I'm in Milan this week for EuroCucina, the big European kitchen design trade show. After being surrounded by sleek, beautiful, new things all day, it was refreshing to step into this old trattoria in Brera, and watch this man slice cured meat on a machine that was no less gorgeous than the objects I had seen all day at the show — it was used and worn under that fiery red gloss, and this only added to its dangerous charm.
If you're looking for a non-alcoholic pre-dinner beverage, stop by an Italian import market (or go online). Many Italian aperitivo or aperitif drinks are "analcolici"; free of booze, these soft drinks are made from ingredients like bitter citrus and herbs that stimulate the appetite.
These days it happens more often than not: you find yourself hosting a dinner party where at least one guest has a dietary restriction. I've gotten used to this. I once fed a group of ten actors for a week: one vegan, two vegetarians, one allergic to nuts, one lactose intolerant and one with a wheat allergy, so I know I can usually roll with pretty much any cooking challenge.
But sometimes I goof, and when the goof is simply forgetting about an allergy and realizing I can make up something else on the spot, I get excited. This is how unexpected ideas come to be and how some of my best recipes are born.
Recently, I found myself tending a table for four, including a newly gluten-free friend. At the end of the meal, I set out four perfect little lemony desserts containing flour. Oops.
One of my favorite things about making a batch of risotto is anticipating the crispy risotto cakes I'll make with the leftovers. They are, if possible, even better than the risotto itself. Especially if one happens to sneak a slice of cheese in the middle.
My parents visited Sicily last fall (lucky dogs!) and brought back a wonderful recipe to accompany any main dish at dinner. I've riffed on the combination of blood oranges, mint, and red onion and added my own spin. The results? Shockingly good in color and in flavor!
Risotto is a dish that's become associated with fancy high end restaurants, but really, it's the epitome of Italian home cooking and comfort food. Knowing how to make a good risotto is something we think every cook should have in their back pocket, if only because it's one of those dishes that's so satisfying and easy to prepare, and it never fails to impress.
Polenta is one of our weeknight dinner mainstays. With Marcella Hazen's no-stir polenta technique, it's easy to make a pot while the rest of dinner prep goes on. And once made, there are so many ways we can use that polenta all week long.
There is no mistaking prosciutto. Piled onto a sandwich, wrapped around leaves of arugula, or folded into rosettes on a cheese plate, prosciutto's silky texture and sweet-salty flavor are instantly recognizable. And instantly seductive.
The perfect risotto is elusive. What is the best way to achieve tender, but not mushy rice surrounded by a creamy sauce? Whitney Chen knows; she was in charge of the risotto at Thomas Keller's Per Se, and she shares some of her best tips in an article for Gilt Taste. One stand-out tip is the smear test, an foolproof way to turn out perfectly-cooked risotto.