|Marcella Hazan’s Panzanella|
The NY Times has described Marcella Hazan as ‘the high priestess of Italian cooking for many Americans – and for many, she remains so.’ Her landmark ‘Classic Italian Cookbook’ was published in 1973 and I read that in 1980 it was adapted for a British readership by Anna Del Conte. So where was I during that time? How come I don’t know her?
- ½ garlic clove, peeled
- 2 or 3 flat anchovy fillets (preferably the ones prepared at home as below), chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon capers, soaked and rinsed as described below if packed in salt, drained if in vinegar
- ¼ yellow sweet bell pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon choice quality red wine vinegar
- 2 cups firm, good bread, trimmed of its crust, toasted under the broiler, and cut into ½-inch squares (keep the crumbs)
- 3 fresh, ripe, firm, round tomatoes
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
- ½ medium onion, preferably of a sweet variety, such as Bermuda red, Vidalia, or Maui, sliced and soaked as described below
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
|I didn’t have a yellow pepper only a red one: but at least it was sweet|
2. Scrape away any part of the pulpy core of the sweet pepper together with the seeds, and dice the pepper into ¼-inch pieces. Put the pepper and the garlic and anchovy mixture in a serving bowl, add salt, olive oil, and vinegar, and toss thoroughly.
|all the ingredients for panzanella ready to mix|
For the Anchovies: The meatier anchovies are richer and rounder in flavor. The meatiest anchovies are the ones kept under salt in large tins and sold individually, by weight. One-quarter pound is, for most purposes, an ample quantity to buy at one time. Prepare the fillets as follows:
Rinse the whole anchovies under cold running water to remove as much as possible of the salt used to preserve them.
Take one anchovy at a time, grasping it by the tail and, with the other hand, use a knife gently to scrape off all its skin. After skinning it, remove the dorsal fin along with the tiny bones attached to it.
Push your thumbnail into the open end of the anchovy opposite the tail and run it against the bone, opening the anchovy flat all the way to the tail. With your hand, loosen and lift away the spine, and separate the fish into two boneless fillets. Brush your fingertips over both sides of the fillets to detect and remove any remaining bits of bone.
Rinse under cold running water, then pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Place the fillets in a shallow dish. When one layer of fillets covers the bottom of the dish, pour over it enough extra virgin olive oil to cover. As you add fillets to the dish, pour olive oil over each layer. Make sure the top layer is fully covered by oil.
If you are not going to use them within 2 or 3 hours, cover the dish and refrigerate. If the dish lacks a lid of its own use plastic wrap. The anchovies will keep for 10 days to 2 weeks, but they taste best when consumed during the first week. Prepared in this manner, the fillets are powerfully good as an appetizer or even a snack, when spread on a thickly buttered slice of crusty bread.
For the capers: In Italy, particularly in the South, capers are packed in salt, and they taste better. They are available in markets abroad as well, particularly in good ethnic groceries. Their disadvantage is that, before they can be used, they must be soaked in water 10 to 15 minutes and rinsed in several changes of water, otherwise they will be too salty. They can not be stored for as long as the vinegar-pickled kind because, when the salt eventually absorbs too much moisture and becomes soggy, they start to spoil. The color of the salt is an indication of the capers’ state of preservation. It should be a clean white; if it is yellow the capers are rancid.
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