The other day when I saw my friend wrote that she was going to make penne alla vodka, it immediately intrigued me as it was the first time I heard about this pasta dish, apparently this is one of the most popular Italian-American dishes. Without hesitation, I made it the a few days ago and all of us love it. It’s so easy, quick to prepare and yet very delicious. My hubby was feeling skepical and frowned, pasta with vodka. He was very impressed with it and liked it a lot and during dinner, he said several times very nice like haute cuisine. This is a great pasta dish if you want a nice quick fix meal.
This winter has brought a lot of snow across Europe. Honestly I am not that excited about the snowy condition, it brings a lot of inconvenience to our daily life. Having said that I like the snow up on the mountains at the ski regions. What a dilemma, haha!
With the yellow pear tomatoes and herbs from our vegetable garden, I had been thinking of how to consume them. Earlier on I made a caprese pasta. Another idea I got was to make a farro salad with roasted vegetables. Instead of using white wine vinegar, I found out that balsamico blanco (a white balsamic vinegar) is a very good subsititute, it tastes a little sweet and less sour than normal white wine vinegar. As a fitness menu, I ate this as a main dish for my meat-free day.
This summer we have some wonderful yellow pear cherry tomatoes from our vegetable garden (thanks to Philly again for introducing this special tomato to me), the normal tomatoes do not harvest well this year due to too much rain but these cute yellow light bulb-shaped ones surprisingly came out very well. They have a wonderful sweetness taste and not not acidic at all. So how should I consume them? I have made a simple and damn easy caprese pasta inspired from Christina and Peter Sturken’s blog. Ideal for hot Summer days!!!
The original recipe called for raw tomatoes but I preferred to have the tomatoes briefly roasted as I like them slightly cooked.
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.
The other night initially I did not have any idea what to cook for myself, I did not feel hungry until it’s almost 9pm. I seemed to feel hungry only when it was gradually getting dark. When I looked into twitter, I saw Helen had made aglio e olio for dinner, I thought this was not a bad idea, quick to make and my other food blogger friend Ella @ From Stratch had just blogged this dish recently. However, the inside me wants to make something different, I was thinking that I have a small bottle of Masago which needs to be finished asap. I know there are Japanese pasta which uses fish roe but from what I can remember, they are using creamy sauce which I did not fancy tonight. So I had an idea to use the aglio e olio recipe as base and spin off to become a Japanese-Italian fusion version. The result was delizioso, oishi!!! I was very happy with my creativitiy tonight : )
- 100g liguine
- 30ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp masago (capelin roe) or tobiko (flying fish roe)
- 1.5 tbsp dried garlic flakes or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 frozen basil cubes or handful of fresh basil
- 1/2 sheet sushi nori (seaweed), cut into thin slices
- 1 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
- 1/2 small red chili cut into small pieces, discard seeds or 1 tsp dried chili flakes
- fresh ground sea salt
- Cook the liguine as instructed from the pack to al dente and drain in a colander.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan at medium high heat, sauté the garlic and chili for a while, when the garlic turns slightly brown, add the drained liguine and basil into the pan and toss until they are mixed well. Sprinkle the parsley, mix well.
- Transfer the pasta onto serving plate. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese, then add the masago or tobiko on top and followed by the nori.
- Add a little freshly ground salt as seasoning and mix well.
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.
It has come to one of these days that I want to use up my leftover, it is very tempting to get something fresh in the supermarket, but looking at my freezer, I better use up some of my stuff first, otherwise I just keep on buying and stocking up.
I have made a tiramisu over the weekend and left with a spare box of mascarpone. I asked what Peter fancies last night and he said pasta so that’s how I got started and came up with this creamy and spicy pasta sauce inspired by the recipes of Mark Bitten in NY Times and Ipetor’s recipe in Jamie Oliver’s bloggers’ forum.
- 1/2 cereal sized bowl Cameralized cherry tomatoes and garlic (tomatoes from our own garden kept in freezer)
- approx 50ml tomato sauce (leftover homemade pizza sauce, Jamie Oliver’s version)
- approx 50ml of the tomato sauce (made from our summer cherry tomatoes)
- 15 ml of masala wine
- 3 cubes of frozen small basil leaves
- 2 tbsp sundried tomatoes paste (self whizzed with olive oil)
- 1 canned of crab meat (use fresh crab meat if you can get hold of)
- 1 & 1/2 tbsp of mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 small onion finely chopped
- walnut oil (you can use extra virgin olive oil of course)
- 2-3 dried bird eye chili, cut into small pieces
- 8 pieces tagliatelle
- Heat some walnut oil in a large pan, add the onion to the pan, stir and cook until they become transparent,
- Add in the sundried tomato paste and cameralized garlic and tomatoes, keep stirring and let it cooked for a minute or so at medium high heat and then add in the tomato sauces, masala wine and chili. Bring it to boil and let it simmer for a few minutes so all the flavors immersed together.
- Turn to low heat to keep warm and keep aside.
- Boil water in a pan, cook the tagliatelle as required and drain the water.
- Add the frozen cubes of basil leaves and heat up the tomato sauce to boil again slowly, stir to dissolve the basil cubes
- Toss in the crab meat and then the tagliatelle.
- Try the taste, season with some salt if required, mine did not need additional seasoning of the tomatoes sauces contain some salt already.
- Serve immediately when hot.
- Pair with a glass of white wine if desire.
Both of us find it very appetizing with some chili flakes. It’s my first time to use canned crab meat, I tasted a little directly from the can and it was not close to fresh ones of course but after adding to the sauce, it made the sauce very tasty. Nevertheless, I would love to try this recipe some day with some homemade fresh tagliatelle using the lovely recipe of Rosa’s Yummy Yummy) & fresh crab meat.
I still have a pumpkin bought from a farmers’ market earlier on in late Autumn keeping in the garage, I have not checked for a long time and thought it has turned bad and luckily it is still in very good condition. Instead of making pumpkin soup again, I wanted to try something different. I used half of it and made two different dishes in the last two days: cameralized roast pumpkin risotto TRIO with grilled prawns and ricotta ravioli with pumpkin sauce (coming in the next post).
Thanks to the wonderful recipes by Aum Shanti of A Life (Time) of Cooking, her rustic way of cameralized roast pumpkin is unbelievably easy to make. It was so easy to scrape out the seeds and take out the pumpkin flesh, I also find this method, you will waste the pumpkin flesh even less than removing the skin prior by knife. I added some cumin seeds, some bay leaves from Tuscany given by my friend Carmen and my second last head of violet garlic from Sarlat, France.
When I took the baking tray out of the oven, the fragrant was so powerful, inviting and tempting. It was really irresistible that I had to try a piece immediately. So here it is, you can prepare the cameralized beforehand in early afternoon, set aside at room temperature when it is time to prepare dinner.
As for the risotto itself I was wondering if I could make a little tweak. Risotto is actually the name of the finished dish, not the rice itself. So I looked into my cupboard and thought of mixing with other types of rice. I picked the rice that would give a creamy or gooey texture and have come up with this risotto TRIO : 1/3 arborio rice; 1/3 barley & 1/3 Korean brown sweet rice (the one used for ginseng chicken). I had another rationale behind, that was to make the risotto less heavy and high in fibre.
The outcome was indeed delicious, I did not feel too full after dinner and still have room for dessert as I have used 50% pumpkin and 50% rice. And the grilled prawns were just perfect matched to the pumpkin risotto. To grill the prawns, I simply deveined and grilled them with olive oil, salt and pepper. I am not going to write out the whole recipe here again. Please click the above links to try out, am sure you will not regret it. This is surely a culinary dish I will keep in my list for my guests in the future. It’s just so healthy and tasty at the same time!
One little note, I noticed that some people will opt out the white wine in cooking the risotto, I would not do that unless you are against of alcohol whatsoever as this is what making it an Italian risotto but not a Chinese risotto.
PS. I have made a TAKE 2 last Sunday for my friends on request and this time I think I could even better control the time and it turned out even better, also, my first time to try to use SLR to take my food photos.
I was told that Paste Ines has the best pasta in town, Paste Ines supplies pasta, ravioli, etc, to top Italian restaurants in Basel, Chez Donati is one of them which is the best Italian restaurant in Basel.
I have tried their ravioli (spinach and veal fillings) at my friend’s place two weeks ago, the ravioli are so thin that they are almost transparent when cooked. They are so easy to prepare, Albert told us to boil the water and turn down the heat a bit and put the ravioli into the water at 80ºC and let them cook for 8 mins and no more. You can simply serve by drizzling a good quality of olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese on top. Alternatively, my friend, Barbara has prepared a brown butter sage sauce which is also lovely. It was a very lovely evening, girls chat, nice food and great companies.
That day I have bought some cappelletti (veal filling) out of curiousity, I had ravioli and tortellini but never had cappelletti before. Sourced from about.com:
The word cappelletto means “little hat,” which is what this pasta should resemble; they’re from Modena. They are traditionally served in broth, as are their cousins, tortellini (the difference lies in the stuffing); indeed, the traditional North Italian Christmas dinner starts with cappelletti in capon broth.
Albert was very nice and taught me how to cook them. The best thing is that they can be kept in the freezer until I feel like having them and tonight the time has come. They were so good that at first I cooked a small portion to try out and in the end I had second and finished them all. The pack is supposed to be for one person anyway. I have to revisit to stock up some ravioli and cappelletti at home. It is great to be able to enjoy some five star restaurant food without the need to visit expensive restaurants, especially in this snowy weather, it is far much more relax and enjoyable at home. Whatsmore I admire Albert’s passion and attitude to is business. He strives for excellency in his pasta, he ensures his customers to be able to enjoy his pasta at home by giving detailed instructions and this is the attitude
that he can be so proud of himself and does not need to worry a bit of his business at all even during the current global economic crisis.
How to prepare Albert Pfefferli’s Cappelletti:
- In a pan, cook water until boiling.
- Put the cappelletti into the boiling water and cook for 12 mins. Stir once to avoid them sticking together.
- Discard the water.
- You can serve the cappelletti in a broth (like Chinese dumplings). I served with pesto alla genovese (fresh pesto sauce), or simply drizzle some extra virgin oil, grated parmesan cheese, fresh ground pepper and sea salt.
Paste Ines, Albert Pfefferli
Tel: +41 61 381 4917
Tues-Fri: 0900-1200 & 1500-1830
Closed on Monday
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