We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We made an Italian supper for great pals Sunday night. It's fun to cook Italian; it takes four hands so it's handy to have a spouse.
- Antipasto: Zucchini boats stuffed with shallots, onions, chopped zucchini, with Bechamel sauce and parmesan on top - Primo: Straw and Hay (white and spinach fettucini with chopped mushrooms and mortadella with cream-parmesan sauce) - Secondo: Pork tenderloin braised in wine vinegar with a ton of peppercorns and a bunch of lauro leaves, and sauteed spinach with oil and garlic as a contorno - Dolce: Strawberries with balsamic vinegar
Yes, ya gotta keep portions small.
Italian food tips below the fold -
- Put your antipasti, whatever it is or they are, on a platter and pass it. It's just to whet the appetite with a little something tangy. Just some cheese, salumi, olives are fine although the stuffed zucchini boats are amazing. No crackers for the cheese!
- Primi: A primo piatta can be a pasta, gnocchi, risotto, a rice with something in it, a slice of onion pie, rice croquettes, polenta with a sauce, soup, or something like a small bowl of mussels with a few noodles in the broth. Italian-style is to serve pasta or gnocchi on a small plate or shallow bowl, not a bowl, and the portions are small, like about 40-50 gms of pasta (dried, or about 1 cup of cooked pasta) per serving so you are still hungry. That's why Italians aren't fat. Something really pleasant is gnocchi with a parsley or basil pesto. They'll give you about 8 or 10 gnocchi. Flavor, not volume. Pasta and gnocchi reminder: You don't put sauce on it - you put it into the sauce in the saucepan with a little of the pasta water to keep it moist and creamy. What is al dente? Chewy, just past crunchy. Lasagna is a heavy primo, just a 3" square is right.
- Secondi: Meat or seafood with or without contorni like spinach, roast potato, etc. Contorni are family-style, but on a side plate.
The traditional Italian large meal was lunch, not dinner, but that is changing. The whole enchilada would have a salad after the secondi, then a fruit course of some sort. In Italy, we never even have the three core courses - it's too much for us, so we share an antipasto or a secondi ("uno in due").
Truly, at home, in a restaurant, or in Italy, a full-course meal is too darn much food for modern people. Abbondanza was for the poor on feast days.
Amen, brother! And it's not just Italian fare, either.
After a restaurant dinner last week reacquainted me with cassoulet, I decided to give it a try. Even my bowdlerized Texas version was downright delicious, but so rich that it was "one and done," serving-wise. Traditional French and Italian fare ain't for sissies, or dainty appetites.
I travel back home to Boston every year and in addition to all my favorite restaurants I try to find new one's. Last trip I found La Famiglia in Boston's Little Italy. True to my gluttonous way I chose the lunch option that included all five entrees. Too much food, but I managed. Sooooo good. If you are in Boston some day it's worth looking for.