Sunday, March 23, 2008

Olive Caraffia.. a gift from Monalisa

The Photo Event

I've clicked, have you? Check out all the marvelous entries for this month's contest. The theme.. 'metal'...

Our favorite eatery in Sorrento is the Ristorante Monalisa.. after admiring this sweet cruet set that is always brought to your table, I was gifted a set compliments of Monalisa and just love it! So I decided to use it for my entry.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Up for a challenge??

A friend asked me this just the other day. Knowing we raise chickens she thought she'd have me on the fence. Not so!
This week celebrates the Spring (Vernal) Equinox on the eve of the 21st.. to be exact 1:26 am last night, as well as Easter on the 23rd, both celebrating new beginnings, rebirth of the land and the promise that warmer weather will soon return. Surely, there is no better symbol for this week than the egg.

Now I happen to just love eggs. Fresh eggs are so delicious and nutritious. She proceeded to explain..

"The Equinox is the time to try egg balancing. Take a raw egg out of the fridge the night before so it warms up to room temperature. On the Equinox, you will find that you can balance the egg on a flat surface, on its fat end. It doesn't work right away (I think it takes time for the yolk to settle), but keep at it, and suddenly, it will feel like it locks, and you can remove your fingers, and it stays there - balanced on its fat end. Honest. I'm going to try this--simple minds, simple pleasures -- Are you up for a challenge?"

I didn't have the heart to tell her that balancing eggs on the Vernal Equinox was old fashioned folklore and myth, but went along with her challenge anyway. We both agreed to do the same...she, with her store bought eggs and mine recently pulled out of the nesting boxes in our barn. What I didn't tell her was that most egg farmers know that fresh eggs settle a lot faster than store bought older eggs, so already I feel I have a little edge on her :o)

When she reported in this morning, she wasn't a happy camper.. she simply couldn't get her eggs to stand on end no matter what she tried, or for only a moment or so and was pretty crabby after losing much of last night's sleep trying. Then, she asked me how I did.

I took a deep breath and told her about my eggs & how successful I was to get them to balance on end.. not for only a few moments, but Alas.. these bad boys/or girls finally fell over from I'm sheer exhaution @ 11AM.. so approx 8+ hrs it stood on end.
And the fresh eggs have it! LOL Must be a Nawtheasterner hemisphere thingy! Or Old Gert lays magical eggs!

There was dead silence..yikes! So after I let her stew for a few minutes, I explained.. you can balance a raw egg on end on any day of the year! All you need is some patience and a bit of a steady hand. You'll probably be even more successful if you use fresh eggs! To prove this, get out the eggs and try it for yourself!

Moral of story.. Eat fresh eggs not store bought! Gerty's now running around chicken coop doin' the happy egg dance! Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In a Pinch Veggie Frittata

We are in the process of moving, so I haven't had much time for menu's this week.. We packed the last of the cases of boxes over the weekend to start our two hour drive back to Maine I had plenty of time to think over the weekend events, as well as how tired and hungry I was becoming. As we dragged our very weary bodies into the house, I could clearly hear my tummy grumbling.. feed me! "Should we just order out? Will you go? I don't even want to get back into the car again.".. and so it went! LOL! Remembering we had brought back with us, 3 dozen fresh eggs from the farm.. the decision was made... frittata it would be!

6 fresh eggs
1 small onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, sliced, then cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small summer squash, sliced and cut up
1 handful baby spinach
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup asparagus, rolled and cut into inch size pieces
4 balls herbed fresh mozzarella, sliced into thirds
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
1 TBLS chopped thyme
1 TBLS minced parsley
2 TBLS olive oil
sea salt, pepper

Whisk together the eggs, herbs, salt, pepper with 1/2 the grated cheese & set aside. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. In a deep 10 inch oven proof skillet heat the olive oil and sautee the onions, zucchini, squash and asparagus until barely tender. Add tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella balls and stir briefly.

Give the egg mixture another quick mix and pour over the sauteed vegetables. Move the veggies about, so that they are covered with egg mixture. Allow to cook on low 10-15 minutes until the edges are barely set and still a little loose on top.

Now top the frittata with remaining grated cheese and pop it into the oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow it to cool a bit before slicing into wedges and serve.

Frittata's are delicious and so easy to prepare. Feel free to add your own special touch of varied cheeses and veggies to your dish.. I was just in a pinch, very hungry & wanted to clear out the frig! :o) Enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tagliatelle ala Pisano

1 shallot, diced fine
6 garlic cloves, sliced
6 TBLS olive oil
2/3 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
2 TBLS each fresh parsley, basil & rosemary
1/2 cup marinara sauce (optional)
salt, pepper to taste
1 lb tagliatelle pasta
juice of half a lemon
freshly grated romano cheese

Sautee shallot and garlic in a large skillet five minutes. Add pistachio nuts, herbs and seasoning. Add marinara sauce (opt) Heat for 3 minutes more.. cover, and keep warm.

Cook the tagliatelle pasta al dente.. drain, but reserve 2 TBLS of the cooking liquid and add it to the garlic & herbs. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over all and toss all together & serve with crusty bread, fresh garden salad and of course some Lambrusco. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chicken Prosciutto Bundles

1/8 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3 TBLS olive oil
1/4 lb imported provolone cheese, sliced
1/4 lb imported prosciutto ham, sliced thin
1/2 lb fresh baby spinach
2 garlic cloves diced
1 medium shallot, diced small
2 TBLS no salt butter-melted
1/4 lb bacon
3 boneless chicken breasts
salt, pepper, nutmeg

Butterfly 3 boneless chicken breasts and pound flat. Place prosciutto onto butterflied chicken pieces, place provolone on top of the ham. Mix the melted butter with shallot, garlic, a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt & pepper and toss together. Then resume layering this mixture onto the cheese layer. Now add the baby spinach leaves on top of the cheese layer. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs onto the spinach layer. Drizzle olive oil onto crumbs. Now roll each chicken breast and wrap with bacon both horizontally and vertically.

Pop into 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes.

The chicken bundles should be golden brown and the bacon just a bit crisp. Do not overcook. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Potato & Finocchio Casserole

Potatoes and fennel are both popular vegetables around our house, and this dish combines them well.

Potato & Fennel Casserole

2 lb potatoes,peeled & sliced thin
2-3 fennel bulbs, previously **roasted
4 TBLS olive oil
1 shallot, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 fresh sage leaves
2/3 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice potatoes. If you are not using *roasted fennel.. then trim and finely slice the fennel.

Coat a casserole baker with half the olive oil. Layer half the slices of potato in the bottom of dish and season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle over the potatoes, the onion and garlic and cover with roasted fennel or the sliced fennel pieces and season again lightly with salt & pepper. Tuck the fresh sage leaves into the vegetables. Finish with a neat layer of potato slices and season once more.
Pour the wine over all and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the potatoes are browned and almost crisp.

** To roast fennel (finocchio) just cut off the stems, quarter the fennel bulb and then into slices. Spread the sliced fennel on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Bake for 30 minutes - turning the fennel pieces every 10 minutes. Once carmelized, enjoy!Be sure to save some for the recipe :) I find this recipe more flavorful using the roasted fennel, and would serve this dish with pork or fish.

Limoncello Lemon Bread

6 TBLS butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
lemon zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp homemade limoncello

1/2 cup sugar & 2 TBLS homemade Limoncello

Cream together butter and sugar until light. Add eggs & lemon zest, Limoncello and mix well. Sift flour with salt and baking powder. Add this to creamed mixture, alternating with a bit of milk at a time. Pour into a greased 9x5x2 baking bread pan. Bake this in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until light golden brown.

Mix the glaze very well and let stand while the bread is baking. Just before taking the loaf out of the oven, spoon Limoncello glaze over it and put back into the oven for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

When Life gives you Lemons.. make Limoncello!

A recipe from the Amalfi coast - Limoncello is an Italian favorite liqueur. It is best when placed in the freezer at least 24 hours prior to 'sipping' it. You can buy it in your better imported liquor stores... but you will get more gratification when making your own!

After a long coastal trip from Tuscany via Enzio, Naples, Sorrento to finally Positano.. we stopped for some dinner at a small family run restaurant.. Antonio's. Our dinner was absolutely delicious and conversation with the owner refreshing. As we were about to say our goodbye's Antonio asked us to stay a bit longer and disappeared into the restaurant kitchen. When he reappeared he was carrying a very chilled bottle of homemade limoncello, made from his courtyard garden lemon trees. I was so thrilled and told him that we have also been making our own limoncello at home. This seemed to please him even moreso than our generous tip! :) He shared his tips with me and I with him. Antonio gave me a bottle of his limoncello to ' bring home'.. and I lugged that bottle all over Italy for the next month with me! It was great fun comparing notes, and a great first night spent on the Amalfi coast. I still use this same decanter when I make my limoncello and just smile to myself thinking back on that wonderful meeting. Salute Antonio!

We were amazed by all the lemon and orange trees all around Sorrento until we remembered that Sorrento claims to be the birthplace of this very popular liqueur.. but then again Positano, Capri and Amalfi natives make this same claim :)

1 bottle (liter) of pure grain alcohol (Everclear 190-proof) or good 100-proof Vodka
15 -18 medium to large lemons - the ones that are not uniform in shape
2 nice size vanilla beans split down the middle and cut up
5 cups of water
4 cups sugar

Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and pat the lemons dry. Using a sharp potato peeler, take all the lemon rinds off of the lemons so there is no white pith on the peel. Now split your vanilla beans down the middle and cut up. Good vanilla beans are sometimes hard to find.. (the ones you find in your supermarket are hard and old)... if you think you will be making several batches for gifts.. order a dozen fresh beans. They will keep well, wrapped in Saran and then a small canning jar. I found a place on line that has organic vanilla beans at good prices and ships immediately...Bonjour Gourmet.

Place the rind-peelings in a large glass jar with the vanilla beans, and alcohol. Let sit for four weeks.. Give the jar a shake every few days so the oils release from the lemons and mix with the alcohol.. this will turn a bright yellow over time. You will know when it is ready by testing the lemon peels.. they become very crispy and will snap easily when you bend them.

When your lemon peel infusion is ready, strain the the peels from alcohol through cheesecloth, three times to remove any sediment.

Measure how many cups of finished 'base' you have.. so you will know how much syrup to make.

Making the syrup

For every cup of base.. you will use one cup of finished syrup.

In a large saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar; 1 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water... stir constantly, letting it simmer for 15 minutes. Be sure to always make sure the sugar is dissolved. Nobody likes grainy limoncello :) Let the syrup cool to room temperature. Mix the limoncello base with the syrup well.. and bottle.

You could drink it right away, but we always serve it right from the freezer, so be sure to always have one bottle chilling for company.The rest you can store in a cupboard... and letting it sit for a few months will improve the taste, making it even smoother.

Note: Limoncello is strong, please use caution! The first sip will warm you down to your toes.. the second sip is very smooth.. the third you will feel a bit fuzzy and not even taste the alcohol in it.. only the deliicous lemon! If you do a few shots, let me just say.. you will be the life of the party! Salute!

Limoncello is wonderful in a lemon squares recipe, Limoncello lemon bread, or drizzled over ice cream, I really love it in my summer squash and onion dish.. and cheesecake.. wow!!