Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Broiled Scallops

Again, this recipe has my Venetian mother in law's culinary hand all over it. These scallops are so delicious, they never disappoint. I made them for Christmas dinner, but they are an elegant beginning to a New Year's Eve dinner, or any other culinary occasion. This recipe is simple and delectable. Large scallops are best, not the smaller bay scallops. I have used frozen on many occasions with great results, as long as they are defrosted completely prior to cooking.

ingredients for 4 portions as an appetizer:

4 large scallops
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
t tbs. finely choppped parsley
salt to taste
2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp of Grand Marnier, brandy or cognac

Fresh scallops in Venice are sold in their shells, so I keep these and use them to broil the scallops. Scallop shells can be bought at a kitchen store, or they can be broiled in any other oven proof vessel.
Take each scallop which has been rinsed and dried, and coat it in olive oil. Then, roll the scallop in bread crumbs until thoroughly coated. Place each scallop in a shell, or other suitable cooking dish. Sprinkle each scallop with a generous amount of salt, some parmesan cheese, and a dash of fresh parsley. The scallops can be made ahead for a few hours and refridgerated at this point.
Heat the oven to 500 degrees. When oven is hot, put the scallops in the oven about 5 inches from the top. Let them cook for about 10 minutes, then spritz them with Grand Marnier or cognac (optional). Put them back in the oven and turn on the broiler. Let the scallops cook another 5 minutes, depending on size, being sure to keep a close eye to avoid overcooking. Spritz again with Grand Marnier and put back in the oven a few more minutes. Check for doneness frequently. Scallops should have a nice golden color, and be slightly firm to the touch. Serve immediately. They will taste absolutely fabulous. ENJOY!! Buon Appetito!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rotolo di tacchino - Bacon wrapped turkey loaf

My mother in law is a wonderful Venetian home cook. This is one of those comfort foods that never disappoints. It similar to an American meatloaf, but with a delicious twist. I usually serve it with peas as a side dish, and I finish off the peas in the same pan that I used to sear the rotolo, that way the peas get some of the same delicious bacon goodness.

about 1 1/2 lb ground turkey
8 oz. fresh ricotta
1/2-3/4 cup bread crumbs
about 3/4 lb bacon
2-4 fresh sprigs of rosemary
white wine
salt and pepper

In a mixing bowl combine the turkey, ricotta, bread crumbs and some salt.

Mix together until homogeneous. Then form the mixture into a loaf shape, about 8-10 inches long, and about 4 inches in diameter. Wrap the loaf all the way around in bacon, and secure with kitchen twine.

Put 1-2 pieces of rosemary on each side of the loaf. Next, sear the bacon wrapped turkey on all sides over medium to medium high heat in a skillet. Once bacon is a nice golden color, remove the rotolo from the pan, and place it in an oven proof baking dish.

I use glass. Bake in the oven at 400 for about 45 minutes to an hour, until an instant read thermomer reads 160 to 170. About half way through cooking, spritz the rotolo with white wine, this gives it some nice flavor, as well as helps create a nice juice at the bottom of the pan that can be spooned over the meat for serving. Truly delicious, enjoy!!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Home Made Pizza Dough

Pizza has been in constant evolution over the centuries, the origins are undoubtedly Mediterranean. Historical records suggest that people in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome all ate things that are very similar to our modern pizza crust. Ancient Egyptians had a custom of celebrating the Pharaoh's birthday with a flat bread seasoned with herbs. The word pizza may be a derivative of the Latin word picea, a word which the Romans used to describe the blackening of bread in an oven.
Europeans returning from the Americas brought with them the tomato, a very suspicious fruit of the time. Exactly when the tomato was actually considered to be edible is unclear, the tomato became enormously popular among southern Europeans. Today the tomato is a key element of Mediterranean cuisine, and is used in most pizza recipes.
The world's first true pizzeria, "Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba", opened in 1830 and is still in business today at Via Port'Alba 18 in Naples. Pizzerias in this era usually included a large brick oven, a marble counter where the crust was prepared, and a shelf lined with ingredients. Contemporary Neapolitan pizzerias are prepared in the same way they were 100 years ago. The large brick ovens make the pizzerias uncomfortably hot in every season except winter, but the unique flavor of these brick-oven pizzas is unmatched. Pizzaioli (makers of pizza) often assemble the entire pizza on a marble counter right before the customer's eyes.

Here is the recipe for a basic pizza dough. I use a stand mixer, but of course it can be done by hand.

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
pinch of flour
pinch of sugar

3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp.salt
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a small bowl mix together the warm water, yeast, and pinch of flour and sugar.
Let stand at least 5 minutes, until it becomes bubbly.

In a mixing bowl, combine the 3 1/4 cups flour, with the salt and olive oil. When the yeast mixture is ready, add that to the mixing bowl. Using a paddle attachment, mix for about 2 minutes on medium speed. When mixture has come together, replace padddle attachment with the dough hook. Mix for another 2 minutes on medium speed. When it is a nice, soft, elastic texture, remove dough and need by hand for a few minutes, forming a nice ball. Pour some olive oil in the mixing bowl- enough to lightly coat the dough. Let it rise at room temperature for at least four hours. The dough can be made ahead of time, and refrigerated overnight. It is important to let it reach room temperature before use. This recipe makes four thin crust pizzas, about 12 inches in diameter.

When you are ready to make pizza, top pizza with a thin spread of tomato (fresh if available or canned) puree, sprinkle with salt and oregano. For cheese I suggest using a fresh mozzarella, and spreading around small pieces lightly. You can then top the pizza with your favorite ingredients. When I make the pizza, I make it on a wooden pizza peel, then slide it from there into the wood fired pizza oven, or on a baking stone in a conventional oven. With a wood fired oven, pizza bakes in about 4-5 minutes, with a conventional oven at 510 degrees, it takes about 15 minutes, but you should always keep your eye out for desired doneness. ENJOY!!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Traditional Spanish Paella

Paella is a best loved signature dish of Spain. There are many different variations of Paella, but all are centered around what is readily fresh and available. Paella has a very humble origin as a poor man's meal, but we know that it is so much more than that.

The name paella comes from the special kind of iron pan that is used to cook it. The traditional paella pan often made of cast iron, and is round and shallow with handles at each end.Even if you do not have a traditional paella pan, you can still make delicious paella with the cooking utensils you have available.

Once rice was commonly used in Spain, peasants were known to have made rice dishes with locally grown ingredients such as onion and tomato. On special occasions, or at times when meat or chicken was available, it would be added to the rice dish.This typical Valencian rice dish eventually came to be known as paella valenciana.

Traditionally, paella is a family dish, intended to be shared at a big Sunday gathering. The ideal paella is often cooked over an open fire, although most of us today settle for the kitchen stove with adequate results. In Spain, grandmothers can still be found making it in the back garden for the family on a special occasion.

Each geographic region of Spain has it's own characteristic way of doing paella, so depending on your flavor preferences you kind find the paella that is just right for you. You can emphasize meat, seafood, or a little bit of everything. The most important factor is the enjoyment.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

One of the most popular and traditional plates in Italy, you can find it pretty much in every region. The obvious variable is the primary ingredient. Beans. This precious vegetable came to Europe in the 16th century with the return of European colonizers from the Americas. Fresh beans are not always easy to find, but some farmers market might easily carry them when they are in season. The following video will explain step by step how to make this delicious and simple soup. Do no forget a little sprinkle of oil of olive before serving.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Minestrone

When most of us think of minestrone, we envision the hearty soup of fall and winter. This is a summer minestrone that is actually very fresh, light, and easy to make. We should never be afraid of soup in the summer, as it is often the time when we get the best fresh vegetables.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped
2 zuchhine, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 basket cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
32 oz. vegetable broth or stock
salt to taste

serves about 4

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and carrot. When they begin to soften, add the zucchine, tomato, and peas. Saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until vegetables begin to become soft and slightly golden in color. Salt to tasts.
Add broth to vegetable mixture and bring to a boil, then let the soup simmer for about 10-15 minutes. According to the consistency you prefer, you can add some water to the soup to thin it out. A boullion cube can also be added for additional flavor.
Soup is ready to be served. It is well accompanied by a nice baguette, or some croutons or crostini if you like.

Nothing could be simpler, so ENJOY!!!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

This recipe is not the traditional one that you will find on Italian tables on Sundays. This delicious recipe is a close cousin of the famous potato gnocchi. It is a little sweeter , but well compensated by the fresh tomato sauce. I always had great success with friends and family , it requires a little more effort , but the results are definitively worthwhile.

The following video is in 2 parts as the directions couldn't quite fit in 10 minutes !

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Risi e Bisi ( rice and peas)

I know that comfort food is overrated, but I really can't emphasize how much it means to me when I face new challenges and obstacles in my daily life. Nobody should be denied a plate so simple yet so effective in bringing back memories and good times. This dish is certainly one of my favorite, very simple to cook and full of flavor.

Ingredients for 4 people:

One onion finely chopped
1 1/2 cup of Arborio Rice
Vegetable broth (optional)
Half a pound of green peas, fresh better, frozen is also fine
Half a cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese
Vegetable bouillon cube
2 tbsp of butter

First heat about 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion. Let the onion saute until it is golden and soft. When the onion looks ready add the peas, mixing them gently with the onion and let it cook for about five to ten minutes at medium/low temperature. Meanwhile, in another pot, prepare the broth, either with stock or water adding the bouillon, it's your choice. While the peas are cooking, add some of the broth, so the flavor gets already in the mixture before you add the rice. When the peas are soft and you can smell their aroma, add the rice and start stirring everything always adding your broth while you stir the rice, making sure that the consistency is always creamy and the rice doesn't stick to the pot. After about 15 minutes of continually stirring, taste the rice. When it tastes tender, you can add the parmesan cheese and stir for another minute. If not, continue to add broth and stir until it cooks. Right before serving it, add a small piece of butter and mix it until it melts.Some fresh parsley can be sprinkled on top. Serve with a nice cold Chardonnay or Prosecco wine.

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