July 2020 Challenge - Italy

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Nothing wrong with sharing info. In fact it is very much appreciated!
I just think that teamfat meant that the discussion (authentic or not and allowed or not) should be done (held) respectfully.
With which I fully agree :)
Indeed. And it was. :)

I'm familiar with teamfat teamfat . I don't think he meant to be offensive or disrespectful.
 
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“Lightening it up”... a summer pasta.

Despite my American and ancestral propensity for heavier southern Italian and Sicilian dishes, here’s my nod to the north!

Short tubular pasta with freshly made sweet I-talian sausage, grilled summer squashes and arugula (rocket to some) in a sauce of virgin olive oil and Parmesano Reggiano.

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.... and a sprinkle of oregano from the garden.

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Stay tuned for the conclusion!

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I'm familiar with teamfat teamfat . I don't think he meant to be offensive or disrespectful.
True, I was just trying to come up with some clever way to work the 'leave the gun, take the cannoli' scene into this thread. I could have done better I guess.

O bought most of what I need for chicken piccata, a favorite of mine. While browsing Youtube I came across a series of videos from Buon-A-Petitti where an Italian grandmother, Gina, makes various dishes. Good stuff. Might do her chicken francese instead of piccata.

mjb.
 
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Some years ago my wife Karen and I went to an Italian restaurant a few blocks away. I ordered one of my favorites, chicken piccata. What was set in front of me was chicken, I think, but piccata? No way.

There were two little capers on the plate. If lemon juice was involved it was rationed out with an eyedropper. Or maybe the sauce was not made in house, but just ladled out of a 55 gallon drum of Chef Boyardee's finest. It was one of those meals I'll remember for a lifetime, but not for good reasons.

The Players

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Chicken, of course. I actually bought a whole chicken, cut out the backbone and split it. Did a leg quarter in the air fryer for dinner the night before. Tasty. Got a nice slice off the breast for this meal. When I buy a chicken there's at least three meals in it. The supporting cast included capers and lemon, of course, as well as a couple of anchovy filets. And some nice white wine, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Monkey Bay. And the usual pantry staples like salt, pepper, flour, butter and olive oil.

The Procedure

The chicken was seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged lightly in flour. Olive oil and butter in a pan, medium heat, chicken added when hot.

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I might have let the butter get a bit too brown, but it didn't have any effect on the final flavors. After couple of minutes on each side the chicken was removed to a plate. Heat cranked up a bit, about half a cup of the wine went in, reduced for maybe 6 - 7 minutes. Pasta water put on to boil earlier, getting close. After the wine reduced about half a cup of chicken stock was added. It was a very nice batch of homemade stuff, very gelatinous, sort of a chicken demi. Capers, anchovies and the juice from half of the lemon.

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Got it reducing, put the angel hair in the water.

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You know, if you get the camera too close to the steam coming off the boiling water, picture quality might suffer.

Chicken put back in the pan, splashed with the sauce, heat turned off. A couple tablespoons of butter stirred in slowly. Chicken put back on the plate, the pasta drained then stirred into the sauce.

The product

Pasta and sauce laid down on the plate, chicken on top, some more sauce spooned over, parsley to garnish.

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Maybe I overdid it a bit on the sauce. But wow, this had flavor, brightness, acidity, everything that bland, limp and lifeless sludge I got at the restaurant years ago did not have.

And of course, there was still most of the wine left in the bottle.

mjb.
 
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I made "Pasta al Pesce Spada" today - pasta (whole grain rotini) with swordfish. The sauce was cherry tomatoes, parsley, capers, olives, garlic and olive oil. The rotini really held the sauce such as it was. The sword fish was cubed then sauteed in evoo and garlic with peperoncino, salt and pepper. I removed the fish then added the other ingredients to the same pan then added the fish back right before the pasta went in with a ladle of pasta water. Finished with a grating of Pecorino-Romano, parsley and fried breadcrumbs. Simple, light and fast - perfect for summer!

 
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I've been making this dish from The Frugal Gourmet for many years. When I get the texture of the zucchini just right along with the pasta, which I prefer to cook in this case slightly more than al dente, the simple combination of ingredients is quite remarkable. It may be Mrs Hanks favorite pasta dish.

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Zuchinni, pancetta, Parmesan, garlic and cream. And pasta and olive oil.

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I am delighted to see that the challenge has caught off well. I also see that the theme I've chosen has provoked quite some heated debate about what should or should not be included, whether authenticity is a meaningful pursuit, what constitutes authentic Italian cuisine, etc.

I was thinking when deciding on the theme and gravitating towards Italy whether I should allow Italo-American dishes, as I expected that since many members are from the U.S., they would be most familiar with the latter and therefore likely to post those dishes. Primarily, of course, I had Italy proper in mind, but I just didn't want to exclude any diaspora, as interesting novelties and stories might come from there, too. And I love stories about food.

Plus, what's the point of ''disqualifying'' Italo-American dishes? First, I don't know much about them, and there might be something interesting for me to learn. Second, I get to choose the winner anyway. So yes, all diaspora counts.

I believe it was Iceman who rightly pointed out that there are many ''authentic'' versions of any one dish in its place of origin. However, I disagree with the flat-out dismissal of the pursuit of authenticity. Yes, there are variations on, say, pasta all'amatriciana around Amatrice - some put in onions, others believe they have no place in the dish; some insist on guanciale, others allow pancetta; some insist on a specific pecorino, others allow any pecorino, maybe even parmesan or other similar (possibly non-sheep) cheese; fresh or canned tomatoes, you get the point. But there are limits. Using ketchup instead of tomatoes might occur in some household, but it'll surely considered bad cooking, and rightly so.

At the same time, we shouldn't perhaps be ''too'' authentic. As Coleman Andrews put it in his Flavours of the Riviera:
"Take that plate of ravioli, for instance. The old-fashioned Genoese recipe for this popular dish includes, in the filling, not only lean veal, sweetbreads, and calf's brains but also spinal marrow and heifer's udder. Now, if we leave out these specific ingredients (the last of which is considered particularly important to the flavour and texture of the dish in Genoa), we are obviously not being authentic. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we are able to find calf's spinal marrow and heifer's udder - the latter, at least, is sold in this country, in various kinds of ethnic markets, but is hardly common - and do include them in the dish. Sorry, but we're still not being authentic. Why? Because these are, for us, speciality ingredients, unfamiliar, even exotic; the whole point of ravioli is that is uses bits and pieces of commonly available raw materials, which udder and spinal marrow are, or at least were, to the Genoese. If we track them down and use them, we might echo the flavour of the original - but we will alter its whole spirit.

Does this mean we shouldn't try to make Genoese ravioli? Of course not. We just have to adapt the recipe to our own circumstances - just as a Genoese cook would do if he or she were suddenly set down in a kitchen in Blackburn or Brighton and invited to prepare the dish. Adapting doesn't mean making it with minced turkey and low-fat ricotta, but it might mean leaving a few things our, or making a few educated substitutions."


I believe it worthwhile to attempt authenticity in a dish, without going into extremes such as tracking down heifer's udder to make ravioli. Cooking, like all arts, is subjective to a large extent, but not completely so. There is a measure of objectivity to it, just like there is a measure of objectivity to music, literature, sculpture, etc. In short, I don't believe in postmodernism.

My personal approach is to try to understand the ''spirit'' of a dish, the place it comes from, what kind of people created it and why, and then go for the spirit, not necessarily 100 % replica of a stone-set recipe. And can we try to improve it? Or improvise something entirely ''new'' in that spirit? Certainly. Massimo Bottura was right when he said that we should look at the tradition not in a nostalgic way, but in a critical way. But we should first look at it, learn the ''rules'', and only then start breaking them. You might disagree, that's my approach.

Anyway, sorry for this detour, I'm looking forward to many more of your entries. Keep cooking! :)
 
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Eggplant Parm ... Casserole Style

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I've got a 3-year-old helping me so the ingredients of the second pic didn't make it into the first pic. The herbs, oregano, thyme and basil all came from my garden.

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Rough chopped sun-dried tomatoes, a good sized shallot and 3 smashed garlic will all go into a sauce-pot of screaming hot oil (1/4+ cup) for sizzling. The canned tomatoes get sautéed just to cook out the liquid. Everything including some shakes of woosty-sauce goes into the food-pro for serious blitzing. The end product is my "tomato-jam". I will be using this for my next 2 dishes. It's my home-made tomato paste.

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Everyone into the pool. Mix the bageebies out of it and then into the casserole. It's topped with some melty cheese, some sprinkle cheese and a few grinds of pepper ... then into the oven.

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Out of the oven ... it's gotta rest a bit ... then served up.






"We work in kitchens. ... It ain'te rocket surgery.".
 
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Eggplant Parm ... Main-Dish Style

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Pealed the eggplant maybe 70%. Sliced it long-ways. Breaded it standard 3-bowl style, but I use a bag for the first flour step. It works nicely.
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Fried it up nice.
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Mixed up and heated some tomato sauce. A big glob of the paste I made for the last dish and a can of chopped Italian-style tomatoes (they were out of the fire-roasted that I usually use). I threw in the minced herbs too; basil, thyme and oregano. Pretty much unnecessary but they come from my garden and I got that 3-yo kid involved.
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I stacked it up in layers. I used a cast-iron skillet. NO real purpose for that, I just didn't have a small casserole handy. As it turns out you will see that it was a nice situation. Six(6) stacks high. LOL. Into the oven it goes.
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OK ... Gotta go to page (2). ... Only (10) pics per page.
 
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The other night I made a squid and shrimp stew/gumbo thing. No roux just leeks, jalapeno peppers, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, white wine, tomato paste and tomatoes + seasoning. It hit all the right notes (I think). I made jasmine rice with onion, turmeric, parsley and apple juice for 1/4 of my cooking liquid (I wanted a sweet rice with color). Worked out pretty good.

Tonight I took enough rice to pack two 4oz. ramekins then mixed a small egg, some grated parm, seasoned panko breadcrumbs and seasoned well. I microwaved those to set the egg then turned them out in a hot buttered pan to brown then turned while I reheated the squid/shrimp stew. The results were so much better than the first night (after so much work) and I would serve this to anyone, or even put it on a menu.



Soakin' up that liquid -
 
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Pasta Bolognese

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You could pretty much use any pasta you like. I used what I had. I really love the sauce grabbing texture of this "bronze die cut" stuff. Bolognese is a "meat" sauce. There is a tomato component but authentically NO fresh or cans of tomatoes. YES ... you can use them if you like.

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Ruff-chop the veggies and blitz them up in the food-pro util they are the consistency of the meat (85/15 ground beef as usual). I used to grate the veggies but I learned from a chili competition that by blitzing everything they kinda disappear when everything is cooked. I like this idea. The green in the onions are the herbs oregano and thyme; from my garden prepped by my 3-yo great grand-daughter; the "kitchen sniper".

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Cook out the veggies until they are dry in the pan. Add the meat and garlic. The idea is layering and building the flavors as you go. An enameled cast pot is very nice here for building fond on the bottom. I'm kinda poor so I'm using a non-stick pot. Trust me that fond and brown-bits are what you are going for. Funny thing ... but you're just cooking the meat. You're really not looking for color. When everything is cooked, add the tomato paste and a few good heavy shakes of woosty sauce This is the tomato jam I made 2 recipes ago. Stir the bageebies outta everything and cook.

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Add the wine and reduce on simmer for at least 20-minutes. I added the chopped basil here too. Add water along the way if you need to. We're developing flavors here which makes the simmering important. When all the liquid has generally reduced out, add the cream or milk. Stir and simmer for maybe 5 more minutes until you get a beautifully silky texture.

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Served up two(2) different ways on two(2) different pastas. Same wine in both glasses though; the same sturdy delicious Chianti used in the sauce; <$5 bottle. Dressed with Romano curls and Parm sprinkles and a drizzle of oil. That green stuff should be parsley, but I didn't have any and I didn't want to go get any. I use some minced basil.




"We work in kitchens. ... It ain'te rocket surgery.".
 
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Over halfway through the month, and some really nice looking entries. I was expecting more pizza, chicken alfredo and spaghetti with meatballs :)

I picked up some nice veal shanks yesterday, should have an osso buco done soon. Didn't get another pork belly yet, will pass on making pancetta for this challenge, not really enough time. Might still do some, post in the Slow Food Challenge.

Keep up the good work folks!

mjb.
 
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Did someone say PIZZA? Here it is - down and dirty in thirty. Dough as stretched as it was, simple tomato sauce, garden basil, freshly grated Swiss and Romano, anchovies and shiitake mushrooms. I have to say it was really, really tasty.


 
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So the final week of the challenge. Glad I'm not judging this one, some great looking stuff so far!

My plan was to do a four course meal: appetizer, pasta, meat, dessert.

Two of them are done and documented. The first is the appetizer, carpaccio of beef. I had thought the dish was around for a long time, surprised to discover the recipe is only about as old as I am. And I do like how it was named.

The Players

Obviously, beef.

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This rather unappetizing looking blob is 3.5 pounds of beef tenderloin (?) of some sort.

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Some fresh arugula.

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And stuff for dressing the beef - lemon, olive oil and parm reg.

The Process

First off the beef was trimmed up, peeled of silver skin and a nice hunk cut out of the middle.

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This looks more like what you think of when you hear beef tenderloin. It was wrapped in plastic wrap and stashed in the freezer for about 2 hours. Taken out, and cut into thin slices, so much easier when nearly frozen, and slicing with the plastic on helps.

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I had been having a discussion about knives with a friend, and felt like digging out my trusty old Chicago Cutlery 66S slicer for this task. Lovely tool.

The slices were then pounded between parchment paper to get them even thinner.

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The beef was arranged in a circle on a plate, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Arugula piled in the center. Some olive oil and lemon juice drizzled over both the greens and the beef. Some more fresh ground black pepper on the arugula, shavings of the parmesanio reggiano atop.

The Product

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It was typical Italian fare. A few fresh, quality ingredients combined with simple preparation resulted in a very delicious food experience.

mjb.

ps: and I had 3 pounds of filet mignon left over to devour as I saw fit!
 
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