Tag Archives: cooking

Scenes From an Italian Wedding and Bacon-Wrapped Cauliflower and Broccoli Florets

Bacon-Wrapped Cauliflower and Broccoli FloretsHello there!

Long time no talk and no cook! ūüôā My personal photographer has been buried alive in the office, working long exhausting hours, and I have been busy with a … home project that is taking more than I was expecting.

So where were we? Ah, my cousin’s wedding! Care to know how it was? Sure!

Let me set the tone of this post right away by saying that I don’t like weddings. With my being an introvert, I just hate big gatherings and I try to stay away from weddings as much as anyone tries to protect themselves from contagious diseases. I can literally count on the fingers of one hand the weddings that I enjoyed, which thankfully include mine – maybe because I was kind of the main character there. ūüėČ Still, I end up attending most of the weddings I’m invited to because good manners and social conventions require me to do it.

But let’s start from the beginning. The groom and the bride (my cousin) picked Ravenna, a town in Emilia Romagna (a region in Northern Italy) as their religious celebration venue. This choice upset some of my family members for different reasons, including that it contravened the old Italian tradition that a wedding must be celebrated in the bride’s hometown (which, in our case, would have been in Southern Italy).

The mass was set to start at 6:00pm on a Saturday. My close family, Her Majesty and I (Stefano, my sneaky husband, deserted the happy gathering adducing work-related excuses! ūüėČ ) arrived in Ravenna from Rome at 10:00pm on Friday, after (only!) a 5-hour train ride. I hadn’t even put one foot through the hotel doorway that a countless number of my mom’s relatives (first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, whatever degree cousins!) started hugging me and asking “Do you remember me?” The first thing that came to my mind? “Honestly, I haven’t the faintest idea who you are, maybe because the last time I saw you I was seven and please let me go since I need to breathe every now and then”. Did I go for it? Of course not! Only because I wouldn’t have heard the end of it from my mom. I put on my fakest smile and, using my best Virgin Mary voice, I said that it was very late and I had to put Her Majesty to bed.

The next morning, at breakfast, the same scene repeated itself more or less, only with more people and the additional tiny detail that everyone was speaking dialects from the south of Italy (both the bride’s and the groom’s families are originally from there). Now, I grew up listening to those dialects so, even if I cannot speak a word, I understand them pretty well. But Her Majesty? There is no day that goes by without Stefano correcting her Italian pronunciation and grammar so that she only speaks a perfect, proper and accent-less Italian, and as a result she felt completely lost in that breakfast room and she asked me which foreign language our relatives were speaking! ūüėČ That’s when I knew that I had to leave that room and leave fast. Ravenna gave me the perfect excuse.

Bacon-Wrapped Cauliflower and Broccoli Florets

Ravenna is a little gem from a¬†historical and artistic point of view. It was the capital of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and then of the Byzantine Empire until the 8th century. Ravenna’s¬†monuments and mosaic art are so unique that UNESCO added eight, I say eight, of its monuments to the World Heritage List. Of course, it was impossibile for me and her Majesty to visit all of them that morning but I was determined to see as much as we could. When we stepped into the Basilica¬†of San Vitale, Her Majesty was speechless (and believe me, it doesn’t happen very often!) in front of the extraordinary beauty and magnificence of the mosaics. We spent most of the morning contemplating as many mosaics as we could and Her Majesty got all excited at the idea that, maybe one day, she could attend Ravenna’s mosaic restoration school. Another site that you do not want to miss if you happen to be in Ravenna is Dante’s tomb. Yup, the divine poet died and was buried there¬†in 1321. The stories of how Florence (Dante’s hometown and the same town that condemned him to exile) has been trying over the years to bring the body of the most famous Italian literate back home are really amusing. Time literally flew by and, at lunch, it was time to get back to my “family” reality.

Eventually 6:00pm came. Her Majesty was the ring bearer and she was supposed to precede the bride down the aisle. I immediately knew that the ceremony was going to be a disaster by the tone that the priest used to address my daughter outside the church: arrogant and rude! I disliked him instantly!

Now, the usual Italian catholic wedding ceremony is very long and the sermon is crucial in making the difference between a good one and a bad one. In my mind, a good sermon is one that is supposed to convey a sweet message of love, happiness and blessing for the newlyweds. Sweet sermon my foot!

The opening statement of that guy was that there was not going to be any sermon because the love of the two lovebirds didn’t need any comment and then he went on and on for 2 hours (two hours, I say!) pontificating and thundering against us, poor sinners, so strongly that I thought the dome was about to crack open and the arrows of some vindicative angels would pierce our hearts. I’m pretty sure that Michelangelo was listening to a sermon like that when he got the idea of how the Final Judgement should look like! ūüėČ

Finally, past 8:00pm, after surviving the Inquisition torture and avoiding divine punishment, we got out of the church and jumped on a private bus to go to the place where the wedding reception would be, which was (only! ūüôĀ ) a 40 minute ride away!!!
When we got there, people were famished. When they saw the appetizers’ buffet table, they attacked it like there was no tomorrow. I saw plates so full of food that a starving dinosaur would have turned pale in front of them!

And after everyone stuffed themselves with so much food that they were ready to blow up (√† la Monty Python, you know the “wafer thin mint” scene?…), the unavoidable wedding dinner started. After two endless pasta courses (it felt like it took me less to give birth to Her Majesty!), at 11:30pm the second course was starting being served… Now, the newlyweds’ choice fell on pork (seriously? In August?) and they wanted to impress their guests showing the whole poor cooked animal on a serving plate before it was all cut out to delight our palates (like I still had one!). I had the brilliant idea to wear a pair of gorgeous Sergio Rossi high heels (over 12 cm) for the occasion. After all those hours, my feet were so swollen that you could have replaced them with those of the poor pork on that darn serving plate and nobody, nobody would have noticed the difference.

Bacon-Wrapped Cauliflower and Broccoli FloretsAt 1:00am the wedding cake was finally brought out to the garden. I couldn’t care less at that point. I don’t even know what cake was served. I kept just staring at the people sitting at my table falling asleep on the plate and constantly watching their watches. Why? Because 2:00am was the time that had been set for our freedom. That was the time when the bus was going to pick us all up and take us back to the hotel.

The cherry on top of the cake? That night, the Italian gods decided to surprise us sending a thick fog our way – in August… The bus driver had to drive very slowly and it took us way more than 40 minutes to get back to Ravenna.

When I put my face on the pillow at 4:00am thanking God that this excruciating night was finally over, I promised myself that the next wedding I am going to attend will be Her Majesty’s!!!

Oh well, enough with the wedding! Let’s talk about something more tempting. ūüôā

Did I tell you that I love appetizers? A good appetizer (along with a glass of champagne or white wine of course!) has the magical power to put me in a great mood. Don’t get me wrong: I love the classic cheese platter, especially if it is full of rich, soft French cheeses, but variety is what makes life beautiful, isn’t¬†it?

The good thing about this appetizer is that you can really cheat yourself. After all, you are eating vegetables. Let’s not focus on the fact that they are fried and wrapped in bacon, shall we? ūüėČ

Now, there is really no recipe for this appetizer. You will just need some broccoli and cauliflower florets, plus the same ingredients you would use to make your breaded chicken cutlets (flour, eggs, breadcrumbs), some extravirgin olive oil and some slices of bacon.

Directions:

Coat the florets into the flour. Shake the excess off and dip the florets into some beaten salted eggs. Let the excess drip off and coat the florets into the breadcrumbs.

Fry the florets in olive oil. When they are browned, remove the florets from the oil, place them on some paper towel and let them cool off.

Preheat oven at 375F.

Wrap the florets with bacon slices, overlapping the ends of the slices under the florets.

Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the wrapped florets on the paper and bake them for about 10 minutes.

Remove the florets from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes.

Decorate the florets with party toothpicks of your choice et voila’!

Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous fall weather!

F. Xx

So little time in the kitchen: peach and chocolate chips mini tarte tatins

Mini peach tarte tatinsHello everyone!

Hope you are having a glorious summer!

As a food blogger, I know I’m expected to share recipes, tips and¬†culinary adventures that I have experienced during my stay in Italy,¬†but I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed … or maybe not! ūüėČ

As I said on several occasion, cooking is just one of my passions.¬†There are so many other things I tremendously enjoy. One of these¬†things is resuming my royal role of daughter every time I¬†go¬†back to my¬†country. ūüôā

You see, I was a very lucky, spoiled girl who never had to deal with¬†any domestic chore for as long as I lived at¬†home with my parents. When I¬†left that house to play the role of an independent woman and¬†a wife, I realized that real life¬†was quite different from the one I was used to and it was kind of¬†shocking to me but that’s another story! ūüėČ

Anyway, truth to be told I can count on the fingers of one hand the¬†times I entered my mother’s kitchen to cook something during my stay.

I happen to have made the recipe I am going to¬†share with you today during one of¬†those miraculous times (as my mom likes to put it! ūüėČ ).

It was a Saturday of a very hot Italian summer and I had terrific plans for the day: taking Her Majesty to her swimming class, having lunch on the terrace of the yacht club and spending the entire afternoon on the beach reading, swimming and sun bathing. That morning I was daydreaming in my bed when my mother announced me that she had invited twelve guests for dinner that night and asked me if I could take care of the dessert.

Now, you can understand my predicament! I didn’t want to change my¬†plans, not even a bit, but I didn’t feel like not helping my mom¬†either. While brushing my teeth (I get a lot of ideas brushing my¬†teeth ūüėČ ), the thought of a¬†very simplified version of¬†mini tarte tatins came to my rescue.

These little treats are very easy to make, even ahead of time if you¬†have a busy day, and they look and taste wonderful. The combination of¬†peach and chocolate is one of my favorites and I still have to meet a¬†human being that doesn’t go for it.

So how did it go? Dinner was scheduled for 9:00pm (yup, that’s how we¬†roll at¬†my parents’ house!). I came back from the beach late afternoon¬†and I had plenty of time to make the tarte tatins and be ready to help my mother serve¬†the aperitivo to her guests. Our guests¬†devoured the mini tarte tatins and I had exactly the day that I¬†planned. In other words, those little beauties saved my day and,¬†hopefully, they may¬†do the same for you! ūüôā

Mini peach tarte tatins

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 peaches
1/3 Cup, chocolate chips
1 Cup, confectioner’s sugar
1 yolk
1 Tbsp, milk
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Peel the peaches, slice them and set them aside.

Mini peach tarte tatinsLay the sheet of pastry on a floured surface and roll over so that you have a smooth sheet. Following the same technique to make linzer cookies, with a large round cookie cutter (of course you can pick the shape you like best), cut the pastry into rounds and place half of the rounds on the parchment paper. Using a smaller round cookie cutter, cut out the center from the other half of the rounds, put the outer edges of the circles aside and discard the centers as scrap. Combine such scraps, roll and cut again until you have used all your pastry.

In a small bowl, whisk the yolk and the milk.

In a non stick pot, combine sugar and about 1 Tbsp of water to make caramel. Bring the mixture to boil and cook until the mixture has thickened and turned amber in color.

Using a spoon (be careful because the caramel is very hot and it’s¬†super easy to get burnt), place some caramel on the pastry solid¬†rounds and add a couple of peach slices and some chocolate chips on¬†top of the caramel.

Press the circle cut rounds on top of the solid ones and brush the edges with the egg wash.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tarte tatins are golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Dust the tarte tatins with¬†some confectioner’s sugar before serving them.

I’m heading over¬†to Italy again this weekend. My first cousin is getting¬†married and, according to my aunt, this wedding will be remembered as¬†much as that¬†of William & Kate. ūüėČ Plus, after two months of vacation, it is¬†time for Her Majesty to come back home in time for the first day of¬†school.

I wish you all to enjoy the rest of August. Talk to you soon,

F. Xx

From Italy to Iran with love: Pepper and Pancetta Tortiglioni

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioniI have been fortunate enough to be asked by lovely Azita to write a guest post that she has published on¬†her wonderful blog, Fig and Quince. If you don’t know Azita yet, do yourself a favor: go check her blog out and enter her enchanted Persian world.

This is the original guest post that I wrote for Azita, which contains a few differences (in the story, not in the recipe!) compared to that which Azita published: in other words, this is the director’s cut, if you will. ūüėČ

I have been lucky enough to get to meet Azita in person a¬†few months ago. I don’t remember how we found each other on the blogosphere but I remember how I felt at the beginning of our “relationship”‚Ķ cautious.

I have always been a big¬†introvert and extremely good at keeping my distance from people –¬†a huge¬†disappointment due to¬†a friendship that fell apart¬†a couple of years ago didn’t help,¬†and actually¬†ended up making¬†me even more skeptical, if possible, when it comes to meeting new people,¬†either in person or over the internet.

However, when I started reading Azita‘s posts, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the cheerfulness, the lightness and the language richness of her writing style.

There is no doubt that her country, culture and culinary traditions are fascinating in and of themselves,¬†but she is astonishingly capable to write about them in such an articulate and eclectic way that every time I read one of her posts I have the impression of reading one chapter of “One Thousand and One Nights”,¬†where flavors, aromas, perfumes and ancient customs all blend¬†in together¬†to give birth to something magical.

And yet, her posts are always funny and cheerful and modern and colorful. Even her pictures and her compositions speak for the talented artist that she is. Her attention to details is impressive to say the least and her comments to other people’s posts are always brilliant with a touch of graciousness.

When I was about to meet her in person, I was nervous. I’m always nervous when I have to meet new people. It is¬†simply not¬†my thing! ūüėČ As soon as she stepped into my house, she came toward¬†me and she hugged me and kissed me as if¬†we had¬†known each other for years. I will never forget that hug. Why? The warmth that her hug gave me as a human being was totally unexpected and yet so refreshing and fulfilling!

When I had to pick the dish to be published on Azita‘s wonderful blog as a guest post, I immediately went for a pasta dish with peppers. Why? Well, I’m Italian and pasta is one of the emblems of my culinary tradition. So no doubt there! ūüôā The reason I picked peppers is because I think they represent Azita in her fullness. Their color is so vibrant that they bring cheerfulness and happiness in your life as soon as you look at them and their taste is so strongly flavorful and overwhelming that as soon as you eat them your taste buds are literally pervaded by their richness the same way I was by Azita‘s hug that Sunday afternoon.

So from Italy to Iran – one way – with love!

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioni

2 Servings

Ingredients:

2 peppers
4 oz, chopped pancetta
1 leek
4 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
6/7 oz, pasta of your choice
2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
four/five thyme stalks
Ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioniPreheat your oven to 400F.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Rinse the peppers under cold water, dry them and place them on a baking sheet (I always put some parchment paper on my baking sheet to be sure that nothing sticks ūüôā ). Bake for about 20 minutes (or until the peppers are cooked), take them out of the oven and, with the help of a knife and fork, remove the skin of the peppers.

In the meantime, cut off the green top of the leek and its root. Discard the outer layer. Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Rinse the halves well under water. On a chopping board, slice the leek thinly and evenly. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add the leek slices, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Add some water and stir occasionally until the water evaporates. Set aside.

In another skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta gets golden and crispy. Set aside.

Put a large pot of salted water over the stove to boil. While the water is warming up, place the peppers, the leek slices, some thyme leaves and 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a blender or a food processor. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and blend everything until you obtain a smooth sauce. Transfer the sauce to a pot and warm it on a very low heat.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook it until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and put it in the pot where you warmed the sauce and toss to coat. Add the pancetta and toss to coat.

Put the pasta into the serving plates, dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese and garnish the plate with some thyme leaves.

Love,

Francesca Xx

An unusual mini-bundt: asparagus and pea flan

Asparagus and pea flanLet me apologize first! I know this is my second asparagus post in a row. The truthful, not very glamorous reason is that I’m about to leave for Italy and I needed to empty my refrigerator. ūüėČ The first rule I learned when I started cooking is that food waste is a big no no and I try to abide by it.

However, you know me. Whatever the reason may be, I always try to go for something nice that satisfies my aesthetic sense in addition to my palate, especially when I’m handling ingredients as expensive as asparagus. Since I had just bought a mini-bundt pan at Williams Sonoma, I thought it would be fun to use it to make asparagus-based flans. I’m very pleased with the results. What do you think? ūüėČ

These flans are the perfect appetizers for a dinner party. They can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature or warmed-up. But above all, they are very cute and will impress your guests for sure! ūüėČ

I like to serve them with warm cheese sauce on top. I think the savory cheesiness of the sauce complements the very delicate texture of the vegetables wonderfully.

I wish you all a great beginning of summer. I’ll try to stay in touch as much as I can but I apologize in advance if I might miss some of your posts. Spending time with my extended family is wonderful, but it is also a full time job! ūüėČ

Asparagus and pea flanIngredients:

1 lb, asparagus
2 Cups, peas
1 leek
10 leaves, basil
2 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
1 1/2 Cup, stock
4 Tbsp, ricotta
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
5 eggs
Salt
Ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 340 degrees F.

Wash the asparagus spears and cut off the woody ends. In a large pot, heat some water until it boils, add the asparagus and keep boiling for 3-4 minutes. Strain the asparagus, rinse with cold water and cut into ¬ĺ inch pieces.

Wash the peas under cold running water. In another pot, heat some water until it boils, add the peas and keep cooking until they are tender. Strain the peas and rinse them with cold water.

Cut off the green top of the leek and the root. Discard the outer layer. Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Rinse the two halves well under water, being careful to leave them intact. Place each half, with the flat side facing down, on a chopping board. Slice the leeks thinly and evenly with your knife so that you end up with thin strips.

Asparagus and pea flanIn a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the leek, the peas and the asparagus, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Add the stock and stir occasionally until the water evaporates. Set aside.

Chop the basil leaves roughly.

In a blender or food processor place the vegetables, the ricotta, the Parmigiano cheese, the basil and the yolks. Blend until you obtain a smooth mixture. Taste it to check whether you need to add more salt and blend again.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they get fluffy. With the help of a spatula, incorporate the beaten egg whites into the vegetable mixture.

Coat the mini-bundt pan molds with butter. If you do not have any such pan, you can use your regular muffin pan.

Fill the molds with the mixture. Place the mini-bundt pan inside a large, shallow pan. Add warm water to the large pan such that the lower half of the height of the mini-bundt pan is under water.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the mini-bundt pan from the water bath. Let the mini bundts cool.

Invert onto a serving plate and add some warm cheese sauce on top. Serve right away.

That’s all for today: talk to you soon from the old continent!

F. Xx

Who said routines are boring? Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

Hello there!

Long time no talk. I hope this finds you all well and enjoying this warm, glorious weather.

My house is finally empty (as in, no more guests!)¬†and I was¬†longing¬†for this to happen. Don’t get me wrong: having family around is fantastic but, after a while, I really miss my routine schedule. Especially my mornings.

After Stefano leaves¬†for work and Her Majesty is off to school, I treasure¬†those precious morning hours when¬†I reconcile myself with the rest of the world. Sipping my coffee, I take care of my house chores, I work on my professional and non-professional projects and I get ideas for new projects. All this in¬†the silent company of Sofia. She never leaves my side but she has learned to be calm and quiet¬†during those hours. It is amazing how she can be¬†more in tune with me¬†than most people I know. She knows what I need simply by instinct. ūüôā

This meatloaf “en croute” has been on my mind for quite a while. I have tried a couple of different flavor combinations and the one¬†that I’m sharing with you today is the one that¬†we liked the most.

As often with food, this recipe is just a combination of ingredients that you can adjust¬†and/or substitute so as¬†to satisfy your palate’s liking. You can use different ground meat (lamb, pork, turkey) or different nuts and dried fruits, you can replace the speck with bacon, pancetta, salame or prosciutto and you can add those herbs that¬†you cannot live without. Or you can simply go with your own meatloaf recipe. As always, ideas are meant to flow and in the end¬†it is just a question of taste! ūüôā

Meatloaf "en croute" (detail)

Meatloaf “en croute” (detail)

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 lb, ground veal
1/2 lb, ground beef
2 eggs
2 slices of speck, 1/4 inch thick, chopped
1/4 Cup, bleached hazelnuts
1/2 Cup, dried apricots, chopped
1/2 Cup, whole milk
2/3 slices, white bread
6 Tbsp, grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
2 yolks
1 sheet, pastry puff, thawed
Ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a bowl, place the bread and pour the milk (except for a couple of tablespoons that you will use later for the egg wash) and let it sit until the bread absorbs the milk.

In a large mixing bowl, put the meat, the eggs, the speck, the apricot, the hazelnut and the Parmesan cheese. Squeeze the bread in your hand in order to eliminate excess milk and add the bread into the mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and combine all the ingredients with your hands.

With your hands, form a loaf. Brush the loaf with the olive oil. Place some parchment paper on a baking pan and transfer the loaf on it.

Cook the meatloaf for about 25 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it cool.

In the meantime, on a lightly floured surface, lightly roll out the pastry puff sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk the yolks and 2 Tablespoons of milk.

Set the cool meatloaf on the pastry puff sheet lengthwise and wrap it with the dough. Cut the excess dough (do not discard it because you can use it for decoration) and seal the edges. Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Use the rest of the dough, if any, to decorate the top of the pastry and brush the decorations with the rest of the egg wash.

Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden/brown and crispy. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving it.

Looking forward to hearing from you! Xx

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

Party season warm-up: pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

About 18 croquettes

Are you getting ready for party season? Easter is around the corner and I’m sure some of you will host the legendary Easter lunch. Personally I’m starting working on the menu for Her Majesty’s First Communion party.¬†

Every time I work on a menu for an event, I always start from the appetizers. After all they are the “preview” of the quality of the food that will be served during the event. They are critical to help creating that magical atmosphere (along with champagne glasses and colorful cocktails, of course!) when everybody gets to be cheerful and relaxed and starts to have a good time.

Potato croquettes are pretty popular in my house and they are such a tasty appetizer. I usually dip the croquettes in some bread crumbs and fry them in olive oil. However, an idea has been fluctuating in my mind lately. With the same potato mixture, I wanted to make something a little more sophisticated from the presentation point of view and a little less messy from the cooking point of view. So I put the mixture in a mini muffin pan, added cheese and bacon on top of every muffin and baked them. The result was fantastic. The crunchiness of the top contrasted beautifully with the softness of the inside. After the first tasting of my little experiment, I had a few croquettes left, so I warmed them in the oven the next day. And they tasted just perfect! A total blessing when you have to cook for a party, since they can be made the day before.

This recipe is just my basic mashed potatoes to which I add a couple of yolks. I tend to keep food pretty simple because of Her Majesty’s taste. However, feel free to use your own mashed potato recipe instead or to adapt mine the way you like, by adding a few herbs for example. After all, recipes are just suggestions that every cook should change according to their taste. ūüôā

Ingredients:

3 medium size potatoes
2 Tbsp, butter
1/2 cup, heavy cream or milk
6 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
2 egg yolks
3 oz, pancetta, finely chopped
1/2 cup Emmental cheese, shredded
Salt
Ground black pepper
Ground nutmeg

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel the potatoes, cut them in half and rinse them under running water. Bring a pot of water to simmer and place the potatoes in the pot. Cook the potatoes for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through. Check with a fork: if the fork easily slides into the potatoes with no resistance, the potatoes are done.

In a non-stick pot, melt the butter on a very low heat. Drain the potatoes and, when the butter is completely melted, place them into the pot. With the help of a potato masher, mash the potatoes very well. Add the Parmigiano and the heavy cream and mash again. Add some salt, pepper and nutmeg (to taste) and toss to coat. Turn the burner off and let the mashed potatoes cool down for about 10 minutes. Add the yolks and toss to coat.

Place the potato mixture into a pastry bag and fill the greased and floured molds of a mini muffin pan. Sprinkle the top of each muffin/croquette with some shredded cheese and some pancetta and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let the croquettes cool for at least 10 minutes before taking them out of their mold Рotherwise they will fall apart. 

Serve with a glass of what you like the most (in my case champagne! ūüėČ )

Bye for now!

Because spring is a state of mind: lemon tagliatelle

Lemon tagliatelle2 Servings

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore and I’m officially putting the word “end” to this long, freezing¬†winter. I hate winters. I know… I should not¬†say the “H” word but here I’m saying it loud and clear!

Five long months of total hibernation, of postponing projects, of being cold all the time, of stopping buying shoes because I didn’t feel like going anywhere (well, actually Stefano and our bank account were very happy about that! ūüôā ), of just wanting to spend time under the warmth of the covers hoping that the¬†next day would bring along milder temperatures… That’s how I have been feeling during the past months and that’s why¬†I’m saying:¬†enough!

I consider this dish my personal propitiatory dance to spring. ¬†Lemons need lots of sunshine and warm weather to ripen. They remind me of my childhood summers spent at my grandparents’ beachhouse in Sicily where the heat was so suffocating that we used to spend the entire day on the beach eating nothing else but lemon granite and gelato.

I’m offering this dish to the gods, hoping that they will answer my prayers and send us the spring goddess. ūüėČ

After all, it’s just a¬†matter of believing in it. ūüėČ

Ingredients:

1 lemon
3 Tbsp, butter
3/4 cup, heavy cream
7/8 oz, tagliatelle (or linguine), preferably fresh
2/3 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
6/7 parsley leaves, chopped
white ground pepper
salt

Lemon tagliatelleDirections:

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

While the water is warming up, wash the lemon under running water and dry it. Zest the lemon and place the zest into a non-stick medium pot.

Squeeze the lemon and put the juice aside.

Add the butter to the zest and cook on a very low heat until the butter is completely melted (make sure not to burn the butter ūüôā ).

Add the heavy cream and after a few minutes pour the lemon juice. Keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, when the water comes to a boil, cook the tagliatelle stirring occasionally and drain them a couple of minutes before they are al dente. Put the tagliatelle into the pot where you have been warming the lemon sauce and toss to coat. Add 2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thin, add more Parmigiano (not too much though otherwise the sauce will dry) and keep tossing, on a very low heat, until the sauce thickens.

Put the tagliatelle into the serving plates, dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese and white pepper and garnish the plate with some parsley.

May the spring be with you! ūüôā

Breaking News: The demise of tiramisu'?

Francesca's TiramisuA few days ago, I read an article on an Italian newspaper that saddened me a bit. Le Beccherie, an Italian restaurant located in Treviso (a town in the northeastern region of Veneto) that is credited for creating one of the most¬†famous spoon desserts the world over, tiramisu’, will close its doors for good on March 30 reportedly due to the long-lasting recession that Italy has been going through during the last years.

The restaurant has been in the Treviso culinary scene for a very long time. It opened on September 1, 1939. Ring any bell? Yes, exactly the same day that World War II started.

In the Sixties, Ada (the wife of the restaurant owner, Aldo Campeol) and pastry chef Roberto Linguanotto, came up with the recipe of tiramisu’ in the kitchen of Le Beccherie by finding inspiration in and elaborating on existing dessert recipes, including that of the restorative, “energizing” desserts that at that time used to be offered to the clients of the… local brothels! See now the reasons for both the name tiramisu’ (that translates into “pick-me-up”) and all those eggs that go into it?… ūüėČ

I was born and raised in Italy, but I have never been to Treviso. And now I will never have the chance to taste the original Tiramisu’ prepared at Le Beccherie. What a shame! ūüôĀ

So, if any of you or someone you know happens to be in Italy in the Treviso area before the end of the month, I suggest you or your friends stop by the restaurant for a taste of the “real tiramisu'”, a delicious milestone in the Italian culinary history.

Wish you all a great week – and of course Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Xx

Turning sweet into savory: basil olive oil and taleggio madeleines

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesEverybody is familiar with madeleines, the extraordinary, shell-shaped French small sponge cakes with crispy edges and a moist and soft interior texture to die for. They are very popular in my house and we love eating them for breakfast or for an afternoon tea.

However, who said that those beauties only belong to sweetland?

Madeleines can be turned into a wonderful, savory appetizer in a matter of just a few steps. They can be prepared ahead of time and you can be sure that they will amaze your cocktail party guests, giving your party kind of a sophisticated edge.

These madeleines can even be a great snack for kids (Her Majesty loves them! ūüôā ), one where you can “hide” some of the ingredients children are not so crazy about and still get away with it. ūüėČ

Well, here are the steps:

Ingredients:

2 eggs
4 Tbsp, grated parmigiano
1/3 cup, shredded taleggio cheese
A little less of 1 cup, flour (100 grams)
2 1/2 Tsp, baking powder
1/4 cup, basil olive oil
5 Tbsp, butter melted
6 Tbsp, milk
10 basil small leaves, shredded (optional)
Salt
Pepper (optional)

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesDirections:

Preheat oven to 325F. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the eggs, the parmesan and the taleggio cheese and mix until they are blended. Add the flour, the baking powder, a pinch of salt, some pepper (to taste) and mix. Add the olive oil and beat until the oil is completely blended. Add the melted butter and, if you decide to do so, the basil leaves and mix for a few minutes. Finally, add the milk and mix until well blended. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Place the batter into the greased and floured molds of a madeleines pan. Bake the madeleines for 15 to 18 minutes or until they are golden and spring back when you touch them. With the help of a knife, remove the madeleines from the pan and place them on a rack to cool before serving them. 

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesJust a few more words of advice. The combination of flavors and ingredients that can go into these savory madeleines is truly endless. You can go from plain extravirgin olive oil (that’s what I use when I make these madeleines for Her Majesty) to garlic oil, truffle oil or chili pepper oil. As to the cheese, taleggio is meant to be just a suggestion. Pick the cheese you like the most. Just make sure that it melts nicely and evenly in the oven. You can also give these yummy shells a tasting boost by adding some “meat” such as bacon, pancetta, salame, speck, ham or prosciutto bits. You can even add some vegetables such as zucchini and the herbs you love the most.

Simply unleash your creativity and surprise your family and friends with these lovely madeleines.   

Talk to you soon! ūüôā¬†

Of Puppies, Peppers and Potatoes

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement¬†about my first steps into puppyhood. I think Chef Mimi is the one that best described what I was about to go through. She said “You are about to experience the worst times in your life, as well as¬†the best times in your life“. She was absolutely right! Only, in my¬†opinion, the worst times outnumber the best times by far!!!¬†

Let’s not talk about Sofia’s bathroom accidents or the every hour or so that we have to walk her out in this freezing cold weather or the sleep deprivation because she¬†doesn’t sleep through the night. Let’s talk¬†about the chewing and the nipping instead. Just a few descriptive adjectives: constant, unstoppable, devastating. My once lovely and perfect kitchen is a¬†total mess and my once beautiful and spotless hardwood floors are always dirty. Sofia is a bundle of energy that needs constant supervision and training. Every evening, after a seemingly endless day, when she finally falls asleep and I use my last drops of¬†strength to vaguely tidy up my once perfectly organized house, I can’t help but notice a new “gift” left by Sofia’s sharp baby teeth on a piece of furniture.¬†Needless to say, most of the times, it is a piece of furniture that I am particularly attached to because either it is fairly expensive or it took me¬†forever to find. So I go to bed every night with this¬†physical pain in my chest, in a kind of mourning for my¬†cabinet or a chair’s leg, as the case may be, repeating to myself “try not to think about it because Sofia will be up in the blink of an eye”.¬†

Potato and Pepper Side

When I got pregnant with Her Majesty, I did not read any books about babies and/or motherhood nor did I attend any preparatory class. I entered that hospital labor room thoughtless and clueless. Same thing with Sofia. That sneaky husband of mine did all the puppy reading and disclosed to me only 10% of what he had learned, knowing that, had I been well informed, I would most likely have changed my mind again.

So if I may, let me give a word of advice to anyone of you that is considering getting a puppy: make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Beside the workload that is required of you which, believe me, is humongous, I have come to the conclusion that your heart must have a special disposition to sacrifice yourself, your time and¬†your things for the sake of the happiness of your puppy. Does my heart have it? The jury is still out on that! ūüėČ

Potato and Pepper SideI guess by now and with the¬†above being said, you have started realizing that cooking has not been one of my priorities lately. I simply cannot afford to devote more than 30 minutes to make a dish. Like this peppers and potatoes side dish. As you may notice, it is a pretty basic one, with only few ingredients. When I want to spice it up, I add some tomatoes and harissa, but I cannot do it when my mom is around because my family recipe does not call for them and my mom does not like when I‚Ķ “tamper”¬†with her recipes. Once again, the quality of the¬†ingredients is paramount in this dish as there is no seasoning other than salt.¬†

Ingredients:

1 cup, extravirgin olive oil
5 potatoes
5 peppers
8/9 cherry tomatoes (optional)
1 Tsp, harissa (optional)
Salt 

Directions:

Peel the potatoes and slice them (about 1/4 thick). Cut the peppers into halves and slice them as you would with an apple.

In a large skillet, pour the olive oil, add the potato slices, the pepper slices and some salt (to taste). Cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10/15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the harissa and keep cooking for another 10/15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Et voila! Ready by the time of one of Sofia’s naps!¬†

I wish you all a super fun and relaxing Super Bowl weekend!