BULGUR SALAD (UNDER THE TOSCAN SUN, 1)

under the toscan sunUNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: AT HOME IN ITALY is a memoir by Frances Mayes. In this book the author recounts the purchase of her home, Bramasole, in Tuscany. She tells about all the adventures she and her partner had in renovating the house and working in its gardens while enjoying the sights and food of Tuscany. First published in 1996, this memoir helped in starting the worldwide Tuscan-mania that doesn’t seem to fade. A must read if you are planning a holiday in Tuscany or you want just escape a boring raining weekend in winter. But what a  Turkish recipe, as Kısır (bulgur salad) is, has to do with Tuscany and its sun? The fact is that at the moment I am in my home in Tuscany, enjoying the lovely panorama and the fresh vegetable that my father (healthy 85 years old-thanks to the olive oil) grows in the garden. I had fresh tomato, parsley, onions, salad from the garden, excellent organic olive oil from our trees and some fine grounded bulgur I brought from Turkey… The next thing to do was to prepare kısır a typical Eastern Turkey recipe but with fresh, zero-km ingredients from my Tuscan garden. The freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the olive oil (Tuscan olive oil is less acid than average Turkish olive oils), added extra flavor and texture to this recipe, but I assure you it is tasty also with market-fresh ingredient. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use quinoa  instead of bulgur, it taste beautifully also with quinoa that add a crunchy texture to the recipe.

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The view from my home (typical sweet Toscan hills :-))
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The vegetable garden
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Ripe and green tomatoes

 

Ready to enjoy Kısır
Ready to enjoy Kısır

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 spring onions (chopped) and 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • the juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 2 handful of chopped green salad leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the water and when it boils, pour it on the bulgur, let it cool
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat
  3. Add the onion, and sauteé for a few minutes, until soft
  4. add the tomato paste and mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes
  5. When the bulgur is cool and soft, add all the chopped ingredients
  6. Season your salad with lemon juice, chilli and salt
  7. Let it set for at least two hours in the fridge.

 

 

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Rolls and Buns for Pippi

What can you do when you have a child at home that is still recovering and can’t go out? Readingof course is the best of pastimes but what if your child is a really Pippi Longstockingand she can stay still for a second? In honor of this delightful character created by the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, we decided to run a home version of “MasterChef” inspired to the Swedish pastry masterpiece  THE CINNAMON ROLLS. The rule was that we both used the same dough but we had free hands on the filling and the way we rolled them.pippi

My choice was classic I went for cardamom rolls, with a filling of grounded almonds and cardamom that recall the oriental texture and smell of the Persian baghlava, my daughter decided for a filling of apple  sautéed in a little butter and sugar, finally seasoned with abundant cinnamon. We also decided to roll them in a different way, I rolled each of them individually; my daughter preferred the traditional way, rolling one big roll and then cut it in slices.

AND THE WINNER IS… But first thing first (as Gordon Ramsey says): the recipes

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For the dough

Ingredients:

100 gr of butter

1 and ¼ cup of mild

2 tbs of dry yest

½ ts of salt

½ cup of sugar

1 egg

1 ts of baking powder

4 cups flour

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Directions:

Melt the butter and add the milk. Heat to 37 C and melt the yeast in it. Let it rise for about 10 minutes

In the stand mixer bowl combine the yeastmixture, salt, sugar, and egg, mix it well

Add baking powder and flourand knead until the dough is smooth and smooth and elastic (15 minutes, medium speed if you use the stand mixer)

Let it rise for at least one hour

 

Cardamom buns

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Ingredients:

1 cup of almond paste

50 gr of butter

1 full tbs of ground cardamom

 

directions:

Divided the dough into 12 piecesof equal size and form with each a circle

Prepare amixture of cardamom, almond paste and butter

Spread themixture on each circle and then roll it up, then roll it like a snail

Put eachroll in a paper baking cup

Let it rise for about anhour then brush with beaten egg

Bake it at 180 C for about 25 minutes

 

Apple buns

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Ingredients:

1 apple apple diced

 

3 tbs of sugar

1 tbs of cinnamon

1 tbs of butter

Sautee the diced apple with butter and sugar for about 5 minutes at small heat, then take it from the heat, add cinnamon, mix well and let it cool

Roll the dough into a large rectangle and spread the apple filling, roll up and cut into even slices.

Place them in parchment-lined baking sheet and let them rise for another hour

Brush with beaten egg and bake in the oven 180 C for about 200 minutes

Prepare a sauce mixing icing sugar with some drop of lemon and drop tiny bits of the sauce on the rolls.

The winner : apple buns

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And the loser: Cardamom rolls

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I cornetti del Bar Lume

Bar Lume è un bar in un paesino di mare vicinissimo a Pisa (leggendo il romanzo ho pensato che fosse Marina di Vecchiano), in questa località turistica, nemmeno a farlo apposta, avvengono spesso delitti e Massimo, il proprietario del bar e suoi quattro fedelissimi avventori (tutti pensionati) passano il tempo a cercare di risolverli. La prosa di Malvaldi, è divertente e frizzante piena dell’umorismo toscano che talvolta piega sul cinico.

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Ma venendo ai cornetti, Massimo, come probabilmente ogni barista, la mattina mette in forno quelli congelati. Noi in famiglia amiamo i cornetti a colazione, ma dopo che ho visto per caso questa puntata di report sui cornetti industriali, ho perso l’entusiasmo per la colazione al bar ed ho deciso di provare a farli da sola. La ricetta dei “veri” cornetti è piuttosto complessa ma quella che propongo è semplificata, potete preparali in poco tempo e potete congelarli in maniera da avere cornetti caldi per diverse mattine. Provare per credere!

 

 

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Ingredienti:

550 gr di farina forte (tipo Manitoba)

180 gr latte

70 g acqua

70 gr zucchero (+ alcuni cucchiai per gli strati)

10 gr lievito secco

2 uova

1 cucchiaino di essenza di vaniglia

la buccia grattugiata di un’arancia e di un limone

70 gr burro  (+ circa 100 gr a temperature ambiente per gli strati)

un pizzico di sale

1 uovo sbattuto per lucidarli

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Preparazione

Il lievitino:

  1. Nella planetaria, dissolvere lo zucchero con il lievito in 100 gr di latte tiepido
  2. Farlo lievitare per circa un’ora a riparo dagli sbalzi di temperature (per esempio nel forno con solo la luce accesa.

Impasto:

  1. Mescolare la farina con il sale and ed aggiungere al lievitino insieme al resto del latte e l’acqua
  2. Con il gancio, impastare per circa 10 minuti a media velocità poi aggiungere il resto degli ingredienti e continuare ad impastare per altri 10-15 minuti.
  3. Togliere l’impasto dalla planetaria e lavorarlo per qualche minute su una superfice infarinata, coprire con un foglio di plastica e lasciare lievitare per un’altra ora.
  4. Riprendere l’impasto, sgonfiarlo e dividerlo in 8 palle, metterlo di nuovo a lievitare per un’ora.
  5. Prendere la prima pallina e stenderla con un mattarello fino ad uno spessore di 2-3 mm, spalmare la sfoglia di burro e spruzzarla con lo zucchero, ripetere lo stesso procedimento sovrapponendo le sfoglie (si devono ottenere 8 strati).  L’ultimo strato non deve essere spalmato di burro. Tagliare la torre di sfoglie in 16 triangoli che devono essere arrotolati come cornetti. Farli lievitare per circa mezz’ora
  6. Spennellare i cornetti con l’uovo sbattuto. Cuocerli in forno già caldo a 200 C. per circa 20 m. fino a quando sono dorati. Se utilizzate un forno combinato a vapore, si può iniziare a 200C con il livello di umidita basso per circa 10 minuti e poi metterlo in modalità forno ventilato fino a quando i cornetti non sono cotti.  IMG_0539

Steak pie / The Jane Austen Challenge

I wasn’t able to write anythingin my blog for weeks. I am still cooking of course, but I am in such a rush that I end up preparing dinner when the light has gone and it is not possible to take good photos. I will try to restart a routine; it is my therapy at the end of the day !!!

I decided to try something that had to be quick and to make me happy it should be something a bit “Regency”. So I went for a steak pie but instead of hot water pastry dough that is the more correct choice if you want to have a real “Regency” pie, I used deep frozen puff pastry. The result was anyway delicious and even my daughter that is not a meat-lover eat a nice portion of it.

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INGREDIENTS

900 g steak, cut into cubes (I was very careful in trimming all the fat parts)

White flour, for dusting

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

salt and (better if freshly) ground black pepper

500ml hot beef stock

225g puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS

Dust the cubedsteak with the flour

Heat the oilin a large pan and fry the meat, until browned on all sides.

Add the sliced onion, parsley and thyme, salt and black pepper and the stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heatand simmer gently for an hour and a half.

Preheat the ovento 180.

Transfer the filling mixtureto an ovenproof dish. Cut a piece of pastry to fit across the top of the dish and place on top of the dish (I used a cutting tool to make it look like a net); then brush with more beaten egg.

Transfer to the oven and cookfor about 1 hour or until the pastry get nicely brown, it is nice both serve hot or cold.

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The Art of Eating Well’s Fricassée

I am sure that fews of my English speaking friends has heard of Pellegrino Artusi and his “The Art of Eating Well”, but for as Italians is a classic as for the Americans is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Pellegrino Artusi was a wealthy Italian business man, born near Bologna in 1820 and died in Florence in 1911.  Believe or not it is the first cookbook written in Italian, using metric measures understandable by all the inhabitants of Italy. Before him, cookbook writers used to express quantities with non metric measures and not to explain step by step the procedures. If you try one of the recipes in Artusi’s book you are certain of attaining the expected, yummy result. He doesn’t only give the recipe but also explain the necessary tips to obtain a professional-like result.

Artusi’s fricassés is a light one, do not make milk or cream like other recipes I sow, instead he uses the binding property of the yolk to add creamy consistency to the sauce adding a slight citrous flavor without overriding the natural taste of the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. of veal breast, cut in to pieces
  • 50 gr. butter
  • 1 tb. of flour
  • a  bouquet  garni made of slices of onion and carrot; parsley, basil and celery sticks all tied together so that they will not melt in the fricassee.
  • 2 egg’s yolks
  • juice of half a lemon

Directions:

Melt half of the butter in a casserole and add 1 tablespoon of flour, mix it with a wooden spoon until the flour take a hazelnut color.

Slowly add some hot water (not boiling), the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper

When the sauce starts boiling, add the left butter and the meat, cover the casserole and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes until the veal is tender.

Discharge the bouquet garni and beat the yolks with the lemon juice.

Turn off the heat and pour the yolk mixture in the casserole, gently mixing with the spoon until it is very creamy.

Put the fricassee in a hot platter along with toasted bread.

Easy Panna Cotta

panna cottaPanna Cotta is probably the easiest dessert in the Italian gastronomical tradition. 3 basic ingredients (cream, milk, sugar) combined in different ratio, give birth to one of most delicious treat ever. The origin of Panna Cotta is obscure, there are rumors that Panna Cotta, is just the easy copy of the French of Bavarois (obviously French started the rumor!), other claims that it was invented in the Langhe area, by a lady of Hungarian origins, and many others believe that is the Northern version of the Sicilian “Biancomangiare” a dessert of Arabic origins.   Be that as it may, the fact is that Panna Cotta is easy, can be done with what you have in the fridge and with the help of the right mold you will get a spectacular result. Panna Cotta is such a star that deserved a book of its own.

My recipe is not from this book, it is mine. I use organic Agar Agar power instead of gelatin, because I read things about gelatin that made me feel uncomfortable.  It is not always possible to control the origins of the gelatin. Moreover with agar agar, Panna Cotta can be enjoyed also by my vegetarian friends.

Ingredients:

For the panna cotta

250 gr. of cream

250 gr. of milk

4 spoonful of sugar

1 vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of extract

1 and ½ teaspoon of Agar Agar powder

For the sauce:

200 gr. of raspberry

1 spoonful of powder sugar

Some drop of lemon

Directions

In a saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and agar on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar and agar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

Pour cream into individual serving molds. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, until completely set.

Prepare a sauce, processing the raspberry with sugar and some drop of lemon

Gently remove the panna cotta from the molds and serve it with the raspberry sauce.