Halibut with Herbs and Cherry Tomatoes

Submitted by John on Sun, 07/19/2020 - 14:08

Halibut Braised with Herbs and Cherry TomatoesThis was an invention of necessity another time that Lorna bought (expensive) halibut hoping for the Halibut in an Orange Sauce, only to learn that we had no good oranges in the house. 

So I followed the same technique, but I used herbs and cherry tomatoes and used herby dry vermouth instead of the sweet simple syrup. The orange-gold color in the sauce comes from the tomatoes; I saw that a few had burst, so I helped the others along. It was pretty and tasty too!

Seafood Risotto

Submitted by John on Fri, 07/17/2020 - 17:50
Seafood RisottoHere's a festive-looking all-seafood Italian cousin of the famous Spanish Paella. The mix of shellfish gives it a great visual presentation, and you get a lot of flavor because you can enjoy the flavors of the individual shellfish, and the taste as they mingle in the risotto. 

Haddock Baked with Potatoes

Submitted by John on Fri, 07/17/2020 - 17:12
Pesce al Forno con Patate

This is an Italian recipe, Nasello al Forno con Patate, that calls for hake, but I can't always find hake in Plymouth. It's a flaky white fish that cooks a lot like cod and haddock, so they allow us to make these Italian recipes with the local white fish.

This dish has delicate flavors that would go well with a Vermentino or a Gavi di Gavi white wine. It's a great recipe to know because if you have a piece of haddock or cod (or hake), you probably have the few remaining ingredients already in your kitchen.

Cod Baked with Lemon and Tomatoes

Submitted by John on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 21:03

Cod baked with lemon and tomatoesI adapted this from a recipe for Orata, which we don't get in New England waters, but for which Cod substitutes pretty well. 

It's light and summery, and it's really quick and simple to prepare, too. It's especially nice with a light pasta on the side, with no sauce except what's in the fish dish. 

Mushroom Trifolati

Submitted by John on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 19:47

Mushrooms TrifolatiI saw this on menus all over Italy. I got the recipe from [[nodetitle:The Silver Spoon Cookbook]], but I know that it was also a little different across that long country. 

The main thing is that the Silver Spoon recipe calls for fresh Porcini mushrooms, which are not easy to come by in New England, but I had them with different mushrooms in different places. 

I made this one with Baby Bellas, mostly to see if the technique would have any tricks. It is pretty easy, it just cooks a long time; now I want to try it with a variety of other mushrooms!

Pasta with Preserved Sardines

Submitted by John on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 19:34
Pasta with Preserved Sardines

This simple dish is known in Sicily as Pasta alla Milanese, or "pasta for the people of Milan". That's because Milan is well inland, so Sicilians who went north for work could not get the fresh fish that features so prominently in Sicilian cuisine, so they had to used preserved sardines with their pasta.

This is a very simple dish, but the flavor is unique and the people who tried it all liked it. I suppose it helps the poor homesick Sicilians of Milan! 

Penne Rigate with Artichokes

Submitted by John on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 14:49
Penne Rigate ai Carciofi

You can make this with fresh artichokes, but canned artichoke hearts in water (not marinated) make this an easy work-night option, and a nice change if you want something without tomatoes. I find this simple dish very summery!

You can really have this ready in just the time it takes to cook the pasta, so you can save some time if you don't boil more water than you need. 

Sole Crusted with Almonds

Submitted by John on Thu, 07/16/2020 - 14:25
Almond-crusted Sole

This is a great summer dish, light and easy enough to make after work. The contrast of the crunchy-buttery almonds and the tender sole is a delight. There's really not much to it, but with good ingredients the result is delicious!

We had this for a weeknight dinner with just a pasta dish, but I'd happily serve it to company with The Sultan's Onions and Molise Celery or Genoese Spinach, and a nice chilled Gavi di Gavi wine, or a small glass of cold dry vermouth (I know that's good match because that's what I had while cooking it!). 

Black Venus Rice

Submitted by John on Wed, 07/01/2020 - 19:00
Riso Venere Nero

I first found this exquisite rice, known in Italy as riso venere nero,  in Portland, but now I can get it at Lo Adoro on Route 6a in Sandwich, much closer to home! 

This is attractive for a fancy dinner, and it has great flavor that pairs well with light dishes, especially seafood.

But it's tricky to cook; it's best to soak the rice first for at leat half an hour, longer is OK. Sometimes I set it out in the morning, that night it cooks up fine.

This is not a risotto rice. You cook it up more or less like white rice, but be sure to read the Instructions below. 

I have seen recipes that say to cook it like pasta in a large surplus of water, but it still has to cook a long time and you have to keep checking it; this method is easier to cook and easier for timing when you are making a fancy dinner.  

Great Single-Estate Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Submitted by John on Thu, 06/25/2020 - 01:52
Three Great Single-Estate Extra-Virgin Olive Oils

Some recipes here include a reference to "great single-estate extra-virgin olive oil" that I get from Olioveto - here are some useful thoughts on the matter for the foodie:

  • Not all "extra-virgin olive oil" is olive oil at all, and most of it is not Italian. The Mafia in Sicily and the more powerful 'Ndrangheta in Calabria have controlled and ruined that market. 
  • Most EVOO comes from Spain, and a lot from Greece, too. They are good products. They may say Italian; you can take it up with the mob. If you care about truth in what you buy, buy from a reputable dealer.
  • There's no need to cook with cold-pressed EVOO. It was cold-pressed for a reason - the heat destroys some of the compounds that make it special. Whole Foods has a dissertation on the subject here. You can cook with higher-acidity, much cheaper pomace olive oil and get most of the monounsaturated healthy stuff and save some serious shekels. 

The people who sell the single-estate oils know the business and you get what you pay (a lot) for. They are pressed from single-varieties or proprietary blends, like wines, and like wines they reflect the source olives, the terroir, and the season, not to mention the skill of the maker.

Belgian Endive Braised with Garlic and Fresh Mint

Submitted by John on Thu, 06/25/2020 - 01:12

Indivie Intere Here's a very simple, flavorful way to bring a little-used vegetable into play with any rich heavy main course. The dripping-wet endives are braised in their own liquid in olive oil flavored with garlic and mint. Cooking reduces the natural bitterness of the endive without eliminating it completely.

Indivie Intere "a Crudo" are traditionally served with roasts, especially with veal, but they will do well with any heavy main course where cooked bitter greens do well. The bitterness helps to cut the unctuousness of the fat in such dishes. 

I think this is likely to fight with a red wine that has any tannins in it; from that perspective the bitterness serves the purpose of the tannins in the wine. I might serve this when the best wines of the dinner are done and we're on to something softer, or maybe with a white wine. 

I show this on a bed of Black Venus Rice, but I bet it would be a bang-up dynamic pairing with the Gorgonzola Risotto

Pasta con le Sarde a Mare

Submitted by John on Thu, 06/25/2020 - 00:09
Pasta con le Sarde a Mare

This pretty golden riff on the classic Sicilian Pasta con Sarde has plenty of goodness.

Pasta con le Sarde a Mare is literally "Pasta with the sardines (still) in the sea" - it contains no sardines at all! 

It does have tender fennel, saffron, golden raisins, pine nuts, and other foodie goodness, so it's totally delicious, especially if you didn't have your heart set on those sardines.

It uses anchovies for a salty marine flavor, but if you used a teaspoon of salt instead then this would be a vegetarian dish. 

Bucatini alla Salsa di Funghi

Submitted by John on Sun, 06/21/2020 - 18:19
Bucatini alla Funghi

This pasta-with-mushrooms dish is different from the fusilli recipe, a little more tricky to make and I think more interesting. 

The original recipe uses dried and fresh porcini mushrooms, but the fresh ones are hard to get here so I used button mushrooms and the they they are cooked they were still memorably delicious. 

Bucatini is a long round pasta somewhat like a fat spaghetti. You could substitute spaghetti or linguini. 

Bolognese Sauce

Submitted by John on Sun, 06/21/2020 - 17:24
Pasta with Sauce Bolognese

Ragù is a generic word for sauce, except that for a lot of people the only sauce they mean is this super-classic meat sauce from Bologna. It's very rich, but well-balanced, and it's delicious with many wines.

This is usually served in generous amounts on small quantities of broad flat pasta like a tagliatelle. 

This uses a million ingredients and it takes some time to prepare, but you can easily double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra. Don't cut corners on the ingredients; they are all here for a reason, and together they make a great harmony of flavors. After all, if you were staging an opera and had no tenor, you wouldn't substitute a baritone and figure nobody will notice!

Gorgonzola Risotto

Submitted by John on Sun, 06/21/2020 - 15:14

Gorgonzola RisottoThis piquant Lombard classic is best used as a side dish. The creamy-smooth risotto packs a pungent punch of Gorgonzola deliciousness, a little of which goes a long way.

This is a good side dish for a strongly flavored main course of beef or turkey, and with vegetable sides that will hold their own.  

If you want to serve this as a bigger part of the meal, then you may want something sweet to balance it; I think sliced pear or apple would go very well with this.