Monday, April 25, 2011

Piadina romagnola

The piadina is an Italian flatbread which comes from the Romagna region of Italy. It is sort of like an Italian version of fast food, as they are often sold at kiosks or roadside stands. They somewhat resemble a tortilla or pita bread, and are filled with a variety of delicious ingredients. Traditionally, it would be filled with prosciutto, salame, tomato, squaccherone cheese, the possiblities are endless . The piadina dough is quite easy to make, and then it can be cooked on a griddle or on a stone. Piadine lend themselves well to entertaining, because it fun to spread out a variety of toppings, and let your guests try different combinations. As the host you'll have to keep them coming for a while, but the magnificent aroma that will fill the air, and the happy diners with be worth the while. I suggest you serve them with a nice dry Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna. Just when everyone is just about full, it is time to break out the Nutella for the final dessert piadina.


4 1/4 cups of flour
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp. high quality lard (I make my own, you can substitute olive oil if you want, not the same though)
1 cup warm water

Your favorite cold cuts, soft cheese, or tomato, arugala as accompaniments.

A note about lard. Some people don't like the idea of eating or cooking with lard, but it really is an essential part of the piadina. Since in the United States it isn't so easy to find high quality lard, you are best off making your own ahead of time. Just get about a half pound of bacon, and cook it in a saute pan until it is crisp. Take the bacon grease it has rendered and put it into a small container. Let it cool, refrigerate if you wish. You will have delicious lard.
I use a stand mixer to make the dough, but you can certainly do it by hand. Combine all of the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl. Crumble the lard into chunks, and knead a little bit by hand. Next add the water, and combine the ingredients with a paddle attachment or a dough hook. The dough should be smooth and elastic. At this point you want to put your dough into a bowl, and cover it with a kitchen towel. The dough needs to rest for at least 30 minutes. If you are making it ahead of time, you can refrigerate it for a few days, but be sure to let it come to room temperature before rolling out.
When you are ready to make the piadine, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll teach piece into a ball. Then with your rolling pin, roll out the dough into a round shape, about 7 inches in diameter.

I usually end up cooking my piadine on a griddle. It is best to let it get nice and hot, at least about 10 minutes over medium high heat. Then cook each piadina for about 45 seconds on each side. If it becomes too crispy, then your heat is too high. It should remain pliable, not hard. Serve immediately, and keep them coming. You may want to have multiple griddles going simultaneously, depending on the number of people you are cooking for.
As soon as the piadina is done, fill it with your favorite accompaniment, like prosciutto and mozzarella, or bresaola, brie, and arrugala. The possibilities are endless. ENJOY!!!!
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rocciata umbra

Rocciata is a traditional round pastry dessert typical of the central regions of Umbria and Marche. Its name can vary according to different areas of these culturally rich regions. For example, around the mountain of Foligno is known as ntorta. Its origins, like most of the culinary traditions around this area, find its roots in old times. Some might speculate that the Rocciata, may have been brought by the Longobards' influence from North Europe, thus the strong similarity with Austrian Strudel. Today this dolce is mostly known around the Foligno area. It is usually made around the beginning or during the fall season, when the walnuts, a major ingredient, are harvested.

3 apples
3 pears
1 banana
5 dried prunes pitted
3/4 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup  of raisins
1/4 cup of pinenuts
2 tsp of cinnamon
3 tb sugar
1 tsp dried anise seeds
1 tb cocoa powder
4 ounces milk chocolate cut in little pieces
1 zested orange peel
1 zested lemon peel
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry thawed at room temperature (you can also make it fresh from scratch)

Prepare all the ingredients in little fine pieces and let them marinate in a large bowl for 45 minutes. Meanwhile take the two puff pastry sheets and roll flat on parchment paper with a little bit of flour to avoid the stickiness. Use one sheet of puff pastry and gently put the filling in the center, paying attention not to put too much. Once the filling is laid, gently wrap the puff pastry around it. With care, shape each section of filled puff pastry into a half circle, and join them at the ends to make a ring shape. Keep the pastry on the parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and carefully transfer the pastry onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes until it turns lightly brown on top.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Orecchiette con cime di rape

Orecchiette con cime di rape is the signature dish of the Puglia region of southern Italy. Orecchiette literally translates as "little ears". They look like little bowl shaped discs that are ideal for catching the wonderful sauce they are to be tossed with. Every village in the Puglia region has a special way of making them. We were the lucky recipients of some artisan made orecchiette from Alberobello, Bari. It is worth the effort and expense to seek out the best orecchiette you can find to make this dish, but if neccessary DeCecco makes orecchiette that are readily available at most supermarkets. This classic dish features cime di rape, also known as broccoli rabe in English, or sometimes referred to as turnip greens. I was able to find broccoli rabe at a local grocery store, but you may need to go to a local ethnic produce market. Make sure it is nice and fresh, your dish will be a real treat.
2 bunches (about 2-3 pounds) broccoli rabe
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
grated pecorino cheese
1 pound dried orecchiette pasta

First put a large pot of water to boil, add salt generously. Wash your broccoli rabe, and cut off any hard stems.  Put the broccoli rabe to boil in the salted water for about 10 minutes. When it is tender, remove it from the water with a slotted spoon, drain in a collander and set aside. You will use this same water to cook the pasta, so don't pour it out.

Next add the orecchiette to the same boiling water, and cook according to the package directions. You want the orecchiette cooked, but still al dente. While the pasta is cooking, you will prepare the broccoli rabe condiment for your pasta. In order to get the consistency I like, before heating the broccoli rabe with the other ingredients, I put it in the food processor and pulse it a little bit. You can coursely chop it to your desired consistency prior to using. In a large skillet heat about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic, and stir until brown. Then put the chopped anchovies and break them up with your spoon. Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet and stir well until all the ingredients have combined. You may want to add a little bit of salt, and perhaps a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

When the pasta is done, drain it, and add it to the skillet. Toss all the ingredients together over medium heat until they are well blended together. Add more extra virgin olive oil if needed. Serve your orechiette with a sprinkling of grated pecorino cheese on top, and enjoy with a nice red wine. Buon appetito!