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Summer Food: Mother Cooks Best

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Cavatelli With Oven-Roasted Eggplant, Tomatoes,
Basil, and Ricotta Salata

1 cup freshly made bread crumbs (preferably two-day-old country bread, ground in a food processor)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes

Salt

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

6 garlic cloves, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 and 1/2 pounds dried cavatelli or cavatappi

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 ounces ricotta salata

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss bread crumbs, thyme, crushed red pepper, 2 tablespoons of Pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Place the cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a baking pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and season to taste with salt. Toss until the tomatoes are covered with oil. Sprinkle the seasoned bread crumbs over the tomatoes, and bake in the oven for about 7 minutes or until the tomatoes start to crack and the bread crumbs are crisp and toasted.

Lay the eggplant slices on an oiled baking sheet, and brush with 2 tablespoons of oil and salt to taste. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning them once when they're golden on one side. Remove and set aside. When they're cool, cut into 1-inch cubes.

In the meantime, bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and sauté until golden. Add the chicken stock (be careful: it may splatter), and bring to a vigorous boil; add salt to taste and a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Cook the pasta for 5 to 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta, add to the skillet, and sauté with the garlic. Add the tomatoes, bread crumbs (do not add the crumbs sticking to the pan if they are burnt or mushy), and eggplant, toss together gently, then quickly stir in the remaining Pecorino Romano and basil. Serve with freshly grated salted ricotta on top.

Grilled Florentine Steak
With Salt, Anchovy, and Olive-Oil Rub

6 anchovy fillets

4 tablespoons fine sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3-to-4 pound bistecca alla Fiorentina (see note below)

Work the anchovies with the salt and rosemary in a mortar and pestle, adding oil slowly, until they form a coarse paste.

Heat a grill (wood-burning preferred), and when it's very hot, lay the steaks over it. Grill the steaks on one side for 8 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 6 minutes. Remove the steak and brush the anchovy paste on both sides generously. Allow the meat to stand for about 2 minutes, until the anchovy paste has melted into the meat. Then debone the fillet and sirloin and cut into 1/2-inch slices against the grain, keeping the meat in position. Return the fillet and sirloin slices to the bone and serve family-style.

Note: Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a specific cut of baby beef (vitellone) -- the T-bone with the chop and loin meat attached. To cook properly, it must be at least 2 and 1/2 inches thick, about 3 to 4 pounds; therefore, a substantial portion usually serves 6 or more.

Cannellini Beans With Rosemary
1 and 1/2 pounds dried cannellini beans

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

6 whole rosemary sprigs

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

1/4 cup Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil

Place the beans in a medium-size bowl and pour in enough cool water to cover by 4 inches. Soak the beans in a cool place for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain the beans and place them into a medium-size saucepan. Cover generously with cold water and add the bay leaves. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat. (The water should have reduced and now be level with the beans; if there is too much, drain off excess.) Stir in the rosemary, salt, and olive oil and allow to steep for 30 minutes.

Remove the rosemary stems and bay leaves. Add additional salt and olive oil to taste, then serve.

String Beans and Potatoes

6 medium Yukon Gold
potatoes (about 1 and 1/4
pounds), peeled and cut
crosswise into 4 pieces

1 and 1/2 pounds tender string
beans, cleaned

6 tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled
and crushed

Salt and freshly ground
black pepper

Bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the potatoes, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the string beans, and cook until tender, an additional 10 minutes. Drain the beans and potatoes in a colander.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the string beans and potatoes, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and mashing the potatoes roughly. Add the remaining olive oil, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sgropin

1 cup Prosecco di Conigliano

2 ounces grappa or vodka

1 pint lemon sorbet

6 sprigs mint

Currants or champagne grapes

Put the prosecco, grappa, and lemon sorbet in a blender and blend until it looks like a smoothie. Pour into champagne flutes and top each with a sprig of mint and currants or a cluster of champagne grapes.

Ripe Peach, Blueberry, and Prosecco Soup

10 ripe peaches (preferably white), peeled and sliced

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 2 lemons

2 cups prosecco

30 mint leaves, torn into pieces

1 pint blueberries

Mix the sliced peaches with sugar in a large bowl. Mix orange and lemon juices with the prosecco, and pour over the peaches. Add half the mint leaves and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Stir in the blueberries, and garnish with the remaining mint.


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