Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Mixed Grilled Vegetable Salad
(Eggplant in Italian is Melansane.)

This is so beautiful on the serving platter, and absolutely delicious.
The fastest way to prepare the vegetables is on the barbeque, but failing that option, use a grill pan on the stove, one that will leave "grill" marks on the veg's.

I won't tell you how many of each type of vegetable to use, the choice is yours, depending on what is available, what you like, and how many you're serving. The last time I did this, 2 days ago, I used two med. eggplants, 3 zucchini, 1 lg. red onion (white is fine), and one bag of my frozen roasted red peppers. (Defrost and reserve the juice.) This made a good amount.
Finely dice garlic, 1 to 3 cloves depending on how much you and your family like it.
Tear some fresh basil and leave a few leaves whole for garnish and/or chop some parsley. We love the addition of the basil.

Heat the barbeque or the grill pan, wipe the veg's with a damp cloth.
Brush (or spray, that's what I do, using cooking spray) one side only of sliced eggplant, just enough to cover the surface of the grill. (If you slice it too much in advance it will turn brown). Slice the eggplant vertically, throwing away the two outside slices with the skin, which is tough, but don't peel it otherwise. Grill until it has nice marks, about 5 minutes per side.
The zucchini doesn't need to be peeled, slice it vertically as well.
Grill all the vegetables you're using, placing them on a platter or dish as you go.
Salt and sprinkle the layers with garlic as you go.
When all the vegetables are grilled,add the chopped parsley or torn basil (or both) and drizzle the dish with red wine vinegar and some of the reserved red pepper juice. Add more salt and/or vinegar to taste. Of course some of you will want to drizzle it with good olive oil. Go ahead. Now garnish with whole basil leaves.

This is a beautiful side dish, good with barbequed or roasted meat, fish or chicken.
Sometimes you could scatter bits of feta or goat cheese over it and call it lunch!

This is a keeper!

Roasted Red Peppers

Now that you have a supply of roasted red peppers, here are some ideas for serving them.
I often serve a dish of dressed roasted red peppers as an accompaniment for chicken, meat, or fish. Here's what I do. Defrost a bag of the peppers. Reserve the juice.
Cut the peppers into strips or rectangles and put into a dish. Add some of the juice.
Chop some parsley and a clove or two of finely-minced garlic and add these to the peppers.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Drizzle lightly with the oil of your choice and then with red wine vinegar.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
If you'd like to cut down on the oil, use the pepper juice instead and be liberal with the vinegar.

These are also great in a sandwich or on an antipasto platter along with marinated artichoke hearts, olives, quartered hard-boiled eggs, and maybe some sliced cheese and/or prosciutto, artfully arranged. Your imagination is the limit.

About Red Peppers

Red Peppers are about as beautiful as anything in nature, I think, and are delicious and nutritious as well. I'm sure you use them raw in salads or toss them into stir-fries. Of course they grew in abundance in Adriana's kitchen garden, along with green and yellow, but here on the west coast of Canada I have to buy them. But red peppers are plentiful in the stores in the Fall and the price is reasonable, so for many years now we purchase one or two cases so that we can roast them in bulk and then freeze them for use during the winter months. How often have you come across a recipe that sounds great but calls for one or two roasted red peppers, and having attempted to roast peppers in the past and scorched your fingers, have abandoned the idea? Despair no more. Here's what you can do so that you always have a supply at hand.

Roasted Red Peppers
First, purchase a case or two of red peppers, and wash them.
Now put on a jacket (if you're in Canada in the Fall) and start the barbeque.
Pour a glass of Prosecco (or whichever wine you like) and find a pair of tongs.
Get out your biggest soup pot with a tight-fitting lid and put it nearby.
Cover the surface of the grill (when its good and hot) with a single layer of red peppers.
Sit in a lawnchair close to the wine, tongs in hand, and turn the peppers until they're blackened on all sides.
As each one blackens put it into the soup pot and put the lid back on. Keep adding peppers to the grill until you've done them all.
Put the pot on the kitchen counter to be dealt with the next day. (Put it in the frig if you live in a hot climate.)
By the time you're ready to deal with them, the hot peppers will have steamed in the pot, finishing the cooking process, and the skins will have started to lift off while the syrupy pepper juice will have collected in the bottom of the pot. They'll be nice and cool and easy to handle.
Peel the peppers, putting them into a bowl and discarding the peels and the seeds and membranes that you scrape out. Do not discard the juice!

Using zip-lock freezer bags, portion out the peppers in the amount you think will be the handiest. Then portion out the juice, pouring some into each bag of peppers.
Seal and freeze.
These are absolutely delicious and require very little time to defrost in a bowl on the kitchen counter when you need them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

Although this is a recipe I did not learn from Adriana it is never- theless delicious and very handy to have in your repertoire. I think I invented it, and I like to think that Adriana would have served it had she known about it. She was very forward-thinking and open to new ideas. I remember her on quiet Sunday afternoons poring over the recipe section of the "Famiglia Cristiana" magazine which had just arrived, and she did serve "new" things to her family periodically.

Curried Chicken Salad
Use as many chicken breasts as you think you'll need, depending on how many you're feeding.
Poach these until done in water which you've flavoured with some onion, some celery leaves, salt and a Bay leaf. (That is, cook these together in water for a bit before poaching the chicken.)
Remove the chicken and let it cool. You may reserve the poaching liquid for another time, it's a lovely broth.
In the meantime, mix some store-bought mayonnaise with lemon juice and curry powder to taste.
Cut the chicken into dice, not too neatly and not too small.
Cut some green grapes in half, a little fewer than the volume of chicken.
Chop some celery, including leaves.
Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may want to add salt.
This looks really pretty, and if you've used low-fat mayo, it's good for you too!

One of these times I'll tell you about Adriana's "Russian Salad", though why she called it that I don't know. And then there's "Potato Salad alla Russa". I daresay we have the "Famiglia Cristiana" magazine to thank for both these ideas.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Friulano Language

We've just had a visit of several days from old friends who no longer live nearby, and who hail originally from the mountains of Friuli, near San Daniele, where the famous Prosciutto is made. They are actually from Spilimbergo, an ancient city famed for its mosaics. There are many beautiful old buildings up there, churches, a seminary, and municipal buildings, which contain breathtaking examples of both ancient and contemporary mosaic work, and there is now a renowned school where the art of making mosaics is taught. Go, if you can!
I have been enjoying the wonderful sounds of the Friulano language these past few days and while I understand almost everything, I still have difficulty speaking it and there is no one here other than my husband who does.
In all of Italy there are only two provinces which have a separate, written language besides Italian. They are Sardinia, where Sardinian is spoken, and Friuli Venezia Giulia, where Friulano is spoken. Everyone also speaks pure, unadulterated non-dialect Italian (Dante's Italian) and are proud to also be keeping their unique language alive. Imagine my surprise when I first went to my new husband's home, Italian-English dictionary in hand, and found that it helped me NOT AT ALL. His family, needless to say, spoke Friulano among themselves. I was mystified as to why, though frantically paging through, I could not find any of these strange words in my dictionary.
It wasn't until the second or third day that my mother-in-law, the wonderful Adriana after whom this blog is named, finally pulled me aside and in impeccable Italian (I knew it was because I had gone to night school in preparation for this trip!), she explained to me about the Friulano language. Bless her!
Now, I have books of poetry and prose in Friulano, and my husband regularly receives a newspaper from Udine (the capital city of the province of Friuli) which is partly in Friulano and partly in Italian. It is called "Friuli nel Mondo".
And what does this have to do with food? Well, I'll tell you. We tried our darndest to offer our guests the old dishes they would have grown up with, and they were, I think, pleasantly surprised.
We had Musetto, Brovada, Tripe, Salsicca, Prosciutto, and Polenta. Not all at the same time, but spread out over two days. Our cholesterol level is likely sky-high and we'll have to go heavy on the salads for a while now, but it was worth it! Great fun to surprise them, my being Canadian.
I don't have the strength just now to elaborate on that old-style Friulano food, I need to lie down, but I will soon give you some recipes. And if you are someone who has any connection to Friuli, you might want to know how to make these things.
Or maybe, like me, its just fun to read about them.
Mandy! (That's Friulano for Ciao, or Bye-bye, or Toodle-oo.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pasta Sauce with Anchovies

Today is Good Friday and I have a pot of Anchovy Pasta Sauce simmering on the stove. This is traditional in our house and, I dare say, in many others where the tradition of a meatless Good Friday is observed, whether for religious or cultural reasons. Of course we have it throughout the year,it is absolutely delicious (if you're a fan of anchovies) and very quick to make. It smells wonderful. The sauce can be put together and simmered in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
We prefer Spaghetti or Spaghettini, but of course you can use whatever you like.
Here's how to do it.
Put a splash of oil (olive or canola) in the bottom of your pot.
Dice a large onion. Today I used red, but it doesn't matter.
Chop 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, but don't add them until you've simmered the onions a bit, then saute together.
Add 2 tins of anchovies, or more if you like them, along with their oil. The anchovies will rapidly disintegrate. Stir well.
Add half of a large tin of Italian peeled plum tomatoes, squished in your immaculately-clean hand (as Julia Child would say)Add the entire tin if you've used more anchovies.
Simmer for a little while, and at the end add a handful of chopped parsley.
You don't need salt or pepper.
Now drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in some sauce, serve it in bowls, and top off with more sauce and some grated Parmigiano.
You can't miss!