Tuesday, 30 July 2013

From Italy with Love:
4th Installment Italy Series
Penne al Scamorza
(Smoked Cheese with Penne)
The Italian way of life is quite slow paced compared to big City Life where everything is fast and frantic.
As my vacation time in Italy continued, my eating scheduled got pushed further back daily.
Sometimes we ate as late as 10pm!
One reason I gained some extra weight, that one member cheerfully calls "a souvenir" from
Well, that's one way to put it :D
So when the evening carried on late, a quick and easy meal is to make pasta; ready in 10 min
and another masterpiece is made.
This dish is courtesy of my nephews girlfriend. It is so simple; using garden fresh herbs and vegetables with a wonderful added twist;
A wonderful smoked cheese grated, it melts into the steamy pasta leaving a wonderful taste and aroma to this simple summer dish.
1 zucchini, washed, ends cut and sliced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 pkg smoked scamorza cheese, grated on large holes
(look for this cheese in your refrigerated dairy section)
4-5 large basil leafs, torn
3-6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
500g pkg penne pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Drop in pasta, stir to prevent sticking.
Continue cooking and stirring until al dente. for approximately 10 min.
In a preheated large skillet add 3 tbsp. oil. When heated, but not smoking add the zucchini.
Cook on medium heat until slightly softened, tossing to cook.
Add cut tomatoes and continue cooking for 5-10 min.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta, reserving some of the hot liquid.
Toss the sauce into the pasta, add the remaining oil, basil leaves and toss with the grated cheese.
Serve immediately
Serves: 6
Enjoy with love from Italy!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

From Italy with Love:
Homemade Ricotta
 When I was a child, weekly I would wait in anticipation for the "cheese" man to drive by and ring his bell alerting the street that he was selling fresh ricotta.
A sweet, smooth fresh cheese made from cows milk.

Originally my grandfather used to make it from sheep's milk, pungent and salty.

As sheep's milk was not easily available to the new immigrants in the early '60's, they adapted and made this creamy spreadable cheese from cows milk.
 My mother bought it and I would watch the "cheese" man slide it out of it's long cylindrical container onto my mother's dish.
Aah those were wonderful memories as they no longer are made in that type of form and are now sold in cold plastic containers in the dairy section.

While in Italy, so as not to let the milk go to waste my sister in law would make her own ricotta!

I know some of you have made it and I didn't believe it could be done with lemon juice as my grandfather used rennet to make his cheese, but I am a converted believer.

It's so simple anyone can do it!

1lt of  full fat milk
1/2 lemon juiced  
(zest can be used if you want a lemon flavour)

On medium high heat bring the milk almost to a boil.
You should see a foam develop on top.


Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.
Allow to sit for a few minutes until you see a curdling of the milk.

Skim off this curdled milk with a slotted spoon, until the cheese is all gathered.
Place in a clean and dried empty strawberry container.
You know, the one that is green and has holes.

Place on a flat plate to catch drippings.
Allow to cool to room temperature.

Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

My lovely snack is topped with my sister in laws
backyard berries and homemade jam.
Her sister's homemade bread holds this wonderful
dish together!
Ya ya, I know they are too much!  

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

From Italy with Love:

Porcini Linguini

Mushrooms or 'shrooms
are one of my favourite loves.
Fragrant with a chewy texture, high in fiber, low in fat; a forest fungi, a fave of mine since I was a child!
Fresh Porcini mushrooms here in Toronto I have yet to see.
Generally we have to buy them dry.
They must sit in hot water to reconstitute and although the fragrance is unmistakeable the texture is never quite the same as fresh.

My uncle used to forage for them after heavy rains when I was a child and I would eat a plateful of them, knowing I had to have my fill since I couldn't get them fresh at home.
In Italy you have to have a license to be able to "hunt" for mushrooms as the wrong one can be fatal!

Weekly and sometimes daily during my trip in Italy, I had fresh porcini mushrooms on my pasta, pizza, risotto and sometimes just a plate by themselves.

On my pizza I had shaved truffles with Porcini!


My last week in Italy I had them daily!
The Linguini above was my sister in law homemade egg pasta. 
Should I mention they grind their own wheat? 

The 'shrooms are courtesy of my nephews future father in law who forages for them when it rains.
Although he promised to take me, it rained shortly before I came home and they need days before they grow and are ready to be picked.
Sadly, I didn't get a chance to forage through the forest.

Forestry laws only allow licensed individuals to pick certain foods al bosco (from the forest) on certain days and they can only pick so many by weight to allow for a proper ecosystem.

So, if you know what to look for you can literally live and eat from mother earth!

This recipe is so simple and can be easily replicated using your favourite mushroom.
If you can afford dried Porcini, reconstitute them in a cup of hot water, then squeeze the water out and chop.

This basket of Porcini mushrooms were out at the front of a restaurant as we walked by through the streets of Ancient Rome.
I couldn't resist and grabbed one to smell the fragrance. 
The waiter was soon right beside me in case I made off with them.

At 50-70 euros a kilo, I can see why he was concerned tee hee

This restaurant was right near the Pinocchio shop!

 1 cup of porcini mushrooms, sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1lb of fresh pasta


fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile in a small skillet add oil and turn the heat on to medium.
Tip in the mushrooms and saute for 5-10 min until
golden and crisp.

When the water boils drop the pasta in carefully.
Stir immediately with tongs so as not to allow the pasta to stick.
When the pasta rises to the top allow to cook for a minute longer.
Cook until al dente...to your bite.

Drain leaving a 1/4 cup of water in the pot.
Toss pasta with the mushrooms.
Add basil leaves and a handful of parmigiano cheese

Enjoy with love from Italy!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

From Italy with Love:

Pasta Frolla
I have just come back from a wonderful trip to my parents homeland.
Frosinone, Italy
A large region, 1 1/2hrs from Rome.
La Campagnia, rural farmland where you have everything needed, grown and raised from the earth.
Rich soil produces wonderful berries and vegetables  fragrant and full of bursting flavor.
Fruit growing abundantly on their trees, you could pick them off the trees and bushes ripe everyday.
So much abundance that it can easily be made into jam and used in desserts.
This dessert come from my Sister in law who utilizes everything from the garden, including scraps which feed their chickens and roosters!
She is so tiny, I often wondered how she managed to bring hay to the goats daily using a heavy wheel barrow!
This recipe is low in fat. A soft dough, not quite a cookie and not fluffy like a sponge cake. It is fragrant, using wholesome lemons from my Godmothers trees. It is without fuss, as so many Italian dishes are, and it so delicious.
The jam in this recipe, is made with her fathers vine grown grapes!
2 eggs
8 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 envelope Pane del Angeli (leavening)
320kg flour + extra for rolling
1/2 jar your favourite jam
Confectioner's sugar: for sprinkling
In a medium size bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, oil and lemon zest and juice, until well blended and thick.
Stir in flour and leavening powder (can be found in specialty isle).
Dough will be ragged and in pieces. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and begin to knead gently together to form a ball.

Continue to fold one end over another, it will be slightly sticky. Rub off hands using some flour and continue mixing to a soft dough.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out 2/3 of the dough onto a 9"x9" piece of parchment paper.

This will be the bottom part of the crostata and will enable you to lift it onto the 8"x8" baking pan.

Place the rolled out dough into the baking sheet, with 1" edges up the side of the pan
Spread a 1/4" layer of jam over the crust.

Roll out the remaining 1/3 of dough to approx.
8" x 8". Cut 1" vertical strips of dough using a decorative pie wheel. 

Place one strip down the centre of the crostata, then one strip on either side. Turn the sheet and continue the steps to make a crossing pattern, cutting the dough off at the edges.

Place four strips around the edges of the tart to seal in the dough.

Bake at 350F until golden brown, approximately 35- 40 min.

Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
Enjoy from Italy!