Mar 11 2019

Artichoke Flan

I am pretty sure you will love this artichoke flan: artichokes are in season, the recipe is easy and the flan can be made the day before. You will just have to warm it a little before serving and decorate it according to your taste.

Serves 8

  • 750 ml fresh whole milk
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 100 gr plain flour
  • 80 gr butter
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 3 large artichokes
  • 1 small onion, thinly chopped
  • 4 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1 lemon

Clean and trim the artichokes (if you are wondering how, look at this good video tutorial https://www.finecooking.com/article/how-to-trim-artichokes), halve and reduce to thin slices. Place the slices in cold water and juice from 1 lemon as you go along so they don’t darken in colour.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, then add the chopped onion and fry until tender. Add the artichokes, cover the pan with a lid, and let cook for 10 minutes. At this point remove the lid and let the juice almost completely dry.

For the béchamel: melt butter slowly in a saucepan, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Turn down the heat and slowly pour in the milk, while accurately whisking. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and season well with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, parmesan and the artichokes and stir well. Set aside.

Whisk  the eggs whites until they form soft peaks or until stiff and glossy and combine with the artichoke mixture using a spatula, so that the fluffy egg whites you have thoroughly worked won’t be damaged. Wash, dry and chop the basil leaves by hand, and add to the mixture. Do not use scissors to cut herbs, or they will turn sour and loose flavour together with their essential oils.

Grease a tin with butter, dust with some flour and remove the excess. Pour in the artichoke mix, level the surface and beat the bottom of the tin on a hard surface in order to eliminate possible bubbles. Bake at 180°C, still, for 45 minutes. When ready, turn the flan over while still lukewarm- gently moving a knife between the flan and the tin first if needed- or it will irreparably stick to the tin. In case it unluckily happens, you can fix the tragedy by warming up the flan over a very low heat for a couple of minutes and trying again.

 

 

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Posted in Recipes, Main dishes, Vegetarian
Feb 12 2019

Polenta Mini Balls

Stilish and elegant, these mini polenta balls are the ideal finger food to make the most of a winter dinner.  

For around 25 balls

  • 100 gr quick-cooking polenta
  • 500 ml tap water
  • 1 yolk and a half from free range eggs
  • 45 gr grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tbsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
  • 75 gr hazelnuts, skin on
  • 75 gr raw pistachios

In a heavy-based pan bring the water to a boil; add the polenta and whisk with some energy until well combined. Always stirring the polenta, let it cook for 8 minutes (or follow the instructions on the box).

Add the parmesan, nutmeg, a pinch of  sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Now incorporate the eggs, one at a time.

Using a mortar and pestel coarsely chop the pistachios and hazelnuts to a granola.

Very carefully, since the polenta will be hot, make small balls  wetting your hands in water every now and then, in order to give them a more accurate shape.

Coat every ball first in the egg yolks slightly beaten and then in the granola, switching between the two. Delicately put the balls on a tray covered with parchment paper and bake for 12 minutes at 180°C, still.  Serve warm but not too hot.

 

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Posted in Starters, Vegetarian
Jan 27 2019

Tempeh with Artichokes

Tempeh is the result of a process of fermentation of yellow soya beans. Very important in the vegan cuisine, tempeh is a healthy and proteic food which can well substitute meat, specially when served together with sauces, vegetables and dips. In this case, I am suggesting a recipe which mimics more than vaguely a classic Italian dish, stew with artichokes.

Serves 4

  • 300 gr tempeh
  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder

Clean and trim the artichokes (if you are wondering how, look at this good video tutorial https://www.finecooking.com/article/how-to-trim-artichokes), halve and reduce to thin slices, in the meantime keeping them in cold water acidulated with the lemon juice so that they don’t turn black.

Let the onion simmer with 2 tbsp extravirgin olive oil and a little water until white but tender, add the artichokes, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and brown off.

Add the parsley and salt to taste. Cube the tempeh and marinate with the soya sauce and chilli powder for 10 minutes.

Sautée the  tempeh in a clean pan with 1 tbsp extravirgin olive oil,  mix with the artichokes and serve hot.

 

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Posted in Recipes, Light recipes, Main dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian
Jan 15 2019

Peas and Mint Veggie-Vegan Soup

Feeling a little heavy after Christmas? Let’s have a soft detox with this  warm, creamy and healthy veggie-vegan soup: if you want to go vegan, simply omit the feta cheese.

Serves 4

  • 350 fresh or frozen peas (they are not in season!)
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 8 sprigs fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 red chilli pepper,  thinly chopped
  • 100 gr feta cheese
  • 30 gr almonds, skin on, coarsely chopped

Fry the onion in a heavy-based pan with the extravirgin olive oil and the red chilli pepper. Add the potato cubes and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas, mix thoroughly and pour in the pan 500 ml of vegetable stock or boiling water: you might need more, depending on the quality of the potato you chose. Let simmer for further 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste and the mint leaves as well (washed and drained). Place in a food processor and whizz until smooth and creamy.

Dice the feta cheese, transfer the soup in 4 bowls and scatter with the feta or almonds, if you fancy the vegan option.

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Posted in Starters, First course, Recipes, Light recipes, Main dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian
Dec 28 2018

Squash Tortelli

The history of the squash tortelli begins in Northern Italy, more precisely in Mantova, during the Renaissance, probably with the contribution of a Jewish cook. Originally a dish of the peasants, due to its ingredients which don’t include meat (which was too expensive at the time), the squash tortelli became a must have on the table of the rich and were soon established as a tradition for the dinner of 24th December, when Catholics are not allowed to eat meat. Many versions of this sort of tortelli are reported: during the centuries, the Italian cuisine developed a lot of different recipes, especially the city of Cremona, which changed the original recipe by removing the squash and adding other stuff in order to have some really sweet tortelli. The following is the recipe I found in the kitchen diary of my family. My personal touch is in the balance of the super traditional ingredients. 

Serves 6

  • 400 gr plain flour
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1,5 kg peeled and deseeded squash
  • 75 gr Mostarda di Cremona (not to be confused with mustard: it is a sort of slightly spicy apple jam, probably available in Italian grocery shops or certainly on line)
  • 100 gr Amaretti biscuits, crumbled
  • 150 gr good Italian parmesan, grated
  • 1 spoon chopped parsley
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg, grated
  • 100 gr butter, melted
  • 5-6 sage leaves

The day ahead prepare the filling: cut the squash into thick slices and place on a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush with a few drops of extravirgin olive oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C until tender and golden.

Use a pestel and mortar to reduce the Amaretti to a crumble.

Let the squash cool at room temperature and whizz with a food processor until creamy. Add the Mostarda, Amaretti, parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

Place the eggs, flour and a half of an egg shell amount of water into a food processor or a kneading machine. Knead for 5-7 minutes until you obtain a smooth lump. Wrap with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

If you want to make the dough the traditional way, by hand, place the flour on a large board, make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork and incorporate the flour little by little scraping the side, until the eggs and flour are thoroughly combined. Knead the dough working with the back of your wrists for at least 10 minutes, working with a regular rhythm until you obtain a smooth and uniform lump of dough. Also in this case, wrap the dough with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

Now fetch the dough from the fridge and knead it by hand for an additional 5 minutes working with the back of your wrists and adding a small quantity of flour if needed. Dust the board with some flour (not a lot or your dough will become dry), press the dough out flat with your fingertips and roll using a rolling pin until very thin.  Cut into squares of 4/5 cm and place around half a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. At this point brush the sides with a bit of water, so that the tortelli will be more stiffly closed.

Fold the filled squares in a shape of a triangle, pressing with your fingertips along the sides. Pinch one end of the triangle, then using the other two fingers wrap the opposite end around your first index finger, then press the two ends together, and voilà your tortello is ready.

While closing the tortelli, place on a clean tea cloth dusted with flour, then boil in hot salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain well, season with the butter, previously melted in a little pan with the sage, and serve immediately.

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Posted in First course, Recipes, Vegetarian
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