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Maureen B. Fant

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  1. As for rinds, I cut them into small pieces and keep them in an air-tight box in the freezer for minestrone. As for the kilo of vacche rosse (and congrats to the OP), the best would be to divide it and vacuum pack one piece. The screwdriver and mallet idea is not half bad. At the source they would do it with a wire-type cutter, but the other way would be to take a large parmigiano knife (the almond-shaped kind) and score the rind, then put the point of the knife in the score and whack it, repeating along the line of the score, the idea being to break the cheese rather than cut. However, if you can manage to cut it with a chef's knife, that is perfectly fine. Then for smaller pieces, break it with a parmigiano knife (small is fine) or something pointy, again, letting the cheese break along its natural fissures. For grating, the old-fashioned star-shaped holes are what you want. Microplane now makes a grater like that, which I love, but any old-fashioned grater will do. For haste and/or quantity, I have had good results grating in the Thermomix (Bimby in Italy) and Cuisinart. I have never gotten anywhere with the rotary grater, but I known many people swear by them. If you want shavings, like for a raw-mushroom salad or carpaccio or something, use the kind of cheese slicer that looks like a small spatula with a slot near the handle. Other than chunks for eating straight, those are the only two formats in common use.
  2. This is what we wrote about salting the pasta water in "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way": The freewheeling, eyeballing casual Italian approach to measurement can be deceptive. When it comes to boiling the pasta, everyone in Italy knows the metric formula: for every 100 grams (3½ ounces) of pasta, 1 liter (1 quart) of rapidly boiling water is needed, and 10 grams (2 teaspoons) of coarse salt are added along with the pasta. Thus a pound (450 grams, but call it half a kilo) takes 5 liters of water and 50 grams (about 3 tablespoons) of kosher salt (or half as much fine table salt). That nobody ever actually measures to get the exact quantities is beside the point. ... Kosher salt is generally considered the closest equivalent outside Italy to ordinary Italian coarse salt, called sale grosso. (There are no religious implications.) If you use ordinary table salt (sale fino), use about half the amount of kosher salt. You can (and should) taste the water to check. It should be pleasantly salty. Some people say it should taste like seawater, but not all seas are equally salty. Just make sure you can taste salt. And speaking of the sea, it doesn’t have to be sea salt. Nothing in Italian tradition dictates any particular kind of salt, either in the water or in the sauce, but some salt is essential. You may adjust the suggested quantities to personal taste or diet, but pasta boiled with no salt at all will never taste right. Most pasta doughs do not contain salt, and if they do, it is only a pinch. The pasta will absorb its salt from the water as it boils, and this is essential to the final flavor of the dish. I repeat: you will never get the right flavor adding salt late or too stingily.
  3. The editor and I were amazed that the sales force liked the bottarga picture for the cover, but apparently bottarga is now mainstream. When I saw Martha Stewart recipes for bottarga, I understood that things had progressed while my back was turned. In any case, I'll grant you most people probably don't already have it (yet), but it actually is perfect to keep in the fridge for last-minute meals.
  4. Not a typo! It's Shakespeare. Macbeth. Oh, good! I didn't recognize the Elizabethan spelling. I'm relieved to know that such a simple error was, in fact, mine. You are most gracious. It was a battle with the proofreaders too. I knew I was taking a chance with the phrase, but I love it.
  5. Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, which Oretta and I cowrote, has sections on sauces, soups in which pasta is used, and fresh pasta, plus a long introductory section that is sort of a user's manual for pasta.
  6. It's the everything I don't know. What would be the closest to a nice tennis-ball sized crisp, acidic, green-tinged Italian salad tomato? We also use greenish San Marzano. Are your raw romas green? (yes, of course, in season!) Thank you!
  7. Putting final touches on a manuscript. I explain that Italians prefer firm, tart, greenish tomatoes for salads or raw use in general (not including the whole cherry tomato spectrum, which needs to be red), but editor has asked me to name varieties that North American readers can find. Can anyone throw me a rope? Many thanks.
  8. Thank you. The ideal ricotta should be very creamy and require draining overnight and have a very definite ovine taste. Please post when you taste yours.
  9. I'm trying to find North American sources for ingredients in recipes I'm writing. Found lots of anchovies and capers and other Italian imports, which is great, but now I'm down to the fresh stuff. There are sheep farms making ricotta, but my one experience, a few years ago in the Hudson Valley (NY state), was a bust. It was hard and dry. What we have in Rome is creamy and dreamy and you have to drain it overnight before cooking with it. www.dairysheepfarm.com sells sheep's milk ricotta, but I'd love an objective description if anyone has tried it. Any other ideas on this? Even cow's milk ricotta would do if it was nice and creamy. Many thanks!
  10. For Calabria, there is now "My Calabria" cited in another post. Perhaps you mean Campania for Arthur Schwartz's magnificent "Naples at Table." I hope I'm allowed to mention a book I translated, forthcoming from University of California Press: "Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio," by Oretta Zanini De Vita. Not sure when it's coming out, but it's all edited and in production. It's a revised and expanded version of "Food of Rome and Lazio: History, Folklore, and Recipes."
  11. I feel your pain! I'm in the process of finalizing measurements for a slew of recipes whose origin, in the metric system, took no account of standard sizes and are all over the place. On top of that, a knowledgeable American friend urged me to think in cupfuls for the people who buy gigantic cans at Costco. My advice to you would be to measure the cups with the liquid in the can -- which is increasingly a sort of tomato sauce. You may not want that extra sauce, but it is too substantial to throw away. Count the can as the full 14 oz (and let us urge American cooks to use the scale more and the measuring cup less) and, when measuring cups, measure everything. Plopping whole pelati in a measuring cup may give a slightly different reading than if you cut them up, but I wouldn't worry. No tomato sauce needs that much precision.
  12. I've never heard of using cheese with pasta e fagioli. For me it's a summer dish, with fresh borlotti beans and tomatoes, served at room temperature. No pork either. Cook the beans, make a tomato sauce with onion and a large piece of chile. Add the sauce to the beans. Cook maltagliati or tubettini either separately or in the bean pot if there's enough liquid. Obviously you can do the same thing in the winter with dried beans, but in the summer it's a lifesaver for terrace dinners.
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