Category Archives: Vegetarian

Kneading bread, Secrets from Nonna Maria’s basement cucina

 

Garlic Breadsticks

Garlic Breadsticks

 

Well it’s obvious to say i am not the most dedicated blogger out in cyber space.  The fact that I’ve reached this far is a shock in itself. Have to admit, I blog in my head and through my lens every time I’m in the kitchen. Gathering my thoughts and photos into a post seems is the major issue.  Any amateur blogger out there will understand that. 😉

It’s been raining on the island for just over a week. Excuse my random babblings that may occur through this post. Eventually we will get to a recipe. I promise you that.

My Nonna Maria recently passed away; She is my city Nonna, my namesake and apparently per my Daddio I have truly become her. I definitely see some truth to that. If you’ve followed me you know about my foodie family 😉

Bon Appetitio from the basemento cucina

Polizia Cucina 😉

 

This post is heading towards either a journey on grief/loss or making the best of ones life. I’ll make the grief part quick… My Nonna Maria was the best cook, baker, sergeant I’ve ever known. Yes sergeant. Standing under 5 feet she had the ability to make a 6 foot man cry.. Trust me, i saw it happen. 🙂 Sadly, I don’t think I learnt enough from her. I still can’t make a man cry! LMAO

I picked up the traditional Italian basics from our town in Campobasso. Breads, fresh pasta, fresh sausage, prosciutto, jarring anything and everything from tomatoes to any vegetable..My goodness i almost forgot wine! Every year wine from luscious fresh grapes was produced!  I could go on forever with what I learned in the famous “basement kitchens”. Theres actually so many more great kitchen secrets that i’d rather not share with anyone. One thing i will share that has stuck with me…She always taught me to make sure i had food ready for everyone else at all hours. She taught me to always eat before anyone else arrived. I do that..It’s one thing that’s become a habit. Even if it’s just bread, I can say “I already ate”.  Here’s where the babbling kicks in…so i recieved the phone call from my Daddio to say Nonna Maria passed away. I was fine..because i am always fine. By the weekend i was baking bread, cooking salmon 2 different ways, Lasagne, chicken, creole stuffed New Zealand Mussels, Dark chocolate Brownies, Thai inspired eggplant and anything i could get my hands on. (Those recipes to follow)

nmBP

 

Still I didn’t realize what just happend. A week later and I realized my Nonna Maria had left us and joined my Nonno and my brother in heaven.

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Really, it took 1 week to realize this? I wonder at times if I should have remained a blonde! Sharp as a tool come business yet in the clouds at times! ahhh ha ha

So, excuse all the above babbling. Ahhh, off my little chest 😉 However, was a must share.

Below is an amazing bread recipe i found online during my recent stress attacks in the kitchen. Actually circulating online as a “copycat” Olive Garden bread recipe. I hardly read those but this one caught my eye. If you’re experienced in homemade breads you can pick out a nice recipe on 1st glance.

This recipe doesn’t have any history to it, however i’ve made it into my own little thing wrapped around my own little life. My goodness they were fabulous. I frooze 1/2 of the baked batch. Re warmed them in the oven and wouldn’t change a thing. Soft pillows as if they were just baked.

 

 

Garlic Breadsticks 

 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water 115 F
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
450 grams (16 ounces) (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups) Flour – I used AP and worked out nice

For the topping:
2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
salt
garlic powder
In the bowl of a stand mixer or I make by hand, dissolve the sugar in the water, sugar, then add yeast. Allow to sit to work it’s magic.

Add the flour 1 cup at a time, the melted butter and salt if using unsalted butter.  Continue in adding flour until you achieve a soft plyable dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. I’ll be honest, I have become accustome to kneading by hand here , i probably end up kneading for longer as i find it extremely therapeutic and so much more love goes into it. 🙂

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with a towel. Let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

dough1dough2

Divide the dough into 10 portions. Roll each piece of dough into aprx 8-inch log. Place the dough logs on a nonstick baking mat or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2  hours.

dough 3

 

 

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with the melted butter, sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Really you could jazz these up with any seasonings your heart desires.

dough5

 

Buon Appetito 😉

 

ok, now i will hit spell check and revise this whole post! lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You’re a Baccalà! Caribbean Salt Fish, Bacalhau, Morue : Cod Fish, all ’round the world we have our own name and use for it

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If I ever opened a restaurant I think I’d name it “Baccalà” just for fun. Calling someone a “Baccala as an Italian can be taken varies ways & not to kindly!  As a kid it was always funny to hear. As an adult, I don’t want to be called one. 😉   A clean xample, if someone was driving slow, there would be no cussing, it would be simply “Look at this Baccala”. I know it wasn’t just my family that used the term towards random silly acts because I heard other Italians “yelling” it as well. Who came up with all those slang funnies anyways? As usual, translated it just doesn’t make me laugh “you’re a Cod Fish”..Naw..

Baccalà, Salt Fish, Bacalhau, Morue..Simple cured w/salt, dried, Cod Fish. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you sprouted from I can bet there’s a traditional way to prepare it. This is truly one of my favourite dishes regardless of the method. Really, you must be thinking, Cod Fish is one of her fave? It’s ugly and it stinks. No matter the amount of times you scrub your hands, you will stink! Add some garlic to that and you’ll be sure to fend off anyone.

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after soaking in water for 3 days

Growing up I only knew the dish one way which is actually still my favourite. City Nonna bakes it almost Gratin style w/ raisins, walnuts, orange zest & well some other basic ingredients. Farm Nonna never cooked with it. Neither did my parents. It was always a Christmas Eve tradition and looking back I think I was its greatest fan. No one else was ever as excited. Later on as I branched out to portuguese cuisine I fell in love with their methods. Also similar to Gratin style but layered with sliced chorizo, boiled eggs/potatoes, peppers & a few more fun ingredients. Also of course snack style, “Pasteis de baccalhau’, which are a small croquettes mixed w/potatoes & deep-fried.  I can’t say I’m particularly fond of the French method of cooking Morue except as a Brandade & well that needs to be wrapped in a puff pastry & baked for me to really love it!

Over the past years I’ve become accustomed to enjoy as I now know it as “salt fish” the Caribbean way.  Sautéed with veggies and served with a johnny-cake for breakfast. Yes, with some hot pepper it’s the best breakfast.  Every island has their own little twist/technique with it. Also of course the famous Accra. Deep fried fritters. How can you not love them?

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Well I promise to post my versions of the mentioned dishes above in due time..which could possibly take me a year! 😉 Todays share will be Caribbean Style as I have some extra plans for the mixture.

To begin: I prepare a few days in advance for this dish. Rinse off the salt with cold water. Place in a bowl with cold water covering the fish entirely. cover & refrigerate. Next day drain water, re fill with water. 2nd day..do the same. I’ve gone to 3 days. Just makes for a less salty fish and allows you to control the salt. Also it allows the fish to rehydrated slowly into a plumper flesh.  I’ve seen others re hydrate it the quick way by boiling the crap out of it and then fry it. I don’t enjoy that. It doesn’t remove all the salt & it makes the fish quite tough. Also I only use boneless, No tolerance for plucking bones out of anything.

This mixture can be used on its own in sandwiches, over pasta and most recently I used as a filling for homemade stuffed buns with the addition of raisins. Sweet and spicy!

Caribbean Salt Fish

450 gram boneless dried salted cod-fish

1 medium yellow onion – small dice

1 Red pepper – small dice

1 green pepper – small dice

1 fresh season pepper – small dice

1 scotch bonnet (or not)

fresh parsley – a lot of it!

sprig of fresh Thyme

1 clove fresh garlic – crushed

salt, pepper

2 tsp Ketjap Manis (see below)

olive oil

soak the cod fish in water per above overnight. next day, drain & add fresh water. do this for 3 days is best/..move on baby…

Place the salt fish in a pot of water, bring to a boil to allow the fish to poach for only about 2-3 minutes is needed.

Saute everything in a saucepan with olive oil (except salt fish & parsley) until tender…add poached salt fish..stir breaking up the fish until fully combined & cooked..Stir in chopped parsley

Done! Easy as that…

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Buon Appetito 😉

my newest fav ingredient

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Crazy Corn Bread..Gone Mad! Thanks to the internet I found you my Love! Past to Present..

more then just a corn bread

more then just a corn bread

Naming this was real simple. The past few weeks I’ve craved cornbread. Not just a cornbread with cornmeal, I needed actual corn in it. Who am I kidding, I needed cheese and a part of the pig. I didn’t care if it was lardons, bacon or pancetta. I just needed a taste of my old-time cornbread. Problem, I couldn’t find the base of my recipe. So on the phone to my Daddio, begging him to find my recipe. It was from one of my favorite books, Robin Hood “Baking Festival” .

Robin Hood Baking Festival

Robin Hood Baking Festival

“Everythings packed in bins” he said. Ahh yes, my life over there has turned to Rubbermaid. So off to the internet I went in search of my cornbread past to bring it present.

A moist cornbread is always an issue. I didn’t grow up in the South USA but for some reason many kitchens back I took to a good corn bread. A bread with cornmeal could at times end up very dry. A funny married time in my life I had ran across this recipe in that said book & it was always the base for my corn creations. It was a hit, no matter how many times I changed it up. Well, a bunch of Italians experimenting with cornbread for the first time could have gone terribly bad.  😉  Looking back I realize I spent a heck of alot of time in the kitchen during those short years. Obviously I found much-needed refuge. Ahhh a blessing in disguise. Maybe this recipe brings me a sort of comfort, back to all that nutty kitchen time.

Back to Robin Hood, what can I say, grew up with the flour. Canadian grown wheat. It’s the only flour we know. Even the French here on the island swear by the flour. D’best they tell me. 😉  The price here has doubled over the years. I remember buying a 10 Kg bag for $10.99 Canadian at No Frills. Now I spend the same price here for 1/2 the flour..Is someone eating our wheat fields over there?

price is way up

price is way up 17.99 Naf Guilder

Fantastic baking book, wish I had it here with me. Note to self, ask Daddio to send it to me 😉

End note, Corn bread is not a West Indie food. Caribbean yes, certain islands, Jamaica yes, but not the West Indies.. It just doesn’t fly here like on other islands or back in North America. I had some strange reactions to what was a love of mine..not a love of here.. Time to tweek and keep baking this bread and show them how good a Corn bread really is! 😉

The original base recipe can be found here :

http://www.robinhood.ca/Recipes/Savoury/Appetizers-Sides/Bacon-Corn-Muffins

Crazy Corn Bread 

1/2 cup lardons, bacon or pancetta – a part of the pig! – sautéed

1 Cup (250ml) AP Flour

1 Cup (250ml) Cornmeal

1 Tblsp baking powder

1 Tsp paprika

1 Egg

2 Tblsp Honey

10oz / 284ml creamed style corn

1/2 cup (125ml) milk

1/4 cup butter – melted & cooled

2/3 cup grated Emmental cheese

1/3 cup canned or fresh corn kernels

Fresh parsley, chopped finely

Saute the lardon, bacon or which ever part of the pig you choose 😉 set aside

In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, salt, paprika and baking powder. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk Egg, honey, creamed corn, milk and cooled melted butter.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the grated cheese, corn kernels, cooled fried lardon/bacon and chopped parsley.

Pour into buttered/floured pans. I also topped the unbaked batter w/ extra corn kernels & grated cheese.

corn bread in pans

Presently I used an 8 inch loaf pan & 2 fun minis..

Bake loaf for 30 – 35 min…please check it along the way. Insert a toothpick always works.

If making muffins & minis less time is required.

corn bread

corn bread

So my crazy search for my original cornbread recipe has been put to rest.  Grazie to the internet and for my daddio being patient as I searched and of course my Caribbean buddy for reminding me that he is not North American! Corn Bread is not his deal! lol lol 😉

Buon Appetito  😉

End, End note…this is what I do w/ the rest of canned corn..I know it may sound gross but I enjoy it cold. Everyone has a few strange eating secrets!

Corn from the can, staright to the spoon, to the mouth!

straight to my mouth!

Boot shaped pancakes rounded’up to perfection. No excuse for store bought

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pancakes

Ask any Nonna (an Italian grandmother) to say “Pancakes” and they will almost all repeat “Panacakes”. Addition of that unnecessary vowel makes the word understandable to them. lol lol  My city Nonna never made and I dont believe ever ate a pancake. The closest I could compare anything she made that resembled the texture would be a fritter of some sort using the same basic ingredients but using more flour making a thicker batter, savoury then deep-fried. hmmm, well like I said there were no pancakes there. 😉  Farming Nonna would make us “panacakes” quite often. As I grew older with my hands in the kitchen I started to question why they were never round like i would see in restaurants. Honestly i’m still not sure why they were always so odd-shaped. Now that i think about it, my mothers pancakes were never round either. Both always tasty with at times bananas, apples or chocolate chips added. Just never round.  Possible reason was the batter was more on the thicker side. Italian style I guess, shaped like a boot! ha ha  Any who I’m not going to hurt my head over boot shaped pancakes now, all i can do is round them up myself.

Posting this easy recipe for a few reasons, 1st off I truly enjoy pancakes. One of my comfort foods. The fluffier the better. Secondly I’ve noticed friends here always mixing up the famous box of pre mixed preservatives. Not to knock her or anything, heck, her face is on a box on grocery shelves and the freezer section…eewl I call those frisbees.

Unless you don’t keep flour in the house you truly have no excuse to buy pre made.  Mix up the batter the night before and let it rest in the refrigerate overnight. Even just a few hours is fine. I’ve been out of milk at times and used almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk and always work just the same.

Canadian Maple syrup

Maple Syrup my Daddio sends to me

My perfect breakfast plate consists of pancakes spread with peanut butter, drizzled with REAL maple syrup, scrambled eggs on the side with bacon & sausage. ohh when the Maple syrup slowly creeps its way all over the dish giving everything a hint of sweetness is delightful. Whats yours?

 

Pancake Batter

1 cup AP Flour

2 tblsp Sugar

2 tsp baking powder

cinnamon

pinch of salt if using sweet butter

1 cup Milk

1 Egg

2 tblsp butter melted & cooled

1 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

In a small bowl stir together Flour, sugar, baking powder.  In a larger bowl whisk the Milk, Egg, cooled Butter, vanilla extract until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients whisking gently until all incorporated. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste if desired.  Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning breakfast couldn’t be simpler.. heat your pan, I always use my 8 inch pan to make perfect rounds. Add a pat of butter and desired amount of batter depending on the size of pancake you’d like. Allow to cook on medium heat until these beautiful bubble holes begin to appear.

pancake

Once the pancake is full it’s time to flip. Please don’t flatten your pancake with a spatula. I’ve seen people do that. A perfect fluffy pancake needs to work its magic!

Of course i rarely make them without adding something! Bananas, coconut, diced apples, blueberries, choco chips..the list is endless, use your imagination.

Buon Appetito! 😉

New blogger after 1 week : Photos, Eggs and cheese…

Well, a week has almost passed since my 1st post..It’s been a busy week..productive..etc.. Summer here on the island is starting to show its true colours. This week I was truly captured by the flowers and fruit..I know it sounds so simple but you’d have to live here to truly understand.

Sea Grapes

Sea Grapes

Actually for years I’m sad to say I passed many of these beautiful trees and paid no attention to its real beauty. A bitter fruit that you squeeze out of its shell straight into your mouth. Almost like the wine grapes i grew up with eating from my Nonno Mikes backyard. Apparently wine can also be made of this fruit. hmm…rethinking this fruit entirely 🙂

The 2nd would be the “Spider Lily” which I am allergic to but is actually very pretty. I made a point of observing the plant & not just walking away so abruptly just because I water & sneeze when I see it!

Spider Lily

Spider Lily

Truly I did not do much in the kitchen this week. I made the odd quick pasta dish with new Cow Mein noodles I found..wow!  A Guyanese friend of mine here introduced me to them. Love them, texture etc..

Mess of Chow Mein noodles

Mess of Chow Mein noodles

I took left over Cod/Baccala/Salt fish (whatever you want to call it) & veggies, stir fried them up & tossed them together with pepper(when I say pepper here it’s a fresh small season pepper that looks like a habenero) , herbs & seasoning. So simple & so good! ok, & i chopped a hot pepper into it because i needed a hit of spice!

Funny that after this week, the recipe I want to share most is a comforting meat less recipe I learnt from one of my Nonnas, on the farm. Now this is something she would make back in Italy during the war having no meat. As a child of course I didn’t appreciate something so simple. Really you are going to use stale bread & feed me with it? gross..Now as an adult I try to make that dish over & over with a twist of course! 😉 So following is my version of something my Nonna would mix up on a saturday night using stale bread!

I tried to measure my ingredients as I could with what I used here. Please allow for your own personal touch!

Polpette Cacio e Uova  (Cheese & Egg “meatless” balls)

1 whole stale Baguette (broken in pieces)

2 whole garlic cloves (crushed)

1 carrot (grated)

1 spring onion (white & green) chopped

1 Egg

Cheese, grated – I used Scamorza, Pecorino, Emmental – basically 2 cups of grated cheese of your choice

salt,pepper for taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley  — coarsely chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil — coarsely chopped

breadcrumbs (if mixture seems wet)

 

Soak the torn baguette in water. Just long enough to rehydrate it.  Place the bread and the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Combine until thoroughly mixed. Taste for flavour & add further fresh herbs & spices.

Cacio polpette mixture

Form into croquette or 1 1/2 inch balls. If mixture seems to wet to form, add breadcrumbs to adjust and form a proper shape.

Cacio e Uova

Cacio e Uova

Refrigerate the croquette for an hour. Set a frying pan to heat w/oil & fry gently on either side.

Frying time

Frying time

Drop the croquette in the hot tomato sauce, boil lightly. Serve w/Pasta of your choice or alone!

Personally I enjoy eating them alone as a snack when I need something quick.

Basic Tomato Sauce

500 ML crushed tomatoes – fresh or canned

3 fresh garlic cloves (crushed)

1/2 onion chopped

1 carrot chopped

salt, pepper to taste

fresh basil & parsley whole

Combine all of the above in a sauce pan. Cook for 1/2 hour. I like to puree with my hand blender as i do not like chunks. Adjust seasoning according to your taste

Polpette Cacio e Uova

Polpette Cacio e Uova

Buon Appetito! 😉

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