Broccoli Pancotto Recipe
- 12 ounces dense country-style French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
- 3 small dried chilies (such as chiles de àrbol)
- 2 large garlic cloves, flattened, peeled
- 2 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 1/4 cup reserved pan drippings from Roasted Beef Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon (click for recipe) (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place bread cubes on baking sheet. Bake until bread is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat oil in heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Add chilies and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli florets, 1 cup water, salt, and toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Cook uncovered until bread absorbs water and broccoli is crisp-tender, tossing often, about 20 minutes. Drizzle pan drippings from beef tenderloin over, if desired; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.
- ⅓ cup skim milk
- 1 (.25 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
- 2 ½ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pour milk into a small bowl, and stir in the gelatin powder. Set aside.
In a saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and sugar, and set over medium heat. Bring to a full boil, watching carefully, as the cream will quickly rise to the top of the pan. Pour the gelatin and milk into the cream, stirring until completely dissolved. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and pour into six individual ramekin dishes.
Cool the ramekins uncovered at room temperature. When cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight before serving.
You can use 1 pound of dried white beans in place of the canned beans. To substitute dried beans, soak them overnight in 5 cups of water. Drain beans and place in a large pot. Add 10 cups cold water, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer beans until tender, at least 1 hour. Drain the beans and proceed with the recipe.
If pancetta is unavailable, use lean bacon instead. You may also use 1 teaspoon crumbled dried sage in place of the fresh sage.
Broccoli Pancotto Recipe - Recipes
06/15/11 Mushrooms and Kale with Creamy Polenta
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"Siccome la casa brucia, riscaldiamoci." (Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Angela's Organic Oregano Farm!
This week's Italian recipes:
-Broccoli Bread Soup
-Roasted Carrots and Fennel with Pecorino Cheese
-Mushrooms and Kale with Creamy Polenta
Thanks again for subscribing!
Recipe: Broccoli Bread Soup
Broccoli Bread Soup
3 cups 1-inch cubes crustless country-style bread
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 small dried chiles
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup water
Arrange bread on baking sheet.
Bake until beginning to brown, about 12 minutes.
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
Add chilies and garlic saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add broccoli florets, 1/2 cup water, and bread.
Cook uncovered until bread absorbs water and broccoli is crisp-tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 6.
Recipe: Roasted Carrots and Fennel with Pecorino Cheese
Roasted Carrots and Fennel with Pecorino Cheese
Finocchio e Carote Arrosto con Pecorino
4 fennel bulbs (about 3 and 1/2 pounds) cut horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices, plus 2 teaspoons chopped fronds
2 large carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch thick slices
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Lightly olive oil 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.
Layer sliced fennel and carrots in dish, sprinkling layers with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with thyme, then cheese.
Bake until vegetables are tender and top is golden brown, about 1 and 1/4 hours.
Sprinkle with fronds. Serves 8.
Recipe: Mushrooms and Kale with Creamy Polenta
Mushrooms and Kale with Creamy Polenta
Funghi e Cavoli Rapa con Polenta Cremosa
1 and 1/4 pounds kale, stemmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups whole milk
3 and 1/2 cups water
2 cups polenta
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
4 ounces mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, and stemmed shitake), sliced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 6 minutes.
Bring milk, water, polenta, salt, and pepper to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly.
Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pancetta in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.
Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons olive oil to drippings in skillet.
Saute until mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes.
Stir in kale and pancetta.
Add garlic and broth simmer until broth is slightly reduced, about 6 minutes.
Stir in thyme, lemon peel, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Whisk butter and Parmigiano cheese into polenta and divide among plates.
Top with kale mixture. 6 main-course servings.
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"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure, a sample of today's edition:
Homeless People Used In Bank Scam
Milan, October 22 - A gang of Milan con artists washed and dressed up homeless people to get them to open bank accounts and give them check books, Italian police said Friday.
The tramps were paid 400 euros plus meals in some of the Lombardy capital's upper class restaurants, police said.
Police said the scam had been going on for "six or seven years" and eventually amounted to 300 empty current accounts.
The gang was led by 60-year-old Salvatore P., who on one occasion was heard in a police wiretap asking an accomplice: "Did you pick up that dead-beat? Have you got a razor to make him presentable?"
The fraudsters used the check books to buy top-of-the-range home appliances like plasma TVs, DVD players, hi-fis and fridges as well as designer clothing, police said. These were then fenced off or sold to unwitting legitimate buyers, to the tune of some 7 million Euros ($10 million USD).
Six people were arrested and 40 placed under investigation for the swindle.
It's entertaining and hard to believe this scam went on for six to seven years in one of the most important financial cities in Europe. We wonder if those swindled Milan bankers could hear the distinct sound of Sicilians laughing.
It's no secret Italian banks (like all other banks around the world) bamboozled and strong-armed would-be investors into investing into convoluted, high-risk derivatives cow crap. We had banks offering guarantees against speculative risks, but the managers were ordering their ignorant sales operatives to cash in on customers, dumping high risks (losses) on Italian industrial firms.
And these "bastardi" bankers would force Italian industrialists to sign credit swaps under the threat of cutting off credit channels to the company. "Vaffanculo!"
Now, compare the amount of time, energy, and resources it took these high flying educated bankers to prepare and gift wrap these costly high-risk derivatives packages with what Milan con artists did with a homeless person, a bath, a razor, new clothes, some cash and a nice meal.
Milan Banker: "Ok, Signore Hobo DaVinci. I'm happy to say your account application was approved. Here are the checkbooks you requested."
Hobo (drooling): "Grazie."
Milan Banker: "Signore, before you leave, would you be interested in a low risk derivatives package custom made just for you?"
Hobo (still drooling): "Eh si, I'll take it. Let me just write you out a check. "
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Puglia, or Apulia as it is often called in English, is "the heel" of the Italian boot, including the steep and rocky spur of the Gargano peninsula projecting into the sea. It is the easternmost region of Italy, eight hundred kilometers of coastline stretching down the Adriatic more on Puglia.
Pugliese cuisine is based on olive oil, one of the great products of the region. In any given year, Puglia produces as much as two-thirds of all the olive oil in Italy, and while much of it is shipped north, more of it stays right here to be used in Pugliese kitchens. Cooks in Puglia even deep-fry with extra virgin oil, something that comes as a surprise to Americans but is routine in many parts of the Mediterranean (Sicily, Andalucia in southern Spain) More on food in Puglia.
Steps to Make It
In a large, deep stockpot, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until the garlic is just fragrant and very lightly colored, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper and simmer for about 30 seconds.
Add the broth, onion, carrot, celery and sausage pieces, cover, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. (If you happen to have any leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, these would be a great addition to enrich your broth! Throw them in together with the onion, carrot, and celery.)
Meanwhile, blanch the chopped greens in abundant salted boiling water, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain well. This eliminates the excess bitterness.
Remove the onion, carrot, and celery from the broth and discard (discard any cheese rinds at this point also, if you're using them). Transfer the blanched greens into the broth and let simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the greens are tender and the broth is rich and savory.
Serve with freshly grated cheese sprinkled on top and slices of grilled or toasted crusty bread. A white wine, such as a Fiano or Greco di Tufo, would be a good pairing.
What Are Italy’s Top Chefs Cooking At Home During Coronavirus Quarantine?
Ragù alla Bolognese from chef Daniele Bendanti of Oltre in Bolgona.
In normal times, Italy’s top chefs dazzle with their culinary prowess at restaurants throughout the country, reviving authentic dishes, devising fresh takes on classic recipes, and inventing new menus to give a 21st-century spin to one of the world’s most popular cuisines. But with most everything shuttered because of the pandemic, what are leading Italian chefs cooking for themselves and their families at home during the quarantine? Below you’ll find a delicious sampling, along with the chefs’ personal recipes. Two of these culinary masters are turning to comfort foods associated with the regions where they grew up one opts for a dish that gives him hope for better days ahead another likes to make a pasta his young son will enjoy and can help him prepare. (For the chefs’ recipes, metric measurements and Celsius cooking temperatures are provided.)
RISOTTO WITH BROCCOLI RABE, STRACCHINO CHEESE AND CANDIED LEMON
Chef Marco Acquaroli says he likes this risotto preparation, as it repesents for him the transition . [+] from winter to spring.
Chef Acquaroli of Natura, a restaurant located in Franciacorta wine country.
Chef Marco Acquaroli helms the restaurant Natura in Torbiato di Adro, a small town located in Franciacorta wine country. Natura describes its cuisine as “glocal,” that is, combining cooking methods and ingredients from around the world with Italian dishes and locally sourced, sustainable produce. Acquaroli, who won the competitive and coveted Bocuse d’Or Italia award in 2016, says he chose this recipe to make now because it “represents the transition from winter to spring, when warm weather and sunny, blue-sky days arrive. It’s a sort of rebirth. In this heartbreaking and challenging year for our country and the world, I’m cooking this recipe with the hope that our own spring will arrive, that better things are on their way.”
Risotto with broccoli rabe, stracchino cheese and candied lemon (serves 4)
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100 grams Franciacorta wine
150 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano
100 grams stracchino or burrata cheese
Store-bought candied lemon peel
Clean the broccoli rabe and set aside a few small sprigs with which to garnish the risotto. Let the broccoli rabe cook for 8 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain and let cool. Heat the vegetable broth. Blend the broccoli rabe with an immersion blender, adding the hot vegetable broth gradually until you have a smooth pur é e. Beat together the stracchino cheese with the milk (make sure it’s cold) until it reaches a creamy consistency. In a pan toast the dry rice, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and let it reduce down, adding the hot vegetable broth. Let cook for 14-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the risotto rest for around 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe pur ée, butter and parmesan. Mix well and add salt to taste. Plate the risotto and top with the stracchino cream, the broccoli rabe set aside for garnish, and the chopped candied lemon peel.
TORTA RUSTICA WITH BEEF AND EGGPLANT
Fresh eggplant at a farmer's market.
Smoked provola. (Photo by Fabrizio Esposito/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Domenico Stile is chef at at Enoteca la Torre a Villa Laetitia, an exquisite Art Nouveau hotel and restaurant owned by the Fendi Venturini family. “This is a typical peasant dish,” says Stile, Rome’s youngest Michelin-starred chef. “Traditionally families like mine in Gragnano [a town near the Amalfi Coast] would preserve vegetables by canning or transforming them into sauces. In the winter they’d be used in simple yet rich and satisfying dishes, like this torta rustica, which for me is pure comfort food and reminiscent of my childhood and region.”
Torta Rustica with Beef and Eggplant (serves 4)
150 grams eggplant (cut into cubes)
50 grams mortadella (cut into cubes)
150 grams smoked provola cheese
50 grams of sliced green olives
Cut the bread into cubes and soak it in cold water. Wring out the water and place the bread in a bowl. Peel the eggplant and cut into cubes. Bring water to a boil and add salt, thyme, and garlic. Add eggplant and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes. Cook the peppers whole in the oven until well-roasted (20 minutes at 200° C). Once cooled, remove the skins and seeds. Cut into small pieces. Add the eggplant and the peppers to the bread. Beat the eggs. Add the ground beef, eggs, sliced olives, provola and mortadella cubes. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and chopped parsley. Mix together until smooth. Put the mixture into a non-stick baking dish and cook at 160° C for 20 to 30 minutes. (The cooking time depends on the height of the baking dish. Make sure the mixture doesn’t dry out.) Season with a pinch of salt and serve with fresh tomato sauce if desired.
WHOLE-WHEAT PASTA WITH SPINACH PESTO AND CRISPY PARMESAN
Whole-wheat pasta with spinach pesto and crispy parmesan.
COURTESY OF ALBERTO BASSO/AROMI.GROUP
Chef Alberto Basso, owner and head chef of the Trequarti restaurant in Val Liona Vicenza (Veneto), a stylish restaurant known for dishes that inventively update the area’s cuisine, likes to teach parents how to cook for their children, and conducts cooking classes for youngsters as well. While in quarantine he’s been making whole-wheat pasta with spinach pesto for his three-and-a-half-year-old son Riccardo to pass the time and keep him entertained. “As many parents know, it can be notoriously difficult to get children to eat their greens,” says Basso. “But I’ve had success with this recipe. It’s been a lot of fun to introduce Riccardo to my world and also see him pick up lots of new food vocabulary.”
Chef Alberto Basso in the kitchen with his son.
COURTESY OF ALBERTO BASSO/AROMI.GROUP
Whole-wheat pasta with spinach pesto and crispy pamersan ( 4 kid-sized servings 2-3 adult-sized servings)
100 grams freshly grated parmesan
200 grams short-wheat pasta like penne, fusilli or rigatoni
Wash the spinach and cut off the stems. Steam for 2-4 minutes or boil in salted water for 3 minutes. Remove from the steamer or drain, and let the spinach cool in ice water. Put the spinach in a blender, adding 50 grams of parmesan, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Add a few spoonfuls of room-temperature water as you blend ingredients until smooth.
Bring water to a boil. Salt water. Cook the pasta following the directions on the box. Drain and mix together with the spinach pesto and a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese. Add the crispy parmesan.
[You can buy parmesan crisps at the store, or bake them in an oven, using the left-over parmesan, or more, depending on how many crisps you want. Here is a link to a recipe for baked parmesan crisps from the Food Network, by Giada di Laurentiis, calling for 1/2 cup grated parmesan. CS]
RAGU' ALLA BOLOGNESE
Chef Bendanti says that when he was growing up his family always had a pot of ragù alla Bolognese . [+] simmering on the stove.
“Like most chefs, I’m not used to having much time off, or so much time to experiment in the kitchen. I’m trying to appreciate both at the moment,” says chef Daniele Bendanti of Oltre, one of Bolgona’s top restaurants. “While conceptualizing new dishes is always satisfying, I can’t help but return to a classic recipe right now—ragù alla bolognese.” Bendanti says that this signature dish of his hometown, Bologna, reminds him of his childhood and his family. “We always had a pot of it simmering on the stove. Just the aroma of this ragù makes me happy and gives me a sense of serenity, which I think we all need these days.” Bendanti says that the restaurant’s two best-selling dishes are tagliatelle al ragù and pancotto al ragù. “Our diners love our ragù so much that we’ve started to sell it. (You can find it at bonverre.it if you’re not up for cooking the ragù yourself.)”
Chef Daniele Bendanti of Oltre in Bologna.
Paccheri with Bolognese ragù.
Ragù Alla Bolognese (4 servings)
200 grams crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Mince the hanger steak and pancetta with a knife. Dice the onion, carrots and celery and sauté with olive oil until golden. Add the meats and brown. Add the white wine and let it cook down. Add the tomato pur é e, tomato paste, and salt to taste. Let it simmer on low heat for four hours. Serve with tagliatelle or paccheri pasta.
Substitute: fresh or frozen soy beans, peas
Yield: 1 kilo broad beans in the pod = 2 to 3 cups of shelled beans
Fava beans are one of my favourite vegetables and are well-worth the time and effort to prepare. Fava beans are meaty and strongly flavoured with herbal notes. These beans are one of the oldest foods of the Mediterranean. Fava beans are a spring vegetable that come in long pods ranging from 10 – 30cm long. They are light green in colour. When opened, they have a thick, soft lining nestling the beans inside. These fresh beans are available from March to May. Fava beans are a good source of protein, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, fibre, and vitamins (A and C).
The main varieites are Auperaguadulce, Aguadulce Supersimoia, Reina mora, and Baggiana.
Buy: You should select pods which are with no brown spots, look plump, crisp, are green (not yellow) and which are about 15cm in length. You should not be able to easily define the shape of the bean inside or the bean is past its prime. Avoid beans with blackened ends and if you can, split one open and look inside. The soft inner lining should be moist and the beans firm. If you twist off an end, the pod should be crunchy and juicy. Eat one if you can to taste if it is sweet and tender. The young beans should be tender and sweet although slightly bitter. Beans which are too old will have lost their bright green colour and will be starchy. They are also available dried, canned, or frozen. Only the frozen ones are substitutable for fresh ones.
Store: Fresh fava beans may be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. Frozen fava beans should be stored in the freezer, tightly sealed for up to 10 months. Dried fava beans may be kept in a cool, dry place sealed for up to a year.
Prepare: Podding fava beans can be a chore so get the family to help out and make it fun. I get my 2 year old son to help me with podding as he loves to help out. To prepare fava beans, remove the pod, parboil for 2 minuted if fresh and 4 minutes if frozen and then cool in ice water to stop the cooking and bring out the colour. When cool, use your fingernail to pierce the waxy skin around each bean and squeeze the opposite end to pop the bean out. Cook as required in the recipe but typically about 8 to 10 minutes. Prepare dried fava beans as described in the main bean section above.
Eat: Only the fresh, young, tender, springtime fava beans can be eaten raw (with salami or pecorino cheese). They are used in starters, pastas, soups (favata alla sarda, zuppa di fave alla calabrese, and minestra di fave alla pugliese), salads (fave in insalata di Campania), with meat (fave a coniglio alla siciliana), and side dishes (fave col guanciale alla romana). The dried beans can be cooked and pureed (macco and ‘ncapriata).
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Baking no-knead bread and using every crumb, with alexandra stafford
A NEW COOKBOOK got me thinking in a whole new way about bread, which actually involved my thinking about bread in a whole old way: more like my grandmother did, when not a crumb was wasted, and bread crumbs didn’t come prefab in cardboard canisters.
The book, appropriately called “Bread Toast Crumbs,” by Alexandra Stafford, got me thinking about not just bread for, say, a sandwich, but about bread as an ingredient in the simple, delicious recipes I can concoct with my upcoming garden produce. Examples: a thick, roasted tomato and bread soup, or orecchietti pasta with brown butter, Brussels sprouts leaves and homemade bread crumbs, or a salad that becomes a meal when it’s a version of panzanella–reviving even stale bread in the best, delicious Tuscan fashion.
Alexandra Stafford is the creator of the popular food website Alexandra’s Kitchen at alexandracooks dot com. Though “Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loaves and Meals to Savor Every Slice” is Ali’s debut cookbook, it has earned raves from some of the baking world’s bestselling authors, including Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz.
I am also glad to say Ali will be doing an event near me, at HGS Home Chef in Hillsdale, New York on April 8 so those of us lucky enough to be nearby can see “Bread Toast Crumbs” in action, and meet (and taste) the no-knead, so-simple peasant loaf that is the basis of her bread adventure. (For event information, click here.)
Read along as you listen to the March 20, 2107 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
No-knead bread (and using every crumb), with alexandra stafford
Q. Congratulations on the new book. It takes longer than a loaf of bread to bake a book. [Laughter.]
A. It does. But this is the fun part: getting ready to release it into the world.
Q. Looking at the book, it took me back, and made me think of bread in a much homier way. I hate that bread has gotten beaten up lately–between worries about diet in general, and gluten concerns, and so on. Not to minimize those things, but I feel like maybe we’ve overcorrected. In your family, bread has quite the powerful provenance. Tell us.
A. I can’t imagine growing up without bread rising on the counter all the time, and eating it at every meal. I didn’t really think it was anything special growing up, because it was what was always around, because my mother was always baking bread—and not just this peasant bread, though that was often around. It was breads from the “Bakery Lane Soup Bowl” cookbook, that we would toast and slice for breakfast. Bread at dinner bread for sandwiches at lunch.
And I am now doing the same: Every single morning I slice the peasant bread, then toast it and put butter and cinnamon and sugar on it for my children, and I make them sandwiches for lunch with the bread—and often at dinner we are having bread alongside whatever we are eating.
Q. So bread is good. [Laughter.] Especially homemade bread, and you just mentioned that peasant bread, which is kind of the centerpiece or the starting point of this book. It’s a recipe that your mother handed down to you, is that right?
A. It is she has been baking for over 40 years now probably. It was something she had adapted from an old French bread recipe that was much fussier. She found a way to fit it into a busy lifestyle without having to knead it, and to bake it in these buttered bowls, and not have to dirty and flour a countertop, and just keep the rises short and simple. It has just worked, and persisted.
Q. I have been treated to one of these loaves, and what strikes me about it—and you just said a few of the other things—is that they’re not giant. A lot of times today loaves are so big, and a slice of bread is this giant thing, enough for two sandwiches. But this is not a giant bread—you said it’s baked in bowls, so tell us more about this basic peasant loaf that’s the foundation of the book.
A. It’s a no-knead dough: It’s flour, salt, sugar, water, yeast. It can be mixed in less than five minutes. The first rise is about an hour and a half you punch it down with forks, and separate it. For the ideal size, we’ve kind of played with the vessel over the years. When my mother was baking it when we were younger, she used a different Pyrex bowl, and it was a little bit wider and squatter, and the loaves would come out just a little bit shorter.
Over the years we have found that this one-quart Pyrex bowl is the perfect size for just a nice dinner boule or for nice slices for breakfast toast or sandwiches. The one-quart Pyrex bowl was part of the appeal, because often people have it it’s the smallest bowl in the nesting set.
Q. Right, in the nesting set.
A. So even if you are on vacation in some sort of rental kitchen, you can always find one of these bowls. And you can bake it, of course, in a larger bowl—it just somehow rises nicely in this one-quart bowl it peeks above the rim nicely. It just comes out to be this perfect shape.
Q. Before I met you and you brought these loaves and the bowls, I never even thought of Pyrex, which is one of my favorite things, speaking of grandmotherly things. I think I may still have some of hers, oddly enough, since it lasts forever (unless you break it).
You think, oh, I have to have a bread pan, and it has to be just right so the bread doesn’t burn on the bottom. But the bowl: wow, that’s better.
A. There is something about it, and I don’t even know what it is. Part of the trick is greasing the bowls very well with butter, and that creates this especially delicious and golden crust. But it won’t be an artisan, crackling crust that people try to create when they preheat a Dutch oven or do tricks to turn their ovens into steam pans, or spraying it. There is none of that here. But it still is crusty and delicious.
Q. I can attest to the fact that it is delicious. And it can be adapted. As the book’s title says, it’s bread toast crumbs: from making the bread, through using the bread in the more obvious ways, to even making bread crumbs and using them in different recipes—and we will get to that.
Besides the fact that each loaf of bread has all these potential evolutions, the basic peasant loaf that you are talking about that’s so dead simple, can also be adapted. In the beginning of the book you talk about changing out a little of the flour, or adding some seeds—doing things to it. Give us some examples of what this loaf can become.
A. The funny thing about that, is that before I posted my mother’s recipe on my blog, I had never strayed from the recipe or formula. I followed it to a T.
Q. Good girl good girl. [Laughter.]
A. Once I posted it, people would write in and they would say, “Can I substitute this kind of flour?” or “How would you suggest adding cheese, and seeds?” And some people would actually write in and say, “I added a cup of Monterey Jack cheese and put in some chili flakes, and it was delicious.”
So it was the people reading it and commenting that inspired me to make variations. [Below, Ali’s variation called Oatmeal-Maple Bread.]
A. What I also found when we were testing recipes for the book, was that really simple changes—like just adding a cup containing three toasted seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and sesame—but you could use any three). You just toast them, and let them cool, and whisk them right in with the flour, and that’s it. It adds some nice texture to the bread, and nice color.
Another really simple one is the quinoa and flax. Again, you don’t cook the quinoa, or toast it—you just add the quinoa and the flax seed to the flour, and the bread when it comes out of the oven is just studded with the quinoa and flax. I really like using red quinoa.
Q. It’s beautiful.
A. You can use herbs you can do so much. What I suggest to people when they make their own variations is to stick to changing one ingredient at a time.
Q. Yes. [Laughter.]
A. Sometimes you go crazy and you make all these changes and for whatever reason it may not turn out—and it’s hard to determine what the reason was that it didn’t turn out as you had hoped.
Q. So whether we start out with our home-baked peasant loaf in or one-quart Pyrex bowl, or whether we have some bread that we have bought from the store, bread as an ingredient is a really important part of this book. It’s not just about making bread, but about using bread—and not wasting a crumb, literally.
For instance, in the whole middle section—the toast section—there are so many things you could serve for lunches or as appetizers or at a cocktail party wonderful toast things. But then we get into bread as an ingredient—like in that soup I mentioned. Oh my goodness, I was wanting to have ripe tomatoes right now for that Roasted Tomato and Bread Soup. [Above: Roasted Tomato Bread Soup from the book the recipe is here.]
A. That’s a classic example of how bread has been used loaf to crumb for many, many years. It’s probably considered an Italian peasant dish, and it was just a way to stretch things. When you add bread to it, it increases the amount of soup, and is a way to feed many mouths on this thing that is just lying around your kitchen, that in its stale form isn’t very good. But once it’s swelled and absorbing all the flavors of the tomatoes and the broth, it’s delicious.
Q. So we roast the tomatoes first?
A. You do. Traditional tomato and bread soup is probably very simple—it’s just fresh tomatoes that you cook with water or stock. But in this one, you roast them with other vegetables [above] for a long time.
Q. It just looked amazing—the color. From the picture, I could almost taste it right off the page.
A. I do love that one.
Q. And of course there is bread in meatballs, and in so many things. Those panzanella salads—you did three variations. It’s something I always forget to do. I’ll be making a salad, and want to make it a meal, and maybe add cheese but forget about adding the bread.
A. The crumbs chapter was sort of the most fun and surprising one for me to work on. As we were creating the recipe list for the book, people know to use bread for French toast and bread pudding and stuffing, and it kind of made those uses for it seems sort of less resourceful. Of course French toast is a great way to use up stale bread, but you’re soaking it in milk and cream and eggs and sugar—so how bad can that be? [Laughter.]
In the crumbs chapter, I kind of came across all these recipes. I think the Italians were really good at using up day-old bread—though I know many cuisines find a way to incorporate it.
Like one recipe in particular, this Pancotto, which literally means cooked bread. I was lucky enough to have this old Italian woman teach me how to make it, and she made it with greens—broccoli raab—that she had grown, and blanched and frozen from the fall. She thawed them, cooked them in water with olive oil and garlic, and then added a ton of just this day-old bread.
All of a sudden we sat down to this really porridge-y, hearty, delicious meal, made from just such basic ingredients.
The same thing with the panzanella salad—it’s just that once the day-old bread is soaking up the juices from the vegetables and the olive oil, it revives. You realize how long the life of a loaf of bread can be.
Q. And the crumbs! In the introduction to the crumbs chapter, there is this beautiful spread that explains that they can be used for breading, or for garnish, or for topping. So even the idea that with macaroni and cheese—talk about a crowd-pleasing recipe—but then you add this extra little element, this texture on top of the baking dish of your macaroni and cheese, it’s like wow.
A. And it’s the best part. [Laughter.]
Q. [Laughter.] I know. We like the topping.
And that crumbs can even be a thickener—that surprised me. I got that it can be used in meatballs, like I said before, and even veggie burgers—but it can even thicken dressings, right?
A. That was another one of those surprising uses for it. You soak it with vinegar, and you let the bread kind of swell, and then you add oil and it emulsifies into this thick, luscious dressing that you think has to have egg yolks or cream or mayonnaise or something. But it’s just the bread acting as a binder. It does that in soups, too, like Ajo Blanco—the white or green gazpacho. The bread swells and just gives body to the soup.
There are so many uses for the crumbs. And one of those old sauces…
Q. …like romesco, which I think has nuts and bread, right, plus vegetables?
A. Yes, almonds and the bread. There were countless examples the farther I searched.
Q. I guess I have to ask: How do you make crumbs, if the answer is not, “Go to the supermarket and buy a cardboard canister of them”? Those are a whole different animal from what I was seeing in the book.
A. When I get down to a half a loaf of bread or a quarter of a loaf of bread and I am already making more, I usually stash all those heels in the freezer, for when I am ready to make crumbs. When I am ready to make crumbs, I will thaw them, puree them in the food processor, spread them on a sheet pan, and then I like to dry them in the oven slowly.
You can do it at a higher temperature and then in 15 minutes you can have crumbs, but they get a little more golden. If you do them low and slow for about an hour, they will take on very little color, and will be very dry. If you want them to be even finer afterward, you can put them back in the food processor so that they are really fine.
Once they are dry, they basically will store at room temperature for a long time. Those are great.
I will admit I do sometimes buy panko breadcrumbs, because those are so handy to have on hand, but once you know that you can salvage those heels of bread by just whizzing them in the food processor, it makes it a little bit harder to buy those crumbs at the store.
Q. There are various pastas in the book, like the ear-shaped orecchietti pasta, and the Brussels sprouts leaves that are the same shape [above]. But the fact that you don’t just put them together and put on a little oil and a little cheese like I might do at home—but you add the crumbs. It makes all the difference.
A. It does, and that was another sort of old Italian trick. I think it’s called pangrattato [grated bread]. I never was able to find a reliable source for it being considered a poor-man’s Parmesan in certain parts of Italy, but that’s sort of a nickname that it has been given. You toast up these fresh crumbs with olive oil and a little bit of salt, and they just become these irresistible morsels. They are particularly good on pasta, but also on vegetables—on anything. It just brings the dish to another level. [Ali’s Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Fried Capers and Brown-Butter Breadcrumbs.]
Q. Both the texture, or “tooth, so to speak, of the dish, and also the flavor. And again: I thought, “Why don’t I do that? Why aren’t I putting the heels of my bread in the freezer and making crumbs?” I’m imagining, looking at the photos and reading the recipes, that it’s quite different experience from those very, very dry version of bread crumb that was manufactured, so to speak, and is in the canister. [Laughter.]
A. Totally. I cannot even imagine using that to crisp and put over pasta or salads or vegetables.
I should have asked you at the beginning, but I will now instead: How in the world did you get to cooking—what was your journey?
A. I always loved cooking. I grew up with my mother, who was always cooking and baking. And also my aunt, who was in Vermont, but I felt like every time I was in the kitchen, my mother was on the phone with her sister, talking about whatever they were cooking or wanted to cook. So I always loved cooking.
Then after college, I moved to Philadelphia to be with my boyfriend-now-husband, and enrolled in a six-month cooking school. I didn’t want to the whole two-year program that it was part of—a more involved management training—so I just wanted to do the cooking portion.
Then I worked at a catering company called Peachtree and Ward, which is all around the outside of Philadelphia, and then I worked in restaurants. I spent over two years in the Fork kitchen, which was the best experience. That changed my life I think about my time in that kitchen every single day.
The chef at the time was such an incredible influence on my cooking and also my eating—we went out to eat all the time, and not to fancy restaurants. To Vietnamese and Chinese and Thai places we ate so well.
Q. It really expanded your appreciation and engagement with food.
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Enter to win ‘bread toast crumbs’
I’ LL BUY A COPY of Alexandra Stafford’s new cookbook, “Bread Toast Crumbs” for one luck reader. All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments box at the very bottom of the page, after the last comment:
What’s your own bread story? Do you bake it, eat it, cook with it?
No answer, or feeling shy? Simply say something like “Count me in” in the comments, and I will, but a reply is even better. I’ll pick a random winner after entries close at midnight Monday, March 27, 2017. Good luck to all. U.S. and Canada only.
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M Y WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its seventh year in March 2016. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the March 20, 2017 show right here. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
(Photographs from Alexandra Stafford’s book “Bread Toast Crumbs” by Eva Kolenko, except images of loaves with bowls and of roasting vegetables, which are from the Alexandra’s Kitchen website. Used with permission.)