17 May 2012


SARONNO, Italy -  I was looking through some of my cookbooks the other day, kind of browsing for an idea for this week’s column, when I realized that I was automatically excluding a lot of recipes. I was deciding what recipes you would like and which you wouldn’t like. 
 This May Look Like a Dog's Dinner But it's Really Beef Pizzaiola
Some of the recipes had inherent problems simply because the ingredients would be hard to find outside of Italy – roast piglet for example, a simple recipe which starts with: carefully clean and wash the piglet, take out the entrails and rub it first with lard, inside and out, and then with salt and pepper. Another recipes I think is too Italian, which is the exact opposite of not being “Italian enough, like roast chicken, is roast pajata. That recipe starts with: take the skin off the entrails and cut them into long slices which you will tie into rings and sprinkle with vinegar. What are entrails, you ask? Intestines. 

There are more recipes that are too Italian than there are of those where the ingredients would be difficult to find.  I was thinking about this because I talked to my cousin Ginny today and it got me thinking about the time she came to Milan to see me. As it happened I was going to a luncheon that day, so knowing she was flying in, I made a reservation for her as well. 
 The Ingredients for a Delicious Octopus Salad
When we arrived at the hotel and everyone was seated at the table, the waiter brought out the first course: an antipasto of seafood salad. There may have been a mussel or two in that salad, but what I remember most is the look on Ginny’s face as she looked down at the cold octopus tentacles in her plate that had been lovingly dressed with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

She told me later that looking around the table at the mostly non-Italian women, she didn’t think anyone was going to eat the starter, but when she looked again everyone had cleaned their plate, including me.  I was happy for the cook, because preparing an octopus is a lot of work. It’s not like you just cut it all up into little bits and throw it on a plate. 
Octopus Salad  Looks a Little Better When It's Served
First you have to remove the eyes and then the beak in the center of the tentacles. Then you have to turn the head and take out the bag of black ink that the octopus carries around with him so he can let out a spray of black ink if another fish is closing in and trying to eat him. He’s like the James Bond of the fish world.  Anyway, you must take the ink sack off and then pull out the intestines. After you have given your octopus a quick wash,  you have to beat the beast with a rolling pin for a very long time in order to make the flesh more tender. 

Somehow I don’t think it’s worth continuing with that recipe, so let’s move on to something else, something I know my friends and family would actually eat: Carne Pizzaiola.

This is a simple and fast recipe that is also very tasty because the meat is cooked in tomato sauce and flavored with parsley and oregano. You can serve ‘pizzaiola’ with mashed potatoes, or rice or even cous cous, it goes with just about everything.

2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
600-800 grams of beef slices (500 grams equals 1 lb.)
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
400 ml of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of parsley
Salt Q.B.

In a good size frying pan, put the olive oil (1), the garlic (2) and let the garlic cook until it is golden brown. When it is golden, add the tomato sauce (3),

The oregano (4), the parsely (5), and the salt. Let it cook for a few minutes until the tomato sauce starts to thicken a little. Then, if you have not already beaten the beef slices to a uniform thickness, do that now (6),  

And then add the meat to the tomato sauce (7) and mix it well so that the meat is well covered with the tomato sauce (8). Cover the pan (9) and let it cook for about 6 or 7 minutes. At this point, turn the meat slices over, cover the pan again, and let them cook for an additional 5-6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. The trick is not to cook the meat too long or It will become tough. Serve immediately.
(photos from: yellow saffron)

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