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Everything posted by lindagray

  1. Chocolate soufflé The word soufflé derives from the French verb to ‘blow out’ and is an airy, egg-baked dish with origins dating back to early 18th-century France. Soufflé is eaten savoury or sweet in France, and you’ve likely found chocolate soufflé on dessert menus worldwide. The crispy chocolate crust with an oozing, creamy chocolate centre gives this dessert a sweet surprise. Easy Chocolate Soufflé 6 servings Ingredients 2 tablespoons butter, plus additional to coat the baking dish 1/3 cup sugar, plus additional to coat the baking dish 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (the higher quality, the better) 6 eggs, room temperature, separated 1 teaspoon vanilla Pinch of salt plus 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar Powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream, for serving (optional) Directions 1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter and then add a layer of sugar to a 1 1/2 quart soufflé/baking dish. 2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl (either in the microwave or over a saucepan of simmering water). Whisk in the egg yolks, vanilla, and pinch of salt. Set aside. 3. Beat the 6 egg whites until foamy. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cream of tartar. Continue beating to soft peak stage and slowly add the sugar. Then, beat to stiff peaks stage. 4. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate base mixture by spooning in a small dollop of egg whites, stirring to combine. Then add the rest of the egg whites, folding slowly and carefully until combined. 5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and bake for 30 to 32 minutes. This is important: Do not peek while the soufflé is baking! 6. The soufflé will be puffed up and appear somewhat moist in the cracks when you remove it from the oven. Then, it will quickly deflate. 7. Serve immediately with powdered sugar and whipped or ice cream, if you wish. Store your leftovers in the fridge (I like the soufflé cold the next day, too!).
  2. Beef bourguignon Boeuf bourguignon is a traditional French meal that has become internationally well-known. Coming from the same region as coq au vin – Burgundy (or in French, Bourgogne) in eastern France – beef bourguignon has several similarities. The dish is a stew made of beef braised in red wine, beef broth and seasoned with garlic, pearl onions, fresh herbs and mushrooms. This recipe is just one example of how traditional peasant dishes have been adopted into haute cuisine; the method of slowly simmering beef in wine was likely developed to tenderise tough (or cheap) cuts of meat. Traditional preparation time is two days to tenderise the meat and intensify the flavours. In Burgundy in late August, the Fête du Charolais (in French) celebrates the prized Charolais beef with music, meat and bœuf bourguignon. Ingredients: 3 lbs. Beef Chuck, trimmed of fat, cut into 2-3 inch cubes 2 cups Beef Stock 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp Tomato paste 1 tsp dried thyme 2 bay leaves 1 cloves of garlic minced ¾ lb. of Pearl onions 1 lb. White Mushrooms ½ tsp sea salt ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper ½ stick of sweet butter 1 oz. Flour Method: Dry the beef well and on med-high heat sear on both sides in hot oil until brown, don’t crowd the pan. Move meat frequently to avoid sticking/burning. Remove meat from pan and place in an oven proof dish with lid. Then deglaze pan with 3 cups of pinot noir, allow to simmer, scrape up the fond, and then add 2 cups beef stock, allow to simmer add crushed garlic, tomato paste and spices, and pour over meat, add salt. Cover and place in oven for 3 to 3-1/2 hours at 325oF. Place pearl onions into simmering water for 10 seconds, remove allow to cool, and then remove core and skins, make a small incision into the stem end. To cook onions place then in a pan/pot large enough to handle them in one layer, then add water half way up and 1-2 tbsp. butter and ¼ tsp. salt. Allow to simmer 25 minutes or until tender. Reserve. Wash mushrooms and trim stem end off if dirty. Remove stem and cut on bias, cut mushroom cap into quarters or thirds if large. Be sure mushrooms are absolutely dry before sautéing. To cook mushrooms, heat 1-2 tbs butter n larger sauté pan until it foams, then add mushrooms and sauté until no liquid remains and they are lightly browned. Reserve. When stew is done, checking for tenderness, remove lid and cool for a few moments, then straining beef from the liquid into a sauce pan. Place beef back into its original cooking dish. Bring liquid to a simmer and thicken with a Beurre Manie as demonstrated. For this recipe about 1 Tbsp butter and 3Tbps flour. Allow to simmer as whisked in, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add onions, mushrooms to the thickened sauce, simmer, then pour over all the beef in dish. Heat all again and serve with boiled parsley potatoes, green salad, a good pinot noir and French bread.
  3. Cassoulet Cassoulet is a comfort dish of white beans stewed slowly with meat, typically pork or duck but also sausages, goose, mutton or whatever else the chef has around. This peasant dish originates from southern France and is popular in Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. The name of the dish comes from the pot (cassole) it’s traditionally baked in, which is typically shaped like an inverted cone to give a crust shape. This is a rich, hearty meal perfect for colder months. Ingredients 140g pork rind 140g smoked streaky bacon 300g garlic sausage 600g dried haricot bean, soaked overnight in 3 times their volume of water 1 celery stick 1 small onion, preferably a white skinned mild one 1 large carrot 6 garlic cloves 2 ripe plum tomatoes 25g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil 1 bouquet garni 8 pinches of sea salt 2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper 1 clove , lightly crushed 2 tsp lemon juice To finish 4 confit ducks legs 60g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil 40g dried breadcrumb 1 garlic clove, finely chopped a handful of fresh flatleaf parsley, coarsely chopped Method To cut the meats, roll up the pork rind like a Swiss roll. With the seam underneath, use a very sharp knife to cut the roll across into thin slices, then chop the rolled-up slices across into dice. Chop the bacon into small cubes (lardons). Cut the garlic sausage into 1cm thick slices. Drain the soaked beans and discard the soaking water. Tip the beans into a large saucepan, add the diced pork rind and lardons and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil and blanch for 15-20 minutes. Drain the beans, rind and lardons into a colander, and discard the cooking water. Roughly chop the celery, onion and carrot. Peel the garlic cloves but leave them whole. Cut each tomato into eight wedges. (You never see tomatoes in a traditional cassoulet, but chef Raymond Blanc likes them for their colour and sweetness, so he puts a couple in.) Preheat the oven to 120C/fan 100C. (If cooking in a gas oven, use mark 2.) Heat the goose fat or olive oil in a 26cm flameproof casserole or deep overproof sauté pan over a low heat and sweat the celery, onion, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni and cook slowly to get a sugary caramelisation (about 5 minutes). Add the sausage, beans, pork rind and lardons and pour in 1.2 litres/2 pints water. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum, then add the salt, pepper, clove and lemon juice. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring every hour. At the end of this time, the beans will be soft and creamy in texture and the juices should have thickened. You may need to cook it for longer than 2 hours (say up to 2½ hours) to get to this stage – it depends Remove the cassoulet from the oven. Bury the duck legs in the beans and sprinkle over the goose fat or olive oil, breadcrumbs and garlic. Return to the oven and cook for a further 2 hours. Serve the cassoulet in bowls, sprinkled with chopped parsley.
  4. Coq au vin This quintessential French food was popularised by Julia Child through her television show and book and seen as one of her signature dishes. It is a dish of chicken braised with wine, mushrooms, salty pork or bacon (lardons), mushrooms, onions, often garlic and sometimes with a drop of brandy. Although the name translates as ‘rooster or cock in wine’ – and braising is ideal for tougher birds – the recipe usually uses chicken or capon. A red Burgundy wine is typically used, although French regional variations exist using local wines, for example coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coq au pourpre or coq au violet (Beaujolais nouveau) and coq au Champagne (Champagne). INGREDIENTS 4 chicken thighs 4 chicken legs 2 cups full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, if needed 1 medium onion, finely chopped 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 10 white pearl onions, peeled 1/2 pound small cremini mushrooms 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon tomato paste 2 tablespoons Cognac 1 chicken liver, coarsely chopped 2 bay leaves 5 fresh thyme sprigs DIRECTIONS 1. Place chicken in a large bowl, and add wine. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. 2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove chicken from wine, and pat dry; reserve wine. Season chicken with salt and pepper. 3. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate, leaving drippings in pot. (You should have 3 tablespoons; you may need to add oil.) 4. Raise heat to medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken, flipping once, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add onion to pot, and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes. Add pearl onions and mushrooms, and cook until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste, and cook 2 minutes. Add Cognac, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. 5. Return bacon and chicken to pot. Pour in reserved wine, and add chicken liver and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover, and place in oven until chicken has cooked through and vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Discard herbs, and skim fat from surface.
  5. Soupe à l’oignon This is a traditional French soup made of onions and beef stock, usually served with croutons and melted cheese on top. The soup’s origin can be traced as far back as the Romans – it was typically a poor dish – although the current version dates from the 18th century. The remarkable taste in French onion soup is from the caramelisation of the onions, to which sometimes brandy or sherry is added at the end of the slow-cooking process. The liquid is typically meat stock, although variations include using just water, adding milk or thickening it with eggs or flour. For another popular French soup, try the traditional fishermen’s soupe de poisson à la rouille from Marseille, characterised by a dollop of garlic and saffron mayonnaise (rouille) on top Elizabeth David was unimpressed with the "sodden bread, strings of cheese and half-cooked onion floating about" in the typical French onion soup. I disagree. Everything about this classic dish works for me – its innate frugality, everyday ingredients and lack of pretension. What is probably the world's best-known soup has much to offer if we get it right. The recipe Serves 4-6 700g onions 40g butter 2 tbsp flour 1.75 litres beef stock 1 glass of white wine Baguette to toast Gruyère or Emmenthal Peel and thinly slice 700g onions, then leave them to soften in 40g butter and a small glug of olive oil over a low to medium heat. Stir them regularly. They are ready when they are soft, sticky, sweet and deep gold in colour. Some add a pinch of sugar at this point to help the onions caramelise. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour, cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in 1.75 litres of boiling beef stock and a glass of white wine. Partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer for a good 45 minutes. Season, ladle into deep, heatproof bowls, place several thin slices of toasted baguette on to each, then cover with thinly sliced Gruyère or Emmenthal. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted but not browned. The magic The trick to getting this soup right is that the onions caramelise – they must cook for at least 35-40 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Only when the onions are soft enough to crush easily between finger and thumb can you add the flour and stock. The twist Contemporary versions can involve roasting the onions in the oven to give a more concentrated sweetness. Red onions produce the sweetest version of all, so you might like to add thyme and bay as a balance. Parmesan in place of Gruyère produces a less fatty but just as tasty crust.
  6. Tiramisu If you want to branch out from gelato in the world of Italian sweets, your first stop should be the deceptively simple Tiramisu, which is probably the country’s most beloved after-dinner dessert. This no-bake parfait features alternating layers of soft, sweetened mascarpone cheese and coffee-soaked ladyfingers. Despite its elemental feel (coffee, cream cheese, old cookies) tiramisu is the youngest dish on this list, with most estimates of its creation placing it in the 1960s. It may be simple to make but not all tiramisu is created equal. A good tiramisu features only the highest quality coffee and mascarpone. Cream and egg whites are sometimes added to the mascarpone to give it a lighter texture, and a variety of cookies and cakes can be substituted for the traditional lady fingers. Unless your Italian is particularly strong you will probably struggle to enquire about these things in a restaurant, so the often the only option is to simply order one and see if it’s to your liking. Digestivo The term “digestivo” or “digestive” does not refer to one drink, but a class of drinks that are enjoyed after a big meal with the aim of settling the stomach and helping you feel not-quite-so-full. Drinking them dates back to the Middle Ages, when people all over Europe believed in the medicinal properties of alcohol mixed with sugar and herbs. Although the doctors are still out on the medical benefits of drinking medium to strong liquors after a meal, the fact remains that you cannot say you have enjoyed a real Italian meal unless you top it off with a shot of the hard stuff. Popular digestives include limoncello, grappa, amaro, cynar, amaretto, and if you’re feeling brave, sambuca which has enough alcohol to make a horse giddy. If you step off the beaten track in Italy you will also discover all types of nice post dinner tipples made from local fruits and herbs. Don’t be shy, they are always worth a sip.
  7. lindagray


    Gelato No trip to Italy is complete without gelato! If you’re tempted to have a scoop (or two) a day don’t worry, it’s totally normal to eat gelato on a regular basis in Italy, especially in the summer. Though gelato translates to ‘ice cream,’ it’s not quite the same. By law, gelato has far less butterfat than ice cream: about 4 to 8 percent compared to 14 percent for ice cream in the United States. The low-fat content means that gelato is served a bit warmer and tends to melt in your mouth faster, it also intensifies the flavor and gives it a more velvety texture. Second, gelato has a much higher density. Regular ice cream has air and water added to increase volume and weight. Unfortunately, these additions also make it less flavorful. This practice is illegal in Italy, leaving gelato (at least, traditional artisan gelato) super sweet and super flavorful. Finally, good gelato isn’t made for long-term storage. So how can you know if it’s the good stuff or not? When seeking out fresh, artisanal gelato there are a few things to look out for. Before purchasing, check out the color (is it natural or neon bright?), if the fruit flavors are in season (they should be), and if there is an ingredient list on display. Also, check out how it’s stored. Artisanal gelato is slow-churned and often, though now always stored in covered, circular containers. Those heaping trays of wavy-topped gelato might look pretty, but they have also been whipped to adding more air to the product.
  8. Arancini & Supplì Our Sicilian friends will be having some stern words with us for combining their beloved arancino with it’s Roman cousins, supplì, and vice versa but the fact remains that when in Italy you should try at least one type of freshly-fried rice ball. These starch bombs appear in bars, restaurants, and market stalls all over Italy, but if you are going to order one, it helps to know the difference. The Sicilian arancino is often larger, and either conical or circular in shape. In fact, its name means “small orange.” It is typically filled with ragu and some sort of cheese, with optional veggies like peas, mushrooms, or eggplant. You will also find specialty arancini like carbonara, though purists tend to turn up their noses at these newfangled inventions. Supplì are a Roman specialty usually found in pizzerias and as antipasti. They are oblong in shape and traditionally contain only rice, tomato sauce, and a large piece of mozzarella in the middle. Their nickname – “telephones” – comes from the idea that when you break them in half a thin chord of molten cheese should connect the two ends. Although fried balls of rice are prevalent all over Italy (and America for that matter) they are often fried in advance and left under heat lamps. If you want one that’s a cut above the rest make sure it’s fried when you order it – the difference is night and day. Coffee For coffee drinkers, there’s little better than enjoying a coffee in Italy. Just remember, Italian coffee isn’t like coffee in your local Starbucks. Though some of the dozens of choices might sound similar (latte… anything that finishes in –puccino, etc.) they are rarely what you have been led to believe they are. For instance, if you were to order a ‘latte,’ in Italy you would simply be served a glass of milk. From a regular “caffè” to a cappuccino, a caffè macchiato to a caffè latte, coffee is ubiquitous in Italy but there is a considerable amount of regional difference. In Trieste, for instance, you can order a caffe triestino to get an espresso with whipped cream on top, whereas in Naples coffee is served strong, creamy and fast. Avoid taking sips of water after your shot (and we do mean shot) of coffee to show your culinary prowess. An espresso after a meal is a very Italian way to settle the stomach, an caffe corretto, i.e., an espresso with a shot of liquor, is even more so. Of all the coffee-crazy cities in Italy, Trieste has, by our humble reckonijng, the finest coffee and cafe culture. Its long history as a tax-free port brought some of the first coffee beans to the city during Europe’s first coffee craze in the middle ages. Today Italian coffee king Illy has its headquarters there and the city still imports many other brands as well.
  9. There are hundreds of types of bread in Italy, and the best one is the one baked locally that morning, wherever you happen to be staying. But you shouldn’t leave without trying at least a few of the various types that Italy’s robust baking culture has developed over the years. For example, you might notice that bread in Tuscany has a different taste than it does elsewhere. That’s because it’s made without salt. This is a tradition that originated in feuds between Tuscany and the coastal regions that controlled the salt trade and had no problem cutting off the agricultural region from its supply of the once-valuable commodity. To this day Tuscan bread is best eaten with a drizzle of olive oil and herbs or salt. Liguria is the home of the world-famous flat bread, focaccia. Reminiscent of a thick pizza dough, classic focaccia is hyper-salty, drizzled with olive oil and basically irresistible either by itself, or made into a sandwich. It’s often served open faced, with toppings like rosemary, zucchini, cheese, and olives. Off the coast of Italy, in Sardinia, the classic bread doesn’t look much like bread at all, instead appearing much more like a pita. Pane carasau, was named for the word carasare, which means to toast. Unsurprisingly, this bread paper-thin bread it always toasted after baking, giving it its wonderful crunch! We can’t tell you which style of bread you are going to enjoy the most but we can tell you that you should never turn down the opportunity to taste a new type. From the biggest cities to the smallest towns, you are never far from an Italian bakery, so stop by and pick up a few loaves whenever you have a chance.
  10. Carbonara It is possible to go to Italy and never eat anything besides pasta. We know because we’ve done it. But if there is one bucket list pasta that everyone should try at least once, our vote goes to carbonara (we know this is controversial – feel free to leave your desert island pasta in the comments). This dish is deceptively simple – spaghetti, eggs, pecorino cheese, cured guanciale, and black pepper – but takes a lifetime to master and a good version will change your life. There are many imitations – namely, those that thicken their sauces with cream or use bacon instead of guanciale – but accept no substitutes because the difference in taste is enormous. This is a Roman specialty but even in the capital there are still plenty of restaurants that can and do get it wrong. The best way to ensure you are served an exemplary version is to get a recommendation from a local. You are not looking for simply a good restaurant, but a restaurant that specifically serves a great carbonara. Truffles Ah, truffles. This pungent, elusive fungus is one of the most expensive and coveted foods in the world – and Italy is one of the few countries where they can be found in abundance! Grown only in the wild, this tuber is found by hunting the forests and mountains of Umbria and Piedmont with dogs or pigs trained to smell it underground. Truffles in Italy come in two forms, the rare and more aromatic white truffle, or the slightly less aromatic and slightly more common black truffle. The aroma is otherworldly, though certain not for everyone – less enthusiastic consumers sometimes compare the smell/taste to gasoline. Still, their popularity abounds and Italian tartufi are one of our all-time favorite fall foods in Italy! Want to try them on your next trip? First, start with your location. Truffles grow naturally throughout Umbria, Tuscany and Piedmont, so you’re more likely to find fresh truffles in local dishes in these areas, but only if you go in the autumn. During any other time of the year the truffles you get will be imported or frozen and they won’t be anywhere near as good. If you make it into truffle country during the fall head to a sagra festival such as the famous International White Truffle Festival of Alba in Piedmont held every October and November. If you are trying truffles for the first time we suggest starting off with a fresh pasta covered in thin truffle shavings, but there are plenty of other options to choose from! Truffles are commonly sprinkled over pasta, risotto, and omelets, or used in sauces for steaks or other meat dishes.
  11. Ossobuco The world-famous ossobuco alla milanese is a bone-in veal shank, cooked low and slow until meltingly tender in a broth of meat stock, white wine, and veggies. Traditionally, it’s accompanied by a gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, and parsley) but that’s optional. Although the Milanese like to claim this meaty masterpiece there are as many versions of it as there are nonnas in Lombardy, which is known for hearty, often rustic dishes that are good at coating the ribs and staving off the winter chill. Despite the popularity of ossobuco (which literally means ‘hollow bone’), it’s not always common to see it on restaurant menus because it needs about three hours of cooking time. If you do get a chance to eat it in a restaurant or home, or even to cook it yourself, you should jump at the opportunity. It’s usually accompanied by polenta or the next item on our list. Risotto Rounding out the holy trinity of Italian starches is rice, which is often eaten as the creamy, luxurious risotto. Ironically, Italians aren’t huge rice eaters, what with all the pasta and the polenta, but they are the largest producers of rice in Europe. While southern Italy is often called the country’s bread basket, Northern Italy, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, are its rice bowl. It’s fitting then, that the Arborio and Carneroli varieties grown in the vast rice paddies of these regions are turned into one of Italy’s most iconic dishes by being mixed with stock and stirred until they form a velvety semi-soup that perfectly conveys the flavors of anything cooked with it. The most famous type of risotto is probably the saffron-infused risotto alla milanese, which was invented, according to legend, by the workmen building the Milan Cathedral who were using saffron to dye the stained glass windows and figured they would also throw it into their rice. Other classic versions of the dish include risotto al nero di sepia (with cuttlefish and ink) and risi e bisi (with pancetta and peas), both of which hail from Venice.
  12. Ribollita While on the topic of Tuscany, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention this hearty soup which has become so popular Campbells makes a (not amazing) version. With roots in the peasant cooking of the region, this vegetable soup is thickened with bread instead of meat, because that is what was cheaper and more readily available for hundreds of years in the desperately poor Italian countryside. In Tuscany, the dish is considered a special treat in the autumn, when the taste of the harvest vegetables is at its most vibrant and the soup explodes with an intense savoriness despite the absence of meat (at least in the traditional versions). Often eaten as a first course instead of pasta in the trattorie of Florence, this is one hearty stew that shows off the immense, and often untapped power of great produce. Polenta Although we tend to associate pasta with all of Italy, the truth is that until fairly recently, the staple starch eaten in the northern parts of the boot was polenta. This corn mush, which is nearly identical to the grits eaten in the southern states of America (variations are down to the coarseness or fineness with which the kernels of corn are ground), was originally made from whatever starches were handy, including acorns and buckwheat. However, the introduction of corn to Europe in the 16th century saw it become the dominant ingredient of polenta. Although it lacks the diversity in shapes and textures that pasta has, polenta is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of meats, especially stewed meats, and it is arguably one of the most comforting foods you can eat when the temperatures drop in cities like Milan, Turin, and Venice. Look for it as a mush, or packed and fried into wobbly fritters.
  13. Fiorentina Steak A bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine T-bone steak, covers all of the characteristics of Italy’s best dishes: a specific cut of meat from a specific cow prepared in a very specific way all within the confines of the region Tuscany. In the case of the enormous bistecca fiorentina, it’s a T-bone steak cut thick (at least 5 centimeters) from the loin of a Chianina cow raised in Tuscany. It’s cooked for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, until the outside is cooked and the inside remains very rare. No sense in asking for a medium-well done steak here, the meat is too thick to even think about it! Despite all the dogma, there are some variations on the Florentine steak. For one, the meat isn’t always from a Chianina cow these days. Many Florentines are okay with the addition of new breeds but others swear that the enormous size and muscle of the Chianina makes for the best t-bones. If in doubt, simply ask. Also, the Florentines tend to prefer the higher cuts, nearer to the rib cage, which contain the fillet known as bistecca nella costola, whereas beyond Florence in Tuscany you’ll likely get a bistecca nel filetto, a lower cut that tends to be smooth and more melt-in-your-mouth. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better, though. The Florentines argue that the bistecca nella costola comes from a more used muscle, meaning it’s more flavorful. Whichever cut you get, this is a dish to be eaten exclusively in Tuscany – either in Florence or the countryside. It’s also meant to be shared! When ordering, remember that bistecca alla fiorentina is priced by weight; for two people you’re typically looking at 1-2 kg (or nearly 2-4 pounds).
  14. Bottarga Smoked eggs from the rat of the sea. Wait, what? Don’t be put off by this rough description on an Italian delicacy because the other way to describe bottarga is “Sicilian Caviar”. In August and September southern Italians take the roe from grey mullets, salt it, press it, and then leave it to air dry for six months. The result is a solid hunk of eggs the color of amber and blood oranges that, when sliced and eaten or grated over pasta, blossoms into a gloriously savory, smoky, and briny bouquet. Though essentially a poor man’s answer to preserving seafood in the days before refrigeration, it is now considered one of the most sought after and luxurious foodstuffs in Italy, right up there with truffles (more on those later). We recommend it grated over pasta, or simply sliced thinly and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. Lasagna Lasagna is a wide, flat pasta noodle, usually baked in layers in the oven. Like most Italian dishes, its origins are hotly contested, but we can at least say that’s its stronghold is in the region of Emilia-Romagna, where it transformed from a poor man’s food to a rich meal filled with the ragù, or meat sauce. Traditionally lasagna wasn’t made with tomatoes (remember, those came over from the New World in the 16th century); only ragù, béchamel sauce, and cheese, usually mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano or a combination of the two. Even today, only a bit of tomato or tomato sauce is used in a traditional ragu, unlike most Italian-American dishes, which are basically swimming in tomato sauce. This concentrates the flavor of the meat but sometimes is a little jarring for American palates. Though you can find lasagna throughout all of Italy, there’s nothing like trying the hearty dish in Emilia Romagna with homemade noodles, fresh ragù, and a generous dollop of regional pride
  15. lindagray


    Though a slab of flat bread served with oil and spices was around long before the unification Italy, there’s perhaps no dish that is as common or as representative of the country as the humble pizza. Easy, cheap, and filling, pizza has long been a common snack or meal, especially in Naples where tomato sauce was first added. When the Italian Queen Margherita came through the bustling city on a tour of her kingdom in 1889 she asked to try this dish that she saw so many of her subjects eating. A local entrepreneur served her the now legendary combination of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil, creating (or more likely, branding) the Margherita pizza. Whether by coincidence or design, the Margherita also displays the colors of the Italian flag. Today, there are essentially two types of pizza to choose from in Italy: Neopolitan-style pizza, or Roman-style pizza (though to be honest, many delivery places exist that is a happy medium between the two). Neapolitan-style pizza has a thick, fluffy crust. It tends to be a little smaller in diameter because the dough hasn’t been rolled out as far and it’s more filling. Roman-style pizza is has a paper-thin crust and just the slightest crunch (you don’t want it to be soggy!) It’s larger in diameter but typically lighter and less of a gluten bomb. Because of Naples’ history with Queen Margherita, the city claims to be the birthplace of modern pizza, although the point is debated throughout Italy. Whatever the case may be, the general rule for ordering pizza in Italy is to shoot for fewer toppings. You should also be skeptical of any pizzerias that load the toppings onto their pies – this can often be a tactic used to cover up the use of poor ingredients. Fewer toppings are a sign of confidence in the product because each topping has to be exemplary. Whichever pizza you might favor, the other rule of thumb is: When in Rome, do as the Romans do, i.e., eat Roman style pizza. When in Naples, naturally, do as the Neapolitans do.
  16. These almond flour chocolate chip cookies are absolutely delicious, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside! They’re paleo and vegan. It’s been a crazy week. Isaac and I had plans or appointments every night after work this week — it was all fun stuff but I’ve had little time to blog so that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a few days. How to Make Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies Last night I had some free time so I managed to get in a good workout after work (this walking HIIT treadmill workout if you’re curious) AND bake a batch of cookies after dinner. These cookies aren’t any old cookies either. They’re actually for a Crossfit party. The invite didn’t mention anything about the items needing to be paleo, but I know how the Crossfit peeps roll so I figured I would try my hand at making a paleo friendly cookie. (Just as an FYI – strict Paleo diet followers eat fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and stay away from grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar and processed oils.) Since there are no grain-based flours allowed (not even quinoa flour), baking can be quite the task… I looked up a bunch of different recipes online and finally decided to use this one as my guide. They’re for the party, but of course I had to taste one last night for quality control. <– Had to be done. I’ll be honest, I was pretty surprised at the flavor when I tasted it because I thought the almond flour was going to make the cookies taste dry. Alas, it was moist, sweet and delicious. They are quite dense so the texture is a little different than a regular chocolate chip cookie, but they’re still cookie-like and work great for curing a late night sweet tooth. I think the chocolate chips help! DESCRIPTION Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside these almond flour chocolate chip cookies are absolutely delicious, vegan and paleo. INGREDIENTS 2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 6 tablespoons coconut oil, in a liquid state 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips* INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat. Add almond flour, sea salt and baking soda in small bowl. In another bowl, whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla until combined. Gradually add almond flour into the bowl with the wet mixture. Stir in chocolate. Add cookie dough by level measuring tablespoon (1-inch scoop) onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges. Cool on baking sheets for a full 15 minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely. Definitely let them cool for the full 15 minutes or they will likely break. Store in airtight containers. Eat within 2 days. NOTES I used Eating Evolved Unsweetened Midnight Coconut Bar to keep the sugar content low. NUTRITION Serving Size: 1 cookie Calories: 118 Sugar: 3g Fat: 10g Carbohydrates: 6g Fiber: 1g Protein: 3g Cholesterol: 0
  17. Along with a bunch of you, I started my first Whole 30 yesterday, and I hope you guys did better than I did! It’s not that I cheated really, it’s just that since I was cooking all day and responsible for the food we were serving, I had to taste everything myself. So I ended up taking in very small amounts of non Whole 30 foods in the tasting I had to do throughout the day. Overall my food intake was low, and I didn’t end the VERY LONG day with a piece of Lindt 90% and a little bourbon like I REALLY wanted to! So I don’t consider it a total loss, just not as strong a start as I was hoping for! There will be a few more days throughout my month where I may have to taste a few things before we serve them, but it should be few and far between, and in miniscule amounts, so I’m hoping it won’t derail my progress. How did you guys do on the first day!? Looking forward to hearing about it! So far today I’ve had a green smoothie (light on the fruit), 3 fried eggs and half an avocado. I also tried a few sips of coffee using Silk brand unsweetened vanilla flavored almond milk and it really wasn’t too bad! A note about buying almond milk for the Whole 30: I usually use Almond Breeze but when reading the label at the store the other day I saw that it contained Carageenan which is a no-no on the Whole 30. I searched the other available brands at my local store and the only one there that didn’t have Carageenan in it was the Silk brand. So check your labels for Carageenan people! Also out is MSG which can be labeled as Monosodium Glutamate, or apparently a lot of other names according to this website which tells you what else to look for (ex. hydrolyzed protein – who knew???). Sulfites must also be avoided on the Whole 30 and I found this list of foods that may contain sulfites – which is helpful since it’s not always in the label. I’m assuming things that have natural sulfites are OK, like shrimp and coconut – but that’s up to your own personal preference. And now finally, the crepes! I knew going in to this that breakfast would be a challenge for me. I get sick of eggs quickly which is why I usually supplement with Cream Cheese Pancakes a few times a week. Since those were out for the duration of the Whole 30 (no dairy allowed), I needed to come up with an alternative. I sweetened the low carb and gluten free Cinnamon Faux-st Crunch Cereal with apple juice and had good results, so I thought I’d give it a try with these crepes. With syrup out as an option, making this warm apple compote using more apple juice, coconut oil, and cinnamon was a no-brainer. It was definitely a satisfying breakfast alternative to eggs, and will be my new “go to” weekend breakfast. I think it will have some good savory applications as well so look for some more recipes in the near future. As a bonus, these kept well in the refrigerator. I reheated some in the microwave the next morning – quick, easy, and delicious, they met all of my breakfast criteria! INGREDIENTS 2 eggs 3/4 cup almond milk 2 Tbsp coconut flour 1/4 cup hemp seeds 2 Tbsp flax meal 1 Tbsp coconut oil 1/4 cup apple juice 1 Tbsp cinnamon pinch of salt INSTRUCTIONS Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or Magic Bullet and blend until smooth. Let the batter rest for 2 minutes while you heat up your non-stick pan. Fry in clarified butter or coconut oil on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second. Don’t flip too soon or you’ll end up with a mess on your hands! NOTES If you are watching your carbs and not on the Whole 30, then you can substitute the 1/4 cup of apple juice with 1/4 cup of additional almond milk, and any sugar substitute equivalent to about 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Then omit the compote and top with your favorite sugar free syrup. If you can’t get hemp seeds, you can probably substitute with almond flour with good results – I haven’t tried it yet though so please let us know how they come out if you try it! Approx. nutrition info for 2 crepes w/ sugar substitute: 159 calories, 11g fat, 2g net carbs, 7g protein
  18. People often ask me for tips on how to prepare a simple lunch when they don’t have any leftovers on hand or when they simply don’t feel like eating yesterday’s dinner all over again. The times when you could just put together a sandwich is over and it’s not always an easy task to find a simple alternative, but the fact of the matter is that it’s still quite simple. You simply need a little more imagination and creativity. This following recipe is a perfect example. I took a recipe that I used to enjoy greatly and I replaced some of the ingredients to make it an amazing Paleo lunch or a quick and simple dinner that all the family will enjoy. I get asked for the recipe every time I serve these wraps to guests. The almond butter based sauce that I use plays a big part of its success with most people. It’s a sumptuous sauce with amazing flavor profile. Even if it’s often best to limit our consumption of nuts and seeds, the amount of almond butter used here is minimal so it shouldn’t be a cause for concern at all. You can add some Sambal sauce if you like to make it a little spicier, but that’s totally optional. Sambal is a chili-based condiment that’s used prominently in Thai cooking. It should be easy to find some really good quality Sambal sauce without any unhealthy ingredients at most supermarkets. Sambal sauce’s primary ingredient are chili peppers and the secondary ingredients often include shrimp paste and/or fish sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions and rice vinegar. It’s really up to you to decide on the ingredients to put inside lettuce wraps like these. Here I give you a simple example with a delicious almond butter sauce and pork, but you can change it up as much as you want. I myself often play around with it. Ingredients such as raw bell peppers, fresh avocado, thinly sliced carrots or green onions are only a few great options. There are so much variations you play around with, and it all helps in preventing boredom with this recipe. The kind of lettuce you choose for this recipe is entirely up to you. Choose your favorite lettuce variety or the one that’s most readily available on the day you make your recipe, it doesn’t really affect the overall taste and it gives you different options. Romaine or boston lettuces would be two perfect options because the leaves are large and sturdy enough the contain the ingredients for the wraps. Mung bean sprouts is an ingredient that I don’t use often, but that make this recipe take an even more thai-inspired theme. Unlike most beans and legumes, which I don’t recommend on a Paleo diet, the sprouting of the mung beans make them loose most of their phytic acid and other anti-nutrients, making them perfectly healthy. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, folate and copper. Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps Recipe Servings SERVES: 4Preparation time PREP: 10 min.Cooking time COOK: 8 min. Notice Protein: 42g / 30% Carbs: 18g / 13% Fat: 35g / 57% IngredientsToggle Units 1 lb thinly sliced pork; 2 cups chicken stock; 3/4 lb mung bean sprouts; Fresh lettuce leaves, cut into approximately 3 x 3 inches; ½ cup almond butter; 1 tbsp. fish sauce; 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar; 4 tbsp. of water; 1 tsp. sambal sauce; (optional) 1 lime, quartered; 1 tbsp Paleo cooking fat; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; Preparation Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a pan placed over a medium-high heat and add the pork slices. Simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until the pork is cooked. Remove the pork pieces and set aside to cool. You won’t need the chicken stock anymore, but you can stock it in the refrigerator for later recipes. In the same pan, cook the mung bean sprouts with the cooking fat for 3 to 4 minutes and then set aside. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the almond butter sauce: the almond butter, fish sauce, white wine vinegar, water and sambal sauce. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Once the cooked ingredients have cooled down, place some pork, some mung bean sprouts and some almond butter sauce over each lettuce leaf and squeeze some fresh lime juice on top. Roll them into wraps and enjoy.
  19. Ingredients 1 small head (or 4 cups) savoy cabbage, finely shredded – (you can sub napa cabbage) 1 cup carrot, julienned (about 1 large carrot) 1/4 cup scallions, trimmed and julienned (about 3 scallions) 1/4 cup radishes, julienned 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped cups cooked chicken (I used a leftover rotiserrie chicken) Vinaigrette 2 tablespoons coconut vinegar (you can sub Mirin – rice wine) 3 tablespoons coconut aminos (you can sub tamari) 2 tablespoons sesame oil (use unrefined, expeller or cold-pressed) juice of 1/2 a lime 1 chipotle pepper (or sub 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce of your choice) 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated 1 teaspoon raw honey Instructions Salad – Combine cabbage, carrots, scallions, and radishes. Top with chicken, cilantro, and mint and set aside. Vinaigrette – If using a chipotle pepper (which I highly recommend!), remove the seeds and place it in a small bowl and cover it with warm water for 30 minutes to help it rehydrate. Once rehydrated, pulse it a few times in a food processor. Combine with the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients. Taste to see if it needs any adjustments. If it is too spicy, you can add more lime juice to counteract it. Drizzle salad with vinaigrette & enjoy!
  20. What is a healthy diet? Eating a healthy diet is not about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. The truth is that while some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet should be to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference to the way you think, look, and feel. By using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create—and stick to—a tasty, varied, and nutritious diet that is as good for your mind as it is for your body. The Healthy Eating Pyramid The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid represents the latest nutritional science. The widest part at the bottom is for things that are most important. The foods at the narrow top are those that should be eaten sparingly, if at all.
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