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Posts Tagged ‘mario batali’

Grilled Flatbread

In Food, Recipes on August 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Our neighbor Marc grilled up the best flatbread seasoned with fresh sage and rosemary a few weeks ago at our block party. I’d never had flatbread off the grill before, particularly flatbread this good. It disappeared in SECONDS. But had we neighbors not been so greedy and gobbled them up still warm on the spot, Marc says these are a great alternative to a bun for hotdogs or sausages. I can’t wait to try it. But in the meantime, here’s the recipe which he says is “completely and thorough plagiarized from Mario Batali’s grill book.” Hey, we’ve all been there, Marc.

From Mario Batali’s Italian Grill

3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

2 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 tbs salt

1 tbs sugar

1 ½ tablespoons fresh sage/rosemary, etc.

1 cup warm water

½ cup dry white wine (room temperature)

1 tablespoons plus 7 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Oiled large bowl for dough to rise in.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and herbs, and mix well.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the warm water, wine and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon (I just used my fingers) stir the we ingredients into the dry until the mixture is too stiff to stir, then mix with your hands in a bowl until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Lightly dust a work surface and turn the dough out. Knead gently for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky. Add the dough to the large oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or towel, and leave to rise for about an hour.

Gently punch down the dough, turn out on a cutting board or work surface, and cut into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and place on a lightly oiled sheet. Cover loosely and let sit for another 30 minutes.

Flatten with hands and/or a lightly floured rolling pin, and grill! 1 ½ minutes on each side, and you’re done.

Here Comes the Sun: Shrimp Rosemary Spiedini

In Food, Recipes on July 7, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Whoa. What a week—and it’s only Wednesday. So, this whole taking-my-baby-to-preschool situation has really taken it out of me. Anxiety. Gloomy weather. In July. In LA. Earthquake. I’m sorry, but I’ve been kind of down. Tiny G, on the other hand, is up up up. He ate his first sandwich today in preschool. It was pretty damned cute. To that end, I’d like to turn my frown upside down and share a sunny dinner we enjoyed a couple of weeks ago with our dear friend Darris. (For days after said dinner, Tiny G was asking “Where Dis? Where Dis?”) I wish I could deliver Darris and his conversation to your dinner table should your day need brightening, but in lieu, here is the next best thing.

Mario Batali’s Shrimp Rosemary Spiedini Alla Romagnola ©

The rosemary skewers, which are easy to make, impart an herbal fragrance to the shrimp, and they look both rustic and elegant at the same time. Alla romagnola means that these spiedini are a specialty of Romagna, the eastern part of the region Emilia-Romagna.—Mario Batali, Italian Grill


1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only (about 2 cups loosely packed)

1 bunch basil, leaves only (about 2 cups packed)

2 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt [need to check this amount again]

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds large shrimp (21–30 per pound), peeled and deveined

2 lemons, cut into wedges

12 large rosemary sprigs, prepared as skewers (see BELOW NOTE) and soaked in water for at least 2 hours, or overnight

Toss the parsley and basil leaves into a food processor, add the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup of the olive oil, and zap until the herbs are chopped and the bread crumbs look green.

Transfer to a pie plate or wide shallow bowl, add the shrimp, and toss to coat well. [FOODINISTA NOTE: I TOSSED IN A PYREX BAKING DISH]

Skewer 4 or 5 shrimp on each rosemary sprig (the easiest way to do this is line up 4 or 5 shrimp—“spoon fashion”—at a time on a work surface and run a skewer through them; then separate them slightly so they will cook evenly). Dredge on both sides in the bread crumb mixure, place on a platter, and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. [HERE IS MR FOODINISTA SHOWING US HOW IT’S DONE:]

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Put a piastra (FOODINISTA NOTE: OR GRIDDLE) on the grill to preheat.

Spritz or brush the piastra with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the skewers on the piastra and cook, turning once, just until the shrimp are opaque throughout and some of the crumbs are browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with the lemon wedges.

Rosemary Skewers It’s easy to make skewers from rosemary sprigs. Choose large sturdy sprigs that are about 8 inches long. Pull off most of the leaves from each sprig, leaving a nice tuft of leaves at the top (use the remaining leaves in the dish you are making, or reserve for another use). Using a sharp knife, cut off the bottom of the sprig on a diagonal to give you a sharp point. The skewer will slide easily through the shrimp when you skewer them.

Grilled Red Onions with Balsamic and Lemon Thyme

In Food, Recipes on June 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Did you know that red onions are a rich source of flavonoids and phenolics, which means they are great antioxidants? We like to throw red onions in the mix whenever possible, and Mario Batali’s Thick-Sliced Onions with Lemon Time is one of our favorite summer grilling recipes. They are great alongside a grilled buffalo New York steak.

Thick-Sliced Onions with Lemon Thyme

Adapted from Mario Batali’s Italian Grill

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon thyme

2 pounds large red onions

About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a gas grill for direct cooking over high heat.

Combine vinegar, garlic and thyme in small saucepan and heat until fragrant and just beginning to steam; don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut onions into 1/2-inch-thick slices and lay out on baking sheet. Brush on both sides with 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place onions on hottest part of grill and cook, unmoved, for 4 to 5 minutes, until just charred on first side. Turn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, or until softened and lightly charred on the second side. Transfer to baking sheet or platter.

Whisk remaining 1/4 cup olive oil into vinegar mixture and drizzle over onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brick Work

In Food, Recipes on May 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm

All day long my husband and I were fantasizing about this dish, a riff on a Mario Batali recipe from Italian Grill. And oh my god, was it worth the wait. We got squid and olive tapenade at the Larchmont Farmer’s Market first thing yesterday morning. Then, about midday I zested a lemon from our tree. If I had to, if I had to, pick a favorite fruit—aesthetically speaking, it would be the lemon.

While Mr. Foodinista cut up the calamari, I mixed together olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, mint, red pepper flakes and black pepper. We tossed the calamari in the mixture and let it marinate in the fridge.

The recipe follows, but a word first about the grilling method. The calamari is cooked on a piastra—which is Italian for cooking on a flat griddle over an open flame. We used our trusty Lodge Pro Cast Iron Griddle. To achieve a flavorful char, Mr Foodinista wrapped a couple bricks in tin foil (two layers). Oh, and he heated the HELL out of the grill, leaving the griddle and foil-wrapped bricks in there to heat up at a temp somewhere close to 500 degrees.

Somehow I didn’t take a picture of the chickpea salad prior to mixing it with the grilled calamari. Maybe because I was too busy EATING the chickepas. Holy scheisse—mix up the chickpea salad alone and have at it. With a spoon.

I’ve made a few very minor tweaks on this recipe because my experience w/ this cookbook has largely been: great idea, but did someone actually test the recipe as written? Batali’s flavor combinations are inspired – but having tried at least a dozen recipes, there’s either too much liquid or not enough protein, and the cooking times are almost always off. Here’s what worked for us:

Marinated Calamari with Chickpeas and Olive Pesto

Adapted from Italian Grill, by Mario Batali

Note: The original recipe calls for orange segments (from three oranges) to be tossed with final salad. There is more than enough happening with all the citrus in the marinade, so unless you are freaked out about scurvy, I’d skip it. I don’t include below (and nor does the photo in the cookbook).

Serves 4-6


3 lbs cleaned calamari (tubes and tentacles)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper


Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 scallions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup mustard seeds

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Olive Pesto

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

1/2 cup black olive paste or tapenade

3 red jalapeños, deveined, seeded and finely chopped

12 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

CUT THE CALAMARI BODIES into rings. Combine olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, mint, red pepper flakes and black pepper in a large bowl. Toss in calamari and stir well to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until ready to use.

Put chickpeas in a medium bowl, and add oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic and mustard seeds and stir to mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

FOR THE OLIVE PESTO, combine oil, orange zest and juice, olive tapenade, jalapeños, and basil in a small bowl, mixing well. Set aside.

Preheat a gas grill for high heat. Place a piastra—or griddle—on grill to preheat. Wrap two clean bricks in two layers each of heavy-duty foil and set it on top of piastra to heat for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour calamari into a colander and drain for 10 minutes.

Using oven mitts, remove bricks from piastra. Put a couple handful of calamari pieces on the piastra, place bricks on top of them, and cook for 2 minutes (any longer will turn them rubbery). Lift off bricks and, using spatula, carefully transfer calamari to a clean bowl. Repeat with remaining calamari in batches.

Pour olive pesto over calamari and stir well. Put chickpeas in a shallow serving bowl and top with calamari. Sprinkle with fresh mint and serve.

Far Niente: Sweet Doing Nothing

In Food on June 23, 2009 at 8:57 pm


In addition to being the name of a winery that turns out killer Cabernet, far niente translates roughly to “sweet doing nothing” or as Webster’s says “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.” I was reminded of the value of far niente the other night when I decided to put an Italian spin on dinner, when in fact I should have let the produce relax pleasantly in carefree, unadorned idleness. We had defrosted two awesome bone-in New York steaks (we have a freezer full of beef from Heritage Foods USA) and had picked up some corn and red onions from the farmers market. Our newly planted herb garden is totally out of control—who knew Italian parsley multiplied like rabbits?—so I plucked a handful of Italian parsley, basil and lemon thyme for a makeshift pesto with leftover Marcona almonds to go on the steaks.


Meanwhile, my husband grilled our loot to perfection. 


Inspired by a Mario Batali recipe I’d seen, I brushed the grilled corn with balsamic and olive oil, sprinkled with mint from the garden and some red pepper flakes. For the onions, I’d made a balsamic glaze stovetop with more lemon thyme and crushed garlic. And here’s the deal. The pesto on the steaks was great, but did the steaks need the adornment? No. And the corn? I’ll take my corn on the cob with plain old melted butter ANY day. And the grilled onions with the balsamic glaze were certainly enjoyable, but the onions were so perfect, so sweet that again, they didn’t need to be “dressed up.” So next time, I’ll save the herbs for a salad and serve the rest of dinner far niente.

Summer Beach Reading: Foodie Edition

In Food, Media on June 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

Mama Cape Cod46

Here’s my grandmother on the beach in Cape Cop with a good book and a sack lunch, circa 1946. My grandfather would have just returned home from Paris, where he was stationed during the war. To this day, she is every bit as stylish and always has a good book within arm’s reach. Which got me thinking about summer beach reads. I’ll post soon on some favorite “literary” fashion contenders, but in the meantime my friend Sorina has put together an excellent reading list of chef bios and cookbooks, just in time for the start of summer. I’ll be packing my beach bag posthaste. Thanks, Sorina!


Lollygagging on the sand with a good book, as the surf beats against the shore and an assortment of children and pets scurry around happily engaged is my dream summer scenario. And from where I’m standing, reading chef biographies is just about the most fun you can have without chugging absinthe. Here’s a quick roundup of some essential chef bios and lovely cookbooks that you can stash in your beach tote along with sunscreen:

My Life in France (2006), by Julia Child
This sentimental, beautifully written memoir charts Child’s journey from bored hausfrau in 1940s Paris to French cooking authority and media maven in the States. It stands as the standard by which all cooking memoirs shall be measured against. Child’s “Yes, you can!” message subtly seeps out from every page. It would be corny, unless it weren’t so utterly inspiring. Child was 36 when she signed up for lessons at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and found her vocation in life. Her knack for the adorable anecdote—such as her recounting a first meal in France as an uncouth American lass (with memorable descriptions of oysters slurped off the shell and sweet farmer’s butter smeared on freshly baked baguettes), or the hilarious story of her Parisian cat getting erotically charged and giving her love bites while she attempted a French accent over the telephone—is magical. This book struck me as a lovely, fully humanistic poem about life, love, and cooking. I finished reading it and realized I had fallen for its author. Hard.

Heat (2006) by Bill Buford
Fiction editor of the
New Yorker decides one fair day to ditch his plum job and enlist as a lowly plongeur in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s Babbo NYC restaurant. The resulting diary of his experiences became a series of riveting New Yorker articles, which eventually coalesced into this book. We descend along with Buford into a Hadean realm of spattering grease, un-PC macho behavior and brain-shattering tedium that involves slicing root vegetables and abuse that makes Nazi interment-camp berating look like dancing the minuet. (PS: You get some top dish along the way: Apparently, Batali can put away a dozen wine bottles in one sitting.) Buford’s blend of objective reportage and emotional testimony makes this the ideal go-to tome for anyone who really wants to know what working in the kitchen of a haute-cuisine American restaurant is really like. Halfway through the book, Buford zips off to a tiny provincial town in Italy to learn first-hand the art of butchery at the elbow of Florentine master butcher Dario Cecchini. The ensuing chapters are perfectly informative—but also hilarious, moving, and profound. The critic inside my brain says this effort is couple of books or more awkwardly joined in one package. The person who adores writing and food relishes Buford’s chronicle of a Dante-worthy journey. A grown man who dares to pursue his passion against all reason is a sexy, beautiful thing.

Julie and Julia (2005) by Julie Powell
I stumbled onto this cookery diary with the best of intentions to worship it. Premise: Powell, who holds down a job as a drone at some nondescript Manhattan enterprise, lives in Brooklyn and attempts to cook her way through Julia Child’s 524 recipes included in
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She blogs about it, and voila—snatches book contract and Hollywood passport. (Meryl Streep is going to play Child in a forthcoming big-studio adaptation of the book, opening in August.) Powell has an engaging voice but her perpetual self-berating, aw-shucks attitude grated my nerves after the first 20 pages. She’s a crap cook, her kitchen is pitifully ill-equiped, and one day she discovers maggots under her cutting board. Et caetera. Still, somehow, the meals she produces from Child’s recipes all have magical qualities much enjoyed by her guests. PLEASE, lady! Still: I admire Powell’s skill for turning this cute personal improvement project into a profitable franchise. Ideas—as a wise man once said—are worth millions.

The Devil in the Kitchen (2007) by Marco Pierre White
If you can demonstrate to me that there’s a more entertaining haute cuisine chef than Marco Pierre White, I volunteer to scrub your dirty dishes clean for the next 12 months. This working-class Brit with the loutish temperament of Dennis Hopper tripping on uppers nabbed 3 Michelin stars in his 20s and became the youngest chef to be awarded the honor. His memoir is a hideously fun chart of that journey. White worked, lived, and played hard. Contempo cookery stars such as Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali apprenticed under him and took his abuse—only to rise later as respected chefs on their own. White’s haute-French cuisine joints—starting with legendary Harveys in London—have been landmark joints of sophistication, wit and excellence. It’s all the more remarkable since White never set foot in France until his 30s. This laugh-out-loud volume devotes an entire chapter to White’s infamous practice of customer cock-slapping—with a full retelling of the iconic episode of him receiving an order for French fries and charging the unfortunate customer $500 for it. White, who, back in his ’20s, looked as fatalistically glamorous as Arthur Rimbaud, charms even at his most churlish. This is a brutally honest, rude, and delicious read.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food (2009) by Moira Hodgson
My first reaction to this memoir was that it’s strictly for devout readers of the
New York Observer, where Hodgson is now a resto critic. By that I mean it struck me as terminally snobby and borderline obnoxious. Hodgson’s personal history of privilege—she sailed on the Normandie ocean liner back in the ’30s! In first class! Just like Marlene Dietrich, natch!—turned me off big-time, initially. Hodgson can’t seem to help herself name-drop—a function of her being a diplomatic brat, I guess. Still, she has some lovely-written passages in here about her discovery that her daddy was a spy—oopsie daisy!—and her love of cooking suckling pig… I half-heartedly endorse it because Hodgson IS a pretty wonderful writer. But invest in it at your own peril.—Sorina Diaconescu

Octopus Adventures

In Food on May 26, 2009 at 8:01 am


On Sunday, I picked up a 2.5 lb octopus from the fish guy at the Larchmont Farmer’s Market. I looooove octopus, but had never tackled one on home turf before. The raw specimen is really gross, I’m just going to put that out there. Here it is in our sink. This is when I pleaded with my husband to deal with it.


But neither my husband nor I knew what the hell an octopus “beak” was—and we were supposed to remove it, so we panicked we called our friend Hugh, who came right over. Okay, so that little mouth-thing on the belly of the octopus is the beak. Hugh plucked it right out, and I felt really dumb for having called in the first place but relieved that I didn’t have to deal—this time anyway.

So then consulting a recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad in Mario Batali’s Italian Grill cookbook, we threw six cloves of garlic, a few chiles de arbol and two wine corks (which Batali swears help tenderize the octopus) and our de-beaked octopus into a pot of boiling water and then simmered for about 90 minutes.

corkoctopusAfter octopus is tender (test with a knife), remove from heat and drain and allow to cool. Meanwhile, bring 4-5 Yukon Gold potatoes to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Peel and quarter potatoes and put in a medium-sized bowl. Toss with the following: 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 thinly sliced scallions, a thinly sliced red onion, grated zest and juice of two lemons, and a cup of pitted kalamata olives. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle octopus with olive oil on both sides and grill over the hottest part of the grill for 9 minutes until nicely charred, then flip and cook for another 8 minutes.

Cut octopus into 1.5-inch pieces and add to potato salad and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature. The results were seriously delicious…smoky, charred, meaty, zesty, so good that I’ll even deal with the beak next time. Maybe.


Pizza Perfect

In Food on May 3, 2009 at 10:06 am


Before Tiny G arrived on the scene (BG as it’s known around here), I used to make my own pizza dough, and I’ve been dying to try the Overnight Pizza Dough from the April issue of Bon Appétit. But after purchasing premade pizza dough from Whole Foods this morning, I may not need to look any further. My friend Hugh has been raving about it on GastroKid, so today I picked some up. As you can see, the dough is very much alive (elapsed time between photos three hours). Note: for crispiest and most flavorful crust results, Hugh lets the dough rise several hours, which we did. (After it doubled in size, I put it in a covered bowl in the fridge and then brought to room temp before using.) Here it is making a jail break:


Oh, and it’s only $3. As much as I’d love to tell you that homemade dough is so worth the effort, after trying Whole Foods’ fresh dough, I’m not so sure. (Unless you are Nancy Silverton, in which case, yeah, your homemade dough trumps.) So about half an hour before baking, crank up the oven to 500 degrees. We were given an awesome Mario Batali pizza pan as a wedding present. I highly recommend it, but a baking sheet would work well, too. First, sprinkle your pan with cornmeal.


Stretch dough until it stretches to fit your pan, pinches edges and rotating. Here’s my sister showing us how it’s done:


Place dough on pizza pan. Since we like a crispy crust, I put the crust in—by itself without toppings—for 4 minutes. (I find this a particularly good strategy if you are using wet toppings, like a sauce or mushrooms, which can give off a lot of moisture.)


We spread pesto over the barely cooked crust. I didn’t have time to make my own, so this was from Academia Barilla from Liguria and is really good for jarred. And what could be faster?


Then we topped with marinated radicchio, basil and fresh ricotta left over from last night’s dinner. We finished with a little grated parm and black pepper.

toppingsFrom there we put it back in the oven for 10 minutes, until the crust was golden brown. Insanely good. I used an Alessi roller in the below photo mostly because I love the color, but last year for Christmas my friend Diane gave me an oversized Mario Batali pizza wheel and it works much, much better. Oh, and a word about the pizza: perfection. We saved a piece for my husband when he got home from the fight, and he declared the best piece of pizza he’d ever had (adding, other than Mozza). And the whole thing took five minutes to assemble.

pizza wheel