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The word Cibo literally translates to food in the Italian language. That is why Chef Michael Ponzio chose Cibo as the title of this book. After training under great chefs from all over Italy and America, Chef Ponzio has combined his knowledge and training to supply you with a variety of Italian recipes from rustic antipasti and risotti to new age seafood and meat presentations. Cibo provides its readers with a broad range of culinary techniques such as making dough, homemade pastas, sausage and pastries. Both professional and home cooks alike welcome Cibo as a reference tool for Italian cooking.
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
CIBOAnybody's Guide to Italian Cooking
By Michael Ponzio
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Michael Ponzio
All right reserved.
Chapter OneItalian Theory
When dealing with life, we hope and wish for things to be perfect. Since nothing can ever be perfect, we look at things that are almost there. The perfect date, the perfect evening, the perfect kiss, and of course ... the perfect meal.
I have long been taught that Italian cooking is all about the ingredients—fresh, local ingredients prepared as best possible. This being said, my personal belief today is that Italian cooking in America is not showing the true potential of the cuisine. Too often, the focus is on what can be added to a dish as opposed to what can be taken away. To support this theory, let me show you my roots and where my inspiration and Italian beliefs come from.
For me, it all started with Nana Kay ...
An amazing grandmother, mother, mentor, and friend, Nana Kay has been an inspiration throughout my culinary growth.
Imagine growing up across the street from an institution—one you could go to for comfort, peace, advice, nourishment, safety, or just a good cup of coffee and some homemade cookies. That is what Nana Kay's house has always been. I would go over there when I was young, and there would always be somebody there drinking coffee, sitting at Nana's table, pouring out his or her soul. Her kitchen table was home to many for comforting advice, good conversation, fun laughs, and a great game of gin. You could walk in her house, which was always the perfect temperature, sit at her table, and she would flood you with food, coffee, an open ear, and a warm heart. There was no place on earth like it. That being said, it was the place to be.
Learning to cook from her mother, Nana Kay's style was that of old Abruzzo, using techniques I never would have thought of in culinary school. There was heart in her cooking, and it was evident in every bite I took. Every New Year's Day, we would go there for homemade ravioli. On Sundays, it was pasta with neck bone gravy, Christmas Eve was always thirteen types of fish, and our main course was homemade pasta with baccala and ceci beans. The food was outstanding.
Eventually, Nana Kay moved in with us and would cook every day. I can assure you that there was nothing like waking up every morning to the heavenly aroma of whatever she was making for dinner that evening. That being said, I knew I had to learn her ways. She started letting me help her in the kitchen, as she did so many of my family members before me, and let me tell you, I was lost. There were no measuring cups or thermometers with Nana Kay. Everything she did was to touch or taste. That made it extremely difficult to learn from her. When asked how much she put in of something, she would always give an answer like, "about two handfuls" or "it depends." Eventually, after trying to understand her ways for some time, I finally got it. She never knew how much of what she was putting in; she just cooked from the heart. If it was good—and it always was—then that was how much. She never tried to blow people away with amazing food or off-the-wall preparations. She just cooked. Her love of what she was doing and whom she was cooking for went into everything she made, and it was more than evident.
I eventually broke away from her style in search of something more. She would tell me how different items were when she used to cook years ago and how certain things weren't as readily available. I started researching this a little more and gained a mild understanding of what she was talking about. When Nana Kay was learning to cook from her mother, there weren't food "factories." There were no farmers spraying every piece of produce with chemicals to enhance growth, kill bugs, and so on. She used Italian-style cooking here in America. What is Italian-style cooking? What does this mean?
The Simplicity of Italian Cooking
As times are changing in America and food is becoming more of a trend than just a way to eat, people are experimenting more and more with new ideas. It is exciting to get together with some friends, maybe with a little wine, and cook new and crazy dishes. The most important thing to focus on, as the Italians do, is the purity of the food. While our palates have become comfortable with industrial giants like fast food places and frozen dinners, we can't forget about the beauty of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Picture waking up early in the morning, getting dressed, and heading to the market. Imagine that the streets are lined with vendors selling freshly caught fish, vegetables dug out of the ground hours before you got there, and bakers' breads that are still warm from the oven. You shop around to decide what you want to cook for your family that evening. After speaking with the farmers, you decide which fruits and vegetables to take home, the fishermen help you select the perfect catch of the day, and the baker fills your stomach with samples of fresh breads so you can pick the perfect one for your meal. Once you finish your journey through the marketplace, you head home.
When you get home, you unload these fresh, clean groceries and begin preparing dinner. That is Italian-style cooking. The freshest products and a little love and care are all you need to cook like an Italian.
So you might not understand me yet and ask something along the lines of "What if I were to buy cilantro, jalapenos, and avocados from the market to make a guacamole?" That would not be Italian cooking, would it? No, but it is the theory of Italian cooking. The theory of Italian cooking and the practice of it are two different concepts. The practice of Italian cooking changes from region to region and from doorstep to doorstep. In Bologna, Bolognese sauce tastes completely different from one person's house to another. That does not mean one is not Bolognese. However, the constant found throughout the entire country is the theory—the focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients executed in simplicity.
Imagine biting into a plain tomato. No salt, no olive oil, no herbs—just a raw, sweet, juicy, delicious tomato. Slice it up, put it on a plate, and let its purity speak for itself. That is what Italian cooking is all about ... simplicity. Many Italian restaurants get lost today in the heaviness of the food—the amount of ingredients and the large presentations—so that they lose sight of what it is really all about ... simplicity. Can you honestly tell me that pasta with a tomato cream sauce and shrimp tastes better than a raw heirloom tomato or a properly roasted beet? If you have never tried one, do so and let me know. Italian food is simple—a few good ingredients put together as best they could be without "screwing them up." Does a piece of steak need a peppercorn crust and a cognac sauce? No. Is it good? Absolutely, but have you ever grilled a great piece of steak with nothing more than a little salt? Try it. Finish it with some cracked black pepper and good olive oil and there you have it—an amazing steak dish with three ingredients: beef, salt, and olive oil.
It is all about the ingredients!
The Italian Kitchen
The Italian kitchen focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients used to their full potential. It is common in Italy for people to go to the market every morning to purchase the food for the evening's meal in order to ensure that it is the very freshest and ripest it can be The focus on the freshness of ingredients is the reason the Italian kitchen does not use many heavy spice rubs or other preparations that would mask the natural flavors of the produce, meat, and fish. The most common preparations of meats, fish, and vegetables are nothing more than cooking them in their purest states and garnishing them with a little extra-virgin olive oil and salt.
To allow products to be used at their finest year round, Italians are known for their preservation methods. They often jar items like tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, and so on when the crops are at their finest so that the best flavors can be used year round.
Italian cuisine changes throughout the regions due to this philosophy. Coastal cities focus more on fish due to the availability of fish right out of the water, whereas mountainous cities tend to focus on meats and heavier food. Whatever the case, all cities and regions utilize fresh-grown products, handmade breads and pastas, and young oils.
Northern Versus Southern
As a general rule, northern and southern Italian cuisines are differentiated from one another primarily by the cooking fat and style of pasta commonly used. Northern Italian cuisine (other than on the coast) favors butter, cream, mascarpone cheese, risotto, and fresh egg pasta, while southern Italian cuisine tends toward mozzarella cheese (usually from buffalo), olive oil, and dried pasta. Southern Italian cuisine also makes greater use of the tomato, stronger spices, and more pungent flavors.
Northern Italy, depending on the region, has a great deal of influence from its European neighbors. Many French-style techniques, such as heavy cream sauces and finishing dishes with butter, as well as German and Swedish influences through krauts and mostardas, are clearly present in northern Italian cooking. The flavors are richer, and the food is generally heavier.
Southern Italy focuses more on earthy, rustic flavors. The pastas are traditionally made from durum wheat and dried, giving a texture and flavor that tends to complement the natural flavors. The food is generally spicier and incorporates a lot more vegetables and oils. In the far south of Italy, especially Sicily, light Arab influences can be found.
Traditional Italian Menu
A traditional Italian menu consists of:
1. L'antipasto, which are hot and cold appetizers
2. Il primo (First course), which usually consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta, or soup
3. Il secondo (Second course), the main dish, usually consisting of fish or meat (pasta is never the main course in a traditional menu)
4. Il contorno (Side dish), which may consist of a salad or vegetables. A traditional menu features salad after the main course.
5. Il dolce (Dessert)
6. Il caffè (Coffee or espresso) often accompanied by liquors/liqueurs (grappa, compari, limoncello)
Recipe: Marinara Sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 6 garlic cloves, minced 2 - 32-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed Kosher salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste 8 basil leaves
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil.
2. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2–3 minutes to a light golden brown.
3. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
4. Allow the tomatoes to cook, stirring frequently, for 1½ hours.
5. Add the basil, season to your liking, and cook for 5 more minutes.
Recipe: Chicken Stock
Makes: 1 gallon
1 pound chicken bones 4 garlic cloves, whole 1 carrot 2 stalks celery 1 leek 2 sprigs thyme 1 bay leaf 2 black peppercorns 3½ quarts cold water
1. Place all of the ingredients into a pot and place over a medium flame.
2. Bring the entire pot to a gentle simmer.
3. Allow the stock to simmer lightly for 2½ hours, skimming frequently to remove any excess scum. and grease.
4. After 2½ hours, strain the stock and chill.
Recipe: Veal Stock
Makes: 1 gallon
3 pounds veal knuckle bones 4 garlic cloves, whole 1 carrot, large diced 2 stalks celery, large diced 1 onion, large diced ½ cup tomato paste 2 cups red wine 2 sprigs thyme 1 bay leaf 2 black peppercorns 1 gallon cold water
1. Place the bones on a baking sheet and roast them at 350° for about 40 minutes until golden brown.
2. While the bones are roasting, heat a large pot on the stove over medium heat.
3. Sauté the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic until lightly caramelized.
4. Add the tomato paste and sauté for 3–4 more minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Pour in the red wine and allow it to reduce by half.
6. Once the wine is reduced, add the water and roasted bones.
7. Bring the entire pot to a gentle simmer.
8. Allow the stock to simmer lightly for 8 hours, skimming frequently to remove any excess scum and grease.
9. After 8 hours, strain the stock and chill.
Recipe: Veal Demi-Glace
Makes: 1 quart
1 gallon Veal Stock
1. Using a medium saucepan, bring the veal stock to a light boil.
2. Allow the stock to boil until it has reduced by ¾.
3. Strain the sauce and chill.
The word antipasto has been given many translations over the years. I have heard people say that it means "before pasta" or "appetizer," but the real translation comes from separating the two words. The word anti translates to "before," and the word pasto means "meal." The antipasto course is a very nice way to start a meal. It can consist of meats and cheeses, grilled vegetables, bruschettas, and crostini. Starting your meal off with an antipasto is a great way to let everybody socialize and pick away at some starters while preparing for the next course.
I love preparing antipasti at the restaurant. They could be the simplest of things yet the most appreciated. From dishes as simple as prosciutto and melon to more complex items like homemade mortadella or curing your own sardines, antipasti can be anything. No part of the meal speaks as true to the seasons as the antipasto.
Recipe: Eggplant Caponata
This sweet-and-sour Sicilian vegetable dish has multiple applications. You can use it as a bruschetta topping, side dish, or a garnish for pork or fish.
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced 1 inch thick 1 red onion, wedged 1 zucchini, halved 1 Roma tomato, halved 3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste ¼ cup golden raisins 1 tablespoon cocoa powder 1 stalk celery ¼ cup balsamic vinegar ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Preheat your grill or stovetop grill pan.
2. Toss the eggplants, tomatoes, celery, zucchini, and red onion with extra-virgin olive oil.
3. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and place on a grill.
4. When cooked on one side, marks will be evident. Flip the ingredients to their other sides and cook until fork tender.
5. Once cooked, allow to cool to room temperature and cut into a large dice.
6. Place the cooked vegetables into a mixing bowl, add all other ingredients, and mix thoroughly.
7. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe: Homemade Giardiniera
Giardiniera literally translates to "the gardener." It is the perfect name for this dish because you can make it with any combination of vegetables from your garden.
1 pepperoncini 1 head fennel, large diced 1 red onion, large diced 1 bunch celery, large diced 2 carrots, large diced 1 yellow pepper, large diced 1 red pepper, large diced 1 cauliflower, florets 1 serrano chili or jalapèno, halved 1 pint Cerignola olives, pits removed 1 bay leaf 2 teaspoons black pepper, cracked ½ teaspoon chili flakes 1½ cups white wine vinegar 1½ cups apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 cup olive oil 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 sprigs thyme 3 cups water cup sugar
1. Wrap the bay leaf, black pepper, chili flakes, and thyme in cheesecloth (creating a "spice bag") and set aside.
2. Place a large pot on the stove with the salt, sugar, spice bag, water, and vinegars and bring to a boil.
3. Cut all vegetables and olives and add them to the pot.
4. Bring the vegetables back to a boil and allow to cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are al dente.
5. Remove the pot from the stove, add the remaining ingredients, and allow to cool.
Recipe: Olive Tapenade
I use olive tapenade as a dip, as a spread for a sandwich, or even as a sauce for an antipasto or entrée. The applications are endless.
2 roasted red peppers, peeled and diced 1 cup green Cerignola olives, chopped 1 ounce capers, rinsed and smashed 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 3 ounces olive oil 1 teaspoon pepper ¼ ounce parsley 2 anchovy fillets
1. Mix olives, peppers, capers, anchovies, and vinegar together.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
3. Season to taste and reserve for service.
Excerpted from CIBO by Michael Ponzio Copyright © 2011 by Michael Ponzio. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Simplicity of Italian Cooking....................xi
The Italian Kitchen....................xii
Northern Versus Southern....................xiii