(Click on PHOTO to enlarge and then hit the back arrow to return to original size).
I am back from my holiday break. I hope 2016 is treating you well so far.
Bob and I had a wonderful three week visit from our son and we all had a terrific time together.
The weather held out on our day trip to NYC, so we were able to visit Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in all it’s splendor, the light show at Sak’s Fifth Avenue and we even had time to have Holiday Tea at The Plaza Hotel.
(Enjoy the slideshow)
The three weeks still gave us time together to try some new restaurants near home, see some movies, spend some family time relaxing and time to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year.
Of course I cooked ALL my son’s favorite foods during his visit and trust me, it was a labor of love. I was so thrilled that he was home.
Now our son has gone back to school, holiday decorations are put away, life is getting back to our usual routine and the weather has changed here in the northeast to bitter cold.
Bitter cold to me is a reason for comfort food. Besides the three bean chili, mac & cheese, chicken soup and beef stew; I have another favorite comfort food. It was one of my mother’s favorites too.
It is a southern Italian vegetable stew called Giambotta.
When I was growing up, my mother made Giambotta at the end of the summer/early fall with all the remaining vegetables from the garden and then occasionally during the winter months. I just love it and make it all year.
Giambotta can be a side dish or a main course. You can add cannellini beans or chick peas too. Add your favorite vegetables and have fun experimenting with flavors.
(This is a great dish if you have guests that are vegetarians).
I usually serve Giambotta with either appetizer size sandwiches of “Mozzarella en Carozza”. Simply put, Italian fried mozzarella cheese sandwiches.
Polenta, either sliced into rounds or soft polenta.
(The photo shows the homemade polenta rounds).
So let’s get started…
3 TBSP olive oil
2 – 4 garlic cloves- minced
1 small onion-sliced
3 carrots- diced
3 stalks of celery-diced
4 small red potatoes- washed & diced
Fresh parsley (approx 2 TBSP)
1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) of low sodium chicken broth
2 cups green beans – fresh and blanched is best or frozen is fine
1 eggplant –diced in cubes
2 zucchini- diced in cubes
1 (10 oz) box or bag of frozen peas
Red & green bell pepper or 4 Italian frying peppers, sliced
1 Cup grated cheese
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Fresh basil (approx 5 leaves-chiffonade)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
(1 can chick peas or cannelini beans- rinsed and drained -optional)
(Parmesan rind- optional)
(1/2 cup white wine – optional)
- Sauté onion in olive oil with garlic for 5 minutes, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
- Add garlic, carrots, parsley, celery, peppers and potatoes and sauté for 10 minutes
- Add tomatoes, broth and green beans, season with oregano, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, fresh basil and Parmesan rind & white wine (if using). Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to cook the sauce (taste for seasoning – additional salt & pepper can be added)
- After 30 minutes—Add eggplant, peas and zucchini, cannelini beans or chick peas (if using) and simmer on low for an additional 30 minutes
- Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind before serving
Sprinkle with grated cheese.
Cooks Note: if the giambotta looks too soupy for you, add half the can of beans to the giambotta and mash the other half of the beans before adding to the giambotta to make the stew thicker.
Mozzarella en Carozza
My family usually made this dish for an easy lunch or antipasto with a green salad and fruit; but I love it with Giambotta.
You must serve it immediately because the cheese will harden. It is very easy but messy and you have to be very careful when turning the sandwiches in the oil to keep the sandwiches together.
Don’t over stuff the sandwiches with cheese. Leave some room around the edges so the cheese doesn’t ooze out.
If you use fresh mozzarella and not slices, let it drain for a few minutes to get rid of some of the liquid.
I watched my mother make this sandwich and never had a written recipe, so to give you an idea of measurements, I am posting the recipe from the cookbook,
“Extra Virgin – Recipes and Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen”.
- Total Time: 20 min
- Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 10 minutes Level: easy
- Yield: 4 sandwiches
- 12 ounces mozzarella di bufala
- 8 slices soft white bread, crusts removed
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Olive oil
Slice the mozzarella and divide among 4 slices of bread. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread.
Whisk the eggs with the milk in a small casserole dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add the flour to a casserole dish. Dust the sandwiches in the flour, and then dip into the egg mixture.
Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick pan. Add the sandwiches to the pan and fry on both sizes until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. The mozzarella should be completely melted and very “stringy” when the sandwich is eaten. Slice the sandwiches in half to make 2 triangles.
Use instant polenta, otherwise you will be at the stove for 45 minutes stirring old style polenta.
- 1 (16 oz) box of instant polenta
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup grated cheese
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Follow package directions. When polenta is done, take the pot off the the heat and then add butter and cheese, AND heavy cream and mascarpone cheese (if using).
Serve soft polenta in a shallow bowl and add Giambotta on top.
Or serve polenta rounds…homemade or store bought.
For homemade: Spread the soft polenta onto parchment paper in a jelly roll pan. Spread the polenta out as flat as possible. Once the polenta has hardened, cut rounds out (with a wine glass or cookie cutter).
You can either serve as is, fry the polenta slices in a 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large skillet on both sides until golden (then drain on paper towels), or broil for 3 minutes on both sides.
Extra rounds can be wrapped in wax paper in a container in the refrigerator. You can refrigerate them for up to 5 days or store frozen for up to 3 months.
Store bought…I have never used this product myself, but I see the rounds in the dairy case. Pre-cooked, just slice, heat and serve.
I hope you have an opportunity to try these recipes and enjoy.
Until my next post, make every day a celebration!
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