lunedì 28 dicembre 2015


Appetizer or entree - Can be vegetarian (read footnotes)

This was part of the appetizers for our Christmas meal, at friends house, and was quite successful. I modified a recipe used for another dish in the past, and turned out really good!! In the footnotes, you will find some suggestions you may find interesting (I hope ;-) ) and the link to our video. It's not difficult to prepare, at all, it only takes time, which you should always allow, when making pizza and similar dishes.
(thank you to Vittorio of Viva La Focaccia for the original recipe)

500 gr. Italian 00 flour (4 1/2 cup)
340 gr. lukewarm water (1 1/3 cup), during winter time water should be warm, but not too much (you should be able to keep your hand in it without discomfort).
30 gr. Italian extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp)
7 gr. dry active yeast (1 envelope or 1 1/2 tsp)
7 gr. salt (1 1/2 tsp)
5 gr. sugar (1 tsp)
Ham and mozzarella, both shredded or cut, as needed

In a big bowl put the entire amount of water and dissolve the yeast with sugar, then add oil and half of the of the flour. It is very important that salt doesn't touch yeast. Start mixing until you obtain a smooth cream, then add salt and all the remaining flour. Mix and knead for about 4-5 minutes until the dough doesn't stick to the bowl anymore.

Dust a work surface with some flour and transfer the dough onto it, dust your hands with flour and knead for a few more minutes (if dough sticks too much, dust your hands with some more flour, then start again).

When you have a smooth dough, oil a big bowl, place the dough in, oil it so it won't get dry, and to cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap.

Let it rise for about 2 hours (or until it doubles in volume). Punch it down, fold it a couple times, then repeat the rising.

Divide the dough into 10 balls and let rise on a greased surface, covered with a towel, for 30-40 minutes. This will make it really easy to work with!

Pre-heat oven to 385 F.

With oiled hands, flatten the dough carefully without stretching it.

Arrange ham and mozzarella on it and fold, sealing the edges carefully. Place on a greased baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until golden) and serve immediately.

This recipe made 10 mini-calzoni.

- Other stuffing could be mozzarella and sausage, or mushrooms (or a combination of all of them ;-) ): basically, whatever you like!!
- With the exact same dough, you can prepare focaccia (like the one in the video) or pizza. Only thing that changes is the thickness ;-)
- As far as pizza goes, you can make it with San Marzano Italian tomatoes and whichever toppings you may prefer.
- You can freeze them, before baking (I haven't tried that, I cooked ours right away): wrap it (with several layers) and freeze separately. When you want to cook it, pre-heat oven and, when ready, remove them form freezer and transfer in the oven immediately (no plastic wrap, obviously ;-) ). It will take a little longer to cook.
- You can also freeze the single balls before the last rise, thaw and let rise when you need them.
- With this amount of ingredients, you can make 4 regular sized calzoni.
- Do not use any meats and you'll have a vegetarian calzone!
- You can find a video for the dough here (just remember to rise the whole dough twice and once, when shaped into balls). This was made when we prepared the herb focaccia.

lunedì 21 dicembre 2015

TIRAMISU - revised!


Every year, at Christmas, tiramisu` is pretty much mandatory. Here below is our tested and tasted recipe, made more times than I can count, never failed once! You can use pandoro or panettone, instead of ladyfingers, but you have to really be careful when soaking the cakes, or they will break up and not hold the slices. You can use the cream, though, to accompany the slightly toasted panettone or pandoro slices, maybe topping them with chopped nuts and/or drizzling them with hot chocolate sauce. In case you don't know this already, “tiramisu`” means “pick me up”.

2 8oz cups Mascarpone
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp sugar
1 pkg ladyfingers (17 oz)
Cold espresso coffee
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Divide the eggs: yolks in one big bowl and whites in another one. Put sugar in yolks and whisk them until they become pale yellow (near to white); at this point add mascarpone and whisk to combine.

Wash the beaters well and dry them. Add a couple good pinches of salt to the whites (it will help you and you won't taste it). Whisk whites until they hold peaks and, when turning the bowl upside down, they won't fall (as I show in the video).

Stir 2-3 tbsp of whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it up, since it's really dense.

Fold the remaining whites into the yolk cream and combine CAREFULLY, REALLY CAREFULLY, mixing from bottom up, NOT in circles.

At this point put coffee in a bowl and add liqueur if it's only for adults or milk if there are kids too.

Quickly dip ladyfingers in the coffee and line on the bottom of a deep serving dish, then cover with cream, dust with cocoa and repeat for another layer; do not top with cocoa powder until it's time to serve it.

Cover with plastic wrap (or lid, if your serving dish has one) and refrigerate overnight.

Serves about 10 people.

Traditional tiramisu`

Ricotta tiramisu`

- You can use rum, brandy or amaretto. Add the liqueur to your coffee, NOT to the cream.
- Always prepare it the day before: this way ladyfingers will soak all flavors and won't be dry.
- Always use room temperature eggs: it will be a quicker whisking. Adding salt to the whites will help you with that, and you won't taste it.
- You can use ricotta cheese, instead of mascarpone, if you like it. In the picture of the tiramisu` made with ricotta cheese, there is some shaved Italian dark chocolate.
- You can see our video here

martedì 15 dicembre 2015


Entree - Vegetarian - Gluten free

My absolute comfort food: every time we were sick as kids (and even as young adults ;-) ), mom would make this dish! Warm, creamy, comforting... made with love, which was its best therapeutic feature. I still make, even when nobody is sick, because of these memories.

(without saffron)

1 1/2 cup Carnaroli rice
2 cups frozen peas
8 cups vegetable broth, minimum
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup warm milk
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cream cheese

Bring broth to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.

In a large non-stick skillet, warm up the extra virgin olive oil and sautee onions until translucent.

Stir in rice and peas, cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, then add brandy. Stir in warm milk, let it be absorbed by rice.

Keep cooking for about 17-20 minutes (depending on your taste), adding simmering broth a ladle at a time and stirring frequently, to avoid sticking.

Remove from heat, stir in parmigiano and cream cheese and serve immediately!!

This recipe serves 4.

(with saffron)

- You can add a little saffron, to the last ladle of broth (see picture).
- I didn't use butter, which is what should be used ;-). I normally substitute with cream cheese, not as fat (I have to watch calories).
- Carnaroli is the best rice for risotto, less starchy than arborio but easier to cook: it doesn't overcook too easily.
- This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free.

martedì 8 dicembre 2015


Soup - Lactose and gluten free - Can be vegetarian (READ footnotes)

This was the soup we made for Thanksgiving dinner: it was a success! It's on the sweet verge, but nicely countered by herbs and bratwurst. I love butternut squash (if you check my recipes, you'll find several with this ingredient) and I love chestnuts, too! It's good at room temperature, too, but the bratwurst crumbles need to be warm.

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
20 chestnuts
2 bratwurst links, casing removed and crumbled
2 rosemary sprigs
4 sage leaves
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
5 tbsp Italian Extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
Chicken or vegetable broth

First of all cook chestnuts; arrange in a small saucepan, along with 1 sprig of rosemary, covered with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, add a pinch of Italian sea salt and lower to simmer, cover with a lid and simmer until chestnuts are soft, about 40 minutes.

Arrange the diced butternut squash in a saucepan with lid, with the remaining rosemary and sage. Cover with broth and bring to a boil, add a pinch of Italian sea salt, then lower to simmer, cover with a lid and cook until the butternut squash is soft. Since it has to be blended into a cream, it doesn't matter how big the cubes are. Season with a little sea salt, if needed.

Once the chestnuts are done, drain and peel them (both outer and inner skin). Reserve 8 whole ones and transfer the other ones with the butternut squash. If you can, try to detach all the leaves from rosemary sprigs. Blend butternut squash (with chestnuts and herbs) into a cream and keep it warm.

In a small non-stick skillet warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sautee the garlic with the bratwurst crumbles. When it's almost golden, add the reserved chestnuts, broken into pieces and sautee everything together for a couple minutes. Discard garlic.

Serve cream into individual bowls, topped with the bratwurst-chestnut crumbles and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.

This recipe serves 4-5

- I said that the size of butternut squash don't matter, the smaller they are, the quicker they'll cook.
- You may not need all the broth you cook the squash in: just add it little by little, as needed. It has to be a rather thick cream.
- You can use pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, if you find them. In this case, use both rosemary sprigs while cooking the squash.
- Please, don't use Italian sausages unless you find them without fennel seeds: the fennel flavor does not combine well with this recipe.
- And... do not use Parmigiano, as well.
- Savory is a herb whose flavor is similar to oregano, but not as strong.
- It's lactose and gluten free. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth and leave bratwurst out.

How to peel and cut butternut squash:

martedì 1 dicembre 2015


Entree - Can be Gluten and Lactose free (READ footnotes!)

Our friends don't like turkey so, for Thanksgiving, this was the meat we decided to prepare. The original Italian recipe called for veal instead of pork, but I don't eat veal so... we served it with bacon-wrapped green beans and cranberry sauce. The original recipe did not talk about precooking carrots but theywere definitely too hard, so you'll need to boil tehm at least half the usual time.

1 pork loin, at least 4 lbs trimmed of excess fat
2 12-oz bags of frozen spinach
2 sausage links
5-6 sandwich bread slices
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1 egg
3 carrots, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups warm broth
a few tbsp of milk
Italian 00 flour to dredge
Italian sea salt
Italian extra virgin olive oil

Cook the spinach and drain it. If needed, once it's at room temperature, squeeze the excess water. Partly cook the carrot dices and set aside.

Cut the meat open, in order to obtain a big slice about 3/4" thick (butterfly). Then pound it, to try to flatten it evenly.

Bring broth to a boil and lower heat to simmer.

Remove crust form bread slices, then soak them (the slices ;-) ) in milk. Squeeze milk away and crumble in a bowl.

Add parmigiano, sausages (casing removed and crumbled), carrots and the egg. Mix everything, so it will combine nicely.

Line the meat with the spinach. Top with the sausage mixture and roll the meat. Tie with butcher string and dredge in flour, to coat evenly all the sides.

In a large saucepan with lid, over medium-high heat, warm 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and sear your roll on every side (sprinkling with some salt), deglaze with wine and cook until done through, turning it every once in a while and adding warm broth as needed.

Cut the roll in slices about 1" thick, blend the cooking juices and serve them together, with steamed or sauteed vegetables.

- Cut the meat in a single slice is not that complicated, you'll find many tutorials online or I can email you how to do that.
- If you have it, use some rosemary and sage (you can tie the to the meat): they're perfect with pork meat.
- Most likely, you can cook it in the oven; I haven't tried this so you have to experiment with temperature and time.
- To make it Gluten free, use GF bread and corn starch, instead of flour.
- To make it Lactose free, use water to soak bread and don't use parmigiano in the stuffing.