Monday, December 15, 2014

Intorchiate and I Trulli



I first saw these cookies - called "intorchiate" - in Rosetta Costantino's wonderful book "Southern Italian Desserts." They're from the region of Puglia and I ate them for the first time while I was there this summer and stayed in the town of Alberobello.
Alberobello is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is known for its unique limestone buildings called "trulli." They're made in a conical shape using no mortar, a type of construction that dates to prehistoric times. You see them in various places in Puglia, but nowhere near as prevalent as you see in Alberobello, where they're occupied as homes and shops.
Some of the owners have converted their trulli for visitors and rent them to paying guests. The one we stayed in this past June is the charming end unit in the photo below.
They're larger than they seem. This one had a bedroom downstairs and a second bedroom in a loft, as well as a kitchen and dining area and bathroom. Everything was brand new and beautifully renovated.
Our landlady could not have been kinder, delivering home baked breakfast treats and fresh fruit in the morning. As we departed, she presented us with a tin of the family's olive oil, beautiful linens from her shop, and these intorchiate. They were so delicious, I had to keep myself from eating the whole bag in one fell swoop.

 Fortunately, (or maybe not for my waistline), Rosetta includes a recipe for the cookies in her cookbook, and with permission from her publisher, the recipe is provided below. In her book, Rosetta explains that the word "intorchiate" is a local dialect for "intertwined" and that the cookies are meant to represent arms in an embrace. They're traditionally made for baptisms and weddings but can be found in bakeries all over Puglia.
The dough is very similar to the red wine cookies my friend Milena makes, in that there's wine and oil in the dough, and they're dredged in sugar. But these intorchiate use white wine, while Milena's call for red wine.
Once you get the right consistency, the dough is very easy to roll into these twisted shapes. Initially however, the mixture was a bit too dry, so I needed to add a bit more oil and water. The ones from Rosetta's book call for twisting the dough to make three separate spaces, although the ones I ate in Italy had four twists. I also found Rosetta's dough to be a little less sweet than the ones I ate in Alberobello, and I might add a little more sugar next time I make them.
After twisting them, roll them in granulated sugar, then nestle an almond in each space. I used Marcona almonds, my favorite. 
Since I was in a Puglia state of mind after making these intorchiate, I made a reservation for dinner at the restaurant "I Trulli" and wanted to share photos of the delicious food I ate there Saturday night. If you're close enough to New York City, make a reservation and get set for a real treat.
As soon as you walk past the bar, you'll spot a wood-fired oven that's reminiscent of a trullo, with grey stones, similar to those on trullo roofs, clinging to the exterior of the oven.
 
The menu is loaded with offerings in every category, but we never got past the first page, which featured a multi-course dinner of Puglian specialties. Decision made easy - no further thinking required. The first thing to arrive at the table were these two panzerotti - fried dough - one filled with tomato and mozzarella cheese, the other with a savory and unforgettably delicious mixture of olives, anchovies and scallions.
Next came burrata cheese flown in from Italy and served on crostini with a bed of radicchio, every bit as creamy and flavorful as the burrata we ate in Puglia.
For the primo piatto you could choose between two hand-rolled pasta dishes - orecchiette in a rich rabbit ragù that had me lopping up the plate with bread "scarpetta" style.
Or opt for these cavatelli with broccoli rape and toasted almonds, bringing to mind fresh spring fields of wild greens. 
The main course was either succulent roasted lamb chops with a potato tiella and sautéed Swiss chard...
Or you might prefer a zuppa di pesce laden with lobster, shrimp, calamari, and another white fish. Long pieces of cooked fennel punctuated the aromatic and flavorful broth.
Lastly came these two sweet offerings that capped the perfect ending to a perfect meal - one was a warm fried dough pillow oozing with nutella, and the other was a cartellate, a fried cookie drizzled with honey.
On the way out the door, I spotted this octopus dish sitting on the counter, waiting to go to some patron's table.  It was all I could do to keep from digging into it with my fingers. How did I miss this on the menu? Oh that's right, I got seduced by the Puglian specialties on the first page and never looked further. Well, if I didn't already have plenty of other reasons, now I know I have to go back to I Trulli to try their octopus. 
The restaurant is also open for Christmas eve, featuring a "feast of the seven fishes" dinner. 
 My family would consider it blasphemous if I didn't cook our traditional fish dinner on Christmas eve, but some year, if I ever do abandon my kitchen duties, I know where I'd like to be - at I Trulli in New York City.
Even if you can't get to I Trulli for their Southern Italian specialties, you can still make Rosetta's addictive intorchiate cookies in your own kitchen - and just in time for Christmas baking.

One last thing - the winner to my recent giveaway was Heather Zysk. Heather, please contact me for information on how to claim your slate cheeseboard.

Intorchiate
recipe by Rosetta Costantino from Southern Italian Desserts
reprinted with permission of publisher

makes 36 cookies (I got 64)

3 3/4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar, (I would use 1 cup next time since I'd like them a bit sweeter) plus more for coating cookies
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (180 ml) white wine
about 3/4 cup (115 grams) blanched almonds for decorating

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, oil and wine and process until the mixture forms a sticky dough that balls up around the blade. (I added a little more oil and some water to the dough to get the right consistency.) Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand, but it will require longer kneading to bring the dough together. Transfer to a flat surface and knead briefly to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (177 degrees C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Divide the dough into thirty-six approximately equal pieces; they will weigh about 3/4 ounce each (actually I got 64 cookies each weighing 3/4 ounce each). Roll a piece of dough with the palms of your hands against a flat surface to make a 10-inch rope that is about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the rope in half, then twist the two ends around one another to form a twist, with the dough strands crossing twice and meeting at the bottom to form three spaces. Press the ends together at the bottom to seal them. Space the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Continue forming the twists until you have filled one sheet with eighteen cookies. (You will make the second half while the first ones bake.)
Put about 1/4 cup sugar in a shallow bowl. Take one cookie at a time and press the top side into the sugar. (I pressed both top and bottom in the sugar. If you can find a larger granulated sugar, it looks prettier.) Return the cookie to the baking sheet sugar side up. After coating all of the cookies, press three blanched almonds into each cookie - one in each space - facing the pointed ends of the nuts running down from the top to the bottom of the cookie.
Bake the cookies on the bottom rack for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and transfer it to the top rack until the cookies are light golden all over, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
While the first sheet bakes, form the remaining cookies on the second sheet. Bake the second sheet in the same manner after pulling the first from the oven.
Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 8, 2014

Puff Pastry Bites, Uncommon Goods and a Giveaway


With the holidays approaching, you might want to have a few recipes for appetizers at the ready. These puff pastry bites couldn't be easier. They freeze well too. You use packaged puff pastry dough, and in my case, leftover vegetables. I already had some roasted butternut squash, swiss chard, mushrooms and caramelized onions for the gnocchi dish I posted here. But I had more than I needed, so I transformed the leftovers into these appetizers. Use any vegetables you like - artichoke hearts, broccoli bits or spinach also come to mind. Add some cheese too, for a richer taste. For the ones below, I just cut the pastry into little squares and popped them into a mini muffin tin, then filled them with the squash and caramelized onions before baking.
For these spirals, I rolled out a sheet of the puff pastry and spread it with a mixture of the chopped Swiss chard and mushrooms. Then I added a layer of asiago cheese and rolled it up like a jelly roll, sliced it and baked it.
I served them on these handsome slate boards that were sent to me by Uncommon Goods. The company sells a variety of high quality gifts, for men, women and children. You'll find a plethora of holiday shopping ideas on their website, including these beautiful slate boards.

They're made by Brooklynites whose family has owned a quarry in upstate New York for three generations. They're available in both a grey slate and a terra cotta color too and they look great when serving all sorts of food.
They're perfect for serving cheeses too, and arrive with pieces of chalk, especially useful if you're offering different kinds of cheeses.
  The company has a variety of other gifts available too, for both home entertaining or appropriate for gifting to men, women and children. Check out their site here.
Wouldn't you like to have one of these slateboards to use for your holiday entertaining? Just leave a message in the comments on the blog (NOT on email) saying whether you'd like the grey or terra cotta colored slate, and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you - email is best. I'll have the computer generate one lucky winner and the company will mail you the slate board a short time later. You'll love it!


Puff Pastry Bites
printable recipe here
1 package puff pastry, completely thawed
(I used leftover vegetable for the filling, but if you want to start from scratch use the following:)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
1 cup butternut squash, diced into small pieces
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper
fresh herbs, finely chopped (rosemary, thyme)

Sauté the onions in the olive oil until golden. Remove from the pan, set aside, but cut into small bits. Add 2 T. more olive oil and sauté the squash, adding a bit of water if the squash starts to stick to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and herbs, and when the squash is cooked through, add the onions back to the pan.
Spray a small muffin pan with non-stick spray. Cut the puff pastry in small squares and push them down into the spaces in the muffin pan. Fill with a mixture of the vegetables and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, or until the pastry is golden.

For the spirals, spread the puff pastry out flat then spread with the following:
chopped spinach that's been sautéed with minced onion, salt and pepper, mixed with sautéed, minced mushrooms (mine were leftovers). Spread some grated asiago cheese over the vegetables, then roll like a jelly roll. Cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick, then place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, until pastry is golden.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Big Fat Raviolo



When San Domenico restaurant was still on New York City's Central Park South, I ordered its signature dish - a plate-sized, single raviolo filled with ricotta cheese and a egg yolk that oozed decadently onto your plate when you broke through the pasta. Combine that with a parmesan cheese and sage sauce and you've got a celestial forkful of goodness. The only thing that could elevate it to truly divine status would be a shaving of truffles on top. I've been thinking about that dish ever since I first ate it years ago and wanting to recreate it at home. This was the year I finally did, for our Thanksgiving first course. It was just as special as I remembered it. Although my pocketbook didn't allow for the truffle indulgence, this dish still has such a wonderful taste and mouth feel, that you won't miss it.  I urge you to try it for your next special event. It's a bit tricky to make in large quantities, only because of the size of the pots needed, so I caution you to make this only when your group is eight or less.
I started out by making some fresh pasta, but if you want to take the easy route, buy some fresh pasta sheets. A few pasta makers, like Rana, for instance, sell fresh pasta sheets for lasagna, and they'd work just fine. If they're a little on the thick side, just roll them thinner with a rolling pin.
After rolling out the dough, I cut out disks using a plastic container from the deli as a guide. It was about four inches in diameter. This pasta recipe makes enough for about sixteen of these disks, which is what you'll need for eight servings.

Just work with a third of the dough at a time, leaving the rest covered under a bowl or in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.

Top it with a mixture of ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and spinach (or in my case, wild broccoli rape I foraged and froze.) I forgot to add an egg to the ricotta mixture itself and it was fine, but I might try adding it the next time I make this. Create a little "nest" with the ricotta mixture and drop in a medium size egg yolk.  
Wet the outside edge with some water and place another disk of pasta on top, securing all around the edge with the tines of a fork.
Drop the disks in a pot of boiling water only long enough to cook to the "al dente" stage. This could take as little as two to three minutes.You don't want to cook it so much that the egg yolk hardens. Then, remove the disks from the water, and in another large, shallow pan, add butter, some of the pasta water and sage. Sprinkle heavily with freshly ground black pepper.


Place each raviolo in individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some of the sauce from the pan. 
 A lovely and delicious surprise is waiting for you when you cut into it.
Here comes the sun! This might seem like a difficult dish to make, but it's not. The important thing is to use quality fresh ingredients and not to prepare too far ahead of time. I assembled these about one hour before cooking them. I wouldn't do it more than two or three hours ahead of time, because I'd be afraid that the dough would absorb too much of the liquid from the ricotta mixture, even though I'd drained it overnight.


Here's a little video of me assembling the ravioli. I hope it inspires you to try it at home.
video

Big Fat Raviolo

printable recipe here

dough (enough to make eight large ravioli or sixteen disks)

3/4  cup semolina flour (I used a mixture of semolina flour and Italian "double zero" flour, which makes for a more "toothy" dough, but next time I might use all "double zero" flour, or unbleached white flour for a "softer bite," since I was concerned that the egg yolk would harden in the time it took to cook the pasta through. It didn't, but using a softer flour would insure a quicker cooking time for the pasta.)
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2 large eggs


Place most of the semolina and regular flour into a food processor bowl. Keep about 1/4 cup of the flour or semolina aside. Add the eggs, then pulse the ingredients until a ball starts to form. Add more flour or semolina if it seems too sticky. Put on a board and knead, adding more flour as needed. Let it rest under a bowl, or covered with plastic wrap, for at least a half hour. Work the dough through a pasta machine per instructions with the machine. Make sure to flour the dough as you make each pass through the rollers, so it won’t stick.
Cut out the disks using a small plate, or a plastic deli container as a pattern.

Filling

2 cups ricotta cheese, drained overnight
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 large egg
a grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup of chopped spinach, squeezed really dry  (I used foraged broccoli rape but not everyone has that option)
8 medium size eggs

Mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Place some of the filling on each of the disks, and create a little "nest" by indenting the center of the ricotta filling. With the medium eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and save the whites for another recipe. Drop a yolk into the center of each ricotta "nest" then wet the rim of the pasta disk with water. Place another pasta disk on top and pressing gently from the center, seal the edges with your fingers. Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the disk a little more securely.

Sauce
8 T. butter
pasta water
fresh sage leaves (at least eight to 12, depending on size)
freshly cracked black pepper
parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Boil the ravioli in a pot of water for about two to four minutes. A lot will depend on the type of flour you used and the thickness of your raviolo. In a separate large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sage, then remove each cooked raviolo from the pasta pot and add to the butter sauce. Add water from the pasta pot to keep the ravioli from sticking and to create a slight "sauce." Serve each raviolo in a single bowl, topped with parmesan cheese and a sage leaf that's been cooking in the sauce.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Garden's Last Hurrah Soup


By this time of year, if your garden is like mine, you've already ripped out the last vestiges of any edible plants. Before putting the garden to rest for the winter however, I harvested the remaining kale and put it to good use in this soup, especially welcome now that cold weather is upon us. It's got everything you need for supper in one bowl - protein (sausage and white beans); vegetables (kale and tomatoes) and carbohydrates (potatoes). I cooked it all in this brand new Le Creuset pot (more about that at the end.)
 The kale I grow is lacinato kale, sometimes called dinosaur kale or cavolo nero in Italian, where it's commonly used in ribollita. But you can use any kind of kale you've got, or use Swiss chard or spinach, for that matter. It all depends on your taste and what's available to you. 
It's ready to eat after about 45 minutes of cooking on the stove. Add a couple of slices of bread and sit down to a satisfying, filling and nutritious meal. 
Now about that Le Creuset pot. Mine was discolored and more than 40 years old. After reading on Adri Barr Crocetti's blog about how the company replaced her old, stained pot with a new one, I thought I'd contact them too. I did, and they replaced mine with the beauty you see above. (Merry Christmas!) They aren't kidding when they say their product has a "lifetime limited warranty." If you've got a discolored, but otherwise non-chipped or damaged Le Creuset pot and want to contact them, call the company's toll-free number at 1-877-418-5547 or email them at Consumer-Services@LeCreuset.com.

Sausage, Bean, Kale and Potato Soup

2 Italian sausage links (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 T. olive oil
3 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 cup sliced small potatoes (like fingerling potatoes)
1 15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed (about 2 cups)
1 bunch of lacinato kale (about four cups chopped)
1 cup diced tomatoes
red pepper flakes, to taste
3 or 4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried oregano)
salt, pepper
optional - another cup of water

Sauté the sausage links in a pan smeared with a small bit of olive oil and cook through. Remove the sausage from the pot, add the 2 T. olive oil, the onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Slice the sausage and put it back in the pot, adding the wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients. Let everything come to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Add another cup of water if the soup is too dense for you, or if you want to stretch it a bit. Remove the parmesan rind before serving.
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Potato Gnocchi

When I was growing up, my mother used to make gnocchi in the basement kitchen (don't all Italians have a basement kitchen?). The table would be covered in trays containing dozens and dozens of gnocchi that she made with love for her family. My mom was a great cook, whose spaghetti sauce was the best, whose eggplant parmesan was beyond wonderful, but her gnocchi?  Well, let's just say that they weren't her strong suit. Gnocchi should be light, almost melt in your mouth when you're eating them, but it's not easy to get that consistency. Many times they're leaden bombs rather than fluffy pillows. There are a couple of pointers you need to know in order to achieve those light-as-air gnocchi. By the way, gnocchi is the plural, and gnocco is the singular. But whoever ate just one gnocco? Well, maybe if they're the leaden bomb type you did. 
The first thing to do is not to boil your potatoes, but to bake them in the oven - no foil or anything else covering them. This will help eliminate some of the moisture in the potato. And that leads me to the second point - not too much flour. The more flour you add, the heavier the gnocchi will be. If your potatoes are too moist, then you'll have to use more flour to make a dough that will stick together properly. And that will make for heavier gnocchi. So bake the potatoes, rather than boil them, to eliminate some of the moisture.
Peel them while they're hot - as soon as you can handle them - and press them through a potato ricer. If you don't have one of these, try using a cheese grater. Spread out the "riced" potatoes on a cookie sheet and let everything cool.
I put the potatoes on a board and make a well for the egg, just as if you're making pasta. But you can use a bowl if you prefer. Mix in the egg, salt and pepper, then add the parmesan cheese and part of the flour. Don't add the full amount all at once. Using your hands, just keep incorporating a bit of flour until you have a soft dough that holds together. If the dough is stiff, you're going to have heavy gnocchi, so just add a little flour at a time.  (Do I sound like a broker record here?) You might need only one cup, you might need 1 1/2 cups. A lot depends on the size of the potatoes, and the flour and the humidity of the day.
Don't overwork the dough. Just work it long enough to shape it into a fat log, then cut the log into smaller portions. Take each portion, one at a time, and roll into a long "snake."
 Cut the "snake" into small pieces - 1/2 inch thick or so - an roll it over a gnocchi paddle. If you haven't got one, do as my mom did and use a fork to create the ridges. 
 Some restaurants don't make any ridges at all, but rather serve the gnocchi as is. I think the ridges serve to help the sauce cling better, but also they make for a prettier appearance.

At this point, if you've followed the recipe below, you should have a couple of cookie sheets of these cute little dumplings - maybe 120 - 150 or so. They're best when eaten fresh the same day, but you can freeze them too, plopping them into the boiling water from their frozen state. I've even served the frozen ones to company - they're perfectly acceptable, but they're more fragile and do have a tendency to disintegrate more easily in the cooking water when you boil them. Like most things, fresh is best.
You can serve them with tomato sauce, as my mom always did, or try something different, like the accompaniment below, of butternut squash, caramelized onions, swiss chard and mushrooms.  
 Or serve them with a roasted red pepper sauce. Once you're tried these traditional potato gnocchi, you'll want to experiment with other types too, like these butternut squash gnocchi here or these ricotta and swiss chard gnocchi with a red pepper sauce here.

Potato Gnocchi

3 large brown-skinned baking potatoes
1 large egg
1 t. salt
1/4 t. white pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups flour (or more if needed)

Bake the potatoes uncovered in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until done. Remove from oven and when you can handle them, peel them. Put chunks of the potato through a ricer and spread on a cookie sheet. Let it cool completely, then mix with the egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cheese. Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time. You may not need all 1 1/2 cups flour, just add enough until the dough comes together and you can roll it out in a "log." Cut the log into four or five pieces, then take each piece and roll it out like a snake, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Take each gnocco and make an imprint on it, using either a fork or a gnocchi paddle. The recipe makes from 120 to 150 gnocchi.

Butternut Squash, Mushroom and Swiss Chard "sauce" for gnocchi

butternut squash, about two cups diced into small pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
5 or 6 large leaves Swiss chard, chopped roughly, stems eliminated
about 1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper
4 or 5 sage leaves, minced
2 small sprigs rosemary, minced (about 1 t.)

Take 2 T. of the olive oil and sauté the onions with it in a saucepan, until they're golden and caramelized, about 1/2 hour or so. Remove from pan and add a couple more tablespoons of oil and the squash. Saute until cooked through, adding a little water to the pan to keep the squash from sticking. Remove from pan. Do the same thing with the Swiss chard, and remove from pan. With the remaining olive oil, sauté the mushrooms at high heat. When they're cooked, put the onions and squash back into the pan with the mushrooms and season, with salt, pepper and the herbs. 

Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water. They'll need only a few minutes to cook. When they rise to the surface, they're done. Gently strain them from the water with a slotted spoon or "spider" and place them in the saucepan with the butternut squash, onions and mushrooms. Mix everything gently, drizzling more olive oil on top and sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 7, 2014

Brigantessa


It's been open only a month and they're packing them in every night. The widely anticipated opening last month of Brigantessa, on Philly's East Passyunk Ave., - a hot-spot in the city's restaurant scene - lives up to every bit of expectations. And why wouldn't it, when you've got a talented, three-time James Beard nominated chef (Joe Cicala) and visionary owners of the hugely successful Le Virtù (Francis Cratil Cretarola and Cathy Lee) backing it.  What Le Virtù does exceedingly well for Abruzzese cuisine, Brigantessa does for Southern Italian cuisine in general. 
It calls itself a "forneria meridionale," meaning a place that features Southern Italian wood oven cooking. Living up to its name, the back of the house is dominated by a monster wood-fired oven imported from Naples used for cranking out delicious pizza. Joe spent time there to learn Neapolitan pizza making techniques and earn his "pizza verace" certificate. His attention to detail has paid off. But Brigantessa is more than just another pizza joint. 
Brigantessa - whose name comes from the female brigands who fought against Northern Italian domination in the late 1800s - features a very reasonably priced menu with inventive selections not typically found at Italian restaurants in the U.S. When was the last time you ate smoky-infused broccoli romanesco served over a bed of polenta or wood-grilled beans and octopus? Exactly. 
The second, wood-fired oven in the back of the house, (this time square-shaped) is used to impart a charred, smoky flavor to many of the restaurant's offerings. And in a word, they're all fabulous.
The space has been totally renovated and looks fresh and modern, yet welcoming and homey at the same time. The front of the house features a bar and high top tables, ideal when you just want to pop in for a drink and some spuntini. There's a huge selection of Italian and local craft beers and a wide variety of Italian wines to accompany the food.
Upstairs is a large dining room, with beautifully gripping photographs of Southern Italian subjects lining the walls, taken by Le Virtù employee Kateri Likoudis. 
Earlier this week, I was privileged to eat at Brigantessa with Domenica Marchetti and Helen Free, good friends who came up from the D.C. area, and were as eager as I to try the new restaurant's offerings. 
Here's a sampling of some of the dishes we ate, but the menu is far more expansive and so were the plates on our table. Unfortunately, some of my photos were just too blurry to include here.
These tangy "long hots" stuffed with house-made sausage and sprinkled with cheese were a delicious and different take on the ubiquitous peppers and sausage.

 Braised artichoke hearts served with bread crumbs and crispy fried capers never tasted so good.
 Don't miss the sarde "in saor" with fennel and onions - sardines in a sweet and sour treatment.
 Of course we had to sample the pizza and the one we ordered was just what you'd expect of the best Neapolitan pizza - a soft, pliable crust charred a bit on the outside and chewy around the edges. Add house-made fior di latte mozzarella, fragrant prosciutto and bits of arugula and you've got a concoction that you can't stop eating. 
 The pastas we sampled were equally tempting, including these cappellaci dei briganti, served with a rich meat ragu and pecorino cheese. 
 Sorry for the poor photo, but this pasta was not just delicious, it was sensational. It's pappardelle made from black chick pea flour and served with a sauce from whey-braised lamb (After making the mozzarella, Joe puts the whey to good use) and sprinkled with fennel pollen. Forget any preconceptions linking Italian food to only red sauce. If ever you could taste Southern Italy in one perfect mouthful, it was this dish, redolent of rosemary and the flavors of Abruzzo.
 The pièce di resistance (or should I say "pezzo di resistenza") was this dreamy dish of ricotta gnudi, showered with a shaving of white truffles. The ethereal pillows just melted in your mouth and made you wish that truffle season was 12 months a year. But the beauty of eating here is what's so great about eating at the best trattorie in Italy - you taste what's in season, at the height of its freshness.
Full as we were, we couldn't leave without sampling some desserts. I would say this was overload, but then again, how could you not be tempted by these sweets prepared by pastry chef Angela Ranalli (Joe's wife). From right to left you're looking at crunchy Moorish-style Cannoli with a fragrant filling made with ricotta, and flavored with rosewater, pistachio, and orange blossom water; tortino al rhum - an Italian rum cake in a terrine; an assortment of Italian cookies and candies, including a crunchy Sardinian almond candy, and candied rose petals; and last but not least, house made gelato covered in white truffles (you heard me right!). 
We left there totally sated but looking forward to our next visit. 
In the meantime, I can make one of Joe's pasta dishes at home to remind me of the wonderful evening spent at Brigantessa. For those of you who live far from Philadelphia and can't get to the restaurant, try this recipe at home. It might be a little tough getting the whey, but don't let that stop you from using milk to marinate the lamb. Black chick pea flour is nearly impossible to find in the U.S., but Bob's Red Mill makes regular chick pea flour that you could substitute.
Buon Appetito.


Black Chick Pea Pappardelle, Whey-Braised Lamb, fennel pollen
Recipe from Joe Cicala at Brigantessa
printable recipe here
Pasta Ingredients:
3/4 cup black of chickpea/garbanzo flour
1 cup of “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
3 extra large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
Directions:
Using the “well” method, place the flours on a work surface, and create a volcano in the center. Add the eggs and oil, and mix with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour.
Once the mixture is somewhat homogenous, kneed for five minutes by hand until the dough becomes firm and smooth. Let rest for one hour covered in the refrigerator. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough from the largest setting to the second to smallest. Cut the dough into 1-inch strips approximately 6-inches long. Cook in salted boiling water for three minutes or until tender. Add the cooked pasta to a pan with the ragu and toss. Serve with pecorino cheese, and dust with fennel pollen.
Ragu Ingredients:
1⁄4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1⁄2 Medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1⁄2 Medium carrot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds of lamb shoulder cubed
1 cup of dry white wine
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/2 gallon of whey or 1 percent milk
Directions:

In a large pot, sweat the vegetables in the olive oil and butter over medium heat until translucent. Add the lamb cubes, and turn the heat up to medium-high in order to slightly brown the meat. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add the herbs. Reduce the wine until nearly dry, and add the whey. Simmer for one hour or until the lamb is tender enough to shred with a wooden spoon. ■


Bookmark and Share