Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tomatoes stuffed with Salmon and Fricassed Chicken with Cabbage

I'm back to Marcella tonight. The old master returns.

For a first course we had baked tomatoes stuffed with salmon, parsley, capers, olive oil and breadcrumbs. This is a recipe from Marcella Cucina. I made the breadcrumbs fresh, as I do now.

I've made these little blighters before. I had two halves. I think I preferred the smaller one, which means that I think I like them a bit crunchier. I'm not sure if this is because I'm not a great salmon fan.

I want to make these again cooking them say for another 5 or 10 minutes over the 35.

Visually they were very attractive.

For our second course, we had the Fricasseed Chicken with Red Cabbage, served with Italian potato mash. This is probably the best dish of Essentials so far for me and I have written about it on this blog before. It is truly delicious, and is my winter fricasseed chicken (summer being the white wine rosemary tomatoes and olives from Cucina). Every little scrap of it and its sauce was devoured by the three of us.

I'm pleased to report I used a little nutmeg and parmesan in my mash and it is growing on me. I think I use less butter and salt this way so it all works out.

PS - I wanted to point out I browned the chicken in the same pan I cooked it in. The only difference was I poured out most of the chicken fat (not all!) as there was so much. Worked perfectly.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spaghettini with Eggplant

I'm fond of eggplant. You can barbeque it, fry it, bake it or pretty well do anything with it. All you need is a little salt and olive oil. It is a very cool vegetable to eat.

I've made eggplant pasta a bit before. Patricia Wells has a recipe in her Italian book. When I've pulled that off it's been delicious. It involves frying eggplant chunks in a little oil (not a lot) and then adding them to the tomato sauce.

Sometimes it has been a bit of a dud, but when it came off it came off.

Anyway, tonight I was back in my favourite pasta book, Giuliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta.

I was intrigued by Giuliano's approach of simmering the eggplant rather than frying it. He also adds basil and uses fresh tomatoes. That sounded delicious. I didn't like the fact he peeled the eggplant, but I dutifully followed the recipe, as I should the first time.

It didn't work for me. I think I missed the fried chunks of eggplant. It just tasted too light and dare I say healthy, but not in a way I found satisfying. It was edible but not amazing.

To recap the pasta that has really worked for me from this book so far:
- tomato and basil;
- butternut pumpkin;
- tomato and olives.

I didn't go for this one or the Puttanesca, which is a damn shame as I want to find a Puttanesca that works for me. And a reliable Eggplant Pasta. There are heaps of others I want to try in this book (pretty well all of them) so all in good time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I thought I'd post what I had for dinner, even though I've written about it before. I cooked Giuliano Hazan's Parmesan Encrusted Lamb Rack from his Every Night Italian, and ate it with Alice Water's Potato Gratin and a salad with nice lettuce leaves, chopped tomatoes, mint and left over bread crumbs from the lamb rack.

It didn't go as well as I would have liked.

I've had the Lamb Rack before. It is excellent. Tonight it was just off the mark. I don't know why. Perhaps it was the quality of the lamb. It's hard to see how you get the rest wrong. The bread crumbs were a delight - I just baked them for 10 minutes or so with a little olive oil.

Anyway, the lamb rack didn't reach the dizzy heights it did last time. I'm going to persist though, because I know how good it can be.

Now the potato gratin. It's one of the tastiest things I can cook. It is so simple, and so delicious. This time I tried to embellish with some tyme that had dried in my kitchen, and I also was self indulgent and put some parmesan in. I don't know why I messed with something great.

Anyway, it too was a bit of a flop. It has never failed me before. It seemed a bit undercooked, and milky. All I can think is that the lamb rack tray blocked the heat and didn't let it cook. I also forgot to pat it down after 30 minutes.

The only thing that saved me was the salad. Beautiful lettuce leaves and tomatoes, with the cheeky breadcrumbs and mint, because I had some. I dressed it in the Italian fashion - olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar, and it was delicious. It was the tastiest part of the meal.

I haven't gone mental however, as I also cooked Giuliano Hazan's Lamb Stew from his How to Cook Italian. It is a favourite, and did not let me down today. I used red wine instead of white, and had to cook it for an hour or so longer than he suggested to get it tender. I guess that's the common sense part of cooking.

I did not eat it of course. I'll have that for dinner tomorrow with a vegetable.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Well, everyone knows about Bruschetta. But if this is the case then why is it that something so delicious is always so shit in restaurants?

The bruschetta I just ate for breakfast was proper italian style bread toasted with a little tomato cut up and mixed with little slithers of fresh basil, lots of salt, pepper, and lots of quality extra virgin olive oil.

Sounds trite but so so good. Nothing like the crap served up most places.

It was only as I was eating it that I thought I didn't put garlic on it. Often I do, but this didn't need it, and was perhaps more fresh without it. Bruschetta does not need garlic rubbed on it to be bruschetta.

Having said that, the most common bruschetta I eat is the most ancient - simply garlic, salt and oil. It is fine enough. Sometimes I sprinkle some finely chopped rosemary on top.

Be generous with the salt and oil.

The worse bucetta ever was these huge bits of toast with, I swear, a tomato chopped into the most enormous slices, put on the top of it, like the crudest tomato on toast you could imagine. It was horrific, and I just think, why. Why they do this, when the real stuff is so easy, and so tasty. And how ignorant are we to eat that crap.

Don't get me started on so-called garlic bread, Mt Cootha style. The horror.