I’m not one to say I’m inspired by something or someone. I don’t often, if ever, do something like someone else did it or even as a tribute. I even find myself making things that mom made but with adjustments they’ve become mine. Oh, how I wish I could cook for her again.
My focus is more about details. I see or hear something and become obsessed with one detail. That’s right…in this case I see a television personality make something. I won’t make that recipe but will become obsessed with one technique or ingredient. Early this week I did it with a Ree Drummond recipe. The obsession was roasted red pepper. My dish was nothing like her’s but will certainly be one I do again. Then, I watched a Food & Wine Facebook Live post with Donatella Arpaia chef and owner of Prova Pizzabar. I make fresh pasta often. However, she offered a technique I had not used. I made it a little over 24 hours but could not get it off my mind until I tried it.
She was working directly on her butcher block counter top. We have butcher block on the island at the loft and on all counter surfaces at the farm house. I love them…Brandt not so much. They stain and age which makes him a bit crazy…but I’m the cook and he deals with it since he gets to eat. I’ve certainly kneaded the dough and cut it directly on the butcher block but I’ve never dumped the flour and salt, made the well, added the eggs and mixed the dough directly on the counter. Our friend Tommy was in town. He quietly watched me as he knew I was in my element. Additionally, Donatella doesn’t add water or oil and does not refrigerate the dough. This made it more dry when cutting AND the texture when eating…magnifico.
I did a variation of cacio e pepe…well, not really because there was no cacio. This is simply the fresh pasta cooked al dente, topped with olive oil, cracked pepper and torn Italian parsley…no cheese or butter. I admit, less is more is not my strong suit. But, I restrained myself.
Now for the slice, grill, serve. Knowing I was making pasta I remembered a favorite dish we had in Italy…frutti di mare (fruit of the sea). The recipe is seafood, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs…done!
This is squid, octopus, shrimp, scallops and halibut skewered, drizzled with olive oil, and lemon juice and sprinkled with garlic powder and cracked pepper. These went to the 400 degree grill for three minutes. They took a turn for three more minutes and done. I removed them from the skewers to the serving bowl at the grill. The collective heat finishes the cooking process to the perfect texture.
The grilled seafood is topped with…
- 1/3 cup castelvetranos olives
- 1/3 cup gaeta olives
- 1 cup artichoke hearts, quartered
- 1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- the juice of four lemons
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- finishing salt
- cracked pepper
The first four ingredients were from the deli bar at Whole Foods. I literally added all the listed ingredients to the serving bowl gave several tosses and took it to the table. At the table we took a serving of pasta and topped it with a serving of seafood making sure to bring the now seafood infused citrus oil on to the pasta. Again, no cheese. The flavors were simple, fresh and delicious.
The second slice, grill and serve dish was a salad.
This is fresh romaine and figs. There were three of us. I scored the core of the lettuce with a “peace sign” then tore it in three equal pieces. If you cut the core away it will never stay together on the grill. The lettuce and figs were drizzled with olive oil and taken to the grill.
This is charred romaine and grilled figs with parmigiano reggiano shavings, salt and pepper. After plating we did a splash of white balsamic vinegar…super simple and molto delizioso.
The final slice, grill and serve was a misto verdure.
I love grilled vegetables. However, as you see, the grilled part is very important to me. I do not like grilled vegetables that have perfect grill marks to the point of looking like they’re drawn on with a Sharpie. I like vegetables and I like the taste of char. This is red and yellow peppers, onions, zucchini, yellow squash and eggplants showered with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled. The grill was at 400 degrees and the vegetables did a couple of turns over the course of 10 minutes.
It was a simple dinner with simple flavors and a good time was had by all.