Saturday, May 06, 2006

Due cene italiane prima del viaggio in Italia

As I mentioned a few days ago, I intend to catch up with the 'old stuff' before speaking about Toscana.. that I know everyone is looking forward to read! :p :)
But I know I had some requests about the recipes for some food that we had at two Italian dinners that we had the two weekends before leaving...So here is a short description of the main things of the two dinners. These two dinners have an interesting story behind.. I will not describe it all, but in the end, only three of the many people expected came for the first dinner, and so we decided to give a second dinner to let also the other people try Italian cuisine.

First Dinner
Guests: Rich and his wife (AAAHHH I can't remember her name.. shame on me....), and Crissy with Everest :)

Tomini al verde e Acciughe al verde - Cheese and anchovies "in the green sauce"
Rotolo di tonno - Tuna roll
First course:
Linguine al pesto - Pesto linguine
Second courses:
Coniglio alla cacciatora - Rabbit "hunting style"
Pollo ai peperoni - Chicken with peppers
Macedonia con Rum -Fruit salad with Rum.

And here are the pictures and recipes of the most interesting things:
Tomini and acciughe al verde:
These appetizers are extremely easy to make, and very good. Prepare a sauce with oil, parseley, and garlic finely chopped. Soak anchovies or slices of some type of soft cheese (we had here plain and spicy goat chees rolls) in the oil. You should let it rest in the sauce for about two hours before serving. You should serve it with some good bread, to eat with it.

Rotolo di tonno:
This is also quite easy and very good. Make a paste with canned tuna, bread crumbs and eggs. I think I used 2 tuna cans with 2 eggs and enough bread crumbs to make it reasonably thick. Spread this dough on a piece of aluminum foil. Place some olives (better if the olives have some nice red peppers inside) in two rows, in the center, along the lenght of the 'rectangle' of dough. Roll the aluminum foil and close the ends of it, making a sort of big candy. Drop in hot/boiling water, so that the roll is completely covered by water. Let cook for about 20 minutes. When cold, open the aluminum foil, slice the tuna roll, and pour on the slices a sauce made of olive oil, lemon juice and parseley finely chopped before serving.

Linguine al pesto: I will not describe this, since I already spoke about pesto a few times, and I will describe the more complicated pesto dish that I made for the second dinner.

Coniglio alla cacciatora:
This in my opinion was the 'top' of the dinner, but some of my American guests refused to eat rabbit.. :) - I was afraid of that, that's why I also made the other second course with chicken :)
So, I was really happy that I had found a rabbit, at the Farmers Market in Raleigh, from a farmer that is now a friend of mine (I buy the goat cheese from him nearly on a weekly base :) ). He assured me it was really tender.. and in fact it was.
So, to make this dish, you should marinate the meat in a mixture of red wine, vinegar, rosemary, sage, and pepper overnight. Then, drain the meat and throw away the sauce. This at least is the suggestion that my recipe gave, but I'd say that next time I will not follow this. It was supposedly to remove the 'wild' taste of the rabbit, but in fact, the rabbit in the end nearly didn't have any rabbit taste any more.. so, next time, keep the marinade :) Saute the rabbit in some olive oil, and when it begins to become white, add some white wine (I think I'll add the marinade at this point, next time). In the meanwhile, prepare a mixture of 2 carrots, two pieces of celery and an onion, all minced finely in a food processor (NB, not liquefied!). Add the mixture to the rabbit and let cook for about 30-40 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add a little tomato sauce, and cook for another 20 min, or until meat is done. Two minutes before turning off, I added some wonderful little red onions that I had found in Whole Foods, and that I had previously caramelized by cooking them in vinegar, water and sugar. They were really delicious!

Pollo con peperoni:
Cut some boneless-skinless chicken thighs into pieces. Roll the pieces in flour to cover them with it. Saute some onions in olive oil, add the pieces of chicken and cook for 10 min. Add a can of diced tomatoes, salt, and some pieces of bell peppers, better if different colors. Cook for about 30 min or until meat is done. Serve with some basil leaves minced on top.

Macedonia con rum: easy to imagine.. Italians eat fruit salad with Maraschino, a sweet liquor.. I substituted eat with Rum. Don't exaggerate when you pour the rum on your fruit!

Actually, it was a nice dinner, more intimate than I was imagining at the beginning. It was nice to get to know better Rich and his wife.

Second dinner.
Guests: Jennifer and Curtis, Jennifer, Crissy, Lina and JeyJey.

Tomini e acciughe al verde - well, they had to try them, or not?!?
Melanzane con mozzarella - Eggplants with mozzarella
Insalata appetitosa - Savory salad
Pomodori ripieni - Stuffed tomatoes

Farfalle con pesto, gamberetti e pomodori - Farfalle with pesto, shrimp and tomatoes

Dessert: Macedonia con rum
So here are the recipes of the things that I didn't describe already:

Melanzane con mozzarella:
Grill the eggplant slices in a pan (non-sticking, or with just a minuscule amount of olive oil on the bottom). Place the slices on a baking pan. Add little pieces of mozzarella on top, and salt. Bake in the oven until the mozzarella is melted. Serve immediately with some basil leaves on top.

Insalata appetitosa e pomodori ripieni
I don't have a better picture for pomodori ripieni, so this little piece which is visible in the right corner will be enough.. :)
The insalata turned out to be very good. I made it with cabbage, pecan nunts, celery, pears and gorgonzola cheese, seasoned with olive oil, vinegar and salt. Pears and gorgonzola are a typical Italian matching.
To make the tomatoes: cut them (5) in half, remove the pulp, mix it with salt, a spoon of mayonnaise, three spoons of plain yogurt, two tuna cans, capers, pepper. Fill the halves and add scallion on top.

Farfalle con pesto, gamberetti e pomodori
One of the main goals of this dinner was to teach Jennifer how easy it is to make pesto.. so, she saw it :) - I'll write it again here: put a bunch of basil leaves, a piece of pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, two cloves of garlic, and a handful of pinenuts in the food processor. Chop finely. Add olive oil to cover and a little salt.. and that's it :)
This dish was a little more elaborated: Jennifer had also brought some wonderful shrimp, that we sauteed in olive oil. In the meanwhile I had sliced some tomatoes, covered them with bread crumbs and a little salt and baked them for 20 minutes. When the pasta was cooked, we poured the pesto, shrimp and tomatoes on it, and sprinkled some pepper on top. It was really good :)
There was also a similar version with tuna instead of shrimp, in case someone didn't like the shrimp.

The dessert was the same, basically it was Lent and I didn't want to make any real dessert :)

For both dinners, one of the most important foods was the bread, that I baked and it turned out to be really good.. quite amazing considering how little experience I have with it, and how bad I am at following doses :)
So, here it is: Biova (biova is the name of a typical italian bread, similar to what I made)
(my bread with a bottle of Chianti)
(the inside of the bread).

To make this delicious bread, pour abuot two cups of water in a bowl, warm it up in the microwave. Add three teaspoons of yeast. Stir in flour until the dough is elastic and nice. I don't remember, probably it's about 6 cups. I can check it better next time I make it.
Let the dough rest for 45 min, then fold it in 4 parts. Let it rest for another 45 minutes. Divide it into two big shapes and put them on the baking pan you want to use. Let the bread rest for another hour. It should keep increasing in volume. Draw a cross on the surface. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then decrease to 400 and finish cooking (another 15 minutes, more or less). I know I had the oven at the high temperature for a longer time the second time, and it was even better. So, not sure exactly.. just try yourself!

1 comment:

Joe from Oakland 94618 said...

I love the blog! I'm working on a menu for a small trattoria. Can I ask you for some advice?

Grazie Mille :)