Afterwork: Time for Amaretto Cream

It is time for the week-end and today I have prepared a velvet cream, which has Amaretti pastries as main ingredient and fragrance. The recipe is very easy and it is a delicious idea to serve the cream cool to your guests.

Ingredients:

2 eggs, 2 spoons of sugar, 100gr mascarpone cheese, 50gr amaretti, few amaretti for decoration.

  1. Separate the yolks from the whites of eggs and work the yolks with sugar until the cream will have a very light color.
  2. Add mascarpone cheese and amaretti crumbs and work the ingredients all together in order to have a well mixed cream.
  3. Beat the egg whites till stiff, add them to the cream, mix slowly and gently: your wrist has to rotate in a movement that goes down and up.
  4. Serve the cream cool in a dessert glass and decor it with a sprinkle of coffee powder, almonds crumbs on the surface and a couple of amaretti pastries or as your creativity suggests.

Wishing everybody a good week-end!

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!

 

 

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!

 

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!

Orecchiette and Chanterelles: season ingredients for an appetizing Sunday meal

   Last Sunday morning, the sky was clear and temperature was mild: it was the promise for a good walk into nature soon. After sipping a cup of warm coffee in front of the kitchen window, I thought it was time for making orecchiette, as typical among the Sunday meals, according to Apulia gastronomy suggestions and traditional old habits of my family. As for the home-made pasta dough, ingredients are very simple, only water and good flour (I used organic Senatore Cappelli flour as usual for its excellent qualities and ancient genuine taste).

   For the dish I had in mind, there were some flavoured chanterelles in the fridge that I bought the day before at the local food market. Since, it was not my intention to use the mixer for making a sauce, I did prefer to chop the chanterelles in very small pieces. So, in a pan, I poured some extra-virgin olive oil, small cubes of fresh bacon, which soon started to ‘sweat’, giving a very tasteful smell, then I added an idea of garlic, little chopped onion, some white wine and the chanterelles. Sprinkle of thyme, rosemary and hot pepper were added to make a more intense flavour, while a couple of spoons of crème fraîche was for amalgamating the ingredients in a smooth homogeneous sauce; salt went right at the end, in order to preserve the chanterelles from loosing their own water during the cooking process.

   Once the orecchiette were cooked and tasted ‘al dente’, they were added in the pan with the chanterelles sauce and a sprinkle of small parmigiano flakes just for a couple of minutes and then, the dish was ready to be served with a simple parsley decoration.

   Hoping you are going to try and enjoy this dish, I wish everybody a good week 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!

 

 

 

Garlic, a natural healthy ingredient for a very simple and tasty Italian recipe, ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’

   Hello! There is a soft breeze in the air that gently touches flowers, trees, foliage in the garden today and nature is in a mesmerizing dance of light. Small pink flowers of wild garlic (allium), resembling tiny bright cups among lush backgrounds of artichokes plants, softly move and humbly bend on their own thin long stalk in a gracious bow. Inspiration! I just came up with the idea of making an old recipe belonging to Southern Italy culinary tradition: ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’.

   As well as being one of the main and mostly used ingredients in gastronomy, garlic has also been known for centuries for its therapeutic benefits. Indeed, in the past, its intense taste was wonderfully much appreciated both as remedy and in the kitchen. Actually, it seems that in the old Egypt, the slaves, who built the pyramids, used to have garlic in plentiful quantities, in order to feel themselves stronger and healthier. What is more, it was found out that in the tomb of Tutankhamen, bulbs of garlic were there, perhaps in order to keep evil spirits far away.  Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine highly recommended garlic for its medicine benefits. Pliny the Elder in his well known Historia Naturalis made references to the garlic for its therapeutic qualities. In the Middle Age, physicians used masks stuffed with garlic to protect themselves from diseases. During the First World War, the garlic was widely used for disinfecting wounds carefully, when there was lack of conventional antiseptics. In addiction to all this, garlic is an excellent vasodilatator, since it lowers the blood pressure and it helps to prevent heart illnesses.

   If in the Chinese cuisine, garlic and ginger are considered the most important fragrances, both for the Indian and West cuisine, garlic adds taste to all different kinds of meat, fish and vegetables dishes. It is a privileged ingredient for the Mexican and South-American cuisine and also for the French cuisine, where it is possible to enjoy garlic fragranced butter, mayonnaise and soup.

 

spaghetti alla carrettiera

   As for the Italian dish, ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’, the traditional recipe specifically coming from Eastern Sicily and widely spread everywhere in Southern Italy with all its own variations, we can point at it as representative of simplicity, since, it is very easy to make and based on very few ingredients that mostly we have in our kitchens. At this proper, garlic is one of those ingredients that we use quite every day.

  First of all, chop fresh parsley and garlic and fry gently in some extra-virgin olive oil. Add rings of onion, hot pepper and a sprinkle of oregano. In the meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water. Even though it is a very simple recipe, the ingredients have been carefully chosen, for keeping the high quality of the dish. So, here we have artisan ‘spaghetti alla chitarra trafilati al bronzo’, which are excellent for their rough surface that holds all different kinds of condiments and they taste perfect when ‘al dente’. Drain the water (save just a little of it, in case you have to add later on in the cooking process) and pour spaghetti in the pan, where you fried chopped parsley and garlic. If spaghetti look dried, then add little of that water you saved before and keep on cooking shortly on high flame. In the end, after removing from the stove, serve spaghetti very warm with a sprinkle of fried golden breadcrumb 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!

Mediterranean taste: Veal and pork chops and fresh herbs from the garden for a bouquet garni

It is Sunday afternoon, the sky is painted with golden, orange shades of light and from the garden you can listen to little birds chirping in a choir and chasing each other, joyfully flying from a branch to an other of the fruit trees in blossom. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the fragrance of fresh herbs straight from the garden invites to prepare a bouquet garni for something appetizing at dinner time.  During the week-end, I had the chance to choose some chops of veal and pork for the stew by the local food market: indeed, the meat has some hints of fat, it looks very tender and juicy so, it would be nice to cook it by providing a delicious Mediterranean taste. 

Here the suggested quantities can vary because of the presence of salt in some ingredients, thus it is necessary  a more accurate control for balance with salt:

  • 600 gr veal and pork
  • 3 or 4 anchovies in extra virgin olive oil
  • 20/30 gr capers in salt
  • fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) for a bouquet garni
  • 1 lemon
  • extravirgin olive oil and white wine
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • parsley
  • wheat flour
  • salt and pepper

Flour the chops of veal and pork and fry them golden in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a clove of garlic and the bouquet garni. As soon as the surface of the meat will be lightly crisp and golden, add half glass of white wine (the one you prefer) and let it evaporate. Then, cover the pan and cook the stew (lower flame) for about half an hour. Remove the bouquet garni. 

In the meanwhile, mix together anchovies with previously washed capers (both of the two ingredients are thinely minced), some garlic, chopped parsley, the grated peel of lemon and few drops of its juice. Keep on mixing the sauce until it becomes homogeneous, add a sprinkle of flour if it is necessary to make it thicker, cover and keep on cooking for five minutes more. Serve the stew of veal and pork very warm and the fragrance of a Mediterranean taste will be exalted and melt in your mouth.

I hope you will have the pleasure to try the recipe and enjoy the dish with family and friends and since the week is going to start soon, I wish everybody a good new one! 

 

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!