Version 4 Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino tweaked by a Crunch Factor

This being the fourth in succession of the Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino let’s just call the recipe AOP at this stage.   As stated previously, AOP has to be the second simplest pasta dish to make (the first is pasta seasoned with just butter and parmesan).  Even so, it requires a little bit of attention.

OLIVE OIL – The best olive oil you can muster.

GARLIC  – The thinly sliced garlic must ‘stew’, turn golden, and not burn, in plenty of olive oil.  That’s why it is a good idea to heat it over a low heat.  It can be cooked until it is almost brown if you prefer a stronger taste (this is very old school).

PARSELY – The parsely delivers best if it is a) finely chopped and b) also cooked in the olive oil.  I have been known to do neither thing, and just strew a bit of roughly chopped parsely over the cooked and seasoned pasta just before devouring it.  It is still good but, as I said, finely chopping it and letting it sauté in the olive oil takes the recipe to another level.

CHILLI – Dried chilli flakes … as much or as little as you like.  This ingredient also benefits from being included in the recipe from the word go.

PASTA – The ideal spouse for this pasta seasoning, it’s crowning glory, is Spaghetti.

Today’s variation features toasted bread crumbs, just for the fun of it, just for the added frisson of crunch in our mouth-feel.  Except that I didn’t have any bread crumbs to toast. Oh woe is me! Or rather woe would have been me had I not been able to resort to a little trick that is becoming very popular in Italy at the moment.  I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Taralli that hail from Puglia and other parts of Souther Italy?  The closest description I can come up with is  “teensy bagels”.   They are served as snacks at all times of the day and it’s always handy to have some around.  Warning: despite being somewhat bland in taste they are nevertheless very more-ish.

 

img_2156.jpg

So, if you’ve been reading the other posts on AOP you know the drill by now.

IMG_2130Chilli and garlic in plenty of olive oil and don’t let it burn.

IMG_2131

While that’s happening, finely chop some parsely and ‘pulverize’ one or two of the taralli (the little mound you see on the right).  I used a meat pounder to obtain the desired texture.

IMG_2132

I then added the chopped parsely and let it cook for very little time, let’s say one minute?

IMG_2133I took the pan off the heat and removed as much of the garlic as I could find.  You don’t have to do this.  And I personally wouldn’t bother normally but it was just one of those things you do, on a whim, for a very late Sunday lunch when making AOP for my daughter who’d had a late night the night before.

IMG_2134When the pasta was almost cooked and ready to be drained, I put the pan back on the heat and toasted the crushed taralli.  This is a terrible photo, I apologise, but trust me: the ‘stuff’ in the middle is the crushed taralli.

IMG_2135Then in went the cooked spaghetti.

IMG_2136I had to add some of the cooking water to finish the dish off, to get the right texture (and taste).  A bit of tossing went on too but I was unable to photograph that.

IMG_2137And just before serving I added a further sprinling of taralli (that I had toasted in a separate pan).

There you go.  Very nice too.

I would definitely recommend cooking the parsely in the olive oil from the start, whichever of the four AOP recipes you might like to try out some time.

For the rest … Passover and Easter are coming up soon.

Auguri!  Greetings to you all and carry on cooking !

Below is a link to another post concerning the use of toasted breadcrumbs on pasta:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-crunch-factor-in-pasta-the-game-of-love/

 

 

Version 3 of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio in which ‘Raw’ Rules

The original title of this post was “Doctor’s Orders” because apart from the pasta that needs cooking, the rest of the ingredients are used raw.  And, as we are beginning to realise more and more, raw foods are good for us.

Doctors Orders – Pasta Aglio e Olio with a Twist

Italian food is easy, so many recipes can be readily executed even by a beginner.  It is simple – the list of ingredients rarely surpasses more than five or six and that’s not including salt.  It is not supposed to be difficult – if it were, only chefs would be cooking Italian dishes as opposed to single people and home makers all over the country and of every generation.  Preparations are rarely laborious and a proper meal can be concocted in one hour or even under.  The taste and textures it offers are wide ranging and refreshed by the passing of seasons, like milestones in one’s life.  The ingredients are rarely expensive.  Presentation can be tweaked to appear brashly peasant-like or chic, come hither-ish or aloof, tradtional or modern.  It is child friendly on the one hand but easily appeals to a sophisticated palate on the other.

Italian food is popular for all these reasons.

It is ‘meant to be’ because it can be handed down generation after generation and still remain current for most people’s palate.  It’s not supposed to be exciting or faddish although of course it can be surprising and delightful.  Variety is the spice of life, indeed … but if it’s variety we are after all the time, the canon tends to come asunder.  And this, say I with a bit of preoccupation which I hope people won’t attribute to self importance, is what happens when foodies from abroad pounce on Italian cuisine in seach of what’s new?, what’s the latest ingredient?, what’s the novelty regional secret?  It undermines the canon.   Think about what happened to pesto, for instance.  It became furiously popular in the UK and northern America about 30 years ago.  And  now? Now … it tends to be not so much taken for granted but ‘overlooked’ or culinary-backs-against it like a scorned wife.  And all because it’s just so … so been-there, done-that, ‘bo-ring’, what’s-next.  And when one takes into consideration that most of these people haven’t even tasted real pesto, they simply haven’t had the chance bless ’em, the petulance-and-jaded-palate-syndrome of food designers in chase of new food collections takes on an even deeper gastronomic melancholy for me.  If you have the time, do read this article, it’s very good and I was even sympathetic to its author.  Even so … he just couldn’t resist ‘tweaking’ the pesto recipe.  Creativity is a wonderful thing – but can we just stop calling a recipe ‘pesto’ when it is not!  Stop piggy-backing on something that is beautiful for what it is, and if you want to make changes – go ahead but call it something else.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/in-italy-i-learned-how-to-make-true-pesto-in-america-i-buck-tradition/2016/03/07/69617e96-dfc7-11e5-8d98-4b3d9215ade1_story.html

And it’s not just foreigners who are at it.  It’s also many many Italians, especially young Italians, especially Italians who have trained professionally and who have worked abroad themselves.  Haute cuisine, Italian haute cuisine included, has a place in swanky and posh restaurants, in serious and elegant establishments where the meal is elaborated to impress and seduce.  That’s a given.  That’s why we spend lots of money going there (myself included on occasion, lest you should wonder!) in order to give ourselves a treat.  But when I spot a recipe on the menu or elsewhere that is bog standard and ‘homey’ even, ‘reinterpreted’ by chef so and so … well, what can I say?  On the one hand I am curious and impressed.  On the other I feel like rapping their knuckles with a wooden stick.  ‘Leave well alone!’, I feel like shouting.  ‘If you carry on like this, very soon, a couple of generations down the road, Italian food will have become so inflatedly ‘complex’ and fussy that it will lose its innate beauty – ‘simplicity.’  An Italian rose is an Italian rose is a rose is a rose …

End of mini-rant.  Until the next one.

Despite my being unabashedly on the conservative side (!) when it comes to enjoying classic Italian food, not to mention somewhat averse to change for change’s sake, or downright dismissive of prettifications and updating of uber-traditional dishes, I do get won over occasionally when it comes to techniques that make life easier or that make sense gastronomically.  I only shudder and shriek within, and on occasion without, when said techniques end up with a complete make-over that’s only a virtual echo of the original.

So picture my face earlier this morning, slitty eyed, expression all screwed, nose scrunched up, my pursed lips relenting eventually to let out a long sigh, the mother of all sighs, I’ll have you know, when I read of a chic Italian chef in an ultra posh Milanese hotel holding forth about the spaghetti recipe known as ‘aglio, olio e peperoncino’.

Well. For a start … this recipe isn’t even Milanese.  So … why would a Milanese come to a Roman and tell them how to make an aglio e olio?  Stick to your risotto. And there is the culinary fact that … it’s hardly even a recipe. Not a high end one, at any rate. (By the way, it must be acknowledged that the recipe originated in Naples but that was a long time ago and we think of it as Roman here.  Nothing new about appropriation, eh?)

It is the equivalent of making toast when you are hungry.  It’s the classic dish to make when you are in a hurry … or when you come home from a late night out and discover suddenly that you are hungry and need to eat something before hitting the mattress.  All it requires is a bit of olive oil, garlic and some chilli (cayenne pepper) and parsely of course, even though a lot of people will eschew the parsely (and it’s not just the older folk who are long in the tooth and short in the gums where said parsely just looooves to stick and stand out embarrassingly).

Now why would a top chef even want to offer such a ‘plain’ dish on their menu?  Would you offer beans on toast at Claridges? or croque Monsieur at whatever Parisian restaurant is the bees’ knees?  Burgers are different.  They are made with meat.  Good meat is expensive.  So if a high end American restaurant serves a burger, that’s not culinarily seditious.

But … aglio, olio e peperoncino? Why? why, why, why, why, why?  Give me caviar.  Or lobster.  Or truffles.  I’ll make me own ajo, ojo e peperoncino at home thank you very much! (By the way, that’s the Roman spelling for aglio, olio e peperoncino.  The Roman use the letter ‘j’ to replace the letter ‘i’ – so think of it as an ‘i’ and pronounce it like this: ayo, oyo ey pe-pe-ron-cheenoh).

I do like to experiment, however hidebound my love for tradition might be, and I do like to ‘make sure’, to seek out the proof in the eating of the pudding.   So … guess what I did today?  I made an ajo e ojo e peporoncino that requires very little cooking of the garlic which is then complemented by room temperature olive oil and raw parsely.  Raw.  Good for you.  Olive oil.  Good for you.  Parsely.  Good for you.  Cayenne pepper – very good for you.  Pasta – the good quality kind? Very good for you too.  We should call this the ‘Good for you’ pasta!  Doctor’s orders!

Away we go.

IMG_4549

I used three large cloves of garlic for just over 200g of spaghetti.  Start by peeling the cloves and placing them in a small saucepan with plenty of cold water in it, or at least enough to cover them completely.  Bring the water to the boil.

IMG_4550

When the water comes to a boil, drain the garlic.  Repeat this thrice.  In other words, do this cold-water-come-to-a-boil for four times altogether.  In the meantime, put the pot with the pasta water on to boil too.

IMG_4552

Measure out 30ml of olive oil (extra virgin olive oil, naturally) per clove of garlic.  In this case – about 90ml of evoo.  Pour the evoo inside a processing beaker or whatever these contraptions are called.

IMG_4553

Once the garlic has been blanched for the fourth time … cut the cloves in half and remove the green inside bit – the ‘germ’, what the Italians call the ‘soul’ of a clove of garlic.  This germ is actually probably the healthiest part of this allium but there you are.  It isn’t too healthy when you are sharing the room with another person (they’ll hate you for your overpowering breath) and most lovers would shy away from even a kiss on the cheek … continental you say? Hm.  But stinky too.  Better not.
IMG_4554

Here is the  soulless garlic, deprived of its stinky germ.

IMG_4555

Cut up the garlic a bit more and place inside the beaker.
IMG_4556

When the spaghetti have been cooking for about 5 minutes …

IMG_4557

Remove a ladle or so  of the cooking water and set aside.  Allow it to cool.

IMG_4558

Pour the cooking water into the beaker.

IMG_4559

And now … process. Blitz away.  Until you get a lovely emulsion.

IMG_4560

I’d forgotten to add salt.  So I added a good pinch of salt and processed a little bit more.

IMG_4561

I then chopped up some parsely.

IMG_4562

I poured the garlic and evoo emulsion into a frying pan close to the pasta pot.

IMG_4563I dug out my cayenne pepper.

I drained the pasta directly into the frying pan – NO heat.  No need for any heat.  Mix well so that the pasta slurps up all the sauce.

IMG_4565

Plate out the paste and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

IMG_4566IMG_4567

My lunch guest does not like eating parsely so I added a little sprig just for a bit of adornment.

IMG_4568

I instead added the chopped parsely.

IMG_4569

And lots of it.

And was it any good, you might very well ask?

Yes, yes it was actually.  And I shall make it again – so there.

Interesting that the taste of the garlic was very apparent, but it did not overwhelm.  Nor did it make occasional appearances via a burp during the later phase of digestion.

See ? Never say never.  You live and you learn.

Version 2 of Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, with reference to Dracula

Strictly speaking this is not the classic Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino recipe.  However, and an important ‘however’ at that, the basis for this pasta recipe is unequivocally the said spaghetti recipe.  This version adds small amounts of cherry tomato, fresh mint, and freshly grated Roman pecorino cheese.  It has become my husband’s favourite way of enjoying it.

Dracula-Style Spaghetti with Garlic, Mint and Pecorino

 

The reference to Dracula in the title is all about the garlic.  As we all know, Dracula was a vampire, and vampires are fearful of garlic.  This post is very garlic-centric … so if you are not interested in the background stuff, please scroll down and go straight to the recipe with the photos.  Guaranteed to keep vampires at bay …

Many visitors to Italy have confided to me that they are baffled by the Italians’ hesitant,  wary and sometimes even snooty attitude towards this most necessary of recipe enhancers; they can’t fail to notice how niggardly most Italians are with the amount of cloves included in any dish,  or even how the garlic is removed altogether once it has been sautéed in olive oil towards the start of the recipe in question.

I personally hail from a family of garlic-galore inclination but this was eventually ironed out of me, gastronomically speaking, when first I began to cook regularly and enjoyed inviting people to dinner.  The most diplomatic among them would say something like, “Wow Jo! just how much garlic did you put in this dish!” and reach for litres of water or wine to tame the lusty lingering flavour on their palate.  I was rather mortified, naturally, but, nothing loath, forged ahead with my experiments in the kitchen, toning down the amount of garlic until I got it to  be ‘Italian-friendly’.   I had a colleague at work at the time who was very fond of me and would too often come within unwelcome exhaling distance,  her affection imbued with an overpowering halitosic souvenir of the garlic she had eaten the night  before – so it wasn’t as if I were not sensitive to the whole ‘garlic breath’ scenario.  She happened to be French.  Another German colleague was even more liberal with his daily garlic intake and literally ‘infested’ the lift.  One always knew when he had used the lift, his body left a garlicky smell-imprint leaving us in no doubt.  These days,  it would be the Romanians recently living in Italy who are likely to cause nostril-attack for the the whiff of garlic surrounding their person.  So yes, the Italians are finicky about garlic.

I have an inkling, moreover, that the Italians have always been pernickety about their garlic intake – the middle class, bourgeois or aristocratic Italians that is and in this respect they would have been no different from other toffs in other countries.  The poorer people couldn’t get enough of garlic and onions in their diet and their body odour was olfactive proof of this.  So the smell of garlic was most likely associated with peasant fare, with poverty.

We know, on the other hand, that garlic was not a ‘normal’ ingredient in the British kitchen until Elisabeth David’s popular books introduced Mediterranean flavours and recipes in the 1950s to a country that had previously been highly diffident of this Allium sativum, perhaps even deeming it exotic, not to mention suspiciously ‘foreign’.  Once the trend for garlic had set it, however, there was no stopping the garlic frenzy and the more-the-merrier became the mantra.

Not so with the prescriptive Italians, with their long history of local cuisine, which they are now appreciating more and more and looking to as a treasured heirloom: they are fully aware that garlic has its place in the kitchen, but it is one that has to be included with sedulous calibration.  You can’t just breezily throw in cloves of garlic any old how à la Jamie Oliver! no! you have to know just how many cloves, and you have to cook the garlic properly, making sure it doesn’t change colour beyond golden! Watching Italian cooking programmes on TV, reading Italian cookery books or magazines, and listening to pronouncements made by chefs at cooking classes, I was unanimously informed that garlic is ‘sweet’ if cooked over a low heat, and for a short time, and that once it has imparted its fabulous flavour, it should be deftly and cold-bloodedly removed upon pain of it then wreaking revenge upon the recipe, by turning it bitter and ruining everything.   Also, most chefs actually remove the sprout/germ from the garlic altogether.  It is ironic that this germ is sometimes referred to as the ‘anima’, the soul, in Italian.

I am always on the look-out for good quality when it comes to food, and that of course includes garlic.  For years now, I have been boycotting supermarkets as much as I can in any case for general reasons of business ethics but, when it comes to garlic, because of the supermarkets’ partiality to plugging garlic imported from China, India, Egypt and Spain.  Nothing against these countries but I can’t for the life of me understand why Italy needs to import garlic in the first place.  Second, Italian garlic tastes so much better – sorry, I do not want to offend anyone’s sensibilities,  but it does!  You need only one Italian clove for the equivalent of at least two or more as regards varieties from other countries.  (And ssssh, don’t tell the customs officers, but I have been known to smuggle in Italian garlic to other countries when I visit and my friends and family are glad that I did.)  The Italian garlic I use most of all (in that I have access to it) is the garlic from Sulmona in the Abbruzzo in Central Italy.  Other famous garlics in Italy hail from Vessalico (Liguria), Voghiera (near Ferrara), Polesano (from Polesine in the Veneto), Aglio bianco di Molino dei Torti (near Alessandria in Piedmont). These are all regions in the north of Italy.  The only famous garlic from the South would seem to be the Aglio rosso di Nubia di Paceco (close to Trapani in Sicily) but I have a feeling that more varieties exist in the South and just aren’t talked about.

Some people claim they find garlic undigestible – and who am I to disbelieve them?  Everyone knows the workings of their own body.  So … if you fall into the category of people who do indeed like their garlic but have to be careful not to be overpowered by it in their meals, you might like to discover the following tip.

Place the peeled garlic in a small pan with cold water.  Bring the water to the boil, or just before rather.  When the water bubbles about to simmer appear, drain the cloves.  Put them back in the pan, add more cold water and repeat the procedure.  Do it a third time.  This can even be done using milk.  What these three immersions in water do is make the garlic ‘milder’ without actually removing any of its taste.

I tried it.  It worked.  And here is a recipe for spaghetti.

1

Actually, first of all put the water on to boil.  Then grate the pecorino romano cheese.  I say ‘first of all’ because grating cheese is something I do not like doing, and so I either get somebody else to do it for me … or get it over and done with first myself so that I can breathe better.

2

Chop a mixture of parsely and mint.  Or parsely only.  Or mint only.  Whatever you prefer.  I don’t think basil would work in this recipe, however.

3

If you like heat, chop up some chilli or use chilli flakes.

4

Chop up a couple of tomatoes and remove as much of the pulp and seeds as you are in the mood to do.

5

Place the cloves of garlic in cold water.  One clove per 100g of spaghetti and one more for the pot, the way one puts in 1 spoonful of tea leaves per cup and one more for the teapot.

6

Turn on the heat.  When tiny bubbles of simmer rise to the surface, immediately drain the garlic.

7

Put the garlic back in the pan, add water and repeat the procedure.  Repeat the whole procedure once more.  Then slice the garlic into fairly thin slithers.  Thin slithers are required for this recipe.

8

Pour the best quality olive oil you have into a saucepan.

9

Add the garlic and only now turn on the heat.  Low.  Low heat.  We want the oil to be infused with the flavour of the garlic. The longer the garlic takes to cook the better.  Keep a beady eye on the saucepan at this point ! blink and you’ll have missed the second the garlic went from golden to burnt! And then it will be too late … and it will be a case of Oh Woe is Me! Garlic disaster.

10

When the garlic has reached its golden colour stage, add the chopped tomatoes.  And the chilli too, if you like it.

11

And now and only now can you turn the heat up a little, and get the tomatoes to cook.  A couple of minutes will do it.  The sauce is ready. Switch off the heat. Taste and add some salt if necessary.

12

Drain the spaghetti directly into the sauce and the saucepan.  Mix well so that the pasta is coated all over.    Add the herbs last.

13

Add the pecorino and eat to your heart’s content.  I like mine quite fiery so added more chilli flakes.

My husband and I ate these spaghetti very late in the evening, after we had come back from a day at the beach in Sabaudia.  To put it mildly, we were starving.  It took me literally 20 minutes from start to finish.  We ended up eating amounts that would be frowned upon in the course of a normal Italian meal, but thoroughly approved of when pasta is the only food for dinner.  In other words, we also ingested a lot of garlic.  And yes … lo and behold … no ‘heaviness’, no indigestion, no garlicky breath the following day.

Thumbs up !

Version 1 of Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

I realised the other day, as I was writing a fourth post on the classic and famed spaghetti dish, that it might be a good idea to post all four in successive order.  The post  you see below was written back in 2012, and the spaghetti eaten on arriving home at around midnight after a trip to London.  My blog at the time was called My Home Food That’s Amore.  And indeed, what could be MORE home-food than this!

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino

This is perhaps the hardest easiest pasta sauce to prepare.

The easiest because it requires few ingredients.  Hard because it can so easily go ‘wrong’ if not supervised with tender love and attention and without the benefit of a huge appetite.

This is the classic pasta dish to make at 2 o’clock in the morning when you’ve come home after a night out and though it’s bedtime, you can’t for the life of you understand why you’re so damn hungry!  It is also the classic pasta dish to make when you come home and realise with despair that there is nothing in the larder (or rather nothing that appeals to you in the larder) and you’ve got to leave in a little while and have to eat something to keep your pecker up!  In other words, never make this dish unless you are properly hungry.

We had just got home after a short trip to London last January, and it was almost midnight.  We were tired and hungry and in a bit of a post-holiday bad mood and I wasn’t about to bend over backwards to redeem the situation without support from other family members.  Thus, knowing that this support was unlikely to be proffered, I suggested I make spaghetti aijo, oijo e peperoncino (that’s the Roman spelling of this dish and the ‘j’ is pronounced as if it were a ‘y’) … everyone was happy and relieved.  I honestly couldn’t remember when I last had made this pasta, so long was it since I had been starving hungry!  It just shows what wanting-to-be-healthy can do to you sometimes to ruin your food options.

Plan on measuring about 25 ml of olive oil per person (that’s just under 1 fluid ounce).

Pour the oil into a pan and add a little bit more just for good measure.  Then use 1 clove of garlic per person … thinly sliced.  If you like more garlic, do  by all means add more.  The garlic must cook in the oil at a very very very VERY low heat, and that can take quite some time (about 10 minutes even).

This recipe calls for spaghetti.  No other kind of pasta will do.

And, contrary to every other recipe for garlic cooking in olive oil (at least so far as Italian cuisine is concerned), the garlic must cook until it turns slightly (but only slightly) brown.  At that point switch the heat off, and remove the pan away from the source of heat too.  I added a very small amount of chilli flakes … I would have added more had it not been for my daughter who has yet to master the delights of eating hot food.

When the pasta is cooked ‘al dente’, put it into the large saucepan with the oil and cooked garlic and add some parsley.  Mix well.

On the plate.  At which point I added some more chilli flakes on my plate.

What can I say?  This is just so satisfying in an atavistic way almost.  Me hungry … me want to eat … yes … Me happy because pasta gooooood.  Mmmm.  Yes indeed.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/spaghetti-aglio-olio-e-peperoncino/

When Life Hands you Cod (Baccalà)

Making lemonade with lemons is easy enough but what does one do when one is handed cod, and FROZEN dried cod at that, aha?

Actually, frozen dried cod is sheer bliss — and sssshhh! don’t say I said so to the fresh-fish police of whom I am an honoured member.  Dried cod or salt cod that hails from Northern freezing cold seas is known as “baccalà” in Italian and became a staple fish dish all over the Peninsula, even in cities such as Naples and Venice that live upon the sea, and certainly would not need to import fish from the waters of Scandinavia.  Over centuries, each region of Italy has developed its own approach to this fish and so, ironically, it might even be the most ‘Italian’ fish of them all.  Again, don’t say I said so.  (We Italians are very proprietorial about our recipes and perish the thought that an Italian recipe might rely on a foreign influence, puah!)

But back to cold-chain basics and the ease of the freeze.

I knew I would not have time to shop one evening last week and rummaged around in my freezer until my aching blue-tinged hand chanced upon a large fillet of frozen baccalà.  I removed it and popped it into a large bowl, poured water over it and left home only to return eight hours later.  Sigh.  To be  honest I was not in one of my gleeful “let’s make a great dinner out of nothing” moods.  Quite the opposite.  And sometimes, that’s when magic happens in the kitchen.  Full of resolve, hands on hip, mentally defying the idiocy of wanting to attempt such an undertaking at 8:30 p.m., I set about cooking three separate recipes with said one fillet of now defrosted baccalà.

See for yourselves.

P.S.  It’s a good job my husband is a patient man.  Also, that he likes to watch current affairs on TV while I concoct dinner.  So I would like to dedicate this post to him and also to Mr Victor Hazan, whom I know appreciates fish over meat.

I sliced the fillet into three.

First recipe was “Mantecato di Baccalà”, known as brandade in French.  Basically, it’s just a puré of the fish, and nice to eat with toast for instance.

1

I placed the cod in a small pan, adding enough milk to cover it, and slices of both lemon and orange zest.  Bring the milk to the boil and then drain the fish.

2

You can see the lemon and orange in the photo, which are to be removed at this stage. Add one clove of very thinly sliced garlic, some chives, and a good dollop of olive oil.

4

Blend the fish and keep adding the olive oil until you reach the right consistency.  Taste and see whether you need to add a little bit of salt? Definitely a twist of white pepper.  I ended up adding a wee wee dribble of milk too, for extra smoothness. Done!

5

And that’s how I served the brandade, eventually, surrounded by other goodies.  More about them later.

RECIPE NUMBER TWO – Braised cod with vanilla

11

I began by chopping an onion, quite roughly at that, and browning it in a saucepan over quite a high heat (I was in a hurry remember?) and adding some chopped up tomatoes after a while. A good sprinkling of salt, naturally.  I then added a vanilla pod and some olives to the sauce before deftly laying in the cod pieces, last.

12

It does not take long to cook the cod.  You can see the vanilla pod in the photo above.  The vanilla makes all the difference to the tomato sauce, rendering it more ‘interesting’ in a subtle way.  Also, it would seem I added some fresh rosemary for freshness.

RECIPE NUMBER THREE – FRIED COD

6

I wanted to fry the cod in batter, basically because I was going to fry some florets of previously cooked broccoli in batter too.  As all my friends and family know, I am an FFF: a fried food fanatic.  So … as to the batter … normally I make it another way.  On this last occasion I worked backwords.  I poured one cup of water into a bowl and added an egg, and whisked everything up.  I then added flour, by and by, until I reached the consistency of batter that I wanted.  A little dribble of olive oil and an ice cube to get it nice and cold and voilà – batter at the ready.

7

I dredged the chunks of cod in some flour.

8

I then dunked them in the batter.

9

And finally fried the cod and the broccoli florets.

10

Fried foods are eaten best hot, which is why I cooked them last.

So just for a recap, here are some more photos:

14

Brandade surrounded  by fried cod, fried broccoli and red pepper (yes, I cooked some red pepper too, it was in the fridge looking very lonely).

15

Vanilla enhanced braised cod.  By the way don’t you just love this ceramic dish? It’s a creation of Cassandra Wainhouse, who used to have a gorgeous shop in San Gimignano.

13

For crunch factor, I quickly fried some phyllo pastry just before we sat down.  It looks like mess, yes, but it worked a treat (I love this ceramic dish too – this one is from Ceramicarte in Certaldo, where Judy Witts Francini lives).

So there … cod is a wonderful fish to play around with, even when it’s frozen.  Take a look at other recipes I toyed around with in the past, perhaps some will grab your fancy:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/mantecato-di-baccala-and-brandade-and-quenelles/

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/a-spinach-appetizer-with-salt-cod-quenelles-and-fried-polenta-cubes/

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/salt-cod-anonymous/

Cabbage, Gorgonzola and Apple Roll

Favourite daughter is seeking new accommodation and returned to parental home in the midst of search.  She told me that her colleagues at work are very happy about this state of affairs because she shares leftovers with them from dinner the night before and that she reckons they are secretly hoping it’s going to take her a good long time to find her new residence for this reason, ha ha.  It turns out that many at her workplace are  vegetarians and can’t always partake of my menus but on the whole there is always at least one vegetable or other non-meat food that they too can enjoy.  So it was with these people in mind that I looked at a recipe that sounded a) incredibly easy to make and b) would suit the palate of all concerned.

Ingredients: puff pastry (bought), 1 egg (not in the photo below) olive oil, cabbage, apples and gorgonzola.  You could substitute the gorgonzola with another cheese of your preference.

1

 

Then … chop the cabbage, peel and slice the apples (I ended up using about one and a half), and lay them on the sheet of rolled out pastry.

It’s the sort of recipe that you can make even when you are on the phone with someone.

4Wet your knife before cutting the gorgonzola up … it can get very sticky.

56The apples get to go on last.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.

7Keep the sheet of paper under the pastry to help you roll it.

8910Remove the paper and daub the roll with egg wash (beaten egg).

11Bake in a fairly hot oven (200°C) for about 40-45 minutes – each oven is different so the cooking time will depend on your own.

1312These photos are just awful … but as it happened the phone DID ring just then and one thing and the other I forgot to take a photo of a nice slice looking pretty on a plate.

You are just going to have to trust me that this recipe is deceptively delicious to make! Everyone loved it.  Not just the vegetarians.

 

Cynthia Bertelson on French Food and Why I fear the Demise of the Contorno

I usually aim to make my posts light-hearted.  There’s too much gloom and doom in the world as it is so why would anyone want to read anything ‘heavy’ when it comes to a food blog.  There is a writer I very  much admire called Cynthia Bertelson; she knows so much about the history of food and I love reading her articles.  Recently she posted one entitled  “Speaking of France” in which she poses the question “Why is traditional French food so terribly unpopular at the moment?”  

IMG_4550

If you are interested in food in general, and how it affects our society, our cultures, our habits, I would urge you to read it.  It’s very interesting and not that long.  My comment on it I think is actually longer, tee hee!

I know that the only constant is change as the Eastern philosophies have been telling us for thousands of years but I’m not one for change for change’s sake.  If you are on my blog, right now, reading this … it must mean that you have even a passing interest in good food and eating well.  I want to encourage people to cook at home more, which is why I go to the trouble of taking so many photos, step by step, as I cook the dish.  Home cooking should not be difficult! or take too long! Or cost an arm and a leg!  Don’t let all those TV programmes and Instgram-sham hoodwink you into thinking otherwise.  Presentation is of course a beautiful thing but the content of the food is always more important.  End of Sermon.

Here is the link to Cynthia’s article and below is how I commented on it: https://gherkinstomatoes.com/2019/02/23/speaking-of-france

QUOTE: “I think that people now forget that nearly all cooking techniques we use in European countries and North America do indeed stem from France. Wealthy people and nobles from these countries did not eat the same way as their poorer fellow people and their chefs were either French or trained in French cuisine (the Russians too). In the region of Campania and the island of Sicily, which were under Spanish inspired aristocratic rule for a while, one of the kings married Marie Antoinette’s sister Caroline. This inspired a sortie of French chefs to this part of Italy, and their name was prefaced by the title “Monsieur”. The Italian pronounciation in the kitchen had a bit of trouble getting it just right and in the end it turned into “Monzù”. And the more learned Italians know of and still speak of the “Cucina dei Monzu”. Ironically, historically previous to all this, it was the Italian Caterina de Medici who brought Italian cooking skills to France. But the modern cooking techniques that are vital for good results in the kitchen were definitely developed in France. Personally, I have seen Italian cuisine morph into something that I have no trouble admitting is culinarily of a higher quality … but at the same time worries me. It’s turning into what I call French-style cuisine using Italian ingredients – could be dangerous in the long run because the whole point of traditional Italian cuisine is that it be simple, easy to prepare on the whole, and with few ingredients – which is why it has been handed down from generation to generation no problem. Now that the standards in terms of ‘technique’ keep rising, with restaurants presenting food more and more in what I call the instagram-obsessive-compulsive-disorder way, and TV food programmes aiding and abetting the trend, it may be that people in Italy will cook less, meaning find cooking more time consuming. And this might well lead to less home cooking, sigh. One of the saddest thing I notice in Italian restaurants now is the demise of the vegetable side plate, the “contorno”, which had to be ordered separately, giving the customer the choice of what he or she preferred. The vegetables are now increasingly presented on the same plate as the main course, the way I’ve always seen it done in the UK and in North America. The word for jazzing up a traditional dish in Italian is “rivisitato”, translated literally this means “revisited”, meaning ‘updated’. The reason for ‘updating’ many traditional Italian dishes is that they relied on a heavier fat content, I presume, or overcooked the ingredients – so the idea of improving on the original is not a bad thing per se. It’s all the other frills that bother me, the lengthier gilding-the-lily procedures and the disappearance of an actual name for the dish. Nowadays, the dish has to be described, listing all the ingredients. Who the hell is going to remember it ten months from now, let along ten years from now? “Rivisitato” is the Italian answer to yesteryear’s Nouvelle Cuisine.

We all know of the dangers of fast food … we should now start awakening our senses to the danger of haute cuisine techniques muscling its way into the kitchens in our homes.