Tag Archives: potato

When conversations get surreal: potato and saffron soup with pancetta croutons

Potato, saffron and pancetta soup

A couple of days ago Stefano was getting ready to go to work and he told me that I must have done something wrong with the laundry because his pants felt tighter.

Now, you can tell me anything (because any human being is entitled to their opinion!), you can even offend me but you cannot, and I underline “cannot”, tell me that I did something wrong with my laundry!!!

I modestly like to think of myself as the “Pavlova of the Laundry”! ūüėČ Let’s not even talk about the time it took me to find just the right detergents that would satisfy me. I can spend hours in the detergent and cleaners aisle and every time I see a new product I get pretty much as excited as when I see a designer’s new collection!

Let’s talk about the process: every stain is pre-treated, loads are divided by fabric and color, every washer cycle is carefully selected, the dryer is reluctantly used (we do not use dryers in Italy and I wouldn’t dream of putting an item that I bought in my country in the dryer – it simply wouldn’t survive) and everything gets ironed. Yes! Everything including sheets, towels, underwear and socks. That’s how Italian houses roll (or should roll) and mine is no exception. ūüėČ

Potato, saffron and pancetta soup

Now you see what I mean when I say that there can’t possibly be anything wrong with my laundry? The ugly truth? Stefano has put some weight on and he is in total denial!

And what do you do when someone is in denial? Desperate times call for desperate measures! I cut all the fatty dishes out and I declared soup season open! Soups are fantastic and when you want to lose some weight, they really can do magic. They are low on calories yet healthy, very satisfying to your stomach and, above all, delicious!

Last night Stefano was particularly famished, so I decided to make some potato soup with a twist. I played with some saffron and the result was fantastic. The saffron really complements the potatoes and the pancetta croutons are really the cherry on the cake! ūüôā

So that’s how I did it! ūüėČ

Ingredients:

6 Potatoes, cut into cubes
1/4 Cup, extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup, chopped pancetta
1/3 Cup, finely chopped spring onion
2 Cups, vegetable stock
1 and 1/2 Sachet, powdered saffron
2 Tbsp, Mascarpone cheese
1 Cup, Milk
Salt
Ground white pepper

Directions:

Potato, saffron and pancetta soupIn a non-stick medium/large pot, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta gets golden and crispy.
Remove the pancetta from the pot and place it on some paper towel so it can lose the excess oil.

In the same olive oil where you fried the pancetta, place the spring onion and cook until it softens. Add the potatoes, the stock, some salt and white pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Eventually, the potatoes will turn kind of mushy and the stock will almost completely evaporate. Add 1 sachet of saffron and toss to coat until the mixture gets a vibrant yellow color.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or a blender. Add the mascarpone, the rest of the olive oil and the milk and blend until it is smooth and creamy.

Return the soup to the pot and, on low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Pour the soup into two serving bowls or plates, add some fried pancetta on top and garnish with some powdered saffron.

Will Stefano manage to lose some weight? Only time will tell! ūüėČ

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!

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! 

When Kidlandia meets Foodlandia – Part 1: Chicken bits and potatoes

Chicken bits with potatoes2 Servings

How do we get our kids to eat right? This is a billion dollar question. Well, let me tell you what I think: the secret lies in the parents’ cooking skills.

When it comes to food, Italian kids belong to a very fortunate category of human beings. I’m not talking about the quality/freshness of the products because it is indisputable that when God created my country, he was in a great mood. ūüėČ I’m talking about the care and, sometimes, the financial sacrifice with which most Italian families feed their kids.

Food and culinary tradition run in our veins and many Italians pride themselves in educating their kids’ palates pretty much since they can start eating solids¬†so they can have a balanced and healthy diet. After all, we teach them to walk, read, write, function as decent human beings, don’t we? Well, eating is not any different and many Italian families (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts) dedicate a lot of time to grocery shop and cook meals for their little ones.

Today’s recipe is my aunt Pia’s creation. A while ago, my daughter was making a fuss about eating some grilled chicken breast because, according to “her majesty”, it was too dry notwithstanding the dressing sauce on top of it. Now, I know children loooooove fried chicken and my daughter is not any different, but fried food can be unhealthy in the long run. So my aunt, wearing her superhero apron, came to the rescue and shared the following recipe with me. My daughter loves it and Stefano is always eager to eat any leftover. ūüôā

Ingredients:

2 Chicken breasts
2 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
4 potatoes
2 cups, broth
salt

Directions:

Cut the chicken breasts and the potatoes into small bits. In a large non-stick skillet, pour the olive oil. Add the chicken bits and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are seared. Add the potato bits, some salt (to taste) and the broth. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the broth evaporates and the chicken and potatoes are cooked and moist.

PS: When I happen to cook this dish for grown ups or older kids, I like to add a little twist. When the chicken bits are seared, I pour about 1/3 cup of dry white wine and I keep cooking the bits until the wine completely evaporates. Afterwards, I add the potatoes, the salt and the broth.

PPS: I’m trying to educate my daughter’s palate but… you know the saying “careful what you wish for”? She is becoming my most ferocious food critic, ready to “chop” me for the slightest of mistakes. I think I’m creating a monster!!! ūüėČ

Daddy's Sicilian-Style Stracotto

Rigatoni with Sicilian-style stracotto sauce4/6 Servings

I wish I could take credit for this recipe but…nope! Not even a teensy bit. This red, opulent dish comes straight from my dad’s childhood memories.

When he visited us for the holidays (yeah, he left but my mom is still here – Stefano, stop making that face!) he showed me how to make it and he shared his family story behind it. Well, that story was so long and full of details about my grand parents and about certain unkonwn-to-me grand aunts that it was a miracle I didn’t fall asleep. And don’t even get me started on describing my mother’s face during our story-telling session. ūüėČ

Anyway, since today I feel very generous towards the human species (believe me, it does not happen often), I decided I would spare you the torture.

Let me just say that what I love about this dish, beside its richness, is the “2 courses in 1 deal”. When you make it, by going through one cooking process, you’ll end up with both the tomato sauce for a pasta course and a meat course. Don’t get me wrong. Cooking is great. However, if I can manage to cook a great meal in less time and have more time for my other passions (books, movies, myself ;-)), my first reaction is always “where should I sign”?

Now, let’s focus on the important stuff.

Sicilian-style stracotto

Ingredients:

3/4 of 1 cup, minced onion
5 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
about 11 oz, veal stew
about 13 oz, boneless pork chops
3 pork sausages (about 10 oz)
4 potatoes
1/2 cup, red wine
2 cans, San Marzano peeled tomatoes
1 Tbsp, tomato paste
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese (to be used only for the pasta course)
salt

Directions:

Cut the potatoes into medium-sized pieces and set aside. Cut the pork chops into stew-like pieces and set aside. With the help of a fork, make small holes into the sausages. Process the tomatoes through a food mill and set them aside.

In a large non-stick pot, put the olive oil, the onion, the veal stew, the pork chop pieces, the sausages and the potatoes and start to saute. When the meat is well sauteed, add the red wine and keep stirring until the wine evaporates. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, some salt (to taste) and keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring often, until the tomato sauce gets thick and is not watery anymore.

If you decide to serve pasta, remember to cook it al dente and to dust the top of each plate with the parmigiano cheese.

Buon Appetito! ūüôā

Pumpkin Soup

2 Servings

Orange all over the place! Halloween decorations, mums, outdoor wreaths and… leaves. Oh boy!

This morning, they were all over my yard and this thing irks me immensely!¬†I’m a sort of perfectionism freak and all my surroundings (house, office, desks, kitchen counter) must be neat and perfectly organized. Do you remember the cleanliness-obsessed Monica from Friends? I’m exactly like her.

The point is that, in my ideal world, my yard would look as neat as my kitchen floor. If I could, I would vacuum my yard every day! Instead, I go out to rake and pick up countless leaves sweating like a piglet, and for what? The day after, even more leaves are happily lying on my yard telling me loud and clear: mother nature sent us and she is way stronger than all your obsessions!

So, since there is no way I can fight mother nature, I decided to give up and embrace the orange color by making a pumpkin soup.

After all, if you can’t beat them, join them! Or was it bite them?…¬† ūüôā

Ingredients:

1 leek
1 Tbsp salted butter
1¬†¬Ĺ Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
18 oz (about 4 cups) freshly diced pumpkin ¬†(about¬†¬ĺ inch in size)
13 oz (about 2 cups) diced potatoes (about¬†¬ĺ inch in size)
2 cups vegetable stock
¬ľ cup grated parmigiano cheese
salt
ground black pepper

Directions:

Cut off the green top of the leek and the roots. 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 two halves of the leek thinly and evenly with your knife so that you end up with thin strips.

In a medium/large pot, melt the butter. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and the leek strips and toss to coat. Add 1 ladle of vegetable stock and stir often until the strips soften.

Add the pumpkin, the potatoes, some salt (to taste) and the rest of the vegetable stock and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, for about 25/30 minutes. Eventually, the pumpkin and the potatoes will turn kind of mushy and the stock will almost completely evaporate.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or a blender and blend until it is smooth and creamy.

Return the soup to the pot and, on low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Pour the soup into¬†two serving bowls or plates, with a swift circular motion, pour¬†¬ĺ Tsp of olive oil on top of each, season with black pepper and finish it up by spreading one or two pinches of grated parmigiano.

This soup would be perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner and goes beautifully with croutons. By the way, do you want to know how to make your own croutons? I would be glad to help you! Just let me know by leaving a comment below.