The Food Adventure Crew have come up with a brand new feature that you’ll will see in upcoming months called “KITCHEN ADVENTURES.” Here we will list some of our favorite all time recipes that will release the inner foodie in you. We are also hoping these recipes will impress your family and friends. Don’t worry, we won’t tell them where you got it. It will be our little secret.
Our inaugural installment comes to you from our resident foodie mom, Hungry Jax. May we present to you…
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: UTICA GREENS
Hey all! “Hungry Jax” here. About 9 years ago my husband and I relocated to the Dayton area from our hometown of Utica, NY. Nestled at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, Utica is a culinary treasure that is slowly, but surely making it’s name as one of the most delicious places to eat in the US. It is a city rich in Italian culture and cuisine! Upon relocating, I was homesick, not just for family, but for the culinary creations that are unique to the Utica area. So my kitchen became a laboratory with weekly experiments to recreate these hometown dishes that I love so dearly (talk about a Food Adventure!). I find that these dishes are ones that I love to share with my new friends here in Dayton. Sharing with them not just a great dish, but part of who I am and where I have come from. I’d like to share with you all one of these special dishes and I hope that you enjoy this recipe and maybe even take a stab at making them!
So my dear fellow Food Adventurers, I give you: “Utica Greens“.
I know what you’re asking yourself: “What’s a Utica Green?” “Utica Greens” is a spicy Italian dish made up of escarole, garlic, pancetta, hot peppers, cheese and breadcrumbs. Typically served as a side dish but can easily become a meal with a hunk of Italian bread! I also like to mix these in with penne to make a fun pasta dish, or even cook up with eggs in an omelet or frittata!
It should be noted that the peppers for this dish, Hot Cherry Peppers, are hard to find around here. I have found them fresh at Jungle Jims, as well as at Meijers from time to time. You can find them jarred, but typically those are sweet and not hot. Mild will work fine and if you want to spice thing up, just add more red crushed pepper. I have my brothers mail me these peppers when I am not back north to stock up on them myself!
For this dish you will need:
- 3 heads Escarole chopped and cleaned well. This type of green can be very “gritty” so I have found it best to let the chopped leaves soak in a sink full of cold water to allow for any dirt on the leaves to sink to the bottom. Rinse once more and then you should be good to go!
- One small bag baby spinach
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3-5 chopped Hot Cherry Peppers
- 3/4 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan – I use a mixture of both)
- 1/8lb Prosciutto or Pancetta chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper and red crushed pepper to taste
- Mix together an additional ¼ cup bread crumbs and ¼ cup cheese, set aside
Cut and thoroughly clean the escarole. Add the greens to a large pot of salted water. After water comes to a boil, cook the greens for about 4-5 minutes. Do not cover pot as it will turn your greens brown. Remove and drain.
In a frying pan add olive oil and heat. Fry Pancetta until crispy. Remove from pan and let sit on paper towel to drain.
Next, add garlic and hot cherry peppers. Cook for just about one minute.
Add the greens and cook just until heated through. Make sure to stir often. Add the spinach a handful at a time until wilted. Add salt, pepper and red crushed pepper to taste.
Take off heat, stir in breadcrumbs and cheese . Top with extra breadcrumbs and cheese and broil for a few minutes to crisp! If the greens look too “wet” don’t hesitate to add more breadcrumbs. You will find that they are crucial for flavoring the dish. Same with the cheese. So add and taste as you go.
Now tear yourself off a big piece of crusty Italian bread and go to town! This will serve about 4 people (or just me).
These also freeze great which makes it easy for me to grab a batch out of the freezer for holidays or unexpected dinner guests!
I hope you enjoy these as much as my family and I do. Let me know if you give it a try!
~ Hungry Jax
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