Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions. Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

POLPETTE DI CACIO e UOVA (Meatless balls made with cheese and eggs)

Or as known in my birthplace "Pallotte Cace e Ove".  This is a typical dish which flavors   bring me back to my childhood in Casalbordino, (Abruzzo):  A time when meat was scarce and only seasonal products were used.  A time when dishes were marked by the rhythm of the season and modified only by the arrival of Sundays and religious holidays.

 

Eggs, cheese and day-old bread are mixed together, shaped into balls and fried, then simmered in sugo semplice (meatless tomato sauce).

Sauce or Sugo semplice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 lb. ripe tomatoes finally chopped (alternate 2 cans good San Marzano canned tomatoes)
Sprigs of parsley and basil
Hot pepper (optional)
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in saucepan over moderate heat, add the onion and cook until golden.  Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.


Ingredients for Pallotte:

  1. 2 cups of mixed grated cheeses (my choice Gran Padano, Parmigiano e Pecorino)
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 cup of stale, artisan bread, crusts removed and soaked in water and squeezed dried
  4. 1 or 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  5. A few sprigs of finely chopped fresh parsley
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
 

 

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Let the mixture rest for a while.
Use damp hands to form 1 1/2-to-2-inch balls. (I like them oval or egg shaped).
Shallow fry in olive oil until golden brown, turning the balls as needed so they brown evenly.
Once all of the pallotte are fried, transfer them to the tomato sauce (sugo semplice) and let them simmer for a good 30 minutes.  The pallotte will swell as they cook and resemble sponges.


 

Serve immediately.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

MOSTACCIOLI o Pasta nera di mandorle

During the holidays, it's obligatory to have the classic mostaccioli on the table. These diamond-shaped biscuits are so called because they derive from a cake prepared by the ancient Romans with "mustaceum', i.e. grape must cooked over bay leaves.



Dough
8 large eggs
2 cups roasted almonds (without skin), ground

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup espresso coffee
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup bitter-sweet grated chocolate
4 teaspoons baking ammonia
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Flour as much as needed (5 to 6 cups)

For frosting
about 2 pounds bitter sweet chocolate


 

  
 

 
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Roast whole almonds. Grind.

3. Make espresso coffee.  Reserve 1 cup.

4. Grate a block of bitter-sweet chocolate and measure 1/4 cup.

5. Using an electric beater, beat eggs. Add espresso coffee and honey.

6. Add vanilla and the rest of the flavorings.

7. Slowly add flour -- using the electric beater at the beginning. When the dough gets thick, use a wooden spoon. The resulting dough will be dark in color, and should be thick in consistency.


8. Take a lump of dough -- the size of a baseball -- and on a floured wooden board flatten the dough out using the palm of your hand.

9. Cut a diamond-shaped cookie from the flattened out dough [Diamond measures about 4 inches at longest point, 3 inches at widest point].

10. Place the diamond-shaped mostaccioli cookie on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

11. Continue cutting out the cookies until the baking sheet is full.  Leave ample space between the cookies.


12. When the baking sheet has been filled up, bake in the middle rack for about 12 minutes (The cookies should still be a bit soft when they are removed).

13. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool for several hours (or overnight).

14. Using a double boiler, melt the block of bitter-sweet chocolate.

15. Using a fork, dip the mostaccioli cookie into the melted chocolate (Place the end of the fork on the underside of the cookie, so that only the top of the cookie is coated with chocolate).

16. Place the frosted cookie on a table that has been lined with wax paper.

17. Continue processing the cookies until they have all been frosted.

18. Let the frosted cookies air-dry on the table for 6 to 8 hours.


19. Store the cookies until needed in a cold space or fridge.

 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

STUFFED MUSHROOMS - Funghi Ripieni


With Thanksgiving around the corner, stuffed mushrooms make perfect appetizers for a  memorable holiday meal or a dinner party.  The mushrooms can be prepared the day before and then baked before serving.

 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 scallions (alternate 1 medium onion) chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 25 medium to large white mushrooms, stemmed

 
 

 
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wash the mushrooms one at a time under running water for one second.  Dry immediately.  Pull stems from mushroom caps and finely chop them.  Put mushroom caps, stemmed sides down, in a lightly oiled large shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until mushrooms exude liquid, about 15 minutes, then remove from oven.
 
While mushroom caps are baking, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat.  Sauté scallions briefly.  Add chopped stems, stirring, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley salt and black pepper. Mix well.
 
 
 
Turn mushroom caps over.  Using the remaining butter, place a small piece inside each cap.  Mound mushroom filling in mushroom caps, pressing gently.   Bake until mushrooms are tender and stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

 

Friday, August 23, 2013

BAKED ZUCCHINI AU GRATIN (Zucchine Gratinati al Forno)

 
 
Zucchini au gratin is a classic and tasty side dish to serve to everyone. This vegetarian recipe will always make a great impression! It's a simple recipe to prepare, it takes only a few minutes, and the zucchini are cooked in the oven forming an irresistible crunchy crust from the breadcrumbs and cheese.



Ingredients

2 medium or 3 small zucchini
2 potatoes
1 large onion, sliced
2 clove of garlic, chopped
1 pepper
2 large fresh tomatoes (if available) or a small can
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh basil (chopped)
1 slice old-day bread from a large loaf or several small ones, grated
1/2 cup Parmisan cheese or Gran Padana
1 teaspoon of salt and pepper

Procedure

Preheat oven at 350 degrees

Slice zucchini and potatoes.
Slice onion and pepper
Chop garlic, celery, parsley and basil
Blanch the tomatoes and chop
In a blender, grate the fresh breadcrumbs together with some parsley and mix with cheese



In a baking dish, place some of the oil.  Add all ingredients except breadcrumb and cheese mixture. Mix well.  Add remainder of the oil.  Cover the top with the breadcrumb and cheese mixture.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 min.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 min.






 

Monday, August 19, 2013

ZINNIAS: Fiesta in the garden

Easy to grow and ideal for cutting, zinnias soak up summer and burst into a celebration of vibrant blooms.



They require rich soil, full sun and careful watering.  While the rest of the garden fizzles in the summer heat, zinnias thrive.

They are very versatile.  The assorted sizes make them must-have plant for any summer spot.



 

           



Zinnias are great to brighten containers.
 
Saving seeds:
 


Like marigolds, once the zinnias turn brown, cut the dried flower heads.  Remove the petals and at the base are the seeds.  Store the seeds in a container or bag in a cool, dry place.

In the spring, I sow them directly in the garden and in late spring, I transplant the seedlings for faster results.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Meatless Stuffed Eggplants - Melanzane Ripiene Vegetariane

Meatless stuffed eggplants (Melanzane ripiene vegetariane)
 
Stuffed eggplants are one of our favorite dishes.  The filling can be modified in many ways: more spicy (adding a peperoncino), tastier (adding more cheese at the end of cooking), while the meat may be beef, pork, veal only, or a mix of veal and pork.  The choice is yours!  See Stuffed eggplants alla casalese.
 

Choosing eggplants is a ritual:  look for even color and firm feel. The eggplant should be heavy relative to its size; when you pick it up at the market, it should be firm and crisp, not spongy, to the touch.

In this case, I recommend you do not buy too big to shorten cooking time.

Ingredients
6 small to medium eggplants
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red or green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups cubes of day-old country bread
1 cup water
1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 can pitted ripe olives, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour the water over the bread cubes in a small bowl. Once the bread has softened, squeeze out the excess water.  Crumble and set aside.
Cut one end of the eggplants.  Wash and halve the eggplants lengthwise. With a small paring knife, score the flesh and cut the eggplant around, leaving a 1/4-inch border from the skin. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving eggplant shells or boats for baking. 
Salt the cavity of the eggplant shells.  Place the eggplant shells (cavity down) to drain for 30 minutes.
Chop the eggplant flesh.  Place the flesh into a pot filled with water.  After 10 minutes or so, drain.  Rinse few more times in a colander under running water.  Squeeze out the excess water.

Mix eggplant flesh, bread, cheese, garlic, tomatoes, green pepper, black olives, parsley and black pepper.  Drizzle a little of the oil over each shell.  Fill in the eggplant shells. 


Place the filled shells one next to the other in a greased pan.  Drizzle remaining olive oil over each shell.  Cover the dish with foil, and bake until the eggplant is tender all the way through, about 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake until the top of the filling is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes more.





Thursday, August 1, 2013

COLOR YOU DIET

 
A colorful, balanced diet is associated with good health.


Vegetables from our garden



So what does color have to do with diet anyway?   According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, deeply colored vegetables -- whether green, yellow, orange, or red -- and dark leafy greens offer the most protective health benefits against cancer and other diseases. 








The more brightly colored the vegetable, the more protective the health benefits, thanks to a rich assortment of plant compounds called phytochemicals.


 

Fruits should also be an important part of our overall healthy eating plan.  Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said that “to maximize the benefit, you actually want a variety” of fruits. He advises “eating the rainbow,” since different colors signal different types of antioxidants and nutrients.

I challenge myself daily to keep my dishes colorful.

Fried peppers
Spinach and brown rice
Sauteed mushrooms
Cream of squash soup

Zucchini, potatoes and eggplant casserole