My Ebooks:

My Ebooks:
A thoughtful blend of original ‪‎photography‬, ‪haiku‬ and ‪calligraphy‬; a cathartic journey upon fluid images and simple words.

22 Feb 2010

H2Ope for Haiti: A fundraiser-raffle with great prizes for a great purpose

One month ago Haiti was shaken by a devastating earthquake. As Italian, and Sicilian mostly, I have experienced these events on my skin far too many times. Though the destruction was never as big as what happened in Port-au-Prince.
We have been filled in by the TV on all the facts and the desperation; we might even have friends that now are working in-loco to help the population. Anesthetized as we are to these type of news, by the continues hammering reports of accidents, deaths, disasters that poor on us each and every time we switch on TV; we realize that this is not a situation to forget about and push back in our memories.
As foodies community we know the value of sharing, of giving and often sacrifice. Our efforts, the products of our sleepless nights are made to be shared with our beloved, in the big marketplace that is the virtual world and around the tables that are our blogs.
We are not new to manifestations of social outreach; The Blogger Aid Cookbook
collecting the recipes from blogger all over the world, year by year helps supporting the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP).
From Sunday, February 21 till Sunday, February 28th BloggerAid – Changing the Face of Famine is organizing H2Ope for Haiti; a raffle to raise funds for Concern Worldwide’s Relief Effort in Haiti  (providing clean drinking water and purification tablets to the victims of the recent earthquake).
Many thanks go to Jeanne of Cook Sister! for her dedication and efforts in making this possible.
Many gorgeous prizes have been provided by blogger from all around the globe (and if not expressly specified they will be shipped worldwide): original art-works in form of photography and paintings, signed books, baking goodies packages, vouchers and much more; the variety is huge and able to tickle the interest of each and every of you.
Here you will find the complete list of the prizes with their relative raffle code (very important!). Visiting the Just Giving donation page you will find all the information on how to purchase your raffle ticket for the prize of your choice.
So please, buy as many raffle tickets you wish (each of them is priced at £6.50 – about €7.4 or $10).

As contribution to this event I have decided to donate a gorgeous book: Shirley Corriher’s ”CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed” with Prize Code HFH21.
"Can you tell whether a recipe will work before you cook it? You can if you know what's cooking."
As a biochemist, Shirley Corriher has all the right credentials to explain us what’s going on. Her witty and playful style of writing will make you read this book like a novel; who won’t share a laugh when she shares with us what happened to her first roasted duck; which, poor thing, burst open while cooking because overstuffed?
How to avoid your melted chocolate to become a grainy mass? Go directly to Chapter 7 – “Sweet thoughts and chocolate dreams” where Shirley explains us the wonders of crystals in cooking delivering us her recipe for the Sinfully Easy Fudge among other delicacies.
Always wondered about that sticky gooey dough that becomes delicious bread? Have you ever admired those high, ethereal soufflés but felt always intimidated by them? Fear no more, in this book you may find all the basic knowledge that will make your legs stronger and you fearless and proud of yourself.
With over 230 fail proof and delicious recipes (from apple pie to beurre blanc) and 42 at-a-glance troubleshooting charts; Shirley make you, the cook, the one in control!
This book has it all; it reads like a novel, it will become a reference resource for your dinner parties and one of the books that will never collect dust on your shelves.

The prize code for this book: HFH21;

Let me remind then you all the important links and pages to visit:
Good luck!

20 Feb 2010

A gift from the mountains

Few days ago I posted about my last catered dinner; it was quite an event with 30 people to serve and a 10 courses menu. Out of them I have already posted my recipe for Muhammara, a delicious middle-eastern dip based on roasted red peppers and walnuts; few minutes ago Rachel from A Scot in London asked me about the chestnut gnocchi. They were in effect one of the most popular course of the whole meal, many of the guest were just telling me "If you are going to eat any of the leftovers, just make yourself a dish of gnocchi!". To tell you the truth, we were tasting them while they were sautéed with the orange butter and I quite loved them too!
So here I give you the simple recipe to prepare these gnocchi at home.

Chestnut Gnocchi

Ingredients (makes 1kg of gnocchi):

  • 700g floury potatoes;
  • 200g all purpose flour;
  • 100g chestnut flour;
  • 1 large egg;
  • Salt.

Cut the potatoes in chunks of roughly the same size and boil them into salted water. When cooked, drain the potatoes and let them cool down a bit. You will need to process them while they are still warm; so when cold enough to handle, peel them and pass them through a potato ricer or a food mill into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, the two flours and the egg mixing the whole together using a spoon or your hands. Let the dough rest for a couple of hours so the flour gets properly hydrated.
When ready to shape your gnocchi, bring a big pot of salted water to a boil, cut little chunks of dough and flouring your hands and the working surface, shape them into sausages (their thickness will determine the size of your gnocchi).
The dough usually comes pretty soft so the gnocchi won’t keep their shape if cut and left on a tray so you will need to blanch them right after being cut. To do so, hold one of the sausages in your hand over the pot with the boiling water and cut little pieces of it using a scissor letting them drop into the water (to keep the scissor from sticking to the dough, dip its tip into the hot water before cutting each gnocco).
Gnocchi need only few minutes to cook; when they start floating on top of the water they are practically ready. Using a slotted spoon, drain them into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and then let them drain properly before transferring into a tray or another bowl while you keep on cooking the rest.
When all the dough is over and the gnocchi are nice and at room temperature you can either store them in your fridge or sauté them in you sauce; they will warm up and become nice and fluffy.
To try the dish I made for my dinner, you will need to make some orange butter mixing soft butter with fresh orange zest in the proportion of 2 big oranges per 250gr of butter, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Let the butter melt on a pan, sauté your gnocchi into it and serve them with shaves of hard pecorino cheese on top. Really delish!

Do you have any other recipe that you have read mentioned in my post and would like posted? Let me know.

18 Feb 2010

It’s show time and this time it is BIG!

Almost 2 months ago, 800km/500miles from home, 30+ guests to satisfy, 10 courses to prepare, 30+ hours of cooking for a 6h dining experience; these are the ingredients to keep in mind reading what will follow.
Almost two months ago a very close friend of mine, Daniela, asked me to cater for her boyfriend’s, Giacomo, birthday dinner to be held near Bologna, in Italy. 

I was expressly requested to provide more of a feast (not that I ever put on the table mozzarella and ham with stale breads at my dinners) than a simple "spaghettata" Italian style. The challenge grew bigger when the number of guests started inflating like proper sourdough bread. Bubbly bubbly they raised to 30+ people. I had never cooked for more than 6 people so this was starting to take the shape of a very interesting adventure. To fix the menu proved to be quite challenging. Many cups of coffee, gazes in the air, and sketches of the possible platings brought to life a 10 courses menu divided in 4 appetizers and 6 courses from starch to meat to fish, passing by a fragrant broth and ending with a fresh panna cotta grazed by some local fresh white truffle. 
A rapid email chain with all my professional Chefs and foodies friends supported me on the choices I made.

14 Feb 2010

It’s a Chickpea Affair

This was Carnival l week in old Europe and here in Nord Rhine Westphalia were I live, this is a deeply felt festivity. It all goes by the number 11, they start planning it the 11th of November and the party this year started the 11th of February at 11am (Carnival takes place always the week-end before the start of Lent period). In other words, do you like beer not only in October? Come by this region around February to get loaded up and see Germans through new eyes.
I am not a big beer fun and decided to stay home enjoying the falling snow and doing some cooking. Lucky enough, the monthly Daring Cooks challenge involved Lebanese Mezze; namely Pita bread and Hummus and few other optional dishes (thanks to Michele of Veggie Num Nums for the choice).

12 Feb 2010

And it was that the four Velveteers were born

Who are we? A new secret gastronomical order equivalent to the Illuminati? Can’t really answer that, unless you pass your initiation ordeal. What's our purpose apart from messing up our kitchens? Work together around a theme, a recipe; explore its different sides shone by our different cultures and life stories. Who are we? Aren’t you curious! Oh well, since secrecy doesn’t really exist in the virtual world (let alone the real one) here we go: Aparna, Asha, Pamela and me.
The first challenge was to create a Red Velvet Cake preferably using only natural colorings; that is why Pam came up with the Velveteers nickname.
Recipes for this cake often call for the use of two entire bottles of artificial coloring (that might indeed produce such a red cake that will be worth serving to Santa Claus). There aren`t really many vegetarian ingredients characterized by a bright red, enough intense and stable to heat to act as coloring in baking.
The first to come to mind are indeed red beets. Who hasn't had his/her fingers or tablecloth stained by these roots? Other red things are actually fruits; namely strawberries, raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, pomegranate etc. My job was that of trying the raspberries. Easy job you might think, until you realize how sour they are. Yes we use sugar to cover it up; exactly COVER it up. Sugar doesn't make raspberry puree any less acid (in other words more alkaline); our gustatory papillae simply don't perceive the sourness that much under the great sweetness. My task was then to balance this acidity with the alkaline ingredients already present in the recipe.
Here we go hands at my old chemistry book to look for pH definition and example of use; Google from its side provided me with the relative pH for each of the aforementioned ingredient. So hands at pencil and papers or rather keyboard and Notepad document to try and solving the riddle.

Ingredient pH
Baking Soda 8.2
Buttermilk 4.41-4.83 (4.62)
Dutch Cocoa 7.0
Milk 6.6
Normal Cocoa 5.8
Raspberry Purée 3.3
Vinegar 2.4
Few ingredients found commonly in baking along with their pH values.

7 Feb 2010

TweetPost #5: Rice noodles in an aromatic creamy broth with turkey and eggplant

This is a surprise post even for me. Tonight I sat down to have another of mine rice-noodle soup. The past night I got into the mood for my rice-noodle carbonara but not having any bacon those will have to wait. I had instead eggplant, turkey and some orange juice.
The dish was silky creamy with a summery aroma of lime leaf and delicate tanginess from the orange juice. The eggplant gave richer bites without interfering on the textures. The stock, turkey and Parmesan gave that full mouthfeel typical of umami..
So this is what I came up with:

Rice noodles in an aromatic creamy broth with turkey and eggplant

6 Feb 2010

Work in Progress!!

I wanted just to drop a line to explain the unsettled look of the blog. I am working on it's layout so please, help me be patient with this crappy intermediate phases.
Thanks for your understanding!

5 Feb 2010

TweetPost #4: Tortelloni with Eggplants, garam-masala turkey nuggets and a long peppercorn scented milk-olive oil emulsion sauce.

Yesterday night I came back home a bit earlier than usual and I was so hungry that I took a big chunk of bread, made some olive oil and lemon juice emulsion and married the two together over and over again. Naturally, at dinner time I wasn’t starving as usual. That is a good thing since I then have more energies to invest in something worth posting and so I came out with the recipe you will read in this post and spend most part of the night shooting pictures before realising that it was almost 3am.

Tortelloni with Eggplants, garam-masala turkey nuggets and a long peppercorn scented milk-olive oil emulsion sauce.

1 Feb 2010

Let's blow those candles all together!

The past week Jamie of Life’s a feast, a good friend of mine and inspiring blogger, had her birthday. This month, she is hosting the ritual Bread Baking Day and to make it special we are bringing all our breads to her place for a cosy birthday party.
I haven’t baked bread very often, I guess you can easily count the times I did on the fingers of one hand. Probably it was just out of laziness since wherever I lived I could find great breads just around the corner and I am in love with my home town bread: Lentini’s bread.

A pure durum wheat bread made from locally grown plants, baked in traditional stone oven, fired with olive tree wood and almond shells. At first sight, a thick cinnamon brown crust tempts your senses, perfect tiny sesame seeds stud its surface; the intricate shapes in which this bread is usually baked leaves plentiful of tiny dollops that you will just tear away to hide it in your mouth, looking around to make sure mommie isn’t looking.
Its crumb, golden yellow, dense but porous has a sweet aroma and delicate flavour; the crackling of the crust fills your hears, the warmth of the bread make you want to cuddle it like a teddy bear, you squint your eyes in pleasure when the crumb start releasing its incredible aromas. You just need a pot of hot spicy garlicky tomato sauce (better if made from canned tomatoes) and… Oh my, what memories.

It is true that bread can talk to our soul trough our nostrils, as Leonardo might through our eyes.