Monthly Archives: April 2015

TORTELLONI ALLA PANNA, BIG TORTELLINI WITH A CREAM SAUCE, SAGE and PARMIGIANO

 

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Cream Sauced pasta… it’s one of those dishes that will either rock your world or make you feel like you need to take a bottle of Tums or a glass of Brioschi because it was so heavy and fatty.  I’m going to work with you here and give you a simple way to make a cream sauce that pairs best with a fresh pasta, either one that you’ve made yourself or one from a good pasta store or brand.  Tortellini goes great with a cream sauce, but I think Tortelloni, which is Tortellini’s slightly bigger cousin, is an even better choice.  You can find both of these
pasta in your fresh pasta section or in the dried.  These filled pastas are one of the glories of the region in Northern Italy known as EMILIA-ROMAGNA.   It is said they were invented there.  This was not a pasta I grew up on, it was something that was seen in Restaurants or catering halls.  Then one day it became popular in the Italian-American kitchen.  It’s fillings of ground meats like veal, beef, pork, or Prosciutto mixed with nutmeg, ricotta, parmigiano, black pepper turn a plate of it into a whole meal.  Just have a salad or sauteed greens on the side and your meal is done.
On a trip to Florence, which is in Tuscany but where most restaurants serve a tortelloni, usually filled with spinach  and the other usual suspects, I marveled at a Panna (Italian for heavy cream, and theirs is definitely incomprable) sauce on a  spinach and cheese tortelloni dish my wife had ordered.  Cream is heavy, no getting around that, but this was markedly different…maybe even a little light, or lighter than the usual.  I asked the waiter to ask the chef and the chef was kind enough to tell me that it’s simply a reduced cream flavored with a hint of sage, then the al dente Tortelloni is tossed into a pan with the slightest bit of melted butter…grated parmigiano-reggiano added,  then enough of the reduced cream to gently coat (NOT SMOTHER) the tortelloni, mix, and then let it sit for about five minutes before serving.  It’s been my go-to for fresh pasta in cream sauce ever since.  What a difference!
The nasty new habit of some pasta being packed in 12 oz bags is awfully annoying, especially if you are cooking for more than 3 people.  However, tonight I cooked for 3, so the 12 oz bag was fine.
This was the brand I used, Giovanni Rana, Tortelloni filled with Prosciutto and Ricotta.  Sounds good right?  They were fantastic.  Before you start cooking the pasta water, begin with 1/4 cup ORGANIC heavy cream…ok…have I fallen off the wagon and started using Organic food only?  No, although they are wonderful.  I have found a taste difference in Organic and regular U.S. heavy creams when making this dish.  Italian “Panna” if found here in the states is perfect, but the closest I’ve tasted here is when I use the organic creams.  Fork up the additional 1.00 or so, you’ll be very happy.  Add the 1/4 cup to a pot which you will bring just to the boiling point but careful not to let it boil at all..small bubbles will form around the sides, then reduce to medium/low and add ONE fresh sage leaf…see that.?  I said one.  Sage is a powerful herb which can break a  dish if used with a heavy hand.  ONE SAGE LEAF…i repeat.  and it must be a fresh one.  Do not add any salt at this time, we are going to reduce the cream by 1/2 and at that point, it will be salted.
It is important to gently stir the cream frequently.  This is a simple recipe that just needs some care… You have a nice protective case for your iPhone right?  Take care of this cream with the same thoughfulness!  While the cream is reducing cook till al dente 12  oz of Tortelloni or Tortellini of your choice.  With the fresh it’s only about a 3-4 minute process..DON’T OVER COOK.

Melt only about 3 tbs of unsalted butter in a wide pan over low/medium heat…drain the  pasta well, then gently add it to the pan of butter.  Add a pinch of salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and 4 tablespoons of freshly grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO  (that’s right, my usual world of everything Pecorino does not include this dish, Parmigiano is infintely better for it) and gently mix well.  Add a pinch of salt to your reduced cream, taste, adding more salt if you like, but careful…better to gently salt it then after you pour it over the pasta and mix it, taste again.  The cheese on the pasta may balance it out.  After you’ve poured the sage infused cream over this pasta and it’s all mixed in let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Don’t pour that sauce all at once either, you do not want to have pools of cream at the bottom of this dish.  Serve, feed 3, double the recipe for 4-6 and hope you have leftovers becuase if you are anything like me, you will be wishing you had it right now at midnight.

Serve each plate with more Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper.

Buon Appetito!

By the way, there’s another type of Panna used in Italy and it comes in a little box, it’s called PANNA DELLA CUCINA, a cream for cooking.523336_3062854572733_1304531591_32225848_651625740_n  I picked this up over the weekend in Calandra’s Cheese on Arthur Avenue, the LittleItaly section of the Bronx, NYC.

 

 

It’s really hard to find but if you do you barely have to heat it through as it’s very concentrated.  It resembles sour cream or creme fraiche but it’s not cultured.  No tang or acidity, it’s smooth and milky tasting.   If you find them, it’s SO authentic in the recipe since it comes directly from Italy.  But Good Luck with that for the most part.  I think you’ll be very happy with the Organic cream.

Scratching your head over Rana’s Tortelloni?  Don’t fret.  Use any good Tortellini brand you like.  Are the Tortelloni better?  I say yes because they are bigger.  Does it have to be Rana’s ? No, but they are available in Supermarkets now. If there is a place that makes their own near you that’s your best bet.

STRAWBERRIES WITH RICOTTA (CANNOLI) CREAM DIP,MOM’S RECIPE

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Strawberries and Cannoli Cream fever must be going around.  We were at my youngest sister’s home on Saturday and she served that beautiful picture you see above….Fresh Strawberries with a Ricotta (Cannoli) Cream dip.  Now this isn’t the only place this has shown up in the last few weeks.  About 3 weeks ago friend Michael Gottuso posted his version of Strawberries and Cannoli cream on Facebook.  He was inspired from a picture I posted of my favorite sweet treat at NYC’s Annual FESTA DI SAN GENNARO. Many of the vendors including the famous Ferrara’s of Grand St in Manhattan’s Little Italy sell delicious cups of Cannoli cream and Strawberries.  It’s a September rite for me.523336_3062854572733_1304531591_32225848_651625740_n  When Michael posted his “version” of the San Gennaro treat

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, fellow bloggerand friends Gina Martino Zarcadoolas in her FoodieWineLover blog was inspired by Michael’s version that she created her own              522819_465487016800755_202062273143232_27629574_1336257737_nversion.  (http://foodiewinelover.com/2015/04/14/strawberries-chocolate-cannoli-cream/). So you can see here the various ways this party treat can be made.  The hardest part of this recipe will be straining the ricotta. Don’t panic.

This is how recipes travel and are developed and with the internet and Social Networking things are moving even faster.  My mom made this and would fill cakes with it, fill cream puffs with it or serve it with strawberries.  Now you can too!

For about 3 dozen strawberries, find some beautiful firm aromatic berries, rinsed well and patted dry with paper towels.

4-1/2 CUPS RICOTTA CHEESE
YOU HAVE TO LINE A COLANDER WITH CHEESECLOTH, ADD THE RICOTTA, TIE IT UP SO THAT THE RICOTTA IS IN A BALL AND THEN TIE IT TO YOUR FAUCET WITH THE COLANDER UNDER IT. LET THAT DRAIN OVER NIGHT. why?  you need to remove the excess liquid. As long as it’s not over 85 degrees in your kitchen your cheese is fine.
1 CUP CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR
1 TBS REAL VANILLA EXTRACT
1 TINY DROP OF CINNAMON OIL OR 1/2 TSP GROUND CINNAMON
1/2  CUP SEMI SWEET MINI CHOCOLATE CHIPS
Directions:
Combine ricotta, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
Stir in chocolate chips.  THEN CHILL AGAIN FOR AT LEAST 3 HOURS BEFORE SERVING
Now you can certainly made the dip without the draining just be aware that the consistency will be more liquid than cannoli cream consistency.
So after posting my sister’s version of Mom’s Cannoli and Strawberries dip my page had lots of requests for the recipe.. Here it is..enjoy!!

GO CRISP, GO SIMPLE…A ROMAINE SALAD WITH WHITE BALSAMIC AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING

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Thanks to a great response to this picture on my Facebook posts from various groups I’m in I’ll share this simple salad with you…by popular demand..LOL.  The construction of it could not be more simple.  ROMAINE SALAD, and I used an Organic Romaine as the main component.  Dinner was going to have lots of strong flavors and this was going to be the side dish so I opted for what is the most BASIC of Italian dressings, just using good Vinegar and Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  To up the flavor ante I went with a White Balsamic Vinegar.  Never heard of it?  Let’s talk.  It’s the same as the dark stuff however there’s some major differences in it’s production and aging.  It does not take on the deep rich flavors of a regular Balsamico.  What is does have is a light vinegar punch with a slight sweetness.  And it doesn’t discolor a salad. Yeah, I might be the anti-Balsamic on everything, I like it, and only like it if it’s a decent bottle, not all are even really Balsamico di Modena.  Many are just harsh vinegar caramel colored and they’ll scorch the back of your throat with their rough taste.  Aged Balsamic is warm, acidic, sweet and almost like a port wine or sherry in it’s feel when you are eating it.  Enough about Balsamic, here’s why I chose it..I though it’s light and sweet taste would just compliment my dinner and I think you will enjoy it too.

SERVES: 4                                 TAKES: 10 minutes   (no kidding)

3 FULL HEADS OF ROMAINE, CLEANED, DRIED WITH PAPER TOWELS, TRIMMED at the base

Makes about 1 cup

3/4 cup FRUITY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/8 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR
KOSHER SALT
FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Place the lettuce in a large bowl.  In a cup or Jar add the Olive Oil and Vinegar.  Shake well. Pour over the lettuce.  Sprinkle with the about 1/4 Tsp. Salt and 1/8 Tsp. of the pepper.  Gently toss till all is coated with dressing, salt , and pepper.  Arrange leaves on a serving platter..taste for seasoning.!! (Always taste…how else will you know??). Serve IMMEDIATELY!!! If you are planning to serve later, to not assemble until 5 minutes before serving.  Freshness is key here!

 

So, very simple but with some strict rules to adhere to.. Don’t let me down and you will surely place this on your menus.  Happy Cooking!

CHICKEN SCALOPPINE WITH LEMON AND SPINACH

008 America’s most popular “meat” is Chicken, I know, it’s poultry not meat.  I just hate the proper culinary term for those types of foods, “PROTEINS”…it sounds so…sterile.  I chose to keep a very clean kitchen but not refer to it in laboratory terms.  So what about SCALOPPINE?  Did you spellcheck me?  Are you saying it’s SCALLOPINI? Well, we are both right..SCALLOPINI is the English spelling of the Italian word SCALOPPINE. And a Scaloppine is not a dish with a prescribed recipe, it’s a word that refers to how a particular piece of meat is cut.  Definied, it’s a thinly sliced piece of Veal, Beef, Pork or Chicken.  If you were in Italy most likely you would find Veal most often, but today’s Italy serves lots of Turkey scaloppine as well.  Chicken’s popularity is a very American tradition. Don’t get into the “which is best” because that is completely based on what YOU like best.  My preference is Veal, but Chicken is so versatile and well loved that I’m going to give you a recipe that’s full of flavor and the chicken cutlets work well with it.  The family wanted pasta with this, not me.  I used Farfalle, went nicely with it, but I prefer entrees like this paired with potatoes. Olive Oil Roasted Potatoes with salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh Rosemary.  So there are you choices…let the cooking games begin!

SERVES: 4                                         TIME: 1 1/2  HOURS
1 LEMON, JUICED AND SEEDED
4 THINLY POUNDED (NO THICKER THAN 1/4 INCH) CHICKEN CUTLETS
KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACKPEPPER
1/2 CUP SIFTED FLOUR
5 TABLESPOONS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 TABLESPOON UNSALTED BUTTER
2 GARLIC CLOVES, SLICED
1 TSP. FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY—-NOT DRIED
1 TSP. FINELY MINCED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
1/4 CUP VERMOUTH OR WHITE WINE
1/4 CUP LOW SODIUM FAT FREE CHICKEN STOCK
4 THIN LEMON SLICES
2 CUPS CHOPPED FRESH SPINACH

 

In a stainless steel bowl, which 1 tbs. of the Lemon Juice, 1 sliced clove of garlic, 1 tbs. oliveoil, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper and coat the chicken with this.  Let this marinade no more than one hour, tightly covered in a cool area or the fridge.

In a large nonstick pan heat 2 tbs. of the oil.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess and saute’ till nicely browned on both sides.  Takes about 6 minutes total. Remove the sauteed chicken to a platter and tent it with aluminum foil.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the garlic, rosemary, a bit of salt and pepper…let this cook for about 2 minutes, then add the wine/vermouth, the 1/2 the lemon juice, bring to a boil, then add the stock. Add the spinach and reduce the flame.  Add a little more salt and pepper.  Let this cook for about 8 minutes, then add the chicken back into the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes. Finish but adding the butter, swirl this around in the pan, add the parsley and top each scaloppine with a lemon slice and some of the pan juices…drizzle the remaining lemon over the top along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken on top of a bed of the Spinach.  Delicious.  Happy Cooking!!

 

ROASTED GREEN BEANS…AN EASY FRESH VEGETABLE

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FRESH, BRIGHT, GREEN. All words I long to hear when April rolls around.  Living in the Northeast United States this year has held onto a really unseasonably cold Winter for way too long.  Even under normal regional weather conditions for this time of the year I’m as overdone as burnt toast pleading for something green to sprout from the ground.  Whether you celebrate Spring, Passover, Easter foods which have bright fresh flavors take center stage.  The root vegetables will finally take a back seat and it’s back to seeing new vegetables in the markets.    So to start off the Spring season and possibly  Holiday cooking let’s make some Roasted Green Beans. Stop, don’t think that this is a “Spring” thing, you can get fresh green beans throughout the year so keep that in mind.  When  in season in your area and  grown local…even BETTER.  The ingredients are few, the flavor is immense.  Green Beans, OliveOil, Garlic, Salt , Pepper.  Are you with me??  Awesome. step into my kitchen and let’s cook!!

SERVES: 5-6                            TIME:  25 MINUTES

1 1/2 lbs. TRIMMED CLEANED FRESH GREEN BEANS

2 1/2 TBS.  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1-2 SLICEDor HALVED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT

GROUND BLACK PEPPER

ONE LARGE LEMON

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Using a sturdy baking pan, lay out the green beans and coat with 2 tbs. of Olive Oil. Make sure you have them in one flat layer.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of saltand the garlic.401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_n  Now roast them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and give them a toss, continue to roast for 5 more minutes as they gently brown. Remove and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 Tbs. of the Olive Oil. Slice the lemon and squeeze 1/2 of it over the beans. Ovens like people are very tempermental and unique so as with any recipe YOU are the most important part of the recipe.  450 F in your oven may cook them faster or slower..just keep an eye on them.  You want them to be somewhat wrinkled, tender yet not mushy. Serve with lemon slices.

Good to see green on my pages and in the stores and very soon outside!  Happy Spring!!

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