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

6. Saturday - Jerry/Palma Archives

April 3, 2010

Mushroom, Parmesan Cheese, and White Truffle Salad

Where to begin . . .

Hello. This is Jerry and today I join the ranks of the other obsessive cooks making our way through 'Essentials'.

That was poetic. Or not.

Some initial thoughts? I LOVE Marcella. I have come to appreciate how she has tried to make Italian cooking accessible to North American cooks much the same way Julia Child did French cooking. I like the way Marcella provides great advice to the North American cook so that we can experience success with the recipes . . . can't find a particular ingredient in NA - this would be a good substitute. Sure, you may not end up with the same results as if you scouraged the market in a small idyllic Italian town but you're not in Italy are you? You might wish you were but reality is that you're in a suburb of Toronto and white truffles aren't to be found.

I've cooked Italian food for yonks. Seriously, it has probably been more than 40 years since I first grabbed a spoon and a spatula and helped Uncle Romolo work up a feast for the family. Uncle Romolo may be gone but his lessons for me are not - Italian food is simple, fresh, and comforting. Take that Olive Garden (AKA Italian Food HELL)!

Marcella is a master of this minimalistic technique.

This strikes home even more when one considers that Hazan was raised during the depression and the war. Readers of history know that these were particularly challenging years for those who were living in Italy. People made do with what they could find. Food wasn't wasted. Simple pleasures were what it was all about.

This recipe is a perfect example of this. Five ingredients - mushrooms, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil. Top with some salt (I left this out) and freshly ground pepper and you're good. The recipe has white truffles as an option. I've eaten white truffles in Piemonte when they are in season. They are DIVINE. I would have loved to have added white truffles to this dish but they were not to be found.

I wrote Hazan to see about substituting black truffles instead. She promptly wrote back:


Oh, Jerry!

This definitely is not white truffle season, and even if it were you might have second thoughts about using them, considering the price they now bring. The thing about white truffles is the aroma, there is nothing else like it, and black truffles don’t come anywhere near it. If you read the headnote, it tells you to skip the truffles if they are not available (or too expensive). If you use the right olive oil (see the headnote) and a good parmigiano-reggiano the result will still be delicious.


Classic Hazan. Use fresh, local ingredients, and enjoy the joy that simplicity brings to your plate!

We had this salad for dinner tonight - it was a Good Friday treat. It was brilliant. Because there are so few ingredients you want to use the best ingredients - no cheap olive oil and crap Wisconsin parmesan cheese ('how can that even be allowed?' he wonders allowed . . .) here. Use the best ingredients that you can find and your taste buds will sing . . .

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Oh Marcella, I am gonna LOVE cooking my way through your cookbook!

April 10, 2010

Salmon Foam

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I’m Palma, in Palm Desert, and the last cook to post a recipe. I’ll be sharing Saturdays with my friend Jerry. I am very excited about this cooking challenge, and I know Marcella has wonderful recipes, so there are lots of great foods to look forward to! I must confess to “sneaking ahead” in the cookbook and trying several other dishes.

My first recipe was Salmon Foam, and I must admit I am not a huge salmon fan. I have never tried canned salmon, but this appetizer couldn’t be more simple. Luckily, my husband does like salmon! Well, Of course, I HAD to taste the final product, and guess what? It was light and airy and not too "salmony".

You just clean and flake the salmon, mix it well with some good olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Then make whipped cream. Yes, I said, WHIPPED CREAM, and fold it thoroughly into the salmon mixture. It is like a salmon mousse. I’d love to try it with canned Italian tuna in olive oil. I bring back LOTS of Italian tuna every year when I visit Italy!

The salmon foam is pretty sitting on radicchio leaves and garnished with a thinly sliced lemon from my tree, and capers or a black olive! Buon appetito!

April 17, 2010

Ostriche alla Tarantina - Baked Oysters with Oil and Parsley

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I was having a less than enthusiastic attitude about oysters. Though I love ALL other shellfish, I must admit, I have never eaten an oyster. This poem inspired me to embrace the little guys I was preparing:

The Oyster (author unknown)

There once was an oyster
Whose story I tell,
Who found that some sand
Had got into his shell.
It was only a grain,
But it gave him great pain.
For oysters have feelings
Although they’re so plain.

Now, did he berate
The harsh working of fate
That had brought him
To such a deplorable state?
Did he curse at the government,
Cry for election,
And claim that the sea should
Have given him protection?

No – he said to himself
As he lay on a shell,
Since I cannot remove it,
I shall try to improve it.
Now the years have rolled around,
As the years always do,
And he came to his ultimate
Destiny – stew.

And the small grain of sand
That had bothered him so
Was a beautiful pearl
All richly aglow.
Now the tale has a moral;
For isn’t it grand
What an oyster can do
With a morsel of sand?

What couldn’t we do
If we’d only begin
With some of the things
That get under our skin.

The first challenge was finding fresh oysters in the southern California desert. Our upscale grocery store had them! Now I had to get the little suckers open. My husband thought he had an oyster shucking knife. It was nowhere to be found. Three knives later, we found one that did the trick. (Luckily we only made a dozen, or it could have gotten ugly!)

The preparation was simple. Fill a baking dish with rock salt or clean pebbles so the cleaned oyster shells will stay in place. Each full half shell, of the is sprinkled with bread crumbs, pepper, fresh parsley, and a few drops of olive oil. They are baked in a very hot oven for a few minutes, then squeezed with a lemon. I did taste one, and Brad enjoyed the rest!

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April 24, 2010

Spinach Soup

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I found two BEAUTIFUL large bunches of fresh spinach for this simple soup. I love spinach in salads, slightly sauteed with garlic, or cooked, but have never made a soup where spinach was the main ingredient. This couldn't be easier. Spinach, butter, onion, beef broth and some milk went together quickly. A little nutmeg and some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, and there was delicious soup! I also followed Marcella's simple method for crostini as a garnish. Lovely, simple, delicious (and nutritious)!

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May 1, 2010

Potato Soup with Split Green Peas

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I do believe that the soup section of 'Essentials' has surprised me the most so far. When I think of soups and Italian foods two things come to mind - Minestrone and Pasta Fagioli. Who knew that there was such greater depth to Italian soups than that?

This is not to cast aspersions upon these two soups - I love them both. Rather it is merely an observation on my ignorance of the breadth of Italian foods. I chalk this to the fact that I always visit Italy in the warm weather when soup is by far the furthest thing from my mind. Gelato . . . always! Soups . . . not so much.

Marcella includes no fewer than four different potato soup recipes in Essentials. This is the second one to include peas. I love potato soup and I love pea soup so I was sure that this would be a new favourite of mine.

The recipe was a breeze . . . essential you boil the heck out of potatoes and split green peas. This mixture gets puréed and then sautéed onions are added. One finishes the dish with some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, a grind of pepper, and you're good to go.

The soup was a subtle, but pretty green colour and a had surprising depth of flavour. This made it a favourite in our household.

Marcella suggests serving it topped with homemade crositini which added a hefty crunch to this soup.

May 8, 2010

Novara's Bean and Vegetable Soup

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This is a HUGE recipe - the ingredient list flows down an entire page. One gets intimidated.

Yes, one does.

Then one looks at the meat stock recipe on p. 15 and truly overwhelmed, one decides to save the soup for another day.

That day came and thank goodness I decided to not take the short cut of using a can of broth (??????). I won't judge those who do . . . well perhaps I will judge them a wee bit.

Marcella's stock recipe does make a wonderful flavourful stock. I've made liters of the stuff over the years but none have approached this stock for flavour. Mind you, using five pounds of meat, and 6 different veggies, ought to impart some flavour. You get out what you put in.

Italians use broth in a multitude of dishes - risotto, soups, the braising of meats, and some pasta dishes. Given the importance of such a prime 'background' ingredient for these other recipes, Marcella provides a detailed and well executed broth recipe.

I learned some important things from Marcella - pork or lamb aren't a good base for broth because their flavour can be strong thereby overpowering whatever prime ingredients are to go in the final dish in which you use the broth. Similarly, chicken giblets should be avoided (now that is prime advice. Avoid those nasty bits like you would Paris Hilton would be MY advice. Marcella is far more honorable than I!).

Anyway, a long and drawn out way of saying - nice broth Marcella. The containers of it frozen in freezer # 2 await future use.

Broth at hand (OK. In pot) I started my soup.

This soup is from the area around Norvara which I discovered was in Piemonte (thank you GOOGLE maps) which has got to be one of my favourite areas in Italy. Marcella writes that this soup has 'two lives' first as a soup and then as a base for a wonderful risotto (more on that later when we explore the risotto chapter).

You can enjoy the soup as is, save some for the risotto, or if you wish refrigerate it for a few days and alter it by adding pasta thus ending up with a wonderful new version.

We LOVED this soup with its intense combination of pork belly, onions, carrot, celery, zucchini, shredded red cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and a healthy amount of delicious broth. It was rich, thick, and immensely satisfying.

Shame that Paolo took some to work and spilled it ALL over his lunch bag. What a waste.

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients . . . the list may flow down the page but the compliments to the chef will flow far more when you serve this soup to your lucky guests!

May 15, 2010

Clam Soup

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Marcella says, "Italy has enough soups for a lifetime." This chapter has been wonderful, and I was happy to get the recipe for "Clam Soup". Though I live out in the California desert, I was able to get fresh clams. They were not the beautiful little tiny ones I enjoy in coastal cities or Italy, but I had to make due with these rather large littleneck clams from Bristol Farms.

After cleaning the clams well, saute olive oil, shallots, garlic and parsley. Add some white wine and red chili pepper, and those clams go in the pot. The clams are removed as soon as they open, and you have a simple and oh so delicious dinner!
Now I am craving pasta with clams! Such simple ingredients, and such wonderful flavors. Buonissimo!

May 22, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream

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. . . and now we move into the pasta and sauces chapter. Oh wow - there goes the diet. I was so hoping to wedge into some of the Italian clothing I see when I get to Bologna in two weeks. Yes, I did say two weeks . . . but I'm meandering here.

Anyway, today I say 'goodbye' to soups and move full-on into pasta and sauces.

I do believe that this section of 'Essentials' is particularly brilliant. Marcella gives explicit instructions for making the perfect pasta dish. Frankly, if one reads this section and still manages to plate undercooked and improperly sauced pasta they should be banned from the kitchen forthwith. With Marcella's advice in hand, anything less than pasta perfection will not be tolerated. No, it shall not.

I actually ready this section the way one reads a gripping novel, each paged turned, one after another, not wanting the flow of words to stop.

Sure I am food obsessed. I fully confess to that. However, Marcella's writing is so full of character and she imparts such words of wisdom that you can not help but love it.

I appreciated how she tackled the manner in which non-Italians abroad view Italian food - a big plate of overcooked pasta doused with boring tomato sauce. She cautions the serious cook to not be put off by this . . . tomato sauce need not taste like a can of 'Primo' nor a jar of 'Ragu'.

Marcella writes:

no flavour expresses more clearly the genius of Italian cooks than the freshness, the immediacy, the richness of good tomatoes adroitly matched to the most suitable choice of pasta.

With a description like this one has to be excited to have a go at one of her recipes.

My first selection was Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream. This is not a complex preparation by any stretch of the imagination - perfect, ripe tomatoes, butter, a small quality of carrots, celery, and onion, and cream. That is it. While I love basil, garlic, and oregano it is a treat to make Italian food that isn't full of such stereotypical 'Italian' flavours.

With a recipe like this it is imperative that you use the best ingredients; trying to use anything less than that will result in a substandard effort that will leave you unhappy. There is enough unhappiness in the world - make a good meal and spread some happiness. :-)

The cook is advised that this sauce goes particularly well with stuffed pasta or the spinach ricotta gnocchi on p. 262. I made it with both. Yes, we loved it. You might be familiar with that beast known as 'Blush Sauce' - essentially this is what this is. I can guarantee you that if you make everything carefully using the finest ingredients this will taste as close to the wee plastic container of blush sauce that you picked up in the grocery store as cubic zirconium compares to a well-cut diamond.

This was a very good sauce! Thanks Marcella!

May 29, 2010

Spinach Sauce with Ricotta and Ham

When I was a child, pasta with butter and ricotta was my comfort food of choice, like many "American" children love Mac & Cheese. If my mom was making an "adult meal" or a pasta with "too many vegetables", I would get pasta with ricotta, sometimes with butter and parmigiano, or sometimes with some leftover tomato sauce. I was excited to try this recipe!

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First the fresh spinach is cleaned, quickly cooked, drained and chopped. While the pasta is boiling, butter, ham and the spinach are sauteed, with some salt. Adding a little nutmeg enhances the flavors. This mixture is tossed with the hot pasta, ricotta, more butter, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

If my mom had made this, she could have gotten me to eat all kinds of vegetables! I have made many pastas with the addition of pancetta, sausage, prosciutto, but never ham. We loved this simple dish!

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While you are reading this, I am eating wonderful pasta in Bologna. I am so glad I will have great new pasta recipes to make when I get home.

June 5, 2010

Butter and Rosemary Sauce

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You can't get much easier than butter, fresh garlic and rosemary, right? I read this recipe, and thought, hmm, it sounds like a brown butter and sage sauce (one of my favorites). So simple, yet SOOOOOOO good. This will be a snap. Then I continued reading about the recommended pasta. Why not try to make some tonnarelli too?

Marcella explains that in Italy, this kind of pasta is made with OO flour, but we can substitute regular, all-purpose flour. No problem! I have two more BAGS of OO flour, and will be bringing more home from Italy in June. (Doesn't everyone bring an extra piece of luggage for this reason?)

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Tonnarelli are fresh, square noodles (like square-sided spaghetti). It is als called "maccheroni alla chitarra", because the Italian tool for cutting it looks like guitar strings. I quickly made my dough by hand with a little flour and 2 eggs.

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My pasta cutters are attachments to my Kitchen Aid mixer, and I have two choices: spaghetti or fettucini. I used the spaghetti tool, but left the rolled dough a little thicker than I would for spaghetti, so the noodles would be as thick as they are wide. They didn't exactly look as squared as tonnarelli should, but they were still fabulous!

Now, back to the sauce! This sauce is a shortcut to using the leftovers of a roast, and those yummy brown bits of meat and garlicy juices with rosemary flavor. In Italy, Marcella explains this is called "la pasta col tocco d'arrosto", (with a touch of the roast). And that is EXACTLY what this version tastes like!

You get to smash the garlic cloves with the knife enough to loosen the peel (why do I always feel like a REAL chef when I do that?). The garlic, butter and rosemary is cooked for a few minutes. Then you add a crushed beef bouillon cube (the SECRET ingredient), and strain this before tossing it with the pasta and some parmesan.

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You will jump up and down. You will make happy grunting noises. Your taste buds will sing an aria! This is SO GOOD!

THIS is what I will make my first week home from my Italy trip to help me with post-Italy re-entry depression!

June 12, 2010

Pasta and Pesto with Potatoes and Green Beans

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I'm cooking ahead here - because I am in Rome baby! Forgive me while I get a tad excited . . .

Anyway. Back on track (for now).

A few weeks ago Paul made a recipe by Jamie Oliver that combined pesto, broccoli, and potatoes. in the introduction he wrote 'before you decide that I'm barmy for putting potato shavings into a pasta dish, I should explain that it's actually very authentic'. I am afraid I owe poor Jamie an apology for I was convinced he was telling a lie! What would a guy from England know about the way real Italians cook pasta?

Along comes Marcella.

In the introduction to her recipe she writes:

When serving pesto on spaghetti or noodles, the full Genoese treatment calls for the addition of boiled potatoes and green beans. When all of its components are right, there is no single dish more delicious in the entire Italian pasta repertory!

So yes, Jamie was right. Having said that, Marcella gets full points for the lovely poetic way she describes the dish.

Her pasta was a whole lot better as well.

shhhh. Don't tell Jamie, he is so overwrought at trying to change the way American's eat that he may spring a leak.

This was easy to prepare - I had pesto left over in the fridge from when I made the lasagne with ricotta pesto, all I needed to do was boil some potatoes, slice them, cook the beans, cook the fresh spaghetti and mix it all together. I had dinner ont he table in less than 30 minutes.

WOW - this was amazingly fresh tasting . . . yet another example of how simply ingredients, when used properly, result in a dish that is beguiling. You'd think that you had slaved in the kitchen for hours. Take my advice - don't tell anyone that you didn't - just be sure to quietly thank Marcella as you accept all of the compliments.

June 19, 2010

Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic and Hot Pepper

I have been home from Italy for four days, and am still in a food coma from my three weeks in Bologna. I have been cooking amazing pasta dishes from Emilia-Romagna to give my husband a taste of what he missed this trip, and what he has to look forward to when we return next year.

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I made this dish a couple of days before I left for Italy, and we both enjoyed it very much. We love scallops, but I have never thought to have them with pasta! The scallops are cut into small pieces, and sauteed with simply garlic, hot red chili pepper, fresh parsley and olive oil, then tossed with the hot spaghetti and bread crumbs. The hot pepper gives the dish a nice kick, and the scallops were tender and delicious!

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June 26, 2010

Cream and Butter Sauce

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Oh my people - do your hear your arteries clenching? Cream, butter, cheese? Oh my!

This is Marcella's version of the classic 'Roman' sauce: Alfredo. We've all had Alfredo sauce. We've all seen it in small plastic containers in the supermarket. We've all seen ads for that horrible 'Italian' restaurant chain with so-called Alfredo sauce scooped out all over any assortment of pasta, meat, or fish.

Porca Miseria

You may think that you have tried Alfredo sauce but trust me when I say you won't know what hit you when you try the real deal baby!

This sauce is simple - whipping cream, butter, cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Use the best ingredients you have. Whip it together and I guarantee that you will NEVER look at those wee plastic containers of store bought Alfredo sauce again.

Marcella writes 'if a fat, fresh white truffle should happen to come your way, one of the best uses for it is to shave it over pasta tossed with Alfredo sauce'. Sadly I had no such treat but I can only imagine how wonderful that would be. SIGH

I first made this for our anniversary dinner back in May but have since brought it to the table 4 more times - yes, it is that simple AND good!

You won't go wrong with this one. . . . and who really cares if the bathing suit fits THIS year anyway?

July 3, 2010

Prosciutto and Cream Sauce

I am LOVING this chapter! I have enjoyed every pasta sauce so far! This is another easy one with simple ingredients. Prosciutto, butter, cream, pasta and parmigiano...what's not to love? I made a salad and served this with penne pasta for a 15 minute meal on an evening that was truly "too hot to cook"! I will definitely try it again with home meade green tortellini, as it was one of my favorite pasta dishes in Bologna!

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July 10, 2010

Tortelli Stuffed with Ricotta and Parsley

I have been looking forward to this one. It is one thing to make tortelloni in a cooking class in Bologna, with expert supervision, help with kneading and rolling with a mattarello, and someone showing you how to fold and shape. It is another to do it all yourself for the first time at home, and then cook them and make a sauce.

First I made the ricotta-parsley filling with one of my new big hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano from Reggio-Emiglia.

The pasta dough seemed stickier than I am used to. I was surprised by the addition of a little milk. My first problem was trying to put too much stuffing in the center!

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After a 5 or 6, I had my old "finger routine" down, and I was able to crank them out pretty quickly.

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The butter and cream sauce was delicious, as Marcella said it would be with them. I think they would be wonderful with browned butter ad sage. Not bad at all for a first attempt!

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I definitely want to make GREEN tortelli, and try some with a meat filling. I also am determined to buy a mattarello and get it home on my next visit to Italy in September!

Thank you, Marcella for a fabulous pasta chapter! For me, it is on to Risotto and Polenta!

July 17, 2010

Lasagna with Ricotta Pesto

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Generally when one thinks of lasagna one pictures a heavenly pan of baked pasta, sauce, cheese, and meat bubbling away. As with many Italian dishes, significant regional variations exist. In some areas, the sauce is likely to be a simple tomato sauce or a ragù; in others, a Béchamel sauce. Ingredients may include meatballs, sausage and sliced hard-boiled eggs.

With this in mind I started to read Marcella's recipe for Lasagna with Ricotta Pesto. I was quick to learn that my image of lasagna was due to be expanded . . . not the first time this has happened during this cooking challenge! Mind you, as long as it is only my mind that is expanding and not my stomach I guess I won't complain!

This is a dish that is common to the Italian Riviera - that narrow strip of land hugging the coast and stretching from La Spezia to the French border. This lasagna is only boiled - not baked. It doesn’t have any additional cheese, meat, or tomato sauce.

In Genoa this dish is called piccagge which translates roughly into napkin or dish cloth. Essentially that is what it is - layers of cooked lasagna noodles with a wonderful ricotta pesto spread between them. I followed Marcella's machine pasta recipe from page 130 and made her ricotta pesto recipe from p. 178 (although I may have been a tad more liberal with the olive oil than Marcella suggested in the recipe). Once the pesto was made and the noodles cooked the actually dish was on the table in about 5 minutes - a far cry from the half day marathon that is needed to make a lasagna in the Bolognese manner.

All in all this was the easiest lasagna I have ever made. The presentation was impressive and the taste was fresh and light! I know that when my basil is out of control this summer we will be enjoying this dish over and over again!

July 24, 2010

Risotto with Saffron, Milanese Style

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I also love risotto, and make it often. Along with 00 flour and parmigiano, Arborio rice is one of the things I ALWAYS stash a couple of bags of in my extra piece of luggage. Doesn't everyone bring an empty suitcase for food shopping in Italy? I know one other Pomodori who does...

A few years ago, during a visit to Rome, we celebrated Brad's special birthday at Agata and Romeo. I was given a lovely gift by the hostess, a small book: 100 Risotti dei Migliori Ristoranti del Mondo. I have tried several, and have about seven or eight that are "standards" at our house. I have also created a few combinations of my own, using some of my favorite ingredients. But if truth be known, I have never made a straight forward risotto Milanese!

Yesterday, Sandi mentioned the two schools of thought about "to stir or not to stir". I have heard many a debate on this topic, and have tried it both ways. (I even make a lovely baked risotto with no stirring at all! ) But again, who am I to question Marcella?

I looked at my box of saffron threads. Hmmmm, I wondered how long it has been in my pantry, as it is not an ingredient I use often. It seemed to dissolve well in the hot water and looked like a good color, so I proceeded.

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Marcella's process was clear and straight forward. It is perfect, especially for anyone who is afraid to try risotto. If you follow her steps, the risotto turns out perfectly, the right texture, and no mushy stuff or pan that is tough to clean. It was perfect. It is also the first time I have made risotto with home made broth, and it was worth the trouble. I will be keeping a permanent spot in my freezer for THAT!

We enjoyed our risotto with my favorite chicken thighs with caramelized onion and fennel.

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July 30, 2010

Risotto with Vegetables and Red Wine

Close your eyes and think of a perfect world . . . in this world you have a freezer full of Marcella's wonderful meat broth. You then use some of this broth to make the wonderful Novara bean soup (featured on May 8th). As wonderful as this soup is, imagine you have some leftovers.

In that perfect world make this risotto. I guarantee that you will purr like a kitten.

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I've never had a risotto made with red wine. Marcella advises you to use a good red wine. I know that some of you will be tempted to use a bottle from your '2 Buck Chuck' wine cellar. Ignore that particular temptation. One should only cook unsing the same wine that you would drink. Now, if you would normally drink '2 Buck Chuck' than I needn’t worry about you as you are likely in line for the buffet at Sizzler and not bothering to cook this amazing risotto.

For the rest of you who care about what you eat and drink - use a good red wine. This risotto is from the Piemonte area of Italy - a barbera or dolcetto would be lovely. If you're as wealthy as Donald Trump use a $ 400 Barolo. Once you've planned the menu don't forget to invite ME!

This risotto has an unusual ingredient . . . salam d'la duja - a soft donkey meat sausage. Marcella, knowing that most of us in North America would never find this ingredient, happily advises the cook to use any high-quality, tender sausage that is neither too spicy nor garlicky. Have I said how much I really appreciate how approachable Marcella makes her recipes for the average cook? Have I? Apparently I am officially at risk of being redundant.

The risotto recipe is easy to follow. Marcella advises you to stir regularly . . . putting her firmly at odds with those Italian cooks who strongly advise that good risotto is never stirred. No. Not at all. In fact, I have wittnessed full on arguments about this very advice. Italians love a good argument and since no one can understand their politics food makes a wonderful topic for debate.

Frankly this is a debate I will not engage in - stir or not . . . as long as the risotto cooks evenly and doesn't stick what do you care? I think that because our stoves in North America may have hotter cooking temperatures than similar stoves in Italy stirring is a wise idea. I stirred.

For the record - I have always stirred. You're not expected to whirl the rice around in the pan as if you were a human kitchen aid mixer on full speed, a luxurious stir is all that is needed. This ensures an even consistency to your risotto. However, as I said, if you don't want to stir - don't.

When I served this up for dinner Paul looked at it and wondered if I had made a mistake - the risotto was rather red from the wine. He took one bite and KNEW that I had done nothing wrong other then to not give him a larger portion.

This recipe is a prime example of that wonderful skill Italian chefs learned by necessity during the economic upheavals throughout history - reusing leftovers again and again to create new and wonderful dishes. No one will ever suspect that this risotto is made with leftovers. Don't tell them. Bask in the praise!

August 7, 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

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Marcella writes that 'the word gnocco in Italian means a little lump' and frankly many gnocchi that I have tried in the past were little more than lumps; not particularly appetizing. Lumps of glue-like dough that invariably weigh rather heavily in your stomach.

Ick

Or as I learned to say in Italy this last trip - porca miseria.

Poor Palma, tried her darnedest to teach me some Italian and THAT is all I brought back. *smile*

Then a couple of years ago Paul and I went to dinner in Florence at Osteria del Chinghiale Bianco with Palma and Brad. Palma ordered spinach and ricotta gnocchi and they were a revelation - light, fluffy, and bursting with flavour!

I was excited to be trying Marcella's version to see if I could duplicate those light balls of flavour at home.

Many people only think of potatoes when they think of gnocchi. They would be thinking narrowly. One should never think too narrowly when it comes to food.

This version is also known as naked ravioli because the gnocchi are essentially buttery mounds of ravioli filling. Gnocchi with ricotta cheese is much more forgiving than the potato version. The dough holds together better, and the result is likely to be more pillow-like than chewy.

You may have seen spinach ricotta gnocchi on restaurant menus before under a different name: strangolapreti or strozzapreti. This translates to "choke the priest". I love the livid food names in Italy! Of course, because nothing in Italy is simple, strozzapreti also refers to a thick, elongated pasta.

One has to wonder about this fascination with naming food after such things. Was there a series of accidental priest strangulations? Did the Medici resort to 'death by pasta' to dispatch those priests who dared threaten their edicts in Florence? We'll never know but the colourful food names sure can get the conversation going over dinner.

Ahhhhh, Italy!

Marcella's gnocchi were a breeze to make. As always she provided a variety of things that the home cook could do to make the recipe as approachable as possible. Don't have bunches of spinach in your market? Use a box of frozen . . .

I also appreciated how she provided you with tips as to the best sauce to use. Since I had made the tomato and heavy cream sauce already I took her advice and served the gnocchi with that.

Once again Marcella helped me hit the ball out of the park (look at me using a sports metaphor - who knew?) . . . these gnocchi were the best! In fact, I believe that they might have been better than that memorable gnocchi we first snuck from Palma's plate back at White Boar in Florence!

August 14, 2010

Making Polenta

I love polenta, and we have it often. I love it as a side dish, or grilled or baked. I typically make mine in the oven with gruyere and fried sage, but I was excited to make it the authentic way of slow stirring. I was excited until about half way through the process of standing at a hot stove and stirring FOREVER!

OK, 40-45 minutes, said the recipe. That is a LONG time to stand over a hot bubbling pot! My weak fat arm was tired after 10 minutes! My husband arrived home in time to take over. Perfetto!

After the second ten minutes, I let him sit down with a glass of wine, and went back to my task. THIS must be why I love my oven-baked polenta so much. I was thinking, I won't be doing this again soon! Every time I go to a good copper store in Italy, I lust over the beautiful polenta pots. I can now pass them right by, knowing I won't need one!

At 35 minutes, the polenta looked and tasted done. As Marcella suggests, I poured it into a shallow large bowl, and evened out the top with a spoon to set. I made a salad and removed my braised pork from the oven.

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After 10 minutes, I unmolded the dome of polenta onto a round platter.

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I LOVE Marcella's idea of scooping out the top of the dome, and using the polenta as a bowl for your meat or stew! I filled mine with braised pork with fennel and figs.

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The polenta was delicious and a perfect consistency, but a little salty for us. It is very lovely as a serving bowl, and I can imagine it with a nice lamb stew or filled with sausages! I will let my arm rest before trying this again, and split the stirring with my sous chef in the future.

August 21, 2010

Frittata with Artichokes

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One of the more challenging aspects of this year-long cook-a-thon was that we weren't able to change the order of the recipes - Deborah was clear - cook your way through the book in order . . . it mattered not if artichokes weren't in season . . . cook them. One learned quickly to not mess with the rules, 'twas a subject not to be broached . . . not unlike politics or the best manner in which to cook Melanzane alla Parmigiana in Italy.

Through the power of technology we found a way around this though - we could cook ahead and post on the appropriate date. By doing this we were able to post on the blog in the same order the recipes appeared in the book and still were able to cook with the freshest ingredients.

I'm sure Marcella would approve of us only wanting to use the freshest ingredients possible.

One of my recipes was an artichoke frittata but I was scheduled to post it on August 21. Guess what the quality of the artichokes I might find then would be like. EWWWW Artichokes are a wonderful springish vegetable. I made my frittata in May using nice fresh artichokes and am posting it in August to keep Deborah from hunting me down.

See. Everyone is happy!

I've eaten many frittatas over the years - in fact, when I make an omelet it is more like a frittata than a traditional omelet. I don't flip them, fold them, or do any of those things that one does when one is making an omelet. Rather, I dump the eggs in the hot pan, let them set, and then put it in the oven until cooked through. It turns out that this is Marcella's technique as well.

Well, Marcella's technique is far more poetic than that but that is why she earns a living writing cook books and I merely eat my way through cook books.

The most complex part of this dish is preparing the artichokes. Good heavens, they are a devil to clean, trim, and prepare. Hazan provides detailed instructions on p.p. 57 - 59 and reminds you to be sure to rub the cut areas with fresh lemon so that the surfaces don't get discoloured. As with all of Marcella's detailed instructions - they work - the woman clearly knows her techniques. Thank goodness she has written them so well so that we home cooks can learn them as well.

Once the artichokes are prepared for cooking the dish comes together quickly. In fact, I was having it for breakfast and I didn't have a chance to get my toast ready before the frittata was done. Speedy.

This was an amazing frittata - who knew that a frittata would be such a successful vehicle for artichokes? Of course, we North American cooks would be tempted to add more vegetables and dump on cups of cheese. Don't! Let the tender fresh artichokes, at the peak of their game, speak for themselves. You won't regret it.

September 4, 2010

Porgies or Other Small Fish Pan-Roasted with Marjoram and Lemon

The way this challenge is set up you don't have complete freedom to select what you will be making. . . when your day of the week rolls around you turn to the recipe that is next in the book and have at it. Irene had to conquer her fear of eating eggs and did this with style. In this section of the book many of us are dealing with fish issues. The challenge is a blessing and a curse - it forces you to push your boundaries as a cook. Boy, does it ever.

Fish is firmly in the category of foods that caused me grief as a child. . . hell, as an adult. If it wasn't tuna from a tin or wrapped in three inches of batter from the fish and chip store I wasn't going to eat it. No dessert - fine. No TV - equally fine. It wasn't until about four years ago when I approached 300 lbs on the scales that I decided a more healthy diet was needed. This diet includes fish. In fact we cook fish every week and in some cases two or three times a week.

You know that I discovered that I really like fish. The gag reflex that I experienced as a kid has left. Having said that, I had never cooked a whole one. No, not at all.


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Cooking fish now being fine, I guess the next part in my transition was cooking a whole fish. This recipe called for small, whole fish such as porgies, bass, or pompano. In fairness, the book did suggest fillets with skin but the title wasn't Fillets with Skin Pan-Roasted with Marjoram and Lemon. I wouldn't be able to look my fellow Pomodori in the eye had I whimped out now (I shall save that for the lamb kidney recipe perhaps).

I went off to the fish monger and asked for porgies. He looked at me as if I had two heads.

"I've never heard of those," he declared.

I knew immediately that he was a fraud. Fish mongers being in short supply in this area . . . I kept at it.

I had read online that bream were a type of porgy. There were some nice looking bream on ice in the display case so I asked for the smallest ones he had (Marcella suggests that they be 3/4 to 1 pound each). I asked him to gut and scale them for me.

Imagine my shocked look when he asked me if I wanted to keep the guts?

What in god's name would I want that for? Fertilizer, I suppose, but it wasn't happening - the raccoons are already bad enough this summer.

I was happy to pick up a nicely wrapped package of fish.

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The cats were thrilled when I brought that fish home. In fact, it is safe to say that this has been their favourite challenge by far. Never have I seen them so enthused about something I was cooking. Clearly they were hoping that one of those fish would be flopped off of the counter and into their territory.

Never having cooked a whole fish I wasn't prepared to see it looking up at me. It didn't bother me from a 'this was once a swimming beast with a beating heart who nuzzled their young' perspective - being a carnivore I don't much care about that - there is a reason why humans have incisors folks and it ain't to gnaw on a carrot. I just didn't like staring at the meat I was due to cook and having it stare BACK!

This recipe calls for pan-roasting - a technique that is neither sautéing nor braising. It provides for more controlled heat then with oven roasting. The end result has the slow concentration of flavour that comes from roasting combined with the juiciness one gets from using a hot heat source under the pan.

The recipe is simplicity itself. Dredge the fish in flour. Place it in a hot pan with oil/butter, marjoram, and garlic. Brown. Squirt with lemon, add salt pepper, and cover until cooked. Done.

Transfer to a platter, pour the juices over it, and serve.


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Oh, oh!

Now we were presented with a new dilemma. How to eat the cooked fish laying on the platter staring up at us.

Never having cooked a whole fish I didn't have a clue how to eat it. How was it de-boned? What happened to the head and tail? Did one eat the skin?

In the end I discovered that the skeletal structure came out relatively easily taking the head and tail with it. However, small bones remained. Both of us have relatives who almost died choking on a fish bone (doesn't everyone?) so we gingerly ate our fish.

Once we got past the head, the bones, and the tail we discovered that we liked it. The mild, almost sweet fish, was wonderful with the garlic, marjoram, and lemon. Indeed, we liked it a lot.

I doubt that we'll ever enjoy a whole fish in the same way that someone raised near the coast might but we enjoyed the combination of flavours; we won't be fearful of ordering a whole fish when we're next along the Mediterrean.

I was happy that I had met this challenge and not shirked my responsibility nor fallen into a huddled mass on the floor.

I may save that for my next challenge - squid.

Oh, oh!

September 11, 2010

Whole Sea Bass Baked with Artichokes

Well there were several "firsts" for me on this recipe!

1. I have never purchased a whole fish (with head and tail).
2. I have never COOKED a whole fish (with head and tail).
3. I have never EATEN (or ordered in a restaurant) a whole fish!
4. I have never cleaned medium-sized artichokes in this way.

Since I live in the desert, and our closest ocean is two hours away, I was thrilled that our fish store, The Fisherman, could order me a fresh 2 pound sea bass the day before I wanted to cook it.

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I forced myself to even touch the dead little guy, but looked to make sure he had been gutted, as I was NOT going to do THAT! (Why do I have no problem butchering up meat? Because the thing is not LOOKING AT ME?)

Ok, all I had to do was wash and dry the bloody fish. (It WAS bloody. That is not British slang.) On to the artichokes...

The recipe called for 4 medium sized artichokes. They are trimmed, cleaned, with chokes removed, being rubbed with freshly squeezed lemon to prevent them from turning brown. Then they were thinly sliced. I had a great sous chef: Brad. As I trimmed and broke off the upper part of the leaves, he cleaned out the chokes and sliced.

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The sliced artichokes go around the fish, with some stuffed inside the fish cavity. Then you prepare a simple mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it over the fish and artichokes. Add some fresh rosemary, and bake. It went into the oven like this:

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It came out looking like this:

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Brad filleted the fish. It was tender and moist, and the artichokes were VERY lemony. I found the fish a little bland and under-seasoned. Sorry, Marcella, but this was NOT one of my favorites. I do like sea bass, but I shall let the true chefs prepare it for me in the future, or buy a fillet if I am in the mood to cook fish!

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September 18, 2010

Squid with Tomatoes and Peas

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Squid.

Slimy . . . jiggly . . .

Squid, squid, squid.

How I loathe thee, squid. . .

Now in my life I am known for absolutes. The truth is that while I may talk as if I live in a world of black and white, the reality is that there is a HUGE amount of nuanced grey behind the scenes.

Nuances or not, there are still some wee absolutes that shall not be changed. I won't wear white pants after Labour Day. I won't vote Conservative. I won't be seen in sandals with socks. I will never sport a tattoo. I will not drink bad wine. I will not allow margarine into the household. I will not use cheap olive oil. There will NEVER be a green can of 'cheese product' in my cupboard.

I used to say I'd never cook squid until Deborah (and Marcella in a round about way) made me.

Sigh, another of my lovely absolutes that I had held near and dear to my heart tossed on the trash heap of life.

When I was making the menu for the week I offered Paul the choice of upcoming Pomodori recipes - he responded with 'let's get the damn squid over with.'

Hardly a rousing endorsement.

On Sunday, while steeling up the courage to cook my squids, I called mom to invite her over for a squid feast. When she heard the menu . . . she declined the invitation.

This is a first of historic proportions.

I reminded her of liver nights as a child and the abuse that had been inflicted upon my sister and myself by her disgusting liver recipes (which I invariably tossed to the dog under my dad's watchful and jealous eye - he wisely knew that such behaviour would never be allowed for HIM). Reminded of this horror, she grudgingly relented and came over.

You might ask 'what has the poor squid ever done to Jerry?'

The answer is nothing. Squid doesn't taste horrible - in fact, I actually enjoy the taste. I think it is the texture. Well, I didn't enjoy cleaning the things either, truth be told. I LOATH the tentacles. Those suction cups that threaten to grab and tug at my throat as they slide down. Perhaps it is just an overactive imagination and meds are in order???

Marcella points out that there are really two ways to cook squid - fast and hot as in fried calamari - which I love - yes, I really do (remember that world of grey I admit to actually residing in . . .), or long and slow - which is the technique used in this recipe.

To make this classic Tuscan dish (over dinner mom argued that Tuscany had no coastline and therefore there was nothing classic about this. We rose to Marcella's defense . . . reminding her of a wee place called Livorno - a city she insisted we had made up . . . Paul had to get our driving atlas of Italy to prove her wrong . . . see the fun we have at the DeQuetteville/Blonski dinner table? 'Tis an invitation to covet!)

Hmmm - I have meandered on a wee digression here.

Anyway. Classic Tuscan dish. Marcella = A +, Edith = sent back to Italian geography for dummies.

One cleans the squid. Eeewww - enough said. Even the cats were offended.

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I lay down for an hour to recover.

Imagine what I would have needed had I even touched the things instead of making Paul do it all?

Fortified by a glass of vino and a beer, I commenced cooking. Onion and garlic is sautéed in olive oil. Parsley. Tomatoes. This cooks and forms a simple sauce.

This wasn't so bad after all.

We then dumped in the cleaned squid that had been cut into rings by Paolo (don't forget those tentacles) and cooked it over a low heat for 35 - 40 minutes. After a light sprinkle of salt and pepper we were ready for the peas. I had some fresh ones purchased at the market so I shelled 2 pounds of those beautiful pods and added them to the 'stew'.

Twenty minutes later we were ready to eat. Paul moaned that ALL of the tentacles were on his plate. Mom, having eaten a few bites said 'no leftovers for me tonight'. Paul and I cleaned off our plates and used the loaf of crusty bread to sop up all of the juices. This was tasty.

It really was.

See. Another absolute shot all to heck.

Thanks for your help with this Marcella!

October 2, 2010

Rolled Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Pork and Rosemary Filling


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Yesterday, in response to Sandi's post, Marcella responded with:

'I hope we are getting out of the chicken chapter so that I don't have to hear the expression "chicken breast" again.'

In that case I may as well pack my pots and pans away . . . or as some might say, stick me with a fork for I am done.

Why the doom and gloom?

Because today's recipe FORCES me to use the offending 'cut of chicken that shall not be mentioned in this post'. It is the prime ingredient in this recipe. I can't substitute it with a cut of chickent that I'd rather have appear on my plate.

Somehow we North Americans have bought the notion that the 'offensive cut of chicken' is healthier than other cuts of chicken (I do hope it is OK to say chicken). I'd far rather cook with other cuts of chicken. The 'cut not to be named' is often dry and bland - which is likely why so many recipes call for it to be served with a full-flavour marinade, sauce, salsa, or rub - anything to get some flavour on that hunk of boring meat sitting on your plate.

Then our chickens are pumped so full of hormones and additives to plump up that part of the 'chicken that shall not be named' that those birds can't even wander about without toppling over - not unlike a D grade starlet with ginormous implants who prior to Justin Beiber was Canada's most famous addition to American pop culture.

Yes, Deborah, that Beiber comment was put in after your anti-beiber facebook post yesterday. We Canucks stick together even if we despise one another. "tis the Canadian way. Malign a Canadian and you malign all of us unless you malign Stephen Harper in which case the good Canadians LOVE ya' like biscuits love sausage.

Hmmm - this post wasn't meant to be a post about 'a cut of chicken that shall not be named' followed by a wee Canadian meander . . . but isn't it fun how my twisted mind just flops about like a leave in the wind?

I shall blame my errant youth, yes, I shall.

Back to the food - which was brilliant by the way. Simply brilliant. I am going to become so redundant mentioning what a master Marcella is that I shall soon use up my supply of superlatives. I believe we are getting closer to the half way mark in our challenge and I must dash to 'Superlatives-R-Us' so that I can report back on the remaining recipes.

So today's recipe calls for two whole cuts of 'the chicken part that shall not be named'. One fillets them, following the wonderful directions on pp 389 - 399 (really, if the written directions are this good I can only imagine the sheer bliss of working in a kitchen with Hazan as an instructor).

Once the fillets are prepared the filling is next up. I suspect that in Italy cooks would use sausage. Given the over-spiced and additive rich nature of 'our' Italian sausage which would likely cause a true Italian cook to thrash about in their bed at night, Marcella rightly directs one in the steps to make a sausage-like filling that is sheer simplicity itself with garlic, pork, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary.

The filling was amazing. Yes. I 'tasted' it so much that I almost didn't have enough to stuff the damn fillets.

The pork filling is spread over the fillets. They are rolled up and secured with a toothpick (or two if the 'cut of chicken that shall not be named' is so hormone-laden that the fillets are clearly double ds.

Once prepared, the rest of the cooking comes together quickly. The rolls are cooked in butter until cooked through (my rolls, being double ds, required far more than the 'about one minute altogether' cooking time suggested in the recipe).

The pan is deglazed with wine making a simple pan sauce which is served with the chicken rolls.

For some reason we decided on an Italian feast last Saturday night. No doubt it was an anti-renovation effort to try and return some comfort and simple sanity back to our lives. We enjoyed these rolls with the baked red beets which I will post about in March of 2011 (and yes, my cookbook is now covered with beet finger prints - SIGH), the fried fennel which I will post about in February 2011, a simple green salad, and the amazing roasted potatoes that our friend Judy Witts Francini showed us how to make when we cooked with her in her Florence kitchen a few years back. Dessert was simple - cannoli we bought in an old Italian bakery we discovered in the middle-of-nowhere in Toronto while we were shopping for new bathroom lights.

Everything was very, very good but these chicken rolls were simply incredible. Even though they use 'the cut of chicken that shall not be named' the final result is worth it!

Thanks again Marcella - you certainly have a way with chicken . . . and pasta . . . and veal . . . and fish . . . and everything! *smile*

October 9, 2010

Rolled-Up Breast of Veal with Pancetta

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I found I could order a veal breast at my local upscale grocery store, Jensens. It was boned and ready to go. We actually eat veal a couple times a month, but it is usually scalopini, veal cutlets, or a grilled veal chop. I have never made a veal roast before.
The other ingredients in this dish were thinly sliced pancetta, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, vegetable oil, butter, and white wine.

The veal breast is topped with pancetta, rosemary and garlic cloves, rolled up and tied.

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The roast is then browned in oil and butter before white wine is added. It is then cooked slowly for 1 1/2-2 hours.

This was tender, juicy and delicious! The outside is caramelized beautifully. I would definitely make it again! All simple ingredients, and the kitchen smells DIVINE while it is cooking!

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October 16, 2010

Veal Scaloppine with Lemon Sauce

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One of our favourite things to order when in Italy is veal scaloppine. For some odd reason, given the many, many restaurant meals we've enjoyed over more than 9 weeks in Italy, I have never tried it with lemon. I was happy that my turn in the rotation allowed me to correct that.

No. I am not happy about my turn in the rotation causing a requirement for lamb kidneys in a few months but I guess you take the good with the bad.

This veal is good. Very good. Bloody good. So good that my mouth is drooling just thinking about how good this was when I originally made it back in June.

Sigh.

Tonight's swordfish is a disappointment before I've even started cooking.

Anyway . . .

Sure, this is a great tasting dish. It's simple too - the veal scaloppine is flattened (be sure to follow the directions Hazan provides on page 38) and dredged in flour. Once dredged, the veal is fried quickly in butter (mmmmmmm butter . . .). When cooked it is removed from the pan while a quick lemon sauce is pulled together.

Presto - you're done. Does a turn in the kitchen get any better than that?

If you've never cooked veal before allow me to provide a wee, but very important, tip. Dredge it in the flour IMMEDIATELY prior to cooking. If you dredge and let those scaloppine sit for a spell you will end up with a sludge-like coating.

BAH

Dredge.

IMMEDIATELY Cook.

Make sauce.

Enjoy

If you want sludge go to the Olive Garden. (eeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk)

If you want a well cooked and delicately flavoured dish buy Hazan's 'Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' and cook up some love.

This veal is crisp - with the lemon sauce being the perfect counterpoint for the richness of the meat.

Some cooks suggest adding a splash of white wine to the pan as you make the sauce. Hazan does not and I am sure that there is a very good reason for this (as there is for ALL of her suggestions/directions/edicts).

There you have it, another Hazan hit to add to my cooking rotation.

Enjoy.

October 23, 2010

Veal Rolls with Anchovy Fillets and Mozzarella

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We really love veal scaloppine and cutlets, so I was excited about learning and trying a new preparation for veal.

When reading any new recipe, I always read through the list of ingredients before grocery shopping to make sure I have everything I need. For many recipes NOT in The Essentials of Italian Cooking, I OFTEN tweak the recipe, either to put my own spin on things, or to add an ingredient I like or delete something that doesn't work for me. But we Pomodori do NOT make changes to Marcella's perfected dishes!

A few weeks ago, I confessed my aversion to tomatoes (and beans). Marcella said, "Palma, you make me weep. No fagioli in your life, no oven-browned tomatoes, no pure tomato sauces?" Well, this recipe had, you guessed it, a tiny bit of Italian plum tomatoes. I couldn't make Marcella cry, now could I? I bought the can of imported plum tomatoes. I figured, "It's only a third of a cup for the whole recipe! I can do this! The other ingredients will mask the tomato flavor."

Suprisingly, with my somewhat picky tastes, I loved all the other ingredients: anchovies, parsley, fresh buffalo mozzarella. I also love to deglaze with Marsala and sniff the wonderful aroma that it produces in the kitchen.

Kim and Jan did a great job of photographing the "pounding process" of the veal. I really appreciated Marcella's directions for FLATTENING the scaloppine. I shudder to think how many cutlets I have beaten the hell out of over the years!

A sauce is made with butter, smashed anchovy fillets, parsley, pepper, and the tomatoes. It is spread over the veal slices, topped with thinly sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, rolled and tied like a package with kitchen twine.

I have a HUGE roll of kitchen twine that was my mom's! She passed away in 1984, and I am still using it! I have fond memories of helping her in the kitchen as a child, and holding down the string with my finger as she rolled roasts and tied the knots. My mom would say that using the twine was like "wrapping gifts from the kitchen". I am sure I cannot use all of this twine in my lifetime.

The rolled veal "gifts" are lightly dredged in a little flour immediately before going into the pan with foamy butter. When the rolls are removed, Marsala is added to the pan to make an aromatic sauce for the veal rolls be turned in.

The filling is lovely, tomatoes and all. The perfect blending of the anchovies, butter and parsley, and the addition of the mozzarella kept me from even knowing they were there! The Marsala "sauce" is fabulous with the whole thing. This recipe was fun, easy, and really delicious. I will definitely make it again! I have more scaloppine, so I look forward to trying some of the other recent recipes.

October 30, 2010

Veal Stew with Mushrooms

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T'was the night before Hallowe'en, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a louse.
The cookbook was sitting on the counter with care,
In hopes that Marcella's genius would soon be laid bare.

The veal was cut, dipped in flour, on and on I was led,
Be sure that the onions and garlic are chopped fine, she said.
Next I browned the cubes quick in a snap,
Although one or two did fly out of the pan and become scrap.

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
I rushed from the kitchen to see what was the matter.
Away to the hall I flew like a flash,
To find Paul eagerly sniffing the delicious scents from the stash.

The rosemary, sage, and parsley were next, you know,
and the wonderful scents from the kitchen did grow.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a hungry Paul staring at the stew with a leer.

'Not yet, not yet, it won't be quick!',
Although the scents made one positively lovesick.
More rapid than eagles the wonderful scents they came,
And Paul whistled, and shouted, and stared at the flame!

Now hurry up and cook don't be a vixen!
Be sure to stir as the flavours are mixin'!
The mushrooms are sauteed, large and small,
And then dumped in the stew, I do recall.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
Those luscious scents kocked me askew,
soon I was eagerly awaiting my dinner too.

And then, in a twinkling, I realized I was a goof,
The wine had been forgotten - ooof.
As I drew in my head, and fell to the ground,
I slowly realized that hope was still around.

With the cats and Paul all underfoot,
I knew that eventually good eating was afoot.
The wine was added, I was back on track,
Things were smelling so good that I refused to snack.

When I finally served the stew up, Paul looked at me and said 'Jerry!
all other stews this one really does bury!
What did you do, I need to know!',
I smiled and said with a glow . . . .

'I measured the ingredients and followed the words beneath,
And the wonderful scents encircled our heads like a wreath.
While you were busy watching shows on the telly,
I listened to Marcella and made the kitchen so wonderfully smelly!'

She really is a wonderful cooking elf,
And to celebrate her genius we raised a glass to her health!
With a wink of Paul's eye and a twist of his head,
He gobbled up his stew and reached for some bread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And making sure that he gobbled it all up like clockwork.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up from the table he rose!

'He left me with the dishes', I thought with a bristle,
Hmmmm . . . next time I shall serve him nothing but gristle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he ran out of sight,
"Marcella rocks my world, more cookbooks she MUST write!"

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore )

Happy Hallowe'en y'all!

November 13, 2010

Beef Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables

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(there we go, the long awaited photo of this delicious stew!)

I write this post from the poolside deck of my fellow Pomodori, Palma. It's gorgeous here in the Desert - 76, sunny, clear blue skies. Ahhh

Back home it is cold, cloudy, and likely raining or snowing . . . stew weather; where we live in Canada stews pop up on the menu with great frequency from September to March. There is nothing like a pot of slowly cooked meat and vegetables to help you forget the hellish weather outside the house.

Well, a few bottles of vino from the cellar might assist as well but stew won't make you stupid or give you a headache the next morning.

I originally made this stew a few weeks ago when we were in the midst of renovations; we needed a pot of comfort! Unfortunately I forgot to do my post before I left for vacation. So here I am writing my post in the desert but my pic is back home on my PC. According to those annoying Microsoft commercials I should be able to access my photos at home from this lap top here but I am too stupid to figure it out . . . and I am vacation so I really can't be bothered. *smile*

The photo will come, yes it shall.

I was quite curious about this stew because it doesn't call for the beef to be dredged in flour prior to browning it. I've made a gazillion stews over the years and the first step is always to dredge the beef in flour and then brown it. This is not in Marcella's recipe - in fact you just brown the beef as it is. I was so tempted to just dredge anyway because it is what I have always done but then remembered that the purpose of this challenge was to learn alternative ways of cooking. Marcella, never having led me astray in the past, was to be listened to.

I know from previous stews that you have to put the vegetables in carefully - if a soft vegetable gets added at the beginning of the cooking time it shall be mush after 2 hours of slow cooking or if a harder vegetable gets added at the end your fellow stew eaters will have far more of a crunch than they may desire. One does not want mush or crunch – you want everything to be cooked to perfection.

Marcella describes it beautifully:

the onions first, because they must cook alongside the meat from the beginning, suffusing it with sweetness; the carrots after awhile; the celery later to keep its springly fragrance from being submerged; and at the very last, the peas.

The result is a delicious stew with perfectly cooked vegetables. This stew is surprisingly uncomplicated by herbs, garlic, or other seasonings. The flavours are what comes naturally from the beef, vegetables, and the wine. Marcella suggests a sturdy red wine - a Barbera, perhaps. I took her advice and added a wonderful Barbera . . . the wine may have cost more than the beef but it sure made a difference.

I am not sure why the lack of herbs and garlic surprised me – if Marcella has taught us NOTHING throughout this activity it is that the best flavor comes from meals that are simple, made with fresh, high quality ingredients. Herbs and other seasonings are to be used sparingly so that the natural flavours are not masked.

This stew is a perfect example of how this works to perfection.

November 27, 2010

Roast Pork with Vinegar and Bay Leaves

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I have a wee announcement to make:

This is the best recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking!

There. Cue the debate . . . .

Here we are on page 419 of Marcella's Italian cookery 'bible' and I do believe that I have found the 'best' recipe. Sure, I have some more to go but for whatever reason I think that this is the favourite thing I have cooked to date and I'm not sure that the sauteed lamb kidneys coming up are going to top it.

This was a surprise. One reads the title and thinks . . . 'Pork with vinegar and bay leaves? So what?'

The ingredients listed don't really provide an inkling of the culinary delights ahead should one pull this together. In fact, the only ingredients NOT listed in the title are butter, oil, salt, and peppercorns. You wouldn't think that culinary genius lurks amongst that short, simple, list.

You would be wrong. 7 ingredients can work wonders.

That is it campers. 7 ingredients. Done. 7 ingredients that I bet many of you have in your home right now.

Hint, hint, hint . . . MAKE THIS!

Essentially (pun sort of intended) you are directed to brown the pork all over in butter and oil and then slowly braise it in the vinegar with bay leaves and crushed peppercorns until the pork is cooked through to perfection. Like all slowly braised dishes, this is not on the table in 30 minutes. I think that I spent about 90 minutes working in the kitchen until this served up to rave reviews.

I believe the comment was 'this is the BEST ******* Pork I have ever had!' (edited for our family friendly audience but you get the picture.) Note to self . . . don't start pouring the wine for dinner companions until AFTER their feedback on the dishes has been received.

Of course, the wonderful thing about braised dishes is that once they are in the pot and slowly cooking away you can work on other things while resisting the temptation to peek under the lid every 5 seconds at whatever in that pot is filling the house with the most promising scents.

In this instance, I took the opportunity while the pork was cooking to make the sunchoke gratin and baked red beets that I'll chat with you about on January 1st (thank god I did this one ahead because you just know I'll be nursing a headache on New Year's Day!) and March 26th respectively. I also roasted some fingerling potatoes and dinner, as they say, was served.

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December 11, 2010

Pizza Rustica

The last of the pork recipes . . . sigh.

I have enjoyed this chapter. Yes, I have.

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Last week we had a special event here - mom had a 'big' birthday. We flew my sister up for a surprise. It was quite a surprise . . . tears flowed . . . I, being excessive emotion adverse, hid upstairs until dry eyes returned.

Once it was safe to return downstairs, I got busy serving up mom's special birthday dinner. The first course was this pizza rustica - we invited Marcella to the feast in a way. Of course mom took me to task for calling this a pizza. 'It's NOT pizza!' she declared.

I explained that it was a traditional dish from Abruzzi and wondered who she was to challenge the Italians for how they chose to name their foods . . . indeed! The nerve of we North American's for thinking that we know more about Italian food than Italians themselves!

Pizza rustica isn't the easiest dish I've made from Essentials but it sure got placed quickly on my top 10 list (yes, the same top 10 list that must contain 20 items by now).

The pasta frolla (Italian sweet pastry) is made first and chilled. Once chilled, it is used to line a deep dish. The pastry shell is then filled with the most wonderful filling of eggs, cheese, and meat.

Marcella indicates that the dish is traditionally made with hard boiled eggs which she omits because she thinks it is rich enough without them. She also cuts back on the sugar in the pastry (mom's diabetes was thrilled with this). As well, the dish is traditionally made with cinnamon, a spice Marcella has an aversion to so it is left out of the recipe as well. (Really? Cinnamon? How could anyone NOT LOVE cinnamon? Now surely Marcella must understand Irene's aversion to eggs, Palma's aversion to tomatoes, beans, chocolate, and most things healthy, and my aversion to tripe, kidneys, brains, and the like - we all have our likes and dislikes - quirky things we humans).

Anyway. I see that I have lost my thread . . . as usual. Thanks goodness it wasn't 'Jerry and Gretel 'in the famous fairy tale for those children would never have found their way home with me trying to follow a defined path through the woods. LOL

Back on track.

The addition of cinnamon in the traditional recipe makes me think that this must be an ancient dish - certainly my food history has shown me how common it was in renaissance times to mix sweet, savoury, and spicy things all together in special dishes. Of course back then the spice was used to cover up food that was likely past its prime . . . today we get to enjoy the wonderful flavour combination. Thank goodness for refrigeration!

Once covered with the rest of the pastry , the pizza rustica is baked for 45 minutes until a deep brown.

I took it out of the oven to a chorus of ohhs and ahhs.

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Notice the Canadian maple leaf on the top of this quintessential Italian dish? The cultures merge together over time, yes, they do.

Then I served up a piece as the first course - the ohhs and ahhs soon became muffled as everyone enjoyed this amazing dish!

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We all declared it to be wonderful. I immediately hid the remaining rustica so that I and only I would be able to enjoy the leftovers at a later date. There are limits to my generosity and apparently my limit is half of a pizza rustica.

I sure was glad that I had invited Marcella and her skillful recipes to the table. It was a night of chatter, laughter, wine, memories, and wonderful Italian food . . . in fact, by the time we finished dessert we had been at the table for close to three hours. What could be more Italian than that?

Ciao.

On to the variety meats . . . hold on to your hats, gentle readers, for this is gonna get messy methinks!

December 18, 2010

Sauteed Lamb Kidneys with Onion, Treviso Style

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Before you go back and check, yes, Palma posted about this already. Funny story though . . . way back in the spring when we were trying to decide who would be responsible for which recipe on 'our' day we were able to trade off fairly well - then we reached paged 443 - our only recipe in the variety meats section. Neither Palma nor I wanted to make the lamb kidneys. Not one bit. So we decided that we would both make them! We are firmly int eh miserly loves company camp.

And here we are.

I've been dreading making the kidneys. I've never eaten kidneys before but I was sure that they would taste awful - no amount of Marcella's skill or art would raise these to the level of anything I'd want to find on my plate.

I am the one who suffered through 'liver night' as a child by making multiple trips to the bathroom to spit a mouthful of liver in the toilet or coughing liver into my hand and surreptitiously putting it down on the floor for the dog to eat.

We had the fattest dog on the street.

I hate the smell, taste, texture . . . everything really . . . of liver. I have never eaten any other 'organ' meat. Well, that isn't completely true - there is the time mom served up a huge cow tongue. . . now known as 'the night all four of us refused to eat a thing'.

We North Americans tend to like our meat packaged into a non-recognized format - a hunk of steak, chop, or roast sitting on a brown piece of paper bears little resemblance to a living, breathing animal. We don't use the whole animal the way our ancestors did, well, I suppose we do if you happen to be visiting McDonalds and purchasing a box of Chicken McNuggets or you purchase a hot dog from a sketchy street cart - all sorts of animal parts might appear in those treats.

Yet I'm a big ol' carnivore (you're heard me say if we weren't meant to eat meat we wouldn't have incisor teeth . . . we don't need incisor teeth to gnaw on a carrot). I LOVE meat. I just don't love the thought of organ meat. I know that many do enjoy organ meat and love it to bits, not me. After making my last recipe I know that Marcella can understand the human curiosity of taste because she explained that she can not abide the taste of cinnamon.

Finally I could avoid it no longer. Page 443 was looming and I had to get busy.

I called my usual store to see if they could get some lamb kidneys in for me - the butcher laughed and said 'we have to order a 50 pound box and no one will buy them.'

I knew I didn't need (or WANT) 50 pounds of them!

Then I started calling around to the wonderful butchers in Toronto's St Lawrence Market. Sure enough I found one who had some kidneys in stock but not many - I had to promise to come that same day to get them because they would soon be gone. I started thinking positively about the kidneys - clearly someone in Toronto LOVED them.

I left the office, took the subway, and walked three blocks to the market. The butcher had a HUGE pile of lamb kidneys. HMMM - no doubt his 'they'll fly out of the fridge' comment was a ruse to gets someone down to the stall to actually take some lamb kidneys off of his hands! HA

They were CHEAP - $ 3.80

I also found some wild boar at the same stall. It was NOT cheap. Visions of papardelle with wild boar ragu soon danced in my head - I gladly forked over $ 38 for IT and went on my way.

Funny - no regrets at all about spending $ 38 for wild boar but most unhappy about spending a measly $ 3.80 on kidneys.

Back at work I stored the boar and lamb kidneys away in the refrigerator near my office. When I left at the end of the day wouldn't you know . . . I left them behind!

Apparently even my sub-conscious was balking at the thought of cooking lamb kidneys.

Happily one of my colleagues was able to deliver them to me on Thursday.

We were having company on Saturday so I decided to serve the kidneys as a starter. Now lest you think badly of me (nice guy to spring kidneys on unsuspecting dinner guests) I did talk to our friends, wonderful gourmet cooks, in advance and see if they were OK with it. They are of the 'we'll try anything once' group of eaters so the kidneys made it on the menu.

The kidney recipe was easy to follow. Marcella leads you through some critical steps that she writes are necessary to 'extract some of the liquid responsible for the sharpness that is sometimes an objectionable component of kidney flavour'.

Spilt in half, the kidneys soak in a vinegar/water mixture for 30 minutes before they are sliced into smaller pieces. These pieces, resembling slice mushroom caps, sautéed for 2 minutes until they lose their colour and release a dark red liquid.


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Objectionable is right. The smell of the liquid was horrid. Memories of my childhood liver nights traumas flashed back and I almost had to race to the bathroom. I hadn't even tasted the kidneys and I was sick.

Literally.

I opened the windows and sprayed room deodorizer around before our guests arrived.

Once the liquid is all released the kidneys are rinsed, drained, and dried.

Marcella writes 'rinse the sauté pan and wipe it dry'. I wanted to throw it out and buy a new one. I am sure it will have 'kidney' smell forever.

I put the recipe on hold at this point while we enjoyed cheese, crackers, cured meats, prosecco and laughter.

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Soon the moment could not be avoided any longer. . . we moved into the dining room and I quickly finished up the kidneys by sautéing a bit of onion in a bit of butter and oil, quickly re-warming the kidneys in the onion mixture, tossing in some parsley, and then serving it up on plates.

The next dilemma was trying to figure out what wine to serve with kidneys! In the end I don’t think it matters because whatever wine will not work.

The verdict?

Paul ate all of his kidneys - suggested that they tasted like liver. He loves liver apparently. Our guests ate some of them and agreed with Paul. I ate one piece and put the rest down on the floor for the cats who came over, gave a sniff, scratched me in disgust, and walked away thereby proving once again that cats are smarter than dogs.

Now there are those of you out there who like this sort of meat - you'll love this recipe! Honest, you will. It is quick, easy, and apparently the taste is amazing if you are programmed to like this type of meat.

Thus ends our only foray into the Variety Meats chapter someone else will get to try poached calf’s brains and tripe (which I’ve had in Florence and enjoyed actually) . . . on to vegetables for Palma and I . . .

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 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 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 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 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 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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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 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 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 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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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 12, 2011

La Grande Insalata Mista

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What a great way to kick off the salad chapter! This mixed raw salad has a variety of colors, tastes and textures. I used mixed Italian greens, Boston lettuce and arugula. There was also fennel, a yellow pepper, celery heart, carrots, red onion, and tomatoes. I decided to skip the artichoke, as it was large, and we ate it another night with our dinner.

Other ingredients can be included: cabbage, radicchio, radishes, cucumber, or zucchini. Choose based on taste, what is available and in season.

I appreciated how Marcella includes in this recipe a detailed explanation of how to clean, slice, or prep each vegetable.

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The salad is sprinkled with salt, tossed, with a pour of good olive oil. A dash of red wine vinegar is added, and the salad is served! It is so PRETTY!

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March 19, 2011

Orange and Cucumber Salad

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. . . and here we are in the salad section.

My first recipe to make is this Orange and Cucumber salad which I am told is a classic Sicilian preparation - Sicily being the source of some of Italy's best citrus fruit. When I first looked at the recipe I wasn't too sure about the combination of oranges, cucumbers, radishes, and mint. However, Marcella has rarely led us astray so off I went to the store to purchase my ingredients.

I decided to buy blood oranges for this salad - a) I like the colour, b) love the flavour, and c) they were form Italy (so much for reducing the environmental footprint of the food that appears on the dinner table - sigh).

This salad is quick to pull together. The various ingredients are cleaned, peeled, sliced, and layered on a platter (we made individual salads) just prior to serving. A simple dressing is all that is left - salt, olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice. The recipe calls for tossing the salad with the dressing but I decided to layer it for a more attractive presentation.

This was an amazing salad - the flavours really worked together and the taste was refreshing.

We first served this with a meal of slow roasted lamb shanks in a heavy red wine sauce - the salad being the perfect complement for such a heavy meal. I've made it a number of times since and we are never disappointed at the refreshing burst of flavour it brings to the table.

March 26, 2011

Baked Red Beets

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I originally made this recipe in the fall when I made THE. BEST. RECIPE. IN. THE. BOOK. . . . pork loin in vinegar with bay leaves. It was a wonderful addition to the meal.

Through a strange twist of fate I had a similar dish last week at one of my favourite Greek restaurants in Toronto's Greektown. There it was called Pantzaria and it consisted of baked red beets with red wine vinegar, crushed garlic, and olive oil. The timing couldn't have been better because I confess that my memories of this salad from last fall have grown dim . . . (Sandi, thank you for NOT commenting that I am just plain dim, bad girl) last week's refresher has reminded me again of how wonderful this dish is. Of course, Marcella's version was more nuanced than what I enjoyed in Greektown.

To bring this to the table one really only needs a few steps - first the beets are carefully cleaned (as always Marcella gives clear and concise instructions for preparing the vegetable properly), roasted, the blackened skins removed, sliced, and tossed with oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Simple, easy, and bloody delicious.

If you have not yet tried roasted beets you are in for a revelation - roasting them brings out the natural sugars in the beet and you are left with an incredibly delicious treat. Marcella writes that you will 'swoon over (the taste) if you have never had them before'.

Yes, you will swoon.

We've been roasting beets for years. In fact, it is the only way we'll prepare beets. I suspect that once you try this dish it will be the only way that you prepare beets in the future too. I have roasted beets and served them to folks who despise beets. They have asked for seconds and taken the leftovers home.

This is why I always double the quantity whenever I roast beets.

This wonderfully simple, yet incredibly delicious, salad would work equally as well as a vegetable served alongside roasted meats.

April 2, 2011

Beans and Tuna Salad

This simple salad consists of only a few ingredients: cannellini beans, some sweet onion, Italian tuna packed in olive oil, salt, black pepper, a dash of red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil!

I have had a love affair with Italian tuna for years, since I first tasted it. Every trip, I bring home at least a dozen cans. The last time I did so, a week later, there it was in my very own local grocery store! I still bring home a few cans "just in case"!

I made a double batch of this salad for house guests for lunch, and it was quite a hit!

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April 9, 2011

Glazed Bread Pudding

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We've been playing with vegetables and other healthy stuff since before Christmas! It is fitting that we move on to sweet things next.

I was curious to see what this chapter would bring. When you think of Italian food I imagine that for most people desserts don't come into the picture. Pizza, pasta, cheese, grilled meats, veggies, salads, fish . . . yes! Cakes, tarts, cookies . . . not for most of us.

In fact, I conducted a wee survey today at work (because apparenlty I was bored) and asked 10 colleagues to name an Italian dessert. No one could name one. Then I asked one of our admin assistants who is of Italian descent - she at least came up with cannoli, gelato, Tiramisu, Semifreddo, panna cotta, and zuppa englese.

My first foray into the world of Marcella's desserts was a glazed bread pudding. I admit to feeling let down. Bread pudding? This seemed neither Italian nor all that interesting for that matter. Bread pudding has a bad name in my family - my mom calls it 'depression food' - for the era, not the state of mind she falls into when she sees it in front of her.

Bread pudding, regardless of attempts to 'trendify' itself over the years is a humble thing. No doubt the original recipes for it were vehicles to use up the last scraps of stale bread. Marcella's recipe seems to harken back to that time when cooks had to make use of every bit of food - nothing being wasted.

I've made a number of bread puddings over the years but absolutely none were made like this one - here the bread is soaked in warm milk until it becomes a sodden mass.

Paul walked as I was embarked on the next step in the recipe and suggested that the contents of the bowl looked like the contents of one's stomach after having eaten. SIGH

The mushed up bread DID have the appearance of bread that had been well chewed by a baby!

To this mixture you add soaked raisins, sugar, pine nuts, and egg yolks. The final step is to beat egg whites and fold them in. This admittedly unappetizing looking mixture is poured into a pan coated with caramelized sugar. 75 minutes later the pudding comes out of the oven.

Once out of the oven you pierce it with a fork and pour rum over top.

The final step is to unmould it onto a pan. This is when disaster struck - the pudding did NOT wish to leave its pan. In fact, it broke into pieces. After having checked to see if anyone witnessed my crisis, I stuck the pieces back together and covered the whole thing and placed it in the refrigerator (Marcella advises that it is best the next day).

I served it up the following day.

The verdict?

You guessed it - this was bloody amazing! Proof, yet again, that simple dishes without excessive sauces, spices, and flavourings, can impress. I even tried it out on mom - who immediately wore an expression that looked as if she were sucking on a lemon when I asked her if she wanted some bread pudding - when I wasn't looking she snuck a HUGE portion into a container and snuck it home.

That, boys and girls, was likely the highest praise that there could be.

April 23, 2011

Ciambella - Grandmother's Pastry Ring

This is Romagna's version of a breakfast cake, delicious with a morning caffee latte. Right up my alley! There is a hint of lemon zest, butter, flour, sugar, warm milk eggs, and either a combination of cream of tartar and baking soda, OR baking powder.

At first the dough was VERY dry, so I added a bit more milk to get it to come together. That could be because I live in very dry climate in the desert. The dough is kneaded, then formed into a roll, and pinched together into a ring. Before baking, it is brushed with an egg yolk wash, and scored with diagonal cuts.

It bakes into a beautiful golden ring, almost double the original size. It is perfect for breakfast of a snack with a great cup of good coffee! I felt like an Italian grandmother in my lemon scented kitchen.

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Buona Pasqua a tutti!

April 30, 2011

Cold Zabaglione with Red Wine

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Yesterday Sandi made Zabaglione - that wonder frothy Italian concoction of cooked egg yolks, sugar, and wine that is slowly cooked and whipped into a frenzy. For my post today I got to make a similar recipe but mine was made with red wine.

Zabaglione is generally served warm, this one is not. All you need to do is follow the exact same recipe for the Zabaglione but instead of adding marsala you add 1 cup of full-bodied red wine. Marcella suggested a Barolo but the ones I had in my wine cellar were all over $ 100 so I couldn't quite bring myself around to that - instead I used a wonderful Barbaresco.

Normally zabaglione is made in a copper pot. Marcella suggests using a double boiler for those of us who aren't used to controlling this delicate cooking process. Then there are those of us who don't even own a double boiler (have you noticed how rare it is to find a decent set of cookware that includes a double boiler? It is as if the manufacturers are conspiring to ensure that certain cooking procedures die out in our era of speed, simplicity, and pre-fab food - porca miseria) .

Anyway, I digress. This was not meant as a rant about Calphalon. Back to the task at hand.

Not having a copper pot nor a double boiler I used the same technique as Sandi - a metal bowl over a pot of gently boiling water. It wasn't ideal to be sure, but it worked.

We really enjoyed this dessert and I'll be making it again. The wine infused the custard-like froth with a wonderful and most-welcome flavour. I can see why Italians often serve zabaglione as a strength-building tonic for someone suffering from a cold or other ailment. A bowl of this would sure as hell perk me up right away!

May 7, 2011

Macerated Oranges

I happened to make this on one of our "triple digit" days last week. Yes, the temperatures were over 100. It was great timing, as this is a simple and refreshing dessert!

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You just slice some oranges (I used Cara Cara for their bright color), squeeze on some freshly squeezed orange juice, lemon juice and add some sugar and lemon zest. Cover the platter with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours. The juices and sugar will blend in the fridge, and you will have a sweet fruity burst of flavor. It is a great summer light dessert! I'll try little orange liquor next time.

May 14, 2011

Black Grape Gelato

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Wow - how can we be done desserts already? I don't know how it happened but her eit is, my last dessert recipe - Black Grape Gelato.

I have eaten my weight in gelato during various trips to Italy, in fact, one of the first things we do once we settled is to pop into a gelato shop. I don't care if it is 6 am or midnight, if I can find a shop that is open I shall indulge.

Interestingly enough, in all of those cones and cups over the years I have never asked for any grape to be added. I've had all sorts of flavours but never grape. I was able to correct that with this recipe (although not having a proper commercial gelato maker I shall have to try some out when I get to Italy this fall to compare).

This recipe is simple - sugar, water, grapes, whipping cream and that is it.

The sugar and water is combined to make a simple syrup. Pureed grapes are mixed in. The cream is then slightly whipped and added to the grape and syrup mixture. Into the ice cream freezer it is poured and not long after you're enjoying a wonderful treat!

YUM

Believe it or not, after this I only have one recipe left: Broccoli and Ricotta Conza . . .

May 21, 2011

Crescentina - Bolognese Focaccia with Bacon

I was so excited when I saw this was one of my recipes. The day this recipe will post, I will be ARRIVING in Bologna for 13 days, after my week in Venice.

This recipe is done in the food processor. First you chop the bacon very finely. Yeast is dissolved in warm water, then added to flour, salt, sugar and more warm water in the bowl of the food processor. More flour and water is added and you have a ball of dough.

The dough will double in size in about 3 hours when you will heat a baking stone in a hot oven. The dough is spread with your fingers on an oiled baking pan, covered in plastic wrap and it will rise some more. Score the dough and brush it with beaten egg. The dough is baked in the pan on the baking stone for 30 minutes, and becomes a beautiful golden color.

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I also thought the BOTTOM was beautiful!

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The scent of bacon in the warm focaccia is divine, and it is just delicious!!!

As luck would have it, though I have been to Bologna on three previous trips, I have never eaten at Diana. Guess where we will be TONIGHT for dinner? I will take a photo of their Crescentina Bolognese, and add it to my post tomorrow!

May 28, 2011

Broccoli and Ricotta Sfinciuni

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And here it is . . . my last recipe to make as a part of this blogging activity.

I wonder if that is why I was a tad later than normal - trying to savour the experience for as long as I could. It is my pattern to have things made months in advance of my posting date. This I baked today. In fact, Paul is down doing the dishes while I try and finish the post prior to the clock rolling over to Sunday.

I made the mistake of calling this dish a conza. It is not. The conza is the filling; the dish is a sfinciuni - a stuffed pizza from Sicily. Marcella's dough is easy to make (I followed the food processor directions) and it came together perfectly. The result was a light and crispy dough that was solid enough for this heavy topping.

The filling is simple - essentially sautéed garlic and broccoli.

Once the dough has risen and the filling cooled you're good to go, as they say.

The dough is split in half and rolled into two rounds. On top of one you sprinkle bread crumbs. Spread fresh ricotta on top of the crumbs. Layer the broccoli/garlic mixture on top of the ricotta, and then sprinkle it all with parmigiano. A quick sprinkle of more bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil and you're ready to place the second round of dough on top.

The two rounds of dough are sealed - ensure that none of the wonderful filling can escape while baking. The entire thing brushed with water and into a 400 degree oven it goes for 30 minutes.

Once baked, let it sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

The result was an amazing addition to our dinner tonight. All we needed was a nice salad on the side, a glass of vino, and we were happy guys!

And there you have it kids . . . we're done . . . done like an amazing dinner inspired by the genius of Marcella Hazan. Lots of wonderful food, some not so wonderful because of our personal food issues and NOT the lyrical directions in 'Essentials', but all in all a brilliant journey through some of the most inspired and well-written recipes I've experienced in my 30 + years of cooking.

When I started this journey I pledged to be honest. I'd rave about what I loved and what I didn't love as well. If things worked I'd talk about that and if they didn't I'd wonder what I had done to cause the issues. I think I've been true to this. Happily we loved most everything! *smile*

I know that there were a couple of times when Marcella was frustrated with my analysis but in the end it was more important for me to be honest. I had no desire to be a cheerleader - the world is too full of cheerleaders. Honesty is a rare thing indeed in my humble opinion.

Grazie per l'ispirazione, il cibo fantastico, le sfide, e le memorie.

Arrivederci!

June 11, 2011

Saturday's Final Thoughts from Palma

Let me begin my final post with an apology for not posting my last recipe on the scheduled date. I have JUST returned from 4 weeks in Italy (Venice, Bologna and Lake Como), where I ate many of the foods from The Essentials of Italian Cooking. The very last page of my list was missing, and I happily thought I had one more dish to prepare for TODAY, when I would be home. As it turns out, on my last weekend in Italy, I contacted Jerry, and found I was scheduled for last Saturday, June 4. I had no kitchen, so I enjoyed my last few days in Italy, hoping for forgiveness for my goof. I have now back-posted Focaccette - Cheese-Filled Pasta Fritters, on June 4 where they belong! We are complete! I'm glad I was able to try this recipe, as it is one of my favorites!

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Looking back over the past 15 months, I am very pleased and honored that I participated in this project. I have learned much, and eaten well. I am touched by the knowledge, the experience, the love and support Marcella and Victor have given to this blog. I am humbled to be in the company of my fellow pomodori, and admire everyone’s dedication, persistence and honesty. I raise my wine glass to toast this group of brave home cooks!

There have been many special moments. I learned to clean an artichoke correctly. I cooked lamb kidneys and a whole fish. I made Marcella weep at my aversion to tomatoes. I also made her laugh with a “Pasta, Pasta, Pasta” DVD. I wandered the markets in Venice and Bologna with an improved understanding of ingredients. I have a new repertoire of dishes to serve guests. I have a slightly stained and well-used copy of a wonderful cookbook.

My favorite dishes could be served in this dinner party menu:

Antipasti:
Chunks of 36 month parmigiano with 25 year-old balsamico and Cresentina (mine WAS better than Diana’s)

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Primi:
Handmade tagliatelle with butter and rosemary sauce (my absolute favorite recipe!)
I think of this as "making dinner from nothing". There is always pasta and bullion cubes in my pantry. There is always rosemary in my garden. If there is butter and garlic in the fridge, we have the makings of a remarkable and simple dish!

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Secondi:
Rolled-up breast of veal with pancetta OR Veal Rolls with anchovies and mozzarella

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Braised and Gratineed Celery

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Pan Roasted Diced Potatoes

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Dolci:

I’m not a big dessert person, but some macerated fruit and a hazelnut cookie sound perfect!

Mille grazie to Marcella, Victor, all the Pomodori, and to Deborah for keeping us organized on this memorable project!

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the 6. Saturday - Jerry/Palma category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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