I am loving this new book about Audrey Hepburn! “Audrey at Home” is lovingly written by her son Luca Dotti, and the best part about it is that this book includes dozens of her favorite recipes that she prepared for her family and friends. It is a combination cookbook, memory book and biography from the viewpoint of a son remembering his mother. Luca includes lots and lots of intimate family photos of Audrey just being a mom, a hostess and occasionally a movie star. This is the perfect book for me, as I love Audrey, bios and cooking! The great news is that most of the recipes are for yummy Italian dishes, with a few Dutch and French specialties thrown in. I am sharing a some of my favorite pages from the book here, as well as three recipes. The Tricolore Caprese Salad with the addition of avocado sounds amazing! I am fixing that for Labor Day.
Pandeli’s Sea Bass en Papillote
This dish is from Pandeli restaurant in Istanbul, which my parents visited after falling in love on a cruise in 1968. There’s a photograph of them on the restaurant wall – Mum is laughing, Dad is studying the menu. I try to imagine him struggling over the words Le bar en papillote – sea bass in parchment (though in this case it’s cooked in foil to retain moisture).
· 20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
· 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
· A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
· A few sprigs of basil, finely chopped
· 4 potatoes, boiled, peeled and sliced into 1cm (½in) rounds
· 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
· 4 sea bass fillets, approximately 1kg (2lb 4oz) in total
· Sea salt to taste
· Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Mix the cherry tomatoes with the shallot, parsley and basil. You’ll need 8 sheets of aluminium foil. Set out 4 sheets. On each sheet, prepare a bed with potato slices and thyme sprigs, lay a sea bass fillet on top, then top each fillet with salt, pepper and the chopped tomato mixture. Enclose each ‘packet’ with a second sheet, being careful to seal well so that no sauce escapes, but leaving room above the fish so it won’t cling to the foil. Bake for about 20 minutes. Carefully open the packets directly at the table when you serve the fish.
Tricolore Caprese Salad
This salad, originally from the Italian island of Capri, is one of my mother’s classic dishes.
· 2 medium-ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 5mm (¼in) slices
· 450g (1lb) buffalo mozzarella, cut into 5mm (¼in) slices
· 2 large tomatoes, cut into 5mm (¼in) slices
· Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
· Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
· Fine sea salt
· A handful of basil leaves, torn
Alternate slices of avocado, mozzarella and tomato on a platter. Drizzle the oil and balsamic vinegar over all, season with salt, and sprinkle with basil leaves.
Spaghetti al Pomodoro
Mum had a serious addiction – she couldn’t do without pasta. In restaurants, she’d ask, ‘If it isn’t too complicated, a lovely, simple pasta al pomodoro with a bit of olive oil would make me so happy.’
At home, it would be her way of saying to friends, ‘Here, this is my house, this is how I am, don’t expect me to be otherwise.’
· 1.3kg (3lb) vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and coarsely diced
· 1 onion, peeled and left whole
· 1 celery stalk, cleaned and left whole
· 1 carrot, cleaned and left whole
· 6 basil leaves, chopped, plus whole leaves to garnish
· Extra-virgin olive oil
· A pinch of sugar
· Sea salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· 500g (1lb) dried spaghetti
· Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Start by cooking the tomatoes in a large pan with a lid over a high heat, together with the onion, the celery and the carrot, for about 10 minutes to soften the vegetables.
Remove the lid and keep boiling for 10-15 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. The sauce is ready when, as they say in Naples, it is ‘pipiotta’ – when the bubbles are no longer made of water but rather small craters of sauce.
Remove from the stove, remove and discard the largest vegetable chunks, let the sauce cool, then purée it. Add a drizzle of olive oil and adjust the flavour with a pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
To cook the spaghetti al dente (firm to the bite), fill a large pot with cold water and place over a high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add a small handful of sea salt and the pasta. When done, remove the pot from the stove (perhaps even a minute sooner than the cooking time suggested on the package). Drain and add to the sauce with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss and garnish with a few leaves of basil.
VARIATION - Mum also loved a light version of the classic pasta all’amatriciana. She’d cut prosciutto into strips and brown it in a small skillet until crisp, then blot it on paper towels before adding to the puréed pomodoro sauce and simmering over a low heat for a few minutes.