Tag Archives: proscuitto

i8tonite: Vegetable alla Fontina

I revel going into local bookstores which sell both new and used cookbook titles. Normally, they’re independent sellers like the  historic City Lights in San Francisco,  Related imageBart’s Books in Ojai, which claims to be the largest outdoor bookstore in the world,  downtown LA’s The Last Bookstore or New York City’s The Strand. I know there are still many – limping along in some cases and others, alive and well. I’ve purchased some of my favorite cookbooks in them. For example, where else would I locate a copy – probably the last surviving — of Mary Meade’s Magic Recipes: A Cookbook for the Electric Blender written by Ruth Ellen Church? (Mary Meade was Church’s nom de plume.) The first chapter is “What is a Blender?” Another great find was Isaac Hayes’ (yes…the late musician) and his book entitled, “Cooking with Heart & Soul: Making Music in the Kitchen with Family and Friends.” That was $4.50 but on the half-price rack. (It came to $2.25.) His chapters include “Jammin’ to the Barbeque Beat” and “Over the Fire, Into the Fryer: Chicken for Sunday and Any Day.” Hayes accumulated a selection of guest recipes from stars such as Jenna Elfman (remember her?) with her Chocolate Pudding Cake and John Travolta and his scrumptious sounding, Hamburger Royale with Cheese. (Isaac Hayes was a Scientologist after all…I’m only sorry that Tom Cruise didn’t contribute his Spaghetti Carbonara.)

I’ve also unearthed classics from notable chefs such as Monday Night at Narsai’s by Narsai David and Doris Muscatine. (When originally purchased – not by me – it came with a free issue of Food & Wine Magazine. It says so on the jacket cover.) Narsai David was a chef-owner of his namesake restaurant in San Francisco. It opened in 1972 and closed in 1985. For thirteen years, it was one of the Bay Area establishments to eat expertly prepared dishes and drink beautiful wines. His cookbook encompasses international menus and cuisines like Creole, Austrian, French, Argentinian, and Polish and so on.  I have cooked from the book here and there, although the recipes are slightly dated. It features a lot of consommés and stuffed loins (beef, veal and pork).

I went to Half Price Books, Phoenix’s local cheap bookseller located on Camelback near the Arizona Biltmore – the somewhat ritzy area.  It was there I hit my pot of gold — Amanda Hesser’s New York Times Cookbook at $11.95 in pristine condition. I’ve wanted it for long time but just never purchased it. I now how it! It’s from this book which is where I found the recipe for asparagus alla fontina which I adapted to use any vegetable. Amanda Hesser states that she adapted it from former New York Times’ food writer Mimi Sheraton so this is an adaptation of an adaption. Sort of like Cinderella which was written by the Brothers Grimm and then adapted into a movie called “Cinderfella” with Jerry Lewis, which then was turned into “Ever After”, a movie produced and starring Drew Barrymore.

Vegetables (or whatever) alla Fontina

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 zucchini or other summer squash (cut into half-moon shapes). Other options include cooked asparagus, peppers, onions, kale, spinach…you name it.
  • Butter
  • Fontina or gruyere (Or whatever cheese you have).
  • Parmesan, Asiago or other hard cheese.
  • Prosciutto or cold cut ham (optional, if you want…hell you can use any protein including baked tofu, seitan)
  • 3 Eggs
  • Freshly grated nutmeg….a few rubs will do.

Let’s make this puppy:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sautee whatever vegetables you are making in a couple of pats of melted unsalted butter to al dente. Don’t cook it through.
  3. Using a glass pie plate, layer the following: sautéed vegetables, protein – slivers of prosciutto, salami or seitan — and shaved fontina.
  4. Beat the three eggs and pour over the layers.
  5. Shake the pie plate so the egg is distributed evenly. Coat the top with the parmesan.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes until puffy, golden and melty and stuff.

If you have any leftover…take it with you to the park the next day and eat it with a lovely glass of rosé. Sit in the sun or underneath a shady tree. A bite of crusty bread…scrumptious.

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The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: Spring Arugula Pesto with Spaghetti and Crisped Prosciutto (adapted from Hugh Acheson’s “The Broad Fork”)


I wish life were as easy as a recipe. Someone writes out the ingredients, measurements and methodology for creating the dish and I just follow it. I don’t think. My mind shuts off. I chop this, stir that and in the end, I have something delicious like a happy life.

I’ve never been a follower and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way. There is something infinitely courageous about the common worker. The individual who knows that they want security, a home and safe place. None of which I knew about when I ventured out in the world. There is no recipe for living.

That’s what I love about cooking. It makes me follow simple directions. I stop thinking and follow a direct path. I don’t drink like I used to when cooking. I found that I burned things. Besides, drinking and cooking, in my humble opinion, don’t really mix. At the table, when it’s all plated and everyone is seated, I feel that the libations are great for social lubricating; yet when cooking, I need my unbridled consciousness. I need to see the freshness. Taste the seasons. Hear the sizzling. Smell the aroma. Feel the food as it snaps. It is a sensuous experience. For me, cooking is in the moment, not on the periphery.

It’s why I seek out simple dishes to recreate with few but quality ingredients located at my markets. For just an unfettered moment, I can take my favorite lettuce, arugula, and turn it into a lusty, verdant sauce. Its peppery essence is intoxicating when pureed with olive oil, biting garlic and salty Reggiano.  Dressed over room-temperature or leftover chilled pasta, a little more grated cheese and toasted pine nuts. It’s a perfect for meal for an outdoor supper when the heat of the day has been turned down and the fervent emotions ready to be shut off.

I can chew my noodles with abandon, sip rosé and wish that life were as easy as a recipe (especially Acheson’s Arugula Pesto).

Arugula Pesto, adapted from Hugh Acheson’s “The Broad Fork”. (June 2015 Cookbook)

Spaghetti with Arugula, Pesto, Crisped Prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve 4.

Sea salt

¼ cup of pine nuts (or walnuts…I did say adapted)

4 cups arugula (preferably from the farmers market or CSA. It has a lot more pepper in the bite. However if you can only get stuff in plastic…nothing wrong with it. It’s good to eat your vegetables from any source.)

2 garlic cloves

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Couple turns of fresh cracked pepper

3 ice cubes

¾ cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pound spaghetti

2 pieces of prosciutto (or salami. Acheson’s recipes calls for the salami. I didn’t have any and I wasn’t about to go out to market for the umpteenth time, so I used the ham. Shoot me.)

  1. In a large stockpot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water enough so you can taste it.
  2. Toast nuts in a skillet until lightly browned. Take two-thirds (eyeball it) for the pesto, the rest for garnishing. Place on the side for cooling.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, the two-thirds pine nuts, garlic, grated cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the ice cubes. Puree on high for 30 seconds. Using the chute, with the motor running and the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Scrape everything down the sides until all the leaves are in the pesto, creating a smooth sauce. Stir in the lemon zest and put aside.
  4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water, stir immediately and then cook to al dente. (If you made your own pasta…Good for you. Use that.) Drain into a colander and chill down with cold water. Turn into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir. Add the pesto until coating all the pasta evenly.
  5. While the pasta cooks, add a little olive oil to a pan and crisp up the prosciutto, like bacon. Drain on a paper towel.
  6. Shave some of the cheese, chopped arugula, prosciutto and pine nuts to the top and serve-up family-style. (Or divide into 4 bowls.) (Lately, I’m really into family-style serving and letting people help themselves.)

Arugla Pesto