On Monday, I went to Ipercoop, which is one of the larger Italian supermarkets around here, armed with my list of ingredients that I needed for this week's dinners. This was the first time since I've lived here that I was able to walk into an Italian supermarket and leave with everything on my list. Smoked scamorza? Got it. Fresh cakes of yeast? Right there, next to the butter. Veal cutlets? How thick do you want them? Prosciutto? Come on, challenge me. Gaeta olives? Don't need 'em. They're already in my fridge.
It was so refreshing. Maybe I need to cook all Italian food for the rest of my time here. It's a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to conjure pot roasts and duck breasts and exotic spices. It's tricky, though, because a) No diversity gets old fast and b) Italians cook better Italian food than I do. If I want good Italian, it's more satisfying to go out to eat. Well, first to hire a babysitter, then to go out and eat, because meals don't start until 8, and last for several hours here. I see myself getting much more invested in my Italian cookbooks once I'm stateside, as I try to reclaim the glorious food I ate here. And then I won't be able to find smoked scamorza or fresh yeast. Oy.
Last night I made La Tiella di Gaeta Con Le Cipolle (pg 86 of Rome). Technically, this beast is supposed to be an appetizer, but since I don't have a bar-full of people to feed, we had it for dinner. It's a mixture of ricotta and scamorza cheese, eggs, and herbs, wrapped up in a yeast dough.
This took a while to make, but really wasn't very difficult. The dough was easy to work with. The recipe is for a 12 inch cake pan. I don't own one that big, so I had lots of extra dough.
I made the top crust too thick, and it threw off the crust-to-filling ratio.
Perhaps I shouldn't take issue with the fact that this book of Roman recipes keeps having recipes from other parts of Italy. Gaeta is closer to Naples than it is to Rome. Guess I shouldn't complain - wherever it's from, it tastes good.
Conclusion: Liked it. It was nice to be able to cook the whole thing, start to finish, while Charlie was at school, and not have to worry about getting dinner ready later, since it's meant to be served cold or room temp. This thing is waaay too big for just two people to eat, though. This would be good for a brunch or a buffet table, to feed a horde of people. I dropped a big wedge off at a friend's house this morning. Waste not!
Earlier in the week, I made Saltimbocca alla Romana (pg 127). I'm a huge saltimbocca fan. If you don't know, it's veal (or I've also made it with chicken) wrapped in prosciutto and sage, then pan-fried. Toss some white wine into the drippings, cook it down, and enjoy.
Matt thought that this version was too salty, and said he preferred Virginia Willis' chicken recipe from Bon Appetit, Y'all. There isn't any salt added to this, so I'm curious to try Virginia's recipe with the ingredients available here, and see if he still thinks its too salty. Maybe it's the prosciutto. Matt claimed that veal is inherently saltier than chicken, but that sounds silly to me. Maybe I'm wrong.
I prefer Virginia's recipe, because she layers it as chicken, sage, then wraps prosciutto around it. It magically adheres after dredged in flour. I worried the first time I made it that it would all fall apart, but it didn't. This recipe has the sage on the outside, and everything needs to be sewn together with a toothpick. It also says to trim the prosciutto to the size of the veal. Yeah, right. Much fussier.
Conclusion: Liked it, but I'll stick with my normal recipe, because it's more straightforward.
Lastly, Insalata Di Finocchio (pg 78). Shaved fennel, topped with orange slices, olives, and olive oil doesn't sound like that intriguing of a mixture, but it was quite refreshing. Not something I'd crave, but if I had all these ingredients laying around, I'd make this again.
Conclusion: Just okay. Better than I expected. It doesn't have enough salty or enough sweet to provide that delicious sweet/salty contrast. It could use some oomph, but I'm not sure how to provide it.