Sunday, September 14, 2014

Verdure gratinate (Vegetables Au Gratin)

I bought my first copy of my favorite Italian cooking magazine, Sale e Pepe during my very first trip to Italy. It was love at first sight.

Then for many years, I could only buy it in Italy or at the foreign magazine stand in Laguna Beach, California. They only received two copies a month.  I knew I was in competition with two other readers because if I didn't get to Laguna Beach in time, both copies were often sold. I later met one of my "competitors" at an Italian class and we laughed about that race to the newsstand and the disappointment when 'our' copy was gone.

I've had a hard copy subscription to "Sale e Pepe" for 4 years, thanks to  At first, it used to arrive in my mailbox two or three months after it had been published in Italy.  Sometimes it was even postmarked from Sweden.  Happily, now I receive my copy almost as quickly as it reaches the Italian magazine stands.

There is an eReader version available too, but I prefer to tear apart each magazine.  I recycle torn up copies to my Italian teacher, Michele.  He's happy to receive even a partial magazine.  He also has made a little notebook of his favorite pages.

This recipe takes some time to make.  It turned out fabulous but this is definitely a weekend project.

The recipe calls for bread crumbs.  Each trip to Italy, I purchase at least four packages of bread crumbs.  I've used the very last of my Conad bread crumbs.  They are so good, made without preservatives, added chemicals or oils.  I store them in my freezer.  Now, unfortunately, my supply has been exhausted.  They're on my "shopping list" for November's trip.

I experimented with soft bread crumbs which I made from a loaf of Trader Joe's ciabatta.  I tried making this dish again today, with stale ciabatta, but my little Cuisinart mini-prep was not strong enough to make small bread crumbs. They look more like croutons.

This eggplant dish was really scrumptious, but missing something.  I went back to look at the recipe.  They suggest serving it with halved tomatoes, also baked with the same bread crumb topping.

Here it is Sunday night and both dishes are baking. (A perfect combination!)


First batch

Second try, making both the tomatoes and the eggplant.
Unfortunately the bread was too hard to make crumbs.
Delicious but not as pretty as the first attempt!

Vegetables Au gratin 

Serves 4
3 medium fresh tomatoes
2 small eggplants
160 g bread crumbs
A handful of fresh parsley, washed and diced
60 g grated Parmigiano cheese
1 clove garlic, diced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and cut the tomatoes in half. Seed if you wish.
Wash and slice the eggplant into rounds about ½ inch in width.  Place in a ceramic dish.  Salt and cover with a heavy weight for two hours.
Drain the eggplant an thoroughly and wash it.  Dry with a paper towel and set aside
Place the tomatoes cut side up in a lightly oiled ceramic dish.  Place the eggplant slices into another lightly oiled ceramic dish.
In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, grated cheese, parsley and garlic.  Taste test for sale and pepper. Spoon over vegetables.
Drizzle an abundant amount of olive oil over the bread crumb mixture.
Bake 350 degrees being careful not to let it burn. Test eggplant for doneness with knife.
235 cal/serving

Verdure Gratinate (Copied from Sale e Pepe)

Per 4 persone

3 pomodori medi non troppo mature

2 melanzane piccolo

160 g di pangrattato

Una manciata di prezzemolo tritato

60 g di parmigiano grattugiato

Uno spicchio d’aglio tritato

Olio extravergine d’oliva



Lavate e tagliate a meta’ i pomodori e le melanzane, svuotate I primi dai semi, salate leggermente I due ortaggi e matteteli capovolti su una teglia per un paio d’ore.

Scolate l’acqua fuoriuscita dale verdure e adagiate queste ultime in una teglia con la parte cava rivolta verso l’altro.  In una ciotola mescolate pangrattato, prezzemolo, aglio e formaggio, regulate di sale e aggiungete il pepe secondo il Vostro gusto, infine irrorate con olio abbondante.

Riempiete le verdure con il mix preparato e infornatele a 180 C per 20-30 minuti facendo attenzione a non bruciarle.

235 cal/porzione

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fregola con Melanzane (Eggplant with pasta)

I am crazy about both eggplant and the toasted pasta fregola from Sardegna.  For years I had to buy it in Italy, but now it's possible to buy fregola in Italian deli markets, which also sell pasta and flour.

Wiki on fregolaAll about Fregula

This yummy simple recipe is from the Giallo Zafferono web site:  Fregola con le melanzane 

I normally make only 1/2 a recipe or one serving if I'm trying something new.

In this case, I made two recipes with my one eggplant.  I used cherry tomatoes.

Eggplant with Fregola  (Fregola con melanzane)

Serves 4

200 g fregola pasta  (because my fregola is so precious, I use only half the amount called for)
3 T good olive oil
1 medium eggplant, washed and cubed
400 g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 g capers, washed
30 g chopped green Italian olives
salt and pepper to taste

Pecorino Sardo (optional)

Sauté the eggplant in the olive oil, until translucent.  Add tomatoes and garlic.  Cook 15 minutes over a moderate fire.  In the meantime, cook the fregola in salted boiling water, for 10 minutes.

Drain the fregola, retaining some of the cooking water.  Add cooked fregola, capers and green olives to the eggplant mixture.  Stir to mix.  Add pasta water, as needed to make it creamy.  Serve hot.

The website states one can top with a grated Sardo Pecorino cheese.  I topped mine with a sprinkle of fresh thyme.  For the photo I did try parsley, but it wasn't the right flavor.  Thyme is perfect.

Monday, September 1, 2014

July 2014 -- la piadina romagnola (Italian Flat Bread)

I've had to wait a few weeks to write this up. We had a replacement instructor for our summer Italian class. Michele's class was too full, unfortunately.  Our substitute found the classroom to be too cold, so our class was set to relocate to the kitchen, at a long table.
Summer classes take place from 10-2.  We love the intensity and the length, but we get hungry, especially when then conversation turns to food. During our class discussion of food, no one seemed to have known what a piadina was. I should have tested to see if there was any interest to eat one. My mistake.

Here's a great link on piadina:  Italian piadina

I really enjoyed this very interesting link on flat breads of the world:  Flat breads of the world
Maria and I asked for permission from both the instructor and the office, to make the class lunch for that Saturday in the kitchen.
I did a test run at home.  Rosa's recipe, which I've made for years, took too long to rise.  I researched Italian sites for recipes and discovered piadina could be made with water or milk and the leavening could be baking power or yeast. I used warm milk and yeast and found the dough was ready to use in exactly 30 minutes.
I also discovered, a cast iron skillet could be used in place of the authentic teglia to cook the piadina.  On the internet I found a place in Emilia Romagna which has made the teglia since 1826. I plan to order one on-line and pick it up at my family's home in Cremona this November.

 Purchase a handmade teglia

Testing at home

Maria and I divided and brought the ingredients and pans.  We were super organized, making a double batch of the dough during the morning break.  We planned on cooking the piadina right during the 10 minute lunch break.  Passing by, Michele saw the project and asked if there were enough piadina for his class too.  Sure!  We had enough to go around.

Sadly, our own class seemed disinterested in participating.  Even after 4 weeks have passed I'm not sure what happened.  Maria and I made the piadina and stacked them.  We pulled the cheese, lettuce, arugula and prosciutto from the refrigerator. Everything was in place.  Except we had no takers.  The instructor did not call for the anticipated break.  Michele and his class quietly swept in and out, each of their hands eagerly clutching a napkin wrapped piadina. Another instructor appeared with one student. Perhaps I answered a little bit too loudly when she requested a piadina or two.  I said, please, no one here is interested.  And it was true. 

Shortly afterward, the break was called and the students did made their way over to what was left.  The instructor declined to look or to taste.  

Our mistake was to present food to classmates we did not know.  They had no passion for cooking nor for tasting.  The instructor, well educated and surprisingly ill mannered, is a speaker of the language but not a talented teacher. 

It's also my fault that I felt hurt.  It was nothing personal.  But normally these classes carry with them a passion to do more than just have a conversation in Italian. My passion was crushed that day by their indifference.

Maria and I have cooked so many times in the kitchen.  We know the clean up routine:  leave it cleaner than you found it.  We left it spotless.

We also look forward to the Fall Class Schedule when we will be welcomed back by the normal passionate teachers we love so much. Maybe I'll take some nice fresh piadina to class!


400 g flour (farina 00 
2 t granulated yeast   
4 T olive oil 
250 ml milk, warmed

Mix all ingredients on a bread board.  Knead for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough into the bowl.
Over with plastic wrap and leave bowl in a place without a draft. 

After 30 minutes, divide the dough into the number of piadina you wish to make.  The recipe makes 6-10 depending on the size you roll to. 

On a flour dusted board, roll out the piadina.   Prick with fork tongs a few time.  

Cook for 1 minute on each side, on a hot cast iron skillet.  Do not oil the skillet. 

Serve piadina folded, with filling inside.  May fill with cheese, ham, lettuce or any combination.  Also good with Nutella.

Store un-eaten piadina in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Recipe may be halved for single people! Piadina are NOT tortillas.


la piadina romagnola all'olio extravergine di oliva

Porzioni: 6-8
  • 400g di farina tipo 00
  • 2 cucchiaini di lievito in polvere o 1 cucchiaino di bicarbonato
  • 1 cucchiaino di sale fino
  • 4 cucchiai di olio extavergine d'oliva
  • 250ml di acqua molto calda

Preparazione: 20minuti  ›  Cottura: 2minuti  ›  Tempo aggiuntivo:30minuti  ›  Pronta in:52minuti 
  1. In una grande ciotola, mescolare la farina, il lievito, e il sale. Con un tagliapasta o un frullatore aggiungere l'olio. Gli ingredienti devono mescolarsi bene insieme.
  2. Aggiungere l'acqua e mescolare l'impasto velocemente con una forchetta o con le mani.
  3. Trasferire l’impasto su una spianatoia e lavorare ancora per una decina di minuti.
  4. Mettere l'impasto nella ciotola, coprirlo con la pellicola e lasciarlo riposare circa 20-30 minuti.
  5. Formare delle palle da 100g circa.
  6. Per ottenere delle piadine da 100g bisogna stendere la pasta con un mattarello il più possibile. Successivamente con un coperchio da 24cm di diametro, oppure con l'aiuto del tagliapizza si ritagliano i cerchi di pasta.
  7. Cuocere in una padella antiaderente a fuoco vivo per 1 minuto su entrambi i lati.
Le piadine vanno conservate nel congelatore avvolte singolarmente in carta alluminio. Una volta scongelate basterà scaldarle per qualche minuto nel forno a microonde.

Copied from: la piadina romagnola all olio extravergine di oliva