Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Titina says Time to Pinch Back your Basil

It's high summer and Chef Titina is taking a break from her popular cooking classes until the 15th of August.  But that doesn't mean she's not cooking.  Lots of classic Italian summer dishes  are on the menu in Titina's Kitchen and many of them call for basil.

When it comes to this wonderful herb, Capri Flavors Chef Titina is a true master.  Descended from a long line of famous Capri chefs, she has always known, grown and cooked with basil. 

An easy-to-grow annual, basil completes its life cycle in a single season, growing, flowering and producing new seed before being killed by autumn frosts. 

Titina says the herb's flavor is at it's peak just before the plant flowers, so to extend the season, she regularly pinches the blossoms off.

If you're growing basil, start pinching now.  You'll enjoy the best flavor longer that way. 

Here are a  few more tips from Chef Titina for dealing with this wonderful herb: 

  •  Home grown is best.  Titina tends basil plants in pots and her small but productive garden at the Capri Flavors retail store. 
  • Basil likes warm temperatures, full sun, and lots of water.  Given those, it's really easy to grow. 
  • Wash and dry at room temperature.  Titina cuts and washes  branches several hours before she plans to use them, then wraps in kitchen towels, which are left on the counter to dry. 
  • Never refrigerate basil. 
  • Finally, basil makes wonderful pesto.  Here's a link to instructions in an earlier post 
  • Or grind basil in the food processor and mix with olive oil.  Freeze it jars to preserve the taste of summer all year long. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Chillin' in Titina's Kitchen with Coffee and Ice

A summertime treat that's often served in Titina's kitchen is Caffe Granita.  Intensely flavored, but light and refreshing, this coffee Italian ice is a favorite of Titina's husband Costanzo who grew up eating it layered with whipped cream (con panna)

Granita how-tos (including a favorite coffee) are  featured in this week's e-newsletter.  Sign up on the Capri Flavors homepage. 

And for a another twist on coffee and ice, try this wonderfully refreshing Cappuccino Milkshake, courtesy of the Italian website  Sign up for their newsletter and get free recipes every day-- a great way to brush up on your Italian (with the help of Google Translates)  

By the way, Titina's chillin' this summer with a month-long vacation.  Her popular cooking classes wrap-up mid July.  She returns with new menus on August 15th. 

Cappuccino Milkshake

1 cup warm milk (try low-fat organic)

2 cups of strong coffee (brewed)

3 generous Tbs sugar

2 tsp cocoa (Titina uses Elenka)

4 cups ice cubes

Dissolve sugar in warm milk.  Add cocoa, then coffee.  Pour into blender.   Add ice and blend.  Save leftovers in the freezer.