Archive | January, 2014

Tortino con Bietole ed Acciughe (Swiss Chard and Anchovies Pie)

29 Jan

This pie makes a colorful and a tasty starter or a delicious main dish. The crust is made ​​with brisee dough while the filling is prepared with Swiss chard, first boiled, then sautéed with anchovies and mixed with fresh ricotta cheese. This is a superb combination of flavors.

Swiss chard is native to southern Europe where it grows spontaneously. It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach; its bitterness fades when cooked, leaving a more delicate taste than spinach. Like all dark green vegetables, it contains large amounts of vitamin A, fiber and folic acid. It is a low-calorie vegetable and is therefore a perfect choice for a weight-loss diet, especially if eaten boiled and dressed with oil and lemon. Furthermore this tasty vegetable can be a nutritious addition to pasta (see pizzoccheri ) and soups!

Preparation time: 70 min.          Cooking time: 45 min.           Servings: 6

Tortino bietole fetta

Brisee dough (see tortino al cavolo nero )
600 g (about 1 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard (leaves)
2 garlic cloves
3 anchovies “sott’olio” canned
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
130 g (heaping 3/4 cup)  ricotta cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Prepare brisee pie crust 
2. Wash Swiss chard, cut off the white stalk (you can use in other recipes see note) and blanch the leaves for 8-10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into segments of about 1 cm (0.4 inch) long
3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat sautée garlic in the oil for 4-5 min., being careful not to burn it. Chop the anchovies, add to the oil and stir until they beging to “melt”. Add chard, season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 10 minutes , stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let cool
4. In a bowl work ricotta cheese with a fork, add the vegetable mix and season with salt and pepper
5. Heat the oven to 170 °C (350 °F)
6. In a 25 cm (9 inch) round baking pan, roll out the dough to 2-3 mm thick, puncture the bottom with a fork, pour in the filling and bake for about 40-45 min. Serve warm.

Note: When you buy Swiss chard look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with non yellow or brown spots. You can enjoy the stalk as well. First boil them, then sautée in olive oil with garlic and pepper. Serve warm with grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese will melt and give a special taste to this dish. – Paola

Torta ai Semi di Papavero e Mele (Poppy Seeds and Apple Cake)

21 Jan

Have you ever tried a butter-less, gluten free cake? I ate this delicious cake for the first time in South Tyrol. I was immediately struck by the delicate taste, in addition to the absence of butter and wheat flour in the recipe. The butter is replaced by poppy seeds, and wheat flour by gluten -free almond flour, but rich in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. The cake with poppy seeds and apples is a typical German dessert, but also enjoyed in Trentino Alto Adige, a region in the north of Italy that was part of Austria until the beginning of the last century. The recipe is simple and includes eggs, sugar, poppy seeds and grated apples. After slow cooking in the oven, the cake is decorated with marmalade and toasted almond slices on the side. In fact, the poppy seeds blend very well with the citrus flavor, a real treat!
Poppy seeds are used mainly in bakery and confectionery, but we should not confuse the seeds with seed pod and straw. The seeds contain very low levels of opiates. The seeds are really healthy because they are rich in linoleic acid, omega 6, vitamins (vitamin E ) and minerals. They are used to treat anxiety and stress and, in fact, have a mild sedative and calming effect. You can enjoy this inviting and elegant dessert after dinner or in the afternoon with a good cup of tea or coffee.

Preparation time: 1 h        Cooking time: 50 min.            Servings: 8

Torta ai Semi di Papavero

200 g (1 scarse cup) granulated sugar
6 whole eggs
200 g (1 ¼ cups) ground and toasted almond flour
3 grated apples
200 g (1 cup) poppy seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
50 ml (¼ cup) rum
350 g (about 1 cup) orange marmalade (puree)
120 g (1 cup) toasted almond flakes
1 slice of candied orange


1. Preheat oven to 160 ° C.
2. In a non-stick skillet over low heat toast the almond flour for 4-5 min., stirring with a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and set aside
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until mixture is fluffy. Add ingredients in the order according to the list above. Stir with a wooden spoon, and not with an electric whisk, to prevent overheating of the poppy seeds
4. Coat the bottom of the spring form pan (25 cm in diameter) with baking paper previously wet under running water and wrung out. Pour the batter into the pan
5. Bake for approx. 50-60 min.
6. In the mean time in a nonstick pan toast the almond flakes with a teaspoon of sugar. Cool and set aside
7. Allow the cake to cool on a rack. Remove from the pan, cover with orange marmalade and decorate the sides with the toasted almond flakes. At the center of the cake you can place a slice of candy orange peel to give a touch of color. Paola

Zuppa del Contadino (Farmer’s Soup)

14 Jan

This is a dish that makes you rediscover the rural tradition and colors of the season! This soup is a great main dish, perfect for a cold, winter day. It ‘s simple but very nutritious, because it is made of legumes and vegetables. Legumes, in fact, are an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals (calcium, potassium, iron) and B vitamins. In the past, legumes were considered the meat of poor people, and were commonly present on the peasants’ table. The recipe that I am proposing contains a mix of dried legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, peas and beans. And to make this dish even more tasty, I prepare a soffritto with onion, garlic, celery and carrot. The preparation is very simple, but it requires a bit of time, because legumes have to be soaked in water before cooking. To save time you can use a pressure cooker, which reduces the preparation time without sacrificing taste. You can top this soup with croutons or grated parmesan cheese or, if you prefer, you can put a few drops of hot chili olive oil before serving.

Preparation time: 5 hrs.    Cooking time: 40 min.      Servings: 6

Zuppa del contadino

450 g (1 pound) mix of dried legumes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into slices
1 leg of celery, sliced
1 potato, cut into cubes
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large bowl soak the legumes for about 4 hours with bay leaf. Drain and place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, cook over medium heat for about 20 min. Drain, remove the bay leaf and set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat saute onion, garlic, carrot , celery and potato in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the legumes mix and cook over high heat for a few minutes, stirring with a spoon. Add the tomatoes and cover with plenty of water. Cook covered for about 20-25 minutes until all the legumes are tender (the exact cooking time should be indicated on the package). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Note: When cooking legumes, it is important to add salt only at the end, because the addition of salt at the beginning will make the legumes less tender. It is also important when cooking to maintain a constant temperature. Paola

Crespelle con Zucchine e Crescenza (Crepes with Zucchini and Crescenza Cheese

8 Jan

Crepes with zucchini is a delicious and appetizing dish that you can serve either as a first course for an important dinner or as a main dish for a light lunch. Crescenza is a soft, fresh, creamy cow cheese that has a delicate and mild taste. It gives a delicious flavor to this recipe. If you cannot find crescenza cheese, I would recommend to use either Brie or Camembert cheese without the rind. First crepes are filled with the zucchini stuffing, baked in the oven with some bechamel sauce and then covered with tomato sauce.  Crepes are typical of French cuisine, but not only. In fact, in the province of Teramo (Abruzzo) they are commonly prepared and are called “scripelle”. They are used in various recipes such as pies or stuffed with Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, rolled and poured into chicken broth (called “scripelle’ imbusse ). In Salento, however, they are cooked longer. Therefore, they are more crisp and are eaten like a snack. I prepare crepes with a variety of fillings such as spinach and ricotta cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheese. My kids love them as a dessert filled with Nutella, a special treat for children (and adults, too!).

Preparation time: 1 h   Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4
Crespelle con zucchine e crescenza

120 g  (¾ cup) flour
240 ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
6 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
200 g (about 1 cup) crescenza cheese
120 g  (¾ cup) ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
250 g (about 1 cup) bechamel sauce
6 tablespoons of tomato sauce

1. In a bowl combine flour with a pinch of salt. Add milk with a whisk until butter is uniformly smooth. In a small bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of pepper. Combine the milk mixture with eggs. The batter should be runny, if it is thick add a few tablespoons of milk. Add melted butter, whisking vigorously, cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator .
Grease with butter the bottom of a non-stick 18 cm (7 inch) pan over medium heat and pour a ladle of batter in the center, maneuvering the pan to distribute the batter over the entire surface. Cook for about a minute. When the crepe comes off easily from the pan and is golden brown, turn it with a spatula and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Keep the crepes under a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

Heat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)

1. Wash zucchini, remove ends and cut into cubes. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat sauté the garlic in olive oil, being careful not to burn it. Remove garlic and add zucchini. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In a bowl mix crescenza and ricotta until the mixture is creamy. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and add  zucchini
2. Fill half crepe with stuffing and close like a book. Complete this procedure until you have used all the filling. If you have some crepes left,  wrap with cling film and freeze. Place the crepes on the bottom of a buttered baking pan. Cover with some bechamel sauce and bake for 10 min. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce with a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Remove the crepes from the oven, add 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on each one, bake for additional 5 min. Remove from oven, let stand 1-2 minutes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese on top. – Paola

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