There are many kind of mothers in the
beautiful; some are miraculous; some are obsessive; some are
caring. Some, we dare say, are sexy. This month, we celebrate
our own mothers and the mothers around us. To life and to love!
A LETTER FROM SAN FRANCISCO CHEF ANDREA FRONCILLO
thinking about my mother as I write this, and remembering back
to Napoli so many years ago. My mother would wake me up when
it was still dark outside on Saturdays and drag me onto the bus
with her to go to the flea market. We had to get there early so
that we could paw through the clothes and find the best stuff.
The market opened at 6:00am, and my mother and I were first at
the table, lifting up shirts and pants and sweaters, gauging
what would fit whom, trying to bring back something for
everyone. When we found something particularly nice, mamma would
hold it up to one of the men who hovered behind the table,
watching with eagle eyes to make sure that nothing got pinched.
She would haggle and bargain with the men, and I always
got embarassed, because I thought I was too cool for that, but I
sure did need the clothes. Blue jeans were the most prized item
on the tables. My eyes lit up whenever I found a pair, and if
they were faded or ripped or too big, no matter. As long as I
had a pair in my possession, I could find a way to make them
fit. Putting on blue jeans was like putting on confidence. I
thought people would be blind to the cracked belt that held them
around my hips and the way the butt sagged in the back, because
they were blue jeans, plain and simple. They made you cool.
Shoes were a different story. We could only afford cheap
plastic slip-ons, the equivalent of paper socks. Within minutes
of putting them on, your feet started to sweat, and they made
obscene sucking sounds with each and every step. After a few
days of swilling around in the heat, our toes developed little
white patches around the sides. Most of the time, I just went
But you know what? I had so much hope in my heart in
those days - it was almost bursting out of me. I just knew that
I was going to have a great life. Today, I have all kinds of
expensive shoes, with labels like Prada and Gucci and Ferragamo,
and I truly enjoy wearing them, but I don't think any one of
them has made me happier than the first day in a new pair of
plastic shoes. It just goes to show you that you can be happy no
An open letter to my Mamma:
I love you always, but I'm expressing it today because this
is the day that is dedicated to you. Even though many times
I fail to tell you so, I want you to know that you give me
serenity and you give me comfort. Best of all, you gave me life.
At times I might not deserve you, but I'm so happy to have you.
Thank you for being there for me. I'm singing for you today - I
know I can't keep a tune, but the feeling is there! ~Your baby.
May is the best month of the year. Why, you ask? Well,
because May is the month of roses - and Mother's Day - and, of
course, my birthday. How much better could it get (for me, at
This May is going to be especially fine. I'm taking off
in a few days for a birthday trip to Europe. I'll be starting
off in Paris, and then on to Napoli to see Mamma, and then we'll
end up in Capri for a little relaxation near the water. I love
to travel, and I feel lucky that I've gotten to do so much of it
lately. Travel stimulates the senses and makes a person feel a
little more alive.... I always come back with lots of new ideas
and fresh energy.
For all of you mothers, I've included several recipes that
would be perfect for a Mother's Day Brunch. I hope that you
have someone (or several someones) to cook for you and that your
day is a special one.
I know that there are mothers of all kinds out there - new
mothers, foster mothers, stepmothers, and those hoping to be
mothers - and I salute you all. It isn't easy to help bring
a child into the world and raise it, and no matter what role
you're playing in that, I think that you are doing a fantastic
For those of you with mothers nearby, don't let the day
pass without doing something kind to show her that you care!
Make it count... the hours and years pass, and you never want to
have regrets. Cherish the moments you have with your mother;
give her a big hug, and better yet - make a meal for her that
you know she'll enjoy (and do the dishes, too!). Cooking for
someone you love is so personal and screams: I love you, and I
thank you for bringing me into this world!
Ciao until next month ~
P.S: Don't forget to pre-order your copy of
Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook! To celebrate the
publication of the book, I'll be making appearances all over the
Bay Area, at places like Draeger's, Nob Hill, and Dean & Deluca,
where I'll be cooking and signing books. I'll let you know exact
dates in the next issue of the newsletter, and hopefully I can
meet some of you in person!
Check out the Web Site!
In a few short days, I'll be going home to Mamma in Napoli, and
also spending time on Capri Island. I'll have lots of pictures
and stories for you when I return!
Pounded Chicken Breast with a
three months of continual rain, some of the asparagus managed to
survive, and I'm starting to see bundles of gorgeous green
shoots at the market. In this recipe, you'll pound out a chicken
breast and cover it with grated fontina, capers and blanched
asparagus spears, then roll it up and cook it for a beautiful
and very "springy" dinner.
1 large (8-10 ounce) chicken breast
1 heaping tablespoon capers
3 asparagus spears, blanched and cooled
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mixed baby greens
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, for garnish
Toasted black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Lay the chicken breast on a hard work surface or cutting
board. With your fingers, open up the breast until it lays
flat. With a small paring knife, make several shall cuts into
the breast to encourage it to flatten even further; cover with a
layer of plastic wrap. Using a mallet or the back surface of a
saucepan, flatten the meat until it is about 1/2-inch thick.
Remove the plastic wrap.
Sprinkle the breast with cheese and capers, leaving about
1/2-inch of clear space around the sides. Lay the asparagus
spears lengthwise across the chicken.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and mustard;
when a creamy mixture forms, add the lemon juice and sugar.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the mixture atop
the chicken breast. Carefully roll the chicken up, lengthwise,
taking care to seal the edges with the tip of your finger. If
the "roll" seems shaky or likely to fall apart, tie a piece of
cooking twine around each end to keep it together.
There are several options for cooking. If you want a
crispy crust on the outside, you may fry the chicken in 2-inches
of vegetable oil for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the meat
turns golden brown and crispy around the edges.
If you want a light, delicate texture, you may steam the
roll by placing it in a bamboo steamer over a skillet of boiling
water. If neither of those options sound appealing, simply warm
two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over high heat and
sear the chicken on both sides, then lower heat to medium and
When the roll has finished cooking, remove from heat and
place on a clean cutting surface. Slice the roll in half
crosswise, then slice each half diagonally along the length.
This will create four beautiful diagonally-shaped pieces.
Place a heap of mixed greens on each plate, and arrange two
pieces of stuffed chicken breast on each plate. Arrange the
tomatoes around the edges, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Veggie Vendors at the Ferry Building
Italian Easter Bread: Casatiello
This is one of my Mamma's best recipes - a
traditional Neapolitan bread that we make during the springtime.
The flavors of this bread can vary greatly by the age of the
cheese used and the type of salami used... an aged Parmigiano
gives a sharp, nutty flavor, while a spicy salami will add a
bite. Play with it to suit your tastes. It can be as festive or
as simple as you want!
2 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coarsely grated Parmigiano
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 c chopped dry salami
1/4 c chopped pancetta
8 whole large eggs
Coarse sea salt
In a deep mixing bowl, combine the water and sugar.
Sprinkle the dry yeast over the top. Let it sit for about ten
minutes, until the surface of the water becomes foamy; that is a
sign that the yeast is active and working. Add the flour and
salt, stirring to combine, and form the dough into a ball with
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about five
minutes. Slowly incorporate the last 1/2 cup of flour, using
firm, smooth strokes. When all of the flour has been
incorporated, and the dough is pliant and elastic, form it into
a ball. Place the dough into an oiled bowl; cover and let rest
in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, or until it has raised to
Remove the dough to a floured work surface. With the palm
of your hand, gently punch the dough down and divide it into two
equal parts. Put one part aside, and flatten the other piece
into a rough rectangular shape. It will be uneven; that is fine.
Brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle the surface of the
dough with the grated cheese, pepper, salami and pancetta.
Roll the dough lenthwise into a tube to cover the fillings,
and curve the tube around to make a circle. Place into an oiled
bundt pan. You can use a jello mold or a brioche mold as well -
whatever oven-safe container that you have handy. Oil the pan
even if it has a nonstick coating.
Take four whole eggs and place them equal distance from each
other on top of the bread. Don't press them down too far,
because as the bread bakes, it will rise up around them. Repeat
all of the same steps with the second piece of bread dough.
Place the bread into a cold oven for 5-6 hours or overnight.
Just before baking, remove the pan from the oven and preheat the
oven to 400 F. Cook the bread for one hour. Remove from oven,
brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Serve
immediately, or save for later!
Check out the Step-by-Step Recipe on the blog!
Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Cake)
My mother still makes this cake when I go
home to visit. She bakes it on a large sheet pan and cuts it
into small, thick squares. She often tucks a piece into a napkin
and makes me take it with me when I leave to run an
errand...that's an Italian mamma for you... never wanting anyone
to go hungry. Even though I usually write recipes that serve
two, this is an exception: this will make enough pastiera to
feed a crowd! Make some for your neighbors or your extended
family - spread the love around...
1 pound angel hair pasta
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon orange water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a deep pan of salted
water to a boil, and crumble the pasta into the boiling water.
Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the water and
add 2 cups of sugar to the hot pasta, stirring well. Let cool;
you want the pasta to be cool enough that it doesn't cook the
eggs, which you'll add in the next step.
Crack the eggs over the sugary pasta, and use your hands to
combine everything together. Add the milk, orange , and
vanilla, mixing until an even, soupy mixture is formed.
I like to divide the mixture into a couple of different
baking dishes, for variety. You might choose two 9-inch pie
pans, or one larger lasagna-type dish plus two small dishes -
whatever you'd like. Divide among baking dishes, spreading with
a spatula to a depth of about 2 inches.
Bake the cakes for 50 minutes, or until the tops are golden
brown. If you have any smaller pans in the oven, watch
carefully for signs of darkening around the edges. Turn oven off
and let the pans cool in the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
When completely cool, about 45 minutes, place a large serving
dish over the top of the baking dish and gently turn upside
down, letting the cake fall on to the plate; then repeat this by
placing another plate atop the cake and turning it again so that
the cake will be face up.
This is a very simple, rustic cake. I like to slice it and eat
it with my fingers. It makes a great accompaniment to espresso,
or fresh fruit, or it makes a great snack when you're on the
You may notice that in the picture above, there is a cup with
dried fruit and one with toasted walnuts; I was thinking about
adding them, but decided to keep the recipe traditional (simple
and plain) at the last minute. If you'd like to add nuts or
dried fruit, be my guest!
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