Elizabetta’s was a nice respite from the rain…..we bid our usual ciaos and I announced my hope for the evening…..I wanted to make Ricotta Fritta (Fried Ricotta). I had found a recipe as I always do but SO look forward to Elizabetta’s spin. Today, she had a perplexed look and said ah yes….we make this in Tuscany…..but I don’t make too much…and then she went and grabbed a worn beautiful cookbook and began to explain how this chef is one of the best in Tuscany and he shops at her store every day…..and yes, he has the recipe…..
As I looked over her shoulder, she translated for me….and after we went through it all….she thought twice…I need to get a piece of paper….she looked everywhere on her desk and finally discovered a small tablet underneath some books…she tore a piece off and then went through the same routine with a pen. Now armed with pen and paper, we went back through it again. It was very different then the recipe I had found…
First you make the sauce…with flour, water, a bit of oil and two eggs. I noticed the recipe didn’t have any measurements…but how do I know how much flour? She looked at me in the eyes…perhaps with a bit of astonishment…she truly had a novice on her hands….ok….she said….you are making a sauce….you want it to look and feel like a sauce…that would cover the ricotta….that you could dip the ricotta in….so just do it that way….if it is too thick add more water….too thin add more flour….I must have looked a bit afraid as she then said…..ok about this much of flour….and held her thumb and finger apart so wide….and this much water…and opened them wider….and a splash of oil and the 2 eggas….I love the way she says eggs….eg gas. Ok…I can do this!
She then went on to tell me how to make the ricotta…take the ricotta…I give to you exact amount you need…and add two eggs…and 100 oz. of parmesan cheese….ut oh….how much is 100 oz. I asked…not much she said…and then proceeded to pick up a piece of parmesan and show me about how much. Mix it all together and finish it with salt.
Take a spoonful of the Ricotta mixture and dip it in the sauce…then place it in a pan with olive oil…don’t let them touch….and fry for a few minutes…should be brown on the outside and creamy ricotta in the middle. Serve them hot….
As I walked out of Elizabetta’s that day, I couldn’t help but have a new feel for cooking….she was teaching me the “feel”….I never knew it had a “feel”. Cooking is a lot of common sense…it can be a bit natural if you can cast the fear of failure aside….and I have failed….ask the girls about the ricotta and spinach canneloni I tried….we ended up having cornflakes for dinner…ha….but I have succeeded too…like the ricotta fritta…it was a HUGE success…the kids loved it….they loved that I was cooking and serving them right off the stove (of course I wasn’t sitting down)….and they talked about the look, texture and goodness…what it reminded them of….a food memory in our own kitchen! They begged me to stop as I believe the recipe was for a cocktail party for 20 but I fried down to the last drop….we pulled them out of the frig the next day for lunch…along with the sundried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil….and they were just as fabulous.
MY INGREDIENTS LIST AND DIRECTIONS ….. AND A LITTLE BIT OF RICOTTA FRITTA!
This is the best risotto I have ever made….it was so creamy and filled with natural flavors….
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot and add the garlic…cook slowly for about 15 minutes. Add the rice and turn up the heat. After about a minute, when the rice is translucent, add your first ladle of HOT stock and a good amount of sea salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Keeping adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and allowing the stock to absorb before adding another. Keep adding stock and then begin to taste the rice to see if it is ready. The rice should be soft with a slight bite. If it needs more sea salt along the way, don’t hesitate to add it.
Once ready, remove from heat and put in about 2 oz. of butter and 4 oz. of parmesan cheese. Stir well. Place a lid on it and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
The recipe called for a topping of pesto…but I forgot the pine nuts so I simply put the basil leaves in my mortar…with sea salt….and then mashed it for a few minutes….I added a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and mixed it together. I served the risotto with a spoonful of pesto on top….it was a hit!
I always thought that minestrone would be too much to attempt….way too many ingredients. But…after many requests….I decided to attempt it…..when I began to tell my grocer what I needed he immediately knew I was making zuppa….so he began to pick out my ingredients even before I could say and then added some that I didn’t know that I needed….so here is goes.
- 7 oz. fagioli beans
- 2 small red onions
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks for celery, chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/2 head of fennel, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- small bunch of fresh basil
- 2 400g cans of plum tomatoes
- 2 small zucchini, sliced
- 7 oz. spinach…washed and sliced
- 1 pint of broth…we use vegetable
- Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 oz. pasta
- Organic Grey Sea Salt
- St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Heat up a good amount of the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic and the finely sliced basil STALKS. Cook on low heat with the lid a jar for about 20 minutes until soft. Add the tomatores, zucchini and red wine and simmer gently for 15 minutes or so. Add the spinach, stock and beans. Add the pasta and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Let everyone add their own portion of parmesan cheese.
I was amazed at how easy this was and how delicious it turned out! I really didn’t measure much…just used common sense and all turned out well.
Another popular soup of Tuscany…. To serve 4 you’ll need:
* 6-8 ounces farro
* 3/4 pound ripe plum tomatoes (or canned tomatoes), chopped and seeded
* 2-3 ounces pancetta
* Grated pecorino toscano cheese, or Parmigiano (romano will be too sharp)
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 onion, finely sliced
* A small bunch parsley
* Some fresh basil
* A few sprigs thyme
* Epstein Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* Organic Grey Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
* 1 quart hot broth
Prepare the farro: Wash and pick out the impurities. Soak in water for 8 hours.
When the farro is ready, mince the pancetta and sauté it together with the thyme, onion, and garlic cloves…in the olive oil.
When this begins to brown, discard the garlic, and add the chopped tomatoes, parsley and basil. Cook for a few minutes and then stir in the hot broth.
Once this comes to a boil then add the farro. Cook over a low flame for 2 hours or until done…..taste it toward the end. Make sure you stir it often and check it throughout for the need for more seasoning. Let the zuppa sit for about an hour and serve it warm…..drizzle it with the Epstein Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then cover with the cheese.
Prepare the farro: wash it well and pick out any impurities. Soak it in water for at least 8 hours.
Boil the farro in salted water for 15 – 20 minutes and drain.
Put the farro in a bowl and cover with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes
Drizzle with the Epstein Extra Virgin Olive Oil….add a splash of our 6 year old Balsamic Vinegar….and finish with a pinch of our Grey Sea Salt.
I wasn’t planning on offering you this but I opened to a page in Jamie Oliver’s cookbook….”Jamie’s Italy”…and it came to his Farro recipe. Okay…I held off for 2 1/2 months but just had to purchase his Italian cookbook….at first I wouldn’t allow myself to buy a cookbook from a chap from London…while I had all the resources of Italian cooking at my fingertips….but I was weak yesterday….and I love J Oliver….and the colors and pictures in the book were so captivating….and then the recipe….I caved in. But….lucky you….it was because of this recipe that I’m going to introduce a product that until today was only available to our Club Members…..Organic Farro!
- 14 oz. Farro
- 3 yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise and deseeded
- 2 green zucchini, halved lengthwise and deseeded
- 2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and thickly sliced, herby tops reserved
- 1 red onion
- 2 red peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 2 eggplants, cut into chunks
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Sparkling Wine Vinegar
- St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Organic Grey Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Pepper
- A bunch of fresh herbs…flat leaf parsley, basil, mint, oregano
- A squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400F. Soak the farro in cold water for 20 minutes, then drain. Slice the zucchini across into chunky half-moons and put them into a large roasting tray. Add the remaining vegetables and the garlic cloves and toss together with a good dose of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Try to spread the vegetables into one layer, as they’ll roast better this way. Roast in a preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes, removing the trays and carefully shaking them now and then until the vegetables are cooked through and crisp around the edges. Sprinkle a little vinegar over the vegetables as soon as they come out of the oven and set aside to cool. When cool, tip on to a large chopping board, add the fresh herbs and chop finely.
Place the farro in a large saucepan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender, and drain well. Dress with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the lemon juice, season with sea salt and pepper, and toss with the roasted herby vegetables. Scatter over the reserved fennel tops and serve.
Can’t wait to try this soon…sounds amazing!!