Monday, May 3, 2010

Mambo Italiano

Every cook has their day, and today (to a certain extent) was not my day in the kitchen. It was Stewart's first night back home from his derby weekend, and the weather was beautiful. So I decided that it would be the perfect night for a light, flavourful Italian dinner and dining alfresco. The menu consisted of a Caesar salad with fresh roasted tomatoes and pancetta, accompanied by a homemade white pizza. I knew I had the pizza down to science as I've made it at least half a dozen times. The Caesar salad was a first, so I was a little nervous but decided to give it a shot. Thank you Murphy's Law. The Caesar salad turned out beautifully with the green romaine lettuce against roasted cherry tomatoes and pink pops of pancetta. It tastes as good as it looks. My white pizza on the other hand turned into cheesy bread! Don't get me wrong, I'm big fan of cheesy bread. But it wasn't quite what I was going for tonight. I don't know why I had the wise idea to double the amount of pizza dough I normally use in order to make the crust a little thicker. What's a girl to do? Order out! With the help of Memphis Pizza Cafe, I was able to complete my meal with a proper pizza and still dine out on the patio. I suppose that white pizza will have to show its face another time on My Eats and Beats.

I highly recommend this recipe for anyone who loves a good Caesar salad and has a little extra time to make Ina Garten's version. I love the Barefoot Contessa. I have two of her cookbooks: Barefoot Contessa Parties and Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. I just wish I had her culinary skills; and I wouldn't mind having her beautiful home in the Hamptons either.  
After the cheesy bread incident, I thought about changing my song choice for this meal; but then I decided to stick with my original idea. Life doesn't always go according to plan, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and push forward...after my five minute tantrum of course. I'd like to think Rosemary Clooney had some influence on my Caesar salad tonight. I listened to her sing "Mambo Italiano" while cooking. I prefer her cover for this song over all, and that says a lot because I'm a huge Dean Martin fan. But tonight goes to Ms. Clooney.

Caesar Salad with Pancetta (serves 6 to 8)
3/4 lb pancetta, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 pints cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large heads Romaine lettuce
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pancetta into 1/2 inch cubes and cook in skillet over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove to paper towels and drain.
Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until soft.
Wash, dry and cut lettuce.
For the dressing, place the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper into food processor. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until thick. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pulse 3 times.
Toss the lettuce with enough dressing to moisten well. Add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and toss. Divide lettuce into bowls and sprinkle with the pancetta and roasted tomatoes.

Buon appetito!

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