Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2023 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
I’m always searching for markets where I can find unusual items we like to have from time to time but are not available in your neighborhood markets. As I mentioned in previous posts, there are times when we have our special TV dinners such as when watching a special sports event or concert especially during the Olympics. I try to make these dinners interesting and when possible a small, easy to prepare meal, such as caviar with chopped egg white, egg yolk, onions, toast and a glass of champagne. Always helps when watching Federer, who sometimes keeps me on the edge of my chair a little easier. Or maybe it is a duck terrine magret, saucisson de canard (duck sausages), or foire gras with a light salad and a glass of Sauterne. For dessert I might prepare Vermicelles mit rham (pureed chestnut with cream) or on a scope of vanilla ice cream or meringue. In Switzerland you can buy Vermicelles in a tube and when squeezed out it looks like spaghetti. One of our favorites is a selection of French cheese with fresh fruit, a nice crisp baguette and a bottle of Bordeaux. Sounds a little extravagant, but on occasion having these foods at home is far less expensive then in a restaurant and actually very easy to prepare.
For your special guests you might want to include bit of exquisite to your dish and add shavings of truffles, black or white from Italy or France over a dish of freshly made pasta. And I love risotto nero made with squid ink. So where to get these items became an obsession as soon as I arrived in Florida. I was sure that with such a large population of Europeans, I would find what I was looking for. Although I’m far away from these foods that I use to enjoy in Europe, I have at least found a supplier that will make it possible to bring back some of those wonderful dinner memories and hopefully add a few more to the list.
Marky’s specializes in French, Spanish, Russian, Italian and other International foods in a warm and inviting environment with service that is accommodating and knowledgeable. They will not only answer your questions but will also pack you up with your selections and a bag of ice. If you can’t get to Miami, you can place an ordered on their website and have it delivered. A side benefit to visiting the store however is that the Marky’s location is in an area that has many small ethnic restaurants. These small family owned establishments look so interesting that going into Miami late in the afternoon once-in-a-while and discovering some delicious place to eat after shopping is an added adventure.
I was thrilled when I found Marky’s – International Food Emporium, which has a Russian connection in Miami. You can read more about Marky’s on their website and if you visit the market, try out some of the small restaurants in the neighborhood. I will write about them as I also discover them.
Marky’s 687 NW 79th St, Miami, FL 33150
I look forward to the spring and fall not just because of the beautiful colors, but because it is artichoke season. This is a vegetable that many people are not familiar with and don’t know how to prepare, maybe even find them a little daunting. Artichokes are prepared in many ways in Italy from raw artichoke salads, with pasta, risotto, marinated, fried, grilled and one of my favorites stuffed.
Italian markets are stacked with neat rows of artichokes and rows of people clambering around to buy them. They can be bought whole with long stems, which are by the way also eatable, or cleaned ready to fry or just the hearts sliced and tossed in a salad with shavings of parmesan cheese scattered over the top dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. However you prepare them they are a beautiful and delicious vegetable.
There isn’t a week that goes by during the season when we don’t have them at least twice. If I can get them more often, I’m likely to make them several times a week. The season is short, so I have to get my fill in as long as it lasts.
Try to buy them with the stems still attached if possible and make sure you check that the bottoms are not dried out. Don’t buy them if they are brown around the leaves. They should be clean, tightly packed, fresh and green.
Follow the recipe below and then sit down to a delicious and satisfying dinner of stuffed artichokes.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
6 large globe artichokes
1 lemon cut in half
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick pepperoni, half chopped finely, the other half in thick slices
5 cups loosely packed white bread crumbs, chopped very fine
4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg
1/2 cup pine nuts
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Cut the pointed tops of the artichokes with a scissor and rub them entirely with lemon. This prevents the leaves from turning brown. Remove the smaller lower leaves, and cut the bottom stem so the artichokes are flat.
Combine the breadcrumbs, finely chopped pepperoni, garlic, grated cheese, parsley, pine nuts and salt and pepper together. Taste the mixture to make sure you have enough salt. Add the egg and some olive oil to the mixture and combine until it holds together in you hand when you squeeze it.
Stuff the artichokes between each leave. If you chose to just stuff the middle, you must clean out the leaves and hay in the middle of the choke and fill the cavity. In our family we prefer to stuff each leave.
Place them in a very large pan of water reaching up to just below the first set of leaves. Add the chunks of pepperoni.
They will take at least 45 minutes to 1 hour cooking time on medium heat. They are done when you can pull a leaf out of the coke easily. Be sure they are completely cooked, as the bottom of the leaves will be hard if undercooked.
Don’t forget to eat the heart, which is the best part.
If you love tomato sauce as I do, then you are always looking for a variety of ways of preparing it. Although this sauce takes a little cooking time, it is fast and easy to put together and except for tossing from time to time, you don’t have to worry about it much while it is cooking.
The difference in this sauce is that it has a rustic flavor. The skins char a little in cooking and gives it a woodsy aroma.
The quality of the tomatoes is always important in any tomato sauce. If at all possible purchase tomatoes that have ripened on the vine. If this is not possible, make sure that you let them stand out on your counter until they are ready to use. Taking tomatoes from the supermarket to the cooking stage is often not possible in most places except maybe Italy.
Italians are very proud and picky about their tomatoes and don’t believe that they are good enough to eat anywhere else in the world. I’ve had Italians tell me that we can’t possibly make good tomato sauce in the US because we don’t have good tomatoes. Since I have bought most of my tomatoes in Italy, I have to say that the sauce always tastes different then when I made it in the US. I more often will use imported San Marzano canned tomatoes then fresh, but in this case you need fresh tomatoes.
It is important that you ripen your tomatoes before cooking them. Tomatoes should never be stored in the refrigerator because they are sensitive to temperatures below 55ºF. Storage of tomatoes should be about 55º to 60°F. Anything below that will give a bland flavor.
When buying canned tomatoes, I always buy imported San Marzano tomatoes. They are sweeter and less acidic. Cosco sells a 6 lb. can of imported San Marzano tomatoes for under $4. I usually prepare a large pan of sauce and freeze it in meal size portions. Saves a lot of time and I have a meal ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. I always make a simple pomadoro sauce with a little basil and then add other ingredients to it when I want something a little different, like lentils, Prosciutto or ham and peas etc.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Yield: 4 Servings
8 ripe plum or vine tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 sprigs basil
1 tablespoon oregano (if you don’t have basil)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small dried red hot pepper (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red or dry white wine
Cut the tomatoes in quarters and put them in a large baking dish (do not remove the seeds or the skins). Roughly chop the garlic and onions and add them to the tomatoes. Put in the basil or the oregano, salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add the wine and toss again to be sure that all the ingredients are covered with the herbs. All the ingredients can be roughly chopped because they will be put through a food mill at the end.
Place the baking dish in the oven at 400ºF and cook for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked.
The sauce will have a warm smoky flavor and can be served over any type of pasta.
Note: There is a variety of San Marzano tomatoes produced in the US and elsewhere, but always look for the Italian imported cans.
Bologna is a food city, well there are many other things to do and see, but it is known for its wonderful small restaurants, markets and some of the best food in Italy. While every region in Italy boast the best food, Bologna is a serious leader. There’s a special touch, a feeling, an inner sense and understanding of cuisine that is hard to describe. They expect the best quality and they can find it in Il Mercato de Mezzo everyday of the week. Bologna is not a fish town, meat and game are their specialty.
Alimentari Tamburini in the region of IL Mercato di Mezzo is one of Italy’s most celebrated food shops. They also have a cafeteria-style lunch packed with people everyday enjoying a large array of hot freshly made dishes continuously coming out of the kitchen and a large wood burning rotisserie producing juicy flavorful meats. This is no ordinary cafeteria, it is famous and I got to eat there every afternoon when I was studying Italian just down the street. I just couldn’t wait to be part of the atmosphere at Alilmentari Tamburini. Cafeteria-style restaurants are very common in Italy and serve good local specialties at very reasonable prices. But this combination of market and cafeteria is special as you can lunch there and walk out with an arm full of cheeses, freshly made pasta, vegetables, and a large variety of salumi for later.
On of my favorite little trattoria is da Nello al Montegrappa (via Montegrappa 2). Their signature dish is Torelllone or Tortellini Montegrappa. This pasta is served in cream-and-walnut (or meat) sauce with white truffle shavings on top. The restaurant is also known for its grilled Porcini mushrooms and one of our favorites stuffed zucchini flowers (zucca fritti) that are light and crispy, absolutely delectable. The restaurant is small with a room crowded with tables on the ground level, a down stairs dinning room and a very small outdoor dining area. You feel a little packed in at times and this might be very uncomfortable to some tourists who are not use to Italian restaurants at lunch time. Italians eat out and crowded restaurant are not at all unusual. Even though the restaurant is in the center of town where there are many tourists, locals swam da Nello. Some may consider it touristy but I’ve been going there for many years and have never been disappointed. The fried zucchini flowers are among the best I’ve had in Italy and their grilled Porcini mushrooms are succulent.
As you can see in the photo below, my granddaughter is in her glory with a dish of their fried zucchini flowers.
I have tried to recreate Tortelloni Montegrappa and came up with my own version. Of course I don’t have white truffles to my dismay.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as a first dish
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
12 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the flour and salt on your counter or cutting board and make a well in the middle. Place the eggs in the middle and with a fork begin to combine the flour into the egg. The dough will be a little dry, but if you are using a pasta machine, it must be dry in order to roll the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and set it aside in a kitchen towel for 1 hour to rest.
Cut a piece of the dough and roll it through the pasta machine beginning at the widest section. Roll the dough through each section until you have rolled it through the second to the last slot. If the dough is too moist, rub a little flour into it with your hands. The dough should be somewhat dry. Lay it out on the countertop and cut 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” squares.
Mix the ingredients until it is well blended and smooth. Taste for salt, it should be a little salty.
Place a full teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle of each square and dot the edges with water then fold them over into a triangle. Dot the two ends of the back of the triangle with water and fold them to the back overlapping the ends. Fold down the top of the tortelloni slightly. The water acts as a glue and seals the pasta. But do not use too much or it will become slimy.
Note: The tortelloni can be frozen for up to a month; they take about 5 minutes cooking time if frozen. Do not place them on top of each other when putting them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can remove them and put them in a plastic freezer bag lying them flat.
Walnut and Mascarpone Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 container Mascarpone cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
3 tablespoons walnut oil
Slightly cook the walnuts in the walnut oil with the garlic. Remove the garlic when the walnuts have released their oils and are slightly toasted.
Place all the rest of the ingredients in a blender and pulsate just enough to blend well. Add the chopped toasted walnuts and place the sauce back into the pan and heat slightly.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of hot salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Taste for doness.
Pour the sauce over the hot pasta and put a handful of whole walnuts over the top for decoration.
There is nothing like a hardy soup or stew to watch a football game especially if you are in a cold snowy part of the country. The best part is that you can prepare it in advance and then let everyone help themselves during the game without any additional effort from you. You can actually enjoy the game along with your guests. The casual atmosphere keeps things light and fun for everyone.
White Navy Beans with Ham is a Southern recipe given to me many years ago by a friend from Arkansas, and I have been making it ever since. It is filling, very flavorful and feeds a large number of people. You can make it ahead of time, even the day before.
I make a cheese bread to serve with it that compliments the stew. When I made this for my friend she couldn’t believe that she had been eating this for many years without the cheese bread. The bread is very easy to make especially if you can buy the bread dough from your local market. Stuffed with an assortment of cheese of your choice, it is oozing with melted cheese when you cut it and adds warmth and flavor to the beans and ham.
White Navy Beans with Ham
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hr. 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
1 lb. dried white beans
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 onion, medium, chopped
2 celery small stocks, chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 3/4 Pork Shoulder Daisy Ham (precooked)
3 cups water
In a large bowl put the beans and cover them with water and let them to stand overnight in the water.
In a large saucepan sauté the onions and celery and green pepper in olive oil until they are translucent.
Drained beans and put them in the pan cover them with about 2 1/2 cups water (you may have to add more water as the beans cook and increase in size).
Drained beans and put them in the pan cover them with about 2 1/2 cups water (you may have to add more water as the beans cook and increase in size).
Put in 2-3 bay leaves, add freshly ground pepper and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 1hour. Remove the cover from the pan and cook for another 30 minutes, the beans should not be mushy but hold their shape; the final dish should have a little juice. Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Be careful in salting the beans as the ham will most likely be already salted. Allow the beans to cool down and remove any fat from the top.
Reheat the beans and ham. Remove the ham and slice it-serve the slices with the beans.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes @ 450ºF
Yield: 6 –8 Slices
Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
2 lbs bread dough bought from you local market bakery department.
Note: Gruyère, Roquefort, Chève, etc. are excellent strong flavorful cheese that I like to use in this bread.
Note: A cheese selection of your choice (Gruyère, Roquefort, Chève, etc. are excellent strong flavorful cheese).
Take a selection of cheese, cut them into pieces. Oil the bottom of a pizza pan and spread the dough out into the pan. Fill the center of the dough with the cheeses of your choice. Take one length edge and fold it over the top. Do the same with the other. You can brush the loaf with olive oil, but this is not necessary. Be sure that the end edges are folded in or crimped.
Cooking the bread on a pizza stone would give it a nice crusty bottom. In this case, rub down the your surface lightly with flour. Begin to spread the dough out stretching it in a circle. Once it has started to stretch you can hold it with your hands and begin stretching it with your knuckles. Keep stretching it by pulling it around in a circular motion. Rub your wood pallet with flour, corn meal or semolina and place your dough on the board. Make sure that it moves on the board easily. Follow the directions as above and shake it off the palette onto the stone.
Cook in a 450º F oven for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes check the bread to see if the bottom and top are turning brown. If done, remove from the oven and allow it to stand for about 10 minutes letting the cheese to settle before cutting. If not the cheese will flow out of the bread when you cut it.
NOTE: Any selection of cheese can be chosen for this bread. I always use all the small pieces of leftover cheese in my refrigerator. Everything from goat cheese, blue cheeses, cheddar etc. will make wonderful bread.
The following is a previous post for Super Bowl Sunday Soup.
Super Bowl Sunday Soup – Sausage with Rosemary & Ditalini
As my 2 month visit to Cape Cod comes to an end, I can’t help feeling sorry that it is over. I have spent most of my summers here as a child and even had lived here on and off over the years. But coming back just to visit has made me see the Cape not at as part-time resident but with new eyes as a visitor. I will always love it here and consider it as a place I call home.
Since becoming interested in photography, I’ve seen the Cape through the eyes of a camera and have seen sights I took for granted and never really saw although they had always been there. I would like to share with you some of the wonderful sites of the Cape from Falmouth to Providence Town and one of its specialties.
I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where you can find steamers. Steamers are a soft shell clam particular to New England. They grow in mucky sand and we used a plunger, pumping it against the sand to bring them to the surface. Because of this it is very important to make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned or you will be eating sand along with the clams.
When buying steamers or any clam, be sure that they are closed. If not, do not accept them, usually the fishmonger will remove them. If you plan to keep them for a day, soak paper towels with water and cover the clams with the towels storing them in the refrigerator.
Steam Clams cooked in beer
5 lbs New England steamers
1 bottle beer
1 bay leaf
1 stick sweet butter
Sea salt to taste
Cleaning them requires that you put them into cold water along with some cornmeal and change it several times. As the clams circulate the water into the shell, the cornmeal helps to remove the sand.
When steaming the clams use one bottle of beer and about a cup of water in a deep pot. For 2 servings as a main course I buy about 5 lbs. of clams. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat until the clams completely open. Any clams that remain closed discard.
Remove the clams from the beer and put them into a dish. The remaining liquid pour into cups for each person. This liquid is used to dunk the clams after removing them from the shell again cleaning off any remaining sand. Give each person a cup of melted butter, which is used to dunk the clams before eating.
There is a black skin on the neck of the clam that must be removed before eating them. The skin is easily removed by using your thumb to scrap it off the neck.
We once saw a woman eating the clams with this skin on and she was finding the clams very difficult to eat or enjoy. I believe restaurants should inform their guests who might not be familiar with eating steamers.
Steamers are the same clam used to make fried clams.
A Pasta Roll is a beautiful way to begin a Holiday dinner. It takes a little effort but serving such a lovely dish will impress your guests.
My mother made this pasta dish and I rediscovered it when I stayed in Bologna for a month. I took a cooking course during that time, but this was not one of the dishes we prepared. It was recommended that I try Bologna’s pasta rolls. I was there for exactly that to learn and experience everyday life and all the marvels of Bologna. As in many regions of Italy, Bologna is said to have the best food in Italy. The pasta rolls were about double the size of the recipe I have posted and mainly made with a Bolognese filling. I think this recipe is not only delicious but is lovely for a Holiday or celebration.
Rullo della pasta
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: Pasta Roll, 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as main course, 6 servings as a first dish
1 1/2 cups flour
A pinch of salt
A pinch of baking powder
Other Items Needed
Cheesecloth, 1 large piece or if you don’t have a big enough pan, you can make the pasta roll in 2 pieces. You will then need 2 pieces of cheesecloth.
Place the dough ingredients except for the water, into a food processor with the dough attachment. Process until the mixture looks like corn meal. Add a little water and when a ball has formed, remove it and knead it for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel until you are ready to roll it out.
2 packages spinach cooked and drained
4 tablespoons chopped onions
4 tablespoons Portobello mushrooms
1 tablespoon creamed butter
4 tablespoons Mortadella (an Italian cold cut that can be found in the deli section of most supermarkets)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (mix with the spinach)
Cook the spinach for just 1-2 minutes and squeeze out all of the water. It should be absolutely dry.
Sauté the onions and the Mortadella in the butter for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms at the end for an additional minute. Allow the mixture to cool.
1 lb. Ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yoke
Salt to taste
Mix all of the cheese filling ingredients until it is well blended.
Roll the dough out to 10”x16”. Spread the cheese mixture over the dough leaving about 1” around the edges. Spread the spinach mixture over the cheese layer. Fold the side edges in and roll it length wise similar to a jellyroll.
Place the roll on the cheesecloth and roll it securing the ends with kitchen string. Leave a little room at the ends for the dough to expand. Place the pasta roll in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
In a pan large enough to hold the pasta roll, boil salted water. Turn it down to a gentle boil before placing the pasta roll into the water. Cook for 20 minutes.
Remove it from the water and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth. Warm the plates in the plate warmer section of your oven if you have one or turn your oven on to 180 degrees. Put a layer of sauce on the plate, and cut the pasta roll into 1” slices placing them on top of the sauce.
Note: Since the pasta roll is 10”x16” you need a poaching pan. If you don’t have such a pan, you can make the pasta roll in 2 pieces. If you have a casserole dish large and deep enough you may be able to use it if it can be put on top of a stove burner.
Note: Cheesecloth can be found in your Super Market, it may be called gauze. It is usually called cheesecloth in kitchen specialty stores.
Tomato and Béchamel Sauce for Pasta Roll
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes, 4 minutes for béchamel sauce
Yield: 4 Servings as a main course, or 6 as a first dish
1/3 cup each chopped carrots, celery and onions
1 lb. can kitchen ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 tablespoon sugar
Sauté the carrots, celery and onions until the onions are slightly soft. Place the remaining ingredients in the pan and cook for 1/2 hour. Salt to taste.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup warm milk
Melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour stirring constantly until it becomes a paste. Add the warm milk little at a time blending it into the paste. As the sauce becomes thick make adjustments adding more flour or milk depending on the consistency of the sauce. It should be a thick white sauce.
Mix the two sauces together when using this recipe for the pasta roll and place a layer of the sauce on a warm plate, then placing slices of the pasta roll on top.
This time of year when we are thinking about holiday menus, looking for something to add a new dimension to my Thanksgiving starts early. I almost always end up making the same thing because tradition is important to me. However the buildup to Thanksgiving has extended the holiday for the entire month of November. I like to make all those homey meals that highlight the autumn.
Whatever your level of cooking expertise, gnocchi are so easy to make that just about anyone including kids can make them. I prefer Ricotta gnocchi because they are lighter then potato gnocchi. Adding squash or pumpkin is perfect for an autumn version. You can just serve them with butter and you have a handmade pasta dish that will satisfy your family or guests. On the other hand, with just a few ingredients such as pine nuts and sage, you can make a condiment that brings out the flavor of the squash and adds that WOW dimension to this dish.
When planning a meal for a large group such as Thanksgiving, Ricotta gnocchi are a good choice because they can be frozen. With all the preparation that is required for a Thanksgiving dinner, this gives you a little head start.
I also serve them as a side dish with turkey, venison, chicken and pork instead of potatoes.
Gnocchi di zucca
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Yield: 6 Servings
4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt
2 lbs. ricotta
1/2 cup squash, mashed (frozen, canned or fresh squash or pumpkin)
Place the ricotta on a board or in a large bowl and add the squash. Add grated cheese and taste to determine if more salt is needed. Over-salt it as the salt is released into the water when cooking. However, you can’t remove salt if you have too much; add a little at a time and taste. Put the eggs in the middle of the ricotta, then begin to mix adding only enough flour as needed to form the dough into a ball.
Cut off a piece of dough and make tube shaped rolls about 1/2’ thick and as long as you want. Cut them about 1/2” long. At this point, press each gnocchi over the back of a fork pressing your thumb in the middle as you roll it down the folk. This will form the grooves down the gnocchi. This step is optional. You can cut 1/2” pieces and eliminate rolling them over a folk.
Note: Ricotta and squash might vary in liquid content. You add a additional flour if necessary. Also keep some flour for dusting you surface when rolling out the gnocchi.
Salsa di pignoli e salvia
Sage And Pine Nut Sauce
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 6-7 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
Several leaves of fresh sage
Salt to taste
In a deep pan, boil salted water and cook the Gnocchi, it will take a few minutes to cook, so keep testing them until done.
While the water is heating up, prepare the sauce.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and the oil. Cut the sage leaves lengthwise and place them in the saucepan along with the pine nuts. Sauté them watching the pine nuts very carefully as they will brown very quickly. Remove them from the stove as soon as they start to turn golden brown and allow them to finish browning in the hot butter. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little boiling water from the pasta.
Drain the gnocchi and toss them in the sauce and then enjoy.
During the summers on Cape Cod we went clamming twice a week. This was a ritual and at that time the beach in front of our house was a minefield of clams. There were three of us; my brother Mike, my cousin Mary Lou and myself. It took us no time to collect a large bucket of beautiful little necks. We enjoyed clamming so much that we just hated it when we had filled our quota. We dug with our hands and left big holes in the sand. As the tide came in we watched the waves rolling up the beach washing away our path of holes.
We had huge trays of clams on the half shell and the rest we use to make Spaghetti alle Vongole. To us it was not a specialty dish, just one of the pasta dishes our family always prepared and loved.
As I spend some time revisiting Cape Cod, the first thing I did was to go to the fishmonger where I bought fresh little necks. I couldn’t wait to make this dish for my husband who isn’t fond of pasta with fish. He would never even try it so I always made it just for myself. This time however I got him to join me and he was immediately convinced that he had missed something special all these years.
By the way, this has to be one of the easiest pasta dishes you can make, that is, if you can get fresh clams. Do not use canned clams, as they really don’t come close to the flavor you want to achieve.
Spaghetti Alle Vongole
Spaghetti with Clams
Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 20
Yield: 4 Servings
3 lbs fresh clams (little necks preferably)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, whole
1 fresh pepperoncino (chili pepper or sprinkle a few pepper flakes, optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup clam liquid (more if needed)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 lb. spaghetti
Let the clams sit in cold water for at least one half hour to allow the sand to come out. Scrub the shells with a brush. Clams that are opened are not fresh and must be discarded. Cook the clams in about 1 cup of water allowing the clams to steam open. Remove them from the water and discard any clams that do not open. Reduce the water by boiling it for about 2-3 minutes to condense the flavor of the clam liquid. Strain the liquid to make sure there is no remaining sand and put it aside.
Remove the clams from the shells leaving about 5 per person in the shells for garnish. Chop the remaining clams and set them aside. This step is optional, as in Italy they never remove them from the shell.
Sauté the garlic and pepperoncino over medium heat. Add the wine and clam liquid into the pan. If you need more liquid, add more clam juice. Cook the sauce for several minutes and add the clams back into the sauce at the end.
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Put the cooked spaghetti into the sauce and toss the spaghetti with the sauce until it has absorbed some of the flavorful liquid. If you choose to not add the pepper flakes, serve a dish of red pepper flakes on the side. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and squeeze fresh lemon over the top.
Note: For a red sauce, add about 1 1/2 lbs. of tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cubed or cheery tomatoes cut in half or quarters. Add the tomatoes with the wine and clam liquid. Fresh tomatoes need only a few minutes to cook if you want them to remain whole. Do not use tomato sauce as this is a very different sauce and the flavor of the clams will be lost in the heavy flavor of the tomato sauce.
Over the last two weeks I have received and read many emails from the winners of the “Foodista Best Of Food Blogs Cookbook”. The excitement of each blogger at seeing their recipe and blog published in the first food bloggers cookbook has been an unexpected part of this experience.
Media events are being planned in many cities across the US and world by the winners to highlight the efforts of food bloggers and their passion for cooking. It is not enough to say that this is an exciting cookbook because all of the participants have a story to tell. Many recipes represent family traditions and this is really what defines this cookbook. It is not just a collection of recipes found often in many other cookbooks, but recipes that the authors take great pride in presenting to the public because they grew up with them. Often they have a very local twist that can’t be found in recipes created in test kitchens or even by professional chefs. It proves that good food can be produced by those who care about representing the best of traditions and passing them on to be created over and over again by those who become part of their family just by preparing them.
Thanks to Foodista for putting a face onto the many unknown home chefs around the world who have something to offer and to tell their stories. Their enthusiasm, commitment and creativeness in their efforts to bring the book to the attention of the world has brought this group together in ways that will define a new way of looking at cooking.
I am proud to be one of them and to have met them via this cookbook. My contribution to the Foodista Best Of Food Blogs Cookbook book can be found at:
The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook can be bought at Barnes & Nobles, Boarders, and Amazon.com.
My grandfather’s hobby and passion was his garden. Two fig trees stood at the head of the garden next to his beloved grapevine covered terrace. One was green and the other purple figs. We watched as they matured and their beautiful tropical foliage gave the garden an exotic look. Artists have painted the fig leaf to depicted modesty. But the fruit is sweet and alluring.
My grandfather would cover them with burlap and bury the trees in the ground during the winter. We watched this ritual and thought this was so strange, but they are delicate and susceptible to frost damage.
Vegetable and fruits are a main part of our diet and using fruits in the main course of a meal is one way of incorporating them into your diet and getting children to enjoy them. I think figs are one of these foods that many people don’t experience and they don’t know what they are missing.
Figs are very versatile and pare well with meats, breads and desserts. They can be canned, made into jams, dried or in cookies such as cucitdati (Sicilian stuffed cookie). Make a a tart, cake or poached as in this recipe, there are many ways to prepare them. Their sweetness adds an exotic dimension to a meal.
This recipe is so easy anyone could make it and with a little cinnamon ice cream it is dream of a dessert.
Poached Figs in Red Wine
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 people
8-10 ripe fresh figs
1 bottle red wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Skin of a lemon
Skin of an orange (optional)
1 Star Anise
Put them in a saucepan, pour the wine and add the cinnamon stick, skin of the lemon, star anise and add the sugar. Cover the pan and cook at medium high temperature for 10-15 minutes. Turn the figs around so that all sides are stained red. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Test the figs with a skewer. If it goes through easily they are done. Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise and lemon.
Remove them from the pan and add the butter and reduce the wine down to about 1/2 cup. The figs should not be too sweet and usually don’t need extra sugar. The butter will make the sauce glisten and will give the sauce a warm buttery taste.
They can be served hot or at room temperature. When you are ready to serve, place 2-3 figs in a glass or decorative dish and dribble the wine sauce over them. Or scoop some cinnamon or vanilla ice cream in a bowl and add the figs with dribbles of the wine sauce.
Note: reduce the sugar and serve the figs with a main course of game, pork or chicken.
Black squid risotto can be found in many restaurants in Italy but not often anywhere else in the world. I suppose it is because it isn’t easy to find sepia ink. It is a powerful dye made from the ink of the cuttlefish. Where to buy it is the question. You can try to collect the ink bag when cleaning the squid, but this is difficult. It is often sold in small packets or bottles in some Italian specialty stores. You can ask your fish monger if he can order it for you. I buy it in small bottles at the fish section of the market in Switzerland or in Italy and store it in my refrigerator. I often make black tagliatelle and risotto and it always makes a big impression with guests. The ink is mild and doesn’t have a strong fishy flavor. It’s beautiful black silky color is impressive and best of all it is delicious mixed with shell fish of squid as I have here in this recipe.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as a side dish, 2 servings as a main course
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups chicken broth or vegetable or fish stock broth
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (light flavor)
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup good white wine
2 tablespoons seppia ink
Salt as needed
Heat the stock and seppia ink in a pan and leave it on low temperature to keep it warm.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a sauce pan. When they are translucent, add the rice and allow the rice to become opaque in color stirring it for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the wine enough to cover the rice and stir. Cover the rice with broth until the rice has absorbed the liquid and then add more doing the same thing until the rice is al dente.
The cooking should be about 20 minutes. Remove the risotto from the stove and stir in the butter until it has melted into the rice. This will create a nice creamy risotto. Add salt to taste.
Note: If you wish you can add some squid rings or chopped the tentacles at the very end and cook only a few minutes. Squid cooks very fast and it will be nice and tender with just a few minutes cooking time.
Remove the tentacles, sac, beak, eyes and spine and wash any sand off the squid. Using a kitchen scissors cut the squid lengthwise. You can either cut it in quarters or in half lengthwise. Make small incisions in both directions with a very sharp knife on the inside flesh of the squid.
This will help to keep the squid flat instead of curling up.
Place them on long wet skewers.
Place them on a very hot grill a few minutes on each side. You will see when they start to brown. Squid can become very rubbery so the timing is critical. Salt them immediately.
Hunting season starts in September in Switzerland and the locals look forward to the hunt (Jagd). Switzerland strictly controls the hunt by setting limits to each species. The season lasts only about 3 weeks. Hunters bring their catch of mountain goat, wild boar, elk or deer to local butchers (Metzgerei). He prepares the animals into steaks, roasts, racks, bunderfliesh and hirschpfeffer, venison meat marinated in wine and a specialty here. It is not unusual to see a deer sitting in front of the butchers’ door waiting for him to arrive in the morning. After the hunter takes what he wants, the rest is sold by the butcher. If you are a good friend of the butcher, you can make your selection early in the season and have him store it for you in his freezer for the rest of the winter. When you want it, just give him a call and he will have your selection ready and waiting for you.
This is the start of Fall and the Alps are amazingly beautiful with the trees turning yellow and rust tones and light dusting of snow on the mountaintops. The anticipation of winter on its way moves people here. Winter is the bread and butter season in the Alps. The excitement begins with the hunting season, when the slow summer goes back to sleep and the cool air means getting the hay cut and into the barns, grapes harvested and the hotels and ski operations start preparations for the winter tourists.
Venison is traditionally served with spätzli and caramelized chestnuts. Spätzli is a thick batter that is scraped off a wet board into boiling water. It is similar to dumplings except looks more like pasta. Spätzli is a Swiss specialty and I can’t imagine venison without it. It also goes well with other meats and once you have learned to prepare it, you will find that when you are looking for something different to take the place of pasta or potatoes, spätzli is a very good substitute. The Austrians, Germans and Italian have their version of spätzli, but they are all pretty much the same except maybe for the size.
There is a gadget that is available to make spätzli but it is so simple by hand that I think it is a waste of money and effort to use it. I like the old fashion way.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: In boiling water approximately 2 minutes per späzli batch
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons butter
Prepare a large pasta pan of boiling salted water. Mix the flour, egg, and water, milk and salt. The batter should have the consistency of thick pancake batter.
Dunk the board into the boiling water so that the board is wet.
Place a ladle full of the batter on the wet cutting board.
Holding the board over the boiling water, scrap small amounts of batter about the size of ziti macaroni into the boiling water. When they float to the top, which takes about 2 minutes, remove them to a dish. Toss them immediately with some butter to prevent them from sticking and continue finishing each batch.
When you are ready to serve, put a tablespoon or two of butter into a frying pan and toss the spätzli with the butter until they are warm.
Note: You can mix mashed beats, spinach or carrots etc. into the batter to make different colors and flavors. Broth can be substituted for the cooking water.
You hardly feel like cooking on hot summer days and yet fish and shellfish seem so perfect for light summer meals. They are also very easy and fast to prepare. I have a husband who just didn’t like fish but would eat shellfish. I solved this problem by taking him to a cooking class in Italy where just about all the dishes we prepared were fish. There were 4 chefs from a 5 star restaurant and just the two of us. I didn’t expect this, as it was a class at a hotel that we had gone to many times and advertised as a class for a maximum of 6 people. Seems we signed up for the first class of the season that started the beginning of June. Along the Adriatic, this is not high season and we were the only ones to register. The chefs wanted to do the class in any case, probably to test it out, how lucky was that!
I wondered how my husband was going to deal with eating the meals we prepared, as he really hated fish. My husband is a diabetic and it was important for him to change his diet that consisted mostly of meat. This class was the cure and he totally enjoyed every dish we prepared. He still eats meat, but today we have fish at least two or three times a week. The message is that if there is something you don’t like, it is worthwhile to learn how to prepare it. Many times you can find recipes that you never knew existed and will satisfy your taste.
The following is an easy recipe that is great as it includes greens, shellfish and pasta, what is there not to like!
Strozzapreti con rucola, patate e cozze
Chef Franco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. strozzapreti, cavatelli or pasta of your choice
1 bunch arugula (rucola in Italian)
1/4 lb. of potatoes
1 lb. of mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mussels thoroughly and let them soak for about 1/2 hour in cold water, changing the water a few times. Remove the beard that is between the shells. Steam them in a small amount of boiling salted water. This will take 3-6 minutes; discard any that have not opened. Strain out all the liquid and reserve it for the sauce. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping about 5 per person for garnish.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small squares, par boil them in salted water. Set them aside.
In a skillet, sauté the oil and onions until they become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and pepperoncino and cook a few more minutes. Add the reserved mussel liquid and boil it down to about half. Add the cubed potatoes.
In a large saucepan, cook the strozzapreti in salted boiling water. Three minutes before the strozzapreti is cooked add the arugula in with the strozzapreti and cook until the strozzapreti are al dente. Drain them and toss them into the skillet blending them until they are completely covered with the sauce.
We have spent our summers on Cape Cod ever since we were kids and we loved to fish. Our family always thought that we should have the talent to be geat fishermen because my grandparents came from Gargano on the south of the Adriatic Cost of Italy, and my grandfather was a fisherman (pescatore). We stayed in a big house with my aunts and cousins and my father and uncles alternated days off during the week to join us. My family was in the food and restaurant business and the markets and restaurants were open 7 days a week at that time. We waited for them to arrive and prepared for our fishing trips to the Cape Cod Canal. We would come home from these trips sleepy, smelling of bait, no fish and disappointed but not deterred. After all, our grandfather was a fisherman; we must have inherited this passion from him.
We went to every bait store searching for the right bait. We talked to anyone who could give us fishing secrets or lures that were a sure thing. We paid attention to the tides and set our alarm clocks so that we were at the suggested fishing spots at the exact time the fish were running, and we caught no fish. Later when we older we bought a sailboat and continued the same routine, maybe this was the answer. We had tried fishing off the canal docks, off the rocks, on the beach and we bought all kinds of fishing poles and gear. We would see all the other boats pulling in the fish, the fish leaping out of the water all around us and still no fish. Then my brother decided the sailboat wasn’t the right boat and bought a Boston Whaler. This was surly the answer and the ritual went on and still no fish. I remember he caught a flounder and a bluefish once and this was a great occasion with photo’s and excitement and a grand fish dinner. I have to say that we had lobster traps and were much more successful catching more lobster then we could eat so not all was lost. There were summers when we decided we would catch everything we ate during a weekend. We were great at clamming and carried home buckets of steamers, little necks and mussels. We made calms on the half shell, chowder, pasta with clam sauce, calms casino, stuffed mussels, grilled, boiled, baked, stuffed lobster and pasta with lobster sauce, but no fresh grilled fish. We just couldn’t understand it, what was the problem after all we must have the gene; our grandfather was a fisherman in Italy how could we miss.
The next generation continued this search for the answer and was about to give up. My brother-in-law Peter and my nephew Nick experiencing the same curse went fishing one day and met up with a man who had caught several huge stripped bass. As usual they befriended him and he told them how to make his special lure. As we all laughed at them and said, “Oh here we go again” out they went searching for all the components and proceeded to make this new, magic lure. With trepidation mixed with a lot of hope they headed out to Nantucket Sound. They not only tackled the curse, they have been catching huge blue’s and stripped bass ever since, they broke the curse!
As all this was happening I went to Vieste, Italy searching for information about our grandparents. I was in a state of shock when I noticed his profession in the documents I found. He was not a fisherman but a shepherd (pastore). We should have been raising cattle not fishing. This just goes to show you how the translation of a word can effect your whole life. Our family being mostly 1st & 2nd generation Italian-American never learned to speak Italian and translated the word incorrectly. Well so goes the fishing talent that we thought we should have inherited.
We had a great time in our search for the big fish, and thinking our grandfather was with us, probably he was laughing at us. The most wonderful stories, laughs and memories of our efforts might not have been the same fun. It is like being told that Santa doesn’t exist and not being upset. Being together as a family on Cape Cod in the summer was the best part.
Grilled Whole Fish In Foil
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
1 18 lb. Fresh whole bluefish, striped bass, cleaned and gutted
1 large orange, skin and segments
2 fennels with stems
Salt & pepper to taste
Other things needed
2 large pieces of foil or parchment paper
Scale and gut the fish and wash it inside and out. Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the fish.
Lay out enough foil or parchment paper large enough to place the fish and eventually covering it with another piece of foil to form an envelope. Lay the fish on the foil.
Remove the skin of the orange and separate the orange segments. Cut the fennels into thick slices including the stocks and leaves.
Salt & pepper the fish outside and inside the cavity. Stuff cavity with the fennels, orange segments and orange rind.
Place the fish on a hot grill or in the oven. If grilling the fish turn it over after 10-15 minutes. And grill it for another 10-15 minutes. The time depends on the size of the fish. Puncture the fish in the thickest part with a knife, if it is done it should go through easily. Don’t over cook as it will dry out.
Remove it from the grill and carefully open the envelope. Remove all the fennel and oranges.
Remove the head and tail and fins on the top and bottom of the fish. With a sharp knife remove the skin on one side pulling it gently away from the flesh. Make a cut down the center and cut the fish into segments removing them with specula. If the fish is done the flesh will come off the bone easily. Turn the fish over and do the same to the other side.
Serve the fish with fennel and orange salad. Make a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
NOTE: Other fish can be prepared in this manner such as salmon, trout etc.
Schools of anchovies run twice a year in the Spring and September along the Ligurian Sea. They are cleaned and the innards are removed and layered in mer de sel (sea salt) in cylinder forms along the entire maritime region. Anchovies are the king of the Ligurian Sea.
The tradition of conserving anchovies in salt goes back to ancient times when they provided a stock of food in the cities and because anchovies and salt were used by the fisherman as merchandise to barter.
The quality of the anchovies is very important; they must be very fresh. Remove the heads and the innards, rinse them in running water and dry them with a cloth. Put a layer of salt at the bottom of a round container. Place a layer of anchovies and then a layer of salt paying careful attention to press them one against another until you reach the top. Finish the top with a layer of salt.
Close the top so that it is airtight and put a weight of least 3 km (7 lbs.) on the top. Store them in a cool place controlling them every two days removing any liquid that forms. Let them stay for 40 days and they are ready to eat. At this point if you wish you can scrape the salt off and transfer them into extra virgin oil.
Anchovies are used to flavor meats, sauces, in stuffing’s and stews. They are eaten fresh marinated in oil, fried, on pizza, in salads, and pasta sauce etc. Anchovies add flavor and give a unique aroma to dishes. Often it is not noticeable in a dish and you wonder what it is that gives it a flavor you never seem to be able to achieve in your cooking. Because it was used to salt dishes as stated above, it is still today a main ingredient in Italian cooking. Anchovies are your friend in cooking and will give you a unique advantage in creating that special flavor to your dishes.
I buy them salted, then clean off the salt and store them in a glass container or in a storage bag and keep them in my refrigerator. When using them, take them out and allow the oil to clarify. They have a more pungent flavor then the anchovies already put up in oil in cans. They can be found at most Italian specialty stores. Or buy fresh anchovies and try salting them yourself according to the recipe of San Remo.
The pebble-paved streets wind through Haut-de-Cagnes’ narrow alleyways past stone houses, artist’s studios, restaurants and a few shops. The Chateau Grimaldi, a fort built around the 1300 dominates the village overlooking the sea. Replicas of canvases by well-known artists who painted this romantic place are stationed at the locations of the scene. The clay colors of the roof tiles, grays of stone walls, colorful vines creeping up the sides of the ancient buildings seem to be growing where ever they can find a little earth. Haut-de-Cagnes is a heritage site, classified as a “Monument of France”.
When I first walked up the pebble streets some 30 years ago, I thought I was stepping into a Renior canvas. Brush strokes and pallet knives created this village from the imagination of a genius painter I thought. Of course it must be, because Renoir lived and worked in Les Colette just around the corner from Haut-de-Cagnes. The panorama over the hills and blue Mediterranean gave him inspiration and his canvases reflect the colors and vegetation of the region. So this must be where I am, in one of his paintings. Then, when I came back to reality, I saw that Haut-de-Cagnes was a real place, with real people, and real stone buildings and flowers and I was going to stay here forever. Well I almost did and have visited it many times.
Painters lived in this region of France such as Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Erté, Rodin, Bonnard, Matisse and Modigliani who spent time with Renoir – just to name a few. All conspired and enjoyed each other’s company in this medieval world. The village reflects the romanticism of the past and you wander through the streets appreciating the beauty that they saw. Today you can visit Renoir’s home, now a museum where you can see why he was in love with Cagnes-sur-Mer.
In recent years there has been a revitalization of Cagnes-sur-Mer and in many ways it has improved along the sea. A boardwalk goes on for miles all the way to Nice. Restoration of the beaches and buildings has brought new life with little seaside restaurants that serve both French and Italian specialties. The city is charming in the area of the market place where people seem to be stationed all the time in the café’s. Maybe they are really sculptures by Renior who probably joined in this typically French pastime of café life. Sometimes I feel they are purposely placed there so visitors think that relaxing and drinking espresso or a glass of wine is all people do here. There are many new apartments in the center of the city, which I suppose is to be expected, and in some ways nicer architecture then some other towns. The town has all the shopping you need with outdoor markets and excellent boulangeries. Years ago it was possible to find small boulangeries and boucherie (butcher shops) in Haut-de- Cagnes, but they are long gone. Many foreigners have bought apartments and live part-time here making it difficult for small shops to survive. But they have also renovated the apartments and have played a role in keeping the village alive and free from commercialism.
There is a parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer, a paid parking garage in Haute-de-Cagnes and parking along the streets, but the chances of finding parking is slim. The public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer is a quarter the price of the parking garage and with very good bus service to Haute-de-Cagnes. The shuttle bus leaves every 15 minutes from June to September from the Castle and can be taken from several places along the route to Cagnes-sur-Mer. From here you can catch buses to other destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The shuttle is free and the bus service is inexpensive and a good alternative considering the lack of parking in Nice or Cannes.
By some stroke of luck Haut-de-Cagnes has survived tourism. You quickly appreciate this when you visit St. Paul de Vance. It hurts to think that such a beautiful village that inspired so many famous artists is now a big commercial mess. The people of Haut-de-Cagnes and all those who settled there saved this magical place from the sickness that takes over when people only see dollar signs. This could have easily happened here, but instead it has stayed the same and you feel like you are going home every time you visit. This is the village where I could easily see myself getting lost in forever and many new residents have. It’s simplicity and charm just carry you through life as though you have nothing else to worry about except stepping around the palate knife and paint strokes that created it.
Vance and St Jennet are easily reached and are a nice side trip. Vance has done a lot of restoration and in fact has replaced its fountains with ones dating back to its origins. Many guests visit the perfume factories in Grasse. Collectors search for perfume bottles that are now collectables at some of the weekly outdoor markets.
I will only mention two restaurants in the village and one in Cagnes-sur-Mer that we found worth visiting. Le Fleur de Sel we did not visit because it was closed for vacation, we have dined here in the past and I was told that it was good and under new management.
You won’t find many restaurants in the village but a few stand out. Chef Stephane Francolino, owner of Entre Cour et Jardin, told us that many Italians fled to France during WWII and settled in the region mostly in Grasse to work at the perfume factories. Since we had just come from Dolceacqua, Italy, his hometown, it was an interesting connection for us. The region’s culture is intermingled with Italy and its cuisine reflects this. Entre Cour et Jardin is a lovely little restaurant decorated in the style of the village with paintings adorning its walls and in one corner a typical French fireplace. The chef’s menu reflects his love of travel and his creativeness in combining his roots with his cooking. He is the cook, waiter and owner and takes pride in his relationships with his customers, who he calls his family. Stephane and his restaurant are as enchanting as the village and exactly what one would expect to find here.
Thank you Stephane for this lovely recipe.
Entre Cour et Jardin
102 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 04 93 20 72 27
Fax: 04 93 20 61 01
Crème de foie gras et fruits
(Cream of goose liver and fruits)
Yield: 40 glasses
Bake: 15 minutes @ 212ºF
250 g (9 oz.) of stuffed goose liver terrine
1 egg yoke
90 cl. (3 1/4 oz.) cream
Pimient d’esplette (Basque chili pepper)
Mix all the ingredients.
Put a raspberry and some raspberry coulis (puréed and strained raspberries) at the bottom of the glass, and then add the preparation.
Bake approximately 15 minutes in the oven at 100º C (212º F)
Put them in a cool place for 2 hours. They can be refrigerated for a few days.
La Goutte d’Eau
108 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes
Phone: 04 93 20 81 23
La Goutte d’Eau has contributed a wonderful typically French “tarte au citron”. I will test the recipe and post it at a later date. I loved it because it has a light citron flavor, not overwhelming, with an Italian meringue topping. The little outdoor eating area is very pleasant in the evening and owners run back and forth to the restaurant to serve its guests outdoors. They are fun and it is a casual restaurant with an atmosphere so typically French.
23, Place Sainte Luce
06800 Cagnes Sur Mer
The restaurant is located next to the left of public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-mer. Its contemporary setting is a surprise, as the outside looks quite old with a small outdoor terrace seating area. The food was very good and even on what one would have considered an off night; it was completely booked with locals.
Le Cagnard Hotel
Rue Sous Barri
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes, France
Le Cagnard Hotel, our choice for many years has come upon some difficult times. Still beautiful, it’s one time one star Michelin restaurant has been closed. But I remember my first encounter with Madam Barel showing me each of the 4 rooms and 2 apartments so that I could choose my favorite room (They have many more rooms now). There were huge tulips on top of the antique chest and on stools placed around the hotel. It had a small elevator that never seemed to stop at the right floor and has a beautiful restaurant with its painted ceiling tiles (now opens to view the stars). I remember the New Years Eve we spent here with a fire glowing in the large fireplace and the huge selection of chèvre for dessert. This is where I was introduced to chèvre. On our 10th anniversary of visiting Le Cagnard, Madam came into the dinning room as we were having breakfast and insisted that we join her for a bottle of champagne to celebrate our 10 years of visiting her. We never made it back to Switzerland that day and she has remained in our memories of Haut-de-Cagnes. This year we opted to rent an apartment which we find a more interactive and interesting way to enjoy a place that is a home away from home.
I search for the small hotels that are owner operated and the service is focused on your return. The place where you say, I would come back. Where the chef comes to your table to make sure that everything is to your satisfaction and they are willing to spend time talking with you as though you have gone there many times before.
In S. Mamete village in Valsolda, Italy is the small hotel of Stella d’Italia. On the Italian side of Lake Lugano, it is about 2 miles from the Swiss border, 6 miles from the city of Lugano and an hour from Como.
Mr. & Mrs. Ortelli have owned and run the family owned hotel for many years. It has been in their family for 4 generations. They are very welcoming and speak English fluently. There are 34 rooms tastefully decorated with French doors, balconies and beautiful views of Lake Lugano.
Guests can enjoy breakfast; lunch or dinner under the rose covered terraced garden boarding the lake. The gardens also have small tables where you can enjoy drinks or lounge and take up the sun and beauty of the lake. It has a very small beach and a dock where boats can pull up and moor until guests have finished their meal.
The restaurant is very good and stopping by just for a meal on our way back from Como is a must. I suggest if you decide to stay there, that you make a reservation for dinner as you won’t be disappointed in the food, and there are few other places to eat in the village.
The village is very small and does not offer much interest. There is a ferry that links the village to the city of Lugano and Porlezza, Switzerland where ferries can be taken to other points in the Lake Region. It is a fantastic location to visit Gandria, Monte Bre, Lugano and the Lake Region with rooms at a reasonable price compared to Lugano. If you are a golfer the Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club is one of Eruope oldest and most prestiges clubs and is about 15 minutes away (http://www.menaggio.it/). If you want a small, friendly and well-appointed hotel while traveling from the Ticino, Switzerland to Italy it is a perfect place to stay. Be sure to make a reservation, the hotel is fully booked in the summer months. Spring and Autumn are beautiful in this region and the hotel opens on Easter weekend.
Salsa crema e zucchini was inspired by a dish I had at Stella d’Italia.
Zucchini Cream Sauce for pasta
Salsa crema e zucchini
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large fresh zucchini
4 tablespoons cream (half & half or heavy cream)
1 small anchovy (optional)
Salt to taste
Peel one zucchini. Half both zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds. Put the peels and seeds into the broth. Cut both into 1/2” cubes. Put half of the peeled cubes and half of the unpeeled cubes into the broth. Reserve the 2 remaining halves for the steamer.
Add water, garlic (whole), peppercorn and anchovy into broth. Put the steamer with the remaining half of the cubes on top of the pan and cover. Boil down at medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the steamer and reserve the steamed zucchini. Remove and put aside the zucchini cubes from the broth. Strain the broth and reduce to half, approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Put the reserved zucchini from the broth back into the broth. Puree with a hand emulsifier until smooth. Add the cream (heavy cream will make the sauce thicker; I prefer half & half). Just before serving the pasta add the reserved zucchini from the steamer to the cream sauce. Taste for salt and spoon it over the pasta.
(hover cursor over picture to stop slide show)
Cookouts are being planned for July 4th and summer outdoor celebrations. Tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and pasta are all that is needed for this fresh pasta salad that you can prepare a day ahead.
I got this recipe from a small restaurant in Rome called Santo Padre many years ago. The key is to allow the aroma of basil, finely chopped garlic, olive oil and the pasta meld together overnight. The next day when you are ready to serve it, remove the basil and add freshly chopped basil and chopped tomatoes with the pasta and salt to taste.
Now of course I never do things the easy way, I like to make my own farfalle. A good store brand works well also. The fresh pasta flavor does make a difference and also it looks so much prettier when you make them a little larger then the store bought.
4 cups flour (all purpose, or half all purpose and half semolina flour)
Pinch of salt
4 medium eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Water (tepid) as required
Place the flour mixture on a pastry board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, olive oil, salt and a small amount of water (if needed). Begin to stir the flour from the outside of the well into the wet ingredients. Continue this process until the dough holds together in a ball.
The dough should seem as if it is too dry, it should just stick together and the kneading should allow you to make a ball. Once it is rolled out in a pasta machine it will hold together. If the dough is too wet, rub a little flour on it, as it will be difficult to handle and too sticky to roll through the pasta machine.
Knead the dough for at least 10-15 minutes, and allow it to rest covered with a clean kitchen towel at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Yield: 6–8 Servings
After allowing the dough to rest, cut a piece off large enough to roll out to about 1’ long and 6” wide (these measurements are only a guideline, you can make it larger, this size is easy to work with). Roll the dough out until the dough is thin. Try to get a feel for the dough as you are rolling it out. Rub just enough of flour to allow you to work with it if it is too sticky. If you are using a rolling pin get a sense of the thickness by feeling the dough. Repeat the same thickness with each section that you roll out. Because there is egg in this dough the pasta will swell when cooking.
A pasta machine works very well as the consistency will always be the same. The process of rolling the dough through the different thickness settings also kneads it.
Cut strips about 1 1/4” wide with a clean cut lengthwise (you can use a pizza cutter). Make vertical cuts about 1” wide with a cookie cutter which has a fluted edge. When you have all the cuts made, pinch the middle of each one forming a bow.
When ready to cook, place the farfalle directly into salted boiling water. Fresh pasta takes only a few minutes to cook check after 3-5 minutes. The time will depend on whether you cook them fresh or dried. Remove them when they are al dente. Drain them and run them under a little cold water if you are going to use them for pasta salad.
The basil of Liguria is intense in aroma. They produce small leaf basil that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The essential oils of basil are in the veins of the leaves. I was told that making pesto requires patients and love. The motion of the wooden pestle against the stone mortar brings out the oils. Add the leaves a little at a time, listen to the sound of the pestle as you move it against the mortor. The aroma is intoxciating. I love the way Italians talk about food, it is always so sensual.
I make Genovese pesto without cheese, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it for soups or sauces. I store it in a glass jar, topped with olive oil and refrigerate it. Top it off with oil each time to assure it doesn’t oxidize. It is at my disposal whenever I want to add it to a dish such as chicken salad or drizzled over fish and always ready for pasta.
Often in Liguria the cheese is left out and used to flavor many other dishes. Soup, sauces, vegetables, topping for pizza, tossed with pasta, drizzled on fish, salads, a little pesto wakes up the flavors.
Mix the pesto with cheese such as Ricotta or Pecorino are also used. One of my favorites is a soft fresh chèvre with freshly ground pepper tossed with pasta. There are some lovely formaggi di capra made in the Alpe Liguri.
Trofiette Liguri is the traditional pasta with pesto and is served in every restaurant and household. Thank goodness you can buy trofiette packaged because hand making this pasta would truly be a labor of love.
Yield: 4 Servings
4 oz. fresh basil
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pinoli nuts (pine nuts)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (light in flavor)
Salt to taste, (Don’t use large grain salt)
Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them on a towel. With a marble mortar and wooden pestle pound the garlic into a paste. The garlic should not overwhelm the basil. Add some salt and grind it into the garlic paste. Add the basil a little at a time and with a gentle swirling motion grinding it into the garlic. You get the best taste by gently grinding the leaves. At this point add the pine nuts, a handful at a time. When the nuts are soft and incorporated start adding the cheese. Begin to add the extra virgin olive oil. It is important the flavor of the oil is light so that it doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the basil. The light olive oil of the Luguria blends perfectly with the basil mixture.
The preparation should be done at room temperature and as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation.
Trofiette Liguri is served everywhere and is a specialty of this region. Boil the water salting it sufficiently and drop in the trofiette. It will take longer then most pasta to cook, about 19 minutes. Toss it well with the pesto and serve the grated cheese either Parmesan or Pecorino on the side. Drizzle the same light extra virgin olive oil over the top.
We started out in Dolceaqua in search of more medieval stone villages and came across Pigna just a few miles from Apricale. The village is beautifully restored with many apartments renovated into full time or vacations getaways occupied by dwellers in search of the past. Many people had witches (le streghe) hanging above their doors or in the apartments. This of course coming from New England was rather strange. I assumed that it must be that they are meant to keep evil away. As we walked through the narrow caruggi (paths) we met up with one of the locals who was entering his apartment and had a witch hanging above his door. He explained that the witches bring good luck to the family. An odd concept we thought as they are considered shadowy figures working their potions and strange ideas in dark rooms somewhere to us. But not here, as the village of the witches here is Triora he told us and suggested we visit this interesting stone medieval village. So off we went in search of the story.
Back to Pigna for a moment as it is too pretty to just pass by. The large spa of The Grand Hotel Pigna Terme is cradled just below two medieval villages with breathtaking views. Hidden just below the Toraggio mountains the views of the ancient villages of Pigna and Castle Victorrio, the green plateaus and centuries of history and art are surreal. The Grand Hotel Pigna Antiche Terme offers just about everything for relieving stress and beauty treatments in harmony with nature.
(hover cursor over picture to stop slide show)
From there we headed up winding roads, sometimes hairpin turns into the mountains with views covering miles of forests and olive groves out to the sea to Triora. The small village is truly fascinating, as the world’s technological advances have not reached it as yet. Some locals and a few vacation apartments have been renovated, but if you want to get a true idea of what life must have been like during the 14 century you can find it here. It is hard to call the spaces apartments – they are really caves carved out of the mountains with walls built of layered stone. A simpler construction then their neighbors, it reaches down into your physic with wonderment of what life must have been like and how lucky in many ways we are today. Hard to contemplate living in this cold yet imaginative environment. The village was very poor as we were told by one of the local woman. She went on to say that the women were the center of life with great power over the family. As in many cases the mystic overtook reality and those who didn’t understand their world considered the women witches. They were burned alive during the Inquisition; Troira was the site of the last witch trails. Today the witches are thought to bring good luck to families. Troria has a witchcraft festival in August and Halloween. It was selected as “I Borghi Piú Belli d’Italia”, (The most beautiful villages in Italy). We didn’t find any witches, but I’m sure there are some behind the old wooden doors along the caurggi.
As usual we were taken up with what we were doing and lost track of time as we began our decent to San Remo. We needed to find a restaurant before 2PM when the restaurants close for the afternoon. As we entered Moiline Di Triora we came across a very small restaurant along the side of the road. We know that they usually don’t have a menu but this has never stopped us in the past, and we always enjoy the interaction with the local people. This was no exception as we listened to the two main courses and the pasta of the day, we made our selection and enjoyed some wine as we waited for the fresh tagliiatelle with pesto Liguria, now going on at least 3-4 times we have ordered it. The homemade pasta was delicious (pesto Liguria is made without cheese) and shortly came the Cinghiale di Liguri (wild boar) and the Coniglio di Liguri (rabbit) that my husband ordered. These are typical dishes of the Alpe Liguri and we had to try them at least once.
The stews were simple and the meat just fell apart. Knowing that not many people would have access to wild boar, I asked the owner for the rabbit recipe. This is always interesting as everyone in the restaurant usually has his or her idea of how to prepare a dish. As she explained how to prepare the rabbit and left to serve another customer, our neighbors began to explain that she had not told us the most important part. The rabbit must be browned to a crisp and not to add too much olive oil or wine as it should not be steamed or it will get too dry. The conversation went on for quite some time as they ate their panna cotta with chocolate sauce and a shot of Vodka poured over the top. Seeing that I was a little surprised, they explained that this was how people in the mountains eat – they drink a lot! We had a good time talking to them except by the end of the discussion we had eaten all the boar and rabbit and I forgot to take a picture. So here is the recipe without the picture.
Cinghiale Bianco Ristorante
Molini DI Triora
Via Regina Margherita 77
Coniglio di Liguri
1 rabbit cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
Vegetable bouillon, as needed
Mixture of herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, chopped
Black Taggia olives
Large grain salt
Extra virgin olive oil, light
Other things needed:
Terra cotta pot
Put a small amount of olive oil in the pot and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the rabbit pieces and brown until a crust has formed. This step is very important, as the rabbit will dry out during the cooking if it is not properly browned. Add the herbs and wine and salt and pepper. About 1/2 hour into the cooking add the olives. Let the stew cook for about 40 minutes. Add the broth as needed.
The medieval village rests on a small hillside 7 km from Ventimiglia in the Val Nervia dominated by the ruins of the Chateau des Doria. The medieval bridge stretches over the Rio San Rocco river connecting the two sections of the town and is a symbol of Dolceacqua. Terraces (fasce) are carved into the hillside where olive trees, vineyards, flowers and eucalyptus grow. Art and history create a visual feast of beauty that caught the eye of Claude Monet who painted Dolceacqua and said that it was an “extraordinary picturesque village”.
The sunny Piazza Garibaldi acts a theater for feasts and events in the village such as the Festa dell”Olio Nuove (Festival of the new oil), and is lined with restaurants where you can enjoy the famous pizza made with local light olive oil. Stone pathways with arches connecting the buildings called “caruggi” (narrow paths) wind upwards through the stone village that protected its inhabitants from invaders and the weather. Small shops tucked along the caruggi house workplaces of carpenters, electricians, galleries, small B&B’s and agriturismi that cater to today’s residents and guests. Each day as we passed we could hear the sound of classical music combined with workmen’s tools as they go about their tasks.
The ancient village is slowly being renovated into charming apartments and rough stone spaces still await a loving owners to bring them back to life. Many French come over the boarder to enjoy the views, the famous pizza at one of the 15 restaurants, and mountain breezes that provide a naturally cool and pleasant environment during the summer months. This is mountain life and the pace is slow and peaceful. People meet in the café’s, drink cappuccino reading the newspaper in the mornings, and socialize with friends over a glass of wine in the afternoons. The fish man comes along in a small truck selling fish from the sea as people go about their business working in the shops or greenhouses that ramble along the hillsides and olive groves that seems almost impossible to reach.
The region has a culture of roses and floriculture with tangerine trees lining the streets and the sweet aroma from the multitude of flowering bushes. Although the region has been deeply affected by difficult economic times, 80% of Italy’s flowers are grown here.
Dolceacqua means “Sweet Water” maybe named after the very nice red wine called “Rosses di Dolceacqua” that has the deep red color of roses. Made from grapes grown in vineyards where their roots cling to the hillsides, it was highly revered by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Paul III who made sure that casks were shipped home.
Maybe it is the olive oil that is the sweet water of Dolceacqua. The silver green leafed olive trees covering the hills produce light yellow oil perfect for fish, wild boar and rabbit dishes typical of the cuisine of Liguria. Beer is also brewed here, and is deep yellow, served very cold in glasses similar to a Bordeaux glass. The beer is a perfect accompaniment to the thin-crusted pizza made in wood fired ovens covered with local dried salumi, porcini, fresh vegetables or shellfish, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy.
Just up the road about 4km is Apricale, one of the” Rock Villages” certified as the most beautiful villages in Italy. Stone houses and alleys lead around the castle housing artist’s workshops and painted murals. Paintings and stone carvings can be seen along the caruggi and doorways decorated with flowers that add color to the grey stone structures.There are a few B&B’s and restaurants in the center of the piazza where there is a washing trough and along the caruggi you can see the old village central oven. The village is also well-known for its summer theater. A local Balu tournament is held in June and July with 16 teams taking part. A popular Ligurian game using an elastic ball is played against the walls of the ancient village. The local players are even more popular then football players.
Sun showers light into the dark covered caruggi during the day lighting the painted and carved murals walls. At night it is the stars that light the ancient village, which seems to sit just below the sky. The villages were owned by the Counts of Ventimiglia, captured by Grimaldi until Andrea Doria liberated them. Apricale even has an American history as Giovanni Battista Martini fought at Little Big Horn and was the only living survivor.
Both Apricale and Dolceacqua belong to the prestigious “Associatione dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia”, (The Association of beautiful villages in Italy) and there is no doubt why many foreigners have bought apartments in appreciation not only of the villages but the life style of the mountains.
Ventimiglia is 7km, San Remo is 14km and the French border is 16km from Dolceacqua making this little village a perfect base for visiting the Alpe Liguri – the backdrop of the Riviera dei fiori is a refuge from the crowded beach towns along the Riviera. There are many apartments for rent by the week or weekend. Renting an apartment offers you the opportunity to experience village life and select some of the local cheeses, salumi, wines, foccica, bread and pastries to enjoy at home. The local merchants are very helpful and always happy to recommend local specialties. French and Italian are mostly spoken here and even though only a few people speak English you can always find ways to communicate with the friendly locals. There is little night life except for the restaurants and a few clubs, yet you are a very short distance to the sea side towns.
Cars are not allowed in the old villages anywhere along the Riviera, so be prepared to walk up hill or steep steps to reach an apartment or B&B. Villages have parking lots; some are free at the entrance of the village. Summer months are crowded with heavy traffic clogging narrow roads through the towns along the sea. The best time to visit the area is in May to Mid June or from September through the fall.
Pizza Verde Dolceaqua
Cook time: 200c (400ºF)
Time: 20-30 minutes
500g flour (1.1.lb)
5 tablespoons extra virgin ‘Taggiasca” olive oil
250gr water (1 1/4 cup)
40gr yeast (1 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole eggs
750gr chard (1 lb. 10 oz.)
150gr Parmesan cheese (10 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Black Taggia olives
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Pour the flour onto a work surface and add the yeast mixture, and salt to the flour. Bring it together into a ball and knead it. Let it rest under a clean cloth, preferable woolen, of a bowl until in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Take the risen dough and knead a second time until you have soft dough and let it raise again under the cloth for another 2 hours.
Roll it out and put it onto a pan greased with olive oil and let it rest again before covering it with the greens.
Chop the uncooked chard and add the oil, salt, eggs, onion and cheese. Spread the prepared mixture onto the dough and sprinkle olives and whole cloves of garlic over the top. Cook in the oven at 200/300º (400ºF) for 25/30 minutes.
Michetta, The sweet bread of Dolceacqua
The story of michetta:
The Marquis Doria sent a young bride who refused to give herself to him to prison to die. The population of Dolceacqua rose up and forced the Marquis Doria (1364) to stop his abuse of power and on the 16th of August there is a festival to celebrate the event. The women of the village created the “michetta” now the symbol of love and freedom.
1kg flour, (2 lbs 3 oz.)
100g yeast, (3 1/2 oz.)
350g sugar, (13 oz.)
250g butter, ( 9 oz.)
Grated lemon zest,
Warm water and Marsala
Bake time: 200ºc (400ºF). until they puff up and have alight brown color on top.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and add it to the flour. Add the eggs, butter, lemon zest, salt and Marsala. Let the mixture rise for one hour and knead it. Shape it into an oval or knot shape. Place the michette on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200ºc (400ºF).
Dampen the tops with a little water and dust with remaining sugar.
The polenta, porcini and truffles and Genovese pesto spaghetti were dishes we had for lunch at Locanda dei Carugi, Via Roma 12/14, Apricale, a small little inn and restaurant – they were excellent.
The markets stalls are neatly stacked with artichokes of all varieties and sizes during this time of the year in Italy. People gather around two and three deep to make their purchases and the vendors scrabble to keep up with the demand as people clamor to get their attention. Artichokes are in season – a vegetable with a lot of versatility.
A fresh artichoke salad with ribbons of parmesan cheese over the top and a lemon and olive oil dressing, a creamy soup, marinated in olive oil – Carciofi o carciofini sott’olio, boiled and served with a vinaigrette, Carciofi alla Giudia, Stuffed artichokes, Tagliata con carciofi – sautéed and spread over grilled meat or fish, are prepared at home and in restaurants all over Italy.
Artichokes take a little effort to clean, but once you know how to do it, it goes pretty fast and the effort is well worth the time. If you are lucky and live in Italy, you can find them in some markets already cleaned. When I find them this way, I buy enough to prepare meals for the week and get our fill of them as long as the season lasts. They can be bought frozen, marinated, or in cans, but they don’t compare to fresh artichokes.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi or Fettuccine with fresh artichokes is a fast and easy dish to make. The artichokes have a delicate flavor and just using fresh tomatoes and a little wine results in a flavorful sauce that compliments the pasta. If you are willing to make fresh pasta, you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish you will prepare again and again.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi
Prep Time: 30 minutes for fresh artichokes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. spaghetti
16 small artichokes, cleaned and sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped or 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup white wine
1 pepperoncino, broken in half
1/2 lemon plus juice
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, as garnish
Clean the artichokes by cutting the top off about 1/4” of the way down. Remove the outer leaves by pulling them down and snapping them off until you reach the white/yellow leaves. Remove the stem and cut around the bottom to remove any dark, hard or stringy part. Cut the choke in half and clean out the hay with a melon ball scoop or a small spoon. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/8” thick slivers.
In a frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepperoncino and sauté, add the artichokes for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer until the artichokes are slightly soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the speghetti or fettuccini and add it to the pan with the artichokes and finish the cooking adding a little pasta water as needed. Garnish the pasta with freshly chopped parsley.
Note: You can serve this dish with a little Parmesan cheese or a side dish of red pepper flakes. I prefer a little heat and no cheese, as I think the cheese overwhelms the flavor of the artichokes.
Making fresh pasta used to be a labor of love. Many Italians consider rolling out the dough by hand an art. I took a cooking class from a couple in Italy, Marco was a restoration architect and his wife Monaca was a child psychiatrist. They were passionate about food and their classes were a lot of fun. But anyone else rolling out the pasta dough was just out of the question as far as Marco was concerned, this was his and only his to make. This sounds unreasonable for a cooking class, but you have to understand how serious this is to Italians who consider rolling out the dough all-important to the quality of the pasta. After several classes, one of my classmates, a dentist from Michigan decided he just had to roll out the dough and proceeded to try to convince Marco to let him do it. We all sided with our classmate including Monica and won the battle, somewhat. Marco started the process and rolled the dough out to a huge size on the very large kitchen table and then let my classmate finish the process. Unfortunately for our classmate, he made a very small hole in the dough. It was a comedy I will never forget, as Marco just simply couldn’t deal with a hole in his dough. It took all of Monica’s humor and professional training to calm Marco down and convince him that the piece of noodle that had the hole in it would be discarded. We hand cut the fettuccini, but I’m sure none of us met his expectations. Never the less, it was delicious and we all left that evening with an appreciation of the importance of rolling out pasta dough.
I have to admit; I have also taken great pride in making dough, rolling it out to the thinnest sheet, and cutting it by hand. However, I am also a fan of kitchen tools that make cooking easier and allow us to still get good results in the least amount of time. Today we are not all at home worrying about how thin we can roll out our dough, or even making pasta by hand at all. But with a few tools we can cut the time down and make it by hand more often. Fresh pasta has a quality and flavor that you just can’t get with boxed pasta. Having said that, I feel that in the case of spaghetti, a good quality boxed spaghetti is often better then handmade.
I use to have a hand cranked pasta machine but have invested in an electric machine. I have a Puglian Chitarra (the spaghetti comes out better on this then the machine) and you can make troccoli, taglatelle and fettuccini. There was a time when you could only find these in Puglia Italy, but today I have seen them in Sur La Table and Surfas. I’m sure other kitchen supply stores carry them. It is an inexpensive simple box with wire strings strung across the top. You roll the dough out and then run it over the strings with a rolling pin and watch the pasta fall in strips into the holding tray. Kitchen Aid mixers have a dough rolling attachment. These tools and a few pasta cutters (I search for old pasta cutters in flea markets and Italian markets) along with a food processor give very good results. It takes very little time and the quality far surpasses anything you can buy.
The following is a recipe for garganelli, and some examples of other types of pasta you can prepare when rolling sheets of dough. The dough ingredients will vary according to the type of pasta you are making.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups flour
Tepid water (if necessary)
Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be dry, or it will not go through the pasta machine without adding flour. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out when you are working with it. Cut a piece of dough off the ball and roll it through the pasta machine in each slot until you have rolled it though the second to the last slot. Cut 2” squares with a clean-cut cutter. You can use a pizza cutter for example or a knife. I find that the pizza cutter works very well.
Using a spindle or the end of a round handle, fold each square from one corner to another. Roll it over the back of a folk or a grooved tool, which are sold in kitchen supply stores especially for this purpose. You can also leave them without grooves, but the sauce adheres better to the pasta with grooves.
Allow the garganelli to dry. Cook them for about 3-5 minutes; the pasta should be al dente. Fresh pasta cooks faster then boxed pasta so watch carefully and don’t over cook as they will be very soft.
Zeppole are traditionally served on San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day) in Naples, which is on March 19th. They were first made in Naples by a baker and sold in front of his bakery from a street stand. You can still find them served in stalls on the streets today as well as in bakeries. Sometimes they are not rolled into a ball but scooped into the hot oil and look more like a fritter. Recipes can be found in cookbooks as early at 1834.
Emanuele Rocco (Le Zeppole, in Usi e Costumi di Napoli e contorni — Uses and Customs of Naples and Environs, Naples, 1857), who gives Cavalcanti’s recipe and adds, jokingly, that the inventor of such a delight deserves a statue with the following plaque: “Naples invented zeppole and all Italians licked their fingers.” He then says, “Thus our city government will be able to boast that they finally got one right, after all the mistakes they’ve made and continue to make every day.”
They can be made as either a savory or sweet dish. My grandmother made them with a piece of baccala in the middle, which I will post at a later date. My aunts say they were the best zappole they ever had, light as a feather with the salty taste of baccala. But they are still arguing over the recipe.
Zeppole are eaten anytime of the day as a snack or as a dessert after a meal dunked in a sweet wine, Moscato or Grappa.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown
Yield: 24 Zeppole
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1 small apple, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Grappa (Italian Liquor)
2 tablespoons Rum
1 small orange, zest only
Put the raisins into the Grappa and Rum; it should cover the raisins. Let them stand for about 1/2 hour or more.
Blend the eggs and sugar together until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, zest, vanilla and sugar together and add it to the egg mixture in a mixer. Pour in the Grappa and rum from the raisins. Chop the apples very fine and fold them in with the raisins into the batter.
Scoop out about 1/2 tablespoon of the batter. Cover your hands with flour and roll them into about the size of a golf ball. You can also scoop them out with a spoon and make them like fritters.
Heat the oil and drop them one at a time into the oil. They will float to the top and, with a ladle, constantly roll them around in the oil so that they brown on all sides – approximately 3 minutes or until they are golden brown. Place them on a rack or paper towels to drain and cool.
Put them in a bag filled with powdered sugar or granulated sugar mixed with a little cinnamon and gently toss them, coating them with the sugar. They can also be dipped in warm honey.
The first sign of spring in Europe is when asparagus begin to show up on restaurant menus. Asparagus are considered the king of vegetables and some restaurants open only during the season serving asparagus with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit Sauce Hollandaise), slices of ham and fresh strawberries for dessert. Once the season is over, these restaurants close.
Having lived in Germany for several years, we would see fields of white asparagus packed in dirt with the tips peeking out of the ground during the spring. They are deprived of light, which keeps them from turning green.
White asparagus are thicker and juicer but I think more fibrous. Some restaurants in Germany serve them in their water, not my favorite. A chef friend of ours, Rolf Messmer, owner of the Au Major Davel Restaurant & Hotel in Cully Switzerland (www.hotelaumajordavel.ch/), tells us that when he started his apprenticeship he cleaned tons of asparagus. He is meticulous in making sure that the skin has been neatly removed from the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, he turns the stalks slightly with every stroke removing all the skin. He adds sugar to the water to bring out the flavor and slightly undercooks them, wrapping them in a towel for the final cooking. His asparagus are perfect and his restaurant is filled with people enjoying the king of vegetables as they watch the steamboats pulling up to the dock on Lake Geneva.
There are special asparagus pans where you stand them in a rack in about 3” of water. But you can cook them lying down in water also. Don’t overcook them, as they will become soggy and uneatable. Prick them with a knife to judge if they are beginning to get tender after about five minutes. As soon as the knife starts to penetrate the stalk remove them to a clean kitchen towel as suggested by Chef Messmer.
Green and white asparagus are interchangeable in recipes, but I feel that due to the amount of water in the white variety, they are not as good if added to pizza for instance. I also prefer the green the variety in pasta or anything where the heat continues to cook the vegetable.
When choosing asparagus, make sure they are fresh and the ends are not dried out. When they are old, they will begin to show ridges along the stem – the stem should be smooth. Store them covered in the refrigerator for a few days only. When you are ready to cook them, snap the bottoms off – they will break where the tender part starts. Discard the hard bottom parts, as they are woody and fibrous.
Asparagus are a versatile vegetable and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, made into soup, tossed with pasta and so on. The white variety tends to be a little more expensive and are not as easily found in the US as they are in Europe. I prefer the green variety, as I think they have a more intense flavor but this is a matter of taste.
Place several on a warm plate and add some hollandaise sauce over the top or on the side. It is acceptable to eat them with your hands holding the ends and dipping them in the sauce. A good chardonnay, or a light burgundy goes well with this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Yield: 2 people
12 green or white asparagus (remove the outer skin with a peeler)
Salt & sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
Juice of one lemon
Boil the peppercorns, wine vinegar and chopped parsley until it is reduced to almost nothing, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of water. Run it through a sieve and pour it into a cold double boiler. Add 2 egg yolks, whisking them into the pan. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, at this point put the double boiler onto medium heat and begin whisking little pieces of butter until the it has melted and thicken. Wisk constantly – this is very important. If the sauce separates, put chilled water, and if necessary add another egg yolk.
Prepare the asparagus by peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler. This is not necessary if you are using green asparagus, but it has to be done with the white asparagus. Remove about 1 inch of the bottom of each steam. You can simply bend the stalks and they will break at the point where the hard stalk separates from soft stalk. However, if you want all the stalks to be the same size, cut them where you think the hard stalk ends. Boil them in salted water (add a little sugar, which brings out the taste of the asparagus), for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the water and wrap them in a kitchen towel to finish cooking.
Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus.
Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna region is a city known for its food, culture, commerce and beauty. It always amazes me how often I meet people who bypass Bologna. It is buzzing with activity within its famous and beautiful medieval piazzas built between the 12th and 14th Centuries. Piazza Maggiore with its Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), Palazzo dei Banchi, Basilica di San Petronio and San Domenico form the heart of the city where in summer many concerts, art exhibitions and street entertainers fill the piazzas with locals and visitors well into the early morning hours. Shopping is an art in Bologna where street markets straddle the sidewalks side by side with exquisite boutiques. People linger in cafes drinking their many expressi of the day in deep conversation oblivious to the activity going on around them. It is all encompassing and draws you in like a magnet. How can you pass the aromas of a bar without stopping in for an espresso? The city is seductive and you quickly find yourself joining in the excitement that surrounds you day and night.
One of the most alluring attractions of Bologna is its 38 kilometers of porticoes lining the streets and a 4-kilometer-wall built in 1674. The Porticoes add shelter from the weather and are one of the main architectural features of this beautiful city, (read more about Bologna’s famous porticoes on http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5010/).
When taking an Italian language course I lived just outside of the wall and walked home each night about 1 1/2 miles under brightly lit porticos passing bars bustling with people well past midnight. The yellow light flooding the terracotta stucco buildings casts a mysterious dimension to the ancient walls leaving you with the feeling that you are living in ancient times.
There were up to 180 towers in Bologna but today only 2 still exist, the most famous being Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower still stand, leaning precariously.
Il “Mercato di mezzo” is situated within ancient streets originally where the cities craftsmen conducted business. Meandering off in all directions, stalls filled with fish, fruit, cheese, salumi and just about everything else fill your senses with delicious aromas and a noisy and colorful collaboration of activity. It is all so natural to Italians, this life in il mercarto. For the tourist, it is overwhelming and a confusing interaction between vendors and their probing customers. Italians are very discriminating about their food buying nothing but the best. This is where I spent everyday before and after my Italian classes held just around the corner. I spent many hours studying the activity, the process of being Italian and interacting with the locals. Il mercarto is the center of life in an Italian city and it is where you find the real people of the city. Day after day I studied the Italian women making their selections and having rented an apartment, I had no other choice but to cook for myself. As I sat there at a café, I had a discussion with a woman about this special activity that seems to be some sort of ritual. She told me that the trick was to ask the vendor what the right product was for the dish I was making. The vendors pride and knowledge of food would prevail and taking their advice would render your dish exactly as you expected. With my newly acquired Italian language skills, I took her advice and totally became part of the scene almost to the point that I think they took me for a local, (at least I like to think so). It helped that my heritage is Italian and I look Italian. These days were some of the best memories I have of my time in Bologna. I became part of the chaotic activity and for a short time even I began to believe that I was Italian.
Bologna’s markets are crowded and be advised to prepare yourself for some serious shopping. Many clothing, textile and shoe manufacturers are situated on the outskirts of Bologna and you can find fantastic things with a little patient. This is where the locals shop and many fashion trends start right here in the market. Be sure to check everything, as there are also lesser quality items for sale especially the leather goods. Often different pieces of leather are used where it isn’t noticeable and a jacket for example may be a patch work of leather.
Mercato Coperto – Via Ugo Bassi 2, Orefici Market – Via dei Orefici, open daily. La Piazzola – Piazza VIII Agosto (clothes, kitchen goods etc. open on Saturdays and Sundays), Mamanca Market – Via Valdonica (antiques and books), Mercato di Antiquariato – Piazza Santo Stefano (antiques and art) held on the second Sunday of each month. This is one of my favorite markets where beautiful antiques and art are displayed and the most interesting collectables can be bought. I loved spending the afternoon strolling around the tables and display areas filled with unique items. Somehow being in Italy it seemed right to be surrounded with art and antiques.
Via Rizzoli and via dell’Indipendenza are the main streets for shopping. There are also many boutiques on Via Farini, including an arcade of top designer shops in Via Clavature and via d’Azeglio. Situated under the ancient portico covered streets these shops sell the elegant creations of Italian designers.
Situated in the North, in the Po Valley, Bologna’s cuisine is mainly cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami, as well as cheese, such as the world renowned Parmigiano Reggiano. Tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce, i.e. the famous spaghetti alla Bolognese), tortellini served in broth, mortadella and Zampone (boned stuffed pigs foot) are among the local specialties. Tortellini (small, stuffed ring shaped pasta), Tagliatelle (ribbon shaped pasta), and the spinach pasta verde are typical pasta varieties. Wonderful small restaurants can be found everywhere and the food is outstanding. Pasta with white truffles, beautiful grilled porcini mushrooms, wild meats such as venison, mutton and bore are seasonal specialties. Don’t forget the desserts. One of my very favorite is sfogliatelle (crispy pastry layers stuffed with ricotta). I was lucky enough to have a pasticceria just across the street where I could go for my morning cappuccino and savor a warm, just out of the oven sfogliatelle. I couldn’t wait to get up and out to the pasticceria and sometimes I had to wait, as the first trays weren’t out of the oven yet. Zuccherino montanaro, biscotti flavored with anise and frosting infused with anise liqueur and Zuppa Inglese made with pan di Spagna soaked in liquor and filled with a pastry cream are famous. Dolce di San Michele, a cake in honor of the city’s patron eaten on the 29th of September, La Pinza, a pastry filled with raisins, almonds, and prune jam and Torta di riso, Bologna’s rice cake are waiting for you in every pasticceria. Crocante con mandorle can be found all along the streets in huge sheets sold by vendors. This is similar to brittle but harder and thicker using whole roasted almonds and/or hazel nuts. I love this candy, but am very careful, as it is so hard that you can easily break your teeth. (My recipe can be found on my blog).
Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna are the wines produced in this region. Lambrusco is a slightly sweet effervescent wine and is often served as a dessert with peaches when in season. It is probably the most famous wine coming from this region.
The University quarter is northeast of the two towers, along the Via Zamboni. University of Bologna is Europe’s oldest university founded over 900 years ago it attracts students from around the world. As in any city the university adds youth and deep sense of the seriousness as well as innovation. Theaters, book stores and seminars draw in young and old and give the city a buzz of activity. I spent 2 evenings per week here taking a seminar in 17 century Italian opera. I immersed myself in Italian taking a cooking course every week at the home of a couple that made these evenings delicious fun. We learned to cook amazing Italian recipes and communicated about our cultures, politics and anything else that was happening in the world in Italian.
Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) located next to the Palazzo dei Banchi, occupies the building of an old hospital and is one of Italy’s most important collections of antiquities. This museum should not be missed and allow a good amount of time for your visit. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Picture Gallery) houses masterpieces worthy of an art lover’s time.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna is one of the most important opera venues in Italy. Presenting operas since the 17th century from Vivaldi, Gluck, Piccinni, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Wagner and conductor Arturo Toscanini. We were lucky enough to have an opera singer studying Italian in our class and a visit was arranged for us to tour the opera house including the back stage and learn about its history.
I visit Bologna for shopping or just to be there enjoying this lovely city whenever I can. Bologna is an ancient city, but in every way modern. When you visit plan on spending at least a few days.
Note: Some of the photo’s & information were provided by the Bologna Tourist Office.
Annecy is in the southeastern part of France. It lies on northern tip of Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie surrounded by mountains where goats and cows quietly graze in alpine pastures. Farms along the route produce and offer chèvre for sale and beautiful chateaus can be seen behind tall majestic trees.
During the 1400 hundreds, it was in the possession of the Genevois and the Princes of Savoy and later under Sicilian, Sardinian, Spanish, Austrian and finally French rule. You can clearly see the influence of these countries in the cuisine. The production of salami can be found in shops and farm stands throughout the region. Some stuffed with hazelnuts or rolled in crushed peppercorns and herbs. Large ones, small links, soft and hard varieties are produced by small farms in the area.
The old village (Annecy-le-Vieux) rambles along the Canal du Thieu where passages along the streets are lined with colorful houses and flowers. It is a strange beauty in a way, as many of the houses look as if they will crumble into the canal at any time. Paint clings onto the buildings, but losing its battle. This tableau of colorful buildings precariously leaning in all directions is simply charming. The arcades are lined with shops with traditional crafts, antiques, dried flowers, and chocolates. The small restaurants that are tucked into these houses serve foie gras de carnard, fondue Savoyarde, salade du chèvre chaud or poisson du lac. You think, should I chance walking up the narrow stairs; the scent of the Savoie specialties lures you up to small restaurants with views of the canal and cafés below.
There is a farmers market on Saturdays with vendor stands throughout the old city. Along the street crowded with people waiting to make their purchases, you can find local specialties such as kraut and saucisson cooked in large copper pots, fromage melted on large crusty pieces of bread, freshly made local breads, pastries as well as fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. There are many antique shops and once a month there is an antique market along the arcades (check the web page for exact dates).
Locals fill the large park located at the lakeside on the weekends. Children enjoying the carousel beg to go on again and again. There are ball games and people just taking in the sun or enjoy the day with friends and family outdoors. Artists painting the unique village create memories for tourists of Anncey for many years to come.
Brasseries line the narrow passages along the canal and the specialty of plateau fruits de mer is our favorite. My husband and I actually enjoy going to Anncey on a grey day and even light rain. Sitting in a brasserie with a large plateau du fruits de mer and a bottle of local white wine is one of our favorite ways to spend a rainy day.
Anncey is a romantic resort town. If you are visiting France or the French region of Switzerland, take a side trip to Anncey. It is about 1 hour from Geneva and 5 1/2 hours from Paris.
Check the Anncey tourist web site for more history, cultural events and markets.
The recipe below is from France Monthly.Tartiflette is a typical “Savoie” dish. www.francemonthly.com
Preparation time: 50 minutes
2 1/2 lbs of potatoes
1 medium onion (larger or smaller according to your taste)
1/2 lb Canadian bacon
1 Reblochon cheese (or 1 lb of Swiss Gruyere)
3/4 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons oil
Salt and Pepper
The recipe recommends that you use a cheese from the region, called “Reblochon”, and a white “Savoie” wine. This wine is very difficult to find in the United States and we therefore advise you to use a bottle of white Burgundy (Chablis, Saint Veran, Macon Village) or of Muscadet (from the Loire region).
If you cannot find the Reblochon, or prefer a milder cheese, Swiss Gruyere can be used. To accompany this dish we recommend a green leaf salad.
Peel potatoes and boil or steam for 20 minutes. Peel onion and cut into thin slices.
Heat large frying pan with the oil and sauté the onion slices. Cut bacon into small cubes and add to pan. Cook on medium heat until onion slices are soft (10 minutes). Stir as needed.
Add potatoes that have been diced and pour white wine over it.
Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cut the Reblochon in two halves across its thickness. If you are using Gruyere, slice in thin strips.
Put half of the potato preparation in a round ovenproof dish.
Place half of the Reblochon (or Gruyere) cheese side down, on top.
Cover with remaining potatoes and finish with the second half of the Reblochon (or Gruyere).
Place in 350º F oven for 20 minutes
A friend asked me for a soup recipe for a Super Bowl Sunday party. Since she lives in New England and expects that it will be snowy, she wanted to make a big pot of hot soup for everyone to enjoy by the fire watching the game. I wanted to give her a really hearty soup that would satisfy everyone and yet be different.
While I was studying Italian in Bologna Italy, I took a course in cooking in the evenings. Monica was a child physiologist and taught the class with her husband who was an antiquities architect. They were serious food lovers and their kitchen had one small stove and refrigerator, with a huge country kitchen table in the middle where we rolled out dough to almost half the size of the table. It was tight trying to move between large credenzas on each side of the table and in the corner was a small table with a large basket filled with squash, artichokes and other assorted vegetables. Their home was filled with art bought at the art market held each Sunday in Bologna. We cooked and had long conversations in Italian late into the evening. I walked two miles back to my apartment after these evenings under the beautiful arched walkways of Bologna hoping to wear off the large meals that we consumed with complete satisfaction. This soup was one of the recipes we made and I have passed and have gotten rave reviews from all my friends. If you also want something warm for your guests, enjoy this recipe.
Zuppa di salsiccia e pomodoro e rosmarino con ditalini
Monica di Bologna, Italia
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 Italian sweet sausages cut into 1/2” sections
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pureed tomatoes (Passata di Pomodoro)
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup of white wine
3 whole cloves garlic
1/2 lb. of Ditalini pasta or other small pasta
Sauté the garlic in olive oil. Sauté the sausage and rosemary for 10 minutes in the olive oil and butter. Add the wine, passata (pureed tomatoes) and the broth and cook for 45 minutes.
Cook the Ditalini pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add the pasta to the soup. I like to put a scoop of pasta in the bowl and add the soup over it. Not mixing it in the soup will keep the pasta from getting too soft.
Serve with grated Parmesan Cheese sprinkled over the top and bruschetta on the side.
Yield: 4 Servings
8 slices of good quality Italian or French bread
2 large cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Toast the bread and when still hot rub it thoroughly with the garlic which you have cut in half. Sprinkle olive oil over the top.
Roman Jewish artichokes are a sentries old gastronomic tradition. One of Rome’s treasured dishes, they are sometimes called Carciofi Romani. Except for the cleaning of the artichokes it is relatively easy dish to make. If you are looking for a very impressive delicacy you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful presentation.
Baby artichokes are best and require the least cleaning. Once fried they are golden in color and crunchy with a soft center. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over the top and they have lovely nutty flavor.
Carciofi alla Giudia
Prep. Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes per choke in boiling water, 3 minute frying time
Yield: 12-2 per person if used in antipasti
12 small artichokes
Canola or olive oil for frying
Kosher or sea salt
2 lemons, in quarters
Cleaning the Artichokes
Cut the stems off and the tops 1/4 of the way down of all the artichokes. Remove the leaves down to the white leaves. The leaves are removed by pulling them back and snapping them off. It is not necessary to remove the hay in the middle, if the artichokes are very small, but if using medium size artichokes you must remove it with a small spoon, or a melon baller. Place them in a bowl of water with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
In a pan of salted boiling water (you can use table salt), boil the artichokes for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain. They should be completely dry before frying, or the oil will splatter. Once dried turn the artichokes over and gently open them up and loosen the leaves so they look like flowers.
Heat the oil and fry each artichoke upside down in the oil. This will set the leaves open. Turn them and fry them on the bottom side. The artichokes are already blanched and don’t need a long frying time, usually 3-5 minutes. Look for the color when frying; they should not be brown or green, but golden.
Remove them to a rack or paper towels to drain and immediately sprinkle them with a coarse grain sea salt. When biting into them you will sporadically taste the salt. Serve them on a large serving platter with quarter lemons, which should be squeezed over the top.
Anchovies are used to flavor many dishes in Italy from pasta’s to meats and stews. Their pungent salty flavor gives a special twist to a dish that is sometimes hard to identify. It is that flavor that you search for that makes a dish different and you wonder why yours doesn’t taste the same.
Anchovies are in the herring family and are usually sold packed in olive oil or salted but in Italy they are also often found fresh marinated in olive oil and herbs. They are widely used throughout the Mediterranean.
If buying them packed in salt, remove some of the salt by running the felts under water. Put them in a zip lock bag with extra virgin olive oil. They will last a long time if you keep them topped with olive oil. I use the oil to flavor pasta dishes and also to make salsa di acciughe served over linguini or spaghetti.
Whether they are mashed with garlic and spread over crostini or a few felts mixed in with a stew, you will immediately taste the difference.
The recipe for Linguini con salsa di acciughe is found in many parts of Italy but often not on many restaurant menus’. It is the primo piatto of my family’s Christmas Eve dinner along with mixed fried fish or as the Italians say “Peci Fritti” and Biscotti for dessert.
In the South raisins are added giving the sauce a slightly sweet flavor. Olives, capers or toasted breadcrumbs and toasted pignoli can also be added.
Linguine con salsa di acciughe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 Servings
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves chopped
10 flat anchovies, (salted dry anchovies are stronger)
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small pepperoncino or red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. Linguini
Salt to taste (before adding salt taste the sauce)
Run cold water over the salted anchovies and remove as much salt as possible. Place them in a container and cover them with olive oil. You can keep them in olive oil for a few weeks.
Cook the garlic and sauté it in the stored anchovy olive oil (if using canned anchovies in olive oil use this oil). Do not burn the garlic; cook on low heat for a minute. Chop the anchovies and add them to the pan, stir with a spoon. When the anchovies have dissolved, add the dried red pepper broken in half and wine. Grind black pepper to your taste. Do not add salt until you have tasted the sauce, usually it doesn’t need additional salt. The anchovies, even though washed still are very salty. Add 2 cups of water and allow it to cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve in the cooking process. You may have to add additional water to dilute the sauce if it is too salty.
Raisins are added in the South of Italy, and I find that they give the sauce a nice slightly sweet flavor. If you choose to add them, hydrate them in the wine and add them at the same time.
Cook the pasta in boiling unsalted water (check the sauce, it may have enough salt) until it still has a bite, strain it and add it to the sauce. Allow it to continue cooking in the sauce until al dente.
Add whatever ingredients listed below if desired. Allow the cooked pasta to absorb the sauce for several minutes before serving.
Note: Anchovies are used in Italy to flavor many dishes from sauces to roasts.
Note: Red pepper flakes can be sprinkled over the top by each person, if you prefer not to add pepperoncino into the sauce.
Note: The sauce can be strained or the anchovies can be left in the sauce. If you strain the anchovies, serve them in a small bowl so that your guests can add some back if desired. It is also very good spread on toasted bread (anchovy paste bruscchetta).
Note: Black olives and/or raisins can be added to the sauce if you desire a sweeter flavor; toasted pignoli nuts (pine nuts), toasted breadcrumbs and capers are often added to this dish in the south of Italy.
Although Linguini with anchovy sauce is served year round in Italy, it is always served in our family as part of our Christmas Eve dinner.
It is quite amazing how people swam around vendor stands in the markets in Italy when funghi porcini are in season. The king of mushrooms are as impressive as they are delicious. They are tossed with pasta, cooked in risotto, are simply delicious grilled with herbs – a meal in itself, served fresh as a salad, sautéd with olive oil and herbs or baked, they can be marinated in olive oil or topping on pizza.
When selecting porcini the gills should not be yellowish-brown, which means that the mushrooms are becoming over-ripe. Do not buy them if they have dark under-caps or black spots and also check for holes in the stems where there might be worms. The short round stems should be firm and white. They have a rich woodsy rustic flavor and are simply beautiful to look at.
Brush off any dirt you may find and wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. Store them in a paper bag, not in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic wrap. You do not want mosture to form on them. Prepare them as soon as possible when fresh or they will dry out.
Porcini mushrooms are also dried, found year round in supermarkets and must be hyddrated and have a more intense flavor when cooked. When making risotto or pasta sauce you can also use the hyddrating liquid in the sauce adding a deep concentrated flavor.
Porcini can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Fresh Porcini are not as popular in the US as they are in Italy where they are almost over harvested and the collection is regulated. Taking pictures of Porcini is a passion as they are such a beautiful mushroom.
Risotto Funghi Porcini
Risotto With Porcini Mushrooms
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as first dish 2 servings as main course
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups broth (homemade or store bought, vegetable, chicken)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. fresh Porcini mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium chopped onion
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Freshly ground pepper
Put the butter and oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the rice and allow it to cook until it becomes opaque. Pour in the wine so that it just covers the rice. Stir and allow the rice to absorb the wine on medium heat. Heat the broth and begin to add it in by just keeping the rice covered with liquid. As soon as the rice absorbs the liquid, add a little more. Stir constantly, continue this process until the rice is almost done (has a bite). Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook in the rice for another 2-3 minutes. The entire cooking process takes about 20 minutes. Remove the rice from the stove and add the grated cheese, stir and add a little freshly ground pepper. Stir in the cold butter.
Note: Risotto cannot be leftover. It must be served immediately as the rice will absorb all the remaining liquid and it will be uneatable.
Note: You can substitute fresh Porcini with about 2 oz. dried Porcini mushrooms, which can be found in the most markets. Soak them in tepid water for 30 minutes before using them. Add some of the hydrating liquid to the risotto giving it a more intense flavor.
Some time ago just after I completed an Italian language program in Bologna, I took a cooking class from a master chef in Puglia Italy. It was a wonderful personal experience to learn some of the recipes of the region and to use my newfound knowledge of Italian. Chef Marco also knew that I was writing a cookbook about my family recipes who came from the region. He gave me about 30 recipes from chefs throughout Gargano and told me that I could publish them. One of these recipes was his family recipe for Calzone con Cipolla. I have been making it ever since and it is an impressive and delicious luncheon for friends.
Chef Marco had a staff of 4 chefs who taught my husband and I a number of local dishes and to my surprise some were my family recipes that hadn’t changed at all after 3 generations living in the US. My family has been in the food and restaurant business and I expected that some of these recipes would have been Americanized. There were also many that I had never had before and have now brought them back into our family collection of recipes.
Calzone con Cipolla
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes @ 425ºF
Yield: 4 servings
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, a little water
Beat eggs, oil and water. Sift the flour, and baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture. Stir with a folk until blended (the dough can be made in a food processor). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured pastry board. Mix well and knead until the dough is shinny. Cover the dough for 10 minutes.
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. onions, sliced
4 anchovies, chopped
8 green olives, sliced
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
Nutmeg, a few grinds
Salt to taste, because there are anchovies in the recipe, taste the onions and determine if the recipe needs more salt before adding it.
Clean and cut the onions in large pieces and cook them well-set aside to cool. Rinse the capers under cold water to remove the brine. Slice the olives.
Roll out the dough, which can be done in 4 calzone, or in 2 large rounds or even several smaller ones. Layer the onions onto the dough. Sprinkle the anchovies, capers, olives and a few grinds of nutmeg on top of the onions. Fold the dough over the top forming an envelope. Crimp the dough on all sides. Brush the top with the egg wash.
Cook in a very hot oven for 20 minutes or more. It is best to cook the calzone on a pizza stone; it will come out very crispy. Check the bottom of the calzone; if it is brown and the top is golden it is done. It is possible that it can take longer then 20 minutes.
For me there just isn’t any other pasta that is as good as old fashion ricotta ravioli. My grandmother was the expert in our family and thank goodness she loved to teach us all how to cook. I often wonder when I read stories by chefs or others who write blogs about food how it is that everyone mentions their grandmother as being their inspiration. Whatever happened to their mothers? My mother was a great cook also and we loved making cookies and ravioli with her. It was a family affair in the kitchen as we only made them for holidays. Today I make them very often and with different filling. I love when my children and grandchildren join in and I can continue the roll of the grandmother who inspires them to cook. I have put all these recipes on a CD for them to carry on the traditions and heritage that I treasure.
We always have some Italian dishes during our holidays. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter there is always ravioli on our table as a first dish. We set up an assembly line with all of us pitching in to make hundreds of them before Thanksgiving so that we could have them for Christmas also. They freeze very well, but don’t ever defrost them before cooking them. Put them into a large amount of salted boiling water directly from the freezer.
My grandmother made them very big, not like the little ones you find today in many restaurants. These are “the old country” ravioli and I love them. She had a small white sideboard with a roll top and made all of her cookies and pasta on this little pull out counter.
Use whatever tomato sauce recipe you like the best. Hers was always a meat-based recipe cooked for hours.
Prep Time: Dough 10 minutes, filling 20 minutes, 40 minutes forming the ravioli’s
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes and test them
Yield: 35 Ravioli
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Warm water to mix
2 lb. whole milk ricotta
1 teaspoon or more of salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste (slightly over salt)
Add finely chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese and the eggs to the ricotta, taste before adding salt. Slightly over salt the filling. Set the filling aside.
Place the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and salt with a little water as needed. Use a fork and beat into the well the flour a little at a time. Form the dough into a ball and knead until it is smooth and shiny. Let it stand for at least 15 minutes to rest. If you are using a pasta machine to roll out the dough, keep the dough dry by adding less water. When using a pasta machine, roll the dough in the different slots until you come to the second to the last slot. This consistency is the desired thickness. As you roll the dough through the different slots, it will also knead the dough. If you are using a rolling pin, roll the dough out so that it is thin enough but not so thin that it would break. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, (large enough to fold over the filling) in an envelope style.
Place a tablespoon of filling along the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling forming the envelope. Press down on the edges and also along the sections forming the squares. Be sure to cup the filling with your hands so that you remove as much of the air inside the envelope. Cut into squares (whatever size you wish). Prick the edges with a folk to keep them from opening while cooking.