Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's for Dinner? Rich Tomato + Roasted Pepper Crostini with Frittata and Herbs

This was a marvelous meal to eat because it was just dripping with olive oil. The crostinis were made with the leftover tomatoey bits on the bottom of the chicken stew pan two nights before. I refrigerated them well knowing they would be fabulous served this way. I roasted some pointy red peppers under the broiler, then steamed them in a bag, then peeled away the skin to reveal the beautiful tender red flesh. I sliced them thinly and draped them over the crostini. Glug of olive oil, roasted garlic schmeared over the whole lot. Pepper, salt, beautiful! And a damn shame they are barely in the picture on the right hand side.

The frittata was just eggs, s&p, chives, lemon zest, crumbly blue cheese and minced sun-dried tomatoes whisked together and dropped in a butter frying pan. I jiggled it for a bit then used a spatula to bring up the bottom, then popped the whole pan in the oven. 4 min before finishing, I sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese and let the egg puff up around it and engulf the toasty-cheese. Serve with fennel greens on top to brighten the flavour.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's for Dinner? Light Italian Soup with Chard and Tomatoes

I made the chicken broth by boiling down the chicken carcass from yesterday's meal with: onions, shallots, 1 small potato, 1 large quartered tomato, chives, parsley, basil, a bay leaf, tsp of dried chillies and salt. I covered everything with a lot of water (about enough to boil pasta) then stuck a lid on the pot and boiled the heck out of it for about 6-7 hours. I strained everything through cheesecloth and was sufficiently surprised by how intense the flavour was. Chicken-ey, vegetable-ey, sweet, savory.....
I poured the broth into a pitcher and let it refrigerate over night. In the morning, I skimmed off the fat and then that evening I heated it up, steamed some diced tomatoes and chopped chard and in a separate pot, boiled the short pasta. The drained pasta was added to each bowl and 2 ladles of the broth w/ veg. was added to that.
I served the soup with a nice bit of grated parmigiana reggiano, because that's just what my Nona does. The soup will then look kind of murky but taste fabulous!

I also had a salad on the side. Done up with romaine, long red peppers (the kind that come to a point), basil and celery leaves dressed in a light vinaigrette with plenty of salt and homemade croûtons.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

What's for Dinner? Whole Chicken Stewed in a Rich Tomato Broth with Canelinni Bean Crostinis and Oily/Garlic-y/Salty Chard

The whole chicken was cut-up into 2 breast, 2 thighs and 2 wings.
I fried them in batches in my lovely dutch oven to get their skins crisp and to render some chicken fat for cooking the onions, shallots and garlic. Once those were nicely browned and there were crispy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, I deglazed everything with thick tomato juice and added torn up canned and fresh tomatoes. I added some quartered new potatoes and let everything simmer for about 40 minutes. I added back the partially cooked chicken pieces and let it go for another 20 minutes. To serve I garnished with fresh basil and chunky pepper to freshen-up the stewed flavours. It was delightful! *Oh, and make sure to serve with the cooking juices.

The crostini was soft Italian bread topped with canelinni beans that had been cooked and mashed with an infused olive oil. (Infused with chopped garlic and orange peel and sage.) Drizzle the topped crostinis with olive oil, and sea salt and top with some fried sage leaves.

The chard was chopped and plunged in salted boiling water. (First the woody stems, then the greens to promote even cooking). Again, drizzled it in oil and fried garlic.

Being back from Italy all I seem to be craving is salty, lacy prosciutto, rich buffalo mozzarella, LOTS and lots of olive oil and obscene amounts of garlic.

I'm running as usual every night with a few situps and pushups and squats for good measure, but the olive oil and wine and limoncello is making things a bit challenging. I'm scared that I will eventually choose the decadent dining over the excercise. We'll see.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's for Dinner? Foccacia with Sage and Potato 'Scales', Garden-Fresh Salad with Balsamic Vinagrette

I made the dough in the early afternoon and worked it in the evening.
New potatoes were thinly sliced and layered on the foccacia before baking with olive oil, sage, garlic and sea salt.
The salad was made from the mesclun from our potted garden as well as diced BEEFSTEAK tomatoes which were this weeks winner in the pole on your favourite tomatoes. I also used some cucumber for nice crunch. In the picture the soil in the pot looks quite dry, but this worked out because the baby lettuces needed barley any washing. They plucked so easily from the pot with not dirt clinging to their roots.
The salad was dressed with EVOO and balsamic and sea salt and cracked pepper.
We had a nice wedge of watermelon each for dessert as well as a shot of the limoncello I brought back from Amalfi in Italy.

My Nono's garden

My Nono and Nona who live about an hour away maintain a garden in their 400 sq/ft backyard.
Every year they plant, prune and harvest.
In their late 70's, they still manage to grow fruits and vegetables exotic to Ontario like figs, grapes, apricots and select beans, (not the long kind but the kind you would purchase dried or canned)
Beyond this, they grow the usual Italian staples like tomatoes, zucchinies, Romain and other lettuces, parsley, basil and oregano.

See the pictures for reference.
Are you as amazed as I am that they get a tomato yield of nearly 40 bushels/year on that small plot of land!?

We took some chili peppers that Nono grew in Canada to my great-Aunt Rosa in Italy by check-in luggage. She loved them!

Even More...

1. Oily Bruscetta
2. Seafood Spaghetti
3. Zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, mascarpone and basil
4. Perfectly cooked eggplant
5. Short pasta with mussels and minced herbs. (I was forbidden to put cheese on it!!)
6. Bakery
7. Dried Fruits as sweet as candy
8. A hole in the wall cheese shop that had a line-up ten miles long!! And for good reason!
9. A wide selection of beautiful cheeses. We were given generous samples when we smiled at the owner.
10. Local Spices
11. Local Chilies that I thought looked like little Christmas Lights
12. Fresh Octopus Salad with citrus vinaigrette in Marseilles
13. Drinks aboard the cruise
14. Caught the day-of in Malta
15. Street food in Tunis - usually containing dates, coconut, nuts and honey
16. French Bread with a garlic/saffron mayonnaise
17. Traditional Tagines and Crockery in the Medina market in Tunis
18. Cream Semifredo in Marseilles
19. Fish market in France
20. Pizza oven in Genoa
21. Bouillabaisse in France for Lunch

22. All kinds of foccacia!
23. More street food in Tunis. I tried the date-jelly on the left
24. Crusty bread with olive tapenade and creamy asparagus soup in Malta
25. Sicilian bread
26. Smooth wine with lunch
27. My loot from the whole trip including the liter bottle of limoncello I bought in Amalfi
28. Spaghetti alla Carbonara done perfectly
29. Local swordfish rolled up with breadcrumbs and basil served with blistered cherry tomatoes