Friday, January 28, 2011

Saltimbocca "alla Romana"

Saltimbocca are veal scaloppini prepared very simply by assembling together slices of tender veal, prosciutto, and fresh sage leaves

< The name means ‘jump into the mouth’ the idea being that saltimbocca is so delicious that [it] prompts you almost by its own volition to pop a piece of it in without hesitating for an instant > as Waverly Root, famous journalist and food writer describes them.

Scaloppini are very popular in Italy, but in the United States it is quite difficult to find a butcher who knows how to properly cut them. Scaloppini are thin slices of veal cut from the top round, and the slices should be cut across the vein of the muscles so that the fibers of the meat are short and the meat is tender. If they are cut along the vein, as they usually are in the US, the meat curls and toughens while cooking. To help prevent the meat from toughening, make the slices very thin and thump them with a meat.

While there are many variations on this dish with the addition of cheese or Marsala wine, we opted for the simplest recipe, as it is cooked in Roman kitchens. (Please keep your cooking simple .... )

Saltimbocca alla Romana
Veal Scaloppini with Prosciutto and Sage

2 oz (60 gr) flour
4 veal scaloppini  slices,  about 1 lb (approximately 450 gr) 
4 prosciutto slices,  approximately 
3 oz (80 gr) 
4 leaves of fresh sage 
2 – 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
3 tablespoons (40 gr) butter
1/2 cup (120 cc) dry white wine

Put the flour on a large plate and add a pinch of salt. Dredge the veal slices in the flour, so that they are all well covered on both sides. Shake away the excess flour.
Place on each slice of meat, a slice of prosciutto ....

... and a leaf of fresh sage.

Secure the three together with a toothpick.
In a large frying pan, put the oil and the butter, and turn the heat to medium. When the butter begins foaming, place the meat in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Be careful about salt as prosciutto is generally quite salty already.

Fry gently on both sides until light brown.

Add the wine, turn the heat to medium high, and let the wine evaporate. Place on individual plates, covering the slices with the sauce and serve warm.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Scallops: delicious and easy to prepare

You want to prepare something special but no time to cook? Scallops are the perfect food for the occasion.

Scallops are a marine bivalve mollusk (similar to mussels and oysters) found in the oceans all over the world. The name scallop comes from the French ‘escalope’, which means shell. The shells are sometimes bright colored and have the characteristic fluted fan shape.

They do not anchor to rocks but they lay on the bottom of ocean floor where they move opening and closing the shell. To do this they have a very large muscle, much larger than those of other mollusks.  The internal body has mainly two parts: a bright orange ‘tongue’ and a large white muscle.

While the whole organism is edible (in Europe and in the East they eat it entirely like oysters) in the US only the white muscle is eaten. It looks like a white solid cylinder of flesh. The flavor is very delicate and is generally prepared with mild, butter based sauces to avoid covering its taste.
 Here is a simple and delicious recipe that can be arranged in few minutes.

Scallops with Basil 
see also
1 lb (400 gr) shelled scallops
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and dust lightly with flour, shacking off the excess.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add the scallops. Reduce heat to medium high and sauté for about 2 minutes on all sides.

Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes until golden and just firm....

... sprinkle with lemon juice, add butter and a few tablespoons of water if the pan is too dry.

Add basil, toss to blend, and serve warm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beans Soup for a cold winter supper

Bean soup is traditionally slowly cooked in terracotta pots, often with the addition of prosciutto or pork meat to enhance its flavor. There are infinite variations of this recipe as almost every region of Italy has a different way of making “Pasta Fasul” (the way this dish is know in the United States).

Beans Soup

11 oz (315 gr) dry borlotti beans
1 quart (approximately 1 liter) water 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
2 oz (60 gr) pancetta (substitute with un-smoked bacon), finely chopped 
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons fresh ripe tomato, finely diced 
2 cups (460 cc) broth 
salt and pepper 
5 oz (140 gr) short ditali pasta, or spaghetti broken in ½ inch (1–2 cm) pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for topping

Clean and wash the beans the night before. Place them in a container, and cover with fresh water. Let the beans soak in the water overnight.  

The next day, when ready to cook, drain the beans.  

In a stockpot, pour 1 quart (1 liter) water and add the beans. Boil for about 20 minutes or until the beans are tender. Drain the beans and reserve part of the cooking water.

In a pot (I am using a traditional terracotta pan), pour the extra-virgin olive oil, and turn the heat to medium. Add the bacon, onion, celery, and carrot, finely chopped together. Sauté for 2 - 3 minutes, until the onion becomes soft.  Stir in the tomato.
Transfer about one third of the beans to a plate. Using a potato masher, reduce the beans to a paste.

Add to the pot the beans . . .
. . . the puréed beans . . .
. . . the broth . . .
. . . and the beans cooking water. Bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the ingredients are well blended.
Add the pasta and cook for the time indicated by the manufacturer, checking for readiness from time to time. Pasta is ready when al dente (firm but not too soft or overcooked). Adjust the salt if necessary. 

Place the soup in a large terrine or single serving dishes. Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and serve warm.