Monday, August 31, 2009

Risotto Nero con Calamari

This is another classic yet decadent and sophisticated recipe that combines the cuisine of northern, southern and coastal Italian cooking. Risotto Nero con Calamari or "Black Risotto with Squid." It takes a very basic risotto recipe then adds a twist by using the squids own ink to color and flavor the dish. What you are left with is a dish that might look rather one dimensional, yet tastes purely from the seas of Italy.

TT = to taste

Serves 8

1. 5-6 shallots, fine dice
2. 2T Goat Butter, plus 4T later (sub cow's or buffalo's milk butter)
3. 3c. Arborio Rice
4. 2c. White Wine
5. 4T Squid Ink
6. about 7c. squid or light chicken stock
7. 1# cleaned Squid, cut up
8. TT fleur de sel
9. TT fresh ground black pepper
10. 1/4c. extra virgin olive oil
11. 1 lemon, juiced
12. 1/4c. flat leaf parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
13. 1/4c. lemon balm, chopped plus extra for garnish

1. Add 2T of butter over med heat
2. Add shallots and cook until softened stirring occasionally with wooden spoon(3-5minutes)
3. Add the rice and begin toasting in pan for 1-2 minutes
4. Raise heat to med-high
5. Add the wine and the squid ink and cook until almost absorbed in to rice
6. Add hot stock a few ladles at a time to rice stirring rather often until almost absorbed in to rice before the next ladles of stock are added
7. Once rice is al dente and most of the stock has been added and absorbed stir in most of the cut up calamari saving some for garnish followed by the final 4T of cold butter cubes until emulsified. The squid will cook through from the heat of the rice.
8. The consistency of the risotto should be when you push the spoon through the risotto, the rice should slowly come back in filling the gap. If it comes to quick, the risotto is too loose. If it sticks and doesn't ooze back in, the risotto is too thick and will need either more stock or butter.
9. Season with salt and pepper as well as the fresh herbs
Transfer to individual bowls and garnish with some of the left over cut up cooked squid tubes along with some of the fresh herbs and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
10. Serve Immediately

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watermelon Mint Bellini

This is a delicious refreshing cocktail that is great for parties. This is one of those cocktails that is only good during the summer when watermelon is in season. Any other time of the year and the drink would fall flat.

For Syrup:
1 ¼ - 1 ½ c sugar depending on desired level of sweetness
1 c. water
2 3/4oz containers of fresh mint

For Rest o Drink:
¼ Seedless Watermelon (in season “July-August“) cut into 1 in. cubes
1 Bottle Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine like Prosecco (Preferably Dry)

For Garnish:
Thin sliced Watermelon Wedges

Combine ingredients for syrup in stainless steel sauce pan and boil with mint completely submerged for 2-3 minutes until sugar dissolved
Chill Syrup
Strain syrup & Combine Syrup with Watermelon and puree in food processor or with immersion blender
Strain Mixture into large pitcher
Add champagne and stir until combined careful not to add too much at a time or mixture will overflow
Pour into individual chilled glasses and garnish
Serve immediately

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frittata con Herbi

This is a dish that is indicative of the Friuli region of Italy. In the spring time, the entire region is filled with fresh herbs. Despite that it is more reminiscent of the spring time, fresh herbs grow in the summer just as well. This is a very simple breakfast dish or even mid-day snack that is very light and fresh. If you grow your own herbs, it makes for a nice way to use them up. If not, the grocery store or farmer's market are substitutes. You can use whatever combination of herbs you like, so don't think that this particular combination is the only one. This is also wonderful to serve with some fresh fruit or prosciutto san daniele.

TT = to taste

Serves 2-3

1) 6 farm fresh eggs
2) 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, lightly packed, roughly chopped (sage, basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley)
3) 1/4 cup Montasio cheese, freshly grated (substitute parmiggiano reggiano)
4) pinch of sea salt
5) pinch of black pepper
6) 2T, plus extra for garnish, Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1) Crack eggs in mixing bowl, & add salt and pepper, then whisk together
2) Heat small non-stick saute pan over high heat until smoking
3) Add 2T of olive oil to pan
4) Add eggs to pan, then half of the fresh herbs
5) Move slightly with rubber scraper to help set bottom crust.
6) After about 20-30 seconds of cooking on stove top, remove from heat and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until egg just forms top crust
7) Immediately transfer to serving platter & invert frittata onto plate.
8) Remember omelette should still be nice and creamy on the inside.
9) Garnish with grated cheese, the rest of the fresh herbs & a generous drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
10) Serve immediately

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grilled Branzini & Prawns with Grilled Lemons

Grilling fish and seafood has to be one of my favorite things to do during the summer. It is something that is fun and different to do than cooking burgers and brats. This is yet another dish that encompasses what real Italian cooking is all about. Great quality ingredients simply prepared. If you can't find the whole prawns, shrimp will work just fine. A good substitute for branzino(Mediterranean bass) would be snapper.

TT = to taste

Serves 4-6

1) 2 Whole Branzini, scaled & scored
2) 10 Whole Prawns
3) 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4) flat leaf parsley
5) fleur de sel
6) fresh ground black pepper
7) 2-3 lemons, halved
8) extra virgin olive oil

1) Preheat charcoal grill
2) Season the cavity and skin of the branzini with salt and pepper
3) Stuff cavity of branzini with the sliced garlic and parsley and drizzle all over with olive oil
4) Season prawns and lemons with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil
5) Brush grill with olive oil to prevent sticking
6) Place lemons cut side down on grill and cook until nice and dark brown, almost charred
7) Place branzini on grill and cook until skin becomes nice and crispy, then flip fish and cook on the other side until crispy and fish is cooked through (around 5-7 minutes per side)
8) Place shrimp on grill and cook until done (2-3 minutes per side)
9) Transfer to serving platter, and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, & a good squeeze of the grilled lemons
10) Serve immediately with wine and LOTS OF NAPKINS!!! DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Homemade Ricotta, Basil & Fleur de Sel

This is a wonderful seasonal recipe that is great for an appetizer. This is what Italian cooking is all about. Use the best quality ingredients to make something so simple, yet beautiful and extremely delicious. If you were to use commodity products for the rest of the dish, it just won't taste nearly as good. If you don't grow zucchini, you can find the blossoms at your local farmer's market and perhaps select grocery stores.

TT = to taste

Ricotta Cheese - Yield 4 cups
1) 1 Gallon Whole Milk
2) 1 quart Buttermilk
3) 1 pint Heavy Cream - Pasteurized as opposed to ultra-pasteurized
4) 1 teaspoon sea salt

1) Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over med low heat and bring to a coil stirring occasionally. Not too hot or curds will burn!
2) Once boiling, remove from heat and let stand for 15-20 minutes.
3) Strain through cheesecloth lined strainer into bucket for about 10 minutes.
4) Transfer cheese to airtight container and add a little bit of the whey to the cheese in order to keep it moist and creamy.
5) The cheese is best eaten the day of, yet it will last for about a week in the refrigerator.
Note - One of my favorite ways to enjoy this delicacy is by scooping some of the warm strained cheese as soon as it is ready and drizzling it with some good extra virgin olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper.

Zucchini Blossoms:
1) 12 Large Zucchini Blossoms, about 4 inches in length, and stamen removed
2) 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese, chilled, and strained for half hour (recipe above)
3) 1/2 c. freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano
4) 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
5) 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
6) 10 medium basil leaves, chiffonade(finely shredded)
7) Flour for dredging
8) Fleur de Sel (Good quality sea salt)

1) Combine drained ricotta, parmiggiano reggiano, black pepper, olive oil and half of the basil leaves in a mixing bowl.
2) Working carefully, stuff the mixture with spoon or piping bag into the flowers.
3) Close up flours
4) Dredge them in flour and place on sheet tray or plate.
5) Heat large saute pan over high heat until just smoking.
6) Add olive oil to pan to create a very thin film of oil in pan
7) Cook a few flowers at a time or they will be hard to manage since they are so delicate.
8) Cook flowers until golden brown on both sides. 1-2 minutes per side. If you have a fish spatula USE IT!!!
9) Transfer cooked flowers to a large platter. BE CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING THEM
10) Garnish the blossoms with a little sprinkle of fleur de sel on each, the rest of the shredded basil and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.
11) Serve immediately