A Gustatory Voyage around the World

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Vincent Schiavelli is the author of Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa, published by Simon & Schuster. Drowned Lettuce Soup
For 6 servings
  • Sea salt
  • 1 or 2 heads Romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • 4 ounces imported pecorino cheese, preferably Locatelli brand, in 1 piece
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • One 3/8 inch thick slice pancetta (about 2 ounces), diced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • Black pepper
  • 6 cups spring water, hot
  • 1 pound ditali (small tube macaroni about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch long)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • Crushed red pepper
1. Fill a large pot with 6 quarts water. Add 2 tablespoons salt and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, wash and dry the lettuce. Cut it into 2-inch lengths and put them in a bowl until needed.

2. Grate 1/2 cup of the cheese. Cut the remainder into 1/2 inch lengths and put them into a bowl until needed. Prepare all other ingredients, keeping them separate. Put the onion and olive oil in a heavy 6-quart pot. Saut- over low heat until the onion is a rich golden color, about 7 minutes.

3. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the pancetta and garlic. Saut- for 2 minutes or until the pancetta turns clear. Stir in the tomato paste and add the lettuce, mixing it well with the other ingredients. Season with salt and the grindings of black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 8 minutes or until the lettuce is well-wilted.

4. Add the diced pecorino, mixing it in well. The "drown" the lettuce with the hot spring water. Stir, raise the heat, cover, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the cheese from sticking. During this time, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes.

5. Drain the pasta, allowing some of the liquid to cling, and toss it into the pot with lettuce. Stir in the basil, and check for salt.

6. Serve very hot, using the cooking pot as a tureen. Sprinkle each bowl with grated pecorino and crushed red pepper to taste.

Cauliflower under Siege
4 to 6 servings

  • 1 large cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 link dried Italian sausage, about 4 ounces
  • 4 ounces Percorino Purmintiu or domestic sharp Provolone, in 1 piece
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated imported Pecorino cheese
  • 4 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped (leaves and stems)
  • Black pepper
1. Clean cauliflower under cold water. Remove and discard leaves. Trim stem to edge of the cauliflower. To ensure that the thick central stem will cook through, give it 10 or more jabs with a small sharp knife. Put the cauliflower upside-down in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover it; lightly salt the water. Let it soak for 10 minutes.

2. Split the sausage and pull off the skin. Slice it into long strips slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut the rind off the cheese, and slice the cheese into wedges the same thickness as the sausage. Halve the wedges so that each one is about 2 inches long and 1/4 inch at the wide end. Reserve both until needed.

3. Put 2 cups water and the fennel seeds in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot. Drain the cauliflower and put it in the pot, right side up. Cover, and cook over high heat for 15 minutes, until it is three quarters done.

4. Keeping the liquid in the pot, remove the cauliflower with a large slotted spoon and transfer it to a colander. Rinse it under cold running water to stop the cooking. Transfer the cauliflower to a plate.

5. Push the sausage strips between the florets so that it mostly disappears into the cauliflower. Evenly distribute the strips over the entire head. Do the same with the cheese and garlic.

6. Add 1 cup water to the pot and replace the cauliflower. Drizzle it with the olive oil, cover and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, until it is quite soft but still maintains its shape.

7. Carefully remove the cauliflower with a large slotted spoon and put it on a shallow serving bowl, "flower" side up. Pour the pot liquor around it. Sprinkle the cauliflower with the grated cheese and parsley.

8. Portion it with a large spoon into bowls. Serve immediately, with a grinding of black pepper.

Dorie Greenspan is the author of Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops.

Chocolate Tart/Tarte au Chocolat
Adapted from La Maison du Choclat

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 fully baked 6 1/2 inch tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough (to follow)
1. Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl and keep it close at hand. In a small bowl, beat 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream with the egg yolks just until the eggs are liquid. Check that the butter is soft but not oily. If necessary, either beat it with a rubber spatula to soften it or smear it against the counter under the heel of your hand.

2. Pour the remaining cream into a saucepan, toss in the split vanilla bean, and bring the cream to a full boil. Pull out the vanilla bean, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Wait for about 30 seconds, then, working with a whisk, gently blend the cream into the chocolate. Still whisking delicately, incorporate the yolks, followed by the butter. Pour the ganache into the crust (if you have a little left over, you can freeze it). Jiggle the crust a bit to even out the ganache, and leave the tart on the counter until the filling sets, about 20 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. (If your kitchen is warm, pop the tart into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, just to set the ganache, then keep it at a room temperature after it has set.)

Sweet Tart Dough/Pate Sucr-e
Makes enough for three 9-inch crusts

  • 2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • Lightly packed 1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. To make the dough: Place the butter in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until creamy. Add the confectioners sugar and process to blend well. Add the ground almonds, salt, and vanilla and continue to process until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary. Lightly stir the eggs together with a fork and, with the machine running, add them to the work bowl; process for a few seconds to blend. Finally, add the flour and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together. When the dough forms moist curds and clumps and then starts to form a ball, stop! You don't want to overwork it. The dough will be very soft, and that's what you want.

2. Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 pieces. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each dish in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen up to a month.)

3. To roll and bake tart crusts: For each tart, butter the right-sized tart pan and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you are making more than one tart, work with one piece of dough at a time.

4. What makes this dough so delicious -- lots of butter -- also makes it a little difficult to roll. The easiest way to work with pate sucr-e is to roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap. Just flatten a large piece of plastic wrap against the counter and roll the dough over often so that you can roll it out on both sides, and as you're rolling, make sure to lift the sheets of plastic several times so that they don't crease and get rolled into the dough. Remove one sheet of the plastic and center the dough (exposed side down) over the tart pan. Press the dough against the bottom of the pan and up the sides, remove the top sheet of the plastic wrap, and roll your rolling pin across the rim of the pan to cut off the excess. If the sough cracks or splits while you are working, you can moisten the edges and glue them into place. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

5. When you are ready to bake the crust, preheat the oven to 350. Line the crust with a circle of parchment paper or foil and fill with dried beans or rice.

6. Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes, or just until very lightly colored. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake crust for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Naomi Duguid and her husband Jeffrey Alford are the authors of Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, published by Artisan.
Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book by Nancy Silverton with Teri Gelber, Published by Knopf

For grilling the bread for sandwiches:
(excerpt from main introduction of book)

For grilling the bread, I prefer to use a home-style panini machine, a two-sided grill that resembles a waffle iron. The heavy metal grills apply pressure and heat to both sides of the bread or sandwich at once. There-s no flipping necessary and you don't need to exert any extra pressure onto the sandwiches as they grill. Turn the panini machine to high and allow it to heat up for 5-10 minutes. For the closed-faced sandwiches, be sure to choose two slices of bread that are a perfect fit when placed together. Spread a thin layer of softened butter on the outer slices of bread. If the sandwich is filled before grilling, assemble the ingredients and place the top slice of bread over them, aligning the slices of bread. Transfer the sandwiches to the grill, placing them side by side without overcrowding them. (Most home style panini grills have room for two sandwiches or two slices of bread.) Close the top grill over the sandwiches and cook them for a few minutes, until lightly browned. This practical and easy to use machine is the fastest, most efficient method for making grilled sandwiches.

If you don't own a panini grill, other techniques work fine. You can achieve the same effect with the coffee shop method, using a heavy-bottomed pan or, better yet, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with some clarified butter. For grilling the bread for open-faced sandwiches, simply brush a little of the clarified butter over one side of each slice and grill buttered side down in the pan. For the closed-faced sandwiches, place a tablespoon or so of the clarified butter in the skillet and cook the assembled sandwich over medium heat, covered with a lid. When the bottom side turns golden brown, flip the sandwich over and move it around so it absorbs some of the butter around the edge of the skillet, adding more butter if necessary.

For grilling on a charcoal or gas grill, brush the bread with olive oil and grill it for a few minutes on each side. When grilling a closed-faced sandwich, place a metal bowl over it to help the cheese melting process. (At home, this technique probably isn't worth the trouble, but if you're picnicking or camping, a charcoal grill comes in handy for a quick and tasty outdoor meal.) And simplest of all, for any of the open-faced sandwiches, you can certainly toast the bread in a good old-fashioned toaster.

Grilled Escarole with White Bean Puree, Bacon, and Parmesan

I am certainly not the first person to combine pork, beans, and greens. But I'm pretty sure I've never seen Parmesan Reggiano added to any of those dishes. And certainly not all together in a sandwich!

For the White Bean Puree:

  • 1 cup dried beans, such as Cannelini, Flageolet, Great Northern or French Navy
  • 1 2-ounce piece of bacon, preferably applewood smoked
  • 1 3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 3 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally, reserving one half for another use
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the Escarole:
  • 1 medium head escarole, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 1/4-inch-thick slices of bacon, preferably applewood smoked, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
  • 4 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Approximately 1/4 pound wedge Parmsesan Reggiano, for shaving over the top of the sandwiches
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling on the sandwiches

For the white bean puree:
1. In a medium saucepan, put the beans, bacon, rosemary, sage leaves, bay leaf, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in about 2 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 2 hours, until the beans are soft and tender. Check frequently, adding water as necessary to keep the beans immersed in water.

2. Strain the beans, reserving the liquid. Return the liquid to the saucepan and reduce it over high heat until you have about 1 cup of slightly thickened and opaque liquid. Remove the herbs from the beans and discard. Remove the garlic, squeeze out the soft pulp from the cloves into the beans and discard the garlic head and peels. Remove the bacon and cut it into small pieces and set aside.

3. In a food mill set over a bowl or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the beans until they form a coarse puree. Add the bacon back to the beans and pour in the reduced liquid, remaining balsamic vinegar and olive oil, stirring to combine. Season, to taste, with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

For the escarole:
1. Toss the whole head of escarole with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Over a hot grill, cook the escarole 7-8 minutes on each side, until tender. Alternately, to char on the stovetop: Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat. Add the escarole and allow to char on one side for 7-8 minutes. Turn over and char the other side. Remove from the skillet and discard any pieces that are too blackened. Allow to cool. Cut off the root and discard it, then chop the escarole coarsely into 1 inch pieces.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, remaining oil, salt and pepper to taste. Add the escarole and allow it to marinate for at least 15-30 minutes before serving. For the bacon: In a small skillet, over medium heat cook the bacon until cooked all the way through but not crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

4. Grill or toast the bread. Rub one side of each slice of bread with the garlic clove and cut each slice in half on the diagonal. Place the slices on serving plates, garlic side up. Cut each slice in half on the diagonal.

To assemble the sandwich:
Pile an uneven layer of escarole over each half-slice and scatter the bacon over it. Spoon the bean puree onto the center, leaving a 1-inch border of escarole, and top with 3-4 shavings of cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, to taste.

Classic Grilled Cheese
When tomatoes are in season, on sandwich night at Campanile, I'll charge you an extra dollar to add a few slices to the Classic Grilled Cheese. You may just want to make them yourself at home. Before you grill the sandwiches, drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and allow them to sit for a few minutes. After the sandwich is grilled, pull the slices of bread apart and slide in the tomato slices, as to not overheat or smash the tomatoes.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, for spreading on the bread
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24 to 32 1/16-inch-thick slices
  • 2-4 tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick, core end discarded (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste (optional)
To assemble the sandwiches:
Spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter. Place half of the slices buttered-side down and cover them with the cheese slices, folding them over if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place the top slice of bread over the cheese, buttered side up.

For the tomatoes:
Drizzle olive oil over the tomato slices and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Grill the sandwiches. Cut each in half on the diagonal and slide in the tomatoes.

Classic Grilled Cheese with Marinated Onions & Whole Grain Mustard
Though this variation on the Classic Grilled Cheese calls for only two extra ingredients, it-s a completely different sandwich. The onions and mustard salute the sensibilities of Alsace in the northern region of France, imparting a tangy zeal to this basic cheese sandwich.

For the Onions:

  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced into 1/8 inch thick slices
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, for spreading on the bread
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24 to 32 1/16-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
  • To prepare the marinated onions:
    In a medium bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the onions, toss to coat them, and allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes at room temperature. Season them with vinegar, salt, and pepper, to taste.

    To assemble the sandwiches:
    Spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter. Place half of the slices of bread buttered-side down and cover them with the cheese slices, folding them back in towards the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Spread an even layer of mustard over the cheese and scatter the marinated onions over it. Place the remaining cheese slices over the onions. Put the top slice of bread over the cheese, buttered side up.

    Soft Scrambled Eggs with Long-Cooked Broccoli & Greek Feta
    Everyone has their nightmarish memories of mom-s boiled vegetables cooked into unappetizing shades of greenish-grey. Some are scarred for life and won't go near anything cooked beyond the point of crisp and bright green. But there is a difference between long cooked and over cooked. Stewed in olive oil, onion, and garlic for almost 2 hours, my long-cooked broccoli develops a deep, rich flavor unlike anything you've ever had before. Sweet and earthy at the same time, it is the perfect partner to the creamy and slightly salty feta cheese. This egg sandwich is delicious for any meal of the day, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    For the Long-Cooked Broccoli:

    • 1-2 heads broccoli (about 1 3/4 pounds), 1 inch end of stalk trimmed off
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 whole dried red chile
    • 4 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
    • 1 garlic clove, peeled
    For the Scrambled Eggs:
    • 8 extra-large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
    • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
    • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
    • 4-6 ounces Greek feta cheese
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
    To cook the broccoli:
    Cut the head of broccoli off of the stalk, leaving about 1 inch of the stalk still attached. Slice the outer layer of fibrous peel off of the main stalk and cut it vertically into long, flat slices, about 1/4-inch-thick and 1-inch-wide. (If the broccoli seems extra tough and fibrous, slice the stalk on the extreme diagonal into 1/4 inch thick pieces.) Slice all the way through the broccoli top, cutting it vertically into 1-inch-thick pieces, cutting through the florets when necessary. You should have several long pieces of broccoli.

    In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water and 1/4 cup of the salt to a boil. Cook all of the cut-up broccoli in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, until it turns bright green. Drain the pieces and place them in a large bowl of ice water to chill. Drain them well and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

    In a large, heavy-duty skillet, combine the pieces of broccoli, garlic, onion, olive oil, chile, and salt. Over very low heat, cook the broccoli, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours, until it-s very soft and tender. Season with salt, to taste.

    Grill or toast the bread. Rub one side of each slice of bread with the garlic clove and place the slices on serving plates, garlic side up.

    To scramble the eggs:
    In a medium bowl, whisk four of the eggs together. Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, pour the eggs into the pan and add half of the salt. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the pan, letting the uncooked egg run underneath around the edges, folding the egg over itself, keeping it continuously moving. Cook about 2-3 minutes until the egg is very softly scrambled. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

    To assemble the sandwiches:
    Arrange the broccoli unevenly over the bread and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over. Pile the scrambled eggs on top, leaving a 1-inch border of broccoli around the edge. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Crumble about 2 tablespoons Feta on top of each and sprinkle with chives.