David Rocco is not a chef. He's Italian. His philosophy: you don't need a cooking diploma to make fantastic Italian dishes. He's the host of a show on Food Network called "David Rocco's Dolce Vita" (Dolce Vita is Italian for "sweet life"). The show is also about how food brings friends and family together. He has parlayed that into a new cookbook David Rocco's Dolce Vita, and he came by the show to make a couple of his favourites!
Watch this segment in episode 46 now!
INSALATA DI PERE E PARMIGIANO DI NONNO ANTONIO
My Grandfather Antonio's Parmigiano and Pear Salad
This salad is inspired by my nonna Antonio. When I was a child, after dinner he would bring pears and a big hunk of Parmigiano and hand them to me, encouraging me to eat them together. The combination of the sweet, juicy pear and the granular, semi-sharp Parmigiano was a gift from the ingredient gods! Even when I was eight, I recognized this. This saldwas inspired by that memory.
PER 4 PERSONE
2 firm pears, cored and cubed
1 bunch arugula
10 oz (300 g) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
1/2 cup (125 mL) pine nuts, toasted
Core the pears, cut them into chunks and put them right into your serving bowl. Rip up the arugula and toss it into the bowl. Carve up some chunks of Parmigiano and add them as well.
Season with salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I like to add some toasted pine nuts, which, for me, are a real treat. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan 9that means without using oil). It only takes a few minutes, so keep your eye on them, shaking the pan to move them around. Be careful because pine nuts burn very quickly. Sprinkle them on top of the salad and serve.
COZZE A MODO MIO
Mussels alla My Way
This is how my father makes his mussels. And I really do believe that he created this recipe, because every time I'd ask him where he learned it, he's shrug and say, "Ah, it's a modo mio," or "It's alla my way." And in the Rocco house, a lot of dishes were kinda "alla my way," made up on the fly. If you're nervous about preparing mussels, chill. Don't be intimidated. It's simple. Most of the time, the mussels you get from the fishmonger have already been cleaned, so you really just have to give them a good rinse. Put them in a colander, run water over them, and you're done. Mussels can have a bit of seaweed clinging to them, called beards. Just rip them off. Next, you want to make sure the mussels are fresh - and by fresh I mean still alive. There's a simple way to check. First, make sure all the shells are closed. If any are open, press down on them. If they clamp shut, that's good - you know they're fresh, they're alive. If they don't, they're dead, so throw them away.
PER 4 PERSONE
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely choipped
Chili pepper flakes
3 lb (1.5 kg) mussels, rinsed and beards removed
1 cup (250 mL) white wine
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup (125 mL0 red wine vinegar
There are many versions of steamed mussels: with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and even al vino blanco - with just white wine. But all the versions start off the same way.
Heat your pan over high heat. Put in the olive oil, the garlic and the "Rocco family must" - chilli pepper flakes. The joke in our family is that we love chilli peppers so much we even put them on our cereal.
When the garlic is slightly browned, throw in your mussels. Put the lid on the pan to steam the mussels, giving the pan a little shake. After 30 to 60 seconds, pour in the wine. It may seem that a cup of wine isn't much for a receipt that feeds four, but the mussels actually release a lot of liquid as they steam, mixing with the wine to create a flavourful broth. Put the lid back on and give the pan a shake every so often.
While the mussels are steaming, chop some flat-leaf parsley. Now, my dad calls this "alla my way" because he adds a little bit of red wine vinegar. So when you've finished chopping the parsley, red wine vinegar and a little bit of salt. Put the lid back on, give the pan a shake and let it cook some more. Don 't be afraid to remove the lid, grab a spoon and taste the broth. You may want to add more salt, more chilli pepper flakes or maybe even a bit more red wine vinegar for that extra hit of contras. If you want to pour in a bit more wine, that's okay, because the alcohol will burn off, and the wine will lend a nice sweetness to your broth. It should take barely 5 minutes for this dish to be done. You know it's ready when all the shells have opened. If any of shells haven't opened, discard them - they're not good.
"David Rocco's Dolce Vita" is our guide to all things Italian. As always, the starting point is food. Italian cooking is all about the simple things, and how, if you learn to do these simple things well, life is that much better. I say this all the time and believe it absolutely: you don't need a cooking diploma to make fantastic Italian dishes. The show is also about how food brings friends and family together. Since the show began, we've been based in Florence. Season one and most of season two were all about beautiful Florence, Firenze, from the sophisticated cafes and restaurants to the markets, some of the great characters who work in the food sector, and of course friends and family. At the end of season two, we went south to the legendary Amalfi coast, famous for its lemon groves. Last season we celebrated spring in Florence and then traveled to Sicily where we explored the famous Palermo markets, met some incredible people in the wine, agriculture and food sectors, and then traveled back to Amalfi with a stop in the gorgeous resort town of Ischia.
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