the Wedding Sausage (I like this because it is lean meat).
And there you have it – a lean Iota.
There are other posts for making Iota and these include quantities of ingredients:
‘Nduja– a spicy, spreadable, pork salame originating from Calabria is sold in places that sell Italian smallgoods.
I have mainly presented ‘Nduja with some fresh bread (like Pâté) or I have used ‘Nduja as an ingredient in sauces for pasta –an excellent ragù (a meat-based tomato sauce), sautéed with cime di rape and Italian pork sausages and I oftenadd it to squid either for a sauce for pasta/polenta/rice or on their own.
As you can see by the photos, this is a very simple recipe and it is cooked very quickly – onions, ‘Nduja, squid and olive oil. Most of the time I also add finely chopped parsley at the same time as the squid.
Use small to medium sized squid.
1,5 kg of Squid, 150g ‘Nduja, ½ onion, extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end.
Sauté onion in olive oil on medium low heat. Add ‘Nduja, it will dissolve, release some fat and fragrance.
Add squid, a little chopped parsley and stir fry it until it colours (about 10 minutes).
Sprinkle with lemon juice, more chopped parsley or mint and present it.
‘Nduja is a spicy, spreadable, pork salame originating from Calabria. ‘Nduja is appearing on many menus and recipes – it seems to be replacing chorizo as an ingredient. As tasty as chorizo is, there has been a glut of it in far too many dishes.
I have been buying ‘Nduja for a couple of years now – ask for it in places that sell Italian smallgoods. I always like friends to try new ingredients and I have mainly presented ‘Nduja at the beginning of the meal as an accompaniment to the first drink with some fresh bread (like Pâté ) or I have used ‘Nduja as an ingredient in sauces for pasta – I made an excellent ragù (a meat-based tomato sauce), I added it to sautéed cime di rape with Italian pork sausages and sautéed itwith squid (use small to medium sized squid).
I always enjoy eating squid and because squid cooks quickly I enjoy making pasta sauces with it. The photo of squid was taken in the Catania Fish Market a few years ago.
In a restaurant in London recently I ordered a plate of Spaghetti alla Chitarra – square cut spaghetti that was cooked with some very spicy pork sausage. Square cut spaghetti are popular in Abruzzo, but also in Molise, Lazio and Puglia and obviously can now be found elsewhere in the world.
I had also found them on a menu in Marin County a year before London. There I ordered Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarrawith Manila clams, Pacific squid and ‘Nduja with anchovy and breadcrumbs (this is how it was written on the menu).
There is a little bit of Italian regional fusion in this dish:
The pasta is from Rustichella d’Abruzzo – a pasta manufacturer in the central region of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast, famous because it uses traditional methods for quality pasta production and quality ingredients. For example the durum wheat is from growers in Italy as well as Canada and Australia. The Italian square-cut spaghetti was originally shaped by the dough being rolled over a box strung with guitar strings (chitarra= guitar) to create the straight edges. Now of course, it is all machine made.
‘Nduja is a spicy, soft spreadable salame from Calabria.
The use of toasted breadcrumbs as a topping for pasta is both Calabrese and Sicilian.
I do not have a recipe from the restaurant for Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid, ‘Nduja and anchovy and breadcrumbs, however, I have a pretty good palate and a sharp sense of smell. This is my interpretation of this recipe.
The estimation of amounts and is based on my tastes and preferences.
Recipe for 6 people
Breadcrumbs, anchovies and garlic mixture (often called pangrattato in Italian) is used to sprinkle on top of the dish instead of cheese.
1 cup bread crumbs made from 1-2 day old good quality bread
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
6 anchovies, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
In a fry pan (I use a non stick one) heat the oil, add the anchovies and toss them around for about 30 seconds before adding the garlic. Stir over medium heat until fragrant – the anchovies will break up and ‘dissolve’ into the oil.
Add breadcrumbs and continue to stir them until the crumbs are golden and toasted. Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook; set aside until you wish to use them.
700g of squid sliced into rings (optional – add 200g of vongole or clams without their shell per person )– adjust to your tastes.
150g of’ ‘Nduja (add more if you like more spice)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 red onions, sliced thinly
2-3 tablespoons of passata
In a frypan sauté the onion in the olive oil. When it is soft and golden add the ‘Nduja and stir gently on low heat until it is dissolved. Add the squid and toss it around till it is transparent and cooked (I do not cook squid for long). Add the passata half way through cooking, stir over medium-low heat until you have the consistency of a thick tomato sauce. You may need to add a little more liquid if necessary.
400 g spaghetti. Use good quality durum wheat spaghetti. The recommended amount on packets is 100 g per person. I always think that this is far too much especially for a first course, but adapt amounts accordingly. If you increase the amount of pasta you could also increase the amount of squid.
Cook the pasta, drain it and dress it with the sauce.
Dish it out into separate plates or into a large serving plate, top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve.
Christmas for me is not just cooking for Christmas eve (as is more traditional in my household) or Christmas day. It is more to do about having a range of simple ingredients on hand so that I can prepare the odd meal quickly, just in case I end up feeding some one. It is the festive season after all but whatever happens during this very silly season in the year, I like to be in control.
In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, I have written:
Every cook and professional chef has a way of doing things. It is said that you don’t leave your life behind, you take it with you. My mother’s surname is Leone. Often daughters acquire some of their knowledge and skills in the kitchen from watching their mothers and, like the Sicilian proverb, I am a leone (a lion) in control of my kitchen.
In this post I want to revisit an easy chicken dish that is Vitello Tonnato but not made with vitello (veal) but chicken. The word tonnato comes from the word tonno (tuna).
This recipe could keep you sane and will gain you many compliments.
Chicken fillets, capers and a tin of good tuna in oil are easy to get and these are likely to be ingredients that you have in your pantry. Mayonnaise can be made in no time with eggs and extra virgin olive oil. Anchovies taste good in this dish but not everyone likes anchovies so I did not use them on this occasion.
This dish is so simple to make, but it will be very much appreciated and enjoyed. Great for summer (as in Australia) or any season. It can be – but it also makes an impressive antipasto at any time.
Your guest could be familiar with Vitello Tonnato, but they are not likely to be familiar with Pollo alla Messinese – the word pollo or gallina is chicken and alla Messinese is as prepared by the Sicilians from Messina.
I have written this recipe before so I will just include some photos as I have made this many times (for recipe see link below).
On this occasion I wanted to make some chicken broth (another staple in my fridge) so I used a whole chicken and two chicken breasts. Then removed the breast from the whole chicken and used it with the two other breasts to make Pollo alla Messinese for six people. I cooked the chicken and when it was nearly cooked I added the chicken breasts whole. I then cooked it for an extra five minutes and then switched off the heat. The residual heat will cook the fillets.
Photo: tuna, capers and mayonnaise.
Photo: breasts are sliced, tuna sauce has been blended but because it was too thick I added more mayonnaise.
One layer of mayonnaise on the bottom, one layer of breasts. Three layers in all, topped with the sauce last and a sprinkling of capers. Pink peppercorns also have visual impact.
I have been meaning to write a post from NYC during the last two weeks but have had no time to do this – too much to do, friends to see, many art galleries to visit and so much good food to eat. We ate at many good restaurants and for those that do not like to cook, there was so much good prepared food to buy (not in all neighbourhoods).
I have decided that posting some photos may tell the story.
Bistecca Fiorentina was very good at one of the restaurants.
Some magnificent salumerie (small goods shops) were a delight to see.
These providores also sold a wide range of raw food as well as high quality take a way food.
You could also eat it there.
You will recognise these vegetables.
Good looking already prepared meat.
There was a variety of ready to eat fish.
Prepared dips and the antipasto selection. Caponata is one of the selections.
Seafood – fresh and sustainable at one of the many Farmers Markets.
A salad of grilled soya beans and heirloom carrots in one of the many organic, vegetarian restaurants.
A radish carpaccio as a starter in another restaurant.
A variety of oysters from many places around NYC (not just Long Island) were one of the many the highlights in this fish restaurant.
Of course we shopped and ate at Eataly.
We saw many sea urchins at several seafood markets; they were relatively inexpensive and full of roe.We also had pasta and sea urchins in one of the restaurants.
I took very few photos in restaurants but I ate well. Bunches of broccoli de rave (cime di rape) and kale were very common in super markets and on on restaurant menus.
I always associate Calabrese cooking with chilli and perhaps unfairly, but my impressions were probably shaped many, many years ago when I was teaching in a country town on the Murray River in South Australia.
As a teenager I had been a guest to Vincenzo’s wedding in Adelaide (an acquaintance of my father). Many years later I caught up with him, his wife and children who had moved to a farm in Pyap, a small community near Loxton, and close to where I was living and teaching at that time.
Like all Italians they were very hospitable and generous and I had many opportunities to sample their cuisine, but it seemed that everything I ate at their place seemed to contain chilli – fresh or preserved in a paste, or dried and then used as flakes or ground into a powder.
Similar to many Calabrese families (and other Italians mainly from southern Italy) they slaughtered a pig and made their smallgoods.
Chilli was part of all of the fresh sausages and the smallgoods made with the minced meat mixture (sopressata , cotechini, salame), but they also smeared a thick coating of powdered chili on the surface all of their smallgoods (those made with minced pork and the non minced ones, for example capocollo and prosciutto). I was told that food without chilli seemed flavourless, but more important was that a coating of chilli acts as a seal, a barrier, it repels lies and is therefore a powerful and natural preservative.
A few years ago I was not surprised when I first read about the amount of chilli in the Calabrian Nduja. I remember that I first encountered this spicy, spreadable sausage in the mountains in Calabria about 16 years before. I did not know then, that it was to become a taste-sensation in Australia many years later.
My brother and I had been to Sicily to visit an old aunt and then we went to Calabria to visit Vince – a worker friend of my father’s and an old soccer mate of my brother’s. Vince is short for Vincenzo and is a very common Calabrese name. Vince was the perfect host and drove us to visit many scenic beaches and mountainous areas in Calabria. We went to the Sila and drove through thickly wooded areas of oak, pine, beech, fir and chestnut trees where wild boars and porcini mushrooms thrive. In the mountains we visited monasteries and ancient chapels and ate in famous restaurants that featured the local produce (including a liqueur made by the monks from the wild mountain herbs). In these mountains we also visited a salumeria (produce store specializing in local produce and smallgoods) and that is where I first experienced ‘Nduja. I am sorry to say that I did not pay much attention to the ‘Nduja. because I was more excited by the local wild boar prosciutto and the dark and typical bread made with chestnut flour.
There is another interesting experience related to ‘Nduja. About six months ago I received an email from a person living in Malaysia who had found me through my blog. His daughter had toured through parts of Italy and loved ‘Nduja; she was getting married in Adelaide and he wanted to surprise her at her wedding by providing ‘Ndjua for the guests. He wondered if I knew where he could buy ‘Nduja in Adelaide and of course I knew – from Mercato, an Italian produce store in the suburb of Campbelltown. I hope that I made several people very happy.
Too many memories and not enough about ‘Nduja.
‘Nduja seems to be the most recent, Italian culinary discovery in Australia… and I hope that it will not be anything like the craze (in the 70’s and 80’s?) of restaurants including bocconcini or dried tomatoes in anything Italian.
‘Nduja is cured in the same way as salame, but because of the high fat content (it is made from the fatty parts of the pig), it maintains a soft texture, is like a coarsely ground pâté and it is spreadable at room temperature. The dark, red colour is due to the large quantities of chillies .
We had it spread on fresh bread; a generous smear is enough.
Having it simply spread on bread is a start and we enjoyed it immensely. As you can see we also accompanied it with a dry Martini – this is not a drink that I would imagine Calabresi would have with ‘Nduja, but now and again I enjoy breaking convention.
Next time you make sugo (pasta sauce/ ragout),add some ‘Nduja to it as the Calabresi often do.
Dressing for pasta – Sugo with ‘Nduja
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESSES
My sugo (sauce) is made with peeled tomatoes/ 1 bottle of passata, extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion, 3 pork sausages, 500g cubed pork and beef, 2 or more tablespoons of Njuda and oregano.
Sauté chopped onion in some extra virgin olive oil.
Add sausages (cut into large pieces), meat, Nduja and sauté these ingredients until light brown.
Add tomatoes and oregano, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer the sauce until cooked.
Cook and dress a short-type pasta (for example: penne or rigatoni, shells, fusilli) with the sauce.
Serve the dressed pasta with grated pecorino cheese.
P.S. I should add that in Melbourne, I was able to buy ‘Nduja at Bill’s Farm in the Queen Victoria Market. I also tried to buy it at The Mediterranean, Italian Supermarket, but they were out of stock.
I realize that I must like chillis very much.
The photo of the plant of chillies above, is growing on my balcony.
In my fridge and pantry I found: Smoked sweet and hot paprika in tins, a jar of hot pepper paste and an empty jar of the sweet pepper paste (similar to Adjvar which I usually have in my fridge ), a jar of my homemade harissa that is a staple in my fridge , there are chilli flakes in a small yellow bowl that I place on the table (for certain dishes) together with salt and pepper grinders and a jar of Malaysian chilli jam.
I forgot to add (for the photo) the sweet and hot paprika that I use in my goulash and the whole dry chillies that I add to my jars of pickles and olives and I use for Indian cooking …and there may be even more chillies hiding in my cupboards!
I call these greens (as my parents did) Cime di rape – literally translated as turnip tops. You may also see them named as Cime di rapa. This is not a mispelling: rapa is the singular and rape is the plural and I guess in my family we called them rape because we ate the tops from more than one turnip.
You may also see or hear them referred to as broccoli rabe, or friarielli or broccolleti or rapini – same vegetable, but called by different names in various parts of Italy. These mustard greens are mainly grown and appreciated in southern Italy.
I very much like this bitter green; it is sold in bunches, and is very much in season now (autumn through to winter).
I have written about this mysterious, leafy vegetable before. I eat them often and sauté them in garlic and chilli either as a pasta sauce or as a contorno – a side vegetable.
Usually I use orecchiette – the ear shaped pasta from the region of Italy known as Puglia. This time, having run out of orecchiette I used penne instead (a brave thing to admit!)
I always present the pasta with pecorino rather than parmesan cheese.… the strong taste of the greens requires a strong cheese.
Definitely over festive food…..Christmas was great, but…
And now for something completely different.
Tomatoes usually fail to ripen at the end of the season (in autumn) and usually Southern Italians wait till then to preserve green tomatoes. However if you can spare a few, pick some unripe tomatoes (or buy them as I did at the Queen Victoria Market) and make this pickle.
It is very convenient to have this – to eat plain with bread or as an accompaniment to cold meats or cheese.
The photos tell the story.
You need green tomatoes.
Wash, dry and slice into thick slices
Put them in a large colander, and sprinkle with salt….generous amounts.
Leave to drain for 24 hours.
Squeeze them and put them into a bowl and cover them with a mixture made of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. Make sure that they are covered and put a weight on top. Leave at least 6- 8 hours.
Drain, and squeeze as dry as you can.
Place the tomatoes into sterilized jars and mix with olive oil (I use extra virgin olive oil), garlic slivers, dried fennel seeds and oregano (add chili flakes if you wish). Make sure they are well covered with oil and keep submerged – I save those plastic rings that keep pickles submerged that are often found in Italian pickles; there is one in the photo above.
Keep in fridge; they are ready to eat in a few days and will keep for months. Make sure that when you remove some of the pickle to eat, the remainder is always covered with oil.
They can be stored in a pantry, but omit the garlic if you do this, as it tends to go off.
Mercato 625-627 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown SA 5074 | ph. 08 8337 1808 | fax. 08 8337 8024 |
The Menu and Wine list
Spuntino platter (a selection of smallgoods)
Tomato and Gorgonzola salad
Martinez Marsala Superiore Secco
Variety – Pinot Bianco
Recognised as one of the master producers of Pinot Bianco, this single vineyard ‘entry level’ comes from vines of an average age of 25 years. The soil (100% calcaric) and the elevation (600m above sea level) lend themselves towards this most impressive, full flavoured Pinot Bianco Marsala of finesse.
Scallops wrapped in prosciutto
White anchovy and oven-dried tomato leaf boats
Fish balls in a tomato salsa (pine nuts and sun-dried grapes)
Tenuta di Fessina “Nakone” Chardonnay
Variety – Chardonnay
From a vineyard 700m above sea level, Nakone Chardonnay is a reflection of its site as well as the variety. It doesn’t have the richness of typical Sicilian Chardonnay, & carries a racy structure typical of a wine from vineyards grown high up on lean soil. Yellow green, with persistent fresh fruit, its palate is bright, briney & fresh in its youth, which ages well over some years.
Fish fillets rolled around a herb stuffing cooked in dry marsala
Italian grilled prawns with a fried breadcrumb and herb garnish (garlic, pine nuts, parsley)
Green leaf salad with fennel and oranges
Tenuta di Fessina “Ero” Nero d’Avola
Variety – Nero d’Avola
Ero Nero d’Avola is Fessina entry level red, and the 3 most non-nonsense wine they make. Fermented in stainless and then taken out immediately after fermentation, its bottle aged for only three months before being sold. This is true, chubby, plumy Sicilian red wine, morello cherry, blackberry and spice, with a fresh and juicy palate with great acidity and length.
Zuppa Inglese made with Strega (rather than Alchermes liqueur)
Martinez Malvasia “Laus”
What a fascinating & intense wine this is, with its note of spirit, orange, raisin/muscat fruit and nutmeg spicy finish. A beautifully shaped fortified/sweetie, which slowly dries right through to tingling finish.