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Oct 31, 2013 08:01 PM

November 2013 Cookbooks of the Month, Marcella Hazan Month: Appetizers; Soups

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the November Cookbooks of the Month (Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Marcella Cucina, and Marcella Says…):

Appetizers (Marcella Cucina), pages 32 – 75
Soup (Marcella Cucina), pages 76 - 109

Appetizers and Dishes for Buffets and One-Course Meals (Marcella’s Italian Kitchen), pages 27 – 70
Soups (Marcella’s Italian Kitchen), pages 71-88

Crostini, Antipasti, Spuntini, and Pickles (Marcella Says…), pages 89 – 112

Soup (Marcella Says…), pages 113 - 132

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  1. Tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and chives (p. 34 MIK)

    I am waiting for Essentials but was able to pick up Marcella's Italian Kitchen when I stopped by the library. And I have to say, it has gotten me excited about this month. We had a bean and sausage stew earlier this week, and I was looking for something as a little side or salad, and figured this would work nicely. And it did! You cut plum tomatoes in half longways and scoop out the insides. Mix together soft/creamy goat cheese with chopped chives, freshly ground black pepper and some olive oil. Fill the tomato halves with the cheese mixture. Simple and delicious.

    1. Pasta e Ceci (Marcella's Italian Kitchen, pg. 87)

      This is a recipe we've been making regularly for a few years because it is delicious and comforting in cold weather. Marcella instructs you to use canned chickpeas and peel each one, but we've never done that; instead we pressure cook dried chickpeas and leave the skins on. Without the step of peeling the chickpeas, this is really a very simple recipe.

      You cook onion in 1/2 cup olive oil (which seemed like quite a lot given the recipe only calls for one can of chickpeas), add garlic, rosemary, and sage and then canned tomatoes (we usually use Pomi chopped). Cook this for a while, then add the chickpeas and cook for a few more minutes, then blend this all together until it's smooth (an immersion blender works very well). Then add broth (Marcella calls for meat broth, but we've always used veg. just because that's what we usually have around), bring to a boil, add pasta and cook until the pasta is done.

      The result is a creamy, filling soup that's practically a meal by itself. We often have it just with a simple green vegetable. And it freezes quite well, so we often make a double batch. I'm sure the soup would be even silkier if you peeled the chickpeas, but we love it without that step.

      7 Replies
      1. re: nonaggie

        Sounds delicious, and I have to say I am unlikely to ever peel a chickpea. Sounds like a daunting chore.

        1. re: delys77

          I'm not about to peel a chickpea.

          1. re: LulusMom

            I find that peeled chickpeas are all around much better for most recipes. They make the smoothest most decadent hummus.

            1. re: melpy

              I totally believe you. I also believe that having someone vacuum the house daily would make it dust free, but it isn't about to happen ; )

              1. re: melpy

                True true, but I don't actually peel them I just saute with a little baking soda a la Ottolenghi, and the skin come off for the most part. Are people actually peeling them by hand?

                1. re: delys77

                  I've actually made Ottolenghi's hummos twice (used dried chickpeas) and faithfully followed his directions and hand peeled them. I think Deb on Smitten Kitchen followed his recipe and did likewise. Not fun but It was the best. But, I think he puts way too much tahini, I cut way back and add more fresh lemon juice.

                  1. re: walker

                    I also like a bit more tang to my hummus.

        2. Venetian Meat and Potato Balls, Bacaro-Style (p 74, Marcella Cucina)

          Marcella says these are popular as a wine bar appetizer, served hot (freshly made or reheated in microwave) or room temperature.

          I made a half recipe, since the full recipe (1 pound of ground beef, 1/2 pound potatoes) was scaled to make fifty 1-inch meatballs. As you can see from the photo, I got 16 1.5 inch meatballs with the half recipe.

          The recipe has 9 clearly-written steps, which I think could have been further separated to improve readability. The ingredients list does not note "divided" when the quantity listed is split between steps (half of chopped garlic was to be added later, uncooked).

          The potatoes are cooked, then mashed. The meat is browned with a small amount of garlic & rosemary, drained well, then combined with the mashed potatoes, an egg, S&P, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and some bread that's been soaked in milk.

          The 1-inch balls get dipped in beaten egg/water mixture, coated in dry bread crumbs, then fried in hot vegetable oil. Mine took about 2 minutes per side to cook.

          I'd grade my version a solid "B-", due to a series of missteps I made along the way: cooking all the garlic with the meat, failing to add S&P, failing to add the cheese to the meat mixture, using too large a scoop to form the meatballs, and failing to add the parsley to "my half" of the mixture -- I did remember that for the final 4 meatballs, but neither I nor my parsley-averse spouse could tell much difference in flavor.

          He liked this dish a lot - "meat & potatoes, always good".

          As hot appetizers, these are fork or finger food - not sturdy enough to hold on a toothpick. I'd certainly make them smaller next time, the 1-inch size specified by the recipe or smaller, to improve the ratio of crisp exterior to soft interior - I used my 1.5 inch scoop mistakenly thinking a level scoop would round to a 1-inch ball.

          As written, you wind up with a dishwasher (or sink) full of prep items - 2 skillets, a potato pan, food mill/potato ricer, colandar, medium bowl, 3 smaller bowls, breadcrumb plate, wooden spoon, fork, mixing spoon, shaping spoon/scoop,paring knife, cheese grater, measuring cups, slotted metal spoon, wire rack, tray for wire rack, platter for unfried meatballs. With the many steps involved, it felt as though there was no reasonable point to pause for a true "cleanup as you go" break -- I just rinsed and stacked along the way.

          We'll see how these taste chilled or reheated tomorrow.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MidwesternerTT

            Well, they certainly LOOK pretty. It sounds as though your kitchen, however, might not have been so tidy at the end of your efforts.

            I complained about the division thing during one of the Grace Young books, and I continue to believe that the ingredient list needs to give me a heads' up. I now mark ingredient lists with a postit note so I don't forget more than once.

            Does she recommend a sauce?

            1. re: smtucker

              Thanks, smtucker. Fortunately, the rinse/stack method kept the mess manageable and the automatic dishwasher has now handled full cleanup.

              No sauce was suggested for the meatballs - I got the impression from reading the recipe (online version is at the link below) these really are "bar food", intended to accompany wine.

              I served (commercial, dried) egg noodles and Marcella's tomato/butter/onion sauce beside them. You can see my photos / review of the sauce over on the "Essentials" book pasta thread. A thickened / cooked to reduce version of that sauce would be tasty as a "dip" for the meatballs.


            2. re: MidwesternerTT

              I really liked these cold, 1 day later. And that makes a lot of sense when I consider that I much prefer a cold meatloaf next-day sandwich to a hot meatloaf meal.

            3. Baked Risotto with Eggplants (Risotto Infornato com le Melanzane) p. 63 from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen


              Some nights I come home from work and can barely throw a sandwich together, other nights I have more ambition. Apparently, I was feeling particularly ambitious the night I made this. This recipe isn’t very difficult, but does require a number of steps.

              Step one, fry eggplant (I baked the eggplant slices in the oven and skipped the salting part too).

              Step two, make a tomato sauce. Sauté chopped onion in a combination of butter and vegetable oil (sunflower oil for us), add plum tomatoes and cook 10 minutes, add parsley and basil and set most of it aside.

              Step three, make the risotto. Start with the remaining sauce, add rice (we used carnaroli) and cook with meat broth (this is a very rich and unctuous broth). We needed more broth than suggested. Set aside to cool.

              Step four, assemble the dish. Layer risotto in a buttered dish, add eggplant slices, sauce, pecorino romano, parmigiano-reggiano, diced fresh mozzarella and repeat finishing with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and dots of butter. Bake until cheese melts and forms a golden crust. Rest 5 minutes before cutting.

              I would not make this again on a work night, but I’d definitely make it again. It was hearty, cheesy, rustic and savory. Delicious for those cold winter nights.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BigSal

                This sounds like something I'd love to have someone else make for me.

              2. Zucchini Soup, Amalfi Style, Pg. 83, Marcella's Italian Kitchen
                Zuppa di Zucchini all'Amalfitana

                This didn't exactly turn out the way it should have, nevertheless the soup was warming and soothing. Definitely zucchini flavored, slightly salty, perfect for a frigid Autumn evening in North-of-Bostonland. This is for four servings.

                All it took was a tiny amount of diced pancetta, a wee bit of finely chopped onion, small amount of basically diced ripe tomato, the same amount of potato chopped two ways, less than a pound of finely sliced zucchini, some EVOO, S & P, teensy chopped parsely, the same of grated Parmigiano. Water is added QB (quanto basta) - we used chicken broth, (quanto basta means just enough) to cover the vegetables and create a dense, rich, thick soup.

                G followed the recipe strictly as written.. Apparently his "just enough" is very different than mine because the finished soup was Very brothy instead of richly dense and thick. When you consider, though, that this soup could possibly be the Primo course in a five course dinner, then I can see it as an appetizer.

                To my serving I threw in a couple of TJ's stone ground wheat crackers to thicken it up a bit and that was fine. So, I had one bowl which was satisfactory and G finished he rest, loving every spoonful. Bless his heart. Somehow I feel this is not going to see a repeat performance here.