Two Good Dinners


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That was last night’s: farfalle with creamy zucchini sauce, pork loin (arista), and roasted cherry tomatoes with fennel seeds and cannellini beans. Everything worked really well. Here’s the story for the arista and why I chose to make it instead of the pork loin roasted in milk:

“Around 1450 the Turks were at the fates of Constantinople, and it seemed that the thousand-year-old Eastern Roman Empire would fall if help did not come from the West. The emperor and the patriarch of the Orthodox Church went to Italy to have a conference on the union of that church with that of Rome, a precondition for aid. The Medici were hosts for most of the conference. Benozzo Gozzoli’s famous fresco of the journey of the Magi is supposed to depict the personages of that historic event. At one of the feats (Florence was the culinary center of the West), a roast of pork, a specialty of Florence, was served. One of the Greek dignitaries exclaimed in his own language: “arista!” (“The best!“). The Eastern Roman Empire fell, but arista has remained to this day.” —from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Guiliano Bugialli.

The Professor loved it, and I loved having made a meal of which I could be proud.

I included a picture of a complete table setting for dinner. That’s my little second course plate I use every night because we don’t have enough of the full size ones to go around. I don’t mind though- I never eat a lot of the second course. I think it’s because I’ve been tasting it all evening and have subsequently lost my appetite for it. I’ve desensitized myself.

We also went to an amazing beach- probably my favorite so far. (Capervali?) It was incredibly crowded so we clambered up a huge boulder and lay our towels out up there. That’s where Sep took this picture of me:

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It was perfect! The water was so clear, so refreshing, and just the right amount of wavy. I wish we could have stayed there all day, but unfortunately we had to come back for the afternoon shift. There’s apparently a big beach party happening there on August 15th, and I think we’re planning on getting a day off so say can all go together.

Tonight I made rabbit again, this time from a cookbook by Ada Boni. I marinated it in spices, wine, garlic, and oil for several hours once I defrosted it and separated out the super bony parts (and the heads). It wasn’t cooked like the Marcella recipe I used before dictated; it took much less time this way. I’m not sure which one is preferable, as they both went over pretty well. I also made a recipe from Epicurious for beefsteak tomatoes stuffed with wild mushrooms and topped with parmesan cheese. They were tasty but I wished they’d been more savory. I think I’ll use more cheese next time. The pasta was penne arrabbiata, which was probably the easiest dish I’ve made. It was solely pancetta and tomatoes, cooked together and flavored with salt and pepper. It was easy, delicious, and somehow well-paired with the rest of the meal.

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The thing I need to get much better about doing is planning a menu that fits all the courses cohesively together. It’s always an accident if anything works well, and so often I am disappointed by the way the second course comes together. It’s usually due to an oversight, such as if I don’t read the recipe well enough and realize too late that both dishes are supposed feature tomatoes or pancetta.

The next exciting thing that’s happening in my life is that Sep and I are going to Florence to meet up with my friend Caitlin. She’s been in Florence for a while and will come back to Elba with us on Sunday. I’m quite excited, but also nervous. While I’m gone Paul will be cooking and I’m afraid that I’ll return and find that I’ve been replaced. I think it’s all too likely that the professor will decide I belong in the garden instead of the kitchen, and then I will be disappointed in myself for not getting my act together sooner and not putting forth a good impression. If I end up in the garden, so be it. I’ll get stronger than I would have in the kitchen!

I don’t know if I’ll have wifi in Florence, but either way I’ll take lots of pictures and post them when I get back. I can’t wait to see a new big city in Italy!

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