Rachmaninov and the pork in the pan

It was a bizarre weather today, since, after a warm and sunny morning, at dinner time, it seemed it was almost going to rain. Any way, there was a cosy atmosphere in the kitchen, listening to Rachmaninov and cooking some pork (prosciutto) and peppers. 1. Starting from a couple of peppers, I grilled them in the oven and, still hot, I removed their skin. Then, after making small stripes of them, I cooked peppers slowly for about 10/15 minutes in a pan with a couple of soup spoons of extra virgin olive, some capers, spicy local green olives, finely chopped fresh garlic. Besides, there I added an anchovy to melt and mix with the other ingredients in the pan. 2. As for the pork (prosciutto), firstly I chopped some fresh herbs from the garden, like rosemary and sage, together with garlic and spread them on the surface on both sides of the pork. Then, secondly, I placed the pork in a pan (moderate flame) with a couple soup spoons of extra virgin olive oil and some white wine and let it cook until the wine evaporated. Salt and black pepper right before removing the pan from the cooker. In the end, I served the pork very warm with peppers and a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs on top. By the way, peppers recipe might taste also really good as sauce for a dish of rice or pasta. The choice is yours. Many thanks and bon appétit.

Pastry inspiration for Easter Monday

Easter Monday is always a beautiful occasion to stay outside, in the open air, and enjoy the arrival of Spring season. For coffee time, this year, instead of the classic chocolate egg to taste with family and friends, my pastry inspiration has been a crisp caramelized hazelnut egg filled with a couple of layers of coffee sponge cake, velvet mascarpone cheese cream, whipped cream for decorations, pistacchio sprinkle. Let’s have a good cup of coffee and a piece of hazelnut egg together with family and friends, enjoy nature and buona Pasquetta a tutti.

A warm, soft heart of mushrooms, Swiss chard and pecorino cheese dipped in a sweet pepper sauce

Hello, welcome March! Is there any party on, by chance? Well, in that case, follow the rhythm of music and prepare these appetizing, golden balls made of a warm, soft heart of mushrooms, Swiss chard and pecorino cheese. Then, dip them in a sweet pepper sauce. Your guests will love them!

For the vegetable balls you need:

500gr Swiss chards, 300 gr Champignon, 1 egg, 3 spoons of pecorino cheese, garlic, 3 spoons extra virgin olive oil, nutmeg, salt.

  • Steam the Swiss chards, add little salt in the end and strain very well. Then, mince the vegetables and mix all together with an egg and pecorino cheese in a bowl. Please, do not add flour.
  • Fry the mushrooms in extravirgin olive oil, add a hint of garlic, little salt, some white wine and cook for about 10 minutes (in the end, the wine must be well dried out). Also in this case, like for the Swiss chards, mince the champignon.
  • Mix all ingredients, champignon and Swiss chard, make small balls, prepare a good coating with breadcrumbs and egg and fry them.  

 For the sweet pepper sauce you need:

a couple of peppers (you can choose between a sweet or hot pepper sauce), onion, garlic, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté the peppers, add little wine and then make a sauce.

Finally, serve your vegetable balls very warm, dip them in the pepper sauce and Buon Appetito!

 

 

Taraxacum potato gnocchi on a velvet Taleggio cheese cream

   Hello and welcome to a new Autumn week-end, which will bring a new good recipe to try for those of you, who love cooking! The morning crisp November air is an inviting call for a relaxing walk through narrow paths in the countryside, where, perhaps, it is possible to find out and picking wild (safe) vegetables, mostly known as excellent ingredients for a tasteful kitchen. So, taking inspiration from a simple, seasonal soup, made with taraxacum, which is pretty popular in Apulia, in Southern Italy, and that my Mom keeps on preparing quite often at this time of the year, on this Sunday, we are going to make taraxacum potato gnocchi on a velvet Taleggio cream. In my opinion, this delicious dish seems to be an ideal junction  among genuine ingredients, which, coming from different places from North to South, have both benefit healthy qualities and peculiar tastes that can be clearly perceived from gourmets.

   We will start 1.steaming potatoes and then replacing them in the fridge for a night. (At this proper, I would like to add that I found some good local potatoes at the food market, which still had the earth on the thin peel and looked compact inside in the middle, ideal for preparing gnocchi). The next day, before lunch time, we will keep on preparing the dish, by 2.mashing the potatoes and 3.boiling the taraxacum for few minutes. Then, after 4.straining the vegetable, we will keep on 5.cooking it in a pan with some extra-virgin olive oil, an idea of garlic, little chopped onion, salt and pepper, few fresh tomatoes, a sprinkle of goat cheese. Since we will 7.add the minced taraxacum to the mashed potatoes and 8.work both the ingredients together for making a mixture, it is highly recommended to 6.’dry’ the taraxacum from the juice during the cooking process, in order to have a solid mixture. The proportion of ingredients I used and I may suggest for potatoes and taraxacum mixture is about 200/250gr potatoes : 100/150gr cooked taraxacum. Of course, it depends on the type of potatoes used, the cooking process of the taraxacum and the number of guests at your table. As for the mixture, I added an egg and some organic durum wheat flour (not too much, since I prefer to feel the potato taste rather then the flour’s that has the task to bind the main ingredients) during the working process. Once the 9.mixture looks compact, we will 10.make a long thin cylinder and then 11.cut it in small gnocchi. For 12.preparing a smooth taleggio cream, it is necessary to melt a couple of generous pieces of Taleggio cheese, a knob of butter into some crème fraîche and to add a sprinkle pepper in it. Then, we will 3.pour the gnocchi in boiling salted water and wait for a couple of minutes until they will come out on the surface of the water. In the end, 14.strain accurately and serve them on a dish with some velvet Taleggio cream and parsley. 

I hope you will enjoy the recipe some time and wish everybody a good new week!

Buon appetito, bon appétit, smaklig måltid!

Appetizing croquettes made of vegetables and sweet yellow tomatoes for a smooth sauce

   The new week started with its usual rhythmic step but then, in the middle of the day or when activities allow a break, that is the time for turning your sight, looking at nature and enjoying the splendid work of art the Autumn season is making of it. Since it is almost lunch time, I will prepare some light croquettes made of wild chicories I bought from an old friendly peasant that knows where to find them along the stony paths in the countryside.

   The thought run to the past, to a family tradition we had when I was a little child and it was right at this time of the year: indeed, my aunt, during the week-end, visit us for a cup of warm coffee and then, all together, her sister and my Mom used to have a drive to her plot of land in the countryside, where, in the soft light of a mild afternoon, we enjoyed picking wild chicories and other vegetables, which then were prepared as the local gastronomy suggested.

   Back to the recipe of the day I have in mind, first of all, it is necessary to check the wild chicories, washing accurately and boil them for few minutes, in order to remove the bitter taste. After that, the chicories go in a pan with some extra-virgin olive oil and, as soon as they start hissing, it is necessary to add some bouillon made with vegetables to enrich their taste. Next step, far from the cooker, is to strain and chop the wild chicories up. So, in a big bowl, I prepare an homogeneous mixture made of wild chicories, an egg, grated goat cheese, breadcrumbs, some milk, a sprinkle of pepper. Working with hands the mixture, I make small croquettes stuffed with tiny cubes of provolone fiaschetto cheese (I chose this kind of cheese because of its light spicy taste that matches so well both with the mixture of vegetables and the sweet sauce made of winter yellow tomatoes, I am going to prepare for the croquettes). After breading, the croquettes go in the oven with few drops of extra virgin olive oil for about 15 min 220°C until their surface will become gold and the cheese will start melting inside.

  In the meanwhile, as already mentioned, let’s prepare a velvety sauce with those typical winter yellow tomatoes. It is simple: it is necessary to have some extra-virgin olive oil in a pan, onion, an idea of garlic, a piece of carrot and celery and then add the tomatoes, hot pepper, a sprinkle of salt. It will take only  few minutes to prepare a smooth sauce.

   Serve the croquettes very warm and with the sweet yellow tomatoes sauce and some parsley as decoration for the dish and ‘buon appetito’!

 

 

 

Rice au gratin, an old family recipe that children love

   It was wonderful to spend some time with my Swedish friend Katarina and her beautiful family last week-end. We arranged to meet for going to the food store together and choose some ingredient for preparing an old recipe my grandmother used to make at Christmastime, when the whole family was finally together at home.

   Children agreed with us for the choice, indeed they welcomed the idea of rice au gratin with a cheerful ‘wow!’ and, on the other hand, they had the task to prepare a special dessert for all of us.

   At home, Katarina and I started to peel carrots, chopping them with celery, onion and garlic and, once everything was done, all ingredients went in a big sauce pan, on a stove. We poured some extra-virgin olive oil and the vegetables started frying lightly. Then, it was the turn for the veal minced meat and a sprinkle of thyme and, after the lumps of meat were all melt with a wooden spoon, we added the tomato sauce, some salt and kept on steering, being careful the sauce did not stick on the surface of the sauce pan. Besides, some water was added in order the sauce be not too much thick.

   In the meanwhile, the rice was prepared in an other big pan (boiling salt water) and when it was done and the rice was strained, few roses of butter and grated parmigiano reggiano were added for ‘mantecare’ it. Then, off from the stove, the tomato sauce was poured in the pan, where the rice was, and Katarina kept on working on it with great energy until it was all homogeneous.

   At last, we made layers of  rice in a casserole (greased with few drops of extra virgin olive oil), alternating them with layers of mozzarella and placed it in the oven at a temperature between 200° – 250° C for about 20 minutes in order to have a golden surface on the rice. In this case, we didn’t add breadcrumbs nor eggs, since the rice was well ‘mantecato’, having a similar ‘gratin’ effect as well in the end and, what is more, it is a gluten free recipe.

   All the family liked this delicious and simple dish very much and, in the end, we did enjoyed the presentation of a fantastic dessert our little pâtissiers made with meringues, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate for decorations (worth a couple of spoons  for taste and some more).

   Wishing everybody a good week!

 

 

 

Autumn and its culinary poetry: the light taste and seasonal ingredients for a homemade lasagna

   It is time to welcome the Autumn season and its very distinctive fragrances, its amazing natural landscapes made of warm shades and golden foliage! There is a world filled with inspiration in Albert Camus’s quotation, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”, which makes you long to wander, at the week-end, through the woods and countryside paths of Apulia, for rediscovering those familiar places, where you know you can find those peculiar, seasonal ingredients for your kitchen. September mild temperatures, a bit more of humidity and little rain, from time to time, become the elements for the growing of new little plants of wild chicory, for example, that is one of the main ingredients of the homemade lasagna I’m going to prepare. It was a long time ago when I made this recipe for the first time and every year, by the arrival of the Autumn season, I enjoy to make it again and again.

   So, I start with making lasagna pasta, by using local organic Senatore Cappelli durum wheat (it is excellent for homemade cooked ‘al dente’ pasta). For about 4 portions, you will need about 250 gr of flour and some water for making into a mixture that you need to work very well by hands, in order to be compact and not sticky. Perhaps, you may help yourself, by adding a sprinkle of flour on the surface of it. What is more, in Apulia, we do not use eggs in the pasta mixture, since it does not belong to our local culinary tradition of ‘cucina povera’; on the other hand, dishes are lighter and more digestible when using only water. Once the pasta mixture is well done, you can use your traditional nonna papera pasta machine for making thin layers of pasta; then, leave them to get dried.

   In the meanwhile, boil some water in a pan, add and cook the cleaned wild chicories (about 500 gr) for few minutes. Strain the chicories very well and add them in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, small cubes of bacon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

   Prepare your béchamel sauce, firstly by working a couple of spoons of (semola) flour and some cold milk (between 250 ml and 350 ml – it depends on the consistency you prefer for the sauce) together in a saucepan, by melting all the lumps, add a sprinkle of salt, an idea of hot pepper, grated nutmeg. Secondly, put the saucepan on a small stove and a very moderate heat and start steering the spoon in order the flour does not stick on the surface of the saucepan. Then, as soon as the sauce starts slowly boiling, keep on steering just for little while more until it is well done but not too much thick, since the lasagna requires it be not too much thick. In the end, melt a knob of butter in the saucepan and some grated goat cheese.

   Now, before starting to prepare lasagna, it is necessary to cook the layers of pasta for very little moments, perhaps a couple of minutes, into boiling salt water. Strain the layers and make them dry on a cotton napkin, then, grease a baking pan with butter or few drops of extra virgin olive oil. Start fixing layers of pasta, then add small spoons of béchamel, a layer of chicories and bacon, one more of fresh mozzarella and then keep on doing again with a layer of pasta etc, until you have filled the bakery pan. A sprinkle of goat cheese on top and then place it in the oven 250° C for about ten minutes. When the mozzarella is melt and the surface of pasta appears little grilled, you can remove the lasagna from the oven and wait only few moments before making portions and serving them in the plates. 

   Pair the lasagna with your preferred wine and ‘buon appetito’!

 

 

Season vegetables for a soft flan: easy and simple recipes for our Summer picnics

May is almost over and Summer season is at the door. Any occasion is welcome to stay outside, in the open air, for enjoying nature and its fragrances. Besides, it is also the best time of the year for filling a basket with good simple food, perhaps bringing a blanket, a book, some music after having chosen a cosy green glade for a picnic. Among appetizers, different kinds of fresh cheese, bread and fresh salalds, a flan of new potatoes should be perfect for the convivial situation. 

Let’s start preparing the dish by boiling, peeling and mashing some new local potatoes (500gr). Then, chop some sparrows (n. 8) and cook them gently in extra virgin olive oil with a couple of cloves of garlic, rosemary, fresh bacon, half glass of white wine. Sparrows have to stay crisp in order to hold their natural flavour, so it is recommended to cook them only for 7/8 minutes. Once they are done, remove garlic, add mashed potatoes, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a couple of soup spoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, one egg, some extra virgin olive oil. Make a flan and cover its surface with a sprinkle of poppy seeds. Place it in the oven for about 20 minutes (220°C) or until you see it becoming golden color.

Serve the flan with season vegetables as side dish. For this occasion, I have steamed some carrots, which then have been left to marinate with an emulsion (made with drops lemon, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) and aromatized with chopped parsley and cumin. As for the wine pairing with this tasty dish, I may suggest a glass of an elegant, fruity South Africa Chardonnay wine (Drostdy-Hof). 

Buon Appetito and have a good week-end!

Time for a genuine Spring appetizer

It is the last week-end of March, the temperatures are getting milder and we do enjoy the pleasure of preparing season food, which tastes even better when it is light and genuine. At this proper, I would like to suggest a culinary idea that has its roots by our local tradition in Apulia, Southern Italy. It could be a delicious appetizer, which would take you only 20/30 minutes to make it ready. Well, let’s do it! 

First of all, fry some cherry tomatoes (please, remember to prick each of them with a toothpick) and rings of onion in extravergin olive oil (not so much). Be careful, it is necessary to cover the pan, since the tomato juice could splash when in contact with the hot oil. In the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and origan.

Secondly, peel the green fava beans and fry them gently with fresh bacon and a hint of garlic. Add little white wine and let evaporate. In the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh mint. You will smell the fresh fragrance!

Then, it will be bread’s turn. Place some small slices of homemade bread in the oven, just for few minutes, to make them warm and slightly crisp(200°). The next step is to rub some garlic on the surface of bread: this is something that goes according to your personal taste, indeed not everybody can appreciate the fragrance of garlic.

In the end, prepare the slices of bread on a plate, pour on their surface some drops of extravrgin olive oil, the juice of tomatoes that is in the pan and distribute fried tomatoes, fava beans and tiny peaces of bacon. Besides, for this dish, which has the flavours of our local Mediterranean culinary tradition, I chose a local fresh sheep milk cheese to pair with and I decorated the plate with some mint. You can add drops of balsamic vinegar if you like it.

As always, the choice of wine is yours: I would have a glass of prosecco wine to thanks and for wishing everybody a good weekend!

Cenci, fiocchetti, frappe or chiacchiere, etc… Celebrating last days of Carnevale season with a typical ancient dessert that takes you around Italy

Carnival is at the end of its season and, in Italy, we like to celebrate it by preparing a well known light dessert, which has many different names, according to the region we visit, and perhaps it has its roots in the ancient Roman festivities called “frictilia”. 

The recipe is simple and it doesn’t take too long for preparing this fragrant delicacy at home. Of course, the recipe for making cenci, fiocchetti, frappe or chiacchiere can be slightly different from a place to an other in Italy or even among families. The ingredients that follow belong to the traditional recipe that in my family they have been using for years. It is always a lovely feeling to open that old, turned yellow exercise book, where my aunt Lucia diligently took note of her recipes: some of them were expression of our local culinary tradition, some others were the fruit of her experiences in the kitchen and some more were found on old fashion magazines. 

Ingredients: 

  • 500gr. wheat flour
  • n.2 eggs
  • n.2 spoons of sugar
  • 50 gr. butter
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • a bit of anise
  • a bit of white wine

Mix all together and work the mixture until it is well done, then cover it with a kitchen napkin and leave it to rest for a couple of hours. After this, make a sheet of pastry that should be a couple of millimeters thick (you may use your rolling pin or your Grandma Duck for making homemade pasta). Once you have made graceful ribbons (call them cenci, fiocchetti, frappe or chiacchiere, etc) from the stripes, fry them deep into peanut oil until they are fragrant, golden and crisp. Dust icing sugar on their surface. At this point, (according to my personal taste and inspired by typical Swedish pastry – making confectionery that is well known for the use of a range of fragranced spices) a tiny suggestion to this inviting afternoon snack might be a light variation to the traditional recipe, that is by adding also a sprinkle of cardamom or of the spice you prefer at best. Serve this light dessert with your coffee or tee and enjoy a beautiful Mardi Gras!