Si mangia bene

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Several weeks ago, the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a cover story with the headline: "What if fat doesn’t make you fat?" A big juicy steak topped with a pat of butter was the cover photo. In short, the article stated that research found that no-fat, low-fat diets do not work.

The article also brought home an important point: Americans are hungrier than ever and are eating larger portions of every kind of food than they did in the 1970s.

When I interviewed Sophia Loren a number of years ago, I told her I read that she owes her good health to eating pasta every day. "What constitutes a serving of pasta?" I asked her. "About 3 or 4 ounces," she said.

Most people I know would think this amount ridiculous. They think a serving is at least half a pound. This is, of course, much too much. Loren also said Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, both staples of the Italian diet.

A high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet will not result in weight loss. I know vegetarians who are overweight. Americans eat too many refined and processed foods such as white flour and sugars. If we eat as the beautiful Loren does, we have a better chance to be fit and healthy. Exercise couldn’t hurt, either.

I recently received Patsy’s Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant, by Sal J. Scognamillo, with foreword by Nancy Sinatra ($27.50, Clarkson Potter, hardbound, with photos and stories by celebrated performers who were or are regulars at this third-generation family restaurant). When Patsy’s opened in 1944, and because of its proximity to Carnegie Hall and the theater district, it quickly became the home away from home for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Rosemary Clooney, Mario Lanza, Tony Bennett, Neil Sedaka, Al Pacino, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara and a host of other actors, musicians and performers.

Chef Scognamillo did an admirable task in putting together the stories, memories and restaurant recipes, which are easy to prepare. Included are a number of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ favorite dishes. As I began to cook from this book, I thought about the Times article and realized how healthy, and delicious, the Italian diet truly is.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.patsys.com. Here are recipes from Patsy’s Cookbook.


Fennel and Endive with Blood Orange Segments

Ingredients:
2 heads endive
2 small fennel bulbs
2 blood oranges
1/3 cup basic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Trim and discard the ends of the endive. Rinse, drain and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces.

Cut off and discard the tops of the fennel. Remove and discard the wilted outer leaves. Cut the bulbs into thin vertical strips. Rinse and drain.

Peel and separate the oranges into segments.

Combine the endive, fennel and orange segments in a salad bowl. Spoon dressing over the ingredients and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves four.

Note: Valencia or navel oranges can be substituted for the blood oranges.

Basic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil, about 4 leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Close tightly and shake until thoroughly blended.

Makes 1 cup.

Frank’s Clams Posillipo

Ingredients:

32 littleneck clams
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, halved
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish

Directions:

Scrub the clams, rinse thoroughly in cold water and place in a large pot. Add cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the shells open, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a large bowl. Discard any clams that have not opened.

Strain the cooking liquid through a chinois or a strainer lined with a coffee filter. Reserve about 3/4 cup of clam broth. Return the clams to the pot, add cold water and stir to remove any sand. Drain and reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saut� the garlic until golden, about two minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove and discard the garlic. Add the onions to the saucepan and saut� three-four minutes, until soft and translucent. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add with their juice to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste, if using. Add the basil and parsley. Simmer uncovered for five minutes.

Add the reserved clam broth and clams to the sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for eight-10 minutes, or until clams are heated through. Spoon the clams and sauce into a large serving bowl, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves four.

Frank’s Fusilli with Garlic and Anchovies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, quartered
1 small yellow onion, chopped
10 anchovies, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound fusilli, cooked al dente
4 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saut� the garlic until golden, about two minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove and discard the garlic. Add the onions to the saucepan and saut� three-four minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the anchovies and 1-1/3 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the basil and parsley. Simmer, uncovered, for two minutes and remove from heat.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs and toss gently until lightly browned.

Place the cooked fusilli in a large serving bowl. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Serves four.

Peaches in Asti Spumante

Ingredients:

6 large ripe peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces Asti Spumante
2 ounces cr�me de cassis

Directions:

Place the peach slices in a large serving bowl. Add the sugar and toss gently. Add the Asti Spumante and cr�me de cassis. Stir to combine. Refrigerate four-six hours before serving.

Serves four to six.