Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Succotash

Marcella kindly posted this on my wall:

If you love risotto, you might like succotash, assuming you have wonderful corn and fresh young beans or peas in Brisbane. First cook the peas/beans, then puncture the corn kernels to release their milk, then scrape off the kernels too and add them to the cooked, drained peas/beans together with whipping cream, butter, salt, pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly. It's delicious. Please don't add cilantro.
2 hours ago · · · See Friendship

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scallops


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Celery and tomato pasta sauce

I haven't checked in for a while. I have been cooking less Italian and trying to trim down.

But I haven't stopped.

Here is a celery and tomato pasta sauce from Marcella Cucina - the book, I think, that is her most physically beautiful and engagingly written.


It was a surprising and delicious sauce. Smooth but not buttery from the 3 tablespoons of butter and the tablespoon of oil. Herby and grassy (in a good way) from the celery - I use those words but really it was an intriguing flavour I find difficult to describe.

Some say it smelt like the garden......

In any event it was a fine and tasty pasta. I would like to make it again.

Another winner from Marcella Hazan.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pomodori E Vino

Here is a comment I posted over at the blog of the Pomodori E Vino (http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/pomodori_e_vino/and_in_the_beginning/), who have almost cooked their way through Essentials.

I am posting this as the project is coming to a close. Your work has been of incredible interest to me, as I have been trying to teach myself how to cook Italian by cooking my way through Marcella's works for a couple of years myself. However, my modest efforts could not begin to approach the sheer volume of work you have all produced since you began: one a day! It is remarkable.

I have enjoyed getting to know each of you during the process. While Marcella says in her first book that anyone who is slightly alert will have no problem cooking every dish, she also admits that simple does not always mean easy. It isn't easy making the perfect pasta with only spaghetti, garlic and oil, for example. When ingredients are not masked, and have to speak for themselves, in simple combinations and manipulated by simple procedures, then you really do have to do everything right.

And you know what, I think that more often than not you did.

I've been inspired by some of your dishes. You might see that in things I have cooked after you did. Some of the photography is beautiful, and the writing lyrical. You should be proud, each of you, of your efforts.

But of course the real hero in this project has been Marcella herself (and you too Victor, I know you're never far away). It is not too strong a statement to say Marcella's generous interaction with her fans over facebook, in her advanced years, have been one of the highlights of mine in recent times. We all knew she was an extraordinary gifted cook and communicator, with a clear vision of how things should be, but the way in which she has offered her increasingly valuable time to so many people she has not even met is just a sign of what a giving and passionate woman she is.

I have always said it was the intelligence in Marcella's writings that first drew me to her, and it was my success with her recipes and her virtual presence and encouragement on forums such as this project that has kept me cooking through her books.

It really has been like a director's cut, this project, with priceless commentary coming 20 years after the film was made. Although in this case it has been 30 years.

Lucky for us good cooking is timeless.

But enough from me. Thank you to each of you, and the biggest thank you and grandmotherly hug and firm handshake to Marcella and Victor. You are all food heros in my book, and the bringers of much happiness to many families, over many decades.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart



This was a cracker. I didn't expect much of it, but it was delicious, and so simple. I used the cloves - best if you can pick them out before eating them. But came up a treat, and was devoured by everyone.


I'll be making this again.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Onions

I've been thinking about what it means to brown an onion. Using Marcella's writings I describe onions becoming golden and then light brown (and presumably after this dark brown and then burnt). I think there is an expectation that it takes about 5 minutes for a onion to become golden and starting to brown from a cold start using a medium high heat (for example, in a risotto). But I'm reading someone else (not in the Italian space) and they say cook the onion until "light brown". Immediately I think of that post golden phase, but I wonder if they really mean lightly golden. Is anyone aware of whether the language used to describe a phase of cooking an onion is consistent among cooks?
21 hours ago · · · See Friendship
  • Michael Ryan likes this.
    • David Downie You know, I may have thought about this too much. It would appear that red onions cooked in olive oil do not behave in the same way as brown onions cooked in butter. I just waited until it looked light brown, as directed. I didn't see a golden phase at all. Pic on my wall for those interested.
      19 hours ago · · 1 person
    • Michael Ryan Very informative and entertaining David :). Good Afternoon Marcella, Hope your weekend is off to a great start!
      7 hours ago ·
    • Marcella Hazan
      Let us assume we are talking about sautéing, and not sweating, which is a different technique, and let us also assume that the internal color of the onion when raw is white. When it cooks in an uncovered pan in whatever fat you are using, the first phase will see it turn from flat white to translucent. Some people think it is already done. For Italian cooking, it is not. As you continue cooking and stirring, it acquires a deeper hue than it had originally, and that hue may be described as golden. For most dishes I prefer to continue cooking it until its color resembles that of a pale nut shell or dark blond wood. Depending on what you are making, it may now be ready. If you want a fuller release of the onion's flavor so that it may more intensely be transferred to the other ingredients that are to follow, continue cooking until is a medium to dark brown, but obviously not charred. The process may take from 5 to 8 minutes, depending on how fine the onion has been cut, on how much room it has in the pan, on how efficient is the heat conduction ability of the pan, and how the flame is regulated. I prefer a steady, but not excessively brisk simmer, but other cooks may like to use faster heat.

      I can see the golden phase, and you cannot. What of it? Just be a cook, David, and develop a sense of when the onion is ready. A little less analysis, a little more instinct.
      11 minutes ago ·
    • David Downie Thank you Marcella. Sometimes I think I am not very good with colour. I also have trouble spotting things right in front of me in the kitchen, such as the cheese grater. As for the onion, I can see the golden phase when I cook a brown onion in butter, but have trouble with a red onion. Perhaps it is all in my mind. I am much more instinctive a cook than I was when I began, but I do like to think about things as well. It could be my training.

      My Madhur Jaffrey stew turned out very nicely in the end, golden onion or not. It is amazing how many dishes may be cooked with lamb shoulder, at least to me. I have a few I cook regularly now, and they are all different and delicious. I think it is my favourite cut of meat, so far.
      2 seconds ago

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lemon risotto


Well I have been working my way through Giuliano Hazan's risotto recipes. Tonight was lemon risotto, from his How to Cook Italian. It all went to plan, and while not perhaps as mind bending as the classic porcini, or the butternut pumpkin, it was delicious all the same, and each bright, citrusy mouthful appreciated by the grateful diners.






Monday, February 21, 2011

Marcella and Mushrooms

Marcella has made some observations about porcini mushrooms, and also confirmed I can quote her. What a wonderfully kind and generous woman she is. The reference to 56 years is because in 1 month I will have been cooking Hazan food for 2 years.

Ciao Davide!

I am so glad you came around to making risotto with dried porcini. The best-kept secret about fresh mushrooms is that in scent and flavor they are quite mild, or to be charitable, subtle. Their great function is as vehicles, fabulous carriers of olive oil, chili pepper, garlic, parsley, very good tomatoes. In the case of porcini however, once they are dried, they are themselves the presence. They are in a league with the potent fragrances of chocolate (when the beans are being ground), coffee (when it is being brewed), tellicherry pepper (when it is being cracked), garlic and onion (when they are being sauteed), and bread (when it is being baked).

You have a long way to catch up with me. I have been cooking Hazan food for 56 years. But I shall never blog about it. As far as your blog, which I don't follow, I am hereby giving you blanket permission to cite any thing I put into our correspondence. If it lasts long enough, you are free to use it in a food memoir of your own if you ever want to write one.

Ciao, ciao. Marcella

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rack of lamb with mint


Well we have eaten well today. Risotto for lunch, rack of lamb with mint and garlic for dinner (along with a nice salad). This is from Giulano Hazan's How to Cook Italian.

The surprise was the juices on the roasting tray which were utterly delicious. I cooked it for 40 minutes at 220 degrees. Total prep time was about 5 minutes.


This one will be back.

Porcini risotto



Did I tell you that I have absolutely, unconditionally and permanently fallen in love with risotto?

I couldn't even cook it before I started this quest. In fact, I couldn't cook it successfully until Marcella herself told me how to cook it on facebook.

Hazan risotto, on song, is insane. It is magical. It is comforting. Exotic. Familiar at the same time. Moreish. Delightful. Intoxicating.

This is risotto with porcini mushrooms. I didn't really want to make it, as I prefer fresh food to dried. But Marcella has called this dish a classic of monumental statute, so I decided to give it a go.



And give it a go I did. I'm following Giulano Hazan's instructions on risotto from How to Cook Italian, as they are similar to Marcella's modern instructions on facebook, and I like that there is no vegetable oil or tablespoons of anything. Just butter and onion halves.

The only Marcella tip I used on this one was to soak the mushrooms for 30 minutes rather than 15.


Other than that I was away with the now very familar routine of butter, onions (make sure they are cooked properly!), vegetable, rice, broth and more butter and parmesan.

The mushrooms are exotic looking. They smell of the woods - somewhere you can't go. I was a little concerned as I'm sure i've used this in a chicken dish and it didn't work for me. I was worried the flavour would be too strong.

But it came together as I stirred. Creamy from the rice. Mushroomy from the mushroom water. Meat brothy from the meat broth. And the final, magical step with the butter and parmesan that has a long name starting with M that I can't recall. It transformed it into something very special indeed.


We ooed and arred as we ate this one. It was exotic and delicious. Not a grain of rice escaped. We were on a porcini high - we had never tasted anything like it.


I'll certainly be cooking this again.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pork loin with leeks


I'm on a bit of a pork roll. I never used to cook pork. My brother does, in an open fire pit. And it is delicious. But I never do. Not many people do really. And if they do, it is with crackling. Nobody I know cooks it on the stove.

Except myself and the Hazans.

Like chicken, then lamb, then risotto, now that I've discovered it I'm enjoying cooking my through all of the Hazan pork recipes that take my fancy. To recap highlights have been:

- Pork and Vinegar (Essentials);
- Pork with Apples and Plumbs (How to Cook Italian); and
- Pork with Cabbage (Every Night Italian).

The glaring omission from all of this, of course, is Marcella's famous Pork with Milk. I'm trying to psyche myself up to that one.

Anyway, I have loved them all. The apples and plumbs one was an obvious hit - who doesn't like a sweet fruit sauce with pork? The vinegar and bay leaves was a real surprise, with a flavour that we didn't expect, but that was sophisticated and delicious. The cabbage was mopped up to the last drop.


But onto leeks (from How to Cook Italian). The process is like the others. It is a very simple way to cook pork. I was worried I had too many leeks, but it was fine, as it turns out.


I kept cooking for a little longer than was called for, to ensure the leeks turned into a delicious sauce and were no longer recognisable as bits of leek.


And how was it? For me, it was very good, but not quite as delicious as the others. The pork tasted of well pork (which is a good thing) and the leeks were a delicious leeky sauce like an onion sauce but without the sweetness. I'd cook it again for the hell of it if I spotted some leeks.


We certainly got into it.


As a side, I had a productive Hazan Saturday afternoon, also cooking:
- Tuscan Ragu (double batch) (How to Cook Italian) - to freeze;
- Meat Broth for risotto (Marcella Says) - also to freeze; and
- Roast chicken with rosemary and garlic (How to Cook Italian) - in the fridge.

It is a point Marcella makes in an earlier book. If you are cooking for a few hours, why not do a few dishes at once. That makes your life easier down the track.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Risotto

If you couldn't read the prior post, I said:


Dear MarcellaI thought of you watching Top Chef these last couple of weeks. One chef used cream in his risotto, to make it creamy, and clearly that would make any student of yours upset. Then Tom Colicchio said that if a risotto is not runny then it is not risotto. He went to write: "Risotto should be soupy. If you go to Italy, you'll... be served it that way; ditto, a good Italian restaurant here...The starch should go into the stock and the risotto should run on a flat plate and not hold its form at all." My risotto, which I learnt from your writings, holds its form. I'm not sure if it should, according to others, but I like it. Regards David

And Marcella said:


Ciao David,American chefs who go to Italy suffer from a Moses complex, they are always coming down from the mount with a tablet of rules for the unlearned. What he should have said is, "If you go to Venice ...". Yes, our Venetian risotto, w...hile not quite soupy unless it's made with peas, is indeed runny, and of course we love it. But in Bologna and in Piedmont, risotto is firmly clingy and it is not less delicious. As for the chef who adds cream, well, follow my example, pay no attention to chefs.Ciao, ciao. Marcella

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Risotto

Dear Marcella
I thought of you watching Top Chef these last couple of weeks. One chef used cream in his risotto, to make it creamy, and clearly that would make any student of yours upset. Then Tom Colicchio said that if a risotto is not runny then it is not risotto. He went to write: "Risotto should be soupy. If you go to Italy, you'll
be served it that way; ditto, a good Italian restaurant here...The starch should go into the stock and the risotto should run on a flat plate and not hold its form at all." My risotto, which I learnt from your writings, holds its form. I'm not sure if it should, according to others, but I like it. Regards David
22 hours ago · · · See Friendship
    • Marcella Hazan
      Ciao David,
      American chefs who go to Italy suffer from a Moses complex, they are always coming down from the mount with a tablet of rules for the unlearned. What he should have said is, "If you go to Venice ...". Yes, our Venetian risotto, while not quite soupy unless it's made with peas, is indeed runny, and of course we love it. But in Bologna and in Piedmont, risotto is firmly clingy and it is not less delicious. As for the chef who adds cream, well, follow my example, pay no attention to chefs.
      Ciao, ciao. Marcella
      about an hour ago ·

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pumpkin risotto




I didn't bother to shop today. Too knackered. It was a case of what's around the house, as we got hungry. An eggplant was spotted and baked for afternoon tea. Risotto was the verdict for dinner.

I had a look at my new crisper to see if the asparagus was still around. It had mysteriously disappeared. I spotted half a pumpkin (butternut squash) left over from Giuliano Hazan's wonderful pumpkin and bacon pasta (30 Minute Pasta) eaten earlier in the week.


I recalled a pumpkin risotto and tracked down the recipe from his Every Night Italian. Thankfully I had some Marcella Says meat broth in the freezer, and before I knew it I was settling into the now familiar risotto routine of cooking the onion well, adding the vegetable and then finishing with the rice stirring (and then really finishing with the butter and parmesan at the end).



It was an absolute cracker. It looked like a painting. It tasted of the most wonderful creamy pumpkin, and was consumed with much life affirming and trouble easing pleasure.


Thanks again to the Hazan family for their risotto technique.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Marcella's comments on Facebook


  • Very few in the US were aware of the disaster that overtook one of Australia's major cities, Brisbane, when it flooded recently. Please read the account written by our FB friend David Downie, written in a matter-of-fact, sometimes wryly amusing, self-deprecating, and ultimately deeply moving style. I have become very fond of David and I regret that so many years and so many miles prevent our becoming more closely acq
    17 hours ago · · · Share
    • You and 8 others like this.
      • Victoria Jane Cole That's lovely to hear Marcella, I know David thinks very fondly of you also and your cooking has enriched both of our lives. He definitely has a flair for writing in a frank, humorous and resonating way.
        16 hours ago ·
      • Edward Hoos Thanks for posting this. Yes, unfortunately US news outlets didn't deem it a story worthy of their time. I got most of my information from friends in Australia from an online food forum.
        15 hours ago ·
      • Karen B Rush Thank you for acknowledging what our country has and still enduring. Today is Australia Day, our national day, and we find we are contemplating what we can do more to help each other.
        15 hours ago · · 2 people
      • David Downie Thank you Marcella, for your words and thoughts. I did not expect that you would become such an important person in my life when I began cooking your food. Your virtual presence and continued participation and generosity is a treasure that I for one very much value.
        11 hours ago · · 1 person

Risotto with Asparagus

I have wanted to continue my risotto quest with a vegetable for a while. I was drawn back to Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian rather than Marcella's Essentials because I like the fact he calls for 1/2 an onion rather than 2 tablespoons. I also suspect that the almost 15 years between the publication of Essentials and his book allowed for greater refinement of the recipe.

That is all speculation however.


I used one of the 6 batches of Marcella Says meat broth I prepared on Sunday. That stuff is gold. The asparagus was simmered as directed. I was concerned it tasted a little gritty after it was tender. I tried to rinse it in the asparagus water as best I could. Next time I will have to remember to rinse it properly before cooking (why didn't I do that anyway? You should always rinse a vegetable before cooking it).


I only had a red onion. I don't think red onion is best. It is difficult to see it become golden, as directed.

Everything went to plan. I don't mind stirring as I tell myself it means I'm working for the dish.

I have noticed I tend to use more broth than the recipe tends to call for. I think that must be because my stove is hotter.


The end result was delicious. It was less buttery and parmesany than the butter and parmesan risotto, but I think that is to be expected. I am not sure that I was able to taste asparagus each bite, but each bite was pretty well perfect.

Marcella suggests testing for salt at the end and I think that's a good idea. I could have seasoned it a little more I think. She also adds pepper, which she also adds to her basic risotto. That might be an idea as well.

She also stirs in a little parsley.

I will definitely be making this again.