In the kitchen...

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I love food. I also enjoy cooking, even though these days I hardly have the time for it.

Have you got any favorite recipes or tips you'd like to share? Any recipes you'd like to ask for?

Here in Italy, food is a major topic. It's only right that it should have its own space in the forum.

-- Dawn (amgraffiti@superplin.com), August 26, 2000

Answers

I've got a request, though I have a feeling I already know the answer:

How 'bout that recipe for your red pesto???? ;-D

-- Jennifer (jennifer@callrsi.com), August 26, 2000.


Ouch... straight for the jugular, huh?

Well, truth be told, this recipe is not completely secret. I'm willing to share with a select few, I just don't want to post it anywhere public or send it to too many people. Otherwise, who would ever come visit me?

I actually have a plan for this, but you have to wait a while. Don't worry, it's coming.

I'm always curious about the ideas people have of Italian food, when what they get at home is generally very different. I'd love to hear any comments about that...

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), August 26, 2000.


I'm fortunate that Houston has a few Italian family owned restaurants that are truly outstanding. They serve the same dishes I loved when I was in Italy, and actually have an air of authenticity.

But you're right; most Americans don't have Clue One what real Italian food is all about. For example, The Olive Garden has a series of ads which send me into hysterics every time I see them. Some poor, hapless Italian visitor is dragged to this chain restaurant and forced to eat food at which even your little Vicki would wisely turn up her nose. My favorite one is "Cousin Giorgio" who "really knows Italian food," and hunkers down at The Olive Garden to a plate of "the things Italians love most." That would be lasagna, fettucini alfredo, and veal parmesan. Uh, right. The real Cousin Giorgio would run away screaming...

-- Jennifer (jennifer@callrsi.com), August 26, 2000.


My mother (who was quite a character, believe me!) used to go the Olive Garden for lunch occasionally with friends. I have no idea why, because she'd always call me up and recount horror stories of what they served.

One memorable time she ordered spaghetti alla bolognese. I have no idea what they brought her, since I obviously wasn't there, but she called the waiter over to complain. The poor idiot had no idea who he was dealing with, and insisted that there was nothing wrong with her meal.

"I've been to Bologna several times," she told him (and I can just imagine her tone and facial expression). "My daughter lives there. And I have never, ever been served anything remotely resembling this dish." He took it away. She was only a tad over 5' tall, but you could not argue with the woman.

Dario's been to several Italian restaurants, both individual and chain. He generally likes it okay (then again, he's not exactly a gourmand). Really, I think most "Italian" food served in the US is fine, it just has very little in common with what it's supposed to be. Like pizza: I like pizza in both countries, but they're two vastly different foods.

It's normal for ethnic cuisines to adapt to various national tastes. Sometimes, that's actually a good thing. The WORST Chinese meal I ever had was in Indonesia, at a "real" Chinese restaurant. Ick. I will NOT eat tofu, and it was everywhere. I much prefer Chinese food in the US or here.

And on a mostly unrelated note, there is one thing that really annoys me to death, now that Italian food has become so trendy in the US: why, WHY do people say "brooshedda"? It's brus-KET-ta. Makes my skin crawl. Yes, I'm anal, is that a surprise? :-)

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), August 26, 2000.


I have the strangest feeling that I would find real Iralian food to be horrifying, and I'd be like your brother-in-law and only eat at McDonald's. If the real spaghetti bolognaise isn't spaghetti with tomato sauce mixed with hamburger, I'll be very sad!

-- Kymm Zuckert (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), August 26, 2000.


Or Italian...

-- Kymm Zuckert (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), August 26, 2000.

Well, it sort of is, and sort of isn't.

Actually, you will only find spaghetti alla bolognese on menus in other regions; no one here would even know what you were talking about if you asked for it. It's simply spaghetti (or whatever kind of pasta) al ragy.

Like most traditional recipes, every household has its own version. Most of the time I don't really like it at all, because it tends to be chunks of ground beef (or pork) with very little liquid or sauce at all. My mother-in-law makes it that way, and I refuse to eat it.

Only occasionally will you find someone who makes it as tomatoey as you're probably used to. No, let me correct that: you'll never find anyone here who would make it as tomatoey as they generally do in the States, but some people might come a bit closer and make a sauce that you'd find acceptable.

Kymm, somehow I imagine you probably would be rather similar to Mike, although he is definitely an extreme case: no pasta cooked in any manner, ditto for rice, and no vegetables whatsoever. The man won't even eat pizza because it has tomato sauce on it (nor would he taste the kinds that don't have tomato sauce). However, he will eat Campbell's tomato soup. I think he ate it twice a day the whole time he was here (April brought a large supply from home). I didn't even bother asking the logic behind that one.

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), August 26, 2000.


Somewhat off topic:

The Chinese restaurant story reminded me of something I observed at a buffet place a few months ago. These two Chinese nationals were visiting from their office in Beijing, and for some reason their Houston host had elected to bring them to this restaurant. Mind you, as Americanized Chinese buffets go, this one was pretty darn good. But would it have occurred to me or my companion to bring a visiting Chinese citizen there? Not in a million!!! His guests didn't look particularly excited, especially when they saw the vat of bright orange sweet & sour sauce...

Back to the original topic. I will never ever forget the look on my brother's face (he was about nine, at the time), when his first authentic Italian pizza was placed before him. We were having lunch in Rome the second day of our first trip to Italy, and had stopped at a trattoria on the way to the Coliseum. Craig ordered a "Neapolitan pizza," and was horrified to find a whole anchovy sitting on one slice, some olives on another slice, etc. Once he recovered, he removed the anchovy, ate the rest, and declared it good. Just needed a few moments of cultural readjustment, I suppose. ;-)

-- Jennifer (jennifer@callrsi.com), August 27, 2000.


Jennifer, you do realize that story about the Chinese guys in the Chinese restaurant gave me flashbacks to Rudy and his Italian chain restaurant episode? And just when I was beginning to forget the whole incident after writing it down the other day!

My nephew was just like your brother on his first trip here, when he was also nine. He stared at the plate for at least two whole minutes before he actually tasted it.

Mostly, I think he was kind of shocked that he got a whole pizza to himself. He really loves Italian pizza, though (and boy, do fourteen- year-olds eat!!)

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), August 27, 2000.


Last night I made Dario's absolute favorite dish, which is fusilli con speck e rucola.

I'll share, if you do: anyone have a favorite recipe to offer (Italian or otherwise?). I'm always looking for new things to make.

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), August 28, 2000.



A friend of mine in his forties talked about going to a pizza joint with three of his business associates. He said it took about 10 minutes for them to decide what toppings to have on the pizza. While it was being cooked, one of the men pointed out that he had never had such a hard time deciding on pizza toppings when he was younger, and suddenly remembered it was because he used to eat the whole pizza!

In the best melting pot manner of the US, here in CA there are a lot of ethnic influences getting stirred up, even in the fast food joints. In Palo Alto, there is one place where you can get a 'taco pizza', complete with salza, cheese, onions, and tortilla chips. Or a thai pizza with peanut sauce and chicken (no tomato in sight). A number of places serve 'wraps' -- basically, a big burrito with fillings from any number of ethnicities available--Kung Pao chicken, meatballs and sauce, thai chicken, cajun seafood, curried lamb, etc. All wrapped up in a big wheat bundle certain to spray indellible liquids on everyone in the area at the first bite.

And while on this ethnic mix, I have to recall my favorite menu item in a New York restaurant: "Escargot with Fetuccini"

-- Steve Johnson (scj@transmeta.com), August 29, 2000.


So, how much longer should we wait before posting again in this forum? I've got a recipe and a question, but I just don't think you'd appreciate either right now, given your... uh... *condition.* ;-)

Here's hoping everything comes out all right! ;-D

Best wishes from the land of World's Greasiest Tex-Mex, Jen

-- Jennifer (jennifer@callrsi.com), September 05, 2000.


No, no, please do! I mean, I'm already torturing myself with miscellaneous recipes (why, I'm not sure, but it seems to reassure me that I will be able to eat again at some point, and there is some yummy food out there waiting for me).

I also have a new recipe, one that Dario announced is tied with his all-time favorite that I mentioned above. Oddly enough, he seems to develop these passions for recipes I make up off the top of my head.

This one is Whole Wheat Pasta with Lemon-Curry Shrimp. Not exactly something you'll find in Nonna Emilia's Traditional Cookbook, but it worked surprisingly well.

Bring on the recipes, and other food-related stuff!

-- Dawn (dawn@superplin.com), September 05, 2000.


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