Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013: Year of Italian Culture

2013 marks the Year of Italian Culture. There are events throughout the US, including many in Washington, D.C.

I'm particularly excited about the April exhibit at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.:
Nineteen sculptures from the artist's first period and ten drawings illustrating De Chirico's mythology
Click through to see the schedule of events throughout the year. You can also search by city, artist or more. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Italian Calendar

Every morning my husband I read the day’s phrase or cultural tidbit on our Living Language’s Italian2013 Day-to-Day Calendar. The calendar is clear and offers pronunciation help, too.

It isn’t easy to teach your partner Italian, or well, anything. The dynamic changes and not in a good way. With the calendar, we can discuss vocabulary and grammar without hierarchical, didactic lessons. Plus, it’s fun. (Well, at least on the days when we’ve had enough coffee before we flip the calendar page.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Buono!: Pasta Alle Vongole / Pasta with Clams

Pasta over the Christmas Eve menu
Thanks to Melabee M. Miller for the photo!

Here's a Buono! post to dispel any fears that preparing pasta with clams (in a white sauce) is difficult to make:

Based on a southern Italian tradition, many Italian-Americans will eat seven different fish on Christmas Eve. Vaguely following in the tradition of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve, I prepared Linguine with Clams as our Christmas Eve entrée.

The recipe I followed is fairly simple, although the prep work required of the clams – especially when serving six people – can take some time.

My husband picked up 50 small clams (probably Little Necks) from the Washington Fish Market. Remarkably, out of all those clams, only one refused to open. Clearly, that's a fish market to return to!

We chose fresh pasta from Vace in Cleveland Park (I started at the Italian store, but they didn’t have any linguine or fettuccini, only smaller, filled pastas.) Everything else we could find at the supermarket.

I slowly cooked small batches of clams in olive oil and garlic in an effort to save the clam juice (instead of adding bottled clam juice.) Before too many clams had opened, I added just a little water to the pot. Then, I placed in the clams in a separate bowl as they opened. To make things easier for our guests, I took the clam meat out of the shells (usually I like to leave it in), saving the juice from the bowl with the open clams, too. In the end, I mixed the two liquids (the cooking liquid and the open clam liquid) and strained it through cheese cloth. And, ta da!, fresh clam juice.

If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you know that I offered my guests (and used myself), freshly grated cheese on the pasta. If you’ve been to Italy, you know that Italians are firmly against mixing cheese and fish. That is to say, if you ask for grated cheese over your fish dish, you’ll probably be denied it. This article outlines some possible reasons why the cheese/fish mixture is forbidden. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Trattoria Gargani's Recipes for Osso Buco & Saffron Risotto for Christmas

The winter holidays are prime eating cooking and eating season. For the Christmas entrée, my father and I prepared osso buco and saffron risotto. We followed recipes from the cookbook, Once Upon a Tuscan Table. The cookbook is about and from the beautiful Trattoria Gargani (formerly called “Garga”) in Florence, Italy. I have tasty memories of many meals surrounded by the murals on the walls there. 

I chose to make the dish because my husband brought home saffron this fall from a trip to Madrid and we wanted to share it with our family visiting for the holidays. I also wanted to serve something that would be primarily prepared and finished before our guests arrived to avoid last minute kitchen fuss.

Most of the ingredients, from the Arborio rice to the vegetable base for the osso buco were easy to find at any supermarket. I also saw fairly inexpensive saffron at a local Trader Joe's. I ordered the bone-in veal shanks from Whole Foods (there’s a general dearth of butchers in our neighborhood and the District in general, as Kojo Nnamdi discusses in a fall episode.)

I’m afraid that I failed to take any food pictures over the holidays. Too busy cooking and eating, as, perhaps, it should be. What were some of your favorite holiday dishes this year?