Two Recipes from Mario Batali's New Cookbook
I just got Mario Batali's new cookbook this week, "Molto Italiano." Below, I describe what I made from the book last night, but first, a few words about the book itself.
I read through it with enthusiasm -- many of the recipes are from his show on the Food Network, but there are so many new ones, and everything sounded (and looked) so good! The photography is excellent, with very few gratuitous shots of the author, and mouthwatering photos of the food. I love Mario's philosophy on food and cooking, and enjoyed reading the text accompanying the recipes. The writing was well done and the author's voice really comes through. It was as if I had the television on and could hear his voice as I was reading the book. I recommend the book to anyone who loves authentic and simple Italian cooking. Even the most complex dishes wouldn't give an experienced cook any trouble. His "Babbo" cookboox, while a nice coffee table book, was just not practical for anything other than a blowout meal and I know I will get much more use out of the new book.
I made two recipes from the book: Porcini Salad with Arugula, and Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel.
First, the salad. It's very simple -- just a lemon vinaigrette, arugula, shaved parmesan and warm, grilled fresh porcini mushrooms. The just-off-the-grill porcini slightly wilt the arugula and soften the shaved parmesan. If you are lucky enough to live where you can get great fresh porcini (I live in San Francisco and can get local porcini in season), this dish is a wonderful and simple salad.
The ricotta gnocchi were, in a word, fantastic. I used a local sheep's milk ricotta from the Sonoma Valley (Bellwether Farms). The sauce is made up of homemade marinara, with some additions: toasted, ground fennel seeds, fresh chopped fennel, chopped red onion, garlic, celery, carrot and red pepper flakes, along with your favorite crumbled and browned Italian sausage. But what was really surprising were the gnocchi. I've made potato gnocchi countless times, and also gnocchi alla romana (made of semolina flour), but had never made ricotta gnocchi. They were as soft and light as feather pillows, but amazingly were not overwhelmed by the weight of the sauce. A truly inspired combination. I should have taken a photo, but the cookbook has great photos of each dish and mine looked just like the book!
Thanks for your post, farmersdaughter! I too am a huge Mario fan so am very interested in initial impressions of his new book. Those dishes sounded great! I checked out Babbo from the library, and even though I enjoyed reading it, haven't bought it since it's just not that practical. I will strongly consider this book. BTW, he was at Sur La Table in San Jose (and he made a stop by the Google cafeteria!) recently for a signing. Those Google folks not only get free food, but get to schmooze w/ Mario during work hours! Sigh...life isn't fair.
I picked up Molto Italiano last Thursday and have already prepared five of the recipes. All were excellent. They were:
Braised Pork in the "Black Rooster"--a boneless pork shoulder roast browned with a puree of pancetta, garlic, and parsley, then braised in wine and tomato sauce;
Pici with Lamb Sauce--didn't have time to make fresh pasta and couldn't find the recommended orecchiette at my grocer, so I had to make do with conchiglie. The lamb sauce was wonderful, not quite as robust as a ragu but in the same ballpark.
Pan-Roasted Turnips--never cooked turnips before, so this was quite a revelation. Peeled and quartered, sauteed in butter, then tossed with poppy seeds and allowed to cook through. Finish with red wine vinegar and paprika. Not what most folks would think of when thinking of Italian food but quite delicious.
Asparagus with citrus, parsley, and garlic--basically an asparagus salad. Boil the asparagus for a minute, chill, and dress with orange zest, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, olive oil, and mint. This would be a great cold appetizer.
Rapini Braised in the STyle of Puglia--very simple, broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil with red pepper flaces and garlic, then tossed with chopped black olives.
I've made a number of things out of the Babbo Cookbook that have been quite excellent. If nothing else, you *must* make the chicken livers Toscana. There's a lovely brodo with clams and shrimp that's also absolutely to die for, and not especially complicated to prepare.