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Cooking with "The Babbo Cookbook"

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#1 Stephanie Brim

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 01:52 PM

Pardon me if there's already a thread, but I haven't seen one in all my searching and I'm really interested in this book.

I happened to pick it up at the library on Saturday and I've been looking through it with various feelings since. I think most of it is wonder. I've never seen anything I'd rather eat more of than what's in this book. There are some particular selections which look especially incredible right now:

The acorn squash sformato; the sweet pea flan; the goat cheese truffles; the asparagus vinaigrette; the duck liver ravioli; the pumpkin lune; the spaghetti with sweet 100 tomatoes; the penne with zucca; the gnocchi with venison and rosemary.

My list goes on and on and about half the recipes in the book are on it. Not to mention the pasta recipe he gives, which I plan to try this evening. To give you an idea of how crazy I am, I don't have a pasta maker.

I would love to know if any of you have made things from this book. Today is just the pasta, but I plan on making more than enough for at least 3 dishes for Adam and I. For a first dish, I may start with the beef cheek ravioli, though I plan to use brisket due to the fact that I highly doubt that here, in this tiny town in Iowa, I'll be able to find cheeks. I do plan to ask, though. Then we'll go to the tortelloni with dried orange and fennel pollen, though the pollen is going to be hard to source around here, though. And then the one that intrigues me the most because, as most of the people on my father's side of the family, we love the weed: asparagus and ricotta ravioli. I plan to make the ricotta from whole, lightly pasteurized milk. My grandmother grows asparagus, but I tend to go the more labor intensive route; here in Iowa, it grows in the ditches along the highways in massive quantities in the early spring. The wild really does have a better flavor than the store bought variety, but home grown tends to be about the same. I can just get the wild stuff about 2 weeks sooner. :)

One other interesting thing about the book is that he mentions rhubarb being a 'nostalgic childhood memory', and I heartily agree. Both my grandmother and my great grandmother on my father's side grew it at home, and when my husband and I were looking for a house a few years ago I almost went with this one just for the four large plants that produced relatively large amounts of the stuff. As a child I used to eat the stalks raw, dipped in a little bowl of sugar, as a snack. If you don't like rhubarb in my family you're looked at a little funny. Hubby still doesn't get it.

Anyway, this is getting much longer than it was supposed to be.

Looking through this book made me yearn to live somewhere I could more easily get the ingredients used. Sourcing the things or coming up with suitable substitutions is going to be interesting and fun.

#2 amccomb

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 02:07 PM

I had a friend that recently tried to make homemade pasta without a pasta maker and couldn't get it thin enough. I wish you luck, though!

I've had this book on my wish list for awhile.

#3 Stephanie Brim

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 02:14 PM

I'll try and post a photo of my success or failure to get it thin enough. :laugh: One trick I've heard is to roll it out until you get it to a certain point, let the gluten relax, then roll again. You keep doing this until you get it as thin as you want.

Anyway, it's something to try. If you don't try, you never know what you can accomplish.

#4 psiweaver

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 06:32 PM

Can always order the fennel pollen or beef cheeks online. The pollen is usually better to order online anyways as you can get a better price etc.

#5 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:00 AM

Reviving an old thread.

I've been cooking with winter squash a lot lately, and discovered this intriguing recipe for Penne with zucca, onions, anchovies, and bread crumbs in Babbo. The combination sounded a little odd to me (starch with starch?), but given my success with other recipes in the book, I decided to give it a try.

The verdict? The squash (I used kabocha) became soft and caramelized a little, some of it "dissolved" and coated the pasta. The bread crumbs added texture. It was really delicious and a nice change from tomato sauce.

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Edited by FrogPrincesse, 07 November 2011 - 11:01 AM.


#6 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:21 AM

I made the guanciale from Babbo recently. The recipe could not have been easier, however it took me months to find the pork jowls. I almost gave up until one day I found a package in the freezer case at my butcher shop.

3 jowls, 2.5 lbs total.

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I added the cure (no pink salt in this recipe, just salt, sugar, peppercorns, and fresh thyme) and waited for 7 days.

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Then I let them dry in my spare fridge for about a month.

Here is the result...

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I could not be happier with the outcome. It's even better than bacon and you can really taste the thyme.

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#7 SobaAddict70

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 03:49 PM

His recipes usually work, amongst those I have tried. I have "Simple Italian Food", and many of the recipes therein have appeared at Po, Babbo and elsewhere.

#8 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 11:38 AM

SobaAddict70, it's also my experience that his recipes are pretty solid.

With the guanciale I made Pasta all'Amatriciana. I did not have bucatini so I used spaghetti.

The guanciale is cooked over medium-low heat to render most of its fat. It's not supposed to become crispy. With the store-bought guanciale that I was able to find in the past (only rarely), generally the whole guanciale was quite thin and mostly fat, with just the tiniest streak of meat, and there used to be little left after this first step because the slices were quite small. With my home-cured guanciale this was definitely not a problem, although I sliced it very thin (by hand).

The guanciale became light brown when cooked with the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Then it was simmered in the tomato sauce (I used the tomato sauce recipe from Babbo which is my go-to recipe). The pasta was boiled and then finished in the sauce, served with chopped parsley and a heavy dusting of pecorino.

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What can I say... This is the most delicious comfort food and was gone in no time. The texture of the guanciale was slightly crunchy which was great, and its taste porky and rich. It's worth curing the guanciale just for this dish, for sure.

#9 larryroohr

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 05:17 PM

The couple of Mario's recipe's I've tried have been simple and very good. The sage/lemon/butter sauce comes to mind. The simple part was refreshing for someone as time starved as I am. I do enjoy the big projects, but for quick and good I really like his cook books.

#10 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:37 PM

My little guilty pleasure... the Blood Orange Cosmopolitan from Babbo.
Charbay's blood orange vodka is really good in this drink. I think it's one of the rare vodkas flavored with actual fruit.

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2 oz blood orange vodka
1/2 blood orange juice (I used moro oranges)
1/4 lime juice
1/4 Cointreau
Orange twist, up.

#11 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 02:17 PM

I made the goat cheese truffles from Babbo for a cocktail party. They are just fresh goat cheese seasoned with salt and pepper and rolled into bite-size truffles. Half of them were dipped in poppy seeds, which gave them a great texture and a nutty taste. The other half was dipped in pimenton (Spanish paprika). In the book he uses fennel pollen for a third variety but I could not find it.

They are really addictive and take little time to make. In the book he serves them with peperonata and baguette toasts.

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Edited by FrogPrincesse, 04 April 2012 - 02:17 PM.


#12 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:49 AM

I bought duck eggs from my favorite vendor at the farmers' market, Schaner Farms, and got a bunch of pencil asparagus in my CSA bag yesterday, so I made the Asparagus Milanese with parmigiano and a duck egg from Babbo.

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The duck egg yolk makes a wonderful "sauce" that coats the asparagus - it's richer than a regular egg. I love it.

Edited by FrogPrincesse, 27 July 2012 - 10:26 AM.


#13 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:56 AM

There was also this dish from the Dinner thread that I made a few weeks ago. It's a fresh locally made pasta (lemon roasted black pepper linguine) with Babbo's basic tomato sauce (recipe here).

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I added homemade whole milk ricotta, arugula, and parmesan.

The shredded carrot in the tomato sauce is such a nice addition. You can't really detect it but it adds a little bit of sweetness.

#14 Okanagancook

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 03:30 PM

Recently made the beef cheek ravioli. Did not have beef cheek so used some organic beef shank. The base for the ravioli sauce is Chicken Livers Toscani. Wow. Very nice combo. I too have made the Guanciale and the Duck Bresaola. Both are very easy and very good.

#15 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 04:28 PM

Recently made the beef cheek ravioli. Did not have beef cheek so used some organic beef shank. The base for the ravioli sauce is Chicken Livers Toscani. Wow. Very nice combo. I too have made the Guanciale and the Duck Bresaola. Both are very easy and very good.

I've had the beef cheek ravioli dish and it has a fantastic flavor, very rich!

Speaking about ravioli, I made the "Love Letters" a while back (the recipe is available here). The filling is peas and mint, with a robust spicy lamb/merguez sauce which is based on the basic tomato sauce. The flavor was phenomenal, well worth the effort.

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I also made the asparagus and ricotta ravioli last year for Easter using homemade ricotta (sadly, no picture).
I prepared them ahead of time and froze them between sheets of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. They were very delicate and delicious.

#16 SobaAddict70

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 10:58 PM

SobaAddict70, it's also my experience that his recipes are pretty solid.

With the guanciale I made Pasta all'Amatriciana. I did not have bucatini so I used spaghetti.

The guanciale is cooked over medium-low heat to render most of its fat. It's not supposed to become crispy. With the store-bought guanciale that I was able to find in the past (only rarely), generally the whole guanciale was quite thin and mostly fat, with just the tiniest streak of meat, and there used to be little left after this first step because the slices were quite small. With my home-cured guanciale this was definitely not a problem, although I sliced it very thin (by hand).

The guanciale became light brown when cooked with the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Then it was simmered in the tomato sauce (I used the tomato sauce recipe from Babbo which is my go-to recipe). The pasta was boiled and then finished in the sauce, served with chopped parsley and a heavy dusting of pecorino.

Posted Image

What can I say... This is the most delicious comfort food and was gone in no time. The texture of the guanciale was slightly crunchy which was great, and its taste porky and rich. It's worth curing the guanciale just for this dish, for sure.



The Babbo tomato sauce is overly complicated, I find.

Not every sugo has to start with a battuto, and not every battuto is comprised of onion, celery and carrot. Some have fennel, some have celery leaves, some use ham or lard, pancetta or olives.

Marcella's sauce -- the one with the butter -- has just three ingredients: tomatoes, an onion cut in half and unsalted butter. Works like a charm and is delicious with ricotta or potato gnocchi.

Personally, I view Mario's books as the training wheels of Italian cookbooks. Great to start with, but there are better out there.

#17 Okanagancook

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Posted 28 July 2012 - 10:35 AM


Recently made the beef cheek ravioli. Did not have beef cheek so used some organic beef shank. The base for the ravioli sauce is Chicken Livers Toscani. Wow. Very nice combo. I too have made the Guanciale and the Duck Bresaola. Both are very easy and very good.

I've had the beef cheek ravioli dish and it has a fantastic flavor, very rich!

Speaking about ravioli, I made the "Love Letters" a while back (the recipe is available here). The filling is peas and mint, with a robust spicy lamb/merguez sauce which is based on the basic tomato sauce. The flavor was phenomenal, well worth the effort.

Posted Image


Posted Image

I also made the asparagus and ricotta ravioli last year for Easter using homemade ricotta (sadly, no picture).
I prepared them ahead of time and froze them between sheets of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. They were very delicate and delicious.



I've got home made marguez sausage and pasta in the freezer and fresh garden peas along with more mint than I know what to do with so I'm going to give this a go. Thanks for posting...good timing.

#18 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 03:55 PM

I've got home made marguez sausage and pasta in the freezer and fresh garden peas along with more mint than I know what to do with so I'm going to give this a go. Thanks for posting...good timing.


Okanagancook,
You are very welcome, let me know how you like this recipe.

The Babbo tomato sauce is overly complicated, I find.

Not every sugo has to start with a battuto, and not every battuto is comprised of onion, celery and carrot. Some have fennel, some have celery leaves, some use ham or lard, pancetta or olives.

Marcella's sauce -- the one with the butter -- has just three ingredients: tomatoes, an onion cut in half and unsalted butter. Works like a charm and is delicious with ricotta or potato gnocchi.

Personally, I view Mario's books as the training wheels of Italian cookbooks. Great to start with, but there are better out there.


SobaAddict70,
I don't find the recipe for the basic tomato sauce in Babbo to be very complicated. I tried a bunch of other tomato sauce recipes before settling on this one that I really like because it is straightforward and has a good flavor. The recipe does not call for celery by the way, just onions, garlic, a little bit of shredded carrot, fresh thyme, and canned tomatoes. Making it takes about 10-15 min of active time and 30 min of simmering on the stove.

As for Marcella's sauce, it is indeed very simple but different from what some might expect from a tomato sauce due to the amount of butter used. I like it though, and think that both sauces have their use.

Lastly, I am not sure that I would consider Babbo as a good book for beginners. Most recipes are relatively involved or require hard-to-find ingredients. I actually bought it years ago and only started cooking from it fairly recently for these reasons. I am sure there are plenty of other great Italian cookbooks out there, but that is probably off-topic.


#19 Okanagancook

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:22 AM

FrogPrincesse, the ravioli dish was indeed worth the effort! Made a dint in my mint plant though! I agree that this is not a book for beginners in terms of technique and ingredients.

#20 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 11:34 AM

I got a gorgeous piece of California King salmon from Catalina Offshore yesterday and happened to have most of the ingredients for the King Salmon with Cucumbers and Balsamic Vinegar.

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The salmon is cooked on a plank in the original recipe after being brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I cooked it on a cast-iron skillet, skin first.
The cucumber salad accompaniment has sliced shallots, scallions (I substituted chives), mustard seeds, pink peppercorns (which I omitted), red wine vinegar and olive oil.
The salmon is served on the cucumber salad with a drizzle of aged balsamic.

It's a great week-night recipe with minimal cleanup needed. With fish as good as this King salmon, you don't need to do much to it other than making sure that it is cooked properly.

#21 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 09:58 AM

There are good desserts too in the Babbo cookbook. Last weekend I made the Espresso Torrone with Drunken Cherries. It's a frozen nougat made with honey and caramelized sugar, egg whites and whipped cream. The texture is very light, similar to a mousse (semifreddo). I used a local dark avocado honey for an extra boost of flavor. I could not find coffee extract but used extra-strong espresso to flavor the torrone. There is also a little bit of amaretto in there.

Making the torrone in the stand mixer.

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The torrone is frozen for a few hours in the freezer but it retains a soft texture. For the plated dessert, it is topped with dried cherries rehydrated in sweet vermouth with a vanilla bean. Next time I won't reduce the vermouth as much because I ended up with very little sauce (or I will just increase the amount of vermouth!).

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This was an unexpected flavor combination that was very good - honey + almond + coffee for the torrone, cherries + vermouth. The dessert is very light and I enjoyed the texture of the torrone.

Edited by FrogPrincesse, 18 October 2012 - 09:58 AM.


#22 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 04:19 PM

Grilled lobster with lemon oil and arugula
This recipe is actually from an earlier book, Mario Batali Holiday Food. Small book but lots of interesting recipes. Anyway, since recently the prices for live lobsters have been incredibly low (I can get them for $6 or $7 a pound at my local 99 Ranch), I've been looking for good lobster recipes. This one uses the grill. I've grilled lobster before and used the simple method where you just cut them in half, grill them shell side down first and then cut side down for a short time, before eating them with lemon juice and melted butter.

I was happy to find a similar but more elegant version of this recipe in this book. The main difference is that the lobster is cooked whole on the grill initially, which seems to prevent it from drying out, then cut in half and replaced on the grill. The best part of the recipe is the infused marjoram oil that is used to season the lobster before serving. It's made with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and limoncello infused with marjoram for an hour. This oil has a fantastic flavor. I had forgotten what marjoram tasted like and it's phenomenal with lobster - herbal with citrus undertones, but delicate at the same time.

The marjoram sprigs are tied together to form a brush (visible in the background) that is used to season the lobsters before serving them on a bed of arugula. I've made this recipe twice and it's immediately become a favorite.

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As a side note I recommend detaching the claws when killing the lobsters, and leaving them on the grill longer than the body, otherwise they won't be cooked through.

For those interested, the recipe is available online here.

#23 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 06:05 PM

Here is the Halibut in Cartoccio from Babbo that I posted in the Dinner thread some time ago. It's a good weeknight recipe. The principle is simple. You place your fish fillet together with thyme, grapefruit segments and puntarella (a variety of chicory, which I omitted) in a papillote and add some white wine before sealing it. This was a local halibut. It stays very moist with this preparation and the grapefruit and thyme just highlight the flavor of the fish. I used foil but parchment paper works too.

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I served it with acorn squash and kale that I prepared separately, but if you include the chicory or some other type of greens in the papillote, then you have a complete dish with no pot/pan cleaning necessary. I decided to plate the dish but you can also just bring the sealed papillotes to the table and have each person open their own.

#24 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:35 PM

Last night I made the Linguine with Clams from Holiday Food. After frying sliced garlic in olive oil until golden brown, the clams were added and cooked (lid on) with white wine and chopped canned tomatoes, together with the juice of the tomatoes and some red pepper flakes. I used fresh squid ink linguine which I boiled for a couple of minutes, and then cooked for an additional minute with the clams over high heat. I added chives at the end because I did not have any parsley on hand. It was delicious and ready in 10 minutes or so.

If I remember correctly, the recipe called for only 1 pound of clams for 4 to 8 people. We love clams and had this as our main course, so I increased the amount to 2 pounds for the two of us. We were happy with the portion size.

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#25 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 02:48 PM

Grilled lamb chops scottadita with cumin yoghurt from Mario Batali's Italian grill

 

Fresh mint, lemon zest and sugar (s+p) are chopped in a food processor and the mixture is spread onto the lamb chops. I grilled the lamb chops on a charcoal grill which only took a few minutes. On the side, yoghurt with cumin from freshly-ground & toasted cumin seeds. I opted to serve this dish with broccoli rabe from my CSA, blanched and then sautéed in garlic, olive oil and shallots. Simple and flavorful.

 

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I found the recipe here.
 


Edited by FrogPrincesse, 19 March 2013 - 02:52 PM.


#26 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:46 AM

Yesterday I got a pound of ultra-fresh local shrimp. For some reason they were missing their heads already (which may very well be the best part...). Anyway, looking for a nice dish for them I found the Shrimp in Crazy Water in Holiday Food (the recipe is also available online here). I happened to have received a fennel bulb and some garlic in my CSA, so it all came together nicely. The aromatic base is diced onion & fennel + sliced garlic and hot chiles (I used dry chile de arbol). They are lightly browned in olive oil, and then a can of tomatoes is added with a generous amount of white wine and some salted water. The broth is simmered for about 10 minutes, then the shrimp are added. This is a very quick dish (less than 30 minutes total) with a ton of flavor. I used a Pouilly Fuisse for the broth. Fennel fronds are used as a garnish with fresh cracked pepper.

 

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