Tag Archives: italian cooking

An All-Time Favorite – The Crostata

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La Crostata is one of those desserts that is found everywhere in Italy!  When we last visited, it was present at every breakfast buffet we visited.  It is so simple, but yet so tasty.  I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t like it, do you?

My mom is a wonderful baker and all her Italian cakes are very genuine – no extra fluff – just pure goodness and made with everyday ingredients.  I, on the other hand, have a love-hate relationship with cakes.  I don’t like dealing with dough because, according to Mom, you have to feel the dough to know if there is enough flour or you need to add more!  I, obviously, don’t have the “feel” of the dough and end up usually getting frustrated.  But I decided to attempt my luck with this simple crostata.  My mom gave me her directions, but always looking for an easier way, I decided to “you tube” it!  They made it look so easy – just knead, chill, and roll it out with a rolling pin.  On YouTube, it rolled out perfectly and they were able to put it into the baking pan so easily.  “I can do that”, I thought.  So I made my dough without difficulty (for once!), chilled it, and took it out after about 45 minutes.  I began to roll it out with a rolling pin…and oh what a mess!  It kept sticking to the rolling pin and I wasn’t getting anywhere!  So, reluctantly, I decided to go back to Mom’s way of taking the dough and working it into the pan with your fingers.  I covered the whole pan and the sides and made it look really pretty!  And ….best of all, it was really easy!  I have to admit it, but Mom was right!  I guess Mom is always right 🙂  Maybe my daughters will agree!!

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Crostata di Marmelata

1 cube butter, cut up

1 cup flour

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Dash of vanilla

1/2 jar jam

Mix altogether and form a dough ball.  Cut off a little bit for the criss cross decorations on top. 

Lay the rest out in a buttered pan with your fingers.

Spread the jam on top.

Make criss-cross decorations with the remainder of the dough.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until golden.

Got any Chianti Lying Around?

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If you were good and didn’t drink the whole bottle of Chianti at your last sitting, you might want to use the leftovers to make these Chianti Braised Short Ribs! They are so tender and delicious…and the Chianti makes it just perfect for a cold wintry night’s dinner. You need some time to prepare this, so it’s best to make it when you are stuck at home waiting for the rain or snow to subside…

Chianti Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4

3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs – your butcher and remove the
bones if they don’t have boneless ones readily
available.
Virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Chianti wine
1 32oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
2 tsp. chopped rosemary
Carrots cut into large chunks
Mushrooms cut into quarters
Salt & pepper to taste

Dry the short ribs and season with salt and pepper.
Sear the short ribs in olive oil until they are brown on all sides.

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Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the Chianti, rosemary, broth and tomatoes to the pan and reduce a bit.

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Return the short ribs to the pan and cover the pan. Simmer for about 2 hours.
Add the carrots and mushrooms to the pan, and continue cooking for another hour or so until the carrots and beef are tender.

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This is delicious on it’s own, or can be served over rice or polenta.

Cooking with Designer Mushrooms

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One can always find some new and interesting foods at Costco..and it’s good to grab them once you see them as they may not be available when you return. Therefore, when I saw the “specialty pack” of fresh mushrooms grown by Mycopia, I knew I had to get them for a new dining experiment! The mushrooms included in the pack were: Nebrodini Bianchi, Velvet Pioppini, and Forest Nameko.

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As in all my cooking experiments, I always retreat back to my comfort zone: Italian cooking!

So I heated some olive oil and sauteed some garlic. Once the garlic was golden, I added the mushrooms and continued to saute until they became tender. I added some cooked and sliced Italian sausage. Towards the end, I added some white wine and reduced it a bit, and finished it with some salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley.

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I served this concoction over some polenta and sprinkled the finished product with some grated Parmesan cheese. Voila!

Poor Man’s Spaghetti

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Last night, I made Spaghetti Poveri (or Poor Man’s Spaghetti) for dinner and it was DELICIOUS! I’m not sure why they actually named it “Poor Man’s Spaghetti” but probably because it is made up of ingredients that were always in the house and nothing special needed to be purchased! This is a simple pasta dish with tasty ingredients that isn’t heavy on the stomach! I love these kinds of pasta dishes as they don’t leave you feeling overly full after you’ve eaten them.

I got this recipe from the Giallo Zafferano website. It was in Italian, so I’m translating it here for you. The ingredients will still be in the metric units, so sorry to all my American readers out there 🙂

Spaghetti Poveri

1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
100 g of olives, finely chopped
3 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
30 g of capers, drained and chopped
100 g. of anchovy fillets in oil
40 g. of fine breadcrumbs
Some red pepper flakes
400 g spaghetti
Olive oil

Cook the spaghetti until they are done, al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan (use enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion begins to soften.

Add the capers and the anchovies and cook until the anchovies begin to melt (they actually dissolve – something I didn’t know would happen!).

Add the red pepper flakes and the olives. Cook for a little while and then add the parsley. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate small pan, heat some olive oil and add the breadcrumbs. Cook until they begin to toast.

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the sauce. Add the toasted breadcrumbs and mix it all well (over low heat to blend the flavors).

Enjoy the pasta immediately, while it is hot. You can add some parmesan cheese if you’d like.

Parmigiana “light” of Zucchini & Prosciutto

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While rummaging through my arsenal of “to be tried” recipes, I came across this one. It was printed in Italian, and therefore, probably from some Italian site I frequently look at (but, unfortunately, I don’t know which one). Thankfully, I had had the foresight to print this out, because it was delicious! Such a simple concept – and why didn’t I ever think of trying this on my own without a recipe? Hmm…sometimes the simplest things are those not thought of. Now I’m wondering what other vegetables would lend themselves to this dish. Eggplant comes to mind immediately, but perhaps something like peppers would be interesting, too. So many possibilities…

 

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Ingredients:
Zucchini – sliced lengthwise in thin strips
Prosciutto
Grated Parmesan cheese
Grated cheese of your choice
Breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Spread some olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish (I used a square one and it was the perfect size). Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the oil. Begin by placing a single layer of zucchini on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top. Add a little salt and pepper (but go easy on the salt, or omit it altogether since the prosciutto will add saltiness to the dish). Drizzle some olive oil on top of this layer. Add a layer of prosciutto and cover that with some of the grated cheese. Repeat the process of layering zucchini (with parmesan cheese and olive oil), prosciutto and cheese until you run out of zucchini. Sprinkle the top with some breadcrumbs and drizzle with some olive oil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the zucchini is softened. Enjoy!

Pasta alla Puttanesca – YUM!!!

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When I was in Italy earlier this month, I ventured into a book store in Milan and went straight to the cookbook section.  I wanted to see if there was a simple cookbook which gave great down-to-earth recipes for the simple foods created in Italy.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love Italian food because it is so simple – the ingredients are genuine and the taste is not too “messy”.  I found not one, but two, cookbooks which struck my fancy.  The first one was “La Cucina Milanese”…and this one had so many recipes in it that my mom cooks that is was like home to me 🙂  I was even surprised to find a chapter on Lumache e Rane (snails and frogs)!  Now, I’m not that adventurous but I guess these are widely eaten in the Milan area (I don’t think I’ve ever had them, though..thankfully!).  The other cookbook was “La Cucina Borghese”.  This book features recipes that are cooked in the countryside and with simple ingredients.  I have been experimenting with these books since I’ve been home and have discovered some twists on old recipes as well as some new recipes!  One of the new ones I tried was the Puttanesca sauce for spaghetti!  Of course, I’ve heard of this sauce but I’m not sure I ever really tried it.  The term comes from the Roman “ladies of the evening” and I think it’s named this way because the sauce has a bit of a kick to it!  It’s a funny name for a sauce that is absolutely delicious.  My version has an omission in it – olives!  I like olives by themselves, but I’m not crazy about them in a sauce.  But, if you are an olive lover, by all means, add them in!

Pasta alla Puttanesca

1.  Saute 2 cloves of garlic and about 1/2 t. red pepper flakes (add more if you like it hotter) in 1/4 cup olive oil. 

2.  Crumble a can of tuna and add 5 chopped up anchovy fillets.  Mix them up and add them to the garlic and oil mixture.

3.  Cook them a few minutes.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce and cook until the sauce is warmed.

4.  Add 1/4 cup drained capers and mix gently.

5.  Pour over 1 lb. of cooked spaghetti.  Top with some grated parmesan cheese, if desired.  ENJOY!!!