Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Vegetable Frittata

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Photo Credit: © 2017 GIANT LLC All Rights Reserved.

Frittatas just happened to be one of those dishes that you can use up a whole lot of random leftover vegetables and turn them into a savory meal for brunch or dinner. We like to serve this classic egg dish with fruit for breakfast or with Italian bread and a small mixed greens side salad for a light dinner.

Adapted from Giant LLC
Savory Magazine
September 2017

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
One 8-10 ounce bag baby spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 cups baby Yukon gold potatoes
2 medium tomatoes, diced
8 large eggs
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach to the skillet and cover; allow to cook 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic salt and cover again for another 5 minutes; remove from heat and allow to cool. Place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Roll the towel up and squeeze the moisture from the spinach. Remove the spinach from the towel and place in a bowl and set aside.

Cut the potatoes into quarters. Heat the remaining olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Arrange the spinach over the potatoes. Scatter the tomatoes over the spinach, then pour the eggs over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the cheese. Cook until the edges are set, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 12 minutes, or until the eggs are completely set in the center.

To serve, slide the frittata out of the skillet and onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice it into wedges and serve warm with a fresh fruit for brunch or with a small side salad of mixed greens for a light lunch or dinner.

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Avocado and Tomato Salad

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Photo Credit: GimmeDeliciousFood.com, 2017

Buy Local and Eat Fresh, with this yummy  Avocado and Tomato Salad. Avocados, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro lightly dressed with fresh lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil makes this quick an easy salad  the perfectly healthy lunch or a side dish to accompany a roasted chicken or a grilled steak.

Life is beautiful and life is simple when you eat fresh….Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped tomatoes, about ½ inch dice
3 fresh avocados, large dice
¼ cup minced cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Directions:
In a large salad bowl, place the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro.

Drizzle with olive oil, lime juice, and add the crushed red pepper flakes,salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss.

Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap in fridge for up to 2 hours.

 

Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute the chopped tomatoes, with 2 large diced Heirloom or 5 medium Roma tomatoes. If you prefer a for meatier, tastier tomato, then the Roma tomatoes are for you! Cherry or grape tomatoes work in a pinch as well. Just slice them lengthwise to save time on dicing them.

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Sopa seca de Fideo y Camarones

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Fideos (vermicelli) are much loved in Mexico, where they form the basis of thick, delicious soups. Usually the soups are served as a first course, but our hearty shrimp version is a meal in a bowl.

The name “sopa seca de fideo” translates to “dry soup with noodles”. It’s not soup, it’s called a “dry soup” because the noodles absorb all of the wonderful rich stock, making the noodles taste more delicious than you can possibly imagine.

Although it can be made with straight noodles, I have found if easier to make fideo with the twirled angel hair nests. It’s pretty, and easier to serve that way, one nest per individual  serving.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 dried ancho or pasilla chiles*
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb. dried angel hair nests or vemicelli
1/4 cup olive  oil
One medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1/2 cup crushed canned tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 quart chicken broth
1 pound (30 to 35 per lb.) peeled, deveined shrimp, tails left intact
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

For Serving:
1/2 cup sour cream
Queso Fresco
Diced avocado

Directions:
Break stems off chiles and shake out seeds. In a small bowl, cover chiles with hot water and let stand until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop.

Brown the angle hair nests: Choose a frying pan with a lid in which the angel hair nests will all tightly fit in a single layer (about 9 or 10-inches wide, depending on the brand of angel hair nests you use). In the pan, heat the oil until shimmering hot. Working in batches, fry the vermicelli angel hair nests on both sides in the hot oil until golden brown in color. Remove from pan.

Sauté onions and garlic, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in chiles. Add tomatoes, cumin seeds and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook angel hair nests in the broth. When broth is simmering, place the browned angel hair nests or vermicelli in a single layer in the pan, nestled into the broth. The nests should cover the whole pan. Turn them over in the broth so that they get moistened on all sides. Cover and cook until the vermicelli has soaked up the liquid, about 5 minutes.

If after 5 minutes the top of the vermicelli is dry, flip over the individual angel hair nests and cook a minute longer. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon soup into wide, shallow bowls. Top each serving with a spoonful of sour cream and some avocado, if you like, and sprinkle with cilantro.

Cook’s Notes:
Vermicelli usually comes in 1 pound packages, so about 1/2 a package can be used for this recipe. If you cannot find angel hair nests at the market, you can make fideo with straight vermicelli pasta. Just break up the pasta in 3 to 4 inch long segments and cook the same way as you would the nests, browning them first in hot oil.

*Good dried chiles are soft, flexible, and smell a bit like prunes. Avoid hard, brittle specimens—they’re old and less flavorful.

How Hot Is Your Chile? To assess a chile’s heat, slice off its top through the ribs and seeds, where the heat-producing compound capsaicin is concentrated. Touch the slice to your tongue. If you want your food to be milder, split the chile and scrape out all or some of the ribs and seeds. If your skin is sensitive, wear kitchen gloves or hold the chiles with a fork—and don’t touch your eyes.

The trick to a great sopa seca de fideo is the chicken broth. If you do not have the time to make your own homemade chicken stock, you can easily use bouillon, boxed broth, and canned chicken stock. While bouillon and the boxes work in a pinch, nothing beats homemade stock for this recipe. It brings a richness that can’t be had any other way. So if you try it, I strongly urge you to use homemade stock!

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Salmon Ravigote

 

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Poach delicious salmon steaks or fillets in only 15 minutes!

Salmon fillets are poached briefly, then served with a ravigote sauce. Ravigote means “to invigorate” in French, and this sauce, containing tomatoes, scallions, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil, awakens the taste buds and complements the salmon. Pickled capers lend wonderful piquancy to the sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Sauce:
2 plum tomatoes  halved, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon drained capers
2–3 scallions, trimmed  and sliced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Salmon:
Four 5 ounce skinless salmon fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
3 cups of water
Kosher salt, to taste

Directions:
To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

To poach the salmons, bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add the salmon to the pan and bring the water back to a boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat, or slide the pan off the heat and let the salmon steep in the hot liquid for 5 minutes. Note that your fillets will be slightly underdone in the center at this point and you may have to adjust the cooking time to accommodate thicker or thinner fillets, depending on your personal taste preference.

Remove the fillets from the poaching liquid with a large spatula, drain them well, and place on four warm plates. Absorb any liquid that collects around the fillets with paper towels, then spoon the sauce over and around the steaks and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Alternatively,  for the poaching liquid, you can substitute 1½ cup dry white wine, like a good Sauvignon Blanc added to  1½ cups of water, for a different flavor profile.

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Pizza Margherita

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The secret to a great Pizza Margherita is to use the best ingredients you can find—and to approach them with restraint. For this pizza, just because a little cheese is good doesn’t mean a lot will be better! The Pizza Margherita is is all about moderation. Start  with your all-time favorite pizza dough recipe making it a slightly wet dough The mositure of the dough baking on a hot pizza stone, produces a crisp yet chewy crust, the perfect canvas for bright homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and verdant basil leaves.

For a twist on the taste nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi paste was added to the fresh tomato sauce.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dough:
One  1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce:
5-6 whole fresh Pomodorini tomatoes*
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 Tablespoons nduja paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:
4-6 Fresh basil leaves
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Special Equipment:
A pizza stone

Directions:
Make the dough: Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. Note: If mixture doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl. The dough will be slightly wet.

Knead on a floured surface, lightly re-flouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make tomato sauce while dough rises: Pulse tomatoes  in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the nduja and stir until the nduja melts into the oil. Add tomato purée, basil, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seaonsing with salt and  set aside to cool.

Heat pizza stone while dough rises: At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put stone on oven rack in lower third of electric oven (or on floor of gas oven) and preheat oven to 500°F.

Shape dough: Do not punch the dough down. Dust dough with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14-inch round, re-flouring fingers if necessary.

Assemble pizza:Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border (there may be some sauce left over). Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.

Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone. Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is golden and bubbling in spots, 13 to 16 minutes. Using peel or baking sheet, transfer pizza to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some basil leaves before slicing.

Cook’s Notes:
Dough can be allowed to rise slowly in the refrigerator (instead of in a warm place) for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before shaping.

*If fresh Pormdorini tomatoes are not available in your local area, you can use any type of fresh tomatoes or you use one 14-ounce can of Pomodorini, San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes in their juices. Add the entire can of tomatoes with their juices and pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Tomato sauce can be made 5 days ahead and chilled.

Nduja paste is available at your local Whole Foods Markets. If nduja is not available, finely chopped pepperoni can be substituted in the sauce.

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Stuffed Chicken Breast a la Caprese

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
Four 7-ounce chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
¼ cup sun dried tomato strips in oil
4 mozzarella cheese slices
12 basil leaves, divided

For the Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket about ¾ quarter of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, being careful not to cut all the way.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Pour 1 teaspoon of sun dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some of the seasoning inside the pockets.

Fill each with 2 slices fresh tomato, 2 teaspoons sun dried tomato strips, one slice mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.

Seal with 3-4 toothpicks diagonally to keep the filling inside while cooking.

Heat 2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato oil (or olive oil) in a cast iron skillet or non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

While the chicken is cooking, mix together the garlic, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small mixing cup. Pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken; bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally, until the glaze has slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer pan to the preheated oven and continue to cook the chicken for a another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese has melted.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest 8-10 minutes. Remove the  toothpicks.

To serve, slice the chicken breast in half and place on the center of a dinner plate. Drizzle with pan juices and garnish with basil.

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Shrimp Pomodoro

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Thank you so much!

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Poulet Basquaise

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Poulet Basquaise (Basque-Style Chicken)

When most people think of the Basque Country, they think of Spain.

Bilbao began the so-called Guggenheim effect. You see, the opening of the GuggenheimGuggenH.jpg Museum in Bilbao in northern Spain in 1997, shows how an imaginatively designed museum commissioned by an energetic mayor can help turn a city around. Visitors’ spending in Bilbao in the first three years after the museum opened raised over ($110m) in taxes for the regional government, enough to recoup the construction costs and leave something over.  In 2012, more than 1m people visited the museum, at least half of them from abroad. This was the third-highest number ever, so the building continues to attract visitors even though the collection on display is modest. Other cities without historic cultural centers now look to Bilbao as a model for what vision and imagination can achieve……hence the “Bilbao Guggenheim Effect”.  In addition, San Sebastián has all those Michelin star restaurants. And Pamplona, notoriously, lets bulls run through its streets once a year.week-pamplona_2611466b.jpg

The Basques are an ancient people who have inhabited this territory for thousands of tt2years.The Basque Country is made up of three distinct  administrative regions (the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France)  and  seven provinces, three of which are in southwestern France.

44MapBasquecolToday, the Spanish part is an autonomous region with a Basque government, while the French part answers to the central government in Paris. The Spanish side has had a strong independence movement, which has lately been eclipsed by Catalonia’s. At the height of its activity in the latter part of the last century, ETA, the Basque separatist group, did most of its fighting on the Spanish side, saving the French side as a hideout…….but I digress. That is another history lesson for another time.

Basque cuisine is influenced by the abundance of produce from the sea on one side and the fertile Ebro valley on the other. The great mountainous nature of the Basque Country has led to a difference between coastal cuisine dominated by fish and seafood, and inland cuisine with fresh and cured meats, many vegetables and legumes, and freshwater fish and salt cod. The French and Spanish influence is strong also, with a noted difference between the cuisine of either side of the modern border; even iconic Basque dishes and products, such as txakoli from the South, or Gâteau Basque (Biskotx) and Jambon de Bayonne from the North, are rarely seen on the other side.

Basques have also been quick to absorb new ingredients and techniques from new settlers and from their own trade and exploration links. Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal created a chocolate and confectionery industry in Bayonne still well-known today, and part of a wider confectionery and pastry tradition across the Basque Country. Basques also embraced the potato and the capsicum, used in hams, sausages and recipes, with pepper festivals around the area, notably Ezpeleta and Puente la Reina. And last but not least, in keeping with the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is more commonly used than butter in Basque cooking.

And with all of that local produce  available to the Basque, it is no wonder that Poulet Basquaise  or Chicken Basquise (or Basque Chicken)  is a local favorite. Chicken Basquaise is a dish that defines the simple elegance of French Basque cooking.

So, I know you are asking, “exactly what is Chicken Basquaise”?  Well, first of all, a basquaise is a type of dish prepared in the style of Basque cuisine that often includes tomatoes and sweet or hot red peppers. Chicken Basquaise originated in the town of   Soule . Originally consisting of vegetables and bread, this dish typical consists of  browned chicken pieces, then cooked in a casserole with a Pipérade, which is a mixture of ripe tomatoes , red and green peppers, garlic, onions and Espelette pepper.

And before you start to  cook this dish, you will need to make the Pipérade before you begin.10987_piperade_3000

Pipérade trumpets the versatility of French Basque cuisine.  This simple sauté is enlivened with the local cured pork, Bayonne ham, and a spicy paprika known as piment d’Espelette. In my version of this dish, I added a little of bit of Creole smoked sausage and bacon, for smokiness. Pipérade  is  great over braised chicken and baked fish, but you can also heed Julia Child’s advice and use it to top a plain omelette. Simply divine!

Chicken Basquaise is guaranteed to make your heart sing and your belly cry out for more. This  is a dish where Espelette peppers and chicken go together like the French and kissing,…….. Chicken Basquaise is a dish to smooch over. So make it a date – Chicken  Basquaise is one meal you’ll want to enjoy and get up close and personal with!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 medium tomatoes
4 chicken quarters, leg and thigh portions, skin on
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced Bayonne ham, cut into 1/2-inch squares
4 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
4 ounces bacon, diced
4 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped.
1 medium dried bay leaf
2 medium red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette
2/3 to 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Using the tip of a knife, remove the stem and cut a shallow X-shape into the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch until the skin just starts to pucker and loosen, about 10 seconds. Drain and immediately immerse the tomatoes in the ice water bath. Using a small knife, peel the loosened skin and cut each tomato in half. With a small spoon, scrape out any seeds, then core and coarsely chop the remaining flesh. Set aside.

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 3-1/2- or 5-quart casserole or large Dutch oven.

When oil shimmers, add chicken pieces in a single layer (do this in batches, if needed) and let cook until very brown, turn, and repeat until pieces are well-browned all over, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove browned pieces to a plate and set aside. Discard excess oil and wipe out the pot with paper towels.

To the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the ham, smoked sausage and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a plate and set aside.

Return the pan to heat, add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and, once heated, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring rarely, until soft and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herbs and pepper slices and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring rarely, until the peppers are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the pot with wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Add the chicken stock. Stir in the diced tomatoes, meat mixture, and piment d’Espelette. Return the chicken to the pot.  Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

To serve, remove the bay leaf  and sprinkle fresh parsley over the chicken. Serve with rice or potatoes, on the side, if desired.

Suggested wine pairing: Domaine Ilarria Irouléguy Rouge, France.

Go all-in on the Basquaise with a not-well-known Basque wine. Made from a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Irouléguy’s not a delicate wine, but nor is it as big as wines made with these varieties in the New World. Its smoky flavor and dark fruits will merge nicely with the rustic onions, garlic, and red Espelette peppers in the sauce!

Cook’s Notes:
The traditional recipe calls for 2 pounds fresh cubed tomatoes, but one 14-ounce can of whole peeled canned tomatoes can  also be used as a substitute, in this recipe.

It is also a tradition to use a  3- to 3-1/2-pound broiler chicken, cut into 8 pieces, for this dish. You can always  ask your butcher to cut up the chicken for you at your local grocery store.

Bayonne ham is a cured ham product from the French Basque country. If you can’t find it in your local area, you can always use prosciutto or bacon.

Piment d’Espelette is France’s only native pepper, and it is so highly revered that it is protected by AOC status. It has a nice heat and is worth seeking out at a gourmet grocery or online. If you have trouble finding it, you can substitute cayenne pepper or paprika.

All photographs and content are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

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Crespelle alla Fiorintina

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catherine_de_medicisThe culinary historical trail leads to Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine Queen of France, for introducing these savory crepes to French cuisine with the help of her Tuscan chefs.

In 1533, at age fourteen, she was married to Henry of Orléans, the future king of France.
When she moved to France, an entourage of friends, servants, and waiters accompanied her. The Florentine cooks who went with her brought with them the secrets of Italian cooking to France, introducing peas, beans, artichokes, canard a l’orange, (duck a la orange) and carabaccia (onion soup). The pastry makers also demonstrated their innovative genius with sorbets and ice creams, marmalades, fruits in syrup, pastry making, and pasta. A certain Sir Frangipani gave his name to the custard and the tart known in France as Frangipane. Is is not ironic that all these dishes that are considered so quintessentially French, are actually Italian in origin.

Catherine also brought with her to the French table a new protocol, such as the separation of salty and sweet dishes, at a time when sweets were still consumed together with meat and fish in the medieval style all over Europe. Everyone in France was amazed by the Florentine elegance she  introduced, including gracious table settings and dining, fine linen with elegant embroidery, as well as luxurious silverware and crystal stemware.

At the time, French cooking was already a rich, evolving discipline, and the presence of the new style profoundly influenced French cuisine over the next few centuries. Catherine and her army of Florentine chefs reformed the antique French cooking of a medieval tradition and transformed the food we know as today as the modern French cooking. As time went on, French cooks improved and magnified the Florentine contributions. While many dishes and techniques were being forgotten in Italy, the French made them into international cuisine.

And based on the  various  evidence in the culinary literature, it suggests that crepes were also Florentine in origin and the French adapted them into what we now enjoy  today, in both sweet and savory forms. Crespelle  appears to be like Cannelloni, which are pasta tubes filled with spinach and ricotta, but the crespelle is actually a very thin pancake crepe made of flour and eggs instead of a thick sheet of pasta.

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Photo Credit: Josephine Guerriero, Pezzole delle nonna, Posta La Ricetta

In the Tuscan countryside, this dish was formerly  called “pezzole delle nonna.” Pezzole is the Tuscan way of saying “fazzoletto” which means “handkerchief”  and so pezzole delle Nonna  can be translated as  “Grandma’s Handkerchiefs“. Pezzoles can be described as omelets or crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and vegetables covered with a Béchamel sauce. They are neatly folded into quarters and served family style in a dish, looking very much like handkerchiefs in a stacked in a drawer.  Given its past, and its modern incarnations, this  dish is definitely a home-style comfort food and is  found in extremely traditional Tuscan trattorias.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Crespelle batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the filling:
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
1/2 pound ricotta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Béchamel:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To Finish:
About 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup tomato passata or  prepared tomato sauce (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
For the crepes: In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. Heat a small skillet or crepe pan and when hot, brush lightly with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the pan, tilting the skillet to evenly coat the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the top begins to look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the crepe and cook the second side until the bottom colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 8 crepes

For the filling:  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch spinach for a few minutes. Drain and dry  the spinach with a kitchen towel by squeezing the spinach to extract any remaining moisture, then coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup. In a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

Lightly butter a 1  1/2 quart casserole dish.

Divide the spinach filling evenly among the crepes, using about 1/3 cup filling for each. Roll the crepes, like enchiladas, up around the filling and place in the buttered dish. Set aside while preparing the sauce.

For the Béchamel sauce: In a saucepan,  melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth and continue to cook for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Slowly whisk in the cold milk, and cook, stirring, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the floury taste is gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

To finish: Pour the béchamel over the crepes, drizzle with butter, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve hot, with a little tomato passata spooned over the top of each serving.

Cook’s Notes:
You are probably asking yourself, “What is passata?”  Well, passata is basically just an uncooked sauce made with crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavored tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Passata is available in Italian delis and specialty gourmet markets. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You will find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton. But for some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata does not seem to be sold widely in the United States. That’s a pity because it’s a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand. If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.

How To Make Passata: If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. But do not use tomato paste, because it is thick, concentrated and highly processed. You can also add salt and other seasonings to taste, like basil or oregano.

Sources:
Orieux, Jean. Catherine de Médicis, ou, La reine noire. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

Volpe, Anna Maria. “Caterina de Medici: A Tuscan Queen In France.” Caterina de medici, http://www.annamariavolpi.com/caterina_de_medici.html. Date Accessed: 16 December 2016.

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Spaghetti Squash alla Amatrciana

 

DSC08456 (2) Spaghetti Squash 2 otm@tk.jpg

Sugo all’amatriciana or Amatriciana Sauce, originathWUU97UI6.jpgting in a small town of Amatrice, located  in northern Lazio, a region of central Italy near the Adriatic Sea coast . The area is also known as the center of the food-agricultural area of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

Sadly, the town was devastated by a powerful earthquake in August 2016.

1024px-amatrice_-_corsoView of Corso Umberto I in Amatrice before the 2016 earthquake.
Photo credit: Mario1952, August 2008.

This type of pasta sauce is known for its meaty contents. The traditional Amarticiana Sauce will typically include tomatoes combined with pork meat sautéed in olive oil, and seasonings and aromatics, which generally are minced onions, garlic if desired, a small amount of ground chile pepper, and a pinch of black pepper. The recipe when made in the manner of a true Amatrice sauce, is served with cured pork meat from the cheek of the pig, which is referred to as guanciale.

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Guanciale. Photo Credit: Food52.com

According to popular tradition, numerous cooks of the Popes down the centuries came from Amatrice. In the Amatrice style of cooking, this sauce goes particularly well as a topping for strand pasta such as spaghetti, bucatini, perciatelli, vermicelli or fresh ravioli.

In this version of the recipe, spaghetti squash offers a hearty twist with its noodle-like strands.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash*
Olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces guanciale (cured pork jowl)*
One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes*
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup  grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat the over to 450º F.

Half the squash lengthwise (See Cook’s Notes).

Dice tthe guanciale into 1/2-inch cubes.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash on top of the foil lined baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cut surfaces of the squash and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the squash cut side done and roast the squash until tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven or sauce pan, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and spear in an even layer. Heat the pan to medium high heat. Fry the guanciale until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the guanciale to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Add the onion to the sauce pan and sauté, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the crushed red pepper and garlic to the pan with the onion and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove from the heat.

Using a fork, rake the roasted squash flesh to create spaghetti like strands and add the sauce in the pan. Stir in half pecorino cheese and half the guanciale into the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti squash Amatrciana between four serving bowls. Garnish with basil and the remaining pecorino cheese and serve with a good crusty bread.

Enjoy!

*Cook’s Notes: 
Spaghetti squash is a group of cultivars of Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo. It is actually a fruit that ranges from ivory to yellow/orange in color. The orange varieties have a higher carotene content. Its center contains many large seeds. Its flesh is bright yellow or orange.Starr_070730-7822_Cucurbita_pepo.jpg

Tip: When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash. The thickness of rawsquash2.jpg squash can make it vey difficult to cut into. It may be helpful to prick the squash all over with a fork and place it on microwaveable dish and warm the squash up in 30-second intervals to soften the squash before attempting to cut it in half. It may take up to 5-10 minutes to achieve the desired softness.

Spaghetti squash can vary in size as well. When cooked, the flesh falls away from the fruit in ribbons or strands like spaghetti. Taking this aspect into consideration a wider time range for roasting.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from “guancia”, which is Italian for cheek. The pork cheeks are rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices, such as ground black pepper or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic, and cured for three weeks or until it loses approximately 30% of its original weight. A well prepared guanciale is full-flavored, balanced between being well-seasoned and sweet. It’s flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. Upon cooking, the fat typically melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces it is used in. Usually found in specialty markets and italian grocers and deli shops, it is what gives the sauce its characteristic flavor. If guanicale is not available, you can used bacon or pancetta as a substitute. The flavor will not be the same, but it will give the essence of a good Amatriciana sauce, but you will have to adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

San Marzano tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) is a variety of plum tomatoes that 450px-TomateSanMarzano.jpg originated from the small town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount  Vesuvius.Legend has it that the first seed of this tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area of San Marzano sul Sarno.

San Marzano tomatoes work well in this dish, mainly because  the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than Roma tomatoes. The most common brands of canned San Marzano tomatoes available in  local supermarkets and these include Cento, Nina, La Bella, Solania, Vantia, La Valle and Strianese.

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Thank you so much!

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