Traditional recipes

Radicchio Strudel with Fontina Cheese

Radicchio Strudel with Fontina Cheese


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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese, well-drained, squeezed dry in towel
  • 1 9- to 10-ounce head of radicchio, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Fontina cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
  • Radicchio leaves (optional)

Recipe Preparation

  • Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (reserve any remaining for another use) and 14 teaspoon salt. Add flour and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps, about 2 minutes. Gather dough into ball; flatten into square, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced radicchio; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes. Cool. Mix in 1 cup Fontina cheese.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut ricotta dough in half. Roll out 1 dough piece on lightly floured work surface to 17x9-inch rectangle; trim to 16x8-inch rectangle. Brush with egg glaze. Place half of radicchio filling in 1 1/2-inch-wide strip along 1 long side of dough, leaving 1-inch border on each short side. Fold in short sides. Starting at filled edge, roll strudel up, enclosing filling completely. Transfer to prepared sheet, seam side down. Repeat with second strudel. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

  • Brush strudels with egg glaze. Bake until puffed and deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle each hot strudel with 1/2 cup Fontina cheese; let stand 15 minutes. Cut each strudel crosswise into 4 pieces. Serve warm. Garnish with thyme sprigs and radicchio leaves, if desired.

Reviews Section

Recipe Potato, Cheese and Thyme Tart

Seasoning raw potatoes with a drop of oil, a pinch of salt and thyme.

Cut a 2cm border around the edge of the puff pastry, prick its bottom with a fork or tootpick so it won’t swollen during baking.

Distribute the grated Fontina evenly on the bottom, then pour over the beaten egg-water mixture and use a little of it to brush the edges of the puff pastry, add potatoes with thyme, a pinch of salt and bake for about 25-30 minutes to 180°C.

TastyReuben

Nosh 'n' Splosh

Serves 4-6, Preparation time 15 mins, Cooking time 25-30 mins

  • 4 potatoes medium-sized
  • 100 g Fontina, grated
  • 320 g puff pastry – 1 packet
  • Fresh Thyme, 5 sprigs or the dried ones
  • 1 egg
  • 20 ml water
  • EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 spoon
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Peel and cut potatoes into thin slices, 2-3 mm.

Seasoning raw potatoes with a drop of oil, a pinch of salt and thyme.

Cut a 2cm border around the edge of the puff pastry, prick its bottom with a fork or tootpick so it won’t swollen during baking.

Distribute the grated Fontina evenly on the bottom, then pour over the beaten egg-water mixture and use a little of it to brush the edges of the puff pastry, add potatoes with thyme, a pinch of salt and bake for about 25-30 minutes to 180°C.

CraigC

Veteran

Serves 4-6, Preparation time 15 mins, Cooking time 25-30 mins

  • 4 potatoes medium-sized
  • 100 g Fontina, grated
  • 320 g puff pastry – 1 packet
  • Fresh Thyme, 5 sprigs or the dried ones
  • 1 egg
  • 20 ml water
  • EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 spoon
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Peel and cut potatoes into thin slices, 2-3 mm.

Seasoning raw potatoes with a drop of oil, a pinch of salt and thyme.

Cut a 2cm border around the edge of the puff pastry, prick its bottom with a fork or tootpick so it won’t swollen during baking.

Distribute the grated Fontina evenly on the bottom, then pour over the beaten egg-water mixture and use a little of it to brush the edges of the puff pastry, add potatoes with thyme, a pinch of salt and bake for about 25-30 minutes to 180°C.

Milkduds

Active Member

MypinchofItaly

Legendary Member

Burt Blank

Burt Blank

Serves 4-6, Preparation time 15 mins, Cooking time 25-30 mins

  • 4 potatoes medium-sized
  • 100 g Fontina, grated
  • 320 g puff pastry – 1 packet
  • Fresh Thyme, 5 sprigs or the dried ones
  • 1 egg
  • 20 ml water
  • EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 spoon
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Peel and cut potatoes into thin slices, 2-3 mm.

Seasoning raw potatoes with a drop of oil, a pinch of salt and thyme.

Cut a 2cm border around the edge of the puff pastry, prick its bottom with a fork or tootpick so it won’t swollen during baking.

Distribute the grated Fontina evenly on the bottom, then pour over the beaten egg-water mixture and use a little of it to brush the edges of the puff pastry, add potatoes with thyme, a pinch of salt and bake for about 25-30 minutes to 180°C.


The Regions, Part 1 of 3

Piemonte

Valle D'Aosta

Lombardia

Lombardia (Lombardy), home to Italy's second largest city, fashionable Milano, is historically a trendsetter in its food as well as design sensibilities. Once ruled by the Spanish, Milan's iconic saffron-infused risotto is perfection in its simplicity and classically paired with Ossobuco, braised veal shanks garnished with a gremolata herb condiment. Lombardy boasts many varieties of cheeses that range from very soft and creamy to the long aged and hard grating variety. Soft spreadable Crescenza and Stracchino are a tasty contrast to mighty Mascarpone, most famously known for its starring role in the perennially popular Tiramisu, found almost everywhere in Italy. Bitto cheese is a long-maturing cheese that can age up to 10 years while Grana Padana is a kissing cousin to Parmigiano Reggiano with its own loyal fans. Bresaola, a cured lean beef from the Valtellina valley makes a delightfully refreshing salad, when the thin meat slices are topped with rucola/arugula greens, parmesan shavings and dressed with a squeeze of lemon and extra virgin olive oil. Make sure to enjoy a Valtellina Superiore DOCG produced from the nebbiolo grapes which are less acidic and tannic than neighboring Piemonte's nebbiolos. Panettone, a light egg rich cake spiked with candied citrus, is Lombardia's most famous dessert. It is the quintessential Italian Christmas cake made and enjoyed everywhere in Italy. Delicious served with the slightly sparkling and prestigious Franciacorta wine.

Trentino-Alto Aldige

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Veneto

The Veneto is home to two of the most romantic cities of Italy: Venice, with its maze of canals, and Verona, Shakespeare's setting for the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The Veneto reflects its watery ways with a passion for seafood dishes and risottos, Baccala' al latte, cod cooked in milk or Sepia, cuttlefish with its signature black ink in risotto and pasta. For the less adventuresome diners there is always the classic Risi e Bisi, rice and peas. Many colorful varieties of radicchio are the mainstay of winter greens throughout Italy, although Treviso's famously curled, spear-shaped heads are oftentimes enjoyed grilled. Flavorful Asiago and Monte Veronese are just two Veneto cheeses to try. You'll certainly not go wrong with any of the Vento's well known wines like Pinot Grigio, Valpolicella, and Amarone. You might try pairing a Prosecco with Zaleti, a traditional Veneto cookie made of cornmeal, pine nuts and raisin, for a light treat.

I will begin the next portion of my Italian Regional Culinary Guide with Liguria and Emilia Romagna as they are also part of the north and begin the transition to the central portion of Italy.

Marla Gulley Roncaglia is an American expat living in the Italian Alps. Marla is an accomplished pastry chef, and a master at high-altitude baking. She and her husband Fabrizio (who has also worked as a chef) teach Italian cooking classes and run a bed and breakfast named Bella Baita ("beautiful mountain house"), where they are active supporters of the slow food movement.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Whisk and I.

Cooking is a source of great enjoyment for me - it's therapy, it's play, it's a challenge. On Girl With a Whisk, you'll soon find recipes with personal observations and shortcuts included. and even a few warnings about dishes that didn't quite cut the mustard.

My adventures in cooking began at a young age the local fair held bake-offs with cash prizes. From chocolate cake bake-offs to rice competitions, I entered them all. Every October, the season of cooking began, and it didn't end until after Christmas. Having most of the family birthdays in that time only added to the amount of lovely baking that had to be done!

Of course, that was before I had a job. now, I set aside my Saturdays for cooking whenever possible. That's the day I experiment with new recipes and enjoy the process of making a mess that hopefully tastes good in the end.


The Coziest Ski Weekend Recipes

You know who you are: When the forecast says snow, you can't resist the call of the slopes. When cool mountain air beckons, let us help you plan a culinary trip to the peaks. Indulge as the Europeans do, in high Alpine style: Toasting with friends, dipping forks into bubbling cheese. Even if you've been on the bunny hill all day, you deserve to après-ski with the best of them&mdashsun on your face, drink in your hand&mdashand still come back to a cozy scene.

You'll need to plan, shopping for specialty items to bring with you. Beyond that, the pleasure is there for the taking. If you're feeding a crowd, start the day with a savory, make-ahead strata. Set up a full roster of satisfying meals to keep everyone warm. Snowdrifts or no, what we all need is comfort, familiar and delicious. Select from traditional dishes, such as French onion soup and Champvallon and an elegant take on shepherd's pie, that are sure to warm your heart.

Coziness abounds in Alpine chalets and Dolomitian refugios, especially so for those who've earned their hearty meals out in the cold, fresh air. If you're destined to hang out in the lodge all day, or cook in a rental kitchen, be sure to get outside to work up an appetite. You can be lazy by the fire later on there'll be chocolat chaud

for the kids, and you'll sip cognac-spiked coffee, and nibble on tender, buttery apple strudel. Or maybe you'll just play it simple: after a long day on the slopes, sometimes all we really want to come home to is a tray of the fudgiest brownies, which we eat, still in our base layers, standing at the kitchen counter.


The ultimate ski holiday food guide

Each country has its own delicious Alpine dish, such as Austria's Tiroler Gröstl Credit: kab-vision - Fotolia

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When it comes to eating and drinking in the Alps, it’s good to know your grappa from your gröstl. We round up the very best (and worst) mountain cuisine that Europe has to offer, in preparation for the upcoming Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Shows, which, for the very first time, have authentic Alpine food and drink on offer.

Both the North show in Manchester (October 30 to November 1) and the London show in Battersea Park (November 5 to 8) have a huge selection of Alpine street food stalls, serving up everything from tartiflette to moose burgers.

In addition, the London show is hosting The Lodge, a gourmet pop-up restaurant with a menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett.

To book show tickets or a table at The Lodge visit skiandsnowboard.co.uk.

France

Unmissable food

Tartiflette
This is the lunch to order if you have no intention of moving in the afternoon. If the pound of potatoes doesn’t get you, the wheel of cheese will. Browned lardons of smoked bacon, onion and garlic, and waxy, skin-on sliced spuds (tartiflâ in the Savoie dialect), are topped with a whole creamy, nutty reblochon cheese. Far from being a dish that grand’mères have been passing down the generations, tartiflette appeared in Tarantaise resorts in the Eighties, after a marketing push by the Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Reblochon. Recipes can differ, but the big question is whether the cheese rind should be on or off. We recommend on, which results in a cracking crispy lid to the dish.

Recommended food

Soupe Aux Callioux
Usually, cailloux are to be avoided on a piste – they are pebbles. But in your soup, they’re surprisingly beneficial. Essentially, this is a hearty vegetable potage cooked with a couple of round rocks that roll around, mixing and squashing the veg – like a natural Magimix.

Potato, cheese and bacon: you can't go far wrong with tartiflette Photo: Getty

Tarte Aux Myrtilles
Let’s clear up a common debate. Don’t trust Google to translate myrtilles. They’re not blueberries in the fat, sugary, American sense they are bilberries (or blaeberries to Scots) – smaller and more acidic, making for a truly tart tarte with crisp pastry and vanilla custard.

Food to avoid

Pierre Chaude
This “social” meal, where the diner does the cooking, involves a hot stone, raw meat and stress – mainly over the chance of getting burnt, or touching raw chicken before cooked meat and poisoning yourself. So you end up eating over-cooked meat dipped in mayonnaise, and stinking of cooking, for restaurant prices.

Unmissable drinks

Mondeuse wine
Sometimes blended with the fruitier (and more famous) Gamay or Pinot Noir, this Savoyard grape deserves more respect. A deep plum colour and redolent of a pine forest on the nose, it tends to be tannic, spicy and herbal, with bitter cherry notes.

Tarte Aux Myrtilles combines tart berries with creamy custard

Recommended drinks

Genepi
This sweet, green aromatic liqueur, which is similar to absinthe, is not to everyone’s taste but, at its best (ie lovingly made to a family recipe, with wormwood and other herbs and plants found in a secret spot every summer), it makes a fine end to a meal.

Drinks to avoid

Apremont wine
You know a wine is bad when it is described as “light” and “neutral”, as the Vin de Savoie from Apremont, which is made from the high-yield, low-flavour Jacquère grape, often is. There are exceptions, but don’t risk it.

Switzerland

Unmissable food

Raclette
Of all the fromage-filled dishes of the Alps, raclette is the most cheese-worshipping – and the most convivial. The name comes from the French racler (to scrape), but the dish is also known in Swiss-German as bratchäs (roasted cheese). Which is what it is – half a wheel of semi-soft cheese, the cut side pointed towards a heat lamp or an open fire. As the cheese melts and browns, you scrape it on to a plate on which you’ve piled boiled potatoes from a basket lined with a kind of spud cosy. It is accompanied by cornichons (mini gherkins) and tiny pickled silverskin onions to counter the richness of the cheese, and by charcuterie – notably bündnerfleisch, a cured and air-dried beef.

Alpermagronnen is the Swiss answer to mac'n'cheese Photo: Getty

Recommended food

Rösti
To many, a proper Swiss rösti is the ultimate expression of the potato – it has the golden crispness of chips, the earthy flavour of boiled spuds and the buttery richness of mash. Nothing else should be in the rösti but anything can go on top. Best is a spiegelei – a sunny-side-up egg ready to ooze through the potato.

Alpermagronnen
Since macaroni cheese has made a foodie fashion resurgence (albeit under the American name mac’n’cheese), it’s worth trying this Swiss version. The pasta (usually penne) is bulked out with potato and topped with crispy caramelised onion. The dish is accompanied by cinnamon-spiced apple sauce.

Food to avoid

Fondue
Come on – it’s stale bread dipped in melted cheese. The double-dipping is bad enough – people eating off the fork they use to cook with – but the tired humour surrounding dropping a piece in the pot with accompanying threats of forfeits and mentions of the Seventies and car keys clinches it. Yawn.

Unmissable drinks

Petite Arvine wine
The Valais region’s finest grape produces complex white wines with notes of grapefruit and lime (without being overly acidic), and balancing honey notes, and a wonderfully floral bouquet.

Raclette involves scraping half a wheel of melted cheese

Recommended drinks

Williamine
Switzerland produces the two finest (in other words, least rough!) schnapps/or eaux de vie in the Alps. One is the cherry schnapps kirsch, which deserves more respect than being poured in a fondue. But Williamine, made from pears, comes from the Valais, and is the skiers’ shot of choice.

Drinks to avoid

Fendant wine
The Valais name for the Chasselas grape, Fendant for the most part produces a pale, weedy wine with very little character that has to be drunk young because it hasn’t the structure to age. Its red cousin, Dôle, is not much better.

Italy

Unmissable food

Polenta
Italy prefers the grain for its carbohydrate needs and northern Italy has its own speciality, made from cornmeal – polenta. It can be a bland slop if care isn’t taken but done right – slow-cooked from fresh – it serves as a deliciously buttery, slightly granular base for rich toppings such as slow-cooked venison, a beef or pork ragù, porcini mushrooms, or (in the Aosta valley) Fontina cheese. The golden variety is the most common and benefits from the addition of herbs or garlic, but the paler Veneto variety has a delicate flavour that doesn’t need enhancement. For many people, polenta is at its best as leftovers, when it hardens and can be grilled, giving it lovely caramelised stripes.

Recommended food

Bresaola
Italy is not short of charcuterie but arguably king of them all is the cured, air-dried beef from Valtellina, home to the resorts Bormio and Livigno. Salted and rubbed with spices, lean beef is hung for three months to develop a deep red hue and tender sweetness. It goes well with a red radicchio di Treviso salad.

Beware the grappa served in Italy Photo: Getty

Strangolopreti
Across Italy there are dishes called “priest stranglers” (Italians have an interesting relationship with the church). In Trentino they take the form of spinach dumplings, made using milk-soaked bread and flour, with sage and nutmeg. Like giant gnocchi, they are much softer and lighter than many dumplings.

Food to avoid

Lardo
So-called connoisseurs will try to convince you with rapturous descriptions of the delicate flavours released as wafer-thin slices of herbed and cured lardo dissolve in your mouth, but don’t believe them. It’s just posh pig fat. Bread and dripping tastes just as good.

Unmissable drinks

Lagrein wine
The perfect accompaniment to game, beef and cheese, this grape, native to Trentino and the Südtirol, is full-bodied and earthy. Bursting with plum and cherry flavours, it’s so deep purple it could play Smoke On The Water.

Recommended drinks

Birra
The craft ale revolution has reached Italy. In Aosta, Birrificio’s roster is led by 50 Ale, while its neighbouring brewery, B63, has a range named after musical styles. Oppale, from Veneto’s 32 Via Dei Birrai brewery, is highly recommended and Forst, in Trentino, makes the notable Heller Bock and Sixtus.

Slow-cooked polenta makes the perfect base for rich ragù or stew

Drinks to avoid

Grappa
Dorothy Parker said, “I like to have a martini. Two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.” If she’d tried grappa (made from the skins, stems and seeds left from making wine) she’d have been floored by the first glass.

Austria

Unmissable food

Tiroler gröstl
Traditionally a way to use up Sunday lunch on Monday, gröstl is the king of hashes, with fried potatoes, onions and leftover meat. Although it sometimes is, it shouldn’t strictly be made with raw bacon, whose fat can overwhelm the butter used in the cooking, but rather with any cold ham, pork or beef to hand. It’s the herbs and spices that make this dish so special. Caraway seeds (kümmel) and marjoram give it fragrance, paprika adds zing, and parsley freshens up the recipe. Ask for it mit ei, and you’ll get a fried egg with its yolk bulging and ready to explode over the gröstl.

Recommended food

Schnitzel mit preiselbeeren
A true Wiener schnitzel is made with veal, hammered as flat as possible and coated in a golden-crumbed batter that bubbles and wrinkles till it looks like a Shar Pei dog. Add piquancy with Austrian-style potato salad or preiselbeeren, sour-sweet lingonberry sauce.

Schnitzel is the classic Austrian dish

Germknödel
Apple strudel might be Austria’s best known dessert, but the most entertaining is germknödel. Germ means yeast and this is a dumpling that rises as it steams. It has a surprise hidden inside (spoiler alert – it’s plum jam) and is topped with melted butter, then icing sugar mixed with crushed poppy seed.

Food to avoid

Weisswurst
This is really a Bavarian dish, but has been given house room at one of Austria’s annual social highlights, the Weisswurstparty near Kitzbühel on Hahnenkamm ski race weekend. A spongy sausage of minced veal and fatback bacon spiced with mace and cardamom, its only saving grace is the pretzel it’s served with.

Unmissable drinks

Grüner veltliner
This Austrian grape has a characteristic acidity that cuts through the richness of many of the country’s typical dishes. However, it offers subtle notes too – peach and apricot, white-pepper spiciness and a nutty, slightly creamy finish.

Germknödel has a surprise plum jam centre

Recommended drinks

Jägertee
Not to be confused with Jägermeister, this is equal parts red wine, overproof spiced Stroh rum, plum schnapps, tea and orange juice, with cloves, cinnamon and lemon. It’s glühwein raised to nobility status.

Drinks to avoid

Obstler and Turbojäger
Obstler is the roughest schnapps in the Alps – obst simply means fruit, so there could be anything in there. And Turbojäger is the German name for Jägerbomb, combining the horrific Austrian invention Red Bull (cough mixture-flavoured fizzy triple espresso), with the ghastly German herbal digestif Jägermeister.


Italian Regional Food: the North

Italian Regional Food: Risotto with wild mushrooms

First-time travelers to Italy may be surprised to find such a culinary diversity from region to region.

Unlike your typical Italian restaurant in the States, Italian food has much more variety than spaghetti and meatballs or eggplant parmesan. Even though you can find Italian specialties like pizza and tortellini all over Italy, it is well worth sampling the local dishes for a bit of authenticity. Every region has its own cheeses, wines and sometimes even vegetables.

When eating foods grown or raised in the surrounding countryside and complemented with the local wine, both your traveling and eating experiences are taken to a whole new level. The pride Italians have in their locally-grown produce, regional specialties and exceptional wines is something you cannot find in a supermarket.

Italian Regional Specialties: The North

Northern Italian cuisine is characterized by a lesser use of olive oil, pasta and tomato sauce and a heavier reliance on butter (or lard), rice, corn (for polenta) and cheeses for cream sauces. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules such as the renowned olive oils of Liguria and the Lakes region, which figure greatly in the cuisines of these areas.

Pasta in the north is by no means non-existent, but it does have to share time with delicious risotto and polenta. Northern Italian main courses often reflect people’s pride in their unspoiled countryside, and are likely to include some sort of game or wild fowl such as rabbit, quail or grouse.

Seafood and shellfish are very popular on the coast, and rivers and streams provide carp and trout. Of course, the overall rule is “if it grows or lives well in the area, then it can make it onto the table”.

Val d’Aosta

The region produces fontina cheese, which is used in local specialties like Cotoletta alla Valdostana – a veal chop covered in fontina and ham. Capriolo alla Valdostana is a hearty venison stew made with wine, vegetables and grappa.

The rocky crags of the Alps help make Aostan wines unique and the region is home to the DOC recognized Reds Donnas, Chambave Rosso and Nus Rosso. Whites include the simply named and crisp Bianco and the Blanc de Morgex with its hints of alpine meadows. Val d’Aosta is also home to the dessert wine Nus-Malvoisie Fletri as well as locally made Grappa.

Piemonte

Piemonte is the home of fonduta, a melted cheese dip made of milk, eggs and white truffles (tartufi bianchi). Fine cheeses include robiola, sheep cheese (tuma, in dialect) and tumin, a white mountain cheese soaked in red pepper and olive oil sauce. Cardi alla Bagna Cauda is a dish of locally grown chard served with a warm sauce of anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Other regional dishes include local game such as rabbit, and boiled meat dishes like Vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal with a sauce of boiled egg yolk, tuna and capers) and ox tail. Grissini are thin and crispy breadsticks that have become popular throughout the country and the world. Piemonte is also home to two types of wild mushrooms prized the world over: porcini mushrooms and white truffles.

Italian Regional Food: Cheese fonduta. Ph. depositphoto.com/silkenphotos

When it comes to wines, Piemonte is second to none: it is the home of Asti white wines, including Moscato and sparkling Asti Spumante. The region is also home to full-bodied reds such as Barbera, Barolo, Barberesco and Dolcetto.

Lombardia

This region is known for its rice dishes including Minestrone alla Milanese, made with vegetables, rice and bacon. Risotto alla Milanese is a creamy dish of braised short-grain rice blended with meat stock, saffron and cheese. Other favorites include ravioli with a pumpkin filling from Mantova, and small quails with polenta from Bergamo. Osso buco is a traditional main course of veal knuckle – with the marrowbone intact – braised with rosemary and sage. The excellent cheeses of the region include the rich blue gorgonzola, grana padano (a rival of parmigiano-reggiano), the alpine bitto, the creamy crescenza and the gluttonous mascarpone.

Italian Regional Food: Stuffing ravioli with pumpkin. Ph. depositphotos/zaziedanslacuisine

Lombardia wines mostly hail from the Valtellina area, known for its well-aged reds that include Valtellina Superiore, Lombardy’s best. Franciacorta is home to sparkling white wines in the tradition of the champagnes of France, but with a truly Italian character.

Veneto

Veneto cuisine incorporates polenta and rice in its dishes, along with wild fowl, mushrooms, or seafood. Traditional courses include Risi e Bisi (rice and peas), and fegato alla Veneziana (calf’s liver fried with onions). Seafood ranging from prawns, shrimp and clams to fresh fish and eels, play an important part in the local diet, and is proudly displayed in markets and restaurants. Wild game such as rabbit, duck, pigeon and guinea fowl are found in the protected marshes of the Venetian Lagoon and are a favorite element of Veneto’s cooking. Radicchio di Treviso is a bitter red chicory served as a salad, but more often grilled and served with salt and olive oil. Asparagi di Bassano are white asparagus, usually boiled and served with vinaigrette or eggs. Asiago is the best and most popular cheese that comes from Veneto. Pandoro, a star-shaped cake delicately flavored with orange-flower is a specialty of Verona and it is typical of Christmas, when it is consumed throughout the country.

Venetian risi e bisi

The region is known for some of Italy’s most famous reds such as Valpolicella and Bardolino. Whites include Soave, Gambellara, Bianco di Custoza and Vigne Alte.

Italian Regional Food: Rabbit with mushrooms and polenta. Ph. depositphotos/Isantilli

Trentino-Alto Adige

This region shares culinary traditions of Italian and German origins. Canederli made with bread, milk and butter and served in a broth, is just one of several types of gnocchi (dumplings) popular in Trentino-Alto Adige. Polenta is very popular around Trentino along with wild fowl, river trout and Germanic sauerkraut. Speck is a salumi style cured meat that is similar to prosciutto, but is smoked, and has become available throughout Italy. The most popular cheeses include fresh Tosela, Spressa delle Giudicarie (DOP) and Puzzone di Moena.

Canederli. Ph. Michela Simoncini on flickr (flic.kr/p/aZS7vi)

Red wines include the full-bodied Marzemino and the fruity Teroldego. White wines excel in this pre-alpine climate and include Nosiola, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, the Spumante Talento Trento and the traditional sweet dessert wine Vin Santo.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

The region is known for its vast cornfields, which feed the areas demand for polenta. Prosciutto di San Daniele is a sweet cured ham that is hung to absorb fresh mountain air and is considered one of the best prosciuttos of Italy. Montasio is an aged, hard cheese sold at different levels of maturity. The cuisine of the Venezia Giulia portion or the region, especially around Trieste, reflects German/Slavic traditions, too. Jota is a soup made of beans, potatoes and white cabbage Porcina is a mix of boiled pork with sauerkraut, mustard and horseradish. Slavic goulash and dumplings are also local favorites. The coastal areas love their seafood including cuttlefish (seppia), mixed fried fish and Boreto Graesano, a fish and white polenta soup. Regional desserts have a Germanic touch: favorites are apple strudel, Cuguluf (a ring cake) and Gubana (made from dried fruit and raisins).

Friulan wines are well known, with Ramandolo being protected by a DOCG designation. Other reds include Refosco dal Peduncolo and Schiopettino. Friuli is best known for its whites, with the very popular Tocai, Malvasia Istriana, and Ribolla Gialla topping the list. Vitoska is a white wine served as an aperitivo and Picolit is a white dessert wine.

Liguria

The most famous of all culinary masterpieces from Liguria is its basil pesto sauce, served with either trofie (favored in Cinque Terre) or trenette (favored in Genoa). The olive oil of the region is an exception to most of Northern Italian cooking and plays an everyday role along the rocky coast of the area. Seafood has a large role in the local diet, with fresh caught anchovies being a favorite as well as swordfish, tuna, sardines and sea bass. Zuppa di datteri is a shellfish soup made in the port of La Spezia. Popular meat dishes include tomaselle (Veal rolls) and coniglio in umido (Rabbit stew). Ligurian desserts include pandolce genovese, a sweet bread made with candied fruit, raisins and nuts, and sweet pizzas made with walnuts, chestnuts and candied fruit.

Italian Regional Food: Fresh pesto, made with pine-nuts, basil, olive oil and garlic

Red wines include Rossese di Dolceacqua, Ormeasco, and the dessert wine Sciacchetrà Rosso. The white wines of Liguria are ideal for seafood and include Cinque Terre, Sciacchetrà and Colline di Levanto. Spirits range from Grappa and the citrus based Limoncello Ligure, to walnut-infused Nocino.


An Italian Christmas Kitchen, from North to South I

Christmas Italian food: as you would expect, an Italian Christmas becomes a true Christmas in the kitchen.

When I was a child, Christmas was my grandmother’s time to shine (or I should say, to shine even brighter, because the woman was a goddess in the kitchen all year round): she would prepare cappelletti by hand, twisting and turning them one by one, with the skill and the artistry only women of that generation – she was born in 1917 – had. I would supervise and help, in my own way, most likely by sitting at the table and making sure they tasted the way she wanted: I always loved fresh, raw cappelletti and ravioli, and still today, I cannot resist the temptation to eat a couple before boiling them, when I prepare them myself. When I do it, my thoughts always go to her and those warm, fragrant afternoons of long ago, and I do miss her even more dearly than every other moment. And they never taste quite as nice as hers.

She loved to talk about her youth and the early years of her marriage with grandpa: they had gotten married on the 26th of December 1939 “at six in the morning and wearing a simple suit, Francesca, not a wedding dress, because the war was coming, we all knew it, and it would have been very inappropriate” (Italy entered the conflict on the 10th of June, 1940). The setting was the Piedmontese countryside of Langhe and Monferrato the times, the 1940s. The imagery was that of a victoriuous Mussolini and the air had the scent of lavander and Arpège. No wonder I grew up obsessed with history and World War Two: in many ways, I spent my childhood getting to know those years more than the glitzy neon of the 1980s I physically inhabited then.

I was saying… Nonna would prepare plenty of things and would do everything on her own. We always ate the typical menu her own mother used to prepare for Christmas and we all embraced the tradition happily although apparently, she used to tell me, it hadn’t been always so.

We always had the largest feast at lunch of the 25th, so that was the meal in question. Around Christmas, while preparing cappelletti among other things, she would tell me the story of why it was her own family Christmas menu we traditionally had on that day. She and grandpa were about to spend their first Christmas together and it was time to get all that was needed for the dinner. Of course, they had to deal with living in a country at war, but they came from the countryside and food, there, was still relatively plentyful. The young lovers had forgotten, however, to discuss something seriously important: the menu. Yes, because each household in Italy cooks something different at Christmas, as you would expect in a country known for food and creativity: genio e sregolatezza, genius and unruliness, down to the last corner of the kitchen.

My grandfather fully expected his young spouse to embrace his own mother’s risotto and capretto (kid) based menu. Well, let’s just say that wasn’t my grandmother’s – who grew up eating cappelletti in brodo and hen at Christmas – plan. Fights ensued, but she eventually rose victorious over the dispute, although she never wanted to reveal how she convinced grandpa. Today, I wonder if she used her womanly charms: in the end, they were both just over 20 years of age then.

This seemingly off-the-topic introduction serves, in fact, a double purpose: the first is to show you how much food, its preparation, its flavors and scents are associated to the memories themselves of Italian Christmases. The second is to demonstrate, with a little funny anecdocte, how varied Christmas culinary tradition is in my country, so varied that at times it changes from household to household. Of course, it would be impossible to conduct some sort of Christmas food census and see what each and every family puts on the table on the 25th of December: can you imagine how long that would take? But one thing we can certainly do: check out what are the best loved traditional Christmas dishes region by region, area by area, starting from our northern regions.

If you have Italian ancestry, you may be familiar with some of these habits and it would be nice to hear about you and your memories. If you simply love Italy because, well, it’s Italy, then you may take inspiration from some of these recipes, add a bit of Italian flair to your Christmas meal and maybe create a new family tradition of your own, a tradition grandchildren’ll write about in 70 years, while telling the world how well you cooked and how much they’ll always love you.

An Italian Christmas table: what do we all eat?

The habit of celebrating Christmas Eve with a large dinner before or after midnight mass is not common in every region of the country. On the other hand, Christmas day lunch is a pretty solid affair everywhere: hen broth is often used to cook cappelletti and dried fruit, nuts and seasonal vegetables are very much on each and every person’s Christmas shopping list, nevermind where they are from.

Cappelletti in brodo, a favorite on Italian Christmas tables (by Fotografiche at depositphotos.com)

Of course, sweets and cakes are paramount for a perfect Christmas celebration, with pandoro and panettone being sold in every single corner of the country. Typical of an Italian Christmas are also torrone and croccante, as well as mandarins, oranges, pineapple and, as said, dried figs, dates and peanuts.

A recent article published by the Secolo XIX, underlines how meat, especially poultry, is the real protagonist of Italian tables on Christmas day: and in fact, pretty much every region tends to have a bird roasting in the oven on the morning of the 25th. It is usually guinea hens and capons being roasted, and hens being boiled in home made vegetable stock. In the period between Christmas and the Epifania (the 6th of January), it is estimated that at least 800 thousand capons and 500 thousand turkeys will be consumed by Italian families.

Roast capon is typical on the Christmas tables of many families all over Italy (by sarah_jane at depositphotos.com)

Common dishes, then, but also plenty of variety and differences from place to place, from family to family, even.

To begin with, then, let’s take a look to what’s in the ovens and on the tables of northern Italian families at Christmas time.

A Christmas Italian kitchen: the northern regions

Valle d’Aosta

The quaint and dreamy Alpine region of Valle d’Aosta follows tradition down to a “T” when it comes to Christmas: midnight mass, Christmas markets and of course, plenty of delicious food. Typical of a Valle d’Aosta’s Christmas is the fonduta valdostana, a creamy dish made with fontina cheese, eggs and milk, served with toasted brown bread. A soup made with cabbage, stale bread and, once again, fontina, called zuppa alla Valpellinentze. Common is also serving sausages and potatoes as a meat dish, as well as the ubiquitous polenta, often accompanied by carbonata valdostana, a red wine based meat stew.

Piemonte

Ah, my beautiful region! Our Christmas table is influenced by the area’s proximity to the mountains, as well as the flavors of the Langhe and their hills. Typical of a Piedmontese Christmas are either cappelletti in brodo or agnolotti al plìn with rabbit or ragù sauce. The agnolotti al plìn are small hand made ravioli, closed with a little pinch, “plìn” in Piedmontese dialect. Their filling is usually made with meat and vegetables and it is very common to have them with butter and sage, or red wine: yes, you read that right, red wine. Many people in Piemonte, especially of older generations, would pour a glass or two of red wine on the agnolotti and eat them like that, without any other type of condiment. In dialect, we call this dish raviöre al Fûm, that is, “ravioli with smoke,” as the simplicity of its dressing almost hints at a complete absence of it: impalpable like smoke.

A typical Piedmontese Christmas starter is carne cruda all’Albese, thinly sliced, extra fresh veal, which is consumed raw, dressed with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan shavings. Another must is vitello tonnato, boiled veal, sliced thinly and served cold with a sauce made with fresh mayonnaise, tuna and capers. Bagna Caüda with roasted peppers is also common. The meat dish is usually hen, or roasted capon.

Desserts range from the ubiquitous panettone, to torrone d’alba and zabajone, a sweet cream made with eggs, milk and marsala.

Liguria

Liguria mixes the sea and the Alps on the table all year round. Christmas, of course, is no exception. Typical main pasta dishes are, once again, filled pastas such as cappellettior ravioli alla Genovese, characterized by a meat, egg and herbs filling. The broth is usually made with capon, which is then consumed as a second dish, along with spinach and sausages. Typical of a Ligurian Christmas is also roasted Guinea fowl with artichokes.

When it comes to desserts, Liguria is all for its pandolce, which is also known as panettone alla Genovese. It is a fragrant and delicious cake, made with candied fruit and pumpkin, along with raisins and nuts (hazelnuts and pine nuts being the most commonly used).

Lombardia

Lombardia at Christmas is synonymous with panettone. Panettone, in Italy, is the quintessential symbol of Christmas and every single Italian family make sure to have one ready for the 25 th . But there is more to Lombardia than its most famous, fluffy cake. Just as in Piemonte, tortellini in brodo are a typical primo piatto and roasted capon usually follows. A note on tortellini: Lombardia has quite a variety, in fact. The area closer to the mountains, in the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia favor meat and salame filled varieties, such as the traditional casoncelli. Provinces closer to Emilia-Romagna and to the pianura Padana prefer pumpkin ravioli, usually served with butter, sage and parmesan. Beside the afore mentioned panettone and the ever popular torrone, Lombardia’s Christmas tables love another cake, the sbrisolona, a typical example of Italian cucina povera, made with ingredients that used to be cheap and readily available in countryside farms such as hazelnuts, almonds and coarse cornmeal.

Trentino Alto-Adige

It is difficult to think of an Italian Christmas without thinking of the snowy peaks of Trentino Alto-Adige. The region is a must for all those in love with the atmosphere and cheerful air of Christmas markets, but is also a great place to experience the culinary fusion of Italian and central European flavors. Yes, because Trentino Alto-Adige is very much a cultural mix between Italy, Germany and Austria and such a mix is very much present in its cuisine, too. At Christmas, canederli are a must on Trentino Alto-Adige’s tables: called knödel in German, these are deliciously flavorsome bread and milk dumplings, usually enriched with cheese or spinach or speck. I used to live with an Alto-Atesina (this is how we call people from Trentino Alto-Adige) and she used to make me canederli regularly: they are among the most amazing comfort food one can think of, a mouthwatering symphony of buttery, fluffy richness. Do try them, by all means. My personal favorite are those made with spinach! A typical meat dish is roasted kid with potatoes (much like that favored by my grandfather’s family) and dessert would usually be a deliciously spiced apple strudel or the zelten, a dried fruit and spices cake. Don’t forget to make some glühwein, mulled wine, to warm up those snowy December afternoons!

Strudel: one of Trentino Alto Adige’s best dessert for Christmas (by rozmarina at depositphotos.com)

Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia

The east-most regions of Northern Italy offer us a plethora of traditional dishes for Christmas. Friuli Venezia-Giulia is also a fan of roasted capon, but also proposes peculiar dishes for the period, such as trippa con sugo e formaggio, tripes in sauce and cheese, a delicacy certainly common in Italy, but not only offered at Christmas. Polenta with brovada e muset, a soup made with cotechino (a type of Italian sausage eaten boiled or fried, often with lentils) and turnips.

In Veneto, cappelletti or ravioli in brodo are a typical first dish. The broth is usually made with capon, which is then consumed with a horseradish sauce. This is usually served with mashed potatoes and red radicchio salad. Dessert is, of course, pandoro, which hails from the region, but also almond torrone and dry cookies served with a sweet wine called Recioto.

Try to experiment with some of the recipes suggested here and then go take a look at what Italians in the Centre and in the South of the country put on their tables on Christmas day: which will your favorite dish be?


ALL ABOUT MAKING FRITTATA and Podcast with Maria Liberati

I was very surprised when one of my friends said that she had baked a zucchini frittata following a recipe in Ottolenghi’s Simple. I opened my copy of the cookbook to see if Ottolenghi really had baked a frittata. Afterall he has Italian heritage! It is not called a frittata for nothing!(I am joking here – I really like and respect Ottolenghi – but all jokes aside, if I were to bake a mixture of zucchini and eggs, I would call it a Zucchini Bake.

Fritta, means fried (feminine) and fritto, as in Fritto Misto is fried (masculine) and misto means mixed. I would enjoy continuing with a lesson in Italian grammar, but this post is about frittata.

Recently I was contacted by Maria Liberati and invited to participate in an interview about Frittata, for a podcast. So there I was from Melbourne in lockdown chatting to Maria Liberati in Pennsylvania.

Maria asked me to speak about frittate (plural), she found of a post I had been invited to write by Janet Clarkson’s very popular blog called ‘The Old Foodie’. The post was called An Authentic Frittata (December 2008). I had forgotten that I had written it, but what I said then still stands.

Apart from discussing frittate in general and providing a Sicilian recipe for frittata I made a comment about Claudia Roden. She is one of my heros, but I disagreed with what she must have said at some stage:” Frittate are common throughout Italy but not Sicily and Sardinia’.

But just how popular are frittate anyway? When do we eat frittate? and could it be that frittate are such ordinary fare that they do not appear in cookery books very often?

In An Authentic Frittata, my first sentence is:
‘Every National Cuisine has certain rules and customs.’

Baking a frittata in Italy is not one of them.

But I can understand why frying a frittata is scary. This is a simple zucchini and cheese frittata. It is spring in Melbourne and we had some new season’s zucchini tossed quickly in a frypan with some extra virgin olive oil, a little parsley and garlic. I turned the leftovers and some grated pecorino cheese into a simple frittata.

Frittata is cooked on one side before being inverted onto a plate and then slid into the frypan again to cook on the other side. It is not that scary.

Pour the mixture of beaten eggs (a fork will do), zucchini, salt, pepper into hot oil. Use the spatula to press the frittata gently on top and lift the edges tilting the pan. This allows some of the runny egg to escape on the side to cook. when there is no more egg escaping you are ready to turn it over.

As Maria said in the interview, perhaps cooks could try this with a smaller pan. I think it is worth it.

When making frittata, using a round frypan makes sense, and not making it a huge frittata makes it more manageable.

Depending on the quantities of the other ingredients to be added to the frittata, I think about 8 eggs is the maximum.

Maria and I certainly agreed about how the cooking of Italy is very regional and how this may also apply to frittata. I grew up in Trieste (the north eastern Italian cooking of Friuli Venezia Giulia is similar to the Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige) but I also have a Sicilian heritage.

Cuisine is localised , each region has prepared specialities based on their produce and cultural influences. Sicily was an important trade route in a strategic location in the Mediterranean and was settled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Arabs, Normans, French, Spaniards. Trieste was a very important port for much of that north eastern part of Italy that were part of the Austro – Hungarian Empire. Surrounding countries that influenced the history and culture were Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany,and Croatia are not too far away.

Here are some basic differences between the making of frittate in the north and the south , some are no longer hard and fast rules, for example:

  • butter or butter and oil is used for frying in the north, oil in the south,
  • use of local produce in both – I have had quite a few frittate with ricotta in Sicily and made with fruit in the north, especially with apples,
  • because left-overs are good ingredients for a frittata, you may see more vegetable based frittate in the south and more smallgoods based ones in the north, e.g. prosciutto, different cheeses,
  • breadcrumbs are common additions to a frittata in the south (to soak up liquid from vegetables), a little flour and even a dash of milk is evident in many northern recipes,
  • a little grated cheese is common in all frittate, Parmigiano in the north, pecorino or aged caciocavallo or ricotta salata in Sicily.

Like language, cooking evolves and when I cook, I do not invent or modify recipes without knowing what came first – what is the traditional recipe? What are the ingredients and how was it cooked? Experimentation can only come after respect for the ingredients and method of cooking that traditional recipe, and accepting that although the recipe may have been right for the time, there are changes that i would like to make. When I modify a recipe I ask myself if modifying it will improve it, is it a healthier way to cook it, quicker? And this applies to all traditional recipes.

A very simple example is how my mother always overcooked her vegetables, but she found my sautéed vegetables very undercooked. She either used onions or garlic, never the two together, meat and fish in the same recipe? Never.

Using Warrigal Greens (Australian bush tucker, like English spinach). Do not even think about that, I am definitely breaking the rules. These are growing on my balcony.

I am looking forward to using other spring produce to make frittate , especially artichokes, spring peas/snow peas, zucchini and zucchini flowers.

Maria and I talked amicably about many things, and there were many details that I had intended to say, but we ran out of time.

Thank you Maria for giving me this opportunity.

Below is a frittata I cooked with wild asparagus.

Recipes on my blog for making Frittata:

The Old Foodie, An Authentic Frittata

The recipe I provided in this post is a version of Giuseppe Coria’s but variations of this same recipe are in a couple of Sicilian cookbooks written in Italian. I do wonder if that recipe is still made now.

The Maria Liberati Show

This week Maria discusses the power of food to take us to new places – this time, to Sicily – where we’ll enjoy a simple frittata. Joining her today is Marisa Raniolo Wilkins, a passionate food writer, blogger and recipe developer from Sicily.

To hear this podcast, click HERE

Emilia-Romagna


Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP

Emilia-Romagna is the epicenter of Italian cuisine, hosting vast farmland perfect for maintaining animals in the pasture, fresh waterways with an abundance of fish, and the Apennine Mountains dividing the region’s borders from Tuscany and Le Marche. The river delta creates ample floodplains perfect for growing grains and cereals important to the regional cuisine. Polenta, rice, and gnocchi remain popular in Emilia-Romagna but pasta has become the staple in the region. Famous types of egg pasta consist of tagliatelle, tortellini, and tortellini stuffed with meat, cheese, or greens served with a variety of sauces, broths, cheeses, or truffles when available. Pasta made with eggs and grain were once coveted for their simple ingredients found on private farms without the need for poorer farmers to visit a market, while seasonings required a visit to town and funds.

Each city has become a unique culinary destination along the ancient Roman road once connecting the cities’ gastronomic ideals with continued threads of the Roman Empire, Byzantine traditions, and the Germanic flavors of the former Lombard kingdom. Certain provinces continue historical practice of growing olives but dietary staples in the region remain cheese and salami once considered desirable by former nomadic populations. Deep fried fritters remain popular across the region customized in different cities by using specific flavorings like adding crackling, vegetables, meats, spinach, raisins, or cooking the fritters in lard.

Notable foods from the Emilia-Romagna region include:

  • Aceto Balsamico (DOP) – Vinegar
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (DOP) – Cow’s cheese
  • Prosciutto di Parma (DOP) – Cured meat

Parma

Parma is the capital of the Parma province in Emilia-Romagna. The cuisine of Parma has gained notoriety for food artisans crafting quality ingredients like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Culatello di Zibello. Fresh pasta made with eggs like tortellini and anolini boast rustic, robust flavors with specialty dumplings stuffed with herbs and ricotta cheese. Mushrooms and black truffles reflect the wealth of the surrounding landscape adding bursts of flavorful garnishes to the culinary traditions of cured meats, cheeses, dumplings, and hearty soups. Parmigiano-Reggiano is Parma’s most famous cheese.

For more information about the food of Parma, take a look at our Parmesan Food Guide.

Bologna

Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna. The cuisine of Bologna represents the culinary capital of Italy with bold flavors highlighting the stunning local ingredients and gastronomic traditions bringing a heritage of cooking into the culinary arts. The strong connection with tradition and local customs bring a refined cuisine rooted in local affection for cooking and eating resulting in the city’s nickname “La Grassa,” or “the Fat One.” Customary ingredients of Bologna tortellini, tagliatelle, and lasagna turn into delicacies topped with meaty Bolognese ragú sauce. Salumi and a selection of hard cheeses accompany dishes made from beans, veal cutlets, and a mixture of boiled meats. Mortadella is Bologna’s most notable cured meat.

For more information about the food of Bologna, take a look at our Bolognese Food Guide.

Modena

Modena is the capital of the Modena province in Emilia-Romagna. The cuisine of Modena consists of quality ingredients found in abundance in Emilia-Romagna, however, are rare around the world. Common types of cuisine in Modena include tortelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta, tagliatelle with a stout meat or ham sauce, and pork sausage known as Salama da Sugo. Balsamic vinegar from Modena is the city’s most notable invention.

For more information about the food of Modena, take a look at our Modenese Food Guide.

Ravenna

Ravenna is the capital of the Ravenna province and reflects the culinary heritage of the Romagna portion of the Emilia-Romagna region. The cuisine of Ravenna consists of diverse flavors encompassing land and sea with specialties showcasing the ancient traditions of the Byzantine and Eastern Roman empires. Customary ingredients of Ravenna include asparagus, pork, and fish, and shellfish. Pasta like tagliatelle and lasagna contain robust meat sauces and risotto all marina, a risotto cooked with shellfish, garlic, olive oil, and fish broth.


Watch the video: Balsamic Parmesan Radicchio (July 2022).


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