Sandra’s Stuffed Zucchini (Courgettes Farci)

Another of my friend Sandra’s Recipes. I helped her make this one the same weekend she made the Artichokes à la Barigoule in her stone house in Chartres. We picked the tarragon, parsley and zucchini in her garden and purchased the ricotta and feta at the farmers market.

You can improvise with the herbs although I suggest always using parsley and chives. Sandra used thyme, when she first made this for me and I do that version but often substitute tarragon or chervil when I can find it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large zucchini (about 2.5 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon or thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 oz ricotta
  • 3 oz feta cheese
  • 3oz grayed gruyère cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
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Grandma’s Favorite Soup (meat and vegetable soup)

This is a vegetable soup on which my brother and I grew up. It was loved even by my father who hated vegetables. It is a soup that my own children devoured even when a bite of a vegetable would make them gag.  It is a vegetable soup base that is pureed and becomes a thick base for chunks of veal, beef and pastina.

it wasn’t until my first trip to Florence that I realized this was a fairly typical Tuscan preparation and is called Zuppa Passato. I hope you enjoy it as ha e three generations of my family.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1lb celery
  • 1 lb onion
  • 20 oz tomatoes, preferably San Mariano tomatoes DOP (that means they are certified San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 2 lb beef bones
  • 1lb chuck roast
  • 1 lb veal breast or shoulder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasonings
  • 1tablespoon salt

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Spaghetti Alle Vongole Veraci (Spaghetti with Manila clams)

Spaghetti-With-Manila-Clams

I just returned from a two week trip to Sicily with Daniel. It was great to get away, just the two of us. We walked, we ate, we walked some more. We looked at a lot of Greek and Roman ruins, absorbed the incredible history of Sicily, a country who welcomed many different cultures and managed to keep bits and pieces of all of them. Then we ate some more.

The seafood in Sicily is incredible if you stick with the local fish. There is an endless supply of swordfish, sea bass, scorpion fish and crustaceans. One of my favorite dishes is Spaghetti Alle vongole Veraci. Vongole Veraci are small Manila clams. They meat is more delicate and sweeter than other types of clams and the shells are small and beautifully colored with purple.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did, sitting at a table by the sea.

Three generous servings

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Grilled Shrimp and Pomegranite On Cauliflower Puree

grilled Shrimp on cauliflower purée

Cauliflower purée can work as a lovely backdrop for other flavors, in this case grilled shrimp. It’s low in carbs and won’t get gummy like potatoes. I love the contrast of the tart, crisp pomegranate seeds against the creamy cauliflower and the salty shrimp. It’s an easy dish to put together and I make this dish frequently. You can make the cauliflower purée ahead of time as well as toast your nuts and de seed your pomegranate. I like to do the herbal purée within the hour I’m eating so it stays bright green.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 lb shelled, deveined raw shrimp
  • 1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants soaked in lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat leaf Parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of tarragon leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz cauliflower rice (this is simply raw cauliflower that has been cut into rice sized pieces for convenience. You could certainly chop up a whole cauliflower)

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Artichokes a la Barigoule (artichokes braised in olive oil)

Artichoke a la barigoule

The first time I ate Artichoke a La Barigoule I was in Chartres visiting a friend and it was she who made it for me.

Sandra was a wonderful cook but definitely ” a pinch of this” and “a handful of that” kind of femme. I have acquired many recipes from her, for example, courgettes stuffed with cheese and Neapolitan style tomato sauce but it always entails watching her cook and rapidly writing everything down because Sandra has everything in her head and she moves fast.

Sadly, I didn’t watch Sandra prepare this dish. How was I to know that I should have been taking notes instead of chatting over a glass of wine? So, after my usual perusal of recipes on the internet and my memories of Sandra’s dish, I came up with a recipe I can share with you. It’s equally good the next day at room temperature. Please picture yourself in a house built of round stones, mortared into a two story cottage. You are seated at a rustic oak table, with your feet on a cool flagstone floor and an oak fire throwing heat into the room. It is September and the fields outside the window are golden. A subtle perfume enters the dining area from bouquets of lavender and thyme that Sandra has bundled and hung from the ceiling. Your plate of Artichoke Barigoule sits in a shallow bowl in front of you with some crusty bread and a glass of the wine you used to braise the artichokes.

Bon Appetit!

Julie

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Carpaccio of Beef from Lucca

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My husband and I love to travel and one of our favorite places is Italy.  One year we had the good fortune to stay with a friend of my mother in law in Volterra, famous for its alabaster.  Ido graciously lent us his home and moved in with his daughter for the week.

Ido’s home was set in the Tuscan hill side amid peach and olive trees, grape vines and an assortment of vegetables.  The house was rustic with terra-cotta colored plaster walls and tile floors.  I distinctly remember chasing spiders out of the shower. All the beds in the house were cast iron with metal springs.  The dining room table was composed of several planks of wood pegged and doweled together and it was surrounded by tippy little chairs with rush seats. However, we rarely ate in the dining room.  There was a little patio on the East side of the house where we took our breakfast and in the evening we went to the patio on the West side of the house and had dinner, watching the sun set and eating Edo’s fresh peaches, soaked in his home made Chianti with a little sugar and lemon juice.

Every day Ido would drop buy bearing a small gift: some potatoes he’d just dug up, those amazing peaches with skin so thin and crisp and flesh so sweet and juicy that it was like biting into a Creme Brûlée with the crack of the sugar and then the unctuous silky cream.  Ido made his own wine, olive oil and peach preserves.  The peach preserves were lovely and had a distinctive flavor I had not tasted before. I sat him down one day and asked him to reveal the secret of the preserves.   “Well”,  he said.  “I macerate the peaches in sugar and lemon juice overnight.  Then I put everything in a big pot and boil it until it thickens.  Unfortunately, I’m usually doing several things at the same time and it usually burns.  But, I just scrape it up and put it in jars”. So, what was the secret of Ido’s peach preserves?  He burnt it and what I was tasting was caramelized sugar.

Ido spoke a bit of French but often mixed it with Italian, creating new words and phrases.  For example, he would often say” Va bien” in response to our query, “ How are you”.  In Italian one would respond “ Va bene ” and in French one would respond “ Ca va bien”, thus Ido created the new phrase “ Va bien” which we still use with great affection when we speak of him and the enchanted week we spent in his home.

The recipe I’m going to give you is not from Ido, but it is from Lucca, not to far from Volterra and certainly in the style of Ido: excellent ingredients prepared simply. Dinner was served in the garden of a farmhouse which was up a winding rode in the hills of Tuscany.  I remember two items from the meal.  One was an appetizer of thinly sliced pieces of Lardo.  The other a lovely carpaccio of beef.  I had never seen carpaccio of beef done with anything other than raw meat so I was happy to see that this was cooked, rare but not mooing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb Eye of round roasted rare and sliced paper thin
  • One 5 oz bag arugula
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Hunk of Parmesan Reggiano
  • Coarse sea salt

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Chickpea Stew


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INGREDIENTS

For Chickpea stew

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 box San Marzano crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh mint chiffonaded (for garnish)

For Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into even chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • About 6 cups water (just enough to cover the potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sachet of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons whole peppercorn, 1 tablespoon coriander seed

For Kale

  • ½ pound kale stem removed
  • ¼ onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • A few splashes of tabasco
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup water

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Roasted Orange Juice Chicken

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This is one of the simplest chickens I do and one of the best.  It comes from the Cookbook  ” The Scent of Orange Blossoms” authored by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.

I first made this recipe when I was 13 years old for a project comparing Sephardic and Ashkenazy cooking.  I have used it so often since then that the book opens up right to the recipe.

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Veal and Ricotta Meatballs

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The first time I had this dish was with my son Daniel.  We were on a week long eating and walking tour of NYC.  Daniel and I had both researched restaurants and pastry shops but one of the best meals we had, which was not on our list,  was at Vinateria in Harlem.  I ordered an amazing whole grilled Branzino and the young daughter of our friends had meatballs on a bed of Polenta.  She gave me a bite and I dreamt about them for the next two days: tender little meatballs the size of a walnut on a creamy, cheesey bed of polenta with a bright tomatoe sauce.  We went back the night before we left and when I returned home I vowed to recreate them as best I could.

So, here is my version and I think it’s pretty close, but it will never replace the meal I had at this neighborhood bistro with my son, my childhood friend, her lovely husband and charming daughter.

Many of these components can be made ahead of time.  The sauce can be made in advance and frozen.  I make a lot of this sauce in August when the tomatoes are at their peak and I can use locally grown Roma tomatoes.  You will not get the same result with supermarket tomatoes.  The meatballs can be mixed and shaped a day ahead of time and then rolled in flour and fried the day you want to serve.  The meatballs can also be mixed, shaped fried and placed in the tomato sauce a day or two ahead.  I think they actually improve with a 24 hour rest in the sauce.  I have also frozen the meatnalls cooked and in sauce.  They defrost quite well.

Julie

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Alba Style Rosemary-Sage Beef Risotto

At the young age of 18 my grandmother left home. She was unable to cook despite living in an Italian household.  She realized that she didn’t have her mother to make her delicious Italian meals so she decided to teach herself how to cook. Now 60 years later she is one of the best cooks I know. She learned all of the basics of Northern Italian cooking form by Marcella Hazan and Giuliano Bugiali as well as her mother. One of her signature dishes is risotto and whenever I eat this classic Italian rice dish it reminds me of her and what real Italian cuisine is. This authentic risotto recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. Risotto is an Italian rice dish where liquid is slowly added to the rice allowing it to release starch to create a creamy consistency. Risotto is the epitome of Italian comfort food; it has that decadent stick to your ribs flavor and consistency. It’s also one of those “kitchen sink” recipes , because you can put anything in it. I’ve made mushroom, sausage, and seafood risotto, but my favorite is this beef risotto. This risotto gets its flavor from pancetta (italian bacon), rosemary, sage, and good italian red wine.

People often think of risotto as something that is very difficult and only available at high end restaurants. It’s interesting how in it’s transition from Italy to America, risotto went from a homey comfort food to a glamorous dish served for $30 a plate. The truth is that risotto is very easy to make, it just requires good ingredients and a lot of babysitting of the dish. The risotto basics you need to know to make a good risotto are that it starts with caramelized onions and garlic then the rice is coated in oil and small amounts of liquid are added at a time while constantly stirring the rice. The constant stirring and slowly adding in liquid are where most people take mistakes, because they aren’t being patient. Risotto is a dish where lots of love needs to be added. Making risotto is definitely an arm workout, but the reward of a good risotto is well worth the 30 minutes of constantly watching over the risotto.

A risotto dinner is always something to look forward too, but I’ve found the next day is even more exciting. I always save about ⅓ to ¼ of the risotto and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next day for dinner, I like to make arancini. Arancini are fried balls of risotto with a gooey cheese center. Arancini have a crispy outside with a creamy risotto filling and gooey cheese at the center, what could be better?

Daniel

Ingredients

  • 7 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp “Better than Beef Bouillon”
  • 2 cups Italian Arborio rice
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped pancetta (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage (plus more for garnish)
  • ½ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup Barolo wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper

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