Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tortino di Carciofi

Tortino di Carciofi

Recipe by William Colsher, inspired by Trattoria Sostanza
Not as pretty, but just as tasty...

Tortino di Carciofi is a near legendary dish from the tiny Trattoria Sostanza in Florence. There's lots of talk about it, but very few people seems to have attempted the dish at home.

Last week Elizabeth Minchilli wrote a blog post about Sostanza and this dish, including a series of pictures and a short video. That cleared up a couple of things: 1) The artichokes are lightly battered and fried before they go into the tortino and 2) the dish is cooked in a small, straight sided saute pan.

In this rendition, I've used a simple tempura batter, but from the photos in Ms. Minchilli's post it looks like they may have been just floured.

The whole process is a little time consuming, but the only real skill is swirling the pan and turning the tortino as the eggs set up, forming the little Sostanza "nest"

Yield: 2 servings

  • 2 or 3 Artichokes
  • 6 Large Eggs at room temperature
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 Cup AP Flour
  • 1 Tbs Corn Starch
  • 1.5 Cups Ice water
  • 2 cups Vegetable Oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Prepare a bowl of acidulated water using one of the lemons.
  2. Trim the artichokes and cut them into thin slices. Drop the slices into the acidulated water.
  3. Heat the vegetable in a small sauce pan to 350 - 375 degrees
  4. While the oil is heating combine the flour, cornstarch, and ice water in a small bowl. Mix gently to form a thin batter. Don't bother to work out the lumps - you want to avoid strengthening the gluten. Some people use seltzer water, which may produce a lacier batter.
  5. Drain the artichoke pieces and drop them into the batter.
  6. When the oil is heated, shake most of the batter off a few artichoke pieces and carefully drop them into the oil.

  7. Gently stir the artichoke pieces to keep them separate and fry until they begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Remove the fried artichoke pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt.
  9. Continue until all the artichokes are fried.
  10. Break three eggs into a small bowel, add a little grated parmigiano and a pinch of salt. Beat the eggs well, until the color is uniform.
  11. Heat a 2 quart (or smaller, but 2 quart pans are easy to find), straight sided saute pan over medium high heat. You want to get the sides almost as hot as the bottom.
  12. Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pan then tip and turn the pan to coat the sides.

  13. Place half the artichoke pieces in the middle of the pan. As soon as they start sizzling slowly add the egg mixture in a thin stream directly onto the artichoke pieces. As it begins to set up around the artichoke pieces tilt the pan to one side and move it in a circular motion. (Just like the the Julia Child omelet swirl.) Once all the eggs are in, you can use a fork to turn the tortino against the side of the pan.
  14. Continue turning the tortino in the tilted pan, encouraging the remaining raw egg mixture to flow out and form the famous Sostanza "nest".
  15. When nearly all the egg mixture is cooked, scoop the tortino into a heated shallow bowl and set aside.
  16. Repeat for the second tortino.
  17. Drizzle on a extra virgin olive oil and serve with a slice of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gardening 2013 - Seed Starting Part 1

It's just about seed starting time again! But before I start getting out the trays and warming mats it would be nice to know what the state of last year's seeds is. Fortunately, it's easy to find out which are still good and which need to be replaced. All you need is a paper towel, a gallon size baggie a sheet of paper and a pen.

Start by placing your seeds in rows of 10 on the paper towel. You want to go a bit less than half way across the towel so you can fold it over later. I've marked the top with a "T" in case it gets turned around. As you place each row, note what it is on the sheet of paper.

When you've placed all your seeds, carefully fold the other half of the towel over the seeds and sprinkle it with water. You want it completely wet, but not dripping.

Finally, slip the wet towel and seeds into a large plastic bag and fold the open end under to close it. Put is someplace dark and a little warmer the room temperature.  (I've been using the top of our refrigerator for decades.) Put the sheet of paper with the seed names on top of the plastic bag and forget about it for a week.

One week later, pull out the paper towel and see what you've got. As you can see, it can get a little messy. If you're lucky you'll be able to separate the paper towels. That wasn't the case for me this year so I just held it up to the light so I could count the seeds that had germinated. This year I ended up with:

Cima di Rapa7

So I can toss my remaining eggplant and spinach seeds. The rest I'll just double up when I start them in trays in another week or so. Some seeds don't keep well, so I've got new supplies of peas and zucchini and I'll be trying a new variety of pepper, "Lombardo", a long thin Italian frying pepper. Of course we'll be growing San Marzano tomatoes again and this fall we should have our first crop of saffron from the bulbs we planted last year. I'm also going to try to grow some winter squash since I grown rather fond of the Winter Squash Soup from The Complete Bocuse.

Now I have to go clean up the seed starting area, wash the trays, and see what I've lost and what I still have.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Easy Bean Soup

Bean Soup

Recipe by Bill Colsher

We had a delicious bean soup at the Enoteca Provincia Romana in Rome last month and decided to try to reproduce it here. You'll find dried Borlotti beans in 1 lb. bags labelled "Roman Beans" or sometimes "Cranberry Beans". You can substitute canned beans and the cooking time will be much shorter.

Yield: 4 Servings
  • 8 oz. Borlotti or other dry beans
  • 1 Bunch Broccoli Raab, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Large Onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz. Pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves Garlic chopped
  • 5 Cups Water
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 Thick slices good bread
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare the beans: Rinse and pick over the beans. If you are capable of planning in advance, soak the beans overnight in 5 cups of water, covered. Or, if you're like me, simply bring them to a boil in 5 cups water for two minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let them stand for an hour.
  2. If using pancetta, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil, then add the pancetta. Cook until it has rendered most of it's fat and begins to color. If you omit the pancetta heat 4 Tbs. olive oil.
  3. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until it softens.
  4. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it becomes aromatic.
  5. Add the broccoli raab and cook, stirring until it wilts.
  6. Add the beans and their water, plus another 2 cups water, stir to combine and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered for about an hour, until the beans are soft. If the soup becomes too thick, add more boiling water.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Toast the slices of bread and cut them into bite size chunks.
  10. Place the toasted bread into serving bowls and ladle the soup over them.
  11. Top with a little grated parmigiano and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Termini Part 4 - Porta Maggiore

Porta Maggiore
Termini Part 1
Termini Part 2
Termini Part 3

Porta Maggiore (also know as Porta Prenestina) is one of the best places in Rome to get an idea of what the aqueducts were all about for the simple reason that this is one of the highest points in Rome, about 45 meters above sea level. Among the aqueducts that came through the area are the Anio Vetus built in 275 BC, Aqua Marcia (144 BC), Aqua Tepula (125 BC) and the Aqua Julia (33 BC) and of course the Aqua Claudia. Today it's a busy traffic circle where a number of tram and bus lines meet.

The Two Channels
As you can see in the pictures, the "porta" is actually a huge double arch supporting a pair of aqueducts. It was started by Caligula in 38 and finished by Claudius in 52. It supports channels for two aqueducts, the Anio Novus and the Aqua Claudia. It was eventually incorporated in the Aurelian Wall and and over time was nearly hidden behind various additions including a large watch tower.
Tomb of Eurysaces
Finally in 1838 the later additions were demolished and the charming Tomb of Eurysaces (also known as the Tomb of the Baker) was discovered beneath the 5th century watch tower. This monument commemorates one Marcus Virgilius Eurysaces a wealthy baker and his wife Atistia. The odd looking cylinders represent vessels in which large masses of dough were kneaded. If you look closely you can see a square socket at the bottom of the horizontal cylinders. Staining around the sockets indicates they once held metal replicas of the kneading paddles. The vertical cylinders are not solid but are constructed from three stacked vessels.

The inscription along the tops of the vertical cylinders reads:


This is the monument of Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces baker, government contractor, obviously.

The word "apparet" is often translated as "public servant", reading it an abbreviation of "apparitoris". I prefer a simpler interpretation: "apparet" is a complete verb: 3rd person singular, present, active, indicative meaning "it (the monument) makes apparent".

Other Stuff I Didn't Take Pictures Of This Trip...

There are many other interesting bits of the ancient world in the area of course. On the north side of the railroad tracks lies the Subterranean Basilica, an underground facility that may have been a neo-Pythagorean temple.  Unfortunately it's not open to the public.

There are quite a few underground columbaria dating from the late republic. One of the largest is the Tomb of the Statilii, built for the slaves and freedmen of the family of Titus Statilius Taurus in the Augustan period. In use for well over a century it contains 634 memorial inscriptions of which 428 were of slaves. The first Titus Statilius Taurus (there were 4, plus a 5th named Sissena Statilius Taurus) was himself one of the most important of the Augustan generals, second only to Agrippa. Among many other accomplishments he built the first permanent amphitheater in Rome. Although it's not generally open Centro Ricerche Speleo Archeologiche  has, I believe, provided small group tours in the past.

A few blocks south of Porta Maggiore is the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It's built over an imperial complex dating to the time of Septimius Severus and includes the Amphitheatrum Castrense along with a number of other buildings. The amphitheater was partially destroyed in the 16th century and the extant portion now encloses a garden adjacent to the church.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...