Ancient landmarks, breathtaking artworks, artisan foodstuffs perfected over generations, and the intricate fashions crafted by Prada, Dior and Givenchy.
Those are some of the things I most love about Europe.
Now, comes the newest addition to my list: canned tomatoes.
I never thought I’d get that excited over such a basic pantry staple until the Italian Association of Canned Vegetable Industries and European Union founded the marketing program, The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe, to spread the word far and wide about its canned tomatoes. As part of the program, they began sending out free samples to food writers like myself to give them a try.
I received two cans, 400g each, of Davio Gragnano whole, peeled long, oblong and cherry tomatoes, vacuum-sealed with their juices. When you open the cans, what’s most striking is that the plump tomatoes are afloat in a fairly thick puree of a sauce, not the weak, watery liquid usually found inside most supermarket canned tomatoes. I dipped a spoon in to taste a very vivid tomato flavor. While you might strain out and discard the liquid in other cans, it would be a waste to that here because it was actually a bonus — getting tomatoes and sauce in one.
Inside my sample box were also packages of Pastificio G. Di Martino Italian dried pasta. So there was no question that I’d be making a bountiful pasta dish out of it all. Of course, not that I ever need an excuse to make pasta.
A simple pasta with a big, bold taste. And it’s vegetarian.
When I was a tot, as both my parents went off to work, my older brother would walk me a couple blocks away to the babysitter’s every weekday morning before he trotted off to school.
I didn’t always go gladly.
But what soothed me every time was lunch.
It was the same thing every single day, by my own choice — a bowl of Chinese wheat noodles, boiled until toothsome, then dumped into a bowl before being stirred up with a couple glugs of oyster sauce right out of the bottle.
Even then, a mountain of umami-packed noodles had the power to make everything seem right in the world.
One forkful of “Miso Brown Butter and Crispy Sage Pasta” was all it took to send me back to those childhood days.
As I set this brimming bowl of pasta in front of my husband, he twirled in his fork, then took a bite.
“This is so weird,” he exclaimed with growing glee. “But it’s really good!”
That might just be your reaction, as well, to this eyebrow-raising spaghetti tossed with peas, lime, goat cheese — and are you ready for it — duck fat.
Yes, “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese, and Duck Fat” is from the cookbook, “Rich Table” (Chronicle Books, 2018), of which I received a review copy. It’s by husband-and-wife chef-owners Evan and Sarah Rich with assist from Eater Cities Director Carolyn Alburger.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at San Francisco’s Rich Table — where scoring a table is never an easy feat — you know that this type of dish is part and parcel for this Michelin-starred restaurant that has a knack for creating winning dishes with rather unexpected, and often mind-boggling combinations of ingredients.
As the title implies, Battersby is all about dishes that can be prepared in any kitchen. That’s because the restaurant’s own kitchen is nothing to brag about. It’s no bigger than a studio apartment’s kitchenette, the chefs write. It is outfitted with only one oven, a six-burner stove and a slim-to-none prep counter. Yet somehow, three cooks manage to make magic every night, turning out as many as 70 meals in just a few hours.
In other words, if they can make the food in this book under those constraints, there’s no reason you can’t do so, too, in your home kitchen.