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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fig Pizza



Figs and cheese? Why yes its delizioso! This is recipe is based on one of my favorite summer time fruits combined with one of my favorite year-round pastimes....baking and eating pizza ; )
Ingredients
1 pizza dough
4-6 ounces goat cheese
1 large onion sliced and sauteed in olive oil until caramelized
olive oil
sea salt
about a dozen fresh figs
1 rosemary sprig
Directions
Preheat stone in oven on bottom or depending one oven on the next to bottom rack at 550.
Place parchment on a sheet pan or flat pizza pan.
Roll out dough on to parchment covered pan as large and thin as possible.
Drizzle olive oil all over, just a little : )
Add half of the rosemary sprig leaves chopped fine, just a little!
When adding toppings leave a large edge as we will fold it over slightly.
Add the goat cheese in chunks evenly all over.
Add the onions.
Cut the figs in half and add the figs  open side up.
Grind a little seas salt all over.
Fold the edges over slightly covering the toppings.
Bake7 minutes or until set enough to remove parchment , remove parchment.
Continue baking until starting to golden brown on cheese about 5-8 minutes more.
Add the other half of the sprig on top for looks and to release the oils and aroma!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Crockpot Meatballs and Red Sauce (Ragu)



This recipe is perfect for hot summer days when you don't want to heat up your cucina simmering, sauteing, and frying! This recipe will not be as thick as regular sauce and the meatballs won't have that crispy skin BUT the ease of making these and moisture you can only obtain from crock pot cooking will make up for it..... I promise. Plus I have a little trick for thickening up this sauce pretty well even in a crock pot : )
All my ingredients ready for the crock pot!
 Ingredients
Sauce: 
Three 28 ounce cans crushed Italian Plum tomatoes (Marzano) *see note below
4.6 ounces tomato paste (1 can or tube)
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/3 cup golden raisins soaked in 1/2 cup white or red dry wine (remove and reserve the raisins for the meatballs)
olive oil (enough to coat bottom of crockpot
1 teaspoon sea salt and a small amount of black pepper
a few fresh basil leaves
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Meatballs:

2 pounds ground meat (half pork half beef or half turkey etc...)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove minced
olive oil to moisten
1 teaspoon salt and a little black pepper
a pinch or more red pepper flakes (to your taste)
My secret for thickening sauce in crockpot
The reserved 1/3 cup golden raisins
1-2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 - 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/4 - 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (Or for GF replace with same amount of finely grated Parmesan cheese)
1 egg beaten
Directions
Important!: Add oil, garlic, and onion to the crock pot and heat on high with the lid while you prepare the meatballs.
Meanwhile,heat up the wine in microwave for 1 minute, add raisins and allow to soak.
Mix meat, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs,minced garlic, chopped parsley, pine nuts, fennel seeds, redpepper, salt and pepper and stir well.
Add egg, olive oil, and raisins mixing well with hands.
Now add tomatoes (see note below), wine, tomato paste, basil, and oregano to crock pot and stir.

I usually make the meatballs as I add them to the sauce one at  time. I like them bigger for this recipe because they seem to hold together better.
Now very very gently push the meat balls down to cover with the sauce.
Cover turn down to low and cook for several hours.
* If the tomatoes are whole you can crush them in the cans with an immersion blender or add to crock pot and use an immersion blender in the crock pot before adding meatballs or blend in a blender for a quick few seconds or crush by hand but try not too not over blend.
  *You can also add the rind of the Parmesan you used to add more flavor.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Mediterranean Carrot Salad (Insalata di Carote)


This is based on an Italian antipasto Insalata di Carote....... doesn't everything sound better in Italian? Well, everything tastes better in Italian too....I'm only playing....or as my Dad would say, "I play honey." But seriously, Italians usually don't eat there veggies raw but prefer to eat them cooked or marinated and who wouldn't, think raw broccoli versus steamed broccoli with a rich cheese sauce. Which is probably why Italians eat more vegetables than than us Americans......because they taste good! This recipe kind of uses both methods making a slightly tender richly flavored salad that's yummy and satisfying enough to be a lunch in itself. I called this salad "Mediterranean" since it has the addition of feta cheese, by far my favorite salad cheese.
Ingredients 
1 pound carrots cut into matchsticks or 1 pound baby carrots quartered long ways 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 garlic clove minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of honey
1/3 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Directions
cut your carrots and steam until soft but not mushy, about 3-5 minutes.
Make marinade by whisking oil, salt, herbs, honey and vinegar in a bowl.
Add hot (straight from the pot) carrots to marinade and stir to coat.
Allow this to sit a few hours or over night in the fridge covered. I put it in a bowl with a lid so I can shake the bowl a few times here and there to coat.
Just before serving add the cheese and stir to combine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Easy & Fast Roasted Pork Tenderloin!



 
This is so EASY and so Fast its ridiculous! You can easily double or even quadruple if you have a large enough pan. The hint is to use an oven proof pan so you only have 1 pan to clean in the end. And serving it Italian Style on top of a bed of greens it makes a complete meal La Buona Cucina!

Ingredients
No salt seasoning I used Costco brand (enough to rub in and cover both sides of the pork)
pork tenderloin
salt
olive oil
1 cup  or so of dry white wine
a fresh rosemary sprig if you have it
Directions


About a half hour before cooking (or you can do this literally just before cooking) rub the seasoning with some salt and olive oil all over the pork both sides right in the pan and allow to sir on counter top to come to room temp.
Preheat oven to 425
Heat up stove top to medium and place the pan on to brown both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side, its ready to flip when it easily pulls away from pan. Do not have too high of heat you just want a seal to the meat.
Now add 1/2 cup wine and allow it to boil  just for a few seconds and place in oven.
Cook until it reaches a temp of 145 (medium rare) - 155 (well done) this takes about 10-15 minutes.
Allow it to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
 Note: take temp in middle and that will be the rarest section noting that the end pieces will be more well done. I always go for a temp of 145 so the middle is medium rare and the ends are well done, something for everyone.
Place the pork right on top of salad greens in a platter with the Rosemary sprig on top.
Easy Reduction Sauce: In the very same pan with all the good bits stuck to bottom (aka favor) add 1/2  wine and 1/2 cup water cooking on top of stove high heat scraping the bottom and whirling around until reduced. You can also add a tab of butter before the wine and this will make a more lush sauce. Note to self : ) Use oven mit for handle!
Serve Italian Style right on top of a plate greens using the sauce and the heat of the pork to both flavor and soften the greens underneath......Delizioso!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Wheat Pie)


Buon Pasqua!  I love Easter as it is truly one of my favorite holidays and even more favorite time of the year, Spring! This is a traditional pie eaten all over Naples, Italy at Easter only which means you have to wait all year long for only 1 slice of  this rich, dense, and slightly exotic pie and believe me you it's well worth the wait!

The main in ingredient, wheat berries, is hard to find in the south so after skimming the internet I found where some people used arborio rice or, better yet,  pearled farro in place of the wheat berries. I tweaked two old basic recipes I liked using the farro and it turned out delizioso!
I found pearled farro at my Publix and Trader Joes and I found Orange Blossom water at a local middle eastern grocery store!

Ingredients


Filling

ricotta 1/2lb
pearled farro 3/4 c. (It must be pearled)

1 3/4 cups water
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
eggs 2
orange blossom water 2 tablespoons (you can order this online or use rose water)
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
1 lemon
1 orange
Crust
1⁄2-3⁄4 cup butter
2 extra large egg yolks
2 1⁄2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1⁄2-1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon, rind of
 Extras
Powdered sugar for topping

Directions
You will want to make this a day ahead.

You will need a 9 inch cake pan.


Prepare the crust by mixing the  dry ingredients along with the zest and then grating the butter in using the large holes on a cheese grater. Mix until pea size crumbs form then add egg yolks and form into a dough. Wrap and set in fridge to chill.

 Combine the farro with 1 and 3/4 cups of water and bring to boil, cover reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until very tender, about 20-25 minutes.
 Remove from heat,  add in heavy cream and mix to form a loose but dense mixture and set aside to cool completely.

 Mix the ricotta with the sugar until creamy. Add eggs, cinnamon, orange blossom water and grate the rind of the lemon and orange into the mixture. Mix well. Add the cooled farro and mix again.

 Roll out 3/4  of the dough and line a buttered 9 inch round cake tin. Fill with ricotta filling.
Roll out the remaining dough, cut trips and arrange them in to a lattice pattern on top of the filling.

Bake at 350°C for about 1 hour or until the filling is golden. Let cool completely before placing in fridge, this pie is better the second day.  Serve at room temperature and dust with powdered sugar just before
serving!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lemon and Blueberry Clafouti (Low Carb)



Ahh to the praises of the French clafouti! It is such a wonderful way to use up over ripe fruit and an oh so simple dessert to make even on a whim at the end of a busy day.
 This is my latest low carb version of Clafouti which is essentially a tweaked version of a low carb crepe recipe and a rather ingenious idea  ~ In my humble opinion~ since calfouit is essentially a crepe batter.
Ingredients
 2 cups blueberries
zest of 1 or 2 lemons
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup equivalent to sugar (plus 1 tablespoon equivalent of sugar for bottom of of pan) Stevia or Truvia)
4 eggs
4 ounces cream cheese
pinch of salt
butter for pan
Directions
Preheat oven to 400

Butter an 8 by 8 inch cake pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of  sugar equivalent on bottom.
Add the blueberries to the pan and then zest and lemon juice to the blueberries
In a blender mix together the eggs, cream cheese, salt, and sugar until smooth.
Pour over berries and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and set!

Add more zest on top of the clafouti at the end if you like.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Chantilly Cream Cake


This cake is like having a little slice of heavenly bliss on your plate. I dream about this cake, it's that good.This is very similar to the Whole Foods Chantilly Cream Cake and was my inspiration. Enough said and on with the recipe!
 Cake (It's basically a yellow sponge cake)
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Layers
Apricot preserves
Seedless raspberry preserves
Frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
16 ounces cream cheese softened

1 cup powdered sugar
Topping
fresh berries

Directions (Cake)
Grease well two 8 inch round cake pans. I line mine with parchment as well.

Preheat oven 350.

 Cream the butter and sugar until creamy.
Add in egg yokes 1 at a time.
Mix flour, corn starch, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
With mixer on add milk and flour mixture alternately.
Pour in pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool on rack for 15 minutes.
Remove from pans and complete cooling.
Make frosting by whipping the cream until fluffy and soft peaks form, about 1 minute, and set aside.
Cream the cream cheese and sugar and almond extract until light and fluffy.
Fold the cream and cream cheese mixture together until blended.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Canarino (Italian Hot Lemon Drink)


~Canarino~
Canarino, which means canary in Italian named so for its yellow color, is a simple little drink to have in the morning helping to kick start your day. My Dad used to peel the entire lemon in piece producing a long spiral of lemon peel which is whimsically magical and an ~oh so Italian~ way of having your morning lemon water!
Directions 
Heat water to boiling.
Clean a lemon. If its organic just rinse but if it's not scrub it good to remove the waxy finish.
Peel the lemon in one long ribbon by working your way around the lemon, starting at the top, with a very sharp little knife. Trying not to get the pith (white part) which makes it bitter.
Place in a mug and pour the hot water over it.
As it steeps it will become yellow!
You can drink this by itself or add your favorite morning tea bag.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Srawberry Clafoutis (Low Carb & Gluten Free)



 Clafoutis is a French custard and fruit tart that was just waiting to go low carb with the original recipe only having 3 tablespoons of flour. You really can use almost any fruit but I chose strawberries due to their low carb count which makes this French Dessert almost naturally low carb. Voila!
Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter for pie plate
2 cups strawberries or enough to cover bottom of pie plate
1 1/2 teaspoons truvia or stevia (For berries)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon truvia or stevia (For custard)
2 eggs separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons almond meal
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions
Heat oven to 375
Place butter in pie plate and melt in oven.
Add strawberries in a single layer completely  covering bottom of pie plate, fit as many as possible in a single layer.
Sprinkle the 1 1/2 teaspoon truvia all over berries.
In a mixer beat egg yolks with truvia (2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) until creamy.
Add in vanilla and mix.
Add in almond meal and mix.
Add in cream and mix.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with the salt just until it gets foamy.
Pour the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and mix to incorporate.
Just before pouring over berries mix with a rubber spatula/spoon to help the almond meal up from the bottom of the bowl as it has a tendency to stick to the bottom.

Pour over berries and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center just sets.
Serve at room temp or chilled which is the way I prefer eating custard : )

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Ischian Lemon & Sea Salt Body & Face Scrub



This is my favorite scrub for dry, itchy, wintery skin and it is so cheap and easy to make. I make a quick batch just before showering, and it works just like that Trader Joes Lavender Version : )
While I was in  Ischia at a sea side resort, home of the famous giant size lemons and that lovely aperitif made from them: Limoncello;  they had lemon everything!  From drinks, to foods, to body treatments that made you feel so vibrant and fresh! The combination of the sea salt and olive oil also reminds me of the Mediterranean sea, and how I love recreating this Summer Time in The Mediterranean Experience  in the dreary cold days of winter.
Ingredients
1/4 cup Sea Salt
olive oil
lemon oil or fresh lemon juice
Instructions
Just out about 1/4 cup in to a cup or bowl you can take in to the shower.
 Add a few drizzles olive oil, just enough to make it the consistency of wet sand.
Add a drop or two of lemon oil or a few squirts of lemon juice and stir.
In the shower I usually do my face first so I can see to the do the rest : ) gently rub on face, I carfeully do my eye lids as well, and then rinse off.
Now do the rest of your body and rinse. It will be very slightly stingy but in a good "I'm getting rid of all that dry skin" sort of way.
You may be a little red after wards just for a bit as you have quite literally removed a very thin layer of old dead  skin so I like to do this at night when I have no where to go.
I always end my shower in cold water all over for a second or two to close my pores.
Your skin will feel so luxuriously soft like you've been swimming in the Mediterranean and sipping Limoncello  all afternoon and all with ingredients from your very own La Buona Cucina!!