I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pseudo-Italian Food

Tonight we were hungry for some Italian food. Like most of the things I cook my version of Italian food has a lot of influences and most true Italians would probably call my food bastardized. Oh well. You can't please everyone. I'm not cooking for Italians, I am cooking for my family, who happen to be Americans with an interest in foods from around the world. The way I cook Italian food is heavily influenced by my upbringing as well as two or three cookbooks. The book I will mention today is from a restaraunt in New York. There is a restaraunt there called Rao's.
It is a little 10 table joint in New York that is a lot like the restaraunt in the movie The Godfather.
You know, the one where Michael shoots the guy in the forehead and the cop in the throat? Anyway Rao's is exclusive and you and I can't eat there. All of the tables have regulars for every night of the week with standing reservations. You can't eat there unless you're famous. When people get divorced they fight over who gets to keep the table at Rao's. Is it that good? I don't know. In Chicago there were excellent little 10 table Italian restaraunts all over the place. We used to go to one on north Broadway called Angelina's. But I most likely will never eat at Rao's. Luckily the chef printed a couple cookbooks. I own one cookbook from Rao's.
I can vouch for the recipes in that cookbook and it has had a huge influence on my cooking. Tonight I made a recipe for marinara that I found out about from one of my patients. She saw it on Good Morning America way back when. I looked it up online, tried it at home and the technique opened up whole new vistas of food for me. I modified the recipe for tonight by adding Italian sausage.

Spaghetti with Marinara and Sausage

1 pork chop
olive oil
1/2 onion, very finely diced up in a food processor
3 cloves garlic
2 big cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferrably San Marzano if you can get them.
a dash of MSG (as an homage to our Chinese friends and readers)
a very healthy amount of fresh ground black pepper (I like Tellicherry)
sea salt to taste
about 1 t oregano
about 1 t basil or a few fresh leaves
Italian sausages, already cooked to well done and sliced.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar cooking device over medium heat. Add in a good amount of olive oil, at least several tablespoons. Fry the pork chop very well on both sides and remove from heat, set aside. Next saute the onion and garlic in the porkified olive oil. Add the tomatoes and crush up with a potato masher or by hand. Return the pork chop to the pan. Add a buttload of pepper and a dash of MSG (as an homage to our Chinese friends and readers). Cover and simmer for about an hour. At the end of the hour taste the sauce. If it needs salt add a little. Add the spices and the sausage and turn off the heat.

A trick: if you don't like the size of the tomatoes and prefer a smoother sauce, scoop some of the tomatoes out and put them in the food processor - its dirty anyway! Return them to the sauce when they are well chopped up.

Being that it is now Spring, its time to think about one of my favorite vegitables - asparagus. I used to go out in the ditches by my grandpas farm to collect asparagus in the spring.
I was back there a week or so ago and the bridge to the farm was all washed out! Here is a photo from Kentucky snapped a few days later:
Quite a difference eh?

Anyway my wife found some asparagus in the store and I decided to make it in the pseudo-Italian style

Italian Asparagus
One bunch of asparagus, steamed but just slightly crisp
a few tablespoons of garlic butter
fresh ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese
a few pieces of pancetta (Italian bacon) or regular bacon, fried and crumbled.

Steam up your asparagus. Don't let it get overdone. You must be careful. To make the garlic butter, take a few tablespoons of butter and melt them in a saucepan. Press one clove of garlic into the butter and simmer for a minute or two until the garlic is soft. To serve, put the asparagus on the servind dish and drizzle the butter over. Then shake a little salt over the asparagus. Put your crumbled bacon over the top of the asparagus. Grate a little parmesan or Romano cheese over the top and grind some black pepper over the whole affair. Serve immediately.

As an aside, I was reading up on Italian law the other day. I came across the reason why you should always serve garlic bread with Italian food. In 1598, King Lucenzo declared that "Italian food must be served with garlic bread to prevent the formation of Dirky Plates." Curious as to what a 'Dirky Plate' might be, I polled my two men in the field. One is from Ledyard and the other is an actual chef, not just a cook like your author. Both of them were very acquainted with the term 'Dirky plate'. My chef man in the field (kitchen) described it this way:
"A dirky plate is a supper plate of Dirk's at holiday gatherings 30 plus years ago after he piled on the various food forms - jello, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, meat, stuffing, buns, butter, etc...and what it looked like after he started eating and how all the food melded together. The most immediate visual is to think of what an oil painter's palette (sp?) looks like upon completion of a lengthy project. In other words, his plate was one big compilation of all the food melted together with absolutely no differentiation of what was what."
Here is a photo of the Italian version of a Dirky Plate:

And here is a photo of Italian law being carried out:

And here is a rebel, who will NEVER comply with Italian law concerning Dirky plates.