October 19, 2009

Anti-cold Orange Sorbet


Ingredients
3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of orange juice. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Then let it cool. Mix with the remaining orange juice and put in the fridge for a couple of hours. Prepare the sorbet using your ice cream maker, and serve it with some orange zest!
Posted by Daziano at 7:31 PM | 24 comments  
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October 17, 2009

Vicenza Mac and Cheese


According to an apparently recent legend, Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese. Truth is that pasta and cheese was served long before Jefferson declared himself a fan of macaroni. And by the time of Jefferson, the word macaroni was used as is used the Italian word maccheroni: basically a synonym of dry pasta without an associated shape. In fact, depending on the Italian region, maccheroni may refer to smooth rigatoni, square-shaped spaghetti or even tagliatelle.

Although Jefferson did import to America the first pasta maker for his own macaroni and we do know that in 18th-century North America people enjoyed pasta and cheddar baked together, we don’t know which shape of pasta nor which recipe Jefferson liked. But what we do know is that Jefferson pretty much enjoyed his travels in Northern Italy, and that he admired the works of Palladio. In fact, Jefferson followed Palladio’s principles to design his house in Monticello. Andrea Palladio was one of the most important Italian architects. His works can be admired all around the province of Venice, but mostly in Vicenza. His vision of classic architecture pushed Renaissance architecture to a whole new level that even anticipated neoclassical style, which was popular by the beginning of the 19th century. When visiting Monticello you can see the result of Palladio’s influence on American neoclassical architecture, which became the official style of the new nation. Actually, Monticello reminds you a lot of La Rotonda, a fabulous villa in the outskirts of Vicenza designed by Palladio.





Well, all this being said here is my interpretation of this American staple.

Ingredients
½ lb whole wheat macaroni
2 cups milk
1½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (+½ cup to put on top)
½ cup fontina cheese, grated
2 Tbsp corn starch
Salt, pepper
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp nutmeg

While you cook your pasta, preheat the oven to 350F. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Whisk in the corn starch dissolving any lumps, and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the milk. Add some salt and pepper, the dry mustard and nutmeg. Let it simmer until it thickens a bit. Add the cheese and let it melt while you stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain it but reserve about half a cup of the cooking water. In a baking dish, mix the pasta, melted cheese sauce and reserved water. Pour about half a cup of grated cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes or until a golden-brown crust forms.



Tips
Jefferson’s Italian pasta maker, the first in America as I mentioned, didn’t last long. Jefferson, being an ingenious man, made drawings to put together his very own machine. However, records say that after his Italian machine broke, he decided to import his macaroni… from France!

Both Monticello and La Rotonda are UNESCO world heritage sites. Monticello is the only house so recognized in the US.
Posted by Daziano at 8:08 PM | 10 comments  
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October 14, 2009

Succulent bistecca alla fiorentina


Italians don’t have a lot of grilled beef recipes. But when Italians do it, they do it right. Beef doesn’t need to be marinated, because if you do your beef won’t sear as it should and then it won’t be able to retain all the goodness of its own juices. That’s why real bistecca alla fiorentina (steak in the style of Florence) calls for nothing besides salt and pepper, added only when the beef has already been seared on the grill. Bistecca alla fiorentina is a staple of Tuscan cuisine; it was even described by Artusi in his famous book.

Ingredients
4 thick porterhouse steaks, at room temperature
Salt, Pepper

Bistecca alla fiorentina has to be prepared on an outdoor coal grill. The grill has to be hot, but no flames — mi raccomando. Place the steaks on the grill. Grill next to the hot coals for about 2 minutes. Raise the grill and continue grilling for another 3 minutes. Turn the steaks over and salt the seared side. Grill for 5-7 minutes for rare (10-12 minutes in total). Salt and pepper the unsalted side of the steaks. Let the steaks sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Tips
Ideally your steaks should be chianina beef (the traditional breed in Tuscany) and one-and-a-half or two-fingers thick (about 1 – 1 ½ inches).

The word bistecca comes from English beef-steak.
Posted by Daziano at 7:51 PM | 14 comments  
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October 12, 2009

Leftover turkey Panini


The perfect ending for Thanksgiving!

Ingredients (2 panini)
1 medium loaf whole wheat bread
4 slices cooked turkey breast
4 slices provolone cheese
Pesto mayo (3 Tbsp mayo + 1 Tbsp pesto)
Cranberry sauce for dipping

Choose a nice and crunchy whole wheat bread. I chose one with cereals, walnuts and raisins. Cut the bread in half and then open it. Spread some pesto mayonnaise on both sides of the bread. Fill your sandwich with sliced turkey breast and provolone cheese. Set some leftover cranberry sauce in a small plate for dipping your sandwich into! Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!!!


Tip
Warm up the turkey. By doing so you’ll activate the fabulous pesto aroma. Or heat the whole sandwich in the oven or in a panini grill until the cheese melts.

Posted by Daziano at 7:11 PM | 10 comments  
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October 4, 2009

Cotoletta alla Milanese


My great-grandmother was from Milan, and maybe because of that my mother and I love breaded cutlets which are a staple of Milanese cuisine. So, every time I go to Milan I not only shop but I also have a good cotoletta alla Milanese.

Ingredients
4 veal cutlets with bone
2 eggs
4-6 Tbsp butter
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper

Cut away any fat and pound each cutlet gently. Beat the eggs slightly, add a touch of freshly ground pepper, and pour the eggs into a shallow bowl. Set the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Start a standard breading procedure: dip the cutlets into the eggs and then dip them into the breadcrumbs. Sauté the milanesas in a preheated saucepan with butter (for a golden result shallow-fry the cutlets adding more butter). Over medium-high heat, it won’t take a lot to be ready: 4 minutes on one side, turn once, and then 2-3 minutes on the other side for medium rare. Drain the cutlets on paper towels, salt them and serve with sweet potato oven fries. Not an Italian side dish I know, but they are better for you than traditional fries and they are just perfect for holiday dinners!

Sweet potato oven fries Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt

Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes. Cut the potato into wedges. Toss the sweet potatoes wedges with the olive oil, cinnamon and salt. Set them onto a baking sheet forming a single layer, and bake in a 425F preheated oven for about 30 minutes until tender and golden brown (while they're baking, turn the potatoes a couple of times).

Tips
The words cotoletta and cutlet actually have the same origin!

Do cotolette alla Milanese remind you of Wiener schnitzel? Apparently Marshal Radetzky (yep, the same as in Strauss’s march) introduced veal cutlets to Austria after living in Milan. However, Austrians are very proud of their cutlets so they don’t agree with the Italian origin.
Posted by Daziano at 9:22 PM | 9 comments  
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September 18, 2009

Berlines – I Krapfen Cileni


I know you loved my doughnutella mini krapfen recipe. As I mentioned before, Krapfen are a sweet treat very common in Alto Adige, the German-speaking region of northern Italy. In fact, Krapfen are typical doughnuts of the whole German-speaking world. Whereas in Italy and Austria these doughnuts are known as Krapfen, in Germany they use the word Berliner. In Chile, where German migration influenced Chilean pastry-making, Krapfen are known as berlines. Berlines are usually filled with custard, jam or dulce de leche. In addition, Berlines are now the quintessential Chilean snack for breaks at school. So, if you like doughnuts you’ll love Berlines, filled with sweet dulce de leche. Krapfen and berlines share another common feature: Krapfen come from the region of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, and berlines come from Chile, the country of Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. Don’t you think that Torres del Paine could easily blend into the Italian Dolomite region?


Ingredients (30-40 mini berlines)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (+ 1 tsp sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick of butter (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
pinch of salt

Peanut oil for frying
Dulce de leche for filling
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Just follow the directions for my doughnutellas, but fill them using dulce de leche.


Tips
In Canada, these doughnuts are called Bismarck doughnuts.

Today is Chile's National Day! Happy Chile Day!!!

Posted by Daziano at 9:02 PM | 27 comments  
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September 15, 2009

Acciughe al pomodoro - anchovy antipasto


After tasting this traditional antipasto, you’ll say: ‘who knew fresh anchovies were this good’!

Ingredients
1.5 lbs fresh anchovies
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz), drained and diced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper

First, remove the scales of the anchovies with a knife under cold running water. Rinse the anchovies. Cut right above the heads and then remove the heads together with the insides. Cut the anchovies lengthwise and remove the spine. Pat the anchovies dry using paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour half of the canned tomatoes into a baking dish. Pour the anchovies over the tomatoes. Mix the garlic with half of the parsley and pour this mixture over the anchovies. Sprinkle with some salt and cover with the rest of the tomatoes. Bake for about 20 minutes, and serve warm with the rest of the parsley on top.

Tips
I know, cleaning anchovies sounds like a post-mortem, but it’s not really that hard and the flavor of fresh anchovies is totally worth it.

Posted by Daziano at 9:43 PM | 9 comments  
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September 11, 2009

Organic Tropical Sorbet

Sometimes just a couple of days back at work or at school are enough to make us dream of summer again! My organic tropical sorbet is perfect to recall those days at the beach! And it’s so simple you’ll want to do it even when you’re on vacation.

Ingredients
3 cups mixed tropical fruits
½ - 2/3 cup organic agave nectar

Just puree the fruit with the agave nectar using an electric blender. Pour the puree into your ice cream machine and let the machine do its work. After 20-25 minutes you’ll be tasting a tropical paradise, wherever you are!

Tips
I used Trader Joe’s tropical fruit trio: mango, papaya, pineapple

Posted by Daziano at 9:25 PM | 16 comments  
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September 6, 2009

Cooling down the heat

Some of the most traditional antipasti are based on very old rules proposed by Galen, the second century Greek physician. Following Galenic standards, to compensate for their imbalanced nature some foods needed to be eaten with some opposite food. According to Galen’s point of view, melons have a cooling effect on ham, a hot and dry ingredient. So, what we have here is prosciutto crudo and melon! The ultimate antipasto! In addition, cold and moist figs are heated by ham: prosciutto and figs!

Prosciutto e melone
1 cantaloupe, sliced
7 oz prosciutto crudo, thinly sliced


Prosciutto e fichi
8 figs, quartered
7 oz prosciutto crudo, thinly sliced
(Optional: olive oil, pepper)


Prosciutto, melone e fichi
4-6 figs, quartered
Slices of melon (cantaloupe and honeydew)
7 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced

Simply arrange fruit and prosciutto as your creativity tells you, and serve on a nice serving dish!
Posted by Daziano at 5:13 PM | 12 comments  
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August 30, 2009

Spaghetti con le vongole in bianco


Spaghetti con le vongole – spaghetti with clams, a specialty from the region of Campania – is one of the easiest Mediterranean dishes you can think of. This is my favorite version of the dish, called in bianco because no tomatoes are added. With this dish, tasting the flavors of the Mediterranean Sea is guaranteed!

Ingredients
1 lb spaghetti (or vermicelli)
2 lbs small clams
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Discard any clams with broken shells or any clams that are open and that do not close when you firmly try to close them with your fingers. Rapidly wash the clams and then let them soak in abundant cold and salted water for at least 1 hour (you can let the clams soak in the fridge overnight).

In a saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp of olive oil. After you begin to cook the pasta, add the garlic to the saucepan with the heated olive oil and sauté the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the clams and some salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let the clams cook for about 3-4 minutes, until all the clams are open. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it over the clams. Add some parsley and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Give a quick stir and serve.

Tips
Mediterranean clams are tiny and flavorful. In North America, use Manila clams.

Posted by Daziano at 7:24 PM | 15 comments  
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August 20, 2009

Doughnutella mini Krapfen


Krapfen is a typical doughnut, usually filled with jam, from the Italian region of Südtirol. My doughnutella mini Krapfen are a tiny version of this northern Italian treat, filled with Nutella of course! Since they are smaller than regular Krapfen my mini Krapfen are also more sophisticated and perfect for chic cocktail parties – just ask Donatella Versace about my doghnutella ;) !

Ingredients (30-40 mini Krapfen)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (+ 1 tsp sugar)
1 stick of butter (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
pinch of salt

Peanut oil for frying
Nutella for filling
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Dissolve the yeast in sugared warm milk and let it double its volume. In the meantime, put the flour in a bowl and make la fontana (a hole in the flour, where you'll mix the other ingredients). Then add the dissolved and active yeast, the sugar, the butter, and the 2 eggs and begin to stir with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour. When everything is incorporated, knead the dough with your hands for about 8 minutes. Then, let the dough rest for at least 45 minutes inside the bowl and covered. When the dough has doubled its volume, punch it down and knead the dough for 2 minutes. On a well-floured surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle of about 1/3 inch thick. Cut out the dough using a round cookie cutter. Let the cutouts rest for about 15 minutes before frying.

Heat the oil in a big but not too high skillet. When the temperature is around 350 F start frying your mini Krapfen. Fry them in batches until golden brown, turning them once. Drain on paper towels and allow your mini Krapfen to cool before filling them with Nutella (cut on the side for filling or use a pastry nozzle). Dust with powdered sugar. I bet you can’t have only one!

Posted by Daziano at 12:42 PM | 21 comments  
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August 18, 2009

Lemony spaghetti

This is a stress-free recipe for a simple dish that just tastes like summer.

Ingredients
1 pound spaghetti
2 organic lemons
2 ½ - 3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt

Cut one lemon in half and put one half in the salted water you’ll use to cook the pasta. Grate the peel of the remaining 1 ½ lemons. Bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta. Just a couple of minutes before the pasta is al dente, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and some salt to the melted butter and give a quick stir. If you prefer, add a touch of olive oil to avoid burning the butter. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour the spaghetti into the lemon-scented butter sauce. Give a quick stir, and if you like add another touch of olive oil, and serve.


Tips
Just think how good this recipe is when you use lemons from Sorrento! Having this dish on a terrace facing the Mediterranean Sea is an indulgent way of enjoying the pleasures of summer!
Posted by Daziano at 8:40 PM | 17 comments  
August 16, 2009

In search of fresh mozzarella


On your way to Paestum, from Salerno to Battipaglia, the best thing you can do is to stop at a caseificio and buy some fresh mozzarella. And I mean the real thing: mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. After tasting this it’s so hard to accept that the yellowish-and-gummy cheese you buy shredded for your pizzas can be sold as mozzarella. Made from domestic water-buffalo’s milk, mozzarella cheese is so good that some call it ‘regina’ (queen) of Mediterranean cuisine or ‘oro bianco’ (white gold). Nobody knows how water buffalos ended up in Italy (they live in swampy regions of Asia), but what really matters is that water buffalo’s milk is dense and tasty and it has a higher content of both protein and fat than cow’s milk. Because of this higher content of fat, mozzarella cheese has a creamier texture and flavor than ordinary cheese.
Mozzarella is creamy and soft, light and fresh. In a way, real mozzarella summarizes Italian cuisine: it’s simple and yet perfect because of the high quality of the ingredients. You don’t need anything fancy to taste perfection: just fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of good olive oil and that’s it! Or add some tomatoes from Campania and basil from coastal zones of Italy and you get the most famous Italian salad: insalata caprese.


Tips
The name mozzarella comes from the Italian verb mozzare (to cut), because of how the cheese-makers cut the cheese with their hands to shape the mozzarella.

Branching out
Insalata caprese
Caprese salad in Technicolor
Crostini capresi
Pizza margherita
Posted by Daziano at 9:29 PM | 13 comments  
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August 14, 2009

Paestum


If someday you’re somewhere around Naples or the Amalfi Coast, please go to Paestum (about 62 mi / 100 km SE of Naples). Often neglected by foreigners, Paestum is the classic Roman name for the city of Poseidonia, a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC. Close to the sea, Paestum was dedicated to Poseidon (hence its Greek name) but Hera and Athena were greatly worshipped there too. Because of the fertile soil and strategic position, Paestum rapidly became a large and prosperous city. Grandiose temples were built, and Paestum also became an important place of procession and devotion. In 550 BC a temple was built to honor Hera. A century later, another temple was added to create a huge complex devoted to the goddess. Thousands of offertory statues of Hera were made for the people who came to praise the wife of Zeus. Not too far away, a temple dedicated to Athena was erected (500 BC). All three temples can be seen today. In fact, these temples are ranked among the best-conserved Greek temples in the whole world. Only one temple in Greece is actually said to be better preserved than Paestum’s temples. In addition, the second temple of Hera is considered by some specialists as the most perfectly executed Doric temple in the world because of its architectural details and perfect proportions. The defensive walls and the Heraion, a temple outside the city limits, are worth a visit too.


Beyond the glorious temples that are enough to take your breath away, the archeological site has even more to offer. Whereas in Pompeii you can enjoy the magnificence of Roman wall paintings, in Paestum you can discover the enigmatic Greek frescoes. Roman frescoes were inspired by the art of the Greeks, and some say the Roman copies never attained the level of mastery of the Greeks. However the remains of Greek painting beyond vase-art are almost non-existent. The paintings in Greek temples vanished (actually every Greek statue was painted in vivid colors) and no volcano covered a city as Vesuvius did with Pompeii. Whereas Etruscan frescoes were preserved because they painted the walls of underground tombs, the Greeks did not have the custom of painting the insides of tombs. But in Paestum, because of the contact with Italic peoples, the Greeks acquired this custom of painting the insides of tombs.


Good for us, because in 1968 a tomb was found in a small necropolis in Paestum. The tomb of the diver (tomba del tuffatore) dates from the first half of the 5th century and is “the only example of Greek painting with figured scenes dating from the Orientalizing, Archaic, or Classical periods to survive in its entirety. Among the thousands of Greek tombs known from this time (roughly 700–400 BC), this is the only one to have been decorated with frescoes of human subjects” (Holloway, The Tomb of the Diver, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 110 n. 3, 2006). The frescoes found inside the tomb were first thought to be Etruscan because as I told you there is no evidence in Greece of painted tombs. Also the diver in this enigmatic fresco is a subject that is absent in other expressions of Greek art such as pottery painting, but there are some examples of this subject in Etruscan art. The fresco that covered the lid of the tomb depicts a diver in the act of jumping, and there’s a huge debate about what it represents. Some say it is a representation of the deceased jumping into the afterlife. On the walls of the tomb, scenes of a symposium were depicted.


The symposium, the all-male drinking and debate party, was a Greek social institution and therefore is a familiar scene in Greek art; for example Greek pottery of that time showed similar scenes. The symposium scenes and the techniques employed advocate a Greek manufacture of the tomb (not to mention that the tomb was built during the Golden Age of the Greek city). It is known that Paestum kept commercial contacts with the Etruscans, so it’s not that strange that they were influenced by them in some aspects.

If you visit the National Archeological Museum of Paestum, which is next to the temples, you can take a look at this tomb together with other frescoes of later tombs dating from the period of the Lucanians (a native people from the mountains that conquered the city by the end of the 5th century). I was so impressed by the frescoes that I had to sit and admire them for a long while. Sometimes I think it’s hard to really impress me, but Paestum certainly did with its glorious temples and truly amazing frescoes.


Tips
Because archeology is hard work, sometimes it is not easy to know what the thing you’re excavating was for. So, don’t get confused if you see that the first temple of Hera is sometimes called the Basilica, that the second temple of Hera is sometimes called the temple of Neptune, and that the temple of Athena is sometimes called the Temple of Ceres. It’s just that for example the temple that now seems to be dedicated to Athena was first thought to be dedicated to Ceres.

The temples survived because in the middle ages this area was a big swamp and people were afraid of malaria!
Posted by Daziano at 10:45 PM | 11 comments  
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