A great day in Sarasota need not include a trip to the beach. It could simply be a trip to see the great new exhibit at the Ringling Museum, Fifty Years of Modern Art: Georgia O’Keefe to Norman Rockwell, followed by Dim Sum at Yummy House on the North Trail.
In fact, the more I think about it, a great day in Sarasota may not necessarily include a trip to the Ringling Museum either*.
3232 N Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34234
Mon-Sun 11 am – 9:00 pm
And by all means, we encourage you to take advantage of the free admission on Mondays for Sarasota residents and go see American Moderns.
Our favorite winter breakfast has long been avocado on toast. Years ago, each December, our Floridian grandparents would send us (via Railroad Express!) avocados from their back yard. It became a family tradition to enjoy some on Christmas morning.
This year the Florida avocado crop is especially bountiful, so we’ve been playing around with variations on guacamole.
So far, this is our favorite. But because we have a lot more prep work to do for tonight’s Italian feasting, we’ll spare you our usual lessons in botany and Mediterranean mythology and just give you our very quick and simple recipe for holiday guacamole. We think one picture is worth a thousand words.
Our recipe may be scaled up, but keeps its color best when made in quantities that will be consumed within 48 hours. The measures below are for one large Florida avocado.Choose one that weighs (with pit and peel)anywhere from 12 to 18 ounces.
1 large, ripe Florida avocado
For EACH Avocado…
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange rind
Juice from 1/2 a small tart orange
1 Tablespoon ordinary white vinegar
1 very small FRESH garlic clove, minced (@ 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger-root
A little minced fresh green chili (@ 1/4 teaspoon)
A few sprigs of snipped FRESH dill (@ 1 teaspoon)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Dill sprigs and fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Grate the orange rind, then juice the orange half into a non-reactive 1-quart bowl. Add the grated rind.
Add the vinegar and all the seasonings except the salt, pepper, and garnishes.
Peel the avocado and add all the pulp to the bowl. Mash it with a fork, leaving a few chunks. Stir to combine with the seasonings. Add a little salt & pepper to taste. The flavors will continue to develop so it’s better to under-salt and taste again just before serving.
It’s ready to enjoy now, but will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 days. We like to serve ours on lightly toasted semolina-sesame bread from the Bavarian Bakery, but the avocado mixture is delicious on crackers,tortillas, or chips.
Garnish with fresh dill and pomegranate seeds, whose slight acidity is a lovely complement to the unctuous avocado.
As we prepare the manuscript and ebook formats of our culinary history and cookbook, Almost Italian, we are rephotographing some of our creations. While we’ve spent three years looking into the rear-view mirror of our 1956 De Soto as we blogged about the evolution of Italian food in America, photography has raced ahead. Digital photography has enjoyed advances that would dazzle those paisani disembarking in New Orleans, New York, Providence and Boston to pose stiffly for their first black-and-white photos on American shores.
One dish that merited a retake was Chicken Scarpariello, Chicken Shoemaker-style; and so we made it again last night. But because it was so hot last evening, still in the high 80’s, we grilled the chicken rather than giving it the traditional stove-top braise. The palmetto-smoke infused both chicken and sausage, adding one more dimension to an already zippy dish.
For this new photo, we served our chicken and sausages on a bed of capellini, rapidly cooked just short of al dente, before we swirled it into the pan-sauce.
Since Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of the outdoor grilling season, we encourage you to try this variation of the Italian-American classic.
Follow the Chicken Scarpariello recipe on AlmostItalian.com with these small changes:
• In a large frying pan on the stove, sauté the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cut the cooked sausage into rounds and slide them and the grilled chicken into the pan. Add the wine and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
You can make the dish ahead and cook the pasta just before serving.
Any Knights of Columbus marching this Memorial Day will toss of their capes, doff their plumed hats to you, and be very happy to find this on the picnic table after the parade!
Note: Today, the 15th, is the Ides of March, signifying that the Vernal Equinox and March Madness will kick in next week and that your IRS returns are due a month from today.
We prefer to look backwards, to Shakespeare and his immortalization of Julius Caesar, the Emperor who chose the wrong neighborhood for what turned out to be his final stroll back in 44 BC (BC, btw stands for BEFORE CHICKEN, as in blackened chicken atop the salad most people suppose to have been named for the dude who said “I came, I saw, I ordered an antipasto…”
We first published this recipe in our other blog, Almost Italian, on October 12, 2007.
This was a favorite among the supper club crowd during the 1950’s, when tableside preparations were the rage from coast-to-coast. Head waiters in tuxedos relished the opportunity to make this salad as theatrical as anything the French had ever flambéed.
Technically, Caesar Salad would never have gotten a Green Card, let alone qualification as Italian-American, had its creator not been a bona fide Italian. Emigrating from Baveno, in the lake district of northern Italy, Cesare Cardini arrived in America in 1913. Within a few years, he had opened a restaurant just south of the California border in Tijuana, Mexico. It was there that he invented the salad that bears the revised spelling of his name, not that of the Roman emperor who dallied with Cleopatra.
Initially, the Hollywood patrons of Caesar’s Palace, Cardini’s first restaurant in Tijuana, came to take a break from Prohibition; but they were soon coming back for Caesar Salad. And it wasn’t too long before Caesar Salad began to appear on the menus of neighborhood Italian restaurants all over North America.
While Mr. Cardini’s salad contained several ingredients unusual for the period, like Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese, the most unusual were the toasted croutons. One tale of the salad’s origin suggests that on the Fourth of July, 1924, Ceasar’s kitchen was running low on vegetables. Mr. Cardini is said to have gathered armloads of whatever was available, putting everything on a cart which he wheeled into the dining room. There, he began making this salad in full view of diners. Among his hastily gathered ingredients, were garlic-flavored croutons that had probably been destined to garnish soup.
The original salad didn’t include anchovies, but we have a clue as to how they eventually found their way into the standard Caesar Salad: Worcestershire sauce may contain many exotic flavor enhancers, like tamarind, asafoetida, cloves and—guess what—anchovies. I happen to love anchovies, so I have included them in my recipe.
Anchovies turned out to be among the more subtle subversions of Caesar Salad. Over the course of the 1980’s and 90’s, Italian-American chefs have pushed, prodded, and shoved additional ingredients into and around the salad. Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad, Grilled Tuna Caesar, Shrimp Caesar, Tofu-topped Ceasar, Caesar Burgers, and even Caesar burritos no longer raise eyebrows when they appear on upscale and fast-food menus.
During the 1990s, the California Department of Health banned the sale of Caesar Salad made with eggs. That regulation was suspended in 1998 when food scientists presented convincing evidence that coddling eggs, or dipping them into boiling water for 40 – 45 seconds, killed any lurking bacteria. If you do use eggs when making the dressing, please don’t omit this step.
For the Croutons:
2 Cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ Cup Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups French baguette slices cut into 1-inch cubes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine the garlic, a few grindings from the pepper mill, and bread cubes in a bowl. Mix until seasonings cling evenly to cubes. Drizzle the olive oil over the cubes, stirring gently with a spatula. Spread the seasoned bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake until the croutons are golden, approximately10 minutes.
For the Salad:
1 Clove garlic, peeled and cut in half horizontally
4 oil-packed anchovies, minced
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ Lemon
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Large egg, coddled (submerged in boiling water for 45 seconds)
4 – 5 Tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil
2 Heads of Romaine lettuce (outer leaves removed and reserved for another use)
1/2 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Rub the inside of a wooden salad bowl* with the garlic halves, covering the bowl as evenly as possible. Discard the remaining garlic. Add the optional anchovies, and mash them with the back of a fork, while stirring to coat inside of the bowl as well.
Add the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir well. Crack the coddled egg into the bowl and beat vigorously with the back of a fork until all ingredients are well mixed.
Slowly add the oil in a steady stream, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and the dressing begins to emulsify.
Tear the Romaine lettuce into 2-inch pieces. Add them to the salad bowl and toss to coat them with the dressing. Add the Parmesan and croutons and toss the salad again. Serve immediately on chilled plates.
* For an erudite and extremely funny treatise on the mystique of wooden salad bowls, visit the Los Angeles Times online archives to read:
COOL FOOD When Salad Bowls Stalked the Earth by Charles Perry