Stewed Spareribs with Tomatoes

Cooking from Books

Stewed Spareribs with Polenta

Growing up, I always looked forward to my aunt’s Carnevale, or Fat Tuesday, dinner, which featured homemade fusilli pasta with a three-meat (beef, veal, and pork) tomato sauce. She made this dish only once a year to retain its special significance: a farewell to meat for the forty days of Lent.

I remember how I would salivate as the sauce slowly simmered and my aunt would use thin iron rods to roll the pasta dough into long tubes of pasta that roughly resembled the barrel of a rifle. As she made the pasta, she’d advise me to eat as much meat as I could since there wouldn’t be any more on the menu until Easter.

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Fricasseed Chicken with Almonds

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Fricasseed Chicken with Almonds

On Sunday, I attended a lecture sponsored by our local Italian cultural organization that was titled “Italy’s Third Golden Age.” After citing the Roman Empire and the Renaissance as the first two of these eras, the speaker turned to the post World-War-Two era as the beginning of the third. In support of her thesis, she cited Italy’s accomplishments in the cinema, automotive engineering, fashion, and food.

Although her talk was entertaining and illustrated with abundant slides of cinematic, fashion, automotive, and culinary icons, it seemed to focus more on the popular theme of la dolce vita than on any serious cultural achievements equal to those of the first two golden ages. I’m sure the Italian Trade Commission would have been quite content both with the turnout and the audience reaction.

I, on the other hand, was disappointed by some of her omissions from the roster of…

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Pork Shoulder with Genovese Sauce

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Pasta and Pork Shoulder with Genovese Sauce

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I typically let what’s available in my supermarket influence what will be on my table for dinner. Such was the case this weekend when a 50%-off sale on pork shoulder led to the purchase of a five-pound roast and a subsequent search for a recipe with which to prepare it.

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Quick Meatballs and Pasta

Cooking from Books

Quick Meatballs and Pasta

Slow and steady, so they say, wins the race. A perfect example is Marcella Hazan’s Ragu Bolognese, which requires six hours of simmering to yield “when clinging to the folds of homemade noodles,” to quote Marcella, “one of the most satisfying experiences accessible to the sense of taste.” But when you’re really hungry, especially after a nerve-racking day, sometimes quick and easy is the way to go.

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Roasted Miso Chicken with Butternut Squash and Red Onions

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Roasted Miso Chicken with Butternut Squash & Onions

The subject of today’s post was inspired by Sam Sifton’s weekly New York Times “Cooking” newsletter for January 22, which proposed a “no recipe recipe” for roasted miso chicken with butternut squash and red onions. Indeed, ever since Sifton introduced these free-style recipes last year, I’ve been a fan and was more than pleased last night with the results from his latest.

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Braised Oxtails with Aleppo Pepper

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Braised Oxtails with Aleppo Pepper

“Best.” In the six years that I’ve been writing this blog, I don’t think I’ve used the word too often. But after preparing the recipe for Braised Oxtails with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Aleppo Pepper from “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS, the subject of today’s post, I believe it ranks among the best dishes I’ve ever prepared. In fact, I can easily say that I’ve never made a better braise in all my years of cooking.

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Chicken with Grapes, Garlic, and Red Vermouth

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Chicken with Grapes, Garlic, and Red Vermouth

Being a somewhat less than hip septuagenarian, I wasn’t familiar until recently with the phrase “Winner winner, chicken dinner” that’s often used at casinos to celebrate a victory. But after hitting the jackpot with last night’s chicken dish, my better half thought it an apt expression to accompany a toast.

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Pasta with Zucchini and Onion

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Pasta with Zucchini & Onion

My friend, Italian-wine aficionado Ciro Pirone, recently posted a photo of pasta with zucchini on his informative Twitter feed @Vinofilosofia. It looked so appetizing that I asked him for the recipe. His response: “Senza ricetta…tutto ad occhio (No recipe, all by eye.) I sauté a little onion and then add thinly sliced zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook low, covered; halfway I add half a glass of water and let cook till they fall apart. Toss in the pasta and some parmigiano!”

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Lobsters Fra Diavolo

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Lobsters Fra Diavolo Ready for the Oven

Our Christmas Eve menu is always the same. The main course is lobsters fra diavolo, made according to a recipe I developed from watching my Neapolitan aunt make them every Christmas eve and only on that vigil. If I requested them on any other occasion, she refused. For her, as they are for me, they were special; something to be anticipated and then consumed with great relish. I still remember my diminutive aunt slaughtering the live lobsters; a task that as she got older she relegated to me. “Center the cleaver right between their eyes,” she said. “And press down hard; don’t hesitate.” And this memory brings me such great joy.

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