January 18th: Eating Italian, sort of

From the market to the kitchen, and the challenges of cooking in someone else’s space. Little anxieties … will the knives be sharp … the pots big enough … the serving dishes suitable … wine glasses sufficient …? I could go on. But, on this occasion, I found a very well-equipped kitchen – lacking only a food processor – and, a real bonus, a very generous bench on which to lay out all the makings of dinner for seven. Summer food, Italian-themed, inspired in part by Gabriella Rossi’s recipes.


Insalata tricolore


Fabulous fresh-tasting refreshing salad as a starter. A personal favourite. One small red onion, thinly sliced & soaked in cold water for half an hour. Half a dozen large tomatoes, skinned, sliced. Thinly sliced mozzarella. And for the third colour, the green, today I used rocket (though in the past have preferred basil, and watercress would also work). Then assemble in layers … red, green + onion, white … drizzling with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkling with salt, a grind of black pepper. Repeat. Cover & chill for at least a couple of hours. Serve, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. The way the tomato juices mingle with the oil and make a natural dressing is just great.


Pasta with pesto


Couldn’t remember whether Italians have their pasta dish before or after the meat. But I was in charge, and what the heck. Not that you need a recipe to mix store-bought pesto (far better quality than the disappointing glug I used earlier this month) with pasta anyway. But I noticed the Silver Palate cooks mix cream and a couple of tablespoons of hot pasta water into the pesto before mixing through. So that’s what I did. No complaints, there.


A shame though that some of our friends thought the pasta was the main dish and were a little startled when the next one appeared. But, oh, I was having fun!


Garlic chicken on a bed of vegetables


As Gabriella says, “quick to prepare and full of sunshiny flavours”. Such an appealing description. Courgettes, tomatoes, both fresh & sun-dried, red peppers, celery, onions, garlic make the bed of veggies. A pocket of soft cheese with herbs & garlic under the skin of the chicken breasts, or thighs. The chicken emerges golden, the vegetables still have their shape after about 40 minutes in the oven, and when served with crusty bread to mop up the juices, delicious.  


There was more, but dessert can wait until next time.


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