Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Arance condite

I am working on a more complicated polenta dish that I made the other night, but I was super excited to post about one of my favorite things to eat in the winter. Arance condite. Bread with oranges. I first heard about this combination a few years ago at Ettore's mother's house. I am always asking about Genzano classics. The food of Latium is a poor kitchen, meaning, it evolved from the kitchens of the poor, so they had to be quite inventive. Oranges are quite plentiful in Italy during the winter, and bread, of course, is what puts Genzano on the map. It turns out this is not a Genzanese classic there are different versions of this dish. All you need is some rustic and crusty Italian bread and some blood oranges, and olive oil.. Depending on your taste, you need sugar, or salt, or salt and pepper. Here I am posting about oranges with salt and pepper. This can be served as an antipasto.


4 slices of rustic bread cut in half, making eight pieces.

4 small blood oranges, or 2 large

bottle of olive oil

crushed coarse sea salt


Bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo


Slice the bread into four slices and cut each in half, making 8 pieces. Peel oranges with a knife, and then slice 1/2 cm. slices. Put the oranges on the bread slices, drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt on eat piece of bread, and then pinch of pepper. That's it!!

I highly recommend drinking a nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with this. I discovered this by accident, but this combination of flavors works really well with this wine. A great marriage of food and wine is always good. The oranges with the pepper emphasize the dryness and fruit forward quality of the wine. I suggest taking a bit of the bread with oranges, and then taking a sip of the wine with the food still in your mouth. Strange that a wine that is tannic and best served with sausages and cheese ends up being gorgeous with this combination!! Have fun and Buon Appetito!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Penne with Artichoke Hearts

It seems simplicity is the latest theme in my life. Not for me a vegan life of fake meats and soy cheeses. Why would I even have to eat those types of food when I live in a grossly abundant country full of amazing fruits and vegetables? I have been on an artichoke kick lately, as we can still find them in the market, but I have also discovered that frozen artichoke hearts are delicious, and can supply me with artichoke hearts when they are not in season. As they are frozen when they are at their freshest, they taste sublime.

INGREDIENTS for 2 people(you will probably laugh at how few you need!)

400 to 500g package of Penne or Fusilli pasta (you can use more or less pasta depending on how much artichoke you want in each dish)

1 450g. package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

5 TBSP of olive oil

splash of white wine

1/4 tsp of coarse sea salt

1/4 cup water


Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil, add salt to boiling water and add pasta of choice, cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking (about 8-10 minutes) in a deep non-stick pan, pour olive oil and splash of wine and throw in the garlic cloves. Simmer at medium heat for about 1 to 2 minutes, then add the artichokes and 1/4 cup of water, and sautée until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and pout it into the pan, and mix everything together, then turn off heat. Serve in deep pasta bowls. See? I told you it was simple!! If you don't want pasta, you can easily serve the artichokes as a vegetable dish or side.

Penne with Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Pesto

This is one of the easiest meals I have made. I just gathered all of the ingredients and threw them in the food processor, and it was done. It will take more time to cook your pasta than it takes to make this pesto.
I made mine for 4 people, and also I want to mention that if you want a less salty taste, you don't have to add any salt because the marinated sun-dried tomatoes are already pretty salty. What makes this pesto different from regular pesto is the exclusion of any cheese. The tomatoes are so savory and delicious, there is no need.
Package of your favorite Penne
3/4 cup of marinated sun-dried tomatoes. You can use the jarred variety, but you should be able to find these at any Italian deli.
1/4 cup of peeled almonds. It is very important they are peeled. If not the pesto will turn out gritty
handful of fresh basil leaves
1-2 large cloves of garlic(to taste, some people like food to be very garlicky)
1/4 tsp of course salt (to taste) I use Himalayan salt.
2 TBSP of olive oil
1/4 cup of water (this will encourage better mixing in the food processor
1 TBSP course salt for boiled water
In a large pot bring water to a boil and add 1 TBSP of salt. Throw in entire package of penne. While the pasta is boiling, put all ingredients listed in a food processor. Start with the sun-driedtomatoes and end with the water. Use high speed on food processor and process sauce until it is fine. You want to make sure that the tomato skins are well blended. Taste with a spoon and decide if you need more salt or not. If the sauce is not smooth enough add a bit more water, OR you can add some of the marinade from the tomatoes.
When Penne is al dente drain well, and then put back in same pot. Pour pesto over the pasta and stir well to mix sauce with pasta. Serve pasta in bowls and and garnish with fresh basil.
Pairs nicely with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Keeping it simple

I was reading an article in the magazine Bon Appétit from May 2005 which was about Rome, Florence, and Venice. They had a short article about the grandson of Salvatore Ferragamo, the famous shoemaker from Florence. He became of food and wine professional in the family and manages their estate and restaurant in Chianti. One of the questions they asked him was, "After returning to Italy from a trip, what's the first thing you want to eat?" Ferrogamo replied," A good plate of linguine with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and torn basil leaves. Keep it simple-that's the trick of Italian food. Let the ingredients make the dish."

That is what all the great chefs in Italy say. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Sometimes I find that chefs and cooks gets so overly involved with the process they forget that real people are going to eat their food. I make the following dish about 2-3 times a week, and it is especially great right now with summer's last tomatoes. I find that I crave this dish more than any other when I am not at home. It is also great for those nights after a long day of work when you just want something simple. Now that we are heavily involved with volunteering with dogs, our time is becoming more limited. This dish only take the amount of time one needs to boil water and make al dente pasta! Anyway, in celebration of the Less is More mentality:

Spaghetti all'olio, aglio, e pepperoncini.

Ingredients for two people
Olive oil
Half cup of Frascati wine, or any Italian white.
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves of pressed garlic
2-3 dried red peppers
Sea salt for boiling water.

Heat up olive oil and wine to a low simmer, and throw in garlic, red peppers, and let them simmer for about 1 minute

Then throw in the quartered cherry tomatoes. I used beautiful tomatoes from the hillsides of Vesuvius, which are very sweet and full of volcanic minerals. But I imagine your garden tomatoes would be even better.

Boil water and throw in about a tablespoon of coarse sea salt when water comes to boil. Then add spaghetti and cook for about 7 minutes to make it al dente. Of course remember everyone has their own definition of al dente the roman version is quite hard.

While spaghetti is cooking, simmer the tomatoes at a medium heat.

Drain pasta, put back in pot and add the sauce to the pot and stir. Some people add fresh Italian parsley at the end. Stir everything together, serve in pasta bowls, and ecco!! You have an Italian classic.

I always drink Frascati with this. Producers I recommend are Castel De Paolis and L'Olivella, both of which are vegan and organic

Have fun!!