Spring is an exciting time in the Italian kitchen, the first crops of asparagus, artichokes, peas, fava beans and spring onions are piled high on the table and waiting to be transformed into light, healthy cuisine. Days are suddenly longer, the garden begins to take shape, and on warmer days, lunch is served outside under a big fancy umbrella keeping. Here are a few traditional Italian recipes to help you celebrate the new season and its produce.
Fragolone Aperitivo ~ Strawberry & Mint Prosecco
- 1 cup of ice
- 1 teaspoon of strawberry syrup
- 1 wine glass full of Prosecco
- 4 leaves of fresh mint
Mix all the ingredients well in a shaker, pour into a wine glass, and decorate with a couple of fresh mint leaves. Cin cin!
Risotto Agli Asparagi ~ Asparagus Risotto
- 1 lb asparagus
- 6 cups of hot vegetable broth
- Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- ½ glass dry white wine
- 12 oz Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
- 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
- Handful finely chopped parsley
- 1 oz butter
- Salt and pepper
Discard the woody end of the asparagus and cut off the tips. Place the tips to one side and slice the stems into 1-inch lengths. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the minced onion. Sauté until onion becomes soft then add the sliced asparagus stems. Sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes until the rice becomes slightly transparent. Pour in the white wine and cook until wine has evaporated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a ladle of hot vegetable broth (keep the broth on a low heat as you are adding), and stir for about one minute until absorbed. Continue cooking the rice, stirring continuously and adding broth as it absorbs. When the risotto is about half way cooked, add the tender asparagus tips to the pan. Continue cooking for a total of 15 to 17 minutes until the rice is al dente. Check seasoning, remembering you still have to add the cheese. Move the frying pan off the heat and add half the grated cheese, the parsley and the butter. Beat well to combine. Serve immediately, garnishing each dish with a little of the additional grated Parmesan.
Spiedini di Pesce ~ Seafood Skewers
- 8 oz fresh tuna, sliced into about 2-inch cubes
- 8 oz calamari, cleaned & sliced into large (about 1 in) rings
- 8 oz swordfish, sliced into about 2-inch cubes
- 8 oz langostino, cleaned & remove head and outside shell
- 8 oz jumbo shrimp, cleaned & remove head and outside shell
- 8 oz cod, filleted, or substitute with a local fresh white fish of your choice,
sliced into about 2-inch cubes
- Fresh lemon leaves, untreated, or substitute with bay leaves
- ½ cup olive oil
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh mint, ripped by hand
- Fresh parsley, chopped
Prepare each skewer alternating your different types of fish (salmon also works well in this recipe) with ½ a lemon leaf. For the calamari, thread a piece of langostino or shrimp in the inside of the ring.
Prepare your sauce in a bowl on the side, with olive oil, the juice of ½ a lemon, a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste, fresh chopped parsley and fresh ripped mint. Mix lightly with a fork.
Grill the skewers on a heated, dry grill for about 7- 10 minutes until golden. Never put salt on the skewer before grilling.
Remove from the grill and drizzle the sauce over each skewer with a spoon before serving. Serve with a side dish of zucchini alla scapece or a veggie of your choice.
Tiramisù Al Limone ~ Lemon Tiramisù
Courtsesy Of Chef Filomena
For the Pan Di Spagna ~ Sponge Cake:
- 4 eggs, separated
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 120 g (1 cup) flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
For the Cream:
- 60 g (2 oz) egg yolks (about 3)
- 60 g (1/3 cup) sugar
- 60 g (1/4 cup) lemon
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1.75 g (1 sheet) gelatin
- 250 g (1 cup) mascarpone
- 150 g (2/3 cup) light whipping cream (about 34% fat)
For the Bath:
- 200 ml (3/4 cup) water
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- Lemon zest, in large strips
- 3 tablespoons limoncello
For the Sponge Cake:
Beat the 4 egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the flour a spoonful at a time while mixing. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until white, then add the cream of tarter. Continue to whip until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until well combined. Pour batter into a 24-cm (9-inch) greased and floured round cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 170˚C (340˚F) for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into 4 horizontal slices or as needed. For the tiramisù, cut into 12 circles (about 3-cm/1 ¼ -inch diameter or based on the size of your serving glasses).
For the Mascarpone Cream:
In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until the color turns light, almost white. Add the lemon juice and whip for about 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest and cook the cream over a double boiler for 3 minutes until a thermometer inserted into the cream comes to 80°C (175°F). Remove from heat.
Soak the gelatin sheets in water to soften, then add to the cream while it is still hot. Mix well making sure the gelatin sheets dissolve then allow to cool completely. Mix in the mascarpone gently. In a separate bowl, whip whipping cream until fluffy and fold into mascarpone mixture.
For the Bath:
Heat water, sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and make sure the sugar is dissolved completely, then remove from heat. Allow to cool completely and remove lemon peels. Add the limoncello and your bath is ready.
You will need 6 individual serving dishes or glasses. Dip pan di Spagna disks into the limoncello bath for just a moment and place as the first layer in your chosen serving dish. Do not soak. Spread with about half of the mascarpone cream, then repeat with pan di Spagna, mascarpone cream (usually 2 or 3 layers). Garnish with curls of lemon zest. Chill in refrigerator for at least three hours, or overnight.
For a traditional tiramisù, use long espresso instead of the limoncello and leave out the lemon zest. Garnish with a thin layer of unsweetened cocoa.