Just Published: Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali

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Mario dined at Bellavitae a couple of weeks ago with his family and in-laws, so we had a chance to catch up.  His new book, Molto Gusto, comes out today:

The bestselling author of Italian Grill and Molto Italiano delivers a gorgeous collection of mouthwatering recipes to bring some Italian favorites home.

Chef Mario Batali’s zest for life infuses the casual Italian fare that has made his restaurant Otto Enoteca Pizzeria a perennially popular New York City destination. Now you can have the flavors of Otto at home, with Molto Gusto, a collection of recipes for everyone’s favorites, from pizza, pasta, and antipasti to gelati and sorbetti.

Mario has written the definitive book on great pizza making for the amateur, the novice, the foodie, and the gourmet cook, teaching how to make really great pizza at home without any fancy equipment. Here too are recipes for classic pizza, Otto’s special pizzas, and even kids’ pizzas.

Looking for something a little lighter? Try the antipasti. Based on seasonal vegetables, with a few recipes showcasing seafood and meat, these dishes can make up an entire, healthy meal. Also included are many of Mario’s favorite simple pasta dishes, and to finish it all off, fantastic recipes for gelati, sorbetti, and copette.

Filled with Mario’s infectious personality and love of robust flavors, and illustrated with luscious full-color photos, Molto Gusto makes it easy to spend a night on the town without leaving home.

My favorite at Otto?  The olive oil gelato.  Check it out for yourself.

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On the menu: Costolette d’Agnello a Scottadito

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Courtesy Denver Magazine

 

Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops

In its March issue, Denver magazine had a terrific article on Colorado lamb:

“Is there a more innocent, idyllic creature than the spring lamb?  It’s been a symbol of purity and, by extension, rebirth for millennia — morphing from Aries, the first sign of the zodiac (today more commonly depicted in adult form as a ram), into a Judeo-Christian icon of sacrifice and resurrection that, in turn, manifests as an Easter supper centerpiece and Passover Seder ceremonial offering.”

I’ve tasted lamb from different parts of the U.S., as well as from Australia and New Zealand.  None has the flavor or the texture of Colorado’s grass-fed lamb.

The state saw its cattle and sheep industry take off in the late 1800s, when New Zealand and Australia controlled the international wool market.  However, these farmers fed and bred their sheep to optimize wool production.  In Colorado, the opposite was – and still is – true:  the focus is on meat quality, with wool being of secondary consideration.

The animals feed on bromegrass, orchardgrass, and perennial rye, all of which thrive in Colorado’s mountain climate.  In the winter they eat alfalfa hay.  And I love this quote:

“Oogie McGuire, owner of the Desert Weyr farm, says, “Terroir is not just a word that describes cheese or fine wine.”  If she’s right, then all those mountain springs and lush valleys in the marketing materials of Colorado lamb promoters aren’t just for show — they’re what’s for dinner. “

According to the American Lamb Board, domestic lamb is of higher quality because it “travels up to 10,000 fewer miles and about 30 days less than imported lamb.”  Another advantage:  the ribeye of an American lamb rib chop provides 38% more meat than Australia and New Zealand rib chops.

The quality is so good that we do as little as possible to interfere with this beautiful piece of meat.  We simply rub a garlic clove on the meat and place it on the hot grill, adding rosemary and some coarse salt.

By the way, scottadito translates to burn with heat [scottare] and finger [dito], or burned finger.  Pick up a hot Colorado lamb chop by its bone and you’ll understand.  We never frown on guests eating with their fingers, we encourage it!

Buona Pasqua!

Further Reading: 

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On the menu: Crostini al Carciofi e Pomodori Secchi

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Crostini with baby Artichokes and sun-dried Tomatoes

Crostini are a great way to get creative.  Just an ingredient or two on toasted or grilled bread.  How Italian is that?

In this dish, we spread sliced baby artichokes on crostini and top that with chopped sun-dried tomatoes for the perfect refreshment on a spring evening.

Both ingredients are grown by Francesco Vastola, whose land is located in Campania’s Alta Valle del Sele area near the Cilento National Park and the archaeological ruins at Paestum.  Francesco grows vegetables of the highest quality.  Combining innovation and tradition, he takes his just-picked vegetables and turns them into sott’olio using the excellent extra virgin olive oil from Cilento.

The baby artichokes we use are carciofi di Paestum, which are prized throughout Italy. They are famous for their small round heads, spineless stems, and beautiful purple color.  Picked only between February and May, they are unusually tender, but still firm to the bite.

Artichokes are notoriously difficult to preserve.  Their flavor is subtle.  If an artichoke of little flavor is combined with poor quality olive oil, the results are disappointing.

Valle del Sele’s artichokes were first mentioned in statistics published in 1811, when the region was known as the Kingdom of Naples.  Eventually, the artichoke of Castellammare became known as carciofo tondo di Paestum, or “round artichoke of Paestum.”

Francesco uses perfectly ripe, sun-drenched tomatoes for his pomodori secchi [sun-dried tomatoes].  He sprinkles them with salt and dries them in the fields.  Wine vinegar, oregano, capers, and chili peppers add balance and an extra punch of flavor.

When Francesco’s pomodori secchi are combined with his carciofi di Paestum, a perfect flavor balance emerges, showing that sometimes one plus one equals three.

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Now playing: "666" at the Minetta Lane Theatre

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Spanish comedy troupe Yllana is coming to off-Broadway with “666“.

The show begins when three dangerous criminals (Fidel Fernandez, Joseph Michael O’Courneen and Juan Francisco Ramos Toro) and one misplaced innocent (Raul Cano) arrive on death row.   Incarceration ironically sets free their wildest fantasies as, trapped between the iron gates and an electrified fence, they interact with each other and with the audience.  At the end of all the comically bungled executions, all hell, quite literally, breaks out.  No one is safe, least of all the audience!

Now playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre, next to Bellavitae.

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Now playing: “Greenberg” at the Anjelika Film Center and nationwide

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Film director and writer Noah Baumbach used Bellavitae as the set for a short skit he wrote and directed a couple of years ago for Saturday Night Live, starring guest host Paul Rudd.  Noah’s latest latest movie, Greenberg, co-written with his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, now hits theaters nationwide.

Greenberg connects award-winning comedian Ben Stiller with Academy Award®-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) to tell the moving tale of Roger (Stiller), a single, fortysomething at a crossroads.  While house-sitting for his more successful/married brother, Roger searches for a way to restart his life.  He tries to reconnect with old friends (including his former bandmate (Rhys Ifans), but Greenberg soon finds himself spending more and more time with his brother’s personal assistant Florence (The House of the Devil’s Greta Gerwig), who’s also something of a lost soul.  Despite his attempts to avoid it, Greenberg and Florence forge a connection and he realizes he may at last have something to work for.

Now playing at the Anjelika Film Center, blocks from Bellavitae.  View trailer here.

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Now playing: "Vincere" at the IFC Center

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 VINCERE

Italian master Marco Bellocchio’s (Fists in the Pocket, My Mother’s Smile, Good Morning, Night) stunning political melodrama tells the virtually unknown story of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s (Filippo Timi) secret first marriage.  An ambitious and ruthless young man, he woos and then abandons the woman who launched his career—and gave him his first child — as he plots his rise to power.

Now playing at the IFC Center, across from Bellavitae.  View trailer here.

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On the menu: Fusilli con le Zucchine a Scapece

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Fusilli with marinated Zucchini, Garlic, and Mint in the style of Campania

Scapece refers to the pickling of fish or vegetables, similar to carpione and saor, a technique used throughout the Mediterranean.  Scapece is the Italianization of the Spanish word escabeche.  It’s an ancient technique of preserving food by first frying in olive oil, then marinating in vinegar, garlic, and mint.

Zucchini prepared this way are delicious as a side dish or as part of an antipasti spread, as you will find throughout southern Italy and Sardinia.  For this dish, we cut the zucchini into small strips, and form into a sauce for fusilli, the curlicue pasta.  It makes for wonderful physical and tasting sensations in the palate.

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