Big Night–why haven’t you re-watched it?

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I’ve been waiting years, and yes, I mean years, for Big Night to come out on Netflix Instant Queue. This 1996 drama, set in the 1950s, features two Italian brothers, Segundo and Primo  played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub (yes, MONK!), trying to make their restaurant succeed in a coastal New Jersey town. The food porn is unbelievably enticing, from Stanley Tucci (a known gourmand and cookbook-author) mincing garlic and preparing a memorable omelette, to Tony Shalhoub unmolding a magnificent “Timpano” (a baked pasta concoction filled with homemade penne, marinara sauce, eggs, and meatballs.) I now want to make this recipe quite badly, and found it in Food52!

big-night

Since my last viewing, probably at age 8, I now noticed the incredible filmography and cast, which includes Alyson Janney, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rosselini, and Marc Anthony (!!! — he features throughout the movie and has barely two lines.)

Big Night skillfully captures the unbridled mirth that only an incredible dinner party can provide.

*photos courtesy of imdb.com, and Times Union Blog respectively

Mine-strone-strone and some Aretha

DSC_0071Fall and Winter mean soup. This is indisputable. Most of the time, homemade soup is healthy, filling, and last for daaaaays. When I go home to Cambridge in the chilly months, my Dad almost always has something or other bubbling on the stove. With the sweaters coming out and the leaves a-changin’, I had no choice but to stock up on heaps of veggies and make Minestrone. Minestrone literally means “big soup” (Minestra means soup, the suffix “one” means big. There’s your language lesson for the day, folksies.)DSC_0007

After a morning of some serious work, I needed a break, and what could be better than blasting this: and chopping vegetables to my hearts content? I ended up with a huge pot of Italian Nonna tastiness that I’ve been eating day and night with chewy Italian farro.DSC_0018

Winter Minestrone courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis and Food Network
*I increased on practically everything, which is largely encouraged in a recipe like this. I also did Kale and little beans instead of Chard and Cannellini. I skipped the potato. I also used regular beef broth, because, I’m sorry, I like Umami sodium-laden things. Not PC, I know. Whatever strikes your fancy, homies.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped [I used 4 stalks]
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped [I used 4 ounces]
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped [I used mixed Kale, because I’m a hipster]
1 russet potato, peeled, cubed [Skipped this]
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed [Used little white beans, not Cannellini]
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth [Full sodium, and I used a 32 ounce carton]
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic.DSC_0024 Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and potato; saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.DSC_0031 DSC_0037

Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture [Parmesan Rind makes it out of control delicious..]. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans and parsley. DSC_0055DSC_0045 Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind [or don’t, and sneakily chew the cheese of the side] and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off of the stem.)DSC_0057

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

I’ve expressed my love for Farro before, and I wanted the soup to be EVEN heartier. So, I made some up and sprinkled it on the soup after!:
Rinsing the Farro (necessary step)
DSC_005615 Minutes Later: Chewy, earthy, and, I daresay, healthy!DSC_0062What the doctor ordered:

DSC_0070Go make some soup and listen to Aretha.

A visit to Piedmont, by way of Eataly

DSC_0038_2Pranzo  
Last Friday Alex (one of my dearest culinary companions) and I enjoyed a delightful midday repast at Pranzo, one of the seven restaurants at Eataly. Started in Turin in 2007, Eataly now has multiple locations worldwide, each celebrating Italian cuisine with seasonal ingredients and an eye to perfection. Famed restaurateurs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe Bastianich have taken the New York location under their wing, with a massive and flawlessly curated shrine to la cucina Italiana.

DSC_0028Some celebratory (and not too sweet) Riesling.

Housed in “La Scuola” (Eataly’s in-house cooking school) Pranzo serves lunch Monday through Friday, and specializes in a different Italian region each month. We sampled delicacies from the Piemonte region including:

DSC_0033Torta di Riso — Risotto cake topped with marinated cherry tomatoes in red wine vinaigrette. While the outside of the cake was crisp, the perfectly cooked risotto inside was utterly creamy, tempered by the acidity of the cherry tomatoes and red wine vinaigrette.

DSC_0037from farthest to nearest: Toma Piedmonte (unpasteurized cows milk), Carboncino (sheep, cow and goats milk cheese with an ash coated rind), Robiola Tre Latte (sheep, cow and goats milk, pungent and that ideal middle ground between soft and hard)

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Agnolotti del Plin — Succulent pockets of veal, pork, mortadella and grana padano cheese inside tender pasta. The pea purée kept the dish lighter, and crispy Prosciutto added some crunch on top. Alex and I couldn’t help wondering why our pasta never tastes this way…

DSC_0044Baccalá — Pan-fried cured cod topped with fresh chickpeas (the little green things!), zucchini and Piquillo pepper salsa. Although I’m not a huge fan of peppers, this light and fresh salad below the cod was a great foil to the fish. Also, the warm colors of the early summer vegetables couldn’t have been more appealing, especially the zucchini flower on top!DSC_0049_2Torta di Nocciole e Zabajone — The crumbly nutty cake was complemented really well by the boozy and creamy pool of Zabaglione and rich gelato. Not bad for noontime…

Eating in La Scuola provided an added interactive aspect, as while we leisurely consumed our lunch, we were able to see our food prepared both in the open kitchen and on two screens near our table.DSC_0047Afterwards we had an in-depth tour of the entire building, from the bountiful vegetable area to the beauty section (the majority of the products have some sort of food component in them) and the expansive rooftop restaurant, Birreria. I appreciated the incredible quality of all of the products, and that all of the items used in the various restaurants are available for purchase as well.

DSC_0051Most of the produce is locally sourced

DSC_0052Pastry Items

DSC_0053Beauty productsDSC_0056 DSC_0058 DSC_0060The fish mongers wares

DSC_0061Quite the olive oil selection. There’s even an olive oil sommelier!

DSC_0063One of the restaurants

DSC_0065Pasta fresca!

A superior Friday luncheon could not have been had.