Tag Archives: eggs

My Savory Valentines: Heart-Shaped Mini Frittata

Heart-shaped mini frittataAs some of you may know already, my beloved husband and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been good in the romance department and the reason why there must be a specific day to celebrate your loved ones simply escapes me. What’s wrong with any other day of the year? Isn’t it better to show your love and affection in a totally unexpected way and whenever you feel like it?

Anyway, things have changed since Her Majesty has started celebrating Valentine’s Day and decided that we had to celebrate too. Instead of crushing her feelings (we are not that brutal! 😉 ), we decided to play along and celebrate it as a family holiday. Stefano makes sure that we have a card and a little gift for Her Majesty and, since last year, for Sofia too 🙂 and, on Valentine’s Day, we exchange cards and small presents.

When God decided to put me on this planet, he forgot to give me the sweet gene. That gene went directly from my mother to Her Majesty. That’s the reason why I always come up with some good excuse to take the savory path rather than the sweet path. I know that if I make a savory dish, I’ll be partying too as opposed to a sweet dish where, most of the time, I’ll be just watching other people to party. 🙂

Valentine’s Day is no exception to me! Last night, Her Majesty was making her valentines for her classmates. She asked me to make her favorite frittata and I decided to give it a hearty twist!

This frittata is very basic – exactly the way Her Majesty likes it! However, you can use your own recipe or spice mine up the way you want adding the vegetables and/or the spices and/or the meat you love the most. It’s all up to your creativity or, sometimes, whatever you have left in your pantry and refrigerator!

I have an additional reason why I like this recipe. I don’t have to flip! Yup! Flipping frittata is not one of my strongest skills as I confessed in one of my previous posts! Oh well! This frittata is entirely baked in the oven. Such a relief for me! 😉

Heart-shaped mini frittata

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup, Extravirgin Olive Oil
4 or 5, Golden Potatoes
10, Eggs
6 Tbsp, Grated Parmigiano Cheese
1/2, Smoked Mozzarella
2 or 3 slices, Prosciutto
Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Cut the potatoes into small bits.

Pre-heat oven at 325F.

In a non-stick medium skillet, put the olive oil and the potatoes. Add some salt (to taste), toss to coat and start cooking on a low/medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked.

Meanwhile, put the eggs, the Parmigiano cheese and some salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl and whisk it until you obtain a smooth mixture. When the potatoes are cooked, add them to the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture into a greased non-stick 9×13 inch rectangular sheet pan.

Let the frittata cook in the oven for about 20/25 minutes or until it gets that beautiful golden color.

Remove the frittata from the oven and let it cool for a while.

In the meantime, raise the oven temperature to 400F.

With a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the frittata into hearts.

Cut the smoked mozzarella into thick slices.

Place one slice of mozzarella on top of one frittata heart and another frittata heart on top of the mozzarella slice. Do the same with the rest of the frittata hearts.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Put the sandwiched frittata hearts on the baking sheet and bake them in the oven until the mozzarella melts.

Remove the sandwiched frittata hearts from the oven and garnish them with some prosciutto and creative toothpicks. Serve them warm.

Heart-shaped mini frittata

I wish everyone who celebrates Valentine’s Day a “super-lovely” one!

F. Xx

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy Easter.

Spring break is here and I have decided to take a break myself from everything (including blogging), go on a trip and enjoy some quality time with Her Majesty and my parents who just got here from Italy.

Happy Easter!

Enjoy the sunshine! May the Easter Bunny be good to you and good luck for your jelly bean hunt!

Happy Easter!

Talk to you all soon!

Francesca Xx

Happy Easter!

Frittata Primavera and the Impossibility to Flip

FrittataAh! Frittata. Universally acknowledged as a very rustic and easy to make dish.

Let’s talk about its rusticity first. I have no recollection of any restaurant in Italy that has a frittata on its menu. That’s because it is the quintessential homemade food, not sophisticated enough to be worthy of a restaurant. Nor have I ever eaten frittata in any of the fancy households and parties I used to get invited to in Rome or Milan. Simply not chic enough. But believe me when I tell you that no one, I repeat, no one can resist a good frittata.  🙂 Let me tell you a story to prove my point.

Since I was 21, I have been spending my summers at my parents’ beach house on a fairly glam stretch of coast on the island of Sardinia. Usually, before we go to the beach, my mother packs lunch boxes with incredible treats for the whole family and a frittata is always included. We consider my mom the queen of frittata and her grandchildren are crazy about this dish. When lunch time comes, the sleek ladies under the umbrellas start eating their flavorless salads (yup, Italian women tend to be all about looking thin and fabulous) while my mother start pulling out her “rustic food wonders” including her legendary frittata.

At which point, first we get a nasty look from the ladies that says “look at those peasants!” but then the smell of frittata spreads around and the upscale offspring from the other umbrellas – chased by their nannies – start getting closer like bear cubs attracted to honey. My mother, who is a woman from the south and, therefore, very hospitable, starts handing frittata bits to everyone and, at this point, the ladies, who are the loving mothers of the kids surrounding us, have no choice but to approach and thank us. And then… the frittata does its trick: a minute later, I can see their bejeweled fingers (the reason why women go to the beach wearing jewels like a madonna in a procession simply escapes me!) with their perfect manicure reaching for the frittata and the only thing my head is hearing is that famous music from Steven Spielberg’s movie “Jaws” that is played when the shark is getting close to its victim. 😀

Bottom line, everyone loves frittata and I truly believe that it can be served as an appetizer at any party, even the fanciest, if it is properly dressed up. 😉

Let’s now tackle the concept that frittata is easy to make. Maybe it is for the other human beings, but for me it is a nightmare. I select the ingredients, I beat the eggs, I pour the egg mixture in the skillet and I let the first side of the frittata cook the way my mother showed me only about a thousand times. Everything seems to go awfully well until it is time to flip the frittata to cook the other side. Et voila’! Depending on where I decide to play the flipping game, my frittata inevitably ends up either on the floor, the sink or the stove 🙁 I simply cannot do it!

I noticed that lots of cooks and chefs start cooking their frittata on the stove and then continue the cooking process in the oven. Well, in Italy, we do not cook it that way… we flip it and, to be honest with you, I was not ready to settle for the oven option.

Since in my past professional life, I was, among other things, a problem solver, I have now been determined to find a solution to my flipping incapability. After a little research, Williams Sonoma came to the rescue. They carry a fabulous nonstick pan with interlocking handles that lets you flip a frittata very easily without using a plate and, more importantly, without having your frittata splashed all over the kitchen.

FrittataIf you want to know more about this innovative piece, check it out on Williams Sonoma’s Web site. As you will notice, it is a little bit pricey but you can always do what I do when I buy something expensive… I keep repeating myself “because you are worth it”! (no, unfortunately, I’m not a l’Oreal testimonial but I’m firmly convinced of that! 😉 )

A few more words before we talk about recipe and method. The gorgeous frittata that you see in the pictures has been flipped in the traditional way, i.e., using a regular skillet and a plate. Did I do it? Of course, not! My mother did. I will describe the way she does it (I’m great at the theory part!) because my mother always taught me that a cook should be able to cook anything from scratch with the only help of basic tools. So just give it a try, if you feel like it. You can always do what I did… resort to technology because if it is true that I treasure my mother teachings I’m also a huge believer that technology is there to make our life easier. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 cup, cut green beans
1 and 1/2 cup, peas
1/4 cup, chopped onion
8 grape tomatoes
2 potatoes
Half of 1/4 cup, extravirgin olive oil
12 eggs
1/2 cup, grated parmigiano cheese
Salt
Ground black pepper

Directions: 

Cut the tomatoes in half and the potatoes into small bits.

In a non-stick medium skillet, put the olive oil, the beans, the peas, the onion, the tomatoes and the potatoes. Add some salt (to taste), toss to coat and start cooking on a very low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

Meanwhile, put the eggs, the parmigiano cheese, some salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl and whisk it until you obtain a smooth mixture. When the vegetables are cooked, pour the egg mixture in the skillet. Let it cook for 2/3 minutes and, with the help of a fork, every time the edges of the egg mixture solidify, push them back toward the inside of the frittata so that new raw egg mixture gets in contact with the skillet and solidifies. When the egg mixture is set at the bottom and begins to firm up at the top, move the skillet over the sink (in my experience, it is the easiest to clean if things go wrong), put a plate over the skillet, flip the frittata onto the plate and slide the flipped frittata back into the skillet. Cook a few more minutes et voila’!

May the force be with you and happy flipping! 🙂

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Francesca's Spaghetti alla Carbonara

4 Servings

I’ll be honest with you: I was not planning to publish this recipe for at least six months since I posted the recipe for spaghetti all’amatriciana quite recently and the two recipes share some key ingredients. However, things do not always go as planned. Last month, I “met” a new friend, Kimberly of WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot4, which was kind of an unexpected event for me because I’m not very social…to say the least 😉 Kimberly and her husband happened to be in Rome in the past months and her husband fell in love with spaghetti alla carbonara, one of the most famous dishes in the Roman culinary tradition.

She asked me to give her my recipe and her request was just sooooo lovely that I could not possibly say no. So, this recipe is my Christmas (or whatever different kind of festivity they may be celebrating!) present to Kimberly and her husband. I wish Roman Santa would go down their chimney and leave a warm dish under the tree, ready for them to eat in the morning (admittedly, not the perfect time of the day to eat carbonara, but who am I to judge?)… Since, however, this sounds just a little unlikely, I guess Kimberly and her husband will have to work something out in the kitchen on their own 🙂

Before we get to the “technicalities” of this wonderful culinary creation, let’s talk a bit about its origins. There are several theories about it.

Many believe that the carbonai (i.e., men who used to make charcoal) created the dish a long time ago. They used to work in the Apennine mountains and carry with them the necessary ingredients (cured pork, eggs, pasta, cheese and black pepper) to be cooked on an outdoor campfire.

According to a second theory, carbonara was created by a cook belonging to the Carbonari, an Italian secret society fighting for the independence of Italy from the Austrians at the beginning of the 19th century.

Under yet another theory, the origins of this recipe must be traced back to the Neapolitan cuisine. The XIX century cookbook “Cucina Teorico Pratica” by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino, includes a recipe that, although far from the actual carbonara, presents a strong similarity to a dish that some consider to be the predecessor of carbonara.

A fourth theory is also known as the American theory: at the end of World War II, the Allied troops arrived in Rome bringing bacon with them. According to this theory, the American soldiers used to cook, or ask Italians to cook for them, scrambled eggs and bacon and combine them with pasta. Such combination reportedly gave Italian cooks the idea to create this classic of the Roman cuisine.

I cannot tell you which one of the above theories is accurate, since historians and chefs still debate about them. So, just embrace the theory that best satisfies your imagination and let’s start cooking, shall we? 😉

Francesca's Spaghetti alla CarbonaraLet’s talk about ingredients first.

One of the key ingredients of carbonara is “guanciale”, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s jowl or cheek. Unfortunately, no grocery store located in my neck of the woods knows what it is and whenever I tried to explain what I was looking for, they looked at me like I’m totally crazy (yeah, my Italian accent does not help either!) So, I had to go for a substitute which, in this case, would be pancetta, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s belly.

The other key ingredient are the eggs. In terms of number of eggs per person, every cook has their own “rule”. Moreover, some cooks use whole eggs, some cooks only yolks and some others a combination of whole eggs and yolks. Personally, I use 1 whole egg and 1 yolk for two people. When you make this dish, there is one fundamental rule to remember: under no circumstance whatsoever, should you let the eggs cook. If you let that happen, you will end up with some scrambled eggs of sort, your carbonara will be ruined and you will have no choice but to start all over.

During the years, I have heard and seen people add heavy creamy (gasp!!! May the Roman gods be lenient!) in order to make the sauce creamier: just picture me right now pushing a big red button that says WROOOOONG 😉 There is no heavy cream in the original recipe. There should be no heavy cream in your carbonara. The creaminess of the sauce is *exclusively* due to the proper use of the eggs.

As to the cheese to be used, this is an easy one: only Roman pecorino cheese.

Finally, let’s talk about seasoning. I think I have seen them all: onions, garlic, parsley, green peas and whatever the human imagination can come up with. Sorry guys. Believe me when I say that I do not mean any disrespect but once again I’m reaching for my big red button which says WRONG! The original recipe does not provide for any kind of seasoning or extra ingredients and, trust me, carbonara is just perfect the way it is – if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it kinda thing 😉

The key to the success of this very humble dish is to use top notch quality, fresh ingredients that, cooked properly, speak for themselves in a combination of flavors that creates a unique culinary masterpiece.

Ingredients:

4 slices of pancetta, ¼ inch thick
1 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 whole eggs
2 yolks
14 oz spaghetti (a little less than a pack)
6 Tbsp grated Roman pecorino cheese
Salt
Ground black pepper

Directions:

Cut up the pancetta into bits (about ½ of 1 inch in size).

Cutting pancettaIn a non-stick large skillet, heat the 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 whole eggs and the yolks in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt (be careful not to put too much because pancetta is already salty), 1 Tbsp of pecorino cheese, some black pepper (to taste) and whisk until you obtain a smooth mixture.

When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the spaghetti, put them in the skillet with the pancetta and toss to coat.

Transfer the spaghetti back in the large pot where you cooked them. Add the egg mixture and toss to coat (being careful not to let the eggs cook!) Add 4 Tbsp of pecorino cheese and toss to coat.

Put the spaghetti into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the pecorino cheese and some black pepper.

Et voilà! Simple, quick and absolutely perfect the way it is!  😉