Euro 2012 Soccer Championship. ITALIA plays . . . I cook! New Recipe: Potatoes Gattò

Photo courtesy of http://www.blogo.it

As some of you may know, the European Soccer Championship is underway and ITALIA is one of the contenders. You must know that every time the AZZURRI (nickname for the Italian soccer team) play in a competition, it is a serious matter in my house. As game time approaches, the air gets tense, My three men pretend to be relaxed but you can just sense how jittery they are. As for myself, no reason to deny that I get very anxious as well; lately, however, I realized that spending the hours leading up to the game cooking, put me at ease and so . . . I cook!

Yesterday, ITALIA played vs. England for a chance to advance to the semifinals, big game, a lot at stake, game time 2:45 PM . . . plenty of time for me to release the tension in my cucina.

I decided to prepare something that my mom used to make and that it also happens to be one of my favorites: Gattò di patate. This is yet another classic of the Neapolitan cuisine, perfect for sharing, great for picnic and to me a very festive dish.

It’s a sort of stuffed mashed potatoes casserole; this description doesn’t really give justice to the dish, so just trust me when I say that  “il gattò”  is divine and you will love it. I will be honest and say that it takes some prep time, but it’s worthwhile.

Since I had a lot of time on hand before the game, while the potatoes were boiling I got started on my dessert: “Semifreddo al caffe and mascarpone-zenzero” (Coffee and mascarpone-ginger semifreddo). I had never made a semifreddo before and I am super excited with the result; I will let you get a glimpse of my faboluos sweet treat but you will have to be patient and come back in a day or two for the recipe . . . sorry!

By 1:30 PM my semifreddo was in the freezer and my gattò in the oven, still one hour before kick off. Well, I thought, “I will make my self an Aperol aperitivo!”

My Aperol aperitivo

Still some time to spare… Saturday morning I had visited the local farmers market where I found squash blossoms, I love them! I thought I could quickly fry them so we could have a crispy  bite during warm up.

It’s kick off time . . . FORZA ITALIA!

Half time, still 0-0 . . . let’s calm down with a slice of  gattò.

THE FIRT SLICE

Regulation time is over, final score 0-0 and going to overtime . . . let’s have some more gattò.

Overtime is gone, still 0-0 going to PENALTY KICKS . . . I hate PKs and there is no more gattò. I can’t watch, time for me to retrieve in my bedroom, bite my nails and wait for the yelling and hopefully cheering downstairs . . .

ITALIA WINS!!!!

Let’s celebrate with my semifreddo.

MY SEMIFREDDO

That’s it until Thursday, semifinal game vs. Germany at 2:45 PM . . . more fun in my cucina.

Ricetta

GATTÒ DI PATATE

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds russet potatoes

16 tablespoon unsalted butter

10 oz. salame sopressata style cut into strips ( feel free to substitute with other cured meat of your choice)

½ pound mozzarella cut into cubes

5 eggs (2 hard boiled) 

1-1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup bread crumbs

salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoon fresh parsley hand chopped

1 cup of milk (to use if necessary)

DIRECTIONS:

Boil the potatoes with the skin. They should boil for approximatley 45 minutes. Test with a cake tester and make sure they are tender.  While they are still hot, peel them and pass through a ricer letting them fall into a large bowl.

It’s now time to get your hands dirty . . . Add  butter (reserve 2 tablespoon) and work with your hands until the butter is melted and incorporated into the mashed potatoes.

Add the grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Keep mixing with your hands.

Add the 3 eggs and keep working, if the mixture seems too dry, add some milk to soften.

Add the strips of salame and the cubed mozzarella and with your hands work the mixture so that all the ingredients are blended together.

Butter a baking dish (I like to use a medium size with taller edges) and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Arrange a layer of the potatoes mixture into the baking dish, cover with chopped hard boiled eggs and grated cheese.

Cover with the remaining mixture.

Add grated cheese. Finally top with bread crumbs and dot with small pieces of butter.

Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for one hour or until the top is golden-brown and crunchy.

Let rest at least 15-20 minutes before plating.

THE FIRST BITE . . . SOOOO GOOD!!!

Don’t forget to come back, until then . . . FORZA AZZURRI!!!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a chance to win the beautiful book “Masseria the Italian Farmhouse of Puglia”

DETAILS HERE

Torta Caprese for Valentine’s Day

I am back! I can’t believe this is my first blog in February. Time really flies! I have been busy preparing for the classes that I will be teaching at the end of the month, I have been away with my family for a weekend to celebrate my son’s 21st birthday and . . . I am back on a diet!

What a better occasion to get back on my blog than Valentine’s Day?

San Valentino, “la festa degli innamorati” (the holiday of lovers), this is how in Italy we refer to this holiday. So, forget the diet and let me share with you a decadent dessert that would make your Valentine’s Day even more special.

Not so fast though, first let me tell you something about my Valentine’s Day.

The festivity of San Valentino also coincides with the festivity of San Modestino, which is the Patron Saint of my hometown Avellino, so to me, for many years, february 14  just meant one thing: NO SCHOOL. Hey, I am not saying I didn’t like school, still, who doesn’t like a day off?

Then, I was in love. . . . my first date with my future husband was the second Sunday of February 1980. No specific date, it was simply the second Sunday. One thing I know, it was too soon to celebrate Valentine’s Day. And, it was too conventional for us.

It wasn’t until we moved to the United Sates that Valentine’s Day has taken a different meaning. In the United Sates, this holiday expands to include all your loved ones and I like that. Throughout this past 21 years, I had fun helping my little boys writing countless Valentine’s cards, baking heart shaped cookies, packing Valentine’s gift boxes to my son away in college, sharing chocolates with my coworkers and still. . . my husband and I had not celebrated Valentine’s Day. The second Sunday in February has been our day for the past 32 years.

Yet, something is different this year. My husband has been working out of town and any occasion is good for me to take the three hour trip to see him and so, this February 14, 2012, we will have our first Valentine’s night out!

But now enough with all the nonsense, time to share my recipe, the Torta Caprese (no, it is not the tomatoes-mozzarella salad!).

La Torta Caprese is a typical chocolate cake from the beautiful island of Capri.

It appears that this cake originated in the 1920s in a local bakery, where the pastry chef forgot to add the flour to the almond cake he was baking for three American gangsters that were on the island to buy bulk of gaiters for Al Capone.

The peculiarity of this rich cake is precisely the lack of flour and yeast (a perfect option for people suffering from celiac disease). The main ingredients are chocolate and almonds. The “segreto” (secret) is all in the process which must create as much air as possible, so not to have a dry and hard final product. To enhance the almond flavor I have added to the recipe some Amaretto liquor. The Caprese has a crunchy texture on the outside with a soft, moist heart.

The Torta Caprese is typically served simply dusted with powdered sugar but, for the occasion (My second Sunday in February!) I served mine with a raspberry sauce that I prepared cooking the raspberry in Amaretto liquor. Oh, and I baked my cake in a heart shaped pan!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Buona festa degli innamorati!

RICETTA DELLA TORTA CAPRESE 

My Torta Caprese with Raspberry Sauce

Ingredients 

1-3/4 cup  10.5 oz. almonds (not peeled)

1-3/4 cup 8.8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

1-3/4 cup  8.8 oz. butter (softened)

1 cup granulated sugar

5 eggs (white and yolks separated)

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor (Optional – My personal touch)

Powdered sugar for decoration

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degree. Butter and dust with flour a baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or food processor combine the egg yolks and the sugar.

Process until the sugar is dissolved, the color is light yellow and the consistence is smooth and silky.

Add the softened butter and process until all is blended together.

In the mean while melt the chocolate chip in a water bath or on the microwave (I used the defrost setting of the microwave).

Grind the almonds. The almonds should be finely grounded, it is however preferable if some roughly chopped pieces are in the mix, this will give texture to the cake.

Add the melted chocolate to the eggs, sugar, butter mixture and process slowly to blend. Add the almonds and blend. Lastly add the Amaretto liquor.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt. With the electric mixer, whip until the egg whites are firm then incorporate few spoonful at the time into the chocolate mixture. It is important that you work slowly with a bottom to top motion, this will help to create air into the cake.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven let rest in the pan for few minutes. Flip the pan over a cooling rack and the cake should slide right out of the pan and on the rack.

It’s not a broken heart! The pan was just not tall enough.

Let it cool for 1 hour before dusting with powder sugar.

I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a paper template to make the heart in the center of the cake.  I then used the  cookie cutter to fill the center with cocoa.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients

1 pint fresh raspberry

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon cornstarch

½ cup Amaretto liquor

Directions

In a small pan add the raspberry, the butter, the sugar, and the Amaretto liquor .

Heat to boiling and cook slowly until the raspberry have come apart.

Remove from heat, strain to a fine sieve to discard the seeds. Use a little of the juice to dissolve the cornstarch. Transfer the strained juice back into the pan, add the dissolved cornstarch and cook slowly for few minutes until it thickens a little.

Remove from heat ad transfer to a gravy bowl.

Drizzle the cake with the warm sauce.

I hope you will enjoy it . . . we sure did!

What is your favorite Valentine’s day dessert? Let me know!

La ricetta della Calamarata . . . Calamarata recipe

I am back after a few days of break. I am sure you all had a delightful Holiday weekend just like mine.

My fall (off the only ONE step outside my front door!) on Friday evening, the failure of the garbage disposal and dishwasher on Saturday and the delay of the gift my husband had bought me, which by the way was worth the wait, could not ruin our plan for a wonderful Holiday!

I have spent many hours in my kitchen, the house smelled great, the food was delicious. My husband and I and our two wonderful sons – oh . . . I shouldn’t forget our two lovely dogs – spent a joyous Christmas Eve at the dinner table. The various courses were intercalated by the unwrapping of our gifts and, let me tell you, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) has been once again generous, thoughtful and tasteful with everyone.

Even Vera and Luna were happy with their new bed, toys and giant cookies!

Vera

Luna

After dinner we played board games and just had a good time.

The rest of the weekend was enlightened by more great food and the company of some dear friends, which is always special during the Holidays.

Before I move on to the the Notte di San Silvestro (St. Sylvester’s night – New Years Eve), it is time to keep my promise, so here there are some pics from the Cenone della Vigilia and the recipe of My Calamarata ai frutti di mare (Sea food Calamarata).

 

Calamarata is a type of pasta typical of the region of Campania. It is a wide tubular pasta that takes its name form the calamari (squids) to which once cut into rings, is very similar in shape. The pasta that I used is from Gragnano (a small town in the Neapolitan area, which is considered the kingdom of pasta making. I will tell you about it in another blog), it is made exclusively with durum wheat semolina and it is extruded through bronze dies. This makes the surface slightly rough, making it more suitable to hold sauces and condiments.

Calamarata Pasta

Because of its resemblance to the rings of squid, the typical recipe requires only the use of calamari (squid) so that the pasta and the squids become indistinguishable. In my recipe however, I use different mollusks, and crustaceans.

MY CALAMARATA AI FRUTTI DI MARE

Ingredients for 6

1 pound Calamarata Pasta ( you can substitute with Paccheri)

1/2 pound cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound calamari (squid)

3/4 pound large gamberi (shrimp)

2 pound cozze (mussels)

2 pound vongole (clams)

1 steamed lobster tail (optional)

2 garlic cloves crushed and peeled

salt to taste

crushed red pepper to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup hand chopped parsley 

Directions:

In a large pot bring salted water to boil.

Keep in mind that if you use good quality pasta it might take up to 20-25 minutes to cook. This means you can prepare your sauce while the pasta in cooking. Also remember to cook the pasta one minute less than directed on the package.

If your seafood is not already clean start with these steps

Choose the clams and mussels discarding the cracked ones.

Brush the mussels under running water and remove the beard.

Rinse the clams several times in running water. (Tip: to remove any sand present in the clams, add a bit of flour to water and leave to soak the clams for a few minutes. Then proceed with the rinsing process).

Rinse the squids several times, then skin, eviscerate and wash them inside and out and cut into rings slightly larger than the size of the pasta.

Shell the shrimps, devein, rinse and pat dry (if you buy shrimps with head on, remove the heads and keep 6 on the side).

Shell the lobster tail and cut into 1 inch pieces

Now all your seafood is ready.

Put the clams and the mussels in two separate pots over high heat. Let the clams and mussels open, to facilitate the process cover the pots with a lid. Remove from the heat, shell the clams and mussels (keep some in the shell for decoration) and strain the juice through a sieve and set aside. Keep the clams and mussels warm (pour a little juice over the clams and mussels to prevent drying out).

In a pan large enough to hold the seafood and the pasta, heat the oil, add the crushed garlic, the crushed red pepper and a little salt. Fry until the garlic is slightly gold. You can remove the garlic now.

Add the cherry tomatoes and the squids and cook for 10 minutes. After the first 5 minutes, to keep the sauce moist, add a little of the juice that you had reserved.

After 10 minutes add the lobster tail and the shrimp and cook 3 minutes. Keep adding juice as necessary.

Meanwhile your pasta has been cooking in salted boiling water.

It is time now to add the mussels, clams, hand chopped parsley and a little more juice. Stir together and cook 2 minutes.

At this point your pasta should be al dente, drain well and add it to the pan.

Lastly add the unshelled clams and mussels, more juice and freshly ground black pepper and  fate saltare ( make the pasta jump – slightly fry) the pasta for a minute shaking the pan. When all the condiment has completely coated the pasta, remove from heat and sprinkle with fresh hand chopped parsley.

Buon Appetito!

I would love to hear about your Holiday weekend and your plans for New Year ‘s Eve, what’s your tradition?

Struffoli and Mostaccioli My favorite Christmas desserts

Yesterday was December 21, the shortest day of the year. That means brighter days are ahead and Christmas is only 4 days away.

Time to start My holiday desserts and to share two of My favorite Christmas recipes .

You probably all know about the Panettone from Milano and the Pandoro from Verona, both delicious holiday cakes and today easily available in many gourmet grocery stores.

But, how many of you know about two delicious specialties of the Neapolitan region, the Struffoli and the Mostaccioli?

The Struffoli and the Mostaccioli are nowhere to be found in the States (or at least around my area) so I had no choice that to make My own.

The Struffoli are a true Neapolitan dolce (dessert). It appears that the Greeks brought this specialty to Naples. From there it has widespread throughout Central and Southern Italy; however, with some variations from region to region.

The Struffoli are little balls of dough fried and then coated in honey. Their flavor improves after a couple of days. That’s why it is important to prepare them a few days before the event.  I use a traditional recipe without baking powder because I like My Struffoli a little crunchy. If you prefer a softer consistency add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and let the dough rest for 60 minutes. Also, the original recipe includes the Italian liqueur Strega or Anisette but, since just few weeks ago I bottled My Limoncello (you should know this if you have been following My blog!), I am using that in my recipe.

The Mostaccioli, also called Mustaccioli are sort of large biscotti (cookies) shaped like a diamond and covered with a chocolate glaze or ganache. The name Mostaccioli comes from the peasant’s habit to use the wine must in order to develop a more  intense and sweet flavor. 

The list of traditional Christmas desserts from the Neapolitan area also include other delicacies like the Susamielli, honey based biscotti shaped like the letter S. The Roccoco`, very hard biscotti, shaped like donuts with an intense flavor of almond and citrus. The Divinoamore, prepared for the first time by the nuns of the convent Divino Amore. The almonds and lemons along with the light pink glaze give these small bites a unique Mediterranean flavor.

I have yet to experiment with these recipes, may be next Christmas I will but for now, I hope you will enjoy My Struffloli and Mostaccioli.

My Mostaccioli

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nut meg

2 finely crushed cloves

the zest from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

juice from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pinch of salt

Warm water as necessary

For the glaze

1/4 pound semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cram

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift together the flower, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda and the cocoa powder. Add the sugar and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Add the orange and tangerine zest and the spices and process until combined.

In a measuring cup pour the required amount of  honey , add the orange juice and tangerine juice and then add to the dry ingredients (do not rinse the cup, add  ¼ cup of warm water and keep it aside).  Mix the dough at medium speed allowing all the ingredients to come together.

Add the Grand Marnier and keep processing the dough. Add the warm water as necessary to obtain a compact dough.

Mix the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl. It should be smooth with no lumps.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 360 degree F.

Remove the dough form the refrigerator and on a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a ½ inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath to make sure it is not sticking.

Cut the dough into diamond shape, large and/or small and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack to completely cool.

Prepare the chocolate ganache.

In a pan combine chocolate chips and the heavy cram in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts.

With a brush cover the bottom of the Mostaccioli with a thin layer of chocolate and let them dry completely. Once they are dry, flip the Mostaccioli and pour the chocolate over the top. Work on a wire rack with a pan underneath because you will have to allow the chocolate to drizzle down the sides. The Mostaccioli need several hours to dry completely.

My Struffoli

Ingredients

4 – ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

5- 2/3 tablespoon unsalted butter

zest from ½ lemon

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoon of Limoncello (options are Strega liqueur or Anisette or Rum)

Vegetable oil for frying (I use Peanut oil)

1 cup of honey

Multicolor nonpareils

Mixed candied fruit chopped into small pieces.

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift the flower, add the salt, the sugar, the lemon zest and the butter and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Slowly add the eggs and lastly the liqueur and process the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl (add a little bit of cold water if necessary).

The dough should be smooth.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

On a surface well dusted with flour knead the dough for few minutes and then divide into small balls, the size of oranges.

Working with one ball of dough at the time, roll the dough into ½ inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into ½ inch long pieces. As you cut the pieces placed them on a surface dusted with flour.

Right before frying transfer  the pieces of dough (one batch at the time) into a sieve and shake to remove excess flour.

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil to 175 degree and fry the pieces of dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan.

As soon as they became light gold, remove from the oil, drain and transfer into a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

Place a large pan on top of a pot with simmering water. Pour the honey in the pan and let melt. Remove from heat and add the fried Struffoli, add the candied fruit and stir until all the Struffoli are completely coated with honey.

To plate the Struffoli, place a glass or a round jar in the center of a serving plate and then place the Struffoli all around to form a ring. Sprinkle with nonpareils and let sit few hours before removing the glass/jar.

You still have time to make these two wonderful desserts, follow the recipes and remember I will be around if you have questions.

Don’t forget to check My blog tomorrow for My Christmas Eve Menu`!