Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stuffed Swordfish Rolls

The first time I tasted this fish dish it was made my by Auntie Ella and typically served on Christmas Eve along with baccala, lobster and shrimp dishes. Served on a large platter, rolls and rolls of stuffed swordfish. But then I traveled to Italy for a few months and found it on a menu in a small family-run trattoria on the waterfront in Sorrento's Marina Piccolo... a working harbor adorned with colorful boats and the freshest fish to choose from. I knew right away what I would be ordering. As we celebrate this Christmas Eve, we want you all to have a very Merry Christmas, be thankful for past blessings, and we look with hope to the New Year ahead. Best wishes to you and yours for a happy & healthy holiday season. Buon Natale!

Auntie Ella's Stuffed Swordfish Rolls

3 TBLS olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
5 oz fresh swordfish, minced
a sprig of basil
1 TBLS fresh flat-leafed parsley, minced
1 TBLS fresh oregano, minced
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 anchiove filets, rinsed & chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 TBLS fresh lemon juice
3 oz sharp provolone cheese, finely diced
pinch of chili flakes
2 eggs
sea salt, ground pepper
8 oz thinly sliced swordfish- which is easily done if it's partially frozen

Put a skillet on moderate heat with a little olive oil. Add the onion and gently fry. As soon as the onion begins to color, add the minced swordfish, basil, parlsey, oregano and breadcrumbs. Fry gently for 5 minutes so the flavors will blend. Set aside to cool down a bit. Once cooled, put the mixture in a food processor along with the provolone, eggs,anchioves, lemon rind, lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt, ground pepper and a pinch of chili flakes and mix pulsing for just a moment or two.

Prepare the swordfish steaks by lightly pounding them between 2 pieces of waxed paper.. lightly enough so that you don't tear the fish. Divide your filling mixture among the swordfish slices. Coat each portion of mixture with olive oiled hands and make a mini-loaf roll. Roll up the fish over the filling and fasten with skewers or toothpicks. I tried twine lacing my swordfish rolls, but it didn't hold up stick to the skewers. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the skewered swordfish and grill/or broil for 6-8 minutes on each side. Baste with oregano sauce and serve with lemon slices.

Oregano sauce

This is a simple sauce, that's super with any grilled or broiled fish.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup hot water
juice of two lemons
pinch of sea salt
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced

Pour the olive oil into a small pan. Add the warmed water, lemon juice. Whisk together. Add sea salt, garlic & oregano. Whisk again while heating. Baste your fish while it is grilling and be sure to serve a bit in a warmed sauce dish as a side. Enjoy!

As I wasn't able to make it to Joe of Italyville's Feast of the Seven Fishes celebration, I'm still going to send this along to him. Who knows, you may want to try this yummy dish for your New Years menu.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas cookies

I've been busy this week, like everyone else no doubt, baking christmas cookies. Only these cookies aren't just for family and friends, but instead for elders and shut-ins that live alone and don't have many visitors during the holiday season. We'll deliver to over two hundred recipients next week.. boxes & boxes of assorted Christmas cookies. It's a very special project for me, one that I started eighteen years ago and one that I look forward to each year. With our move this past year, they'll be some new faces for me to friends to be made.

Among the varieties of Italian cookies will be one cookie I make often. Not a pizzelle, or a fig cookie, nor macaroons, Todos or wandies..but a simple sugar cookie. Probably the best sugar cookie you'll ever eat :) You can decorate them any way you prefer, but I like them plain and simple with a sprinkling of sugar on top right before they are ready to pop in the oven. So if you haven't started your holiday cookie baking yet, give this recipe a try. The cookie itself simply melts in your mouth. This batch was made with lavender sugar that I made earlier this Autumn after havesting the lavender beds, but anise sugar or plain ole sugar will surely do. One of the great things, in addition to the buttery flavor is the fact that these cookies travel beautifully! I ship oodles of them across the country with no breakage. Now how many sugar cookies can you say that about?

The Best Christmas Sugar Cookie

Cream together:

1 cup real butter
1 cup vegetable oil (yes, you read it right..veggie oil, a whole cup)
1 cup lavender sugar , or plain
2 eggs

In a separate bowl mix:

4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla or lemon, or any extract of choice

Add the flour mixture to the creamed portion slowly, mixing well. You can now either roll them into small balls or drop by teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Touch your thumb to forefinger--see that circle? Make the dough balls no larger than that. Flatten with a decorative press or with a glass (either one, dipped in sugar). I like to sprinkle a titch more of sugar on top too! Bake 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Louisa's Lemon Cake Pudding

A few weeks back I posted my limoncello recipe on a sister blog and my friend Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations commented with a recipe she thought I might enjoy. I'm pretty fond of lemon anything, so I was pretty happy to receive this recipe thinking I would get to making it right away. But these past weeks have been my busiest time of the year, and now that all my farmers markets and holiday shows have ended for the year I jumped right on the chance to try this one before I begin my Christmas baking project for the Elders.

I have to say, it wasn't like anything I've eaten before. The sensation of a lemony crusted topping blended with the custard was heavenly in my palate. Similar to a lemon curd, but much much lighter. I'm attributing this to the addition of the peaked egg whites. Preparation and assembly, simply a breeze, and we absolutely enjoyed every bit of it last night for dessert. The only changes I made to the recipe was the addition of some lemon zest to the pudding and dusted the tops with confectionary after they had cooled, and in my oven it needed to bake 10 minutes more to give it that golden crust. I hope you'll give it a try, especially if you are a lemon lover like me. Thanks so much again for your recipe Louise, it was just awesome and will be made often here!

Louise wrote...

I did a post on the invention of the lemon squeezer a while back and included a recipe I think you will find curious. it’s called Lemon Cake Top Pudding. The recipe says it will form a cake top with a layer of custard below. I plan on trying someday.(Hopefully:)

Lemon Cake Top Pudding
(I changed the name.. hey, this is an Italian blog :+)

2 tbs. flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs. butter
2 egg yolks beaten
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk

Cream flour, sugar and butter. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, and milk. Fold in 2 egg whites stiffly beaten. Bake in 8 inch pudding dish or individual custard cups (not buttered), set in a pan of warm water. {I used six custard cups}. Bake 35 minutes in 350 degree oven. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ratatouille Crepes

With the holidays just around the corner and so many delicious and tempting foods to try, we seem to just throw calories to the wind this time of year. At least in our house we do. This is one of my favorite recipes. Almost no fat, a delicious explosion of flavors, and light, but unique enough to serve to company. And then you can serve them all those rich temptations for dessert:)

In the morning, before I head to work, I make the crepe batter and chop the ingredients for the Ratatouille and cook. Then I make my marinara sauce. While the sauce cooks, make the crepes. With a little multi-tasking, it's not too time consuming...and well worth the effort.

Ratatouille Crepes
adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light

1 large eggplant chopped
2 medium zucchini chopped
4 roma plum tomatoes chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
3 shallots chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450

To prepare filling:

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper
Toss it around to coat

Spread vegetable mixture in an even layer on cookie pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt, and just a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake at 450 for 35 minutes stirring half way through.

Transfer vegetable mixture to bowl to cool. Stir in basil & parsley.

Mix in 3 TBS Marinara Sauce


2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh basil, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

In a food processor, blend ingredients for 10 seconds. . Cover and refrigerate the batter in the refrigerator for one hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep up to 48 hours refrigerated.

Heat a crepe pan or small non-stick pan, lightly coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Gently whisk the batter. Lift the pan from the heat and pour in 1/8 cup of batter, tilting and rotating the pan to coat the bottom surface. Cook for 30-40 seconds and lightly browned on edges. Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip the crepe over, then cook the other side another 15 seconds. Turn the crepe onto a tea towel and cover with parchment paper, until cool and ready to fill. Repeat with remaining batter, laying them all out so they can cool. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator or freeze them for up to two months. If freezing, I like to place a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between each crepe until I'm ready to thaw them out. Once thawed, gently peel apart.

To Assemble:

Spoon 3 TBS of Ratatouille in center of each crepe. Fold sides over to overlap. Place seam side down in a baking dish. Top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese if desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with farro and edamame, garden salad and some leftover meatballs. Enjoy!