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!

 

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!

 

 

 

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

The days of the female blackbird and a genuine millet soup for children and grown-ups

February is already here and, unexpectedly, this year the last three days of January, which by tradition are cold and most often snowy, were pretty mild. Indeed, this first timid attempt of Springtime is now visible in our countryside, since the branches of almond trees are in bloom. In Italy, the last three days of January are called the ‘days of the female blackbird'(i giorni della merla) to remember a poor female blackbird and an old legend that tells us about its adventure to find a safe warm shelter by a chimneypot, where, inevitably, its feathers became dark for the smoke.

   Anyway, it’s still winter season and with a cold weather our body needs more energy to feel healthy and light. This is the reason why today I would like to suggest a smooth tasteful soup made with decorticated millet and artichokes, which is ideal for children and for grown-ups. The millet (panicum miliaceum) is one of the cereals at the base of nutrition for several populations in Asia and Africa. The origin of the millet are found back to the Neolithic and then, again, its use spread during the Middle Age in India, China and Europe. Nowadays, even though the millet has a high nutritional value, it is not very much used in Europe for reasons bound to the production and difficulties for the harvest. On the contrary, India, China, Russia, Ukraine, Africa are the main consumers of this cereal so rich in vitamin A and B, iron, magnesium and silicon.

   Back to this easy recipe, at the food market I have found excellent local artichokes and winter tomatoes. The fragrance of these latter was a sweet epiphany of childhood: a delicious morning snack at school, made of bread, yellow tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt and extravirgin olive oil to share with the best friend. Once, these tomatoes were in every house, like intertwined gems, hanging on the wall of the storeroom. At home, I started frying gently rings of red onions, tomatoes, a hint of garlic and chopped artichokes. After pouring some white wine (choose the one you prefer) and let it to evaporate, I added some vegetable bouillon and kept on cooking for about 15 min (do not forget to add a sprinkle of chily pepper and salt). In the end, I worked the artichokes with a minipimer and made a smooth cream. As second step, the millet was cooked in some vegetable bouillon for about 15/20 min (a full espresso coffee cup or a cup and a half should represents the right portion for a person). Then, I added the golden grains of millet to the artichoke cream, a couple of spoons of bouillon and served the soup with some bread. Children and grown-ups would love it.

   Wish you all ‘buon appetito’!