4 medium eggplants
1/2 pound mozzarella (preferably fresh mozzarella preserved in its liquid)
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned)
4 slices bread soaked in milk (crust removed)
1 small white onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic (slightly crushed but whole)
8 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the eggplants, discarding the stems, and cut them in half length-wise.Sprinkle with abundant salt and place in a colander. Place the colander in the sink or inside a large bowl and let rest for 30 minutes to one hour to drain the bitter juice. Rinse well and pat dry.
In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic clove and cook on medium/high heat until golden. Discard the garlic and add the onion and a couple of tablespoons of water, and cook on low heat until translucent. Add the diced tomatoes (drained of the liquid), salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Coarsely chop the mozzarella, and drain the bread from the milk, squeezing the liquid out.
Using a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works best!), scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a 1⁄2″-thick eggplant shell; coarsely chop about half of the scooped-out flesh and add it to the mozzarella and the bread (discard the rest). Add the diced tomatoes, basil, at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Stuff the eggplants and place them on a baking tray brushed or sprayed with a small amount of olive oil or lined with parchment.
Bake for 40 minutes and enjoy hot or warm.
Eggplant in Italy was apparently abhorred by non-Jews until the end of the 1800s. Its Italian name, Melanzana, is said to derive from the Latin “Mela Insana” (Bad Apple) because it was believed to be poisonous and cause fevers that would make people lose their minds. But in the 20th century the purple fruit took the country by storm, and is now the star ingredient in some of the most popular and world-famous Italian dishes.
2 pounds spinach
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
scant 3 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1/3 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Wash the spinach very thoroughly, and cook in a covered pot on its own, adding only a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent it from sticking to the bottom (about 10 minutes); rinse under cold water and drain very well, then squeeze most of the water out with your hands or by squeezing them inside a cheesecloth, or pressing them against the bottom of a sieve. Place the spinach in a food processor and process until pureed.
Make a “Bechamel” sauce by combining milk, butter and flour gradually, with a whisk, in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the sauce thickens (about 20 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove the béchamel from heat (if you weren’t able to avoid lumps, you can strain it through a fine-mesh sieve).
Pre-heat your oven to 340 F; butter or grease a 1 1 ⁄2- to 2-quart baking pan and dust with flour. Whisk the eggs together, add them to the spinach; add the béchamel sauce, parmigiano cheese, salt and pepper to taste and combine very well.Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until it sets and lightly browns – about 40 minutes.
Remove from oven; allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, and unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature.
– 8 cups butternut squash chunks (or pumpkin)
– 4 medium (or 3 large) eggs
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– a big pinch of salt
– 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
– 10 fresh sage leaves
– freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
– salt and pepper
– 4 to 8 tablespoons butter (to taste)
Bake the peeled, seeded chunks of squash in the oven at 400 degrees F for 40-60 minutes till soft.
Mash the hot squash, then stir in the beaten eggs, a pinch of salt, the nutmeg and slowly add the flour. You will need between 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups of flour depending on the natural moisture of the squash you bought. Once the dough is soft and elastic but holds shape, stop adding flour.
Shape into several rolls about 2/3 inch in diameter and cut into pieces. Arrange in one layer on paper towel dusted with flour.
Melt the butter in a pan,with the sage leaves.
In the meantime you will have a large pot of boiling water ready, with 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt in it. When the water is boiling aggressively, add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook till they come to surface, removing them with a slotted spoon as they rise.
Place in a warm serving dish, dress with the sage butter and grated parmigiano cheese to taste.
** some regional variations of this recipe add about 1 cup of crushed amaretti cookies instead of the nutmeg.
The region of Trentino-Alto Adige in North-Eastern Italy, is famous for its gorgeous peaks of Dolomite rock, and its cuisine shows strong Germanic and Hungarian influences. Canederli (or “knodels”) can be best described to American Jews as the non-Passover version of Matzah balls – even fluffier and more decadent! There are several version of this dish, with cubed cold cuts and served in beef stock, from buckwheat, stuffed with dried prunes…
The following recipe, for Cheese Canederli, also features a lot of butter, and is not for the faint of heart. I love making it after a day of hiking in the italian Alps, but you can also use your Central Park jog as an excuse. Let me know what you think!
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb stale bread, cut into small cubes (1/3″)
1 medium onion, very finely minced
4 ounces cheese, diced very small (you can use a mix of leftovers such as swiss cheese, cheddar, asiago, muenster)
4 to 6 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano
2 tablespoons chives (or parsley), finely minced
1/2 cup whole milk
salt and pepper
1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)
Heat some butter in a skillet and toast the small cubes of bread in it till golden; drain the bread and set it aside in a large bowl.
Re-heat the butter left over in the skillet and cook the onion in it until soft, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary to prevent it from burning. Add the onion to the bread; add the cheese cubes and the grated Parmesan, the herbs and the eggs, salt and pepper. Mix carefully, then add the milk gradually. You may not need to use all the milk: just add until you obtain a dough that’s soft but can still be shaped into dumplings. With wet hands, turn it into balls and cook them in a pot of boiling, salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and serve.
The Canederli can be dressed with a sauce made from cooking 4 onions, sliced very fine, in butter or olive oil and a little water, for about 40 minutes (you can also add one chopped tomato, seeded, half-way through the cooking), or more simply with melted butter.
For a lighter option, you can serve them as a soup, in hot vegetable broth.
Welcome the cold season with a warming, decadent dish that elevates a simple food like potatoes to new culinary heights! Potatoes were introduced to Italy only at the end of the 16th century by the Spanish, who encountered them in the Americas: the Italian climate was perfect for their cultivation, and they quickly became a star ingredient (who doesn’t love Gnocchi?). Potatoes and mushrooms are a classic pairing, and one of the reasons why I love fall
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
2 pounds potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
(optional) 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 ounces fresh Italian* cheese (Montasio, Asiago, or Fontina) , chopped finely
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (if you worry about saturated fats, skip and just add 4-5 tablespoons of milk)
1/3 cup Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Place the dried mushrooms (if using) in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Parboil the potatoes for 6 minutes. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly, using a mandoline. Place them in a bowl filled with cold water until use.
In a skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic clove (slightly pressed). Add the fresh mushrooms and the dried mushrooms (revived in hot water and well drained), add ¼ cup dry white wine and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until tender and the liquid has evaporated. Season with the rhyme, salt and pepper.
In a bowl, combine the cheeses and eggs with the cream until smooth, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Grease a baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Dust the bottom with some grated parmigiano cheese, then line the pan with potato slices, both the bottom and sides. Layer about half the mushrooms over the potatoes, then layer cream cheese mixture, more potatoes, mushrooms, cheese, and end with the remaining potato.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Unmold and serve hot (you can also serve in the baking pan: in this case, skip the parchment).
* If you can’t find Kosher Italian cheeses in your area, you can make this recipe with local artisanal cheeses. Choose something as natural as possible, flavorful and that melts easily.
Makes about 24 cookies
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
a generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 oz unsalted butter or margarine (cold), or 2/3 cup of olive oil
3/4 cup raisins
1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
Place the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor and combine together.
Add the butter or margarine and pulse.
Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and lemon zest, and process until fully combined. Lastly, add the raisins.
The texture should be crumbly. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead it with your hands till smooth, then divide it into 4 pieces. Roll the pieces into cylinders (about 1” or 1 ½” diameter). Flatten the cylinders slightly. Cut diagonally at about 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) intervals. Flatten the cookies about 1/3” thick, and make diamond shapes.
Arrange the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 15 minutes or until a light gold brown color. Allow them to cool on a rack, then dust with confectioner’s sugar.