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The Mass Media

Food for Thought – 2/06/03

For those who are passionate about food and those who want to learn to cook, we’re presenting a column dedicated to great flavors. Here you’ll find recipes and restaurants that will satisfy the palate without sacrificing your bank account or taking the whole day to prepare. The first meal is one of my favorite Saturday night dinners, fairly easy to make and amazing to eat. Insalata Tri-Colore makes up the colors of the Italian flag and is as aesthetically pleasing as it is flavorful. This appetizer is the perfect start to a hearty pasta dinner and warms the taste buds to the intense flavors of the pasta sauce. The rosemary and cream tomato sauce on penne pasta is simple in terms of ingredients, but has a fullness of flavor that satisfies all. As with all pasta and tomato dishes, plenty of grated parmesan cheese should be on the table and a bottle of red wine at about 70°.

About the ingredients:

Sometimes ingredients can be substituted, sometimes vegetables should be chopped in a certain way. For those who are learning how to cook, the “About the Ingredients” section will help you to understand a little more about why a meal is prepared in a particular way. This will be a regular part of the columns that have recipes.

Make sure to tear the lettuce, not cut it. The plum tomatoes should be tender and dark red. If the plum tomatoes at your local supermarket don’t look too hot, you can use vine ripened tomatoes instead. Avocadoes should be tender and dark skinned. You will probably have to buy your avocado several days before you are planning to make this meal, leaving the avocado to ripen at room temperature. Fresh mozzarella is available at the deli counter of most major supermarkets. Regular mozzarella is not a substitute. The basil and rosemary must be fresh, as dried herbs don’t have the same flavor. Fresh ground black pepper has a much fuller flavor than pre-ground. If you don’t have a pepper grinder, consider investing in one, it’s well worth it. Olive oils have an amazing range of flavors. Extra virgin olive oil is fairly fruity and is best suited for salads. Regular olive oil is better for tomato sauces where the sweetness of the tomatoes should be the dominant flavor. Kosher salt has a coarser grain than standard table salt and a flavor that is more full. Kosher salt can usually be found in the international section of major supermarkets. If you can’t find kosher salt, regular table salt is fine. I prefer Pastene or Sclafani canned tomatoes as they come from Italy and are picked and canned when the tomatoes are at their prime. Sangiovese is one of my favorite wines and one that goes well with this meal. If you can’t find Sangiovese, Chianti makes a great substitute and it’s widely available.

Recipes of the Week

Insalata Tri-Colore

1 Head Boston Lettuce, torn into medium-sized pieces4 Plum Tomatoes, thinly sliced1 Ripe Avocado, peeled, cored and thinly sliced2 Medium Sized Balls Fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced4 t. Balsamic Vinegar8 t. Extra Virgin Olive OilKosher SaltFresh Ground Black Pepper1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

Wash and drain the lettuce and arrange evenly on 4 medium-sized plates to create an even bed for the rest of the ingredients. Arrange the tomatoes, avocado and fresh mozzarella on the lettuce so that they each take up a third of the plate. Over each salad, sprinkle a pinch of salt and a twist of black pepper. Drizzle 1 t. of balsamic vinegar and 2 t. olive oil. Sprinkle on the fresh basil and serve.

Penne Fedora

1/4 C. Olive Oil 10 Cloves Garlic, peeled and half crushed2 Cans Ground Peeled Tomatoes4 T. Fresh Rosemary Leaves, removed from the stems1/4 t. Crushed Red Pepper1 T. SugarFresh Ground Black Pepper1/2 C. Heavy CreamKosher Salt to taste

1 Lb. Penne Pasta3 qts. Water2 T. Olive Oil2 t. Kosher SaltFresh Ground Black Pepper

Parmagiano Reggiano, coarsely grated

Heat the 1/4 C. of olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepot over medium low heat. Saute the garlic, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Remove the pot from the heat and remove and discard the garlic. To the oil add the tomatoes, rosemary, crushed red pepper, sugar and several twists of black pepper. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until boiling thoroughly.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, heat the water and salt in a large pot. When the sauce has simmered for 10 minutes, add the cream and bring the sauce back to a simmer. Add 1-2 t. kosher salt to taste. When the water boils, add the pasta and simmer until tender, but not over cooked. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Toss the pasta with the 2 T. of olive oil, the fresh black pepper and the kosher salt. Serve the pasta on large plates with the sauce spooned over the top. Serve with plenty of grated parmagiano reggiano.