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


Doggie Dolci

9 08 2012

Cook is in the kitchen making fresh ricotta. I lie under the butcher block awaiting all things making their way from table-top to floor: eyes straight ahead; ears perked to hear the launch above.

Dinner was an hour ago. Any dog knows that there must be a bit of a nibble before bedtime lures a canine to the pillow.

So does Cook.

Who knew that a chicken and a bee could conspire to create such heaven? The happy marriage of winged things, no doubt.

Behold, Canine Zabaglione:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. honey
1 tablespoon fresh ricotta

Combine milk, egg and honey whisking until frothy and slightly thickened. Pour into a bowl belonging to the nearest available dog and place a dollop of fresh ricotta in the center of said receptacle.

Wait for the dog’s appropriate pleasure at your devotion and satisfaction to his stomach to be expressed in a cursory lick to your ankle.



Ciao, Ciao, Chanel.

1 09 2009

Chanel has died.  Not the fashion (even though it’s not Italian, it seems eternal) nor the designer, herself (Coco is long gone)—but the dog.

Chanel apparently was the oldest living dog at 21 years of age.  That’s 147 in dog years.  She lived in New York.  Her favorite dish was boiled chicken and rice, clearly a Manhattan thing.

No pastrami; no corned beef? And she called herself a New Yorker…

No pasta; no red wine?  Why even live to a ripe old age without the satisfaction of these staples, I ask?

Though I see the appeal of the pullet, rice is a bit like eating an old sock, and a clean one, at that.  At least pasta is sauced.

Now that Chanel is gone, a new contender has taken a stand: Max, a 26 year-old mixed breed Cajun.  I’ll bet his diet features more spice: Louisiana Rat Gumbo, Squirrel Etouffee.  

Now, that’s living.

Dinner tonight in Rome?

Pasta Puttanesca. My key to long life:

1 lb. Spaghetti, cooked and drained.

Saute 5 cloves thinly sliced garlic in 1/3 cup Olive oil until soft.  Add 2 teaspoons anchovy paste, 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes, 1-28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice, 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives. 2 tblsp. drained capers, pinch of sugar, 3/4 cup chopped basil.

Toss with hot pasta and serve 4-6 people with, of course, a glass of Chianti…or two.


Easter Bunnies

4 04 2009

I know why rabbits are a ubiquitous sign of spring; and it’s not just the Easter Bunny.  rabbit - looking at you! by phamp197xRabbit traps are set in Chianti like clockwork come spring.  The man who runs our farm in the country stacks them high in the flat bed of his Ape, Rabbit trapping by State Records NSWand off we go, down a white gravel road, deep into the wood to set them.Wabbit Twap by a.d.miller

Two days later we return.  Only one trap holds a prize, but it is just enough for a proper Sunday dinner.

The local Italian rabbit is fat and tender and toothsome, especially when the farm cook , Grazia, prepares them.  How to cook rabbit by hans sThis is the way:

Heat the oven to 350.  Whisk together one bottle of Chianti, 1/4 cup of red-wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Cut a 3 lb. rabbit into pieces…Braised Rabbit by MindtoEyetoss the fur to any small dog who might be nearby.  Season it (the rabbit, not the dog) with salt and pepper, then dredge each piece in flour.

In 1/4 cup of olive oil, fry the rabbit, turning once, until browned…about 6 delicious smelling minutes. Braised Rabbit by MindtoEye

Transfer the rabbit  into a deep baking dish.  Add a hand-full of crushed garlic cloves (about 16-20) to the skillet until golden: another 3-4 delicious smelling minutes.  Pour the wine mixture into the skillet and scrape up the browned bits.  Pour the sauce over the rabbit in the baking dish.  Scatter the top with a handful of sage leaves(about 15) and 5 or 6 rosemary sprigs. 

Cover with foil and braise in the oven until tender…another 45 delicious smelling minutes.  Then, uncover and raise the over temperature to 450, basting rabbit until the sauce is thickened….yes, another 25 minutes of splendorous scent. 

A little salt and pepper; a bottle of Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico by S.Stavroucrusty bread Peter Reinhart's French Bread by foéÖþoooeyand green salad Green Salad by Sarah89j  Ecco, you have the perfect spring-time Sunday dinner.


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.



2 05 2008

Want inspiration?  Think of the meatball. 

 Spaghetti & Meatballs

Object of poems, songs and humor for years, just say the word and thoughts of Italy are invoked.

Ravello - Country - ItalyCampo di Miracoli (field of Miracles), Pisa, Tuscany, ItalyVenice, Italy

 Yet, meatballs were invented by Americans.American bald eagle

Who else would squeeze meat into the shape of an burly sphere and pair it with long strips of delicate pasta.  I am not against the occasional croquette, mind you, just the hapless pairing of foods.

Italy is nothing if not nuance.  Right down to it’s food.  Every pasta has a raison d’etre, so to speak.  And each is lovingly and carefully paired.The Pasta Loves MeEvery one is shaped to receive and compliment the sauce: Thin spaghetti is best for any sauce made up of oilSpaghetti Aglio e Olio with Arugula…the thicker the pasta, the richer the sauce it can take. 

Meat sauces should be reserved for heartier pastas like rigatoni or conchiglie, whose little shell shapes trap the sauce in bite-size morsels of heaven. Conchiglie

Cream sauces do well with farfalleFarfalle with Italian Chicken Sausage, Peas and Cremini Mushrooms and fusilli, Fusilliwhose broader surface areas provide perfect the perfect canvas.

Grazia is in the kitchen now whipping up tonight’s dinner, Fettuccine Grazia…who could go wrong?

For the Contessa and the Count, with a little left for the dog dish…:

1/3 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon, salt (truffle salt if you’re feeling frisky), 1/2 lb Fettuccine (Italian made, of course), 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a pinch of nutmeg. 

In a deep pan, simmer 1/4 cup of the cream and butter together for just a minute until thickened a little.  Boil 3 quarts of water with a handful of salt.  DSC03397Cook fettuccine until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the cream mixture.

Heat over low flame and toss to coat the pasta well.  Add the rest of the cream, the cheese, pepper and nutmeg and serve!Fettucine Alfredo w/fresh ground nutmeg

Dog Dish My bowl first.



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