Capricious Coleslaw 

Before summer ends, I want to share the last part of my fried scallop meal, the coleslaw! I know that it is not the most Italian of foods, but it does fit into the bella vita lifestyle of my blog. And, in fact, there is an antipasto in Italy called insalata capriccioso or whimsical salad that’s a little like our coleslaw! It is often made with a mayonnaise, mustard,  and vinegar sauce and can have any number of ingredients with raw vegetables as a base.  It is served as a course before the pasta or antipasto.

I love the name. It can mean fickle or whimsical and I think denotes that you can add whatever you want. The base is usually with celery root, red peppers, and a mayonnaise sauce but it is made with all sorts of things: ham, peas, carrots, or whatever vegetables you happen to have in the fridge.

My coleslaw comes from a recipe in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. Like Marco’s mother sending him with the Suor Germana cookbook, my mother sent me off in life with the 1988 edition of this American staple. I still refer to it for many things and often start with the recipes as a base and modify them as desired. For the coleslaw, I use Betty Crocker’s but then I tweak it a bit. I make sure and use the Vidalia onion because I like the sweetness of this type. I leave out the refined sugar while adding some carrots to give it a natural sweetness. Finally, I sprinkle with dill and depending on my mood, some paprika.

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup dairy sour cream
  2. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  3. 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  6. 1/2 medium head cave, finely shredded or chopped
  7. 2 large carrots
  8. 1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
  9. dried dill weed

Process:

  • mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl
  • toss in the last 3 ingredients and mix well
  • sprinkle with dill and/or paprika

Buon appetito!

Orecchiette con gamberetti 

Now that you see how easy it is to make your own homemade orecchiette, here is one recipe for a seafood sauce to make with your pasta. We got the inspiration for this recipe from Suor Germana (remember, that’s the cookbook that Marco’s mother sent along when he left Italy for the U.S.! Click here to read about that). The main change we made is to remove the butter and heavy cream to make it healthier, but still tasty.



Ingredients:

  1. 70-80 grams of pasta per person
  2. 4 large shrimp per person
  3. 1-2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  4. 1/4 cup dry white wine (for two)
  5. 2 Tablesoons EVOO
  6. salt, pepper, nutmeg QB (Quanto Basta – to taste)
  7. Parsley

Process:

  • boil the pasta water and remember to salt the water generously
  • in a pan, heat the olive oil and add sliced garlic
  • when slightly browned, add the shrimp and sauté for a couple of minutes
  • add the wine and simmer till the wine reduces
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg, and parsley
  • reduce or shut off heat until the pasta is ready
  • pasta should be ready in about 8 minutes (al dente)
  • add the pasta and about 1/4 cup starchy water from the pasta and mix vigorously
  • plate and enjoy!

Buon appetito!

Le orecchiette 

When we were in Puglia this summer, we made sure to sample the local pasta from this region. Orecchiette or “little ears” originated from Puglia! The pasta contains only three ingredients, semolina, salt, and warm water. In searching for recipes for this pasta we found many that also added egg and sometimes white flour. But, the original from Puglia is just the semolina! Semolina is the coarse part of durum wheat called the middling and has a good amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

This is a versatile shape of pasta as the rounded surfaces capture the sauces well. The pugliesi prepare orecchiette with vegetable sauces, seafood dishes, and I especially enjoyed my orecchiette with salsiccia and pomodorini (sausage and little tomatoes)!! Next week I’ll share a recipe for orecchiette and shrimp.

In parts of Puglia the older women sit in small alley-ways chatting and clicking away on wooden work surfaces, churning out orecchiette at speeds to rival a machine. They learn at the young age of 6 and grow up making the ear-shaped pasta so that it becomes second nature for them. If you’d like to watch the ladies of Puglia click here.

Marco is usually the one that makes our home-made pasta, but we dreamed up a new goal to make pasta together at Sunday lunch time. So, we initiated our project with the orecchiette last Sunday. I was smart to start with this one! It was so easy. Simply 2 parts semolina and 1 part warm tap water (we made a small amount of 100 grams semolina, 50 grams of water, and about a gram of salt for two persons). Then, you knead for 10 minutes, stretching and folding, till it is firm and elastic. Set the pasta aside for 30 minutes wrapped in plastic wrap. Then, we rolled out in 1/2 inch diameter tubes. We sliced into 3/4 inch pieces, flattened with a serrated knife and formed the ears on our thumbs!

For another video that illustrates the making of the pasta click here. She shows the dough preparation, the kneading, the rolling or the pasta, and the shaping of 10 different types. She is speaking Italian, but even if you don’t understand, you will get a good idea by watching her technique. The first one that she shapes is the orecchiette. She then goes on to illustrate 9 other shapes using the same semolina pasta dough!

Ingredients:

  1. 200 grams semolina
  2. 100 grams warm water
  3. 3 grams sea salt

Process:

  • pour the semolina into a pile on your work surface
  • create a small hole
  • add the salt
  • with a fork, slowly add the water to the hole, stirring gently
  • then, mix together, using your hands to knead, flatten, stretch, and fold for about 10 minutes till you have a ball
  • wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes
  • now, you are ready to form the shape by rolling into tubes, cutting in to 1/2 inch slices, and using a serrated knife to flatten and shape into ears on your thumb
  • when ready to cook, place the pasta in boiling salted water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes

Buon appetito!

Cooking with nonna

Matteo is still in Italy, staying with his nonni in the Alps, in a sleepy village in the valley of mount Maniva. He forages in the forest for porcini mushrooms and phones us faithfully twice a day while sipping his espresso or aperitivo. He takes daily walks through the small windy mountain roads. He is enjoying the daily rhythms of lazy summer days with his Italian grandparents.

Here he is proudly displaying his porcini:

Marco and I worry a bit that this is all too boring for a 14-year-old. We joke with Matteo that his vacation takes place in a retirement home, dealing with the daily aches and pains of aging. But, when we speak with him on FaceTime, he seems content. He focusses on his writing (a 250 page story that he began during the school year), he sketches airplanes (his favorite subject matter), he reads and re-reads the novels that he brought from his 9th grade summer reading list, keeps up with his exercises, takes daily walks, and enjoys the meal time conversations with his nonni about daily life and memories from their 70 plus years of living.

We urge Matteo to learn some new cooking skills from Adelina. So, he now knows how to cook pasta properly from the generous salting of the water to the importance of al dente texture. He prepares an Italian version of an omelette. And, best of all, he is able to make spaghetti alla carbonara!

Here is another one of the pasta dishes that Adelina makes. It has a few simple ingredients, it is made in about 15 minutes, and it is tasty and healthy at the same time!

Ingredients: (for 4 people)

  1. 10 ounces of penne pasta
  2. 12 large shrimp, cut into half-inch pieces
  3. 2 Tablespoons of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  4. 2 small zucchini, cut julienne style
  5. one shallot, diced
  6. pinch of red pepper flakes
  7. salt to taste

Process:

  • boil the pasta water, generously salt the water with coarse sea salt, and add the pasta
  • in a sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium high and add the shallots and zucchini, cooking until tender (about 5 minutes)
  • add the shrimp and red pepper flakes and cook for about 2 minutes
  • salt to taste
  • reduce heat and simmer gently
  • when the pasta is al dente, add to the pan along with about a 1/4 cup of the starchy, salty water and mix well for 1 more minute
  • serve on warmed plates

Buon appetito!