Welcome to my blog. My blogging journey began about in August 2009 as a photo-a-day blog which has since transitioned to combine my love of good food and photography. Today, using as many local and fresh ingredients as we can, my boyfriend and myself spend time researching recipes, making our own adaptations, cooking, taking photos, eating, and finally reflecting on all or part of the above listed process here. I hope you take the time to not only read and look at our photos, but please cook some of the recipes yourself. You are invited and encourage to leave feedback as we continue our culinary journey!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vitello Tonnato

This is another typical summer cold dish, and as you might have guessed from the name (if you know some Italian...), it involves tuna, which makes it the 3rd out of the 4 last recipes. What can I say? I like my tuna in the summer!
Vitello Tonnato
-1lb veal (I'll get back in a second to discuss which cut to use)
-1 can of tuna
-olive oil
-vegetable oil
-2 eggs
-1Tbs capers
-a couple of anchovies
-lemon juice
-a mix of herbs (I used Italian Seasoning)
So, ideally the veal should be a roast cut with few bones (e.g. leg round roast or leg rump roast), because you want to be able to slice it thin after you cooked it. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any of that at our local supermarket, so I used shoulder blade chop, which wasn't a terribly good idea since it ended up being impossible to slice thin and I more or less just cut it into little pieces instead.
I guess you could substitute the veal with something else, also because veal appears to be pretty expensive in the US, the taste will be slightly different, but the main taste is given by the Salsa Tonnata anyway...
So, get your meat, cook it like a roast, like heat some oil in a pan and put the meat in it, cover with a lid, and add salt, pepper and herbs. Cook it on low until it's done, if it gets too dry you can add a little bit of water or cooking wine.
While the veal is cooking, you should prepare the Salsa Tonnata, which is kind of like a tuna mayo. So, in a food processor or blender blend two egg yolks (I actually used a whole egg and an egg yolk, the extra egg white makes the sauce a little lighter), then slowly add olive oil and vegetable oil until it gets almost to the consistency of a mayo (it's ok if it is a little more liquid than that). Then add the can of tuna (you might as well not drain the oil) the capers and the anchovies and mix everything. Once it's all mixed, add a splash of lemon juice and a couple of drops of vinegar to it (I actually didn't have any lemon juice at home and it tasted fine anyway). Salt to taste too.
At this point the veal should almost be done, once that's the case let it cool down then slice it as thin as you can. Put the veal slices on a serving plate and cover them with the Salsa Tonnata, if you want you can garnish it with some more capers.
Let it sit in the fridge for an hour, then serve and enjoy!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Straccetti con la Rucola

We continue with another italian dish, although this is not necessarily a summer one. It's very easy to make and of course very tasty.

Straccetti con la Rucola
-1lb of beef steak, as thin as possible (the one we used was called minute steak)
-3oz rucola (arugula)
-balsamic vinegar
-olive oil

First of all, you should cut the steak (which needs to be very thin) into small strips (this is where the name comes from: "straccetti" literally means "little rags").

Heat up a little bit of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar in a pan and when it's hot, dump the strips of steak in.

It should not take long to cook, only a couple of minutes, while it cooks you can add some salt and pepper.
Once it's cooked, add the arugula and let it cook for another minute until it wilts. The arugula will shrink a lot, so you can probably use much more than 3oz, depending on your tastes.

VoilĂ , it's done!

You can serve it with a little more fresh arugula on top and maybe another splash of balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Insalata di Riso (Rice Salad)

This is a very easy summer dish, quick to make and perfect to bring to potlucks and picnices. You can use whatever vegetables you have lying around your fridge.

This is what we used, it made approximately 4 servings:

-1 cup of rice
-green beans
-1 can of tuna
-2 hard boiled eggs
-cheese (we had smoked gouda, but any semi-0hard cheese will do)
-olive oil

It seems silly to give a detailed description of the recipe: boil the rice and then cool it down with cold water, cook the veggies, cut everything in small pieces (the veggies, the eggs, the cheese) and mix it together with a good quantity of olive oil.

We like to serve it mixed with some mayo, but that's optional. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Polpettone di Tonno (Tuna Loaf)

Hi people, since Laura has been busy in the past weeks, I offered to help with the blog posts (and not just with the cooking.) So, I guess I will write the next couple of entries.

Going home to Italy in July inspired me to try my hand at some of my favorite summer dishes. Since summer in Chicago is as hot as it is in Cento, I figured some cold recipes were appropriate.

Polpettone di Tonno (Tuna Loaf)

-4 cans of tuna (the usual 5 oz ones)
-8 tbs breadcrumbs
-8 tbs grated paresan
-2 eggs

The recipe also asks for 7-8 tbs of oil, but since the canned tuna we had was already in oil, I decided to just use some of it, so I didn't completely drain the cans when I opened them.

Also, the tuna should be chunk light, or otherwise you will need to chop it into small pieces.

Once this is done (you have the tuna in sufficiently small pieces and you have enough oil) put everything together in a bowl and mix it well. At the same time, yous hould start boiling water in a pot large enough to hold the tuna loaf (and there should be enough water to cover the loaf).

Once mixed, lay the mixture on a foil sheet and make it into a loaf shape, then wrap it completely with teh foil so that it holds the shape.

When the water boils, drop the loaf in the boiling water and cook for 20 minutes.

then, let it cool down before unwrapping the foil and serving. If you have time, keeping it in the fridge a couple of hours will make it stick together more and therefore it will be less likely to crumble when you cut it.

We served it with a side of salad, I also like to garnish it with mayo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Corn, Buttermilk, and Chive Muffins

Last Sunday, I checked my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, and instantly drooled over the most recent recipe: corn, buttermilk, and chive popovers. Ironically, I had all the ingredients in my kitchen. No grocery trip necessary! Sweet!

So I proceeded to make the above recipe (no adaptations were used). I used a muffin tin since I don't have a special tray for popovers. Unfortunately, my fluffy muffins turned out more like dense biscuits. Although the recipe claims that less cooking time is needed if using a muffin tray, in this instance (maybe it has something to do with our oven settings?), I think they needed more time.

It didn't matter that much though, the taste of these popover-muffin-biscuits or whatever you want to call them was great! I will definitely try again and aim for more fluffiness next time.

My blog will be taking a mini-break as I travel to Vermont for a friend's wedding. Daniele and I will be there for a long weekend. And, when we return, Daniele will be taking over some of the blogging for the next few weeks! Hello, Italian perspective.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chicken Croquettas

For my birthday, I decided to cook a Spanish feast. Chicken croquettas, salmorejo, and Spanish tortilla.  I remember my time in Spain very fondly, and my host mom, Lola, was one of the best chefs I've ever met. I often remember the things she cooked and my mouth waters. Unfortunately, I can't find many of the same ingredients here in the United States so for a few of her specialties I will have to wait until I can return...

Salmorejo was always one of my favorites, so making that made sense. Perfect for summer. I also regularly enjoyed croquettas while in Spain and although it did not sound like too smart of an idea to make a fried dish in 100+ degree heat...well...it was my birthday so I gave in. The tortilla was an add on, because I felt like it made sense to make a third Spanish dish. Why not, right?

I was a bit hesitant to try making croquettas because I had never made them before, but they turned out magnificently and I'm already craving them again. The salmorejo was a hit (as always) and the tortilla...well...we just won't talk about the tortilla, will we, Dan? (Let's just say that most of it ended up on top of the stove burner instead of on our plates. Oops). But the best part of the meal was, as always, the company. Thanks guys!

Chicken Croquettas
1 large chicken breast
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup flour (keep some extra laying around)
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
canola oil (for frying)
1 egg
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the flour and cook for one minute. Stir in the milk until smooth and thick, cover and set aside.

Cut chicken breasts into one inch cubes. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the chicken and garlic. Cook for five minutes. When the chicken is browned, add the contents into a food processor and process until mixed. Stir the chicken mixture into the butter and flour sauce, stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Once cooled, shape the mixture into eight small sausage-type shapes. If the dough mixture seems too sticky, add more flour (we ended up almost doubling the amount of flour the recipe called for). Coat each croquetta in a beaten egg and then roll in breadcrumbs.

Heat canola oil in a large pan. When hot, lower the croquettas into the oil and fry for about 4 minutes. Cool off on a paper towel to absorb some of the oil and then serve.

And I still need to add more Spanish dishes to my repertoire. Next up...pulpo a la gallega and paella.