Thursday, 8 October 2015

Stirring Stuff!

Risotto Semplice con Pomodoro & Fagiolini
Simple Tomato & Bean Risotto

It's always going to be simple... But it's also, always going to be tasty, THAT much is for sure!

And it's not always only because I am such a cheapskate that I make this kind of meal, with so few ingredients... Its usually more of a case of me thinking, "there really isn't any need to add anything more!"- yep! That's much, much closer to the truth!


It's the Sicilian in me that knows full well how little it takes to make tasty dishes... That and the fact that I am one of 9 children and my whole upbringing was based on simple, common-sense cooking and not on exclusive and extravagant fare.

This is another of those dishes that make you say "aaahh!", that make you feel good and that will have you going back for a second helping- or simply enjoying a more substantial one from the get-go like I did!


I made this lovely risotto, which was just enough for 2 first-course servings... Or one hearty supper, using just 7-8 runner beans, 7-8 cherry tomatoes, 2 cups of rice, 1 shallot, some fresh parsley and Parmesan, a light beef broth (you can use vegetable or chicken if you have nothing else) and a little salt, pepper, butter as well as an optional splash of white wine.

It's all there, it's all good and it's alright... But best of all is really easy to make as well!

Begin by frying the finely diced shallot in a little butter and then adding and stirring-in the rice, until it is nice glossy and coated.

Next, I added the beans, which I cut into fine slices and stirred them in too, until they also got lightly coated and became a slightly deeper shade of green.

You can either deglaze the saucepan by adding a splash of white wine or of broth, but as soon as you have done that, you can add the tomatoes and start cooking and stirring in earnest!!!

Add a broth and keep stirring, a ladle at a time, in the age old way... There's no need to obsess over it mind you! It's all a lot easier than you think... But it will take around a half an hour of your attention, so don't walk to far away!

After around 30 minutes, when the rice corns are swollen up to almost twice their size and you are almost done, add a good couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan and add a last pat of butter... These are the things that are going to make your risotto so creamy and delicious!

Once all of the broth is absorbed and the rice is creamy and smooth and delicious, add plenty of black pepper and a good sprinkle of finely chopped parsley. Stir these in well, turn off the heat, pop on the lid and allow to sit and rest for 2-3 minutes, whilst you grab yourself a nice bowl and get ready to enjoy!

Enjoy your risotto piping hot and garnish with a little extra Parmesan, freshly ground pepper and parsley. Plain and simple and tasty good food!

The right consistency to aim for when making a risotto is one that when you push the rice back withy Our wooden spoon, it gently flows back like a smooth little wave, or "onda", which is the Italian word for it. So the expression to use here, is "al onda ", or "to the wave", once it is done and is rich, smooth and delicious!

Thick, creamy, flavorful and so full of comfort... Risottos are dishes that you just have to make every once in a while... Word!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Seasons Eatings

Polenta al Forno con Pastinaca, Carota, Parmigiano & Rosmarino
Baked Polenta with Parsnip, Carrot, Parmesan & Rosemary

What do you make for supper, when it is cold and rainy outside, you have nothing in the fridge and you are absolutely starving?

Why, you make something utterly fantastic of course! What else?

Using equal shares of inventiveness, creativity, near-starvation and desperation, I came up with this little idea! Amazing what you can do when you make a little effort!


The only thing I DID happen to have in the fridge, which you may not have as a staple, were the parsnips, which were also of course the stars of the show, with their intense, savory flavor...

But I DID happen to have them! Thank goodness! So there!


2 cups of polenta, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips (well, 3... of which 2 of them were rather small), 2 spring onions, a little Parmesan cheese, a little olive oil and some salt, pepper and nutmeg to season... That was all it took to make 2 nice servings.


Mild and creamy underneath but crispy and savory on top, this was perfect comfort food ... And yes indeed folks, it IS already that time of year!


This was actually very easy to make!

First of all, turn on the oven to get it nice and hot and start around 4-5 cups full of water boiling in a saucepan.

Whilst it comes up the boil, peel the carrots and parsnips and then cut them into thin strips... Not quite a "julienne"... but yeah, pretty fine! Cut the spring onions in half and then boil everything together with a good pinch of salt for 4-5 minutes.


After 4-5 minutes, remove the vegetables from the water using some tongs and set them to one side to cool. Now, stir in the polenta to soak up all of that tasty broth. Season with a little more salt, plenty of pepper, a good pinch of grated Parmesan, a good pinch of dried rosemary and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg.


Whilst the polenta gently bubbles away, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil to get them nice and glossy.


Pour out your polenta into a baking dish that has been lightly coated with a little olive oil.


Now add the onions and the vegetable julienne, do it nicely and try to make it look pretty... But also, try not to obsess! As you can see, I began with the onions and then filled-in the gaps with the carrot and parsnip.


Don't be coy- press the vegetables down into the polenta and then finish it off with a sprinkle of rosemary, nutmeg, pepper and Parmesan in top, before popping it into a hot oven, to bake at 180 C for the next 30-40 minutes.

Make sure to serve it up piping hot and delicious in all of its comforting glory! The parsnip flavor is so rich and the polenta so smooth and delicious with rosemary and Parmesan... The comfort-factor is guaranteed with this dish!


The colors and flavors of Autumn... Terrific!


And there you all were, thinking I was going to starve this evening... Ha! Oh no, not I!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Rough & Ready

Zuppa Rustica di Verdure
Rustic Vegetable Soup


Monday evening, miserable, cold and depressing Monday evening... Groan! There's only one thing for it... A nice, hot, tasty bowl of freshly prepared soup!

Soups can take ages to prepare, but if you use your smarts, you can cut some corners, save some time and STILL get some great results... Trust me! This is what I do every evening after work and I know a trick or two by now... And I am more than happy to share them!

It's nothing exciting, but it is definitely comforting in the old-fashioned way. Had I added some pasta, I could have called this a minestrone, but as it was, this was a purely vegetable based soup, made of simple ingredients, cooked in a simple manner... And tasted simply wonderful too!


I concocted my creation from the rather limited bounty of my little refrigerator... And my ingredients to make 2 nice bowls of soup were: 1 kohlrabi, 1 parsnip, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 5-6 runner beans, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, a little fresh basil and parsley, some dried marjoram, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Oh, and around 45 minutes cooking time in all.


The result was rich, chunky, tasty and filling, though not heavy with pasta or rice, just simply from ththe vegetables themselves and the few added aromatic herbs... And if that isn't enough for ya... Then I don't know what is!!!


Start off by dicing up your vegetables and by starting thto m sizzling in a little olive oil. What you can see here is the carrot, onion, celery, and half of the kohlrabi. Stir-fry them together until the onion becomes translucent and slightly begins to brown.


Next, add the parsnip and the remaining kohlrabi, finely grated. These will practically disintegrate during the course of the soup cooking and add loads of great flavor as well as nicely thickening it up... Groovy!


Stir everything through, allow to cook for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Next, top-up generously with boiling water and add the tomatoes. Adjust the seasoning with a little more salt as necessary and reduce to a gentle simmer.

And you may as well kick off your shoes, put up your feet and enjoy a drink for the next 30 minutes or so!

After half an hour or so, add a little handful of coarsely chopped basil and a good pinch of dried marjoram. Bring back to a gentle simmer, replace the lid and allow to cook for a final 10 minutes or so before serving.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil, some more freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley... And enjoy!

There's not much more to be said... The only thing left to do is get into the kitchen and make it for yourself!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Open Wide... Sesame!

Linguine con Fagioli Verde, Tahini, Limone, Miele & Sesamo
Linguini with Runner Beans, Tahini, Lemon & Honey Sauce & Sesame


Although I loathe fake Italian recipes, of course all of my recipes are improvised, innovated and invented, based on my knowledge and understanding of Italian cooking traditions. These have been picked up from my mother, my family, from friends and from... Well... Life as an Italian! Hehe!

And still... I like to do things that are a little out of the ordinary at times, as you know and to try other flavors and ingredients than those that we normally would use in Italy. And this lovely plate of linguini is a perfect example of me doing that at my best!


I suppose you could say that the flavors and ingredients in this dish could be seen as being more Jewish than Italian, with the combination of lovely, rich, sesame tahini and lemon... But this was a flavor that I thought would go wonderfully with both fresh beans and pasta... And guess what? I was absolutely right!


To prepare 2 good portions of linguini, apart from the pasta itself, I needed just a handful of runner beans (around 10-15 beans), 1 spring onion, 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon of tahini, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, a little fresh parsley and obviously, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. So again... A very simple and economical meal!


The honey takes away the bitterness of the lemon, or rather it balances it out nicely... Which is even more excellent, because it also makes the flavor of the tahini, which is also rather strong, much more balanced and creamy and delicious... And so, so, good!


Start your linguini boiling and at the same time, begin frying the beans, which I cut into thin slices length-wise, together with the finely chopped spring onion. Fry for 4-5 minutes until the beans begin to soften and also slightly brown, along with the onion.


After the linguini have boiled for around 5 minutes, add them to the frying pan along with plenty of the water in which they were boiling and let them simmer along, together with the beans for a further 3-4 minutes.


As the pasta and beans cook, the water becomes absorbed or evaporates away, which of course leaves all of the flavors in the pan trapped in the beans and pasta. After around 3-4 minutes of cooking, add the tahini and honey and plenty of black pepper and stir them in thoroughly. At this point, you can also add the juice of half a lemon.

Continue stirring and cooking away for a further few minutes, until the tahini, honey, lemon juice and residual water have combined into a smooth sauce. Taste and season accordingly, adding salt, honey or more lemon juice to taste... It should be a mild and balanced, lemon and sesame flavor and not necessarily a sweet and sour affair.


Serve with plenty of finely chopped parsley, lemon zest and black pepper and be prepared for a change to your usual Italian pasta dishes!

And of course, a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds will add a nice and nutty crunch which goes fabulously with the flavor of the tahini! Mmmm!


I wish I had thought of making this during the summer months... Oh well, it is better late than never!


Of course, the true beauty of this is the creaminess that lies within... And which becomes instantly apparent again as soon as you mix the pasta together before helping yourself...


...and you might well find yourself helping yourself to a second serving too before you know it!


Very different, very tasty and delicious enough to please an Italian... Or even a Sicilian in my case... Word!

Roll Up for Breakfast!

Cornetti Ripieni di Prugne Freschi & Pistacchio
Cornetti Filled with Fresh Plum & Pistachio


Call it a croissant if you must, or if you are French I suppose, but in Italy, we call these simple rolls of puff-pastry, served at breakfast time, "cornetti", or "little horns"... And you can just picture me charging at them with my horns down, ready to attack the lot of them I bet! That's quite an accurate description of how I finally attacked them after finishing my photos in any case! Haha!

I decided to make these a little special by adding fresh plum and pistachio, spiced with cinnamon but only very slightly sweetened... An absolutely wonderful way to start any Sunday!


Although of course they are ultra-simple to make, I am definitely not suggesting this is something you should make every day... Because that delicious puff-pastry IS sinfully rich with butter and calories after all... But every now and again... Yeah! Why not!?!?


No recipe required here... Just surprisingly little fruit- just ONE plum was all I needed to make 4 cornetti! A tablespoon of ground pistachios, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and sugar respectively... And a roll of store-bought puff-pastry... And that was all!


Puff pastry is one of those things that you absolutely can and should buy yourself... Life is too short to even bother attempting this kind of perfection in an everyday cooking situation... Chill out, get real and have fun!


Once you have turned on your oven to get it hot and ready, finely chop the plum and add your teaspoon of sugar. Stir it through and let it sit and let the juices develope until you are ready with the rest of the preparations.


Simply cut your pastry into triangles, width-ways across the length of the roll, making them as large or small or cutting as few or as many as you desire... It's all good.

Sprinkle evenly with pistachio and cinnamon and then scatter the diced plum on top, leaving a nice clean edge around the outside.


See? You don't need all that much to get these this nice and full!


Simply roll up the pastry triangles from the outside, wide-end, towards the narrow tip. Don't make the roll too tight, so that the filling has a little room to let off steam and moisture as it bakes and the pastry has plenty of room to puff-up in volume.


Once your rolls are done, shape them into crescents and sprinkle them with a little more pistachio, before popping them into a hot oven, at around 180 C, for 20-25 minutes until puffed-up and golden brown.


It can be so simple to make something so wonderful! Aren't they just as pretty as a picture?

And no, don't worry, they are all still here... I am just letting the last one cool off a little more for you... I can show you how lovely that filling looks on the inside! And it tastes every bit as good as it looks, too!