Italian Archive

Monday, June 2, 2014

nancy’s chopped salad

nancys chopped salad

When it comes to meal salads, I feel pretty much everything you need to know is summed up by one of my favorite commercials of all time, which assures you that no matter what’s in your bowl (deep-fried taco shell, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and cheese), as long as it vaguely resembles a salad, it must be good for you. [“Is it healthy? Of course it is! It’s a salad, isn’t it?”]

what you'll need
chopping garlic, oregano and salt

I bring it up today because we’ve fallen madly in love with a salad that I’m not sure we’re eating for any of the earnest reasons that one usually eats a salad — a desire for leafy greens, fresh vegetables or to be enviable in a swimsuit. Nope, I’m pretty sure this is the best salad ever because it tastes exactly like an Italian sub, minus that all-too-frequently lackluster bread. Which totally makes it healthy.

whisky, whisky

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

fresh spinach pasta

fresh spinach pasta

I had the strangest weekend. My husband went to New Orleans for a bachelor party and my in-laws insisted upon watching my son for one of the nights he was away. I was all set to argue that I probably could handle a single potty-trained, getting-himself-dressed, occasionally listening almost-5 year-old for all of 48 hours but when I opened my mouth the only words that came out were, “Thank you! What a fantastic idea!”

on my coffee table this weekend
baby spinach leaves

All of a sudden, I was flying completely solo for the first time in half a decade and I had no idea what to do with myself. Would I finally clean the apartment? Would I have a giant party? Would I go away by myself for the night, just because I could? Would I watch two matinees in a row and eat popcorn and Reese’s pieces for dinner? Why had I not been planning for this day my all five years I’d had to think about it; I bet when Jacob was 8 months old and hadn’t slept through the night for any of them, I had a crystal-clear idea of where I’d run if given the chance. (Spoiler: Back to bed. Or Paris! Or both!) But that was then and this was Saturday. So, I went for a haircut. I took a walk. I ducked into tiny bookstores and bought new things for everyone to read. With friends, I went for manicures and pedicures, ordered cava and tapas, and stuffed wedding invitations. I slept in! I got a massage with a gift certificate I received over 3 years ago! I finished the book I was reading and started a new one! I realize this is probably the dullest story ever told, but I honestly couldn’t believe the lap of limitless luxury my life had become. I can’t believe there are people that live like this every single day; I can’t believe I was once one of them. This is probably how having kids turns you into one of those fuddy-duddies you remember your parents being.

wilted spinach

Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 6, 2014

parmesan broth with kale and white beans

parmesan broth with kale and white beans

This soup is the very best thing I ate in December, which is saying a lot for a month that involved the purchase of at least 4 pounds of butter. And it didn’t involve any of them. I know, I know — that’s crazy talk.

cheese rinds by the pound
smash some garlic

We had a last-minute dinner party in December, last minute enough that I basically ran to the store that morning and bought everything then cooked straight through until dinner. This is not my style. I’m a dinner party planner; rushing makes my skin crawl. But if there could be an upside to it, it would be that by planning the morning-of, necessary adjustments could be made due to the facts that 1. It was snowing very hard outside, thus, soup was in order. 2. A vegetarian friend (that’s not so strict that cheese is off the menu) was able to make so my beloved chicken stock was out for a base, but I wanted something equally magnanimous.

what you'll need

Continued after the jump »

Monday, November 4, 2013

spinach and egg pizzette

spinach and egg pizzette

This, this mash-, roast-, horseradish-, bangers-, crisps-, and goose fat-free, is one of my favorite things I ate while I was in the UK, and it’s not even British. Technically speaking, it was from a Venetian small plates restaurant, although I came to associate meals with generous helpings of gorgeously cooked spinach with the UK, as it appeared, to my delight, on so many plates. I had spinach tangled with a duck breast at a gastropub in what felt like the middle of nowhere, spinach in small tufts on another pizza (this one alongside a perfect pint) my first jet-lagged night in town, and a perfect amount of spinach at a pub on a Sunday afternoon, kissed with the horseradish sauce that had been ladled, to my glee, over my roast, but this was my favorite.

wilting the spinach
wilted spinach, to drain and squeeze

Here, spinach that has been wilted and squeezed, is re-plumped, so to speak, with creme fraiche, parmesan, salt and pepper, and is generously spread over a tiny pizza. An egg centers on this pile (and sometimes around it, at least in my kitchen) and the whole mess is baked together until the edges of the pizzette are brown, the spinach is tender, with a slight gratin-like effect, and the egg is white at the edges and just-runny-enough in the center and I think it might be my perfect meal. I would have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner almost any day of the week (also in the rain, on a train, on a boat, with a shark…) and now that I’ve discovered that glorious late-season spinach still exists at markets around here, I might just make it happen.

squeezed fistfuls of spinach

Continued after the jump »

Monday, August 19, 2013

rice-stuffed tomatoes

rice-stuffed tomatoes

Guys, we should definitely, definitely talk about these. Here, I’ll go first: I think it’s essential that you not let another tomato season pass without making them. I realize that you might imagine rice-stuffed tomatoes to be something unappealing. Maybe you had a cold, stomach-turning one at a buffet wedding too many years ago that its squidgy horror should still be fresh in your mind, and yet. Maybe you cannot imagine why anyone would consider rice stuffed inside a tomato to be something noteworthy, being just rice and tomatoes, possibly two of the most generic foods out there. Maybe you’re waiting to hear what I dolled these up with to make them interesting — was there bacon or cheese or caramelized onions? Did I amp it up with whole grains or kale? Maybe I cooked an egg inside, like that one time? And maybe you’re going to be disappointed when I tell you that I added nothing, just about nothing at all, and that’s the best thing about them.

red and yellow medium-large tomatoes
take just a little off the top

I started obsessing over rice-stuffed tomatoes a year ago. At the time, I loved them because they felt to me like the essence of simple Italian and Mediterranean cooking, this idea that you don’t need to lay 16 outside flavors onto things as simple as seasonal tomatoes and plain rice to make them taste amazing. You could coax the maximum flavor out of them with seasoning, by toasting the rice, by cooking them with a tiny amount of onion and garlic in olive oil then slowly in the oven. But, at the time, I never told you about them because they made me a little sad. At the time, I was moping that the family vacation to Rome — a place I imagined did a fine job with these throughout tomato season — we’d been trying to take for as long as we’d been a family had gotten postponed again due to all of those real-life things that have the nerve to get in the way of a good time. I mean, I know that sometimes as a grown-up you don’t get to do everything that you want, but I was starting to question the point of working all of the time and spending scrupulously if it didn’t, at least every few years, lead to things we really wanted?

grapefruit knives make pretty, clean cuts

Continued after the jump »