Author Archives: Skip

Almost Italian Easter Eggs

Italian Easter Bunny
What the Sarasota Easter Bunny brought to the Almost Italian locavores

Whether you call the oval fruits of Solanum lycopersicum San Marzano, Roma, or simply “sauce tomatoes,” these are part of the spring offerings in Florida.

One of the New World gifts that became staples in Old World cuisines, especially those of the Middle East and Mediterranean, the tomato stands out in the popular association with Italian food in both Italy and the Americas. Solanum melongena, the aubergine or eggplant, so called because some of its cultivars are not only ovoid but also white, was an Old Country botanical relative who’d been waiting centuries for a skillful Figaro to arrange a meeting with his rosy American cousin.

That Italian introduction took place sometime in the middle of the 16th century, and it was hardly speed-dating. Over two centuries passed before the American import had achieved widespread acceptance throughout the Italian peninsula. If this hints of a multi-generational historical drama that cuts across class, ethnicity, and religion, it is.

Eggplant Parm, meet your ancestors!

Seven Fishes 2015

Octopus Salad
Seven Fishes 2015: One down, six to go…
Photo Copyright © 2015, Skip Lombardi

For a host of reasons, your AlmostItalian.com team of two is far behind the proverbial eight-ball this year.

That doesn’t mean we’ve not been staking out our place on the fishing docks of Stonington, Connecticut, or standing in line for calamari fritti at the local Holy Ghost Society’s Friday suppers. Fear not, we continue to champion the foods of our Italian-American communities. And since they are at their best in winter, we’ve stalked and scored the wild and wiley scungilli

We just haven’t been posting as much thanks to the diabolical gremlins messing up our DSL service. We can think of more than a few Sicilian curses to hurl at the telecom companies exploiting the hapless, underpaid “customer service” agents in distant call centers, places where we suspect one can’t even find the solace of a good dish of pasta at the end of the day. But hey– it’s Christmas– or more correctly– la vigilia, Christmas Eve, and we should be more positive and offer you just a little something to take the edge off.

Here’s a little Polpo Marinato. We made this last night and the gently cooked “baby” octopus have been marinating in lemon, olive oil, capers fresh Florida tomatoes, peppers, and parsley. The salad will stay in the fridge till it’s time to lift a glass and wish everyone Buon Natale later this evening.

We’ll give you the recipe in a few days. Subscribe and you’ll be notified as soon as we do. No SPAM, just good cheer and delicious food!

The Calamartini


Eccolo!!! The Calamartini
Image © 2015, Skip Lombardi

The Calamartini® —from the people who taught you how to cook scungilli...

We’re not opposed to evolution or fusion, but in this age of bacon gelato and mac ‘n cheese pizza, we’d like to keep things simple.

Here’s our relaunch of the classic Mad Men libation.

The Calamartini

Ingredients:

A bone-dry vodka or gin
A dash of extra-dry white vermouth, whose herbal notes complement seafood

Garnish:

A sliver of lemon rind
A wisp of fresh dill or fennel frond
The tentacles of one small squid*

Eccolo! A savory marine cocktail with a twist.

* Note: we microwaved our Loligo pealei on high for 30 seconds, then chilled it until we assembled the cocktail.

Tenerumi Redux

Given our interest in Italian-American ingredients, yesterday we pounced upon this lovely basket of squash tendrils at Chase’s Daily in Belfast, Maine. We couldn’t help noting that surrounding this quintessentially Italian home garden specialty were Japanese eggplants, Thai basil, and produce with New World origins— Maine fingerling potatoes, multicolored cherry and husk tomatoes along with herbs like epazote and papalo.

Tenerumi at Chase's Daily, Belfast, Maine
Tenerumi at Chase’s Daily in Belfast, Maine
Copyright © 2014 Skip Lombardi

Late summer is the time of culinary fusion as gardens overflow. It’s easy to forget that the gardens of Italian immigrants—with their Mexican tomatoes and peppers—were already hot-spots of gastronomic change and experimentation. A generation or two from now, who knows what Italian-American food may include?

An abundance of squash means that the fast-growing tips of their vines, known in Italian as tenerumi, can be repeatedly harvested and enjoyed as components of pasta dishes. Once cut, the delicate tenerumi haven’t a long life in the fridge so they are hard to find in commercial distribution.

However, if you or someone you know has a garden, take a cue from our Italian grandparents…