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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Seriously, it’s like they don’t exist in this country, except to be slipped surreptitiously into authentic Caesar dressings and for those fathers who order them on the side of their pizza so their families aren’t upset about having to have anchovies on their slices.  Maybe it’s the same problem that brussels sprouts have: a bad reputation and not enough people preparing them properly.  I wouldn’t be too excited about an overly salty and briny addition to my pizza either.  But anchovies, when handled rightly, provide a refreshingly unique way to flavor a dish. Anyway…

Anchovy fillets, deliciously melted into a pool of olive oil, dappled with crushed red pepper flakes, perhaps with a spoonful or two of capers for an extra bite. It’s a complex, robust flavor with the tartness of the capers and the saliferous anchovies held together with the mellow richness of olive oil. Incredible. What’s not to love? The first time we had anchovies was in Amalfi, and we subsequently had anchovies every day while we were there! Anchovies on pizza, anchovies in pasta, anchovies fresh… YUM.

Yesterday we decided to reward ourselves after an exhausting 5-hr long cross-country ski trip (first time, with some unexpected downhill ski slopes thrown into the mix!) with a carbo-feast–and anchovies. We made scialatielli with peas and prosciutto in a tomato sauce and zucchini in a tomato-anchovy sauce.

This Classico tomato sauce has been occupying precious space in our pantry since August when the Hendricksons had their baby. Though we don’t ordinarily use tomato sauce (should we change this?), we bought a Costco-sized bundle of three jars of tomato sauce to make them a lasagna and consequently had two jars left over for the last few months. Friday night, we had the Hernandezes over to introduce their kids to the fine art of pizza making. The two older Hernandez boys (11 and 13) received kids’ cookbooks over Christmas, and we were thrilled to help them along on their way towards becoming versatile young chefs. We had a station of toppings (mozzarella, ricotta, sauteed squash, mushrooms, prosciutto, caramelized onions, chicken, tomato sauce), fully set up with a little stool for little Priscilla to reach the counter. Unfortunately, the young Hernandezes were a bit unimpressed with our choice of toppings (“you don’t have pepperoni?” “trust me, prosciutto is much better”; hence we had lots of squash and prosciutto conveniently left over for our post-ski meal.

Zucchini in Tomato-Anchovy Sauce

2 T olive oil
6 anchovy fillets (from a jar, drained)
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 T capers
1/4 c tomato sauce
1 medium zucchini, diced

Drizzle olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add in anchovies, garlic, and capers. (If the anchovies aren’t sufficiently drained, there will be heavy splattering.) Stir until anchovies are melted into oil. Add in tomato sauce, stirring constantly. When tomato sauce is hot, add zucchini and cover. Stir occasionally.

Zucchini should be done in ~5 minutes over medium heat, but can also be simmered longer.

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Fresh pasta, of the rustic variety

Tonight was a big threshold, like crossing the Rubicon.  Never would we have considered making our own fresh pasta–from scratch!–but after seeing Mark Bittman’s recipe we couldn’t contain ourselves.  There were three other contenders on the menu for dinner tonight, but I don’t even remember what they were any more.  It’s hard not to be inspired by fresh pasta that takes active time of …about as long as dry pasta takes to boil.

A big part of the appeal of making our own pasta was the ability to replicate the shapes we ate on our honeymoon in Amalfi.  One of the local pastas is scialatielli, which is like a short, thicker, chewier linguini.  Our best meal of the entire trip was definitely at Meme where we had Scialatielle alla Scoglio, which was said pasta in a fresh tomato sauce with fresh shellfish.  We went back twice. And ordered the same thing twice. We brought home with us two 500g bags of scialatielli, but those are long gone.  (Note: I’ve often opined that I would gladly exchange half of the gelato we consumed in Italy for a bag of pasta each time; my partner does not agree.)

Now, I’m sure there are pasta purists out there who are going to scoff at what we did.  We didn’t use semolina flour, and we used a food processor.  Maybe in a few years I’ll grow out of this recipe (doubtful), but in the meantime it’s so simple I’m seriously considering making pasta again tonight.  Fresh pasta, unlike dry pasta, is loaded with eggs, which gives it a chewier texture and better flavor.  The ingredients are: lots of eggs, flour, a little water.  Vroom vroom in the food processor, squeeze together and let sit.  Roll out and shape.

We, of course, used half whole-wheat flour.  I suspect that you could also add lots of different flavorings to the dough, like herbs or maybe spinach, for example.  I think you could probably use a stand mixer for the vroom vroom part, and you could certainly mix by hand using the classic “well in the middle” approach.  We’re just not going to.  And you really do not need a fancy pasta-shape-maker or roller.  A rolling pin did just fine, and a pizza cutter did, too.  In fact, we are strongly of the opinion that the more “rustic” shaped the pasta, the better the texture.

We paired our quasi-scialatielli simply: with roasted garlic and grape tomatoes, romano cheese, cracked black pepper, and olive oil (if we had only had wine!).  When the meal ended we both agreed that the only appropriate thing to do next was to drink a glass of limoncello.  More than anything we’ve cooked since, this meal really took us back to many evenings of delicious pasta and fresh seafood, and sipping limoncello from our balcony, and looking out over the Mediterranean and the night-lights of the Amalfi coast.

So here’s to many new shapes, textures, and flavor combinations as we all make our own fresh pasta for years to come.  And may we forge new memories to go with each dish.

Fresh Pasta

3 egg yolks*
2 eggs
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350F.  Toss garlic (5 cloves? more?) and tomatoes with olive oil and salt and roast in oven until tomatoes blister–but do not burn–about 30 minutes.

Into food processor put flour and all eggs.  Pulse until mealy.  Add water, slowly (maybe 1/4 cup?) until dough begins to form.  Empty onto cutting board, squeeze together, and dust with flour to keep from sticking.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes.  Cut into quarters, flour some more, roll out with rolling pin, and cut into whatever shape your heart desires (consistency might be a good plan, though).  Cook in boiling water until tender, about 1 minute.

* Note from the gelato-insistent-partner — With all the leftover egg whites, you can make coconut macaroons! Post (and recipe) to follow shortly.

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Perhaps a bit cruel, bringing up memories from summer when it’s fully winter here in New Haven, but this past weekend we made an Amalfi-inspired chocolate torte for a holiday party at my boss’s house. Stepping back a bit…

This summer on our honeymoon we stayed at an adorable inn on the Amalfi Coast with a bottle of prosecco awaiting us when we arrived and an incredible view of the water from our balcony. Thoughtful gestures and enjoyable amenities, I suppose, but the best part about this inn was the breakfast provided daily by a small bakery in the main square.

For the most part, the breakfast was typical of Italian breakfasts — freshly baked breads, butter and jams, the occasional chocolate croissant (or cornetto, if you’re Italian), cappuccinos of course. But what was truly life-changing was the lemon chocolate hazelnut spread. Similar to nutella and contained in a very cute petite jar, this chocolate hazelnut spread had an incredible infusion of lemon zest in it. Every morning, we greedily dolloped it onto our bread, sometimes even spreading it into our chocolate croissants, not realizing that these few days of glorious lemon-chocolate-hazelnut indulgence were the only days we would ever have to experience this again.

Towards the end of our time in Amalfi, we eagerly inquired of the bakery owner we were might procure this treat. Surely, in Amalfi, where lemons abound in fertile volcanic ash (see photo above), this spread could not be too hard to come across. We were anticipating bringing home jars and jars, maybe for sharing, but definitely for us. Little did we know, that this one jar served to us came from a particularly abundant lemon crop (even for Amalfi!) from the previous year, and one ingenious entrepreneur jarred up just a salable amount of lemon-chocolate-hazelnut for the year, but that was the end of it. There was no more to be sold, no more to be had, a tragic loss to the world.

With that in mind, enjoy the following recipe!

Dark Chocolate Limoncello Torte

2 eggs
1 1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t salt
1/2 c melted butter
4 T unsweetened cocoa
1 T vanilla extract
3 T limoncello
zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly butter a round 8” or 9” springform or cake pan.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until well-combined and pale yellow. Gradually mix in the flour and salt.

Stir cocoa and vanilla extract into melted butter. Add cocoa-butter mixture to batter, stirring well until any lumps are removed. Zest half of a lemon into the batter, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Drizzle limoncello over the batter. Cook in 350º oven for 20 minutes. Check for doneness; the edges of the cake should be crisp but the center still moist and sticky. Garnish with powdered sugar, lemon zest, or ganache.

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Carbonara

Ahhhhh, Carbonara.  This is one of those dishes that really brings me back to Rome.  Unfortunately I had lived my life thinking that carbonara was “alfredo sauce with bacon”–and I fear that most people have, too.  This is a shame.  The real deal–which has no cream at all–is rich but not heavy, intensely flavorful but not without balance, and probably easier to make than “alfredo sauce with bacon.”  It’s deceptively simple to the core: it’s creamy without using cream, uses a cooking method that requires one to be “careful” which really means “turn off the heat and stir,” and insists on authenticity.  And it’s the authenticity that is the real secret to the simplicity–and the deliciousness–of Carbonara.

Obviously you can’t go wrong when the main ingredients are egg, cheese, and “bacon”–pancetta please.  And pasta, too.  And garlic.  Right?  What’s better than that?

ingredients:

  • half box of pasta (of course we used Bucatini)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2-1 cup grated cheese (we used pecorino romano, but parmagiano would work, of course)
  • ~4 oz pancetta.  Really rough estimate here.  It cooks down a lot, so I’d advise figuring out how much you want at the end (you don’t need much; it’s very flavorful, but also possibly the star of this dish) and double it.
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • frozen peas if you desire

Start water boiling for pasta.  Cut pancetta into medium sized “cubes” and cook in deep skillet (you’ll toss pasta in here) on medium-high heat to render the fat and get them crispy, turning down heat when done.  When water boils, add the pasta, and to the pancetta add chopped garlic.  In a separate bowl whisk together eggs and cheese.  When pasta is al dente, drain and toss in skillet with pancetta, coating the noodles with the rendered fat.  Okay, here is the intimidating part, so listen carefully, but don’t fret.  Turn off the heat.  You are going to stir the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta without letting the eggs scramble.  Don’t worry: all this requires is that you stir continuously and quickly with the heat off.  That’s it.  Not hard.  The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs.  Top off with cracked black pepper, and add peas if you’d like (I do; defrost them first, of course).

Um, that’s it.  Cook pancetta.  Cook pasta.  Stir.  Turn off heat.  Stir in eggs and cheese.  Keep stirring.  Done.  True Roman Carbonara.  Don’t worry, I assure you that it is still worth going to Rome.

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Roasted Vegebauble Bucatini

Bucatini: it’s like spaghetti but has a thin hole going all the way through the middle of the noodle, for plenty of slurptastic fun. This is easily our favorite pasta, and we had this served at our wedding, but we’ve found that it’s barely available even in Manhattan though can be bought in bulk on Amazon.

In any case, really any type of pasta and any type of vegetable will do, as this is really quite a versatile pasta dish. The key is to roast the vegetables at a high temperature for long enough that the vegetables take on the caramelly-sweet roasted flavor. You can tell the vegetables are done when the skins start to blister and burst open.

Also, I know mise en place has fallen out of fashion (see NYT Magazine, 9/14/10) but it really is a much better picture.

Roasted Vegebauble Bucatini

1/2 package of bucatini
1 small white eggplant, cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
3 very small yellow squash, cubed
5 (or more) cloves of garlic
lots of cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 425F. Toss all vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for up to an hour. Peel garlic cloves and chop.

Half an hour before vegetables are done, boil water for pasta. Prepare pasta as directed on package. Drain.

Combine.  You might as well do this in the roasting pan so that you pick up all the yummy vegebabule goodness that might have stuck during roasting.

This dish is also particularly good with grated cheese on top before serving. Insert Costco-sized block of Pecorino Romano (we’ve been using this since July) and one Microplane zester (originally a woodworking tool)!

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