Fast Food Anyone? The Quickest Way to Make Pasta e Ceci

Cooking should not be a race – but then neither should life and at times we have to cook meals in a hurry.  “Ceci” are chickpeas/garbanzo.  When combined with some pasta in a thick soup, flavoured with garlic, a hint of tomato and an infusion of rosemary, it makes for a very inviting repast.

Made some today for lunch for my daughter and she recalled how often she made this recipe when she was at university.   So I have decided to dedicate this blog post to my lovely niece Emily, who just started at Uni in September.

Another plus is that the ingredients are easy to find and cheap too.  So, what more could one want?

The only relative ‘downside’ is that there is one utensil that is required and that is a hand-held blender, and not every student might have one.

INGREDIENTS:

1 glass jar of precooked chickpeas, 1 clove of garlic, salt, tomato paste, fresh rosemary, a short-shaped pasta.

PROCEDURE:

Put the kettle on the boil or boil some water in a saucepan.

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Drain the jar.

IMG_1423Divide the chickpeas into two bowls (or mugs or glasses).  Let’s name the bowl on the left A and the bowl on the right, with the fork in it, B.  Well, bowl B has slightly more chickpeas than A, say 60 percent versus 40 percent.

IMG_1424.JPGYou’ll be needing a squeeze of tomato paste.  One clove of garlic and about 50g of pasta (per person).  I didn’t have any short-shaped pasta – only spaghetti.  But that’s okay, spaghetti can be snapped into bit size morsels.

IMG_1425.JPGSlice the garlic clove into three pieces.  Squeeze a teaspoonful amount of tomato paste.  And slather the bottom of a small saucepan with enough olive oil to muster the required amount of fat in this dish.  Remember, no fat no taste.

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Turn the heat on, and begin the cooking process.  The garlic has to cook until it goes golden.

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Now add the 40% amount of chickepeas (the smaller bowl, bowl A). Use a wooden spoon to mix the tomato paste into it.

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Don’t forget to add some salt too.

IMG_1430Now add one to two ladles of the simmering water to the mix. Enough, anyhow, to cover the chickpeas.

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Remove the saucepan from the heat and use a hand-held blender to process its contents.

IMG_1432Now, using another, slightly larger saucepan … we can proceed with the recipe.  Place the 60 percent, bowl B, amount of chickpeas to this pan.

IMG_1433Transfer the other processed ingredients into this saucepan.  So now we have whole chickpeas as well as processed chickpeas swimming together.  Turn the heat on.

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Snap your spaghetti into matchstick sized pieces.  And add them to the soup.

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Mix with a wooden spoon.

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Add as much simmering water as is required.  Basically, you are cooking this pasta e ceci the way you would a risotto.

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Don’t overdo it, for now, add just enough water to cover the ingredients.

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I love rosemary and rosemary pairs super well with the chickpeas in this recipe.  Carry on cooking until the pasta is cooked al dente.  Keep an eye on the process, you might want to add a little more simmering water, you might need to give the soup a swirl with a wooden soup to avoid it sticking from the bottom of the pan.  The rosemary will lose some of its colour.

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Once you have tasted the pasta for its ‘doneness’ … remove the rosemary, or as much of it as you can, and then swirl some more extra virgin olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with freshly milled pepper.

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Looking good eh? Inviting?

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Not finished.  Not, that is, if you enjoy some grated pecorino cheese over it.  Which my daughter does.

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Time to eat.

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Considering that the pasta takes about 10-12 minutes to cook … this whole recipe took less than 20 minutes to cook from start to finish.  Now that’s what I call fast food.

I had written about a very similar recipe a few years ago:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/pasta-e-ceci/

And about another one including mushrooms:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/chickpea-and-pasta-soup-with-a-mushroom-finish/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Tart Up Tomato Soup

Personally, I don’t think tomato soup needs tarting up, I really like it.  Who nowadays, however, does make tomato soup from scratch or even dreams of ordering it in the unlikely situation of a restaurant listing it on its menu? It would strike one as being so passé, correct?, so gastronomically over and done with.

Tomato soup is the sort of fare one might associate with an Agatha Christie tale of mystery and murder on the Orient Express, in a TV period-drama series (right up Downton Abbey’s gastronomic alley I’d say), Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books maybe, or even in short stories set in drab hotel restaurants of the 1950s.  Cream of Tomato Soup would probably have been included in Derek Cooper’s 1967 “The Bad Food Guide” from which I quote the following extract under “A Certain Lack of Dignity”:

“He always starts with soup whatever it is … He has half a bottle of Blue Nun Liebfraumilch whatever he’s eating and she has a Port to start with and then half a bottle of some kind of Sauternes.  He has boiled potatoes with every lunch and either peas or carrots or, when it’s in season, asparagus which he’s very partial to.  She picks her way about among the expensive dishes but usually has steak Diane because she likes the drama at the table.”

Makes for depressing reading all of this.  So much in contrast to the soup’s cheery bright red colour.  I don’t suppose the hue of  this soup played any prompting role in Andy Warhol’s painting of Campbell soup tins/cans in 1962?  Head scratching doubt, probably not.  “While visiting the Pittsburgh-born provocateur in the midst of Campbell’s Soup Cans’ production, art dealer Irving Blum was so impressed that he offered Warhol a show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. … Not only was the Ferus Gallery show Warhol’s first solo exhibition of pop paintings, it was also the first time Pop art had been displayed on the West Coast. No matter what the response was, this was a history-making event” (http://mentalfloss.com/article/71814/16-things-you-might-not-know-about-andy-warhols-campbells-soup-cans).

History in the making and tins of soup, hey.  Whatever else can be discarded from the descriptives of tomato soup, artistic primacy and fame now cannot.  We can definitely say that, thanks to Warhol, tomato soup is ‘historic’ in some way.  So why is it that it has become a rarity and most likely not even heard of by people under fifty years of age?

I do remember tomato soup at the dinner table when growing up abroad but not at home in Italy – home being chez my Nonna, my Italian grandmother after whom I was named.  As your average Italian home cook still abiding by the only cuisine she knew, i.e. regional food, my Nonna who was from Frascati never made the Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro (which is a thick tomato soup mopping up a lot of dry bread).  I had heard of “pappa al pomodoro” by the time I was eight only because the singer and actress Rita Pavone sang a song about it in a children’s TV series based on a book called The “Diary of Gian Burrasca” (translation: Johnny Tempest), featuring the scrapes and adventures of the exuberant/naughty boy Giannino Stoppani as he fought against the rules of the grown ups and the dickensian system of a boarding school.  Well, this Johnny Tempest’s song said that a pappa al pomodoro was worth fighting a revolution over but it didn’t sound very enticing to me, I have to say.

Click on the photo to activate the video.

The first time I did get to eat a pappa al pomodoro, I smiled inwardly remembering how much I had loved that TV programme. For the record, much as I liked the taste of my first pappa al pomodoro, I can’t say I was blown away by it.  It was nice but nothing to write home about.  I did instead have an Aha! moment with the version I got to eat last month, in the countryside in Tuscany, and indeed I think I shall write a post about it, it was that good.

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Back to tomato soup.  While I continue to this day to love Heinz baked beans on toast, I don’t remember ever buying a tin of any soup, it just didn’t seem ‘right’ to me, even back in the day.  We didn’t ‘do’ tins in our Italian home, the only ones I spotted were those containing plain plum tomatoes.

Commercially produced tomato soup used to be available in a dry version too, in packets.  All one had to do was pour boiling hot water over the mixture and wait for it to rehydrate, even in a large mug.  This was quite a staple of mine during my last year at boarding school.  I’d add some cubes of cheddar to it and hey presto! my hunger pangs were curbed.

I suppose I grew up thinking that tomato soup was somehow French or English in origin.  Witness my surprise then when I found out that the Italian chef, gastronome and food writer Ada Boni included Cream of Tomato soup in her now legendary cookery book “The Talisman of Happiness” published in 1928.  I found out via my next door neighbour Rossella, who also loves to cook, only a few years ago, who pronounced it delectable.  More eyebrow raising when I discovered that some béchamel was included in her (i.e. Ada Boni’s) recipe.  I had never had it served like that before.  I ventured to make it and it was fine, very nice indeed.

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As the authors Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham comment in their book “The Prawn Cocktail Years”, “It is a curious thing that when you go to the bother of making a proper home-made tomato soup with very ripe tomatoes (essential), fresh herbs, decent home-made stock and cream, you end up with a soup that looks identical to and has an almost interchangeable consistency with what is very probably the world’s most popular canned soup: Heinz Cream of Tomato.  The taste, however, is quite different.”  Their version  is similar to Ada Boni’s, except for the addition of garlic and whipping cream.  Ada Boni eschewed any kind of stock, too, and added a bayleaf in the process, as well as parmesan at the very end.

All this to say that it is high time we resuscitated the popularity of tomato soup. It can be served with buttery croutons, or cubes of mozzarella, or grated parmesan.  Or, it can be served as a main course when paired with cod.  Talk about tarting it up!

My friend Liz made this recipe for us a week ago and I found it so delicious that I nearly lost sleep over it (not really, but I did send her a congratulatory whatsapp just before crashing at almost 1 a.m. and that’s after having imbibed a gals-night quota of fermented grape juice, if you catch my drift).  The long and the short of it is that I just had to have a go at replicating last night.  And here is what I did.

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There is a secret ingredient: a vanilla pod.  So what you see in the above photo is a biggish saucepan containing lots of olive oil (extra virgin), 1 vanilla pod and 1 clove of garlic, slightly smashed.IMG_1329IMG_1330These were the freshest tomatoes I could find.  I cut them in half and showered plenty of salt over them.  The salt tames their acidic content as well as bringing out the best in terms of taste.  I then placed them in the saucepan and turned the heat on.IMG_1332I let them cook with the lid on for 45 minutes, checking up on them now and then.IMG_1335This is what they looked like 45 minutes later.  I removed the lid and let them cook for another 15 minutes, again over a fairly low heat.  So, cooking time all in all about 1 hour.

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Set aside for now.IMG_1348This is the cod I had bought from my fishmonger’s that morning.  Enough for two to three servings.  I removed the skin myself.

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I placed the pieces of cod in an earthenware/terracotta pot and poured enough olive oil inside to cover them.  I also added a few pepper corns.

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Yes, an awful lot of olive oil – enough for them to be able to swim in it.  The olive oil, by the way, is Quattrociocchi’s extra virgin.  Definitely one of my favourites.  It’s from near the town of Alatri, in Lazio and has won countless prizes in competitions all over the world.IMG_1351I had turned the fan oven on at 180°C and placed the pot in it to cook … until it was ready, which took around 20 minutes.  Now, this is where I differed from Liz.  She told me she had baked her cod at about 90°C, half the heat I was dealing with.  The reason I took this short cut was that … it was getting really late and I had two hungry people looking forward to their dinner.  Liz’s cod took about an hour to cook if I remember correctly.IMG_1352While my cod was baking, I got out my trusty Italian style food mill.

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I removed the garlic and the vanilla pod from the cooked tomatoes.  The vanilla had swelled up.IMG_1354I processed the tomatoes and what you see above is what got thrown away: the seeds and the skins.IMG_1355And this is what came through: a luscious, silky cream of tomato.  Tasting pretty good already.  It is amazing what the vanilla can do!  You can’t actually taste a vanilla flavour as such and yet it confers a je ne sais quoi to the tomatoes that brings on a happy mood.IMG_1356Liz had used the olives from Liguria known as Taggiasca that cost an arm and a leg and are worth it because they are so wonderful. I didn’t have any so made do with a more humble black olive. I peeled the olives off their pip or stone or whatever you call that thing that can crack a tooth.

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Liz had fried her olives in some olive oil.  I went crazy and using a small saucepan, sautéed some extra garlic, a teensy amount of red chilli, roughly torn basil leaves and the bits of olive.  Only for the  briefest of sautéing time.  I poured the oil through a sieve and set aside.

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I put the cream of tomato back onto a source of heat, tasted, and then added a tiny amount of salt that it definitely needed (but no sugar hey, the vanilla saw to that – plus the tomatoes were pretty good stuff).

The cod came out of the oven sizzling as you could see in the video.

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I got so excited at this point.

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I removed the cod from the oil.  I poured the oil I had filtered into the soup, as well as the olive bits,  I added fresh basil.

I plated up and served.

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It as not as fine as Liz’s insuperable and for me Proustiaan first taste of this recipe but it was jolly good, even if I say so myself.   Mmmmm … I’m wanting some more even now, looking at the photos.

IMG_1365Fortunately for me and my risk-taking decision to use a much higher heat, the cod turned out to cook to a beautiful consistency.

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One final comment … these photos are of the recipe seconds before the soup got eaten so my concession to aesthetic presentation took a bit of a back seat.  I revel at the photos I see on instagram and other food blogs and I really do admire the fine photography of the bloggers in question.  I can’t keep up I’m afraid.  What you see in my photos is what real food looks like in a real home with plenty of hungry people silently, or not as the case may be, telling you to stop the faffing about with the iphone camera now, and can we please sit down and eat.

P.S.  In case you are wondering about what happend to the olive oil the cod got cooked in.  I filtered it and am going to be frying some veggies in batter with it tonight.  Waste not, want not.

Nieves makes Paella for Us

Our friend Nieves Alberruche is an artist who can’t help but infuse her creative bent into her cooking.  Or her kitchen, I love the entrance to her kitchen.

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She hails from Spain (Madrid) and adores Dalì but she would never dream of Dali-fying the dish she makes so well and that we all adore: paella.   The paella she made for us last week looked like this:

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And was preceded by a delicious gazpacho.

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Two years ago, I photographed Nieves as she went about making her delectably more-ish paella. What follows is a blow-by-blow account of how she prepares it … and believe me, it’s worth all the effort.  But first a word of cautionary apology: I read just recently via Tracey Macleod that “true Valencians never eat paella at night – that’s really the mark of a rube, like drinking a cappuccino after lunch in Rome.”  Sigh.   However, hers being a Valencian paella, Nieves did almost stick to tradition, it contains only local seafood; strictly no meat.  (It is not supposed to contain vegetables either but Nieves decided otherwise – I told you, she’s an artist.)

Another ‘artist’ friend of  mine, the food writer Gareth Jones, who tragically left us two years ago, wrote a very engaging blog about paella and arroz, and I would encourage you to read it, here is the link: http://www.garethjonesfood.com/?p=2362

But now  … on with Nieves and HER paella.

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It all starts with a dog.  You have to have some kind of pet or loved one to keep you company as you cook.  Meet Walter.   The family dog.

Nieves says that one has to be thoroughly organised and have all the ingredients and equipment at the ready so as to avoid dither.  Hence … large clean glass or mug (to use as a measuring cup), a water jug, the rice.  Peeled and sliced onions and garlic, olive oil (lots of olive oil!), red capsicum and peas or green beans in one bowl. Sweet paprika (“pimenton”). Cleaned fish in another bowl.  Manila clams somewhere else and, last, whole prawns. Also needed are a few pinches of saffron, salt and 6 lemons. Cut 4 lemons into wedges and squeeze the other two for their juice.

One glass of rice per person.  Two glasses of water per glass of rice.  Pour all the water inside a water jug to make things easier (that way, you don’t have to keep running to the tap to refill the glass).

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It is also mandatory, I would say, to use a proper paella pan. Indeed, the pan itself is called a ‘paella’.  The Spanish colonization of southern Italy must surely have something to do with the fact that the Italian word for a pan is “padella” ….?

It all begins with a good amount of olive oil spread out over the paella pan.  Enough to cover the entire surface of the paella. That means a lot of oil, don’t be afraid !

Switch the heat on, cook the onions and garlic over a low heat, and then scatter some peas (frozen at that) and slithers of de-seeded red capsicum (red peppers).   Very low heat, we don’t want to scorch the ingredients, just make them ‘mellow’.

A prodigious amount of “pimenton” is then added, i.e. the sweet paprika.

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As you can see, Nieves quickly made sure the paprika combined with the other ingredients. She says it must not ‘cook’ for more than a minute or so at this stage, otherwise it will become bitter.  We are still cooking over a low heat.  Hence …


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In went the rice, all in one energetic go.

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And, by the looks of it, Nieves proceeded to spread the rice and let it ‘toast’ for a bit – not unlike the procedure for making risotto.  One big difference is that the rice has to be spread very thinly in this case.  Sprinkle salt over the rice before spreading it around. Rice, after all, requires plenty of salt if it is to acquire flavour.

Oh and about the rice in question, if it can’t be the Spanish bomba, it should at least be a short-grained one (i.e. the oryza sativa): no basmati or jasmine or other Oriental rice.  I expect Nieves used a plain Italian Arborio rice.

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Time to add the water to completely cover the dish. Now also add the pinches of saffron. The saffron should not overpower the taste of the delicate fish. A vast (and very expensive!) amount is certainly not required.

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Fishy flavour can be called into play now, in order to enhance the broth, with the congregation of mussels and calamari that are introduced at this point into the bubble, bubble, toil-but-no-trouble paella.

At no time did Nieves stir the rice.  If anything, the rice must be left well alone until all the liquid has been absorbed, and left to cook longer than one would think.  That is because it is supposed to develop some crust underneath, as well as around the edges.

Nieves added  prawns too, but later on, after about 15 minutes (they take less time to cook).  Her advice is to sink and lightly crush their heads into the rice (using a spoon or toothpick) so that any liquor can also go into making the paella tastier.

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When she deemed the dish ready, she infused the paella with plenty of lemon juice.  She then decorated it with wedges of cut lemons.

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Now is the the last-minute tweak moment: turn up the heat so as to allow the bottom part of the rice to develop a crunchy crustiness.  Then, obviously, switch the heat off. And remove from the burner.

18Looking good, eh? Final touch? Spread a clean tea towel over the paella so that the steam can imbue its magic, helping the overall texture of the dish.

A paella should be served just warm … never hot. Squeeze more lemonjuice if you so desire.  By the way, you will be surprised to discover that all that oil ‘miraculously’ disappears into deliciousness. Skimp on the oil and  your texture will be brittle and horrid.


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Walter heartily approved !  Gracias, grazie, thank you Nieves!

P.S. If you are interested in what makes a true paella, you need to read about Guillermo Navarro.  It is he who has been behind the wikipaella.org pages.

Guillermo Navarro: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/how-to-make-the-perfect-paella-guillermo-navarro-says-youre-doing-wrong-heres-why-9549422.html

Link to Wikipaella.org: http://en.wikipaella.org/receta/public/resultados

Tracey MacLeod on paella: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/how-to-make-the-perfect-paella-guillermo-navarro-says-youre-doing-wrong-heres-why-9549422.html

 

 

A Searing Saga Sequel – Part 3

I am getting a bit sick of this searing saga title(s).  I promise you this is the last one!

Having ascertained that reverse searing can be a very useful technique when cooking steaks, I thought I would try it out on roast beef.  Now, when I say ‘roast beef’ I mean roast beef the way Italians think of it which is not the way the Brits would. For starters, the cut of meat is not the same and often it gets cooked on the stove top rather than roasted in an oven.  It tastes really nice by the way! Just ‘different’ – and it is eaten, thinly sliced, at room temperature (usually during summer months).  I wrote about this a few years ago: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/roast-beef-the-italian-way/.

I asked my butcher to give some meat for the roast beef, all 1.6 kg of it.  I forget which cut it was but I seem to remember the shoulder.  Whatever: it would not be the cut of beef that I would ordinarily use to make a classic roast beef.

Anyway, I began this time by turning the oven on at 200°C – the only reason being that I blithely forgot to consult the article I had read on reverse searing (which advocated 50°C as it turned out).  I think I had a gut feeling that with such a large piece of meat, it was better to deal with a higher temperature.  Also, instead of the 30-minute oven roast … I opted for 40 minutes.  Searing it in an iron saucepan turned out to be a bit of a challenge on account of its shape, which made it wobble.  It wouldn’t sit still  the way the steak did, and in the end I used a fork at either end to curtail its rocking and rolling.

All in all: good results, not difficult to make, and tasted good.  What more could anyone want?

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4It doesn’t look very fetching at this point.

5And, as you can see, its bent shape means that it was difficult to keep still while I heaved and ho-ed getting to sear it.

Use a cast iron saucepan.  My favourite olive oil: Quattrociocchi’s.

8Coat the meat with plenty of salt and olive oil.

9And place it in the iron saucepan only after it has become very hot.

1011There, now.  Finished.

12I am so glad I let it cook in the oven for a little bit more (i.e. 40 minutes instead of 30).

13We had some for dinner that night.  And the rest got put in the freezer, to savour in the not so distant future when the temperatures will soar and we can enjoy it at room temperature with some rocket leaves and shaved parmesan.

15It was nice that evening with mustard and with home-made horseradish.

14Favourite daughter came for dinner that evening and stayed the night.  There were some leftovers for her to take to work.  So that’s another good thing about roast beef .  It can be sliced very thinly and a little goes a long way.

Glossy Baked-Tomato Sauce for a Summer Pasta

When Winter is finally over, and Spring is being enjoyed, all of a sudden I get a craving for Summer.  Weird, isn’t it? My musings based on nostalgia (looking back) somehow have the power to stimulate future-oriented cravings in me.  In this case, the yearning is for a pasta recipe that is eaten at room temperature during the season when tomatoes taste the best: i.e. Summer.  I wrote a post about it I for the “Giardini di Sole” blog but unfortunately it got ‘lost’ in a technical mishap.   All of us at “Giardini di Sole” (Sandy, Libby, Liz and I) love to cook , and we are not beyond the commission of excess in the kitchen department.  Husbands, family and friends don’t seem to mind so I can’t see us reining in any time soon.  This is Liz Macrì’s recipe.

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It was one of the dishes we prepared for our Open House day in the Showroom (SOWA) in Boston in May 2013.

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So, let’s take a look at the ingredients:

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Fresh basil, garlic, Italian or panko type breadcrumbs, olive oil, salt, black olives (pitted), capers and anchovies packed in oil.  Oh! and tomatoes, of course, the little cherry kind, cut in half, the cut half facing the ceiling.  You will also need parchment paper to line the baking trays.  A tip: it is not always that one has access to fabulous tasting tomatoes, so it’s not a bad idea to sprinkle a little sugar over them.

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So … after liberally strewing capers, sliced garlic, sliced olives and ribbons of basil over the tomatoes, douse the tomatoes with olive oil and, finally, sprinkle a dusting of breadcrumbs.

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Don’t forget to sprinkle salt.  I would do this first, actually, now that I come to think about it.  It’s probably best to sprinkle some salt over the tomatoes before you begin doing anything else.

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Pop the trays into a preheated oven, on a fairly low heat, 120°C, and cook until they are ready.  This can take any time between 40 minutes and 1 hour.  It all depends on the oven and the amount of tomatoes being cooked.

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And here they are, looking gorgeous, just out of the oven.  Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, you will have cooked some pasta and drained it when it was very much al dente.  Check the packet for suggested cooking time and drain the pasta 1 minute before. Choose any kind of pasta shape so long as it is short.

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After draining the pasta, spread it out evenly over a clean towel, so that it will cool down quicklier.  Once cooled, drizzle some olive oil (not too much) and mix well. This is to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

If you want to eat the pasta straight away, you can do without the above step.  If, however, you want to eat the pasta later in the day, or even the next day, you can store the pasta in the fridge, sealed with clingfilm.  It’s best not to eat the pasta cold, so remove from the fridge at least one hour before eating.

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This is the dish we brought to our Open House Day.  Good food tastes even better served in beautiful plates!

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IMG_8205And here we were, just minutes before people started coming in to our Open House, May  2013.  From the left: Liz, myself, Sandy and Libby.  Alanna, a close friend and staunch supporter, took this photo.

Consumer Friendly Consommé

Clear soup, that’s what we are talking about.  Something frightfully old fashioned.  I have only heard about it in books or films or TV series like Poirot or other Agatha Christie storylines.  I thought I’d give it a go.

Ingredients for my easy version:

500 finely minced/ground beef (a cheap cut), 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stick, a few cloves, 1 bayleaf, 1 egg white.

Place all the ingredients in your pot and add cold water – about 1 litre or just over depending on how ‘strong’ you want it.

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You can just about make out the bayleaf up at the top there.4This is the egg yolk that gets left behind; do NOT put it in the stock.  The egg white serves to ‘clarify’ the soup.

5This is a photo to show the egg yolk in the soupd but it’s not very easy to spot.  What I have spotted, instead, is a celery leaf – and that is a major no-no when making stock/broth.  Rule of thumb says no leaves except bay leaf.  Now that I am writing this post, I remember what happened.  I didn’t have any celery in the fridge and these measely leaves were all I had.

Add salt.

6Use a whisk or other utensil to shake things up a bit, to unloosen the minced beef.

7Turn the heat on and give it a good stir.  And I mean stir! Stir energetically for a few seconds.

Then, let it be, let it simmer over a very low heat for about 40 minutes.

8And this is what it looks like.  See how ‘clear’ the stock is?

9Drain the soup-making elements.  I would love to say one could make something of the meat that is left behind … but basically all the taste has been boiled out of it.  So … be kind and give it your dog.

10And now you are ready to serve.  Taste it first, in case it needs more salt.

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12Who says old-fashioned can’t be exquisite?  Please note: consommé is to be drunk straight out of its cup, no spoon soup to be used.

Try drinking a glass of sherry with this, and proceed with wine for the rest of the meal.

P.S.  I actually did not serve the consommé straight away.  I let the consommé cool down and refrigerated to use the next day.  When it came out of the fridge it was a bit like jelly.  Nor was the liquid clear any longer  – and I was mortified.

No worries:  Once the consommé got heated up again, it regained its former glory in look and feel and tasted delicious.

Swordfish with a Pecorino Imbued Sauce

Anyone who has lived in Italy for any length of time, or even visited it for a brief spell with a gastronomic field trip in mind, will come to know that fish and cheese are not bed mates in this country.  Horror of horrors to any law abiding Italian is – perish the thought – the addition of parmesan or other cheese to any pasta dish featuring a creature of the deep or even surface seawater.  The only exception I am aware of is pasta using mussels and pecorino.

And then, out of the blue, my English friend Michelle Smith who has lived here for over 35 years tells me that one of her favourite seafood pasta dishes involves swordfish and pecorino.  Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.  “Doesn’t the pecorino overwhelm the swordfish?”, I enquire with eyebrow raised and lips pursed to one side of my mouth in disbelief.  She assures me that it does not though of course one mustn’t overdo it with the grated pecorino.  Hmmm.

The thing is … my family are not great lovers of swordfish.  The last time I even ate swordfish was in Sicilly, during a memorable holiday in July of 2014.  We had lunch at the family restaurant on the water which is featured in so many Inspector Montalbano TV series, called “Enzo a Mare” (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/montalbano-land-and-enzo-a-mare/).

And then Friday afternoon (Tuesdays and Fridays are the traditional days for eating fish in Italy) I decided we simply had to have some fresh fish for dinner.  So off I trotted to Monteporzio Catone, a little town up the hill from Frascati, where I know I can find a very good fishmonger open in the afternoon.

The first thing I espy are oysters, French ones at that, and so I make my mind up on the spot that I shall need a few of those just to get me going on the supper.

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I look around and decide that, though I may not marry pasta with it, it’s about high time I had a go at swordfish and pecorino.  And while we’re at it, why not get some juicy anchovies to fry, dusted with flour?

And this is my bounty once I got home (aside from the oysters above):

5A big fat thick slice of swordfish, some gutted anchovies and a lovely bunch of saltwort – barba di frati or agretti, as they are called in Italian.

5aThe agretti are blanched in salted water, draind and set aside.

7The anchovies are thoroughly dusted with flour.

6They are then deep fried in groundnut (peanut) oil at the appointed time.

 

I also found some lovely asparagus, which I trimmed and washed and then sliced into two or three constituent parts.  I proceeded to simmer them in salted water for a minimum time, drain them and quickly plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking process.

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I know that I shall have need of both lemon, oranges and parsely.  The lemon was from the Costiera amalfitana and the orange from Sicily.  What a lucky girl I am indeed.

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Once the asparagus had cooled down, I placed them around the edge of a large platter.  And added some orange slices in the middle.

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And now it was time for a bit of cheesy alchemy.  Olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsely, grated pecorino romano cheese … and a squeeze of orange juice. And a squeeze of lemon juice.

9Process all the ingredients.  Taste … and add a bit of water, a bit of salt.

10The final flourish is the glug of olive oil (evoo naturally).  Stir and stir, taste and taste, add a bit of this, add a bit of that … and Bob’s your uncle.  This is definitely not the typical Sicilian salmoriglio sauce but … even so … most adequate.  The pecorino is hardly detectable as an individual ‘cheese’ component, and yet imparts some sense of oily gluttony that is just the business for this sauce.

11Pat the swordfish steak until it is dry on both sides, using kitchen paper.

Time to get dinner on the table!

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Plenty of olive oil and plenty of dried oregano (I don’t have fresh at this time of year, sorry).

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Once the heat has got going, add the steak and cook on one side over a fairly high heat.  For .. sorry, I can’t remember how long.  But not too long … maybe three minutes? Enjoy the sizzling sound.

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And then turn it over.  And let it cook on the other side until the pink in the middle of the steak goes a pale white.  Another three minutes?  Whatever.  I don’t like raw fish unless I am eating sushi or ‘crudo’ or ceviche but I do know that swordfish must not be overcooked either. Sprinkle a little salt at this stage.

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Once I think it is done … I cut the steak in half.  Half for me and half for my favourite husband.

16Plonk the halved steak on the seving dish, over the slices of orange and surrounded by blanched asparagus.

17Serve on the individual plate.

18Pour the green sauce.

Enjoy.

It was lovely.  Not overpowering, and the tang of the orange and lemon making it very fresh.  And the ‘secret’, very discreet, ingredient, the grated pecorino, contributing that sense of fatty satisfaction that can only delight a palate.  I was lucky, I had intuited how much pecorino to mix into the sauce.  Any more and it would have been too much.