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*July 2011 COTM, BATALI II: Pasta, Insalata, Vegetables

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the following chapters:

Molto Gusto: Pasta; Insalata
Italian Grill: Vegetables

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  1. Thanks so much Caitlin, happy to kick things off w a review of a dish we loved below

    1. p. 230 – Italian Grill - Waxy Potatoes in Chianti Vinegar

      What a delightfully different dish, we absolutely loved this! I must confess though, we didn’t have Chianti Vinegar so I used Pinot Noir vinegar which worked well since we were serving Pinot Noir w the meal as well. Prep is straightforward. Potatoes are scrubbed and par-boiled then cut into slices and tossed in a mixture of olive oil, celery seeds and scallions then placed on a skewer. I made some substitutions here, since I have a massive crop of chives this year, I used chives in place of the scallions and, I used fennel seeds instead of celery seeds. Skewers are then grilled until potatoes are browned and tender. The book has you toss hot potatoes in a mixture of Dijon, EVOO, vinegar, scallions, salt and pepper yet if you look at the photo in the book, you’ll see that the potatoes are actually plated on the their skewers w the dressing drizzled over the top. We opted for the latter approach to avoid having the potatoes get crushed during the tossing process since we had guests, I felt this made for a nicer presentation. This was absolutely fabulous and my new favourite way of preparing potatoes. Happy to recommend this dish.

       
       
       
       
      9 Replies
      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        Waxy Potatoes in Chianti Vinegar - p. 230 - Italian Grill

        I made this last night. Made everything as directed. BC describes the process. The only difference is that I did not make substitutions.

        This recipe makes a ton of vinaigrette. I made the full recipe, but didn't use all the vinaigrette on the potatoes. The dressing is very mustardy. This kept it in emulsion even when it sat on the counter for quite a while. The picture in the book shows a somewhat separated dressing that doesn't really look like what I got from making the recipe. BC's picture above looks more accurate. The description describes the dressing as "creamy". One thing I am starting to notice about this book is that the photos don't seem to match the recipes very well.

        That said, we really enjoyed this dish. Kind of like a German potato salad, but grilled, and therefore, better. Definitely worth repeating.

        1. re: MelMM

          Glad you enjoyed that Mel and I totally agree w you about the photos in the book not matching the recipe, I've noticed this on a few occasions now. Your observation regarding German Potato Salad is right on the money and, it made me think about weaving a slice of bacon around the potatoes on the skewers next time I make this . . . mmmmm!

          1. re: MelMM

            Couldn't agree more on the photos. It is almost like the photos were all produced by a food stylist, who might or might not have actually followed the recipe. Or maybe they took pictures before testing the recipes? Modified the recipes and never bothered to reshoot?

            I was just telling my guests the other night that there should be a truth-in-photo law for cookbooks, and that this one would fail.

            1. re: smtucker

              It's quite odd really. In my experience, the recipes have been solid so why wouldn't you want, or insist that the photography reflects the recipe as written?

              I watched an interview of Mario where he sung the praises of Quentin Bacon who typically does the photography in his books. MB was critical of cookbooks where the food doesn't look "real" and is overly stylized or staged. His new photographer for Italian Grill must have missed part of the memo. Her food looks real but it would appear that, in an effort to style plates, she's gone off course using incorrect saucing and garnishes.

          2. re: Breadcrumbs

            p. 230 – Italian Grill - Waxy Potatoes in Chianti Vinegar

            Tried these last night. I don't have much to add. They were quick and easy. My husband loved them, I thought they were a little too bitter, perhaps due to inferior ingredients (we used ordinary red wine vinegar instead of chianti vinegar), I'd pull back on the mustard next time.

            We'll do these again, maybe changing up the flavors, because we're always looking for ways to do potatoes on the grill.

            ~TDQ

             
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Waxy Potatoes in (Burgundy) Vinegar, p. 230.

              I had small fingerling potatoes, so I didn't parboil or slice them. I treated them as called for, only substituting Burgundy vinegar for the Chianti. Since they were so small, I didn't skewer them, but placed them in a grill basket instead.

              I dressed them as written, and we enjoyed the taste of these potatoes quite a bit. With the vinaigrette, I agree with MelMM, it does remind one a bit of a warm potato salad. Our main dish had pancetta in it, which would have been better placed in these potatoes.

              I'm not even going to post my ugly photo, as the fingerlings just look like a plate of in-shell peanuts.

              1. re: L.Nightshade

                LN I laughed out loud at your last line! Glad you enjoyed your peanuts!! ; - )

              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                Waxy Potatoes in Chianti Vinegar, Pg. 230, Italian Grill

                My turn for these ever popular potatoes. Used Alessi red wine vinegar which comes from Tuscany, home of Chianti Classico, so in effect I used Chianti vinegar. Used 5 Yukon gold potatoes and celery seeds, EVOO, but had no scallions so subbed sliced red onion. We steamed the potato slices, then after cooling them down tossed them in 1/2 mixture of the dressing.

                My skewers were very long and after trying to put a few slices on it soon became obvious that was not going to happen so G grilled them on the indoor grill pan. I probably didn't slice the potatoes wide enough. Anyway, after the slices were cooked more dressing was drizzled over.

                These were quite tasty and I'll probably make them again the way Molto intended. But for last night's dinner they were fine.

                1. re: Gio

                  I made the Waxy Potatoes last night too. I used Cab. vinegar as I couldn't find Chianti. I liked the dressing very much. I used tiny, tiny potatoes so I skewered them whole. I think this was a mistake as I didn't have any whites exposed to toast up. Never the less, a very tasty potato side dish. I would make this again. I served this with the Asparagus wrapped in Pancetta, and I loved, loved, loved this dish. The dressing was very refreshing! Though I 1/2ed the dressing recipe, I still have tons left over, so I am planning on using it on tonight's salad.

              3. p. 177 in Molto Gusto - Pennette with Swiss Chard Ragu

                This was the first recipe I made from Batali, and it was good. I had some fresh homegrown Swiss chard just waiting to be used and when I saw this I knew I had to make it. It really brings out the Swiss Chard and makes for a great pasta dish. The bread crumbs really make the perfect topping as well. My family called it 'a keeper.'

                1. Penne all'Arrabbiata, Pg. 164, Molto Gusto

                  All these years I thought I made a pretty tasty and spicy arrabbiata. Not quite so. This was different. No garlic, no basil, no oregano, no parsley, all of which appear in other recipes from Bugialli to Esposito. Also, Rao's uses Pecorino Romano. Batalli uses Parmigiano Reggiano. And, he does not heat the oilive oil.

                  So, what does he do? First, 1 1/2 cups of strained Pomi tomatoes are simmered till reduced by half. A quarter cup of tomato paste is mixed with 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes and heated till fragrant then the reduced sauce is added. The pan is now taken off heat. Cook the penne till al dente, drain and add to the sauce along with 1/2 cup pasta water. Put the pan over a medium flame and toss the pasta till well coated with sauce. Taste for seaoning adding Maldon salt if necessary, then add 1/4 cup EVOO, mix all together and serve with grated Reggiano on the side.

                  This was really very nice. Fresh tasting even though boxed tomatoes were used. The tablespoon of RPF were not too hot at all and by not heating the oil it seemed more like a warm macaroni salad rather than a heavily spiced pasta dish. Excellent.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Gio

                    I've been wondering what strained Pomi tomatoes are as we don't have them in the UK. Could I substitute passata?

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Hi gg, I made a mussel dish that called for Pomis and, the same technique employed in Gio's dish. Essentially Pomi's strained tomatoes are pureed Italian tomatoes. In my experience, passata is a cooked sauce so I think if you could buy a can/box of Italian tomatoes, whole or chopped and, puree them, you'd be in good shape.

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Passata in the UK is just sieved tomatoes - not cooked afaik. So sounds like I can just use that. I do find it strange that most American recipes specify canned Italian tomatoes - all tinned tomatoes in the UK are Italian!

                      2. re: greedygirl

                        I simply strained whole tomatoes in a sieve. I would have used a China cap if I had one.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I often saw Pomi tomatoes in France. A bit surprised you don't have them in the UK. Here is a link to the box. What I like about them is the size. With only two eating in the house these days, a large can can be too much.

                          http://www.vitacost.com/pomi-chopped-...

                          1. re: smtucker

                            Never seen them here, but there are loads and loads of similar products. Is Pomi meant to be a particularly good brand? As for size, 14oz is the regular size for a tin of tomatoes, but you can get them half that size as well.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              That is what I have been told, but haven't done a scientific taste test. We have very few products packaged this way. It is still fairly novel. Personally, if a large can of San Marzano is not too much for your family, I think they taste a bit better.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Pomi brand tomatoes are Italian tomatoes, from Italy. What's great about Pomi is that there are no additives whatsoever. It's just tomatoes and nothing else--whether strained or chopped.

                                I used to buy exclusively San Marzano canned tomatoes, but at least in the States the name has become corrupted in the past few years. There are lots of canned tomatoes on the shelves with labels that say San Marzano that aren't. I read not too long ago that even the DOP designation on the label of well-known brands has been faked. In fact, the problem was so widespread, that the manager at Fairway told me they stopped carrying any brand of San Marzano tomatoes because they couldn't be sure they were getting the real product for the premium price they were paying. That's when I switched to Pomi and have stayed with it ever since. Very fresh flavor, no added sodium, practically unlimited shelf life. I even found them in Guatemala--although granted at a steep price in a specialty import store. Really surprised they're not available in the UK.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  I just tried them for the first time, and they do taste very fresh. The box is 750g, about 17.5 ounces, 3 cups for the strained.

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    I just saw this... The cartons I have are 26.46 oz. From Amazon, of all places:

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Gio, of course that is correct, the equivalent of 750g. Don't where my conversions skills - or memory - had flown off to when I posted. Am embarassed now, of course, immortalized as my error is!

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Caitlin, I hate to say this but you're certainly not alone in that immortalized error camp. I cringe every time I see my typing errors...which is all too frequently.

                          2. re: Gio

                            Penne all’Arrabbiata – p. 164 – Molto Gusto

                            Holy moly, our penne was MOLTO arrabbiato!!! As Gio notes, this dish calls for
                            1 tbsp of hot red pepper flakes which did seem like a lot. I mean, we like it hot…truly, we love hot spicy food but this was pretty darn hot, a little too “angry” for our tastes.

                            In sales they say “KYC” …. know your customer. Well here I say KYC. . . know your chilies!!! I went w the 1 tbsp against my better judgment but Mario hasn’t let me down yet so I blindly followed along . . . foolishly! In a sick kind of way, I couldn’t stop eating this, I mean that’s what chilies do . . . right?! They grab you with their addictive properties, make you want more pain!!! Poor mr bc, sweat was beading on his forehead, his eyes were tearing up (all the while I’m smiling and telling him he looks fine even though his ears had turned the colour of purple beets!!)…. I’d even tossed some chicken in his bowl to appease his “it’s not dinner if there isn’t meat” tendencies but alas, the heat beat him down and, for the first time in a very long time, he couldn’t finish his meal.

                            My chilies were just too powerful for this dish. Nonetheless, as Gio said, I still appreciated the intense tomato flavour achieved by reducing the Pomi and, I admit, I had to add some fresh basil, I mean I’m harvesting it by the bushel at this point so if you’re consuming something at our house, chances are you’ll have some basil in it!!

                            I’d still recommend this but caution to add chilies to taste. I’ll make this again. . . . once mr bc is feeling better!!! ; - )

                             
                             
                             
                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Oh dear, colored ears -- I know that feeling. In our house we're way behind the rest of the world in appreciating heat in food, so this account grabbed me.
                              And it's funny that Gio described this as "warm macaroni salad" !
                              As always, interesting review, Breadcrumbs.

                              1. re: blue room

                                Thanks blue room. mr bc still hasn't forgiven me!!

                          3. Penne alla Paplina - page 179 - Molto Gusto

                            Something went wrong. Was it me? Was it the instructions? I don't know, but I found this pasta dish meh which makes no sense. Pork, cheese, eggs, peas and pasta; what could go wrong?

                            I made a half recipe and was shocked to discover that I didn't have enough penne rigate in the cupboard. I substituted a DeCecco No 7 Linguini Fini.

                            So, this is pretty straight ahead. Get the water boiling, drop in the pasta and heat a pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and prosciutto that has been cut into 1 inch squares. Cook for 5 minutes until crisp, turn off the heat and add the peas. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. When the pasta is done, reserve some of the water, and drain the pasta.

                            Add the pasta to the prosciutto and eggs and turn the burner to medium high. Add some oil and reserved water to the eggs, whisk and add to the pan. Turn off the heat and start mixing with a spoon.

                            The minute those eggs hit the pan, they wanted to scramble. In fact, some of them did scramble. Toss in and mix the cheese. If needed, add more of the pasta water but my mixture didn't seem to need it.

                            By the time the pasta was in the bowls, it had tightened up and I wish I had added more water. Add lots of black pepper. DH did, I didn't.

                            To me, this dish seemed just heavy and clumpy. The combined flavors seemed less than each flavor on its own. I don't understand why we hit the pan with tons of heat just as the eggs were going to go in. And there isn't enough interest to make this a main course. Perhaps a little swirl between antipasti and a real main would be better, but I doubt I will try this one again.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: smtucker

                              Bummer. Thanks for taking one for the team. As you say, how could you go wrong with those ingredients, but sometimes it's just too much, I guess. I've got some CSA peas and this would have been a contender, so thanks for warning us off it.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: smtucker

                                smtucker so sorry this dish underwhelmed. I too had it marked and imagined it would be like a Carbonara w peas. I wonder if MB erred in suggesting that the pan be at medium high when the eggs are incorporated? When I make carbonara I prefer the heat at med-low to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Thanks for your review, if I do make the dish, I'll definitely have your experience in mind.

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Very sorry to read this report. My CSA is chock full of peas (three kinds, in fact) so I had my eye on this one. Even your description of the process sounds tasty.
                                  Like Breadcrumbs, I'll take your words under advisement. And, since I've never made carbonara, I will probably follow Breadcrumbs suggestion of lowering the heat.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    Interesting. The only carbonara I make is Marcella Hazan's and the eggs and cheeses are in the pasta bowl. The pasta, pancetta, oil, etc. is added to that. Yeah, why would you hit the heat when doing that?

                                    1. re: smtucker

                                      Penne all Papalina – p. 179 – Molto Gusto

                                      A surprisingly hearty, delicious dish that I’m happy to recommend, with caution.

                                      smtucker reviewed this dish up thread and observed that the eggs wanted to scramble in the pan. Despite having the benefit of her experience and, making some adjustments, I had the same issue. Luckily, since I was expecting there may be a problem, I was able to adjust and the dish didn’t suffer significantly.

                                      smtucker’s description of the prep up thread is spot on so I’ll just pick up where I changed things. Once I’d stirred in the pasta over medium heat, I removed the pan from the heat to stir in the tempered egg mixture. I started slowly and, good thing I did as the first egg mixture to hit the pan started cooking despite my furious stirring. I let the pan cool down somewhat and carried on with no further issue.

                                      Other adaptations at casa bc were, the use of fresh peas instead of frozen and, my prosciutto was a smoked variety carried by a local Italian deli.

                                      I imagined this dish to remind me of Carbonara and while it did, we particularly liked the use of prosciutto, especially in 1” squares as it brought nice flavour and texture. The penne rigate was also nice for a change as we tend to make Carbonara w spaghetti. Some of the peas snuck inside the pasta and added a nice little surprising pop as you bit down on the macaroni.

                                      Despite the mishap, we loved this dish and I’d happily make it again, with my further revised method. I think the penne retains more heat than spaghetti and may contribute to the scrambling issue. I’d use them again but just let the pan cool slightly before adding the egg mixture as I did above.

                                       
                                       
                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        Just a suggestion, but next time try taking a spoonful or two of pasta out of the pan and stir those into the egg mixture off the heat, before incorporating the egg mixture into the pasta on the stove. This will allow the eggs to thicken but not scramble before they are added to the hot pan.