Unlike many Italian cookbooks, Autentico goes far beyond pasta. In a world where culinary shortcuts, adulteration, misleading labeling, and mass production of seemingly “authentic” food rule, culinary archaeologist, innovator and cooking teacher Rolando Beramendi has kept centuries-old culinary traditions alive. That’s authentic!
In Autentico, Rolando details how to make classic dishes from Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe to Risotto in Bianco and Gran Bollito Misto as they are meant to be – not the versions that somehow became muddled as they made their way across the globe. Among the 120 recipes, you’ll find Baked Zucchini Blossoms filled with sheep's milk ricotta; Roast Pork Belly with Wild Fennel; Savoy Cabbage Rolls made with farro and melted fontina; Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe; Risotto with Radicchio; and a Lamb Stew with ancient Spice Route flavors that have roots from the times of Marco Polo and could have been served to the de’ Medici during the Renaissance. And of course, there are dolci (desserts): Summer Fruit Caponata, Meringata with Bitter Chocolate Sauce, and a simple, moist, and succulent Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake. Colored by the choicest ingredients from the shores of Italy and beyond, the pages of Autentico offer a rich taste of the Italy’s history, brought to life in the modern kitchen.
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Be and become a supply-side cook.
Wherever you are in the world make sure your pantry is well stocked, organized, and ready to be your support system. By making sure there is plenty of olive oil, vinegars, jarred tomatoes, anchovies, and spices on hand, you can shop daily for perishables and celebrate the arrival of seasonal ingredients knowing your pantry is ready to support turning fresh ingredients into full meals.
Please, pay attention to what you buy to stock your pantry. Make sure you shop at a reliable specialty food shop and that you become best friends with your grocers. And when it comes to Italian pantry items, there are a few things you'll notice. Under current (you never know how long they will last!) European Union regulations, food products carry certain designations to protect their authenticity. These two designations should make you feel very comfortable that you are buying authentic Italian made products:
DOP or Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin) The DOP label guarantees that the product is authentic and of the highest quality and integrity. Products grown, produced, and packaged in specific geographical places and using traditional methods can be labeled as DOP, and every step of the process from production to packaging adheres to the strictest rules and regulations.
For example, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (traditional Modena balsamic vingegar), Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Prosciutto di Parma all carry the DOP designation because they are one of a kind. We should only buy these products that are authentically made and developed. The more we support our local farmers, even if they are on the other side of the world, the better off we will be and the more authentic will be!
IGP or Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Protected Geographical Identification) IGP is another strict designation like DOP but with a more generous embrace. Products in this category come from a specific geographical area, while respecting one aspect of traditional production or processing. Balsamic vinegar of Modena carries the IGP label, but it's good to be aware that it hasn't been produced according to the stringent requirements of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale DOP.
Think of your refrigerator as part of your pantry. Keep a running supply of stocks, pesto, and sauces on hand and make sure to utilize whatever scraps you have. For now, let's start with the most essential ingredient in any Italian kitchen: extra-virgin olive oil. Learning to cook and eat with only good quality extra-virgin olive oil changes the quality of your food in a way no other ingredient can. And it's so simple!
OLIVE E OLIO D'OLIVA Olives and Olive Oil
It is impossible to imagine Italy without olive trees.
As passionate as I am about Italian food and wine, I am most obsessed with encouraging the use of high-quality olive oil. You will notice an immediate change in the flavor of anything you eat the moment you switch to a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Almost every savory recipe in this book starts and, often, ends with extra-virgin olive oil. The quality of the oil used is as important to a recipe's success as any of the other ingredients — even more so when drizzled into a bowl of soup, or on grilled fish or lamb chops just before taking the first bite. The best way to enjoy summer tomatoes, fresh basil, and tender, sweet mozzarella di bufala, is only by drowning them with fabulous extra-virgin olive oil full of green nectar and delicious greenness. Why use anything but?
To be labeled extra-virgin olive oil, the oil must contain less than 0.1 percent acidity. Some industrial producers press poorer-quality, late- harvest olives and put the oil through a chemical process that washes away and reduces the extra acid so it can still be labeled "extra-virgin." In other words, that bottle of $7.99 extra-virgin olive oil is heavily processed and nowhere in the same league as a $30 bottle. Olive oil is such an essential product, so make sure you use the good stuff.
In 1990, a group of Tuscan olive oil producers, led by my dear friend Bona de' Frescobaldi, created a consortium called Laudemio, establishing a new set of regulations to ensure that consumers are protected, which has now become the benchmark for quality standards all over the world. The label on a bottle of quality olive oil provides the olive oil's biography, much like a wine label tells about the wine in the bottle, and you'll be able to know if you're buying the real thing.
What's the best way to make sure the olive oil you're stocking in your pantry is the right kind? Check the back of the label and ask your specialty food store staff to advise you.
Whether you're on your own or at a shop with knowledgeable staff, check the label or talk to the salesperson about where the oil is from, the harvest date, and where it was pressed. Here's the information that should appear on the back label:
The name of the specific estate where the olives were grown.
The date and year the olives were hand-harvested and bottled.
That the olives were crushed by mechanical means at the frantoio (olive mill) on the estate twenty-four hours from the time they were hand-harvested.
A "best before" date shown prominently on the label or the bottle cap.
Many different factors can affect the growing of olives. Changes in climate can interfere with the growing season, the harvest, and production. Bad weather or an infestation of the olive fruit fly can result in no harvest at all. Sometimes the size of a farm can prove overwhelming for the family running it.
For example, the Contini Bonacossi family, producer of Capezzana olive oil, owns 1,600 acres of olive trees in Tuscany. Tending to so many trees and so much land is a very labor intensive endeavor and just as anywhere in the world today, when it became too much for the family to care for their thousands of trees and harvest the olives for oil or find enough workers to do so, brother Filippo came up with a solution. Eighty families are allotted large parcels of the olive groves with trees to weed, protect, prune, and manage. When the olives are harvested in the fall, each family brings the fruit to the frantoio for pressing and the oil is split 50/50 between the farmers and the Contini Bonacossi family in a fair and rational way. The farmers use theirs throughout the year and gift it to relatives and friends, while the family ships many cases of Capezzana extra-virgin olive oil.
It is very important to buy products that are made by authentic people in an authentic way. Here is an example of what I mean by authentic producers:
In 2015, a fruit fly infestation and hailstorms devastated the entire crop. When the first farmers brought a small batch of the remaining olives to the mill at Capezzana, the oil was of such poor quality that the family had to make the the decision not to press any of the fruit that year. It was unimaginable for these Tuscans to be without their own olive oil for a year, and the Contini Bonacossi family feared that many of the farmers would quit the program the following year, but everyone returned in 2016 to tend their trees and harvest their olives and the oil is, as always, of superior quality.
In addition to the criteria previously mentioned, look for the area the olive oil comes from. Terroir — the term used in winemaking to describe the specific soil and climate of a vineyard — is also applicable to olive groves.
It helps to think about olive oil as a seasonal product, much like tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. You should keep as many types of the four types of olive oil on hand (with a bonus fifth type in the fall) as you can. Throughout Autentico, I suggest the appropriate olive oil for each recipe, but if you only have one good one in your pantry, put it to use!
Cooking with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
As November approaches and the olive oils on your shelf reach their "best before" dates, begin using them for cooking rather than finishing. The more you use good quality olive oil in your cooking, the better your food will taste. Trust me. There are plenty of great opportunities in the specialty food shops and markets around the world, where good olive oil is sold in specials or "buy 2 get 3." When shopping for cooking extra- virgin olive oil, look for olive oils that are from the previous year, usually sold in February and March by specialty food shops as shopkeepers make room for just-pressed oils. These are ideal for cooking, as long as they were stored at proper temperature — the same as storing red wine.
Mild Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Soft, lightly flavored olive oil, typically from central Italy, such as Lazio, Abruzzo, Umbria, Molise, and Liguria Tuscany, is used for frying, marinating, or braising meats and vegetables, making Soffritto or Tomato Sauce. In spring, drizzle the oil over peas or asparagus so the taste of the spring vegetables is predominant. During the summer, make Pesto with delicate Ligurian oils. Pour some on poached or steamed fish to add a perky brightness to it. A bottle retails between $18 and $25.
Medium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Medium extra-virgin olive oil enhances seared swordfish, tuna, branzino, grilled vegetables, Mashed Potatoes, and Caponata. Whisk with a few drops of fresh lemon juice and sea salt and use on salads of any variety to brighten them and take them to the next level. Drizzle over fresh summer tomatoes with mozzarella and basil and over rustic soups. A bottle will range in price from $20 to $30.
Robust Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
This is what I call Tuscan ketchup. It is the best type of steak sauce. Powerful and spicy, robust extra-virgin olive oil adds an intense and flavorful green note to your dishes. The more intense and flavorful the oil, the less you cook with it. Instead, drizzle it over sliced steak to take stock of its grassy flavor. Pour it generously over beans, artichokes, steamed greens, and kale salads. Use less robust olive oil when cooking so you can pour more raw oil on top of a finished dish.
Olio nuovo is the first extra-virgin olive oil pressed each autumn. Gutsy, almost angry, and bright green, this oil should be celebrated as a ritual, a rite of passage of the seasons, a gift of nature. Splurge on a bottle every fall if you can find one, or else come to Tuscany as soon as you can to bathe in it. Drizzle it over, or copiously pour it over slow-cooked beans (here), Simply Sautéed or Roasted Greens (here), and Mixed Broccoli and Cauliflower. Grill a grass-fed steak or fish seasoned simply with salt and pepper, then pour on the olio nuovo. Make sure that after two weeks, the bottle is empty. Olio nuovo is often the most expensive olive oil you'll have in your pantry, ranging from $35 to $40 per bottle, because it is airfreighted all over the world as soon as it bottled. Splurge on a bottle once a year. Use immediately; pour abundantly.
Storing Olive Oil
Keep bottles in a cool, dark place where the temperature is a consistent 64°F to 68°F (18°C to 20°C). Temperature fluctuations — hot or cold — affect the aromas and cause eventual deterioration, which is why olive oil shouldn't be refrigerated or kept next to an oven or stove. And, store olive oil away from windows.
Extra-virgin olive oil will last for one to two years, or forever if kept properly, but its flavor and aroma will start to fade as time goes by. If stored properly, use it as a cooking oil after about a year.
Quality olive oil is meant to be used and enjoyed, and improves the flavors of everything. Cook with the best olive oil you can afford and you will notice an immediate difference in how good your food tastes.
Olive da Tavola | Table Olives
Sixty percent of Italian table olives come from Puglia and Calabria and the remaining 40 percent from Liguria and Campagna. Olive-eating traditions vary throughout Italy. My Pugliese friend Rossella Florio says bowls of her mother's fennel-cured olives are left out to snack on, while Tuscan Beatrice Contini Bonacossi says olives are used to make oil, not to eat. In the northern Marche region, large Ascolane olives are pitted, filled with meat, breaded, and fried.
When purchasing olives, any variety should come in a range of colors found in nature. For instance, good Taggiasca olives have hues of dark green to deep reddish mahogany to almost gray. Beware of olives that are all the same shade of a particular color; it means they have been cured in water and lye or copper sulfate to make them look homogenous and "more presentable." There is nothing more appetizing to me than a blemished or sunspotted fruit! My favorite cured olives are soaked in salt and water that is frequently changed, then aged in brine for three months to remove some of their bitterness and make them edible. Buy olives in jars or hermetically sealed packages, as olives sold at open olive bars can quickly oxidize and turn rancid.
My favorites for eating and cooking with are:
Taggiasca: A Ligurian cousin of French picholines, these can be mixed with olive oil, lemon zest, herbs, and a bit of pepperoncino for an antipasto. Put two or three dozen olives in a jar of olive oil and use the infused oil as a finishing oil on grilled fish and vegetables. The oil-soaked olives are delicious. Pit Taggiasca green olives, chop into a coarse paste with capers and olive oil, and spread on swordfish or tuna before grilling.
Bella Cerignola and Ascolane: Ascolane olives have a stone fruit and tropical flavor that is very distinguishing. In the Marche, they make one of my favorite aperitivo nibbles in the world: olive Ascolane. They pit the olives, stuff them with a little meat — similar to that used to stuff meat ravioli — bread them, and deep-fry them in a mild extra-virgin olive oil.
Gaeta black: Combined with capers and anchovies, these olives from Naples turnTomato Sauce, along with an anchovy or two into Puttanesca sauce if you wish. When you eat them in Napoli, Capri, or Palermo, you feel you are truly in the heart of the Mediterranean.
Castelvetrano: Meaty, dark green to navy blue Castelvetrano olives hold their shape in sauces and other dishes and seem to be the ones that have suffered the most of the contamination of industrialization. The unnatural green that these olives have been celebrated for is the best reason why we should ask for better quality olives. They are so full of chemicals and bad stuff, and part of a big scam. I wish I could say something nice about them, but the problem is similar to that of bad, cheap olive oil.
Tremiti: These addictive olives from Puglia taste like salty cherries and easily pull away from their pits in one bite.
If there is one New World ingredient that dramatically changed how Italians cook and eat, it's the tomato. The arrival of pomi d'ori ("golden apples"), now called pomodori, was wholeheartedly embraced and found an ideal environmental partner in the soil of Italy. Tomatoes in Italy taste like nowhere else, as does the olive oil or wine. It's all about terroir!
Pelati | Jarred or Canned Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes are essential for making Tuscan Ragù, My Way, soups, and sauces — especially during the winter months.
While San Marzano plum tomatoes can be grown anywhere, those cultivated in volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius, just south of Naples, are the real deal. While there are fraudulently labeled cans on the market, made in many places around the world, true canned San Marzano tomatoes are protected by European regional food product laws. Each can is assigned an individual number and the label will read "Pomodoro San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese Nocerino D.O.P." It will also include the symbols of the Consorzio, the group that guarantees authenticity, and the D.O.P. Look for those, use them, and help us protect them.
Passata di Pomodoro
Passata is a crushed, strained, and uncooked tomato sauce that has been strained of seeds and skins. You can do it yourself during the peak of the tomato season, but it is so much work and Italian Passata taste so good and it's so affordable nowadays, why bother? Look for tall 24-ounce glass jars in the same section as canned tomatoes.
Pomodori Secchi | Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
Some of us of a certain age above fifty years old, were traumatized by terribly tough, chewy so-called sun-dried tomatoes. Then finally they went away. Now they seem to be coming back, and made in a wholesome and real way as once upon a time. The high-quality varieties found today are a delight of sweet tomato flavor that elevate crostini, panini, pizza, farro, and rice salads. Masseria Mirogallo, a farm owned by the Belfiore family in Matera produces perfectly made pomodori secchi: bright red in color, marinated in olive oil, with a supple meaty texture that is a throwback to some, and a new flavor to many of the new generations. It feels as if solar energy is trapped into them, and to many in America, they will be the best type of jerky they wish they could have!
Excerpted from "Autentico"
Copyright © 2017 Rolando Beramendi.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsForeword by Ina Garten
Avertenza | Disclaimer
La Dispense | The Pantry
Pronto per l'uso | Ready to Use
Per Incominciare | To Begin With
Ora per Primo | Now, for a First Course
Come Pietanza | As a Main Course
Per Acconpagnare | To Accompany
Per Finere | To Finish With