Tag Archives: italian

Pasta alla Caruso

I was going to do a giant post featuring the two chickens I bought a couple of weeks ago but I postponed it, again, for this Italian pasta dish featuring an item many people may not associate with Italy … chicken livers.

I love chicken livers and have had a craving for a while so I picked up two pounds on Saturday and set aside half a pound for use in this delicious dish that I ran across while net surfing a while ago.

Pasta alla Caruso is a chicken liver dish named in honour of the Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, who was said to love it, and a speciality of his home town of Naples. The Italian name, “Pasta Con Fegatini Di Pollo, Cipolle E Funghi” refers to the ingredients … chicken livers, San Marzano tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.

Pasta alla Caruso – serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (225 gm) fresh chicken livers *
1/4 cup finely diced onion (or 2 tbsp sauted)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lb (225 gm) sliced mushrooms (half button and half cremini)
1 tsp dried herb mixture (equal parts dried parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (Italian preferred ie Sangiovese)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 /2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
salt and ground black pepper, as needed

* If you don’t like chicken livers, slice a zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry. Drain on paper towels and then use them in place of the fried chicken livers.

Garnish – grated Pecorino Roman (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if that’s all you have)

200 gm thick pasta cooked according to package directions ie fettuccine or linguine or even bucatini

Puree the plum tomatoes and set aside until needed.

Rinse and trim the chicken livers. Drain well and cut into 1/2 in (12-13 mm) wide strips.  Sprinkle about 1/8-1/4 tsp salt over the liver. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the livers and fry over medium/medium-high heat until firm. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed.

Wipe out the saute pan, add the unsalted butter and saute the diced onion over medium heat until it’s started to pick up some colour.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top, and saute them until they start getting golden brown but are still a bit firm. Add the dried herbs and stir through.

Add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes until you’ve coated the onions/mushrooms and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the pureed tomatoes and liquid. Cook, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and infused into the vegetables.

Add the cooked chicken livers and any juices that may have come out of them and stir through. Cook just until the chickens are warmed through. You don’t want them to get tough.

Taste the mixture and add whatever else you might need – some more salt, some ground pepper, or even a bit of lemon if the sauce seems a bit flat.

Divide the freshly cooked pasta between two plates, ladle half the sauce over each portion and grate the cheese over the top.

Serve with a glass of the red wine.

Enjoy!

The rest of the chicken livers were sauteed in vegetable oil with a sprinkle of salt, Hungarian paprika and a medium sized onion. Just like my mother used to make for me. There’s nothing like chicken livers over mashed potatoes or mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta). At least, I think so.

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Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

Pork Tenderloin Four Ways

If you have a chance to buy pork tenderloin fresh, it’s quite a versatile protein for a singleton, and you can take your time making various dishes.

Unfortunately, I bought mine frozen, so when I thawed it, I had to prepare (trim off fat and remove the silver skin) and use it in as soon as possible.

Pork tenderloin souvlaki – marinated (Kraft Zesty Italian dressing), threaded onto skewers with chunks of onion and sweet pepper (red, yellow and orange), and then broiled on the bbq or in the oven under the grill. Serve with starch of your choice. In this case, I had leftover Mexican rice in the freezer so that’s what I used.

 

Korean pork tenderloin roast – marinated in a Korean paste and served over plain rice. I boiled and served the marinade over the slightly charred pork.

 

Korean (Gochujang) Pork Tenderloin Marinade – serves 3-4

1 large piece of pork tenderloin (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar*
1-6 cloves of garlic, minced*
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
pinch of salt

* I used honey and only 1 clove of garlic

Pesto pork tenderloin roast – marinated in home made pesto and served with pesto fettuccine

 

Honey mustard pork tenderloin – Pan fried pork cutlet served with honey mustard dressing … it turned out I hadn’t taken a picture of the honey mustard over the pork itself, just over the raw broccoli so you’ll have to imagine. The protein was served with skin on, smashed potatoes.

KA Italian Bread 101 – Take 2

This post is being made as a visual record for some minor hydration adjustments of the earlier Italian bread post. The dough is shaped into the traditional loaf rather than the braid.

Trial 2: 8/27/18 … 680 gm dough. I used the liquid measuring cup for water on Trial 1 and, in retrospect, based on the ‘stickiness’ of the dough, even after incorporating ALL of the flour, wondered if my fast ‘eyeballing’ the water level, especially for the 2nd amount, may have resulted in using too much water. So, on this 2nd try, I used my dry measuring cups for the water. I held back about 2 tbsp of the flour at the end and still felt that my dough was too dry. I did a wet hand knead several times but the dough was still very firm. Bulk proofing 45 min, deflated and let rest for about 30 minutes. Shaped and let final proof for 40 minutes.

The dough was not glazed with beaten egg white nor did it have any sesame seeds sprinkled on top. (I had run out.) Instead, I sprayed the loaf with water, slashed and placed the loaf on an overturned baking sheet which had pre-heated in the oven. A metal pie tin with water was placed in the bottom of the oven onto a lower shelf. The loaf was rotated about half way through the baking and baked for 35 minutes.

Crumb compact but relatively soft

Delicious sandwich bread

I intend to make this again using the weights version of the recipe.

Sesame Semolina Bread and Soup (Two versions)

NOTE: The potato gnocchi soup below is a tomato based adaptation of the kale and sausage soup posted here.

After an indulgent last dim sum outing with my nephew, on Friday, I used the afternoon to make another bread that I had added to my ‘to do’ list, while I was flourless.

The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour web site and is called a “Sesame Semolina Lunetta”. I have NO idea where the term lunetta comes from … lunetta means ‘little moon’ in Italian but this S-shaped bread doesn’t fit. In French, lunette refers to ‘eyeglasses’ … I guess you can vaguely picture two circles of glass in the S-shape. Sometimes, names have no clear explanation.

The dough turned out very wet but I suspect that my measuring cup didn’t allow me to be precise enough. (Next time, I’d try using the weight option for ingredients. ) Since it was too wet to hand knead, and I didn’t want to dig out my stand mixer, I decided to use a ‘stretch and fold’ process (every 15 minutes for an hour, for a total of 5 S&F’s) letting it rest for a further 30 minutes. I shaped the dough into an 18 inch rope and then coiled it into the S-shape and let it proof until it got very puffy, about 50 minutes.

Since it was still such a wet dough, I increased the baking temp to 400 deg F, rather than the 350 deg F in the recipe and baked the loaf until it got golden brown, 35-40 min (NOTE: 37 1/2 min).

The crust was crispy and the crumb was relatively open. The taste was good and there was a faint scent of sesame from the toasted sesame seed oil used in place of olive oil.

To accompany the bread, I made a pot of kale, hot Italian sausage and potato gnocchi soup. For a change of pace, I divided half the soup and added whipping cream to one portion.

Creamy version served with sliced and toasted sesame semolina bread, spread with pesto and grilled long enough to melt the Parmesan cheese in the pesto.

KA Italian Bread 101 “Review” (Picture Heavy)

The national recipes for ‘French’ and ‘Italian’ breads are limited in terms of what CAN and CAN’T be used in them in order to be able to legally use those terms. I decided to make a loaf of “Italian” bread using the recipe posted on the King Arthur website.

ETA: The recipe uses four ingredients for the bread: flour, water, salt and yeast.

I followed the recipe and instructions exactly, only adjusting the timing of the steps based on the action of my yeast, as I didn’t want to over proof the dough while maximizing oven spring.

Pillowy crumb … the slice was taken from one end of the braid but the height wasn’t much greater further in from the end.

The ‘starter’ was mixed up, covered with plastic food wrap and a towel and allowed to ferment for 12 hrs at room temperature (77 deg F). The next morning, the rest of the ingredients were added, the dough was kneaded by hand (10 min, 5 min rest, additional 5 min) and let rise for 45 minutes, covered, in an oiled bowl. Then the dough was deflated, reshaped into a ball and allowed to rest/rise for an additional 25 minutes.

   
   

The risen dough was divided into three equal portions, shaped into 18″ long ropes, braided and allowed to rise, covered, on parchment paper until it was ‘very puffy’. Then it was brushed with a wash of egg white and water and sprinkled with about 2 tbsp of white sesame seeds.

   

My straight braid developed a distinctive ‘curve’ during proofing … perhaps due to uneven braiding or tension.

 

Baked for 30 minutes at 425 deg Fahrenheit.

Conclusion: Nice crunchy crust. Taste was very good even though I was afraid that it would be a bit too salty and was tempted to reduce the salt, from 1 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp. Watch your dough for the timing of the proofing times.

Pantry/Freezer Clearout – Shrimp Pesto Risotto

I bought a box of Arborio rice several years ago, to make risotto, and it ended up in the back top shelf of my pantry until this weekend. There was slightly under half a cup of rice left, just enough for two servings. I decided on a pesto risotto and referred to several recipes on line for ingredient amounts, proportions and technique for assembly. This is what I came up with.

Shrimp Pesto Risotto

Shrimp Pesto Risotto – serves 2

Sauteed Shrimp

12 large shrimp, peeled except for the tail
a pinch or two of salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the shrimp and set aside in a small bowl.

Add the butter and olive oil to a medium sized saute pan. Place over medium heat and when the butter melts and starts to bubble a bit, add the shrimp. Saute until the shrimp just start to get pink, turn over to the other side until it changes colour as well. Remove the shrimp to a clean small bowl, cover and reserve.

Continue with the recipe for the pesto risotto, using the same saute pan.

Pesto Risotto

1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white part of green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups warm chicken broth
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup basil pesto, room temperature **

** I used shiso/mint pesto

Add the oil to a medium skillet. Add the onion and saute over medium heat for a few minutes, until it gets soft and just begins to pick up some colour.

Add the rice and toast until lightly golden brown, another couple of minutes.

Pour in the warm chicken broth, half a cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until the current batch of stock is absorbed, every 5-6 minutes or so. (Keep the chicken stock warm in a covered saucepan on the stove.) Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is just barely tender.

Take the rice off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, pepper, and pesto. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

Serve each portion of the risotto on a large flat plate and place half of the shrimp on top.

Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust and Herbs Inside and Out

Last year I was feeling a bit adventurous so, along with my usual purchase of a 20 kg bag of Canadian all purpose flour ($19.99 including tax), I came home with a 1 kg bag of imported Italian Tipo 00 flour (Camino brand, $2.99). This is a very finely milled wheat flour often used for pizza dough and pasta, in Italy. This particular bag is listed as being made from soft wheat flour, though that’s not necessarily the case with all Tipo 00 flours.

I decided that, at that price, it better make some pretty amazing pizza dough.

And I kept putting off trying it out.

Until NOW … mostly because I want pizza and I’ve got less than a cup of all purpose flour in the house, and no intention of replacing my stash until some time in August.

NOTE: I calculated the protein content (5 gm per 42 gm of flour) at 11.9% confirming, that in this case, it IS a low protein flour.

Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust – makes enough dough for one 12 inch pizza

250 gm Tipo 00 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant/bread machine yeast
140 gm room temperature water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix through. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast, water and olive oil. Mix through with your finger tips until all the flour has been moistened and then gather together into a ball.

Transfer the ball of dough to a clean working surface and knead, without adding any additional flour, for 5 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead for another 3-5 minutes until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled medium sized bowl, turning the ball in the oil to lightly cover. Cover tightly with a sheet of food wrap and drape a towel over the bowl. Put the bowl of dough into a warm place and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Degas the dough and round up into a ball, cover with the food wrap and then the towel and let the dough rest for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450-500 deg F about an hour before you want to bake your pizza.

Prepare your pizza baking sheet by sprinkling ground cornmeal lightly over the top. Stretch the dough onto your baking sheet. Top and place into the preheated oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the ingredients are cooked, the cheese is nice and bubbly and the underside and crust is golden brown. Remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting so that the cheese has a chance to set.

Trial 1: The dough weighed 403 gm and it took 13 1/2 minutes to bake the pizza. I estimate that the oven had only been at temp (500 deg F) for about 15-20 minutes. The next time, I’ll start preheating the oven as soon as the pizza dough is ready for its hour of rest instead of waiting half an hour.

Review: There were only a few big bubbles in the pizza crust but they WERE there. I have a couple ideas of ways in which to get more of those bubbles. The underside of the crust was crisp, relatively thin and golden brown and the pizza crust itself was nice and chewy. It’s a good pizza, similar in taste and texture to one available from a popular local pizza restaurant and delivery place. And a lot cheaper. I’d buy the flour again if it was a good price.

And, on a side note: I like using fresh herbs in my cooking but nurturing them is a chore.

Cause … I get bored.

And distracted … so I don’t use them at their peak. In any case, this is my current inventory of culinary herbs.

Inside

Italian Basil

Japanese shiso/ perilla (3 overcrowded pots) and a sad lavender plant

Outside

Mint and Thyme – with a couple of green onion bulbs that I transplanted after harvesting the tops a few times

Thai Basil and Sage

Bulk Impulse Buys … Jarred Pasta Sauce

Freezer clear-out is going well with about eighty percent of the contents of the upstairs freezer having been transferred to the basement freezer. However, meals are going to be pretty unimaginative this coming week, as I scrounge out previously made and frozen mains and sides. The same old dishes are making an appearance so I thought I’d wax poetical on one of my recent big purchases.

Even though I usually make out a grocery list for my week’s shopping, late Wednesday evening when the online grocery store flyers are posted, impulse buys are my weakness. Sometimes though, you have to take advantage of an unexpected really GOOD sale.

Recently, I had occasion to visit a nearby Freshco grocery store for a few odds and ends, since it is conveniently located at the same mini mall where I just got my hair cut. While walking down the pasta/sauce aisle, I spotted a sale on my favourite pasta and pizza sauce … Prego. Since this brand isn’t available at Food Basics, at all, and there was none at Metro, my usual place to buy this, on my last visit, I decided to snap up a few bottles. Especially since the price was $1.99. Usually, this is product is $3.49 or even more. A sale price of $2.49 is really good and this was even better than that.

As I was checking out, the cashier noted the four bottles she was ringing in and asked if it was a good product. Of course, I said yes and she mused that at 99 cents she should pick up a jar or two herself. 99 cents?? A DOLLAR 99 cents, I corrected her … to have her point out that it was ringing in at 99 CENTS.

I took my groceries to the car, turned around and went back in for six more bottles and a wedge of Parmesan cheese as well as a few other things that I knew I could use.

Convenience and good flavour at a great price is worth going over your planned budget if possible.

Here are a couple of quick dishes made recently using the jarred sauce:

Tagliatelle using whole wheat pasta … for a meatier topping, add some cooked hot Italian sausages (previously bbq’d and frozen, in this case) to the sauce when warming it up to add to the pasta.

Individual pizzas made with sourdough flour tortilla

Affogato Espresso

Ported from my LJ

This was a day when I really wanted/needed a shot of espresso and something sweet to go with it. And I had no desserts in the house except for a tub of French vanilla ice cream in the freezer.

An “affogato” is a coffee based vanilla ice cream or gelato dessert. I used espresso, or rather espresso made with instant espresso powder, for a fast dessert that wasn’t overly sweet.

Affogato Espresso – serves 1

1 shot (1 1/2 oz) espresso
2 scoops (1/2 cup) French vanilla ice cream

Note: Since I don’t have an espresso machine, I made my espresso by combining 1 tsp espresso powder with 1 1/2 oz of water that had been brought to a boil. If you like a stronger espresso, use 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder but the lower amount was plenty for me.

For company, serve each person a bowl of ice cream and a freshly brewed shot of espresso which they can pour over their own ice cream.

In a sturdy glass, add the ice cream and pour the shot of espresso over it..

Dig in with a teaspoon, cause you want to savour each mouthful.

You can freeze the ice cream in the bowl and pour cooled espresso over it, or, as I did, pour the hot espresso over the freshly scooped ice cream for an ice cream ‘float’.