“Good cooking and a lot of flavor don’t have to take a lot of time,” says Fabio Viviani, chef, restauranteur and TV personality, explaining why he wrote Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian (St. Martin’s 2017; $27.99), his beautifully photographed cookbook filled with wonderfully accessible recipes. “The whole premise is easy.”
Viviani, who lives in the Chicago area now but grew up in Florence, Italy, started working in a bakery when he was 11 not so much from a love of food but because his family needed the money. But labor developed into a passion. Now 28 years later, he’s amassed a food empire with two California vineyards, several cookbooks, stints on several Top Chef show (he won Fan Favorite on Season Five), restaurants including two in Chicago—Siena Tavern and Prime & Provisions and his Mercado concept, described as a “rustic-yet refined eatery destination by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani” with locations that include Chicago, Tempe, Arizona and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
He also currently has a weekly web series, “Fabio’s Kitchen” and is doing “Dinner is Served,” an online video series showcasing quick, easy recipes viewers can easily make at home.
With such a busy schedule, I wondered if he ever gets tired of cooking.
“I like it,” he says, “sometimes I don’t. It’s like a marriage, you yell at each other and then you go back to it.”
Asking what recipes he might recommend for those who haven’t cooked Italian before, Viviani replied that the chapters on pasta and salads because they have, for the most part particularly if you don’t make your pasta from scratch, “have less ingredients and take less time.”
Noting that his Italian heritage taught him less is more, Viviani says “you don’t have to overdo it to put really good food on the table.”
The following recipes are courtesy of Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian by Fabio Viviani.
Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Avocado and Warm Artichoke Hearts
3 chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small can artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
2 heads frisee lettuce, root removed
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 avocados, diced and pitted 2 cloves garlic, grated
2 green onions cut sharply on the bias
15 basil leaves, torn Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat a large nonstick pan on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil in side. Season chicken with salt and pepper then place into pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Flip chicken and add lemon juice and artichokes to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
Pull frisee lettuce apart into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, combine frisee with honey, vinegar, olive oil, avocados, garlic, green onions and basil along with warm artichokes and toss to dress. Serve chicken along with warm salad.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
FOR THE CAKE
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla (extracted from pod)
2 teaspoons rum
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
FOR THE CARAMEL
Splash vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream (plus 2 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans. Set aside.
In a large stand mixer, combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and flour. Once combined, add buttermilk, heavy cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and rum; mix until smooth. Stir together the hot water and espresso powder. Pour slowly into the cake batter and stir until completely incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until baked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.
While cakes are cooking, combine the vanilla extract, fleur de sel, butter, 1/2 cup of heavy cream and sugar in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Cook until caramel in color, then add the final 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Stir for 20 seconds and let cool before glazing cake.
Tip: Make the cakes in advance. When ready to serve make caramel sauce and drizzle over the top.