About: Jonell Galloway
Recent Posts by Jonell Galloway
In summertime, the living is easy. Grandparents walk hand in hand, bare-armed, as little ones skip down the street in bright plaid shorts and thongs and sing out of tune. Three generations of strong women sit on café terraces, and passersby don’t have to ask if they are related. Lovers love each other more than ever, their blood heated by the sun. Even the flowers overflow onto the sidewalk, expressing their joy to be alive.
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I wish I were on this beach in Normandy today, walking on the Trouville promenade, the French flag flying high and proud, the sea breeze in my locks. I might fling off that long, thick dress with its petticoat, however, and walk shoeless into the sea and stick my toes in the chilly water, before going up for coffee and a Madeleine in that little tower in the half-timber house looking out to sea. That’s me in the blue dress, of course; I always wear a color that matches the sky.
This painting is from the current exhibit at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. By Claude Monet, The Boardwalk on the Beach at Trouville, 1870.
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Book Review: Ingredienti, by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan
This guide is the testament of a woman who based her cooking life on the truth of every dish she cooked and taught, the vigorous truth of clear, uncluttered taste, taste that arises neither from obeisance to dogma, nor from a craving for attention, but evolves inspired by, and respectful of, the ingredients that nourish it.–Victor Hazan in the introduction to Ingredienti
Marcella Hazan, the “godmother of Italian cooking” and the woman many credit with bringing Italian cuisine to the U.S., died in 2013, leaving behind two years’ worth of handwritten notes in Italian in preparation for Ingredienti. Her lifetime collaborator, Victor Hazan, translated and edited these notes, resulting in what is undoubtedly a classic before its time.
With Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks in my suitcase, I was already “tasting Italy” on my way back from London to my home in France. I had a plan: to use her books to learn how to cook Italian food.
That was nearly twenty years ago. It didn’t take me long to realize that the precious ingredients required were simply not available in provincial France. French supermarkets sold pasta made in France with French flour, not Italian pasta made from grano duro. French tomatoes were watery-tasting, even the canned ones. Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano were rarities found only in a few exclusive shops in Paris. The French were just starting to get interested in olive oil, although in the Southeast it had long been the fat of choice thanks to its Greek and Roman history.
Disappointment quickly set in. Marcella’s Italian recipes weren’t going to taste of Italy using French ingredients. It is no wonder that she wanted to write Ingredienti. She knew this was a problem when living outside Italy and felt the need to enlighten her readers about how to choose and treat ingredients.
It was only later when I moved to Switzerland, where good-quality Italian ingredients of all kinds — tomatoes, pasta, cheese, fruit — were readily available that I returned to Marcella. From Geneva, it was also easy to travel to Turin to the Slow Food gatherings. During the Terra Madre conference, I’d arrive every morning with a roller suitcase and, over the course of the day, fill it with food to take back to Switzerland.
Later, in my Italian food journey — even when living in Italy — Marcella, and later Victor, became for me household words, their books like a treatise, a bible, that I refer to in times of doubt, for example, when I make “red” spaghettini alle vongole, which I must have made a hundred times using Marcella’s recipe.
As important as this book is, Marcella Hazan’s recipes are not only about ingredients. The true secret to her success is the lucid precision of the explanations. A scientist by training with two doctorates, her instructions are methodical, almost mathematical. She counts in minutes and half minutes, and you can count on what she says. Though her cookbooks were not written as culinary classes per se, once you’ve followed her risotto instructions a couple of times, you are struck by the rigorousness of the recipe, of how each step is in its proper place, and each time given is exact, and it becomes like a work of art or a perfect mathematical equation, with no excess and no frill.
Ingredienti is indeed a testament to Marcella Hazan’s undying commitment not only to Italian cooking, but also to the importance of choosing products and the actual process of shopping, on which we put too little emphasis. Marcella had an intimate relationship with products, knowing them inside and out as if they were the baby she’d raised. “Choose a pepper by its size, shape, and heft. It should be large, heavy, shiny, firm, and cubical in form. The long tapered ones are not as solidly meaty.” Now you have a clear image in your mind of what to look for next time you buy a pepper. The entire book is like this, leaving you with the impression that you’d been going to a market class with Marcella for a week and held the artichokes or peppers or onions in your hands.
Speaking of extra-virgin olive oil, she says, “if olive oil were a drug, it would have a place of honour among miracle drugs,” saying that “it well might be the most significant contribution to my survival.” Although she embraces the use of lard and butter, used in her native Emilia-Romagna, olive oil was the superstar in her kitchen.
On the important subject of pasta: one can’t say fresh pasta is always better than dried pasta. Fresh pasta, made with eggs and flour, longs for butter and cream, which seep into the crevices of its rough surface; dried pasta, made with water and flour, is a perfect marriage for olive-oil and tomato-based sauces, which slide gracefully around it. You’ll never look at pasta the same way once you’ve “consumed” this chapter; in fact, you’ll want to read it over and over, making sure not to miss a single point.
She tells you everything you need to know about Parmigiano-Reggiano, not to be confused with generic parmesan cheese. Its goodness depends on the origin of the milk, the breed of cow, the age, the season, and, of course, the method used to make it. Though this is not a recipe book, Marcella throws in the prize of Victor’s grandmother’s recipe for Parmigiano crostini, not to be missed.
The book is broken down by category of ingredient, including “Produce,” “The Essential Pantry,” and “Salumi,” with individual chapters devoted to classic Italian ingredients such as artichoke, eggplant, and tomatoes; pasta, risotto rice, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and red wine vinegar; prosciutto, pancetta, and lardo, and a whole host of other products.
For those who live in locations in the U.S. where Italian ingredients are not available in the same way, just as I did in France, the book includes a fairly exhaustive list of online suppliers of good-quality ingredients with precise indications of what to order from whom.
Count on reading the book from front to cover in one or two sittings, and then keeping it on your kitchen shelf for easy, repeated reference, as you might do with a prayer book. As with all of Marcella and Victor Hazan’s collaborations, there is never an extraneous word, sentence, or idea, so you’ll want to read the important passages numerous times.
Like a yogi, Marcella repeated the same “postures” over and over, meditating upon the ingredients, seeking the truth in them with a focused faith and methodical effort. As a result, Ingredienti reads much like a text written by a spiritual master in old age. It is concrete proof of her dedication; it is the wisdom of years lived in perfect harmony with food, based on her immeasurable knowledge and intimate relationship with ingredients, but also on an almost spiritual reverence for their integrity. It is, indeed, a testament of Marcella and the truth she sought by going to the essence of every foodstuff she touched, and of the truth she attained in her reasoned, scientific manner.
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Herding the Sheep Down the Mountain in Villars-sur-Ollon
A tapestry-covered armchair worn thin from hours of sitting book in hand; a rickety wooden table with chipped red paint that matched your first kitchen; a yellow cat, plump with age, sits in your lap, All the Pretty Horses balanced over its head so you can continue reading: these are the things that make up a life worth living, not frantically running in your Jimmy Choo high heels to catch an airplane and dining in restaurants with spotless white tablecloths and silver so shiny you see a reflection of your red lipstick in it. Unfeigned life is simple joys: counting your babies’ toes after they come out of the womb, or feeling warm tears of love when you walk up the mountain behind your dearlings, or listening to cowbells and watching the shepherds drive their flocks over the pass and down, or discovering the first gentle rosebud of the year. It’s when your mother takes your hand and squeezes it with every ounce of energy she has left, no words necessary. It’s when you serve breakfast in bed to your husband, with a kiss thrown in. You’ll never forget that kiss, how his dark eyes, weak and tired, looked tenderly into yours, saying everything you ever needed to know. But even more, much more, the time he hired the little boy down the street to deliver a single red rose to you on your birthday because he didn’t have enough money to pay for a dozen roses to be delivered. That was the most special rose ever. When it’s all over, these moments will have been your life, transparent and whole: The roses at the weddings and baptisms and communions and bar mitzvahs and funerals, the red and the yellow and the pink, the rosebuds and the dried blooms and the fresh, all come together to form mountains and valleys of flowers that make a life worth living.
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Walking is an intimate act. I walk, and then walk some more, wherever I am, never knowing when to stop. Walking across Geneva, running into friends, they think it’s some feat, but it’s not; it’s a very natural way of getting around, better than any gym, rather like making love. I sweat and my heart beats and it’s cardio without ever changing from my city slicker clothes. It’s the best way to get to know a city. Façades lean toward you as if they’d fall down any minute and caress you, carved wooden doors beg for paint, sunlit vitrines are dressed for affluent Swiss “residents” as the eyes of passersby catch yours and you share a laugh at an incident startling to the sometimes overly civilized Swiss. French drivers roll down their windows and yell the worst words they can find to each other, then merrily continue on their way as they run the red light. Bus drivers curse under their breath and teenagers talk too loud just to make sure everyone knows they are alive. The city is animated, not blocked or filtered by tinted bus and car windows, not drowned out by loud music on a car radio. Engines roar and horns blow and you and the city are one; you share a common chaos and make do with it, knowing that you are living in a very comfortable, silky-smooth world and shouldn’t complain.
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Angel biscuits are eaten at special Kentucky meals such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Derby.
2 pkg. active dry yeast (don’t use quick-rise yeast)
1/2 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. warm water
5 cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Crisco (solid) or other vegetable shortening or lard, well-chilled
2 cups cold buttermilk
Yield: 60 small cocktail size biscuits or about 2-dozen large.
NOTE: Angel biscuits can be made and baked immediately, but I like to make the them 12-24 hours in advance, so that the biscuits have time to rest and ferment a bit before baking — it adds a special quality to the flavor.
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, and let it rest until mixture begins to foam.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift flour with remaining dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; add buttermilk and yeast mixture to the flour and stir with a large spoon until a soft fluffy dough just comes together.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead/fold a couple of times. Pat out dough to flatten.
- Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until it is at least 1/2-inch inch thickness.
- Using a biscuit cutter (small for cocktail sandwiches, or larger to accompany a meal), cut dough into individual biscuits and place on a greased cookie sheet.
- Brush lightly with melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- About an hour before baking: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove biscuits from the refrigerator and allow to proof at room temperature in a warm kitchen — the biscuits should start to rise and be soft/pillowy to the touch.
- Place biscuits on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.
- When done, the biscuits will be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height.
- Brush lightly with melted butter.
- They are perfect for brunch or filled with sliced Kentucky country ham with cocktails.
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Quintessential France: Château du Marais
It’s built in a marsh — thus the name, Château du Marais — and the water you see in front is the overflow from what you call the plan d’eau in French, meaning literally “water plane,” which is basically a mirror lake. As soon as there is sun, you can see a silvery reflection of the house, and sometimes the clouds, in the water. I lived in a bit of this house for 18 years. Because the little lake and the house are almost at the same level for the sake of aesthetics, and because the house is built on filled-in marsh, it takes very little to flood it. We always had our rubber boots ready and many the time I had to walk through knee-deep water and across the courtyard to get out. We’d park our cars on higher ground and wade to them if we truly had to go somewhere outside our little world. It was like being a princess locked inside a castle, except I wasn’t a princess. Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel peas under my mattress.
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Recent Comments by Jonell Galloway
- March 23, 2017 on Book Review: Ingredienti, by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan
- July 20, 2016 on Book Review: Ingredienti, by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan
- August 13, 2013 on Elements of Wine 5: Tannin
- August 3, 2013 on Recipes: Dairy-Free Switzerland
- July 31, 2013 on Mediterranean Food Connection: Frita, or Sweet Pepper & Tomato Compote