It is the season for fava beans

Hallo! An inviting recipe introduces the new week and Springtime. This last weekend, at the food market, among hills of vegetables, I saw fresh fava beans winking at my direction. Since they looked small and tender, they could taste appetizing prepared with a light salad of spelt (triticum spelta). By the way, I added some globose, pulpy tomatoes to my shopping list for using them as natural floral cups to be filled with the salad.

In the kitchen, I accurately cut the upper side of the tomatoes, then, helped myself with a corer and emptied the tomatoes of their juicy pulp, which will be added to the preparation of the fava beans later on. Tomatoes were turned upside down on a grill, after adding a sprinkle of sea salt inside in order to have a good straining process.

As second step, I cooked some spelt into salted boiling water (a small coffee cup filled with spelt can be the right portion for each guest at your table). When the spelt was done and strained, it was left in a corner for few minutes, until the fava beans were also ready for finishing the dish.

Then, it was the turn of the fava beans. After being shelled, the fava beans were gently fried with some chopped onion and an idea of garlic in a couple of spoons of extra virgin olive oil for three or four minutes. I added the juicy pulp of the tomatoes prepared before to the fava beans and kept on cooking them. It was necessary to add also some bouillon made with vegetables, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. In the end, the spelt was well mixed with some grated Toscanello cheese, the fava beans and its creamy sauce.

Last step, for finishing the dish, was to fill the tomatoes with spoons of spelt and fava beans and top them with few drops of extra virgin olive oil. Then the tomatoes were placed in the oven for about 20 minutes (180°) and served with leaves of fresh mint.

I heartly hope you will enjoy this culinary idea that tastes of Spring and wish ‘buon appetito’ and a good week to everybody.

Good food in the kitchen

Genuine, simple ingredients make good dishes. Wishing everybody a beautiful Sunday!

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!

Savoy cabbage ravioli

Hello, for those, who enjoy cooking, it is always nice to dedicate some time of yours to  prepare genuine, home made dishes for family and friends. So, my small culinary tip for the week-end is a light ravioli recipe that perhaps your children would enjoy to help preparing as well. After making pasta sheets, by using only local organic flour and water, I chose my pasta fan shape and made medium-sized discs, which I filled with stewed savoy cabbage, excellent fragranced mortadella Bologna, raisins, pine seeds.

I cooked ravioli in salted boiling water and as soon as they tasted ‘al dente’, they were drained and served warm, topped with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of excellent pecorino cheese from Tuscany. An alternative to extravirgin olive oil, might be to melt a nut of fresh butter, according to your choice and taste.

The flavour is delicious and all I can add is to wish ‘buon appetito’ and enjoy the week-end to everybody!

nonna papera

Golden crêpes filled with small shrimps that taste like Spring

   Hello! Spring is at work here again: day by day, its distinct singing can reach even the most distant corners and, by magic, its brush masterfully covers every little space of this huge natural canvas with the most beautiful and vivid palettes of colors. It is time for staying much longer in the open air, enjoying the garden and long walks and..visiting the local food markets, where to find the ingredients for tasteful recipes.

   The dish prepared today is not so elaborate as it can appear. They are crêpes made of chickpeas flour, filled with small shrimps and sautéd zucchini gently mixed with a couple of spoons of soured cream.

   So, as first step, prepare the batter for crêpes by pouring 120 gr chickpeas flour in a bowl, then add a spoon of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a sprinkle of turmeric, coriander, just few seeds of cumin and a couple of parsley leaves, gently whip all ingredients by adding 270 ml water very slowly until you have a fluid batter. At this proper, please, remember that, in order to make air bubbles in the batter, your wrist must be always up and firm while your hand will work down, up and down again. Place the batter to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Secondly, warm few drops of extra-virgin olive oil in a frying-pan and use a ladle for pouring the batter in it, make a disc on the surface of the frying-pan and when the crêpe will look golden and crisp, turn it on the other side. 

   Souté the shrimps, once their shell has been removed and they have been accurately washed: in a pan, fry some rings of onion, a hint of garlic, rings of leek, a couple of small cherry tomatoes, add the shrimps, salt and pepper, some Chardonnay wine, a sprinkle of dill. Cook the shrimps only for few minutes in order to keep their sea fragrance.

   In the end, as already mentioned before, sauté fresh zucchini in extra-virgin olive-oil with little onion, garlic and leaves of sage, add salt and pepper in the end, right before gently mix with a couple spoons of soured cream.

Serve this dish warm with a good Chardonnay wine and ‘buon appetito!

 

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!

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’!