Saturday, 6 February 2016

Marvelous Mushrooms!

Funghi Portobello con Cipolla, Pancetta, Pomodorini, Erbe Aromatiche & Crescione
Portobello Mushrooms with Bacon & Onions, Cherry Tomatoes, Herbs & Cress

Today, I had the intention of buying myself a load of mushrooms, but at the end of it all, I finally ended up buying only 2. Oh yes, but they did happen to be big, beautiful, Portobello mushrooms as you can see! 

I hadn't had these for AGES- and so it was plain that I absolutely had to take them with me! But what to do with them, what to do?

As big as a burger bun and as thick and succulent as a steak- these have to be one of the most satisfying kinds of mushrooms out there! Very delicious and packed with flavor- and so I decided that a simple preparation would be the best- something to emphasize the mushrooms own flavor and enhance it rather than overpower it... and so I did this!

Along with my 2 lovely mushrooms, I needed just 1 small onion, a handful of finely chopped bacon, 4-5 cherry tomatoes, 1 little "tub" of fresh watercress, a little rosemary and thyme, salt, pepper and a little olive oil.

The result was pretty incredible! Sweet onion, salty bacon, rich herbs and sweet tomatoes... on a bed of peppery watercress- and I mean... who could possibly want more than that for supper!?!

The first thing I did was to prepare the bacon and onion. I sliced the onion rather thinly and fried it with the bacon, finely chopped rosemary and some plucked thyme, in no added fat, other than the bacons own.

I fried the bacon and onion until they were both beginning to turn golden brown and then deglazed the pan with a splash of water and continued cooking until it had evaporated away... and I repeated this procedure another 2-3 times, until the onion became soft and sweet and tender. And of course- that water allows the flavors of the rosemary and thyme to infuse into the onion much better than if it were to simply fry in oil.

And yet, even though there was no oil added, after 9-10 minutes, the onion was beautifully golden, slightly caramelized and wouldn't you know it? The bacon had become crispy again!

And then all I needed to do as to fry the Portobello's in a little olive oil, with a good sprinkle of pepper and salt and a little thyme.

I then flipped the mushrooms over and added some relatively thinly sliced cherry tomatoes around the outside edge and heaped on some of those lovely, golden onions in the center. 

And then I added a light drizzle of olive oil and popped them into the oven, under the grill, for around 4-5 minutes.

Served on a little "nest" of watercress and sprinkled with a little fresh thyme, this was a beautiful and satisfying evening meal! Made to be enjoyed! And so I did!

Good gracious- how can you not simple LOVE this!?!?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Small, but Perfectly Filled!

Crespelle Ripiene di Ricotta, Gorgonzola, Erbe Aromatiche & Pomodorini
Little Omelettes with Ricotta, Gorgonzola, Tomato & Herb Filling

You can't beat eggs, every now and again- haha! Get it? Of course you can, you always can and when you do, you can always improvise something good. 

Like these little pancakes, filled with ricotta cheese, gorgonzola and herbs... use up those leftover in the fridge and make something great at the same time!

A couple of eggs, my last chunk of gorgonzola, a little fresh ricotta, a bunch of herbs... it doesn't take much to make a simple supper special and delicious!

Ok- 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of ricotta, about at 3"chunk of gorgonzola, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, 1 small onion, salt, pepper, nutmeg, olive oil, a dash of milk and plenty of parsley, rosemary and thyme. That's all it takes to make 3 awesome little omelette rolls!

And if this doesn't brighten up a dark, Winters evening, like a bright ray of sunshine- then I don't know what will!

Begin by frying the finely chopped onion, together with the finely chopped rosemary and thyme in just a little olive oil until it becomes golden brown.

Dice up the gorgonzola, add it into a bowl with the ricotta and the finely chopped herbs, then stir in the flavored onions and give them a thorough mixing, using a wooden spoon.

Stir until everything comes together nicely... like this!

The "omelettes" were made by simply whisking together 2 eggs with a splash of milk and seasoning them with a tiny pinch of salt, plenty of cracked black pepper and a good dusting of nutmeg.

Whisk together and then pour out into lightly greased pan and fry into 3 little pancakes.

Now all you need to do is to spread half of each little omelette with the gorgonzola and ricotta cream, top with a few slices of cherry tomato and then roll them shut.

Spread a last little bit of the cheese on top of each roll, add 3 extra thin slices of tomato and pop under the grill for5-6 minutes, until the omelettes begin to go crispy and brown around the edge... mmm!

Just keep things simple- and make things good!

The Pasta's Always Greener...

Pasta con Piselli, Patate, Salvia & Ricotta Salata
Pasta with Peas, Potatoes, Sage & Salted Ricotta

Another simple dish- so typically Sicilian and probably enjoyed all over Italy- and one that has been a favorite ever since the great depression- which is when dishes like this were first invented.

And do you want to know the best part about it? If you are ever feeling low- this is the kind of dish to cheer you up with its simple goodness... it is a great, edible anti-depressant!

Back in the old days, after the war, when people like my grandparents were poor and hungry, people had to learn to make the few simple things they could afford go as far as possible. A can of peas was always inexpensive and close at hand, an onion added a bit of sweetness and a potato to make things more substantial... that what people used to add to their pasta to try to make a satisfying peal for themselves. And by golly- it also tasted pretty fantastic!

I added a few extras to my pasta dish this evening and I also used fresh peas instead of canned... but it still cost next to nothing to make! I needed a couple of handfuls of peas, 1 small onion, 1 small potato, a little fresh sage, olive oil, pepper, salt, nutmeg and a little salted ricotta.

And as you can see- a little bit of each thing, goes a long way when you add them all together! And doesn't that look terrific?

Begin by frying the finely diced potato and onion with 5-6 finely sliced sage leaves until they become golden brown, in just 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil.

Stir-fry whilst you boil the spaghetti and the peas together for 5-6 minutes and by that time, you should have nice golden potatoes, juicy, firm peas and pasta that is "al dente".

Add the spaghetti and peas into the frying pan along with plenty of the water that they cooked in.

Keep stirring until all of the excess water has been cooked-in or evaporated away, grate generously with nutmeg and a grind of pepper.

Add a last trickle of olive oil before serving, a generous amount of salted ricotta... and prepare to enjoy!

Stir it together and enjoy that salty and sweet and intense flavor- its such a great combination!

Dude- Where's My Spoon?!?!

Crema di Ricotta, Rosmarino, Lampone, Miele, Pistacchi di Bronte
Ricotta Cream with Rosemary, Raspberries, Honey and Pistachios from Bronte

No time to make dessert? Not really "good" at making those sweet dishes? Ha! You are beginning to sound like me!

So- the thing to do, if you are in the mood for a sweet treat, or need to whip something up for guests to end a nice meal, without stressing- is to just choose a couple of nice ingredients and let them do all of the hard work for you...

I am Sicilian, so it is no surprise that I love ricotta cheese- and even a lower fat one, like this, with a little fresh fruit and honey, already is guaranteed to taste delicious.

But you KNOW we can do better than that!

2 tablespoons of ricotta, 1 handful of raspberries, 1 tablespoon each of honey and chopped pistachios... and a sprig of rosemary!

Those were my ingredients- and this is what I made from them!

Sure, you can add thickening agents and gelatin, you can add cream and you can add loads of sugar- but can also choose to have less stress and just as much flavor, chill out, relax and make something simple like this.

Simply combine your raspberries, ricotta and the very finely chopped rosemary in a bowl and grab yourself a fork... you could use a machine- but I preferred not to this evening...

Simply mash down the raspberries into a pul and stir everything briskly together- use a whisk if you prefer- but leave yourselves a few little chunks of raspberry in there! Let this just be rough and ready and good to go as it is!

You can choose to add a little sugar at this point if you prefer, but I like to leave the fruit to be tangy, the ricotta to be neutral and creamy, the rosemary to bring the perfume and the honey to add the sweetness later on as a contrast.

Stir briskly until everything is well blended and then serve by spooning the ricotta cream into a serving ring or a large cookie cutter and then lifting that away. 

Sprinkle with coarsely chopped pistachios... and then make a grab for that honey!

Of course it's simple! But it looks great and tastes great- so whoever would you want to start acting pretentious and making things into a chore! 

And with a couple of berries and a nice drizzle of honey... wow! Just wow!

Dude- where's my spoon?!?!

Something Souperior!

Minestra Vegetale con Cavolo Nero, Zucca, Porro & Pomodorini
Vegetable Soup with Tuscan Kale, Butternut Squash, Leek & Cherry Tomato

A nice bowl of vegetable soup- needn't be hard work or time-consuming and is always better fresh than from a can... for all of the obvious reasons!

Grab whatever is in your fridge, add a little stock if it makes you happier- but just simply DO IT and you will always be glad you made that little bit of effort! After all- you DO deserve it!

This is a light "minestra"- not quite a "minestrone" as it doesn't have all the other goodies like pasta or potatoes or beans and what have you, but still varied and colorful and full of great flavors!

These are the kinds of dishes I like best- that are improvised and adapted to use whatever you may have in your fridge... real-life, sensible cooking!

See how few ingredients I needed to make 3 good bowls of soup?? What do we have here then... 3 cherry tomatoes, 1/3rd of a leek, 1 small onion, about 3" slice of celeriac root, 5-6 leaves of Tuscan kale, a chunk of butternut squash that was about the size of an orange... and what else did I need? Salt, pepper, olive oil and a little vegetable stock. And 45 minutes of time.

Some soups taste great only after they have boiled away for ages- and usually they taste even better still if you warm them up the day after... but some, taste great because you DON'T cook the vegetables in them slowly to death- you make it swift and painless and delicious and fresh tasting instead!

I started off this soup by frying the finely diced celeriac, butternut squash and onion, together with the finely chopped parsley stalks, for 2-3 minutes in olive oil, until they began to brown slightly.

I then covered the vegetables to about twice their height with boiling water and a little stock, brought that back up to the boil and then reduced it to a gentle simmer and continued cooking for the next 10 minutes.

I then added the relatively finely chopped kale and a pinch of salt and let that cook down into the broth for 10 minutes too.

Last, but not least, I added the leek, which I split down the middle in order to rinse it properly and then cut into thin slices. I cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters and added them along with plenty of freshly grated nutmeg and let the soup continue bubbling away for another 10-15 minutes.

Try to add your ingredients, whichever you decide to use, in order, starting with the firmest or those requiring the longest cooking time, so that nothing becomes really overcooked at all. It make a nice change from a soup from a packet or a can! This is just SO MUCH better!

Serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil and see your Winter blues fade away... in wonderful technicolor!