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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Vegetables and Salads [CoTM Sept 2006 and Nov 2013]

September 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your reviews of vegetable and salad 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 that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Zucchini with Tomato and Basil:

    I picked up the book a few days ago and was anxious to try something right away, using whatever I had on hand, which was zucchini.

    This was a really big hit in the taste department. Even better the next day for lunch - served just slightly warm, with left-over rice.

    In the preparation department- it took longer than I had anticipated for the final stage in the oven. If I had waited for the liquid to evaporate, as stated in the recipe, the zucchini would have been way over cooked. I did a workaround, by removing it from the oven, to take out some of the liquid, and then returned to the oven until the desired stage. The basil on top at the end adds a nice freshness and flavor punch.

    I will make this again (family loved it), but will cook down the tomato mixture more to have less liquid.

    All in all - very good.

    1. Gratineed asparagus w/ parmesan. Very good.
      Smothered cabbage. Yum, yum.
      Gratineed cauliflower w/ butter & parmesan. Teenaged proclaimed cauliflower asked for it to be made again!
      Eggplant patties – both variations – w/ onions & tomatoes & w/ mozzarella. Yum, yum.
      ** baked potatoes, onion & tomatoes, apulian style. Wow! I have made many times.
      Sliced potatoes w/ porcini & fresh cultivated mushrooms. Molto yummy.

      1. Fava Beans, Roman style: excellent. Worth the work (especially if your friends help you out). But if you double-peel them, they cook in only five minutes, I've found.

        Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese: delicious. Easy.

        Braised Finocchio with Olive Oil: delicious. Easy.

        Baked Red Beets: I can't account for it, but Marcella is the only person who bakes her beets for as long as I find I have to. All these other recipes that have you wrap up your beets in foil and claim they'll be done in 30 minutes! Phooey!

        Beans and Tuna Salad: delicious. Easy. Use canned beans.

        1 Reply
        1. re: heidipie

          You're right on about the beet cooking time.

        2. Sunchoke Gratin-one of my favorite comfort foods.
          Baked Potatoes, Onion and Tomato Apulian Style-always a welcome potato side dish at my house.
          Fried Zucchini in Vinegar and Garlic-time consuming, but Yum!! I even like cold leftovers.

          1. I admit it, I jumped the gun!!! I loved this idea of all of us cooking from the same cookbook, so I started scouring recipes and picked the two perfect ones for what I have been craving recently. Since experiencing the Zuni Chicken and Bread Salad recently, it’s been in mind lately on how to recreate at home. So I decided to do the Two Lemon Chicken and Panzanella, or Bread Salad. This post of course is about the Bread Salad.... :)

            We started with three little loaves of Ciobatta bread from the Bread Bar. Although the recipe called for the crust to be taken off, I kept it on as I like the chewy texture and the crust wasn’t that thick to begin with. As per the instruction we toasted them carefully in the broiler:


            Another reason why I chose this recipe, is that it called for lots of tomatoes. Tomato season has just about hit it’s peak here and I knew I could buy some lovely ones. The recipe calls for a tomato to be pureed inorder to soak the bread. So I decided a pump brandywine would be a great good sacrifice.


            Assembling this recipe really was easy. Except for one step...the Onions. Marcella does this thing of soaking and squeezing the onions which I had never heard of to take away the ULTRA sharp taste and enhance the sweetness. In keeping true to the recipe, did it a bit ahead of time while prepping everything together...


            I pretty much added everything the recipe called for EXCEPT the Anchovies. I can’t stand Anchovies. And once the onions were done (And Marcella was right, the flavor of them was more mellow and sweeter! YUM!!) the salad came together wonderfully!! :



            Except for the onion thing, this recipe was simple and quick. The flavors played WONDERFULLY together, especially with those sweet heirloom tomatoes and crunchy cucumber. The taste was simple and fresh. Perhaps I’ll add more herbs in next time (Or use a Rosemary Bread!!) and perhaps cut the bread pieces a little smaller.




            4 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              That looks great Dommy! Rick Bayless has a similar technique of rinsing onions in cold water - he calls it "deflaming".

              1. re: Dommy

                I also made the panzanelle salad last night, but substituted diced radish for the cucumbers since I didn't have any, and mashed my beautiful heirloom tomato with my hands since I don't have a food mill. I was too lazy to soak and squeeze the onions, but I let the onions sit in the vinegar/capers/anchovy mixture for awhile to take away some of the bite. And as dubious as I was about the merits of soggy bread, it was delicious. I was glad I was alone and didn't have to share :) A good way to mark the end of the summer.

                1. re: Dommy

                  Panzanella Salad

                  As Fall is settling into New England, I have begun baking bread once again. Lately, I am been cultivating a natural levain which I use as the sponge. The results were two lovely loaves of bread, both only partially eaten before becoming stale. The tomato plants outside are desperately trying to produce more ripe fruit, so I had about 6 perfect tomatoes. What else could I make?

                  I admit, I have only see Panzanella Salad on food shows. I have never eaten it before. But that has never stopped me before, and this recipe couldn't be easier. I started with thinly slicing some locally grown, fresh red onion, and began the soaking and squeezing. And then began working on the bread. I sliced the loaf ends and put them under the broiler and set the timer. [I do forget things under the broiler.] Meanwhile, I created a paste with the anchovy, caper and garli in a mortar/pestle I did add a bit of sea salt to encourage the bits to get smoother. Flip the bread, squeeze the onions, and now to the tomatoes. I finished the dressing with a 1/4 cup of oil and the two tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Tasted, and added a bit more sea salt. The bread was done, so I created the cubes as directed.

                  I did not pull out my huge food mill to process just one tomato. Instead, I crushed the tomato with my hands, and then worked it through a mesh strainer. The bread drank up the tomato juice quickly, and I found that as I worked the tomato through the sieve, I needed to toss the bread to evenly coat.

                  Cubed the remaining two skinless tomatoes, and dropped the tomatoes and dressing into the bowl. Since my DH doesn't eat cucumbers, I omitted them, but I would have enjoyed that flavor. I think some fresh basil could be a good garnish as well.

                  Anyhow, this stuff was good! Having only seen this salad on food shows, I was surprised by the soft bread texture. Each bite of bread had this great burst of tomato flavor, supplemented by the dressing.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    you just reminded me of the food mill that I'll pull out today and use it for my one really large tomato.

                2. Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese

                  Wow. I can't believe I never made these before. So simple, and so so so good (though it takes a bit of time tending the carrots on the stove). I can see why this is a favorite for many from this book. The recipe calls for cooking sliced carrots in a single layer for 1-2 hours with just enough water (and some butter) to concentrate their flavor. You then add a little bit of sugar. When done, toss with grated parmigiano-reggiano. I also love that you can cook them beforehand and just heat and toss with the cheese. This is what I did, and then garnished with parm shavings. These are some of the best carrots I have ever had, and will definitely be added to the repertoire for holiday side dishes. Even my husband looked at me and said, "have you ever heard me rave about carrots before?". Marcella is a genius.

                  BTW, the recipes says it serves 6, but we found it was just enough for 2, with no leftovers (though we both had seconds). I would definitely double it for 4 people.



                  14 Replies
                  1. re: Rubee

                    "Braised" doesn't really give the idea. They're almost caramelized.

                    1. re: Rubee

                      I was really afraid this recipe was just going to be o-k, not nearly as good as say roasted carrots, but boy , was I wrong. Something with such simple ingred. and such a simple cooking method, is so great. I used the carrots my dh got from our veggie garden this afternoon. I didn't have 2 hours to devote to this recipe, so I only cooked the carrots l l/2 hours,but they were the best carrots I've ever had. Tender and delicious with an almost unbelievable flavor. Definitely company carrots. We too, had no leftovers and my husband wondered if we could have carrots again tomorrow nite. A truly brillant recipe!

                      1. re: jackie de

                        Somebody ought to come up with a convection-oven version of the recipe so you one do three or four cookie sheets worth.

                      2. re: Rubee

                        You are making me hungry, what with these and the potatoes! Is the carrot recipe in Essentials? (Sorry if that's been covered before!)

                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          Yes - Essentials p. 480. JulesRules links below to the recipe on-line. They are soooo good.

                          1. re: Rubee

                            Thank you, now I just need to get to the grocery store... I may make your exact menu, perfect for the cooler weather we're having right now!

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              I finally made these carrots last night... OH MY GOODNESS! I can't believe how good they are! I kept overthinking the recipe, but if you follow the directions, they really are easy. It was like eating carrot candy!

                        2. re: Rubee

                          Love love love these, and you're right about the serving size. ;) I usually start with 2 skillets and then combine into one. Allow the full 2 hours, you can always stop sooner.

                          1. re: Rubee

                            Wow indeed, you make those sound great, I found the recipe online and hope to make them with the meat roll too.


                            1. re: Rubee

                              I agree - it's such a good recipe!! but only makes enough for about 2 people...

                              1. re: meels

                                the similar carrot recipe with capers, garlic and parsley in (I think) the More classic book is also superb.

                              2. re: Rubee

                                These carrots were a hit. I had a few hitches, but they still tasted fabulous.

                                Taking heed of everyone's comments about portion size, I used 3 lbs of carrots for 4 guests. There was only one serving of carrots left over.

                                I had skinny carrots so I had to use 3 skillets to hold all the carrots. I added too much water to each skillet so it took awhile for them to boil down. I must have had the heat a little too high because I noticed that some of the smaller pieces began to blacken. I tasted them, and they were tender, so after an hour, I turned the heat off. (I did have water in the pan). I quickly stirred the carrots and every piece had a black bottom. I combined them into the biggest skillet and set it aside. When I re-heated them, I added some more water, then the parmesian cheese.

                                They were delicious, just not very pretty. This is a keeper recipe.

                                1. re: Rubee

                                  I made these yesterday and they were wonderful. I'm a lifelong carrot hater but these would convert anyone. The carmelized, concentrated flavors are just superb. I would never have thought carrots could taste this good.

                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese Pg. 480

                                    This recipe has you simmer some sliced carrots with butter in a bit of water, uncovered until the liquid evaporates. You then add salt and sugar and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours until caramelized.

                                    I cooked for about 50 minutes and the resulting carrots were caramelized and greatly reduced in size, as she calls for, but they weren't really to my taste. I found the combination of sweet carrot with sugar a bit cloying, and for me it just didn't go with the parmesan. The umami and the sweetness were competing, instead of enhancing each other.

                                    Not a winner for us.

                                  2. Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan Cheese, Bolognese Style

                                    Another winner, of course. Like the carrots, I made this as an accompaniment to the Braised Meat Roll in White Wine. Used red potatoes, boiled them, and didn't bother peeling them as I was putting them through a ricer. Instead of using a double-boiler and whisking by hand, I heated the bowl of my KitchenAid over boiling water, added the butter, and then used the whisk attachment as I added the milk and cheese. The little bit of fresh grated nutmeg finished it off, and it was the perfect balance of cheese. I made no modifications. I hope the picture gives an idea of how fluffy these potatoes become:


                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Rubee

                                      I really should read the recipes before hand ;-)

                                      I don't have a ricer or a food mill. Do you think it would be ok if I mashed them and then added it to the butter? I can then use my immersion blender wisk to fluff them up. Does that sound completely crazy?

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        I'm not sure, but I think maybe skip the immersion blender, and just mash them? Only because the immersion blender might make them gluey. I think I would mash them and then use a whisk while you add the milk....

                                        1. re: Rubee

                                          Do you have a hand held blender - that would be better than an immersion blender ...

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            I used a Foley fork for these mashed potatoes, easy, quick & worked out fine; very tasty. Thanks to the people who made this thread happen. When I saw all the recs, I got inspired & made these and the braised carrots, huge success--yes the carrots are all that the choir sings-- (served with pork chops, will post appropriately). The family loved it.

                                      2. re: Rubee

                                        I made this last night to go with the Tuscan Meat Roll. I liked it but didn't love it. I've made better mashed potatoes, but it was a perfect vehicle to eat the sauce from the meat roll.

                                        I used yukon gold potatoes. 2 lbs of it. I ended up buying a ricer because I needed another kitchen toy. I really liked using the ricer. I liked how I didn't have to peel the potatoes and the little strips of potatoes that came out.

                                        After ricing 2 lbs. of potatoes into the top of the double broiler, it was overflowing, so I used the kitchenaid bowl and plopped that into the simmering water. I started mixing the potatoes and milk with a wisk, but the potatoes kept getting stuck in the wisk (mashed potatoes in jail) so I switched over to a fork. None of us could taste the parmesan cheese in the potatoes itself. But then again, after the first couple of bites, we were scooping the tomato sauce on to the potatoes itself.

                                        If I made this again, I probably wouldn't use the yukon gold potatoes, but would use a plainer potato such as the russet. I would also use more cheese. I would also simmer chopped fresh rosemary with the milk to give it a bit more flavor.

                                      3. Eggplant Parmesan

                                        I took advantage of some lovely small round purple eggplants at the markets this weekend to try out Marcella's take on Eggplant Parmesan. I've made this dish many times but this is the first time I've used the recipe in Essentials-- the others were based on the Moosewood cookbook recipe, which calls for a lot more breading.

                                        One thing I noticed when frying the eggplant is that the flour tended to fall into the oil and collect at the bottom of the pan, so that by the end there was a layer of browned flour in the pan. Have others had this experience? It didn't seem to interefere too much with the finished product. At the end of frying, the eggplant was very lightly breaded and crisp.

                                        Best time saving tip: buying pre-sliced mozarella from an Italian deli instead of slicing it myself. Only omission: no fresh basil, as I'd forgotten to reserve a couple of leaves when we made pesto the day before. One nice surprise is that the actual cooking time (excluding the half hour for the salting of the eggplant) was only half an hour (though I had less eggplant than the whole recipe).

                                        I was impressed with how intense the flavors were in this eggplant parmesan because of the reduced sauce and the way the eggplant is cooked (with a minimum of breading). Unfortunately, my eggplant was so tender that the top layer overcooked a bit in the oven. Overall, though, it was still delicious and certainly a recipe I'd try again. By the end of cooking, the eggplant was almost carmelized and falling apart tender. A great late summer dish.

                                        1. Fennel Salad

                                          Very simple - just fennel, olive oil, salt and pepper - refreshing and a recipe I will use again.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            I made this last night and served it as a final course before dessert. Refreshing is the word! Couldn't be simpler to make either. One of my guests remarked she'd never had fennel that way before.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Fennel Salad

                                              I had a head of fennel and decided to make this dish since it popped up recently on the boards. Funnily enough, I don't recall making this particular version before though I very well may have. In any case I agree that this is a refreshing salad. My version suffered from using a chef's knife rather than a mandoline to make the slices. And, while I appreciated the simplicity of this dish, at the end of the day I think I prefer a few more bells and whistles.

                                            2. Made the 1-1/2 hour smothered cabbage last night (to accompany braised pork chops -- posted on meat thread). It turned out fine I thought, though my meat-and-potatoes husband barely touched it.

                                              Marcella says you can use any kind of cabbage -- I used ordinary green. I've made it in the past and used red cabbage, and I think red is preferable.

                                              1. I made a simple cauliflower gratin with parmesan to go with my aquacotta (See posting in soups). It was very simple and very good. Her instruction for boiling the cauliflower was right on. I never knew that the more water used for boiling the sweeter the cauliflower.

                                                1. Sauteed Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese (p. 472)

                                                  Another very simple but tasty dish. Green beans boiled, drained, then warmed in a pan with butter and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese. I served them with Veal Milanese (p.375).


                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                    Looks like the perfect simple supper! I'm so impressed w/ how many recipes you have managed to make out of Hazan's book over the past couple of weeks! Thanks for the photos too...

                                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                                      Thanks! I work at home, so that makes it easier, but I really like how Marcella has included advance prep tips, and I ended up trying the simple dishes I wouldn't have before. And of course, it was your first photos that inspired me. :)

                                                    2. re: Rubee

                                                      I am really impressed, too. Thanks for contributing so much!

                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                        Sauteed Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese Pg. 472

                                                        I see Rubee took a crack at these the first go round at this book in 2006 so I will post mine as a reply to the original evaluation.

                                                        I agree that this came together very easily as there are very few ingredients, just green beans, butter, salt, and parmesan. As per usual however sometimes the simplest things are the best. These were delicious and would pair very well with most braised or sauteed meats.

                                                        I went with haricot verts so I only needed about 4 minutes of simmering before they were drained, dried, and went into their butter bath and parmesan dusting.

                                                        Very lovely indeed!

                                                        1. re: delys77

                                                          bought fresh string beans yesterday and have frozen Parm cheese so all the makings I think :)

                                                      2. I saw this cookbook as showcased on MM on his TV show. He said it was such a great cook book and since Mario said that, I figured it was a must have. I went to B&N and although they had it, it was way too much money so I went online and thought I find a used version which would be fine with me. I found it NEW on ebay and INCLUDING shipping, it cost me exactly $11. What a find, I love this cook book

                                                        1. Swiss chard torte (tegliata di biete). One of the most tasty things I've ever made.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: fame da lupo

                                                            That looks marvelous. I often stir fry Swiss chard, adding pine nuts and raisins, but this looks a great step up. Thanks for posting.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              Do you add any vinegar? I love vinegar with swiss chard, and love the idea of pine nuts and raisins - sounds like a combo in one of the Lucques' tarts.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                Yes, Lucques has a currant and pine nut relish that she serves with a Swiss chard and goat cheese tart using puff pastry. Mine isn't even a recipe; just something I toss together when I want a quick, healthy dinner. I cook it in garlic, but never thought of adding vinegar. Sounds bang on. I'll definitely try it next time.

                                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                                Welcome! The parmesan, nuts, and raisins go incredibly well together with the chard. Harmony.

                                                            2. Crisp-Fried Zucchini Blossoms, p. 538

                                                              I made these last summer as well, but never reported here, so thought I would now. I love the really light pastella (water and flour batter) that you use. I did 6 flowers, so halved the recipe to 1/3 cup flour, gradually sifted into 1/2 cup water, while stirring with a fork. This is the first time that I'd fried in a while, and I think they got a little too brown. Tasted great though.

                                                              Also, I have NO idea what she means by "make a cut on one side of each blossom's base to open the flower flat, butterfly fashion". Last year I just didn't see that and didn't cut them at all. I ended up just cutting one petal down to the base, so that I could open them up. If any one has any insight as to what she means, I'd appreciate it - cutting one side of the base did nothing helpful that I could tell!

                                                              Last year's photos:


                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                I just made this recipe the other day. I think you have the right idea with cutting one petal down to the base. I did the same thing except I started at the base, made a tiny cut and the flower basically opened up like a butterflied chicken. I made 2 versions: the plain one she offers in the book, and a Roman recipe that calls for stuffing the flowers with mozzarella and anchovy. I also wrote a post about it on my blog:


                                                              2. I just bought the Essentials cookbook and am going through it now.
                                                                I have found that when I have followed the recipes for the braised vegetables, they end up being over cooked because the recipes ask for way too much water and cooking time than is necessary to braise the veg.

                                                                I was also disappointed by the chard torte recipe (tegliata di biete), as it says to saute the chard "until it starts sticking to the bottom of the pan", well, that ended up being way over done in my opinion. There are other recipes too from this book, where the dish would have turned out better if I just went with my instinct instead of following the exact directions. Am I too used to using recipes from epicurious (which are really detailed and written for the most beginner cook)?
                                                                Im wondering if others have experienced this in using the Essentials book. Thanks!

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: bertabetti

                                                                  There is a simple explanation for this: Italians cook their vegetables a la morte, or in other words, to a degree of doneness that most Americans would consider over-cooked/mushy/soggy. The concept of "toothy"-outside and tender-inside isn't really in the traditional Italian understanding of cooking veggies, which is interesting to me because of their obsession with al dente (to the tooth) pasta and rice.

                                                                  1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                    Yes, I think her recipes, from what I understand, generate results that Italians would know and appreciate, rather than what Americans, and others, might prefer or think is correct.

                                                                  2. re: bertabetti

                                                                    Having grown up in an Italian home, I frequently find that al dente vegetables taste almost raw to me. My feeling is that there is a transformation in taste that goes on when vegetables are cooked to doneness, unlike when pasta is overcooked. Asparagus and green beans are two vegetables that tend to be very undercooked in most restaurants and just not that tasty that way, IMHO. MMRuth is correct.

                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                      Funny you mention asparagus, because to me that is the best example of American taste regarding how to cook a vegetable.

                                                                    2. re: bertabetti

                                                                      I meant to add that, I taught myself how to cook 20 years ago by using two books - Essentials, and J. Child's "The Way to Cook". What I liked about Hazan's book was what I perceive as her very precise instructions, and opinions about ingredients etc. The only recipe that I recall having made that I didn't think worked out was the pork in milk, which many other people have made and loved.

                                                                      Have you had troubles with recipes aside from vegetable ones? A lot of her pasta sauce recipes are ones that I've now been making for many years and just love. It's great to see these old COTM threads brought back to life!

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                        My only problem with her veg recipes is that they typically follow the same formula, Veg + Parm, which isn't a big problem in that they are always delicious (esp. swiss chard stalks + parm roasted in the oven) if a little redundant.

                                                                        Pork + milk is the best thing in that book!

                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          thank you for your replies. yes, she even comments herself about the Italian preference for "overdone" vegetables. I still think there is too much water and cooking time for the leeks and the celery, for example. I cook them for half the time with half the water and the are plenty cooked and delicious. I guess that's just my taste.

                                                                          Another recipe was the olive oil cake, which says to bake at 400 for 50 minutes and I found it ready in 25. Everything I have made has been good, do not get me wrong! and I do like her explanations and introductions. I think Ill go and try the meat and fish dishes next.

                                                                      2. Sauteed Mushrooms w Olive Oil, Garlic and Parsley – Method 1 – p. 509 (Vegetables)

                                                                        The footnote to this recipe indicates that this dish can be prepared then cooled to room temperature and served as antipasto. In this case, I was preparing it as a component of another recipe in the book; the “Sauteed Snapper w Mushrooms” I’ll include a link to my review of that dish at the bottom of this post.

                                                                        Mushrooms are cleaned and sliced into ¼” thick pieces. I chose to leave my mushrooms a little thicker since they were small. Garlic and parsley are chopped. I found it interesting that Marcella starts you out by placing the garlic and oil in a pan and then placing the pan over medium-high heat. In my experience most recipes have you heat the pan first then add the oil. Once the garlic is golden, the mushrooms are added and the heat is turned up. Once the mushrooms have soaked up the oil, salt and pepper are added the heat is reduced to low and the mushrooms are stirred. Once the mushrooms shed their juice then the heat is turned back up to evaporate it. Dish is seasoned again prior to serving.

                                                                        Given that Marcella indicated this recipe could be made as antipasti, I thought I should give it a taste before incorporating it into my fish dish. Nothing earth shattering here, just mushrooms w garlic and parsley flavours in oil. I think the quality of the olive oil you use would be critical if you were serving this on its own as it is a key flavour component. If I wanted a simple mushroom dish for an antipasti spread, I’d consider this recipe.

                                                                        Here's a link to the fish dish:


                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                          I always use her method of cooking mushrooms.

                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                            I do too - in the Bolognese in "Marcella Says" she has you cook them for a long time - it really makes them taste fantastic. La divina Marcella...

                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                              I'll have to take a look at that bt, I have that book as well. btw, I just got the "deal of the century" on some amazing baking books. I'm going to post my list in the "what were your last cookbooks thread" I thought of you right away, let me know if there are some you like.

                                                                        2. Celery and Potatoes Braised in Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Pg. 487

                                                                          This one wasn't a winner for us. Essentially you peel some celery and simmer for a moment in water and olive oil before adding potatoes, some lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. This cooks until the potatoes are soft and until there is very little water left. In my case I had to remove the potatoes to avoid overcooking so that I could reduce the braising liquid, which was meant to cover the ingredients. By the time this was done the potatoes were cold and the celery colourless. I added the potatoes back in to warm them in the remaining liquid but they began to fall apart as I folded them in.

                                                                          Overall I think it would make most sense to simmer the potatoes separately till done but still firm enough to fold in, and then simply add them to the celery. That said, you would then miss out on the slight hint of celery that the potatoes absorbed from their bath with the celery.

                                                                          For me I think this is just not to our tests, and the recipe itself might be flawed.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: delys77

                                                                            This is an interesting report. It was this recipe that converted me from a celery hater to a celery tolerater! I recall really liking the lemony flavor of the celery and potatoes. I haven't made it in a long time though because when I braise celery I usually choose the pancetta version from this book instead. There again the celery is colorless when done, though with lots of flavor from tomatoes and pancetta! I don't recall having a problem with disintegrating potatoes, but I often shorten the veg cooking times in this book, as marcella seems to like her veggies very well cooked. Anyway, sorry this didn't work for you.

                                                                          2. Pan-Roasted Diced Potatoes, p. 520

                                                                            I'd call these pan-fried, rather than pan-roasted, but whatever. This is an extremely simple recipe, in ingredients. Technique is key.

                                                                            Hazan has you dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, and emphasizes that the size is important (you could probably go smaller, but not larger). The potatoes are rinsed in a couple changes of cold water, then drained and dried on a towel.

                                                                            The potatoes are fried in a large skillet in a half-inch of oil. When they are tender, but still pale, they are removed from the pan and cooled. Then before serving, they are fried again at a higher heat, until browned as crisp.

                                                                            Another simple recipe where the technique matters. This is a great way to come up with really nice pan-fried potatoes. You can do a lot with these. In the book, there is a frittata recipe that employs them, but they are also great plain. Or... you can spike them up with some rosemary or other seasonings. Or you can serve them for breakfast alongside or under a fried egg. Or toss them into a scrambled egg. A great base recipe that can be used in a hundred ways.

                                                                            1. Rice and Chicken Salad Pg. 567

                                                                              At first glance I wasn't sure about this recipe as the combination of flavours seemed like it might be a bit on the bitter/sour side given the amount of olives and pickles. That said once the whole dish was put together I quite liked it.

                                                                              I used three left over chicken thighs from the braised chicken with rosemary and white wine and they worked very well. I went with the suggested amounts for the olives, red pepper, cheese (swiss), and dressing components. The only change I made was to cut back on the pickle a little and I regretted it as I found the dish needed that slightly sour edge that the pickle would have provided.

                                                                              Overall though I think this was a great use of left overs and I would likely repeat as it is a nice change form the usual pasta or mayo based chicken salad.

                                                                              1. Eggplant Parmesan Pg. 494

                                                                                I am surprised no one made this dish the last time around as I thought it was quite a popular menu item state side. Either way, Marcella indicates that while it might be a cliché, it is a great dish that is well deserving of it's popularity. I would tend to agree as Eggplant Parm is one of my favourite vegetarian entrees.

                                                                                This recipe proved a bit more complicated than some of the others I have tried as she has you fry off the eggplant a few pieces at a time, which with 3lbs of the stuff took me about 30-35 minutes of active work.

                                                                                Aside from that however the recipe is quite simple. You lightly flour your previously salted and drained eggplant which then get shallow fried in some oil and then drained on a rack or paper towels. Meanwhile you simmer some chopped canned tomatoes with a bit of olive oil and some salt until reduced by half, slice some buffalo mozzarella, grate some parm, shred some basil, and butter a baking dish. Once the eggplant is fried off you line your dish (mine was 11*8 and I got three layers of eggplant in) with the eggplant, a bit of sauce, a bit of mozz, a bit of basil, some parm, and then another layer of eggplant. You finish with a layer of eggplant which you sprinkle with the remaining parm. The lot goes in the oven for about 20 minutes, at which point you check to see if it is watery, and drain some liquid off if necessary. Mine wasn't so I simply proceeded to cook for the remaining 15 minutes and then let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

                                                                                Now that I type it out it doesn't seem that complex, but the reality is that the eggplant prep is more involved than usual for me. She has you peel, slice, salt, fry, and then drain. All of which took me about and hour and 15 minutes. Honestly I usually just top and tail, slice (skin on), brush with olive oil and add some salt and pepper and roast in the oven.

                                                                                Were Marcella's results better, well I do think that the lack of skin was nice, but I didn't find that my unsalted eggplant was measurably more bitter than Marcella's. I know many people salt their eggplant, and I might be out to lunch, but I didn't notice a difference. Also, eventhough I had the oil quite hot my eggplant was decidedly oilier than if I had simply roasted it. It had more flavour, but I found the resulting dish to be a little oily as a result of the fried eggplant.

                                                                                Also, the dish had far too much mozzarella for my taste and too little parm. There was 1/2 cup of grated parm (I doubled this) and 3/4 lb of mozzarella. The result was flavoursome, but again, quite heavy.

                                                                                Lastly, I find many recipes use far too much tomato in Eggplant parmesan, but I think the two cups of tomatoes reduced by half was too little. I want the eggplant to shine, but I had about 1.5 cups of tomato sauce which resulted in a very meagre covering of tomato.

                                                                                Overall I would say this was very tasty, but also very heavy and oily. I did find that peeling the eggplant made for a nicer texture, and I do see that going lighter on the tomato allows the eggplant to shine, but I would likely apply some of these modifications to my usual recipe (Jamie Oliver's) as opposed to tweaking Marcella's. Not a waste by any stretch of the imagination, but not the winner I was hoping for.

                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                1. re: delys77

                                                                                  I'm with you - I don't usually bother salting my eggplant either. And I really love a good eggplant parm. Sorry this wasn't killer for you.

                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                    Glad to see I'm not the only one who doesn't salt.

                                                                                  2. re: delys77

                                                                                    I think I heard/read once that the reason for salting eggplant first is to get rid of excess moisture that would affect the finished dish. So that may have been why your dish did not have the excess moisture to remove at the 20 minute mark? My mouth was watering with your description & picture, delys77!

                                                                                    I would prefer roasting too (rather than pan frying the eggplant). I am seeing a trend with her recipes - oily! Written at a time when that was more acceptable maybe? I try to avoid recipes where I have to fry anything, not only for health reasons but also because the oil spatters all over my clean stovetop. Especially if there are equally tasty alternatives like roasting. Thanks for sharing your review.

                                                                                    1. re: foodcompletesme

                                                                                      Good point fcm. I also prefer to roast my eggplant with just a smidgen of oil (and I'm not someone afraid of fat/oil).

                                                                                      1. re: foodcompletesme

                                                                                        Thanks foodcompletesme, the salting is definitely meant to draw off the liquid and thereby make the eggplant less bitter. It definitely works, the question is whether it really makes much of a difference.

                                                                                        Fat wise, I'm sure the age of the book definitely has something to do with it. Although I think over heard that her original books were even heavier handed with the fats.

                                                                                      2. re: delys77

                                                                                        Thanks for your post. If you enjoy a lighter version of eggplant parmigiana, you might enjoy the version from My Calabria. The eggplant is roasted and has a nice balance of eggplant to cheese to tomato sauce. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/866188

                                                                                        I’ve also made note of the version in Mediterranean Harvest after seeing JoanN’s review. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911494

                                                                                        Which book does Jamie Oliver’s recipe come from?

                                                                                        1. re: BigSal

                                                                                          Thanks BigSal, I'll have a look at those suggestions. My current recipe comes from Jamie's Italy. He has you grill the eggplant, but I also roast it.

                                                                                          1. re: delys77

                                                                                            Thanks, I'll have to add it to my list to try.

                                                                                            P.S. You are a cooking machine this month. I am enjoying reading about your adventures.

                                                                                            1. re: BigSal

                                                                                              LOL thanks BigSal, I've been away from COTM for the most part since Burma and I've really missed it. So glad it is making for interesting reading.

                                                                                            2. re: delys77

                                                                                              I'll also have to try JO's eggplant parm. I have the book but somehow never got around to making it. Thanks for the tip. I'm a big JO fan.

                                                                                            3. re: BigSal

                                                                                              I adore that recipe from My Calabria.

                                                                                              1. re: BigSal

                                                                                                Me three on the recipe from My Calabria.

                                                                                            4. Carciofi e Patate Passati al Forno, "More Classic Italian Cooking", pp 358-359 (I don't have "Essentials").
                                                                                              I'm surprised i haven't posted about this before, because the artichoke and potato gratin is fantastic. I've made it about 20 times. Artichokes are in season again in the fall, so this would be a great time to try it. Goes wonderfully with poultry or really any meat.
                                                                                              Clean and pare down 4 artichokes to the edible part, and slice them thinly. Also peel the stem and cut it into lengthways slices or into julienne. Add all of it to a bowl of water into which you've squeezed a lemon.
                                                                                              Cook 1 c thinly-sliced onion in 2 tb butter until deep golden, rinse the artichokes very well and drain most of the water off. Stir them into the onions and let them cook for 10-20 mins or until tender.
                                                                                              While the artichokes are cooking, peel 3 medium potatoes and slice them as thin as possible.
                                                                                              When the artichokes are tender, stir in the potatoes well.
                                                                                              Put the mixture into a low casserole or gratin pan, and spread it out. The layer must not be more that 1 1/2 inches thick. Add salt to taste and a bit of pepper.
                                                                                              Put 3 tb butter (or a bit less, if feeling virtuous) in bits on top and bake in the top part of the oven, preheated to 400 deg F, for about 15 mins. Stir it up well and return to the oven for 15 mins. When the vegetables are all cooked, sprinkle over 1/2 c freshly-grated Parmesan and put the casserole back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese into a light crust.
                                                                                              Let rest for a few minutes and serve. To accolades.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                I'm marking this one. Love artichokes, but have never had them with potatoes. Maybe for Thanksgiving . . . .

                                                                                              2. Asparagus and Prosciutto Bundles, p.468

                                                                                                I happened to have some thick asparagus, some "true" Italian fontina, and prosciutto. So I made a couple of bundles: lightly boiled asparagus spears and slices of fontina, wrapped in slices of prosciutto, go into a buttered baking dish. (I skipped the butter inside the bundles.) Strips of fontina are crossed over the bundles, which are baked at 400F (MH says 20 minutes; 10-12 did the job for us.)

                                                                                                Nice, cheesy, indulgent side. Or a main for a moderate appetite.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. I made the eggplant (or aubergine) patties, again from a recipe found online (http://alternateroots-recipes.blogspo...) rather than the book, which hasn't arrived yet (still). You roast a pound of aubergine (Marcella doesn't say to prick them but I did, for fear of them exploding), then peel, chop and drain it. It's then minced and mixed up with parsley, garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs and an egg as well as some seasoning and fried up.

                                                                                                  They were surprisingly simple, even for a weeknight. They were very delicate, both in flavour and texture - they were soft and prone to breaking apart once fried. The flavour was subtle and I didn't think the amount of parmesan was really worth it as I didn't get much of a parmesan hit. I think I underseasoned them a little, actually. I do love aubergine though, so these were good for me, but I wouldn't make them again. I think a bit of lemon juice would perk them up a bit - they were just a touch bland despite adding some extra salt.

                                                                                                  1. Potatoes With Onion, Tomato and Sweet Pepper page 523

                                                                                                    Can't believe I'm first again with another one.
                                                                                                    Had a bunch of CSA potatoes to use up and part of a can of leftover tomato. This was super easy and mostly hands off. I halved the recipe so 3 servings instead of 6.

                                                                                                    Coat pan with olive oil, saute a sliced onion until light gold, add in peeled sliced sweet pepper. Recipe called for yellow, I used red. Peeling was very interesting and I think I really enjoyed the texture this way. Soften and at tomatoes. It says until oil floats separately but since I halved the recipe I couldn't really tell. Add the cubes of potatoes. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Mine was done. I added salt and pepper and a few green onions for color, would have done parsley if I wasn't out.

                                                                                                    Each of us had a generous serving and shared a 3 egg cheese omelet and a small green salad. Delicious. I would definitely make again. These are ingredients you have anytime really. I would even do this for a brunch as an alternative to home fries.

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                                                      thanks for the report. i have all the ingredients on hand, including some peppers that really need using. I may have to reconfigure my meal plan a bit to make this one happen!

                                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                                        Potatoes with Onion, Tomato and Sweet Pepper, p. 523

                                                                                                        Thanks for the rec. This was easy, homey and comforting. Even my son ate it, and he always claims that he doesn't like potatoes (except for french fries, of course). For some reason, this dish felt like a fitting use for what was very likely the last of the local fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers. I followed your lead and served the potatoes with eggs (in my case, a leek green and feta frittata).

                                                                                                        1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                          There is something about potatoes and eggs that just seems right. Perhaps it is the Spanish teacher in me. I've had my fair share of tortilla de patatas in my day.

                                                                                                      2. Sauteed Finocchio with Butter and Cheese, pg. 376 (the classic Italian cookbook)

                                                                                                        This is more of a vegetable braise than a saute. Sliced fennel is placed in a broad based pan with butter and water, covered to bring it up to temp, then uncovered and cooked until the liquid has pretty much evaporated. Toss in some grated Parmesan cheese, mix well, adjust seasoning, serve. Easy enough and tasty, but preferred the cooked fennel salad from MIK. which had a few weeks back, and so this suffered a bit in comparison.

                                                                                                        1. Fresh Mushrooms with Porcini, Rosemary, [and Tomatoes], page 511

                                                                                                          Let me start with, I didn't add any tomatoes. Since I was making this to top a soft polenta as a side dish to Veal Scaloppine with Lemon, I just didn't want the tomatoes and lemon to fight on the plate.

                                                                                                          To start, porcini mushrooms are soaked in warm water. I really like mushrooms [I used cremini] that have been dry roasted before being made into a sauce, so that is what I did next, even though the recipe doesn't include this step. Once the mushroom were dry roasted, I removed them from the pan, and started the dish for real.

                                                                                                          Olive oil and garlic are added to the pan and cooked on medium heat. Cook until the garlic is pale gold, and then add chopped fresh rosemary and chopped porcini. [I also added a bit of grated lemon zest.] Stir to coat, and add the filtered, mushroom soaking liquid. Turn up the heat and cook until the water is almost gone.

                                                                                                          Add the fresh mushrooms to the pan, with some salt and pepper, and cook until the moisture is almost gone.

                                                                                                          Since I was using this as a sauce, I didn't go all the way to a dry pan.

                                                                                                          I loved this, but I love most anything with mushrooms. This, along with some polenta, could easily be a very satisfying meal. In fact, it will be. Under those circumstances, I would include the tomato.

                                                                                                          1. A few nights ago we made her eggplant and tomato sauce (I think it's basically pasta alla norma). It was wonderful. Tonight we are making Zucchini with Beaten Egg Yolk.