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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The perfect home made Cornetto

Cornetto, the iconic Italian brioche that we eat for breakfast, softer and less crispy of a French croissant, it is served warm in the Italian bars to free the citrusy aromas of the zest and the sweetness of the vanilla, while the buttery texture melts in your mouth.

I have already written about Cornetti, the iconic Italian breakfast and how, unfortunately, most of the cornetti that you taste in the Italian bars are deep frozen, that is not a bad thing in itself, but according to this overview https://www.dionidream.com/report-ecco-quanto-fanno-male-i-cornetti-del-bar/this lovey breakfast has at least %80 of its fats from palm oil, a lot of glucose and fructose. Not very healthy!

It is absolutely worthy to prepare the at home. Double or triple your dose, deep freeze them at the end of phase 6  and you will have a delicious Italian breakfast ready for nearly a month!

For an easier recipe click here

Ingredients:

For the pastry

500 gr of flour

50 gr of sugar

50 gr of butter

pinch of salt

250 gr of water

1 teaspoon of mixed zest of lemon and orange

some drops of vanilla extract

50 gr of milk at room temperature

12 gr. dried yeast

To laminate the dough

250 gr of soft butter

For the glaze

1  beaten egg mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk

a little raw cane sugar for dusting on top

Instruction

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and stand for 5 minutes. Put the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer make an hole  pour in the yeasted water, the milk and the sugar and let it rise for about 15 minutes, the mix  with the hook on low speed for 1 minutes, add the softened butter, the orange zest, the vanilla and mix well mix at low speed for about 20 minutes, the dough should be very elastic.

2. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with streach film and rest for half an hour in a warm place. 

3. Meanwhile take the butter for the lamination, put it between two sheet of baking paper , stretch it into a rectangle of 25 X 20 cm and 3mm hight. Place it back in the refrigerator.

4. Roll the dough onto a floured surface to shape a rectangle about 50×22 and 3 mm thick. Place the square of butter in the  the rolled out dough so that it covere 2/3 of the dough, then fold into three like a business letter and roll gently, cover with strech film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. After that roll the dough into a rectangle then fold into three again, cover with strech film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat two more time.

5. After the dough has rested for the fourth time, roll it again in a 55X22 cm rectangle 3 mm thick. Cut the rectangle in triangles. Roll each triangle onto itself starting from the base and gently stretching the dough. Once they are rolled gently curve them to form a  crescent 

6. Lay them onto a tray lined with baking paper cover the tray with stretch film and let them rise in a warm place until at least doubled 

7. Preheat the oven to 200 C. glaze the cornetti, dust the with sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Note:

With the prepared dough you can prepare AMAZING cinnamon rolls, just follow the passages here

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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Simple Muggle Family Lasagna

Every Italian muggle family has it own traditional lasagna. This is my humble one.

Lasagna seems to be a muggles food, there is no mention in Harry Potters as a food in the wizarding world. The only information I could gather about lasagna and J.K. Rowling’s world is that Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone has been written in The Elephant House, downtown Edinburgh, where they serve also Italian food. Harry Potters adventures take place in the British wizarding world, I suppose in the Italian school of magic they have lasagna every Sunday. For the Italians lasagna is the traditional Sunday meal, every muggle family has its own recipe and this is my own. We like lasagna with a lot of béchamel sauce and Parmigiano but you can experiment also in the way my mum does: she melts a mozzarella in the béchamel so that the sauce is more thick with a much marked milky taste.

Ingredients:

Bolognese sauce (you can find the recipe here)

1 packet of egg lasagna (no pre cooking needed)

Parmigiano cheese at please

salt

For the Béchamel sauce

1/2 l.  whole milk

30 grams butter 

30 grams corn starch

Kosher salt, to taste

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour. Cook, stirring, with a wooden spoon, for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg. Cool before you use it.

Assemble the lasagna

 Preheath the oven at 180 C. To assemble, spread a few tablespoon of Bolognese sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Arrange the sheets of lasagna and pour over meat sauce. Spread with some spoon of béchamel sauce. Top with as much Parmigiano as you like. Repeat layers (at least 3), and top with remaining Bolognese, Béchamel and Parmesan cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes (depends on how many layers you have). 

Is nice hot and warm!

Chocolate and Mascarpone Raviole

Those chocolate and mascarpone raviole inspired to the original recipe in the sisters Simili’s book “Pane e Roba Dolce” are crounchy outside with a creamy filling that melt in your mouth, making the perfect treat for winter week-ends.

In Italian here

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For the dough

½  kg white flour

200 g softened butter

160 g sugar

25 g milk

5 g honey

½ teaspoon of salt

12 g rising powder

2 eggs

For the filling

Chocolate spread

50 g mascarpone cheese

Melted butter for the glaze and powdered sugar for the finishing

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Directions

Form the flour, granulated sugar into a volcano-shaped mound, put the butter, eggs, milk and honey into the crater of the volcano and use a spatula to gently mix the ingredients into a dough. Knead it gently until smooth and supple, finally add the rising powder.

Roll the dough out into a thin sheet and then cut out 10 cm diameter circles. (

Spread the chocolate cream of each of your dough rounds, then place a teaspoon of mascarpone in the centre.

Fold each circle in half over the filling to form a half-moon shape, making sure that the edges line up, and press firmly with your fingers along the edges to seal.

Brush each raviola with the butter.

Bake at 180 C. until golden brown, about 30 minutes, then lightly dust with the powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Zuppa toscana di magro alla contadina Tuscan vegetarian peasant soup

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A recipe to celebrate Artusi, the first gourmet of newly made Italy, here the link for another recipe from Artusi’s book.libro artusi

Artusi, highly patriotic, with his “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” aimed to contribute to the makings of the national culture. Although this book includes recipes mainly from Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, Artusi made reference to varied local Italian cuisines. Artusi clearly wanted to celebrate the gastronomic richness of the recently united Italy

Storia di un libro che rassomiglia alla storia di Cenerentola (Story of a book similar to Cinderella, Artusi in the introduction of the 6thedition,1902)

Artusi recipes’ manuscript was reject by a number of publisher and so he had to resort to publishing it at his own expense in 1891. But as Cinderella at the ball it was very well received, not only by the ladies who had first encouraged him, but also by very influential figures such as Paolo Mantegazza, a well known anthropologist and senator of the newly born Kingdom of Italy who publicly praised and supported the book and its author thus: « in giving us this book you have done a very good thing and I therefore wish you one hundred editions».

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The recipe I present is very similar to the one included in Artusi original book, but as person who lived the first 23 years of her life in Tuscany, I propose the version that my mother used to prepare for me on rainy days as comfort food.

INGREDIENTS

To prepare the beans

300 gr dried Cannellini

1 spring thyme

1 bay leaf

1 spring rosemary

 

 

For the soup

250 gr Lacinato kale leaves

1/4 Green or Savoy cabbage

1 potato

1 carrot

1 stick celery

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup (200 g) tomato puree

1 tsp black pepper

to taste table salt

 

 

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  • Soak the beans 12 hours into fresh water, then rinse and boil into a pot covered with water about 1 hour, along with 1 bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Cook the beans until perfectly soft. Remouve, bay leaf, rosemary and thymeTake a cup of beans and with a blender, blend the rest of the beans in their broth.
  • Prepare the Soffritto: the basic Italian sautéed vegetables. Peel and cut the onion into halves, then reduce into thin slices. After that, peel and slice the carrots, then peel and crush the cloves of garlic. Finally, slice the stick of celery.
  • Pour all these vegetables into a thick-bottomed heavy pot, along with 4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. and sauté over medium heat, stirring as needed, until the vegetables become tender and translucent.
  • Reduce the Lacinato kale and the cabbage into flakes of different sizes. After that, peel and dice the potato.
  • Once the Soffritto is ready, add the potato, kale, and cabbage, and sautè 10 minutes. Then, add the tomato puree, the thyme, the beans broth.
  • Cover with the lid, set the flame to let the Ribollita simmer very gently, and cook 2 hours. If necessary, add more broth a ladle at a time.
  • Finally, add the the whole beans, and cook 30 minutes more, stirring as needed. Add salt to taste.
  • Serve with pouring a generous amount of olive oil

Enjoy!

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