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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Archives

March 29, 2010

Cooking My Way Through "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

Okay, you might know by now that I will be participating in an interesting challenge. There are a group of 7 of us (oops, it's really 9) who are going to cook our way through Marcella Hazan's book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". Remember Julie doing that with Julia Child's book? Well, what normal person with a normal life can cook a recipe every single day for over a year? No one I know! So that's why there are 9 of us sharing this challenge. We were each assigned a day of the week we will post. That's where the 9 participants come in-there are two days that rather than just one person being responsible, two will share that responsibility. My day to post will be Thursdays. So for the next 62 weeks you will see on my blog a recipe from "The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". Yes, that means that my last post will be on June 2, 2011. In my posts, I will not be giving the recipes-you can buy the book and enjoy cooking many of the recipes along with us. I will give you a synopsis of the process and then share my results.

Our rules for this challenge were pretty simple-
1. Follow the recipe. No tinkering around with the recipe.
2. We would take the recipes as they came in the book. No trading. Even if you got stuck with something that you'd really prefer not to try (I'll give you two examples-tripe and lamb's kidneys).
3. Since seasonal & fresh is the basis for all good Italian cooking, it's ok if we cook ahead and save our post until the appropriate date.

We were originally just going to post on Facebook. But we decided to set up a blog exclusively for this challenge, along with posting on Facebook. So if you're on Facebook, send a friend request to Pomodori E Vino, our name. Then watch for our daily postings. If you're not on Facebook, or just want to follow our posts on a blog, here's where you'll find it. And as mentioned earlier, you'll find the recipes I cook every Thursday here on my Baked Alaska blog.

I hope you'll follow our progress and offer your comments and words of support along the way. I know it will be challenging at times, but it's a challenge I'm really looking forward to.

April 1, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking-Marinated Carrot Sticks

It's time for my first recipe as I cook my way through "Essientials of Classic Italian Cooking".

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When I saw the first recipe I was to make in this challenge, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. Marinated Carrot Sticks? How much of a challenge could those be to make and how special could a marinated carrot taste?

Well, let me tell you-I jumped to the wrong conclusion. These were a wonderful appetizer. The carrots are cooked in salted water until tender, then marinated in a mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. The garlic and vinegar flavor is not overwhelming at all, just adds a subtle background flavor. The oregano is a little more pronounced. These Marinated Carrot Sticks would be a very nice addition to any appetizer platter. If they last that long. I took them over to my husband to have him taste, and within 5 or 10 minutes we had eaten every one of them!

April 8, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking-Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

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Today we have another appetizer that contains seafood-Shrimp! I love shrimp, and am always excited to try a new recipe that contains shrimp. If you've read my blog, you know that my husband and I shrimp out of Prince William Sound in Alaska. So we always have a freezer-full of shrimp.

This recipe has you simmer the shrimp briefly in water and a few spices, then while warm, you let the shrimp have a nice long bath in olive oil and lemon juice. You serve them at room temperature, not refrigerated. They are so fresh tasting! The lemon really makes a difference. Be sure and serve them with nice toasty bread to mop up all of that good olive oil.

April 15, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking-Baked Stuffed Mushroom Caps

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It's time for my third recipe in our challenge as we cook our way through Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". And I'm enjoying every minute of it. I've made 2 cold appetizers so far, and now it's time for me to move on to hot appetizers. My appetizer for the day is Baked Stuffed Mushroom Caps. This recipe was different than any others I've made before-you know, bread crumbs, onions, spices, maybe sausage? In this recipe, you do have the bread crumbs and chopped mushroom stems, but there's lots of additional interesting ingredients. One such ingredient is dried porcini mushrooms. So can you imagine the taste of a baked mushroom which contains of stuffing of porcini mushrooms, pancetta, anchovy fillets, basil, garlic and marjoram? Very flavorful!

I do have one thing I would do different in this recipe if I were to make them again. The recipe calls for a fair amount of pancetta. I love the flavor of pancetta. If you don't know what pancetta is, Marcella gives a wonderful description in her book. Basically, it is the Italian version of bacon. I bought some while in Little Italy in San Diego, and was really looking forward to using it. It was the kind known as pancetta stesa, which is a cured, flat version still attached to it's rind. Anyway, the piece of pancetta I had was almost all fat. There was very little meat on it. In the recipe, you finely dice it and add it to the other raw ingredients, which are then stuffed in the mushroom and baked. Unfortunately, my pieces of pancetta didn't break down well during the cooking, and I was left with a lot of small pieces of flavorful fat in my mushrooms. While the flavor was good, the mouthfeel wasn't. So next time, if my pancetta contains a large amount of fat, I would pre-cook that pancetta to render out some of the fat first.

April 22, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Summer Vegetable Soup with Rice & Basil, Milan Style

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I imagine that if you're reading this blog, you know that I'm part of a group of 9 who are cooking our way through Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you want to follow our progress, click on the link on my sidebar, or click here Pomodori e Vino. This is such a fun challenge we're doing. Note also that we're not posting the recipes, just descriptions. You can buy the book on Amazon.com, or at your favorite bookstore. I can tell you, you will be very happy if you purchase this book.

We've already worked our way through cold and hot Appetizers, and now we're on to soups. And what a very nice soup I have to start with -Summer Vegetable Soup with Rice and Basil, Milan Style. I love Marcella's description of this soup. She says that during the hot Milan summers, the trattorie make this soup first thing in the morning, and pour it into individual soup plates. They display it on a table at the entrance. By the time people arrive for lunch at 12:30 or 1:00, the soup will be at the perfect temperature and consistency.

This soup is based on the Minestrone alla Romagnola, that if you're following our blog, Michele made yesterday. So I made the Minestrone one day before making this soup, and let it set in the refrigerate all night becoming more flavorful. Then to make this Summer soup, you heat up some of the Minestrone, add rice (preferably Arborio), and water. You cook just until the rice is almost done, knowing that it will continue to soften as it sits. You then added grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and torn basil leaves. I let my soup set for a few hours to become room temperature, but maybe because it's still cold here in Alaska, it was a little too cold for my taste. I preferred it warmed a little.

A variation that Marcella lists to this soup is instead of tearing the basil and adding it, you make a pesto and stir it into the soup. We loved this version the most. That pesto adds the lively spring flavor of basil throughout the soup. I wish I would have taken a photograph of this version, because it's also a beautiful green color. This soup is to be eaten the day it is made, otherwise the rice becomes too soft. But the Minestrone base can stay in the refrigerator for a while. We loved the version with Pesto so much that I think I made it 3 or 4 nights in a row.

April 29, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking-Potato Soup with Smothered Onions

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I love soups. They can be very filling and are wonderful for the cold climate I live in. When I saw this recipe I was to make, Potato Soup with Smothered Onions, I was really looking forward to it. I make soups all of the time, but can't remember the last time I made a potato soup.

Well, when you're craving a warm, flavorful, comforting soup, make this one. It was so good that my husband and I ate the entire pot in one setting.

The soup is made by slowly cooking sliced onions until they're a nice light brown. You then add diced potatoes and broth and cook until the potatoes are soft. At the end, a little parmigiano-reggiano is stirred in. It's a very easy soup to make, with very few ingredients. But the results are so flavorful that I bet you can't eat just one bowl either.

May 7, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Acquacotta-Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans

Aquacotta - Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans

I'm still making soups as we work our way through "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This week, it's Acquacotta. Aquacotta is usually a peasant dish. It's a soup made with stale bread, water, onions, tomatoes, and olive oil. But it's also made in grander households. There, it usually contains eggs, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. The version that Marcella lists in her book is of the grander type, and comes from Villa Cappezzana.

I have to say, I was really getting tired of soup and wasn't that excited about making it. But I was really surprised-I loved the soup. You begin by soaking cannellini beans overnight, then cooking them the next day until they're tender. You then make a soup of onions, celery, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and basil. This mixture cooks for 2-3 hours. I followed all directions except for one-I couldn't find Savoy cabbage anywhere, and had to use regular green cabbage.

When you're ready to assemble the dish, you toast day-old Tuscan-style bread, and layer it on the bottom of a casserole dish. You then top that with the soup and grated Parmesan cheese. You then poach eggs until the whites are just set, and place them on top of the soup mixture. You top with more Parmesan, and place in a hot oven for 10 minutes. You then have this delightful, filling, soup. The flavor of the celery really comes through in this soup, and the poached egg on top really adds the finishing touch.

May 13, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Passatelli-Egg and Parmesan Stands in Broth

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This is my last soup to make in our quest to work our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It was an interesting one to end with. This soup comes from the Romagna area of Italy. Marcella says that their style of cooking tends to resemble the Bolognese style, but that they value lightness and delicacy more. Their simple soups are an example of this.

This soup starts with homemade meat broth. The recipe is given to us in the Fundamentals Section of the cookbook. It is a combination of a few simple vegetables like carrot, onion, celery, bell pepper, potato, and tomato. Those are cooked along with assorted beef, veal and chicken. You cook the broth for over 3 hours. I like that Marcella explains that this is a broth, not a stock.l It's lighter and softer than the strong reductions you might find in some stocks.

Back to the soup. You bring the broth to a boil. As that's coming to a boil, you mix together grated parmigiano-reggiano, dry breadcrumbs, nutmeg, lemon zest and eggs. This makes sort of a dough. Actually more the texture of polenta. That is forced through the large holes on a food mill into the boiling broth, and cooked for a couple of minutes. You then ladle the soup into bowls and serve with extra Parmesan.

The soup had good flavors. The nutmeg and lemon flavor came through nicely. It is definately all about using a good broth. It was very light and would be a nice light opener to a meal. While I enjoyed it, it's not a soup that I would probably make again. It's not that I didn't like it, because I did. I just usually don't eat soups as a starter, but love heavier, more filling soups that are my full meal.

May 20, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables

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It's Cindy again, and I'm so excited because it's now my turn to move on to the Pasta chapter of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I absolutely love pasta. If you love pasta also, and want a simple but extremely delicous sauce, you have got to try this one. I just loved it! This recipe is unique in that the carrots, celery, and onions are put in with the tomatoes without being sauteed first. Marcella says this is called "a crudo". So here's how easy it is-you open a can of imported plum tomatoes, cut them up and put them in a saucepan. You then cut up celery, carrots, and onion and add that along with salt to the tomatoes. You cook for 30 minutes, then add olive oil, and cook for another 15 minutes. That's it! You have this wonderful sauce. It's very fresh-tasting. The carrot adds a real sweetness to the sauce, and the vegetables remain a little crunchy adding a nice texture. Marcella suggests serving this with a factory-made pasta like spaghettini or penne. I chose penne. This is one pasta sauce that I know I will be making time and again. There's also a couple of variations listed I'll have to try-one with marjoram and two cheeses, and one with rosemary and pancetta.

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May 27, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking-Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper

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This week, my recipe was Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper. When I looked through the recipe, the first thing I noticed is that you fry the eggplant. I rarely fry anything, so I can't say I was too excited about this step.

The recipe referred me to another recipe in the book that explains the proper way to prepare and fry eggplant. There are two important steps worth noting: 1.To salt the sliced eggplant and let it drain, taking away any bitterness that the eggplant might have and 2. To have the oil very hot, so that the eggplant doesn't absorb any more of the oil than needed. This method produced a very flavorful eggplant that I'm sure you wouldn't get from sauteing. The flavor could be described as smokey.

There are not a lot of ingredients in the sauce-eggplant, olive oil, garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and chili pepper. But the flavor you get from these few ingredients is really a surprise. My husband thought there had to be anchovies or some other mysterious ingredient that added to the complexity of the sauce. I think it was the fried eggplant that added the special flavor.

Marcella suggested this pasta sauce be served on spahettini pasta, a thin dried pasta. That's what I used, and it was perfect.

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June 3, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Fried Zucchini Sauce with Garlic and Basil

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Today is Fried Zucchini Sauce with Garlic and Basil. I was really looking forward to making this in some ways (the taste and texture) but not in other ways (my weight with butter and fried zucchini). The results of this pasta were very good. When I first saw the recipe, I was expecting to fry zucchini and add it to a tomato sauce. But no, that's not how this was done. You take your zucchini and slice it into pieces about 2 1/2" long and 1/4" in diameter. This chopped zucchini is salted, and sits in a colander to drain for 2 hours. You then dry it, toss it with flour, and fry it in hot oil. Yum, fried zucchini. I wondered if I was going to have enough left for the sauce, as I kept sneaking bites off the plate. The sauce is finished by melting butter, and tossing the butter, basil, zucchini, and grated Parmesan cheese with the hot pasta. I really did love this dish. I did make fresh fettuccine for the pasta. I wouldn't bother to make this dish without fresh pasta. I think that made all of the difference in the world.

I used Marcellla's recipe for the fresh pasta. 1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to 2 eggs. The pasta turned out beautifully. You do need to make sure you knead it the full 8 minutes though, or it just won't have the texture you want. Here's a photo of the pasta drying for a few minutes on the counter before being cut into strips.

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June 10, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Pesto by the Food Processor Method

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Today we get to make Pesto. I love pesto. I've made it many times, and always by the food processor method. I'll give you a little history of pesto that Marcella explains in her book. It is the sauce the Genoese invented for the use of their very fragrant basil. The components of their pesto are olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, butter and grated cheese. And of course the basil. You don't cook or heat pesto (except on occasion when adding it to things such as soup). The word "pesto" comes from the verb pestare, which means to pound or grind. So Genoese cooks say if it's not made with a mortar and pestle, it's not pesto. That probably is the best way to make it, but many of us are too lazy or don't have a mortar and pestle to use. So we can make this version I've made that uses the food processor. It's very fast and easy to make, and has that alluring fragrance and taste that all good pestos have.

In this method you put basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in the food processor and process to a creamy consistency. You transfer it to a bowl, and stir in grated romano cheese and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. You then mix in softened butter. I was very suprised to see the butter as an addition. I had never heard of that. But it did make the sauce creamier and it coated the pasta better. Marcella suggests serving the pesto on dried spaghetti or a homemade fresh fettuccine. I was planning on using spaghetti until I went to pull it from the pantry and discovered I was out. Instead, I used a pici pasta that I bought at the local Italian market. It was a fantastic meal.

June 17, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - White Clam Sauce

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I'm so happy cooking my way through Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. And I'm also happy that I'm still cooking pastas-my favorite. I was very happy to see that one of the recipes I get to cook is White Clam Sauce. I've eaten it several times, and made it a couple, but this recipe was different. The method comes from Venice, from Cesae Benelli's Al Covo. What makes his version different is that you only partially cook the pasta, then when it's still underdone, you finish it in a pan along with the clam juice that was reserved from cooking the clams earlier. Marcella says that by the time the pasta is cooked, it has absorbed all of the fresh clam juices which make it much richer than most versions of this pasta. I totally agree. It felt as if I was eating the essence of the sea. And I have to admit, it was sure a lot easier to eat when the clams had already been removed from their shell. Another one to add to the list to make again and again (Wait, haven't I said that about most of the pastas I've made so far?).

Okay, how to make it. First, go out and buy Essentials of Italian Cooking so you will have the exact directions. I'm only promoting her book for one reason-I love it! She says that you can use homemade fettuccine, but I decided to use her other alternative-boxed spaghettini. You wash the clams, and heat them up to open them. You then remove them from the shells, reserving the juice. Then you cook sliced garlic in a skillet in olive oil, and add some diced tomato. The you add dry white wine. After simmering briefly, you set it aside while you cook the pasta just short of being al dente. You then drain the pasta, and add it to the skillet in which contains the garlic, olive oil, white wine, and tomato. You then add the clam juice, and cook until the juice has evaporated and the been absorbed into the pasta. When the pasta is properly cooked, you add the cut-up clams and freshly torn basil leaves and serve immediately.

Here's a close-up photo. Can't you just imagine that you're in Venice, sitting out by a canal, sipping a nice glass of white wine and enjoying the tastes of the sea? We can always dream...
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June 24, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Butter and Parmesan Cheese Sauce

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Today's pasta is a very simple, but delicious one. I know that many of us have been calling some of the pasta sauces comfort food, and that's what this one was to me.

Marcella says that this sauce has been a favorite way for the Northern Italians to flavor their pasta for generations. She also says that this pasta tests your pasta tossing skills.

I found it very easy to make. Boil pasta. She suggested dried spaghetti, but I had a nice Pici on hand. Cast in bronze dyes so the texture is rougher, meaning the sauce would stick better. While the pasta is cooking, dice up a good quality butter and grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. When the pasta is done, place it in a heated serving dish. Add some of the cheese, and toss until melted and the pasta is coated. Add some of the butter and more cheese, and toss again. Add the remaining cheese, and toss again. And lastly, add the remaining butter and toss until all of the butter has melted.

Serve with additional grated parmesan. I don't know if it's authentic, but I also add freshly ground black pepper to mine and it was just perfect! And a glass of white wine, a sunny deck, and my husband as company, and it couldn't have been any better.

July 1, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Asparagus Sauce with Ham and Cream

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Once again, you get to hear me say that this is a fantastic recipe and you should give it a try. Today's recipe is Asparagus Sauce wtih Ham and Cream, which Marcella suggests is best served over penne pasta.

I fixed another pasta dish 2 days ago that was rich and full of cream. I wasn't looking forward to this dish tonight, as I really wasn't in the mood for something heavy. Was it heavy? Not really. Was it heavenly? Absolutely!

This dish was so quick and easy to make. I had it on the plate in under 30 minutes, probably more like 20 minutes. What other dish that tastes heavenly, a combination of sweet butter, creamy whipping cream, salty ham and parmesan, and that more astrigent taste of asparagus, can you prepare in such a short time period?

The process here is cook asparagus in boiling water until tender. Remove from pan, cool, and slice into small pieces. Drain water from pan, dry, and then in the same pan add butter and sliced ham. Cook a couple of minutes, and add the chopped asparagus. After a minute or so, add heavy cream and cook a minute or two until reduced. Add this along with grated parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and toss until thoroughly combined. YUM!!! I enjoyed my plate with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Another one to add to the recipe file of definately make again.

July 8, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Green Tortellini with Meat and Ricotta Stuffing

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I've come to one of my most challenging dishes so far. Today it was my turn to make tortellini - Green Tortellini with Meat and Ricotta Stuffing. I will start by saying I have never made tortellini before, and have never watched it being made. I thought about going to youtube and watching a video of someone making it, but I decided instead to follow Marcella's instructions and see how it turned out.

This tortellini has a meat and ricotta stuffing. You cook pork butt and veal shoulder (that was a challenge to find!) in butter. Chop it into very fine pieces, then mix it with chopped mortadella, ricotta, parmagiano-reggiano, an egg yolk, and a small grating of nutmeg.

The pasta is green, which is made by adding finely chopped cooked spinach to the flour and egg mixture as you're mixing your pasta. The pasta was much easier than I thought it would be. The pasta also has a little milk added to it to make it a little sticky, which is what you want for a filled pasta. You also work with a small amount of dough at a time, keeping the rest covered with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.

So, how do you make tortellini? You roll the pasta dough out into sheets, and cut it into 1 1/2" squares. You then put a small amount of the filling in the center of each square. You then fold according to Marcella's instructions. I'm not going to go into detail here, because the instructions are a little complicated. One thing she did suggest doing before you make them for the first time is to cut tissues into the correct size and try to fold them the correct way.

The folding of the tortellini got easier as I went along. I never did get fast with the process though. I will also admit that I began making them a little larger also (2" square instead of the 1 1/2") and that also made it a lot easier for me.

The flavor of these tortellini was excellent. Mild veal and pork, stronger mortadella, and that hint of nutmeg. I served mine with the Proscuitto and Cream Sauce that Palma posted about earlier, which was just perfect with these totellini.

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Would I make these again? Absolutely. And I hope I will get faster each time I make them.

July 15, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ham

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Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ham. Sounds like a simply flavored dish, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It is a wonderfully flavorful dish that I want to thank Marcella for placing in her cookbook. Layesr of thin homemade pasta sheets, in between layers of a mushroom, ham, and bechamel sauce filling, and all layered with Parmesan cheese.

What a great intense mushroom flavor this had. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of button mushrooms and 2 ounces of dried porcinin mushrooms. I had a lot of porchini mushrooms that I had bought in bulk last year. These mushrooms seem to have a very intense strong flavor, stronger than most dried porcini. The complex flavor they added to this lasagna is indescribable.
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I served this to some girl friends who came over for a "Girls Night Out". One of the girls doesn't eat ham and so I made part of the dish with mushrooms only and without the ham. Although I preferred it with the ham, it is still excellent if you're looking for a meatless lasagna.

Making the lasagna noodles seemed a little labor intensive, but was actually pretty quick. You roll out the pasta, then par-boil it for just a few seconds. Marcella explains the process of quickly cooking the pasta, then transferring it to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. You then take your fingers and rub the pasta to remove excess starch, then place on kitchen towels and dry slightly. By doing this, the pasta was nicely firm and not sticky at all when cooked.

It's nice the lasagna can be made up to 2 days in advance. I made mine about 2 hours in advance and was very happy to find I only had to place it in the oven for 15-30 minutes to heat through and lightly finish cooking the pasta.

Again, another recipe that I'll be making again in the future. Marcella, thank you again.

July 22, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Orecchiette

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Today, I write my blog entry with very mixed feelings. My recipe, Orecchiette, which I'll talk about in a minute, was delicious. The sad part is this is the last pasta in the chapter. We will tomorrow be moving on to Risotto.

I have loved this pasta chapter. Every recipe I have made I have really enjoyed. Some of the dishes really suprised me, and others turned out exactly as I imagined them tasting. There have been very simple and quick pastas, and others that have been quite time consuming. But whether quick or not, I have enjoyed every single one.

Today's pasta is Orecchiette. Marcella explains that this recipe comes from the Apulia region, which is the region that extends over the heel and half of the instep of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. This region has a tradition of making home-made pasta. But the pasta they make is different than that you find in the Emilia-Romagna region. Here, the pasta is made with water instead of eggs, and the flour is mostly of a hard-wheat variety. This means the dough will be chewier and firmer. To match well with this more rustic pasta, they use stong-flavored sauces.

Orecchiette is the most well-known pasta from this region, and it means "little ears". This is a hand-shaped dough.

The dough is made of a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour. Add salt and warm water, and that's it. The dough is mixed, then kneaded for a full 8 minutes. I found it extremely important to be sure and knead for the full time. I even kneaded for a little longer. It took that much time for the dough to obtain the correct texture. The dough then rests a short while. When you're ready to form your shapes, you pull off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon. You then roll that into a sausage-shaped roll, about 1/2" thick. You slice off very thin pieces, place the piece in the cupped palm of one hand, and with the other hand you press and twist your thumb, making a shape that resembles a little ear, or more descriptive, a small mushroom cap. The edges are thicker than the middle. You continue to form these little ears, and here's where it gets time-consuming. The recipe made about 330 little ears. That took some time to make them all, and I was quite unhappy that my back was giving me problems that day.

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Marcella says the best sauce for this pasta is the Brocolli and Anchovy Sauce. That's what I made. I loved the sauce-very interesting, complex flavor with the anchovy. But what I really loved was the pasta. Chewy, firm, wonderful texture. I will most definately be making this dough again. I will be asking Marcella for her input. When I don't have time to form all of those ears, I would like to put this dough through my pasta machine. Would this be an appropriate dough for a thick-cut noodle like tagliatelle?

If you're at all interested in learning more about the art of making pasta, buy this book. Marcella does a wonderful job of explaining all aspects-the doughs, the shapes, what sauce to pair with what pasta, etc.

It's now time to move on to the next chaper-Risotto!

July 29, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Risotto with Spring Vegetables, Tomato, and Basil

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If you've not been following our Pomodori E Vino blog, you've been missing out. My fellow comrades in Pomodori E Vino have been creating wonderful risottos. They've all looked so delicious. It is now my turn for a risotto, and another keeper it is. My version was Risotto with Spring Vegetables, Tomato, and Basil. In this version you saute chopped onion, carrot, celery, and zucchini. You take half of the softened vegetables out of the pan, and then add your rice and begin the stirring process. I used home-made meat broth that I had made previously and frozen. After 25 minutes of adding simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring non-stop, you add back in the other half of the cooked vegetables, diced tomato, and thawed frozen peas. When the rice is tender, you remove from the heat and stir in more butter and grated Parmesan cheese. When all is combined, you then mix in shredded basil.

I really enjoy risotto, and this recipe was another wonderful one. I loved the addition of the fresh tomato and basil. It really made this recipe more fresh and lighter-tasting. Wonderful for spring or summer.

Here's a close-up of the risotto. Can you tell how creamy it was?
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August 5, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Boiled Rice with Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Basil

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Today is the last recipe in the Risotto chapter of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This recipe is a rice recipe, not a risotto. But what a great way to end the chapter. If you like gooey cheese and rice, you'll love this dish. What comfort food. For this recipe, you boil rice in water. When al dente, you place it in a warm bowl and add shredded mozzarella cheese and stir. The heat from the rice makes a gooey stringy concoction. You then add grated Parmesan cheese, stir, then add butter and shredded basil leaves, and stir again.

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Here's a picture of the serving bowl. Makes you want to curl up in your pj's in front of the fireplace with a bowl of this in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, doesn't it?

August 12, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Proscuitto, and Parmesan Filling

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Don't you think that after making so many recipes out of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking I'd find one I don't like? Well, I don't think it's happened yet. It sure didn't happen with this recipe. Yum, it was so good.

Crespelle are basically crepes. Easy to make. They crepe can be made up to 3 days ahead. I made mine the night before. When you do that, this recipe comes together pretty quickly. The filling is sauteed onions, proscuitto, and spinach. Once that's cooked, you add paremesan and bechamel sauce. You fill the crespelle with the mixture, roll them up, and lay them in a single layer in a pan. You spread the remaining bechamel sauce over them, sprinkle with more parmesan, and dot with butter. Then you bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes, then place under a broiler until lightly browned.

I loved the saltiness of the proscuitto and paremsan, and the creaminess of the bechamel. The filling was so good I wondered if I would complete the dish. Somehow those crepes were disappearing into my mouth instead of going into the baking dish.

I think this will be a recipe I will make next time I have guests over for dinner. It's quick, easy and so good.
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August 19, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Frittata with Zucchini and Basil

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We've now moved on to the Frittate section of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My selection was a Frittata with Zucchini and Basil. I make frittate quite often, and also use zucchini in mine a lot. Although the basis of Marcella's recipe is similar to what I use, there are so differences that make her recipe much better-much creamier and richer-tasting.

First, for this dish you slowly saute sliced onions in olive oil very slowly until they are almost carmelized and a rich brown color. This is one of the big differences in flavor for me, because I love onions cooked this way. You next slice zucchini and add to the onions, and cook again until the zucchini is light brown. You then make the frittata by mixing together eggs, parmigiano-reggiano, the vegetable mixture and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into a skillet, and cook over low heat and cook until the eggs are set but the surface is still runny. You then place the skillet under a broiler to finish cooking the top of the eggs.

This can be served hot or at room temperature. Served with a salad and some fruit, this makes a nice light dinner or lunch. I saved my leftovers and had them for breakfast the next morning.

August 26, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Grilled Fish, Romagna Style

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Okay, I really didn't want to show you this picture. But I decided to anyway. Not everything is perfect.

This recipe is for a grilled fish recipe from Romagna, on the northern Adriatic shore. The area is famous for it's fish, which is usually marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, rosemary, and bread crumbs then grilled. Marcella's recipe called for any type of whole fish, or even fish steaks. I decided to use Yellow-eye, a type of Rockfish we catch here in Alaska.

While I don't have a before picture of this exact fish I grilled, here is a photo of me holding one my husband caught the same weekend out on our boat in Prince William Sound. The fish looks the same, except the one I am holding here is larger. It didn't seem so impressive to take a photo of me holding the smaller one that I caught.
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Okay, back to cooking the fish. The fish needed to be gutted and scaled. Scaling is a pain, and my husband decided that in the future, when I wanted to cook a whole fish, I could purchase one that's already been scaled. (He didn't like having to clean those scales from the boat because they stick like glue.) You wash and dry the fish, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. You then place it in a large dish, and add olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary. You coat the fish with this mixture, then add a coating of bread crumbs. After marinating for 1-2 hours, you place on the grill. Whether it was a mistake or not, I'm not sure, but I placed the fish on foil on my gas grill. The fish cooked nicely, but when it came time to turn the fish over to cook the other side, there was a problem. The fish stuck to the foil. I managed, but as you can see from the photo, the fish lost part of his skin and his tail (I tried putting that back in place. No such luck with the skin.).

Okay, the fish didn't look the best, but boy, did it taste good. The lemon and rosemary flavor really came through. Next time, I'll try the recipe using fish steaks. Should be a lot easier.

September 2, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Whole Fish with Mushrooms

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We're still in the fish chapter (just getting started really), and this is another week for me to cook a whole fish. This recipe was named Sauteed Snapper or Other Whole Fish with Mushrooms. The recipe called for snapper or sea bass. I decided to substitute salmon, as I had just caught some salmon and didn't want to purchase a different kind of fish.

In Alaska, there are several different types of salmon available. There is Chinook (King), Sockeye (Red) and Coho (Silver). There is another variety called Pink. This is the variety that you usually find canned in your grocery store. But Alaskan's are picky about their salmon, and most people won't keep any pinks they catch. I've always heard they're not as flavorful, and the texture is mushy. So we've usually thrown them back also. But I have to admit, the few times I have eaten them, I've really enjoyed them. They're much lighter in color, a light-pink flesh. And they are more mild-tasting, more similar to trout. But at least if cooked fresh, the texture is not soft or mushy. I had cooked one out on the grill the previous week with just olive oil, salt, pepper, and tarragon sprigs and thought it was delicious.

The day I decided to cook this recipe, we had just gotten back from a weekend of fishing in Prince William Sound. While I did catch a silver salmon, it was much too large to fit into a skillet for this recipe. I thought my 3 lb or so pink would do nicely. Until I went to place him in the pan. I had to cut him in half to fit in my largest pan. Oh well, when I plated him I placed the two halves together and covered the seam with mushrooms so you wouldn't notice.

Okay, back to the recipe. This was an absolutely delicious recipe that will be added to my recipes to make many times again. I was actually very surprised that it had as much flavor as it did. Here's what you do: For the mushrooms, you basically saute button mushrooms in olive oil, garlic, parsley and salt. When done, you set aside. The fish is a whole fish with head and tail left on, but scaled and gutted. You place olive oil and chopped onion in a skillet, and cook briefly. You then add chopped carrot and cook briefly again. You then add garlic cloves and cook a little more. Add parsley, bay leaf, white wine, and an anchovy. Cook briefly. You then place the fish in the pan, cook on one side about 8 minutes, turn it over and finish cooking. You then add the mushrooms to the pan and cook about another minute and serve.

Try this one, I know you'll like it. I think that the anchovy really adds a lot of flavor to this sauce.

September 9, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Baked Whole Fish Stuffed with Shellfish

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Is this a scarry picture or what? Sorry about that-it doesn't look so appetizing to eat here. I used Rock Fish, and it's just not a pretty fish.

I was really looking forward to making this recipe. It sounded delicious. Take a whole boned fish, stuff it with clams, mussels, shrimp, onions, lemon juice, and bread crumbs and bake. I went to the seafood store knowing that they always have fresh red snapper. That day they had none. The only appropriate-sized whole fish was an Alaskan Rock fish. Something we catch all of the time. I good, but rather mild white fish. I was impressed that the fishmonger was able to bone the whole fish. But I had negleted to bring Marcella's directions with me and he boned it not from the slit in the belly, but from the back. Even though I asked him to leave the head and tail on, he cut off the tail. As you can tell from the picture, he did not cut off the head. So I brought my fish home, and began preparing the dish. Wash and scrub the clams and mussels, and briefly cook until they open their shells. Remove the meat from the shells, and place in a bowl with garlic, sliced onion, shrimp, lemon juice, and olive oil and bread crumbs. Place in the fish cavity, and wrap in parchment paper. Bake until the fish is done, 35-45 minutes. I followed all directions except that my fish was a little smaller than the one called for. I wasn't going to use all of the filling since my fish was smaller, but it fit inside the fish just fine so I used it all. Okay, now the results-my first failure out of all of the recipes I've made. I'm not sure what happened, but the bread crumbs had just turned to the texture of paste. All of the beautiful shellfish wasted. Luckily it was only a girlfriend that was over for dinner, but we couldn't eat it. I thought about tyring to place it under a broiler to see if it would cook correctly, but I didn't think that would work. The fish was cooked perfectly, it was just the filling that was wrong. Luckily, we had started with a Caprese Salad, and had two wonderful side dishes you'll read about when we get to the vegetable section-Braised Artichokes and Peas and Fresh Mushrooms with Porcini, Rosemary, and Tomatoes.

Marcella, could you shed any light on what may have gone wrong?

September 16, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - All-Shellfish and Mollusks Soup

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Today, my recipe is a delicous soup of squid, clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops. Marcella didn't give any explanation of this recipe. It reminds me of a cioppino, but with less tomato. There is tomato in this recipe, but it's really the shellfish you taste here. So be sure and use good shellfish, or don't bother even making it.

For this recipe, you first need to clean squid. Marcella gives good directions on this, and if you think it's going to be too difficult, think again. It really goes quickly and is easy to do. And it's very intersting to see the structure of a squid. Many people just know the squid after it's been cut into rings for frying. You then wash and scrub your clams and mussels. You don't see any mussels in my photo, because my store didn't have any live ones the day I was there. So I just used double the amount of clams. After preparing your squid and shellfish, you're ready to begin cookihg. You saute chopped garlic and onion in olive oil, then add some chopped parsley and white wine. Then chopped canned tomatoes. After cooking that for a short period of time, you add your squid rings and tentacles, and cook until tender. The recipe said about 45 minutes, but mine was very tender by 30 minutes. You then add salt, pepper, and your clams and mussels. When the shellfish begin to open, you add shrimp and scallops. When the shellfish has completely opened, you're ready to eat. Place the soup in a bowl and serve with grilled bread.

As I mentioned earlier, this soup is all about the shellfish and mollusks. The other tastes are more subtle. I loved this soup, as I think it tastes just like the sea.

September 23, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Oven-Roasted Chicken with Galic and White Wine

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Well, as you saw from yesterday's post, we've completed the Fish chapter and have moved on to Chicken, Squab, Duck and Rabbit. A chapter I am very much looking forward to.

You've all heard me say that my freezer is stuffed with fish and shrimp, and I rarely purchase any other proteins. This is such a nice change from fish.

Today, the recipe was for Oven-Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary. And what another fantastic recipe this was. I used an organic chicken for this. My chicken was larger than what Marcella called for, but they didn't have any smaller chickens.


Here's what you do: Wash and dry your chicken. Place fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves in the cavity. Rub it all over with vegetable oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary leaves. Roast in a 375 degree F oven until done. The recipe said it would take 1 hour or more, and most likely because my chicken was larger, it took a lot longer than 1 hour. I didn't pay attention to how long it cooked. In the same roasting pan, I placed some very small new potatoes to roast in the pan juices. Yum!

I really liked several things about this recipe. First, it couldn't have been any simpler. Second, it was very moist. And third, the flavor of the rosemary and garlic really came through.

I've got to remember to roast chickens more often. And I had leftover chicken, which I turned into a delicous Chicken Vegetable Soup.

I'm leaving for a trip to Italy and France in a few days. While I was able to make some of my items in advance, Kim, our wonderful substitute, will be helping me out on some of my recipes while I'm gone. Stay tuned for her posts on Fricasseed Chicken with Egg and Lemon, and Messicani-Stuffed Veal Rolls with Ham, Parmesan, Nutmeg and White Wine.

October 7, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Rabbit with Rosemary and White Wine

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As you're reading this, I'm vacationing in Italy, hopefully enjoying some wonderful rabbit there. I made this recipe before I left, and it was such a wonderful recipe.

Marcella says that her father lived in town in Italy, but also had a farm. On his visits to the farm to inspect it, the peasant farmers would kill a chicken or rabbit and cook it for dinner. This recipe is the way they would cook the rabbit. It is a very simple recipe to make, and one that really brings out the flavor of the rabbit.

Oil, celery, garlic, and the cut up rabbit are all placed in a large saute pan, and the lid is placed on. The heat is turned to low, and the meat is occasionally turned. You cook it, stewing in its own juices, for about 2 hours. You then add white wine, rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper. Simmer briefly, then dissolve a bouillon cube and tomato paste in a little water, and add to the meat. Simmer another 15 minutes, turning the chicken a few times. And that's it!

To me, it was the addition of the tomato paste that really added flavor to this dish. It didn't overpower the dish, just added to the complexity with with rosemary and bouillon. If you've never had rabbit, give it a try. It is a very delicious thing!

October 14, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Veal Scaloppine with Marsala

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It's my turn to move on to veal. This recipe is another very simple recipe, with few ingredients-vegetable oil, butter, veal, flour, salt, pepper, and Marsala wine. In the Fundamentals chapter of her book, Marcella discusses Veal Scaloppine. She says the problem is finding a butcher who knows how to cut it properly. So she prefers to buy a solid piece of meat, a top round, and cut and pound it yourself. I bought the veal top round, and followed her directions for slicing the meat across the grain, then pounding it thin so it will cook quickly and evenly. I don't know if I did it perfectly, but it seemed to work nicely.

So back to the recipe. You heat butter and oil in a skillet. When hot, you dredge both sides of the scaloppine in flour, shake off the excess, and place in the skillet. Brown about 30 seconds on each side. Remove from pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and continue cooking pieces until all of the meat is cooked.

You then turn the heat to high, add Marsala wine, and deglaze the pan. Add a little butter, and place the scaloppine back in the skillet. Turn them a couple of times to coat them with the sauce, and that's it-they're ready to enjoy.

I served mine with a green salad, and a celery risotto. Very quick, and very delicious.

October 28, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Veal Stew with Sage, White Wine, and Cream

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Okay, it's my last veal recipe. Another chapter I've really enjoyed. Today, it's Veal Stew. I had pieces of veal shoulder in my freezer from another recipe-I think it was a filling for ravioli.

For this recipe, you heat vegetable oil and butter. You then toss the veal pieces with flour, shake off the excess, then add them to the hot oil/butter. You brown until a deep brown, then remove the meat from the pan.

You then add a little chopped onion and sage leaves in the pan. The recipe calls for dried whole leaves. I couldn't find any whole leaves, but I found dried that wasn't rubbed, so it was in pretty large pieces. Cook until the onion is golden, then add the meat back to the pan, along with some white wine, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 45 minutes. You then add a little heavy cream, turn the heat to low, and cook another 30 minutes. A nice thing about this recipe is that Marcella says it can be made several days in advance.

I served mine with a nice Israeli couscous, that I cooked in chicken stock with a little sauteed onion and celery. I was planning on serving the stew with polenta until I discovered I was out. We loved the stew. The sage flavor is quite strong, so you need to like sage, but what a great combination of veal, sage, and cream.

November 4, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Pan-Broiled Thin Beef Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives

You've now seen two posts from the Beef Chapter, but this is my first. It's always exciting to move on to a new chapter. I like beef, but I don't eat it often. As I've mentioned in other posts, my freezer is too full of fish and shrimp to buy too many sources of other proteins. So this is a very nice change of pace for me.

My first recipe was a very quick and simple recipe-Pan-Broiled Thin Beef Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives.

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Marcellas states that the beef slices are very thin, and made even thiner by pounding them before cooking. This makes them cook very quickly. I used a boneless chuck, and cut the steaks myself, then flattened them.

The sauce is made by slowly cooking sliced onions in olive oil until a pale golden color. Sliced garlic is then added, and then tomatoes and oregano. This simmers about 15 minutes, then salt, pepper, and Greek black olives are added.

Next, a heavy skillet is heated until it's very hot, rubbed with some oil, then the thin beef steaks are added. They cook very quickly until just browned on each side.

The meat is then placed in the pan with the sauce, turned over to coat, and placed on a platter to serve.

I really enjoyed this recipe. I don't know that I've ever pounded beef pieces to thin them out. (I know, just like my veal, I probably didn't get them thin enough.) It's a great way to have a piece of meat that cooks in seconds or minutes. And the sauce is flavorful with the slowly cooked onions and flavorful Greek olives. I'd definately add this recipe to the file to make again.

November 11, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Beef Roast Braised with Onions

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The past two days you've read about two wonderful-sounding beef roast recipes from Marcella. The first was cooked in Red Wine (Deborah used a Barolo) and yesterday Doug used an Amorone. Beef and red wine make such a great pairing. I have another Beef Roast recipe for you to try. And it's one that is so simple, and only has 4 ingredients (not counting the salt and pepper). No wine involved (except for you to drink along with the beef). It's Beef Roast Braised with Onions. This recipe calls for cooking a beef roast, preferably a brisket. The store I was in at the time didn't have brisket, but they did have chuck roast, so that's what I used. The other ingredients are pancetta, cloves, and ontions. Doesn't this sound easy?

Okay, there does have to be a catch. The recipe calls for cutting the pancetta into narrow strips and either using a larding needle to lard the meat, or using a chopstick to push the pancetta into the roast. I don't have a larding needle, and I hate to admit it, but I don't think I've seen one and I don't plan on buying one.So I used a very sturdy chopstick, which I pushed into the roast to create a hole, then I used again to push the pancetta into that hole. It seemed like a lot of work. It probably didn't take much time, but I was busy and behind in work I needed to get done the day I made this, so it seemed like it took a long time. Once that was done, it was a breeze. Stud the roast with the cloves (okay, Marcella, I have a really BIG confession to make-I forgot the cloves!), thinly slice onions, and then place the onions in the bottom of a heavy pot. I used a new enameled cast-iron pot I just bought at Costco that I was anxious to try. (by the way, I love it, and it only cost $50). Back to the recipe. What makes this recipe unique is that there is no liquid added to the pot. The roast is just braised with the juices that come out of the onions. And my onions were very juicy, so there was quite a bit of liquid.

Again, back to the recipe. Place the roast on top of the sliced onions, scatter a little of the sliced pancetta on top of the onions, and place your roast on top. Tightly cover, and cook for about 3 1/2 hours.

The onions turn a dark carmelized brown, and the meat absorbs that wonderful caramelly, onion flavor. When my husband tasted it, he exclaimed that it was one of the best meat dishes he has ever had! It was so tender, and as I just mentioned, really absorbed the onion flavor. But not a harsh onion flavor, but instead, that softened flavor that only comes from really slow cooking. I'm sure if I had remembered the clove, it might have even tasted better than it did.

This will get added to my recipe file of one of the easiest but most flavorful roasts to cook. And the next evening, I shredded the leftovers, added a little beef broth to make more of a gravy, and served it over polenta. Another great dish that had us almost licking the plate.

November 18, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Bollito Misto - Mixed Boiled Meats

Okay, it's time for Bollito Misto. If you've never heard of it, you're probably not alone. This is dissapearing very quickly from restaurants. You still might be able to find it in a few restaurants in Northern Italy. Evidently, it is an interesting affair, where they wheel a steam trolley to your table, and the waiter spears out various meats.

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Marcella says this recipe serves 18. I sure didn't have 18 people to serve, so I cut the recipe down a little, although I kept in all of the ingredients. And what are those ingredients? How about a beef tongue, boneless beef chuck, veal breast with short ribs, a chicken, and a cotechino sausage. That is a lot of meat, isn't it? Well, there was no veal breast to be found within an hour of Anchorage, and I couldn't find anyone to order it for me. So I had to substitute veal shanks. That means there wasn't much veal meat, but the veal bones added a lot of flavor to the wonderful broth. I thought I'd never find a Cotechino Sausage, but when I walked into our one Italian market, and there one set.

Here's what you do for the recipe. In a stockpot you combine a couple of carrots, celery stalks, an onion, red bell pepper, and a potato. Bring to a boil, then add the beef chuck and beef tongue ( a very tasty piece of meat, but one I don't care to look at, at least before it's been cooked and the skin peeled off), and tomatoes. You simmer this for about 1 hour, and then take out that lovely tongue and peel off the skin. You then return that to the pot, and add the veal, and simmer for another 1 3/4 hours. You then add the whole chicken to the pot (can you tell you need a REALLY big pot?). You also add salt, and cook until the chicken is very tender at least 1 hour. You cook the cotechino separately. I don't know if this is normal, but my cotechino sausage, which was imported from Italy, came sealed in a foil pouch and you just drop it in boiling water for 20 minutes. And somehow, it's not refrigerated before you cook it!

Marcella says that a platter piled high with all of these meats is impressive to look at, but the meats dry out quickly. So it's better to keep it in the broth, and quickly pull out each piece of meat before serving. She suggests serving this with an assortment of sauces, of which I planned on making two-Piquant Green Sauce and Horseradish Sauce. I made the Piquant Green Sauce (Salsa Verde), which is a mixture of parsley, capers, anchovy fillets(optional), mustard, red wine vinegar, salt, and olive oil all blended together. My husband went to the grocery store for me, and brought home what they told him was horseradish. It wasn't-it was daikon radish. So no horseradish sauce.

I am very happy to say that I am one who has now made an authentic Bollito Misto. The meats were as tender as could be, and the broth was delicious. I'll be freezing that for making risotto later. The meats were good sliced with the Salsa Verde on top.

I served the Bollito Misto a second way. I cooked some potatoes, turnips, and carrots in some of the broth until tender. I placed the vegetables, meat, and broth in a bowl and served it this way. It kept the meat more tender this way, as it was always sitting in that flavorful broth.

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I have my doubts as I'll ever make a full Bollito Misto again. It was quite expensive-that little cotechino sausage cost me $20! And it makes a huge quantity. And it takes a lot of time to make. I might just make a paired-down version with less meat. But I know I will think differently now when I hear anything about "boiled meats". It used to conjur up an image of unflavorful, unappealing meats. Now I know differently, and that image will be replaced with succulent, tender meats in a most flavorful broth.

Thank you, Marcella, for including a recipe for a dish that is dying out. It is a dish that I would have never made if I had stumbled upon the recipe, and I am so glad that I am one of the few who has now discovered the charm of Bollito Misto.

November 25, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Lamb Stew with Ham and Red Bell Pepper

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The recipe I've made for today is Lamb Stew with Ham and Red Bell Pepper. Marcella says this recipe is different than most Italian stews in that it starts out a crudo-the meat and the oil is heated up together along with garlic, rosemary and sage. The temperature is kept very hot until the meat is well-browned, about 15 minutes. You then add white wine, salt and pepper. The pan is mostly covered, the heat turned down, and the stew simmers for about 1 1/2 hours until the lamb is tender.

You next skin a red bell pepper, and cut it into strips. This, along with strips of boiled unsmoked ham, are added to the stew, and cooked briefly. The pepper softens, but still keeps it fresh taste.

I have to admit I had to use a different cut of meat than Marcella called for. The recipe calls for lamb shoulder. I waited too long to have the butcher order it for me, so I had to have them recommend the closest substitution. They suggested leg of lamb. I don't know my meats very well, so I don't know if this was a close proximation or not. They cut me off 3 pounds, and used their saw to cut it into 2" cubes with the bone in as called for. The stew was very flavorful, and the addition of the ham, and especially the red pepper, is what really made this taste special. The brightness of the pepper made a difference in the overall flavor. I'm not a huge lamb fan, as it is often too gamey-tasting for me. But this way of cooking it made a nice stew for a cold Alaskan evening.

December 2, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Stewed Pork with Porcinin Mushrooms and Juniper

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Today's recipe is Stewed Pork with Porcinin Mushrooms and Juniper. I was really looking forward to making this recipe. I've had a jar of juniper berries in my spice cabinet that have only been used once, when making a rabbit dish. Time to make another recipe calling for them.

Marcella says that the fragrances from this dish - porcinin mushrooms, juniper berries, marjoram, and bay, are usually associated with furred game. She also recommends serving this with soft polenta.

To begin the recipe, you lightly crush the juniper berries to release their flavors. In a saute pan, the pork shoulder, which has been cut into cubes, is browned in hot olive oil. When all is browned, the meat is removed from the pan, and chopped onion is added and cooked until it turns golden brown. White wine and red wine vinegar are added, along with the juniper berries, chopped anchovies, porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid, marjoram, bay leaf, and salt and pepper. The heat is turned down, and the stew simmers for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is tender.

I made this dish a couple of days in advance of serving it, so you see the photo of the meat by itself and not with the polenta. This meat was delicious. So tender. Make sure you have enough juice in the pan, because you want plenty of pan sauce. I kept tasting this, and it just doesn't taste like pork. But I never could figure out what I thought it tasted like, or what spices I was tasting. I think my juniper berries might be past their prime, as there wasn't much of that flavor I could distinguish. I will be making this recipe again, as I really liked the flavors. And it's easy to make, and it's nice to have a recipe you can make 2 or 3 days in advance.

December 9, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Pork Sausages with Red Wine and Porcini Mushrooms

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Today's recipe is Pork Sausages with Red Wine and Porcini Mushrooms. I don't cook or eat sausages very often. While they might taste good, they are often very fatty, and just not worth the calories that they contain. If you're in the mood for sausages, and want to try a really good recipe, then try this one.

Both my husband and I love porcini mushrooms. On our trip to Italy this fall, we brought back a couple of bags of really nice, large, high-quality ones that I was anxious to use. They were perfect in this dish.

The recipe calls for mild pork sausage, containing no herbs or strong spices. You know, the kind that you just can't seem to find in America. I used a sausage that was made fresh from a local place that makes sausages, but they did contain spices. Quite a bit of paprika, unfortunately. But you make do with what you can...

You brown the sausages well in olive oil. Then you add some red wine, and cook until the wine is evaporated. You then add reconstituted porcini mushrooms, along with the liquid they were soaking in (which you've strained several times to get out the grit that's always there). After this is added, you slowly simmer until the liquid has evaporated. That's it! It couldn't be any easier. I served mine over mashed potatoes. What a very good, comforting meal this was. Thanks, Marcella, for another simple, but delicious recipe to try.

December 16, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Chicken Livers with Sage and White Wine

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Marcella, you must forgive me this week. There is only one food that I know I really dislike, and that is liver. Beef liver, chicken liver, it doesn't matter. Well, except I do love foie gras. Give me tripe (I've only had it once, in Florence, Italy, and it was delicious), or oxtail, or beef tongue, but liver I just do not like.

But, I knew if there was ever a time I would like it, it would be with one of Marcella's recipes. Okay, the recipe didn't change my mind about liking liver, but if you do like chicken livers, you will love this recipe. It's very easy and quick to make.

You saute finely diced onion in a little butter until the onions are golden. You then add sage leaves and the chicken livers, and cook, turning often, until the livers are no longer that raw, red color. Then you remove them from the pan, add a little white wine, simmer for a minute then add the liver back to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, turn a couple of times, and that's eat-they're ready to eat.

I discovered that if you like liver, chicken livers are very inexpensive. 3/4 of a pound cost me less than $1.50. So I didn't feel so bad, after my 3 small bites, to put them down the garbage disposal. Well, I did save a little for my dog, who thought they were the best thing she's ever tasted.

Next week, when you read my post, you'll no longer be reading about the interesting variety meats. We will be moving on to vegetables. I can't believe all of the recipes we've made so far. We started with our first post on March 28th. We've worked our way through appetizers, soups, pasta, risotto, gnocchi, crespelle, polenta, frittate, fish and shellfish, chicken, squab, duck, and rabbit, veal, beef, lamb, pork and as you know, we're currently on variety meats. Amazing. Next up is vegetables, then we'll have salads, desserts, and focaccia, pizza, bread and other special doughs. The last recipe will be posted on June 5th. I can't wait to read about more of the wonderful recipes we're all cooking. Thank you again, Marcella, for the work you put into Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and the comments/suggestions you've been providing us with over the past 9 months.

December 23, 2010

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Braised Artichokes and Peas

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Today is the first recipe in the Vegetable chapter of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I think you'll really like this chapter, and there are many recipes for cooking vegetables in ways you've probably never cooked them.

Today, my recipe is Braised Artichokes with Peas. This was a very simple and delicious recipe. Simple, as long as you don't mind dealing with a fresh artichoke. One of the really helpful aspects of this cookbook is that Marcella goes into great detail about how to work with the basic ingredients. In this case, how to clean and prepare an artichoke. In this recipe, after you've done that, you place chopped onion and olive oil in a pan and cook until the onion is lightly golden. You then add garlic, and again cook until lightly golden. You then add the artichoke that's been cut in wedges and some water, cover the pot, and simmer until the artichokes are tender. At this point, you add the peas (I had to use frozen as there was no fresh available), and cook about 5 mintues. Finish with salt and pepper.

January 1, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Artichoke Torta in a Flaky Crust

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As those of you know who are following our blog, we are working our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking in order. This means that some of the dishes we will have made months ahead of our posting, so that we can use ingredients when they are in season. This torta is one of those things that I made over 6 months ago, in the springtime when artichokes were in season.

Marcella says that the pastry shell for this torta is unusual because it uses ricotta cheese in it instead of eggs. That ingredient makes it a little lighter, and very flaky.

For this torte, you saute onions and carrots until soft. You then add the trimmed artichokes and cook until tender. The filling also has ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and eggs. The pastry crust is rolled into 2 circles. One piece is placed in a springform pan, the filling is added, and it's all topped with the second pie crust. The torte is baked until browned. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

The flavor of this torte was really good, but I learned a good lesson in making this. When you trim your artichokes, following the detailed instructions Marcella provides you with, make sure you remove ALL of the leaves that might be tough. I was afraid I was paring my artichoke down to nothing, and I left too many of the tough leaves. This meant that eating this torte was a unique experience-we were having to spit out many of the tough leaves that I mistakenly had included. Luckily, I did not serve this dish to anyone except my husband.

I loved the flavor of this, and if you love artichokes you should give it a try. Just make sure you get all of the tough leaves off.
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(I wanted to show you the inside of the torte, but please forgive this terrible photo.)

January 12, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Asparagus and Proscuitto Bundles

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Today is another recipe using Aspargus. Who wouldn't love this recipe-asparagus, proscuitto, and cheese. The recipe is very simple to make, but very elegant to look at. You trim and boil your asparagus until tender. You then take a piece of proscuitto, lay 3 asparagus spears on top, then top with Italian fontina or parmigiano-reggiano. Top with a little butter, then wrap the proscuitto tightly around the asparagus spears. Top with 2 criss-cross slices of cheese, more butter, and bake for 20 minutes.

Marcella explains that you should use a flavorful Italian fontina, and if you can't find that you can substitute parmigiano-reggiano. She says if you do that, you should also substitute boiled unsmoked ham for the proscuitto so the dish won't be overly salty. I did have to use parmesiano-reggiano, but I knew my proscuitto wasn't too salty, so I used it, and boy, was it delicious. I was sorry I didn't have any lefttovers for later, but I have no doubt that I will be making this simple but elegant side-dish again in the future.

January 13, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Broccoli with Olive Oil and Garlic

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This vegetable chapter is so easy compared to other chapters we've cooked through! A nice break in that weekly recipe challenge. Today, the recipe is Sauteed Broccoli with Olive Oil and Garlic. Another recipe that couldn't be easier or more tasty. I eat a lot of broccoli, and normally, I would either steam it or saute it. In this recipe, you boil it until tender then saute it. Oops, let me back up. You need to start by preparing your broccoli. That means washing, then paring off the tough stem on the main stalk. Some people cut this away entirely, but it's my favorite part of broccoli. So using a paring knife, just peel off all of the touch outer layer, leaving a nice tender stalk. If the stalks are large, cut them, with the florets attached, into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.

You then bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, then boil the broccoli until tender, maybe 5 minutes or so. Then drain. You can do this step ahead of time if you choose. Next you put some olive oil and finely chopped garlic in a saute pan, and cook until garlic begins to color, then add the broccoli, salt, and chopped parsley. Oops, I didn't realize there was parsley in this recipe until I was in the process of cooking it. Guess what I didn't have? Parsley. Once you add the broccoli, you just cook for a couple of minutes and that's it. Delicious, tender broccoli with a nice garlic flavor.

If you're one that has only had brown, over-cooked broccoli and don't think you like it, give this recipe a try. It will change your mind, and broccoli might become one of your favorite vegetables.

January 20, 2011

Essential of Classic Italian Cooking - Fried Cauliflower Wedges with Egg and Bread Crumb Batter

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It's cauliflower time! And fried cauliflower at that! Rarely do I fry anything. I've had a deep-fryer for at least 5 years, and I've used it twice. Once to make Pumpkin Doughnuts for a Daring Bakers challenge, and the second time was for this Fried Cauliflower.

On to the recipe. You boil cauliflower until tender, drain, and cut the florets into wedges. Those wedges are then dipped in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. They are then fried. Even though I used a deep-fryer, Marcella just calls for a frying pan.

These were extremely easy to make, and delicious. I think it's important to use home-made breadcrumbs, not the ones out of the can. I might not have had the breadcrumbs as fine as they should have been, but they created a wonderful, crunchy coating on the cauliflower that was so good. Sprinkled with a little course sea salt, yum!!!

January 27, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Tegliata di Biete - Swiss Chard Torte with Raisins and Pine Nuts

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All I can tell you is you have to make this recipe!!! It is one of my favorites. I had a similar recipe given to me a couple of years ago, and loved it, and Marcella's recipe is even better. This recipe originates from the Venice area. It's a vegetable pie that contains swiss chard, onions, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, golden raisins, and eggs to bind it all together. It's topped with bread crumbs (again, you must use ones you have made, not the ones from a can), which give it a nice crunch.

The recipe begins by adding sliced chard leaves to boiling water, and cooking until tender. Those are then drained, and chopped into very small pieces. You then saute onions in olive oil until light brown, add the chard, and cook for a couple of minutes. Put that in a large bowl, and then add the grated Parmesan cheese, eggs, pine nuts and raisins. This mixture is spread in a spring-form pan, topped with bread crumbs and drizzled with some olive oil, then baked.

I think what I like so much about this recipe is the combination of the sweet and salty. Sweet from the golden raisins, salty from the cheese. As I said before, you just have to make it. I could have easily eaten that entire recipe myself, but somehow I showed some restraint.

February 3, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Baked Escarole Torta

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I made this recipe back at the beginning of November. I recieved some escarole in my CSA box, and thought I'd give this a try. I know I'd used escarole in a soup before, but it's not something I've had many times. Marcella says it's related to chicory, and says that the bland flavor it has when raw develops and turns into a tart, earthy flavor when cooked.

This recipe, called a torta, is a bread dough shell, filled with a filling of the cooked escarole, which is mixed with other savory ingredients. It is like a stuffed pizza.

You start by making the bread dough. It's a simple dough that contains flour, salt, black pepper, yeast, water and olive oil (or lard). The dough rises a couple of hours, and in the meantime you can make the filling. The filling contains the escarole, which is boiled to cook it first, garlic, capers, black Greek olives, anchovies, and pine nuts.

When the dough has risen, you divide it. 2/3 you roll into a round and place in a buttered spring-form pan. The filling is then placed inside, then the remaining dough is rolled out and then placed on top. The seams are sealed, and it's then placed in a hot oven to bake.

I loved the dough, and I will most certainly make that again. The filling was very flavorful, but it just wasn't my favorite. Not sure why. If you like the ingredients the filling contains, then by all means give this recipe a try. I can't wait to think of other things I will fill this with. It's a pretty presentation, and can be served hot or at room temperature.

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February 10, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Fresh Mushrooms with Porcinin, Rosemary, and Tomatoes

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If you like mushrooms, you really need to make this recipe. It contains fresh mushrooms, but the flavor addition of dried porcinis is what really puts it over the top.

For this recipe, you saute in olive oil garlic, rosemary andhte reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms. You then add the fresh mushrooms and cook until they're given up their juices and that has boiled away. You then add Italian plum tomatoes with their juice, turn the heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes. That's it. Great as a side dish, but would also be great to top pasta with.

February 16, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Potato Croquettes with Crisp-Fried Noodles

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I just read Doug's post for the Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan Cheese. I cannot imagine not loving mashed potatoes! This recipe was the base for my recipe for the Potato Croquettes. I made the mashed potatoes first, and was afraid there would be no potatoes left to make the croquettes. Somehow my spoon kept sneaking into the bowl and then into my mouth.

For this recipe, you make the mashed potatoes, then mix in an egg yolk. You scoop out small balls of the potatoes, then roll them in a mixture of flour and crushed very thin noodles. Then you fry them. Very simple, unless you're like me and thought you had an ingredient you didn't. I had asked my husband to go to the store for me and pick up a few items. One of those things was angel hair pasta. I have tons of different pastas in the house, but none that thin. The problem was I rewrote the shopping list for him, and somehow left off the pasta. So when I had the mashed potatoes done and was mixing up the coating, there was no pasta in my grocery sack. So I scrambled trying to figure out what to do. I had some orzo. It was about the right length, and I thought would be thin enough. It wasn't. Don't make these with orzo. When you fry the croquettes, the pasta won't cook properly and the pasta will be too crunchy. This was no fault of Marcella's, it was my mistake. I think these would have been delicious otherwise. How can you go wrong with mashed potatoes and a fried crunchy coating?

I made these last night, and had no time to make them again today with the correct pasta. Forgive me Marcella for making a mistake with your recipe. I guess that will happen to all of us at some point in time. But boy, were those mashed potatoes good!

February 24, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Traviso Radicchio with Bacon

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Wow, I was almost late with this post. I made this months ago, but couldn't find any photos, and just realized that last night. So today, I drove around Anchorage trying to find ridicchio. It seems very few of the grocery stores carry it anymore.

The first time I made this recipe, I didn't care for it. It's not the recipe I didn't like, I just don't care for radicchio. It's too bitter for me. Marcella says that if your radicchio is bitter, you can substitute Belgian endive for part of the radicchio. Well, guess what I couldn't find in any stores in Anchorage-Belgian endive.

So I made the recipe again using all radicchio, the more common round variety. You trim the radicchio, clean it, cut it in wedges, and set it aside. You then cut bacon into narrow strips and saute that in a very small amount of olive oil until the fat is melted but the bacon is not crisp. Then add the raddichio to the pan with the bacon, cover, and cook about 30 minutes until tender, turning occasionally.

The result was better than the first time I made it. Who can resist a vegetable cooked with smoky, salty bacon. But unfortunately for me, that still doesn't make up for the bitter taste of radicchio. I did find that I could eat the very center, where it was less bitter. One of these days I'd like to find a radicchio that isn't too bitter. I even tried growing it my garden one year, and that unfortunately, wasn't even edible. Even though radicchio isn't my vegetable of choice, if it's something you like, you'll be sure to enjoy this recipe. It's simple, flavorful, and a much tastier than a simple steamed vegetable.

March 3, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Zucchini Rounds with Onions

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I love zucchini. Every year I try to grow it in my garden with no success. I'm not sure why. Last year I got blooms, but they just developed into tiny zucchini and that was it. I would love to be able to go out to my garden and pick fresh zucchini. It has such a better flavor and texture than the ones I often purchase in the grocery store.

I had every intention on making this dish this summer when I had access to locally grown zucchini (from a farmer's market, sadly not my garden). But for some reason, I never made it. So this week, I had to resort to the zucchini from the grocery store. Unfortunately, it was not as fresh as I would have liked, but the recipe still turned out very good.

It's a simple recipe. Saute sliced onion in butter until light brown, add thinly sliced zucchini, and cook until tender and light brown around the edges. It's only seasoned with salt. For those of you who have never cooked zucchini this way, you wonder if it could be a little bland. It's absolutely not, it's sublime (can I use that word to describe a vegetable?). The flavors of the golden onion really meld into the zucchini. I cook my zucchini like this a lot, but have always used olive oil instead of butter. I think the butter adds another element here. When cooked slowly with the onion, the nutty flavor really shines through. So as soon as you can get your hands on some good zucchini, give this dish a try. It just might become your new favorite vegetable.

March 10, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Mixed Baked Vegetable Platter

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Wow, this is my last post in the vegetable chapter. This chapter went by fast. The recipe today is Mixed Baked Vegetable Platter. This is a very simple side dish. Potatoes are washed and cut into wedges, peppers are cut into wedges and peeled, and tomatoes and onions are cut. These are all tossed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked into a 400 degree oven until all is tender.

I cook vegetables like this all of the time, but each time I follow Marcella's directions, I learn something new. I've never peeled my bell peppers before baking or roasting. It's really easy with a vegetable peeler, and not having the skin on them makes them so much more pleasant to eat, and it's easier than peeling after they're cooked. This side dish would go well with so many entrees. I will be making it again with the Roasted Chicken.

March 17, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Shredded Savoy Cabbage Salad

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Today is my first salad post. The salad is a very simple one - Shredded Savoy Cabbage Salad. One thing that is a little different about this salad is the way you infuse a subtle garlic scent to the salad. You take a couple of crusts of bread, and rub crushed garlic on them. You then place that bread in a bowl along with shredded Savoy cabbage, and let it sit for about 1 hour. Then, you remove the bread, and toss the cabbage with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little red wine vinegar. That's it! If you like cabbage, and want a simple healthy salad, this one's for you.

March 24, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Asparagus Salad

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You're probably realizing by now that most Italian salads are very simple. Here's another one to add to your files - Asparagus Salad. Marcella says that when asparagus is at it's peak in Italy, the favorite way to serve it is boiled, as a salad. She says to serve this salad while it's still lukewarm.

You begin by prepping your asaragus. Wash it, cut off the bottom tough 1" or so of the stems, then peel the bottom part of the stalk. This leaves just the tender asparagus. You then boil the asparagus until tender, then drain. After it's well drained, you salt and pepper it, coat it generously with olive oil, and sprinkle on some red wine vinegar. Then you eat and enjoy!

March 31, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Boiled Zucchini Salad

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I love zucchini. It's one of my favorite vegetables. When I saw the name of this salad though-it just didn't excite me - Boiled Zucchini Salad. I'm not sure why it didn't sound very good. But I was wrong. It was another simple salad where the taste of the vegetable really shines.

You boil whole small zucchini until they're tender. Drain them, slice the ends off, and cut in half. Then rub the cut surfaces with smashed garlic cloves. After the zucchini has drained, you drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and chopped Italian parsley. That's it. Another one for you to try. Just make sure you wait until you can get fresh, tender zucchini - you'll enjoy it more that way.

April 7, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Bolognese Rice Cake

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It's time for my first dessert - Bolognese Rice Cake. When reading through the desserts I would be cooking, this one intrigued me. Marcella says that in Bologna, this cake used to only be made at Easter. There was much discussion over who's cake was the most authentic and the tasted the best. She says that this recipe was given to her by the Simili sisters, two well-known Bolognese bakers.

The recipe is quite different from any I have made. You cook milk, lemon peel, sugar and a small amount of Arborio rice in a saucepan for at least 2 1/2 hours. It becomes a dense, pale-brown mushy mixture. I must have had my simmer too low, because I cooked mine about 3 or 3 1/2 hours before it became this consistency. You then beat together eggs, and then fold in the mushy rice/milk mixture, chopped almonds, and candied citron. This is then poured into a cake pan and baked. When the cake is done, the top is poked with a fork and rum is poured over.

Marcella says to not eat it for at least 24 hours, and if it matures for 2 to 3 days it just gets better. I totally agree. I tasted mine before the 24 hour time frame, and it was just okay. The rum was too strong and the flavors didn't really blend together. By the 3rd day, the citron had softened, and the flavors melded together. I'm not sure what to compare this cake to-a rice pudding or a flan? Sort of, but not really. It's an interesting cake. I don't know if I would make it again, but I enjoyed it very much.

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April 14, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Zuccotto

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Today's dessert comes from Florence. It's called Zuccotto, and is a dome-shaped dessert. It's a very easy dessert to make, and the result is very beautiful to look at.

You line a bowl with pieces of purchased pound cake that have been sliced, then cut into triangular pieces. It you do it right you'll end up with a really pretty pattern on the outside of the dessert. You sprinkle the pound cake with a liqueur mixture (Cognac, Maraschino liqueur, and Cointreau). You then toast some almonds and hazelnuts, and chop some semi-sweet chocolate. Next, whip heavy cream. Stir in the nuts and chocolate, and spread half of this mixture into the pound cake-lined bowl, making a well in the center. Then you melt some chocolate, and stir that into the other half of the whipped cream. Fill the well in the center of the bowl with this chocolate whipped cream. You finish by lining the top with more pound cake. Refrigerate for a few hours, unmold, and that's it.

The result was a very light-tasting but rich concoction. As with most Italian recipes, the ingredient list is short, and the flavors of each come through. So be sure and use good liqueur, good chocolate, etc. You'll impress your guests with this one.

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(This is not a very good photo, but we were all in too big of a hurry to taste it!)

April 21, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Polenta Shortcake with Raisins, Dried Figs, and Pine Nuts

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This was one of the desserts I was really looking forward to trying. I love cakes, and Marcella's description made me look forward to it even more. She said this cake is a local specialty of Venice. During Venice's trading days with the Near East, they obtained ingredients such as the nuts and dried fruits that are ingredients in this cake.

The cake is a mixture of course cornmeal, olive oil, butter,sugar, pine nuts, raisins, dried figs, egg, fennel seed, and flour. It's a very easy cake to mix up, then the cake bakes for about 45 minutes. It's a pretty dense, rich cake, nicely served with a spoonful of whipped cream. I loved the flavor of the fennel seeds with the dried fruits and nuts. The only thing that I didn't love was the texture. I like a mealy texture of cornbread cakes, but maybe my cornbread was too coarse for this. The brand I used looked pretty coarse, so I even used the medium grind. But it was still very granular in the cake. Oh well, it tasted good, so that's the main concern.

April 28, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Zuppa Inglese

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Zuppa Inglese is a dessert that is pound cake that's soaking in a custard cream. Marcella says that it resembles the bread soaking in peasant soups, so that is why it is called a Zuppa. But why Inglese is in the title is not known. She says this recipe is based on the dense version they make in Emilia-Romagna. The recipe calls for pound cake to be drizzled with Alchermes, a lightly spicy liqueur with a flowery scent, that's red in color and gets that color from the bodies of dried cochineal bugs. But it's not available outside of Italy, so she suggests a mixture of rum, Cognac, Dramuie, and Cherry Heering. The pound cake is sliced, brushed with the alcohol mixutre, and placed in a deep dish. This is topped with a custard cream, and then another layer of pound cake is placed on top. You then melt some chocolate, and mix that in with the remaining custard cream. This is spread over the pound cake, another layer of pound cake is added, and then it's topped with the last of the chocolate custard cream. You can top this off with toasted almonds if you choose. This mixture is refrigerated for at least 2 or 3 hours, and then served chilled. I made mine in individual bowls instead of one large serving bowl. It was quite good. Just make sure and use a combination of liqueurs that you like, as the flavor of the alcohol comes through quite strong.

May 5, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Baked Apples with Amaretti Cookies

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Today, my dessert was Baked Apples with Amaretti Cookies. I loved this recipe! They were so good. The recipe is quite simple to make. Core some apples, leaving the very bottom intact. Fill with a mixture of crushed amaretti cookies and soft butter. Sprinkle over some sugar, place in a baking dish, then pour over a mixture of water and white wine. Bake 45 minutes. When done, reduce the liquid to a syrup, and pour over the apples. Yum! Even without whipped cream or ice cream, they were so good. I'm very happy the recipe made 4, as tomorrow night we get to have them again.

May 12, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Strawberry Gelato

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Today's recipe is Strawberry Gelato. I love gelato. While I love ice cream also, gelato usually tastes more intensely of the fresh fruit it's made from. This recipe definately follows that, so be sure and use flavorful, fresh strawberries.

I was really anxious to try this recipe because it only contains 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream and no eggs. I'm used to making home-made ice cream and using a couple of cups of cream and 1/2 dz or so egg yolks. Not the most healthy thing to eat. This gelato was less rich than a heavy ice-cream, but as I mentioned earlier, it's all about the flavor of strawberries.

For this recipe, you puree strawberries and sugar in a food processor, then add some water and puree more. You then mix this in with lightly whipped heavy cream, and then process in your ice-cream maker. It couldn't get any easier than this! I can't wait to try this with other berries also.

May 19, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Granita--Coffee Ice with Whipped Cream

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Marcella says that this treat used to be very popular in Italian cafes, but is now rarely found She talks about how it's crystals melt on your tongue. Well, you've got to try this one, because the texture was amazing.

You make stong espresso. One thing I will warn you about is be careful not to make it so strong that it becomes very bitter, like mine did. You then mix in a little sugar, pour it into an ice cube tray, and freeze. When ready to serve, you place the frozen cubes in a food processor and blend away. You end up with this almost dry crystally texture that is so refreshing. Oh, I forgot, before serving you top with a little whipped cream.

I loved the texture of this so much I'm wondering if you will end up with the same texture with citrus juice. Can't wait to try it with lemons and oranges.

My last dessert recipe from the book, and only two more recipes to go. Wow, it's been over a year since we started this project...

May 26, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sfinciuni - Palermo's Stuffed Pizza

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Wow, I can't believe I only have one recipe after this one left to finish out our Pomodori E Vino project. What an experience this has been.

And how great to finish up with another fantastic recipe. Marcella explains that Sfinciuni is to Palermo what pizza is to Naples and elsewhere. It is two thin layers of dough that enclose a filling, called the conza, then the edges are pinched together to seal the filling in.

While this is similar to a pizza, it's also different. The dough was so nice to work with - soft and smooth. The filling is a mixture of onion, ground beef, unsmoked ham, Italian fontina cheese, ricotta cheese, and white wine. When I tasted a piece of this, the dough reminded me more of a bread dough than a pizza dough. I guess it was the texture of it-a little softer than a crunchy thin crust pizza. It really doesn't matter what it reminded me of, as all I know is that is was really good. Can't wait to make the varieties you'll see my co-cooks do next - Tomato and Anchovy and Broccoli and Ricotta. Humm, I do have a tub of fresh ricotta that I made a couple of days ago...
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June 2, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Piadina - Flat Griddle Bread

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Wow, I can't believe it. My last recipe to cook for the Pomodori E Vino blog. Definitely not my last recipe to cook from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking though. I'll write more of my thoughts in my last blog entry for this project, but already, as I'm typing this right now, I have tears forming in my eyes. This has been an adventure for sure.

Enough of the reminiscing for now. Back to the recipe. Today's recipe is Piadina, a thin flat bread from the Romagna area. Marcella explains that traditionally, this bread is cooked on a terra-cotta slab called a testo. Since most of us have no access to a testo, we can substitute with a heavy cast iron skillet. This bread is very easy and quick to make. Mix together flour, olive oil (or shortening), milk water, salt, and bicarbonate of soda, then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Roll out pieces of the dough in a circular shape, very thin, then place in the hot skillet. This doesn't take much time to cook - 3 or 4 minutes for each piece. At this point, the bread is speckled with dark brown spots, but still chewy and tender. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Marcella suggests serving this with one of the recipes in the vegetable section of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Mixed Greens with Olive Oil and Garlic. That's what I served mine with, except I had to adapt. I forgot to buy rapini at the store, so I was lacking the bitter aspect of the greens. It's a mixture of spinach or Swiss chard, rapini, Savoy cabbage. Besides forgetting the rapini, I still didn't have the correct mix due to not being able to find all of the ingredients. I used spinach, kale (small, tender leaves), and Napa cabbage. And the outcome was delicious.

Try making this when you want a very quick bread to serve as an accompaniment or even as your main dish. I served the Piadina with the Mixed Greens, along with a nice glass of red wine, and I'm still stuffed, a couple of hours later.

June 9, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Final Blog Post

So here I am, writing my final post for our Pomodori E Vino blog. Such mixed emotions I have as I try to gather my thoughts. Yes, there have been frustrations. Those times when I thought "How do I get that recipe made and posted in time when I forgot to purchase a special needed ingredient." and "Can my weight really handle one more really good meal, when I really should just be eating a salad for dinner?". But those frustrations have been so outweighed by the rewards of this experience. How many people have the opportunity to cook their way through an extraordinary cookbook, and have the author herself comment, critique, and give suggestions on each and every recipe you have made? Not many, I don't think. But Marcella has been so generous with her time in giving this to us, and I treasure each and every word she has written to us.

So today, I will share with you the menu that I have choosen based on the recipes I have cooked from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". This menu is the one that I would cook when planning a feast for friends. The one that I can imagine really enjoying cooking, as my friends sit around sipping great wine and lending a helping hand as needed. This is the meal I can picture sitting around my large dining room table, in front of a roaring fire, with the lights dimmed, as we anticipate the awaiting flavors that our noses have already experienced, and now our mouths are now eagerly waiting to taste.

We would begin the meal with the simple appetizer of Marinated Carrot Sticks. Tender carrots, gentle spices, and the tang of red wine vinegar.
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We would next move on to our first course. An amazing Lasagne with Mushrooms and Ham. Creamy, earthy, and very flavorful.
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The main course would be Oven Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary. A delicious simple roasted chicken, flavored with the perfect duo of garlic and rosemary. And of course, roasted potatoes would be served alongside.
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The chicken would be accompanied by the side dish of Asparagus and Proscuitto bundles. Who cares if there was already ham in the lasagne - this dish is too good not to include.

Asparagus and Proscuitto Bundles

And Fresh Mushrooms with Porcini, Rosemary, and Tomatoes, because we haven't yet had our fill of mushrooms or rosemary.
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Dessert would be a fruit dessert of Baked Apples with Amaretti Cookies. Few ingredients, but those that mesh perfectly together.
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Did I mention there would be lots of wine flowing, lots of great conversation, and lots of toasts to Marcella and Victor, with whom this wonderful experience would never have been without their support and encouragement? Cheers, Marcella and Victor. I thank you both.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Baked Alaska in the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Daring Cooks is the previous category.

Flavors is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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