Posts Tagged food
As we mentioned before, Italy is certainly a stickler for eating what’s in season – and even though there some things you can find all year round, don’t expect to see certain dishes on the menu unless the temps are reading 25°C or above! One of my favorite dishes (hot or cold) is stuffed zucchini. There are all kinds of thoughts on how these are to be made – only use the round zucchini – no some insist on the long ones that look like boats. Then there are those who do an all veggie stuffing (rare) – those who prefer the fresh ricotta cheese and then the traditionalists that use only ground beef. THEN. There are the recipes that have them with toasty breadcrumbs or lounging in fresh homemade tomato sauce. The difference as like trying to pin down the true recipe for Tex-Mex Chili or define the perfect Italian leather handbag . . . obviously somethings are better left un-mentioned. My favorite consists of the long zucchini with ground beef (and a heavy does of sauted zucs) sprinkled with a mix of crunchy breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, surrounded by a thick (but not too heavy) fresh tomato sauce…and though they can be quite tempting while hot . . . even when they are chilled . . . I find I can’t resist!!
It would certainly appear that tomatoes are the obvious the first signs of spring / summer in Italy. Though you can find these red globes all year round it is clear that the flavour is only available with the warm temps. Then all of a sudden a pomodoro is a work of art, a succulent, juicy absolutely delicious ingredient to be used everywhere. But no where is as enjoyable as the infamous tri color plate which practically yells ITALY where ever you see (or eat) it. After preparing a cool refreshing dish of Proscuitto e melone, only the caprese ranks up there with ease and taste bud satisfaction.
Last week, as I was doing my food shopping there was as a young, sassy gentleman shopper (obviously not well trained in how to stack food items precariously without loosing any.) I had the unfortunate front row position as he dropped a container of mozzarella (the fresh kind that rest in their own milk before eating.) Everyone within a two meter radius was spattered with the watery white liquid . . .and you would have thought that all of us would have oozed out a groan and looked at the gooey mess on our Italian leather shoes, Italian leather handbags and pants . . .
But alas, not the Italians.
All eyes were riveted to the 4 plump mozzarella balls that rolled to the floor. And believe me when I say, you don’t need to practice ESP to know what they were thinking . . . it was the look of desperation that glowed from their eyes. I am sure each and everyone of them was thinking to themselves, “che peccato, that there was no way to save those little white balls from being trashed.”
Then there was the collective glare at the poor soul who committed this crime. One little old lady looked at him and with a voice full of contempt - “Vergognati!” (you should be ashamed of yourself!)
There is no limit to the number of food dishes that the Tuscan’s enjoy as soon as the warmer temps announces the advent of spring and summer. As amazing as it seems to me – an American ex-pat, living in Tuscany – I always marvel over the fact that certain dishes are not to be found year long on the menu. You don’t eat gelato in the winter (who says!!) and you won’t find a long list of several other Italian favorites outside of the designated seasons. I have gone around the Pierotucci Leather Factory, asking our craftsman and women what dishes they are day dreaming about . . . I did this right about lunch time and as soon as the bell rang at 12:30 several bolted for the door!
First on our list of delicious meals for the summer has to be the sweet juicy cantaloupe melon with slices of cured ham – - – better known as proscuitto. This sweet and salty mix is rather unique in the Tuscan menu, however they seem to find it very refreshing for the warm months. Cantaloupes start to show up in the markets as soon as the temps rise, and as the summer progresses they are found more frequently. This is actually one of my favorites to serve – - because its sooooo easy.
What do you think? Is this one of those Italian summer dishes that you day dream about?
We have exactly 25 days left of the hustle and bustle before Christmas day is resting at our doorsteps. So what’s the solution to gift giving this Christmas? It’s simple, give the gift of Italy. I’m not talking about buying tickets for the family to Italy, although I’m sure no one is objecting. What I mean is bring Italy to you. Every Christmas I go home with a suitcase packed full of gifts from Italy for my family. Just in my region alone, Tuscany, they specialize in olive oil and olives, cheese, wine and liqueur, leather, gold jewelry, and pottery just to name a few. With all these options you can gift just about anyone in your family or circle of friends. Like, your foodie mom who can pinpoint even the most particular of flavors, your wine lover aunt and uncle that are always searching for a new bottle of vino to try, your greenthumb best friend that needs a new pottery piece for the garden and almost anyone with a beautifully handmade italian leather handbag, jacket, or wallet. I myself, have just wrapped up an orange leather handbag for my sister, black lambskin gloves for my mom, and an amazing couple bottles of wine for my dad that I’m hoping he’ll be generous enough to share. So stop procrastinating already and get shopping!
Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas From Pierotucci.
With such little time left for holiday shopping you better get a move on it. And you know what always makes a nice gift, anything Italian. What is it about sticking the word “Italian” in front of another. Watch, I’ll prove it. Would you like a glass of wine or would you like an Italian glass of wine? I bought you a leather jacket for Christmas…I bought you an Italian leather jacket for Christmas. Isn’t this a gorgeous designer handbag? Or better yet, isn’t this a gorgeous Italian designer handbag? See what I’m saying? So, let’s just cut to the chase, go Italian this Christmas.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from Pierotucci
It is one hundred percent IMPERATIVE that no matter where I am in the world, Thanksgiving is celebrated. After three years living in Italy, I’m not unrealistic about what this means. I will of course have to use substitutes and since I’m in Italy pasta dishes will definitely be intertwined throughout my Thanksgiving Day feast. If anything, it makes for a very unique Thanksgiving experience and an even more delicious meal. I like to think of it as “Grazie Giving” or properly without my “Itanglish”, ringaziamento.
I always liked lasagna and coming from an Italian-American family, both my mom and grandma cook up some mean lasagna. But I have to say, it wasn’t until I actually moved to Italy that I fell head over heels for this exquisite dish. In Tuscany (since every region has their own twist on the dish) it’s made using a bechamel sauce and it makes the lasagna creamy and rich. I swear I could eat it just about every day!
Lasagna even has quite a significant history. Whoever thinks that lasagne is a dish fairly recent, they’re wrong.
Of course, at that time, the lasagna was not as we know it today, but consisted of a few strips of dough cut into squares, cooked in a pan or on a griddle and served with vegetables and cheese.
For many centuries, the lasagna invented by the Romans was called “Lasana” or “lasanum” which meant “vase” or “container”. That is, until the fourteenth century, when Francis Zambrini discovered for the first time that those pasta strips could be left intact and could even create layers that can be filled with cheese.
If you’re looking to do something a little out of the ordinary, obviously, you know what my suggestions is. Try a wonderful Tuscan style lasagna recipe that will blow everyone away. Take a look at this recipe and if you don’t use it for Thanksgiving find another excuse to make it. I’m telling you, it’s delicious.
Lasagna Recipes are rich – but the trick is in the simplicity. The main ingredients that go into the composition are incredibly rich and flavourful and extremely satisfying is served seperately – so it is an art to mix them without creating a dish that is an overload for the senses. The jury is out for those who like it high or low (lots of layers or just a few) personally – I like it high!
Though there are thousands of variations the best (in my opinion) consists of my favorite meat sauce, Abundant bechamel sauce (on the liquidy side), shredded mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan cheese, Salt & Pepper q.b. and of course, sheets of pasta (best if it is fresh!)
First layer is bechamel, then pasta. Now if the beschael is liquidy enough I find there is no need to pre cook the pasta – and even these pre-cooked dry sheets work. However the fresh stuff is thinner which allows for a lot more layers to the lasagna Each layer should be a mix and match of its own – some only “sugo” (meat sauce), some only bechamel, then a little of this or a lot of that – every layer should be a surprise that when cooked melts together into perfection. The only layer that is a must – is the botton and top both only bechamel.
Cover the dish in beschamel so that when finished it will have a golden brown top of lightly crunch wholesome goodness! Best if served tepid – if you srve right out of the oven it will slip and slide on the plate. And this is one of those dishes that is just as good (if not better) on the second day … but it’s also a lot like pecan pie… in that it never gets to the second day!
Just breezing through the freshly pressed blogs and I always get drawn into the food and recipe blogs.
They are so enticing I just want to go home and make each and everyone of them!
But one of them just had me laugh out loud – the name of the blog implies that their recipes are not only fast and easy but also healthy.
So, why did I laugh – well the first four ingredients were:
2 cups ketchup
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
8 pork chops
Doesn’t sound very diet friendly to me, though it does sound quite intringing as far as flavour goes. My menu this evening is quick, easy and simply delicious.
I am going to dice up some fresh tomatoes for a summer bruschetta with some basil, garlic and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
I will be munching on these while I fire up the grill for my bistecca fiorentina and baked potatoes with rosemary.
My side dish is: Frigitelli, sauteed in EVOO with onion, fresh tomato and served with a liberal sprinkling of percorino cheese on top.
All of this will be accompanied with a lovely glass (or two … or three) of my favorite brunello from Montalcino.
Dolce? If I can manage it, gelato . . . but I have a feeling that I will be stuffed way before I get to that . . .
What’s your menu?
I find it particularly fun to look back on my life and trace the twists and turns that bring us in contact with persons and opportunities. Our guest blogger today is sharing with us for the second time and she is one of those winding roads! I am quite pleased and proud to be sharing our blog space with this special friend from LA. I invite you to read her story, leave a comment and then visit her blog because she is sharing her space with us this time. Brittany Sage lives in Los Angeles, Ca with her husband Wade. She loves writing about her adventures with food, fashion and fun on Lipstickandleopardprint.com.
Wade and I have been longtime fans of the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup pho and have always been curious about making it. Last weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to take on the challenge. We figured out that if you are going to attempt this recipe don’t waste your time going to a regular supermarket. You will save a lot of money and time by simply visiting your local asian market. If your not accustomed to shopping at asian markets don’t be intimidated. It will be like a 20 minute vacation to another country! Do yourself a favor and get the pho spice packet because it comes with its own mesh bag and is extremely inexpensive ($1.25) versus purchasing the spices individually. I also recommend making the stock a day ahead of time so it can be refrigerated and the fat can be easily skimmed off the top.
THE BROTH INGREDIENTS:
3 onions, halved
5″ piece of ginger, halved lengthwise
5 lbs beef marrow bones such as leg and knuckle (have the butcher cut them down)
5 lbs oxtails
6 quarts of water
1 package of Pho Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 8 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 cup of fish sauce (nuoc nam is the Vietnamese variety)
1 inch piece of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz)
MAKING THE BROTH:
Preheat oven on the broil setting. Place oxtails and bones in a LARGE stock pot, cover with water and bring almost to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to begin simmering, place onion and ginger on a sheet pan and place on the top shelf of your oven and char until blackish brown on edges. Remove and reserve for next step. Turn down heat so that the bones do not boil and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Discard water and replace with 6 quarts of fresh water. It is said that this step removes the impurities from the broth. Add charred onion, ginger, parsnips, fish sauce, sugar, salt and spice packet. Simmer for 5 hours. Add more water if the water level falls below the bones. Remove and discard large bones, ginger, parsnips and spice sack. Then strain broth into another large pot using a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate over night and skim fat off the top of broth the next day.
THE SOUP INGREDIENTS:
2 packages of flat rice noodles (banh pho)
1 lb top sirloin, thinly sliced and fat discarded
thinly sliced white onion
Sriracha hot sauce
**You will also need bunches of your favorite pho accoutrements such as mint, cilantro, purple basil, dandelion leaves, bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, lime wedges… These ingredients have gorgeous color and make a fabulous edible center piece!
Finishing the soup:
Place noodles in large bowl of warm water for 30 minutes then drain and reserve noodles. Slice top sirloin against the grain as thin as is humanly possible. (Place meat in the freezer before slicing for 30 minutes to help firm it up a bit.) On the stovetop heat the broth to a rapid boil, adjusting the flavor by adding salt, pepper, and/or more fish sauce. When you are ready to serve use a fine mesh strainer with a handle or a china cap to dunk the noodles in the boiling broth for just a second. Remove let noodles drain into the broth. Then place noodles into individual bowl. Do this one serving at a time. Cover noodles with thinly sliced beef, onions, scallions and fresh ground pepper. Ladle broth over noodles in each bowl and serve immediately with all of your favorite pho accoutrements.
Although making pho at home was a very lengthy process it was extremely satisfying to accomplish and have it actually taste great. Wade is always up for a fun, adventurous cooking challenge!
I find it particularly fun to look back on my life and trace the twists and turns that bring us in contact with persons and opportunities. Our guest blogger today is one of those winding roads that always makes me smile, and though we have never met face to face, I am quite pleased and proud to be sharing our blog space with this special friend from LA. I invite you to read her story, leave a comment and then visit her blog. Brittany Sage lives in Los Angeles, Ca with her husband Wade. She loves writing about her adventures with food, fashion and fun on Lipstickandleopardprint.com.
My husband, Wade and I met in 2004 while he was tending bar. The first thing he made me was a French 75. It was love at first sight for both! Since then there has been a resurgence of mixology amongst the foodie culture. Cocktails from yesteryear are being reinvented all the time. Here are our favorite cocktails and how we make them.
The French 75 has been around since 1915. This is the real deal old-school cocktail, with it’s namesake stemming from “the feeling of being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun”. In other words this drink will do the job. These days, however, this drink has survived the times and can be served among the classiest of the old school cocktails. Originally, it was made with powdered sugar but we like to use homemade simple syrup as a fun and delicious substitute. Here is a slightly modified way of recreating the original cocktail with a couple of twists that will definitely improve your end results.
Brittany’s French 75
2 ounces dry gin
1 teaspoon simple syrup (recipe 50/50 water and raw cane sugar)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 ounces sparkling french rose
In a cocktail shaker, shake the gin, simple syrup and lemon juice with ice vigorously. Strain into a martini or other long stemmed glass. Top with sparkling wine or champagne (if you are feeling decadent). Garnish with a fresh twist of lemon.
This is the easiest thing in the world to make. In a sauce pan, simply melt 1 part sugar with 1 part water. We like to use raw or turbinado sugar because it is rich and pure.
Use the wide end of a zester in a spiral motion to create the perfect lemon twist!
Wade’s Rye Manhattan
The key to making this drink is simply to use the right ingredients and to stir instead of shaking it. When you shake a Manhattan the vermouth tends to get foamy and change the flavor noticeably. Let the ingredients do the talking not the bartender! I like to use small batch rye whiskey because of its distinctive flavor characteristics. Also, choose a good bottle of rouge or sweat vermouth, such as Dolin. this can effect the flavor dramatically.
As a bartender, I would strongly advise using a good bitters and there are many. Good aromatic bitters tend to have a spicy quality, finishing with notes of clove. Try them all, they will last you a lifetime and can be used in many other creations. I also like to use a rye based bourbon because of it is full bodied and spicy. Perhaps, the most impressive impact you can make with this cocktail is the maraschino cherry.Try the real deal and you will be hooked! I always thought I hated maraschino cherries because of those unnaturally bright red things they try to pass off as edible in most bars. However, the imported (and more expensive) variety are well worth the investment. They have a dense texture and a refined flavor that you’ll never forget.
4 ounces small batch bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes of bitters.
Can be stirred with a spoon and served on the rocks or strained into a martini glass. Garnish with real maraschino cherry!
Good ice is essential in making a great cocktail! Buy a silicone ice cube tray that actually produces ice in the shape of a cube. Experiment using different kinds of specialty water. Using good water for your ice makes a huge difference in the end result.