From the Isle of Capri…

While we are on the topic of Italy and our food adventures in that delicious land, I thought I would share with you one of our favorite Italian treats….Caprese Salad!  It is so easy to whip up, vibrant and yet, so tasty! 

A little history lesson first.  The Caprese Salad, or Inslata Caprese as you’ll find it on the menus in Italy, originated in the 1950s in the Isle of Capri  (the Campania region of Italy).  Traditionally, Insalata Caprese is made up of cow’s milk mozzarella, tomatoes, and olive oil garnished with oregano and arugula.  Here in the States however, we might substitute buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and we almost always add a drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar – of which, I am a huge fan!   Even in Italy, we would request that our server bring us a bottle of “Aceto Balsamico” to drizzle over our salads.  If it wasn’t obvious already…we were Americans!  Here are some of the salads we enjoyed over there…

 

 Affe Di Bacco

 

And now….our version of the Italian favorite:

Caprese Salad

Serves 2

  • 2 – 3 “On-the-vine” tomatoes, sliced ~1/2 inch thick
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced ~1/4 of an inch thick
  • Fresh Basil leaves torn, medium leaves in half, larger leaves in thirds
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Salad greens (Spring Mix or Arugula) – Optional

If you are looking for a more filling “salad” with your meal, start by laying salad greens in a thin layer covering the bottom of your serving platter.  If you are looking for a lighter appetizer, skip the extra greens!

Next, slice tomatoes and mozzarella.  Layer mozzarella on top of tomatoes.  (One slice of cheese for every tomato slice).  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Tear basil leaves and top each of the tomato/mozzarella slices.  Gently drizzle EVOO over the plate.  Follow with Balsamic Vinegar. 

 

Mmmmm….Fresh, flavorful, mouth-watering deliciousness!  We love it!  Thank you Italy!

And with that, I leave you until next week.  Tomorrow I am headed to Nashville for my first half marathon.  Rock N Roll Music City Marathon…here I come!  Say a prayer…if I didn’t need it already, they are now forecasting thunderstorms.  Yikes!  🙂

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

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Good Tastes of Tuscany

What a beautiful spring day it was yesterday!  No more accounting classes…the sun was shining…and the day was mine to indulge in!  With Ryan out golfing, I decided I would start the day with a treat at Starbucks (Skinny Vanilla Iced Latte – Yum!), some herb and vegtable shopping, some planting & landscaping, a quick run, followed by a warm bath & a glass of wine!  All in all…a great day!  And after completing all of the above, I enjoyed another glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a Caprese salad.  Which…lead me to my first real post on “Indulge”…..Our experiences in Italy & the Good Tastes of Tuscany.

Last October, Ryan & I were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Europe. It was our first time abroad and with Ryan’s half of the trip paid for (he was traveling for work), we were ecstatic! When Ryan first came home & told me about this opportunity, I said, “Well, where are we going?” He said, “Germany.” I immediately decided I could pass on the trip unless of course, we could add a few days and head to ITALY! He agreed…and off we went! After completing his speech in Germany, we caught a train (well, several really) & headed to Italy. Our first stop was Cinque Terre, then Florence, & finally, Venice.

      

 The Cinque Terre (an area of Northern Italy comprised of 5 small villages), was amazing! While the area was filled with tourists, it somehow felt very authentic, quaint, & overflowing with Italian tradition.

     

Florence was breath-taking. There was the hustle-bustle of city life, tourism, and yet, so much history. We hit the hot spots, but quite honestly, we were a little more excited about the Mercato Centrale, the Gelato stands…

    

the Good Tastes of Tuscany cooking class & our favorite restuarant, Affe di Bacco (which we dined in EVERY night for 3 nights in Florence)!  What can I say?  We were in Italy…and we had every intention to eat!

     

Our last stop was Venice. Somehow I persuaded Ryan to squeeze in one night in Venice…and one night was enough. Venice was beautiful….but very very busy! The next time around, we’ll skip Venice & spend some more time in the Tuscan country side…sipping wine & perhaps taking a few more cooking classes. 🙂

Now…onto the highlight of the trip (and the delicious recipes I want to share with you)…the Good Tastes of Tuscany full-immersion cooking class!  This all-day, hands-on class with an authentic Italian Chef was worth every penny.  If you are traveling to Italy, I encourage you to look into it!  (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

   

We started the day off prepping the Tiramisu…no, not so we could eat dessert first, but so that our delectable dish could chill for a solid 3 hours before we devoured it!  Did you know that “Tiramisu” actually translates to “Pick Me Up”?  This name was given due to the sugar and caffeine in the recipe.  Yum!

TIRAMISU

Serves 6

  • 3 Large Eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbs Fine Sugar
  • 250g Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 Tbs Coffee Liqueur
  • 500 ml Coffee
  • 200g Lady Finger Cookies
  • Cocoa Powder

With an electric mixer, beat the egg yokes and sugar until the mixture is thick and pale.  Add the marscapone and keep whisking.  Mix in the coffee liqueur and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt until firm.  Using a spatula, gently fold them into the marscapone mixture.  Place the cold coffee in a shallow bowl.  Dip the biscuits in the coffee then place them in the serving dish in a single layer.  Pour the marscapone mixture on top of the layer of biscuits.  Place another layer of coffee-soaked biscuits on top and repeat the process until all the biscuits have been used.  The last layer of the Tiramisu is a layer of the marscapone mixture.  Cover the dish with cling film and chill for a few hours.  Before serving, dust the Tiramisu with cocoa powder or freshly grated chocolate.  The end result is a soft, creamy dessert to be eaten with a spoon.

*This recipe is taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

                                            

Then onto Bruschetta…the Antipasti (appetizer) we would eat while we sipped our wine and created the rest of our feast!  Who doesn’t love the fresh full flavors of Bruschetta?!  So easy and so satisfying!  Somehow…it tasted even better in Tuscany.  🙂

BRUSCHETTA

Serves 4

  • 2 Large Ripe Tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves (Peeled)
  • 8 Basil Leaves, ripped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 300g Tuscan-style Bread

Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and then dice.  Mix the tomatoes, basil leaves, oil, salt & pepper together in a bowl.  (For garlic lovers like me, mince a clove of garlic and add to the tomato mixture) Set aside for at least 15 minutes.  Toast the bread and rub one side with a garlic clove.  Spoon the tomato mixture onto the bread and serve.  Crostini and bruschetta are alwasy doen in the oven and not under the grill.

*This recipe is taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

   

And the biggest challenge of the day…our Primi Piatti (first course), homemade Ravioli!  Neither of us had ever made homemade pasta before.  What a fun experience!

PASTA FRESCA  (the base recipe for all pastas)

Serves 4

  • 400g of Flour
  • 4 Eggs
  • 4 Tbs of white wine – optional (I,say, definitely!)
  • Pinch of Salt

On a work surface, preferably wooden, build the flour in a mound and make a well in its center (see pic below).  Break the eggs into the well and then add in the wine and the salt.  With a fork, lightly beat the eggs.  Then in a circular motion, gradually in corporate flour from the sides of the well until combined (be patient!).  With the heel of your hand, knead the dough pushing it down and away and turning it repeatedly using a dough scraper if it sticks.  Continue until it is smooth and elastic for at least 15-20 minutes.  If it sticks to the surface or seems a little soft, sprinkle it with flour.  Gather dough into a ball.

RAVIOLI RICOTTA E SPINACH

Serves 6

For the filling:

  • 300g Fresh Sheep Ricotta Cheese
  • 800g Spinach with the thick part of the stalk removed
  • 6 Tbs Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Egg
  • A pinch of Nutmeg
  • A pinch of Salt

Wash the spinach twice and cook it using just the water left on the leaves from the rinsing.  Squeeze it well.  Let the spinach cool down, then mix the ricotta and grated parmesan, egg, salt, and nutmeg and mix well until you obtain a smooth mixture.

For the Sauce:

  • 3 Tbs of Butter
  • 6 Sage Leaves
  • A pinch of Salt
  • A pinch of Ground Black Pepper

Melt the butter with the sage.  Add a little of the pasta water to prevent from burning and to elongate the sauce.

Roll the dough through a pasta machine until it is very thin (about .5mm thick).  Cut into long 5cm-wide strips and put small spoonfuls of the ricotta and spinach filling along the stripes at a regular interval about 5cm apart.  Moisten the edges of the pasta and between the fillings with a  damp pastry brush.  Place another strip on top and press around each mound of filling with your fingertips to seal well.  Cut into squares with a  pastry wheel cutter.  Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling salty water in batches (cook for about 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil).  Drain them with a  slotted spoon and place them on a  plattter, pour the melted butter over, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Note from the Authors of the Good Tastes of Tuscany Cookbook:

“Both fresh and dried pasta should be cooked “al dente”, tender but chewy.  Most people overlook their pasta and don’t put enough (if any) salt in the water.  Use a LARGE pot that is big enough to let the pasta float freely during cooking.  Bring the water to a full rolling boil, salt it GENEROUSLY, and then add the pasta.  As soon as the water returns to a boil start timing the pasta and stirring during the boil to prevent it from sticking together.  The time will vary depending on the pasta though fresh pasta usually takes from 2-4 minutes depending on teh thickness and for dried pasta it usually takes about 8-12 minutes.  For any stuffed pasta such as ravioli, you may wish to remove them from boiling water with a  slotted spoon instead of tipping into a colander as they are more delicate.”

*These recipes are taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

   

Next up, the Risotto con Le Zucchine (Zucchini Risotto) & our Secondi Piatti (Main Course) Pollo All’ Estrusca (Tuscan Chicken)…

RISOTTO DI BASE (Basic Risotto)

Serves 4

  • 320g Arborio Rice
  • 1 Small White Onion
  • 2 Tbs Butter
  • 200g Parmesan
  • 2-3L boiling beef/other stock
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil

Thinly slice the onion and saute in the oil with 1 Tbs of butter.   It is at this point that you would add any of the vegetables or meat such as pancetta to the saucepan, with the onion.  (See Risotto Con Le Zucchine recipe below).  After 5-6 minutes, or as soon as the onion is translucent, add the rice, a good pinch of salt and allow to “toast” over a high heat for about 2-4 minutes stirring constantly.  The rice will absorb all of the flavors of the vegetables or meat before the actual cooking begins and the rice absorbs the broth.  Now, add the white wine and once it evaporates add in the boiling broth a little at a time.  (It is CRUCIAL that the broth is added when it is boiling or very hot otherwise the rice will become “gluggy”).  Stir occasionally making sure that the rice never becomes too dry.  Continue to gradually add small amounts of the boiled broth allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next.  Stir it from time to time keeping the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Use a medium heat and cook slowingly uncovered.  After 15-20 minutes the rice will be cooked.  Removed from heat and add the remaining butter, parmesan and stir through the rice well, (in Italian, “mantecare”).  Cover and leave to stand 2-4 minutes.  Serve hot.

*This recipe is taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

RISOTTO CON LE ZUCCHINE

Serves 4

  • 320g Arborio Rice
  • 2-3 Zucchinis
  • 50g Pancetta, diced into small cubes
  • 50ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 White Onion
  • A handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1L Vegtable or Chicken Broth
  • 3Tbs Parmesan Cheese
  • 30g Butter
  • Salt & Pepper

Cut the Zucchini lengthwise and slice them.  Saute the onion, garlic, and pancetta in the olive oil.  Add the zucchini, salt and pepper and cook on a high flame.  When the zucchini is lightly golden, add the rice.  Mix well.  Add the boiling broth bit by bit and cook on a low heat for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the remaining butter, parmesan and parsley.  Stir through the rice well.  Cover and leave to stand 2-4 minutes.  Serve hot.

*This recipe is taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

POLLO ALL’ ETRUSCA

Serves 4

  • 1 Tbs Vinegar
  • 1 Chicken
  • 1 Red Onion
  • Rosemary & Sage, finely chopped
  • 1 Cup of White Wine
  • Pinenuts
  • Raisins
  • Salt & Pepper

Cut the chicken into 12 pieces and leave to sit in a bowl with cold water and 1 Tbs of Vinegar.  In a casserole dish put 6 Tbs of olive oil and finely chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes, then add the chicken without the water and saute together.  When the chicken is browned, salt and pepper to taste, add the white wine and cook slowly for about 20 minutes in a covered casserole dish.  Add the pinenuts and the raisins, stir, recover and let cook for a further 10 minutes.  Before removing from the heat, add the sage and rosemary.  Let set for 15 minutes and serve!

*This recipe is taken from the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookbook. (www.tuscany-cooking-class.com)

   

It was a long day of cooking and eating and drinking and laughing!  I hope that you will take a day and indulge in some of these recipes at home.  They were ALL delicious!  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or leave me a comment. 

Cheers! 

INDULGE.  In Life. In Love. In Food.