Category Archives: vegan

Brussels Sprouts: love at first bite

Crispy little cabbage critters
Crispy little cabbage critters

When you really love something, sometimes it’s best to treat it simply. I really love Brussels sprouts. This recipe I call Korean because I met it back when I had my offices on the river in Georgetown, DC. The closest place to get a carry-out lunch was a hot and cold food bar owned by Koreans, and this was for me the best thing on it.
Do not be fooled into thinking I cooked 20 cabbages. The plate is a salad plate which makes it look like my lunch is bigger than it is. They are really tiny cavoletti di Bruxelles.

Trim and clean Brussels sprouts (I get 300 gram punnets here) and cut in half.
Bring abundant salted water to a boil. Toss in the sprouts.
Bring back to a simmer and cook 3 minutes.
While they are cooking, mince a small clove of garlic, julienne a small piece of ginger, squeeze about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over them in a bowl. A pinch of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil goes in and stir.
By now your sprouts should have reached 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat, drain and then shock them with cold water. Drain well and toss into the bowl on the dressing. Turn gently. Taste and correct for salt. Let them come to room temperature, then turn them again before serving.
They will be fine in the refrigerator for days, but bring them to room temp before eating.

Ligurian Tomato Salad

I’m not sure if I ever published this essential mainstay of my summer life. We are preparing it in class today, so I reckoned if it isn’t here it ought to jump onto the page right now.

: Ligurian tomato salad

: Don’t add a thing, because this is summer perfect

  1. Ripe tomatoes
  2. fresh garlic (maybe one clove for every 4 tomatoes)
  3. fresh basil, cleaned and sliced very thin
  4. salt
  5. extra virgin oilive oil

  1. Wash tomatoes and cut into chunks, cutting away the cores. Peel and mince the garlic then scatter it over the tomatoes. Sprinkle a biggish pinch of salt over all, then the basil slivers. Pour the oil over this and gently toss a bit with two forks.
  2. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl and leave it at room temperature for several hours. You make this in the morning to eat later that day. Eat it as an antipasto, a salad or even a light meal with good bread and possibly some cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

5 :  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Pittule col Cavalfiore: cauliflower doughnuts

I thought I would give you something to ponder over the weekend. Cauliflower is in high season here and they are big, beautiful and cheap. I happen to really love cauliflower, but I hadn’t yet moved away from Indian and American to Italian ways with it in any sizeable way. I started looking through my various Italian regional cookbooks to see what they proposed.

Cauliflower doughnuts

I didn’t really see a lot until I reached “La Cucina Salentina”, the Pugliese cookbook I bought this autumn. Even there I wouldn’t say there was a lot, but there were certainly things to do with Cauliflower that hadn’t ever entered my mind. This recipe is one and I made it. I only made one-third of the recipe, because it looked like a lot. Let me share with you that one-third of the recipe is a lot!

It doesn’t say what you should do with them, like are they antipasto? Contorno? I don’t know, but I think I would serve them as antipasto and not expect much appetite afterwards. While I was making them I had the thought that the dough resembled my mother’s yeast doughnut dough, except a bit more liquid, so I spooned a few lumps of it into the oil then sugared them once drained. Not exactly, but very, very close. That’s why the name in English became cauliflower doughnuts. I am open to suggestions less repulsive at this point.

These are good. I expect that all the various pitulle are good, although these are the only ones I have made so far. I would urge you that if you want to make a yummy and filling treat for a crowd, you might consider pittule col cavalfiore. If, on the other hand, you are spending the next few days alone, donìt make this!

Pittule col Cavalfiore

makes a LOT

the dough:

1 boiled medoum potato, mashed or riced
300 g or 10 1/2 ounces plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast dissolved into
250 ml or 1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the yeast, the warm water and a handful of flour together and let it sit for a few minutes. Then mix all of the above together, using a mixer, dough hooks or a wooden spoon. It needs to end up thick but loose, like batter on the thicker side, so add in more warm water to reach that texture.

Leave it to rise for 2 to 3 hours.


Start heating deep oil in a very large pot. It should never be more than half full because it will bubble up when you put food into it, so use a really big pot. (or a fryer, if you have one, of course.) It needs to heat to 350°F or 175°C. If you do not have a thermometer, you should get one, because you also use it to make caramel and candy! Yum! Gnam!

Clean and cut into small florets 1/2 cauliflower of moderate size. Use your judgment if your cauliflower is very large or very small. Boil a large pot of quite salty water and blanch the cauliflower florets in it for about 1-1/2 minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the batter.

One by one, with a solid spoon,  spoon out a floret in its chunk of dough and slide into the boiling oil. Don’t crowd them or the temp will drop too much. When they float up to the top, turn them over to brown a second side. When they look like the picture above, use a slotted spoon to remove them to paper towels to drain. Keep making more batches until they are done. At this point a sprinkled salt and ground pepper over them. I thought about making a dip, but I didn’t.

If you have leftovers, and you will, once they are cold slip them into a plastic bag and keep them in the fridge. They can be reheated in the oven and they are quite tasty the first 2 or 3 times. After that just give them to the local birds. No one wants to eat cauliflower five days in a row.

O foods against ovarian cancer

The challenge for this charity drive is to post about foods beginning or ending in O. That might be easier in Italian than in English, but I still didn’t find an instant solution. Tomato or pomodoro is a natural beccause it works in both languages, but it’s the end of the season and I haven’t done anything new with them. It’s not yet orange season, but those are arancie anyway. The fact is, most fruits and vegetables are feminine in Italian and therefore don’t end in O.

This goes in the fridge
This goes in the fridge

It took a while to find a food in which every single ingredient works in at least one of the languages, and here it is. Spicy olive spread in English, battuta piquante d’ulive in Italian. It’s cheap, easy and delicious. It’s my effort to copy this purchased ingredient that I really like, but that is way too expensive. You can use a food processor, a min-chopper or a knife. If you want it to look redder, like the purchased version, battuta you should blend the chillies with the oil a couple of days ahead, but be sure you refrigerate the resultant chili oil until you make the spread.

O for Ovarian cancer awareness: Olive spread

olivesA 200 g jar of pitted olives, drained to be about 110 g
peperoncini1 teaspoon of dried red chillies (this varies according to how hot yours are, mine are HOT)
about 70 ml extra virgin olive oil (to taste, but this was about ¼ cup)

You can combine the chillies and oil ahead of time as noted and in a couple of days the oil will be red and spicy. Warning: making your own chili oil can be dangerous and it must always be refrigerated! Or you can do it the way that resulted in this spread, which is to add the oil at the end. The brine used to cure the oilives makes the chili oil safe.

Mince the drained olives roughly. These were pulsed in the food processor. Add the chili peppers and pulse again. Taste to see if it is spicy enough and adjust. Add the oil and mix well. Scrape into a glass container and refrigerate. I wouldn’t use plastic for a container, because I think plastic absorbs picklish flavors and spoils the next thing you put in there.

chopped olives

In a few days it loses some of its heat, so you can spice it up to your taste again.

You can use this on toast squares for a canape or antipasto, but I have found it most useful as an ingredient. It can be stirred into mayonnaise for a livelier tuna or potato salad, or spread on sandwich bread like mustard. A white sauce that tastes bland can be perked up with a spoonful or two of battuta. Try some in salad dressings, over mild vegetables, stirred into rice, in butter for a compound butter, in the milk when you are making a genuine macaroni and cheese.  When I serve spicy cuisines like some southern Italian or Indian, I sometimes put tiny bowls of this battuta around as a condiment.

This is so easy and cheap, I think every single one of you should make some—halve the recipe if you aren’t sure—and you should tell me what came to mind to do with it.  After all I have an enormmous container of it in my fridge!

When I bought it, it cost €2.95 for a packet of four tiny sections.  That translates to almost US$4.50.  This big jar full is about three times as much and cost me about €1, or US$1.50.  If only I could pull this off with pork chops!

You have nothing to lose and much to gain, so make some battuta for your fridge too, and donate to help fight ovarian cancer.  Generations of girls and women will thank you for it.  I will too.


O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

  • 1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;

TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

  • One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.


From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
  • There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
  • In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!

Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.

Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

Sauté of Summer Vegetables

Is this a recipe? I dont know, but I guess I never thought so, because I promised to send it to someone and it doesn’t exist here. Might as well type it in here before sending it. I’ll take a foto next time I make it and edit it in.

To me summer vegetables can be loads of different things, but the ones in this dish usually are the ones that have to be grown under glass in winter. That means they are much better this time of year.

The chosen veg can change depending on what there is. The amount of this and that us not fixed. If you don’t like something, leave it out. On the other hand, when you have to cook for a bunch, this is a great choice. If I use two enormous pans I can make enough for thirty eaters.

Summer Vegetables

for 6 to 8 healthy folks

1 large or 2 smaller eggplants/aubergine/melanzane, cleaned and cubed
2 large or several smaller zucchini, cut into thin lengthwise ribbons
2 large or 3 smaller red and/or yellow capsicum peppers, cleaned and cut into strips
2 onions, cleaned and cut into chunks
4+ cloves of garlic, peeled
a big handful of cherry tomatoes cut in two, or larger tomatoes, cut in chunks
2 big handfuls of fresh herbs– whichever you like and have
salt and pepper as needed
1/2 cup/125 ml great olive oil

Heat a very wide frying pan and add the oil and the garlic. When heated, toss in the eggplant cubes and the onion. Salt lightly, then fry, stirring once in a while, for about 10 minutes. Add the pepper strips and sautè another 5 minutes or so, then add the zucchini strips, the tomatoes and the fresh herbs. Stir up quite briskly and in a minute or two, taste for salt and correct. Because the eggplant sometimes sucks up oil, you may need to add a little more at points in the cooking.

As soon as the zucchini are getting limp but are not really cooked soft nor transparent, remove from the heat and grind fresh pepper over it all before serving. The tomato should be warm and shrinking, but not really cooked. This can be served hot but it’s real beauty is that it can be served at room temperature with no loss of quality at all. I often serve it with this homemade vinegar or substitute a bit of balsamico for those not lucky enough to have it.

Pasta Bandiera — Flag Pasta

July in Italy is jammed, stuffed, filled with fresh vegetables of a quality that may be equaled elsewhere but is never surpassed in my experience. Where I live in Central Italy the market is splendid, but it is sparse compared to some other regions where supermarkets aren’t so available. I gave up counting supermarkets here after twelve. We like our food and we want to know where it comes from. We like to handle it, smell it and check one source against another. If we can buy it just a few feet from the trees or the fields, that’s just the absolute best. There are innumerable housewives who still shop every single day to get the freshest they can.

The Italian flag (bandiera) red and green colors of this dish of pasta were grown in Puglia for the peppers and a village of my community for the tomato. The garlic came from Sicily. There was also cheaper garlic from China, but I am reading the provenance labels nowadays and I really can’t see why I would buy garlic from China when so much of it is grown here. I think the difference in price was 15 cents, and I can afford to support Italian farmers for that kind of money. The peppers were €1 per kilo and the tomatoes €1.50 per kilo. If I had weighed what I used I could give you some useful information about what this dish of pasta costs to make, but I didn’t. It’s cheap, take my word for it. It cost less than €1 per person. The wine was less than €2 per bottle, too. I don’t dwell on these things, but it’s second nature to me to be practical about food costs, and although I wouldn’t eat something that tasted bad just because it was cheap, I really am happy when I find something that is cheap and also tastes good.

scialatelli maybe

The pasta is an experiment. It may be called sciallatelli, no one here seems really sure. More and more of us are paying attention to the details of how pasta is made and to that end, there is more and more information about it. If you ever find yourself with free time in Rome, go to the Pasta Museum and get an education about how pasta was made when Italy’s pasta ruled the world. It was made mostly of a specific wheat imported from southern Russia. It was extruded from bronze shapers and it was air dried. I know I have talked several times before about buying pasta made in Gragnano if you find it. They make pasta the old fashioned way in Gragnano, and they have also been reverse breeding wheat to get back to that wheat of yesteryear with extraordinary results. When I started talking about it I was practically the only one speaking about it in Englisht. Now everyone is buzzing about it. And because the words attract customers, other companies are picking up on them and making pasta that may be described with at least one of them. This pasta has been extruded through bronze. It’s so experimental that the packaging is generic and has no information about what the shape is called or how long it needs to be cooked. It was offered in several traditional but not very usual shapes in a single grocery store at a sale price of 89 cents per half kilo, which is not awfully cheap but is cheap for anything “special” in pasta.

Use this stuff

These peppers are called friggitelle, and the pepper most like them in the United States is the Cubanelle. The difference between this pepper and the ordinary green pepper is how thin the walls are. That makes them ideal for frying, because they are cooked before the outsides are burned black. The tomato is a big salad or slicing tomato cut into chunks.

This was meant to be a quick dish—fast food in fact. It ended up taking 20 minutes because the pasta takes a very long time to cook. That information was not on the package and I resented having to test and test and test again for over 17 minutes to reach al dente, and when I say al dente I mean very al dente. I took it off the heat as soon as the texture was no longer cardboardy. The chances are you are not going to have this problem with your pasta, because you will sensibly buy pasta with less charisma and more information.

Was it good? Yes, it was very good and the strangely curly and elongated shape of the pasta was well adapted to the strips of pepper. The delay in having pasta to toss into the vegetables didn’t wreck the vegetables, but instead the oil thickened up nicely and coated the pasta better than usual.


Pasta la Bandiera (Pasta with peppers and tomato)

For one

Heat a large amount of water to a full boil. Add a big spoonful of salt and 100 grams or less of the pasta you are using.

3 friggitelle or similar thin-walled green pepper
2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
1 ripe salad tomato, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a good pinch of cayenne pepper or peperoncino in polvere

Wash the peppers, then remove the stem and core and cut into strips about half the length of the pepper.
In a wide frying pan, heat the oil and add the garlic and pepper strips. Sauté them slowly over low heat, being careful to get them cooked without burning them. When they start to brown a bit, add a ladle—about ½ cup or 125 ml of the pasta water to the pan and let it simmer away.

A few minutes before the pasta will be done, add the cayenne/peperoncino and the tomato chunks and stir it all about. The tomatoes should just start to collapse, but not really cook through.

Drain the pasta and toss it into the vegetables, stirring it in so that it picks up all of the flavored oil, then scrape it into a pasta bowl. I do not think this pasta wants to be eaten with cheese, but you may want the option.

I think I will send this off to Presto Pasta Night which this week is hosted by Sidewalk Shoes! She still hasn’t revealed, as far as I know, what her name means, but she does make a lot of pasta.


Summer worth repeating

Summer in a jar

That’s misleading. Most summers are worth repeating. I can only recall one I probably would not survive again, but had that happened in winter, you wouldn’t be being proselytized to make this salt! On the other hand, the Egyptians probably could have used this salt to preserve many other things we haven’t thought of.

This was the most splendid, useful and delicious thing I made last summer. It was a good summer, if too short like most summers, and I made a lot of good things, but this was the best because it went on… and on… and on… being good. I will not make it once but I will make it every time the herbs recover enough to make another batch.