Friday, October 31, 2008

Farfalle con Salmone Affumicato e Panna (Smoked Salmon and Cream with Butterfly Pasta)

The third of four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon whiskey
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound butterfly (bowtie) pasta

Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat, and mix in the salmon. Add the whiskey and stir, until it has evaporated. Add the cream and stir gently until heated through. Adjust the flavor with a little salt, if necessary. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for the specified time on the package, and drain. Mix the pasta with the sauce, and serve immediately.

VARIATION: Half an onion may be chopped and sauteed in the butter, prior to adding the salmon.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pizzette (Mini Pizzas)

The second of four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Makes six servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

4 tablespoons anchovy paste or 8 anchovy fillets, mashed
2/3 cup butter
1 baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (8-ounce) package mozzarella, sliced
Dried Oregano

Preheat the boiler. Mix the anchovy paste with the butter. Spread the mixture on the toasted bread rounds. Add to each round a layer of tomato sauce and a slice of mozzarella. Place a caper on top and sprinkle with oregano. Broil until the mozzarella starts to melt and turns slightly golden.

VARIATION: There are many possible variations: replace the anchovy paste and butter mixture with sliced ham, olives, sausage, or sauteed onions.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crostini al Pomodoro (Tomato and Herb Crostini)

The first of the four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Makes six servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

8 to 10 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted

Combine all ingredients except the bread, and mix well. Spoon into the toasted bread rounds and serve.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tuscan Cooking Demonstration (video)

This week Hippocrene has the distinct pleasure of following up on our previous entries on Tuscan cooking from authors Madeline Armillotta and Diane Nocentini with a video cooking demonstration. Here's what Diane has to say:

For the first time in six years my family and I had the opportunity to return to my childhood home in Victoria for our summer vacation. We had a memorable holiday, which included a wonderful highlight: my husband Paolo and I gave a cooking demonstration to a class at the Cooking and Lifestyle Centre of Thrifty Foods, in the newly constructed Tuscan Village. The coordinator and “in house” chef, Eva Cherneff, welcomed and helped us settle into their fabulous little kitchen. Prior to the arrival of the students, Eva set the mood with some appropriate music and, with Andrea Bocelli playing in the background, we commenced preparation. As this was a new experience, I admit to being “slightly nervous” during the presentation (saying things like fishes instead of fish, not the kind of thing an English teacher should be doing!) but the family atmosphere and kind group made the event a genuine pleasure. Paolo was an excellent assistant and, with a little Italian flare, we demonstrated and served a delicious first class meal. The menu included; Tomato and Herb Crostini, Mini Pizzas, Smoked Salmon and Cream with Butterfly Pasta, and a modified version of Sea Bass Baked in Foil. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food, Italian banter and music, and the lively conversation throughout the demonstration. In the end, I was presented with a lovely bouquet of sunflowers and a heartfelt round of applause. Many of the students ordered extra books, as they wanted to share Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen with family and friends. Needless to say, I finished with a great feeling of relief and satisfaction, and was thrilled that the presentation had been such a success! I hope you will all enjoy the attached video footage and photos taken during this event. The two crostini dishes and the pasta dish are simple to prepare, as you will see on the video, but I have added photos of the preparation and presentation of the Sea Bass Baked in Foil. We modified this recipe during the demonstration due to time limits, and I want all of our readers to see how it is traditionally served. This is a family recipe which Mimmo, Madelaine’s husband, shared with us. It originates from the region of Puglia, and is a very tasty specialty which is served year round.

The video, in three parts, is below, and the three recipes features will be added to the blog over the next three days.

Also, Diane and Madeline recently informed us that Thrifty's, the location for the demonstration, has recently decided to offer Tuscan gift baskets--filled with key Italian cooking ingredients and a copy of Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen--for Christmas. If you would be interested in learning how to contact Thrifty's or how to put these baskets together to give or sell yourself, please contact us at

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tacchino Mediterraneo (Mediterranean Turkey)

Today we have another post from Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen, this time provided by Madeline Armillotta, who writes to us from the road:

On writing this post whilst visiting my mother in England I was faced with a dilemma: As my mother has no interest whatsoever in food and greatly dislikes cooking, her kitchen in unequipped and just contains the basics. On flicking through our book I pondered which recipe to make and soon realized that my selection was rather limited, as she does not possess a non-stick saucepan. This eliminated my original idea of making our delicious "Turkey Roll" (on page 78). I finally decided instead on "Mediterranean Turkey", which is simple to prepare and has a shortish cooking time.

Here's the recipe:

Serves 6.

½ cup flour
6 thin slices (2 pounds) boneless turkey breast
¼ cup olive oil
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 small zucchini, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine1 (8-ounce) can plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper

Dredge the turkey with flour. Heat half of the olive oil in a large nonstick pan, and brown the turkey on both sides. Remove from the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the other half of the olive oil to the pan and heat. Saute all the vegetables until tender, for about 15 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and the basil and oregano. Stir well, until smooth. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper. In a large baking dish, pour a layer of sauce on the bottom, lay the turkey over the top, and cover with the remaining sauce. Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

I finished cooking this dish in the saucepan--adding 2 cups of water and then reducing the sauce and not baking it in the oven, as we originally suggested in the recipe. I served it with boiled rice, which soaked up the sauce perfectly and was a good contrast to the distinct flavor of the turkey. My friends that had come to lunch all agreed that it was a great choice and, believe it or not, even my mother liked it!

Thanks to Madeline for the delicious pictures!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crostata di Marmellata Tradizionale (Traditional Jam Tart)

This week Hippocrene Cooks features entries from Madeline Armillotta and Diane Nocentini the authors of Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen, which brings the rich flavors of Tuscany to the everyday American kitchen. In our first entry, Diane imparts some tips for preparing a delicious dessert:

The recipe I have chosen to share with our readers is a timeless classic, the Crostata di Marmellata Tradizionale, or Traditional Jam Tart. I have always had a weakness for desserts and I chose this one mainly for selfish reasons. It is one of my favorite desserts, and I also enjoy the preparation. It gives me a real sense of home when I set about baking a tart. Combining the flour and butter, kneading the dough, rolling it out, spreading the jam, decorating the top, and finally the smell that emanates from the oven while it bakes. This may sound a bit strange, but I find the whole process very relaxing. Another reason is that I connect this dessert with the word festa (party), as all celebratory meals in Tuscany include two or three mouthwatering tarts on the dessert table. From baptisms to weddings, or even simple family gatherings, it is the dessert most commonly served. There are several reasons behind the popularity of crostata: it is a wholesome example of genuine Tuscan cuisine, it is delicious, attractive, and utilizes the seasonal fruits of the region. Homemade preserves are frequently used, but a high quality store-bought variety is a fine substitute. Blackberry, apricot and strawberry jam are the most popular varieties selected by Tuscans. My mother-in-law makes her own blackberry jam, and I can personally testify that the resulting tarts are divine. Before you start, ensure that you have soft butter. I take the butter out of the fridge the night before making this tart. I work with my hands and combine the butter and flour until it is crumbly, and then I add the remaining ingredients (except for the jam). As the recipe specifies, you must allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes, prior to rolling it out. To save time, I usually press the dough directly into the flan dish. If you are left with any excess dough, the following recipe includes a “variation” for making excellent cookies.

Makes one 10½-inch tart.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup butter, softened
grated zest of one lemon
2 cups jam

Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the jam to the bowl, and working with your hands, gently incorporate them. For best results, try not to knead the dough more than necessary. Cover and let the dough rest for a ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Flour a pastry board and roll out two-thirds of the dough until until it is 1/3-inch thick and will fit a 10½-inch diameter flan dish. Line the flan dish with the pastry. Fill the pastry base with the jam topping. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into long strips. Crisscross these strips over the jam to create a lattice effect. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

This pastry also makes excellent cookies. Roll out the dough, until it is 1/3-inch thick, and using cookie cutters, cut into your desired shapes. They can be decorated with pine nuts, almonds, raisins, chocolate morsels, or blobs of jam. Bake in a preheated oven (350°F) for 10 to 12 minutes. Kids love them, especially if they participate in the decorating!

Thanks to Diane for the wonderful pictures!