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Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank - Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Plank Grilled SalmonYears ago there was a great seafood restaurant in Port Washington, WI; a town on Lake Michigan about forty miles north of Milwaukee.  It was called the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty.  In its day, the Shanty was a fantastic restaurant where they served fish freshly caught from the lake, as well as other seafood, and every table in the place had a great view of the harbor and Lake Michigan itself. 

One of the reasons we loved the Fish Shanty was because of the way that they prepared their fish: grilled on planks of wood.  According to rumor, some seventy years ago there was a wooden shack on the property where the fish were cleaned and prepared for the kitchen.  This shack was destroyed by a fire, and as the fireman were putting out the blaze they noticed a rather pleasant and tantalizing aroma coming from the rubble, rather than the awful smell they typically associated with fires.  Picking up a few charred boards, they discovered some of the fish that had been in the shack at the time of the fire -- now fully cooked.  Given the delicious smell, they decided to give it a try... And the rest is history. 

Cooking fish on wood planks is easy to do and you will really enjoy the resulting taste and texture of the fish.  Since we are featuring delicious Atlantic Salmon steaks for only $4.99 lb this week, I thought that you might enjoy learning how to plank grill them yourself.

This method allows the fish to steam gently in the heat of the grill, staying incredibly tender and moist.  It also picks up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks.  You can pick up cedar planks at any lumber yard or big box hardware store.  I also found a web site that offers them for sale along with other fish grilling items...

Here is what you will need to get started:

Cedar PlanksIngredients

  • Salmon fillets, ideally with the skin on
  • Olive oil to coat
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Minced fresh dill


The first step in the process is to soak your cedar planks.  They need to be soaked for a minimum of two hours; four hours, ideally.  One tip I learned if you have freezer space available is to soak as many planks as you have and wrap them in plastic (or place them in large freezer bags) and store them in the freezer.  This lets you avoid the two to four hour wait when you are in the mood for grilled fish.

When you are ready to grill your salmon, light your charcoal or gas grill and get the grill to a temperature of 350°F, or a medium heat-setting.  When the grill is at the correct temperature, lay enough cedar planks on the grill to give yourself space to arrange all the salmon you will be cooking.  Arrange the planks in a single layer so that they are all in contact with the grill grates, but don’t butt them tight.  Allow space on the sides to allow for good heat and air flow.

Lay the salmon skin side down on the planks.  Baste the salmon with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and the minced dill.  Cover the grill. 

Cook for 12 - 15 Minutes; start checking the salmon for doneness after about 12 minutes.  Small fillets will cook more quickly than larger cuts.  The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center. 

Once cooked, take the cedar planks with the salmon off the grill and place the planks on a cutting board.  Using a thin spatula, gently separate the skin from the salmon. The skins should stick to the boards and come away easily.  Use a sharp knife to cut the salmon into portions and serve immediately.

There is no need to throw away the cedar planks after your meal as they can be reused several times.  You can continue to use the planks until they become overly charred, cracked, or impossible to clean.  Scrub off the skin and put them away, or go ahead and re-soak them and freeze them for next time.

Note:  I want to give credit to a very good food website where I found the images used in this article.

Tags :  salmoncedar plank
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The Tents are Coming Back!- Tuesday, May 29, 2012

front yardOh boy, it looks like summer has truly arrived.  This past weekend we celebrated Memorial Day, most area schools are wrapping up the school year (or already have), beaches and pools are opening, and the first of our 2012 Caputo’s Front Yard Barbecues kicks off in just two weeks. 

Most of our customers will remember this very popular event, now returning for a third year, which takes place at a different store every few weeks.  It’s an authentic Southern-style cookout at a tremendous value, just $6.00 for all you can eat.  I remember a few customers who doubted we were serious about that last year, but I can assure you that no one ever went home hungry!

This is a fun event for everyone, especially families with children.  In addition to servings lots of food kids just love, they can eat as much as they want for just $3.00 -- and those under 5 years of age eat for free.  A family of six with two under five can eat until everyone is satisfied for just $18.  In addition to the wonderful food, there will also be free balloons for the kids and music everyone will enjoy.  All in all, this event is much like a drum with a hole in it, “You just can’t beat it.” 

Our menu includes:

  • Angelo Caputo’s authentic homemade pulled pork sandwiches and...
  • Our famous Angelo Caputo’s sausage and sautéed peppers
  • Steaming baked beans
  • Creamy coleslaw
  • Made from scratch cornbread
  • Fresh corn cobbettes
  • Old fashioned mac & cheese
  • Homemade potato salad
  • And for dessert, peach cobbler...
  • Ice cream and…
  • Sliced watermelon

Our first Front Yard Barbeque event will take place Saturday, June 9th, at our Bloomingdale store from 11:00 am to 4:00pm, and two weeks later we will be putting up our tents at the Naperville store on Saturday, June 23rd, from 11:00am to 4:00pm.  Put those dates on your calendar now and plan on spending a fun-filled family afternoon together with us at this year’s Angelo Caputo's Front Yard Southern-style Barbeque.

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Memorial Day Grilling Tips- Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GrillThis weekend marks what we often think of as the official start of the summer barbeque season.  Generally speaking, this is the time when Dad gets to shine.  Mom will prepare the salads, side dishes and dessert, but often it’s Dad who is King of the grill.  Just appointing yourself King of the grill, however, is not the same as being a good grill master.  There is a real science to cooking meals on the grill and making sure that they are cooked to the proper temperature and not charred to the point where they are indistinguishable from the charcoal used to cook them. 

There are two basic grill cooking methods regardless of whether you are working on a $19 camping grill or a $2,000 stainless steel six burner outdoor grill: direct and indirect heat.  The easiest to master is the direct grilling method, which is used to cook foods that take less than 30 minutes, and involves cooking directly over the coals.  These are the meats that a weekend warrior is most familiar with preparing, like vegetables, boneless chicken, steaks, kebabs, fish fillets, brats, grilled sausage, hamburgers, and hot dogs.  For even cooking, food should be turned once halfway through the grilling time.  Direct cooking is also necessary to sear meats.  Searing creates a wonderfully crisp, caramelized texture where the food  is in contact with the grate.  It also adds nice grill marks and flavor to the entire surface.  Steaks, chops, chicken pieces, and larger cuts of meat all benefit from searing.

When preparing meats or foods that will take more than 30 minutes to cook, the indirect heat method is preferred.  Unlike the direct grilling method, you don’t want the flame to be directly beneath the food.  Instead, the food being prepared is set off to the side of the heat source or above a drip pan; as the heat rises and is reflected off the inner surfaces of the grill, the food will cook slowly and evenly.  (Because the heat is constantly circulating, you won’t need to turn anything.)  The indirect heat method works best for roasts, ribs, whole chickens, turkeys, and other large cuts of meat, as well as delicate fish fillets.  Depending on your heat source, e.g., charcoal or gas, there are steps that you need to take to properly control the temperature while cooking. 

GrillingIndirect heat with charcoal
When using charcoal for an indirect heat source:

  •  Bank charcoal briquets on one or both sides of a drip pan on the lower grid.
  •  Place food on the grill, centered over a drip pan.
  •  Close the grill lid to contain heat and seal in smoky flavor.
  •  Add water, apple juice or other flavored liquids to the drip pan to provide extra moistness and flavor to food, if desired.  This will also help prevent the meat drippings from flaring up and scorching your dinner.

Use approximately 25 briquets on each side of the drip pan for the first hour of cooking time. After each additional hour, add 8 new briquets to the outside edges on either side. Move them to the center when they’re ashed over.

Indirect heat using a gas grill
To grill by the Indirect Method on a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on High, then adjust the burners on each side of the food to the temperature noted in the recipe and turn off the burner(s) directly below the food. To help with heat circulation and to provide a more even heat source throughout the grill, place the poultry or meat cut on a meat rack and set that inside a heavy-gauge foil pan.  Adding water to the foil pan will keep your drippings from burning.

OK, are you ready to get started?  As you page through this week’s Memorial Day ad, you'll notice that there are many items on sale that would be great cooked on your grill...   


  • Sea bass
  • Cod filets

Meat & Deli

  • Bobak’s and Greenridge sausages
  • Angelo Caputo’s Homemade Italian sausage
  • Our homemade beef, pork or chicken shish kebabs
  • Perdue & Miller’s Amish Farm chickens
  • Strauss veal and lamb
  • Angus beef rib eye and strip steaks and roasts
  • USDA Choice t-bone, porterhouse and strip steaks
  • Center cut loin and rib pork chops
  • Pork country ribs
  • USDA ground chuck patties
  • Bar-S franks


  • Monterey fresh portabella mushrooms
  • Sweet corn

Go ahead, you are the king of the grill!  Enjoy this holiday weekend and please, let’s not forget what it is we are celebrating.  Let’s all be grateful and say thank you to every brave veteran and active service man and woman we meet.  Their sacrifice and the truths and freedoms that they fought to protect and preserve are what make the USA the great nation that it is, our beloved homeland.  

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Pizza, the one food that’s never hard to top!- Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PizzaLast week I wrote about focaccia so I decided that this week I would follow along the same line and move on to focaccia’s cousin, the pizza.  Now, as any red blooded Italian will swear, pizza is and always has been 100% Italian.  Unfortunately, historians don’t feel we Italians can lay claim to the pizza. 

In its most basic form, what we would call a pizza (a seasoned flat bread with various toppings) has a long history in the Mediterranean.  The Greeks and Phoenicians ate a flat bread made from flour and water.  The dough would be cooked by placing it on a hot stone and then seasoning it with herbs.  Known as plankuntos, the Greeks used it as an edible plate when eating stews or thick broth.  Okay, so maybe they invented the crust, but it could hardly be called a pizza.

Recently, archeologists discovered a preserved Bronze Age (2,000 to 500 BCE) pizza in the Veneto region of Italy.  Sorry Naples, you may not be the birthplace of pizza after all!  It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, though, that pizzas started to take on a more modern look and taste.  The Italian peasants of the time used what few ingredients they could get their hands on to produce pizza dough, and topped it with olive oil and herbs.

The tomato, a key ingredient for the modern pizza, first reached Italy in the 1530's.  However, it was widely believed at that time that tomatoes were poisonous, and for generations they were grown only for decoration.  However, thanks to the brave and innovative people of Naples, the supposedly deadly fruit began to find its way into many of their foods -- including their early pizzas.  First sold exclusively by street vendors, pizza became very popular in Naples; in 1830, the Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba of Naples became the first true pizzeria, and this venerable institution is still producing masterpieces today!

Which pizza style gets the most media attention?

deep dish pizzaNY style Pizza

Chicago’s deep dish has an ongoing rivalry with New York’s much thinner pizza style, but which grabs the most media attention? For the most part, the Big Apple-style pie takes the pie!

  2008 through
2011 average
2012 so far
Chicago's deep dish 46.5% 15%
New York thin style 53.5% 85%

Source: Highbeam Research

Another interesting part of pizza’s colorful history can also be traced directly back to Naples.  In 1889, Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples.  The Pizzaioli (pizza maker) on duty that day, Rafaele Esposito, wanted to create a dish for the Queen that would show his admiration for the new flag of Italy.  He made her a pizza that contained the red of tomato, white of mozzarella, and the green of fresh basil -- the combination of which was a big hit with the Queen. 

As Italians emigrated to the United States they bought with them all the foods of their homeland, including pizza; but it wasn’t until after World War II that the the dish began to gain popularity among non-Italian Americans.  You see, many of the GIs who had spent lots of time in Italy helping rebuild the country acquired a taste for the local cuisine, and when they returned home they brought with them a new love: pizza.

Today, it's almost impossible to find a child or adult who doesn’t know of and enjoy pizza, and I’m certainly no exception to that rule.  I was born and raised on delicious Italian pizza.  I can still remember  when I was a little boy watching my grandmother and my mom baking pizzas at our family pizzeria.  To keep me busy they would give me my own ball of dough to press and roll out, and once it was ready I got to spread on the tomato sauce and cover it with mozzarella di buffalo... 

...Now that I think of it, I’m certain that those days spent making pizza with my mother and grandmother are when I acquired my love of cooking!

Now, many years later, I’ve acquired loads of experience at making delicious and authentic Neapolitan pizzas, as well as other varieties, and I’ve brought that skill set with me to Angelo Caputo’s.  I hope that you have already enjoyed one of our ready to take home and bake pizzas; we make them fresh every day in our La Bella Romano Cucinas.  If you haven't tried one yet, then I invite you to do so!  For those of you have experienced our pizzas, feel free to leave a comment and let others know which variety is your favorite. 


If you are interested in learning more about the history of pizza, I found several good sources including the following web sites:

Tags :  PizzaItaly
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Focaccia Bread- Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Once the staple of slaves and peasants, is now the bread of choice at fine Italian restaurants


As many of you know, Angelo and Romana Caputo immigrated to the Chicago area from their home town of Mola di Bari, a small coastal town in the southern Italian region of Puglia.  If you think of Italy as a boot, Mola Di Bari is located on the Mediterranean, just at the top of the boot heel.  While speaking to family members about a recent trip back to Mola to visit family still living there, I learned that in addition to being recognized for its seafood, the town is also known for making some of the finest focaccia bread in Italy.

For many Americans, focaccia bread is a relatively new addition to their food repertoire, although it is actually one of the most popular and ancient types of breads available today.  Like so many other foods we enjoy, focaccia owes its existence to the ingenuity of peasants and rural farming families, who made up for their lack of resources with boundless imagination.  It is made from a ball of basic dough, which can be flavored with an endless variety of oils, olives, cheeses, herbs and vegetables.  Much like making a pizza, what you add to your focaccia is a matter of personal taste and, quite often, family tradition. Italians have mastered the ability to take a little dough, top it off with whatever fresh ingredients they have around, and turn it into a delicious and fulfilling snack. 

Most historians believe Focaccia originated with either the Etruscans of North Central Italy prior to the Roman Empire forming, or in Ancient Greece at the beginning of the first millennium BCE.  Unlike the traditional flat breads from other Mediterranean regions, focaccia is leavened and rises slightly.  Focacius is the Latin word for fireplace; in Roman times, focaccia was cooked in the ashes of a fire rather than on a tray above the fire.

Focaccia was used as a dipping bread, usually being torn apart by hand and dipped into simple, salty soups made from water, vinegar, and possibly olive oil.  In today’s times this doesn’t sound very appetizing, but for people accustomed to long hours of physical labor it provided nourishment and was a cheap and filling meal. 

My how some things have changed! The same meal that was once reserved for peasants and slaves is now frequently served at fine Italian restaurants as an appetizer.

The recipe for basic focaccia dough requires five simple ingredients: flour, water, olive oil, salt and a small amount of yeast.  Depending on your tastes you can flavor the dough itself by adding some seasoning, or even a combination of toppings.  Some recipes will have you create a crisp-crusted focaccia, ideal for dipping in your favorite extra virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar.  Other recipes produce thicker crusted focaccia, like those sold in our La Bella Romana Cucina, which are used for sandwiches or paninis.

Would you like to try your hand at making some homemade focaccia bread?  We have several recipes available on our website,

I’d love to get your feedback on any of these, and if you have your own favorite focaccia please pass it along to us!  Perhaps I will share it with our Cucina Eventi readers.

Tags :  foccaciabreadmediterraneanAngelo
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Mole - the cooking sauce of Mexico- Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Mole SauceOkay, let me just start with a qualifier because I’m sure you are already asking yourselves, “What is Chef Frank Chiaramonte, an Italian, doing talking about Mexican sauces?”  That is the beauty of food.  When it comes to cooking there are no borders.  Great food comes from every corner of this earth, and to really enjoy life it is important to taste different foods from every cooking style and decide what works (or doesn’t work) for you.

This is a week of celebration for our Mexican neighbors, so I thought it would be good to learn a little about one of the basic components of Mexican cooking, Mole sauce.  Mole, the savory Mexican sauce most of would recognize as chocolate and chili pounded to a smooth paste, is a traditional food for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

There are several legends as to how mole sauce first came to be.  One popular story claims mole was invented by a chef who was preparing a banquet dish when a gust of wind from an open window blew a large number of spices into the food.  He had no time to redo the dish, so after tasting it he decided to serve it as-is...and was congratulated for his excellent creation!  A more common legend credits a group of nuns who supposedly invented mole out of necessity; but even this tale has at least two versions.  One story takes place in 1862 when a group of nuns from the city of Puebla were planning a quick escape from the invading French army.  The nuns threw together foods that would best suit a long journey.  Their chocolate and chili mixture, packed with protein and vitamins, was satchel-ready and more than enough to make an old turkey or hunk of venison cooked over a campfire delicious and nutritious.  

Another version of the story also centers around a group of nuns, but it dates back to several hundred years earlier.  Sometime in the 16th century, nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him.  The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them.  They began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chilies together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients.  This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant mole sauce we know today.  To serve in the mole, they killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it.  The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face.  Little did they know they were creating the Mexican National dish for holidays and feasts, and that eventually millions of people worldwide will have heard of mole poblano.

Today in Mexico, mole sauce is commonly served with poultry and prepared in hundreds of ways.  Although chocolate is the best known ingredient it is not always included, and like our barbeque sauce,  mole can be prepared many different ways depending on the region and food with which it will be served.  Ingredients can include cloves, coconut, peppercorns, peanut butter, raisins, tomatillos, bananas, and tortillas. 

Mole sauce ingredients were traditionally prepared on a metate, a stone with a flat or concave surface on which grain, nuts, seeds, and so on, could be ground.  Modern cooks combine the ingredients in a blender or a food mill.  Mole is a celebratory food in Mexico.  Because of its long list of ingredients, the dish is served only on special occasions such as weddings and quinceaneras (fancy coming-out parties when girls turn 15.)

Have I got your interest?  Well why not plan on fixing an authentic Mexican mole dish this week to join in the Cinco De Mayo celebration?  Here is an easy to make recipe for Chicken Enchiladas in Mole Sauce.

Now, you can create this dish two different ways depending on how much time you have and the size of your spice inventory at home:  You can do it the easy way and purchase a container of prepared mole sauce at one of our stores, or you can be really authentic and make your own mole sauce.  Think about it this way, it's not much different than the same argument we hear all the time, " do we use homemade gravy or store bought?"  You can save time or save tradition, your choice.  Either way, I hope that you will enjoy the enchiladas.


Tags :  MoleMexico
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