Sunday, April 22, 2012

M's Italian Feast

M is Italian-American and makes great Italian food. After talking about it for the longest time (during cook-offs and mystery box challenges with S, parties, etc), in December last year, we finally organised ourselves and were treated to a spectacular Italian feast by M. M cooked some of the most exquisite, simple, beautifully executed food that I've ever had. Even though seven dishes for four people may not necessarily constitute a feast to some, the bellies of those of us present that night will beg to differ. M outdid himself and delivered a most unforgettable dinner. Above all, he introduced us to what (I imagine)  classic Italian dining is like. Thank you!

Grilled peppers & zucchinis: Deliciously sweet, soft peppers and smokey, charred, tender zucchini strips drizzled with olive oil. I think the olive oil imparts a subtle nutty flavour which adds warmth to the dish and complements the sweet and mellow flavours of the peppers and zucchinis. Simple, yet exquisite.

Foccacia: Beautifully crispy, salty exterior with a chewy centre. This was the best foccacia that M's made (by his own admission). We piled the grilled peppers and zucchinis on these and the result was a perfect combination of flavours and textures. Bliss!

Salad with ham, halloumi, olives, feta and peperoni (I think): I can't remember how M made the dressing, except that it was relatively straightforward. Classic flavours.

Grilled bread (placed at the bottom of the soup bowl): Beautifully charred, smokey and chewy. Brillant addition of the bottom of the soup bowl as it retained it's flavour and structure despite being completely soaked with the fish soup below. Bellissima.

Fish soup: A surprisingly delightful, well flavoured, clear seafood soup. M loves telling his guests that he's serving "Fish Soup" because it sounds completely unappealing, and then observing their surprise and relief when they taste it and it's actually really good.

Gnocchi: M's (and his assistant S's) freshly made gnocchi.

In goes the pesto...

Gnocchi & pesto: M's gnocchi was light and airy and I'm sure, exactly as good gnocchi should be, and S's absolutely loved it. I loved the tasty, herby pesto but I have to admit that gnocchi just isn't for me. I have never been partial to the thicker, spongy or more solid variety of carbs like penne or tong yuen. I prefer more texture.

Grilled chicken: This was a revelation. All M did was grill pieces of flattened, tenderised chicken breast with olive oil, rosemary, salt and when they were cooked, sprinkled chopped parsley and squeezed lemon juice over them. Apparently you have to be careful not to overcook the chicken, but other than that, it is probably the simplest recipe for cooking chicken that I've come across, and it produced one of the most delectable pieces of chicken that I've ever had. At this point I truly understood all those references I've heard about the simplicity and beauty of Italian cooking and food.

Risotto: Texturally, the risotto was great. M intended to use the "low salt" stock to cook the risotto but inadvertently got the normal kind, so it was a tad too salty. Otherwise it was pretty good and had an interesting flavour - I've never had risotto flavoured with saffron before. 

Tiramisu (whole): M's "free-form" tiramisu. 

Tiramisu (served): I used to think the recipe S and I had for tiramisu was pretty good, but M's wins hands down. Ours is like the kid-friendly version compared to his. Rich, decadent, alcoholic, infused with the bittersweetness of coffee and topped with the acidity and sweetness of strawberries tossed with icing sugar. After all that food, we were pushing it but still had to make some room for this divine dessert. No regrets.

1 comment:

kyi said...

Gnocchi looks so good!!


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