The Gentleman Gourmand

sharing the best food around

Category: Cooking (Page 2 of 2)

Tomato soup, eyeballed.

So, I had been emailing my mother (aww…) for one of the many tomato soup recipies that I love. What I finally realized is that tomato soup is whatever you want it to be. (gasp!)

Here’s the basic recipe I was given:

Barefoot Contessa roasted tomato-basil soup

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half length wise
1/4 cup plus 2 T good EVOO
1 T good salt (I just noticed this now. How absurd is this? What the crap is “good” salt? Jeffrey Steingarten already put this issue to rest in his article about salt. All salt is NaCl. Once it dissolves in a liquid, it is all the same. The only difference between any salt is the size of the crystal and the other minerals that are connected to it (such as that pink salt from japan). Asking for “good” salt in a recipe that is going to be dissolved is silly.)
1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (about 2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
28 ounces canned plum tomatoes with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in one layer on baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes.

In an 8 qt. stockpot on med heat, saute the onions and garlic in 2 T of olive oil, butter and red pepper flakes, for 10 minutes, until onions begin to brown. Add canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including liquid on baking sheet. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for further seasoning. Serve hot or cold.

Serves 6-8 (really great for summer–a lighter version with no heavy cream)

Then I decided, screw that. I’ve totally got good tomato sauce already. What else do I have?

I’ve got:
garlic IN oil Note: this is something I came across for the first time, here. What Donatella does is she takes garlic with the skin on and purees it, then lets it sit in oil, and keeps it that way. She only has to add a few drops to any dish to give it a distinct garlic flavor. What’s interesting about this, is she says that its really the skin that gives it a lot of potentcy. Once it has sat for a few days, all the garlic (including the skin) is completely edible. And tasty.)
crushed red pepper
fresh basil

I don’t need anythin else!

So I got to work.

Step one: Saute as much garlic and onions as you like in some oil. Cut em however you like. If you like big pieces, go ahead. I like little cubes.


Note: I am a onion and garlic fiend. What you see in this picture is the amount I used for ONE portion. My friends know this. I know this. You may not know this. Now you do. (When I go to Publix and get a sub, they often run out of onions because I ask for so many. You might as well call it an onion sandwich, with some tasty condiments. Like meat.)

Once they’re translucent (not brown, I like em to have some crunch), add yer tomato sauce. I had just cooked some tomatoes in oil with a bit of dried mint (thats right. mint. wanna fight about it?) and had a big pot of it just sitting there, waiting, no, pleading with me to make him into soup. He (the soup) wanted it to have a real recipe so that I wouldn’t mess up. Boy did I prove him wrong.


Anyway, so you’ve got your onion, garlic, oil, tomato sauce mix now, right? Let it simmer for a bit, and taste it a couple times. Add some salt and pepper. How much did I add? Not sure, most of it got stuck to my fingers and I got annoyed with it. Somewhere in the neighborhood of “a pinch.”

So now, you could stop and say, screw all this fatty “butter and cream nonsense, I’m going to eat low fat foods and live to be 100!” Nonsense. Add the cream and the butter. It doesnt have to be a lot, just enough cream to make it lighter in color, and just enough butter to give it that great sheen.


After that you’re pretty much done.


Grab some fresh basil. At first I didn’t chop mine up, and just stuck it in the center to “look pretty.” Then I decided I didn’t care whatsoever for it to “look pretty” and chopped it up. It looked decidedly prettier after I chopped it.



Once the executive board met to decide on the drink (meaning, me and the pot of tomato sauce), we came to a concensus of iced coffee, which I promptly made (dirtying about half a dozen more things in the process.)


Ate I then did, promptly.

Pizza with Pizzaz

Today, I learned how to make pizza the Umbrian way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the recipe for the dough, which just happens to be the most important part. You’re just going to have to use your imagination. (I know it had flour, water, lard, yeast and salt. What’s odd is that the yeast came in these little blocks that looked like dough. I guess it’s an Italian thing.

Now, I had been eating pizza in Spoleto, and it was incredibly thin (with the exception of Pizza Bianca, which is supposed to be thicker). I really enjoy thin pizza, but evidently this is not how Umbrians make pizza at home.

Anyway, here’s our dough proofing on the stove (but not on the heat, silly):


After proofing, the dough was surprisingly soft. It reminded me less of bread dough and more of a pastry dough.


We ended up making two pizzas with it, one with a simple sauce of fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oil (margarita), and another with just oil, salt and rosemary (bianca).

It’s important that you spread lard on the parchment, so that it doesn’t stick. You cant use oil, because the pizza will soak it up and get soggy on the bottom, which is molto cattivo. (Look that one up!)


If you wished I had taken a close up of the bag of lard, I’m way ahead of you.


Another important thing is having a ragingly hot oven. If you open it, and you don’t feel your skin start to peel off, it’s not hot enough. Ours went up to about 250 C. That’s about 500 F for you stateside folks.


Spread out the dough however thick you want. We did about half an inch. Spread the sauce, or oil/salt/rosemary combination evenly on the spread out dough. Then poke holes in it. But don’t prick it; that’s just dirty.

Don’t give me that look.


Anyway… put the pizza in the oven. Enjoy the burning smell of your face. Then take your face out of the oven, silly.

Toss some mozzarella on there. Then toss it back in the incendiary device.




Then take a picture of your scowling maestro.


Now run!

Chicken Schnitzel-izzle

Got chicken? Got old bread? Got lemons? You’re halfway to heaven! Well, at least half way to a decent, quick delicious meal.

This is the recipe with no numbers.

Take some chicken breasts. Pound them flat. Take some flour, put it in a dish. Take some egg, add a little bit of water, mix with egg. Put in separate dish. Take bread (if it’s old just grind it up, if it’s not old, toast it for a while and then grind it up). If you like spicy stuff, put some crushed red pepper in the grinder, or add cayenne after you grind, but DON’T grind the red pepper then put your head in to smell it. Your face will sting for an hour. I know.. Put in another dish. Add salt and pepper and anything else you feel like.

Cut up some pieces of lemon for later.

Take the chicken breasts, dredge in flour, then egg mixture, then breadcrumbs.

Heat up olive oil (or butter or any other fat you want) pretty hot, but not smoking, in a saute pan. Lay chicken flat in the pan when it’s good and hot.

Fry for a few minutes on one side, then the other side. Adjust temperature to keep it just below the smoke point. This gets harder as more and more breadcrumbs fall off and start to burn. Just hang in there, you’re almost done.

Transfer to serving dish, add salt right when it comes out of the oil.

Keep the cooked pieces in a medium warm oven until all pieces are done.

Serve to a small ravenous crowd.

Let them squeeze lemon on their own (and make sure you cover your eyes, those suckers spritz hard.)



Chicchi, the hottest new vegan app on the street

Since I work here, I’m going to shamelessly post the recipe from, since they took the recipe from my boss, Donatella.


This recipe is for Chicchi, without a doubt our most popular appetizer. The menu describes it as “Chicchi di Farro Perlato con Ceci, Tartufo e Bruschettine all’Olio d’Olivia” Which translates to Spelt (an ancient Roman grain) tossed with chick peas, truflles and tomatoes, served with toast drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Let me tell you; “It’s delicious.” I say.

Heres what the 3 main ingredients look like before you add them together to heat and plate (the chick pea / spelt combination is made in advance)


After combining and plating, it looks very similar to this:


I lied. It looks exactly like that. I plated it. Nothing “similar” about it.

Now I know you’re all really just wondering what the recipe is. Well, I’m not going to give it to you.

Meh, fine. I’ve gone through this much already. Here you go:

Use fresh herbs and tomatoes in tiny amounts, pinches, as they are only to accent, not overpower the truffles. Truffle oil may be substituted for the black truffles.

10 ounces dried chickpeas
10 ounces farro (spelt)
3 ounces black truffles
Tomato bits
Chili flakes

Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 hours, changing the water 3 times. (If you use canned chickpeas, rinse them thoroughly!) Cook the chickpeas in the same water for about 1 hour. Cook the farro in lightly salted water until tender. Do not overcook the chickpeas or farro!

Finely chop the garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, chili flakes, and oregano. Lightly sauté the herbs in olive oil, then add the tomato bits. Add the drained chickpeas and farro, drizzling with a bit of broth until cooked. Off the flame, stir in the truffles and serve with slices of fettunta. {This is crap, throw the truffles in when you heat it all up} (Fettunta is Tuscan garlic bread. A thick slice of Tuscan style bread is toasted and then lightly rubbed with a clove of garlic. {Again, crap I say, just toast it till its crispy throughout. No garlic rubbing nonsense, unless you’re rubbing the garlic on yourself, then it’s ok.} The best extra virgin olive oil is poured over the bread. Then it’s seasoned with a little salt.) {Be sure and sprinkle generous amounts of salt on the toasted bread, or it wont taste as good. Stupid recipe writers.}

Remember I told you it was our most popular appetizer? Check out the order tickets tonight:


(***HOT TIP*** Click it to make it readable!! Wowza! Technological wizadry! Like Harry Potter, but not as awesome.)

EVERY SINGLE TABLE ORDERED AT LEAST ONE CHICCHI!! It’s a good thing it’s a snap to make during service.

Chicken butchering. Bbgawk!!

Looking for instructions on how to disassemble a chicken?  Click here.

Now that I have the basic site laid out, I’m going to start documenting the daily goings on in the kitchen.  Today, Donatella showed me how to debone a chicken, keeping all the meat in 1 piece.  Thats one, folks.  Count em with me.  One.

Firstly, Italian chickens come with some feathers still attached.  They must be cleansed by fire.  Holy, avenging angel fire.

A standard gas burner will do this time, though.


After that unpleasant task is taken care of, don your surgical gloves and mask.  I’m going in.



Once all the bones are excavated, you’re left with this glorious sight.  Next step – rolling and blazing.  Errm, roasting.




Look Daddy, dinosaurs!!


Yeowzaowaz (say it out loud!)

So many cool things have been happening here. Last night we did a 6 course banquet dinner for 34 people. And by “we” I mean me and Donatella. And by 34 people I really mean 40, because 6 people were in the regular dining room too, that had to be treated like normal customers.


Tonight, I thought we were going to have a slow night, so I didn’t even put my whites on. When I meandered into the kitchen around 9, there were 7 tickets up on the board, and Donatella was in a frenzy. I jumped right in, and before I knew it I was making 3 creme brulees.

While making one of them, I had the ingenious idea to touch the burned sugar, to make sure it had become hard. (Heh heh… hard. Shaddup.)

I forgot the fact that I had just scorched the sugar with the blowtorch, even though I was still clutching it in my grasp.

I tapped the still smouldering crust with the middle finger of my right hand, and it immedately stuck to my digit. Bad sign.

I immediately licked it off (good idea), and realized I had completely scalded myself.

I have a pretty blister now!!


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