Bruschetta veloce - a quick bruschetta

First of all, Bruschetta is pronounced "brusketta" with a hard "c" after the "s" and not "brushetta"!!! The classic bruschetta is simply slices of crusty bread toasted over hot embers and with delicious extra vergin olive oil drizzled over it.
However in recent years it has evolved into a tasty appetiser with a variety of toppings, the classic topping being cubed, firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped garlic, fresh basil and extra vergin olive oil.
This is a really quick appetiser or, depending on what you use as a topping, even a quick lunch!
Ok, let's start!
You will need some firm, crusty Italian style bread. If it is day or tow old it will work even better. So this is a great way to use left over bread.
Cut the bread into slices that are about 1/2" thick. Set aside.

Now make your topping. Today I used a mix of cured black olives, red chili peppers, fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.

I just chopped up some olives, chili peppers and tomatoes; I added some coarsely chopped garlic so I could remove the pieces before assembling the bruschetta. I seasoned it with extra vergin olive oil and mixed it all together.

Next rub the slices of bread with a clove of garlic cut in half, toast it under the broiler (or over charcoal embers if you happen to have them around!) and drizzle with olive oil.

Now spoon the topping onto the bread slices and serve!

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


A touch of Le Marche... Pasta with sausage, peas and cream

The cuisine of the Marche region is very rich in meats: sausages, braised roasts, prosciutto, lonzino, dried sausages and more!
When I had my restaurant in Cagli, one of the favorites on the menu was Tortellini alla Montanara - Tortellini with sausage, mushrooms, peas and panna. Another was "Penne alla Norcina" - pencil points with sausage, brandy and cream - an Umbrian speciality.
Today I sort of brought them together and the result was delicious!

For two healthy servings:
2 italian sausages
1 - 1.5 cups frozen peas
a splash of white wine
extra virgin olive oil
heavy cream
6 ounces of short pasta - I used orecchiette because that's what I had on hand.

Remove the sausage from its casing and break it up in a non stick fry pan. Crumble it with a fork as it fries, let it get nice and browned but not crisp. Drain off the fat. Add a splash of white wine and allow to evaporate. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the frozen peas, cover and let simmer while the pasta cooks.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain when "al dente". Add the pasta to the meat mix in the fry pan. Add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir over medium heat until all of the pasta is covered with the sauce. Taste and add salt if necessary. I didn't add any, the sausage was seasoned enough!
Serve with freshly grated parmigiano cheese and freshly ground pepper.

Buon appetito!


Italian Soul Food!

Last night my heat turned on in the middle of the night for the first time this year, so it must have gotten quite chilly because I have my thermostat set on 18°C; that would be just over 64°F.
Today was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day. It was great to put on a sweater and actually need it! Yes... I love cool weather!
I had a busy morning and before I knew it.... time to fix lunch! Something quick, nutritious and delicious! I opted for Pasta e Fagioli but this time with the addition of Italian sausage. The result was delizioso and it only took about 20 minutes to prepare!

So here goes!
For two healthy servings:

200g (7oz) of a small pasta (I used pennette lisce)
1 small can of borlotti beans
1 or 2 links of Italian sausage
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
a handful of fresh parsely, washed and chopped
hot pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Take the sausage out of the skin, put in a large pot to sauté. As it cooks, break it up with a fork. Add the whole clove of garlic. Cook the sausage through and let it brown slightly. At this point, if you want, you can drain off the fat.
Add the drained and rinsed beans to the sausage and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pasta. When it comes back to a boil, lower the heat to medium. Stir often, because it WILL stick! Add more water a little at a time, we are not looking for a soupy consistency but a thick and creamy one. This is why we use only just enough water and continue to stir. When it is almost cooked add the parsely and the hot pepper. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.
When the pasta is "al dente" turn off the heat and serve! Italian Soul Food! Buon appetito!


The frost is on the pumpkin.. perfect weather for...

Riso e Fagioli!
(Rice and beans)

Fresh Borlotti beans
(if you are lucky enough to find them, otherwise you can use canned or dried Borlotti beans) Borlotti beans are the white ones with read streaks.

Shuck and wash the beans (for two people I use about a 1/2 lb in the husks. Dry, about 5 oz for two people, one medium size can)

Pour a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large saucepan and saute a couple of cloves of garlic.

Add the beans with enough water to cover. Salt and bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat and simmer until the beans are cooked (if fresh, about 45 minutes, if dry follow directions on the package. If you are using canned beans, rinse and add to the garlic and oil, just cover with water and bring to a boil).

 Weigh or measure out the rice. I use about 1/3 of a pound for 2 servings.
 Add the rice to the beans, add more water if necessary. If you like you may add 1/2 bouillon cube, or a 1/2 t. of granulated bouillon. Taste and correct seasonings. At this point, you can also add some hot pepper.
 Wash and coarsely chop a bunch of fresh Italian parsley.
 Add the parsley to the pot. Continue to cook until the rice is cooked. Depending on how soupy you want your pasta and rice to be, add water.
When the rice is almost done, use a wooden spoon to smash some of the beans against the side of the pot, and stir down for a creamy texture.

Transfer to serving dish and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the beans and rice.

After this hearty one-dish meal, the perfect dessert is a fresh "macedonia di frutta"
For an even tastier fruit salad, drizzle the top with Cointreau or Limoncello!
and... as Julia Child would have said, had she spoken Italian...



It's been a long, hot summer!! and so here is another "I hate to cook" recipe!

Basil Pecan Pesto

This is a "contamination" of traditional Italian pesto made with basil, garlic, olive oil and pinoli nuts.

The other day I was looking for a quick sauce, it was hot and I had absolutely no desire to heat up the kitchen more than necessary... I had fresh basil, fresh parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic.. but no pine nuts! But... I did have a bag of pecans in the freezer that my mom had sent to me. Yes, it is very difficult to find pecans in Italy! So mamma sends them! Gotta love her!
I thought, why not!?

You will need a food processor for this recipe

Put a bunch of fresh basil leaves (washed) into the food processor bowl (the more you put, the better! I put about 1 cup of loosely packed leaves) along with 3 cloves of garlic, about 1 to 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese cut into small pieces, a handful of pecans and about 4 T of extra virgin olive oil. Process for about 15 seconds on high.

It will look more or less like like this:
 Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, add another T of extra virgin olive oil if necessary, process for about 15-30 seconds.
That's all there is to it! You can use this pesto to season pasta, to make bruschetta or it can be served with cold meats! Buon appetito!!


I am back with an authentic American barbecue!

My sister, Phyllis, invited us over for a barbecue sometime in late June (can't remember the date!) So... while Wayne relaxed after working on the pool terrace all day and Franco relaxed in the pool after doing practically nothing all day (grin) I decided to photograph my sister Phyllis while she prepared dinner - steaks, baked potatoes and asparagus all cooked on the grill, a delicious Greek salad and scrumptious apple blueberry crumble for dessert!
Here we go!

 When we got there the apple blueberry crumble was ready for the oven, and Phyllis had already started getting the potatoes ready for the grill. I asked her to unwrap one for a photo! I think she just washed them and wrapped them up in foil while they were still wet.

 Next, she washed and trimmed the asparagus. Then laid them on a sheet of foil, seasoned with salt, crushed garlic and olive oil and proceeded to fold the foil into a pouch - boy scout style - so the asparagus could be cooked on the grill.

Next step? Light the grill and start the greek salad while it heats up.

She made the salad with tomatoes, a red pepper, a red onion, a hot house cucumber, black olives and feta cheese

 First: chop the veggies into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.

Next, mix up the dressing. Extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, spices.

Add the crumbled feta cheese to the veggies...
add the dressing... mix...

and on to the grilling!

New York Strip Steaks!

First she put the potatoes and asparagus on the grill to one side...

and next the steaks

First my steak and Franco's... we like ours medium well, they like theirs medium rare.

Did I mention that the men were really a big help with the cooking! 

Back to the barbecue... as Franco and Wayne got out of the pool to dry off...

Phyllis started taking everything off the grill...

We set the table... and BUON APPETITO!!!

Everything was delicious... right down to the apple blueberry crumble!!!

ahhhhhh did I mention that she also made a delicious applesauce spice cake??

Thanks to Phyllis for letting me photograph her while she got it all together! A good time was had by all including Mattie (top) and Grr (right)!!!

We definitely must do it again next time!!