Category Archive: Today’s Dish

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

The dog days of summer are here! A bit late in the season, but better late than never. Believe it or not, I like it hot, so I’m not complaining. However, when the mercury rises, my desire to stand over a hot stove and stir around in pots goes down drastically. Which is where this delicious ricotta pie comes in. It relies on the freshest and ripest green beans, tomatoes, and basil of the season, and shows them off beautifully against the backdrop of cool ricotta cheese and fruity olive oil. With the help of a food processor, the pie crust is made in a snap. This pie is a great dish to serve at a party, especially with a glass of crisp white wine. I know I keep repeating myself, but if summer only lasted forever…

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables
For the crust (24cm round springform pan):
200g flour
28g corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g butter, very cold and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
80ml cold water
4 basil leaves, finely chopped

1. Put flour, corn starch, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 seconds.
2. Add butter and egg yolk and process until crumbs form.
3. Add water and basil leaves and process until a smooth dough forms. Add more water if the dough does not come together.
4. Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic foil and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to about 0.5cm thickness and transfer to springform pan. Press into pan, shaping a low border up the sides of the pan.
6. Prick dough all over with fork, cover with baking paper and baking weights or beans, and bake in preheated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.
7. Remove weights and paper, and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
8. Remove from oven and let cool completely on rack.

For the topping:
400g ricotta
6 San Marzano tomatoes, cut into thick rounds
150g green beans, cut into 2 to 3cm long pieces, blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes
30g grated parmigiano
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

1. In a bowl, mix ricotta with 10 finely chopped basil leaves, the parmigiano, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread 3/4 of the ricotta mix into the pie crust.
3. Top with green beans and tomatoes.
4. Top with spoonfuls of the remaining ricotta mix, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Top with basil leaves, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Caponata

Caponata, the iconic Sicilian eggplant dish

The deep purple and maroon hues of eggplants and their different shapes and sizes have always fascinated me. But for the longest time, I had a big aversion to them. Until I sampled eggplant dishes in Italy and Turkey. That’s when it hit me: I had simply never had eggplant this delicious before! My aversion had nothing to do with this beautiful vegetable, but everything with the way it was prepared.

I discovered my latest eggplant love during my recent trip to Sicily. Caponata, one of the most iconic dishes of the island’s wonderful cuisine is served there as an appetizer, sometimes at room temperature, sometimes cold. There are as many recipes as there are cooks, but all of them share one common trait – a delicious contrast of textures and aromas. Caponata is at once earthy and elegant, sweet and salty, comforting and very easy on the palate.

Make sure to use dark purple eggplants, preferably capers conserved in salt (vs. capers in vinegar), and a good quality red wine vinegar. Enjoy it with some crusty Italian bread and a glass of red wine, and you’ll wish summer would never end!

Caponata (serves 4 as an appetizer)
1 large eggplant (500 to 600g), cut into small cubes
300g pelati (canned peeled tomatoes)
50g green olives, cut into rounds
1 tablespoon capers in salt, rinsed
20g pine nuts
20g raisins
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
handful of fresh basil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
sea salt

1. Put eggplant cubes in a bowl and mix with a few tablespoons of sea salt (this will extract the bitterness of the eggplant).
2. Let stand for 10 minutes, then rinse well under lukewarm water. Pat dry.
3. Deep fry eggplant in olive oil for a few minutes.
4. Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper towels.
5. Deep fry celery in the same oil used for deep frying the eggplants.
6. Fry until golden and crispy, then transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper towels.
7. Pour off excess oil from pan except for 3-4 tablespoons.
8. In remaining oil, sautee onion for a few minutes, then add tomatoes and their juices.
9. Crush tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.
10. Add sugar and vinegar, and cook until almost all liquid has evaporated and the sauce is relatively dry.
11. Add pine nuts, raisins, capers, and olives.
12. Add eggplant, celery, and whole basil leaves.
13. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes.
14. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
15. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Pizza Tricolore

Pizza Tricolore

Pizza is one of my favorite Italian dishes, as long as it resembles the real deal, and not some bizarre concoction from a fast food chain. I know everyone likes their food differently, so no offense to anyone, but pizza crust stuffed with fake cheese and topped with clumps of mystery meat is not pizza. That’s about as far removed from pizza as instant coffee is from cappuccino made with an espresso machine. The ultimate affront though are those awful garlic sticks on the side, especially when they are pimped with one of those slimy sauces that come in little plastic containers.

Whether you like your pizza crust thin or thick, one thing is for sure – making pizza at home is fun and tastes so much better than the frozen or delivered stuff. In fact, there’s no comparison. While I am partial to tomato sauce on my pizza, I don’t always feel like making it, especially in the summer when I like dishes to be light and easy. Representing the three colors of Italy’s national flag, this is probably the easiest pizza you can make at home. With the aid of a food processor, making the dough is a snap, and once the dough has risen you’ll be eating home made pizza fresh from the oven in no time. It’s a real treat in the summer when ripe tomatoes and fresh basil add their intense flavor to this dish. Buon appetito!

Pizza Tricolore (serves 2)
For the dough:
1 tablespoon dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 cup warm (not hot!) water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, depending on the flour

your favorite ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
a few tablespoons of ricotta
some grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling
chopped garlic
salt, pepper
fresh basil leaves

1. Put the water, yeast, and pinch of sugar in a small bowl or cup.
2. Let stand for a few minutes until foam and bubbles appear on the surface.
3. Put flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough hook.
4. Add olive oil and water and yeast mix, and process until a smooth dough forms.
5. The dough should be elastic but not too dry or too sticky.
6. Knead dough a few times on a floured surface. Form into a ball.
7. Put dough in a bowl lightly brushed with oil, and cover.
8. Let rest for about 20 – 30 min. or until doubled in size.
9. With a rolling pin, roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness.
10. Transfer dough to baking sheet.
11. Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese onto dough.
12. Sprinkle with chopped garlic
12. Distribute tomato slices evenly, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
13. Season with salt and pepper.
14. Bake in a preheated oven at 220C/425F for about 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
15. Let pizza cool, sprinkle with basil leaves, and drizzle with some olive oil.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck

Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck

I’m usually a bit suspicious of sauces made with bell peppers, because they tend to have a rather bitter and unpleasant taste. Roasting the peppers is a good way to avoid this problem and add a layer of smokiness, but I have to admit I avoid the process of roasting peppers myself like the plague. For some reason, it always ends up such a mess – the peppers first come out of the oven in all their roasted glory, but when I set out to peel them, it goes downhill from there. What I am left with is a battlefield of shriveled up peel that sticks to my fingers like glue, and pieces of bell pepper that are smashed beyond recognition. Not a good idea. I don’t like store bought roasted peppers either though, because they just don’t taste that good and have a strange “preserved” texture to them.

Enter this wonderful sweet bell pepper cream. No roasting or peeling required at all, and the best part? The sauce is incredibly creamy, yet there’s not a lick of cream in it! And making it couldn’t be any simpler. Just simmer onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers in extra virgin olive oil and water until they are tender and the water has evaporated, give it a few spins in a blender, and voila, you have an exquisite sauce for spaghetti!

The subtle sweetness of the bell pepper sauce forms a lovely background for the sharp arugula and the salty Speck in this dish. It’s great with some crusty Italian bread, and a nice glass of red wine. If you need inspiration for picking a good bottle of red, head on over to Stevie and Heguiberto’s great blog, Weird Combinations where you’ll find lots of fun reviews of (Californian) vineries and their liquid products!

Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck (serves 4)
400g spaghetti
200g red bell pepper, cut into small cubes
100g red onion, thinly sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 slices Tyrolean Speck
arugula
extra virgin olive oil
salt

1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a casserole pan and add onions and peppers.
2. Sautee over high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Add tomatoes and 500ml water.
4. Salt to taste and let simmer uncovered until peppers are tender and the water has evaporated.
5. Blend in a blender until creamy.
6. Cook spaghetti al dente in plenty of boiling and salted water.
7. Drain spaghetti. Do not rinse.
8. Mix sauce and pasta in the same pot you cooked the spaghetti in.
9. Divide spaghetti among plates, and top each plate with a slice of Speck and a few stems of arugula.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Cantaloupe Salad

Cantaloupe Salad With Parmesan Croutons

Some flavors are a match made in heaven. Think of sticky rice with mango, or cantaloupe and prosciutto. Whenever I have cantaloupe, I always want a slice or two of prosciutto with it. The salty prosciutto perfectly balances the sweetness of the melon, and it’s such a perfect combination of flavors that can hardly be improved upon. Or so I thought.

The classic ham/melon pairing gets seriously dressed up in this wonderfully refreshing salad, which makes an elegant appetizer or a light lunch on a hot summer day. For a new twist, I used Tyrolean Speck instead of prosciutto, which has a more rustic and smoky aroma than its Italian cousin. There’s also the mellow taste of mozzarella, while mint and basil add little bursts of summer flavor throughout the salad. For a nice crunch, the salad is topped with lemon and parmesan croutons and dressed with a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinegar marinade. If you can’t find lamb’s ear lettuce, substitute with arugula. If unavailable, use prosciutto instead of Tyrolean Speck.

Cantaloupe Salad With Parmesan Croutons (serves 4)
For the croutons:
90g baguette, cut into small cubes
30g grated parmesan cheese
20ml extra virgin olive oil
finely grated peel of 1 lemon
salt

Dressing:
1/4 garlic clove, finely chopped
50ml extra virgin olive oil
20ml balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, pepper

1/2 Cantaloupe, cut into thin slices
12 thin slices Tyrolean Speck
250g mozzarella, torn into small pieces
lamb’s ear lettuce or arugula
handful of mint leaves
handful of basil leaves

1. In a bowl, mix bread cubes, parmesan, oil, lemon zest, and salt to taste.
2. Sautee coated bread cubes in a pan over high heat until crunchy and golden.
3. Set aside and let cool.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing.
5. Cut melon into small wedges.
6. Arrange lettuce on plates, and top with melon, mozzarella, and Speck.
7. Drizzle dressing over salad right before serving.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email