Thursday, April 18, 2019

BUONA PASQUA ITALIANO!

Easter Sunday dinner 2019
The theme, once again, is Italian.
Our gardens are in full bloom!
Easter is my favorite holiday. It represents new beginnings, hope, and limitless possibilities for love, joy and happiness. Being brought up in a non-religious household I did not learn the true meaning of Easter until much later.

In our house Easter was a time of feasting! This Easter is extremely special for me because I am ONE year cancer free! I am grateful for a complete and successful recovery and forever thankful to my husband, Jerry and my friends and family who supported me throughout my recovery.

However, this year also marks a very sad note as it is the first Easter celebration without our dear friend Dennis who passed away in October 2018. We have shared Easter dinners with Dennis and Diana for nearly 15 years. Cheers to you Dennis! Thankful for so many fabulous times together.

Jerry and Dennis Easter 2006
La Dolce Vita!
AND HERE'S OUR MENU...
 
APERITIVO
EASTER DEVILED EGG CHICKS
PARMESAN FRICO
CATHERINE DE MEDICI TUSCAN PATE

ANTIPASTO
SEAFOOD TERRINE ON MIXED GREENS WITH TARRAGON DIJON DRESSING

INTERMEZZO
ZESTY LEMON SORBET

PRIMO
CREAMY ORZO WITH ASPARAGUS TIPS

IL SECONDO E CONTORNO
STUFFED LEG OF LAMB SERVED WITH MINT JULIP GASTRIQUE
ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH FRENCH FETA CHEESE AND CANDIED PECANS
FOCACCIO BREAD
 
DOLCE E DIGESTIVO CON CAFFE
PANNA COTTA WITH RASPBERRY COULIS
BUNNY SUGAR COOKIES
COFFEE/ESPRESSO
HOUSE-MADE LIMONCELLO


WISHING YOU ALL MUCH
HAPPINESS
ON THIS BEAUTIFUL HOLIDAY!
 
ENJOY COOKING YOUR OWN FEAST!
 
TUNE IN AGAIN SOON...
 

Friday, April 12, 2019

MANGIA ITALIANO!

I am in love with all things Italian and food is high up on the list. Here are a couple easy Italian goodies I made recently, which I hope you enjoy.

TRADITIONAL ROSEMARY AND GARLIC FOCACCIA


Previously I posted a recipe for Focaccia Bread (http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=focaccio), but I think this one is even better because it uses more olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. If you don't have fresh you can always substitute dried herbs. This ancient Italian bread dates back to the Estruscan period, although some believe it may have been invented by the Greeks. However, the Estruscans, Romans, and Greeks were so intertwined back in the 8th - 6th century BC it's hard to tell where recipes originated. It's also thought to be the precursor to modern-day Italian pizza as it is a flatbread with lots of leeway for toppings. As with so many recipes I find online I have doctored this one a bit with more herbs and more garlic.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil*
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3 tsp. dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 3 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. honey or a tsp. of sugar
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

*This time the extra-virgin is important as olive oil is a dominant flavor in this bread. You don't have to buy a super expensive oil, just one you really like the taste of.

Preparation:

MAKE THE DOUGH:
In a cold medium skillet, combine olive oil, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary and the black pepper. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes or until aromatic, but before browning garlic. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and honey. Stir a few times then let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast mixture does not begin to grow (foam up), then either your water was too cool, too hot, or your yeast is dead and you will need to start over. The water should be quite warm to the touch, but not scalding. 105 to 110 degrees is ideal.

Add 1 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of the infused garlic/herb/olive oil mixture to the bowl with the yeast and honey. Stir 3 to 4 times until the flour has moistened. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. I like to use the dough hooks on my hand mixture as it shortens the kneading time necessary because the hooks act somewhat like the kneading process getting air pockets out and stimulating gluten process resulting in a light, fluffy dough. Because focaccia is a flatbread the crust becomes crisp and interior is moist and soft.
When the dough comes together, transfer to a floured board and knead 10-15 minutes until very smooth in texture. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. You want to keep the dough out of drafts so consider rising in your oven (with no heat on).
This is the dough after rising for an hour.
After it has risen to about double in size, punch it down, knead for a couple minutes and transfer to a lightly greased 9x12 baking sheet or pan. Using your fingers spread the dough evenly pushing out to reach the edges of the pan, dimple the dough, pressing down into the pan with your fingertips.

Drizzle the top with remaining garlic/herb/olive mixture.

Let the dough rise until it puffs slightly; about 15-20 minutes. Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and if you like sprinkle with course sea salt and a little freshly chopped rosemary. Cool baked focaccia on wire rack. Cut into 2 inch squares. This bread freezes well for up to a month.

Here's a twist on another Italian favorite...

ITALIAN MEATBALLS WITH HERBS AND RICOTTA

I also found this recipe online. It's from the Food Network with just a couple tweaks from me. Hard to improve on a Food Network recipe!

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
4 oz. (1/2 cup)whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley (I used curly as that's what I have growing.)
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 Tbsp. finely grated pecorino (I used parmesan.)
1 slice bacon, finely minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil (My addition.)
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning (My addition.)
1 large egg
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Freshy ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cups homemade or jarred quality marinara sauce
Fresh basil for garnishing

Preparation:
Mix ground meats and diced bacon, ricotta, parsley, panko crumbs, onion, pecorino, bacon, garlic milk, thyme, egg, salt, Worcestershire and black pepper. Here is my trick. Meatballs become tough if they are overmixed so thoroughly mix all ingredients listed above, except the ground meats. Then add the ground meats and using your hands gently mix until just combined. The mixture is pretty soft.
Using your hands, gently form mixture into 1 Tbsp. small meatballs (make smaller balls if serving as an hors d'oeuvres or larger balls for a dinner entre). Put the raw meatballs on a large plate or tray.
Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight. Bring the meatballs back to room temperature before cooking. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1/3 of the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally until well browned on all sides; about 6 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

After removing the last meatball, drain the oil out of the skillet and wipe clean with a paper towel. Return the meatballs to the skillet and pour in the marinara sauce. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low simmer, cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. Serve with toothpicks if using as an appetizer with a dollop of sauce over each meatball and freshly chopped basil. Serve either room temperature or warm.

I'm going to close today with the simplest Italian hors d'oeuvres you will ever make. Why I have not made these sooner I do not know, but recently had them at our annual tennis party made by my good friend and tennis buddy Claren Scott. They are fantastic.
Here's Claren off the tennis court!
She looks like a movie star!
PARMESAN CRISPS, aka FRICOS!
Frico in Italian literally means "cooked Montasio cheese', but frico is also a typical dish made in the North Eastern region of Italy--Friuli. It is made either as a 'Soft Frico', which generally includes roasted potatoes and onions cut into wedges to serve, or as a 'Thin Frico', which are little fried or baked crisps used as an appetizer. No recipe necessary for the crisps. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grate about 2 cups parmesan cheese or other well-aged Italian cheese. Originally the fricos, either Soft or Thin were made with Montasio cheese. Place mounded tablespoons of grated cheese on a sheet pan lined with a silpat silicone baking sheet, parchment paper or use a non-stick pan. This is very necessary as crisps will stick to the pan otherwise.
Spread the cheese out leaving about 1 inch in between. Bake in preheated oven until just golden; about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for about 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool completely. These store well in a tightly sealed glass container for 4-5 days.
I made my fricos totally plain since I've never made them before, but next time might try adding:

Lemon zest and fresh basil
Minced garlic
Finely chopped rosemary
Hot sauce or lots of black pepper
Claren added a small piece of salami in the center of each frico. Delicious!

That's it for today.
I'm getting very excited about the Easter holiday,
which is only a week away. I've been working on
my menu, which also has an Italian theme.
I will share it with you next week.

UNTIL THEN...BUON APPETITO!