The Trattoria Project and Spectaculars: April 2008

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Friday, April 25, 2008

This is my day


The KaoHsiung trip is history. I came back together with nasty food experiences and heightened blood sugar levels. It's a wonder the entire country isn't diabetic because of the dominating presence of sugar in nearly every meal they eat. Even the Sashimi platter I had was drizzled with some honey soy, and it was also utterly disgusting. The beef Cappaccio had an appalling sweet vinaigrette and a packet of fries was seasoned with sugar. It's enough to make any pastry chef quit their job.

And if that's bad enough, they've got an unbelievably persistent bunch of people too. When I was strolling down the food department in a shopping district, I felt like I got stuck in some stock market instead. Food sellers from all corners will consistently insist that you sample their most amazing product. If you walk away, they'll go great lengths to make sure their voices would be loud enough to reach your ears. And when you finally decide to sample their product and not buy it because it tastes like shit, they'll give a look on the face like you had just spent their entire life savings on visor hats and fancy stickers and like you had just castrated their favorite pet.

I don't know about you, but nothing starts my day like a plate of good pasta. Especially when my palates are heavily traumatized by shitty food. Good pasta doesn't mean jarred Prego sauce with minced pork and canned mushrooms. Good pasta means a burst of mind blowing flavors with a good hint of wheat in the mouth. It's quite sad actually, most Singaporeans perceive pasta as TV dinner or fast food because good pastas are always outrageously priced. (at least SGD$10 for a decent aglio olio - pasta, garlic and olive oil. And no, not the one from Pasta Mania.) No one pays for something that already has a bad stigma.

Quite recently, I stumbled across one of the most amazing Italian cookbooks I've ever seen in a book store. I know I'm a little late but it's the Babbo cookbook by Mario Batali. There was only one left on the shelf and on it is a price tag that would instantly induce a terrible itch to the back of anyone's head upon sight. $82.92. Being the impulsive brat that I am, I bought it immediately because I thought that such books are hard to come by.

I tried the Pasta Amatriciana recipe two times today, one straight from the book the other with a little tweaking. I won't tell you which is better because I'm not shameless. For the record, both were bursting with flavors and are absolutely delicious so try the recipe if you haven't already know what good pasta tastes like. But due to copyright laws I'll show you my version of the recipe.

Spaghettoni All'Amatriciana
adapted from the Babbo cookbook
Serves 4

200g Pancetta or Good Quality Bacon, sliced
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 Red Onion, diced
1.5 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1.5 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
400g Spaghettoni Pasta
a handful Italian Parsley, chopped
2 tsp Light Cream or Creme Faiche
Fleur de Sel
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

1. Boil water with salt in a pot.

2. Render bacon fat in saute pan until most of the fat is out. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels. Reserve fat in pan.

3. Saute onions in bacon fat until translucent. Add garlic, reserved bacon and red pepper, saute until garlic turns lightly brown.

4. Season, add tomato sauce and simmer.

5. Cook pasta according to packet instructions in boiling salted water until al dente. Add to simmering sauce.

6. Add parsley and toss pasta. Serve.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fit for the King ..or the Bin?

Grilled Chicken with Capers on Wilted Spinach and Citrus Vinaigrette

Flank Steak, Sun Dried Tomato and Piman Pepper Sandwich

These are my lab test versions of the Chicken Piccata and Skirt Steak Sandwich respectively. I know, I must be a genius right? No, you're not right. Looks are deceiving. One of them is perfectly fit for the bin. Which is it? Can you differentiate the shit from the sublime? Think about it.

If you thought the steak sandwich was the flop and the chicken was fit for a king, then the king must be eating from his bin. That lovely acidic sauce from a Chicken Piccata seems to only go well when the chicken is crumbed and fried. Having the lemony acid on a grilled chicken was the culinary equivalent to a plate pasta with commercial strawberry sauce. I thought I'd refined the Chicken Piccata, but nothing went right. Every remote trace of deliciousness from the Piccata have vanquished after a crashing failure and can't be located because they got stranded somewhere far away on a mysterious island. A Chicken Fiasco.

Steak sandwich, orgasmic. The Japanese Piman peppers were experimented in hopes that its delicate and sweet flavor would contrast with the grainy and bold texture of the flank steak. It worked. And with the slight tartness from the sun dried tomato, it turns out to be better than I had expected it. It will probably be on the menu so I can't show you the recipe.

See you in a month.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Insalata Toscana

A handful of wild rockets. Herb-poached Italian potatoes. Freshly cut Roma tomatoes. Salted capers and shallots. Drizzle of red wine vinaigrette and Tuscan fruity olive oil. Fleur de Sel and freshly cracked black peppercorns. Very delicious indeed.

There is nothing amazing about the Italian cuisine without the simple, unpretentious and ass-kicking peasant style cooking. If you haven't already know, that is exactly what the Trattoria Project is all about.

Before I venture out for another awe-inspiring month in Taiwan, I made it a point to comfort my palates with as much Italian food as I can. That being said, I hope you'd find Insalata Toscana as pleasurable and comforting as it is to me.

Insalata Toscana
serves 4

350g slab of Roast Beef, diced
4 medium Potatoes, diced
3 large Sage leaves
3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
3 small Shallots, chopped
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 Tbsp Salted Capers
Handful of Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Handful of Rockets
Fleur de Sel
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Boil potatoes in salted boiling water, sage leaves and some EVOO until al dente. Drain and set aside. Whisk EVOO, vinegar, crushed pepper, fleur de sel and pepper. Combine everything, toss and season. Enjoy.