1 packet active dry yeast
3 cups flour
3 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
6 oz. assorted wild mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
3 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 plum tomatoes, seed and coarsely chopped
2 cups freshly grated fontina
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes. Combine flour and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to yeast, a little at a time, moistening with up to 3/4 cup water as you mix. Alternately, you could pulse the mixture in a food processor just until it forms a ball. Dough should be soft but not wet.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, 10 minutes. Form into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel; set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, 2 – 3 hours.
Set a pizza stone in the middle of your oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms, seasoning with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until wilted, 5 minutes. Add vinegar slowly, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, cook for 2 more minutes, and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the pizza, stretch the dough into a 12″ round, pinch the edges to form a ridge, and sit dough on a pizza peel dusted with flour. Cover with half the fontina, all the mushrooms, and all the tomato mixture. Top with the remaining fontina and parmesan. Slide the pizza into the oven, onto the stone. Bake until crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Garnish with more thyme sprigs.
NB: A bit of truffle oil strewn across this pizza can only bring happiness!
Cardoons or carduni, as my father calls them, are a member of the thistle family, resembling celery stalks but with a flavor reminiscent of artichokes. Cardoons are only available from November to February and even then it would take a bit of effort to find some. It’s obscurity, combined with its high-maintenance preparation has deterred many people from even approaching them, but this noble thistle – which centuries ago was called the wealthy man’s treat – surely deserves some attention.
After separating the stalks, they must be thoroughly rinsed and then trimmed of all thorns and leaves. The indigestible stringy fibers are then shaved off with a vegetable peeler. The stalks are then roughly chopped and allowed to soak in acidulated water (water with lemon or vinegar). Lastly, they are parboiled to take away some of its bitterness.
Cardoon Gratin Recipe:
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 lbs. cardoons, prepared as above
1 cup grated fontina
Place cream, stock, and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Place cardoons into the cream mixture.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cardoon are tender, about 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cardoon pieces to individual gratin dishes (or a 1-quart baking dish).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reduce cream mixture to about 3/4 cup over medium heat. Discard the bay leaf and pour the sauce over the gratin dishes, sprinkle the fontina on top, and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
One of my favorite Italian restaurants is al di la in Park Slope Brooklyn, and that is the only restaurant where I have ever seen cardoons on the menu.
Anolini is a small and round stuffed pasta, sometimes with crimped edges. The pasta is typically 1 to 2 inches in diameter and may also be called tortelli.
This recipe is centuries old and comes from Italy’s gastronomic capital – Parma.
Beef, bones and vegetables are cooked very slowly in wine and stock for 8 to 10 hours (think overcooked pot roast). When the meat begins to fall apart push everything through a strainer, extracting as much juice as possible. Discard the meat since all its flavor is now in the cooking juices. Place the juice back into a small pot and boil for about 10 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool.
Combine the cooled sauce with toasted breadcrumbs, lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a touch of nutmeg. Taste for salt. Add a few eggs to bind, blend well and refrigerate. If you feel the urge to splurge, add some chopped black truffles to the mixture.
When you’re pasta dough is ready, dot the dough with a row of the filling and top with another sheet of dough.
Cut out the anolini shapes using a 1 to 2 inch round cutter and press all the air out. Spread them out on a baking sheet coated with flour and corn meal.
Bring chicken stock to a boil, add the anolini and cook until tender. Cooking time will vary according to how dry your fresh pasta is. Ladle the pasta and broth into soup bowls and top with a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Fall is full of culinary options and pumpkins provide endless cooking possibilities. If I’m not experimenting with a new pumpkin soup, I’m most likely trying to find an exciting sauce to pair with my fluffy pumpkin gnocchi.
For the Gnocchi:
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 cup pumpkin, peeled, roughly chopped and cooked
2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
For the Sauce:
I made this sauce spontaneously and never recorded my ingredients or recipe. The basic idea is to toast several Indian spices (think Garam Masala) in a pan, add some curry powder and turmeric, one minced hot chile pepper and some olive oil. Let this cook together to release all the aromas. Add vegetable or chicken stock, reduce, drop in the cooked gnocchi and finish with butter and salt.