Much like the work of a professional chef, Italian cooking is a labor of love. Italian recipes are, more often than not, steeped in tradition and passed down through the generations — whether in the kitchen of a close-knit family or of a successful restaurant.
To honor Lucchese's Italian-born heritage and 130-year presence in Texas, we challenged internationally studied chef Rebecca Meeker of Jeffrey's — recently named one of the top restaurants of 2013 by Bon Appetite — to create a traditional Italian meal with local Texas ingredients.
"Parts of Italy and parts of Texas share climate similarities," explains Meeker of how Texas is uniquely positioned to reinterpret certain Italian dishes. "Local farmers are able to grow a type of san marzano tomatoes, basil, arugula, figs, romenesco cauliflower and cardoons that are staples in Italian cuisine."
While Meeker says caprese salad, pesto genovese and panna cotta are some of the easiest dishes to recreate with a Texas spin, she emerged from her kitchen with a delectable pear and persimmon caprese and a hearty pan roasted ribeye with hot pepper peperonata. And luckily, she's more than willing to share the key to her concoctions.
"My favorite moments in the kitchen are when you teach someone to make something, and then you see them passing along what they have learned from you to someone else," says Meeker, who notably helped famed Joel Robuchon open his restaurants in New York and Taiwan before landing in Texas.
To encourage the distinctly Italian custom of sharing, the recipes Meeker created for Lucchese are outlined below. One last tip from the expert: "Adjust seasoning to your own palate… and always trust yourself!"
PEAR AND PERSIMMON CAPRESE
2 green pears, sliced in a round
3 persimmons, sliced in a round
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced in a round
1 pomegranate, seeds only
1 handful of basil leaves
On a platter, arrange the pear, persimmon and mozzarella. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and basil leaves. Drizzle evoo on top, and season with sea salt.
HOT PEPPER PEPERONATA
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 jalapenos, deseeded and sliced
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 handful of capers
1 handful of parsley, rough chopped
2 tb balsamic vinegar
Put all peppers in a castiron skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly for 10 minutes until soft. Add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the capers and parsley to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Toss everything around and add the balsamic vinegar. Check for seasoning and serve with your pan roasted ribeye.
PAN ROASTED RIBEYE
10 oz ribeye
salt and pepper
Season both sides of the ribeye steak. In a nice and hot castiron skillet, add a little oil. Place the ribeye in the skillet and sear on both sides until golden brown (5 minutes each). Place on a rack and rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with hot pepper peperonata.