Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Love that Risotto

If only stirring risotto was always this much fun. The photo above is one of Capri Flavors Chef Titina's favorites. It shows the perfect cooking class moment--wine, food and love.

But how often can we cook like this at home? On Friday, Chef Titina broke from the recipe and gave her class a hurry up tip for risotto. After stirring in all the stock and bringing the rice back to a simmer, they covered the pot and put it in a 450 degree oven. 20 minutes later, the risotto was done and ready for the final additions. The results were delicious, and the risotto makers got to relax.

And while the mushrooms were great with the pork and fennel on the menu (below), feel free to stream line with easier additions. Peas and cheese are great.

Just remember--if you're having a lot of fun stirring, by all means, stick with recipe. But if you have other things to do, pop it in the oven while you great the cheese or make a salad. You'll still have great risotto.

Risotto alla Milanese - Risotto with Mushrooms

1,1/3 cup dried wild mushrooms, preferably porcini
2 cups fresh cultivated mushrooms
Juice of 2 lemons
l/3 cup butter
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsiey
4 cups beef or chicken stock, preferably home-made
2 Tbsp. olive oil
I small onion, finely chopped
2 cups medium-grain risotto rice, such as Arborio
2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Chopped parsley
Serves 3-4; Preparation: 45 minutes; CookingTime: 35 minutes;
Level of difficuty: Medium

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl with about 2 cups warrn
water. Soak for at least 40 minutes. Rinse the mushrooms thoroughly.
Filter the soaking water through a strainer lined with paper towels, and reserve. Wipe the
fresh mushrooms with a damp cloth, and slice finely. Place in a bowl and toss with the
lemon juice.
In a large heavy frying pan or casserole melt one third of the butter. Stir in the
fresh sliced mushrooms and cook over moderate heat until they give up their juices, and begin
to brown. Stir in the parsley, cook for 30 seconds more, and remove to a side dish. Place
the stock in a saucepan. Add the mushroom water, and simmer until needed. Heat another
third of the butter with the olive oil in the same pan the mushrooms were cooked in. Stir in
the onion, and cook until it is soft and golden. Add the rice, stirring for 1-2 minutes to coat
it with the oils. Add the soaked and sauted mushrooms, and mix well Pour in the wine,
raise the heat slightly, and cook until the wine evaporates.

At this point you can add all the hot stock, bring back to a simmer, cover and place in a 450 degreee oven for 20 minues or continue with the steps below.

Add one small ladleful of the hot stock. Over moderate heat cook until the stock is absorbed or evaporates, stirring the rice with a wooden spoon to prevent it from
sticking to the pan. Add a little more stock, and stir until the rice dries out again. Continue
stirring and adding the liquid a little at a time. Add salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring
and adding the liquid until the rice is aldente, or tender but still firm to the bite. The
total cooking time of the risotto is 20 minutes.

Both methods reume here: Remove the risotto pan from the heat. Stir
in the remaining butter, parsley, and the Parmesan or Roman. Grind in a little black pepper,
and taste again for salt. Allow the risotto to rest for 3-4 minutes before serving.

Here's the rest of Friday night's menu

Fiesole Menu

Risotto alla Milanese (Risotto with Mushrooms)

Maiale al Finocchio (Pork with Fennel)

Peperoni Saltati (Bell Pepper Saute)

Tiramisu (Classic Italian Dessert)

Fiesole Menu schedule Mondays : 8/17, 9/21, 10/20, 11/30
Fridays : 8/21, 9/25, 10/30, 12/4.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Fear Eggplant

By the time Capri Flavors Chef Titina’s students arrive for the evening class, the eggplant has already been draining for hours. Eggplant is easy if you remember to start early in the day. A lot of cooks shy away from this beautiful vegetable because they’ve heard (or learned the hard way) that it can be bitter. Titina handles this by buying fresh, using it quickly and salting and draining or purging eggplant before she cooks it.

Think--slice it, salt it and walk away.

Not so hard and more than worth the trouble for this classic Italian taste.

This week, Titina is teaching students to fry eggplant with bell peppers and garlic, adding a chopped tomato near the end of cooking. Peperoni Saltati is a big hit on her Fiesole menu. (the pork with fennel is also delicious)

But when it comes to eggplant, the headliner is, of course, Eggplant Parmesan. Lots of students sign up just to learn the secrets of this dish that is so well know in America. Here’s Titina’s authentic recipe. Just don’t forget to slice, drain and walk away.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigian

2 lbs eggplants
2 eggs, whisked
Oil, for frying
1 lb mozzarella sliced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil
Sciuè-Sciuè sauce (see following page for recipe)
1/2 lb asiago cheese

Serves 4; Preparation: 30 minutes; Cooking: 45 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Easy

Wash the eggplants. Cut into long slices about 1/2 inch wide, sprinkle with salt, and leave to drain for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce (Chiummezzana or Sciuè-Sciuè sauce).
Pat the sliced eggplant dry with paper towels. Coat in whisked eggs. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (non stick) add one layer of eggplant, and cook over low to moderate heat, turn and cook on the other side. Remove from the pan, and repeat with the remaining slices.
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F. In a wide shallow baking pan spread a little tomato sauce in the bottom, cover with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with parmesan and cover with a layer of mozzarella and asiago, spoon on some tomato sauce and add the basil.
Repeat until all the ingredients are used up ending with a covering of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where Titina Gets Her Garlic

Garlic is a critical ingredient in so many of Chef Titina's best recipes. She never cuts corners by using old or sprouted garlic. And her favorite garlic comes from local growers.

Home grown garlic may not be as pretty or large as its globe trotting supermarket cousin, but the flavor is so much brighter. Check out farmers' markets this month and if you see it, by all means give it try. Buy lots of fresh garlic to use in your kitchen and an extra bulb to plant. Garlic is an easy crop that even a beginner can grow successfully. All you need is a sunny spot, several cloves of garlic and about 5 minutes. After that, nature should do the rest.

Garlic is best planted in Fall so start thinking about it. Then follow these four steps.
  • Work up the soil.

  • Insert your garlic cloves, cover and water. (You may want to mark the spot so you don't forget)
  • Green stalks will sprout, grow, and next summer they will flower, then begin to die back.

  • When the stalks have died away, carefully dig up the garlic bulbs, brush off the dirt and use or store.

    A simple project, yet so gratifying, home grown garlic is just one of the ways Capri Flavors Chef Titina makes her food taste so good. Try in fresh garlic in pesto, bruschetta or with any fresh vegetables this time of year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Titina's Classic Family Recipe

Quick--before the summer is over--grab some fresh tomatoes and make a Caprese Salad. Capri Flavors Chef Titina has been making this Italian classic all her life. And why not. It was invented in her mother's restaurant kitchen on the island of Capri.
So simple, and yet so innovative in it's time, this delicious paring of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil is a cooking class favorite. You can dress it up or down, adapt it to pasta, pizza, bread or mushroom caps like the photo above. And it's a no-brainer. If you own a knife. a cutting board and can gather a few choice ingredients, you have the perfect summer time starter or light meal.
Here is Chef Titina's original recipe. Enjoy it quick...before summer is gone.

4 ripe tomatoes sliced
1 lb fresh mozzarella sliced
A small handful of chopped fresh basil
Salt, pepper and olive oil

Slice and layer tomatoes and mozzarella alternately. Top with basil, salt and pepper , then dress liberally with extra virgin olive oil. (To adapt to pasta or pizza, chop the ingredients and toss)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Prosciutto Made Simple--And Then Some

Prosciutto makes everything better. There's really nothing like this delicious dried Italian ham in America. Monday night--It was the star of the meal in Titian's kitchen at Capri Flavors when her recipe for Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto took the classic combination of ham and cheese to new heights. Her cooking class students said these wonderful crepes (recipe follows) even out shined the lobster in the her popular menu from the Parma region.

But you don't even have to turn on the stove to impress with prosciutto. It is good enough to stand alone--even better paired with something cool and sweet. In Italy, Prosciutto and Melon is a classic summer starter. You'll find it on almost every restaurant menu.

In Titina's Kitchen, she loves to serve prosciutto with her home grown figs this time of year. (Her dog also loves to eat the figs, by the way, and steals them right off the bush.) These fragile fruit are worth searching for at your local farmers' market. Sliced open with prosciutto on the side they are the perfect contrast of sweet and salty flavors and a great way to celebrate the lazy days of summer.

But if you're feeling a bit ambitious, make some crepes. Here's the recipe that wowed Titina's cooking class this week.

Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto (Cheese and Ham Crepes)

Ingredients:For the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 cup milk

½cup parsley chopped

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

For the Bechamel Sauce:

5 Tbsp butter

3 cups milk

4 Tbsp all-purpose flour


For the Filling:

1 lb. Of mixed cheeses (Provolone, Fontina, Asiago)

1 lb. chopped mozzarella

½lb. prosciutto cotto (ham) chopped

Serves:8; Preparation Time: 35 minutes: Cooking time: 15 minutes;

Difficulty: medium

To make the batter mix the flour with the eggs, a pinch of salt, the olive oil, milk, chopped parsley and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes

To make the Bechamel

Melt the butter, add the flour, stir in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt.

Melt a little butter in a non-stick shallow pan and make thin pancake with the batter.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, prosciutto and béchamel mix well. Spread the pancakes with 2 Tbsp of filling and roll them up, and into pieces approximately 1to 2 inches long. Grease a soufflé dish and lay the pieces of pancake in it. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 Degrees F for 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Save Summer at its Best with Pesto

Don’t let the picture scare you. Capri flavors chef Titina makes giant vats of pesto because she puts some away for future classes and freezes jars of it for sale in the store. (They fly off the shelves, by the way) But pesto doesn’t have to be a big project. If you have 5 minutes, a food processor and a few choice ingredients, you can make a great meal for now…and one or two for later.
First buy fresh basil at its peak. Titina grows two patches at the Capri Flavors retail store. Basil is an easy crop that will grow in a small space, but if you don’t have home grown, check your local farmers market. Clumps of Basil are selling for about two to three dollars locally. And the taste? Well--priceless. It is so nice when you can bring a fresh bit of summer out of the freezer later in the year.

Here’s how to make pesto-- Titina style.

  • You will need:
    A bunch of basil. (Plan to use it the same day you buy or harvest. Wash and roll in a kitchen towel to dry. Never refrigerate. )

  • Pine nuts--a handful or more (Capri flavors sells lovely pine nuts from Italy which are actually shaped differently from the ones at the local gourmet store—and taste so much better)

  • Parmigiano - reggiano cheese-- A hand full (no need to grate it) Titina cuts it into smallish pieces then lets the processor do the work

  • A few cloves garlic

  • Enough olive oil to bind it all and then a little more

  • Salt and pepper

    Process nuts, cheese and garlic. With the processor running, add basil (small stems are ok…but no flowers) Add oil. Then add sea salt and pepper and taste. It should please you…a lot.
    Freeze in small jars for use until next summer.

Pesto is great on pasta, pizza, and sometimes right out of the jar at midnight when you crave summer. It is the essence of the season and like most Italian classics, so much better when it’s homemade.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Simple Classic-Gnocchi

Last week Titina's cooking class enjoyed making and eating delicious gnocchi in cream sauce. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of the dish. Gnocchi may have been around since Roman times in Italy, but it's not well known in America. Many of Titina's students are also new to these little potato dumplings and a little intimidated until they get their hands in the dough.
They soon learn--gnocchi is not difficult at all.

First thing to remember--the"G" is silent. Say, "no-key" just like you would say those two short words in the states.

Number two--gnocchi has only three ingredients: Potatoes, flour and salt. It's easier to make than eggs or machine required...but treated much the same way. The gnocchi are dropped in boiling water, then sauced.

Like a lot of Italian classics, gnocchi relies on a simple recipe and time honored technique. So it's a real education to make it with Capri Flavors Chef Titina. Here's the link for her popular Gnocchi di Patate which she learned in the family restaurant on the beautiful Isle of Capri.