Cooking Rice with an Italian Accent! (2 page)

It is also important to keep in mind that there are two independent countries within Italy's borders: The republic of San Marino and the Vatican City state.

Because of its geography and history, Italy offers the best of many different ethnic groups, diverse languages, and many different styles of cooking. This last is the result of foreign invasions and settlements. There is no such thing as an Italian cuisine per se, rather there are many regional cuisines, making Italian cooking an endless source of variety. When Italy was finally unified into a modern nation in 1870, the great Italian statesman Giuseppe Mazzini proclaimed:
“Abbiamo fatto L' Italia, adesso dobbiamo fare Italiani”
(We have created Italy, now we must create Italians). It hasn't happened yet, but in the meanwhile, Italy has given and continues to give the world one of its most appreciated gifts: Food for humans that is fit for the gods. Because of its great art, architecture, music, philosophical thought, science, foundations of law, systematic theology, and its glorious cuisines, little Italy is a giant among the family of nations.

Now let's get down to some serious cooking, okay?

Getting Ready

Most of these recipes, except for the desserts, of course, require either chicken or beef stock, or broth. I like to make my own stocks and keep them on hand in my freezer. There are times when I run out of my homemade stocks, and I will use canned chicken or beef broths. Swanson is the brand I prefer. I also stock my pantry with Goya chicken and beef bouillon cubes. They are very convenient and make acceptable stocks.

Many of these recipes use Arborio rice imported from Italy. It is a must where indicated. It may be mail-ordered from:

Dean and Deluca's

121 Prince Street

New York, N.Y. 10012

Where long-grain rice is indicated, I prefer Uncle Ben's Converted Rice. Of course, you may choose your own brand. But please, no instant or quick cooking or boil-in-the-bag stuff! Don't even think about it, okay?

Most of these recipes require grated Parmesan cheese which is mild and delicate in taste. Buy it by the piece and grate it freshly yourself. Stay away from grated Parmesan cheese that comes in a cardboard or glass container. It won't do your cooking justice. A few recipes require Pecorino Romano cheese, which is more robust in flavor. My advice for buying and using this cheese is the same as for Parmesan.

Julienne
is a cooking term that means to cut the ingredient with a sharp knife so that the slices will resemble matchsticks.

Dice
means to cut the ingredient into cubes.

Mince
means to chop the ingredient into fine pieces.

Parsley
—use only the flat leaf (Italian) variety. It has more flavor.

Herbs
—use only fresh herbs unless otherwise indicated.

If you have the time, please use the following recipes for your own homemade stocks.

 

Brodo di Manzo

(BEEF BROTH)

5 quarts water

3 pounds boneless beef chunks

3 pounds boneless veal stew chunks

2 pounds beef bones

4 teaspoons salt

2 large onions, unpeeled

2 celery ribs

2 large carrots, unpeeled but scrubbed

Rinse all the ingredients (except salt) under cold running water. Place 5 quarts water and the salt in an 8-quart pot. Bring to boil on high heat, then add all the ingredients and return to full boil. After five minutes, reduce heat to low and simmer broth very slowly for two and a half hours. Skim foam from the surface from time to time. Remove the meat, bones, and vegetables from the broth. Strain the broth through a muslin kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth lining a colander. Refrigerate overnight and skim any solid fat from the top. Store in plastic containers in the refrigerator for one more day. Skim off any remaining fat. Then store in the freezer for up to three months.

What to do with the meat? Shred it and refrigerate it. You can add quantities of it to your soups or you can make an Italian meat salad by adding chopped celery and onion to the meat and dressing it with salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil. The vegetables and bones must be discarded.

 

Brodo di Pollo

(CHICKEN BROTH)

4 quarts water

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds

1 tablespoon salt

2 large onions, unpeeled

2 celery ribs

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley

Wash the chicken under cold running water. Place 4 quarts water and the salt in a 6-quart pot. Bring to boil on high heat. Add chicken and vegetables and bring back to full boil for five minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours, skimming foam from time to time. Remove chicken with slotted spoon. Strain broth through colander lined with muslin kitchen towel. Refrigerate overnight. Skim off all fat from the top. Freeze in plastic containers for three or more months. Use the chicken meat for chicken salad.

Common Ingredients and Terms in Italian Cooking

Al burro
   Dressed with butter

Al dente
   Not overcooked; firm-textured pasta

Al forno
   Cooked in the oven

All 'aceto
   In vinegar

Alla casalinga
   Home style

Alla marinara
   Seaman style

Arrosto
   Roast meat

Asparagi
   Asparagus

Baccala
   Dried salt cod

Basilico
   Sweet basil

Bel Paese
   Semi-soft mild cheese

Biscotto
   Biscuit

Bistecca
   Beefsteak

Braciolo
   Meat for rolling and stuffing

Brodo
   Broth

Caffè latte
   Coffee with milk

Caffè espresso
   Black “espresso” coffee

Cannelloni
   Large round pasta often served stuffed

Capperi
   Capers

Carciofo
   Artichoke

Cassata
   Rich cake

Cavolfiore
   Cauliflower

Cavolo
   Cabbage

Cipolla
   Onion

Coppa
   Cup

Costoletta
   Cutlet

Crudo
   Raw or uncooked

Ditali
   Short tubular pasta

Ditallini
   A small variety of the above

Dolce
   General term for dessert

Fagioli
   Dried beans

Fagiolini
   Fresh beans

Farina bianca
   White wheat flour

Farina integrale
   whole-wheat flour

Fegato
   Liver

Fettucine
   Homemade narrow ribbon pasta

Filetto
   Thin fillet of meat or fish

Finocchio
   Fennel

Formaggio
   Cheese

Frittata
   Omelet

Frittelle
   Pancakes; term also used for fritters

Fritto misto
   Mixture of fried foods

Frutti di mare
   Small shellfish

Funghi
   Mushrooms

Gàmberi
   Shrimp

Gelato
   Frozen—usually ice cream

Imbottiti
   Stuffed

Involtini
   Slice of meat stuffed and rolled

Insalata
   Salad

Lasagne
   Wide flat noodles

Latte
   Milk

Lesso
   Boiled

Limone
   Lemon

Maccheroni
   Macaroni; a generic term for all types of pasta

Maiale
   Pork

Manzo
   Beef

Melanzane
   Eggplant

Minestra
   Soup; also generic term for pasta or rice course

Minestrone
   Thick vegetable soup

Mozzarella
   A soft white unsalted cheese

Olio
   Oil

Oliva
   Olive

Origano
   Herb used for flavoring: Oregano

Pane
   Bread

Pane abbrustolito
   Toasted bread

Panna
   Cream

Parmigiano
   Hard cheese much used in Italian cookery: Parmesan

Pasta
   Dough; generic term for all macaroni products

Pasta asciutta
   Pasta served with butter or a meatless sauce

Pasta in brodo
   Pasta cooked in broth and served as soup

Pasta secca
   Eggless pasta

Pasta all'uovo
   Egg pasta

Pasta verde
   Green (spinach) pasta

Pasticceria
   General term for pastry

Pastini
   Small pasta shapes used in soup

Pecorino
   Strong sheep's milk cheese

Peperóne
   Sweet peppers

Peperoncini
   Small hot peppers

Pesce
   Fish

Pignoli
   Pine nuts

Polenta
   Cornmeal mush

Pollo
   Chicken

Polpette
   Small meatballs

Polpettone
   Large meat loaf

Pomodoro
   Tomato

Prezzémolo
   Parsley

Prosciutto
   Ham

Provolone
   A hard yellow cheese

Ravioli
   Stuffed squares of pasta

Ricotta
   Soft curd cheese, “pot cheese”

Rigatoni
   Large grooved macaroni

Ripieno
   Stuffed or stuffing

Riso
   Rice

Risotto
   Rice dish

Salsa
   Sauce

Salsiccia
   Generic term for sausage

Scaloppine
   Thin small slices of veal or breast of chicken

Scampi
   Large shrimp

Sedano
   Celery

Spaghetti
   Long, thin varieties of pasta

Spinaci
   Spinach

Spumante
   Sparkling wine

Sugo
   Sauce

Tagliatelle
   Homemade ribbon pasta

Tonno
   Tuna fish

Torrone
   A type of nougat candy

Torta
   Generic term for cake

Tortellini
   A stuffed pasta

Trippa
   Tripe

Uovo
   Egg

Uva
   Grapes

Verdure
   Vegetables

Vermicelli
   Very thin spaghetti

Vino
   Wine

Vitello
   Veal

Vongole
   Clams

Ziti
   Tubular-shaped pasta

Zucchini
   Squash

Zuppa
   Soup

Minestre (Soups)

At an ordinary Italian dinner, soup is the usual first course, followed by a main course of meat, fish, or poultry. Dinner is usually served around two o'clock in the afternoon. About 4
P.M
. everyone returns to work. Supper is eaten in the late evening. Often, the only course served is one of the following soups.

 

Minestra di Riso con Lattuga e Piselli

(RICE SOUP WITH LETTUCE AND PEAS)

SERVES 4

This is a delicate soup with intriguing flavor. It takes about one hour to make and it seems to taste better if made the night before, refrigerated, and reheated for supper. It also has great eye appeal.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped coarsely

9 ounces frozen, shelled, peas

1½ beef bouillon cubes, crushed

1½ quarts water

1½ cups rice (any long-grain rice can be used)

Pinch of salt (
1
⁄
8
teaspoon)

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