The Literate Chef

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Linguine with Shrimp, Fra Diavolo

In Pasta, Recipes, Seafood, Shrimp on July 27, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine

(Serves four)


  • 3/4 cup + 6 tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin + 5 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. of hot red pepper flakes (omit the tablespoon if  not all are seafood lovers, see below)
  • 2 cans (35 oz.) San Marzano Tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid) and cut-up into large chunks
  • 1-pound dried Linguine (Barilla, DeCecco or other premium brand)
  • 25 to 30 (6-8 per person) Extra Large Shrimp (16/20 to pound size)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup of San Marzano tomato liquid (only if sauce is too thick for taste)
  • 30 leaves of fresh Basil


These steps can be performed in advance

1.    Peel and devein the Shrimp, cover and keep refrigerated until ready to cook
2.    Bring large pot of water to boil, for the Linguine
3.    Heat 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan
4.    When oil is hot, but not smoking, stir in the sliced garlic and sauté until it begins to turn a dark almond color; quickly remove the sliced garlic with a slotted spoon before it begins to burn and discard it.
5.    Shut heat, and add 1 tablespoon of hot red pepper flakes, wait 10 seconds to allow the pepper flakes to brown lightly. (This step can be skipped for those who want plain marinara sauce.)
6.    Add cut-up and drained San Marzano Tomatoes, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir well and frequently to blend oil and tomatoes; reduce, or shut heat, if not yet ready for the next phase. (Note: It is not necessary to cook for more than 10 minutes, once the sauce begins to bubble)

About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve the Linguine

1.    Heat remaining 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan
2.    Add a few drops of olive oil to the boiling water, place the dried linguine in boiling water and follow pasta cooking instructions on the box, approximately 9 minutes
3.    Add 5 cloves of chopped garlic to the hot oil in the pan
4.    When garlic turns very light golden color, shut the heat, add 1 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes, wait about 10 seconds.
5.    Add shrimp and turn flame to high. Sauté and periodically turn the shrimp for 3 minutes, add white wine and continue cooking 2 minutes more, until gray color is completely gone and shrimp are pink throughout.
6.    If using the San Marzano tomato liquid, add about 1 cup or less to the shrimp when they are cooked, stir well to heat the liquid and add all to the previously cooked sauce. (If serving both marinara and Fra Diavolo, leave shrimp to side until sauce is added to pasta)
7.    When the linguine is cooked, drain it and toss it well with the sauce.
8.    Tear basil leaves into small pieces and add to the Linguine with Shrimp, Fra Diavolo, toss well again and serve.

Hot crusty Italian Bread makes a great accompaniment, as does a good Chianti. While some think that it is anathema to serve grated cheese with seafood, I do not subscribe to that philosophy and believe that this dish benefits from some freshly grated Pecorino – Romano cheese sprinkled over the pasta. If you wish to make this dish for more than 4 people, add one more can of tomatoes, one more pound of linguine and additional shrimp as necessary; the quantity of the other ingredients can remain as above.

Please see Related Article.

Brother Devil

In General Articles on July 27, 2011 at 4:27 PM

The first time I had Shrimp Fra Diavolo was about 45 years ago at a now defunct Italian restaurant on City Island, The Bronx. Fra Diavolo was not on the menu in our household, which is surprising, given that my mother loved hot spicy food, as exemplified by her homemade hot sauce. As pointed out by her granddaughters, she loved it so, that much to my embarrassment, she even carried a little jar of her hot sauce in her silver-metallic purse.

We took her to dinner once at Roberto, perhaps the best Italian restaurant in NYC, and she ordered a special homemade pasta dish for which Roberto is deservedly famous. Mom tasted it, said it was delicious and then proceeded to whip out her little jar and spoon some of its contents onto her pasta. Thankfully, no one other than my wife and I noticed this cardinal sin and when I commented that if Roberto had wanted it to be eaten spicy, he would have added the hot pepper himself. Mom completely unabashed merely smiled and said that’s the way she likes it and since she’s paying for it, what should he care! I didn’t bother pointing out that I was paying for dinner.

Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) is the name given to a spicy hot tomato-based sauce that is usually married with some form of seafood: lobster, shrimp, calamari, scungilli, mussels or a combination thereof. It is also frequently served with a side of pasta, or over pasta, such as linguine. Purists will try telling you that you never add cheese to seafood pasta dishes. I was lectured about that once by a South American waiter in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, NYC. I told him thanks for the advice, but I always eat my macaroni with cheese, even if it has seafood it in, so please bring some.

For Linguine with Shrimp, Fra Diavolo, I tried making it several ways. First I made a hot sauce similar to an Arrabiata and merely added the raw shrimp to the sauce to cook them. The shrimp were lost in the sauce. Then I tried sautéing the shrimp in garlic and oil and adding them to the sauce at the last minute. That was preferable to my palate. Finally, I tried making a basic marinara sauce and then sautéing the shrimp as before, but adding hot pepper and white wine to the sautéing process, this proved to be the best approach in that the shrimp stood out against the sauce. This technique has the added benefit that if one of your family or guests is not a seafood lover, you can merely serve them linguine with marinara sauce and avoid having to make two meals.

In my recipe connected with this article, you can prepare it either way, by adding hot pepper to the sauce and the shrimp, or just to the shrimp; however the circumstances dictate. Buon appetito!

Continuing on with seafood, since it is summer and the grilling season is well under way, please see: Catching Wild Salmon in Alaska and Cooking Wild Salmon at Home.

Grandpa Tom’s Tomato Salad

In Salads on July 24, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Grandpa Tom's Tomato Salad

Grandpa Tom’s Tomato Salad

(makes 4 to 6 servings)


3 lbs. ripe tomatoes (about 5 or 6)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup basil leaves (about 30)
4 tbsp. water


1.    Rinse and dry the tomatoes and cut in half, vertically, and remove the stem part. Cut each half into wedges of 6 or 8 depending on tomato size. If wedges are too large, cut each in half.
2.    Place the cut-up tomatoes in a large mixing bowl; add the olive oil and mix well to coat each piece.
3.    Add the salt and mix well again (this helps the tomatoes give up their juice).
4.    Add the garlic and mix.
5.    Shred the basil by hand, and mix it into the salad.
6.    Add the water and mix again.
7.    Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, stir occasionally to combine the flavors.
8.    Serve with crusty Italian bread to sop up the juice after the tomatoes are eaten.

Please See Memories of Grandpa and Summers at The Shore

Memories of Grandpa and Summers at The Shore

In General Articles on July 24, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Grandpa Tom's Tomato Salad

Grandpa Tom’s Tomato Salad  (click link for recipe)


I was 7 years old in the winter of 1950 when my maternal grandfather disappeared from my life. In my childhood memories, he was big and loud, gregarious and full of laughter, and when he died I missed him greatly and still do, all of these years later.

Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom owned the Maple Grove, a hotel/boarding house in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. We used to visit him every summer and sometimes at Christmas, from what I can recall. On the summer trips my parents would usually stay for a week and then return to NYC, while I would stay on for several more weeks with my cousins. Getting to Atlantic Highlands from the Inwood neighborhood of Northern Manhattan, without a car, was quite an adventure during the 1940’s, and to my 5 and 6 year old mind, seemed to consume most of the day.

Those summer excursions involved several modes of transportation: subway, taxi, boat and car. My mother, father and I took the A train from 207th Street to 42nd Street, then a cab from 8th Avenue to 12th Avenue, where we boarded a Hudson River Day Line steamboat such as the Chauncey M. Depew, the Peter Stuyvesant, or the Robert Fulton. These excursion steamships took us down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island, out into Lower New York Bay, and then, with Sandy Hook off to the port side, into Raritan Bay.  The boats docked at the pier, a long, rickety (to a 5 or 6 year old boy) wooden pier that jutted out into Sandy Hook Bay, where Grandpa would meet us on the pier with his big black car and drive us to his hotel. The pier is long gone and has been replaced by a new marina which offers fast ferry service to NYC.

Besides bringing me to see Grandpa, the excursion boats brought vacationers to the Jersey Shore and gamblers to Monmouth Park Racetrack. In addition to Grandpa’s car waiting for us on the pier, there were numerous buses to take the gamblers to the Racetrack, and Jersey Central trains to take the vacationers farther down The Shore.

Each summer, as the calendar inexorably moves from July into August and fresh, locally grown, tomatoes begin to make their appearance at farm stands and markets, and the scent of fresh grown basil fills the air of our kitchen, I return in my mind to those idyllic summer days in Atlantic Highlands with Grandpa Tom. The combined perfume of tomatoes and basil acts upon me as did the taste of a madeleine act upon Proust, bringing me back to the kitchen of the hotel, where Grandpa has just picked the tomatoes from his garden, shred the basil picked from his plants, and mixed the two together with garlic, olive oil and salt to make his tomato salad. For further reading on memories triggered by certain foods see How to Cook Like an Italian Grandmother.

My mother continued the tradition of making this summer delight and I carry it on from her. Our family and friends now enjoy Grandpa Tom’s Tomato Salad and all agree that the best part is sopping up the juice with crusty Italian bread after the tomatoes have been devoured. I hope that you enjoy it as well and it causes you to think about some of your own childhood food memories.

Another reader recently asked about shrimp and what to do with it. Shrimp to my mind has practically no flavor at all, just texture. Brother Devil, the next article, will show how to compensate for the lack of flavor in shrimp!


Fish is not Just for Fridays, Anymore

In General Articles on July 11, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Growing up Catholic in the 1940s and 50s, meatless Fridays were obligatory. As a result, fish in some form or another, was invariably on the menu. Because fish usually meant some type of fried or frozen denizen of the sea, which when defrosted and ‘cooked’ tasted more like cardboard, meatless Fridays truly were a sacrifice. That is unless it was my father’s turn in the kitchen and he would cook his specialties, either Spaghetti with Del Monte Sauce or Linguine with Cauliflower Sauce, neither of which engendered much of a sacrifice on the part of me or my sister.

It wasn’t until I was on active duty in the Air Force and stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi, that I realized that fish could be caught and served fresh, did not have to stink, and actually could be delicious. The first such discovery was at a restaurant on the bayou that specialized in freshly caught, fried catfish, French fries and Dixie beer. It was an epiphany for this New York City born and bred boy and I loved every meal there.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to try other species of fish and other styles of preparation. Today, I will eat pretty much any type of fish and enjoy it baked, blackened, broiled, fried, poached, smoked, or raw in sushi and sashimi. Both the French and the Italians have ways of preparing fish that will soon make you forget that it was ever a sacrifice to abstain from meat.  Today, on those rare occasions such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all other Lenten Fridays, when most Catholics must abstain from meat, which my wife will insist that we do, I readily agree and prepare a fish-based meal that when being consumed makes me smile at the ‘sacrifice.’

One poaching method for fish that is particularly delicious, is ‘alla Livornese,’ i.e., in the style of Livorno, Italy. Livorno, also known as Leghorn, is a seacoast city in Tuscany. The term, alla Livornese, usually means that it is cooked with tomatoes and is spiced up with garlic, onion, capers and olives. For Red Snapper alla Livornese I use a combination of fish stock or clam broth and white wine as the poaching liquid. If you cannot find Red Snapper, any firm fish such as Striped Bass or Swordfish will work just as well; simply adjust the cooking time, depending upon the thickness of the fish. I usually figure 8 to 10 minutes for Red Snapper, 12 or so minutes for Striped Bass and up to 15 minutes for Swordfish Steaks.

For a variation, try baking your fish oreganata style, see: Striped Bass Oreganata for the basic oreganata preparation. Another excellent method of cooking fish is grilling it, especially on a cedar plank, see: Cedar Plank-Grilled Glazed Wild Salmon. Swordfish steaks also lend themselves to great summer grilling and Pineapple Mango Salsa goes great with Grilled Swordfish. Poaching also works particularly well with stuffed fish like sole, Fillet of Sole Stuffed with Crabmeat and Shrimp. With summer in full swing and fresh local tomatoes becoming available, I think that you should continue your reading with: Memories of Summer at The Shore.

Red Snapper alla Livornese

In Fish, Recipes, Seafood on July 11, 2011 at 10:00 PM


•    2 fillets of Red Snapper, Striped Bass or other firm white fish
•    4 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
•    2 Tbsps. minced garlic
•    ½ cup finely chopped onion
•    4 Tbsps. capers drained
•    1.5 cups of whole pitted olives, green and black mixed
•    1/3 cup dry white wine
•    2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes, drained
•    ½ cup fish stock or clam juice
•    ¼ cup chopped parsley


1.    Heat the olive oil on medium, in a non-stick pan with a cover and large enough to hold the fillets side by side.
2.    Add the garlic and onion and sauté lightly for 2 minutes, do not let it brown.
3.    Add the capers and olives and cook for two more minutes.
4.    Add the white wine, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
5.    Add the tomatoes, stir for 30-45 seconds, then add the fish stock or clam juice.
6.    Add the fish fillets, cover and poach 8 to 10 minutes for Red Snapper; 10-12 minutes for Stripped Bass, depending on thickness.
7.    Remove the fish to plates, sprinkle with the parsley and pour the sauce over the fish.

Serve with steamed or boiled, buttered new potatoes and a simple salad.

See Related Article

Pork Chops Braised in Calvados, Caramelized Apples and Raisins

In Meat, Pork, Recipes on July 6, 2011 at 3:27 PM

                                           Preparation and Cooking Time – 1 hour

•    6 boneless, center cut pork chops, about 3 lbs., patted dry
•    5 Tbsps. of unsalted butter
•    ¼ cup of flour
•    Freshly ground black pepper
•    Kosher salt
•    1 cup raisins
•    3 Granny Smith apples, cored, skins left on, cut in half vertically, each half sliced in the opposite direction, into ¼ inch slices
•    2 Tbsps. sugar
•    1 large shallot, chopped fine, about 6 Tbsps.
•    1 cup Calvados
•    1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage, about 12 leaves
•    1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, about 1 stem

1.    Add the raisins to two cups of boiled water and let soak for 30 minutes while performing the other steps. After 30 minutes, strain the raisins and set aside.
2.    Heat 2 Tbsps. of butter on medium heat in a large (14 inch) non-stick pan. When the butter begins to bubble, add the apples cooking and turning them periodically for 6-8 minutes until they begin to release their liquid. Add the sugar and stir, continue cooking and turning frequently for an additional 20 minutes, until well caramelized.
3.    While the apples are cooking and the raisins are soaking, add the flour, salt and pepper to a one gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Then add the pork chops two at a time and shake well to coat the chops.
4.    Add the remaining 3 Tbsps. of butter to a stainless braising pan or covered skillet and heat on high.
5.    When the butter begins to bubble, add the seasoned pork chops in one layer and brown on high heat for 3 minutes, turn and brown the other side for 3 minutes more.
6.    Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the chopped shallots and continue browning the chops for 6 additional minutes, turning after 3 minutes.
7.    Shut the heat and add the Calvados, turn the heat to high to boil off the alcohol, add the caramelized apples and strained raisins, cover and let braise for 8 minutes, turning the chops after 5 minutes.
8.    Remove the cover, add the chopped herbs and cook for 2 minutes more.

Serve with new potatoes roasted with olive oil, rosemary and kosher salt, and a green vegetable such as buttered peas and shallots or Brussel Sprouts Roasted with Hazel Nuts.

Please see Midnight (and Calvados) in Paris.

Braised Pork Chops with Calvados, Apples and Raisins

Midnight (and Calvados) in Paris

In General Articles on July 6, 2011 at 3:07 PM

It wasn’t until 1991, on my first visit to Paris, that I tasted Calvados. I had read about the famous apple brandy from Normandy in Hemingway’s books and had seen it being drunk by characters in the French films to which I was addicted in the 1950s and 60s. But I never had the occasion to order it, until actually sitting in a Parisian café in Montmartre, where it was the natural thing to do.

Montmartre, December 2, 2005

I had it again on subsequent visits to France, in 1992 when we visited our older daughter who was doing a semester abroad in Aix en Provence, where I sipped it watching the pedestrian parade along the Cours Mirabeau and again in 1999, on a trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon region and the Canal du Midi. The most recent occasion had been in 2005 in Paris where we celebrated our wedding anniversary. That time I brought a bottle of it back home with me. That bottle had been sitting unopened on my liquor shelf ever since, that is until last week.

Recently my wife and I saw the latest Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris and, as was the case with the French films of the 50s and 60s, the characters were drinking Calvados. That’s when it hit me that I still had that imported bottle of Calvados, and it might be interesting to use it for cooking. So I began thinking…what goes well with apples, the essence of Calvados? Pork immediately came to mind, pork chops or roast pork is usually accompanied by applesauce, so voilà, pork chops and Calvados!

Okay, well then maybe I should also add apples to give the dish some substance, that way I can skip the side dish of applesauce. Next, I thought, caramelized apples would make it even sweeter. My wife joined the production by suggesting that I add raisins as well, since they frequently appear as a sweetener in gravy for baked ham.

This was beginning to come together; all it needed now was some herbs to further enhance the dish.  That part was easy, sage and rosemary each have a natural affinity to pork, thus, emerged my plan. Now it was just a matter of executing that plan and putting it all together.

I hope that you enjoy the result, Pork Chops Braised in Calvados, Caramelized Apples and Raisins, we certainly did! One of our readers recently asked for some fish recipes. Lest I be accused of having ichthyophobia please continue reading at: Fish is not Just for Fridays, Anymore.

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