10 Jun
2010

BISCOTTI DI PARMIGIANO

Biscuits of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

biscotti

This recipe was given to me by Antonella Melandri, one of the HomeFood Cesarine from Bologna

Preheat oven to 350.

Ingredients:

*2/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano and emmanthaler (I like over half of this amount to be parmigiano, in other words almost 1/2 cup of parmigiano and then add enough emmanthaler to add up to 2/3 cup total.)
*1/4 cup butter, softened
*1/2 cup all purpose flour
*1/2 teaspoon salt few grinds of black pepper few grinds of nutmeg (I grate whole nutmeg)
*1 whole egg beaten, to brush over top
*Marcona (white) almonds – one for each biscuit
1. Mix the parmigiano-reggiano and emmanthaler with the flour, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg with pastry blender, two forks, or your hands.
2. When well mixed, form into a ball and put in refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Cut in half and roll out with rolling pin as thin as possible without breaking up.
4. Form biscuits with biscuit cutter or glass and place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
5. Press one almond in center of each and brush with beaten egg.

Bake at 350 degrees 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges

*NOTE: It’s important to use an excellent quality parmigiano-reggiano. (please not the shaker-can imposter!!) If your cheese is not good, you might as well skip the biscotti and go straight to the prosecco.

10 Jun
2010

FIORI DI ZUCCA IN PASTELLA

Fried Squash Blossoms with Mozzarella and Anchovies

From The Williams-Sonoma Food of the World series, “Rome”,

recipes and text by Maureen B. Fant

12 zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca)
1/4 lb fresh cow’s milk mozzarella or mozzarella di bufala, cut into 12 pieces
4 olive oil–packed anchovy fillets, each cut into 3 pieces
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, for deep-frying

Makes 4 servings

Cut off the stem of each flower, remove the sharp, protruding points of the calyx at its base, and then remove the pistils from inside, trying not to tear the flower. Rinse the flowers and dry gently with a dish towel or paper towels.

place 1 piece of anchovy and 1 piece of cheese in the cavity of each flower. If any flower is torn, just wrap its petals around the filling. (When fried, the batter will help hold the package together.) Gently lay the stuffed flowers in a single layer on a plate.

Sift 2 cups flour into a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups water and mix with a fork until a thick batter forms. To test, insert your finger into the batter; it should coat your finger without dripping. Adjust the consistency by adding more flour or more water. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and the vinegar.

Sift the remaining 1 cup flour into shallow bowl.

pour olive oil to a depth of 2 inches into a deep frying pan and heat to 325°F on a deep-frying thermometer, or until a drop of batter dropped into the hot oil sizzles immediately on contact. Holding 1 stuffed flower by its base, dip it first into dry flour then into the batter, coating generously. Lay the flower gently in the oil. Repeat, adding 2 or 3 more flowers and being careful not to crowd the pan. Deep-fry until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes, paying more attention to the color than to the clock. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the flowers to paper towels to drain. Keep warm on an electric hot tray or in a very low oven, uncovered. Repeat with the remaining stuffed flowers.

Sprinkle the fried flowers lightly with salt and then arrange on a warmed platter or individual plates. Serve at once.

10 Jun
2010

STROZZAPRETI CON CAPESANTE E BASILICO

Pasta with Scallops and Basil

(Recipe adapted from Massimo Riccioli of La Rosetta in Rome)

strozza preti recipe

Capesante might sound like a high holy day of the Roman Catholic Church, but it’s actually scallops. Who knows whatever real or mythical event might have inspired the shape of this pasta, but it’s called strozzapreti, priest stranglers.

Like all recipes you might be lucky enough to wrest away from their Italian creators, measurements are non-existent. The closest they come to telling you how much you need is “quanto basta” which means as much as you need; or maybe they’ll say “una manciata“, a handful (whose hand?), and so it was left for me to figure out.

The following is my riff on Massimo’s composition.

Ingredients:
For paste:
*1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
*1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
*1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
*2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 small peeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 # scallops, dice about 6 into small pieces, leaving remainder whole
1/4 cup white wine
2-4 tablespoons vegetable broth
salt
caciocavallo cheese, shaved
Bring at least 5 quarts of water to boil in a large pot.
Using a mortar or food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and lemon juice. process into a paste.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic in non-stick skillet. (Do not allow garlic to brown.)
Add whole scallops to skillet. When they’re beginning to brown, add the chopped scallops and stir to prevent sticking.
Remove garlic, turn heat to high, and add wine. When wine has evaporated, add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth and stir. Taste and add salt if needed. Turn off heat.
When water reaches a boil, add salt and then pasta, and cook to al dente.
Drain pasta and add to scallops in skillet along with the basil paste, mixing well.
plate the pasta before adding shavings of caciocavallo cheese* and fresh basil leaves for garnish.
* If, like me, you live where it’s impossible to find caciocavallo, a mild provolone is an acceptable substitute.

Recipe serves 4.

10 Jun
2010

INSALATA DI FINOCCHIO E ARANCIA

Fennel and Orange Salad

Insalata di finocchio e arancia is a favorite of the Romans –present day Romans, that is, and not their ancestors from the Great Empire who couldn’t have made it anyway.  Only one of the main ingredients, fennel, was even known in Ancient Rome, and oranges weren’t introduced into Sicily until the 10th century by the Arabs.

Although navels or other “regular” oranges can be used, blood oranges with their dramatic ruby flesh and less acidic flavor make this salad particularly delicious and, along with the greenish-white fennel and black olives, so visually appealing, especially at the holidays.

Blood oranges are available in most American markets at this time of year, but only for a short time. So rush out and get them while you can and try this refreshing, healthful and low calorie salad. Serve it in a glass bowl and you have a beautiful red, white, and green Christmas display on your table.

Quantities listed below are arbitrary; adjust according to taste and number of servings desired.

3-4 blood (or other) oranges peeled and cut into bite size pieces
2-3 medium fennel bulbs-remove outer layers and cut inner part into small slices
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of black olives, oil cured or other
coarse sea salt, to taste

Buon Appetito!

*Now about that other salad:

Don’t go in search of a Caesar Salad in Italy, because you won’t find it.

Not Roman or even Italian at all, the classic Caesar Salad (according to conventional opinion) was invented by a restaurateur and chef in Tijuana, Mexico in the early 20th century.

Unfortunately what comes out of too many American kitchens these days is a heavy, creamy perversion of the original that would be better called the Caligula, or What Mess Hath the Barbarians Wrought.

When properly made as its creator Cesare Cardini did with fresh ingredients (romaine, lemon juice, coddled egg, mashed garlic cloves, ground black pepper, croutons, and grated Parmigiano cheese – the inclusion of anchovies is disputed) this salad, named for a mortal, would have been fit even for Julius, the god of all Caesars.

10 Jun
2010

RENATO’S SUGO DI POMODORO

(in other words, Renato’s Easy & Fabulous Tomato Sauce)

Renato of Renato & Luisa, a restaurant/trattoria near Campo de’ Fiori, has been a lot of things in his life– army helicopter pilot, law student, karate expert– but this son of a famous Testaccio butcher eventually followed the gravitational pull into the kitchen. Without formal training, Renato has become one of Rome’s most creative and celebrated young chefs.

My private cooking class with Renato was an experience I’ll never forget. Renato moves around the kitchen with the swiftness and agility that must have gotten him that black belt, and when he talks about food, his eyes sparkle like the bubbles in a glass of prosecco.

Our menu that day included; **an antipasto of soft goat cheese balls rolled in walnuts, striped with aged balsamic and golden honey and pierced with slivers of grana padana. **gnocchi made with ricotta instead of the more usual potatoes and a tomato sauce that comlemented those light puffy pillows perfectly. **filet mignon in a sauce of port wine and plump prunes.

The recipe for gnocchi will take some translating for accurate measurements, but Renato’s tomato sauce which I helped make and then duplicated successfully at home in the States is amazingly simple and guaranteed to become one of your favorites.

renatos sauce

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced leek (bottom white part)
about 1 cup halved grape or golf-ball size tomatoes
2 cups canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 large whole garlic clove, peeled
about 1/3 cup fresh basil
salt

METHOD
Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet
Add carrots and leeks, sauté for a few minutes
Add fresh tomatoes and garlic clove
Add canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and salt and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until carrots and leeks are soft. Remove garlic clove.
Pour into food processor or use immersion blender and puree.
Return to skillet to re-warm.
It’s positively squisito!

But for the real thing, visit Renato & Luisa in Rome.
RENATO & LUISA, Via del Barbieri, 25, Phone 06 6869660, www.renatoeluisa.it.
Dinner only, Closed Monday

10 Jun
2010

SALAD IN A CHEESE BASKET

Salad of arugula, tomatoes, asparagus & black truffle

This recipe was one of the highlights of a cooking class in NYC with

Umbrian Chef Andrea Tiberi of EatalianStyle

For the cheese basket:

All you need is about 1/3 cup shredded (not grated) Grana Padano cheese (**see below) for each basket and a non-stick skillet.

Heat skillet on medium high heat. Sprinkle cheese to form a circle. Try to use slightly more cheese in the center than around the edges to get a beautiful lacy effect.

As soon as it begins to smoke and becomes golden and solid, gently and quickly remove it from the pan with a wide spatula and drape over an upside-down cup or small bowl, as shown above. Let cool.

Repeat until you have as many baskets as needed. The salad below will fill about 6 baskets.

Arugula salad with candied tomatoes, asparagus, and black truffles

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup fresh asparagus
2 cups arugula (also known as rocket or in Italy as rughetta), roughly chopped
juice of one lemon
extra -virgin olive oil
1 black truffle (4 oz)

Instructions

  1. Wash tomatoes and do not dry. Water should cling to them while baking.
  2. Place whole cherry or grape tomatoes on oven-proof tray, dust with sugar, and bake for one hour at 170 degrees Fahrenheit or lowest possible oven setting.
  3. Drop the asparagus into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Do not over-cook. Run under cold water and keep on ice until ready to use.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half and chop the asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Combine with the arugula, season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and extra-virgin olive oil to taste.
  5. Fill baskets with the salad and top with black truffle shavings.

Buon appetito!

**Grana Padano is a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) cow’s milk cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, but less costly and excellent for grating.

10 Jun
2010

PASTA E CECI

(pasta and chickpea soup)

pasta e ceci recipe

1 # dried chickpeas (soaked in water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda overnight)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chopped fine
8 oz. (or slightly less) dried pasta (fettuccine or tagliatelle broken into pieces or quadrucci

METHOD

1. Drain chickpeas.

2. Put the chickpeas in a saucepan, cover with 2 quarts cold water, and add one sprig rosemary and one clove garlic. Add salt and pepper and cook over a low flame for about 2 hours. (Some chickpeas cook more quickly, maybe taking only one hour to become soft and tender.)

3. While chickpeas are cooking, in a separate pan, put the oil, one sprig of rosemary and one clove garlic, and brown lightly. Discard both the rosemary and the garlic and add the anchovy.* Let it dissolve, stirring, then add to the chickpeas.

4. When the chickpeas are cooked, discard the rosemary and garlic, add the pasta and cook it al dente.

This soup is even better the second day – and the third – so you might want to double the recipe.

*OPTION: If anchovies scare you, you could substitute 4 oz. of diced pancetta, or leave it out altogether for a vegetarian version. Saute in the olive oil, rosemary and garlic clove for about 3 minutes and then add 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Proceed as above. You might also want to add a ladle of water from the ceci pot while stirring.

Serves 4.

10 Jun
2010

RIGATONI ALL’AMATRICIANA

This classic recipe comes from the kitchen of my friend Gioia in Rome, but its origin goes back to the town of Amatrice in Northern Lazio and didn’t include tomatoes until the Romans seized it and claimed it for their own. Serious food fights have been known to occur over whether or not onions should be included in the recipe (many Romans seem to prefer it this way, but some purists do not) and whether pancetta (Italian bacon) or guanciale (similar but from the jowl of the pig and covered with black pepper) should be used. Bucatini (long hollow pasta) is the official pasta for all’amatriciana, but since it has a way of whipping around and slapping you in the face and staining your collar, rigatoni is commonly substituted.

Amatriciana is often referred to as the Pasta of the 5 P’s for its primary ingredients: pasta, pomodori (tomatoes), pancetta, peperoncino (chili pepper), and pecorino romano.

Gioia’s recipe includes onions and pancetta since guanciale is almost impossible to find in the States.

amatriciana recipe

Ingredients:

4 oz diced pancetta
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 peperoncino (chili pepper) or crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Italian dry white wine
1 can (28-oz) San Marzano tomatoes or 3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh plum tomatoes (Use fresh only if they’re top quality sweet tomatoes, otherwise you’ll have far better results with the canned variety
Sea salt
1 pound rigatoni, bucatini, or spaghetti
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano, about 1/2 cup

1.    Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in large pot.
2.    Heat oil in large, high-sided frying pan, add onions and peperoncino until onions are golden. Remove from pan and keep warm.
3.    Add pancetta to pan, cook until it begins to crisp. Return onions and peperoncino to pan with pancetta.
4.    Raise heat and add white wine to deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon until liquid is reduced.
5.    Add tomatoes, salt to taste, lower heat, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6.    Remove peperoncino
7.    Meanwhile add generous amount of salt to boiling water and throw in pasta, stir, and cook al dente according to package directions.
8.    Drain pasta, add to sauce in pan, mix well and quickly, and top with Pecorino Romano.
Serves 6

10 Jun
2010

SALTIMBOCCA ALLA ROMANA

Veal Scallops with Prosciutto and Sage

A classic Roman recipe, molto semplice, from Scuola di Cucina Pepe Verde, Rome.

SALTIMBOCCA

Ingredients:

12 veal scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced thin and pounded (not paper thin however)
12 slices thin prosciutto slices, trimmed a bit shorter in length than veal scallops
12 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Compose veal bundles by laying a slice of prosciutto on top of each veal scallop, then top with sage leaf, and secure with a toothpick.
Melt butter in large non-stick skillet.
On high heat, place veal bundles sage side down for one minute and then turn on the other side for another minute.
Season with salt (unless prosciutto is salty) and pepper.
Lower heat to medium and cook until veal is lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Raise heat and add wine, scraping bottom and sides of pan, for about another minute.

Serves 6

8 Jun
2010

LINGUINE CON GAMBERI

What Antonio Taught me ……….

Linguine with Shrimp
 Antonio taught me almost everything I know about Roman cooking. From his kitchen came my first encounter with scampi crudi, those unbearably luscious olive oil glossed raw shrimp; he introduced me to the classic combination of sweet spring fava beans with chunks of salty white pecorino romano (eaten together on a park bench at the Villa Borghese). And then one warm golden autumn day that the Romans call ottobrata, he presented me with this pasta and shrimp dish-so delicious, so easy to duplicate here in the States that not only I, but everyone on my speed dial list, has made it over and over again to perfection.
Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10-12 large shrimp (2 per person)
1 pound small shrimp
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 small chili pepper (peperoncino) or red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 small baskets cherry tomatoes (cut in half) or larger golf-ball sized tomatoes (cut into quarters) – you need 2-3 cups of tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
Sea salt
1 pound linguinePlace a large pot of water on the stove to boil. De-vein and wash shrimp well.
Chop about 1/2 pound of small shrimp into small pieces, leaving firmer shrimp whole.

In large, wide bottomed heavy skillet (not pre-heated), put olive oil and garlic. Turn on heat, but do not let garlic brown – THIS IS A SIN! When browned, garlic turns bitter, so if this happens, you need to start all over again.

Add to skillet, chopped shrimp, whole shrimp, parsley (minus about 1/4 cup for garnish), and chili pepper. Salt and stir for a few minutes, just until shrimp becomes translucent.

While heat is high, add white wine, stirring quickly with wooden spoon to incorporate anything sticking to the skillet.

Remove large shrimp at this point to covered container and keep warm. Do not over-cook shrimp for this is another SIN. Add tomatoes to skillet and cook until they are soft and almost liquidy. You can smash them down with a wooden spoon as they cook.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and then linguine. Cook to al dente stage according to package directions. Do not overcook, especially if you’re serving a native born Italian.

Drain pasta well and add to contents in the skillet. Add the rest of the smaller sized whole shrimp and toss gently.

Add 2 or more large shrimp to each plate and sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley.

Recipe serves 4 to 6.

CAVEAT: Be careful not to use too much linguine or your dish will be bland and dry. You might want to add a small amount of the pasta water if this happens. (This is why you never get gluey angel-hair or spaghetti in a good Italian restaurant—pasta water to the rescue!)