Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

A little letter can do so much

Ciao Bloggisti,

And now for something completely serious. I don’t know if you’re all aware but September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way or another. At times it can seem insurmountable, that nothing can be done about it. But hope and solidarity has been known to move mountains. When I got this message from Michelle at Bleeding Espresso, I just had to post it here:

O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (via FirstGiving.org)

and then, out of the goodness of your hearts and to be eligible for the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest, please do the following:

1. Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato) and include this entire text box in the post;

OR

2. If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word about the event and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

AND

3. Then send your post url [along with a photo (100 x 100) if you’ve made a recipe] to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on September 30, 2008.

We will post a roundup and announce prize winners on October 3.

Prizes:

  • 1 Recipe Prize for best “O food” concoction: $50 gift certificate to Amazon;
  • 1 Awareness Prize for only publicizing event: Copy of Dolce Italiano cookbook.

———

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
  • In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
and help spread the word!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and please do what you can to help.

22 September 2008 at 10:47 pm 3 comments

The Bratty Bambino Loves Carbonara

Ciao Bloggisti

Do you have the September Blues? I kinda do. After a month of spending time with the family, on holiday and, most importantly, AWAY FROM WORK, it’s always a bit of a downer coming back to real life. And it’s especially hard for us parents. Back-to-school shopping drama, getting the kids used to going to bed before midnight, getting them up and out of the house on time and above all, finding the time to fix them a decent dinner that they’ll actually eat. After a gruelling day at the office and fighting traffic, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to come up with a recipe that will wow my tough crowd. So I fall back on an old standard: Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

It’s the ultimate no-brainer meal – so quick and easy to prepare. And the most important thing is that my bambini are crazy for it. Yes, I know it’s not a low-fat recipe but I found out a way to make it a little lighter without skimping on the taste. You see, most people think you have to add cream to a Carbonara to make it, well, creamy. But that’s not the case. If you add the ingredients in the right order, and especially, at the right time, you can have that wonderfully rich texture without calorie overload. It’s not a light dish by any means, but a little bacon once in a while never hurt anyone.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Bratty-style

600 gr. spaghetti

150 gr pancetta (bacon), chopped into cubes

2 tbsp olive oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padana cheese

salt and pepper to taste

(serves 6)

Directions:

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water. In the meantime combine the eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Fry the pancetta in the olive oil until just golden.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and place in a serving bowl. Add the egg mixture immediately and mix well. Add the pancetta and oil. Mix well.

Add the cheese and toss well. Ecco! Creamy Carbonara without the cream!!

Do you have any no-brainer recipes you’d like to share? I sure hope so. I don’t know what to cook for dinner tomorrow!!

17 September 2008 at 10:47 pm 5 comments

Bratty bambino goes spicy (sort of)

Take a picky Italian-born 4 year-old, add a mother who wants to get back to her Indian culinary roots, throw in a little curry powder and what do you get? “Ooooh spicy! Mommy, I don’t like SPICY!” Cut to one disappointed mommy turning on the stove to prepare her daughter’s favourite: pasta in bianco (plain pasta with butter).

I’ve been living in Italy for 12 years and while I absolutely love the food here, sometimes I crave a dish of my mom’s fiery beef curry or dosas or biriyani. And since Indians in Italy are few and far between, we don’t have a lot of friends from the old country we can mooch a meal off of nor are there many decent South Asians restaurants. So, I had to learn on my own, getting advice from my mom over the phone or studying her craft in person whenever we met up. I say craft because she can whip up an amazingly fresh, delicious and bum-burning dish with anything she happens to have in the fridge.

I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t stand Indian food when I was a kid. Chef Boyardee was a culinary god in my eyes. Ronald McDonald? Better than Bocuse. It was only when I left home for university that I felt those first pangs of spicy longing. I would visit my parents’ friends in Montreal just to get that taste of home. Then a few years later when I was living in Paris, I mustered up enough courage to tentatively cook my first Indian meal. I cheated and used Patak’s curry pastes but my dishes were hits. I made some misses too but I gradually improved over the years and can now safely say that I can cook a proper Indian dinner… for adults. Kids are a whole ‘nother ball game.

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter Bellie is as finicky as Morris the Cat. She is a sworn enemy of vegetables and actually threw up her dinner the other day because there was a microscopic piece of mushroom in her risotto. So you can imagine how difficult it’s been introducing curries and spices to her diet. I thought she would have been used to them from the womb but I was wrong. I really want her to get used to the tastes that I grew up with, to become familiar with the cuisine of her ancestors, because I believe food is a visceral way of getting in touch with your heritage.

So I tried a different tactic. I decided to take the tastes she already likes and morph them into Indian dishes. Bellie loves puff pastry and potatoes so my first experiment was a kid-friendly samosa. I improvised a lot because my son decided to wake up during my precious cooking time. But the samosas turned out surprisingly well and were easy to make.

Here’s the samosa recipe:

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes, chopped into big cubes (I leave the skin on while cooking but it can be peeled beforehand, too)

250 gr mixed vegetables (peas, zucchini, carrots, beans or whatever is in season)

400 gr. can of chick peas

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp of Mom’s special curry masala (made with 1 tbsp cumin seed, 4-5 cardamom pods and a 5 cm stick of cinnamon, ground to a fine powder in a spice mill)

1 tbsp lemon juice

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

salt (to taste)

2 sheets of puff pastry (230 gr. each)

Place chopped potatoes in pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt. Heat to boiling. About 7 minutes after the water starts boiling, add the mixed vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add drained can of chick peas. Boil potato, veg and chick pea mixture for 2 minutes, then drain. Let cool for about 10 minutes then blend mixture (with a traditional or immersion blender) until ingredients become the consistency of mashed potatoes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat oil on medium-low in a skillet. Add the curry masala and cayenne pepper (if you’re feeling daring!) and cook for 1 minute. Add the blended potato mixture to the skillet. Add lemon juice. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Cut puff pastry into 10cmx10cm squares. After the potato mixture has cooled down 10-15 minutes, place a tbsp in the middle of each pastry square. Dampen the edges of each square with water. Bring edges together to form a triangle shape, if possible. Place samosas in a parchment lined cookie sheet or baking pan and put in oven. Cook until golden, around 15-20 minutes.

As you can see from the picture below, my samosas didn’t look that perfect. But I can honestly say that both kids ate them up, vegetables, curry and all!

If you like this one I have my mom’s extra-spicy beef curry recipe waiting in the wings. But only if you ask nice! It’s an ancient Keralan secret.

Buon appetito!!

21 April 2008 at 11:04 pm 10 comments

How to feed a bratty bambino

Like most 4 year olds, my daughter Bellie can’t stand the sight of vegetables. Present her with a dish of broccoli and she emits a blood-curdling scream, runs to the nearest corner, cowers into the fetal position and rocks herself to sleep while humming show tunes. A terrible sight.

In our quest to get her to eat her greens, we’ve tried all sorts of things such as bribing her with chocolate and panty hose but to no avail. So, like in all good families, I resorted to deceit and trickery. I am so evil, I puree and hide vegetables in the few things she likes to eat. And I invented this waaaay before Jessica Seinfeld even knew what a kitchen was for, so there!!

My husband Mimmo is the re della frittata (“the omelette king” just doesn’t sound as regal, non?) and together, we came up with this recipe that my picky daughter actually devours. It’s a little high in calories but kids don’t usually have any cholesterol issues. Not in this country anyway.

Vegetarians can leave the bacon out, of course. It still tastes great.

Here’s the recipe:

FRITTATA VERDE CON PANCETTA (Green Omelette with Pancetta)

Ingredients (for 4 people):

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups cooked swiss chard (or spinach or any other green leafy veg)
1 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, if you can get it)
100 gr. pancetta cubes or bacon cut in small pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onions (optional)

Instructions:

Cook the swiss chard in boiling salted water until white part is tender (around 10-15 min).

cook-coste-small.jpg

Drain, let cool and chop coarsely. Puree chard in blender. Add some of the cooking water while blending if too dry.

puree-coste-small.jpg

Beat eggs, add pureed vegetables, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Fry the pancetta (and onions if you can sneak them in there) on medium-low in a non-stick pan until almost crisp. Add egg mixture, make sure pancetta is distributed evenly and cover pan.

pour-small.jpg

When the underside is golden, flip the frittata and cook until set. The flipping part can get a bit tricky. If you aren’t a mago like my father-in-law who can do it beautifully with a flick of his wrist, you can try this method: place a plate on top of the pan, then flip the pan upside down so the frittata remains on the plate. Slide the frittata back onto the pan, golden side up, and fry until the other side is cooked. If all this is too complicated for you and/or you’re afraid of a debilitating injury, don’t flip the frittata and just keep cooking until set on top.

Ecco la bella frittata!

frittata-small.jpg

Ok, so it ain’t that bella. But don’t let the picture fool you. This frittata is infused with an inner beauty that will astound and amaze your taste buds. The key is using a good quality cheese.

And the most important thing, she likes it!!!

yummy-small.jpg

I am contributing this recipe to Festa Italiana, organized by the hostesses with the mostestess, Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita and Marie from Proud Italian Cook . It’s a blogospheric celebration of Italian food and drink. If you have a recipe you’d like to share, you have until March 22 to take part.

festa11.jpg

Buon appetito, piatto pulito!!!

18 March 2008 at 10:42 pm 9 comments


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