Monday, 30 November 2015

Mellow Yellow

Risotto di Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco, Peperone & Fiocchi di Pomodoro Secco
Radicchio di Castelfranco, Pepper & Dried Tomato Flake Risotto

When it's cold and rainy and miserable outside, when you walk home in the dark after a long, hard, Monday (ugh!) and you have something in the fridge that is most suitable for a salad... what do you do?

You make something completely different out of it, cooked, delicious and steaming hot, to warm you up and make you smile... that's what!

Because this beautiful radicchio may well be most suitable for a salad... but not exclusively so!

I love the regular, red, slightly bitter radicchio- I love it raw, I love it cooked- I love it any which way! But I know that many, many people do not. Well... maybe this is the radicchio for you!

This beautiful yellow, variegated with red variety, called "Variegato di Castelfranco" is much milder in its bitterness than say, a Trevisano... but still has that typical flavor- and with just a couple o others simple ingredients, went to make a wonderful, Winter risotto!

To make 2 servings of risotto (or just one big yummy serving all for my greedy little self!), I needed just 2 handfuls of risotto rice, 1 Spring onion, 1 small, mild, green pepper, 2 handfuls of finely chopped radicchio, around 3/4 liter of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of dried tomato flakes, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little parsley. And of course- if you are not preparing this for the children- a little splash of white wine! Hic!

This turned out much better than even I had hoped- the bittersweet flavor of the radicchio, the rich beef stock, the re-hydrated, intense tomato flakes and Parmesan made a stunning combination! So simple and yet soooo good!

I began by gently frying the finely chopped Spring onion and green pepper in a little olive oil, until the white part of the onion became translucent.

I then added the rice, which was Vialone Nano in this case rather than Arborio (it just happened to be what I had at home!) and stirred it in, so that it too became lightly coated in oil .

Deglaze with white wine, or alternatively a little water, just to get the boiling process going and then begin adding your broth a little at a time.

and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice, then repeat. Do this for the first 20 minutes of cooking... and don't worry- you don't have to constantly stir-not at this point anyway.

After 20 minutes or so, add a couple of handfuls of the finely-shredded radicchio and carry on simmering, stirring and adding your broth as necessary for a further 10 minutes or so.

After 30 minutes, add the tomato flakes and plenty of Parmesan cheese and stir them in... and now things REALLY begin to come to life! Add the tomato flakes near the end so that the flavor remains strong and fresh and add the cheese to bind the remaining broth and to make the risotto creamy and smooth. 

I also added a little more olive oil right at the end before serving... usually it would be butter added, but I liked the flavor of olive much better with the radicchio and tomato.

Serve with a little pepper and a last sprinkle of tomato flakes, grated Parmesan and finely chopped parsley... and enjoy it whilst it's hot!

Different, delicious and definitely one to make again! Word!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wintertime- but the Liver is Easy

Fegatini di Pollo con Cipolla & Salvia
Chicken Livers with Sage & Onion

No, it's not everybody's favorite by any means- but that's ok... it just means there is a little bit more of it for us to enjoy, right?

I am talking about liver- liver in general but this evening in particular, small, tender and juicy, chicken liver. At least that is how it should be! If you prepare it correctly, it will be- and you will not have those traumatic memories of the tough, dry, stuff you were made to eat as a child... it will be something you will really, really enjoy now you are all grown up!

Yes, my plate looks kind-of "old school"- and that's exactly what it was... prepared with sage and sweet onion, with a dash of Marsala, this was a classic treat. And with roast potato and carrot on the side, it was honestly, an absolute joy to eat!

Obviously, this was a small amount of ingredients in all, as I was only cooking for one, but the quantities are not really relevant here- it is the method that is most important. 

But what you will need, to go with your liver, is onion and sage, a little flour, salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil. A little fresh parsley adds a touch of freshness and color and a splash of Marsala makes the gravy into a real treat. And a very easy-to-prepare one at that!

If you had been served something as tender and juicy as this as a child, I am sure you would love liver a whole lot more! But to be honest- my dear mamma also cooked the stuff to death too! I had to learn how to do it all by my lonesome!

The first thing I did was to turn on the oven to get it hot and to start my potatoes and carrots boiling. I cut the potatoes into relatively small chunks as the carrots were also small and tender and boiled them in salted water for 15 minutes whilst I prepared the rest of my meal.

I prepared a little flour for dipping my liver in, to which I added plenty of freshly ground pepper, and for this amount (2-3 livers), 4-5 finely chopped sage leaves... and of course- no salt! 

That is the whole secret with preparing liver- do NOT add salt until if is cooked and only add it just before it is ready to serve. If you add salt during cooking, it draws the moisture out of the liver and makes it tough, dry and mealy. Ugh! Sounds like that nasty stuff you used to hate as a child, right? Right! So- don't do it!

I prepared the onion separately in a small pan- and the way I like to do it is by adding just enough water to the cover the bottom of the pan and to steam/boil the onion at first. Once it comes up to the boil, stir it through, put on the lid and let it cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove the lid and continue cooking until all of the water has evaporated.

Once all of the water is gone and the onion is soft and transparent, add a little olive oil and salt and fry until slightly brown, then add a pinch of sugar and keep stirring until it becomes slightly caramelized. Add a last splash of water to pick up all of the good flavors that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan and by the time that has evaporated away, you will have lovely golden and delicious onion without all of the fat. Cool.

In another frying pan, in a little olive oil, dip in the flour and sage mixture and fry the liver for 2-3 minutes from either side until it becomes golden and crispy.

At this point, drain your carrots and potatoes and drizzle them with olive oil and a little extra salt, then pop them into a hot oven, at 220°C to begin roasting and getting nicely golden brown.

There will be a little blood coming out whilst it cooks and that is normal- but still, fry it only for 2-3 so it gets a lovely color like this and then remove from the heat.

up, ready to go into the oven with the potatoes.

The potatoes should be nicely golden on one side by now, so toss them over and continue roasting. The liver will continue cooking in the oven and by the time you have made the gravy, it will be pink and tender and cooked through... and perfect!

For the gravy, put the onions into the pan that you used for frying the liver, which is of course filled with good flavor and deglaze with a splash of Marsala. Add water, salt, pepper and some of the left-over flour and sage that you used to dip the liver in to thicken it up.

Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it bubble away for 4-5 minutes.

Now you can finally unwrap the liver and give it that sprinkle of salt that it so dearly needs! Serve with the gravy and of course those lovely roasted vegetables, sprinkle with parsley... and enjoy!

Pearfectly Delicious

Pere al Forno con Fiocchi d'Avena , Cocco , Mirtilli Americani & Cannella
Baked Pears with Oatmeal, Coconut, Cranberries & Cinnamon

Of course it is still breakfast and not dessert! There's oatmeal in there, isn't there?!? Ha! The thing is, simple as these baked pears are, they are delicious enough to be served as a dessert- replace yogurt with ice cream and you have a sensible sin ready to be served here!

Yes, a scoop pf yogurt would be ideal with these lovely pears, but they are also delicious just the way they are, as they are so juicy inside that the balance perfectly combined with the toasted oatmeal and coconut. And with a little cinnamon and cranberry into the mix... irresistible!

They will take 40-45 minutes to bake, but being as there is next to no prep-work involved, that makes them perfect for a super-indulgent start to a sweet, calm, relaxing Sunday morning.

So, to go with my 2 pears, I needed 2 cups of oatmeal, 1 cup of coconut flakes, 1 cup of dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon of sugar and about 1 teaspoons-worth of butter. Not really all that sinful from the ingredients- but definitely from the results!

The pears themselves and the cranberries have plenty of sweetness of their own- the little bit of sugar added is mainly to help caramelize the surface slightly and to crisp up the oatmeal a little more... so... no need to feel guilty about enjoying these!

Simply mix the oatmeal, coconut, cranberries and cinnamon together thoroughly- that's all you need to do!

Lightly butter your baking dish, add 3/4 of the oatmeal mix, then add the peeled, halved and cored pears. Sprinkle with the remaining oatmeal, coconut and cranberries and add a few tiny pats of butter here and there. 

Drizzle ever-so-lightly with water, cover with foil and bake in a hot oven, at 200°C, for around 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, remove the foil and give the moistened oatmeal and coconut a little stir, then sprinkle lightly with a little cinnamon and sugar before returning to the oven for a final 5 minutes or so, until the sugar begins to caramelize and things begin to turn golden brown.

And there they are- and you could't get any easier- or more delicious- than that!

So what if it's Winter and it's cold an miserable outside... if you have a treat like this to enjoy!

Natural products, simple preparation, excellent flavor... and who could ask for anything more?

Crispy on the outside and lovely and smooth and steamy on the inside... mmmm! Enjoy!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Flower Power Pizza

Pizza in Padella con Fiori di Zucca Fior di Latte, Acciughe & Peperoncini
Frying Pan Pizza with Zucchini Blossoms, Mozzarella, Anchovies & Chili Flakes

Another one of my "helpless single guy wants pizza but is going to be darned if he is going to go to all the trouble of making dough just for one single serving" pizzas... made with dough from a roll... in a frying pan!

Which doesn't mean it has to be nasty, doesn't mean it isn't going to be in fact pretty spectacular- and doesn't by any way mean it will not knock your socks off!

Pizza- that means tomato sauce, too much salami, cheese, ham or other stuff on top for you to be able to tell one taste from the other and waaaay too much fat- right? Wrong! 

It can also be something different, elegant, simple and plain freaking wonderful! Like this! Look on and stop drooling already! Because if you like the sound of it, if you want to make it, it won't take any longer than 30 minutes!

So, apart from my circle of pizza dough, I needed 1 ball of mozzarella, 10-12 zucchini blossoms, 3-4 anchovies, a little olive oil, a bout 1 teaspoon of hot chili flakes... and a healthy appetite! But that was all!

Zucchini blossoms with anchovies and mozzarella are an Italian, in particular, Roman, classic combination- the perfect balance between the sweet blossoms, salty and intense fish and mild Mozzarella. 

The chili flakes are an option, as you can always of course just use regular pepper... but some like it hot! And I am one of them! lol!

I am calling the "mozzarella" I used here "fior di latte", as this was made from cows milk- and that is the Italian name for it. "Real" mozzarella is only "The Real McCoy" if it is made from buffalo milk, don't ya know!? Oh- you didn't? Well now ya do!

Ok- turn on your oven to the highest setting before you do anything else! Then lay out your pizza base in a non-stick frying pan, lay out a few slices of mozzarella, evenly spaced and dot with bits and dabs of anchovy, then sprinkle generously with chili flakes- or add pepper if that would be too hot and spicy for you. 

There is no need for any additional seasoning as the anchovies are already very salty- which is why the balance between these 2 ingredients is such a great combination!

You will need to pluck out the stamen from inside the blossoms and to give them a rinse before using them- but delicate as they might be, give them a good squeeze dry once you have washed them, to wring out any excess water. 

Press them down firmly and evenly on top of the mozzarella, whichever way you find prettiest- may as well make the most of how beautiful those blossoms are!

Spinkle a little more mozzarella over the top, drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with more chili flakes and pop onto a hot stovetop to begin the baking process in the pan... just like I always do! 

This will make the base begin to bake and become crispy, will make the mozzarella melt so that the blossom stay put... and will save you a lot of time as well as ensuring a better result!.

Once the base begins to bubble up and lift up from the bottom of the saucepan, transfer it to the oven, set to its highest setting, for 10-15 minutes, until the pizza is finished and golden and crispy as can be!

And apart from that it is pretty as a picture!

And it tastes every bit as wonderful as it looks! Word!

And if you still think ordering a pizza delivery would have been a better idea... I just give up!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Simplicity from Sicily

Pasta cu Capucciu & Capulliatu
Pasta with White Cabbage & Ground Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta, pasta, pasta... there is no limit to how many way it can be prepared and it will never let you down when you are stuck for something to eat. Seriously... and that means, like, never ever at all! So do something a little different every now and again!

One of the most important things about pasta dishes, that sadly too many people seem unable to understand is that you don't have to have a sauce to make a wonderful pasta dish and more often than not, just a couple of flavorful ingredients will be all you need to turn your plain old noodles into something delicious and fun!

Not surprisingly, this dish was put together using just a couple of leftover vegetables... but the result was still delicious indeed! It just takes a bit of ingenuity and common sense to work out a good combination of your ingredients... keep things simple and you will be fine!

The ingredients I used here were some sweet, white cabbage and some ground-up, savory sun-dried tomatoes... contrasting flavors which when combined compliment each other wonderfully.

pep-up 2 portions of linguini. On the bottom left in the photo, you are looking at 1/2 of an onion- that should help you get things into perspective!. Other than this, I needed 2 handfuls of finely chopped/shredded white cabbage, 1 tablespoon of ground, Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes (or finely chopped regular ones), a little parsley, some salted ricotta for grating and otherwise simply salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and a drizzle or two of olive oil.

Just take a peek at how luscious and delicious that looks! Slightly tangy, sweet and savory, healthy and delicious and different... and fun! Dare to be different... life is too short to not at least be adventurous with your pasta!

Preparation couldn't be easier- finely dice 1/2 an onion and fry in a little olive oil with the finely chopped stalks of the parsley and whilst it is sizzling away, slice up 2 good handfuls of white cabbage. It doesn't take much! Remember how small the cabbage was in the previous photo? Around the size of an apple? Well, I only needed half that amount, which is another reason that my super-thrifty self liked this so much!

Stir-fry the cabbage with the onion for 2-3 minutes, adjust a little salt, about 1/2 a teaspoon and a pinch of sugar, one little splash of water and pop on the lid for 2-3 minutes, so that the cabbage steams and wilts down a little. Next, add the ground or chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir them in well.

These ground, sun-dried tomatoes, called "capulliato" in Sicilian dialect, are a staple seasoning for any number of simple dishes. The word itself, simply means "mashed together"- and it's really old-school- just like me!

The consistency, once they have been ground, is a little different and something we Sicilians love- but sure, as I already mentioned, you can simply chop up a couple of regular ones and they will work just fine too.

Start boiling your pasta and keep the cabbage stir-frying whilst it cooks for around 5 minutes, then transfer the almost cooked pasta to your frying pan with a good splash of the salted water that it cooked in.

Continue cooking the pasta and the cabbage together, stirring all the time and adding a little more water as required as the pasta absorbs what's in the pan... and of course all of the flavor that comes with it! Just look at that lovely color, coming from the dried tomatoes- heavenly!

lovely, shiny coating of cabbage, onion and tomato, add a little olive oil, a touch of nutmeg, and serve up with a generous sprinkle of finely chopped parsley. Finish with a little grated salted-ricotta if you are Sicilian like me, Parmesan if your not (hehe!) and some freshly ground pepper.

And yes- it is absolutely delicious once it is all stirred-up together! Enjoy it whilst it's hot!