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Maureen B. Fant

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Posts posted by Maureen B. Fant

  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. 

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  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. 


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  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. That does look like a swell book! I've just been admiring the lively writing style and the well-turned phrases in the Kindle preview on Amazon. (Alas, a typo jumped out at me in the second paragraph: "ravelled sleave of care" in an otherwise lovely sentence.) I can see this cookbook in my future, despite the fact that I'm currently weeding my collection because I Have Too Many Cookbooks. It promises to be a treat to read and an education in the kitchen.

    Nelson87, your copy should have arrived by now. Do let us know what you cook from it, and how you like it!

    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.

    • Like 1
  5. That does look like a swell book! I've just been admiring the lively writing style and the well-turned phrases in the Kindle preview on Amazon. (Alas, a typo jumped out at me in the second paragraph: "ravelled sleave of care" in an otherwise lovely sentence.) I can see this cookbook in my future, despite the fact that I'm currently weeding my collection because I Have Too Many Cookbooks. It promises to be a treat to read and an education in the kitchen.

    Nelson87, your copy should have arrived by now. Do let us know what you cook from it, and how you like it!

    Not a typo! It's Shakespeare. Macbeth.

  6. Thanks Franci. She has another book comming out Oct 14, '13. See below link


    Nelson87 in Southern Connecticut

    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.

  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. 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!

  9. I would like to build up my cookbook collection on specific regions of Italy. I know of very few truly excellent English-language books in this vein.

    For Venitian cooking I know only Da Fiori

    For Calabria I use Arthur Schwartz's underrated but wonderful Naples at Home

    For the Garfagnana there is Cesare Casella's exceptional Diary of a Tuscan Chef

    For Sicily I use Anna Tasca Lanza's Heart of Sicily (though not as often as I should).

    What are essential books or lesser known gems that one will return to with something resembling frequency?

    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."

  10. Marcella Hazan often uses the following formula to specify a quantity of tomatoes:


    2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, prepared as described below, OR 2 cups canned imported Italian

    plum tomatoes

    , cut up, with their juice


    Is there a concensus on eG as to how to read this, or a definitive definition, even ?

    As I understand it a standard 14oz can of tomatoes is 400ml volume, of which 240ml - a cup - is tomatoes. So do I use the complete contents of two tins here ? Or lift out the tomatoes, cut them up and use them together with the juice that cutting them releases ?

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. Thanks. I take it performance otherwise is good? I keep hearing about the oven being small. On the scale of things, that is low priority for me, but within reason. I hope never to have to roast a turkey in it, but a large fish, possibly, or a lasagna.

  13. Anyone have anything new to say on this? I am going to need a 24-inch gas stove -- gas cooktop, gas oven -- for a mini-kitchen in a New York pied-à-terre. The Bertazzoni wins the beauty contest, and there isn't much out there at 24 inches, it seems, but it's a lot of money and dependability is as important as performance. It's not my main kitchen. I'll be cooking, but not living in the kitchen as I do at home. BTW I live in Italy and never heard of Bertazzoni till I saw it in a NY showroom.

  14. Looks like overkill. I have two little gadgets (one would have sufficed, but I can't resist), one a thick Pyrex disk, the other a metal disk, both about three inches diameter. You just toss one or the other in the pot of water. It rattles around to tell you the water is boiling and keeps the pot from boiling over while you cook the pasta.

    I believe I bought both in Italy, the Pyrex one definitely. They work. Someone once explained the science to me, but I am incapable of summarizing it. Something about the dispersion of the bubbles.

  15. Thank you all for all these valuable thoughts. Unfortunately, you make a very convincing case for both sides of the question. The situation is this: I live in Rome, where I cook a LOT and have a modest but fully equipped and functional kitchen and store pans in the oven, which I do use, but less than once a month. The new, seriously smaller kitchen is in New York (my mom's old studio apt), where I will go occasionally, never sublet, and have no plans to sell (except in that one never knows). For the few weeks a year I'm there, I expect to cook for two, occasionally four or six. The Cuisinart toaster-oven suits my life in Rome on a daily basis and think it would suit me in New York too. I almost never bake, but I do like to roast and cook fish and vegetables in the oven. When my microwave in Rome died, I waited a while to see if I wanted to replace it, and decided I'd rather have the space since in the meantime I had acquired the Cuisinart.

    I have some time before I have to commit, but on balance it seems I should get the range and just stick pots in the oven till I need it, but I'm going to investigate all the alternative suggestions. In this apartment a gas stove is the only option. Every inch of counter space is precious. Probably the ideal would be to get the range and have an over-the-range toaster-oven possibly with convection and microwave too, except I don't think it exists.

  16. I'm in the enviable position of starting from scratch with a small pied-à-terre kitchen. With the emphasis on small. It's about 6 x 7 feet. Although I don't expect to use it for dinners for 12, I will definitely be cooking, not just heat up takeout.

    I love my Cuisinart toaster oven and use it for everything but large fish and roasts. When I suggested to some friends that I thought I could do with one of those and a cooktop, they said oh no, you need an oven, think of resale, et cetera.

    I'm sure I'd use it sometimes, but the toaster oven is so handy (and I'll need a toaster), though it would take precious counter space, and cabinet space is never sufficient. My husband says to ignore resale in deciding. Also, it has been suggested that we have a combination microwave-hood over the stove.

    Since the stove has to be 24 inches, I'm inclining toward the Bertalozzi range (if I decide for the oven). The alternative would be their smallest cooktop, which would rob a bit of counter space, but I could live with it.

    Is it foolhardy to plan a new kitchen without an oven?

  17. Is it for a cookbook, Maureen ? To me, it will depend on the book's style.

    Elizabeth David, strict academician that she was, would have used 'cuttlefish', but of course she headed each recipe with the French followed by the English. The English is strictly accurate regardless of market naming or "eww" factor.

    If you're going for the more modern, casual approach Squid is not a bad choice. I haven't lived in the UK for 20 years, but as I remember whilst there was 'squid' in the shops from time to time, I never saw "cuttlefish" advertised.

    If you go with "cuttlefish" as a title, then the less-experienced cook who relies on recipes - and agrees that strict standards in language are important - may well skip over that recipe with an "oh, can't get cuttlefish here".

    In the end, you either do the strict-with-detailed-explanation approach or the more casual one. Depends on the audience and the book's purpose.

    inductioncook, the label implies to me that the jar's a mixture of both.

    Yes, it is for a cookbook, and undoubtedly the final decision will be the editor's based on her experience of exactly the reactions you anticipate. My approach in preparing the manuscript (not a translation but a joint effort with an Italian coauthor) is to give the "color" in the Italian title and let the English subtitle be more prosaic but also more descriptive. That seems more or less what Elizabeth David does in her "Italian Food". I hate it when those cute Italian food names are "translated" and you still have no idea what is in the dish.

  18. I think cuttlefish, too. Squid is just wrong as a translation, whatever marketers are saying; I'm baffled by the mixed label on the jar.

    The only term to cover both would be cephalopod, but that includes octopus, too.

    Cuttlefish it will be. Wrong translations have long-since ceased to amaze.

    Thanks to all for your insights.

  19. Isn't it one of those seafood things, with squid used as the market name for both ? My copy of Grigson's Fish Book is still in a packing box, so I can't look up her take just now.

    There are even significant differences among squid species - witness the tenderness of yari-iks (spear squid) compared with surume-iks (common squid), that I've posted about before.

    That sort of makes sense in a parallel-universe sort of way. But I thought the word "squid" was out of favor because "calamari" sounded less yucky. I suppose "cuttlefish" evokes a parakeet cage and loses to "squid." Isn't there a generic term "inkfish"? or am I thinking of the German for squid?

    As for different species, I know only the major Italian ones, calamari and totani and their respective diminutives. And seppie of course, which, in Rome, are traditionally stewed with peas.

    So what do I title the recipe: Squid ink, to follow the market, or cuttlefish, to respect the Italian? I think cuttlefish, since the recipe does call for the fresh beast. I will explain the rest in the note.

  20. Cuttlefish and squid are different animals. I'm most familiar with the varites of cuttlefish and squid available in southwestern Europe, and there squid tends to be small (around 2-3 inches) and cuttlefish is quite big (around 7-8 inches, similar in size to the big squid sometimes found in Asian markets).

    The taste of the squid/cuttlefish and of the ink is different too. However, if you can't find cuttlefish by all means use squid.

    I know they're different animals, hence my confusion that the jars and packets are labeled both squid ink and nero di seppia. Seppia is definitely cuttlefish. Squid is squid. So what's the explanation?

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