March Newsletter 2011
Fresh Recipes, New Kitchen Ideas, Food News & Fun Things To Do In Sunny Italy
All things sweet and good lead up to Carnevale: Zeppole, Chiacchiere, Castagnole & Struffoli, to name a few. Another sign of spring is the Mimosa’s sweet spring smell and its small cotton ball-like yellow flowers that are everywhere! Mimosa’s orgins go back to ancient times in Australia, but Italians have embraced it in as their own. Covering hillsides and planted in gardens, the plant’s yellow flowers gently close when one touches them. Folklore says you must plant them in two, with a masculine and a feminine side-by-side in the garden, allowing for them to pollinate abundantly. Seen growing wild from January to March in warm Mediterranean coastlines, Mimosa is also given to all the women in celebration of La Festa delle Donne. This holiday became an official holiday in 1945, and dates back to 1857 when a group of women in a USA factory protested during the industrial revolution. As with all holidays in Italy food reigns, and to celebrate Women’s Day and Carnevale both in March this year, are Lasagna, Chef Todd English’s Artichoke Pasta, Chiacchiere,-small golden fried ribbons of pastry dough and Castagnole, small round puffs of pastry and raisins flash fried to a crispy bite size; and both powdered with sugar.
By the month of March we are all more than ready for winter to head on its way and make way for spring, but as older folks are happy to remind you, ‘if February hasn’t behaved like February, then March will!’ And it has to be said, that at least here in the south, at least at the beginning of the month, February offered up some pretty nice weather. It may have hit freezing a couple of times, but no long periods of snow and ice (February behaving like February), so now who knows what March will bring. But that certainly won’t stop us getting out and about. There is the Feast of San Giuseppe, also known as Father’s Day, on the 19th March; a scattering of Festa della Primavera festivals held all over the country on March 21st to celebrate the arrival of Spring; and towards the end of the month, the annual Rome marathon. And this year, for the very fist time, there’s a national holiday been declared for the 17th March in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, with special exhibits and celebrations planned all over Italy, but especially in Turin, which was the first capital of unified Italy, home to the first Italian Parliament and where Vittorio Emanuele II was named Italy’s first king. (As of 1861, Rome was not yet part of the newly unified Italy.)
To be honest, celebrations have already started. In late 2010, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome hosted the exhibition ‘1861. The Painters of the Risorgimento’, but perhaps one of the most fascinating exhibitions will be the exhibition held in Turin’s Scuderie Juvarriane della Reggia named ‘Beautiful Italy. Art and identity of capital cities’ which will feature over 300 masterpieces tracing Italy’s history from antiquity to 1861 through pre-unity capitals: Turin, Florence, Rome and then Milan, Venice, Genoa, Bologna, Naples and Palermo.
We hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter and that even if you can’t come to Italy, we manage to bring a little of Italy to you! Enjoy!
This might be your last chance to have fun with some of your favorite winter veggies, so book yourself some time in the kitchen and get busy making lots of wonderful, vitamin-packed comfort foods – hearty potato and Savoy cabbage soup, chicken and leek soup, or one of those healthy grain and legume based soups and stews with farro, barley, lentils, chickpeas or beans. And how about some root vegetables tossed in olive oil and oven-roasted till they caramelize: any old mixture of potatoes, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, beets, fennel and parsnips will do. The cold weather also provides the perfect excuse to liven up recipes with the addition of wine. Rich, slow-cooked wine based stews are great favorites, be it a brasato al Barolo, or drunken meatballs, just normal meatballs sautéed then braised in red wine instead of the more usual tomato sauce. Grilled veal chops can be flung together with pancetta in a Chianti sauce or you might prefer braised rabbit with white wine and balsamic vinegar. If you’re clever, you make too much sauce and use the extra sauce to dress some pasta – think about cooking a free-range chicken in brandy and white wine with mushrooms, and before getting stuck in to the chicken, enjoy a quick plate of papparedelle in the wine and mushroom sauce served with a dusting of Parmesan. Of course, you could also opt for something a bit lighter, mussels sautéed in white wine, chicken Marsala, prosecco risotto, or (my personal favorite) pan-fried sole in a prosecco and almond sauce. But whatever you decide to make…
Chef Todd English
Carciofi Cacio e Pepe ~ Shaved Artichoke Spaghettini
Number of servings (yield): 4
- 1 lb baby artichokes (shaved)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted)
- 1 lb fresh spaghetti
- 2 cups Pecorino
- 1 tbs coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/2 bunch chopped parsley
- Baby Artichokes:
- Peel artichokes down and shave them on a Japanese mandolin or very sharp knife.
- In a large saute pan, cook shaved artichokes in extra virgin olive oil over medium low heat until tender, about 4 minutes.
- Remove, drain and reserve.
- Toasted Walnuts:
- Place whole shelled walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until color darkens.
- Remove from oven, and let cool. Once cool, chop in food processor or grate using micro plane.
- In a 6 qt sauce pan, boil 1 lb spaghetti until soft, about 8 minutes or per box directions.
- While pasta is cooking, ladle out 4 – 6 oz of the boiling pasta water and reserve for use in sauce (see method below)
- Strain pasta and put directly into sauce.
- In a medium bowl, combined grated pecorino, coarsely ground black pepper, and ground walnuts.
- Pour 4 – 6 oz hot pasta water over mixture and whisk until sauce comes together and cheese melts.
- Toss in cooked shaved baby artichokes and chopped parsley stirring to coat.
- To Plate:
- Place in pasta bowls, garnish with shaved pecorino, shaved raw baby artichokes, and leftover ground walnuts.
- Serve immediately.
Number of servings (yield): 4 – 6
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs chopped garlic
- 1/2 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
- 1 heaping tbs chopped pancetta
- 6 large fresh artichoke bottoms, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups cubed day-old bread (hearty peasant loaf) 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil for tossing
- 8 oz lump crab meat or Jonah crab
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese- shaved for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- Place a large sauce pan over medium heat and when hot add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Add garlic, onion, & pancetta, stirring well after each addition and cook until the onion has softened but not colored – 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add artichokes and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, increase heat to medium-high bring to low boil and cook until artichokes are soft, 5 – 7 minutes.
- Add bread cubes and basil.
- Cook for 2 minutes.
- Roasted tomatoes:
- Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place on sheet pan and roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until charred.
- Remove and let cool to room temperature.
- Lightly toss into the crab meat with a tablespoon of olive oil.
- To Plate:
- Serve at room temperature in small bowls.
- First place the artichoke soup in the bowl, then top with the crab and tomato mixture.
- Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, garnish with chopped mint, and shaved parmesan cheese.
Lasagne Di Carnevale ~ Carnevale Lasagna
Number of servings (yield): 8
- 500 g Lasagne pasta, cooked to al dente, rinsed and with a little olive oil
- 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
- 200 g Small eggplant meatballs
- 200 g Ricotta cheese
- 800 g Tomato sauce
- 500 g Mozzarella, chopped
- 150 g Parmesan, grated
- 150 g Ham, chopped
- 150 g Salame, chopped
- 200 g Sausage (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180 ° C or about 375 ° F.
- In a large baking pan, add a scoop of tomato sauce to the bottom and spread, so the Lasagne won’t stick.
- Next, layer the lasagne pasta on the bottom so that they also hang over the edge of the pan (at the end, you will fold them in to close the Lasagne).
- In a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese and several scoops of tomato sauce and blend together to form a smooth, light pink sauce.
- Next, add a scoop of tomato sauce and spread over the pasta, then a couple of scoops of the ricotta sauce.
- Sprinkle several pieces of the sliced eggs, a handful of the little eggplant meatballs, several handfuls of the chopped mozzarella, a little chopped ham and a little chopped salame evenly into the baking pan.
- Then add another layer of lasagne, this time, just to cover the filling, not hanging over the edge.
- Repeat this process until the baking pan is almost full (probably 1 more but maybe 2 more times).
- To finish the Lasagne, layer the pasta to cover, tomato sauce, ricotta sauce then fold in the pasta from the edges.
- Add a little more tomato sauce and sprinkle a couple of generous handfuls of grated Parmesan over the top.
- End with one last layer of lasagne, tomato sauce, and generous grated Parmesan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden.
- Let the Lasagne cool down and set for a few minutes before serving.
The Kid’s Kitchen
Chloe & Siena’s Recipes
Well folks it’s March again! And something to make your March a lot brighter is this delicious treat, that I call, Strawberry Surprise! Here are the delicious, and simple ingredients to make it
- 2 cups strawberries, cut in half
- 1 cup of whipping cream, whipped (after the cake is cooked)
- ½ cup butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Mixer on medium
- Grease or spray a 9 by 12 pan.
- Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, blending well.
- Add the milk slowly, and then carefully add in all your dry ingredients.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan.
- Lightly sprinkle a few teaspoons of sugar on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Once the cake cools, cut into pieces.
- Carefully top the cake with strawberries and whipped cream.
Siena’s Healthy Fruit Dessert
- Fresh Strawberries, Blueberries, Bananas, Pears, Apple or any other fresh fruit
- Fresh whipped cream
- Tiny chocolate chips, if you want them
- Wash and clean all the fruit.
- Cut the fruit into bite size pieces.
- Fill an individual sized glass bowl with a mixture of fruit. (Use a glass bowl so that you can see the colorful fruit!).
- Top each bowl with a generous dollop of whipped cream
- Add some mini chocolate chips or chocolate syrup, if you want.
- Enjoy! It’s yummy and I made it 2 nights in a row for my family!
With Love From Italy
If you cannot make it to Italy, we bring Italy to you~
Tosca: Opera and Dinner
Opera buffs will love this chance to combine dinner with this pocket-sized version of Puccini’s Tosca on their visit to Rome. This shortened version of the opera is held in the city’s Teatro Flaiano, where the ‘Piccola Lirica Midi Orchestra’ will perform Tosca, just four musicians using electronic keyboards and samplers playing the parts normally performed by 60 musicians. Dinner is enjoyed at the restaurant Avenue 60, just across the road from the theater. Both The New York Times and The Independent have recommended this adaptation for spectators of all ages.
PisaArt Expo, Pisa, 25 – 29th March
This is the third year of this modern art exhibition held in Pisa’s Stazione Leopoldo, and this year there will be more than 100 local and national artists displaying their paintings, sculptures, photographs and other visual arts. While not one of Italy’s major art exhibitions, PisaArt Expo is steadily building an interesting reputation and attracting more artists and galleries each year.
Salone del Mobile, Florence.
From the 5th – 15th March, Florence holds its annual furniture and interior design fair, widely held to be one of the most important in Italy. Here visitors can enjoy displays of contemporary trends in decor and design, compare models and prices and keep up to date with the latest in ecological and energy-saving technologies. Not to be missed by anyone about to set up or renovate their home.
Italian Feasts And Celebrations
As winter comes to an end, we take a look at some great food festivals to suit all tastes this March in Italy.
Invito a Cena con Delitto: Cortanze, Piemonte, 12 March. We thought this would be a fun way to start the month – dinner in a castle where guests have to solve a murder! Located on a hilltop in the heart of Piemonte, Castello di Cortanze is the scene of the crime for this theme dinner where guests witness a person going missing, then find the body in one of the castle rooms. And between one course and the next, they have to work out who done it! Perhaps it really was the butler …
Broccoletti in piazza, 10th edition, Anuillara Sabazia, Province of Rome. 13th March. Anyone who’s ever spent any time in Southern Italy or has Southern Italian roots will no doubt be familiar with the much loved broccoli rabe that accompanies families areas through the cold winter months. At this sagra in the town of Anuillara Sabazia, you’ll be able to enjoy these delicious bitter greens with pasta and fried up with sausages (the best!). Lots of other local specialities will also be on offer, from cheeses and meats to and wines and desserts, and the only problem will be deciding when to say basta!
Sagra delle Seppia, Pinarella di Cervia, Ravenna. 13 – 20th March. March is a great time to sample fresh cuttlefish, and this sagra offers the perfect opportunity to try it in various guises: with peas, and with lentils, roast, stuffed and fried. Lots of different sea food dishes will be on offer, but one of the most typical is the mixed fried fish served in a cone of brown paper. Enjoy a stroll along the beautiful white sand beaches and take in the various spectacles and the fabulous firework display.
Love Chocolate, San Benedetto del Tronto, Ascoli Piceno, 17 – 20th March. Just the name of this festival alone is enough to enchant anyone who’s ever considered themselves a chocolate lover, and there are certainly enough events and activities organized to keep folks busy for the whole duration of t
e sagra: markets, tastings, tasting and preparation classes, literary events on the theme of chocolate, conferences, competitions and spectacles. Sounds like a delicious 4 days to us.
Italy On A Plate
By Germaine Stafford
Germaine continues her roundup of what’s happening in the culinary world in Italy and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and a list of seasonal foods for March.
What’s in Season?
Pork products (salami etc.)
First fava beans (broad beans)
Restaurant Of The Month
L’Oca Giuliva, Ferrara
One of the true pleasures of touring Italy is the opportunity to experience the country through its culinary traditions, each region offering its own particular produce, specialities and, of course, wines. And if you happen to be visiting the town of Ferrara any time soon, l’Oca Giuliva is the perfect place to sample the typical dishes of this part of Emilia Romagna.
Once a simple osteria, l’Oca Giuliva is now an elegant but informal eatery whose dishes have their roots in local gastronomic traditions but are executed and presented with a welcome contemporary touch. Very often menus talk louder than words, and here’s what this restaurant’s menu says. First of all, plenty of old favorites: local salumi; roast pigeon; wild herb salads with grapes; traditional baked maccheroni pie in a sweet crust (with the addition of truffles during truffle season); cappelletti in capon broth and pumpkin in all its various guises. Or how about deviled quail with spinach quiche; creamed baccalà in Savoy cabbage parcels; risotto with broccoli and Savoy cabbage with glazed pork ribs; homemade pasta (strozzapreti – priest-stranglers!) with squid and artichoke; roast eel with cream of tomato and sweet and sour onions; or honey-glazed pigeon and crepes in sauce? Add to that all the various dishes of the day – carpaccio of fresh fish perhaps, risotto with cream cheese and foie gras, or lamb cutlets in a macadamia crust with cream of pumpkin – and you begin to understand how serious the patrons and chef are about their food.
There is also an extremely tempting (and accessible) wine list – we recommend trying something local as this is a region producing some very nice wines at great prices, and there is also an ample selection of wines available by the glass, beers and even coffees. So if you consider yourself a buona forchetta, this is one little gem you can’t afford to miss.
Via Boccacanale di S. Stefano, 38/40
Tel: (+39) 0532 20 76 28
Book Of The Month
Italian Home Cooking, 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul
By Julia della Croce
Author, chef and culinary educator Julia della Croce is one of America’s foremost authorities on Italian cooking with over 15 cookbooks to her name, volumes that cover almost every angle of the country, from Veneto and Rome, and all aspects of the country’s cuisine be it vegetarian or how to cook up a quick but authentic plate of pasta. Her latest volume, Italian Home Cooking, is a homage to simple, home-style comfort foods that have been nourishing the bodies and souls of Italians, both in Italy and abroad, for generations.
As soon as you open this book and read some of the chapter titles, you know it’s going to be a feel good book, as despite the more or less classic layout, chapters are introduced with names like welcoming dishes, a bowlful of comfort, pasta by heart, for the love of vegetables and Sunday treats. The book covers a truly delicious range of traditional recipes for cooks looking to create easy but authentic dishes to serve to family and friends, and indeed, is intended to attract new cooks to what risks becoming a dying art – the loving art of home cooking. Many of the dishes are tried and tested favorites – from Neapolitan tomato sauce and Bolognese meat sauce to spaghetti with clam sauce and classic meatballs. But there are also lots of other slightly different ideas to try out – like the batter fried sage leaves that accompany fried zucchini blossoms, the simple but punchy black olive pesto, sweet and sour roast beet salad with orange and mint, and oven fried tilapia with fennel crust.
As ever with this author’s books, the text is eminently readable, instructions concise, and the tips and advice invaluable. A worthy addition to any busy kitchen.