Monday, March 24, 2014

wild asparagus

wild asparagus
wild asparagusThe magnolia in my nextdoor neighbor’s garden has announced the season through its lovely flowers. The light outside shines differently now, the greens are greener, the whites are whiter and the days are longer. I’m wanting to grab flowers as I see them bloom. I feel the need to regenerate and breathe the fresh air. The allergies have come, the sneezing with them but I know that spring is here and even if it brings some craziness in constant changing weather, it’s making me feel good. 

And look! Wild asparagus. 

As the earth comes back to life, this delectable seasonal treat is of worthy pursuit.

Here's something that brings spring on a plate. Choose a tender batch of wild asparagus, snap off the tough ends and use them raw in a salad, add some mandarin pieces, (maybe some green leafs and sesame seeds too). Make a vinaigrette with good extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a mandarin, some salt and a dash of whole grain dijon mustard. Give it a good whisk and dress your asparagus salad.  As simple as that.
wild asparagus salad

Friday, March 14, 2014

calzoni ripieni con cime di rapa

Calzoni Ripieni con Cime di Rapa
If you happen to come to Rome, you’ll notice several spots that sell slices of pizza off the counter. You’ll then find yourself walking in and, with no hesitation, you’ll order more slices than wanted. The different toppings and flavors are showcased right there in front of you, you’re tempted to have them all. More keeps coming straight from the ovens and now you want some of that too. Eventually you will notice the difference with who does it better and when you find the right place you’ll give it a nickname, like the Romans tend to do. I still remember “i gemelli”, my favorite pizza guys!  All they had were three types of pizza…white, red and spicy hot. There was no sign outside, they didn’t need a name. You would remember them and go back because the pizza was just so good. It was easy to guess why they were nicknamed i gemelli. The place was run by two brothers, both wearing (spotless) white t-shirts and… they were “gemelli”, identical twins. One served, the other made the pizza, they’d go so quick back and forth from the counter to the ovens, leaving you clueless who was who. The pizza was exquisite! Not too thin, not too thick, crunchy on the edges and with just the right amount of topping. Once they handed you over a piece, you’d walk out and stroll up and down the streets of Rome with your perfect slice of pizza to eat. The type of streetfood you would mostly see in Rome. Calzoni Ripieni con Cime di Rapa
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I suppose i gemelli are still around. I hope so!  For a short while, they had something different to offer, il Calzone Ripieno. A pizza folded in half and sealed around the edges. A sort of pizza-parcel-wrap, easy to carry and easy to eat. Filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella, fried and served hot. As soon as you’d bite into it, the steamy cheese and sauce would ooze irrepressibly, and a moment of greedy gluttony would bring you to make the fateful voracious bite for more, leaving your tongue in a state of unarmed blistered sorrow. The pain was worth the bite, or the bite was worth the pain, whatever. One thing was sure, I’ll never forget that moment! 

Talking about calzoni…I was recently overwhelmed by the nostalgia for some, and so, you know me…I made them :)

I was lacking the right ingredients that day, no mozzarella… where’s the sauce?! Nothing I needed was there, except for flour, yeast and cime di rapa (rapini). That’s what I had and that’s what I used. It wasn’t what my favorite twin brothers had to offer, but it made us all happy anyway! They sure did, yes Sirrrrry!  
Calzoni Ripieni con Cime di Rapa


There's no set rule here, you don't need to use the same filling I used.  You can make these calzoni, tiny or big.  The options for the filling are abundant...tomato sauce and mozzarella, prosciutto and cheese, just cheese, cheese and mushrooms, any green leaf...just use your imagination or your favorite pizza topping.  I always make my own dough but feel free to buy yours if you don't have time.

Just one reccomendation, don't overdo it with the filling, you'll end up with a soggy, not perfectly cooked calzone.  You want it to be soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Otherwise don't make them, buy them :-)


500gr flour
300gr lukewarm water
15gr salt
7gr yeast

A bunch of fresh Rapini (also known as Broccoli Rape) approx 400gr
2 garlic clove
1 hot pepper
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 litre of peanut oil (or sunflower seed oil) for frying

Dissolve the yeast in the water and incorporate the mixture to the flour and salt.  Knead to make a soft dough.  Let it rest in a greased bowl covered with plastic film for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Trim the thick tough stems from the rape. Rinse and pat dry.  

In a large skillet, heat the oil, add the hot pepper and the garlic, either chopped or whole, let it go for about 20 seconds, add the rapini and reduce the heat.  Stir occasionally and season with salt.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Put the rapini aside to cool.

Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick.  Make as much disks as you can, use a medium size glass.  Place a small amount of the cooked rapini in the middle, fold the disk in order to form a semi-circle-ravioli-shape and pinch the edges to seal.  

Heat a litre of peanut oil in a pot.  To check if you've reached the right temperature, throw in a tiny piece of dough.  It should sizzle and float immediately.

Now you are ready to fry,  Place no more than 3 calzoni.  With the help of a spoon or thongs to turn the calzoni as they fry so that they are cooked evenly.  When they reach a golden color, lift from the oil and place on a plate with some absorbent paper. 

Calzoni are best served hot.  If you want to anticipate the frying to serve later, keep them warm in a low heated oven.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

granola with quinoa and roasted pineapple

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a spoonful, a cup, some more of this.  That's how I made this granola.   Some of these ingredients might not be out of reach but you should list them for the next time you go shopping.  You always need to have seeds, oats, nuts around your house!  Life is so boring without them!!

Have you ever read off a store bought box of granola? Some brands, the ones we love more, contain hydrogenated oils and that's a no-no.  Isn't it weird that they are selling products defined as healthy when they're using unhealthy oils? 

Read here and don't look back!
I'm not a health food freak, but if I know there's something not good for me, I'll avoid it. Even if my son complains that we have a house full of seeds without birds - you know how 17 year olds are...they're always looking for junk food and you can imagine how he rolls his eyeballs when all he finds is "seeds" :-))) He also recognizes the "good" granola when he has some. May the house be swamped in seeds, oats and more, if this is what it takes to get a good batch of granola.

The best part is when you personalize your batch.  Let's say you don't like oats, or you're intolerant. Substitute it with more quinoa, replace half of the uncooked quinoa with quinoa flakes, or add more rolled farro.  Use a bunch of different seeds...hemp, sesame, sunflower...throw in some nuts or add some later if you prefer them not toasted. Use spices, like cinnamon, or nutmeg.  Add fresh fruit or roasted fruit....or caramelized pineapple (like I did).  You see, it's all a matter of "a little bit of this and a little bit of that". Stick to the doses in the recipe and play with your ingredients, you may get used to this game and you'll enjoy the real good stuff.
Once you have the granola and the yogurt, you can't miss roasting some fruit and if you roast pineapple and mix it all together, it will be so good that you'll want to take pictures and post it on the internet :)  

Have a great day my friends!

A presto xxoo!


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1 cup uncooked red quinoa 
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup rolled farro
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coarse almond meal (or roughly chopped almonds)
1/2 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup flax seeds (crushed in a mortal)
1/4 cup sesame seeds

In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil and the syrup (or honey), add all the other ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly on the surface.  Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for approx. 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  *Constantly keep on eye on it, it can burn easily.
Remove from the oven and let the granola cool completely.  Store in a glass jar.

Slice and dice some pineapple, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar.  Place in a preheated 180°C oven and roast until caramelized.  You can do the same thing in a pan on the stove. Add the roasted-caramelized pineapple to your yogurt and granola.  

Consider this as a perfect, healthy, protein-packed breakfast!