Across the Table from Cristina Ferrare

Across the Table from Cristina Ferrare


1. Which food most reminds you of your childhood?
Pappi's homemade tomato sauce with meatballs. Their moistness came from Italian bread soaked in milk.

2. Any holiday entertaining advice?
Yes! Shop in advance to avoid packed parking, long lines and rude people—including me!

3. Do you ever eat out of the carton?
No. If food isn't on a pretty plate, it's like drinking wine from a paper cup. I always use mats, fresh flowers and candles.

4. The worst entertaining sin?
Serving hors d'oeuvres—which is French for appetite spoilers. Guests come hungry, pig out and then are too full for dinner.

5. What's your signature dish?
Swordfish, lamb or chicken with tomato sauce, with basil and herbs from our garden.

6. Who cooks at your house?
My daughter Alex and me. She's going to culinary school. We fight for kitchen space, but we bond.

7. What's the last thing you cooked?
Artichokes the size of a head. I boiled them and arranged the petals like a flower's, with the heart at the center, then added vinaigrette with fresh mint, chives, basil and cucumber, plus a dash of Dijon mustard.

8. Tell us about your kitchen counter. I'm a gadget freak!
A Capresso frother (chefscatalog.com, $60) makes thick foam for cappuccinos. My Williams-Sonoma citrus juicer (williams-sonoma.com, $26) helps me perk up dishes.

9. Most memorable meal?
In Thailand, we took a really rickety boat to an island. I thought we'd die. Chickens ran loose there and fish lay in a trough. We ate lobster and coconut rice off a plastic table with toilet-paper napkins. It was the best. But not again.

10. Your final food for thought?
Food is love. Serve it that way and your family and friends will feel it. A meal doesn't last long, but the connection it creates definitely does. So set the table, keep it positive and make those moments count.

Cristina Ferrare, author of Big Bowl of Love, is the mother of four, stepmother of three and grandmother of four. A top model in the '70s, she posed for the covers of Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines and in Max Factor ads.


Cristina's Recipes


SUPER-DUPER DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
ABOUT 2 DOZEN COOKIES
I like to save the dough for these cookies in plastic egg cartons. Instead of throwing the cartons away, I thoroughly wash them in soap and water, and then I use them to hold my golf ball-size scoops of cookie dough. I can stack the cartons in the freezer without taking up too much room. This is an easy way to share these treats, and do your part to recycle, too. You can wrap pretty ribbons around the cartons and give them out as gifts. I also use them as party favors. When my guests leave, they leave with homemade cookie dough they can bake up themselves, fresh from the oven.

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper to fit the pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars for 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the vanilla, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until blended. Add the chocolate morsels, nuts, and raisins, and mix well.

Using a small ice cream scoop, place golf-ball size pieces of cookie dough on the cookie sheet. Don't worry if you crowd them at this point, they need to be chilled first before they're baked. Chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake, line another cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the chilled cookie dough balls at least 3 ½ inches apart on the cookie sheet, and bake in batches. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cookies are golden-brown on top. Keep your eye on them; check them after 15 minutes. Using a metal spatula, place the cookies on a rack to cool. (I can only wait 10 minutes; then I go for itmdash;while the chocolate is still melty—with a cold glass of milk.)

OSSO BUCO
6 SERVINGS
This is one of those  fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth dishes that is truly outstanding. The veal simmers for hours in a combination of wine, lemon, and broth that further tenderizes the meat, and you are left with fork-tender succulent pieces that have been seasoned to perfection. My husband's favorite part is the marrow from the bone shank. Serve this dish with risotto or Creamy Yukon Gold Mash with Scallions.

Kosher salt
Cracked pepper
4 pounds veal shanks, rinsed and dried
¾ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 quart chicken stock, homemade (page 64), or store-bought organic chicken broth
¼ cup loosely packed Italian parsley, chopped fine
Zest of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper the veal shanks lightly on both sides. Dredge the beef in the flour on all sides.

For 3 minutes, heat a skillet large enough to hold all 4 pieces of beef. Add the oil and swirl it around the pan. Add the beef and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Add the wine and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the lemon juice and chicken stock. Cover, and bring to just under a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer the meat for 2 hours, turning it after 1 hour.

Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 1 ½ cups. The meat is cooked when you can insert a fork easily right through the meat; it should literally be falling off the bone.

Sprinkle on chopped parsley and lemon zest before serving.

COOK'S NOTE: You can also use a beef shank with this recipe and have the same incredible results.