Tag Archives: side dishes

Asparagus With Boznersauce, A ‘Sauce from Bolzano’

'salsa bolzanina'

‘salsa bolzanina’

Boznersauce is a springtime specialty from Bolzano in Alto-Adige, the Italian province that together with Trentino forms one of Italy’s five autonomous regions, Trentino-Alto-Adige. Annexed from Austria by the Kingdom of Italy at the end of World War I, Alto-Adige—Südtirol in German or South Tyrol to English speakers—has retained its culturally Austrian identity in the decades since, despite an aggressive Fascist-era ‘Italianization’ program and a significant influx of Italians in the post-WWII period. Officially part of Italy for nearly a century, today Alto-Adige is still comprised predominantly of native German speakers, though Italian and German are both official languages.

The intersection of Italian and Germanic influences in South Tyrol characterizes many aspects of local culture, including cuisine. Further shaped by Viennese and Hungarian traditions, Alto-Adige’s culinary scene has earned a reputation in recent years as a gastronomic mecca, with 23 Michelin stars as of 2016. Interestingly, many non-Italian dishes, items like speck, würstel, strudel, and knödel, have entered the Italian national food canon via Alto-Adige.

The people of the Bolzano area enjoy this hollandaise-like sauce, whose name means ‘of Bozen’ (German for Bolzano), alongside fresh asparagus during Easter Sunday lunch.

Ingredients for 4

2 bunches green or white asparagus
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water

For the sauce:
4 eggs, hard-boiled
100 ml ‘light’ olive oil or seed oil of choice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1-2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
3 Tbsp beef broth
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt

Instructions

To make the Boznersauce, start by boiling the eggs for 8 minutes and remove from the water immediately. Heat the broth and keep warm.

When cool enough to handle, peel the eggs. Slice them in half and remove the yolks, placing the yolks in a bowl and setting the whites aside. Add the vinegar, mustard, broth, salt and pepper to the yolks. Whisk until creamy (a few lumps are fine). Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking continuously until you have a thick, smooth cream. Add the minced parsley and combine. Chop the egg white to a medium-fine mixture. Add to the egg cream and combine. Set aside at room temp while you make the asparagus.

Bring the water and wine to a simmer. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and cook in the simmering water for 5 minutes and remove promptly. Arrange the asparagus on serving dishes and place generous scoops of the Boznersauce over them. Dust with the chopped chive.

IMG_20160304_151639

It’s Prugnolo Day!

viva il prugnolo!

viva il prugnolo!

Prugnolo mushrooms are everywhere right now, dominating the local sagra scene but not only: Tomorrow night the folks at Pizzeria Valeri in Luco di Mugello are hosting a dinner event based on this cute little fungo. Check out (and like!) Valeri’s Facebook page for more info, and in the meantime have a peek at the menu:

Crostini al Prugnolo
Ravioli and Tortelli with Prugnoli
Pizze miste with Prugnoli
Prugnolo Gelato
cost: €28 per person, drinks included

Bar Pizzeria Valeri
Via Giovanni Traversi, 95
Luco di Mugello
Borgo San Lorenzo (FI)
tel: 055 840 1776

Stewed Artichokes With Garlic & Mint

carciofi in umido

carciofi in umido

Prep several small, slender-ish artichokes (think morelli or violet, not globes): Strip away all the tough outer leaves, cut off the tops, and scrape the outer fibrous layer from the stem. Quarter length-wise and remove the fuzzy choke (which should be minimal) and soak in fresh lemon juice diluted with water while you mince some garlic and deseed and dice a few small tomatoes. Heat some olive oil in a casserole/tegame, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, then add the drained artichoke pieces. Salt and pepper well, combine, cover and cook until the stems are tender, adding water if the garlic starts to stick or brown and turning the artichokes occasionally. About half-way through the cooking, add the tomato, and when just ready garnish the artichokes with mint, fresh or dried.

Leek & Potato Gratin with Blue Cheese & Thyme

oh, gratin.

oh, gratin.

After a lengthy hiatus from blogging—a delightful trip to California last month that saw quite a few amazing meals but almost no cooking on my part!—I’m back home and back to my regular kitchen routine. This gratin, inspired equally by Deborah Madison and a tempting chunk of blue Stilton in my fridge, was yesterday’s lunch. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 large leeks, mostly the white parts, rinsed and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 large potatoes (about 450 grams/just under a pound), peeled and sliced into rounds roughly the same thickness as the leek rounds
1 cup (about 150 grams) crumbled blue cheese of your choice
1 & ½ cups circa béchamel:
2 Tbls butter
3 Tbls flour
1 cup (250 mls) fresh heavy cream
1 Tbls chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnishing (optional)
ground nutmeg
salt & pepper

Instructions

Set the oven to 350° F / 175° C. Boil the sliced leeks for 2 minutes in salted water. Scoop out, strain, and set aside in a colander to let cool. Boil the potato slices in the same water for 4 minutes, strain and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, make the béchamel:

Combine the butter and flour in a non-stick saucepan over low heat until a paste forms. Add the cream and stir or whisk vigorously until thoroughly combined. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often as it thickens to prevent the sauce from sticking. Add the chopped thyme about halfway through. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and grate in approximately ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. Keep the sauce warm while you proceed.

Butter a 9-inch (or similar) shallow glass baking dish or casserole. Line the bottom with a layer of potato slices, then a layer of the leeks. Now gently spread a layer of the white sauce over the veggies, followed by some of the crumbled blue cheese. You should have enough vegetables and béchamel for another layer. Tip: lightly salt and pepper the second layer of potato. Top with the remaining blue cheese and any straggler pieces of leek. Bake for about 30 minutes and remove from the oven when the top is bubbling and starting to turn golden. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.

just out of the oven

just out of the oven

Tomato Sorbet

sorbetto al pomodoro

sorbetto al pomodoro

I tasted tomato sorbet for the first time quite recently, while participating in the Food Blogger Contest hosted by Chef Academy Italy in Terni in May. The morning of the event, we bloggers had been assigned to teams of students, each team under the supervision of a professional chef instructor of the Academy. I had the privilege that morning of working alongside Chef Maurizio Serva, who runs La Trota restaurant in Rivodutri in the province of Rieti in Lazio. Chef Serva stopped me at one point amid the controlled kitchen chaos to have me taste a tomato sorbet (a nearby student offering me a spoon quickly produced from his shirtsleeve pocket), to later be paired with a revamped version of this dish of mine during the competition tastings. Things were so busy that day I didn’t think to ask for the recipe, but today I decided to try to make it based on taste-memory.

This savory and tangy sorbet could be served in between courses, especially during a seafood or fish-based meal; or as an accompaniment to any spicy or crunchy vegetable dish, such as fried eggplant or zucchini.

Ingredients

500 grams tomatoes (about a pound)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
fresh basil
salt

Instructions

Score and boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool. Peel and deseed the tomatoes. I never manage to remove all the seeds, which probably doesn’t matter for this recipe. But if you’re an OCD type about this kind of thing, you could strain the pulp to make sure you catch every last one. Place the pulp in a bowl or tall container. Add the lemon juice, a few basil leaves, and a few pinches of salt. Either pulse with a wand mixer or use a blender. You want a well-blended, smoothie-like texture, not too liquidy. Taste the mixture to check for the right level of saltiness. Freeze for about 2 hours, checking and forking the sorbet occasionally. If you let the sorbet freeze completely, be sure to take it out of the freezer about an hour before you intend to serve it. You will need to reblend it after it partially thaws.

Oeufs en Cocotte

un œuf très chic

I am a great fan of the egg and am always on the lookout for new ways to make them. This is Julia Child’s recipe for oeufs en cocotte aux fines herbes, or eggs baked in ramekins with herbs. While a bit more work than your average egg dish, these are very flavorful, and not a little stylish on the table. Bon appétit!

Ingredients for each serving

1 – 2 eggs
1 tsp butter
2 Tbls cream
1 Tbls of mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, tarragon, or thyme, chopped
salt & pepper

Instructions

Heat the oven to 190° C / 375° F . Bring a panful of water to simmer, enough to reach about the halfway mark on your ramekins (about 3/4 to 1 inch of water, depending on your cookware).  Chop the herbs. Butter the ramekins and add 1 tablespoon of cream to each and sprinkle with the fresh herbs. Place the dishes in the simmering water. When the cream is hot, break in the egg(s), pour in the remaining cream and add a small tab of butter. Now remove the ramekins from the water and place them in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Child recommends removing them from the oven when they are slightly undercooked: “…when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins.” I removed them after precisely 7 minutes. This is really a matter of individual judgment, but do note that the eggs will set more after you remove them from the oven, and you do not want to overcook them. Season with salt and pepper and serve with good bread. Pictured here: rosemary focaccia.

Potatoes alla Genovese

Potatoes Genoa style. Whatever that means.

Potatoes Genoa style. Whatever that means.

Here’s a recipe from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan, who calls the recipe ‘pan-roasted potatoes with anchovies, Genoa style’. I can only assume what makes this dish in the style of Genoa is the anchovy. In any case, it’s a nice twist on pan-fried potatoes, very simple and very savory.  I halved the recipe below, using about 400 grams of potatoes. See my notes.

Ingredients

1 & ½ pounds (about 700 grams) potatoes
2 anchovy fillets (I used 1 in my halved version, the salt-packed kind)
3 Tablespoons olive oil (2 Tbls in my halved version)
2 Tablespoons butter (1 Tbls in my halved version)
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used 2 Tbls)
salt & pepper

Instructions

Peel and slice (or dice) the potatoes and soak them in cold water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the anchovy, split it open, remove the bones, and chop it until it’s pulpy. Chop the garlic and parsley. If you are using the full recipe you will need a large sauté pan. Heat the olive oil and butter together on low heat and add the anchovy. Stir and press it so it dissolves into the fats. Drain and dry the potatoes and add them to the pan. Add a few grindings of pepper and stir very well so the potatoes are well coated. Turn the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring them periodically, until they are browned and cooked through. Add the parsley and garlic in the last minute of cooking and combine well. Correct for salt and serve right away.

Tortillas

We are made with lard. We are perfect.

We are made with lard. We are perfect.

Yes, this recipe calls for lard. You want a perfect tortilla, don’t you? Then don’t be squeamish about the fat.

Ingredients for 12 small tortillas

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 Tablespoons lard
3/4 cup tepid water

Instructions

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use your fingers to blend the lard into the flour until it’s a crumbly mixture. Add the water and continue mixing until the dough forms. Transfer to lightly floured work surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes. The dough will become elastic and soft. Cut 12 more or less equal-sized pieces and roll them into balls. Flour your rolling pin and roll out each ball into thin rounds (or you can use a tortilla press if you have one). Cook them in a hot skillet until they start to bubble up and turn nice and golden. Cook both sides. Greasing the skillet is optional. I find that a lightly-oiled frying pan gives a nicer color to the tortillas, and they will be firmer, crunchier. If you want soft tortillas you can skip the oil. Try both ways and decide for yourself!

tortilla dough

Spinach & Ricotta Fritters (with Poached Egg)

dressed up for lunch

These spinach & ricotta fritters are intended as a side dish but can easily be dressed up into a main course. In summer they are lovely atop a plate of mixed greens with sliced tomato, a little fresh cream and chopped chive. Today I served them for lunch topped with a poached egg and dusted with fresh ground pepper and dried oregano. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 large bunch fresh spinach (about 1 to 1 & 1/2 cups when cooked)
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
2-3 Tbls grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbls grated Gruyère or similar cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
olive oil for cooking

Instructions

Blanch the spinach (leaves only) in low-boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, strain, and thoroughly press out all the excess water. Chop the spinach, give it another squeeze to press out any liquid, and add it to all the other ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Spoon in dollops of the spinach mixture and cook for about 5 minutes or until the underside is golden and firm. Gently turn the fritter and cook the second side. Transfer the cooked fritters to a paper towel-covered plate and lightly salt. Serve warm.

 

Blue-Cheese Stuffed Artichokes

blanched, grilled, stuffed, baked, and (finally!) on the plate

blanched, grilled, stuffed, baked, and (finally!) on the plate

Growing up, I always ate artichokes in the steam & dip the leaves way (either mayo or melted butter), which is a fine way to eat them, to be sure. When I moved to Italy, however, I discovered a world of possibilities with regard to the artichoke. Sliced thin then battered and fried. Raw and tender in a salad with fresh lemon juice and parmigiano cheese. Sautéed in a frittata. Then of course there’s the alla romana and the alla giudia methods—both wonderful. Italians really show their love for carciofi in the infinite and glorious ways they prepare them.

Use any blue cheese you like here—Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton. I used a local marvel called blu Mugello, produced at one of my all-time favorite places, Fattoria il Palagiaccio. The extra dose of a creamy white cheese like ricotta fresca or mascarpone mellows the flavors and renders the melted cheese stuffing fluffier, nicer in consistency (I find melted blues can be, well, weird).

Ingredients

3 medium/large artichokes
80-100 grams (about 3 or 4 ounces) blue cheese of your choice
2 Tablespoons ricotta fresca, or mascarpone, or cream cheese
3-4 Tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
salt

Instructions

Take the cheeses out the fridge to warm to room temp.

Carefully clean the artichoke stems with a sharp paring knife by scraping away the outer fibrous layer. Slice the artichokes lengthwise down the middle, then cut out the fuzzy choke, being careful not to cut away any of the heart. Use a teaspoon to help scoop out the choke (you want a small, clean cavity just above the heart.) With scissors, cut off all the spines but do not peel away any of the tough outer leaves. Do this for all three artichokes. They will look something like this:

Blanch the artichokes ‘face down’ in low-boiling water for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a clean towel to dry completely. In a grill-style grooved pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil, and brush the fats around to cover the grill thoroughly. When the pan is very hot, grill the artichokes face down for 3-5 minutes or until they are golden. They should look something like this:

chokes4

Transfer them to a plate and lightly salt. Gather the fats and juices from the grill pan in a small bowl. (Alternatively, if you have your outdoor grill handy, you can grill the ‘chokes a few minutes face down over medium coals, or until they are slightly blackened.)

While the artichokes are cooling, prepare the stuffing. Blend the cheeses together with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs and combine. You will have a not-exactly-pretty paste:

chokes3

Set the oven to grill function at 200° C/400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, stuff the cavity of each artichoke half with the cheese mixture. You can make a small mound, and also stuff some into the crevices of the now-soft leaves of the artichoke. Brush some of the melted butter/oil on them, then sprinkle with more bread crumbs to create a slightly crunchy top. Grill them on one of the higher shelves in your oven for about 10 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden. Garnish with fresh thyme, or fresh nepeta if you have it on hand.