Sunday, February 27, 2011

Marinated peppers and leek antipasto

If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to integrate more fresh vegetables into the daily diet. I especially love this appetizer because not only is it light and healthy, but it is also bright and flavorful.  It is best when prepared the day before, so that the flavors really come together. This also makes it great for entertaining, because it just needs to be pulled out of the fridge, add your favorite crostini or crackers to accompany, and you are ready to serve.  To get really great peppers and leeks, go to a local farmer's or ranch market.

For the peppers:
6 bell peppers yellow, red and green
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 clove of garlic finely minced
sea salt

For the leek:
3 leeks, trimmed and rinsed
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
sea salt and pepper

First make the peppers. Get your broiler nice and hot. Put your peppers on a baking sheet, and broil them until they begin to blacken, turning them to broil on all sides. When they are evenly done, put them in a stainless steel bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool enough to handle, then peel the skin off, and remove the seeds. Cut the peppers into 1/4 inch wide strips, and arrange colorfully on your serving dish. Drizzle them with a high quality olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic, parsley and sea salt.

Now you are ready to make the leeks.  Once your leeks are trimmed and washed, put them in a pot of generously salted boiling water for about 8-10 minutes. You want them to be tender, but somewhat firm, not falling apart. When they are done, drain them and cut the leeks in half lengthwise so you have 6 nice pieces.
Arrange them next to the peppers on your serving dish. Finally, you are ready to make the vinaigrette for the leeks. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar with a little salt and pepper. Once it is well blended, drizzle over the leeks.  Cover your vegetable antipasto and refrigerate until ready to serve. It can be served chilled straight from the fridge, or room temperature. I like to make crostini out of a baguette, or buy them. You can also serve the antipasto with bread or crackers.
Enjoy your beautiful, tasty. healthful appetizer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Costata di Vitello

Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian and French cuisine since ancient times. The veal is often in the form of cutlets, such as the Italian cotoletta or scaloppine or the famous Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel. Veal is often very tender and easy to cook, but at times can be a little chewy, especially when it curls and releases water during cooking. One of my favorite veal recipes is the "Spezzatino di Vitello" . You have to love your pressure cooker with this and other particular recipes, because it literally takes half the time to tenderize and cook the meat, whether it is veal or beef. The crock pot is also very convenient, especially if there's not a "stay at home chef". One of my favorite aspects of American cuisine is definitively the barbecue and grilling culture. I'm very lucky to live in California, where the weather allows me to be in my backyard basically 10 months a year. For my personal experience, I also think that meat quality is a little better than what I had in Italy growing up, although I'm sure that a nice "Fiorentina" almost has no rival worldwide...This recipe is very simple, because after I have grilled the veal chops, all I have to do is add the mushroom sauce on top, with the potatoes on the side, and pair them with a nice wine.

Ingredients for 2

Two veal chops, 3/4 of a pound each, cut with 1 inch thickness
Mushroom mix ( porcini, shitake, porabella)
2 potatoes
1/4 cup oil of extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 cup of dry red wine

Fire up the grill and cook the two chops to your liking, I like mine medium rare , about 7 minutes each side. keep in mind that they will cook a little more once you put them in the pan to saute with your mushroom sauce. In a pan, let the garlic get golden brown in the oil and then toss the mushroom mix. Let me mushrooms become soft and brown and then pour in the red wine, lowering your fire a little bit. You are trying to create a nice sauce, not too thick, not too liquid, so the wine has to mix with the mushrooms sauce and reduce. Meanwhile, don't forget  to keep an eye on your meat ! As a contorno ( side dish) precook the potatoes in boiled water, peel them thoroughly, cut them in small medallion and brown them on separate pan with olive oil, until both sides of the little medallion get that crispy golden color, make sure you salt them on both sides.

Once your chops are grilled , you can put them in the pan where the mushroom sauce is. Try to cover the meat with the mushrooms and the sauce, but don't keep the chops in the pan for more than one minute. Serve on a nice plate, laying the mushroom sauce on top of the chops , with your golden potatoes on the side. Serve with a nice Cabernet.