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nakji

Tuesdays with Marcella

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Belgian endive has a faintly bitter taste, right? I wonder what I could use as a substitute....

Thanks, Erin. Raw Belgian endive does taste faintly bitter, but any bitterness seems to dissipate with long, slow cooking and rich, creamy sauces. I am not sure what would substitute for Belgian endive in cooked dishes.

I see you also had bread with pasta. Clearly something is needed to wipe up all the amazing juices! What kind of mushrooms did you use?

Brown crimini mushrooms, loose and cheap at the grocery store.

You definitely want bread to sop up any errant sauce, although our dinner did seem deficient in vegetable matter. A green salad would have balanced things nicely.

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The pasta was great - just the thing for a cold, rainy fall night, and with the aubergines I felt like I'd had some approximation of an authentic Italian meal. I'm not sure about the bread, though - do Italians usually have bread with a meal that includes pasta, or is that just me? And if they do, what kind of bread? We didn't eat it with the pasta, but rather before, with the aubergines, as it absorbed the oil so well.

I think, but am not 100% sure, that an authentic Italian meal would not usually have pasta as the only main course. It might be the primo, but not usually the secondo, and it's usually a much smaller portion than what most North Americans are used to eating as a pasta course. This is an interesting read on traditional Italian meals (how accurate it is, I do not know, however).

That sausage pasta looked awesome! Do you remember what brand of sausage you used? I generally don't buy Japanese sausages (I think most of them aren't suited to my taste buds), so I would have been inclined to leave it out, but if you found a good one, I'd try it!

(There is one kind of breakfast sausage found at Costco that's quite similar to American-style breakfast sausages that's OK, but I don't think it would fare too well with pasta!)

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I think, but am not 100% sure, that an authentic Italian meal would not usually have pasta as the only main course.  It might be the primo, but not usually the secondo, and it's usually a much smaller portion than what most North Americans are used to eating as a pasta course. 

From what I've seen and read, I think that back in the day you'd be right but more recently Italians are trending to just a pasta for the main. When my wife and I last went to Italy in most restaurants we ate at we were the only ones doing the full sweep (antipasti, pasta, secondo, contorno, dolci) while the locals were more inclined to do pasta preceded by the antipasto or with a simple piece of fruit for dessert at the end. Maybe it's still more traditional in home cooking or weekend cooking to do a full spread.

Italians don't seem have the same hangups we do about doubling up on starches and carbs in one meal, so bread's fine. But from what I've read (actually, I think it was Marcella herself!), they save it for the meat course to mop up anything left on the plate.

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Marcella and Victor are coming to Seattle middle of this month - October 14! But I won't be attending the event - a full dinner/wine//signed cookbook event for $110 per person sponsored by ChefShop.


Edited by tsquare (log)

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do Italians usually have bread with a meal that includes pasta

We have a friend originally from Italy and according to her husband, it's not a meal if there's no bread. Doesn't seem to matter what type of bread, as long as it's good bread.

I think, but am not 100% sure, that an authentic Italian meal would not usually have pasta as the only main course. It might be the primo, but not usually the secondo, and it's usually a much smaller portion than what most North Americans are used to eating as a pasta course.

For wonderful descriptions of Italian family meals, I recommend Donna Leon's mystery novels featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti.

- L.

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Monkfish fillets in red wine (filetti di pesce al vino rosso)

Penne with mushroom sauce (penne col sugo di funghi coltivati): The boys, formerly mushroom-haters, loved this. Thinly-sliced Portobello mushrooms were cooked down with butter and olive oil, and then cooked down again with white wine, anchovies, tomatoes, and parsley.

White sunflower bread (gone before dinner), and buttered peas with parsley and tarragon.

gallery_42956_2536_44036.jpg

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Monkfish fillets in red wine (filetti di pesce al vino rosso)

gallery_42956_2536_44036.jpg

Bruce: I was watching a cooking show the other night, and the comment was that "monkfish" is the poor man's lobster. I imagine that meant the texture.

Would you agree?

Your meals look wonderful as usual. :smile:


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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We have a friend originally from Italy and according to her husband, it's not a meal if there's no bread. Doesn't seem to matter what type of bread, as long as it's good bread.

Excellent. This jives with my personal feelings about a good meal; I'm glad to hear Italy agrees with me. :biggrin:

Monkfish fillets in red wine (filetti di pesce al vino rosso)

Sounds, and looks, gorgeous! I have to get up the nerve to go and buy fish. It feels wasteful to live in Japan and never buy fish. But I'm too intimidated.

The boys, formerly mushroom-haters, loved this. Thinly-sliced Portobello mushrooms were cooked down with butter and olive oil, and then cooked down again with white wine, anchovies, tomatoes, and parsley.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. People who think they don't like a certain food have simply not had it with enough butter and carbs loaded on. That's how my parents got me eating seafood - they dosed a plate of mussels with butter, garlic, white wine, and said, "Here- eat this. It's got butter on it."

Which leads me to last night's dinner..

For me, another Tuesday night; another series of flagrant recipe violations. I blame my Scottish grandmother on my inability to ignore and/or bin a wilting vegetable. This week, the culprit was a half a head of Chinese cabbage, left over from Monday night's sukiyaki. (Done on my new portable gas ring - whee! And as I discovered Sunday night, the perfect way to make risotto without missing any TV).

I knew there was a recipe featuring savoy cabbage and pancetta. Chinese cabbage and savoy cabbage are both crinkly, right? And I had some smoked bacon from Kamakura as well. I hunted through the gray (for all-season or pantry staple) tabs, but found the recipe I remembered was for risotto. Which we'd had, on Sunday night (Bittman's dried mushroom risotto from How To Cook Everything - tastes great made with dried shiitakes and Japanese short-grain rice - as long as you've never had the real thing! :biggrin: ) and frankly, there's only so much risotto I can take in a week, new gas ring notwithstanding.

So...I used the pasta shells left over from last week instead, but followed her directions to the letter for the sauce. And boy, what a sauce! Just like roasted cauliflower suddenly makes you look at cauliflower in a whole new light, cabbage fried in several tablespoons of olive oil, butter, and bacon fat erased negative associations developed over years of my mother's boiled dinners.

Mmmm, cabbage. In my kitchen, not just for kimchi anymore. In fact, the sauce alone would have made a fabulous spread for bread, now that I think about it.

When the cabbage had gone all brown and succulent, I tossed in the cooked shells, which scooped up gobs of the bacon and cabbage and tucked them up inside, making fabulous flavour bombs. The bowl looked rather uninspiring, though, and I had no handy eggplant skins to rescue the look, so I didn't bother to snap a picture.

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That sauce would be a delicious topping for a knife-and-fork bruschetta.

Perusing my copy I was gobsmacked by something obvious, and important: Patate Maritate on p. 266. So important it long ago began to exist as a standalone for me -- I'd forgotten which book it came from.

ONLY one of the best recipes ever ever ever. Can you get good mozz in Japan? I saw an artisanal mozz maker on Dotchi Cooking Showdown once...

AND, (I just read) its source is Marcella's Mother's cleaning lady, just like the pickled eggplant you made up there, so -- excellent provenance.

Revisiting some of what else I've cooked from the book: The best best best chickpea soups -- the Pasta e Ceci on p.87 is so delicious, just an all-time favorite. Also the one w/pancetta and wild mushrooms on the previous page, so good.

Only for Marcella would I PEEL EACH CHICKPEA. But of course it goes without saying but I say it anyway, she is (of course) right: The result is so superior the effort is beyond worthwhile. I always cook the beans from dried, rather than use canned as in the recipe, but I think she would be reasonable about that.

The pasta sauce of rosemary and bacon on p. 131 is one of those standbys for which the ingredients are always in stock and the result is always fantastic. In recent years Jamie Oliver has helped me make use of my profligate 20-year-old rosemary shrub, but Marcella was the big help with that when the plant was new.

The apricot sorbetto on p. 323 has been our go-to apricot frozen concoction since very first trial... unpeeled apricots! Delicious.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Erin: Thanks! I always feel like I have enjoyed a well-written short story after following your cooking adventures. Please do continue.

Bruce: I was watching a cooking show the other night, and the comment was that "monkfish" is the poor man's lobster. I imagine that meant the texture.

Would you agree?

Dejah: Thank you! This was my first time cooking monkfish, and I have only tried lobster a few times, so I am not the most authoritative source. That said, monkfish does have a dense, shellfish-like texture, but the flavor is clearly fish rather than shellfish.

What fascinated me was watching the monkfish fillets visibly shorten when they hit the hot pan.

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When the cabbage had gone all brown and succulent, I tossed in the cooked shells, which scooped up gobs of the bacon and cabbage and tucked them up inside, making fabulous flavour bombs.

*drool*

I guess I'm going to have to add another Marcella book to my collection...

And C. sapidus, which book are you cooking out of? Your food looks divine!! If my husband saw those mushrooms, he would not let me rest until I made that dish.

Now I feel inspired to contribute something over the weekend -- this time of year is so perfect for Marcella!

- Laura

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And C. sapidus, which book are you cooking out of?  Your food looks divine!!  If my husband saw those mushrooms, he would not let me rest until I made that dish.

Laura, thank you! The mushrooms are from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (page 132). Here is a link: penne with mushroom sauce (click).

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Perusing my copy I was gobsmacked by something obvious, and important: Patate Maritate on p. 266. So important it long ago began to exist as a standalone for me -- I'd forgotten which book it came from.

ONLY one of the best recipes ever ever ever. Can you get good mozz in Japan? I saw an artisanal mozz maker on Dotchi Cooking Showdown once...

Well, I looked through the book, and sure enough, this recipe had already been tabbed. (Gray: all-season/pantry staples). However - about the mozzarella - I'm not sure. Now, don't get me wrong - in a country where you can be on a simple Sunday walk and come across a band of university students whose hobby it is to get together on weekends and play New Orleans-style jazz - I cannot imagine that there are not one or two artisanal mozzarella makers floating around out there too. It's just a matter of me finding out where they are, and how to get to them. But most imported shops sell "Italian" mozzarella - not the logs of passive white cheese slanderously labeled "mozzarella" that I grew up with, but the proper balls.

The second problem is my lack of oven. Now, I can often cheat a recipe that calls for one. Last night, for example, I nuked some small potatoes for around five minutes, then quartered them, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and garlic, and put them under my fish grill for another ten to crisp them up. But this recipe looks like it benefits from the cheese and potatoes spending all that time together before committing to marriage. So I may have to hold off until I finally move out of my crappy apartment and get a small convection and/or toaster oven.

revisiting some of what else I've cooked from the book: The best best best chickpea soups -- the Pasta e Ceci on p.87 is so delicious, just an all-time favorite. Also the one w/pancetta and wild mushrooms on the previous page, so good.

Only for Marcella would I PEEL EACH CHICKPEA. But of course it goes without saying but I say it anyway, she is (of course) right: The result is so superior the effort is beyond worthwhile. I always cook the beans from dried, rather than use canned as in the recipe, but I think she would be reasonable about that.

This may be the recipe for this week!

As for the pasta with rosemary and bacon...I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm a serial rosemary plant killer. When I walk by, rosemary plants shrink back and whisper, "murderer! murderer!" to each other behind their spiny little hands. Which is a shame, because the rest of my herbs are in good shape - my lemongrass plant is threatening to take over the living room as we speak.

Now I feel inspired to contribute something over the weekend -- this time of year is so perfect for Marcella!

- Laura

Yay! I can't wait to see what you make!

Bruce - about the mushrooms - do you find the anchovies integral to the flavour of the dish? I'd like to make this one, since there are a lot of mushrooms around this time of year, but I'm not sure I have ready access to anchovies. And,

I always feel like I have enjoyed a well-written short story after following your cooking adventures. Please do continue.

Thanks! That means a lot.

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Bruce - about the mushrooms - do you find the anchovies integral to the flavour of the dish? I'd like to make this one, since there are a lot of mushrooms around this time of year, but I'm not sure I have ready access to anchovies.

Erin, I was not eating analytically but I expect that the anchovies in this recipe are like fish sauce in a Thai curry – not noticed specifically, but missed if absent. If a substitute was needed, I would try a similarly fishy-salty product, perhaps even fish sauce. :shock: You could argue that fish sauce has historical legitimacy props on the Apennine peninsula. Anyway, I would be shocked to hear that Japan lacked some sort of salty fish product.

Regarding rosemary – a little googling suggests that rosemary may need supplemental lighting when grown indoors.

Looking forward to your next adventure.

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With parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Tuesday evening, we jumped the gun and enjoyed Sunday dinner with Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.

Fricaseed chicken wings (ali di pollo in fricassea, page 196): We doubled the recipe and our boys couldn’t get enough. Tender butter-browned chicken, mushrooms, pearl onions, and a delicious sauce of reduced milk, finished with lemon juice. Yum.

Slow-browned carrots and endive (carote e belga in padella, page 255). This dish wrung an incredible amount of flavor from four ingredients (carrots, Belgian endive, butter, salt). The secret is time – the carrots were slowly browned in butter for more than an hour.

Penne with peppers and bacon (penne con pepperoni e pancetta affumicata, page 133). Butter, onions, bacon, red bell pepper, s&p, grated parmigiano-reggiano. Not bad.

We probably went through a month’s worth of butter with this meal. Good thing we only cook like this once a week.

Edit: typo

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Edited by C. sapidus (log)

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revisiting some of what else I've cooked from the book: The best best best chickpea soups -- the Pasta e Ceci on p.87 is so delicious, just an all-time favorite. Also the one w/pancetta and wild mushrooms on the previous page, so good.

Only for Marcella would I PEEL EACH CHICKPEA. But of course it goes without saying but I say it anyway, she is (of course) right: The result is so superior the effort is beyond worthwhile. I always cook the beans from dried, rather than use canned as in the recipe, but I think she would be reasonable about that.

This may be the recipe for this week!

As for the pasta with rosemary and bacon...I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm a serial rosemary plant killer. When I walk by, rosemary plants shrink back and whisper, "murderer! murderer!" to each other behind their spiny little hands. Which is a shame, because the rest of my herbs are in good shape - my lemongrass plant is threatening to take over the living room as we speak.

Hee, my venerable rosemary has been one of the very few plants that I have managed NOT to kill. I definitely think it's a fluke.

I think another herb that suits bacon would be delicious, in the absence of rosemary.

One of the ceci soups has gone on my docket for the week as well. It has been too long, and I am glad of the reminder.

And wow Bruce, those wings! That page is getting one of my little Sponge Bob Post-It tabs right quick here.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I think another herb that suits bacon would be delicious, in the absence of rosemary.

Well, I do have a lot of thyme on my hands.....

[rimshot]

Ooooh, that's cringe-worthy! :laugh: I like summer savory with bacon, if you have it.


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Salsicce e Patate alla Paesana

gallery_41378_5233_224938.jpg

We had some autumn rain blow through here yesterday, so I was too lazy to get out and get chickpeas. So, no chickpea soup - not yet. But it's on the list.

Flipping through this book offers snapshots into Marcella's life. I usually skip right over the notes that accompany recipes in most cookbooks, but in this book, they're almost (almost) the best part. I can see the places she grew up in, and the people she met along the way. I was immediately engaged by the sausage recipe on page 236, because her description of the farmhouse of where she used to eat this dish brought to my mind another farmhouse and another memorable dish I ate on another continent, another time.

Marcella writes,

"...the floor below it consisted of a single, large, dusky room. Into it, a tiny window strained dusty daylight. At one end, there was a hearth and, beside it, blackened, thickly encrusted grills and trivets, battered pans, piles of dried vine canes and other firewood...

...In that smoky, primitive room I had some of the best meals of my life."

It's true that hunger makes the best sauce, and the sort of hunger you can arouse by stomping around an Italian farm all day, I can only imagine. But last year, I took a motorcycle trip in the mountains of Northern Vietnam, and had some particularly hairy rides over mountain passes, through washed-out roads, and down steep dirt goat tracks on the back of old soviet-designed motorcycles. And I can tell you, hunger following oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-I'm-still-alive sorts of situations is pretty demanding. All along the way, we stayed in minority villages, in bamboo houses with friendly pigs underneath and chickens as alarm clocks. There was no more than a single bare bulb for light at night, and in the day, the light from outside. The walls of the kitchen were black from smoke, and the floors were often dirt. The smell of woodsmoke and the sound of clucking hens each morning woke me up, and invariably I'd find three or four young women who had been up an hour already, crouched by the family hearth preparing breakfast. One day, in a small village near the Laotian border, I watched a girl flip out a hundred banana pancakes using only a battered Chinese-made non-stick pan and a pair of homemade bamboo chopsticks. Smothered with condensed milk poured straight from the can, and shared with Phillipe and Michel, who could only talk about how much camembert and Bordeaux they were going to eat when they got back to Belgium, it was so comfortable and cozy, it was like being in my Mum's kitchen in Canada. Another morning, after a particularly rough night spent driving in the dark, I awoke to potatoes fried in pork fat, served with fried rice cakes to celebrate the new year. The women preparing the feast did everything on the ground on old woodblocks, with simple knives and tubs of water.

When I read Marcella's recipe, my mind flew back to that plate of pork and potatoes, and the black ceilings, the breakfast plates lit only by the light coming in from the window, and the smell of woodsmoke curling up through the bamboo floors, and the girls laughing at how much we could eat.

It's hard to recapture that kind of atmosphere in my simple flat in Japan.

But anyway, potatoes, sausages, and tomatoes are something I keep on hand. I can't imagine why it never occurred to me to put them all into a pan before, but I guess that's the genius of it. I resisted the urge to use basil, and put in only bay leaves, as are called for, and was ultimately rewarded by the subtlety of flavour. It took a bit longer to cook than I'd hoped, so my husband and I had some more of the pickled aubergine and bits of bread for starters. The sausages, sadly, were not quite right - too smoky, maybe? They tasted delicious, actually, but I felt I wasn't getting the dish exactly right. I'm not quite sure what Marcella means by "sweet breakfast sausages" - can anyone enlighten me? The kind of sausages generally available in Japan are smoked German-style ones - bratwurst and the like. Can anyone post a picture of a typical "Italian" sausage, so I know what to look for? We washed it down with a Nero d'Avola. The key for this recipe, I think, is to be patient and really let the tomatoes and onions caramelize on to the potatoes - and get them a little crispy on the bottom, so that they delaminate into a floury-orange-stained piles of non-resistance when you poke them.

Otherwise, this dish had everything I look for in a recipe. Simplicity; a low number of ingredients; and minimal interference from the chef. If I went back to Vietnam now, and went to a village (and the Hmong make really incredible sausage, by the way), I could walk up to the fire and (save the bay leaves) knock this dish out for the ladies of the hearth to say thanks for those great breakfasts.

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Otherwise, this dish had everything I look for in a recipe. Simplicity; a low number of ingredients; and minimal interference from the chef. If I went back to Vietnam now, and went to a village (and the Hmong make really incredible sausage, by the way), I could walk up to the fire and (save the bay leaves) knock this dish out for the ladies of the hearth to say thanks for those great breakfasts.

Erin, thank you so much for this post. This is why I joined eGullet -- there are people all around the world who enrich my life in so many ways.

- Laura

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Erin~

I LOVE your writing. Thank you.

(I love egullet, too.)

:wub::wub::wub:

Kathy

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Thanks for your lovely comments, guys. Really good food is worth writing about!

Kevin72, how did I miss this podcast? I've subscribed to it - it'll be just the thing for my long train commutes. The only problem is, it'll no doubt make me incredibly hungry. :hmmm:

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I listened to the podcast today - thanks for turning me on to it! It made the ride to Kawasaki go so much quicker. I agree, Marcella's spot was too short, but several things in her interview struck a chord in me:

First, she said when she moved to the US, she couldn't understand the supermarket, because everything was dead. She didn't know how to cook. For me, the journey has been the other way. When I arrived in Asia, I was confused by the supermarket, because everything was alive. I didn't know how to deal with it. I was angry at the vegetables, because they came with dirt still on them. (Nevermind the time I had to help someone kill a chicken for lunch in Vietnam - I never thought a city girl like me would be doing something like that.) Can you believe it? :laugh: Now I feel like I'm more equipped.

Second, she said she was motivated to cook because of Victor's reaction. I'm the same way. I find cooking rewarding when it makes other people happy. If I've made someone's day better by giving them a decent bowl of soup, I consider the day well spent - like I've contributed to good karma somehow.

Additionally, she said that in Italy, what you leave out of cooking is as important as what you include. I fought strongly against the urge to add a little basil to my Salsicce dish, mainly because my plant needs a little pruning - but I think in the end I appreciated the subtlety of the flavouring from only the bay leaves. Japanese food is sparely seasoned as well, and I feel that I have more respect for that point of view.

Interestingly, she said she felt like today's "Italian" cooking in America was no closer than the kind she saw in the 70's to real Italian cooking. Can anyone shed some light on what she might mean?

And I'm still waiting for someone to show me a "real" Italian sausage. Anyone?

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