Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Luca Loffredo

Photograph of Luca Loffredo courtesy Claudia V. Rosas.
Luca Loffredo is one of those rare people who has managed to achieve success in more than one creative field.  He's both an accomplished chef and a great photographer.  (He shot the photo of yours-truly for this blog and I can assure you that I am not an easy person to photograph.)

Luca is also one of the nicest and most generous people I know.  Conversations with Luca can range from how to make homemade croissants to the benefits of having a free personal shopper through a department store.  (This is something I recently discovered when prepping for a photo shoot.)   Luca is fun to talk to and full of hot tips for cooking and for life.

I've been trying to convince Luca to do a Sunday dinner questionnaire for some time now.  It's taken a while for the pieces to come together, but I'm excited to be able to post Luca's response, along with recipe for a Blood Orange and Arugula Salad.  He even sent an appetizing photo of the completed dish.  Many thanks, Luca!

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Luca Loffredo

1.  What is your favorite food to eat?  Why?
Fresh seafood is my favorite... whether it's delicate, powerful, or pungent.  I consider fish, crustaceans, and shellfish food of the gods.  I love the sublime flavor that varies hour after hour from the moment of the catch.  Yes, I do admit that sometimes I do prepare and eat frozen fish too.  However I strive to get the freshest and sometime the most humble variety.

2.  What is your favorite food to cook?  How often and under what circumstances do you make it?
Often I treat myself to a great seafood soup or simple octopus salad (when octopus is available fresh and not too large in size).  One of my favorite dishes to cook is black mussels with a splash of white wine and lemon juice, with a base of extra virgin olive oil and garlic, finished with plenty parsley and freshly ground black pepper.  It's just delicious.

3.  Who or what is your greatest culinary influence?  Why is he/she/it an inspiration to you?
“La Nonna”.  I know that may sound like a cliché, but my grandmother was my first inspiration.  When I moved to San Francisco in 1991, I was mentored and inspired by a dear friend and incredible chef Tina Lai.  Another very strong influence was working along Tony Gulisano in San Francisco.  Tony is an incredibly talented and successful chef. He invested and believed in my talent and potential.  Thank you, my friends.

4.  What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why do you love it?
I have couple of utensils that I always look after and always have handy.  My 8-inch chef's knife and a thick, wide maplewood spoon.  And I almost forgot my 12-inch shallow saucepan (Al Clad of course.  It's just the best in the hand, LOL).

5.  What did you eat for dinner this past weekend?
Let me see… Yes this past Sunday, after a quick stop at the Hollywood Farmer's Market and the farmer Market on Third, I went home and prepared a blood orange and arugula (rocket greens) salad with sliced almond, drizzled with E.V.O.O. and a dash of balsamic reduction.  As an entrée, I pan-roasted a nice thick pork chop (bone-in) with cipollini onions, leeks and parsnips.  First I seared it and then deglazed the pan with a cup of Pinot Grigio.  Then I added rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and lemon zest, just the perfect dish for Mardi Grass weekend.

6.  When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another meal that brought your friends and family together on a regular basis?  If so, what you you eat?
We didn't have dinner together, but late lunches were a must.  My family and I we used to alternate Sundays between my father's parents and my grandmother Flora  (my mom's mother).  It is always something that I looked forward to during the whole week.  Then I grew up and my grandparents past away and the sweet delicious and loving tradition disappeared.  I keep beautiful memories of those never-ending lunches with all sorts of dishes-- from traditional Neapolitan to more eccentric and modern fresh fruit risottos and raw seafood carpaccio... just delicious.  I felt like I embarked into a journey of flavors.  I miss them a lot.  One recurring and very traditional dish was the long-simmered tomatoes ragout with beef top round.  The tomato sauce was served religiously with ziti pasta (always al dente), and the meat served with a side of "friarielli”, a Neapolitan variety of rapini.

7.  Do you have a garden?  If so, what do you grow in it?
Unfortunately I do not have a garden.  But my living room and front door opens onto a very private and quiet patio.  There I let my green thumb go wild.  I have several pots with herbs (lots of mint and parsley), a few cherry tomato plants and zucchini.  In the courtyard there is a tall loquat tree that bares small sweet and juicy fruit.

8.  What is your ultimate food fantasy?
This very hard... I guess it would be an endless amount of oysters of every variety.  Finishing with a mountain of profiteroles filled with cream and covered with bittersweet warm chocolate sauce.  A good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, or better yet a Greco di Tufo (a delicious Neapolitan dry white wine) is a must.  After dinner a glass of Amaro Averna (a herbal liquor from Sicily) is the right way to end a fantastic meal.

9.  If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a meal for you, who would it be?  What would you want to eat?
I would love to seat at the dinner table of Elizabeth David and eat just about anything she feels to cook.  However, a Mediterranean seafood soup with toasted batard would be idyllic.

10.  Fill in the blank:  "The most important element of a good meal is ________."
Attitude and Love.
Blood Orange Salad, recipe and photograph by Luca Loffredo, 2011.
Blood Orange and Arugula Salad
By Luca Loffredo

Serves 2

  • 3 Blood oranges
  • 3 to 4 oz baby arugula
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 half of a shallot 
  • 2 oz sliced toasted almonds
  • 2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano shavings (shredded cheese is also fine)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Husk, wash, rinse and dry the arugula with a clean towel  and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Peel the oranges and slice them sideways, creating many orange wheels of the same thickness.
  • Lightly toast the sliced almonds, just few seconds in a hot frying pan on the stovetop.  (You can also use them raw; it is matter of taste.)
  • Toss the greens with shallot, half of the almonds and the cheese. 
  • Pour the olive oil on the side of the mixing bowl and gently fold the salad.  Then add the vinegar.
  • Add the orange slices and salt and pepper to taste.  Fold again very gently to keep the slices from braking apart.
  • Plate the salad and sprinkle the leftover cheese and almonds over the top.
  • If blood oranges are not available, you may substitute ruby grapefruit.