September 28, 2020

Florida Icon

Icon: Marcella Hazan

Cooking teacher and author, born 1924, Longboat Key

Art Levy | 12/1/2009

Marcella Hazan
[Photo: Mark Wemple]
» My career was not supposed to be food. I have a doctorate in biology, and I worked in research. I never boiled water in a pot, only in a beaker in the laboratory. But I married a man who was very interested in food. He was courting me, and he was telling me what he ate for lunch and what he wanted to eat for dinner. I was a little surprised because I thought it was not very romantic.

» My husband was very smart. When I was first learning how to cook, every time I did something good in the kitchen, he was jumping from the chair to kiss me and tell me how good I was, and so I wanted to do more.

» I miss the fish of Italy. It has more taste than the fish of Florida. I have to cook the fish here a different way to make it taste Italian. Good fish, you just steam it a little with some very nice olive oil and lemon because the fish already has so much taste. The Florida fish I like most is pompano. The red snapper, not much taste.

» If I have vegetables in the refrigerator, I feel as if I have food. I can cook them many different ways. I can make a sauce for pasta. I can do a soup.

» In the morning, we do not have breakfast. We have just double espresso, and that’s all. They keep saying you should eat in the morning, but we survive very well.

» When I test a recipe, I never think about measuring. I do it. I serve it. We eat. If it’s good, I try to do it again, and I try to measure. I do it in reverse.

» I don’t eat Twinkies. All these things that are wrapped, I don’t like. One of the things that we teach to children in Italy is to never eat between meals, not to snack, because you ruin your appetite for the meal.


Also: See Hazan give a cooking lesson on NBC's Today Show. Watch it

» Restaurants, sometimes, they want to embellish the look and the taste of the dishes, so they ruin what is Italian food, really. Italian food is very simple. You have a small portion of pasta without so much sauce. The sauce is a seasoning of the pasta, so you eat pasta with the sauce. You don’t eat sauce with the pasta.

» You use a very good extra virgin olive oil, and you have a very good dish. Use an olive oil that is not very good, and you ruin the dish.

» I could hit myself because I brought the balsamic vinegar to America. Do you know that balsamic vinegar, the real kind, you need at least 60 to 70 years to make it? A small bottle that I have here is only 25 years old. It costs $185, so what is this stuff they serve in the restaurants? If you are lucky, it’s red wine vinegar where they added caramel.

» Vegetable soup, you have different types of vegetables. You start with the onion because it’s the one with the most taste. You brown the onion in olive oil, and in time you peel a carrot and cut it in small pieces and you put in the carrot. You wait until the carrot browns in the onion. You put the onion first because you want it to give its flavor to the other vegetables. Then you have the celery. When you put the celery in the carrots that have browned in the onion, the celery will take the taste of the carrot and the onion. Don’t put in water. Then, maybe, you put in, I don’t know, some green beans that you’ve cut and you do the same thing and you keep doing this until you reach the potato. You’re trying to get the taste of those vegetables into the potato — and then you put in the water. If you put the water in first, you are boiling those vegetables and you don’t get the taste.

» The reason that we chose to live in Florida is because we always like to be near the water. For 20 years, before we moved here, we lived in Venice, Italy, which was really living near water.

» Don’t try to put too many ingredients together. We have a way of saying in Italy that what you keep out has the same importance of what you put in.

» If you want to be amused, there are some stars on the television who can amuse you, but you wouldn’t want to go into the kitchen to do anything that they are cooking. You wouldn’t want to make their dishes. Rachel Ray, she’s done in 30 minutes, but everything is frozen and cut into pieces before. I don’t understand that. I would never buy all those things she buys to do it. I like her. She’s nice. She talks about me very nice and I thank her, but I would not do that cooking.

» There are two things I hate to be asked. People ask me, ‘What is your favorite recipe?’ I hate that. You always want to eat the same thing? No! And also, ‘What is your favorite restaurant?’

» You go into a lot of Italian restaurants and the first thing you smell is garlic.
I use a lot of garlic, but you never smell garlic in my house. My garlic is cooked very, very light. When I’m browning garlic, once I start to smell it, that is enough.

» I’m happy that my son Giuliano (a cookbook author) has followed in my steps. It’s like I’m not finished, you know what I mean? It’s like something that continues of me, and that is nice. It’s a continuation of preaching the Italian way.

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