Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Menu 9: Roman Holiday

Last summer, 2008, we spent a week in Rome with our son and daughter-in-law, Franz and Michelle. We stayed in a wonderful apartment which gently shimmied every time the subway went underneath the building. It didn't bother us much because we were mostly out eating. Franz and Michelle who know the San Francisco food scene had talked to their savvy friends about eating in Rome and came equipped with a thirty page document of recommendations. Oh my, how to choose? As the week drew to a close, they started double dining--two lunches and two dinners a day. Katherine and I cheered them on but declined to join them. One dinner and one lunch was more than enough for us. A great time and fabulous food.

Penne with a Slow-Cooked Sausage Sauce
As summer draws to a close and there is just the first hint of autumn in the air, I get hungry for pasta, especially the ones calling for a lot of fresh tomatoes. With a really simple salad, it is the perfect dinner.

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 Italian spiced, fresh pork sausages, meat removed from skins and crumbled
Note: I use Caggiano Sweet Italian sausage from Sonoma Market.
2 small red onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 or 2 small dried hot chile pepper, seeds removed if you desire
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine (preferably Chianti or Sangiovese)
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or grate your own)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup heavy cream
1 heaping cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for the table
11 ounces penne rigate

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the sausage meat, stirring and breaking up the pieces. When the meat is cooked, add the onions, garlic, chiles, and bay leaves. Cook gently for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
2. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and cook until the wine evaporates.
3. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer gently until the sauce is thick, an hour or more depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes.
4. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the cream and keep warm over a very low heat.
5. Cook the penne until al dente. Drain well. Place it in a warm bowl and add the sauce and cheese. Stir together and serve with additional cheese.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ Rogers Gray Italian Country Cook Book

Everyday Green Salad

Greens including arugula, watercress, romaine, butter, red or green leaf or a mix
I usually count on a good-sized handful per person
Treats might include pinenuts, raisins, avocado, grapefruit, apples, pears, artichoke hearts, green onions, herbs
I don’t add more than two or three to keep it simple
Simple Everyday Salad Dressing

1. Wash the lettuce if necessary. Spin dry in a salad spinner if you have one or dry with paper towels.
2. Place in a salad bowl. If you are doing this ahead of time, put a damp paper towel over the top of the lettuce and place the bowl in the refrigerator.
3. Just before serving, add any of the treats and the salad dressing. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

Makes as much as you desire
My own devising, but not original

Everyday Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar such as sherry, balsamic, red or white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 small shallot or 1 garlic clove, finely minced, optional

1. Mix everything together in a bowl and whisk with a fork until it combines. Taste to make sure the balance is to your liking.
2. Pour over the salad just before serving. If you have any dressing leftover, store in clean glass mustard jar in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

Makes about ½ cup
My own devising, but not original


Tim said...

The pic of Franz and Michelle is the greatest. Thanks for the stories.

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