The Mozza Cookbook
When I was growing up in the 1950s, my mother was the kind of experimental cook who was more likely to make beef bourguignon from a Julia Child book than the chicken tetrazzini all the other mothers were making. She enjoyed the challenges of making these exotic dishes as much as she loved the delicious results, so it almost goes without saying that cooking the Thanksgiving meal was not something that interested her. I don’t think it would have occurred to her to change the dishes offered or how those dishes were prepared, so instead, she left Thanksgiving to our Aunt Fey, who turned out the typical spread of dry turkey, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, overcooked green vegetables, and an unremarkable pumpkin pie.
To this day, I don’t think you can find a way in which Americans are more traditional than when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Every November on the fourth Thursday of the month, all across the country, families of all different ethnicities sit down to more or less the same spread, which invariably looks a lot like the one I just described. While I do like the elements of the Thanksgiving feast, at the risk of seeming unpatriotic, I must admit that I take after my mother in that I don’t generally care for the way those elements are prepared. Thankfully, times have changed. In recent years, looking for new ways to interpret these dishes has become practically a new American tradition.
I didn’t have to look far. I own two restaurants in Los Angeles, Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, and although they are Italian, and pretty traditional at that, when it comes to the vegetables and desserts we offer, we draw much of our inspiration from the produce we find at our local farmers markets. When this time of year rolls around, we find ourselves serving the very elements and flavors — granted in a different context — that have come to represent Thanksgiving.
Brussels sprouts sprinkled with prosciutto-laced breadcrumbs are the most popular antipasto in the Pizzeria. Crostini topped with butternut squash, bacon, and bitter greens has all the elements of the autumnal palate in one bite. And although the Ribollita da Delfina’s direct lineage is a restaurant in the hills outside Florence, hardly a day goes by when I don’t see it in the restaurant and think what a wonderful Thanksgiving dish it would make, especially for vegetarians. (These recipes, plus one for a pumpkin-date tart that we serve with a really boozy bourbon gelato, are all in my recently published Mozza Cookbook.)
I like to think that, if my mother were here to make Thanksgiving dinner, she would find these dishes sufficiently interesting and delicious to warrant the time and care I know she would have taken to make it.
We try to stick with strictly Italian flavors when we’re thinking up dishes for the restaurants, but I can promise that you will never find anything like these crostini...
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Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. People say they hate Brussels sprouts more than any other food, other than lima beans...
When you’ve worked with food as long as I have, you get to a certain point where many of the dishes you construct are compilations of things you’ve done previously...