Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Felice 2014!

Did 2013 teach us all a lot of "lessons", some of them the hard way? 

Then for 2014 I hope we get a chance to pick some of the fun "classes" we want in life, instead!
For your Cooking Classes, I hope you choose Cucinamore - Italian Cooking Classes In Leesburg, VA!
Let's embrace the new year in the name of good food, good friends, good times! 

Happy New Year from me and my family to yours! ~Daniela

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Christmas' Eve Dinner

Dinner for Christmas' Eve in Italy is traditionally based on seafood. On our plate,  last night, a very simple "crostino al salmone" (smoked salmon crostino ), tagliolini al limone (homemade egg noodles with a lemony creamy sauce), capesante (seared scallops with spinach and bacon) and gamberi saltati piccanti (sautéed spicy shrimp). Buon Natale!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Polpettone Ripieno (Stuffed Meatloaf)

Who said that meatloaf needs to be boring and predictable? This one is so easy that can be a perfect weeknight family meal, but fun and elegant enough to be the star of your next dinner with friends!

You start, needless to say, with your favorite meatloaf recipe. Mine has beef and sausage, bread soaked in milk and squeezed, a couple eggs, very little garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix just enough to bring everything together.
Now with the magic tricks: start by coking your favorite greens. In my case, a bag of "power greens" and a bag of spinach with a medium diced onion.
Cook well and make sure all the liquid evaporates completely. Let it cool off.

Parchment paper brushed with olive oil. Spread the meat mixture forming a square, about half an inch thick.

Spread the cooked greens on top

Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano. Generously. I mean it.

Now nestle a couple hard boiled eggs in the middle

Helping yourself with the edges of the parchment paper, roll everything up in the classic Polpettone shape, pressing with your hands all around it.

50-60 minutes in the oven at 375F.  Let it rest before slicing it and serving it with a fresh salad or a classic side of mashed potatoes. It tastes even better the next day!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Risotto con Radicchio e Salsiccia (Radicchio and Sausage Risotto)

Yes, another risotto! And expect many more if you stick around me! :-) I'm a "northerner", as I often say, and risotto up there is probably more common than pasta itself! Endless possibilities. This is one that combines two loves of mine: risotto (of course) and radicchio!
Unfortunately here in the US I can't seem to be able to find my beloved "Radicchio di Treviso". This is regular radicchio from the produce department my grocery store. It will do anyway
Browning the sausage with a little shallot. That's how you start this rustic and delicious dish.

Add the shredded radicchio and let everything sweat in a little white wine. In this case you can also use a nice robust red, if you don't mind a sort of purple color risotto. After this is just a patience game: cook the rice with the help of a good broth (chicken or beef), added one ladle after another, waiting for each one to be absorbed before adding the next one. It'll take about 20 minutes altogether.

The absolute necessary final touch: the "mantecatura"! Away from the stove, a piece of cold butter and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. Stir vigorously, cover and let rest for a couple minutes before serving
A little shredded radicchio on top for color, maybe some extra Parmigiano, if you like it, a bit of black pepper. That's it! Don't forget a glass of good red wine with this. Who's afraid of the big bad winter anymore? ;-)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lemon Dill and Caper Deviled Eggs

Another easy Holiday Party idea?
Just step-up your Deviled Eggs with this "Lemon, Dill and Caper" filling for a great appetizer or buffet option!
They are going to go great with a bubbly white, whether you like a Prosecco, a Cava, a Blanc de Blanc or a more traditional Champagne!
Just blend the cooked yolks with a hint of Dijon mustard, very little mayo, capers, dill pickles, lemon juice and zest, fresh dill. Pipe back into the eggs and decorate following your creativity! Yum!

Sedano e Crema di Gorgonzola e Mascarpone (Celery with Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Cream)

A good idea for your holiday parties: plastic shot glasses with a cream of Gorgonzola and Mascarpone and a Celery Stick to use as a spoon!

It really takes no time to put these guys together. Get a package of those colorful shot glasses in the party department of any grocery stores. Done? Well, that was most of the effort. Other than that you just mix 1 part of Gorgonzola and 1 part of Mascarpone (or your fav cream cheese). White pepper and a hint of nutmeg. A drop of brandy adds depth to this rich and delicious party idea. Whip it all up in a nice and creamy mixture. Pipe into little plastic shot glasses and top with walnut crumbs or poppy seeds.
A fresh piece of celery does the trick: to be used instead of a spoon: the perfect finger-food! It can be prepared ahead of time, but if so, make sure you take it out of the refrigerator long enough for the cream to go back to room temperature or it can get kind of hard. Hope you enjoy this one! I love it

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gnocchi di Patate al Ragu' (Potato Gnocchi with Ragu')

This dish truly was a staple in my family's Sunday reunions!
My Godmother Vanda used to make tons of gnocchi, weekly. She would freeze them and deliver them to her large extended family, which luckily enough, included ours! From what I hear, even if she's in her eighties now, she still does that! I miss her so much, she is such a character!

To start, potatoes need to be boiled whole and with their skin on. You'll know they're ready when you can easily poke them with a fork.

Peel your potatoes right after draining them, while still very hot. You get rid of more moisture, that way.

Mash your potatoes right away, seasoned with a pinch of salt, on a flat surface.

Add enough flour to be able to roll the dough into thin logs and cut them in small pieces, about an inch or so (it's not like mine are EVER all the same length...;-)   ). My family does not add any egg to the potato dough. You get a much lighter "gnocco" this way, but it's important to work the dough right away, while still warm.

This cute wooden tool came from Italy with me when I moved here, but a fork will still do a great job, to quickly roll the pieces of dough onto, and give your gnocchi the classic shape
There! I finished! Boil your gnocchi in salted water and "fish" them out with a slotted spoon as soon as they come to the surface, draining the excess water. Serve them immediately with your ragu' or your favorite sauce.
Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gift Certificate for the Holidays!

Give a CUCINAMORE Gift Certificate to your foodie friends and family this Holiday Season for a Family-style Italian Cooking Class!
Give them a chance to experience:
• the WARMTH of the atmosphere in a true Italian kitchen
• the TASTE of authentic Italian food
• the SURPRISE of finding out how easy it can be to make those recipes their own
• the FUN of replicating them in their own kitchen
• the JOY of sharing them with those they love!
Or…forget all about that seasonally appropriate generosity: just be selfish and get one for yourself!

Roasted Squash and Leek Ravioli with Mushroom and Pancetta

An Italian flair to  our Thanksgiving dinner, this year, for these delicious fall-like ravioli:

Butternut squash, leeks, ricotta and Parmigiano in the filling. Sautéed mushroom and pancetta as a savory topping.
Olive oil, garlic and parsley. Simple!

Roasted squash with a hint of rosemary. Once mashed, these will be the base for the ravioli filling. Save some for decorating the dish too!

Filling the ravioli

Nicholas helps me sealing the pasta. Please don't mind the flour up to his elbow...
There, done! Such pretty faces Three to five minutes in salted boiling water and they are ready to go. Oh, you can even make them ahead of time and freeze them!

The contrast between the sweetness of the squash in the filling and the savory topping is really pleasant!

I found that a good Viognier was a great pairing for this dish! Cin Cin! Salute!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Still cooking, still eating, still loving it

I've been away from the blog for a while, but not from food, or from sharing my passion with others, which is what I love to do. As a matter of fact "this" has become my full time job for the past 4 years. I have managed the Cooking Demo department of a beautiful Grocery Store in town and have loved it passionately. It sure has kept me busy, though, having consequently to slow down with all of my other activities, to include my private cooking classes, which I have limited to those upon request of my regulars, versus offering group classes at my house like I used to. I still cook and I still love it. One of the things I have recently rediscovered is bread. I used to bake bread a lot, when I was younger, but I somehow had lost it along the way. It's not difficult, but it does take time, which has become a luxury for me, lately. I am very pleased with the result of this going back to my first love, though. The one you see up there and down here is a nice Ciabatta that I have baked in the house. Love my crusty bread! Now life is taking me away from Texas and therefore from my job. I have mixed feelings about it. I know for a fact I am going to miss San Antonio and all the possibilities it has offered me, but at the same time I am welcoming the excitement of a new turn in my life, and, at least for a while, the gift of time, to use for my family and my food. And possibly to come back to this blog a little more often and share my mood through my food with you.