Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #111

Weekend Herb Blogging returns home when Kalyn hosts this edition and it's not the only thing returning home - yes, I'm finally on the last leg of this vacation and will soon be home.

Although I'm in Tokyo at the moment I have prepared something while I was in Italy and it featured those lovely fresh Borlotti beans

borlotti beans

Even bean haters find it hard to go past those gorgeously speckled beans

borlotti beans

Unfortunately, with cooking those markings do disappear but you are rewarded with a wonderfully creamy bean that is low GI and high in fibre and protein.

The dish I've made is a simple braise - slow cooked with onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes I've added Cime di Rapa near the end of the cooking time to brighten the dish and add another textural element.


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Borlotti Beans braised with Onion, Tomato and Cime di Rapa

fresh Borlotti beans, podded
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
Roma Tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
Cime di Rapa, leaves only
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a little oil and knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat and when the butter has melted add the onion and garlic. Sauté this slowly until the onion has soften and has started to colour - be careful not to have the heat too high as you don't want to burn the garlic.

Add in the beans along with the chopped tomatoes and enough water to just cover the beans. Turn the heat down and allow this to simmer. How long it takes does depend on the freshness of the beans. If you find the mixture is drying out too quickly and the beans aren't cooked, then just add a little more water.

When the beans are just about ready, add in the Cime di Rapa - stir them through adding a little more liquid and continue to simmer until they have softened and the beans are cooked.

Taste and then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

This makes a great companion to meat dishes or even served as is on some thick slices of toasted bread for a quick and nutritious snack.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #40

It's a milestone for Presto Pasta Night, Ruth's little baby has reached the big 4-0 and so far we've enjoyed 39 weeks of pasta nirvana.

To celebrate I've made something a little special using, once again, the wonderful pasta from the Florence Market. This time I've gone for the fresh spaghetti

spaghetti©


and will be using it with my last remaining Umbrian Black Truffle

black truffle© by Haalo


If you are using something as flavoursome as a truffle then you really need to keep it simple. The base of my sauce will be a burnt butter sauce but this time, fine slices of truffle have been left in the melting butter to slowly infuse, creating a greater depth of flavour. Some of the truffles will break into small chunks that will cling to the pasta strands but you will also be left with some larger slices that can be luxuriously draped over the top of your finished dish.

Spaghetti with Black Truffle© by Haalo


Spaghetti with Black Truffle

fresh spaghetti
butter
1 black truffle, shaved
salt and freshly ground white pepper


With a dish such as this you really need to use the best butter you can find. In this case, I used this

butter


hand made butter from Tuscany that when unwrapped looked like this

butter© by haalo

it wasn't the shape that surprised me but more so the colour as Italian butters tend to be on the white side.

Take the butter and place it in a pan over a very gentle heat and when it starts to melt add the slices of truffle to the pot. Let this slowly melt, swivel the truffles in the stir rather than stir it as this will limit the number that will break down. When melted take it off the heat and cook your pasta.

This gives time for the the truffle to infuse.

When the pasta is just about ready but the pan back on the heat and continue to cook until it begins to brown. Add the drained pasta and fold it through. Taste and season with a little freshly ground salt and black pepper.

Serve into bowls and drape a few of the whole truffle slices over the top.

spaghetti with truffle© by Haalo


Breathe in, smile and eat at once!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #110

Weekend Herb Blogging heads to Melbourne, where I'll soon be returning and our host for this week is the fabulous Truffle from What's on my plate.

I've had quite flaky internet access in the last seven days so I haven't done as much as I would have liked so I'll be keeping this entry simple and make a classic Italian dish using this wonderful Rucola.

Rocket, Rugola, Rucola, Arugula, Roquette

Rucola, Arugula, Rocket, Roquette, whatever the name, it is still the same thing, Eruca Sativa to give it the proper name. High in Vitamin C and Iron it's a leaf that has been used since Roman times.

This particularly gorgeous bouquet of Rucola came from the Florence Market and it drew my attention as it seemed to bear little resemblance to the Rocket I can find back home. For one, it's a much larger leaf but it isn't tough, it is actually quite soft. There is that peppery bite but there's a bit more variance in the taste.

Once acquired I knew there was one dish I just had to make and it involved another purchase, Bresaola della Valtellina

Bresaola della Valtellina

Bresaola is air-dried and salted beef thigh and in the case of Bresaola della Valtellina it is especially regarded due to the quality of the alpine air of the region. What particularly impresses is just how soft the meat has become and it carries a pureness to its flavour. Once you're able to taste it this fresh it really does spoil you and I think it will be very hard to return to either the locally produced or imported versions as they just cannot compare.

With these two ingredients you have the basis of a classic dish that you find in just about every restaurant - served simply as an appetiser or first course, you'll usually find it listed as Bresaola con Rucola on the menus

Bresaola with Rucola

Bresaola con Rucola/Bresaola with Rucola

finely sliced Bresaola
Rucola (Rocket leaves), washed and dried
good Extra Virgin Olive oil
freshly grated black pepper
shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Lay the slices of Bresaola on your serving dish, overlapping slightly. Place a mound of Rucola in the centre of your dish. Grind over some black pepper and then drizzle over with the your favourite Extra Virgin Olive oil - a good "green" tasting oil is best. Finally sprinkle over with a little shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve at once and enjoy with some crusty bread.

It is that simple but it is the combination of flavours that work so exquisitely and makes it a dish for all seasons and all tastes.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #39

For this edition of Presto Pasta Night I don't think I could make something any quicker than using. I'm making a simple soup using these fresh Fagottini from the Florence market.

fagottini

These tiny parcels have a meat based filling and as they are fresh take next to no time to cook. Combined with a good chicken stock you have a most nourishing meal in a flash.

Fagottini in Brodo

Fagottini in Brodo/Fagottini Soup

fresh fagottini
good chicken stock, home-made preferred
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat up your stock to simmering point and then add the fagottini - stir well to make sure they don't stick together and continue to gently simmer until they are almost cooked. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and allow the fagottini to finish cooking in the heat of the stock. You should find that they will swell as they absorb the liquid but they will be perfectly cooked.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle over with grated Parmesan.

fagottini.jpg

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #109

Vanessa from What Geeks Eat is the host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I'll be using another new ingredient for me, found at the Florence Market, Cipolline Borettane

Cipolline Borettane

Cipolline Borettane are these small, flattish white onions and they are sold peeled and ready to be used, just like these. They can be traced back to the 15th century where they were being grown in Boretto in the province of Emilia-Romagna and in 1969 they were officially renamed Borettane.

The Borettane are a sweet type of onion with a mild flavour and traditionally you'll find them preserved in balsamic vinegar.

I thought I'd be a little different and while still using Balsamic Vinegar I've made something that is more your "eat now" rather than eat later type of food.

My idea is to combine the Cipolline with a fine dice of this fabulous Prosciutto,

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gently sauté them until they are both browned and then splash in some extra old Balsamic Vinegar to help deglaze the pan and caramelise the juices to create a sticky sauce. The end result is a perfect side dish for any occasion.

In this dish I used a 30 year old Balsamic Vinegar which shouldn't be confused with the Traditional Balsamic Vinegars - more information of the differences can be found on this post.

A good substitute would be one of the higher end, three or four leaf rated Balsamic that can be found at Supermarkets or good food stores.


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Cipolline Borettane con Prosciutto and Aceto Balsamico/Borettane Onions with Prosciutto and Balsamic Vinegar

Cipolline Borettane
prosciutto, cut into small cubes
20 year old Balsamic Vinegar

Heat a little oil in a pan and when warmed add the diced prosciutto. Cook over a medium heat, stirring well until browned. Add the Cipolline Borettane and stir them through the prosciutto, continue to cook over a medium heat until the onions start to brown and soften. If you think they are browning too quickly just add a little water and turn down the heat.

When the onions have cooked through, keeping the pan on the heat, drizzle in a little Balsamic and stir vigorously, scrapping up any pan residue. The Balsamic will evaporate a little and join with the pan juices to create a sticky sauce.

Place into a bowl, scraping out all the sauce and serve at once.

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Sweet, tangy with a spicy bite - these explode with flavour. I can guarantee you'll come back for more.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #38

Time is certainly passing quickly as we are now up to edition 38 so for this week's Presto Pasta Night I'll be using one of my favourite types of pasta, Pappardelle.

pappardelle

Pappardelle are a wide egg pasta and here in Florence, it is most often seen served with a delicious Ragù di Cinghiale (Cinghiale is the meat of wild boar). Since I really haven't had the time to make this for myself I've come up with something a little different, made from Cinghiale Salami.

salami di cinghiale

The idea of using a salami in a ragù isn't that unusual and is something my mother would do here in Italy. To lift the dish, I've also added large cubes of red and yellow capsicum along with fresh Roma tomatoes and then simmered it for an hour to allow the flavours to develop. The end result is a chunky and thick sauce that easily handles the pappardelle.

Pappardelle con Ragù di Cinghiale Salami e Pepperoni


Pappardelle con Ragù di Cinghiale Salami e Pepperoni/Pappardelle with a sauce of Cinghiale Salami and Capsicum

1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, diced
Cinghiale Salami, diced
4 Roma Tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
4 Capsicums (Bell Peppers), yellow and red, cut into a large dice
Pappardelle, fresh or dried

Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in a pan and when the butter has melted add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables have softened and started to colour. Add the diced salami and cook until it has coloured.

Add the diced capsicums and cook for a few minutes before finally adding the diced tomatoes. Pour in a little water to make, just enough so that all the mixture is covered and simmer for about 1 hour or until the capsicums have softened and the liquid has evaporated to create a thick sauce.

If you find it is drying out too quickly, just add a little more water and continue to simmer.

When the pappardelle have cooked, add them to the sauce and toss well to ensure they are well coated.

Serve it in individual bowls and finish off with a good sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pappardelle con Rugù di Cinghiale Salami e Pepperoni


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Melbourne Bloggers Banquet

Ed from Tomato has been busily arranging a get together for Melbourne Food Bloggers which is or was happening today. Unfortunately Paalo and I couldn't attend but we decided that we would throw our own little picnic to celebrate here in Florence.

Finding a picnic spot proved a little more difficult than expected but we finally found a good spot here

map

in the Piazza D'Azeglio

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Sitting under the grand trees resplendent in their autumn foliage we enjoyed a simple lunch with ingredients bought this morning at the market.

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A good hunk of Taleggio

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and a round of Fresh Goat Cheese, mortadella and

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porchetta, with those wonderful tuscan bread rolls, soft on the inside but with that splintery crunchy crust.

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Paalo's porchetta and taleggio panino

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My panino looks like it's licking it's lips!

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To finish we enjoyed these Sfogliatine filled with Crema Pasticceria.

While we weren't there in person we were certainly there in spirit and do hope all enjoyed themselves.

In the coming days there should be posts popping up about the actual night but do check out the flickr set Bloggers' Banquet for the photos.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #108

The Expatriate Chef is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I'm following on from last week and featuring Black Truffles.

Black Truffle

This is an Umbrian Black Truffle and while the white truffle has my heart, the black truffle probably offers more possibilities in the kitchen. Stored in items such as polenta, flour and rice it will infuse them with its earthy scent.

In this case I've been storing these truffles in rice but not any ordinary rice. Ever since attending the a taste workshop at Slow Cheese I've been fascinated by Acquerello's aged Carnaroli rice.

Acquerello Rice Acquerello Rice

Unlike regular rice, the unhulled grains are stored in temperature controlled conditions from 1 to 3 years. It was found that this ageing process retarded the development of starches. This means that when making risotto, the rice will be able to absorb more liquid resulting in a plumper, more flavoured grain.

Acquerello rice

Buried in this tin are the truffles, silently imbuing the grains with their wonderful flavour. My truffle will be doing double duty as I'll also be finely shaving them and using them in this simple dish of Black Truffle Risotto.

Black Truffle Risotto

Black Truffle Risotto

1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Acquerello rice
1 black truffle, finely shaved
mild chicken or vegetable stock
finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
butter, extra

Prepare the Black Truffle:
Clean the truffle with a firm brush to remove any traces of dirt that might still be attached. When cleaned, shave the truffle to give you fine slices.

sliced black truffle

Place a little oil and a knob of butter in a deep pan over a medium heat and when the butter has melted add the chopped onion, carrot and celery.

Cook this until softened but not coloured and then add the rice. Keep stirring to ensure the grains are coated with the butter/oil and cook for a minute or two.

Add a little boiling stock to the pan - this should fizzle and be absorbed almost immediately. Keep stirring and add another ladle along with a third of the shaved truffle.

Keep adding ladles of stock as they are absorbed by the rice. Add another third of the shaved truffles halfway through the cooking.

When you add the last ladle of stock add the remaining truffle slices. Finally add a generous amount of butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir it vigourously into the cooked risotto. This gives that beautiful creamy and velvety finish to your risotto.

Serve into bowl and eat immediately.

black truffle risotto


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #37

With the weather cooling, for this Presto Pasta Night I'll be making a soup using this rather unusual shaped pasta called Ricciutelli.

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This is a dried egg pasta and part of the Barilla Emiliane range.

Along with the pasta I'll be using fresh borlotti beans, peas, carrots, onions, celery, fresh tomato and chicken stock, to make a fresh but satisfying soup.

soup

Vegetable Soup with Ricciutelli

1 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
fresh borlotti beans (or frozen)
fresh peas (or frozen)
salt and freshly ground white pepper
chicken stock
Ricciutelli pasta
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in a pot and when the butter has melted add the onion, carrot and celery and cook over a medium heat until softened but not coloured.

Add the borlotti beans, along with the diced tomatoes and chicken stock and allow to simmer until the beans are almost cooked.

Add the pasta and peas in the last 15 minutes of cooking. When done let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving. You can easily make this in advance but undercook it slightly as the egg pasta will expand and soak up all the stock as it cools.

To reheat, just add more stock and cook at a gentle simmer.

soup

Serve in big bowls with a good grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #107

Weekend Herb Blogging returns home this week where Kalyn will be hosting and I thought it most apt that I share this rather special ingredient - Umbrian White Truffles

Umbrian White Truffles - from Gubbio

If you follow the Eat blog you'll have seen that we're currently in Umbria attending a truffle festival - as if Slow Cheese, Gusto Balsamico and Eurochocolate wasn't enough!

I'll be honest and say the truffles this year are a lot smaller than we experienced two years ago and there weren't quite as many either. But when you can walk through the streets and smell truffle in the air, that is indeed, a very good thing.

We have indulged and treated ourselves to a White Truffle, as much as black truffles are very nice, the white truffle is something unique. It is its aroma that truly entices you and we've been known to just sit in front of our white truffle risotto just breathing it all in for a few minutes before even thinking of tasting it.

When choosing a white truffle it will be its aroma that will lead to find the best. After a good deal of searching and sniffing we finally had enough information to select our truffle.

white truffle package

It was wrapped and then sealed in order to keep the aroma contained.

When it came to taking photos, Paalo quickly volunteered to do the hand modelling for me.

truffle truffle

It still has some dirt attached to it, but with a little brush, it can be cleaned away to reveal its white skin

white truffle

I should add that this truffle hails from Gubbio, here in Umbria - if you watch Don Matteo, you'll know exactly where that is.

truffle shaver

Of course, if you have a truffle, you need a truffle slicer!

So what am I going to do with this truffle? Unlike a black that does take to cooking, a white should be served shaved over the dish where the heat of the dish reacts with the truffle to heighten its flavour and aroma.

And for our gathering of four here in Umbria, we're celebrating the last day of the festival with Scrambled Eggs and White Truffle for breakfast!

Scrambled Eggs with White Truffle

Scrambled Eggs with White Truffle
[Serves 4]

6 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
milk
4 thick slices of bread
1 White truffle

I used Altamura bread from the festival - the first bread in Europe to gain DOP status, it is made using natural yeasts. The thick slices where lightly butter and then toasted in a skillet over a medium heat.

The scrambled eggs are a simple mix of eggs, salt, pepper and milk, cooked in a good quantity of butter, constantly stirred they are removed from the heat as they first start to show signs of setting.

The eggs are served over the warm pieces of toast and then it's time to start shaving the truffle - speed is important as you don't want to lose any of that heat of the eggs.

truffle shaving truffle shaving truffle shavin

Serve immediately and breath deeply!

Inside the Truffle


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