lunedì 29 febbraio 2016


Appetizer - Vegetarian - Can be gluten and lactose free (READ footnotes)

3rd recipe tied to our anniversary lunch! This was part of the appetizer (the other components being salame and cheese)!! Note that I called them crostini and not bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKAYT-tah); 2 kinds only can be called bruschetta: garlic/olive oil and the fresh tomatoes ones (videorecipe here - written here). 

Italian bread
1 cup Italian mixed mushrooms, packed in oil and drained
1 cup peperonata
1/4 cup Italian sundried tomatoes, packed in oil and drained
Cream cheese

Slice bread about 3/4" thick and toast it.

In the meantime, prepare the toppings.

Coarsely chop peperonata and mushrooms, and keep them separate. Mix chopped mushrooms with mayo, enough to obtain a spreadable cream. Slice sundried tomatoes in thin strips.

Get your toasted slices and top one with mayo/mushroom cream, one with peperonata, one with cream cheese and sundried tomato strips.

Serve in a mixed appetizer.

- Best breads to use for this dish are: Italian round, Pugliese, Ciabatta
- You can make your own peperonata (videorecipes here - written here) or buy a good quality, pre-made one (like the one we carry).
- It's important to use marinated mushrooms in oil, NOT in water, so you'll have a much more flavorful dish.
- It's vegetarian. Use non dairy cream cheese, if you are lactose intolerant and gluten free bread, if you have gluten intolerance.

lunedì 22 febbraio 2016


Pasta entree - Vegetarian - Can be lactose and gluten free (READ footnotes)

Second recipe deriving from our wedding anniversary meals: the pasta dish!! I love mushrooms (and I don't think is a secret ;-) ) so I made both main dishes with some of them! This recipe is really easy and rather quick to prepare, yet flavorful and decadent. Only one thing: please, never cook pasta and set aside to prepare the sauce!!! You should always have your sauce waiting for your pasta, NOT the other way around (and I see it more times that I'd like, in many recipe books).

1 lb. Italian Penne pasta
4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1 oz. Italian dried porcini mushrooms
1 garlic clove
1/2 onion, cut in thin wedges
1 cup Italian San Marzano peeled tomatoes
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/4 cup brandy
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Soak porcini in little lukewarm water for 20-25 minutes. When soaked, remove them from water and squeeze excess water away; reserve the soaking water, carefully straining it, to remove all impurities.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once water boils, add salt and pasta; stir and cook. In the meantime, prepare your sauce.

In a large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat, warm olive oil and sautee garlic until golden, then remove it.

Add onions and all mushrooms and sautee for 2-3 minutes then deglaze pan with brandy.

Once alcohol evaporates, add San Marzano tomatoes (roughly crushed with a fork) and a couple tablespoons of juice; cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the soaking water.

When sauce reaches your desired doneness and thickness, melt cream cheese in it.

Drain pasta a couple minutes earlier than al dente and finish cooking in the sauce: just before draining, reserve some of the pasta cooking water, you'll need it to finish cooking your pasta and avoid sauce to thicken too much.

This recipe serves 4-5

- You can use cream instead of cream cheese, I have a hard time digesting it and that's why I use cream cheese.
- If you like a stronger flavor, use 2 oz. of dried porcini.
- Soak porcini in little water, enough to cover them. I used a little more, and used some of that water for the chicken breast rolls (last week's recipe that you can find here).
- I used, instead of San Marzano, the fresh tomato sauce I prepared and froze last summer. If you have something like that, use it, otherwise you can use our Pomodorina (an outstanding ready-to-go sauce).
- It's vegetarian. Use non dairy cream or cream cheese for a vegan and lactose free version. Use a GOOD Italian gluten free pasta, for a gluten free dish!

lunedì 15 febbraio 2016


Entree - Can be lactose and gluten free (READ footnotes)

I like chicken breast but it tends to be tough-ish so I always prepare it in a way that it will remain moist and tender. This is part of our wedding anniversary meal. We don't really celebrate Valentine's Day but our anniversary was on Tuesday so we celebrated on Sunday which happened to be Valentine's Day ;-). There will be recipes for all dishes made, so we can share our celebration with you!

2 half chicken breasts
1 bag frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed well
1 oz Italian dried porcini
4 oz white mushrooms, sliced
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Some shredded mozzarella
Italian 00 flour
Italian sea salt
Fresh sage
Italian extra virgin olive oil

Soak porcini in lukewarm water.

Slice chicken breast in 4 thin slices, pound them if needed. You will have 8 slices total.

Top each slice with spinach and a little mozzarella, about 2/3 of breast's surface; then roll and tie with butcher string.

Warm the olive oil in a saucepan with lid, large enough to contain the meat, but deep. Dredge rolls in flour and sautee until golden on all sides, seasoning with salt and adding sage leaves (2 or 3).

Remove porcini from soaking water; reserve the soaking water, carefully strain it through a colander line with cheese cloth or paper towel, this way you'll remove all impurities and you'll be able to use it safely.

Top with all mushrooms and pour the soaking water on top; bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cover with lid.

Stir every now and then so all mushrooms will be cooked evenly.

Remove butcher string and serve.

This recipe serves 4

- You can deglaze your saucepan, after sauteeing, with brandy or marsala, if you want.
- The use of soaking water is highly suggested, given the boost in flavor it will give your dish.
- The water released by fresh mushrooms and the soaking water, added to the low temperature cooking, will keep your chicken breast moist and tender. Important is that the pan will barely hold the rolls, this way they'll be covered with mushrooms and their juices.
- Avoid mozzarella to make it lactose free and use corn starch, instead of flour, to make it gluten free.

lunedì 8 febbraio 2016


Side dish - Vegetarian - Can be gluten and lactose free (READ footnotes)

I love fennel bulbs they are among the least calorie-dense food and are quite filling. I eat them in thin wedges, raw, dipped in olive oil, or super-thin in mixed salads. But my favorite are the milk cooked, "au gratin" fennel wedges that bring back childhood memories!!!

2 big fennel bulbs
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 tbsp Italian extra Virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Italian 00 flour
4 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Italian sea salt

Cut the fennel bulbs in 8 wedges, then wash and drain them carefully.

In a big, non-stick skillet with lid over medium-high heat, warm the oil and sautee onions until the become translucent, add fennel and stir; season with salt, then add milk and water; bring to boil then cover with lid and lower to simmer. Cook until the fennel wedges are soft, turning them a couple times.

Preheat oven at 375.

Prepare the "bechamel": strain 2 cups of the cooking milk/water mixture; in a saucepan put the flour, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg; pour milk/water in a thin stream whisking to prevent knots. Turn on heat to medium and cook your "bechamel", constantly stirring, until it thickens. Cover with a lid and set aside.

Grease an ovenproof casserole or deep baking dish, arrange the fennel wedges on the bottom (drained from the remaining cooking liquid, that you can use for a risotto) and cover with bechamel; top with mozzarella and Parmigiano, then transfer to your oven. Bake on central rack until cheeses melt and become golden.

This recipe serves 4.

(not baked - can be served this way, with a little of cooking liquid)

- I added water to milk so that milk won't "break up" so easily!
- I was lucky enough to find "big fat" clean fennel bulbs, normally they are thinner and with lot of stems and fronds (you can cook part of stems and fronds along with your wedges and then make a risotto with them).
- The reason why bechamel is between "quotations" is because TRUE bechamel uses butter and is made slightly differently.
- You can serve fennel wedges before baking them, making it lighter (see photo).
- This is a vegetarian dish, can be gluten free (provided you use corn starch, instead of flour) and lactose free (if you use non-dairy milk and avoid cheeses - use breadcrumbs for top crust ;-) ).

martedì 2 febbraio 2016


Soup - Vegan/vegetarian - Lactose and gluten free

Yesterday (Monday) I asked hubby what he wanted for dinner and he asked for some soup, if possible. So I came up with this one, which was very good and, given the temperatures, was perfectly appropriated!

1 lb asparagus
2 small potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup Carnaroli Italian rice
Vegetable broth, 4 cups at least
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Bring broth to a boil. Snap asparagus in two and put both pieces in the broth, along with potatoes and onions. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Scrape the "pulp" of the asparagus' bottom and blend everything with enough broth to obtain a smooth cream. Keep some broth always warm.

Bring back to boil, season with salt and add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until rice is al dente, about 18-20 minutes. Add broth to thin your cream, if needed.

Serve in individual bowls drizzled with Italian extra virgin olive oil.

Serves about 4

- You can use farro instead of rice, making this soup richer in fibers. You'll have to adjust cooking time and liquid since it takes longer to cook farro.
- You can leave the tips of asparagus whole and cut some of it in rounds, to give a "chunkier" consistency to your soup (I blended everything).
- It's really good, healthy and can be brought to work and warmed up in the microwave.
- It's vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free (provided you use rice and not farro, which is a grain and, so, not safe for gluten intolerant people).