Friday, May 20, 2011

Real Italian? /Cauliflower pancakes with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

Some time ago, I was entertaining a couple I know who were over my house for dinner. I'm pretty confident in my kitchen , so I didn't feel the need to go searching in a cookbook for something to make, even though these people were rather sophisticated and she had been a resident of Rome for most of her life. Well, they enjoyed what I made and after dinner, the woman  said to me, "Joe, you are a fine 'Mediterranean' cook"! I didn't have to ask her what she meant having encountered this attitude before. To some Italians, it doesn't matter that both my parents and all of my grandparents were Italian.To them, I was born and raised in this country so I'm American. Now, I see her point. I am American and I don't speak Italian. I've been there but I never lived there, so I'm not a "real Italian". I get it, but it angers me. I am so proud of my Italian heritage. I feel it. I feel it especially when I cook.I feel the presence of my mother and grandmother when I'm shopping for food and when I'm creating a dish. OK, the meal I made that night wasn't authentic Italian, but if I were a resident of Rome and created the same dish, would someone say "It's Mediterranean"? I don't think so. If I make a dish and I follow the principles of cooking I've learned from other Italians, then it's Italian and so am I! Well my neurosis aside, here's a dish that's authentic from one of the masters of Italian cooking, the Italian, Mario Batali.

This is from the cookbook, Molto Italiano and is listed among the antipasti. The recipe is for six, and the "pancakes" are supposed to be finished by coarsely grating ricotta salata over them. I had no ricotta salata, so I shaved some parmigiana reggiano over them.I also cut the recipe down for CW and I. They were delicious. Here is the original recipe: 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large head of cauliflower cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, and chopped finely
9 large eggs beaten
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
4 ounces Ricotta Salata in one piece

1.  In a large saute pan, heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil over med/high heat until smoking. Add the cauliflower and anchovies, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is very soft yet still holds its shape, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2.  Place the cauliflower in a large bowl, add the eggs, bread crumbs, flour, and pecorino, and stir very gently leaving distinct lumps and whole bits of cauliflower.

3.  In a 10-12- inch non-stick saute pan, heat 2 TBS. of the olive oil over med-high heat until smoking. Drop the cauliflower batter by the tablespoon in the pan, without crowding the pancakes, and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 3minutes on a side. Transfer to paper towels to drain and continue cooking the pancakes, adding the remainning oil to the pan as necessary.

4.  Coarsely grate the ricotta salata over the pancakes and serve.

Thank you MB!


  1. I get what you are saying about the concept of being a "real Italian" Joe. On the other hand. I never consider myself a "real Indian" I always think of myself as an American. Maybe it's because I grew up in an era where being different wasn't a good thing? I have learned to be proud of my heritage, but my Indian cooking is not that great, at least not anywhere near my Mother's. You seem very knowledgable about your heritage and are most certainly a "real Italian" chef. Have a great weekend!

  2. That's interesting Rachel. Having ethnic parents doesn't guarantee how people will identify you. I didn't identify myself as Italian till I became an adult for precisely the same reason as you. Neeta, on the other hand who is from Guyana but is culturally Indian got furious at a woman in a department store (an Indian) who told her she wasn't a "real" Indian!

  3. It is interesting how individuals define themselves from a cultural standpoint. We have a friend that is from South Africa, but has Indian heritage. When my Mom asked him if he was Indian, he said no he is South African.

  4. Whatever! The important question is, "Are you going to heaven today, or hanging here with us fun people?"

  5. I've never seen this before but I must say it sounds interesting. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  6. Ditto-part Cherokee(Mom) and part Jewish(Dad). They say you are only a Jew if your mom was, HOGWASH to them. LOL ;)
    Great idea. We do this with zucchini, why not some of the other veggies. Lovin it.

  7. I love cauliflower!What a perfect recipe!I will try it!