Oh boy! We have another new toy!

summary: taking inspiration from TV; passatelli?! …how NOT to use up old bread; you lose some – you win some; a potato ricer isn’t just for potatoes; how much do they want for gadgets to make a ‘cucina povera’ dish??; best palak ever!; colour zones explained – sort of; that’s right: still staying at home;

Since the province decreed on Boxing Day that we must stay at home, except to get groceries, take physically distanced exercise, and go to medical appointments, we have been reading a lot and watching TV a lot. And, because eating is our life, we have been eating a lot too. (I think I found the weight that one of our friends lost last summer….)

new toy: ricer

We have another new toy! Here’s why we suddenly needed it:

     Monteveglio is a tiny village on top of a mountain roughly 12 miles west of Bologna […] There are two main attractions: the pieve, or rural church […], and our main destination, a small restaurant/hotel called Trattoria del Borgo. […]
     I walk the cobblestone streets, trying to see past the facades that obscure private, shaded back gardens but can catch only glimpses through half-open wooden gates, one or two ancient bicycles just beyond the entrance. The view of the valley is stunning and uniquely Italian. These lands have been cultivated for thousands of years, and nothing looks wild or out of place. The light is ebbing with a big-screen glow, and it is time for my cooking lesson. […]
     [C]ucina povera […] combines a style of cooking that is authentic, local and from the land. Other common culinary terms are cucina espressa and cucina immediata — which also describe passatelli, the quick homemade pasta dish we are about to make: a mixture of breadcrumbs, eggs and grated cheese, passed through a potato ricer-like passatelli maker into boiling water and served with chicken broth. […]
     [Trattoria del Borgo’s owner, Paolo] Parmeggiani has three bowls prepared, one filled with breadcrumbs, one with eggs, and the other with finely grated Parmesan. (Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in Emilia-Romagna and finds its way into almost every dish.) I ask about the recipe and learn that one uses six handfuls each of breadcrumbs and cheese, plus eggs as binder. […] [I] learn that one uses six handfuls each of breadcrumbs and cheese, plus eggs as binder.
     He combines the mixture by hand, which takes no more than two minutes, until he has a soft dough, which he places into a metal passatelli maker. He extrudes the dough over boiling water, cutting it into short lengths with a knife, and cooks it for just a few minutes, sim- ilar to spaetzle. […]
     Passatelli is served in a bowl with chicken broth and, if you are in Emilia-Romagna in the fall, copious shavings of modestly priced white truffles (which, at the outset of the season, are a slightly disappointing mix of potato and truffle). It is one of the best dishes of my life and also the fastest.
     That’s it. Cucina espressa, as well as povera — one more reminder that the best food in the world is both simple and local.
 
– Christopher Kimball, Milk Street | Cucina Povera: A Cooking Lesson in Monteveglio

While toasted bread crumbs are fabulous, we’re always looking for new ways to use up heels of bread. This sounded wonderful!

Because we were still in lockdown, we ordered a ricer online.

JmeGe stainless steel ricer

It arrived almost immediately! We decided to use it to mash potatoes.

It certainly mashed them. Quickly too. But we never peel our potatoes for mashed potatoes. So we chopped up (by hand) the peels left behind by the ricer.

ricing potatoes
ricing potatoes
ricing potatoes

The resulting mashed potatoes were great. But they were really no better than potatoes mashed with a hand-held masher. And the clean-up was way more labour intensive. (The potatoes really stick to the discs.)

However, we agreed that even though it’s a little bit tricky to clean, the ricer would be perfect for making gnocchi. And, of course, passatelli….

The next day, we decided to try passatelli for lunch. The passatelli recipe on Christopher Kimball’s site Milk Street calls for eggs, Parmesan cheese without rind, and – wait for it:

Made with stale bread, cheese, eggs, broth and little else, the dish exemplifies cucina povera, or peasant cooking. […] To make passatelli dough, Italian cooks use stale bread processed into breadcrumbs, but […] in order to consistently produce a dough with the proper texture, we use Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs.
 
– Diane Unger, Milk Street | Passatelli in Brodo

Panko crumbs! Really??? That sort of defeats the purpose of the Cucina Povera dish, doesn’t it? :stomp: :stomp:

We were NOT going to mask up, trudge through the slush that still abounded (thank goodness the snow has melted now) to the Japanese supermarket that may or may not be open, to pay through the nose for panko crumbs! No. No. No.

I don’t even like Panko crumbs. They’re too sweet!

We decided to emulate traditional Italian cooks and used the heel from 2 day old Tartine bread, whirring it up in the food processor. Loud though….

Everything went very smoothly. Except maybe getting the bread crumbs to be finely finely finely ground, as per most of the recipes we looked at.

fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs
 
– Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking | Passatelli,
Save any stale loaves of Italian bread, cut into smaller pieces and let them dry out completely. Blitz them in the food processor, first using the shredding blade, then a second time with the chopping blade, to get a very fine crumb.
 
– MrsLarkin, Food52 | Passatelli in Brodo
bread crumbs, extra finely grated
 
– Ilaria, Ilaria’s Perfect Recipes | Passatelli Pasta (comfort Italian pasta)
The most important tip when it comes to making this type of pasta is to use the right ingredients. And by that I mean, finely grated, PLAIN breadcrumbs and finely grated Parmesan cheese. If you use breadcrumbs that contain oil or any other fat you risk that your passatelli will fall apart when cooked in the boiling water.
 
– Italian Recipe Book | How To Make Passatelli – Step By Step

Still, even with slightly less finely milled bread crumbs, the dough pushed through the ricer perfectly.

making passatelli

We used storebought chicken broth with some of our homemade chicken stock added to boost the flavour. I also cut a few tiny sprigs of parsley that is overwintering (and just surviving) in the basement. So the soup would look a little prettier.

Lunch smelled fantastic!

passatelli

The verdict:
Q: Did we love passatelli in brodo?
A: In spite of how zillions of others have raved, I’m afraid that I didn’t….

torchietto in ottone (brass press) - Ingalls Photography Every time I visit Bologna, I load up on Christmas presents for my kitchen staff at a tiny shop called Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo in the heart of the city. It’s packed to the rafters with brass cutters designed for every imaginable type of pasta: Cutters for tagliatelle, pappardelle, lasagne, tortelli, ravioli, raviolo, and anolini. My favorite purchase is a heavy-duty brass press for making passatelli, a pasta made from equal proportions of bread crumbs, eggs, grated parmesan, lemon, and a dash of nutmeg. The dough is formed and then is extruded through the die on the bottom. In my restaurant, I poach the passatelli in chicken broth. It’s a satisfying dish with a wonderful flavor that reminds me of my first trip to Bologna. The tool itself brings back memories of the store — a place where time has stopped.
 
– Michael Tusk, SAVEUR Magazine #169 online, Holiday Gift Guide : Kitchen Tools & Gadgets, November 2014

As pretty as the “heavy duty brass press for making passatelli” is, at US$150 (and that was in 2014), I don’t think we are going to spring for one. Especially as it is for making passatelli, a Cucina povera dish….

Ha! But maybe this will be a little stocking stuffer for next Christmas? :lalala:

Palak made with rapini and frozen spinach

As I was putting our new toy away, we consoled ourselves with the fact that we could use it to make gnocchi.

Then, suddenly, we realized we could also use the ricer to drain those inexpensive blocks of frozen spinach that we got last March, just in case we had to stay home in quarantine.

Using a ricer for draining spinach is brilliant! It’s WAY easier than squeezing it out by hand.

We had a little rapini left in the vegetable crisper as well. Using that and thawed frozen spinach, T made the best palak ever! (He did NOT throw the spinach juice away; he added it to the meat and bean curry we served with the palak, along with the best stamp bread ever….)

Palak made with ricer

If it works for squeezing spinach as well as for ricing potatoes, imagine how wonderful – and easy to prepare – spinach gnocchi will be! :-) :-)

 

Ontario Government's Colour Zones for COVID-19 As for when we might get to go back to normal:

Toronto is currently in the Shutdown Zone of the provincial Lockdown Regulation and subject to a Stay-at-Home Order. A move to the Grey Zone will better align Toronto restrictions with surrounding regions and help Toronto’s economy.
– City of Toronto, toronto.ca news release, 3 March 2021
Toronto remains subject to the Lockdown Regulation
– City of Toronto, Shutdown Zone and Stay-at-Home Order, 5 March 2021
Toronto is in the Grey-Lockdown Zone. Toronto residents born in 1941 or earlier can now book appointments for three City mass COVID-19 immunization clinics opening March 17, for two more clinics opening March 29 and one more clinic opening on April 5.
– City of Toronto, COVID-19, 12 March 2021

How do you spell “confusion”? I thought we had been in the grey zone since last Christmas!?!! Bzzzzzzzt. Wrong. Apparently, from 26 December 202 until last Monday, our zone was colourless.

According to Veronica Appia’s 8 February 2021 article “Here’s how Ontario’s COVID-19 colour codes work” (that now shows the title and a blank page :!: :!: :!: ) that appeared on toronto.com, the Grey Zone is the Shutdown Zone…. Thanks to Blog TO for attempting to clarify the idiocy. Learning that Colourless and Grey Zone are pretty much exactly the same thing makes things so much easier to understand….

At long last, stay-at-home orders are being lifted in Toronto, Peel and North Bay — the last three regions to remain under provincewide shutdown restrictions.
As of Monday, March 8, at 12:01 a.m. Toronto and Peel will move from the strictest form of lockdown to date into the grey-lockdown zone of Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework.
We’re essentially just moving from one form of lockdown into another, slightly-less strict form of lockdown — but we will be able to enter non-essential retail stores at 25 per cent capacity.
 
– Lauren O’Neil, Toronto’s Grey Zone Rules, 5 March 2021

As of 8 March, 2021, we have finally emerged from the colourless zone into the grey zone.

Here’s what the colours mean: (I think….) The following is an excerpt from the City of Toronto’s webpage, “COVID-19 restrictions in Grey Zone of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework”:

  Shutdown Zone
In place until at least March 8 [2021]
Grey Zone
Under consideration as of March 8 [2021]
Indoor gatherings You must stay at home. You can only go out for necessities (Stay-at-Home Order).
 
No indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household and one person who lives alone.
 
If you live alone, you can have close contact with only one other household.
 
You should not travel outside your region or the province unless absolutely necessary.
You should stay home as much as possible.
 
No indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household and one person who lives alone.
 
If you live alone, you can have close contact with only one other household.
 
You should not travel outside your region or the province unless absolutely necessary.
Outdoor gatherings Five-person limit for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings where physical distancing can be maintained. 10-person limit for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings where physical distancing can be maintained.
[…]
Personal care services Personal care services such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, tanning studios, tattoo parlours and other cosmetic services are not permitted to operate.
 
health care appointments with regulated health professionals for services like physiotherapy and massage therapy are permitted.
Personal care services such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, tanning studios, tattoo parlours and other cosmetic services are not permitted to operate.
 
health care appointments with regulated health professionals for services like physiotherapy and massage therapy are permitted.
[…]
Libraries Libraries are closed, except for pick up. Libraries are open but use is limited to computers and contactless pick-up. Books and other circulating materials must be reserved over the phone or online for pick up.
[…]

 
– City of Toronto, COVID-19 restrictions in Grey Zone of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework, 3 March 2021

Don’t get me started on when we will get our vaccinations. :stomp:

edit 13 March 2021: Veronica Appia’s article has miraculously reappeared! But is the text the same as it was before? Who knows? It is now dated 5 March 2021, rather than 8 February 2021: Toronto.com | Here’s how Ontario’s COVID-19 colour codes work
 
Also, if we were in the “You must stay at home” zone until 8 March, how is it that schools reopened in Toronto in the middle of February? :stomp: :stomp:

This entry was posted in equipment and techniques, food & drink, whine on by .

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