Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cucina Povera

 Cucina Povera
Tuscan Peasant Cooking
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Hardcover, 192 pages

“Si stava meglio quando si stava peggio (we were better off when things were worse)” 

Italians are known for their resourcefulness and economy in feeding their families, especially in lean times, without sacrificing flavour. The interesting thing is, the quality of the food was higher in those lean times than in times of plenty. Nothing went to waste.

Pamela Sheldon Johns is the author of 14 cookbooks and hosts tours and cooking workshops in the most beautiful areas of Italy. Cucina Povera celebrates the beauty of simple Italian foods made with local and seasonal ingredients. She invites you to slow down and savour the food of a simpler time. No pre-packaged and overly processed ingredients, just clean, honest and delicious fare. These are the kinds of dishes to savour slowly, with a lovely bottle of wine and good friends.

The chapters include:
Meats & Seafoods
Side Dishes
Bread & Sweets

The book gives a beautiful history of cucina povera in different regions of Italy. You'll enjoy reading it as much as you enjoy cooking from it.

We cooked up Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo Roasted Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce and Insalata di Farro Farro Salad, two deliciously wholesome meals that delighted the family. Try them yourself this weekend!

Buon Appetito!

Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo 
Roasted Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce
— From Cucina Povera/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Vin santo is a Tuscan dessert wine made with dried grapes. Marsala makes a good substitute, or you can use a good dry white wine. Adjust the cooking time according to the size of chicken you use. When the chicken is done, an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh and not touching bone will register 165° F, or the juices will run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife.

3 tablespoons aromatic herbs minced with salt (page 41), or your preferred combination of fresh herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chicken, about 3 pounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vin santo or sweet Marsala wine

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a small roasting pan or heatproof casserole.

In a small bowl, combine the herb mixture with the garlic. Loosen the skin of the breast of the chicken and spread the herb mixture under the skin. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on its side in the prepared pan and roast for 15 minutes, then turn and roast on the second side for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken onto its back and roast for 30 minutes, or until the chicken tests done.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm. Set the roasting pan over medium heat and add the wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook to reduce the liquid by half. Drizzle the pan sauce over the roasted chicken and serve at once.

Serves 6
Insalata di Farro
Farro Salad
— From Cucina Povera/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Farro is an ancient strain of wheat with a high protein content and a nutty flavor. It can be found in natural foods and gourmet foods stores whole, cracked, or ground into flour. This dish can be served warm as a winter side dish, or chilled for a summer salad.

2 cups whole-grain farro (I used kamut)
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 green onions, including 1 inch of green parts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, diced (I added cucumber, after the cooking)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and diced
2 cups chicken stock (page 173), heated
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces spicy salame, diced
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving

Soak the farro in water to cover for at least 1 hour or overnight.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, garlic, zucchini, and bell pepper and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Drain the farro and add to the pan, cover, and decrease the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the farro is tender and the stock has been absorbed. Stir in the chickpeas and salame. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining ¼ cup olive oil together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fluff the farro with a fork. Stir in the dressing. Serve warm or chilled, on lettuce leaves.

Serves 6