30 October 2011

Spaghetti con Moscardini (Musky Octopus)


Small tentacles here, there and everywhere.  Because my son, Riccardo loves this pasta, I prepare it.  Because he eats with enthusiastic enjoyment, I prepare it.  Because Sofia copies him in eating it, I prepare it.  But because I don't like tentacles, I wish I was not preparing it.   Can you imagine my uneasiness in cleaning so many little octopuses?   But I am a mother so I will just shut up. 

28 October 2011

Shrimp Cooked in Red Wine and San Gregorio da Sassola


It is the time of the year when you never wear the correct clothes.  It's either you're too hot in a jacket or too cold in a shirt.  The weather had been fantastic lately (until the disastrous storm in The Cinque Terre area) and the sun had been shining the strongest on weekends.  It is autumn and some people are already bundled up like Eskimos and some are still prancing around in their tropical island attire.   I secretly think that the ones bundled in heavy clothes have already switched their wardrobes from summer to winter while the ones with the light garb have yet to do this arduous work.   I already did mine.  It's my least favorite part of the changing seasons.  

24 October 2011

Verdure in Padella (Mixed Vegetables)


Vegetables cooked in a saucepan is the literal translation of verdure in padella.  I was asked to post more Italian vegetable dishes so here is an example of a very simple and classic cooked vegetables.  The vegetables vary according to season and of course, whatever you have available in the kitchen.  No rules, really.  Just dump those beautiful, fresh veggies you have and cook away.


Most vegetable shops sell packs of mixed diced vegetables for cooking in a saucepan, but just a tad more expensive.   I buy them voluntarily because you just rinse them in running water, dump them in the saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and forget about them for the next half an hour.  End result is a very healthy and delicious vegetable dish that can be a side dish to practically anything.


I have been seeing these packages of mixed diced vegetables but never gave them a second look because I like  selecting & chopping my own veggies.   I should have given them a chance before because they really are practical & easy to cook.  No leftover raw veggies & no dicing, which takes so much time. 


It's the farmer/vegetable seller herself who told me to just put all the diced vegetables that already include onions & tomatoes into a saucepan with extra virgin oil and cook for about half an hour.  It's one of the simplest and best advice I got in cooking.  It's kid friendly too.  My two vegetable fussy eaters ate them with only a slight noise of complaints.   

Verdure in Padella (Mixed Vegetables)

Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 2 zucchini. diced leaving the skin on
  • 4 - 5 medium tomatoes (I used datterini tomatoes which are small, about 8 pcs.), quartered
  • 1 big white onion, sliced
  • 300 g. fagioli corallo or Italian flat beans, chopped, the same size as the other vegetables
  • 2 big potatoes, diced
  • 200 g. squash, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup or 250 ml. water
  1. Warm up a big saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.  
  2. Put all the vegetables in the saucepan plus the water.
  3. Cook for about half an hour or until vegetables are cooked through.  Stir once in a while to avoid sticking to the pan.  
  4. Season with salt & pepper. 






22 October 2011

Pickled Radishes


Like what I said, anything touched with vinegar is delicious to me.  And I am presently in a vinegary food binge.  I recently cooked the salt & vinegar potato chips and it fixed my craving (for now) for those very good French potato chips.  Then came the avocado, tomato & spring onion salad which was so good with the grilled salmon that I bought some more avocado and salmon soon after for an encore. 


Here is a discovery from Jun Belen's Jun-blog (who in turn got it from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home) that takes almost no effort in making but is lipsmacking good.  The sweetness & sourness of the pickling agent is just perfect.  From the original recipe, I had to add a pinch of salt & a dash of pepper.   I felt like I had to break the sweetness & the sourness a bit.  That is how I would like my pickled radishes to taste like.  It can be different for you so the salt & pepper are of course, optional. 


I prepared these pickles much in advance.  When I tried them a few hours after preparation, something like 3 hours, the radishes already caught the taste of the pickling liquid.  But then, when I had them again the following day, the radishes completely absorbed the liquid.   They were strong and delicious.   I was amazed at how the vinegar took the color of the skin of the radish and in turn made everything red. 

I finished the radishes in no time but the pickling liquid remained.  The penny pincher in me didn't want to throw out the liquid so I did another batch of radishes using the same pickling agent.   They didn't taste as good as the first batch.  In fact, even the day after, they still didn't catch the full taste like they should.  So based on my little experience, you can't recycle the pickling liquid.  Maybe you already know that.  I didn't. 



Pickled Radishes

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar (I substituted it with white wine vinegar.)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup red radishes, washed, trimmed, thinly sliced or quartered
  • salt & pepper (I added these on my own.)
 Directions:
  1. Combine vinegar, sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  
  2. Remove from the fire and let cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator.
  3. Put the radishes in a canning jar or other storage container and pour the pickling liquid over them.   Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  
  4. The radishes absorbed the vinegar mixture after a few hours in the pickling liquid.   I enjoyed them better the day after.
 
 
 
 
 
  1.  

21 October 2011

Grilled Shrimp with Tamarind Sauce


I was in the kitchen alternating between grilling the shrimps and cooking the tamarind sauce when I saw my blog's traffic viewing counter turn 100,000.  I had been watching it go up the whole morning.  As apprehensive as I was, I had been trying to do all things together to keep my mind off the numbers for a while.  Just seeing so many 9s already gave me an odd sensation of disbelief.  Then when I saw the magical number, it gave me a sense of completion.  I was more than happy.   It's like time stopped when I was staring at the screen.  Jubilance can give strange reactions sometimes.  You see, it is not just a number to me.  I see it as a number of times I have opened my kitchen to anyone who knocked, looked in and checked what I was cooking.  One hundred thousand times, I opened my door to you and during those times you bid me goodbye and you came back over and over again.  Thank you for holding that interest and visiting my kitchen. 

18 October 2011

Avocado, Tomato & Spring Onion Salad


I am the last person on earth who would buy anything heart-shaped, and even red for that matter.  I am not a Valentine nemesis.  I am just not into them.  I might consider pastel colored hearts made of wood.  A country-style look is always irresistibly cute.  So, I surprised myself when I grabbed this red heart-shaped bowl from the shop.  I didn't even think twice about buying it.  I think I am getting old.  All my life I have turned my back on red hearts and now reaching my 4th decade, I was to be found in a shop holding the only thing I wouldn't even think of looking at.  A red heart-shaped bowl.  P.S.  I find it beautiful. 


The last time we had a family trip to the supermarket, Riccardo was insistent that I get some avocados.  The avocados didn't look so great so I explained it to a disappointed 6-year old.  "Next time I find good ones, I'll buy you some", I promised.  I wondered how he suddenly liked avocados when the last time I prepared it, I remembered that he negated all my proddings for a little taste.  He didn't like it and that was more than a year ago.  Children.  I think I need a crash course on effective parenting.


I love avocados but there is only one recipe I know.  Mashed and mixed with milk & sugar.  I didn't feel like being limited again to the singular recipe I grew up with.  I wanted something salty this time and I needed to come up with a side dish for the salmon I was grilling.  Checking out the meager contents of my vegetable drawer, I was able to take out some datterini tomatoes & spring onions.  That should do.  Drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar & balsamic vinegar flavored with raspberries sealed this salad with a smack in the lips.  Buonissima!

We enjoyed this with the grilled salmon.  From now on, I will be making this salad often and I would like to pair it with other kinds of food.   If ever you try it as a side dish to something else, let me know.  Thanks!



Avocado, Tomato & Spring Onion Salad

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 2 avocados, peeled, stoned & diced
  • 1 sprig spring onion, chopped or julienned
  • 100 g. daterini tomatoes, halved
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar flavored with raspberries (Or any vinegar really like white wine, red wine, apple cider.  I added this vinegar to make the vinaigrette more sour.  If you are fine with just the balsamic vinegar, you can omit this.)
  • salt
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  
  2. Drizzle with vinegar & sprinkle with salt.  
  3. Serve alone or as a side dish.  It went well with grilled salmon.









17 October 2011

Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, Terracina and Fondi


I love anything with vinegar in it.  Much to my husband's dismay, who absolutely hates the smell of vinegar, he has to live with it.  He married me so he also married my vinegar side.   He doesn't really like anything pungent so I can't toss back to him the Tsk! Tsk! look he sends my way when there's a whif of anything particularly acidically strong in the kitchen. 

Lately, I had been into vinegary food.  It's a phase I am going through so he just has to keep the kitchen windows open all the time and wear a thicker sweater for now.

Pomegranate & Lemon Spritzer


At six o'clock on the dot, an unsure little voice came out from the dimly lit corridor.  I'm awake.  I can't sleep anymore.  I looked outside through the window and saw that it was still pitch dark.   It is Sunday morning.   We were hoping to gain an hour of two of more sleep today.  I cajoled my son to go back to bed but he was insistent.  He was awake and he refused to go back to bed.  How come he never wakes up this early when it's a school day?  He watched TV at the other end of the house while he waited for his Papi to prepare his breakfast.  I noticed that my husband closed the door of the kids' room so that our daughter remains undisturbed. If she wakes up too, any hope of prolonging our sleep will be gone. 


I heard a faint crying then it became insistent.  Unbelievable.  Child number 2 is also awake at 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning.  What luck.  It's going to a long day today.


I had been thinking of making this spritzer for some time but I kept on getting sidetracked by other recipes.   Besides, it's not so easy to find pomegranates in the shops.   When I finally found some, I didn't have a reason anymore not to do it. 


When my son drank it for the first time, he gulped down about half a liter in one sitting.  He almost didn't leave enough for the rest of us. He was captivated by it.   We loved it too.  No one drinks soda pops anymore when I make this.  It's spritzy like a soda but 100 times healthier. 


After the calamansi juice with mint, this second drink gave the soda pops at home a stiffer competition.  That makes me really happy.  What parent doesn't want to take away all the Cokes & Pepsis from their kids' clutches?  I recently made 4 liters of this spritzer and they disappeared so fast.  The bottle of soda?  Still full in the fridge. 

This drink is such a runaway success that we decided that we should have our own supply of pomegranates.  We are now on the lookout for a pomegranate tree (or maybe trees) to plant in our garden. I can't wait to see them dangling from the branches.  Patience my dear.


I squeezed the last pomegranates today and made some potato chips.  My hours of work in the kitchen were consumed in a matter of minutes.   I didn't mind it because it was such a lovely sight to see both kids enjoying the food & drink that I prepared for them. 



Pomegranate & Lemon Spritzer

Ingredients:
  • 3 big pomegranates
  • 1 liter sparkling water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a lot of ice
  • 2 lemons + 1/2 for decoration
  • mint leaves (optional)
Directions:
  1. Melt the sugar with a little bit of sparkling water in a cup or glass.  
  2. Put the water in a pitcher.  Squeeze the lemons & pomegranates through a sieve. 
  3. Add the melted sugar mixture, mint, chopped pieces of lemon & ice. 


14 October 2011

Potato & Calamari Salad with Kiwi & Lime


It took me some time to get used to this salad.   I usually can't dodge it because it's always a part of the antipasto freddo (cold appetizer) platter in the restaurants.  I love everything but this one.  It is very good, don't get me wrong.  What invokes this refusal is the sight of the chopped tentacles.    I really don't find that inviting.  Then it all changed when I was once served this dish without the tentacles.  I was relieved and for the first time, I enjoyed it because I was spared the job of segregating.  And what do you know, it was actually more than good.

11 October 2011

Ciriole with Pistachios of Bronte, Sword Fish & Tomatoes


I had been using a considerable amount of pistachios from Bronte, Sicily lately to the point of being excessive.  Just for the bread swirls of my kids, my supply of ground pistachios was almost depleted.  It's a good thing my mother-in-law was in Sicily recently and replenished my dwindling supply.  When I was there last month, I brought home all sorts of pistachio products from Bronte that I could find.  Pesto di pistacchio, crema di pistacchio (cream), pistacchio granulato (ground) & croccantini di pistacchio (pistachio brittles).  I was a traveling advertisement of the town. 

I got this recipe from Profumo di Sicilia and curiosity got the better of me why the pistachios from Bronte are referred to as the l'oro verde (the green gold).   They are considered one of the best, well perhaps the best pistachios in the world as evidenced by their gastronomical price (are they serious?) which I learned from David Lebovitz's pistachio gelato recipe where he wrote extensively about these prized pistachios from a small town in Sicily.  

I feel guilty.  I had been sprinkling them everywhere without limit.  Maybe now, I will use these l'oro verde sparingly.   They are really good.  I first tried them in a pistachio gelato of a Sicilian gelateria in Rome and it was the first time I encountered pistachios that can actually be tasted.  They are usually so subtle that you can just imagine the taste.  I find it awkward when, after taking a few spoonfuls of pistachio ice cream, my eating buddy elbows me conspiratorially remarking how good pistachio ice creams are.  What pistachios?  I don't even know how they really taste like.  I just know that they are green.  Bronte pistachios changed this whole perspective because these very green nuts are nutty, flavorful and the best I've tasted.  My love for Bronte pistachios was established. Now we're talking pistachios.


Do you know that the pistachio plants have to be planted in groups of 8 females & 1 male?  The male plants have to be windward while the females are downwind so that the pollen from the male plants can be transported by the wind to the pistils of the female plants.  I had to share that.  It's quite interesting.

When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be very good.  I couldn't wait to try it.   I was not disappointed.  It's a scrumptious dish that puts together the Mediterranean flavors.  If you want something different, try it.  It's worth your time & effort.  I think you will agree with me.  It won't disappoint you either. 

There are some changes I did from the original recipe:  I replaced the parsley with thyme.  Instead of sparkling white wine, I used a normal one.  I augmented the amount of pistachios from 4 tbsp. to 6 and I doubled the amount of tomatoes.  Lastly, I used ciriole pasta instead of fresh chitarra although I would definitely use chitarra the next time I cook it.




Ciriole with Pistachios of Bronte, Sword Fish & Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 400 grams ciriole (or any slightly thick long pasta like chitarra)
  • 250 grams sword fish, diced
  • 150 grams datterini tomatoes (or grape or cherry tomatoes), halved
  • 6 tablespoons ground pistachios
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Fresh thyme
Directions:
  1. Boil water in a pot.  When it boils, add the salt.  Put the pasta and cook according to the cooking time suggested in the box. 
  2. Meantime, over medium heat, sautè the garlic in a big saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.  When golden, discard it.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add the sword fish and put up the flame.  When they start to color, add the white wine, maintaining the high flame.  Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes a bit thick.  Add the thyme and half of the pistachios.
  5. Mix in the cooked pasta.  Toss well with the sauce.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle the remaining pistachios. 







10 October 2011

Sword Fish & Vegetable Skewers



How many times did I write that to have vibrant natural colors in my food matters a lot?   As I was preparing these skewers, I felt like summer was still here to stay.  It was a desperate attempt to keep it a while longer, even if I can feel that the temperature has already dropped.  The weather had been so erratic.  The morning had opened up with a promise of a beautiful day but then it became windy, cold, dreary, gray and just plain ugly.   We were cooped indoors.  


As soon as I watched Monica Bianchessi cooking her spiedini di sogliola (sole fish skewers) a few days ago, I knew I would be doing it too.  And this is the day.  I was aware that I was actually a season late, being a perfect summer plate.  But then she featured it as a dish for kids, cooked on a saucepan.  I added the capsicum & grape tomatoes from her original recipe to add more colors.  They are also excellent when grilled.   Her fish rolls are stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley & capers.  I couldn't follow the original recipe of the fish rolls because I didn't have all the ingredients.  Sole was replaced by sword fish, parsley was supplanted by basil and I also added some sundried tomatoes to make them full-flavoured. 


The truth is, my parsley plants never recuperated from too much snipping the past months.  It's a perrenial so they should still spew out some leaves later on.  I'm crossing my fingers that they survive the cold season.  The basil, however is an annual, so my plants are taking out the last leaves before they die down.   That herb epitomizes summer.  The scent & taste exudes sunshine and freshness.   They are slowly pulling back along with the season they came with.   Which reminds me.  I should start freezing them!  They are so scarce in winter.

Summer fruit slices and a sauce of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salt & herbs for grilled food that I recently learned in Sicily.  




















According to Monica, you don't cook the vegetables too long, cooking them at same time as you cook the fish, leaving them crunchy and I think I prefer them that way.   Since she didn't put capsicum in her skewers, she didn't have the same problem I did.  Figures, she's a chef, I am not.  I left the yellow peppers slightly cooked, with the crunch as you chew them.   I loved the rest of the ingredients however, especially the zucchini, cooked and raw.  And leaving the fish for last, they were divine.  Absolutely.  Really.  My husband graded it dieci e lode (top marks).  


A few days ago, we decided to have our last outdoor summer barbecue.  We were able to time it perfectly right before the temperature started dropping.   Grilled meat & vegetables, bruschette, fresh fruit, cold drinks..... all eaten under the olive trees.  We will have to wait for a few months until we set the table in that spot again.

We are packing up.  Party time is over.  I am plodding through a gruelling work of season-changing in the closets this week.  Our chilled bodies are calling out for longer & thicker clothes.   The shorts, sandals & tank tops are going, to be replaced by sweaters & pants.  Beiges & whites will be tucked away while the blacks & grays come out again. 


And I will leave you this post as a last salute to summer.  After we have imbibed the beauty and warmth of this season, let's move on to the next step.  I'm ready for autumn.

What is grilling without some tomato bruschette & corn?


Fish & Vegetable Skewers

Ingredients:
Serves 4 (Yields 8 big skewers)

  • 250 g. sword fish fillet (or any other white fish)
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 3 - 4 medium zucchini
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 yellow capsicum, diced
  • a big handful of basil
  • 16 grape tomatoes
  • about 1 cup breadcrumbs  



  1. Cut off both ends of zucchini.  Discard.  Slice thinly with a vegetable slicer.  Put them in a bowl.  Mix with salt, thyme & extra virgin olive oil.  Mix gently with your hands until all the slices are completely covered with the condiments.  Prepare about 16 rolls.  Get 2 thin slices of zucchini.  Roll together.  Set aside.
  2. Rinse capers under the tap.  Squeeze lightly while doing this.  Take away excess water with a kitchen paper towel.  Chop sundried tomatoes & capers together.  Set aside.
  3. Make sure your fish fillet are sliced thinly & about 8 cm. (3 in.) wide. The length should just be enough to close the roll, about 12 cm. (5 in.).  
  4. Lay the fish flat on a plate.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper.  Sprinkle a generous amount of breadcrumbs.  Distribute the chopped capers & sundried tomatoes.  Put one basil leaf.  Roll.  Repeat until you finish all the fish.  Allot 3 rolls per skewer.  
  5. Prepare the skewers.   Put the vegetables & fish in any order. 
  6. Warm up a stove-top griddle or thick bottomed non-stick pan.  Drizzle some oil and wipe off excess with a kitchen paper towel.  Sprinkle salt on the griddle.  When it's warm, put the skewers.  Cook both sides.   Fish should get a beautiful golden color while the vegetables can retain a slightly crunchy consistency. 
  7. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.  Serve warm with the fresh zucchini salad that remained. 




07 October 2011

Bread Swirls (Pinwheel Sandwiches) with Honey, Pistachios & Chocolate


These bread swirls or pinwheel sandwiches caused a lot of excitement with the kids. There is no other kind of food that gives me pleasure in creating than the ones that are meant for the little ones. Especially when I am able to divert them away from the commercial snacks. Lately, as I had been reading the ingredients of the biscuits & snacks at the supermarkets, I noticed so much E-number additives in every product. Even the simplest biscuits contain more chemical additives than natural ones. 

05 October 2011

Risotto alla Zucca (Squash Risotto)



Summer has gone by so fast.  One minute, I couldn't wait for the season to finish then it just went zooming by so fast that I didn't even realize it.  Did we even pass September?   It played hide & seek with me.   It's already October.... and it's time for some squash.