Marcella’s kitchen, 327pp.
by Marcella Hazan
Macmillan, London, 1986
Cooking on page 32
This post is a tribute to Marcella Hazan, a gutsy Italian woman who had a remarkable life and made an enormous contribution to how Americans cook and appreciate Italian food.
She came to the USA in 1955 as a newlywed. She was a trained scientist (not a foodie) and saw her first supermarket ever in New York City.
Back then she didn’t know much about cooking, but was horrified by the lack of fresh ingredients in the USA. So she set about teaching herself, as well as the cooks and eaters of her adopted country, more about Italian food.
By 1973, she had published her first of six cookbooks, The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating.
Sadly she died last month. The New York Times published a fascinating obituary about her (do check it out) and I’m cooking one of her recipes to say thanks for the advice and memories.
This is one of the few cookbooks I’ve ever bought new and at full price. I knew about Marcella’s reputation and was delighted to find this long ago at Chenka Books, a now-closed and much-missed Canberra institution. 😦
Over the years, I’ve cooked from it from time to time, but this is my first encounter with page 32. It’s a lovely, delicious and simple recipe. Marcella was a big promoter of the KISS principle—keep it simple stupid.
Tomatoes stuffed with goat’s cheese and chives (pomodori ripieni con formaggio caprino ed erba cipollina)
9 ripe plum tomatoes about 5 cm (2 in) long
225 g (8 oz) goat’s cheese, mild and creamy rather than sharp and crumbly
4 tablespoons chopped chives, keeping the tips of 2 spears for each tomato
4 or more tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, depending on the creaminess of the goat’s cheese
black pepper in a grinder
Rinse the tomatoes in cold water. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out all the pips and inner partitions. Place them cut side down in a colander. Let them drain for at least 30 minutes.
Put the cheese, chopped chives, olive oil and a generous grinding of pepper into a bowl. Using a fork or wooden spoon, mash all the ingredients together for a smooth, creamy mixture.
Divide the cheese mixture roughly into as many parts as you have tomato halves. Spoon the mixture into the tomatoes, heaping it into a mound, if there is enough of it. In the centre of the mound embed the tip of a chive spear, the sharp end pointing up. Serve at room temperature.
How it played out
I made this using roma tomatoes, which is Australia’s equivalent of plum tomatoes. I was very pleased get a kilo of them for $3 at a local farmers’ market. I think Marcella would have approved.
I didn’t change a thing—why mess with success—and served them as an afternoon and pre-dinner snack.
Oh wait, I did change one thing. I put the chive spears as a cross on top of each tomato half.
Served with some olive grissini—also from the farmers’ market.
So easy, so tasty, so colourful, so peppery and just as yummy the next day. What’s not to love? Make it and let me know what you think.
I already have three tomato plants set out (it’s spring in Australia), so I know I’ll be making this often. Now to plant some chives—my last crop died over winter.
P.S. If you have enjoyed this, please take a moment to check out my travel blog.