Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Porcini follow up

No Fabrizio wouldn't relent on the publishing of his calender photo, although I think he secretly wants me to do so, but alas, I will leave it to your imagination. Here however are a couple of photos of what I did make the night of the giant mushroom find. When ever we are having guests for dinner I don't always get to making a formal photo of everything, or am in such a hurry to not hold everyone up, that I don't always get a good shot.

Porcini Fritti
Probably the most preferred way f eating large Porcini in this part of the world is plain old lightly bread crumb coated porcini steaks and pan fried in olive oil and served immediately.
That's what we did with these but we gobbled them down so quick that there wasn't a trace of them except for the ones we put in the freezer.


Then we took some ore of this big boy and sauteed him up to make for a filling for our chicken thighs that we had partially deboned , leaving the bone in as kid of a swan's neck. We stuffed our mushrooms in with some fresh herbs, like oregano, parsley, sage and rosemary. Trussed them up , browned them off, before baking them off. We serve them on some fresh green beans, a drizzle of pan juices, and balsamic vinegar reduction to finish off the plate.


It didn't take long to finish it all off. Last night I made some more mushroom treats with some mushrooms found by Fabrizio's mother and made a simple saute of the mushrooms with shallots, fresh porcini and regular to have a bigger impact of mushrooms for the four of us. Sauteed them all up with olive oil and a bit of butter and white wine, before tossing with my home made tajarin pasta and a sprinkle of fresh parsley and fresh grated parmigiana . It disappeared quickly and of course without a trace.
Coming soon, my interview with our summer intern, Rachel, from Colorado, working as a stage/apprentice, just down the road a piece from us. Maybe I can get her to share some of her secrets she's learning over at Maison Verte.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer at last, with Porcini Pinup!


At last summer has arrived after waiting for the ark to turn up any day in the last month.
Unfortunately for some of our guests they didn't get to see much of the sky line from our perch in the alps, but they did get to see a wall of green with a gray moody backdrop.
Now we're on to full on summer and I for one, am glad that it's here.

I couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures of the huge beeches we have around here while strolling around in the neighborhood a couple of days ago.

Giant beech.jpg

a walk in the neighborhood_9_2.JPG


But the best part was Fabrizio's prize find of the day.

Porcini for all!
He won't let me publish the great shot of him with the porcini in a "Calender Girl" type pose, but I keep threatening to just post it on flickr.
We shall see if he relents. He always says he wants to be famous and I say, here's your way to infamous!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tagliatelle d'Ortica con Cozze


Update on our little vagabond puppy. His shepherd owner from up at the top of our mountain came to claim our little friend on Sunday, much to the chagrin of the inhabitants of #1 Serre Marchetto. The little fellow was only here a few days but stole everyone's heart and now he's back up the mountain, learning to herd the cows that in the summer inhabit the meadow near the top of Cucetto peak. Maybe we'll see him again when he's ready for another Bella Baita Retreat.
And now a pasta for humans and not out of a package of "YUM" either.
Shopping at the market the other day for something for our Mercato, Mare, Monte Class our favorite fishmonger,
Fabio, was pushing the Ligurian mussels as the great deal of the day, and they were. We are inland from the seaside, but it is only about 3 hours away from the Ligurian seaside, and we do get some amazingly fresh fish on a regular basis. Fabio and his family sell some of the freshest and diverse fish at the Pinerolo market. It's always worth a good nosy around.

photo courtesy of Jason Bleyl
This recipe couldn't be easier if you have some fresh pasta on hand it's even faster, but, of course, dried pasta can be substituted. I like to make a large batch of pasta when I mix some up and put part away in the freezer for another day and a fast fresh pasta selection. I made this batch with the addition of the dreaded stinging nettle, of hiking in shorts fame, or ortica in Italian. Cooked greens and other types of colorful additions to pasta doesn't really add much in the way of flavor, but does make for an eye appealing change of pace.

For the pasta
I used about 1/3 of this batch and froze the rest.

400 g flour
4 eggs, large
a couple of large handfuls of stinging nettle leaves
Preparation:
Wear gloves when gathering nettles
Use leaves from stalks before they have flowered and not too old and tough for a less strong flavor
Strip leaves from the stalks and lightly boil in a small amount of water with a pinch of salt.
Drain, cool and squeeze dry.
Chop fine or blend in the food processor with one of the eggs before adding to the flour.

Make a well in the flour add the eggs and dry greens.
Begin incorporating the eggs a little at a time to make a smooth pliable paste.
Add more liquid, like a table spoon or twoo of olive oil if the pasta seems too dry or a bit more flour if too wet.
The dough should be firm and pliable.
Cover and let the dough relax for about 20 minutes for ease of rolling out.
Roll thin and cut into long strips and cook just a few minutes to retain a bit of a bite.
Time to be done at the same time as the sauce, serving individual plates or mixed in with the mussels moments before serving

For the Sauce:
In a large sauté pan with deep sides
Add
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced or some chopped leaves if you don't have any celery on hand
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bay leaf
a bunch of fresh herbs tied up: thyme, oregano, parsley and a large sage leaf (these are what looked good in my pots of herbs on my balcony)
a sprinkle of fennel seeds
Begin to sauté all in
2 Tb of olive oil, to soften the vegetables
Before adding
8 or so large cherry tomatoes (we have some lovely large small tomatoes called pachino that are wonderful for salad or sauce)
When all is bubbling away,
Add
500g (about a pound ) of fresh mussels, washed and cleaned (remove the "beard" by pulling the threads toward the the hinge, not the opening)
Stir and add
generous splash of white wine
Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes or when all mussels have opened and the vegetables are soft.
Add cooked pasta and mix or place a portion of past on individual plates and serve the mussels with some vegetable and sauce on to individual plates to serve.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pasta Precotta?

What would you guess this is?


If you guessed, a boring bowl of whole grain pasta,
you would be right,
but not exactly.

That would be Puppy YUM
In the land of "all things pasta",
Italians feed their dogs and cats,
that's right,
pasta.
Precooked, whole grain, with out preservatives pasta.
Just add hot water, wait 10 minutes, and stir in any thing else you might have sitting around that begs to be added for the darling little pooch.
Our little stray herding puppy that appeared on our doorstep this past week likes it just plain and simple. Where as, "Fido", another canine, who appeared last November and has been adopted by my in laws, likes his with parmesan and a touch of olive oil.
I imagine both are happy to be having anything to eat,
but it does seem that the doggy pasta is a hot seller here.

Voila,
you have a happy camper along with the rest of us
that just say "yum" to pasta too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tomini Platter


Well now for something besides rain and the weather, although it hasn't completely let up yet, e are at least getting some sunshine sprinkled in with the showers.
This was a platter of local Tomini cheese that our neighbor down the road from us in Grandubbione has been making for at least the past 30 years when her family "retired" to the end of our road with their son and his wife to raise a few cows and goats for cheese with a few chickens and a menagerie of exotic birds and the usual hanger-ons, like the barn cats and herding dogs. Nina makes the best Tomini around. It's a light ricotta type cheese of which she makes two varieties, one, all cows milk and the other a mix of goat and cow's milk. Fresh out of the form, it's silken texture melts in your mouth leaving the most delicate flavor. Sliced into thick rounds, dressed with a generous amount of flavorful oil, fresh herbs, like dill or basil, you'll have the locals favorite. My personal favorite is paired with our anchovy stuffed peperoncini for a nice biting contrast to it's silky smooth mouthfeel.
Or just sliced with the flavorful oil, herbs and pansies on top makes for a delightful offering.
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