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A Chef From (White) Beantown

On The Saturday Early Show, Chef Michael Schlow meets this week's Chef on a Shoestring challenge by preparing shaved zucchini and arugula salad, baked ditalini with soppresata, broccoli rabe, and white beans, vanilla panna cotta with cranberries for four on a $40 budget.

Schlow catered former GE CEO Jack Welch's much-talked-about wedding last year.

He is executive chef and co-owner of two Boston restaurants, Radius and Via Matta.

Radius has become one of the most popular and highly acclaimed restaurants ever to open in Boston.

It was named one of the 50 best American restaurants in the September 2001 issue of Gourmet, and best new restaurant in 2000 by Food & Wine Magazine.

Radius has a modern French menu, while Via Matta features Italian cuisine, Schlow's personal favorite.


Shaved Zucchini Salad with Arugula, Lemon and Shaved Parmigiano
Makes 4 salads

Ingredients:
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into fourths, then sliced crosswise, as thinly as possible
half red onion, thinly sliced
12-18 capers, rinsed and drained
1 lemon, halved
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large bunch arugula, rinsed and spun dry
8 very thinly shaved slices good-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Method:
Combine the zucchini, onions, and capers in a small bowl. Toss. Then add the juice of half the lemon. Add three four tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly.
In a separate bowl, drizzle the remaining lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil over the arugula. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the arugula among four salad plates. Place the zucchini, onions, and capers mixture on top of the arugula. Garnish the salad with the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Drizzle more good quality olive oil over the salad, if you wish.
Serve.

Baked Ditalini with Soppresata, Broccoli Rabe and White Beans
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 boxes ditalini pasta (cooked per directions of box, preferably more al dente)
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1lb Soppresata, diced large
2 bunches broccoli rabe, cleaned, stalks removed
2 cups cooked white beans
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 12 oz can of crushed Italian tomatoes
1 12 oz can of chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups parmigiano cheese, grated.
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup bread crumbs

Method: Preheat oven to 425 F. In a bowl, combine one cup of parmigiano with the bread crumbs and set aside.
Over medium heat, in a large sauté pan, place the garlic in the olive oil and cook for about a minute or two. Take care not to burn. Add the Soppresata and cook for 1 minute
Season with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add the broccoli rabe and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the white beans and saute for another minute. Then add the fresh rosemary. Add the tomatoes and stock, cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli rabe mixture with the blanched ditalini.
Add the remaining cup of the parmigiano and toss together. Place mixture in a shallow baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top, turn oven on to broil. Place baking dish back in the oven for about three minutes. Remove when the bread crumbs turn golden brown, turn off the oven and let baking dish sit in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve.

Panna Cotta with Cranberries and Pistachios
For the panna cotta:
2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 cup sour cream

Procedure:
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes, until dissolved.
Warm cream, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and vanilla bean in a saucepot over low to medium heat -- taking care not to bring this to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin mixture, and let cool, 10-15 minutes at room temperature. Remove the vanilla bean. Whisk in sour cream.

For the cranberries:
2 cups of fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar

For garnish: 4 tablespoons pistachios, crushed

Procedure:
Over medium heat, in a sauce pot, combine the water and sugar and cook for about ten minutes. Stir so the sugar dissolves. This will create an amber-colored simple syrup. Add the cranberries and cook for another 6 minutes. This should create a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat. Add the vanilla extract. Refrigerate until well chilled.

To assemble:
Spoon about 1 tablespoon cranberries into the bottom of clear glasses -- martini glasses for example. Pour the panna cotta into the glasses, ¾ filled, and chill covered for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Spoon more cranberries on top of the panna cotta, cover with plastic wrap, and return to the refrigerator. (Can be made to this point up to two days in advance.)

Just before serving, garnish each panna cotta with a tablespoon of crushed pistachios.

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