About Beth

Beth
Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene
Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah
Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug
Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy
Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi
Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan
Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry
Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma
Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim
Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

Main

Vegetables Archives

December 10, 2010

Cotechino with Lentils

We are getting into the really 'good stuff' on Pomodori e Vino. Y'all might think that the pasta section was good... but we are coming into the 'Variety Meats'. Hold on folks~ this is going to get good.

This week is the perfect example.

Cotechino sausage with Lentils.
What the heck is a cotechino? I wasn't sure... but spent days looking in Birmingham and even in Atlanta. No luck.

With a little help from Marcella and Victor, I was able to order it online. Only a Pomodori e Vino'ette' would be willing to go to the ends of the earth to find that one special ingredient. Cotechino is a specialty sausage typically from Modena Italy. (why oh why didn't we make this while we were in Bologna??)
This recipe calls for the elusive cotichino sausage, served with lentils. The perfect good luck meal for the new year. It had a good flavor combinatin of pork sausage and beans. We enjoyed it very much... hopefully our good luck will carry through to 2011. In the mean time... Liver, Sweet breads, Brains and Tripe.

Remember to follow us along daily on Facebook or on the Pomodori e Vino Blog ...

Ciao Y'all,
Sandi

December 23, 2010

Braised Artichokes with 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.

December 24, 2010

Artichokes and Leeks

Hallelujah~
We are out of the Variety meats section of Pomodori e Vino. I don't know how many of you actually looked... but the posts on sweetbreads, kidney's and calf brains were awesome. Marcella's comments really showed her Italian passion for food! I count myself lucky that all I had to cook was the Cotechino Sausage with lentils! Job well done my Pomodori!

Now we have moved on to vegetables... What's not to like?
My recipe was for artichokes with leeks. The biggest problem for me was the quality of the artichokes in the market. Not like the beautiful artichokes growing in the garden in Montisi.
The recipe itself was simple... cook the artichokes and leeks until tender, adjust for salt and pepper and serve. When adjusting for salt and pepper... I am loving the phrase used by David Rocco in his cookbook. 'Quanto Basta' ~as much as you need.
What a beautiful thought during this holiday season. Quanto Basta! No more, no less. Only as much as you need.
In cooking and in life.
Blessed Holidays to each and every one of you.
Remember to follow us along daily on Facebook or on the Pomodori e Vino Blog ... Ciao Y'all, Sandi

December 25, 2010

Braised Artichokes and Potatoes

First let me say "Buon Natale to Marcella, Victor, and all of the Pomodori and their families! Today's post also gives me an opportunity to photograph some of the ornaments on our Italy Christmas Tree!

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On my last artichoke recipe, a whole fish cooked with artichokes, I flunked cleaning the artichokes. I blame my helper, Brad, but nevertheless, this time I was the only cook in the kitchen, so these artichokes were better! Before Marcella came into my life, I only ate artichokes whole, steamed, dipping the leaves in melted butter or mayo, so I am still becoming an expert at artichoke prepping.

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This recipe has simple ingredients: artichokes, potatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions and parsley.

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The onion and garlic is cooked in oil, then the potatoes and cut up artichokes are added with salt, pepper and parsley. Add a little water and braise for about 40 minutes. Simple, pretty and delicious!

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December 26, 2010

La Frittedda-Smothered Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Peas with Fennel, Palermo Style

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First of all, let me acknowledge that I was unable to make this recipe the exact way that it was supposed to be made. This recipe specifically calls for it to be made early in spring, when the vegetables are all very tender and fresh. I have been making my recipes for my posts on the week that they are posted, so I am now here in the middle of winter with a slew of vegetable postings ahead that will suffer for having to use less than perfect produce. I can’t change that now, but I will do my best to give my interpretation of how I think this has affected the quality of each dish that I post.

I have to say that this recipe, even using frozen peas, canned fava beans and canned artichokes was amazing. It starts with thinly sliced sweet onion. I used Maui onions. These are sautéed in olive oil until they are translucent. Then the chopped tops of the fennel plants were added along with the artichokes. This is cooked until the artichokes are tender. Obviously, the artichokes that I started with were tender to begin with so I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes. Then I added the fava beans and the peas and cooked this all for about 5 more minutes. This is then salted to taste and since I hadn’t had to use any lemon on the artichokes to begin with I added a squeeze into the final dish.

I thought that I would like this dish, because I love fennel and artichokes. This turned out to be correct. I can understand how this would be even better using fresh vegetables, but even made in this manner this dish captured the essence of springtime. The combination of flavors just popped. For me personally, this was a great recipe to try on the day after Christmas, because Christmas for us is filled with rich entrees and delicious desserts. It was wonderful to have this recipe today to counteract all of the heaviness of the dishes over the last few days. I will be making this again in the springtime so I can get the full effect but even made this way, this recipe will definitely be added to my list of favorites.

December 27, 2010

Crisp-Fried Artichoke Wedges

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I think I may have the most fried recipes during this challenge. This week I fried artichoke wedges. Marcella's notes said this is a perfect time to use frozen artichokes. So that is exactly what I did. They were already cut in half so all I needed to do was thaw, bread and fry.

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I could not recall eating fried artichokes in the past. I was surprised by how much the hearts softened. The inside was moist and the outer layer was crisp. I like artichokes so this new texture with their usual flavor was nice.

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December 28, 2010

Gratin of Artichokes

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Most of us went through the vegetable chapter and cooked ahead to take advantage of peak season. But, somehow, I missed the boat on my very first - artichokes. When I realized my oversight, we were already into late November. So I began searching for a suitable substitute for fresh and finally settled on a jar of baby artichoke hearts I found at Sam's Wholesale (of all places).

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The brand name was unfamiliar to me, but it was preserved only in water, salt, and citric acid. In addition the company, Terra Verde, promotes its corporate responsibility and humanitarian efforts with an interesting, if somewhat self-congratulatory, story on the side of the jar. I decided to give them a try.

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Of course I had to skip the instructions for boiling the artichokes and instead soaked them in several changes of icy water, then drained them on paper towels and patted very dry before slicing. Since I was serving this with Christmas dinner I quadrupled the recipe to serve 16.

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After slicing each artichoke heart, I layered them in a buttered baking dish alternating with fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano and dots of butter. The top layer had an additional layer of cheese.

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They baked on the top rack in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese crusted a beautiful golden brown.

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Even though this was a delicious side dish, and everyone said they enjoyed them very much, I could still tell that they were not made from fresh artichokes. Regardless of the extra effort to rinse and rinse again, you could still taste that slight tang of a "preserved" taste. This spring I'll make them again, from scratch.

December 30, 2010

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.)

December 31, 2010

Sauteed Sunchokes


Sunchokes were called Jerusalem Artichokes. We used to slice them thinly and add them to salads in the 70’s but I haven’t given them much thought lately. My loss! These were so tasty and a perfect addition to any protein on a plate.

They were a little bit difficult to find here in Tallahassee but a new supermarket is in town, Earth Fare, and lucky me, they had them; they came from California.

First Marcella wants you to peel the knobby tubers. It’s a little bit time consuming but not at all hard to accomplish.

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Then they are blanched in boiling salted water and sliced.

After warming some chopped garlic in olive oil, the sliced sunchokes are added and cooked, with salt and chopped parsley, until they’re soft enough—like a potato.

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They developed a definite nutty, artichoke-like flavor which, combined with the good olive oil, salt and garlic, was an unexpected treat.

I can really see why Marcella has included several sunchokes recipes in this chapter.

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January 1, 2011

Sunchoke Gratin

Happy New Year!!!!!

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We have moved into the vegetable section where we shall play for the next three months. Through an unusual twist of cooking challenge planning we arrive at vegetables at the same time when most of the fresh vegetables in North America are but a distant memory. Knowing the importance of the freshest ingredients (see, I have learned ONE thing from this cook-a-thon) I cooked all of my recipes in this chapter ahead of time. In fact, there is only one left - Sautéed Shitake mushroom caps and I can get them anytime from the farmer north of my house.

It was funny though, in the spring I was trying to figure out the seasons for every one of my selections and I was stymied by my first one in the rotation - Sunchokes. I had no clue what a sunchoke looked liked. I asked around. No one knew what they were.

I turned to google and my searches revealed some interesting information.

A sunchoke is an underground vegetable like a cross between a rutabaga, potato, sunflower seed, and water chestnut. Also called a Jerusalem artichoke, it is not like an artichoke bloom, nor does it grow in Jerusalem. It's one of the few native tubers of North America. A sunchoke, related to the sunflower, makes a delicious addition to salad, salsa, marinade, and soup.

Native Americans enjoyed digging up and eating sunchokes for centuries before the colonialists settled. The sunchoke got its new name when a French explorer sent some plants back to his friend in Italy to cultivate in the Mediterranean climate. Thinking they tasted like artichokes, the Italian named the tuber "girasole articicco," meaning, "sunflower artichoke." We North Americans corrupted the pronunciation (now isn't THAT a first!), which they thought sounded more like "Jerusalem," but the name stuck.

I also discovered through my reading that the wee tuber has an unfortunate side effect and can cause terrible gas. We are all happy to report that this was NOT the case with this recipe - either Marcella's careful directions for preparing the sunchoke for cooking them kept this unfortunate side-effect at bay or our rock solid gastrointestinal systems are immune. Whatever, I was just happy to avoid an issue.

I also discovered why I wasn't able to find a sunchoke in the spring. . . they are in season in the fall.

I put this recipe on hold until September when I spotted some in the market. They quickly got added to the menu the night I made my favourite recipe so far - the braised pork roast with vinegar and bay leaves. They proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the full flavoured pork.

To make the gratin you pre-cook the peeled sunchokes until tender. Once the sunchokes are cooled they are sliced into disks. The slices are placed in a buttered oven proof pan and sprinkled with salt and pepper. All that is needed is to sprinkle on 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, dab with some butter, and bake.

This is a delicious way to add a vegetable to your plate - I suspect that even those vegetable haters in your household will go gaga for this one.

Here's hoping that your new year is filled with good food, fine wine, friends, loved-ones, laughter, prosperity, and plenty of mind-bending travel!

Buon 2011 a tutti!

January 2, 2011

Smothered Sunchokes with Tomato and Onion

Sunchokes are a new experience for me as it seems that they have been for most of the group so far. I knew what they were from seeing them in the grocery store before, but had never found a recipe that I wanted to try that used them. That is one of the most enjoyable things about this challenge. I get to try foods that I never would have before.

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This recipe starts by sautéing sliced onions in olive oil. When they were brown I added garlic, parsley and chopped tomatoes. This simmered for about five minutes and then the peeled, diced sunchokes were added. This cooked for about 45 minutes until the sunchokes were tender. I added salt and pepper to taste, which was a little difficult, since I didn’t have any idea of how they should taste. I was afraid to over salt it, so I probably erred on the light side.

I found the flavor of the sunchokes to be like a combination of a potato and a water chestnut. With this dish I didn’t get the nuttiness that others have spoken of in their posts. I assume that it is the type of preparation that changes the flavor. I thought that the sunchokes cooked slowly with the tomatoes and onion, brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes. I found it quite an interesting taste. This dish was hearty and would be a good substitute on those nights when we want a change from potatoes.

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January 3, 2011

Braised Sunchokes and Scallions

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This dish is simple to make. Fortunately this is the season for sunchokes. I was able to locate some without difficulty. After removing their skins I sliced them thinly. The scallions are cut in half and cooked in melted butter before adding the sunchokes, salt and pepper and little water.

The sunchokes tasted like a cross between potatoes and turnips. The texture was tender but not mushy. The scallions added a great depth of flavor and a little sweetness. My husband enjoyed eating this vegetable dish.

January 4, 2011

Fried Sunchoke Chips

Sunchokes, vegetable oil, salt. Do I win the contest for the recipe with the fewest ingredients?

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Previous posts about sunchokes have described them. And the beginning of the sunchoke recipes in Essentials has a wonderful little essay by Marcella on the history behind them as well as the proper way to peel them. So, I'll just say that my task was to slice raw, peeled sunchokes thinly, then fry them in hot vegetable oil until a nice golden brown.

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Remember in the '80s when Terra Chips first became all the rage with the granola crowd? The marketing implied that because the chips were made from exotic root vegetables like taro, sweet potato, yuca, batata and parsnip they were somehow healthier than garden variety potato chips. Sandwich shops switching to Terra Chips could count on adding at least a couple bucks to the price of a meal just for the cool factor. And, truthfully, I do love Terra Chips, just for the variety - not because I think they are socially superior to plain old Irish potatoes.

As I was prepping my sunchokes, I was thinking that if Terra Chips had consulted with Marcella, they may have had an additional exotic root to add to the mix. Then I started thinking about the root vegetables I can now get at Global Foods. On any given day, I can buy fresh Lotus Root, Malanga, Maroon Carrots, Name Root, Parsley Root, Boniato, Okinawa Sweet Potato, and many varieties of potatoes and beets. I think I shall pick up a nice mix and try making some unsual chips.

Back to the Sunchokes. They are delicious. That's all I have to say about them. And at less than $1.00 a pound, they are a bargain. We're having our new annual MLK and Tom's birthday gathering soon, I'm going to make a big batch and impress my sisters-in-law.

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January 6, 2011

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 7, 2011

Fava Beans

I just love it when I am smart enough to do a little planning ahead. Last year in May, y'all may remember my fabulous trip to Italy. I spent a month watching sunsets and soaking up the dolce vita. (If you need a little taste of Italy This Link will take you there)

Back to my brilliant planning... I knew I would have to be making fava beans in the dead of winter. Fava beans are freshest in the spring... so, I actually made these then.

As Marcella says, "there is no magic in the making a dish of plain boiled beans" The magic is in the freshness of the fava bean and the quality of the olive oil.
This dish is made with fresh just snapped beans, finely chopped onion, and Pancetta. The secret to the brightness of the beans is adding salt to the boiling water before adding the beans. They should cook to a nutty, sweet flavor~ the time will depend on the freshness of the beans.

Remember to follow us along daily on Facebook or on the Pomodori e Vino Blog ...
Ciao Y'all,
Sandi

January 8, 2011

Sautéed Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese

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It was last June when I made this recipe knowing that the green beans I found in the market in January would be dismal. I picked up a pound of freshly-picked beans at the local farmer's market and went to town. These beans had traveled less than 20 minutes to get to my table.

I think that this was one of the easiest recipes I've attempted so far in the challenge. All one needed to do was snap off the 'tails' of the beans, cook them in water, and then sauté the cooked beans in butter. Dump (such a refined and glorious culinary term) on 1/4 cup of fresh parmigiano-reggiano and you ready to serve.

Of course this was wonderful - beans, butter, cheese . . . how could it not be?

Note to others - when you're attempting a simple recipe like this you will need to use the best ingredients you have - with so few ingredients a poor quality item will stand out and turn the beauty of this dish to a veritable nasty beast.

No one wants that. Put away that horrid green can of 'grated parmesan cheese product'. No. Don't put it away - THROW IT OUT!

Now.

Fresh beans - picked as soon as you can prior to cooking. Use the best butter you have. Grate some REAL parmigiano-reggiano on top - remember, if it is made ANYWHERE but the Parma area of Italy it ain't real and you won't be thrilled with the results. Real freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano practically melts on your tongue like a big ol' fluffy snowflake. Treat yourself - hold out for the real stuff.

January 9, 2011

Smothered Green Beans with Carrot Sticks and Mortadella or Ham

While I was snapping the beans for this recipe I was transported back to my childhood. My mom was one of the original organic farmers back in 60s. Since they had not yet discovered new natural pesticides to use it meant that my sisters and I became the chief bug killers for our crops. We didn’t do a great job, which meant that many of the beans that we harvested had been chewed on a bit by the wee beasties. We had to do lots of cutting away of the bad spots before we could cook any. That was not the case for the beautiful beans that I used for this recipe. Beautiful beans in January? I can only wonder from what fair clime these beans came. I don’t want to wonder how they became flawless…

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This recipe starts by cooking the beans in salted water until crisp tender. Then the beans, matchstick sized carrot sticks and chopped mortadella were cooked in butter. I am not normally a mortadella fan because the fattiness of it doesn’t appeal to me. However, in this dish it shines. The combination of flavors was incredible. Simple, but very tasty. I did use a high quality mortadella that is made here locally. Volpi, which many of you will be familiar with is made here is St. Louis and shipped all over the world. We are very proud to have them here.


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This is another great recipe. I am going to put this one up against my mom’s favorite green bean recipe this summer and see which one the family likes better!

January 10, 2011

Green Beans and Potato Pie, Genoa Style

This week I made a savory pie. Green beans are boiled then chopped very fine. The potatoes are boiled then passed through a food mill or potato ricer. Both vegetables are combined with eggs, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, salt, pepper. The recipe also called for marjoram. I realized after mixing all the ingredients together that I did not prepare properly. I did not have marjoram in my spice cabinet. I substituted savory.

A round cake pan is prepared by oiling with olive oil and sprinkling with bread crumbs. After the filling is added to the pan. An addition layer of bread crumbs and drizzle of oil goes on top of the filling. Bake for 1 hour and serve hot or at room temperature. This was supposed to be inverted on a plated but I could not get it out of the pan.

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My assumption about this pie before beginning was that it would taste like a baked frittata. I was wrong. It has less eggs so the the flavors of the fresh vegetables, cheese and herbs really shine through. The bread crumbs add a nice crunch to each bite of soft filling. This vegetable pie is tasty. I would make it again.

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January 11, 2011

Green Beans with Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, and Chili Pepper

I made this dish back in the spring when the farmer's market had beautiful fresh new beans. I've worried a little about my ability to post after so long. But when I pulled up the photos on my computer, I was immediately transported back to the day they were prepared. The silky mouthfeel of the peppers, the richness of the cooked onion, the acid from the tomatoes, and the zing for the red chili. I remember them all and how they brightened the flavor of the beans.

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Simple flavorful ingredients, carefully chosen and carefully cooked. Starting with the thinly sliced onion cooking down in a bit of olive oil.

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The onion is joined by peeled yellow peppers cut into strips and plum tomatoes. Cooking until that all-important moment when the oil floats free from the tomatoes. With that rich flavor combination the beans just have to show up to look like a star, right?

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Once the peppers, tomato & onions have cooked the green beans are added along with salt, the chili pepper, and some water. Then it is allowd to cook at a steady simmer until the beans are tender.

I have to say, I've forgotten what meal I served these with. Maybe if I had taken a picture of the entire plate, I'd remember. But, remembering the beans is all I need. Hurry up SPRING.

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January 13, 2011

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 14, 2011

Fried Broccoli Florets

Simple and tasty fried tidbits with healthy broccoli as the center.
A total “win/win.”

We actually used these as a little antipasto with some wine while I made the rest of the dinner and they were perfect.

The recipe is very straightforward. The florets are blanched,

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cooled, dipped in egg and breaded with fine dry breadcrumbs. I actually used Progresso (unflavored, of course) because the fresh ones I tried to make weren’t fine enough.

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They are fried in very hot vegetable oil.

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I added a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and served them right away.

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January 15, 2011

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

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A nation's menu is an ever changing thing; largely impacted by the geopolitics and/or economics of the day. Waves of immigration brought European cuisines to North America. Construction of the cross-continental railroads and the various gold rushes brought Asian workers who introduced Chinese food to North American tables. The fall of Viet Nam brought refugees with a penchant for certain foods that were unheard of 40 years ago but we now love. One of the things I most enjoy about Toronto is the cluster of restaurants in the city's so-called 'ethnic neighbourhoods' where one can eat and drink and be transported thousands of miles away.

I see it happening here in Burlington of all places. A local strawberry farm, needing a supply of workers for the farm started to hire Mexican workers. Within two years our local farmers' market featured tomatillos, hot peppers, and a shop opened up where you can buy corn husks, masa, and dried peppers. Happily I no longer need to bring these things back from trips to California. I am sure a good Mexican restaurant won't be far off. *fingers crossed*

Italy is no different. It seems strange to us but the Italian food we think of as quintessential 'Italian' didn't exist years ago. Tomatoes were brought to Italy by the 1530's where it was widely thought that they were poisonous thus were grown only for decoration. It wasn't until people were starving in the Naples area that the poisonous tomato became commonly used as food for the poor. While many schoolchildren are taught that Marco Polo introduced pasta to the nation's diet it was more likely Arab traders in the 8th century who brought dried pasta to Italy. Gelato is another Italian staple that Polo is thought to have brought to Italy - this too is unlikely but there is evidence to suggest that he did bring the concept of an ice cream maker - something the Chinese had perfect thousands of years before Polo ever trekked to China in search spices, silks, and gemstones. Intermarriage among the wealthy families either imported dishes to Italy or exported Italian culinary strengths to other countries (as was the case when Catherine De Medici of Florence married the man who was to become Henry II of France).

I am sure you're sitting there saying 'this is very interesting Jerry but what the hell does this have to do with the smothered cabbage you're supposed to be writing about?'

Patience, gentle reader, patience.

This dish, to my addled brain at 7 am on a snowy Saturday morning, seems to not be what one would think of as Italian food at all. Cabbage is a vegetable that tolerates the cold well - one passes field after field of cabbage throughout central and northern Europe. Marcella writes, and the name itself suggests, that this is a dish common in the Venice area - an area known for the movement goods both in and out of the city due to the talents of the people in seafaring.

I've had similar dishes before. Over on my own blog you'll find posts about braised cabbage with apples, meatballs with braised cabbage, and so on. The dishes are generally from the Alpine regions of Europe. Braised cabbage also features widely on Russian, Polish, and Nordic menus.

Families intermingle with families from the next village. Traders move to set up shop in a large city. Invaders stream down from the Alps to try and seize the Pearl that is Venice . . . years later a recipe for smothered cabbage, a dish that seems positively Germanic in sensibility, gets featured in a cookbook on Italian cooking. You see how it works.

Happily I looked ahead in the fall and noticed that I had this coming up in the rotation. As I mentioned last night on my own blog, cabbage is one of the foods that screams 'fall' to me. This was added to the menu where I made the praised pork with vinegar and bay leaves (pork also says 'fall' to me for some reason - clearly I am food obsessed when the seasons 'talk' to me about food) and the sunchoke gratin that I wrote about two weeks ago.

Marcella writes that you can use any variety of cabbage for this dish - I had a red cabbage on hand so that was what I used. The cabbage is shredded finely - a critical step - given my shoddy knife skills I used a mandolin. Onions are sautéed in olive oil. Garlic added to the golden onions. Followed by the fine shards of cabbage. Once the cabbage is well coated with the onion/garlic/oil mixture it cooks until wilted, at which time the remaining ingredients are added. Now the pot is covered and left on a low heat for at least 90 minutes – it takes patience to cook something that smells so good for so long . . . . but you won’t regret it when you taste your first mouthful.

The slow cooking method softens the cabbage flavour that some find harsh. The addition of vinegar, garlic, and onion provide for sophisticated layers of flavour that is very appealing. The splash of vinegar (this is one area where the recipe is quite different than other slowly cooked cabbage dishes that I have made - generally they require far more vinegar) truly transforms this dish.

Here is the complete meal - what a perfect cool weather feast this was!

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January 16, 2011

Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese

Carrots! I love carrots. I thought I had tried them every way possible, but again Marcella finds a way to surprise me. This recipe manages to capture the sweetness of the carrots and almost transforms them into something completely new.

It starts with the carrots sliced and placed into a pan where they have to sit flat. Butter and water is added. This is then cooked until the water evaporates and then for the next hour small amounts of water is added and cooked off until the carrots are wrinkled and brown. Salt and a ¼ of a teaspoon of sugar are added early on in the cooking process. Finally, parmesan cheese is then mixed in prior to serving.


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When I sat down to try these carrots I couldn’t believe how sweet they were. My mom always makes sweet potatoes for thanksgiving dinner that have been cooked with brown sugar and butter. These carrots were almost as sweet as her potatoes were. I was shocked because I had added such a small amount of sugar. More than that though, cooking them this way changed the texture of the carrots to more resemble the sweet potato. They also had a wonderful nuttiness that seemed to come from the butter. Overall, this was a wonderful way to prepare the carrots.

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The only downside to this recipe is the length of cooking time and the close watch you have to keep on the carrots. It would be a great recipe to make if you knew that you would be in the kitchen making other food and could keep a close eye on them. I made a pot roast with these, which didn’t need a lot of attention, so I ended up setting the timer for 5 minutes at a time so I wouldn’t forget to go back and add more water. This worked fine and kept me on my toes. I will definitely be making these again.

January 17, 2011

Braised Carrots with Capers

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January 18, 2011

Gratinéed Cauliflower with Butter and Parmesan Cheese

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On August 31st, my fish chapter assignment was Fried Tidbits of Swordfish. Which, by the way, was delicious. I prepared this dish from the vegetable chapter to accompany the fish. It was an excellent choice.

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Simplicity itself, the cauliflower needs only salt added to the ingredients listed in the title. After boiling the whole head of cauliflower you let it cool enough to be able to handle it. Break the florets apart and place them in a buttered oven dish. Sprinkle with salt, grated Parmesan and dot with butter.

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Baking for about 25 - 20 minutes on the top rack of the oven produces a light crust. A few minutes to settle, and your Gratinéed Cauliflower with Butter and Parmesan Cheese is ready to serve.

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January 20, 2011

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 21, 2011

Fried Cauliflower with Parmigiano Cheese Batter

The star in Fried Cauliflower with Parmesan Cheese Batter is the tender and flavorful crust. Real Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese makes the perfect batter because it melts without the stringyness of most cheeses. The flavor is so unique~ and of course brings a smile to my face as I remember our tour at the cheese factory last may near Bologna. Here's the link to that favorite trip! We stood between the walls of maturing Parmigiano-Reggiano, as the wheels wait for the day to crack them open. This is a beautiful cheese with a nutty, salty flavor all it's own... that I must say, bears NO resemblance to the stuff in the green shaker!
The batter for these fried cauliflower is a mixture of water and beaten egg with grated parmigiano and flour. The cauliflower is first cooked in a large pot of water and cooled. Once cooled, break the cauliflower in to bite-sized florets. These are dipped in the egg batter and fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and serve at once.
These are wonderful little bite-sized pieces that are filled with the flavor of fresh Parmigiano.
Ciao y'all~
Sandi

January 22, 2011

Braised and Gratineed Celery stalks with Parmesan Cheese

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Wow. They way Jerry and I split up our recipes, I haven't posted since Christmas! It seems like a LONG time!

When I first read this recipe, I thought, "CELERY? REALLY?" It's not that I have anything against celery. In fact I use it all the time in soups, stews, along with onion and carrots in sauces, and of course raw in salads. I just never thought about serving celery as its own vegetable side dish for dinner. Oh, what a wonderful surprise!

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Celery stalks are cleaned and blanched. Then they are tossed in a sauce of butter, garlic and pancetta or prosciutto and cooked. Broth is added, and celery is cooked until tender and liquid is boiled away. The celery is moved to a baking dish and topped with the onion-prosciutto mixture.

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Then the celery is topped parmesan cheese and baked until the cheese melts into a delicious crust. It is WONDERFUL, and I will definitely make it again. Brad LOVED it!

Celery! Who knew? Obviously Marcella did!

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January 23, 2011

Celery and Potatoes Braised in Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

This has to be one of the most deceptive recipes in the book. I looked at it and thought ho hum a recipe with celery and potatoes. How boring. Wow, was I wrong.

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This recipe starts with a bunch of celery cut into 3 inch pieces. This is cooked with olive oil, salt and water for a few minutes before quartered peeled potatoes and lemon juice are added. This is cooked until everything is tender. The water is boiled off and then it is ready to serve. As my niece would say, easy peasy!

When I took the first bite I was amazed at the flavor. The potatoes were gently flavored with the lemon and celery, with a very light taste that was wonderful. It reminded me a little of a bowl of good chicken noodle soup. I don’t know why exactly, except that it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What more can you ask from a side dish??

This would be a great dish to accompany a chicken or turkey entrée. That combination would allow the character of the potatoes and celery to stand out.

January 24, 2011

Braised Celery Stalks with Onion, Pancetta and Tomatoes

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January 25, 2011

Swiss Chard Stalks Gratinéed with Parmesan Cheese

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Why don't I make Gratinéed dishes more often? They are so easy, and so satisfying. Last week I had Gratinéed Cauliflower, and this week it is Swiss chard. I've never prepared chard this way before. I've always confined it to soups.


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The preparation is pretty straightforward. Clean the broad, white stalks of chard. Boil them until tender then drain. Smear an oven-to-table backing dish with butter. Arrange the first layer of stalks in a dish.


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Sprinkle with salt and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, then dot with a small amount of butter. Repeat the process until all of the stalks are used up. The top layer gets an extra generous amount of cheese and lots of butter.


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Bake on the top rack of a 400° oven until the chees melts and forms a light, golden crust. Let it settle for a few minutes after removing from the oven, serve and enjoy.


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January 27, 2011

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.

January 28, 2011

Fried Eggplant

What could be simpler than frying a single vegetable in lovely, hot olive oil.
Marcella actually says "vegetable oil" but an olive is a vegetable isn't it?

I actually made this dish in August when I got a perfect couple of eggplants in my CSA bag. Following Marcella's instructions for steeping them in salt was easy. I dried them on paper towels after the process:

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I got the oil nice and hot using the test in the recipe of dipping one end of the eggplant slice into the oil and checking for the sizzle. I could fit 3 slices at a time into my skillet.

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I almost never fry anything so I found this process very entertaining. It was beautiful to watch the white eggplant slices turn the perfect golden color. And the flavor was amazing. I have never enjoyed eggplant this much; it was so sweet and not greasy at all.

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January 29, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

I brought this dish to a potluck dinner for my Italian Language Meet-up group back in August, and it was quite a hit! I usually make this dish every summer, but of course it was the first time I did using Marcella's recipe. (the main difference between my mom's recipe and Marcella's is we have always used a pork shoulder ragu, but then you know how I feel about tomatoes...). Marcella's recipe is a bit lighter, and absolutely delicious, tomatoes and all!

First you slice the eggplant and steep it in salt.

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Then fry the eggplant, a few slices at a time after dredging them in flour.

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You cook Italian plum tomatoes in olive oil with some salt and reduce them, slice the buffalo-milk mozzarella, and tear some basil leaves into pieces. The oven is hot, and it is time to start layering the ingredients in a buttered baking dish: eggplant, tomato, mozzarella, parmesan and basil.

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Repeat, ending with a layer of eggplant sprinkled with parmesan.

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Bake and serve it to your lucky family or friends. Then sit back and wait for rave reviews!

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January 30, 2011

Breaded Eggplant Cutlets

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When Michael and I were first married, I made fried eggplant frequently. It was one of the traditional dishes that Michael loved so much. Over time though, we changed the way that we eat and fried foods have become an infrequent treat. That is why Michael was so looking forward to this dish.

Of course, my recipe was a little different than this one. My recipe used seasoned breadcrumbs without toasting them and Marcella uses plain breadcrumbs that are toasted. The rest of the recipe is the same. Start by peeling the eggplant, salting the slices, and letting them drain in a colander for thirty minutes. Then use an egg wash, coat the slices with the toasted breadcrumbs and fry until done. Salt the cooked eggplant and then serve.

What a difference that small change made in the final product. I used the plain breadcrumbs that we sell in our store. These are made from La Bonne Bouche’s French bread and Fazio’s sliced Italian bread. I have to say that I think they are very good. Adding the toasting step, I believe added a depth of flavor to the final product that I was missing before. I thought I would miss the garlic and parsley from the seasoned breadcrumbs, but without them there, the eggplant really shines. Once again Marcella teaches us the joy of simple pleasures. I think Michael will insist that this dish gets added back into our normal dinner routine!

January 31, 2011

Eggplant Cubes, Al Funghetto

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February 1, 2011

Sauteed Baby Eggplant Halves with Mozzarella

Listen up, Colleen, and Caroline! This post is for you. You could almost (only almost, mind you) convince me to join your veggie-tarian craziness with this dish. We enjoyed it as the main course, and didn't miss meat at all.


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The choice of eggplant is very important. You don't want fat "spongy" globes. You want thin, long "baby" eggplants. Either the purple or white Italian are ideal, but when I found dense, meaty Chinese eggplants at Global Foods, I knew they would be wonderful.

Sart by trimming the green tops off. Then split them open lengthwise. Cut a deep (but not through the skin) cross-hatched pattern in the flesh.

Placed the halves in a tight, single layer in a saute pan. Press mixture of garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and olive oil into the cuts and spread over the top. Then drizzle with additional olive oil - partly on the eggtplants and partly in the pan. Cover the pan and turned to a medium low heat, cooking until the eggplant feels very tender when prodded with a fork.

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After they are tender, cover each eggplant half with pieces of fresh sliced mozzarella. Turn up the heat to medium, recover the pan and cook until the mozzarella melts.

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Serve immediately. I tried to think of a meat this could accompany as a side. I couldn't. It doesn't need to be paired with anything else.

This is hands-down the most delicious way I've ever, ever, ever (get the picture?) prepared eggplant. It needs to be enjoyed all by itself with a nice spicy red wine. As I write this post, I am overwhelmed with a desire to go out - at midnight - to find eggplant.

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February 3, 2011

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 4, 2011

Braised Finocchio

Fennel has always been my 'most' favorite. Well... the truth? It's been my favorite since Ive been old enough to know what it was. Marcella describes Finocchio as related to anise, but with a cool, mild aroma. I love it raw in a fresh salad, on pizza, or roasted with olive oil.
This is Marcella's rendition of Braised Fennel with olive oil. The fennel stalk is sliced and then cooked in water and olive oil. Turn the slices until it becomes lightly browned. When done, the fennel will be tender and the liquid is gone.
Beautiful!
Ciao y'all~
Sandi

February 5, 2011

Breaded fried Finocchio

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When Palma and I were splitting up the recipes for 'our' day my heart leapt when we got to page 504.

Time to digress - we're on page 504. There is a sadness with that . . . only 144 pages of recipes to go.

SIGH

What was printed on 504 that got me a ‘flutter? Marcella's recipe for fried fennel. I knew that I HAD to cook this one for two simple reasons: having only 'discovered' fennel (he says not unlike Christopher Colombus claiming to have discovered North America) a few years ago we have become veritable fennel fiends. Secondly, we love fried things.

Now about the love of fried things . . . I should clarify that we are not lovers of US State Fair fried things. We have no interest in battered butter fried up and served on a stick. I won't be indulging on this treat from the Texas State Fair: Fried Peanut Butter Cup Macaroon or the Country Fried Pork Chips. I can only imagine the need for defibrillators on site.

The fried things that I am looking for are light and delicate; the crispy coating enhancing the food underneath - not covering it and hiding it. I was sure that Marcella would know her way with fried foods just as she has with all others.

Sure enough, I was right (did you doubt that Marcella would know what she was doing? Did you? If you did I believe you require a 'time out' as penance).

This recipe is simple. The fennel is parboiled. The fennel cools and is then coated with a simple coating of fresh, toasted bread crumbs. The coated fennel is then fried in hot olive oil until lovely crispy and brown. Drained on paper towels all that they require is a flurry of salt and you're ready to serve them up to your soon-to-be appreciative tablemates.

February 6, 2011

Sautéed Mixed Greens with Olive Oil and Garlic

One of the things that I have most liked about this cooking challenge is that it has forced me to stretch my comfort zone. When I was a little girl, my mother made sautéed greens many times for us. Since she had grown up on a farm, she knew which greens would taste good and be safe to eat. I keep looking for them but none of those that I grew up with are available in the grocery stores. Of course, now we eat a variety of salad greens such as romaine, arugula, spinach, raddichio and endive, but I haven’t added sautéed greens into our diets. After trying this dish, Michael insists that we change that.

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This dish uses savoy cabbage, spinach and a bitter green. I did have to go online to figure out what type of greens qualified as bitter. My grocery store had turnip and mustard, so I bought both. Since the mustard greens would cook as quickly as the spinach I chose to use them. The savoy cabbage is cooked in a large pot of water for about 15 minutes until it is tender. The spinach and mustard greens were cooked quickly with just a little water and lots of salt. The greens are then chopped and sautéed in olive oil with garlic.

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Michael was at work while I was cooking and when he came home, the first thing that he said was that it smelled wonderful. You’ve got to love a guy who thinks that garlic and cabbage are the best smells in the world! Anyway, we sat down to eat and he started talking about when he was a kid. He said that back then he hated this dish and couldn’t understand how all of the adults could like it so much. Well now he understands. He practically licked the platter clean.

February 7, 2011

Braised Leeks with Parmesan Cheese

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February 8, 2011

Smothered Boston Lettuce with Pancetta

We're on page 507. I've cooked 62 dishes so far. I've completely enjoyed almost all of them. And when I was totally convinced I wouldn't, I surprised myself by loving a few new things.

Now I have finally come to a dish that I didn't enjoy. (Fortunately, Dan loved it.)

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The fault doesn't lie with the recipe. This is how I often make other greens. The fault lies with my strange aversion to Boston Lettuce. It's a textural thing for me. Boston lettuce is about the last leafy green I would choose to buy. Does anyone else think it has a strange rubbery aspect to it?

As you can see here, the ingredients promise a delicious outcome.

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The onion and pancetta are sauted in the oil over a medium heat. Cooking until the onions become a deep gold.

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The lettuce is added to the pan and cooked briefly to begin the wilting process. Then salt is added and the pan covered before cooking until tender. It makes a beautiful dish and looks very pretty on the plate, but, I'm sending Dan to Longboat if he wants it again.

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February 10, 2011

Fresh Mushrooms with Porcini, 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 11, 2011

Fried Breaded Mushrooms, Tuscan Style

Easy and yummy.
This is basically the same process I used with the fried broccoli--dip into beaten egg, bread crumbs and fry in vegetable oil. I made the bread crumbs from ciabatta bread. By toasting them after the first go round in the food processor, I could reprocess and get a finer crumb.

I used "Baby Bella" or crimini mushrooms. Marcella's cleaning method worked well. They're washed briefly under cold running water and dried on a soft towel.

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Then the assembly line:

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Add salt after frying and eat em' up.

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February 12, 2011

Sauteed Shitake Mushroom Caps, Porcini

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I was curious to try this recipe - one of my favourite treats if I happen to be in Italy during Porcini season is to indulge in the pungent fungus at every possible opportunity. Porcini have been called one of God's great gifts to humanity, a rich, heady, meaty mushroom that is amazingly versatile, delicate enough to give grace to an elegant stew or sauce, and yet vigorous enough to stand up to something as flavourful as a thick grilled steak accompanied by a good Barolo.

Of course, one can't get fresh porcini here in Canada - but Marcella starts this recipe by suggesting that if you follow her instructions carefully the shitake mushroom caps will develop a flavour that is reminiscent of the fabled porcini.

The recipe is easy to follow - the mushrooms are washed, dried, and placed in a frying pan that has been coated with oil. After about 8 minutes the caps are turned over. Once the mushrooms have been slowly cooked and the liquid has evaporated you add the garlic, parsley, and additional olive oil. Five minutes later they are ready (this was the hard part - the scent from the pan was so 'foresty' that I wanted to dig in NOW.

So what was the verdict?

To be honest I doubt anyone familiar with porcini would mistake these for the famed mushroom. That being said - the taste was incredible! The flavour was far richer and deeper than one might expect from shitake.

I know that whenever I've cooking up mushrooms in the future this is the recipe that I shall follow!

February 13, 2011

Mushroom Timballo

This is the recipe that I have been dreading since day one of this challenge. I had looked at the title, but not the details of the recipe. All I could think was that I wasn’t brave enough to make a timballo. Now, for those of you that haven’t seen the Stanley Tucci movie, The Big Night, this may seem unreasonable, but a timballo/ timpano was the star dish in the movie, and it’s preparation was enough to drive the two brothers crazy. Their dish contained layers of meats, pasta, and sauce and needed to cook for hours. Luckily, when I finally took the time to read this recipe, I discovered that this dish, while complicated, was not insurmountable.

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This dish uses layers of fried mushrooms, fontina cheese, parmigiano-reggiano, and porcini mushrooms cooked with garlic, tomatoes and fresh parsley. All of the ingredients are layered in a soufflé pan and then baked for half an hour. Because of the need to fry the mushrooms before assembling the timballo, this dish can take quite awhile to prepare.

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The preparation was worth it though. The flavors melded together so nicely and the presentation was impressive. Michael and I tried a bit of it on the night I prepared it and we were stunned. The fresh fried mushrooms had a clean, firm texture that balanced the richness of the porcini sauce and cheeses. About the time that we finished dinner, my sister called and said that we would be having an impromptu gathering the next day. I managed to squeeze the rest of the timballo back into the soufflé pan and we reheated it for lunch the next day. Everybody loved it. I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t hold up to the reheating, but it did fine. If anything it tasted better, because the flavors had such a long time to mellow.

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So, the moral of the story is either don’t judge a recipe by its title, or Marcella Hazan can teach anyone to do the impossible. Actually, I think it might be both!

February 14, 2011

Sweet and Sour Onions

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February 15, 2011

Sauteed Early Peas with Olive Oil and Proscuitto Florentine Style

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To this day, fresh peas have the power to evoke one of my most cherished childhood memories.

At least a month of each of my grammer school-aged summers was spent at "Grandma's Biggie House". That is what I named the place when I was a very small child. It is easy to see why, since it consisted of two, three-story buildings. My aunt and grandmother operated a faith based charitable retirement home called El Nathan Home in a little rural town in southeast Missouri. The home was established in the years before there was Medicare or Medicaid or SSI or Section 8 or any other government aide for the destitute elderly. If you had the great misfortune of having no family to support you, and no private retirement income, your only hope was that some non-profit religious or fraternal organization would take you in.

Almost all of the women at El Nathan had been missionaries or teachers or nurses. They had taken care of people all their lives, but had noone to take care of them.

Everyone living at El Nathan pitched in according to their abilities. Nobody could dust with the precision of Miss Julia Post. Miss Mildred Horsey washed all the dishes. Miss Irene Hill helped with the laundry. Miss Harriett Prentiss set & cleared the tables. And my great-grandmother, Minnie James (who also lived there) prepped vegetables. She is the one who taught me to shell peas. I have a vivid mental picture of her sitting on the porch, using her aproned lap like a shallow bowl as her hands flew through the pods of early peas.

See, you knew I'd get back around to the subject eventually, didn't you?

We ate those peas prepared in a country-American style. Instead of garlic (which was unheard of in rural 1950's Missouri) my grandmother used chives. Instead of proscuitto it was hickory cured bacon. Butter or lard replaced olive oil which was also unheard of. And parsley would have been considered to be an unnecessary affection.

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But for all those differences, this dish of Marcella's isn't that far removed, is it?

After the garlic is cooked in the oil to a golden brown the diced proscuitto is added. Then the peas (and if using fresh, some of the most tender of the pea pods) are added. After turning over in the oil to coat, parsley and pepper are added along with a little water. The heat is turned down to medium and the pan is covered. Cooking time for thawed peas is about 5 minutes. For fresh peas and their pods it may be 15 to 30 minutes depending on their original tenderness.

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I'm happy to have drawn this recipe in the rotation. And I thank you for indulging my little trip down memory lane as I wrote my report.

February 17, 2011

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 18, 2011

Potato and Ham Croquettes, Romagna Style

What's better than mashed potatoes?

Well, fried mashed potatoes of course!
Potato and Ham Croquettes, Romagna Style, call for a bowl full Marcella's light and fluffy Parmiggiano mashed potatoes. The secret ingredient in the mashed potatoes is nutmeg and (of course) lots of fresh parmiggiano cheese.
To make croquettes; the potatoes are combined with finely chopped proscuitto and egg. Then made into 2 inch patties, lightly floured and fried in vegetable oil.
There is a crispy outside and a lovely creamy inside.
Another Essential success!

Ciao y'all~
Sandi

February 19, 2011

Pan Roasted Diced Potatoes

This was by far the most simple recipe I have made so far. The ingredients are potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt! You begin with small round boiling potatoes, and peel, wash and cube them.

The potatoes are cooked half way in vegetable oil.

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At this point the potatoes (still white) may be removed from the oil. The oil is saved to finish cooking the potatoes over high heat. The potatoes are evenly cooked and remain soft on the inside, and crunchy and crisp on the outside. Delicious!

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February 20, 2011

Baked Potatoes, Onion, and Tomatoes, Apulian Style

This is another very simple recipe with an amazing amount of flavor in the final product. This starts with sliced potatoes, peeled tomatoes, and thinly sliced onions. This is mixed with grated romano, oregano, salt and pepper. This is all put into a 13 x 9 baking dish and then extra virgin olive oil is poured over. This is then baked for an hour at 400 degrees.

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This comes out of the oven with tender, lightly browned potatoes with the sweetness of the onions and tomatoes as a nice counterbalance to the savoriness imparted by the romano cheese. Because of the strong flavors in this dish it would be a great side dish to serve with a beef roast or any other full flavored meat dish.


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I have to admit that I was looking for the leftovers for breakfast this morning. When I was a girl our family used to have a family reunion every summer at a campground with a swimming hole. The only thing that would get me out of the sleeping bag in the morning, after staying up most of the night laughing with my cousins, was the smell of the camp potatoes that my aunts made. It would be a big skillet filled with fried potatoes with onions. I don’t know why, but that smell brings back all of the good times associated with those trips. It was really nice to relive those days while waiting for this to finish in the oven.

February 21, 2011

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

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February 22, 2011

Potatoes with Onions, Tomatoes, and Sweet Pepper

I'm going to quote Marcella's intro to this recipe because it's really all that needs to be said.

"Here is a dish that is as hearty and satisfying as a meat stew, without the meat. It begs for good, crusty bread to sop up the delicious juices."

As the young'uns are fond of saying these days - "True that."

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The ingredients waiting to be prepped warm your heart, don't they? Straighforward and honest.

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Put thinly sliced onions into a saute pan with the olive oil. Set the heat to medium. While they are wilting and becoming a light gold, peel and seed the pepper, then cut it into strips.

Add the pepper to the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice. Lower heat to a slow simmer.

While those three get cozy with each other and start sharing flavors you will peel, wash and cut the potatoes into one inch cubes.

Then when the oil has begun to float free of the tomatoes, add the potatoes. Turn the heat down to very low, and cover the pan. Let them cook for as long as it takes for the potatoes to become fork tender.

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Add the necessary amount of salt and pepper and serve. The hearty, fill-your-mouth, texture of this made a perfect compliment to the Beef Patties Baked with Anchovies and Mozzarella we enjoyed for dinner back on November 16th.

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February 24, 2011

Treviso 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.

February 25, 2011

Baked Radicchio

Radicchio is such a beautiful vegetable. I love looking at it through the camera lens.
However, I neglected to taste it before I cooked it and at $8.99/ pound, this felt like a total flop. In general, I like bitter vegetables, but the radicchio I bought was so extremely bitter (Marcella says "astringent") that it was barely edible. I feel sure it would be a delicious preparation with a nicer sample of radicchio.

Here are the photos:
In the beginning:

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Cut in half to reveal beautiful color and patterns:

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Placed in baking dish with olive oil:

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Brown and still beautiful:

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The smells from the oven were wonderful but, like I said above, the flavor was just way too strong.

February 26, 2011

Spinach Sauteed with Olive Oil and Garlic

I love spinach in almost any preparation, and this classic dish is an old standby! Use fresh spinach, snapping off the ends of the stems. Soak and rinse the spinach leaves several times, then cook until tender, in a covered pan, with some salt. Drain.

Next, simply heat come olive oil over medium high heat with a couple of large cloves of garlic. Remove the garlic, and cook spinach in the scented, flavored oil, tossing to coat. Serve at once and enjoy!

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February 27, 2011

Oven-Browned Tomatoes

This is the one recipe I was able to prepare ahead last summer. I knew that I would never be able to find good quality tomatoes in February, so I made this in August at the peak of tomato season.

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With this recipe you start with good tomatoes, sliced in half and then layered in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle on chopped parsley, garlic, salt and pepper and then drizzle on extra virgin olive oil. This is then baked for at least an hour until the tomatoes condense down. For me this took much longer than the hour. I cooked it for almost 2 hours and it probably could have gone longer, but I was afraid to overcook it. I think I must have started with extremely juicy tomatoes.
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The tomatoes came out of the oven so tasty. They were warm and delectable and the combination of flavors was wonderful. Michael came home from work a couple of hours later and before I could warm them up, he was eating them out of the serving dish. Well, Marcella said they could be served at room temperature, so I guess this worked out okay.


March 1, 2011

Fried Zucchini with Flour and Water Batter

The extra bonus for being the first of the Pomodori to work with, and report on, a new ingredient, is the opportunity to discuss the most important aspect of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - the professorial lecture that will likely introduce that ingredient.

Remember, when we began this challenge, we approached the project as "virtual" students. Although Marcella may no longer be physically teaching classes, we can continue to learn from her. Before you read our next eight days of posts about zucchini, open you copy of Essentials and read Marcella's treatise on this most classic Italian vegetable.

Quoting: "It is no exaggeration to say that when you explore all the ways of cooking zucchini, you reach for and bring within your grasp most of the processes that make up Italian cooking."

Now, back to the first of the zucchini, the basic - la pastella. Thin lengthwise slices dipped in a simple, light flour batter and fried in very hot oil. There is really no need for me to discuss the process. The pictures will suffice.


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March 3, 2011

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 4, 2011

Zucchini with Oregano

The weather here in Alabama has been awesome. We've had warm sunny days and cool clear nights. Spring-time is here!

When I saw that my recipe for this week was Zucchini with oregano... I rushed off to buy my herbs. To the garden center! It was the perfect afternoon to play in the dirt. I was able to get my pots planted with rosemary, basil and oregano.

I made a quick stop at the market to pick up some fresh zucchini~ never fresh enough to have the blossoms attached as you would see in Italy. It is as fresh as I could find locally. I am going to have to grow my own, or find a friendly neighbor with a garden if I want zucchini blossoms. I don't know why we haven't been on the fried blossom band wagon. I can look forward to some when I am in Italy in May.

Marcella's recipe for Sauteed Zucchini rounds with Oregano is just that. The simple layering of olive oil and garlic, with thinly sliced squash and fresh oregano. Fresh flavors that are so perfect together.

This is something that we will be able to enjoy all summer long!

Ciao y'all~

Sandi

March 5, 2011

Zucchini Gratin with Tomato and Marjoram

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Originally I made this recipe last August when I first conquered my fear of whole fish and made pan-roasted porgies with lemon and marjoram. Given that the zucchini season was in full bloom and people were begging anyone to take them off of their hands and the marjoram in the garden was growing out of control, I decided that it was a fine time to make this gratin to serve alongside those beady-eyed fish.

One prepares the zucchini by washing it carefully and slicing it into thin disks. These disks are sautéed until soft in garlic and oil.

The zucchini prepared, you make a simple tomato sauce - oil, onions, tomatoes, marjoram - which is slowly cooked for about 20 minutes. When the oil floats free of the tomatoes the sauce is finished off by swirling in the parsley and pepper.

The zucchini is layered in a heat-proof dish, covered with tomatoes, a sprinkle of cheese, more zucchini, the rest of the tomato sauce, and a final sprinkle of cheese.

The whole thing is popped into the oven where it bakes until the cheese melts and the top browns.

Marcella advises that you should let it sit for 10 minutes before serving - if you can wait that long.

This is an amazing way to prepare zucchini. In fact, I have made this recipe 9 times since I first set it on the able. It tastes that good and the presentation is rather impressive.

We also discovered that any leftovers make an amazing frittata for Sunday breakfast. MMMMM

March 6, 2011

Zucchini with Tomato and Basil

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As we are continuing the zucchini portion of this chapter, this recipe is somewhat similar to the last post. It starts with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil in an oven safe dish. Once they are golden brown, parsley and tomatoes are added. This is cooked for around a half an hour. The sliced zucchini is then added and the pot is moved to the oven to cook until the zucchini is tender. Fresh basil is then added to top the dish and then it is served.

The combination of flavors was wonderful. The sweetness of the tomatoes fused with the mellowness of the zucchini and the sharp bite of the fresh basil made an amalgam that worked well.

This has to one of Michael’s favorite recipes in the book. Of course, there are quite a few of these. Any recipe that takes him back to his childhood days in his Zia’s kitchen, is a winner to him. I have really enjoyed helping him remember all of those good days. We all need to be reminded of those sometime.

March 7, 2011

Baked Zucchini Stuffed wtih Ham and Cheese

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March 8, 2011

Hollowed Zucchini Stuffed with Beef, Ham, and Parmesan Cheese

We made a complete meal of this zucchini dish. A delicious meal. If you are a stuffed pepper fan, I suggest you try stuffing zucchini instead.

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The ingredients are many, but the prep is not time consuming, nor is it technically difficult.

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Cleaning the zucchini, trimming & cutting each one into two shorter pieces, and then hollowing them all out will take the most time. You will want to be careful to avoid cutting through the skin. Marcella recommended using a narrow, sharp tool. I chose a small boning knife. It worked great.

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After wilting the onions in the oil, the parsley and diluted tomato paste are added. While that is cooking, warmed milk is used to soften the bread. After the milk mush cools, it is combined with all of the additional ingredients. The resulting meat mixture is stuffed firmly into the hollowed-out zucchini.

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The stuffed zucchini are put into the pan with the onions and tomato and covered to cook until tender - somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 minutes. Turn them a few times in the pan for even cooking. Once they are tender, uncover, and if there is any juice left boil it off.

Marcella says: "Here is one of those dishes that has nothing to gain from being served the moment it's done. Its flavor improves when it is served several hours or even a day later. Reheat it gently in a covered pan, and serve warm, but not steaming hot."

We didn't wait a day, or even a few hours.

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March 10, 2011

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 11, 2011

Charcoal-Grilled Vegetables

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I grill vegetables all the time so it was particularly interesting to me to closely follow Marcella’s instructions and notice the differences. She asks for zucchini, onion, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and Belgian Endive (which I had never grilled before). Scoring the eggplant was a technique I hadn’t tried and I found it very effective.

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The tomatoes are topped with a simple bread crumb mixture while all the others are brushed with olive oil—some during and some after grilling.

My platter wasn’t big enough to hold all of these so I made a separate plate for just the zucchini.

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Impressive dinner party fare or just every day. I love grilled veggies!

March 25, 2011

Green Bean Salad

So simple. So delicious. So Marcella.

All you do is find some nice fresh green beans, snap them and soak them in water for about 10 minutes.

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Boil them in salted water until tender but not crunchy.
Toss them with some nice olive oil, salt and a squirt of lemon juice. (Be sure to stop and smell the olive oil as it hits the hot beans.)
Eat the salad while it's still a bit warm.


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March 29, 2011

Italian Potato Salad

It's just potatoes, salt, olive oil, and vinegar.

But the ability to make such a deceptively simple dish with these ingredients isn't falling-off-the-log simple.

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There's picking the perfect potatoes.
Then there's cooking them to just the correct point of doneness.
Then there is peeling them while still very hot.
Then there is slicing them thick enough to keep from falling apart.
Then there is working fast so the potatoes will still be warm enough to make magic with the vinegar when it is splashed over the top.
Then of course there is using just the right amount of salt to bring out the flavor.
And finally there is the liberal drizzle of a flavorful olive oil. (Preferably bright green, newly pressed, and unfiltered.)

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And, yet again, I made a meal of this one single dish. This chapter could turn me into a vegetarian.

April 1, 2011

Insalatone

My challenge this week was to build an Insalatone. In Marcella's own words this is a 'magnificent cooked salad'.
It can be served at room temperature or still warm, with a light toss of good olive oil and rich red wine vinegar, a little coarse salt and ground black pepper... Quanto basta. All of the vegetables need to be cooked according to it's needs. Peppers are roasted over a flame for easy peeling. Beets are roasted until sweet and tender, then peeled. (For some unknown reason I could only find golden beets, even though two days ago they had plenty of red beets!)The onions are roasted in their skins then quartered. Potatoes and green beans are cooked until tender.You can see that this is a beautiful plate of vegetables; with the perfect seasonings to let the flavors shine
Ciao Y'all~
Sandi

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the Vegetables category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Veal is the previous category.

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