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.

The Bar Lume’s Cornetti

I cornetti del Bar Lume in italiano 

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Bar Lume is an Italian bar in a small sea resort near Pisa (when I read the novels it sounds like Vecchiano), four old geezers and Massimo the Barman, spend their time chatting, arguing, and theorizing about murders in town. The four old men analyze crimes and suspects and Massimo analyzes them with sarcastic wit. The author, Malvaldi, uses a colorful proseto describe a way of living that resists despite the hordes of tourists tha came in the summersin the small beach town. Every morning Massimo put in the oven frozen Italian Cornetti, that are not at all like the French croissant, their have a richer smell (due to the presence of of orange and lemon zests and vanilla) a more sugary flavor and a fluffier texture. In my family we all love Cornetti but after I read an article about the harm of theingredients used  in professional pastry, I have tried to prepare them myself. The original recipe is quite complex, I will give it later. But this one is easy to prepare, if you double the doses, you can freezea batch of them and have your fresh Cornetto every morning.

Ingredients:

550 gr strong flour (like Manitoba)

180 gr milk

70 g water

70 gr sugar (+ more for the layers)

10 gr of dry yeast

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 orange grated peel

1 lemon grated peel

70 gr of butter (+ about 100 gr of room temperature butter for the layers)

A pinch of salt

1 egg for the glaze

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Directions

The sponge:

  1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100 gr of warm milkin the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve
  2. Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

The dough:

  1. Mix the flour with saltand add it to the sponge, pour in the batter the remaining milk and the water.
  2. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 10 minutes at medium speed) then add all the remaining ingredients and knead it for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  4. Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball. Let it rise for another hour.
  5. Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 2-3 mm high, spread the with butter uniformly, sprinkle with sugar and cover with another rolled dough When you have 8 layer, cut the dough in 16 triangles and roll it Let it rise for another half an hour.
  6. Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  7. Brush the top of each cornetto with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then start with the low humidy program for about 10 minutes and then turn to the convection bake for the rest of the time.
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Blueberry jam pie/The Jane Austen Challenge

 

‘Then the baked apples came home, Mrs Wallis sent them by her boy; they are always extremely civil and obliging to us, the Wallises, always —I have heard some people say that Mrs Wallis can be uncivil and give a very rude answer, but we have never known anything but the greatest attention from them. And it cannot be for the value of our custom, now, for what is our consumption of bread, you know? Only three of us [endearingly, she counts Patty] —besides dear Jane at present —and she really eats nothing —makes such a shocking breakfast, you would be quite frightened if you saw it. I dare not let my mother know how little she eats – so 1 say one thing and then I say another, and it passes off. But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry; I happened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before – I have so often heard Mr Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the only way that Mr Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome. We have apple dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple dumpling.’ (Emma).

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I haven’t written in my Jane Austen Challenge for a while because I was distracted by all this amazing spring herbs and fruits that are so abundant in the Mediterranean area but not very common on a Regency table.

Sweet pies (in particular apple pies) are often mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels and letters: in Austin’s time not all the household were so lucky to have a oven of their own, so, in this case, the Bates has to send the pies out to the baker to have them cook.

Back to our modern time I decided to use what was left of my homemade blueberry jam that I prepared last  summer for this pie, I used spelt flour instead of white flour, because it adds an extra crunchy texture to the crust and it tastes a little bit like almonds.

The aspect of this recipe that I really like is that you don’t need a scale, a simple cup will do the job. I used a biscuit injector machine to ornate my pie with romantic flower-like biscuit. The recipe was enough for a pie of 25 cm. of diameter and 20 small biscuits.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of spelt flour (or white flour)

½ cup of sugar

½ of butter (cold)

2 Tbs of yogurt

1 egg

5 gr raising powder

Blueberry jam (also raspberry jam is nice with spelt flour)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix  flour, sugar and baking powder, then add the butter, yogurt and egg.
  • Mix all the ingredient, but pay attention to work the mixture for just the minimum time required to form a soft dough, you haven’t to warm the butter!
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface until is abut ½ cm thick.
  • Transfer the rolled crust to an ungreased pie plate. Trim the dish of any extra dough.
  • Fill the pastry shell with the jam, then with the extra dough prepare some decorations. Bake in pre heated oven at 180° for 30-35 minutes, until golden.

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Purslane Salad

“The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.”
― Atul GawandeBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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Being Mortal is a wonderful book that focuses on the end of life and the dilemma of modern medicine if it is better to prolong life or to try to maintain the quality of life till the end, even if this means that the end may came sooner. It is not a happy book, it tells stories of people whose end is close but it introduce to what it is important when the last day is approaching.

So… honestly after this book I feel that I have to keep the quality of my life as high as possible and food take a very important role indeed.

The recipe of today is a very simple, quick, healthy and very tasty vegetarian recipe inspired by Atul Gawande’s book. Atul Gawande has Indian origins and purslane, the main ingredient of this salad, has its origins in the Indian subcontinent too even thought it can be found also in the Mediterranean area.

Purslane is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, C, and some vitamins of the B- Complex. In this traditional Turkish recipe is associated with Turkish yogurt, which is packed with vitamin B12, calcium and Vitamin D, garlic (which has powerful medicinal properties powers) and olive oil that does not need any introduction.

The recipe is easy, all you need is Greek or Turkish yogurt, mix it in a bowl with grated or mashed fresh garlic, pour it on the well washed purslane and dress it with olive oil and salt.

In the hot weather it can be a perfect quick and healthy lunch, usually is very welcomed also by the children that are not salad fans.

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A Soup for Nazim

I don’t want to present the famous Turkish Poet Nazim Hikmet,

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Better to introduce him in his poetic words:

 

Autobiography (1962)

by Nâzım Hikmet

I was born in 1902

I never once went back to my birthplace

I don’t like to turn back

at three I served as a pasha’s grandson in Aleppo

at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University

at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party’s guest

and I’ve been a poet since I was fourteen

some people know all about plants some about fish

I know separation

some people know the names of the stars by heart

I recite absences

I’ve slept in prisons and in grand hotels

I’ve known hunger even a hunger strike and there’s almost no food

I haven’t tasted

at thirty they wanted to hang me

at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize

which they did

at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year

at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours

I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in ’24

in ’61 the tomb I visit is his books

they tried to tear me away from my party

it didn’t work

nor was I crushed under the falling idols

in ’51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death

in ’52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart

waiting to die

I was jealous of the women I loved

I didn’t envy Charlie Chaplin one bit

I deceived my women

I never talked my friends’ backs

I drank but not every day

I earned my bread money honestly what happiness

out of embarrassment for others I lied

I lied so as not to hurt someone else

but I also lied for no reason at all

I’ve ridden in trains planes and cars

most people don’t get the chance

I went to opera

most people haven’t even heard of the opera

and since ’21 I haven’t gone to the places most people visit

mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers

but I’ve had my coffee grounds read

my writings are published in thirty or forty languages

in my Turkey in my Turkish they’re banned

cancer hasn’t caught up with me yet

and nothing says it will

I’ll never be a prime minister or anything like that

and I wouldn’t want such a life

nor did I go to war

or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night

and I never had to take to the road under diving planes

but I fell in love at almost sixty

in short comrades

even if today in Berlin I’m croaking of grief

I can say I’ve lived like a human being

and who knows

how much longer I’ll live

what else will happen to me

Soup for Nazim Hikmet
Turkish red lentil soup

As Nazim himself says in this poem, he tasted any kind of food but I was lucky enough to get acquainted with his Italian translator and friend, the late Joyce Lussu and in one of our conversations she told me of the preference of Nazim for the simple and humble of country.

So here the recipe for the Turkish red lentil soup: 5 minutes to prepare, low in calories, healthy, full of good nutrients a real food for the soul…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
    1  onion, finely diced
    1  carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
    ½ teaspoon dried mint
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    6 cups of homemade broth

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils 2 or 3 times
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, put he lentils, potato, carrot, onion, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.
  3. After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.
  4. After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Serve the soup with a sprinkle of mint and red pepper flakes, wedges of lemon, and toasted bread.

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Elven Bread 2

Ok, I confess it, I have a thing for bake with yeast, any kind of yeast, dry, fresh, wild, sourdough… So when  a friend of mine presented me those pretty rolls I couldn’t avoid to think: “that is, that is exactly what an elven bread should look like“. Those rolls are absolutely superior in savor and shape to any other bread I have seen or taste before. So I took the recipe and I made some adjustament that suit my taste better, and here it is the prettiest bread roll I have ever done…

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Ingredients

For the dough:

20 gr. of active dry yeast

800 gr. of strong flour

2 cups of full-fat milk

1 cup of oil

3 tbs of sugar

1 tea spoonful of sea salt

1 egg yolk and two whites

For the wash:

100 gr of room temperature butter

1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

1 egg

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Directions

Prepare the sponge:

  • Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100ml of warm milk in the  bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  • Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  • Mix the  flour with salt and add it with the remaining milk to the sponge.
  • Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 20 minutes at medium speed)
  • Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  • Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball of 150 gr each Let it rise for another hour.
  • Prepare the wash, with the whip mix together the egg yolk and the butter until creamy
  • Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 3 mm high, spread the wash uniformly and cover with another rolled dough like in the photos. When you have 4 layer, cut the dough in eight triangles and roll it as in the photo (you will get the shape of a leave). Let it rise for another half an hour.

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  • Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  • Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for 2* minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the bread program.

leaf bread
The butter add an incredible flavor and it is a treat also eaten without any filling

Elven Bread 2
The texture is amazing but the taste is even better!