Nov 4

 

 

Arista arrosto con patate, or roasted pork with potatoes, is a very popular dish in Italy. The recipe is simple and produces delicious results. However, the origin of its name is not so simple. According to one legend, the word arista, the Florentine term for pork loin, originated during the 15th century. In 1439, when the Ecumenical Council was held in Florence to unite the Greek and Latin churches, the emperor Giovanni Paleologo VIII came from Constantinople to assist with the grand assembly. One evening, a group of soldiers accompanied him to a tavern that was located in the Oltrarno section of Florence. At this tavern, they were served roasted pork with garlic and rosemary. After tasting it, they exclaimed, “Ta arista!,” which means “the best” in Greek. From that point on, Florentines started to refer to pork loin as arista, a term that is still used today. However, there is evidence that disproves this legend; the Italian author Franco Sacchetti (who had a true appreciation for food, as indicated by the fact that in almost all of his short stories he talked about wine and feasts) used the term arista in a short story that he wrote years before the council took place. So, the word must have already been relatively common prior to the emperor’s visit to Florence. There are other theories that suggest that arista derived from Greek prior to the council. Former Florentine mayor Piero Bargellini thought that the term was coined by a colony of Greek perfume merchants who lived in Florence during the 13th century; the street they lived on was later named after them: Borgo de’ Greci. Many Italian words have Greek origin, so it isn’t hard to believe that arista may come from Greek. However, the exact date that the word originated is still unclear. We may never know exactly where the word comes from, or when it originated, but one thing is for sure: for anyone who has ever tasted this dish, arista is synonymous with “delicious.” – By Dana Knowles

11⁄2 lb. pork loin
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
4 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil for drizzling
1 lb. potatoes, cut into large pieces
chicken stock, heated for basting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut slits all along the top of the pork loin and stuff them with the garlic. 2. Arrange the meat in a roasting pan. Season with 1⁄2 of the rosemary, salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil. 3. Add the potatoes to the pan and drizzle with olive oil. 4. Transfer to the oven to cook for about 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° and continue to cook for about 1 hour, basting the meat with its own juice or the chicken stock every 15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat reads 160°. Serve immediately garnished with the remaining rosemary. Serves 4

A full-bodied red wine, such as Brunello di Montalcino

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Aug 19

I was in the fourth grade and chatting over a couple of bagel pizzas in our school cafeteria, when one of my friends proudly proclaimed that what we were eating was really not Italian at all, but rather a product of American ingenuity. Most of our friends countered with, “What are you talking about?” but there was a certain glow about his face that exuded a confidence that made me unable to question this little tidbit he had just given us. As a result, I must have lived for another five years all the while convinced that pizza was our national dish: imagine my surprise upon learning that I could not have been further from the truth!

Don’t believe the hype: pizza is completely Italian. Period. In fact, we owe the first pizza recipe to the great 18th century Italian chef Francesco Leonardi. This primordial pizza was essentially a thin tomato focaccia with all of the characteristics of today’s pizza. Though a peasant dish inspired the original pizza recipe, Leonardi’s creation quickly became very popular among the nobility. In fact, the king and queen of Naples had special pizza ovens built in their summer palace, Capodimonte, so they could serve this new delicacy to their many guests all season long.

In those days, however, pizza came in only two versions: cheese or tomato. According to legend, the first to make the very sensible and intuitive move of combining both ingredients was the chef Raffaele Esposito who, in 1889, did so in honor of Italy’s King Umberto and Queen Margherita di Savoia who were visiting Naples. This clever and patriotic pizza maker thought it would be most appropriate to make a pizza that was a reflection of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozzarella and green basil. He named it pizza alla Margherita in honor of the queen, and it still goes by this name today! – By Christopher O’Leary


To make this recipe faster we used pre-made pizza dough. If you can’t find any at your local market, ask to buy some from your local pizzeria, or use a pre-made pizza crust.

2 packages Campari tomatoes, cut in 1⁄2 and seeded
salt
3⁄4 c. breadcrumbs
flour for dusting
1 package pre-made pizza dough
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 lb. mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. oregano
freshly ground pepper
basil leaves for garnish

1 Preheat the oven to 425°. Sprinkle the inside of the tomato halves with salt. Set aside, cut side down, on paper towels to drain for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the insides with breadcrumbs. 2 Meanwhile, on a floured surface, roll the dough to a 1⁄4-inch thickness. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet. 3 Drizzle the dough with olive oil, and leaving a 1-inch border, top with mozzarella and the tomatoes, cut side down. 4 Sprinkle the pizza with oregano and drizzle with more olive oil. 5 Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and transfer to the oven for about 20 minutes. Top with basil leaves and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Replace: Campari tomatoes with small to medium-sized tomatoes

Wine suggestion: A sparkling red wine, such as Lambrusco

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Jul 22

Have you ever wondered about the history of your favorite dish then decided to do a little research to find out when and how it originated? If you have, then you probably already know that like the game of telephone you played when you were a child, recipes often end up changing as they get passed down over the years and the end result is usually very different from the original.

Pollo alla Marengo, or Chicken Marengo is named after a battle that took place in the province of Alessandria in the Piedmont region of Italy. Napoleon Bonaparte and his army defeated the Austrians in this battle, now known as the battle of Marengo, on June 14, 1800. According to the legend, Napoleon, who never ate anything before a battle, was exhausted and starving by the time it was over, so he asked his chef, Dunan, to prepare him a meal out of whatever ingredients he could find. With limited resources and time, he was able to find a chicken, a few eggs and some olive oil. Dunan combined these ingredients and cooked a dish that would later come to be known as Chicken Marengo. From that day forward, Napoleon ate this dish after every battle. It is rumored that Dunan tried to alter the recipe once he had access to more ingredients but since Napoleon was notoriously superstitious, he demanded that the recipe be prepared in exactly the same way as the first time. Today, however, the recipe has been embellished a bit and usually includes many other ingredients such as flour, red wine and parsley. There are also several other variations of the recipe that include crayfish, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic. The recipe below is a good basis for those who have never attempted to make Chicken Marengo. Over time, you might even develop your own version of this tasty dish! - Dana Knowles

Chicken Marengo

4 tbsp. butter
4 oz. pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 sprig thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 chicken, cut into large pieces
flour for dredging
2 c. red wine
Salt

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the pancetta, onions, garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Cook until the onions are translucent and the pancetta is golden, about 5 minutes, then remove from the skillet and set aside. Discard the garlic. Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown. Add the reserved vegetables and pancetta, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the wine and season with salt. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Serve immediately along with the vegetables and sauce. Serve this dish with the wine you use for cooking. Serves 4

A full-bodied red wine, such as Barbera (which can also be used for cooking)

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