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Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad consisting of chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Making Panzanella salad is a terrific way to use up stale or leftover bread.

500 g stale bread (fresh bread will work too!)
100 ml garlic infused olive oil
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
16 black olives, pitted
a handful fresh basil, leaves removed from the stalks
30 ml balsamic vinegar
25 g Parmesan cheese, grated
freshly ground black pepper
salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C when the bread is almost risen.
  2. Slice the bread into 1 cm thick slices. Then dice the slices up into even cubes.
  3. Transfer the diced bread to a baking tray lined with a Wizbake baking sheet and spread it evenly over the surface.
  4. Drizzle the oil evenly over the diced bread and stir well to make sure the bread has evenly absorbed the oil.
  5. Bake the bread until golden brown and crispy.
  6. In the meantime, add the cherry tomatoes and olives to the pan and stir-fry gently over a moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Season with pepper and salt.
  8. Add the fresh basil leaves, balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil to the pan and mix well.
  9. Transfer the salad to a bowl, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  10. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding extra pepper, salt or balsamic vinegar.
  11. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese and serve.

4 servings.

Panzanella-Salad

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Chicken Puttanesca

This tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish has ingredients that are typical of Southern Italian cuisine: tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, olive oil, capers and garlic. Traditionally, the sauce is served with spaghetti, although it also goes well with penne, tagliatelli, linguine and even rice,

salt and pepper to season the chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 100 g each)
olive oil to fry
125 ml white wine or chicken stock
2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced
200 g cherry tomatoes, halved
30 ml tomato paste
10 ml crushed garlic
15 black olives, pitted
15 ml capers
30 ml basil, finely chopped fresh
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

  1. Brush the chicken breasts lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and then sear the chicken breasts on both sides until nicely colored and almost done. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add half of the white wine or chicken stock to the hot saucepan to deglaze – scrape any bits of chicken that may have stuck on the bottom.
  4. Add the chopped onions and cook until the onions are translucent and soft – about 5 to 6 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste.
  6. Season with some salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like it spicy.
  7. Stir well and add the other half of white wine and cook covered with a lid for about 7 to 8 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.
  8. Stir in the the olives, capers and minced garlic, and cook for another couple minutes.
  9. Add the chicken breasts into the saucepan. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes covered, or until the chicken breasts are thoroughly cooked.
  10. Sprinkle with the chopped basil and serve either with pasta of your choice or rice.

chicken-puttanesca-7

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Authentic Panna Cotta

Panna cotta, which means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian, is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and usually moulded. The cream may be flavoured with vanilla, coffee, rum, etc.  Although the name does not sound appetizing at all, panna cotta is silky smooth with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and is as close to perfection as it gets!  Panna Cotta is the perfect dessert for any occasion — whether you’re throwing a fancy party or a small one.  The fact that it can be made ahead of time, is a big plus. Panna Cotta is gluten-free and egg-free and can easily be adapted to be dairy-free, vegan, etc. You can also adjust the sweetness to your liking by using less or more sugar or by substituting the sugar with xylitol, honey, etc. It can even be sweetenend with nothing but fruit puree.   It is easy, quick, practically foolproof, and an overall crowd pleaser.   Please see the tips below.

For equally tasty but lower-fat versions of this delectable dessert, have a look at Low-fat Panna Cotta where there is a coffee-flavoured variation as well.  Also see the photo of the layered plain and coffee Panna Cotta below.  It was created by angling the glass and making and setting the coffee-flavoured Panna Cotta before adding the plain Panna Cotta.

90 ml cold water
30 ml gelatine powder *
1 liter cream
125 ml white sugar or xylitol
5 ml vanilla extract
food colour, e.g. red (optional)

To serve
home-made fruit coulis

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a measuring jug and let stand 5 to 10 minutes until it “blooms” — the gelatin grains will swell and look like they’ve absorbed some liquid.
  2. Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and food colour if used.  
  3. Lightly oil dariole or silicone moulds with a neutral-tasting oil.  Set it aside.
  4. Pour the warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture between the prepared cups or moulds, then set aside to cool before covering each cup or mould with cling wrap.
  6. Refrigerate for at least four hours to allow enough time to set completely.
  7. Run a knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta if using Dariole moulds or unmould from a silicon mould following the instructions below.
  8. Transfer the Panna Cotta’s to individual plates or a large serving platter and garnish as desired.

8 servings.

Notes
For a vegan-friendly version, just use a vegan friendly substitute for the gelatine. 

Pannacotta 

IMG_6590

LayeredPannaCotta

Notes

  • If pressed for time, rather pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.
  • The more shallow the dish, the faster the pudding will set.
  • If using a tray mould e.g. 8 x 60 ml or small mould, e.g. 1 x 150 ml, place the mould on a baking tray before pouring the liquid into the mould.
  • If using a large mould, e.g. ring mould or heart-shaped mould, place the mould on a baking tray before pouring in the liquid to make it easy to move.
  • To unmould desserts like jelly, pannacotta, etc., lower the mould into a basin with hot water for a few seconds to make unmoulding easier. Also, rinse the serving plate under water before unmoulding. This will make it easier to reposition individual desserts if necessary. Place the serving plate on top of the mould and  flip over.  Gently move the edges of the mould to break the vacuum.
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Open-faced Omelet or Frittata

Frittata is an egg-based Italian dish similar to an omelette or crustless quiche, enriched with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta. The word frittata is Italian and roughly translates to “fried”, i.e. egg fried in a pan.  It was apparently Delia Smith who described a frittata as “Italy’s version of an open-face omelette” for the first time.  All you need is a few eggs and a small quantity of almost any raw or cooked, fresh or leftover ingredients from the refrigerator.

Frittata
6 large eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
30 g butter
± 500 ml variable ingredients

Variable ingredients:
± 100 ml finely diced red pepper or mixed peppers
±  200 ml finely shredded young green cabbage
± 100 ml chopped mixed herbs
± 100 ml chopped spring onion or chives
± 125 ml cooked or smoked ham, cut into strips
± 125 ml smoked salmon or trout, cut into strips + capers, rinsed
± 125 ml Danish or Greek Feta or grated Cheddar cheese
100  to 200g Haloumi cheese, cut into strips or diced (optional)

To serve
Green salad (optional)

  1. Combine the eggs and herbs in a mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the butter in a shallow non-stick saucepan (± 25 cm in diameter).
  3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the heat down to its lowest setting.
  4. Cover the pan with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes or until set and lightly browned on the one side. The frittata should still be runny on top.
  5. Remove the lid and scatter the variable ingredients evenly over the surface.
  6. To complete the cooking on top, transfer the pan to the oven and place under the grill (not too close) and cook briefly to allow the egg to set. This will take 20 to 30 seconds. This can only be done if the handle of the pan is oven proof.
  7. Slip the frittata onto a warm serving platter.  Cut the frittata into wedges and serve as is for breakfast or with a green salad for a light meal.

3 generous or 6 moderate servings.

Frittata

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Spinach Gnudi

Gnudi (pronounced nude-y), is basically meatless meatballs, and the best way to eat spinach!  I adapted this recipe from a recipe by Canadian-Italian celebrity chef David Rocco.   It is a firm family favourite and I get requests to make it often!

600 g baby spinach leaves
1 large egg, (yolk only)
60 ml spring onion, finely chopped
200 g ricotta cheese, crumbled
50 g parmesan cheese, grated
5 ml salt
10 ml crushed garlic
150 ml cake flour or additional grated parmesan cheese

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180º C and grease an ovenproof dish (20 x 20 cm) with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Transfer the spinach in a large saucepan with just the water that clings to the spinach and sauté gently until wilted. 
  3. Transfer the spinach to a colander and set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Combine the egg yolk, spring onion, ricotta cheese, salt and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Squeeze out as much as possible of the liquid out of the spinach and chop the spinach finely.
  6. Take a handful of the chopped spinach at a time and squeeze again to get it as dry as possible before transferring it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Do the same with the rest of the spinach.
  7. Add just enough flour or additional grated parmesan cheese to bind the mixture, i.e. the mixture must hold its shape when formed into a ball.
  8. Using oiled hands, take a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and shape into 16 to 20 balls – about the size of a golf ball.
  9. Place the balls in the dish and brush with a little olive oil.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  11. Serve the gnudi warm as a vegetable side dish.

Makes between 16 and 20 balls.

SpinachGnudi

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Affogato (Coffee Dessert)

Affogato (Italian for “drowned”) is a coffee-based dessert. It is basically a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso.  Quick and easy!

1 liter vanilla ice-cream
10 shots (30 to 45 ml per person) hot fresh espresso coffee

To serve
Italian biscuits, e.g. biscotti or amaretti

  1. Line up 10 dessert glasses.
  2. Place a scoop of ice-cream in each of the glasses.
  3. Make espresso in a coffee machine, Brikka pot or Aeropress and pour a shot of espresso into the glasses to drown the ice cream.
  4. Serve immediately with Italian biscuits on the side.

Affogato

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Tiramisu

Tiramisu means “pick me up” and is a popular coffee-flavored Italian dessert. It is made of ladyfingers or Boudoir Biscuits dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa. Countless variations of Tiramisu exist. (see variations below).   Marsala wine can be added to the recipe, but other liquors are frequently substituted for it including dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, Malibu, or Irish Cream and especially coffee flavored liqueurs such as Tia Maria and Kahlua.

250 ml espresso or strong black coffee
15 ml castor sugar
30 ml Kahlua liqueur, brandy or Marsala
200 g pack Boudoir biscuits or Lady fingers
4 large egg yolks
100 g/125 ml castor sugar
2 x 250 g Mascarpone cheese or creamed cottage cheese
2 ml vanilla extract

To serve
cocoa powder for dusting

  1. Have ready a large rectangular dish (about 350 x 250 mm).
  2. Combine the coffee, sugar, Kahlua liqueur, brandy or Marsala and cool to room temperature.
  3. Arrange the biscuits on the base of the dish, trimming the biscuits to fit snugly into the dish.  Pour the cooled coffee mixture evenly over the biscuits.
  4. Beat the egg yolks and castor sugar very well until extremely light and pale yellow.  Add the cheese and vanilla and beat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of whipped cream.
  5. Pour the mixture over the biscuits, spread evenly and cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  6. Sift an even thin layer of cocoa decoratively over the top of the dessert and cut into squares.
  7. Place on serving plates and garnish as preferred.

10 to 12 servings.

Variations
Tiramisu in bowls – to serve elegantly, cut the biscuits into smaller sections, soak in the coffee mixture and divide between 12 small glass bowls or stemmed glasses. Our the cheese mixture over the biscuits, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours. Dust lightly with cocoa and garnish as preferred just before serving.

Moulded Tiramisu cake – To make a moulded cake or dessert which may be sliced neatly into wedges, dip the biscuits in the coffee mixture and cut and arrange the biscuits into a large, round, springform cake tin (about 28 mm in diameter), lined with baking paper. A 28 mm pie dish can also be used.  Cover 15 ml gelatine powder with 60 ml water and microwave on Medium for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until melted.  Stir 30 ml of the cheese into the gelatine, mix well and add to the egg mixture with the rest of the cheese.  Complete as explained above and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours before slicing and serving with garnishes as preferred.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from the Art Of Cooking Recipe Book p. 518.

Tiramisu

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Veal With Tuna Sauce (Vitello Tonnato)

Vitello tonnato is a Piedmontese dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna. It is served chilled or at room temperature as the main course of an Italian meal or as antipasto.  This dish has unlikely ingredients, but the end result is quite delicious!  Be sure to read the post The Veal Deal for more info and recipes on veal.

1.25 kg thick piece boneless veal topside
1 small onion
a few cloves
2 bay leaves
2 celery sticks, halved
1 small carrot, peeled
6 black peppercorns
150 ml dry white wine

Sauce
2 large eggs
1 clove garlic, peeled
5 ml salt
275 ml canola or sunflower oil
30 ml white wine vinegar
1 x 170 g best-quality tuna in brine, drained
2 tinned anchovy fillets, drained
15 ml salted capers, rinsed and drained
15 ml lemon juice (or more, to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish
a few extra capers
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 ° C and place the veal in a medium roasting tin.
  2. Stud the onion with the cloves and add this to the tin, along with the bay leaves, celery, carrot, peppercorns and wine.
  3. Place the roasting tin in the oven and roast the veal for 1¼ hours.
  4. In the mean time, make the sauce.
  5. Add the whole eggs into the bowl of a food processor and add the garlic and 5 ml salt.
  6. Measure the oil into a jug and switch the food processor on.
  7. To blend everything thoroughly, pour the oil in a thin, very steady trickle with the motor running. Be very careful here – too much oil in too soon means the sauce will curdle.
  8. When all the oil is in, add the white wine vinegar and blend.
  9. Next add the tuna, anchovy fillets and capers, and process again till smooth.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  11. When the veal is ready, take it out of the oven and leave everything to get cold.
  12. Take the veal out of the roasting tin and discard the vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns and any remaining wine.
  13. Slice the meat very thinly and arrange it in a large, shallow serving dish.
  14. Spoon the sauce decoratively over the meat.
  15. Scatter over a few capers and garnish with the lemon slices.

6 servings.

Note
– The sauce can be made well ahead and kept in the fridge till needed.- The dish should be made and refrigerated for 1 to 5 days to fully develop the flavor.

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith.

vitello-tonnato

 

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Parmesan & Potato Focaccia

This is my version of focaccia bread that I ate in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago.  Focaccia (pronounced “fo-KA-chee-a”) is an Italian flatbread, often topped with herbs and spices or other ingredients such as cheese, vegetables or meat. It is similar in style and texture to pizza dough, but without the tomato sauce base that most pizza’s have.

4 medium potatoes (about 500 g), peeled and thinly sliced
50 g butter
5 ml crushed garlic
10 ml fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped and 2.5 ml salt or
10 ml Ina Paarman’s Lemon & Rosemary seasoning
500 g shop-bought bread dough
200 ml Parmesan cheese, finely grated

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 ° C.
  2. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with boiling water.  Bring to the boil and cook until the potato is soft but not falling apart.
  3. Drain the excess water and add the butter, garlic, fresh rosemary and salt or Lemon & Rosemary Seasoning and stir to combine.
  4. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and place the first ball of dough on a Wizbake baking sheet sprinkled with a little flour.
  5. Also sprinkle a little flour on the dough and onto a rolling pin to prevent sticking and roll the dough out to an even thickness – about 0.5 to 1 cm.
  6. Transfer the Wizbake sheet to a baking tray and spoon half of the the potato mixture on top of the dough.
  7. Do the same with the other half of the dough.
  8. Bake the focaccia’s for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  9. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

6 servings.

Potato Focaccia