We're in the middle of our harvest season, when farmers all over Maryland are bringing in the food they've worked so hard to produce. In Italy this season is celebrated with the Feast of San Martino, who quite logically is the patron saint of grape pickers, winemakers and sommeliers. So to fill us in on this festival, we've invited a friend whose knowledge and understanding of this Feast is first rate, Chef Sergio Vitale of Aldo's Restaurant in Little Italy. Chef Sergio gave us a few ideas for celebrating San Martino. Here they are.
8 thin slices calf's liver, about 1 ½ pounds
Salt to taste if desired
Freshly ground pepper to taste
⅓ cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups red or white seedless grapes
3 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 tablespoons corn, peanut or vegetable oil
Sprinkle liver on both sides with salt and pepper. Dip pieces in flour to coat well on both sides. Shake off excess. Set aside. Combine sugar and vinegar in heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Cook, shaking saucepan and stirring, until liquid evaporates. Continue cooking until sugar becomes caramel color. Take care that it does not burn.
Add chicken broth and stir in tomato paste. Bring to boil and cook 5 minutes or longer until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add grapes and butter. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in heavy skillet and when hot add pieces of liver, a few at a time, in one layer. Cook 1 or 2 minutes on one side and turn. Cooking time will depend on thickness. Cook on second side 1 or 2 minutes. As pieces are cooked transfer to heated platter. Continue adding pieces and a little more oil to skillet as necessary, tablespoon at a time.
Bring sauce to boil and pour onto liver. Serve with polenta or roasted potatoes.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon anise extract
Preheat oven to 375°F
In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and white sugar. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk, anise extract, and eggs. Mix together until dough is sticky.
Oil fingers and pinch off dough in 1-inch pieces. Roll into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart, flatten top slightly. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool and serve with sweet wine for dipping.