I live in a city where running into a celebrity is a relatively common occurrence. Between the amount of filming that goes on here, and the number of celebrities living here, you can’t help it. Usually it’s an unplanned event – you see them in the neighborhood market, trying to live as normally as possible for someone whose job qualifies them for celeb status. I’ve seen Sam Waterston at the butcher, had a lengthy chat with Mario Cantone (Charlotte’s best gay friend for those Sex in the City fans out there) in the produce aisle, and even had my car “relocated” twice because they were shooting scenes for “Law and Order” on my block. Luckily I got to see Chris Noth for my trouble.
When the unexpected celebrity encounter happens to the average New Yorker, the common stance is to adopt an “I’m way too cool to make a fuss” demeanor, occasionally ignoring them outright. I was once in a jury pool sitting next to Tim Robbins, and did nothing until he started the conversation. To be fair, my nose was in a book and honestly didn’t notice him until he asked if he could borrow a pen. Celebs are just like us, (well, like us sans the fame and fortune thing), and I think entitled to be treated like any other average joe in the coffee line. Occasionally I might smile, maybe make a comment appropriate to the setting (“the lamb chops look really good today”), but behave like a goofy celeb-struck gusher? Never!
The other day I was in a shop that was hosting a cookbook signing. This was no random encounter, but rather an event I’d marked in my calendar the minute I saw the flyer in the shop window. Normally I don’t go to book signings, the thought of standing on long lines waiting for a generic comment addressed to my name not all that thrilling. But this was different. The author of this cookbook was Stanley Tucci. MY Stanley Tucci! I’ve been crushing on Stanley ever since seeing him in one of my favorite foodie movies, “Big Night”. The minute his Secondo uttered the line “sometimes the spaghetti, it likes to be alone,” I was hooked. I’d watch anything he’s in, be it hit or dog, because my non-flat Stanley would always shine. So there I was on line with all the Tucci-philes, passing the time reading his wonderful new cookbook and musing on the witty things I’ll say, one cook to another, all with the right amount of uber-cool New York attitude. When my turn came I stepped up to the table and handed over my book. “Karin” I squeaked, then proceeded to blush, gush, and babble as if I was 14 and meeting Bobby Sherman with a rumpled copy of Tiger Beat in my hand.
Oh well…I’m sure I’ll be cooler next time.
The Tucci Cookbook is a collection of my favorite kind of recipes – those passed down in a family. I have a feeling I’ll be making just about all of them eventually (including the infamous Timpano from “Big Night”), but the one I chose to try first is the thin crispy breadsticks so often found in authentic Italian restaurants called Grissini. Whenever I see these in a breadbasket I dive in, but always thought they were out of my reach to make at home. Then I read the book and learned the trick. The yeast dough, flavored by an ample amount of olive oil and a bit of rosemary, is rolled out and cut into uniform sticks using a pasta maker! In my mind, this is the mark of true genius that comes from the practical home cook. And it’s fun too!
From The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci, 2012 Simon and Schuster
For those of you that bought a pasta maker but rarely ever use it – give this recipe a try. Once you’ve tasted these I bet you find a reason to put that unused pasta maker in a more accessible place. And if you don’t have a machine, you can also roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut by hand. I’m sure they’ll taste equally as wonderful.
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 TBSP sugar
- 1 TBSP kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup semolina flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 TBSP finely chopped rosemary
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp grappa or vodka
Mix the yeast and sugar in a 2-cup measure. Stir in the warm water and set aside for 5 minutes until nice and foamy.
In a large bowl or on a clean work surface, mix the flour, semolina, salt and rosemary together. Mound the mixture, then make a well in the center. Add the olive oil and grappa or vodka to the yeast, stir a few times, then pour the liquid into the well. Using a fork at first and then your hands, gradually blend the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Once you’ve got a rough dough, turn it out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and not sticky. This shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes or so. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a clean dishtowel. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Dust two baking sheets with semolina flour and set aside. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. At this point you could freeze some of the pieces to make at a later time. Just wrap them well in cling film and pop in a zip top bag in the freezer.
Lightly flour the dough and pass it through the widest opening of the machine to produce a flat piece of dough about 12-inches long. Lightly flour the dough again and pass it through the wide noodle setting to create individual strands of dough. Arrange them about ½-inch apart on the prepared pans. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake until they start to become golden brown on the bottom, about 5-6 minutes, then flip them over and cook another 5-6 minutes. I found I needed to bake, flip, bake, flip and bake again for a total of about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
Cool on a rack and store cooled grissini in an airtight container. When serving, I like to put bunches into tall glasses around the table so everyone has a few within reach. Calories: about 120 calories/dozen.
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