Torta di riso – Rice pudding cake with strawberry, ginger and meringue.

The recipe I post today is an elaboration of a traditional Italian cake: rice pudding cake. It was born out of necessity and curiosity. See in my pantry I have tons or rice and soon I am moving, so I am trying to think of ways in which I can use said rice so that I don’t have to throw it out.

At the same time I happened to have some leftover strawberry milk that a friend had brought for a brunch at my place. Now, I don’t know about you, but without kids I have not much use for half a gallon of strawberry milk. We drank about half of it, but the expiring date was quickly approaching. So I started to think of rice pudding.

Rice cake with strawberry, ginger and meringue. Can't wait to try it!

And from there to rice pudding cake the leap was short.

For this kind of cake, the best rice to use is round grain rice, however I have an excess of basmati rice, so that is what I used. It worked well, but if you have round use round. As you will see I added no sugar to either the milk or the “dough”, for my taste strawberry milk and meringue have more than enough sweetness, but if you believe in sugar, go ahead and add more!

Oh and in case you are wondering, the traditional version of this cake uses regular milk and adds pine nuts and raisins soaked in rum (or other liquor) as flavoring.

Rice pudding cake with strawberry, ginger and meringue.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb rice
  • 1 quart strawberry milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 lime
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1 loosely packed cup meringue (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook the rice in the boiling strawberry milk until it is overcooked. Drain the rice and let cool down.
  2. Add the eggs, the grated ginger, the zest and the juice of the lime, and the crumbled meringue and mix well.
  3. Pour in a well greased cake pan and cook at 350F for 1 hour or until the cake is well set.
  4. Serve decorating it with strawberry.

3.1

Pollo alla senape – Roasted chicken with mustard – and a bonus recipe

Today I am sharing a simple recipe for roasted chicken and an even simpler bonus recipe. Both will take your chicken to the next level!

Lately when I buy chicken I try to buy whole chickens. I find that chicken is usually cheaper than buying it in pieces, it is much more tasty when cooked on the bone, you get pieces you don’t normally get in packs, and you have better control on the bird size (which means you know if that breast is going to be dry or not).

Sometimes I break the chicken apart and sometimes I cook it all, and some other time I partially break it apart removing only the tights and leaving the rib cage and the wings on the bone. For this bird I took off the tights (I do that so that the bird cooks faster and the portions are more couple friendly) and I dressed it with a mustard and yogurt sauce before baking it in the oven.

And then I used some of the same whole chicken for a bonus recipe

When you have a whole chicken it comes with all the gizzards and giblets. What should you do with it? As it turns out, I am a fan of offal and if I lived with other offal fans I would probably make liver pate’, however BF is not on the same page. So what should I do? A great solution is to use the offal to make a meat sauce and use it to dress pasta.

Despite not liking offal, BF went for seconds. I call that a seal of approval.

Pollo alla senape – Roasted chicken with mustard

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken tights removed
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • salt

Directions

  1. Mix the mustard, yogurt and salt.
  2. Rub the mustard mixture all over the chicken between the skin and the meat.
  3. Place the chicken in an oven dish with a rack and cook in a 400F oven for about 1 hour (or until juices run clear).
  4. Serve hot.

3.1

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. short pasta (rotini or maccheroni)
  • offal of 1 chicken
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, dice the chicken offal. You will usually have a combination of liver, heart, kidney and lungs.
  3. Brown the butter and add in the diced offal. Deglaze with the Marsala and let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the grated pecorino and take off the heat.
  4. Use the offal sauce to dress the cooked pasta.
  5. Serve hot.

Tuscan Soup Recipe, Olive Garden inspired

Another recipe based on the Olive Garden soup. This was created by Toni for her friend Logan, thus the name. I have not tried it, if you do, let me know how it turns out.

Or try the original Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 mild Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 slices of bacon, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 2 tbls.)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium canned)
  • 8 cups unpeeled potatoes, cut in approx. 3/4″ dice
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1/2 cup kale, coarsely chopped and packed, or 1 cup loose
  1. Remove sausage from casing and brown in a large pot, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. When the sausage is thoroughly cooked and slightly brown, remove it from the pot and drain off all the fat.
  2. Add the onion and bacon to the same pot. Stir and cook until the bacon begins to brown and the onions soften. (It won’t hurt if they brown a little too!).
  3. Add the chicken stock and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are very done.
  4. Take about 2-3 cups of potatoes and stock from the pot and puree in a blender. Add back to the pot along with the sausage, fennel seed and kale and simmer about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Salt to taste. Let it sit a few minutes before serving. Garnish with some grated Romano on top.

Buon appetito!

Homemade piadina: the best flatbread

And here I am going to tell you about the most wonderful of flatbreads: piadina. Piadina is a flatbread typical of the area known as Romagna which is located along the central-north west coast of Italy. It is typically used to make sandwiches filled with crudo and soft cheese (like squaccherone) or spinach and cheese, but tomatoes and mozzarella and other light fillings are also popular. I personally love it with some melty cheese, so that when I bite into it is starts oozing melty deliciousness.

I always thought making piadina would have been a hard process, but I discovered is far easier than you would expect once you have good lard. The difficult part of making a piadina might be indeed to find good lard. And lard is vital to get a good flaky and soft piadina. I used to think it was not important whcih fat you used, but it is.

For the lard I went directly to the source. I went to a cooking class at kitchen in the market where we butchered a whole pig. I was lucky enough to get the leaf lard, which I rendered and used for making piadine. I have read somewhere that lard is not that unhealthy if it is rendered at home. Don’t know if it is true, but I decided I will believe it so I won’t feel guilty when I will use it again!

The piadine are best eaten fresh and hot, so if you are not cooking them all you can freeze the after having rolled them out. When you are ready to prepare them, cook them one at a time without thawing them.

My first homemade piadina: cannot wait to dig in!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp lard
  • pinch of salt
  • water

Directions

  1. Knead the flour and salt with the lard and enough water to make a smooth and pliable dough.
  2. Form a ball, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to rest for an hour or so.
  3. Divide in two pieces and form two round balls. Flatten them out and roll two thin piadine (about 1/4 of an inch).
  4. Cook on an hot non stick pan turning it often and flattening the bubbles as they form.
  5. Serve filled with your favorite ham and cheese combo.

Tagliatelle ai funghi morel

This year I decided to finally shell the money and buy some of those morel mushrooms that everyone keeps saying are so delicious. So I went ahead and bought these great looking morels.

Next I had to decide how to cook them. I thought long and hard: should I go for fancy or for simple? How can I taste them at their best?
I ended up deciding to cook them simply to showcase their flavor at its purest. After all it was my first time having morels and I wanted to judge them on their own flavor. So I sauteed them in butter, sprinkled with parsley and served them with some homemade tagliatelle.

The verdict: morels are good, yet not my favorite mushroom. Morels are not as flavorful and meaty as some other mushrooms such as porcini, but they have a very distinct hearty flavor. I have not much experience with truffles, but I would liken morels taste more to truffles than to mushrooms. Given the subtlety of their flavor, I think you need to have relatively a lot to really taste them.

Anyway, here the recipe.

Tagliatelle ai funghi morel

Ingredients

Pasta

    • 2 eggs
    • 4 oz. flour
    • 3 oz. semolina flour

Sauce

  • 1/2 lb. fresh morels
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • small bunch parsley
  • grated parmesan (optional)
  • ground black pepper (optional)

Directions

Pasta

    1. Knead all of the ingredients together until you have a smooth ball of dough. Place under a bowl to rest for 30 minutes.
    2. Divide the dough in 4 pieces and roll each one out in an almost transparent sheet.
    3. Cut the pasta sheets lengthwise into 1 inch wide strips.

Sauce

  1. Clean the morels and slice them.
  2. In a pan, melt butter until it starts turning brown. Add the morels and cook until the mushrooms are cooked through (about 10 minutes). Add some of the minced parsley.
  3. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. It will cook very fast (about 2 minutes) so be ready with the sauce when you start cooking the pasta!
  4. Dress the past with the sauce adding more parsley and butter as needed.
  5. Add grated parmesan and or pepper if you like it.