Vegetables Va Va Voom

Hello there, how are you all getting over the recent festivities and what usually accompanies them?  You know what I mean – that extra pound or two as we weigh up the situation on the scales, the liver sensibly asking for some respite from tipple-mania, and the body aching to be involved in a modicum of movement and fitness.   Yes, it is very good to overindulge every now and then, to allow our hair to cascade down, to increment the variety of spices in our life and to let two of the Seven Cardinal Sins, gluttony and sloth, out of the moral no-no box in which we justly allocate them the rest of the year.  My mother-in-law Maria’s mental health is  fast degenerating on account of dementia/Alzheimers with all the sadness that that entails for all concerned, not least of which are the ‘missing’ wit and quips in her conversation.  If there were to be just one sentence I would love to hear her utter again then that would be, “Lord save us from the virtuous !”.

That said, one does have to be sensible.  I can’t stand the term ‘detox’ but I’m presuming a large swathe of post-holidays revellers are embracing it full on.

Last Saturday I went to Frascati’s weekly Slow Food (local) farmers’ market as well as to the town’s covered market which is open six days a week, and it was as if I couldn’t get enough of the vegetables on offer.  I went quite beserk, and came home laden like a mule with bags hanging from both shoulders and being carried in both hands.  It’s not a long walk from these markets to where I live but it was quite the haul, I assure you and not very comfortable.  As I took out the vegetables out of the bags, I could see that I had perhaps … ahem … erred on the side of vegetable excess (can’t think of the Cardinal Sins’ name for that one) ?  I made myself some squash soup for lunch and as I went about my way, I fell into a reverie of sorts.

We all know vegetables are healthy and good for us.  But really, I do love love love me veggies – there wasn’t a hint of ‘detox’ notion clouding my purchase – it was sheer lust (another Cardinal sin) that drove me.  Vegetables make me happy, you see.  As does wine.  And so my thoughts flitted about being  vegetarian and vegan in our contemporary times.  Again, I came to the conclusion I’ve had for a while, which is that I am an omnivore with a twist: I am a vegetarian who eats lots of meat, fish and dairy foods.  But I can easily eschew meat or fish at a meal whereas I simply cannot contemplate one without vegetables.  I started writing a post along these lines yesterday but it ‘degenerated’ and got to be so long that I am going to post it separately.

Here, in the meantime, just take a look at all my lovely vegetables from last Saturday’s morning shop.  The exercise included walking and weights so well done I.

6Radishes … mmm.  My sister made a herring based paté to serve with them (it included yogurt, thick Italian spreadable cheese, freshly grated horse radish, lemon juice and zest, parsely and olive oil.  We tweaked the recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s TV ones that was made using smoked mackerel instead.

1Artichokes are coming into their own season-wise just now.  We had these three beauties for dinner last night, cooked the classic Roman way.  See link below.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/edible-roses-the-seasonally-correct-artichoke-1/

7Spuds.  We got these for our mother.

IMG_6186Thinly cut, lots of olive oil, dried chilli flakes, and salt and pepper.  This is how we cooked them that evening.

4The garlic bulbs  (Italian, from the Abbruzzo region) were for my sister to take back to Blighty.  It’s hard to find good garlic in the UK.  The fennel is still in the fridge, as is the  bunch of spring onions.  That yellow thing is a bergamot.  I’d never seen one before. Smells heavenly.  Tasted the zest and it was overpowering, fwah.  The apple I ate after lunch.  The red pepper: we griddled it and had it for dinner with olive oil, parsely and thin slices of garlic.  Up top in the photo and hard to make out, is some lamb’s lettuce and a small bunch of rocket/arugula.

8These are what we call ‘broccoletti’ in and around Rome.  Broccoli Rabe or Rapini elsewhere.   I’d trimmed them of the bits that are not nice to eat and left them to soak in this cheerful yellow tub.  Later I boiled them in salted water until tender.  Once drained and cooled, they need to be pressed to remove the excess moisture.  They can be served either plain, with just a squirt of lemon juice and olive oil (which is how we enjoyed them).  Or else, they can be cooked a second time in a frying pan, tossed about and coated in olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes.  Here’s a link to a quick pasta recipe using broccoletti:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/hurry-up-pasta/

10This is what we call cicoria – pronounced chee-corr-eee-ah in English.

11It’s a bit of a labour of love trimming cicoria.  It too needs soaking in plenty of water before cooking.  There is always some soil attached to it that needs removing.

The link below will show you what I did with this cicoria, after boiling it first.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/cichorium-intybus/

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The above vegetable is “Cicoria catalogna”, another variety of cicoria.  During this time of year, this veggie gets trimmed and turned into a beautiful salad.  We call this “puntarelle”  here.  The dressing includes the ubiquitous olive oil, plus garlic, vinegar and anchovy fillets.  Quote from wikipedia: Puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago is a variant of chicory. The heads are characterized by an elongated shape (about 40–50 cm), light green stems and dandelion shaped leaves. ‘Puntarelle’ shoots have a pleasantly bitter taste.

Our Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without them.  Anyway, see a link on how to prepare them:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/little-points-big-salad-puntarelle/

2This broccolo romano is still in the fridge.

3Ditto this cabbage.

12And last and definitely not least, here is some of othe squash I used to make myself some soup as already mentioned.

Here is wishing you all a happy vegetable-filled year.

Autumn Vignarola – Genius Idea

BACKGROUND

A vignarola, for those who may not know, is a vegetable stew that is all about Spring, late spring.  The word ‘vigna’ means vineyard and signals the bounty that the countryside can bring to the table during that time of year.   I wrote an in-depth post about it some time ago, when it was seasonally appropriate.  It is mostaly about ripe artichokes, fresh broad beans and peas etc. (https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/vignarola-the-pilgrimage-of-posh/).

LAST NIGHT

Last night, as I composed a dish with some ingredients that happened to be sitting in the fridge, I became ‘high’ on my own steam … the delight of ending up with a recipe that was too good not to repeat!  The creativity of it all was an incredible boon.  And so I felt just like Little Jack Horner and said “What a good girl am I” for having come up with the idea.  The idea of an Autumn Vignarola.  Genius! Ha! Clap of hands and a good old-fashioned whirl, never mind the ubiquitous thumbs up.   It’s good to be self congratulatory now and then, why not.  It’s good to play in the kitchen, the way we used to play as children.

INGREDIENTS

Please bear in mind that I already had these ingredients, and it was only as they came out of the fridge that I cobbled the recipe together.

Artichokes, pork jowl (guanciale), spring onion, somewhat limp courgette blossoms, fresh mint, parsely, previously cooked ricotta, dessert wine.  Considering it is Autumn and the vineyards are still producing ripe grapes, maybe I will add a few grapes next time.

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See this? this is some ricotta that I had baked in the oven a few days previously.  Just ricotta, no other ingredient.

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That’s what you can do with leftover fresh ricotta: bake it in the oven for use another time.  IMG_5186

Here you see the spring onion, diced ricotta and courgette blossoms that are well past their first bloom but still edible.

LET’S START COOKING

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I trimmed and sliced the artichokes and started cooking them with just olive oil and slices of pork jowl.  Normally, ripe artichokes don’t take that long to cook this way.  After a while, however, I could see that these artichokes (they are not quite in season and are a little hard) were taking their time.  So I added some water to speed up the stewing.

IMG_5187I also added a splash of dessert wine – it works very well with artichokes as it turns out!

IMG_5189When the artichokes were finally cooked, I added the diced ricotta, the raw spring onion, the courgette blossoms and the fresh mint and parsely.  I turned the heat off but left the ingredients in to ‘warm up’ before plating.

IMG_5190Added a spray of pepper.

Doesn’t look like much, does it.  What a shame.  It was deeeelicious, even if I say so myself.

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Autumn vignarola.  Another seasonal dish to look forward to.

 

Artichoke Soufflé (Sformato di Carciofo)

This is how the late and much missed freelance writer Kyle Phillips, a Tuscany-based food and wine lover and expert, described a sformato.  “A sformato is similar to a soufflé, but not as airy, and therefore doesn’t require the care in preparation its French cousin does — there’s no danger that it will deflate.”

The reason my last previous blog was all about soufflé is that I was making a soufflé with cooked artichokes in it.

When I looked at the sheer amount of artichokes, I realized that I did not have a large enough soufflé dish to accommodate it. Not to worry – I went for an oven dish that was indeed large enough.  The only ‘problem’ I realized, however, was that the soufflé would now not ‘rise’ as such because the mixture would be spread out too thinly.  No problem!  Instead of a soufflé, I would make a sformato. Call if a flan if you prefer.

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This is the saucepan containing a mash of three cooked artichokes, which I had blended together with some grated pecorino, cream, salt and pepper and lots of fresh mint.  At this stage, the mash was a little warmer than room temperature.

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I then proceeded to make the roux for the soufflé (6 egg yolks etc – see previous blog).

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I then combined the soufflé roux with the artichoke mash, and transferred it to a mixing bowl.4I buttered the large oven dish.

5I then whisked the 6 egg whites with an eletric whisk until nice and firm.

6I added some of the egg whites to the artichoke mash – to loosen it up a little.  It was pretty thick.  Be gentle.

7And then of course I added the rest of the egg whites, being careful not to combine too vigorously for fear of ruining the ‘airiness’ of it all.

8It all got transferred to the oval oven dish.

9I popped it into the hot oven, at 190°C.  It cooked for about 35 minutes.

10And here it is out of the oven and ready to be eaten.

And very nice it was too.  Pecorino cheese and artichoke are best friends.

This is good to eat even at room temperature.  Perfect for a picnic, why not?

Below is a link to another website that quotes Kyle Phillips and sformato making, just in case you might be interested.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-make-a-spinach-sformato-2019091

Basic Cooking Class Italian Style – A Bit of Boot Camp Never Hurt

Kindness is timeless.

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You know the cooking experience is going to go well when you are offered a beautiful orchid plant even before starting the lesson!  The story may be apocryphal but I had read that in China it was customary for an audience to clap before the show took place, maybe to clear the air of any unwanted negative energy or, on the contrary, to imbue the air with positive vibrations emanating from the clapping itself.  I was just so touched by the attitude of gratitude that my two fellow kitchen ‘combatants’ showed me with their floral offering and their smiles.

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The venue was the home of Victoria Bonadonna and her very generous and thoroughly organized kitchen space.

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I don’t like the kitchen spaces used for formal cookery lessons; highly technical, ergonomic and hygienic in the extreme, and thus practical for understandably obvious reasons, they lack any ‘real home’ element to them – it’s like being in a gymn as opposed to walking in a park or swimming in the sea. Victoria’s is no huge kitchen and is proof that size does not matter immeasurably when it comes to putting good food on the table.  Victoria does, however, boast many and necessary accoutrements for making the cooking process a smooth one, the helpful kitchen gadgets or ‘toys’ as I call them:  precision electronic scales, knives, immersion blender, electric whisk/beater and plenty of pots and pans of all sizes.  Victoria has plenty more kitchen trinkets but these are the ones that really matter. Oh, and scissors ! Scissors can save the day.

And Victoria is, and very much so, organised.  I think that that is one of the ‘ingredients’ that doesn’t get enuogh mention when it comes to realistic, do-able, enjoyable cooking. Mental clarity and organization are everything.  So it is better to start learning a few simple techniques and tips first and play around with those until they are under your belt, and then brave recipes that require a lot more skill.  And this is precisely why I love Italian cookery: the techniques are so easy, anyone can learn them.  Good meals can be prepared in very little time.  Since time management, as we know, is something of a challenge for so many of us, this is an immense boon.

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Victoria is the mother of two and an accomplished home cook.  Moreover, she can bake whereas I do so with hesitant trepidation.  And she can barbecue too – which I cannot because we live in an apartment and don’t have a garden.  Victoria is privy to an award-winning barbecue recipe that her cousin in Missouri shared with her; she gave me some tips for spare ribs that I then made for my nephew who loves them and, though roasted in an oven as opposed to a proper barbecue, boy!  Boy were they good!.

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Victoria’s lifestyle is typical of many women raising kids: an early wake-up, breakfast for the kids, drive them to two different schools, pick them up at lunch time (in Italy school kids finish their day at around 1 o’clock after a certain age), make them lunch, make sure they get started on their homework, take them to various sports or activities in the afternoon, and then – of course- make them dinner.  In other words, she is busy.  Busy all day.  In and out of the car at regular daily intervals.  Oh and did I mention that she runs the Culture Club of the Castelli as well as the Castelli Welcome Neighbour Association?

Christine (below) is a mother to be and about to return to her native Napa after spending nearly two years in Italy on account of her husband’s work.  She likes to cook too and was keen to learn more about a few simple, easy to make Italian recipes, for weekday meals.  So Victoria and I conspired to organize an Italian Bootcamp Cooking Basics for her day before yesterday.  The appointed time was 10 a.m. and it had to be over by 4 p.m.  I did most of the shopping the day before but bought some fresh vegetables first thing in that morning.

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Here we are, the car unloaded and we are about to begin.

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Below is the list of what we prepared together. At the end of this post, I put up some links to most of the recipes we cooked that I have blogged about.

LIST OF RECIPES

(1) Chicken stock – which we used to make (2 ) Chicken Corn soup (admittedly not an Italian recipe) and (3) Egg Drop Soup (stracciatella).  We also made (4) Salad soup.

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(5) We prepared the easiest of tomato sauces – Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce using just a can of plum tomatoes, an onion and plenty of butter.  We used this sauce to make (6) riso al pomodoro (rice in tomato sauce) and to cook (7) meatballs in what was left of it.  It would make a delicious sauce for pasta too (8), all one would need is add some freshly grated parmesan.  So just think about this: one tomato sauce and three recipes as a result!

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We prepared previously cooked, shop bought (9) borlotti beans with the rind of pancetta and some tomato paste squeezed out of a tube (we had used the pancetta for the salad soup).  We made (10) pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpea/garbanzo thick soup).  Using my special quick-and-easy technique, one could also make pasta e fagioli, pasta with beans soup, it would be the same procedure.

Pasta dishes:  (11) pasta with broccoli and sausage and (12) spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli flakes.

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The broccoli and sausage pasta (11) is on the upper left of this photo, next to the carrots.

We  made (13) polpette – meatballs – from scratch and cooked them in the tomato sauce with the addition of peas.  We used thinly sliced chicken breasts to make (14) chicken with ginger (my own recipe) and (15) chicken with oranges.

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We blanched spinach to make (16) spinaci alla romana.  We cooked (17) broccoletti in the oven with olive oil, lemon zest and a dusting of parmiggiano  (parmesan).  We made (18) mashed potatoes the Italian way (with the addition of parmesan and nutmeg).  We also made (19) a pepper stew – peperonata – even though this is not the best seasons for capsicum.  We also sliced some carrots (20) and cooked them down with butter and water.

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We made a very unscientific batter (21) and fried (22) artichokes and (23) courgette/zucchini flowers.

And this marked the end of the savoury dishes.

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Last we made a (24) jam tart (crostata) with wild cherry jam.  When I say ‘we’, I actually made Victoria make it – I know she likes getting her fingers stuck in the job when it comes to baking.   Thank goodness for a stand mixer … I was giving her instructions all backwards, and told her to put the flour in first, instead of the butter.  Ah well, kitchen catastrophes do take place and we have to understand that that is ‘normal’ too, and that we have to find remedies for them.  A good sense of humour and a glass of wine can be very helpful.

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The sour cherry crostata, just out of the oven.

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Victoria, on the left, is holding the crema pasticcera (baker’s custard).

So … all in all …. 25 recipes.  Not bad.  And every single one very easy to make and execute (except for the frying maybe). The whole experience was coloured by banter, joking, exchanging stories and all those conversations that are so good for bonding.  When I got home, a little on the exhausted side physically, but ‘high’ emotionally, I came across an article which just spoke out to me, as if  to pat me on the back as it were – me and all the wonderful ‘ordinary’ people people, not celebrity chefs or ‘slebs’ as Gareth Jones used to call them, ordinary people both male and female, young and old, who understand that cooking is NOT, or at least need not be, a chore.  It  was an interview with  Jules Blaine Davis in which she mentions how her mother admonished her  for relying on take-away/take-out foods so heavily.  Her mother told her in no uncertain terms:

“We need to make the kitchen a place where you can BE, not a place where there are things you have to DO.”

Well … thank you Christine and Victoria.  We certainly did a lot of both ‘doing’ and ‘being’.

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If you are interested in trying some of the recipes above, for which I have written a blog post, you will find the links below.

Recipe for a mixed meat stock/broth: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/taking-stock-over-making-stock-olivers-brodo/

Lettuce soup: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/soup-series-salad-soup/

Pasta e ceci soup: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/pasta-e-ceci/

Pasta e fagioli soup: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/good-golly-pasta-e-fagioli/

Spaghetti with garlic, oil, chilli, pecorino and mint: https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/dracula-style-spaghetti-with-garlic-mint-and-pecorino/

Pasta with broccoli and anchovy and pecorino sauce: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/green-technique-and-sicilian-broccoli-pasta/

Pasta with broccoli and sausage: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/pasta-with-broccoli-and-sausage-pasta-broccoli-e-salsiccia/

Chicken with orange: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/the-doleful-door-stop/

Meatballs with peas in a tomato sauce: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/meatballs-with-peas-polpette-con-piselli/

Mashed potatoes the Italian way: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/the-comfort-of-a-spud-il-pure-di-patate-mashed-potatoes-italian-style/

Spinaci alla romana (they are mentioned towards the end of the post): https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/going-tuscan-for-st-valentines-peposo-cannellini-and-spinach/

Batter for frying: the ‘unscientific’ recipe we used in our cooking class was the following: 2 serving spoons of ordinary flour plus one of corn starch; repeat until you think you have the desired amount (we did it 4 times).  Add one egg.  Add one spoon of vodka or grappa.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil.  Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes in the fridge. The following link is another way to make batter: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/my-favourite-batter-for-courgette-blossoms/

Recipe for crostata pastry (pie crust): 300g sifted flour, pinch of salt, 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 150g sugar, 150g butter at room temperature, finely grated lemon zest.

Baker’s custard (crema pasticcera) https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/bakers-custard-crema-pasticcera/

And the flowers are just so beautiful.  Again, thank you.

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Catastrophic Artichoke Patties

In which a disgruntled hero tackles a disappointing result hands on hips.

Well, the hero (or heroine rather) would be me, and the adventure a culinary one from which even Aesops might draw a moral.  It all began with my being attracted to a recipe for cooking artichokes in a way completely different from my usual Roman trope (alla romana, alla giudia or even fried in batter).  Indeed, the recipe hails from Lombardy and the hint of mint made my nostrils flare with anticipation: parmesan, breadcrumbs and mint – what’s not to like? To be baked in the oven as opposed to the stove top – curioser and curioser.  So, nothing loath, off I trotted to buy the carciofi, the artichokes.

Ingredients for the disaster Baked Artichokes

The original recipe called for six artichokes but because there were going to be only two of us for dinner I halved the amounts.  Thus: 3 artichokes, 40g grated parmesan, 25g breadcrumbs, fresh mint leaves, 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Usually I comment the photos I take, one by one.  This time I won’t reference throughout because the procedure is quite obvious.

The artichokes need to be trimmed and their tough outer layers of leaves be unsparingly removed (show no mercy).  Simmer the artichokes whole in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, drain and place in cold water until they cool down.

Put the stuffing together (breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, minced mint leaves, and olive oil).

 

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Stuff the artichokes, sprinkle salt, dribble olive oil and place head down in a pyrex dish, with each head of artichoke covering a whole mint leaf.

Put the dish in a preheated oven (150°) for around 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven … and this is when I am supposed to say, “And Enjoy”.

Oh woe is me.  I cannot. This was the first time ever my favourite husband disappoved of something I had cooked; he nodded his head disapprovingly from side to side and confessed that, “No … they just aren’t good.  I can’t eat them.  Sorry.”

They were … haaard.  Woody.  Woody and weird.  Unappealing in the extreme.  I tried two bites and then gave in myself too.

And I was angry.  I hate it when a recipe fails to satisfy.  In this I am very much like Richmal Crompton’s character William Brown, from her  Just William book series.  I expect readers much younger than I will have never heard of them and you don’t know what you you are missing  – I think people suffering from depression should be made to read them as part of their recovery programme (here is a link to an episode from the TV series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TycXDEZdqgo – and here is another one, from a previous series:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEVm4MuB9_c  ) but the original books are bound to be better).   Anyway, in one of the stories, I’m afraid I can’t remember the title, William is spurred to break apart a grandfather clock, following the instructions from a Do-it-yourself book on how to recreate something or other.  When he attempts to put the clock back together again, and is unable to, he blames the book.  “You’d think the book would know what it’s talking about!” he complains bitterly, feeling quite betrayed, and amazed that his parents should get cross with him for his misdemeanour.  And that’s a little how I felt about that artichoke recipe.  And so, just before falling asleep that night, I vowed that I’d teach those artichokes a lesson or two, huh.  Scroll down and you will find out how I salvaged the situation.

Ingredients for the Salvation Artichoke Patties: diced chunks of mozzarella, 1 egg, breadcrumbs, groundnut oil or olive oil for frying

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This is what I started off with.  Basically, two cooked artichokes.

19I placed them in the processor and turned them to a pulp.

I cut up a mozzeralla into small chunks.  And I rolled the pulp into ball shapes.

22I flattened the balls and placed some mozzarella over each one.

23I rolled them back into a ball again.  So, in other words, each ball was stuffed with some mozzarella.

24I beat one egg and coated the artichoke balls with it.

2526I then coated the balls with breadcrumbs.

27And I fried them in batches in very hot oil for a very short time (they were already cooked after all) – just until they turned golden.

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Here is one of them, cut in half … the molten mozzarella looking like the telephine line of a supplì !

And this time, they WERE good, phew.  Not sure I’d make them again but at least I managed to salvage the situation and make something good of a kitchen catastrophe.

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Three left over the next morning.  Good even at room temperature.

So: three cheers and hurrah for luscious leftovers and delicious fried artichoke patties. The fried food fanatic (FFF) did it again, yeay!

PS St Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks.  Does anyone know if there is a patron saint for fried foods?

Singing for My Supper – The Chores and Pleasures of a Nice Dinner Party

We had some friends over for supper last week and I thought I would do the clever thing without cutting corners, and that is to go for slow-cooked dishes that wouldn’t require me to hover and fuss over them too much, especially not once the guests arrived. So I opted for a menu to include tried-and-tested, crowd-pleasing dishes: egg noodles with duck sauce , followed by a Peposo,  an ancient recipe from Impruneta in Tuscany that is the most minimalist recipe ever for beef stewed in wine, and, as a vegetable side dish (‘contorno’), artichokes braised the Roman way, carciofi alla romana.

Friends coming over to dinner brought loaves of heady-frangranced home made bread, pumpkin and orange soup and potato dauphinois.  Another brought a ricotta cake and my sister-in-law Nadia made the pudding: panettone pudding with a spiced cream redolent of mulled wine.

I smile as I look at the photos I took in anticipation …

1Here is the duck sauce cooking away.  I added a tablespoon of cocoa powder this time, aha!, to give it more depth.  I don’t think anyone noticed but I like to experiment. (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/fettuccine-with-duck-sauce/)  2

Here is the beef, drowned in red wine, about to be cooked nestling inside an earthenware saucepan . (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/going-tuscan-for-st-valentines-peposo-cannellini-and-spinach/)  These cooking vessels are brilliant for slow cooked dishes requiring a low heat.3Here is the red wine I used – a very nice selection from Lazio’s Cesanese varietals.4And here are the artichokes I braised : all twelve of them!  I very wisely started cooking them last so that the prepping would coincide with an encouraging glass of fermented grape juice around wine o’clock (do admit, 12 artichokes are a LOT of artichokes to deal with).  (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/edible-roses-the-seasonally-correct-artichoke-2/).

And the dinner went very well, I am glad to say.  We all enjoyed ourselves, it was a lot of fun.

As for the nex morning, however, what do we get? Lots of washing up to do! That’s what.

8That is the bottom of the pan in which the duck ragu cooked.  Ouff.  Had to leave some water and salt soaking in it for half a day before I was ready to scrub that off.

7Here is the terracotta saucepan in which the peposo cooked.  This is every so easy to wash but one does have to careful because a careless slip of the hand and … crash … no more saucepan.  Plus, it really is very large and quite difficult to handle.9

And this was the big huge pan for the artichokes.  None of these pans, it goes without saying, fit into a dish washer.  So yes … a bit of a pallaver, all told.

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Not to mention the wine glasses.

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And last but not least, the tablecloth needs to be washed and ironed.

For all that I am a sane person and much happier cooking than cleaning and washing up, I have to say I rarely mind the ‘day after’.  I do what has to be done in batches, if I can, and I go over all the nice elements of the night before, reliving the most relishable moments.

img_2254The lovely home made bread.

img_2256Lovely home made butter too!

img_2258And friends and family tucking into the meal.  Conversation.   Laughter.  Teasing.  Glasses clinking. Head nodding of approval.  Head shaking when in disagreement but nobody cares anyway. Pouring of wine (and water too … ).  It’s all about being together. There were ten of us.

img_2266And then it’s time for pudding …. dessert.  Nadia to the rescue.  But we have to clear the table first.

Let me tell you all about that in the next post.

 

Luscious Leftover: Trinoro Le Cupole for Sausages and for Cauliflower

When an old friend announced that she and her husband and a couple of their friends were going to be spending a few days in Rome over the New Year, an impromptu decision made at the last minute, I of course revelled at the prospect.  We met, rather bleary eyed and worse for festivity wear, on the evening of January first for an aperitivo at Rosati’s in Piazza del Popolo.  As we sipped our respective cocktail favourites (prosecco, Negroni and Spritz) we exchanged stories of the night before and the fun and bopping and fireworks that we had appreciated.  The place they had chosen was in the heart of Rome’s “centro storico” had provided much appreciable people-watching and an allegro atmosphere but the food, unfortunately, was nothing to speak of.  “All the courses were the same colour is about all I can say!” was her description of its gastronomic underwhelm.  That got me thinking.  There is an Italian expression that says “anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte”, meaning “the eye too wants it share”, i.e. that appearances definitely matter.  And we do indeed usually equate a platter’s bright and contrasting colours with freshness and come-hither appetitsing value.  Conversely, a neutral beige or greige colour can only mutter lack of oomph when it comes to food.  And yet, what is one to make of porridge? If you like porridge, you don’t complain about its colour now, do you?  And what of dark browns?

And what of a single ingredient, a ‘leftover’ if you will,that makes a dish taste super duper even though its colour is not particularly attractive?  Here is the story:

When a good friend treats you to some very snappy red wine by way of a huge bottle of Trinoro ‘Le Cupole’, in the course of an end-year potluck party, you have good cause for celebration; when said friend insists you take home the bottle with one third of the wine left in … well then, its boozy bonanza I’d say.

3

I had some left-over stewed artichokes and three sausages. Trinoro to the rescue!  I cooked the sausages with some of this red nectar and then added them to the artichokes.

45I think those green stringy ‘bits’ are parsely stems.

6And here on the plate is the regal sausage with artichokes and a spoon of horseradish for an extra bit of vim.  What could be better than sausages cooked in red wine served with Le Cupole? The wine tasted lovely even 48 hours later,by the way.

All that remained the following day was one measely martini-glass amount of the wine.

4I had read about a recipe cooking cauliflower with olive oil, red wine, onion, black olives, anchovies, and pecorino romano cheese.  I thought I’d give it a try.

1Here are the ingredients, all of them except for the pecorino romano.

3Start chopping up the onion and laying it as one single layer in the saucepan; then cut up the cauliflower into  florets; douse with plenty of olive oil.

3aAdd the fillets of anchovy, the black olives and a shower of freshly grated pecorino cheese.

2Take one last tiny sip of the red wine … and make a love filled libation to the person you fancy the most or in gratitude to your destiny.

5Spread out the cauliflower florets so as to make a hole in the middle of the pan and pour the red wine right in.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt and white pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook over a modest heat for about 20-30 minutes.

6And here it is served on a nice platter.  The platter is very lovely indeed, the creation of a friend of mine, artist Cassandra Wainhouse who had made San Gimignano her home for many years.

7And here is  a close up.

Now … I ask you.  Does this dish look tempting?  Does it make you think, Golly I can’t wait to try it!  No.  And that’s because the red wine has turned the white of the cauliflower into a slush colour.

5Again, do these sausages and the artichokes look particularly enticing?  Let’s face it they don’t.

All this to say that colour, i.e. the colour of the foods we are about to eat, is not always the best indication of how tasty or appealing a dish is going to be.  Those sausages were fab and the cauliflower was very interesting and I am going to make it again this way (perhaps not cook it quite as much).

May this new year be colourful in the best of ways for us all! Happy New Year everyone.