Corn and Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese

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Sometimes I’m a big dummy. When I first brought home the cookbook Eataly from Eataly, in New York City, I marked a salad recipe that really intrigued me. It was a corn salad with strawberries and goat cheese.

Now, I didn’t happen to notice that there wasn’t any corn in the photo of this salad, I just thought the idea of corn and strawberries together sounded good.

What isn’t available to me at my “small town” grocery store, are exotic vegetables, including lettuces, like corn salad. What??? When I researched it, corn salad is another name for lamb’s lettuce and mache!!!

Which then explain why there’s no corn in the photo. And, it turns out there’s no corn salad in all of Oklahoma. So I used small romaine hearts instead just for something green, and indeed used corn as well. And next spring I’m going to grow corn salad.

Corn Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese
Definitely adapted
Makes 4 hearty salads

10 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
10 good-sized basil leaves, chiffonaded, plus extra for garnish
5 tablespoons extra virgin oil, divided
Salt
White pepper
4 flatbreads or naan
2 small romaine heartS, sliced thinly
1 – 15 ounce can whole corn, well drained
1 pound strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Salt
White Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the cheese and basil. In a separate bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of oil with a pinch of each of salt and white pepper. Break up the flatbread and brush the pieces with the seasoned oil.


Arrange a few pieces of flatbread in individual bowls, then add some romaine, corn, and some sliced strawberries.

Top with spoonfuls of the cheese and basil mixture, followed by the remaining flatbread, corn, strawberries, and cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, and serve.

Overall, I loved the salad. The basilly goat cheese was fabulous with the corn, strawberries and lettuce. The seasoned pieces of flatbread were delicious.


The only part I didn’t like was when the dressing got onto the flatbread pieces, they mushed up.

So next time, I will toss together the lettuce, corn, and strawberries with the dressing, then add the cheese and flatbread pieces.
I served the salads with chilled Lillet.


I really love the corn and strawberries together – two different kinds of sweetness.


Arugula could definitely be substituted for corn salad, if you can’t find it either.

And as far as mixing the basil into the goat cheese, I’d much rather chiffonade a lot of basil and mix into the lettuce, corn, and strawberries, and then simply crumble the goat cheese. It’s funny, I’ve had trouble with the Eataly cookbook recipes before!

My Favorite Pasta

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It could be said that one doesn’t need a book on pasta to cook pasta. I mean, start with garlic, add fresh tomatoes and basil to pasta, and you’ve got a fabulous dish. Add some Italian sausage and Parmesan to it and it gets even better. No recipe required.

But then, one could say that about a lot of different kinds of cooking. Especially everyday cooking, because often the recipes are created based on what you just picked up at the grocery store and what’s in your pantry.

But I have many Italian cookbooks, as well as pasta cookbooks, and it’s the only way to discover traditional recipes and unique ingredients.

One of my favorite Italian cookbook authors is Giuliano Bugialli. And this pasta recipe comes from his cookbook, Bugialli on Pasta, published in 1988. He’s especially funny to me because he abhors Americans who put cheese on all forms of pasta. He gets quite indignant about it, in fact.

pasta9

Fortunately, he has never visited me in my kitchen to see what I do and don’t do with pasta, because although I love his recipe, I’ve also adapted it. And, I serve it with cheese. The original recipe in the book is called Malloreddus alla Campidanese, or Sardinian Pasta with Sausages.

This is a photograph of his actual recipe using the “correct” pasta called malloreddus. I’ve always thought that this pasta shape looks like maggots! But I finally got my hands on some so that’s what I’m using!

pasta8

This is Malloreddus.


If you can’t find malloreddus, or find them too maggotty, use any ruffly pasta shape like radiatore or trumpets.


So here is my slight adaptation of Mr. Bugialli’s recipe.

Pasta Alla Campidanese
Pasta with Sausages

12 ounces pasta of choice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 26.46 carton (Pomi brand) chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried basil (during winter months)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch saffron
1/3 cup cream
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded (during summer months)

Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions. Then pour everything into a large colander.

Pour the olive oil in the same pot that you used to cook the pasta. Heat it over medium high heat, then add the sausage. Use fairly large pieces; you don’t want it to look like ground sausage. Cook until well browned, then remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place the sausage in a bowl.

Turn down the heat slightly, then add the onion to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir for about 10 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

Give everything a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes to reduce slightly. You don’t want to reduce too much; you want extra sauce so the noodles can absorb it. Then add salt, saffron, and dried basil, if using. Stir well.

Stir it in, then add the sausage to the sauce. Cook for a few minutes, then add the cream.


Then add the pasta. Stir well but gently to combine.


Serve hot, topped with grated Parmesan and fresh basil, if available.

In reality, pasta puttanesca is my personal favorite, but it’s not for everybody. This recipe with Italian sausage and the red sauce is more generally enjoyed by everyone.

I like to prepare the pasta about an hour before serving, so the pasta has a chance to soak up the lovely sauce.

This pasta reheats pretty well, but you might have to add some broth or more cream and heat on the stove gently and slowly.

Besides the Parmesan, it’s really good topped with cayenne chile pepper flakes.

Ligurian Focaccia

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I surprised myself when I ordered Samin Nosrat’s cookbook soon after I heard about it. I usually take the wait-and-watch approach, like I did with Ottolenghi. That worked out well for me! I missed out on a few years of fabulous recipes. Maybe I’ve learned my lesson?

No, most likely it was because I happened upon Salt Fat Acid Heat the show on Netflix, that endeared me to Ms. Nosrat so much that I just had to have her book. I’d also like her as a friend, cause she gives great hugs and says “wow” a lot!

The title of this cookbook, which is the 1918 James Beard award winner, among others, is all about using four elements in order to create great food. “Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food.”

Her introduction begins, “Anyone can cook anything and make it delicious.”

When you buy this cookbook, if you haven’t already, read the introduction. It tells the story of how she became an employee of Alice Waters, working at the famous Chez Panisse, after saving money for months in order to dine there. And the rest is history.

In this post, I’m making focaccia the Ligurian way, which Ms. Nosrat learned herself in the first episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat. Oh, and she speaks fluent Italian.

In the episode, she visited olive orchards in Liguria, watched an olive harvest, the pressing of the olives, followed by an olive oil tasting.

Then she met with a focaccia expert, Diego, who walked her through the traditional recipe. This recipe isn’t in the cookbook, but it intrigued me because of a surprise step at the end.

Ideally you’d need some Ligurian olive oil, but I had to substitute what I had opened presently, which is Cortina, from Puglia, Italy.

Ligurian Focaccia
Adapted from Diego with the help of Josey Baker
printable recipe below

For the dough:
2½ cups (600 grams) lukewarm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2½ teaspoons (15 grams) honey
5 1/3 cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (18 grams) Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (50 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
Flaky salt for finishing

For the brine:
1½ teaspoons (5 grams) Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
⅓ cup (80 grams) lukewarm water

In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast, and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil.


Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.

Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons oil evenly onto a 18-by-13 inch (46-by-33 cm) rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan.

Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward.

The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched. Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved.

Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.

Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F (235°C). If you have a baking stone, place it on rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on rack. Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.


Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula. To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.

Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

To store, wrap in parchment and then keep in an airtight bag or container to preserve texture. Gently toast or reheat any leftover focaccia before serving. Alternatively, wrap tightly to freeze, then defrost and reheat before serving.

This focaccia? Outstanding. It’s like none other I’ve eaten or made myself. It has a crunchy crust, and a soft interior. I was so excited to try the brine, but concerned about the total salt. Not an issue.

And all of the olive oil on this focaccia? It’s just meant to be! I even dip a quick olive oil dip for it. Without balsamic, cause my husband….


I truly can’t get over how good this is. You’ll have to try it…

 

 

Walnut Cream Gnocchi

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Years ago my husband and I vacationed in Italy, visiting Lake Como, Venice, Verona, the Dolomites, Varenna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Umbria, Siena, and Rome, plus delightful villages in between. One day we had lunch in the beautiful and historically fascinating city of Siena. I remember it like it was yesterday – not only the city but also my lunch.


We had walked away from the touristy part of town, and discovered a restaurant-filled alley. We checked out posted menus, and finally just picked one eeny-meeny-miney-mo style. Honestly all of the restaurants had fabulous menus.

I ordered gnocchi with a walnut cream sauce, which could definitely be my last meal on earth if I had a choice in the matter. The gnocchi were bite-sized pillows – just what you’d expect in Tuscany. But the walnut cream sauce was heavenly.

I took before and after photos of my lunch, and fortunately, have never deleted them from my computer. They’ve been a constant reminder to try and duplicate the sauce. And yes, I left one gnocchi just to not feel piggy! But seriously, look at that serving?!

Once home, I pondered the different ways you can make a walnut cream sauce. It really depends how thick or thin you want it; one of my options was to make a walnut bechamel, but I chose to make a somewhat thinner sauce.

To keep it simple, I used gnocchi from the store. This is a fabulous product.

So here is my recipe for gnocchi in a simple walnut cream sauce, subtly infused with garlic. The prepared gnocchi can be served tossed in the sauce, with grated Parmesan passed around, or baked with the sauce and cheese first. Your choice!


Walnut Cream Sauce for Gnocchi
serves 2 or 4

6 ounces walnuts
12 ounces heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
4 ounces unsalted butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces gnocchi
Grated Parmesan

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet just until lightly browned. Let cool. I try to avoid the nut dust after toasting them.

Combine the walnuts and the cream in the blender jar. Process until smooth. You can see how thick the walnut cream becomes.

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees F if you’re going to bake the gnocchi. See * below. Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and gently warm it in the butter for a few minutes. Add the walnut cream to the garlic butter and whisk until combined.

* Fold in the prepared gnocchi gently, making sure they are all coated with the cream. Add the salt and taste. Once heated through, place them in a serving dish.

At this point the gnocchi can be enjoyed as is, with grated Parmesan passed around. This is how I had it in Siena.


For the baked version, pour the walnut-cream covered gnocchi into a buttered baking dish, and generously top with Parmesan.


Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until there’s some bubbling and browning. The baking dish could alternatively be placed under the broiler for a few minutes prior to serving.

I have to add that this isn’t the prettiest sauce in the world. The walnuts make the cream a bit off in color, but it’s so good I’m not sure anyone would care.

I also think some panko bread crumbs could be used on top for a little crunch, but next time…


Since creating this recipe, I’ve repeated it for company using 3 pounds of gnocchi, and for the sauce used 16 ounces of walnuts and 1 quart (32 ounces) of cream. It worked out perfectly, so I don’t think the nut-to-cream ratio is that critical.

This recipe is so good, and I’m stating that even though I “created“ it. Duplicating delicious meals, especially from traveling, is always fun.

Both versions, the baked and non-baked are fabulous. If you want to taste most closely what I had in Siena, don’t bake the gnocchi!

Fettuccine al Burro

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I didn’t grow up with Italian cuisine, which is interesting, considering my French mother cooked various global cuisines over the years, like Ethiopian and Chinese, as well as French. Somehow, Italian got overlooked.

It could have been on purpose now that I think of it. Her first husband, my father, was from Sicily. That marriage didn’t end well.

Fortunately, thanks to the comprehensive Time-Life Foods of the world set of cookbooks that my mother gave me when I got married, I gradually learned about the world of Italian cuisine.

My exploration taught me quickly that the cuisine was not anything like Americanized Italian food that I’d experienced at “bad” Italian restaurants.

Creating Osso Buco and Scaloppine al Marsala, and discovering pesto, were revelations. But one recipe really stood out in “The Cooking of Italy” cookbook, and that was Fettuccine al Burro.

It was and is still for me one of those “to die for” recipes. Practically equal parts butter, cream and cheese melted into fettuccine. What’s not to love?

This recipe is probably what’s better known as Alfredo sauce, but I’ll always call it by the name I first learned, which translates to fettuccine in butter.

Fettuccine al Burro
Egg Noodles with Butter and Cheese
Slightly adapted

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus a little more
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces fettuccine
1 canned white truffle, sliced very thin, optional
Extra freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoons at a time, beat in 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Set aside.


Bring the water and salt to a bubbling boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the fettuccine and stir it gently with a wooden fork for a few moments to prevent the strands from sticking to one another.


Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender. Use the package instructions for guidance.

Immediately drain the fettuccine into a colander then transfer it at once to the bowl the toss until every strand is well coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper. I use white pepper.

Stir in the optional truffle, if using. I know for a fact that 30+ years ago I never used truffles because I was pretty confused as to why one would put chocolate in pasta!!! I also could never have afforded them…


Serve the fettuccine at once.

Pass the extra grated cheese in a separate bowl.


If the fettuccine dries up a little before serving, add a little more cream, cover the bowl, and let the pasta sit.

Some day it would be fun to add some lovely slices of white truffle to this pasta, but it’s certainly rich and satisfying as is.

note: I typically buy a 4-5 pound chunk of Parmesan Reggiano at Whole Foods and store it for when I need to freshly grate some. For some odd reason, this really irks them, and I have no idea why. But how people can be happy with little 3 ounces plastic-wrapped chunks of Parmesan that are obviously cut along the rind is beyond me. So I break down my large chunk when I get home, store it in cheese bags, and grate as needed.

I love this gadget that I got at Amazon, of course, and it’s easier on the hands than a traditional grater. It’s a manual rotary cheese grater with 3 different graters. Just FYI.

Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.


When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

3-Onion Tart with Taleggio

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Everyone is familiar with Italian Parmesan, but is everyone familiar with Taleggio?!

According to “House of Cheese,” by the Di Bruno Bros, owners of the famous, “pioneering specialty food retailer and importer that began with a modest shop in the now-iconic South Philadelphia Italian Market in 1939, “Taleggio is the all-time gateway stinker.” (Which is exactly why I like it!)

Furthermore from the book, “It can be a bit whiffy, but mostly it’s just a bulging cushion of mushroomy lushness encased in a thin orange crust. The Italians have popularized this washed-rind cheese in a way that no other culture has dared. While the Germans have Limburger and the French have Epoisses, both of these robust cheeses tend to freak out the American palate; leave it to the Italians to popularize their ticks little beefcake.”

In a different book, called “A Cheesmonger’s Seasons,” Taleggio is used in both polenta and risotto recipes. But you can simply spread it on warm bread and enjoy. Warning, though, it is on the salty side.

This 3-onion tart is a foolproof recipe. How do I know? Because I didn’t read the recipe through, which is the first thing you learn about following recipes, right?!

This is actually supposed to be more like a crostata or galette, with the sautéed 3=onion mixture actually a topping, not a filling. And I’ve made this tart before!

But as it is with home cooking, it all worked.

Three-Onion Tart with Taleggio
Torta di Tre Cipolle con Taleggio
printable recipe below

Crust
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/3 cup cold milk

Tart Filling/Topping/Whatever
3 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks, about 2 medium leeks
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced green onions
1 large egg, beaten to blend
8 ounces Taleggio, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

For the crust, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add egg and oil to well. Pour melted butter and milk into well. Mix ingredients in well, gradually incorporating flour until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Form into ball. Wrap in a kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

To prepare the onions, combine the leeks and oil in a large, non-stick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring frequently. This will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in the red onion and green onions. Sauté uncovered until all onions are very tender, about 25 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

Cool the onion mixture, then mix in the egg and Taleggio.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, forming a 13″ round. Transfer to a large, rimless baking sheet. Fold outer 1″ of dough over, forming a double-thick rim. Like a galette?!!!

Spread the onion mixture evenly over crust. Since I hadn’t added the blobs of Taleggio to the onions, (ooops), i placed some on the pastry crust, and the rest on the top.

Bake tart 10 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan over the tart and bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Let set for a while before slicing.

I served mine with a simple salad of tomatoes.


This tart is fabulous. It would be just as good as a galette, and probably more fun to eat! I love galettes for their rusticity.

The crust for this is a perfect recipe. And now I know why I had so much leftover! Cause this tart wasn’t supposed to be in a 9″ pie pan!

But the combination of the onions with the Taleggio and Parmesan? Out of this world. Make this however you wish. It will be perfect.

 

 

Amarena Cherry Cake

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I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

Pasta Pane Vino

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Pasta Pane Vino is the name of a recently published book by Matt Goulding. I bought it immediately after hearing the author interviewed by Christopher Kimball on Milk Street Radio.

The book is subtitled – “deep travels through Italy’s food culture,” and he has written similar books on Spain and Japan. Matt Goulding is a James Beard award-winning author, and published this book with Anthony Bourdain. It came out a matter of days after the death of Anthony Bourdain, in fact.


The best part of the book to me was the correspondence Matt Goulding had with Anthony Bourdain – actual letters between the two discussing the prospect of yet another book on Italian food.

The book is more of a travelogue; it’s not a cookbook. In it you discover three brothers who became the burrata kings of Puglia. You discover the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions. You meet some Italian nonne, some of whom are arguing about how to make ragu.

During the interview the author gave up some of his favorite, “secret” places to dine in Italy, so hopefully not everyone who buys this book turns these local spots into tourist stops!

Anyone planning a trip to Italy could certainly use this book for inspiration. It’s also good to know the “rules” of the culture, and this book contains some helpful information in the chapter “Drink Like an Italian.”

I’ve interspersed photos of my own from various regions of Italy. If you haven’t been, I strongly urge you to go.

GET WITH THE SCHEDULE
Italians are famously fastidious about when they drink what. Sunrise to 11 AM is cappuccino time, the early afternoon for espresso. Early evenings are for aperitifs – wine or beer, with snacks – and after dinner is time for the stronger stuff: grappa, a cocktail, or a digestivo.

LEARN THE LINGO
Order a “grande latte” and you’ll get a giant glass of milk and the skiing eye. Everything starts with espresso, more commonly called cafe. Order a roster to for a shorter, concentrated shot; a lunge for a longer, gentler one. A macchiato gets you a little steamed milk, and a cappuccino gets you a lot more.

KEEP IT QUICK
Coffee culture here isn’t one of slow sipping and lingering. Italians don’t drink venti mochas in to-go cups; they drink four to five caffes spaced throughout the day, like cigarettes, to scratch and itch and break up the demands of the day. Find a bar you love and keep going back to the counter.

MAKE A MEAL OUT OF IT
Italians rarely drink on an empty stomach and a glass of wine or a spritz is usually a bridge to a free bite. In Venice, feast on small snacks called cicchetti; in Milan and Bologna lavish spreads put out for aperitivo can easily double as dinner. If you’re not getting something to eat with your glass, you should find a new place to drink.

DRINK LOCAL
Just as you don’t eat pesto in Palermo or carbonara in Campania, you shouldn’t drink Barolo in Bari or Chianti in Cagliari. Stick to the local grapes and you’ll find better deals and more interesting wines. Zibibbo (Sicily), Soave (Veneto), pignoletto (Emilia-Romagna): all rank as some of Italy’s most underrated.


Even if you’ve already visited Italy, this book is truly inspiring, entertaining, and educational. It will cause you to begin planning your next trip!

Spaghetti Bolognese

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This post came about in a funny way. My virtual food blogger sister-friend Linda Duffin, of the impressive blog Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen and I were commenting back and forth one day discussing the cooking of our mothers.

Linda wrote, “And don’t get me started on her spag bol.” Now, Linda is British, and I’ve spent many months-worth of time in the UK, or whatever it’s called now, and I have always tried local specialties in the various countries, whether Cullen Skink, Bedfordshire Clanger or, my favorite – Spotted Dick. But I’d never heard of Spag Bol.

Linda, probably thinking I’m an unsophisticated daftie, explained that spag bol was simply short for Spaghetti Bolognese. Of course.

Which then got me thinking that I’ve never made spaghetti bolognese in all of my years cooking. The cookbook I immediately grabbed, was Giuliani Buglialli’s Buglialli on Pasta, published in 1988.

Buglialli is so strictly Italian, and he’s so familiar with Italy’s regional cooking, that I knew he would be the proper resource. When I call him strict, I’m not kidding. He practically yells at you from the pages of his cookbooks if you dare grab a chunk of Parmesan.

“One should not indiscriminately sprinkle Parmigiano over everything if all dishes are not to melt into an unappealing sameness.”


On his research in studying and documenting authentic Italian recipes: “Arriving at an authentic version of a recipe with a long tradition requires work. The dish as prepared at one regional restaurant or by one family from an area is not necessarily an authentic version of that region’s preparation. It is important to compare many different sources, printed and oral, especially the oldest available ones. But let us not forget that even some Italian grandmothers are poor cooks.”

I find him really entertaining, and I love his passion. And there it was, in the cookbook, Tagliatelle al Ragu alla Bolognese.

“The famous Bolognese ragu is one of several meat sauces and the most popular. Its distinctive features are the sautéing of the meat together with the aromatic chopped vegetables, the omission of garlic, the combination of snipped, chopped, or ground beef and pork, the use of white rather than red wine, and the use of heavy cream.”

Furthermore: “I should like to remind once again that pasta with meat sauce is not automatically alla bolognese. Only those pastas specifically using a Bolognese meat sauce are such; the many employing such sauces from other regions would never be considered alla bolognese.”

I looked online for any recent information on Buglialli, and did find his website, called Buglialli Foods of Italy, and under his cooking courses, held at his farmhouse in Tuscany, none are listed beyond 2015. If he is still alive, it’s estimated that Buglialli is approximately 80 years old. Seems like his date of birth was always kept a secret.

Ragu Alla Bolognese
printable recipe below

1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 large stalk celery
3 ounces pancetta, cut into cubes
6 ounces lean boneless beef, in cubes
6 ounces boneless pork, in cubes
4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ripe, fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup lukewarm beef broth
3/4 cup heavy cream

Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.

Coarsely grind the pancetta, beef, and pork all together in a meat grinder. (I used my food processor.)

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy, flameproof casserole over medium heat. When the oil mixture is warm, add the chopped vegetables and ground meats, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, using the disc wth smallest holes, into a glass bowl.

Add the wine to the casserole and let it evaporate for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.


Then add the broth. Cover the casserole and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Add the cream, mix very well, lower the heat, and reduce for 20 minutes; for the last 5 minutes, remove the lid.


Remove the sauce from the heat and let rest until cool, about 1 hour.

Tagliatelle Al Ragu Alla Bolognese, from Bologna

Cook the pasta according to package directions, although Buglialli suggests fresh tagliatelle. (I used pappardelle.)

Place 4 tablespoons of sweet butter in serving bowl; add a little boiling water to melt the butter.

When ready, drain the pasta, transfer to the serving bowl, and mix well with the melted butter.

Pour the sauce all over, mix and serve immediately.

Pass freshly grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.

This ragu is fabulous. If you close your eyes, it’s like you’re eating blended lasagna!

My only regret is not making a quadruple batch of this lucious sauce.