Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fusilli with Piselli

An easy and quick pasta dish for the family

Piselli means peas in Italian, and fusilli is a type of pasta. I just like the sound Fusilli with Piselli, it rolls well!!!

To make the sauce just chop a small onion and fry with a little olive oil. Add the peas and then a glass of white wine. When the wine has evaporated add some Italian tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Cook on low until the tomato sauce is thick (about 15 minutes) stirring often. Add to the pasta and serve.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Artichoke Tofu

In the freezer I had some artichokes which I had cooked alla romana, with garlic and parsley (you can find the recipe, which appeared on Cuisine Magazine, by clicking here).

They needed to be used, so I defrost them, removed the outer leaves and scraped the flesh out with a knife (lots of work!)

I set the flesh aside, collected the juices from the defrosted artichokes (they had made quite a bit of broth), and gently simmered the hearts again in their juices with some tofu cubes. The tofu soaked up the artichoke flavour nicely. Once all the water was absorbed I served the tofu ad artichokes hearts with some steamed carrots and boiled new potatoes, and the artichoke sauce made by heating up the artichoke flesh and adding a little olive oil.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, April 22, 2011

Avocado Sushi

To make the sushi rice I usually follow this recipe, but this time I also added some Japanese dried herbs (the green is spinach and the purple is red shiso, or perilla) and toasted sesame seeds.

On top of each rice ball (you need to have wet hands to shape the balls) I put a slice of avocado, soaked in lemon juice. Under some avocado slices I put a little bit of wasabi, and because this may be too hot for some palates, I added a thin strip of nori seaweed to recognize which pieces had the wasabi and which didn't.

Avocado sushi is very filling, eat with a drop of Japanese soy sauce.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spelt Spaghetti with Morchella Deliciosa Mushrooms

The precious mushroom is this one. I don't remember when was the last time I ate one, and fresh! Possibly 20 years???? In NZ I can find some super expensive dried ones from the French deli shops, but I never buy them. I prefer dried porcini mushrooms. And then, last Spring, our friend Martina invited us to her place in the mountains, in the Adamello Natural Park.

I like the sea, the lakes, the countryside, the cities and the hills, but most of all I love the mountains. At heart I will always remain a mountain person, and for me no food beats the mountain food, especially if you forage it!

Well, foraging with a little bit of cheating this time! These were in Martina's garden, growing naturally under some trees. She left them there for us to find....

Ohhhh, I love mushrooms, and the Spugnola (the Italian name for morchella) is one of the best!!! Martina just cleaned them and cut them and cooked them in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, a little salt, and a little parsley.

No garlic, we didn't have any, but sometimes it is better to feel the pure taste of the morchella!

She served it with spelt spaghetti. Only those few mushrooms gave enough flavour to 5 plates of pasta, and what a flavour!!! I am still thinking about it!!!

And to wash it all down, a nice Wine from Franciacorta. What a great day in the mountains, thank you Martina!

Recipe by Martina, Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spicy Lentils

Wash 250 g of small brown lentils and soak for 2 hours.

Toast one tablespoon of coriander seeds in a pan, then grind with mortar and pestle.

Sliced one small onion and sizzle it with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the onion is translucent add the coriander seeds, 1 tsp of ground ginger, 1 of curry powder, a pinch of smoked paprika, a pinch of hot chilli and a pinch of salt (to taste).

Stir and sizzle for a minute then add the brown lentils (drained), 1 carrot, sliced, and a cup of water. Cook the lentils slowly, adding more water as soon as they dry out, and stirring often.

Cook the lentils for over one hour; the longer you cook them the better they will taste!

Great both with rice and with bread.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Polenta with mushrooms

Ingredients for the sauce:

300g frozen mixed mushrooms (or fresh, if you can forage them)
30g dried porcini mushrooms,
a few garlic cloves
olive oil
1 cup tomato passata

The dried porcini mushrooms need to be soaked for a an hour or so.
Sauté the garlic with the olive oil, add the frozen mushrooms, and after five minutes the porcini mushrooms and their soaking water. Add the tomato passata and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir often and add water if necessary. Add salt to taste.

Make the polenta according to packet instructions (instant polenta takes about 5 minutes, standard polenta about 45 minutes).

Serve the polenta hot with the mushroom sauce.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mafalde Corte with Zucchini

I decided to try another type of Garofalo pasta (since so many Italian bloggers talk about it) and I though that with zucchini this format, called mafalde corte, would work well. And it did!!!

500 g pasta
Rock salt for the water.

for the sauce:
4 zucchini
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salted water from the pasta (very important ingredient, read more later)
Freshly grated pepper (optional)
Freshly chopped Italian Parsley

Wash and cut the zucchini and saute in a large pan with the garlic and olive oil. Stir often, the zucchini should not burn! They actually contain quite a bit of water, so if you turn the heat down you should be able to cook them by themselves for about 15 minutes (as long as you stir often!!). Start cooking the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water, and keep your pot near the zucchini pan. When the zucchini finally start to dry up ad stick to the pot add a first ladle of water from the pasta.

Now, using the salted and starchy water from the pasta is normal in Italy, it is used to thin sauces, add taste, and even salt (since the pasta's water is usually very salted). But if the pasta is of very good quality, if it is a type that takes longer to cook, and it the sauce is white or green, rather that red (i.e., pesto, cheese, zucchini and other green vegetables, rather than tomato based sauces), the cooking water from the pasta becomes, in my opinion, the best ingredient you can add to it - and most people outside Italy don't know it!!!

I find it particularly suited to the zucchini, because it gives them a kind of butter. Basically all you have to do is to add a few ladles, one by one, of pasta's water, always simmering very gently, and stirring often. Taste for salt, and if you like add some freshly grated pepper. At the end add some chopped parsley, drain the pasta and stir into the zucchini pot, and serve.

It may look simple from the photo, but this was one of the best tasting zucchini pasta I had made, and if you are not a Vegan you may be fooled to believe that there is butter in the sauce.
I swear it tasted like it had lots of butter, instead nothing: just salted water from the pasta!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paccheri with tomato, parsley and garlic

Paccheri are hollow pasta tubes that look like rigatoni or tortiglioni, but with a difference: the paccheri tubes flatten once they are cooked. Usually the have very rich sauces, but I am one for
'less is more' these days, and so here I just warmed up a ready made Italian tomato passata (a good one).

Once the passata was hot I added some salt, extra virgin olive oil and finely chopped Italian parsley with garlic. These days I am chopping a lot of parsley and garlic together, it improves many dishes! Also, I like the idea of having a cooked sauce but with raw herbs and garlic in it: the taste changes completely. Simple but really effective!!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nam Prik Thai dip

This is my adaptation of the Thai dip Nam Prik, (there are many versions, this one is more like the ones from the North of the country). I like this version because the ingredients are easy to find in most countries, but the taste is really 100% Asian!

nam prik

1 or 2 fresh green chilies,
1 or 2 fresh red chilies,
1 eggplant (possibly white, but I tend to use the purple ones which are easier to find)
2 garlic cloves (peeled),
1 shallot (peeled) ,
1 or 2 tomatoes,
2 tbsp lemon juice,
2 tbsp light soy sauce,
half tsp salt
(In Thailand they also put in a littles sugar, but I don't)

Wrap the chilies, eggplant (cut into four) garlic shallot and tomatoes in a sheet of tin foil. Seal well and bake at 175°C for 30 minutes. Remove the content and place:

1) in a large mortar, and start pounding with the pestle adding the lemon juice, soy sauce and salt. this way you will get a a chuncky sauce with lots of skins but lovely and spicy.
2) in a blender, for a smoother texture.

Now, in the original recipe they don't remove the skins from the vegetables, but I do, and also I add less chilies (max 2). If you like to add sugar the dose is 1 tsp.

The colour is not great (brown), but the taste is truly addictive! Serve as a dip for raw vegetables sticks or to accompany rice and other Thai dishes.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©