(Heh, as I get going on this one, it appears it’s gonna wander a bit. So you Pups just scroll to the good stuff if ya need to. Recipes below somewhere and I’m musing a bit about my self)
It’s fall. Winter is coming on, here already for an early appearance in some places.
Heck. Edward Teller is digging up ‘taters in AK.
If that’s not winter . . . ;-) (bless that man for his work up there)
So this post will be about two cookbooks, winter, and one soup.
But first I’m gonna dance about the kitchen a bit . . .
I was recently asked in comments to one of my Foodie diaries, "What do you read, Larue?"
Heh, I don’t read anymore. Other than online since 2001.
I was a voracious reader from age five on. My parents bless them both led us three kids all over southeast Asia in our youth, fed us culture up close and live and made sure all that time and later that we had any books we wanted.
My mom had her father’s entire set of hardbound Tom Swift books at one point, which I devoured around 8-10, after my folks had bought me the entire set of Tom Swift, Jr. series. I also was a crazed sci-fi fan . . . so were my sibs. I’m talking hundreds of hundreds of paperbacks from our folks, and from each other, all shared when we lived at home.
Sports books (Satchel Paige’s ‘Don’t Look Back’ remains one of the best ever written). The Mic. Ball Four.
And dozens of fiction books about The Kid From Tomkinsville and his crew including Raz Nugent, Highpockets McDade and more.
Hardy Boys. I confess to reading Nancy Drew too, as my older sis was into it.
Incredible books about war, life and more.
To Beat A Tiger, One Needs A Brother’s Help about the rape of Nanking by the Japanese in WW2.
God Is My CoPilot was given to me by my 4th grade teacher who was a woman and a pilot and in the early 1960s women in their thirties didn’t fly airplanes!!!! I thought SHE was god. *G*
Other air plane/jet books . . . like any other kid. Sci-fi, any sci-fi, till my early thirties.
Somewhere in my early thirties I got sick of books (school had a LOT to do with that I hated and hate school texts) and stopped reading. I was in school, working full time in restaurants, doing 20 hours on air . . . I read only what I had to for the courses and on the air for news . . . I WAS a new-found news junkie, and read mags to stay informed about worldly and domestic news.
I never began to read about cooking until my early thirties, as I stopped reading everything else.
I bought two books at that point, as I was working under a French chef and he was a ball buster.
To this day, I still refer to them for simple things I forget regarding proportions of things, which I always forget.
Oil to vinegar for dressings? Uh, uh, Oh, 3- or 4- to-1 depending on other ingredients.
Stuff I can NEVER recall detail wise…time of boiling an egg for runny, med or fully cooked yolk? (hell, I can do that without the times but still )…the rest of cooking is second nature to me but details for basics often elude me…go figger. All that rock hall living in my ute, maybe.
So, after working for first an Italian Chef, leaving him and going to a French Chef, them coming back to the Italian Place (chef left, hastily, no money) I began my run as The Kitchen Leader.
My stocks. My recipes. A menu redesign. Fresh ingredients. All the ordering. Fusing foods to meet an Italian Place…figuring out how to take Classic French styles to Italian only…
And it was then that the owner of the place gave me a book that killed me.
I could hardly take ANYthing outta that book to use in my kitchen, for the diners.
Brutal. But over time, I read it cover to cover, and years later, now even, I use it for a reference for some dishes.
That book led me to another Italian cookbook, by a legend.
Both are women.
And they are two of the best old school cookbooks for Italian Culinary Adventure I’ve ever read.
This will be their story as I tell it.
I had two key Italian influences on my culinary exploits came from the literary world . . . along of course with the chefs I worked under when I was ‘in the biz’ (’69-’89).
Marcella Hazan is widely reknowned and lauded. Her cookbook(s) should be a must have on the shelf for anyone at any level who has even a SLIGHT glimmer of interest in the greatest food in the world. Italian!
Of even GREATER influence on me was Ada Boni, who’s 1969 tome Italian Regional Cooking proved to be a great home cooking recipe source but one who’s recipes frustrated me to no end to try and adapt to crafting and serving 120 meals or so on a nightly basis!
However, ONE of her recipes turned out to be not only EASY to do in bulk, but quickly became one of my most demanded soups in every kitchen I worked in once the clientele tasted it.
I’m talking about “Stracciatella alla Romano”, Egg, Cheese, Spinach Roman Soup!!!
Now the ORIGINAL recipe does NOT call for the use of spinach, or some of the other adaptations I brought to the recipe, but for what it’s worth, I LIKE my recipe and I hope you do too.
Here it is.
Stracciatella alla Romano-6 Servings
A main and principal ingredient is the broth to be used.
Much like a ‘Tortellini En Brodo’ recipe that calls for a consommé as the liquid base (a lengthy process using egg whites to clarify your already made stock be it beef or chicken or vegetable), the stock/broth used sets the base for the whole dish.
I prefer using chicken stock, over beef stock. But many recipes prefer the beef/veal based stock for the intensity. One can also use a vegetable stock and increase seasonings if you want to avoid the animal kingdom altogether!
As I’ve discussed, and it’s heresy of course, one CAN use soup bases.
However, there are some incredible products out there these days, including ONE I recently tried that had NO MSG.
It is a ROASTED Chicken Base made by Chef’s Review and is hearty as hearty can get! For a lighter color and taste, use a standard chicken base . . . look for 16 oz. jars of the paste in the soup sections of your grocery store or ask the clerks!
Please, PLEASE ignore bouillon cubes and those pesky Knorr-Swiss packages that are fine for backpacking, but not in the splendor of your own kitchen!!!
Here’s MY version of the recipe:
- 8 cups of homemade chicken stock (or beef stock for more intense flavor)
- 4 large whole eggs
- 4 cups of FRESH whole spinach leaf
- 10 tablespoons of FRESH grated high-end Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO Cheese (it’s aged 36 months and yes, it’s more than $15 a lb) You can also substitute or add by half a high-end Black Wax Romano cheese
- Fresh grated nutmeg (amount is up to you)
- Zest of half lemon
- 4 table spoons of semolina flour (durum WHEAT flour) For the semolina-resistant, use seasoned bread crumbs from artisanal breads or try ONE tablespoon of ground golden flax seed
- 4 cloves garlic or 2 tablespoons of roasted garlic (the roasted is to DIE for)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In sauce pan, drizzle a tablespoon of EVOO and sauté onions, garlic and spinach.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil
- In mixing bowl combine eggs, cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest and semolina and whip vigorously.
- With stock boiling begin to slowly drizzle in the egg mixture and hand whip (use wire whip not a blender) the soup till all the mixture is incorporated. You should get thin strands and wisps of the egg laced throughout the soup.
- Ladle to bowl and serve immediately topped with some fresh grated cheese and chopped parsley.
For a more elegant presentation, put a toasted crouton slice of your favorite whole grain or artisanal bread on top and top THAT with fresh cheese and the parsley, ala French Onion Soup.
Serve with Larue’s Creamy And Messy Pesto Cheezy Garlic Bread!
Cheesey Messy Garlic Bread
- Take a ton of basil, or pesto.
- Take one cube of butter.
- Take fresh or roasted garlic.
- Take EVOO.
- Put to blender and add olive oil till it’s all creamy.
- Then dump in tons of romano grated cheese, or your ital cheese of choice.
- Scrape out of blender to bowl.
- You CAN use a food processor, but the basil don’t get real ground up in one unless it’s real a real hi quality food processor. And a hand held blender won’t cut it so to speak.
- Take your bread of choice, and if it’s a whole loaf cut in half length wise.
- Set on aluminum foil in a baking tray with sides.
- Smear garlic butter all over it. Let stand 5 minutes, and add more if ya can.
- Bake at 350F until it starts to brown on top.
- Remove from oven, and completely cover the top with grated cheese of your choice.
- Return to oven till cheese browns on top.
A trick tip is to slice the bread BEFORE you add the garlic butter to it and cook it, that way it seeps down in between the cracks!!!
So we move from books, to chefs, to online.
Yes, how DO we learn in this day and age?
My honey just reminded though I don’t read books no mo, I watch cooking shows and prowl the inner toobs. Honey should be writing my scripts, I think.
For those of you dedicated to stretching your skills and learning new things, this is a GREAT video for how to make a consomme. It’s for a beef consomme and it details the process and it’s VISUAL.
While the process it details IS what a professional kitchen would do to make the PROPER consume, for the home cook looking to simplify life I would use existing homemade stock, chop some new and fresh onions and carrots and celery and leave out adding any extra meat, bones and such as the original stock HAS all that in it.
The vegetables in the consommé add a bit more fresh flavor and enable the development of the ‘raft’.
Season this with any herbs you want as you make it. An all oregano version has one perfume to it, all basil another. All thyme or bayleaf or sage . . . even a lemon thyme for use with a shrimp consomme (which said stock would come from using shrimp shells to make the base stock).
Infuse your soups with the above thoughts, check out them two Italian ladies, they are just wonderful, if old school.
Anyhoots, as always, food is fun and you can do it YOUR way. So get out there in that kitchen and make some food!!!!
I might delve into root veggies and hearty soups vegan and not, for next week.
But ya never know with THIS Larue!
[Photo: Zuppa (Soup) by schilfregen via Flickr; cookbook images ]