Monthly Archives: July 2015

TOMATO, ASPARAGUS AND RICOTTA CROSTATA…

0002 I’m calling this a CROSTATA simply because it is one, an Italian BAKED tart or pie.  Pretty simple. This egg, cheese and vegetable CROSTATA is not much different than a QUICHE but I’m going with the term CROSTATA because of the cheeses I used in this, RICOTTA,MOZZARELLA, and PARMIGIANO.  There are a million ways to prepare and enjoy the seasonal tomatoes out right now, mostly eaten raw because they are just so delicious.  Don’t stop there!  This cheese tart topped with sliced seasonal tomatoes and some Asparagus really shows off their delicious flavors.  Arrangement of the vegetables is up to you.  I was feeling creative and came up with this pattern but i realized after I did it that pieces will miss out on the ASPARAGUS so just be creative!! 003 My mise en place for the crostata.  I used Polly-O because that was the best available.  It will be even better when you use the ricotta in tins, or fresh ricotta, but DON’T STRESS, just use a good brand of Ricotta.  Organic/Farm eggs will also make a difference as will local ripe and fresh vegetables.

004 The asparagus roasts beautifully. 007 The tomatoes and cheeses brown and caramelize wonderfully.  This is a fun dish, looks great and tastes great,  warm or room temperature!

The idea is reminiscent of the frittatas my Mom would make with the seasonal vegetables from Dad’s home garden.  It was farm to table long before it became a food industry buzzword, really hipsters, it’s simply how food has been prepared and served since the beginning of time. Until Kraft came along…!! If you do not have your own garden try a local farmers market OR even in the supermarkets, like where I live in New Jersey..there’s a designated area in the produce department for LOCAL vegetables. There’s also the Organic section so during the growing season you can by-pass trucked in factory farmed produce from far away areas.  The taste difference is worth it.

for a 9 inch PIE PLATE which will serve 8 people:

TIME: 2 hours             SERVES: 6-8

1 basic PIE CRUST ROLLED AND PRESSED INTO A 9 inchPAN

2  CUPS DRAINED RICOTTA

3 BEATEN LARGE EGGS

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

2 TBS HEAVY CREAM

1/8 CUP SMALL DICED MOZZARELLA

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2TBS. DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

1 GREEN ONION, FINELY CHOPPED

8 RIPE 1/8 inch TOMATO SLICES

8 PEELED AND BLANCHED ASPARAGUS SPEARS

EXTRA BREADCRUMBS, PARMIGIANO, SALT AND PEPPER FOR FINISHING

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the Ricotta and the eggs together in a large bowl.  Add 1/8 tsp. Salt and1/4 Tsp.Ground black pepper. Mix.  Fold in the mozzarella and the Parmigiano and Green Onionsand cream. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the bottom of the crust.   When it’s well blended pour it into the pie crust.  Place the pan on a foil covered baking sheet.  Now top the crust with the tomatoes and Asparagus.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and rotate the pan. Now top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, about 2 tbs. of Grated Parmigiano and 1 1/2 TBS of breadcrumbs. Bake for 15minutes longer OR until the center of the Crostata is set.If you are not sure, insert a smooth blade or toothpick and when it comes out clean you are done!

Here’s a simple pie crust for you:

2 cups sifted All purpose Unbleached flour
1 stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
½ cup ice water


 
Mix the butter and flour togetherwith your fingers or two knife blades . Add the water slowly to the flour and butter mixture, mixing until the dough is formed. Roll this into a smooth ball and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Remove.  Let it sit out for 5 minutes, Then on a floured board roll out to 1/8 inch thickness and make sure the bottom and 3/4 of the sides of the pan are covered.  That’s it!

006  Isn’t that beautiful?  The Ricotta served to make it a bit lighter in texture than the typical custardlike quiche filling.  The Italian cheeses and black pepper give it a nice flavor and the Green onion  is really nice as a background.  The caramelized tomato and asparagus just finishes it off nicely.  Enjoy this one!!!  Let it sit for a good 15 minutes before you cut into it.

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TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD, OR ÇOBAN SALATASI

fulleuropevaca 1432  We are now in the throes of Summer.  The fresh seasonal and local produce is all around us.  My favorite time of the year!  AND it’s also when my family takes it’s annual vacation.  This year we did an “AmazingRace” like whirlwind from Belgium to Amsterdam to Germany to the Czech Republic to Poland to Slovakia to Hungary to Austria….take a breath,…then we finished the trip flying from Salzburg Austria to Istanbul Turkey.  Wonderful time, no problems, no issues, phenomenal scenery and people, many time zones, currencies and of course…THE FOOD!!!  What’s a food blogger to write about first?  Really!! I have 3000 pictures of sights and foods to remember the great trip by and the food choices along the way were varied and fantastic. Again, where do I start to share my food finds?  Last night I was at a Farmers Market here at the Jersey Shore and it came to me that my first “What did I eat on my Summer Vacation” post came to me.  Fresh vegetables.  They were at their peak wherever we went and they are at their peak here at home.  I’m going to ease my way back into blogging, I did give myself a 3 week break, so I’m happily back to work at it now.  My choice was a simple salad that was made extraordinary by the local seasonal vegetables used by the cooks.  It’s a chopped vegetable salad that is a common salad in Turkey.  First, this is my lingering view of Turkey:

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Sit back from your screen and drink that view in.  It’s of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul taken from the Karakoy Ferry we were on.  It took us from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul, the only city that straddles itself on two continents. Like that?  Good.  I’m glad.  Now we move into the kitchen to prepare what the Turkish call ” COBAN SALATASI”, a common version of a Mediterranean chopped vegetable salad.  As with most heritage and regional recipes there are variations with Feta or no Feta cheese.  The version we had, see the lead picture, contained no Feta.  The taste was crisp, clean, and refreshing.  Maybe the amount of parsley in it contributes to that too. So, I’m giving you, the cook, the option to either include the Feta or not.  Next time I make it, I’ll add some feta.

COBAN SALATASI—–TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD

SERVES: 4-5                                  TIME:45 MINUTES

2 RIPE LARGE TOMATOES, DICED

2 MEDIUM SIZED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), SLICED AND DICED

1 MEDIUM CUCUMBER,  DICED

1 SMALL SWEET ONION, DICED FINE

1/2 BUNCH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY COARSELY MINCED

1/4 CUP CUBED FETA

SEA SALT/KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE WHOLE LEMON

Whisk 1/8 cup Olive oil with the lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Let this sit for about 1 hour. Then whisk again.  Mix all the vegetables together.  Then pour the seasoned Olive Oil and Lemon over the whole thing and mix.  Let this sit for 1/2 at room temperature.

that’s it…fulleuropevaca 1490 It’s simple, clean, and goes GREAT with the usual American table of grilled or BBQ meats and seafood we enjoy through the summer.  It also makes a wonderful entree for a summer meal.  Grilled smoky pita bread, olives, cheeses..see where I’m going with this? Well, nice to be back home with lots of memories to keep my fingers typing and kitchen cranking and hopefully some new things for you to make in your kitchens!!

Before we leave this Turkish delight….enjoy this pic of the interior of AYASOFYA, or HAGIA SOPHIA.  For any fan of  World Art and Architecture this is one of the sights one wants to see.  I’ve wanted to see this since I was a kid first seeing it in a National Geographic Magazine. fulleuropevaca 1437

 

 

 

RICOTTA BALLS…PALLINE DI RICOTTA..CREAMY CHEESE MORSELS

 

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RICOTTA..one of the most popular Italian Cheese throughout the world prized for it’s versatility and mild taste. It’s a star player in certain types of Lasagne, Ravioli, a host of Baked Pasta dishes, the main ingredient in the Cannoli cream, pastries, gnocchi, cavatelli, rustica holiday pies, calzones. This cheese is a work horse and I’m going to give you yet another use of it..PALLINE…translated, that mean “little balls”  (stop giggling).  As with most cultures Italians love small ball shaped foods, especially of the fried variety.  Can these be baked for those who prefer that?  No idea. I’m a purist.  This dish was created to be fried.  I stick with that. So take a look at the picture….you know you want to make these.

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This recipe will make about 24-30 depending on how adept you are to rolling same sized balls. Apparently from the picture I am not, nor will I ever profess to be, lol. Some are more round than others,  some are bigger than others, some are slightly out of shape. This is homecooking. Don’t stress. Enjoy it!  In my area we have so many Italian Pork Stores make these and there are sometimes additional ingredients, like prosciutto,pesto, etc.  This recipe I’m sharing with you is strictly a PALLINE DI RICOTTA..Ricotta and other cheeses, no meats, or other vegetables.  Let’s talk for a minute about ingredients. Too much can be too much.  Researching other ricotta ball recipes there sometimes is a preponderance of overkill.  I don’t try to be a native Italian, because quite frankly that’s an impossibility for me.  I do try to keep most of my cooking and blogposts to adhering to some general food concepts that one might find in Italy where less is more, the quality of ingredients is the main event. So ,having said all of that let me add that as tempted as you might be DO NOT ADD garlic to this. I’d be very dishonest if within my own blog I wasn’t honest with my own cooking styles.  Garlic does not make a dish Italian,ie: Italian foo doesn’t have garlic in everything.  Generally cheese,soft cheese fillings are without garlic.  Like a calzone or layers of Lasagne, the cheese is mixed with a minimum of ingredients. The garlic overpowers the cheeses in this application.  A delicious light crispy shell that breaks into a soft cheesey center…this  is a sensory delight.   Let start cooking!!

TIME:  2 hours

MAKES:  25-30 WALNUT SIZED BALLS

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (not seasoned)
12 cup PECORINO ROMANO, FRESHLY GRATED
13 cup DICED MOZZARELLA, don’t use fresh mozzarella, low moisture type is best
1 TBS. finely chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
1 1/2 CUPS DRAINED RICOTTA
3 LARGE EGGS, SEPARATED
14 cup flour
1/2 CUP UNSEASONED DRY BREADCRUMBS
OIL  (I use olive oil, you can use Vegetable, or Canola)
Kosher Salt, Black Pepper
Beat the egg yolks then  the add in the pecorino, 1 cup breadcrumbs, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, parsley, ricotta, mozzarella.  When this is all well blended and you can easily roll it into a walnut sized ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
Set up your breading station..a pan of the flour, a pan of the egg whites, beaten, and a pan of the plain breadcrumbs.
Remove the ricotta mixture from the refrigerator and form into about 25-30 walnut sized balls.  Then roll each one in the flour, shake off excess, then into the egg, shake off excess, then into the breadcrumbs.  Line up on a tray.  When completed refrigerate for 15 minutes.
In a heavy high sides pan heat up 3 inches of Vegetable/Canola or Olive Oil and when it gets to 320 degrees F then test one ball…it should fry on all sides only till it gets golden, should take about 4 minutes or so.  Drain on paper towels.  Do one first to get the hang of it. Then continue the rest, i’ll advise only 6 at a time..no more…Let the oil rest for 1/2 minute before adding the next six.  Do this in batches until done.  Serve!  you can even cook ahead and reheat.  But they are never as good as right out of the pan.  They freeze well too.

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Enjoy this treat!!  Great for dinners and parties!!

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