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This delicious soup was prepared by Umbrian chef Angelo Maria Franchini at our NYC cooking school as part of the Monini tasting, during which we had the opportunity to taste the season's fresh pressed olive oil direct from Spoleto, Umbria; this amazingly fragrant olive oil goes by the name Il Monello. The clean flavors of the soup are a perfect vehicle for showcasing fruity extra-virgin olive oil.
For the soup:
For the bread:
For the shrimp:
Make the soup: Rinse the lentils, pick them over, and set aside.
Warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 2-quart pot with the onion, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and chili. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat, or until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, lentils, and broth, season with the salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
Make the bread: Heat a grill pan over high heat for 5 minutes and toast the bread until browned lightly on both sides, turning once, about 2 minutes per side. Rub the bread lightly with the garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil. Divide the bread among 4 bowls.
Make the shrimp: Toss the shrimp with the salt, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and chili. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet until hot but not smoking. Cook the shrimp until it is pink and cooked all the way through, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Set aside.
To serve: Pour the soup over the bread and serve hot, drizzled with the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, garnished with 1 shrimp each. Serves 4
The dressing for the unusual winter salad below is nothing more than good extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. The pomegranate seeds look like ruby jewels sitting atop the fennel and orange.
Arrange the orange, fennel, and walnut halves on 4 salad plates. Drizzle with the olive oil; season with the salt and pepper. Tear the mint leaves over the salad and garnish with the pomegranate seeds; serve within minutes. Serves 4
This is a staple in Italian homes for Hanukah. A quick marinade in lemon juice lends a pleasant tang; you can add minced herbs while marinating if you like. Be sure to use extra-virgin to fry the chicken for a truly delicious flavor.
Toss the chicken pieces with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large bowl. Set aside for 1 hour.
Heat the remaining 2 cups of olive oil in a deep 14-inch sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dredge in the beaten egg, coating all sides. Place in the hot oil in a single layer, presentation side down, being careful not to splatter yourself.
Fry until golden-brown on both sides, about 15 minutes per side, turning once. Be sure to regulate the heat as needed to prevent the chicken from burning. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels and blot dry. Serve hot. Serves 4
I love fresh sage. I infuse roasted chicken with its woodsy scent, throw in a handful of leaves whenever I make a batch of barley soup, mince it and scatter it atop potatoes before placing them in a hot oven.
A few years ago, I had my first taste of deep-fried sage leaves in Tuscany: two whole leaves sandwiched together, hiding a little nugget of anchovy, dredged in an egg batter and fried until golden. Well... I was hooked. I included the recipe in my cookbook and after years, it remains one of my favorite palate-teasers.
But, like any true sage lover, I knew there had to be another way to indulge in my taste for fried sage. And then it hit me: why not enclose sage leaves, simple and unadorned, in a thin sheet of dough and drop them into bubbling olive oil? I tried it, and it was delectable... Light, savory, and absolutely addictive.
The dough I use for these fritters is very easy to make: just flour, salt, water, and a little olive oil. The ingredients are kneaded until a smooth dough forms, then rolled into nearly transparent sheets, cut into rectangles, and topped with a single sage leaf each. The rectangles are folded in half, fried in hot olive oil until they puff up and become gorgeously golden all over, and served with a mere dusting of sea salt. Heaven with a glass of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene.
Make the dough: Place 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl.
Add 1/2 cup of room-temperature water; the dough should come together.
Knead for 1 to 2 minutes, adding water if the dough is dry or flour if the dough is sticky. The dough should be soft and supple, or you will not be able to roll it out until it is nearly transparent later; resist the temptation to add a lot of flour, and do not overwork the dough or it may be tough later.
Pat the dough into a disk and roll out into a nearly transparent rectangle on a lightly floured counter.
Rinse and blot dry 36 perfect, large sage leaves.
Cut the dough into rectangles a little wider than the sage leaves using a fluted pastry wheel.
Top each dough rectangle with a sage leaf. If you like, top each sage leaf with a piece of anchovy fillet (I prefer the fritters this way--and, surprisingly, so do avowed anchovy haters!).
Fold each dough rectangle in half to enclose the sage leaf. Be sure the edges are sealed well or the fritters might emerge from the oil soggy.
Arrange the sage rectangles on a lightly floured plate or tray in a single layer; do not stack them or they will stick together.
Heat a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil (at least 2 inches deep) to 350 degrees in a deep pan; use an oil thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil.
It is important that the oil be hot (between 325 and 375 degrees) when you fry food, or it will fry up heavy and imbibe too much oil.
Lower the sage rectangles into the hot olive oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. If you crowd the pan, the temperature of the oil will drop significantly.
Turn the sage rectangles over when they become golden on one side and continue to cook until they become golden all over, about 2 minutes per batch.
Remove with a slotted spoon to a platter lined with paper towels and blot dry.
Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately, while you fry the remaining sage rectangles. Makes 36