9.2.04

random tip#2: reasons why i never use mozzarella on a pizza 

(1) real mozzarella has a very short shelf life: 2/3 days for the real thing, up to two weeks for the best commercial products.
therefore (2) when you go out there and order a pizza, it will be made with an industrial produced copy of the real mozzarella because (3) real mozzarella is too expensive.(4) real fresh mozzarella is too good: just eat it on its own, at room temperature, and feel the stabs of pleasure up from the palate and down to the spine.
(5) oh,by the way, that stuff you find on supermarket shelves is only good to kick against a wall. several times.

on my pizzas i use cheddar.

8.2.04

i burned my blog 

this is my contribution to "alberto's"is my blog burning?" project.
ideas like this don't change the world but make better meals.
which is a good enough contribution as far as i'm concerned.

my original intention was to make something i had never made before, a localized version of an italian classic, pasta & fagioli (pasta & bean soup), which in its most rustic and risqué version calls for generous quantities of sausage. as we will see later things didn't quite go my way.

this soup is not a looker, it's not the right subject for glamorous photos but its texture has a smoothness that embraces like a soft duvet and its flavour is an antidepressant a hundred times stronger that prozac.

ingredients:
- borlotti beans, three tins for four people. the done thing would be to soak the dry beans overnight then boil them for a couple of hours. the acceptable shortcut is to buy good quality tinned borlotti. using another kind of beans would be an unacceptable shortcut.
- sausage. good sausage. oh how i've been longing for a proper sausage. a sausage without bloody rusk! a simple pork sausage, nothing fancy in it... i've finally found an acceptable sausage, with an unobtrusive amount of rusk, good enough to stop me from taking the next flight to milan.
- galangal. i could not cook without it.
- garlic. i could not get near a kitchen without it.
- onion. i could not go back home without it.
- carrot. just a little finger's worth. organic.
- oil.
- glutammate free vegetable stock powder or -better!- some real stock.
- some tagliatelle, crushed into small pieces.

i sear the sausage in not too much olive oil, then remove it.
i finely chop half an onion and the carrot and fry them gently until the onion is transparent.
one tin of beans is pureed in the food processors with a clove of garlic and an inch of galangal then added to the pot, along with the beans from the other two tins, the now-chopped sausage, the stock or stock powder and water.
bring to the boil. simmer, simmer & simmer. too dense? add water. too liquid? simmer some more.
the soup is ready. it's early so i turn off the flame and let it rest. i join the others in the living room. just before meal time i will bring the soup to the boil again, add the crushed pasta and serve after five minutes.
this is not going to happen. we will be too impatient and i will serve the lukewarm soup with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper. oh and a very decorative sprig of rosemary.

my blog burned, and it was good.

7.2.04

what's wrong with this risotto? 

this risotto is bad! this is the risotto i made on wednesday: comfort food after a long winter day.
what's wrong with it? it certainly looks good.
it's perfectly cooked: look at the grains, plump with stock but still perfectly separated, clearly "al dente". after all it has been made with love and care and the finest carnaroli rice. and it is a proper risotto con i funghi - butter, onions, rice, wine, mushrooms, stock, a bit of butter at the end, parmesan - not one of those concoctions which are called risotto out of laziness or ignorance or marketing or plain old scam (ehi, I am from Lombardy: we are precious about our risotti!).

so what's wrong then?
if the heart of a risotto is a good rice (leave arborio alone, please) its soul is the stock.
beef stock is the best, chicken stock is acceptable, vegetable stock is boring. i'm not talking cubes. real stock is essential. (ok, ok, i do sometimes use a good vegetable stock powder without glutammates.. i'm only human after all).

this risotto, made with an unfortunately bland vegetable stock, was a risotto without a soul.

4.2.04

it was a dark and stormy night... 

sunday, 8pm.
i'm back home from a nice weekend with friends after a ghastly 90 minutes drive in the pouring rain spiced with occasional gales.
i am HUNGRY but don't feel like cooking and cannot bear the idea of waiting for a take away.
the fridge is empty, the family demands food.
i must act!
i scour the cupboards and find a can of broad beans, neglected even in previous emergencies.
broad beans, broad beans... what shall i do with thou?
broad beans & pecorino cheese, a classic!
fresh broad beans are delicious with some fresh pecorino cheese and bread.
but: my beans are tinned, my pecorino is seasoned, my bread is finished.
i cream the broad beans in the food processors with some extra virgin olive oil and a bit of garlic, then stir in a lot of grated pecorino and a ladle of chicken stock (endless!). i am at a crossroads: this could be the base for a soup or the sauce for a pasta. i am hungry. pasta. which pasta? capelli d'angelo (aka angel hair): they will cook in 2 minutes, one minute in the pot with the water, another minute in the pan with the sauce.
more grated pecorino on top.

timeline of angel hair with cream of pecorino and broad beans:
scouring of cupboards: 90 seconds
preparation, basically grating: 3 minutes
boiling of water: 5 minutes
further cooking: 1 minute
wolfing down: 2 minutes.

2.2.04

things that go well with pork  

maiale ripieno - stuffed tenderloin
i had a piece of tenderloin in the fridge, with not long left to wait for me to come up with an interesting idea. i don't usually buy lean meat because i find it boring, but in the aftermath of two weeks in Italy i must pretend that i am doing something to compensate. as if..

this is the reason why i also have in stock an unusual quantity and variety of dried fruit. apple rings, plums, apricots, figs.

a quick look at my list of things that go well with pork:
apples --check
prunes --check
fennel seeds --check
butter
honey
mustard
fennel
milk
cream
sage

and the recipe for the pork tenderloin with dried fruit and fennel seeds comes up by itself.

i take an handful of dried fruit - apricots included - previously soaked for extra plumpness and whiz them in the food processor with quite a lot of fennel seeds (i love fennel seeds!).
the mixture looks good but sickeningly healthy, so i add some unsalted butter straight form the fridge and whiz a little bit more.
that's better.

the meat is unsubtly impaled on the handle of a wooden spoon and the cavity is filled with the mixture.
what is left of the mixture is patted all around the piece of meat. any leftovers go straight in the pan, diluted with a ladle of water to make the base for the cooking.

i leave it to cook until there is a nice slightly burnt crust on each side.

by the time it's ready i'm not hungry anymore. i leave it to rest overnight.

the following day i slice it: it looks greats and tastes better.

these things go really well with pork.