Wednesday, February 17, 2010

frittate, zucchini e fagiolini

Case of the missing blogs…

Another 2 weeks seemed to have slipped by and I have inadvertently not logged any of the dishes I’ve been making at home! So sorry! So, for all you curious souls, here’s what’s been happening... (working from memory here, so bear with me)

Yesterday I realized that today marked the beginning of the Lenten fast for catholics everywhere. As such, I have decided to give up meat for the next 40 days and opt for the shellfish/fish and veggie options in the book. In preparation for today, I made ­lentil soup (p. 99) as my meagre meal for the day. Granted that it consisted of some pancetta, I decided that it was ok because it wasn’t a proper piece of meat… right? The idea behind this soup was humble-ness, a trait that I should be eminating more often.  And that is exactly what this soup was – a down-to-earth hearty soup that you can imagine coming from the kitchens of some small town in Tuscany. Accompanied with some thick hearty bread and presto, meal made.

Last week was super hectic and I tried to find a short cut for a good tomato sauce. I used canned tomatoes, frozen diced veggie mix and some butter. Result: not so good. The balance was completely off and the entire pot was way to acidic. Definitely still needs some tweeking. This was done with the tomato sauce with olive oil and chopped vegetables (pg. 153) in mind and all I can say, it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. Must be reattempted.

Frittata with cheese (pg. 279)
Be careful with this one. The cheese almost burnt on me, even when I had the pan on medium (like the directions said). Definitely use a non-stick pan when attempting ANY frittata!

Frittata with Zucchini and Basil (pg. 280)
Yum-o! Definitely my favourite frittata yet. Maybe it’s my obsession with zucchini, but may man this was good (and I even cheated and used dried basil!!! :D)

Frittata with Green Beans (pg. 284)
I didn’t think I’d like green beans in a frittata, but I ended up loving it! The key to any green bean dish, is a quick boil in hot salted water so that the rest of your dish doesn’t burn while waiting for them to cook.

Frittata with Pan-Fried Onions and Potatoes (pg. 284)
Don’t make the pan too hot and be patient. The rewards are a well-balanced omelette like thing that can be served any time of the day! :D

Oven-Roated Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary (pg. 328)
The last time I followed a roasted chicken recipe from this book, I was disappointed with the final flavour of meat after 2 hrs of roasting (lacking in flavour), so this time, I tweeked the application of the ingredients and made a very successful bird. Instead of just cloves of whole garlic being put in, I used my pre-minced garlic packed in oil – worked soo well! I should have increased the amount of rosemary, but meh, now I’ll know for next time J

Honeycomb tripe with Parmesean (pg. 448)
:s tripe is not for me. While I can say now that I have cooked it and understand that it takes a long time for the tripe to soften, I don’t think I’ll be making this again. The smell that fills the room is so overwhelming that I was surprised that my entire closet smelt normal after cooking it in the kitchen down the hallway. But, if it is your thing, be sure to leave it to simmer away for hours…

Pan-roasted diced potatoes (pg. 520)
While this isn’t the fanciest of dishes, it is very satisfying for that pang of “I want fries”. I was surprised at how little oil I actually needed to get that golden brown crispness. Yum.

Fried Zucchini in Vinegar and Garlic (pg. 531)
I couldn’t bring myself to use the amount of oil required, so I sautéed them instead and they were soooo yummy. I’ve already re-made this (with my variations) 3 times since…

Sauteed Zucchini rounds with onions (pg. 532)
Another good variation with zucchini. Technically not challenging at all. Good practice of slicing skills?

Sauteed zucchini rounds with oregano (pg. 532)
Honestly, I think I’m addicted. I’ve remade this one a number of times as well! Conclusion: zucchini, such a versatile thing! 

Green Beans with Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes and Chili Pepper (pg. 474)
I officially love this method of cooking. Nothing can beat tomatoes simmered on the stove to give a long cooked feel and taste…. Yum.

Green Beans and Potato Pie, Genoa Style (pg. 473)
While being made of just eggs and green beans, while baking, it smelt like meat. Weird? I really liked the taste of it, however I was disappointed that it stuck to a non-stick pan sprayed with oil. I’d say that this would be a great stuffing for a phyllo crust pie because it that way, it won’t stick to the pan and come out in chunks rather than wedges L

As I continue cooking, I realize that things are becoming easier. I mean, technique wise. While I don’t stress anymore about following everything down to a T, I’ve gotten back into my old groove and can now comfortably rely on my instincts to produce an authentic tasting Italian meal… a proud moment for sure. Anyway, that’s it for now!

After all of this, my count is  14 more down and 446 to go!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

catch up time!! grab a coffee and enjoy :D

ok world, so i've been cooking up a storm and have many things to report on! grab a cup of coffee (or a caffe lungho) and catch up on the happenings of victoria's kitchen!

here's the weekly menus that i've been making in residence. i must admit to not following exactly the recipe, but that's because if i did, i'd have food coming out of my ears. i basically trust my instincts and make one or two portions instead of the 4 or 6 that are usually called for. for the most part, i think i'm getting better at making food, but instinct is best. (ie, cookie making with anna...) i know though, that i need my full attention in the kitchen if i'm not to burn anything and/or under/over cook anything. the only time i can walk away is if the stove is set at low and something is meant to braise for an hour or so (and even then, never really walk away!!! it leads to a burnt pan... trust me...) critically though, i know my timing needs work. making a perfectly juicy chicken breast or med/med-rare steak has only happened to me by chance and i know i'm not comfortable with it yet... must master meat cooking before easter (when i've decided to give up meat and go fish-atarian for lent). so, here goes :)

Escarole Soup with Rice (pg. 91)
- not a fan of escarole, personally a little too bitter, BUT as with all the soups i've made thus far, is much better the next day
Tuna Sauce with Tomatoes and Garlic (pg. 180)
- looks wise, this isn't what i'd say is more "beautiful" (at least not how i made it), but taste wise, it was good. i altered it a bit in that i added a bit more water to the pan and threw in farfalle pasta and let it simmer there. that way, just one pot!! :D woohoo!!

Grilled Steak alla Fiorentina
- used a george foreman which meant that there was no charcoal flavour at all, but the final rub of raw garlic at the end (so subtle but necessary to finish off the dish) was definitely a new technique i plan on keeping
Celery and Potatoes Braised in Olive Oil and Lemon Juice (pg. 487)
- very mild dish, but so simple and beautiful. good olive oil is so crucial in the dish. remember to season well.

Bruschetta (pg. 73)
- is there anything more satisfying than toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil on top. try it with olive ciabatta... delicious!
Beans and Tuna Salad (pg 564)
- in north america, we're used to tuna salad being heavy; laddened with mayonnaise and celery. this one is really a bean salad with olive oil and wine vinegar with tuna added-in to enhance it

Sauteed Fillets of Chicken (pg. 341)
- hehehe, proud moment to take your chicken off the stove and have it nice and juicy :D patience is key, my friend. Patience.
Spinach Sauteed with EVOO and Garlic (pg. 527)
- not a fan of this much spinach... i also don't think i did it right, but still... after 2 recipes centered around this green leaf, the funny feeling i get on my teeth after eating it is not all that pleasant to me. but that's just me....


(write about Braised Artichokes and Peas pg. 451)
- this was something i did a long time ago at my cottage. for this recipe, be sure to use rather large artichokes, because otherwise

No lunch
Dinner: with Kim
Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil (pg. 156)
- super easy, very satisfying, served it with spaghetti
Asparagus Salad (pg.557)
- I’m a HUGE fan of asparagus so this was perfect because it really was asparagus in all it’s glory (lightly boiled, drizzled with olive oil and season with salt and pepper)

Gratineed Asparagus with Parmesan (pg 467)
- nice variation. Par-boiling the asparagus allows the crust to form without the asparagus being raw when you serve it (not that there’s anything wrong with raw asparagus! Yum!)
Gratineed Asparagus with Fried Eggs (pg 467)
- being a fan of egg helps, but honestly, I don’t think that the addition of an egg on top of your asparagus changes the dish dramatically (p.s. i’m a complete fan of fried egg – just ask nikki!)
Meatballs and Tomatoes (pg. 399)
- this took a little while to make, but a few things I learnt:
1) the bread in the meat mixture just lightens up the entire dish and makes sure they’re soft. Skip if you don’t have any
2) take the meatball out right before you think they’re done, they’ll continue cooking when you’ve added the canned tomatoes and made their sauce
3) use whole tomatoes that already have a little bit of seasoning because it just makes your life easier and, as long as you’ve seasoned well, no one will know the difference!

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian (pg. 479)
- has an addictive taste from the vinegar (but is lost the second it’s made into soup)
Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup (pg. 94)
- to keep the original flavour of the smothered cabbage, must add about 1 tbsp more vinegar and reseason with salt and pepper
Calabresi cookie (pg 594)
- nice flavour, not too sweet, be sure to roll out and cut (not make into balls!!)
Frittata alle cipole
- medium heat and a non-stick pan is key when making any frittata – don’t rush the process (or leave the pan on high mistakenly!)
- great for parties as a light meal or cubbed as appetizers; be sure to maintain a certain ratio of egg:onion though. Not enough egg = non-cohesive frittata!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

tick, tock, tick, tock

time doesn't seem to want to slow, so here i am, with another dose of accomplished dishes:

escarole soup with rice
escarole is a slightly bitter lettuce looking leafy green that is usually located right beside the lettuce section. it has a bright green, almost white, leaf colour while its rib (of the thicker part) is white. i had never previously thought of making any sort of lettuce into a soup, but apparently, it's rather common in italy - or so the book would make you think. who knows... this adventure went down rather uneventfully, but it marked the beginning of my new found self-proclaimed "judgement" on whether or not to use all the oils  that are actually called for in the dish. granted that usually, the oils serve a purpose, often times, i find myself wondering if by eating 1 tbsp of the dish, that i'd just shaven off a year of my life. so, there marcella! take that! no, but seriously, the soup wasn't bad and it can definitely be cooked and left on the stove at LOW for a long time. it definitely tastes better overnight and having sat in the fridge and rewarmed.

tuna sauce with tomatoes and garlic
for those of you who are going to start lent and fast from eating meat during the lenten period, this recipe's for you. for those of you who are on a budget and like tuna, but are sick of eating it straight out of the can (not that there's anything wrong with that!), this recipe's for you. for those of you who just want to use up stuff in their pantry, try it out too. the premise is some good tomato sauce made with EVOO and tuna thrown in near the end. maybe it was just that specific can, but i felt like i could taste the metal "tin" that the tuna was stored it. not so pleasant. also, be sure to add lots of parsley because a) it's good for you, b) it looks pretty in the dish and c) (most importantly) it makes it taste 10000x better!

celery and potatoes braised in EVOO and lemon
the title doesn't do justice to the subtle flavours that come from this dish. granted that it really doesn't jump out as super seasoned, it's the simplicity and subtle nature of the flavours of this dish that really make it shine. celery is usually given a bad connotation, but i guarantee you, here, it's all lost. it just becomes mellow. be sure though, to season well with salt. also, grate in 1/4 of the rind from the lemon and thrown in the "emptied" lemon shell with the dish while it's braising. it imparts a mild lemon fragrance throughout the dish, that is only accentuated by the use of a fruity olive oil. be sure not to serve this after a strong dish (like steak alla fiorentina) because then, the beauty of it disappears.

3 more down, 478 to go!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"hum-drum" weekdays

so, after dinner with heather, i couldn't bare throwing away all that beautiful flavour so i decided to make "smothered onion sauce". it's super easy to make and not expensive at all. plus, it's one of those dishes that one could imagine as the cover of bon appetit magazine because it's just so simple, so clean, so perfect. 4 servings later, i'm so glad that i threw that empty pan in the fridge and waited for 30 mins to make this sauce.

 Steak alla Fiorentina = a perfectly grilled steak over a charcoal fire rubbed with raw garlic at the very end, giving just a support to a good piece of meat. to recreate this in residence, i had my solo george foreman grill. not charcoal, but it didn't turn out half bad. i think i can say though, that i'm just not a steak person. but, the garlic at the end did come through and it was good.

what i did love, was sauteed zucchini with garlic and olive oil. YUM. now that, i could eat time and time again. it was crunchy but soft. definitely made 4 servings and are them all in one... oops. is it ok to eat 1 lb of zucchini? oh well, hope so!

with that, 3 more down, meaning 378 to go!

ccsa friends and more

a last minute get together with rahul and kevin led to a menu of:

- tonnarelli al burro e rosmarino
- braciola di maiale arrostita con salvia e vino bianco
- broccoli rosolati con burro e parmigiano
(- frozen red pepper and chicken pizza)
(- fried hot italian sausage)
(- baked italian meatballs)
(- anise-scented rasberry tart)
(- french vanilla ice cream)

how can only 3 people eat that much? funny story... first, it was 2. then 3. then 4.... then 5... then 6? and then a roommate thrown in for fun. hahaha, the joys of 510b london hall.

tonnarelli is a square-shaped handmade pasta that my friend claudia and i worked on for a good hour. not that it was particularly difficult, but chatting and dry air caused us to have to work the dough a lot more than we though. on the up hand, no clumps here! the pasta was litteraly dipped into hot water before it was ready to be thrown into the pan of flavours butter (i didn't end up straining it like the recipe said, but i liked it. it showed the ingredients which added an element of beauty to the final dish.)

i've come to the conclusion that braised anything will end up beautifully if you just give it time. the pork was fall of the bone, but again, maybe because there was so much else happening on the table, the subtle flavours that i was looking for in the dish just didn't come through. it's too bad. i think i'm missing something - flavour. need to remedy this soon...

broccoli (and other winter veggies) and butter. really? need i say more?

this dinner shows that one of the most important components to any dinner, is people - good people; good friends. the food may not have been perfect, but laugher and memories are the things that matter most.

3 more down, so... 481 to go!

dinner with heather

i can't believe that it's only been 5 days since i've last written, yet, there's so much to report on!

so, i left off at dinner with my roommate from last year, heather.

on the menu that night:
- spaghetti all'amatriciana
- pollo arrostito con del rosmarino, aglio e vino bianco
- carote brasate con parmigiano
- croccante

i've only ever really had the luxury of  cooking with someone once in my life - when i was in first year during the elgin hall "iron chef" competition. however, luck of luck, my friend brandt (who loves to cook) came by to drop something off; one thing led to another and before i knew it, i was cooking along side a good friend. it was interesting because we were both sort of quiet with brief comments or instructions thrown in for good measure, which is completely different than the general chaos that is my family kitchen. but, with just 2 hours before heather was due to arrive, savouring the moment couldn't last long as we sped through the preparation of the chicken dish first (because it takes ~40 mins) and the carrots (which brandt chopped up). the amatriciana sauce was the last to hit the stove because it needed the least time. before an hour was up, everything was ready to go and beginning the process of heating pans took up the entire stove. before i could blink, everything was browning or sauteeing, developing flavours that would come out later on.

what i didn't expect, was the acrid kick of the tomatoes at the start of the amatriciana sauce. i edited the recipe by adding a little sugar to help it along, and i like to think that it made a difference in the end result. but, can i just say that the sauce was incredible!?!? spicy and rich, with the mellow pancetta dissolved completely in the thick tomato paste that seems to have come from the liquidy diced tomatoes i used.

i was a little disappointed with the chicken because i didn't feel like the flavours really came through. maybe i just need more flavour because i'm used to chicken now, but heather seemed to like it and i guess, when you're entertaining, that's all that important.

never having consciously eaten braised carrots, it was a pleasant surprise at the intense orange and golden colour that developed and the sweet, almost dessert, sugary taste that was in every bite. incredible. countered with that touch of pungent salty flavour of the parmesan cheese and you've got fireworks for your mouth.

the dessert was delicious, as i mentioned in my other post. definitely well recieved and will be made again.

3 more down, 484 to go

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some past dishes...

Ricotta Coffee Cream

Pork Loin Braised in Vinegar, Pepper and Bay Leaf

White Bean Soup

Breaded Eggplant Cutlets