Berkeley Documentary filmmaker, Les Blank, died last Sunday after a battle with bladder cancer at the age of 77. Although his film, "Garlic Is As Good As 10 Mothers" is one of his better known, food was one of his favorite topics. Long before "Food Inc.", he filmed "Chicken Real" about chicken production. Food can be political as well as erotic, taking us to far away lands even when eating in the restaurant down the street.
What's For Dinner is a community diary about food, recipes and such published every saturday night at 4:30 PDT/7:30 EDT
"BIG NIGHT" IL TIMPANO
FOR THE PASTA:
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup fine bread crumbs
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 medium rib celery, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons chicken broth or white wine
2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, passed through the medium disk of a food mill to remove seeds
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
FOR THE TIMPANO:
1/2 pound penne or other short-shaped pasta, cooked al dente, drained and reserved
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in quarters
1 pound mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
To make the pasta, mix the flour and the salt together, then stir the salted flour with the eggs and the oil. Continue to stir until the dough comes together in a ball. On a floured work surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until silky smooth. Wrap with plastic and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Combine all the meatball ingredients. Roll into about 65 balls, using 1 tablespoon of meat for each. In a large nonstick frying pan, cook as many meatballs as will fit in 1 layer over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Repeat if necessary. Set aside in a bowl at room temperature.
In the same pan used to make the meatballs and utilizing the fat left in the pan, cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock or wine and stir into the vegetables. Cook the mixture for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
To make the timpano, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the penne with 2 cups of the sauce. Roll out the pasta on a lightly floured surface to make a 26-inch round. Grease a 3-quart stainless- steel bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil and gently mold the pasta sheet to the contours of the bowl; there should be enough hanging over the edge to fold over and cover the filling.
Spoon 1 cup of penne into the bowl. Top with 1/2 cup of the sauce, 12 pieces of egg, half of the meatballs and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the process, this time using 3 cups of penne, 1 1/2 cups of sauce, the remaining eggs, meatballs and cheese. Top with the remaining penne and sauce. Create a final layer with the salami. Fold the pasta over the filling and brush with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake the timpano for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 45 more minutes. To check if it's done make a small hole at the top using a knife blade. If steam comes out and the cheese is melted, it's done. Otherwise, bake for 10 to 15 more minutes. To serve, remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Carefully turn upside down onto a large platter.
YIELD 6 to 8 servings
EGGPLANT IN GARLIC SAUCE(The Joy Luck Club)
3 medium Chinese eggplant, about 1 lb.
2 tbsp. chili-garlic sauce
2 tbsp. thin soy sauce
2 tbsp. Chinese red rice vinegar
2 tbsp. shao hsing (rice wine)
1 tbsp. sugar
7 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup ground pork butt
2 tbsp. finely minced garlic
2 tbsp. finely minced ginger
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1. Trim the stem and ends from the eggplant and cut eggplant into 1/2'' x 2 1/2'' strips. In a small bowl, combine chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, and 2/3 cup cold water.
2. Heat a 14'' flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 3 tbsp. oil and half the eggplant and stir-fry 2 minutes, or until some of the eggplant begins to brown and soften. Transfer eggplant to a plate. Repeat with remaining eggplant and 3 tbsp. oil, transferring to the plate with first batch. Add remaining 1 tbsp. oil, pork, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry about 1 minute, or until golden and fragrant. Return the eggplant to the wok. Restir the chili sauce mixture and swirl into the wok. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 5-8 minutes or until eggplant is just tender. Stir in scallions and serve immediately.
SERVES 4 - 6
GARLIC FRENCH FRIES
Oil for frying (peanut or canola)
4 Russet potatoes or 12 oz bag of frozen pre cut fries
1/2 cup fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut the washed potatoes into 1/2 inch to 3/8 inch thick strips (if using a French mandolin set it to its thickest setting). Heat the oil in a cast iron pot or any heavy duty pot to 360 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan then add the minced garlic for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and add to a mixing bowl with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Mix well.
The potatoes must be fried three times for best results. In batches, if necessary, place the raw fries into the oil for 90 seconds. Remove and let drain. Drop fries again for another 90 seconds. Remove and let drain. Drop fries in again this time for 60 seconds or until crisp and golden brown.
While the fries are still warm toss them with the garlic seasoning.
For the dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed, plus extra for the pan
For the filling
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (a sharp goat cheese, you can sub. with parmigiano, but it's not the same)
1/2 lb pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in cool water for 30 minutes and drained
10 saffron threads
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten to blend
Make the dough: In a bowl, mix the flour and the butter with your fingers until they resemble a coarse meal.
Add the salt and enough ice water to make an elastic dough.
Shape into a ball, wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
Drop in the garlic and cook for 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse in cool water.
Crush the cooked garlic cloves; place in a bowl and fold in the pecorino, the pancetta, raisins, saffron, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.
Cut the dough in 2 equal pieces and roll each out into 1/2-inch thick disks.
Line a buttered 10-inch pie pan with 1 disk.
Spoon in the filling, mounding it high.
Top with the second disk of dough and seal the edges with your fingers; trim off excess dough.
Glaze the top with the beaten egg.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden.
Remove from the oven, place on a serving platter, and serve hot.
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