Monday, February 5, 2018

Massimo Bruno Supper Club: A Taste of Sicily

A popular Italian chef, teacher and media personality who was raised in the port city of Bari in Italy’s Puglia region before emigrating to Toronto in 2001, Massimo Bruno hosts a series of family style supper club dinners each month in his King East kitchen studio, focusing on the culinary highlights from a specific region of Italy. Guests sit together at a long harvest table and everyone brings a bottle of their favourite wine. Before the evening begins, Massimo 'takes the stage' and introduces the culinary theme of the evening. "I am very passionate and curious by nature, and love sharing what I know, so I always give a little presentation during the meal and there’s lots of discussion throughout the evening about all things Italian." This particular evening was a taste of Sicily. "Sicilian cuisine is one of the most interesting in all of Italy. Because of the history and geography of the island there are many foreign influences, including North African, Arab, Spanish, French and Greek. And since it's in the middle of the Mediterranean, it's not surprising that Sicily has some of the best fish and seafood dishes you'll find".

Chef Bruno showcased some of Sicily’s classic dishes starting with a selection of antipasti including Arancini di Riso, Insalata di Finocchi e Arance, Involtini di Pesce Spada and Carpaccio di Polpo. To follow, we enjoyed heaping platters of Homemade Fettucine with Pistachio Pesto and a spectacular Timballo di Anelletti al Forno, a baked small ring pasta with bolognese, pecorino and mozzarella. As secondi, chef Bruno prepared Pollo all Melanzane served with lovely Minted Beans and a light mixed salad. Of course no Sicilian feast would be complete without the islands' signature dolce — Cannoli Siciliani presented deconstructed in small mason jars. At the end of the evening, a Perugina Baci chocolate was set before us a sweet departure gift, but as I looked up from the table, I admired a quote Massimo had pinned to the wall — Buon Cibo. Buon Vino. Buono Amici. Lovely words for another great Supper Club evening.

Bottle Unico Pecorino Terre di Chieti from Abruzzo which we brought placed on ice in a steel bucket

A very special big bold 2004 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto which we also brought for the evening's BYOB Sicilian dinner

Massimo's delicious homemade focaccia awaits guests as they arrive 

Serving 40 guests each supper club evening, everyone sits together at a long harvest table 
like a big family

Homemade Twig Chandelier hangs over the Harvest Table

The octopus carpaccio with lemon sauce is also sliced and arranged on plates,
ready to be served at a moments notice

Arancini di Riso - Sicilian-style rice balls

Insalata di Finocchi e Arance - blood and naval orange fennel salad

Braised Fennel Sausage

Carpaccio di Polpo - Octopus carpaccio with lemon sauce

Involtini di Pesce Spada - Swordfish rolls with tomatoes, capers, olives

Massimo preparing the Timbale earlier

Vito standing back after turning out the impressive Timballo di Anelletti al Forno

Timballo di Anelletti al Forno with extra bolognese and grated pecorino

Homemade Fettucine with Pistacchio pesto

Massimo and his brother Vito preparing the Green Beans with mint

Fagioli Verdi con meant e balsamico - Haricots vert with mint and balsamic drizzle

Pollo alle Melanzane - chicken with eggplant and tomato

Insalata Mista

Cannoli Deostruiti Siciliani - Deconstructed Sicilian Canoli with mascarpone and berry drizzle

Popette di uova
Makes 10-15
Recipe courtesy of Massimo Bruno

5 large eggs
100g freshly grated Romano cheese
100g bread crumbs 
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp seasalt
Oil for frying 
1 can of peeled tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp baking soda
2 garlic cloves, minced

Beat the eggs and slowly add the cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, baking soda, and sea salt and beat all together. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and when a little flour sizzles, the oil is ready.

Using 2 spoons, form the egg mixture into little balls and place into the hot oil, turning them when they’re lightly brown, about 30-45 seconds, then place in a bowl or plate lined with with paper towel, and set aside.

Using a food processor, add the canned tomatoes and pulse until coarsely blended. Meanwhile, heat a flat bottomed sauce pan with olive oil and garlic and cook until the garlic is lightly golden, then add the tomatoes, basil, salt and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the tomato must be quite "brothy", because the meatballs will be cooked in the tomato itself. Add some water if the sauce gets too thick.

Once the sauce is ready, add the popette and allow them to cook for 30 minutes. They are often very good the day after, so it's a good dish to make in advance.

Fettucine with Pistacchio Pesto

Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Massimo Bruno

1/3  cup shelled salted pistachio
1 garlic clove, peeled 
I bunch of fresh basil, about 40 leaves
2 small pinches red pepper flakes
1 ripe Roma tomato peeled and seeded  
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1 lb fettucine (store-bought or homemade)
2 tbsp coarse sea salt

Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Meanwhile, pour the pistachios and garlic into a food processor and grind finely, using the pulse setting so you don't overheat the blade. Then add a little olive oil until you create a "paste" consistency. Add the basil, tomatoes, hot pepper and the rest of the olive oil and keep pulsing until it’s well mixed. But don't over do it - we want it coarse, not overly creamy. Pour the pesto into a large mixing bowl. 

When the water is boiling, add 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt and then the fettuccine, and cook until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, add a little of the pasta cooking water into the pesto sauce to make it less dense and easier to mix with the pasta. Transfer the pasta into the mixing bowl with the pesto and mix very well. You should end up with a nice "creamy" pesto texture. 

Orange & Lemon Olive Oil Cake 
Serves 8-10
Recipe courtesy of Massimo Bruno

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 lemon
2 oranges
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
3/4 cup all purpose flour, Tipo 00 or cake flour
2/3 cup sugar
Icing sugar for dusting
16 g package of Italian vanilla powder yeast

Prepare a 9 or 10-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper or buttered and floured to avoid sticking. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sift the flour and mix well with the powder yeast — or substitute with 2 tsp baking powder and a  touch of vanilla extract. Zest the lemon and oranges and keep aside. Juice the lemon and oranges. Add eggs and sugar into a kitchen stand mixer or into a bowl if you’re using an hand-held. Mix well at high speed for 2 minutes or until the contents double in volume. Keep mixing and very slowly pour in the olive oil. Then slowly add the lemon and orange juice. Lower the speed to minimum and slowly add the flour. Once the flour is well mixed, add the zest and combine thoroughly using a spatula. In case it looks too loose, feel free to add more flour since some oranges and eggs are different in size. Pour the mix into the pan and bake for roughly 40 minutes or until it is lightly browned on top. Once ready, remove from cake pane, but carefully to avoid sticking. Dust with icing sugar and let it cool before serving.

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