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Rotolo di Tacchino e Asparagi (Asparagus Turkey Roll)

9 May

A spring recipe, spectacular but easy to prepare.

This turkey roll,filled with an asparagus omelette is a tasty main course for a fancy dinner or for a Sunday lunch with family, as we usually eat it in Italy. Impress your mother with it on Mother’s Day this Sunday! The recipe is simple and does not requires particular culinary skill, but the result is quite spectacular, and it is definitely an impressive dish. The roll is made with turkey breast, enriched with an appetizing asparagus omelette (for more information about this tasty and healthy spring vegetable spring see tortino di asparagi e salmone affumicato)

You can cook your roll directly in the oven (at 180 °C, 350°F) for about an hour, until a meat thermometer reads 75 °C- 167°F or on the stove in a rosting pan, and then in the oven for just a few minutes. I prefer this second method because the meat remains tender but not dry. Since the turkey is lean meat with no cholesterol, if it is not cooked properly can be stringy and dry. In my opinion the stove top method enhances the flavor and quality.

ROTOLO DI TACCHINO E ASPARAGI (ASPARAGUS TURKEY ROLL)
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours              Servings: 6

Rotolo di tacchino e asparagi

 

INGREDIENTS
850 g (30 oz) lean turkey breast
250 g (about ½ pound) fresh asparagus, cleaned (450 g, 1 pound uncleaned)
7 tablespoons of olive oil (Extra Virgin )
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
240 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
Vegetable broth (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Kitchen twine

DIRECTIONS
1. Clean the asparagus (as suggested in tortino di asparagi e salmone affumicato ). Cut into small pieces of about 1 cm (½ inch) length, keeping the head whole
2. In a pan sauté shallot at medium low heat until soft (4-5 minutes), add the asparagus, stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 min. Set aside.
3 . In a bowl beat the eggs, add Parmesan cheese and a pinch of pepper. Mix and add the asparagus. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Cook over medium heat, turning the frittata (omelette) once.
4 . Ground the turkey breast to a thickness of 1.5 cm (½ inch), place the frittata in the center of the meat, leaving 1 cm (½ inch) space around the entire perimeter. Roll it and secure with a kitchen string every 5 cm (2 inch).
5. Brown the roll in a roasting pan on all sides using 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine and cover with a lid. Cook for approx. 1 hour on medium heat, turning 2-3 times. If the wine dries up, add some vegetable broth
6. Preheat oven to 205 °C – 400 °F
7. Place the roast on a baking sheet, bake and cook for approx. 5 min. The roast should be golden on all sides .
8 . Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 min. Cut the twine, slice and serve with salad or honey caramelized carrots. Paola

 

 

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Pollo con i Peperoni (Chicken with Peppers)

21 Apr

This recipe is simple, but it teases your palate with its rich flavor.
Chicken with peppers, better known as chicken of ” Sora Lella ,” is a tasty main course (watch this interesting video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMRY2DFWBos). It takes its name from the renowned sister of the famous Italian actor Aldo Fabrizi (1905-1990). She used to prepare this recipe in her trattoria in Rome. It’s a tasty Roman dish that you can enjoy with mashed potatoes, polenta or basmati rice. The combination of peppers and the delicate chicken meat creates a truly inviting dish. The addition of chilli pepper gives a special bite to this recipe. The amount of chili is purely personal, if you want a really spicy dish you can add two chilli peppers. The chilli pepper adds flavor, and it is beneficial to your health (see also spaghetti alla puttanesca). You should not forget that it increases your metabolism and is therefore a good ally to help you lose weight!

Like many recipes, this one has a lot of variations. You can either add onions to the chicken or omit the tomatoes. The recipe that I am presenting is the one I like the most.

Peppers are very versatile vegetables, I enjoy them prepared in different ways. I would also suggest trying grilled peppers, a tasty appetizer or side dish .

POLLO CON I PEPERONI (CHICKEN WITH PEPPERS)
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours                                         Servings : 4

Pollo con i peperoni

INGREDIENTS
1.2-1.4 kg (about three pounds) chicken, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 hot chili pepper
240 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
400 g (14 oz) canned tomatoes (San Marzano)
1 clove of garlic
4 average-sized peppers of different colors
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Clean, wash and pat dry chicken
2. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil, saute the chicken on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until chicken is golden brown on both sides
3. Add rosemary and chilli pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the white wine and cook for about 25-30 minutes with the lid. The meat should be tender
5. While the chicken is cooking, prepare peppers. Wash, cut in half, remove the seeds and white filaments. Cut into pieces of approx. cm 3 (1.5 inch) width. In a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat, saute – but don’t burn! – a garlic clove in 3 tablespoons of oil. Add peppers, raise the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, sugar and salt, and cook with the lid on for approx. 15 minutes until the peppers are soft
6. When chicken is done, add peppers to the chicken, stir and serve warm. – Paola

 

Cotechino in Crosta con Lenticchie (Cotechino in Puff Pastry with Lentils)

31 Dec

Happy New Year all my beloved readers. Buon Anno! Tonight I am going to serve cotechino in crostra with lenticchie. Cotechino (the Italian fresh pork sausage) in puff pastry is a tasty and appetizing idea to enjoy the traditional cotechino and lentils during the Christmas holidays, and particularly at New Year’s Eve. According to the tradition, it seems that this dish is a good omen for the new year, lentils are, in fact, symbol of abundance and fortune.

The preparation is simple, but requires a little patience. First cotechino is cooked in water, then covered with a delicious lentil puree, wrapped in a sheet of puff pastry and baked in the oven. The result is a crunchy topping with a tasty filling, full of flavor. The pork sausage with lentils is a simple dish that dates back to the farmers’ tradition. Cotechino owes its name to the pork rind and is prepared by filling the gut with pork rind, meat, fat, all flavored with salt and spices. It is a type of sausage that is eaten cooked. It originated from Modena, but nowadays it is spread all over the country with some variations in spices. It is commonly sliced thick and laid on a bed of lentils.  You can also enjoy it with mushed potatoes,  sautéed spinach or polenta.

COTECHINO IN CROSTA CON LENTICCHIE (COTECHINO IN PUFF PASTRY AND LENTILS)
Preparation time: 60 min . Cooking time: 45 min. Servings: 4

Cotechino fetta
INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh or pre-cooked cotechino
Aluminum foil
1 roll puff pastry (240 g, about 8 oz)Cooked lentils (see Lentil Stew)

DIECTIONS
1 . The cooking time of fresh cotechino is longer than pre-cooked.For fresh cotechino. Pierce the sausage skin with a toothpick in a few places, wrap with aluminum foil making sure it is well sealed. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to boil over medium heat, reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer for about an hour. After this time, change the water  completely (replacing it with hot water so the sausage will be less salty) and continue cooking for about an hour and half. Remove from water and aluminum foil. Allow to cool
For pre-cooked cotechino, dip the foil package in plenty of cold water and cook according to the cooking time, usually 20-25 minutes
2 . For lentils see post Lentil Stew
3 . Preheat oven to 180 ° C
4 . Take 2 tablespoons of lentils and reduce in puree by blending in a mixer. Cover the sausage with lentil puree all around (top layer about 7-8 mm). Transfer the sausage on the puff pastry, cut in the shape of a rectangle. Close cropping the edges of excess dough. It is important to seal well. Bake on a baking sheet covered with some baking paper for about 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Wait 5 minutes, cut into thick slices and serve with the lentils. -Paola

Cotoletta alla Milanese (Milanese Cutlet)

13 Oct

Cutlet is one of most typical dishes from Milan, sharing the stage with Milanese risotto and “panettone”. It is a veal cutlet, coated with egg, covered with bread crumbs and then fried in butter with sage. The sage gives a special aroma to the meat, a real delight! There are two variations of cutlet: one thicker, the meat is more tender and a thinner one, in which the crunchy breading is more prominent. The latter version is sometimes called elephant ear, because of its shape. It should not be mistaken for Weiner Schnitzel from Vienna. The Milanese cutlet includes the bone, whereas Viennese does not. In addition, the Milanese is dredged only in bread crumbs, instead the Viennese both in flour and bread crumbs and then fried in lard. As you will often find in these cases, there is a debate about where this dish comes from. So far there is no definitive answer, but being Italian, I should say that it is Italian … and we are proud of it! It can be served as a main dish served with potatoes or a salad. It is something that I often prepare for a family dinner. My kids love it, especially when I serve it with homemade potato croquettes.

COTOLETTA ALLA MILANESE (MILANESE CUTLET)
Preparation time: 15 minutes                            Servings: 4

Cotoletta alla Mil

INGREDIENTS
4 veal cutlets (about 600 g, 1 ½ pounds)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
400 g (about 2 cups) bread crumbs
70 g (5 tablespoons) butter
2 sage leaves

DIRECTIONS
1. Lightly beat the eggs with salt in a deep dish
2. Spread out the bread crumbs on a plate
3. Dip each cutlet first in the egg and then cover with bread crumbs, making sure that both sides are well coated
4. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter, add sage and then cutlets without crowding. Cook, turning only once, for about 6-8 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with a wedge of lemon. The lemon juice add a special zest to the fried meat. -Paola
Paola

Coniglio alla Ligure (Ligurian Rabbit)

14 Sep

This summer I was cooking for some American tourists staying on Lake Como and one asked me to cook rabbit, so I thought it may be a good addition to the blog.The, coniglio alla ligure, Ligurian rabbit, is an appetizing second course from region of Italy’s Riviera; in fact, for a long time this region was home to many rabbit farms. Nowadays this delicious recipe is enjoyed throughout the entire country. It makes a perfect dinner for family and friends. I recommend roasted potatoes as side dish or if, you prefer something lighter, steamed potatoes . The delicacy of this dish is due to the mixture of the mild taste of rabbit flesh, the sweet and fruity flavor of the Ligurian olives and the gentle taste of pine nuts. Rabbit meat is rich in protein but also low in cholesterol, so it is particularly suited for low-calorie and low-fat diets. I prefer stewing instead roasting rabbit; since it’s lean meat, you need to use extra fat to keep it from drying out when roasted. In this recipe I cook the dish until the liquid is reduced to a thick coating, not at all soupy.  Did you know that the rabbit is native to Africa ? It was later imported to Europe, especially to Italy and France. The Italian name coniglio derives from the Latin word cuniculus, referring to the ability of this animal to dig warrens with many tunnels (cunicoli).

CONIGLIO ALLA LIGURE  (LIGURIAN RABBIT)
Preparation time : 1 ½ hrs           Cooking time : 1     Servings: 4

coniglio 5_2 ok

INGREDIENTS
1.6 kg (3 pounds and 9 oz) rabbit
5 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium shallot , finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
230 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
140 g (¾ cup) Taggiasche olives
40 g (⅓ cup) pine nuts
500 ml (about 2 cups) vegetable broth warm
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Cut the rabbit into pieces by removing the head and entrails; to save time ask the butcher to do it for you . Wash and dry with kitchen paper
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté shallots and garlic over medium-low heat. Add rabbit, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat until meat is golden
3. Deglaze with white wine and add olives, pine nuts and a ladle of broth. Cover with a lid and cook on medium-low heat for about an hour until flesh is tender (it will separate easily from the bone). Moisten occasionally with a ladle of broth. Serve warm !

Notes: When buying rabbit make sure that the meat is fresh, with a pale or intense pink color, depending on the variety. The color of the fat should be white and that of the liver uniform.  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.

TAGLIATA DI MANZO
Preparation time: 20 minutes    Cooking time: 10 minutes      Servings: 4

Tagliata fette

INGREDIENTS
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

DIRECTIONS
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

Insalata di Pollo (Chicken Salad)

11 May

How about a refreshing summer salad made with grilled chicken breast, carrots, red pepper, celery, pickles and delicious Taggiasche olives?  The dressing is prepared with Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and flavored extra virgin olive oil.  The addition of olive oil lends a special taste to this salad, a Mediterranean touch.  Chicken is a healthy choice, in fact it contains less fat than beef or pork, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals; it is  therefore is an excellent choice for a light and nutritious diet .  In addition its milder taste complements a lot of dishes. This salad may be served on top of lettuce, tomatoes  (or the combination of them) or in a sandwich, and it is an easy dish to take on a summer picnic.  Try it cold or at room temperature, as an appetizer or main course.

INSALATA DI POLLO (CHICKEN SALAD)
Preparation time: 20 minutes                                       Servings: 4

Insalata di pollo piatto

INGREDIENTS
500 g (18 oz) grilled chicken
3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 medium red pepper, julienned
3 celery stalks, diced
7 medium pickles, julienned
2 tablespoons Taggiasche olives

1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Pound the breast chicken to 1 cm (½ in) thickness . Grill the chicken for about 3-4 minutes each side but not too long otherwise the meat will dry out. Let it cool and cut into strips 1 cm (½ in) wide and  6 cm (2 ½  in) long
2. Clean and wash  all fresh vegetables.  Julienne the carrots, the pepper and the pickles. Dice the celery. Pour all vegetables and chives in a large bowl.  Set aside
3. In a small bowl mix well the yogurt, mayonnaise, the mustard, salt and pepper.  Then slowly add the olive oil until well blended
4. Combine the vegetables and the chicken. Mix well and toss with the dressing
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: I partially substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt because it makes the dressing lighter. You can use a variety of mustards. I like sweet mustard, but you can substitute with your favorite one.  -Paola

Arista di Maiale Ripiena al Forno (Stuffed Roast Pork Tenderloin)

2 Apr

Roasted pork tenderloin stuffed with dried fruits soaked in Marsala wine, ham and almonds: an elegant and delicious recipe for a family get-together or a special occasion … something to impress your family and guests! You will love how beautiful the colors of the ingredients look when you slice it – we all know that we eat first with our eyes!!! The mingling of dried fruit, almonds and Marsala is mouth watering and recalls Sicilian flavors. In fact, Sicily is one of the most important producers of almonds in the world. Almonds, the symbol of good fortune, were first cultivated in the Middle East, then introduced in Sicily before 1000 BC. Further, Marsala, a fortified sweet wine similar to Port and Sherry, is produced in the region surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily. This wine is a perfect complement to sharp cheeses, nuts, desserts or cooked meat (chicken Marsala is one of the most common dishes). The sweetness of Marsala gives this pork dish a fabulous and unexpected flavor.

ARISTA DI MAIALE RIPIENA AL FORNO (STUFFED ROAST PORK TENDERLOIN)
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours    Baking time: 50 min.        Servings: 4

Arista Fette small

INGREDIENTS
1 kg (approx. 2 pounds) boneless pork tenderloin
50 g (3 thin slices) ham
110 ml (½ cup) Marsala wine
8 dried apricots
6 pitted prunes
30 g (2 tablespoons) toasted almonds
70 g (5 tablespoons) butter
5 blood orange slices
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 205 °C (400°C)
Before cooking the roast, let stand unrefrigerated until it reaches room temperature.
1. Prick holes in the dried fruit and soak in Marsala for 30 min.  Keep the Marsala for cooking the meat
2. Toast the almonds for about 5 to 6 minutes on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 170°C (350°F) or stirring constantly in a non-stick skillet on the stove. Set aside
3. Cut a lengthwise slit down the center of the loin, stopping at about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the other side. Open the loin so it lies almost flat
4. Completely cover the inner (cut) surface of the loin with the ham. Arrange the soaked dried fruits and the almonds in a line down the center. Wrap the loin around the fruit and place the orange slices and the rosemary sprig on top. Tie the roast at 5 cm (2 inch) intervals with kitchen string
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place it in a roasting pan with butter and Marsala
6. Bake uncovered at 205 °C (400°C) for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 °C (350 °F), cover with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 40 min. Use a meat thermometer to determine when it reaches your preferred level of doneness (70°C/160°F for medium). Uncover and place under broiler to brown the top for about 5 min.
7. Transfer to a cutting board. Let it stand for about 10-15 min. Remove the strings and slice it. You can serve with baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables.

Note: You can substitute apricots with dried figs to make this recipe even more Mediterranean. -Paola

Pollo alla Cacciatora (Hunter’s Chicken Stew)

14 Jan

In past centuries, peasants used the vegetables cultivated in their fields and the animals raised on their farms to prepare their meals.  Pollo alla cacciatora is one of these peasant recipes and seems to have originated in Tuscany.  Typically for Sunday dinner, chicken, a readily-available animal, was used to prepare a fine and festive feast.  The addition of fresh vegetables such as garlic, carrots, onion, celery, rosemary, tomatoes – as well as a good dose of wine – enhanced the flavor of the meat.  The name pollo alla cacciatora makes reference to the ingredients like garlic and rosemary, used by hunters (cacciatori) when cooking game.  Today we enjoy this delectable dish throughout the peninsula as a second course or else as main course accompanied by either mashed potatoes or polenta (for the polenta recipe, see Brasato con polenta).  I like this recipe because it is so versatile, and there are many adaptations of the classic recipe (please refer to the notes below for some suggestions).  I personally love to add the delicate flavor of Taggiasche olives to my Pollo alla cacciatora; with their fruity-sweet bouquet and delicate mellow taste, they blend very well with the vegetables and the wine.  These small dark-green olives are typically from Liguria (Western Riviera) and were originally planted and cultivated by the monks on their land overlooking the sea.  Travelling in different countries I have realized that this delicious Italian dish is also well-known and appreciated abroad (no doubt why!!!) and is commonly called Chicken Cacciatore!!!

POLLO ALLA CACCIATORA (HUNTER’S CHICKEN STEW)
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours                                   Servings: 4

pollo cac. 3 small

INGREDIENTS
1 kg (about 2¼ pounds) chicken, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely sliced
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
270 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
450 g (1 pound) canned tomatoes (S. Marzano)
200 g (1 cup) pitted Taggiasche olives in Extra Virgin olive oil
130 ml (½ cup) chicken stock (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Clean, wash and dry the chicken
2. After heating the oil olive in a large non-stick skillet, fry the chicken on medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken pieces are golden brown on both sides
3. Add the rosemary and the vegetables.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add the white wine and cook for additional 5 minutes
4. Add the tomatoes and the olives.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook for additional 20 minutes until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally.  If the liquid evaporates add some chicken stock
5. Add a little salt and/or pepper to taste if desired.  Remove the rosemary sprig and serve immediately.

Note: Here are some other ingredients you can use when preparing Pollo alla cacciatora:
1. Wine.  You can substitute white wine with red wine.  Although I prefer to cook chicken in white wine, some people use red wine because it adds a stronger taste to the meat. 
2. Olives.  You can substitute Taggiasche olives with either the pitted black or green olives that you like the most
3. Peperoncino. Cook the chicken with love, passion and add some fresh or dried peperoncino to spice it up a bit!
4. Mushrooms. You can add 200 g (about ½ pound) champignon mushrooms.  Finely slice the mushrooms and add them before the vegetables.  You can also use dried mushrooms instead of champignons.  Dried porcini mushrooms (about a handful) give a special and woodsy taste to this dish, too.  Before using dried mushrooms, soak them in hot – but not boiling – water for about twenty minutes; some (a few tablespoons) of the filtered water can also be used for cooking, to enhance the flavors of your recipe.  If you add mushrooms you have to use white wine and avoid olives. -Paola
 

Saltimbocca alla Romana

10 Dec

The saltimbocca (literally “jumps in the mouth” from the skillet, referring to the fact you have to eat it hot off the stove) is one of the flagships of the Roman-style cooking. This tasty dish is made of veal slices lined with prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham) and sage leaves, cooked in butter and flavored with white wine. The origins of this recipe are uncertain. In any case, Pellegrino Artusi (a well-know Italian writer and gourmet in the 1800s) reported that he enjoyed saltimbocca in a historic trattoria (tavern) in Rome; after this event the dish started being served in several other taverns in the Capital and became popular throughout the Lazio region. Other sources, however, indicate that the origins are from Brescia (a Lombard city). Who really knows? The most important thing is that today, all over the country, we enjoy this fast-to-prepare and appetizing dish either as a second course or as main course. You can serve it with baked or mashed potatoes, or grilled vegetables.

SALTIMBOCCA ALLA ROMANA
Preparation time: 30 minutes                             Servings: 4

Saltimbocca 3 small

INGREDIENTS
12 veal slices (scaloppine) 14 cm long and pounded to less than 1 cm (¼ inch) thick
12 thin slices of prosciutto crudo
12 large sage leaves
60 ml (¼cup) white wine
70 g (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
60 g (⅓ cup) all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
To save time ask the butcher to pound the veal meat for you.

1. Cover the entire surface of the meat with on slice of prosciutto. Then place a sage leaf on top of the prosciutto. Stick a toothpick through the meat to secure the prosciutto and the sage
2. Flour the scaloppine only on the meat side. Shake off the excess of flour
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and place the scaloppine, floured-side down, without overlapping
4. Cook for 5 minutes without turning, until golden
5. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add some salt and freshly ground pepper. Prosciutto crudo is pretty salty, therefore do not add much salt. I personally do not add it at all
6. Place the saltimbocca on a serving dish, keep warm. Cook the wine sauce for about 2 more min. Pour it over the meat and serve immediately. Saltimbocca is very tasty when eaten warm, right away!

Note: Prosciutto crudo’s taste depends on the ageing time and the amount of fat present in the pork. Prosciutto di Parma (from Parma in Emilia-Romagna) has a distinct flavor due to the longer ageing time when compared to Prosciutto S. Daniele (from Friuli), sweeter and lighter in texture, while Prosciutto Toscano has a much stronger and decisive taste because of the spices used to cure it.  -Paola

Brasato al Barolo con Polenta (Braised Beef in Barolo Wine with Polenta)

13 Nov

The name brasato derives from brace (BRA-chay), the hot coals over which the meat was traditionally cooked.  Braised beef marinated in a fine Barolo wine is one of the most representative and classic dishes of the Piedmont region, a savory delight for a cozy dinner on cold nights.  The Barolo’s intense flavor gives an extra aroma and unique taste to the meat.  Barolo is a rich, deeply concentrated full-bodied wine, with pronounced tannins and acidity (and therefore ideal for marinating).  The tannins contained in the wine bind to the food proteins and, when used as a marinade, come across as softer.  In addition to the wine flavor, the aroma of herbs such as bay leaf and rosemary gives a special touch to this dish.  Rosemary and bay leaf are also known for their invigorating properties.  For example, rosemary, the delicious herb associated with Aphrodite the goddess of love, boosts blood supply and helps increase sensitivity of the skin.  You can enjoy brasato with either mashed potatoes or, like we Italians do, with polenta – “the Italian grits”.  Polenta is made from cornmeal and ranges in color from golden yellow to the white polenta from Veneto.  In the Roman times, a polenta made of crushed-grains (pulmentum) was the staple of Roman Legions.  Maize, however, was not cultivated in Europe before Cristoforo Colombo brought it back in the 16th century.  Then for hundreds of years polenta, the traditional food of the Northern Italian peasants, was known as the poor-man’s food.  Now, defying its humble origin, polenta has also been discovered by a new, sophisticated audience and is frequently found in gourmet restaurants.

BRASATO AL BAROLO CON POLENTA (BRAISED BEEF IN BAROLO WINE WITH POLENTA)

Preparation time: 12 hrs      Cooking time: 2 ½ hrs+40 min.        Serving: 4

INGREDIENTS
Brasato
900 g (2 pounds) cappello di prete, beef chuck roast
1 bottle Barolo wine
3 carrots
1 celery rib
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 piece of cinnamon
3 pepper corns
3 cloves
40 g (3 tablespoons) butter
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt to taste

Polenta
1.6 l water (about 1-½ qts)
1 tablespoons kosher salt
400 g (2 cups) cornmeal
2 tablespoon olive oil (Extra Virgin)

DIRECTIONS
Brasato

You should start the day before you plan to cook the meat.

  1. Tie the meat with a cotton string so it keeps its shape
  2. Cut the carrots, the celery and the onion into big pieces, and put them in a large glass bowl with the meat and bay leaf, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves and pepper.  Add the wine.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a cool place (I suggest the refrigerator) for 12 hours.  This is important to reduce the proliferation of bacteria
  3. After 12 hours remove the meat from the bowl and dry it with some paper towels
  4. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, sauté the meat in the butter and olive oil for 5 minutes on both sides
  5. Add the vegetables, the wine and some salt to taste
  6. Cover and cook on low heat for at least 2-½ hours.  The meat should be so tender that it could be carved with a spoon
  7. Remove the meat from the pan.  Discard the rosemary sprigs and the bay leaves
  8. Blend the vegetables and liquid with an electric blender, and then reduce the sauce for 2-3 minutes
  9. Slice the meat when it is no longer too hot; it will be easier to slice.  Pour the sauce on the meat and serve either with polenta or mashed potatoes.

Polenta

  1. In a heavy sauce pan bring the water to boil.  Add the salt
  2. Reduce the heat to low and gradually whisk in the cornmeal to prevent lumps from forming
  3. Cover and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Remove the lid and stir constantly with a wooden spoon on high heat
  5. Continue to stir for about 40 minutes (according to package cooking time) until the polenta is thickened.  It should separate from the sides of the pan, and be able to support a spoon
  6. Add 2-3 T oil olive
  7. Pour the polenta onto a wooden cutting board, let it stand for a few minutes and cut it into slices using either a knife or, according to the peasant tradition, a cotton string.

Note: Barolo wine needs to be matched with food of similar weight such as meat dishes, heavy pasta and rich risotto, and it is excellent for marinating. In fact, marinades work their magic due to the acids in the wine which break down muscle tissue and soften the meat.  An appropriate Barolo substitute is Barbera or another full-bodied red wine.  Polenta is not difficult to make but needs a lot of attention and nearly constant stirring.  The best pan to use should be a copper pot surrounded by the cooking flame (a large gas-burner is ideal).  In the past – and indeed still today – farmers cooked polenta over an open fire, and this without doubt the tastiest version you can eat!!! -Paola

Filetto Arrosto ai Porcini (Roast Fillet with Porcini)

17 Oct

OCTOBER GROCERY SHOPPING: PUMPKIN AND MUSHROOMS

Autumn started a few weeks ago and there are already some of the season’s delicacies on our tables: zucca (pumpkin) and funghi porcini (Boletus edulis, cep mushrooms).  The Italian name porcini (pronounced “por-CHEE-nee”) means ‘piglets’, probably to the fondness pigs have for eating them.  Porcini have more proteins than most of other vegetables apart from soybeans.  They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Porcini have a nutty and slightly meaty taste, with a smooth and creamy texture.  Young, small porcini are tastier than older and larger ones.  Certainly these mushrooms have more taste than any other cultivated white mushrooms, giving dishes like a hearty, earthy flavor.  They are delicious raw, as well as when sautéed with garlic, parsley and butter, of if used in pasta, risotto, soup, meat or other recipes. 

FILETTO ARROSTO AI PORCINI (ROAST FILLET WITH PORCINI)

Preparation Time: 1 h                                  Servings: 4

Roast fillet is an elegant main course for any special occasion.  This cut of meat is extremely tender, and it goes exceptionally well with any side dish.  The earthy flavor of Porcini mushrooms is an outstanding complement to the delicate taste of the filet.

INGREDIENTS
Porcini
450 g (approx. 1 pound) Porcini mushroom
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin )

Roast Fillet
700 g (approx. 1 ½ pound) fillet or tenderloin roast
Balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
80 ml (about ⅓ cup) olive oil (extra Virgin)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 250 °C (475°F)
Clean the porcini (see Tips, below), and slice the mushrooms vertically into 2 mm (⅛ in) strips.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat sauté the olive oil and the garlic.  Stir in the mushrooms, salt to taste, cook approx. 7 minutes over medium heat.  Continue to cook for 1-2 min. over a high flame.  Add the parsley and set aside.

Before cooking the filet roast, let stand unrefrigerated until it reaches room temperature.  Marinate the garlic with the olive oil for at least two hours.

  1. In a large roasting pan, rub the olive oil seasoned with garlic all over the meat
  2. Lay the rosemary and sage sprigs in the bottom of the roasting pan, and place the fillet roast on top of them.  Generously season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar on the meat
  3. Place in the oven for about 10-12 min.  Reduce heat to 180°C (350°F) and cook for an additional 25-30 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)
  4. Remove roast from oven and let stand (covered with aluminum foil) for about 15 minutes before serving
  5. Heat the mushrooms and serve on top of the meat.

Note: To clean the mushrooms, I suggest to wipe them off with a moist cloth and to use a knife, if necessary, to remove any remaining soil.  Many say not to wash them with water, but I prefer to do this. If you decide to, do it immediately before slicing and cooking.  When cooking, it is important to use either a non-stick or steel pan, because other metals in contact with the porcini can release toxic compounds.  Porcini are well suited to drying, and actually the flavor of dried mushrooms is more intense.  Before using dried mushrooms, soak them in hot, but not boiling, water for about twenty minutes; the filtered water can also be used for cooking, enhancing the flavors of other recipes.  -Paola

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