Tag Archives: Italian Cuisine

More Food Porn: An Honest Lasagna

This is from a few years ago, back when I had the time to make my own pasta. Here are but a few of the ingredients – Flour, water, canned tomatoes, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and heapin’ dose of love.

Coniglio allo Zafferano (Saffron Rabbit)

More than anything else, this recipe is meant to demonstrate a new toy in my bag…the photographic light tent. Let’s give it up for the light tent! Woot!

Running a food blog requires several talents – writing being the most obvious, but food photography is a close second (Others talents include such things as learning basic server administration and dealing with disrespectful commenters).

Now some of my skills are relatively moderate, and have only modestly increased in skill (I speak, of course, of my writing, which is always long on voice and short on such things as basic spelling and rudimentary grammar). However, my picture taking skills have…well.. just take a look at my first picture on this site way back in January of 2004. Compare that to the one above.

I have to admit, I shed a little tear of joy. Now if I could only start to understand photoshop beyond cropping.

By the way, here’s rabbit recipe from the Abruzzi region of Italy.

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 sprigs of oregano, mince
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lbs rabbit, cut into 6 or twelve pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchinis, sliced
  • 9 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch basil

In a large bowl, combine garlic, oregano, orange zest and two tablespoons of olive oil. Place rabbit pieces into bowl, and coat with the garlic/oregano paste. Season rabbit with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, take half of pinch of the saffron and mix into the one cup of white wine.

Heat two more tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large stock pot that is over high heat. Brown a piece or two of a rabbit on each side and then set aside. Repeat for each piece. Lower the heat to medium and return all pieces of the rabbit to the pot. Pour in half of the wine. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, sautée the peppers and and zucchini with the two tablespoons of olive oil. Do this for five minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

After the 40 minutes, add the vegetables and tomatoes to the dutch oven, and pour in the remaining wine. Add the other half of the pich of saffron. Cook for another twenty minutes. Before removing the rabbit, check to see if done.

Serves 4

Risi e bisi (Rice and Peas)

Risi e bisi

It’s been a while since I’ve made an Italian dish that didn’t contain tomatoes and/or capers within it’s ingredient list. When it comes to Italian cooking at home, I’ve learned to play to the crowd.

That being said, when I decided to research peas, this was the first recipe on my list. The primary reason has more to do with the name than the dish’s reputation. This is the way my mind works at times, where I’m drawn to a recipe based on it’s name more than what the recipe actually entails.

When approaching Risi e bisi, the basic image that should be in your head is thus – A soupy risotto. Not overly soupy mind you, but it should be far more “wet” than your typical Italian rice dish.

As with most Italian recipes, this is not the defining recipe for risi e bisi, as it lends itself to many interpretations. For example, if I were to make this again, I’d probably add a touch of saffron, or go a bit heavier on the ground pepper. But this recipe below is a good starting point.

One last point…For the peas- Frozen peas are okay I suppose, but fresh peas from the pod is where it’s at. As an added bonus, the pea pods can be thrown into a veggie stock which you can use in the risi e bisi.

If you believe you can make a decent dish with canned peas, then you are the walking definition of the word “optimist”.

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onions, for garnish

Place a large skillet over medium heat, and place in the oil, onions, garlic and pancetta. Cook until the onion starts to turn tranlucent, between 8-10 minutes.

Add the rice and 1 cup of the veggie stock. Allow the stock to come to a boil and then be absorbed by the rice. Once absorbed, add one ladle of stock. Repeat this process until you get the consistency you wish, noting that it’s likely that you won’t use all of the veggie stock.

When the risi e bisi finally gets to the consistency you wish, complete the dish by adding the parmesan cheese and butter.

Serves 6 – 8

Technorati Tags: Recipe, Rice, peas, risi e bisiItalian Food

When the rice is half done, add the peas with the minced parsley.

Today’s Talking Point – Sicilian Lasanga Pizza

Pizza Hut’s Sicilian Lasanga Pizza is neither Sicilian nor Lasagna. Discuss.

(Bonus Reading – The Gurgling Cod – who calls bullshit on Pizza Hut’s marketing folks).

via Haverchuck

Technorati Tags: Pizza Hut, Fast Food, Marketing

Chicken Piccata

chicken piccata

My guess is that Chicken Piccata comes from the Southern regions of Italy. Lemons and meat sounds an awful lot like a Greek tradition, and where did the Greeks have a great amount of influence in Italy? That’d be the southern parts.

This is an easily made dish, and takes nearly no time to set up.

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 Chicken Breasts, manually tenderized (i.e. by smacking it with a mallet until flatten)
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 onion, diced
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Juice from one Lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees F. Place a baking dish of some sort within the oven.

Place a large skillet over medium – medium/high heat. Add the olive oil and butter, allowing them to swirl together.

Lightly coat each chicken breast with flour and place into the heated oil. Cook from 4-5 minutes on each side. Place the cooked chicken fillet in the baking dish in the oven.

Remove all but one tablespoon of any left over oil/fat within the skillet. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and the capers. Boil the sauce until it’s approximately 1/3rd it’s initial volume. Remove from heat and immediately add the butter and whisk in.

Serve the chicken breasts and top with the sauce.

Serves 4

Technorati Tags: Recipes, Chicken+Piccata

Fernet-Branca Liqueur

Fernet-Branca is one of those liqueurs that will surprise you at least once. For some people, it surprises them twice.

The first surprise is the initial taste. As mentioned in this San Francisco Weekly article, “If you can imagine getting punched squarely in the nose while sucking on a mentholated cough drop, you’ll have an idea of Fernet-Branca’s indelicate first impression”.

Or, as Tara said, “change ‘nose’ to ‘throat’, and they’ve got it right”.

It’s a unique spirit, to be sure. An Italian liqueur, made in Milano since 1845. The Italians, when they immigrated across the world, they took this drink with them. It’s why the drink is popular in San Francisco, Argentina and many other places throughout the world.

Much like many cult drinks, it has a vaunted secret recipe. It is reputed to have myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and saffron, and a base of grape must. It is rumored to have codeine, mushrooms, fermented beets, coca leaf, gentian, rhubarb, wormwood, zedoary, cinchona, bay leaves, absinthe, orange peel, calumba, echinacea, quinine, ginseng, St. John’s wort, sage, and peppermint oil. Most of these are likely urban legend, there may be some truth in one or two of the aforementioned.

With the legends surrounding the liqueur, it’s common for some folks to use Fernet-Branca as both a spirit and a medicine.

My own opinion is that Fernet-Branca is that it’s a very complex and yet also a harsh drink. It has a very strong menthol aroma and taste. There is also a very distinct licorice flavor. Beyond that, it’s hard to pick out any other distinct ingredient.

It’s also a difficult drink to mix if you don’t know what you’re doing. Fernet-Branca is a bitter drink, which means that sweet beverages are probably the first place you should look for mixers. The best way I’ve found to drink this alcohol is to mix it with a cola. This also happens to be the most popular way to enjoy this spirit in Argentina. I’ve also had success with mixing it with ginger ale and a bit of grenadine.

All in all, it’s a good drink if you know how to handle it. It’s what I consider to be the antithesis of vodka.

Technorati Tags: Liquor, Fernet Branca, Tasting Notes

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

I realize that this is more of an “Autumn” type of recipe, but there’s something about Sweet Potato Gnocchi that makes me go against the seasons.

Tulio is one of my Favorite restaurants here in Seattle. It’s a Northern Italian influenced place. Every time I go there, I get their Sweet Potato Gnocchi, as everytime I have some, it makes my eyes roll to the back of my head and lightly slam my hand on the table. This is a good sign.

This recipe is my attempt to recreate theirs. I think it came out fairly well, even though I’m more critical of my own cooking than I am of other’s.

It does take some time as there are several stages needed to get the texture you need for the dish. Expect anywhere between 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

  • 2 lbs of sweet potatoes
  • 6 oz. ricotta cheese, drained
  • 6 oz. creme freche
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 3/4 cups Semolina Flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 6 Tablespoons Sage, chopped

Bake or cook the sweet potatoes until the insides are tender. The quickest way to do this is to microwave the potatoes, 7 minutes per side. Make sure that the skins are pierced before placing them in the oven.

Once cooked, cut the potatoes in half and allow to cool. Scrape the potato flesh into a food processor and puree, and then transfer to a large glass bowl. Add the Ricotta cheese and Creme Freche and mix in well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, mashing together as if you’re making mashed potatoes. Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Once the flour is incorporated, you should have a soft gnocchi dough.

Place the dough on a floured cutting board and shape into a circle. Cut into six equal pieces. Roll out each of the pieces into a 1 inch thick, 20 inch long “rope”. Cut the rope into 1 inch pieces. Place in a seperate bowl and set aside. Feel free to flour the pieces if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi for 5-6 minutes. Drain and place in yet another dish. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add chopped sage. Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.

Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.

Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves. Top with Mascarpone.

Serves 10 – 12 very happy people

Technorati Tags: Food, Recipes, Gnocchi