Monday, December 15, 2014

Need last-minute gift ideas?

Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy: Food & Stories is one of the only cookbooks that I actually read just for enjoyment. You'll learn a lot in these 600-plus pages, too. Check out the chef's exhaustive but never dull manifesto on risotto and you'll see what I mean. My suggestion: Buy one as a gift and another for yourself. You won't be sorry.

Even serious wine geeks complain that the Italians make it hard to understand, let alone buy, their wines; it's just too confusing. Gambero Rosso Italian Wines can help. The annual guide rates around 20,000 Italian wines from a couple thousand or so producers. If you know somebody who loves Italian wine as much as I do then this would make a terrific — not to mention useful — gift.

Cardamaro is in the amari family of bittersweet liqueurs, Fernet Branca perhaps the best known. But this is a whole different thing. Cardamaro tastes more like vermouth than an amaro; in fact, I keep a bottle in the fridge and drink it as an aperitif. Fun fact: it's made from cardoons, hence the name. I really like this stuff. In case you can't find it locally, here's some info on shipping laws around the country.

Got a vegetable gardener on your list? How about a gift certificate (available in $25 increments) from Seeds from Italy. It's the only place I buy seeds anymore. They really are that good. 

This is my chitarra. It's one of the oldest pasta-cutting tools ever made and, in my view, the best at making spaghetti and linguini. It's also a beautiful instrument (chitarra is the Italian word for guitar) that would make quite an impression as a gift. I got mine as a gift around fifteen years ago (Grazie Tom & Beth!), and it's one of my all-time favorites.

I've owned bread knives before, but none comes close to this one: the LamsonSharp 9-inch bread knife. If you do decide to gift it, make sure it's to somebody who can handle a knife. The thing is a real beast. 

They used to call this "the everything pan" and that's exactly what it is. The All-Clad Saucier (3-quart) gets more use than any pot or pan around my house — and there are lots of them here, believe me. (My Associate insists that I mention it's the go-to pan for making risotto.) Every kitchen should have one.

This pan is around 30 years old — and I'd be lost without it. It's what I fry my meatballs in, assemble an untold number of pasta dishes, saute vast quantities of garlic and anchovy and escarole and broccoli rabe and... you get the idea. A lot of my life is in this thing. I haven't been able to find an exact replica but the Calphalon Nonstick Pan (14-inch) looks pretty close. 

This is a big-ticket item, I'll admit. But how could I not include the thing I use to make Sunday Gravy? The Le Creuset Round French Oven (13.2 quart) will last a lifetime too.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pasta with broccoli

This is such a go-to dish around my house that I'm having a really hard time believing it hasn't made an appearance here before. I searched the Pasta Recipe Index, the Vegetarian Recipe Index too (even though there's anchovy in here). When it didn't show up in either place I went through the entire four years' worth of blog posts, absolutely certain that I had missed it when compiling the indices.

Well, I didn't. Miss it, that is.

Next I'm gonna find out that I never gave you my meatball recipe.


Okay, so in a pot filled with enough well-salted water to cook your pasta (I'm using a half-pound here), boil a couple broccoli crowns until they are soft but still a little firm.

Saute around three garlic cloves, some hot pepper flakes, and a couple anchovy fillets (I used maybe six here, but I like anchovy) until softened but not browned.

When the broccoli is finished cooking remove it from the water using a slotted spoon, add to the saute pan and break up the crowns into small pieces. Turn the heat off, or at most leave it at a very slow simmer. Then cook the pasta in the same water you used for the broccoli. When the pasta is cooked make sure to hang on to around a cup of the water.

Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan, along with enough of the pasta water to moisten things a bit. Turn the heat up to high and incorporate all the ingredients, adding more water as needed.

And that is all there is to it. Some grated cheese on top, of course. But you knew that.