Sunday, April 9, 2017

Savory Taralli (Puglia Region, cookies)

These delicious Savory Taralli can be made up in a hurry. Who does not remember growing up with these cookies during Holiday time?  With a little practice, they can be ready in an hour.  A few simple ingredients is all you need. This recipe can be made in several ways.  The sweetened version is the most common here in the States, typically made during holiday time.  
 Had lots of fun this past month with Mom around.  She hadn't made these in so many years.  Her mother made these typically around Easter time, so we did too.  Thank you to the Academia Barilla cooking School in Parma, Italy  for their video recipe and
reminding us all that Traditions are a very important part of today's kitchen and should remain that way. 
Here is my variation. 
I used the food Processor.   Traditionally made by hand and still made my hand today.  So don't worry if you don't have a food processor.  Will take some extra kneading.

Recipe:  Makes about 2 dozen or so
16 oz of unbleached flour
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of dried fennel (one teaspoon per cup of flour)
(Optional teaspoon of black pepper)
In the food processor or standing mixer, combine all the above ingredients.   Mix for a few minutes until your dough begins to come together.   There will be crumbs.  Place onto a board  or counter and combine into a ball.   Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest approximately 15 mintues to 20 minutes.
Line 2 baking pans with Parchment paper.  (A kitchen towel will not work well as lint may be an issue while your taralli are draining).
Cut a small piece of dough off and roll out.  It will be oily some.  Do not worry.  You need it pliable and workable.  If it's to dry, add some warm water to your hands.  You can roll out between your hands if that works.  Working quickly, roll out your Taralli in a a tubular fashion.   Then wrap in a circle and tuck the ends under and pinch.

In the meantime, put a pasta pot of Water to boil.  Add a tablespoon of salt to the water.  When the water comes to a hard boil, carefully drop your Taralli into the water for a few minutes.  This cooking method, plumps up your Taralli and helps to give them that beautiful shine when they are done, as they will dry out in the oven.

After a few minutes, they will rise to the top.   Carefully remove to a parchment lined baking sheet.   Transfer them again to a dry Parchment lined baking sheet.  You don't want to use a towel as you don't want lint all over your Taralli.  Don't drain them in a colander as they might stick together.  This is the safest way to do it. 
Preheat your oven to 365 degrees bake.  If you are using convection, plese lower your oven accordingly.   Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Don't worry if they are not all exactly the same size.  They will still require the same cooking time.

They will be a light golden brown.  Your kitchen will smell like fennel, an added bonus.  Buon Appetito!
They won't last!!!   Serve before dinner or as a snack.   Traditionally, these savory treats were dipped in a glass of wine and eaten.   Buon Appetito!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pasta con Le Vongole (Pasta with white clam sauce)


This is my favorite Italian recipe.  I don't know why its always the first thing I order upon my arrival in Italy.   I normally do not make this dish here in Mississippi as fresh clams are not available.    Recently, frozen clams from Goose Point, WA, showed up in the freezer section of our local supermarket.   I must admit, I was temporarily intrigued.  The skeptic that I am walked on by.   While I was standing in the check out line,  I realized that I just had to give them a try.   To my surpirse,  they were delicious.  Fresh and fragrant, I couldn't believe something so delicious came out of a freezer.   They are flash frozen when caught.   The incredible flavor reminded me of sitting at one of my favorite Trattoria's in Rome, Italy enjoying this dish.   Hard to believe here in Tupelo, MS,  this comes in a close second!

Ingredients for 6 people
2 packages baby clams ( goose point, little necks etc.),   (Butter discarded from package), approx. 2 pounds, Rinsed with some fresh water.  Pat dry with some paper towels and leave to drain in sink
4-5 cloves of garlic minced (Fresh, please do not use the jar variety)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup minced parsley plus scant handful for garnish
salt and pepper to taste.
Additional 2 tablespoons salt for your pasta water
1 pound spaghetti or linguine cooked just before al dente ( About 7 minutes)

Into a skillet, large enough to fit your pasta, warm your olive oil.  It should be almost hot to touch.   Carefully saute your garlic until fragrant.   Add your clams, quick saute.   Add 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper to taste.  Keep cooking for 5-7 minutes on medium-high.   At this point, lower your heat some, add your white wine.   Raise your heat back up to medium-high and let reduce by half.     Set aside. In the meantime put your water to boil.  Cook your spaghetti or linguine until just before al dente.   Drain  and place in your skillet and raise the heat again.  Your liquid remaining in your pan from your clams will help continue to cook your pasta along and  give it fantastic flavor.  Garnish with parsley  and serve.  Garnish your plates with additional Parsley and additional olive oil.

*Please note:  If you find these clams in your local freezer they are almost always pre-cooked.   Your clams will look partially opened.  They will continue to open while you are cooking this dish.   If you are using fresh,  which is ideal for this dish, place your lid on your pan immediately and let steam open your clams.  The clam shells will extract additional liquid while cooking.     After about 3-5 minutes, remove your lid,   Add your wine and continue to reduce.  Remove some of your empty  clam shells and  Add 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper to taste).   Keep reducing.  Follow directions above for serving.   Discard any un-opened clams~ Buon Appetito