Thursday, April 8, 2010

Taste of Tribeca Tip #7: Good Food Is Slow Food

This article first appeared in the Tribeca citizen on April 6, 2010. We appreciate being able to reprint this article.

In anticipation of Taste of Tribeca, the benefit for P.S. 234 and P.S. 150 on May 15, I’m asking the participating chefs for cooking tips. Once Alberto Polo, the chef and co-owner of Farinella Italian Bakery and Pizzeria, got started, he realized he had quite a bit of culinary advice….

People cook with too much rush—and rush and good cooking don’t exist together. Ever. Our flame is always low (well, not to boil water). When the flame is high, you dry food out. My tomato sauce takes 30 to 40 minutes. It’s better for the flavors, because the water evaporates, but the flavor is there. People want cooking to be fast—they buy parmigiano that’s already been grated—but cooking is time. So you have to think about what you’re going to do and then organize your time in a better way.

I’ve been trying to eat less meat and more vegetables, but meat usually has more flavor—especially here, not like in Italy where you bite into a tomato and it tastes like a tomato! But if you’re cooking with less meat, you need to add flavor, or a kick, maybe from unusual spices. Last night, I made a veggie carbonara, and I used zucchini instead of pancetta. To make up for the pancetta, I added a little onion, turmeric, and a little more Parmigiano than normal.

Another thing: When people want to cook proper Italian, they have to use extra virgin olive oil, no matter what. The other kind doesn’t exist in Italy! I even use extra virgin olive oil to fry eggplant. People say it’ll be heavy. No!

And when we make bread, we never use a proofer [a device that forces the dough to rise]. We set the dough out on a wooden board, the old-fashioned way. When the dough is ready, we make the pizza. If the dough isn’t ready, we don’t. Even if Presdent Obama calls, I’m sorry, we don’t have pizza. And once the dough goes down, I don’t use it. You want dough that is still alive—the enzymes, the protein, the air, the gluten. When people eat pizza somewhere and ask why it’s soggy, I say, ‘You know why it’s soggy? The dough died a few days ago!’

*Tickets are on sale now at Buy before May 1 and they’re only $35. Also, join the Taste of Tribeca Facebook group and you might win a T-shirt.

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