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Oct 1, 2008 06:50 AM

October 2008 COTM Batali: Antipasti

October 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Mario Batali’s Babbo, Molto Italiano, and Simple Italian Cooking.

Please post your full-length reviews of antipasti recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Porcini Salad with Arugula, Molto Italiano, Pg. 61

    Although this is supposed to be an antipasto, I served it at the end of last night's dinner of MB's chicken thighs with saffron, etc. on page 310.
    Large porcini mushrooms are halved and grilled till charred. Arugula (I used just one bunch) is tossed into a bowl and dressed with lemon zest & juice, EVOO, and S & P. Instead of plating the salad and adding the mushrooms on top of each plate, I simply threw mushrooms into the bowl and tossed. I loved this salad, but then I love pretty much all salads. The mushrooms were nice and fresh and charring them brought out their fabulous flavor. Also, I love arugula so the combo was a winner.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Where were you able to find porcinis? I rarely see them in NYC.

      1. re: MMRuth

        Trader Joe's north of Boston....Fresh, too. Lucky us!!

        1. re: Gio

          Huh - I might actually check the TJs here then - I'm not a big fan of the place, but for fresh porcini I'd go. Were they terribly expensive?

          1. re: MMRuth

            I don't know how much they cost, MM... DH brought them home and I set about preparing them ASAP.

    2. Shaved fennel with blood oranges, pecorino and pomegranate, "Molto Italiano" p. 55:
      This was a bit time-consuming since it required segmenting four oranges, seeding a pomegranate and slicing two fennel bulbs with my mandoline, which I use so infrequently I have to get it out of an inaccessible cupboard. (I had to go there anyway for the ice cream maker. I'll get to that in the dessert thread.)
      Mario says the recipe serves four but it served six as a first course chez moi. One-fourth of this salad would be a light lunch for me.
      Everyone enjoyed it. Since I love fennel and I love pomegranate, citrus and sheep's milk cheese, what's not to like? My only issue was that several of my guests were late so the salad had to sit around a while in the refrigerator while I waited for them. It might have been a little better if I could have served it as soon as it was made.

      3 Replies
      1. re: NYCkaren

        you have blood oranges?
        reading these Batali books again is making me crave them (or at least a cocktail made with a fresh one...)

        1. re: pitu

          I got cara cara oranges at Whole Foods. They are a nice vivid color and the closest thing to blood oranges I could readily find.

          1. re: NYCkaren

            NYCkaren: I love those cara cara oranges! We sometimes get them out here in Oakland. Delicious and such a gorgeous color.

      2. Amarina (Babbo Cookbook, p. 16)
        Prosciutto San Daniele with Black Pepper fett'unta and Winesap Apple Marmellata (Babbo, p. 93)

        The Amarina is under the "Aperitivi" section in the Babbo Cookbook. It's a Prosecco-based aperitif, and I served it before a mostly-Babbo dinner last night with ArizonaGirl and her husband. The Amarina is made by soaking a sugar cube with a tsp of Angostura bitters, and then topping with limoncello and prosecco. I loved it, but I'm a big fan of bitters anyways. The men just had one glass apiece, but the girls had two.

        The prosciutto antipasto was a hit, even though I had to make a lot of substitutions for items I couldn't find at Whole Foods. No Prosciutto San Daniele so I bought their best proscuitto di Parma, local Granny Smith apples instead of Winesaps, left out the mustard oil, and used yellow mustard seed instead of black. I loved the combination of flavors, and my guests did too. Pretty easy too as the marmellata can be made ahead and the rest is just composing the plate.

        The marmellata is made with water, sugar, sliced apples, Colman's dry mustard, mustard oil (left it out), and mustard seed (I used yellow instead of black). At first I thought the 3 Tb of dry mustard would be too much, but it was perfect to cut the sweetness. It was served on a platter with prosciutto, baby spinach tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, and toasted bread drizzled with black pepper oil ( I used one Tb of ground black pepper instead of two). We topped slices of bread with the apple, proscuitto and a couple of spinach leaves. Delicious.

        The whole menu was:

        Marinated Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese, Olives and Fett'unta (AZGirl - from Molto Italiano, p. 56)

        Prosciutto San Daniele with Black Pepper fett'unta and Winesap Apple Marmellata (Babbo, p. 93).

        First course - Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Hot Pepper, Roasted Tomatoes, and Bottarga (Babbo, p. 147)

        E wanted steak so main was filet with cognac cream sauce and marinated portabello mushrooms with parmesan and prosciutto stuffing (both Epicurious recipes)

        Ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake (AZGirl - from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen)

        6 Replies
        1. re: Rubee

          Pics of ArizonaGirl's delicious cheesecake:

          1. re: Rubee

            What a feast, Rubee. Everything looks and sounds delicious. How was the cheesecake? I've made a different cheesecake recipe from that book, the one with candied orange peel.

            1. re: NYCkaren

              The cheesecake was delicious. I really liked it and thought it was flavorful and creamy. The one with candied orange peel sounds good too. Maybe ArizonaGirl will chime in.

              1. re: Rubee

                I actually made the one with the candied orange and lemon peel. It was listed as opptional so I didn't use it. I did add lemon zest instead. I wanted to add the orange too but for some reason oranges have been recalled at our local grocery store. My husband thought that I added a little too much lemon so next time I will add less.

                1. re: arizonagirl

                  That's funny - I really liked the lemon in it. I also liked the crust. In fact, I'm eating a piece right now...mmmmm

            2. re: Rubee

              I loved the combination in the prosciutto and apple appetizer. Everything was delicious.

            3. Mozzarella Skewers with Anchovy Sauce (Spiedini alla Romana, MI, p. 34)

              This is one of the recipes where the photo and the recipe, as well as my results, diverged. The recipe calls for cutting up day old Italian bread and buffalo mozzarella into 2" cubes, placing three pieces of bread and two cubes of mozzarella on skewers, then shallow frying them. By my math, that would lead to 10" of bread and mozzarella, but if you look at the photo, the bread and the cheese looks sliced to me, not cubed, and, they certainly aren't 10" long. I cut the mozzarella and bread into 1.5 inch cubes, to maximize the ball of mozzarella that I had, and put a cube of mozzarella between two cubes of bread. I then heated a cup of olive oil in a dutch oven, dipped the skewers in beaten egg, and fried them. As you can see from the photos, much of the mozzarella melted away - though it did seem to be better on the last skewer, as I tried to coat the skewer with more egg, and learned that it made sense to put the flattest surface (since my mozzarella was a ball, not all pieces were perfect cubes) down in the oil first, let it "crust", and the start flipping around. I found that my large fish spatula worked better than tongs for this task, as the cheese/egg would stick to the bottom of the pan. I made half the anchovy sauce - cook rinsed and chopped salted anchovies in the oil, add parsley - and poured some of it over the finished skewers.

              Verdict - too much bread (I should have figured out that my bread/mozzarella ratio was off), much of the mozzarella was lost in the pan, and what remained was rubbery. I did like the anchovy sauce with it, but next time would pour on a little less of the anchovies themselves, as I found it a bit salty.

              Edit - Forgot to mention, I didn't have day old bread, so I 'toasted' the cubes slighly in a pan to firm them up.

              5 Replies
              1. re: MMRuth

                That last picture certainly looks beautiful.

                I do agree that some of the amounts are off. As I mentioned in one thread about the basic tomato sauce, he says it makes 4 cups when obviouusly it is going to make more if you use 2 28 oz. cans of tomatoes.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I just find it so frustrating when the photos don't match the recipe, and the recipe doesn't quite make sense!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    As far as the photos not matching the recipe- I wonder if he didn't have creative control of the photos. In a few of the Roman recipes..I think they were broccoli recipes...he mentions that the vegetables should not be bright green, but grayed out and mushy in the Roman style, and then right next to that, there's a picture with bright green barely blanched broccoli.

                    1. re: yamalam

                      That may well be. I think I look to the photos as more than food porn - but as an example of what the finished dish should look like. I think I had the same issue with Frank Stitt's book.

                2. re: MMRuth

                  Reading this again - I've made it the result sound worse than it was - after all, fried bread and cheese in good olive oil can't be terrible. It was pretty tasty, and my husband said he'd like to try it again with less bread. I might try it again and use slices rather than cubes, and see how it goes.

                3. Pancetta-Wrapped Radicchio (Molto p. 96)

                  I am starting to think that some of these recipes were never tested and this one is Exhibit A. You start by slicing red onions thinly and marinating them in red wine vinegar, water, salt and sugar for an hour to pickle them. The amount of salt seemed crazy but I don't pickle things very often so I went with the directions and ended up throwing out inedibly-salty pickled red onions (and I can tolerate quite a bit of salt). Then you wrap unrolled pancetta around radicchio quarters and saute them -- except that the pancetta doesn't stay wrapped as it starts to shrink from the heat, and I can't quite see how you could use toothpicks and still get the surfaces to lie flat for sauteing. So I ended up with sauteed radicchio quarters topped with crispy pancetta shards, drizzled with the balsamic and EVOO reduction he has you make at the end (it was all supposed to be on a pile of pickled red onions). I also skipped the additional salt he wants you to sprinkle over it all -- the pancetta supplied plenty of that. This was just an incredibly frustrating recipe. Maybe with good pickled onions (like the Moosewood recipe) and just planning to have it deconstructed from the start this would be good -- I do like all the ingredients after all -- but I was so irritated when I sat down that I didn't really enjoy it. I hate when a recipe has clearly not been tested. Grrrr. Oh, and he calls for a whole head of radicchio (4 quarters) per person but I found that half that was plenty. Oh and it looked NOTHING like the gorgeous picture. Oooh, this was Saturday night, you'd think I would have calmed down by now!!!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: GretchenS

                    Sounds like you are feeling the same way I am right now! I've been wondering the same thing about the testing.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I know, MMRuth, it was reading your posts this morning that really crystallized that thought for me. On the other hand those lamb shanks with oranges and olives were fabulous so I'm not ready to give up yet. But I am going to read the recipes much more critically and trust my judgment when things look off.