“She’s going to change the world, but she can’t change me…”

by Katie Pizzuto on October 3, 2008

in Uncategorized

Let’s pretend for a minute that you are setting out to recreate “The Scream” by Munch, (humor me here), but you love daisies so much that you can’t resist throwing a few into the background. Is it still a replicate of The Scream? If you take the outer body of a Ford Mustang but put in a Nissan Sentra engine and a Jaguar interior, is it still a Ford Mustang just because it looks like one from the outside? Lastly, if you decide to rerecord “Stairway to Heaven” but feel compelled to put an accordion in the bridge and replace Jimmy Page’s famous solo with the one from Hotel California, is it still Stairway to Heaven?

I’m asking this because a disagreement over a recipe on a popular forum got me thinking about how we define dishes. It began harmlessly enough with excitement over the last of the summer tomatoes and using them in a Caprese salad. Someone commented on the thread that they like to marinate the tomatoes overnight with (among other things) aged balsamic vinegar and dried oregano because the marinating “really brings a ton of flavor to the table.” I disagreed with this person simply because this dish was born out of simplicity and harmony, and at no point when the people of Capri created this dish did they use any type of vinegar at all, or oregano for that matter. What he had created was most likely a very delicious salad, but it wasn’t a Caprese salad, which, by definition contains only fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and salt/pepper. The reason the Italians didn’t want to use vinegar in this simple dish is because it would overwhelm the delicate flavor of the cheese, thus it seems to me that if we want to maintain the integrity of a recipe, we should follow it. If we choose to alter it (which most of us wind up doing at some point if we love to experiment) we should call it something else. Am I alone in thinking this?

A hollandaise sauce is a hollandaise sauce. If you asked a chef how much garlic should go in a hollandaise sauce he/she would probably throw a cast iron skillet at you along with a few choice expletives. This isn’t to say that you can’t put it in your sauce—no kitchen police are going to come and slap cuffs on you (unless you like that sort of thing)—but it ain’t a hollandaise. With certain classic recipes there are expectations in what elements create that compound. In fact, when I created my own version of roasted peppers, which get sliced and roasted in an oven as opposed to charred whole over a fire, I always called them “my version of roasted peppers” so there was no confusion. When people ask me to make them for a party they always say, “Kate can you make your roasted peppers?” not “Katie, can you make roasted peppers?” It’s a small semantic difference, but hey, there’s a reason they call me a wench.

SIDE NOTE: Here’s a recipe for my roasted peppers which, above all, need lots of TLC if they are going to make you weak at the knees. I serve them over crostini, with a small slice of fresh mozzarella.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ILEANA October 3, 2008

Another great article Katie !
Can you recomend a wine to serve with Katie’s Roasted Peppers??

I am ready to try them this Saturday night at Yolanda’s ….



2 Linsey October 3, 2008

im a great one for manipulating recipes – usually desserts – to suit my taste eg make a bakewell tart i like to put in raspberries – but it isnt any longer bakewell, like you said

but for the classic item – dont mess with the basic – its a classic for a reason


3 Katie Pizzuto October 3, 2008

I would recommend either a bottle of Champagne (or other dry crisp sparkling wine) to match the lightness of the dish and the fat in the cheese & olive oil, OR a Rioja to complement the smokey caramelization in the peppers.


4 Anthony October 3, 2008

Completely agree with you Katie on a recipe is a recipe. If you alter it with other seasonings or whatever, its something else. Anyways im not a peppers fan, however from what ive heard from the family, Katies ARE THE BEST! Linsey im also famous for altering recipes. For instance, Chicken soup is with chicken, carrots,celery, dill, salt/pepper, onion and bay leaves. But i add Escarole and Potatoes which now makes it different. Thanks to mom i have that recipe.


5 Linsey October 4, 2008

just an extension to this – in europe we have a rule that is applied sparingly ‘that certain food that are identified with certain areas are protected under the law’

this means that they cannot be produced anywhere else under that name – champagne will be the most obvious – other sparkling wines have to be called sparkling wine and not champagne

cheeses, hams and other foods around europe are also included

one such food that has just been given this protected status is the traditional british pork pie the ‘melton mowbray’

the recipe and name can only now be made in melton or the really local area to be called that name

think this is one of the few laws of europe that is actually a good thing because it protects the identity and recipe of the original


6 Coupe 60 October 4, 2008

# Katie Pizzuto Says:
October 3, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I would recommend either a bottle of Champagne (or other dry crisp sparkling wine) to match the lightness of the dish and the fat in the cheese & olive oil, OR a Rioja to complement the smokey caramelization in the peppers.

Veuve Clicquot? Yellow Label?


7 smokenmirrors October 4, 2008

A caprese salad contains:
Tomatoes from my garden*
basil from the pot on my deck**
mozzarella from casa di mozzarella (Bronx NY)***
and of course first pressed Italian Olive Oil

* or your garden
** or pot on your deck
*** substitution not permitted

If all these conditions are not met
it is not a Caprese salad!


8 Coupe 60 October 5, 2008

Mike – you have pot on your deck?



9 Katie Pizzuto October 5, 2008

@Coupe…at least I know you’re reading all my posts!

@Mike…thanks for being the voice of reason. (I can’t believe I just said that!)


10 smokenmirrors October 7, 2008

Coupe 60 Says:
October 5, 2008 at 11:09 am
Mike – you have pot on your deck?


Doesnt everybody?


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: