Category Archives: Recipe

A Celebration Lunch

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Serravalle, Republic of San Marino

For celebration lunch today we have Greektown of Detroit, Barbuto of New York, and Howdy Richards of Freeland to thank.

What are we celebrating? Being alive. Being together.   Continue reading

Chics and Tuna

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One of my fondest memories is having lunch at the Buca del Orafo in Florence. My wife took me there the first time–in 1978.  We had a Fiorentina, the giant Italian t-bone steak, which was awesome.

In subsequent visits, we’ve skipped the steak and enjoyed the shaved artichoke and pecorino antipasto, pasta with fresh peas, or ribolitta, finishing, if they were in season, with the fragoline, the mountain strawberries served with lemon juice and sugar, tiny flavor bombs that would put you over the top.

Every year we were greeted by the same waiter, Piero, who was quiet and genial and attentive. Maybe it was the third or fourth time we ate there, we had Tuscan beans and tuna for antipasto. He set the plate down and said, “Now you really should have some of excellent extra virgin olive oil,” and poured out that luscious green gold.

Shown above: an approximation of that heaven.  The dish is good any time of year. Fresh beans, canned beans (drained and rinsed). I used chickpeas today. Shown below: cannellini beans with diced campari tomato.

It’s a question of preference, tradition, and knowing what you like.  For a dish like this I want tomato to be peeled, seeded, and diced. It’s March. The campari tomatoes are in the grocery story and Costco. They are bursting with flavor. Peeling and extracting seeds takes a while. A job made less onerous if accompanied by a glass of wine.

At the Buca, I’m pretty sure there will no tomato.  And given the quality of the ingredients, the ambiance of the restaurant, and what’s just outside the door (the Arno and Ponte Vecchio) it won’t matter.

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Erbe in abbondanza

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A staple at the table around here is “erbe.” Google Translate says erbe means “herb” in English. Google Translate is entitled to its opinion. The word erbe covers a wide spectrum of green stuff. (Plug “cut the grass” into Google Translate and you get “tagliare l’erbe.”) Continue reading

Maltagliati, Ceci, Clams, and Porcini

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This too we ate at Trattoria La Marianna in Rimini. It’s a soup made of maltagliati, clams, ceci beans, and porcini mushrooms. You can very easily use a variation on a theme on this soup (sans clams, for example, or hand-crunched tagliatelle in place of maltagliati) and be very happy. Continue reading

Poached Cod with What?

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Who thinks of these things? In conversations I’ve had with Italians about talented chefs, they refer to “fantasia,” which  translates as something like “imagination.” This cod dish, served as an antipasto at Ristorante La Vela in Pesaro, is an excellent example. And as with most things on the table in Italy, particularly in my wife’s regions (Emilia-Romagna and le Marches), the guiding principle is simplicity. Continue reading

For Dessert? Baked Pears

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This dish falls into the “life is short, eat dessert first” category. You could eat this dessert without feeling guilty. Poached pear and prunes.

We enjoyed this dish the other day in Rimini at La Marianna, a seafood trattoria. Pears and prunes are baked in red wine, with a couple cloves added. These looked like Bosc pears. They were baked whole, peel and all, then sliced for serving. We split one between us.

To add just a little guilt to this dessert, the pears came with a small dish of gelato on the side. The gelato was whitish–I’m guessing crema. My wife tilted the dish and drizzled a little of the wine-pear-prune sauce over the ice cream. She tasted it and gave it her O.F. (oh fuck!) approval.

Definitely try this at home.

http://www.trattorialamarianna.it

Grab a Bunch of Gobbi

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They should be soft. They will have a slightly bitter taste.

Grab what?

They look like celery stalks. Except much bigger. Except for the leaves that sprout along the edges.  And really except for the spines along those same edges that make gobbi look more like a medieval weapon of war than a food. Continue reading

A Moderately Unthinkable Proposal

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It’s the pot’s fault.

The Italians call it a tegame di coccio or a pentola di terracotta. What cooks in it–a stew, a sauce, a roast– is, well, bliss. During the long cook, fragrance permeates your house. Of rabbit ala cacciatore. Of polpettone. Of lamb shoulder. You smell the meat, but also there is the unmistakable fragrance of hot terracotta. You smell the pot. It smells so good. Why I don’t know. It just does. Continue reading

Sausage, Resurrected

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The sausage is more than rehabilitated.

Since the dawn of time, man-woman-cook has pondered this question: What to do with leftover sausage?

Just the other day I grilled more sausage (plain Italian, no fennel) than we could eat. In the hours after lunch the leftover meat came to room temperature. Along the sheath of sausage casing the fat congealed, rendering the links slippery and mildly unpleasant. Occasionally inclined to gluttony, I occasionally dropped by the kitchen counter and took a bite of cold sausage. On its own, there is nothing very appealing about it. Even reheated there is nothing very appealing about cold, leftover sausage, on its own.

How to rehabilitate leftover sausage? eat them twice? Continue reading

Brown Rice, Chopped Tomato, Arugula

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When gluttony meets restraint…

There’s always brown rice.

We are on the threshold of tomato time in Michigan. It’s hard to be patient. At the local farmers market they will have both red and gold cherry tomatoes (what the Italians call pendolini) and Early Girls and Big Boys bursting with flavor. You take the Girls and Boys, slice and anoint them with olive oil. Continue reading

A Sweet and Tangy Spaghetti Dish

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How to make a fast sauce that’s always great

A number of years ago I taught a cooking class I called “ten sauces, ten pastas, ten wines.” The animating idea was to become a good match-maker. Some sauces need a particular form of pasta. Meat sauces, for example, instead of spaghetti or linguini or tagliolini, are best paired with wheels or fusilli or a wide noodle like fettuccine or tagliatelle. Tengono il sugo, they say in Italian. The pasta holds the sauce. And wine? I didn’t know much about wine then, and still don’t. The class was an excuse to try ten different wines from all over Italy. Continue reading

Pasta with Young Poppy Leaves (le Rosole)

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It’s not the same, but almost. And mind-blowing good to eat.

In Santarcangelo, where legend has it the Sangiovese grape gets its name, my wife and I have lunch and dinner at Trattoria del Passatore. We go there for many things, chief among them ravioli served with a rosole sauce.

Rosole, also known as papavero in Italian, are young poppy leaves. You see fields of poppies in Italy, with their brilliant red flowers. The leaves are harvested and used in a pasta sauce, well before the plant flowers. Continue reading

The Ragu Hour

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It’s time well spent.

Ragu recipes abound. Here’s what works for me: An onion, a dab of ground meat, wine and peas, tomato puree. This recipe makes ragu that will sauce pasta for four people.

In olive oil saute half an onion the size of a tennis ball. Bigger is better. Onion adds sweetness and soul to a sauce. Chop the onion, roll it in olive oil until it takes on that transparent look.

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Next break up a quarter pound of ground meat. Beef is fine. Veal is fine. Pork or lamb or buffalo are fine. Some recipes call for a combination of meats. Break up? Scatter bits of the meat over the onion bed, raise the heat, jab and roll the mix for five minutes or so. Salt and pepper.

Lower the heat and cover the pan, cooking the meat down a little more. You’re lightly browning it; you’re releasing and activating the fat in the meat. (Note: if you use a lean meat like buffalo, you’ll need to add a little more olive oil.)

Wine makes this sauce fragrant. I add a third of a cup of red wine. Some recipes call for white. Do what works for you (or use what you have on hand). I like a deep dark sauce, which makes me a red man. Cover and cook ten minutes or so on medium heat. You’re cooking the wine down and should get something that looks like this:

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Now half a jar of tomato puree. And now, if peas agree with you, half to three-quarters of bag of frozen peas.

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Raise the heat to get your mix cooking, then cover the pan and lower the heat. It cooks. In 30 minutes it looks like this:

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Spurn spaghetti or linguini when you have a gutsy ragu like this. For this sauce you want a wide noodle, like tagliatelle or fettucine, or a pasta that “holds” the sauce like garganelli, wheels, or campanelle.

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See how those peas get nestled in the pasta? There is no greater food than pasta with ragu. Shown above: pork ragu with campanelle.  Oh, baby.