Monday, June 28, 2010


Empanadas are believed to have originated in Spain or Portugal. The word empanada comes from the word "empanar" which means to coat with bread or pastry. So, an empanada is a bread or pastry that surrounds some kind of delicious filling. Empanadas were brought to South America by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Just about every country in South America, as well as many regions within each country have their own version of the empanada. This recipe is from my friend Pablo's aunt Liliana, who is from Rosario, Argentina. It is a classic empanada with a meat picadillo. Personally, it's my fave. These empanadas make a great starter, or they can be served as the main course. They are wonderful with a nice Argentinean red wine, like a malbec, or bring out the sangria on a hot summer day.

This recipe is for about 4 dozen, or 48 empanadas. That sounds like a lot, but they go fast, and they are real crowd pleasers for gatherings.

2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cumin
2-3 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 cup sugar
hard boiled eggs cut into eighths, green olives,
if you like, raisins optional
48 tapas (discs of dough) I like "La Saltena" brand, sold in the freezer section of Latin American specialty grocers. I suggest "para freir" for frying. You can also get "para hornear" to bake, but in my opinion the result is inferior.
Vegetable oil for frying, or lard if you dare

In a large skillet heat the extra virgin olive oil until super hot. Add the diced onions, and stir frequently until they become slightly golden. Add this point add the ground beef, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon.

Add the salt, pepper, and cumin, mix together well, then add the paprika a bit at a time. The mixture will start to  take on a reddish color. It should be red, but not too dark.

Continue cooking and stirring the mixture for appoximately 10-15 minutes longer. Next, add the sugar, and stir for another 5 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.

At this point, let the mixture cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate it for about 12 hours. It is best to make the filling the day before you are planning to use it.

If you are using the frozen tapas or discs of empanada dough, let them thaw at room temperature for about an hour before you intend to use them. Put about a tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of each disc, I always put a green olive at the end. Traditionally, you would also add the wedge of hard boiled eggs, and raisins are optional. I omit them. Press the dough closed all the way around, then fold the dough over with your fingers and crimp closed. You can also use a fork to seal the empanada shut, but you can do just fine by hand, once you have a system down.

When you are ready to cook the empanadas, heat your oil to a high heat (around 375 degrees) in a fryer. Drop the empanadas in, and  let cook for about 3-4 minutes, until they look a nice golden color. Be sure to turn them over during the cooking process. When done, set them on a paper towel lined baking dish to absorb any excess oil until ready to serve. They are best served and eaten immediately. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Perfect Cappuccino with $40 tools

By now we can all agree that Starbucks is very expensive, no matter what your perspective is. There is also another element that I find extremely troubling. The amount of time that it takes to get your order ready, it doesn't matter if it is a single espresso or a double mochaccino, non fat milk with double swirl and so on....( for those of you that visited any European bar or coffee, you know what I mean....) There are a lot of excellent alternatives to your coffee house membership cards. Some of the new coffee machines that you can buy for your house are very nice. They look good in their design and they make excellent cappuccinos. However, if you are not willing to spend $ 500 or more, chances are that in the long run you won't be happy. I 'd like to propose a valid alternative that, I think, gives you excellent results and doesn't break your bank.
You will need to go to Amazon, or your vendor of choice and purchase:
1 Aerolatte Milk Frother, Sating finish By Aerolatte $ 14
1 Bialetti Moka express 3 cups espresso maker $25
Ground coffee of you choice ( I prefer prepackaged vacuum sealed Lavazza)

You are also going to need a stainless steel milk frothing pitcher. You can find them at any hardware store or Target.
First of all read directions on how to make espresso with your new Moka machine. It's not very complicated, and once you get the hang of it ,it will come easier and easier everyday. If you are a coffee drinker, you will definitively enjoy the strong , full flavor of coffee that this small wonder produces !
For a nice cappuccino, fill you porcelain ( not paper please !) mug to a level that you please , not more than a half though, otherwise you won't have much space left for your milk and froth. On the stainless pitcher, warm up the milk at your liking. I suggest that you don't make it too warm, it should be a pleasant moment of your day, not a torture! Once the milk is ready , insert the Aerolatte inside and watch the nice froth fill up the pitcher. Once the froth is ready, pour the milk in the mug where the coffee is, holding back the froth with a spoon, just to add the froth on the top. You can add more milk or more froth, it depends how you like it.
I hope you enjoy this idea and give me some feedback !

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Clams and mussels in tomato broth

Clams and mussels are two very popular shellfish all over the world. There are many ways that they can be prepared. I remember that one of my favorite ways of eating them was a long time ago in Spain in a town called Tossa De Mar, about an hour north of Barcelona. Each individual mussel was covered in a spicy tomato sauce. What kind of patient cook would go through such a preparation for each single mussel? Well, someone who wants make sure you still remember his delicious recipe fifteen years later! In Italy and all over the Mediterranean, clams and mussels are very commonly paired with pasta. Very popular are the linguine with clams in a white wine sauce. Another intriguing and very tasty way to have clams is the clam chowder, a dense, creamy soup very popular in the Northwestern region of United States One of my absolute favorite way of eating clams and mussels, however is very particular to the northern Italian region.  The term used is "cassiopipa" and it indicates a terracotta container where originally the clams and mussels were cooked on a low heat on traditional fishermen boats. Here you can make your own clams and mussels in a delicious tomato broth.
extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs of fresh mussels
1 1/2 lbs of fresh clams
3 garlic cloves, peeled, and minced
2 cups of white wine
5 tbsp of tomato paste
fresh minced parsley to garnish
Take your largest pan and heat it up with medium heat. Put the olive oil to heat and add the garlic minced. When the garlic gets to a golden color, add all the mussels and clams at the same time Make sure you stir the clams and mussels every 2 to 5 minutes. Let the shellfish cook for at least 10 to 15 minutes. they will open one by one and release water, which is a good thing, because that will be part of our delicious broth where we can dip our bread! Make sure you discard any shellfish that won't open after a long time. They might be dead and definitively not good for you! After the shellfish are all open and you have a nice broth brewing at the bottom, add the white wine and let it simmer until it evaporates.Finally add the tomato paste. Make sure that the tomato mixes with the nice liquid at the bottom of the pan. After 5 minutes get a very large bowl and serve all the shellfish with the tomato broth at the bottom. I love to dip some rosemary focaccia in the nice sauce.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Modena is located in Emilia Romagna, known as the culinary bread basket of Italy. Tigelle are the quintessential food of Modena, a symbol of pride. So, what are tigelle? Simply put, they are a disc shaped bread, about the size and shape of an English muffin. The similarities stop there. Once baked, tigelle have a soft center, and a crisp crust. To be eaten, they are split open with a knife, then filled in a variety of ways. Below are some of the most common ways to enjoy tigelle:
-with pesto modenese (see recipe below)
-with thinly sliced Parma prosciutto nothing more
-with your favorite salumi, coppa, soppresata, bresaola, et. al
-with stracchino (or another creamy cheese, like brie), arugala, and grated parmesan cheese
-with nutella for dessert
In Modena, many people own a cast iron tigelliera (see photo) to make their tigelle stovetop. It is also common there to have an electric tigelliera cooking device. In the United States, you can buy your tigelliera in Modena and bring it back, or you can also use your griddle on the stove top. Don't worry, your results will still be satisfying.

Before you can eat  amazingly delicious tigelle, you have to make the dough. The quantities for this recipe makes about 20 tigelle.
Ingredients for tigelle dough:
2 teaspoons of dry active yeast
1 cup warm water (some people prefer to use warm milk)
pinch of sugar
pinch of flour
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, pinch of flour and salt. Stir gently, and let rest for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes bubbly.
You can make the dough by hand, I prefer to use my stand mixer. In the mixing bowl, combine the flour, olive oil, salt, and the yeast mixture. Mix first with the paddle attachment, then use the dough hook at medium speed, until the dough becomes nice and smooth and elastic. Knead by hand for a few minutes, forming it into a ball shape. Then lightly oil your mixing bowl, and coat your dough. Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth, and allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours.
Once your dough has risen significantly, punch it down.  Then divide the dough into twenty balls. They should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Then, using your rolling pin, roll them into discs about the size of an English Muffin. They should be about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, and about 1 cm thick.  At this point, let them rise another 45 minutes to an hour.

Now your are ready to cook your tigelle. Assuming you do not have a tigelliera from Modena, heat your griddle or a skillet over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Put a little olive oil in the griddle, and spread it around. Now cook the tigelle side by side on the griddle for about 5 minutes on each side. Tigelle are best eaten hot off the stove top, but if you need to, you can keep them warm covered in a cloth in a bread basket, or keep them warm your oven heated to about 200 degrees. I recommend eating them immediately.

So, your tigelle are made, you now get to fill them with your favorite ingredients.
One of the more traditional ways is with "pesto Modenese".
To make pesto modenese:
Traditionally, one would use about 1/4 cup very high quality lard. I have rendered my own bacon fat, and the results were really good. In the absence of this, you can use 6 ounces of pancetta, minced very finely. Combine this with 1 clove minced garlic, and 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary, and a 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese. Mix all the ingredients together until they are homogeneous. That's it! When the tigella is nice and hot, split it open with a sharp knife, and spread the pesto. The pesto will just begin to slightly melt, and it will be heavenly.
Besides the most traditional pesto modenese, try more tigelle with any of the other above mentioned combinations. They all have their own appeal. Do not forget to save room for the final tigella of the night, which must include a generous serving of nutella. Nothing is more gluttonous!
Tigelle can be the main and/or only course. They also pair very well with gnocco fritto, another culinary pride and joy of Modena. (coming soon to mangiandobene.) As for wine, the by far superior choice has to be the lambrusco. I STRONGLY recommend making the extra trip to the wine shop for a higher quality lambrusco, not the ultra sweet one that is found at every grocery store. Lambrusco is a lightly sparkling red wine, and it is never missing at any true tigellata. Invite over lots of friends that enjoy eating amazing food, and have your own tigellata. Enjoy!!!