Cooking misconceptions

There are many things that we do just because we heard about it somewhere.  Or it could have come from an old wife’s tale.  But there is one thing that does drive me up the wall, batty, crazy… need I say more?

PUTTING OIL IN THE PASTA WATER.

The theory is that you put a splash of oil into the water you are going to cook the pasta in so that the pasta does not form clumps and stick to itself.  In reality all it does is coat the pasta with oil.  This will cause the sauce you put on the pasta to slide right off.  It has no chance of adhering to the pasta.

DO NOT PUT OIL IN YOUR PASTA WATER.

Instead, the water should be quite salty.  How salty you ask?  It is said that the water should taste like the ocean.  So taste your water to make sure it has enough salt.

Also it is best to put the cooked pasta into the saucepan with the sauce and coat it there.

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Insalata Caprese

Sometimes less is more….. and that is never more true than it is in food.  If you start with really fresh and good quality products and don’t mess with them too much, you can achieve gastronomic perfection.

A classic example is the mozzarella and tomato salad known as Insalata Caprese.

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes.  It is really nice to use different varieties and colors.

Fabulous mozzarella!!!  It is so soft and creamy and delicious.

Slice them up to really see the vibrant colors.

The sliced cheese and the fresh, fresh basil add to the flavors.

Place it all together and drizzle a simple vinaigrette  and enjoy.

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Risotto and Family

I recently had some of my nieces and nephews and other family over for an impromptu dinner.  Of course I thought of making Risotto since it is so easy.  It is a dish that all the family loves, since it was one of my mother’s favorite meals.

My daughter, who unfortunately was not in town reminded me that a few of my guests were vegetarian.  I would not have even thought about the chicken stock that is used if she had not told me.  Instead I made it with vegetable broth.  It has a slightly different flavor, but it turned out great.  I was very pleased that I could be courteous to their dietary preferences.

It was a lot of fun to show them how it is made and of course, that came at a price….. they were enlisted to help stir.  All in all it was a very nice evening with family.

I am re-posting the risotto from an earlier posting.  Remember variations are good!

Shallot

Risotto is a very classic Italian dish.  There are numerous variations.  You can mix it up with different vegetables or proteins.  But by far the most classic interpretation is from Milan.   Rice has a starring role in this recipe and as such, it is important to us the right kind.

peeled shalot

Arborio is a good type to use but the preferred rice is the Carnaroli.  It is plump and releases it’s starch in a uniform manner.  This is what give the dish it’s creamy texture.

rice and garlicrice

The saffron imparts not only color but flavor as well.  Don’t be shocked by the price.  When you think that there are only 3-4 of these strands in a single crocus flower, you begin to understand it’s value.  It is worth it.

Saffron

risotto spoon

Risotto alla Milanese

In a large saucepan, sauté 2 finely chopped shallots and 1 clove of garlic in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil until softened.  Stir in  1 cup of rice. Coat rice with the oil and then add 1/2 cup of white wine. Add 2 capsules of saffron.  Stir constantly.  Start adding 5 cups of broth little by little.  Keep adding the liquid until the rice is done and creamy. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve.

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Italian Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I really don’t like regular Mac ‘n’ Cheese.  I guess the whole Velveeta just throws me.  Plastic is for buying food, not making food.

I do like baked pasta, and after all that’s what it really is.  So why can’t it be made with good cheese, like Parmesano reggiano  and Gorgonzola.  Top it with some crispy prosciutto and now we’re talking!

These baked pastas are really easy.  All you have to do is boil the pasta type you want until it is “al dente”.  In the meantime make a Bechamel sauce.  Add some Parmesano and Gorgonzola.  Combine the pasta and the sauce.  Place in an oven proof dish, sprinkle cheese on top, put in the oven at about 350 and bake until the cheese is melted and slightly brown.  Crumple crisp prosciutto on top just before serving.    Now that’s real food.

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A Cooking Challenge

My Children decided to challenge me.  They said I could not make a dinner out of these different ingredients: pumpkin, fennel, sage, sausage, gouda, and cream.  They would prefer a pasta of some sort.  To me these ingredients really did not make a lot of sense together, but I was up for the challenge.

So this is what I came up with.  I decided to use the pumpkin to make some fresh pasta.  I put the fennel in the sausage.  I thought the sage and the gouda could be a nice cream sauce.

I came up with a deconstructed pumpkin ravioli with homemade fennel sausage and topped it with the cheesy cream sauce.

They loved it!  And it was fun to come up with something out of these ingredients.

This is what it looked like:

DSCN1430

These were the fresh pasta cut into circles to make the “deconstructed” ravioli.

DSCN1432I added some pomegrante seeds for color.

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The best thing about Risotto is what you can do with the leftovers.  I’m not sure what I like better, the risotto or the arancini.  This is also known as Suppli al Telefono for the long strings of cheese the are evident when you cut them.

raw aranciniLeft over risotto (see previous post)                                                                                                                                               Mozzarella  cheese, cut into 1/2 inch dice                                                                                                                                            flour, beaten egg and dried bread crumbs for dredging

Form the risotto into walnut size balls.  Using your finger, make a hole in the ball and place the mozzarella.  Shape the ball around the cheese.  Dredge the balls first in the flour, then the egg and finally the bread crumbs.  Fry them in hot oil until browned.  If you don’t want the oil, you can bake them in the oven but they sure taste better fried.  Serve while still hot and the cheese is still melted.

cooked aranciniarancini and salad

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Ricotta and Eggplant stuffed Angelotti

Ricotta and Eggplant stuffed Angelotti

rolled out pasta

Pasta dough
I like the basic recipe that uses 2 eggs for every 1 cup of flour.  You make a well in the flour and add the eggs and a pinch of salt.  Form the dough and knead for about 10 minutes.  Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  A double recipe should be enough for this dish.
Roll out into sheets or use a pasta roller.  Cut 4 inch circles.  Set aside.

Filling
2 eggplants
1 head of garlic
2 tomatoes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Slice eggplants and tomatoes in half and drizzle oil over them.  Add salt and pepper.   Wrap garlic head in foil. Roast until lightly browned.  Let cool.  Mix ricotta and parmesan in a bowl.  Dice eggplant pulp, skinned tomatoes and garlic paste.  Add to cheese mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.

Assembly

Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of the pasta discs.  Brush egg wash around the edge of the discs.  Fold into a half moon, pinching the edges as you go.  Make sure to get as much of the air out of the Angelotti so they don’t burst.  Set aside.

Place in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes until done “al dente”.  Serve with your favorite sauce.

tomato sauceAngelotti

Risotto alla Milanese

Shallot

Risotto is a very classic Italian dish.  There are numerous variations.  You can mix it up with different vegetables or proteins.  But by far the most classic interpretation is from Milan.   Rice has a starring role in this recipe and as such, it is important to us the right kind.

peeled shalot

Arborio is a good type to use but the preferred rice is the Carnaroli.  It is plump and releases it’s starch in a uniform manner.  This is what give the dish it’s creamy texture.

rice and garlicrice

The saffron imparts not only color but flavor as well.  Don’t be shocked by the price.  When you think that there are only 3-4 of these strands in a single crocus flower, you begin to understand it’s value.  It is worth it.

Saffron

risotto spoon

Risotto alla Milanese

In a large saucepan, sauté 2 finely chopped shallots and 1 clove of garlic in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil until softened.  Stir in  1 cup of rice. Coat rice with the oil and then add 1/2 cup of white wine. Add 2 capsules of saffron.  Stir constantly.  Start adding 5 cups of broth little by little.  Keep adding the liquid until the rice is done and creamy. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve.

risotto plate

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