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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus, you’ve seen this before, it’s one from my classic repertoire! This version uses wild boletus picked earlier in the day and locally grown asparagus.

Wild harvested boletus risotto with grilled asparagus.

For the risotto

Ingredients

350 ml (1 1/2 cups) short grain rice preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock (or best store-bought, might have some left over)
115 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 french shallot, finely chopped
500 gr (1 lb) fresh boletus, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil
vegan cooking cream (not coffee creamer!)
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan bring stock to a simmer and keep hot.

In a medium size heavy saucepan, cook the shallot and mushrooms in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes until mushrooms are done. Add rice and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until evaporated. Raise heat to medium high and add hot stock gradually in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly. After approximately 17 minutes, when rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, take off the heat, add soy cream, salt & pepper and stir well.

Cover to rest 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately after.

The asparagus were sprayed with olive oil and grilled a couple of minutes on each side.

I’ve plated this with thyme and nasturtium flowers from the garden and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Serves 4

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Steamed artichokes with a mustard vinaigrette

Shaved fennel, blood orange and black olive salad
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007

King oyster mushroom “osso bucco” over orecchiette drizzled with truffle oil
Cantina dei produttori Nebbiolo di Carema, Carema Riserva 2005

 

Sorry for the radio silence, I will put up real updates in the coming days.

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Today looks and feels like the first sunday of fall. I warded off the end-of-summer-blues with 2 fail proof anti-depressants: pasta and amontillado. I used orecchiette but linguine or spaghetti would work well too. And try to get your hands on Pioppino mushrooms, their nutty flavour works real well here, otherwise porcini or other hearty wild mushrooms will do.

Ingredients

  • 450 gr (1 lb) pasta
  • 225 gr (8 oz) Pioppino mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 225 gr (8 oz) brown cultivated mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) canola oil
  • 1o ml (2 tsp) fresh thyme, minced
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 150 ml (5 oz) Amontillado Jerez

for the cream

  • 170 gr (6 oz) soft silken tofu
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 1,25 ml (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) agave nectar
  • fresh black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.

During this time, make the soy cream by combining all the cream ingredients in a blender and processing until smooth and thick as crème fraîche. Reserve.

Heat the canola oil in a sauteing pan over medium-high heat, add mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Add shallots, garlic and thyme, sauté for a couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with Amontillado and continue cooking until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Turn the heat down to minimum, add the soy cream, stir and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked and drained pasta, toss well to coat with the sauce. Serve garnished with minced fresh parsley and pine nuts parmesan.

Serves 4

Wine pairing

Try a lightly oaked Chardonnay from Alto Adige. If you must drink red go with a Alto Adige Pinot Nero.

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Classic thrown-together-leftover pizza. The result was decent but I still need a better pizza dough recipe (paging Jonny) and a proper pizza stone would be a plus.

I had some leftover grilled veges from the night before ready to go.

So I made the dough and whipped up a sauce out of fresh orange tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano, and a few chili flakes. Once the sauce was on, I sprinkled sliced garlic and fennel seeds.

We wanted 2 very different things so the left half was topped with grilled veges, sliced onions, black olives and fake cheese while my half was topped with olives and zucchini bacon.

After baking in a very hot oven for 20 minutes, fresh basil leaves were added to the left half. The right half was topped with lots of wild arugula and drizzled with olive oil. We were in a rush to dig in, the final photo didn’t quite happen but you get the idea…

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I’ve been reading up about Puglia and apparently it’s influencing my food choices… Doesn’t get much simpler then this.

Pasta with roasted stem tomatoes, garlic scapes and bush basil.

Ingredients

  • 500 gr (18 oz) orecchiette pasta
  • 20 small vine tomatoes, left on the stem
  • 115 ml (1/2 cup) garlic scapes, chopped
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh bush basil leaves
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) very good Extra Virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 °C (400 °F).

Put the cleaned tomatoes, still attached to the vine, on a baking sheet and roast in the over until done, about 20-30 minutes. Keep warm.

While the tomatoes are cooking, boil pasta in plenty of water until al dente. Drain, reserving 115 ml (1/2 cup) of cooking water.

In a large skillet, heat up 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil. Sauté the garlic scapes for a few minutes until tender. Add pasta and reserved water and cook for a minute. Turn off heat when most of the water is evaporated. Add remaining olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine well and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Wine pairing

Try a simple and good value Salice Salentino from Puglia.

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I had been craving zucchini blossoms for weeks and could not find them at all. It always blows me away when I can’t fin something in NYC. I mean seriously, this is NYC how could it not have XYZ?!? Specially food stuff. Why can’t I just reach for puntarelle, zucchini blossoms, chestnuts, preserved lemons, vin jaune, pain poilâne, vegan crème fraîche, ok maybe that last one is pushing it a little but you get what I saying.

Anyway, I finally found zucchini blossoms last weekend at the Grand Army plaza market. This is what came of it.

Stuffed zucchini blossoms with fava beans and garlic scapes
(sorry for the crappy photo, there was no light left at all)

For the Fava Beans

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg (3 pounds) unshelled young fresh fava beans
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • salt
  • lemon juice

Shell, blanch and peel the fava beans.

Sauté the garlic scapes in the oil until for a minute. Stir in beans, add water and simmer, covered, for 8 to 12 minutes until the beans are tender.

Add salt and pepper, turn up the heat and cook uncovered until the last of the water has evaporated.

Remove from heat and reserve.

For the stuffed zucchini blossoms

Ingredients

  • 18 zucchini blossoms
  • 350 ml (12 oz) beer
  • 75 ml (5 Tbsp) flour
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) corn starch
  • 60 gr (2 oz) firm tofu
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • one recipe of vegan ricotta
  • vegetable oil for frying

Trim the stems, remove the pistils and very gently wash and dry of the zucchini blossoms.

Prepare the batter by combining the beer, flour, tofu and salt and pepper. Process in a high power blender until creamy. Keep aside.

Use a pastry bag (or a small ziplock) to fill the blossoms with cheese. Reserve.

Heat the oil to 175ºC  (350ºF).

One by one, dip each stuffed blossoms in the batter and drop them in the hot oil. Fry in small batches until golden brown.

To plate

Put a few spoonfuls of beans on each plates. Drizzle with more olive oil and lemon juice. Top with blossoms. Serve right away.

Yields 6 mains or 10 appetizers.

Wine pairing

I would suggest a dry Italian white. Be adventurous, move away from the standard Pinot Grigio and try an herbal Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli, a more floral Vernaccia di San Gimignano or a crisp, mineral and citrusy Vermentino or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo instead.

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I love baby artichokes! Specially the tiny purple artichokes from Provence called “Poivrade”, so tender they can be eaten raw. They’re hard to find on this side of the ocean but so worth the hunt. Here’s a simple recipe that lets them shine.

Spaghetti with crispy baby artichokes, lemon, capers and parsley.

Ingredients

  • 16 baby artichokes
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) capers, drained
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) olive oil
  • 500 gr (1 pound) spaghetti
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon, grated (organic and untreated)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped

Have a bowl of water with the half the lemon juice standing by. Pull off the outer leaves from each artichoke, leaving only the inner, light green ones. Cut off the sharp tips and trim the stringy parts from the bottoms. Drop the trimmed artichokes (still whole) into the water & lemon juice mix, so they don’t discolor.

In a large frying pan, heat 30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil and sauté the garlic, shallots and capers until lightly browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Remove and set aside, leaving the seasoned oil in the pan.

Using a sharp knife, slice the artichokes into 1/4-inch slices length wise. On a medium-low heat sauté until crispy brown on both sides. Work in batches, removing the finished slices to a paper towel to drain. Drizzle the pan with more olive oil as needed.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water. When you drain the pasta, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

Deglaze the pan with 30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil and 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the capers-garlic-shallots sauté back in the pan. Mix well and reduce the volume of the liquid by half. Add the spaghetti and toss to coat. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little more pasta water. Add the lemon juice and zest. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Serve the pasta topped with the crispy baby artichoke slices and chopped parsley.

Serves 4

Inspired by a New York Times recipe.

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Yes more morels and asparagus! This is the last one for a while I think, unless I dig up an other one from my archive folder…

Lemon risotto with sautéed morels and grilled asparagus.

For risotto

Ingredients

350 ml (1 1/2 cups) short grain rice preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock (or best store-bought, there may be some left over)
115 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 small onion, finely chopped
15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil
vegan cooking cream (not coffee creamer!)
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
45 ml (3 Tbsp) lemon juice
30 ml (2 Tbsp) lemon zest, grated

In a small saucepan bring stock to a simmer and keep hot.

In a medium size heavy saucepan, cook onion in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until evaporated. Raise heat to medium high and add hot stock gradually in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly. After approximately 17 minutes, when rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, take off the heat, add soy cream, lemon juice & zest and stir well.

Cover to rest 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately after.

The asparagus were sprayed with olive oil and grilled a couple of minutes on each side. The morels were sautéed as per this recipe.

To plate

Use a form to make a little risotto cylinder in each plate. Arrange a few asparagus and several morels next to it and garnish with chives and a red pepper ribbon.

Serves 4

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Choose smallest, most tender, violet or poivrade baby artichokes for this recipe. This smaller variety has almost no choke and the inner half is very tender and are entirely edible. They have a mild bitter taste with notes of hazelnut.

Baby purple artichoke salad

Ingredients

  • 16 baby artichokes cleaned and very thinly sliced
  • Vinegar or lemon juice for soaking
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil, more as necessary
  • 1 Purple shallots, minced
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the artichokes carefully. Remove the outer leaves, cut off the top 1/2 cm (1/4 inch). Slice thinly with mandoline. As each artichoke is finished, drop slices into a bowl of cold water with about 10 percent vinegar or lemon juice.

Prepare the vinaigrette:  In a bowl, combine the zest and lemon juice, olive oil, shallots. Reserve.

Remove artichoke slices from water and dry. Toss with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley and serve.

For a variation, you could had thinly sliced cultivated mushrooms to the artichokes and serve on a bed of aragula.

Serves 4

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Yup, an other rice and morels recipe… This one is from last year. I’m posting it now as it is seasonal. I can’t remember for the life of me what these foraged greens were. It was a bit like purslane but slightly bigger and had a very mild bitter taste. Any other greens would work in its place. The morels (these were quite large) were cleaned very well then stuffed with my vegan ricotta using a pastry bag and oven baked for 25 minutes.

Wild asparagus risotto, wilted greens and stuffed morels


For the risotto

Ingredients

  • 350 ml (1 1/2 cups) short grain rice preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock (or best store-bought, there may be some left over)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
  • 1 small bunch of tiny wild asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 5 cm lengths
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) vegan cooking cream (not coffee creamer!)
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring stock to a simmer and keep hot.

In a medium size heavy saucepan, cook onion in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until evaporated. Raise heat to medium high and add hot stock gradually in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly. After approximately 17 minutes, when rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, take off the heat, add asparagus and soy cream and stir well to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible.

Cover and rest 2-3 minutes.

To plate.

Divide risotto between 4 plates, top with wilted greens and finish with a few morels per plates. Serve immediately after. Risotto does not wait very well at all.

Serves 4

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Roasted vegetable lasagna

This was an other super fast recipe as I had left over grilled veges and a package of fresh pasta in the fridge.

First I made a quick sauce with roasted tomatoes and garlic. Next, in a small metal dish I layered grilled eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms with pasta squares and homemade vegan “ricotta”. I spooned tomato sauce over the mini lasagna, topped it with chopped olives and baked it for 30 minutes in a 190° C (375° F ) oven.

While it baked, I made a green salad, open the wine and set the table and dinned was ready.

Vegan Ricotta

I block firm tofu
juice and zest of half a lemon
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
1 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
fresh pepper to taste

Drain the tofu in a colander with a weight over it for 30 mins. Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy. Refrigerate a few hour to allow flavours to combine.

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An other weekend, an other brunch. This is a good one if you’re having people over and want to keep cooking to a minimum when your guests arrive. You can assemble the whole thing, keep it refrigerated and bake it at the last-minute if you want to serve it hot or bake it before hand and serve it at room temperature. A herbed green salad and some good warm bread and you’re good to go.

Ingredients

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used fresh shiitake and crimini)
  • 396 gr (14 oz) block of firm tofu
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) unbleached white flour
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) nutritional yeast
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) Dijon mustard
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) turmeric
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) unbleached white flour
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil
  • 250 ml (1 cup) soy milk
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) fermented bean curd (optional)
  • salt to taste

Heat 15 ml vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet, sauté onion, leeks and mushrooms until golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a small sauce pan, heat 15 ml vegetable oil, add 45 ml (3 tbsp) flour and cook until the flour is golden brown. Add the soy milk and whisk until smooth. Add fermented bean curd (optional. this will give the topping a pungent cheese like flavour) and salt to taste. Cook until the sauce is very thick. Remove from heat and reserve.

Oil a 10-inch spring-form pan and set aside.

Put the tofu, stock, 45 ml (3 tbsp) flour, nutritional yeast, mustard, turmeric, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the oiled pan, top with the sautéed vegetables and cover with the sauce.

Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 35-45 minutes or until the filling has firmed up and the top is brown. Remove the frittata from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

Serves 4 to 6

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For years I stayed well clear of gnocchi. The few times I had eaten them I found they were heavy, doughy and generally unappetizing. Then one night some time ago while at Hearth I was present with a small plate of them by the chef. The guy was standing right there waiting for comeback so I ate one, and to my amazement it was fantastic. As far as anything I remembered gnocchi to be, these tiny little things were so light and tender and just melted in my mouth. Delicious.

So after researching the gnocchi thing and asking cooks for tips and tricks, I decided to experiment a little.

My first attempt here, were served with a simple roasted tomato sauce.

For my second run it was with a shiitake, sage & Jerez emulsion sauce. Less photogenic but a more interesting combination of flavours.

Over all, I’m still unimpressed with the results. The texture was OK but not as tender and light as I want them to be. On their own they tasted a little of raw flour… So I guess I need to keep tweaking. Or maybe I’ve set the bar too high and gnocchi are only good at Hearth after all.

Wine

A good pairing with the shiitake, sage & Jerez sauce,  is a wine that will complement the earthy and smoky flavour of the dish. A Valpolicella Classico Superiore or a good Chianti Classico would do if you have loads of money to through at it or in the $20 – $25 range you’ll do well with a Barbaresco or a Barbera d’Asti.

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