Archive for March, 2012

cornmeal crust

I remember that cornmeal was a real staple ingredient at least in my town of Duronia, while I was growing up quite a few years ago. It was used in so many different ways. From bread to desserts and everything in betweeen. Of all the dishes that were made with this yellow flour, polenta was of course the most popular.

My mom used to make this delicious vegetable soup and would always bake a crusty cornbread to go with it . The cornbread was broken in pieces by hand, like croutons, and sprinkled over the soup. When she was in a hurry she would make the cornbread very simply, adding nothing else but a little salt and pepper, but if she had more time she would add fresh ground pork which was stir fried with onions and garlic and then would add mountains of parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and basil.

I came across a similar recipe the other day and it brought back so many memories. I made it to accompany the best version of soup that I could remember from the old days.



1 1/2 cups (course grind) cornmeal
salt / pepper
4 cups onion, chopped (about 3 medium)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups water

1/2 lb ground pork (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350*

line bottom with parchment paper  (9 x 12-inch baking dish)

In a medium bowl combine the corn meal with 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir and set aside.

To caramelize the onions, heat a splash of olive oil in a large thick-bottomed skillet with a pinch or two of salt. Cook over high heat, stirring and scraping the pan occasionally – more often as the onions begin to get increasingly brown. Continue cooking until the onions collapse and turn deep brown in color. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the water and cornmeal mixture, bring back up to a boil and stir until it is thicker than a heavy frosting – about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and 2/3 of the onions. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it to an even thickness, and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bottom is golden and the cornmeal begins to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Serve topped with the remaining onions (and more grated cheese if you like).

If you decide to add the ground pork, stir fry it with half the onions and add it to the cornmeal at the same time as when you add the cheese.


cornmeal pizza crust


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basic polenta

This basic recipe for polenta will serve you well. Once you’ve mastered this easy step, the sky is the limit to the different ingredients you can add. Although water is the classical choice to cook polenta,  you can also cook the polenta in broth, milk or cream. It all depends on what the final application of your polenta will be.

The basic ratio for polenta is 4 parts liquid to 1 part polenta.



8 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups polenta (cornmeal)


Pour the cornmeal and 2 cups of the cold water into a large bowl
Whisk it so there are no lumps
Pour the remaining 6 cups of water and the salt into a pot, and bring to a boil
Gradually stir in the polenta and cold water mixture
Let the polenta and water simmer gently
Stir frequently, so there’s no sticking
It will take about 30 minutes until it’s very thick

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vegetable croquettes

Whenever I roast vegetables as a side dish for meat and rice I always prepare a little more to make croquettes. I don’t fry them, so it’s not too much work. They keep really well in the fridge and are excellent for freezing.



prepare roasted vegetables



butternut squash


swet potatoes

bell peppers

olive oil

parsley / basil / celery leaves / salt / pepper

Cut everything in bite size pieces for faster cooking


Heat oven to 350*

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Distribute mixed vegetables evenly on baking sheet

Roast for 15 minutes or until tender



prepare croquettes

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups mixed vegetables

1 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cut mozzarela cheese

3 eggs


Mix all ingredients in a big bowl  (mix by hand same way you make meatballs)

Shape the mixture into round patties

Place them in the pan and bake at 350* until top is golden and crispy


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roasted vegetable omelet

You really don’t need a recipe to make omelets. They are fun to make because you can use any ingredient you have on hand and spice it up as much or as little as you like. Also you can eat them  for breakfast as well as lunch or supper.

For this omelet I used the remainder of the rice mixture I used for the croquettes, added 2 more eggs and a little parmesan and cooked everything in a skillet. No need to turn the omelet over if your skillet can be transferred to the oven to finish cooking.



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chickpeas and onions

I remember when my mother would go grocery shopping, you would never find cans of food in her cart. She would always buy a bag of either dried beans, peas, chickpeas…etc. Cooking the beans from scratch was the thing to do. I do the same now, but I should confess that I used to buy cans thinking that there is no difference.

The taste is better but the real difference is that cooking dried legumes is so easy that after doing it once, you become a convert. The trick is to soak them overnight and cook them at a low simmer or in a crockpot at the low setting with lots of water. Soaking the beans cuts the cooking time considerably, so this  step is necessary. When I cook the beans I always cook more than I need and freeze the rest in individual portions  to be used at a later date.



2 onion (chopped)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

1 tbsp olive oil

parsley / pepper flakes / oregano

salt / pepper  (to taste)


In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic

Cook until onions are tender

Add the chickpeas, parsley,  pepper flakes / oregano / paprika

Cook until well coated, stirring occasionally

Serve as a side dish or add to pasta, rice, quinoa or bulgur


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sponge cake

You can always count on this recipe to come out very close to perfect. It’s all about the eggs. Make sure they are fresh and at room temperature.

Our family has been making this cake forever. For birthdays, anniversaries, graduations…etc.  Layered with either homemade custard, ice cream, whip cream, fruits … etc. Starting with a good basic sponge cake is key to making not only a good looking cake but also a delicious one.

For this recipe I usually use a 12″ round pan, but you can use any shape you like.



cake pan 12″ diameter

10 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of olive oil (veg. oil or if you prefer butter)

2 tsp of limoncello liquor (any liquor or vanilla)

rind of one lemon

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

pinch of nutmeg


Preheat oven 350*

Line baking pan with parchment paper

Prepare dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a fork

Mix eggs with sugar on high speed until eggs are light and fluffy

Lower mixer to middle speed

Slowly add oil, vanilla and lemon rind

Gradually add flour mixture and mix just until blended

Do not over mix

Pour batter into pan and bake for 40-50 minutes 

Test with toothpick, if not done bake longer


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If you need to cook something fast, all you need is a few vegetables and a package of pasta and you can have a delicious meal in less than 30 minutes. I added peppers and cherry tomatoes to this stir fry but if you don’t have these ingredients, go ahead and use whatever you have in your fridge. Once everything is cut up and added to the onions, it will all look fabulous.



2 tbsp of olive oil

one big onion

minced garlic

2 bell peppers (yellow and red if possible)

10-15 cherry tomatoes cut in half

2-3 cups arugula

bunch of parsley

handful of basil leaves

a few celery leaves

salt and pepper to taste

chop everything the size you like

parmesan cheese (for individual use at table)

For pasta

big pot of boiling water


a package of rigatoni (usually 500 gr)


Heat oil in a wok or large skillet, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the peppers and  cherry tomatoes and cook until tender

Add the arugula and stir until wilted

salt and pepper to taste

Remove from heat

Add all the herbs and stir until well blended.

For pasta

Bring pot of water to boiling point and add salt to taste

Add rigatoni and cook according to package instructions

Drain, reserving a cup of the water if needed

Mix rigatoni and stir fry until well blended add some water if too dry

Offer parmesan cheese for self serving


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pastry cream

pastry cream thickened with slices of lemon

Fast and delicious this pastry cream can be used for all your custard needs. To vary the flavor, coffee or chocolate may be added.



4 egg yolks

4 tbsp sugar

3-4 tbsp flour

2 cups lukewarm milk

(optional) 1-2 tsp liquor

lemon peel of whole lemon

1 tbsp butter or margarine


Beat the egg yolks with sugar for about 15 minutes
Add  the flour and stir in the lukewarm milk a little at a time
In a saucepan cook the cream with the lemon peel and butter, stirring constantly until it thickens, without letting it boil
When cream is set, discard lemon peel and continue stirring for another few minutes
To use immediately, transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature
Or store in refrigerator covered in plastic wrap. Good for up to 2 days 

cream ready for cooking


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roasted pineapple

This year is a great year for pineapples. The one I bought this week  was very sweet and juicy so I decided to try the recipe “roasted pineapple with honey and pistachios”  in this month’s issue of “bon appétit“.

I pretty much followed the recipe which is extremely easy. I placed the roasted pinepple on a slice of sponge cake and didn’t make the crème fraîche.



1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons honey

1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges

1/4 cup crème fraîche or yogurt

1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves


Preheat oven to 450*

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves. Add pineapple; toss to coat

Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes

Place pineapple, one flat side down, on prepared sheet; reserve marinade

Roast pineapple for 15 minutes

Turn, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes

Drizzle remaining marinade over; let cool slightly

Divide pineapple among plates

Spoon crème fraîche alongside

Garnish with nuts and mint


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