Muffalatta tomato pie

The mister asked me to bring him a jar of muffuletta from good ol’ the USofA and I obliged despite its weight which was about half of the weight in my luggage. We made sandwiches which were amazing but later when I was making tomato tart for a dinner with his colleagues I slopped a couple three tablespoons of it onto the top and drizzled the oil over that. OMG. So good. This recipe, which follows, is so easy (aside from the making of the crust but you could use a purchased one depending on whether or not you could live with yourself afterward) and it’s an absolute crowd pleaser. His colleague Frau Vargas leaned towards her husband and said, “Lecker!” (Delicious in German). I love her.

While Glorioso spells it muffalatta, the real spelling is muffuletta. Before anyone jumps down my throat (you know who you are).

Tomato Tart

Preheat oven to 400

One pastry crust, just the bottom part.

Some sliced tomatoes, enough to cover a pie, thickly sliced

(Winter tomatoes are perfect for this, fortunately, though, these were summer tomatoes)

3 cups shredded cheese (about)

(I shred my own but you can use bagged cheese, it’s a lot easier, if less delicious and more not-ecological, just sayin’)

Dijon mustard or a mix of mayonnaise and mustard, or just whatever. Who cares? I don’t.

Basil chiffonade (pinky in the air emoji)

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Put the crust in a tart pan, you can use a pie pan or anything that holds it although it won’t be as fussy fancy as one would like it to be.

Spread the raw crust liberally with mustard and/or mayonnaise.

(You can use sour cream, mayonnaise, oh hell, peanut butter for all I care)

Fill it with shredded cheese

(Swiss cheese is nice but anything works, a combination of cheeses is great, add some bleu cheese, would work for sure)

Cover with sliced tomatoes

A light sprinkling of parmesan works here, and muffuletta if you have it on hand, olives, onions, absolutely not anchovies, though.

Plop it the oven for 35-45 minutes until it looks browned.

Throw on some basil when you take it out of the oven, or not.

Let cool and slice up. Or just fold it on half and eat like a sandwich.

Mortadella, who knew?

This seasonal pizza featured sausage and mortadella. My associates at Bon Appetit unanimously said that mortadella pizza is the best pizza. So I made a trip to Groppis because Glorioso, my preferred Italian store is boarded up and closed. I made half sausage because I really didn’t think mortadella would be all that good. I’m here to tell you. It is. 

Yes, Father, these too

A muffaletta sandwich from Glorioso. OK, it was only half of one so this may be only a venial sin. But the breakfast at Ma Fisher’s! has definitely has got me standing on the hell-bound-train platform. 

First time ever I

had Italian sausage, it was at the seminary and I was 14 years old. It was a Sunday afternoon festival, I am sure it coincided with some Italian saint festival, St Lawrence or St Frank Sinatra. They were grilled, served on rolls piled with giardiniera something I had also never experienced. The sausages came from Groppi’s which was/is just a few blocks from DeSales, the seminary from which I would depart in just a few short months, and Father Groppi was still a priest in good standing. 

At Catholic Memorial, next on my high school agenda, had Italian sausages as a regular lunch item. Once a week or so. They too were exquisite. These were completely different but delicious in every way. It seems to me that they were simply simmered in tomato sauce for hours. While I mostly brought my lunch owing to budget constraints, I could finagle money from my father from time to time and have a sausage. He liked them too. 

As an adult I live in on the east side not 3 blocks from Glorioso. So that’s my go-to sausage. I think of them as the gold standard of Italian sausage but really, it’s pretty much all I know. 

Last week I had occasion to pass Groppi’s on the way home from my physical therapist, so I stopped and bought a couple to grill, easy meal. Oh my god. They were the same ones I’d had in the seminary. Very different from Glorioso. Now, I just have to attempt to replicate the giardiniera, and then the ones we had at Catholic Memorial. I will have completed my Italian Sausage Journey.

Mistakes were made

I got a request for Italian sausages for dinner. Not just any sausages but Glorioso sausages. Game on! I didn’t have any sauce on hand so I also grabbed a container of Glorioso sauce while I was there. Bad move. Their sausage may be good, the sauce, not so much. In fact, not at all. I’m not sure who makes it but it must be someone with a connection to a sugar cane farm. It was so damn sweet it tasted like cake. Still, I ate it. I’ll eat anything.

Lasagna lessons learned

Grate your own cheese. it’s just plain better that way. Packaged shredded cheese has rice flower on it to make it not stick to itself and preservatives to keep it from molding. Haven’t you ever wonder why the shit keeps so long? Not that I don’t use it from time to time but for this task I bought my cheeses at Glorioso and had a cheese grating fest with my food processor one after the other. The processor may be a little tuckered out but it got the job done. Admittedly it is not as fun as you might have, say, driving bumper cars, or water skiing, or even listening to a political speech. But you’ll have a seriously better lasagna.

Use good and different cheeses. I used (and grated myself) some nice parmesan, a ton of mozzarella, 2 balls of provolone. Provolone is a sharp cheese that is a great melting cheese. I also used swiss cheese (only for the chicken lasagna). And fresh ricotta from Glorioso.

I found some excellent and cheap Italian noodles at Glorioso. I did not pre-boil them. I don’t ever pre-boil lasagna noodles. I just ladle some extra water into the pan before I wrap them up.

Put parchment, lightly sprayed with oil, onto the surface of the cheese before you put foil on anything containing tomato sauce. The acid in the tomato sauce will eat the foil away.

They stay hot for freakin’ ever. So making them in my oven and driving for hours to Madison was no issue and they’re pretty solid so slopping around in the car wasn’t a problem. I did make an elaborate contraption for their transport that involved some re-used insulation foil bubble wrap (thank you Karen), re-used foam core and a whole foods insulated bag.

When I heated them up for the final serving I removed the parchment and cut (very loosely) a hole in the top of the aluminum foil so the middle would get hot and slightly browned without burning the edges.

Voila Christmas dinner. Bad photo. But I didn’t take it. But I’m not naming names.

Big meat

I had a dinner for the pizza night crowd and made, of course, Italian food. I stuffed and rolled a chuck roast with Glorioso’s Christmas sausage, cheese and spinach and then braised that for about 5 hours, sliced it, added meatballs to the pan, put a lot of sauce on it and braised it again. 

I served it with white lasagna, essentially noodles, bechamel and cheese. 

I used the leftovers to make lasagna for Christmas. And it was all good.

Une bouffe italienne

I invited the pizza night people over for dinner. Peggy and Paul host Pizza Night once a month for most of the year and it is only fitting that I take my turn feeding them. In all fairness, making this food, the giant Italian meal is one of my favorite things to do. Time consuming, complicated to a certain extent, and delicious. It is, however, very forgiving. It tastes fabulous mostly because of the amount of time you put into cooking it. A good 6 to 8 hours making the sauce, and then another 3 to 4 hours making the meat.

I have to start with the sauce which takes forever to cook. Then comes the process of the meat.

I buy Italian sausages from the local Italian deli, Glorioso, as I have for 35 years. I make my business partner, Dan’s, authentic italian meat balls. I bought an ocean of meat from the farmer guy in Paoli so I had pork and beef, eventually it all gets thrown into the same pot. I start by browning the sausages and then meatballs in fat left from the sausages and then the other meats successively in the the same fat. When that’s all done (and Jesus it’s a mess) I brown the tomato paste in the grease and add the sauce to it. Sounds gross, tastes divine.

Eventually, the leftovers will be chopped into lasagna for Christmas. It, too, is divine.