A Craving for Sartù – Using Leftovers Backwards

Yesterday I wrote about some leftovers … see photo below:1Here are the remains of what had been meatballs cooked in a tomato and pea sauce.  These leftovers could have easily been used to coat a lovely plate of pasta but, somehow, and blame it on the cold weather if you will, I was in the mood to ‘cook’ yesterday … i.e. to spend some time fiddling with the minutiae of ingredients, pottering with ‘bits’ to my heart’s content, my small scaled kitchen groaning under a welter of pots and pans, and aluminium bowls and wooden boards.  I knew the oven would have to figure in the picture somehow (what can be pleasanter than a hot oven on a cold day?) … and thus it was that I got inspired. Inspired to make a rice-based dish called ‘sartù’ … with its princely origin in Campania … and one that is usually made only for special occasions.   The list of ingredients is mind boggling … I am surprised that Ottolenghi hasn’t had a look at it and succumbed to the sheer number!

I had only made sartù once before, about seven years ago, at a cooking class at the Gambero Rosso School, under the kind and knowledgeable supervision of Chef Sandro Masci (who is now at the head of Rome’s Les Chefs Blancs – http://www.leschefsblancs.it/).   He made it all sound so straightforward and do-able … but you can’t fool me and by the time we were assigned the task of creating tiny tiny meatballs (and I mean lilliputian) I knew that this wasn’t a recipe I was going to repeat any time soon — not unless I had a lot of helpers around me to give me Dutch courage.

Such is life, however, and there I was yesterday … postively gagging to have a go at sartù making and — which goes totally against the traditional culinary grain in this case — using leftovers to boot! Veeery naughty, veery adventurous.  So … I promise I will make a proper sartù before the year is out, following my printed recipe from the Gambero Rosso lesson, starting from scratch.

In the meantime … this is what I did yesterday, on a very cold Sunday, and wearing warm socks.

2 Butter a deep oven-proof pan and coat it with breadcrumbs.3Boil two eggs -hard boiled.
4 Get hold of another 2 eggs and beat them when the time comes.5Avail yourself of some mozzarella, chop it up, and let it stand in a colander so that any excess liquid can ooze away.6 Grate some pecorino romano cheese.  About 2 tablespoons of (maybe more).  Also grate some parmesan cheese, roughly the same amount (sorry no photo).7Soak a couple of dried porcini mushrooms in hot water.  After about 10 minutes, drain and roughly chop.

9 A sartù will normally use boiled sausage in its mix.  Only I didn’t have any … and so used some lovely salami instead (salame di Felino if you wanted to know).  Cut up a few slices thickly and then chop into quarters.10
12 I measured out 350g of carnaroli rice (use arborio otherwise).13This was 150 g of minced/ground beef.
15 And here are the tiny teensy meatballs that I shaped out of just 150g of meat!

TIME TO START COOKING

16Your are supposed to coat the meatballs in flour and then shallow fry them (in olive oil).  I opted for the short cut of not bothering with the flour.
17 Here are the cooked polpettine (i.e. little mini meatballs) ….18 And here is what was left in the frying pan after they had been cooked.  I did not throw it away.  It was a kind of ‘gravy’.19 And so I added some of this ‘gravy’ to the leftover pea and tomato sauce, to loosen it up a little, and add more flavour.   I turned on the heat and brought it up to a strong simmer.20 Here is a close up … I love the glowing patina of this sauce, its shiny sheen.21 And now for another kind of fat: lard !  Time to cook the rice and instead of using olive oil or butter, this time I opted for good ol’ lard.22 Once the rice has almost finished toasting in the pan, I added the chopped up porcini mushrooms.23 I then added some wine …24 And cooked the risotto with  plain hot water, instead of chicken or beef or even vegetable stock.  I added salt, naturally.25 When the rice was cooked but still very very very firm … okay … so ‘almost’ cooked is more like it, I turned the heat off – and ventured to add the grated pecorino cheese to it.  And gave it a good stir.26 Remember the two eggs … ?27 Well, I beat the eggs and added them too to the risotto.  But only after a few minutes, when the rice had had time to cool down a little (otherwise it might curdle).28 After mixing well and adding a bit more salt, I divided up the risotto into two parts: one considerably greater than the other.

TIME TO PUT EVERYTHING TOGETHER

29 I coated the oven pan with rice, making a casing as it were, with the rice lining the sides of the oven proof dish nearly all the way to the top.30 Remember the hard boiled eggs?  Slice them.  Add one sliced egg and some chopped salami in one layer, in the middle of the dish.31 Smother the slices of egg and salami with a thick coating of egg and tomato sauce, and half the meatballs.32 Now shower the lot with a good amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.33 34 Repeat the procedure a second time …35 But, with a twist this time.  This time we add chopped mozzarella on top of the slices of egg and salami.   Sprinkle a little salt, too, over the mozzarella.36 The sauce and meatballs …37 The parmesan cheese ….38 And last … a layer of risotto, to seal our sartù pudding.39Hide the rice under a layer of breadcrumbs.

40Dot the surface with specks of butter.

41Bake the sartù in a preheated oven, at roughly 160°C, for about 45 minutes.

42Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Then insert a sharp knife and slide it around the perimeter of the sartù … to make sure none of it is sticking to the sides. Put a plate over the top and flip it over.

43Aha ! here it is … all golden and juicy looking.

44The top was not looking so good, however.  Sigh.  Never mind.

45And then, it is sliced and put on people’s plates … and said people tuck in and chew and enjoy.  And somehow … it all seems worthwhile, worth all that effort and that long long list of ingredients.

Not that this is a ‘proper’ sartù … not as such.  And this is what I meant about making use of leftovers ‘backwards’ … i.e. using leftovers to create a ‘new’ dish.

I am quite sure that the (almost) full moon had something to do with this sudden craving of mine for sartù.  And so I shall end this post with an adage.  When you are after a boon, make sure there is a full moon.

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Posted in Basic Techniques, italian home food, Loving the Leftovers, Polpette: Meatballs as well as vegetable crocquettes, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto), Secondi (main course | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Meatballs with Peas – Polpette con Piselli

There is a bit of a wink-wink, friendly,  dig-in-the-ribs ‘thing’ going on amongst food bloggers based in Italy (and Rome in particular) as regards the making of meat balls … (or is it just the one word, meataball? Hmmm).  ‘Rachel Roddy started it !’,  say I, pointing an accusatory finger at her – she of http://www.racheleats.wordpress.com fame  … she’s to blame for it all, although, bless her it I can vouch with hand on heart that it was never her intention to spark off any competitive hoo-ha over the modest meat preparation that is a … ‘polpetta’: the Italian word for a meatball. Rachel, in this sense, reminds me of  the most classy and  classical protagonist of Greek Myth fame, Aphrodite … such a naughty one.  Think Helen of Troy and guess who was behind it all, eyes raised to heaven, with index finger resting lightly on bottom lip, mouth ever so slightly and innocently open as if to say: “qui, moi?”.  Aphrodite indeed … Rachel and Pino Take a look : “Aphrodite can also be said to have caused the Trojan War. This came about in the following fashion. When the hero Peleus was married to the sea-nymph Thetis, all the gods were invited to the ceremony — all but one that is. The slighted goddess happened to a specialist in sowing discord, so she maliciously deposited a golden apple on the banquet table. The fruit was inscribed with the legend, “For the fairest”. Immediately all the goddesses began to argue about whose beauty entitled her to be the rightful possesor of this prize. Finally it was decided to put the dispute to arbitration. Reasonably enough, the designated judge was to be the most handsome mortal in the world. This turned out to be a noble Trojan youth named Paris, who was serving as a shepherd at the time. So the three finalists — Aphrodite, Hera and Athena — sought him out in the meadow where he was tending his flocks. Not content to leave the outcome to the judge’s discernment, the three goddesses proceeded to offer bribes. Hera, Queen of Olympus, took Paris aside and told him she would help him rule the world. Athena, goddess of war, said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite sized Paris up and decided he would be more impressed with the guaranteed love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who happened to be married to the king of Sparta. Paris promptly awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite, who in turn enabled him to elope with Helen, who thenceforth became notorious as Helen of Troy. Helen’s husband and his brother raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, and this was the inception of the Trojan War.” (quote from http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/aphrodite.html). Well … none of us wants to spark off any kind of war, especially not a culinary one … so I hope you will enjoy today’s post about … yet ANOTHER meatball/polpette recipe. This one hails, originally from Emilia Romagna … but you can’t take the pancetta and/or pork jowl out of a Lazio gal like me … so I just had to add some to the original.

And now for a look at the ingredients: 1Bread soaked in milk, minced parsely, a packet of frozen peas, salt and pepper, nutmeg, two tablespoons grated pecorino cheese, 2 eggs, and roughly 500g of ground beef. 1a Put the ground beef, 2 eggs, grated pecorino, salt and pepper, twist of nutmeg and minced parsely into a processor … and just blitz/whizz or whatever the verb is.1b And this is what you end up with.   A bit … soggy.1c Sogginess … not a problem.  Add some breadcrumbs, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the texture you desire.  The meatballs have to be pillow-soft, remember? Don’t overdo it with the breadcrumbs.1d And then … find some amiable soul who will be all too willing to respond to your husky, Aphrodite-kindly request … as in, ‘Darling … would you mind making up a few meatballs for me, it would make life so marvellously simple for me if you did, and I would be FOREVER grateful …?’ blink blink, sweet smile on your face … you know what I mean.  In my case, favourite husband obliged most decently … the darling man.  But then, he knows which side his bread his buttered on … Ready? Time to start cooking.  But before we do … one more step.2 One carrot, 1 onion and 1 celery stalk … and some tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro).  In terms of weight … you will need the same amount of weight of passata as you will of meat: so in this case, it was 500g meat, 500 ml passata di pomodoro.2a The Roman/Lazio in me … pork jowl … aka … guanciale.  I can’t think of any preparation that doesn’t stand to benefit from this ideal savoury ingredient.3 Chop up the carrot, celery and onion … and cook over a low heat with some evoo.  The so-called and much loved Italian ‘soffritto’.  And while the soffritto is cooking away … dice up as much or as little of guanciale/pork jowl as you think will enhance this dish: 4And then add add it to the soffritto: 5 Once the guanciale has rendered its fat …6 Time to add the passata di pomodoro (tomato sauce).  Add a pinch of salt and 1 of sugar …7 And now … time to get the meatballs simmering away ….8 Add them to the tomato sauce.  Take your time, gently does it.9 Simmer, with the lid on, for about 30  minutes, over a not-too-low heat.10 10a 11 Then … add the frozen peas.  Turn up the heat for a few mintues …12 Lower the heat again and simmer for another 10 minutes.13 And here they are … these beauties !14 This was what was left the next day …15A good amount … enough to warrant some freezing … good for a rainy day, hey!

And then … last but not least … there was some saucy sauce with peas left over … Hmmm, the mind boggled … and I’ll tell you about it in my next post.  Another entry in my “Loving the leftovers “. 16

Posted in Basic Techniques, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Loving the Leftovers, Polpette: Meatballs as well as vegetable crocquettes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rice and Lentil Fritters – Loving the Leftovers

Happy New Year everyone ! … and I am hoping this is going to be a very good year for us all.  The last few weeks, especialy the run up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, saw me so engaged in PPE (planning, preparation and execution) that I had little room in my mind for blogging — an activity, as you may imagine, I really enjoy or else I wouldn’t be doing it for so long now.  I have become more closely acquainted with some fellow bloggers over the years and the fact that I got to meet a few in real life is a bonus that makes it even more worthwhile an activity.

One virtual friend whom I have yet to meet in person is Frank Fariello, and if you don’t already subscribe to his “Memorie di Angelina” website, hurry up and do so, you will not be disappointed.  I find that we often write about the same Italian recipe and it brings a smile to my face.  His post today about rice and lentils (see link:  http://memoriediangelina.com/2015/01/09/rice-and-lentils/ ) reminded me that when making this same dish a couple of months ago, I had used up the leftovers to make some fritters.  The result was most un-Italian but since they tasted so good, I think it is worthwhile blogging about them.

1 Here are the remains of what once was ‘riso e lenticchie’.   The food was at room temperature.

2 I reached for some curry powder.

3I added a couple of teaspoons of curry powder as well as an egg.  Then mixed it all together.  I expect I tasted it at some point, and probably added a little salt.
4 Having shaped the mix into fritters/patties, I proceeded to shallow fry them with some olive oil.5Here are the fritters in the serving dish.
6And here is a solitary rice and lentil fritter on a plate. The dark sauce oozing away in the background is Worcestershire sauce.  Surprisingly good !

Italian rice and lentils, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce …. ehm … er.. the mind boggles.  What was it exactly that I was harping on about in my last post on fusion cooking, eh?

Cooking can be so humbling.

Posted in Antipasti, Loving the Leftovers, Recipes from outside Italy | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Roman Oxtail and Cus Cus – Fusion, Confusion and Creativity

 

14AWhen I hear or overhear people enthusiastically call themselves ‘creative’ cooks, I
confess that, unless the person in question is young (under sixteen) I tend to shudder inwardly and, outwardly, try to change the subject of conversation if need be.   I know what will happen next and that is that, very often, all things ‘creative’ will now veer towards, or become equated with, ‘fusion’ — for an amusing and cautionary article on fusion food, read the following:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1388451/Mixing-cuisines-lead-calamity-best-fusion-food-goes-bomb.html).

At the risk of being labelled ‘somewhat conservative’ at best, or a downright stick-in-the-mud gastronomic dinosaur at worst, I have to admit that change for the sake of change is, in my opinion, best left to chefs who know what they are doing, who have had a suitable amount of hands-on experience and who have travelled and tasted dishes as they are supposed to taste in the country of their origin.

When cooking, and often with the benefit of a glass of wine infusing our veins, we all indulge in adding a bit of this, adding a bit of that, and making things up a little as we go along – and that is to be welcomed and absolutely fine !  It is a breath of fresh air in the kitchen and keeps our batteries going.  (It also explains why someone like me will never amount to much as a baker.  Baking is a serious profession and allows for no ‘tweaking’ – baking rules exist for a reason and they cannot be breached.)

So what am I trying to say … ?

I think what I am trying to say is that, much though home cooking should and often does entail a lot of fun, a person is not going to become an adequately good home cook unless he or she practises cooking regularly and develops his or her palate by tasting good food either at other people’s homes or in good restaurants.

It’s a bit like going to school, you need to learn you ABC before you can spell properly.  Reliable magazines can be bought and relied upon, too, naturally, and if expense is an issue … the internet is full of recipes that can be referenced.  Trying out recipes can be fun in and of itself!  So I think that sometimes those people who gush and pride themselves on being ‘creative’ cooks are … enthusiastic, yes …. inventive and spontaneous … that too … but … a little lazy.  And presumptuous also as regards all those other cooks who have put in hours and hours of practice to get a recipe just right.  Put it this way, you’ll rarely hear a good cook (an adequately good cook that is, and not necessarily the best !) define themselves as being ‘creative’.   The act of cooking itself is … creative per se.

Fusion cooking? Mmmm … very dangerous ground and mostly a disappointment to my mind.  I’ve not had the opportunity to taste the excellence of fusion food as invented by the three Michelin starred superchef and master of fusion, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  To date, the best I have been able to taste was in Boston, at Myers and Chang (www.myersandchang.com).  Last year, I had the most gorgeous mussels experience of my life there … they came with lemongrass, ginger, spring onions and goodness knows what else without them somehow tasting exclusively Thai.  They were Thai … and more !  The waiter, bless him, did give me a rough account of the recipe but I had drunk too many celebratory cocktails that evening to remember it the day after.  This year I thought I would repeat the pleasure but was told it had been struck off their menu.  When asking for something similar on their new menu … I was served a fusion version of what I daresay was a take on an Italian mussel dish called ‘impepata di cozze’ or else on French moules.

IMG_0542

Here is the photo.  It looked nice enough, it tasted … okay.  But the bread to be dunked in a soup made up of oriental spices, to me, just didn’t work … and the dish was neither here nor there.  The balance of ‘oiliness was missing’.  Olive oil in Italian mussels, butter and cream in French mussels.  Boo hoo.  (I am one of those people who can cry if they are served disappointing food.  And by the way, rest assured, I did NOT cry … everything else we ate that evening was truly delicious and I was having fun in lovely company.)  I am just making a point: a fusion = confusion point. Which brings me to today’s recipe and my foray into this gastronomic minefield.

Don’t ask me what prompted me want to make a Near-East/North African version of the very Roman oxtail dish known as ‘coda alla vaccinara’.  Number one.  Number two … to want to accompany the oxtail with cus cus cooked in the oxtail’s stock.  It all sounded so logical, so different, so nice, so new, so … ‘creative’ dare I say!  So very Yottam Ottolenghi of me, tee hee !  I don’t know whether you can be bothered to follow me at this point, after such a long preamble to the recipe.  So … because I don’t like wasting time either … all I can confide, recipe wise, is that I don’t think I shall bother making this recipe again.  Just like the mussels dish mentioned above, it tasted okay.

1 2 The oxtail … cut up for me by the butcher.3 I used a pressure cooker.  Oxtail takes forever to cook and a pressure cooker can save the day. I put lots of celery and an onion in the cooker.

4

A few tomatoes.  A good pinch of salt.  And that was it.  Oh .. and probably some peppercorns … I always put peppercorns in a stew.
5 And here was the oxtail, fully cooked in its stock, about 40 minutes later.  Set aside.6 Spices … coriander, a cus cus mix of spices, and a single clove (I didn’t want to overdo it with the cloves).7 And here is the first ‘surprising’ and ‘creative’ ingredient vis-à-vis any traditional cous cous (how dow you spell it? is it ‘cus cus’ or is it ‘cous cous’ ? Oh never mind …).  Meaning, that cus cus is enjoyed by both moslem and jewish populations who naturally shun pork – in this case, guanciale or cured jowl – as a taboo food.8 In a heavy casserole saucepan, I began by stewing some lovely red onion in plenty of olive oil.9 I then added the guanciale, cut into small strips.10 And after the guanciale had rendered its fat, I added the spice mix.10A Remember our pressure cooker and its contents?11 I transferred the oxtail meat and bone from the pressure cooker to the casserole.12 I turned the heat up so that the oxtail would brown a little.13 I opened a can of plum tomatoes …14 And added them to the oxtail stew.  In some respects, one could call this an …. oxtail amatriciana sauce !  Except that I also added whole cloves of garlic (you are not supposed to put garlic in an amatriciana sauce so you, dear reader, can see how adventurous I was getting, breaking all kinds of rules, huh!).

14A

And this is how I served the oxtail stew eventually … with an addition of fresh herbs – oregano by the looks of it.
15 Okay … and now back to the cus cus.  Remember the stock?  I strained it.16 I put the cus cus in the same casserole saucepan that had just finished cooking the oxtail.17 I added the stock … mixed it in, covered it with a lid and basically followed the cooking instructions on the cus cus packet.18 While the cus cus was plumping up, I ventured to cut a celery stick into chunky sizes.  To add freshness.19 And here was the cus cus, containing some raw celery within it, and sporting some celery leaves on its surface.20 21 22

Oh … and what I didn’t mention was that I had to make polenta for favourite son because he couldn’t hack the hot spiciness of the cus cus.  Now … yet ANOTHER breaking of boundaries on my part.  Oxtail all’amatriciana served with either spicy cus cus or plain polenta.  Creative anyone?

Posted in Basic Techniques, Herbs and plants, Pressure Cooker, Recipes from outside Italy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Pasta al Tonno – Variation

IMG_9639

It is very traditional to have a fish-only themed menu on Christmas Eve in most parts of Italy, including Rome.  Also traditional are foods fried in batter such as artichokes, cauliflower, broccolo, apples, cod fish etc.  Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti in a clam sauce) are always a big hit.  And so is pasta with tuna – not fresh tuna but tuna packed in olive oil.

I stopped buying tuna a few years ago, after reading about the parlous state of this particular fishing industry.  I don’t want to sound all holier than thou over this decision and I am sure I am not the only one.  However, I also keep an optimistic attitude and look into reports on improvements (in Italy’s Mediterranean waters at least) and it would appear that the numbers of tuna have grown to the point that I can now resume eating it without feeling guilty (and being careful, of course, to choose the right brand).

The photos on today’s post were taken at the end of last summer, the tuna being a present from friends who had just returned from a holiday in Puglia.

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This tuna was A-star stuff, packed in proper olive oil and not some other substandard seed oil and presented in a glass jar.

IMG_9619 Some tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic … and my new kitchen ‘toy’ – a tomato peeler.IMG_9620 You don’t have to peel the tomatoes but I was in raptures of reverent tomato peeling activity and enjoying myself the way little children do when trying out a new toy …IMG_9621 IMG_9622 A couple of anchovy fillets … and some lemon zest (for freshness).IMG_9623 Chop and de-seed the peeled tomatoes … IMG_9624 Cook the garlic (careful that it doesn’t burn, it must cook until it is golden).IMG_9625 Sprinkle salt all over the chopped tomatoes while the garlic is cooking …

IMG_9626Get your pasta out (spaghetti would have been nice but I didn’t have any that day) …
IMG_9627 Add the tomatoes to the frying pan …IMG_9628 After a few minutes, add the anchovy fillets …IMG_9629

Taste … and add a pinch of sugar if necessary.
IMG_9631 It won’t take more than 10 minutes to have this sauce ready.  At that point, add some torn basil leaves and the lemon zest.  Switch off the heat.IMG_9632 Sssssh … don’t tell anyone but I didn’t do such a good job of de-seeding the tomatoes.  Never mind.  I am still alive.IMG_9633 Grate some pecorino cheese.  I think anyone who has been reading my blog for a while is fully aware of my reluctance to engage in cheese grating which is why I do my level best to fob this job to any other family member or friend who happens to be in the vicinity.  It is important to have someone else grate your cheese for you, yes … but it is also important to make sure that the proper sized cheese grater is used.  See the photo above? The holes in the grater are too big … the grated cheese is not ‘fine’ enough for a pasta.  The finer the cheese grated, the easier it will be for the cheese to ‘melt’ completely into the sauce.  I know it sounds silly but it makes all the difference.IMG_9634 While the pasta is cooking … drain the tuna.IMG_9635 When the pasta is just about cooked, transfer it it to the pan with the tomato sauce.  Turn the heat on again and allow the pasta to finish its cooking time directly in the sauce.  If the sauce looks like it’s going to dry out, add some of the cooking water.IMG_9636 Add the tuna last …IMG_9637Combine all the ingredients and switch off heat.
IMG_9638 IMG_9639 The green bits are, I think, a mixture of mint and marjoram.  Parsely would be great too.???????????????????????????????
IMG_9641Add the grated cheese last.

It is not ‘normal’ in Italian cuisine to mix cheese and fish together.  This recipe is one of the exceptions.  As is pasta with mussels and pecorino.

The last time I had made this pasta was in 2011 ! wow!

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/pasta-col-tonno/

Posted in Basic Techniques, Fish and seafood, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Interpreting an Ottolenghi Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

My lovely friend in Boston recently made me a present of Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s ‘Jerusalem’ and a what a welcome gift that was; if I hadn’t bent over backwards to buy the book in the first place (it was first published in the United Kingdom in 2012), it was because I knew at some level that it was the sort of book that could ‘wait’.  I had leafed through it admiringly in a book store in London but the draconian Ryanair baggage limitations for my flight back to Rome put a stop to my buying it (that Ryanair has such a lot to answer for ).  I minded, of course I minded, but I could see even then that the recipes are the kind that will endure in time, and not the fleeting flight of modish fancy … and thus I could wait in eager and, thoroughly unusually for me, patient anticipation. My friend and I set about cooking a couple of the recipes together when visiting another lovely friend in Vancouver last month … and I cheerfully thought to myself that my patience had been richly rewarded.  Cooking together with like-minded people (i.e. those who cook with love) ranks very close to the top of my favourite things to do in life.  One of the recipes we prepared was the cauliflower and hazelnut salad that is the subject of my post today. It doesn’t follow the recipe precisely and that’s because I didn’t have either maple syrup or allspice at home (I used fig jam instead).   I started out making the recipe energetically enough, all one-two-one-two hip-hop military footstep drill  but, alas, without either of my friends to shoulder me on, I was almost cursing by the end of it.  What? What? Why? How? Huh? How is that? Now, WHY didn’t they say that at the beginning! Oufff.  Puzzlement and pouting spouting from my person and irritation rising.  I don’t doubt that Tamimi and Ottolenghi’s ears were reddening by the minute as I mentally remonstrated with them and remembered just WHY I started this food blog in the first place.  It was because – aside from featuring recipes that my children could use while they were students in London – I just do NOT understand written recipes unless there are plenty of photos to accompany the instructions.  Maybe it is some kind of gastronomic dyslexia, who knows?  Maybe I am just not a ‘manual’ sort of person and that’s why I loved ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycling Maintenance’, and found it so soothing. Right, enough of that and on with my interpretation of the recipe which, believe me and pace the original authors, makes much more sense in terms of do-ability. 1 This is a close-up of the end result … very inviting, very juicy, just like a salad should be.2 Start by removing strands from the celery sticks and then slicing them at a slant.  I was following instructions here … next time I’ll just slice them straight.3 A beautiful pomegranate, its red arils ready to be removed from their casing.  This takes a bit of time, so be warned.  Here is a link on how to open a pomegranate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iHbSzM63Hs 4 Then weigh about 20g of flat leaf parsley.  I expect that coriander leaves (cilantro) would be equally delicious too. Set aside.5Here is the Sherry vinegar and, lacking maple syrup, I used some caramelised fig jam to make a dressing.  6 Here is the dressing: evoo, white wine vinegar and fig jam.  Set aside. Okay, now it’s time to cook. 7 Here are the cauliflower florets.  Evoo has been drizzled over them, and salt sprinkled too.8 Put them into the oven for about 30 minutes.910Here are 55g of hazelnuts. 11 The recipe said they needed to be toasted in the oven, on a lower heat setting compared with the cauliflower, for 17 minutes.  I got around that by putting them in for only 10 minutes, together with the cauliflower (i.e. ten minutes before the cauliflower’s end cooking time).12 Out of the oven. Time to assemble the salad. ASSEMBLING OF THE SALAD 13 Place the cauliflower on a large plate or salad bowl.  Allow to cool.14 When the hazelnuts have cooled down sufficiently …15 Chop them up.  I have this little kitchen toy to do it for me.  If you don’t have one, just wrap the hazelnuts into a nice clean T-towel and smash them up a bit with the bottom of a heavy glass or with a rolling pin.16 Sprinkle the hazlenut granola over the cauliflower.17 Excuse this atrocious photo … it was a reminder to me that I was to sprinkle some cinnamon over the cauliflower.  The phone rang just then and by the time I got back, I’d forgotten to take another ‘proper’ photo.  (Don’t you just hate it when the phone rings as you are in the middle of something ‘fiddly’ in the kitchen?).18 Now add the celery. 20 Then add the pomegranate arils.  The quantity was twice the amount called for in the original recipe but I had gone to so much trouble to de-aril the pomegranate in the first place that I wasn’t about to not use them all.  Also add the parsley – as much or as little as you prefer.  Final touch: season with good sea salt.21 Finish the dish off with the dressing and voilà — you have yourselves a beeee-eautiful, rich, vastly enjoyable Winter salad that is truly a delight for the eyes as well as the palate.22 Here is the one measely photo that Tamimi and Ottolenghi deigned to include in their recipe book, shame on them (tee hee).23 And here is their deceptively ‘easy’ recipe – ha !  Caveat emptor … this salad is not difficult as such but does involve a lot of clear thinking and a bit of planning ahead.  Not a last minute dish. And ever so worthwhile ! 24

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Artichokes and Pecorino Cheese

1a

Artichokes can be enjoyed in Rome practically all year round these days … because when they aren’t available locally, many restaurants will import them from Brittany in France. I, being a little conservative on matters of seasonality, prefer to wait and enjoy them when they actually are in season. They start timidly towards the end of October and the best ones for this time of year hail from either Puglia or Sardinia. They are not as large as the famed Roman artichoke and thus benefit from being cooked in ways that are more appropriate to their smaller size.

Small or large, the only real trouble with artichokes … is … having to trim them. All those leaves !

1b

What you see in the photo are five smallish artichokes that came from Puglia … cut into quarters and deprived of any ‘fuzzy’ bits.  A peeled artichoke will blacken very quickly and needs to be temporarily immersed in plenty of water with a squeeze of lemon in it.

2

What you see in the foreground are all the outer leaves and inner trimmings of the artichokes that are going to be discarded (either in the recylcing or in a compost heap) … in terms of volume, what gets thrown away of the artichoke is far more than what gets kept!

3W hile you are busy trimming the artichokes, put some watr on to boil and when it does, add 1 spoonful of salt.  When all your artichokes are ready, simmer them for 10 minutes or until fork tender.

4

And then drain them and set aside to cool a little.

5

What you see here is grated pecorino romano cheese (80g) and Italian-style breadcrumbs (100g).  Mix the two together and set aside.

5a

And this is a most useful little kitchen toy … not a novelty but I have to say that it really comes into its own when you are doing a lot of cooking requiring olive oil drizzling, or for recipes like today’s.

6

Bring out the artist in you … and ‘paint’ some olive oil all over the bottom of an oven proof dish.  I thought this drizzle was most Mondrian-like, no?

7

Tuck the artichokes into the dush … and those ling thin strands? they’re parsley stems.  I added them for no good reason other than I felt like it.

8

Drizzle olive oil all over the artichokes … and season with salt.  Yes, despite the inherent saltiness of pecorino romano, the recipe still calls for the addition of some salt.  You could add pepper too, if you like.

9

Here is a close-up … I just love the look of artichokes … there is something so happy about them.

10

And now it’s time to shower the artichokes with the breadcrumb-pecorino mixture … be generous.

11

Yet more painting’ with olive oil … this time I drizzled it à la Jackson Pollock.  Ahem …

12

And now pop the oven pan into a pre-heated oven for roughly 20 minutes. The temperature of the oven was 200°C.

13

Out they come ! Looking deliciously toasted already …

14

And here is what was left over the next day … served on a gorgeous ‘Giardini di Sole’ Bellafrutta plate (www.giardinidisole.com).

15

Aside from the bother of cleaning and trimming the artichokes, this is a recipe that delivers an awful lot of taste and wow-factor for relatively little effort.

Posted in Artichokes - Carciofi, italian home food, Loving the Leftovers | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments