Zucchini and Jamon Iberico Risotto with Manchego Cheese

Risotto

 

I love risotto.  I love the variety of ingredients you can add  to the humble rice, and make it a truly gourmet meal.  Plain, with just saffron, or loaded with veggies, it really is a crowd pleaser.  I love also that you have to dedicate your time to risotto, it makes me feel like I am making something with a lot of love and patience.  Mind you, it isn’t the longest dish to prepare, but it is constant.

I remember I didn’t particularly like risotto when I first tried it.  I thought it wasn’t cooked properly.  But, of course, I later realized that like pasta in Italy, the rice has to be al dente too.  Risotto is also a tricky dish, in so that you really have to practice a few times to get it to be perfect.  My first attempts were complete disasters.  One turned out to be a sticky mess, that you could plaster walls with, the next one, watery and runny.  Only with practice and the guide of my fantastic Zio Gianni did I learn how to really cook food, with mastery and patience.  Now, I can basically make it with my eyes closed, since it was a dish that I prepared daily at my restaurant.  I can tell by sight when I am going to add the last spoonful of stock, and if you pay attention, and practice, you will too.

photo125

I decided to use some Spanish ingredients, to mix it up a bit.  I love that risotto is a blank canvas, where you as the artist can create your own masterpiece.

So, if you fancy trying this version of mine, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 2

1 tbsp Olive oil

2 tbsp Butter

1/2 Onion, finely minced

1 glass Dry White Wine

120 g Carnaroli rice

6 cups Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Jamon Iberico or Prosciutto, julienned, plus a tsp for garnish

1/4 Zucchini, julienned

1 cup Manchego Cheese, grated

1 tsp Chives, minced, for garnish

In a stock pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer.  Keep hot.  In a large and deep sauté pan, add the tbsp of olive oil and tbsp of butter, over low heat.  When melted, add the onion and sauté, until very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, and add the rice, and salt; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice starts to become translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Add the white wine, and let it evaporate.  Add enough stock to fully cover the rice, about 3 ladles full.  Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly.  (Until you get the hang of it, and so it won’t over cook, taste the rice after each addition until it is almost fully cooked, but has just a little bit of bite. )  When the stock has evaporated, but there is just a little bit of film on top, add another ladle full of stock, trying the rice, and continue stirring.  This should take between 10-12 minutes approx.  On your last ladle full of stock, add the zucchini and ham.  Cook, stirring until the stock is almost completely evaporated, but still creamy.  Turn off heat, and add the remaining tbsp of butter and the cheese, and mix.  Cover and let it sit for about 2-3 minutes.  This part is called mantecare.  Mix well again, add the pepper and more salt if needed, and serve with the ham and chives to garnish.  Buon Appetitto!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Parmesan Zucchini Loaf

WARNING!!!!  THIS BREAD IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.  I hadn’t made this bread in years.  It’s a really old recipe a friend of my mother’s passed on to me, I remember way way way before I even thought of going to culinary school, I had tried this one Thanksgiving, and I became wholly enamoured with it.  So I picked up my very old and tattered recipe book and decided to make it again, to see if it still stood the test of time, you know, how sometimes you try something when you’re young and then you try it again and you think to yourself, what is the big deal?  Well, I made it the other day, because of my surplus of Zucchini’s, and it’s gone, daddy gone.

It’s such a simple recipe, fool-proof even.  Just the smell emanating from the oven will start to make your tummy rumble, my daughter even asked me if I was making pizza.  Then, you have to wait 10 torturous minutes before you cut into it……the agony!  But once you have one slice, you want another, and another and another.  This is a quick bread, and a very eggy loaf.  But the combination of the parmesan and the zucchini….wow.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

2 small zucchini or 1 large, cubed

1 cup Bisquick or 1 cup regular flour + 2 tsp baking powder

5 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic salt

In a large bowl mix the bisquick, eggs and oil.  Add the parmesan, zucchini and garlic salt.  Coat a bread tin with butter, and add the dough.  Bake in a 190 C oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and it’s golden on top.  Check it mid-way through the baking process though, remember my oven sucks.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Zucchini, Onion and Goat Cheese Frittata

FritattaBack home.  And my kitchen is empty.  Having a friend over for lunch.  Eeeeeeek!  What to do?  Well, for me, a Frittata is probably one of the easiest, sexiest and filling things to make in a pinch.

Frittata is the Italian version of Tortilla.  Yet, the preparation is slightly different, and hell of a lot easier!  It’s basically cook it in the pan, then finish it in the oven.  It’s a cinch.  You get your proteins, your veg, your healthy fats and it’s so versatile.  Don’t like zucchini?  Use eggplant.  Don’t have eggplant?  Well, throw in some mushrooms.  You get the gist.  I love using cheese with eggs, so I just ran downstairs to my local grocer and picked up some goat cheese.  Yummy, light, pairs perfectly with almost anything.  Also, if you feel like just having the Frittata isn’t enough, well make a nice side salad with a Dijon vinaigrette….and it is perfect.

So what are you waiting for?

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

8 eggs, beaten

1 small onion, sliced thinly

1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Goat Cheese, use as much or as little as you like

Pre-heat oven to 200 C.  In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook the onions and zucchini until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often so they won’t burn or stick.  Add your salt.

Add the eggs, and swirl pan to coat.  With a wooden spoon, mix the eggs as if you’re scrambling, to cook the bottom a bit, like I explained in my Tortilla post.   Lower heat, and let cook for about 6-7 minutes.  Add the goat cheese and pepper on the top,then pop it in the oven so the top will set, about 7 more minutes.

Plate, serve and enjoy!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Seared Scallops with Cilantro Chutney

Scallops and Cilantro Chutney

The first weekend we were in Florida, we drove up to Sanibel Island to visit my aunt and uncle who live in Ft. Myers.  They have a wonderful friend who rented out her beautiful house to us for 4 incredible days.  It was absolute heaven.  Sanibel is a small island off the coast of Florida, and it’s main draws are shelling on its pristine beaches, biking, swimming……RELAXING.

Shelling beach, Sanibel Island

Check out the amount of shells!

It was wonderful.  We spent most of our days doing Dolce far Niente, which in Italian means the sweet art of doing nothing.  The house was perfect, 4 bedrooms, large living room, but the best part was the large screened in patio, where we ate ALL of our meals.  Everyday we came up with delicious food that we all enjoyed making together, family style.  It was pure heaven I assure you.

One of those days, my mother made a specific request that she wanted lobster tails.  But the ones that we were able to purchase were quite small, so we got the lobster, but I also decided on Scallops, which is something I hardly ever get to make in Spain.  And the best part was being able to prepare it with the wonderful ingredients that are native to South Florida, and some little cheats that my family had brought over, such as this amazing cilantro chutney.

This dish has an overall ease that is hard to beat.  Scallops cook quite quickly and are delicious on their own.  With the addition of the cilantro chutney, well it was just sublime!  I placed it over some julienned zucchini, just because we had that on hand, and over a bed of spinach, so we could get some heart healthy vitamins in!

Made in a flash, and eaten almost faster, it’s a dish you will love, I promise!

Seared Scallops with Cilantro Chutney

Serves 5

1 lb medium scallops

1 lime, juiced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp butter

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 small container of store-bought cilantro chutney

1 zucchini, julienned

1 garlic clove, minced

1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves, washed and stemmed

On a small plate, place the spinach leaves and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and decorate the plate with a few drops of the cilantro chutney if you want.  If you don’t, just plop it on top of the spinach and you’re good to go!

In a small frying pan, add a teeny drizzle of olive oil, and heat to high.  Add the julienned zucchini, garlic and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Keep warm.

In a large frying pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and tsp of butter.  Heat on high until smoking.  When you make scallops, the pan has to be extremely hot, if not they won’t sear and they’ll let out this gummy liquid that isn’t pleasant.  When the pan is super hot, add your scallops, and sauté on one side for about 1 minute, then turn to sear on the other side, one more minute.  Add the lime juice, salt and pepper, and sauté another minute or so.

On your plate, place a small bit of the warm zucchini, and top with 4 or 5 of the scallops.  Drizzle a little of the cilantro chutney.

Your taste buds will thank you!

From my (Sanibel) kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tagliatelle pasta with Pancetta Romana, Zucchini and Pistachios

Obviously I got back from Italy yesterday…..and I felt like a kid at Christmas who can’t wait to unwrap their presents.  I did.  I ate some of the salami, the appenzeller cheese…..and last night absolutely had to try the pancetta.  I was *this* close to not buying it, but the vendor absolutely insisted I had to try it.  Ok, no he didn’t, he just said, do you want some pancetta too? (I was buying guanciale) And I was like….Yes please!

Actually, the dish came up as follows.  I arrive home, having left the fridge fully stocked for my boyfriend and my daughter, full of healthy veggies, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and some cake too.  When I opened up the fridge, the cheese and cake were almost finished.  The veggies untouched.  So, I thought, I need to make something with this zucchini.  So, I decided, tagliatelle, zucchini and pancetta.  Went to the store to get some fizzy water, and passed by the pistachios, and remembered how in Sicily, we used to eat the Pistachio pesto with pancetta.  Voila!  A star is born.  I think this is my new favorite pasta dish.  And I am urging my friend Miki and her boyfriend R to try this.  Because I think they will be as excited about this dish as I was last night.  I actually want some more today.  But although I tend to be obsessive about things, the rest of my household isn’t like that.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Tagliatelle

1 zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons

250 g pancetta, cut into thick match sticks

3 tbsp olive oil, more if the pasta is too dry

100 g pistachios, shelled and crushed.

Pepper to taste.

Parmesan cheese

Boil your water for the pasta.  In the meantime, in a large skillet fry up your bacon over medium heat with the olive oil.  When it is starting to brown, add the zucchini ribbons.  Saute for another 5 minutes, until softened but not mushy.  Add the pistachios and the rest of the olive oil.  Turn off heat.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it quickly with your pancetta mix, serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And you’re done!  So easy, so good.  You’ll want more I bet.  I did.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla