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Essentials of Italian Cooking is a culinary bible for anyone looking to master the art of Italian cooking, bringing together Marcella Hazan’s most beloved books, The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking, in a single volume. Designed as a basic manual for cooks of all levels of expertise—from beginners to accomplished professionals—it offers both an accessible and comprehensive guide to techniques and ingredients and a collection of the most delicious recipes from the Italian repertoire. As home cooks who have used Marcella’s classic books for years (and whose copies are now splattered and worn) know, there is no one more gifted at teaching us just what we need to know about the taste and texture of a dish and how to achieve it, and there is no one more passionate and inspiring about authentic Italian food.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1st Edition|
|Product dimensions:||7.10(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.80(d)|
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Risi e Bisi—Rice and Peas
On April 25, while all of Italy celebrates the day the country was liberated from Fascist and German rule, Venice celebrates its own most precious day, the birthday of St. Mark, patron saint of the republic that lasted 1,000 years. The tradition used to be that in honor of the apostle, on April 25th, one had one’s first taste of the dish that for the remainder of the spring season became the favorite of the Venetian table, risi e bisi, rice and peas.
No alternative to fresh peas is suggested in the ingredients list, because the essential quality of this dish resides in the flavor that only good, fresh peas possess. To make peas taste even sweeter, many Italian families add the pods to the pot. If you follow the instructions below that describe how to prepare the pods for cooking, you will acquire a technique that will be useful in many other recipes that call for peas. The other vital component of the flavor of risi e bisi is homemade broth, for which no satisfactory substitute can be recommended.
Risi e bisi is not risotto with peas. It is a soup, albeit a very thick one. Some cooks make it thick enough to eat with a fork, but it is at its best when it is just runny enough to require a spoon.
For 4 servings
2 pounds fresh, young peas, weighed with the pods
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
3 1/2 cups Basic Homemade Meat Broth
1 cup Italian rice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1. Shell the peas. Keep 1 cupful of the empty pods, selecting the crispest unblemished ones, and discard the rest.
2. Separate the two halves of each pod. Take a half pod, turning the glossy, inner, concave side that held the peas toward you. That side is lined by a tough, film-like membrane that you must pull off. Hold the pod with one hand, and with the other snap one end, pulling it down gently against the pod itself. You will find the thin membrane coming away without resistance. Because it is so thin, it is likely to break off before you have detached it entirely. Don’t fuss over it: Keep the skinned portion of the pod, snap the other end of the pod and try to remove the remaining section of membrane. Cut off and discard those parts of any pod that you have been unable to skin completely. It’s not necessary to end up with perfect whole pods since they will dissolve in the cooking anyway. Any skinned piece will serve the purpose, which is that of sweetening the soup. Add all the prepared pod pieces to the shelled peas, soak in cold water, drain, and set aside.
3. Put the butter and onion in a soup pot and turn on the heat to medium. Sauté the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add the peas and the stripped-down pods, and a good pinch of salt to keep the peas green. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring to coat the peas well.
4. Add 3 cups of the broth, cover the pot, and adjust the heat so the broth bubbles at a slow, gentle boil for 10 minutes.
5. Add the rice and the remaining 1/2 cup of broth, stir, cover the pot again, and cook at a steady moderate boil until the rice is tender, but firm to the bite, about 20 minutes or so. Stir occasionally while the soup is cooking.
6. When the rice is done, stir in the parsley, then the grated Parmesan. Taste and correct for salt, then turn off the heat.
Apulia, the region that extends over the entire heel and half the instep of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, has a strong tradition of homemade pasta. Unlike the tortellini, tagliatelle, and lasagne of Emilia-Romagna, Apulian pasta is made with water instead of eggs, and the flour is mostly from their native hard-wheat variety, rather than from the soft wheat of the Emilian plain. Apulian dough is chewier, firmer, more rustic in texture. It is perfectly suited to the strongly accented sauces of the region.
The best-known shape of Apulian pasta is orecchiette, “little ears,” small disks of dough given their ear-like shape by a rotary pressure of the thumb. In the recipe that follows, hard-wheat flour is mixed with standard, unbleached flour to make a dough easier to work.
For 6 servings
1 cup semolina, the yellow flour from hard wheat, ground very fine
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 1 cup lukewarm water
1. Combine the semolina, the all-purpose flour, and salt on your work counter, making a mound with a well in the center. Add a few tablespoons of water at a time, incorporating it with the flour until it has absorbed as much water as it can without becoming stiff and dry. The consistency must not be sticky, but it can be somewhat softer than egg pasta.
2. Scrape away any crumbs of flour from the work surface, wash and dry your hands, and knead the mass for about 8 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.
4. Pull off a ball about the size of a lemon from the kneaded mass, rewrapping the rest of the dough. Roll the ball into a sausage-like roll about 1/2 inch thick. Slice it into very thin disks, about 1/16 inch, if you are able. Place a disk in the cupped palm of one hand, and with a rotary pressure of the thumb of the other hand, make a hollow in the center, broadening the disk to a width of about 1 inch. The shape should resemble a shallow mushroom cap, slightly thicker at its edges than at its center. Repeat the procedure until you have used up all the dough.
5. If you are not using the orecchiette immediately, spread them out to dry on clean, dry cloth towels, turning them over from time to time. When they are fully dry, after about 24 hours, you can store them in a box in a kitchen cupboard for a month or more. They are cooked like any other pasta but will take longer than conventional fresh egg pasta.
Mantovana—Olive Oil Bread
If you follow the eastern-bound course of the Po river, Italy’s largest, as it slices much of northern Italy in two, with parts of Lombardy and the Veneto on its left bank, and Emilia-Romagna on its right, you will be traveling across some of the country’s best bread territory, once studded with flour mills powered by the river’s currents.
These handsome loaves, notable for their fine, crisp, tasty crust, and soft crumb are popular on both the Emilia and the Lombardy side, but take their name from the ancient ducal town of Mantua, in Lombardy.
2 mantovane loaves
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
About 5 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
A baking stone
A baker’s peel (paddle), 16 by 14 inches, or a cookie sheet or large piece of stiff cardboard
A pastry brush
1. Dissolve the yeast completely in a large bowl by stirring it into 1/4 cup lukewarm water with the 1/4 teaspoon sugar added. When dissolved, in 10 minutes or less, add 2 cups flour and 3/4 cup water, and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
2. If kneading by hand: Pour the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead steadily for about 10 minutes. Push forward against the dough, using the heel of your palm and keeping your fingers bent. Fold the mass in half, give it a quarter turn, press hard against it with the heel of your palm again, and repeat the operation. Make sure that you keep turning the ball of dough always in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise as you prefer. Add a little more flour, if you find it necessary to make the dough workable, and dust your hands with flour if they stick to the dough. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky, but smooth and elastic. It should spring back when poked with a finger. Shape it into a ball.
If using the food processor: Pour 2 cups flour into the processor bowl, with the steel blade running add the dissolved yeast gradually, together with 3/4 cup water. When the dough comes together forming a lump on the blades, take it out and finish kneading it by hand for 1 or 2 minutes.
3. Choose an ample bowl, dust the inside lightly with flour, and put in the dough. Wring out a wet cloth towel, fold it in two, and cover the bowl with it. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place, and let it rest for about 3 hours, until it has doubled in bulk.
4. If kneading by hand: Pour the remaining 3 cups flour onto the work surface. Place the risen ball of dough over the flour, punching it down and opening it with your hands. Pour the remaining 1 cup lukewarm water over it, and add the salt and the olive oil. Knead steadily as described above.
If using the food processor: Pour the remaining flour into the processor’s bowl. Put in the risen dough, and the salt, and gradually add first the 1 cup lukewarm water, then the salt and the olive oil, while running the steel blades. Take out the dough when it forms a lump on the blades, and finish kneading it by hand for 1 or 2 minutes.
5. Return the kneaded dough to the floured bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rest until it has doubled in bulk again, about 3 more hours.
6. Thirty or more minutes before you are ready to bake, put the baking stone in the oven and preheat oven to 450°.
7. When the dough has again risen to double its bulk, take the dough out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard several times, until it is stretched out lengthwise. Reach for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, push it away with the heel of your palm, flexing your wrist, fold it, and push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. It will have a tapered, roll-like shape. Pick up the dough, holding it by one of the tapered ends, lift it high above the counter, and slap it down hard again several times, stretching it out in a lengthwise direction. Reach for the far end, and repeat the kneading motion with the heel of your palm and your wrist, bringing it close to you once more. Work the dough in this manner for 8 minutes.
8. Divide the dough in half, shaping each half into a thick, cigar-shaped roll, quite plump at the middle and tapered at the ends. Sprinkle the peel (or the suggested alternatives) thinly with cornmeal, making sure the meal is well distributed over the surface. Place both shaped loaves on the peel, cover with a damp towel, and let them rest 30 to 40 minutes.
9. With a sharp knife or a razor blade, make a single lengthwise slash 1 inch deep along the top of each loaf. Brush the upper surface of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in water. Slide the loaves from the peel onto the preheated baking stone. Bake for 12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375° and bake for 45 minutes more. When done, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack, and let the bread cool completely before cutting and serving it.
Ricotta and Coffee Cream
This intriguingly good combination of ricotta, rum, and coffee may be the easiest dessert I have ever learned to make. It can all be done in less than 3 seconds in the food processor or, for a firmer consistency, by beating the mixture with 2 forks held in one hand. Please note that the cream needs to set in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
For 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds fresh ricotta
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons very strong espresso coffee
Garnish: 36 espresso coffee beans
1. Put the ricotta, sugar, rum, and coffee into the food processor and process to a creamy consistency.
2. Pour the mixture into 6 individual glass dessert coupes, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Just before serving, arrange 6 fresh, crisp coffee beans in a circular or other pleasing pattern over the cream. Serve cold.
Note Do not refrigerate with the beans or they will become soggy.
Table of Contents
|Fish and Shellfish||288|
|Chicken, Squab, Duck, and Rabbit||327|
|Focaccia, Pizza, Bread, and Other Special Doughs||618|