Warm crisp crostini of bread and lentils to wish a wonderful 2020

It is Tuesday morning, on the last day of December 2019. For the table of the new year and for wishing all the best in 2020, I prepared a soup of small lentils. In less than an hour it can be served to guests.

You need lentils (the proportions are according to the number of your guests), celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bouillon prepared with vegetables, tomato puree, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, curry, salt and pepper.

Firstly, fry a mixture of diced celery, carrots, onion in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Then, add a clove of garlic, the lentils, a coffee spoon of curry, a tea spoon of tomato puree. (When you buy lentils, please, pay attention whether you can already cook them or you have to leave them in a bowl with cold water for a couple of hours right before starting with the cooking process). Once in the pan, leave the lentils for a couple of minutes to let flavors of the frying vegetables be soaked up by the lentils and then add the bouillon. Add salt and pepper. Cook the soup slowly for about 40 minutes. In the end, lentils should be tender and dried.

Serve the warm lentils on discs (crostini) of homemade bread that you previously made crisp in the oven for about 10 minutes, 200°C, with few drops of extra virgin olive oil on their surface. Add leaves of parsley to decor the plate. This dish could be an inviting idea for starters or a light warm soup.

Many thanks and wishing everybody a wonderful 2020!

Lamb chops and bell peppers, a colorful and tasteful dish for your holiday season table

The time of holiday season is flowing and soon we will enter the new year. This is time for some relax and enjoying the good company of family and friends. At this proper, today I prepared lamb chops and bell peppers for lunch. It is a colorful and tasteful dish, which I enjoy to make from time to time for its fragrances of Mediterranean herbs and I may recommend for your New Year’s Eve table. It is easy to prepare and your guests will appreciate it.

The ingredients for this dish are lamb chops, garlic, leek, breadcrumbs, some herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, grated parmigiano, a lemon, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, salt and pepper.

As first step, for preparing this dish, it is necessary to make little pieces of parsley, thyme, a clove of garlic and the peel of a lemon. In a bowl mix all these little pieces of herbs and garlic together with breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano, after you have added a couple of tea spoons of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Secondly, make cubes of red and yellow bell peppers and cook them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, little white wine, garlic and rings of leek. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, some thyme and a soup spoon of rough minced almonds. Keep on cooking for about 20 minutes.

Third step: coat the chops of lamb with the mixture in the bowl made of herbs, breadcrumbs, garlic etc. and fry the chops until they will get a golden crisp surface.

In the end, serve the warm chops of lamb with the bell peppers.

Wishing everybody “bon appétit”, thank you and, most of all, may your 2020 be wonderful!

Home Made Fresh Pasta at Christmas Time

Here we are! It’s the second weekend of Advent and, in the kitchen, on Sunday morning, we enjoy making fresh pasta. Actually, serving ravioli to guests at our Christmas table can be an excellent idea but we are going to use alternative ingredients for the stuffing, such as sheep milk ricotta cheese (250gr), parmigiano reggiano (50gr) and a pear.

  • As first step we make a thin sheet of pastry. The manual pasta making machine (nonna papera) is the faster solution if you are in a hurry or you may use a rolling pin if you are familiar with it. The proportion of the ravioli mixture for a couple of people is 250g semolina, one egg, little oil, water. Of course, you can add ingredients according to the number of your guests. As soon as the mixture is done, leave it to rest for an hour.
  • In the meanwhile, cut a pear in very small cubes, add a yolk, ricotta, grated parmigiano cheese and mix the stuffing for ravioli pasta.
  • Then, make small discs of ravioli pasta, stuff them with a spoon of the cream made with pear, ricotta and parmigiano cheese, seal them hermetically.
  • Cook ravioli in boiling salted water for few minutes and, as soon as ravioli come up on the surface of the boiling water, it’s time to strain them.
  • Finally, serve them warm in a dish with melted butter, grated sheep milk cheese and papaver seeds on top.

Buon appetito and wishing everybody a good new week!

A rich tasteful meal to welcome the arrival of snow

   It does not snow often in Apulia at Wintertime. Indeed, it takes years or even decades to watch snowing and perhaps, once in a while, it is a welcome gift for generations of new borns to learn with amazement about its cold, fluffy, white lightness. On Friday, January 4th 2019, right at the beginning of this first weekend of the new year, silently snow came, like a couple of years ago, for  covering the  regions of Southern Italy with its white blanket, to celebrate Epiphany and last days of a very mild weathered holiday season. On the one hand, it was a delightful surprise again for many of those, who learnt about its existence with joyful spirit during their childhood. On the other hand, snow means to hurry in order to reap the local crops from the fields, before they get lost. Indeed, since snowing is not so frequent in the South of Apulia, it is not used to have growings in greenhouses. Perhaps, experiencing different climatic conditions in recent years might be seen as an excellent opportunity to bring safer, innovative solutions to local season farming. 

   For lunch time, we prepared a symphony of different tastes, both from local culinary tradition and from the gastronomy of Central/Northern European Countries. We started with a warm healthy soup made of lentils coming from Altamura (an ancient town in Apulia, not far from Bari, which was founded by Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dinasty and it is also well known for its genuine tasteful bread), which is an authentic healthy idea, when it is cold outside. Taking advantage of our cosy fireplace, we cooked the lentils soup in the old slow way, on the live charcoal, in a typical earthenware pot. Lentils were prepared in some extra virgin olive oil and water (you can pour some vegetables bouillon, if you like it), adding small cherry tomatoes, selery, onion, salt, pepper, laurel.

   Then, it was the turn for a puree of broccoli. We steamed and  lightly sautéed broccoli in extravirgin olive oil and rosé wine, with chopped onion, an idea of garlic, a sprinkle of salt and hot pepper. After that, we put broccoli in a food processor, where the puree of broccoli was done, adding some vegetable bouillon from time to time.

   From the butcher, we had a delicious porchetta style turkey tenderloin aromatized with fresh rosemary, fennel seeds and sage, which we cooked with an emulsion of extravirgin olive oil, red wine, chopped leek, laurel at first. Then, almost at the end of the cooking process, we poured some vegetable bouillon on the turkey tenderloin for a tastier moister flavour.

   New local potatoes are an appetizing delicacy even at Wintertime and a must for a dish, when good flavour of meat paired with lightness are served. So, we prepared a wonderful sauce for the steamed potatoes, using a special recipe, which was given to us, while in Stockholm, by a very kind and solicitous lady, working in a food store. We mixed together the ingredients for the sauce in a good balance of moutarde de Dijon, skånsk senap, vinegar, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, (rapsolja is mostly used in Sweden), garlik, leek and fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon.

  In the end, the dish made of a warm lentils soup, fragrant porchetta style turkey tenderloin on a bed of broccoli puree, new potatoes dressed with a tasteful Swedish sauce was served by the fireplace.

   The holiday season is at the end and we do hope you had beautiful time. We wish you all the best for the new year ahead and hope you will keep enjoying our culinary tips. Thanks a lot and enjoy the music!

A homemade green lasagna: layers of lightness in the dish

   A white tablecloth is the fine simple way to dress the table for the Christmas holiday season and it is also the best way to highlight your delicious dishes. In a couple of days, we are going to celebrate the arrival of the new year and, for the special event, we take care of our guests by preparing a light green lasagna that both children and grown up would love to eat.

Bread balls and vegetables soup: a delightful revisitation of an old family recipe for the Christmas table

   Hallo! We are at the third weekend of Advent and, for many, this means to make dishes from the old, local Christmas gastronomy live again; it is about those ancient tastes, which belong both to childhood memories and to family traditions as well. As a child, on these very special occasions, I often watched my Mom making tasteful bread balls, which were dipped and cooked in a boiling, Summer fragranced, home-made tomato sauce. She learnt this old recipe from her father, my grandfather, and, in the years, from time to time, I had the pleasure to prepare it too. This time, I’ve got in mind a revisitation of the old grandfather’s recipe  in favour of a  light, healthy, warm dish, which could be a tasteful alternative to richer dishes belonging to the Christmas tradition. 

   Ingredients for the vegetables soup: local potatoes, selery, carrots, orange cauliflower and romanesco broccoli, savoy cabbage, yellow and red peppers, zucchini, onion, garlic, fresh grated turmeric, salt, pepper, extravirgin olive oil, white or rosé wine, pieces of leg of lamb.

   Once all vegetables have been chopped into same-sized pieces, sauté the ingredients in a pot with little extravirgin olive oil in order to retain their integrity and nutritional content. Cook gently, tossing and stirring the vegetables. The cooking process could take about 15 minutes, it depends on the size of the vegetables.  Add the seasoning ingredients right at the beginning in order the vegetables can take their own time to get all fragrances. Let the pieces of leg of lamb to hiss a little before pouring some white or rosé wine. Leave the wine to evaporate and then add some bouillon prepared with carrot, selery and onion. Keep on cooking, covering the pot with a lid. As soon as the vegetables will be done, remove the pot from the cooker and use the mixer to make an homogeneous velvet cream of them. Please, remember to add the pieces of leg of lamb at the end, when you will serve the dish, if you like it. The purpose of the pieces of leg of lamb among the ingredients is to provide a richer taste to the soup.

   Ingredients for the breadballs (choose carefully the right amount of each ingredient, according to the number of guests at your table) : breadcrumbs, eggs, grated pecorino romano cheese, sage, milk, salt and pepper. Please, be careful with salt, since pecorino romano cheese tastes spicy and tasteful. At this proper, I may suggest to have a taste of the bread balls while mixing all ingredients together.

   Use all ingredients to work a good, soft mixture. Please, do not use much milk, otherwise the mixture could open while frying the bread balls. Make your bread balls, press a little on them in order to get homogeneously cooked. Coat the balls with breadcrumbs and fry them until their surface becomes golden and crisp.

   The more the bread balls will be warm when served with the creamy vegetables soup, the more you will taste the fresh fragrance of the sage and the spicy taste of pecorino romano cheese inside of them.

    I hope you have got the chance to enjoy this simple, humble, healthy dish and wish everybody a good 3rd weekend of Advent!

Shrimps potatoes croquettes: a tasteful appetizer-idea for children and older children

Hallo! Have you got in mind to prepare something appetizing for your dear ones at the week-end? Well, you might follow this tasteful warm suggestion we are going to explain about, which will make mouth watering both to children and older children. 

Ingredients you need for preparing the croquettes: good local potatoes, fresh pink shrimps, ginger, scallion, white wine, fresh dill, chili pepper, an idea of garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, fresh butter. As for the right proportions among the ingredients, please, feel free to choose the correct balance according to your tastes, e.g. more or less potatoes or more or less pink shrimps. Then, in order this delicious recipe to be successful, you need to split the process for preparation in two phases.

First phase : steam the potatoes on the day before you have in mind to prepare the croquettes and leave them to rest in a cool place (e.g. in the fridge). This is because when you will bake them in the oven or you will fry the croquettes, they won’t flake off.

Second phase : On the day you are going to make the croquettes, mash the potatoes and add a sprinkle of salt. Sauté the shrimps in extra virgin olive oil, add chopped scallion, grated ginger, an idea of garlic, fresh dill, then pour some white wine, let it to evaporate, and, in the end, add a sprinkle of salt and chili pepper. As soon as the shrimps get cooler, chop and add them to the mashed potatoes, more dill. Besides, you will need to add one or two handfuls of breadcrumbs, so the mixture will be more thick and homogeneous, in order to be worked in small portions in your hands, when you make croquettes. Once croquettes are done, place them accurately on a baking tray and leave a knob of butter on the surface of each of them. Bake the croquettes in the oven (220° C) for about 10/15 minutes and serve them warm, golden, crisp and fragrant. By the way, I may suggest to pair the croquettes with a home-made cream of green peas: perhaps you can enjoy decorating the dish with quenelles made of it, what do you think?

I hope you will enjoy this recipe and wish ‘buon appetito’!

PS. I have poured few drops of an excellent fresh Béarnaise Provençale Sauce (made in Sweden) on top of the croquettes and they taste sublime!

Home-made ravioli and the vegetable garden in the wintertime

   It is the third Advent week, and it is less than ten days for Christmas day. Outside, in the garden, the air is crisp and invites to have a cup of warm coffe in your hands. Three small candles brings light into the darkness of the early morning. Soon, the sunrise will fill the sky with its golden pink brightness. Winter season is just behind the corner and, according to the good agricultural practice, fruit trees need to be pruned in order to be prepared for the new Springtime. Since every season has its own crops, now it is time for beautiful plants of cardoon in our vegetable garden, they are ideals for warm tasteful soups and, at this proper, in Apulia, Southern Italy, it is common to cook cardoons in many different ways. The recipe, I am going to make today, combines, calling to a culinary harmony, savours and food products of the Northern regions with those coming from the South. Step by step, we are going to build the dish, by adding the ingredients it needs.

   First of all, let’s work a mixture made of good ecological flour and water and make sheets of pasta for ravioli. I have used 200/ 250 gr of Senatore Cappelli flour and about a glass of water. You can help yourself by using a manual Nonna Papera machine for home-made fresh pasta at first, then choose to use a fan-shaped mould for ravioli or simply use a glass to make discs and, in the end, once the filling is in the center of the disc, press the tips of a fork to seal along the border of ravioli. 

DSC_2932 sfoglia

As for the filling, make a mixture made with mashed local potatoes (at this proper, I steamed  Sieglinde potatoes, a variety that is firm on cooking and has high nutritional values), add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, chopped onion lightly fried into extravirgin olive oil, a couple of soup spoons of grated local ‘pecorino’ (sheep milk) cheese, small cubes of Speck from Alto Adige and raclette cheese, rosemary. Fill the center of the raviolo disc and close it in the way suggested above.

DSC_2940 ravioli

   The third step is to prepare the cardoon cream. Sauté the cardoons and some cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil and then add vegetable bouillon. Keep on cooking the cardoons until they are tender and then make a cream with them, by adding a couple of spoons of crème fraîche and tasteful pecorino cheese.

   Cook ravioli in salted boiling water, strain and serve them very warm on a plate with the smooth cardoon cream. Decor the dish with some fresh rosemary and ‘buon appetito’, bon appétit, smaklig måltid!

Wishing everybody a good third Advent week

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!

Apulia, its unusual white dress of fluffy snow and a warm vegetable soup that tastes of simple life!

The Epiphany weekend is already behind us and Apulia region, mostly characterized by mild temperatures, even at winter time, like other places in Southern Italy, is extraordinarily wearing a white dress of fluffy snow in these days. Indeed, it is almost unusual to taste arctic weather and contemplate snowy landscapes, which are more typical of Northern European Countries, right in the small baroque styled towns and Mediterranean countrysides that cover the South of Apulia. There, the presence of the snow is attested only in very rare occasions in the years. Perhaps, according to the perspective of a very young child, who has never seen the snow before and watches it with amazed eyes for the first time, it represents a small gift under the Christmas tree: ‘NEVE’, that is the Italian noun for ‘SNOW’ and it will be associated by the child to the cold, light, white, tiny ‘thing’ from the first moment in his life he experienced it on. The silent snowing in the night, the bright sky and view during the day, the sound of walking steps deeping in the cold soft carpet along the narrow, winding streets of small centers, everything calls for new explorations of ancient corners forged in the tender honey shaded stones and snow.  After taking a long walk and wondering about the amazing beauty of nature, seen in tiny snowflakes, perhaps a good soup, to warm our bones, would be very welcome! The cosy space by the fireplace looks very inviting in these days and it reminds of older ages, when the ladies of the family daily cooked simple meals in those typical local pots on embers. So, I took homegrown peas from the freeze, (a taste of Spring season even at Winter time is an authentic bliss!) and prepared a cream for warm bruschettas as appetizer and a spicy cauliflower and barley soup (of course you may opt for spelt or rice, for example) as main dish. Here there are some suggestions:

  • Fry gently peas in extra virgin olive oil with onion, a hint of garlic, tiny cubes of speck (from Alto Adige), salt and pepper. Add little vegetable bouillon, keep on cooking by letting the bouillon to evaporate a little and add leaves of mint when peas are soft. Make a smooth cream by using a hand blender and serve it on slices of warm bread and goat cheese.
  • As for the soup, cut the cauliflower in small pieces and make it slightly golden in extra virgin olive oil with rings of onion. Add tomatoes, a hint of garlic, a mashed boiled potato (of course it depends on the proportions of your soup) and then let simmer gently in vegetable bouillon until it will be a bit creamy. Right at the end, add the barley (already boiled) and a tea spoon of a typical spicy ricotta cheese (made of sheep milk and with a very strong spicy taste), which represents a delicacy and very ancient tradition for ‘poor’ gastronomy in Apulia region. Cook for little while more in order to combine and get flavour. Serve the soup in a bowl and a sprinkle of chopped parsley on its surface. Choose your wine and … Buon Appetito!

children-and-snow