January 25, 2012

"Cream" of Shrimp and Chickpeas

"Cream" of Shrimp and Chickpeas

Serves 3 or 4 as a first course

12 large shrimp
about 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, washed, spin dry and minced
1 tablespoon bit of tomato sauce

Peel shrimp and devein. Three of the shrimp should also have their tails removed. Simmer shrimp shells, covered with water, in a small saucepan. After 10 minutes or so, filter and keep the shrimp water and set aside.

Peel and slice garlic and in a saucepan, cook in a bit of olive oil. Add 3 shrimp to the garlic. Add parsley to garlic and shrimp, after 1 minute or 2, add tomato sauce.

Add the chickpeas to the garlic, parsley and three cooked shrimp. Add the filtered shrimp water and add extra water if necessary. Cook for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and insert your sumergible blender and blend until a smooth cream.

Note: for those who don't want the garlic to overtake the other flavors, remove the garlic before blending everything.

In the meantime steam cook the other 9 shrimp. Serve the soup in bowls and place 3 shrimp on each bowl.

It's easy, fancy looking but most of all, delicious!

January 19, 2012

Velvety Vellutate, part 2

Butternut squash "vellutata di Zucca"

I buy a zucca Ferrarese (a butternut squash in the rest of the world) to prepare this soup. Any zucca that remains is peeled and chopped into large cubes and frozen. That way I always have it ready for the next zuppa, vellutata or risotto!

600g Zucca, peeled and cubed
1 large onion or leek
1 cube vegetable broth, or 150 g soffritto (minced onion, carrots and celery), or 2 carrots and 3  celery sticks (minced)

Optional: a small package of soft cheese such as "Galbanino" or half of the small Philadelphia cheese package or 50ml fresh cream 

Peel the squash with a knife and rid the squash of any threads. Rinse and pat dry. Cut into 2 x 2 inches (abt 4x4 cm). Peel and wash onion. If using the carrots and celery, wash, peel and mince now. Slice or chop the onion finely and cook in a bit of olive oil until it becomes translucent (add sofrito at this stage if using it). Add the pumpkin and cover with water, add the dado if using it. 

Let the veggies simmer about 20 to 30 mins (depends on size of cubes!). Test pumpkin for doneness by putting a knife or fork through a piece, if it goes through easily its done! Then remove from heat, put your submersion hand blender in the soup and blend until the vegetables are pureed finely. At this point, add salt and pepper to taste. 

You can separate your batch (low fat) now and add fresh cream or the soft cheese to the "family" batch. To make your plates especially pretty, leave a little cream aside to swirl in once you've made each plate. You can also serve with toasted bread cubes, slivered parmigiano and/or a swirl of olive oil and some extra fresh pepper. Another way to serve it is to toast some nuts: almonds or hazelnuts (in a small non stick frying pan over medium heat), break them up a bit and sprinkle some on top of each dish.
Another variation is to cook the onion with 2 sticks of celery (chopped finely), it changes the flavor ever so slightly and there's another vegetable in the soup!

"Vellutata di verdure" Vegetable vellutè
Much easier than Minestrone, no need to chop up vegetables!

1-2 carrots (depends on size)
1-2 zucchine
2 celery
1 med or large onion
optional 1 med to large potato

This is the basic vegetable vellutata upon which I like to add some diced butternut squash or some spinach in the soup. The amount to add depends on you, each time you can make a slightly different soup to serve depending on the combination of vegetables added. 

The process is the same as in the previous soups except here you dont need to cut up the vegetables. After washing, peeling and trimming ends of the vegetables, add them whole to a large enough pot and cover with water. Simmer until done and remove from heat. Then blend with your submersion hand blender until the vegetables are pureed finely. At this point, add salt and pepper to taste. 

This is a great soup to cook some pasta (maltagliati or quadrettini) in, add a swirl of very good olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.

January 18, 2012

Soups that are Soft to the Palate Like Velvet: Vellutate

Perfect for this season are soups and specifically vellutateVellutate are soft to the palate like velluto, like velvet. And are pretty enough to serve to company and friends but are incredibly easy to prepare and have as much or as little fat as you add. 

So here's the secret:Make a basic vellutata and then separate into two batches. Your batch is lean, and you can add what you want. In the family batch you can add pieces of cooked pancetta (especially in the bean version), a swirl of top quality olive oil, toasted bread crumbs or shredded cheese: parmigiano or pecorino, emmenthal or your favorite cheese. You can also cook some pasta squares (maltagliati or quadrettini) in it.This batch is tastier and generally satisfies the finickiest of eaters.

Here are some recent vellutate that I've made. Adjust proportions to your personal taste. 

Potatoes and zucchini
3 large potatoes
4 small skinny zucchini
1 large leek
salt & pepper
1 no glutamate vegetable stock cube

peel potatoes and wash. wash zucchini and cut ends off. cut ends off leek and wash. slice leek thinly and cook in a large saucepan until softened. Cut potatoes and zucchini into pieces. If you have time you can add them to your pot whole. cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes if veggies were cut up or 40+ min. if they are whole. test potatoes for doneness. when done. turn off heat and grab a submergible blender and blend until you get a smooth consistency. taste and add vegetable stock cube if necessary, add salt and pepper to taste. this is your basic vellutata.

Potatoes and bean soup
3 large potatoes
1 tetra pak box of white beans or borlotti
1 large onion
1 squirt of tomato paste
S & P
optional smoked pancetta, cooked separately and added at the end.

peel potatoes and wash. peel onion and wash, slice thinly or cube. cook onion with a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan until softened.
open box of beans, rinse well. Cut potatoes into pieces. If you have time you can add them to your pot whole. cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes if veggies were cut up or 40+ min. if they are whole. test potatoes for doneness. when done. turn off heat and grab a submergible frullatore and blend until you get a smooth consistency. add a squirt of tomato paste for color. taste and add salt and pepper to taste. this is your basic vellutata.

These soups are filling even without the add ons, are also fat free. More coming soon!

January 17, 2012

Back on my feet and back in the kitchen!

Its unusual that I "get personal" on my website but I do feel that I need to publicly excuse myself with everyone who has written to me and haven't received answers within 24-48 hrs.

I worked right up to November 24th but right before (on the 23rd) my body said "basta". I got a fever, followed by a crescendo of symptoms and fell down with a flu/upper respiratory and bronchial infection. It took a full 2 weeks to get better and 3 to get my voice back.

I never did get 100% better before I got sick again, right before the holidays, with an upper respiratory infection. This time I took the antibiotics immediately and sure enough, by the second day was feeling much better. Although I felt great after my antibiotic therapy apparently my body had been greatly weakened.

The holidays here were long so that kept me busy (Christmas, New year's, Epiphany) but that last morning I went out to get the paper and whiff! it took a very cold whiff of air to get me yet another upper respiratory infection!

Since I prefer not to bombard my body with antibiotics I accepted everyone's suggestions for their best remedies. I listened to pharmacists, friends and purchased natural antibiotics, vitamins especially formulated for winter ailments etc etc. but none of those did much to improve my worsening health. They did seem to slow down the speed with which I usually get a deep raspy voice.

Lastly, I ran into an old friend who insisted I visit her pharmacist who she credited with having kept her family free of colds, flus and everything else for years. Of course I was desperate enough that I went and bought the drops he gave me. I must say that these did improve my health enough that that very night (the 11th) was the first night I slept through the entire night without waking up to a hacking cough or not being able to breathe (despite having taken decongestants before going to sleep the previous nights). I have slept every night ever since and I am feeling fantastic!

Went to that pharmacist again yesterday and got specific drops to keep my upper respiratory area and throat areas healthy. I am now working on getting strong enough to stand up to the rest of the winter without getting sick AGAIN.

I am finally feeling well enough today that I am answering all my emails and discovered a few that ended up hidden under the pile of emails I had. Oooops!

Glad to be "back" online. Looking forward to cooking with all of you, in my kitchen or virtually, in yours!