Saturday, January 17, 2009

a batali dinner

last night, i had the pleasure of cooking for 4 on a pleasurably freezing evening indoors, wherein we really got to take advantage of a cozy, warm evening at home. i also took advantage of my new molto italiano cookbook by mario batali, which was a spot on holiday gift from my sister-in-law. i bought the cheeses/bread/pasta at russo's in the east village, the pastries at the nearby italian bakeries veniero's and de robertis, and the veggies at top's on the waterfront.

we started off with a red pepper and onion crostini, which i don't have a picture of, but the recipe is unbelievably simple:
*1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
*2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
*teaspoon of thyme
*teaspoon of oregano
*2 tablespoons of olive oil
*1 baguette or Italian bread, coarsely sliced
*1 lemon

In a 10-12 inch saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers, thyme, and oregano. Increase the heat to high and saute until the peppers and onions are very soft, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Grill or toast the bread. Squeeze a bit of lemon on each slice to moisten the bread and then top with red pepper mixture.

Then we had what turned out to be my favorite dish of the evening, eggplant involtini with ricotta and scallions.

please excuse the quality of this photo. i didn't take this one.

This was very easy and exciting to make. First, I made my own tomato sauce, adapted from Batali's recipe.
makes approx 3 cups
*1/2 spanish onion, diced
*3 cloves of garlic, diced
*1 medium carrot, diced
*1 celery stalk, diced
*3 tbs chopped thyme
*1 28-ounce box strained tomatoes (i use Pomi)
*olive oil

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic. Saute until soft and browning, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and thyme. Cook until all veggies are soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until sauce thickens. Season with salt.

When the tomato sauce was ready, I set 2 cups aside and began on the eggplant involtini.
*2 cups of olive oil
*1-2 medium eggplants (depending on how many people you're feeding), sliced lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices
*1 cup fresh ricotta
*1 large egg
*2 scallions thinly sliced
*1/4 tsp nutmeg
*salt and pepper
*2 cups tomato sauce
*a couple of sprigs of whole parsley leaves

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until 370 degrees (i just guessed.) Add the eggplant slices 3-4 at a time to fry, turning once until soft and light brown, about 2 minutes. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, scallions, and nutmeg, mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the eggplant slices on a work surface and spoon 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture at the base of each slice. Roll the eggplant up around the filling to form a neat roll and set seam side down on the work surface. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the eggplant roll ups. Pour the sauce into the dish and place the rolls seam side down into the sauce. Bake until cheese starts to melt, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley leaves and serve.

next, we had a winter caprese salad, which was very easy to assemble.

*6 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
*3/4 cup olive oil
*salt and pepper
*1 clove of garlic
*3 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano
*3 cups fresh basil leaves, plus a few for garnish
*2 tbs pine nuts
*1 big ball of buffalo mozzarella, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are softened. Once ready, set aside to cool. In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic and parmigiano and pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. add the basil and pulse 7-8 times until the leaves are shredded. slowly add the remaining olive oil and blend until smooth. Toast the pine nuts in a small saute pan, tossing frequently until golden brown, then cool. To serve, arrange 3 tomato halves cut side down on each plate. Place a ball of mozzarella in the center and spoon 1-2 tablespoons of pesto onto each ball. Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with basil leaves.

about an hour later, we decided to arise from our fat stupor and proceed with the dinner. i really thought that we were going to throw the rest of the meal out the window, but our fatness prevailed. our main course was a pumpkin ravioli with a sage butter sauce.

for this recipe, i combined a special batali element with a dish that i make frequently.

*pumpkin ravioli (i bought it frozen at russo's, assume 6 pieces per serving)
*a 8-10 fresh sage leaves.
*1 stick of butter
*2 handfuls of hazelnuts, chopped
*4 amaretti cookies, grated
*grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saute pan with the sage leaves. Watch that it doesn't burn. Briefly toast the hazelnuts in a small pan, tossing occasionally. Drop the pasta into the boiling water in batches, no more than 12 at once. Cook until tender, no more than 5 minutes. Watch for the ravioli to rise to the top. With a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to warmed serving plates. Top each plate with an even proportion of sage butter, and garnish with crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle each dish with parmigiano, hazelnuts, and the grated amaretti cookies (the batali idea). This is perfect.

somehow, we managed to put down dessert as well:

along with 1/2 a block of delicious, nutty parmigiano that my guests brought over. and after dinner cocktails. 2 of them! first we had a round of kentucky scurvys, my personal favorite: 2 parts bourbon, 2 parts grapefruit juice, one part rose's lime. then we had a special spicy winter creation: 2 parts dark rum, a dash of rose's, and a dash of angostura bitters. (i think that's what it was. maybe there was some seltzer in there as well? it as a smashing surprise!)

my guests over dessert!

i feel tremendously full again even writing about this meal. the cooking was simple, really. the feat was in eating all of this tremendous food. but i highly recommend all of the dishes, and i hope you trust my little cooking instructions!

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