Butternut squash risotto

The recipe for this dish is from Italy Magazine and is found by clicking here. We used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. Risotto is a nice cold weather meal to warm the house and the insides. Traditionally it is a first course, but we serve it as a main along with a vegetable and we have a balanced meal.

Buon appetito!

Little stuffed crepes “al forno” or. . . Crespelle

Another Christmas tradition at the Belluardo house is a mid-day meal that includes crespelle as the first course. Crespelle is a “pasta al forno” that uses small crepe-like pancakes instead of manicotti-like pasta. It involves quite a bit of prep work, including making the crespelle, roasting the asparagus, preparing the filling, making the béchamel and putting all the pieces together before baking.

In Italy, any pasta baked in the oven is “pasta al forno” with, perhaps, the most popular one being lasagne. Using the small crepes, the result is a much lighter dish. The flavors of this one is mild with a little tomato, the light ricotta cheese, and the sweet unique flavor of the roasted asparagus. The other nice touch is the nutty spice taste of the nutmeg, sprinkled throughout the different parts: the stuffing, the béchamel, and the crespelle themselves.

Ingredients Crespelle:

  • 3 eggs
  • 250 g flour (00)
  • 500 ml milk
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt
  • nutmeg

Ingredients Filling:

  • 500 g ricotta
  • a bunch of asparagus
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  • salt
  • nutmeg

Process:

  1. whisk the batter well (no lumps) and rest for one hour
  2. make the crespelle in small sauté pan or small crêpe pan on medium heat
  3. make 2 cups of Mario Batalli’s bechamel sauce and set aside
  4. roast the asparagus for 8 minutes on 500° (cooking the tips for only 3 of those minutes)
  5. mix the filling ingredients together
  6. put a little tomato sauce on the bottom of pan
  7. fill and roll the crespelle
  8. put the crespelle in rows (we did one level)
  9. spoon some bechamel over the top
  10. sprinkle parmesan
  11. Put the asparagus tips on top (we roasted the asparagus for 8 minutes, but cooked tips only 3 of those minutes)
  12. bake for 25 minutes on 375°

Buon appetito!

Black pasta

Recently, I posted about Marco expanding my horizons with new and unusual foods and referred to his stuffed-in-a-bottle octopus appetizer for Christmas eve. Well, it was really tasty! He boiled it with some carrots, onions, black peppercorns and celery along with some juniper berries. Then, he stuffed it in a sawed off plastic bottle to give it a uniform shape as it rested in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, he sliced it very thinly and added a simple lemon-garlic-salt-olive oil and parsley citronette  and it was a yummy carpaccio di polipo. The recipe and video is here and is located in one of our favorite Italian recipe sites.

Another unique item that many Americans might find odd and unappetizing is squid ink pasta. We had some for our second course of fish on Christmas eve. Marco made it in the past from scratch with some squid ink that we bought from a local restaurant. This time, however, we bought it from Jean-Louis pasta shop here in Salem. He makes an assortment of fresh pastas and his squid ink tagliatelle are our favorites (click here for his Facebook presence).

The squid ink gives the pasta a mild seafood flavor that is nice paired with any seafood-based sauce. Marco makes this one pictured here. You can feel free to play around with your own version. He prepares squid, scallops, and shrimp to sauté with olive oil, garlic, white wine and bourbon. It’s a flavorful sauce that invites the seafood to shine!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • EVOO to coat the pan
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 4 squid tubes
  • 6 shrimp
  • 6 scallops
  • 3/4 cup of wine
  • 1/4 cup of bourbon
  • parsley

Process:

  1. sauté the garlic in the olive oil till lightly browned
  2. add the seafood and sauté 2 minutes
  3. add the wine
  4. add the bourbon and light on fire or, if not adventurous, simmer till the alcohol burns off
  5. add some parsley
  6. add pasta enough to serve 4 and mix well

Buon appetito!

“If you do what you did, you get what you got”

This anonymous quote, often heard at AA meetings, is a great way to start the New Year! I am reminded of it as I read a book gifted to Marco and me by a fellow yogi, “Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga” by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. In the reflection, Rolf reminds us that change in our lives is both a renunciation of the things that harm us and a daily practice of yoga that keeps us on the path to health and wholeness.

I work with clients facing addiction to alcohol, drugs, food and gambling. It is the same challenging path regardless of the object of the addiction, a giving up of the item of desire. The challenge in the therapy is to bring awareness to the outcomes of overeating, over drinking, over drugging or over gambling. We spend time listing out all the consequences of relapsing. We also look at the outcomes of abstaining. 

I invite my clients to reflect on their lists the next time that the craving comes up, even if it is for only a few moments. This involves a noticing of the craving and a mindful pause to think about the outcomes of the bad habit. Just this act brings awareness to the habitual process that forms over time. The neuroscience confirms this reality as well; the habit-forming part of the brain is interrupted so that the self-regulation part of the brain can become stronger. The more we do this the more we are actually re-wiring our brain.

The next step, after pausing to notice the outcomes of the habit, is to do something different. These actions are called coping skills. It means doing something with the time other than the bad habit. This is where the practice of yoga or similar mindful disciplines are very helpful. The beauty in this is that the devotion to a practice allows time for the craving to pass. The cravings are like the waves of the ocean, flowing and ebbing.

The path of recovery from addiction and bad habits is not simple. The steps outlined above are just one part of the process and every journey is unique. Mind-fully attending to the steps above results in a deeper connection with oneself and the strength and discipline to move forward.

On another New Year’s note, here’s a change on a much more mundane level! The recipe pictured here is one simple way that I gained new appreciation for food. Marco opened my mind to new possibilities for my palette. This recipe has two things in it that I never imagined eating in a pasta, yet, works when mixed together: anchovies and canned light tuna. The recipe is an interesting combination of items, all of which we usually have on hand, and so makes for a last-minute meal that tastes like a well-planned Italian plate of pasta.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 10 ounces of pasta (mezzi rigatoni pictured here)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 can light tuna packed in olive oil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (we use our canned tomatoes)

Process:

  1. sauté the garlic slices and anchovies in heated olive oil on medium till the garlic is lightly browned
  2. add the tuna, capers, and red pepper flakes and sauté for a couple of minutes
  3. add the tomatoes and simmer for several minutes
  4. cook the pasta al dente in salted water, drain, and add to the sauce

Buon appetito!