Italian Cooking & Language Blog

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

What else could you ask for?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Buono!: Penne alla Vodka

“Tonight’s dish will be healthy,” I declare, almost every morning these days.
My husband responds, “Let me guess, you’re adding vegetables to our regular meal?”

That’s right. I still believe – deeply – in the purity of certain dishes. (I’m not one who takes, say, a bowl of nuts and calls it “nutty risotto.” “Risotto” means something and that something isn’t a bowl of nuts.) I do, however, want to be healthier this year. So, if we add something here or there, we've mostly retained the integrity of the original dish (I know, it is a stretch at times.)

To help make healthier meals happen, I’ve declared 2012 THE YEAR OF HEALTH. (When you say this, you have to bang your hands down on the nearest table for emphasis.) I declared it as a writer and now I’m declaring it as a home chef, food shopper and eater.

So, to start, I decided to make penne alla vodka. Ok, you’re thinking that the heavy cream and the vodka make this an obviously unhealthy choice. Here’s the deal: I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to be a. crazy, b. angry or c. deprived by not eating dishes like penne alla vodka. So, I’m preparing penne alla vodka and I’m adding broccoli. There, it is healthier. I’m also going to eat less of it and use a fiber rich pasta: Barrilla’s Piccolini Mini Penne Rich In Fiber. The best part of this pasta is that it tastes a lot like regular pasta and looks the same since it is white. 

I admit that I accidentally bought fat free heavy cream, which is a strange invention. It was too thin to fill out the sauce the way it should have. Oh, well. 

More or less, I followed this recipe from Epicurious. Instead of scooping out the garlic, I left it in (why take it out?) The main difference though, is that I added the hot pepper to the vodka and let it sit over night (well, a few nights, since I forgot about it the first night.) This step helps to make the dish even spicier. I learned this trick from my great Uncle Bruno.

How do you prepare penna alla vodka?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Re-Publishing Recipes: SOPA? Fair Use? Copyright Infringement?

You can always ask your librarian for help when you have a question about copyright issues 
(like the use of this picture I took of a library's poster using Batman's image?)

Readers sometimes lament that they can't find certain recipes on this blog. When I blog about someone else's recipe, I do not reprint the recipe. Instead, I refer to the original cookbook and encourage readers to purchase it. I know it would be easier for everyone if I retyped the recipe without permission, but this would be unfair to the original author.

Writers, at the very least, should be fair to other writers. And fairness is a two-way street that includes respecting copyright laws and fair use laws. 

In light of the recent SOPA discussions, writers need to be particularly aware of their rights. With this recipe example in mind, if I’m not creating something new (doing more than simply tweaking a recipe), then I don’t have the right to re-publish someone else’s work. Under current fair use laws, I have the right to comment upon and republish small sections of the recipe.

Writers can analyze or respond to something in the public sphere and/or create something new. SOPA works against what fair use currently allows, rather than supporting writers and other creators by protecting them.

In general, recipes (creations drafted, tested, retested and then clearly written out, edited, revised and eventually published) are only yours to reprint fully if you are the author or if you have permission from the author and/or publishing company. Like with photographs, poems or other creations, it isn't enough to simply give the creator's name and/or include the copyright symbol (if you didn't actually ask permission to use the work, it is even worse to pretend that you did.)

Especially as writers and creative people, we need to help protect each other's rights to our original work and the right to earn a living from that work. For more on Fair Use in creative writing, read the Poetry Foundation and American University’s “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry”. While focusing on poetry, it applies quite well to all genres of creative writing. You can also go directly to the U.S. copyright office’s explanation of Fair Use.

If you are using materials for educational purposes, check with your school’s policies or read through New York University’s clear Handbook for use of Copyrighted Materials.

I'm currently teaching a food writing workshop online at Fairleigh Dickinson University and this is one of the issues that we discuss in class. We read Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob. If you are interested in doing food writing and tackling these issues yourself, I recommend that you refer to her book or blog for more.

What other resources would you recommend? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review: Notes on Cooking

I read Notes on Cooking from start to finish while sitting in a bookstore. Then, of course, I bought it. Later, I bought another copy as a gift for my Dad. That’s how great it is.

This clear, little book explains everything from understanding a recipe to straining stock to presenting your dish. The authors’ approach makes it seem possible to cook almost anything and enjoy it while you do. Here’s a great example from the chapter on temperature:

86. Never jump food more than one temperature state at a time.

There are four functional temperature states: 1) frozen, 2) cold, 3) room temperature, 4)warm or hot.

When you move food from one state to another (in either direction), don’t skip over a temperature state by, for instance, taking a roast directly from the refrigerator to the oven, or from the oven to the refrigerator. Only one state can change at a time.

Perfectly reasonable, understandable and helpful, right? The entire book is like that. I learned so much reading it.

When I teach writing, I remind the students how important it is to read. Read widely and read regularly. When you read something that you know in your heart you wish you wrote, you’ve come upon something great that you can learn from. I wish I knew enough to sit down and write Notes on Cooking. Luckily, Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich did. And you can read it, too. 

For more, see the Notes on Cooking website