Here's a delightful side dish that can accompany many northern dishes (that is, dishes of the northern butter clan as opposed to the southern olive oil clan). It can be made with fresh or frozen spinach, so it's a handy recipe for when you have surprise dinner guests.
This feisty Sicilian (is that redundant?) recipe was inspired by the feisty protagonist in the classic opera Cavalleria Rusticana. Here I made it with the corkscrew pasta fusilli because it seemed to fit the theme, and because the long pasta works well with this chunky sauce.
The traditional Salmoriglio sauce of Sicily is a perfect accompaniment to swordfish and other full-flavored fishes served hot off the grill. It's easy to make and it works on swordfish steaks and kebabs.
It works as a marinade, too, but I think that's too much for fish; I'd save that for pork or chicken.
It took an awfully long time for me to find a recipe for a calve's liver dish that I liked. As was the case with many of us, my mom made it from time to time, a big slab of strange-looking, strange-smelling, strangely-textured strangeness that nobody wanted to eat. But this one I liked a lot, and I and my friend Andy both took additional helpings.
I had to try this recipe because it's a Venetian classic, and how could it become a classic if it were at all like what my mom made?
The differences in this dish are twofold, one part of the recipe and the other was the liver itself.
I decided a long time ago that I did not trust liver from cattle raised on factory farms fed who knows what feed and drugs, because all of that ultimately is processed by the liver. I found some Caldwell Farms calf liver at the Belfast Coop in Belfast, Maine. I knew it was going to be as good a piece of liver as I am likely to find, so I bought it for this recipe.
The recipe insists that the liver be sliced very thinly before cooking. Andy and I agreed that this was a major improvement, getting past the worst of the texture strangeness, ensuring all of it was cooked through but not overdone, and enabling tastes of the liver to go along with the onions in a pleasing way. I will make this again, when I can get the good liver.
This is another fine, simple Italian recipe using pearl onions. Supermarket frozen onions work fine in this recipe, and they save a ton of time and sore thumbs from peeling.
I keep a bag or two of frozen onions in the freezer for this and similar recipes because they go with so many dinners, especially winter cooking. If you will be serving these with meat, consider replacing the dry vermouth with chicken stock. Of course, you can use just water, too.
In the United States, Marinara sauce has come to mean a simple, vegetarian tomato sauce, but it isn't that way in Italy. Marinara means "in the mariner's style", which emphasizes thrift and availability of local, inexpensive ingredients, sometimes but not aways including some sort of seafood that might have been by-catch.
Remember that not all marinai were fishermen, and dinner might have been prepared at sea or back in port. This recipe provides a base from which you can unleash your inner galley-cook!
This feisty pasta dish is named for the fiery protagonist of Cavalleria Rusticana, an opera by Pietro Mascagni (who scored this timeless hit in a competition as a young man, and then never had another hit).
Like his brilliant little opera, this dish served a place in your permanent repertoire! Bravo!
The Fonduta Valdostana is the Italian form of the French/Swiss Fondue, popular in the Valle d'Aosta on the southern slopes of the French Alps. The key differences are:
- It's made with only Fontina Val d'Aosta, not a blend of cheeses.
- It's thickened with egg yolk.
- It's served in individual bowls or cups, not communally.
- It's eaten with a spoon and bread, not with long forks and a variety of foods for dipping.
The recipe isn't difficult, but you must plan ahead both for the soaking step at the beginning, and then to be sure that it is hot and ready to serve at the right time for your diners.
As for the fontina cheese, there are three broad classes of it. The red-coated Danish variety is not suitable for this dish; it has an insipid flavor and an objectionable consistency. The brown-wrapped mass-produced Italian variety and the related Fontal are acceptable and surely used in many households. For a special event (and certainly I you have the white truffle!) you want to get the artisanal Fontina Val d'Aosta from a good cheese market or Italian gourmet shop.
On 5 December 2021, our friends Dave and Lisa joined us for a grand discovery feast exploring the cuisine of Italy's far northwestern corner. To make it extra-special, they generously sprang for two fresh white truffles from Alba, which are in season in early winter, local to the Piedmont region, and terribly expensive!
Piemonte and Valle d'Aosta are the foothills to the Alps, and they border France to the west and Switzerland to the north. Valle d'Aosta is all mountainous and heavily influenced by Swiss and French Alpine cuisine; Piemonte is the piedmont region that slopes from the mountains down to Liguria and the coast west of Genoa, known for its excellent wines and expensive white truffles. Both feature mushrooms, cheese, polenta, chestnuts, freshwater fish, and other ingredients used in making this feast. This grand Italian feast included no pasta and no tomatoes!
I first enjoyed herb-stuffed Roman artichokes in Rome, where they were naturally well-prepared. It was a delicious dish that I vowed to reproduce one day, not knowing that there's a lot to learn about preparing artichokes.
The basic principle is easy enough: you trim the tough outer leaves and the tips, scoop out the fibrous choke, stuff with parsley and mint, and cook. Well, trimming and scooping takes some time if you're not a long-experienced Roman sous-chef!