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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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!

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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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

 

 

btrINSTRUCTIONS

  • 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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Pesto alla Genovese

Eugenio Montale became a Nobel laureate poet in 1975, the Swedish Academy awarded him despite his modest poetic production (5 books in 50 years of work), declaring that Montale was ”one of the most important poets of the contemporary West”.

montaleGlory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done:
the finest hour is over the low wall,
closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers
over something life has left.
The good rain is beyond the barrenness,
but there’s greater joy in waiting

translated by Jonathan Galassi (forpoetry.com)

Montale was born in Genoa, in 1896 and died in 1981 in Milan. In his poems the focus is on the landscape, sunny and desolate, stone walls surronding vegetable gardens and cultivation of olive trees. In the inclement sun everything appears hard and cruel. Those poetic descriptions are very far from the turistic leaflets of Portofino or Cinque Terre. True is that Liguria used to be an hard and poor area and many it inhabitants migrated before and soon after II World War.

Pesto alla Genovese is a very tasty sauce, you can use for your pasta, on toasted bread as a snack, is wonderful with boiled potatoes. But mind the ingredients, they have to be fresh (sometimes I found basil that went to seed in the supermarket and it is too hard to get a real nice pesto), prefer pine nuts produced in the Mediterranean area (they are long and thin) rather the Chinese variety that is cheaper but they don’t taste the same (they are bitter). The original recipe traditionally,  is made in the mortar.  You can do pesto in the food processor, but with mortar the green essential oils contained in the basil leaves come off and  the marble of the mortar that is cold and prevents the oxidation of basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of leaves of fresh basil
  • a pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, grated.
  • 1 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated.
  • 5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and put them on a canvas to dry . They must be perfectly dry before starting the preparation of the pesto.
  2. Put a clove of garlic in the mortar,  Add 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and  crush until cream. Scoop out the garlic cream from the mortar and put aside. You will add it later.
  3. Put the remaining pine nuts in the mortar, half a cup of the basil leaves and few grains of rock salt.
  4. Smash the basil leaves with a rotating movement along the interior walls of the mortar. Add the remaining leaves, some more rock salt grains  and continue smashing.
  5. Then add cheeses. Amalgamate and taste. Adjust with salt if necessary.
  6. Finally, add the oil and stirr gently. Keep the pesto under a light layer of oil to prevent oxidation.

Meat Daffodils

Spring is finally here, days are longer, sky is blue, the sun is mild and a nice breeze is coming from the see. I feel like celebrate it with something cute and cheerful.

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

daffodil
Courtesy of http://blog.terminologiaetc.it

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought. (William Wordsworth)

When I was a child, daffodils were the first flowers to blossom in spring, we lived in the Tuscan countryside there were wild daffodils near everywhere. We used to pick them up and bring them to school, our primary school was an old country school with about 20 students, that has been dismissed soon after moved to middle school.

Now I live a very different life, in a metropolis, I speak a different language and I can only travel from time to time to Tuscany. I still believe myself very lucky because my flat’ windows  (I would say my kitchen‘s) overlooks a large garden full of spring flowers and the see, but still I miss the smell of daffodils, and late in June, the smell of lime trees that grow in my parents’ garden.

So, to keep up this spring spirit, today for dinner I prepared those meet daffodils: they are very popular those days in family cooking in Tuscany and you can buy ready to put in the oven in any supermarket. But they are very easy to prepare and there is no need to buy them ready, especially because you can’t choose the meet, the cheese and the sausage you want use.

Meat Daffodils 1

Ingredients

500 gr. of veal medallions sliced in 12 thin slices

150 gr of fontina cheese or cheddar, thinly sliced

3 cottage sausage cut in four piece each

Olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Directions

In a 12 capacity muffin tin line paper cups and line them with the thinly sliced meat, cover with cheese slices as if they were petals and put a piece of sausage in the middle as show in the slides above.

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Gently remove from the tin, wrap the middle of the meet with a cooking twine, so that each of them will resemble a flower and place again in the paper bag in the tin.

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Tied with twine and ready for the oven

Season with salt, pepper (if you like) and a bit of olive oil, put in a 180′ C. pre heated oven for 20 minutes and serve it hot.

Daffodils 3
In the plate, ready to be eaten

Enjoy!