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“Today” host Matt Lauer talks with the Scotto family as they share some of their secrets for springtime cooking.
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updated 9/28/2005 2:26:18 AM ET 2005-09-28T06:26:18

Recipe: STEAMED MAINE MUSSELS AND MANILA CLAMS

Ingredients
  • 4-5 dozen Maine Mussels
  • ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 dozen Manila clams
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • Saffron threads, large pinch
  • » teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh picked thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, rough chopped
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 bunch arugula, washed thoroughly and roots trimmed off
  • 4 ounces white wine
  • 6 ounces clam juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation

Wash and scrub clams and mussels. Remove beards from mussels and refrigerate until ready to assemble dish. Discard any clams that are open that do not close, or that do not smell fresh.

In a large 14-inch stainless steel sauté pan with lid, add oil, heat till lightly smoking then add garlic, shallots, saffron, fennel, thyme. Sweat but do not brown. Add mussels and clams all together. Toss with a spoon. Deglaze with white wine. Let cook for 1 minute then add clam juice and cover with lid. Do not reduce heat. Allow to cook for 3 minutes or until clams and mussels open.

To finish, after clams and mussels are open, add basil, arugula, cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and allow ingredients to cook together for 1 minute longer. Serve immediately.

Note: Great accompaniment to this dish is crusty Chibatta bread rubbed with garlic, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Great for mopping up wonderful broth from clams and mussels.

Tips

Cooking of this dish requires only 7-8 minutes; do not start until ready to serve.

Serving Size

4-6 servings

Recipe: CREAMY POLENTA WITH WILD SPRING MUSHROOMS, FONTINA AND MOZZARELLA

Ingredients
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 11 /2 pounds of any variety of market fresh wild mushrooms (Morels, Chanterelles, Hen of the Woods, Black Trumpet, Lobster. Note: If wild mushrooms are not available, store variety of Shitake, Oyster or Portobello would be a great substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, destemmed and rough chopped (leaves only)
  • 4 tablespoons whole butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh fontina cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, destemmed and rough chopped (leaves only)
Preparation

Polenta

To make the polenta, heat the milk and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. While it is simmering, slowly add the polenta. Stir constantly for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone. Set the polenta aside.

Mushroom Ragu

Remove any tuff stem pieces or blemish marks from any of the mushrooms. Cut into quarters. Float in a bowl of cold water to remove any dirt, sand or any inedible particles from mushrooms. Remove from water and air dry on paper towels.

Note: If using Shitake mushrooms, remove stems completely and disregard being that they are inedible. Black gills on the underside of Portobello mushrooms can be removed by scraping with a spoon. For Oyster mushrooms, discard bottom part of stem end and proceed with recipe.

In a large 10-inch sauté pan, heat olive oil to lightly smoking, add mushrooms to sauté pan in 2 batches. Sauté until mushrooms are lightly brown and tender. Remove from heat and place in bowl. While sauté pan is still hot, add an additional » cup olive oil, heat and sauté sliced garlic until lightly brown. Remove from heat and add chopped rosemary. Pour over mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.

In the same pot that polenta is held in, heat on low setting, no higher or polenta will scorch and burn. Lightly butter 6 5-inch gratin dishes and set aside.

Stirring polenta constantly, add together mozzarella and fontina cheese and wild mushroom ragu. Now you’re ready to serve.

Spoon equal amounts of creamy polenta into each gratin dish but do not overfill. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, place on upper shelf of broiler and broil until cheese is lightly brown and polenta is crusty. This step will only take a minute or two, do not walk away from broiler!

When lightly brown, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately on underliner.

Tips

Preheat broiler to highest setting before beginning this step.

Serving Size

6 servings

Recipe: WHOLE WHEAT PENNE WITH BRAISED BEETS, GORGONZOLA CHEESE AND WALNUTS

Ingredients
  • 1 pound excellent quality organic whole wheat rigatoni or penne
  • 1 bunch fresh beets with greens (about 4-5 whole beets)
  • 1 large onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola or goats cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole walnuts
Preparation

Remove stems and greens from beets. In medium size pot cover beets in water, season with ½ teaspoon salt and simmer until cooked through. Check by piercing with a pairing knife; there should be little to no resistance. Cook approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. When done remove from water and let cool for 15-20 minutes. Then remove beet skin by rubbing with paper towels, then rinse lightly under cool water to remove any skin particles. Cut beets into large dice and hold in a covered bowl until pasta is prepared.

Stem the beet greens, cut leaves crosswise in half in ribbons. Cut stems on bias into half in lengths. Rinse under running water until all grit and sand is removed.

In medium size sauté pan heat olive oil, sauté onions gently until golden brown then add garlic. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add greens, beet stems and stock, stew gently under medium heat until tender, approximately 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat then add diced beets.

Cook whole wheat pasta. Strain and do not rinse; pasta will be very starchy being that it is organic whole wheat. Mix pasta and stewed beets together. Just before serving fold in cheese and walnuts, taste for salt and pepper, then serve.

Serving Size

4 servings

Recipe: GRILLED COTALETTA OF CHICKEN BREAST SPRING VEGETABLE AND BABY LETTUCE SALAD WITH LEMON-HERB VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients
  • Chicken Breast
  • 6 (6-7) ounce boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and lightly pounded between 2 sheets of plastic wrap approximately »-inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
  • Spring vegetable salad
  • 1 bunch fresh green asparagus peeled and trimmed Note: If asparagus are pencil size, there is no reason for peeling, just trim 2 inches off base.
  • 1/2 pound peeled baby carrots
  • 1/2 pound French string beans, string removed
  • 1/2 bunch rinsed fresh radishes, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 pint red and yellow cheery tomatoes split in half
  • 4 ears of shucked corn brushed with olive oil and grilled
  • 1/2 pint of sugar snap peas, string removed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rings, brushed with olive oil and grilled
  • 1 pound fresh spring baby lettuce mix or young arugula, frisee, romaine hearts, radicchio and bib lettuces can be your own mix as well
Preparation

Blanch in boiling salted water for 2 minutes only or just until crisp, asparagus, French beans and baby carrots.

With grill preheated, proceed grilling corn and red onions just until tender, let corn cool, standing corn up on its end, slice straight down only removing corn kernels.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half, slice radishes, line asparagus up together, cut into 2-inch lengths and split baby carrots in half.

Take all vegetables and place in large stainless steel bowl, mix together and refrigerate.

Tips

Preheat Grill to highest setting.To keep vegetables from over cooking and loosing their color, cool in ice bath directly after removing from boiling water. Drain and let dry.

Recipe: LEMON-HERB VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients
  • Juice from 6-7 freshly squeezed lemon with pits removed.
  • Approximately ½ cup excellent quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chervil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation

In bowl whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey and extra virgin olive oil together. Season with salt and pepper after salad is assembled.

Plate assembly

Remove plastic wrap carefully from both sides of chicken breast. Place on hot grill and cook approximately 3 minutes per side. Place on serving platter.

Add baby lettuces into bowl with already prepared baby vegetables, add fresh herbs and dress with lemon vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, place mixed salad on top of grilled chicken and serve.

Tips

Do not add herbs to vinaigrette mix until salad is ready to be served.

Recipe: BUTTERMILK PANNA COTTA WITH FRESH SPRING BERRIES

Ingredients
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces hot water
Preparation

Combine lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a small heavy sauce pan. Cook over high heat (swirling) until sugar caramelizes. Carefully add hot water (caution-it will splatter). Pour evenly over the bottom of 2-quart ring mold.

Combine heavy cream and 1 cup sugar in a sauce pan and heat until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle gelatin powder over buttermilk. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Gently heat until gelatin dissolves. Combine cream mixture and buttermilk mixture, and add vanilla extract. Pour into prepared ring mold and refrigerate overnight.

Unmold onto serving platter and garnish with fresh berries.

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