Monday, January 16, 2012

Piselli Con Asparagi E Basilico - Emilia Romagna Week II

I first delved into the culinary traditions of Renaissance Emilia Romagna several years ago, when I took an online food writing course offered by my friend, Monica Bhide. During April of that year (2008), Gourmet magazine featured many Italian recipes, including a handful from Ferrara, a town where the d'Este family kept one of their magnificent homes.

This bright and fresh side dish seemed especially appropriate amid the 60-something winter temperature of late yesterday. We served it beside baked sweet potato and broiled fish. ENJOY!

Piselli Con Asparagi E Basilico
Asparagus, Peas, and Basil
Makes 6 servings (I halved the recipe for me and my husband)

1/4 cup chopped shallots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound shelled fresh peas (2 1/2 cups; 1 3/4 pound in pods) or 1 (10 ounce) package thawed frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
black pepper
Handful of torn basil leaves, about 3/4 cup (VOE: I would likely use the entire 3/4 cup of basil in a half recipe, the next time that I make it)

Cook shallots in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes.

Stir in asparagus, peas, sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then seal skillet wiht foil. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender but still slightly al dente, about 8 minutes. stir in basil and sea salt to taste.

Note: Peas can be shelled and asparagus cut 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Emilia Romagna Italian Cuisine - Week 1

Creamy and savory, complex, and seductive, a classic bolognese sauce is well worth the time it takes to make, as I learned on Sunday. The kitchen smelled heavenly for hours and we enjoyed every mouthful. The leftovers even tasted great when cold from the refrigerator, this afternoon.

But making this recipe has far more significance to me than merely exploring the cuisine of a region in Italy renowned for its cheeses, handcrafted meats and balsamic vinegar. My mother's family was Renaissance aristocracy and Isabella d'Este was famous for her patronage of the arts - including sittings for portraits by Da Vinci. The family owned Castello Estense de Ferrara and, later, Villa d'Este, now a 5-star hotel at Lake Como.

To explore the food of Emilia Romagna is to explore the food of my ancestors, a 'task' that truly excites me and I hope you'll enjoy the journey with me. The following recipe is adapted from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed:

Tagliatelle Verdi alla Bolognese
Green Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce
          Makes 6-8 servings
1 pound green tagliatelle or egg pasta
5 ounces lean boneless pork
5 ounces lean boneless beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 ounces bacon, finely chopped
2 ounces Italian sausage or pure sausage meat
1 wineglass white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 wineglass stock
salt and black pepper
5 tablespoons heavy cream
freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Select lean pork and beef and mince it in a food processor or ask the butcher to mince it for you. Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons butter and add the onion, carrot, celery and bacon. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, then add the pork and beef, sausage (with skin removed) and wine.
Cook gently for 10 more minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomato paste diluted in the stock. Stir in and add seasoning to taste. Cook gently for 1 ½ hours.
Stir in the cream and, when the sauce has absorbed it, remove from the heat and keep warm. Cook the pasta and avoid overcooking. Drain the pasta, turn into a heated serving dish and add the sauce, topping the middle of a circle of drained pasta.