Mad Cows, Dim Sum, Neopolitan Cuisine, and Vodka

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For those ready to move back down the food chain, here's a few recipes from Evan Kleiman's books Pasta Fresca and Cucina Rustica, both published by Morrow.

Zuppa di Ceci (Chick-pea Soup with Croutons)
Serves 6 to 8

The word zuppa usually refers to a soup served over bread, and is probably derived from the verb inzuppare, to dip-presumably one's bread in the soup. Zuppa di Ceci is hearty and nutty-tasting, and is colored a beautiful deep golden red. A great recipe for when you want a filling soup that can be made quickly.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 8 Roma or 4 round tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 can chick peas, with liquid
  • 5 cups water
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 slices country bread, cut 1/2 inch thick, for crostini
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion and garlic, and cook over moderate heat until onion is soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down and give off their juice. Add the chick peas, water, and half the basil leaves. Bring to a boil, then, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook approximately 45 minutes, or until the chick peas begin to break down. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture from the heat and pass through a food mill, using the large-holed disk, into a tureen or serving bowl. Correct seasonings and set aside. The soup should have the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add a little hot water.

While the soup is cooking, make the crostini. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400F oven until light golden brown. To serve, place a crostino in individual soup bowls, and ladle soup over it. Garnish each serving with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a whole basil leaf.

Zuppa dei Funghi (Mushroom Soup)
Serves 4 to 6

A delicious, woodsy-flavored broth filled with the delicate texture of mushrooms. Ladle the soup over large crostini for a rich beginning to a simple winter supper. Follow with Insalata di Radicchio alla Vicentina.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 lb white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained and cleaned of any grit
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • Handful coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 5 cups hot vegetable broth
  • 6 slices country bread, cut 1/2 inch thick, for crostini (toasted bread)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for table use
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and saut- until mushrooms are nearly tender. If the pot is too small, saut- mushrooms in batches. Add the Marsala and deglaze the pan over high heat. Add the tomato paste and parsley. Stir to mix tomato paste into the mushrooms and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Place large crostini in individual bowls and pour broth over them. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti con Broccoli
Serves 4 to 6

A standard dish in every southern Italian cook's repertoire, in this version the broccoli is cooked until it completely falls apart and becomes a coarse puree. The nutrients are not lost through this long cooking process because the water becomes an integral part of the sauce. The taste of browned garlic is an important feature. Italians find ways of adding deep flavor to the simplest, most economical of ingredients.

  • 2 pounds broccoli
  • 1/. cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 red chiles or 1/2 tsp red chile pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 1 lb imported spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Trim off the hard dry ends of the broccoli stalks. Remove the peel from tough stalks with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Coarsely chop the broccoli, wash and set aside. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add the garlic cloves and cook over medium heat until they are golden brown. Add the hot chiles, or red chile pepper flakes, and chopped broccoli. Saute the broccoli for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often. Add water to cover and salt to taste. Cover the pan and cook until the broccoli is very soft, adding extra water if necessary. When properly cooked, the mixture should be like a rough puree. If necessary, remove the cover and cook the broccoli over high heat to allow the juices to thicken. As the mixture cooks, stir frequently to break up the garlic cloves and broccoli flowerets. Cook the spaghetti in abundant boiling salted water until al dente. Quickly drain and place in a serving bowl with the broccoli puree. Mix the spaghetti well with the broccoli. Pass Parmesan cheese.

Michael Pollan is a food writer and the author of The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, published by Random House. He spoke about mad cow disease and industrial agriculture. Michael mentioned two sources for grass-finished beef: and

Jonathan Gold spoke about the restaurant 261 Mission, located at 261 Mission in San Gabriel (626-588-1666).
Recommended dishes:

  • Deep-fried "bees" (shrimp)
  • Rice Pancakes with Beef Gravy
  • Fried Tofu
  • Frieed Shisanmu (anchovy)
  • Barbecue, all excellent
  • Suckling Pig
  • Roast Chicken
  • Choi Sam (Chinese lettuce)
  • Butterfly Dumplings
  • Hot Tofu w/ Sweet Syrup (dessert)

Sharon Hudgins is the author of The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East, published by Texas A&M; University Press.