I finished Nanowrimo ten days earlier and I am waiting for my editor to send me back The Hidden Demon, the fourth title in The Immortals series, and I’m also waiting for her to start working on the fifth, The Immortal Christmas. Plus, it is cold outside. Sunny, but subzero cold—in Celsius. In other words, I’m gulping down espressos by the gallons and trying not to eat the whole pantry. Did I mention that I have an Achilles Tendinitis in both ankles? So, not so mobile, lots of time to waste, and a bad case of frail nerves due to the worst astrological combination ever…
To avoid becoming a blob of unsatisfied author, I decided to invest in one of those kitchen gadgets that turn vegetables like zucchini and carrots into long strings of spaghetti-like creations. Must say I’m quite pleased with my decision.
How to make the Zucchini Spaghetti
Buy the spaghetti-maker of your choice. I used something called Veggetti, a gadget I bought at the local Bed Bath & Beyond. I only had two zucchini, but next time I’ll double that number. I passed them through the spaghetti-maker and it took only a moment to obtain the spaghetti. Very easy.
Meanwhile, I sautéed a clove of garlic in a pan with two tablespoons of evoo, added two cans of tuna (it was too much for only two zucchini), salted it, and let the sauce sauté for a few minutes.
I cooked the strings of zucchini as if I were making regular pasta, in a pot of boiling and salted water, but I rinsed it after a minute, and added the spaghetti to the tuna sauce. I checked the salt, added a tablespoon of evoo and brought it to the table. The dish was very satisfying and I’ll try different sauces next time.
Lately, I’ve been busy working on The Immortals series and trying to keep up with writing/editing/marketing/creating covers and a Facebook page is becoming increasingly harder. But I miss writing nonsensical posts for my blog. Here is home.
So, to celebrate the return of the prodigal daughter, here is my version of a classic Italian recipe. Because Winter is coming, and I crave hearty dishes when I’m about to hibernate in my writing cave. Plus, it’s super easy to make when it’s Nanowrimo time. My project’s title is The Immortal Christmas, in case you were wondering…
1 can of black beans
1 package of pork belly (I buy the one from Trader Joes’, and I slice it in big chunks)
2 cups of cherry tomatoes chopped in half
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tooth of garlic finely chopped as well
Hot pepper (if you like)
Extra virgin olive oil
Half package of pasta (big, chunky type of pasta works better for this recipe, but I also use penne and rigatoni)
How to prepare Pasta & Fagioli:
Sautee the onion and garlic in two tablespoon of evoo, when they are golden add the chopped tomatoes and the chunks of pork belly. Let them cook for ten/fifteen minutes at a low temperature. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente. Actually, cook it for a minute less than suggested. Add the beans to the sauce and let them cook for ten minutes. Combine the pasta with the pork and beans, and, at the very end, add two tablespoon of evoo. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper or hot pepper if you like.
A few days ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a recipe for a lactose-free, gluten-free chocolate pudding. The ingredients piqued my interest, and since I had all of them in the pantry, I tried to make a batch. I made a few changes to eliminate unnecessary calories and the results were great.
2 ripe avocados
3 dates (soaked in warm water for a few minutes)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
How to prepare the chocolate pudding:
Put all the ingredients in the blender and let it purée until you obtain a smooth cream. Refrigerate for an hour (or not—I ate it straight from the blender) and serve with fresh fruits. Enjoy.
In the last few months, I had to renounce gluten, dairy, and soy. Stomach aches and other nuisances had reached the level I couldn’t eat a meal without regretting it soon after.
Said so, I have redoubled my efforts in experimenting with the few ingredients I can use. Although when substituting grain flour, cow milk and soy milk with gluten-free flour and almond milk the results aren’t always great, sometimes the ending product is worth a post.
200 grams gluten free flour
100 grams sugar
50 grams extra virgin coconut oil (room temperature)
1 pinch of salt
1/2 shot of rum (you can substitute the alcohol with water)
lemon peel from one lemon
Jam, any kind (I used one with less sugar)
How to prepare the crostata:
Work all the ingredients with the Kitchenaid or with your hands. Grease a pan with coconut oil, roll out the dough. Depending on how much jam you like in your crostata, you add more or less to the rolled out dough. Bake in your oven at 350 F for 20 minutes or until the edge of the tart is golden-brown. I was told the crostata tastes better when cold, but I wouldn’t know. Brew some coffee or tea. Have a fantastic afternoon and read a good book.
This recipe was sponsored by : The Lost Centurion, a new paranormal romance coming May the 29th, anywhere you buy books.
This recipe is one of my favorite gnocchi dishes. It is a variant of a gnocchi and beans soup my mother in laws prepared for us a few summers ago to which I added the shrimps in pesto sauce.
2 Packages of Gnocchi (I used the small ones for this recipe)
3 cups of small Shrimps
Half cup fresh Pesto (homemade would be best, but if you are in a hurry one or two tablespoons of the pesto paste will work)
2 cans of black beans
2/3 Garlic cloves
hot pepper (if you like)
Extra virgin olive oil (don’t ask how much I used—you don’t want to know)
How to prepare this gnocchi delight:
Sauté one garlic cloves with some evoo, add the hot pepper, then the shrimps. Salt them and let them cook for a minute—or until needed. Remove the shrimps from the heat, keep the sauce they generated, and season them with the pesto. Then sauté the remaining garlic cloves with some evoo, pour the drained beans in the pan, check the salt, and cook them for several minutes. Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi as instructed. When they are ready, keep at least 2 cups of the cooking water, and pour the gnocchi and the cooking water in the pan where you cooked the beans. Add the shrimps as well and carefully stir them until the starch from the gnocchi transforms the liquids into a cream. Depending on your tastes, you can add more or less liquid to make the gnocchi more or less soupy. Buon appetito!
Roman Libum (ricotta cake soaked in honey)
I am researching for a novel set in the ancient Rome, and I came across a few dishes I want to try. I started with the Roman Libum, a honey cheese cake described by Cato in his collection of simple recipes for farmers.*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used the Belgioioso brand)
1 egg, beaten
enough butter to grease a cookie sheet
½ cup honey
Mix together flour, ricotta, and egg.
From the resulting soft and sticky dough cut four pieces. Mold the pieces in four cakes on a greased cookie sheet. Don’t worry if the cakes don’t look pretty.
Cover them with an aluminum tent. The Romans used a domed clay lid called testo to cover the cooking food. I didn’t have any terracotta pot oven-safe, and so I shaped a dome with the aluminum foil. I baked the cakes for 40 minutes at 425F.
Meanwhile, I melted the honey and then poured it over the cakes, and let them rest in the sweet bath for 30 minutes.
They smelled good and tasted better. First recipe done, so many more to try…
*I found this recipe in The History and Activities of the Roman Empire by Alexandra Fix
It has been a while since last time I posted a recipe. This business of publishing books it sure is a time-eating endeavor. So much so that Christmas has arrived and we only put the tree up yesterday. Since the astral bodies had already aligned, we also baked tozzetti e ciambelline to celebrate the occasion. In the process of taking the tree box out of the garage, some cleaning of the aforementioned room also took place. Word written, zero, but the world—aka my house—is definitely a better place because of the ongoing Christmassification.
Also known as Biscottini di Natale around Civitavecchia, the tozzetti shown in the above pic are easy to make and have that wonderful Italian bakery smell I sometimes miss. The recipe is another gift from my mother in law and it was given to her by her mother, who received it from hers. To honor tradition, I will post it as it is, without my usual tinkering.
1/2 kg sugar
4 hg butter
4 hg chocolate chunks (I used dark chocolate, 62% cacao baking chips)
3 hg almonds
5 gr cinnamon
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanillin sugar (which we forgot to add)
flour as needed (I know…)
Melt the butter. Mix all the ingredients together by hand. Never use an electric mixer. Add enough flour until the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. My daughter says the resulting dough resembles putty. As for the majority of Regional Italian recipes, our grandmas knew what they were doing and had great hopes we would as well, so there was no need to state what they deemed basic culinary knowledge. Once you are satisfied with the dough consistency, take a handful at a time and make flattened logs with it.
Line the logs on a cookie tray covered with parchment paper. Bake them for 30/35 minutes at 350F, or until the edges of the logs look golden.
Let them cool until they harden. Finally, cut the tozzetti. They can be stored in a cookie jar or a Ziploc. Enjoy the Italian bakery aroma around the house!
Having a pescatarian in the house forces you to become creative. Good thing I love cooking and experimenting with ingredients. The following is a simplified version of a fairly popular Italian recipe.
1 bag of Broccolette from Costco (roughly 2 lbs.)
1 clove of garlic
A non specified amount of extra virgin olive oil (as established in previous posts, I’m Italian)
To accompany the ragout you’ll need 1 bag of pasta, 450 grams, of your choice, cooked al dente.
How to prepare the ragout:
Pour in a pan as much extra virgin olive oil as you like—this is a safe place, we don’t judge. Cut the clove of garlic in small pieces and let it cook in the oil until golden brown, then add the broccolette and the salt. Let them cook on the stove at medium heat until they are soft. Purée the broccolette by smashing them with a fork. Put aside until the pasta is ready and then combine the ragout with the pasta in a big bowl. Spicy it up with pepper flakes if you like or parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
Broccolette pasta is one of the few pasta dishes that can be served , reheated, the day after.
Today’s recipe almost didn’t have a picture to go with. As soon as out of the oven, the ciambellone was half devoured by my husband.
300 grams sugar (it should be 1 1/5 cups)
300 grams of whole purpose flour (it should be 2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
the zest of two lemons
1 cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt
For the icing:
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons of sugar.
Preheat the oven at 325F. I used the Kitchenaid to whip the sugar and the eggs, then added in a few batches the flour mixed with baking powder , the salt, and the lemon zest. Between batches I added the water and the extra virgin olive oil. I poured the batter in a Bundt cake pan and let it bake for 50 minutes, until it was golden. I added the icing and let it rest for the one minute it took my husband to find it. The icing isn’t necessary, but I like lemony desserts. Instead of the lemon icing, nutella or jam can be used.
The story behind the recipe:
At my house, this Bundt cake is known as, ‘il ciambellone della Signora Checca,’ which more or less translates into, ‘Mrs. Checca’s Bundt cake.’ Mrs. Checca was a nice lady who introduced my family to this staple of the Italian desserts tradition. She shared the recipe with my mom, and my mom eventually shared it with me and my sister. The original recipe unfortunately doesn’t fare well with the American ingredients. From flour to sugar, everything is different here. Any time I tried to bake the ciambellone, it came out good, but never as the one I remembered from my youth. Last year, I passed the recipe to two friends of mine. While they were writing down the ingredients, instead of the eleven tablespoons of water required, one of them put down twenty-two. The ciambellone was baked with the altered quantity of liquids and surprisingly turned out great. So I implemented the serendipitous discovery into the recipe and started experimenting with the extra virgin olive oil as well. Instead of the two tablespoons of evoo the original recipe required, I used half a cup. The rest is history.
Today is March 19th, which in Italy is Saint Joseph’s Day, which is also Father’s Day. Since in my extended family there are three Giuseppe and several fathers, the day calls for a special treat. There’re several kind of sweets baked or deep fried on Saint Joseph’s Day, mine are based on a family recipe and they’re quite easy to make. But, first thing first: Auguri, Papa’, e Buon Onomastico!
1 cup and a half of Carnaroli Rice (nowadays, you can find Italian rice everywhere)
1 liter of milk (half of a half gallon of milk)
4 tablespoon of sugar (or more if you prefer the frittelle sweeter)
1 cup of raisins
zest from one lemon
1 large egg
2 tablespoon of self-rising flour
1 pinch of salt
canola oil for deep frying
How to make the frittelle:
Mix in a pan rice, sugar, raisins, and milk. Let it cook at low temperature until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done. If necessary, add milk and let it cook some more. When it’s done, cover the rice and let it rest for one hour. Then, add the lemon zest, the egg, and the flour. Mix thoroughly. Meanwhile, either use a deep fryer or fill a pan with enough canola oil to completely submerge the frittelle when frying them. Fry the frittelle in small batches and remove from oil when they are golden-brown. Let them cool on a rake. Finally, serve dusted with the powdered sugar.