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Top Chef's Delicious Italian Meal, on a Budget

NEW YORK - Patti Jackson dreamed of being a chef her whole life.

She began her illustrious culinary career by making Christmas cookies in her mother's kitchen. She had no way of knowing she'd become one of the most in-demand pastry chefs in New York.

Patti's dream came true, and then some! She went from pastry chef to executive chef of I Trulli in Manhattan, where she dishes out fantastic Italian fare.

She's considered one of New York's leading culinary artists.

Vote on Next Week's "Shoestring" Main Course
"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Patti whipped up a fantastic Italian meal consisting of some personal favorites: a winter salad, packed with cauliflower, black olives and fingerling potatoes, a main course of Chicken Calabrese with peppers and tomatoes and, for dessert, an espresso Granita with fresh whipped cream.

And, as our fist "Chef on a Shoestring" of 2011, Patti sought to do it on our stingy budget of $40.

Also, her hat is the first to be tossed into this year's "How Low Can You Go?" ring. The Shoestring chef whose ingredient total is the lowest of the year will be asked to come back to prepare our year-end holiday feast!

Not only that, but you get to vote on the main dish next week's Chef on a Shoestring makes.

FOOD TERMS (Source: Epicurious.com)

Endive: Endive is closely related to and often confused with its cousin, CHICORY. They're both part of the same botanical family, Cichorium. There are three main varieties of endive: Belgian endive, curly endive and escarole. Belgian endive, also known as French endive and witloof (white leaf), is a small (about 6-inch-long), cigar-shaped head of cream-colored, tightly packed, slightly bitter leaves. It's grown in complete darkness to prevent it from turning green, using a labor-intensive growing technique known as BLANCHING. Belgian endive is available from September through May, with a peak season from November through April. Buy crisp, firmly packed heads with pale, yellow-green tips. Belgian endives become bitter when exposed to light. They should be refrigerated, wrapped in a paper towel inside a plastic bag, for no more than a day. They can be served cold as part of a salad, or cooked by braising or baking. Curly endive, often mistakenly called chicory in the United States, grows in loose heads of lacy, green-rimmed outer leaves that curl at the tips. The off-white center leaves form a compact heart. The leaves of the curly endive have a prickly texture and slightly bitter taste. Escarole has broad, slightly curved, pale green leaves with a milder flavor than either Belgian or curly endive. Both curly endive and escarole are available year-round, with the peak season from June through October. They should be selected for their fresh, crisp texture; avoid heads with discoloration or insect damage. Store curly endive and escarole, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They're both used mainly in salads, but can also be briefly cooked and eaten as a vegetable or in soups.

Pecorino Cheese: In Italy, cheese made from sheep's milk is known as pecorino. Most of these cheeses are aged and classified as GRANA (hard, granular and sharply flavored); however, the young, unaged Ricotta pecorino is soft, white and mild in flavor. Aged pecorinos range in color from white to pale yellow and have a sharp, pungent flavor. The best known of this genre is Pecorino Romano, which comes in large cylinders with a hard yellow rind and yellowish-white interior. Other notable pecorinos are Sardo, Siciliano and Toscano. These hard, dry cheeses are good for grating and are used mainly in cooking. They can be used in any recipe that calls for PARMESAN CHEESE, especially if a sharper flavor is desired.

Ice: Called granité in France and granita in Italy, an ice is a frozen mixture of water, sugar and liquid flavoring such as fruit juice, wine or coffee. The proportion is usually 4 parts liquid to 1 part sugar. During the freezing process, ices are generally stirred frequently to produce a slightly granular final texture. ice v. 1. To chill a food, glass or serving dish in order to get it icy cold and sometimes coated with frost. 2. To spread frosting over the surface of a cake.

RECIPES

Winter Vegetable Salad

Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons (2-3 sprigs) fresh thyme leaves
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
6 fingerling potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cut crosswise into ¼" slices
1 Belgian endive, leaves cut into strips lengthwise (reserve some whole leaves for garnish, if desired)
1 teaspoon shallot, very finely minced
1/2 cup black olives (such as Gaeta), pitted
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix 1/4 cup oil and lemon juice together and set aside. Blanch cauliflower florets in lightly salted boiling water for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Drain well, and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat with thyme leaves until lightly browned. Cool. Mix with potatoes, shallot, endive and olives, toss with lemon oil and season as desired with salt and pepper.

To see Patti's other recipes, go to Page 2.