We had a few more activities during Thanksgiving other than eating. In this post I'll talk about making wreaths.
Wreaths sono le coroncine natalizie - e' tradizione prepararle durante il giorno del Ringraziamento e metterle sulla porta nell'attesa del Natale.
In Italy, wreaths don't really exist. We put up Christmas trees on December 8th, together with our Nativities, but no wreaths. So it was very interesting for me to see how to make them. First of all, you need to have a few pine trees, and you need to know how to cut them down (that's why no one makes them in Italy.. too many houses and too few trees :) :) ). Once you collect enough branches, you have to cut them so that you have pieces of the right length. Then, you have to prepare bunches, nicely organized, and of the right size. You have to assemble these bunches inside some hooks that are part of an iron 'bone' of the wreath. There's a special table where these are assembled, which allows you to clamp the bunches by pressing something with your foot.
If you 'Read more' you'll see how to actually make it!!
Here is the happy wreath-maker :)
And here is a close-up of a freshly started wreath.
And this is a finished-up wreath.
Once you have the wreath, you can decorate it. I did this at home, after taking apart last year's wreath...
Old wreath (made with a different type of pine tree)
and new wreath.
Aren't they pretty? :)
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
We had a few more activities during Thanksgiving other than eating. In this post I'll talk about making wreaths.
Almost one week has passed since Thanksgiving, but I haven't had time to write about it until now.. and I'm sure my Italian friends will be curious to see how Americans spend Thanksgiving!
So, first, a historical note about why Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. Since all Americans should know about it, I'll write it in Italian. If you want to check your knowledge about it, though, I found a quiz on it :)
La prima festa del Ringraziamento risale al 1621, e fu festeggiata dai Pellegrini che erano arrivati sul Mayflower dall'Olanda (dove erano fuggiti, originariamente dall'Inghilterra). Il loro primo anno in America era stato molto duro, ma nel 1621 ebbero un abbondante raccolto e decisero di indire una festa di tre giorni per ringraziare per tale ricchezza. Alla festa invitarono anche i nativi 'Indiani' dato che li avevano molto aiutati a sopravvivere al loro primo inverno. Altre celebrazioni del Ringraziamento seguirono, e un giorno del ringraziamento fu inizialmente ufficializzato nel 1777. A questa celebrazione i nativi non furono piu' invitati.. dato che tra le cose per cui si ringraziava, c'era anche la vittoria sui 'pagani nativi'..
La tradizione di mangiare tacchino nel giorno del ringraziamento viene dal fatto che i Pellegrini avrebbero mangiato oche selvatiche e cacciagione, durante la prima festa del 1621, mentre le tradizioni della torta di zucca e varie altre torte non hanno vere origini nel passato culinario.
This year, we spent Thanksgiving with Lucas's parents, and it was a really really nice break. Moreover, Thanksgiving day was also Lucas's mom, so it was the perfect moment to visit! We arrived on Wednesday evening and stayed at their place till Saturday afternoon. For me it was absolutely relaxing. Just eating, cooking, going for a walk, and even some shopping on Saturday! And a few games at Scrabble (Scarabeo).
Here is my Thanksgiving plate:
From the top, going clockwise: cornbread, peperonata alle melanzane and very close, green beans. Then, beets, potatoes and carrots with besciamella, bread roll, country ham, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing in the center.
If you want to know more about the food and all the other things we've done, read more :)
In the dish above, I made two of the vegetables. The first, peperonata alle melanzane, is a mixture or green peppers, eggplants, and tomato sauce sauteed with garlic and onions, spiced with oregano, sage and black pepper. The second veggie dish (barbabietole, patate e carote con besciamella) is prepared by baking beets, potatoes and carrots (for a long time, beets need at least 1 hour, potatoes and carrots are ok with 45 minutes), cutting them into cubes, and at last grilling them in the oven for a few minutes again with besciamella sauce, salt, a bit of paprika and a little cheddar cheese on top. Besciamella is made by putting 2 tbsp flour, a little sauce and a teaspoon nutmeg in a pan and adding ~ 1.5 cups of milk to it, slowly, so it doesn't clump. Bring to boil, add ~1 tbsp butter, and keep stirring until it thickens.
Lucas's grandmother made her famous cornbread with broccoli, and Debbie (Lucas's mom) made all the rest :) - we woke up many hours after the turkey was first put in the oven.. :)
Here are Lucas's grandparents, who were with us:
Since it was Lucas's mom birthday, I prepared a cake for her, using a recipe taken from 'Gorgeous cakes'. I know she's a chocolate lover, so I thought this super-chocolaty cake would be good:
I will post the recipe in a next post, because it was delicious.
But my cake was like one drop in the bucket of baked goods that Debbie prepared :)
She made 4 chocolate pies, 1 pumpkin pie, 1 coconut pie, and 1 peacan pie. :) :)
I'll show here a piece of the peacan pie:
'Peacans' sono delle noci simili alle nostre noci, ma di forma piu' allungata e piu' piccole e gustose. Questo pie e' praticamente solo fatto con queste noci e sciroppo di glucosio. Io riesco a mangiarne solo una piccola fettina per volta, dato che e' ovviamente molto dolce, ma e' molto buono.. :)
She also baked about 200 mini-muffins:
You can see here the banana-nuts, banana, apple, and apple-nuts muffins (from top, clockwise).. hard to decide what's the best. :)
And also, she baked about 200 sausage balls:
Per i miei amici italiani che si chiedevano cosa fossero: sono davvero chiamate sausage balls, e sono fatte con salsiccia (macinata, stile americano) e biscuik (farina e lievito, praticamente), e passate al forno. I find it interesting that these are supposedly a breakfast food :) - I like them very much, but I can't have them early in the morning :) - I can't have bacon and eggs either, though, so I'm a bad example :)
I decided I'll speak about the non-food related Thanksgiving activities in another post.
Monday, November 27, 2006
The sweet and savory breads I made for the brunch were really good, and Mariana asked me for the recipe.. so here they are!
Panini dolci con frutta secca (Sweet bread with dried fruit)
I found inspiration for this recipe from cooker.net, as usual. The original recipe in Italian can be found here... grazie, Miciapallina!!. I slightly modified the doses and used figs instead of apricots and walnuts instead of hazelnuts.
1 lb flour (I used whole grain flour)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup water, warm
1 cups milk
4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup dried and grated coconut
1/2 cup minced walnuts
1/2 cup minced dried figs
1 egg, beaten
Dissolve the yeast in warm water, add 1 tsp sugar to it, mix, wait until it bubbles. Mix flour, salt and sugar, and add the yeast to it. Mix, and add the milk and the butter, and knead for ~ 10 minutes. The dough should be a bit humid, because you're now going to add all the dry fruits. Knead all the fruits in the dough. If it's too dry add a bit of water, if it's too wet add some flour.
Let the dough rest for ~1 h, then divide it into small balls and let them rest for another 1/2 h - 1 h. 'Paint' the external part of the dough with the egg.
Cook in the oven at 400 F for ~ 30 min. You should put a pot of water in the oven so the dough doesn't dry out while cooking.
Serve with jam, zabaione (a cream made with eggs, milk and wine, I'll make it and write the recipe sometime), or whatever you feel like. I served it with a wonderful Indian grape chutney, sweet and spicy at the same time.
Panini salati con olive e formaggio (Savory bread with olives and cheese)
Also this recipe comes from cooker.net. Thanks Lokum! Her breads look more like doughnuts, like they were originally supposed to be. The dough is exactly the same as I wrote above for the sweet bread, just, there's less sugar (2 tbsp instead of 4) and more salt (1 tbsp instead of 1 tsp). Moreover, there's one egg beaten in the dough, other than the egg used to 'paint' the bread surface.
Once you have the dough ready (obviously do not add the dried fruit to it!!!), let it rest for 1 hour and then spread it into thin, elongated shapes with a rolling pin. I made 4 ovals, about 12" long and 6" wide. Let the dough rest again for another 30 min-1 hour, then divide the ovals in two parts each, along the long side, and put pieces of olives, or cheese, or both, or whatever else you feel like, in the middle of each part. Roll so that you have the stuffing inside a long roll of dough, and then close the two ends of the rolls, so that you make 'doughnuts', or 'u-shaped bread', as you prefer :) . Paint the surface of the breads with egg, and cook at 400 for ~ 1/2 hour (check after 20 min). In the original recipe, it's suggested to sprinkle with sesame seed before baking.. nice idea, I forgot about it :)
They are really good and you can have fun and try different fillings!
Sunday, November 26, 2006
For our series of Italo-Spanish meetings, we recently had a brunch at our place. Trino and I had been speaking about having a brunch for a while, so I thought the moment had come, in the end :)
Having a brunch is really nice. I'm going to explain here what a brunch is for my Italian readers who may not know.
Un brunch e' un misto tra un breakfast, colazione, e un lunch, pranzo. Nei brunch americani, di solito a buffet, si hanno varie scelte di cose dolci e cose salate. Di solito le cose dolci comprendono muffins, pani dolci che assomigliano ai nostri plum-cake, pancakes, waffles (quelle cose gonfiotte e a quadretti che si fanno usando delle presse speciali), mentre le cose salate comprendono uova cucinate in vari modi, bacon, patate, biscuits (panini burrosi e salati). Se e' un brunch particolarmente ricco, si puo' avere anche carne, pesce, insalate varie, pasta, etc.. L'ora del brunch varia tra le 10 e le 2 del pomeriggio, e di solito e' una cosa che si fa la domenica.
One nice thing of the brunch is that there's no hurry at all. People are not tired and they can decide to stay together as long as they want. So we had a really nice time, including a walk around the lake, and lots of interesting discussions about nature, movies, music and life with all of our guests and in particular with Luisa and Jorge, who stayed with us also in the afternoon. It was a very enjoyable day.
At our Italo-Spanish brunch, people were encouraged to bring brunch or breakfast food from their countries. So we had a really nice variety of food, and a lot of it!!!
I'll show here a few pictures.
First 'course': American-style brunch:
We have bacon & eggs prepared by Lucas, and biscuits prepared by Ross. Lucas showed me how to make bacon & eggs: you have to fry the bacon in its own grease and take it out and adsorb the grease on paper towel, then once you're done with the bacon, you should keep only part of the grease released from it and scramble the eggs in it. Greasy, but not TOO bad. :) Ross's clue about how to prepare biscuits is 'Pillsbury' :) :) :) (E' una marca di biscuits surgelati... devo dire, ero delusa quando l'ho scoperto, ma devo ammettere che erano piuttosto buoni).
Tim and Ross, eating their own biscuits :)
'READ MORE' if you want to see the Italian, Mexican and another American part of the brunch!!!
The second course was Italian - made by me :)
In Italy we like to make bread, it's well-known :) - so I decided that sweet bread and some sort of jam and savory bread would be something that we would have for brunch, if it existed. :) So I made a sweet bread with walnuts, coconut and dried figs inside (the one on the right) and a savory ciambella (doughnut) bread, filled with either olives or cheese (I made two types). They were really good so I'll post the recipe in a next post.
The next course was Mexican. We had two wonderful things:
Enchilladas, made by Luisa and Jorge. These are made with a dough similar to the one Luisa tought me for tamales, but there was also spinach in it.. and they were filled with chicken, and with cheese on top.. delicious! A picture of the cooks:
Then, these are the wonderful quesadillas, i.e. fried tortillas with either chorizo or cheese. I loved the cheese ones :).
Here are the cooks :)
Our last course was another American tradition: cheese and vegetable quiche
It was very good, a perfect ending to our brunch :). It was made by Crissy and David, but unfortunately I didn't take a good picture of them :(
So just to conclude here is a final picture of the two hosts :)
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I bought a butternut squash some time ago, and I though I would do a good use of it if I made some risotto with it. One of my favorite risotto is made with pumpkin and sausage. It's similar to what Marco made with pasta - I have a picture in this post, but she used to make it with rice and mix the sausage with the rice.
I didn't have a sausage handy so I decided I would make it with my ragu sauce that I told you about recently, and that I froze in various aliquots.
So here it is!
Risotto con zucca e ragu' (rice with butternut squash and ragu')
Bake a butternut squash for ~40 min, turning it from time to time. Let the squash cool down, peel it and cut it in big pieces. Saute one onion finely cut, in a bit of olive oil. Add the squash to it and saute for a few minutes. Add 1 cup of ragu sauce. Add 1 cup of rice (I used whole rice) and add 1/2 tbsp salt. Cover with water (about 1" above the level of the rice), cover with a lid and cook for ~40 min or until the rice is soft. Check from time to time in order to make sure there's still enough water, and add if necessary. Taste and adjust with salt. Add black pepper and serve with a generous amount of grated parmesan.
For Susan in Italy from Porcini Chronicles, who recently posted a nice recipe of pasta with pumpkin and was curious about the variation with sausage: if you want to use sausage instead of ragu, and you want to make risotto: cook the sausage in a separate pan, cut it into pieces and add it to the rice about 5-10 min before the rice is done, so it gives some of its flavor to the rice. My mom used to serve it with some of the sausage in pieces into the rice, and half of a whole sausage on top of it. :)
While I was looking around, I happened on 'Confessions of a Cardamom addict' - wonderful blog, congratulations!
Jasmine put a link to this 'are you a good cook' and I obviously couldn't stop myself from trying it. My outcome turned out to be the same as hers:
|You Are an Excellent Cook|
You're a top cook, but you weren't born that way. It's taken a lot of practice, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.
It's likely that you have what it takes to be a top chef, should you have the desire...
Well, as I say from time to time: who knows, maybe sometime I'll stop being a chemist and I'll open some sort of coffee/refreshments/bookstore/meditation/peace through discussion place :)
And of course, btw, I posted this here because it boosted my self-confidence :) :) :)
In my evening wandering around, I also found this other wonderful blog, Cream Puffs in Venice, which I feel particularly close to because the background of Ivonne is Italian!!
Last Sunday we threw a party in honor of Dr. Lucas! (Or Dr. Baby as Vlasta calls him :) ). It was really nice, most of the people we invited came, and we all talked and had fun for a long time. In the end, we remained sitting in a circle we our closest friends, and it was really nice. As always, the end of the parties is the best time :)
This is Dr. Lucas with his balloon :)
People brought some food, and we also made some.
This is an example of the wonderful food that our guests brought:
It was a layer of cream cheese with some very good tomato/spiced sauce on top, and pieces of shrimp. There were also breaded mushrooms, little cakes, and Lucas made some very good beef fajitas.
But.. the new edition of Weekend Cookbook challenge is on Party food, and so I decided that I'm going to partecipate to it for the first time, and I'm going to present the food I prepared for this party! I found out about the Weekend Cookbook challenge by chance, while I was looking at some blog I don't remember. It's a really nice idea and I was looking forward to participate to it. Every month, a theme is issued, and the theme of this month is Party food, as I mentioned.
So, this is the list of food I made:
Focaccia alla ricotta e pesto (Focaccia with pesto and ricotta)
Focaccia al formaggio, pomodori e olive (Focaccia with cheese, tomatoes and olives)
Bigne' alle olive e ricotta salata e bigne' al tonno (Puffs with olives and ricotta salata and puffs with tuna)
And on the sweet side:
Crostata alla ricotta (Ricotta tart)
Bigne' al cioccolato (Chocolate puffs)
Bigne' al mango (Mango puffs)
So if you're curious to see pictures and if you want the recipes, read more!! :)
What are the main characteristics of a good party food? It must be easy to eat, and it must be appetizing, so just the little bit you pick each time must be so good that you will want more of it :)
On the savory side, one of things I like best to make for parties is focaccia.
For people who don't know, focaccia is the 'white' version of pizza. White because it doesn't have tomato sauce, like all pizza usually has. Moreover, focaccia is thicker and softer than pizza. It's better for parties than pizza, because it's easier to eat. It's best when hot but it's good also cold. It usually doesn't have time to get cold, though, because it gets eaten very quickly :)
So this time I made focaccia con ricotta e pesto:
And focaccia con pomodori, formaggio e olive:
I wrote how to make focaccia on another post, but I'll repeat the recipe here, also because I slightly modified the doses and the timing (I'm getting a lot of experience with baking and bread lately).
So, for the dough:
Warm up 1 cup of water until about body temperature, dissolve 2 tsps yeast in it, stir, add 1 tsp sugar, stir and check that bubbles are produced. Leave on a side for ~ 5 min. In a big bowl, pour ~5 cups flour (you can use white, whole or a mixture of the two). Add the water and yeast mixture and mix. Add 2 tbsps olive oil. Then keep adding warm water and work the dough until it's elastic. It usually doesn't take more than a total of 1.5-2 cups of water but it depends on the flour you're using. Add ~1 tbsp salt and knead well the dough in order to incorporate it. Let rest for 1 to 2 hours. I usually spread the dough after this passage, and the pizza came out always good, but if you want a _really_ good focaccia you should be more patient and knead the dough a little bit after this time, and let it rise again for another hour or two. Then, spread the dough, usually you can do it with your hands but if you can't, use a rolling pin. I usually spread it on some foil with a bit of olive oil on it so it doesn't stick. You can add the ingredients you want on this dough, and then you should let the dough rest for at least another 10 min (in the quick version), up to 1 hour (in the long version). Warm up the oven to 400F, and cook for about 20-30 min (it depends on how thick you made it). Serve hot.
For the focaccia con pesto e ricotta, to make the topping, prepare some pesto without cheese: just blend together a bunch of basil, 2 cloves of garlic, and nuts. I used walnuts for this focaccia and it was delicious. In real pesto you should use pinenuts. Add ~2-3 tbsp olive oil and then add ~1/2-1 cup of ricotta. The doses depend on how much pesto/ricotta taste you want and how big is your focaccia surface :)
For the focaccia con pomodori, olive e formaggio.. well, obviously: slice 2 tomatoes, place them on the focaccia, cut some cheese that melts well (e.g. Munster is good, or Colby. I don't like Cheddar because it gives an orange color to the pizza!!. Use 1/2 cup to 1 cup depending on how cheesy you want it), and some olives, and place everything on the focaccia.
Bigne' con olive e ricotta salata and bigne' al tonno
The focaccia was really good, but these puffs are the things I was the most proud of, so if I had to pick only one of the things I made for the Weekend Challenge, I would choose these, and in particular, those with olives and ricotta salata.
To make the dough, I followed the recipe I already posted earlier for bigne'. Just, since I found they were too rich last time, I cut a little bit on the butter (which was already cut compared to the Southern Cooking cookbook I took them from..).
I invented the two stuffings, which I was very happy with.
For bigne' al tonno, I mixed some tuna (2 cans) with yogurt (~1/2 cup, very much approximatively), olive oil (1 tbsp), 1 apple cut into pieces, salt, ~1/2 cup ricotta and fennel seeds.
For bigne' alle olive, I mixed 1/2 cup spicy olives, cut into pieces, salt, 1/2 cup ricotta salata (it's a salty and hard ricotta cheese that I can find at Whole Foods), ~1/2 cup yogurt, and ~1/2 cup cottage cheese. These were really delicious. You can watch a close-up here:
On the dessert side, the crostata for Dr. Lucas was very good.
I didn't take a good picture of it, though, so you can half-see it in this picture where Dr. Lucas is cutting it :)
To make it, you should prepare a sort of crostata dough, like I explained in previous posts. In this case though I put a little less butter since there was going to be ricotta on top, and I added an egg and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. But you could use the same dough for crostata and it would be good. Spread the dough on the bottom of the baking pan (on a baking sheet), and around the borders (~1" high). Then, mix 2 cups of ricotta with 4 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 egg, beat very well, and make a nice smooth cream with it. In the most typical Italian crostata di ricotta there are also raisins in this cream, but I didn't want them because I wanted to add some chocolate on top for the decoration. Spread the ricotta cream on the dough, bake in the oven at 400F for ~20 min or until the crust that you see on the borders is golden brown. Decorate with chocolate on top.
But the best desserts were the bigne'.
Bigne' are a wonderful thing you buy in pastry stores in Italy, and they can be filled with just whipped cream, or with chocolate sauce, or with egg creams. They are wonderful and I was really happy I found out I could make them at home.
Again, the dough was the same as I posted earlier, just I didn't add any salt in this case. I prepared two fillings which I made up and were really delicious.
For the mango filling: blend 1/2 mango with 2 tbsp milk, 4 tbsp sugar (to taste), and ~ 1 cup ricotta. For the chocolate filling: melt two cubes of baker's chocolate with ~1 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp sugar. Let cool down. Beat ~1 cup heavy cream with ~4 tbsp sugar, until firm. Add the chocolate sauce to it and mix together gently. This sauce was so delicious. Eating it inside the bigne' it was a gastric orgasm :)
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Autumn is leaving its place to wintertime, but not all of the leaves are gone. And the ones that are left on the trees are amazing.. It's like the trees want to give us a last gift of beauty before going to sleep for winter, just to remind us who they are and how wonderful they can be and not to lose our hope during wintertime.
So I took a few pictures during another walk around Lake Johnson.
Our apartment complex has many of these trees, we don't know what they are, but they are amazing both in springtime when they have flowers and in fall. Their leaves have all possible colors. It's like a painting. Look at the detail below.
This is another tree in our apartment complex. A yellow spot.
A colorful path around Lake Johnson
Carpet of leaves
And in the end: Canadian geese migrating south!!!
Yeah, it's getting cold up there!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I took the recipe for this nice dessert from cooker.net. Thanks Dani02!! It's not too difficult, but a bit tricky at the beginning, so I decided I would document this with pictures of the different phases. See below.
Ingredients (I cut on the butter):
1/2 cup flour
2.5 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp powdered sugar
For the cream:
1.5 cups ricotta
2 squares bakers chocolate
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp orange blossom water
To make the boats, beat the eggwhites, add the sugar. In another bowl mix the flour, the powdered sugar and the melted butter. Fold the eggwhite mixture in the flour mixture, gently. Spread this batter in thin round disks on a baking pan, about 2" diameter. Cook at 350 F for 5 minutes. Open the oven and remove the disks, one at a time, and gently 'squish' on top of small coffee cups (if you don't have these, use small glasses):
Hold for a few seconds so the disk takes the shape. Do this with all the disks. I prepared a total of nine disks, some bigger because I didn't have enough small cups. This folding operation must be done quickly otherwise the disks harden and they break instead of folding. I baked the disks in two separate moments so the disks in the oven wouldn't burn while I was folding the others.
Let them cool down on the cup. In the end that's how they should look like:
(you can see how some of them are bigger, those that I folded on the bottom of glasses).
To make the cream, melt the chocolate with the tablespoon of milk and the sugar, under low heat. Add this cream to the ricotta and the sugar, and add the orange blossom water. You can prepare both the cream and the boats the day before the dinner, but spoon the cream on the boats only before the dinner.
Cut pieces of fruit (I'd have liked the strawberries, as suggested in the orginal recipe, but they are not in season now, so I had bananas, oranges and apples) and place them nicely on top of the dessert. Serve with tufts of whipped cream.
Lucas and I wanted to have a more intimate dinner with Crissy and David so we could get to know David a little better, and also, so I could let him try a real 'Italian' dinner.
It was a very nice dinner. We enjoyed their company very much and I was very happy that David liked my cuisine :)
So here is the menu:
Insalata di verdure e anacardi / Veggy and cashew salad
Tagliatelle con kale, ricotta, gorgo e pomodori / Tagliatelle with kale, ricotta, gorgonzola and tomatoes
Barchette dolci alla frutta / Sweet little boats with fruit
Note: this was not a complete Italian dinner. There wasn't a 'second course', including meat and vegetables, there wasn't a cheese platter, and there wasn't a fruit platter. But I really think that's too much for one dinner so very rarely I make a real complete dinner. I think this was a good amount of food for us :)
Recipes and pictures follow.
Farinata is a typical dish from Liguria, which I really like and crave from time to time. It's a very thin 'pizza' made of chickpea flour. The only problem about it is that I can make it well only once in a while :) To make it, you have to mix chickpea flour and water in a ratio that varies a lot depending on who's explaining the recipe to you. I think 1:2 (flour:water) is about right, but that doesn't seem to work all the time (ok, I must admit, my ratio is not always the same :) ). Anyway, that's just it, then you add a bit of salt and you let it rest for a few hours before making the farinata. Place a non-sticking paper in a baking pan and add about 1-2 tbsps olive oil on it, then pour the liquid mixture on it and bake at 400F for ~15-20 minutes, until it solidifies and becomes crispy. Now, the problem is that my oven is not perfectly even, neither in temperature nor as flatness, so I always get one side thinner and that starts burning.. so I have to take out the farinata and slice out that part before it burns, then I put it back in the oven and so on. Although, sometimes it seemed to work better. So I'm not sure what's the trick. Anyway it usually turns out very good, even though you may waste part of it because it gets burnt. It's a really good food, so I'd recommend you to try it!
Serve it sprinkled with black pepper, hot.
Insalata di verdure e anacardi
This salad is made with cabbage, peppers, carrots and tomatoes, simply dressed with olive oil, garlic (finely cut) and balsamic vinegar (and salt obviously), and generously sprinkled with cashew nuts. Very good!
It's not a typical Italian salad but it's something in the same mindset of Italian dishes: simple and good ingredients and a light dressing.
Tagliatelle con kale, ricotta, gorgo e pomodori
This is not a traditional Italian recipe either (especially because Kale doesn't exist in Italy), but it's something that again reminds of Italian pasta dishes. We rarely use meat on the pasta (except in the ragu sauce, for example), whereas in the US a lot of pasta dishes have pieces of chicken, or something similar on top.. Italian pasta is very often with vegetables, cheese and if you want something more fancy, fish.
This was actually my invention, and it turned out really good. To make it, saute one onion with ~1 lb kale, cut, add salt. Let cook for ~15-20 minutes, then add a few pieces of gorgonzola - how much depends on how strong is your gorgonzola - and let it melt. Put it in a blender and blend. Then add ~1 cup of ricotta cheese and blend again. Taste. If the gorgonzola taste is too strong add a bit of honey or some more ricotta, if you like it. In a large pan, sautee slices of 2 ripe and fresh tomatoes in olive oil with 1 clove of garlic, minced, with some salt. After ~ 5 minutes it'll be done. Add the rest of the sauce to it and stir. In the meanwhile cook the tagliatelle (1 lb) in a large amount of hot and salted water, stirring frequently not to make them stick to each other, then drain and add the pasta in the large pan with the sauce and saute for a few minutes before serving, adding a bit of black pepper on top. Delicious. :)
Barchette dolci alla frutta
I took the idea for this recipe from cooker.net. I will explain how to make this dessert in a separate post. It was very good :)
I made this really good pasta some days ago and I wanted to share this recipe before going on with more 'dense' posts.
Maccheroni al ragu' con zucchine / Maccheroni with ragu and zucchini
To make it, you first need to make a ragu sauce. I'll give you the doses to make a lot of it, so you can freeze it and keep it for when you want to make lasagne or cannelloni. Saute one big onion in olive oil, add 2/3 lb of ground sirloin and 1/2 lb of ground pork. Sautee for a few minutes and then add 2 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (just plain tomatoes, nothing added!!). Add salt and about 1 cup of water. Let simmer for ~1.5 hrs, stirring from time to time. The meat will give its flavor to the sauce during this time. You can also cook it for less time, it will be a little bit less 'balanced'. In the end it shouldn't be liquid (no water should be there), but it shouldn't be too thick. So adjust by adding or evaporating the water depending on your case. Taste and adjust with salt.
I took about 1.5 cups of this sauce and added 2 big zucchini, cut very finely, and sauteed the zucchini in the sauce for ~15 min, until tender. This sauce should be enough for 1 lb of maccheroni (cook them al dente!! and add salt to the water where they boil in. And last note: it's MACCHERONI, not macaroni!!!!) :) :) :)
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Barchette dolci alla frutta / Sweet little boats with fruit
Bigne' al cioccolato e bigne' al mango / Chocolate puffs and mango puffs
Budino con carote e anice stellato / Carrot and star anise pudding
Budino di riso al vino con mandorle e ananas / Wine rice pudding with almonds and pineapple
Budino di riso al vino con cardamomo, in tre vesti diverse / Rice pudding with wine and cardamom, three styles
Dolce di ricotta / ricotta dessert
Fantasmini / Ghosts
Macedonia di frutta esotica con crema al limone, panna montata e ventagli / Exotic fruit salad with lemon cream, whipped cream and ventagli
Mele al vino con cannella e noci al miele / Apples with wine and cinnamon and honey roasted walnuts
Mousse di frutta / Fruit mousse
Panna cotta / Cooked cream
Panna cotta con cranberries / Cranberry panna cotta
Pesche ripiene agli amaretti e cacao / Stuffed peaches with amaretti and cocoa
Rava Kesari (dolce di semolino indiano) / Rava Kesari (Semolina Pudding Indian style)
Tiramisu estivo / Summertime tiramisu
Gelato alla banana / banana ice cream
Gelato alla fragola / Strawberry ice cream
Gelato al mango / Mango Ice-cream
Gelato al pistacchio / Pistachio ice cream
Gelato alla vaniglia con mirtilli / Vanilla ice-cream decorated with blueberries
Melone bianco e mango con sorbetto di anguria / Honeydew Melon and mango with Watermelon sorbet
Sorbetto ai mirtilli / Blueberry sorbet
Soy noodles with ice-cream/spaghetti di soia con gelato
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
These are the 'Doctor's cookies' - good to provide at Ph.D. defenses - eheheheh :)
I have to explain something to my Italian friends, since we never provide food at
Ph.D. defenses. In Italy a Ph.D. defense lasts 20 minutes+5 min questions and there are usually 5 candidates per session.. Negli Stati Uniti, invece, ogni candidato ha un giorno che decide lui stesso per discutere la tesi. C'e' una commissione con 4 membri, scelti dal candidato (uno dev'essere il relatore). Il candidato presenta la sua tesi per 40-50 minuti, poi c'e' una sessione di domande aperte al pubblico, e poi una parte di domande a porte chiuse, a cui solo la commissione e' ammessa. Quest'ultima puo' dare da pochi minuti a due-tre ore. Data la lunghezza del tutto, di solito il candidato fornisce caffe', bevande e biscotti o simili cibarie..
So obviously I decided I wanted to bake the cookies for Lucas, where else could I have found a best occasion to prove my 'wizard of the kitchen' abilities? One of the recipes that I chose was supposed to be irresistibly good and it was actually said: make these cookies if you want to 'enchant' someone :) - so, sure, I wanted people to be in a good mood :)
So I made
Biscotti morbidi all'arancio e cioccolato (soft cookies with orange and chocolate)
Biscotti allo sherry e marmellata (sherry and jam cookies)
Biscotti morbidi all'arancio e cioccolato
I modified a recipe taken from cooker. I'll give you my version, since it ended up a bit far from the original. Unfortunately my doses are very approximative. My school of thought is that if you put together good ingredients and you end up whith a consistency that seems about right, something good will come out. :) :) :) - and I do like to try the dough before I bake it so I can see if it's sweet enough. I know, I'm terrible...Anyway let's try to list the ingredients
4 tbsp butter, melted
1.5 cup flour
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp baking powder
Mix the flour, the sugar and the yeast. Add the butter and the orange juice. If it's too liquid add flour. If it's too solid add orange juice. The final dough must be nicely elastic, so you can make it thin enough with a rolling pin. Before using the rolling pin, taste the dough. If it's not sweet enough add sugar. If it's not orangy enough add orange juice and flour.
Make it flat and thin (~5/32" - 4 mm in civilized units :) ). Cut it into round shapes with a glass if you don't have anything better like me. Put the cookies on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 400F for ~12 minutes. Take out when they are golden. In the meanwhile melt 3 squares of baker's chocolate with a bit of milk. Heat until melted, and until the chocolate starts to make little tiny bubbles. At that point it should be of the right consistency. Immerse half of each cooky in the chocolate sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to hold onto the cookies and make a nice thick chocolate layer on them. Place on other baking sheets. NB this is the most time-consuming operation because you have to keep the sauce at the right consistency, which won't happen because it will start solidify before you're done, so you will add some milk, heat it up again, and so on..
I decided I would sprinkle some of the cookies with powdered sugar before the 'chocolating' operation, in case someone liked sweeter cookies.
The orginal recipe suggested to put the cookies in the fridge to let the chocolate solidify. I don't know if I misinterpreted this, but I left them overnight and covered them with some plastic foil not to have them smell like fridge.. so in the end the cookies turned out to be softer than I thought they would have been. They were very good and if you didn't expect them to be harder they were perfect. I just think that next time I won't put them in the fridge at all and I'll leave them cool down in open air.
Biscotti allo sherry e marmellata
I took this recipe from fiordizucca and obviously modified it according to my taste. The main modifications are decrease in butter and addition of sherry. (I also changed the state of the butter for easiness)
Again, here are my approximate ingredients
4 tbsps butter melted
1 and 1/4 cups flour
~1/3 cup sugar
~3 tbsp sherry
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Jam (I used blueberry jam, fiordizucca used orange. Choose what you like best!)
Mix flour, salt, baking powder, sugar. Add the egg, beaten, the butter and the sherry. The final consistency must be workable with a rolling pin but not elastic. It must break if you pull it.
Spread with rolling pin until thin enough (see other recipe), then cut with the shape you like best. I need to buy some shapes for cookies. I just cut squares out of the dough. Cut a hole with the shape you prefer in half of the cookies you prepared.
Bake at 400F for ~7 min. Check after 5. Remove from the oven when golden.
Spread the jam on the cookies without the hole and stick on top the cookies with the hole. Add powdered sugar for decoration.
Both types of cookies were really amazingly good, so thanks to both Fiordizucca and Missbaggins for the ideas. It was fun to make them, although a bit elaborate for both of them.