AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - FOOD - Primi
Swiss Chard and Rice Soup
Prep time: 1 Hour
Cook time: 50 Minutes
2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a soup pot or Dutch oven; add rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Trim the white ribs out of the chard (save for another use, such as to add to a stir-fry or other soup). Coarsely chop the chard greens and spinach.
3. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chard greens. Return to a simmer; cover and cook for 10 minutes. When the onions are caramelized, stir a little of the simmering liquid into them; add them to the rice along with the spinach, broth and cayenne. Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes more.
4. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth or in a regular blender in batches (return it to the pot). Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired. Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of olive oil.
MINESTRONE WITH SHELL BEANS
Time: about 1 hour
For the soup
1. In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Tie rosemary, thyme and parsley in a bundle with kitchen string if desired (this makes it easier to fish out later). Add the herbs, leeks, garlic, zucchini or yellow squash, carrot, salt and pepper and cheese rind to the pot and saut until the vegetables are golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Add broth, shell beans, tomatoes, green beans and 4 cups water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer partly covered until the beans are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Discard herbs. Thin with a little water if the soup is too thick.
Hint: Soup is even better the second day, perhaps with a little added water or broth if it is too thick.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Frittata di Maccheroni
Frittata maccheroni, as Paola calls it, is easy to fix. It's for use with leftover pasta, so when you cook pasta cook the whole box. Cook it early, so that you can eat it at room temperature whenever you're ready. It's also great picnic food.
Mix the cooked and cooled spaghetti and grated parmesan cheese with beaten eggs, five of them to a box of cooked and cooled pasta. Less pasta, fewer eggs, si certo!
In a large padella (frying pan), add butter to coat the bottom, then half of the spaghetti mixture, then layers of prosciutto and cacciotta cheese, if you'd like. Paola tells us that mozzarella is fine, as is just about anything else. "The more you add, the more you have!" she tells us. Then add the rest of the pasta and press it down with a spatula.
Cook it slowly on top of the stove, until it turns a golden brown on the bottom. Then flip it over onto a huge round platter. Slide it back into the pan, add butter to your liking, and cook the other side in the same way, until it is crunchy as well. Once it cools, serve it at room temperature.
The proportions don't exist...in this type of "cucina familiare", It is always worth what Paola's grand mother and cook used to say: "Più ci mettete più ci trovate", The more you put inside the more you will find....
Cook pasta the regular way in a pot, dropping the long strands of pasta into the salted water after it comes to a boil.
In a large bowl mix the cream, eggs, olive oil, salt and pepper and parsley with a wisk until completely mixed.
When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta, mix it with the wisked ingredients, add the bacon and cheese and remix, then serve immediately while hot in warm bowls.
It is possible to omit the cream, or substitute two egg whites for the cream, but Italians often eat it the regular way.
Gingered Carrot Flan
Peel carrots and cut very thinly. Place carrots in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, then add the butter, sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and ginger. Add enough water to cover the carrots and cook with lid on for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook over higher heat until carrots are soft.
Process in a blender or food processor.
Season the cream with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the cream to the carrots and puree until smooth.
Blend in the egg and the egg yolk.
Butter four 3-inch custard cups or other molds and add the carrot puree to fill them. Place molds in a dish; add water to come halfway up the cups and bake at 300°F for about 45 minutes. Let the flans rest for 10 to 15 minutes before unmolding.
Serve as a side dish or an appetizer.
Tomato Éclairs With Creamy Ricotta and Basil Filling
(The New York Times)
Time: 30 minutes
2. Using a food processor, puree tomato until smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain puree through a fine sieve set over a measuring cup, pressing with back of a spoon to extract juice; you should have 1 cup. Add water, if necessary.
3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine tomato liquid, butter, salt and pepper; stir occasionally until butter melts. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball, leaving a film in bottom and sides of saucepan, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Transfer dough to an electric mixer and beat for 1 minute to cool slightly. Beat in 4 eggs one at a time, until each egg is completely absorbed.
5. Scrape batter into a pastry bag with a medium tip, or a heavy-duty plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Squeeze out éclairs 3 to 4 inches long and 1-inch wide onto baking pans, leaving 2 inches of space between éclairs. Beat remaining egg with a little water and gently brush mixture on top of each éclair; sprinkle with cheese.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until éclairs are puffed and golden brown. Working quickly, use a fork to poke several holes in bottom of each éclair to let steam escape.
7. To make ricotta filling, use a knife or mortar and pestle to make a paste with garlic and salt. Stir paste into ricotta along with basil.
8. Slice each éclair lengthwise, as you would a baguette for a sandwich. If the interior of the clair seems damp, scoop out damp bits. Spread filling on bottom half of éclair, top with 3 cherry tomato halves, then sandwich with top half of éclair. Serve immediately.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen éclairs.
Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Stilton
(The New York Times - September 2009)
Time: 1 1/2 hours
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until smooth. Stir in the onions. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet.
3. Use a fork to spread onion mixture evenly over pastry (let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl), leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange figs, cut-side up, in even rows on onion mixture. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over figs. Use a pastry brush to dab edges of tart with egg mixture. Gently fold over edges of tart to form a lip and brush with more egg mixture. 4. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with rosemary needles and drizzled with honey, if desired, warm or at room temperature.
Yield 8 servings
Caramelized Onion and Porcini Mushroom Soup
(Bon Appetit Magazine/ February 2002)
Makes 6 servings
Melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until soft, about 12 minutes. Add Cognac and garlic; stir 20 seconds. Stir in onion mixture, then broth and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer until onions are very tender, about 45 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs. Season soup with salt or 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly; cover and chill. Bring to simmer before serving.)
Preheat broiler. Place baguette slices on large baking sheet. Spread goat cheese on baguette slices; divide equally. Broil goat cheese croutons until cheese begins to brown in spots; about 30 seconds. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Top with croutons and serve.
INSALATA di RISO Mediterranean Style
In a large roasting pan, place the chicken fillets. Over the chicken, place the diced onion, pepper and zucchini. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables to coat. Roast the chicken and vegetables until tender, about 25 minutes.
In a heavy medium saucepan, turn the heat to high, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil, add cinnamon, cumin, ginger, tumeric, rice and raisins. Stir until the mixture is coated and aromatic, about two minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until all water is absorbed.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, chicken, roasted vegetables, cece beans and parsley.
In a small bowl, add the lemon juice. Gradually, mix in the remaining olive oil. Add the cayenne. Add to the rice mixture. Toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least five hours.
To serve, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the peanuts.
This salad can keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
PASTA with FENNEL
Do you remember that late last summer we made a roux of fresh basil and lemon juice and olive oil and put the mixture into ice cube trays and froze it? Well, three of the cubes are an important ingredient in our recipe. If you don't have basil and lemon cubes sitting in your freezer, perhaps you can substitute fresh basil and lemon juice and add a little extra olive oil...
Put a pot of water on to boil, adding a tbsp. of olive oil and a pinch of salt. When boiling, add pappardelle, or your favorite, long pasta or noodles.
When the pasta is al dente (firm to the taste), add it to the sauce with a little of the water from the pasta if the sauce looks too thick.
The sauce is even better the second day. Enjoy.
EGGS, SCRAMBLED WITH PROSCIUTTO
When the butter has melted, add the egg mixture. While it is cooking, stir with the whisk and add a few grindings of pepper. When the consistency feels creamy, you can add a little salt. Do not add salt before or during cooking, or the eggs will taste rubbery.
Serve on warm plates and enjoy!
FRENCH TOAST, BAKED
Slip the slices of bread into a nonstick baking pan of cookie sheet, making sure not to overlap them. Place small pieces of butter here and there on top of the bread (optional). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
20 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 325°F. Melt the maple syrup in a small pan. For an extra rich taste, add a little butter. Take the plastic wrap off the pan and place the pan in the preheated oven until the bread has a nice crispy looking top.Take the pan out of the oven and serve the slices on warm plates with syrup on top.
RICOTTA AND SAFFRON FLAN
Bake the pie shell according to the recipe and set aside until needed.
Soak the saffron in the wine for 30 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and blend in the ricotta, Parmesan, butter, herbs, salt, pepper, wine and saffron. Mix thoroughly. Put the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
TOMATO TARTLETS, ROASTED
When made with full-flavored, ripe tomatoes, these tartlets are fabulous. Serves six.
Mix together the flour, sesame seeds and salt, then make a well in the centre. Add the egg and olive oil and mix to a soft dough, adding water as necessary. Divide mixture into six equal parts and shape to line six 4-in. individual tarts pans; this is more of a dough than a pastry and is easiest to mould into shape with your fingers.
Chill the tart shells for at least 30 minutes while preparing the filling. Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with the thyme and the bay leaves for 30 to 40 minutes, until well softened and reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper; then remove the herbs.
Fill the tart shells with the onion mixture then top with the tomatoes, overlapping the slices and brushing them lightly with olive oil.
Season well, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the dough is crisp and the tomatoes are just starting to blacken. Serve hot or cold with a small salad of mixed greens.
CHICK PEA SOUP - PASTA e CECI
Drain and rinse the beans. When ready to use, put them in a pot with 8 cups of water. Add the carrot, celery, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until cooked.
Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan, and add garlic, cooking until the garlic is golden. Remove the garlic. Add the tomato puree and rosemary, stir and cook for about three minutes. Take off the heat.
When the chick peas are cooked, drain them, reserving the cooking liquid, discarding the peppercorns, bay leaves, celery and carrot.
Put half of the chick peas in a food processor with a cup of their cooking liquid and puree. Put the rest of the chickpeas, the pureed chickpeas and the rest of the reserved liquid in a pot.
Add the herbs and tomato puree and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the pasta, lower the temperature and cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper.
Drizzle with good quality olive oil, or a small handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese. It's said to be better the second day, but there is never any left over from the first serving at our house. If you find the soup too thick, add a small amount of boiling water near the end of the cooking process.
FARRO AND TOMATO SOUP
Soak the farro with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches for two hours.Drain the beans, rinse and put them in a large stockpot covered by 3 inches of unsalted cold water. Add the ham hock, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, skimming off foam as necessary, 1 to 1.5 hours. If you are using canned beans, omit the beans and cook for 1.5 hours.
While the beans are simmering, pour the oil into a large, heavy sauté pan and saut´ the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, sage and marjoram over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, only until the garlic and vegetables are soft buy have not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to mix in well, and cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes.
When the beans are tender (if using canned, use them here), drain them, reserving their cooking water. Cut the meat off the ham hock. Puree the beans and the meat from the ham hock with some of the cooking liquid by whirling them in a processor or blender.
Return them to the large stockpot with the remaining cooking water from the beans. Add the drained farro to the pot and cook over very low ehat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the farro is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil over each portion.
The soup will become very thick as it cools, and tastes even better the second day. If you find it too thick, add boiling water to it until it is the consistency you desire. It's a wonderful soup to freeze for a cold and rainy day.
FENNEL AND TOMATO SOUP
POTATO AND LEEK SOUP, COLD (VICHYSSOISE)
When they are soft and translucent, transfer them to a saucepan and pour in the stock. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Add half of the potatoes and stock to a food processor and pulse. Remove and finish with the rest of the soup. The soup should not be completely smooth. To finish it, press it through a sieve.
Stir in the seasonings, salting liberally. The cold temperature has a tendency to dull the soup's flavor.
Before serving the soup, stir in 1 cup of the heavy cream and taste again for salt. If it seems too thick, add more cream. Pour into cups and garnish with the chives or dill.
TOMATO/GARLIC SOUP WITH GRATED ZUCCHINI, COLD This is a simple, summer soup made with seasonal vegetables and a bit of olive oil.
Add the zucchini to the tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 40 minutes. When the soup is cooked, let it cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
TOMATO SOUP WITH SALSA, CHILLED
This is a delicious cold soup, which I make with our abundant heirloom tomatoes and their juices during the last days of summer. While the days remain hot in September, this provides an interesting change from sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella.
I combine it with bean dip and chips for a light pranzo or cena. The soup can also make an easy and impressive first course for a festive meal. Just thinking of it makes my mouth waterį
For the cucumber salsa, combine all six ingredients together, keep chilled. Spoon a generous round of salsa into the center of a soup bowl and ladle the soup around the salsa. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top.
PUMPKIN AND POTATO SOUP - CREMA DI ZUCCA E PATATE
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot and sauté the squash and potato over very low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are slightly soft and slightly golden, stirring often to make sure they don't stick to the bottom.
Bring the chicken broth to a slow boil an add it carefully to the pan with a pinch of coarse salt. Simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while. Drain the vegetables, add the sage and coriander (optional) and puree them together in a food mill or processor. Return the puree to the pot with the liquid, add the bouillon cube, being sure it dissolves completely, and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes more over a very low fire, mixing well and tasting for seasoning.
If the soup lacks the taste you'd like, add more bouillon cube or more salt. if the soup is too think slowly boil it down to the desired consistency. At the end, add the milk, stirring constantly. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley over the top.
PASTA, PENNE WITH YELLOW PEPPERS AND BASIL
I use a peeler for taking the skin off peppers instead of roasting them, to allow them to be firm before sautéing.
Rinse the basil leaves in water, gently pat them dry, rip the larger ones into smaller pieces, wrap them in a paper towel and put them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Choose a sauté pan that can accommodate all the peppers without crowding. Add the olive oil and garlic and turn the temperature to medium high. Cook and stir the garlic until it turns a light brown, them remove and discard it.
Put the peppers in the pan and continue to cook for another fifteen minutes, stirring frequently. Stop cooking while the peppers are still tender, but not mushy. Add salt, stir and take off the heat.
Cook the pasta. When you are almost ready to drain and toss the pasta, melt the butter in a small saucepan at low heat and turn the heat on very low for the sautéed peppers.
Toss the cooked drained pasta with the peppers, then add the melted butter, grated parmesan and basil and toss again before serving at once.
Risotto is one of my favorite things to cook. Here's a squash flavored recipe, followed by ideas to substitute for the squash. Once the risotto tastes the way you'd like to eat it, you'll make it often, wondering why it took you so long to make this simple and tasty food!
CREAMY SQUASH-FLAVORED RICE - RISOTTO E ZUCCA
Add the rice and stir it for one minute to coat the grains. Add two soup ladles (1 cup) to the pan, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Immediately begin to stir with a wooden spoon. Until the rice is cooked, you'll need to stir the pot often, assuring that the rice does not burn or the liquid does not dry up. After five minutes, add the squash.
As the liquid becomes absorbed, add two more ladlefuls of broth, continuing this process until the risotto is al dente and the broth in this pot has been absorbed. That means "to taste", and you'll need to taste a grain now and then until the consistency is just perfect. At that moment, turn off the heat, add the remaining butter and cheese and parsley and serve on warm plates.
RISOTTO, A GENERAL RECIPE
For the recipe above, substitute sliced mushrooms, asparagus, peas, seafood, chicken, or almost any vegetable.I like to add a cup of white wine just before the first ladles of broth. You can substitute beef or vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The more you cook this dish, the more you will enjoy preparing it.
I think the secret is the temperature of the burner. When the risotto is cooked on too low a heat, it becomes mushy. If you stand by the pan and make sure the bottom of the pan is never dry, moving your spoon under the rice and across the pan, making sure there is always liquid in the pan, you will be a success. The process should take less than twenty minutes, and it is worth every minute. Bravo!
PASTA, HOME MADE
Knead the dough for ten to fifteen minutes, until it is smooth, firm, and quite elastic. Don't skimp on the kneading or the dough will tear while you're rolling it out.
You are now ready for the hard part: separate the dough into two pieces. Flour your work surface and start to roll out the dough, rolling from the middle, flipping it occasionally, and flouring it as necessary to keep it from sticking.
To keep the sheet from breaking, once it has reached a certain size, roll it up around the rolling pin and then invert the rolling pin. You can, as you are unrolling the sheet, gently stretch it by holding the unrolled part firm and pulling gently away with the rolling pin.
Keep on flipping and rolling till you have a sheet that's almost transparent -- as thin as a dime, or thinner, if you can manage it (the pasta will almost double in thickness while cooking).
Once you've rolled out the sheet, either use it to make stuffed pasta such as ravioli or tortellini, for lasagna, or cut it into strips. If you choose the latter course the easiest thing to do is roll the sheet of dough up into a tube, then slice the tube into rounds of the desired width and unroll them so the strands come free; set them to dry on a rack or between two chair backs, supported by a towel (you often see this in the country). Roll out the second piece and cut it as you did the first.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water. Since it's fresh, it will cook in three to five minutes. Soft wheat flour has much less gluten than the durum wheat used in commercially prepared dry pastas, and will become flabby if it overcooks.