Posts Tagged With: Italian cuisine

National Salami Day

Looking for a cure for the late-summertime blues? We’ve got just the ticket. September 7 is National Salami Day!

This is one of those rare food holidays whose lineage can easily be traced. It got its start in 2006 in Henrico, Virginia thanks to the efforts of the Salami Appreciation Society. Yes, that’s a real group. Salami is a cured sausage that has been fermented and air-dried. Once it has been sliced, it can be left out at room temperature for up to 40 days. This was a big draw for Southern European peasants, who could not afford fancy refrigerators with water and ice dispensers built into the doors. Also, fancy refrigerators with water and ice dispensers built into the doors did not exist at the time, but that’s neither here nor there. Salami represented an inexpensive and ready source of meat to supplement a diet that was otherwise lacking in protein. The word salami is derived from the Italian salame which originates from the word sale, meaning “salt” (and not half-priced shoes, sorry to disappoint the ladies (or the men who like inexpensive footwear. Eat My Words can never be accused of sexism)).

Salami is traditionally made from marbled pork or beef, though it has also been prepared with venison, turkey, goose, donkey, and horse. Common ingredients include salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, wine, herbs, and spices. The whole shebang is left to ferment for 24 hours before being stuffed into a casing and hung up to cure. Curing time varies depending on the climate and type of casing. Once fermented, the salami is dried, and nitrates or nitrites are added to prevent bacterial growth and improve the color. There are many varieties of salami available including chorizo, cotto, Genovese, Milanese, Lardo, Nduja, pepperoni, soppressata, and Saucisson.

To celebrate, I picked up a pound of hard salami from the grocery store deli. This variety usually contains more beef than pork and is smoked. I should clarify, it is smoked in a smoker before being sold. You do not roll it up, light an end, and inhale. We stuck ours between two slices of bread, added American cheese, mustard, and mayo, and called it a sandwich.

National Salami Day

Categories: Meat | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

284/365: National Sausage Pizza Day

Today’s food holiday will appeal to both lovers of circles as well as Italian food. October 11 is National Sausage Pizza Day!

Pizza holidays didn’t show up until relatively late in the year. It was just last month that we celebrated our first, National Cheese Pizza Day. Now we’ve got another, and all I can say is, it’s about time! Pizza is one of those things that everybody loves. Even vegetarians! (Though they probably aren’t falling all over themselves to celebrate today’s holiday. Hey, their loss).

I’ve already discussed the history of pizza, so follow the cheese pizza link for that. A recent (unscientific) poll by The Huffington Post found that the most popular pizza toppings in America are:

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Cheese
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Sausage
  5. Bacon

Which means sausage lovers can proudly declare, “We’re #4!” today. Personally, I prefer sausage to pepperoni. I think it offers more “zing.” Those toppings are downright boring compared to what people in other countries enjoy on their pizza. Eel, green peas, and coconut all made the list.

Last year, leading up to the Presidential election, Pizza Hut made an offer: free pizza for life to anybody who asked Barack Obama and Mitt Romney whether they preferred pepperoni or sausage on their pizza during the Town Hall debate on October 16. Sadly, nobody took advantage of that offer. If nothing else, it would have humanized both candidates! Who cares about foreign policy and the economy when there are important pizza positions to discuss?

To celebrate, we picked up a sausage pizza from NYC Pizzeria, the same place we went for Cheese Pizza Day. We also added mushrooms, because we wanted our sausage to have some company. Love their pizza!

National Sausage Pizza Day

Categories: Meat | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

119/365: National Shrimp Scampi Day

There’s nothing tiny about the flavor in today’s celebrated dish. April 29 is National Shrimp Scampi Day!

“Scampi” is the Italian word for shrimp, and refers to both a type of shellfish and a preparation. Technically speaking, shrimp scampi translates to “shrimp shrimp” which is pretty redundant, unless you’re Little Caesar’s (“pizza pizza!”). It is essentially shrimp cooked in garlic, butter, lemon juice, and white wine, and typically served over pasta. Shrimp scampi was basically unheard of prior to World War II; during the 1950s and ’60s, many Italian dishes caught on and went mainstream – including scampi, cacciatore, and Sophia Loren.

Shrimp scampi is pretty easy to make, and delicious! I used the below recipe, which I found online and modified slightly.

1 1/2 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley

Put the shrimp on a large pie pan or plate and pat them completely dry with a paper towel. Arrange the shrimp so they lay flat and are evenly spaced.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the skillet. When the foaming subsides, raise the heat to high, and invert the plate of shrimp over the pan so the shrimp fall into the pan all at once. Cook the shrimp, without moving them, for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Turn the shrimp over and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

Return the skillet to the heat and pour in the wine and lemon juice. Boil the liquid until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir the  parsley into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the shrimp, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.

Serve over the pasta of your choice.

Shrimp Scampi

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

79/365: National Ravioli Day

Today’s food holiday is a very fulfilling one: we honor one of my personal favorite types of pasta. It’s National Ravioli Day!

Ravioli is any filled or sealed pasta, so technically tortellini is a type of ravioli. Which means we’ve already celebrated this holiday! But ravioli are so good, I don’t mind doing it again. Wontons, pierogis, and dumplings are also variations of ravioli. Burritos are not, unless you make yours with pasta, which would be…hmm…actually, a brilliant idea! Ravioli are traditionally filled with either meat or cheese, and simmered in sauce or broth.

Haute cuisine to a kid!

Haute cuisine to a kid!

The earliest reference to ravioli is found in a manuscript by Tuscan merchant Francesco di Marco Datin, dated sometime in the 14th century. Francesco included a recipe for ravioli made with chopped blanched green herbs mixed with beaten egg and fresh cheese, and served with – this is the weird part – Newman’s Own Sock It To ‘Em Sockarooni pasta sauce. Oops, I mean, served in broth. That makes more sense! Actually, tomato-based sauces didn’t even exist in Italy for another couple of centuries, when they were imported from the New World. Italian cuisine without tomato sauce? That’s hard to fathom. Ravioli are traditionally made at home and stuffed with ingredients like ricotta, spinach, and nutmeg, but they are also prepackaged for lazy-ass people who can’t roll out pasta dough convenience. The first canned ravioli was produced during World War I, and let’s face it, what kid hasn’t enjoyed a bowl of Chef Boyardee Ravioli while growing up? In fact, Tara professes a fondness for this stuff even today.

Fortunately, we did not run out and heat up a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli for today’s challenge, though we also didn’t make our own fresh pasta from scratch (though that is a goal of mine). We were at Costco over the weekend, and picked up a package of Jarlsberg & Portobello Mushroom ravioli, so I cooked those up for lunch, and served them with a mushroom alfredo sauce. Good stuff!


Categories: Pasta | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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