28 February 2011

Turkey Rolls Stuffed With Apple & Corn

Going through the wide range of hams in the salumeria (delicatessen), I was not thrilled to choose turkey ham.  It's the most nondescript of all but it probably has the lowest cholesterol level among all the hams beckoning to me.   I'm giving this insipid ham a chance to inspire me to create something.

Continuing on with my fruit cooking frenzy, I thought of cranberries being an emblematic partner to turkey in American Thanksgiving dinners.  But then I didn't have any.  I had some apples and I gave it the green light seeing that it's a probable candidate to combine with turkey as evidenced by the myriad recipes present at the internet. 

27 February 2011

Tomato Salad Featuring the Green Zebra

The name of this tomato is so congruous.  It really is evocative of green zebras.  Typical of myself, I brought home a box because it's something new to try.  I surfed the internet for an idea on how to cook it but nothing really interested me because there was a lot of frying.  Fried green tomatoes.  I'm abashed to admit that I never tried it.  I had no will to fry and besides, I felt like eating the tomatoes fresh so I just decided to make a simple tomato salad.  It's actually a typical tomato salad here but seeing that Jamie Oliver's mothership tomato salad is more explicit, it's worth a peek.

These tomatoes are beautiful but the taste is not really congruent to its beauty.  It's tart.  I found out that this tomato cultivar  is still a fledgling having been bred only in 1983 by an american, Tom Wagner.

I had another kind of tomato in the ref that is much sweeter so I combined them both.  I added salt, extra virgin olive oil,  fresh & dried oregano, balsamic vinegar and about 1/8th of a garlic clove.

Normally, I would put fresh basil leaves but I didn't have any.  This salad goes with everything, fish especially or it can also stand alone like how we like it at home.

Tomato Salad Featuring the Green Zebra

  • tomatoes, quartered
  • salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • fresh oregano
  • 1/ 8 clove garlic (optional or adjust the size of how much you're putting in)
Toss everything together in a salad bowl.   I didn't put any amount to the ingredients because it all depends on how much you would like to mix.

26 February 2011

Chicken With Mandarin, Cointreau & Thyme

There are times when you have leftovers that you don't know what to do with.  I had a grilled half chicken bought from the rosticceria (rotisserie).  The potatoes that usually go with it are long gone and to reheat it didn't seem so appetizing.  I had a lot of late harvest mandarins that needed to be eaten.  These two could possibly go together.  I have never tried chicken with mandarins so why not?  A quick confirmation at the internet showed me that it's actually quite common already.  By now mixing meat with fruits has become habitual that another dish up my sleeve would be another exploration of tastes.  My only concern is if it will be eaten by my three critics.  I usually encounter the challenge in my persnickety 5-year old.  True enough, he didn't like it but my other 2 critics loved it.  I loved it too.  It was such a pleasant surprise to have the distinctive taste of the mandarin with the saltiness of the pancetta and the chicken.   So if you have any chicken leftovers, this is worth a try.  As an afterthought, not just leftovers can be used with this recipe.  I would definitely cook this again the next time I buy white chicken meat.

Orange Rice With Cinnamon & Chocolate

The combination of orange, chocolate & cinnamon is irresistible.  While boiling plain white rice for dinner, I thought maybe I can try this combination with rice.  So out came another pot to cook a cup of rice with the juice of two oranges and some water.   I couldn't decide if I liked the smell of the orange juice at a boiling temperature permeating the kitchen but well, I had to see the end of it.  While waiting for the rice to cook, I checked the internet for something similar to what I am doing. I barely found anything, just one but cooked with milk, with the orange zest & chocolate added after.  Continuing on, I neutralized the sourness of the oranges with sugar and cinnamon.  Then came the Cointreau which added to the sweetness of the rice.   When the rice was cooked, it had an intense orangey flavor.  I counterbalanced it with a lot of chocolate flakes and the blending came out beautifully. 

Orange Rice With Cinnamon & Chocolate

Serves 2
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup chocolate flakes
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons white sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the oranges)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • knob of butter
  • Cointreau (optional)
Boil rice with orange juice, sugar & water.  When it's almost cooked, add a dash of Cointreau and orange zest, leaving some for decorating on the serving plate.  When cooked, the rice should be very creamy, almost soupy because it will dry up when it cools down.  Add the knob of butter & chocolate flakes, leaving some for decorating.  Mix well.  Serve at room temperature.

Lentils With Red Mullet

I only get to eat lentils on New Year's Eve in Italy, making that once a year or twice if there are leftovers from New Year's dinner.  It's not that I don't like them that they only make an annual trip to my dining table.  In fact, I actually like them.  This past New Year, I cooked cotechino, a stuffed pig trotter and lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, an old village in the mountains of Gran Sasso d'Abruzzo.  It's home of one of the best lentils in Italy.  These lentils come from an old and rare species that are grown at around 1200 m. above sea level which makes the taste superior.  

While staying there, I tried the lentil soup from a very basic restaurant that had very good reviews.  The place was just like any rural domestic kitchen emanating simplicity.  The lentil soup itself was straight to the point but so good.  I bought some of their lentils to try cooking them myself.

With the rest of the lentils that I bought, I thought of combining it with fish, which is the red mullet.  I cooked both sides of the fish fillet on a pan that I oiled with extra virgin olive oil.  I think its flavor was heightened with this kind of cooking.


Lentils With Red Mullet (Lenticchie con Triglie)

Serves 4
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 2 salted anchovies
  • 2 - 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 - 8  small red mullet, filleted
  • 1 medium tomato, diced

  1. Saute' garlic & anchovies on medium fire.  When garlic starts to color, add the carrot, tomato & bay leaves.  Cook for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add lentils.  Add hot water until it covers the lentils.  Cook for 20 minutes covered.  Stir once in a while.  If it's drying up, add hot water.  Add white wine and put up the flame.  Put it back down when alcohol has evaporated.
  3. Cook for another 20 minutes or until they become soft.
  4. Oil another skillet.  Cook mullet for about 2 minutes each side.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  5. Serve lentils with the mullet on top.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a medieval town located in the Gran Sasso of Abruzzo.  It is considered one of the most beautiful old villages in Italy as ascertained by an Italian club appropriately called I Borghi Piu' Belli d'Italia (The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy).  The town is built on white limestone and the houses covered with clay tiles.  The area is very small that it can be visited on foot.  The cobblestoned streets, alleys and arches maintain the ancient ambiance.  Its history dates back to the Roman times with the name Sessanio derived from Sextantio, a small Roman settlement near the present-day town.  


25 February 2011

Red Mullet Carpaccio

Marinated raw fish is one way of enjoying fresh fish for the more adventurous.  As far as I can remember, I had been eating marinated raw kingfish in the Philippines that is locally called "kilawing tanigue", always accompanied by a bottle of ice cold beer.   Its acidic agent is vinegar instead of lemon.  

Carpaccio is a way to prepare thinly sliced raw meat or fish in Italy, usually seasoned with extra virgin olive oil,  shaved parmesan cheese & lemon.   For a dash of history, it was invented in 1950 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the Venetian Harry's Bar for Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo upon learning that her doctor ordered that she abstain from eating cooked meat.  He named it after the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio because the red & white colors of the dish were reminiscent of his paintings.

Red mullet is one of my preferred fish because it's very tasty.   Well, generally small fishes are usually much tastier than their bigger counterpart.  Usually, I eat it fried dusted with flour, salt & pepper but since I had a kilo, I thought of trying out other ways to enjoy it.  I prepared three diverse dishes.  One of them is this carpaccio which was inspired by Jamie Oliver's red mullet sashimi.   I used parsley instead of basil leaves because I find them hard to find being an annual plant.   Just the same, it came out well.  I liked the idea of using lime as opposed to the more common lemon.  The difference was that lime is very subtle and more fragrant that when partnered with pomegranate creates a harmonious mixture in the palate.   Ginger takes away the unpleasant fishy taste, which is actually commonly used in the Philippines.  Just remember to prepare raw fish dishes only if you are 100% certain that the fish are fresh. 

Red Mullet Carpaccio (Carpaccio di Triglie)

Serves 2
  • 4 small red mullet, deboned & descaled
  • 1 1/2 - 2 limes
  • 1/4 pomegranate
  • salt & pepper
  •  1 teaspoon minced parsley
  •  1 teaspoon lime zest
  •  1 teaspoon ginger, peeled & minced
Slice fish to bite sizes.  Sprinkle salt & pepper.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lime.  The acid of the juice of the lime will "cook" the fish.  Leave it for about an hour.  

Transfer fish to a serving plate.  Discard old lime juice.  Sprinkle salt & pepper again.  Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime.  Add lime zest, grated ginger & pomegranate seeds.  Scatter minced parsley leaves.  Drizzle with exra virgin olive oil. 

23 February 2011

Fun Kiddie Meals 3

I know that spring is finally arriving when my son starts taking home wild daisies.  To say that I'm happy receiving his handpicked wildflowers is an understatement.  Flowers don't last long so I try to capture the moments with photographs.  They almost always look the same but I remember the details that come along with them.

During the weekend, he bought a honey dew melon.  When out in the market or supermarket, he chooses his own fruits & goodies (or badies from the parents' point of view).  I don't know how, but he manages to choose the ones that are off-season.  Aside from being insipid, they are also more expensive.  But you can't argue with a kid who wants to eat fruits. 

I prepared the melon with a nautical theme and partnered it with speck, smoked ham from Italy's Alto Adige and white pizza. 

Tomatoes Stuffed With Rice (Pomodori al Riso)

When I see these big, red, plump tomatoes, I can't stop myself from buying them to make this dish.   It's a very common one, especially in the "tavola calda" or  snack bars where you can find other salty foods for a quick & easy meal.   All the Italian mothers & grandmothers (because they know the kitchens best) should have a recipe of their own for this classic but I tasted the best one in our neighbor's house.  Well, what do you know, it's just around the corner!  She taught me how to do it and even gave me some tomatoes from their own farm.  So days after, I was in my own kitchen, recreating her wonderful stuffed tomatoes.  That was ten years ago.   I'm still hanging on to her recipe and still dodging the others who think theirs are better.  

Tomatoes Stuffed With Rice (Pomodori al Riso)

  • 4 big, plump, firm tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. parsley, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp. basil, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice (or something similar)
  • 1 clove garlic,  minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 g. capers, chopped
  • 1 cup water

Preparing the tomatoes:

Cut off the top part of the tomatoes.  Set aside.

Scoop out the pulp, seeds & juice from the tomatoes.  Set aside.  Sprinkle some salt inside the tomatoes.  Set aside.

Preparing the filling:
Put the pulp in a food processor or blender to grind.

In a small cooking pot, mix rice, tomatoes, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, 1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, capers, water, salt & pepper.  Cook over low fire for 15 minutes until just cooked through.  

Fill up tomatoes with the rice filling.  Cover with the top part of the tomatoes.   Put them on an oiled baking pan.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 45 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius.

22 February 2011

Pasta With Tuna, Capers & Tomato Sauce

This is the second pasta sauce I learned cooking when I moved to Italy more than a decade ago.  The first being the simple & basic tomato sauce.  

Fun Kiddle Meals 2

White pizza with prosciutto crudo.
Pushing a child to eat is probably one of the most challenging tasks a parent has to go through.  Who knows what goes on in their minds when they fabricate reasons why they cannot eat what you just prepared for them.  Contriving little ones.   My son has a whole bagful of excuses that are mostly implausible to the point of being hilarious.  When I was a child, I was the princess of excuses in not eating my veggies.  My father wouldn't make me stand from the dining table until I finish the 3 pieces of stringbeans of about 4 inches long that he would oblige me to eat.  If only he can see how much I eat my veggies now, he would be very proud of me.

Kids go through phases of eating something with exaggerated amounts then suddenly make full stops that when you give them the same food after about a couple of weeks, they give you a questioning look and dismiss you abruptly saying that they don't eat it.  It makes you wonder if you just dreamed the whole 2-week frenzy of singular food diet.   Sigh.  But hey, my son's gastronomical sense is actually good.   He likes to try out new things.  He eats his veggies, not all of course and his fruits.  Just lately he had been a bit lackadaisical with his food.  And that's when I thought that I should perk up that sleeping appetite of his with a little bit of fun.

Chicken parmesan burgers.

Strawberry, almond & chocolate chip frozen pop balls.
Bresaola with rucola & parmesan rolls, pomegranate, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes & olives.
Melon balls with dried cranberries. 

Frozen grapes & oranges.

21 February 2011

Pancetta Wrapped Potatoes With Gorgonzola

The combination of potatoes, gorgonzola and pancetta rank high in my list and this dish explains why in one bite.   Served hot, with the gorgonzola still oozing out from the potatoes is simply delicious. 

Pancetta Wrapped Potatoes With Gorgonzola

Makes 2 servings
  • 6 - 8 small potatoes
  • 100 g. gongonzola or any other kind of blue cheese, crumbled
  • 6 - 8 slices of pancetta
  •  extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
Preparing the potatoes:
Peel and halve potatoes.  Place them on a baking pan with the flat sides up.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius or until potatoes are soft. 

When the potatoes are cooked:
Take the potatoes out from the oven.  Put some gorgonzola on top of the flat part of a potato.  Put another potato on top of the potato with gorgonzola, making a sandwich.  Wrap one slice of pancetta around the potato sandwich.  Secure it in place with a toothpick.  Put back in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until pancetta becomes crunchy.  Serve with a rosemary twig on top if you have some.

20 February 2011

Bresaola With Rucola & Parmesan Flake Rolls

Bresaola is an air-dried salted beef that has been aged two to three months that originated from the Northern region of Italy.  The only way I eat it is with rucola, parmesan (parmigiano reggiano) flakes, lemon & extra virgin olive oil.   It's a classic.  Nine out of ten Italians eat this.  One of the first Italian dishes I had loved when I first arrived here was beef & veal carpaccio (thinly sliced raw meat) served the same way as the bresaola minus the rucola.  I stopped eating carpaccio when the mad cow disease sprung out again.  Then I found a good and much safer alternative in bresaola plus I get to enjoy it with rucola which is one salad I am crazy about. 

19 February 2011

Potatoes With Sesame Seeds, Rosemary & Paprika

This was the side dish I made for the chicken parmesan burgers.  Sautèing them with sesame seeds, rosemary & paprika was just an afterthought because I originally intended to serve them boiled and drizzled with oil & salt.  The potatoes came out nicely & tasty.   Works best with very small potatoes.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

We're really not big burger eaters but when the craving arrives, we either buy the patties done by our butcher and grill them at home or go to the nearby golden arches.  Fortunately, our 5-year old son never developed an interest in burgers there, just chicken nuggets.  The only burgers he eats are the ones we cook at home.  And that's a big relief for us.  Today, I thought of making chicken burgers which he never tried.  They are much lighter than beef so also our 1-year old can eat it.  The white meat of chicken has a very mild taste so I blended it with parmesan & oregano to lift the flavor.  I used rye bread with sunflower, flax & sesame seeds.  It was a hit especially with the kids so I guess this recipe will be used a lot from now on.  

18 February 2011

Orecchiette Pasta With Broccoli Rabe (Orecchiette Con le Cime di Rapa)

This pasta dish is the pride of the region of Puglia in Italy.  And proud they should be because it is so good & outrageously simple.  I can't believe these words are mine because I grew up evading vegetables all throughout my younger years.  The same person who had to be reprimanded over and over again for not eating the veggies.  

I only discovered the beauty of the bounties of nature in Italy.  When we were in Puglia last spring, I never got tired of eating this pasta.

Believe it or not, both my kids love this pasta too.  I guess I have to be grateful that they are vegetable & fruit eaters.  It would have been terrible if they were like me.  Now I understand my parents' frustration with my limited diet when I was young.  

The mixture of garlic & anchovies is the key factor of this pasta because it boosts the taste of the broccoli rabe. 

Orecchiette Pasta With Broccoli Rabe (Orecchiette Con le Cime di Rapa)

  • 200 g. orecchiette pasta
  • 400 g. cime di rapa (broccoli rabe), cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 4 preserved salted anchovies
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parmesan
  • 1 chili
  1. Saute' garlic & chili in a pan with hot oil.  Add anchovies when garlic starts to color.  
  2. When anchovies start to diffuse, add the broccoli rabe.  Avoid burning the garlic & anchovies by moving them constantly.  Cook on low fire.  
  3. When the broccoli has diminished and has been toasted well, turn off fire, after cooking for 30 minutes more or less.  
  4. Do not add salt because the anchovies are already salty. Throw away garlic & chili.  I also take away the stems and just leave the leaves.  Mix broccoli with cooked orrechiette pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

When still fresh, it overflows in the pan.  When cooked, only a tenth of the original volume remains.

17 February 2011

Strawberry, Almond & Chocolate Chip Frozen Pop Balls

I was originally making these balls at room temperature but since I was struggling in not making a mess in dipping the balls in the chocolate, I decided to freeze them fast so that the balls don't slide out from the sticks.  After dipping one ball in the chocolate, I looked at it and thought that maybe I can make frozen pops instead. 

Without even saying a word, my son went bonkers when I pulled them out from the freezer.  Imagine that, frozen chocolate pops filled with strawberries & chocolate chips!  It was everything he wanted literally all rolled into one.  

You can adjust all the ingredients according to your taste & to the thickness it needs to retain the round shape.

Strawberry, Almond & Chocolate Chip Frozen Pop Balls

Makes abut 12 frozen pops
  • 200 g. strawberries, chopped as finely as you can
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp. strawberry jam
  • 2 tbsp. ground almonds (I used the food processor to grind them)
  • chocolate for melting
  • 12 sticks
  • 3 tbsp. chocolate chips
Preparing the mixture:
Mix strawberries, strawberry jam, cocoa powder, ground almonds & chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.  Adjust the amount of ingredients according to your taste & to the compactness of the mixture. 

Making the pops:
Get a spoonful of mixture.  With the use of two spoons, transfer alternately the mixture from one to the other until you form a compact round shape.  Put them on a plate or pan covered with wax paper.  When all the balls are done, insert the sticks.  Put in the freezer.  After about 10 minutes, check if the sticks are still in place.  Fix them in place if they are not straight.  Freeze for another 20 minutes.

Melting the chocolate:
While waiting for the pops to freeze, melt the chocolate in the microwave at the defrost position.  Alternatively, you can also melt the chocolate in a bain marie but it takes longer.  Set aside until balls are ready to be dipped.

Finalizing the frozen pops:
Take out the frozen pops from the freezer.  Dip each one in the melted chocolate.  Shake lightly & twirl around to send away the excess chocolate.  You can also decorate them with candy sprinkles to make them more festive.  But be sure to be very quick because the chocolate dip hardens very fast because of the freezing temperature of the balls.  Serve or put them back in the freezer.