What’s in the picnic basket for your Summer hiking?

Hello! It is getting really hot in these days and finally, after a long period of “staying at home”, there is a plenty of opportunities to catch and go hiking. Of course we have to choose also among nice cozy places in the middle of nature, where to sit and enjoy our “déjeuner sur l’herbe”.

At this proper, we have to think about the food to take there. For the occasion, I thought about a variety of green tastes to choose and made up my mind for a many-layers-sandwich with fresh steamed vegetables, like broccoli, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, little shrimps and some turkey. All of them taste so good with some delicate mayonnaise and creamy stracchino cheese.

Enjoy the picnic and all the best to everybody for the Midsummer celebration.

Spaghetti dish, the European football championship and Summer season

Hello! Summer season is at the door, we enjoy the European football championship and we love pasta.

These are the three main ingredients for our special dish made with spaghetti and a convivial “al fresco”dining.

Let’s start with frying some fresh bacon or speck in a pan without using oil. Leave the fat to heat and melt in the pan until the bacon or the speck will have a crisp surface. Then, remove it from the cooker.

Grate some “pecorino” sheep milk cheese. I have tried a different taste by using smoked caciocavallo cheese from Calabria.

Peel some fresh fava beans.

Boil some salt water, then add spaghetti and cook them.

In the meanwhile, pour some boiling water from spaghetti cooking in a sauce pan, add some grated cheese in it and work to melt it. Help yourself with a fork or a whisk in order to have a light creamy cheese sauce.

Drain the spaghetti a couple of minutes before they are done, saving some water, which you will pour in a pan with some hot extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of black pepper powder and keep on cooking spaghetti in the pan.

Add the light cream made with cheese and “manteca”, that is, whisk all well.

Serve spaghetti warm with some fresh faba beans and crisp pancetta or speck, a pich of black pepper and a sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Wishing everybody “buon appetito”, bon appétit and enjoy a fantastic “al fresco” dining with the European football championship!

Shall we make a zucchini tart?

Hello! On this second week of June we are going to bake a tasteful zucchini tart, which perhaps would turn to be a delightful appetizer for our Summer “al fresco” dinners in the verandah with family and friends or a fantastic snack for the children. Let’s do it!

As for the ingredients to make the tart, we need: 250 gr all purpose flour, 100 gr hot water, 100 gr extra virgin olive oil, a coffee spoon of sea salt, a coffee spoon of baking powder.

Let’s mix and work the ingredients all together, until we have a homogeneous mixture, which we leave to rest just for the time we will slice and steam (for about 10 minutes, or less) a couple of fresh zucchini.

Once zucchini are lightly soften but still “al dente”, let’s season them in a dish with an emulsion based on extra virgin olive oil, few drops of apple cider vinegar, hints of garlic, black pepper powder, citrus thyme and mentha leaves.

Back to the tart mixture. Make a disk of it. Help yourself with greaseproof paper and a rolling pin. Place the disk in a baking tray and make a layer with zucchini.

Add sweet rings of red onion (I used Tropea onion) and bake the tart for 45 minutes in the oven (200°C).

About 10 minutes before the tart is done, let’s add some cheese. I had some smoked caciocavallo cheese on top, which tastes very good with the sweetness of the onion and the zucchini.

Serve the crisp tart warm or cold. Any way it is a delightful dish for the Summer season.

A variation for the filling of the tart might be this gorgeous velouté sauce prepared with 200 gr robiola cheese, 100 gr spinach leaves, 4 small zucchini, a scallion, 800 ml broth, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

Chop scallion and stew it in extra virgin olive oil. Add chopped zucchini, spinach, broth. Cook zucchini until they will be soft. Work all ingredients and the robiola cheese in a food mixer and make a velvet cream. Use the cream as the filling of the tart and .. bon appétit! 

Crisp single crust polenta pie topped with broccoli, sausage and sweet Tropea onion. It tastes so good!

Hello, it’s a new week and it is time for a new recipe! Cooking polenta does not belong to the culinary tradition of Apulia, in Southern Italy, the region where I live. However, this ingredient, which is very much used in the North of Italy, pairs very well with home fresh produces and products from my area and with those that I chose yesterday at the food market. So, let’s try it!

In the kitchen, last night, I enjoyed cooking a delicious meal, which is pretty simple to prepare, even though it takes between 90 and 120 minutes of your time to be ready and to serve to your guests.

Starting with a good frying pan, where to pour some extra virgin olive oil to heat, then add sweet rings of onion (on the occasion, I chose gorgeous red onions of Tropea), small cherry tomatoes, pieces of a good local sausage made of minced pork and veal.

As soon as the oil starts hissing in the pan, add a hint of garlic and a pinch of oregano. By the flavoury taste of each ingredient present in the pan, your mouth will start watering.

Then, it is the turn for steamed broccoli.

You can watch the video I made to see how gently they cook with the other ingredients. All of them must have a very short cooking time in order to save their “crispness” for the palate. Once the ingredients that go on top are done, let’s work on with polenta, which will be the crisp base for the single crust pie.

Boil some salted water and, out of the cooker, pour gently the necessary polenta flour for making a smooth, soft, creamy mixture.

Help yourself with a whisk to crush every crumble of polenta and make it like velvet.

Pour the polenta in the frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil (not too much!) and, with a wooden spatule, prepare the base for the pie.

While the polenta base cooks, its surface will start coming solid.

After 30 minutes, turn the polenta base upside down, in order to fry also the other side and have it homogeneously golden and crisp.

Almost in the end, add all ingredients on the polenta pie crust and some grated smoked caciocavallo cheese on top. Cover the pie with a lid for few minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve the polenta pie warm.

Enjoy the dish with a glass of your preferred wine and “bon appétit”.

Thank you and until next recipe!

🌱🌼🌱🌼🌱

Almond bread: an old family recipe on Easter Monday

It was a very special Easter Day, which was spent, most of it, between writing and talking to members of the family and friends. Besides, according to the culinary traditions of my family at Easter time, last night I enjoyed baking a fragrant almond bread ideal to be served at any coffee pause throughout the day or to bring with as a dessert for a picnic now that Spring has come.

The ingredients of the recipe to make the almond bread are:

  • 170 gr cake and pastry flour
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 75 gr butter
  • 3 eggs + a yolk to paint on the surface of the bread
  • 250 ml of white wine
  • a coffee cup of Alchermes liqueur
  • 100 gr peeled almonds
  • 50 gr hazelnuts
  • the peel of a lemon
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 gr baking powder
  1. Start with beating one egg and an albumen with 25 gr sugar and the Alchermes. Then, add 50 gr minced almonds and the hazelnuts, a couple of cloves and work all together until you will have a fluid creamy mixture.
  2. Prepare a second mixture made of flour, one egg and a yolk, a sprinkle of salt, the butter (at this proper, my aunt, who used to enjoy baking this bread and to deliver it to neighbours and members of the family, would have add lard instead of butter), the rest of minced almonds mixed with sugar, the peel of a lemon and the wine. Add the baking powder and work the mixture just a couple of minutes in order to have all ingredients well combined.
  3. Divide the mixture in two parts (help yourself with a rolling pin and little flour) and make two layers for your greased, floured baking tray.
  4. Place the first layer in the baking tray. Please, do not forget to make 1 cm border with the first layer all around the baking tray.
  5. Pour the cream made with the first mixture and then add the second layer on. Seal hermetically, paint some yolk on the surface of the bread, make some decors with a knife.
  6. Place the almond bread in the oven and bake it slowly and gently for about 50 minutes (160°C).
  7. Decor your almond bread for the right occasion, serve it with a couple of spoons of vanilla cream or some ice cream or enjoy it with your preferred drink.

A good Easter Monday and safe new week to everybody! Thank you 🙏💖

Cups of pâte sablée, ricotta cream and red fruits at Springtime

Hello! Up on the trees new gems are in bloom and everywhere it is the fragrance of earth and green. Let’s start this first Sunday of Springtime by preparing some small cups of pâte sablée, which we are going to fill with a light ricotta cheese cream and decor with red fruits.

The ingredients we need are: 125 gr of flour, 70 gr of butter, 50 gr of caster sugar, a yolk, a sprinkle of salt, seeds of vanilla, cow milk ricotta cheese, red fruits.

  1. Work a mixture of flour and small cubes of butter with your hands.
  2. Add the caster sugar. Using the caster sugar will help to make a more compact mixture.
  3. Then, it’s the turn of a yolk and a small idea of sea salt.
  4. Mix until the ingredients are all together and then leave the pâte sablée to rest in the fridge for a couples of hours.
  5. Work the mixture without adding much flour, in order to have more humidity, and make little discs of pâte sablée, then place them in buttered moulds.
  6. Prod the surface of each cup with a fork and cover it with a piece of greaseproof paper. Then, add a handful of dried pulses.This will help the surface of pâte sablée to bake well without rising much.
  7. Bake the cups for about ten minutes (180°C) or at least until they get a golden color.
  8. As soon as they get cooler, help yourself with a sac à poche and fill the cups with ricotta cheese cream (prepared with cold cow milk ricotta cheese, seeds of vanilla and some sugar).
  9. Decor with red fruits on top.

Your children will love to have these delicious cups any time you are going to prepare and serve them as a genuine light snack. Wishing a beautiful Spring to everybody and, please, keep on staying safe!

Curly ribbons of home made fresh nettle pasta

Hello! We’re almost in the middle of February and for those, who enjoy gardening, it is time to help nature, starting to prepare the soil for the new Spring dress. On the ground, in the garden, among sleeping plants and trees, it is pretty common to find some growing plants of nettle to uproot. The nettle is a wild stingy herb, well known since ancient times, for its peculiar texture, the production of natural fibre and healthy benefits. Often, it is also used in the kitchen for making home made pasta, which turns to be a delicate dish worth to try.

Portions provided here can be for a couple of people. First of all, wash the tender stingy leaves of nettle in cold water thoroughly (be careful, use gloves!). Secondly, cook the nettles into boiling water for few minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt in the end. Thirdly, strain from the water and work the nettles in a food processor to have a thick mixture. Fouthly, mix 160 gr of processed nettles with 70gr of organic wholemeal flour (I used local ground stoned Senatore Cappelli quality) and 80 gr of yellow semolina. Since the nettles have water in their own texture, it shouldn’t be necessary to add more water for the kneading process. No eggs are necessary, since, according to Apulia culinary traditions, we do not use eggs in home made pasta making. Besides, we like to have a very light pasta dish. Add little more flour, if necessary, for a well compact mixture. Fifthly, make sheets of pastry (help yourself with a nonna papera machine, positions n. 3 or 4 for thickness) and then long stripes of nettle pasta, which you will roll up around your finger for having curly ribbons like I did in the picture. Then, leave the nettle pasta to rest for 5/6 hours or for a night.

At lunch or dinner time, the curly ribbons will take only 2/3 minutes into boiling salt water to be cooked “al dente”. I served them warm with a fresh moist tomato sauce and a sprinkle of pecorino di Pienza cheese. Of course you may serve with a different sauce you prefer.

Wishing everybody to enjoy this delicate dish, which perhaps might be an inviting, very simple, romantic idea to prepare by yourself for your loved one on Valentine’s day.

Bread rolls, focaccia and green vegetables: are you hungry?

Just few days more and soon, January will fly away. It is pretty cold outside, but now, more than ever, it is beautiful to have a walk in the middle of a silent nature. On the one hand, the earth is having a little rest, on the other hand, it is also preparing, in its own precious case, the new gems to wear at Springtime.

At this proper, even in Winter season, of course, it is possible to choose among a plenty of good vegetables for making inviting meals. Here there are a couple of easy culinary ideas you might like to try and develop if you want to have something appetizing throughout the day, perhaps for your coffee pause or as a tasteful snack or appetizer, just before dinner.

First of all, prepare a dough mixing 250gr of flour (125gr all purpose flour+125gr wholemeal bread flour), about 10/12gr yeast, a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of sugar (to help the ricing process) and the necessary warm water to make a thick and very soft dough. Then, cover the dough with a clingfilm and leave it to rest for about 6 hours.

As vegetables for the filling of the focaccia, I chose leaves of chard and cabbage. In a pan, cook gently and only for few minutes, in extra virgin olive oil with rings of leek and an idea of garlic, the chopped chard (please, remove the hard stem), the cabbage and, right in the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and cubes of smoked bacon. The vegetables must be crisp.

Once the dough is ready, you can bake for example some simple bread rolls in the oven (250°C) until you see their golden puffy surface. (I used a baking tray for muffins, helped myself with a soup spoon and little water in order to dip it in and then fill the moulds with the dough). Stuff your bread rolls with the ingredients you like best.

If you prefer to try a tasteful focaccia, pour a layer of dough in a buttered baking tin, add the filling of vegetables, smoked bacon and some cubes of Emmenthal cheese. Make a second layer of dough for covering the filling, drops of extravirgin olive oil on the surface and in the oven for about 20 minutes (220°C). Serve the focaccia fluffy and warm, enjoy the taste and a good weekend to everybody!

Fragrances of chocolate to start 2021

Christmas season is at the end with religious celebrations on this January 6th 2021 and, in Italy, children love in particular way this holiday and wait with great enthusiasm and wonder for the arrival of “la befana”, a folkloristic character of the ancient tales, that is an old lady flying on a magic besom to bring toys to them.

On this occasion, we have prepared some little disks of excellent fine 70% dark chocolate with a range of tastes of dried fruit and spices on top. Because of the choice of ingredients, these delicacies might be a different version of “mediants au chocolat”, which represent an ancient tradition for the French pâtisserie.

For preparing them, you need chocolate (250g), the one you like best, be dark chocolate, or white or milk chocolate. Choose and chop some dried fruit (100gr) to top on the disks: we used apricots, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame. Then, mix these latter all together. Temper the chocolate and when it reaches the right temperatures in the process, use a soup spoon to make small disks on greaseproof paper sheets, then sprinkle the chosen dried fruit, adding cinnamon, cardamom, hot pepper powder on top. Place your chocolate disks in the fridge to get them cooler. Then, out of the fridge, remove them from the greaseproof paper sheet and serve them with a good cup of warm tea or coffee to your guests. It would be a good idea to store them accurately in a tin box and keep in a cool place for 4-5 days.

Many thanks and now let’s enjoy a long walk in the new year. Stay safe, everybody! ❤

Christmas, Tolkien and a warm cup of creamy zabaione

Merry Christmas, everybody! It is time to sit by the fireplace, in good company of a beautiful book written by J.R.R. Tolkien and posthumously published for the first time in 1976, “The Father Christmas Letters“, while enjoying the pleasure of tasting a warm creamy zabaglione prepared with a hint of Armagnac, a sprinkle of cocoa and tiny slivers of dark chocolate on top. The recipe of zabaglione is simple and you need only very few ingredients for enjoying this delicious cream.

Ingredients for 4 people: 6 yolks, 50 gr of icing sugar, 4 soup spoons of Armagnac, a knob of butter, a tea spoon of (bitter) cocoa, a tea spoon of tiny slivers of dark chocolate.

Heat in a bain-marie yolks, icing sugar and armagnac. Beat the ingredients for at least 15 minutes by using a blender. When the cream is thick, add a knob of butter. Remove the bowl from the cooker and the bain-marie, keep on beating and whip the zabaione for more 15 minutes. Serve the warm cream in cups, add a sprinkle of cocoa and slivers of dark chocolate on top. Enjoy it!

Many thanks. I hope you all are well and wish a beautiful Christmas day. Please, stay safe, everybody. God Jul! ❤