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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.

                  2. Clams Genovese (Vongole Genovese, MI, p. 82)

                    This recipe was delicious - I made 12 clams, but the full amount of the pesto, so that I could use some on pasta this week for lunch. I bought clams on the half shell on Arthur Avenue, and then made them for lunch, along with the mozzarella skewers and the eggplant crostini. (Note to self: Do not decide to make three things that need to be fried, broiled and grilled when you are making a 'quick' lunch.)

                    I think the pesto part of the recipe makes more than you need, but it is v. good - I'll probably add a little more cheese when I add it to pasta. On the other hand, I'm guessing you'll need more than 2 T of bread crumbs - I just threw some bread in the FP and used what I needed, but 2T for 24 clams seems like about three crumbs to a clam! This is another recipe where cheese and seafood work well together.

                    As an aside, I used 4/5ths of a bottle of olive oil this weekend!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      "As an aside, I used 4/5ths of a bottle of olive oil this weekend!"

                      You did Mario proud!! The man was very liberal w/ his use of olive oil on his show Molto Mario.

                      I'm glad to see this one dish worked for you given some other recipes were so problematic. I am hoping that since Simple Italian Food was his first book before he had a culinary empire to run that it's a little better tested. I marked a bunch of recipes I'd like to try this month! Am also getting the other two books from the library...

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        A number of other dishes have been very good too - I don't want to sound too snarky about this book - yet!

                    2. Eggplant Bruschetta (Bruschetta di Melanzane al Fungo, MI, p. 18)

                      This was quick and easy. I had a number of small fat purple eggplants, and so used two of those instead of the long ones (cutting them into quarters lengthwise and then slicing), and halved the other ingredients. I was perplexed by this instruction: "1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise, then sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips." I still have no idea what this means. He says to grill or broil the bread, whereas in another bruschetta recipe he says to grill or toast the bread, and in yet another, to use the broiler to toast the bread - no mention of grilling it. I'm sure I'm being pedantic here, but my legal training causes this to drive me nuts (grin).

                      Rant aside, these were delicious.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Mmm, they look yummy. I hope that your experience of the book is more positive from now on.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          You slice the onions lengthwise, then you lay a half on it's side and slice lengthwise instead of across. You're looking for long strips.

                          I'm beginning to think he writes like he talks....A mile a minute with too many words. Where was his editor?

                          1. re: Gio

                            I guess I was confused by "lengthwise" since most onions are round, I had no idea which was the length and which is the width. What I usually do when slicing onions is cut it in half, through the root end, then put the cut edge on the cutting board, and slice parallel to the root end. Do you think that's what he means? For example, in the Pollo alla Diavolo recipe, he just says, "1 red onion, thinly sliced" (putting aside the thinly sliced vs. 1/2 inch slices bit). Or does he mean to cut off the root end and make perpendicular slices? Not that it really matters!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Although onions are round, you can usually see the root and opposite that is the top. ( I'm kidding, I know you know that.) I cut off the root end, then slice from top to bottom after cutting the onion in half from top to bottom. Who's on first?

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                I usually slice onions like you do, but with that instruction I would slice them the other way, from top to bottom, ifyswim.

                              2. re: Gio

                                “Where was his editor?”

                                Interestingly enough, there’s none listed in the acknowledgments for Molto Italiano. That may say all you need to know. He thanks his “editor and publisher.” But the person he thanks is a poet and author and the publisher of a Harper Collins imprint, Ecco, that publishes very few cookbooks. I sincerely doubt that his “editor” actually edited the book. Maybe no one did.

                                The Babbo Cookbook and Simple Italian Food, however, were published by Clarkson Potter, a house with a lot of experience publishing cookbooks.

                            2. Chicken Liver Crostini (Crostini Toscani, MI, p. 94)

                              A hit! Saute chopped red onions, capers, and anchovy filets (or paste) in heated olive oil until onion is brown, add chicken livers, stir until brown, add red wine (Chianti) and tomato paste, simmer for 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Then process in food processor. He says to pulse 5-6 times, but I found that, at that point, the chunks of chicken livers were a bit big for my liking (i.e., a bite tasting really liverish), so I processed some more. Served it on grilled bread. I think a sprinkling of something green on top would have made these a bit more, um, visually appealing. You couldn't really taste the capers and anchovies, but we thought that they probably added depth to the dish, along with the sweetness of the onions.

                              My one quibble - he says to put the chicken livers into the FP - I put everything in, but if I'd never made chicken liver pate etc. before, I might think that I was supposed to just pull out the livers. (You'll all be happy to know that this is the penultimate report from the weekend, so no more quibbling!)

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Wow, I'm afraid to post that I have loved everything I've ever made from Molto Italiano (the only Batali I have) after all the troubles above.

                                Tonight I made the Chicken Liver Crostini, p. 94 Molto Italiano.

                                I served them with a soup I made up using some home-made chicken broth, lots of random braising greens from CSA box, a few chopped up potatoes, sauteed onions and some small pasta.

                                The crostini were delicious. My husband scraped bread over the pan to get the last bits.

                                You saute onion, capers, and anchovy paste together until the onions are soft, then you add the chicken livers and saute until lightly brown. Since my livers were already brown, I sauteed until I thought they looked done. Added white wine (recipe called for red wine, but I didn't have any) and chopped fresh tomatoes (recipe calls for tomato paste but didn't have any and DID have good tomatoes). Simmered the whole thing on low heat for 15 minutes. Seasoned with salt and pepper and put the whole thing into the food processor to whir 5 or 6 times....er, I mean PULSE, 5 or 6 times. This yields a "chunky puree". I spread this on pieces of Acme Levain bread that I'd toasted. With the soup and some quartered Persian cukes (no dressing), this was a nice dinner tonight.

                                I really liked the capers and anchovies and tomatoes in this. I've always made chicken liver spread ala chopped liver before and this was very savory.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  Sounds lovely.

                                  But whaddaymean no red wine? You should be ashamed of yourself. ;-)

                                  1. re: greedygirl


                                    You're gonna feel so bad after I tell you why I don't drink red wine. I can only have 3 or so glasses of wine a week (Friday and Saturday) due to medications I take which are hard on the liver. My doc. allows it, and believe me I TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE. Whenever we eat out, I always get red wine, but it doesn't keep as well as white and therefore....I only have bottles of white in the fridge.

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      You do know you can get very big glasses these days.... ;-)

                                      Seriously though, I'm sorry to hear that. What a pain. When I wrote that I was actually thinking of the seriously bad wine habit we have here. We pop over to France every six months or so to stock up - the other day Mr GG said in all seriousness that we were running low. That means only a few dozen bottles of red wine then.....

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        In my house the term leftover wine would be sort of like jumbo shrimp ... a contradiction in terms.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          gg and lsmom:

                                          You guys had me rolling on the floor laughing. I do love red wine.

                                          In the days before my meds took over, I got attached to the wines of Southwest France (Languedoc, etc) and especially Coteaux de Languedoc. The best thing, apart from the great taste, was that they were soooo much cheaper than other wines because folks thought they were too rough. Fools! Idiots! Unfortunately, people have come to their senses and they are now quite pricey.

                                          Although the only place we could "pop over" to in Califa is Baja California, Mexico....actually lately they've been producing some fine wines....so no joke there anymore.

                                          Love the jumbo shrimp/leftover wine bit.

                                  2. re: oakjoan

                                    Oh, I was hoping you would have used red wine. I've made this dish a couple of years ago. It tasted great, but the color was a very unappetizing dark brown -- nothing like what's pictured in Batali's book. I was wondering if I did anything wrong. I followed instructions exactly.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Just caught MMRuth's pics. Her crostini looked fine. Hmmm... I wonder what happened to mine?

                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        I didn't think mine looked so appealing, but they sure were good. I don't remember seeing a photo in the book - will look.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          I may be wrong (as I'm not home now with the book in front of me). But I recall the pic in his book to be a shade lighter than what you have -- but just a shade. Mine looked almost black. Perhaps it's the type of wine I used. As I made this quite some time ago, I don't remember what it was.

                                          But you're right -- it's a wonderful recipe as it's yummy.

                                      2. re: Miss Needle

                                        Hmm, Miss Needle, in my book there is no photo. Was it Molto Italiano? To me chicken liver pate or whatever always looks sort of medium brown. I love it in any form so much that I don't care what it looks like. I thought it looked fine.

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          Oops! I was referring to the recipe in the Babbo cookbook. In that book, there's a pic of it. My bad.

                                      3. re: oakjoan


                                        Thanks for bringing another delicious liver recipe to our attention. We really enjoyed this. The anchovies, wine (we used Chianti) and capers, definitely adds depth to the dish.

                                    2. Duck Liver Crostini Toscane with Spicy Cucumber Salad, P. 28, Simple Italian Cooking

                                      We have a lovely duck store near our place now, and we are able to get some very nice duck livers to make this dish.

                                      Heat olive oil in a saute pan, and saute thinly sliced red onion until soft. Add duck livers, capers and anchovies and red pepper flakes, cook until brown. Then add red wine and cook until nearly dry. Pulse in food processor, and season with salt and pepper. Serve on grilled or toasted Italian bread slices with the cucumber salad.

                                      The cucumber salad is made with sliced peeled cucumber dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. This salad reminds me of some of the Korean style cucumber salads. It adds a wonderful picante touch to the duck liver crostini, and also adds some much needed colour to the plate. As with the chicken liver pate, the colour of the duck liver mixture can be quite an unappealing gray-brown colour, so the pale green cucumber really helps the aesthetics of the plate. Despite the colour, the flavour of this duck liver mixture is really fabulous, I could eat the whole thing myself...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: moh

                                        That sounds amazing - I'm waiting for my breakfast to cook and that's just made my hunger much, much worse!

                                        1. re: moh

                                          moh: This sounds great. I really love contrasting tastes like smooth and rich with sweet and sour. A really neat-o combo.

                                          I made his Chicken Liver Crostini about a week ago (p. 94 of Molto Italiano) and served them with a tangy salad and an onion relish. Really nice. Btw, the crostini were great.

                                        2. Grilled Mozzarella Sandwiches (Mozzarella in Carozza, MI, p. 29)

                                          Make these. They are amazing. You make sandwiches with white bread and buffalo mozzarella (though I used smoked), cut off the crusts, dip in a batter of egg, heavy cream, thyme leaves, salt and a grating of nutmeb, then fry in a little olive oil, with butter added. A couple of points:

                                          1. I had half a ball of smoked mozzarella, so I cut 1/2 inch thick pieces that covered my bread, which was about a 3.5 inch square.
                                          2. I only made one last night, which we split before dinner, and so used a small pan with 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp. butter.
                                          3. He says to cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes, but I found it cooked much faster than that, so I'd keep a watchful eye on the browning.
                                          4. Had batter leftover (had made half of it), refrigerated it, brought it to room temp today and had a whole sandwich for lunch.

                                          27 Replies
                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              OMG! That is making me so hungry! These look like really outstanding grilled cheese sandwiches - must now go search out something yummy to eat... must swim out of giant puddle of drool....

                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                Adding details:

                                                For four sandwiches (I made half):

                                                Batter - 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp. salt, pinch of nutmeg - whisk eggs, add the other ingredients.

                                                Sandwiches - 8 1/2 inch slices of white sandwich bread (I just used Pepperidge Farms) - slice mozzarella 1/2 inch thick (you may need to use more than one piece to cover the bread - I used smoked, but it calls for buffalo mozzarella). Put sandwiches together, slice off crusts so you have a nice square.

                                                Heat 2 T olive oil over medium high heat in 10 to 12 inch nonstick pan and add 1 T butter when oil is smoking. When butter stops sizzling, dip two sandwiches in batter, then cook until golden brown and flip. Repeat with next two sandwiches.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  Thanks so much. They sound (and look) amazing. Creamy, crunchy and rich.

                                                  1. re: bear

                                                    I found an online link here with the full text, by the way:


                                              2. re: MMRuth

                                                mmruth, every once in a while, i wish i was eating at your house . . . .
                                                : )

                                                1. re: pitu

                                                  Pitu, I often wish MMRuth would adopt a Korean orphan like myself... I've told her I'm quite self-sufficient and would only bother her at mealtimes....

                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                  Grilled Mozzarella Sandwiches (Mozzarella in Carozza) - MI, p. 29

                                                  Well, MMRuth said "Make these. They are amazing", so of course I had to.

                                                  I have to agree - my husband took one bite and said "this is delicious, I want 18 more of these", as well as "Holy Moly". I used an 8 oz tub of mozzarella (two balls) and made three sandwiches. With the creamy mozzarella cheese and rich eggy batter, these are decadent and addictive.

                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                    I made these last night as well. And, wow, these were terrific. A couple of notes: I made the batter for the full serving. I made three sandwiches and still had batter left. I plan on making one more tonight before my meeting.

                                                    The amount of oil and butter. I used half the amount (because I first made two sandwiches). I *think* the recipe says to add more oil and butter when making sandwiches 3 and 4. When we decided we wanted to split a third (oink), I had more than enough oil already in the pan to make the third sandwich.

                                                    Lastly, my third sandwich didn't get as melty because I pulled out a new ball of buffalo mozzarella. In the future, have the cheese and batter at room temperature to get optimal results.

                                                    No pic because we were eager to eat. I also really liked the cutting off the crusts part. It made the sandwich seem that much more decadent.

                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                      I *really* need to try these, after all the rave reviews.

                                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                                        To agree with BB's tips:

                                                        I also made the full batter and had some left after three sandwiches, and also didn't need to add more oil/buttter to make the third - plenty left in the pan. I took my moz out about 10 minutes before dinner, so that's a good tip why they were more "melty".

                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                          MMM. melty cheesy goodness. I can't wait to have these as a snack tonight. I've been thinking about them all day.

                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                            Troublemaker. I told E what you said, and asked him again what he thought about last night's dinner. His comment? "Can you make them again tonight with maybe some ham or prosciutto." Uh-oh.

                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                              Actually, I was thinking of great salami and a sliced, seeded summer tomato.

                                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                                I added two thin slices of salami to my cheese sandwich. And, surprisingly enough, it didn't add that much more to the sandwich. The sandwich has so much flavor on it's own, that the salami got lost in the rest of the flavors.

                                                                That being said, the salami also didn't detract from the flavors. Some of the edges of the salami stuck out, and those fried bits in butter were delicious.

                                                                BTW, the batter made 5 sandwiches, comfortably.

                                                                Overall, I loved these sandwiches.

                                                                1. re: beetlebug

                                                                  Oh, I like the idea of salami.

                                                                  Redux last night - No more mozzarella, but I had some leftover taleggio. I also left the crusts on. These were just as delicious. E loved his taleggio with ham and tomato. But I thought mine were even better - taleggio wtih thin slices of green apple.

                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                    I was thinking of adding tomato (sans meat). Glad to hear it worked out. Wouldnt' have thought of the apple, but brilliant idea.

                                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                                      Oh my, these photos are killing me! I'll have to make these and be naughty too! :-)

                                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                                        ooooh, and how about adding tomato *and* basil? Kind of a caprese with extra crunchy, gooey goodness.

                                                          2. re: Rubee

                                                            I'm not sure if I would have made these if MMRuth hadn't raved - so thanks again - I've now made them three times this week.

                                                            I had to make these grilled cheese/french toast sandwiches again this weekend. E had told his family about them, so they made the perfect snack for Sunday football. They were just as big a hit with the kids (5 and 8) as the adults. No mozzarella, so just used what I had. For the kids I made American cheese and ham, for me taleggio with salami, and the rest of the adults had provolone with ham and tomato, or ham and Tillamook cheddar.

                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                              Ha! I keep making them too, for myself for lunch. Today I had one with smoked mozzarella and prosciutto, using the olive oil Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day (to which I've become hopelessly addicted as well!). I didn't cut off the crusts this time, and there were these wonderful crispy, cheesy edges that I loved.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                Yes, E likes them with the crust too. You just made me hungry again! I love the idea of smoked mozzarella and prosciutto. I really have to try making that Artisan Bread one of these days.

                                                                1. re: Rubee

                                                                  You've got to do that bread. It is, well, the best thing since sliced bread!

                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                  You've sold me! I'll be making them later this week. Can't wait.

                                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                                              Grilled Mozzarella Sandwiches

                                                              Well, I think maybe I was expecting too much. We liked these ok, but they didn't knock our socks off. I did love the touch of nutmeg in the egg batter. Thanks to beetlebug for the tip of making sure the mozz. wasn't fridge cold - I took it out mid-day and that helps the sandwichs be nice and melty. I just think they needed a little something else; mozzarella isn't a flavorful enough cheese on its own. The meat that Rubee tried or a tomato slice or something. Husband said "these are good, but not as good as the sun dried tomato/gruyere ones" and I agree. Served with marinated eggplant which was wonderful and a nice foil to the richness of the sandwiches.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                You know, I've made some that were better than others, though I'm not sure why. One time I fried in olive oil with no butter added, and that one wasn't as good. Sometimes I think I've not let them get crispy enough on the outside, so they've been a little soggy. I've still only made them with smoked mozzarella, though I did add some slices of prosciutto to one of those.

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  Recipes are funny that way, aren't they? You make something, it turns out wonderfully, then you make it again and just say "eh." I think for me butter is going to be the way to go in the future on *all* grilled cheese sandwichs - I think the olive oil just didn't have the same oomph.

                                                            3. Shaved Fennel with Blood Oranges, Pecornio and Pomegranates (Finocchi e Traocchi, MI, p. 55)

                                                              Well, this recipe sounded appealing, but I couldn't find blood oranges or pomegranate seeds nearby, and noted that he says the recipe works well with apples in the fall, and cherries in the late spring, as well. So, I used 1/2 a fennel bulb (he says to shave into 1/3 inch slices, but that doesn't sound like shaving to me - maybe should be 1/8 inch? - so I sliced as thin as I could), about half an apple, an aged pecorino sardo that you shave on top. The dressing is just lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. It was refreshing after our osso bucco and risotto, and, because of the lemon juice, the apples and fennel didn't turn brown at all while we ate the rest of the meal.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                I bet this is good with apples. As I posted above, I made it with cara cara oranges. If you lived anywhere near me (downtown) I'd toss you a couple of pomegranates. My mom in California mailed me a box from her tree.

                                                                1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                  I actually looked for the cara cara oranges, but didn't see them. And, to confess, I did find pomegranates, but not a container of pomegranate seeds, so I wimped out. Thanks for the offer!

                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                    I always make a mess seeding pomegranates. But I love them. I especially love the seeds in a salad. So pretty.

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      I've often made a similar recipe with regular oranges when I can't find blood oranges, and it is perfectly fine with regular oranges. But the pomegranate is so perfect on this salad, that I can't bear to make it without pomegranate! They are so beautiful, and they add a lovely tart flavour that goes so nicely with fennel and citrus. But this is just because I love pomegranate so much...

                                                                2. Asparagus Milanese with Parmigiano and a Duck Egg (Babbo - p. 69)

                                                                  Miss Needle recommended this in the primi thread and I have to agree. It seems so basic, but everything together is just delicious, and I didn't even make it with duck eggs. I remember ordering this at Babbo and loving it, so it's nice to learn that this dish is actually as simple as it looks and easy to recreate.

                                                                  Asparagus is blanched and cooled in an ice water bath. Before serving, it's briefly tossed with evoo over high heat and seasoned with s&p. Plate by topping with a sunny-side egg and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and black pepper. E commented that this is now one of his favorite asparagus dishes. I'll definitely have to try it with the extra richness of duck eggs and fresh spring asparagus. I used a high-quality parmigiano-reggiano (Sini Fulvi from Whole Foods) and fresh local eggs, and served it as a side dish to grilled dry-rubbed rib-eye (p. 227).

                                                                  Recipe link (the Babbo cookbook has no lemon):

                                                                  1. Tripe Roman-Style (Tripa alla Romana, MI, p. 111)

                                                                    Well, for the first time I bought some tripe a week or two ago on Arthur Avenue - I ended up freezing it, but defrosted it yesterday to make this dish. I halved the recipe. You cook the whole piece of tripe (I had beef, not calf's, tripe) in water with vanilla and white vinegar, for an hour or so, until tender. Then cut up into two by one inch strips. The sauce is sauteed sliced red onions, celery, and garlic, then add the tomato sauce, white wine, and tripe, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with grated pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano and lots of mint leaves. No mention of salt, but I seasoned to taste at the end.

                                                                    The upshot - I don't like tripe - I tried two bites, but the texture just wasn't for me, and I didn't think it had much flavor in and of itself (which might be a good thing), but the sauce itself was lovely. My husband, who loves tripe, enjoyed it, but it wasn't a rave. I have another pound left, and may try one of the Hopkinson recipes next - he calls for cutting it into thin slivers, and I think I might like that better than big chunks!

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Good for you for attempting tripe for the first time, even though you don't usually care for it. I've never cooked tripe at home. My husband also enjoys tripe while I can appreciate a couple of bites and that's it. I like it best dim sum style, but I've also tried it in menudo. I suspect I'd enjoy it deep fried. :-)

                                                                      Do you think calf's tripe would have made a big difference? What does one look for when buying quality tripe? Interesting about the vanilla and no mention of salt...

                                                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                        I would think the calf's tripe would be more tender, but that is just supposition. And I have no idea what one looks in terms of quality tripe - I'm a neophyte! But, I guess a place with good turnover.

                                                                      2. re: MMRuth

                                                                        MMRuth, just as an aside, if your husband loves tripe, you must try the tripe recipe in the Zuni cookbook. It yields a much more tender result than Batali's version. And there's pancetta in it which may distract you from the taste of tripe if you're not that crazy about it.

                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                          Zuni's tripe is delicious. I think a long braising period is key to yielding a good tripe dish. When I think of tripe I've enjoyed I think of both Zuni's and Delfina's in SF. Tripe is one of those things a lot of people think they don't like, but I think it's more a matter of having it cooked well. I may have to go get some now that there's a chill in the air.

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            Thanks - that's a cookbook I've been meaning to get.

                                                                        2. Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni), Molto Italiano, p. 56

                                                                          I served these as one of the appetizers at a Batali-themed Chowhound dinner, and really liked these. I didn't get to try one until later in the night, and these were still delicious at room temperature, so it's a great do-ahead appetizer or antipasto.

                                                                          The filling is made with capers, raisins, anchovies, bread crumbs, parsley, and olive oil. Red and yellow bell peppers are roasted, cut in strips, and then rolled up with the stuffing. They are then warmed through at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. I didn't have any toothpicks, but they all held together well anyways. They can be served warm, or at room temp. I really liked the flavors - saltiness with the capers and anchovies, and sweetness from the peppers and raisins. At least two other CH's commented on how good these were, so I will definitely make these again. I'm always looking for a good addition to an antipasto platter when asked to bring apps, so this recipe is a keeper.

                                                                          BTW, I used salt-packed capers and took a pic comparing them to regular capers (Goya brand - on the left) to show the difference.

                                                                          The complete menu with pics and recipe links is here:

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                            Great photos, Rubee! That looks like a winner of a recipe.

                                                                            1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                              They were delicious. Rubee really knows how to throw a party :-)

                                                                          2. Eggplant Portafoglio w/ Oven-dried Tomatoes & Tomato Oil, SIF, p. 52

                                                                            Mario introduces this recipe by saying it can be served as an antipasto or contorno to a braised rabbit or grilled meat dish. I made this a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those late night's at work when I didn't have much energy to cook, so I made it for a late supper paired w/ a salad.

                                                                            Eggplant slices are grilled (dry) just till toasted and a little softened. An eggplant "sandwich" is then made filled w/ grated fontina, oven-dried tomatoes, and chopped parsley. The "wallets" as he says are then fried in a shallow amount of EVOO till golden brown on each side and cheese has melted. This is drizzled w/ a simple tomato oil before serving. I had oven-roasted tomatoes in my freezer and didn't use his method of slow drying for 10 hours at 150F.

                                                                            This dish sounded promising and was easy to put together since I already had the oven-roasted tomatoes; however, the taste was very disappointing. I don't know...it just didn't come together in flavor, and the tomato oil had a discordant sour note. The eggplant had too much of a raw flavor for me, so perhaps I sliced them too thickly. I also think that my eggplant wasn't the best quality. It's been tough finding them at the farmer's market so I bought one from my regular market and it didn't really have much flavor or creaminess. Husband could barely finish one, and the few leftovers languished in the fridge until I tossed them out.

                                                                            I would try this again if all of my ingredients were just right and I sliced the eggplant more thinly next time. This disappointment knocked the wind out of my sails to delve more into the book, but I'm ready to look at it again. I think I need to have a corrective experience by making those grilled cheese sandwiches!! :-)

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                              Well gee, they certainly look good, CL.
                                                                              I looked at that recipe many times during the month and just couldn't get excited about the tomato oil. I found that even though I tried very hard to follow MB's recipe to the letter, I always ended up adding more seasoning. After reading your description, I think I will grill the slices in a grill pan a la Faith Willinger, then put the sandwiches together but with a fresh mozz rather than Fontina. I'd go so far as to add plenty of Kosher salt and FGBpepper along with some dried oregano and/or thyme and EVOO instead of tomato oil. I oven roast tomatoes all the time but at a 250 instead of 150.

                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                I know, they look tasty and inviting, right?? That's why it was even more disappointing to take a bite and have it fall flat. The overall idea is good, and I think you'll be happy if you make your own adjustments.

                                                                            2. Fried Zucchini Flowers with Ricotta and Golden Tomato Oil
                                                                              Simple Italian Food - page 50

                                                                              Today at market I spotted some zucchini flowers that were not wilted and torn. They were perfect. I bought four figuring that Batali would have a recipe in this month's COTM's. But no, so I pulled out this book.

                                                                              He insists that goat milk ricotta is the best, so I purchased some goat milk, and made a fresh ricotta and then strained.

                                                                              While the ricotta strained, I made the tomato oil. Combine yellow tomatoes, olive oil, basil and salt in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour through a strainer. I used a mesh sieve and getting the oil through was a bit time consuming, and involved the back of a spoon repeatedly.

                                                                              In a bowl mix 1/4 cup ricotta, 1 tbl egg, scallions, nutmet and salt and pepper. [What do you do with the rest of the egg? Thinking scrambled eggs for breakfast.]

                                                                              Stuff each flower with 1.5 tsp of the mixture. Heat 1 tbl olive oil to almost smoking and "fry" the flowers, cooking 2 minutes per side. Serve immediately with the Golden Tomato Oil.

                                                                              I poured some oil on the plate and placed the flowers on top, but after the first bite, I poured more over. What a simple and tasty sauce. I have lots left so I will try it drizzled over different vegetables.