Tag Archives: d. coluccio

Best. Swordfish. Ever.

22 May

I don’t do all the cooking around here, you know.

Sometimes I get to sit back, blurt out a request, and hope like hell that somebody with better cooking skills than me is within earshot.

This really swell bunch of Sicilian oregano (gotten on a visit to D. Coluccio & Sons) is what started things off just the other day.

Then, moments later, while at Frank & Sal, these beautiful fresh bay leaves sealed the deal for sure.

I have sat back and watched this wonderful Sicilian-style swordfish recipe being expertly prepared many, many times. Right here in my own home.

It’s my favorite way to eat sword.

And not because I get the night off when it’s on the menu.

Sicilian-style swordfish
Adapted from “La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio
Prepared (always) by my most valued associate

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup olive oil
2 swordfish steaks, skin on, cut at least 1-inch thick and up to 2 inches thick
12 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dried fine bread crumbs, mixed with 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Brush the bottom of a large, shallow baking dish with olive oil. Place the bay leaves in the bottom of the dish and lay the swordfish on top, tucking the bay leaves under the fish.
Pierce the fish deeply with the tines of a fork, making about 10 evenly spaced incisions in each steak. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then the bread crumbs. Drizzle again with olive oil.
Roast for 15-25 minutes, depending upon the thickness, until done. Remove, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve.

D. Coluccio & Sons, Brooklyn

9 Feb
I never met Dominic Coluccio, but I know that I would have liked him. A lot.
The business he founded more than half a century ago is among my favorite specialty food shops on the planet: D. Coluccio & Sons, on 60th St. at 12th Ave., in Brooklyn, New York.
It’s where I buy many of my most crucial staples: Italian cheeses and pasta flours and tomatoes and olives and figs and chickpea flour and salted fish and dried beans and anchovies and polenta and candies and a lot of other things. Virtually all of it comes from Italy. Coluccio’s isn’t just a food store; in fact, it’s largely an importer and a wholesaler.
This is no “New Brooklyn” yuppie hangout, friends. It’s the real deal. Old school. English is a second language here. I’m not kidding. Listen to the shoppers walking the aisles and waiting at the cheese counter; many, if not most, parlano Italiano.
I love this place!
The only thing that I don’t get is how far under the radar it flies. I know lifelong New Yorkers who had never heard of Coluccio’s until I mentioned it to them. Some even live in Brooklyn. Recently one of my crew had to inform the chef/owner of a very fine (and known) Manhattan restaurant of Coluccio’s existence; in a matter of days the chef was an enthusiastic and loyal customer.
Shop there. Don’t shop there. Makes no difference to me. Just don’t ever say that I didn’t try and steer you right. Because I just did.
This is only a portion of the pasta aisle. If you are looking for a particular type or shape of dried pasta and it isn’t here, then maybe it only exists in your imagination.
It’s rare that I have to buy flours anyplace else. When I make fresh pasta I use a combination of flours, one of them a very fine semolina that I can only find here. The chickpea flour for making farinata? It’s right here. So are a few different types of polenta that I like.
Italian chestnuts, along with any other fresh nut you may desire.
Dried beans and lentils. The store has about every type you could ever need.
What did I tell you? Even some of the signage is in Italian. (It’s tomato paste, by the way.)
“The Captain” (aka, my favorite cheesemonger) dives into a can of salted fish.
Speaking of which, this is how the front of the store looked around the holidays. Good luck finding a place that stocks more varieties of dry salted fish.
Rarely do I get out of the store without a pound or two of these peppers.
I’d have to say that the cheeses might be the store’s biggest draw for me. These are just some of the many hard Italian cheeses Coluccio’s carries, and there are plenty of others as well. Want to taste a real burrata — from Italy? That’s a very difficult find in the U.S., but  you can get it here sometimes. The Parmigiano-Reggiano at Coluccio’s is excellent and very well priced (trust me, I go through a ton of it). And if you have never had a real Romano cheese (like, from Rome, where not much is produced) then you must try a chunk of the Genuino Romano. It’s another thing you can’t find very often, but you can always get it here.
You don’t go to Coluccio’s to get sliced meats, you go for whole salami and hunks of prosciutto or pancetta, like that. Hey, what can I tell you? They don’t do slices.
This Nutella is different than the kind you see around the country. Because it’s in a real glass jar and because it’s made in Italy. Coluccio’s imports every size jar, even the 11-pound (plastic) monster on the right.
Bakers take note: There’s a ridiculous variety of flavorings in stock. I tried to count them all but The Captain had a very important question about my cheese order and so I had to run.
Frozen sfogliatelle and cannoli cream from Cannoli Plus. I hate to break this to you but a lot of pastry shops buy their stuff this way instead of making it themselves.
And so consider this an enthusiastic recommendation to stop by the store should you be in the area.
If you happen to run into Louis Coluccio or his father Luigi, tell them the Meatball sent you. And that I’ll be by to see them again real soon.

Flight of the burrata

9 Aug

If you do not count the wine and the olive oil, dinner last night consisted of just two items: bread and cheese. The bread, an excellent olive loaf, was gotten from the Standard Baking Company here in Portland. For the cheese, there was a bit more travel involved.
See, I drove back from Queens yesterday morning, a trip designed to celebrate my brother Joe’s birthday in gluttonous fashion (a success, I might add; I’m still stuffed). Just behind the driver’s seat and next to the dog was a cooler. Inside the cooler was, among other things, a plastic container holding a ball of burrata wrapped in green leaf-like plastic and immersed in whey. I bought the cheese in Brooklyn on Saturday, but the day before that it was in the burrata-making capital of the world, the Puglia region of Italy.
I don’t know why but this cheese has attracted quite the following of late. In the past few months alone, and right here in Maine, I have sampled burrata from both a California cheesemaker and, more recently, one in Vermont. Why it has taken so long for the cheese to draw attention here in the U.S. I cannot say. A well-made burrata is one of the finest things that you will ever eat.
Basically, burrata is a ball made of thinly stretched mozzarella on the outside and a mixture of curd and fresh cream on the inside. Though it used to be made with milk from water buffalo, now it’s mostly cow’s milk that is used. (Traditionally burrata is wrapped in the leaves of the asphodelus plant, not the plastic you see above.) 
In Italy burrata is eaten within a day or two of its manufacture. Though the cheese I bought on Saturday would have been okay to eat for about a week, I wanted to have at it as soon as I got home, which would put it at just three days from the time it was made.
To make things interesting I decided to do a little cheese flight of my own. I stopped by my local Italian grocery and picked up a burrata made in Vermont, from Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, to taste side-by-side with the Italian version. Maplebrook takes some pride in its hiring of an Italian cheesemaker to make its burrata, and I have found the product to be pretty good since becoming available up here a few months ago. 
The cheese on the left is from Italy (via D. Coluccio & Sons in Brooklyn), the one on the right from Vermont. Other than the shape you’d be hard pressed to tell the two apart at this point. It’s when you cut into them that the differences become very apparent.
This is the cheese from Puglia. The outside layer of mozzarella is thin and delicate, the inside rich and voluptuously creamy. Look at how that rich, unctuous cream oozes from the ball when it’s cut open. Taste? It’s like eating thick cream-flavored velvet. There is just absolutely nothing like it. 
Here is the Vermont-made cheese. Different story entirely. The outer shell of mozzarella is much stiffer and more chewy than the Italian cheese. The center, though moist and creamy, is far more solid as well. The creaminess factor is entirely different. Not only does cream not ooze out; whatever moisture is released is much more whey-like. As for the taste, it is a little on the sour side (but in a good way), and not nearly as luscious.
This is how I eat burrata, topped with a good extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. The cheese shown here is the one from Puglia, and so I guess you now know which of the two I preferred.
Some things are worth going out of your way for.