Olive Oil and Roman Cooking

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Deborah Krasner is the author of The Flavors of Olive Oil: A Tasting Guide and Cookbook, published by Simon & Schuster. "Hot" Chocolate Cake
Serves 6
Her source for the hot peppers described below is www.zingermans.com.
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I use Callebaut)
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons fruity and fragrant olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Turkish urfa pepper, mild chile powder (preferably ancho) or sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond meal*
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish
  • Confectioners- sugar
  • Unsweetened whipped cream
PREHEAT the oven to 375F, with a rack in the center of the oven. Grease a 7-inch spring-form pan, and line it with a greased parchment round if you wish. Set it aside.

MELT the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat (or in a glass dish in a microwave oven for 3 minutes on full power; checking every minute). Stir in the olive oil, honey, hot pepper, salt, sugar and almond meal. Let cool, and then add the egg yolks, stirring to blend. Add the cinnamon, vodka, and vanilla, and stir again briefly.

BEAT the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff, firm, and glossy. Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Pour this mixture into the remaining beaten egg whites, and fold them together.

SCRAPE the batter into the prepared cake pan (the pan will be nearly filled), and bake for 30 minutes. The cake will rise over the level of the pan like a souffle.

COOL the cake in the pan on a rack (it will deflate) for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen, remove the sides of the pan, and sift confectioners' sugar over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature (never cold), with whipped cream.

*Almond meal
Almond meal can be found in the refrigerated section of health-food stores. You can also create your own by grinding blanched almonds, in pulses, in a food processor along with 1/4 cup sugar. (The sugar helps absorb the nut oil and improves the texture.) Just remember when you proceed with the recipe that you've already incorporated the 1/4 cup sugar.

Slow-Cooked Boneless Pork Spareribs in Tomato, Rosemary and Juniper Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tablespoons olive-y and peppery olive
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mild onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless "country- style" pork spareribs, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch cubes 1/2 cup dry vermouth or gin
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • One 28-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or other crushed tomatoes
  • 30 juniper berries
  • 3 anchovies
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary needles
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 cups water
HEAT a braising pan or a Dutch oven. Add the oil and heat it until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook over low to medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the meat, and brown on all sides, about 25 minutes.

ADD the vermouth and vinegar, and turn the heat up slightly for a minute or two to evaporate the fumes. Add the tomatoes and lower the heat.

CRUSH the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle, or put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a hammer or meat pounder. Pound the crushed berries with the anchovies and rosemary needles to make a coarse paste. Add this to the pot.

SPRINKLE salt to taste and a generous grinding of black pepper over the meat, and add 1 cup of the water. Cover and cook over very low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Check the pot periodically to see if you need to add more water to prevent the stew from sticking or burning. If you are cooking it in a good heavy pot and can set the burner to a very low temperature, it probably won't be necessary.

WHEN the meat is done, remove it with a slotted spoon and keep it warm. Cook the tomato broth until it is reduced to a thick sauce (about one third of its previous volume), about 10 minutes. If you are serving the stew immediately, de-fat the sauce with a spoon. Otherwise, refrigerate the meat and the sauce separately overnight, and remove the hardened fat with a knife the next day. Return the meat to the sauce, reheat it gently, and serve.

Because the heat closes the pores of the metal, which means that food proteins can't get caught in it, preheating the pan before you heat the oil goes a long way toward preventing food from sticking. Because the pan's heat thins the oil, allowing it to cover more surface, you use less oil when cooking in a preheated pan.

Put the pan on the heat, and heat it over medium heat until the sides of the pan feel hot to a quick touch. (Hot, not smoking!) Add the oil to the hot pan and let it heat for a few seconds, until it thins, shimmers and smells fragrant, or until a drop of water or shred of food makes it sizzle. Now add the food to be cooked.

Learning to heat the pan first was a significant step forward in my own cooking development, and it went a long way toward pleasing the dishwasher in my life. Pans that I'd formerly disdained as being too prone to sticking suddenly became my favorites, and the foods I cooked tasted better because they had a chance to develop a good outer crust.

Cooking the Roman Way: Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome, by David Downie, published by Harper Collins.

His source for cured pork jowl (guanciale) is Salumeria Biellese, New York. 212-736-7376. They sell and ship (2 to 3 days regular or overnight) whole jowls weighing approximately 1.5 pounds.

Maiale Porchettato
Bacon-Wrapped Pork Roast Seasoned with Pepper, Garlic, Fennel and Black Pepper

Serves 8

  • 8 ounces bacon strips
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon anise seeds or fennel seeds
  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 10 whole sprigs fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 4-pound boneless pork rib roast
Stretch enough aluminum foil across the bottom of a roasting pan and beyond it on both sides to completely and comfortably envelope the roast. Lay half of the bacon strips side by side across the aluminum foil in the center of the pan, corresponding to the length of the roast.

Peel the garlic, eliminate the green shoots and mince. Sprinkle a quarter of it over the bacon. Sprinkle a quarter of the anise seeds over the garlic.

Thinly slice the fennel bulb; scatter a quarter of the slices over the anise seeds. Lay 3 to 4 sprigs of the dill on top of the fennel. Sprinkle on a generous pinch of pepper and a small pinch of salt.

Pat the pork roast dry with paper towels. If there is no cavity in it, use a carving knife to create one by making a 4-inch-deep slash lengthwise down its length. Use your fingers to flatten it open. Fill the cavity with three-quarters each of the remaining fennel slices, garlic, anise seeds and dill. Sprinkle in a small pinch of salt and a generous pinch of pepper.

Tie up the roast tightly with kitchen string. Place it on top of the bacon strips and seasonings in the pan.

With your fingers wrap the bacon strips as far up as they will go around the roast. Sprinkle it with the remaining fennel slices, garlic, anise seeds and dill. Place the remaining bacon strips side-by-side atop the roast so that the roast is fully wrapped in bacon. Gather and lift the aluminum foil and crimp it together to form a tight, sealed envelope.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roast for 1 1/2 hours. Carefully open the foil. To test for doneness poke the roast with a knife. The juices should run clear. Transfer the pork to a cutting board.

Slice the pork thick, arrange on a platter, swirl the pan juices over the pork slices and serve immediately.

Amatriciana delle Cinque "P" Five "P" Amatriciana: Pasta, Pancetta, Pomodoro, Peperoncino e Pecorino
Serves 4

  • 4 ounces pancetta, guanciale or bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • About 1 cup freshly grated cheese, half Parmigiano-Reggiano and half Pecorino Romano
Bring at least 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Roughly chop the pancetta, guanciale or bacon. You should have about 3/4 cup.

Heat the oil in a very large, high-sided frying pan over medium. Add the pork and stir, sauteing until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat under the frying pan and let it cool for 3 minutes

Separate 1 of the eggs. Put the yolk into a small mixing bowl and save the white for other uses. Crack the remaining 3 eggs into the mixing bowl and beat thoroughly, incorporating the 2 heaping Tablespoons Pecorino Romano and an extremely generous pinch of pepper. Pour the mixture into the warm frying pan and stir.

Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Drop in the pasta, stir and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, remove the lid and cook, uncovered, until the pasta is barely al dente.

Drain the pasta and transfer it immediately to the frying pan with the egg mixture. Stir vigorously until thoroughly coated. Cover the frying pan and let stand for 1 minute.

Serve with a peppermill and a bowl of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • 4 ounces roughly chopped pancetta, or 2 ounces pancetta and 2 ounces bacon
  • 1 peperoncino (hot chili pepper), shredded, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup Italian dry white wine, preferably Frascati or Marino
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped medium-sized fresh Italian plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1 pound bucatini, perciatelli, spaghetti or rigatoni
  • About 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Bring at least 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. (It can be the same water used for peeling the tomatoes.)

Heat the oil in a very large, high-sided frying pan over medium-low and add the half onion. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove and discard the onion.

Toss the pancetta into the frying pan with the peperoncino and saute until the pork starts to become crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, I to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and raise the heat to medium. Continue to saute while you cook the pasta.

Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water, throw in the pasta, stir and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, cook the pasta, uncovered, until the pasta is barely al dente, about 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time as given on the package.

Drain the pasta and toss it into the frying pan, still dripping. Stir in 4 heaping Tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano. Turn off the heat and let the pasta sit for 30 to 60 seconds.

Serve the pasta with a bowl of the remaining Pecorino Romano on the side.

Michael Sanders is the author of From Here You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and its Restaurant, published by Harper Collins.
David Rosoff is the managing partner of Opaline restaurant, 7450 Beverly Blvd, West Hollywood. 323-857-6725.