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Italian From One Of The Best

Chef Michael White, Esquire magazine's Chef of the Year and one of New York Magazine's "Best Chefs of 2002," takes The Saturday Early Show's Chef on a Shoestring challenge and cooks a great Italian meal for four for under $30.

White is the executive chef at one of New York City's hottest restaurants, Fiamma Osteria. His food has earned the restaurant three-star reviews with an Italian menu that is described as graceful, stylish and modern.

Here are the recipes for his $30 three-course meal for four:

Olive Oil Poached Gulf Shrimp with Artichokes and Lemon Vinaigrette; Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe; and for dessert, Roasted Gala Apples with Vanilla Gelato

Terminology:

Italian sausage: This is generally sold in plump links. You can often find it used as pizza topping. It is usually flavored with garlic, fennel seed or anise seed. It comes in two styles - hot (flavored with hot red peppers) or sweet (without the heat). Chef White will use a sweet Italian sausage with the casing removed because he wants the pork to coat the pasta.

Poaching: This is a method used to cook food gently in liquid, just below the boiling point. You will see some quivering on the liquid's surface. The amount and temperature of the liquid really depends on the food being poached. Meats and poultry as usually simmered in stock, while fish is generally poached in court-bouillon. Chef White will poach the shrimp with olive oil. Poaching produces a nice delicate flavor in foods while imparting some of the liquid's flavor to the ingredient being poached.

The Recipes:

Olive Oil Poached Gulf Shrimp with Artichokes and Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 4

Ingredients:

12 large gulf shrimp (peeled & de-veined)
6-8 baby artichokes (peeled & thinly sliced) or, if you can't find baby artichokes, 2 large artichokes
1 head frisee (cleaned of the dark green outer layers)
1 head radicchio (cleaned and torn into pieces)
1 bunch chives (chopped finely)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups water
1 large lemon
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Method:

  1. To prepare the baby artichokes, peel the outer leaves until you see pale yellow. With a potato peeler, peel the outer layer from the stem and the base of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke in half. Then, with a sharp knife, thinly slice the artichokes and place them in a bowl with water and the juice of 1/2 a lemon, until you are ready to use them as directed in the plating of the salad.
  2. Pour a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, water and salt into a small saucepan.
  3. Place the gulf shrimp in the pan and bring to a simmer at medium high heat. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the shrimp become firm to the touch.
  4. In a small bowl, toss frisee, radicchio, sliced raw artichokes and chopped chives with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add shrimp to the tossed greens and serve.
Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound orecchiette pasta
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic (crushed, but left whole)
1 small onion (sliced thinly)
1/2 pound Italian sausage, remove the casing
1 head broccoli rabe (chopped)*
4 roma tomatoes (chopped)
4 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino (optional)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

*Please note: You can substitute broccoli rabe with broccoli

Method:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottom sauce pot, place the Italian sausage and cook on medium high heat until slightly brown. Then add onion and garlic and continue cooking it.
  2. Place chopped broccoli rabe and roma tomatoes into the pot. Let this simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 6 minutes. Toss with cooked orechiette until well combined. Place in a serving bowl and top with fresh ground pepper and grated pecorino.
Roasted Gala Apples with Vanilla Gelato
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Gala apples (peeled, halved and cored)
1 lemon (juiced)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoon butter (melted)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
1 pint vanilla gelato or vanilla ice cream

Method:

  1. In a baking dish, place apples cut side up. Brush apples with melted butter and squeeze lemon juice on top.
  2. In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple halves and place in a 375 degree oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Garnish with toasted almonds and vanilla gelato.