Farinata (Chickpea flour flatbread)

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Farinata or Italian chickpea cake is a simple and easy to make dish that originated in the region of Liguria along the western Italian coast.  Legend has it, that sailors returning to the maritime city of Genoa after a battle with the city of Pisa (yes, I know…Pisa is part of Italy.  Italian history is full of big battles between cities) had bags of chickpea flour tip over, the flour mixed with sea water, then they baked it into a cake to celebrate their victory.

Today it is a popular street food, and although not as well known outside of Italy as the infinitely more famous pesto, it is definitely worth a try in any kitchen.

Did you see how fancy I made mine?

This is not typical.  I just did that because it was fun, and it looks amazing.  The typical dish uses only black pepper cracked over the top.

Regardless of how you make it – plain or dressed up, this naturally gluten free and vegan dish is high in soluble fiber which aids in digestion as well as keeping your arteries clean and clog free.  It’s crispy exterior and slightly creamy interior hold up well for mopping up sauces, and it’s the perfect foil for a little bit of artistic flair to keep the supper interesting!

I served it alongside chicken breast stuffed with artichoke and sundried tomato in a garlic cream sauce.  Fresh green beans, just lightly steamed provided a bit of crunch and the play on textures meant that we pretty much ate everything.  Only a small bit was saved for lunch tomorrow.

And although farinata is most tasty when just pulled out of the screaming hot oven, that is not by any means the only way that Italians eat it.  Most buy it from the store, and eat it at room temperature.

If you can’t find the flour in your regular flour aisle at the grocery store, try the gluten free section or head to the nearest natural foods store to find it.  Add the flour to your regular pancake recipe or bread recipe to increase the nutrition and lower the blood sugar spikes from regular wheat flour, or even add it to your cake mix to do the same thing.

*note – you have to soak the chickpea flour for at least 2 hours so it cooks evenly.  Don’t have 2 hours to wait?  Mix it in the morning and let it sit all day until supper time.  The soaking is important 🙂

Farinata (Italian chickpea flatbread)

You will need: a cast iron pan, and a bowel and whisk for mixing

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for the pan

Whisk flour and lukewarm water together in a bowl, cover, and let sit for at least 2 hours.  It can become foamy, and legend has it, that those bubbles can also cause bubbles in the digestive system (if you catch my drift.  haha, get it? ), so just use a spoon or ladle to skim off the foam after it soaks.

Preheat oven to about 500 F, and place the rack on the second level down from the top.  Heat the cast iron pan on stovetop over medium heat.

Once the pan is hot, pour in enough olive oil to fully coat the bottom, don’t be stingy.  Swirl the oil around.  It should start to smoke immediately.  Pour in the batter, take off the heat and place in the oven.

Because I put topping on mine, I set the timer for 15 minutes, take it out, and then arrange the toppings.  The pan is so hot that it will continue to cook the bottom even when the cake is out of the oven.  Brush the veggies with oil, and put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are done and the cake is nicely brown.

USE GOOD OVEN MITTS – IT’S REALLY HOT!

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Sweet and Tart Easy Plum and Papaya Puff Pastry

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This recipe also yields a ruby red syrup that you can be drizzled on gelato, pancakes or waffles, and even incorporated into cream cheese for delectable french toast sandwiches.

A friend gave us a bag of really beautiful plums that grew on the tree in his yard.  I already had some papaya at the house, and mixing the two of them together made a fine dessert that also doubles as a breakfast pastry.

This dessert is not very sweet, so if you want more sugar, simply add more.  It won’t hurt the results at all.

If you want the juices to be more of a sauce consistency, like you would put in an American style pie crust, simply up the amount of cornstarch to 1 T.

Otherwise, follow the recipe as it is.  Enjoy it plain, with ice cream, with powdered sugar, with vanilla sauce, or with whipped cream.  It’s really good with coffee, and it also tastes fabulous with honey drizzled on it.

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Sweet and Tart Easy Plum and Papaya Puff Pastry

Preheat oven to package directions for puff pastry

8 fresh plums, sliced about 1/2 inch thick and (obviously) pitted, you don’t have to peel them

2 cups sliced fresh papaya, about 1/2 inch thick

1/4 C + 1 T raw sugar (plus some more for sprinkling on the crust)

1/4 t pink salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1 1/2 t corn starch

1 egg beaten, or some melted butter

Cut the fruit and put in a bowl.  Add the sugar, and the spices, and the salt, and mix.  Let sit for a little bit.  The salt and sugar are breaking down the cell walls, so even a not so juicy fruit will start to release the liquids from the cells.  Once the liquid from the cells is released, and the sugar mixes with it, it will be super tasty.  The longer you let it sit, the tastier it is.

Line a baking sheet with oven paper.

Ponder life if you’re short on time, otherwise, let it sit for a while.  You can actually let it sit overnight with no problems.

Pour the fruit and it’s juices into a pan and cook for over low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.  If it sat overnight, then 5 minutes is probably ok.

Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water to make a slurry, and whisk into the fruit mixture.  Let it thicken for a couple of minutes.  I like to run my finger along the wooden spoon and see it make a mark.  A thickness like the thickness of maple syrup for pancakes.

Take off heat and let cool for a little bit.

Roll puff pastry onto the paper lined pan.

Strain the liquid out of the fruit mixture (reserve the liquid) and ladle the fruit into the puff pastry.

Fold into an envelope shape, make and make a few slits on the top for heat ventilation.  Brush the beaten egg onto the top and sprinkle with some sugar. Cook according to puff pastry package instructions.

Let cool down before you cut.  Served best at “still warm from the oven”, or room temperature.

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Caponata en Croute

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Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily.  A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

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Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish.  It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.

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It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points.  Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder.  Like an Italian version of mole.  Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!

Caponata en Croute

Serves 4

Caponata the night before…

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)

2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips

1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt.  If packed in vinegar, just rinse)

12 green olives, thinly sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar

about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant

black pepper and salt

Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.

Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt.  Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture.  I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done.  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally.  Take pan off heat and set aside.

Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low.  Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop.  Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture.  Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium.  Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down.  Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.

En Croute the night of…

1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)

1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)

dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry

Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges.  Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt.  Cook according to package instructions.  The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.

Enjoy!

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Straight From the Bottle Buttermilk Syrup

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Buttermilk Syrup

3/4 C cultured buttermilk

1/2 C unsalted butter, cubed

1 C sugar

1/2 t baking soda

Add all ingredients except baking soda to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally.  Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, and whisk in baking soda.

There aren’t many words to describe how good this syrup is, and there aren’t many words to describe what it actually tastes like.

It’s just really really good.

When it’s first made, it’s all froth, like this.

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As it settles, the parts come together in a more homogenized way.

Obviously, this syrup can be used on all manners of breakfast items like pancakes and french toast, but there are other ways to use it as well.

I think it might taste good in a whiskey cocktail for example.

And I know that it tastes good on chicken and waffles, and it also tastes good as a sweetener in coffee.

I also know that it tastes good by the spoonful, and based on the evidence, I’m sure it would taste good if you drank it straight from the bottle.

Personally I’ve never crossed the “drank straight from the bottle” line, but if I did, I would cover the bottle in plain brown paper, and tie it off with a piece of repurposed baling twine taken from some beautiful green hay.

Which is how I finally came up with the name of this blog post:

Straight from the Bottle Buttermilk Syrup.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

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That nice little bit of caramelization on the cauliflower comes from agave syrup.  You can get the same color by using a natural, unrefined sugar.  The agave was used in this recipe so there would be a bit of “sticky” to the cauliflower.

Agave syrup is not necessarily healthier for you – it’s quite processed and pretty high in calories.  It does however, handle the heat of a sear quite well without turning black and bitter like a sugar sometimes can.  It’s more similar to a corn syrup than a sugar when you add it to a sauce.

What is my favorite way to steam vegetables?  Well…this handy bamboo steamer is my absolute favorite way.  The taste is so clean and fresh.  Each compartment can hold a different vegetable, and even if you’re using them them together in a recipe, they retain their own unique flavor profile.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 inch piece fresh turmeric, grated

3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground mustard (why mustard?  Because cooking cauliflower and broccoli can unfortunately make some of their strongest nutritional benefits less available to your body.  Adding mustard or radish to the cooked vegetables will then provide the nutrients necessary to ‘unlock’ their potential.  If you eat these vegetables raw, then you get the full benefits)

1 dried hot Chinese or Thai pepper (whole)

1/2 C Braggs Amino Acids or Soy Sauce

2 T Agave Syrup

Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 C peanut butter (I did not use a “peanuts only” brand, because it doesn’t melt as well for this quick and easy version).  

1 t garlic powder

1 t dried minced onion

1/4 t powdered dried ginger

1 C miso broth (I used a very yummy natto miso brand, but you can use other types of miso broth as well. )

*optional* honey to taste

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steamed cauliflower.  Massage the marinade into the cauliflower and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, heat a pan to medium and add a bit of oil so the cauliflower doesn’t stick.  Remove cauliflower from marinade and sear both sides.

For the peanut sauce, briefly heat the spices in the bottom of a pot, and then pour your water in.  Follow your miso directions.

Whisk the miso broth bit by bit into the peanut butter until the peanut butter is melted and it’s at the consistency you want.

I like this marinated cauliflower and peanut sauce best when served over mung bean noodles and a bunch of steamed vegetables like carrots and zucchini!

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Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

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Who knew that Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), contained something called “Ubiquitin” which stops influenza A viruses in their tracks?  Flu viruses from that strain simply can’t replicate themselves in your cells if “ubiquitin” is present.

All I know, is that I have been craving vegetables, and soup.  Yes, I’ve been eating other things, but mainly I crave vegetables and soup.

This easy soup comes together in less than 1/2 an hour, and serves 2 people with small appetites.

*Edited to add 1/2 t maitake mushroom powder, stirred in at the end.  The maitake mushroom is another strong immune system builder*

Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

1 litre – 4 cups vegetable broth

1 t grated ginger

1 t grated turmeric

1/2 t ground pepper

1 t dried lemongrass

1 t minced garlic

Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Then add next ingredients.  Reduce to simmer and add next ingredients.

1 large piece coste or bok choy, sliced thin

1/2 t fresh hot pepper,minced (or more depending on heat)

Simmer for 5 minutes or so.

80 grams fresh oyster mushrooms, whole, woody bottom removed

Simmer for another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

1/2 t coconut oil

1/2 t maitake mushroom powder

minced chives

Stir in oil and mushroom powder.  Top with chives, ladle into dishes, and serve.

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Polenta and Butternut Squash Sformata with Cabbage

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That is a picture of the outside, and this is a picture of the inside.

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A “sformata” is the Italian version of a souffle, but, like all recipes, you are going to find a bunch of variations.  There is no egg in this, so it can’t quite be called a souffle.

I just didn’t know what to call it, so I came up with the title.

This is what it looks like on the plate.

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It was made using leftover polenta taragna (polenta with buckwheat), and roasted butternut squash.

And it’s beautiful.  Like, heartbreakingly beautiful.  You could serve it with potatoes, or tomatoes, more cabbage, or even a great bread stuffing made with chestnuts.  As a main course, with a chestnut stuffing all around the perimeter it would be striking.

*tip* – if you add some sugar to the water when you cook vegetables, they get a vibrant hue.  I don’t remember the science behind it, (has something to do with the cell walls) but my Aunt gave me that tip, and it works.  That’s why the cabbage looks, and tastes, so phenomenal.

Polenta and Butternut Squash Sformata

2 cups leftover polenta taragna (firm)

1 C roasted butternut squash, pureed (viola) + more if needed

1/4 t hot pepper (powdered)

3 cabbage leaves, blanched in sugared water, shocked in ice water, and then drained (takes only about 3-4 minutes to cook in the boiling water)

Butter

Mix butternut squash, hot pepper, a bit of salt, and polenta in a food processor until fully incorporated.  It should not be crumbly, so add more squash if needed.  When you scoop it out you want it to hold it’s shape on the spoon.

Butter your forming bowl, then line it with oven paper.  Butter again.  I used melted butter.  Place your leaves in the bowl, and fill with the polenta squash mixture.

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Fold everything over the top.

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Let sit for a while in the bowl – it’s okay to refrigerate, but bring to room temp or almost room temp before you cook.

Invert your packet onto a buttered casserole dish and cook at 200 C (about 392 F) for 20 minutes.

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Let sit for a few minutes, then carefully remove the paper.

I sprinkled with the seeds from the squash.  I just added some seasoning and olive oil and toasted them in the oven.

 

Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

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Just a bit of seasoning for this side dish.  The barest hint of flavor, and the quiet scent of honey (miele) and herbs on a breeze.

Some side dishes shine as a main meal.  This delicate carrot recipe sounds like a supporting actor.  In my opinion, it’s no peas and carrots.  If you’ve never had a supper of peas and carrots by themselves, then it’s possible you’ve never had chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

I’m just saying, and it’s all I have to say about that.

The first time we ate these carrots, they were served with roasted potatoes (sprinkled with Reishi mushroom powder and Maldon salt when they emerged from the oven).  The pic is here.  That’s a phenomenal, melt in your mouth halibut on top.  That is not allegory, the fish actually melted in your mouth.

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We couldn’t eat everything, so a day later we had potatoes and these carrots, with a little bit of the fish. By little bit, I mean, like hardly any fish. Completely different meal.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe (ricetta).

Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

4 cups thin sliced carrots

1 C water

4 inches fresh rosemary stalk with leaves

6-8 fresh mint leaves

1 t honey

Put all ingredients (except honey) in a tall narrow pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir during this time, so the carrots are basically steamed in their own juices.

Remove from heat and stir in honey.

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Ravioli di Zucca (Butternut Squash Ravioli) Made with Wonton Wrappers

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Yep, I got all fancy by making these ravioli in heart and circle shapes for hugs and kisses ravioli.

This version is lighter than the Ravioli di Zucca that you will find in a restaurant.  The dish is traditionally made with a thicker egg pasta, and then bathed in a brown butter and sage sauce.  It’s very good, but sometimes too heavy for me, especially when spring is coming.

In the Italian language, “zucca” means “pumpkin” and “pumpkin” means “winter squash”.

zucca =pumpkin=winter squash

Interesting enough, this is the same in the English language.  We just don’t know it.  Americans associate the word pumpkin with the familiar round orange winter squash that comes in a small size for pie making, or a large size for carving and decoration.  That’s how we use the word pumpkin.

Every once in a while I see a meme exclaiming:

DID YOU KNOW THERE IS NO PUMPKIN IN YOUR CANNED PUMPKIN PIE FILLING???  HOW CAN THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS???

My pie eating friends, please rest assured that it truly IS pumpkin in your canned pumpkin.  It’s just a variety of pumpkin that is shaped differently than what you are used to seeing at the grocery store or on your neighbors porch.  It’s a pie pumpkin – a kind that was bred in a different shape so it would be easier to harvest and can.

For ravioli di zucca, I like to use the milder, more flowery flavor of butternut squash.  Roasting it results in a carmelized note and silky texture once you put it in the food processor.  It’s so good that it doesn’t need any spices at all.

That’s why this filling is just butternut squash, a small amount of amaretti cookies, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Make sure to heavily salt your water whenever you cook pasta.  It should be as salty as the sea.

Enjoy!  And if someone makes this FOR you, make sure to give them lots of hugs and kisses, because believe me, it takes a long time to make these little guys.  Add in a back rub as well.  Hugs and kisses and a back rub ravioli. 🙂

Ravioli di Zucca

makes 64 ravioli

1 1/2 pounds roasted butternut squash, roughly chopped

9 Ameretti cookies

wee amount of lemon zest – like 1/8 teaspoon

wonton wrappers

1 egg + small amount of water, beaten

sauce for 24 ravioli – 4 servings

2 T butter

2 pinches red pepper

1 t crushed sage (more if you want)

handfull baby spinach leaves

1 C water

1/2 cube (crumbled) of vegetable bouillon with salt

optional: top with grated Grana Padana cheese

In a food processor, grind the cookies first, then add the squash and the zest until fully incorporated.  The mixture should be somewhat dry, and fully ground.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Place 1/2 T of squash mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper.  Brush beaten egg on all four sides of the wrapper, and place another wrapper on top, pressing down and getting out as many air bubbles as possible.  Use a cookie cutter, glass or ravioli machine to cut out the desired shape.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, and cover with a damp dishcloth.  Once the tray is full, remove towel, and transfer ravioli to the freezer or refrigerator.  Continue until all the ravioli are finished.  You can freeze the ravioli you are not cooking for supper at a later time!

Bring several quarts of water to a boil and then add salt. While waiting for water to boil, heat up butter, sage, and red pepper in a saute pan on med low until the butter browns.  As soon as it starts to brown, add the spinach leaves and crumbled bouillon, then the water.  reduce the heat to simmer once it boils, and let it simmer while you cook the ravioli.

I recommend cooking the ravioli thawed if it was previously frozen.  These take about 2 minutes or so.  Transfer from water to the saute pan to soak up flavoring for at least another minute.  Transfer the ravioli to serving dishes and ladle the broth over the top.

Top with cracked pepper and grana padana if you wish!

 

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Gram’s Crepes

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I loved to wake up in the morning and discover that my Grandma had been making crepes.  They were, and still are my favorite breakfast.  Nothing fancy, just warm crepes spread with a choice of different jellies and jams.  For me, orange marmalade is the absolute perfect filling for such a delectable pancake.

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My Grandmother just passed away 2 days ago – 2 short weeks before her 95th birthday.  I have a bunch of recipes that she shared with my Mother and I.  All carefully typed out, with handwritten messages in the margins.

Many of the recipes have tips for making them with limited ingredients – the kinds of ingredients you would find on a military base at the “commissary”.  Today there is quite a wide variety of items, but that wasn’t always the case long ago, so sometimes you had to get creative.

She had been a Drill Sergeant in the Marines during WWII while my Grandfather was flying in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps – which later became the Airforce.  She wasn’t a cuddly Grandma, in case you’re wondering what kind of Grandma a Drill Sergeant is.

 

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She was a woman who’s body had been strengthened and made flexible by years of dance training in her youth and young adult years.  In the larger picture below, she is dancing at about the age of 12 or so while the famous composer Liberace is playing piano.  Both grew up in West Allis Wisconsin – a small working class suburb of the larger working class city of Milwaukee.  In the smaller picture, she is stretching while stationed at Camp LeJeune.

As long as I knew her, she spent every night stretching to keep her body in health.  Every night.  Usually after swimming her 50 laps in the pool.  Oftentimes naked, which is why I never joined her.  I wasn’t about to go swimming with my naked Grandma, so I swam during the day.

 

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And because she only slept for about 4-5 hours every evening, she would go to bed at midnight, and be up by 4:30 or 5 to make crepes . That way they would be ready by the time us kids woke up in the morning.

Ha!  No, not really!  She didn’t actually get up that early just to make crepes.  She just didn’t sleep very much.  But I’ll tell you, I was always so excited when I would walk out and see all the assorted jams on that table, each neatly spooned into small dishes on a lazy suzan. It meant we were having crepes!

I love you Grandma, and I’ll be sharing more of yours and Grandpa’s recipes in the future.  And I apologize – you never wanted to be called “Grandma” because you decided that was only for “old people”.  So almost everything you signed was “Grams”.

This post is in honor of you Grams.

Much love,

Christina

Gram’s Crepes (makes about 12 small crepes)

3 large eggs

1 C whole milk

1 Cup All Purpose flour (I’ve made great gluten free crepes with alternative flours)

3 T melted butter + more butter for the pan

Combine eggs, milk and flour in a mixing bowl using a handheld mixer or blender.  Or…do it the old fashioned way – with muscles and a whisk.  Add melted butter.  Refrigerate overnight ideally, or for at least an hour or more.  Enough time to let the flour absorb the liquid.  This makes it easy to cook the crepes without tearing them, and they actually cook a bit more quickly.

I no longer have a crepe pan, but actually prefer my “crepe assembly line method”.  Small nonstick pan on one burner.  Larger nonstick pan on a different burner.  Wooden board for a quick cool down, and a serving plate kept warm in the oven at 200 F.

Preheat small pan to med low, and large pan to a bit under that.  Add a small amount of butter to the small pan, and pour in approximately 1/4 C of batter, quickly swirling to make an even, thin pancake.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until set.  Gently loosen the edges – it should pop right out if the flour absorbed enough of the liquid.  Flip onto the larger pan, and cook for just a bit – usually less than a minute. Repeat process with smaller pan.

Remove crepe from larger pan and set on wooden cutting board.  This helps when you are making a pile of them to serve all at once.  It brings down the moisture content just a bit so they don’t stick together.

Flip 1/2 done crepe onto larger pan, and put the finished crepe from the board on your serving dish in the warm oven.

Repeat process, adding butter if needed to the smaller pan.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  This ends up going very quickly once you do it assembly line style!

Serve with different jellies, jams, or fresh fruit, and watch your family smile!

 

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