Archive | June, 2013

Frese al Pomodoro (Frese with Tomato)

26 Jun

This is a simple recipe for an appetizing summer snack.  Frese are an excellent alternative to bread for appetizers, quick to prepare and definitely delicious to taste.  They are called frese in Calabria, frise or friselle in Puglia and freselle in Naples; it does not matter what you want to call them, they are wonderful!!  Frese, a type of twice-baked bread, are made with durum wheat. The ring shaped dough is baked until almost done, then cut in half and toasted in the oven again until it is as hard as a rock. This type of bread is an ancient recipe from the traditional peasant cuisine of southern Italy.  In the past frese were commonly used in place of bread; in fact, because they are dried they keep longer. To enjoy frese you should first wet them with water or tomato juice. The amount of water and the soaking time are personal: obviously more for a soft texture and less for a crunchier snack. You can serve them with fresh tomato, oregano, salt and olive oil. They are also very tasty with garlic and other ingredients for topping such as red pepper, black olives, tuna or anchovies. Be creative and use your favorite Mediterranean topping!

Preparation time: 30 minutes       Servings: 4

Fresa con pomodoro

4 frese
4 large tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)

1. Peel the tomatoes after blanching in boiling water for approximately 1 minute. This procedure allows  to remove the skin more easily. Cube the tomatoes, season with salt and let stand for about 10-15 minutes
2. Rub frese with garlic
3. Wet frese with plenty of tomato juice and let rest for about 15 minutes
4. Add olive oil and oregano to tomatoes.  Mix well and spread on frese.

Note: You can substitute tomatoes with cherry tomatoes, 4 cherry tomatoes per each fresa. – Paola

Insalata di Ceci (Chickpea Salad)

20 Jun

This is refreshing and healthy salad made with chickpeas, olives, tomatoes and onions, flavored with olive oil and fresh basil making this salad even more delicious.  This is a perfect vegetarian dish for a light summer lunch and is best served fresh “just made” and at room temperature to heighten the flavor of tomatoes and basil, although you can also refrigerate it and eat the next day. Chickpeas – or garbanzo beans – are legumes rich in protein, zinc, B vitamins, folate and fiber, but also low in fat and most of which is polyunsaturated: good friends for your heart!!! They are one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500 year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. They are largely cultivated in the Mediterranean area and are well known in Italian cuisine. The Mediterranean chickpeas have lighter color, larger seed and smoother coat in comparison to Asian ones. I love their buttery taste, like a combination of chestnuts and beans,  and I enjoy them in everything: salads, stews, pasta (the delicious pasta e ceci), in fritters and farinata.

Preparation time: 1h 40 min. Cooking time: 70-90 min. Servings: 4

Insalata di Ceci

280 g (10 oz) dry chickpeas
1 bay leaf
450 g (1 pound) cherry tomatoes
1 shallot, finely sliced
3 tablespoons Taggiasche olives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Day 1
You should start the day before you plan to serve the salad.
1.Rinse the beans under running water, then place in a large glass bowl with bay leaf.  Fill bowl with plenty of water to cover generously (about 5 cm, 2 inches above the level of the chickpeas).  Cover with a lid and soak overnight.
Day 2
2. Drain soaking water, put chickpeas into a pan with fresh water and cook until they are tender, from 70 to 90 minutes, depending on how fresh the chickpeas are. A few minutes before they are done add some salt. The cooking time should be indicated on the package
3. Fifteen minutes before removing chickpeas from the stove , cut the tomatoes, add some salt and let them rest for 10 minutes
4. Drain tomatoes in a colander.  Slice onion and chop basil.  In a large bowl mix all together with the olives and olive oil
5. Drain the chickpeas well, add lemon juice and mix.  Add to the vegetable mix
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad rest for 10-15 minutes and serve at room temperature.

Note: You can use canned chickpeas (about 1 pound) but the taste of dry ones is more buttery and exquisite.  If you use canned ones drain into a colander and rinse with cold water until no more foam appears.  -Paola

Tagliata di Manzo

14 Jun

Tagliata, a sliced steak,  is a tasty and impressive beef course commonly served in many Italian restaurants nowadays, and  it is quite easy to prepare at home too.  The word tagliata derives from the verb tagliare, to cut.  In fact,  after it has been cooked the meat is cut diagonally into slices, no thicker than one inch.  The best cut to use is beef tenderloin, but other steak cuts are good choices too. Maturation of the meat is one of the first steps to make  a good  tagliata.  This process enhances meat quality, tenderness and flavor.  Your butcher has carefully  monitor temperature and humidity during the maturation process. Therefore, when you purchase the meat ask about the maturation time. Grilling over coals always  gives a tasty flavor to meat, while a stove top grill  can be a good alternative if outdoor grilling is not possible.  Purists season tagliata only with sea salt, but I prefer adding some pepper and rosemary too.  The rosemary gives an aromatic flavor to the meat.  Sicilian sea salt is an excellent choice.  In fact, it is rich in minerals because it does not undergo a chemical whitening process.   Tagliata  goes exceptionally well with arugula, lemon juice and parmesan cheese shaving.  You can also serve it with either roasted potatoes or grilled vegetables.

Preparation time: 20 minutes    Cooking time: 10 minutes      Servings: 4

Tagliata fette

700 g (approx. 1 ½ pound) beef tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil (extra Virgin)
1 sprig of rosemary
Sicilian sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Before cooking the meat, let stand unrefrigerated until it reaches room temperature. Place the grill pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high.  Brush the pan with olive oil using a pastry brush.
2. Place the meat on the pan and  the rosemary on top.  Cook it on each side for about 5 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to determine when it reaches your preferred level of doneness (50°C/125°F for rare and 55°C/135°F for medium)
3. At the very end of cooking time, season with salt and pepper.  Tagliata should not be served well-done.  Remove from the pan and let it cool for at least 10 minutes on a wooden cutting board. This process will allow the meat to cook a little bit longer and to distribute the internal fluid making the meat tastier and more tender.  According to your taste sprinkle with some aged balsamic vinegar on your tagliata.  -Paola

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil and Hot Chili Pepper)

7 Jun

This is one of the simplest and quickest Italian recipes, traditionally from the south but now popular all over the country and, it seems, all over the world too.  This dish, a firework-like explosion of flavors in your mouth, is one that you will not easily forget. This recipe is as easy as throwing together some simple ingredients that are always on hand in a typical Italian kitchen such as spaghetti, garlic, hot chili pepper and olive oil, and the result is delightful. The dominant flavor of peperoncino (hot chili pepper and not pepperoni! – for more information of this spice click on blends well with the garlic and olive oil. You can enjoy it either as a first course in an informal Italian meal or as a main course accompanied by a salad, if you prefer. There is also the classic spaghettata di mezzanotte (midnight spaghetti) or better known as a “midnight snack”!

Preparation time: 15 min.                  Servings: 4

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

340 g (12 oz) spaghetti, artisanal pasta is preferred
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
80 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2 fresh or dried hot chili peppers, seeded and shredded
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Salt to taste

1. In a large pot of salted water, cook the spaghetti al dente according to the cooking time indicated on the package (usually 10-12 min.) 
2. In the meantime sauté the garlic and chili pepper for 1-2 min. in a skillet over medium heat, taking care not to burn the ingredients
3. Drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet.  Add some parsley, mix well and serve.  If you like you can add some grated parmesan cheese  or grated pecorino cheese on top, although according to some traditional recipes, cheese should not be added.  –Paola




Confettura di Fragole (Strawberry Jam)

2 Jun

Italian markets are now brimming with colorful and tasty strawberries, the symbol of spring and… la fragranza per eccellenza!  Strawberries are an ancient fruit; the Greeks and Romans enjoyed them because of their sweet smell and aroma.  Actually, strawberries are a false fruit, they are the fleshy receptacle containing the real fruit, ie the yellow seeds on the surface.  Strawberries are very healthy, rich in vitamin C, they also contain moderate amounts of vitamin A, B1 and B2.  They have tonic, re-mineralizing, purifying, detoxifying properties, and also good in a weight-loss diet.  They are one of the tastier and more versatile fruits found both in savory and sweet recipes.  Have you ever tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar?  The vinegar truly enhances their flavor!  Spring is also the perfect season for preparing strawberry jam, a multipurpose ingredient for many sweets (there is nothing better than an homemade crostata with strawberry jam), an ideal topping for spreading on bread or brioche for breakfast or a tasty condiment for goat cheese!  This jam is soft, spreadable and delicious!

Preparation time: 60 minutes + 40 minutes canning

Confettura di Fragole
1500 g (3 pounds and 5 oz) fresh strawberries
700 g (3 ⅓ cups) sugar
Juice of one lemon

1. Wash strawberries under running water and dry with paper towels
2. Remove the green leaves and cut into pieces
3. In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Skim the foam.  Cover and let cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring often.  Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens.  When jam becomes quite dense, stir constantly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. This recipe prepares approx. 1200 g (less than 3 pounds) jam (3 jars).  Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan.  At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop. You can store the jam in jars in the refrigerator for two weeks. However if you prefer to keep it longer, you should preserve it, using for example the following canning method
4. For canning, use previously sterilized jars and new caps.  Pour warm jam in hot jars and fill them up leaving a gap of 1 cm (½ in).  Seal and turn them upside down for about 10 minutes to create the vacuum.  Put the jars in a large pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan and store in a cool and dark place.

Note: When you purchase strawberries choose ones that have uniformly red color but not too dark, because otherwise they are too ripe.  Furthermore it is important that they do not have green or white spots, indicating that they are immature.  Strawberry jam requires a longer cooking time than other jams because strawberries contain little pectin, a natural fiber that is used as a thickening agent.  -Paola

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