Posts tagged ‘italian’

April 20, 2011

Panzanella

Panzanella

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It doesn’t feel like spring at all. Welcome to the Midwest. On weeks like these, I turn up the thermostat to 80, put on shorts, turn up the reggae  and dance around my house while cooking up something summery and pretending it’s sunny and beautiful outside. During one particular occasion, I decided to be ‘Italian’ and make a beautiful Panzanella. This light summery salad is a perfect way to forget a cold rainy day. The thing I love most about it is that it’s different. It’s not your typical ‘lettuce and tomato’ salad (though there’s nothing wrong with typical salads when you’re craving them), and the  fact that it has the toasted bread makes it able to be a meal all in itself. This salad is definitely a keeper in my salad repertoire.

Panzanella

Ingredients

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use a combination of purple or yellow or orange, to nicely colorize the dish)
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette


1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Source: Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

January 12, 2011

Vodka Penne

 

 

Vodka Penne

Some people have heard about this little stereotype that Russians like their Vodka. In my case…I like my Vodka…Penne. A lot. It’s like comfort food to me. Whenever I’m having a bad week (and last week was a really bad week), this dish just  makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s definitely one of mine and Francis’s favorite dishes. The fact that it takes only 15-20 minutes to make definitely helps because honestly, when you’re having a bad day, you don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove for three hours.

Vodka Penne

Ingredients

1/2 box penne
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes + juice
1 medium-sized tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp garlic
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Prepare penne in boiling water in one pot.
Meanwhile, heat up extra virgin olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over med-high heat until fragrant.
Add diced tomatoes and fresh tomato
Add basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic powder
Add vodka and vegetable broth, and allow vodka to boil off for 10 minutes.
Once the penne is cooked to your liking, drain it in a colander and add it to the saucepan.
Add tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese and heavy whipping cream.
Cook for approximately 4-5 minutes more.
Enjoy!

Source: Innochka’s Kitchen

January 6, 2011

Zuppa Toscana (Vegetarian)

 

Zuppa Toscana

There’s nothing better on a cold snowy January day than to have a warm bowl of delicious soup, especially when that bowl of soup can help a charity. Branny at Branny Boils Over is hosting a Charity Souper Bowl to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)…you know, those commercials that have you sobbing with those adorable animals that just need some love? Yeah, that ASPCA . She is being extremely thoughtful and generous and is donating $1 to ASPCA for every soup entry for her event. If you’re a blogger, all you have to do is blog a soup recipe (like this one) and mention her event in the entry as well as dedicate your entry to a special furry friend. Unfortunately, I don’t have pets due to my townhome not allowing them, so I would like to dedicate this post to all those adorable animals you see on the ASPCA commercials.

I saw this soup on the menu at Olive Garden a few months ago when Francis and I went and was so disappointed that it had bacon and sausage in it. Now, I know most people would drool at the word ‘bacon’ but I don’t eat bacon or sausage, so that posed a problem for me. I knew the soup would be good..but I just couldn’t order it!

Ever since then, I had been scouring the internet, trying to find a good ‘copycat’ recipe for this soup. While I haven’t tasted the original to know if this is an exact copycat, I think this recipe is absolutely delicious (and it met the husband taste-test as well, which is surprising given that it has a green vegetable in it). Even though it doesn’t have meat, the soup truly doesn’t feel like it’s lacking anything. Also, the fact that it’s fairly simple to make is a big bonus for me.

(Vegetarian) Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

2 large russet baking potatoes, sliced in half, then 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups kale
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large soup pot on the stove, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the potatoes, vegetable broth and water in the pot. Increase the heat to medium/high to bring to a simmer.
Cover and reduce heat to medium/low heat. Continue to heat until the potatoes are completely done (easily prickable with a fork).
Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn to low heat.
Add Parmesan Cheese
Heat through and serve.
Enjoy!
Add kale and cream.

Source: Adapted from Food.com

January 5, 2011

Italian Bread

 

Italian Bread

I think my two favorite food groups are bread and dessert. I know these aren’t “real” food groups, but when you eat bread and dessert in mass quantities like me, they should probably form the base of the food pyramid. Francis isn’t a huge fan of dessert, but one thing we definitely see eye to eye on is our love of bread. There’s nothing better than a fresh loaf of warm Italian bread to go with a plate of Vodka Penne (recipe to follow in the next few days/weeks). This bread is soft on the inside with the perfect crunchiness. It is made from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks; The Breadbaker’s Apprentice. It’s made with a starter called ‘biga’ that I keep in my freezer and that can be kept frozen for 2-3 months. That way, when you get the craving for a warm, chewy loaf of Italian bread, it’s only an hour away.

Italian Bread

For Biga (starter) —This will keep in the refrigerator up to three days or in freezer for three months.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp to 1 cup water at room temp

Directions

Stir together flour and yeast in a large bowl or in bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
Add 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp of water, stirring until it comes together and makes a coarse ball.
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer dough to counter. Knead for 4-6 minutes or mix on medium speed with dough hook for 4 minutes or until dough is soft and pliable.
Lightly oil a bowl and transfer to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2-4 hours or until it doubles in size.
Remove dough from bowl, knead it lightly and return it to bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.

For the Bread (with starter made)

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups Biga
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
12/3 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp diastatic barley malt powder (optional – I did not use this)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water, lukewarm
Cornmeal for dusting

Directions

Remove Biga from refrigerator 1 hour before making dough. Cut it into 10 small pieces with a serrated knife.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for one hour to take off the chill.
Stir together flour, salt, sugar, yeast and malt powder (if using) in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl.
Add the biga pieces, olive oil and 3/4 cup water and stir together (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until a ball forms, adjusting the water or flour according to need. Dough should be slightly sticky.
Sprinkle flour on the counter and begin kneading for 10 minutes if not using a stand mixer. If using a stand mixer, mix on medium speed with dough hook for about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer dough to the bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours until it doubles in size.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a loaf 6-12 inches in length. Sprinkle the dough with flourand cover with a towel. Let it rest for five minuntes.
Complete shaping and extending the loaves to 12 inches in length and rolling the dough into long loaves.
Line a sheet pan with wax paper or parchmentpaper and dust with cornmeal. Place loaves on pan and spray with baking spray. Cover with plastic wrap.
Proof once more at room temperature for one hour until the loaves have grown 1 1/2 times their size.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, place an empty sheet pan or cast iron frying pan in the oven. Add hot water to the preheated pan to add steam to the oven to replicate hearth baking.
Score the breads with two parallel, diagonal slashes or one long slash.
Transfer dough to a baking stone or bake on a cornmeal-dusted sheet pan. Place this in the oven.
After 30 seconds, spray the walls of the oven with water and close the door.
Repeat once more after another 30 seconds. After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 400 degrees F and bake 20 minutes. The loaves should be golden brown.
Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least one hour before slicing or serving.

Source: The Breadbaker’s Apprentice

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