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lunedì 21 novembre 2016

RAFFAELLA'S ITALIAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH FRITTERS

Appetizer - Vegetarian

I love butternut squash and always look for different ways to prepare it; my friend Raffaella in Rome had this recipe and shared it with me. Next time, I'll try a sweet version... stay tuned!!!


7 oz (1 cup) finely minced butternut squash
1/3 cup Italian 00 flour
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
3 eggs
1/2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
Extra virgin olive oil to fry


Lightly beat eggs, then add parmigiano, flour, lemon zest and parsley. Mix to combine and add the squash, stir until all ingredients are nicely combined. You should obtain a dense batter.

Bring extra virgin olive oil to frying temperature (if you don't have a thermometer and want to know if the oil is warm enough, just put a little piece of bread in it: is has to "rapidly" fry).

Spoon batter into the olive oil (not more than 3-4 fritters at a time), and flip them a first time as soon as they start getting solid. Then turn another couple of times until golden on both sides.

Lay them on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve immediately.

This will make about 20 fritters, depending on size.


- I didn't put salt in it, even though my friend Raffaella likes it.
- Sprinkle with salt, if you like it, AFTER frying!
- You can find the video recipe here

lunedì 14 novembre 2016

ITALIAN MINESTRONE

Soup - Gluten and lactose free - Vegan/Vegetarian

I made this minestrone for a friend, who informed us she was rather ill and would have loved this dish, but didn't have energy to prepare it. So I decided to make it for her (and quite a decent amount) so she can freeze it and eat it whenever she feels like it. Cooking for a friend who's not well, fills your heart with peace and love and, hopefully, this will be ingrained in what you cook. At least, I like to believe that! Anyway, this is an amazing comfort food, perfect for the cold front coming our way!!!


1 14oz can Italian Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian San Marzano tomatoes, cut in pieces or roughly chopped
12 oz carrots, diced
12 oz peas, fresh & shelled or frozen
12 oz spinach, fresh or frozen
12 oz cauliflower florets
12 oz broccoli florets
12 oz green beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 bunch Tuscan kale, trimmed and cut into strips
2 celery stalks, cut in strips
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 sage leaves
1 rosemary sprig
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt


Tie herbs together with butcher string.

Once you have all your vegetables ready, arrange all them (except for beans ad chickpeas) and the herbs in a big saucepan with lid and cover them with water or vegetable broth.

When it boils, add some salt, cover with lid and let simmer until all veggies are soft.

At this point, add the beans and chickpeas and bring back to boil; taste and, in case it's needed, adjust with salt.

Lower to medium, cook for 10-15 more minutes and remove from heat.

Serve in individual bowls, drizzled with some very good Italian extra virgin olive oil.

Servings... undetermined!!


- In order to minimize prepping, use frozen veggies (when possible): they are as good, but will be ready to go, which is not a minor detail ;-)
- These quantities will produce a large amount of soup: freeze it!!! It will make the perfect "dinner ready in minutes" and will be MUCH better and healthier than canned soup.
- You can add other vegetables (Swiss chards, leeks, Savoy cabbage and much more); also, you add a Parmigiano rind, which will give a lot of flavor!
- This recipe is vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free.

martedì 8 novembre 2016

STIR FRY BEEF AND POLENTA

Entree - Lactose and gluten free - Can be vegan/vegetarian (READ footnotes)

I bought some stir fry beef and wanted to briefly cook it with bell peppers, mushrooms and other vegetable I had in the fridge. Turned out that the meat was not tender as I would have liked it, so I turned the "stir fry" into a "stir stew" and served with polenta :) During winter time, it's a perfect meal (and a complete one!) to warm you up and satisfy you completely! It's the perfect comfort food!!


For the "stir stew":
1 lb stir fry beef
2 large carrots, cut in 1" pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 1" pieces
1 large onion, cut in 1" cubes
2 bell peppers, cut in strips
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
1 medium potato, sliced
1 oz dried Italian porcini mushrooms
1 28-oz can Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 rosemary sprig
3 sage leaves
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

For Polenta:
12 cups water
1 lb. Italian coarse polenta flour (bramata)
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian sea salt


First of all, start preparing your stir stew, which will cook for a longer time. Also, soak porcini in lukewarm water for 20 minutes.

In a large and deep saucepan with lid (better one with a heavy bottom), over medium high heat, warm the olive oil and sautee meat cubes stirring to try to get them golden on all sides.

Remove dried mushrooms, squeeze them and set aside; carefully strain water to remove impurities and save it.

Deglaze saucepan with red wine and let alcohol evaporate. Add the San Marzano tomatoes with their juice and the herbs, stir in the porcini mushrooms soaking water, lower heat to simmer, cover with the lid and cook for 1 1/2 hours at least, stirring occasionally.

At this point, add all the vegetables, stir and season with salt to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft.

While your stew cooks, prepare polenta: bring a large pot of water to a boil.

When the water boils, add salt and slowly add polenta flour in a thin stream, whisking; reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes whisking frequently; reduce heat to low and cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Serve polenta together with "stir stew" either on a side or on top of it.

This recipe serves 4



- If you want a softer polenta, use a little more water; if you want it harder, use a little less water or cook it for a longer time, so that water will evaporate more: there is NO overcooked polenta ;-)
- If you have leftover polenta, you can slice them and make a "lasagna" with the slices to be used instead of pasta.
- It's gluten free and lactose free.
- If you want a vegan/vegetarian dish, just stew the vegetables and serve your polenta with them.

lunedì 31 ottobre 2016

ITALIAN PORK CHOP

Entree - Gluten and lactose free

I found that pork chops here are quite tender and don't need too much liquid to cook in, in order to stay so. This said... I do love meat (pork chops in this case) cooked in pizzaiola style and I love using the sauce for pasta: it ends up being perfectly flavored!


3 pork chops, about 1/2" thick (at room temperature)
1 14-oz can of Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian strained tomatoes
2 tbsp Italian black olive spread
1/3 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
3 Italian anchovy fillets in olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp wild Italian oregano
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

For an even cooking, have your meat at room temperature.

In a big saucepan put olive oil, anchovies and garlic. Sautee them for a couple of minutes (there will be a lot of sputtering ;-) ), then, add tomatoes, stir in olive spread and cook for another couple of minutes.

Season with salt, if needed, and sprinkle with oregano.

Add wine and, as soon as the sauce starts boiling, add the chops too. Lower to medium heat and cover with a lid. Flip chops once during cooking. The cooking time depends on how thick the chops are.

Serve immediately with the sauce.

This recipe serves 3


- This sauce is also perfect for pasta, especially if you have too much (and I make a point on having more than it's actually needed for the meat ;-) ).
- You can add Italian capers packed in salt and rinsed, if you like them. Add them to the sauce together with olive spread.
- You can substitute olive spread with Italian dried black olives and anchovy fillets with 1 tbsp of anchovy paste.
- It's lactose and gluten free.
- You can find the video here

martedì 25 ottobre 2016

THE REAL TUSCAN RIBOLLITA

Soup or Entree - Vegan/vegetarian - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

Almost 15 years ago, I married a Tuscan man! Everyone in town was raving about ribollita and, not only, I had never prepared it... I never ever ate it!! So I went to the local "fruttivendola", Franca, (grocer that sells mainly, if not only, fruits and vegetables) and asked her "the ingredients for ribollita": she would do the rest, and this recipe is exactly what she taught me! I love this dish, both warm and at room temperature. As its summer counterpart Panzanella, Ribollita too is a dish "created" by Tuscan peasants to utilize stale bread that could not be eaten or used in another way. The concept is to use whatever vegetables were available; it has been changed a little over the years and this is a fairly precise recipe. With this weather, ribollita is perfect! This is a dish prepared in two separate times.


2 14-oz jars/cans Italian cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
2 bunches black Tuscan kale (you can find it as Dinosaur Kale, most of the times), cut in strips
2 bunches Swiss chard, cut in strips
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 fairly big onions, thinly sliced
1 Leek, thinly sliced (only the white part)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 Celery sticks, sliced
1/2 head Savoy (or green) cabbage, shredded
1 14-oz can Italian San Marzano peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Italian artisan bread (preferably 2-3 days old and dry)
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt


In a really big pot put all the vegetables, not the beans, and water at least to cover all of them.

Bring the soup to a boil then lower the heat and let it simmer for at least 2 hours, add beans, season with salt and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, add the bread and let it absorb all the liquid.

The day after, warm up the soup again, letting it simmer for about 30 minutes (ribollita means boiled twice), stirring and serve it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Bread should look almost like a cream.

These quantities will make enough ribollita for 6-8


- Another way to serve this soup is layering bread, vegetables and olive oil. This way you can warm up the soup in the oven or freeze it, divided into portions, and warm up in the microwave.
- Only use a high quality Italian - Tuscan - Pugliese - Ciabatta bread! The other breads like French, sandwich (even if labeled as Italian), buns or similar are NOT suitable!
- Instead of water, you can use chicken or vegetable broth.
- I always make more than I need and freeze it. It makes a perfect office/school lunch .
- The use of parmigiano is actually not advised, so it won't cover all the other flavors.
- It's vegan/vegetarian (DON'T use chicken broth ;-) ), lactose free and can be gluten free, if you use GF bread.

lunedì 17 ottobre 2016

ITALIAN BORLOTTI, POTATOES AND MORE SOUP

Soup - Complete meal - Lactose free - Can be Gluten free and vegetarian (READ footnotes)

I was chatting with my great friend Renata, in Wisconsin, and the subject was... guess what... FOOD! She told me about a potato soup she like to prepare and she loves. I decided to try it, but I wanted something more in the soup, so I made it into a complete meal as you can read here below. Her original recipe will be in the footnotes!!


200 gr. potatoes (3 small - about 7oz)
1 jar Italian borlotti drained and rinsed
150 gr peas, frozen (about 1 cup)
3 big carrots, peeled and diced
220 gr small Italian pasta, like elbows (about 1/2 lb)
1 small onion
3 bacon slices, center cut
3 sage leaves
10-12 rosemary leaves
10-12 savory leaves
1 liter chicken stock, at least (about 4 cups)
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Bring the stock to a boil.

Peel the potatoes, cook them in the stock and, when they are soft, remove with a slotted spoon. In the same pot, cook carrots and peas until desired softness, remove from the stock and keep the latter warm.

In the meantime, chop onion and the herbs together and cut bacon in thin strips. Press potatoes through a ricer and set aside.

In a large saucepan, warm 1 tbsp of olive oil, add the onion/herbs mixture and bacon; sautee until onion becomes translucent. Stir in the riced potatoes, borlotti beans, carrots and peas. Add a couple ladles of stock and let cook for a couple minutes, so all flavors combine.

Add pasta and more stock, enough to cover it by about 1/2". If your sauce thickens too much, add chicken stock a ladle at a time, like you would do with risotto; season with sea salt, if needed.

Constantly stir this soup, while pasta cooks, so it won't stick to the bottom.

Serve drizzled with a little Italian extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe serve 4

- Renata's actual recipe!! Chop onion, carrot and celery and sautee with bacon, add the potatoes, diced, salt (pay attention to bacon!!), rosemary and bay leaves; cover with chicken stock and cook until soft.
- If you want to make it gluten free, use Italian GF spaghetti (like the ones we carry) and break them in 1" long pieces. For a vegetarian version, avoid bacon and chicken stock.
- It's lactose free.

martedì 11 ottobre 2016

ITALIAN RICE AND RICOTTA FRITTERS

Dessert - Vegetarian - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

These fritters are usually prepared during carnival time but you can really make them whenever you prefer; an Italian friend gave me this recipe and that I changed it a little bit ;-) I made it several times, in order to get the best result.


220 gr. Italian Carnaroli rice (about 1 cup)
500 ml. milk (2 cups)
1 orange, grated zest and juice
1 lemon, grated zest
50 gr. sugar (about 1/4 cup)
100 gr. Italian 00 flour (about 1 cup)
1 egg
50 gr. ricotta cheese (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp salt
Italian extra virgin olive oil to fry

In a saucepan pour milk and bring to a boil; add salt and rice and cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed (about 20-25 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Once it is at room temperature, add sugar, both grated zests, the squeezed orange juice, the egg and the ricotta cheese, then add flour until you obtain a dense batter; if it's too dry, add a few tbsp of milk, if it's too thin, add some more flour.

Place a deep skillet with oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is ready, start frying: spoon the mixture into the oil and fry until golden on both sides. Line on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve cold or slightly warm, sprinkled with sugar (regular or confectioner's).


- I prefer to weigh ingredients and most of my recipes have weighed ingredients. I converted in cups, but it's an approximate measurement.
- When frying, don't put too much batter in the oil, or it will cool down too much. It's better to fry 5-6 fritters at a time.
- The amount of fritters this recipe will make, depends on how big you're making them.
- This recipe can be gluten free (use corn or potato starch or rice flour) but can't be lactose free. It is vegetarian.