Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blueberry cake Posted by Picasa

Blueberries, blueberries, everywhere blueberries! Posted by Picasa


So many blueberries, so little time...

Summer is blueberry season, and that means making blueberry pie, jam, buckle, scones, cake. I make my own blueberry syrup to pour over blueberry pancakes or over vanilla ice cream. There's a whole foods store across from Symphony Hall here in Boston that makes homemade sausages with blueberries in them! I've seen cheese with blueberries in it. I've made grilled duck breast with a gorgeous blueberry sauce. My shampoo is blueberry scented. Is there anything we can't do with blueberries?

This recipe is easy to make and will disappear within an hour after making it. Hide it so you can have it last at least one extra day!

Blueberry cake:

2 cups and 1-2 tablespoons of sifted, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 pint blueberries

Topping ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.

Sift together the 2 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Toss the berries with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour (to separate and scatter evenly throughout the batter) and gently fold in cake batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Set aside.

Combine ingredients for topping with a fork to make a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle this over the batter.

Bake for 45 minutes, then test for doneness by gently inserting a fork. If it does not come out clean, give the cake another 5 to 10 minutes to bake.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

risotto con gamberi e piselli (risotto with shrimps and peas) Posted by Picasa


Risotto con gamberi e piselli (Arborio rice with shrimp and peas)

The first time I had risotto, in a private home in Milano, it was served with the traditional vitello Milanese. I had never had risotto before (my Sicilian family seldom cooked rice; and when they did, it was usually for soups or minestras).

The risotto was squisito! The flavors of the saffron, stock, cheese and butter, all melded together with the arborio rice (which was cooked al dente), made the dish memorable and made me want to try my hand at making risotto as soon as I could.

My first time was awkward. I was a bit nervous, sure I wouldn't be able to do it right. I popped Pavarotti's greatest hits into the CD player, and poured myself a glass of Pinot Grigio, to get me in the mood. With everything I needed at hand, I started in, gently, gently, gently. To achieve perfection, one must not hurry this, or you'll never arrive at your goal. Be patient. Go slowly, enjoy every step of the process, and you will be rewarded for your patience and care. Believe me, you will never be the same once you taste this heavenly, creamy dish.

Basic Risotto: (Serves 4 as a main dish, or 6 as a side dish)

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 3/4 (one and three quarters) cups arborio rice (You cannot substitute any other rice, or the recipe will not work)
1/2 cup white wine
8 cups any flavored stock (I use chicken or veal)
1 loosely packed teaspoon of threads of saffron (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmeggiano or pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

If you are using saffron, soak it in 1/4 cup of hot water. Set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in large saucepan over medium heat, (I use a skillet that is 12" wide with 3" sides). Add onion and garlic, and cook until softened. Stir in the rice and cook until it is nicely coated, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the wine and stir until it is all absorbed.

Add a bit of the stock so that it barely covers the rice and stir constantly over medium heat until the stock is nearly absorbed, repeat this process, never allowing the pan to get "dry." Keep adding enough stock and repeat the cooking process until the rice is al dente, about 30 minutes. You may not need to use all of the stock, but it is a good idea to have enough on hand. You can always use what is left over for soup.

You'll have to taste the rice to see if it has attained the "al dente" state. It should have a bit of resistance when you bite down on the grains. You don't want this rice to be mushy.

Discard the saffron threads and add saffron water to the mixture. Stir to blend.

Add the cheese and mix thoroughly. Add a bit more butter to make the rice glisten. (Sometimes I even throw in a 1/4 cup of medium cream or sour cream).

Season to taste with salt and pepper and more cheese. Place a sprig of your favorite herb on top and serve immediately.

For the dish that is pictured, I sauted in a separate pan freshly peeled medium shrimp (1/2 pound) and about 3/4 cup of fresh peas. I also minced 1/4 cup of fresh herbs (basil, mint and parsley).

You can use your imagination and add other ingredients to the risotto: mushrooms, other veggies, calamari? pumpkin? Be creative and let me know about your first try at risotto!

Serve with a green salad and pass the Pinot Grigio!

Friday, August 12, 2005


Cannellini beans with rapini


Cannellini beans with rapini

Here's a quick, easy, nutritious side dish for that next cookout. This can also be used over pasta, making it a complete meal.

One 14 and 1/2 oz. can of cannellini beans, (drained and rinsed thoroughly)
one bunch of rapini greens
1-2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
2 Tablespoons grated Parmeggiano or pecorino cheese
pancetta (Italian bacon), optional

Thoroughly wash the rapini greens. Plunge into lightly salted boiling water and cook until they are tender. About 5 to 7 minutes. Do not overcook because if you do, they'll become a soft and droopy mess.

After cooking the rapini, drain thoroughly.

If you are using pancetta, cook until crisp in a saute pan. Add the garlic and saute until just tender (do not burn the garlic).

Take the drained rapini and add to the (pancetta) garlic.

Add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans. Stir to heat through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I sprinkle red pepper flakes to brighten the flavors).

Add a bit more olive oil, if dish looks dry.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Serve as a side dish with roasted veggies, grilled fish, meat. Or combine with your favorite pasta and sprinkle generously with cheese.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Pesce spada (swordfish) con pesto

Isabella is aware of your raised eyebrows. Swordfish?! Yes, I understand. I know about the methylmercury.

But Isabella hadn't partaken of the only member of the Xiphiidae family in almost 4 years! Before we humans hopelessly polluted our oceans, this was one of Isabella's favorite fish to eat. Alas. No more can I indulge in it as I once did--two or three times a month! Alas! Alas! Aihme!

I do not recommend feeding this to pregnant women or young children.

The pesto sauce, however, with the added nuts, raisins and olives, can be used over pasta, chicken or any fish that can stand up to the strong flavors (bluefish, halibut steaks, non-farm raised salmon).

Pesce spada con pesto (serves 2)

3/4 pound fresh, not previously frozen*, swordfish
1 cup pesto sauce.
1/8 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/8 cup pitted green olives
1 Tablespoon olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes
extra whole almonds, olives, scallions
and basil chiffonade for garnish

Add the raisins, almonds and olives to the pesto sauce. Set aside. Heat olive oil in small saute pan. Place cherry tomatoes in pan and cook over medium high heat until their skin just begins to split. Set aside.

Grill or broil the fish until done. Time varies according to the thickness of the fish.
Place fish on platter, pile pesto sauce and sauted tomatoes on tope of fish. Garnish with scallions and extra olives and whole almonds, sprinkle basil chiffonade over fish and serve.

Enjoy. Really. It'll be another four years before you eat this again!

*Isabella can't think of any seafood (except for shrimp) that tastes good after it has been frozen. She recommends that you always use the freshest seafood available, and if it is not available, cook something else. Make minestrone.

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