NEW CASTLE —
The definition of trattoria is the Italian equivalent of a bistro.
Trattorie — that’s the proper plural — are meant to be simple places and are usually family run.
There may not be an abundance of restaurants around here that have trattoria or bistro in their name but most everyone would agree that there are plenty of places serving wonderful Italian meals.
I have been fortunate to have dined in trattorie in Italy, and there was even a wonderful one at the lighthouse in Aruba. I hope it is still there.
It might have actually been at that location where I purchased a cookbook on trattoria cooking. Osso buco — a veal shank dish — lots of variations on risotto, which is a staple of this type of dining, and polenta and pasta are some of the recipes we have prepared using this particular book.
The key to simplistic dishes is fresh ingredients, which don’t compromise flavor. Leave complex for another time.
The first recipe is basically the appetizer generally known as bruschetta.
As for true Italian omelets, they are thick, multi-egg, completely cooked concoctions that are served in wedges like a cake — and frequently, cold.
In Italy, such dishes are eaten at the evening meal, which is traditionally much lighter than lunch.
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Oven-Crisped Bread with Tomato and Fresh Basil
- 6 slices thickly-cut white bread, preferably Italian
- 1 lb. fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a low oven, toast the bread until each slice is completely dry and crisp.
Roughly dice the tomatoes (there is no need to peel them) and finely chop the basil.
Add basil, olive oil and seasoning to the tomatoes.
Spoon on top of bread slices and serve immediately. The bread should still be slightly warm.
- 1 lb. dried spaghetti
- Salt to taste
- 1 1/4 cups olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 2 lbs. fresh plum or canned tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 tbsps. finely chopped fresh basil (use 1/3 of that amount, if using dried)
Add salt to boiling water in large pot. While the water is heating, heat 4 tbsps. olive oil in a deep frying pan or skillet. Crush the garlic, slice the onions and soften them together in the oil.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the onion mixture when it is softened. Add sugar and turn the heat to simmer.
In a deepish pan, heat the remaining olive oil just until below smoking temperature. As the oil heats up, cut the eggplant into small 1/4-inch dice.
Fry the eggplant dice, a batch at a time, until the flesh is cooked to a wrinkled mid-brown. Set aside the cooked pieces on paper towels.
Cook the pasta until al dente; drain.
Stir the eggplant into the tomato sauce and toss in the finely chopped basil. Serve immediately.
Green Peppers and Garlic
- 1 1/2 lbs. fresh broccoli
- Salt to taste
- 1 oz. olive oil
- 1 small green pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3/4 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly grated black pepper
Bring plenty of salted water to boil and drop in trimmed broccoli florets and boil for three minutes. Drain them and stop the cooking process by plunging them in cold water.
Heat the olive over high flame. Cook the pepper in the oil until the slices begin to brown slightly at the edges. Reduce heat to a simmer and add garlic cloves, well crushed. Cook pepper and garlic together for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add broccoli and Parmesan; turn in the oil and Parmesan until the broccoli is hot.
Serve immediately, lavishly sprinkled with the pepper.
and Basil Omelet
- 6 eggs
- 3 tbsps. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 lb. Parma ham, roughly chopped
- 6 oz. cooked spinach
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbsps. olive oil
Thoroughly beat the eggs. Mix in cheese, ham, spinach, salt and pepper.
Heat oil over a medium flame, in as heavy a pan as you have. Pour in the mixture and then turn the heat down as low as it will go. Cover the pan and cook until everything is set — about 20 minutes.
Serve at whatever temperature you wish.