Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Appetizers and Soups [CoTM Sept 2006 and Nov 2013]
September 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your reviews of appetizer and soup recipes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.
A reminder: the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
Ohhhhh, that Pasta e Fagioli. Get yourself a BIG bag of fresh cranberry beans right now at your nearest farmers market--this is their season--and shell 'em while watching your nearest pennant race on TV. You can freeze the ones you don't use. This is delicious.
Risi e Bisi: skinning pea pods, on the other hand? No thanks. One of the five most thankless tasks I've ever undertaken in the kitchen.
Minestrone alla Romagnola: You really can follow the rhythm she suggests of prepping and sauteeing the veggies in sequence. It makes the cooking pretty fast. Also delicious.
Roasted Peppers and Anchovies: I've eaten bushels of this over many Octobers as part of my post-season baseball buffet.
I made Pasta e Fagioli last week with dried barlotti (same as cranberry beans?) beans and the short tubular pasta. I used little riblets for the pork ingredient in the recipe. I didn't have have homemade meat broth, so I used the beef better than bullion.
My bean to pasta ratio was off. We all agreed that there was too much pasta. Now, this could be my fault. I used beans that I had cooked earlier in the week for another meal and I didn't measure the pasta. Also, there wasn't enough soupy broth, I should have added more or not drained the bean broth as called for.
We enjoyed the soup, but I don't think I would make it again. It wasn't the pasta e fagioli that I remember eating in Italy, that is for certain!
Peppers and Anchovies (The Classic Italian Cookbook pg. 37 version, renamed "Roasted Peppers and Anchovies" in Essentials)
Yum! Made it as part of an antipasti spread for company, everyone liked it, me included. I'm sure I'll try to make this at least once more while our brief sweet red pepper season lasts.
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Oh, utter CHOWsaster!
Let this be a lesson, fellow Chowhounds.
I decided to do the pasta e fagioli last night. I had something I had to go to for an hour or so, so I figured I could let it simmer in the oven while I was gone; I've done it before, and it's generally worked.
Firstly, I couldn't find cranberry beans on my way home, so I picked up dried cannellini beans. Mistake #1: in her recipe, she says to use canned cannellini if you're not using cranberry, but I decided to take a risk. The question became to soak or not to soak? I'd be simmering them in the oven for an hour, which is about the length of a quick soak, so I decided to take my chances.
Otherwise, I followed the recipe fairly closely, using beef broth I picked up from Boulette's Larder, a place in SF that sells overpriced homemade beef broth, but I was in a hurry to get home and get prepped before heading out. I generally don't measure exact tablespoons, as she suggests; I prefer a bit more celery in my soup, for instance. I used a hamhock and dropped in a few frozen parmesan rinds for good measure, and then also dropped in an extra cup of broth (4 instead of 3) since I'd be leaving the soup alone for some time.
I brought the soup to "slightly more than a simmer," as instructed, popped the soup in the oven, and after ten minutes check the simmer level; not one bubble at 350. So I took another chance and turned up the heat. To 400.
Then I headed out. I'd like to blame the fellow chowhound who bought me a third beer, but it's all me.
As I headed back into my hallway, I could smell the burned tomato and broke into a run; whipped open the oven door, yanked out the Dutch oven, and goggled at the site of practically bone-dry beans surrounded by a crust of blackened beans and tomato. I dumped in about three cups of water and began carefully ladling out the non-crusty bits, hoping I could at least salvage what was left; unfortunately, the damn beans weren't even CLOSE to being cooked. (Or else they'd cooked and then re-dried in the oven.)
I added some more tomatoes and water to what was left--about seven cups of soup all told, actually, not bad at all--and set about opening all the windows and scrubbing the pot. (Oh, the genius of Le Creuset; I soaked it overnight, but most everything came off with no trace.)
After another hour of a rapid simmer, I dunked in my emulsion blender and blended some of the beans; I let it simmer a bit longer, until the beans were at least edible to my palate. I boiled the macaroni separately, sprinkled some parmesan on top, and ate at about 10:30 last night. (After, of course, going through several dinner rolls while I waited.)
In the end, the soup tasted burned, no doubt about that, and I wouldn't serve it to anyone but me, but somehow the magic of good ingredients did come through. I look forward to trying again. With cranberry beans or soaked cannellini. And without the three-beer vacation in the middle.
re: Robert Lauriston
My nearest Italian deli is the one in the Ferry Plaza, and they didn't have borlotti beans. I noted that she said "canned" cannellini beans; I didn't notice anything about soaked beans, though. My impression was that the cranberry beans went straight into the soup, and if they were dry, to simmer them for 45 minutes to an hour, or until soft. I guess I didn't make the distinction between "dried" and "fresh."
In any case, I'm well aware that I didn't follow the recipe closely. I took a chance, and it failed. But these flubs are what make cooking such fun for me--it's why I love Julia Childs so much. :)
It could be worse...........I feel asleep on the couch while baking a beautiful braided sesame bread ring once, and woke up three hours later. It would've made a nice spare tire for the tractor.......took my chickens two weeks to peck through that mother! I was so mad, I threw out the baking pan!