Monday, October 30, 2006

Rocciata di Assisi


On the Italian forum on Egullet it is the month dedicated to Umbria, so, yeasterday, invited for brunch at a friend house, I thought of bringing over this dessert: Rocciata di Assisi.
It's a strudel with a rich dry fruit filling, shaped into a coil.
Oretta Zanini Devita in her collection of regional recipes gives some history of this dessert. In Assisi "roccia" means round, hence the origin of the name comes from the shape. It is an ancient cake born in Medioeval times with a legacy coming from the Ostrogoths and Longobards. Although she talks about an ancestor of rocciata, in the Tavole Eugubine on which habits and costumes of 2000 years ago are drawn, "tensedio" , giving no description but just saying it was in honor of the God Hondo Ceffio. Through these tables was possible to describe the umbrian cesna, the banchet.

I've seen so many different versions of rocciata on the web. Next time, I think I will bring down the dry fruit to 350 and make up the difference to 500 asked in this recipe with more apples, in any case it's a good dessert for a dry fruit lover.


500 g of mix dry fruit (zibibbo, sultanas, dry figs finely diced, dry prunes finely diced, walnuts and almonds coarsely chopped)
one apple, peeled and diced
100 g sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
lemon zest and some juice
2 tablespoons vinsanto

Mix and let rest covered for couple hours.

For the dough

250 g flor
50 g sugar
salt 1/2 teaspon
2 tablespoons of oil
water enoght to form a silky smooth dough.

Let rest under a bowl for 1/2 an hour.

Roll out the dough as thin as possible. I streched with my fists under the dough as for a strudel. Spread the filling leaving little space at the hedges, roll with the help of a kitchen towel, shape into a coil, brush with evo and bake in a preheated oven at 190, for about 30 minutes or more, until nicely golden. When cold dust with 10X.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ossi buchi alla milanese


Milan is a second home to me. Although I am a Southerner, my mom is from Bergamo and I spent 7 years of my life in Milan. I love that city, with its melancholy warm embrace.
And I love the food...very rich, so different than the southern Italian style, very French to me.

One of the books I love most is La Cucina Milanese written by Marco Guarnaschelli Gotti. He is a jornaulist from Milan. The book is beautifully written, full of hystoric references and family anecdotes. This book never failed me.

Osso buco, plural ossi buchi, is a wintery dish. It is better to use the ossi buchi coming from the posteriore leg of the veal, they are more tender. The osso buco should be pretty thick, about 4 cm height. Ideally it should be cut at the middle of the muscle where there is a good balance between meat and connective tissue, important for the glaze effect in the sauce. It's reccomanded to cut in a couple of spots on the external connective tissue of the osso buco beetween the musclar fascia, without unbundling it.
There are many recipe calling for a battuto or onion, carrots and celery. Marco Guarnaschelli suggests the easiest of the recipes...and I just love it.

In a brasiere sweat 60 g of butter and 2 small spring onions, only white part, finely minced. After 15 minutes put them aside. Brown the ossi buchi, slightly flour them and shake off the excess, in the same brasiere, taking care to brown nicely also the sides, return the onion in the pot, deglaze with dry white wine, lower the heat and let evaporate slowly. Add salt and a little bit of good meat stock, bring to a simmer, cover and bake at 140 C until the meat is tender and the sauce glossy. Turn every once in a while and check for liquid level. It will take about 2 hours. Toward the end of cooking mince finely a glove of garlic, add some chopped parsley and lemon zest. This is the gremolata to add to the sauce at the end, whisk and serve usually with risotto or a potato pure'. Which risotto? Giallo (yellow, that's how milanesi call the risotto with saffron, of course they don't call it alla milanese!), or in bianco, alla parmigiana, with no saffron. I like more the parmigiana version for this dish but my husband like more the yellow version.

For the risotto giallo

It nice to use a "russe" kind of pot, with an handle. The best would be a risottiera in copper with tin. Mince half of a small white or golden onion, not the red one and let it sweat very gently with 50 g of butter and 15 g of marrow. This all process should take about half an hour and its very imporant as liason. If it gets color just add a drop of water, at the end it should look like in ivory cream. Add the rice: two handful a person plus one for the pot, never cook anyway more than 800 g at a time. Which rice? The author says that it will dipend from the quality of the rice. And I totally agree with him. True good quality carnaroli is hard to find, and honesty, restaurants like it because it's easier to handle: doesn't overcook as much as other rices. I find it very often not creamy enough for my taste. This time for example I used a very good baldo. Let "toast" the rice. The term toasting is a little mischieving, the rice should not get any colour and stirred with the wooden spoon at all times, but especially at this moment. Meanwhile warm up some good stock (about 1 litre or 1 and half liters to be safe, for a four servings). Start adding the stock, one laddle, then higher the heat until bubbles, stir and keep adding stock as it evaporates. It is important to stir very often, in this way the rice will release the starch. It would take about 18 to 20 minutes to cook, depending from the rice. In between stirring grate some cheese. Grana is more a lombardo cheese but parmigiano is also ok. For four people add 50 grams of grated cheese to the bottom of the serving dish, plus some dots of butter. On grating cheese. I always see foreigners using graters with big holes and I wonder why. Its too tiresome to grate properly some cheese? I love the snow consistency of the fine grating and that's the way should be in this dish. Coarse grating I guess is more used in sicilian style pastas with hard ricotta.
Going back to the recipe. Toward the end of cooking, when 4 minutes are missing, add 30 grams of grated grana to the pot. Stirring at this point is important. With the cheese in it, it's more prone to stick. Dissolve some saffron in a little stock and add it to the rice two minutes from end of cooking. Taste for salt and check liquid level. Pour on the serving dish in which the cheese and the butter are resting. Stir briefly the rice in the serving dish, this will create the "wave" typical from risotto alla milanese.
The author doesn't suggest to serve it in the cooking pot, or to let it rest in it, to avoid the risk of overcooking the rice.
This time my risotto came very good, I should have kept it a little runny.

I din't serve the ossi buchi directly on top of the rice, I like to keep my food separate. A little curiosity: the spoon to scoop out the marrow from osso buco is called esattore (in italian is a tax collector :-)) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Torta ligure di riso e cipolla

I learnt this torta ligure from my friend Paola Petrini and she learnt it from nonna Linda, her husband granmother from La Spezia.
I had some left over pasta matta from yeasterday night Fogliata and some onions to use, finally I decided to try this torta. The pasta matta needs to be extra thin, I used an oklava to roll it out (the turkish rolling pin)but if you don't feel as confident can use the imperia machine and roll very fine strips which will be lightly superimposed by 2 cm.
For this torta I weighted the dough and was 78 grams.
For the filling:
80 g of rice
500 g of sweet onions
30 g of grated parmigiano
1 jumbo egg, well beaten
salt and evo

I boiled the rice for 10 minutes, leaving it al dente. I sweat the onion with salt, covered, until very soft. Mix the rice, the onion, grated parmigiano, and add almost all the egg (reserve some for brushing the cake), adjust seasoning.

The dough was enough for a 26 tart ring.
I lined the ring with some parchment paper, oiled it a little, laid the dough, spread the filling and brought toward the center the extra dough, brushed with the remaining egg mixed with some oil. I slid the torta on the preheated baking stone. Cooked for 40 minutes at 180 with a convection oven.
Let cool on a rack.
The pasta matta just works as container. The filling is soft, creamy and tasty.
It's better to serve it at room temperature, not hot.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Fogliata is a "torta salata" from Umbria. I came to know about it because, some years ago, the recipe and pictures were posted on the forum of La Cucina Italiana by Stefania Girolamini, a member whose family was from Umbria, if I am not mistaken exactly from Spoleto. In the same shape there is a more famous sweet from the region: rocciata di Assisi, known also as attorta.

Fogliata is easy and it turn out to be very good, so it was a wise choice from me to make a mini fogliata, preventing me from eating a normal size torta by myself.

The dough is what in Italian is known as pasta matta: flour 00, salt, very little evo and water. I didn't make a particular soft dough because I used the Imperia to roll out a very thin strip of dough.
Let's say that with 100 g of flour, 2 g of salt, 1 tablespoon of oil and 35 g of water you can get around 3 of these mini fogliate.
The filling is bietole (swiss chards) boiled, coarsely chopped and saute' in oil with a whole clove of garlic, to be removed at the end of cooking. Out of the stove, I added a little bit of grated pecorino.
In Italian with bietole we mean the "coste" and the "erbette". Coste are the one with the big leg, the erbette have a very fine stem. In this case you could use both, but the stem in the coste requires to be cooked separately. In the UK, so far, I have seen only coste.
Once you have rolled the dough in a long strip (or more strips), spread the vegetable in the center, without overfilling the stip, roll the dough and shape it into a coil. Brush with evo and bake in a preheated oven a 180-200 C until golden

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Monday, October 02, 2006


Caprese is a cake from Campania, its peculiarity is the absence of flour and baking powder. Some recipes require crumbled fette biscottate (french toast) but I like without.
If you like chocolate cakes, this caprese will not disappoint you, it's moist, rich but not heavy, it's really a fantastic recipe.

The original recipe was posted by Lydia Capasso on the Italian Forum of Cucina Italiana.

Leaving the same quantities, I completely changed the method, getting -in my opinion -a better result. It is a very moist cake and doesn't cling to your palate. It keeps well for several days with no refrigeration and actually improves its taste.

It doesn't contain flour, so it's also a perfect cake for gluten intollerants.

140 g sugar
140 g bittersweet chocolate
140 g unsalted butter
140 g unpeeled almonds
210—230 g eggs total whole weight (about 4 small eggs)
1 pinch of salt

These quantities are ok for a 20 cm diameter mold.

Preheat the oven at 200 C. Butter and flour your mold.

I slightly toasted the almonds in the oven and when cold grated in the mixer (I have a bosch mixer with the grating dish, make a perfect flour without overheating the almonds), alternatively you can pulse the almonds in the coffe grinder with a couple teaspoons of sugar (taken by the recipe quantity). Leaving the almonds with the peel is a little tastier, more rustic flavour.

I grated the chocolate with the fine microplane.

Whip the soft butter with the sugar until very light and foamy, add the yolks one at the time, add the chocolate (here, half of the chocolate was just grated, the other half I decided to melt, let cool before adding), then add the almond flour and alternate with a little bit of whipped egg whites. Fold in remaining egg whites. Pour in the mold and level with a spatula. Bake at 200 C for 5 minutes, then reduce to 170 for about 30-35 minutes, check toward the end.

Bitter almonds are not a bad addiction, you could use some in place of the regular one but don't use almond extracts, the most of the time are nasty. Instead,if you like, you can add some vanilla essence.

Do not overbake, it's important it stays moist. Serve with creme anglaise, or gelato, or simply dusted with 10X.

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