Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That's amore!

Ciao bambinos, and buon giorno Valentino!

This entry comes to you after a week of serious foodrinkery and parental fanfare. My units were visiting from the other coast and it rained almost every day. Which meant we were stuck inside. Which meant nothing to do but eat and drink. There was one Scrabble game, a wood fire or two and plenty of book reading, but mostly we cooked and ate and drank. We also had a fab meal at the always enchanting Slanted Door. I won’t detail it here though, because you should just go there and experience it yourself. I will recommend the lamb however, despite it being the least Vietnamese thing on the menu.

So what did we make this week? A lot of things. A meyer lemon budino. That "no-knead" bread that’s so en vogue right now. Gruyere grilled cheeses. And a totally bitchin’ puttanesca. On my parents’ last night here, I went Italian through and through and I have a few things to share that I know you will love.

First of all, Burrata.
Have you tried it? Till recently, it was only a rumor to me, an elusive cheese that’s not easy to find as it has to be imported fresh from Italy. I’d been wanting to hunt some down when I passed a sign outside A.G Ferrari that said, “Burrata is here!” I promptly went in for a taste and (close your eyes, dad) $17 later I was driving home with a luscious lump of it. And yes, I believe it was worth every penny. The stuff resembles a fresh buffalo mozzarella and it comes packed the same way, in water. But once you cut into it’s lovely silky exterior, the inside is ooey and gooey with rich, heavy cream. Good God people. It’s delicious. We ate it as a starter, on crostini with prosciutto, sprinkled with sel du mer and drizzled with olive oil. Molto bene!

We followed with a salad of pepper cress, dried arugula flowers, radicchio, tangerines, blood oranges and toasted hazelnuts. This I tossed in an orange dijon dressing and garnished with some blanched miniature red carrots I found at the farmers market.

Then it was on to the main event: a sassy, saucy and certainly spicy puttanesca. Incidentally, this dish originated in Napoli, so it seemed a nice nod to the years my parents and I spent there when I was a wee bambino myself. While I made it, I thought about my dreamy memories of the first landscape I experienced: dad’s Cinquecento, our apartment view of Vesuvius and the accordion player who played sad songs under our balcony. Molto romantico….

Here’s how I made it.

Puttanesca alla Jamie

2 pounds of chopped tomatoes (I used 2 boxes of Pomi brand, my fave)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 c Spanish green olives, pitted and chopped
½ c capers (the big ones, preferably)
handful chopped fresh basil
handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 anchovies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine (I used the Valpolicella we were drinking)
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ c. olive oil
s&p to taste
strozzapretti, penne or similar small, chunky pasta (I know puttanesca's often served with linguine or spaghetti, but I like the way these cuts hold sauce)

Chop your onions and garlic and sauté them in the oil until golden brown and translucent. Next, add your chopped olives (both kinds), capers and thinly-sliced anchovies. Pour in your chopped tomatoes and red pepper flakes followed by your wine and balsamic vinegar. Then bring it all to a boil. Once it bubbles, reduce to a simmer and let it cook gently for about an hour. Of course you can cook it less; it would be fine to eat it once it gets warmed through and the wine has cooked off (meaning you only see chunky sauce and no residual boozy liquid), but I found letting it simmer on medium-low for an hour or so really married the flavors. Stir it occasionally, and add your salt and pepper to taste.

When you’re almost ready to eat, boil your pasta water with a few splashes of olive oil and a few tablespoons of salt. Add your pasta and cook according to package (fresh only takes a few minutes, dried maybe takes 10-12). When your pasta is ready, scoop out one cup of the used water and add to your red sauce. The starch will thicken it up and bind it together. Finally add your basil and parsley and give it a few more stirs. Serve immediately over pasta and top generously with grated parmagiano reggiano. Serve with a nice Italian red that compliments a spicy sauce. We enjoyed a Northern Italian Valpolicella and some warm, crusty bread. Close your meal with a gelato (we had meyer lemon and ginger) and buon appetito!

Ciao ciao for now.


Blogger fotofather said...

LOVE that you have a Puttanesca recipe...this is Jodi here posting from Francis's blog name. Francis
L O V E S Puttanesca! We are making it next week - I notice you do not add Anchovies. I am not a fan, but when they are hidden and I dont know I dont care.

4:58 PM  
Blogger fotofather said...

Hi Jamie, Francis Here Just made this and it was great! I augmented the quantity of tomatoes to 2:28oz cans and upped the red pepper to a tablespoon to compensate, yet it was the best I have made... and I make it alot!

11:34 PM  

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