Chicago award-winning chef and restaurateur Rick Tramonto created his latest cookbook, "Osteria: Hearty Italian Fare from Rick Tramonto's Kitchen" (Broadway Books $35), for home chefs so that they can recreate his wonder recipes in their own kitchens. Tramonto is the owner of several Chicago area restaurants including the award winning Tru, known for its progressive French cuisine and also Tramonto's Steak and Seafood. His Italian restaurant Osteria de Tramonto is closed for remodeling but is the basis for book's concept.
"An osteria is defined as a tavern or humble restaurant where the food is designed to accompany the wine," says Tramonto, selected as Best Chef Midwest Region by the James Beard Foundation in 2002 and also author of "Fantastico: Little Italian Plates and Antipasti from Rick Tramonto's Kitchen."
"I love the concept. It's where the food is simple but never simplistic and it's straightforward. It also respects and uses seasonal ingredients and what's being grown in the area where the osteria is located, " Tramonto said.
Tramonto says the osteria cooking translates easily into home cooking.
"A lot of osteria food is family style, so that is great for the home," he says noting that when he wrote the cookbook he made sure that the ingredients were accessible, the techniques simple and the presentation approachable and non-intimidating. "I was very thoughtful towards the home cook."
Some of the recipes in the book are variations on what is served at the restaurant but many Tramonto gathered while traveling in Italy and stopping at osterias.
The cookbook is perfect even for those who haven't done much beyond a basic red sauce and pasta.
"I think the whole book can be used for people who are just beginning," says Tramonto who lists a few of his special favorites in the book include Fregula with Clams (clams with herbs and Italian couscous), Pepperonata -- a lovely mixture of roasted red and yellow bell peppers, Brushetta with Lardo (thick slices of country style bread rubbed with garlic and topped with hog fat), Capellini Pasta with Summer Tomatoes, Grilled Lamb Porterhouse with Salsa Verde and Sautéed Trout with Pumpkin and Anise.
Another favorite, which is simplicity itself, but full of rich flavor and a sure crowd pleaser is the Roasted Parmesan-Creamed Onions.
"Talk about succulent," Tramonto writes in a brief description of the recipe. "The yellow onions are pretty pungent when you slice them, but surrender their kick when they are roasted and become sweet and tender. When they reach this point, the cream sauce is poured over them, they are topped with shaved cheese, and then the whole thing is returned to the oven for a slow melt."
Roasted Parmesan-Creamed Onions
4 medium yellow onions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 2 tablespoons)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the onions into 1/4-inch-thick rings and lay them in a shallow baking pan, such as a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the cream and wine to a simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid starts to bubble around the edges, remove from the heat. Spoon about a tablespoon of the cream mixture over each onion slice. Cover with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and cook for about 25 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Remove the foil and top the onions with the shaved cheese. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the edges caramelize. Serve hot.