I guess it would make more sense if it were Greek feast + austerity measures. Har har har. Anyway, Jenny and I made our parents an Italian feast last night, and today I didn’t get the chance to buy groceries (slash drank more than I ate at dinner, so I probably shouldn’t be cooking anyway; but I did make baked oatmeal, which was kind of nerve-racking under the circumstances), so I’m just going to scrounge in my own apartment for food all week. And I’ll be editing my parsnip soup to make it more palatable for a second week of eating. SIGH.
Also, you should all go to my Flickr, since I don’t post all the pictures here. Does that link work?
Our first course was bruschetta, which Jenny made. She thinly sliced a French baguette (because there were no Italian baguettes), then drizzled olive oil over them. Then she instructed me to preheat the oven to whatever temperature I desired (I chose 350), and toasted the baguette slices for a while. Then she added diced tomatoes, which smelled like tomato vines, which is the best smell on the planet.
Meanwhile, I was making tiramisu, which turned out to be Tiramisu Soup. Ahh! Soup! I am categorizing this post as soup. (How noticeable is it that I had two beers for dinner??) I made custard (egg yolks + sugar, but it was supposed to magnify to two or three times its initial volume, and I don’t think it did) and whipped in a pound of mascarpone, and then Jenny and I valiantly tried to make whipped cream. We failed, for the first time in our lives. I know you’re supposed to use nonpasteurized cream for whipped cream, but I only use pasteurized because I shop in normal grocery stores for normal Americans who only eat pasteurized things, and I have always been a magnificent cream-whipper before. But tonight, alas, it came to naught.
So we combined them, and created tiramisu-soup-filling. Then I dipped ladyfingers
[just remembered what I forgot about the oatmeal. Oatmeal always gets really excited and overflows the boundaries of its containers. So now my recently cleaned oven has oatmeal all over it. NOOO]
in decaf coffee, layered them with the soup in an 8×8 pan, and put it in the fridge, where I hoped I could forget about it. It was very sad. More on that later.
The first course was Spaghettini alla carrettiera, aka Lidia Bastianich–brand linguini with basil from our freezer (previously from our garden) and fancy Whole Foods canned tomatoes. Recipe below; it looked terrible but tasted really, really good, and was really easy to make. We did have to make a disclaimer that we had no idea if it would be nasty, because it really did look nasty. Frozen basil has a tendency to turn an unattractive color after it thaws.
Then the steak. This was extremely exciting. Jacqui, avert your eyes.
Oh no, my cat is sleeping with his head on the cookbook, so I can’t turn to the recipe! It was steak cooked with onions and tomatoes, and it was supposed to have olives, but only one-half of the present family members are willing to eat olives, so we omitted them.
First the onions were cooked in an amount of olive oil that was supposed to come up to the one-quarter mark on the saucepan. This was horrifying, but we of course obliged, since Marcella Hazan said so. Jenny cooked them, asking me every three seconds whether they were softened or golden or whatever they were supposed to be. I said I did not know. She said this was not helpful. After a while, garlic and more canned tomatoes were added; these cooked for a while.
Then it was time to cook the steak. We got very happy steak from Whole Foods (clarification for those who still don’t seem to understand this: they were happy before they were humanely killed), and were supposed to slice it into 1/4-inch pieces. We tried to pound them using a meat cleaver. Well, Jenny did, while I freaked out. I later described the scene as “It looks like we murdered a cow and then splattered its blood everywhere.” To which Jenny responded, “No it doesn’t.” I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know why I’m still talking.” It was gross, though.
ANYWAY. We heated up the pan for a good long while, then added olive oil, then put in the steak. It splattered. There were screams. Our mom, doing laundry in the basement, yelled, “Is everything OK in there?” We ignored her, being unable to truthfully answer.
We cooked it on both sides until it was beautifully browned (though still somewhat raw on the inside, as we would later learn. Holy shit, I just spelled that lurn). We topped the steak pieces with the onion-tomato mixture.
Then dinner time! The bruschetta was lovely.
The pasta tasted way better than we anticipated. The steak was re-cooked on lower heat when it was time for the second course, because it was scarily red inside, even though we are all medium-rare eaters in this family. Ooh, the kitty got off the book. Yay.
The tiramisu was even pretty good! It was texturally ridiculous, but it did taste like tiramisu. (You know, I just went to post a picture of it, and decided not to.) And we also ate macarons from Laduree that Jenny and our mom had bought the day before. They were good, but I don’t really get why people think they are the epitome of wonderfulness in life. Maybe I am a heathen.
That’s about it. It went well. Then we finished our puzzle, and all was right with the world.
Spaghettini alla carrettiera (thin spaghetti with fresh basil and tomato sauce)
from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook
1 bunch fresh basil (1 1/2 to 2 cups; I only used 1)
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes (or regular, even non-Italian! tomatoes), seeded, drained, and coarsely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/3 c olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, about 6 twists
1 pound whatever spaghetti you frickin want
Pull all the basil leaves from the stalkes, rinse, and roughly chop. Put the basil, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and pepper in an uncovered saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Taste and correct for salt.
Drop the spaghetti in 4 qts boiling salted water. Cook until very al dente.
Drain the spaghetti. You’re supposed to mix the spaghetti with the sauce, but we served them separately, since we still didn’t know if the sauce would be nasty…
Marcella says no grated cheese is called for. This is bullshit. You should serve it with (good) parmesan cheese. Sorry, Marcella. Unless you meant that it shouldn’t be served with the green-can stuff.
Fettine di manzo alla sorrentina (Thin pan-broiled steaks with tomatoes and olives) (without the olives)
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
Olive oil sufficient to come 1/4 inch up the side of the pan
2 medium cloves garlic, diced
2/3 c canned tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juice
1 dozen black Greek olives, pitted and quartered (or not)
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Freshly ground pepper, 6 to 8 twists of the mill
1 pound beef steaks, preferably chuck or chicken steaks (what is that???), sliced 1/4 inch thick, pounded, and edges notched to keep from curling
In a good-sized skillet, saute the sliced onion in the olive oil. As it takes on a pale gold color, add the diced garlic. Saute until the garlic has colored slightly, then add the tomatoes, olives, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook at a lively simmer until the tomatoes and oil separate, 15 minutes or more. Turn the heat down, keeping at the barest simmer.
Heat a heavy iron skillet until it is smoking hot. Grease the bottom (we just poured some oil on and swished it around). Put in the beef slices (Jenny, on reading this I am now worried we did it completely wrong. Were we actually supposed to slice it into slices????? Does that make any sense? Whatever, you don’t read this blog). As you turn the meat, season it with salt and pepper. Transfer the browned meat to the simmering sauce, turning it quickly and basting it with sauce, then to a hot platter, pouring the sauce over the meat. (Whoops, we just put the meat on the plate and poured the sauce on top.)
Marcella says not to serve this with any tomato-based first course. Oops.
The tiramisu was adapted from this—and by adapted, I just mean I did it wrong. I also omitted the coffee liqueur and did not chill it enough.