Tag Archives: Cream

Tortino di Asparagi e Salmone Affumicato (Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Pie)

15 Mar

Every season has a flavor all its own. Spring should arrive soon with its delicious vegetables, and asparagus is one them. Actually it is available year-round, but Spring is the best season to enjoy fresh asparagus. Asparagus comes in different colors and varieties: green, white, violet or purple, wild. These varieties are interchangeable in recipes; the major difference is the color of the final dish. This pie is an elegant, impressive, colorful (don’t forget that we enjoy food first with our eyes) and flavorful dish made with fresh asparagus (violet-purple variety, typical of Italy), leeks and smoked salmon. It is a delectable dish to serve as a starter or enjoy as a main course accompanied by a salad. The mild onion-flavor of the leeks blends well with the distinct taste of asparagus and the tangy, intensive texture of smoked salmon. Asparagus has been considered a delicacy since ancient times (3000 BC), being used both as a vegetable and a medicine (diuretic). It is low in calories, and it is a good source of vitamins (B1,B6, A, C), minerals (zinc, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium) and dietary fibers. It is one of my preferred Spring vegetables; I can eat it with just about anything! In fact, it is a versatile vegetable which can be prepared in a number of ways as an appetizer, vegetable side dish, main dish accompanied by eggs, fish or first course with pasta, risotto and soups. Let’s enjoy asparagus for the next few months!

TORTINO DI ASPARAGI E SALMONE AFFUMICATO (ASPARAGUS AND SMOKED SALMON PIE)
Preparation time: 55 minutes      Baking time: 20-25 minutes     Serving: 6-8

Tortino di Aspar-Salmone_small

INGREDIENTS
Pasta Brisee
330 g (2 cups) flour 00
160 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
80 ml (1/3 cup) cold water
¼ teaspoon salt

Filling
1,350 g (3 pounds, or 3 bunches) asparagus
4 large leeks, white part only, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
300 ml (1 ¼ cups) heavy cream
200 ml milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
280 g (10 ounces) smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 170°C – 180°C (350°F)
Pasta brisee (Brisee crust)
1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt
2. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
3. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time. Add the egg yolk until mixture forms an elastic ball
4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Filling
1. Wash the asparagus under running water. Trim ends (see note), bind in bunches (7-8 asparagus each) and blanch in a pan of boiling water or in the microwave with 2 tbsp water on high for 3 minutes. Test doneness with a fork. It should be tender but not mushy. Cut in 1-inch pieces keeping 4 cooked asparagus for decoration
2. While asparagus is cooling, in a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté leeks, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and cook for about 10 minutes until leeks are soft. Cool for about 10 minutes
3. In a sauce pan mix cream, milk and flour with a whisk. Bring to boil stirring continuously for about 6-8 minutes until it starts to thicken. Cool and set aside
4. In a large bowl mix the leeks, the asparagus, the salmon and the cream mix. Season with salt and pepper
5. Flatten the chilled dough on a lightly floured board, then transfer to a 30 cm (12 in) ceramic or glass pie or tart baking dish. Gently pat the pastry dough in the pan to 4 mm (less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides. The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm.
Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient), then spread with the mix, decorate with some asparagus on top (I like to slice the 4 stalks in half, lengthwise, and arrange them like spokes on the pie)
6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until custard is set and golden on top
7. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving
8. Serve in wedges with salmon slices and fresh dill

Note: Look for asparagus with firm heads, stem should be firm but not dried up. Try to bend the stem, you will notice that at certain point it will not break, that’s the point where the stem begins to be tough. When shopping for leeks look for ones with straight and firm stalks, dark green leaves without yellow spots (a sign of lack of freshness). Leeks can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks. Before using leeks, trim the dark portion of the leaves down to the light-green white part. Clean carefully to remove any dirt. -Paola

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Pasta allo Zafferano (Pasta with Saffron)

17 Jan

We probably all recognize that pasta is a highly versatile ingredient for preparing quick and delicious meals and can be served at both simple and elegant dinners.  The addition of saffron, the king of spices (the most expensive spice in the world by weight!!!), makes your pasta dish something you will remember and want to make again and again.  It is an easy and fast first course that brings a smile to my children’s faces.  Saffron adds an inviting intense golden-yellow color (don’t forget that we first eat with our eyes!!!) and a special honey-like taste to your recipe.  In fact, the word saffron originates from the Latin safranum, which in Arabic signifies yellow.  Saffron comes from the stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus (commonly known as Saffron Crocus), cultivated in Asia Minor even before the birth of Christ, then later brought into many Mediterranean countries.  Egyptian physicians already cultivated this plant as early as 1600 BC.  Today the largest crops in Italy are located in Abruzzo, Sardinia, Tuscany and Umbria.  The Aquila saffron or zafferano d’Aquila (Abruzzo), cultivated exclusively in the Navelli Valley, is one of the best saffron in the world for its distinctive thread shape, unusual pungent aroma and intense color.  Saffron can be used in many recipes such as rice, pasta, meat, soups and sweets as well.  Last, but not least, it is a MUST for a superb Risotto alla Milanese!!!! In addition to its culinary uses, saffron has also many therapeutic properties such as anti aging, anti depressant, anti cancer and cardiovascular effects (contributing, of course, to an increase of sexual vitality).  Add saffron to your recipe and put some extra sunshine on your table and into your life!

PASTA ALLO ZAFFERANO (PASTA WITH SAFFRON)
Preparation Time: 20 min.                           Servings: 4

Pasta con zafferano small

INGREDIENTS
340 g (12 oz) penne or bow-tie pasta (artisanal pasta)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
200 ml (¾ cup)  heavy cream
¼ teaspoon saffron threads or 1 package of saffron powder
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1.In a non-stick skillet melt the butter on low heat and then add the cream.  Mix well and add the saffron powder or threads (see note for preparation)
2.Bring to boil a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta for about 10-11 minutes al dente (read the cooking time on the package).  Drain and transfer the pasta to the skillet, toss gently.  Before serving sprinkle with ground pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Note: The quality of ingredients used is very important for the outcome of any recipe.  With regards to pasta in particular, I would suggest artisanal pasta such as Faella or Martelli versus a more industrial brand.  In fact, artisanal pasta has rough and porous texture which sauces can cling to better, and it usually “mantiene bene la cottura” (keeps its “al dente” texture longer).  If you can’t find artisanal pasta, then I would recommend buying commercially available durum wheat semolina pasta – rigorously made in Italy, though!  Saffron threads versus saffron powder:  Saffron exists in two forms: threads and powder. The threads are the whole stigma while the powder consists of ground stigma.  The threads are tastier and more genuine while the saffron powder loses its flavor rapidly and is very easy to contaminate with other, less-expensive powders of similar color such as turmeric.  If you prefer to use the powder, you have to trust the brand you are buying.  In case you are using threads, soak the saffron threads for 15 minutes in 5 teaspoons of liquid (hot –not boiling–  water, broth or your cooking liquid) for every teaspoon of saffron.  Then add the solution to the your dish.  Generally speaking ½ teaspoon of saffron threads = ¼ teaspoon of saffron powder, so as a rule use one half the amount of powder as you would threads…-Paola

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