31 July 2011

Calaramata with Fresh Tuna, Fennel & Tomatoes


We had something very similar in a Sicilian restaurant the other night.   Only the pasta used was pappardele.  As soon as I tried it, I was itching to recreate it at home.   As luck would have it, I chanced upon a promotion of fresh tuna at the supermarket.  With the taste still fresh in my memory, I hurried home to prepare the tuna pasta sauce.  I didn't have any pappardelle at home so my closest candidate was calamarata.  Originally from the Campana region of Italy (where Naples is), it is reminiscent of calamari rings and for that it got its name.   It goes well with tomato-based seafood sauce.  

I liked the version I did.   It's very similar to the one that we had at the restaurant but not exactly the same.   I can imagine the chef who cooked it at the restaurant saying, "Tsk!  Tsk!  Nice try, but you didn't get it, did you?"  What I think is that I put more fresh tuna than the restaurant & less tomato sauce when they did the contrary.  The fennel seeds were unmistakably there.   I tried to dissect the taste in my mouth and inconspicuously gave a visual analysis to understand the ingredients.  Now that just sounds exactly what someone would do with a scientific experiment.  The only thing missing is taking out a miscroscope.  

Whatever the result was, whether it's similar or totally different from what I originally tasted, the important thing is that my whole family loved their meal.  That is what cooking is all about anyway.   So I won't scratch this one out because I didn't reach my goal.   I'm adding it instead to the list of recipes because it is worth keeping and redoing.

 
 

Calaramata with Fresh Tuna, Fennel & Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 400 grams calamarata (or other kinds of short pasta)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • 400 grams fresh tuna, diced
  • Salt 
  • Pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar & pestle
  • 400 grams cannned tomatoes
  • Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Directions:
  1. Boil some water in a pot for the pasta.  When it boils, add the salt.  Cook according to the number of minutes suggested in the package.
  2. Meantime, over medium heat, sautè the onions in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.    
  3. Add the tuna. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.  
  4. Add the crushed fennel seeds. Take away half of the tuna. Set aside.   Crush the remaining tuna in the saucepan with a fork.   
  5. Add the tomato sauce. Cook for half an hour. If the sauce is drying up, ladle some water from the pot you are boiling for the pasta.  
  6. Put back the other half of tuna. Adjust the salt & pepper.   Cook for another 5 minutes.  
  7. Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce.  Add the parsley.   Cook together for a couple of minutes.  
  8. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.




29 July 2011

Chicken Corn Chowder


Suddenly it's cold..... in the middle of summer, when it's supposed to hit the highest in the thermometer.   It feels strange taking out the sweaters.   Just when I am starting to enjoy this cool summer weather, the heat is forecasted to return and reign again at the beginning of August.  Bahh! 

26 July 2011

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil (Bruschetta al Pomodoro)


Grilling in summer is best accompanied with the basic bruschetta al pomodoro.   Having this to start the meal can be dangerously good that you tend to eat too much and end up not having much space anymore for the rest of the courses.  

Caramelized Rum Bananas with Amaretti Vanilla Yogurt



Summer calls for cold desserts.  There is always gelato to refresh us but sometimes, a simple dessert like this can end our meals well.  This dessert didn't take me more than 15 minutes to prepare.  The bananas didn't need too much cooking so it can be done even during the hottest days.  It's very refreshing when you eat it after it cools in the fridge.

When I was preparing this, I was regretting why I was making it in the first place.  I forgot that my husband evades amaretti & bananas as much as he can, whereas I am not a "hurray, it's yogurt person" because of its proximity to milk.   To top it all, the kids don't like their fruit cooked.  This is one dessert wasted.  Just the same, I continued.

25 July 2011

Marinated Fresh Anchovies (Alici Marinate)


When fresh anchovies are marinated this way, I can eat my way throughout the bowl in no time.  If you are into raw fish cooked with the acidity of vinegar or lemon..... then get your own bowl because we might fight over this.  


When my mom came to visit us, my mother-in-law asked her what food she would like to be prepared, she said alici marinate without skipping a beat. The day after, my mother-in-law delivered a bowl that was reasonably big. My mom & I finished the whole bowl together in an embarrassing speed. I asked shyly for another batch and again, the following day, we were given a much bigger container. We wiped the container clean immediately until our lips became swollen from too much acidity.  I was too embarrassed to ask for a third batch on the third day. I mean, no one can possibly eat all those anchovies that fast.... except me & mom!  So I asked how to prepare it instead.  That way, no one would know how much anchovies we were eating in the afternoons. 

It's very easy to prepare. The fresh anchovies are even available already cleaned & opened in all fish shops so there was no need to do the big work.  You just have to mix & wait. What I like about this recipe is that you don't taste the unpleasant fishy taste.  I found out that she throws away the vinegar that cooked the fish. That is fundamental because you want to taste the freshness of the fish with the acidity of the vinegar & lemon, without the fish residue dominating your taste buds.



Marinated Fresh Anchovies (Alici Marinate)

Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 400 grams fresh anchovies, cleaned, scaled & opened
  • 1 lemon
  • white wine vinegar
  • salt  
  • pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Directions:
  1. Layer the anchovies in a bowl with a flat bottom.  Marinate them in vinegar, salt & pepper mixture, making sure that the fish are completely submerged in the marinade. Leave them for a couple of hours or until the fish changes from transparent to whitish.
  2. Drain the fish.  Discard the marinade.
  3. In a new flat-bottomed bowl or a large serving plate, layer the fish.  Squeeze some lemon juice on every layer, sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley & garlic (optional).
  4. Pour extra virgin olive oil on the fish, making sure that they are completely covered.  Refrigerate before serving
  5.  This dish is good only until the following day so don't keep it too long.  



22 July 2011

Thai Chicken with Basil


I always buy chicken fillet when I have no idea what to cook.  It's the easiest meat to blend flavors with, cooks fast and most importantly, it doesn't have so much fat.  I also keep a pack or two in the freezer for emergency meals, targeting those days when I don't have anything to cook and we're too lazy to go out & buy something.  I just toss the chicken in the griddle for grilling, chop some tomatoes or oranges & fresh herbs from the garden for a bowl of salad & voila!  We have a meal on the table.

Granita al Limone


Have you ever been asked what you have for breakfast when you meet people who think you are an interesting new specimen coming from a country other than theirs? Italians are taken aback when I answer fried rice with something salty like dried fish or cured meat. From an exclusively sweet-breakfast country, this is more than surprising. But after 12 years in this country, I gave up all the thoughts of salty breakfast.  I have Italianized my breakfast too, aside from my other habits. Yes, I am now a sweet-breakfast-eater like all the rest.

Aubergine Rolls with Ricotta & Speck


The strong smell of tomatoes mixed with aubergines, basil & ricotta was wafting throughout the house.  "The house smells incredibly good," my husband greeted me as he entered the house.  I knew he would say that because the combination of ingredients of the aubergine rolls is his favorite.   This was his dinner, while the kids and I would be having fish with aubergine salad.  Like me, both kids have a particular liking of aged cheese.  Fresh cheese never attracted me but I am giving myself a chance to try out this dish.  Maybe I can eat a roll or two as my hundredth approach to my initiation to eating ricotta.

20 July 2011

Tapioca & Mangoes with Almond Milk


I was meaning to mix my pot of tapioca with coconut milk but I realized that I bought the wrong can.  I had instead, a can of coconut pulp in water in my hands.   No, that won't work.  And it's even too late to go out now.  I hate it when this happens.  You are already halfway through when you realize that there's an ingredient missing that is utterly impossible to procure.   Not only does it impede the finalization stage but you are also stuck with a half-done dish in the kitchen. 

Mustard & Honey Salmon with Fennel


Everyday, meat.  I am getting fed up and my body is shouting "fish"!  I went on a quick trip to the supermarket to get some codfish or perch fillet to make a simple dinner of pan baked fish, something that doesn't require much effort and time.  Of course, I got diverted when I saw the beautiful Norwegian salmon fillets. The price was good too.  I quickly ditched the pan baked fish idea and got lost in my thoughts thinking of how I will cook the salmon.   Think, think, think.

15 July 2011

Involtini di Pesce Spada (Swordfish Rolls)


This is the one.  No, this is not the real one because the fish is different.  Let me start again before I get lost in my thoughts.  The only dish that makes my world stop is "sarde a beccafico", a Sicilian dish of sweet & sour sardine rolls filled with breadcrumbs, raisins & pine nuts and wrapped with bay leaves. It's explosive with tastes which is typical of the Sicilian cuisine.  Now what does it have to do with the swordfish rolls?  The recipe is exactly the same except that I used swordfish instead of the sardines.

14 July 2011

Polpettine al Sugo (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)


Today, I veered towards a more familiar recipe for lunch.  Polpettine al sugo or meatballs in tomato sauce is a classic Italian main dish.  There are various ways to prepare it, like everything else anyway.  The one I am using comes from my mother-in-law who got it from her mom and probably got it from her mom too and the chain goes on.  So this recipe has been floating around the family's dinner table for decades.  Now that it's on my dinner table, it's a relief to see that both kids love it enough to have repeats for the next meal too.  That seals my hope that they will keep this recipe for the continuation of the chain.

13 July 2011

Gemelli with Asparagus & Speck


After a long vacation, one job that makes me drag my feet heavily around the house is going back to normality.   That means sending the washing machine to endless cycles, ironing mountains of clothes, putting the things back in their original places, changing the sheets on all the beds and filling up the cupboards & refrigerator with food again.   So, after three days here I am in front of the TV, passively watching this sort of fish cartoons with my one-year old while I am reacquainting myself with the couch and writing this.