“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.
June 10th, 2010
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.
June 3rd, 2010
May 28th, 2010
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.
May 22nd, 2010
Panforte from Sienna, Tuscany — literally ‘strong bread’ in Italian — isn’t really a bread, or a cake, but more of a chewy dried fruit, nut, honey and spice confection. Think of it as an 800-year old powerbar recipe.
Normally it is eaten around Christmas, served at the end of a meal with a glass of fortified wine. Here it has been cut into small cubes for snacking anytime.
This recipe is based on Kate Ramos’ Fig and Nut Bars recipe on CHOW.
1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup toasted cashews
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T cocoa powder
zest of 1 orange
1 T fennel seeds, grind half, leave half whole
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Chop the toasted nuts coarsely. Butter and flour a 10″ circular pan, or line the pan with a parchment paper base and collar. Mix the flour, cocoa, orange zest, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl. Add the toasted nuts and fruit and mix well.
In a saucepan melt the sugar, honey and golden syrup and simmer over medium heat until the mixture reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer. Carefully pour this caramel over all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Work fast — the mixture hardens in no time. Pour into the prepared pan. Dampen your fingers and press the raw panforte into the baking pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the panforte puffs up a bit. Place the pan on a rack to cool. Wait until the panforte has firmed up before slicing.
May 14th, 2010
Dandelions have a lot to offer. However, they are much maligned by those who want their golf course perfect lawns. Must keep up with the Joneses. Get out that weed killer. Too bad children and pets can’t play on the grass.
Here’s a batch of dandelion flower syrup. Nice on pancakes, in cold drinks, on ice cream. Lots of possibilities. The leaves will make their way into salads and pastas. In the autumn I may also dig up the roots.
Dandelion Flower Syrup
250 dandelion flowers (snip off the stem, which is very bitter)
3 litres water
Wash the flowers and place them in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Cover and let steep overnight.
Strain the liquid and then weigh it. I ended up with 2.2 kg of liquid. Measure out half that amount of sugar (1.1 kg in my case). Your exact results will vary.
Place the dandelion liquid and sugar in a pot and boil until reduced by half. Cool and decant into jars. Store in the refrigerator.
Here is a simple cake that has a bit of a sponge quality to it, all the better to absorb warm dandelion syrup and some wild blueberries:
As mentioned, the leaves can be used in salads among many possibilities. Here is a dandelion, baby potato, maitake mushroom and egg salad, all bound by a garlic and mustard dressing:
As an aside, there are a number of articles which point to dandelions as being useful in the fight against cancer. It would be ironic in the extreme if a plant that some have tried so hard to exterminate, is actually useful in combatting one of humanity’s most fearsome diseases.
May 6th, 2010
The “pheasant back” (aka “dryad’s saddle” — a seat for a tree nymph (if you ever see a tree nymph, email me)) is edible as long as it’s tender. Test it first with your knife. Or better yet, if your fingernail can get through the outer rim of the mushroom then at least that part can be eaten. I plan on drying thin slices of the tougher ones, and making mushroom powder for inclusion into soups, pastas, etc. The smell of the freshly picked mushroom bears an uncanny resemblance to watermelon rind! That’s one way to find them, although as you can see, they’re easy to spot.
The outer arc of the mushrooms were good for immediate eating, so here’s a crispy polenta cake with sauteéd mushrooms and stinging nettle butter sauce.
May 2nd, 2010
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.
April 23rd, 2010
The white trillium is the flower emblem of the Province of Ontario.
Instead of white trilliums carpeting the forest floor, we end up with the garlic mustard plant. Lots of it.
Introduced to North America by settlers back in the late 1800s, garlic mustard is now considered an invasive weed. Prime habitat for the trillium is being taken over by garlic mustard. Good thing garlic mustard is edible.
If you enjoy bitter greens (like dandelion) you will like this. When the leaves are bruised they smell like garlic (hence the name). Mixed with some ricotta, they’d make a good filling for ravioli, or the main ingredients in some gnocchi.
Gnocchi it is.
Garlic Mustard Gnocchi
400 g ricotta
350 g garlic mustard greens, chopped (weight after blanching in boiling, salted water, squeezed dry)
70 g flour, maybe a bit more
20 g gruyère, grated
20 g parmigiano-reggiano, grated
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
Meanwhile, put the ricotta and chopped greens into a food processor and form a paste. Pulse in the flour, egg, cheese and seasonings. Turn down the heat so that the water is simmering. Take a small spoon of the dough and drop it into the water. After the gnoccho has floated to the surface and cooked for a couple more minutes, remove it with a slotted spoon and taste. If it has broken apart, add a bit more flour. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Process all the gnocchi, removing them to a sheet pan that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Use right away with an appropriate sauce (like scamorza affumicata, for example), or cool completely and refrigerate or freeze.
April 16th, 2010
April 11th, 2010
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
based on the recipe at veggieDELISH
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.
April 6th, 2010
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.
March 17th, 2010
February 19th, 2010
Torrone — Italian nougat — has been made in one form or another since the time of ancient Rome. It’s a mixture of honey, egg whites, vanilla and roasted nuts, usually eaten around Christmas, but can be enjoyed anytime.
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
150 ml water
120 ml honey
625 ml granulated sugar
1 T vanilla extract
75 g pistachios, roasted, skinned
75 g hazelnuts, roasted, skinned
75 g candied ginger
Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with plastic wrap, making sure there is some excess on all sides. In a large saucepot heat the water, sugar and honey until it reaches 143°C on a candy thermometer. A big pot helps because the mixture will expand and foam. The bigger the pot the less chance of spills. Hot sugar burns are some of the worst.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until frothy. Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the hot sugar syrup. At this point add the vanilla extract, and mix on high speed for about a minute.
The next step is to take this syrup and egg white mixture, and transfer it to a double boiler to cook out some of the moisture. (Nougat is great, but it starts to be a pain about now. It firms up and becomes difficult to scrape out of the mixing bowl. It’s also sticks to whatever it touches. Best to work quickly.) Stir the nougat in the double boiler until the mixture comes off the bottom of the bowl easily. Remove from the heat, then stir in the nuts and ginger. Again, work as quickly as possible, because the warmer the mixture is, the easier it will be to stir.
Transfer the nougat to the prepared pan, smoothing it down evenly. Place a piece of parchment paper on the top. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the parchment paper, and leave to cool. I eventually put the pan in the refrigerator to make it easier to cut. A good serrated knife helps. Cut slowly to get cleanly through the hazelnuts and pistachios.
January 17th, 2010
January 8th, 2010
Pictured are ‘Chocolate Crackle Cookies,’ recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. Notwithstanding your feelings regarding insider stock trading, these are some particularly delicious cookies. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Chocolate. Goodness.
The pattern that’s formed by the icing sugar and cookie dough after baking makes for an appropriate name change.
I didn’t modify anything other than adding buttermilk in place of milk. I used regular bittersweet chocolate chips. Pretty standard supermarket stuff. Of course, finer quality chocolate will make these cookies even better. For those who like the flavours of orange and chocolate, I was thinking some grated orange zest added to the mix would be a successful option. Another option would be the addition of a tablespoon or two of liquor, like Baileys for example. In that case, cut down on some of the milk. It goes without saying that these cookies are well-nigh irresistable with a glass of cold milk or some vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate Crackle Cookies – recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes about 4 dozen
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
Heat oven to 350°F. Chop bittersweet chocolate into small bits, and melt over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and scoop out a piece of about 1 or 2 tablespoons. Working quickly, roll into a ball and completely coat in confectioners’ sugar.
Note: make sure the dough is covered by an abundance of icing sugar. That way the cookies turn out better. I shook the excess sugar off of some of the cookies, and the patchwork effect was too muted — basically light-brown instead of white. Overdo the icing sugar!
Place the cookies 2″ apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until the cookie flattens and the icing sugar splits, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
December 13th, 2009
November 28th, 2009
The chewy soft wheat berries make for a nice contrast with the cylindrical fried eggplant pillows.
The braised garlic sauce has some yogurt blended in at the end to make for a tangy garlic flavour that compliments the eggplant. The cilantro adds a fresh herbal top note.
Braised Garlic Sauce
cloves of 1 head of garlic, peeled
extra virgin olive oil
yogurt (3% fat content or higher)
In a small saucepan, place the garlic, enough water to cover and some salt. Simmer until the garlic is completely softened. Retain any remaining water that the garlic was cooked in.
Blend the garlic, sufficient yogurt and olive oil to form a thick sauce. Season with a pinch of white pepper and salt, if required. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with the garlic braising liquid.
November 2nd, 2009
Not a combination that initially lept to mind. More a case of “What I found at the Farmers’ Market in the middle of October.”
The turnips were given a quick boil in salted water and then glazed in some butter, sugar and a little water. At the end the turnips were tossed with some birch syrup. No need to peel the turnips beforehand if the skins are tender.
The carrots were tossed with some extra virgin olive oil and some Chianti vinegar, sea salt and pepper. I’ve left them raw for a bit of crunch, and also because if they are cooked the ‘purple haze’ pretty much disappears.
Tatsoi is not always easy to find (at least in these parts). It’s juicy with a peppery bite. Definitely worth seeking out. It’s been dressed with a vinaigrette of canola oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a little birch syrup, pommery mustard, sea salt and black pepper.
The shiitakes have a pleasant chewiness, sautéed simply with a little butter and some garlic.
The Market is getting sparse these days (next week is the last market of the year) but there are still some great organic ingredients to work with!
October 22nd, 2009
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 T hempseed butter
2 T tahini
1 garlic clove, finely grated
some water to loosen
Add all the ingredients to a large measuring cup or cylinder and use a stick blender to bring everything together. You’ll end up with a creamy sauce, very light green in colour and with small flecks of hemp seed. Add a bit of water and adjust the seasoning for a thinner consistency.
The nutty, tangy, earthy, slightly bitter and garlicky flavour of the sauce compliments the other elements on the plate. The chewy bulgur wheat in the tabbouleh contrasts nicely with the soft, melting fried cheese.
September 28th, 2009