Saturday, May 8, 2010

Italian(ish) fare

I have been trying to get a post out for a week now. I think that toddler who lives here and demands my constant attention was more demanding than usual this week. Plus, I just couldn't sit down for the time necessary. Do you have days like that? You just can't get into a sit groove. Anyway.
I must confess my love for Mario Batali. I used to watch his show religiously - Monday at 11am on the Food Network. He wove in personal stories as well as historical and sociological information from the various regions in Italy. I appreciated that. I have made a few of his meals, and one has become a favorite in our house: fritelle sarde, or sardine fritters. A couple things, right off the bat: (1) I often use trout instead of sardines because I am (was) afraid of sardines due to a bad experience. ... Oh, okay, I'll tell you. I tried one straight out of the tin! I tried to backpedal and forget the experience by trying one again and working really hard to tell my taste buds to just give it another shot. I had #2 with mustard and on bread, but there was no going back. (2) I don't make them "fritters" in the sense that I don't deep fry them. Mario had a whole jug of olive oil for frying and I just can't bring myself to use that much oil, so I pan fry and simply flip.

I've been using canned trout (the recipe is for canned fish), but Josh recently read that sardines are good for us - all of us, that is. They have more omega-3's than salmon; their place on the food chain means they aren't full of toxins, unlike other canned fish I could mention. So I decided to give sardines a try and made the fritters for lunch. Well, I'll be horn-swaggled, they were great. Lovely with a little pa amb tomaquet, or tomato bread, which was standard fare in my adopted city of yore, Barcelona. Notice that I threw on some capers because I saw a fellow blogger with a similar Maltese bread dish that uses the little briny fruit, and I though, Why not? Indeed! A delight!
Speaking of tomatoes in Spain. I recall marveling at the distinction between salad and bread tomatoes. I lived with an older woman and a Dutchman who both bought greenish, rock-hard tomatoes for use in salads, while saving the red ones for bread. Not only did they save these, but they let them further ripen on the counter, getting to the point where the skin started to wrinkle. Yuck, I thought! I came around pretty quick - never to the hard salad tomatoes, but definitely to the bread tomatoes. If you've never had it, it's quite lovely. You take a red, red tomato, slice it in half horizontally, then squeeze the guts out onto a nice baguette (toasting is optional). I think it's nice to let it sit for a bit to soak in. Then, you drizzle e.v. olive oil over that, and sprinkle salt generously. Simple and so nice. Slap some jamon on there, perhaps a fritelle, or a tortilla (omelet, to my Western friends who will think I am talking about a Mexican corn or flour tortilla). When I have really good garden tomatoes, then I put the whole slice on the bread instead of just the guts. Enough salt is the key to really unlocking the flavors.

I also made this beauty. I already told you that I got a new cookbook, by Lydia Bastianich, right? It's on my cookbook list. I made the meatballs in broth from it. I was looking to do something with greens that didn't involve simply sauteing them, not that this isn't a fabulous way to do greens. I mean, no fuss means you get unadulterated greens flavor, not to mention fewer calories and a way easier preparation. But I was looking to fuss, I suppose, when I happened upon erbazzone with chard filling. Yes, please. I created shortcuts by using store-bought pie crust instead of making my own dough. But I definitely am going to make some dough out of this book because many of the recipes use olive oil as the fat. What?! Italians are so crazy. Don't even get me started on Berlusconi, am I right?

Trout/Sardine Fritters:
2 tins of trout or sardines (packed in water or oil, smoked or not, according to taste); 2 eggs, lightly beaten; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1/4 cup parsley, minced; 1-2 T chopped pepperoncini; 1/2 cup bread crumbs; 1 T grated caciocavallo/Pecorino/Parmesan cheese.
Mix everything. Then make fritters any size you like, I guess. Mine are a couple inches in diameter. You can deep fry them as balls, or slightly flatten them and pan fry in as much or as little oil as you like. Serve simply with a salad and lemon wedges.

Erbazzone with Chard Filling:
1 lb. chard, cleaned, cut into thin slices, ribs cut out and tossed (or saved for stock); 2 T olive oil; 2 garlic cloves, sliced; 1/2-1tsp. salt; 2 eggs, lightly beaten; 1/2 grated Parmesan; 1/4 bread crumbs; 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced; 1 batch dough of choice.
Prep the chard by bringing a pot of water to a boil and mixing in the chard. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain chard really well, squeezing excess water out. Heat olive oil over medium heat, add garlic and saute lightly. Mix in chard and salt to taste, and saute until the chard is dry, but not browned, just a couple minutes. Put the chard mixture, and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Roll out your dough. Add the mixture to the dough and fold over the corners so it's like a picture frame. You can bake either on a stone or on a sheet pan, at 375. The time will depend on your dough. My pie crust took about 25 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Cool, glad I inspired you! Your tomato bread looks yummy - I must make my version with real tomatoes when I get some decent fresh one (possibly when I get my own crop!). Mmmm, I love Italian food. :)