Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Recipe for Wealth--Titina's Cotechino Recipe

Italian tradition says this meal will bring weath in the new year.  Here's Titina's recipe for Cotechiono and lentils--a wonderful winter dish.
Titina's Cotechino con Lenticchie

(Straight off the recipe card from the Capri Flavors retail store, Morrisville NC)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Capri, Naples and Two Newcomers in Titina's Winter Menus

It's been a busy few months in Titina's kitchen.   An accompolished Italian chef and former restaurant owner, she's taught a record breaking number of students this fall.  

The fall schedule ends in December.  But Titina hopes the excitment about her cooking classess will carry over into the new year.   She's picked some great menus, favoite recipes and two new towns to highlight for Winter 2011--Bellagio, a beautiful resort and spa on the shores of romantic Lake Como
And Alberobello, a small town in Puglia, which has become a hot spot for tourtists and a UNESCO world heritage site

So plan a culianry tour of Italy with Titina in her Morrisville NC kitchen.  Here are the menus and class dates for Winter 2011

And don't forget--Titina's classes make great holiday gifts for cooks or want-to-be-s. 

Limoncello  (Lemon Liquor )
Ravioli “Sciue’-Sciue’”  (Ravioli with Cherry Tomato  Sauce )
Aragosta Marinara    (Lobster in Red Sauce)
Torta di Capri (Almond and Chocolate Cake)
Mondays: 1/3, 1/31, 2/28, 3/28
Fridays: 1/7, 2/4, 3/4, 4/1
Orecchiette con Rapini (Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rape)
Pollo Speziato  (Chicken in Apple Sauce)
Piselli al Prosciutto (Green Peas with Prosciutto)
Kodi' d' Amore (Love Knots)  
Mondays: 1/10, 2/7, 3/7, 4/4
Fridays: 1/14, 2/11, 3/11, 4/8

Penne “Aum-Aum !” (Pasta with Eggplants)
Maiale al Finocchio (Pork Tenderloin with Fennel)
Pizza Rustica (Pie with Cheese and Salame)
Pastiera Napoletana (Grain and Ricotta Pie)
Mondays: 1/17, 2/14, 3/14, 4/11
Fridays: 1/21, 2/18, 3/18, 4/13

Gnocchi delle Langhe (Spinach Gnocchi with Robiola)
Vitello al Vin Santo (Veal with Vin Santo)
Cavolofiore Stufato (Cauliflower with Raisins)

Pere al Vino (Pears and Wine)
Mondays: 1/24, 2/21, 3/21
Fridays: 1/28. 2/25, 3/25

For more information call 919 462-9255
or enroll online at

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pictures say it all--A New Slide Show From Titina's Kitchen

Beautiful food--happy students--fun classes--
Step into Titina's kitchen in this new slide show from Capri Flavors and see what it's like to cook with the aclaimed Italian Chef. 

(And yes, that is movie star Kurt Douglas romping on the beach at Capri with Titina and her cousin.  Titina's beautiful home island has been a destination for the rich and famous since Roman times.)

Don't forget to turn up your speakers for some great Napoli music to get you in the mood and click on the link below--

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Life for Last Night's Risotto--Arancine from Titina's Kitchen

Chef Titina's students enjoy themselves in her cooking classes.  The food is gourmet, the conversation is lively.  Students linger around the big Italian table and there are usually very few leftovers from the delicious 5 course meal everyone helps prepare.   But on those rare occasions when everything isn't eaten...Titina upcycles.

Like most great Italian cooks, she respects her ingredients and  never wastes them.  So last Monday night's risotto became Tuesday's lovely Arancine.  The name means "little oranges" and it perfectly describes  these golden-fried, stuffed rice balls from Sicily. 

"Stuff them with what you like," Titina says.  Ground beef and peas are very popular, also peas and mozzarella, or mozzarella and ham. 

The process is simple.  Titina doesn't use a recipe. 

First--she combines risotto with egg yoke.

Forms balls in her hand, around filling.  (Just hunks of buffalo mozzarella on Tuesday)

Dips in egg white

Rolls in bread crumbs

Fries in Olive Oil

Here's a link to a recipe on another blog that has some great pictures of the process:

And for Titina's Fall menus and classes click here--Let's Cook with Titina

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Last Taste of Summer--From Titina's Kitchen

Chef Titina is famous for her pesto.  She makes jars to freeze for winter, and to sell in the Capri Flavors retail store.  And while Summer may officially end tonight--there's still time to enjoy this classic flavor in a great pasta recipe from Titina's kitchen.

Pesto is a  speciality of Genoa,  the famous seaport and garden spot on Italy's West coast.   Here it is combined with green beans, potatoes and just a dab of butter to make a creamy,  fresh tasting pasta dish.  

You can make your own pesto, or bypass that step and use a jar of the excellent Polli Pesto sold at Capri Flavors. 

This dish works well with linguine type pastas or try one of the great new, organic whole wheat pastas from Capri Flavors' expanded selection--the largest in the US.   Don't forget to save some of the cooking water to bring the dish together. 


Pasta alla Genovese (Pasta with Pesto)


2 bunches basil

5 tbsp. pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. Pecorino Romano; grated

1 tbsp. Parmesan; grated

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2 potatoes; cut into pieces

5 oz. green beans; cut into pieces

1 pound pasta

1 tbsp. butter

Serves 4; Preparation: 15 minutes; Cooking Time: 15 minutes; Level of difficulty:


Wash and dry the basil. Put the basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and work until it is a paste consistency. While the food processor is still running, add the cheese and oil a little at a time until everything is smooth.

About 10 minutes before cooking the pasta, cook the potatoes and green beans in slightly salted water until tender. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Before draining the pasta, stir the butter and a little bit of the pastas cooking water into the pesto to dilute it and give it a creamier consistency. Drain the pasta and vegetables, dress with the pesto, and serve.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Busy Days in Titina's Kitchen

August was a banner month for Titina's popular cooking classes.  An  accomplished Italian chef and native of Capri, she set a record--bringing more students into her Morrisville, NC  kitchen than ever before.

Private classes were the the tipping point.  As sales and projects pick up, local companies are once again using "Let's cook with Titina" as a fun way to build teams, energize staff and clients. 

When the busy chef needs a burst of energy between classes, Titina reaches for one of the fine whole wheat Italian pastas Capri Flavors sells and makes this quick and easy sauce.  Sciue-Sciue has long been a staple in her kitchen. 

The version below is reprinted from the recipe book  “Red ,White and Greens” by Faith Willinger who learned to make this dish in Titina's Capri Kitchen. 

Titina's Move It! (Sciue'- Sciue') Pasta

For 4-6 Servings First Course

Titina and Costanzo Vuotto own the Restaurant Le Sirene on Capri and Titina is one of the island's best cooks. She prepares lunch next to the sea in the summer and taught me to make sciue'-sciue' pasta, easier to prepare than pronounce (say shoo-AYE shoo-AYE). It's regional dialect, a slang expression to accelerate movement in an area known for its languid Mediterranean pace. Local cherry tomatoes packed with flavor called pomodorini di spugnito are hurried into a sauce with garlic, cooked with al dente spaghetti, sprinkled with a fistful of fragrant basil. A cerasiéllo, red hot cherry pepper, sometimes makes sciue'sciue' pasta even livelier.

5-6 quarts water

2-3 tablespoons salt plus fine sea salt

14-16 ounces spaghetti “La Caprese” 2 garlic cloves

1 small hot red pepper or chili pepper flakes to taste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil “La Caprese”

1 pound cherry tomatoes “La Caprese” 3-4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 Bring 5-6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons salt and the spaghetti and cook until it still offers considerable resistance to the tooth, about three quarters of the cooking time.
2 While the pasta is cooking, sauté the garlic cloves and hot pepper in the oil over moderate heat in a large nonstick skillet. When the garlic barely begins to color add the cherry tomatoes and season lightly with the sea salt. Cook over high heat until the tomatoes loose their shape.

3 Drain the spaghetti and add it to the skillet along with 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, to amalgamate the tomatoes and pasta and to complete cooking. Add more pasta water if the sauce gets too dry.

4 Sprinkle with chopped basil before saving.

--If you'd like to join one of Titina's classes, book on-line or call 919 462-9255 for more information or to discuss private classes. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Experience Capri Like a Local--Travel Tips, a Menu and Recipe from Chef Titna

If you're headed to Southern Italy any time soon, stop by Capri Flavors and chat with Chef Titina, or send a email to her husband Costanzo about their home island of Capri.

They will send you to Restaurant Gemma, where you will sit high above the ferry crowds and enjoy the island's best seafood plus a great blue on blue sky and water view.

They will tell you to spend the night on the island so you can stroll and enjoy the soft, easy evenings. And for the best views, skip the small packed buses and take one of the vintage convertible cabs to Anacapri and then a chair lift to the top. You'll come home with pictures like these and great memories of a most beautiful place.

If you're not traveling anytime soon, consider the Capri Menu Titina is cooking this week (and again later this fall)


Limoncello (Lemon Liquor)

Spaghetti Sciue’-Sciue’ (Spaghetti in Marinara)

Aragosta Marinara (Lobster in Red Sauce )

Carciofi e Patate (Artichoke and Potato Saute)

Torta di Capri (Almond and Chocolate Cake)

Capri Dates Monday: 8/2, 8/30, 9/27, 10/27 Friday: 8/6, 9/3, 10/1, 10/29

All the dishes are classics from the her family restaurant on the beach at Capri.

Limoncello is the signature drink of the island. It's sold in gift shops and stores all over Capri and the nearby city of Sorrento. But Titina says the best Limoncello is homemade.

Here's her recipe from an earlier blog post. It's great to have in the freezer for special meals and deserts. Limoncello also makes wonderful holiday gifts, so why not make a batch next month.

Titina's Limoncello

¾ Liter of pure grain alcohol (Everclear)

8 lemons very fresh and a little green

1 ½ Liter water

1 cup of sugar

Makes : 2 ¼liter limoncello

In cold running water wash the lemons well. Dry them and peel them very thin, being careful not to peel the white of the lemon. In a glass container big enough for a 2-Liter minimum, pour the alcohol and add to it the lemon peels.

Close the container and keep it in a cool place for 15 days. After the 15 days have elapsed go back to it and add the following mixture: boil in a pot the water and the sugar and let it boil for 10 minutes. This mixture must be left to cool.

Once cool, add the sugar/water to the container together with the lemon peels and the alcohol that have marinated. Close the container and let it stay for another 3 or 4 days after which remove the lemon peels and pour the liquid in bottles ready for drinking.

I prefer to keep it in a freezer and to drink it ice cold. It is a nice digestive and ends the dinner with a beautiful taste.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Classes off to Great Start--With Meat and Potatoes Italian Style

Good things are happening in Titina's kitchen lately--Those classic ingredients tomatoes, basil and eggplants are in season and after a summer break, Titina is teaching more people the joys of cooking (and eating) Italian style. This week the menu is from Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance and the leading city of Tuscany. Last week, it was meat and potatoes Italian style.

While everyone knows pasta, few people outside of Italy know gnocchi, a star of Titina's popular Sorrento menu. These tender little potato dumplings have ancient roots and qualify as Italian comfort food. Here's a link to an earlier post on this classic, including Titina's recipe.

Gnocchi has few ingredients but technique is important. If you've never experienced this dish, take a class or get your feet wet with the already cooked Emilla Gnocchi sold in the Capri Flavors store. It is very good.

The meat in the equation is Braciole is another Southern Italian classic. Titina stuffs these tender rolls of beef with cheese and pine nuts. Then cooks them until fork tender. Delicious.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fragile, Delicious, and Very Italian--Titina's Homegrown Figs

This week in Titina's kitchen, figs are in season--and Titina loves this fruit.

She she has two fig trees--one in her herb garden at Capri Flavors retail store--another beside her home.

If you're lucky, you might find some of her homegrown figs for sale in the store.

Ripe figs must be handled very gently. She packs them on leaves in plastic containers.

How should you eat figs? Wash, dry and slice in half

A plate of figs makes a nice finish to meal, especially with salty cheeses.

Lots of recipes combine figs with balsamic--but fig Vincotto is a more common Italian choice.

If you've never tried Vincotto, don't wait any longer to sample this line of sweet grape must products. They enhance so many things. There's nothing like them in the states.

Titina's favorite way to sever her figs is as a starter. Ripe figs and prosciutto make a perfect summer antipasti. Simple, delicious and elegant, it's a classic Italian combo.

Or you get a little more complicated. In this recipe from Epicurious, figs and prosciutto become a pizza topping.

But ripe figs really need nothing. It's one of the lessons Titina teaches her cooking class students-

Always use the best ingredients, and let them shine--

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Titina's Lemon Sorbet and other Crowd Pleasers from Capri

A classic cool treat from the beautiful Isle of Capri--For an elegant presentation, try serving Titina's Limon Sorbet in one of the juiced lemon shells

One of the world's most beautiful spots, Chef Titina's home Island of Capri has attracted the rich and famous since Roman times.

So when Titina shares a recipe or kitchen technique--it is crowd pleaser. After all, she grew up in the kichen of a famous family restaturat--the same kitchen where the now world famous Caprese Salad was born.

Her Fall Capri Menu showcases the best of the island--a small rock in a very blue sea-- famous for its lemons, tomatoes, seafood and simple but elegant dishes.

Limoncello --Lemon Liquor
Spaghetti Sciue’-Sciue’ --Spaghetti in Marinara
Aragosta Marinara--Lobster in Red Sauce
Carciofi e Patate-- Artichoke and Potato Saute
Torta di Capri --Almond and Chocolate Cake

Limoncello is one of Titina's classics. She serves this potent drink ice cold in tiny cups after every meal. It is said to aid digetstion.

Another classic lemon dish is from the region is limon sorbet. Here is how Titina makes it to serve at home on these hot summer days. Note: the beaten egg white is an unusual addition. Titina says it keeps the sorbet soft--and she's right!

Limon Sorbet for 4 ( the portions are small--you may want to double)

2 large lemons, juiced
4 TBS sugar
1 cup water
1 TBS vodka
1 egg white beaten

Combine all in a bowl, stiring every few minutes until sugar dissolves completely. Then chill and freeze in an ice cream maker.

Here's a link for all of Titina's new menus for fall. If you'd like to know more about her popular cooking classes, call Capri Flavors at 919 462-9255 or book your space on the Capri Flavors web site.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Make Friends with a Farmer--And Titina's New Class Schedule

Freshness matters in Titina's kitchen. It matters a lot. And while she may have a month off from classes, that doesn't mean Titina isn't cooking. Titina is always cooking. Lined up on the kitchen counter yesterday--pounds of heirloom tomatoes and three fresh melons, all off a local farm.

Not farm stand or farmer's market-Titina has a relationship with a local farmer who picks her produce right from the fields. He's a good friend to have--because summer vegetables start losing flavor as soon as they are harvested.

The farmer grows peaches too. Titina will freeze these juicy summer fruits in vacuum packs to use through out the year in her popular cooking classes--which resume in August.
Let's Cook with Titina menus and dates follow--plus a cool-off recipe for summer--from this fall's Sorrento Menu, Ice Cream Drowned Espresso


Limoncello Lemon Liquor

Spaghetti Sciue’-Sciue’ Spaghetti in Marinara

Aragosta Marinara Lobster in Red Sauce

Carciofi e Patate Artichoke and Potato Saute

Torta di Capri Almond and Chocolate Cake

Capri Dates Monday: 8/2, 8/30, 9/27, 10/27 Friday: 8/6, 9/3, 10/1, 10/29

Firenze Menu

Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto Cheese and Ham filled Crepes

Pollo al Finocchio Chicken with Fennel

Cavolofiori Gratinati Cauliflower Au Gratin

Torta della Nonna Grandmother Apple Cake

Firenze Dates Monday: 8/16, 9/13, 10/11, 11/8, Friday: 8/20, 9/17, 10/15, 11/12

Genova Menu

Penne alla Genovese Penne with Genovese Sauce

Filetto di Manzo alle Castagne Fillet of Beef with Chestnuts

Piselli al Prosciutto Peas with Prosciutto

Crema Caramellata Cream Caramel

Genova Dates Monday: 8/23, 9/20, 10/18, 11/15 Friday: 8/27, 9/24, 10/22, 11/19

Sorrento Menu

Gnocchi con Ragu’ Gnocchi in Heavy Sauce

Braciole al Ragu’ Beef Rolls in Heavy Sauce

Cannellini e Scarole Cannellini Beans and Escarole Saute’

Affogato al Caffe’ Espresso Espresso Drowned Ice Cream

Sorrento Dates Monday: 8/9, 9/6, 10/4, 11/1 Friday: 8/13, 9/10, 10/8, 11/5

Affogato al Caffe Espresso
Ice Cream drowned in Espresso

4 eggs, separated
4 ounces icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ pint double cream, whipped
cognac or brandy

Serves 8; Preparation: 30 minutes; Cooking: 20 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Medium

Whisk the egg whites until stiff in a bowl. Add the icing sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time with the vanilla essence.

Carefully fold in the cream.

Pour the mixture into a large container or into 8 small dishes. Cover and freeze until firm. If frozen in a large container, transfer to the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving and scoop round balls of ice cream into serving bowls. Top with espresso mixed with cognac or brandy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Got Squash in your Garden? Cook it Italian Style--

Got too much zucchini? Eat the flowers. The blooms of this easy to grow summer squash are a seasonal delicacy in Italy where they are eaten raw or fried.

Titina loves them--And this time of year, the Capri Flavors Chef often has a colander of zucchini flowers on the kitchen counter--ready for prep.

Freshness is important. The blossoms are delicate and need to be eaten the day they are picked.

This is easy in Italy where these popular flowers fill outdoor markets this time of year.

If you can't find them locally, it's worth planting a few zucchini plants in your garden or making friends with a local farmer. This is a really good dish--

First Titina lightly washes the flowers under cool running water, drains and pats them dry.

She removes the flower pistil and stuffs each flower with a small ball of mozzarella cheese. (You can use a toothpick to close the blossom for easier handling.)

The blooms are then dipped in a simple flour, egg and olive oil batter. (The batter should be runny, add water if need be. )

Deep Fry the blossoms in hot olive oil until lightly brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Here's a link to more instructions--with great pictures of the process--at It's a wonderful source for Italian recipes. If you haven't discovered it, do check it out.

And from a favorite Italian recipe source, super-easy instructions for fried squash blossoms with bread crumbs (as translated by Google). Give it a try, too. Because if you have squash--you have a lot of it.

Zucchini flowers should be picked in the morning because they are open and can be cleaned better. Removing the pistil gently without breaking the stem and you remove those little green growths that are the base of the flower cup. Wash them well with great delicacy, dry them and dip in beaten egg and then in bread crumbs. Fry in deep oil a few at a time. Fry them fairly quickly, I use tongs and put them on paper towel to drain, then salt.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's in Season? Titina Goes Shopping--

This week in Titina's kitchen--bags from the State Farmers Market. Like most Italian cooks, Titina builds her meals around fresh, local ingredients. And as summer produce begins to fill the North Carolina Farmers Market in Raleigh, she's there several times a week.

What's this seasoned (and very picky) Italian chef buying this week? Ripe peaches, tomatoes and eggplants.

Titina loves eggplants. Brought to Italy centuries ago by the Arabs, this purple skinned vegetable is prized in the cooking of Southern Italy where the climate suites it perfectly.

"Use fresh," says Titina. Her eggplants never sit around in the frig. She salts and drains them for several hours--then whips them into something delicious.

Here's the link to her popular Eggplant Parmesan Recipe. Another cooking class favorite is Titina's Peperoni Saltati--a combination of summer eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and sprinkle of fresh basil. Here's the recipe.

Peperoni Saltati
Bell Pepper Saute

2 large eggplants
3 red bell peppers (or 1 jar roasted peppers)
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ lb. tomatoes; peeled and chopped or 1 can Cherry tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh basil; chopped
1 Tbsp. capers
8 pitted black olives; roughly chopped
1 cup croutons
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4; Preparation: 20 minutes; Cooking: 1 ½ hours; Level of difficulty: Medium

Cut the eggplant into cubes and the peppers into strips. Sprinkle with salt and place on a slanted cutting board to drain for 30 minutes.
Sauté the garlic in 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat until garlic is a pale gold color. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, capers, and olives. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to separate.
Dry the eggplant and peppers with paper towels. Place the remaining olive oil in a large skillet and fry the eggplant and peppers a little at a time until golden brown. Once all of the eggplant and peppers are fried, place everything, including the tomato mixture back into the frying oil. Stir in the croutons and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Simple But Special--Two Cakes that Win Compliments

Dinner from appetizer to desert--all cooked from scratch in a leisurely hour and a half. How does Capri Flavors Chef Titina do it? She keeps the recipes for her popular cooking classes simple. Not a hard task since the best Italian food is simple fare. Think Pizza Margarita--a few beautifully matched ingredients--all the highest quality. Now, translate that approach to a desert. Titina's Torte Caprese showcases almonds, chocolate, and fresh eggs. This is a simple, rustic, but elegant cake.

For an even simpler desert, try Capri Flavors cooking student Christine's favorite Olive Oil Polenta Cake. It's easy to make, needs no special ingredients and great with summer berries. Baking with oilve oil and polenta are techniques she learned in Capri Flavors classes.

-Titina’s Recipe--
Torta Caprese (Almond and Chocolate Cake)
¾ cup CapriFlavors extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
12 oz. sugar
1½ cup of whole almonds with skin
1 cup semi sweet chocolate in block
6 extra large eggs

Serves: 10; preparation: 10 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes;
Level of Difficulty: Simple

Grease a 9” or 10” pan with olive oil, dust with flour and line with wax paper.
Coarsely chop chocolate with a large knife. Coarsely cut almonds in blender, not fine. Set both the chocolate and almonds aside.Beat sugar and eggs together for about4 minutes, then add olive oil very slowly and the water. Turn mixer to slow and add almonds and chocolate until mixed. Pour mixture into pan. Bake in a preheated over at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes.

Olive Oil, Polenta Cake
1-1/4 cup soft wheat flour
1/4 cup polenta
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Capri Flavors olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

Stir together dry ingredients( flour, polenta, baking powder, salt and vanilla powder) in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, Beat eggs at medium speed for 3-4 minutes until creamy and lemon colored. With mixer running, add sugar in a slow stream. Then add oil in a thin, steady stream. Beat in zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract if using.
Turn off mixer and add dry ingredients in three batches, gently folding in with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix. Bake in grease and floured 9 inch pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the crusty top is well browned. Cool on a wire rack serve with berries and or gelato and a drizzle of chocolate Vincotto.

Note from Christine: I use Italian flour (Farina) in this recipe. The vanilla powder comes from Capri Flavors and I also like to use their Paneangel Lievito (Italian Baking Powder) for a more authentic result. It's strong stuff, so use 3/4 tsp instead of the full 1-1/2 tsp. Alao-- a nod to William Sonoma's excellent cookbook, Essentials of Italian for the original olive oil cake recipe which I adapted. This is a great book. I give it 5 stars.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cooking Tips from Titina--The Right Way to "Brown"

Capri Flavors Chef Titina grew up in a restaurant kitchen--but most of her student's weren't so lucky. In fact, many who sign up for Titina's popular cooking classes have little experience beyond the microwave.

No problem. Titina makes cooking easy, teaching basic skills in a fun, relaxed, group setting.

Browning meat is one of those skills. Many of her best recipes call for this step like the Pollo al Curry from this week's Sicilian menu.

Here's how Titina teaches her students to brown like restaurant pros.

  1. First use a large, shallow pan.

  2. Add plenty of good olive oil. (Titina has her own label, fresh from Italy) Don't skimp here. Olive oil has no cholesterol but plenty of healthy antioxidants. It's a healthy choice.

  3. You also need heat. Don't be afraid to get the oil hot on medium-high to high heat. Watch the pan and don't walk away. The oil should look glassy, but not smoking. The meat should sizzle when you (carefully) add it to the pan.

  4. When browning chicken, Titina always starts with skin side down. Then give the meat a little time before turning. Resist the temptation to peek. Ideally, you will turn only once.

  5. Another important tip--don't crowd the pan. Titina always browns in batches then returns all the browned pieces to the pan for a simmer with the sauce.

Here's the rest of this week's menu from the island of Sicily--Plus Titina's upcoming menus for the rest of May and June

May 17, 21--June 14, 18

Anellini con Melenzane (Anellini with Eggplant)

Pollo al Curry (Chicken Curry)Piselli al Prosciutto

(Peas with Prosciutto)

San Giuseppe Zeppole (Saint Joseph Cream Puffs)

May 24, 28--June 21, 25

Malloreddus Con Dalsiccia (Malloreddus with Sausage)

Cozze Gratinate (Mussels au Gratin)Carciofi alla Sarda

(Sardinian Artichokes)

Sabadas’ (Ravioli with Honey)

June 7, 12

Pasta e Cannellini (Cannellini Beans with Pasta)

Roast-Beef con le Castagne (Roast Beef with Chestnuts)

Fava alla Piemontese (Piemontese Fava Beans)

Nodi D’Amore (Love Knots)

May 31--June 4

Limoncello (Lemon Liquor)

Suffle di Formaggio (Cheese Souffle)

Aragosta alla Crema (Lobster in Cream Sauce)

Radicchio al Parmigiano (Radicchio with Parmesan)

Torta di Capri al Limoncello (Capri Cake with Limoncello)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Start with Bellinis

Class always starts with a cocktail. It's one of the joys of cooking with Titina. Students sit around the long bar in Titina's kitchen, put on their name tags and enjoy one of Titina's homemade drinks. It's an ice-breaker, a way to shed their nervousness and ease into a fun evening.

A whiskey sour, Sangria with fresh fruit or a Bloody Mary made with her own San Marzano tomatoes--Titina's drinks, like her meals, are all made from scratch with the best ingredients. And they are delicious.

One of her most popular drinks is the Bellini. Titina vacuum packs and freezes local peaches to make this golden concoction from Venice.

And right now, back in Southern Italy where she and her husband Costanzo grew up, peaches are coming into season.

“Albicocche Vesuviani, vesuvian peaches are very popular, and will be ready to eat by the end of this month," reports Francesca from outside of Naples. Francesca is married to the President of the Agrigenus co-op, a group of 9 Italian farmers who grow the heirloom San Marzano tomatoes for Titina's own label.
Francesca says spring weather in Southern Italy has been up and down this year. They hope summer will take hold soon so the peaches and tomatoes will be sweet.

In honor of Francesca's wishes for warmer weather and the ripening peaches of Italy, here's Titina's method for making delicious Bellinis and bringing people together to share the joys of good food.

3 ripe white peaches peeled and pureed in the food processor
Mixed with one bottle very cold Procecco (Italian champagne) and enjoy!!

Titina's spring cooking classes run for several more weeks. Menus and dates follow. Private classes are also available.


April 19, 23--May 17, 21--June 14, 18
Anellini con Melenzane (Anellini with Eggplant)
Pollo al Curry (Chicken Curry)
Piselli al Prosciutto (Peas with Prosciutto)
San Giuseppe Zeppole (Saint Joseph Cream Puffs)


April 26, 30--May 24, 28--June 21, 25
Malloreddus Con Dalsiccia (Malloreddus with Sausage)
Cozze Gratinate (Mussels au Gratin)
Carciofi alla Sarda (Sardinian Artichokes)
Sabadas’ (Ravioli with Honey)


April 12, 16--May 10, 14--June 7, 1
Pasta e Cannellini (Cannellini Beans with Pasta)
Roast-Beef con le Castagne (Roast Beef with Chestnuts)
Fava alla Piemontese (Piemontese Fava Beans)
Nodi D’Amore (Love Knots)


April 5, 9--May 3, 7, 31--June 4
Limoncello (Lemon Liquor)
Suffle di Formaggio (Cheese Souffle)
Aragosta alla Crema (Lobster in Cream Sauce)
Radicchio al Parmigiano (Radicchio with Parmesan)
Torta di Capri al Limoncello (Capri Cake with Limoncello)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Worth Growing your own--Titina Plants Her Basil Crop

The soil has been turned and the plants are on order from a local farmer. In a few days Chef Titina will plant her basil crop in the kitchen garden outside the Capri Flavors retail store.

A mainstay in Titina's cooking, this classic Italian herb gets a lot of space in her garden.

When plants mature, she will use them in her classes, cutting branches early in the day, then washing and wrapping the basil in a towel to drain and dry on the counter.

After students arrive at 6 pm, the basil is chopped into Titina's delicious bruschetta, ground into her classic pesto or layered on a fabulous Caprese Salad.

It is the flavor of Southern Italy--

Titina also makes basil pesto to freeze and sell in the store. And she sometimes grinds and freezes a simple fresh basil, olive oil combination to use in other dishes.

But the best basil is fresh from the garden. And it's an easy crop to grow. Just add sun, soil, and water. Even a large pot will do if you have no garden space. Transplants are readily available. Look for four-packs in the garden center.
Basil likes heat, so wait until days and nights warm up. Then in a few weeks, fresh basil for your kitchen, just like Titina's. For recipes, click on one of the blog links above.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Titina's Back with Lobster and a Favorite Ingredient

Capri Flavors Chef and Cooking Teacher Titina Vuotto returned to her classroom-kitchen with a favorite (and fitting) recipe last Monday night. Her Lobster with Tomatoes is celebration food--simple but very special. And Titina is celebrating. She is teaching her popular cooking classes again after weeks of recovery from joint-replacement surgery.

"It was a happy class," said Titina's husband Costanzo. "The lobster was very delicious and the people were surprised that lobster could be done that way."

That way is the Italian way, pairing prized and pricey lobster tails with some of the world's best tomatoes.

Great tomatoes are one of Titina's favorite ingredients. In her classes she reaches for three different kinds:

Canned San Marzano Tomatoes--Italy's most famous tomato, these plum-types are Titian's favorite. She even has her own label, Titina's Tomatoes, grown by a co-op of farmers in the rich volcanic soil of Italy's Mt. Vesuvius.

Annalisa Cherry Tomatoes--Great flavor with almost no cooking, Titina uses these for pizza topping and fast sauces including Monday night's lobster.

Fresh grape tomatoes--When home-grown tomatoes aren't available, grape tomatoes are Titina's choice for bruschetta--her favorite appetizer--so easy any cook can make it at home.

For more on Titina's bruschetta, check out this earlier blog post. And here's her recipe for Lobster and Tomatoes:

Aragnosta al Pomodori
Lobster with Tomatoes

¼ cup butter
1 onion, finely chopped
11 ounces tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed or 1 can pomodori Annalisa
1Tbsp. tomato paste
6 Lobster tails, shelled
Scant ½ cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper
Serves: 6; Preparation time: 10 minutes; Cooking Time: 15 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Easy

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, then ass the tomatoes. Mix the tomato paste with 2 tablespoons warm water, stir into the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a puree, then, return to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lobster and cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until the sauce has thickened. Arrange the lobster on a warm serving dish and spoon the sauce over them.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sweets for Easter and Beyond

This week in Titina's kitchen--wonderful smells of baking as half a dozen Pastiera Napoletana cooled on the counter. An ancient tradition in the Naples region where Titina grew up, these ricotta filled tarts have long been associated with Easter Italy.

Like Titina, Neapolitan cooks typically make the Pastiera a few days ahead to allow the citrus and cinnamon flavors to develop. Check out this previous blog post, if you'd like to make this spring-time classic at home.

Or consider something a little easier and lighter. Titina's Lemoncello Capri Cake is the desert she will be making when she returns to her classroom-kitchen on Monday night. Simple and delicious, it is made with olive oil and showcases the lemon favors her home island is famous for.

This cake would be fantastic served with some of the season's fresh strawberries.

Torta Caprese al Limoncello
Limoncello Capri cake

1 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 ½ cup almonds
4 ounces white chocolate
¾ cup CapriFlavors extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon liqueur
1 fresh lemon, grated as zest or a few drops of lemon oil
¼ cup plain water

Preparation: 20 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes; Level of difficulty: Simple

Grease a 9” or 10” pan with olive oil, sprinkle with flour, and line with wax paper. Cut up chocolate with a large knife very coarsely. Coarse cut almonds in blender, not fine. Set both chocolate and almonds aside.

Beat sugar and eggs together for about 4 minutes, and then add coarse cut almonds and chocolate very slowly. Add 1 Tbsp. lemon liqueur and the grated zest of lemon. Turn mixer to slow and slowly add the olive oil and water little by little. Pour mixture into pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350F for 1 hour. Garnish as desired.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rich Flavors and Wines to Go With Them

This week in Titina's kitchen, the final of four regional Italian wine and food pairing classes.

Customers are always asking us how to prepare an easy Italian party, says Capri Flavors owner Costanzo Vuotto. And that's how the idea for Let's Party Italian was born.

The classes are a great value. Students sample 6 Italian wines ranging in price from moderate to expensive. But in Italy, wine is always part of a meal. Unusual cheeses, breads and quick pastas are also on the menu.

This Thursday night--Italy's Piemonte Region. Here's what lead instructor, wine distributor, and European-trained Chef Isabelle Sofras Edwards has to say about this rich land in northern Italy.

The Piedmont is Italy’s westernmost region with borders on Switzerland and France, is hemmed in by the Alps and the Apennines, which explain why its name means, "foot of the mountain." The Piedmontese uphold their heritage of food and wine with unequaled staunchness. The flavors of Piedmont reach peaks in autumn, when the harvest is in and wooded slopes from the Alps to the Apennines supply game, mushrooms and white truffles, whose magical aromas enhance pastas and risotto’s, meats and cheeses. Those foods call for full-bodied red wines such as Barolo, the King of Italian wine and Barbaresco, and the Queen of Italian wine. Piedmont boasts the greatest number of classified wines, with 8 DOCGs and 43 DOCs, including the region wide appellation of Piemonte to classify premium wines. The Nebbiolo grape reigns supreme in the Piemonte with a lot of different regional variations better known as Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Carema. The more popular reds are Barbera and Dolcetto. Notable whites are the dry Gavi and Arneis and the sweet, bubbly Asti Spumante and its relative Moscato d'Asti. In this tasting we will try some of the most interesting wines and cheeses from this very impressive area.
  • Some seats are still available for Thursday. Call Capri Flavors 919-462-9255 for more information or click the link and book online. Chef Titina will return to her kitchen classroom next month. Let's Cook with Titina classes resume on April 5.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Titina's Kitchen Garden and a Recpie for Spring Greens

This week in Titina's kitchen the chef was getting ready to return to teaching--Her popular cooking classes resume April 5 .

But outside in Titina's garden--newly turned and smoothed earth ready for spring planting.

Like most Italian cooks, Titina feels a small plot of homegrown herbs and vegetables is essential to her kitchen. She likes to grow arugula, bay, and figs, along with lots of summer tomatoes, peppers, and basil, of course.

But Spring is the season for greens. Leafy greens like Chard are easy to grow--a good beginners plant.

If you don't have your own little kitchen plot, check out local farmers' markets. Greens are at their best when freshly picked.

Here's one of Titina's recipes that celebrates spring greens and a special pasta from Puglia, the rich farming region at the heel of Italy's boot. Puglia is famous for bread made from local wheat, wine, vegetables (including wonderful artichokes now available from Polli at Capri Flavors), and the ear-shaped pasta in this recipe.

(Note: This an interesting recipe to read. Don't miss the final line calling for a rough but honorable red wine.)

Orecchiette con Broccoli e Cavolfiori
Pasta with bitter greens and Cauliflower

1 small head white or green cauliflower
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
1 lb cima di rape or dandelion green, beet greens or red chard
2 ounces anchovies, preserved under salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 small, dried red chili pepper, crushed, or 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and finely minced
3 ounces dried black olives, stones removed (optional)
12 ounces orecchiette
Coarse sea salt for the pasta water
1 cup just grated pecorino
1 cup just made fine bread crumbs, sautés in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Serves: 6; Preparation Time: 30 minutes; Level of Difficulty: medium

Trim the cauliflower of its leaves and place it, whole, in a pot, covering it with cold water, adding 1 Tablespoon of fine sea salt and poaching it until tender. Drain the cauliflower and set aside. Wash and trim the rape and place them in a pot. Covering them with cold water, adding the remaining tablespoon of salt and poaching them for 3 minutes. Drain rape very well, transferring them to absorbent paper towels. When the rape are cooled a bit, squeeze each piece , extracting as much water as you can before chopping them coarsely and placing them in a bowl. Add the poached cauliflower, breaking it up and blending it lightly with the rape.
Rinse the anchovies and remove their heads and bones. Dry them on paper towels and crush lightly with a fork.
In a sauté pan over a medium flame, warm the olive oil, scenting it with fennel, crushed chili, and garlic, taking care not to color the garlic. Add the anchovies and olives, if you wish to use them, stirring and blending the components. Add this hot mixture to the bowl with the rape and the cauliflower, smashing the whole against the sides of the bowl, permitting the vegetables to inhale the hot , spicy bath.
Cook the orecchiette in abundant, sea salted water until al dente, draining the pasta but leaving it somewhat wet. Reserve 1/2 cup or so of its cooking liquids. Transfer the pasta to large, shallow, warmed bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquids and the [pecorino to the sauce, thinning it only slightly. Add a few drops more of the cooking liquids only if the sauce is still extremely thick. Add the sauce to the pasta, tossing it and coating each little ear.
Dust the pasta with browned bread crumbs and present the dish with a rough but honorable red wine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Taste of Spring--Pastiera Napoletana

In the dark old days refined sugar and flour were in short supply. These precious commodities were entrusted to convents where nuns did special baking to commemorate the church calendar. That's why many of Italy's traditional breads and sweets are associated with religious orders and Saint's days, Christmas and Easter time.

Titina's traditional Easter cake has even older origins. Pastiera Napoletana dates to ancient Roman celebrations of spring in Southern Italy. Flavored with orange blossoms, candied fruits and cinnamon, it is named for the City of Naples, that great, crazy, town across the bay from Titina's home island of Capri. Here's how she makes this cooking class favorite, a sweet celebration of all things spring.

-Titina’s Recipe-
Pastiera Napoletana
Italian Easter Cake

1 cup spelt (wheat grain) already cooked
1 cup milk
Zest of ½lemon peel
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup candied fruit; i.e. citron peel, cherries, finely diced
3 cups ricotta cheese
3 eggs yolks
4 eggs
½Tbsp orange blossom extract
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
Pinch of cinnamon

For the Pastry dough:
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
15 Tbsp lard or butter
3 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar

Serves: 12; Preparation time: 30minutes; Cooking Time: 60 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Medium

Mix the grain with the milk, grated lemon peel, cinnamon, and 1 cup of granulated sugar. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the finely diced candied fruit into the ricotta. Add the remaining sugar, eggs, grain mixture, and orange extract.

For the pastry dough:
Heap the flour onto the work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour into which you will put the butter broken pieces-softened not melted, the sugar and the egg yolks. Work with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Knead briefly until the dough comes together.
Roll out three-quarters of the dough to line a 9-inch buttered and lightly floured spring-form pan. Pour in the ricotta filling. Roll out the remaining dough, cut into strips and lay over the filling in a latticework design. Bake in the oven at 350°F for about an hour until it turns golden. Allow the cake to cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Blind Taste Test and Some Surprising Cheeses

Great wines, foods and wealth of information in Thursday night's Let Party Italian class in the Capri Flavors kitchen. Taught by professional chef--turned wine distributor, Isabelle Sofras Edwards and Capri Flavors' own Raffaele Vuotto, the night was a big success--featuring 6 wines, 4 stunning and hard to find cheeses, 2 spicy meats and a elegant but easy pasta dish--All for just $40 a person

The food was wonderful. Many of the wines--very special. But this first in a series of wine and food paring classes had 4 big stars--

1) The Marzolino goat cheese was robust and delicious--a perfect pairing for it's Chianti Classico partner.

2) The San Felice, Vigorello was a run away winner in the Super Tuscan blind taste test. If you buy one expensive red, this should be it. A lovely vintage from old vines.

3) The Porcini Pasta--Isabelle's recipe was easy, elegant, and rich enough for a a great red wine.

4) And finally, Isabelle herself was a star. After more than a decade as a chef in European kitchens, she is an encyclopedia of Italian food and and wine, a wonderful teacher and a lot of fun in the kitchen. To watch her describe a famous Tuscan white and explain the term "Super Tuscan" click on the video below.

Next Week--the wines and foods of Veneto. On the menu--seafood, some very famous white wines and sparkling prosecco. Isabelle and Raffaele promise Bellinis and lots of other prosecco cocktails so their advice is bring your party hats. After all , Venice pretty much invented the party when it gave the world Carnival.

Go to Capri Flavors to book or call 919 462-9255 for more information.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Best Job in the World?

Isabelle Sofras Edwards may have the best job in the world. A locally based wine distributor specializing in the wines of Greece and Italy, she was opening three lovely Tuscan reds for tasting in the Capri Flavors kitchen one snowy day last week.

Isabelle along with Raffaele Vuotto, son of Capri Flavors owner Costanzo and Chef Titina, will teach a series of food and wine paring classes beginning this week. "Let's Party Italian" highlights Italy's 4 great wine producing regions--beginning with perhaps the most famous-- Tuscany, home of the newly popular Super Tuscans and long-time favorite Chiantis.

Isabelle is an expert in food and wine parings. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she worked as an international chef for more than a decade. "I turned my hobby (wine) into a career and my career into a hobby," she explains.

In last week's tasting a full-bodied red won out. Villa Pillo Borgoforte is a mixture of Cabernet and Sangiovese--the classic grape of Tuscany. It will be a last minute addition into the Thursday night class menu, beating out two baby Super Tuscans that were also very pleasing.

An average of 6 wines will be sampled in each class, along with Italian cheeses and other easy to fix food parings. For more information scroll down for the full menu, click this link or call Capri Flavors at 919 462-9255 to reserve your spot. Book this week and there's a special gift certificate promotion going on.

Tuscany -Chianti Menu
(March 4, 6pm)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinzimonio Raw Vegetable Appetizer
Sesame Bread
Carpineto, Vernaccia di San Giminiamo
Pecorino Toscano Chesse DOP "Pientino"DOP
Castelli del Gravepesa, Chianti Classico
Marzolino Cheese
San Felice , II Grigio, Chianti Classico Riserva
Pecorino Truffle Chesse
Mixed Cold Cut Meats
Blind Taste: San Felice Vigorello, Super Tuscan vs Carpineto, Dojaolo Baby Super Tuscan
Tortellini con Crema di Funghi Porcini
Campobello, Santo Desert Wine
Cantuccini, Almond Cookies

Monday, February 22, 2010

Titina Returns to the Kitchen

Fresh from hip replacement surgery but feeling better everyday--Capri Flavors Chef Titina Vuotto has decided to resume her popular cooking classes on Monday April 5. Gift card holders and long-time students who have waited so patiently can go to or call 919 462-9255 to book their spots.

Classes are very hands-on. Students of all skill levels chop, kneed, and saute under Titina's watchful eye. Then everyone enjoys the fruits of their labors around Titina's big Italian table.

Students may bring wine to enjoy with the meal, or purchase bottles of Italian wine in the Capri Flavors retail store.

Classes are scheduled on Mondays and Fridays beginning at 6 pm. Menus and dates are listed below

Titina and her husband Costanzo would like to thank everyone for their good thoughts and get well wishes during her recent surgery and recovery. They appreciate your patience and look forward to seeing you soon.

SICILIA Menu April 19, 23--May 17, 21--June 14, 18

Anellini con Melenzane (Anellini with Eggplant)

Pollo al Curry (Chicken Curry)

Piselli al Prosciutto (Peas with Prosciutto)

San Giuseppe Zeppole (Saint Joseph Cream Puffs)

SARDEGNA Menu April 26, 30--May 24, 28--June 21, 25

Malloreddus Con Dalsiccia (Malloreddus with Sausage)

Cozze Gratinate (Mussels au Gratin)

Carciofi alla Sarda (Sardinian Artichokes)

Sabadas’ (Ravioli with Honey)

PIEMONTE Menu April 12, 16--May 10, 14--June 7, 1

Pasta e Cannellini (Cannellini Beans with Pasta)

Roast-Beef con le Castagne (Roast Beef with Chestnuts)

Fava alla Piemontese (Piemontese Fava Beans)

Nodi D’Amore (Love Knots)

CAPRI Menu April 5, 9--May 3, 7, 31--June 4

Limoncello (Lemon Liquor)

Suffle di Formaggio (Cheese Souffle)

Aragosta alla Crema (Lobster in Cream Sauce)

Radicchio al Parmigiano (Radicchio with Parmesan)

Torta di Capri al Limoncello (Capri Cake with Limoncello)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Party like an Italian with a taste of Tuscan Wines

Don't give up on those gift cards! Chef Titina continues to make excellent progress as she recovers from hip-replacement surgery. As soon her "Let's Cook with Titina," classes are rescheduled, we'll let you know--Keep checking the blog for updates.

In the meantime, Titina's son Raffaele Vuotto will step into the Capri Flavors kitchen along with wine distributor, Isabella Sofras Edwards for a series of Italian wine tastings with food parings.

"Let's party Italian" is designed to help cooks and non-cooks alike pull together memorable gatherings without a lot of kitchen time. The series begins on Thursday March 4th with a sampling of Tuscany.

A total of four menus are planned, each revolving around wines from Italy's top regions along with cheeses, cold cuts and other easy foods that go best with them in a party setting.

An average of 6 wines and foods will be sampled each class, and the price is just $40. The first menu is listed below.

Class size is limited to just 14 so book on-line now or call 919 462-9255 for more information.

Tuscany -Chianti Menu
(March 4, 6pm)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinzimonio Raw Vegetable Appetizer
Sesame Bread
Carpineto, Vernaccia di San Giminiamo
Pecorino Toscano Chesse DOP "Pientino"DOP
Castelli del Gravepesa, Chianti Classico
Marzolino Cheese
San Felice , II Grigio, Chianti Classico Riserva
Pecorino Truffle Chesse
Mixed Cold Cut Meats
Blind Taste: San Felice Vigorello, Super Tuscan vs Carpineto, Dojaolo Baby Super Tuscan
Tortellini con Crema di Funghi Porcini
Campobello, Santo Desert Wine
Cantuccini, Almond Cookies

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back to the Roots of Pizza

With Super Bowl snacks still weighing heavy--It's time to forget those take out pizzas and get back to the real thing--Pure. Simple. Italian. The original pizza--Neapolitan Style.

So while Capri Flavors Chef Titina continues to recuperated from her recent surgery, here's a classic recipe from her cooking class collection.

If you've never made a yeast dough, don't let that stop you. Titina's crust is easy enough for a beginner. The dough comes together at the start of class and rises on the counter while students prepare other dishes. It's not fussy. And kneading is fun. Use it to take out your frustrations.

Titina uses a rectangular pan. Her crust is soft and not too thin.

A note about Titina's recovery. She's making very good progress, but her surgery was less than a month ago, and it's still too soon to tell when classes will resume. Titina wants to come back ASAP, but she wants to come back at full speed. So if you're holding gift cards, please be patient a little longer. We'll let you know as soon as classes are rescheduled. And thanks for your understanding.

Pizza Margherita
For the Dough:
1 envelope of drive active yeast (not rapid rise)
1 and 1/2 cups Farina (Italian flour) or all purpose flour
1 pinch of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
For the topping
1/2 bunch of fresh basil
5 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 TBS grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
4 TBS olive oil
Salt and ground pepper

For the pizza dough: In a small bowl mix the yeast and the sugar, 2 TBS lukewarm water, olive oil and 2 TBS of flour. Allow starter to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

On a work surface, pour the rest of the flour and make a well in the middle. Add the starter to the flour and sprinkle with the salt. Gradually adding 1 cup of lukewarm water, knead to a smooth and silky dough. Knead vigorously and occasionally beat the dough onto the work surface. Sprinkle some extra flour if necessary. Shape the dough into a loaf, place in a large bowl, cover with dishcloth and let it rise for at least one hour or until doubled in size. The dough also needs to be soft.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a pizza pan with 1 TBS of olive oil. Vigorously knead the dough one more time. Roll it out and place on the pan. by hand finish stretching the dough by pressing it into the pan, leaving it thicker around the rim.

Drain the canned tomatoes and set the juice aside. Slice the tomatoes, distribute them evenly on top of the pizza and crush them lightly with a fork. Leave a 1 inch wide rim around the walls of the pan. Layer the sliced mozzarella over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Place the pizza on the lowest rack in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pizza and sprinkle it with grated cheese and fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil return to oven on the middle rack and bake 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feeling Grateful? Make Soup

Thrifty cooks make soup. And Italian cooks are notoriously thrifty. Not that they would ever compromise on quality. Still--they can make a lot out of a little--gnocchi from potatoes and water, Panzanella from stale bread.

Capri Flavors Chef Titna never wastes in her kitchen. If she's dredging in flour, she uses all the flour, all the bread crumbs, every speck of chopped parsley. Nothing is thrown away.

A lot of this thriftiness dates from WWII and the terrible shortages in Italy. (You can read more about Costanzo's war time experiences in this weeks upcoming Capri Flavors e-newsletter).

Hunger was everywhere in Southern Italy during the war. And even all these years later, Titina and husband Costanzo always feel a special gratefulness when they sit down to a nice meal.

This week they are feeling even more grateful because Titina is cooking at home. She is still very limited after her hip-replacement surgery but feeling well enough to do the thing she loves most--make wonderful food.

Here's one of those wonderful dishes--Titina's recipe for Pasta and Bean soup. It's super easy, very nutritious and a great way to make just 4oz of meat go a long, long way.

Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta with Beans

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 oz chopped Negroni pancetta
1 medium carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large glove garlic, minced
1 can “Annalisapomodorini di collina (cherry tomatoes) 400 grams
1 can “D’Amicofagioli cannellini (white beans) 400 grams
2 cups plain water
1 cup ditali pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and chili pepper

Serves 4; Preparation Time:10 minutes: Cooking Time: 25 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Simple

Set a 3-quart (3 liter) soup kettle over medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the chopped pancetta and let it cook for 3 minutes. Add the diced carrots and celery as well as the minced garlic. Add the tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Add the beans and the water, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and add the pasta, cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt and chili pepper to taste. At this point the pasta is “al dente,” sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chef Titina Out of the Hospital

She's not back in her Capri Flavors kitchen yet--but she is smiling again.

All signs are positive after Titina's joint replacement surgery and she is now recovering at home.
Husband Costanzo says she's feeling well and very upbeat about her rehab--

Titina expects to resume teaching her popular Italian cooking classes in late winter. It's too soon for an exact date...but we'll keep her students posted.

In the meantime, here's a kitchen staple that shows up in many of Titina's classes. Carote alla Scapece (translated boiled carrots with white wine vinegar) is a super-versatile side dish that is best when made ahead. It's usually sitting on the table when students arrive. In cooler months Titina like to serve it at room temperature.

Carote alla Scapece (boiled carrots with white wine vinegar)




White Wine Vinegar

Chopped garlic

Chopped basil

Chopped mint

Dry oregano

Chopped Parsley

Hot Pepper to taste (optional)

Boil carrots in lightly salted water until they are al dente. Drain well. While carrots are still warm add vinegar and seasonings. Mix well, cover and refrigerate. Best served cold or room temperature one day to one week after preparation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chef Titina Takes a Short Medical Leave

She's been in the kitchen forever--and that means standing on your feet. Now Capri Flavors Chef Titina has to have a new hip. Her joint-replacement surgery was just scheduled today and will take place mid-January at Rex hospital. But don't worry. It's hard to keep Titina out of her kitchen. She will be back as soon as possible.

Plan for "Lets Cook with Titina" classes to resume by early spring. Meantime, we'll keep her students updated via this blog (and maybe throw in an extra recipe or two to thank you for your patience)

Titina and husband Costanzo apologize for the inconvenience, especially to those who have already booked their classes. Titina loves teaching and was hoping to avoid surgery (aren't we all) but her condition worsened over the holidays. The upside of the story is that life should be a lot happier when she's pain-free in the spring.

If you'd like to send good wishes to Titina leave a comment and we'll pass it along.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Titina's Sardinian Menu plus a Bonus Recipe

Sardinia is dramatic, ancient and beautiful. The second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, this meeting of rugged mountains and blue water is one of the oldest inhabited lands in Europe.

It is famous for its wines. The island is also known for a hearty shepherd's flat bread, fresh, light seafood, lamb and sheep-milk cheeses.

Fregola is another Sardinian specialty. Called the couscous of Sardinia, this tiny semolina pasta was hardly known and hard to find in American until Giadia DeLaurentiis featured fregola on her popular Food Network show. Capri Flavors sold out almost over night. (They have since restocked)

A Fregola recipe from the Capri Flavors e-newsletter follows (sign up at Chef Titina's Sardinian menu along with her full Winter Class Schedule are also listed below.

Her Sardinian primi or first course features another unusual pasta--this time with sausage. Mussels follow and if you've ever wanted to know how to cook artichokes, this is your chance. A sweet ravioli rounds out the meal.

Malloreddus Con Dalsiccia (Malloreddus with Sausage)
Cozze Gratinate (Mussels au Gratin)
Carciofi alla Sarda (Sardinian Artichokes)
Sabadas’ (Ravioli with Honey)

Pasta e Cannellini (Cannellini Beans with Pasta)
Roast-Beef con le Castagne (Roast Beef with Chestnuts)
Fava alla Piemontese (Piemontese Fava Beans)
Nodi D’Amore (Love Knots)

Limoncello (Lemon Liquor)
Suffle di Formaggio (Cheese Souffle)
Aragosta alla Crema (Lobster in Cream Sauce)
Radicchio al Parmigiano (Radicchio with Parmesan)
Torta di Capri al Limoncello (Capri Cake with Limoncello)

Anellini con Melenzane (Anellini with Eggplant)
Pollo al Curry (Chicken Curry)
Piselli al Prosciutto (Peas with Prosciutto)
San Giuseppe Zeppole (Saint Joseph Cream Puffs)

Capri Dates--Monday: 1/4, 2/15, 3/1-- Friday: 1/8, 2/5, 3/5
Sicilia Dates--Monday: 1/18, 2/15, 3/15-- Friday: 1/22, 2/19, 3/19
Sardegna Dates-- Monday: 1/25, 2/22, 3/22--Friday: 1/29, 2/26, 3/26
Piemonte Dates--Monday: 1/11, 2//8, 3/8--Friday: 1/15, 2/12, 3/12

Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

1 pound Fregola pasta from Capri Flavors
2 Knorr Chicken bouillon cubes
½ onion diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz) Titina’s Tomatoes from Capri Flavors
½ cup dry sherry
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 pounds of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt, pepper and olive oil

Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onion until soft. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and sherry. Cook until blended and fragrant. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your spoon. Return to a boil. Add half the parsley and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with water and add the bouillon cubes. Boil until cubes have dissolved, then slowly add the Fergola and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile add the shrimp to the tomato sauce and simmer until just pink and firm. Remove from heat. (They will continue to cook in the hot sauce)

Drain cooked pasta, toss with more olive oil and the remaining parsley. Pour shrimp and tomato sauce over. Stir and serve.