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... call for hard-to-find ingredients; ... feature recipes within recipes; ... insist that you replicate complicated, origamilike presentations; ... assume that you can afford white truffles, caviar, or Kobe beef; ... ask you to eat sea urchin or blowfish; ... suggest vintage-specific wine pairings; or ... plug a line of bottled products.
Its mission is to share recipes for home meals that are simply prepared - most in a single vessel - and a chef's tips for making them as delicious as possible. That's it.
Tomato, Bread, and Parmesan Soup Serves 8
A beguiling and seamless blend of tomatoes, bread, and broth, tomato-and-bread soup is a robust, soulful dish. It's one of those classic Italian preparations that make use of foods that have outlived their usefulness for most people, in this case stale bread and overripe tomatoes.
My tomato-and-bread soup is made deliberately thick with sourdough bread, which is not the conventional choice, but whose distinct flavor goes well with tomatoes and lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you've ever read in cookbooks that you should save Parmesan rindsfor another use, this is the ultimate one - the rind infuses the entire soup with an authentic Italian flavor.
I make this recipe at the height of tomato season in late summer, when tomatoes are so ripe they crack open. But you can turn to other resources in the winter (see page 245).
4 pounds very ripe beefsteak or Jersey tomatoes, peeled (page 245) and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 medium Spanish onion, peeled and cut into small dice
1 stalk celery, cut into small dice
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 quarts store-bought, reduced-sodium vegetable broth or homemade Vegetable Stock (page 244)
1 large loaf or 2 small loaves day-old (or two- or three-day-old) sourdough or peasant bread, crust discarded, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
Basil Oil (page 229) or Pesto (page 228), optional
1. Thirty minutes before you want to cook, put the tomatoes and their liquid in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Grate the cheese and reserve the rind and cheese separately.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot but not yet smoking. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and a pinch of and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables.
3. Add the broth and the cheese rind and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatoes with their liquid. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to liquefy and the soup returns to a boil.
4. Lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes break down completely and the soup begins to thicken, about 40 minutes. Remove and discard the cheese rind. Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring to break them down, for about 15 minutes. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat before proceeding.
5. Stir in the grated cheese until the soup becomes as thick and flavorful as you like. Personally, I like it as thick as porridge with lots of cheesy flavor; I'd use about a cup of grated cheese. But if you like a lighter touch, feel free to hold back on the cheese.
6. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls, hot or at room temperature, garnishing each serving with a few grinds of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and extra grated cheese, if available. You can also top each serving with basil oil or pesto, if desired.
Florentine Pot Roast with Red Wine, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes
Pot roast offers a fascinating look at the differences between home cooking in the United States and Europe. This dish, which to us is a way to cook such staples as carrots, onions, and potatoes, is to Europeans an opportunity to enjoy their most tried-and-true ingredients. This recipe is based on the Italian stracotto, which means "slow cooked." It's a favorite wintertime preparation in Florence and the small Tuscan hill towns that surround it. This version uses an all-star lineup of the region's ingredients, including red wine, dried porcini, and canned tomatoes. Not surprisingly, this pot roast is excellent with its compatriot accompaniment, Polenta (page 210).
One 2 1/2-pound eye of the round roast, excess fat trimmed, tied with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slivers, plus 2 cloves smashed and peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 pound slab bacon (page 241), cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 medium Spanish onions, peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks, cut crosswise into
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/4 cup tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
2 cups red wine, plus more if needed
1 cup water or store-bought, reduced-sodium beef broth
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (page 243), rinsed
One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes from Italy, drained of liquid and squeezed by hand to remove excess moisture
Handful fresh oregano leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 300:F. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, make small, 1/2-inch-deep slits all over the beef. Slide a garlic sliver into each slit using the edge of the knife. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the beef and sear it well on all sides until well browned, about 4 minutes per side. (Tongs are a good tool for turning the meat.) Transfer the beef to a plate and set it aside.
3. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Add the bacon, onions, celery, and carrot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir to coat the other ingredients. Add the wine and water, raise the heat to high, and boil until the liquid has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and oregano and season lightly with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the bacon is salty.
4. Return the beef to the pot. It should be half to three-quarters covered by the liquid. If it is not, add some more wine, water, or broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise the beef for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the beef over and giving the liquid a stir every half hour. Make sure that the liquid is simmering gently; if it's bubbling aggressively, reduce the oven temperature to 275:F. When done, the meat will be firm to the touch and pink at the center. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat before proceeding.
5. To serve, transfer the beef to a cutting board and slice it against the grain into 6 pieces. Place 1 slice on each of 6 warm dinner plates. Spoon some sauce over each serving and pass extra sauce on the side in a sauceboat.
Pappardelle alla Stracotto
To make a meaty pasta sauce, coarsely chop any leftover beef and refrigerate it separately from the sauce. The next day, spoon off and discard any fat that has risen to the top of the sauce. Reheat the sauce gently in a pot set over low heat. If desired, blend with an immersion blender for a few seconds to chop the vegetables. Return the beef to the sauce and toss with hot pasta such as pappardelle (page 219), egg noodles (page 217), or fettuccine (page 219).
Simmered Shrimp Saute with Shiitake Mushrooms and Scallions Serves 4
My favorite way to eat shrimp is the classic shrimp cocktail where they are cooked in a great deal of water and emerge terrifically tender. Conversely, I could list about a million things I don't like about so-called shrimp scampi (not least of which is its name, which translates to the redundant "shrimp shrimp"). Semantics aside, I object to such quick-sauteed shrimp dishes because the high heat and stingy amount of liquid often causes the meat to seize up and toughen. The same will happen with most shellfish, including lobster; the one major exception is sea scallops, which respond well to a searing over high heat.
So, the idea behind this recipe is to combine the tender, succulent result of shrimp cooked in a generous amount of liquid with the appeal of cooking them in something more flavorful than water, in this case a buttery broth enhanced by white wine, garlic, scallion, and basil. This Asian-accented dish pairs well with linguine (page 219) or Israeli couscous (page 209).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 large shiitake mushroom caps, very thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, cut into small dice
3 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced on a bias
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup store-bought, reduced-sodium chicken broth or homemade Chicken Stock (page 244)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 pounds peeled, butterflied, deveined large shrimp (see note, page 87)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1. Melt the 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter in a wide, deep sauti pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook gently until softened but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and scallions and cook gently until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Turn the heat up to high. Just as the butter starts to sizzle, add the wine. Boil until the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the diced, cold butter, a few pieces at a time, swirling it in as it's added. (Do not allow the liquid to boil once the butter has been added. The sauce should look like a buttery broth; if it appears excessively thick, stir in a few tablespoons of hot water.) Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
3. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan, making sure to immerse them in the liquid. Cook over medium-low heat just below a simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and firm. Add the capers, toss, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the parsley and basil and toss to combine. Remove from the heat.
4. To serve, divide the shrimp and sauce among 4 warm bowls.
Simmered Shrimp Sauti with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Leeks
For a more French-leaning recipe, replace the sliced shiitake mushrooms with small chanterelles or halved large ones and replace the scallions with the white portion of one large leek, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, rinsed, and dried.
Simmered Shrimp Sauti with Cilantro or Tarragon Replace the basil with cilantro or tarragon for a quick but marked change in flavor.
Excerpted from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals by Tom Valenti Copyright © 2004 by Tom Valenti. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted December 11, 2005
I was attracted to this book because this is the way my husband and I like to cook during our long New Hampshire winters. I've had the book for 2 years now and have tried nearly every recipe. Not once have I been disappointed. Everything from the beef stew to the more 'company' dishes came out great.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.