Scallops and Shrimps in Guazzetto . . . My twenty minutes recipe!

Mouthwatering…

One common misconceptions about Italian cooking is that Italian women – or men – spend many hours in the kitchen. While it’s true that it takes 5-6 hours to prepare a traditional  Neapolitan ragú or that an eggplant parmigiana could take up to 2 hours, yet most everyday dishes don’t take more than 30 minutes. Usually, I don’t know what will be at the dinner table until after my daily visit to the market; once there, I let the produce, meat, and fish talk to me. Simple, fresh ingredients require simple, quick preparation.

If you only have 20 minutes, I will share with you how to prepare an easy dish that is perfect for a family dinner yet, so rich in flavor that it would surely impress your guests. Capesante and gamberi in guazzetto, that is “Scallops and shrimps in . . . guazzetto“! The word “guazzetto“, pronounced gwahts-TZET-to (don’t you love the sound of it?) doesn’t have an exact translation but it refers to the fish that is “splashed” with a light creamy sauce. Just trust me, it is buonissimo!

Ricetta

My Capesante e Gamberi in Guazzetto

Ingredients for 4

8-12  sea scallops

12-16 large shrimps peeled and deveined (I like to keep the tail on. Also, if you are using head-on shrimps, remove and reserve the heads)

All-purpose flour, for dredging

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in 1/3 (you might need an extra tablespoon)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 tablespoon capers

1/3 cup Marsala or dry white wine (your preference, I like the sweetness of Marsala)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut each sea scallops in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess. Do the same with the shrimps.

In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the shrimp in one layer.

Allow the shrimp to turn pink-brown on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side – 3 to 4 minutes total.

Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the scallops: heat two more tablespoon of butter until sizzling and add the scallops in one layer.

Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to turn light brown on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown on the other side – 3 to 4 minutes total.

Remove from the pan and set aside. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.  Add the shallots, capers, and parsley and sauté for 2 minutes. If you would like a little heat, add some red pepper flakes. If you have reserved the shrimps’ heads, add them to the pan and let them cook for few minutes while pressing with a fork to release the juice.

Add 1/2 of the wine cook for 1 minute. If you used the shrimps’ heads, spoon them out now and discard.

Add the scallops and shrimp and gently toss the seasonings with the scallops (add a little butter if necessary – I did). Add the wine, let evaporate, cook for 1 minute.

Lastly add ½ of the cream gently tossing with the shrimps and scallops. Taste for seasoning.

Plate the scallops and shrimp. Add the remaining cream to the pan and stir to blend with the seasoning.

Spoon the creamy mixture over the shrimps and scallops. Serve hot.

Pronto!

I like to serve this dish  with a side of roasted finocchi (fennel) and spinach in lemon-garlic vinaigrette. A peppery arugula salad would be perfect too.

Buon Appetito!

For the roasted fennel: cut the bulbs into tick slices. Boil in salted water for 5-8 minutes. Drain. Lightly oil the bottom of a baking dish. Transfer the fennel to the baking dish, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. With your hands toss to coat the fennel then arrange them in 1 layer. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake in preheated oven – 375 degrees – for 20 minutes. They should be fork-tender and golden brown.

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The Italian Island of Sardegna . . . My Paradise

Two weeks ago I was fortunate to spend one week with my husband in the Caribbean Turks and Caicos Islands. While I was there, loving the sun, the soft white sand, and the crystal clear water, I kept thinking how much I miss living close-by the sea.

My hometown in Italy, Avellino, was only thirty minute away from the amazing Amalfi Coast – I shall write about it; after lunch, I could just hop in my car and take the drive to Amalfi, Maiori, Positano or Minori. My boyfriend husband and I exchanged some of our first kisses on Minori‘s shore…

My nonna (grandmother) lived in a sea town from where we would take the motorboat to reach Il Bikini, a beach/bathhouse establishment in the Bay of the Sorrento Peninsula.

Il Bikini
photo courtesy of http://www.ilbikini.com

And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I used to spend most of my childhood summers on Paestum‘s beach.

In my twenties, I vacationed in many Italian’s islands: Sicilia, Salina, Panarea, Vulcano, Lipari, Pantelleria, Favignana, Ischia, Capri, Elba, Caprera, and finally, my absolute favorite, Sardegna.

In the Summer of 1984 I was my  uncle Vincenzo’s guest in Sardegna. In the small village of Portoscuso, on the South-West coast just across the little jewel of Isola di San Pietro;  I spent three wonderful weeks with my relatives, their home only few steps away from the beach. My days were simple: napping and reading on the beach during the day, dining alfresco under the portico in the evening, and watching the Olympic Games – held in Los Angeles – at night. My fiancé husband joined me in Portoscuso and we then spent three more weeks traveling throughout the mysterious island of Sardegna.  From South to North, from West to East, then South along the East Coast, and inland to Oliena and Su Gologone where I had one of the best meal I have ever had. I was in love with everything . . .  the sea, the mountain, the architecture, the food, the people. But guess what? I did not have a camera! Yeah you heard it, no camera, no pictures!

No pictures of the white beach of La Pelosa in Stintino, of the secluded Cala Luna, of the Catalan city of Alghero, of the ancient Nuraghi . . . nothing, just my memories.

My husband and I went back to Sardegna in Summer 2008, this time with our teenage boys. We only spent one week in the area of Porto San Paolo, on the North-East coast, just South of Olbia and across the small island of Tavolara. Only one week was needed for my boys to fall in love with the place too. And this time I took few pics too!

You might be asking why I am telling you all this. You know what they say,  ” l’erba del vicino è sempre più verde ” (the neighbor’s grass is always greener), so in Europe all are longing for the Caribbean Sea and for good reasons, don’t get me wrong. Imagine my excitement once I came to the States . . . so much more convenient to reach the Caribbean’s from here! So, I visited Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas and lately Turks and Caicos.

Coming home after this latest trip, however,  I had an epiphany. I started comparing my Caicos‘s pictures with my pictures from Sardegna and  that’s what I want to share with you today. While enjoying the slide show, remember that in Sardegna, the scenery also comes with the delicious regional cuisine: porceddu (suckling pig rosted on the spit), malloreddus (handmade pasta), pane carasau (sort of thin flatbread), pecorino sardo . . . .and the unique aroma of mirto (myrtle)!

La mia Sardegna and Turks and Caicos

NOTE: click on the first picture and a full screen image will appear then follow the arrow . . . I guess you will like it!

Well, I know where I am going back . . . and you? Where are you going?

If you need a travel consultation and trip planning for your next trip to Sardegna visit my site Sharing My Italy or email me at mg@sharingmyitaly.com

I am back and . . . with an Award!

MY NEW AWARD!

Well, I am back . . . at least I am trying. After a wonderful vacation with my lovely husband to Turks and Caicos – I know it is not Italy! – I returned home where a little family crisis was expecting me. Be assured, not a tragedy, but enough to make my head spin and enough to make me completely forget about blogs, stats, tweets, sleep, and so on.

Thanks to Dutchgoesitalian who kindly nominated me for the Illuminating Blogger Award, I am slowly starting to get my mojo back.

Grazie Mille Letizia, I really needed this!!!

Little rules to follow in order to accept the award:

  1. The Nominee should visit the award site Food Stories and leave a comment indicating that they have been nominated and by whom.
  2. The Nominee should thank the person that nominated them by posting & including a link to their blog. Again, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to Dutchgoesitalian !!!
  3. Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post. I always look at the small details. I am pretty much obsessed with that!
  4. Select at least five other bloggers that you enjoy reading their illuminating, informative posts and nominate them for the award.
  5. Notify your  nominees by leaving a comment on their blog, including a link to the award site Food Stories .

My nominees are – drum roll . . .

Tea&Biscotti

Our Kitchen Inventions

Two black dogs

Meg Travels

Mondomulia

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who visited my blog on Mother’s Day . . . I have just realized that it has been my most viewed post . . . GRAZIE!!!!

Wishing you a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! A presto . . .

Celebrating Mother’s Day with an Italian Poem.

Buona Festa della Mamma!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today, my words are not needed . . . I will let a poem speak.

I am sharing another poesia (poem) by Annabella Mele; you can read about this Italian poetess -very close to my heart – in my January and March‘s posts.

You can listen to the poem in Italian while following the text. The English translation is below.

Original Italian Version – Click to listen

https://sharingmyitaly.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/memo-1.mp3

English Translation

An Old Mother

No … I could not look in the eyes

of an old mother;

I could not count the wrinkles on her face

or the tears trickling from the dry eyes;

I could not watch her walking slowly,

dragging her feet in the stuffed boots;

I could not see the light passing through

her transparent hands;

I could not listen to her trembling voice;

I could not hold her to me,

reviving her fragile hair,

returning a gesture so much used

in my tender age.

I could nothing of all this . . .

and I still carry the wounds.

Sending love to all the mothers in this Universe.

NOTE: No blogging this coming week . . .VACATION! I hope you will miss me!

A Cultural Evening at the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC

Ambasciata d’Italia, Washington, DC

This past Tuesday night I attended a cultural event at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC. I had found out about it through Piazza Italia, Washington, DC Italian Language Cultural Group. I had joined the group some times ago, however I had not participated to any of their events yet. I am glad I did this time!

First let me tell you that I LOVE the architecture of the Embassy of Italy, not to be partial, but I think it is the most beautiful Embassy in DC.

Rizzoli New York and the Embassy of Italy had organized a cocktail reception to celebrate the publication of  the book  ” Masseria – The Italian Farmhouse of Puglia.

My own copy of the book.

How appropriate that I am in the process of designing a trip to Southern Italy – specifically in the Regions of Campania, Basilicata, and  Puglia – for the Institute of Learning in Retirement (ILR) in Frederick, MD, where I teach few classes.

Now, you are probably looking at the book cover and asking yourself: what is a Masseria?  Let me tell you just few words about it.  The Masseria is a sort of fortified farmhouse typical of the Puglia region and mostly located along the Via Appia (Appian Way) – the ancient Roman road.

The Masserie originated during the feudal period. Each Masseria is almost like  a small self-sufficient world within the vast land. Although they all served the same purpose – house, farm, chapel, stable – the Masseria’s typologies vary with the historical period – from seventeenth century to late nineteenth century – the geographical location, and therefore the different agricultural activities: herding and durum wheat in North-West Murgia, wine and olive in the South-East and in the Salento.  Along with the Trulli – and often in conjunction to – the Masseria are the most distinctive architectural models of  Puglia. They range from rustic to luxurious and each is unique. Note that the Trulli, one of the best example of vernacular architecture,  in 1996 have been included in the UNESCO’s list of  World Heritage Centre.

Back to my evening; the event started with the book presentation that took place in the Embassy’s auditorium, which was furnished with comfortable Poltrona Frau seating – fancy! Good thing I sat comfortably, the presentation – in typical Italian style –  started fashionably late. Delivering the presentation was the book’s project director, Signora Cristina Rizzo, a charming woman that appeared to prefer to be away from the spotlight.

Signora Rizzo

Signora Rizzo explained that the idea of the book came from a short visit to her friend in Puglia. She said that once in the presence of this unique reality within that beautiful landscape, she immediately knew that she wanted to produce a book about it.

Signora Rizzo went on to explain that since not all the Masserie have been restored/maintained to their original conditions, selecting the Masserie to be featured in the book, had not been an easy task. The shooting of the pictures alone took  4 months.

The book is lovely. It is full of amazing photographs – by Mark Roskams – of a large number of Masserie and it also includes a well written introduction by Diane Lewis that also provides a short description of each depicted Masseria.  I would have probably liked to read a little more in-depth details about the history and the stories behind the Masserie; this is, however, a beautiful coffee-table book.

After the presentation the approximately 90 attendees gathered to the central hall to enjoy red and white  wine from the Puglia Region. I opted for the red and it was very pleasant; shame on me that I forgot to take note of the wine. . . too busy mingling and dispensing business cards to promote my lovely blog!

Although I was a little disappointed that Mrs. Diane Lewis was not there to present the book herself, I had a very enjoyable evening. I finally met some members of Piazza Italia,  I got myself a wonderful book, and something new to share with you.

NOTE: Some of the Masseria have recently been converted into agriturismo, boutique hotels, and luxury resorts.

 FTC Disclosure

I have not received any compensation for posting this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.  The books shown is my own. My opinions are 100% my own.

New Recipe: My Polpettone Ripieno

My Polpettone e Piselli

Today I share one of my family’s favorite recipes, Polpettone ripieno con contorno di piselli (stuffed meatloaf with side of green peas).

Not much to chat about it, so I will get right to the recipe. This is my mom’s recipe, to which I have made only few modifications.

It is easy, flavorful, and satisfying. It is also versatile,  you can choose you favorite cheese and cold cuts for the stuffing, and even add some spinach if you want.

I like to use provolone cheese and mortadellaprosciutto cotto (ham) is typically used. Even the choice of meat is up to you, use beef or veal or combine the two, add pork if you want.

I just prepared this meatloaf few nights ago and I used a mix of beef/pork/lamb, it was delicious. I also added one  smashed boiled potato to the meat, it helped to keep the meatloaf moist.

The recipe will yield one large polpettone or two medium one. I got slightly carried away, so I ended up with two medium and one small, and I also made few extra polpettine (small meatballs), which I fried; we ate them during the Capitals ice hockey’s  game . . . Go Caps!!!

NOTE: To prepare a perfect polpettone you need to get your hands dirty – literally. DO NOT use a food processor.

Ricetta

My Polpettone Ripieno

For the meat mixing:

¾ lb (organic) ground beef – I use 93% lean

½ lb ground pork

½ lb ground lamb

8 ounces day old bread – cubed and crust removed

1 cup milk

1 large Russet potato – boiled

2 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 tsp salt

For the filling:

8 ounces thinly sliced Mortadella

8 ounces sliced Provolone

2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano

For the side dish:

2 lb frozen peas

½ onion sliced

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup dry white wine

salt – pepper

Directions:

To defrost the peas: Pour the frozen peas into a colander. Set the colander under cold running water for 2 minutes. Shake the colander often then let drain.

Ready to start!

In a medium bowl, mix the bread and milk. With your fingers break the bread and make sure it is covered with milk. Let soak for 5 minutes, squeeze out excess milk from the bread. Discard milk. In a large bowl mix the meat and the bread.

Using your hands mix until the meat and bread are well combined. Pass the boiled potato through a ricer and add to the mixture. Add the eggs, grated Parmigiano, and salt.

Again, use your hands to mix and combine the ingredients. You can add chopped parsley to the mixture if you wish.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, slightly moisten the foil with water (to prevent the meat from sticking to the foil). Take half of the meat mixture, place it in the center of the foil and pat down to form a rectangle ½ inch thick.

Preheat oven at 360 degree and oil the bottom of a deep baking dish.

Sprinkle the meat with Parmigiano, then arrange the slices of mortadella on the meat to cover the whole surface.

Arrange the slices of provolone on top of the mortadella. Keep the provolone at least 1 inch off the edges (this will make it easier to roll up the meatloaf and also will prevent the cheese to drip away while baking).

Sprinkle more Parmigiano if you wish.

Starting at long side and using the foil as aid, roll up the meat.

Fold ends and seams together. Make sure the long side is completely sealed.

Oops . . . A little extra!

Place the meatloaf in the previously oiled baking dish.

Repeat with the remaining meat mixture. Place the second meatloaf in the baking dish. Space them at least 2 inches from each other.

Arrange the green peas between the meatloaf and all around. Drizzle with oil, add the sliced onion, salt, pepper and the wine.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the peas and continue baking for 20 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes.

My Polpettone e Piselli

Slice and plate along with the peas.

Not much leftover!

I hope you like my Polpettone as much as my boys do.

A Tuscan Borgo, Pienza

Last year, in May, after five days in Florence, my husband and I spent three days in the Tuscan countryside. We stayed in Cortona and from there we took some daytrips. Cortona is a wonderful Medieval town itself and I shall, in the near future, write a post about it. Today, however, I want to share with you my day in Pienza.

Pienza is in the province of Siena, in the magnificent Val d’Orcia. In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire Val d’Orcia was included on the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscapes.

Hard to believe, this was my first time in Pienza. During my freshman year as architectural student, I had taken a class on History of Renaissance Architecture.

My 30 years old textbook

Pienza, which is considered a model of Renaissance architecture/urbanism, was studied in great detail.

So much so, that once I was there I felt like I knew the place by heart: the piazza, the chiesa, the palazzo; all, except for the view of the valley that, from 1600ft above sea level, was simply amazing.

Until 1462, the village was called Corsignano and it was the birthplace of Silvio Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II. In February 1459, Pius II visited his native borgo (village) and decided to rebuilt it as his ideal residence. He hired the most famous Florentine architect – at the time –   Bernardo Rossellino.

The Pope and the architect, without disturbing the original medieval village, which is aligned along a road on the crest of the hill, freed a large area – closer to the Orcia Valley – to build a group of monumental buildings. The architectural landmarks are: Cattedrale dell’Assunta (Cathedral), Palazzo PiccolominiPalazzo Borgia, and Palazzo Pubblico, all surrounding the magnificent Piazza Pio II (Pio II Square). The Piazza, unlike others, has a trapezoid shape, emphasized by herringbone paving divided into panels by strips of travertine. The travertine is also used to shape a circle within the paving.

Do you know that if the façade of the cathedral was laying flat on the square, the occhio centrale (the central eye, the round window) would line up with the circle on the paving?

The cathedral is located on the hill’s ridge and turns the apse to the valley and  over the ridge. 

Arriving in the square, the façade is framed between the diverging walls of Palazzo Piccolomini and Palazzo Borgia.

The space appears contained and grandiose at the same time. On either side of the church, two large openings hint at the vast open space of the valley. And how could I not mention the pozzo (well), off the center, close to the Palazzo and in perfect proportion with the whole . . . my favorite element.

Il Pozzo

The church, inside, is divided into three naves, the largest one in the middle, but all three of equal height. The design was inspired by both the German Hallenkirchen  – Pius II had visited the German church in Austria – and the description of Leon Battista Alberti’s ideal temple.

After visiting the church, my husband and I visited Palazzo Piccolomini, which is truly beautiful. As you enter, you are welcome into a spacious courtyard.

While the palazzo may appear similar to its contemporary Florentine palaces, with its three quadrangular shaped floors and courtyard, it has an new unique element: a panoramic loggia.

The loggia occupies the entire North façade and connects the palace to the giardino – remember, Frank Lloyd Wright was not born yet!

The Sala delle Armi overlooks both the courtyard and the loggia, where you will be amazed by the expansive view of the Val d’Orcia and the Monte Amiata.

As usual, my husband and I had lost track of time. After 3:00pm in Italy – take note of this – it is hard to find an open restaurant. So, at 2:55pm, the only place that agreed to let us sit was “Sperone nudo”. We sat outside in the small square and although the service was a little rushed, the food was good and the atmosphere enchanting. The table next to us was occupied by American tourists who after a brief conversation, realizing that I was an Italian living in the States, asked for suggestions on the menu`. Luckily, they were all pleased with mine/their selections!

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the borgo, stopping for gelato – of course – and browsing all the little shops.

Pienza is also famous for its homonymous Pecorino cheese. I bought two round cheese blocks and I gave them to my brothers as a gift.

Before leaving we wanted to enjoy one last view of the surrounding landscape and we could not have found a better place than a  walking path, next to the town walls on the south side . . . beautiful!

Narrow street to the walking path

How lovely would be to wake up every morning to this view!