Auntie Rita’s wonderfully simple spumante risotto

I came in Italy for a few days, not a very happy occasion actually, as my beloved nana has passed away at age of 99. She was my first cook teacher, she taught me to pick wild herbs to cook and serve in salad, she even showed me how to prepare farm cheese. She was a WWII survivor, born just one year after the end of WWI. She decided to be buried in a country churchyard in Umbria, in the village she was born and she never forgot. 

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But Umbria is also the place where my untie and godmother Rita lives (not a novel character but a flesh and bone honest food lover untie). She prepared this risotto for me and I thought to share with you because it is very easy but it makes the perfect Valentine dish given the fancy presence of Spumante (you can use Champagne if you wish) that add perfume to the Risotto.

Ingredients

Serve 5/6 people

  • ½ white onion
  • 1 l of hot vegetable stock
  • 75 gr of butter
  • 2-3 spoonful of cream
  • half a litre of dry spumante
  • ½ kg carnaroli or arborio rice
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • Ground black pepper only if you like

Directions

  • Chop the onion very finely. Melt half of the butter in a wide saucepan and cook them gently until softened. In another saucepan, pour the spumante and in another one all of the stock, and keep on a very low simmer nearby to your risotto.
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  • When the vegetables are soft, pour in the rice and turn in the butter until it is glossy. At medium heat, pour one ladle champagne and, stirring all the time, let it be absorbed.
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  • Alternate a ladle of stock and a ladle of spumante, letting one ladleful be absorbed before adding the next, keeping on stirring.
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  • Once the rice is cooked, put some butter and the Parmesan and the cream mix and cover to give time to absorb for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
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Chicken under the brick and the inspiration of chef Samin Nosrat

Crispy outside and juicy tender meat inside, this Tuscany inspired chicken recipe will amaze you.

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A few years ago, at a birthday party, I was sitting with a fellow parent that is executive chef in the best Italian restaurant in the city. I remember he and I agreed on how Italian cooking is based on the quality of the ingredients . “Think about Caprese” he told me “Fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and good olive oil, and you have a wonderful dish”. How to disagree? You pour some olive oil and even mediocre dish become a masterpiece. But it was only when I read Samin Nosrat “Salt Fat Acid Heat” that I made full sense of the conversation I had with Chef Giuseppe. According chef Nosrat those four elements are the very base of every cooking and once you master them, you are a good cook. Italian cooking is probably based on fat, olive oil in central and southern Italy, butter in the North. But reading this book I made sense also of a Tuscan recipe: pollo al mattone, chicken under the brick. Where in the world could I find a brick, here in Istanbul? And more important, why? But here what chef Nosrat says: “As she drove us home, I told her we’d bone out the thighs and season them with salt. Then we’d cook them in a little olive oil, in a preheated cast iron pan over medium-low heat, skin side down, with another cast iron pan (or foil-wrapped can of tomatoes) weighing them down. Combining moderate heat with the weight encourages the fat to render, leaving behind crisp skin and tender meat. It’s dark meat that cooks up as quickly and easily as white meat.” Excerpt From: Nosrat, Samin. “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” 

So that’s it, if you have iron cast pans and casseroles you can do the trick, and it is worthy. So here another of our family recipes

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Ingredients:

Serve 3-4 persons

Half a chicken ( I suggest you free range organic, it has better flavor and texture)

For the marinade:

The juice of a lemon

1 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Directions

Lay the chicken in a large bowl and pour the mixture over the marinade ingredients, Marinate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

Heat your cast iron pan until it’s hot and grease with oil. Place the chicken on the grill, skin with the skin down. Weigh the chicken down with the large lid of cast iron casserole, 

Grill the chicken until golden brown (about half an hour). 

Cut it into pieces and serve with vinegar or lemon juice dressed salad (it makes a nice contrast according chef Nosrat

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Bath Buns for a gamekeeper

Hagrid poured them tea and offered them a plate of Bath buns but they knew better than to accept; they had had too much experience with Hagrid’s cooking. (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, ch.14)

Hagrid, the half giant gamekeeper of Hogwarts, does not enjoy a reputation of a good cook but his treacle fudge is going to be very handy for Harry Potter in this same novel.   

But what about those buns? They are named after the town of Bath in the southwest of England and it is one of the places beloved by Jane Austen that placed many central episodes of her novels there (think about Persuasion or Northanger Abbey).

There is a large debate on the origins of those buns, they are either attributed to Sally Lunn a French Huguenot refugees during the period that bring the recipe with her, or to the physician William Oliver. I had a look to my personal bible, when we are speaking about English food, that is Lady Carlotte Campbell Bury, The Lady’s Own Cookery Book, were there are two different versions for the buns, one, it doesn’t resemble to a bun at all, rather a biscuit. The second one is the one that I present here, a bit adapted to modern taste.

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Ingredients

For the dough:

250 g. milk

10g. dried yeast

650g. white flour

3 tbs of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

280 gr. butter

50 gr. sultanas or cranberry

For the finishing:

4 tbs sugar

2tbs water

3 tbs of sugar pearls

Directions

Warm the milk with the butter, until the butter is completely melted.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the milk and butter, then bring together into a dough. Knead until is elastic.

Put the dough in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface add the sultana or the cranberries and work them in. 

Take small pieces of the dough a prepare the round buns.

Allow the buns to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

Make a syrup by mixing the sugar and the water in a pot and bring it to boil. Brush the syrup over the buns as soon as they came out of the oven. Sprinkle sugar pearls on the top.

Serve with jam and whipped cream.

Finally, I don’t know if I am a good cook but, Hagrid, sorry, I am better than you!

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Raviole alla crema di cioccolato e mascarpone

Raviole al cioccolato e mascarpone che si sciolgono in bocca, ispirate alla ricetta delle sorelle Simili nel libro “Pane e roba dolce”.  Una piccola consolazione nelle giornate di pioggia

(In English here)

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Cresciute in mezzo al profumo del pane, Margherita e Valeria Simili hanno ereditato dalla famiglia non solo la panetteria, ma anche la passione per la cucina casalinga tradizionale. Dopo aver gestito per anni con successo la loro scuola di cucina, adesso si dedicano a tenere corsi in altre scuole o in televisione. copertina similiIl loro “Pane e roba dolce un classico della tradizione italiana” è un libro meraviglioso perché propone ricette assolutamente sicure, basta seguire passo per passo le istruzioni delle due sorelle, ma anche ci introduce ai segreti di chi ha gestito per anni un negozio di panetteria: come modificare leggermente un impasto per farlo diventare qualcosa di diverso.

Quella che propongo oggi è la loro ricetta del ciambellone emiliano, più simile, per consistenza alla pastafrolla che al ciambellone della nonna a cui siamo abituati. Ci spiegano anche che con lo stesso impasto si possono fare diversi prodotti: la pinza, i biscotti e le raviole.

A partire dalla ricetta delle sorelle Simili ho creato delle raviole ripiene di crema di cioccolata e mascarpone. Il mascarpone mi è servito a mantenere morbida la crema di cioccolato che altrimenti nella cottura in forno diventerebbe secca e granulosa. Rispetto alla ricetta delle sorelle Simili ho dimezzato le dosi ed ho leggermente aumentato il burro perché per me è difficile trovare lo strutto.

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Per l’impasto

½  kg di farina

200 g di burro a temperatura ambiente

160 g di zucchero

25 g di latte

5 g di miele non amaro

½ cucchiaino di sale

1 bustina di lievito chimico

2 uova

Per il ripieno:

Crema di cioccolata

50 g di mascarpone

Burro fuso per spennellare

 

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Mettere tutti gli ingredienti eccetto il lievito nella planetaria ed impastare a velocità bassa con il gancio a foglia. Una volta pronto l’impasto, aggiungere il lievito ed impastare fino ad assorbimento completo.

Se non si possiede una planetaria, mettere la farina a fontana sulla spianatoia e nel centro della fontana mettere tutti gli ingredienti eccetto il lievito. Impastare utilizzando una spatola e non le mani, una volta che la farina avrà completamente assorbito tutti gli ingredienti, aggiungete il lievito e continuate a mescolare fino a completo assorbimento.

Stendete l’impasto ottenuto con un mattarello fino a quando sia alto circa 3 mm.

Con uno stampo rotondo ritagliate dei cerchi che spalmerete con crema di cioccolato facendo attenzione a lasciare libero circa ½ cm dal bordo.

Al centro della crema di cioccolata mettete un cucchiaino di mascarpone.

Piegate il cerchio in modo da formare un raviolo.

Spennellate con del burro fuso e cuocete in forno statico a 180 gradi per circa mezz’ora.

Servite a temperatura ambiente, spolverate di zucchero a velo.

Non mangiatele tutte in un giorno!

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Bacon crust torneados on a bed of pureed broccoli and burrata

Today I am going to celebrate one of the finest Italian composer, Gioacchino Rossini who wrote beloved operas like The Barber of Sevilla, Cinderella, William Tell.  Rossini was not only a composer, but a foodie as well, that is way I intend to remember him with a recipe of my invention.

rossiniBorn in Pesaro (Central Italy) in 1792, he spent most of his creative life in Paris, without forgetting the Italian specialties that he got directly form Italy: Gorgonzola, Panettone and truffles, he was crazy for truffles.

Rossini was also an excellent cook and in his time in Paris he became very close to Antonin Carême the greatest chef of his time.

Most probably chef Careme was the one that invented the famous tournedos Rossini, an elaborate, cholesterole bursting dish that involves filet mignon, bread fried in butter and foies gras.  The filet mignon that I present here is more healthy and even suitable for diet if you don’t use the pancetta.

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Bacon crust torneados on a bed of pureed broccoli and burrata.

Serving 4

 

Ingredients:

4 Tournedos, 150 gr. each

8 slices unsmoked bacon

500 gr.  broccoli

200gr. burrata

1 tablespoon of whole milk

4 spoonfuls of olive oil

garlic

salt

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  • In a food processor, combine the burrata with the milk and blend until smooth.
  • Steam the broccoli until  is tender, than blend to a smooth purée with two spoonful of olive oil and keep it warm while you are preparing the tournedos.
  • Wrap bacon slices  around the circumference of each tournedos; tie with kitchen twine.
  • Heat a large cast iron skillet with two spoonful of olive oil over high heat until it starts to smoke. Season tournedos with salt and pepper and place in skillet. Cook, without moving, for about 2 minutes. Rotate tournedos and cook for two more minutes. Repeat process two more times until bacon is well cooked.
  • Plating instructions: on a warm plate, prepare a bed of broccoli puree where you carefully set your tournedos. Place dots of burrata sauce using a small spoon or a piping bag.

Enjoy!

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Mistletoe puff pastry appetizer with chard and buffalo mozzarella

Still digging into Frazer’s “Golden Bough” to understand why mistletoe is one of the symbols of this season.

The_Golden_Bough
This book can be downloaded for free at the site of the project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3623

“…Thus among the Celts of Gaul the Druids esteemed nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the oak on which it grew…”

“…Now, like fern-seed, the mistletoe is gathered either at Midsummer or at Christmas that is, either at the summer or at the winter solstice and, like fern-seed, it is supposed to possess the power of revealing treasures in the earth… The treasure-seeker places the rod on the ground after sundown, and when it rests directly over treasure, the rod begins to move as if it were alive. Now, if the mistletoe discovers gold, it must be in its character of the Golden Bough; and if it is gathered at the solstices, must not the Golden Bough, like the golden fern-seed, be an emanation of the sun’s fire?”

So what would be better than an appetizer in the shape of mistletoe to celebrate the slowly rebirth of the sun after longest night of the year hoping that those tasty leaves will help us to find the treasures of the coming year.

 

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Savory puff pastry filled with a mix of chard (or spinach) and then arranged into a mistletoe branch makes the perfect appetizer this holiday season.

 

INGREDIENTS

Serve 6 persons

  • 2 sheets (40 x 35 cm) of real butter puff pastry
  • 250 gr of boiled and drained chard or spinach
  • 100 gr of buffalo mozzarella
  • salt
  • natural (vegetal) green food coloring
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tidbit buffalo mozzarella balls

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INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Sprinkle a little flour on top of a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on top of the parchment paper.
  • With the help of a blander, mix the chard and the mozzarella (you can season as you please but the natural flavor is exalted by the butter in the puff pastry, so I preferred to add only some salt)
  • Spread the chard sauce on top of the puff pastry sheet being careful not to go too close to the edge.
  • Place the second sheet of puff pastry on top of the first sheet of puff pastry that has the chard sauce. Press gently to seal the two sheets together.
  • I cut the leaves without a template, because I liked them a bit irregular but you can download a template from the internet.
  • Now that you cut the leaves you have to slice them to simulate the veins on a leaf.
  • Starting on one side, make horizontal slices into the sides of the leaf being careful to stop before you reach the center.
  • Repeat the same process on the other side each leaf; again being careful to stop before reaching the center.
  • Starting at the bottom, twist the veins away from you.
  • Continue twisting the veins moving up the tree and then move on to the other side and twist those veins as well.
  • Mix the egg white with some green food color a brush all the three leaves
  • Bake in the preheated oven until puffy and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Arrange your mistletoe leaves on to a serving platter with three tidbit mozzarella ball to create the fruit effect.

NOTES: You can use Nutella Spread and strawberry or grape to make this a dessert.

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