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Posts Tagged ‘Two Greedy Italians’

I was feeling greedy again this evening – that is in the mood for some more Two Greedy Italians recipes. You know you’ve got a good cookery book when you find yourself going back to it time and time again wanting to cook recipe after recipe. I think this is one of a handful on my shelves which is building up to be well-thumbed and splattered.

The dishes I planned to cook when I wrote my book review earlier this month didn’t end up being on the menu today. Ah well, I’ll have to come back to them another time! Instead I prepared pollo casalingo al vino bianco (housewives’ chicken in white wine and vinegar), finocchi gratinati (fennel gratin) and patate arraganate (sliced roasted potatoes with tomato, oregano and basil).

All three dishes were incredibly simple to make. Once the small amount of chopping and assembly were done, they all sat happily on the hob or in the oven (smelling wonderful) whilst I got on with a few jobs.

The chicken recipe comes from the Piedmont region of Italy, and as the story goes farmers’ wives would prepare the ingredients in the morning before heading off to work in the fields. When they returned home, all that remained to do was to put the pan on the heat. The scent and flavour of the dish was surprising, tangy from the lemon and vinegar, aromatic from the clove, bay and peppercorns. It was reminiscent of sousing liquor, only the more familiar fish was substituted with chicken.

The fennel gratin had a delicious crisp and savoury topping from the breadcrumbs and parmesan which contrasted with the soft fennel. The potatoes were heady with oregano, crisp where they’d caught on the side of the baking dish and offered an occasional sweet, caramel treat from the red onion scattered amongst the slices of potato. Both complimented the chicken, as they would other chicken and fish dishes.

All in all, tonight’s meal was another thumbs up to the Carluccio and Contaldo Italian adventure.

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On first inspection this book, written to accompany the forthcoming BBC series, may appear to be not much different to many other Italian cookery books, or indeed, previous publications from both Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. Numerous recipes and the ingredients will be familiar to any Italian food enthusiast or visitor to the country. Anyone stopping there would be, in my opinion, foolhardy and would undoubtedly be left disappointed. It’s only when you delve deeper into the content of the pages that you discover what makes their book stand out.

The reader is taken on a pilgrimage with the chefs across their homeland, remembering traditional and classic dishes, introducing us to unfamiliar regional recipes influenced by bordering countries, such as pancetta con crauti (pork belly with sauerkraut) or Apfelstrudel (Tyrelean apple pastry), and also discovering new and modern interpretations of the classics, some of which incorporate very new ingredients which are slowly being introduced into the Italian markets by immigrants in much the same way tomatoes, peppers, rice, pasta and maize, with which we associate Italian food, were introduced and adopted only a few centuries ago.

Short essays and introductions to the recipes by both chefs provide a deeper insight into the history, regionalism, culture, religion, family life, modern society and the changing face of Italian food. When once cucina povera, the poor man’s food, was the diet of resourceful housewives, finding a way to feed their large, hard-working families on a very tight budget, this style of cooking is now found at a high price in restaurants. How the tables have turned.

Asparagus Salad As you’d expect from an Italian cookbook, the recipes are simple and require few ingredients, though disappointingly many aren’t accompanied by a photograph over which to drool. It is the high quality of the ingredients which make for a sublime, tasty dish, as demonstrated by the insalata di asparagi crudi con parmigiano (raw asparagus salad with parmesan) I made, consisting only of fresh asparagus, parmesan shavings, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

The more I read, the more greedy I became, in good company with these two Italian chefs. Whilst I’ve so far only prepared the one recipe, there are many more likely to appear on the menu sometime soon, not least of which is the zuppa di carciofi con gnocchi di pollo (artichoke soup with chicken dumplings), lasagnetta con pane carasau (Sardinian bread lasagne) and tarallucci (savoury fennel biscuits).

Sit back, relax and find yourself transported to the kitchens of Italy old and new by the two greedy Italians.

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