Lee's favorite food is Japanese. When we celebrate his birthday or really any occasion it's Japanese food that he wants. Much as I love Japanese food, and I really do, I have to say Italian is still my all-time favorite. Italian food just spells comfort to me. I love rustic food and great ingredients treated well but not fussed over. Ok, I like them fussed over some of the time. But on a day to day basis nothing makes me happier than a plate of pasta, risotto, or even polenta.
It should come as no surprise that I was utterly charmed by Massimo's Italian Kitchen. The subtitle is not totally accurate, "authentic one-dish meals from a seasoned chef" because there are plenty of desserts and side dishes too. That said, there isn't a recipe in this book I wouldn't make, except perhaps the tripe soup, I'm still a bit squeamish about tripe. The photos really do a good job of showing the food, which when it comes to rustic food is not always so easy. A fancy plated dessert is much easier to shoot than say rice and pea soup or handmade noodles with ragu.
The recipes are written in a very conversational style, but are generally not that complicated or long. One of the things I particularly like about the book is the large number of both vegetable dishes and one pot meals that include less common vegetables like radicchio and cabbage. Living in Italy I discovered how much vegetables were loved. In fact, they were usually served as their own course to be totally savored without distraction.
This book covers the different regions that the chef has knowledge of and is a nice compilation for the intermediate home cook looking for something beyond Italian-American classics. Recipes include Winter Salad with Potatoes and Apples, Garganelli with Fava Beans and Crispy Prosciutto, Risotto with White Asparagus, Black Pepper and Wild Strawberries and Baked Cardoons with Pecorino.
Pork Spareribs and Cabbage
Costine di Mailale e Verze
Makes 4 servings
4 whole racks baby back ribs
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup julienned onion
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (note: I think canned would be fine here)
1 cup chicken stock
1 head cabbage
Wash the rib and pat dry. Cut between each bone to separate them, and season with salt, pepper, and sugar.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomoed pot over medium-high heat. Add the ribs and sear until golden brown. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes.
Pour in the wine and vinegar and cook until they evaporate. Stir in the tomato paste and then the tomatoes. Pour in the chicken stock, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, covered.
In the meantime remove each leaf from the cabbage and cut our the center spine, splitting the leaf in two. Cut the cabbage into wide juliennes. Add the cabbage to the meat, season with salt and pepper, stir, and cover. SImmer until the cabbage is tender about 10 minutes.
Reprinted from Massimo's Italian Kitchen, Seller's Publishing 2008