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I'm enjoying National Donut Day with a favorite from my New York Italian childhood – porky-delicious ciccola bread!

I’m enjoying National Donut Day with a savory favorite from my New York Italian childhood – porky-delicious ciccola bread (aka “lard bread” or “meat bread”)!

Happy National Donut Day, my friends!

Have you ever seen the Columbo episode (still in reruns after ~50 years!) where Columbo sees a suspect in a coffee shop and goes in to talk “consequences”?

(It’s the one about the Mensa-type genius club, where an accountant murdered his business partner who had discovered that he’d been embezzling funds….)

But I digress. Back to the coffee shop –

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Pork plus pork plus... in yeast dough. (Store-bought pizza dough works great!

Porky goodness in yeast dough. That’s ciccola bread (store-bought pizza dough works great!)

Columbo had a donut in his hand (cop stereotype, much?) when he walked in.

The stern-faced waitress (a teenaged Jamie Lee Curtis, no less!) glares at him, and he guiltily hands it over. She asks him, still scowling, what he wants to order.

Columbo says, “I’ll have… I’ll have a donut.” (Here it is, en español.)

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The famous, fabulous Mike's Deli, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Check out all the cheeses and salumi!

The famous, fabulous Mike’s Deli, on Arthur Avenue, in “Little Italy” in the Bronx. Check out all the different kinds of cheese and salumi! (cured meats)

I’m going to watch that episode tonight. And I’ll pay special attention to that scene.

(Special thanks to my wonderful daughter Siri for her gift of the Complete Columbo DVD set), in honor of National Donut Day.

It isn’t that kind of donut, though, that I’ll be snacking on tonight while I get my Columbo fix.

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Though there's one in Manhattan as well, "Little Italy" in the Bronx is the place to go – and Arthur Avenue is the heart of it all.

Though there’s one in Manhattan as well, “Little Italy” in the Bronx is the place to go. Arthur Avenue is the heart of it all.

In the first place, I’ve always been more into savory food than sweet. And with something old-school and nostalgic like Columbo on the TV menu, I’m hitting the “wayback button” to my New York childhood, when my Grandpa Joe would go to Little Italy in the Bronx and bring home our weekly Sunday afternoon feast.

 
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"Leave the Gun _ Take the Cannoli" – epic line from "The Godfather."

“Leave the Gun – Take the Cannoli”! – classic line from “The Godfather.” (There’s plenty of mobster-type memorabilia for sale in Little Italy.)

 

When I’d race to the driveway after Grandpa got home, the passenger’s seat of his big black Caddy would be overflowing with heaping bags of Italian specialties.

Prosciutto, coppa, mortadella, and several kinds of salami.

Huge chunks of Parmigiano and provolone – and my favorite, smoked mozzarella.

At least six kinds of olives that he’d scooped from the barrels. Fire-roasted red and yellow peppers. Salted fresh anchovies, calamari salad, sardines in oil.

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Olives galore, that you scoop from these big big self-serve barrels.

Olives galore to scoop from big self-serve barrels.

Long loaves of Italian bread (I sure miss that – and the “hero” sandwiches we’d make – now that I’m living in the land of San Francisco sourdough!)

Grandpa would always get an extra-huge bag of pistachios (dyed red, of course) as an extra-special treat to share with me.

 
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Several kinds of salted and marinated. There's also a fabulous full-serve fish market right in the neighborhood.

Several kinds of salted and marinated fish. There’s also a fabulous full-serve fish market right nearby.

And after he and I, my Grandma Rose, and my mom and dad had grazed on all the other goodies until we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, Grandpa and I would stuff our faces with the pistachios – and compete to see whose hands were stained “better.”

Grandma would judge. And I would always “win.”

(Now, of course, I ask myself whether it was fair and square, or…)

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A lovely red, from a tasting of Sicilian wines at A16 Restaurant in San Francisco, with co-owner/wine director Shelley Lindgren and TV culinary celebrity Leslie Sbrocco.

Oh. Guess I got a bit carried away there. I did promise you a donut!

Well – Grandpa also brought home something that my dad and I, in particular, would dive into first, while it was still warm and juicy.

Meet ciccola bread – Italy’s version of dinnertime donuts!

Think pork-stuffed pizza, jellyroll style. You can make your own from-scratch yeast dough, or (as I’ve done here), start with store-bought pizza dough.

Roll it out into a long rectangle, heap it with several kinds of pork products (I’m using prosciutto, salami and bacon, plus sautéed garlic and onion). 🙂

Spread out the filling and roll it up, shape into a loaf or circle (I’m going with the “savory donut” shape here) and you’ve got a great treat for lunch, brunch, snack, or light dinner.

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Another delicious, food-friendly Sicilian red. Read more about Leslie Sbrocco, A16, Shelley Lindgren (and her recent knighthood!) here.

That’s an excellent basic recipe plan – but I’ve done some freewheeling with my own version. Feel free to experiment with yours – and please note that measurements are approximate!

Oh, and if you’re daunted by fat or cholesterol – just remember that a glass of red wine is said to be “just what the doctor ordered.”

Find a value-priced Italian vino rosso (such as Chianti or Montepulciano), or a Barbera or Sangiovese from California – and Mangia, Bevi e Godi! (Eat, Drink and Enjoy!)

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NATIONAL DONUT DAY – RAINBOW CICCOLA BREAD

Ingredients:
For 1 package store-bought pizza dough (or 1 recipe homemade):
For the filling:
1/4 lb. each prosciutto, salami, and bacon – thinly sliced, then cut into thin “matchsticks”
~ 1/2 cup roasted peppers in olive oil (preferably a mix of red, orange, and yellow)
~1/4 cup cooked spinach or chard
~1/2 cup sautéed chopped onion
~1/4 cup sautéed chopped garlic
Herbs of choice (e.g. parsley, oregano, marjoram)

2 Tbl. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
On a piece of parchment paper or silicone sheet, stretch and/or roll pizza dough into a large rectangle until thin and elastic. Don’t let it tear. Scatter filling ingredients evenly over the dough. With a wide end toward you, roll up the dough away from you into a jellyroll shape. Curl the jellyroll into a donut shape and place on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake according to package or recipe instructions, watching carefully so as not to over- or undercook. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and serve at room temperature.

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Until next time, my friends,
Happy tasting – and don’t forget to Click Here for your free download of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Pairing Wine with Food”!

Cheers,
Rosina

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Cheers,
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