Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Saucy Trio

As I stated some months ago, I have wanted to delve deeper into the world of Italian cuisine. As my first step, I went straight to the American icon of Italian cooking—Marcella Hazan. My, oh, my. What a woman! An Italian immigrant, she taught cooking lessons in the kitchen of her apartment. She later went on to teach at many cooking schools and write several cookbooks (for details of her career, check here http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/4331/Marcella_Hazan/index.aspx or here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan.)

I chose Essentials of Italian Cooking, published in 1992, as my starting book. And I’m still stuck on it. The book is actually a compilation of two of Marcella’s earlier books, Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking. It is wonderful. Beautiful. Inspiring. I read it like a novel. Marcella describes the major components of Italian cooking in simple yet elegant prose, and provides regional culinary history as well as recipes. I have a lot more work to do with it; I’m sure there will be a lot more posts pertaining to Marcella and me.

But today, I present to you three pasta sauces. The first one I’d like to share was the least spectacular of the three, “aio e oio” or Roman garlic and oil sauce. A terribly simple sauce, it has just garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes as ingredients. The heated through combination coats the spaghetti just so, and the whole is a delightfully piquant, salty delight. Delightful as it was, it wasn’t particularly thrilling. Good, but not wonderful. The best part about it, honestly, was that it was nice and quick and uses ingredients that I always have on hand.

The second sauce I want to share with you is actually the one I’ve made most recently—in fact, I’ll be finishing up the leftovers tonight! A tomato sauce with San Marzano canned whole tomatoes, sautéed vegetables and olive oil. This is a hearty sauce, with a blunt taste and simple veggies (carrots, celery, and onion). It is actually a nice choice for winter as well, because it’s a little on the heavy side and warms you up. It also has a teasing taste of sunshine and summer from the tomatoes that’s just the thing in the middle of dark and dreary February.

I am the biggest fan of this last sauce: tomato sauce with garlic and basil. Yet another charmingly simple recipe, this sauce is, hand’s down, one of the more amazing things I’ve ever cooked for myself. The taste is the perfect blend of salt, pungent canned tomatoes (though I can’t wait to try it with fresh), and the soft and subtle sweetness of the basil. It was phenomenal. I was incredibly surprised by the depth of the taste of such a simple dish! The flavors were clean, the pasta was al dente, and the entire contents came together into a sublime whole.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The wonderful GF sent me this link from this month's Esquire magazine:

http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/sandwiches--the Best Sandwiches in America.

Philly is holding its own against the rest of the country with 2 entries:
-One for the roast pork and provolone sandwich as John's Roast Pork, at 14 East Snyder Avenue.
-One for the chicken cutlet at Shank's and Evelyn's Luncheonette, at 932 South 10th Street.

I haven't gone to either of them, but now I want to visit both! Check it out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Desire Fulfilled

Do you ever wake up in the morning and want something? Just unaccountably desire it? You hadn’t been thinking about it at all previously but all of a sudden you want it? So much you can almost taste it? I do. Sometimes. I certainly did on Saturday morning. I awoke at the obscenely early hour of 8:30 and left my girlfriends sweetly sleeping behind me in bed, made tea, and sat down with a book. That’s when the craving hit.

I wanted a mimosa. A fresh, bubbly glass of orange juice and all the charm that champagne always brings. I really, really wanted one. I felt that if I had a mimosa at my side at that moment, life would be complete.

However, not possessing either champagne, orange juice, or the budget for a brunch out, it looked like I would be out of luck. But! I still had half a bottle of blood orange soda that I picked up from Trader Joe’s the other evening and a bottle of Absolute in my freezer. Those would be delightful together, I thought. But then I decided it wouldn’t be the same without enough food to cushion the alcohol and of course, that food needed to be brunch food. With a bound, I woke up my sweetly sleeping girlfriend and dragged her to the grocery store in my apartment complex. There we picked up, among other things, the essentials: organic eggs and bacon.

I played sous chef to my GF while she heated up butter in my (one, lone) skillet. Then, submerging slices of bread in whipped eggs and vanilla extract, I handed the drip pieces to her. And let me tell you, she makes amazing French toast. I don’t often eat French toast because it’s so often too sweet and complex for me. But this was beautifully simple, just eggs and vanilla and spattering of cinnamon at the end when it was served. It even kept well and I ate a piece this morning for breakfast as well.

The rest of brunch—bacon done to a perfect crisp and then eggs scrambled in the drippings with herbs de Provence to provide a light touch of flavor to balance all the heaviness—was delightful. And spiked blood orange juice was the absolute perfect accompaniment.