Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Eggs Appetizer

 This week I’m going to suggest an entire menu, starting with a cold appetizer, followed by a warm one (that can double as a light entree), to continue with a classic salad, then a fresh rice dish, a seafood recipe, and closing with one of my favorite desserts .
I hope that my recipes will inspire you to follow my culinary wanderings, step by step, day by day.

Ingredients:

(serves 4)  Sp  Sr  V  B  Gf

  • 2 big ripe organic tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. organic mayonnaise (for the homemade one, see my recipe)
  • 2 hard boiled organic eggs
  • 2 balls of fresh Bufala mozzarella (or cow milk mozzarella)
  • 3 Tbsp. Evoo
  • 1 Tbsp. capers (optional, for decorating)
  • Salt

Put the eggs in a small saucepan filled with cold water and cook them for five minutes, counting from when the water starts to boil. Continue reading

Variety

The other day, while waiting in line after shopping for groceries, I was double-checking my  list and my cart for my usual two reasons: to verify that I had bought everything I needed and to make sure that there was enough variety.
I love variety, not only because I know that it’s a good habit but also because it affords me the luxury to be creative with my menus and to satisfy my eating whims.
I’ve been this way since I can remember. When my mother sent me to the grocery store with a list of things to buy, I regularly came home with two or three extra items “just in case”, like I used to tell her to justify my digressions from her precise instructions. My purchases didn’t reflect the typical desires of a child of my age (ice cream, candies, chips, etc.) but simple alternatives to what my mother was going to cook. Continue reading

Alma’s Apple Cake

Another recipe from my mother-in-law’s recipe book. My husband decided to include it in the cookbook that he published on behalf of his mom because of a small note in her recipes’ notebook that read, “Bake it – very good!”
Last year we gave a copy of Alma’s cookbook to a friend of ours, whose wife later emailed me “It’s true! I made it and it’s really good!”

Ingredients:

(serves 8)   F  W  V  B

  • 3 lb. organic golden apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of whole-wheat all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz. of amaretto cookies
  • 3 Tbsp. organic sugar
  • 1 cup of warm milk
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (+ some for greasing the cake pan)
  • 1 Tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven at 380 F.
Peel and grate the apples in a mixing bowl. Continue reading

Ginger Carrot Soup

Although the season is warming up, the evenings can be cool and at dinnertime I still like the idea of a warming soup, like this all-time favorite.
Steam a pound of asparagus, serve them with my Quick Smoked Salmon (see recipe) and your Friday night dinner is complete!  

Ingredients:

(serves 4)  A  V  B  Gf

  • 1 ½ lb. organic carrots
  • 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp. Evoo
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt (to taste, optional)
  • Pepper (to taste, optional)
  • Crème fraîche for garnishing

Peel and chop the onion. Wash the ginger and chop it coarsely. Heat the Evoo in a large pot and sauté the onion and ginger for about five minutes or until golden brown, stirring often.
Peel, wash and chop the carrots coarsely, then add them to the pot, together with the stock and the orange juice. Bring to a full boil, lower the heat to medium/low, and cook for 45 minutes.
Puree with an electric immersion blender until the soup reaches a smooth texture. Should the soup result too thick, add some hot water.
Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with a swirl of crème fraîche or a few drops of Evoo.

Sand Cake

This ancient cake owes its name to its texture, due to roughness of the corn meal. It was traditionally made in the springtime in the countryside near Venice, when people had run out of wheat flour after the winter, and fresh eggs were abundant.
Its ingredients makes it naturally gluten-free.

 Ingredients:

(serves 10)   Sp  V  Gf

  • 1 + 1/3 cup organic unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of superfine sugar
  • 1 cup of potato flour
  • 1 cup of yellow corn flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven at 340 F.
Bring the butter at room temperature and beat it with the sugar until pale and fluffy.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites and set the whites aside.
Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, making sure it’s well blended in before adding the next one.
Incorporate the potato flour, the yellow corn flour, and the baking powder.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, until white, firm and fluffy. Add the beaten egg whites to the cake mixture, folding them in delicately.
Grease a tall 10-inch round cake pan with butter, dust with some flour, put the cake mixture in the pan and level it with a spatula.
Bake at 340 F for about 30-35 minutes, until golden and firm. Remove from cake pan, let it cool down on a cooling rack, dust it with confectioner sugar and serve cold.

Rice and Green Peas – Risi e Bisi

I couldn’t think of a more perfect dish to cook today, on my son’s Marco name day.

Risi e bisi (pronounced Rees-e a Bee-zee) is an ancient Venetian recipe, made for the Doge on St. Mark’s day (April 25th) since the XVI century.
From The Most Serene Republic it spread along both coasts of the Adriatic Sea and down to Greece, Turkey and even Lebanon.
It’s neither a soup nor a risotto but something in between.
The delicate flavor of this dish makes it ideal for spring, when green peas are sweet and tender.
If you need to change the dosages, remember that to keep the proportions right you need 2/3 of green peas and 1/3 of rice. Continue reading

Asparagus and Tomato Salad*

Asparagus keep playing their star role in Farmers’ Markets while tomatoes and basil are making their first appearance. Since their overlapping season is short, let’s give them a chance to perform together in this appetizing salad.


Ingredients:

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

  • 1 lb. green asparagus, blanched
  • 1 cup cooked white beans
  • 1 cup cooked farro (or brown rice for Gf version)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives

For the pesto vinaigrette:

  • 20-25 basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • 4-5 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce of Parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the white beans overnight in cold water. Cook them until tender. Cook the farro (or brown rice) al dente and set aside.

Citrus salad *

Ingredients:

(serves 4)  A  V  Gf  B

  • 5 oz.  lamb’s lettuce 
(mache)
  • 4 oz. Belgian endive
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 6 dates
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted walnuts

For the salad dressing:

  • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash lettuce and Belgian endive with plenty of cold water, several times, and spin dry in a salad spinner.
Cut Belgian endive into thin strips. Roast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat, without any oil.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and cut the flesh into cubes. Cut the dates into strips. Peel the grapefruit and the oranges with a sharp knife, removing also all the white skin.

Remove the sections from the internal skin and arrange them on the border of each serving plate.

Place the lamb’s lettuce on the plates, together with the endive and all the other ingredients.
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad.

*  Recipe by Sonja Bachus

With a grain of salt

Last year a couple of dear friends of mine were waiting for a delayed flight when, as it often happens in these situations, they started chatting with another passenger.
Noticing his accent, one of my friends – a gourmand who owns a beautiful restaurant in Napa – asked if he was from “down under”.
The guy was indeed Australian and when he specified that he came from “the Murray River area” my friend exclaimed, “I know precisely where it is!
“I betcha you do, mate!” the Aussie replied, giving her a skeptical look. Continue reading

Cheese Biscuits*

Once you read its ingredients, you’ll have no doubt that this inviting appetizer falls into my “indulgence” category. Easy and quick to make, it disappears as fast because everybody loves it. Eat it in moderation, if you can.

Ingredients:

(Serves 6)  A V

  • 7 oz. Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 + 1 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • a pinch of salt

Cut butter into small pieces and bring it at room temperature. Mix together butter, flour, Continue reading