Friday, June 29, 2012

Preserving: Tonno Sott' Olio

Tonno Sott' Olio
Recipe by Rosetta Costantino

Recently I've been favoring recipes that call for tonno sott' olio - tuna preserved in olive oil. The commercial product available here in the USA is very expensive. Fortunately, it turns out to be pretty easy to make. The tuna still ain't cheap (my tuna was $17.99 a pound so I'm "saving" about $15 versus buying the imported product) but for anyone with a pressure canner or two, it's an interesting change from the annual cycle of vegetable canning that culminates with an orgy of tomato processing in late summer.

There are (at least) three main approaches to making tonno sott' olio at home. One involves a pickling brine with vinegar, salt and various aromatics. Mario Batali has a representative recipe of this type, Fresh Canned Tuna, as does Lidia Bastianich. Note that both these recipes produce a product meant to be refrigerated.

The second approach uses a simple brine: water and salt; the versions differ mainly in the amount of salt used. This is the approach I'm using, as described by Rosetta Costantino in My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South.

The third approach involves pressure canning fresh, uncooked fish with a little salt and olive oil. Some sources recommend this approach for any fish except tuna, others apply it to tuna as well.

This being SAI's first pressure canning recipe of the season, now would be a good time to drag out your equipment and check it over. I found that the over pressure plug on mine and gotten a tiny cut sometime over the winter - that would have made quite a mess had it blown out.

And for more exciting canning blogification:

Laura Williams' Musings

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Brothels of Pompeii - Part 3

VII 2,28 VII 12,33
This is the third and (probably) last post on the cellae meretriciae or brothel cribs, of Pompeii. Part 1 covered one of the better preserved cribs, located at the rear of an enourmous elite house the Casa della Caccia Antica. Part 2 dealt with three separate cribs, all adjacent to a taberna situated just off Pompeii's main ceremonial street. In this post we'll take a look at a crib that's probably not and a huge (relatively speaking) crib that may have been built to accomodate the customers of an adjacent hospitium (a sort of rooming house) and overflow from the Purpose Built Brothel.

VII 2, 28 - Circular Window
The first crib is located at VII 2, 28 on the map. It's one of the least well preserved of all the cribs in my survey but it does have someinteresting elements. Like all most all the other cribs, it's built into an elite house; in this case the Casa di Mercurio. There's also a small caupona to the south and an officina immediately to the north. All save the crib itself are accessible from Casa di Mercurio. Most unusual however is the fact that this crib appears to be a duplex. The "door" immediately south at VII 2, 29 is actually the remains of a stairway. As you can see from the photograph, there are clear indications that the crib was on the ground floor of a two story operation.

As in the case of Casa di Ganymede described in Part 2, it appears that once again we have a case of what might be called an integrated hospitality complex with food, drink, and companionship all available. However...

VII 2, 28 is the smallest of the cribs, about 2.2 m2; all the rest are 50% or more larger save one which is about 25% larger. In addition, the only indicator of a crib here is the masonry "bed". No graffiti or erotic art are reported. While it is certainly possible this was a crib, I think it just as likely it was a watchman's shelter or something similar.

VII 2,28 Plan
Here's the actual layout. You can see that  with a total depth of only about 1.5 meters, there's not much room to maneuver. If you were to sit on that masonry bed, you could probably trip pedestrians by simply by sticking out your foot.

VII 12,33 - That's about as high as the interior walls get
 Finally we come to the crib at VII 12, 33. It's just about the least well preserved of all. The walls have almost completely collapsed and there's virtually no trace of any decoration. It's interesting primary because of it's location. It lies on Vico di Balcone Pensile a street named for the rooming house whose balcony extends over the sidewalk. Just to the west and around the corner is a small hospitium or stabulum from which this crib seems to have been carved.

The nearness of a pair of rooming houses as well as the presence of the Purpose Built Brothel two blocks to the east suggest the owner of the hospitium meant to encourage those staying at one of the rooming houses to spend their money locally rather than wandering down to the main brothel.

VII 12,33 Plan
Because of it's enormous size in relation to the other cribs (it's twice as big as  average) I suspect that while it's construction obviously wasn't entirely "up to code" it was likely decorated to at least simulate a luxurious cubiculum.

What do we have after all this? For years scholars have believed that there was a sort of zoning going on with regard to the location of the cribs and the Purpose Built Brothel, most notably Laurance and Wallace-Hadrill. Their arguments range from some sort of moral geography that placed these establishments away from the religious and ceremonial centers to the idea that the delicate sensibilities of the elite would be mortally offended by the sight of prostitutes roaming their streets.

In fact, there is plenty of literary evidence that prostitution was ubiquitous at least in Rome from the first century BC at least until the time of Anastasius. McGinn argues, correctly in my opinion, that Roman elites were indifferent to prostitution and the evidence from Pompeii surely suggests that they were willing and able to squeeze any profit from it they could.

In fact, the simplest explanation of the locations of the cribs and Purpose Built Brothel is economic: they're where the customers are.

So, next time you happen to be in Pompeii, impress your friends and fellow tourists with your intimate knowledge of Pompeii's "Red Light District".

Sunday, June 24, 2012

#MeatlessMonday - Garden Pizza #1

Garden Pizza #1
Recipe by Bill C
Made with the first few vegetables from our little garden.

  • 250 g. Bread Flour
  • 200 g. Water
  • 5 g. Salt
  • 1 Tbs Olive oil
  • 1/2 pkt. Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Small Italian or Japanese Eggplant
  • 1 Small Zucchini
  • 28 oz Can Peeled Tomatoes
  • 4 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Reading Terminal Market

It seems like half the bloggers I follow have been doing posts on their local markets. Although it's been done a zillion times before, here's my happy place: Reading Terminal Market!

I tend to enter the market on the south side, from the SEPTA Market East Station. That means my first stop is Iovine Brothers Produce.  Price and selection are always excellent and many items, particularly things like scallions, parsley, and so forth are often half what they cost in my suburban supermarket.

Sweet Corn, Apples, and More
What kind of potatoes did you want?
Featured Produce
Assorted Fruit
Just to the west of Iovine Brothers is the deservedly famous pastry shop of Termini Brothers. There is nearly always a line down the front of these counters so this picture is a small miracle!

Opposite Termini Brothers is the chocolate wonderland of Chocolate by Mueller. If you watch Bizarre Foods, this is where Andrew Zimmern tasted the chocolate covered onion.

Just around the corner to the left is Downtown Cheese. And yes, Andrew Zimmern stopped here too. Between Downtown Cheese and DiBruno Brothers you could probably source just about any cheese on the planet.

Cheese and Salumi at Downtown Cheese
There are three fish dealers in Reading Terminal Market. John Yi Seafood is generally my "go to" for most things like diver scallops and other shellfish. Wan's Seafood is pretty comparable and if I don't see what I want at John Yi's Wan's will probably have it. Finally, there's Golden Fish Market, today's destination.
Whole fish at Golden Fish Market
Golden Fish Market had one huge advantage for me today - they tend to leave things like tuna in big pieces instead of slicing them into steaks. Like this:

Come to me my pretty...
That smaller piece of Ahi on the right weighs a bit over two pounds and is in my refrigerator right now waiting to become tonno sott' olio.

Of course those are just the places I tend to always check out. There still all the Pennsylvania Dutch vendors (who are closed on Sundays), Bassett's Ice Cream, a couple bakeries, the coffee roaster, the cookie place, about 20 restaurants, at least four butchers, the flower shop... Oh yea, there's the Italian Market too, just about 11 blocks south.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gardening 2012 - Thunderstorm Update

Rolled Zucchini

Friday evening we had the first real thunderstorm of the season. I managed to get the lawn mowed before it started and although there were a few flickers, the power stayed on. This morning I went out to see how the garden had fared, particularly the tomatoes, as they have gotten rather tall.

As you can see, the zucchini got sort of rolled over in the wind. Although a few of the male blossoms broke off, they're none the worse for the experience.

You can't hide anymore

And it was easier to trim off a couple unfertilized zucchini that were hiding underneath (they'll gradually decay if you don't).


The eggplants don't seem to have noticed the storm at all. As you can see we'll be getting plenty of these purple beauties this year. The big one on the lower right is now in the kitchen awaiting it's fate.

Some of the pepper plants got knocked over. Since they're all a little on the spindly side, I took the PVC pipes we used early in the spring to support a frost cover and converted them to stakes.

Almost 6 feet tall

And then there are the tomatoes. These San Marzano plants are huge and are going to need some careful pruning. A couple branches were partially broken in the storm so they'll have to come off and a few other branches are intruding on the onions and Swiss Chard.

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

Recipe by Bill C

Some weeks ago we attended an "Art of Paella" presentation by Jose Garces at Amada in Atlantic City. This recipe is a home-style adaptation of the two paellas he demonstrated.

It turns out to be an amazingly easy process and of course you can easily substitute whatever seafood you prefer. The original Jose Garces recipe includes squid broth (with ink), cockles, mussels and half a lobster.

The quantities here are for a 13 inch paella pan. As you can see, it pretty much fills the pan.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 cup Calaspara or other short grained rice
  • 2 cups Chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Onion, diced small 
  • 1/2 cup Peas
  • 1/4 cup Piquillo or other spicy red pepper, diced small
  • 12 Littleneck clams or cockles
  • 8 Large shrimp
  • 4 Diver scallops 
  • 1/3 lb. Cleaned Squid
  • Large Pinch Saffron threads
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Butter or Olive oil for sauteing

Sunday, June 17, 2012

#MeatlessMonday - Omelette Arlequin

Omelette Arlequin
Recipe by Chez Robert

This recipe is adapted from Linda Dannenberg's Paris Bistro Cooking.


3 bowls
Cheese Grater
Kitchen knife
Tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon measures
Large frying pan
2 quart terrine or similar mold
Deep roasting pan for the bain marie

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 1/4 lb Fresh or 1 28 oz. can Plum Tomatoes (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 lb Fresh or 1 10 oz pkg, frozen Spinach
  • 9 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Grated Gruyere
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 6 Tbs Cream
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Preserving: Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam
Recipe by Sure-Jell

Strawberries are abundant everywhere right now. Iovine Brothers at Reading Terminal Market here in Philly has them this weekend for 99 cents a pound. Beth loves 'em so I figured the time had come to start the canning season. 

The recipe here is from the brochure that comes inside the Sure-Jell package. You will notice it calls for 5 cups of mashed strawberries. That worked out to a little under 2 1/2 pounds of whole fruit. You will also notice it calls for 7 cups of sugar. That is almost a full 5 pound bag. So chances are you'll want to grab a bag of sugar when you pick up the berries and Sure-Jell. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spaghetti alla Amatriciana

Spaghetti alla Amatriciana
Recipe by Traditional

Yield: 4 servings

  • 4 oz. Guanciale, sliced thin
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 28 oz can Tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 10 oz. Spaghetti or bucatini
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Grated Pecorino

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gardening 2012 - Mid June Update

Baby Zucchini
It's been a rainy couple of days in Philly and the garden has responded with a veritable orgy of vegetative sexuality. The zucchini I set out way too early have had a gigantic growth spurt and we've already eaten more than a pound of delicious squash with another pound or so in the 'fridge.

Little Peppers
The  peppers are starting to set fruit. It's beginning to look like we'll have plenty to pickle. I have plans to stuff them with fresh mozzarella and tonno sott'olio and can them for future use.

The San Marzano tomatoes have apparently decided that our little garden is a pretty good place to raise their children. All six plants have grown past the 42 inch ladders and the ones in the upper bed (they get a bit more sun) are over 5 feet. All of them have set fruit.

San Marzano Tomatoes
The eggplants are looking sturdy and have lots of flowers. There are a few hints of fruit, but it's still way early, and the plants all look healthy so no worries there.

We got a few heads of cima di rapa from the second planting, but the warm weather resulted in most of the plants bolting. I still have a lot of seed, so I'll wait until mid-September to try another planting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

#MeatlessMonday - Falafel


Let 'em cool a little...

The chickpeas are still in the bath...
  • 2 cups Dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 Cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Parsley
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Coriander
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for deep frying 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Il Talismano della Felicita: Crocchette di Tonno

Crocchette di Tonno

Recipe by Ada Boni

Yield: 20 croquettes

  • 150 g. Tuna packed in oil
  • 50 g. Butter
  • 50 g. Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. Parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • Fine bread crumbs
  • Oil or lard for frying

Sunday, June 3, 2012

#MeatlessMonday: Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Recipe by Bill C

  • 3 Medium Zucchini, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 8 oz. Fresh mozarella diced or grated
  • 3 Tbs. Parsley, chopped
  • 6 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbs. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 3 Tbs Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Stir the mozzarella, parsley, and eggs together.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large oven safe frying pan until shimmering. Carefully add the zucchini slices and allow to cook undisturbed until the bottoms are lightly browned.
  4. Half way done
  5. Turn the zucchini and continue to cook in this manner until they're mostly golden. Reduce heat and add the garlic and cook until it's softened and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Top with Parmesan
  7. Off heat dump the egg mixture into the zucchini and stir just enough to mix well. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on top and bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly puffed.
  8. Ready to Eat
  9. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Nearly every region of Italy has a variation or two on the Zucchini Frittata. They tend to differ mainly in the type and quantity of cheese and herbs. In Calabria they cut way back on the cheese and add peperoncino for example. Nearly everyone uses parsley and mint is fairly common.  No matter what the ingredients, it's always quick and easy.

We tend to eat this hot as a main course for lunch or a light second course in the evening. In Italy you'll see many variations of it at room temperature as part of antipasti tables. You can make it into a more substantial meal by stirring in pre-cooked spaghetti.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Brothels of Pompeii: Part 2

VII 13
In Part 1 of this series I described one of the larger and "nicer" cribs in Pompeii. Today I'll take a look at a group of three that are among the best preserved of the extant cellae. The first two are "twins" located at VII 13, 15 and VII 13, 16. They're the two doors just above the big "13" on the map. The third is VII 13, 19 just west of the first two. (Part 3 describes a crib that might not be a crib and a huge crib that may have been the most luxurious of all.)

VII 13, 15 VII 13, 16 VII 13, 19


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