Cape Gazette
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Trip to Eataly offers array of options

By Denise Clemons | Nov 05, 2012
Photo by: Jack Clemons This panini was a re-creation of the prosciutto cotto sandwich at Eataly.

Last week, East Coast Garden Center hosted a bus trip to New York City to visit Mario Batali’s food emporium, Eataly. We left Lewes before sunrise and spent the first part of the trip discussing what we would find when we arrived: 50,000 square feet of Italian delicacies - from produce to pasta, coffee to calamari - and a choice of 12 different dining destinations all under one roof. Actually, everything is on the same floor except the rooftop beer garden, a lovely space to savor an afternoon cocktail after an exhausting day of shopping.

When we walked in, I was too hungry to notice the colorful shelves and showcases; I headed straight for I Panini to place my order. The array of options was too difficult for my starving brain to manage, so I chose the first one on the list, panuozzo al prosciutto cotto. This turned out to be a traditional Neopolitan sandwich of foccacia bread layered with buffalo mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto cotto.

Although there were no condiments except some olive oil on the outside of the airy bread, the sandwich exploded with flavor. The cheese had slightly melted into creamy softness to contrast with the spicy crunch of arugula. Delicate, dry-cured prosciutto, made from the hindquarters of the hog, is boiled to become prosciutto cotto (cooked) and the centerpiece of this delicious sandwich. Now, I was ready to go shopping.

Rather than describe every one of the products (not to mention menus) offered at Eataly, I’ll mention a few interesting discoveries we brought home. Red walnuts were a surprise, both in appearance and taste. Out of their shells, they’re a beautiful cranberry color and have a rich, clean flavor, with neither the acrid bite of English walnuts nor the dusty mouth feel of conventional walnuts.

This is a relatively new product, created by grafting Persian red-skinned stock to an English walnut tree.

Another discovery will save me hours at the stove, condimento balsamico. As you may guess, this is bottled Balsamic reduction, thick and syrupy with the complex concentration of signature Balsamic flavors. Instead of simmering a saucepan of Balsamic vinegar for hours to reduce it to its essence, I can reach for this slender bottle and drizzle away.

At the end of the next aisle, we couldn’t resist picking up a bottle of aceto di pomodoro, tomato vinegar. Advertised as a finishing touch for grilled fish and meats, as well as an intensely flavored dressing for steamed vegetables or tossed salads, we found the flavor very sharp. It worked better as an ingredient in tomato sauce, added to a marinade or as a substitution for vinegar in a salad dressing.

Although I’ve been trying to eliminate white flour from my diet, I couldn’t resist the mountain of rustic breads for sale in the bakery aisle. We brought home a loaf studded with olives and found it was the perfect substitute for foccacia when we assembled our own panini (see photo), trying to replicate that delicious sandwich - it must be the grilled olive oil that adds so much flavor.

The last image that stays in my mind from the day is the beautiful array of mushrooms in the photo. I was taken with the lobster mushrooms, which are a type of fungus that grows over another mushroom, contorting its shape and becoming a vibrant shade of orange.

The taste can be a bit strong; cooking softens both the flavor and texture, as in the pasta recipe included here. If you’re a chanterelle mushroom fan, try using their intense flavor to build a puree that can be served as an elegant side dish to replace ordinary mashed potatoes.

As I settled into my seat on the bus for the return trip from New York, I was feeling virtuous for avoiding the opportunities to purchase gelato and pastries and ravioli. Then, my friend Jody stopped on her way down the aisle and handed me a bag of handmade chocolate truffles – the perfect way to end a day in Eataly.

Lobster Mushroom Pasta

1 lb pasta
1 lb lobster mushroom
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 t thyme
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper, to taste
grated parmigiano reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Clean mushroom and chop into a large dice. Heat a large skillet over medium; add butter and olive oil. Stir in mushrooms and cook, stirring often until softened. Reduce heat and continue to cook until mushrooms begin to brown. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add thyme, cover pan and set aside until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl. Add lemon juice to mushroom mixture and adjust seasonings. Toss mushroom sauce with pasta and sprinkle with grated cheese. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Chanterelle Purée

1 lb chanterelle mushroom
2 T butter
1/4 t thyme
2 minced shallots
1 minced garlic clove
salt, to taste
1/3 C vegetable stock
1/4 C cream

Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms. Place them in a dry skillet and cook over medium until starting to soften. Stir in butter, thyme, shallots, garlic and a dash of salt. Continue to cook until the vegetables are quite soft. Transfer everything into the bowl of a food processor and add stock. Pulse several times; mixture should remain chunky. Add cream or half and half and purée until smooth.

Prosciutto Cotto Panini

2 oz prosciutto cotto
2 oz sliced mozzarella
handful of arugula leaves
2 slices rustic bread
olive oil

Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Place one slice on a grill (or in a grilling skillet) oil side down. Layer on the prosciutto, cheese and arugula. Top with the other slice of bread, oil side up. Place a bacon press on the sandwich and cook over medium until bread is toasted. Flip, and brown the other side. Note, cheese will not completely melt. Yield: 1 serving.

The selection of mushrooms at Eataly is inspiring. (Photo by: Jack Clemons)
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