Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies)

Pezzetti-di-Cannella

Confession: I gave up sugar for lent. And I’m craving cookies.

If you know me well, you know that cookies are my downfall. And Italians have SO many good cookie recipes. The options run through my mind all day and it’s got to stop. On top of the cravings, I get emails – lots of emails – about cookies, especially during the spring.

Cost_Southern Italian DessertsSpring often means bridal showers and that means home baking for the cookie tables. I would guess this is one of the most popular times for baking each year (second only to Christmas). Have you never been to an Italian bridal shower? You can check out pictures from my own and my sisters from this previous post, then you’ll understand the allure. To help you get ready for your baking (for whatever the reason) and save me from eating cookies myself, I’ve found an easy, traditional and flavourful recipe to add to your repertoire. From Rosetta Costantino’s book Southern Italian Desserts, Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) are the classic Nonna cookie. In fact, my husband’s eyes lit up when he grabbed a few off the tray the last time I made them, he hadn’t had them for years. Rosetta’s book is a recommended purchase for anyone who loves Italian desserts, I refer to it regularly! Enjoy the baking!

A foreword from Rosetta: My mother’s friend Yolanda Tateo shared her mother’s recipe for these cookies. Yolanda moved to the United States from Sava (Puglia) when she was in her twenties. This is one of the few recipes from home that she has kept over the years. These bite-sized cookies are perfect to have on hand for visitors or to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s worth splurging on good-quality cinnamon because it is the predominant flavouring. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; they can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container.

Pezzetti di Cannella
2 cups (264 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

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By |26/02/2015|Dolce, Recipes|3 Comments

Chicken Cacciatore

caccitore_1

We spent the summer putting away fresh vegetables and meat products into the freezer. We like knowing where our food comes from, how it is prepared and preserved. Our freezer is well stocked for the winter and even has an accompanying spreadsheet and map (it’s needed! As are labels on everything!). But all that work means making sure we use everything too.

That can be a little difficult months later when you want to branch out to new dishes instead of the same old. There is only so much rapini one person can eat, says my husband, who, last summer, thought it was a good idea to freeze a bushel of the greens. When I pulled out what I thought was a packet of pork last week, and it ended up being chicken, it was time to break out of the go-to recipes and think about something we hadn’t had in a while.

The answer: chicken cacciatore. I’m not a huge fan of green and red peppers, which is why we don’t have this dinner often, but after making it this time, I’m not sure why not. I stuck to the recipe that my family uses, and they used at their Italian restaurant they had when I was young. This is a basic cacciatore recipe, relying on the flavours of the tomatoes, peppers and chicken, rather than wine or capers as you may see in more modern recipes. Smothering rice or pasta, it’s perfect for a workplace lunch the next day too. Now to find a way to get my husband to eat more rapini…

Chicken Cacciatore
2 pounds, bone-in chicken pieces
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 pound button mushrooms
1 large onion
1 jar or can plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

caccitore_2

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By |12/02/2015|Recipes, Secondo|3 Comments

Pastina

Recipe for Pastina

There’s a draft coming in from the base of our sliding door. Maybe we need more insulation or a new door but for now, my feet, under the kitchen table, are getting stone cold. It’s funny how a little line of insulation, filling in the tiniest crack, can make all the difference to making you fill warm and comfy.

Protection from those icy winds of January, at least the ones we have here in Canada, can mean the simplest of things. A good warm blanket, a crackling fire. And to keep your belly and toes warm, a hot bowl of Nonna’s secret weapon: pastina.

My baby boy isn’t old enough yet to appreciate this recipe, but no doubt he will learn it soon enough. The subtle broth and simple pasta make a bowl of goodness that every Italian kid knows well from deep winter nights and those days spent home from school with a cold. Plain enough that every kid will eat it and hearty enough that even adults crave it years later, pastina is as basic as it comes and every Nonna knows it well.

This cold draft is starting to give me the sniffles, so it’s off to the stove to warm up some of this myself. Feeling chilly? Try out the recipe yourself…

Pastina
1 cup pasta, any tiny kind like stars, rice shapes, or the most typical: acini di pepe
4 cups chicken broth
1 cheese rind (optional)
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste

Recipe for Pastina

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By |29/01/2015|Primo, Recipes|3 Comments

Potato and Onion Frittata

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

If you follow this blog, particularly through the summer, you’ll know that I’m a huge supporter of local food and fresh food. From the garden and from the surrounding farms, we have tons of fresh vegetables to choose from when the weather is bright and sunny.

Well, it’s still sunny today but in the winter, these clear blue skies mean it’s achingly cold outside, the kind that hits you right down to the bone. And the view from my kitchen window is one of barren winter land. My backyard garden is a pile of snow. And in the kitchen, root vegetables and pantry items abound. Sigh. In the winter, I have to think long and hard about what to pull together to eat.

On a side note: I do not go in for those hothouse tomatoes in stores this time of year. They get soft on the outside but are strangely still hard on the inside and taste like water.

But a brand new cast iron pan I got in the post-Christmas sales (75% off folks!) is calling my name and may provide the solution this week. Seasoned up, it’s a good tool for making frittata. I’ve done a couple of other frittatas (spaghetti and asparagus) on the blog, but none in the oven so this is a bit new.  What’s on hand: potatoes and onions and one of my favourite cheeses: goat cheese. Put together and warm and hearty, it should make those winter blue skies look warm, at least from this kitchen window. Happy cooking everyone… (p.s: you don’t need a cast iron pan for this recipe, a oven-proof pan will do!)

Potato and Onion Frittata
12 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 medium yellow onions
2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
100g goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

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By |15/01/2015|Primo, Recipes|4 Comments

Panettone (or Pandoro) French Toast

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

One, two, three, six….ten…..just how many panettone or pandoro do you have in your house this season? My current count is four, but I imagine more are on their way, especially when they go on sale. I can’t resist the chocolate ones. Of course, buying more panettone, on top of the ones you receive, is just an excuse to make panettone French toast!

As much as a Christmas tree or turdilli are traditional, piling up panettone is also an Italian tradition. (At least I think so!) You might find these breads under two names: panettone or pandoro (like the one pictured in this recipe). What’s the difference? Where they are made, the shape and the history of each bread differs. Here’s an account of the differences, but for this recipe either will work. This sweet Italian bread, studded with raisins, dried orange or chocolate is a typical gift between friends and family during the holidays. Usually served with espresso after a meal or during friendly visits, the breads are so popular they can tend to pile up in the cupboard or catina. In fact, in areas of the city where many Italians live, whole aisles in some grocery stores are dedicated to variations of this treat.

So after you’ve eaten a few with your coffee, what are you do to? Get creative! Use it in bread pudding. Try an ice cream bombe (here’s the recipe I wrote for Aurora Importing). The quick and easy way is this: the day after Christmas, my family has panettone French toast, making this sweet bread a breakfast treat. Other than an excuse to essentially have cake for breakfast, the best part of panettone French toast is it is totally Italian-Canadian: Italian sweet bread served with Canadian maple syrup. Perfect! Here’s how to do it at your house:

Panettone French Toast
1 panettone, sliced into 8 -10 servings
4 large eggs
½ cup milk or cream
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Butter

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

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By |26/12/2014|Dolce, Recipes|0 Comments

Christmas dessert recipes roundup

What’s in your oven this week? After three years on this blog, I’ve been able to record a few of my family’s holiday recipes, particularly desserts. I’ve taken a moment to round up these recipes so you have them handy in the lead-up to Christmas, all in one post. From potato doughnuts to chocolate salame, it’s hard to pick one favourite. I’m going to try and bake few over the next days (if the little one will sleep!) – I hope you join me.

Click the photo, or the link below it, to get cooking or baking!

Italian Potato Doughnut Recipe

Recipe: Italian Potato Doughnuts (Colluri)

Torrone recipe

Recipe: Torrone

choco_salame_3

Recipe: Chocolate Salame

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By |22/12/2014|Recipes|4 Comments

Sautéed Rapini with Garlic

Rapini side dish recipe

It’s a little sad out in my garden. The tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and beans have spent their last energy. We’ve cleaned up the leaves and started prepping the yard for winter. As much as I mourn the loss of these fresh vegetables, fall brings later harvests of squash and the dark, green, leafy  branches of rapini. Rapini thrive in colder weather, popping up in very late fall or early spring. These greens are, of course, good for you and have an interesting bitter flavour that is favoured in Italy. But don’t be afraid of the bitterness – it can be mellowed with a little blanching. Even my English/German brother-in-law has come to appreciate the flavour, when at least mixed into dishes.

Rapini are also known as rapi or broccoli di rapa in Italy, but if you are watching food shows on TV, you’ll hear them being called broccoli rabe, which may just be bad pronunciation of the actual name. The buds, which look a little like broccoli (though they’re not related), leaves and stems are all  edible and feature often in Southern Italian cooking.

Served too crunchy and raw and you might find the bitterness overwhelming. Overcook them and they are mushy and stringy. But get this simple side dish recipe of sautéed rapini with garlic down pat and you can repurpose it for a variety of dishes. Chopped up smaller and fried up with potatoes, or tossed in to pasta or served over polenta, rapini are used in multiple ways.

Rapini side dish recipe

Sautéed Rapini with Garlic
1 bunch rapini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
pinch of dried hot pepper flakes, if desired
salt to taste

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By |03/10/2014|Contorno (sides and snacks), Recipes|3 Comments

Preserving Sicilian Zucchini

Preserving sicilian zucchini

The end of summer harvest is a great time to take a look at what you can preserve for winter so you can have fresh vegetables, without preservatives, year-round. This is one of the most common questions I get via email from readers: how to preserve certain vegetables and what they can be used for.  Most recently Sicilian zucchini have been gaining in popularity, particularly in urban backyards where many people from a variety of cultures, not just Italians, take on the challenge of growing the longest and largest zucchini. Check out this story from just this week from The Toronto Star – it features a 6-foot long zucchini!

These Sicilian zucchini, or cucuzza squash, need to dangle from fences or clothes lines to grow to their lengths, but the longer you grow them, the bigger the seeds get inside (and less flesh there is to eat!). They have a very light flavour, as opposed to the typical smaller, dark green zucchini you might buy at the store. The beauty of the Sicilian zucchini, other than they are always a conversation starter with neighbours and guests, is that even their leaves and shoots are edible. Check out this Tenerumi Pasta (Zucchini Shoot Pasta) recipe I posted last year. Today though, I’m featuring how to prep these monster zucchini for recipes and the freezer. Note, though, that you can use these techniques with other types of zucchini as well.

The biggest issue with dealing with these zucchini is finding a cutting board big enough! Below is our 3.5-foot zucchini getting prepped for preserving.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to chop up this giant into thirds to make it manageable. Try to keep the thinnest part, where there is the least amount of seeds, as one section. There’s two things to be aware of when dealing with these particular zucchini, as opposed to the regular zucchini you find in the store: they have a slightly “furry” skin that needs to be removed and though they are a pure white inside, once you cut them they sweat out a brown liquid. Be sure to use or process the zucchini as soon as you cut it.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

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By |12/09/2014|Conservare (preserving), Recipes|7 Comments

Sausage and Polenta

Recipe for sausage and polenta

I had to drag out a sweater last weekend, much to my dismay. It’s starting to get chilly in evenings and, I admit, it feels as though we’ve been cheated out of a usual scorching summer. As a result, I’m still waiting for my garden tomatoes to ripen to a full red. The chilly air also had me craving a good hearty meal. When Aurora Importing sent me over a new product: Allessia Polenta with truffles, I saw an opportunity!

Polenta, most commonly made as a boiled cornmeal, is versatile but can take a little while to cook from scratch. As much as I like slow cooking (and there will be more about that next week!), sometimes you just want a substantial dinner on the table, fast. The Allessia Polenta with truffles looked like the perfect option: all natural ingredients, no preservatives or artificial flavours/colours and made with non-GMO corn. We have a winner! The best thing: just add water, stir for 10 minutes, add a drizzle of olive oil and some cheese (if desired). Quick and easy and the exotic taste of truffles was a fancy addition to dinner.

You’ll notice this is a white polenta rather than the usual yellow type made with yellow maize. Ground from white maize from the foot of the Maiella mountain in Guardiagrele found in the Abruzzo region of Italy, this type is popular in northern Italy. The finer grain also makes a creamy, soft polenta, whereas a courser grind would make a firmer polenta great for shaping and frying. Either way, polenta is a filling and healthy addition to a meal. 

Recipe for sausage and polenta

 Sausage and Polenta
4 fresh pork sausages
1 whole white onion
1 jar or bottle of plum tomatoes
1/2 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese (or your favourite cheese)
salt to taste
olive oil
Allessia Polenta with truffles
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By |29/08/2014|Recipes, Secondo|1 Comment

Pitticelle di Riso

riso_2

The blog has been a little slow this summer because there are some big changes for me on the way which will be revealed here probably sooner rather than later. But just because the blog postings have been slow doesn’t mean all the ingredients for a great Italian summer have been missing too. In fact, I’ve been collecting up some recipes and stories to share with you and I’m glad to be back to blogging!

Today I’m featuring one of my favourite summer foods: pitticelle di riso. Pitticelle are like “fritters” (you’ll remember I’ve featured a few on the blog already like pitticelle cucuzze and pitticelle di pane). The ingredients for this fritter aren’t so “summery” really, but I’m used to having these crispy, fried treats at family outings, fishing trips, picnics and as snacks out in the backyard since they are good hot or cold. My mother’s parents would always make these for our annual family picnics where they were treasured by everyone: a huge batch was gobbled up in no time once the Tupperware container was opened. Slow frying, making sure the rice grains stay individual and fresh ingredients are the secrets to this recipe.

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I’m sorry to say, but not surprised, that I don’t have a recipe for small batch of these pitticelle. This recipe will make at least three dozen depending on the size you make. They are meant to be shared and, if you have leftovers, they are great crisped up in a toaster oven the next day too. Halving the recipe should work just fine, it’s the consistency of the batter for frying (not too loose!) that you need to watch out for.

Pitticelle di Riso
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon granulated garlic or finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, to taste
canola or vegetable oil for frying

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By |11/08/2014|Contorno (sides and snacks), Recipes|1 Comment