Posts Tagged recipes
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?
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?
Why is it that we just assume the entire world celebrates holidays at the same time – like New Years (think Chinese), Thanksgiving (think Canadians), Valentine’s Day (think Japanese) and Father’s Day? One might think that some traditions are universal – like the value of a smile. Yet as we travel east to west and north to south we realize that, as the Italians would say, il mondo è bello perchè è vario (the world is beautiful because everywhere is different!).
The Russians are the first to celebrate Father’s Day with a hip hip hooray on 23 January. In Italy, as in most Catholic based countries, it is the Festa di San Giuseppe (aka 19 March the holy day for St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus) which corresponds to Father’s Day and for many countries (though not everyone!) it corresponds to the third Sunday in June – and this year that means the 17th.
And how do the Italian’s celebrate la Festa del Papà? With food of course and then clothing and not necessarily in that order. In Tuscany – although pretty much everywhere in Italy – they make little rice fritters (sometimes adding raisins, pine nuts and flour…as always it depends on where you are to the exact ingredients.) I have personally fallen for this recipe here:
Frittelle di riso di San Giuseppe Ingredients:
-200 g rice (for milk rice)
-600 g whole milk
-300 g water
-2 egg yolks
-2 egg whites
-80 g butter
-80 g sugar
-zest of one lemon
-zest of one orange
-2 tbsp vin santo
-1/2 tsp of salt
- raisins/pine nuts to taste
-granulated sugar to cover your fritters
Mix milk, water, zests, half of the sugar and butter in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook at low heat until all the liquid is gone. Add the rest of sugar and butter, stir well, cover the pot with a lid and keep covered until the next day. ATTENTION: This batter is absolutely delicious at this stage and if left unattended for long periods of time, it will slowly disappear one spoonful at a time – it closely resembles rice pudding.
The next day add the liquor, the yolks and the whites whipped (raisins and pine nuts if you like). If you add raisins, be careful of the oil, as the raisins start to cook they have a tendency to splatter hot oil. The batter should have a thick fritter like texture, if necessary add a little flour to thicken it up. Deep-fry spoonfuls of rice in hot oil until golden brown. Sprinkle sugar and eat.
And with Italian men, you can’t go wrong if after you offer them food, you shower them with gifts of stylish leather clothing. Now is the season to start looking at all the new fashion collections coming out for Spring and Summer. My bet is on a lightweight Italian leather jacket from Florence, this style in particular is a new look that reminds me of the Rick Owen’s clothing line.
My second choice is something that reflect a spring / summer trend perfect for the warmer weather :
The Pierotucci Italian Leather Factory proudly carries on the Florentine tradition of designing, assembling and selling handmade genuine Italian leather bags, jackets and accessories such as wallets, gloves and belts. They are based in Florence and surrounded by the beauty of the Chianti vineyards, the perfume of delicious food and a culture rich in art and craftsmanship.
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.
Guest blog post: Making Perfect Risotto
We are welcoming back Dress Italian with their insight to creating the perfect risotto, a dish which in my opinion is commonly pushed aside because people normally equate it to a sticky, clumpy gob of rice – yet it can be so much more with the right cook stirring the pot and these helpful pointers.
Risotto is a delicious specialty of northern Italian cooking, using northern ingredients such as rice, Parmigiano Reggiano and butter, and has now become popular throughout Italy. Though relatively simple to make, it can be quite difficult to perfect, since it is such a precisely timed operation that I would never order it in a hectic restaurant.
The main difficulty people seem to have is judging the right texture and consistency of risotto, when to stop adding stock and, more commonly, how cooked or al dente the rice should be. There are no specific answers to these questions. Risotto, more than any other dish, has a mind of its own and can be quite unpredictable. Being able to judge it properly comes with a mixture of practice, skill and intuition, and while there are classic steps for cooking risotto there is no foolproof formula.
Apart from top quality ingredients, risotto needs to be made with the right kind of rice: it must be Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano, which are stubby in appearance and have an almost nutty flavour when cooked. Don’t even try to make it with another kind – it simply will not come out right. The only rule is to keep the desired consistency in mind.
Risotto, as it is meant to be, is closer to a soup than the sorry stodge which is more often found – it is quite runny and wet, but creamy and velvety at the same time. It should pour from the pan in to the serving dish. In the time it takes to transfer I from the pan on to the table the risotto keeps cooking, so part of the knack is being able to judge by how much you undercook it so that the transfer operations can be carried out without risk of spoiling the final texture. You should always use a shallow serving dish, not a big past bowl.
There are certain guidelines no matter what kind of risotto you are making. Use quite a sturdy, thick or copper-bottomed pan that will be deep enough to contain the rice – it will expand to three times its uncooked size. A thin aluminium pan is not suitable. Use a wooden spoon. The process of cooking the rice should take between 18 and 20 minutes – cooking time varies depending on the intensity of the heat and the speed with which liquid is absorbed. The order in which ingredients are added is crucial. The flavor of a risotto is very dependent on the quality of the stock.
Check out some of Dress Italian’s fantastic recipes on their website: http://dressitalian.com/recipes
Just a little bit of water and sun to make the green grass grow all around as well as the flowers and all of my aromatic plants. Springtime in the countryside is synonymous with color and perfumes. What really got me thinking of sun and water is that last weekend I watered my chives (or the brown stubs of what was left of my chives) and this afternoon I noticed new green shoots coming up…look out baked potatoes!! What I always found fun living in Italy, is that each season brings with it’s own personal menu. In Tuscany you begin to see agreti, fresh basil, fave and baby red onions in the market at this time and they all have their own specialties tied to them.
I love all of these, each comes with a particular tradition and favorite recipes. Fave beans are traditionally eaten with the fresh percorino cheese which is also just coming into season, in fact many times this is on the Easter menu. Fresh basil . . . well even though tomatoes aren’t in season . . . everyone will tempt fate and try a few of the green house tomatoes with some fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. One of my particular favorites are baby onions – nice and sweet. I like to put them on the table with fresh veggies (carrots, artichokes, red bell peppers and fresh baby onions) along with a nice dish of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The perfect happy hour nibbler this and a glass of bubbly prosecco, and I am in heaven.
And just to keep in the theme with green – here is our St. Patrick’s Day favorite picks:
And just to keep in the theme with green – here is our St. Patrick’s Day favorite picks: