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The Essence of Italian : Evan Kleiman's Arista Is an Unpretentious Masterpiece--and Better, She Says, at Room Temperature

November 10, 1985|ROSE DOSTI | Rose Dosti is a Times staff writer.

Evan Kleiman, a young American chef, has a gift for maintaining the natural, unpretentious, sensual essence of Italian cooking. And that is what sets her apart as one of the sharpest interpreters of Italian cooking in Los Angeles. A case in point: Kleiman's interpretation of Arista , a Tuscan pork roast seasoned with fennel, shown here. Traditionally, this roast is served with the bone in, causing the darker meat of the loin to infuse the leaner tenderloin with its juiciness. Kleiman's version uses a boneless pork rib roast, which allows, she says, "for more thorough seasoning and easier slicing when serving." The chef is an advocate of foods eaten at room temperature, not piping hot, an idea foreign to most Americans. The taste sensation of foods allowed to mellow at room temperature could be a revelation; it's worth a try, if only to relieve pressure from the cook harried by timing. Kleiman recommends serving Arista with sauteed rapini . (That's what it's called in Italian. In English, it's called rape, or broccoli rape because of the tendency of its elongated leaves to develop blossoms resembling those on broccoli flowers.) Rapini , an annual Old World plant of the mustard family of greens, was grown in backyard and tenement-window gardens for home use by early Italian immigrants who were homesick for the vegetable. Later, the plant made rare appearances at European ethnic markets and could be found at Oriental grocery stores as well. Now that rapini has become fashionable, a shopper can find the green at almost any gourmet food store that carries produce. Rapini can be served as a vegetable accompaniment, warm or at room temperature, and is delicious as a sandwich filling.

About the Chef: Evan Kleiman's passion for things Italian goes beyond cooking. After a stint as chef at an Italian restaurant in West Los Angeles, Kleiman studied for a master's degree in film and Italian literature at UCLA. She then left academia to pursue her love of Italian cooking and last year opened Angeli on Melrose Avenue, which became an in spot for pizza, pasta and antipasto served at room temperature--simple things done especially well. Kleiman is co-author, with Viana La Place, of "Cucina Fresca" (Harper & Row: $10.95) and is working on another book about Southern Italian cooking. PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER FOOD STYLIST: OLIVIA ERSCHEN EVAN KLEIMAN'S ARISTA 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 to 2 tablespoons fennel seeds 1 teaspoon coarse salt Freshly ground pepper 1 7-pound boneless pork rib roast Fruity olive oil

Make a paste of minced garlic, fennel seeds, salt and pepper to taste in mortar and pestle, or mash with side of a chef's knife. Unroll roast, if tied. Spread most of the paste over meat, reserving 1 tablespoon or more. Roll and tie roast so that the white tenderloin is in the center and dark meat is outside. Make a few incisions with sharp knife about 1/2 inch deep in roast and stuff some of the paste into incisions. Rub olive oil over meat and place in roasting pan. Roast, uncovered at 350 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until thermometer inserted in center registers 170 degrees. Baste roast 2 or 3 times with pan juices. Remove roast from oven and cool slightly. Slice into 1/2-inch slices and drizzle olive oil over meat, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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