Recently we went to a dinner party, I was so intrigued by this cheesecake made by my friend, Nesrin. At first I thought that was New York Cheesecake but she told me that it is called Cake n’Cheesecake, never heard of it. It was just beautiful, when cut through you can see 3 distinct layers. It is so irresistible that I have to bake one myself without further delay. I like the cake base even more than the usual biscuit crust base.
So if you have followed my travels, I still have some Tuscan recipes I learnt which I promised to post. Here is one for you today. It is extremely easy to make and great for your dinner party.
When we were in Tuscany, crostini together with Panzanella, a refreshing Tuscan summer bread salad are always served as antipasti.
Following my Tuscany Part 1: I am afraid I am not writing in a chronological order. This was actually our last evening in Tuscany. Upon our arrival, I have written to Peter & Ann to see if they could offer me a cooking class but this is not something they officially or normally would offer. Peter was actually a chef when he was in Basel. In fact what I was hoping was not a formal cooking class but a casual learn and dine together evening.
After discussing, we had agreed to cook something that I can also repeat when I return to Switzerland.
Weather was rather hot already for early July, we ate outside and Peter told me because of the hot weather, they do not serve dishes immediately but at room temperature.
That evening we had:
- Zucchini blossoms fritta
- Baked zucchini blossoms (continue to read for recipe)
- Zucchini carpaccio (stay tune for recipe)
- Creamy stracchino cheese with sausage crostini (posted)
- Baccalà with tomato & capers sauce (Baccalà alla Vesuviana) (posted)
- Tipsy white peaches with gelato
It was a very special evening to us, so glad that Peter and Ann shared so much their cooking tips to me. I am afraid I cannot reveal everything here in one single post. I will reveal the recipes when I cook them shortly in the future.
Tonight, I have made Baked zucchini blossoms & zucchini. I am actually going to grow some zucchini myself in our vegetable garden, bought some seeds but have to wait until next year to plant them. Nevertheless, my neighbour is very generous and let me pick her zucchini flowers and zucchini. So I did today, picked in the afternoon kept them in some water so they can stay fresh. Once picked, the zucchini blossoms need to be used as soon as possible.
So tonight with a bit of inspiration, I have a meatlessfree dinner, I have used a bit more olive oil than Peter but surprisingly it was completely fine and did not feel greasy at all, a good quality olive oil does pay off!!! I felt I have transformed a Tuscan dish to Spanish tapas, hahaha!
Baked zucchini blossoms & zucchini
- 10 or more zucchini blossoms, freshly bought or picked from your own garden, keep in some water if not used immediately
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced, about 0.5 cm thick
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs (paniermehl)
- 2 tbsp ground unblanched almond (blanced is fine too)
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- best quality of extra olive oil
- Preheat oven at 200ºC (400ºF)
- Trim the sides of zucchini blossoms and emove the pistils, wash and pat dry them gently.
- Drizzle olive oil onto 2 oven proved ceramic trays.
- Mix the grated Parmigiano, breadcrumbs, minced garlic and parsley together in a bowl.
- Spread the mixture thinly over the zucchini and flowers
- Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over them
- Bake them for about 10 minutes in the middle rack
- When the oil is sizzling and the crust is lightly browned they’re done.
- Remove from oven, rest for a few minutes before serve. Great with some fresh bread & some white wine.
- Serve this with bread for a light meal or as a side dish or one of your party dishes.
- You can use less olive oil if you like. Despite I have used a little more olive oil than Peter, it did not feel greasy at all, I like both versions. The critical thing is to really use the best olive oil you can get.
- Baking this way is a little like shallow frying and the beauty is effortless!!!!
Thanks Peter & Ann for the lovely evening, hope to see you soon again!
For Tuscany Part 1 : Garfagnana & Tuscan risotto recipe, click here.
This was where we stayed on the upper floor in a farmhouse in Pescia with our own pretty walkway filled with the frangrance from the Oleander.
Tuscany has been on my wishlist years ago since I watched the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Last week I finally got a chance to spend a week there. A week stay is actually too short to see everything. Tuscany is so big that it is divided into 5 regions: North, East, South, West and Central. This time we stayed in a very pretty farmhouse in Pescia, Northern Tuscany. We only managed exploring our nearby surroundings, Western Tuscany (Pisa) and just touched on Chianti (Central Tuscany).
To get there, we drove down there from Switzerland in less than 7 hours. The only thing we have to pay attention is that the traffic through the San Gottardo tunnel can be so busy that you can be stuck in the traffic for hours so that morning we left home pretty early and arrived Pescia at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
I am grateful that I was recommended by my friend Carmen to this farmhouse: Agriturismo a Pescia – Azienda Agricola Marzalla and saved a lot time to look further. Another big advantage is that Peter and Ann who are responsible to take care of this place, they can speak multiple languages and English of course. Through this trip I have learnt a lot from them, not just about the surroundings but also a lot of cooking and gardening tips. Peter used to be a chef in Switzerland, once we started talking about food and cooking, we could not stop.
On our first day we did not do much apart from settling ourselves comfortably in the apartment, unpacking and had a very nice Tuscan dinner just nearby. Unfortunately I was too tired that day and forgot to take my camera with me, so you have to use some imagination here I am afraid.
- Complimentary salad which is a typical Tuscan bread salad with tomatoes, tuna and onion. The typical Tuscan bread is unsalted, it’s not commonly eaten at breakfast,taste very plain but more so used in their cooking such as salads or soups.
- Tuscan antipasti (cold meat & crostini)
- 1°secondi: zucchini flowers tagliolini
- 2° secondi: smoked carpaccio with wild porcini mushrooms (freshly picked) and parmesan cheese.
We were then so full that we were not able to have any desserts. The restaurant’s owner was very friendly and offered us a limoncello as digestivo. Here in most restaurants, they always cook what are available that season and in the surrounding. You do not need to go a very fancy restaurant to have good food. The best is to ask the locals there for recommendations.
We had a relaxing scenic drive to mountainous Garfagnana, it was said this part of Tuscany is the least explored and it is very true as we did not see crowds of tourists. The weather was hotter day after day, we had to have gelato every day to cool down a little.
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Ponte del Diavolo at Bagni di Lucca
On our way, we passed by some mobile farmers selling and of course we have to stop and have a look. We bought some Tuscan tomatoes and local honey. Later we all thought that the tomatoes we bought that day were the most tasty.
I have taken Jamie’s Italy cookbook with me, at first I thought would it be rather silly to take a whole hardback with me. Peter asked me just to take along with me. And I can tell you that I am so thankful that I have taken this with me, I understand so much more about Tuscan cooking.
As usual I could never follow the recipes totally, I was inspired and adapted one of his risotto recipes and created our dinner that evening. Thanks to Peter & Ann of letting us to pick their garden herbs, it made my Tuscan cooking experience more real. We had tomato mozzarrella as starter and then risotto as our main course.
Risotto with Italian sausage, Pecorino cheese & Thyme
- 2 fresh Italian Pork sausages, cut into small pieces and discard the skin
- 12 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
- 1 Tuscan tomato, cut into small pieces
- 2 cloves garlic. finely chopped
- 3 stalks celery, discard leaves, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 spring onions, cut into small pieces (separate the green and white/ purple parts)
- 1 small piece of pecorino cheese, using your fingers make into crumbles
- Parmesan cheese, for grating (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Pandano which is very similar but not exactly considered to be parmesan)
- 2 small glasses of white wine
- 2 tbsp freshly picked thyme
- chicken stock (dissolve a cube of bouillion in a litre of water)
- 1 cup risotto ( I used Carnaroli risotto which has a high starch content and makes the creamiest risotto; it is often preferred by chefs as the starchy centre stays chewily firm in spite of absorbing plenty of liquid.)
- Heat up a large pan, cook the sausages and set aside.
- Keep the fat coming out from the sausages, add in the garlic, celery and onion. Stir fry for a few minutes at medium high heat or until the onion and celery look transparent.
- Pour in a small glass of white wine and let it bubble and evaporates. Then add in the risotto and stir until throughoutly mixed. I personally like wine a lot of I added a 2nd glass of wine to it and let it continue to bubble.
- Now as like normal risotto cooking, gradually add in the stock and keep stirring from time to time.
- When the risotto is about 75% cooked, add in the tomatoes and stir to mix.
- Add more stock where necessary, in the final stage, add in the sausages, spring onion (white/ purple parts) and lastly the pecorino cheese.
- Adjust to your cooking time according to your personal taste if you like al dente or more cooked.
- Sprinkle the thyme and green parts of the spring onion,stir to mix.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan cheese.
My thoughts on this Tuscan risotto:
- We felt the pecorino cheese is rather too strong for us when eating alone or on bread, by adding to the risotto, it makes the risotto more creamy and we are surprised that it did not few cheesey at all.
- Normally you may not add spring onion to risotto but Peter told us that you can be as creative as you can imagine. With the rarely found purple spring onion, how can I resist : )
- Also adding celery on top to the onion in the risotto which learnt from the cookbook is a must-try, it adds more flavor and texture to the risotto, I will surely adapt this to my future risottos.
Just came back from UK, almost time for dinner, I had to figure out something quick, nice and light for dinner. We had some very nice artichoke and veal ravioli in the freezer but there was no parmesan cheese at home so we stopped by the new ALDI in our neighbourhood to get some. There we found some fresh rucola (arugula or rocket) and my favorite prociutto crudo. ALDI products are really value for money, it proved me wrong that being priced lower does not mean that it is not good quality. My in-laws are big fans of ALDI, Holland. When they came to visit us in Switzerland, I had so much fun shopping with them in ALDI, sharing with me their best buys, unfortunately the Dutch Vla & cheese are not available here. The prosciutto was discovered by them and now I like this one better than other normal supermarkets here as this one tastes just right, not too salty. Now I have a new food shopping cost-saving strategy, if time allows, I would first go to ALDI first to buy the things I could find there, and then I will go the normal supermarket to buy the outstanding items.
So here I made a light and refreshing rucola salad with a raspberry vinegar dressing I found in the internet at starter:
- 3 slices prosciutto crudo
- 2 handful of rucola, washed and drained
- fresh grated parmesan cheese
Raspberry Vinegar Dressing (makes about 1/3 cup):
- 3 tbsp raspberry vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- fresh ground salt & black pepper
- Make the salad dressing by adding the vinegar, honey and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Season with some ground salt and pepper. Blend well using a whisk.
- Divide the rucola on two serving plates. Tear the prosciutto into large pieces and lay on top of the greens.
- Spoon the salad dressing on the salad and finish off by grating some parmesan cheese on top, amount according to your desire.
- Serve immediately.
Peterplatz, from the outside
Basel Herbstmesse or Herbschtmäss in Swiss German (Autumn Fair) is the oldest and largest fair in Switzerland (this is the 485th times this year). It is an event which not only kids look forward to but also for those who are young at heart who wants to have a bit of fun, go for a few rides, scream when coming down from the Power Tower; and for those who like street foods and local produce.
Being a non-Swiss, I am curious to know all kinds of food selling in the market stalls. This year I got to taste a few more things that I have not tried before. Thanks to Carmen for showing me all these goodies. So apart from just having sausages, raclette, Gebrannte Mandeln (almonds roasted in sugar), glühwein (mulled wine), Apfel most (Freshly non-filtered apple juice, warm or cold) and Magenbrot (spicy sweet bread), I have discovered a few more things this year.
Fresh Magenbrot (Fresh Stomach Bread) contains stomach-friendly spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg flowers, it is said this is good for your body after having the heavy food from the food stalls and help your digestion.
Gebrannete Mandeln (Almond roasted in Sugar)
Beckeschmütz, these are the softest marshmallow in the world and my favorite. They are softer than you imagine. There is one stall where you can get white chocolate coated. They have to be consumed within 2 days maximum. I like buying a few home and eat as desserts.
Frisch Wacker Rosenkiechli, these traditional cakes are in the shape of roses, they are very light in texture and sprinkled with icing sugar. I tried it 2 years ago but not this year, it’s not even possible to try a round of everything. Too heavy!
Kokosmakrönli (Coconut Macaroon)
Schoki Bananen, these are chocolate coated bananas, you can choose milk chocolate or white chocolate coated. This stall uses Lindt chocolate. The base of these bananas are coated with a layer sesames, they are simply lovely.
A cheese stall, small production not mass production cheese
Kartoffelpuffer (Potato pancakes), this is a traditional snack originated by the Germans, Czechs and Austrians. I found several recipes in the internet which you can replicate at home. A portion comes with 2 big pieces, make sure share with friends. There are 2 sauces you can choose to go with them: apple sauce or garlic sauce. I chose apple sauce. They were really crispy, tasted like a bit of my mom’s potato cakes (chinese version) that was the smell which had attracted me to try.
This is how the Kartoffelpuffer look like.
Kääskiechli (Swiss quiche), I was told this one is very good, the size per piece is not too big so you can save up some space in your stomach to try other things
Schùnggegipfeli (Left) & Èpfel im Schloofrògg (Right), more pastries, these are for next year to try out.
If you want to try more different types of food, you will have to visit the fair several times as one or two food items can fill you up very quickly. My excolleagues always get together at least one lunch gathering in the fair each year and have some fun together. It’s very refreshing to get some fresh air before getting your heads down again.
There are 6 places where the fair is happening at the same time but the one in Peterplatz has the longest history and I found the foodstuff there are better than the other sites. If you want to go for a few rides, then Messeplatz will fulfill your appetite. One thing I have noticed here is that most of the market stalls get the same spot each year, this makes it very convenient for us as we would know where to find our favorite stalls the following year.
There are just a few more days until the Herbstmesse ends this year, however, by the time you read this post I should have arrived Hong Kong and will stay for 2 weeks seeing my family and friends . So will have to wait until next year to discover more things …..
Mozzarella seems to be very popular in Switzerland, there are many different types here from normal ones to buffalo mozzarella. We have also got them in different sizes, I saw these mini ones called mozzarelline and mozzarella perles (pearls). They are perfect for salads or snacks in apéro.
However, I wanted to make something different rather than a salad, so I came up this idea and have made Mozzarelline allo Zafferano: mini mozzarella cheese with a batter flavored with saffron, a specialty from Abrusso, South of Italy. Saffron is a seasoning that always appears in the Abruzzi menu. Abruzzo is Italy’s principal source of saffron, with the majority of it grown for export.
I have had fried mozzarella cheese in restaurants but they are usually in rectangular shaped like fish fingers. I personally preferred this round versions, they are much more adorable to me. Believe it or not, they were all gone in less than five minutes on the table!!!
Mozzarella allo Zafferano, as seen in#8574 foodgawker, 05.11.08
- 2 packs of mozzarelline (150g per pack)
- batter mix: 120g flour with about 180g of lightly salted cold water
- filaments of saffron or a sachet of saffron powder
- sea salt
- bread crumbs (German: paniermehl)
- Cooking oil for frying
- Choices of dipping sauce: honey, aceto balsamico or ketchup
- Empty the mozzarelline from the packets, drain to discard the liquid and blot dry with kitchen paper and set aside.
- Using a pestle and mortar to make the saffron filaments into a fine powder.
- To make the batter, place the flour into a mixing bowl and slowly add the lightly salted water, mix thoroughly to get a thick liquid paste, add water until the appropriate consistency is achieved.
- Add the saffron powder to the batter and mix thoroughly, you will now get a nice yellow batter.
- Put the bread crumbs in a separate bowl.
- Pour the cooking oil in a frying pan so it is deep enough to cover the mozzarelline and heat it up.
- When the frying oil is hot enough, dip the mozzarelline in the batter and then roll them in the bread crumbs until it’s all covered.
- Fry the mozzarelline in the hot oil. You can do this in batches with 4-5 pieces each time.
- As mozzarelline is cheese, it will get soften very quickly, so in a count of up to 5, they should be ready, so quickly take them out of the oil and lay them on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve immediately when hot with the dipping sauces and fresh cherry tomatoes.
If you interested to see how mozzarella perles look like, here is one for you. I simple made a salad by tossing them with cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and mixed green, add some olive oil, aceto balsamico, salt & black pepper.
Mozzarella perles, tomatoes and basil salad
- To the French, the Dordogne is a river. To the British, it covers a vast area roughly equivalent to what the French call Périgord. Dordogne is also a department which consists of Périgord Blanc (White) , Périgord Noir (Black), Périgord Green and Périgord Purple.
- Sarlat-La-Canéda or simply Sarlat is the capital of Périgord Noir.
- Sarlat is a medieval town and is one of the towns that most represents the 14th century of France. It is in France’s Tentative List for future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town centre is so pretty and full of well preserved medieval architecture.
- Agriculture has long been of importance in the Dordogne area around Sarlat. It mainly produces corn, hay, walnuts, walnut oil, violet garlic, cheeses, wine, cèpes (a sort of wild mushrooms), truffles and foie gras.
- Foie gras: There are several large foie gras factories as well as a number of small producers of geese and ducks in the region that make foie gras and other cherished products (confits, pâté, etc.) from them.
- Dordorgne attracts many visitors in the summer especially from Northern Europe (e.g. the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, etc.)
It was a very pleasant afternoon wandering the narrow lanes of this archetypal medieval town, with its vielle ville of honey-coloured stone buildings, We were lucky that the day of our visit fell on the Sunday Market.
Kittie kittie, waiting for your dinner???
I had a joint birthday celebration with my friend last Friday night at my place with our new terrace finished just in time. That night we had a very nice evening with delicious food, nice wine and most importantly nice companies. Below was our menu with homemade signature dishes and the photo gallery. Please stay tune for some of the recipes.
Many thanks to my friends for bringing their lovely food and gifts! I have widened my food horizon again!
Int’l Culinary Tasting Menu, 27 June 2008
Aubergine salad (Turkish)
Chicken Satay (Indonesian)
Rice Paper Spring Roll (Vietnamese)
Olive Bread with Bruschetta (Italian)
Sausages with Tomatoes & Potatoes (Spanish)
Cheese & Fruit Platter
Gruyerzer (CH), Peccorino (I), Münster (F), Brie (F)
German Cheese cake
Grüner Veltliner 2005, Austria
Val de Sil 2006, Valdeorras, Spain
Conde Bastiano Gran Reserva, 1998, La Mancha, Spain
Sang des Cailloux 2003, Vacqueyras, Provence, France