I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about Italian food, it’s not usually a white tablecloth sort of affair. It’s all about abundant, fresh plates that get passed around the table while glasses are topped up and the type of cooking that involves using your hands and char marks from a grill — entertaining with the sticky bits. This is the sort of food you’ll find in Stacy Adimando’s Piatti: Plates and Platters for Sharing, Inspired by Italy (Chronicle Books, $29.95). The book is divided by season, but it seems especially appropriate for summer, where platters like Fresh Peach and Cucumber Salad with Dried Chili Oil and Grilled Lobster Tails with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, Corn and Butter can be enjoyed outside with friends and family. Most recipes average six to eight servings and make enough for a crowd. They also detail everything you need to build an antipasto platter, from crunchy Italian breads to savory preserves.
In honor of my brand-new barbecue, I decided to try the recipe for Charred Radicchio and Corn Salad with Fennel and Yogurt Dressing. It involves grilling and cooling wedges of radicchio and ears of corn and tossing the corn kernels, radicchio and raw fennel slices with a dressing of yogurt, lemon and lime juices, garlic, honey, salt, pepper and chives. The grill definitely mellows the radicchio, but the sweetness of the corn is the real key to keeping everything in balance. This dish is even better the next day, after the dressing gets into all the nooks and crannies.
Adimando has created a cookbook full of tempting foods that are tailor-made for when you have people over but without the fussiness that often comes with the “entertaining” genre. The recipes are seasonal, the ingredient lists are short, the techniques are simple, and the directions are thorough but stop short of obsessive. A special shout-out to the design team: The photography is beautiful, and the ingenious book design means that it stays open on its own, right through to the last page.
Wendy Underwood tests out cookbooks weekly on Instagram at @kitchenvscookbook.
Excerpted from Piatti: Plates and Platters for Sharing, Inspired by Italy © 2019 by Stacy Adimando, photographs by Linda Pugliese. Reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.
Charred Radicchio and Corn Salad with Fennel and Yogurt Dressing
Like any good Italian, I love bitter greens and vegetables, including radicchio, one of the easiest to find in any grocery store and prettiest to prepare. It’s hearty and pungent, but charring the leaves on the grill really mellows the flavor, as does serving this dish with sweet summer corn sliced right from the cob.
You can use this citrusy yogurt, honey, and garlic vinaigrette dressing again and again on any salad with a similar balance of flavors—or just on grilled vegetables.
Leave a little of the radicchio root intact to help keep the pieces in neat wedges for grilling.
- 2 round heads radicchio [about 1 lb, or 455 g, total], cut through the roots into 12 wedges
- 4 Tbsp [60 ml] plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 ears fresh yellow corn, shucked
- 2 Tbsp full-fat plain yogurt
- ¼ cup [60 ml] fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- ¼ tsp grated garlic
- ¼ tsp honey
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ packed cup [83 g] very thinly sliced fennel, from about ½ medium bulb, plus fennel fronds, for garnishing
- Finely chopped chives, for garnishing
- Flaky sea salt
In a large bowl, combine the radicchio wedges and 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil. Season with about ⅛ tsp of kosher salt and toss to coat the radicchio.
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
Place the radicchio wedges and corn on the grill. Cook, rotating occasionally as needed, until the radicchio is well charred and the corn is lightly charred, 6 to 8 minutes for the radicchio and about 8 minutes for the corn. Remove.
Once slightly cooled, cut the corn from the cob using a sharp knife.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, lemon juice, lime juice, remaining 3 Tbsp of olive oil, the garlic, honey, a pinch of kosher salt, and a generous amount of pepper to form a dressing. Add half the corn and fennel to the bowl with the dressing and toss briefly to coat. Nestle the radicchio wedges into the dressing, turning them to coat.
In a large, wide, shallow bowl or on a rimmed platter, place the radicchio wedges and the dressed vegetables. Top with the remaining corn and fennel and spoon the remaining dressing on top. Garnish with some fennel fronds, chives, flaky sea salt, and more pepper, and serve.
Heirloom Tomato Crostata with Basil, Garlic, and Shallot
In Italy, a crostata is a rustic, open-face tart, most often a fruit filling surrounded by a flaky crust. This is a savory version, with salt and pepper in the pastry dough, ripe summer tomatoes, and delicate notes of garlic, shallot, and fresh basil. While you can eat this at room temperature anytime the day it’s baked, the buttery crust will taste the freshest and remain the most crisp within 30 minutes or so after pulling it from the oven—something to consider when timing your baking.
- 1¼ cups plus 1 tsp unbleached all-purpose flour [162 g], plus more for rolling the dough
- 1½ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1⁄8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup [1 stick, or 113 g] very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-in [12-mm] cubes
- 4 to 5 Tbsp [60 to 75 ml] ice-cold water
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 medium heirloom tomatoes [about 1¼ lb, or 570 g, total], preferably multicolor
- 1½ tsp minced shallot
- ¾ tsp minced garlic
- 1 loosely packed tsp chopped fresh basil or whole basil flowers
- ¼ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, sliced or broken into small pieces
MAKE THE DOUGH
In a food processor or large bowl, mix 1¼ cups [162 g] of flour, the sugar, salt, and pepper until just combined. Add the butter and either pulse using the machine or work it in using a pastry cutter or your fingers until only pea-size crumbs remain. Add 4 Tbsp [60 ml] of ice-cold water, pulsing or mixing with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly and holds together easily when pinched. Only if needed to bring the dough together, mix in 1 Tbsp more ice-cold water.
Turn out the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the sides of the plastic and the warmth and pressure from your hands, pack the mixture together tightly until you can form it into a compact circular disk about 1 in [2.5 cm] tall with no cracks or crumbles inside the plastic wrap. Reposition the wrap to seal the dough tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day.
MAKE THE CROSTATA
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F [220°C].
Slice the tomatoes ¼ in [6 mm] thick and let some of the excess moisture drain off; reserve the juices in a small bowl.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it in the refrigerator. On a well-floured work surface (or on a large piece of parchment paper if you’re afraid of the dough sticking), use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a thin, about 12-in- [30.5-cm-] diameter round, adding more flour beneath or atop the dough and spinning it on the floured surface as needed to keep it from sticking. Transfer the dough to the chilled baking sheet (I do this by wrapping my dough around my rolling pin and carefully transferring, then unraveling, it). Line the center of the dough with the remaining 1 tsp of flour, spreading it to coat the part of the dough beneath where the tomatoes will lie.
Add the tomatoes, overlapping them as needed and leaving at least 1½ in [4 cm] of dough bare around the perimeter. Sprinkle on top and in between the layers with the shallot, garlic, and ½ tsp of basil. Wrap the border of the dough carefully over and around the edges of the tomato mixture to form a crust. Place the baking sheet back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or the freezer for 5.
Remove and brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg. Top the center of the tart with the butter pieces. Bake until the dough is golden brown and the bottom of the pastry has set firmly, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and drizzle the center of the tart with some of the reserved tomato juices. Let rest until just warm. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ tsp of fresh basil and the salt and serve sliced into wedges
Olive Oil Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary and Honey
Serves 8 to 10
Made with a dash each of vanilla, honey, and buttermilk, this cornmeal and flour batter produces a lightly sweet, moist but crumbly cake. Traditionally in Italy, cakes like this were often baked with lard and studded with cut grapes, raisins, or pine nuts. Once out of the oven, this version is brushed with more olive oil and topped with rosemary—also traditional—releasing an herbaceous, fruity perfume.
- 1 cup [136 g] cornmeal
- 1 cup [130 g] unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 5 Tbsp [2½ oz, or 70 g] unsalted butter
- 5 Tbsp [75 ml] fruity extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄3 cup [65 g] sugar
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp honey
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup [180 ml] whole milk
- ½ cup [120 ml] buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh rosemary [about 2 Tbsp], or crumbled chive flowers or fresh thyme
- Flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
MAKE THE CAKE
Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C].
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk briefly to combine.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 4 Tbsp [56 g] of butter. Pour the butter into a large heat-proof bowl and let cool slightly. Add 4 Tbsp [60 ml] of olive oil, the sugar, and honey. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Whisk in the milk and buttermilk until incorporated. Gradually add the cornmeal mixture, stirring the batter with a spatula until mostly smooth.
Set a 9-in [23-cm] cake pan in the oven with the remaining 1 Tbsp each of butter and olive oil in it. Once the butter melts, remove the pan and tilt it until the bottom and a little of the sides are coated with the fats.
Stir the cornmeal batter well and pour it into the hot pan. Spread to fill evenly. Bake until golden brown in places and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.
TO GARNISH THE CAKE
Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary, lots of flaky sea salt, and a little pepper. Let cool slightly. Cut into wedges or squares and serve hot or warm for best results. (It’s also perfectly good at room temperature.) Once cooled, store in an airtight container or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap for up to 4 days.