Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category
A tartrà is basically a savoury onion and herb custard from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Instead of the usual herbs like thyme, bay leaf, sage, and rosemary, I decided to infuse a bunch of basil leaves in the cream and milk, perhaps making this dish partake of Liguria as well as Piemonte. I had 2 (count ‘em ’2′) Principe Borghese tomatoes that ripened while all of the others are still green as can be. Hence the basil in the custard. Principe Borghese is a small oval shaped tomato that is great for drying. In fact I’ve heard they can be left right on the vine to sun dry naturally. Definitely will try that.
Here’s the recipe:
Tartrà Piemontese with Basil
makes 6 portions
1½ cups 35% cream
¾ cup milk
big handful of basil leaves
½ onion, minced
2 T butter
handful parmigiano-reggiano, grated
pinch white pepper
Blanche the basil leaves and plunge into ice water to lock in the colour. Heat the cream and milk. Infuse the blanched basil leaves. Use an immersion blender to break down the basil. Let stand off the heat for about 1/2 an hour. Strain.
Meanwhile sweat the onion with the butter. Make sure the pan is covered. Blend all of the ingredients together.
Pour the resulting liquid into molds that have been buttered, have parchment paper circles on the bottom of the molds (which are also buttered).
Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes, covered in a bain marie.
I recently received a non-stick muffin pan that makes square muffins. Necessity is the mother of invention, so someone had to create a square muffin tin — square muffins being such a necessary part of life.
Instead of muffins, these are savoury cheese tarts. Served with some garlic and chili sautéed rapini, hot pepper oil and chive flowers.
Goat Milk Ricotta Tortino
1 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated
1 ½ cups goat milk ricotta
2 T all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp white pepper
Combine all the ingredients to form a paste. Grease a muffin tin. Coat with some fine breadcrumbs. Put a good dollop of cheese mixture into the individual muffin spots. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.
“a variety of chicory, with serrated leaves, like those on dandelions, attached to the base of the plant and surrounding long, hollow, blunt-tipped whitish-green shoots that grow from the inside of the plant during the course of the winter. Also known as Catalogna de Galatina, puntarelle is a good representation of the flavors we usually expect of the chicory family. Its flavor profile hints at pepperiness like arugula in the leaves, a touch of fennel in the stalks and an underlying flavor that is a cross between chicory and endive.”
Grown in the vicinity of Rome, puntarelle looks like thick asparagus stalks are growing out of a cluster of dandelion greens.
Here we have ravioli stuffed with a mixture of puntarelle that has been blanched and then sauteed with olive oil and garlic. Cool down the sauteed puntarelle and then add some finely chopped smoked scamorza, some pecorino romano and some drained ricotta. Get a thick paste consistency to pipe into your ravioli dough.
Cook the ravioli in abundant boiling, salted water. Toss with some baby arugula, toasted pinenuts, golden raisins, wild fennel seeds, a touch of lemon juice and a little chopped garlic which has been sauteed in some olive oil. Add some pasta water and some shaved pecorino romano to finish.
The portobello mushrooms were marinated in some miso paste, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, black pepper and garlic paste. No need for extra salt due to the miso paste. Roast at 400°F for about a half hour.
The green beans and gigantes were dressed with a robust vinaigrette. The lime is a nice surprise (if you like limes).
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 T rice wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp grainy mustard
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried dill
clove garlic, microplaned
Slice the roasted portobello on the bias. Fan it out on top of the bean salad, some tender leaves, parsley and toasted pistachios. Drizzle some of the lime vinaigrette on everything.
Pisarei are tiny breadcrumb and flour gnocchi which are a specialty of Piacenza, in the northwest corner of Emilia-Romagna. Lengthwise end-to-end they are a little smaller than a dime.
I first made them while working in a village outside of Bergamo. I don’t know how many hours were spent rolling out these time-consuming little nuggets. After awhile you start using both thumbs — either that or it will take forever.
Here’s my recipe. I don’t think eggs are normally used, but it works for me. In Piacenza, pisarei are served with beans in tomato sauce or in broth.
50 g fine breadcrumbs
100 g all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
about 4 servings
Place the breadcrumbs and flour on a counter. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, water and salt. Gradually draw the dry ingredients into the centre and thoroughly combine. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes. Let the dough rest for 1/2 an hour. Roll out dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Cut thin strips and roll them into thin cylinders. Cut the cylinders into small pieces and roll each little morsel with your thumb to form small gnocchi.
Boil in salted water for a few minutes.
Green and purple figs from California, melted Oka cheese and a slice of good bread drizzled with olive oil and crisped up in a panini press.
Stracnar is a pasta native to Puglia. It is formed by rolling a sheet of dough on a carved wooden board called a cavarola. The pasta sheet takes on the herringbone pattern of the wood, which is then cut into rectangles of about 1 inch by 2 ½ inches. I would like to thank Terry Mirri for crafting such beautiful works of form and function.
The following recipe is based on Giuliano Bugialli’s recipe for stracnar in “Bugialli On Pasta.” It should be enough for 4 people.
150 g all purpose flour
100 g semolina
3 large eggs
Roll out the pasta so that it is thick enough to accept the impression from the cavarola. On my machine that would be about the second or third last notch.
The ragu is a mixture of homemade tomato sauce from Ontario field tomatoes, some olive oil, garlic, softened onion, fresh basil and sea salt. To that was added a generous handful of cooked wild mushrooms. Simmer slowly and adjust the seasoning. Grated on top is some grana padano. A robust red wine compliments this pasta nicely — perhaps a glass of Primitivo.
As Bugialli makes a point of mentioning, “This is another of those great old pastas that must be made manually and is disappearing, but let us work to revive it.”
Recently I purchased a number of pasta making tools from Terry Mirri, an artisan handcrafting some traditional items out in Sonoma, California. Check out his website to see some amazing craftsmanship www.artisanalpastatools.com. He makes corzetti stamps, cavarola boards, garganelli/gnocchi boards and polenta boards. Everything is very traditional, just like artisans were making similar implements hundreds of years ago.
Last night I made some corzetti and served it with basil pesto as is done in Liguria. Some zucchini blossom pieces are scattered on top (because the zucchini vine is taking over the front yard).
But first things first. What are corzetti? Here’s the description from ‘The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink’ by John Mariani:
“Pasta made with white, whole wheat, or chestnut flour, shaped into rounds, and embossed with a pattern (commonly a star) with a wooden stamp, from Liguria. Corzetti are named after old Genovese stamped money pieces, and old stamps, many now family heirlooms, commemorate heraldry or Genoa’s history.”
Here’s what the pasta discs look like after being pressed between the 2 segments of the corzetti stamp:
Beautiful. At this point I didn’t even care if I cooked them. I was happy just to look at the corzetti.
But eventually hunger won out. The dough is a basic ravioli dough with flour, eggs, semolina, a little milk and a splash of olive oil. Your favourite egg-based pasta recipe should work fine. Roll the dough so it still has enough thickness to accept the impressions on both sides. Too thin and it won’t work out. Too thick and your pasta will be too heavy.
Serve with basil pesto:
2 cups packed basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated
Put everything in the food processor and pulse until the desired consistency is attained.
A vintage Berarducci Brothers cavatelli maker is one piece of technology that is actually worth investing in. It’s a genius device that takes a rope of dough and turns it into nicely carved little pasta shells…
The cavatelli take about 5 minutes to cook in boiling salted water. I made a simple sauce with some sweet golden cherry tomatoes (organic and bursting with flavour), olive oil, chopped garlic and a bit of pasta water. Some purple and green basil and some grated grana padano were added at the end. The juices from the tomatoes combine with everything else to form a delicious sauce. A drizzle of olive oil and some more grated padano to finish.
Use a spoon for this dish to scoop up the cavatelli with some of the orange tomato essence and basil.
“Strozzapreti” – the “priest strangler” is a hand-rolled pasta formed by rolling strips of thin dough through your palms, and then pinching off the rolled strip with the fingers of the hand not holding on to the dough.
The dough recipe is basic — the same as for strascinati, with the softness of the dough making it easier to shape. This will make enough for 6 to 8 people.
250 g all-purpose flour
250 g semolina
1 cup water
1 T olive oil
There are many anecdotes regarding the origin of the name, but it probably has to do with the ‘strangling’ of the dough between the hands, with such force that it appears you’re mad enough to strangle a priest. It could also have to do with gluttonous clergy eating so many, so fast, that they ended up choking. Who knows for sure? At the end of the day, this is a fun pasta to make. It’s got great texture, and holds some sauce in the nooks and crannies.
A crostini with some pheasant back mushroom sauce, some slivers of the mushrooms fried until a bit crispy, fiddleheads, asparagus and pecorino. Sea salt and olive oil added for good measure.
There have been some showers lately which probably helped with the forest being inundated by the pheasant backs. May is generally their month to shine in these parts. Not all of them were good eating, but there were some keepers. Here’s one growing straight up out of a log, instead of the usual shelf-like structure coming horizontally out of a tree stump.
Pansotti are ‘pot bellied’ pasta triangles from Liguria, usually stuffed with ricotta and borage. I don’t have any borage growing at the moment, but I do have a bunch of wild leeks. The filling is simply equal parts of seasoned wild leeks sautéed in butter, with freshly made ricotta. Place everything in the food processor with a few gratings of pecorino romano to make a thick paste for stuffing the pansotti.
The pasta dough is my usual ravioli dough recipe (which makes enough for about 3 main course portions):
250 g all-purpose flour
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T milk
The pasta has been garnished with sautéed wild leek bulbs and some shavings of pecorino romano. All the leek tops are inside the pasta. You have to cut open the pansotti with a fork for the green to be revealed. If you do use borage leaves, the purple-blue flowers would make a beautiful garnish.
This is a good patch of stinging nettles. They are perfect at this time of year — just bring along some work gloves, your kitchen scissors and a plastic bag and snip off the tender tops. I could literally fill the freezer with cooked nettles awaiting their uses in pasta, risottos, or just on a plate with a little butter, salt and pepper.
You’ll get some strange looks when you’re out harvesting. Some people wonder about the green plant you’re stuffing into a shopping bag, one guy asked me about all the ‘mint’ I was cutting (it’s probably a bad idea to make a mojito with these). A woman out walking her dog knew they were nettles, but was surprised that they were actually edible, and not just painful.
Well they are both painful and edible. Cook them and they won’t be painful. For dinner, stinging nettle risotto.
You can just see the hairs that deliver the payload of chemical irritants into your skin (if you’re not wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and gloves). Fortunately, cooking them in boiling water completely negates the stingers.
The risotto was made with the intense liquid remaining after cooking about 5 lbs of nettles. This liquid is medicine. Save it for a nutritious tonic. Some nettle purée has also been added to give the deep green colour and flavour. If green had a flavour, this might be it. Some cooked nettles and parmigiano-reggiano are on top.
You could also use the nettle stock as a soup. Here is some quinoa cooked in the stock with chopped nettles and caramelized onions. Quinoa is a source of complete protein. Nettles are very high in protein. Needless to say, this soup is extremely healthy and delicious.
I have a bottle of Marmite that’s been languishing in the back of the cupboard for quite some time. Instead of just smearing it on buttered toast (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I was looking for more interesting applications of this ingredient, which tends to elicit either hatred or love.
How about Marmite rarebit palmiers? A combination of a recipe by Gary Rhodes for Welsh rarebit made with Marmite, and a box of puff pastry (with a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top for good measure).
These are some tasty hors d’oeuvres. Even people who hate Marmite will eat them. Especially if they are holding a drink in the other hand.
For another use of Marmite, a big ‘thank you’ to Sarah at veggieDELISH for posting her Mum’s delicious “Marmite Tart” recipe.
There’s only 1 tsp of Marmite in the entire recipe, but its signature flavour definitely comes through — you end up with a buttery, light cake with cheese pockets and a huge umami hit from the Marmite. Serve with a salad dressed with a strong vinaigrette, to cut through the buttery richness. The only change I made was adding more grated cheese and lining some individual ramekins with panko after the butter.
Marmite and Cheddar Flan
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup + 1 ½ T melted butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Marmite
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In an electric mixer combine the flour and baking powder. Slowly add the melted butter and then add the grated cheese.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, salt and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
Pour into a pie dish that has been buttered and had panko bread crumbs swirled around the inside. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out cleanly from the centre, and the top is crackled and slightly golden.
Using the skewer, make small holes over the top of the tart. Melt together the 1 ½ T butter and 1 tsp Marmite and pour over the warm tart.
If I offered you a bowl of tomatoes and soggy bread, would you be interested?
Pappa al Pomodoro is originally from Tuscany and is probably one of the simplest and most delicious ‘soups’ you can make. Basically just a mush of tomatoes and bread, it stretches the definition of what is normally considered a soup. Typical of Italian cuisine, it involves very few ingredients, but scales the culinary heights by relying on the excellence of these humble ingredients.
For the bread I used some dried homemade flatbread torn into chunks. The original recipe called for 12 oz but I liked the results with less bread. As it is still winter in these parts I used some cans of tomatoes imported from Italy. Ideally you would use ripe tomatoes fresh from the vine. I can confirm though, that the use of canned Italian tomatoes is acceptable and produces very good results. I’ve parted from the original recipe by adding the balsamic, cayenne pepper and sugar. I found they helped bring everything together.
Serve with a dollop of ricotta mixed with lemon zest, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and small basil leaves.
When you taste it, it may as well be August.
Pappa al Pomodoro
based on a recipe by Mario Batali
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
7 oz day-old rustic Italian bread, roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 cup fresh basil leaves + extra for garnish
1 T balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
sugar (if necessary)
makes 4 servings
In a large pot heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down, about 5 minutes.
Using a spoon, add the stale bread chunks and water. Continue simmering until all the bread has absorbed as much liquid as possible, yielding a baby food-like consistency. Stir in the basil leaves and balsamic vinegar. Season, to taste, with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and sugar (depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes). Let the soup continue simmering for 10 more minutes, then serve immediately in warmed soup bowls. Garnish with some ricotta cheese and lemon zest, or simply some grated parmigiano-reggiano, and some more basil leaves.