10 e lode: Pat's "pasta con le fave"

In late spring and early summer fresh fava beans are plentiful and you can find them in most grocery stores that have a good produce selection. I think one of the best ways to enjoy these incredible, bright green beans is to eat them in a traditional roman pasta that has just a few, but very fresh ingredients. Some folks think that removing the fava beans from the pod and then removing the skins is too much work, but one of the great things about doing this dish is you can shell the beans with friends and family, which gives the final product even more impact. In fact a few of my really good friends got together for my birthday and prepared this wonderful sauce for me. Thank you Janice, Andrea and Pat.


Something more for your picnics

Insalata di riso

1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 pound small diced green beans (already blanched)
1 cup canned peas
1/2 pound italian ham (if you don't find the Italian ham, regular ham would be fine)
1/2 cup kalamata pitted olives (black or green or both)
2 tablespoons of chopped basil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup small diced Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup small diced canned artichokes (marinated in oil)
1 cup small diced of vegetables antipasto (carrots, grilled bell peppers, cauliflower)
1 cup of cherry mozzarella cheese
2 cans of yellowfin tuna fish
3 hard boiled eggs diced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rice, stir, and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent any grains from sticking to the pot, until the rice is just barely done, about 15 minutes. It will continue to cook as it cools. Drain the rice well and spread it out on a tray to cool quickly.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice, green beans, peas, artichokes, basil, olives, the antipasto veggies, lemon zest, ham, the eggs, the tuna cans and the cheeses. Season the salad with a generous amount of salt and black pepper.Toss with your hands to blend and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
For a vegetarian dish, simply don't add the ham and the tuna. The taste will still be great.
Best served at room temperature.

It's pic nic time!!

Ah, the weather is perfect right now, and soon we'll have time to enjoy ourselves. Some of you will take a little vacation, others (like me :!) will work the whole summer! It doesn't matter, we'll always find a way to enjoy these gorgeous days and one of the best -for me- is a picnic.
A picnic is always exciting, especially if you find the right spot and you get the right food!
I like to have a little bit of everything in my basket: pasta, veggies, meat, panini, fruit and dessert. A little something to satisfy everybody! And also I want food which tastes good even if I don't have a fire available for cooking.
With this in mind, the following recipes are good warm, but even better eaten cold, the next day!!!

Gratin Vegetables

A sheet pan for roasting the veggies
-2 zucchini
-2 eggplants
-2 yellow bell peppers
-2 red onions
-2 potatoes
-10 cherry tomatoes
-salt, pepper, e.v.o.o., breadcrumbs,
-parchment paper

Preheat the oven at 350°
Cover the sheet pan with the parchment paper
Cut all the veggies in pieces not too big.
Put them on the pan t and mix them with some e.v.o.o., salt, pepper and a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs and then more e.v.o.o., salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.
(Remember, a little oil goes a long way)
Let the veggies roast in the oven on the middle rack for about 1/2 an hour.
Then sprinkle them with some more breadcrumbs and "just" a drizzle of e.v.o.o.
Put them back in the oven for another half hour. They are ready when they have a nice golden crust. .
Let them cool and pack them ready for your picnic ;)


Focaccia calda. Want some?

Irresistible, still warm and crunchy. Can you hear me bite it? ;)
Focaccia doesn't have to be too thick, doesn't have to be too gummy. That's why should be eaten few mins after is out of the oven. Calda e croccante!


(for 2 oven baking sheets)
-2 cups semola flour
-2 cups unbleached flour
-1 tbs dry active yeast
-2 tsp of sugar (divided)
-1 cup lukewarm water
-1/2 cup lukewarm milk
-3 tbs e.v.o.o. plus more for brushing
-3 tsp of sea salt
Put the yeast in a small bowl with 1 tsp of sugar and 3 tbs of warm water and let it activate for at least 10 minutes. It is ready when it is foamy and wet. Mix the 2 flours in an adequate bowl (or in a mixer with a dough hook), make a well in the flour and add the yeast, the milk and the water and start to knead just to blend the ingredients.
Then add the the e.v.o.o. the sugar and the the salt and knead for 5mins if you are using a mixer, or 10 minutes if you are kneading it by hand.
When you are finished, the dough should be wet but not sticky. If it's sticky put some flour on a board and knead it a little bit. Cover and allow to raise in a warm place for 1and ½ hours. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes, and let it rise again for 1/2 hr. Cover the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Cut the dough in two parts, and using your fingertips, nudge the dough into a rectangle. Let rise again for 10minutes. Make indentations all over the dough by pressing with your fingertips all the way through the dough. Brush with an emulsion of water and olive oil over the top, filling in the wells. Then you can sprinkle the surface with rosemary, or cherry tomatoes which are cut in half and oregano, or thinly sliced onion, or simply with a little sea salt. Let it rise for another 10mins. Preheat oven at 400°F. Bake until crisp on the bottom and golden brown on top, about 15mins for each pan (it will depend on the oven).
Let me know how you like it.


Lemon semifreddo with basil-strawberries sauce.

At last, I smell summertime in the air-- the rose bushes are blooming; short sleeve and flip-flops are back! My friend Martha's lemon tree is blooming and is loaded down, under the weight of soooooo many lemons. Well, the good new is that I have tons of lemons too ;)

I love lemons. I use lots of lemons in the kitchen, for everything! Last Sunday I used some for a beautiful semifreddo. I hope Martha and her family enjoyed it!

Semifreddo is one of those Italian words that doesn't have a translation in English: it's a nice, ethereal, frozen mousse. If you never tried one, well, I think you should start with the best and make this one. It sounds complicated, but it's easier and quicker than a "Tiramis├╣" and takes advantage of this wonderful season, and Italian cooking is all about being in tune with the seasons.

Lemons' semifreddo with meringue and basil-strawberries sauce.

For the basic custard:

-5 egg-yolks
-1/2 cup of sugar
-1/2 cup of warm milk
-1/4 cup of lemon juice
-zest of 2 lemons
-2 cups of heavy cream
-6 store bought vanilla meringues
Spray a metal loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Line the pan with enough plastic wrap to cover the top after the pan has been filled. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, add the milk first and then the lemon juice and cook for 3mins at medium-high level.
Let cool it down a bit and add the lemon zest. Whip the cream and gently -with a rubber spatula- fold the cream in with the egg custard. Crush the meringues on the bottom of the loaf pan and then spoon in the mixture. Cover with the plastic wrap and freeze overnight (or up to 4/5 weeks).
For the basil and strawberries sauce:
-2 cups of fresh diced strawberries
-1/2 cup of water
-1/2 cup of sugar
-4 or 5 basil leaves
In a pan, combine the water and the sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and add the basil leaves and let the syrup cool down. Add the strawberries and let sit overnight.
To serve:
Unfold the plastic wrap. Invert the semifreddo onto a cutting board; the crushed meringues will be on top. Remove the plastic wrap. Cut the semifreddo into slices (the thickness is up to you ;)). Place on individual serving plates and top each slice with the strawberry sauce and a fresh basil leaf.