lunedì 25 aprile 2016


Soup - Vegetarian/vegan - Lactose and gluten free

It's really quite cold these days (even though it's supposed to be for a short time) and soups are in order! Moreover: you can always enjoy it lukewarm or at room temperature, even in summertime. I do that quite often, since I love soups! Actually, I prepare more so I can freeze them and have them handy.

2 14-oz can Italian chickpeas (ceci), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cup Italian carnaroli rice
1 cup Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small potato, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 sage leaves, 1 rosemary and 1 satureja sprigs
8-10 cups vegetable stock, hot
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Tie the herbs together. Set aside half of the chickpeas.

In a saucepan (with lid) pour 8 cups of the stock (keep warm the remaining ones); add potatoes, onions, San Marzano and the remaining chickpeas.

Bring to a boil then season with salt, if needed, and add the herbs; cook until vegetables are tender then remove the herbs, and set them aside.

Scoop out the vegetables and blend them with an immersion blender (or a regular one), with enough broth to obtain a smooth cream.

Bring the broth back to boil and add the reserved chickpeas, herbs and rice.

Cook until rice is almost "al dente" (about 15 minutes), then stir in the creamed vegetables. Remember to stir rice frequently.

Discard the herbs, then serve in individual bowls drizzled with Italian extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe serves 6-8

- You can use Italian farro, instead of rice; this way, though, it won't be gluten free.
- San Marzano tomatoes are the best peeled tomatoes (and the ones we carry have no salt - no "nothing" added!!!).
- If you like to have some chunks of tomatoes, either add them to the broth after having scooped out the veggies to blend or do the same as the chickpeas: half tomatoes right away and half after blending.
- This soup is great at room temperature; it can also be frozen, in order to have a good quick AND HEALTHY dinner.
- Satureja is a herb that smells like oregano... it is great to fight the chickpeas and beans (not so welcome) side effects ;-). Try to find it...
- You can use an Italian infused extra virgin olive oil, if you like, to add some extra flavor.
- It's vegetarian/vegan, lactose and gluten free!

martedì 19 aprile 2016


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

I love asparagus and use them anytime I can get my hands on some... obviously, they mean "Spring" but sometimes I just crave them and buy them frozen. This was not the case but, when you really love something, you do all you can to eat it as often as you can ;-) Now, since I like them so much, I normally use A LOT of them so don't get scared...

1 lb Italian bowties pasta
16 medium shrimp
1 lb asparagus
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup brandy
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add salt.

Snap asparagus in two and put both pieces in the water. Cook to your desired doneness, then remove from water (which is where you'll cook pasta), and turn the heat off.

When asparagus is ready, cut it in pieces, leaving the tips a little longer. Scrape the "pulp" of the asparagus' bottom and blend it with some cooking water, enough to obtain a smooth cream.

On medium-high heat, warm olive oil in a non-stick skillet and sautee onions for about 5 minutes, then add asparagus pieces. When sauteed, deglaze pan with brandy and, once alcohol evaporates, add a few tbsp of the cooking water.

Bring the water back to a boil, without adding any salt! When it boils, stir in bowties.

In a different skillet, sautee garlic and hot pepper flakes in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, add the shrimp and sautee until almost done. Add to the skillet with asparagus, then stir in the asparagus cream and let cook a few minutes, or until it's at your desired thickness. Set aside.

Drain bowties (reserving some water) and toss them in the skillet with the sauce; if it's too thick add some pasta water to thin it.

This recipe serves 4

- You can use cooked shrimp, which will shorten their sauteeing time quite a bit.
- Please, avoid Parmigiano for this dish: its strength will cover the delicate taste of asparagus and shrimp.
- It can be gluten and lactose free as long as you use GF pasta and no cream cheese (you can thicken your sauce with a little corn starch, which happens to be gluten free ;-) ).

lunedì 11 aprile 2016


Dessert - Vegetarian - READ footnotes for original recipe and suggestions

I have often said that cooking is an act of love and friendship... and what do friends do? They share! I belong to a Facebook group that reunites wonderful Italian women living all over the word, trying to keep our cuisine and traditions alive (the blog that groups some of the staple recipes, in both languages, is here). One day, Claudia Casu (one of these amazing women) posted the recipe of a cake she loves, a cake made with ricotta and orange, treasure of her home region: Sardegna (the island of Sardinia).
This cake caught so many eyes, it's being made pretty much all over the word: north, south, east and west! Claudia is a food designer, has lived in Tokyo for 7 yeasr, now, she teaches Sardinian cuisine (both traditional and creative), is a producer for some restaurants and organizes events; she has a 2 years old son that loves both Italian and Japanese cuisine (you can read the entire story on Un'alessandrina in America's blog - sorry... it's in Italian ;-) ).
Given Reno's altitude, I had to make a couple changes to Claudia's original recipe but, since her cake is amazing, in the footnotes you'll find the original one, so anybody will be able to try and make it.
Please, let me know when you'll make it (I KNOW you will) and where you are, so I can let her know!!!
This is one of the very few cakes that, despite Reno's altitude, turned out pretty much perfect with the minimum amount of changes possible!!!

200 gr. Italian 00 flour (approx. 1 1/2 cup)
200 gr. ricotta (the freshest possible - I made my own) (7 oz.)
150 gr. sugar (approx. 2/3 cup)
10 gr. baking powder (2 tsp)
2 eggs
1 orange, juice and grated zest
30 ml. Italian extra virgin olive oil (from Sardinia, if you can find it - yes, we DO sell one) (3 tbsp)

1- Preheat oven to 350F.

2- In a big bowl, beat eggs with sugar, without letting them whisk too much; add ricotta and mix it until you have a smooth cream.

3- Add orange zest, filtered juice and oil in a thin stream, mixing; sift flour and baking powder and mix carefully until you obtain a smooth batter.

4- Pour your batter in a buttered and floured spring form pan about 8" diameter.

5- Bake on central rack for 45-50 minutes, check with a toothpick when it's done, like any other cake.

6- Once at room temperature, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar; you can also sprinkle with chopped almonds before cooking it.

7- This cake will stay moist and very soft even the day after, provided that you have any leftovers ;-)
My cake (whitish)

Claudia's cake (nicely orange!)
(This photo is property of - and nicely provided by - Sardegna Cooking Studio)

- And... here are the changes.
   My ricotta, being handmade, was very dense, so I thinned it with some milk... I suspect that most commercial ricotta would be too wet so you may ant to let it "rest" (overnight and in the refrigerator) in a thin strainer over a bowl ;-)
   Claudia told me that the secret of her cake was, actually, dividing eggs and, separately, whisking whites until peaks would hold (literally: if you turn your bowl up-side down, they won't fall - I do that with my tiramisu`). Follow steps 2&3 using yolks only, then carefully fold whisked whites with a spatula into the batter.

- Yes, we sell 00 flour AND Sardinian olive oil (that, I found out, is Claudia's home town oil!!)
- Please, weigh ingredients! It's much more accurate, especially for baked dished.
- I bought a terrible orange... I hope you'll have more luck. That's why my cake look "white" while Claudia's is nicely orange!
- If you want to know more about Claudia and her masterpieces - believe me, some (ehm... most) of them are pieces of art - and have Facebook, check & like her FB page here - Sardegna Cooking Studio

lunedì 4 aprile 2016


Salad or entree - Vegetarian/vegan - Lactose free - Can be Gluten free (read footnotes)

I love farro in any dish, I even make risotto with farro (it takes forever to cook but...); it has a very distinct nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with vegetables and legumes; it's also wholer than rice. It doesn't overcook easily, so you can prepare this dish ahead of time, I normally cook quite a decent quantity of farro, then refrigerate it in an airtight container for a few days.

1 cup Italian farro
1 can Italian borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Italian cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 celery stalk
3-4 small carrots
2 tomatoes, ripe
1 garlic clove, peeled and quartered
4 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Italian balsamic glaze

Bring a large pot if water to boil, add salt and farro, stir and cook about 15 minutes, then add carrots and cook until they're tender and farro is al dente (it takes about 25-30 minutes).

Drain and cool down to room temperature.

In the meantime, dice tomatoes and arrange them in a bowl with garlic and a pinch of salt, stir and let marinate. Thinly slice celery and dice carrots, or cut them in rounds.

In a large bowl, arrange beans, farro and all the vegetables.

Mix olive oil and balsamic glaze together and drizzle over your farro salad, stir to combine all ingredients and refrigerate until it's time to serve. A couple of hours would be perfect so all the flavors can combine.

This recipe serves 5-6 at least, depending on what else is on the menu.

- You can add as many the vegetables as you like
- This is a complete meal because it combines proteins and carbs from farro with the ones from beans.
- It's vegan and lactose free, unfortunately it's not gluten free because farro is a grain. For a gluten free version use Italian Carnaroli rice.
- You can find a video here