Mar 1

We’ve all heard the expression, “Less is more.” When it comes to cooking, this is often true because sometimes too many different ingredients can ruin the overall flavor of a dish. Uncomplicated dishes made with simple ingredients are often the most delicious kinds. Zuppa alla pavese is a soup made from beef broth, eggs, butter, and day-old bread. Its origin dates back to the 1500s during the battle of Pavia, which took place in the city of the same name, located not far from Milan in Lombardy.

On February 25, 1525, a few hours before surrendering to the Spanish, Francis I, king of France, stopped by a little cottage a few miles away from the city and asked if someone could host him for lunch. The cook was preparing a typical vegetable soup, but thought that it might be too simple to serve a king, so she improvised a soup made from broth, eggs, bread, and cheese. King Francis ate this dish and enjoyed it so much that he called it a soup fit for a king. When he returned to France, he brought the recipe with him, naming it after the city of Pavia. The cottage where the soup was created still exists today and it can be seen from the train on the way from Milan to Pavia; it is located between a couple of rice fields.

Zuppa alla pavese is a simple soup that doesn’t take long to prepare. You can serve it as an appetizer or as a main course and it’s the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold winter’s day. Since it is so easy to prepare, you can make it even when you’re tired or when you don’t have much time to cook. If this tasty soup was able to restore a king after battle, just think of what it can do for you after a hard day at work. There’s nothing like a nice hot bowl of soup to help you forget about your worries for a while.    By Dana Knowles

To make a traditional zuppa alla pavese, just omit the first step with the vegetables, but make sure that the beef broth is boiling in order to cook the eggs.

1⁄4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, cut into 3⁄4-inch pieces
6 plum tomatoes, diced
4 slices crusty Italian bread
3⁄4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
4 c. beef broth
4 eggs

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and tomatoes, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes break down, about 15 to 20 minutes. 2. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes. 3. Meanwhile, lightly toast the bread slices, and place them in the bottom of 4 bowls. Sprinkle with the pecorino and break 1 egg into each bowl. 4. Ladle the boiling broth into each bowl and serve immediately. Serves 4

Remove: vegetables
A full-bodied red wine, such as Barolo

Apr 20

Gnocchi di patate, or potato gnocchi is one of the great treasures of Italian gastronomy. Its texture is soft and pleasantly chewy, like little edible clouds. Many consider gnocchi a delicacy, but this does not take away from the fact that it is a very approachable dish. It pairs perfectly with just about any sauce and is easy to make at home.

The word gnocchi derives from the Longobard knohhil, meaning knot of wood. Gnocchi was actually present in medieval Italian cuisine, but it was not the potato dumplings that we eat today. Rather, it was a round, doughy pasta made from either flour or semolina. Our beloved potato gnocchi only first came into existence at the end of the 18th century because the potato came from the New World, and when it was first introduced to Europe everyone had strong aversions to it. When solanin and scopolamine were discovered in the potato’s leaves, it began to be used to feed the infirm and sickly. But, despite its virtues, reactions to the potato remained ambiguous since these compounds had the ability to produce hallucinogenic effects and were believed to give witches the power fly.

After 1663, when famine struck Ireland, Europeans began to see the potato as another source of nourishment. However, it was not until the famous French scientist and agriculturalist Antoine Parmentier, that the potato became a fundamental part of the continent’s cuisine. While being held captive by the Prussians during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), Parmentier witnessed firsthand the potato’s uncanny ability to nourish people, even a group as large as an army. Upon returning to France, he studied the potato extensively and discovered that it was healthy and full of nutrients. Thanks to Parmentier’s efforts, the potato became recognized as an edible food and many potatobased recipes followed, like the famous soupe Parmentier, made from potatoes, cream, chervil, salt and pepper, which is named in his honor. Parmentier was able to bring such fame to the lowly potato that he even managed to convince Louis XVI of its virtues, which made the king decide to grow them in the royal gardens.

At the beginning of the 19th century the potato received its definitive consecration through Antonin Carême, one of the era’s great chefs who was famous for preparing meals for the European nobility, when he included it in his haute cuisine. Thanks to this blessing, potatoes became an ingredient worthy of the most exquisite dishes, which helped turn the gnocchi into the gnocchi di patate.

by Christopher O’Leary

1 pound baking potatoes,scrubbed and unpeeled
1 egg
salt
1 cup flour, plus extra
4 cups pre-made sauce, heated
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

1. Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. While still hot, peel, put through a potato ricer onto a clean work surface and set aside to cool. 2. Mix in the egg and a pinch of salt, then add the flour, a little bit at a time, until the dough comes together. 3. Cut the dough into 3 pieces and roll each one into long, even ropes, about the thickness of your finger. Cut into 1-inch pieces and roll each piece off the grooves of a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork. Spread them out on a floured surface. 4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and drop in a few gnocchi at a time. As soon as they float to the surface, lift with a slotted spoon, drain well and place in a bowl. 5. Serve with you favorite pre-made sauce and Parmigiano. Serves 6 to 8

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Mar 16

 

Each region in Italy boasts a distinct culinary heritage. While it might be intuitive to think local traditions and ingredients formed each cuisine, there are many dishes and flavors that come from regions far beyond the Italic Peninsula.

A prime example of this is the famous Venetian Sarde in Saor, or sweet and sour sardines. The dish originates in the Middle East, and consists of sardines or other small white fish marinated in vinegar and raisins or currants. In order for the fish to fully absorb the sweet and sour flavors, Sarde in Saor is best when made in advance.

The dish’s story begins in Sicily in the 15th century, where over 100,000 Jews were living. Their economic role was so important that when the Inquisition swept through the Spanish controlled territories, which included Sicily, the Viceroy managed to hold it off for over 20 years. Eventually political pressure forced Sicily to participate in the religious persecution, but not before the Viceroy was able to warn the Jews of the imminent danger and advise them to escape. Thus, they fled to Naples, Rome, Ferrara and Venice, and took with them their precious culinary traditions. Today, over 500 years later, Sarde in Saor is an integral part of Venice’s culture. Traditionally it is served during the city’s holiday, Feast of the Redeemer, a day of thanks and atonement that dates back to its great plague of 1576.

To try this Venetian specialty without having to travel to Venice, find our easy-to-do recipe below.

By Christopher O’Leary

11⁄4 lb. fresh sardines, gutted
1⁄2 c. flour
olive oil for frying
salt
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onions, thinly sliced
1⁄4 c. raisins
1⁄4 c. pine nuts
11⁄2 c. white wine vinegar

1. Cut off the sardine fins and remove the heads. Rinse well inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. 2. In a large skillet medium-high heat, warm 1⁄2 inch of olive oil. Meanwhile, dredge the dried sardines in the flour and then fry. 3. When sardines are golden on both sides, remove from the skillet and place on paper towels to drain. Season with salt and allow to cool. 4. Discard the frying oil, wipe the pan clean, and heat the extra-virgin olive oil in the same pan over medium-low heat. 5. Add the onions and cook for at least 30 minutes, or until caramelized. Meanwhile, soak the raisins and pine nuts in hot water. 6. When the onions are browned, add the vinegar and let the mixture boil for 3 to 5 minutes. 7. Drain the raisins and pine nuts and squeeze out any excess water. 8. Layer the sardines in an 8-inch square baking dish. Pour some of the vinegar-onion mixture on top of each layer and sprinkle each layer with raisins and pine nuts. 9. When you have layered all the fish, pour over the remaining vinegaronion mixture so that all the fish are covered. 10 Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight to marinate. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 8

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Feb 3

Carpaccio is a dish that consists of raw meat that is sliced very thinly. Giuseppe Cipriani created it in 1950 for the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctors put her on a strict diet that prevented her from eating cooked meat. As a result of this diet, Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, decided to make a special dish for her that followed her doctors’ orders but still allowed her to eat meat. His idea was to take raw meat, slice it very thinly and dress it with a simple sauce. The meat by itself was a bit insipid but the sauce, made with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and shaved cheese, gave the dish a simple but satisfying flavor. He named the dish carpaccio after the painter Vittore Carpaccio, an artist who Cipriani greatly admired, because the vibrant color of the meat reminded him of those in Carpaccio’s paintings.

This simple dish has been enjoyed by people all over the world ever since. Today it is still one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Harry’s Bar. Carpaccio can be made with just about any type of meat or fish, as long as it is thinly sliced. The dressing can be altered to suit a variety of tastes. Although it is typically made with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice, it can also be made with any combination of ingredients such as mayonnaise, capers, onions, balsamic vinegar or even truffle oil.

Carpaccio is an easy dish to prepare and it makes a great appetizer. Before slicing the meat, it is better to place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour until it is firm, but not frozen, making it easier to slice. Some people are a bit hesitant to try the dish because of the common fear that is associated with eating uncooked meat. Always practice safety precautions when preparing carpaccio; make sure that the meat is fresh and thoroughly disinfect your hands and all utensils and work surfaces that you use to prepare the meat before and after you use them.

No matter what ingredients you decide to use, carpaccio is a simple dish that is full of flavor. The recipe below is sure to be a big hit at your next dinner party.

By Dana Knowles

If you would like, you can also prepare this with a more traditional sauce using homemade mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper.

1 lb. sirloin filet, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
balsamic vinegar
truffle oil
1 sprig marjoram for garnish (optional)

1. Arrange the filet slices on a lukewarm platter and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 2. Top with the Parmigiano, then drizzle with the vinegar and truffle oil. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes. 3. Garnish with a sprig of marjoram, or your favorite herb, and serve immediately. Serves 4

Replace: balsamic vinegar with lemon juice
Replace: truffle oil with shaved truffles

A full-bodied red wine, such as Barolo

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