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October 2008 COTM Batali: Vegetable Side Dishes ("Contorni")

October 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

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

Please post your full-length reviews of vegetable side dishes ("Contorni") 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. Broccoli Rabe with Roasted Garlic (Babbo page 204)

    This is what Batali recommended as a bed for the Grilled Pork Chops with Peaches and Balsamic Vinegar. You roast a whole head of garlic; mush half the cooked cloves with 3 salt-packed anchovy fillets (I only had oil-bottled); then sauté that in oil before adding blanched, chopped, and wrung-out-to-dry broccoli rabe, the remaining roasted garlic cloves, and a bit of red pepper flakes.

    I adore broccoli rabe and often serve it with pork chops. My quick and dirty version is to stir-fry some sliced garlic, toss in either blanched or unblanched broccoli rabe and some red pepper flakes, and cook until it looks good. His version was a little bit better. But only a little bit. And took a good 50 to 60 minutes longer and necessitated heating up the oven. Maybe, if I have the time and have the oven on anyway, I’ll do the roasted garlic again because I did like the whole roasted cloves in the finished dish. But I didn’t see that wringing the broccoli dry in a kitchen towel made much of a difference at all and the anchovies were pretty much lost on me.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      This way of preparing brocolli rabe is pretty similar to a pasta dish I had in Puglia, which was yummy. I can see that it would be good with pork chops.

      1. re: JoanN

        You can roast garlic in a toaster oven, saving some energy/gas $$.

        1. re: JoanN

          Made this last night with spinach instead of rabe. My usual rabe/greens of any kind method is the same as yours, and I agree roasting the garlic didn't seem worth the extra work. I did like the anchovy kick though, and might try to sneak those in from now on.

        2. Marinated Zucchini Squash (Molto Italiano)

          I changed this up a bit based on what we had. He calls for pan-frying slices of zucchini. And then marinating in a mixture of red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and basil for 2 hours or more.

          I broiled in less oil to make it healthier and found I was out of red pepper flakes, so used aleppo, and out of basil, so used thyme instead. I marinated for just over 2 hours - it could have used more.

          Overall it was fine. I found the garlic too strong, so much that my kids wouldn't eat it. And I found it could use more red wine vinegar, but of course I didn't measure it so perhaps I didn't add enough. I also tend to like things acidic.

          I ended up using the leftovers topped with homemade tomato sauce and pecorino cheese and olives. Very good like that.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jsaimd

            I have made this recipe, marinated zucchini from MI, several times, following the recipe as closely as possible. I love it! And all the adults I've served it to have loved it. But my daughter would never eat it. Too spicy. (Come to think of it, I don't think she's ever eaten zucchini.)

            1. re: jsaimd

              I've made this recipe several times following the directions exactly. Everyone always seems to really enjoy this one.

              1. re: jsaimd

                I made this last night for dinner - I thought it was decent, but not amazing. I think my new red pepper flakes must just be really hot, as I thought that the dish had a little too much heat. I didn't have fresh basil, so I layered thyme stems instead, and then added basil later on when I served this dish, removing the thyme stems.

                 
              2. Eggplant Caponata, Molto Italiano, p. 426 (and Simple Italian Food, p. 226)

                The recipes are almost exactly the same except SIF calls for 1 cup of evoo and 1 tsp of chili flakes while MI says 1/2 cup evoo and 1 Tb chili flakes.

                I made this a few weeks ago as an app to bring to a fellow CH's house. I don't think I've made caponata before, and I liked this version. It had a nice balance of sweet/sour and I liked the currants in it instead of raisins. One of the reasons I wanted to make this is because it included unsweetened cocoa but, oops, didn't have any so I left it out (had used the last of it in chili). Ingredients are eggplant, onion, garlic, pine nuts, currants, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, thyme, Tomato Sauce (p. 426), and balsamic vinegar.

                I served this, along with a cannellini bean and basil dip based on a Batali recipe, with toasted bread. ArizonaGirl took a pic and linked to the caponata recipe here (check out her bolognese...it was so good):

                http://foodhuntersguide.blogspot.com/...

                 
                2 Replies
                1. re: Rubee

                  I wanted to do this but wanted to hear what others thought about the cocoa as an ingredient, and lo and behold, you didn't use it! I did the sauteed eggplant instead.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    Cocoa works well, try it next time!

                2. Potatoes Roasted with Garlic Cloves, Molto Italiano, Pg. 440

                  I have roasted potatoes with garlic, EVOO, S & P, and herbs every couple of weeks since forever BUT, these were something else. Absolutely delicious! Although the recipe calls for "waxy potatoes" I used red bliss, halved and I did not blanch them. One whole head of garlic with separated but unpeeled cloves and a whole bunch of Rosemary with chopped leaves make all the difference. Everything tossed in a roasting tray and cooked at 425* for 30 minutes When they came out of the oven DH starting popping them in his mouth without waiting for the rest of the meal......Broccoli Rabe alla Pugliese, Pg. 423 and a roast haddock recipe from Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion by Rick Moonen. A book Yayadave recommended. I'm recommending this potato recipe. It's terrific!

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Gio

                    Oh that's good to know - I love roasted potatoes, and rosmary, but never seem to find a recipe that quite works for me.

                    1. re: Gio

                      I made this recipe, patate al forno, MI p. 440, to go with braised pork. I did blanch the potatoes and I think it makes a dfference in producing a tender interior and a crunchy exterior.

                      1. re: NYCkaren

                        Quick question on these - I want to serve them with the Pollo alla Diavola, which of course needs to roast in the oven. I'm thinking about making the potatoes first, then popping them back in the oven while the chicken is resting. Should I cook them for the full time, and then "reheat" - or cut the cooking time short when making them?

                        Thanks!

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Good question. The braise I served them with was done on the stove, so I avoided that problem. They cook at a different temperature? I would probably cook the potatoes fully _ or almost fully _ cook the chicken and then stick the potatoes in to reheat.

                          1. re: NYCkaren

                            Thanks - I'm doing that now, though it's been almost 30 minutes and they are not really crispy. Maybe b/c I'm using a ceramic dish? I'll switch to a metal pan when I reheat. I only made half a batch and thought it was too little to throw on my big baking sheets..

                      2. re: Gio

                        I made these last night, using 3 yukon gold potatoes, which I figured was about half the recipe. I used half a head of garlic and chopped up the leaves of one very long branch of rosemary, then noticed the instructions called for a 'bunch of rosemary' (I hate it when instructions are put that way - a bunch can be so many different sizes), so I threw in two rosemary branches as well. I did blanch the potatoes, then roasted in a cazuela for 30 minutes. They were delicious, but not yet crispy, which was fine, since I'd made them ahead of time to reheat. After I removed my Pollo alla Diavola from the oven, I popped them in for 10 minutes and they browned/crisped up perfectly.

                         
                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I also made these potatoes and I thought they turned out good, but never got quite as crispy as I prefer. The next day I reheated the leftovers in skillet and they finally achieved that perfect crispy texture.

                        2. re: Gio

                          These are my new favorite potatoes. Hard to believe potaoes can taste this good.

                          1. re: Gio

                            Potatoes Roasted with Garlic Cloves - Molto Italiano, p. 440

                            Well, everybody said these were good so of course I had to make them too. They were great. I used Yukon Gold potatoes. Blanching really makes a difference with them getting crusty, and everything all together - lots of fresh rosemary, garlic cloves, and olive oil - make this simple dish stand out. I served them as a side dish with chicken with cider vinegar, apples and pomegranate from Simple Italian Food, and E said "the chicken is good but the potatoes are out of this world".

                             
                             
                          2. Broccoli Rabe alla Pugliese, Molto Italiano, Pg. 423

                            Rubee's own method of cooking Rabe is identical to mine... Mario's alla Pugiese recipe, though, calls for adding chopped, pitted black olives at the end of cooking time. The greens cooked well and remained nice and green, nevertheless the dish was much too salty for me. DH scarfed it down, though. He'll eat anything.
                            This was served with the Roasted Potatoes and roast haddock.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: Gio

                              "He''ll eat anything."

                              That made me LOL! Mr GG is exactly the same.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                me too. C is like that as well, but he qualifies it by stating that he'll eat anything that my lovely hands will make him. hahaha.

                                  1. re: mirage

                                    Double awww. Mine will eat anything I make but fish cakes. Memories of jr. high caf. food.

                                    It's really great to be with someone who loves your cooking and tells you so all the time...except, of course, for salmon patties.

                              2. re: Gio

                                I made this dish and had a totally different experience.

                                It was too bitter, had no flavor and was overcooked and mushy.

                                1. re: cpw

                                  Yes, that can happen with Rabe. The trick is to cook them just untill wilted but still green... but sometimes the stems are the cause of the bitterness. That's why I really like to cut the stem off a little below the leaf and braise them with tinned anchovies, no extra salt and with some chopped onion.
                                  My mother used to say, "Bitter in the mouth, sweet in the stomach.".

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I usually like bitter greens. I am going to try them again later with anchovies. Maybe some vinegar might be good too.

                                    1. re: cpw

                                      Has anybody tried Lidia B's bitter greens with Italian sausage served over orrechiete (sp?)? It's amazing. She sautes the broc rabe with garlic and adds hot pepper flakes. Sautees the crumbled-up sausages and adds to the greens. I put a bit of chicken broth to make more sauce. Serve over pasta with pec.or parm.

                                      I found it in Julia Childs Cooks With Master Chefs.

                                      Fabu!

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        I make a dish using all of those ingredients, though I guess never thought of it as Lidia's dish. It is one of my go-to simple suppers and something I always think of when I see The Fatted Calf offering their Calabrese sausage for sale. :-)

                                        If the rabe seems particularly mature, I'll blanch it first. Usually, the water that clings the rabe (and to the pasta) combines with the fat of sausage and the grated cheese to make enough of a "sauce" for me.

                                        I have some rabe plants started, and I'm looking forward to enjoying this dish all winter long. Mmm mmm...

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          This is a great recipe! The sausages and broccoli rabe come together very well with the pasta, and ofcourse only orrechiete (sp?) will do.

                                      2. re: Gio

                                        As a Texan, I first experienced broccolli rabe about seven years ago. I eat it every now and again, but the bitterness is off-putting. I think I like it most with Italian sausage.
                                        I've had some that wasn't quite so bitter, yet I'm pretty sure it had stems. How do you explain that?

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          My theory is that the bitterness is tied to hot growing conditions and/or the maturity of the plant. I've had rabe in winter and spring that was mild and sweet, but batches that I've had during or just after California's "Indian summer" have been more bitter. Could be a coincidence, I suppose, but I've noticed the same temporal phenomenon with the arugula we've grown.