Archive | February, 2014

Tortelli di Carnevale (Carnival Fritters)

24 Feb

Let’s party! It is Carnival! Carnival, well-known in the USA for the Mardi Gras celebrations, is one of the most joyous holiday of the year. We cannot refrain from masked balls, parades and street parties. This festive event is also celebrated with special treats prepared only during this season, for example tortelli (or castagnole, bugie, zeppe… whatever you like to call them). There are a lot of names for the same delicious fritters, loved by children and adults. I remember my grandmother preparing tortelli as well as chiacchiere, another Carneval treat! This event was part of our annual Carnival celebration. Toertelli are typically of Lombardy (my region) and can be enjoyed plain or, if you want to make them even more delicious, with chocolate cream or custard. The dough is smooth but not liquid and, when dropped in hot oil, swells to form lovely little puffs.

TORTELLI DI CARNEVALE (CARNIVAL FRITTERS)
Preparation time : 20 min. Cooking time: 20 min. Servings: 30 tortelli

Frittelle di Carnevale

INGREDIENTS
250 ml ( about 1 cup) milk
60 g (2.15 oz) butter, cut into cubes
50 g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 lemon, grated zest
1 pinch of salt
160 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
7 g (½ teaspoon ) baking powder
4 eggs
Peanut Oil
Chocolate cream (like Nutella)
Cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS
1. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Set aside
2. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat after 1 minute
3. Add the flour and baking powder, stirring energetically until the mixture is compact. Put on heat (medium-low) and cook for about 2 minutes. The dough should be a compact ball
4. Pour it in a bowl and let cool
5. Add the eggs one at a time with an electric whisk until the batter is smooth but not liquid
6. In a pan heat the frying oil to 170°C-340°F. If you do not have a thermometer, use this simple method. Place a cube of bread in the oil (approximately 2.5 cm). If it turns brown after 60 seconds, the oil is ready for frying. Slide a spoonful of batter (size of walnut) in the oil with the aid of another spoon. Wait until it is puffy and golden brown, then turn it over. It will take 4-5 minutes to cook tortelli perfectly
7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Allow to cool. Fill with chocolate cream using a patisserie syringe. Roll in granulated sugar and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Note: Frying is a dry heat cooking method …read more in the Chiacchiere post. Paola

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Peperoni Grigliati (Grilled Peppers)

17 Feb

An appetizing and tasty antipasto to serve with toasted bread or a side dish with meat.

When peppers are grilled, they taste completely different from raw ones and, in my opinion, are more appetizing and certainly more easily tolerated, since the indigestible substances that are contained in the peel are removed. This is an easy recipe and quick to prepare; you can prepare it a day in advance and then store it in the refrigerator. The dressing is made with parsley, anchovies and chilli peppers. All these ingredients enhance the smoky flavor of the peppers and make this dish a delicious antipasto (appetizer) that you can serve with fresh bread or baguette croutons.

Peppers are originally from South America, but nowadays they are used all over the world in many delicious recipes. They contain a lot of water (90%) and are, therefore, indicated in low-calorie diets. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene and are, consequently, very healthy .

There are several ways to grill peppers; I suggest this one which is, in my opinion, the most simple and effective method.

PEPERONI GRIGLIATI (GRILLED PEPPERS)
Preparation time: 40 min. Cooking time: 25 min. Servings: 4

Peperoni grigliati

INGREDIENTS
4 bell peppers of different colors
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
2 teaspoons of parsley, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 250 °C (475 °F)
1. Wash and dry whole peppers. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 25 min. turning when the side in contact with the heat is charred. The cooking time may vary depending on the size. As soon all the skin is charred, remove from the oven
2. While the peppers are still hot, place each one in a plastic food bag (to facilitate removal of the skin) and wait for 15 minutes. After this time remove from the bag. The skin will come off very easily. Remove stalk using a sharp knife. Cut peppers in half and lengthwise into strips, removing seeds and white filaments. Cut peppers into strips
3.In a small bowl, combine the anchovies , garlic , parsley and chili pepper with oil. Put the peppers on a serving dish and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture. Allow to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature .

Note: At the time of purchase make sure that the peppers are well attached to the stem; they should also be shiny, compact and with the skin taut. They keep fresh in the refrigerator for 5-6 days, or in oil and vinegar (refrigerated) for several weeks. Paola

Torta Gianduia con Ciliege (Gianduia Cake with Cherries)

10 Feb

Love and sweetness together? Yes it is possible with my gianduia cake prepared with chocolate and hazelnuts and then covered with a cherry topping. Chocolate is seductive and slightly mysterious; it has been called the food of the devil. Chocolate and love result in the same good feelings and sensations in the brain. Therefore, this delicious and tasty cake is perfect to serve as dessert for the most intimate dinner of the year, Valentine’s Day! Gianduia is a specialty of Piedmont, and it is made with ground hazelnuts and chocolate. The combination of these flavors makes an irresistible treat. I also recommend gianduiotti, the pralines made with the same mixture. The colorful and fruity addition of cherry topping gives a moist texture to this cake. You can certainly impress your partner on such a special day, an experience for all senses! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my beloved readers.

TORTA GIANDUIA CON CILIEGE GIANDUIA CAKE WITH CHERRIES)
Preparation time: 1 h Cooking time: 50 min. Servings: 8

Torta Gianduia fetta

INGREDIENTS
Cake
260 g (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar
3 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g (5 oz) melted butter
140 g (1 ¼ cups) ground hazelnut
240 g (1 2/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
15 g (3 teaspoons) baking powder
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate (70%)
170 ml (¾ cup) buttermilk at room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
1 pinch salt

Topping
450 g (1 pound) canned, pitted cherries
1 lemon (juice)
6 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoon potato starch
300 ml (1 ¼ cups) cherry juice

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F)
2. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside
3. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cacao powder, ground hazelnuts
4.Beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric whisk for at least 5 min. until pale and creamy. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined
5. In a double boiler melt chocolate. Cool for about 2 minutes stirring continously and slowly add buttermilk
6. Combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture, then add the chocolate mix and rum. Mix with an electric whisk until creamy
7. Generously butter a 25 cm (10 inch) spring-form cake pan. Sprinkle with flour to cover the entire surface, removing any excess flour
8. Bake for 40-45 min. or until done. Test by inserting a wooden toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it is done, it should come out dry
9. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 min. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack
10. In the meantime prepare the topping. In a saucepan dissolve sugar and potato starch into the cherry juice. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and the cherries. Over a medium low heat bring to boil. Cook for 4- 5 min. stirring slowly until thick. Let cool and spread over the cake. -Paola

 

Insalata con Avocado, Clementine e Pinoli (Avocado, Clementines and Pine Nuts Salad)

5 Feb

This colorful and nutritious salad is a real treat for the eyes and for the palate, something I usually prepare in winter when clementines are juicy and delicious in Italy. The addition of toasted pine nuts give a crunchy, sweet and nutty flavor to this fresh dish. The dressing is prepared with lime that adds a further note of freshness. This salad can be a great side dish for grilled meat (tagliata) while the addition of goat cheese makes this recipe a perfect dish for a light and nutritious lunch.

The avocado is a fruit that was not used in the past in our Mediterranean diet originally from Mexico, but nowadays it is getting more popular because it is tasty and is beneficial to one’s health and beauty. Hemingway called it ” food that has no rival among the fruits, the real fruit of paradise.” It is rich in vitamin A and E (which have high antioxidant properties ), minerals and fatty acids, and it provides a lot of energy. It is a “panacea” for health, and we should not forget that is also an aphrodisiac!

INSALATA CON AVOCADO, CLEMENTINE E PINOLI (AVOCADO, CLEMENTINES AND PINE NUTS SALAD)
Preparation time: 10 min.                   Servings: 4

Insalata Avocado

INGREDIENTS
8 cups mixed salad greens
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 clementines
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin)
Juice of one lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside
2. Wash and dry the salad. Set aside
3. In nonstick pan over low heat toast the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes. Set aside
4. Clean clementines, cut them into wedges
5. Clean the avocado, removing the skin and the central core. Cut it into small pieces and sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice to prevent darkening
6. In a large bowl, toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with avocado , clementines, onion and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

 Note: The success of this recipe depends greatly on the choice of ingredients, especially the avocado. It ‘s very important to use a ripe avocado. At the time of purchase I suggest you apply a gentle pressure with your fingers on the surface: if it does not yield, it is not yet ripe and you have to let it mature for a few days. If it is soft, but you do not see a groove in the pulp, it is perfectly ripe. Paola

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