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Parmigiano Reggiano: A Staple for Solo Cooks

by Toni Lydecker

           Even when I’m about to leave on a trip and the larder is nearly bare, there’s always a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano in my fridge. Like dried pasta, beans and hot pepper flakes, this aged Italian cheese has earned its status as a staple in my kitchen. 
            Grated on a microplane, Parmigiano Reggiano is the final addition to a solo serving of spaghetti, risotto or minestrone.
            You’ve most likely done the same, so here’s another idea: To make the best microwave popcorn of a lifetime, add finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the piping hot popcorn. Reclose the bag and shake for 30 seconds.
            The sliced grilled steak called tagliata (from the verb tagliare, to cut) is usually served over or under an arugula salad, with tomato wedges and Parmigiano Reggiano shavings as garnishes. The shavings are an elegant touch that’s easy to do at home once you know how—all it takes is a vegetable peeler.
            Why buy a wedge rather than grated cheese? It will keep much longer, wrapped in cheesecloth or waxed paper and slipped into a recloseable plastic bag. Reason number two: You’re certain of getting what you pay for. Once grated, other hard cheeses may look the same but there’s no mistaking the official pin-dot pattern on the Parmigiano Reggiano rind.
            Speaking of that rind, be sure to save it once the cheese is gone. Simmered in a soup or stew, it adds a satisfyingly savory note and is entirely edible.

Grilled Ribeye Tagliata on Arugula Salad
Makes 1 serving


1 boneless ribeye or shell steak (about 6 ounces)
Kosher or sea salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 to 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic or red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups arugula leaves
Tomato wedges or grape tomatoes
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, as needed

Sprinkle both sides of the steak generously with salt and pepper. Prepare a medium-hot fire on a grill or heat a lightly oiled stovetop grill.

Grill the steak on both sides until cooked the way you like it, about 6 minutes total for medium rare. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a shallow soup bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the arugula and toss well. Slice the steak in 1/2-inch strips and fan on top of the greens.

Arrange tomato wedges around the edge of the bowl. Top the salad with Parmigiano Reggiano shavings made by gently pulling a vegetable peeler across the wedge.

©Toni Lydecker 2006



Toni Lydecker
writes often on Italian cooking and is the author of Serves One: Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own. For more of her writing and her cooking demo schedule, visit www.tonilydecker.com.



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