Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen -- Specialty markets: A little slice of heaven for a cook

By JANINE GILBERTSON May 08. 2018 11:23PM
Bruschetta toast with ricotta, topped with blackberries and balsamic glaze. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

I love shopping at specialty food markets, and I was thrilled to find myself in Salem last weekend exploring Tuscan Market, an Italian specialty store off Route 28.

I made the trip to Salem, a part of the state I used to cover for this newspaper as a correspondent years ago, to have dinner at Tuscan Kitchen, which is adjacent to Tuscan Market. My eyes opened wide when I saw the market, so I made my starving friend go to the market first because I was afraid it would be closed by the time we finished dinner.

The shelves are stocked with interesting vinegars, oils, salts and pantry items from Italy. There’s also a huge assortment of fresh breads, cheeses and handmade ready-to-serve pastas, Italian soups and other goodies. A frozen section offers seafood, gluten-free ingredients and other items.

I was in a cook’s heaven.

I picked up some fresh dough, which I used to make mini calzone-like sausage hand pies with Provolone Dolce and fresh tomato sauce. A package of bruschetta toasts we picked up turned into the foundation for an easy late-night snack with slices of Ricotta Salata, a mild, firm white cheese, and a raspberry balsamic cream glaze that I drizzled over the top and garnished with fresh blackberries.

We also picked up a couple of packages of frozen whole baby clams and some store-made fresh linguine so I could make linguine with clam sauce.

I had never made this dish before, but it turns out to be an effortless undertaking that came together in just a few minutes. Heat a little olive oil, add some minced garlic, the clams and some white wine and let it simmer for a few minutes until the clamshells pop open, then toss in the cooked pasta, season and serve. Buon appetito! You have a gourmet meal on the table in minutes, made with quality ingredients.

If you come across a specialty food market, be curious, not intimidated. I noticed my friend wasn’t really picking up much to buy while we were shopping (except the artisan breads) and I realized that if you don’t know what to do with a jar of capers or a package of sun dried tomatoes, they won’t make it into the shopping cart.

The only problem I had with my shopping experience is that in order to get to the cash register, you have to wind your way past an extraordinary amount of beautiful desserts, and my willpower was pretty low at that point.

Good thing I don’t live in the Salem area anymore. I’d be shopping at that market every day.

Bruschetta Toast with Ricotta

4 oz package bruschetta toasts

1/4 lb fresh Ricotta Salata cheese

2 tbsp balsamic cream glaze

6 oz package fresh blackberries

1 tbsp fresh herbs, such as thyme, for garnish

Place the bruschetta toasts on a platter in a single layer and dot with balsamic cream.

Slice the ricotta into pieces that will fit on the bruschetta toasts and are about 1/4 inch thick.

Drizzle more balsamic cream over the cheese, then top with a blackberry.

Sprinkle chopped herbs over the dressed bruschetta for garnish, if desired.
Sausage and cheese hand pies, made with fresh pizza dough, chicken sausage and Provolone Dolce cheese. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Sausage and Cheese Hand Pies

1 package store-bought fresh pizza dough

1 cup fresh tomato sauce

2 links of chicken sausage, cooked and chopped

1/2 cup Provolone Dolce cheese, shredded

1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/2 tbsp herbal salt

1 tbsp truffle or olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 425.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and stretch each portion into an oval approximately 8 by 4 inches and 1/4 inch thick. 

Divide the tomato sauce equally and spread on one side of the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch from the edge. Divide the ricotta into equal portions, then spoon each portion over the tomato sauce. 

Separate the sausage into 4 portions, then place over the sauce and ricotta. 

Sprinkle the provolone equally over the 4 portions, then fold the side of the dough with no toppings over the opposite side and press the edges to form a hand pie. 

Brush the pies with truffle oil, then sprinkle with herbal salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. 
Linguine with clam sauce, made with frozen whole baby clams purchased at an Italian specialty foods market. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Linguine with Clams in Garlic White Wine Sauce

1 lb fresh linguine, cooked

1/2 lb whole baby clams, in shells

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 tsp herbal or Kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

pinch crushed red pepper

3 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to brown slightly. 

Add the clams, wine and basil and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the clam shells open. Add the cooked pasta and toss to heat throughout. 

Sprinkle the herbal salt, black pepper and red pepper to the pasta and stir. Garnish with grated cheese before serving.


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