The London Free Press
Italian cookbook reinvigorates Sunday dinner by Elizabeth Baird, Special to QMI Agency
Original post can be found @ The London Free Press online.
Whatever happened to Sunday dinner?
Well you may ask, whatever happened to families getting together to share their stories, camaraderie, support, love — and their favourite family dishes?
American-born Lisa Caponigri wondered this too, remembering the joyful Sunday dinners around the big dining table of her grandmother’s, Nana Franco, complete with immediate family, cousins, aunts, uncles, visiting friends and of course, her Nana’s cooking.
That’s what inspired her just-released cookbook, Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinners? (Sterling Epicure, $29.95).
For sceptics who don’t think they have time for regular Sunday dinners, she is encouraging, suggesting blocking off time for this event the same way families schedule soccer practice or music lessons, and organize the cooking so the actual dinner is a relaxed affair, and open for lots of talk. The book is organized around 52 menus, one for every week, each starting with something to nibble on, a first course (primo) which is often a pasta, risotto or soup, a main course (secundo) with a side dish, and finally, a dessert, for a total of 250 recipes you can mix and match to your own taste. And you don’t have to be Italian to participate in the celebration, or the tasty dishes. Here are three to get you started on your own tradition of Sunday dinners.
INSALATA DI ANTIPASTI (ANTIPASTO SALAD)
This is a well-loved dish in the Italian communities throughout North America. It’s open to improvisation with other ingredients.
1 cup (250 ml) marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half, or quarters if large
8 thin slices Genoa salami, each slice cut into 4 strips
4 oz. (125 g) provolone cheese, cubed
1 cup (250 ml) black olives, pitted
Half small red onion, sliced into very thin strips
1 fennel bulb, trimmed of stalks, quartered, cored and very thinly sliced
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced crosswise into ribbons
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
In a shallow rectangular serving dish arrange rows of artichoke hearts, salami, cheese, olives, red onion, fennel and romaine. Bring to the table; drizzle with oil and vinegar and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Toss well to serve.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
PEPERONI RIPIENI (STUFFED PEPPERS)
In this dish, Lisa shares her grandmother’s secret for delicious stuffed peppers — she roasts them in a little water before stuffing. This trick removes any bitterness.
6 large bell peppers: 2 red, 2 yellow 2 green
1 1/2 lb (750 g) ground beef sirloin
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 large egg
1/2 cup (125 ml) Italian breadcrumbs
1 can (5.5 oz./156 ml) tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (500 ml) tomato sauce (approximate)
1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Fill a large shallow baking dish or pan that will hold the peppers snugly with 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) water.
Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove stems, seeds and white membranes. Place peppers, cut side down, in water-filled baking dish. Bake until peppers are soft to touch, about 10 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, tomato paste, garlic, anchovies and olive oil until well mixed.
Remove peppers from oven, drain off water in dish, and pat peppers dry. Pour tomato sauce into dish and tilt to coat bottom, adding a little more if necessary. Set pepper halves, cut side up, in dish. Spoon filling into peppers and bake for 55 minutes.
Spoon 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) tomato sauce from bottom of dish over each stuffed pepper half and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes to melt cheese.
Makes 12 stuffed peppers.
TORTA AL CIOCCALATO, CAFFE E NOCCIOLA (Espresso and Hazelnut Chocolate Cake)
When Lisa Caponigri was living in Florence, she loved this cake sold at her favourite pastry shop. Lucky Lisa was able to get hold of the recipe. It’s cut in thin wedges and served with softly whipped cream.
3 1/2 cups (875 ml) shelled hazelnuts
6 oz. (175 g) bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao)
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly brewed espresso or 1/4 cup (60 ml) espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup (60 ml) boiling water
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. (180C.). Butter a 10-inch ( 25 cm) round spring form pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
Place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until skins split, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Rub off skins in a clean tea towel. Chop in 3 batches in a food processor until evenly ground, almost like sand.
Break chocolate into pieces. Place in top of a double boiler (or in a glass or metal mixing bowl) set over gently simmering water. Add butter and coffee and melt, stirring a few times until smooth. Let cool. Stir in hazelnuts.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is pale and doubles in volume. Fold in chocolate mixture. In another large bowl using mixer (be sure to wash and dry beaters well), beat whites until still peaks form. Stir a third of whites into chocolate mixture, then gently fold in remaining whites.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in centre of oven until a cake tester inserted into centre comes out with a few crumbs on it, about 45 to 50 minutes. Do not over bake. Let cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, and then remove side of pan to finish cooling. (Make-ahead: Cover well with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 4 days.)
Makes 12 servings.