Tag Archive for: food

The Power of Onions in Italian Food

So good, they’ll make you cry!

When it comes to an Italian kitchen, onions are used in so many dishes, we don’t know where to start. Whether they are standing out on a salad, adding flavor and texture to a pizza, or combined with other ingredients, many of our dishes would lose their touch without the presence of onions.

The Onion Origin

Since the beginning of civilization, onions have been an important part of our diet. However, it was once believed to be a lowly vegetable because of its pungent taste. But, as we all know, over the centuries the onion has prevailed! It is now one of the most commonly consumed vegetables, and has emerged as a favorite ingredient in many recipes. Onions have the amazing ability to add flavor to an otherwise bland dish, can turn an average meal into an elegant dinner, and fill the kitchen with delicious aromas.

What Are Onions?

Practically everyone is familiar with onions, but there are probably a number of things you don’t know about this amazing vegetable.

Onions actually belong to the lily plant family. They are grown for the edible bulb, which is what you find in the produce section. Onions are typically put into two categories, “green” or “dry”.

Green onions are smaller onions, harvested before the bulb has matured. Because of early harvesting, the tops are still green.

Dry onions are also known as “mature onions”. These are harvested when the shoot has died and layers of papery thin skin cover a firm juicy flesh. There are two types of dry onions: Fresh (Spring/Summer), also called “sweet onions”, and Storage (Fall/Winter) onions.

Sweet onions have higher water content and may be served either raw or cooked. Storage onions contain less moisture and have a higher sulfur content, so they can be kept in storage for longer periods of time. The storage onion is used in cooking, providing a sharper and more flavorful taste than sweet onions.

A traditional Italian onion is the Cippoline onion. It has a flat oval shape, a brown papery skin, and ranges from 1-3 inches in size. Cippoline onions are a dry onion, with a delicately sweet flavor. They’re wonderful for roasting whole – caramelized and delicious.

So how does Rosedale Brick Oven use onions in our Italian ?

Our famous marinara sauce also gets a nice assist from the onion which in turn, compliments most of our red sauce dishes.

Joined by garlic and other herbs, and cooked with our marinated chicken wings in our wood fired oven, onions help to give our “Wings Italiano” their name.

Flavorful onions are also used in some of our delicious seafood dishes, such as mussels marinara in white wine sauce.

Getting to the Meat of It, Favorite Italian Meats

As you’ve probably figured out…when it comes to Italians, food is a way of life. Special attention is given to each and every ingredient this is used in Italian cooking. The meat is no exception!

Italian meats are made with select ingredients and an array of savory spices. Although Italian cooking can incorporate many different types of meats, the most prevalent in Southern Italian cuisine are pork products. Nobody gets more out of pork than Italians!

Here are just a few of our favorite ways to use pork in Italian cooking:

Soppressata – This is is a dry, Italian salami, and is a specialty of southern Italy. It often includes hot pepper (though, as with all salami, seasonings vary), and is usually served sliced, alongside other meats and cheese or served with crackers. (You can enjoy soppressata in our delicious antipasti salad!)

Prosciutto – This is a dry-cured, Italian ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called “prosciutto crudo” in Italian. It is distinguished from cooked ham, which is called “prosciutto cotto”.

Wikipedia quotes a writer on Italian food, Bill Buford, describing talking to an old Italian butcher, who says:

“When I was young, there was one kind of prosciutto. It was made in the winter, by hand, and aged for two years. It was sweet when you smelled it. A profound perfume. Unmistakable. To age a prosciutto is a subtle business. If it’s too warm, the aging process never begins. The meat spoils. If it’s too dry, the meat is ruined. It needs to be damp but cool. The summer is too hot. In the winter—that’s when you make salumi. Your prosciutto. Your soppressata. Your sausages.

At Rosedale, you can enjoy some of the best Prosciutto in our Toscano pizza, Pasta Faggioli soup and alla vodka sauce!

Pancetta – This is the Italian version of bacon. It is used in such dishes as our Amatriciana sauce or Italian bacon pizza. A little saltier than bacon, it adds the perfect touch to our foods.

Ground pork – Sometimes pork and ground beef are combined to create an unbelievable flavor. We use these two ingredients used in our bolognese as well as our famous meatballs.

Bracciole – Nothing flavors up a meat sauce better than “braciola” – a pork or beef fillet wrapped around a tasty mix of cheese and Italian herbs.

Pork chops – For those “pork purists” out there, you may prefer to enjoy a juicy, delicious pork chop on its own. This popular meat is used in some of our specials, cooked many different ways, but always delicious. Such as our double breasted stuffed pork chop.

Cooking Italian Food? Only Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Will Do!

Fruit such as tomatoes, eggplant, string beans and squash are often mistaken for vegetables because they are used in savory cooking. Grocery stores and cookbooks only add to the confusion by labeling and organizing produce according to culinary usage, rather than botanical classification. A basic rule of thumb: if the edible plant in question has seeds in it, it’s probably a fruit.

Fresh, fresh, fresh is the only way to go. Italians use many fruits and vegetables in their cooking, making Italian food not only flavorful, but one of the healthiest types of cuisines. The types of fruits and veggies used are what characterizes the regional differences in Italian food.

Southern Italian – Because the South is much warmer, with a much longer growing season, southern Italians use fruits that thrive under warmer conditions (like tomatoes!) For this reason, many dishes with red sauces are more popular in Southern Italian cuisine than Northern. Some other popular Southern fruits and vegetables include eggplant and broccoli rabe.

Northern Italian – In the Northern regions of Italy, vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures and less sunlight are more popular. Some of these include:

  • Head cabbages
  • Black leaf kale
  • Cardoons
  • Radicchio

In both Italy and America, there are many fruits and vegetables that are used in fine Italian cooking. For example:

Eggplant – This is a versatile fruit, used in a variety of Italian dishes, and is one of the most prominent staples of Southern Italian cooking. It can have a slightly bitter taste when raw, but when it is cooked, it becomes very tender with a rich, complex flavor.

Greens (spinach, kale, chard, endive, escarole, chicory, etc) – Italian cooking uses greens that are flavorful and loaded with nutrients. The many greens that are a part of the Italian diet are also a great way to incorporate flavor and nutrition into the American diet. Radicchio or endive are popular in Italian cooking, but are also served raw in salads for tasty side dish.

Sweet bell peppers – These delicious peppers are used throughout Italy and are popular in the United States as well. Sweet bell peppers are wonderful for adding color, flavor, and nutrition to any fine Italian dish.

Pasta primavera without fresh veggies? Unheard of. And what’s an Insalata without fresh veggies…well, not Insalata for one thing. Broccoli rabe, spinach, portobello mushrooms, zucchini, arugula, squash, escarole, cucumbers, tomatoes…the list goes on and on. Rest assured that you’re eating healthy when enjoying our fruit and veggie dishes.

What are the Best Italian Tomatoes?

Is it the color? The flavor? The versatility? What is it about the tomato that makes it a staple of every Italian kitchen? Let’s begin with a little history.

According to Wikipedia, the recorded history of tomatoes in Italy dates back to October 31, 1548.

It was said, on that date, the grand duke of Tuscany wrote to the Medici private secretary informing him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the duke’s Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo “had arrived safely.”

Soon after their arrival in Italy, tomatoes were primarily grown as ornamental plants and “were to be sought only for their beauty”, according to the Florentine aristocrat Giovanvettorio Soderini.

At this time, they were grown only in gardens or flower beds. What a shame! Because tomatoes have an ability to mutate and create new, different varieties, they successfully spread throughout Italy.

So many kinds. So many styles. Which to use or how to use them, that is the question. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to enjoy the almighty tomato at Rosedale Brick Oven:

Fresh Garden Tomatoes

Cut thick and layered between fresh basil and fresh mozzarella cheese in a caprese salad…it’s heavenly.

Enjoy them diced and put over a fresh salad or mouth-watering pizza. Bruschetta, with its diced garden tomatoes is an all-time favorite.

San Marzano Tomatoes D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)

D.O.P. Certified San Marzano are the best Italian tomatoes in our opinion. These plum tomatoes are the only tomato accepted by Italian pizza makers (pizzaioli) in Napoli. The D.O.P. is assigned by the European Union to a product that owes its characteristics to its place of origin.

We use only the actual tomatoes in our wood fired pizzas for that authentic Napoli taste. These thick, sweet fruits are used in all our pasta dishes as well as our meatballs’ sauces.

Don’t be fooled by San Marzano style tomatoes. These are not the same. They are San Marzano seeds grown in soil outside San Marzano.