Dining PRIME MAGAZINE — 07 May 2017
An Italian dinner for eight, like grandma made

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore PRIME Magazine

When Rose Bechard-Butman was five years old, her Italian grandmother pulled up a stool and showed her how to make cavatelli, the pasta nicknamed “little hats” because of their shape.

“Rose Marie, you go like this,” Grandma Josephina said as she pushed her thumb in the dough to roll them and make them curl over.

To this day Bechard-Butman still uses her grandmother’s recipes, but learning them wasn’t easy. They didn’t come from a cookbook. They weren’t written down. They came straight out of grandma’s head. Like her, Bechard-Butman doesn’t measure and plucks the recipes from her memory with some guidance from the Joy of Cooking.

“There is no recipe,” grandma said about making the stuffing for artichokes. “You watch what I do. You know it’s right when I stick my finger in. When it doesn’t drip, it’s done.”

Years after her grandmother’s death, she called her mother and told her she was making bread with grandma.

“You are crazy,” she replied. “Grandma has been dead for 15 years.”

“Grandma and I bake bread together every year,” Bechard-Butman says. “I feel her presence and she is happy that someone remembers and continues the tradition.”

Bechard-Butman and her husband, Charlie, bought their house in Plantation 23 years ago from a bachelor who didn’t cook and the kitchen looked neglected. Obviously it needed a radical makeover for a woman who loved to cook.

“The kitchen was a mess,” she says. “It had beige Formica countertops and the sink was where the long bar counter is now.”

Her husband’s friend, a developer, offered advice on selecting the double ovens. The selling point: He told her she could bake 14 pies at once in the Whirlpool double ovens. (She hasn’t tried to bake all those pies at once, but she loves knowing she can.) She moved the sink to the window where she could look at her lush garden. She brought the cabinets to the ceiling to avoid what she says is wasted space on top of smaller cabinets. The only real debate with her husband was over the countertops.

“He wanted Corian,” she says. “Being Italian, I wanted stone. I went to several granite places and finally found one the same price as Corian. I wanted stone because I make cookies and I could roll out the dough on the countertop.”

Her kitchen gets a workout. One tradition was making food for friends on Easter. It started with 15 guests, grew to 35 and finally 77 showed up when the friends started inviting others. The event began at 11 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. After that, she realized it was time to give up the Easter entertaining.

During our interview Bechard-Butman showed me how she was preparing an Italian dinner for eight – with maybe enough room for drop-ins.


 

Pizza Rustica

Antipasto

Grandma Josephina’s Stuffed Artichokes

Shrimp and Clams with Angel Hair Pasta (recipe on cityandshore.com)

Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Shells
with Fresh Mint

Lemon Ricotta Cake

“Your dinner will only be as good as the ingredients you use,” she says. “Whenever possible use local fresh ingredients. My menu often changes based on what I find that day in the market. I added the artichokes to this dinner because when I saw them in the market they were too good to pass up.”

Bechard-Butman wasn’t exaggerating. Her guests all gave her cooking Four Stars.


 

Pizza Rustica

Pizza stone

Dough (she uses whole-wheat dough from Doris Italian Market)

5 or 6 sliced cloves of garlic

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Crushed red pepper, to taste

San Marzano plum tomatoes, 2 to 3 from the can

¼ cup mozzarella, grated and sprinkled over the top

Romano cheese, grated and sprinkled over the top

Parmesan cheese, use lightly

2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced 

Oregano, to taste

Semolina flour

Place pizza stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 475 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a cookie sheet.

Bring dough to room temperature and stretch or roll out to ¼-inch thick.

In a small saucepan, heat the garlic and olive oil with crushed red pepper to taste. Do not brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove 2 to 3 tomatoes from the can and crush with a fork. Spread thinly over pizza dough leaving 1 inch free from the edge.

Grate fresh mozzarella lightly onto dough. (NOTE: You don’t need to use cheese, if you are vegan). Arrange thinly sliced fresh tomatoes on dough. Sprinkle olive oil mixture over top. Lightly dust with Romano and Parmesan cheeses. With a light hand, sprinkle oregano. She uses the oregano that is still on the dried stems and crushed between hands to sprinkle on. It is very fragrant so use sparingly.

Sprinkle pizza stone with semolina and place pizza on top. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is lightly brown. (Or burnt, the way Charlie likes it).


 

 

Antipasto

1 to 2 small heads Romaine lettuce

1 cup baby arugula

½ to 1 large head radicchio

5 or 6 endives, cut up

1 large tomato, sliced thin

3 to 4 stalks celery and 1 cucumber, sliced 

¼ pound sharp provolone cheese, quartered 

¼ pound imported Mortadella cheese with pistachios, quartered

¼ pound Genoa salami

¼ pound hot Capicola

Oil-cured black olives

Green Sicilian olives

Roasted red peppers, from jar

Marinated artichoke hearts, from jar 

Pepperoncini

 1 can (6.7 ounces) Italian tuna packed in olive oil

 1 can (2 ounces) anchovies wrapped around capers, optional

 Spanish onion, thinly sliced rings

 1 package Good Seasons Zesty Italian dressing

 Extra virgin olive oil, according to package directions

 Red vinegar, to taste

 Balsamic vinegar, splash

Wash and cut Romaine lettuce, baby arugula, radicchio and endive. Place on a towel. Clean and slice cucumber and celery and add to towel. Roll up towel and place in refrigerator until ready to build your salad. This will keep the greens crisp while you do other things.

Place greens on large shallow platter. Slice tomatoes and place around the edge. In a circular motion arrange cold cuts and cheese in layers.

Continue to decorate with black olives, green olives, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and pepperoncini.

In the center place Italian tuna and anchovies with capers. Dress top with thinly sliced rings of Spanish onion.

For dressing, mix Good Seasons Zesty Italian with extra virgin olive oil and red vinegar balsamic. Do not use too much balsamic, as it is very sweet and can overwhelm the flavors of the salad.


 

Grandma Josephina’s
Stuffed Artichokes

8 artichokes, washed

8 eggs, one per serving

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2/3 cup Romano cheese, grated

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Italian parsley, chopped

Italian flavored bread crumbs

Extra virgin olive oil, to coat pan

Italian crushed tomatoes, 24 ounce can

Extra virgin olive oil, to coat pan

2 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

4 fresh basil leaves

EVOO, drizzled

Remove spines and stems from artichokes so they stand up straight. Drain upside down.

In a food processor, beat eggs and slowly add a mixture of freshly grated Parmesan and Romano cheese. Do not add salt as the cheese is salty enough, but you can add freshly ground pepper and some chopped Italian parsley. (Never use the curly parsley; it is only for decoration.) As it becomes thicker than the consistency of a pancake batter. Add Italian flavored breadcrumbs until the batter can stand on your finger without dripping. Spread the individual leaves of the artichoke and push the batter down into the lower part of the leaf. Work in a circular motion filling each leaf with stuffing batter.

In a large pan, coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil. Add crushed Italian tomatoes and place the artichokes upright in the tomato sauce. There should be enough tomatoes to come ½ way up the artichokes. Add fresh garlic and fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with EVOO and cover and simmer for about 4 hours or until the outer leaves pull away easily. Serve with crusty bread.


ONLINE BONUS

Shrimp and Clams with Angel Hair Pasta

4 pounds of large Key West shrimp or other non-farm raised shrimp, cleaned and deveined (save the shells)

2 lobster shells, optional

Water, to cover shells

1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice

¼ cup EVOO

Celery, 1 or 2 stalks

2 shallots, chopped

Parsley, a few sprigs

1 fresh tomato, cut in half

¼ cup garlic, minced

Pepper, freshly ground in a peppermill, to taste

Salt, to taste

4 dozen Little Neck clams

1 pound angel hair pasta 

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

Place the shells in a saucepan and add clam juice and enough water to cover the shells. Add celery, shallot, parsley, fresh tomato, garlic, freshly ground black pepper and salt. Simmer all day until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ – ½ of a cup of condensed seafood stock. If you are doing this on a work night, use just the clam juice, but it is worth making the stock if you have the time. (Add lobster tail shells to the pot for added depth.) Strain and set aside.

Set pasta water on to boil.

In a deep saucepan, add EVOO. In a small processor, chop fresh garlic, flat leaf parsley and shallots. Add to saucepan and sauté until soft but not brown. Add the seafood stock and clams. Cover and steam until clams open. Remove clams and set aside.

Add shrimp to the pan and cook until they turn translucent. Do not overcook or they will taste tough. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook the angel hair pasta, drain and add to the saucepan. Coat with sauce. Arrange pasta on a platter and add seafood to the top. Serve immediately.

 


 

Lemon Sorbet
in Lemon Shells
with Fresh Mint

1 lemon for each guest

2 packages lemon sorbet, 4 servings
per container

Mint sprigs

Cut lemons to have a small cap. Juice and clean pith from shells. Fill with lemon sorbet and put cap back on. Cover and freeze overnight or for several hours. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and let stand a few minutes. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve on a plate with a piece of lemon Ricotta Cake.


 

Lemon Ricotta Cake

Note: This is a super easy cake to take to parties and it never fails to get requests for the recipe.

1 box lemon or yellow box cake mix

2 pounds of whole milk Ricotta cheese

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon lemon extract

Confectioners’ sugar

Cupcake wrappers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare your favorite lemon or yellow box cake mix. Pour into
a 12 x 15-inch glass container.

Mix together Ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and lemon extract. Pour evenly over batter and cook 60 minutes. After cutting the cake, serve the pieces on a cupcake wrapper.

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