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.

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3. Wednesday - Doug Archives

March 31, 2010

Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber

The first thing that you notice with this dish is it's amazing colors. I'm making this at the beginning of Spring but it is definately something that would be wonderful on a hot summer evening when the vegetables are at their peak freshness. I have to emphasize how easy this recipe is.

It calls for the eggplant to be grilled or done under a broiler, which I chose to do since the wind was ready to blow me off of my deck today. The result in the broiler was perfectly fine. One very important step is to make sure the eggplant has time to release it's juices after being cooked. I let it sit for about half an hour after removing it from the broiler.

During this time it needs to be over a strainer. It was a very quick recipe with most of the time involved actually during the straining process. I used a very good olive oil, and added the salt at the last moment before serving just like Marcella recommends.

You can serve it as a salad or on toast, so I served it bruschetta style. I used a whole wheat baguette that I brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven for about 5 minutes. I topped it with my pepper, cucumber and eggplant mixture and garnished with parsley. The presentation was very colorful.

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The only thing that could have improved it was the state of my vegetables due to the fact that it isn't peak season for the peppers and what I had to choose from at the supermarket wasn't ideal. This will definately be pulled back out and done to it's glory in July when the vegetables can do the recipe it's justice. It was a great way to start the cooking challenge, simple, fresh and giving me the time to focus on the harder task of learning how to blog, which I might add I am not a fan of. I try to steer clear of technology whenever possible. You won't see me using gadgets, or shortcuts in the kitchen either. Let that explain my out of focus shots and my obvious lack of computer savvy that I display in the next year of our cooking challenge. I am much more comfortable behind my stove than behind my computer. If only you could taste the recipes instead of only see my sad idea of food photography. With that explained...bring on the next recipe!


April 7, 2010

Cold Trout in Orange Marinade

In the next 62 weeks, invariably there will be recipes that we make that we are not very fond of. I am going to make this one, mine. I am not someone who loves fish though. I try to, because it is good for me and everyone else loves it, but my nose tells me that it isn’t happening. I look at the gray, scaled little thing and it doesn’t scream “Eat me!” at all. I have had every kind of fish, every way possible and still, nothing.

I seriously enjoyed the hunt though. It wasn’t easy to find fish with heads and tails in the corrupt food world that we live in. I called numerous local stores and none of them could accommodate me. I heard the same thing time and again, “There just isn’t any demand for them.” That tells me something, that people are getting lazy! Just like the chicken breasts that have lost bone and skin. Fish are now only acceptable completely stripped down and ready to go. Unfortunately, that means losing flavor and freshness! So, I began my search. I found a super friendly Fish guy at Whole Foods who was more than willing to help me out. He had my fish ready to go when I arrived, scaled them right in front of me and wished me the best. He is my new “go to guy” for seafood. So, after I drove 50 miles round trip and lost my debit card in the process….but happily retrieved it from the gas station where I lost it , I began cooking my little headed darlings.

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They appeard so fresh and beautiful before I cooked them. They didn’t even smell have that fishy smell that I hate, which is a sign of a fresh fish. Their color was wonderful, eyes still bright not glazed over with the effect of days in a cooler. Yes, these were my perfect little fish. I hated to cook them with their innocent little eyes watching me as I prepared the flour to dredge them in.

The recipe itself was easy to follow. The marinade process took some time but that is what adds the flavor to the dish. The house smelled wonderful and I was really thinking I would finally love a fish dish! The orange peel added an extra nuance to the flavor and everything was going “swimmingly” (no pun intended).

I let my little fish marinade for about 3 hours and then moved them to the refrigerator fearing food poisoning if they rested at room temperature any longer. They remained in the fridge until lunch time the next day, as the recipe recommended.

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I was really excited about my lunch. It looked pretty interesting once plated. One bite revealed differently to me though, “no, I still am not a fish person and definitely not a cold fish person.” So, once again I am more of a chicken or beef type of gal. I can definitely hang with the veggie crowd, but no-you won’t see me at the sushi bar anytime soon. I really do apologize to Marcella for this because I know it is a wonderful recipe, I could smell that and see that from the beginning. It is more my palate’s problem than the recipe’s, this I am sure! So it does have my recommendation for everyone else to try!

April 14, 2010

Carciofi alla Giudia- Crisp Fried Whole Artichokes

When it comes to artichokes you either love them or hate them. My love for them is bittersweet. I love the taste and texture they lend to any dish-but I hate working with them. Anything that pricks my fingers annoys me, but like anything good sometimes you have to accept the pain to get to the pleasure.

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After trimming the artichoke to it's fine interior by carefully folding the delicate leaves outward and trimming the inedible tops, I pushed it down on a board to fan it's leaves outward and then placed it in the hot vegetable oil as Marcella states to do. The cooking process is fast, under 10 minutes and you must keep a close eye on it to keep it from burning. Like anything fried, it smells wonderful.
I have to admit I am not a fan of deep fried anything. I can't remember the last time I fried. But anything fried does taste great-and if you're going to eat fried foods I would think a veggie would be your healthiest option!
So there you have it, another less-is-more from Marcella. The process is simple, the ingredient list slim and the outcome pleasing--give it a try!

April 21, 2010

Minestrone alla Romagnola-Vegetable Soup, Romagna Style

Michele is on a brief sabbatical, so the rest of us are picking up the next three weeks for her. Fortunately for me (Deborah), I get to make Minestrone.
Is there any smell more comforting and inviting than a pot of homemade vegetable soup gently bubbling on the stove?

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Many of us make our vegetable soups almost without thought. Our hands know what to do, and our minds are free to wonder as we cook.
In being forced to read the recipe, follow it exactly, and concentrate on what I was doing, I experienced a minor revelation.

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I realized that, as an experienced home cook, I put my ingredients into the pot in a specific order, even when I’m not thinking about it. That order is based on how long it takes the ingredient to begin softening.
I thought, “How many people just learning to cook, don’t realize this?”
“How many less exacting recipes don’t bother to detail the order of the ingredients and the amount of time one should wait between ingredients?”
And, again I am reminded of the simple beauty in Marcella’s teaching.

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I have one significant disagreement with her, however.

She offers as optional what I consider to be an indispensable ingredient…the crust of a piece of parmigiano-reggiano.

The smell I spoke of at the beginning of this post? It owes its luxuriousness to the presence of the cheese crust. Please, don’t try to save time and money by leaving it out.

April 28, 2010

Potato Soup with Carrots and Celery

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When Deborah, our Queen Bee organizer, asked if someone was willing to pick up an extra soup to make I jumped at the opportunity. After a warm March things had turned decidedly cool again and I was craving a 'bone-warming' soup! A potato soup with carrots and celery seemed to be just the thing to warm me up.

Marcella writes that this was one of the first recipes that she learned to make after her marriage. I imagine that she was never taught an exact recipe, printed out on a card, instead she was taught a technique. Having perfected this technique over the years she is able to use her well honed skill of communicating with home cooks to provide a culinary masterpiece that is beguiling in its simplicity.

There isn't much to this soup - potatoes, some vegetables, cheese, milk, and broth. Yet this simple ingredient list produces a soup with a wonderful contrast in textures and flavour. We enjoyed it last week but it was even better today - proving that all good soups (like people) just get better with time!

In Italian this soup is Minestrina Tricolore - referring to the three colours of the Italian flag. Here you have the white of the potato, the orange of the carrot, and the green of the parsley. All in all, a very pretty soup to look at, even better to TASTE!

May 5, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

In the voice of Bob Sheppard, "Now cooking for Michele, number 99 - Kim Riemann." Okay - don't know who Bob Sheppard is? Well, then that reference is lost on you (the rest of you get it right?) - basically, I'm "pinch-hitting" for Michele this week and her assignment is to make Pasta e Fagioli soup.

I'm no stranger to Pasta e Fagioli soup (known around these parts as Pasta Fajola or a little further northeast, Pasta Fazool - no, I'm not kidding), it's one of our favorites (always stop at the Carnivale Italiano for the local Italian ladies version every summer - though that's definitely not Pasta Fagioli weather - but I digress). So when I saw the opportunity to snag this recipe help Michele out, I jumped at it.

The first difference I noticed between what I've made (or eaten) in the past is the bean Marcella uses. She's a fan of the cranberry bean while here I've seen the red kidney bean (and sometimes even the cannellini bean) used though she does say that red kidney beans would be an acceptable substitute. Now the thing you should know about Cranberry beans (and unfortunately, I could not find them fresh this time of year, so I went with the dried version), is they go by other names (see Cook's Thesaurus - Beans for further explanation) but the one I know them as is Roman (aka Roma) Beans (at least according to Goya). So that's what I went with. They're basically a pinkish bean with a stripe.

The second difference between Marcella's version and mine, she uses pork rib meats (and I was never quite clear what I was supposed to do with those ribs once I completed the soup - I nibbled on one, Fala enjoyed some meat off one of the others), while I use some ground Italian sausage (turkey usually), as a base.

Other than that it's pretty similar to the soups I've made - a bit of a soffrito (celery, onion and carrot) as a base, along with the aforementioned bones, homemade beef broth, which I actually did as opposed to the canned variety I usually use (hey that reminds me - has anyone posted about making the homemade broth/stock?), and at the very end the pasta. She recommends maltagliati (homemade) or any tubular macaroni (I used elbows because we always have them on hand for mac and cheese). That pasta has to go in at the end (and don't cook it for too long afterward), because it just soaks up that broth like a sponge. For leftovers the next day, I added a bit more broth to thin it out but I'd also like to note that the Italian Club Ladies Auxilliary serves theirs almost like a stew at the Carnivale (no broth in site after those macaroni have been sitting in those crockpots all day long).

Lastly, how did it taste? Pretty darn good - because of that homemade broth, it definitely had a richer flavor than my version with canned broth. Though I do have to admit, I did miss my bit of sausage in there. I'll make it again, though a bit of a lighter version (skip the butter at the end next time) as I'm watching my girlish figure and unfortunately, it's getting easier and easier to watch.

Now, here's where you're going to kill me as the sub. I had a bit of a camera misfortune, and my shots (which probably weren't any good anyway), got erased. And yes, while I'd like to blame it on one of my kids or my husband it was my stupidity that led to their destruction (I'll probably never be invited back to cook again). But ... I did remember I had some left over cranberry beans that I photographed for y'all, just so I'd at least have one shot, and you would all know what they look like.

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Mangia!

May 12, 2010

Broccoli and Egg Barley Soup

This is a deceptively simple recipe - the ingredients are shown below - broccoli, salt, olive oil, garlic, barley, parsley, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and meat broth. The last ingredient was the biggest hurdle. I followed the directions for the Basic Homemade Meat Broth, which added a day to the preparation. But, I've checked ahead & I can use the remaining meat broth in other recipes later in the book & I won't have to resort to any shortcuts. It's worth the time & effort.

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I had never heard of egg barley and it was referenced only obliquely in the description. Egg barley is a type of pasta, but I chose to use the pearl barley option. However, I do have a close relationship with several different types of garlic. I have grown my own garlic for the past 10 years or more - and always at least two different varieties. I have also been known to bring back a couple of bulbs of garlic from France or Italy - always make sure I stake out where I plant those cloves. Below is a photo of this year's garlic crop in early May. I will harvest in August; hang the bulbs in a shed to dry, reserve part of the crop for planting in October, pickle some and store the rest in a cold storage room for use over our long Canadian winters.

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The directions call for using a container for soaking the broccoli, a sauté pan, a pot in which to boil 3 quarts of water, a food processor, a plate and, finally, a soup pot. A large work space is helpful.

The softened broccoli stalks are made into a purée in the food processor.

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The purée, broth and cooked barley are added to the soup pot.

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Broccoli florets are added.

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The final result, with the parmigiano-reggiano spread on the surface..

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This soup was a big hit with four of us, including our twin son and daughter who were home on a brief visit. The rest was enthusiastically consumed by our two-year old grandson the next day.

Next time I'll cut the florets in bigger pieces and I will likely use a bit more broccoli. The recipe calls for a "medium head" - which is at least partly in the eye of the beholder. And I will definitely make it again - likely with fresh broccoli from my garden.

This was the first soup I have made starting with preparing the broth. Thanks Marcella for giving me the opportunity.

May 19, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Well that was easy.

Marcella refers to this as the simplest of all sauces to make, with a sweet tomato taste. Agreed. Below are all the ingredients called for, including the rigatoni pasta option. The jar in the background is fleur de sel. I like using it whenever I can. I've even brought back some from our visits to Provence, until I discovered I can buy the exact same salt more economically at my local supermarket than at the Friday market in Lourmarin.

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The recipe was so simple, that I thought it might be a bit bland, but I was wrong. It was very pleasant with a distinctive tomato flavour. I'm glad I used fresh, rather than canned tomatoes. I grow a lot of tomatoes in my large vegetable garden - pretty sure tomatoes straight from the garden would taste even better. Here's the end result:

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There's not much more to comment on about this recipe. The whole dish takes about an hour from start to finish. Of course, I didn't choose this recipe. It was the luck of the draw to get such an easy dish to prepare.

But, would I make it again? .... Maybe (it's dead simple, quick and tasty), but I will try some adjustments to the ingredients. The recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of butter (the stick in front of the onion), which seems like a lot to be putting into any recipe these days. A little less sweetness and a little more tomato flavour would be OK with me.

May 26, 2010

Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato

Marcella provides 5 pasta options for this recipe. I am familiar with penne, ziti and fusilli; have no idea where to get maccheroncini, or what it looks like for that matter. I was able to get the fifth pasta option AND it was new to me; so that's how I settled on conchiglie. I know, I know, I'm way out there.

Marcella provides helpful directions on how to purchase and prepare the dried porcini mushrooms (in the transparent bag in the photo below) required for this dish - most helpful, as this was my first experience with this ingredient.

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Like the other recipes encountered so far, most of the other ingredients are quite familiar. In fact many are already in the fridge or pull-out pantry. However, one ingredient gave me pause - "boiled unsmoked ham" .....Hmm?? Never heard those 3 words in sequence before. Google isn't much help - a lot of links self-reference back to one of Marcella's recipes. Maybe this is Marcella's idea of a little joke on all of us? The deli guy at Nicastro's, an "Italian Food Emporium" in Ottawa, was stumped for a bit, but then came up with a suggestion - and that's how I came to include a few slices of French jambon de Paris in this recipe.

Ham strips, porcini mushrooms & filtered water, cooking at a "lively heat."

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Fresh mushrooms, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, plum tomatoes cooking at a "steady pace."

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And here's the result.

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How was it?

I liked the mushroom base of this sauce a lot - a new taste experience, big change from the usual tomato-based sauces. Hey! - that's what this project is all about, right? It was very good. Try it.

June 2, 2010

Zucchini Sauce with Basil and Beaten Egg Yolk

I learned a lot preparing this recipe. To wit:
1. There are 2 kinds of fusilli. Who knew?
2. So THAT's what romano cheese tastes like.
3. Boy, frying strips of zucchini can sure take a while.
4. Hey, fresh basil is pretty good in a pasta recipe.

No problems with this recipe - just had to get some romano cheese and fusulli pasta at Nicastro's on a trip into Ottawa. I liked the two cheeses in the sauce and the fresh basil leaves added at the end.

The ingredients, including a teaspoon of all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup of milk, an egg yolk, 3 tablespoons of butter, fresh basil leaves, vegetable oil, salt, parmigiano reggiano and romano cheese, 1 pound each of fusilli and zucchini.

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Thin zucchini strips frying in vegetable oil. This part takes the longest. I don't think I made the best choice of pans in which to fry the zucchini and, malheureusement, I don't have gas heat at my disposal. Marcella indicates that this step may be done several hours in advance - very helpful suggestion. File for future use.

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The creamy sauce coats the fried zucchini strips.

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The final result:

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I liked this recipe a lot - an excellent option for a pasta sauce with fresh zucchini and basil from the garden.


June 9, 2010

Tomato and Anchovy Sauce

Marcella recommends spaghettini, the thin version of spaghetti as the preferred pasta for this sauce. I didn't think this was significant until the penultimate step in the recipe, when the sauce is combined with the cooked pasta and all the strands of the pasta are coated. The thinner the pasta, the more sauce on the pasta, the better the end result. Good advice, Marcella.

One ingredient in the photo below is problematic for my spouse. She doesn't care for anchovies in any form. Ah well, in this enterprise my loyalty belongs to Marcella. By the way, Marcella provides detailed directions on the preparation of the anchovy fillets when purchased in large tins under salt. The only anchovies available in my area are packed in oil in smaller tins.

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Step 3 in the recipe directions results in this rather unusual apparition - a homemade double-boiler.

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The sauce - oil, garlic, anchovies, salt, pepper and tomatoes - cooking at a steady simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

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The final result.

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The most surprising ingredient in this recipe is one that isn't there. No grated cheese. I had to check a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed it.

What did my spouse, the anchovy-phobe, think of this dish? "It's delicious," was her first comment. No problems with anchovies when prepared like this.

This recipe is easy to prepare and the results are excellent - a winning combination. Thanks Marcella.



June 16, 2010

Clam Sauce with Tomatoes

Let's see, the last time I've cooked with clams is ... never. In fact I don't think I've ever eaten clams, other than in a soup, more than a handful of times. Mussels, yes, but clams not very often. Happily, Marcella provides explicit directions on how to prepare the clams for cooking.

This recipe call for littleneck clams. I had to drive into Nepean (about 40 miles from my home) to Lapointe's Fish Market - http://www.lapointefish.ca/ - phoned ahead to make sure the clams were available at that location. Lapointe's has a larger presence in downtown Ottawa in the Byward Market area - but that would have added quite a bit of time & some inconvenience to my excursion. Having read Marcella's directions on the preparation of the clams, I was most impressed by the counter guy at Lapointe's as he sorted through the selection available to make sure that the ones he sold me were top quality. Highly recommend Lapointe's - they know what they are doing.

I like most seafood - cuttlefish being the only exception so far - but my wife doesn't stray far from salmon. In fact, she's been known to refuse to enter a perfectly good restaurant in Paris because there were too many fish on the menu. My challenge with this recipe was to prepare something that my wife would eat.

This is a pasta dish with a clam-based tomato sauce - ingredients shown below.

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Unlike some other recipes prepared so far, everything (except the pasta) is prepared in a sauce pan.

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From start to finish, the dish takes about an hour. Is it worth it? Well, my wife, the mollusk-phobe, went back for seconds. Delicious.

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June 23, 2010

Pink Shrimp Sauce with Cream

The challenge with this recipe is not the titled sauce. While the word "pink" is slightly disconcerting, the sauce is pretty easy to prepare and the directions are excellent, as usual.

The challenge is with the pasta. Marcella provides three options - tortellini, fettuccine or pappardelle, but homemade pasta, not from a box. I bought a pasta machine a couple of weeks ago - 40 bucks, Imperia make with the requisite set of parallel steel cylinders & a double set of cutters.

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My first attempt at making fresh pasta was a disaster - come back in a couple of weeks to read about my tortellini misadventure - but I'm getting better. Despite my initial trepidations, everything went smoothly this time. Below are the ingredients of this recipe, with fresh fettuccine in the background.

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The final result.

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While the sauce was OK, the real star of this recipe was the pasta. Excellent!

I wasn't sure how to coordinate the timing of the cooking of the sauce & pasta. I didn't really know how long the pasta would take, but figured it wouldn't take very long, so I tossed the pasta in the boiling water when the sauce was almost ready. Everything turned out OK.

The only other issue was the direction to purée most of the shrimp - don't think I got the mixture fine enough. I used a small machine - next time I'll use my big league food processor.

June 30, 2010

Embogoné - Cranberry Beans, Sage, and Rosemary Sauce

According to Marcella's intro to this dish the name embogoné has its roots in an Italian dialect word for snails, bogoni. But don't worry, we won't be cooking any snails - just some beans and rigatoni. But not the cranberry beans in the title. Whenever I ask for cranberry beans, even at Nicastro's in Ottawa, all I get is a quizzical look - so I have used the Marcella-approved red kidney bean option.

The ingredients in this recipe are quite simple, with one exception. I normally don't have pancetta sitting in the fridge. And again, the preparation of the ingredients is quite simple, with one exception. The red kidney beans have to be soaked in water overnight, so this is not a last-minute dish.

I am beginning to be able to use some ingredients from my garden, if only the small herb garden. The rosemary and sage in the photo below were picked only a couple of minutes previously.

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This is a 3-burner dish - a bit unusual for Marcella's recipes in my limited experience.

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The final result.

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The preparation of this dish did not go exactly as expected. I thought I closely followed the directions for preparing the red kidney beans but they were not fully cooked at the end of the allotted time. I had to boil the beans for much longer than the specified time before they were acceptable - which threw off the timing of the final stage of the preparation. Next time I will make sure the beans are fully cooked before starting the pasta.

While the schedule calls for this dish to appear at the end of June, I think it is better suited to a cooler month. At least that's when I will try it next.

July 7, 2010

Tortellini with Meat and Cheese Filling

This report is in the nature of a "do-over". My initial attempt was fraught with problems. Here are a few:
1. It was my first time using a new pasta machine - small black fragments appeared on the first few clumps of pasta that I processed through he machine - almost certainly bits of metal filings - not totally unexpected, if you are aware of the problem. You can't wash the pasta machine in soap & water- have to use soft cloths & brushes to clean as best as possible.
2. The filling was a bit lumpy - should have cut up the pork & chicken a bit finer.
3. I had some difficulty producing acceptable pasta - my inexperience.
4. I was unable to master Marcella's directions as to creating the individual tortellini (tortellinus?).
5. My first use of a new pasta machine & I decided to make tortellini. What was I thinking?
There are a few more things I could likely add, but you get the idea. It wasn't pretty.

My second attempt, the "do-over", while not perfect, was a quantum leap forward, for a number of reasons:
1. I was able to obtain "00" flour - much better with which to make pasta.
2. I had some additional experience with the pasta machine in the interim - also, no black fragments in my pasta.
3. I used a food processor- approved by Marcella - to mix the meat in the filling.
4. I had the use of a couple of gadgets - a pasta cutter & spice grater - not available previously
5. While I never did master Marcella's directions I found help on Youtube.

The ingredients, including the newly-purchased gadgets:

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First step in making the pasta:

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Strips of pasta ready to be cut & filled:

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Youtube video:

Finished tortellini:

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While I would never claim to be adept at making this pasta, it was an adventure that I enjoyed and the final result, accompanied by a simple tomato sauce with onion and butter AND a couple of glasses of wine, was quite satisfactory.

My opinion of this recipe is a work in progress and largely a reflection of my lack of skill. Is the result worth the time and effort? Will my skills improve? I will try it a few more times - think I know how to make improvements next time at least - pretty sure I ended up using too much flour this time. Hey, how many other people do you know who make tortellini?.


July 14, 2010

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

I should have made this recipe several days earlier because of the spinach. Spinach is a very easy crop to grow, but it doesn't like hot weather, and we've had a run of several days of bright sunshine and high temperatures here in Eastern Ontario. The large leaves wilt and the plants tend to bolt & go to seed when the thermometer rises. This recipe calls for 1/3 of a package of frozen leaf spinach or 6 ounces of fresh spinach. I am trying to use as much produce from my garden in these recipes and it took a lot of small leaves to get 6 ounces of spinach. The spinach has to be soaked & rinsed in cold water, with all the stems and wilted leaves removed.

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This recipe is very time-consuming and involves preparing Bolognese meat sauce, Béchamel sauce, cooking the spinach, making fresh green lasagne, combining the meat and Béchamel sauces, layering in a 9- by 12-inch lasagne pan before baking in the oven. A large work surface and plenty of pots & pans are major assets.

One of the steps involves cooking the green lasagne very briefly, then washing, wringing and drying the pasta. Most of the drying pasta is shown below.

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The lasagne is baked on the top rack of a 400 degree oven until a light golden crust forms on the top - between 10 and 15 minutes. Below is the final result.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. The final result was excellent! This is a great lasagne.
2. In addition to the spinach, I was able to use some onions and carrots from my garden in making the meat sauce.
3. Making the green lasagne was a blast. It was the best lasagne I have ever made. It was also the first lasagne I have ever made.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

It took way too much time from start to finish. I am not used to spending a great Sunday afternoon in July tied to the kitchen. Perhaps I could have been more time-efficient in my preparation, but this was my first time with this recipe and I didn't want to blow it by skimming, or skipping, over some of the steps.

Would I make it again?

Peut-être. The most time consuming part of this recipe is the preparation of the Bolognese meat sauce. I can envision making a double, or triple, or even quarduple batch some slow evening, dividing & freezing the result, then using the sauce in this or other recipes. But I don't think I would make it from start to finish again in one shot, especially on a day when the sun is shining and the temperature is rising - too few of those here in Canada to spend indoors making what is admittedly an excellent lasagne.

July 21, 2010

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri?? What kind of pizza is that? Oh wait, it's not a pizza - the recipe's got Swiss chard, potatoes, some garlic, sage and two kinds of cheese. Pizzoccheri is the name of a variety of pasta, and guess what, I've got to make it. Well, at least I'm going to be getting more use out of my new pasta machine.

Buckwheat flour, unbleached flour, 3 eggs, salt, milk and water - the ingredients in making pizzoccheri. I had to visit a couple of shops to find buckwheat flour. The final result will be flat noodles about 3" x 1".

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I've planted Swiss chard & potatoes in my garden - but they aren't ready for the recipe this time - in mid-June, when I first tried this recipe. That's the Swiss chard in the large measuring cup in the photo below. This was also my first experience with Fontina cheese (red wedge).

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This recipe calls for lots of boiling water for cooking the Swiss chard & potatoes for several minutes, and only a few seconds for the fresh pasta before everything is transferred to an oven-to-table dish, coated with garlic/sage butter, topped with cheese ......

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..... then baked in an oven for five minutes.

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The most difficult stage of this recipe for me is making the pasta. I am still quite a novice and this was one of my first attempts. While I noticed a big improvement in my technique from a couple of earlier efforts, my resulting noodles wouldn't win high marks from the judges for aesthetics. Pizzoccheri doesn't conform to many of my assumptions about pasta dishes, but Marcella explains that is a regional dish from the northern part of Italy, near the Swiss border. I think it would be an excellent fall or early winter dish to prepare when I can use more ingredients from my garden. It was very good.


July 28, 2010

Risotto with Zucchini

This recipe would almost certainly be best with zucchini picked fresh from the garden, but I first made it ahead of time since I had plenty of the Basic Homemade Meat Broth already prepared. The directions called for a broad sturdy pot - so I used our soup pot.

One advantage of this recipe is that it can be partially prepared ahead of time. Marcella indicates where to stop before proceeding with the remaining steps - most helpful.

Below is a photo of the ingredients - pretty basic, like most of the recipes prepared so far. I used 2 cups of Arborio rice, the most easily obtained risotto rice where I live in Eastern Ontario. We even had a package on hand. In fact all the ingredients were at hand in our kitchen. The big block on the small plate is parmigiano-reggiano cheese, pre-grating. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of freshly grated cheese.

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Vegetable oil, onion & garlic are cooked in a pot to which 4 medium or 6 small zucchini -soaked, scrubbed & sliced - are added & cooked for about 25 minutes.

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The last part of the preparations is quite labour intensive. After the uncooked rice is added with the zucchini, the meat broth is added 1/2 cup at a time, with constant stirring until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. The final step involves adding some pepper, salt and cheese

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The final result, with additional cheese on the top.

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I liked the Arborio rice - not something we have very often. Marcella provides helpful directions on how to make sure it is properly cooked. The overall result was OK, but I think I would prefer Monday's Risotto with Asparagus recipe prepared by Irene. Asparagus has a much more distinctive taste than zucchini.

August 4, 2010

Molded Parmesan Risotto with Chicken Liver Sauce

Chicken Liver Sauce? Yuck! Don't think I'll like this.

Now, I actually like liver, but calf's liver is more my style. I know there are at least a couple of excellent calf's liver recipes on tap in a few months. Unfortunately, I miss out on both of them. No, my problem isn't with the liver.

I have a bit of an issue with the "chicken" part - have never tried chicken liver, but OK, I'll give it a go. I managed to get a package of frozen chicken livers at my local supermarket. I actually had to ask for assistance - didn't know what they looked like. Hey, they're just like calf's livers, only smaller. OK, I'm feeling a bit better.

My main problem is with the "sauce" bit. I scanned through the directions to see if "purée" was mentioned .... Whew, no mention of using a food processor or a blender on any setting. OK, things are looking up.

Actually this recipe isn't so much prepared from start to finish as it is assembled from two other separate recipes - Risotto with Parmesan Cheese and Chicken Liver Sauce - already prepared by two of my fellow conspirators, with the slightest of modifications. The only novelty with this recipe is the use of a 6-cup ring mold, of which I was fortunate to have one on hand.

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I first prepared the chicken liver sauce, which included some ground beef and pancetta as well as the liver along with small quantities of shallots, garlic, tomato paste dissolved in 1/4 cup of dry white vermouth and 5 whole sage leaves from my herb garden. Hey, looks fine.

Part-way through the sauce preparation, I started the risotto using Arborio rice. The cooking process is very labour-intensive, with plenty of time to think dark thoughts as I stirred the beef broth into the rice. If I didn't get the risotto right, the whole recipe might be a flop. What would happen if the risotto was undercooked? Would it hold its' shape in the mold? So I made sure the risotto, which included some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, was well-cooked before spooning it into the mold. Below is the final result, sitting on my Evesham platter.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. This was actually pretty easy to prepare - didn't take a long time, considering it involved combining two separate recipes. This was my second time preparing a risotto. I knew what to expect, which made my preparation more efficient than the first time.
2. I got to use some sage from my herb garden
3. The final result was excellent!

What I didn't like about this recipe:

Once I got over some unfounded reservations caused by the title, all was OK. No problems. Maybe "Mixed Meat Sauce" would work better in the title, at least for me.

Would I make it again?

Yes. I liked it a lot, but I realize that some people don't care for liver, so I'll pick my spots carefully.


August 11, 2010

Baked Crespelle with Bolognese Meat Sauce

Crespelle? Never heard of it/them (pretty sure the word is the same singular or plural), but it's got it's own chapter in the book, albeit a small one with only 4 recipes in total.

This is the kind of recipe that is a bonus due to my participation in this project. I never would have tried it on my own - had no idea what a crespelle is, plus this recipe is not so much prepared as assembled, requiring the preparation of three other recipes found in the book - Crespelle, very thin pancakes (think crêpes) described at the beginning of the chapter and prepared by Deborah yesterday, Béchamel sauce and the increasingly ubiquitous Bolognese meat sauce.

The first time I encountered Bolognese meat sauce in another recipe, I started preparing it from scratch. Along with the main recipe, I spent I great Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. Never again. So one evening a couple of weeks ago I prepared a large batch, divided it into smaller portions and chucked them into the freezer - the only way to deal with Bolognese meat sauce.

All I had to do was thaw & reheat the meat sauce, whip up a batch of Béchamel sauce (easy), and make the crespelle. And this is where I shined! Marcella indicates that the pancakes, prepared in an 8-inch nonstick skillet, can be made well in advance - but I made them as the two sauces were sitting nearby. My first couple of pancakes were less than wonderful. Each pancake requires only 2 tablespoons of batter; the pan is tilted & rotated to distribute the batter evenly. Pretty easy, but not if the bottom of the skillet is too hot. After turning the heat down a bit, I was transformed into a crespelle maker extraordinaire - even able to flip the pancakes in the pan (well, it worked once). Below is the stack of pancakes waiting to be filled with the sauces.

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A filling is prepared from the two sauces - 1 cup of the meat sauce, a 1/4 cup of the Béchamel sauce and a tiny grating of nutmeg. (What is it with nutmeg, anyway? It's in a lot of recipes). A heaping tablespoon of a mixture of the two sauces is spread on each crespelle, the pancakes are rolled up loosely and placed in the bottom of a baking/serving dish with the overlapping edges face down. The rest of the sauces are mixed together and spread over the crespelle; some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and dots of butter are distributed over the top; the dish is popped into the oven for 5 minutes, run under the broiler for less than a minute - and that's it. Final result below.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. This was one of the few recipes so far that took less time to prepare than I thought when I started. Of course, having the Bolognese meat sauce in the freezer helped a lot. But still, this is pretty quick and easy.
2. This would seem to be a very versatile recipe - could see serving it to guests or some of our kids if they are around and it's very easy to save as leftovers if there are only the two of us. We have a stuffed manicotti recipe that is a regular feature on the menu chez Doug. This crespelle recipe is way easier and even better.
3. I liked the taste and texture of the baked crespelle a lot. Highly recommend this recipe.
4. Crespelle? Oh yeah, I know all about crespelle.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

I ran out of filling for the crespelle while I still had some pancakes sitting on the plate. The directions call for a heaping tablespoon of the filling in each pancake. Well, I think it needs a bit more. Next time I will increase my filling quantities by 50% - pretty sure that will be more satisfactory, at least chez Doug.

Would I make it again?

Let's see? - Quick and easy to make, very good result, sure to impress friends & family, easy to spread over two meals. Yeah, I'll make it again.

August 18, 2010

Frittata with Onions

Oddly, one of the more unanticipated benefits of this adventure chez Doug, is the focus it provides when planting my herb & vegetable gardens - e.g. gotta make sure I harvest the zucchini blossoms for a "crisp-fried" recipe scheduled for next March, but almost certainly prepared months in advance. This recipe is the obverse - it presents a solution to a bountiful annual crop of onions. This frittata uses a lot of onions - onions, eggs, cheese and not much else. Simple ingredients; easy preparation, very good result.

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The directions provide an option of adding vegetables, herbs, sausages or shrimp, but I chose to do it straight-up - at least for the first time.

The frittata mixture, all ready to go into the sauté pan. Marcella provides a couple of suggestions for cooking the top side of this recipe. I chose the broil option.

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Sorry no pic of the final result, but this is an ideal dish to make use of some of bounty of a summer garden. Highly recommended.

P.S. Tomorrow is Bill Clinton's birthday. Mine also. Happy birthday Bill.

August 25, 2010

Stuffed Spaghetti Frittata with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Ham

I was taken aback when I saw the title of this recipe. "Stuffed Spaghetti Frittata" ???? What's that? How do you stuff spaghetti? My wariness increased as I read further - many more ingredients then usual and not just mozzarella, but buffalo-milk mozzarella - you know, the kind Tony Soprano's crew liked. And three burners going on top of the stove and the broiler in the oven. Hey, I've been getting used to one sauté pan with maybe a pot in which to cook some pasta. Well, OK I'll do it Marcella, but it had better be worth the effort and electricity.

And oh, it's the frittata that's stuffed, not the spaghetti. Well at least that should make things a bit easier.

A lot of ingredients in this recipe - see pic below. I am preparing many of these recipes well in advance of publication for a variety of reasons. The parsley is from my herb garden - the first ingredient, in addition to my garlic, from my one-acre plot of land in Eastern Ontario - many more herbs & veggies to come.

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First, I have to cook the pasta - correction, first I have to undercook the pasta, then add the parsley and some of the butter.

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Tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, ham - the "stuffing" for the frittata.

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The frittata, out from under the broiler, ready to eat.

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Well, how was it?

This was a unique experience for me. I didn't know such a dish existed. It was certainly quite an upgrade from my conception of a frittata.

I think I made a bit of a miscue with the pasta - not used to undercooking something on purpose.

OK Marcella, you win. It was great.

September 1, 2010

Pan-Roasted Mackerel with Rosemary and Garlic

I delayed preparing this recipe because of an error in the directions in the cookbook.

I purchased the 4 small (3/4 pound each) mackerel earlier in the summer at Lapointe's on a visit to the Byward Market area in downtown Ottawa. The fish looked great and the counter guy gutted the mackerel, leaving the head and tails on, and double bagged them for the trip home, where I tossed them into the freezer. The list of other ingredients is simplicity itself - some olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic, a sprig of rosemary, salt and pepper, and some lemon juice. I only had to take a few steps from our porch to snip a sprig of rosemary and a few more steps to get some garlic drying in the shed beside the garden.

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While I had never cooked a whole fish before encountering this recipe, the presence of the heads & tails didn't give me much pause; rather it was the note that the fish had to be scaled. I haven't scaled a fish in several decades & I didn't give it up because it was too much fun. So I put off preparing this recipe until the penultimate evening, when, lo and behold, I discovered that small mackerel do not have scales.

I prepared the fish in a roast pan. First the oil and garlic are heated; then the fish are added, browned & salted on both sides; then lemon juice is added and the pan is covered and the fish cook over a low heat for several minutes. Easy.

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The final result - not so good looking, eh?

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So I removed the meat from the bones and added a few slices of ripe tomato from my garden - much better looking in my opinion. The fish tasted pretty good and the tomato was delicious.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. As mentioned above, this was the first time I have prepared a whole fish, and the novelty aspect of this and some other recipes is a major benefit of participating in this project.

2. This was very easy to prepare - especially since no fish-scaling was involved.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

1. Well, I wasn't thrilled about looking at the fish heads in the pan. I don't understand the purpose of leaving the heads and tails on. Visually, not very appealing.

2. The smell. Does anybody really like the fishy smell in the kitchen? Hands up.... I didn't think so.

Would I make it again?

Doubtful. The final result was pretty good, but I don't see myself picking up a few mackerel any time soon. Too many more appealing recipes.

September 8, 2010

Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chili Pepper

I don't know if others have commented on this, but one aspect of this project that impresses me is the limited number of ingredients called for in a lot of these recipes - not just how ordinary they are, but also how few they are. This recipe calls for 9 ingredients - and the result is wonderful.

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Actually one ingredient presented a bit of a challenge. Red chili peppers were not in season in my area when I made this recipe. I was told on more than one occasion that a green pepper would work just as well, but I resisted until I was able to secure the red variety.

Onion, garlic and red chili pepper cooking in the olive oil.

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I had to check a couple of times before I took the next step. In my limited experience, parsley is a garnish added at the end of a recipe - a bit of taste & colour, but not really very important. But in this recipe parsley is added at an early stage, suggesting perhaps that it is crucial -

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- or maybe Marcella is just trying to evoke the colours of the Italian flag - after all, she did specify a red chili pepper. What do you think?

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Add the tomatoes, simmer for 20 minutes; then add the shelled shrimp & cook for a few minutes.

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The final result - another winner.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Almost everything. Simple ingredients, very good directions, a new appreciation for the humble parsley herb and excellent results.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

I had to delay preparing this dish until red chili peppers were available where I live. Next time I don't think I'll be so picky.

Would I make it again?

Definitely. I like shrimp a lot and this is an excellent shrimp recipe - sure to become a standard chez Doug.

September 15, 2010

A Single Fish Cooked Fish-Soup Style

The "single" fish in the title of this recipe refers to the number of fish, i.e. one, as compared to a fish soup that includes a large assortment of fish.

Marcella provides several options for the type and cut of fish used in this recipe. I chose to go with swordfish steaks because - well partly because they were fresh out of mako shark at the fish market and partly because I have never cooked with swordfish before. The weight of the steaks was slightly below the guideline for 4 servings, so I reduced the size of the rest of the ingredients by a small amount. I made this for three people, including one of our daughters who dropped in on a Sunday afternoon.

I like to gather all the ingredients of the recipe I am following before I start - that way no surprises part-way through the preparation. Marcella provides an option to use either freshly-ground black pepper or red chili pepper - easy call for me as long as the veggie is available.

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This is another single-pan recipe, and this time it's a sauté pan large enough to hold all the steaks without overlapping.

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The final result, with the tomato sauce spooned over the top.

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Cooking with swordfish was a first for me - distinctive flavour that was well-complemented by the tomato sauce. Another winner.

September 22, 2010

Roast Chicken with Lemon

Very easy preparation; very satisfactory result. A chicken, two lemons some salt & pepper and a hot oven. I mentioned this recipe to a friend. It has been a family favourite for many years, but she had never heard of Marcella. Perhaps this recipe, or quite similar ones, are quite well known. There was only one variation between my friend's preparation and Marcella's instructions. So it goes. (The last sentence is a literary reference. Anybody recognize it?)

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An early direction has the bird breast-down in the pan. Then the chicken is turned over with the the encouragement to try not to puncture the skin. Unfortunately I was not able to accomplish this skill, so I didn't get to see the chicken swell up like a balloon. Too bad, but it didn't effect which was very good.

Another miscue on my part relates to the size of the lemons. They were too big for the cavity of the chicken. Next time I'll use smaller lemons.

Not much to add. Hey, you stick a couple of lemons inside a chicken and put it in the over. Pretty simple and very good result.

What I liked about this recipe:

What's not to like? A very simple and rewarding way to prepare a chicken.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

Nothing. I'll work on my bird-turning technique - gotta see the "balloon" effect.

Would I make it again?

Yes.

September 29, 2010

Fricasseed Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Juice

My first recipe back after three weeks in France. Lucky me, I get an easy one that turned out great.

Pretty simple. Ingredients, sans black pepper, shown below - some wine, butter, vegetable oil, salt, garlic, rosemary, a lemon and a 3-4 pound chicken. I had to cut the chicken into 8 pieces. Marcella says to cook the chicken in a sauté pan large enough so that the pieces don't touch. Well she must have a huge sauté pan. I had to use both of mine. Total cooking time is well under an hour - and most of that time the breasts are sitting off to one side.

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The final result. Great taste and the meat is falling off the bones.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Everything. And enough left-overs for a couple of lunches. I'm not used to cooking a whole chicken. This recipe makes a lot of sense and likely more economical than just buying & cooking parts.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

Nothing. Pretty easy. The most difficult part is cutting the chicken into 8 pieces and any time I get to use a big knife is fine with me.

Would I make it again?

Yes.

October 6, 2010

Roast Duck

A hand-held hair dryer is one of the ingredients in this recipe.

No, seriously.

The list of ingredients includes rosemary leaves, sage leaves, salt, black pepper, duck liver, a fresh duckling and a hand-held hair dryer. See below.

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This recipe took about 2 hours from start to finish - longer than anticipated. The final result was OK. Pic below.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. Well, like many other recipes I've attempted, this was a novel experience for me - never cooked a duck before.

2. I only had to buy the duck - just had to take a few steps to pick some fresh rosemary and sage; salt & pepper were on the shelf and the hair dryer was in the bathroom. Pretty easy list of ingredients. Plus the veggies on the plate, the carrots and potatoes, also came from my garden.

3. I liked the aroma of the duck as it cooked in the oven.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

1. Well, first I had to boil the duck for 5 minutes; then I had to blast if with the hair dryer for 6-8 minutes; finally I got to put it into the oven. More work than throwing a chicken into the oven and I didn't think the extra effort was worth it.

2. Not a lot of meat on a five pound duck - at least the one I cooked.

Would I make it again?

Doubtful - although now I know how to cook a duck so that it doesn't come out greasy.

October 13, 2010

Stinco - Braised Whole Veal Shank, Trieste Style

"Hey Doug, what did you make for supper last night?"

"Stinco."

"I didn't ask how it smelled."

Well, actually I didn't make Stinco last night. I was unable to obtain the main ingredient - two whole veal shanks from the hind leg. I had to make a major modification and go with two pieces of veal shank, similar to the previous Ossobuco recipes, but as thick as I could find. I had to drive into Ottawa, well actually a suburb called Bells Corners, to obtain even those - at an excellent butcher shop called The Butchery.

Ingredients below include white wine, butter, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, anchovies, onion and garlic. The onion and garlic are from my garden. I am preparing my garden for winter, harvesting some vegetables that do well left in the garden until October - potatoes, onions, carrots, beets. I cooked some small beets as a veg to go with the veal.

I just planted my 2011 crop of garlic a couple of days ago. Garlic is very easy to grow. Plant in the fall, cover with a mulch, arrange the mulch between the rows in the spring to control the weeds, harvest in August, hang to dry in the shed, repeat in October.

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Preparing this recipe is very easy - everything goes into one pot - thick-bottomed according to the instructions - and slowly cooks for a long time - two hours for the whole shank recipe, add a bit of water to the pot juices, boil away & pour the pot juices over the veal.

To repeat, the final result is NOT the Stinco recipe in Marcella's book. If I had been able to obtain the whole shanks I would have done so.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. Well, like many other recipes I've attempted, this was a novel experience for me - never cooked veal shank before.

2. Single pan recipe - a big check mark in my book.

3. Small list of ingredients.

4. Great aroma as it is cooking.

5. Excellent result.

6. Found an excellent butcher shop. I'll add The Butchery to my rounds when I go into Ottawa. I drive into the city every two weeks.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

1. The difficulty in obtaining the main ingredient was initially frustrating. Once I decided to go with the two pieces instead of a whole shank, my attitude improved.

2. Unfortunate name, don't you think?

Would I make it again?

Yes. It was excellent. Also, I am going to try the Ossobuco recipes in the book.

October 20, 2010

Veal Scaloppine in Parchment with Asparagus and Fontina Cheese

Well, now I can say I've peeled stalks of asparagus - never done that before. In fact I didn't know anybody did that, but there it is, direction #1:

1. Trim the asparagus spears, peel the stalks, and cook the asparagus as described on page 466.

One of the features of a lot of these recipes is Marcella's detailed directions on how to perform specific tasks - so it's not uncommon to be flipping forward or back in the cookbook to learn a technique that she initially covered with another recipe or as part of a general introduction to a chapter.

The ingredients, including some Marsala wine partly hidden behind the pepper grinder. I like quaffing most wine, but Marsala is an exception. I use it only for cooking.

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This recipe took longer than I first assumed..... Oh, you mean I have to cook the asparagus first; then sauté the scaloppine before combining the two in a parchment-lined dish, covering with slices of Fontina cheese and sauce from the sauté pan; then baking the dish in the oven. Guess I didn't read the directions very carefully the first time.

Almost ready to go into the oven.

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The only difficult part of the directions to follow relates to the parchment paper. Marcella provides an option to use aluminum foil, but since I had the parchment paper, I went with that. However, the directions called for two sheets of paper crimped to provide a tight seal for the scaloppine before baking. I had difficulty getting a tight seal. Aluminum foil would likely be much easier to create the seal and it's what I will use next time.

The final result:

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What I liked about this recipe:

Almost everything. Great result.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

Preparation time a bit long & a bit picky (peeling asparagus stalks?) for me, but no real issues.

Would I make it again?

Yes - well, actually I already have. We served it to some friends a couple of weeks after I first prepared it. It was a big hit.

BTW the aluminum foil was much easier to work with than the parchment paper.

Want a recipe that's sure to impress? Try this one.

October 27, 2010

Sautéed Veal Chops with Garlic, Anchovies and Parsley

I knew this recipe was a winner as I was gathering the ingredients. I owned Marcella's book for a couple of years before embarking on this project. I had already prepared veal chops in this manner a few months ago. I like veal, but veal chops are not commonly found in the local supermarket. I get a lot of my meat for these recipes at The Butcher's Edge in Perth. I drop in at least once a week, usually on my way home from swimming over at the Perth pool. The people in the shop know about the Pomodori e Vino challenge and are quite helpful with some of my odder requests - even going so far as to refer me to another store close to Ottawa.

The ingredients below - that's flour in the glass bowl to coat the chops - think it helps to keep them moist.

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A sauté pan, large enough for the 4 chops. This pan is used in a lot of recipes.

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The final result, with anchovy and parsley sauce on top.

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This recipe is very easy to follow with excellent results - all in well under an hour.

Tomorrow is the birthday of our twins, Stephen & Meredith. The will be 29 years old. Happy birthday guys.

What I liked about this recipe:

Everything.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No issues for me.

Would I make it again?

Of course. I'll make it lots of times.

November 3, 2010

Pan-Broiled Steaks with Marsala and Chili Pepper

I am very impressed by my cohorts on this project - by the knowledge they bring to these recipes, their culinary skill, very good photography, and by many of their narratives, with an especial nod in the direction of Jerry's contribution on October 30. I don't have a lot to say about many of the recipes I've prepared. I try to follow the directions as close as possible and I am candid in my comments, but I don't bring much extra to each recipe. I don't have much experience with Italian cooking - in fact the novelty of almost all of these recipes is the best part of the project from my perspective.

Today is a good example of my difficulty in expanding on the basic narrative. The title pretty well says everything you need to know.

The ingredients: sirloin steaks, olive oil, salt, pepper, Marsala wine, red wine, garlic, fennel seeds, diluted tomato paste, hot red chili pepper, parsley.

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I cannot remember the last time I pan-broiled steaks. Got some steaks to cook? That's what barbecues are for, isn't it?

The directions are pretty specific and easy to follow. The only tricky part for me came when I had to keep the steaks warm while a couple of other dishes were being prepared. I should have had everything else ready before starting to cook the steaks.

The final result, with potatoes & carrots from the garden::

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What I liked about this recipe:

Quick and easy.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No issues for me.

Would I make it again?

Ah, there's the rub. We don't eat steak very often. I might use this recipe again, but likely not very often.

November 10, 2010

Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Amarone Wine

Amarone wine? Well, that's a bit of a step up from my usual cooking wine - Rumpole's Chateau Fleet Street or a screw cap plonk from Argentina or Chile are my usual choices. I was tempted to save a few bucks but eventually headed over to the LCBO & sprang for 32 bucks for a bottle of Amarone.

My wife is a big fan of Marcella's. I prepared this recipe on a Sunday a few weeks in advance. My wife mentioned that she had a roast she wanted to cook. I jumped in and said that I had to make a pot roast for this project and I would take over. No problem for her. Do you think she looks ahead at my assignments and drops comments to get out of preparing some meals? Just asking.

Ingredients below including pancetta, olive oil, roast, onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, wine.

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The roast braises for three hours in a heavy bottomed pot. I used a sauté pan - seemed to work OK.

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The final result with a side of a cabbage dish. Both were excellent.

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. No stress recipe - pretty easy directions, not a lot to do while the roast is braising for three hours.

2. Another one-pot recipe - a big plus in my book, as I've mentioned before.

3. An excellent option for a Sunday dinner. Great result.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

Well, the wine was a bit pricier than my usual options. I might not always use Amarone wine, but don't tell Marcella.

Would I make it again?

Yes. This is the best pot roast recipe I've ever tried.

November 17, 2010

Tuscan Meat Roll with White Wine and Porcini Mushrooms

My wife and I spent two weeks in Tuscany in May 2004, based at Villa Nottola, just down the hill from Montepulciano. The weather was terrible - not much Tuscan sun - but we had a great time. My Trip Report of our time in Tuscany - Tuscan Rambles - led to my first pick in the 2006 Slow Travel contest. I chose a week - which we extended to twelve days - in an apartment in Rome, which we took in September 2007. We were able to invite our two sons to accompany us to Rome - our two daughters were otherwise engaged. We treasure our time in Italy with our two sons - Roman Holiday.
So we have fond memories of our time in Tuscany, despite the poor weather. Another reason for our pleasant recollections is the food we enjoyed. We had several very good meals, including three at the well-known Trattoria Latte di Luna in Pienza. Much of the food we enjoyed was in the style of cucina povera . While Marcella does not make the connection, I am pretty sure that this recipe is in the same tradition.

Wow! - a lot of ingredients in this recipe. Bread, milk, ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, garlic, egg yolk, bread crumbs, butter, vegetable oil, white wine, porcini mushrooms, plum tomatoes. See below.

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Most of the ingredients are mixed with the meat, which is then shaped into a salami-like roll about 2 1/2" thick, then rolled in the bread crumbs & cooked in an oval pot for about an hour along with the tomatoes and water from soaking the porcini mushrooms. I should have taken a photo of this step - would have made my next comment very obvious.

OK, if you haven't figured this out already, this dish is basically a meat loaf with a tomato sauce. Final result below.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Well, what's not to like? Aside from the porcini mushrooms, everything was close at hand. No problems.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

The directions called for me to flip the meat roll several times in the pan. I had some difficulty at first, but my technique improved with practice.

Would I make it again?

Hey, why not? Inexpensive dish to prepare with excellent results. A bit of an upgrade from the usual meat loaf recipes. I'll likely make it many times.

November 24, 2010

Lamb Stew with Vinegar and Green Beans

When my vegetable garden was in full production a few months ago, I looked ahead at the recipes for which I was responsible and prepared some well ahead of time if I could use just-picked produce a few steps from my kitchen door. Somehow I missed this recipe. I suppose I paid more attention to the main ingredient - lamb - and not much to the green bean component; or perhaps it was one of those recipes that I assumed I would get around to - but never did. Either way, I ended up in the position of having to purchase some vegetables in November that I would have tossed on my compost pile in July. Ah well, nobody ever said that living in Canada is an unalloyed joy.

My personal issue with this recipe is the main ingredient. We live across the road from a dairy farm, but our nearest neighbours are actually a flock of sheep, living in a blue barn just over the fence. Each spring I enjoy seeing the new lambs taking their first steps outside, not venturing far from the ewe. I have taken our children, and now our grandchild, over to see the new lambs for over 30 years. I always know when the lambs have been taken away to be processed from the plaintive bleating of the barn full of ewes. Lamb is never high on my list of food options.

Ingredients pictured below - green beans, olive oil, lamb shoulder, onion, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar. The lamb shoulder is cut into 2 " cubes.

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Cooking time is over 1 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender, with everything in the same pot. Pretty simple.

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The final result shown below. I must admit that this dish did not conform to my preconceptions of a "stew" - you know, like a beef stew with a mix of vegetables including potatoes and carrots swimming in a thick liquid.

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What I liked about this recipe:

It expanded my idea of what constitutes a stew. Also, pretty easy preparation.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

I'm not a big fan of lamb.

Would I make it again?

Well, one member of our family liked the lamb stew a lot - see below. I might make it again, but only if he's around.

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December 1, 2010

Braised Pork Chops with Two Wines

This recipe calls for small amounts of two wines - Marsala and one of a Piedmontese Barbera or a Valpolicella or any young red from Central Italy, e.g. a non-riserva Chianti. I didn't have any of these wines around the house - only have Marsala for cooking purposes & not much of a fan of most Italian wines in general, but I do have a fondness for Valpolicella. So off for a visit to the LCBO - the Liquour Control Board of Ontario - a unique distribution/regulatory government-controlled entity found only in Ontario. The LCBO was started in the 1930's & reflected the conservative nature of much of Ontario society, at least until fairly recently. It is also a great money-maker for the provincial government and provides for a wide selection of alcoholic beverages, if not low prices. Occasionally, there have been suggestions to privatize the agency, but I suspect that it won't happen. The LCBO is the world's largest purchaser of alcoholic products.

I bought a 1.5 litre bottle of Valpolicella because it was on sale.

The rest of the ingredients are close at hand. Nothing very unusual - pork chops, garlic, tomato paste, flour, olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, parsley, salt & pepper - simple ingredients as is typical of most of Marcella's recipes.

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Following the directions of this recipe was quite easy. The first few steps only take a few minutes ... and then, whoa, an hour. "Braising" is just a word that means its going to take a while. The only issue I encountered was the relative size of the larger of my two sauté pans vis-a-vis the size of the pork chops. It was a tight fit.

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The whole dish takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. Well worth it. The humble pork chop never tasted better - see below.

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Oops, forgot to add the parsley before I took the pic. Well, you know what Ogden Nash said about parsley ....

What I liked about this recipe:

Hey, any recipe with two wines can't be all bad, right? Actually, I liked almost everything about this recipe.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

One tablespoon of tomato paste? What do I do with the rest of the can? Oh, I know, I can freeze it until the next time.

Would I make it again?

Yes - it was very good. My problem with a lot of pork chop recipes is that ... well, they taste like pork chops. This one is a couple of steps above.

December 8, 2010

Pork Sausages with Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes

Well, I've been doing this for a few months now & I've figured out my favourite part of preparing all these recipes, aside from sampling the end results, of course. It's just before I start to cook - you know the stage when all the ingredients are gathered together and the next hour or so is going to be a novel experience - optimism reigns. I suppose that's why I always include a photo like the one below - onion, olive oil, garlic, carrot, celery, tomatoes, pork sausage, black-eyed peas, salt and pepper. Most of the time everything has worked out fine.

BTW, the onion, carrots & garlic are from my summer vegetable garden. I have onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbages in a cold storage room in my basement, along with my hanging garlic. The potatoes & garlic should last until next summer. The carrots are stored in sand & will likely last most of the winter. I'll run out of the onions & cabbage by Christmas

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With several of these recipes there have been one or two ingredients that have presented a bit of a challenge, due in no small part to my location - things like pancetta, fresh mackerel, cranberry beans, veal shank are not on the shelves at my local supermarket in my small town in Eastern Ontario. At first glance, this recipe did not present any similar issues. Black-eyed peas? I picked some up at the Bulk Barn in Kanata on one of my bi-weekly trips into Ottawa. BUT, Marcella's directions for the sausages are at the same time descriptive and mysterious. The descriptive phrases include "mild" and "no herbs or strong spices". Mysterious? Are the sausages supposed to be large, small, bangers, Italian? Nary a clue. After reading ingredients on more sausages than I care to remember - and I can assure you that most sausages have a LOT of ingredients, unfortunately, I suppose - I settled on the ones in the photo - about 7" in length with a long list of very bland ingredients.

Preparation was pretty simple - another one-pot recipe - and took over two hours. First the onions, garlic & veggies are lightly cooked, then the sausages are added for about 15 minutes, followed by the tomatoes and finally by the soaked black-eyed peas. Everything is covered with water & simmered for about an hour and a half. Final result below.

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This recipe & it's simplicity of ingredients remind me of one of our family favourites - baked beans with steamed brown bread. The peculiarities of this recipe originated with my wife's grandmother and go back about 100 years, originating in New Brunswick. It was a Saturday staple in my wife's family when she was growing up and started the night before when the beans were left to soak overnight. The dish is cooked in the oven a bean pot.

What I liked about this recipe:

Everything. This has been one of my favourite dishes that I have prepared for this project. An excellent, economical and simple family meal when the weather is a bit unpleasant outside - and we have plenty of those days here in Canada. We even have a name for them - winter.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems for me. I might experiment with different sausages from time to time, but the ones I used were fine.

Would I make it again?

Of course. Actually, I already have.

December 15, 2010

Grilled Pork Liver Wrapped in Caul

As Doug explained in the Tuesday post, we traded days this week. He found it impossible to find caul in his neck of the woods, and I do love a challenge. As it turns out, it wasn't any challenge at all. I just needed to make an appointment to pick it up on butchering day. You're going to have to bear with me, I got a little carried away with my story.

May I introduce a bag of fresh caul - so fresh it was still warm from the hogs body when I took this photo. May I also introduce you to the Schuberts. Schubert's Packing Company is across the Mississippi from St. Louis in the historic German town of Millstadt, Illinois. They've won so many awards for their German sausages, they were invited to Germany to demonstrate how they made them. Larry Schubert is pretty good at growing a mustache too, don't you think?

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My pork liver and a bag of fresh jowl needed for next weeks recipe were already in the case waiting. So while Irene and I were waiting for the caul, I took a picture.

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When I got home with my treasures, I rinsed and soaked the liver in several changes of water. This is the first time I've worked with pork liver. I expected it to be a darker color, but it was a nice light pinkish -- and very meaty. I had enough for this recipe with plenty left over for future use. While some others here have expressed a distaste for liver, I must admit that I love it. I love fried chicken livers, I love liver and onions, I love liverwurst, I love liver pate, I love...well you get the idea.

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Next step was to rinse the caul and remove the larger rope-like sections. I ordered several extra pounds, so while rinsing and cleaning it, I packaged up the excess in a series of 1/2 pound packages for the freezer. I've got some goat shanks I want to do a slow braise with next week, I'm thinking that wrapping them in caul could be very interesting. By the way -- don't you just love the beautiful lacy appearance?

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The liver should be cut into 1 x 2 x 3 inch pieces; sprinkled with salt and pepper; wrapped (along with a bay leaf) in a 5 x 7 inch piece of caul; and secured with a large toothpick. It should then be grilled over hot coals for a few minutes on each side. Here is what my grill looked like yesterday.

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I really didn't want to face having to get the snow and ice off the grill cover. Plus, I told myself it wasn't good for the grill to fire it up in 14 degree weather, anyway. So, I wimped out and kind of cheated. I set a grill/griddle on high flame on my range. Heated it up good and then "grilled" the liver indoors.

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I think after seeing how beautiful it turned out, Marcella will forgive me for wimping out. Some nice roasted root vegetables seemed like good companions for the dish. I had sweet potatoes and beets, so that's what I roasted. We also had a fresh green salad and some Spanish red wine.

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The caul did it's job, slowly basting the liver in flavorful fat. The result was a very moist and still slightly pink liver. No shoe leather tasting of blood, iron, or bile here. Just a tender, almost creamy texture with a sweet slightly mineral tang.

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December 22, 2010

Honeycomb Tripe with Parmesan Cheese

My mother was born in England. Her family emigrated to Canada in 1919, with my grandfather and his family receiving free passage because of his service in the British Army in World War I. My father's ancestor also came from England, as a Sergeant in the British Army, but more than a century earlier, in 1799. He was posted on the Niagara Frontier and as a result of his service, including holding back the invading Americans in the War of 1812, received a land grant in Eastern Ontario, where I live. And I do not have any relative whose surname ends in a vowel. In other words, I am about as far removed from any family connections to Italy as possible. I am absolutely positive that I am the first, last and only member of my extended family to have prepared and consumed tripe.

But this was not my first time eating tripe. I had it on our last night in Rome in Trastevere in September 2007. I wasn't really sure what it was when I ordered it - I tend to try unfamiliar menu items in a different setting (cf. cuttlefish in an earlier post). I ate all of it, but wasn't impressed - tasted like raw calimari in a tomato sauce, and that's being generous.

One clue that this is a "variety" meat is the number of ingredients. In addition to the tripe, the recipe calls for butter, vegetable oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, parsley, rosemary leaves, white wine, plum tomatoes, hot red chili peppers, salt, pepper, beef broth, parmigiano-reggiano cheese - See below.

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What exactly is honeycomb tripe, you may ask - as I did. Well, it is made from the reticulum, the second of a cow's three stomachs - lovely image, eh?. The source of the appellation "honeycomb" is obvious:

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Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the most difficult ingredient for me to locate was not the tripe - The Butchery in Bells Corners came through again - but the "hot red chili pepper" - not in season at this time of the year. Instead of opting for a hot green pepper, I chose to go with dried red pepper flakes. Marcella's directions call for the chili pepper "to taste", so I would have been justified in omitting it entirely - but I always try to assuage Marcella, as readers of this blog can attest - so the dried version it was.

Preparation time was longer than usual - upwards of 3 hours from start to finish. And even at that, I lengthened it for a day. Well, Marcella says that it tastes even better the second day - and besides we met with some friends at the Brigadoon in Oxford Mills last night. So I had to take it out of the 'fridge, reheat it and add some butter and the Parmesan cheese. Here's what it looked like:

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And I ate all of what you see in the pic. - but I was alone. BW had some soup & nobody else was around.

One week I enjoy an all-time favourite; the next week I get to eat a cow's stomach. Both recipes are found in the same chapter. And so it goes.

What I liked about this recipe:

Three things:

1. BW said, "Well, it smells OK."

2. Aside from the tripe, very common ingredients.

3. It was better than the tripe I had in Rome in September 2007.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

Well, first of all, it's a cow's stomach .... Actually, that's enough, don't you think?

Would I make it again?

No.

December 29, 2010

Gratin of Artichokes, Potatoes and Onions

Well, that was close.

Like a couple of my fellow conspirators I didn't make this dish when artichokes were fresh and plentiful last spring and summer. I did manage to obtain some a couple of weeks ago at my local supermarket, but they spoiled before I prepared the recipe. I thought I was going to have to used the canned variety, but I got lucky. On my bi-weekly trip into Ottawa on Monday, I stopped into Nicastro's on Merivale Road, and there they were - a lot of artichokes. The recipe calls for 2 large globe artichokes or 4 medium size. The ones available were pretty big to my untrained eye, but I got 4, just to be sure. The other ingredients included potatoes, onions, lemon, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, butter, salt & pepper - see below:

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I'm glad I got 4 four artichokes - a lot of the body is discarded when preparing an artichoke for cooking.

I also picked up some ingredients for Bean and Red Cabbage Soup, prepared by Beth last May, which I think will be a great soup to make at this time of year. I managed to get the correct type of sausage (not the type I used three weeks ago in my Pork Sausages with Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes recipe), along with pork rind, panchetta and cannellini. I have prepared several recipes ahead of time, mainly from the Vegetables chapter, and I have been looking back over some earlier recipes from others or prepare some of my own for a second or third time. Generally, I do a better job the second time around - not surprising is it?

In fact, I suspect that I cooked it a bit too long - think maybe it came out of the oven a bit darker than it was supposed to. But how would I know for sure? This was my first time with this recipe..

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The final result:

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What I liked about this recipe:

1. Well, this was the first time I've worked with artichokes - a bit fussy, but interesting - and I enjoyed the novelty of the experience.

2. Another way of making the potato a bit more interesting.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

Yes, but I'll do it when artichokes are in season. I think for the work involved in preparing the artichokes, they should be at their best - although that could be said about any ingredient in any recipe, n'est ce pas?

January 5, 2011

Gratinéed Asparagus with Parmesan

We like asparagus & have it fairly often. I have tried to grow it in the past, without much success. It is one of the few vegetables that we buy at the store year round, although there are definitely better times of the year to go shopping for asparagus.

A small number of ingredients - asparagus, salt, butter and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. And a very simple recipe to prepare. The asparagus is trimmed, boiled .....

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and then baked, dotted with butter and topped with the cheese.

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Ready for serving.

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A very short post this week - not a lot to add.

What I liked about this recipe:

Well, this must be one of the easiest recipes to prepare in the book.

.... Hey, I think somebody likes me!

OK, OK, I know it's not Marcella, but somebody does.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

Yes, always great to have another way to prepare asparagus

January 12, 2011

Green Beans Pasticcio

I have always grown beans in my vegetable garden. They grow well and we like them. The only problem I have had are groundhogs (aka woodchucks) eating the young plants when they are only an inch or two high. So I plant two rows of beans between two rows of peas which I provide with a chicken wire fence on which to grow. I close off the ends of the 4 rows until the bean plants are well established. I actually prefer yellow Rocdor beans, but this recipe calls for green beans, so that's which I picked. Bean plants are heavy producers. I picked these beans early in the season last July when they are best, in my opinion.

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Marcella explains the meaning of pasticcio - similar to the French pastiche - you know, a bit of a mess. In cooking it refers to a mix of cheese and vegetables, meat or cooked pasta, bound by eggs or béchamel, or both. No meat or pasta in this recipe, but all the rest are present - ingredients below.

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The directions were pretty straightforward and easy to follow, with only one glitch. The beans are cut into 1-inch lengths and cooked in a sauté pan with butter and some water. Marcella's instructions call for a sauté pan that can contain all the beans snugly, but without overlapping. I have two sauté pans, but neither of them will accommodate 1 pound of beans cut into 1-inch pieces without overlapping. Marcella must have some big pans.

The final result was excellent.

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What I liked about this recipe:

A great way of using some of the bounty from my garden. And a bit of a classy way of serving up the humble green bean.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

Well, that was a subject of some discussion chez Doug. While this recipe is fine, fresh green beans on their own are also excellent and an anticipated crop from my garden. "The beans are ready!", is a sure sign of summer and means at least a couple of months bypassing most of the vegetable section of our local supermarket, as other crops ripen in the garden.

So, while I will make this recipe again, it will probably not be very often - perhaps when we have some friends over for dinner.

January 19, 2011

Gratinéed Cauliflower with Béchamel Sauce

Our younger son Brad prepared this recipe.

My wife and I have 4 children - Kelly, Steve, Meredith and Brad - our attempt at immortality. Kelly's son, Liam, has made an appearance in this project - we see him a lot - lucky us. Kelly is a teacher, married to John, & is only about 15 minutes away; Steve is a Mechanical Engineer, engaged to Kate, & lives about 3 hours away - see below at Yankee Stadium; Mere lives in Ottawa & works for the federal government- her life is an adventure and we're along for the ride; Brad is continuing his education in the Toronto region and likes to cook - so, why not?

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Ingredients below - pretty bland looking - cauliflower, parmigiano reggiano cheese, flour, salt, milk, nutmeg, butter. The milk, butter, flour and most of the salt are used in making the Béchamel sauce.

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Everything in a buttered baking dish, ready to go into the oven.

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The final result - not much more to say. Pretty good cauliflower dish.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Well, pretty easy - especially since I didn't have to prepare it.

But, actually, I liked the opportunity to consult with one of my children about this dish - so, it was a winner.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

Yes.

January 26, 2011

Sautéed Swiss Chard Stalks with Olive Oil, Garlic and Parsley

When I was planning my vegetable garden last spring, I looked over all the recipes for which I would be responsible and planted as many ingredients as possible - both vegetables and herbs. Of course, many were familiar plantings - tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplants, green beans, zucchini, onions. But a couple were new to me - radicchio and Swiss chard. They both proved very easy to grow. Below, some of my Swiss chard, early in the growing season. Swiss chard is a great producer and, unlike some vegetables, it retains its culinary virtues over a long period. We used the Swiss chard over 3 months.

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This is a very simple recipe to follow and includes stalks of Swiss chard, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt & pepper. The longest part of the preparation is soaking the stalks in cold water before combining with the hot oil and garlic in a sauté pan. The end result is well worth the modest effort. I will be sure to continue planting Swiss chard in my garden.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Hey, something else to plant in my garden that I can use over a long growing season is a winner with me.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

Of course I will.

February 2, 2011

Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic, and Parmesan

Eggplant is the rather prosaic English name for this generally purple vegetable; aubergine is the much more elegant French name; in Italy it's called melanzane.

Melanzane??? Oh, oh, I've got to be careful here. Back in August 2007, I reported on a recipe from a book by Tessa Kiros in a Slow Travel premium forum. My modest contribution stimulated a heated discussion, known to some of us as The Great Slowtravel Melanzane War, a summary of which can be found here.

In truth, I have developed a fondness for eggplant. It is something that I never knew much about or planted in my garden until we started our annual trips to Europe. I think I knew that it was the basis of moussaka, which I had a couple of times in restaurants, but that's about it. However, our trips to France, Italy and Portugal stimulated me to broaden my cooking resources beyond The Joy of Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book or the Looneyspoons trilogy - the last reference may make sense only to fellow Canadians. I began acquiring cookbooks by authors with a European sensibility - Elizabeth David, Kate Hill, Patricia Wells, Julia Child, Ina Garten, Sarah Leah Chase, Richard Olney, Mireille Johnston, and, of course, our own Marcella Hazan.

And the plantings in my garden have evolved also, with the most obvious addition being a row of two or three varieties of eggplant. I have my favourites - I don't care for the Sicilian variety or the off-colours - and I still don't make use of all the eggplants I produce, but the sight of a row of these purple vegetables suggests that my culinary horizons have expanded.

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In addition to the eggplants, I was also able to use my own parsley and garlic.

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All of the ingredients, including bread crumbs, an egg, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, salt, pepper, vegetable oil, and flour in addition to the eggplant, garlic and parsley.

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The most time-consuming part of this recipe is the first stage that involves baking, peeling, slicing and draining the eggplants before combining most of the ingredients together and shaping in the patties.

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Then the patties are fried in the vegetable oil.

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The final result with fresh green beans from the garden.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Another great recipe from Marcella's book - a novel way of preparing eggplants.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

The trickiest part, to me anyway, was getting as much liquid as possible out of the sliced eggplant. I improved with practice.

Would I make it again?

Yes, this recipe is a real winner. I made it a few times last summer & will do so again.

February 9, 2011

Sautéed Mushrooms with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Parsley, Two Methods

Well, I've had a run of pretty quick and easy recipes, but that ends today.

- First, I have to prepare two dishes.

- OK, I thought, I'll just do one, then add some ingredients and do the second one.

- Not possible I discovered. I have to start both from the beginning.

- Ah well, I'm just sautéeing some mushrooms, shouldn't take very long.

- Not exactly - well over an hour to prepare both recipes.

.... Actually, I'm exaggerating a bit. Each of these recipes is pretty simple, but I have to do something to add a bit of drama.

Ingredients below - cremini & dried porcini mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt & pepper. One recipe only uses the cremini mushrooms, the other uses both kinds. Instead of doubling the amount of cremini mushrooms to prepare each recipe as described, I halved the amount for each recipe & made a few additional adjustments.

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The first method uses only the cremini mushrooms and can be served warm with a meal or allowed to cool and served as an antipasto. I chose the latter.

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The second method includes a reconstituted package of porcini mushrooms. This method also takes significantly longer than the first one. I served this with a pork chop recipe prepared by Irene back in November.

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What I liked about this recipe:

I like mushrooms.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

Of the two methods, I much preferred the second one, with the porcini mushrooms. I thought it was well worth the extra effort, compared to the first method, which I found a bit dry - but maybe that's because I served it as an antipasto.

Would I make it again?

Well, if I am ever looking for a mushroom recipe, I will be inclined to select the second method with the porcini mushrooms.

February 16, 2011

Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan Cheese, Bolognese Style

Well I put this off as long as possible. I have never prepared mashed potatoes before in my life. I haven't eaten mashed potatoes in, oh, likely more than twenty years. I don't care for mashed potatoes. I think this is the only mashed potato recipe in the book - and I get it.

This mashed potato recipe is very easy to prepare. Ingredients below, including some Parmesan cheese and a bit of nutmeg.

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The recipe calls for the use of a double boiler. The potatoes are cooked, put into the top part of the double boiler over the melted butter and mashed. I used a potato ricer. Hot milk is added in small amounts as the potatoes are whisked; the Parmesan cheese is added, then more milk until the potatoes become fluffy, but before they become thin & runny. Add some salt & nutmeg and serve at once.

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The final result below. Fluffy enough for you?

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What I liked about this recipe:

Ho, hum. Gotta be one of the easiest recipes I've prepared.

I should also add that my 92-year-old mother-in-law liked the final result a lot - and she's prepared tons of mashed potatoes in her life.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

It's mashed potatoes.

Will I make it again?

Well, I will if I am asked, as I almost certainly will be.

February 23, 2011

Pan-Roasted Potatoes with Anchovies, Genoa Style

Marcella is always full of surprises and she makes sure you read her directions carefully. Take this recipe - pretty simple, eh? Potatoes, olive oil, butter, anchovies, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper cooked in a sauté pan. What could be easier?

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Well, actually, this recipe is pretty easy - another one-panner coming in under an hour with pretty common ingredients. BUT, the tricky part is the garlic. In every other recipe I've prepared for this project, the garlic is added at or very near the beginning of the process, but here it is added at the final step, likely (I'm guessing here) to make sure the distinctive taste of the garlic comes through.

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Final result below.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Excellent results! - adds some class to the humble spud.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Will I make it again?

Yes

March 2, 2011

Fried Zucchini in Vinegar and Garlic

I made this recipe last July with zucchini from my garden. There was less than 10 minutes from picking the vegetables to the start of preparation. At an early stage the zucchini is sliced into 1/4 inch widths, sprinkled with salt and left to drain for 30 minutes.

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Then coated with a dusting of flour and fried in very hot vegetable oil:

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The final result, with garlic, vinegar and pepper added to the fried zucchini.

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What I liked about this recipe:

This recipe is a great option to use more of the produce from my garden. Zucchini is a quite bland on its own, but the addition of garlic, vinegar and pepper gave it some zing.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems.

Would I make it again?

I will definitely use it again when my zucchini are ready.

March 9, 2011

Crisp-Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Well, those were pretty good.

This was my first time frying zucchini blossoms, but not the first time indulging in them. My wife and I first had fried stuffed zucchini blossoms at a restaurant in St. Saturnin-les-Apt in the Luberon a few years ago and the entire evening remains a very pleasant memory.

While this recipe appears in March, I actually prepared it last summer when I could harvest the blossoms from my garden. Thanks to Marcella, I knew which blossoms to select - the male blossoms with the stem (on the left on the pic below). The female blossoms (on the right) on the zucchini are inedible.

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No problem getting a dozen blossoms from my few plants.

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The zucchini blossoms ready to be dipped in pastella, a simple flower and water batter.

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Frying in vegetable oil:

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The final result with a sprinkling of butter. I can assure you they were delicious.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Everything. It was quick and easy to prepare, the result was great and I was able to use produce from my garden. Plus, I learned more about how my garden grows.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

Everything OK with me - no problems.

Will I make it again?

Definitely. I can't wait to harvest this year's blossoms from my vegetable garden.


March 16, 2011

Sunchoke and Spinach Salad

Well, that was an unexpected treat.

A very simple list of ingredients, sunchokes, spinach, salt, pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar.

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But the first ingredient, aka Jerusalem artichokes, was unfamiliar to me and proved impossible to locate within a 50-mile radius of where I live in eastern Ontario. However, one of my co-conspirators, Jerry, came to my assistance, bought some at the Saint Lawrence Market in Toronto & mailed the sunchokes to me. Thanks again, Jerry.

The sunchokes are soaked, cleaned & sliced. The baby spinach is washed, spun-dried and torn into smaller pieces. Both ingredients are combined & mixed with some olive oil, salt, pepper & red wine vinegar.

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The final result. A very good simple-to-prepare salad.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Sunchokes were a novel experience for me - a big plus in taking part in this project.

The combination of textures worked very well.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

The difficulty of obtaining the sunchokes was a major issue - but not a problem with the recipe itself.

Would I make it again?

Well, actually I already have. Jerry sent enough sunchokes for another salad, which we enjoyed a couple of days after the first one.

And, more significantly, I have recently discovered that one of my brothers has sunchokes growing along a fence line on his property. I'll plant some in a couple of months and have my own supply from now on.

I thought this was an excellent salad.

March 23, 2011

Radicchio and Warm Bean Salad

Pretty simple and and pretty good salad, with only one hitch.

Radicchio, cranberry beans, olive oil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar. Marcella provides 3 options for the radicchio, even including Belgian endive. I had no choice - only the rounded radicchio was available.

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The final result below. I'm not sure how you think it looks, but I can assure you the salad was very good.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Hey, it's pretty easy to make & the result is very good. The taste of this salad is unique in my experience.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

You can't make this at the last minute, if using dried cranberry beans - & I've never seen fresh ones. The cranberry beans have to soak overnight.

Would I make it again?

Yes, I probably will in summer or early fall, using radicchio from my garden. It gives me a reason to plant a flat of radicchio this year.

March 30, 2011

Boiled Swiss Chard Salad

I prepared this salad last July with fresh Swiss chard from my garden. I had never planted Swiss chard previously, but saw it was an ingredient in a few recipes. Pretty easy to grow.

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I was able to select plenty of mature chard with broad stalks, although likely not as broad as suggested by Marcella. The Swiss chard keeps growing and the stalks keep getting bigger throughout the summer.

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I cut the stalks into 1/2" x 4" sections, boiled them for a few minutes on their own before adding the leaves & some salt. After a few minutes, I drained the chard, let it cool a bit before tossing with olive oil, salt and some lemon juice.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Pretty simple and pretty good. Not much more to add.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

A bit bland - but the olive oil, salt & lemon juice added at the end gave it some zing.

Will I make it again?

Yes. It's another summer vegetable option, with the added benefit of helping me pretend I'm in Italy. I'll keep planting Swiss chard in my garden.

April 6, 2011

Croccante - Italian Praline

Well, here we are into Desserts and I have the honour of leading off the chapter.

But I blew it.

Ingredients are pretty simple - almonds, sugar, vegetable oil, a sheet of aluminum foil and a potato. A potato? Yes, a potato.

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I followed Marcella's directions as to how to skin the almonds; made sure the melted sugar reached a "rich tawny gold"; spread the vegetable oil on the aluminum foil; used the potato as per Marcella's instructions. BUT I deviated from one of Marcella's directions which likely created my problem with this recipe. Marcella indicated that the almonds are to be chopped very fine using a knife, not a food processor, into pieces about half the size of a grain of rice. Well, I didn't use a food processor, but I didn't use a knife either - I use a hand-held food chopper, which likely resulted in too many very small pieces i.e. crumbs.

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The end result (below) was not like praline, more like a very sweet granola. The ingredients didn't bind together.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Well, I like almonds and the list of ingredients is very small.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

Since I didn't follow one of the directions, I suppose I had a problem with that - couldn't see myself chopping all those almonds into very small pieces.

Will I make it again?

No. I don't think the effort is worth the reward, or is even a good idea for that matter. I am pretty sure I could do a better job on a second attempt, but I decided I didn't want to make it again. About the last thing I need to be doing is making and eating more candy. I'm consciously reducing my sugar consumption - will reserve my splurges for other recipes in this chapter.

April 13, 2011

Diplomatico-A Chocolate Dessert with Rum and Coffee

This recipe is full of surprises.

1. First, it stretches over 3 pages in the book. Hey, must be complicated, right?

2. Not exactly, because the recipe starts with a store-bought pound cake.

3. And some of the length is due to different options for the cake frosting.

4. But, I found it impossible to buy a plain pound cake. Sara Lee used to make one, but it has been delisted, according to Brian at the local supermarket.

5. And no luck trying to buy a pound cake at a couple of specialty stores in the area.

6. But, BW came through (again) and made a pound cake.

7. Everything was going fine - well, not exactly but I'll explain later - when, WHOA! the preparation stretches over two days. Guess I should have read the directions more carefully the first time through.

...The last surprise, I'll leave to the end.

The ingredients below include some expresso coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, a 16-ounce pound cake, some sugar, water, a few eggs, a bit of butter, a small amount of whipping cream and, oh yes, some rum. Marcella also suggests a garnish of fresh berries or walnuts and candied fruit, but I skipped the garnish this time.

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A nine-inch rectangular pan, lined with damp cheesecloth provides the structure for the dessert. The pound cake is cut into slices; the individual slices are soaked in a rum & coffee mixture; then line the bottom of a nine-inch pan. A filling of chocolate, egg yolk and a bit of sugar is spread over the layer of pound cake; then a second layer is placed on top. The cheesecloth is folded over the top and the pan is refrigerated until the next day.

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A chocolate frosting is made the next day. Marcella also provides an option for a whipped cream frosting, but how much chocolate is too much?

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What remains of the initial servings. The white spots on the cake are where I missed with the rum & coffee soak. The soak was the trickiest part of the preparation - too wet and the pieces fall apart.

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What I liked about this recipe:

This turned out great the first time I tried it a few months ago & I have improved the esthetics in subsequent efforts. I received many compliments on my initial preparation from an international audience - well a couple of my son-in-law's relatives from Scotland were at the dinner.

And, by the way, I did locate a source for a store-bought Sara Lee pound cake for the recipe & used it once - but the scratch cake is a lot better.

What I didn't I like about this recipe:

Well, I wasn't thrilled that it stretched over two days, but that was my problem. Also, the initial difficulty in locating a main ingredient (the pound cake) was an unexpected hurdle.

Would I make it again?

Yes, this is the best dessert I have ever made. This is a great recipe. I have made it a few times and it always impresses. It is equal to, or better, than any restaurant dessert in my experience. It is the most professional result I have achieved in this project.

This dessert is at the top of my favourite recipes I've prepared for this project - the final surprise.

April 20, 2011

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart

I first made this recipe ten months in advance of the schedule. I like pears. In fact, I try to grow pears - with very limited success I should add. I was curious how a pear tart would turn out. Marcella's comments and directions are straightforward. Her only caveat is a strong suggestion to use Bosc or Anjou pears instead of the Bartlett variety.

The ingredients below, with three large Bosc pears:

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In her directions, Marcella recommends a 9-inch round pan. The closest I could get was a 10-inch springform pan. One advantage of using a springform pan is the ease of removing the tart from the pan.

The final result, just out of the oven, with the springform side removed.

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Marcella comments that this tart "is very nice served while still a little warm." Agreed.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Everything.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems for me.

Would I make it again?

Well, actually I've already made it a few more times. Trust me, this is a very good dessert.

April 27, 2011

Crema - Italian Custard Cream

Pretty simple recipe, but one I put off until the last moment. Ingredients include egg yolks, flour, milk, confectioners' sugar and lemon peel.

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Marcella includes some very specific directions, as usual. Most of the mixing is done off heat and I followed her option of using a double -boiler to reduce the possibility of the formation of lumps.

Egg yolks, sugar and flour mixed in the top half of the double boiler.

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Hot milk is mixed slowly into the egg yolk mixture. A wooden spoon is used to stir the mixture. When the custard clings to the spoon "coating it with medium density", the desired consistency has been obtained.

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The cream is cooled in ice water. The final result below - no lumps, tastes good. Success.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Hey, I can make crema - never would have tried it before. I think the the lemon zest added a lot to the recipe - likely pretty bland without it.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems for me.

Would I make it again?

Yes, almost certainly as a filling for some other recipe.


May 4, 2011

Ricotta Fritters

This recipe has been lurking at the edge of my consciousness for quite a while. Ricotta fritters = fried cheese??? Well that can't be very good for you, right?

But, OK Marcella, I'll give it a go.

Simple ingredients, as has been common with almost all of these recipes - flour, salt, eggs, honey, lemon peel, butter, vegetable oil - only had to pick up some ricotta cheese at the store.

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All of the ingredients, except for the oil and honey, are mixed into a batter and set aside for between 2 and 3.5 hours.....

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.... then fried in very hot oil in dollops of 1 tablespoon. The fritters puff up after a short time cooking on both sides and are then removed to a cooling rack to drain .....

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..... then put on a plate, dribbled with honey and served when still very warm.

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What I liked about this recipe:

This was a new experience for me - never made fritters before - although it's a lot like making doughnuts, only simpler.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

No problems, except I wasn't thrilled with cooking with such hot oil to make a dessert at the end of a meal.

Would I make it again?

Well, I've thought about that quite a bit. It's likely not a dessert I will prepare on a hot evening in July, but I can envisage making it to impress some dinner guests mid-winter. And before I do that, I will experiment with preparing the fritters earlier and reheating just before serving. So, yes, I'll probably make it again. The novelty value, at least chex Doug, makes it a winner.

May 11, 2011

Frullati - Fresh Fruit Whips

Well, where do I start?

  • When I signed on for this project over a year ago, I received a colour-coded Excel list of the recipes in Marcella's tome. I am Wednesday - purple recipes.

  • Some big challenges; many current family favourites; several veggie recipes which made use of my garden and which will shape my planting as long as I garden; dozens of unexpected delights.

  • But, when I looked over "my" list, this was one of the easy ones - fruit, sugar, milk, ice, Maraschino liqueur - sounds like what I imagine a "smoothie" to be - I'm a wine & beer guy, never had one.

  • Maraschino liqueur? Cherries, right? I read Marcella's note back on p.580 - the recipe appears on p.609, but when I went to my local LCBO - Liquour Control Board of Ontario, the world's largest purchaser of alcoholic beverages and a significant asset to the economic well-being of my province - the closest I could find was Schloss Kirsch, an Austrian cherry liqueur.

  • Ah well, close enough, I thought - until I read Beth's post on May 8.

  • Oh, you mean all cherry liqueurs are not created equal? According to Marcella, "Maraschino is a fine Italian liqueur made from the pulp and crushed pits of the marasca cherry."

  • Ok, I'm always trying to be faithful to Marcella's directions - pause for Marcella's outraged interjection - so I searched on the LCBO's web site for a source of the correct liqueur

  • Hey, guess what? I found one - LUXARDO MARASCHINO ORIGANLE LIQUEUR - figured I could post a mea culpa on this site until I got the correct ingredient.

  • But, whereas I have traveled more than an hour to locate an ingredient in one of my recipes and have been rescued by co-conspirators more than once, in this case I was stumped. While the liqueur is on the provincial list, it is NOT available at any outlet anywhere in Ontario - an area more than three times the sq. km. of Italy.

So this is my photo of the ingredients sans the crushed ice - I chose raspberries as the fruit:

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A blender is the only "cooking" implement used.

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The final result, pour deux:

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What I liked about this recipe:

Hey, throw everything into a blender, turn it on for a few seconds and dessert is ready.

What I didn't like about this recipe:

Well, the impossibility of obtaining a main ingredient became a huge problem.

Would I make it again?

Probably not, since it is unlikely that I will ever be able to obtain the recommended liqueur, unless I bring it back from one of our trips.

May 18, 2011

Frozen Tangerine Shells Filled with Tangerine Sorbet

As I was in the process of preparing this dessert recipe, visions of my misadventure with tortellini danced in my head.

Tortellini??

Yes, tortellini. When I prepared tortellini last year, it was my first experience with making pasta from scratch and also my first experience with a pasta machine. The final result was so disastrous that I had to do it again so I wouldn't completely embarrass myself with my fellow conspirators.

This recipe calls for preparing a sorbet from scratch using an ice cream maker. I didn't have an ice cream maker and spent several months asking every casual acquaintance if I could borrow one. No luck; nobody had one. I even thought of buying one, but whereas a pasta maker was quite reasonably priced, an ice cream maker was double the cost. And, while I reasoned that a pasta maker would likely be used occasionally, I didn't figure that I would wear out an ice cream maker. I even considered trying to swap recipes with another day of the week (I am fondly known as "Wednesday" among the PeV crowd), but I was reluctant to do that.

I finally located a source for the ice cream machine - a childhood friend who I am sure is amused that I am taking part in this project.

Below are all the ingredients, sans one. Present are the sugar, tangerines, lemon, orange, egg and rum, along with the elusive ice cream maker. Absent are the sprigs of mint used as a garnish atop the final product.

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The first step involves slicing off the tops of the tangerines and extracting the fruit, using your fingers according to Marcella's directions, while being careful not to tear the fragile tangerine rind. I was somewhat skeptical that my fingers could do the job without wreaking havoc with the rind. Everything worked out fine. I was a bit tentative at first, but my extraction technique improved quickly. The shells and tops are then frozen for at least 2 hours.

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The next stage involves making the sorbet. A syrup is prepared of sugar, water, lemon and orange peel, and tangerine, orange and lemon juice. After the syrup has completely cooled, a lightly beaten egg white is mixed in and everything is put into the ice cream maker. Follow the directions.

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The final result below, after some rum has been added to the sorbet, the mixture frozen and spooned into the frozen tangerine shells. The mint leaves are a bit limp. Fresh mint was not available from my garden in April when I first prepared this recipe - so I had to buy some at the store, NOT my preferred source. Also, Marcella indicates that the filling should extend to just over the rim, but I was a bit light in the volume of the sorbet. The list of ingredients calls for 6 large or 8 small tangerines; my 8 tangerines were pretty big. Next time I'll increase the amount of the ingredients to account for this. It's just as easy to fill 8 large tangerines as 8 small ones.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Using an ice cream maker was a novel experience and the result was excellent in both appearance and taste. Well worth the effort.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

Well, it took a long time - several hours from start to finish.

Will I make it again?

Yes. Actually, I already have made it a couple more times already, to universal acclaim. This is an impressive dessert to serve to friends and family. However, I now prepare it a day ahead of time, since it is quite time-consuming.

This is one of the best and most rewarding recipes I have prepared for this project, right up there with the Diplomatico chocolate dessert from a few weeks ago. Very highly recommended.

May 25, 2011

Alla Romana Topping: Mozzarella, Anchovies, and Basil

I prepared this simple recipe several months in advance following a visit to Nicastro's Italian Food Emporium in Nepean, where I purchased some of the ingredients, including "00" pizza flour and buffalo-milk mozzarella. The ingredients weren't the problem but one of the implements was. While I do have baking stone, I don't have a baker's peel & had to make do with what was on hand.

Below are the ingredients for the pizza dough ....

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Followed by the topping ingredients for two 12-inch pizzas - mozzarella, olive oil, anchovies, basil, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and salt.

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My first kick at this can - not the greatest esthetics, and I think my crust is a bit burnt, but the taste was OK - a nice light pizza.

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What I liked about this recipe:

Pretty simple.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

No problems.

Will I make it again?

Yup.

June 1, 2011

Apulia's Olive Bread

OK Marcella, you got me again.

I've made non-breadmaker bread many times, albeit a few years ago. So I wasn't expecting any glitches in making my ultimate recipe for this project - figured I could whip it up the day before, take a few pics, post my report the evening before & schedule it to appear early the next morning. Easy peasy.

Pretty simple ingredients - unbleached flour, olive oil, olives, salt, yeast. Well, after all it is bread. What could be simpler?

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OK, gotta make a starter - called a biga - some yeast, water, flour, olive oil. Oh, oh, it's supposed to rise 14 to 18 hours - so that's why this recipe didn't appear earlier today. Also there's a big mystery concerning the biga, which I will explain later.
The risen biga below:

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The bread dough below, including water, yeast, half the biga, some of the flour, the salt, the rest of the flour, some water & the olives. I used a wooden spatula to mix the ingredients together.

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One of Marcella's directions calls for occasionally lifting the dough out of the bowl with the spatula & slapping it back in. I liked that part.

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After rising for a few hours, the dough is flattened and lightly kneaded. Then it is shaped into a ball and allowed to rise again under a bowl. before baking in the oven at differing degrees for about an hour.

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The final result. Best olive bread I've ever made - also the first.

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The biga mystery? Well, the directions call for using half of the starter at an early stage, but no mention of the other half. I read & re-read Marcella's directions several times to see if I missed something. So the final result is a very good loaf of olive bread & half of the biga.

What I liked about this recipe:

It's been a long time since I've made bread - enjoyed the experience. Also, I liked using my wooden spatula, keeping the hand kneading to a minimum.

What didn't I like about this recipe:

Two days to make a loaf of bread?

Will I make it again?

Perhaps. The final result is very good.

June 8, 2011

Notes from a conscript

I was not a volunteer on the Pomodori e Vino blog. Rather, I was conscripted by Deborah in May 2010 when an original member had to drop out. I had already made comments on the blog revealing that I possessed a copy of Marcella's book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I was intrigued by the project; had already met Jerry, Sandi, Jan and Palma at Slow Travel GTGs in Toronto and North Carolina; and thought it would be a great way of expanding my culinary horizons.

But I must confess that I was a bit intimidated. I had only prepared one of my assigned recipes previously and several of them called for unfamiliar ingredients or implements. I would never consider myself more than an enthusiastic cook and I knew that at least some of my cohorts are very accomplished and expert in the kitchen. Plus, I wasn't really a great fan of Italian cooking. Most of my travels in Europe have been based in France, that most civilized country - and my culinary interests, such as they were, centred around French cooking.

Early on, I decided to conclude my account of preparing each recipe by addressing three issues:

1. What I liked about the recipe.
2. What I didn't like about the recipe.
3. Would I make it again?

I thought such an approach would keep me honest about the recipe and might be of some assistance to followers of the blog. It was the best decision I could have made.

How is my life different from having participated in this project?

• I don't skip over a recipe because it might seem a bit complicated or call for a novel ingredient.
• I am a familiar face in some specialty food stores in the Ottawa area.
• I do more shopping at butcher shops.
• I assemble all the ingredients for a recipe in front of me before starting.
• I plan my garden with specific recipes in mind.
• I prepare many more meals than before.
• I use the "Defrost" setting on the microwave much less often.
• I am much more confident in the kitchen.

Those are a few of the more obvious changes, but I know it goes deeper than that.

Recipe prepared most often:

Stuffed Spaghetti Frittata with Tomato, Mozzarella and Ham. This is a great recipe, a favourite with friends and family - quick and easy and delicious. Everybody asks for the recipe.

Biggest surprise:

Sunchoke and Spinach Salad. I had difficulty obtaining the sunchokes - Jerry came to my rescue. I have planted sunchokes on my property. This simple recipe was my favourite salad.

Forever favourites:

Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chili Pepper. Easy to prepare with my favourite shellfish as the main ingredient.

Fricasseed Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Juice. Now I much prefer starting with a whole chicken, fresh from a butcher shop, rather than parts wrapped in plastic and laying on a styrofoam tray.

Veal Scaloppine in Parchment with Fontina Cheese. Sure to impress, this is the first recipe I prepared that I thought approached a professional standard.

Tuscan Meat Roll with White Wine and Porcini Muchrooms. A big leap up from the humble meat loaf - economical, easy to prepare and a great result.

Crisp Fried Zucchini Blossoms. A seasonal treat not to be missed. The main reason to plant zucchinis in my garden.

Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic and Parmesan. Another summer treat using fresh produce from my garden.

Diplomatico - A Chocolate Dessert with Rum and Coffee. A great dessert, as good or better than the best you can recall. Guaranteed.

Frozen Tangerine Shells Filled with Tangerine Sorbet. This takes a while and requires an ice cream maker, but the final result is well worth the time and effort.

When I joined this group I owned Marcella's book, but I had never really heard of her. I had no idea of the place that Marcella Hazan occupies in the pantheon of cooking icons. A couple of weeks ago I read her memoir, Amarcord and got a better understanding of the person behind the inspiration for this project and her generally positive comments on this blog.

Thank you, Marcella, for your faithful attention to our efforts.

And thank you to all those who have contributed comments.

And thank you to Beth, Irene, Cindy, Sandi, Jan, Jerry, Palma, Kim - my fellow travelers on this journey.

And thank you, especially, to Deborah who invited me along for the ride.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the 3. Wednesday - Doug category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Tuesday - Deborah is the previous category.

Thursday - Cindy is the next category.

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

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