Thursday, 28 February 2013

Chicken broth

Very healthy, huh? I'll never get bored of saying that in the kitchen you just don't need to be lazy! Cooking is easy.... just don't be lazy!!! Think that the best dishes ever have a long cooking process and the are eaten at one bite! But how much satisfaction you can get from savoring it!!!!
This is a basic recipe. Broth can be used by itself and as a part of numerous dishes. 

 Serving: about 3 lt of broth

1kg chicken leftovers (like bones with some meat on them, neck, wings, etc )
1 big carrot
2 celery stalks
1 middle size onion
 2 bay leaves
4-5 lt water
When I say "chicken leftovers" I don't mean the parts to throw away as "naked" bones... I usually buy in the supermarket lets say chicken carcass: in the farms they cut off the chicken breast, thighs, wings and what is left will be bones with some meat on them. These are really nice for broth cooking, you can get a nice taste from them and they cost nothing. But of course you can always use hen or chicken parts as well.

1. Wash the chicken and put it in a saucepan with cold water, add a peeled carrot and celery cut into halves and peeled onion. When you peel the onion try not to cut all the upper and bottom parts as when you cook it, the onion layers won't split into parts. Start boiling at a high power.

2. Wait till a kind of a foam forms on the surface of the broth. Reduce the fire and remove the foam using a skimmer. You need to remove the foam until it's fluffy and repeat it two or three times. 
Note: If you wait too much the foam will go down and you will necessary need to filter the broth at the end.

3. Add the bay leaves  and simmer at low fire, the saucepan half covered with a lid. 
Note: If you cook broth at a high temperature it will result in being too cloudy.

4. After about 1 hour of simmering add about 1 tbsp of salt, but please taste the broth and add some more salt if necessary.
5. Cook for a half an hour more and it's ready. 
6. Cover the saucepan with the lid and leave it to cool down. Now you can remove the vegetables and the chicken out. The vegges are to be thrown away as all the nutrients were sucked out. You may sift the broth and then store it in the fridge.

Note: What to do with the meat leftovers? Separate the meat from the bones, heat some EVO oil in a frying pan, add some chopped onion, chilly or black pepper to taste and a sprig of rosemary. Add the chicken pieces and fry a little. An alternative second dish is ready! 
Or... you can use the meat for different fillings for dumplings, for the meatballs...etc... :-) 

Cheesy but healthy broccoli

I said : Let's have a light dinner! I mean, no steak, no sausages, no burger... What do we have as a veggy? Broccoli.... OK!!! I'm not on a diet but sometimes you really need something lighter...

Serving: 2-3

1 big broccoli
3-4 large slices of ham
100g Gruyer cheese
50g Pecorino cheese 
EVO oil

1. Divide broccoli head into florets and cook them in non-salted water till half done. Drain them carefully.
Note: Why not to salt the water? If you boil green veggies without salt, they will keep their nice green colour. You can always salt them later, cannot you? 

2. In a pot pour some EVO oil and distribute nicely the florets. 
3. Rip ham into small parts and insert them in between the florets.
4. Add salt, chilly and pour some more oil.

5. Grate finely Pecorino cheese and coarse way Gruyer cheese. Mix them.
6. Spread the cheese mix over the broccoli generously. 

 7. Cook in preheated oven at 200C for 20 minutes then increase the heat till 220 and cook for 10 minutes more till it's golden on top.
To those who said not to like how broccoli smells while it boils dedicated!


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara is originally a Roman dish. There are many versions of the origin of this dish but the one that is more likely true is that this dish was prepared by the Carbonari -  those who produced charcoal, "carbone" in Italian. It's a dish of poor and cheap ingredients, so that these humble people could make it. 
While traveling over the world I saw soooo many variaties of this dish and the ingredients that they use for it. But to be called by it's name the dish should have only the original ingredients. 
Even here in Rome sometimes people cannot agree on what they consider as original ingredients. 
What I would like to underline is that the cream CANNOT and I'd like to repeat ABSOLUTELY CANNOT  be used for this dish!!!!!  But you may substitute the whole amout of Pecorino for half Pecorino and half Parmigiano, this will give the dish a milder taste. There also are some different ways to unite pasta and the condiment, I offer the one that is half way one, half the other....

And finally I would like to dedicate this dish to my dear American Friend Leela who while visiting me in Rome really appreciated my Carbonara. You are always welcome in our house, Leela !!!

Servings: 2

160g spaghetti
50g Pancetta (raw salted belly bacon)
2 eggs
Pecorino cheese
black pepper
EVO oil

1.  Start cooking spaghetti in boiling water. You may also use a type of fresh pasta called Tonnarelli, it's not traditional, but delicious.
2. Meanwhile in a frying pan add some EVO oil and fry the stripes of Pancetta till they are slightly crispy. Switch off the power/gas.

3. In a bowl mix eggs with grated Pecorino cheese and black pepper. You may mix Pecorino that has a strong taste with some Parmigiano to have milder taste. 
As an option you may try to use just the egg yolks instead of whole eggs. This is actually an original recipe, but as I cook at home and I don't like throwing food, so I use whole egg not to waist the whites. ;-)
4. When spaghetti are ready, drain them carefully and add to the egg mix.
5.  Switch on the power/gas, put the frying pan with the crispy pancetta back to the fire and add the spaghetti mixed with the eggs.
Now come a delicate moment of cooking.
We don't want the eggs to become an omlette, we want them to become a creamy sauce. So, stir spaghetti delicately with a wooden spoon till the first signes of the egg clotting and switch off!
That's it!!!! And that is the secret of having a creamy Carbonara... and NO CREAM, of course!    


Roasted pork loin

How many times you had a situation of imminent guests when you were trying to astonish them with a special dish? Here I suggest a NO RISK dish: roasted pork loin. "Hmmmm", you will think, "not that easy!" Don't be scared, it's not fast but really simple. And the best part of it is that everybody and I say, everybody, will love it! Unless this person is a vegetarian....

 serving : 5-6

1kg pork loin
150g sliced bacon (rolled Pancetta)
rosemary (fresh sprigs) 
dried mixed herbs
EVO oil
aluminum foil

1. Wash the loin and dry it with a paper towel.
2. Add salt and mixed herbs.
3. Pour some oil into the glass / ceramic pot, put the rosemary sprigs and place the loin on top.
4. Cover the meat with the slices of bacon, the one I usually use is Rolled Pancetta (raw salted bacon), but you can use any sliced bacon you have, the smoked one is really nice in this recipe.
5. Pour some more oil on top the meat. 
6. Cover the pot with a aluminum foil.
7. Cook your pork loin in the oven at 180-200C max. 
Note: Slow cooking at a low temperature will render the meat tender and juicy but not dry.
8. Now my favourite part comes: FORGET about the meat for 1 hour. Then take it out of the oven and wet the meat with the sauce that you will find at this point in the pot. Cover the pot with the foil again.
9. And now? Forget about your meat for one more hour. Easy??

10. You may take the foil out for 5-10 minute at the end of cooking so you will have the top of the roasted meat crispy.

11. Make sure you cut the loin into thin slices and pour some sauce on top. Bon Appetit!!!  
Here I served my roasted pork loin the the Golden Scalloped Potatoes, the recipe can be found HERE .      

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Golden scalloped potatoes

Today I decided to go back to my teen-age.... When I was quite ignorant about healthy cuisine and when I had to cohabit with the climate that didn't give any chance to have so many fresh green veggies during winter season, so we used to eat veggies that could be stored: like potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beetroots and so on... Oh dear, that is not so bad to tell you the truth but my cooking was different....
So, today's dish will be kind of a tribute to my adolescence! 

(dose to your liking, here is for 2 persons)

4 potatoes
200g mushrooms
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
EVO oil

1. Slice mushrooms and cook till golden colour with garlic cloves (cut into halves), salt and EVO oil.

2. In the meanwhile, peel potatoes and slice them with the use of a mandolina. Slice the onion the same way.  

3. In a glass/ ceramic pot spread couple of spoons of mayonnaise and start arranging 1/4th of potato slices in a layer, spread some more mayonnaise over the potato layer, then distribute some mushrooms.
4. Salt a bit each layer of potatoes.
5. Arrange one more layer of potato, then mayo, then onion rings, pepper and chopped rosemary.
6. One more layer of potato slices - mayonnaise - mushrooms (you can add some more onions if you want to).

7. Last layer will be: potato - onions - rosemary and pepper - mayo (in order to have a nice and golden colour of the top and not to burn onion rings).

8. Cover with a aluminum foil and cook for about 30 minutes at 220C, then uncover and finish cooking to have a nice crisps on top.    This is what you'll have at the end. Sorry for the burnt sides of the pot, but you cannot avoid it....

Here I served the potatos with the sautèed chicory and Roasted Pork Loin (check for a post HERE) as a suggestion :-)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Clams Spaghetti - Spaghetti alle Vongole

This dish is one of the most favourite for those who love fish and seafood. The tourists coming to Italy choose this dish very often while eating at the restaurant, as it is very mouthwatering at sight and smells tempting. 
I personally prefer clams that are called "veraci" here in Italy, they are bigger and are nicer to my taste. And of course they are easier to eat! But check it out on the picture, you'll see them....
There are variouse recipes for this dish but I prefer the one that can be termed as "in bianco", "in white", here in Italy as it doesn't expext to have tomato in it.... To tell you the truth this recipe is the classical one, the one you can try at the restaurant, and I'll explane to you all the secrets of preparing it!

(for 2 persons)

600-700g fresh clams (not frozen and not thawed
160g spaghetti
2 garlic cloves
white wine (if any)
EVO oil  
1. Soak clams in salted water for at least 1 hour, as the clams clean themselves, you will see the water to become cloudy. 
The water should just cover clams for about 1 cm, and if you notice that clams don't show any signs of activity, add some more salt then. Approximately, I would say you need a tablespoon of salt per litre. 
2. Start boiling water
3. Wash clams and check if there are any open or broken ones. Sometimes you can find the shells full of mud and sand, so it will ruin the dish. One of the methods of checking the clams is to slightly beat them over the sink. The weight factor is also important, you will notice that the empty ones weigh less then the whole ones.
4. Pour some evo oil into the saucepan, add some chilli to taste and 2 mashed garlic cloves (not chopped, not in pieces). 
5. Add clams to the saucepan, sprinkle with some white wine if you have any, cover with a lid and turn the heat on max. If you hear a cracling sound then reduce the heat, we don't want to burn our poor clams, huh?
6. At the same time, put spaghetti into the boiling water. DO NOT SALT THE WATER. You will ask why? Easy: you have already "salted" clams while letting them soak in the salted water. That's enough!    
7. After about 5-7 minutes the clams will be open and spaghetti half-cooked. Clams will have plenty of water after opening don't throw it away!!!
8. Now you need to transfer spaghetti to the clams. You can do that with the use of kitchen tongs or if you don't have them just with a fork. We may need the water you cooked spaghetti in later, so don't throw it away, please! 
9. Continue cooking spaghetti together with clams in their water. Don't mix, just slightly move spaghetti in the saucepan. If you notice that there no more liquid , then add some water that you kept from boiling. The liquid will result in a kind of a sauce at the end.
10. Chop some parsley finely and add to the ready dish.

Enjoy your home-made restaurant-kind dish!!!  And don't forget about a glass of chilled white wine, cheers!!!

Note: Pasta with the fish or seafood doesn't need any of the cheese, Italian taste won't tolerate it!!!