mandag den 29. november 2010

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onsdag den 27. oktober 2010

Tasty beetroot salad in romesco sauce

Barbabietole rosse con salsa di noci
For some reason south Italian supermarkets only sell precooked, shrink wrapped beetroots, which places the vegetable in a rather exotic light. Still raw or almost raw beets taste great in a salad, like this one with walnut dressing and fresh, soft goat cheese.

Serve the salad as a side dish with poultry or meat or as a starter with a nice selection of ‘affetati misti’, but please note that the salad can be quite dominating.

3 medium sized beetroots

12 walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 tomato
1 roasted red pepper
½ del balsamic vinegar
½ olive oil
1 peperoncino

100 g fresh, soft goat cheese (caprino), ricotta or feta.

Clean and peel the beetroots under running water.
Boil them for 5 minutes (- the raw vegetable is too hard and difficult to work with and eat).
Slice the beetroot in ultra thin slices.
Blend tomato, roasted and peeled pepper, garlic, walnuts and peperoncino, olive oil and vinegar to a smooth paste. Add salt and more oil and vinegar to taste.
Fold beetroot slices in the dressing and leave it to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Garnish with white cheese before serving.

mandag den 25. oktober 2010

Delicious chocolate layer ice-cream cake

Don’t think I have ever had homemade semifreddo in Italy, so I have no idea about the authenticity of this recipe, which is supposed to originate in Emilia-Romagna. I make it for special occasions, and it is always very popular, very delicious – and so rich – that a single piece leaves you sweet and satisfied for hours.

For the almond sponge
300 g peeled and ground almonds
2 egg whites
2 dl icing sugar

For the cream
200 g butter
1 dl icing sugar
2 dl brandy
2 cups of cold espresso
3 pasteurized eggs
200 g dark chocolate

Whisk the egg whites until firm and mix with ground almonds and sugar.
Draw and cut out two circles the size of your round cake tin in greaseproof paper.
Place half the dough on each piece of paper, cover with cling film and roll out the dough to fit the paper.
Remove the cling film and bake the two sponges separately in the oven at 150 C (300 F) for 10-15 minute.
Leave the sponges to cool.

Separate egg yolk from egg whites, if you are using ordinary eggs.
Whisk the egg whites until firm.
Soften butter and stir in egg yolks and sugar.
Fold the egg whites in the egg yolk and butter cream.

Place one almond sponge in a cake tin.
Sprinkle with espresso and brandy
Cover with a spread of half the cream and two tbsp of chocolate flakes.
Repeat the process by adding a new layer of almond sponge sprinkled with espresso and brandy and covered in cream.
Garnish with chocolate shards.

Cover the tin and place it in the freezer until 20 minutes before serving. The cake should be cold but not frozen solid.
Decorate with more chocolate if necessary.

onsdag den 20. oktober 2010

Oven-dried figs

Fichi secchi al forno
In our modest Italian garden we have at least six fig trees carrying loads of fruit several times a year, and although it may sound conceited you do eventually tire of fig marmalade, fig chutney, fig sauce, poached figs, caramelized figs and fresh figs with gorgonzola, mascarpone and prosciutto. Luckily, own neighbour is a skilled puglian housewife, so instead of letting ripe figs litter the ground (- and attract swarms of flies and ants), she picks them from the trees and dries them in the oven. In this way she supplies her own family including the households of six grown up children, numerous cousins and my family with a store of figs that lasts throughout the year.

The dried figs can be eaten as candy or soaked in boiling water and used for cakes, bread, sauce and fruity side-dishes.

1 kg fresh figs
6 bay leaves
Peel of ½ lemon
Peel of ½ orange
2 tbsp wild fennel seeds

Wash the figs and leave them to drip off on a clean kitchen towel.
Turn on the oven at 80 C (180 F).
Spread the figs out on a sheet of baking paper along with slices of lemon and orange peel and let everything dry in the for about half an hour. When the figs have shrunken and attained a nice grey-brown or blackish colour depending on the type of figs used, they are finished. It normally takes about 30 minutes. Don’t leave them too long, or they will bake and become stone hard.
When cooled, place the dried figs is a glass jar with the bay leaves, fennel seeds and dried lemon and orange peel.

Party figs can be prepared by slicing the dried figs open and stuffing them with a blanched almond.

mandag den 18. oktober 2010

Chickpea and vegetable soup

Minestre con ceci e verdure
The standard question whenever you meet an Italian housewife is ‘What are you making for dinner today?” They seek inspiration and want to share thoughts and ideas, and sometimes the implications are mildly surprising.

The other day a neighbour told me that this time of year her family’s daily main course consists of a hearty soup followed by some kind of fruit. They are basically living off the land, and only have to bend down to pick up squash, peppers, tomatoes, beans, chickpeas, mushrooms, eggplants, cabbage, onions, etc. Fresh, nutritious and tasty ingredients offering the additional advantage of unlimited variability. “Given such riches, who needs meat?” my friend asked. And I’m inclined to agree.

The only drawback is that a nice soup takes time to prepare. Dried beans or chickpeas have to be soaked for 24 hours in advance and boiled separately for an hour. And, although absolutely worthwhile, homemade vegetable stock amounts to an extra dish. Luckily, there are shortcuts like preparing double or triple portions of legumes and stock and preserving the rest in the freezer, or buying pre-cooked beans and good ready-made stock. Soup can be made on a sausage peg in a jiffy depending on whether you have got money or time to spare.

For the stock
4 onions
8 cloves garlic
½ celery root
2 carrots
1 fennel
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp pepper corns
1 tsp fennel seeds
Fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, salvia, estragon
Olive oil
2 ltr cold water

For the soup
1 leek
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 squash
1 fennel
2 potatoes
1 ear of corn
1 bell pepper
2 dl boiled chick peas
Olive oil

Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours; boil for 1 hour and drain.

To prepare the broth, clean and chop all vegetables coarsely.
Heat the oil in a big soup pot, and fry onion, garlic, celery root, carrots, fennel and spices for 15 minutes without letting them change colour. They give off most flavour when soft and mushy.
Pour in water, bring it to the boil, add salt to taste and let the stock simmer for 15 minutes, before adding the fresh herbs. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, skim off foam and leave it for another 15 minutes.
Strain and discard vegetables. (A higher concentration of flavor can be obtained, if you reduce the liquid by cooking the stock uncovered over high heat for a while.)

Scrub and chop vegetables for the soup in small squares. Cut the maize off the ear.
Fry leek, carrots, celery, squash, fennel and potatoes in hot olive oil for a few minutes.
Pour in vegetable stock, bring it to the boil, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Add maize, bell pepper, and pre-boiled chickpeas and cook for another five minutes.
Serve the soup steaming hot with lots of nice bread.

fredag den 1. oktober 2010

Tortellini with Jerusalem artichokes and zucchini salsa

Ravioli con topinambur e salsa di zucchine
In recent years the Nordic kitchen has won great international acclaim, and the best Danish chefs experiment wildly with sow’s ear snacks, pine needle salad and tasty dirt powder. Less eccentric chefs fuse traditional Nordic ingredients with Mediterranean methods of preparation, and with good results.

This recipe inspired by the semi-professional gastrocorner uses Jerusalem artichokes as ravioli filling but other vegetables might be used instead. I have added the zucchini salsa, which gives any type of pasta a fabulous lift. The result is an understated, mild, autumny and surprisingly elegant tasting dish.

For the pasta
4 dl pasta flour
2 dl water

For the filling
200 g Jerusalem artichokes
2 egg yolks
Fresh thyme

For the salsa
1 shallot onion
1 clove of garlic
3-4 zucchini
Olive oil
Fresh thyme

Start by making the pasta dough. Make a volcano of flour on a clean table. Pour a little more than half the water in the middle of the mount and use a fork to stir it with the flour. Add more water gradually, till you have a tough dough. Use the heal of your hand for kneading, when the fork is no longer useful. Keep kneading for at least 10 minutes or use a pasta machine.

Run the dough through the pasta machine once. If the edges are frayed, add more water, and if the dough seems sticky, add more flour. Roll the pasta through the machine at least ten times at max width (to make up for ten minutes kneading).

Decrease the width of the pasta machine gradually, one step at a time. Cut the pasta out in circles.

Leave the pasta on wire rack covered by a clean tea towel.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Clean, peel and chop the Jerusalem artichokes into smaller pieces. Fry them in butter over low heat with thyme until they become soft. Blend the Jerusalem artichokes. Blend in a couple of almonds or walnuts, if the mixture seems too runny.

Zucchini salsa is prepared in much the same way. Peel, chop and fry the onion and garlic, add cleaned and chopped zucchini and fresh thyme and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Blend to a smooth salsa and taste with salt. If you want a more creamy texture, you can stir in a tbsp of parmesan and ricotta or mascarpone

Fill the pasta circles with a tsp of the Jerusalem artichoke mixture. Boil for 3-4 minutes in a large pan filled with salty water and serve with the zucchini salsa and sprinklings of fresh thyme.

onsdag den 29. september 2010

Polenta and appel cake

The breakfast buffet at Hotel Americana in Trento contains a really nice cake made from polenta and apples, but I have failed to get hold of the recipe. Instead I have tried Jamie Oliver’s bustrengo and modified the ingredients a bit, as the first result became too pudding-like for my taste.

This version is moist and filling, without additional spices it has some of the Trentino taste and it gets better a day or two after being baked.

1½ dl polenta (cornmeal)
3 dl plain flour
1½ dl sugar
1 dl runny honey
4 eggs
1 dl olive oil
4 apples
1 dl dried figs
1 dl raisins
1 tsp salt
Powdered sugar for dusting

Core, peel and chop the apples.
Soak chopped figs and raisins in boiling water.
Mix polenta, flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
Stir eggs, honey and olive oil in the dry ingredients with an electric mixer.
Press the water from figs and raisins and fold the fruit including apples in the cake mixture.
Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin and bake for 50 minutes at 180 C (350 F)
Dust the cake with powdered sugar when cold.
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