Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Original Italian Suppli

My time in Rome from 2002 to 2006 was the absolute height of my culinary expansion from what I knew as Italian food to authentic Italian cuisine. I have enjoyed some of the best meals of my life thus far there and not just in sit-down restaurants. It is quite possible that over the years I was able to taste pizza from a majority of the pizza shops in Rome yet something that most every one of them sell, suppli, was something that I was always too distracted by the amazing assortment of fresh wood burning oven pizza to try too often. Recently some friends from Rome came to a dinner at my apartment in New York and I wanted to make something different that the normal Italian favorites we make when we are together so I decided to make suppli for one of our appetizers.

Suppli are small egg shaped rice balls stuffed with cheese and/or meat, fried and served with a marinara dipping sauce. Doesn't sound too complicated or involved, right? Well several days before the dinner I played with several different recipes and variations and came up with what I believe are the next best thing to suppli at the best spot in Rome. I stuck to a very traditional method, and went with just a cheese filling rather than meat and cheese. Here's the recipe:

yields about 12
super fino arborio rice - 2 cups
2 cups of crushed tomatoes, canned or fresh, no skins
1/2 stick of salted butter
1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups plain bread crumbs
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
canola oil - enough to fill a large deep frying pan with about 2 inches

add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large frying pan on medium heat
add all of the rice and mix well
saute the rice for about 3 or 4 minutes or just until you see a translucence in the rice
add two cups of water, stir well
add the crushed tomatoes, stir well
add the rest of the butter in small chunks, stir well
turn down the heat to medium low and let the rice simmer for five minutes. stir the rice well and add 1 cup of water. let cook for another several minutes. taste a piece of the rice to make sure it is semi soft. If it is not soft, add 1/2 cup of water and stir and heat for several more minutes. All in all it should take about 20 minutes or so to cook thoroughly.
Once the rice is cooked take off heat and add the parmesan and eggs and stir well.
Take the mixture out of the pan and onto a sheet pan to let cool. Then place in a container and refrigerate for several hours or until the whole mixture has cooled.
heat the canola oil in the deep frying pan to a temperature of over 250 degrees.
Take out the mixture and fill the palm of your hand with about 1/2 cup. Place a mozzarella cube into the middle and begin to ball the rice around the cheese until it is totally covered, you may need to add a bit more rice to the top to cover. make sure that you gently pack the rice around the cheese so that it is a firm ball. Place the ball onto a cool baking tray. repeat this until your mixture is gone.
Now set up three bowls, one with the bread crumbs, one with the other two eggs, beaten, and one with the flour. dip the ball into the flour and cover, then the egg, then the bread crumbs so it is completely covered and set back on baking tray. Once you have completed this breading process with all of the balls the oil should be to temperature and ready to fry.
Gently place the balls into the oil. make sure not to overcrowd the pan. You will notice a dark browning on the bottom within 2 minutes, turn each ball over and let fry for up to another two minutes but continuously check to make sure that are not becoming too cooked. See the picture here of finished suppli to gauge doneness
Once the whole ball is cooked evenly take out of the oil and place on a large paper towel on a large platter.

Normally I serve these with a home made basil marinara sauce but you can serve them with any kind of sauce that you like. I will post my recipe for basil marinara here shortly.

Monday, September 8, 2008

a healthy obsession with cutting boards

how many cutting boards are enough? simply,  I would say 3: one large wood cutting board for larger vegetables, bread, cheese and other non meat items, one medium sized wood cutting board for smaller non meat items, and one plastic cutting board for meats and fish. I own several more than this, some pictured above, mostly for non-cutting purposes such as serving. There are a lot of opinions regarding functionality and use of material type of cutting board, i.e wood, plastic, glass, steel, corian, etc. Some believe that the use of plastic boards for meats and fish due to the supposed ease and ability in cleaning and sanitization in comparison with more porous materials such as wood is actually not true, and vice versa. (though I still go b the three rule noted above) Below is a brief comparison of the various most common materials used in cutting board construction in order to make your own judgement on this extraordinarily important and complex matter.


Chicken with lemons on a large wooden cutting board
Chicken with lemons on a large wooden cutting board

Wood has some advantages over plastic in that it is somewhat self healing; shallow cuts in the wood will close up on their own. Wood also has natural anti-septic properties.[1]

Hardwoods with tightly grained wood and small pores are best for wooden cutting boards. Good hardness and tight grain helps reduce scoring of the cutting surface and absorption of liquid and dirt into the surface. Red oak for example, even though a hardwood, has large pores so it retains dirt, even after washing, making it a poor choice for cutting board material.

Care must be taken when selecting wood, especially tropical hardwood, for use as a cutting board as some species contain toxins or allergens.

Although technically a grass, laminated strips of bamboo also make an attractive and durable cutting board material.


While plastic is theoretically a more sanitary material than wood for cutting boards, testing has shown this may not be the case.[1] The softer surface of plastic boards is scored by knives, and the resulting grooves and cuts in the surface harbour bacteria even after being well washed. However, unlike wood, plastic boards do allow rinsing with harsher cleaning chemicals such as bleach and other disinfectants without damage to the board or retention of the chemicals to later contaminate food.

Semi-disposable thin flexible cutting boards also ease transferring their contents to a cooking or storage vessel.


The advantages of glass cutting boards are ease of cleaning (including being dishwasher safe), and durability. While easier to clean than wood or plastic, glass cutting boards damage knives, precisely because of their durability. Since glass is harder than the steel of even the highest quality knives, cutting on glass tends to dent, roll or even chip edges. Additionally, if used incorrectly, glass can break or chip itself, introducing glass to the food.


Steel shares the advantages of the durability and ease of cleaning with glass, as well as the tendency to damage knives. Depending on the exact steel and heat treatment used, at best a steel cutting board will wear the edge on knives quickly, at worst chip dent or roll it like glass.


Most marble “cutting boards” are not actually intended for cutting, but for rolling dough or use as serving boards, such as for cheese. Aside from sharing the edge damaging properties of glass and steel, marble is in fact also abrasive, and when exposed to some food acids such as tomato juice or vinegar, will slowly dissolve.


Corian or other counter materials know as “solid surface” are composed of a polymer binder and a filler, acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate in the case of DuPontCorian. They are again hard enough to damage edges, and the powdered alumina is abrasive, so slicing strokes will wear the edge quickly.

excerpt taken from wikipedia.com

at the market

an amuse bouche

For my first post here I would like to start with a small sampling of the type of food this blog will discuss. It is one of my favorite recipes that seems fitting for the starting of Fall. Each September when we in the northeast start to get sporadic days of sub scorching temperatures and I replace flip-flops and shorts with shoes and jeans I always prematurely begin to dream of all things I relate to Fall. Each year the item I look forward to making and eating most is a whole pork loin, brined overnight in a special Fall inspired mixture, grilled to perfection over charcoal.


1 whole pork loin - about 3 lbs, boneless and skinless, with some fat left on for flavor, preferably from the butcher and not the small pre-packaged ones carried by most groceries. obviously this will be cut to a weight that reflects how many you will serve it to, calculate about a half pound per person.

For the brine:

Water - enough to submerse whole loin
Salt - 1 cup per 1 gallon of water
Sugar - 1/2 cup per gallon of water
Juniper Berries - 1 tbs.
Garlic - several cloves
Several rosemary sprigs
Peppercorns - 1 tsp
Onion - 1 large, chopped

Start by pouring one gallon of water into a large container that will fit all of the water and the loin. Mix in 1 cup of table salt per every 1 gallon of water until you have enough mixture to submerse the whole loin. For this brine we will add to the salt/water mixture: 1 tablespoon of fresh juniper berries, crushed, several cloves of garlic, whole, several sprigs of rosemary, the chopped onion and the peppercorns. Mix well and add the loin to the mixture making sure it is completely submersed. Cover and let sit overnight or for at least 12 hours.

I would not want to cook this particular dish without a charcoal grill handy, yet for those of you without access to a charcoal grill, a gas grill is fine, and if you must, the oven should work fine as well. We will focus on cooking this on a charcoal grill here as it certainly adds a whole new dimension to this loin that you will not get with any other method. Prepare the coals, preferably shaggy chunk, yet normal charcoal is fine. Let the grill preheat for a good 10 minutes to get it to a temperature of about 300 to 350 degrees. Take the loin out of the brine and pat it dry with a paper towel. Place it on the center of the grill, close and let cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes open the grill and check the bottom of the loin to make sure it has cooked to a point that there is a dark to black crust and good grill lines (see picture at top right). Turn over, cover, let cook for another 30 minutes. Normally a pork loin will need about 20 minutes per pound for a normal 3 to 5 pound cut as used in this recipe. When the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees after the last 30 minutes, the loin is done. Take the loin off the grill and cover in a large piece of tin foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. After 15 minutes have passed take the loin out of the foil and onto a large cutting board. Cut 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices the whole of the loin and serve.