“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – America: Farm to Table Cookbook
For our first meeting of 2015 and commemorating the cookbook club’s 1-year anniversary, we focused our cooking on the cookbook America: Farm to Table by Mario Batali.
In his latest cookbook, the world-renown chef pays homage to the American farmer, whom he deems as the “rock stars” of the food world, through stories, photos and 100 tasty recipes from 14 farms across America. He celebrates their high quality products and their culture defined by hard work, integrity and pride.
In carrying out the evening’s theme, I obtained a few items that showcase Mario’s products and style at each person’s place setting. Yes, it was true Molto Mario right down to the orange croc keychains!
For an appetizer, I made zucchini fries with tomato aioli. The zucchini have a crispy baked exterior from the panko breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. With the tomato aioli for dipping, it made for a decadent yet healthy starter. I will be making these again very soon!
To start the meal, Terri made the Focaccia Panzanella.
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil, dressed in a red-wine vinegar and olive oil. I can’t wait to make this in the summer when the local tomatoes are in season!
For the main entrée, I made the Barbeque Chicken Thighs with lentils and green apple vinaigrette. I thought it was fitting to begin the New Year with a lentil dish since Italian-American families endure the tradition of welcoming in the New Year with various lentil dishes, symbolizing wealth. In fact, Mario Batali himself said, “It wouldn’t be New Year’s in Italy without lentils.”
This chicken dish combined a variety of flavors from the pesto-like overnight marinade, the rustic lentil base and the apple, Dijon vinaigrette topping. It was delicious.
Accompanying the chicken were two sides. Terri made the Risi Bisi, sweet pea risotto. While risotto is served year round in northern Italy, especially where there are more rice and cornfields than there are wheat fields, the flavor of risotto varies by season. So in the early spring when peas are being harvested, this version is the hero.
The risotto had a wonderful creamy texture and a salty bite from the diced prosciutto. I could have eaten the entire bowl!
For our second side, Susan made the prosciutto, goat cheese and green bean roll-ups. While this recipe is listed in the appetizer section of the cookbook, we chose to serve is as one of the sides and it held up well with the chicken and risotto.
I had seen similar prosciutto roll-ups that are typically made with roasted asparagus, but this version adds a twist to the traditional by kicking it up with the goat cheese and the roasted thin green beans. I think this would be perfect for the upcoming spring holidays!
If we weren’t full enough, Sharon made a beautiful strawberry-mascarpone olive oil cake. I’ve had olive oil cake before and was surprised at how flavorful it was.
The olive oil cake is a courser cake than you may be familiar with, but the blend of the mascarpone filling, whipped cream frosting and the berries makes for an amazing combination.
For our “take home treat,” Susan made almond and honey brittle.
The candy was crunchy and highly addictive!
In total, seven dishes were made for the America: Farm to Table cookbook.
The dinner was a beautifully balanced meal, delicious with every bite – or as we say in Italian, “Molto Bene” meaning very good!
We had another delicious meal and enjoyed everyone’s company, especially after being cooped up from the snowy winter!
Our next gathering will be in April. We chose the “Pollan Family Table” cookbook to build our next meal.
Have you ever made any of Mario Batali’s recipes? If so, which is your favorite?
Which of these recipes do you think you’ll be making soon?
Disclaimer: While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of the America: Farm to Table cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.