“This was a special cookbook for me. It is not just a collection of recipes; it is a recollection of what growing up was like in my family.” This is from Sarasota cookbook writer and cooking teacher Giuliano Hazan. He is speaking about his recently published “Hazan Family Favorites – Beloved Italian Recipes.”
Growing up in the Hazan household must have been, well, delicious. Giuliano’s parents are Marcella and Victor Hazan, who reside on Longboat Key. Marcella is to Italian food what Julia Child was to French — an articulate, knowledgeable writer and teacher with an intense passion for sharing the joys of her cuisine with others. Victor is a recognized authority on Italian food and wine.
“Hazan Family Favorites” is Giuliano Hazan’s fifth book and it is a charmer, richly illustrated with family photos. As Marcella says in her foreword, “The recipes Giuliano has chosen and brought up-to-date derive from the traditional cooking of our families … you are vouchsafed a look at my son’s own account of the sources from which he nourishes himself and his family today.”
This cookbook will send you for Post-its to mark the dishes you want to make. The first one on my copy is only on page 19. It says, “Have a pizza party” because he makes it sound so easy. Here is Giuliano on pizza: “When we are in the States, we miss the pizza from our favorite pizzerie in Italy, so we sometimes make a home-style baker’s pizza that does not require a professional wood-burning pizza oven. Our kids love to participate in making it; I’ll never forget a deep-blue pizza our daughter Gabriella once made by mixing food coloring into the dough. For one of our girls’ birthdays, we threw a pizza party. I prepared the dough the day before, giving it time to rest. The day of the party, we put out a variety of toppings and everyone made their own pizza.”
I’ll serve the pizzas with the Hazan family’s Insalata Mista, about which Giuliano writes, “At home we have a salad like this almost every day and our girls have learned how to dress it. I taught them the same way I learned it from my parents, using a proverb rather than a recipe. The proverb says you need four people; a wise person for the salt, a generous person for the extra-virgin olive oil, a stingy person for the red wine vinegar, and a patient person to toss – thirty-four times, according to my father – so that every bite is evenly coated. I sometimes add a fifth person: a wealthy person for good balsamic vinegar.”
“Hazan Family Favorites” has many recipes that are apt for Florida right now in the heat of summer. Most are simple. Marinated, grilled chicken breasts calls for only seven ingredients including the salt and pepper and its one-hour start-to-finish time includes 45 minutes for marinating. The recipe here for pan-roasted pompano has only five ingredients. It comes with Giuliano’s recollection of his snowbird paternal grandparents’ condo in Hallandale: “It was during these Florida escapes that I became enamored of the sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flesh of pompano. My mother cooked it in an arguably un-Italian but nonetheless delectable style, pan roasting it with butter and lemon. Seafood in Italy is almost always cooked in olive oil rather than butter, but if they had pompano in Italy, I think it would create an exception to that rule.”
Giuliano and Lael Hazan’s daughters Gabriella, 13, and Michela, going on 8, are growing up much as their father did in the family tradition. And as Marcella Hazan says in her foreword to the book: “There is more to that tradition, however, than a mere sum of its recipes. It is the act of cooking itself that constitutes tradition, a tradition that looks to the production of a fresh meal for the family as the manifestation of a bond of affection and kinship, as the affirmation of identity, as a personal moment of nourishment and celebration.”
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
3 tablespoons butter
4 pompano filets (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
• Put the butter in a nonstick skillet large enough to accommodate all the fish, or divide the butter in half between two smaller skillets, and place over medium-high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside and the butter just begins to darken, put the fish filets in, skin side up. When the fish is lightly browned, after 3 to 4 minutes, turn the filets over. Season with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice and cover the pan. Continue cooking until the fish flakes easily when prodded with a fork, 4 to 5 minutes.
• When the fish is done, the liquid in the pan should be a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon. If there is still too much liquid, raise the heat to high until it has reduced. If the pan is too dry, add a little water, loosen the cooking residue on the pan bottom, and let the sauce reduce. When the sauce is ready, turn the fish so the flesh side is well-coated then transfer it to a serving platter and pour the sauce over it. Serve at once.
Notes: Giuliano Hazan buys his pompano at Captain Brian’s. At this time of year, they do not always have it but it can be special ordered. Cost is $16.95/pound. Hazan suggests yellowtail snapper as an alternate or any fairly mild, sweet fish.
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