Monthly Archives: January 2015

Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds

oranges with pomegranate
“Do you eat frozen pizza?” said the old lady. We had just left our small local supermarket, each wheeling our shopping home and as often happens, she fancied a chat, though we had not met before. It is good practice for my Italian, so I try (though my accent is getting rougher and more Roman, I am told). Anyway, the pizza query. Pizza, yes, but frozen? “Noooo… not very often. We usually make it, or go out…” I said, wondering where this was going. Did I look like the kind of person who eats frozen pizza? Shabby coat, flat shoes AND a frozen-pizza consumer? That would probably not be a good thing. She explained that she had just bought her first frozen pizzas, as they were on offer. “Look! 1.59 euro for two pizza margheritas! But how do I cook them?” The print of the cooking advice was small, so I read it out to her, wondering what she would think of the culinary experience that evening. We waved farewell, and I hope she was not too disappointed.

Speaking of culinary experiences, it is Fiesta Friday Anniversary (part 2)! This time I am bringing this Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, in honour of simplicity and freshness, cheerful neighbours and new friends. Very easy to make, and a nice serving of sunshine now that January rain is battering our windows. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts, especially Angie@thenovicegardener. And happy anniversary! This is bound to be a culinary and visual extravaganza! Now, please pardon me while I go schmooze and taste my way through the festivities……. Mmm……….

Fiesta Friday

Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds

3 oranges
2 blood oranges
1 pomegranate

Slice the peel off the oranges, top and base, then sides. Then slice them horizontally, and layer them in a bowl. Scoop out your pomegranate seeds (a teaspoon helps) and sprinkle this over: voila! Dessert!

sliced oranges

You could use grapefruit as well, and a splash of alcohol might be nice too. This is great for a dinner party, just make it advance and cover it until ready to serve.

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Zucchini Carrot Ricotta-Pesto Tart #2

Zucchini carrot ricotta pesto tartHappy First Fiesta Friday anniversary! We had neighbours over last night, and thought this might be a good choice to start a light vegetarian dinner. Having Italians over can be daunting, especially when they are excellent cooks and can argue at length about spaghetti widths, aubergine varieties and other such critical culinary points. Making this tart again might work, we thought, and it is also my contribution to the First Fiesta Friday anniversary. Fiesta Friday is like a really interesting weekly neighbourhood dinner, with some familar faces and some new. Each week I am inspired, impressed and grateful for all the wonderful ideas, recipes and writing, so thanks so much! Special thanks to our lovely FF52 co-hosts: Angie@The Novice Gardener, Hilda @Along The Grapevine and Julianna @Foodie On Board.

Zucchini Carrot Ricotta-Pesto Rose Tart
(Initially inspired by Conversation Pieces: Zucchini Carrot Rose Tart)

One package ready-made puff pastry
3 zucchini
3 carrots
130 grammes fresh pesto, about 4 tbs
250 grammes ricotta, about 4 tbs
Salt, pepper

Roll out your dough into a pie dish. (Here it came with carta al forno, baking paper.) Slice the zucchini and carrots lengthwise into long thin strips, with a potato peeler or a mandolin. (This task is much easier when you have a patient husband who is handy in the kitchen..)
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Mix pesto and ricotta, half of each, with a little salt and pepper. Spread some ricotta-pesto mix on the strips of carrot and zucchini. Roll the strips somewhat tightly together, so they looks like a rosebud. (Yes, albeit a pesto-smeared, green one.) This is finicky, but the rolls held together well. Alternate carrot and zucchini, rolling until you have a good sized roll. Lift it carefully over onto pastry, and add last strips to fill the dish. Tuck the pastry edges over. If you have extra pesto-ricotta, feel free to spoon it into the crevices.
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Bake at 200C until it looks done. Time and temperature depends on your pastry and oven, last time 20 min at 180 was enough but this time it took 35-40 min and I increased he temperature. Slice into wedges and enjoy. Enjoy! We did! And our dinner with the neighbours went well, I think. They are really nice, forgiving of our gaps on speaking Italian, and we laughed a lot.

Potato and leek risotto

Leek for risotto

I had three long leeks stuffed into the fridge, waving their green ends every time the door was opened. Potato and leek soup, I thought, to counterbalance the maltempo (bad weather) expected in Rome over the weekend. Predictions were dire. But Saturday was sunny, the laundry backlog from December was finally cleared, and even Sunday was not bad. We went to the Bar dei Cesaroni, just up the hill, and had coffee, sitting in the pizza next to their grey parrot who’ll say”Ciao!” if in the right mood. A soap opera is based there, so you get grizzled locals there, mixed with Italians posing in front of the bar. Very good spot for a drink or a Sunday morming cappuccino.

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The coffee is good, and the bar is also a shrine to Roma. And the leeks? Well, one ended up in this risotto last night.

Potato and leek risotto

50 grammes chopped guanciale (optional)
1 leek
3 potatoes
t tbs parsley
300 grammes risotto rice (I like Carnaroli)
1.5 litres boiling stock (I use vegetable stock cubes)
salt, pepper
60 grammes grated Parmesan

Fry off your guanciale slightly, if you are using it. (If skipping guanciale, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in pot before adding leek.) Wash and chop your leek, and dice the potatoes. Add these to the pot. No need to peel them if they are thin skinned. After a couple minutes, add the risotto rice, and stir so it absorbs some flavour from the guanciale fat and leek (the potato impact is probably minimal tastewise at this stage.)

In the interim, you’ll have pot number two ready with slightly boiling stock. This you ladle in, little by little, only adding a new ladle of hot broth when the previous broth has been almost absorbed. Keep stirring, so the rice releases starch and the risotto becomes creamier. It will keep absorbing liquid after it stops cooking, but it is helpful to taste the rice and feel it going from slightly hard to a bit al dente, to know when enough is enough. You might not need all the broth, or you might need a splash more water (a little white wine is always nice in risotto as well.) When it looks almost ready, take it off the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

Leek potato risotto

Making risotto is really not hard, and you can add what you like. Over the holidays we had some lovely risotto in Varese: taleggio and orange peel, and saffron and culatello. This was less exotic, but good winter food. This is 4-6 portions, as this is great as leftovers the next day. Risotto is great for making rice fritters as well.

We are having neighbours over for dinner this week, and I am debating what to cook. They are Italian, which means we will serve something foreign. Cooking anything Italian would be rather intimidating when people are so knowledgable and specific on how things should be done. I am thinking Norwegian salmon loin, with red rice and leek. Maybe not with miso this time, hmmmmm….. And sticky toffee pudding was the plan for dessert, but one guest is diabetic so a pavlova might be safer, with just fruit for him. Or a nice orange salad for everyone? Suggestions appreciated!