lunedì 23 novembre 2015


Dessert - Vegetarian

I love crostata and I love chocolate. This recipe was used at a cooking class I recently held (and I enjoyed very much!!). It's not super sweet, as most of my desserts, you can adjust the quantity of sugar to your liking. Just, as I always say, please try the orginal one the first time and taste it.

For the dough:
350 gr. Italian 00 flour
100 gr. sugar
3 extra large eggs
80 gr. butter, diced and chilled
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the cream:
1 15-oz container ricotta
Unsweetened cocoa powder
sugar if desired
chocolate chips

In a bowl arrange all dry ingredients and mix them to combine evenly. Add butter and mix it roughly, pinching it with flour mixture; form a well and put the eggs in it. Mix all ingredients well but quickly in order not to warm up butter too much (which would result in a "hard" dough), you have to obtain a smooth "ball". Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes at least.

In a bowl, mix ricotta, sugar and cocoa powder, if you feel it's too thick, add a couple tbsp of milk.

Preheat oven to 375.

Grease and dust with flour a 9" tart pan (or line it with parchment paper).

Take the dough out of the fridge, split it in two parts (one of them a little smaller) and roll both of them over a flour-dusted table, they have to be same thickness: about 1/4".

Put the bigger dough disk in the pan, poke it with a fork and put the cream in it. Cover with the smaller dough disk being sure to seal it really well. Make a few small cuts on the top, to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the central rack for 30-40 minutes, the top should become nicely golden.

- You can add to the ricotta cream some banana (diced) or pear (diced and briefly sauteed with a little butter).
- I always weigh the ingredients when baking or making pasta: it's the most accurate way to dose them.
- As said at the beginning, it's not super sweet. Use come confectioner's sugar or whipped cream, if you think it's not sweet enough.
- You can see here how to prepare the dough.

lunedì 16 novembre 2015


Soup - Complete meal - Vegan/vegetarian - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

I love ribollita, both warm and at room temperature. As its summer counterpart Panzanella, Ribollita too is a dish "created" by Tuscan paesants 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. When I still lived in Italy, I used to go to the local fruttivendolo (grocer that sells mainly, if not only, fruits and vegetables) and asked her "ingredients for ribollita", Franca would do the rest, and this recipe is exactly what she taught me! 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 boil for about 30 minutes (ribollita means boiled twice) and serve it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

These quantities will make enough ribollita for 6-8

Ready for the freezer:

- 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.
- Being Tuscan kale quite hard to find, you can use 1 whole head of Savoy or green cabbage (or a mix of the two).
- 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 (which is what some of the pictures show).
- 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.

martedì 10 novembre 2015


Side dish - Vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free

I used this as a side dish for meat pockets with ham and cheese. We had friends over and loved them; the use of brandy makes a big difference! The pictures are of the dish ready, with the meat pockets whose recipe will be published soon.

12 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
8 oz white mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, cut in wedges
1/4 cup brandy
1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil

In a non stick skillet, over high heat, warm up the olive oil; sautee onions until translucents, then add mushrooms.

Deglaze pan with brandy and cook until desired doneness (use some broth, if needed).

Season with salt and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6

- You can add 2 oz of dried porcini, soaked in lukewarm water. Use the soaking water, carefully filtered, instead of broth to cook mushrooms: they will be much more flavorful.
- Use them as a side dish for any meat, but also as sauce for pasta!
- It's vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free!

lunedì 2 novembre 2015


Dessert - Vegetarian

In Tuscany there is a pastry called "budino di riso" (rice pudding) but it is different than what its name can convey: basically it's a rice cream in an Italian tart shell. I found this recipe on the blog www.profumincucina.com and tried to recreate it. I won't give you the complete recipe (I still have to work on the cream) but I'll give you the shell's recipe; soon, I'll try the pastries again, as they're supposed to be made. Since the dough for the shell was too much, I made big cookies with the leftovers, and this is this week's recipe.

300 gr. Italian 00 flour (2 1/2 cup unsifted)
150 gr. sugar (2/3 cup)
150 gr. butter, cold (2/3 of a stick)
8 gr. baking powder (1 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp Italian sea salt
1 extra large egg
Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange

Dice butter and put it back in the refrigerator.

In a bowl arrange all dry ingredients and mix them to combine evenly. Add butter and mix it briskly, pinching it with flour mixture; form a well and put the egg in it.

Mix all ingredients well, but quickly, so butter will not warm up too much (which would result in a "hard" dough); you have to obtain a smooth "ball".

Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes at least.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or grease it with a little butter and dust with flour.

Dust a working surface with some flour and roll the dough out about 1/4" thick. Shape the dough, or cut it with a cookie cutter, as you prefer, and bake for 10-15 minutes (or until golden).

- Keep in mind that "volume" measurements are NOT as accurate as "weight" ones: the quantities given in parenthesis are only approximate. Please, get a scale that weighs in grams: your baking will thank you!
- The quantity of cookies depends on their size.
- The original recipe called for 200gr. 00 flour and 100gr. rice flour. I decided to make the cake when I got home and didn't have any rice flour: the result was good anyway.
- I suggested using grated zest of lemon or orange, actually you can use both!