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Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Book offers a rustic taste of Italy

August 30, 2000

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Antonella DiRosolini's Lush Tomato Salad

1 1/2 pounds not-too-ripe cherry tomatoes, stemmed and cut in half

3 pounds large not-too-ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped

1 small onion (4 ounces), sliced paper thin

1/2 cup top-quality capers, preferably preserved in salt

1/2 cup (gently packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

3 cups (gently packed) fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onion and capers in a large salad bowl. Mince the parsley and tear the basil leaves into small pieces (see note). Sprinkle herbs over the tomatoes and capers, drizzle with the oil and toss gently so that all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Season with salt and, if desired, pepper. Toss again and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: If using basil with tiny leaves, this step won't be necessary. Recommendation: Add vinegar or lemon juice to embolden taste, if necessary.

Wine recommendation: lightly chilled, somewhat full-bodied white wine.

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Green Beans with Pancetta

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed, strings removed if necessary

6 ounces pancetta, sliced about 1/8 inch thick, cut into thin strips (see note)

1/4 cup best-quality red or white wine vinegar

Bring about 3 inches of water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer. Add the green beans to the top half and steam until they are crisp-tender (or to your liking), 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter. (If you want to serve them warm, warm the platter and time the steaming of the beans so they emerge cooked while the vinegar and pancetta are cooking together.)

Place the pancetta in a large skillet (nonstick is preferable) over medium heat and heat until the fat melts, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and shake the pan to evenly distribute it. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes to allow the meat to absorb some of the vinegar. Remove the pan from the heat, pour the pancetta and vinegar over the beans, and toss to combine. Or you may just leave the pancetta on top, and as you serve make sure everyone gets an equal amount of pancetta, beans and vinegar. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: There is no salt and pepper called for here, and none is necessary. However, let your own palate be your guide. I used bacon in place of the pancetta and cooked it until cooked through. If there is a lot of fat, drain it off.

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Tuscan 'Wild Boar' Stew

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, green germ removed, minced

2 pounds pork leg or shoulder meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (see note)

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 cup hearty red wine

28-ounce can peeled tomatoes

2 branches fresh rosemary

12 good-size fresh sage leaves

4 small dried bird's-eye peppers, crushed, or hot paprika to taste (see note)

6 thick slices country-style bread

1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled

Place the oil, onion and minced garlic in a large heavy skillet over medium heat and cook until the onion is golden at the edges, about 10 minutes. Add the meat, stir, and cook until it has taken on a slight golden edge, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and wine, stir, and bring the wine to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the wine is simmering, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat has absorbed most of the wine, about 25 minutes.

When the meat has "drunk" all but a little of the wine, add the tomatoes and cut them into quarters with a spatula once they are in the pan. Stir to combine the tomatoes and meat, then add the rosemary and sage, nestling them down into the tomato juices, and stir in the peppers.

Bring the juices to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook until the meat is very, very tender and has absorbed almost all the tomato liquid, resulting in a sparse but rather thick sauce, about 2 hours. Check the meat occasionally and stir so it doesn't stick, breaking up the tomatoes into smaller pieces.

About 15 minutes before serving, stir in 1/2 cup water, just to moisten the dish.

Preheat the broiler.

While the "scottiglia" (stew) finishes cooking, toast the bread under the broiler and rub each piece with a garlic clove. To serve, place a slice of garlic toast on each of 6 warmed plates and top with the stew. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Use good-quality pork shoulder, checking to be sure it is without an excess of gristle and fat. You may also use boned fresh ham. I used a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in place of the peppers.

Wine recommendation: a hearty red wine.




Recipes adapted from "Italian Farmhouse Cookbook" (Workman, $28.95 hardcover, $16.95 paperback), by Susan Herrmann Loomis.

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