Sunday, June 6, 2010

Italienska läckerheter (Italian delicious dishes)

The last couple of weeks we have been cooking a lot from three cookbooks by famous chef Mario Batali - Simple Italian Food, Molto Gusto, and Italian Grill, all fantastic and mouth-watering cookbooks with easy recipes of Italian food that is not the usual lasagna, spaghetti with meat sauce and pizza, but more authentic, more tasty, and more real. And more vegetables.  Lots of them. The difference between Mario and many other famous chefs is that you feel that he really cares, and he really LOVES this food.  It is not some gimmick to sell more cookbooks or gadgets branded with your name. So we have been cooking away, and it has all been delicious.  Above - grilled baby octopus salad (you marinated the octopusses in oil and lemon juice and scallion, grill them and then throw them back in the marinade and eat). It is like eating tender sea rubber bands in a very good way. (Click on any photo to see a larger version)

Steamed globe artichokes, more dense and less prickly than regular artichokes.  You cut the top of the artichoke and put it in a steamer pot for about 40 min, and make sure to add some cut up lemon, black peppercorns, salt, and herbs (tarragon, thyme... whatever) to the steam water before you start.  Serve as is, with garlic aioli as dipping sauce and you will be in heaven. Take a bract (yes, that is what they are), dip in sauce, rip off the inner fleshy layer with your front teeth, and discard the rest of the bract in the 'dead soldier bowl' on the table. Repeat. Repeat.

A new take on eggplant - slice them thin, thin, then grill them and roll them up with goat cheese and pesto inside, put them on top of some home made tomato sauce and eat, eat, eat.

Spaghetti a new wonderful way.  Make a broccoli rabe pesto, and mix it into spaghetti.  Absolutely delicious.

More cabbage related plants.  Broccolini, like broccoli but not as mutated, cooked for 5 min and then dressed with orange-garlic dressing.  Scrumptious!  Now there is a word that sounds like it describes dried sheep's testicles, but it really means something really, really good.

Grilled halibut with broccoli rabe with grated cheese in the background.  The halibut is a giant flat fish, like an overgrown flounder, with fantastic white flesh.  It lives its whole life sideways (and if you haven't seen the movie Sideways, do it, and it has nothing to do with halibut). On top of the halibut is a herb sauce, just olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.  Did I mention simplicity? Below is a plate of broccoli with "whipped parmesan".  A new favorite.

Bean salad with asparagus, really, really good and so healthy and green.  Very good.

And now for something different.  Make homemade pizza dough, roll it out in little pieces and fill them, make flat and grill on the hottest part of the grill. We used a variety of fillings, leftover goat cheese mixed with basil pesto, caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, and rosemary leaves.  A giant hit, especially with the younger crowd at the dinner table. The name - grilled flatbreads.

If you want any of the recipes, put a note in the comments or e-mail me.

And while eating on the deck, the giant Citronella candles are burning to keep bark beetles (yes!), mosquitos and other buggers away, and it works. When it gets dark the fire flies are starting their stroboscope symphony, blinking away and competing with the stars...

And I agree with Mario: 

"Once you've put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided."

Good food doesn't have to be expensive, but it takes some thinking, long before you turn on the stove.

1 comment:

PP said...

Of course yes, Mario's statement is somewhat about expense. However, I don't think that is the whole point. The choices you make in WHAT you buy are the determining factor. Parm cheese in a green cardboard tube of a small piece of real parm?