Celebrity chef David Rocco loves cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients. Here are two easy side dishes plus a delectable, moist cake he has created that would be perfect to grace your Thanksgiving Day table.
Green Bean Salad (Insalata Di Fagiolini)
Green beans are a versatile vegetable. They hold their integrity when cooked and will absorb and enhance the flavours of whatever you mix with them. David Rocco recommends making this salad in advance to give the beans a chance to absorb all the flavours. You can also use lemon juice in place of the vinegar.
1 kg (2 lb) green beans, trimmed
75 ml (5 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
8 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, trimmed, very finely diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
30 ml (2 tbsp) red wine vinegar (optional)
Cut off tips of beans, then boil for 3 to 5 minutes until slightly soft but still a bit crunchy. Drain well, pat dry and place in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil, mint, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar, if using. Toss gently so the dressing coats the beans.
Makes 4 servings.
Potato Cake (Gateau Di Patate)
David Rocco says this potato gateau — mashed potatoes with an edge — is a favourite dish. "Not only is it like a giant serving of mashed potatoes, it has a baked crust — like a giant potato croquette without the work. I also look at this dish as a way of using up ingredients in the fridge that have seen better days, like the poorly wrapped cheeses, deli meats, etc.," he writes in his cookbook "Made in Italy."
This dish tastes delicious warm or at room temperature.
6 potatoes, peeled
60 ml (4 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
250 ml (1 cup) diced pancetta and/or salami
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large egg
125 ml (1/2 cup) freshly grated pecorino cheese
125 ml (1/2 cup) cubed Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
125 ml (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
250 ml (1 cup) breadcrumbs, divided
Heat oven to 200 C (400 F)
Boil potatoes until fork-tender, then drain and let cool. In a saucepan, heat half the olive oil. Add pancetta and onion. Cook until onion is golden and pancetta is crisp.
In a mixing bowl, mash potatoes. For a creamier texture you can use a potato ricer. Add egg, cooked onion and pancetta, all the cheeses and salt and pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are evenly combined.
Grease a 33-by-23-cm (13-by-9-inch) baking dish with remaining olive oil and spread half the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the dish. Pour in potato mixture and spread it evenly like a cake batter. Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Apple Yogurt Cake (Torta Di Mele Delle Roccettes)
This easy cake is a perfect seasonal treat using fresh apples. The yogurt makes it super moist. David Rocco's four-year-old twin daughters, Emma and Giorgia (a.k.a. the Roccettes), are absolutely in love with it.
325 ml (1 1/3 cups) flour
1 ml (1/4 tsp) cinnamon
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
200 g (7 oz) butter, melted
125 ml (1/2 cup) yogurt
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
75 ml (1/3 cup) sugar, for topping
Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Butter a 20-cm (8-inch) baking pan.
In a bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar and melted butter with a hand mixer until light and airy. Add eggs one at a time, beating for a few minutes after each addition.
Reduce speed of hand mixer and mix in one-third of the flour mixture. Then mix in half of the yogurt. Repeat until ingredients are mixed together. Stir in sliced apples and lemon zest.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it with a spatula. Sprinkle 75 ml (1/3 cup) sugar on top.
Bake for about 40 minutes until top is golden and a fork or tester poked into it comes out clean.
Recipes source: "Made in Italy" by David Rocco (HarperCollins, 2011).