Ally’s Ciambellini with Wine and Olive Oil

Ally's 1

Ally’s delicious Ciambellini (photo by Alice D’Antoni Phillips)

It’s not only that I happen to love this particular cookie recipe (which I often make myself in a slightly different version including red wine and fennel seeds) –  Alice also picked the best possible time to contribute to Dinner In Venice! I’m taking a short family vacation and this guest post means: “YAY! More play time with the kids”. While Allie is not Italian herself, her trademark cuisine, showcased in her addictive blog Ally’s Kitchen,  is simple but sophisticated, a perfect balance of flavors – qualities that many identify with contemporary Italian taste.  Her dishes are eclectic and show many different cultural influences, but this time she is actually taking us on a virtual trip to Central Italy……

ALLY SAYS:

Italian roots run deep in my life—married first time around to a D’Antoni, I was very influenced in my culinary growth in early years by being in the family.  With three sons who could eat you out of house and home, some of their favorite dishes were all Italian inspired—pastas especially!

Ally's 1

Still having a close connection to this part of my life, recently Ben and I traveled to Italy and visited our D’Antoni family there staying in their gorgeous home in Poggio Mirteto where food is the heart of living and breathing.  Amid the stunning olive orchards, wine vineyards and listening to the gentle crowing of roosters in early morning, each day began with deliciousness!  The long table set for family and friends and prepared by the expert hands of Antonella, ‘breaking bread’ was more than food, it was layers of entertainment, hours of laughter and sharing, and all with even more family in a rustic warm setting of food, wine, good stories, and laughter!

ally's bread

One recipe that captured my heart was ‘Ciambellini di Magro’—Italian cookies crispy and subtly sweet with distinct hints of the rich olive oil and wine in them!  I couldn’t get enough.  Antonella, who spoke limited English, and I, who speak even less Italian, had no problems communicating in the kitchen—she shared with me the recipe writing it in Italian and ‘talking’ with her hands and gestures explaining how to execute.  We laughed as we both knew we were in a festive game of ‘charades’ talking recipes, food, and cooking!

ally's ciambellini

Here is Allie/Alice, working her magic into the dough!

I’ve made these cookies three times since returning—sharing them with friends who come sit in my kitchen, I retell the story of Antonella & Ally in the kitchen—and, sharing them on my website and Facebook proved to be one of my most popular recipe posts!

Ally’s Ciambellini with Wine and Olive Oil

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups self-rising flour (divided) (I’m also going to try them with all-purpose flour and rice flour.)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups sugar (divided)
  • 1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay.)

Directions

Yep, messy at first, but hang in there, it gets better! Preheat your oven to 350 F.

On a large clean surface (I used a large wooden cutting board.) put about 2 cups of flour and make a center well.

Add the olive oil then 1 ½ cups of sugar and the salt. With your fingers work the sugar into the oil. Then add about a cup of flour and start working in with your fingers.

Continue working in the flour that is surrounding the oil. Add another ½ to ¾ cups of flour.

Then slowly start working in wine, a little at a time. The dough batter will be gooey and messy—not to worry. Keep adding flour until you dough consistency that can be shaped into a ball.

Put about ½ cup sugar (or more) in a pie plate. This is for coating the cookies before putting on the partchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Cut off a bit of the dough ball at a time and begin rolling into snakes then shape into pinwheels, make knots, or make donut holes.

Place in the pie plate of sugar and coat well. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat process until all the dough is used.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven about 17-21 minutes or until the cookies are somewhat golden brown (not much). -

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/07/08/allys-ciambellini-with-wine-and-olive-oil/

How to Dress a Salad, Italian-Style

INSALATA E OLIO

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As much as I love America, there is one thing food-wise, that I haven’t gotten used to in almost twenty years: salad dressings! Besides the fact that most store-bought dressings include a lot of processed ingredients, I find that most of these concoctions (even when home-made) combine so many different flavors that they hide, rather than enhance, that of the salad itself. Another issue is texture: most dressings are so thick that, rather than enveloping the leaves, they sit on them.  In Italy, we dress salads very simply with oil and vinegar, or oil and lemon,and in some cases just oil and salt, in a similar way to the French.  The proportions are simple: one part of vinegar or lemon to 4 of oil for a milder dressing, or one part of vinegar or lemon to 3 parts of oil (and some salt) if you like tart flavors. Most Italians don’t actually measure, but you should calculate about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons oil per person, or just 1 if you are on a diet. Skipping oil altogether and going fat-free is not as healthy as it sounds, because some of the vitamins in vegetables are lipo-soluble and can only be absorbed when accompanied by a fat. Choose a nice extra-virgin olive oil, and not the cheaper, “light” varieties. As for vinegar, balsamic is very popular these days, but its complex flavor works only with very flavorful vegetables and can be overpowering on simpler types of lettuce. Simple white or red wine vinegar is much more versatile, as is lemon juice. Other great options are apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar.  I must confess that most of us don’t even bother to blend the ingredients for our everyday meal. Right before eating the salad, we just sprinkle with salt, and pour some oil and then vinegar straight from their bottles. But this is not necessarily the best method, and you should blend the ingredients first for a better result.Everybody knows that vinegar and oil do not emulsify well and tend to separate. The best way to combine them, reducing them into micro-droplets, is in a blender. Honestly, I only do this if I have guests. For everyday, I just put the salt in a stainless or glass bowl, add the vinegar or lemon (do not add the salt after the oil, or it won’t dissolve), and combine well with a whisk or simply a fork. Gradually add the oil, whisking well, and use immediately to dress a salad. The ingredients should be at room temperature, and never cold, or they won’t blend well. Remember that you should never dress salads in advance, except for very “resistant” vegetables such as cucumber or radicchio – delicate salad leaves tend to react to vinaigrette and wither. Sometimes, when I want my salad to be really special, or if I need to plate it for a picture, I add a touch of honey to the dressing: honey stabilizes the emulsion for a long time,  so that the oil and vinegar will not separate all over the plate.If you do use your blender and add honey, it’s actually best to let the vinaigrette rest for a few minutes or even an hour before using it, so that all the flavors can meld; but don’t refrigerate it!Last, but not least: even if you are using bagged salad, always rinse it first – not only because… you never know!!! but also because if the salad is too dry you will end up using way to much dressing.

Buon appetito, and let me know how it goes!

Red and Green Lettuce Salad

protected by copy rights

protected by copy rights

A super-fresh and delicate salad to celebrate the arrival of spring!

When using edible flowers in your food, make sure they are not treated with dangerous chemicals. The best are the ones from your own garden!

green and red lettuce salad by DinnerInVenice.com

Red and Green Lettuce Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound mixed red and green lettuce
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 cup strawberries or red grapes (depending on the season)
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh daisies to decorate
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese (optional – only if making as a meal and not a side)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

Serves 4

Peel the onion and slice it very thinly, then soak in a bowl of ice water for at least 20 minutes (soaking the onion in ice water tames the bite and makes it more digestible by washing out the sulfurs).

Wash and dry the two types of lettuce; wash the strawberries and slice them thinly.

Peel and shred the carrot. Drain and dry the onion, and combine everything together in a bowl.

In a cup, mix together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper: pour the mix on the salad and toss.

Add the cheese if using.

You can decorate it with fresh flowers.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/04/22/red-and-green-lettuce-salad/

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

My husband lived in Japan for one year and is obsessed with sushi. When we got married, I  introduced him to Italian raw fish dishes such as crudocarpaccio and tartara.

Many cultures like to serve the freshest fish raw, and it’s very quick and easy to prepare – but it’s vital to use only the best, sushi-grade fish, purchased from a fish monger you trust. As an extra precaution you can also freeze your fish for 1 hour before you use it. Salmon, in particular, is very susceptible to parasites.

This is a simple recipe, but it requires (besides very fresh fish!) very good olive oil and organic lemon and lime.

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • 1 lb fish fillet, sushi-grade (choose your favorite: branzino, yellowtail, salmon, halibut…)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil (I prefer a mild Italian oil from Liguria)
  • 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Directions

Chop the fish very fine. Your fish monger might be willing to do this for you. If not, store the fish in the freezer from 30 minutes before chopping: it will make it easier!

Grate the lemon and lime zest, and squeeze the juice. Set aside.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and form individual patties.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/25/tartara-di-pesce-raw-fish-tartare/

Tortino d’Azzima – Matzo Pie

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

This recipe was my contribution to my friend Tori’s Passover Potluck project 2012. Check out the more detailed intro and my step-by-step pictures on her blog, here (you will also love all her yummy recipes!).

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

Ingredients

  • MATZO PIE INGREDIENTS
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 2 boxes (about 10 oz. each) matzo (more or less)
  • 2 lbs. cleaned Swiss chard or baby spinach
  • 2 lbs. artichoke hearts (frozen is ok)
  • 2 lbs. asparagus or mushroom, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 quarts cold chicken broth (for soaking the matzo- sub vegetable broth for vegan mod.)
  • 3 eggs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • SUGO D'ARROSTO (ROAST JUICE) INGREDIENTS
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • 4 oz. ground meat (optional)
  • 1 piece marrow bone (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Clean the vegetables, discarding the tougher parts of the artichokes and asparagus.

Cut the asparagus into small pieces, slice the artichokes very thinly (if using frozen, partially defrost first), and chop the spinach.

Blanch the spinach for about 5 minutes in a covered pot with a few tablespoons of water (you can also do this in a covered platter in your microwave).

Allow to cool down, then drain and squeeze the liquid out by pressing it into a colander in your sink.

Prepare three separate skillets on your stovetop, with at least 2 tablespoons of oil in each.

Heat the oil and add 2 whole cloves of garlic to each skillet.

Place the artichokes in one skillet, the asparagus or mushrooms in another, and the spinach in another.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine each to the artichokes and the asparagus/mushroom skillets and salt to taste.

Turn heat on those two skillets to medium. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the wine till it evaporates.

Add 1/3 cup of water to the artichokes, and cover both the artichokes and the asparagus.

Turn heat to low.

Salt the spinach skillet to taste (do not add any wine). Turn heat to low.

Cook all 3 vegetables separately on low heat until very moist and tender, adding some water if they start sticking to the skillet, or if they dry out. Cooking times may vary between 15 and 20 minutes.

Discard the garlic cloves and set the three vegetables aside. If they feel too dry, add a few tablespoons of broth.

Make sure you have some “sugo d’arrosto”* (roast juice) ready, or make some following my instructions at the bottom of this recipe.

Soak the matzahs in cold chicken broth. For a prettier result, soak them briefly (about 10 minutes), a few at a time, not allowing them to crumble (if you soak them for a short time, they might still split in 2, but they will be easy to “re-compose” in the pan).

For a softer, kugel-like texture, soak the matzahs for at least 40 minutes until very soft, break them down with your hands into a “mush” and then squeeze the liquid out (some people prefer this texture and they don’t mind the fact that it looks less “pretty”).

Line the bottom of a baking pan with about ¼ of the soaked matzah. splitting some in ½ or 1/3 as needed to completely fill the perimeter.

Brush or drizzle with a little “sugo di arrosto” and with about 1/3 cup broth (if you mush the matzah you will need to use less broth; whole matzahs, more broth), and then layer most of the spinach (reserve about ¼ for the top); follow with a layer of matzah, a little more “sugo d’arrosto” and broth, and the artichokes (set aside ¼ of all the vegetables) ; again matzah, roast juice, broth, and the asparagus. You can just top with the asparagus or make a final layer of matzah and top with roast juice.

Break the eggs and whisk them with 1 cup leftover broth.

Pour the mix over the pie slowly, trying to cover it evenly and allowing it to penetrate down the sides (if you are serving this dish as a side and prefer a lighter version, or if you are making a vegan modification, you can skip the eggs).

Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Half-way through the baking, check the pie, and if it feels too dry, add some more broth, concentrating it on the perimeter of the matzahs. You can also cover it with foil for the second half of the baking.

TO MAKE SUGO D'ARROSTO (ROAST JUICE)

Roast some beef with olive oil, garlic and rosemary leaves.

When the meat is done, remove it and strain the pot juices, which you will add to the matzah pie (if it’s not Passover, the roast juices also make an awesome pasta sauce!).

If you don’t need to make a whole roast beef, you can make a “fake” roast juice sauce by heating some olive oil in a skillet, and cooking a small amount of ground meat in it with a few whole cloves of garlic, some rosemary, salt and pepper. And if you are vegetarian or vegan, just heat the oil with garlic and rosemary and skip the meat!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/22/tortino-dazzima-matzo-pie-meat-or-parve/

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of red radicchio
  • 2 cups mache’ salad
  • 1 cup arugola
  • 2/3 pound smoked sable or smoked salmon
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (plus more for the avocado)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
  • salt and pink peppercorns to taste

Directions

Serves 4

Whisk the oil with the lemon juice (and yogurt, if using); add the chives, salt , grated grapefruit zest, and pink peppercorns and mix well.

Peel the grapefruit eliminating all the membranes, and divide it into slices; wash and drain the 3 different types of salads, and cut them into stripes.

Place them with the grapefruit in a large bowl and toss with the dressing.

Peel the avocado, cut it into thin slices, drizzle it with lemon juice (to prevent it from oxidizing). Cut the smoked fish into stripes.

Add the avocado and fish to the salad and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/30/smoked-fish-and-grapefruit-salad/

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs
Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

My husband and I are almost vegetarian, meaning that we tend to forget about meat and to serve it only when we have guests who expect it. But a few of you have been asking for a winter-appropriate meat dish, and here you go! You are going to love this slow-cooked recipe, because it’s very simple and yet elegant. Perfect for a date! As always with Italian cuisine, don’t skimp on the ingredients. Use a wine that you would actually enjoy drinking – it will cost more, but it’s totally worth it! Just think of this as a special occasion dish. Wines that work well are dry and with a lot of body: Barolo, Chianti, Super-Tuscans, Bordeaux, etc. The meat should be cut into approx. 1″ cubes.

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • 2 pounds beef for stew
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 6 cloves garlic, each cut into 4 lenghth-wise
  • 1 carrot
  • a small rosemary sprig
  • a few sage leaves
  • 4-5 juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions

With a sharp knife, make a small cut in each cube of meat and insert a piece of garlic in each cut. Marinade the meat for 24 hours with the wine, vinegar, garlic, juniper berries and herbs.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot, add the sliced onion and cook for 2-3 minute.

Drain and dry the meat, dip it in potato starch, and brown it on all sides.

Remove the meat and set aside; cook the onion on medium/low heat for 10-15 more minutes or until soft, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary to prevent it from burning.

Return the meat to the pot (you can also use a slow-cooker) with at least ½ of the marinade liquid, add salt and pepper, and simmer for at least 3 hours or even longer on low heat. It can take closer to 4 hours, depending on the cut of meat: when it's ready, it will fall apart easily if you test it with a fork.

Enjoy with potatoes or polenta, or some crunchy Italian bread.

Some people prefer to remove most of the rosemary and sage leaves before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/29/fragrant-stew-with-wine-and-herbs/

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been looted and desecrated by the soldiers of Syrian-Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BCE. Mattityahu, a Jewish priest, and his five sons, led a successful rebellion against Antiochus, which resulted in the rededication of the Temple by Mattityahu’s son, Yehudah the Maccabee, in 166 BCE. The Talmud reports that the menorah in the Temple was required to burn every night, but there was only enough oil for one night left: however, the menorah burned for eight days on that little oil, giving the Jews enough time to procure more. The oil used for lighting the menorah was pure, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, which may explain why Hanukkah resonates so deeply with Italian Jews, inspiring them to create a deluge of mouthwatering recipes :-)

While the miracle of the oil is described in the Talmud, the Book of Maccabees makes no mention of it, stating only that an eight day celebration was proclaimed upon re-dedication of the temple: therefore, a number of historians believe that the reason for the eight day festival was simply that the first Hanukkah was a belated celebration of the harvest holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Azeret, which the Jews had not been able to observe during the war.  Obviously, the two explanations are not mutually exclusive, and Hanukkah can very well celebrate the miracle of the oil while also absorbing the previous holiday.

In this spirit, here is a delicious fried treat that incorporates the oil, and the honey (a recurrent symbol that appears on our tables from Rosh haShana to Shemini Azeret): for holiness, and sweetness.  And Sambuca… just for fun!

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Sambuca (or Arak or other Anise liquor)
  • 4 cups pastry or 00 flour (but you can also use all-purpose)
  • 1 package baking powder (16 gr)
  • 1 cup honey
  • mild olive oil or peanut oil for frying

Directions

Beat 4 whole eggs and one yolk with the sugar; add the melted butter (warm), the liquor and a pinch of salt.

Combine the flour with the baking powder, and sift them over the egg mixture, stirring constantly until everything is combined.

Transfer the mixture onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

Form a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for one hour.

Roll it into a disc about 0.5 mm thick and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Pour plenty of oil in a wide, heavy pan with tall sides – the oil should be at least 3” high, and stop at least 2? from the top of the pan. The oil is hot enough when a piece of bread dropped into the pan is immediately surrounded by many little bubbles, but does not burn quickly.

Fry the shapes in small batches (if you put too much food into the pan at the same time, the temperature of the frying oil will drop, causing the fritters to absorb fat), turning them quickly so that they brown on both sides.

Remove them with a slotted spoon, and dry on a double layer of paper towel.

Melt the honey in a saucepan with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.

Arrange the sweets on dessert plates, drizzle them with the honey, and serve.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/08/hanukkah-treats-with-sambuca-and-honey-dairy/

 

Venetian Fritters

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 scarce cups 00, pastry or AP flour
  • 25 gr active yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup liquor, such as rhum or grappa
  • 1/2 cup sultana or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1 ½ tablespoons candied citron (or lemon)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • abundant oil for frying (a mild olive oil or peanut oil)
  • powder sugar to decorate

Directions

Soak the raisins in the liquor for for 30 minutes, and drain well.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water (never use cold water!); add 1/2 of the flour and allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm area.

Combine with the rest of the ingredients into a batter just slightly thicker than waffle batter.

Allow to rest for 3 hours.

Heat at least 3” of peanut or mild olive oil in a wide heavy pan with tall sides, and fry by dropping spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Do not drop too many spoonfuls at the same time, or they will stick to each other and also cool down the oil, with a greasy and soggy result.

Fry in batches until golden brown, draining on a double or triple layer of paper towel.

Dust with sugar and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/venetian-fritters-parve/

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Contrary to popular belief, Italian Jews do not all descend from the Jews who arrived in Rome in the second century b.c.e., and from the Sephardim fleeing Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. There have also been Ashkenazi Jews living in Northern Italy since as early as the Middle Ages. In Venice, in particular, Ashkenazim (“I Tedeschi”, as they were called)  were the oldest Jewish community in the city. The name of the first Jewish quarter in Venice (and in the world), “ghetto”, possibly derives from the Germanic term “gitter” (iron grill).  Even Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), one of the most famous Italian rabbis in history, was a “Yekkishe Yid”!   (the name Luzzatto is the Italian translation of the German Jewish name Lausitz). A lot of recipes reflect this ancient Ashkenazi influence, and one of my favorite examples is the apple fritters that we make for Hanukkah.  One of the reasons I like them so much has nothing to do with history: since in Italy we also have the famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (“Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno”), I feel that these must be really good for me even though they are deep-fried, and I indulge in second and third helpings. You can sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like, or serve them with a raspberry sauce for a refined chromatic effect.

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 apples
  • 1 cup pastry flour, or all-purpose flour (heaped)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup moscato or sweet champagne
  • peanut or mild olive oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon for decorating

Directions

Place the flour in a bowl, add the egg and start whisking with a manual or electric whisk; slowly and gradually add the wine.

If the batter seems too thick, add a few more tablespoons of wine.

Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently incorporate them into the batter.

Peel the apples, core them without halving them, and slice them horizontally (the slices should be 1/4? to 1/3?max.)

Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Heat abundant oil in a deep-fryer or a large, heavy pan with tall sides. When the oil is ready (365 F, or when a small piece of bread dropped in the oil forms many small bubbles all around), dry the apple slices, dip them in the batter, and fry them until golden in small batches (max. 4 slices at a time, or the oil temperature will drop and they will absorb oil).

Dry them very well on a double or triple layer of paper towel, and sprinkle them with sugar (you can also add cinnamon).

Serve immediately!

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/04/apple-fritters-with-moscato-wine-parve/

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

The verb “sformare” in Italian means “to turn out, to remove from the mold”. A Sformato is a kind of savory custard that is thick enough to retain its shape when turned out on a platter, thus making a crust unnecessary. Traditional Sformati are made with béchamel sauce (read: lots of butter!), but you can obtain similar results without wracking your diet if you use ricotta. As filling and creamy as a quiche, at a fraction of the calories, this is basically a savory variant of the Jewish Roman Cassola which I posted in December (I also wrote about it in The Forward) . Ricotta is not technically a cheese, but a by-product of cheese-making: that’s why whole milk ricotta is naturally very low-fat, containing only 5% fat (as opposed to 90% in cream cheese!): no need to go with the low-fat or fat-free varieties, which contain additives and taste bad. Pumpkin is also very interesting from a nutritional point of view, because it’s filling and sweet but very low in calories and sugar, and fat-free. It also contains high quantities of carotene, calcium and phosphorus. Enjoy!


Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 pound fresh spinach (optional)
  • 1 pound fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano or grana cheese
  • 4 tablespoons e.v. olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, if liked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oven-proof parchment; flour or breadcrumbs to dust the ramekins
  • optional: 1 cup boiled or steamed rice

Directions

Serves 4-6

Cook the pumpkin until soft (the quickest way is in the microwave, covered with plastic wrap leaving just a small opening for the steam, it takes about 10 minutes. Or you can bake it in the oven, covered with foil, it will take almost one hour).

If using the spinach, blanch for two minutes in boiling water (or steam it), drain it, squeeze most of the water out, and dry with paper towel.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan and add the garlic.

Once the garlic is brown, discard it and add the pumpkin.

Cook for about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher, allow it to cool down a little.

Place the pumpkin in the bowl of your food processor (or you can also do this by hand, in a bowl); add the ricotta (well drained of any liquid), the spinach and/or rice if using, the eggs, the parmigiano cheese, the nutmeg, and process briefly.

Line some small ramekins (or a large baking pan) with well-greased parchment paper (grease the paper well ,or they will stick.

You can also dust with some breadcrumbs or flour as an extra precaution, but the sformatini will look less pretty).

Bake in a “bain-marie” (in a lower pan filled with hot water) in a preheated 375 F oven.

When I feel lazy, I just bake them normally without the bain-marie,and they still come out great.

It takes about 20 minutes using small individual ramekins, and 30 minutes in one larger baking pan.

Turn off the oven and allow to set for about 15 minutes with the oven door open.

Turn out on a serving platter, remove the parchment, and serve hot or warm.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/06/ricotta-and-pumpkin-sformatini-dairy/

All About Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Olive Oil

Olive Oil

BUILD AN OLIVE OIL WARDROBE
Oils and fats do not just add texture, but flavor in Italian food; that’s why, if you want to eat like a REAL Italian, you should use different ones depending on the type of food you are cooking and the result you are trying to achieve. Butter and seed oils are more traditional than olive oil in Northern Italian cuisine (goose fat used to be popular as well!); and in general, for risotto, for frying fish, and for desserts, some people prefer sunflower oil, grapeseed oil or even canola. Some dishes like risotto taste best with butter, but you prefer to limit saturated fats you can start with a canola or sunflower oil, and just add some butter at the end with the parmigiano, to give it flavor and sheen.
Most generic Italian olive oils, even when extra-virgin, are made with blends from different regions (by the way, always buy extra-virgin for the best flavor: plus they are cold-processed and therefore do not require a hechsker according to most authorities). This makes them too strong for certain dishes, and not always pleasant to the palate.
I prefer to have a few extra-virgin  oils on hand: a very delicate one from Liguria (Imperia or Alghero, in the North-West) for fish; a medium Tuscan (slightly bitter) or Umbrian (fruitier) for salads, vegetables and meat dishes. For earthier dishes like pastas or specialties containing a lot of tomato, garlic and spices, a stronger oil like a Sicilian or Pugliese can be recommended.
If you can only get one bottle, pick an oil from Tuscany or Umbria, which will go with most dishes, and a smaller bottle of Ligurian oil, which will taste wonderful drizzled on steamed fish.
I always buy one bottle of extra-virgin olive oil labeled “Olio Novello”, “Di Frantoio” (fresher oil, from the mill); this is more expensive, but of much higher quality. For cooking, I use my regular-quality extra-virgin olive oil; before serving the food, I drizzle it with a few drops of the higher-end Olio Novello, to add depth to the flavor!
Please don’t buy any ‘light’ or ‘blended’ kind, but look for EXTRA-VIRGIN, COLD-PRESSED olive oil. This is the only type that is unprocessed (and naturally kosher – according to most authorities, it doesn’t need a hechsher because it’s made by simply pressing cold olives).
Make sure it’s labeled ‘EXTRA’-virgin, not just ‘virgin’. Virgin oils are still extracted without chemicals, but after repeated pressings of the olives- which makes their acidic levels higher, and their taste more pungent.
If it doesn’t even say ‘virgin’,  don’t buy it! It has been produced by chemical heat pressing, which makes it  harsher-tasting, less healthy, and not kosher unless certified.
Olive oil is not just meant to grease up foods: it makes food taste better. If you really shudder at the idea of pouring abundant quantities of oil directly from a bottle into your pots and pans, you can always put it into a spray bottle. But remember that consuming olive oil may reduce your risk of heart disease and make your skin look great, not to mention the fact that it will remind you of the Hanukkah miracle, making you smile.