Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nonna's Rappini!

Nonna's Rappini


One of my all-time favorite vegetables and a super vegetable packed with vitamins is rappini, or as they are referred to in the US broccoli rabe. These are Italian broccoli (although technically from the turnip family, I believe) that are very high in vitamins and nutrients.

Pre-sauteing (optional)
You can blanch them in salted boiling water first to cut the bitterness, but those who truly appreciate the plant love its bitterness. It is what gives it its unique flavor in my opinion.

Ingredients:
  • 2 stalks of broccoli cleaned ( you should discard the outer tougher leaves but the stems and stalks if cleaned can be used. Just remove the outer layer of the peel if using the stalks.)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves ( really as much as you like depending on your taste)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons of pure extra virgin olive oil
  • salt (to taste) but about a teaspoon
  • black pepper (to taste) about 1/2 teaspoon
  • cayenne pepper (to taste) about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 - 2 cups of water (depending upon how soft you like the vegetable)
Clean the rappine by removing the tougher stalks. The smaller stalks can be used but I found it best to remove the outer layer by peeling it off. Cut both the stalks and leaves in half, to bite sized pieces.

In a deep skillet, saute the garlic in the olive oil and then carefully place the rappini. Use caution in this step as the hot oil and wet rappini may splatter. Add 1 cup of water to the pan.

Cook over medium / high heat until the rappini have wilted. Continue to add water once it evaporates and lower the heat to medium. Cook the rappini until very tender or to the tenderness that you like. I like them very wet and very tender so I add additional water and cook them for about a half hour.

Serve with great crusty bread so you can enjoy the sauce and dip the bread into it. We call dipping the bread into the sauce of any great dish, "scarpetta". It translates to "little shoe" because you scoop up the great flavors that way.

Enjoy!




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's not easy being of a certain age and finding oneself looking for work so when Nora asked me to contribute to her blog I enthusiastically said "Yes!".  I knew this activity would help keep me sane and I loved the idea of passing on to others the recipes that were given to me by my family just before I got married. The recipes I am going to share with you were presented to me at my bridal shower over 30 years ago and are enjoyed still today by my family and friends.

The following is a recipe from my mum and an all time favorite with my family.
It is equally appreciated in both the Italian and Persian side of my family. I have made it for almost every special occasion with slight variations, here and there.

It is easy to prepare and quite forgiving to the novice. Enjoy!

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of butter (cut into small half inch pieces)
  • 1/8th teaspoon (pinch) of salt
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 5 large eggs
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees f.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine; water, butter and salt.
  3. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Add in the flour and cook stirring constantly until the mixture leaves the side of the pan, and forms a ball.
  5. Remove from heat and add 1 egg at a time and mix well after each egg until the dough is shiny and satiny. Should not take more than a minute or so.
  6. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, you can use a piping bag and form the dough that way.
  7. Bake 20-35 minutes until golden brown. If the center of the pastry is wet, you can slice the cream puffs in half and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Cream Puff Custard Filling

Ingredients:

  • 8 large egg yolks (if using the whole egg you may want to reduce the number of eggs)
  • 16 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 16 tablespoons of flour
  • 11 small glasses of milk
  • Skin of one lemon - peeled
Preparation:
  1. Beat the sugar with eggs, then add the flour. 
  2. Add the mixture to the milk with the piece of lemon. 
  3. Cook slowly until the mixture thickens. (should coat a wooden spoon)
  4. Remove from heat to cool. 
  5. Remove the lemon peel. 
  6. Cover the mixture with cellophane wrap to prevent a film on the custard.
You can also add some dark chocolate to the cream as an alternative to the lemon peel but only add the chocolate once the cream has thickened but still warm enough to melt the chocolate. Start with a small amount as it will change the custard's consistency, and then add to taste.

I also like to lighten the custard by folding in whipped cream to the custard once it is cooled. Makes a very light and delicious alternative to the custard.

Cut the puffs in half horizontally and fill each with the custard. Sprinkle icing sugar on top for some added elegance.

Presentation Options:

I've created the puffs in the form of a wreath for Christmas. I would decorate the wreath in the holiday colors using icing made with confectioners sugar and water, and colored with food coloring in the red and green for the holiday.