HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.
Showing posts with label Italian Cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Cuisine. Show all posts

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ribollita, the "Flexitarian" Stew adapted from Mark Bittman in The New York Times


Mark Bittman, "The Flexitarian"
Mark Bittman calls himself “The Flexitarian”.  He writes about his food philosophy in The New York Times Dining Out Section once a month.  I am happy to report that from the start Bittman promised that, first and foremost, his new column would be an ode to great-tasting food. What he offers too is food for those of us who are moderate in our eating habits—certainly not strict vegans or vegetarians--but omnivores making conscious choices about what we eat. His recipes are for all of us trying to incorporate more good-for-you plants and fewer animal proteins into our diets.  For all their hullabaloo, vegans and vegetarians make up a scant 5% of the population. But a lot of us are working hard to assimilate healthier grains, fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables into our diets more often.  And that’s where Bittman’s recipes come in.  They offer truly  flavorful food that I can only describe as even tasting healthy, a sensation I had as I dug into this Ribollita, a cheesy, vegetable-rich stew with its giant ‘crouton’ of whole grain bread.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fish in Crazy Water and a tribute to the woman who introduced me to it and countless other Italian recipes, Marcella Hazan



Marcella and Victor Hazan, as loving and giving
a couple as one could ever hope to know.
If I’d never been introduced to Marcella Hazan, my cooking would have been so much poorer for it.  Marcella died last week at her home in Naples, Florida where she and her inspirational muse and husband of 58 years, Victor Hazan, had retired some years ago.  It was a loss that countless numbers of us felt deeply.  Her readers, her dear husband and her devoted son, Giuliano, were all stunned because up until the very last she was sharing her infinite wisdom with us via Facebook, of all places.  I know this only too well as I had not only ‘friended’ her but been the recipient of her advice on several occasions.  I’d written about the Italian disdain for cheese coming anywhere near seafood.  She shot right back that she’d changed her mind about that particular taboo.  She also wrote me when I had a question about a strawberry dessert.  She was endlessly generous with her time and I can’t tell you how the food writer in me was overwhelmed that I would hear from this extraordinary authority who surely had better things to do.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Orechiette with Sausage and Spicy Tomato Broccolini Sauce


         Cutting down on carbs is likely the fastest way to lose weight. Candidly, cutting down on alcohol is likely even faster but since that is not going to happen, I’ll stick with cutting carbs.  But anyone who has ever lived in Italy--never mind lived, set foot in Italy is more like it-- cannot envision life without pasta.  But recently, I’ve discovered that if you cut down on pasta portions, you won’t feel the least bit deprived.  You’ll likely enjoy the flavor of the sauce even more simply because there’s more of it and less of pasta.  Most recipes for 4 servings call for one pound of pasta.  Cut that back to 3/4 cup of dried pasta per person and you’ll have more than enough.  Then there’s the magic of the pasta water.  Without adding more oil or cream, pasta water adds creaminess to any sauce without adding a fraction of the calories.  And finally, if you amp up the flavor of the sauce, you’ll feel satisfied with a smaller portion.  All of which I did in this terrific, quick pasta that you can have on the table in about 30 minutes.   

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Marcella Hazan's Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce




           
Marcella Hazan just celebrated her 89th Birthday.  As a salute to this great lady, a Facebook friend of mine who has taken the time to answer many Italian food questions for me, I wanted to celebrate too. Fortunately, March 2013’s Food and Wine Magazine saluted its own 35th Anniversary with “The Legends”, a collection of recipes from “the extraordinary, epoch-defining cooks” who’ve been their contributors for the past 35 years.  Julia Child, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jacques Pepin, Paula Wolfert and Marcella herself all came to life on their pages.  It must have been quite a task to decide what went in and what didn’t, especially since Ms. Hazan has had 27 recipes published in Food and Wine.  The Editors settled on just 3 recipes, all from “Marcella Cucina” (Alfred A. Knopf 1997).  I settled on Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce.  But don’t think I won’t be back with “Fish in Crazy Water" sometime soon. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Top 10 Winner! Linguine with Creamy Tomatoes and Shrimp



Scott Conant, Chef and
Pasta Tester 
           After I’d made this dish, it came as no surprise to learn that Food and Wine had named it one of 10 Best Pasta dishes when it first appeared in 2010.  Judging the 10 Best were several chefs not known not known to be pushovers – especially in this category.  All three had been named Best New Chefs of the year. There was Scott Conant of Scarpetta in New York and Miami, a chef known for his particularly strong background in pasta cooking. What he may even be better known for is his appearances on the Food Network show “Chopped”.  There, he will figuratively run a contestant out of the kitchen if raw red onion appears on any plate put in front of him.   He was joined at Food and Wine’s judging table by two other chefs who know their way around an Italian kitchen:  Mark Vetri of Vetri and Osteria in Philadelphia and Michael Schlow of Radius and Via Matta in Boston. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rigatoni with Hot Sausage and Fennel from Gourmet Magazine


First Issue of Gourmet, January 1941
         How we still miss Gourmet!  Some of my earliest childhood memories are listening to my father reading aloud as he and my mother ate vicariously at Gourmet’s table.  The magazine first appeared in 1941.  The United States entered the war shortly thereafter.  Subscribers were urged to keep their issues until the war ended. That way Gourmet’s readers could try the recipes without wartime rationing. While devoted to food and wine, Gourmet also covered “Good Living” which meant that many of my parent’s annual vacations were built around Gourmet’s take on Madrid or Lisbon or London. As to its recipes, while the country wallowed in dishes involving cans of cream of mushroom soup, Gourmet took the high road. I can still hear my father reading, on the subject of Peking Duck, “first wring the bird by its neck until it is dead”.  Gourmet was nothing if not complete.  In many ways, Gourmet was well ahead of its time.  This was driven home to me with this take on pasta from 1990.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pappardelle with Creamy Leeks and Bacon



Sara Jenkins as photographed by
New York Magazine 

         There’s almost no end to what people are putting on pasta these days. The most recent issue of Bon Appetit has 7 entirely new takes on pasta sauces and a couple of pastas that are new to me:  Ditalini, a tubular pasta that translates to “little fingers” and Fiorentini, named for Florence, a spiral shaped paste as elegant as the city itself.  All the recipes are from Sara Jenkins, best known for her tiny East Village hole in the wall “Porchetta” (110 E. 7th Street NYC Tel: 212 777 2151).  There the star of the show is Chef Jenkins melt-in-your-mouth slow roasted pork on artisanal bread. It’s a stand-up kind of place, great for a midday pig-out. ( I generally go there on the sly, shamed that anyone might witness my fondness for pork fat.) 

 In between pig roasts, the Chef managed to write a cookbook called “Olives and Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Beyond “by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox (Houghton Mifflin 2008).   But it was at her next venture, a restaurant called Porsena, down the street from Porchetta at 21 East 7th St. (Tel: 212 228 4913), that Ms. Jenkins devoted herself to pasta.  And it you can’t get there yourself, this month’s copy of Bon Appetit will take you there.

         Of all 7 pastas, I chose the Pappardelle with Creamy Leeks and Bacon.  Right at the start you should know you can substitute linguine if pappardelle are nowhere to be found.   The recipe says that it’s a twist on Carbonara, the famous Roman specialty that uses eggs, cheese, guanciale or pancetta and turns them into oceans of creamy sauce.   The Creamy Leeks and Bacon are almost as sinful. The dish is so rich portion control is a must.  In Italy, where pasta is a separate course and precedes the entrée, the serving size would be half of what you end up with here.  So go easy, make sure that you add enough pasta water so there’s a true creamy sauce before you stir in the pasta.   Then you’ll end up with the sweetness of the leeks, the smokiness of the bacon and the creaminess of the sauce coating the pasta whether pappardelle or linguine.  This is so good!

         On our way to the recipe, I wanted to share 4 tips that Chef Jenkins laid out to make your pasta perfect from now on.  This applies to all pasta and not specifically to pappardelle.  Here they are:

1.   The more water the better.  Always use the largest pot you can and start with at least 6 quarts of cold water.  The more water the more space the pasta has to move around and the quicker the water will return to a boil when the pasta is added.

2.   Don’t skimp on the salt.  Chef Jenkins uses a terrifying ¼ cup of kosher salt per 6 quarts of water.  Since the pasta water is a key ingredient in making the sauce, the salted water is the basis for a lot of the flavor. 

3.   Al Dente or ‘to the tooth’ is everyone’s ideal of when pasta is done.  There was a tale I once heard about a Neapolitan chef who would fling his cooked pasta against a brick wall. If it stuck, it meant it was overcooked.  Chef Jenkins says she trusts the cooking times on pasta packages but nevertheless starts testing about 3 minutes a head of time.  She says: “You can always cook it longer. But you can never go back”.  Supposedly the Neapolitan I spoke about committed suicide when too many nights went by with pasta sticking to the wall.

4.   Use the pasta water in your sauce.   As it cooks, the pasta release starch into the water.  This is Chef Jenkins’ key to a well-seasoned bowl of pasta.  Before you drain the pasta, lade out two cups of the cooking liquid and put aside.  You may not have to use anything like that amount but even a splash or two will help your sauce emulsify when you add your pasta to the sauce.

Now, are you ready for the recipe?  Here it is:

Recipe for Pappardelle with Creamy Leeks and Bacon

Serves 4.

     2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
    2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise,
       sliced crosswise
     Kosher salt
     3/4 cup heavy cream
     2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
     1 pound pappardelle or fettuccine
     1 cup finely grated Parmesan

Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until leeks begin to brown, 5-8 minutes. Add cream, thyme, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta, Parmesan, and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Serve at once. 


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meaty Mushroom Lasagna adapted from Giada di Laurentiis



         There are few dishes that are better to have on hand than lasagna. Over the years, we’ve all suffered through terrible versions of lasagna--people making the stuff with cottage cheese or ricotta, throwing in chunks of sausage instead of a proper meat sauce, jarred marinara called into use in lieu of homemade--let’s face it, lasagna is often terrible, especially the versions made directly from a box of lasagna noodles.  
          But if you go to the trouble of making a simple béchamel sauce with cheese, making a filling of meat sauce or vegetables  you are on your way to real lasagna. Made up in advance, its flavors meld into each other with the passage of a couple of days.  Kept sealed until plastic wrap topped with a layer of aluminum foil, this lasagna spent a whole week in the fridge before being baked on a night when we had a lot going on.  Nothing could have been easier than firing up the oven, baking the lasagna for 40 minutes, tossing a green salad then sitting down to dinner. 
          Today's version is a wonderfully rich pasta with layers of creamy béchamel, peppery mushrooms, smoky cheese and tiny pieces of prosciutto.  It’s so rich, you may want to practice some portion control when you serve it.  If you have leftovers, reheated in the oven, they too keep for a very long time and can easily make a quick meal anytime you need one.  Now I’ve made classic lasagna for years sharing it with you in its most classic of recipes: http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2010/02/lasagna-verdi-al-forno.html  We’ve also gone totally vegetarian with one version: http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/09/vegetarian-lasagna-adapted-from-saveurs.html. But this lasagna straddles the line with its emphasis on meaty mushrooms and the secondary role the prosciutto takes.  What really comes to the fore is the use of smoked Mozzarella. It changes the character of the whole dish. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baked Penne with Sausage, Mozzarella and Tomatoes from the Galley of Gillian Duffy



         There are certain recipes I obsess over.  I have folder marked “Re-Visit” and in it there must be at least five recipes for baked pasta dishes.  They all are fundamentally the same.  The pasta is cooked and then a sauce is mixed into it, cheese is added to it and tops it and the whole thing goes into a hot oven for 15 or 10 minutes. In my imagination, it emerges with cheese bubbling up from under a crisp brown Parmesan crust.  The incredibly rich cream sauce coats the pasta which is laden with the flavor of sausage or meatballs, pork or beef.  That’s how I imagine it until reality takes over: Dried pasta sticks up out of a bare covering of cheese. Inside the sauce is non-existent and were it not for the meat, it would hardly be worth eating. This has been going on for years. 
         Then finally, in the most unimaginable place I found Baked Pasta Nirvana.  In this recipe, luscious ripe tomatoes in big chunks are mixed with slices of sweet Italian sausage.  The pasta, tomatoes and sausage come together in a creamy béchamel sauce.  And an entire layer of Mozzarella, hidden bang in the middle of the dish, pulls on your fork like mozzarella in a pizza commercial.  I did use the very last of the fresh tomatoes when I made this dish.  But I discovered that canned plum tomatoes, drained of their liquid and cut into large chunks are an admirable replacement and put this dish within reach year ‘round.  And where did this amazing dish come from?  Why, Departures magazine!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tyler Florence's California Osso Buco with a Classic Gremolata



         When I started cooking Osso Buco, it was a sumptuous meal on a beer budget.  The Veal Shanks at the center of the dish were afterthoughts at the butcher’s counter.  It’s hard to imagine but I think they ran about $4.99 a lb. at most.  Andrew is fond of pointing out that I have no concept of how many years ago that was and that in 25 years almost everything is more expensive. But, like fresh tuna, which at one point was practically given away, the huge popularity of this Italian masterpiece has upped its price mightily.   Osso Buco means ‘bone with a hole in it’ and it’s gotten to be a very expensive bone.  But it’s a triumph of taste—the meat is tender to the bone, the sauce is filled with fresh vegetables stewed to perfection in red wine and tomatoes—even the marrow in the center of the bone is a guilty pleasure.   The recipe hails from Lombardy, the region that’s home to Milano, where it is classically served atop risotto.  Since risotto needs constant attention until the minute it is served, I use mashed potatoes instead.  Because I find Osso Buco is one of the greatest ideas for weeknight dinner parties.  We were entertaining my nephew, Michael and his wife, Valery who were here from Canada.   Leaving out the risotto meant I could spend all the time I wanted with them and then take all of about 5 minutes to mash the potatoes.   Like so many other braised dishes, this one too improves considerably when left a day or three in the fridge.  So it’s perfect to make over on a Sunday afternoon to serve later in the week.  I’ve published a recipe for Osso Buco before. So why is this one here?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

La Cucina Italiana’s Spaghettini in Little Neck Clam Broth with Cherry Tomatoes or “Umido di vongole con spaghettini e pomodorini”


Clamming, about as Long Island as you can get
         I am big fan of Linguine with Clam Sauce as our recipe search feature will confirm.  So when I saw this recipe for a variation on the theme in the July 2012 issue of La Cucina Italiana, I had to try it.  After all, the Little Neck clam, with which this lovely, light dish is made, is about as local as you can get out here on the East End of Long Island.  It’s especially appealing too because, unlike Linguine with Clam sauce, the recipe includes some great fresh vegetables --  carrots, leeks and tomatoes – and it’s light on the pasta.  In true Italian fashion, La Cucina lists it as a “Primo” or appetizer which is generally the role pasta plays in the Italian menu.  I served it as our main course.  It is a perfect summer pasta dish especially with those bite-sized morsels of heaven, the littlenecks.       
A Clamming Rake is as essential to digging
Little Necks as the beer which generally accompanies
Clamming on Long Island 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

“Trionfo di Fragole” Strawberry and Cream Cake


  
         The local strawberries on Long Island could not be more beautiful this year—even if they’ve arrived earlier than usual due to our incredibly mild winter.  There has to be some upside to Global Warming for more than just the population of Canada!  These berries were an inspiration to Andrew who latched onto a recipe from that favorite of ours, “La Cucina Italiana”, in their latest issue.  The literal translation of Trionfo di Fragole is “A Triumph of Strawberries” and quite honestly that really hits the nail on the head. This delicate sponge cake is light as air and lemon-y thanks to a liberal dousing with Lemoncello, the Italian liqueur.  The tart strawberries are mounted atop two layers of whipped cream.  Then, just for decoration, mint leaves adorn the center of the mass of strawberries atop the cake.  So the minute you can, do not walk, run to make this incredibly wonderful cake.  It is so delicious, I wondered how it got its name.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Penne with Sage, Mushrooms, Sausage and Spinach



         There are times when I crave a bowl of pasta.
And in miserably rainy and surprisingly chilly New York, this may be one of them. But then I crave pasta no matter what the weather.
        Only a few days ago, when the temperature in New York hit 89 degrees, I think the heat got to me.  I really wanted a taste of this ultimate comfort food and as I searched around for something to cook, I came across a recipe in one of those “You asked for it” columns in Bon Appetit.  In these, diners wax poetic about memorable meals they’ve enjoyed all over the place.  The magazine then tracks them down and the chefs, happy for the publicity, jump at the chance to be showcased.  I’d love to give full credit for this dish to a restaurant called “Geranio” (722 King Street, Alexandria VA 22314 TEL: 703-548-0088).  But I am afraid I made changes too numerous to do that.  What I got from the restaurant’s recipe was something that every pasta lover could learn from: a rich base that made the whole dish phenomenally flavorful and satisfying. And it was awfully simple to do.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pork Cutlets with Pine Nuts and Prosciutto “Lombatine ‘Vestite’ ai Pinoli”


         Here we have a simple pork cutlet or chop that is covered with juicy bits of golden raisin, salty, tangy capers, and rich Gran Padano cheese.   This sweet and salty, cheese-y topping is held in place by crisp slices of prosciutto.  For a pork lover like me, the dish is just about perfection.
         I’ve mentioned my fondness for “La Cucina Italiana” magazine before.  The 83 year old magazine got its start in Italy in 1929.  The US edition is a Johnny-come-lately by comparison.  It launched here late in 2007.  The magazine has an American editor named Michael Wilson who somehow makes every issue like a trip to Italy. And it maintains its Italian-ness by keeping the recipe titles in Italian and translating them in much smaller type below.  Somehow that adds to the feeling that this is truly Italian cooking.  Features about various regions of Italy make for a good read.  Ingredient features like the current issue’s one on Italian Beer introduce you to the people behind the brews.  And two more, one on beans, the other on strawberries, give you more than enough ways to put authentic recipes on your table. This "La Cucina" even takes you outside the kitchen door with “Start an Italian Garden”. But hands down, one of my favorite sections is called “In Cucina” (In the Kitchen).  That’s where you’ll find “Cooking School” which gives you an in-depth understanding of cooking techniques.  But it’s “Cooking by the Clock” that inevitably turns me on.  Today’s post is no exception. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Steak Pizzaiola


         My friend Kate says that when she lived in Santa Fe NM, people used to refer to their local Whole Foods market as “Whole Paycheck”. The Whole Foods nearest me is certainly more expensive than most of the neighborhood groceries but then the produce is magnificent and almost everything in the store is either organic or close to it.  Then Trader Joe’s moved into the same geographical locale.  Everyone in the area noted the sizeable price differences on very much the same caliber of food. Trader Joe’s features any number of products with a green halo around them. Those that are not completely organic are pretty close to it.  But what price differences!  So it was not entirely a surprise when I went to Whole Foods this week and discovered a whole raft of Sale items.  Among these was Sirloin Steak at 6.99 a lb. marked down, according to the signage, from 12.99 a lb.  The price alone would have instantly attracted me.  But Whole Foods reputation for minimally processed foods is another huge draw. It’s reflected in everything the store does down to the wrapping my sirloin came in which is branded as “Great-Tasting Meat from Healthy Animals.’ Sold!   From there, it was just a matter of how to cook the steak in a new way.  I discovered a recipe for Steak Pizzaiola.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Orecchiette with Spicy Merguez Sausage




            Right down the street from us at 1900 Broadway, Daniel Boulud has carved a little fiefdom for himself.  It consists of two restaurants—Bar Boulud, which leans heavily on charcuterie, and Boulud Sud, Chef Boulud’s salute to Mediterranean Cuisine.  And then there’s Epicerie Boulud right on the corner between the two.  To me, Epicerie brings back memories of my time in Rome where stand-up bars are the rule rather than the exception.  So every time I stop by for one of their perfect Banh Mis, I feel as if I’ve gone back to Rome and lost about thirty years in the process.   At Epicerie Boulud, the gleaming marble counters are at the right height for standing with a glass of wine and whatever you fancy from the menu from breakfast til 11:00 pm.  Oysters on the half shell, lobster rolls, and excellent selection of salads, sandwiches, charcuterie including the most amazing sausages which are served encased in French rolls.  Among these are the spicy North African sausages, Merguez.  These red beauties are made with lamb and beef, and heavily spiced with North Africa’s signature harissa, a chili based sauce, as well as other spices such as sumac, fennel, and garlic.  One day this week, I decided that one lone Merguez sausage was not enough so I bought three of them and brought them home.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jonathan Waxman’s Roasted Chicken with Salsa Verde



         When you can vividly remember a lunch you had ten years ago, I would have to say that’s the power of great cooking.  I distinctly remember a visit to Washington Park on lower Fifth Avenue.  The restaurant marked the triumphant return to New York of Chef Jonathan Waxman.  Chef Waxman was a California cuisine pioneer. Name a famed West Coast restaurant and Waxman may very well have worked there.  For starters, add Michael’s in Santa Monica to a list that included a stint at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse.  In the mid 80s, he took Manhattan by storm after opening an Upper East Side place called, appropriately, Jam’s, which was pretty much how you felt jammed into the bar waiting for your table.  Such was the incredible popularity of the  place.  And what was it that I remember from that lunch in 2002?  Why Chef Waxman’s chicken, of course.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken with Prosciutto, Chard and Pine Nuts


It's easy to see why it is called
Rainbow Chard
         I have significant lapses in my culinary adventures.  Before I made this perfect weeknight dinner with its amazing range of delicious tastes and textures, I had never cooked Chard.  I will not go so far as to say I had never eaten  Chard but it certainly has never been something I actively sought out of any menu I can remember. I imagined a bitter taste, something akin to some truly unpleasant experiences I have had with collard greens.  But in the spirit of locovore eating, nothing makes more sense in January than eating this very hardy vegetable. You can find freshly cut at Winter Farmer’s Markets. Mine, I confess, came straight from California via Fairway Market.  Hardly local but certified organic.