The ‘I’ in Italian is for Irish

17 03 2013

St. Patrick’s Day. I am green for the occasion. Frankly, I could have done a better job myself simply rolling in the freshly mown spring grass.1034471684_03013052f1_t

The meal this evening: Green pasta with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and vodka….vodka?105683306_458e9335c6_t

I suppose it’s a better choice than Irish Whiskey. At least vodka is flavorless. A reflection on the Russian culture? Makes a dog think.4202198032_b137b8ff79_t

The cook tosses a handful or two of baby spinach from the garden into the churning pasta dough, passes it through a hand-cranked cutter and out come stands of verdant linguine, like the long, slender grasses of mid-summer.7379440830_051b9132b8_t

The sauce: Creme fraiche to begin. Fraiche because it’s straight from the cow next-door, thick and rich; ice cream without the sugar.3249757365_9a5e6951a7_t

Vodka we have discussed. Gives the dish a piquant edginess. Another Soviet quality, perhaps?

The two, warmer together over a low flame lend a sweetness to the kitchen that hovers in the air like the aroma of some heady, unnamed blossom. Unwrap a package of tender, gently smoked Irish salmon and the kitchen becomes a perfumery. Heaven.2343601360_f2f4aff6c4_t

Cook folds the salmon pieces into the sauce. Checks for flavor, swiping a privileged finger through the mix, adds a splash more vodka to both the sauce and her glass of fresh-pressed juice. I guess the Russian liquid must have SOME merit.

The green pasta is boiled in salty water in the time it takes me to make it to the corner of the yard to water the basil, and return.

Linguine drained, sauced and served with a generous sprinkling of fresh parmesan and a glass of crisp Italian wine.865303675_d9436aea2b_t

Now THAT’S St.Patricks Day in style.374491_441513399262757_326224331_n


Mozzarella in May

23 05 2009

 Mozzarella cheese. (dy1) There’s nothing like mozzarella cheese, especially when it comes in spring.  Fresh on the heels of calving, mozzarella in May is glorious. 

The Italian buffalo is a huge, red-eyed beast which lumbers across the grassy hillsides and wallows in the cool mud-streams along the valleys.  True mozzarella comes from Italy’s Campania region.  Naples is it’s center.  The mozzarella dairy, or caseificio, La Fenice, near Presenzano, is one of our favorite haunts for fresh cheese.

We drive about an hour south of Rome and in we walk.  The smell of buffalo hangs like overripe raw meat in the yard outsidePaestum buffalo's - and do they make great mozzerella! by rubinsteins_in_spainbut inside the dairy is immaculate.  The centerpiece is a large, shallow vat with a hundred white balls of mozzarella bobbing like tennis balls in the milky water.  The finished product, room-temperature and gooey heaven.

A man in the back room is beginning a new batch.  I watch as buffalo milk is brought in and curdled.  The whey is separated and the curd is ground in a mill, then molded and placed in hot water, stirred and kneaded like bread until it is smooth and shiny.  Then, small pieces are pulled away and formed into balls and brined for a short time.  Mozzarella made in the morning is ready by dinner time.  Warm, soft, rich and fresh.

Sure, it’s good with tomatoes and basil and a drizzle of balsamicMaking pizza by borud; tossed with pasta and tomato sauce; on any thin crust pizzaHomemade Pizza - Making of a Dough God by Bumbling B.

But there is nothing like true, fresh, still-warm mozzarella, hand held by the one you love, melting on your tongue and into your memory as spring fades into summer.


Lost in the Sauce

23 03 2009

There is a difference between pasta served in Italy, and pasta served nearly anywhere else.  Outside Italy, most pasta swims in whatever version of classic salsa or sugo, pseudo-Italians pretend to pass off as originale.

But the key to authentic Italian food is simplicity.  Kitchen sink versions of pasta sauce fly nowhere in Italy.

Italians do not lose their pasta in the sauce.

Less is always more (unless you’re talking about amore).♥Heart♥ by ♥madolina♥

Grazia was in the cucina again today.  Primavera in the kitchen: spring has sprung and heaven waits.

Penne with Rapini and Sausage, serves four humans, plus one small dog:

Trim, rinse and chop coarsely one bunch of rapini (bitter broccoli rabe), about 2+ cups.  Rapini by cococelloBlanch in salted boiling water 2-3 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Uncase the meat from 2 large Italian sausages. Italian Sausage by seriouslygood1 Break up the sausage into 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown.  Drain.

Cook 1 pound penne in salted, boiling water, according to directions.  Meanwhile saute drained and dried rapini Rapini with garlic by Debbie C.B.'sin 2 cloves thinly sliced garlic and 4 tablespoons olive oil until hot.  Add browned sausage.  Drain penne and toss with rapini and sausage.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Sausage and rapini pasta by letitia & steveHappy spring.


Sauce of the Day

8 03 2008

I have management, of course.  a staff dance, 5th December 1922There is the Count and there is Contessa.  I am walked regularly and entertained with an orange ball (in summer it is a real chilled orange!).  I have standing appointment with a very attractive bleach-blonde named Chiara, who suds me up and down, rubs me briskly, rinses me thoroughly, then fluffs me with a 600-watt dryer.Jack

But none of these is as satisfying as my cook.  And life on Fridays is very fine.

Grazia comes five days a week (Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons we dine out.)

Friday is Bolognese night.  I sit under the kitchen table and watch her conjure the secret sauce. 

low heat

In one pan, Grazia sautes ground beef until it is well-cooked and brown.  This smells like what must be heaven. 

Then she chops one large carrot and 2 stalks of celery and 1/2 an onion and 5 cloves of peeled garlic, fine.  She sautes this in a separate pan in 1/3 cup olive oil until it is all translucent.  Even the vegetables smell like ambrosia…must be the garlic. 

Grazia adds this to the meat, then stirs in 1/3 bottle of Chianti, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (yes, I know it’s French.  That’s the secret: Grazia’s grandmother was from the wrong side of the border…), and 3 cups of the simple tomato sauce she canned last summer.  

stir every ten minutes 

It stays on a low flame atop the stove until she adds 1 cup of fresh chopped basil and it’s ready.

All mixed up...

From here you can use your imagination in pairing the pasta: penne is good, but I find it often sticks in the throat of small dogs.  A good egg fettucine is my pick, but that’s just me.  And grilled polenta is always a good underpinning to any sauce, as well.


Life on Fridays is fine, indeed.

Pasta Bolognese


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