For more than two decades, Pino Luongo has been one of New York City’s most renowned restaurateurs. Inspired by the many culinary crosscurrents in this most cosmopolitan of cities, he has devised an original version of the food of Tuscany that draws on ingredients and inspiration from Italy, America, and even Asia. Check out the recipes from his latest cooks book, “LA Mia Cucina Toscana: A Tuscan Cooks in America.”
ARTICHOKE AND POTATO PARMESAN
2 pounds large Idaho potatoes
Fine sea salt
6 large artichokes-tough outer leaves removed and tips cut off
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 1 small bunch fresh marjoram
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella slice 1/4 inch think
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino toscano
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Peel potatoes and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and blanch for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and place on a large cookie sheet lined with a clean towel. Cut each artichoke into 8 slices each and place them in a mixing bowl. Cover with cold water and add the lemon juice.
Warm 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and add half the marjoram.
Sprinkle with the white wine. Let the wine evaporate, about 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Slice the tomatoes 1/2 inch thick and place them on a rimmed cookie sheet line with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon salt, and mix well.
Sprinkle the sugar-salt mixture on the tomatoes. Add the remaining marjoram, the basil leaves and the garlic.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Coat a baking pan with the rest of the olive oil. Arrange the potatoes on the pan in a single layer. Add the artichoke-marjoram mixture as a layer on top of the potatoes. Add the tomatoes as the next layer, then layer on the mozzarella and the Pecorino Toscano.
Increase the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into individual portions, and serve.
VINO: This dish demands a very rich, full-bodied red wine like a Cabernet from California.
SOFT POLENTA WITH PORK SAUSAGE AND TRUFFLE SAUCE
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds sweet sausage, casings removed
3/4 cup dry marsala
3/4 cup dried porcini, soaked in 2 cups warm water for 1 hour
1 black truffle (about 1 ounce), very finely diced, canned if fresh are not available
1 cup chicken stock
DIRECTIONS FOR SAUCE
Pour the olive oil into a flameproof casserole and warm over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and sauté very slowly until caramelized, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the sausage by hand and add it to another sauté pan. Cook over low heat until the meat is browned and the fat is rendered. Drain off the fat and add the sausage to the pan with the vegetables. Use a whisk or fork to break u the sausage even more.
Add the Marsala, raise the heat to medium-high, and let it evaporate, about 2 minutes. Drain the porcini in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Strain the soaking liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth set over another bowl. Set the strained liquid aside.
Roughly chop the porcini and add them to the casserole. Stir well and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the truffle and the porcini-soaking liquid and cook very slowly for an hour. If the sauce becomes dry, add a little chicken stock.
FOR THE POLENTA
Fine sea salt to taste
1&1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta
1 cup water, simmering in a pot on a back burner
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
DIRECTIONS FOR POLENTA
You can either use the instructions on the package or follow this procedure: pour 6 cups water into a deep heavy pan and salt it lightly. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and, beating continually with a whisk, add the polenta slowly and gradually. Stir constantly as you cook the polenta, until it reaches the consistency of a creamy porridge, about 5 minutes. Add some of the simmering water if the polenta becomes too thick. Stir in salt to taste and the olive oil, then cover and set the polenta asked in a warm place until you are ready to serve.
Serve the polenta from a big serving plate topped with the norcina sauce or from individual plates.
VINO: Select a young Rosso di Montalcino, the Brunello table with made with grapes from this year’s first harvest (the younger the better) from Tuscany.
RICOTTA AND CANDIED FRUIT SEMIFREDDO
1/2 pound fresh ricotta, squeezed in cheesecloth if watery
1&1/4 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar sifted
1/4 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon, julienne with a zester
Zest of 1 orange, julienne with a zester
1/4 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
1&1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and whip it with an electric mixer of a whisk until smooth. Place the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and whip it while adding the sugar a little at a time, until well incorporated.
Fold the whipped cream into the ricotta, then add the following ingredients one at a time, mixing carefully: almonds, pistachios, lemon zest, orange zest, and chocolate.
Refrigerate until serving, but don’t let it sit for more than an hour, or it will lose its fluffiness. Add the strawberries just before serving so that they don’t “bleed out” and color the dish.
Recipes excerpted from “A Tuscan Cooks in America” by Luongo Pino, Marta Pulini, Andrew Friedman and Pino Luongo. Copyright © 2003 by Luongo Pino, Marta Pulini, Andrew Friedman and Pino Luongo. Published by Broadway Books, a division Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.