Friday, January 29, 2010

toast a what? tostapane...

A tostapane? What's that, you ask? Where can you buy one? What do you do with a tostapane? Bruschetta is my favorite!

If you speak any Italian at all, immediately you realize what the word tostapane means.... Toast bread. It's a pretty simple concept! This square tin perforated grate is set directly on a gas jet (yes, you'll need a gas stove). You put a piece of bread on the screen and turn the heat on high. Turn the bread occasionally with tongs and within a few minutes, you'll have a toasted piece of bread with slightly smoky flavor. Leave it to the Italians to invents such a cool little contraption.

I love my tostapane and use it all the time for bruschetta and crostini. But trying to buy one in the US is pretty much impossible. Hey, if you find a source in the US, let me know!

Planning a trip to Italy? If so, make your first stop the hardware store. You'll be able to pick up a tostapane there. When I find them in a store, I buy the entire stock. They don't cost much, probably 5 or 6 euro each, but they make great gifts for your chef friends who have everything.


12 slices rustic country-style bread, 1/2 to ¾-inch thick
1 clove garlic, peeled
Your BEST extra virgin olive oil
Kosher, fleur de sel or Maldon salt

Place the tostapane directly on your gas stove over high heat. Place the bread on the tostapane in a single layer and toast until golden. Using tongs, turn the bread and continue to toast on the second side until golden. Remove from the heat. Rub one side of the toasted bread with the whole clove of garlic. Using a pastry brush, brush the toast with olive oil.

To serve, place the bruschetta on a platter.

Serves 6 hungry Italians


Here's what you do if you don't have a tostapane yet. Imagine a garlicky crostini smeared with virgin olive oil topped with arugula, warm wild mushrooms, and a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano. Is it a salad? Is it a crostini? Who cares! It’s yummy!

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 small shallot, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms, (if unavailable, use button or cultivated mushrooms) trimmed, cleaned and cut in half
6 cups arugula
1 clove garlic
6 slices coarse-textured Tuscan bread
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
6 ounce chunk Parmigiano Regginao

In a bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, shallot, salt and pepper. Reserve.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the wild mushrooms and cook, stirring until golden brown and softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Toast the bread on the outdoor grill, under the broiler or in a toaster. Rub the toasted bread with garlic and sprinkle with salt.

In a bowl, toss together the arugula and vinaigrette. Place one piece of bread on each plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Divide the arugula between the plates and place on the top of the bread. Top with the mushrooms. Immediately shave the Parmigiano onto the top.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

my upcoming class...rolling in dough

A friend from Australia, Gwenda, wrote to me. She remembered a "deep pie filled with lots of vegetables and cheese" that I taught her years ago on one of my culinary journeys in Italy. "It's gotta be torta rustica," I wrote back. She'd lost the recipe and was dying for a slice.

I have to admit that I love any kind of dough,-- whether it's pasta, pizza, bread, tarts... You name it. You probably won't see me do a gluten-free cookbook anytime soon. Can you imagine telling the Romans, whether it's today or a thousand years ago, they have to be gluten-free?

Dough,-- that's the inspiration for my weekend cooking class at the beginning of February in San Francisco. Friday night, we'll start with a meet-and-greet reception and then we'll be rolling in dough Saturday and Sunday. I still have a few spaces left if you're interested.

And in the meantime, here's your recipe Gwenda. Enjoy a slice!


1 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water, 115oF
3 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer overnight
1 1/2 pound greens, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard green, escarole, beet greens,
stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 pound mozzarella, grated
1/2 pound fontina cheese, grated
3/4 pound assorted thinly sliced meats, prosciutto, salami, capocollo, mortadella

Dough: Place the yeast, flour and salt in bowl of the food processor. With the motor running, add 1 1/4 cups warm water slowly. Quickly add the olive oil and process until dough is smooth and evenly soft, about 45 seconds. If the dough is dry and rough and doesn't form a ball, add a tablespoon or two of water. The dough can also be made using the same technique in an electric mixer. Instead of processing the dough for 45 seconds, knead the dough on low speed using the dough hook. Place the dough in oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in warm place, about 70 to 75F, until double in volume, 1 hour.

Filling: Heat a large skillet and toss the greens with tongs until wilted. Squeeze in a towel to remove the excess moisture. Chop the spinach coarsely and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in frying pan over medium high heat and saute mushrooms and garlic until liquid from the mushrooms has completely evaporated, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and cook the peppers and onions until soft, 15 minutes. Add to the mushrooms and toss together. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg and greens. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Combine the mozzarella and fontina in another bowl and set aside.

To assemble: Place a 10-inch springform pan on a baking sheet and brush the inside with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Punch down the dough and divide it into two pieces, one which is three-quarters the volume and the other is one-quarter. Roll the larger piece into a 16-inch circle. Transfer to the springform pan and line bottom and sides with the dough so that it comes up and over the edges.

Preheat oven to 400oF. Place one-quarter of meat on the bottom of the dough and top with one-half of the combined cheeses. Next, layer one-half of the mushroom, pepper mixture on top of the cheese. Place another layer of the meat on top. Spread the wilted greens mixture over the meat. Repeat the sequence ending with the meat.

Roll the remaining dough to 10-inch circle. Brush the overhanging dough lightly with water. Cover with the top crust. Pinch the crusts together and crimp to form a decorative edge. With a sharp knife, cut two 1/2-inch vents in the middle of the top of the dough. Bake on lowest rack of the 1 1/4 hours. Cool 30 to 45 minutes before slicing.

Serves 10

Note: If the top gets too dark during baking, place a piece of foil over the top.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

tasty awards

The first annual Tasty Awards in Ess Eff were held on Thursday honoring and celebrating the year's best achievements in food and fashion programs on television, in film, and on the web. And I loved it! So here are the words that come out of my mouth as I stepped on stage being honored for "OUTSTANDING PASSION!"

"Oh, I love getting awards, I have to admit it!
Yes, I'm always speaking in superlatives. I'm always excited about something!! At least that what everyone tells me. In my classes and on my TV show, I'm always saying, "I love this..." or "This is my absolute favorite..."
But it's true, I absolutely love the art of food and wine...
So it's wonderful to be standing here tonight and be honored for that very same passion.
And speaking of passion, hey Bobby Bognar (history channel), you just had a baby, right?
Well, I have a brand new fantastic, wonderful ever-passionate husband, Joe Ehrlich, and I'd like to thank him! New baby, new husband....
I'd also like to thank my director, Paul Swensen, and A La Carte Productions and my wonderful, incomparable business manager, Mariangela Sassi.
Thank you!"

Did I use enough superlatives?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

a surprise from lucca

It's funny, every morning, before brushing my teeth or eating breakfast, my computer calls to me. This morning, I got an email with the subject line, "a surprise from Lucca. " It was a letter from a Tuscan guy, Aurelio. Evidently, I met his mother, father and grandmother years ago when I spent the day cooking in their restaurant kitchen outside Lucca.

Dear Joanne,

Today,while i was cleaning some stuff in my home's library,i found this old letter that you sent us that i'm attaching you in this email.
I tought that probably no one ever replied you back,since my parents do not speak any English at all and me and my brother Lamberto were very young at the time : I was Studying in Florence so i was not working at my Restaurant and my brother was only 11 so he was still at school.

We're apologizing for this,but we are very happy to have found that letter today,and we can finally reply...with 15 years of delay !
It's like being in a movie....

At "Antica Locanda" the things are pretty like the same...

Nonna Ida is still in the Kitchen,even if she's not always there like before.
Mamma Raffaella is still taking care of the waiting.
Dad Adriano takes care of the wine and olive oil making at our farm.
My brother Lamberto grew up and he's now in charge of the waiting along with my mother.
And me...i followed my grandmother's teaching and i'm now the Chef.

The funny thing now is..that i often come there in California to organize cooking classes in private houses there,and i've been in San Francisco last october,i think i will be back there at the end of February/Beginning of March,and i'm not hiding you that i would be very very pleased to meet you.

I'm still a bit ashamed thinking about your letter,i'm so sorry no one ever replied you back but our parents do not know any English,and even if they kept that as a precious thing,they never told me anything about it before today,when i found it out.

Looking forward to hearing from you
Best Regards

Aurelio Barattini

Ironically in the past couple months, I've been thinking about that day... I remember cooking bistecca over the open fire with a little old Italian "nonna" who spoke not a word of English. I was Italian illiterate at the time but cooking together felt like a universal language. I'm not even sure I could have found the place again. Were their train tracks nearby? Was the facade painted a soft Tuscan kind of yellow? I couldn't remember much but one thing was clear, Nonna was one hell of a cook.

And then this morning, I got Aurelio's email and the attached letter I'd written to his family 15 years ago. And little by little, I put the hours of that day back together.

The year was 1995. I was in Italy scouting for villas for my cooking courses. I'm not sure how I met the family in the first place or came to cook with Nonna Ida. I kind of recall eating at Antica Locanda di Sesto the night before and talking to the family. I think they invited me back the next day to cook in the kitchen. I'll never forget Nonna taking me under her wing like a granddaughter. At the end of our day, you would have thought I was family as we all sat together and feasted on bistecca that literally melted in our mouths . See more...

AURELIO'S BISTECCA (in his words)

- One beef steak (1 kilo or more)
- Salt

The true steak (with bone which is like a “T” with sirloin and fillet) comes from tender beef preferably chianina breed.
Prepare in time the barbecue so that you can have a good ember with no fire. Place the grill over the ember (about 10 cm. above grill)
When the grill is red-hot place the steak (at room temperature, not washed and take it with your hands- no fork!)
Grill the steak 10 minutes o’clock without touching it.
Turn it with a spatula (not with a fork)
Grill for 5 more minutes, salt the grilled part.
Eat in the next minute, a cold Bistecca is damaged!
You can add some pepper, but NOT lemon.

TAGLIATA- Big steaks cut in slices
This is like a bistecca, but it is bigger and, when ready, it is cut in slices, without separating them.
To serve, you can put on top:
-rucola salad dressed with salt and olive oil and Parmigiano cheese
-olive oil with aromatic herbs
-fresh baby artichokes cut slices dressed with olive oil, salt and 1 spoon of juice of lemon

Thursday, January 7, 2010

welcome twenty-ten

Yup, a night to remember! Wonderful friends... fantastic surroundings.... Incredible food... delicious wine... a birthday celebration... New Year's Eve spirit... dancing until 3:00 AM to DJ Lamont! Need there be more?

It will be impossible to forget the countdown to 2010! 12 Gallagher Lane, the hot new (so new it doesn't have a website yet) gallery space South of Market, was the perfect venue to celebrate New Year's Eve and my best chef friend, Gary Danko's birthday!

12 Gallagher Lane, - a Hunt Slonem Gallery is the brand-spanking-new event space devoted exclusively to Hunt's inspired paintings. Hunt, a prominent New York artist, is new to the SF art scene but not to the art world in general. His works are part of the permanent collection of more than 80 museums including the Whitney, Guggenheim and Met. I'm lucky enough to have one of my own, one of his vanda paintings, which welcomes guests in the entry of my home. We were all introduced to Hunt by Gary who owns several of Hunt's paintings.

So it comes as no surprise that we planned a huge New Year's celebration to commemorate the opening of Hunt's gallery and Gary's birthday. As guests walked into the gallery, it was like taking a giant step from a black and white world outside into HD technicolor. Each wall of the gallery is like a new painting, a new theme,-- whether it's Hunts parakeets, doves, butterflies, rabbits, or vandas. Hunt loves nature, color and repetition and not in any particular order.

For this celebratory evening, the center of the room was graced with a huge table filled a thousand red roses and Gary's delicious food. I cooked a couple of the dishes, rice olives and croutons with brandade, a salt cod, potato and garlic puree inspired by trips to Provence.

Gary's chefs turned out a million blini mounded with black Russian River Osetra caviar. Emmanuel Kemiji poured '06 Talley Vineyards Chardonnay and his Mission Ranch '07 Candela Pinot Noir with nice acidity and notes of red fruit. Veuve Clicquot Rosé champagne was flowing. And there at the end of the room was Gary, dressed in his whites, slicing, jamon Iberico. I quickly took the knife away from him and we toasted to his birthday and twenty-ten!


1 1/4 pounds dry salt cod
1/2 pound peeled boiling potatoes, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup cold milk
1 small onion stuck with 6 cloves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme or a pinch dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Soak the cod in water for 48 hours, changing the water two times each day. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

Clean the cod of all bones and skin. Place the cod in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of the milk, the onion and thyme, and just enough cold water to cover. Place on medium heat and just as it begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and let it cool 30 minutes. Drain the salt cod and discard the thyme sprigs. Discard any additional bones and skin from the cod.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup milk, heavy cream and olive oil. Place the garlic and potatoes in a blender or food processor and mix at low speed just until mixed. Do not over-process. Flake the fish and add to the blender alternately with one-third of the warm milk-cream-olive oil mixture. Process for 1 minute and scrape down the sides of the blender. Process 3 minutes. Add some of the remaining warm milk-cream-olive oil mixture a little at a time, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the blender. The blending process should last for 8 minutes. Turn the speed to high and process until the mixture is light, 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

This can be prepared 1 day ahead of time to this point. Bring to room temperature before the final baking.

Oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread the brandade in the dish and bake 15 minutes, until hot. Serve with warm croutons.

Serves 24