February 27, 2009

Protein-rich blueberry sorbet

I love blueberries. Since we are far away from blueberry season, you have two possibilities. You can go for frozen berries, which are pretty good, or you can splurge on imported blueberries. In the southern hemisphere they are enjoying summer, so they share with us their fresh produce. The Chilean fresh blueberries you can enjoy in winter come from places like this one:

Isn’t that quaint? Here you can have a look at some more pictures of the Chilean lake district, part of my after holiday escape!:

In addition, I’m one of those people who love to have ice cream in freezing weather. This protein-rich sorbetto di mirtilli (blueberry sorbet) is incredibly good, refreshing, light and fluffy! The addition of egg white not only contributes to the protein content, but also helps the sorbet to preserve a fantastic texture. You won’t even need to wait because you can enjoy it right from the freezer!

2 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 ¾ cup water
1 egg white
1 Tbsp martini bianco (or blueberry vodka)

In a saucepan dissolve 1 cup of sugar with 1¾ cup of water over medium heat. Add the blueberries and bring it to a simmer for a couple of minutes, until the blueberries pop and the water turns into a blueberry sauce. When the sauce is cool, blend it at high speed in an electric blender. Pour this blueberry puree into your ice cream maker (you can use a sieve if you like). While your machine is working, pour in the martini bianco and the egg white. After about 20 minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfectly delectable dessert!

Branching Out
Blueberry picking
Express blueberry jam
Blueberry gelato
Tarte aux bleuets
The Chilean lake district
Posted by Daziano at 7:14 PM | 13 comments  
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February 19, 2009

Wholesome penne with mushroom soffritto

A lot of Italian dishes begin with a soffritto, which is made by sautéing different vegetables. The ultimate Italian soffritto contains onion, celery and carrots. In this recipe I’ll use sweet potatoes instead of carrots. If you ask any Italian about sweet potatoes, he or she will tell you that sweet potatoes produce wonderful flowers, but at the same time he or she will admit not knowing how to cook with sweet potatoes. As you can infer, sweet potato is not a very well known ingredient in Italy. Veneto is the only Italian region I know where people do cook with sweet potatoes. However, Italians should begin to cook more with sweet potatoes because they are super healthful! They are packed with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, copper, potassium, iron and proteins with antioxidant properties!

1 lb whole wheat penne
10 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 small sweet potato, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
½ onion, diced
1/3 yellow pepper, diced
1/3 green pepper, diced
1/3 red pepper, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
½ cup white wine
Salt and pepper, peperoncino

In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms and the onions for about 7 minutes until golden. Add the sweet potatoes, a touch of peperoncino, and some salt. Give a quick stir. Add the celery, the green, yellow and red pepper, and an additional tablespoon of butter. After a couple of minutes, add the white wine. Stir. Let the alcohol evaporate and then, covering the saucepan with a lid, let the soffritto cook. Set the heat to medium low. Boil the penne in salted water until al dente. When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss it over the soffritto. Add the last tablespoon of butter and some black pepper. Give a quick little stir and serve.
Posted by Daziano at 10:19 PM | 12 comments  
February 13, 2009

February Indulgence: A masqued ball for Valentine's day

February is the month of carnivals all around the world. You have the big carnival in Rio, mardi gras in New Orleans, the winter carnival in Quebec City, and the masqued carnival of Venice. Is this a mere coincidence? Of course not! Carnivals always end before Lent starts. If you’re catholic you know what Lent means: no party, prayer and penitence, fasting and abstinence. So, if you know that Lent is coming, then the carnival season is your last chance for partying!

The carnevale di Venezia was first mentioned in an official document as early as 1094, and it was officially established in 1296. Back in those times, the carnival lasted from Christmas until the day before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday or mardi gras... mardi means Tuesday in French). Because the idea was to have a holiday where everything was allowed, the use of masks became extremely popular. If you’re disguised, no one knows who you are, or what is your social status, political views, religion or gender. The masters could be servants. And the servants could be masters. However, the masks gave people a little too much freedom. It wasn’t unusual for men to dress like nuns, so they could enter convents and play with the poor sisters. The carnival of Venice has been from the beginning a big theater, where every person in Venice becomes a protagonist in the most extravagant play. A play, with the most splendorous scene: piazza San Marco. However Casanova is the only A-listed star of this play. Casanova made the carnival of Venice an international event, because the carnival was the ultimate expression of his extremely passionate adventures. Not long after Casanova’s time, Napoleon took Venice and put an end to the carnival, in part because Napoleon wanted to avoid disguised spies. It wasn’t until 1979 that the carnival experienced its glamorous revival.

Although – and at the same time because of – the lavish balls, excessive behavior, furtive romances and sinful encounters, Venice is probably one of the most romantic cities in the world. And the fact that the carnival of Venice is celebrated every February makes Venice the perfect destination for a very romantic Valentine’s Day escape… if you can afford it, because during carnival everything is booked, and overpriced! It was totally by chance that the first time I was in Venice was for carnival. I was there in February and I knew that carnival was held in that month, but I didn’t know it was starting on the day after I came! It was such a wonderful experience! However my hotel was frugal, I had to share my gondola ride with 6 Japanese girls because of the price of the ride, and my ‘excesses’ were extremely parsimonious. Still, it was full of magic!


What do Italians eat for the abstinence-free carnival season? The answer is quite obvious once you know it. Italians indulge themselves in sinfully deep-fried food! You can try my castagnole recipe!

Posted by Daziano at 8:35 PM | 9 comments  
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February 5, 2009

Blood orange sorbet – the best sorbet you can ever have!

This is a magnificent recipe for an extremely refreshing sorbet. The blood orange – arancia rossa in Italian – has an attractive and unique red flesh. The color is a very intense ruby shade that reminds you of the color of blood (or red wine). The flavor is intense and tart but sweet at the same time: think of the sweetest freshly squeezed orange juice with a nice touch of grapefruit and raspberry juice!

In Italy, the arancie rosse are cultivated throughout Sicily, namely on the east side of the island in the provinces of Catania, Siracusa, Enna and Ragusa. There are three cultivars: tarocco, sanguinella (sangue means blood in Italian) and moro (the most intense in color). Blood oranges that come from these regions are regulated under the name arancia rossa di Sicilia. Arance rosse di Sicilia are without doubt the best you can have. However, they are impossible to find outside of Italy. Nowadays, the production of blood oranges has extended to places with nice Mediterranean weather, like New Zealand and… California! The Californian blood orange is not Sicilian, but it is actually pretty good. Although the trees grown in California come from Sicily, the fertility of the soil around Mount Etna and the Mediterranean sun are hard to compete with.

2 cups blood orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup sugar

2 Tbsp Martini Rosso

Dissolve the sugar into the freshly squeezed blood orange juice. Pour the juice into your ice cream maker. After a couple of minutes, add the martini rosso and let the machine continue its work. Enjoy your blood orange sorbet right after it is ready! Usually sorbets don’t freeze well – or maybe they freeze too well – so it’s never a good idea to keep them in the freezer for a long time. The alcohol helps to break the ice crystals, and so does the sugar. However, homemade sorbets always have the best texture when they come right from the ice cream maker.


The tarocco cultivar is the orange with the highest content of vitamin C in the whole world!

Blood oranges go very well in cocktails and soft drinks! You surely have seen reddish Italian soda around. In Italy you can even have blood-orange flavored Fanta! It’s called Fanta Red Emotion (please read it trilling the R). And yes, Fanta is way better in Italy than in the US.

Watching tourists asking for an orange juice or spremuta d’arancia in Italy is a fun thing to do. The waiter comes proudly with freshly squeezed blood orange juice and the customer – looking at the color of the beverage being brought – thinks that the waiter didn’t understand what he really wants. What follows is a discussion in pseudo and unintelligible Italian on the part of the costumer (sometimes just in plain English – or whatever the costumer’s native language is). At the same time the discussion is held in an incomprehensible Italian-for-foreigners mixed with some words in pseudo English on the part of the waiter (usually lots of hand gestures included). OK, I’m stereotyping a bit but it really happens. And when this happens it’s so funny!

Posted by Daziano at 9:16 PM | 24 comments  
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February 2, 2009

Salmon insalata mista

When you go to an Italian restaurant, you will always see insalata mista among the contorni or side dishes. Insalata mista is nothing other than a garden salad, where different greens and other vegetables are mixed together. In this salad I combine two of my favorite Italian greens: arugula and radicchio. Add some oven-baked salmon to this insalata mista and you’ll have a complete light meal!

4 salmon filets (1 inch thick)
4 tsp mustard
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

½ cup store-bought balsamic dressing
2 Tbsp mustard
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Mix the balsamic vinegar with 4 tsp mustard. Brush the salmon filets with this marinade. Drizzle the salmon filets with some olive oil and bake them in a 450F preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Mix the arugula with the shredded radicchio and put the greens onto a serving plate. On top set the salmon, cut into bite-size pieces. For the dressing of this salad, just go the quick and simple way: mix your favorite store-bought balsamic dressing with some mustard and lemon juice!
Posted by Daziano at 8:32 PM | 8 comments  
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