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1.31.2011

PIzzoccheri! - buckwheat fettucine!

I spend the week-end with my friend Daniela in Pesaro and she made a delicious casserole that I will be sharing here with you soon!

cabbage, buckwheat noodles, potatoes, butter, fontina and swiss... doesn't sound Italian??
but.. it is!!

I hope to be making it later on this week!

Until then you are all on your own!!

1.27.2011

A note on Pasta and Broccoli

Today we are having pasta and broccoli again.. one of our favs! 
I am not going to give you the recipe again here, but I thought I would give you some background on this delicious pasta dish that has its roots in Apulia. My recipe is one of many variations of this delicious pasta dish.
Like most traditional Italian pasta, orecchiettehave a long and varied tradition. Some trace this little ear shaped pasta to Provence in France saying that it probably arrived to the ports of Apulia on ships that carried the dried "orecchiette" in great quantities as provisions for the ship's crew. Others trace the roots of this pasta to Hebrew communities - where they were called "Haman's ears"  - in the Sannicandro territory of Bari under the Norman-Svevo dominion in the XII and XIII centuries. Whatever their origin, they are the delicious!

The ingredients for the classic Apulian recipe are cime di rapa - literally turnip tops - and they are just this. The leave and flowerettes of the Brassica rapa silvestris.
Orecchiette  (little ears) - a pasta made with white semolina flour, water and salt. Once a stiff dough is made, it is cut into small pieces then each piece is "strascinato" or dragged against the wood cutting board with the blade of a dull knife. The result is an ear-shaped noodle, hence it's name "orecchiette"

The original recipe also calls for garlic, lots of extra virgin Apulian olive oil, anchovies, hot red pepper and grated aged ricotta cheese (similar to sharp pecorino cheese).

So there you have it!


p.s. the photos are linked from wikipedia. 

1.26.2011

if you have tuna, olives and onions - you have a gourmet meal!

I really wasn't going to blog today - but this pasta and tuna dish that I made for Antonio and myself is so quick, so easy, so delicious that I just could not resist documenting it! It is literally a 10 minute dish!











Ingredients for 2 servings


-      150 gr. (about 5 oz) of white tuna  (I sent my son down to the Pizzicheria to buy it, they sell it in pieces from a huge can, the quality is supreme!)
-      1 or 2 fresh onions (I only had 1, so I added a bit of red onion)
-      Fresh chives, if you have them in the house
-      Cured spicy black olives (you can use green, or even plain black olives)
-      6 oz of spaghettini (thin spaghetti)






Put the water on to boil.
Chop the onions and chives.
Pit the olives.
Put 2 T of extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan and start to sauté the onions and olives over medium heat.

In the meantime, flake the tuna and add it to the pan. You can put in a splash of dry white wine at this point. I did! Your water will be boiling so put the pasta in to cook. Don't overcook it!




When the pasta is cooked the way you like, remove it from the water directly to the fry pan with a pasta  fork. This way some of the cooking water goes with it so your pasta will not be too dry. If you don't have a pasta fork, you can drain it in a colander and keep some of the cooking water to add to the pan.
Now "salta" the spaghetti to coat with the tuna sauce. That's all there is to it! So remember, if you have tuna, olives and onions in your pantry.. you have a gourmet dish in the making!




and... as Julia Child would have said, had she spoken Italian...


                                                              BUON APPETITO!



1.25.2011

"Menesta maretata"... which became "Italian Wedding Soup"

So why do they call it Italian Wedding Soup... I have yet to see it served at an Italian wedding!!
I did some research... and it looks like what the Italian-Americans call Italian Wedding Soup really started out in Naples as "menesta maretata" or "minestra maritata" or... married greens!! hence the distortion which became Wedding Soup! 
Many of the Italians who emigrated to the United States were from the Campania region - and once in their new country they all became napuletan'... and of course they brought their cooking tradition with them! 
Broad leafed greens are the an important ingredient in Neapolitan cooking: tender young Swiss chard, chicory, escarole, borage and so it should come as no surprise that they came up with this delicious soup in which the greens are happily "married" to boiled meat. The original recipe called for a rich broth made with beef, soup bone, a ham bone, piece of salami, a fresh sausage, a soup chicken and the usual bouquet of soup vegetables. When the broth was done, it was strained and chilled so that all of the fat could be removed. The greens - escarole, Swiss chard, chicory, torzella (a type of curly cabbage) - were prepared. They were put into a big pot of boiling water, when the water came to a boil the heat was turned off and they were left to sit in the hot water, covered for at least an hour. The greens were then served in shallow soup plates, steaming broth was poured over them and it was all topped with the cleaned, boiled meats and grated cheese. 
This "menesta maritata" was praised as early as 1588 by The Marchese del Tufo.
My reference for the above summary is Luciano Pignataro

But let's get back to our wedding soup! Over the years, the younger generations no longer really had a good grasp of the lingo from the "old country" and knew even less about how things were really done in the "old country". It was probably hard to find all of the ingredients  and somewhere along the line "minestra maritata" evolved into "wedding soup" with its own updated recipe.

So here is Italian Wedding soup - or as we kids used to call it "little meatball soup" - the way my mom taught me how to make it. Of course we all add our personal touch, and I no longer fry the meatballs, but cook them directly in the broth.

I apologize in advance for the videos - shot with my left hand while my right hand did the work!! 

Ingredients for 4 people

About 2 quarts of broth. I used vegetable, but chicken, beef or a mix of the two would be even better
1 head of escarole
1 cup of rice (I use whole grain)







1/2 to 3/4 lb lean ground beef (you can use ground turkey or a mix of ground meats)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 T Parsley flakes, you can use fresh parsley but you have to chop it really fine.
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped. I use a garlic press to avoid little pieces of garlic in the meatballs 
                                             salt and pepper to taste


If you are making your broth fresh, start several hours before dinner time.
Put the rice on to cook. This is a good way to use left over, plain unseasoned rice


Clean escarole, cut the leaves into 1-2" pieces







Make your meatball mix: mix meat, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley flakes, salt and pepper. I mix it with my hands, you can use a fork but believe me it is easier to use your hands!





Put the broth on to boil.
Form the meat mix into 1" meatballs







When the broth comes to a boil, add the meatballs a few at a time to the broth. When the meatballs are firm and come to the surface, add the escarole. Stir the soup so that the escarole is covered with broth.


When the escarole almost cooked, add the cooked rice. 


Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 min.


Transfer to a soup tureen and serve with crusty, whole wheat bread.

and... as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian

BUON APPETITO!


ps tomorrow I will be working on my "real" job, so here is tomorrow's recipe tonight!

The four P's - "Pasta con Porri, Pancetta e Panna" or Pasta with Leeks, Bacon and Cream

Yesterday I did finally go grocery shopping and stocked up on produce and other things. I bought 2 nice leeks. I usually make a leek and potato soup, but a couple of years ago I started experimenting with leeks as a condiment for pasta. Today's recipe is for "Pasta con porri, pancetta e panna". I promise to make some other tomato sauces and maybe even some filled pasta dishes soon!



Ingredients for 3 to 4 people:
2 nice size leeks
about 4 slices of bacon, the bacon I get here is not smoked, but smoked bacon would be delicious as well!
Fresh chives
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup of cream or cream substitute
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb short pasta, I am using "radiatori" which I like because they have lots of "nooks and crannies" to hold the sauce!

First off, put your water on to boil. Then wash your leeks well, removing all of the tough green part (which you can save for when you make vegetable stock). Here the leeks come from Holland and are quite sandy, so they must be rinsed well.

Next, chop your bacon ( I remove as much fat as possible, we are all on low fat diets here, trying to keep that cholesterol down!) and put it in your large fry pan with a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.


Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then cut them in 1/4" slices. Once your bacon gets going, add the leeks and sauté for several minutes. When the leeks start to get soft, add the white wine.


Lower the heat and cover.








By now the water is boiling, so salt it and put the pasta in to cook.


While the pasta is cooking, stir the leeks and bacons every once in a while. Taste and add salt if necessary. You may not need any salt, because the bacon is usually salty enough! If you like black pepper, now is the time to add it.
When the leeks are tender and the wine has evaporated, add the cream and chives and turn off the heat for now.


 I removed some of the leeks and bacon to another pan, because my husband does not like cream sauces, so I will season his past with just the leeks, bacon and some chives.

When the pasta is cooked the way you like it, drain it and add it to the pan. Turn up the heat and toss well to season all of the pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and more black pepper, if you like... and

as Julia Child would have said, had she spoken Italian...BUON APPETITO!

1.24.2011

Schiaffoni con zucchini e salsiccia

Today I got up earlier than usual.. for those of you who don't know me, I am a sleepy-head in the morning! But this morning I was up by 9.30 and by 10.30 I was out running errands.. post office and bank. I really need to go grocery shopping but that will have to wait until this evening! This is when having a "pizzicheria" or delicatessan right across the street comes in handy!
Picture taken from my kitchen window of the pizzicheria across the street!

It is a family run business - Pasquale, his wife Ida and their daughter - whose name I cannot remember at the moment!
Getting back to us.. so I stopped in at about noon, ordered my black bread for tomorrow and checked out what there was in the way of produce. He had some baby zucchini with the flowers still attached and some fresh Tropea onions so I decided to make pasta with zucchini and Tropea onions. But something was missing... I looked at what he had in the way of cured meats.. and he had some little fresh sausages, so I bought 3 to add some flavor to the dish.
When I got home I looked in my pasta drawer and saw I had some "schiaffoni" or large rigatoni.. and my menu was decided!

So, I put the pot of water on to boil and started with the sausage. It was a little fatty and since we are all watching our cholesterol I decided to "degrease" it by taking it out of the casing and breaking it up in the frying pan with about a 1/4 cup of water.



 I cooked it over med/low heat to render the fat and then (yes I really do this) drained it in a colander and rinsed it with hot running water for a few seconds to get rid of as much fat as possible.



As the sausage was cooking I cleaned my vegetables and started preparing them for the pan. 





 First I cut the onions in to 1/4" slices,









then I thinly sliced the zucchini,


and finally I coarsely chopped the flowers.

By now the water wasbe boiling. So I put thye pasta in to cook. These are nice big, fat macaroni so they take a good 10 to 13 minutes to cook until they are  "al dente"





At this point, the fat was rendered from the sausage, so I drained the fat off, rinsed the sausage and put it back into the pan.







I added about 2T of olive oil and started sautéing the vegetables in the same order in which I had cut them.        

Onions first because they take a longer to cook,                                                                                                                           



followed by the zucchini which should stay kind of crisp








followed by the flowers, as soon as I stirred them in I turned off the heat. You can also add some chopped parsley, but I wanted the delicate flavor of the flowers to come through, so no parsley! If you can't find zucchini with the flowers still on, go ahead and add some freshly chopped parsley in their place.



When your pasta is cooked the way you like it, drain it and add it to the pan with the cooked condiment. Far "saltare" the pasta so that all of the "schiaffoni" are seasoned.  We made a short video to demonstrate how to "far saltare" your pasta in the fry pan like the best professional Italian cooks.. we are not professional videographers... but we do our best! Don't mind the dialogue! hahaha I'ts just 6 seconds long but it's enough to give you the idea! If you are afraid your pasta might end up all over the stove or on the floor, go ahead and toss it around with a wooden spoon!


And there you have it! We sat down to eat at 12:50.. consider that in between things I also made a quick tomato sauce "sciuè sciuè" (that would be neapoliton for really quick)  for my husband who is not crazy about zucchini cooked like this!

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.. and as Julia Child would have said, had she spoken Italian.. BUON APPETITO!




1.23.2011

Spätzle in brodo finto

This week between 70 pages of train specs to translate, 2 blogs (when I do something I usually get carried away!), knitting, etc.. yesterday I did not go to the grocery store, so this morning I really had to rack my brain to come up with something for "pranzo"! Of course the stereotype of the Italian-american always brings spaghetti and meatballs to mind for Sunday dinner... this may be the case in the many Italian-american households, but it is not the case in Italy! Each region has several provinces and each province has many "comuni" or cities and so while there are broad schemes as to who eats what for Sunday dinner, in truth there are a myriad of dishes and variations of dishes! In the south the tomato - although not native to Italy but brought here by Columbus from America - reigns supreme. And so, on any given Sunday if you walk through the streets of Lecce or Bari or Naples or Palermo, you will probably get a whiff of some kind of tomato sauce being prepared for the Sunday "pranzo". We lived in the Marche region for many years, and the Sunday staple was "cappelletti in brodo". Little meat filled hat shaped pasta in a delicious meat broth made with 3 or 4 types of meat. Sometimes the cappelletti are replaced by "passatelli" - little dumplings made with bread crumbs, eggs and parmesan cheese in their "poorer" version or enriched with minced meat in a richer version. The tradition of a clear soup with some kind of pasta in it extends through the Marche and Emilia Romagna where cappelletti, tortellini or passatelli are served in broth on special occasions and.. on Sundays. And so it goes with each region. Recently we have been vacationing in Trentino-Altoadige, the region of Italy that borders on Austria. One of the recipes I have picked up from this beautiful region is for "spätzle". If you are familiar with Pennsylvania Dutch cooking or with German cooking I am sure you know what spätzle are: those tiny, tender dumplings made with flour, eggs and milk.


In Trentino they add spinach to the mix and serve them with gorgonzola cheese or with butter and speck. They serve the white spätzle with butter and cheese as a side dish with meat. And they can also be enjoyed with a fresh tomato sauce and grated cheese.
Well, today I am going to make them in "brodo finto" or fake broth. Fake because there is no meat in the broth, just vegetables. My family is not big on chicken broth or meat broth in general, so I usually make plain vegetable broth. I am cooking it traditionally, for about an hour or so, but if you are really in a hurry you can do it in about 15 or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker!


So, without further ado here is how I make brodo finto con spätzle. For the broth you will need a 4 quart pot. 



Any mix of vegetables will do, as long as it includes onion, garlic, carrot and celery. In addition to these I used 1 zucchini, a large peeled potato (I peeled it because I will puree the vegetables to serve as a rich soup tomorrow), swiss chard, a few small tomatoes and a few stalks of parsley.





 Cut the vegetables up in large pieces and put them in the 4 qt. pot. 

 Cover with water (about 1 1/2 quarts of water), add about a teaspoon of coarse kosher type salt (regular table salt will do), and a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Cover and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour. 
If you are using the pressure cooker method, follow the manufacturer instructions for filling your pressure cooker and cooking the vegetables for making stock vegetable stock.


If you are using the traditional method, after about an hour this is what your soup should look like.  








At this point, remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or a skimmer.







Taste your broth, season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.


About 20 minutes before you want to serve your soup, start making the spätzle.
You will need a "spatzlehobel" - or a spätzle maker and an 8 quart pot. Fill the pot 2/3 with water and put it on to boil.

If you don't have one of these, you can use a colander with large holes or a potato ricer (messy).







  • The other ingredients you will need are:1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  •  
Measure the flour into the bowl. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Break the eggs into the bowl and start to whisk the ingredients together. Before the ingredients are well-blended, add the milk and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth and falls in a "sheet" from a tablespoon.







By now the water is boiling. Salt it as if you were cooking pasta. Rest the spätzle maker on the top of the pot. Fill the carriage with batter and start to move the carriage back and forth over the boiling water so that the spätzle fall into the boiling water. (SEE VIDEO)



As the spätzle cook, the will float to the top. When you have used up all of the batter. Stir the spätzle several times. Remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove the little dumplings from the water to a colander. Allow them to drain well before transferring them to the broth.



Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Finish off your meal with a sandwich and a tossed salad... 
and as Julia would have said, had she spoken Italian..


BUON APPETITO!


1.22.2011

Saturday, January 22 - my one week anniversary!! To celebrate: fusilli with shrimp and asparagus!

 To celebrate the first week of fun I have had cooking, photographing and writing for this blog, today I am making "Fusilli with Shrimp and Asparagus"!
A popular item on many retaurant menus in Italy and really fast&easy to duplicate at home!

So here goes!
First, the main ingredients for 2 portions:



- 200 g (about 4.5 oz) of Fusilli, or some other curly pasta; you can also use tagliatelle (ribbon noodles) or tagliolini (narrow ribbon noodles) for this recipe.





- Shrimp, the small ones you would use in a shrimp salad, for example. I used about 1.5 cups of small frozen shrimp (yes, I cheated).







- 8 stalks of asparagus. I also cheated here and used frozen asparagus, if you use fresh you should par-cook it.




- About 1/3 cup of cream or a cream substitute. I used a soy based cream substitute, no lactose, no gluten, no cholesterol.









 Other ingredients: one small yellow or white onion, coarsely chopped parsley, dry white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, grated parmesan cheese.

Procedure:
Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Coarsely chop the onion and start to sauté in 3 T of extra vergin olive oil.
While it sautés, cut the asparagus stalks into 1/2" pieces.
When the onion is translucent, add the shrimp and when it starts to sizzle add a couple of spashes of dry white wine.



Before the wine evaporates, add the asparagus
to the pan.





Coarsely chop the parsley. Add the parsley and cream (or cream substitute) to the pan.
Before it starts to boil, turn off the heat.




At this point the water is probably boiling. Put the pasta in to cook. When it is cooked the way you like it. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Turn the heat up to high and toss the pasta so that it is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and more chopped parsley if you want.




That's all there is to it! and... if you really want to impress your guests, serve this colourful, delicious pasta  in an unusual dish, like this beautiful Pasta Boat from the Villeroy and Boch Urban Nature Collection (no they are not paying me to say this!! I just love my Urban Nature dishes!)


and ... as Julia would have said... had she spoken Italian

BUON APPETITO!