Entertaining with Massimo Capra
It's hard to imagine a lager-than-life chef limiting his culinary creations to only being cooked in one pot. Usually, a gourmet meal requires a variety of items from saucepots, stockpots to sauté pans. But for Massimo Capra, a well-known Toronto based restaurateur, chef and one of the rotating chefs on Food Network's hit TV show, Restaurant Makeover, it was time to do a cookbook that mimicked how he cooked at home. And that's how One Pot Italian Cooking (Whitecap, 2007) was created.
Before you go ahead and invite a handful of people over for a crock-pot party, it's time to pick up his book. One Pot Italian Cooking is not about throwing in frozen food at the beginning of the day and coming home to a stew. It's about using the freshest possible ingredients and making simple, delicious and rustic style Italian food. "It's the food I grew up making and eating," says Massimo. "I wanted to include some of my favourite dishes like lamb shanks, short ribs, risottos and chestnut soup."
When it comes time for entertaining, one pot is a really easy way to throw together a dinner party. All you need is an easy appetizer and a side salad and you're done. "And there's a huge benefit," says Massimo. "There's less clean-up! The other plus is that if you keep your pantry stocked, you can throw together a really quick last minute get-together in no time. All you need to pick up are the few remaining fresh ingredients."
Want to throw a one-pot party? Here's a quick menu that is comforting, easy to make and will please any guest.
Insalata Di Alberto: A mixture of radicchio, arugula, tomatoes and canned cannelini beans. A simple oil and vinegar is all it needs to round out the flavours.
Farmer's Risotto: This is a good dish to clean out the crisper with. Tomatoes, onions, Italian parsley and sausage make this a comforting, stick-to-your-ribs dinner. Don't use too much sausage; the idea is to taste the risotto, not make a meat and rice dish.
Balsamic Roasted Pears with Whipped Goat Cheese: This is super-easy to do and a delicious way to end a meal. Roast the pears with a tiny bit of butter and balsamic and serve with topped whipped goat cheese.
Want to cook like a chef? It's all about the pantry. Here's what Massimo keeps stocked in his kitchen cupboards at home.
A good quality olive oil
"It's a must," he says. "Now, you don't have to spend a lot, but a good oil isn't cheap. It's really a question of palate. I find Tuscan olive oils less acidic and less strong."
"Enough said. You absolutely cannot cook a fabulous Italian meal without it. Whether it's grated into a risotto, shaved on a salad or the rind is steeped in a stew or soup - it's a must."
"A good organic butter will make all the difference to your cooking," he adds. "A little goes a long way."
"Find a brand of canned tomatoes that you like. Test out a few until you find the one that suits you. I use tomato paste all the time. It's good to have a cans at-the-ready."
"I prefer homemade as it is so much more flavourful, but it's important to have stock in your freezer or pantry. You can add it to so many different dishes."