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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. 

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. 

Lentils With Red Mullet and The Town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio

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.  

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
  1. Slice the fish to bite sizes. 
  2. Sprinkle salt & pepper.  
  3. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime.  The acid of the juice of the lime will "cook" the fish.  Leave it for about an hour.  
  4. Transfer the fish to a serving plate. Discard old lime juice.  
  5. Sprinkle salt & pepper again.  
  6. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime.  
  7. Add the lime zest, grated ginger & pomegranate seeds.  
  8. Scatter minced parsley leaves.  Drizzle with extra 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.

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.  

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 grams 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 the potatoes.  Place them on a baking pan with the flat sides up.  Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until the 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 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. 

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 grams strawberries, chopped as finely as you can
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds (I used the food processor to grind them)
  • chocolate for melting
  • 12 sticks
  • 3 tablespoons 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. 

Simple Tomato Sauce

Contrary to my 5-year old, I have problems in stopping my 1-year old from eating!  She had long abandoned the baby food even before her pediatrician officially declared that she can eat anything she wants when she turned one.  She makes it a point of eating all the courses of adult food that she sees on the table.  Even if she has been given the green light to munch on anything, I still refrain from giving her food that can get quite heavy for her age.

Fun Kiddle Meals

Burger patties shaped into a car. 

Banana slices on dark chocolate sauce.
My 5- year old son can be trying at times at the table.  He has a lot of likes (usually the ones that we don't allow) and dislikes (usually the healthy ones). I guess this is a very common problem among kids his age.

He's very suspicious of white food because it means cheese.  The only cheese he would allow cooked with his food is parmigiano (parmesan).  In fact, one pasta dish that never fails to satisfy him is the very simple white pasta with parmigiano & extra virgin olive oil.  I'm grateful for that because this dish is brimming with healthy ingredients.

One thing I like about Italian schools is that they are very health conscious.  For instance, with the kindergartens, they tell the parents what snacks the kids should take to school at the beginning of the scholastic year.  Juices, chocolates and all those yummy treats are not allowed of course.  At my first encounter of the menu at the beginning of my son's kindergarten years, I was astounded that they put bread with extra virgin olive oil & litlle salt as one of the snacks to take .  With water as the only drink they allow, how bland can that be for a toddler?  But I was wrong.  It became one of my son's favorite snacks at home. He also likes plain bread drizzled with lemon & sprinkled with white sugar.  It was also his father's favorite breakfast in Sicily when he was young.  

Lately he had been becoming difficult with his meals.  Maybe because I ask him what he wants instead of just announcing what I am cooking.  I wonder if perhaps that's where I went wrong.  Nonetheless, I concocted a way to make his eating time more fun than usual.  I sometimes go out of my way preparing his dishes with a funny flair.   Alas, he eats!  

Bananas on dark chocolate sauce with amarena cherries.
Skewered fruits with caramel sauce.
Chocolate & banana crepe.
Chocolate mousse in a chocolate covered wafer bowl. 
Bottled peaches with pear sauce.
Boiled potatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil & grilled chicken fillet.
The sun version of the bottled peaches with pear sauce.
I onced joked that I would put his Lego in his dinner plate.  I did and he was completely taken off-guard when he saw one on his plate.  Fried eggs with boiled white rice & ketchup.
Bottled peaches with pomegranate.
Bottled peaches, kiwi & pomegranate.
Salami, parmigiano, tomato & lettuce.
Vanilla ice cream with mixed berry sauce.
Bruschetta with pate' d'olive & artichoke, halved cherry tomatoes & black olives.
Choo-choo train made of salsiccia (sausage), grilled potatoes & black olives.

Mini burgers.
Grilled chicken & blood orange salad. 
Ice cream with amarena sauce, caramelized bananas & green tea chocolate.
Perch fillet cooked in white wine, olives & sundried tomatoes, grilled polenta & broccoli with teriyaki sauce.