Italy Trip part 3

As I mentioned in Part 2, El Pompiere was the best place we ate in Italy.

Before I continue, let me post this “Google” picture of the awesome restaurant we had lunch at when we were in Verona.  As I said, it set a high standard for all the other meals we had in Italy. And thanks to our driver from Sunny Tuscany for the great choice.

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After shopping the market for ingredients, we went to Emanuela’s home (a lovely flat tucked in a private courtyard in the center of Venice). I was so stunned at the views from any windows in her home, I had trouble concentrating on what she was sharing with us. In Italy most kitchens in older building are small. As we teach here in our classes, mise en place is essential to a well executed menu. Ours was Pizza, and a wonderful tomato timbale. I will share the recipe for the pizza in this post.

As soon as we entered the flat, we were shown the work area.  Mise en place was in envidence.

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Even though kitchens in Italian apartments are typically small and compact. The food that comes out of them is anything but small. I loved looking at all the different types of equipment that Emanuela had in her kitchen. She made the most wonderful espresso I have tasted.

Emanuela and her housekeeper prepared the sauce for the pizza. It needed to cool, so she started it before we went to the market.

IMG_3630 (1)Each ingredient was carefully measured. The dry flour was weighed, not measured from a cup measurement. The pizza dough was mixed, kneaded, and left to rest. The girls volunteered to slam it against the workbench (which helps develop gluten).


PIZZA

800g plain white flour

200g wheat flour (gran duro)

600 ml warm water

5 tablespoons olive oil

25g yeast

1 tablespoon honey

15g salt

for the topping

two cans of skinned & crushed tomatoes or fine chunks (or prepared sauce like Mutti).

350g mozzarella cheese

1 small jar anchovies

1 small jar capers

salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the honey, then gently mix in the flour and, lastly, the salt

and the oil.

Work the dough very well, beating it to give it elasticity – this means picking it up and pounding it

down on the board. A hundred times will do nicely.

Allow it to rest for two hours in a warm place away from drafts.

Lay the pasta down on a baking tray, extending it with your fingers. Spread the crushed

tomatoes/tomato chunks, anchovies and capers on top and place in an oven pre-heated to

200°C.

The mozzarella goes on 5 minutes before the pizza is finished cooking.

The pizza should cook for about 20 minutes.

IF YOU AREN’T SIGNED UP FOR NOTIFICATIONS ON NEW POSTS I HOPE YOU WILL DO THAT WHILE YOUR HERE.  SEE YOU SOON.

Soup, It Reminds Me Of Mom

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Soup makes me think of mom. She’s gone now, has been for a long time it seems. But I love soup and it makes me think of her every time I make it or see a really yummy pot that someone else has made. She was a very unique lady. I think as with all children, as we grow older and our parents have passed on, we look back on them and realize that we really didn’t know them as individuals or appreciate their lives quite like we do our own acquaintances or colleagues.

She could make a pot of the most delicious soup out of almost anything/nothing. But there were some hard times when there wasn’t a lot of money, so she just did her magic in the kitchen and we were all fed like royalty. She did magic every time she was in the kitchen. (I forget that she went through things like the Great Depression, and that she had a family to cook for during the same time many people could barely feed themselves, let alone a family. Somehow I bet her soup was still stellar.) Her food was simple, uncomplicated, and delicious. The best cornbread in the world came out of her old cast-iron skillet. I can still taste it, and because it was round, everyone got a piece of the wonderful crust. I remember watching her heat it up before she poured the batter into it to finish cooking in the oven.

My mom was an amazing woman. She was one of 7 kids born at the turn of the century in a very small town in Tennessee near the Kentucky border. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to the last child. I don’t recall ever hearing what took Grandma and I am not entirely sure anyone remembers that is alive today. People just sort of died in those days, and no one necessarily knew why, they just died. The youngest child was unable to walk, her little body short and boxy looking in the few pictures I have seen of her. Mother always said it was polio but I suspect that isn’t what it was. I would venture a guess that it was Scoliosis, having seen pictures of her frame later in her life. Mom was next to the youngest, so it was her job to take care of Maude, and cook, and clean and I guess anything else that a little girl shouldn’t have had to do, but since all the kids helped do whatever they could just to put food on the table, there was never any question that mom’s job was cooking, cleaning and whatever. Their father was a sharecropper. And until mom was probably about 7 or 8 there was an older couple who lived some distance away, that walked to mom’s house every day and helped take care of the family. Mom always said without out them she was pretty sure they would have starved. I suppose they are the ones who taught mom to cook. Sis says the lady’s name was Millie. And that she kept the house so clean that you could see your face in the floor. I never thought about it, but my grandmothet was gone, and mom was helping in the kitchen from the time she was able to walk, so I guess I have the two old sweet country caretakers to thank for not only making sure my mom was taken care of and I am sure loved, but also teaching her how to be a wonderful cook. I know they were poor as poor could be and that is surely where they learned to use as mom used to say “everything but the oink” on the pig.

When we were kids, and spoiled beyond anything my mom could ever have dreamed of, we had no idea what her childhood had been like because she was just not a talker. She never complained, never felt sorry for herself, never whined about hard times. She just kept on keeping on. She had a lot of funny hill sayings, some that were just so funny we still recall them with much laughter. When we or even our children would tell mom/grandma that we were bored, she would say “You don’t know what bored is. Bored is sitting in a bucket looking at the ass end of a mule for 8 hours a day while your father plowed a field”.

I have never been used for ballast, and am thankful that I was never in such peril that the only way to protect me and account for me during working hours was to put me in a bucket behind a plow. But apparently that was not an uncommon happening for mom.

They moved to southern Missouri at some point for awhile. I guess it didn’t work out, because they moved back to Puryear. The family was pious, and religion was important to them. I suppose as poor as they were, you better believe in something beyond earthly possessions. Mom said her Grandfather was a minister in “the church”. I never thought to ask what church it was, but later Grandpa moved to Independence because he chose to follow the promise of the “profit Joseph Smith” and the hope of a better life here. The family moved here via covered wagon. I cannot imagine what that was like. It must have been horrendous. Mary, Nina, Bobbie, Marian -who went by the name of “Tot” her whole life, Maude, Boy, Shep–7 kids and Grandpa. Wow.

Well, as with all stories, this one has a “OMG” moment. They were here for 2 weeks and their father became ill. He died. That left 7 very young children alone, poor, no money, alone in a strange town. Sometime I will tell you more about their life after their father died. Remember, this was the early 1900’s, before any kind of organized social care, government assistance or any other sort of organized help for that matter.

I think I am going to go look for something to make soup out of.

It’s Apple Time

Wow. I just came back from the Farmers Market and the apple harvest is definitely in full swing. Reminds me of climbing Mr. Huntley’s tree when I was a kid and getting first pick of anything I was brave enough to reach for.

But that also reminds me of another tree I just HAD to climb, got to the very top of and then froze in panic and couldn’t climb down. I am not sure how long I was in that tree before my father found me (actually probably heard me) and talked me down, but at the time it felt like light years. And to make matters worse the best trees were always in someone else’s yard. So when one did get stuck it required a decibel level approaching a storm warning siren before help arrived. Well needless to say I found other past times on the ground.

But back to apples. There are so many varieties to choose from. We eat a lot fresh from the store, preferably chilled in the refrigerator. I do have a favorite easy quick recipe I will share with you if you want a dessert.

It begins with one of my old friends “puff pastry”. I truly don’t know what I would do without puff pastry and phyllo dough. They both are miracle ingredients in the kitchen. If you haven’t used puff pastry before you will find it in the freezer section of your market. There are usually two sheets in a box. Thaw one in the bag it comes in and return the other to the freezer.

When it is pliable enough to unfold without breaking, lay it out on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Gently roll it with a floured rolling pin just to cover any crease marks. Sprinkle with a mix of cinnamon and sugar mixed together. Using your fingers roll an edge all the way around the pie crust. With a fork or a pastry docker prick the dough all over the surface.

Peel and core 6 or 7 of your favorite crisp apple. Slice into thin slices and place into water that has lemon juice squeezed into it. Meanwhile, crush 2 cups of Italian style almond cookies.
Drain the apples and pat them dry. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar according to the tartness of the apples. Loosely pile the apples in the tart shell, sprinkle with almond cookie crumbs and dot with 4 Tbsp. butter pinched into small pieces. Place in preheated 375 degree oven about 30-40 minutes or until apples are soft and puff pastry is cooked on the bottom and edges are brown. If you have a pizza stone preheat it and bake you apple creation on it. They work beautifully and the crust will be flaky and golden brown.
A large dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream will top this off perfectly.

It’s a simply recipe but it works and it showcases falls great apple harvest.

PART 3 COOKING AHEAD FOR BUSY DAYS

Hope your holiday was enjoyable. The weather finally decided to cooperate and let us out of the house towards the end of the three days. It was so hot at first it was just not “outside” weather as far as I was concerned. But finally we got some rain and it cooled down and turned into a beautiful last two days. Very nice.

I hope you had time to look at your menu planning. Here are the last few recipes for the menu I suggested for to you:

TORTILLA CRUSTED FISH
Serves 4

2 #        Alaskan Halibut , boneless, skinless
2           Eggs, beaten with 2 tbsp. water
1           Cup all-purpose flour
4           Cups tortilla chips, crushed in a plastic bag

Cut the Halibut (or other firm white fish) into strips. Lightly dust each strip in the flour. Spank off any excess flour. Then dip in the egg mixture. Then dip in the tortilla chip crumbs. Lay the fish strips on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.
Once frozen, package, layering with clean parchment paper between each layer of fish in a container. Top with plastic wrap, and a lid or foil. Label and freeze.
To prepare: Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. May also be fried in a skillet coated with vegetable oil. about the same amount of time.

BROCCOLI, RICE AND CHEESE CASSEROLE
SERVES 4

3 1/4             Tbsp. White or yellow onion, minced
3/8                Cup butter, melted
8                    Ounces frozen broccoli, broken apart enough to mix
3/4                Cup Minute rice, not cooked
8 5/8             Can Cream of celery soup, condensed
4                    Tbsp water
1/4                Cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4                Cup Condensed milk

Blend ingredients together, add to container.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Either add lid or foil.  Label.  Baking instructions- Bake at 350 degrees appx. 45 minutes, until bubbly and rice is cooked.

CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND BASIL
CREAM SAUCE
SERVES 4

1            Tbsp. olive oil
1            Red bell pepper, diced
2            Cloves garlic, minced
1            Tbsp. flour
1            Pint Half and Half, warm
1            Cup basil, fresh, minced
4            Tbsp. Sun-dried tomatoes, drained, minced
1            Tsp. salt and pepper
1/2        Tbsp. Roux (see below)
12          Jumbo Pasta Shells, cooked, drained
2            Cups Ricotta cheese
4            Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/4        Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1            Egg, beaten

Cook the shells in salted water 2/3 the required amount of time, drain and set aside on parchment paper.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced red pepper, and cook until the pepper is tender.  Add the garlic, then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the heated half and half, 1/2 cup of the basl, the sun-dried tomatoes, half the salt and pepper.  Cook and whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a simmer.  Add the roux and continue to simmer gently for 5 minutes longer.

Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, half the Parmesan, the remaining basil, egg, remaining salt and pepper.  Fill the shells with this mixture.

Place the filled shells in your container, pour the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap, foil or lid.  Label and freeze.  Reheating instructions – Remove plastic cover, re-cover with foil, and bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 30 – 40 minutes, until hot and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

ROUX
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour

Heat butter over medium high heat. Add flour all at once whisking vigorously. When mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and whisk slowly.  Cook until you smell a toasty aroma then cook 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.Roux can be used immediately to thicken a liquid that is at or below room temperature. To thicken a hot liquid, allow roux to cool to room temperature, or refrigerate.Tightly wrapped, roux can be refrigerated for up to a month. Simply break off pieces and use as needed.(Adapted from FoodTV.com)

 

BREADSTICKS
SERVES 4

1        Package oven ready pre-baked breadsticks 8 or more to
             a package
1        Package of pre-cooked bacon, with at least as many slices as
you have breadsticks.
2        Cups brown sugar, or as needed

Spread brown sugar out onto a piece of parchment paper. Microwave the bacon wrapped in a paper towel on low for 30 seconds just until soft.  After letting the bacon cool enough that it won’t melt the brown sugar,  press one side of the bacon into the brown sugar.   Wrap the bacon in a spiral fashion stretching it end on the bottom side of the bread sticks.
Secure with a toothpick if necessary.  Wrap, cool and freeze.  Place in plastic bag, label.  To prepare, unwrap, place on baking rack in preheated 375 degree oven, and cook for about 20 minutes, until bacon crisps up, but doesn’t burn.  Let cool a few minutes, then serve.  (May add 1 tsp.of chili powder to the brown sugar if desired.)

Variations:  Add 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 package breadsticks.  Mix softened butter and cheese, then brush each breadstick.  Wrap and proceed as directed on breadstick package.  You may also use a baguette, cutting it horizontally, and spread the butter,cheese mixture over both halves and place the halves buttered sides together; then slice diagonally into 4 pieces.  Wrap each piece in plastic wrap, then foil and place in a ziplock bag.  Label and place in freezer.  Cook as instructed above after opening each of the four pieces and placing on a baking sheet.

BREAKFAST TORTILLAS
12 tortillas

1 1/2           #Breakfast sausage, such as Hillshire Farms, bulk package type
12                16 inch flour tortillas
1                  # Frozen hash browns, shredded type
3                  Tbsp. Olive Oil
12                Eggs, large, beaten with 6 Tbsp. water
12                Ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
Optional–
4                  Ounces your favorite salsa
8                  Ounces canned green chilies, diced, chopped,drained

Fry the sausage in a large skillet.  Remove to large bowl.  Add the oil and potatoes and fry until any moisture from potatoes is gone.  If using salsa and green chilies, add them to the potatoes.  Remove to bowl with sausage.
Scramble the eggs in a separate skillet to keep them light and fluffy.  Set aside to cool.
Briefly warm the tortillas in the microwave on low for 1 -2 minutes wrapped in a clean cloth towel.  Lay a tortilla on a work surface, add 1/12 of the meat/hash brown mixture to the shell, then top with 1/12 of the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/12 of the cheese mixture.  Fold both sides in, then the bottom up halfway and roll into a burrito.  Wrap in foil and label, then freeze.  To cook, loosen foil, place in microwave on half power and microwave for 1 – 3 minutes, depending on your microwave.  You may choose to lightly wrap tortilla in a lightly dampened paper towel to prevent tortilla from becoming tough, it depends on your microwave.  They may also be baked wrapped in foil.

I hope you enjoyed these last three weeks of recipes.  I also hope you have decided to dedicate a day to “cooking ahead” and have looked at your favorite recipes, or maybe have been exploring options of new recipes that you want to try.  Just remember, you will be rewarded with time spent at the table with your family enjoying a meal that you prepared and the best part will be when you aren’t running all over the kitchen trying to get dinner on the table after a crazy busy day.  You will have a great meal waiting for you in the refrigerator, all you have to do is finish cooking it.

Until next time, cook something you love, for someone you love.  And pray for our world, we sure need a lot of love and prayer right now.  Pray for all the children who are suffering, and so desperately need food and love, I do wish I could bring them to my table to eat.  Let’s feed one another and show love that way.  Food is so much better than violence.