Friday, July 24, 2015

refreshing food

MELON & PROSCIUTTO GAZPACHO
prosciutto e melone
Summer in Rome is dead hot! I can say that the heat is so dense and thick that it can be physically touched by hand. The feeling is like being pulled by Dante into the Inferno with no return, if you know what I mean.  This has brought me to lose my sleep, my energy, my mental stability but, for no reason in the world, did I lose my appetite.  Although the appetite is always strong, I do, however, prefer light refreshing food like a cold sliced melon, wrapped with prosciutto, preferably under a cool breeze, and in lack of such, a full blast air-conditioner will do as well.  

Here’s a different way to put some melon and prosciutto together.  It will make you feel good and full and you don’t need to cook over hot flames, which is an optimal solution for everyone these days.
prosciutto e melone
Melon and Prosciutto Gazpacho
adapted from the Italian magazine Sale & Pepe

3 slices bread, only the crumb
1 small red onion
3 tbsp apple vinegar
1 melon (any variety)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup of plain yogurt
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Basil


Place the bread crumb in a small bowl and let it soak with the apple vinegar.  Put the melon, red onion, cucumber, plain white yogurt in a blender and blend until puréed.  Squeeze the vinegar from the bread crumb, discard the vinegar and add the soaked bread in the blender.  Add salt, pepper and basil to taste and blend again until smooth.  Refrigerate until chilled and serve with fresh melon and prosciutto, some more chopped basil, a drizzle of EVO and a dash of pepper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

don't let the farmer know how good cheese is with pears ... presumably because if he knew he would keep them for himself

Fagottini Croccanti di Parmigiano e Pera
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If there's one thing I could never say no to, that's cheese. Even more so, if the cheese I refer to, is Parmigiano Reggiano. Open my fridge and you'll always find a piece and another one tucked away...just in case. 

So, when I was invited to take part in this year's contest, PR Chef 4Cooking, I said YES, and I thought I'd participate the only way I enjoy it most, by enhancing the flavour of a prime quality ingredient using as less as possible.  Which is no more than the message used to promote the contest "excellence is obtained by removing, not adding".  

In Italy they say, don't let the farmer know how good cheese is with pears ... presumably because if he knew he would keep them for himself.  Whether the farmer knows or not, the combination of the two is how I participate in this contest.
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Crunchy Bites of Parmigiano Reggiano and Pear - Fagottini Croccanti di Parmigiano e Pera

Ingredients
1) Parmigiano Reggiano, aged at least 12 months, cubed in small pieces
2) Pear, sweet and firm, cubed in small pieces
3) Fillo dough in sheets
4) Honey

semi seeds to garnish (spices are not considered an ingredient for this contest)
vegetable oil for frying

Preheat a frying pan with vegetable oil. In the middle of a fillo sheet, place a parmigiano cube and a pear cube of the same size. Roll and wrap the fill sheet around the cubes to form a parcel.  Seal the ends with your fingers previously damped in water.  Deep fry the parcels until golden brown.  When done, place them on a paper towel to remove any excess of frying oil. Serve warm covered with honey and some extra on the side.  Sprinkle toasted semi seeds on top for an extra crunch.

Ingredienti
1) Parmigiano Reggiano, stagionato 12 mesi, tagliato in piccoli cubi
2) Pera, di qualità dolce e soda, tagliata in piccoli cubi
3) Pasta fillo
4) Miele

-Semi di sesamo per guarnire (questo non è un ingrediente visto che è permesso l'uso aggiuntivo
delle spezie)
-Olio di semi per friggere

Preriscaldare una padella per fritture con dell'olio di semi.  Mettere al centro di un foglio di pasta fillo un cubo di parmigiano reggiano ed un cubo di pera della stessa misura. Avvolgere i cubi con la pasta fillo così da formare un piccolo pacchetto regalo.  Sigillare l'estremità della pasta fillo con le dita inumidite con dell'acqua.  Friggere i pacchetti di parmigiano e pera fino a doratura.  Quando sono pronti, ritirarli dall'olio e metterli su di un panno di carta assorbente per rimuovere l'olio in eccesso.  Servire caldi e ricoperti di miele.  Finire cospargendoli con i semi di sesamo.
parmigregg

Thursday, July 2, 2015

come with me

LET'S GO FOR A WALK IN THE GARDEN
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I watch and I wait. I wait and I watch so much that even the most imperceptible change is detected. Suddenly a tiny green leaf makes its way through the earth and sprouts right before my eyes.  Radishes, beets, chard, onions, cabbage, many edible flowers are gathered in one big white pot on top of my kitchen counter.  Each day they get stronger, taller, wider and what was barely a handful of seeds has become a mini vegetable garden.  It's almost a pity to take it away from that spot where I would pay my daily visit with nature and its beauty.  No matter how you see it, la vita è bella, life is beautiful.

In our backyard we have a small space where we grow our vegetables and at the far end, in a corner of that space, is a shake, a wretched wooden shake that barely holds together.  A few years ago while we were preparing the garden for the season my son stopped what he was doing, grabbed a bucket of white paint and brushed these words on its door.

Facta non Verba.

Yes, there's lots of hard work to maintain a vegetable garden, especially if your life is a busy one that doesn't allow too much time for things you love to do most. But, if you have a passion nothing stops you.  There's no, I'll do it tomorrow, I don't have the time.  It's done because you love it.  Actions speak louder than words.  I think this sums up the sentiment well enough.
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...and then there's another aspect.  There's a tastier take on food, if not only for the fact, that you've grown your own.

So this is what I've been up to lately.  From garden to table.
radishes, salad, dressings etc
salad
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radishes, salad, dressings etc
chardradishes, salad, dressings etc
RECIPE 1

This first dish, is a Bass fillet with radish cream.  The recipe comes from Chef Cannavacciolo, if you don't know who he is, click on his Facebook page here.  Picture a giant robust man, with huge hands that are the most delicate I've ever seen.  In simple clean moves he puts together a dish that is out of this world.  I saw him making this dish on TV and on that same day, I went out, bought some fresh fish, and made our lunch in just a blink of an eye.  Of course, I had plenty of radishes so I used the best, they come from my garden.

Bass Fillet with Radish Cream

1 bass fish, filleted - divided in 4 pieces.
6 radishes
250 gr Plain white organic yogurt
EVO (extra virgin oil)
salt
maldon salt to garnish

To make the cream, peel the red of the radishes and blend with yogurt until smooth.  Add a couple of tbsp of EVO and salt to taste.  Mix by hand with a spoon.

Place the radish cream in each serving dish.

Pan cook the fillet fish by rubbing some EVO on both sides of the fillet.  Preheat a non stick pan and place the fish skin side down, press the fish fillet with two finger for just 3 seconds, let it cook for 7 more seconds and flip it over delicately so that the skin doesn't remain on the surface of the pan.  Cook for another 10 seconds until the fish is cooked through but remains moist.

Place the fish on the cream radish, garnish with a radish, a drizzle of EVO and some maldon salt.

RECIPE 2

Salad Dressing

2 small spring onions, sliced finely
1 tbsp apple vinegar
3 tbsp EVO
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt to season

Mix all ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes so flavours amalgamate.  Dress your salad just before serving.

RECIPE 3

Pizzimonio

4 tbsp of EVO
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets

Rinse the anchovies from the salt and remove the fillets from the fishbone. Finely slice the anchovies, place them in a bowl and add the lemon juice.  Help yourself with a fork to dissolve the anchovies with the juice.  Add the oil and let stand for 15 minutes.  Place the dressing-dip in a bowl and serve next to any fresh raw vegetables you have available.

*Your vegetables would be more crunchy if you let them sit in some ice and water for just a few minutes before serving.

RECIPE 4

Red Chard Bruschetta

Red Chard (or Radish greens)
EVO
2 garlic cloves
salt
sliced bread

Rinse clean the chard leaves.  Preheat a pan, add 2 tbsp EVO and 1 whole garlic clove.  Allow the garlic to golden and remove it from the pan.  Add a couple of handfuls of chard leaves to the pan and allow the leaves to cook for about 15 minutes until they are tender.  Add some salt to taste.

Toast some bread slices, preferably on the barbecue so they get a smoked flavour. Lightly rub the bread with the garlic and place the pan fried chard on top.  Scoop up some liquids that are in the pan and drizzle over the bruschetta.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Neapolitan Gateau

STRAWBERRY CAKE
Neapolitan Gateau
Believe it or not, the last time I made this cake was at least 20 years ago.

I'll never forget the moment I unlocked the spring form pan and the cake slowly collapsed right before my eyes.  It was a total disaster.  Lory, my accomplice of mishaps, certainly remembers as clearly as I do.  All I have to say is "strawberry cake" and it will trigger a big fat 15 minute laugh, with no refrain to tears and sore cheek muscles. It's one of those stories that remain in the family, even if there's really no story, it's just the whole thing about it that makes it the tale of the strawberry cake.

20 years later.
Neapolitan Gateau
My 2nd attempt.

This time the cake didn't collapse but the taste was different from mom's. She must have adapted the recipe because the one I remember was less sweet and without the chocolate finish on top, the sponge wasn't so soggy either.  There were a couple of things I needed to change to make it more mom's strawberry cake and less Carol Bink's Neapolitan Gateau.

3rd attempt.

Mom's adaptions are not noted on her recipe book. I know I won't stop making this cake until I get it right.

Finally.

The result is delicious.  I'm still far from figuring out mom's secret touch but I think I'll leave it that way.

Here's the original Carol Bink's Neapolitan Gateau from my mother's recipe book.  My adaption is right below.  You choose which one you prefer.
My Adaption:

For the base, I used 2 cups of regular tea biscuits, 1 heap tablespoon of good quality cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of melted butter.

For the strawberry custard, I omitted the addition of the eggs both yolks and meringue.  I simply made a strawberry puree, added 3 tablespoons of sugar (because I found some very sweet strawberries that didn't need the addition of too much sugar, otherwise you can use the amount from the recipe above), whipped cream and gelatin powder.

I soaked the sponge with milk.  I also tried it with a lemon juice syrup (dissolve and reduce over low heat 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of lemon juice).  I don't mind the liqueur either but if you have kids in the family the other two options are better.

For the rest, I followed the recipe above.

Sponge Cake
6 eggs
200 gr flour
170 gr sugar

Beat the egg whites with sugar for 20 minutes, using an electric mixer.  Add egg yolks and beat well, then add flour.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 40 minutes.