November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving gnocchi à la cassonade

Well, I have to tell you I’m not the first to think of sweet potato gnocchi as the perfect starter for Thanksgiving. In fact, I got inspired by my fav star chef: Giada De Laurentiis. I totally love Giada! We have the same style of Italian cooking! I mean it’s really impressive. Sometimes I’m watching her show on the Food Network and I’m like: Gosh, that’s exactly how I cook! Giada has an (almost ;) ) unique style which blends authentic Italian cuisine and the American convenience concept, together with a nice Californian touch and a French approach in her techniques. And I cook Italian, with recipes I learned from my Italian family, I lived in Chile (and Santiago looks exactly like a Californian city… with a nice French appeal!) and now I live in North America so I got the French connection à la québécoise!

That being said, and despite my unconditional love for Giada, I must say her gnocchi recipe got some mixed reviews (apparently the gnocchi turn a bit soggy)… so why not give my Thanksgiving gnocchi recipe a try? ;)

2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 ½ to 2 cups all purpose flour

6 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper

Making gnocchi is quite easy. Roast, microwave or boil the sweet potatoes until tender. Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them. Knead the mashed sweet potatoes with the egg yolk, 1½ cup flour, cinnamon and salt. Stop kneading when the dough comes together. Add more flour only if the dough is wet and too sticky. Roll the dough into a ball, and then cut it into pieces. Roll each piece into long ‘snakes’ about ½-inch thick. Cut the snakes into ½-inch pieces. Sprinkle with flour, and shape the gnocchi using a fork or a gnocchi paddle (rigagnocchi). Set the gnocchi on a floured kitchen towel. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, a bit of salt and pepper, and stir.

Drop the gnocchi into salted boiling water. The gnocchi are ready when they start to rise and float to the surface (about 1 minute or so). Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the skillet with the sauce. Serve and impress your guests!

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Gnocchi must be cooked right after shaping them – or they can be frozen.
Posted by Daziano at 3:08 PM | 16 comments  
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November 24, 2008

A couple of ideas for Thanksgiving side dishes

Zesty roasted asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
3 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon zest
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Clean the asparagus, discard the tough stem ends. Peel the bottom part of the asparagus if the stems are too thick. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and put them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and just a touch of salt on top. Roast the asparagus in a 400F preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Take out of the oven, sprinkle with the lemon zest and the cheese. Return the asparagus to the oven and roast for a couple of minutes until the cheese turns nice and golden. Drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice before serving.

Rustic mashed sweet potatoes with ricotta cheese
2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 ½ cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper

Roast, microwave or boil the sweet potatoes until tender. When the sweet potatoes are ready, mash them roughly. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the ricotta cheese and the milk, and stir. When the ricotta gets warm, add the mashed sweet potatoes, the pumpkin puree, salt and pepper. Pour in some olive oil, give a quick stir and serve!
Posted by Daziano at 10:06 PM | 14 comments  
November 21, 2008

Italian-American Thanksgiving pumpkin biscuits

My pumpkin biscuits are perfect for an Italian-American Thanksgiving feast!

1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup brown sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
¾ cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange essence
Orange zest
1 cup golden raisins (soaked in 2 Tbsp rum)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the pumpkin purée (I used homemade pumpkin puree, but you can certainly use store-bought). Then add the eggs one by one and stir. Add one cup of brown sugar, the olive oil, the ricotta cheese, the orange essence and orange zest, the cinnamon, the maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Finally add the raisins. Stir to incorporate everything (I used my pretty apple-green stand mixer). Preheat the oven to 350F. Put some cooking spray on your muffin pan, and then scoop the batter into the pan. Sprinkle some more brown sugar on top. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the biscuits turn golden. Serve warm and, of course, devour them with some butter!
Posted by Daziano at 9:52 PM | 11 comments  
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November 18, 2008

Wine of the year

Each year, Wine Spectator makes a list of the 100 most exciting wines of the year. This year, the winner is a Chilean wine! Chilean wines, especially the red ones, are world renowned because of their quality and attractive prices. In the last few years, Chilean wines have been spotted among the top 10, but this is the first time a Chilean wine tops the list as the best one.

The winner, Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta 2005, is a vintage wine made of a blend of Merlot (26%), Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), aromatic Petit Verdot (4%) and Chilean distinctive Carmenère (42%). This blend was originally made in Bordeaux, France. However, in 1867 a plague attacked all the vineyards in Europe, and Carmenère – the Bordeaux variety hardest to grow – virtually disappeared. At least that was what people thought.

Chile has a long history of wine production. Because of the wonderful dry Mediterranean climate in its central valley, the conquistadors realized they could bring wine grapes to Chile and began to produce wine around Santiago. It wasn’t a particularly good wine, partly because it was made for use in the Mass. However in the 19th century, Chile adopted France as a role model (you can experience the French feeling in Chile looking at some interesting architectural corners in Santiago and around the vineyards). Because of the French connection, Chile changed its production of wine. They imported cuttings from Bordeaux, and among them they brought Carmenère. Without knowing, Chilean producers continued to grow this wine grape thinking it was Merlot. Only in 1994 a French specialist confirmed that it was Carmenère! Since then, this lost grape has become a staple among Chilean wines. I personally believe Carmenère is the most interesting wine from Chile since it has a unique and very intriguing flavor. So, it doesn’t surprise me that the most exciting wine in the world has Carmenère as its main grape!


The year 2005 was particularly good for every Chilean wine!
Posted by Daziano at 9:41 PM | 7 comments  
November 14, 2008

Turkey milanesas with cranberry sauce

Milanesas are a creation of Italian immigrants in Argentina. After a piece of tango and a hot sip of mate, they mixed two Milanese dishes: cotolette and scaloppine. In Argentina, milanesas are usually made with beef or veal. However, you can easily transform this Italian-Argentine dish into a holiday recipe by using turkey cutlets! I made this for Canadian Thanksgiving and it was a big hit, so why not give it a try for American Thanksgiving? It’s the perfect recipe for an easy turkey dinner!


1 pound turkey cutlets
2 eggs
1 Tbsp cold water
1¼ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup flour
Salt, pepper
Butter for sautéing (about 4 Tbsp)

Set flour, eggs and breadcrumbs separately in three shallow bowls. Add water to the eggs and beat this mixture slightly to obtain an egg wash. Season the flour with some salt and pepper (if you’re using seasoned bread crumbs just add a little touch of salt and pepper). Pound each cutlet gently to get thin and tender milanesas. Then, start a standard breading procedure: cutlets in flour first, then egg wash. After the egg wash dipping, put your cutlets in a colander. The extra egg will drain, and you’ll be able to wash your hands to continue. Dip the cutlets into the bread crumbs, and sauté the milanesas in a preheated saucepan with butter. Over medium-high heat, it won’t take more than 5 or 6 minutes to be ready. Drain the cutlets on paper towels, and serve with my French Canadian cranberry sauce.

Branching out
Buenos Aires shrimp muzarella pizza
Posted by Daziano at 9:05 PM | 20 comments  
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November 11, 2008

French Canadian cranberry sauce - sauce aux canneberges

Ok. I know it might be a little weird to pretend to teach you how to make cranberry sauce. We don’t even have cranberries in Italy. In fact, I had to consult Wikipedia to discover that in Italian there’s the word ossicocco for cranberry. And I’m telling you, I had no idea of the existence of that word until now.

Anyhow, since my blog is like my public recipe book that I consult myself whenever I want to make something I did before, here’s the recipe for my French Canadian cranberry sauce. Why is it French Canadian? Well, I cook Italian but I’ve learned some culinary customs from around here. So I decided to use maple syrup (is there anything more Canadian than maple syrup? And Quebec is the biggest producer in the world). I also used brown sugar, a very northern France ingredient for me, and very popular in Quebec too (the French connection!).

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup brown sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the maple syrup. In a saucepan over medium high heat, bring this mixture to a boil for a couple of minutes. Add the cranberries. Stir often. When the cranberries begin to pop, reduce the heat to medium. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 or 6 minutes. After that, it’s ready to serve! How about on top of some polenta?
Posted by Daziano at 9:24 PM | 17 comments  
November 8, 2008

Tastes of Italia

Hi! I’ve been busy traveling, celebrating Obama’s victory, planning my holiday trip, writing my dissertation proposal and also working on a paper that eventually I’ll present in England next year. But don’t worry. I haven’t stopped cooking. In fact, I have some nice ideas for the holiday season. Also, for my B-day I got a stand mixer! And I’ve already baked some panettone!

In addition, and while I find time to post some recipes, I have to tell you that my Italian clam chowder (which I made for last Christmas) is on the Nov/Dec issue of Tastes of Italia magazine. You’ll find it among the readers’ favorite recipes. And mine was selected as the featured one!

Posted by Daziano at 9:12 PM | 22 comments  
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