Saturday, September 13, 2008

a parmesan appetizer

We had the pleasure of working with our good friends, Ron and Nina, to create an Italian dinner they would serve as a fund-raiser for their church. The centerpiece, so to speak, would be the pork loin brased in milk, Bolognese style (see Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

The prima, the pasta, would be: mezzaluna with a rich meat filling. Go to and click on pasta, and then ravioli, to find this terrific dish.

For color, the verdura, we chose zucchini with onion. Also in Go to extra pantry, click on verdura, for this (and other) great zucchini presentations. In the presentation, we centered the sliced pork loin in the middle of the serving plate, and put a small portion of the zucchini above and below it. Gorgeous.

The appetizer was something new for us. We found what we thought would be a wonderful, light, and contrasting appetizer: parmesan onion puffs. It was all we had hoped, and more. Herewith (this makes about twenty):


  • one-quarter cup mayonnaise
  • two ounces, about three-quarter of a cup, of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • one tablespoon minced onion
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ten slices of good, firm, white bread

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put rack in upper third of oven. Stir together the parmesan, mayonnaise, onion and cayenne. Cut out two circles from each slice of bread, using a circular cookie cutter, and arrange the circles of bread on a baking sheet. Bake the toasts until the tops are crisp and just golden, about five minutes. Take the sheet out of the oven and let the toasts cool. Keep the oven on.

    When the toasts are cooled slightly (just slightly), top each toast with a mound of the cheese mixture, probably using just short of a teaspoon of the filling on each toast. Spread the mixture with a knife so that it goes to the edge of the toasts.

    Bake the toasts until the topping is puffed and golden, about six minutes. Wow!

Friday, September 5, 2008

fettuccine and mushrooms

Last night, after watching the convention speeches, and needing comfort sustenance, with what was on hand, we prepared one of our simple favorites: fettuccine with mushrooms (and peas). It takes but a few minutes, and then, presto! All the comfort we were longing for.

for the sauce:
  • three tablespoons butter
  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • six ounces mushrooms (crimini or others)
  • three ounces of pancetta or prosciutto
  • one cup frozen peas (fresh if you have them!)
  • one-quarter cup white wine
  • two tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • one-quarter cup heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • one-quarter cup freshly grated parmesan
for the pasta
  • one pound freshly made fettuccine (or tagliatelle)
Trim the stems off the mushrooms. Slice them into thin quarter inch slices. Slice the pancetta or prosciutto into thin slices.

In a saute pan over medium heat, place the butter and olive oil. When warm add the garlic. Cook thirty seconds. Add the mushrooms. As soon as they start to get soft (about three minutes) add the pancetta. Cook for two minutes. Add the white wine. Let the alchohol evaporate, about two minutes. Add the defrosted peas. (If fresh peas, add them with the pancetta). Add a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir. Add the cream, and stir. Cook until the cream reduces slightly.

In the meantime, get five quarts of water up to a boil. Add two tablespoons of salt. Add the fettuccine. Stir. Cook until al dente (or just short of). Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid. Drain.

Add the pasta to the re-heated sauce. Add some of the reserved water if needed to keep moist. Add the parsley and stir. Add the parmesan and stir. Serve on heated plates.