domenica 5 febbraio 2012
Now, the shot is simply awful, plus blogspot decided to flip the picture without asking. And I am afraid I can't be positive on the look of the dish either.
But Lord how good this is!
The dulce de leche I made yesterday found its way where it belongs: panqueques.
I made a slight change to one of the several recipes I studied before making this genuinely Argentinian "postre" (dessert). The result is a super easy crepe-like pancake: an elastic and tender hot cake that will be very resistant to the dulce de leche spreading.
BE CAREFUL: This procedure will reveal your true self: the thin-layered, measured kind or the thick, outrageously measureless one. No neeed to guess where I stand.
250 ml milk (full fat or low fat)
100 grams all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
a teaspoon baking powder
10 grams unsalted butter
DULCE THE LECHE
HOW DO I MAKE THIS?
- mix the eggs and milk with a wisk. Add salt and, using a sift, add the flour. Once the mix is well blended, add the baking powder.
- use the butter to grease a non stick pan: I made two different sizes, deciding that the smaller panqueque (obtained with a 12cm pan) is the best option, being easier to flip and easier to roll. Not to mention the fact that, being smaller, you are allowed to have more without feeling (too) guilty.
- ladle a spoonful of batter in the buttered pan and wait until you see the sides of the panqueque change color (3minutes at least): they will no longer be pearly-white but will turn into a solid yellowish nuance. Carefully lift the side and check that the panqueque is slightly browned before flipping, then turn it upside down and cook for half the time it took to make the first side.
- you can choose to pile all the pancakes before stuffing them or stuff them as soon as you remove them from the pan: the latter I like best so I can take advantage of the heat to spread the dulce de leche more easily.
- spread the cream on one side of the pancake ( remember: melius abundare quam deficere ) then gently roll it up so it resembles a big cigar: do it until all the panqueques are used up, then lay the "cigars" in an oven-proof dish leaving no space between them.
- use some of the remaining butter to spread onto the panqueques and leave in the over at 90C° all through the meal. This will keep the dish warm until it's time to serve. Otherwise, you can choose to make the dessert in advance, stick it in the fridge and heat it at 150C° for 12 minutes (or until you see the dulce the leche gently drip from the panqueques).
The batter should yeld 9-10 panqueques feeding 4 people at the end of a nice meal. If you think you'll need even more decadence, I suggest you double the amounts so you can feed 5 to 8 persons.
ENJOY your piece of Argentina!
sabato 4 febbraio 2012
A good day is really good when you find time to indulge in what you like the most, that' s a fact. I have had the fullest of years this past year when I haven't been writing, and I have had the fullest of months this past month, when I have been meditating on writing again.
Cooking has always been my way to real relaxation: stirring, combining, adding flavors in layers makes me feel like an alchemist of taste. Now, today I have done one of the less articulated yet closest to magic recipes I have ever tried: Dulce de leche.
Originally Argentinian, dulce the leche first appears in my memory as the favorite dessert of a child travelling Patagonia with his super poor family: PATAGONIA TERRA AMICA, was the summer reading of my third year in middle school, and the dulce de leche was, in the eyes of the writer and mine, the final destination of a trip to salvation. When I first met Leandro, my friend from - guess where - Argentina, he introduced me to the actual taste of this magic food, obtained by boiling condensed milk directly in its sealed can for several hours. The result is a lucious creamy delight tasting like "mou" (or butterscotch). You can do practically everything with it, though its classical combination is with panqueques, a cross between pancakes and crepes.
a can of good quality condensed milk, sweetened
water to boil
HOW DO I MAKE THIS?
As simple as it is, Dulce the leche just needs to be put in a pot WITHOUT OPENING THE CAN, covering it with cold water.
After bringing the agua to a boil, let simmer for 2.30 to 3 hours.
Be careful to check from time to time that the can stays covered in water, as - if not - it may explode and leak.
Once the time has passed, remove the can from the pot and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.
Open the can and let your eyes be amazed by this golden brown caramel-like sauce. It will still be very warm, so don't be tempted to stick a spoonful in your mouth straight from the can or you will be thoroughly punished by your own greediness.
Use on icecream, chocolate cake and, of course, in panqueques (recipe on its way).
Patagonia here I come!
mercoledì 24 marzo 2010
First and foremost: the picture of this recipe is the most mediocre I have in my food pics set, but that's because it belongs to an old cooking session when I didn't have a proper camera at hand.
The recipe is one of my favorite with fish: I am not a big seafood fan but this salad - which I serve as a main course - is absolutely delicious and healthy.
It was elaborated on a quiet basic (but equally tasty) recipe by aunt Liana, my brother-in-law's aunt: born in Ancona and living in Ostia since marriage (aaages ago), you can tell she is used to living near the sea and, as a consequence, used to cook fish more often than what one does when living in the city.
I made some adjustments and found that they really worked for Ioska and I: we added pesto, dried tomatoes, more fresh basil and taggiasche olives preserved in extravirgin olive oil (no bone!) and the blend was almost moving.
If you invite people over for dinner during summer it is a terrific hors d'oeuvre served on crusty, lightly toasted bread. My suggestion is that you prepare it one day in advance leaving time for the aroma to reach its peak, yet don't forget to take it out of the fridge at least 20 mins before serving so the taste is not inhibited by the bite of cold. To make it
-150 gr shrimps (INCREDIBLE: the frozen version works BETTER than the fresh, which is too delicate and will eventually be overwhelmed by the other ingredients)
- a can of GOOD QUALITY (Mediterranean "pinna gialla" is the best) tuna fish. 120 grams in total would do
-250 grams freshly steamed octopus (you can find it at supemarkets already chopped in generous bits) OR same amount of cattle fish (the smaller the better)
-2 spoonfuls of taggiasche olives preserved in EVOO (substitute with kalamata if you can't find the exquisite taggiasche from Liguria)
- 100 grams of dried tomatoes
- 50 grams fresh pesto; the salad doesn't need to go green but I know that pesto is addictive so follow your taste and add- or remove (!!) as much as you feel like using.
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-salt for the water
- a dash of garlic powder
HOW I MADE IT
1. heat up a small pot of water (2/3 liters) and let it boil. Add a flat coffespoon of salt. In Italy coffeespoons are those we use for espresso so they are tiny compared to the rest of the world's equivalent utensil. Bear that in mind when you measure my coffeespoons!
2. Add the dried tomatoes to the pot and let boil until you can smell the sweet smell of tomato in the air (5 to 6 minutes)...ah! marvellous. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and let cool on a cutting board until you can easily touch them: slice them in rough bits and add them to the serving bowl where you will mix all the ingredients before serving.
3. Add the frozen shrimps to the boiling water: this is the quickest way to thwart them. It only takes 2 minutes for they don't need to be cooked as the frozen type is pre-cooked (pink in color in fact). remove with a slotted spoon and add to the serving bowl spreading them on the bottom to help cooling.
4. Now, having been steamed previously, the octopus could be added directly to the serving bowl: me, I have a thing for hygiene so I drop the octopus in the boiling water for 30 secs before I add it to the other ingredients. Just for a rinse! The octopus normally comes in large bits so once it has cooled down bite-size it.
5. IF YOU ARE USING FRESH SMALL CATTLE FISH: rinse it, drop it in the boiling water and wait until it becomes pearlish white. The legs will curl up and that is a sign of doneness. I like them very tender so don't let over-cook...or do so, it's your fish after all. Let cool before adding to the serving bowl.
6. Once all the fish and the tomatoes are ready and added to the serving bowl, add the tuna fish (oil discarded), sprinkle with lemon, pepper and garlic powder. Once blended add pesto in dollops. Pesto is great but can overcome tastes, so be aware that adding to much could ruin the balance of the dish.
7. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
martedì 2 febbraio 2010
I have taken health quiet superficially lately, so –it appears - God sent his wrath on me by giving this MAJOR cough resulting from the explosive mix of tonsillitis, laryngitis and pharyngitis.
And let me tell you how this ain’t the fun part yet: the cough was (is) so harsh and deep that the continuous coughing tore my back muscles (right hand side of the lumbar region). Everytime I cough now is like being stabbed in the back with the addition of a lot of moaning and weeping. And that’s how my pneumologist prescribed 2 weeks of absolute rest and LOADS of medication…
To cut it short, do you think this prevented me from having a friend over for lunch last Sunday? Nope,not, nay!:)
To be honest,I made this really good lasagna the day right before my back completely collapsed: symptoms had shown with a little back ache so the cooking wasn’t feeling so demanding to know better and rest properly all day long.
These incredible creamy lasagne are a recipe from my friend Sonia, who made it for us on Jan 1st when we joined to celebrate the new year together: they are so easy to make and so hard to go wrong, that I challenge you to mess ‘em up.
WHAT I NEEDED
12 very thin pasta sheets (like Rana’s sfogliavelo)
1/2 spoon of butter to grease the casserole
6 medium zucchini (about 500 grams)
2 spoons of olive oil
2 shallots thinly sliced
1/2 liter of besciamelle sauce
150 grams Parmigiano Reggiano
whole milk if needed (about 3-4 spoons)
200 grams good quality smoked salmon cut in small pieces ( I normally buy the already sliced version you would normally use for sandwiches and cut it in smaller bits with scissors)
HOW I MADE THEM
1.Wash the zucchini and slice them with the aid of a mandolin. Heat a wok with the oil on medium heat, add the shallots and let them become translucent, 2 or 3 minutes.
2.Add the sliced zucchini, let them fry without turning them for 2 minutes: when it’s time to, try not to use a spoon to do it, cause the zucchini are rather fragile; I suggest you flip the wok as the Chinese cooks do so you will prevent the vegetables from breaking. Add salt and pepper and cook for 7-8 minutes in total (the veggies will easily finish cooking in the oven).
3. Now, if you have the besciamelle ready, or use the canned one, all you need to do is wait for the zucchini to have cooled down a bit and add the sauce to the veggies. If the mixture is too thick add some milk, for you want it to be creamy enough to easily spread it on the pasta sheets. Add the diced salmon.
4. Let’s put the layers together: after greasing it, litterally line the casserole with the first layer of pasta, making sure the sides are well covered. Spread one thick layer of the vegetables/besciamelle/salmon mixture, add a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan and proceed with the same pattern until the pasta is over ( I make at least three layers with 12 sheets, you can make up to 5, but I suggest you don’t make your lasagna too thick or it will be harder to cut it in clean servings ).
5. Put a thicker layer of parmesan on the upper layer, so the lasagna will brown nicely: put in the oven at 200°C for 30 to 45 minutes, until the surface is brown and bubbly. Let cool for 5-7 minutes (not in the oven or it will dry out!) and cut in pieces.
Serves 4 to 6
Tip: I like my lasagna moist and creamy, so the besciamelle is not "just one of the ingredients”, but THE INGREDIENT: don’t be stingy with it and if it is too thick (or if you think your pasta sheets are thick) add enough milk to cream it further (remember that additional liquid helps to cook the pasta sheets through) .
You will simply love the feeling in your mouth! ENJOY
lunedì 30 novembre 2009
This post is a random repechage of what I wrote on Nov 22nd as the second post to this blog: last night, while posting the vegetarian stir fry recipe through Windows Live writer - an amazing tool lacking in clarity as to how to save new posts without overwriting the previous ones- I accidentally deleted that post. Surely I am no geek (this is one a big truth) but on my side I have to firmly assess that I know a “save button” when I see it (or a pop-up saying “you are deleting the previous post…are u sure???”). Ok, maybe I am rambling, but this is how it - roughly - went
A few nights ago I had a chocolate craving, that subtle, instant need for the most wonderful anti-depressive substance ever discovered by mankind: cocoa.
We were watching “Night at the museum 2” - an awful movie with great visual effects – when I caught myself wanting a fluffy, chocolate-y something to munch: I had no comfort food matching these characteristics at hand, so I arranged a quick dessert by melting dark chocolate with a dash of milk in the microwave and use it to glaze a left-over shortcake I made for a blueberry shortcake experiment (yum!).
At that point the night was saved, yet my chocolate thirst was far from being quenched.
A quick detour (I promise I have a point): lately I had dreamt of my grandma Rosina, my father’s mother, a smart, open-minded, sensitive Catholic woman (yeah, Catholic AND open-minded, amazing uh?) who was literally the CEO of a kitchen feeding 15 people on a daily basis. Nana arranged meals for her husband, 2 children, her old mother and her nurse (who brought home some of the food she made to the 3 members of her family), her unmarried sister in law, 2 nieces and an obnoxious brother in law who had a sweet wife - zia Angelina – who served as co-cook. She wasn’t exactly a subtle chef, yet Nonna Rosina literally majored into an Italian classic, torta marmorizzata, a simple yet rich marble cake she called “Notte e Dì”, Night and Day. How evocative!
This reminiscing + my extra hunger for chocolate resulted into this lovely recipe (here’s the point!), that definitely helped me feed the chocolate beast inside.
This cake is really simple and, like Proust’s madeline, it brings back memories of time spent with Nana telling me stories about family people I have never met and about her hometown village Tufo, where our family owned a chestnuts wood (and still owns actually, only I think there must be 15 heirs or so by now ).
As I said, Nana was a smart woman, extremely social and charitable: she was always busy visiting someone in need, in pain, on the verge of delivering or who had just delivered a child. The usual setting of all this “visiting” activity was our little town, Scurcola Marsicana, where she managed to cook for loads of people with her kind-hearted way, always wearing a warm smile and lavishing silent and heartfelt prayers.
Mind you, being such a busy PR person didn’t make her the most focused cook, still she made 2 or 3 dishes like no other, and this cake is among those three points of excellence. Unfortunately I don’t have the original recipe, first because grandma never wrote it - she eyeballed almost every recipe she made – second because I always forget to ask my cousin Francesca, the only one who ever cared to put it down in measurements, to pass it on. So, when I thought of making Notte e Dì in I started from this recipe and some adjustments to match my memories: and the result was surprisingly close to the original!
Ah, the good ol’ times…
150 grams sugar
150 grams butter at room temperature
100 grams rice flour
200 grams all-purpose flour (Italian 00)
1 phial of vanilla essence (1 teaspoon)
20 grams chocolate chips
75 ml milk
60 gr dark, unsweetened cocoa
pizzico abbondante di sale
2 tbsp baking soda
HOW I MADE IT
1 I creamed sugar and butter in a bowl, then gently added the eggs, mixing with a wooden spoon ( if the butter is at real room temperature there’s no need for an electric whisk)
2 Add the flours and the baking soda, mixing in the milk as you go on. Add the vanilla essence.
3 Once the Day is ready,make the Night dividing the batter between to bowls: add the cocoa and the chocolate chips to one of the two, and if the result is too thick add a couple of spoons more of milk, so it will loose a bit.
4 Add the two batters in spoonfuls in a bundt-shaped cake pan, previously greased with butter and dusted with all-purpose flour; distribute the batter alternating chocolate and vanilla. Once it’s done, use the back of a wooden spoon to trace circles in the cake pan. This will mix the colors creating the elegant marble effect.
5 Put in the middle rack of the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes. I have a very aggressive oven so it only took me 30 minutes to get it done. I suggest you insert a toothpick into the cake to check if it comes out clean.
It should look like this:
P.S. I thought it was curious to add that Nana also cooked for her husband’s manpower everyday: these people brought metal bowls working as sort of Tupperwares, filled with polenta, oat meal, pasta or boiled potatoes to work where grandma – at midday everyday - would add stew or sauce made with meat and vegetables. She did so, so that every person could enjoy a warm, nourishing meal at least once a day. Even the wine was a collective benefit: our family made 3000 liters of red wine every year and even if - as my dad recalls - it had an awfully bitter taste, it quenched the thirst of family members as well as co-workers’. Not a drop seems to have ever gone wasted.
Nana took care of feeding anyone who came to her home all through her life, cooking for the workers, for her mother’s nurse Vittoria and her family, and for almost everyone she knew who needed extra help: when times got better for all, she kept on making cakes for every neighbor, friend and villager she knew, sometimes making 10 in one day… her sister called her “Aggiungi un posto a tavola” (verbatim: add a seat at the table), from a famous Italian musical theater play.
I hope I get to be nicknamed like that someday soon. She simply was amazing… ciao nonnì!
domenica 29 novembre 2009
Back after a long weekend away: Savory Veggie Rice, a quick answer to “what do I make for dinner tonight?”
I am sure you know the feeling when you get to go away for a long well deserved weekend after a long, tiring week at work (week? sorry I meant MONTH!). So, this weekend I had my treat for I took the friday off and started enjoying freedom one day in advance.
Friday was spent doing all sorts of things I can’t get hold of during the week: I went to the dentist, walked to the city centre and bought a few cosmetics I really needed to replace in my beauty case and went to my new home to meet the funny team made by my architect+electrician+construction manager to decide where the lights+electric plugs are meant to be in the kitchen (VITAL!) and basically all over the place.
It took more than expected but when we finally drove back to where we still live now (Ioska and I met directly at the team’s rendez vous) we had a quick lunch consisting of a stir fry of Nuremberg’s sausages and cabbage served on grilled dark home-made bread. Not heavy, not light if you ask me: just perfect if completed with a little glass of white wine and a nice espresso.
After lunch we chilled out for half an hour, packed and headed to Trento, a beautiful town in Trentino 3 hours away from Milan: a land of fine mountains, amazing wines (whites my favorites, but reds - like Teroldego Rotaliano or Marzemino - as charming as my top-of-the-list Muller Thurgau), delicious salami (ah, Luganega!) and a lovely, little, energetic, skilled cook called Adriana, aka my boyfriend’s grandmother.
Adriana was waiting for us, her usual affectionate but brisk way and her great shape ( at 80 she mounts little stools like a young woman of 20, without any help from us nor from any handhold) only the frame to a characteristically trentino, clear-headed and straight-forward manner I have learnt to love during the years. Knowing me and Ioska as foodies, she cooked all sorts of amazing dishes: canederli (knodels), polenta with sour krauts and pork (in different cuts: smoked roast, sausage and cotechino), strudel, all served with a nice Marzemino wine, a red with great body but “only” 12% alcool.
In order to bring back home some of these wonderful tastes, Saturday was devoted to buying typical products in Levico Terme, a nice village where they set up in the Hapsburgian Gardens, the most enchanting Christmas market I have seen lately(even if I heard that Bolzano’s is twice as big and twice as nice) .
Ioska was as taken as I am,we dragged ourselves from a stand to another until the cold became so unbearable we bought some biscotti in a nice patisserie in the main street, and went to our friend Tommy’s home where we had a wonderful tea waiting for the evening plans to unroll.
We spent the night to a concert, then to a party, then back to Tommy’s home where we had pasta at 3 in the morning while chatting about art, politics, expectations and (wonder) homes! When we finally went to bed we woke up at what felt like 5 minutes after bedtime, just in time to go back to Trento, have lunch with Adriana and her daughter – Ioska’s aunt – Dorotea, and then drive back to Milan filled with the family’s attention, our friend Tommy’s company and Trentino’s delicacies.
So, tonight, we arrived home after this scrumptious weekend with a need for warmth (the air was chilly, my sore throat a mess and the rain not wanting to stop) and a simple meal: the fridge was almost devoid of fresh goods, only a couple of zucchini and a bunch of fresh carrots I randomly bought during the week when I decided to make stock.
To me, the best way to combine these two veggies is to stir fry them with onion to make a mixture that begs to be added to neutral ingredients like eggs or rice (or both). This dish, which is baptized under the name of “quick veggie rice” is easy to make, fulfilling, tasty and light, and it makes a perfect dinner after a long weekend of culinary indulgence.
To make it
100 grams rice, boiled in water added with dried vegetarian broth
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced (1/2 cm) with a mandolin
2 carrots, cut into a large julienne with a potato peeler
1/2 big red onion or 1 whole small one, thinly sliced
a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan
4 tbsp extra vergin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste (or a garlic clove cut in two pieces so it’s easy to remove)
salt & pepper
some drops of soy sauce (optional)
HOW I MADE IT:
1 I heated 2 tbsp of oil and the garlic paste in a large pan for 2 minutes, then settled the slices of zucchini in a large layer ( as large as possible so to cover the bottom evenly) and let them cook for 4 minutes before I stirred for the first time.
2 I “tumbled” the zucchini instead of turning them with a wooden spoon: this lets you check if the lower side touching the pan has browned already without scrambling the slices (being very thin they break very easily). Also, tumbling will allow the slices that don’t reach the bottom of the pan to soak gently in the oil once they have swapped places with the lower layer (and have their chance to brown). Let cook for 5 minutes turning the zucchini upside down twice to check if they have all browned and almost cooked through. Salt and set aside in a small bowl.
3 In the same pan, I added the last 2 olive oil tablespoons with the thinly sliced onions and let them cook on high heat for two minutes until they have become translucent: I added the carrots’ julienne, salt, pepper and let it brown nicely on medium heat adding a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan when the carrots have started to stick slightly.
4 Once the wine has evaporated, I added the zucchini back in the pan and let the aromas blend, adjusting seasoning if needed. I turned the heat off and set aside (covered) until it was time to serve.
5 I boiled the rice in a pot using the infusion method: I put the thai rice (even if any long grain variety will do) in the pot covering it with cold water (1,5 cm above the rice level). I added a teaspoon of dried vegetarian broth and let cook covered for 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated completely. You’d better start with very low heat so the “broth” has time to infuse in the rice. Mind you, if the rice is done before all the water has gone, uncover and let the rice go on a higher heat until the liquid has disappeared. Stir and let rest for 3 more minutes covered, or until the rice is soft enough to your taste.
6 Fill single serving cups with the rice and add a nice amount of veggies over it: I like my serving garnished with some drops of soy sauce and olive oil, but you can skip this step if you want.
Serves a couple of hungry two or 3 decent people keen on having dessert too. Enjoy!
sabato 7 novembre 2009
Then why writing my first blog ever in English if this might imply a possible lack in correctness, you might wonder. Well, I have been reading loads of food blogs lately, and the best ones were all written in English: English is clear, minimal and straightforward while still allowing a powerful and entertaining prose (ah! all those neologisms, those onomatopoeias!) .
Plus, English speaking blogs in general are the best on the Net, and - last but not least- English is my second language being my granpa American and my mom ("just") a naturalized American ( who never uttered a word of English all through her life to be honest...not until last summer when, at 53, she went to the U.S. for the FIRST TIME and discovered she could interact perfectly with everybody in New York): in short, this is a language I love to speak, to write, to read and sometimes to dream in.
As of me as a cooking passionate, I have had this "thang" with cooking ever since I was a kid, although it never occurred to me this could be something I would once wish to share with others (at least on a theoretical level...unless you all intend to show up for dinner one day or the other): recipes, new ingredients discoveries, tastes from travels around the world or thoughts on how food can speak louder than some "I love yous", are some things I can't seem to be able to keep to myself any longer, so why not take advantage of this brilliant, entertaining way to express oneself that is a food blog? Plus with English I reach more people, so the more the better.
Then so be it: English, Latin, Sasckrit or Italian (ta da! my native language) who cares? Let's all be entertained under the sublime mark of good food.