Food Adventures

Sunday, August 06, 2006


This is how I spend my Saturday mornings now: cornetto in one hand, cappuccino in another, talking to Italian people who like to talk about food and Italy as much as I do. Notice Rosario in the background, examining some of the cookbooks I brought back from Apicius.

I look forward to the day when Rosario and I fry up some bomboloni and make corentti for all of our friends. This day is coming up soon, so get ready. It's likely to be in early October, once things get just a little cooler.

In the evening, we went to Terragusto, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I had been looking forward to going back since I vividly remember the wonderful flavors of the tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce I had there last time.

As some of you know, I also recommended Terragusto for Check, Please! and the show airs this October. So I had to go back for more research. I am nothing if not thorough in my food research. This time, unfortunately, the experience was a little less than exceptional. The food was very good, but it did not reach the level we had experienced at Terragusto before. The beans in the sausage and beans antipasto were slightly undercooked and not seasoned enough. The sausage was excellent and perfectly grilled. Michael's pasta, potato-filled ravioli with pancetta, was excellent. The pancetta provided a perfect contrast to the soft ravioli and, unlike one of our dinner companions, I did not think the potato filling was too wet. The dish was excellent! My tagliatelle with asparagus was very good, but it lacked a little something. The asparagus was cooked perfectly and the tagliatelle were very good, but for my taste the dish tasted somewhat 'light', more like a lunch dish than a dinner one. At dinner, I like to eat foods with more robust flavors, so maybe I just didn't order the right thing. The chocolate pound cake that we shared for dessert was very moist and served with fresh Italian meringue, a good complement to the cake. However, there were three pound cakes on the dessert menu. I hope to try something different next time I go, which happens to be Wednesday of this coming week.


Today, Michael and I took a trip to Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. Puglia is Italy's largest producer of olives and olive oil (50 million olive trees!). It also grows a great deal of grain and is famous for the bread (pane pugliese) and pasta (in particular orecchiette), both made with hard wheat flour. I had been wanting to try the orecchiette that we made with Marcella and today I finally got to do so. Making the pasta itself was a relaxing experience. After grading research papers all morning, it was a pleasure to work with the dough and then press the little balls of dough with my thumb onto a towel (the towel is used to give texture to the outside of the pasta, so the sauce will adhere better). The orecchiette are made with 1/3 hard wheat flour (semolina) and 2/3 white flour and it never ceases to amaze me how flour, water, and a little bit of salt can lead to a thing as tasty as fresh pasta.

The orecchiette are cooked with broccoli and tossed in some olive oil, garlic and anchovies. At the last minute, you add red pepper flakes for some heat and grate pecorino romano (my favorite pasta cheese!) on top. The orecchiette were perfectly chewy and the broccoli provided a lighter texture. Both were dressed to perfection in the oil, garlic and anchovies sauce and the dish was very satisfying while also being summery and light. The peppers were cooked in some olive oil, garlic, and anchovies, then spiced with a little sugar and some vinegar. The sweet and sour contrast made the whole dish come together nicely and have a very fresh flavor.

I know anchovies have somewhat of a bad rep in the US, but when you use good anchovies and use them properly, you can barely taste them. They simply add a layer of saltiness and flavor to the sauce without overpowering the dish. Michael claims to not like anchovies, so I might have omitted to mention that there were anchovies in the pasta as well as in the red peppers Puglia-style (pepperoni all pugliese). Once he had started eating and was liking everything, he asked what was in the dish and learning that there were anchovies didn't stop him from finishing everything on his plate. So if any of you out there think you don't like anchovies, let me know. I have made it my mission to prove to people in the US that anchovies are a wonderful thing.

Our meal was a real feast for the senses and well worth the cooking and cleaning effort. The semolina that I can feel under my feet when walking through the kitchen reminds me of how wonderful everything was.


At 1:16 PM CDT, Anonymous Erika said...

I want to see future pictures of the inside of the corentto! I need a good custard fix, and I know where the best can be found (and made!) :)

At 5:45 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NSU - 4efer, 5210 - rulez


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