Carpione

Carpione is an Italian ancient way of preparing food to preserve it during the warm season without refrigeration. There are many regional variations of carpione: in the lake region of northern Italy it’s typically used to preserve fish, as it is in Venice where this recipe takes the name of “saor”. The ingredients may vary from place to place but this preparation gives the food – fish, vegetables, or chicken – a tangy flavor perfect for a summer dinner or as an appetizer in any other season.
Thanks to the vinegar, this recipe keeps for many days in the refrigerator.

Zucchini “in carpione”

Ingredients:

(for 4 people)  A  B  Gf

  • 6 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 8 leaves of sage
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper grains

Cut the onions in half and soak them in a quart of cold water for at lest half an hour.
Wash the zucchini, remove both ends and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut each half into three sections, and then cut each section lengthwise into thirds. You should obtain sticks approximately 1½ inch long.

Warm up the Evoo oil in a frying pan and sauté the zucchini for about 7 to 9 minutes, stirring often. Don’t overcook them.
Prepare the carpione marinade. Pat the onions dry and slice them thinly. Warm up the EVOO in a pan and sauté the onions with the sage, without letting them brown (about 5-7 minutes). When they are tender, add the wine and the vinegar, then bring to a boil and let half of the liquid evaporate. Add the pepper grains.
Transfer half of the zucchini into a deep glass container and pour half of the hot marinade over it. Make a second layer with the remaining zucchini and pour the rest of the marinade over it. Let the zucchini marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving them.

Thanks to the vinegar, the zucchini will keep for several days in the refrigerator, becoming tastier and tastier.

Chicken “in carpione”

Ingredients:

(for 4 people)  A  B  Gf

  • 1 lb. of organic chicken breast tenders
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. of brown rice flour
  • 2 Tbsp. of sunflower oil
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 8 leaves of sage
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. pink pepper grains

Cut the onions in half and soak them in a quart of cold water for at lest half an hour.
Mix the brown rice flour and the salt in a shallow dish. Toss the chicken tenders in the flour and coat evenly.Warm up the sunflower oil in a frying pan. Transfer the breast tenders into the pan and cook them evenly on all sides.

Prepare the carpione marinade. Pat the onions dry and slice them thinly. Warm up the EVOO in a pan and sauté the onions with the sage and rosemary, without letting them brown (about 5-7 minutes). When they are tender, add the wine and the vinegar, then bring to a boil and let half of the liquid evaporate. Add the pink pepper.
Transfer half of the chicken into a deep glass container and pour half of the hot marinade over it. Make a second layer with the remaining chicken and pour the rest of the marinade over it. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving it.

N.B. Please remember to wash your hands and every surface that has been in touch with the chicken with hot water and anti-bacterial soap, since poultry meat is very prone to contamination by the dangerous bacterium E. coli.

Fish “in carpione”

For this recipe you can use small fish fillets (like dover sole, tilapia, trout, etc.) or whole small fish like sardines. In the latter case, the vinegar will soften the fish bones and you want even feel them.
This dish can be served cold as an appetizer or warm on a bed of boiled Arborio rice, as they still do in the Como Lake region. The first time we took a couple of dear American friends to eat this dish in a hole in the wall in a tiny village near Bellagio, they asked us why we had ordered food for eight people. Fifteen minutes later, though, they were scraping the bottom of the serving dish, wondering how they would digest that huge amount of food. To their pleasant surprise, not only they didn’t have any problems digesting their lunch but by five o’clock they had room for an ice cream.
Ah, the wonders of genuine, organic regional Italian food!

Ingredients:

(for 4 people)  A  B  Gf

  • 1 lb. of fish fillets (dover sole, tilapia, trout, mullet etc.) or whole small fish like sardines
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. of brown rice flour
  • 2 Tbsp. of sunflower oil
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 8 leaves of sage
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper grains

Cut the onions in half and soak them in a quart of cold water for at lest half an hour.
Mix the brown rice flour and the salt in a shallow dish. Toss the fish fillets or the whole small fish in the flour and coat evenly.Warm up the sunflower oil in a frying pan. Transfer the fish into the pan and cook it evenly on all sides.

Prepare the carpione marinade. Pat the onions dry and slice them thinly. Warm up the EVOO in a pan and sauté the onions with the sage, without letting them brown (about 5-7 minutes). When they are tender, add the wine and the vinegar, then bring to a boil and let half of the liquid evaporate. Add the pink pepper.
Transfer half of the fish into a deep glass container and pour half of the hot marinade over it. Make a second layer with the remaining fish and pour the remaining marinade over it. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving it.

The fish will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator but remember to take it out a couple of hours before serving it.

 

 

Chicken salad

Chicken leftovers? No problem! Last night I roasted a whole chicken, definitely too much for the two of us, especially because I don’t like its flavor if I warm it up the following day. So I removed the bones while the leftovers were still warm and today I turned them into this appetizing recipe.

Ingredients:

(for 4 people)  A  B  Gf

  • the meat from half roasted chicken or 1 lb. of organic chicken breast
  • one carrot (optional)
  • one stalk of celery (optional)
  • half yellow onion (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. of EVOO
  • 2 tender stalks of celery
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds
  • the juice of half lemon
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. of mayonnaise (see my recipe)

If you don’t have any chicken leftovers, boil the chicken breast until tender (approximately 40 minutes) in a quart of water, together with half yellow onion, one carrot and one stalk of celery.

In the meantime, make the mayonnaise (see my recipe). Then wash and peel the carrot, wash the celery and the bell pepper. Chop finely the celery and the carrot, cut the bell pepper into thin slices removing the seeds and white membrane inside, and then cut them into small pieces.

Mince the chicken, put it into a mixing bowl, squeeze the lemon on top of it, toss, add the chopped vegetables, the roasted pumpkin seeds, the mayonnaise, toss again and serve.

N.B. Please remember to wash your hands and every surface that has been in touch with the chicken with hot water and anti-bacterial soap since poultry meat is very prone to contamination by the dangerous bacterium E. coli.

 

 

 

Celery root salad

A variation of the traditional coleslaw, this simple recipe is a quick solution for an appetizer or a fresh side dish. Hard to believe that such an easy recipe can be so tasty.

Ingredients:

(serves 4 people) A V B Gf

  • 1celery root
  • 3 Tbsp. of mayonnaise (see recipe)
  • Pepper

Make the mayonnaise following my recipe.
Peel the celery root with a potato peeler and julienne very thinly.
Add the mayonnaise, taste for salt and add if necessary, then a little bit of freshly ground pepper to taste, toss and serve.

Cranberry orange relish

img_8269This classic with a twist is perfect for your Thanksgiving turkey as well as for chicken, pork or as used as a jam.

Ingredients:

(serves 8)    F W  V 

  • 1 lb. of fresh organic cranberries
  • 3 organic navel oranges
  • 2/3 cup of organic sugar
  • 1 ½ cup of orange juice
  • ¼ cup of rum (optional – alcohol will evaporate during cooking)

Wash the cranberries and discard the soft ones. Wash the oranges and cut one into small chunks. Squeeze the remaining two oranges. Measure their juice and, if it doesn’t measure 1 ½ cup, add some water. Transfer orange chunks and juice into a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer into a pan; add cranberries, sugar and rum. Cook for 12 -15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula. Press the cranberries to the sides of the pan to crush them: they will release their pectin and the relish will thicken. Serve warm with meats or cold as jam. It keeps for a week in the fridge or you can freeze small amounts and use later.

Cornmeal cookies

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It’s cookie time! What is it that makes us crave cookies more than usual during the Holidays? Is it because the cold weather inspire us to bake? Or because the shorter days force us inside and we end up spending more time cooking? Or because cookies make a great, always welcomed gift?
As if we needed a pretext to create, make or eat more cookies…
Whatever your reason might be, try these cookies and I assure you that they are going to become one of your favorites: easy to make but flavorful, they are exactly what you need at any time of the day. And they have a wonderful quality: they are tiny, so you won’t feel guilty even if you eat three or four.  Fabulous with cranberry relish (see my recipe) or a tiny dab of crème fraîche, they taste even better with a sip of port wine.

Ingredients:

(Makes about 120) F W V Gf B

  • 1 cup of organic corn meal
  • 1 cup of organic gluten-free flour
  • Half cup of organic sugar
  • Grated rind of 1 organic lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 oz. of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 whole organic eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of corn oil

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead with your hands to obtain smooth dough. On a floured surface, roll small portions of the dough into “snakes”. Cut snakes into half-inch pieces, and lay them onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Lightly press a fork on their surface to form grooves.
Bake at 350F for 12 minutes.

Tip: Make one batch with yellow corn flour and one with blue corn flour.

Hazelnut Amaretti

 

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If you are looking for a new recipe to delight family and friends for the Holiday season, these cookies from the Piedmont region of Italy are simply irresistible. The Amaretti are a light end-of-dinner sweet, the perfect companions for tea or coffee, and make a great hostess gift for any occasion. While the typical amaretti found in stores are made with bitter almonds (hence the name that means “bitter cookies”) these are made with hazelnuts that give these treats a sweeter, more delicate flavor.

The recipe comes from Piera Viarengo, owner/chef/director of “Il Fiordaliso” Bed & Breakfast in Azzano (Italy). With her passion for traditional Piedmont cuisine, organic wholesome food, kindness, attention to details, and a ton of hard work, Piera has created a small Heaven on the hills near Asti. The B&B is very tastefully appointed and welcoming, but it’s the food that makes you wants to extend your stay. While Piera’s breakfasts are always a pleasant surprise, her dinners are simply amazing. The fact that all the ingredients are seasonal, organic and come from the family farm would be enough to make the B&B cuisine tasty and enjoyable, but Piera’s has the ability to transform them into uniquely delicious dishes. She comes to your table to describe each and every course she is serving, starting from the ingredients and their provenance.                                                  I suspect that Piera’s gastronomic marvels come from an old notebook, inherited from her mother or grandmother, but I could bet that she knows most of the recipes by heart. When I asked her this recipe, she recited it like somebody else might recite the Holy Mary and with the same deference one says a prayer. She made sure that I wrote down the ingredient in a very precise order, which made replicating her recipe very easy.

Ingredients:

(serves 4)  F W  V 

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 14 Tbsp (or 7 oz.) unsalted butter (like Kerrygold Irish butter)
  • 2 cups hazelnut flour *
  • 3 tsp. baking powder

* If you cannot find hazelnut flour, you can finely grind dry roasted, unsalted hazelnuts.

Preheat oven at 340 degrees F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt the butter. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients to obtain a smooth dough. Take small amounts of dough and shape them into small balls (1/2 inch in diameter) with your fingertips.

IMG_7658Transfer onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 1/2 inch between each line and each row to give the amaretti space to rise as they cook.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool at room temperature and enjoy.

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Minestrone

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In Italian the word minestrone literally means “big soup”, in contrast with the simpler and lighter minestra. It’s a rich and satisfying soup of mixed vegetables – fresh or dry – to which pasta or rice is added in the last phase of cooking.
The secret of good minestrone lays in a long cooking, so that the vegetables almost melt, giving it an almost creamy texture. This way the minestrone will acquire a homogenous taste, completed by pasta or rice.
There are many recipes for minestrone, depending from the season when it’s cooked or the region of Italy where the recipe comes from.
It’s one of those country dishes that  Italian mothers and grandmothers used to make with whatever was available in their pantry or in their garden while today, with all kind of produce available year-round, we have the luxury to choose the vegetables we want to put into it. Don’t be too particular about the ingredients: while the sauté mirepoix is a must and the potatoes provide the starch to bind all other ingredients together, use a mix of vegetables that inspires you or simply those you have in your refrigerator. I guarantee that all minestroni will turn out equally good. I always recommend using only the vegetables that are in-season because they are fresher, more nutrient, and provide the minerals and vitamins that we need for that particular time of the year.

I suggest two different versions of the same recipe, one for the cold season and one for the warm season. Both of them use the same base ingredients, but the former is richer while the latter is lighter and can be eaten either warm or cold.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call them Spring Minestrone and Winter Minestrone.

 

Spring Minestrone

Ingredients:

(serves 4)    Sp  S  V  B  Gf (with rice)

6 cups of water
2 zucchini
2 medium yellow potatoes
2 stalks of celery
3 carrots
2 cups of shredded green cabbage
1 cup of shelled green peas
1/2 cup of dry organic white (like cannellini) beans (soaked the night before)
2 ripe Roma tomatoes
½ cup of tomato sauce (see my recipe)
½ medium yellow onion
1 leek (only the white part)
a few sprigs of parsley
6 leaves of basil
4 Tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. of sea salt
3 ounces of small pasta (like ditalini) or rice
Parmesan to grate when you serve

You can replace basil with a tablespoon of homemade basil pesto (see my recipe), if fresh basil is available.
Soak the white beans overnight in a non-metallic vessel.The following day rinse the beans and set them aside while you chop the other vegetables.
Finely mince the onion, the celery and one carrot with a sharp knife. Warm up the EVOO in the pot where you will cook the minestrone, add the onion/celery/carrot mix (mirepoix) and sauté on medium heat.
Peel the potatoes cut them into small cubes. Wash the remaining two carrots, the zucchini, tomatoes and leek and cut them into small pieces.
Wash and shred the cabbage.
When the mirepoix becomes to brown, transfer all the vegetables into the pot, add the green peas, the white beans, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the water and bring to a boil. Add the tomato sauce, the salt, and cook for one hour.
After half an hour check the thickness of the minestrone and, if needed, add some boiling water. Keep in mind that when you add the pasta (or rice) it’s going to absorb some water. When the vegetables start melting, add the pasta (or the rice) and cook until al dente. Wash the parsley and the basil, detach the leaves from the stems, chop finely with a knife and add them to the pot.
Serve warm or cold, grating the Parmesan cheese right before serving.

 

Winter Minestrone

Ingredients:

(serves 4)     W  F  V  B  Gf (with rice)

6 cups of water
½ lb. of squash (cabocha or acorn)
2 medium yellow potatoes
2 stalks of celery
3 carrots
¼ cauliflower
2 leaves of swiss chard
½ cup of dry lentils
½ cup of dry organic borlotti or pinto beans (soaked the night before)
½ cup of tomato sauce (see my recipe)
½ medium yellow onion
1 leek (only the white part)
a few sprigs of parsley
1 twig of rosemary
4 Tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. of sea salt
3 ounces of small pasta (like ditalini) or rice
Parmesan to grate when you serve

Soak the beans overnight in a non-metallic vessel.
The following day rinse the beans and set them aside while you chop the other vegetables.
Finely mince the onion, the celery and one carrot with a sharp knife. Warm up the EVOO in the pot where you will cook the minestrone, add the onion/celery/carrot mix (mirepoix) and sauté on medium heat.
Peel the potatoes and the squash cut them into small cubes. Wash the remaining two carrots, cauliflower, Swiss chard and leek and cut them into small pieces.
When the mirepoix becomes a light brown, transfer all the vegetables into the pot, add the the beans, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the water and bring to a boil. Add the tomato sauce, the dry lentils (rinse them first), the salt, the rosemary, cover and cook for one hour on low heat.
After half an hour, check the thickness of the minestrone and, if needed, add some boiling water. Keep in mind that when you add the pasta (or rice) it’s going to absorb some water. When the vegetables start melting, add the pasta (or the rice) and cook until al dente. Wash the parsley, detach the leaves from the stems, chop finely with a knife and add it to the pot.
Serve hot, grating the Parmesan cheese right before serving.

Join a CSA !

IMG_6384I ‘m always trying to inspire people to make good choices, especially when it comes to eating habits. But, in order to motivate others, I know I need to give a good example.
So a couple of weeks ago I joined a CSA, i.e. a Community Sustained Agriculture program.
What is a CSA? It’s a program that allows people to reap the benefits of eating local, seasonal, high-quality fruits and vegetables and at, the same time, ensure that the farmers stay in the business of growing organic food.

http://www.outeraislefoods.com/csa.html

It’s a very sensible and innovative concept but, if you think, it’s not very different from what we used to do in the past. It’s ironic how, with our constant need to improve, sometimes we change things that are good just as they are. Until a few decades ago, we used to eat only what was in season and only what was local, simply because we had no other choice. But transportation and refrigeration have changed completely our diets. Add the fact that we love quantity, variety and convenience and so were born the supermarkets, brimming with produce that is in-season year round, often comes from thousands of miles away, and that looks so good that it seems fake. And fake it is: genetically engineered, pumped with fertilizers, dipped in chemical baths and waxed to extend its shelf life. Have you ever noticed that apples do not rot anymore? Well, at least apparently. They actually do, but from the inside out. The artificial waxing prevents them from “breathing”, so that their surface remains firm. As it happens, Mother Nature thought about waxing before humans did and apples do produce their own natural waxy coating. Over time, though, untreated apples wrinkle. Who would buy apples that look like these?
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Actually, these apples are still delicious. I bought them eight months ago from a local organic farm and kept them in my cellar. In spite of their appearance, they are still edible. I cut them into big pieces, add water, some raisins, and cook them for twenty minutes. They absorb the water like sponges, plump up and they end up looking exactly like cooked apples bought yesterday. I eat them in the morning with my yoghurt or as a dessert.

IMG_6392After picking up my first delivery from Outer Aisle CSA – what a suggestive name! – and spreading that vegetal bounty over my counter, in my mind I thanked the good people at Outer Aisle for finding the courage to start their distribution network.
CSAs have existed for the last 25 years but where I live there simply wasn’t enough demand to support a CSA. Like all agriculture-related businesses, it’s in fact a risky and not so-profitable venture, but finally the local awareness scale has tipped towards choosing quality vs. quantity, and we can finally afford to have a CSA.

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.

So find a CSA near you and join it today !

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Do it for yourself and do it for the people you love.
Do it to teach your children how to eat right, what is in season and what is not, but also so that they can experience what you experienced as a child when “eating your fruit” meant savoring your neighbor’s juicy peaches or your grandma’s sweet cherries, not drinking a box of juice sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Do it to pass on to your children good habits that will keep them healthy, not only physically but also mentally and morally because processed food might be cheaper and more gratifying than real food but, like any other shortcut in life, they are going to pay later for it.

Diabetes Awareness

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

The key word in the sentence above might seem Diabetes, but it’s indeed Awareness.

Be aware of what you eat, be aware of your weight but most of all be aware of changes in your body, changes that you might be ignoring but that are trying to tell you that you should change your habits and choose healthier ones, not for the sake of how you look but for the sake of your wellbeing.

I encourage you to read this article on Life with Diabetes that was sent to me by Dr. Mario Trucillo, Managing Editor of The American Recall Center and keep it in mind during the Holiday Season (and for the rest of the year, too!)

I hope that it will help you make sensible food choices, for yourself and for your family.

Live Healthy to Avoid Diabetes!

Tips for Eating Right While Traveling

Cole Millen, an avid traveler and foodie, has asked me to post this article to share the tips and tricks that he has learned in his experiences of traveling and staying healthy on the road.
Sometimes it’s challenging to maintain a nutritious diet when indulging in cuisines across the world, but you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to eat right.
When I travel, unfortunately cannot leave my many food intolerances at home. Sometimes there is no way to control how the food is prepared and a meal with the wrong ingredient can ruin my experience of the places I’m visiting. That’s why being prepared and informed becomes important.
One more tip: don’t be shy and ask your waiters to accommodate your special needs. You’d be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to make your meal an enjoyable experience.

Tips for Eating Right While Traveling
by Cole Millen

melaThe stress of travel can be multiplied if you don’t take care to eat healthy while away from home. Even vacations can become hazardous to your health if you don’t take the time to find healthy options while away. Although you regularly incorporate healthy eating habits at home, it may be challenging to maintain these habits when traveling. I find that a little advanced preparation goes a long way toward helping me remain committed to my healthy habits when I’m on the road.
First, I try to learn a little about the place where I plan to travel before I embark on my journey. Information including what amenities are available at hotels and what restaurants can be found in an area helps to give me a good handle on what to expect. I was even able to find restaurants offering gluten-free menus by browsing reviews of different Las Vegas hotels and digging through reviews from real people. I have found that these are the most unbiased and honest forms of information when looking for a place to stay.
When booking my flight, I also check for the healthiest available options. In-flight meals and snacks are notoriously unhealthy. If an in-flight meal will be served, I make sure to request a healthy vegetarian option to avoid high-sodium, processed meats. I also pack raw almonds, dried fruits, and other healthy snacks in my carry-on to enjoy, rather than succumb to caloric goodies served on the plane.
At my destination, I frequently find a local health-food store where I can stock up on a few healthy snacks to keep in my room, and I always refuse the key to the tempting mini bar. This helps me avoid the pitfall of late-night binge eating. At hotels that offer a complimentary breakfast, I look for fresh fruit, whole-grain toast and perhaps a boiled egg or two. These give me good energy for a full day and help me avoid starchy, caloric foods like muffins and waffles.
Eating out while traveling provides its own dangers to a healthy diet. I try to stick by the same guidelines that I use when eating out at home. “Broiled” and “steamed” are good words to look for on a menu, while I stay away from anything labeled “batter fried.” Also, the more color there is on a plate, the healthier it tends to be, so I often choose menu items by pictures loaded with veggies.
The stress release a vacation provides is a boon for our health, and we all need to take a little time off now and then. And while it’s ok to indulge a bit on vacation, there’s no need to send your diet off the rails and quash any potential health benefits your getting from your trip. If the place I am visiting offers an absolutely irresistible regional treat, I will treat myself once or twice during the trip, but otherwise, I stick to the tips above to get the most out of my vacation!