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More From Nice: Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce
Aug 29th, 2012 by
This makes a great first course or can be served as a side dish.

This makes a great first course or can be served as a side dish.

Here’s another recipe from La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard. They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Pork Cutlets With An Express Marinade
Jul 11th, 2012 by
This flavorful dish is easy to make on a weeknight.

This flavorful dish is easy to make on a weeknight.

I made this one up Monday night with ingredients I had on hand. It was quick and easy to make and very garlicky. In other words, it’s a healthy dish.

Ingredients:

  • Pork cutlets (about 1 pound)
  • Garlic powder (2 tbspoons)
  • Paprika (2 tbspoons)
  • Dried sage (1 tbspoon)
  • Salt (1 tbspoon)
  • Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (1/3 cup)
  • Dijon mustard (1/2 tspoon)

What I did:

Put the cutlets between two pieces of wax paper and beat them with a rolling pin until flat and thin.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Dip the cutlets in the bowl, covering them with the oil mixture.

Fry the cutlets in a little olive oil in a saute pan until done (about 30 seconds on each side). Don’t overcook.

Serve with rice or a mushroom risotto and a side salad. Serves four.

Eggplant and Mushroom Stacks
Jun 26th, 2012 by
Roasted eggplant tastes great, is low-calorie and can be used in a variety of dishes.

Roasted eggplant tastes great, is low-calorie and can be used in a variety of dishes.

I improvised this dish one night using ingredients I had on hand. The taste is savory, sweet, and comforting. And it’s something that can be whipped up in about half an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Eggplant (Make sure it’s firm, shiny and a dark purple. This is key, as I don’t believe in salting eggplant and draining it to get out the bitterness. If you buy a perfectly ripe eggplant without bruises, it won’t be bitter.)
  • Mushrooms (about 8 oz.), fried in olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to also add a sprinkling of dried or fresh nepitella. But since that’s hard to come by, you could also use a combination of basil and mint.
  • Cream cheese (About 2 or three tablespoons; just enough to mix in with the cooked mushrooms).
  • Sun-dried tomatoes in oil (1 jar).
  • Arugula (About a cup)

What I did:

Wash and peel the eggplant vertically, leaving vertical, purple stripes.

Cut thin (About 1/4 of an inch) round disks of the eggplant.

Brush on olive oil and salt on both sides. Bake in a 400-degree oven on a cookie sheet. Brown on one side and then turn over. This should take about 15 minutes for each tray of eggplant. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese into cooked mushrooms.

Top an eggplant slice with a couple of tablespoons of the mushroom mixture.

Top this with a few slices of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. And then top that with a few leaves of arugula. And top it all off with another slice of eggplant.

You can serve it as is, or heat it up in a hot oven for just a minute before serving.

Serve this with roasted broccoli or other roasted vegetables if you wish to make dinner a total vegetarian treat.

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice
Mar 21st, 2012 by
Make these individual parmesan baskets and you'll impress your guests.

Make these individual parmesan baskets and you'll impress your guests.

This is a very special, yet very simple recipe, I got from my brother-in-law Billy Kelley, who spends several months each year in Florence, Italy. He isn’t a cook. He’s an artist who paints in his studio all day and then goes out to eat in some of that city’s best restaurants.

A few years ago he brought me back a small booklet from Trattoria del Carmine which contained several recipes including this one. They filled the parmesan cheese basket with a yellow squash risotto. Here I stuffed it with a plain risotto made with onions and celery.

You could use a light rice dish too. Just be sensitive not to overpower the crisp tangy taste of the parmesan cup. Be creative. Use your imagination. What else could you fill this with?

Ingredients:

  • Imported parmesan cheese (Don’t skimp here. I once tried using the cheese they sell in a jar at the supermarket and it didn’t work. The cheese would not melt and it made me wonder if it was cheese at all.)
  • Equipment: A nonstick frying pan.

What I did:

Warm up the nonstick frying pan.

Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the cheese in a circle in the hot pan.

Let the cheese melt until it becomes an intense yellow color.

Detach the sheet of cheese with a spatula and place it flat over a small cup or 2-3-inch ramekin. Poke it down into the cup or ramekin with your index finger to give it a bowl shape.

Once it cools, remove it from the cup or ramekin. Put it on a plate and fill it with risotto or whatever you decide will work.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

What’s Cooking This Christmas
Dec 25th, 2011 by
Homemade macaroni with bolognese sauce was served on Christmas Eve.

Homemade macaroni with bolognese sauce was served on Christmas Eve.

So here’s what I cooked up this holiday season.

  • I started by making a couple of hundred Befana cookies, a traditional Italian Christmas cookie with flavors of sugar, orange, lemon, almonds and anisette.
  • I then moved on to try something new: chocolate bark with orange peel and walnuts; and white chocolate bark with cranberries and pistachio nuts.
  • On Friday night I had my brother-in-law and his wife over for dinner. They flew in from Florence, Italy (their Fall home) by way of Florida (their permanent residence). And so I made them something very Florentine, Ribollita soup, followed by a main course of roasted vegetable napoleons with a side dish of parmesan cups filled with porcini flavored orzo. I’ll post the recipe for the latter sometime this week.
  • Then, last night on Christmas Eve, I had my brother’s family over along with my friend Danny and his daughter (my God daughter) Dani Siobhan. For that dinner I made fried calamari, roasted pepper shrimp saute, and homemade macaroni with meatballs. For the homemade macaroni guests had their choice of a bolognese sauce or an all vegetable red sauce made with carrots, celery and tomatoes. Recipes for this dinner will also be posted later in the week.

And now, today on Christmas Day, I can rest. But there’s no rest for Tricia who is obligated to make her Asian shrimp salad to bring over my brother’s house. It’s a great recipe that she found in a cookbook that a previous tenant left in an apartment she lived in years ago. It’s a crowd pleaser and now has become a Christmas Day tradition.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good meal!

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Cookie Cutters Just In Time For Christmas
Dec 17th, 2011 by
My old star-shaped cookie cutter fits in well with the playing card suit cutters I bought on eBay.

My old star-shaped cookie cutter fits in well with the playing card suit cutters I bought on eBay.

These vintage babies arrived in the mail this week.

Every Christmas I make Befana cookies and look for cookie cutters in the shape of the four playing card suits (that’s how my grandmother made them) but had no luck until this year. Last week, I found them on eBay and today I got to use them.

They’re vintage cookie cutters, from the 30s or 40s and they work better than what is made today. These cutters pick up the dough when you use them and the wooden handles allow you to pop off a cookie with one shake, keeping the shape in tact.

Up until now, I only had a vintage star-shaped cookie cutter with a wooden handle and a newer spade-shaped cutter that didn’t work as well.

If you don’t have vintage cookie cutters in the shape of playing card suits, don’t fret. A Befana cookie by any other shape would taste as sweet.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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