Wednesday, December 10, 2014

bianchini alle mandorle

ALMOND MERINGUES
bianchini di mandorle
While I was driving to work this morning, the radio was playing, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas ... that voice, oh that voice was so warm and engaging! My Christmas mood was switched right on at 7:00 am and I’ve been humming that song all day long, but the climate in Rome is moderate, birds seem to be undecided whether to migrate or not and we still have leaves on trees. There’s a chill out today, enough to have me wear my leather gloves, but snow? I don’t see that happening and I doubt I’ll be seeing a white Christmas around here. 


For now, the closest I can get to white may be these clouds of goodness.  Which, by the way, are perfect for an edible Christmas gift.  

Enjoy!
bianchini di mandorle
ALMOND MERINGUES

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
350gr raw sugar
200g rtoasted almonds roughly chopped
lemon zest 

In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites and salt, slowly add the sugar one spoonful at a time until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the the lemon zest and roughly chopped almonds.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and with the help of two spoons, scoop some of the mixture and let it fall on the tray.  Leave some space between each meringue. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 100°C for 2 hours.  They store well up to two weeks in a tin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

discovering how to make steamed pudding

STEAMED CHOCOLATE PUDDING AND POMEGRANATE SYRUP
chocolate pudding
Thank you Emy for the pretty plate!
The pudding I’m used to making is the one that requires a spoon, the creamy texture type. Let’s call it the custard/mousse type

The one I never made in my whole entire life - and, to say it all, I don’t even think I’ve ever tasted one - is the cake type. I’m still asking myself why.  

Making pudding of this sort is all new to me.  For some reason I never paid too much attention to cake puddings, at least not until I flipped through a Food & Travel magazine.

OK…let me read through the recipe. 

Butter, check; flour, check; eggs, check; chocolate, sugar, vanilla and so on … check. Shift, mix, whisk, check.  Spoon the batter in a pudding basin, check.

Wait a minute,

“cover the top of the pudding with pleated sheets of buttered baking parchment and then foil.  Tie the foil and paper securely under the lip on the pudding basin and trim off any excess paper leaving a frill of 2 cm.  Fold this frill back on itself so that it sits on top of the covered pudding and won’t hang in the pan of water”.

???? Uh?

Bring a large saucepan or pot of water to a simmer and lower the pudding into it.  Cover with a lid and steam.

Uh?? Uh??

Pleated? Foil paper? Steam?

Well, thank you Food & Travel! As the last person on this earth to know, I just discovered that puddings, the cake type, the ones I’m not familiar with at all, are STEAMED!  Yes, steamed, boiled.  Ding dong!

Now that I’ve learned how to pleat, foil, wrap and tie, I just can’t stop making puddings, the cake type of course.  

So if there are any other ding dongs like me out there, doing this for the very first time, no worries, it’s easier than you think.  I’ve got it all straightened out for you! 
chocolate pudding
The Food & Travel issue tops the pudding with a decadent chocolate custard, needless to say that it is to drool for.  My only adaption to this pudding was the topping. I made it with this (click here) pomegranate syrup which was delightful, it soaks through the pudding and gives it a fruity tasty which I adore.  I also once made it with a crème anglaise served warm, which was also very good. 

As you can see, I've made a few since my "pudding discovery" and now, I just can't stop.



STEAMED CHOCOLATE PUDDING AND POMEGRANATE SYRUP
Adapted from Food & Travel issue 171 page 137

175g unsalted butter, softened
Plus extra for greasing
100g soft light-brown sugar
75g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1tsp pure vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
3tbsp milk

For the pomegranate sauce click here
a handful of seeds to decorate

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter together with both sugars until pale and light, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.  Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix again.

Shift the flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt into the bowl, add the milk and mix until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding basin and level with the spatula.  Cover the top of the with pleated sheets of buttered baking parchment and then foil.  Tie the foil and the paper securely under the lip of the pudding basin and trim off any excess paper leaving a frill of 2cm. Fold this frill back on itself so that it sits on top of the covered pudding and won't hang in the pan water.

Bring a large saucepan or pot of water to a simmer over medium heat and lower the pudding into it. The water should come halfway up the side of the basin.  Cover with a lid and steam for 1 hour and a half.  You may need to top up the water after 1 hour.  Remove the steamed pudding from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.

Here's a video that explains how to pleat, wrap and tie a pudding.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

potato and pumpkin tortelli

POTATO AND PUMPKIN TORTELLI
pumpkinpasta
Flashback.

It’s Friday and I took a day off from work.  I’m home, alone, and I feel in complete freedom. There’s a pleasant atmosphere in the house that I’ve strived for throughout the busy weeks that have gone by.  The moment is all mine and there’s nothing else I want to do than be in my kitchen.  I’m in the mood to cook something good that requires some time, the time I usually don’t have.  The tranquil moment makes it all possible and here I am with a pumpkin in my hands.  Flour and eggs are on the counter and I’m already kneading before I can even realize it.  A pot of water and potatoes are on the stove and an indecent amount of butter is taken out of the fridge.   All the ingredients slowly come together with one that complements the other. 
pasta
Fast forward. 

It's Tuesday today.  I’m at work and it’s time for lunch. There’s nothing else I want more than these potato and pumpkin tortelli with butter and sage.  The ones I made that Friday in a tranquil moment of solitude in my kitchen.
tortelli di zucca e patate
Potato and Pumpkin Tortelli with Butter and Sage

For the filling 

The amount of each ingredient depends on the portions.  I used a quarter of a medium sized pumpkin and 4 medium size starchy potatoes, which was enough for three portions of pasta. Remove the hard skin from the pumpkin and reduce in cubes. Toss the pumpkin cubes in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt. Place the cubes on a tray and bake in a prepheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and mash the pumpkin with a fork.  Put aside. 

Meanwhile, rinse 4 medium sized potatoes under cold water and with the skin still on, place them in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the potatoes are tender, check with the tip of a knife, and remove them from the pot.  Remove the skin from the potatoes and mash with a fork or potato masher.  Put aside.  


Put the mashed potatoes and pumpkin in a bowl. Add some salt, freshly ground nutmeg, freshly ground tumeric and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust if necessary.  If fresh tumeric is not available use the dried powder version or do not use at all. 


For the pasta 

Prepare the fresh egg pasta.  See how to make pasta through the pretty video below.  

The ration for pasta is 100gr : 1 egg.  For 3 people, you'll need 300gr flour and 3 eggs. Once the dough is ready, let it rest covered under a kitchen towel or bowl for 30 minutes. 
The Making of fresh Pasta from Nicola JC Valletti on Vimeo.
To assemble 
Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine.  Place small balls of the filling on the sheet of pasta with a distance of 1 cm between each other. Dip you fingertips in a bowl of cold water and wet the surface of the pasta sheet right around the filling, so that the pasta sheets can adhere nicely when you shape out the tortelli.  Place another sheet of pasta over to cover the filling.  

Press against the pasta sheets with for fingers, so that they stick to each other.  

Remove any the air that may form between the two sheets.  Now, shape the tortelli with a round pasta cutter. Bring a pot of cold water to a boil, add some salt and gently place the tortelli in the pot. Remove when they float on the surface and place in a large pan where you have previously melted some butter with sage. I used 100gr of butter. Gently swirl the tortelli in the pan so that they are evenly coated with butter, if necessary add some of the pasta's cooking water. Serve hot with butter and sage and a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

who says pork chops are boring?

PORK CHOPS WITH A GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCEpork chop
A heat wave floats above the cast iron pan placed on the stove a few minutes earlier, this tells me it's ready for the pork chop I've planned for dinner.  The hot pan sears the meat releasing a hissing sound, the fat melts and sizzles, and a cloud of caramelised smoke spreads over the cooking area.  It's a matter of seconds and flavour becomes tangible.  An exceeding amount of saliva builds in my mouth making its way towards the corners, the drooling becomes uncontainable.  An insignificant, boring pork chop puts me on my knees.  I'm almost embarrassed this weakness has overcome me all at once, but I let go to what has conquered all my five senses, in five seconds.
pork chop
I try to prolong the pleasure of this moment so that fumes, scents and desire linger a few more minutes before fork and knife ends it all dramatically.  Some sauce - a green peppercorn cream sauce - multiplies succulence and decadence leaving any thoughts of pork-chop-boredom behind.  The meat is now sitting on a warm plate.  The cast iron pan is still on the stove, heat on.  A half glass of port wine is gently poured in the pan, over the meat's remains and juices.  The liquids thicken and encapsulate all the taste left back and almost gone to waste in the sink. Pickled green peppercorns are added, just a few, maybe a spoonful. They're left to mingle with the port as it simmers. Finally, a scant glass of heavy cream brings consistency and silkiness to the sauce, it wraps the flavours in and around, and brings more of that drooling effect. A pinch of salt will finish finely. Some more port wine is on the table. It's time.
pork chop


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

chicken soup ... my way

IMG_1625As much as I love to cook, I do often desire, that sometimes, someone, would cook for me, especially in those moments when I'm particularly tired to even think, yet too hungry to go without eating.  That's when a egg and a piece of bread fits in perfect for me, but not for the two hungry beasts at home.  Fortunately, my husband and son are not fussy eaters, they do, however, expect to find a decent meal when they get home. Not that bread and eggs isn't a decent meal, if it wasn't for the fact, that after two minutes they'd be hungry all over again.

A few weeks ago I found myself in this exact state of mind and on top of that, also with a flu. A soup is what I needed. It happens to be, that soup, just like bread and eggs, leaves my family with a grumbly stomach. For someone who is absolutely not in the mood to cook, nor wants to even think about it, and wishes that someone else would do the thinking and cooking, is not going to bother to please who wants what.  As egoistically I may say.

It was going to be soup and nothing more than soup and I wasn't going to dedicate much time to it either.
IMG_1614
It turned out that a simple lazy soup for the sick and tired moved towards a tastier direction. One ingredient brought to another, inspiration grew, and the soup was from there to become a delicious meal in a bowl. Signals of gratitude were launched through slurping sounds and with the call of second rounds I was certain, at that point, that it wasn't only a satisfying meal but one that keeps spirits high and proud for longer than the two minute timeframe.  

SOUP FOR THREE, TWO OF WHICH ARE HUNGRY EATERS

Bring a pot of 1-1/2 litre of water to a boil, add a whole chicken breast, an onion, two tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste, some salt to taste and a tablespoon of fennel seeds.  Slice a couple of carrots in julienne strips and add to the pot 20 minutes after the soup begins to boil.  The carrots should remain firm.  After 30 minutes total, remove the pot from the stove.  Slice the chicken breast in strips, remove the carrots and portion in each bowl.  Use a thin sieve and pour the broth through the sieve directly in each bowl.  The sieve should retain the fennel seeds, onion and any floating bits. Just before serving, add some fresh greens directly in each bowl, this will allow the greens to soften but will also keep them firm and crunchy. You can use chard, like I did, or parsley and mint, or all of them, even a fresh spring onion if you please. Add a few more fennel seeds and a freshly sliced red hot pepper, more or less according to the amount of spiciness desired. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.  Each commensal will then be instructed to use a fork and knife to cut up the vegetables and chicken within the bowl in smaller pieces. I also added some noodles for my husband and son's portions. The noodles were cooked separately and added the last minute.  My portion was kept simple like in the photo.  Either way will be delicious and restoring.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

just one good ingredient

OVOLI MUSHROOMS
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Some things need to be left as they are.  Raw.  Like these ovoli mushrooms.  With just a few more ingredients and the minimum of efforts you’ll enjoy an extremely simple dish that proves how just one good ingredient does it all.
IMG_1436
Ovoli are the only mushrooms I love to use raw because I truly find they speak words of deliciousness.  I do realize that not everyone is lucky to come across these charms, I'm not even sure they can be found anywhere else other than Italy.  There are, however, a lot of mushroom varieties around that I don't even know about and that can surely substitute these precious ovoli.

The point is, they need to be fresh, wild, edible, earthy flavoursome mushrooms and immensely delectable the very moment you bite in to them raw.  
IMG_1431
Ovoli Mushroom Salad

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth.  Slice, not too thin not too thick, add some greens like rucola or baby spinach, anything fresh and tender will do.  Add some parmesan scales, dress with freshly squeezed lemon juice and drizzle some good olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste.

It's Friday, enjoy the weekend <3

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

gnocchi di ortica, cacio e pepe

CACIO E PEPE NETTLE GNOCCHI
IMG_1508
You would think that nettle is a spring harvest, and it is, but for some reason it's growing in my garden now, in fall. Believe it or not, tomatoes and eggplants are still producing this time of year. It's like having a greenhouse without a greenhouse, in summer that's not summer, yet it's fall but not fall ... you know what I mean? My vegetables are having an identity crisis! And so am I.  I'm sweating, wearing sandals and eating tomatoes in October as if it were July. 

Nettle has been growing wild and fastidiously, it proliferates between my tomato paths and cabbage trails, next to the kale and the eggplants and right in the middle of my misticanza (small mixed salad).  I've tried to eradicate it and it keeps growing, the more I rip, the more it grows, the more it grows, the more I'm stinged and the more I find myself with rashes. Then, while I was on the web searching for something that could alleviate my rash, I learned that nettle juice would have eased the stinging of the rash brought about by contact with the plant's own bristle leaves. Isn't that unbelievable?! Finally, I understood that this arm wrestling thing would bring nowhere. I needed to understand this herb, which I always thought was a weed, and get along with it. 

Lately, more and more people have begun to understand just how limited — in both variety and nutritional value — our "modern" diets have become. This realization has sparked a new and widespread interest in the culinary and therapeutic uses of herbs . . . those plants which — although not well-known today — were, just one short generation ago, honored "guests" on the dinner tables and in the medicine chests of our grandparents' homes.  Mother Nature News

When cooked, nettles lose their sting and have a similar flavour to spinach. They are a good source of vitamin C, iron, and calcium and also provide a surprising amount of protein. They can be eaten raw, although we certainly don’t recommend it, and a World Nettle Eating Championship is held every year at the Bottle Inn, Dorset, England. Young Veggie

Nettles were one of the main ingredients in English beer until the 1800s. Nettle beer, wine, champagne and cordial are all still commercially available. Young Veggie

Stinging nettles provide the only food for many species of butterfly larva. Young Veggie
IMG_1525
Nettle is the secret green ingredient for my gnocchi.  Secret ... because you would never guess that I harvested nettle in fall. Of course you don't need to wait for spring to make these gnocchi, in lack of nettle, you can use chard, spinach, kale and whatever sweet green comes to your mind. They'll be just as good.

Young and tender nettle tips is what you're looking for.  Be sure to use gloves and scissors when you are in contact with raw nettle.  The stinging effect will cease only once it's cooked, and you can manage it safely with your bare hands.  Briefly boil the nettle for 1 minute and plung into ice water. Drain and chop roughly.  like to see the greens that stand out, this is why I prefer to chop them roughly.  Otherwise, you can cut the greens really thin and this will give your gnocchi a green uniform color.

To make perfect gnocchi, read this article from Food & Wine.
IMG_1560
Once your gnocchi dough is ready, fold in the cooked and chopped nettle.   A handful would be enough in an amout of gnocchi dough for four people. 

The sauce. I find that cacio e pepe is definitely the perfect sauce for these gnocchi, it somehow enhances the flavour of the potatoes and brings out the grassy aromatic scent of the nettle.  My way of making cacio e pepe for any kind of pasta is easy.   

While the gnocchi are in the boiling water, preheat a large pan.  Place some freshly grated cheese, a mixture of parmesan and pecorino cheese, and half a cup of the gnocchi's cooking water in the pan and let it sit on low heat until the gnocchi are ready.  Don't let the gnocchi overcook, drain them as soon as they float on the surface and place them in the pan let the watery cheese mixture absorb in the gnocchi by moving and tossing the gnocchi with the pan and without the use of a spoon, keep rotating the pan, add some freshly ground pepper and more cheese. Keep moving the pan around.  This should take no more than a minute from when you drain the gnocchi and place them in the pan.

Serve hot and dust with more cheese and some more freshly grounded pepper.    

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

*****torta di mele

IMG_1375apple cake
If you open my mother’s recipe book, you’ll find it is composed of 77 handwritten pages, with an index and glossary.  You’ll find recipes from friends, like Mary’s cookies or Anna’s meatloaf, and 6 versions of Panettone, classified in rank order of preference. Roasts or pastas, which I clearly remember were served on big platers and passed around tables of 20, 30, sometimes 50 people, are all documented in her recipe book. Some recipes may have a star indicating, I presume, good feedback or something she liked best and proposed more than once. You'll also find photos that were cut out from magazines. Like the photo from homemaker’s magazine of chef Carol Bink’s prizewinning Neapolitan Gateau. It's not easy to guess how Carol's gateau is assembled by only reading the recipe, but with the photo you know exactly how it's done. She used to make the gateau on special occasions and only when it was strawberry season, she marks it with 5 stars. We are talking more than 20 years ago, I don't even know who chef Carol Bink is but her Neapolitan Gateau remains my favorite. 

The book has clear signs of use, each page has a stain or a bent corner, words have blurred, notes fly loose and there are some torns here and there.  It's not immaculate, that's for sure. Nonetheless, it's accurate, organized and each recipe is garantueed success, especially the ones with the stars.  And when you need to find something , there's a precise index too!

Sunday my sister was over at my place for lunch and while we were having coffee and going down memory lane we needed one of mom's cakes.  I grabbed the recipe book, opened it on page 21, sure to find mom's apple cake.  The recipe is scribbled down quickly, half in italian and half in english, rather concise, somewhat telegraphic but if you follow the few essential words, you can’t go wrong. No stars were there, but my sister and I give it a 5 star plus an extra bonus star because mom is mom and her apple cake is the best in the world.

Here's mom's recipe for the torta di mele. I fixed the guidance on the procedure to make it less telegraphic and more user friendly.

Torta di Mele {apple cake}

4 eggs
1, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
4 ounces water
1, 1/2 cup sugar
2, 1/2 cup flour
5 teaspoons bakingpower 
5 medium size apples
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Icing sugar

Mix the sugar and eggs, add the oil and water, mix, add the flour and baking powder, mix. Butter and flour a spring form pan or line with parchment paper. Pour in half of the batter, cover with half of the apples that you have previously washed, peeled, sliced thinly and covered with cinnamon and a tablespoon of flour. Pour the other half of the batter and place the remain ing slices of apples in a vertical position so that they stand in the batter. Place in a preheated oven at 180ºC for circa 45/50 minutes. Use the toothpick method to see if it is done.  Half way through baking time, place a piece of parchment paper on top of the cake so that the apples don't burn. *I usually wet the parchment paper first and wring it like a towel before placing it on top of the cake.  Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

an unexpected vineyard

GRAPE BREAD
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Last year, this time around, we planted some grapevines in the garden.  Never would I have thought that one year later we'd be picking our first grapes off the plant. Black tiny berries of sweet, juicy nectar that need nothing but hands to pick and mouths to eat.

With my surprise the plant expanded quickly and vigorously, it now covers almost the whole wooden structure that supports its weight.  A beautiful green foliage and bouquets of deep purple strawberry grapes fall from above. What was initially supposed to be a shaded eating area has become our private little vineyard, if four grapevines in row can be defined as suchObviously nothing like the vineyards we've seen in the movie "The Good Year" with Russell Crow, but definately a miniature resemblance of that same feel of serenity and quaint.

Very few grapes came this year but plenty enough to feed the family with fresh, healthy, untreated fruit.  Next year, I'll probably be making jams and jelly and then the year after, who knows, maybe some wine.  

For now, I've attempted to make this bread.  Grape bread.
IMG_1358
This bread is soft, fragrant and releases a perfume of fall.  It's what you want to eat this period of time and is perfect to usher in the fall season.

All you need is a basic bread recipe.  Like this one here. Flatten the dough with your hands, de-seed some grape berries and spread them on top of the flattened dough.  Sprinkle with some raw sugar.  Roll the dough to form a rope, pinch the edges and fit the dough in a previously greased loaf pan.  Cover with some plastic film and let it rise, over night, in the fridge.  Remove the loaf from the fridge and let it rise at room temperature 1 hour before baking.  Place some grape berries on top of the loaf and sprinkle with more raw sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes.  Slice when the bread is cool.

This is excellent for breakfast, toasted and smothered with butter.

Oh...just out of curiosity, did you know that grape seeds are edible and full of antioxidants?
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

pizza sfoglia

ZIA VINCENZA'S PIZZA SFOGLIA
Pizza Sfoglia
Zia Vincenza and I made a pizza sfoglia in my grandmother's old house. The house was locked up ever since 2009 when the earthquake took place in l'Aquila. It hasn't fallen apart, but nearly. Its kitchen, reign of the women in our family, strangely remained intact. It felt good to open the window and welcome the light back in.

After so many years, stepping into nonna's house touched me with a profound sense of emptiness that I still carry with me today.  Certainly not what we were used to when each summer, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents filled the house with laughs and good hearty meals. Nonetheless, in all its empitness, those memories are still there. Alive. Echoing across the walls, and now cracks of a home that was once our little kingdom of happy summer days.  

The women I've lost in my life, including my dear mother, were all there, in that very kitchen and in that very moment when zia Vincenza and I were making the pizza sfoglia.  I don't know why, but I felt they were there. Had it been the nostalgic feeling, or the consciousness of how time flies so quickly, I felt, in a moment of bliss, that they were all there.  I like to believe it's true.  I feel good if I believe it's true. I hope I'm not a lunatic :)
Pizza Sfoglia
Pizza Sfoglia
So this summer, I convinced my 92 year old aunt to teach me how to make pizza sfoglia in the kitchen where my nonna used to make hers. The task wasn't as easy as you may think. She doesn't go by the book, forget about the dose, it will never be the exact same. It's all by the eye, with the exception of a handful of this, a little bit of that, accompanied by a brief comment of encouragement "with some practice you'll get it right".  

If there's a food I can say that marks a memory in my childhood, this is probably it.  I grew up with this pizza sfoglia, first in Toronto with Zia Angelina's version, my grandmother's sister. Then, when I moved to Italy, it was my grandmother's version, and when she passed away, it was Zia Vincenza's version, my grandmother's cousin.  That's the history.  

All versions were good but also different at the same time.  I think it's that "handful of this and that" thing that gave the personal touch.
Pizza Sfoglia
Pizza SfogliaPizza Sfoglia
This traditional pizza sfoglia has origins in Campotosto, far back in time.  Nonna Elvira, my grandmother, always said, that her grandmother used to make it, so I'm guessing waaaaay back in time.  It's something you can't buy in a store, you need to have a grandmother from Campotosto that makes one for you. Uh!...or a friend like me, that can teach you how  :))

It was nice to see this little 92 years old lady, knead the dough with all her strength, just to show me how to make a pizza sfoglia. Thank you zia.  Pizza Sfoglia
What makes this pizza sfoglia so good is the use of lard, it can't be substituted in any way, it won't have the same flakiness and crispiness.  It will lose fragrance and the aroma will change.  I tried to make a healthier version using olive oil, it was a waste of time.  

Serve when it is warm, not hot, not cold.  It needs to rest about 10 minutes from when it is removed from the oven.

Don't cut it with a knife, break it with your hands.  Don't ask why.

Serve with anything that's cheese and cold cuts.  Typically it's served with pecorino cheese and mortadella from Campotosto.


Recipe - Pizza Sfoglia di Zia Vincenza 

500g flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup of melted lard (shortening)
1 tbsp olive oil
a cup of cold water

Make a well in the flour and add the salt, olive oil, baking powder and a few tablespoons of cold water, add the water a little at a time, enough to gather the flour and form a dough similar to a pasta dough.  Knead until elastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in 8 pieces and roll out each piece with a pasta machine. Make 8 thin strips.

Lay each strip on the your working surface, slightly overlapping the edges of each so to form one full sheet.  Pour the melted lard on the pasta sheet and with a pastry brush spread the lard on the whole surface.

Roll the sheet longwise starting from the edge closer to you. Roll to form a cylinder shape, like a long snake.  Hold the cylinder shaped dough on each end and twist. Roll it once again, this time inwards, to form a flat spiral. Lightly poke with a fork, brush some more lard on the surface.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 30 minutes or until lightly golden.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Vegetables in a tray

rata


Vegetables in a Tray
A courgette, an aubergine, an onion, a ripe tomato…then some thyme and basil.  

Rub the herbs in your hands. Inhale.

Let the aroma inspire you.  Let go to an unreflective desire and create.   

Slice, trickle a thin stream of good olive oil, season to taste. 

Use your rubbed-herbed flavored hands like two big spoons.  

Toss and turn. 

Line them in a tray, nice and neat.  

Play.

Seven, eight, lay them straight.

Make good food. Eat good food.  

Use passion.

It always works well this way.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

from garden to table

zucchine blossoms
A flower which really is a blossom and that looks like a lily has grown in my vegetable garden, finally our zucchini (correctly in Italian, zucchine) have arrived.  From garden to table they go and there's nothing better than that!

Here they are, my little babies are born, they come from a world made of simple things.
zucchine
What happened once they were brought to the kitchen was an easy concept of gathering ingredients, gathering the family and making pasta con le zucchine and fiori fritti.

Welcome summer, we've been waiting for you!
homemade pasta with zucchine and their blossoms
The recipe is straightforward.  Simply chop the zucchini, either in rounds or long wise.  I chose to give them a 3 cm long wise shape, more or less.  Add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the surface of a large preheated pan, add some roughly chopped spring onions, one or two, and the zucchini.  Saute the onions and zucchini together until they are covered with oil.  Let them cook for no more than 15 minutes.  Keep them intact and firm, don't over cook.

Split the blossoms in 4, start from the bottom of the flower moving upwards, use your hands. Set aside.

Once the pasta is cooked, retain some of it's drained water.  Add the pasta in the pan with the zucchini, saute the pasta and the zucchini on a high flame, add some of the pasta water you have set aside so to form a creamy sauce that maintains the pasta humid and not dry.

Remove the pasta and zucchini from the heat, add the blossoms, toss, sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese.  Serve.

For this dish, I recommend homemade pasta.

Now, the fiori fritti, zucchini blossoms.
fiori fritti
Fiori Fritti
zucchini blossoms
mozzarella cheese
anchovies

For the batter,
plain white flour
fridge cold beer
salt

olive oil for frying

To make a really good batter you need ice cold beer, this is what will make these blossoms perfect.  You can't go wrong.  

The quantities of the ingredients may vary depending on how many blossoms you will fry.  

Stuff the blossoms with a small piece of mozzarella, and an anchovy fillet. Set aside.

In a bowl add some flour, some salt e some beer, whisk with a fork to form a smooth foamy and dense batter. Add more beer until you've reach the right consistency but don't over whisk or you will deflate the batter.  You want to reach the consistency of a runny batter, something like a crepes batter.

Dip the prepared blossoms, one by one in the batter, shaking off the excess.  Gently place them in the pan with hot oil.  Don't overcrowd with too many at the same time. Remove when they are golden brown. Transfer on an absorbent paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.
zucchine blossoms