Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Great Ingredient and a Classic Technique

Pork meets fennel this week in Titina's kitchen. This fall and winter vegetable which looks a little like an onion with stalks, has a long history in Italy, but many of Titina's students have never cooked with it before.

"Treat it like an onion with a core," she advises. Slice off the root end and remove the tough outer skin. Then slice off the stalks. Cut the fennel in half and remove the woody core.

Mild, sweet, with a distinct anise flavor, fennel can be sliced and eaten raw (it's great in a salad with romaine) or cooked.

For Titina's Scaloppine al Finocchio (Pork Tenderlion with Fennel) the vegetable is cooked in olive oil while students learn a basic technique--using a metal meat pounder to flatten the pork slices until they are almost paper thin--Scaloppine style.

A good, heavy meat pounder is a tool that's hard to find. Titina inherited hers from the family restaurant in Italy where she remembers her father using it almost every day. Scaloppine is an Italian classic.

At home, a heavy pot will do the trick. Put a layer of waxed paper on a wooden cutting board, top with a piece of tenderlion, sliced about a quarter of an inch thick. Another piece of waxed paper goes on top and the pounding begins. Then dredge the meat in flour and brown in oil.

A pan sauce is traditional . For Titina's recipe, broth, wine, and the juice of a lemon are cooked 2-3 minutes with the meat. A little butter is swirled in to finish.

Delicious, fast, a classic, Titina's scaloppine is the kind of master recipe cooking class students can take home and make any number of ways.
Another big hit on this week's Fiesole menu--every one's favorite Italian Desert--Titina's Tiramisu.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Italian Food for Fall

This week in Titina's kitchen, the elegant Cremona Menu--and while the centerpiece of this cooking class meal is a beautiful Duck in Cognac Sauce, the favorite recipe may be one of the sides. Polenta with Mushrooms combines two classic northern Italian ingredients in a dish that's perfect for fall. Paired with a salad, it would be great weeknight supper--filling, delicious, and ready from scratch in about 30 minutes.

Use dried porcini mushrooms in the recipe, like chef Titina does. They are expensive, but their big flavor goes a long way. Recently featured in the Carpi Flavors e-newsletter, porcinis are THE prized mushrooms in Italian markets (see photo above). And while you can't get them fresh in America, Capri flavors sells a lovely, high-quality dried porcini that's a really good value.

Another recently featured food from the recipe is Polenta Express. Great polenta that cooks in minutes. If you try only one new Italian product this fall, make it Polenta Express.

Here's how chef Titina combines it with wonderful fall mushrooms. (followed by the full Cremona menu)

Polenta con Funghi (Polenta with Mushrooms)

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups fresh (white) mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup EVOO
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
8 oz Polenta Express
1 QT water
3 TBS grated percorino Romano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash the mushrooms in a sink with cold water and shake off excess water. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute' the garlic and add the mushrooms. Add the salt.
Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 10 minutes. Add the quart of water to the pan. When the mixture starts to boil, add the polenta, little by little. Stir constantly for 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve with sprinkled with percorino.

Cremona Menu

Polenta ai Funghi (Polenta with Mushrooms)

Anatra in Salsa (Duck in Cognac Sauce)

Escarole con Pinoli (Spinach Sauteed with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts)

Crema Caramellata (Creme Caramel)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If you can make pancakes....Classic Crepes

One Recipe--a few ingredients--endless adaptations and they're all elegant. This week, Capri Flavors Chef Titina is teaching students one of her most versatile techniques--how to make crepes.

If you're already intimidated, stop. Lets translate. Crepes are simply pancakes and we all learned to make pancakes as kids, right? Well, Crepes are just thin pancakes. Titina makes them with flour, milk and eggs and a little oil. For the savory version-- a delicious part of her Parma menu--filled with ham and cheese--she adds chopped parsley to the batter. But the beauty of crepes is that you can fill them with anything. For a sweet breakfast or desert treat, try fresh or frozen (thawed) berries on top of a little Nutella folded inside your crepe. But buy your Nutella from Capri Flavors (There's a new shipment arriving from Italy next month) The imported version of this super-popular chocolate and hazelnut spread doesn't taste over-sweet and has no palm oil like it's American cousin.

Don't forget to let the batter rest for 15 minutes. And use a good non-stick pan for your pancakes.

Here's the rest of this week's cooking class menu, followed by the Cheese and Ham Crepe recipe.
It's so popular it was featuring in an earlier posting. So click this link for more information about the recipe and its ingredients.

Parma Menu
Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto (Cheese and Ham Crepes)
Aragosta al Balsamico (Lobster in Balsamic Sauce)
Melenzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
Torta di Capri al limoncello (Capri Cake with Lemoncello)

RECIPE: Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto (Cheese and Ham Crepes)


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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Menu Staple with a Mountain Twist

Peas and Prosciutto is probably Chef Titina's favorite side dish. It's a delicious pairing, easy to make, and it goes well chicken, pork or beef. This week, she's serving it with Braciole al Ragu (beef rolls in heavy sauce), the centerpiece of her popular Napoli cooking class menu.

But her husband, Capri Flavors owner, Costanzo won't be there for dinner. He's off in the Italian Alps (photo 2 above) , attending the annual Speckfest. Speck is regional speciality from the beautiful mountains of South Tyrol, that part of Italy that was in Austria until about 90 years ago.

A choice cut of pork that is air-dried like prosciutto, speck has one big difference--it's smoked.

Try its unique flavor in place of prosciutto in favorite dishes like Chef Titina's peas. (recipe follows) Or go to and click on the English language tab, then search recipes. You'll be putting a new flavor on the table, one that brings to mind beautiful vistas, cool temperatures and clear mountain air scented with wood smoke.

Here's Titina's recipe. Give it a mountain twist with speck.

Piselli al Prosciutto
Spring Peas with Prosciutto

1 ½ lb (750 g) fresh or frozen peas
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups (12 oz/350 g) prosciutto, diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped; or ¼ cup onion, chopped
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water & 1 cube beef bouillon
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4; Preparation: 15 minutes; Cooking: 25 minutes; Level of difficulty: Simple

Sauté the prosciutto in the oil in a large skillet (frying pan) for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the oil cool, and then add the peas, garlic, parsley, and water with the added beef bouillon. Partially cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and chopped parsley.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Sweet Bread for Fall From Chef Michael

Apple trees are heavy with fruit this week in Northeast Italy. It's a prefect time for a Venetian Apple Cake.

That's what chef Michael is making in Titina's kitchen as he kicks off a series of Italian Deserts Classes. (Select Wednesday nights 6-9)

Michael, who lived in Italy for 7 years, says that this sweet, spicy treat is one of the seasonal dishes that Italians from that region make once a year.

Here's another favorite seasonal recipe from Michael's collection--Schiacciata or Sweet Grape Bread, which is made in Tuscany when the grapes are harvested every fall.

At home or on the job in the kitchen of a five star, five diamond hotel, Michael uses metric measurements . He suggests that all home bakers do the same.

"I weigh just about everything when I cook--It's far more accurate and quicker."

He says scales are inexpensive and can be found at found at chains like Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Read last weeks post for Michael's full class line up. And check out this web site he likes for more information on converting metric to US

Schiacciata con l'uva: Sweet Grape Bread

Schiacciata (Ski-a-cha-tah) means crushed, flattened or squashed in Italian, and is the name for flatbread in Tuscany. Both savory and sweet versions of schiacciata are found there. In general, savory schiaciatta is made using bread dough as the base, much like the pizza and focaccia in other regions of Italy. The addition of olive oil and sugar to the bread dough results in a sweet schiacciata.

For the base:
500 g flour
25 g yeast
pinch of salt
60 g white sugar
15 grains of anise seeds or 1sp Sambuca or 1/2 tsp anise extract
3-4 cups of water

For the topping:
1 kg big black, juicy grapes
100 g powdered sugar
a few twigs of fresh rosemary (optional)
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Warm the water and dissolve the yeast completely. On a clean surface, place the flour, salt and sugar and mix. Form into a small heap with a well in the center. Slowly pour the dissolved yeast into the center, mixing with the flour until all of the yeast water is incorporated. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, like for bread, until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and place in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
In a small saucepan warm the olive oil with the rosemary. As soon as the rosemary starts to sizzle, remove saucepan from the heat, throw away the rosemary and let the oil cool.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Grease a rectangular baking pan (around 50 x 20 cm or 13 x 9 inch). Roll out the dough to about 1 cm thick (1/2 inch), and wide enough to have the dough overlapping the edges of the pan by about 2-3 cm (1 inch) all around. Place the dough on the pan and cover it completely with the grapes. Dust the grapes with the sugar and rosemary, then drizzle the olive oil over all of this. Fold the edges of the dough over on top of the grapes around the border, pinching the corners to make the schiacciata rectangular in form.

Bake the schiacciata for 30 minutes. You might want to place another pan underneath, because the grapes' juice could drip out over the edges of the pan. Let cool and serve with a bit of honey on top.
Buon appetito!