Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Garlic has gotten a bad rap. Vampires and people on first dates have uniformly tried to stay away from garlic for centuries because of its harsh, pungent flavor (or death inducing side effect). Garlic has even been linked in Islamic myths as the fruit left behind from the left footprint of Satan after he left the Garden of Eden (the onion was the fruit of his right). I have hopes of persuading some of you to look upon this root vegetable a little different, I want to showcase garlic in a new light. Like most vegetables, when roasted, garlic takes on a completely different flavor becoming more sweet and mellow and becomes a perfect compliment to foods.

This is one of the easiest appetizers you can make for guests or for yourself on a cold winter day, in addition to the insane health benefits that have been found from the consumption of garlic including prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. When picking a head of garlic, you want to make sure that the white paper is tight and in tact. Squeeze the garlic gently; it should be firm and not yield easily. It should be heavy for it’s weight and should not have any black powder (usually found near the root). This is mold yet most grocery chains will put it out anyway. And stay away from “elephant garlic” as this isn’t garlic at all, but a cousin of the leek/onion family.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the garlic about a quarter of the way from the top making sure you cut through each clove held within.

3. Place the cut garlic on a piece of aluminum foil big enough to enclose the head completely. Pour the olive oil over the cloves. Season with salt and pepper.

    

4. Wrap the garlic up tightly and place on a sheet pan or other baking dish. Place the pan in the oven for 55 minutes.

5. Let the garlic head cool for five minutes on the stovetop before trying to unwrap. The individual cloves will easily pop out of their skin when given a gentle squeeze. Serve warm mashed over bread, in salad dressings, or anyway you desire.

Advertisements

Traditional pestos were made using a mortar and pestle. Cooks would start by placing the nuts and garlic in first and grinding/pounding it down to a cream before adding the basil and other ingredients. In fact, pesto got its name from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound, crush. Nowadays, only the most devout cooks still use a mortar and pestle and choose to instead grind the ingredients together in a food processor.

This recipe is an adaptation to a traditional pesto alla genovese which is made from basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt. However, I find pine nuts to be obnoxiously expensive and lacking in texture in the final product. Thus, I’ve replaced them with walnuts which I find provide a nuttier flavor and an additional texture.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 1 bunch of basil (about 18 cups loosely packed)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 1 c parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
1. When you have this many basil leaves, you will have to make this in batches. Pick the basil leaves off the stem. While the stems are edible, I find the texture to be bit fibrous.
     
2. Place half the leaves in a food processor. Turn on until the leaves are chopped, but not minced. Add half the walnuts and garlic cloves. Pulse several times until these are chopped down. Add half the cheese and pulse three or four times until combined.
               
3. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture. It will begin to form a paste and will lighten as you put more in. How much you pour in is completely up to you. I go by color. When it reaches a green that I like, I stop. Remember, you can always add more, but if you add too much, you can’t take it away.

4. Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if necessary. Pulse to incorporate the seasoning into the sauce.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Let come to room temperature before using. This a versatile sauce that can be placed on chicken, pork, or pasta. You can also use it as a marinade or to brighten up rice. This will make plenty, so you can experiment. This recipe will keep fresh for about two weeks or you freeze it for later use.

Technically, what I have for you here is not bruschetta. Technically, this is just tomato salad and the bruschetta part only comes into play when you toast some bread and place this on top.  But what-ever. You know exactly what I’m going to show you how to make today and if you reached this through an internet search, you probably typed in “bruschetta” hoping to find exactly this. Far be it for me to deny my readers what they want.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow tomato
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut each tomato in half and scoop out the pulp. Dice the tomato halves. There is no rush, so take your time and keep the skin side up when dicing the tomato to make the cuts easier. Place the diced tomatoes into a large mixing bowl.

     

Note: Apparently when you place a yellow tomato on a green cutting board, it comes out orange in pictures. Who knew?

2. Mince the garlic, cut the basil into thin ribbons, and zest the entire lemon. Add these ingredients to the bowl with the tomatoes along with 1 tbsp lemon juice.

       3. Add the olive oil and combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Serve chilled over fish, chicken, or with bread.

Tomatoes this summer have been amazing! I have been astounded by the quantity of high quality tomatoes in the supermarkets and farmers markets. I have enjoyed a long love affair with tomatoes. My father hates tomatoes (he says they aren’t ripe yet) and when I was growing up I would often relieve him of his tomatoes at restaurants, a practice I continue today. There was even a time when I was a child that I would eat a tomato like an apple with nothing but a salt shaker. Call me crazy, but I know there are people out there that know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is an easy recipe to use those beautiful on the vine tomatoes that have been abundant this summer. Don’t mistake this sauce for Grandma’s 12 hour marinara that simmers all day and requires a 20 gallon steel pot. This is a fresh, by the batch version meant to be eaten in one sitting.

Ingredients

  • 4 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt

1. Turn the burner onto high heat and place a tomato directly on the cooking surface. Allow the tomato to begin to char and turn. Continue until you get some charred (or at least browned) skin on all sides. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.

    

Note: There are other ways to char a tomatoes such as grilling, placing them under a broiler, or using a blowtorch (not recommended). The important thing it to get the char flavor on the tomato.

2. Place the tomatoes in a food processor. Pulse until the tomatoes are broken down, but still chunky. Then add the onion and the garlic and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    

3. In a shallow saute pan, heat a couple tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Pour in the tomato mixture and simmer until the sauce thickens.

    

4. Serve over spaghetti, on pizza, or as a dipping sauce. This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

I was jonesing for pizza today, but didn’t have any shredded cheese or red sauce. What I did have, however, was the basic ingredients needed to make focaccia. Below is my last minute, raid the pantry and refrigerator, focaccia made on a balmy spring afternoon.

Ingredients

  • 4 c bread flour
  • 1 1/2 c + 2 tbsp warm water (100 degrees)
  • 1/2 c yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

1. Start with the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 c water in the bowl. Whisk together to combine and let stand for 10 minutes The mixture will become foamy.

2. Add 1 c flour to the mixture and beat together for 2 minute at medium speed. Then add another cup of flour, 1 1/2 tbsp salt, and 1/4 c olive oil to mixture and beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed until combine. Add the onion to the mixture and fold to incorporate.

3. Switch to the hook attachment on your mixer. Turn the mixer on low and add flour 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the flour to integrate into the mix fully before adding another 1/2 c. The dough should pull away completely from the sides. The end result will be a soft, slightly sticky dough. This should take around 10 minutes in total time. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

Note: The picture on the left shoes the shaggy, rough texture that will occur somewhere between your third and fourth half cups. The goal is to stop kneading the dough when the dough looks like the picture on the right.

4. Lay parchment paper on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Place the dough on the paper and press out into a oval shape about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly oil some plastic wrap and lay on top of the pan. Leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take off the plastic wrap and insert your fingers (clean hands please) into the dough about 1 inch apart. Drizzle some olive oil over the dough.

6. Lay the tomatoes on top of the dough, sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt, and grate fresh parmesan on top.

7. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the top and bottom have browned, but before the cheese burns.

8. Take the focaccia out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. This ensures your crust will remain crispy. Cut into squares. Serve warm or cold with more freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.