Italian Ice Cream, Pecan Pies, and Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

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Bicycle Sundae: Sunday, September 12
Join the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and foodies on a two-wheel tour of newly hip neighborhoods and sample some of the finest and unique ice creams in town, ranging from Persian to Japanese and from Oaxacan to Italian. Participants can register ($15 fee includes 5 samples, route map and bike support) at Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe from 9-10am. The 2-1/2 hour tour leaves at 10am. Secure parking is available behind Mama's (2124 W 7th St), one block from the MacArthur Park Metro Station. Ride level: easy to moderate with rest and ice creams breaks. Bring lots of water & a helmet! Register online or by phone at 213-629-2142.

Encarnacion's Kitchen by Encarnacion Pinedo is published by the University of California Press. Translated from the Spanish by Dan Strehl, it was originally published in San Francisco in 1898 as The Spanish Cook, and is the first cookbook written by a Latino in the US.

Dan Strehl is a co-founder of the Culinary Historians of Southern California and manager of the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch Library.

Massimo's Gelato has two locations: 1029 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (310-581-2485), and 13222 W Washington Boulevard in West LA (310-823-8381).

Rickey Smith makes single serving pecan pies and other fine treats at The Sweet Spot. You can reach him by phone at 310-306-5554, or find him at the Sunday Santa Monica Farmers Market at Ocean Park Blvd and Main St. and other area markets.

Clifford Wright is the author, most recently, of Little Foods of the Mediterranean: 500 Fabulous Recipes for Antipasti, Tapas, Hors D'Oeuvre, Meze, and More, published by Harvard Common Press.

Patate al Forno -- Oven-Baked Potatoes in the Neapolitan Style
This preparation is quite simple as you merely toss it all together and bake it. The combination of potatoes and tomatoes is familiar in Campania, the region in southern Italy where Naples is. This preparation is usually served as a contorno or side dish and in particular it's a great accompaniment to roast lamb. (Makes 6 servings)

  • 1 3/4 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 3/8-inch thick
  • 3/4 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  1. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking casserole, preferable earthenware. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables along with the water and toss again.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the sauce bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring gently two or three times. Serve immediately.
Polipi alla "Quartara" -- Baby Octopus Cooked in an Earthenware Jug
Makes 4 to 6 servings

This Sicilian specialty of Arab origin comes from the town of Gela, and was made originally in a quartara, a kind of narrow-necked Sicilian earthenware jug derived from the Arabs. This Sicilian jug, which is identical to an Egyptian jug called ibrik, was placed directly in the embers of a wood fire with a small cylinder coming out of a plastered-over top seal or cork. The jug's neck was then broken, and the octopus served.

To fashion a make-shift quartara fill a heavy pot with the ingredients and cover with a tight-fitting layer of aluminum foil, leaving a small opening. Cover with another sheet of foil, tightening all the edges so no steam escapes except through the small opening. A sealant can also be made with rope made from a mixture of flour and water.

If you think this dish is not for you please read on. Wright tested this recipe with friends. Thought several parents declined a taste, their children, not noted for their adventurous palates, tried some polipi, loved it and encouraged their amazed elders to try it.

Baby octopus can usually be found in ethnic markets either fresh or frozen. You can also use small squid as a substitute, but they should be cleaned first and the tentacles cut off where they meet the eyes. This recipe was first published in Wright's Cucina Paradiso: The Heavenly Food of Sicily, published by Simon & Schuster in 1992.

  • 2 pounds baby octopus (use small cleaned squid as a substitute)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Leaves from 10 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Rinse and dry the octopus or squid. In a large bowl, mix the garlic and parsley together, then toss with the octopus, tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place all the ingredients in an oven-proof earthenware casserole or pot or a heavy enameled baking casserole. Place the lid on and seal with a rope made by mixing flour and water. Let it marinate for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the casserole in the oven and shake it around every ten minutes. After 40 minutes remove and serve.

Heirloom Tomatoes with White Anchovies and Basil
Makes 6 servings

Choose the heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market according to a nice mix of colors and sizes. The white anchovies are unsalted anchovies preserved in sunflower seed oil sold in Italian delis.

  • 2 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges or large chunks
  • 10 white anchovy fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves
  • Medium-coarse sea salt to taste
Arrange the tomatoes on a serving platter. Lay the anchovies over the tomatoes, then drizzle the oil over both. Snip the basil leaves with a kitchen scissor so that they fall over the tomatoes. Season with salt and serve at room temperature.

Sauteed Tomatoes
Makes 6 antipasti servings

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Salt to taste
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft and everything is bubbling vigorously, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and let them become warm then serve with fried Italian bread.