the "Gourmet" prompt...
6. Marcella Hazan- Marcella made Italian cucina make sense. She broke it down for us, explained the regions, and her meticulous recipes are so reliable. She banished the red–sauce image forever
I'd heard of Marcella Hazan, but never really "looked into her" or made any of her recipes. I am so pleased that she is number six on the list...I can't get enough of her right now. I'm in the midst of reading her memoirs, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, so I don't have a whole lot to tell you about her yet other than recommending this book, it is so interesting.
Marcella is not a life-long "foodie". As a matter of fact, she saw food only as a means of getting her through the day: fuel. It was her husband Victor who would ramble on about food and cooking in the days they were courting, much to Marcella's dismay. But when they married and moved from Italy to the United States, Marcella learned to cook out of necessity. She drew on the food she grew up with, substituting ingredients that she could find in the States.
Perhaps one of the most significant events in her life (for us, at least...otherwise we may not be talking about her now) was a Chinese cooking class that she signed up to take. After the first class, her instructor "announced that she was taking a sabbatical in China". Her classmates then asked her what she cooked at home. This was simple, she answered "normal food"...such as "tagliatelle alla bolognese, fegato alla veneziana, risotto coi funghi, and rollatini di vitello con la pancetta." Silence. Crickets chirping. They other ladies in the class asked her if she'd be willing to teach an Italian cooking class.
So, with the encouragement of Victor, she began teaching Italian cooking once a week to six of her "classmates". Victor and Marcella became partners in her lesson planning...mapping out the history, lessons, menu plans... This eventually led to a cookbook (and then more) in which Victor double-checked what Marcella wrote. They are a fabulous team. I can't wait to read more on Marcella Hazan...and cook more of her recipes. I hope you'll look into her if you're not already familiar with her work and her life.
worth further exploration: (books) Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating, (articles) NPR - Long View: Marcella Hazan Brings Italy to America, The New York Times - For Better, for Worse, for Richer, for Pasta (an interview with Marcella and Victor Hazan), (blog post) Steamy Kitchen: Meeting Marcella and Victor Hazan
Layered Crespelle (Crêpes) with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Cheese
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
makes 4-6 servings
9 crespelle (crêpes)*see recipe below
~1 c. mozzarella, shredded or diced
3 oz. prosciutto, sliced fine
~½ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1½ Tbs. chopped parsley
⅔ c. canned plum tomatoes, cut up, w/ their juice
These are basic, unsweetened crespelle. They are often used as if they were pasta wrappers, stuffing them with savory meat, cheese, or veggie fillings.
1 c. milk
¾ c. all-purpose flour
couple pinches salt
butter, for pan
Pour the milk into a bowl that is braced on the counter (use a damp towel or a "tacky" shelf-liner). With a whisk in one hand and a small strainer/sifter in the other, sift the flour into the milk whisking steaking to avoid lumps. When all the flour is added, beat evenly until blended.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating rapidly. When both eggs are incorporated, whisk in the salt.
Heat an 8" (or whatever you have) nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Smear a little butter on the pan and pour ~2-3 Tbs. of the batter onto the pan, tilting and rotating the pan to evenly distribute the batter. If your pan is larger than 8", simply swirl the batter around with the back of your ladle or measuring cup as soon as you pour it onto the pan...as in...immediately!
As soon as the batter sets and becomes firm with brown speckles, flip it over and finish cooking the other side. Stack on a plate and repeat until all batter is used.
Preheat oven to 400° F.
tomato sauce: Put olive oil and garlic into a small sauté pan, turn heat to medium, and cook the garlic, stirring until it turns pale gold. Add parsley. Cook just long enough to stir once or twice, then add cut-up tomatoes with their juice and a pinch of salt. Adjust to a slow simmer for ~10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
Lightly rub some butter in the bottom of a 9" pie or cake plate. Choose the largest of your crespelle and place it on the bottom of the pan. Coat it thinly with tomato sauce...go lightly because you still need to do this 8 more times...it's a very thin layer. Sprinkle some of the prosciutto, mozzarella, and parmesan over the sauce, then cover with another crespelle. Repeat until you've added the top crespelle, covering this with just a dab of tomato sauce and some parmesan.
Bake on the top rack of the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Using a spatula to help lift and guide the "pie", immediately transfer to a serving plate/platter. Allow to settle a few minutes before serving, or serve at room temperature.
*sources/references: Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, Long View: Marcella Hazan Brings Italy to America
"The explanation is that I consider cooking to be an act of love. I do enjoy the craft of cooking, of course, otherwise I would not have done so much of it, but that is a very small part of the pleasure it brings me. What I love is to cook for someone. To put a freshly made meal on the table, even if it is something very plain and simple as long as it tastes good and is not a ready-to-eat something bought at the store, is a sincere expression of affection, it is an act of binding intimacy directed at whoever has a welcome place in your heart. And while other passions in your life may at some point begin to bank their fires, the shared happiness of good homemade food can last as long as we do." ~Marcella Hazan
In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers. Some are a given. Some are controversial. Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories. Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe. And of course, some of our favorites were not even included. We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason. Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her. Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts. Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years. Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before. And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all. I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along. We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
Mary- One Perfect Bite, Val- More Than Burnt Toast, Joanne- Eats Well With Others, Taryn- Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan- The Spice Garden, Claudia- A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, Heather- girlichef, Miranda- Mangoes and Chutney, Katie- Making Michael Pollan Proud, Kathleen- Bakeaway with Me, Viola- The Life is Good Kitchen