Category Archives: Vegetables, Wild greens and Salads

MORE AUTUMN PRODUCE… lemons and quinces, wild mushrooms and homemade pasta

The old autumn favourites are back.

I have bought Cime di rapa, sautéed them with Italian pork sausages (chilli flavoured) and ate them with orecchiette and grated, strong, pecorino cheese.

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There were artichokes, fennel and even chicory for sale, and because of the colder weather the heads of red Radicchio seemed firmer than two weeks ago.

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This week one friend dropped off a bag of  fresh lemons from her father’s tree. A generous amount. and a welcome gesture.

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I had a couple of quinces left over from last week and I added  slices of four large lemons when I baked them.  Yet again, I baked the quinces with different flavours. Honey as the sweetener and Tuaca from Livorno –  this is a sweetish, golden brown liqueur, and the ingredients include brandy, citrus essences, vanilla, and other secret spices – probably ordinary simple cinnamon and nutmeg .

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I included quite a few black peppercorns, cinnamon quills and star anise in the mix.

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The lemons turn out like marmalade, only crispy at the edges…I like the texture and intense taste.

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I also added a dash of Vanilla and some water. It is not necessary to use ample amounts of alcohol unless you want to, but probably if you did, the taste would be superb.

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Another surprise, another gift from different friends who live in Red Hill. On their morning walk they collected some saffron coloured, pine mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus), also called  saffron milk caps and red pine mushrooms. He who works in the city on occasions let me know that he had some for me. The small mushrooms look fabulous left whole and perfect for showing off and the bigger ones get sliced… they are very meaty.

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Holly,  the Cocker Spaniel loves  any opportunity to have her photo taken. She is like Photographer William Wegman’s photographic,  Weimaraner dogs.

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I cooked the mushrooms with garlic, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and nepitella and a dash of white wine.

The mushrooms made a flavourful pasta sauce and went well with the home made egg tagliatelle.

Making pasta is easy – 100g of flour per egg. I use hard flour (durum wheat, high protein, the same as I use for making bread).

I used 300g of flour and 3 eggs and this fed two of us with a small bit left over for a snack the next day.

Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, crack the eggs into it, add a bit of salt and stir the eggs with a fork.

Use your fingers to mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined.

Knead to make one smooth lump of dough.

You can also make your dough in a food processor –  put everything in, mix with the paddle attachment until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then remove the attachment and use your hands and bring the dough together into one lump.

I then divide the large ball into 3 smaller lumps, wrap them in film and put it in the fridge to rest for about 1 hour or so. The approx. 100g quantities balls makes it easier when you roll out the pasta or feed the pasta through the rolling machine. Flattern the ball before you feed it through, do this several times before you use the tagliatelle cutting section of the pasta machine.

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During the week I also made some pasta made with rye flour and with a rolling pin flattened each ball between two pieces of  baking paper. Cut into strips.

Very simple.

Mushrooms and home made Pasta:

WILD MUSHROOMS, I have been foraging again

PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS – Pasta ai funghi

WILD MUSHROOMS – Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth

GNUCCHITEDDI (Making small gnocchi shapes using my great grandmother’s device)

Pasta with cime di rapa (rape is plural):

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE VEGETABLES – Cime di Rape

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

CIME DI RAPE (A winter green)

About Nepitella:

STUFFED BAKED MUSHROOMS with Nepitella

Quinces:

AUTUMN FRUIT and baked quinces

A Tale about QUINCES

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A WET PASTA DISH WITH KOHLRABI

Kohlrabi, can be green or purple. it is a root vegetable with dark green leaves that shoot out from the top. All parts of the kohlrabi can be eaten, both raw and cooked.

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In Ragusa where my father’s family is from, they make a wet pasta dish. In the days when fresh pasta was made at home and when my elderly aunt was still alive they use to make a short pasta shape called causineddi. The younger members of the family sometimes make this pasta  on special occasions.

I bought two kohlrabi recently and ate the green leaves braised and mixed with kale . I later regretted this because when I decided to make the wet pasta dish I had to substitute kale for the green component.

The “real” recipe is in a much earlier post: KOHLRABI with pasta (Causunnedda )

I used chifferi rigati (shape) as the pasta.

Under the circumstances may be forgiven for substituting kale or cavolo nero for the green kohlrabi leaves , however I also used a strong chicken stock instead of the pork rind  for flavouring ….I cannot therefore call this a Sicilian traditional recipe.

The drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil  as the finishing touch makes this dish very fragrant and tasty.

SPRING IN TUSCANY

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Boar (cinghiale) is king in Tuscany.

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Cinghiale smallgoods.

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But there are many other old favourites.

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I am staying in Castiglione della Pescaia in the Maremma, Southern Tuscany and a couple of days ago and for the first time, there was sunshine and some evidence of Spring.

Unfortunately today it is raining again and my friends and I are doubly saddened by the weather and because of the devastating results of the Australian elections.

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Alici

The wild mint.


9A4A047C-460B-4806-A1F2-1DFA8BA72610 However, we have enjoyed 6 days in Tuscany so far.

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There are also old favourites. The ricotta and the cheese are made with a black coloured sheep specific to the Maremma region.

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MELANZANE – eggplants – A FUNGHETTO or TRIFOLATE

Sometimes, some recipes are just so simple that I do not bother writing about them, but then I buy a new cookbook and notice that simple recipes are what we like and want…and besides, not everybody grew up in an Italian household and they may not be familiar with this style of cooking.

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One simple way of cooking some vegetables, for example eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms is a funghetto in bianco or trifolate.

A funghetto, translates as mushroom, i.e. in the style or method of how you would cook mushrooms – simply sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley.

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In bianco translates as in white, i.e. without tomatoes. Photo above is of king mushrooms cooked a funghetto.

This style of cooking is a common way to cook either of these three vegetables throughout Italy, but it is typical of the Veneto. I grew up in Trieste, so I identify with this style of cooking very much.

Once again, I will write this recipe as an Italian – no measurements. The recipe is so simple, and the photos tell the story so who needs measurements!

C8EC1013-26A8-4459-9BCD-E8C05CD26471eggplants/aubergines, cut into cubes

extra virgin olive oil, 

cloves of garlic, chopped (to taste)

chopped parsley

pepper and salt

extra virgin olive oil

Use gentle to medium heat throughout the cooking – the ingredients are not fried, they are sautéed till softened.

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Heat a splash of oil in a frypan (I like to use a frypan with a heavy base). Add the garlic and stir it around for a very short time so that it begins to soften.

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Add the eggplants and stir often until they have softened and have coloured. Add pepper and salt.

Add the chopped parsley and keep on stirring through for about 30 seconds…and I hate to say it…until it has softened.

Eat hot or cold – fabulous as a starter, side dish….as a dressing for pasta?

 

 

 

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

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I am writing this post for a friend to demonstrate that making caponata is not difficult and I have therefore included many photos.

In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking I have written a whole chapter about making various caponate (plural). This one is Catanese, as made in Catania, and the main ingredients are eggplants and peppers, but there are other caponate where the main ingredients are either eggplants or pumpkin or potato or celery (called Christmas caponata). I have also made a fennel caponata.

All caponate need to be made at least one day before to let the flavours develop. Caponate are eaten at room temperature.

Caponata Catanese is made with eggplants, peppers, celery, onions, chopped green olives and capers.  A little sugar, vinegar and a splash of passata are used to make the agro- dolce sauce. Toasted pine nuts (or almonds) and fresh basil make good decoration and add extra taste. Caponata Palermitana, from Palermo, does not include peppers. I used roughly 1 kilo of eggplants and 1 kilo of peppers, 3 sticks of celery (pale green from near  the centre), 1 onion. I used about 125g of capers and about the same amounts of chopped green olives. A true Sicilian making caponata would never weigh ingredients and may at times use more eggplants than peppers; these are rough amounts as a guide to illustrate ratios of ingredients. Always use extra virgin olive oil and as much as needed to prevent the ingredients sticking; access oil can always be drained off but bread makes a fine accompaniment to all caponate and the oil is particularly flavourful.

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Each vegetable is fried separately but I usually combine the celery and the onion at the same time. the vegetables have different rates of cooking and you want to preserve the individual flavours as much as possible.

A frypan with a heavy base is good to use. I am making large quantities this time to take to a gathering so I am using my heavy wok (Le Creuset).

Fry the eggplants in some extra olive oil and add a little salt. Drain the eggplant in a colander with a container underneath to collect any oil. In the same pan add some new oil and the oil that you have drained from the eggplants. Fy the peppers and add a little salt. Drain them as you did the eggplants, collect the oil and add this to some new oil in the same pan.

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Fry the celery and the onion.

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When they have softened but the celery still has some crunch add the  green olives and capers. Salt may not be necessary for this component of the dish.

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Make a small depression in the centre of the vegetables and add about a flat tablespoon of sugar – this varies, some add more, some add less. Melt the sugar (caramelise it) and then add about 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar. Evaporate on high heat.

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Add a splash of passata. Mix through the ingredients in the pan and cook it for a few minutes.

Incorporate all of the ingredients .

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The caponata is now cooked. It needs to be placed in the fridge in a sealed container till you are ready to eat it and it will not suffer if it is made 3-4 days beforehand.

Decorate it with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves when you are ready to present it.

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There are other recipes on my blog for caponate made with different vegetables.

PUMPKIN – Zucca (gialla) – and two Sicilian ways to cook it

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

SICILIAN CAPONATA DI MELANZANE as made in Palermo (Eggplant caponata and Eggplant caponata with chocolate)

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA – two days before Christmas

FENNEL CAPONATA (Sicilian sweet and sour method for preparing certain vegetables).

CAPONATA SICILIANA (CATANESE – Caponata as made in Catania)

PUMPKIN – Zucca (gialla) – and two Sicilian ways to cook it

A zucca in Italian can be an overgrown zucchino (singular) or a marrow, therefore to differentiate a pumpkin from a marrow a pumpkin is called a zucca gialla (yellow).

Not all Sicilian caponate are made with eggplants. For example there are celery, fennel, potato caponate and pumpkin can also be used as the main ingredient (Caponata di zucca gialla).

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The principle for making any caponata is the same: onion, celery, X ingredient (eggplant or eggplant and peppers, fennel, potato etc.), capers, green olives, sometimes a splash of tomato puree, toasted pine nuts, or almonds and agrodolce –  caramelised sugar and vinegar.

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The ingredients a fried separately. Pumpkin first – sauté and then set aside.

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Sauté onion and celery. Add olives and capers.

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Add sugar, then vinegar and salt to taste. Add the fried pumpkin and toasted almonds (or pine nuts). Let rest overnight or for at least half a day.

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The other popular Sicilian way to cook pumpkin is also in an agrodolce sauce.

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For this recipe, slices of pumpkin are also fried. I bake mine and it is not the traditional way of cooking it. The recipe book you can see in the background  of the photo below is Sicilian Seafood Cooking – now out of print.

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The recipe is called Fegato con sette cannoli. To see the recipe and find out why this recipe is called Liver with seven reeds: 

Sicilian Pumpkin with vinegar, mint, sugar and cinnamon 

Use the search button to find other recipes for making a caponata on my blog.

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PASTA CON LE SARDE, Iconic Sicilian made easy

An important ingredient for making Pasta con le sarde is wild fennel. The season for wild fennel has well and truly passed and all you will find at this time of year are stalky plants, yellow flowers/ seed pods and no green fronds.

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What we call Florentine fennel is also going out of season and you will find  for sale specimens with very small stunted bulbs. If you are lucky, your greengrocer may sell them with long stalks and fronds attached – perfect to use as a substitute for wild fennel and I certainly would not go near these stunted specimens otherwise.

Sardine fillets are easy to find. I use the paper that my fishmonger has wrapped the sardines to wipe dry the fish.

Remove the small dorsal spine from the fillets. Once again the paper comes in handy to wipe fishy fingers.

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Prepare the ingredients:

Sardine fillets, chopped spring onions, the softer green fonds of the fennel, saffron soaking in a little water, currants soaking in a little water, fennel bulb cut finely, toasted pine nuts and chopped toasted almonds, salt and ground black pepper (or ground chili).

The preferred pasta shape are bucatini, but spaghetti or casarecce are good also.

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You will also need some breadcrumbs (made from good quality day- old bread) toasted in a pan with a little oil. Add a bit of sugar, some cinnamon and grated lemon peel. toss it around in the pan so that the sugar melts and the flavours are mixed. This is the topping for the pasta. I have seen this referred to as pan grattato – this would not be my preferred tag – in Italian pan grattato is the term for plain breadcrumbs, but I accept that over time the terminology has evolved. The traditional Sicilian breadcrumb topping would not have had/ does not have the cinnamon or grated lemon peel.

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The larger fennel fronds and stalks are used to flavour the water for the cooking of the pasta. Place them into salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes – you can leave the fennel in water as long as you like. The greenery  can easily be fished out with tongs before the pasta goes into the boiling water to cook.

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And  then it is a very simple matter of cooking the ingredients.

Sauté  the spring onion in some extra virgin olive oil.  Add the fennel and chopped fronds and sauté them some more.

Depending on the quality of the fennel (degree of succulence) you may need to add a splash of water or white wine, cover it and continue to cook it for a few minutes more.

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Add salt and pepper and put the sautéed vegetables aside.

Cook the pasta.

Fry the sardines in a little extra virgin olive oil  – they will cook very quickly and begin to break up. Combine the sardines with the cooked fennel, add saffron and  drained currants and mix to amalgamate the flavours. Add the almonds and pine nuts.

Dress the cooked pasta with the sardine sauce.

Put the dressed pasta in a serving platter and sprinkle liberally with the toasted breadcrumbs  – these add flavour and crunch to the dish.

For a more conventional Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde:

PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

PASTA WITH BREADCRUMBS, anchovies and fennel (Pasta cca muddica)

PASTA CON FINOCCHIO (Pasta and fennel – preferably wild)

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

Citrus fruit is grown extensively in Sicily and citrus groves are found throughout the island region.  Apart from different types of oranges (including the blood oranges) there are mandarins, tangerines, lemons, cedri (citrons) and limette (Sicilian limes).

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Market in Syracuse

Sicily is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of citrus especially of lemons; the climate fosters a long, growing season and the harvesting of different varieties of lemons over three distinct periods in the year.

Lemons are extensively used in Sicilian cuisine – fresh lemon juice and the rind (or grated zest) are added to savoury or sweet dishes to balance and enhance flavours and even the leaves are often used in between pieces of meat or fish to add flavour.

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Lemon juice is often used in marinates and to avoid discolouration of fresh fruit and vegetables (for example in fruit salads or when cleaning artichokes).

Lemons are used profusely for making drinks, liqueurs, essences, jams and marmalades. Candied or preserved peel is used significantly in Sicilian pastries and confectionary (for example in cassata and cannoli).

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Used also and mostly in Sicilian pastries is cedro (citron). This citrus fruit grows in Sicily ​​(and Calabria); the fruit is large and spherical with a thick wrinkled skin that turns from green to yellow during ripening. It has a strong fragrance and flavour, even stronger than lemons. The thick peel is candied and the fruit and peel is used to make a sweet paste also used in Sicilian patisserie.

Sicily benefits greatly from the production of lemons. Lemons have anti-bactericidal and antiseptic qualities; they are known for their therapeutic properties and are therefore beneficial in aromatherapy, pharmacology and medical and scientific applications. The essential oils are prominent in perfumes and the cosmetic industry. They are also widely used in cleaning products and citric acid (derived from lemons) is used extensively as a preservative.

The flowers and leaves are used for ornamental purposes. The white and pale violet blossoms have a strong and appealing scent and are often used in bride’s bouquets and  inserted in button holes in men’s jackets at weddings.

When Sicilians (and other southern Italians) came to Australia, one of the first thing they planted was a lemon tree. Many are grafted to produce different types of lemons or different citrus.

You may be familiar with making Sicilian orange salads (especially with blood oranges), but you may not have considered enjoying a Sicilian lemon salad. I particularly like serving a lemon salad as an accompaniment to grilled fish, especially sardines. Last time I made one I presented it to accompany a meat terrine made with pork.

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Large lemons, basket below

Lemon Salad

Use large, mature lemons – the  larger, the more pith, the better. Many of the large lemons are more round in shape.

You will be amazed by the sweetness of the lemon in the salad. The use of salt will make the lemons taste sweeter (just like balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of strawberries).

Peel the skin off the lemons with a potato peeler, leaving as much pith as possible.
Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out some of the juice (otherwise the salad will be too acidic).
Cut the lemons into quarters and then into slices or manageable chunks (slices cut into four).  Remove any pips.
Add finely chopped parsley or mint.
Dress with extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground pepper and salt.

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LEMON MARMALADE TO USE IN SICILIAN PASTRIES. Conserva/ Marmellata di Limone (o di Cedro)

 

A SAVOURY COEUR À LA CRÈME to accompany a summer fresh tomato salad or summer vegetables

It is summer and time to celebrate a good tomato.

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I like making tomato salads like my parents used to make – with tomatoes, celery, fresh onion, basil or oregano, salt and good extra virgin olive oil.

And as the mood takes me, I sometimes like to accompany a tomato salad with one of the following simple dairy trimmings, like: bocconcini or mozzarella,  treccia,  ricotta, straciatellaburrata or marinaded feta or a panna cotta made with feta or gorgonzola.

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Including the protein makes an excellent starter …..or as my parents did – eat a tomato salad with ricotta or bocconcini for lunch almost every day of summer.

I was in Gippsland yesterday and visited Bassine; they make a range of cheeses on the premises.

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I have been there before and have purchased various cheeses, but yesterday I came home with some quark and thought that would experiment and make a savoury coeur à la crème. 

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Coeur à la crème is usually served with berries but I thought that I could accompany my savoury coeur à la crème with a tomato salad. Alternatively roasted (or charred) peppers or  slow roasted baby tomatoes would also be great… or fried red peppers (peperonata) or lightly sautéed  zucchini and mint could be terrific…I could go on.

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You need muslin and a mold or container that allows drainage. I used a traditional ceramic, heart shape dish for making a coeur à la crème, but any container that is perforated with holes to drain off the excess moisture of the cheese or a colander can be used as an alternative.

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I used the following ingredients:

250 gm each quark, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 100g of marinaded feta, fresh thyme leaves ground pink peppercorns, 1 peeled clove of garlic, ½ cup pf milk, ½ cup good quality olive oil.

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In a small sauce pan warm the milk over low heat. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes and then strain out.

Combine cheeses and yogurt – you want the mixture fairly smooth so use a food processor or work it with a spoon.

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Add the thyme,  ground pink peppercorns and infused milk. 

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Line the mould with muslin (enough to cover the mold) and sprinkle with olive oil.

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Put cheese mixture into the mold, sprinkle with more olive oil and cover it with the left over muslin.

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Place the mold into a container or tray to catch the whey (liquid that drains away). Stand overnight in the fridge.

Carefully turn the mold out onto a serving plate.

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Serve with a tomato salad or anything thing else that catches your fancy.

Next time I make a ‘Coeur,’ I may try ricotta and herbs – no feta, no yogurt.

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Recipes of summer vegetables:

PEPERONATA – PIPIRONATA (Sicilian) Braised peppers

FRIED ZUCCHINI – ZUCCHINE FRITTE (Zucchini are called CUCUZZEDDI in Sicilian)

PUMARORU CA CIPUDDA (Tomatoes with onions). INSALATA DI POMODORO (Tomato salad)

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

ANTIPASTO – GRILLED SUMMER VEGETABLES AND A SCOOP OF SALADS

BURRATA, MOZARELLA, STRACCIATELLA

Coeur a la Crème made with Labneh

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CARCIOFI ALLA ROMANA

Carciofi alla romana are cooked upside down.

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Globe artichokes, if stuffed, are cooked upright.

I love globe artichokes and I usually stuff, braise them and eat them hot or cold. If peas or broad beans are in season, they too are added to the braise. A mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese is probably my most frequent stuffing, but at other times I have used minced meat, or added black olives and anchovies, or for a delicate stuffing I have used ricotta and almond meal. Each globe artichoke is likely to hold about ½ cup of stuffing and some of the larger artichokes hold more.

Once stuffed, the globe artichokes are placed upright and packed tightly into a pan and braised in white wine and/or stock. Extra virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient and it is used liberally.

Small artichokes are ideal to cook alla romana – as the Romans do.

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The artichokes (carciofi) that are available and that are still in season in Melbourne are these little, purple, spiny ones. The globe artichokes that were in season prior to these have nearly finished, but there are still some of the baby ones around – those that will never develop into full size (like tomatoes at the end of the season that never ripen). These baby artichokes (carciofini) are usually preserved under oil.

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For carciofi alla romana, use the smallest artichokes you can find, but the small, purple, spiny ones would be my preference. In this recipe, the artichokes are also stuffed, but lightly …about a teaspoon of stuffing for each.

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For the stuffing for the number of artichokes I had (9) I used 1 large clove of garlic, ½ cup fresh parsley finely chopped, ½ cup fresh mint finely chopped, salt and pepper and all mixed with a little extra, virgin olive oil.

Carciofi alla romana are also braised, but they are placed upside down and I use greater amounts of oil in the braising liquid – a mixture of water and a little white wine, but  the  aim is to have very little, concentrated and flavourful liquid at the end of cooking, and this will be mostly oil.

Clean and prepare the artichokes as you would the globe artichokes. Use acidulated water (1 lemon). Peel off the tough outer leaves until you get to the softer paler leaves. The stems of my artichokes were not worth peeling, but it they are peel the outer layer of the stem and as is usually the way with this recipe, keep the stems attached to the base if you can. Cut approximately 1/3 of the top of the artichoke to remove the spiny leaves. Using your fingers ease the leaves apart in the centre of each artichoke to form a space for the stuffing.

Mix the garlic, parsley, seasoning and mint together with 1 tablespoon of oil. Stuff the artichokes with this mixture.

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Place about 1 cm of olive oil in the bottom of a narrow pot and arrange the artichokes close together and side by side…. but upside down. Add a little white wine and enough water to reach about 1/3 from the top of the height of the artichoke. Add salt and pepper, cover and simmer over low heat until the artichokes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.

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Check them occasionally and if they are too dry add a little water if necessary in small amounts.

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When the artichokes are cooked, remove the lid, turn up the heat and evaporate the liquid until you have mainly oil.  Remove the artichokes from the pot, drizzle the liquid over them and serve them at room temperature.

There are a number of recipes on my blog about artichokes and accompanying  photos. Artichokes are not difficult to prepare and cook, and they are delicious. To find other recipes, use the search button on my blog and key in Artichokes.