For Perfect Pasta, Add Water and a Vigorous Stir

Flavio Pasta

On a clear fall day in Rome, I was sitting outside at Flavio al Velavevodetto, a restaurant in Testaccio, in a neighborhood that was once the city’s slaughterhouse district and is now inhabited by both older working-class people and gentrifying youngsters. Flavio de Maio, an elegant, middle-aged businessman turned chef, sat across the table from me; a translator sat between us. I had come at the recommendation of a friend, the Rome-based journalist and historian Katie Parla, who told me that if I was looking for the epitome of Roman pasta, this was the place.

I had a question for Flavio: Why did he think that the simplest pastas of all — pasta alla Gricia, pasta cacio e pepe and pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino — were the darlings of Rome, appearing on nearly every menu?

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Grant Cornett.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Spring’s Opening Act

Grilled Lettuce and Peas

Back in the ’80s, I resented the existence of Meyer lemons and anyone who championed them. Those groovy Bay Area people would write recipes calling for Meyer lemons, as if anyone could find them, and insist that a regular lemon just wouldn’t do.

Now I have a Meyer lemon tree growing outside my kitchen door. My friends come and take 10 at a time, and there are still 100 lemons left.

And actually, they are amazing, with an oily orange fragrance. But this isn’t a story about lemons. Rather, it’s about me, and Berkeley, where people leave boxes of Meyer lemons on the sidewalk because they have too many.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Melina Hammer.

Posted in American, Recipes

Feeding Kids Well

How the School Nutrition Association became an ally of what you might call the “let them eat cake” forces is a long story. What matters is that if, like the association, you’re taking a stand against the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — from a food perspective, among the two or three most progressive pieces of legislation of the Obama administration — you are simply on the wrong side. You’ve pitted yourself not only against better nutrition for current school kids but, even more important, against better nutrition for future students and adults. The School Nutrition Association’s position may not be the equivalent of the American Diabetes Association insisting that, say, we serve Coke at all meals, but it’s in that ballpark.

Posted in Food Politics

HTCE Fast: Stir-Fried Beef with Skillet Kimchi

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An easy stir-fry takes on bright, lively flavor thanks to spicy kimchi seasonings.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin, flank, or rib-eye steak
Salt and pepper
1 medium Napa cabbage
1 inch fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) or Sriracha (optional)

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

HTCE Fast: Bone-In Chicken Noodle Soup

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Every other Wednesday, I’m featuring one of my favorite recipes from How to Cook Everything FastIf you cook it, too, I want to see it—tag it on social media with #HTCEFast. And enjoy!

It doesn’t take long for bone-in chicken to turn water into a flavorful broth. Start with whole pieces, don’t overcook the meat or fuss with the bones, and you’ll have real chicken noodle soup on the table in 30 minutes.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
Salt
1 large onion
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks, plus any leaves
4 garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
Pepper
8 ounces egg noodles or any cut pasta

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Posted in American, Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

How Should We Eat?

The recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nutrition panel that helps update and revise federal dietary guidelines,were announced last week and are easy to parse: The panel, a collection of 14 health experts with dozens of specialists in support, emphasizes things that just about everyone agrees upon: that we need a diet more oriented toward plants, that we should reduce calorie consumption in general, and that less sugar would be a good thing. Not much new there, or surprising.

But on some levels the report is disappointing: For one thing, it’s 571 pages (not surprisingly, it stumbles over itself). And it focuses on individual nutrients at the expense of sending simpler messages. No one wants to think about “eating” (or, even worse, “consuming”) cholesterol or saturated fat or sodium or “sweeteners.” We want to think about eating food.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Family Affair

A Family Affair

Gianni Piscitelli, a home cook I met on a recent trip to Naples, grew up cooking with his grandmother, Maria d’Orsi, and later with his father, Attilio, in Montesanto, a residential neighborhood of the city. His grandparents were smart: They bought a sprawling place high on a hill with a view of the sea in 1933, when the area was still countryside — a home where the extended family could all live and cook together. What this family has always cooked is the food of Naples. Which is not what I thought it was.

If you grew up in Lower Manhattan when I did, 50 years ago, you might have thought you knew the food of southern Italy: Pizza, meat ragu, lasagna, stuffed shells and seafood “fra diavolo.”

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Grant Cornett.

Posted in Italian, Recipes