Italian

Romesco Part Two : Ling Shrimp and il Mercato Spring Garden

I found my love for Italy at il Mercato Spring Garden.

You see, I worked there for five years - three as a waiter, two as the Assistant Manager.

My first shift was opening night of the 'new' location across the street from Park Lane - March 29, 2004. Until that point in my life, I had never seen such madness, and to top it off, had never heard of things like Short Ribs, Tallegio or Primitivo.

I was scared and excited as hell to be there.

Almost ten years later the restaurant is gone but it left me so much:

Sean, my wonderful husband. We met at il Mercato. He was my boss.

Cathy and Susan, two of my bffs, as well as many other friendships that I cherish.

An incredibly fierce devotion to, and desire to learn about, Italian ingredients, cooking and wine.

The interesting thing about this blog post is that the recipe I'm posting isn't Italian. It's Spanish.

That's something else I learned at il Mercato. Italian cooking varies from region to region within 'the boot', and oftentimes, ingredients, recipes and methods from surrounding countries - Austria, France, Croatia, Spain (and others) - are used.

Romesco is an example of that.

At one point we had a dish on the menu called 'Ling Shrimp' (although, if we're being honest - every seasonal change of the menu had some variation of a Ling Shrimp. THIS Ling Shrimp was linguine tossed with Romesco and sautéed shrimp). It was one of my favourite pastas during my time at il Mercato and so, yesterday, I decided to try and recreate it from memory.

If I told you I nailed it would you think I was bragging?

'Cause I did.

Nail it that is.

Romesco is garlicky and crunchy with a hint of vinegary tang. You can use it with shrimp, chicken, on top of a steak, on a crostini topped with feta or goat cheese, or anywhere else you want a hit of super jacked up flavour.

 

Romesco Sauce (yields about 2 Cups - takes about 4 hours ---> 3 of those hours to roast tomatoes and red pepper)

4 fresh tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch discs

1 red pepper, seeds and pith removed, cut into pieces

10 cloves roasted garlic

5 cloves raw garlic, rough chopped

1/2 C Parmigiano, grated

1/8-1/4 tsp chili flakes (depends on your preference for heat - add more if you like)

1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (add 1/4 tsp, taste and add more if you want)

1/4 C olive oil

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

A 2-inch wide slice of stale baguette, torn into small pieces

50g hazelnuts, skinned, toasted, rough chopped

50g blanched almonds, toasted, rough chopped

- Preheat oven 225° - lay tomatoes and red pepper pieces in a single layer on two parchment lined baking sheets - drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven for three hours, flipping tomato slices and pepper pieces after 90 minutes - after three hours, remove skin from roasted red pepper pieces

- in food processor, pulse roasted tomatoes, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, raw garlic, Parmigiano, chili flakes, salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar until just combined

- add crumbled bread and pulse until mixed in - if Romesco is too thick add more olive oil by the teaspoon and red wine vinegar by the 1/2 teaspoon and taste

- add hazenuts and almonds - pulse until nuts are processed but still chunky

 

Ling Shrimp for Two

1/2 pound linguine

1 Tbsp butter

10 jumbo shrimp, shelled, de-veined

1 C Romesco

1/2 C pasta water

grated Parmigiano

- bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - cook linguine according to package instructions until al dente

- when pasta has 5 minutes left to cook, heat butter in a sautée pan over medium heat - cook shrimp (about 2 minutes on each side)

- scoop out 1/2 C pasta water before draining pasta - put hot drained pasta back in pot and add the 1/2 C pasta water, Romesco sauce and cooked shrimp - toss with tongs until Romesco 'melts' through and coats linguine and shrimp (this is not a saucy pasta - the Romesco is going to cling to the noodles and shrimp - see photo above)

- garnish with grated Parmigiano 'se ti fa piacere' - if it pleases you

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Smoked Salmon Rice Salad : Eat In Eat Out Magazine

I first blogged about my friend Carlo in December with his fantastic recipe for Carbonara. Originally from San Fiorano, Italy, Carlo loves eating and tlaking about food as much as I do. We spend a lot of time discussing recipes, dishes that he remembers his family making at home in Italy and dishes that the now prepares for his wife Tiffany, and their two boys, Luka and Matteo.

When Lori Kennedy of Eat In Eat Out magazine asked if I'd like to be in the summer issue's blogger spotlight, she also requested two original recipes. My strawberry Nutella ice cream sandwiches were featured in the magazine and my Smoked Salmon Rice Salad were featured on the website for a week.

I must give credit to Carlo for the Rice Salad inspiration; I had never even heard of cooking rice this way until he told me about it. You take risotto rice - Arborio, Carnaroli, or what have you - and cook it in boiling water like pasta until al dente. Afterwards, you drain and cool it, then mix it with whatever you like. I chose to mix mine with a zippy homemade lime dressing, Willy Krauch's smoked salmon (aka the best smoked salmon in the world), capers and red onion.

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Italian Zabaglione : It's easier than you think

If you're like me at all, then you obsess over the idea of making wonderful dishes you've heard of on your travels but are often intimidated as to where to begin.

Until recently, I felt that way about Gnocchi, Risotto and Zabaglione.

I spend a lot of time looking at recipes and photographs of food online. I also own a small fortune's worth of cookbooks. After hours spent looking and admiring I decided that the only way I was going to overcome my fear of these dishes was to make them. I turned off my computer and closed the cookbooks.

Zabaglione is an Italian egg yolk-based custard traditionally made with Moscato D'Asti but is these days most commonly made with Marsala wine (France also has a version called Sabayon). It is silky-smooth, frothy-creamy, not too sweet and goes beautifully with fresh berries. Something I had noticed about all of the recipes I came across for Zabaglione is that every recipe was different. They all had any number of different ingredients, including whipped cream, vanilla, cinnamon, however the one thing they all had in common was egg yolks, sugar and Marsala. I thought I would start with a simple, basic ratio of those three ingredients ingredients and tweak from there. Luckily, I made gorgeous Zabaglione on my first try - it's so easy you won't even believe it!

Italian Zabaglione

  • Per person - 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp sugar + 1 Tbsp dry Marsala wine
  • Set a pot on the stove with about 1-2 inches of water in it - bring water to a gentle simmer - put yolk + sugar + Marsala in a bowl that fits over the pot but doesn't touch the water (essentially a double boiler)
  • Whisk for 4-5 minutes until thick, creamy and ribbony - pour into dessert bowls or champagne flutes and top with fresh fruit

Zabaglione cools quite quickly and can be eaten right away. I will often make it just for myself and eat it plain without berries - heavenly!! You can also pour it into dishes, wrap them with Saran and put them in the fridge for later. It's a very easy way to impress guests at a dinner party!

Monthly Miettes : Tomboy Cake

My friend Aimee over at Food Je t'Aimee came up with nifty idea to start a monthly baking challenge using the lovely Miette bakebook by Meg Ray. Aimme says, 'The book, in a word, is darling. The pages, scalloped and glossy. The photos, stunning. The recipes, challenging, but enticing. The instant I laid my eyes on it, I knew I had to try and create beautiful cakes like the ones in Miette.'

Aimee writes, 'Having signed up for so many blogging events out there last fall, I decided it was high time that I begun my own. So I wrote to Meg and told her about my idea for a blogging challenge called Monthly Miettes. She wrote back saying that she dug the idea. I was elated! I wanted it to be easy to participate - the recipes themselves are challenging enough and Lord knows I don't have much time these days! - so the rules are quite straightforward. Buy the book. Make one cake per month along with me and then post about it. Link back to this post. Let me know you've posted by leaving me a comment, and I'll do a round up the following month. That's it!'

Aimee also writes, 'For the first month, I've chosen the cover recipe: Tomboy Cake. You have from now until March 25th, 2012 to submit your post. Wait - there's one more rule! When you make your cake, you must, must eat a slice for breakfast, along with a steaming mug of coffee (or whatever it is you drink to wake up!).' 

Mmmmmm... cake for breakfast. I'm in!!

From Miette.com - The Tomboy gets its name from the unfinished, but decidedly feminine, way that we decorate this cake. It starts with our double-chocolate cake and is layered with vanilla buttercream. Our buttercream is made the European way, starting with Italian meringue and adding pure Straus butter. The result is luxuriously smooth and not too sweet. The cake and frosting together are perfectly balanced and proportioned.

The cake was delicious - moist and super chocolatey. The Italian Meringue Buttercream was actually pretty easy to make and was lightly decadent however, the book is not well-edited and so confusing that I'm not sure how anxious I am to try another recipe.

For example, the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream has major continuity issues. A small paper insert is included inside the book that note's the corrections to be made which would be fine and dandy if the information on the card was correct. In one section you are told to heat the simple syrup for the buttercream to 248 degrees yet in another section it reads 238 degrees. That's a huge discrepancy when you are talking about stages of cooked sugar. Since the recipe calls for 6 sticks of butter I wanted to do some research before I possibly wasted good ingredients. I landed on this awesome video by CakeLove's Warren Brown to clarify how to correctly make the buttercream and it turned out beautifully.

The recipe for the Double Chocolate Cake was clear and straightforward. One of the steps involves straining the incredibly lumpy batter through a fine to medium mesh sieve. This took about 20 minutes and was, quite frankly, a pain in the ass, however, i feel it was worth it because the cake batter had the consistency of a silky chocolate pudding and baked into an incredibly moist and supple cake. The recipe is portioned to bake two six-inch round cakes, each cut into three layers. I couldn't find six-inch cake pans, so I used two eight-inch cake pans, cut each in half and made one four-layer cake.

One tip from the recipe that I thought was really great is to dust the inside of your greased cake pans with cocoa instead of flour - no white residue left on the outside of the baked cakes!

Despite the inconsistencies in the Buttercream recipe, I will most likely participate in next month's Miettes - everyone that tried this cake loved it and that really is the main thing isn't it?

il Mercato Spring Garden

il Mercato Trattoria on Spring Garden Road went through a mini transformation over the May Two Four weekend and the changes are nothing less than extraordinary. But then, what else would you expect from the legendary Bertossis? 

I was asked to come in and shoot a small private party held to celebrate the new space.

 

 

 

 

 

Rock On Dude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{Fresco - Favoloso} {Fresh - Fabulous}

 

 

 

I love the clay pigeons!!