If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook (and if you don't, you should!), you know that last week our beloved consul general Mauro Battocchi picked me among the Bay Area's bevy of Italian kitchen talent to cook for Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome.
Mayor Marino addressed an audience of 50 citizens of the world on the need to help preserve the archaeological architectural heritage of Rome as I wiled away in the kitchen, doing my best to show that anyone's commitment to the culture of Italy also means we will all eat much better.
My trend of recognition continued yesterday, when my close friend Valentina Imbeni, director of La Scuola Italian International School asked that I feed breakfast/mid-morning snacks to a roomful of 20-30 people gathering for a private meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Mr. Renzi made his dedication of La Scuola's new Kindergarten through 8th grade campus his only official appearance in SF, a moving moment for a group of parents to which I belong who have fought long and hard to establish this amazing place. La Scuola started as an informal playgroup and is now on the way to become one of the best language immersion schools in the Bay Area.
The greatest pleasure of the morning was spending time with Agnese Renzi, a witty and beautiful woman, full of questions on the Scuola, the vital community it gathers and the lives of Italians in San Francisco. Most importantly, she and I were the only ones wearing ivory in a sea of black dresses and suits AND she loved my ricotta tart with figs and pears.
I leave you today with the two recipes that were most appreciated during the 2 events, an antipasto and a dessert.
Should you wish to eat just like an Italian politician, I will include many recipes from the 2 events in the context of my monthly cooking workshop at the Consulate, reprising next Wednesday. The classes are held the first Wednesday of each month and you can refer to my calendar for instructions on registering, there are some spots still open.
Acciughe croccanti del Sindaco
Mayoral crispy anchovies
for 8 to 10 people
1/2 pound fresh anchovies
oil for deep frying
salt to taste
Rinse the anchovies and pat them dry.
Slit along the underbelly and lay flat. Carefully remove the spine and head leaving the tail attached.
Beat the eggs well and salt lightly.
Fill a frying pan with the oil about 3/4 up the sides. Heat the oil to 320˚F (use a candy thermometer to measure).
Grab and anchovy by its tail and dunk in the eggs, ensure it is all covered. Dredge it through the breadcrumbs to coat all over in a light layer. Repeat until all the fish are coated.
Fry in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and cooling the oil. The oil should bubble and hiss quickly around each anchovy as it goes into the oil. When the first side is golden-about 2 minutes- turn over with tongs to finish the other side.
Transfer to paper towels to let the oil drain drain.
Repeat until all the anchovies are fried and transfer them to a shallow bowl. Salt lightly and toss by shaking the bowl.
Crostata ministeriale di ricotta con fichi e pere
Ministerial ricotta, figs and pears tart
for a 9 to 10” tart pan:
2 cups (270 grams) flour
½ cup (115 grams) sugar
½ cup (135 grams) butter
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
grated zest of a lemon
2/3 pound fresh ricotta
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon rum or brandy
4 slightly under ripe figs
2 small pears
Prepare the pasta frolla: place all ingredients in the mixer with a paddle attachment, work on medium to high speed until they start coming together.
Empty on top of a piece of plastic wrap and press together with the tip of your fingers, then form a flat round ball with the palm of your hands.
Wrap tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.
If using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients start coming together, and then proceed as above.
Push the ricotta through a sieve into a bowl and add the sugar and zest. Whisk together to dissolve the sugar and smooth.
Separate the eggs. Stir in the yolks and liquor into the ricotta mixture. Leave the whites at room temperature.
Roll the pasta frolla to about 1/4" and line the tart mold with it. Cut off excess crust and keep it to make cookies. Prick the bottom and return to the refrigerator.
Eliminate the stem from the figs with a pair of scissors, leaving the skin on. Cut in 8 sections.
Core and quarter the pears, cut each section into 4 slices. You will have an equal number of fig and pear slices.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold into the ricotta then pour the mixture into the tart shell just above the half way point.
Make rows or concentric circles with the fruit slices, alternating them and gently laying them on the top, without pushing into the ricotta.
Bake at 350˚F for about 1 hour, keeping the mold closer to the bottom of the oven. The edges with be a dark blond. The fruit slices will look slight withered and will have partially drowned in the filling.
Let cool before serving.