Home About me All the recipes. More or less organized Inspiration Wanna send me a note? Italian version

Citrus Powder

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Citrus Powder

In the last hours of winter, I too have fallen in the trap of this colorful powder. It's become so popular that it's almost boring.
Oh yeah, I've put that thing in it, that orange powder, you know?
And yet the scent is so incredibly good that you'd add it everywhere, on vegetables cooked and raw, in soups and in salads, on fish and meat, in cookies and pastry creams. As for me, right now I'm keeping it as a little treasure, and every once in a while I give a little sniff just to brighten up the day. An orange pick-me-up, pocket size.

Meanwhile, I take the opportunity to say goodbye and take few days off. Armed with this magic potion, I ask for vacation to my own blog. Side effects of the modern world.

Oh, I almost forgot, the so-called recipe: take few organic oranges (or lemons), wash and dry them well, and then peel them, paying attention to leave out the white part - or at least to leave it out as much as possible. Place the citrus peel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and let it dry in the oven at the minimum temperature. It will take about one, one and a half hour. When peels are crunchy, process them in a food processor until very fine. And voila', your little powder is ready to use.

Let's Concentrate It. The Bouillon.

Friday, March 19, 2010
Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

Let's be honest, that bouillon made out of those cubes isn't very good, well, even pebbles know that. But - really - is there anyone out there who's got the time to make it from scratch every time you want to make risotto? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Somebody else will remind me that there is also the freezer option...it's just that for me it's really inconceivable. Mine is so tiny that pebbles, him, he would make them laugh.

The solution to this tragedy came to me few days ago. When I read this post, I didn't think twice. Finally the door to the foodbloggers' realm opened up to me - the realm of the serious ones, I mean, those who know how to make cream puffs, who have sharp knives, own a lemon zester and who always have a stock of homemade bouillon ready to use. Never again without it.

Note to myself: the recipe comes from this little book, which will be published next summer. To be reserved, absolutely.

Homemade Bouillon Concentrate
for two small jars

fennel bulb 100 gr.
carrots 100 gr.
celery 50 gr.
zucchini 50 gr.
sun dried tomatoes 15 gr.
leeks 75 gr.
shallots 50 gr.
garlic 1-2 cloves
parsley 40 gr.
cilantro (or other herbs, as you'd like) 20 gr.
salt 125 gr.

I cut Heidi's the recipe in half, and I've substituted celery root with zucchini, and cilantro with more parsley, basil and bay leaves.
Wash all the vegetables and cut them in large pieces. Put everything in a food processor and process until you get a thick and moist paste. Divide the paste in two glass jars and keep them refrigerated. When you need to use it, dissolve about two tablespoons in each liter of boiling water.

Bye Bye Winter

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Tangerine Juice

Oh dear tangerine juice, why have I never thought of you before? Oh well, it'll be for next season. On my end, with this toast I officialy declare the end of winter.

Walnut and Red Pepper Pesto

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Walnut Red Pepper Pesto

Or, a slight change on the subject. I have to admit that in this resurgence of winter (at least in Italy, N/A), a red pepper pesto might seem a little heretical, but we're in California, remember?

Walnut Red Pepper Pesto

red bell pepper about 300 gr, net
walnut about 100 gr
garlic 1-2 cloves
apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon
lemon juice 1 tablespoon
honey 1 teaspoon
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin to taste

Roast bell pepper on the stove, peel them, discard the seeds and the white filaments and cut them in big pieces. Lightly toast the walnuts and grind them in the mixer along with peeled garlic cloves until they are creamy, but not yet oily. Add bell pepper pieces to the walnuts and puree them adding vinegar, lemon juice, a pinch of cumin, honey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Use it to dress an unusual pasta or simply spread it on toasted bread slices.

New Kid On The Block

Friday, March 5, 2010
Anthony Mangieri
Picture taken from San Francisco GrubStreet

An anonymous angel has made my day. Read here and you'll understand why.

In case you don't remember, he is Anthony Mangieri, who stole my heart with his pizza Filetti one autumn evening of few years ago. We were in New York and it was love at first sight (on my end at least...).

But then, how can you not fall for a man who says:

There are some people in America that are trying to make buffalo mozzarella [...] and I love the fact that they’re doing it. I really wanted to use it, to support it, but the taste...it’s just not there. It just doesn’t have the magic that the buffalo mozzarella does from Caserta or Battipaglia outside of Naples.

TRIPLE HURRAH for Anthony! Pretty soon on the streets of San Francisco...

Red Pepper and Hazelnut Soup

Thursday, March 4, 2010
Red Pepper and Hazelnut Soup

It's been a long time since I've stopped buying cooking magazines, more or less since I've started giving in shamelessly to the books that Uncle Amazon suggests every week. I swear, though, it's not my fault if this recipe comes from the last issue of Bon Appetit.
The thing is, those over at Sur la Table gave me the magazine subscription as a gift, since my level of spending in their stores has been considered VERY IMPORTANT. I don't know why, but I have a feeling that this isn't something you should be proud of. So please, don't tell anybody.

Red Pepper Hazelnut Soup
for 4

For the soup
red bell pepper, large 3 (about 700 gr., net)
cherry tomatoes about ten
onion 1/2
garlic 2 cloves
hazelnut about 40 gr. (1/4 cup)
dry sherry (optional) to taste
olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, vegetable stock to taste

To garnish
marinated white anchovy fillets 3
hazelnut 8-10
shallot 1/2
olive oil, lemon juice and grated lemon peel to taste

Mince onion and peel garlic cloves. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot and saute onion and garlic for few minutes. Rinse bell peppers and cut them in large pieces; rinse cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Add vegetables to the onion after few minutes, then add half a cup of white wine (I didn't use it). When alcohol has evaporated, cover with vegetable stock and bring to boil at medium heat. Let it simmer for 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Season with salt, pepper and paprika, then add hazelnuts (for a stronger taste, you can previously toast them in the oven). Let the soup boil for another 10 minutes, then puree it with an immersion blender. Adjust taste with salt and pepper, and if necessary, put it back on the stove to thicken.
Meanwhile, toast the remaining hazelnuts in the oven and coarsely chop them with marinated anchovy fillets, shallot, one tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice and some grated lemon peel. Serve the soup and sprinkle each bowl with this coarse pesto.
(White anchovies are a recent discovery. Being a lot more delicate than regular anchovies, to my taste it's better to use them in things like this, where they are not cooked).

Spinach Spaetzle

Monday, March 1, 2010
Spinach Spaetzle

DICK: I guess it looks as if you're reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?
ROB: No...
DICK: Not alphabetical...
ROB: Nope...
DICK: What?
ROB: Autobiographical.
DICK: No fucking way!
(J. Cusack & T. Louiso, High Fidelity)

If I had to reorganize my recipes in autobiographical order, just like John Cusack does with his records in High Fidelity, with no doubt I'd put this in the section College Years. With less than 10,000 Liras you could make dinner for eight people, and it was always a success despite the little familiarity with cooking matters. You would never deny a bowl of Spaetzle to anybody: unpretentious and with no frills, they would instantly create a party atmosphere (big or small, it depended on the number of hours to the final divided by the number of pages yet to be read).
The proper tool came straight from my hometown, and at that time it was the only eccentric concession in a frightening yellow kitchen, that has served too many times as stage for endless scopone scientifico tournaments (traditional Italian card game, N/A) where losers were condemned to wash the dishes for the rest of the week.
Those were the days! There was no Maldon Salt nor High Gluten Flour, fish was a terrifying thought and eggplants were considered an exotic vegetable. And on we went with Spaetzle and Spritz with the olive, everything we wanted was in only four ingredients.
Now I know for sure that these Spaetzle (or Small Spinach Gnocchi, as us profane were used to call them) had been my own ruin, marking the unaware beginning of this culinary madness.

And just like John Cusack in High Fidelity, I too have compiled my own Top Five list. Here are the five flavors that, eyes closed, bring me straight back to my twenties, when it seemed like the world was split between architects and business men, while in the middle lived a whole bunch of Latinists, marine biologists, interpreter from Russian, bookworms, archaeologists, accountants, furious chemists, incurable romantics, paleontologists, mathematicians, oboists, glottologists and aspiring journalists.

5) The Spritz (Aperol with olive, thanks): at 1,500 Liras during happy hour, it was a real attack at public peace;

4) Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and black olives: that is, the real taste of summer, so popular that someone would even have leftovers for breakfast (not me, it was the architect friend who would never leave us alone);

3) The aforementioned Spaetzle, strictly dressed with butter and parmigiano cheese. Why bother exploring alternatives when this dressing seemed to be the absolute perfection?

2) The custard-filled manina: considered a real luxury for breakfast, the manina could always keep your hopes alive. Warm and buttery, it would reconcile you with the world even when sirens were screaming the beginning of high tide and inside our apartment wind draughts coming who knows from where made the old gas heater seem useless and ridiculous. It helped a lot indeed the fact that right there, in the bakery one floor down, they were selling the best manina of the whole lagoon. Just one flight of stairs, you didn't even need to wear shoes. Is it your turn today?, one would ask right after waking up. Just the time to make coffee;

1) The first place, by common consent of critics and consumers, goes to the one and only Tonolo's Bigne': a true establishment for Venice student population, reward and price to pay for having passed the test, a difficult choice among top 3 (vanilla, coffee or gianduia flavored pastry cream?), a must stopping place coming out of Ca' Foscari (a Venetian palace, where some classes were held, N/A) in those foggy afternoons. Tonolo was able to join in a unanimous chorus all the aforementioned architects, business men, Latinists, marine biologists, interpreter from Russian, bookworms, archaeologists, accountants, furious chemists, incurable romantics, paleontologists, mathematicians, oboists, glottologists and aspiring journalists. Every argument would end in front of its bigne' and - allow me, please - sometimes even in front of its zabaglione-filled fritters.
(see the following comments on the bottom of Pasticceria Tonolo, Facebook Official Fan Page and Appassionati di Tonolo, Non Official Facebook Group:
Tonolo Prperty of Mankind, by M. Gianola, Tonolo Fan; Thanks for being!, by A.K. Bidorini, Tonolo Fan; After 4 years I've been able to eat two fritters filled with Chantilly cream, even living abroad... I was moved!! , by V. Battain, Tonolo Fan; Yesterday I've discovered the bigne' filled with Chantilly cream... my life will never be the same!, by S. Vedova, Tonolo Fan; Tonolo does it better!, by M. Casarin, Tonolo Fan; Utmost respect., by F. Giacometti, Tonolo Fan; Tonolo's bigne' are my drug! The chocolate one is a natural anti-depressant!!, by R. Perenzin, Tonolo Fan; I LOVE Tonolo!!, by V. Massetti, Tonolo Fan; My deepest appreciation to whoever founded this group. And to Tonolo's Sacher, of course, by G. Zornetta, Tonolo Fan).

Pardon the digression, if I remember correctly we were talking about Spaetzle...

Spinach Spaetzle
for 4-5 people

fresh spinach, net about 300 gr.
eggs 3
flour varies, depending on the dough (about 250-300 gr.)
salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
butter, parmigiano cheese or ricotta salata to dress them to taste

This is one of the very few recipes that I make without a scale, but this time, only for the benefit of the blog, I decided to weigh the spinach. I would have weighed the flour as well, but it slipped out of my hand...
Rinse and dry spinach, discard the toughest stems and puree them in a food processor. Add eggs, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg and then start adding the flour until you get a firm but still moist dough. It's better to do a test, making two small round gnocchi out of the dough and cooking them in boiling water for few minutes: if they hold up, the dough is ready; otherwise you should add a little more flour.
Using the proper Spatzle-maker, set on top of the pot with the boiling water, make the Spaetzle and let them drop in the water, cooking them for two or three minutes. Drain them and dress with melted butter and freshly grated parmigiano cheese.
Spaetzle can also be frozen: simply run them under cold water as soon as you drain them, so that they won't cook any longer, and then divide them in few freezer bags.

[...] facciamo un cambio, prenditi pure
quel po' di soldi, quel po' di celebrità.
Ma dammi indietro la mia seicento,
i miei vent'anni e una ragazza che tu sai.
Milano scusa stavo scherzando,
luci a San Siro non ne accenderanno più.

[...] let's do a swap, you take
that little money, that little fame.
But give me back my Six Hundred (name of an old FIAT car, N/A)
my twenties and a girl you know.
Milan, sorry, I was just joking,
lights in San Siro, they'll never turn them on again.

(R. Vecchioni, Lights in San Siro)