Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pulling another Bunny from a Hat

Linguine Estive con Limone, Ricotta Fresca & Erbe Miste
Summer Linguini with Lemon, Fresh Ricotta and Herbs

Yes indeed, even on the night before I leave on vacation- I put together an admittedly simple, but nevertheless tasty plate of pasta for you all. Well, actually, it was for ME as it was my supper... but I digress! I really pushed myself to the limits this time- but yes- I have managed to really empty my fridge and the last few remnants from it went to make up this meal. Half a carrot, a Spring onion, assorted herbs and 2 scoops of cream cheese! Oh- and my last lemon! That's how little you sometimes need to create a lot of happiness at suppertime!

I know I always make out that my dishes are really quick and easy to make... but people- this dish was really quick and easy to make! It literally took 10 minutes! 7 minutes for the pasta to cook and 3 minutes to transform it into this lemony, minty, nutmeg and lemon-infused, herb and ricotta delight! Sounds like quite a lot, considering so little is in there, doesn't it?

First of all I sliced a little lemon peel very thinly, taking only the yellow peel and avoiding the white pith and then copped it as finely as possible. In a small saucepan, I began to cook the linguini, in boiling, salted water as usual.

Whilst the pasta was on the boil, I diced half of a carrot as finely as I could, sliced the Spring onion thinly and chopped both a handful of mint and parsley as well as a little bunch of tender fresh thyme very finely too. Phew! That was my prep-work out of the way!
After the pasta had boiled for 5 minutes, I added the carrots to it so that they would briefly be blanched in the remaining 2 minutes that the pasta would be cooking.

At the same time, I began to fry the sliced Spring onion, with a little crushed garlic and the 
mixed herbs and zest in just a tablespoonful of olive oil... and within a minute or so, it began to smell pretty wonderful! I cranked-up the heat on the frying pan, drained the pasta, although not too thoroughly and added it to the onion, herbs and zest in the frying pan.

I tossed it and stirred it thoroughly with a pair of tongues, being careful to pick up all of the finely chopped ingredients. I let it continue cooking it for a minute or so, then removed it from the heat, added 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese and seasoned it generously with freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. I made sure to keep it off the heat so the cheese didn't curdle, but much rather created a nice creamy coating on the linguini to counterpoint the lemon and herb, garlic flavor.

A tiny squeeze of lemon, an extra drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of green Tabasco- and a small miracle happened on my dinner plate! And it could happen on yours too if you wanted it to!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Summer Harvest Festival

Verdure Miste Meditteraneo
Mediterranean Vegetable Platter

I almost began to worry that my plan of not getting any new groceries yesterday, as I normally would have, and managing to live off the remaining odds and ends in my fridge until I leave on Wednesday, would prove to be my undoing. Well who knew that I would have such a wonderful weekend of delicious treats?!

Like this incredible and tasty dish of mixed vegetables here, which looks- and indeed WAS, pretty amazing! What you are looking at is a half of a zucchini, a half of a bell pepper, 5-6 cocktail tomatoes- and the rest came out of the standard jars that I always have at home- olives and capers etc. Another favorite of mine are these giant-sized Greek beans, which are not available to buy fresh anyway. And with these few ingredients, I managed to cook up this wonderful combination of goodness! Does that sound good?

This is a really quick, "flash in the pan" of a recipe and would taste great hot or cold now that the weather is finally warming up. I began by sautéeing the peppers in a little olive oil, with a pinch of sugar, for 2-3 minutes, after which I added the zucchini slices. I seasoned with salt, pepper and a hint of cayenne. I also added a little finely chopped garlic and squeeze of lemon juice- together these went to make a great flavor base with the sugared peppers... but there was plenty more yet to come!

Next I added the olives, capers, Spring onions and tomatoes. The onion and the tomatoes were cut into slices to reduce the cooking time. I added a handful of chopped parsley and thyme and another good squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil... and voilá! With a little toss together to get everything evenly mixed- dinner was served!

No-No Cheesecake

Torta di Ricotta "Souffle" con Limone e Carote- senza Uova e senza Grasso
No-Egg, No-Fat, Lemon and Carrot Cheesecake "Souffle"

Sometimes I want to have my cake and eat it- like I did today. BUT- I had no more eggs in the fridge AND I do not know how to bake- as I am sure you are all aware by now! What I did have was some cheese curd and some lemon. So I began to think more along the lines of some creamy, whipped-up affair. Which would have been fine, but it would not have been a cake. And neither is this creation, you might say- and technically speaking you may well be right. But the fact of the matter is that it was neither cake, nor souffle, but was both delicious and different at the same time!

In my last couple of days of clearing out my fridge before I set-off on vacation, I am discovering that it really is possible to make something out of nothing! And something GOOD! Because the most important ingredient of all is there at all times... and that is creativity! So let me share with you what I created today... enjoy!

I started off by grating half of a regular sized carrot and the zest of half a lemon- these were going to add a little fresh flavor to the cheese curd- as was of course the juice of the whole lemon! Zing! One of my favorite desserts of all-time is key lime pie- and I wanted to make something with a similar fresh flavor. To the lemon juice I added a half teaspoon of Stevia, a half teaspoon of vanilla essence, a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a little honey. Then came the cheese curd- I used 5 tablespoonfuls to make this individual serving. I whisked everything together at the highest setting for 5 minutes and turned on the oven to warm up whilst that was going.

Once the cheese curd was nice and creamy, I added a tablespoon of baking powder and 2 teaspoons of regular flour. I whisked everything well for a further 2-3 minutes at the highest setting and then spooned the mixture into a lightly buttered ramekin.

I set the ramekin into a second, hollower dish, which I filled up to the height of around 1" with water- this was to help the mixture to rise and be fluffy and light, just like a souffle. I placed a sheet of kitchen roll, folded into 4, underneath the ramekin, to help keeping it from vibrating as the water boiled in the oven.

I baked it for 40 minutes at 350°F, with an additional 2-3 minutes under the broiler to give it a little color. Incredibly (and delightfully!), it did not collapse at all after baking, and tasted wonderfully lemony and delicious. Of course it was not quite as fine in texture as a regular cheesecake- but this is not really a cheesecake... and that is fine by me! Because at the same time, this has a lot of flavor and very, very little fat at all. Which made it perfect for me today! And maybe for you too!

Oat of this World!

Fiocchi d'Avena al Forno con Banana, Yogurt, Mirtilli e Cocco
Baked Oatmeal with Banana, Yoghurt, Cranberry & Coconut

It's breakfast time again! And I am thinking of making my usual favorite of oatmeal with coconut and chopped banana... and at the same time thinking, there must be more to life than this! So I decided to "pimp my breakfast" and to "take it to the next level", as our younger folk might say. Well let me tell you... this oven-baked version was indeed out of this world!

The great thing is, that it takes no longer to prepare than regular oatmeal really- and you don't need to be stuck at the stove-top stirring away the whole time. I made one individual serving, but I am sure you could make this on a deep baking tray or in a ceramic dish for the whole family just as well... and it was as easy as this to make...

I mixed together 4 tablespoons of oatmeal, 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes, 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries and 1 tablespoon of light raisins in a bowl and added 1 cup of milk. I sweetened it with a half teaspoon of Stevia and added a half teaspoon of vanilla essence and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon... oh- and that all-important pinch of salt!

Once the milk had been soaked-up by the oatmeal, I added 2 tablepoons of chopped banana and 3 tablepoons of plain yogurt, stirred it well and spooned it into a lightly buttered oven-proof dish. I placed a few slices of banana on top decoratively and then popped it into the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I drizzled it lightly with honey and returned it to the oven for a further 2-3 minutes under the broiler to give it a crispy, caramel crust... delicious! Inside it was lightly firm but moist and chewy... the banana was hot and creamy and the cranberries and raisins made it fruity and more fun... Now THAT'S what I call breakfast!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Did You Say Pizza Honey?

Miscela di Focacce con Zucchine, Pomodoro, Pancetta, Feta, Miele & Erbe Miste
Focaccia-Mix with Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, Bacon, Feta, Honey and Mixed Herbs

Summer has finally arrived and we finally get to enjoy those lazy evenings and the warmer weather. And unless we are going to spend them standing outside at the grill, we certainly don't want to be copped-up to long in front of a hot stove! No, this is the time for quick, easy and fun meals... or delicious snacks like these!

Focaccia is basically a flat bread, the same dough that is used for making pizza... and the self-same dough that I like to buy pre-made for spontaneous quick snacks like this. But if you feel the need to knead your own and you have that extra 45 minutes to spare... be my guest!

This whole idea is basically about combining flavors- sweet and savory, mild and spicy, in a light, crispy and fun way. Sure, there are lots of flavors combing together here, but I made sure not to stack too much of each thing onto the bread base and have the typical kind of pizza overkill going on... which I am not a fan of! Please- not too much cheese!!!

The first and most simple variation, was simply thinly sliced cherry tomato, feta cheese, bacon and spring onion. To make sure it came out tasting really wonderful, I first baked the base blind, until it was firm, then rubbed it with a clove of garlic, which I crushed a little so that the juices would spread better. Then I spread out the ingredients evenly on top and baked it for 5 minutes at the highest setting. I then took it out again, added a little sea salt and a good drizzle of honey and gave it another minute or so. I let it cool for 3-4 minutes after taking it out of the oven before adding some fresh thyme... I just love the combination of honey and thyme in the Summer- it's so delicious!

Next came the 2 zucchini variations and the most important aspect here was the finely diced bacon, which I fried in a dry frying pan whilst I cut the zucchini into the thinnest slices could manage. After the bacon had begun to fry and give off it's fat and juices, I removed it from the heat and added the zucchini slices and tossed then around together with the bacon, so that they picked up a light glaze from the juices. I allowed it to cool a little before I got going on laying out the toppings- didn't want to burn my fingers!

First of all, I sprinkled the dough bases very lightly with feta cheese, then laid out the zucchini slices evenly on top. The cheese melts and helps keep the zucchini stuck down... isn't that clever? :-) Once the zucchini was down, I sprinkled the finely diced bacon on top, along with the Spring onion and and a little salt and pepper. I baked again at the very highest setting for 6-7 minutes, then fetched it out briefly so that I could ad the honey. Then back again for 1-2 minutes under the broiler to get wonderfully crispy and brown! I added thyme to both, but made one with some very fine parsley leaves and a squeeze of lemon. Along with the honey, all three of these snacks was really delicious and a nice change from the typical tomato sauce and cheese pizzas... and just perfect for the Summer! Buon apetito!

Friday, 11 May 2012


Crema al Limone con Mirtilli e Yogurt

Lemon Cream with Blueberries and Yogurt

This was my "almost-healthy" after-dinner treat this evening- and a very simple and yet delicious affair it is too! The lemon cream was my take on a traditional lemon curd, but I omitted the butter and replaced it instead with a little coconut milk to add that touch or richness to smooth out the tanginess of the lemon.

I love trying out combinations that taste wonderful but are healthier options than the regular ice-cream or other other rich and heavy desserts. i can be done and it is a good thing indeed when you do find a way to have some great guilt-free treats every now and then!

For the lemon cream, which was a little tricky because I made such a small amount, I used 2 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of corn starch, 1 teaspoon of Stevia, 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and a half cup of water... as well as the juice and zests of 2 lemons! Yes- this is going to be a zap-pow-zinger of a dessert!

I heated up the water and added the lemon juice and zest, the stevia and coconut milk and brought it to the boil- then reduced the temperature to a gentle simmer and added the cornstarch, whisking briskly the whole time to avoid any lumps. Once it had begun to thicken, I removed it from the heat and continued whisking until it started to cool a little more.

Working very quickly, I added the egg yolks and beat, beat, beat the mixture until it became smooth and rich and creamy. This is not a dish for lazy kitchen workers! You need to work this thing to get it to work for you! Let the cream cool a little and then chill it properly in the fridge before serving.

I spooned the lemon cream into my glass first and then layed out a layer of blueberries on top, which I then covered with a thick, but lower fat, Greek styled yogurt... and then covered that as well in in blueberries. After at least a half hour of refrigeration, this wonderfully fruity and delicious dessert was ready to be served and enjoyed! It really was that simple!

Chop-Chop Couscous!

Coucous al Insalata con Germogli di Ravanello e Feta
Couscous Salad with Radish Sprouts & Feta Cheese

Time for a satisfying salad dish again, something yummy, healthy, light and delicious... but also something that will not have you feeling hungry again within the hour. This was another part of my endeavor to use up most of what I have in my fridge before vacation- it's as simple as that and is a situation I am sure you are all familiar with.

Oh I may succumb to temptation tomorrow and get something at the indoor market- but for this evening, it was cucumber, snow peas, Spring onion, parsley, mint, cherry tomatoes. Feta cheese and radish sprouts that I had in the fridge and had to get rid of! Well... in case you are interested... this is how I did it!

I poured boiling water over the couscous, in the usual manner, covering it completely and just a little more, then stirred it, added the juice of half a lemon and let it stand for 10 minutes. More than plenty of time to get all the rest of the ingredients all chopped up and ready to go!

The parsley and mint were the next ingredients to be added to the couscous- I added them after 3-4 minutes, once the couscous had almost doubled in size and also cooled down considerably. Next came finely sliced Spring onion, cucumber and snow peas. I cut the cucumber in hlf length-ways, then into quarters, cut away the seeds in the middle and then cut across the strips and cucumber into bite-sized pieces. The snow peas I chopped finely too, into short pieces. I mixed this all in with the couscous and seasoned with salt, pepper, a little green tabasco and some sesame oil.

The feta cheese was crumbled and marinated in sesame oil, honey and lemon juice- 5 minutes was enough time for all of these nice flavors to infuse the cheese. In the meantime, I spooned the couscous into a small, deep dish, to bring it into shape. I made sure to lay the tomatoes out evenly at the bottom of the dish, so that it would look more decorative later, then spooned the rest of the couscous mix on top until the dish was full. I placed my serving plate, upside-down, onto the deep dish and inverted it, making sure to keep it positioned neatly in the middle... removed the dish and ta-da! Supper was almost ready!

I topped it with the lemon-honey feta and sprinkled radish sprouts around the outside, to give a light, peppery freshness to the dish. I drizzled the sprouts with sesame oil and a little honey, seasoned simply with a little salt, and served it up with a slice of lemon to add an extra squeeze of fresh juice before digging-in! A lovely combination of flavors and a great, simple meal! Wonderful on a hot Summer evening... Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Saucy Pig!

Festonati al Ragu di Maiale, Pomodorini, Finocchio e Timo
Festonati in a Pork Ragu, with Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes and Thyme

Of the million and one types of pasta in the world, this one here was a new one to me- Festonati! I saw them and knew I had to try them- large sized macaroni typed tubes, with folded-over ends and indentations along their length... which makes them perfect to cover in rich sauce- mmm!

The word, "festonato", translates from the Italian, to the English "scalloped"- hence the ridged shape. And these festonati (plural), do indeed look like strange, alien sea-shells of some kind... and taste pretty "out of this world" when combined with a tangy pork and cherry tomato sauce with some pan-fried fennel and a little Parmesan... keep on reading to find out how to make it!

First things first... I needed to prepare a little of the classic Italian "soffritto" for the sauce- meaning finely chopped carrot, onion and celery. I also prepared some chopped parsley, thyme and garlic. I halved a generous 10 cherry tomatoes per portion for the sauce, and finely chopped a slice of pork fillet- about a handful. I cut the fennel into bite-sized strips. And with those ingredients at the ready... I decided to get this little pasta party started!

I boiled the pasta for 7 of the 9 minutes that the directions suggested- which gave me plenty of time to get the sauce ready. I started off though with the fennel, which I sautéed with a little sugar, salt and pepper in a a dash of olive oil until it began to brown gently. I then removed it and set it to one side, and moved swiftly on with the cherry tomatoes, which I also sautéed briefly at a high heat and set to one side.

Next, a little more olive oil, the sofritto, the garlic and the finely chopped pork came into the pan. By this time, there was quite an accumulation of flavors already going on at the bottom of that frying pan! Which was all good news and great taste! After 3-4 minutes of frying, I added a good tablespoon of tomato paste per person and stirred it in well. I immediately deglazed the pan with a ladle of boiling water from the pasta. I continued stirring and as the sauce reduced down I added a little more water.

At this point, the pasta was ready to drain and then add to the sauce in the frying pan. I added the chopped parsley and thyme, the cherry tomatoes and the fennel slices and stirred together gently but thoroughly, so that everything got nicely coated. I seasoned with salt, pepper, a hint of cayenne and a tiny squeeze of lime- just enough to give the sweet flavor of the fennel a little "lift". And 2-3 minutes of gentle simmering later, this wonderful plate of pasta was ready to be enjoyed! And enjoy it you will too if you give it a try! And I sure hope you do too!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Bitter Sweet Simplicity

Budino di Riso con Madorle Grattugiate, Zafarana, Fichi e Miele
Bitter Almond and Saffron Rice Pudding with Figs and Honey

Rice pudding time again! I know, I know... but I just love it! It has not always been that way, in fact, it is a very recently acquired taste for me, but I am enjoying experimenting with different variations very much- and this is my latest creation!

I decided to add some ground almonds into the equation for this sweet dish... and was not expecting the bitter undertones that would develop during cooking. A problem? Not at all! The mellow bitterness just made this into a much more sophisticated and complex version of what is otherwise a pretty everyday dessert. Not this! This is seriously good stuff!

I began by boiling the rice in milk in the usual way- I used 1 cup of rice to 2 of milk. The rice I used was a risotto rice, called Vialone nano- but any old rice-pudding typed short grain rice would be fine. Once it had come up to the boil, I added 1 cupful of ground almonds, a half teaspoon of Stevia, a pinch of salt, a pinch of saffron and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

I reduced the heat to a slow simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this time, I added another cupful of milk, stirred it well and returned it to the heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure it didn't stick.

I have to admit, that the additional ground almonds tended to absorb a lot of liquid, so I did add milk every now and then, jut to keep the consistency nice. After 15 minutes, it was almost good, the saffron had begun to exude a gentle yellow glow to the rice and the ground almonds had given the rice a wonderful, marzipan-like flavor... mmm!

I added a little brandy to mine - just a little shot- but enough to round off the bitter-sweet flavors nicely. You can of course skip this step if you so wish... especially if you have children! The last step is to add one last little splash of milk, stir it in, cover and allow to sit and rest for 5 minutes with the lid on top.

I enjoyed mine with a fresh fig and a little honey- the mild freshness was a nice addition to the rich and filling rice. Oh yes- this was a very yummy and satisfying dessert indeed! I recommend you try it yourselves some time!

Seasons Greetings!

Frittata con i Funghi, Pisellini, Pepe, Menta, Feta e Prosciutto
Frittata with Mushrooms, Snow Peas, Peppers, Mint, Feta Cheese and Ham

A strange title for a post at the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer you might say. But as you may have noticed from my previous posts, I am just a little dismayed at how reluctant the seasons seem to be to co-operate any more! So this is another attempt from me, to force the Summer into being... and at least I can offer you some edible sunshine on a plate!

Also, I am finally realizing that I have to move into "empty the fridge before your vacation mode"- and that is exactly where the real inspiration for this dish came from. Or what else would you have done with 3 eggs, 3 mushrooms, 3 slices of Bresaola, a piece of Feta cheese, a baby bell pepper and a handful of snow peas? In just 20 minutes I had transformed them all into this wonderful, small but scrumptious frittata! And here is how you can do it yourselves...

First things first- the oven needs to be pre-heated, so get it turned on to a high temperature whilst you do your prep work. Prepare to do some chopping!

Finely chop some fresh parsley and mint- about a handful of each. Slice the bell pepper thinly, along with a Spring onion and the mushrooms. Actually, I cut the mushroom into 8ths- it was nicer to have them a little chunkier. I also cut the ham into thin strips and it was the ham and the mushrooms that went into my frying pan first. I gave them a quick sautée of 2-3 minutes, just to pre-cook them a little, then set them aside whilst I prepared the eggs.

I added the chopped mint and parsley to the 3 eggs, along with a splash of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Obviously, one way to have made this frittata, or omelette, would have been to have added all of the ingredients into the egg and poured it out into a hot frying pan... but then you would have to have fate on your side to get all of the ingredients evenly spread and may well have ended up with all of the mushrooms in one place for example. So I did things a little differently.

I poured in half of the mixture and once it had begun to set, removed it from the heat.
I then spread out half of the other ingredients evenly on top and then poured on top of those the remaining egg. I then spread the remaining ingredients on top, including the feta cheese, seasoned it again with salt, pepper and nutmeg and popped it into the hot oven to finish for 5 minutes... with an additional 2 minutes under the broiler to get it really nice and brown!

Pretty easy, pretty quick, pretty inexpensive... and very delicious! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Just Barley Summertime!

Striscette di Maiale in Agrodolce con Orzo Perlato e Verdure Miste
Sweet & Sour Pork with Pearl Barley & Vegetables

Incredibly, a little sun shone today in Frankfurt- although I think I blinked and missed it. It is enough to drive you to despair sometimes! Or to the kitchen to make something that at least makes you feel like it is Summer- even if the food you might find yourself craving for, may be more of the warming Winter-type of thing!

Not being able to decide what to do... I made myself a light and Summery meal out of a rather more Winter ingredient- the humble pearl barley. Yes, I love barley- it is so traditional and hearty, but also very versatile. Take a look what I came up with- you might just like it too!

First of all, I boiled the barley on a gentle simmer, for 10-15 minutes... this gave me plenty of time to prepare the vegetables- and indeed the pork to finish the rest of the dish! 

I sliced a little red bell pepper- this was one of those baby-sized onesm a couple of nice brown mushrooms, a spring onion, chopped a little garlic and parsley very finely and sautéed these together in just a little olive oil for 4-5 minutes. I then set them to one side and turned my attention to the pork fillet, which I cut into slices.

I fried the pork at quite a high heat for just a short time, with a little crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a hint of chili. After 2-3 minutes, I added a tablespoon of honey and removed it from the heat. I sprinkled the pork strips with sesame and stirred them well, then returned them to the stovetop but at a very gentle heat... just enough to keep them warm.

I drained the barley off and added it to the assorted vegetables, along with the additional parsley, salt, pepper and a tiny hint of lemon.

The pork was of course done by now, but I turned up the heat and added both a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and the same of honey. I stirred it together well and added a tiny hint of cinnamon and turned off the heat.

I served the honey pork strips on a bed of barley and mixed vegetables and the result was both light and refreshing, but also satisfying and filling... a great combination! So this is indeed a very simple meal, but a quick, sensible and fun one at that! I do hope you all approve!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Square Dancing!

Tortine Salate con Ricotta, Fichi, Prosciutto e Finocchio, & Miele e Timo
Ricotta, Fig, Fennel & Ham Pastries with Honey & Thyme

The weather insists on being dull, relatively cold, damp and decidedly grey here in Frankfurt- it seems that we are going to skip Spring entirely and land in the middel of Summer at some point. Maybe. Or maybe not...

In any case, rain or shine, I am in the mood for some fun Summer cooking! Quick, simple, tasty and simply good food! Like these little pastries, which are perfect as appetizers, picnic fare, little snacks or even as a light lunch- you really can't go far wrong with them!

All you need to do is to simply cut your pre-made puff-pastry into squares of about 5x5" - make sure to use a very sharp knife- this does make a difference! A clean cut, rather than a cut that squashes the pastry down, will slice through the many layers that go to make puff-pastry, rather than to seal them- thus allowing the air that begins to expand as the pastry heats up, to escape and for all of those layers to lift and separate and for the pastry to rise.

Making sure to leave a border of at least 1" around the outside edge, spread the pastry with ricotta cheese, which needs to be seasoned with a little salt and pepper, as well a a squeeze of lemon juice and a drop of olive oil. Stir well and spread generously.

Now add finely sliced fennel, a little ham of your choice- this was again Bresaola, and thinly sliced fresh fig. Pop them into a pre-heated oven at 400° F for 10 minutes and then take them out and give then a light drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of coarsely-ground black pepper. Give them another 5 minutes and they should be lovely, golden-brown and lightly caramelized...and almost ready to enjoy... but not quite! 

The finishing touch is a sprinkle of fresh thyme and some of the fennel greens... Now you are ready! And now you WILL enjoy! I am pretty sure of it- because I certainly did!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rapunzel Reloaded!

Involtini di Asparagi, Prosciutto e Capelli d'Angeli, con Pomodorini e Timo
Angel Hair-Wrapped Asparagus with  Ham, Tomatoes & Thyme

Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince, who begged for a young damsel to let down her golden locks so that he could climb up to the heights of the tower she was imprisoned in...

Well, I can hardly be described as handsome, so what I said to myself this evening was, "Girlfriend, get yourself a haircut and fix me my supper!" And with a handful of super-thin angel hair spaghetti, I wrapped up my supper of asparagus and ham and transformed it into something quite wonderful...

This is, rather unsurprisingly if you are familiar with my recipes, much easier to make as you might imagine at first glimpse... which I am sure you will be pleased to know! It was actually finished and ready to serve, piping hot, in just half an hour... not bad, eh? You couldn't get yourself a pizza delivered in that time!

First things first... the asparagus needs to be peeled and trimmed, then boiled for 5-6 minutes. Take out the asparagus and replace it with the spaghetti... they are so fine they will only take 2 minutes to cook... and in the meantime, rinse the asparagus under the cold tap to cool it off and to prevent it from overcooking.

Add a little saffron to the spaghettini, along with a little butter, nutmeg and olive oil, stir well and then drain and set to one side to cool.

I used the same saucepan and sautéed some halved cherry tomatoes in it, in a little olive oil, with crushed garlic, salt, pepper and sugar, for just 1-2 minutes... and then went about assembling my dish, ready for the oven!

I rolled the asparagus stalks up in ham- my choice was a lean, beef Bresaola, but you could use whichever kind of ham you prefer. Next, I took small amounts of the spaghetti and lifted it up into long, straight lengths... it made me feel as if I was working in a hair salon and I kept wishing for a comb! So, yes, it is a little tricky, but if you just use small amounts it is quite doable... as you can see!

Once wrapped, I placed the wrapped asparagus into my baking dish and then spread the half-cooked cherry tomatoes around the outside decoratively. Everything got one last trickle of olive oil and disappeared into a hot oven for 5 minutes, with an additional 3 minutes under the broiler. This will give you a crispy top to the spaghettini as a nice contrast to the juicy asparagus and the tangy tomatoes... delicious! I sprinkled the tomatoes generously with fresh thyme before serving, as well as a little parmesan (which I forgot at the time that I took the photos!). And there you have it... basically a very simple dish- but elegant and tasty and much less work than scaling the walls of some tower somewhere! And we all live happily ever after!