The Irreducible Tool
Zuppa’s Chef Pasquale Dedi uses his fork for everything but tying his apron.
Chef Pasquale Dedi
Next to fire, what could be more primal than an all-purpose chef’s fork? After all, you can cook without a Robot Coupe or a Hobart, but you’d be hard-pressed to cook without fire and a fork. Wielded by a master, the fork can be a potholder, a spit, a spoon, a clamp, or a spear. In fact, Chef Pasquale Dedi of Zuppa in Yonkers uses his 12-inch German steel fork to check meat temperatures, stir sauces, and to twirl long pastas into sculptural nests. So linked is it to his arm, that Dedi employs his fork as a fire-proof hand. On busy nights, Zuppa staffers marvel as Dedi deftly snags hot plates and sauté pans using only its tines.
Given this tool’s importance, it’s understandable that Dedi uses only the best chef’s fork imaginable. His 12-inch steel version comes from the famed German cutler, Friedrich Dick, whose precision forged knives are favored by butchers, chefs, farriers, and shoemakers.
So step away from your induction burner, and unplug that space-hogging, $500 food processor. Get back to the elementals with these fire-and-fork recipes from Zuppa.
Veal Scallopini with Arugula, Pine Nuts, and Caprino
■ ½ cup pine nuts
■ ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ Salt and pepper, to taste
■ 4 six-oz veal scallopini, pounded thin
■ 2 handfuls wild baby arugula (about 4 cups, loosely packed)
■ 4 Tbs toasted seasoned bread crumbs
■ 4 oz softened goat cheese
■ pinch of black pepper
■ 2 tsp of lemon zest
In a small pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring often, until golden brown. Remove to a bowl, and allow the pine nuts to cool. In a medium-sized pan, heat olive oil over medium-high flame. Working in batches, season veal with salt and pepper, then sauté each briefly—about 30 seconds—in the hot oil. Flip veal slices with a chef’s fork, then continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds on the other side. Remove scallopini to a plate, patting off any excess oil with a paper towel. Drain used oil from pan, then replace pan (without washing) over low heat. Add arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese, tossing with a chef’s fork to mix all ingredients. Heat mixture until warm. Finish by drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon zest, then scatter breadcrumbs over the mixture. Pile one quarter of the arugula mixture over each scallopini and serve.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Maryland Crab, Asparagus, and Grape Tomatoes in Saffron Mascarpone
■ ¼ cup vegetable stock
■ 2 tsp saffron (Dedi prefers Italian saffron threads produced in Abruzzi)
■ 8 asparagus spears
■ 1 lb fresh spaghetti alla chitarra (this is cut on a wire-strung “guitar” rather than in a pasta machine)
■ 12 oz jumbo lump crabmeat
■ 6 oz grape tomatoes
■ 3 Tbs Mascarpone cheese
■ 3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
■ salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat vegetable stock to a simmer and add saffron threads to steep. Remove from heat. In a medium pot, boil water and blanch asparagus. When cooked, but still firm, remove asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain asparagus, cut spears into 2-inch lengths, and set aside. Boil water in a large pot. When boiling, cook pasta for about 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and sauté grape tomatoes and asparagus until vegetables are warmed through. Add crabmeat and toss with fork, thoroughly mixing ingredients. Add Mascarpone and saffron-infused vegetable stock, stirring with fork until all ingredients are combined. Add drained pasta to sauté pan and, over medium heat, combine with crab mixture. Season with salt and pepper; then, use a chef’s fork to twirl the spaghetti alla chitarra into four “nests.” Serve.
Vegetale Ai Ferri
■ 4 whole red bell peppers
■ 1 zucchini, cut crosswise into wheels
■ 1 yellow summer squash, cut crosswise into wheels
■ 4 Portobello mushroom caps
■ 1 eggplant, cut crosswise into wheels
■ 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
■ Salt to taste
Place red bell peppers directly on burner grate over high heat and char the peppers, turning frequently, until its skin is almost totally blackened. Remove peppers to a bowl and allow it to sit, uncovered, until cool enough to handle. When cool, slip charred skin from peppers (without running under water—this removes delicious oils and flavor). The peppers will retain a few flecks of black. Discard the peppers’ stems and seeds, and separate the peppers along their natural lobes.
Heat a charcoal or wood-fired grill (or heat a grill pan with raised ridges). Lightly rub zucchini, summer squash, Portobello cap, and eggplant with olive oil and season with salt. Grill vegetables, using the fork to turn, until cooked through and well-marked with grill stripes.
■ 2 bunches basil
■ ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ 1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano stravecchio
■ ¼ cup crushed walnuts
■ ½ tsp salt
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until mixture is smooth.
■ 3 oz Robiola cheese
■ 4 long sprigs fresh rosemary
Stack grilled vegetables on four plates, adding a spoonful of pesto and Robiola between each layer. To finish, skewer each stack of vegetables with a sprig of fresh rosemary and serve.
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer whose CRMA award-winning Eater blog appears at westchestermagazine.com.
Photography by Andre Baranowski