My parents and I often get into a quibbling match over the Italian food that they like and the Italian food that I like. The Italian food that they like is the food found at what’s typically called “a red sauce joint” with dishes every American who’s been to EPCOT or an Olive Garden can rattle off: Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Scarpiello, Shrimp Scampi (a tautological phrase since scampi means shrimp), and so on. I’m not against this food–sometimes, I really enjoy it–but my parents LOVE this food and put it on a higher pedestal than the food you find at the Italian restaurants I love, restaurants like Babbo or A Voce. When I try to explain that the latter food is more authentic, my parents are incredulous: after all, their favorite Italian restaurants are owned and managed by Italians who moved here direct from Italy. So what is the difference? Maybe it’s not a question of authenticity, just a question of quality. Either way: the subject was ripe as we sat down this weekend for dinner at Andrew Carmellini’s brand new restaurant in TriBeCa, Locanda Verde.
For years, I’ve walked past Lure Fishbar in SoHo. You can’t miss it, really: there are portholes for windows and the restaurant, which is below ground, is styled like a yacht.
I can’t say I was dying to eat there, but then word on the street was that their burger was one of the best below 14th street. That’s what William Tigertt claimed on Eater, and then Adam Kuban echoed it on A Hamburger Today: “This burger really is all that Mr. Tigertt describes.”
Here’s something for you to cook this weekend, something from the archives. It comes from The River Cafe Cookbook, a book I no longer own, but no matter. It’s an easy enough recipe, I have it memorized. So easy: I can squeeze it all into this paragraph. Boil a pot of water, add salt. In a large skillet, add cubed pancetta–about two big slices worth. Add a splash of olive oil, raise the heat and let the pancetta start to brown. When it’s getting closer to brown than not-brown, add broccoli florets–about two heads worth–to the salted water. Add 2 or 3 cloves of slivered garlic to the pancetta and some red pepper flakes. (Watch the garlic: don’t let it burn.) When the broccoli is just cooked, but still al dente (1 or 2 minutes) lift with a spider into the skillet with the pancetta and garlic. Now drop a 1 lb box of orecchiette into that same salted broccoli water; stir it all around so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself. Lower the heat on the broccoli and if the pan is too dry, add some pasta cooking water. Keep it on the lowest flame while the pasta cooks. When the pasta’s just al dente (9 minutes later) add with the spider to the skillet with the broccoli and pancetta (it’s ok if some pasta water gets in, it helps make the sauce). Toss all around until everything’s coated and the pasta’s totally cooked through and then, off the heat, add copious amounts of Parmesan cheese and one final drizzle of olive oil. Magnifico! There you have it: Orecchiette with Broccoli & Pancetta.
One of the highlights of making our Amateur Gourmet show for Food2.com, was the day we got to visit the kitchen of Le Bernardin–one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, great restaurants–to learn how to make a chocolate souffle from revered pastry chef (and blogger!) Michael Laiskonis. What follows is the video we made, with step-by-step instructions that result in a chocolatey souffle that’s as ethereal as it is delicious. Hope you enjoy! [For the full typed-out recipe, click here.]
After yesterday’s cookbook slaughter, I thought I’d steer the blog to sweeter waters and talk about a subject I’ve never addressed on the blog before: my secret cookbook gems.
No, I’m not talking about books that I actually cook from. Those would be my favorite cooking cookbooks and you can find those on the lower right hand corner of the page under the heading “The Amateur Gourmet Recommends.” These books, my secret cookbook gems, are the ones with the most sentimental value: the ones that I cherish the most, the ones I’d grab first if the apartment was on fire.
Nobody likes moving. It’s a daunting process: first you have to find boxes, then you have to find packing tape, then you have to put all your stuff in the boxes and then you run out of packing tape and then you find you have more stuff and you need more boxes, etc, etc. It sucks.
Which is why, a few days ago, I found myself staring at my cookbook collection. I was on the couch and there it was, across the room. Six giant Ikea shelves of cookbooks, collected from five and a half years of food blogging. And like a bolt of lightning, a thought singed the inside of my brain: “Do I really need all of these cookbooks? How many do I really use, really?”
After a long day on Tuesday of editing a video for Food2.com, I called Craig and told him to order a pizza. When I came home, he was editing a video with his friend Alena. There’s a lot of video editing going on in our lives. And so we all snarfed down that pizza, they returned to their editing, and I–like the sophisticated, highbrow person that I am–watched “The View” on Tivo. At around midnight, after Alena left, I got a hankering for dessert and decided, at 12:15, to make a lemon mousse.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Amanda Hesser’s. I’ve been cooking her recipes–from her vanilla bean loaves to her carrot fennel soup–for as long as I’ve been cooking, really. Which is why I’m so delighted that Amanda and her friend Merrill Stubbs have joined our ranks here on the world wide web. Check out their new site Food52: a fun, interactive recipe resource that allows you to submit recipes, vote for recipes and help shape an actual cookbook that’ll be published at the end of a year. I really love the videos of Amanda and Merrill cooking together (like this one of them cooking fish): it’s refreshing to discover that the authoritative voice behind the New York Times Magazine food section is just a normal person like you and me. With an incredibly nice kitchen.