“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cacio e pepe, coffee rubbed steak and eggplant arancini

Ciao! Today’s enticing meal will be angel hair cacio e pepe, coffee rubbed steak and eggplant arancini.


Il Primo (first course)

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish. It translates to "cheese and pepper" in Italian. This dish was made for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time, as its main ingredients are black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. It is typically made with a long, thin pasta, I like mine with angel hair. The sauce is nice and creamy from the perfect mix of cheese and starchy pasta water. 

Cacio e pepe
1 box angel hair
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated 


Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add pepper to a sauté pan and toast until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add oil and butter and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat. Cook pasta al dente. Drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the oil and butter mixture, then add the pasta and mix. Toss until the angel hair is well coated. Stir in the cheese (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary) and serve immediately. You don’t want the sauce to sit too long; it’s nice and fresh, so eat it now!
Il Secondo (main course)
I know what you’re thinking, coffee and steak? Sounds strange, no? But let me tell you, there is something about the way coffee and meat taste when combined that is just divine. There is enough of a coffee taste to flavor the steak but not overpower it. I also prepare my steaks with smoked olive oil, which adds to the intensity. Smoked olive oil and coffee flavored salt can be found at gourmet shops. If you can’t find these items, you can substitute regular olive oil of course and in place of coffee salt, you can use coffee powder.
Coffee rubbed steak
4 tablespoons of smoked olive oil
4 tenderloin steaks
Coffee salt
Prepare a flat grill with 4 tablespoons of smoked olive oil. Rub your steaks with coffee salt, use as much of as little as you like. Put on the grill. Some people like there steaks rare, some medium, some medium well, this part is up to you. You may cook them as long or as little as you like to get it the way you want. I am one of the few people that actually like my meat well done, including steaks.
Il Contorno (side dish)
Okay, so technically these are not arancini. Arancini are rice balls that are coated in breadcrumbs, stuffed with mozzarella and fried. There is no rice in this recipe, but they look just like arancini and there are similarities as far as taste. The middle of an arancini is creamy and cheesy, as is this. And the outside is crispy and crunchy. My recipe is made with seasoned eggplant, which is then shaped into a ball and then stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried. Have I won you over yet?
Eggplant arancini
2 large eggplants
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Olive oil
2 eggs       
3/4 cup grated Parmesan  
1 1/4 cups whole wheat bread crumbs, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chickpea flour
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into little cubes
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil. Pat eggplant dry; put on prepared sheets. Brush lightly with oil. Bake until eggplant is tender and dry, about 1 hour. Cool slightly; chop coarsely. Whisk 1 egg, Parmesan, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl. Stir in chopped eggplant (mixture will be soft). Spread 1 cup breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk 1 egg and chickpea flour in another bowl. Press and shape eggplant mixture into balls. Press 1 piece mozzarella into center of each ball, making sure eggplant mixture covers cheese. Dip balls into egg batter; roll in breadcrumbs. Pour oil into large skillet heat over medium-high heat. Add balls to skillet; sauté until browned, turning often, about 4 minutes. Move to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
This is a lovely Sunday dinner for the family. Meat, pasta and “vegetables” (well, the eggplant kind of counts, right?). Buon Appetito!
Pasta Cacio e Pepe