“There is some truth to the old adage “Most of the world eats to live, but Italians live to eat.” ~ Stanley Tucci
I didn’t entertain much during my California years, partly due to having a small abode, partly due to all the expense and energy entailed to entertain well, life constraints, and maybe even a smattering of feeling not quite up to the task (yes….measuring again). Lots of excuses….so here I am trying to branch out in “middle-earth” land where no one seems to know what gnocchi is and having to shop in the most depressing grocery store (that would be Publix) I’ve come across in eons….. even the military commissaries are more exciting. But, I digress….
So… I decided to invite a couple over for dinner (they’ve never heard of gnocchi either by the way). Again, I decide to make my leek-stuffed tortellini! Imagine that!! It’s a rarity indeed that I make tortellini outside of the Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday (maybe only twice in a thirty-year span). And, if I may be so bold, one could argue why go to all that energy in the kitchen for friends of a scant several months.
I suppose part of me simply wanted to impress but more importantly, as of late I’ve realized that I am sorely in need of sharpening my cooking skills a bit since they are definitely waning due to hubby being away often on business travel. In effect, I’ve become mighty lazy in the kitchen, not to mention the fact that cooking just makes me want to eat more, something I am amazingly good at as my hips and everywhere else on my body save my nose shows….Aack, even my nose looks bigger! Again….I digress….
I spent the better part of an hour on Friday afternoon perusing through my new cookbook, The Tucci Cookbook penned by the actor Stanley Tucci. I happened upon it by chance while at Barnes and Noble several weeks ago (really…I was not shopping for cookbooks!) and I bought it without even opening it because I love Stanley Tucci. My first “encounter,” with the actor was in late 1997. I had been invited to a friend’s house; among the several Blockbuster movies available to watch was Big Night with Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub (another favorite actor of mine). In an instant I was transported back to my Italian roots (and in that moment I really needed the connection as I was fresh off the heels of a broken marriage and with it a broken spirit). Big Night was co-written and co-directed by Tucci and the movie is such a little gem; I’ve loved Tucci ever since even though many of his other roles have been of the villainous sort. In fact, I’ve joked with my loving husband that I’d walk over his head in a New York minute to be with Stanley Tucci! True…there is that tiny little detail of Tucci marrying last year (Bravo, I say, really)….but still….here is a man who is at home in the kitchen, has Italian roots (OK, Calabrian, the opposite end of Italy for us northerners; the extreme, most southern tip of Italy….right at the toe), has a keen fashion sense, and who has the most delicious dimple on his left cheek…..I swoon dreamily as my husband rolls his eyes…
I decided to try not one but three recipes from the cookbook for my Saturday dinner with friends. The recipes seemed simple enough (my “simple” criteria being no more than a couple of paragraphs, usually). So, along with the tortellini, I prepared his stuffed mushrooms (an appetizer), a refreshing salad of pears, prosciutto, arugula, and shaved parmesan with a lively sherry vinaigrette dressing, and a polenta plum-cake for dessert (actually made with semolina flour). For the cake, I went to three different grocery stores and could not find a plum in sight! I’ll admit to being a little snarky at one point; do middle-earthlings even know what a plum is? I know, I know…a moment of ugliness hit me but it was born out of stress for trying to find the right ingredients–and yes, I’ve already apologized to HIM for my ridiculous sophomoric thoughts. Fortunately, the recipe included several variations so I was able to substitute figs (Stanley said figs are his favorite in the cake) and a few canned cherries (my spin on the recipe) for the plums. Although my cake didn’t release from the pan quite as prettily as I would have liked, it was really delicious! In fact, all of Stanley’s recipes I made that night were wonderful. Oh, I enjoyed my time nella cucina with Stanley and I certainly look forward to enjoying more delicious meals with Stanley at my side, alas metaphorically! No harm in dreaming, è vero?
Mille grazie Stanley!