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Cookbook Fri Dec 03 2010

Mamma Agata's Plan to Populate the Amalfi Coast...with a Cookbook

Mamma Agata, the renown chef at Italy's Hollywood-heyday-hangout Villa Chivita and the famous matriarch behind the Amalfi Coast's Mamma Agata Cooking School, has just released her first cookbook, Mamma Agata: Simple and Genuine Italian Family Recipes. But just like that Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," there might be a hidden motive in the delicate deliciousness that oozes out of every recipe in the book, albeit for much more benevolent purposes. Namely, with food this good, and scenery as lush as depicted in the beautiful photos spread throughout the book, Agata may be coaxing everyone who picks up this book to relocate to the Amalfi Coast. Hopefully, there's room enough for all at The Hidden Treasure Cooking School run by Agata's daughter, Chiara Lima.

1A. The view.JPG
Mamma Agata's view of the Amalfi Coast

Lima, who acts as director of the school and is the curator/author of the book, recently was in town to promote the cookbook and share the recipe for her mother's Spaghetti del contadino, which incidentally was Jackie Kennedy's favorite meal when she dined at Villa Chivita in the '60s. The recipe relies on a simple focus of fresh ingredients cooked with immediate care, with lightly cooked olives adding the perfect punch to the pasta dish. The "spaghetti of the farmer" is just one of the many meals in the book that not only cement Southern Italy's rightful place as the cradle of great Italian cuisine, but might just make one pack their bags and set sail for the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Mamma Agata and Co. were kind enough to share the recipe for Spaghetti del contadino below, but really, to get ready for the move, it's best to pick up a copy of the book and dive into each and every recipe.

9.Spaghetti del contadino.jpg
Spaghetti del contadino

Mamma Agata's Spaghetti del Contadino
Serves 4

14 oz pasta (spaghetti)
1 ¼ lb ripe cherry tomatoes (the riper the better!)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley (finely chopped)
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 dozen (i.e. 24) green olives (with or without pits)
2 dozen (i.e. 24) black olives (with or without pits)
1 Tablespoon capers (packed in salt, if available, and rinsed)
1 cup fresh arugula leaves

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl with the chopped parsley. NOTE: If the cherry tomatoes are very large, you'll need to cut them into quarters.

Mamma Agata's Secret
The riper the cherry tomatoes, the sweeter and more delicious they are in this recipe!

Parsley is added to the tomatoes before heating them in oil to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. As the parsley sautés in the hot oil, it will lose some of its flavor. NOTE: If the parsley burns, it becomes toxic.

Thinly slick the garlic and add it to the room-temperature extra virgin olive oil. Slowly heat the garlic and oil over a very low temperature so that the flavor of the garlic will pass into the oil as it cooks the garlic.

Mamma Agata's Secret
Add the garlic to room-temperature oil and gently heat them both at the same time because if you heat the olive oil before you add the garlic, the oil will be too hot and it will burn the garlic, making it bitter.

When the oil and garlic are warmed and gently cooked, add the halved cherry tomatoes and parsley, oregano, green olives, black olives and rinsed salted capers to the pan. Cook for an additional five minutes.

Mamma Agata's Secret
Mamma Agata uses capers preserved in salt, as their flavor is much stronger. If you can find them, be sure to rinse them in water before adding them to the sauce to avoid creating a sauce that is too salty; salted capers naturally will retain some of the salt and properly salt the dish. If you use capers in brine, you may need to add salt to this dish to balance the flavors.

Boil the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the sauce. Cook for an additional two minutes.

Add the arugula leaves to the pasta and sauce just prior to serving so that it does not lose its flavor in the cooking process.

Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil to further enhance the flavors in the dish and enjoy!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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