Piglia tre pani he levali la crosta he gratali molto bene he metteli supra una tavola, he metteli atorno una libra he meza de bona farina; he mete cum lo dito pane quatro ho cingue oca he batile bene cum lo cultello risguardando sempre lo pane cum la dita farina; he quando te parirache sia minuto como (f* 8r) anesi confetti, pone ogni cosa in uno sedazo he cacia fora la farina; poi falli secare alo sole ho alo focho; et quando li vorai cocere, coceli in brodo de carne, he fallo ghialdo cum saffrono; he falle bullire adasio per spacio de meza hora; et mette de sopra le menestre caso he specie.

Take the crusts of three loaves of bread. grate them, set this on a table and lay out a pound of and a half of fine flour around it; and put five eggs in with the ground bread and beat that well with a knife, always being careful (to coat) the breadcrumbs well with the flour; and when you have lumps that look to you to be the size of candies aniseed, put everything into a sieve and discard the (excess) flour; then dry them in the sun or by the fire. When you want to cook them, use meat broth made yellow with saffron; boil them gently for half an hour, serve them up garnished with cheese and spices.

 

The book commentary says “think ditallini.” I disagree. I think “couscous.”

This is about the easiest recipe I have made to date, but it relies on a couple of factors.  Use of a food processor is extremely helpful for ease of production.

I saved the crusts from several loaves, and staled them in a low oven while it was cooling from making some other dishes.  I crushed them and processed them, then ran them through a coarse strainer to make sure they were of a size.

 

bread crusts stacked and placed on baking sheets to dry

making breadcrumbs

The first time I made this, I worked from the proportions in the book. Knowing I had 5 eggs of indeterminate size and a pound and a half (not modern pounds! only 12 oz lb, so 18 oz in modern parlance) of flour, I started with a half pound of bread crumbs. There was a lot of tweaking, as I made this dish on dry days and more humid days, and each time the proportions changed.   Be prepared to add more eggs or flour, but do not add more breadcrumbs, as the addition will become gummy and harder to recover.

After several batches, the following numbers are pretty reliable in a medium processor, and result in both a quantity that comfortably fits an oven and that feeds 4 people an ample portion.

.

1 c (150g) home made breadcrumbs (I do not suggest commercial, they have quite an ingredient list)

3 eggs, about 150g  to coat, a fourth in reserve for in case.

1/2 c (100g) farina, fine semolina, or other very fine low gluten flour, as needed.

To serve the dish, I needed

about a half gallon of nice broth, or a quart of stock. This is most of the flavor in the dish, so if it tastes good the dish will as well.

Saffron if you like it (I like it!)

4 oz ricotta, farmers cheese, queso fresco, or other creamy new cheese

1 tablespoon Spices as you prefer. I chose black pepper, canela, and clove.

 

Place the breadcrumbs in the processor, and add the eggs. Whir until you have  a homogeneous paste. It should look gritty, like concrete, rather than soupy.

Add flour until the mass separates into tiny pellets. If they seem too small or incompletely coated, add more egg then more flour until you feel you have a pleasantsize and presentation of pasta. Remember that too large a pellet will be difficult to dry, and uneven in an elegant serving.

Spread out evenly on baking sheets and place in the bright dry sun, or alternately, place in a low oven for several hours, There will be quite a bit of shrinkage. I choose to turn the pasta several times, to avoid clumping and aid drying.

coarse pellets laid out on two pans to dry in the oven

thin layers dry faster

You can now store the pasta in a cool dry container, such as a mason jar in the fridge. or a zip bag in the freezer.

 

In order to prepare the dish for service, put about a half cup of broth per person into a pot, and add the optional saffron.

When the broth is warm, add a quarter cup of pasta per person to the pot, and watch carefully, Add more broth as needed, as the pasta absorbs. I prefer the dish dry, but you may prefer it with more liquid. I prefer not to stir overmuch, just enough to prevent clumping.  I find it works much better to add pasta to broth, rather than the other way.

hot broth in a pot, the pasta is being poured in slowly while stirring to prevent clumping

gently adding the pasta do the broth

If there is too much broth, you might allow it to simmer down, but if there is not enough broth and you are running low, water will not ruin the dish.

To serve, place in a warmed bowl, top with a dollop of milky cheese, and sprinkle with spices. Alternately, this would be a lovely bed for a roast or braised dish.

There is a fair amount of room to adapt this dish, whether by using an herb or vegetable broth, or making it more brothy or more fluffy by changing the broth proportions. The only things that cannot be adjusted are that it is unabashedly an egg and wheat dish.

Scully, Terence. The Neapolitan Recipe Collection. 4th ed. University of Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2000. 178. Print.

 

The Neapolitan Cookbook has several pasta dishes. 15, 16 and 17 are all related.

In the interest of using some leftover tubettini from the prior night, I used aspects of them for my quick lunch dish.

a brown bowl filled with small beads of pasta, and topped with grated white cheese.

quick, tasty, and light

15, Sicilian Macaroni, explains how to make tubettini. It is an egg dough made with rosewater, and “can be kept for two or three years,” while mine were semolina made with plain water. This set of instructions calls for cooking in water or good broth, then a garnish of grated cheese, a pat of butter, and mild spices.

16 describes something a little more like ziti, reminds us to use salt in the cooking, and asks for no more than butter.

Finally, 17, Vermicelli, specifies grated Parmesan cheese, mild spices, and saffron, and tells us that we can make lasagna the same way.

Interesting notes among them are the very long cooking times, their call for butter, and their use of “the very finest” flour, where we modernly think of pasta as more of a semolina flour product.

This causes me to consider my experiences with soft wheats and their differing reactions, and make plans to experiment with making pasta from different types of wheat at some point in the future.

 

Having my pasta already cooked in plain water, I assembled my ingredients and measured out my portion.

First I melted butter in a pan, in order both to butter and refresh the pasta.

After the pasta was warmed through, I poured my saffron water into the pan, which instantly transformed the color of the dish to amber.

I then sprinkled my spices on top, and sauteed for a moment more, in order to soften them and allow them to work their flavors in to the dish. This isn’t specified, , but it made sense.

A layer of pasta in a sautee pan with a dusting of spice powder overtop.

saffron and spices at work.

After plating the dish, I grated an ounce of asiago cheese on top.

Our discussion over lunch had to do with the saffron rounding out the flavor of the cloves, which could have been too sharp and bracing for a gentle dish, and the cheese’s sharpness being tempered by the saffron as well.

While we very rarely have pasta in the house, and it is more rare to have any left over, this was a fun, quick, and tasty use of of it when we did.

Recipe: Neapolitan Pastas, 15, 16, 17

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked tubettini or similar
  • 1 ounce water with saffron (maybe 5 threads)
  • ½ tsp poudre douce (see note)
  • ½ ounce butter
  • 1 ounce grated cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in pan
  2. Add precooked pasta, toss til warm.
  3. Add saffron and water, toss til reasonably evenly colored.
  4. Add spices, toss til scented and evenly distributed
  5. Place pasta in bowl, grate cheese overtop.
  6. Serve.
  7. Note lack of salt. I cook my pasta in liberally salted water, and do not choose to add more. You can certainly add it if you would miss it.

 

Ratings;

  • using store stuff is not exactly there
  • the saffron matters.
  • Balancing the spices is a perfectionists’ task+ only one of the listed recipes requires parmesan, it’s otherwise flexible+ a simple toss-together and heat dish+ leftover special

Note:

the recipe for my powdre douce is available on the button to the top right, “my basic notes and recipes.”

 

Millet, probably best known as a primary ingredient in birdseed, is making a bit of a comeback.

It’s showing up in mixed-grain products and recipes more frequently, as well as grocery shelves. I used “pearl” millet, it seems there are several varieties, not all related. All judgements and proportions are based on “pearl” millet.

The pitfall I have run into with millet is the need to soak and/or cook for a very very long time in order to combat chalkiness. The seeds are very low in oil and the hulls are just thick enough that it takes a little more work, time, and water to get them to a point of fluffy and light.

whole millet in a bowl

While it looks like coarse cornmeal, it's tiny seeds.

The recipe calls for soaking in hot water three times, but does not suggest how long to soak. In experimentation, I found that at least a 24 hour soaking of pearl millet is needed just to get it started on the way to being pleasant, anything less was unsatisfactory.

After soaking, the next step is to beat the seeds very vigorously with the back of a spoon, in order to crack them and allow them to absorb more milk. Having beaten the millet, and not being vigorous enough for this task, I tried this with both whole millet and “millet grits,” cracked millet.

two small bowls with a coarse, dry-seeming cereal, stiff and lumpy.

I could not add enough milk to make whole millet work.

Once the millet was drained and beaten, I put milk into the pot and seethed it, added the saffron, and folded in the millet. As the milk boiled and thickened, the millet came together much like polenta.

soft, creamy, hot porridge of cracked millet, resting in a 12' cast iron pan to cool. Texture of fresh polenta.

cracked millet, cooling in the form

The contrast between whole millet, requiring “vigorous beating,” and cracked millet, an adapted selection, made all of the difference in the success of this dish.

The cracked millet soaked up twice as much water, allowing the starches the opportunity to convert when heat was applied, where the whole millet soaked up very little water, maintaining a less pleasant flavor and mouthfeel.

Cracked millet also absorbed twice as much milk, making for a thickened porridge, where the whole seeds were a less-well integrated ingredient in a sauce. The whole millet just could not get enough time seething in the milk before the milk ran out or began to burn.

The cracked millet was able to set into a lovely polenta-like dish which held well for two days and reheated well, where the whole millet was crusty, dry, and unpleasant in several hours; the mass was still absorbing liquid days later.

 

We loved the creamy tenderness and gentle texture of the porridge as part of a simple spring dinner. It is basic enough in flavoring to go well with many types of dish, and the way it set when it cooled in a pan into an easily sliced cake was convenient. It reheated very nicely the next day.

Recipe: Viander Millet

Summary: a porridge

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cracked millet “grits” or whole millet
  • 6 cups water
  • (1 tsp) salt (to taste)
  • 4 or 6 threads of saffron
  • 2 cups of milk
  • Strainer
  • cookpot with rounded bottom if you have one
  • Flame tamer if you don’t trust your stovetop
  • Spatula

Instructions

  1. Soak grits 24 hours, changing water three times Use the strainer, grits are small!
  2. If using whole millet, drain it and bash the heck out of it. A little smashing will not do. Destroy it. Smack it around til you think you are done, then do it again. It takes effort.
  3. If using cracked millet… drain it.
  4. After full soaking, begin to seethe milk in the pot, making sure that it does not scorch. (preheating it in a microwave might make sense)
  5. Add saffron to the warm milk, allow to sit for a few moments to start giving color and flavor.
  6. Fold in the drained millet, and begin to stir. Watch for lumps and splattering. It starts to absorb the milk pretty quickly but keep boiling, not just hot, but actually boiling, until the mix begins to set up. Salt it.
  7. At this point the instructions call for it to be set out in bowls, but you can also cool it in a form for later service.
  8. In order to make it ahead, but still serve it as a hot porridge, heat a cup of milk per batch, and fold in the cooled recipe, breaking it with a wooden spoon and a whisk. It won’t be easy, but it works.

Quick notes

Ratings:

-trying to get past the texture issue was a little challenging

-boiling milk is scary

-Millet can be hard to find.

+underused interesting ingredient

+only a little bit of attention needed

+just as pleasant as a make-ahead dish

+ very simple flavor profile, complements many types of food well.

I would be perfectly comfortable serving this in most settings.

Preparation time: 25 hour(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8-12

 

 

Fish! It’s season. The rivers are stocked, and the windows can be opened to air out the house. Yay!

The recipe calls for pike or pickerel.
Pike is a river or lake fish also found in some slightly salty situations, but it doesn’t tolerate brackish water well.
It is long and skinny, and can, depending on conditions, have the “muddy” flavor associated with catfish and tilapia.
They grow a couple of feet long, and have two extra lines of bones.

I could not get a pike; though the rivers are stocked, they are a challenge here. I chose whiting instead, as being a suitable mild white fish. Shad would have been another good choice, but the fisheries in my area are depleted of them.

a loaf of wine, a bottle of wine, a bottle of verjus, seasonings, and in a bowl, three little fish.

a short shopping list

One was split and boned, the other two cooked on the bone, for comparison.
I roasted them in salt, as a later recipe made a special note of not salting a fish in a manner suggesting that not to do so was unusual.

three fish on a roasting tray; one boned and split, two cleaned but otherwise intact.

I prefer bone on, but often test sauces on fish cooked a few ways.

For the sauce, I grated stale bread, and added the crumbs, ginger powder, and saffron to the pot of water, and added a little salt.

breadcrumbs, saffron, and seasonings in a pan.

The instructions admonish to sift the crumbs well, in order to have a fine sauce.

Once the pot began to simmer, I added wine and verjus, though I was concerned that the wine would change the color. It really wasn’t an issue.

a small pot with a dark amber sauce, held at an angle to show breadcrumbs settling to the bottom.

It takes a little work to get the crumbs to homogenise well with the sauce, but with attention, it does coalesce.

After roasting, I peeled the fish off of the bones and out of the skins, and placed it in a bowl. There was not an elegant way to do this for such little guys.

On tasting, we agreed that more ginger elevated the sauce and balanced it, but the addition of vinegar unbalanced the sauce somewhat. Readjusting the ginger solved the problem.

The strong saffron and ginger flavor provided a lot of depth and interest to what is often a flavorless fish, and would have enhanced the richness of a pike nicely. It is an attractive color, and is of itself vegetarian, so would be useful as a hot dressing for pressed tofu, or for steamed chicken.

Unfortunately, the sauce does not hold long or well, it begins to set quite quickly. As it comes together easily, it would not be hard to pre-measure dry ingredients for preparation at need, but with the balance of flavors and the tricky nature of the breadcrumb thickening, it might be more of a challenge than wise for a large scale service. If I were to serve it to larger groups, I would use a wide, shallow pan, and have one person doing only that sauce at time of need.

2 cups water
1/2t saffron
1 t powdered ginger
1/2 c fine breadcrumbs. (Italian loaf, staled overnight, grated or whizzed, and sifted)
River-fish fillets, grilled or roasted with nothing but salt.

-needs careful balancing
-sauce can stick and burn in an instant
-uses a fair lot of saffron.
-hidden gluten, need to warn loudly.

– fiddly

– short holding time.
+reasonably common ingredients
+can be adapted to alternate dining needs quickly
+attractive and somewhat unusual color.