The Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge is in full swing and the end of our first month is looming. I had never heard of this book, but it was mentioned during an Italian wine twitter chat; I had to get it. Heat by Bill Buford.*
On the Page...
This coming-of-age-in-the-kitchen is a hodgepodge of high-end restaurant gossip (Will Elisa and Gina have a kitchen cat-fight?), kitchen secrets (Though the short ribs at Babbo are billed as Brasato al Barolo, they are not actually braised in Barolo, but in a cheaper varietal Merlot.), and devoted love letter to the quickly disappearing tradition of homemade food.
There's something for everyone. Like melodrama? You'll enjoy the cast of characters in the Babbo kitchen, especially the antics of Marco Pierre White. Like reinvention stories? Us 40 somethings can certainly understand the appeal of reflecting on life and career, not to mention the romance of actually changing course for a new career. Can you say 'mid life crisis?'
The subtitle of the book - An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany - previews the chapters. Buford begins as a kitchen slave in Mario Batali's restaurant, mercilessly chopping carrots for hours and re-chopping when his are found to be the wrong dimension. Then he graduates to line cook. More drama.
But it's the chapters Pasta-Maker and Apprentice that tease out his complete devotion to learning about food. Buford goes to Porretta to learn how to make pasta in Betta's kitchen. I myself learned to cook in Italy, after I graduated from college, so that food sensibility is burned into my brain: slow and handmade. The Slow Food Movement did begin in Italy after all. I loved reading about his time in Italy. It made me homesick for Rome. Mi manchi tantissimo, Bella Roma!
It just so happens that I am taking an artisan pasta class this month. And this week we made tortellini and ravioli casalinga. Click for that recipe post. I decided to use my tortellini from class for a Betta-esque dish. I say a Betta-esque dish versus a Batali-esque dish because, as Betta tells Buford, "Mario did not learn to make tortellini when he was here."
Oh, about casalinga, Buford explains: "Italians have a word, casalinga, homemade, although its primary sense is 'made by hand.' My theory is just a variant of casalina (Small food: by hand and therefore precious, hard to find. Big food: from a factory and therefore cheap, abundant.) Just about every preparation I learned in Italy was handmade and involved my learning how to use my own hands differently." pg. 300
- 1 C diced onions
- 1 C diced carrots
- 1 C diced celery
- olive oil
- 2 C chopped chard, rinsed well
- 8 C chicken stock
- handful of tortellini per person (click for my tortellini casalinga)
- freshly ground salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 C fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley, thyme, and oregano)
- grated parmesan cheese for grating and serving
In a large souppot, cook he onions, carrots, and celery in a splash of olive oil until softened. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the chard and look till just wilted. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in tortellini. Cook until the tortellini float to the top. Remove from heat. Stir in the herbs. Ladle into individual serving bowls and serve hot with parmesan on the side.
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Here's what everyone else is reading this month: January 2016 Foodie Reads Challenge.