Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trying to Get My Core Temperature Back Up with Creamy Artichoke Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

creamy artichoke soup with rosemary and prosciutto DSC_0011

Last week I was in Portland, OR attending the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference. It was fantastic. I was provoked, enlightened, and inspired. I was also cold.

Unlike San Diego's comfortable 65-75 degree temps, Portland's temps were in the 40's and 50's. Since the sun kept itself hidden, it actually felt like 30's to this perpetually icy-handed foodie.

I refused to bring a fleece. I'm from San Diego. We don't do fleece. So I brought my cute new spring coat and froze.

I also ate a lot of soup. When a group of us went to Portland's famous food carts, they noshed on bratwurst, grilled cheese, and Korean tacos. I ate soup.

When Jeff and I went to a microbrewery, he ordered the elk burger. I ate soup.

When we went to Voodoo Doughnuts with my dear friend TW of Culinary Types, I ate doughnuts. Voodoo doesn't sell soup.

Like Kramer from Seinfeld, who fell asleep in the broken, 58 degree hot tub, I can't get my core temperature back up.

So here I am back in sunny San Diego making soup.

Creamy Artichoke Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

This soup is made from the hearts only, the prized part of the artichoke. Once cooked, artichoke hearts are become satisfyingly creamy, making this a luxurious soup. The artichoke hearts' distinctive nutty, earthy flavor is enhanced by fragrant rosemary, tangy Meyer lemon, and rich extra virgin olive oil. I don't need to tell you to eat this with a hunk or two of crusty Italian bread.

1 lemon
4 globe artichokes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek (only the white bottom), thinly sliced
2 cups peeled, diced red potatoes
1 cup white mushroom, thinly sliced (10 minutes)
1/2 cup dry white wine (5 more min)
4 cups vegetable stock cover partially and cook 20-30 minutes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
a few shakes of sea salt
10 cranks of fresh black pepper (blend)
1/2 cup half 'n half or heavy cream (stir in and warm before serving)
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
salt and more black pepper to taste
2 ounces prosciutto

1. Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of 1 lemon. Cut off the stem and rough base of the artichoke and the top two-thirds of the leaves. Snap off the remaining outer leaves. Using a small spoon, scrape out the fuzzy choke. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the artichoke heart and place in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining 3 artichokes.

2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, warm olive oil and butter. Add the leek, potatoes, mushrooms, and artichoke slices (after draining and patting dry). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add white wine and allow to evaporate (about 5-7 minutes). Add the vegetable stock, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and stir until well combined. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Return it the pot; stir in the half and half (or cream), Meyer lemon juice, salt and pepper. Keep soup warm over a low heat.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium-size dry skillet over medium heat, add 2 ounces of sliced prosciutto. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, or until just crisp. Remove from heat, and slice into small pieces.

5. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Top with1/4 of the crispy prosciutto, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper and a bit of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Serve immediately.

Here are more springtime vegetable recipes you might enjoy from Food Blogga:
Italian Stuffed Artichokes (and why I was an artichoke diva)
Fave Bean and Dill Crostini
Apple, Fennel, and Celery Salad
Springtime Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas

Here are more artichoke soup recipes you might enjoy:
Artichoke Soup recipe from Simply Recipes
Artichoke and Mushroom Soup recipe from Israeli Kitchen
Simple and Healthy Swiss Chard Artichoke Soup recipe from Farm Girl Fare
Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Artichoke Soup recipe from Pinch My Salt

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Was an Artichoke Diva

Mom's stuffed artichoke

Growing up, my brother Paul was good at baseball, my brother Chris was good at math, and I was good at eating.

I don't mean I ate a lot (which I did). I mean I was a skilled eater. I could eat a big bowl of spaghetti without splashing my top with gravy. Every time. I could rearrange the components of a New England boiled dinner on my plate so that you would swear I had eaten virtually all of it, when in fact, I hadn't even touched it.

Some families would show off their kids at a violin or dance recital, my parents would invite people over to watch me eat an artichoke.

By age six, I was a virtuoso artichoke eater. It was a performance I had mastered like no other.

Whenever we had artichokes, I would be wiping the last drop of lemony juice from my lips, while all of the adults at the table were still hacking and picking at the outer leaves. Even my athletically gifted older brother was clueless when it came to the heart. Dumb jock.

Slicing an artichoke heart

I could scrape the meaty pulp off of each leaf with mechanical precision, losing not a bit of the nutritious flesh, and never getting a prickly fiber stuck in my teeth.

I became compelled to teach the artichoke-challenged. It was a rewarding yet frustrating few years for me.

I remember walking into the kitchen one Sunday afternoon, while a full audience waited in the dining room, only to discover my artichoke had been overcooked by my mom. I remember slamming pan covers and screaming, as I stomped around the kitchen, "Al dente! I said al dente!"

I was an artichoke diva.

My mother, unlike most stage mothers, remained calm and settled me down. I shook it off, took my place at the head of the table, and proceeded to give another flawless Sunday matinee performance.

big heart and globe artichokes
(The larger Big Heart artichoke and smaller Globe artichoke.)

Italian Stuffed Artichokes, Mom's Way
Makes 2 artichokes
Print recipe only here.

Before making this recipe, please read: Artichokes 101: How to Clean, Cook, and Eat an Artichoke. It has step-by-step photos. This recipe was originally published on this blog last spring. But it's so good that it's worth repeating.

There are many ways to enjoy artichokes, but none is as deliciously satisfying as Italian stuffed artichokes. Artichokes double in size when the leaves are stuffed with olive-oil soaked Italian bread, olives, pine nuts, cheese, and herbs. Keep in mind that you may need slightly more or less stuffing depending on the size of your artichokes and on the amount of stuffing you use in the leaves. Also, the larger the artichoke, the longer the cooking time. Stuffed artichokes are labor and time-intensive to make but are oh-so-worth-it.

2 globe artichokes, about 1 pound each
1 lemon, cut in half (for rubbing the artichoke)
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 loaf stale Italian bread, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Salt, to taste

For the cooking pot:
1 lemon, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. To make the stuffing, cut stale bread into a few thick slices and moisten with warm water, just enough to soften but not soak it. If it's too wet, then squeeze it dry with your hands. Tear the bread into small pieces (about 1/2 inch), and place in a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile place an artichoke on a cutting board and cut off the stem. Using a sharp knife, remove the fibrous outer part of the stem and discard. Cut the remaining center of the stem into long, thin strips, then dice. Saute in a small skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil until lightly browned. Add to the bowl of bread. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, chopped olives, crushed red pepper flakes, parsley, basil and cheese and mix well.

3. To toast the pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Shake the pan handle gently to ensure even toasting. Add to the bowl of bread and season generously with salt.

4. Mix the stuffing well with your hands, breaking up any large pieces of bread. If it seems too dry or crumbly, add a little more olive oil or water. If it's too moist, add a bit more bread. I usually taste it at this point and adjust the seasonings as necessary. (If making the stuffing ahead, then place in an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days).

5. To clean the artichokes, cut off about 1 inch from the top of the artichoke and discard. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim off the tips of the remaining leaves, until they are straight across. Rub the leaves all over with a lemon half.

6. Using your thumbs, gently separate the leaves (the fresher the artichoke, the tighter the leaves). Pull out the purple-tipped, pointy leaves from the center and several surrounding yellow leaves until you reach the fuzzy choke. Using a small spoon, scoop out the fuzzy choke until the cavity is smooth. Then squeeze some lemon juice inside the cavity to keep it from oxidizing, or turning brown. Repeat with second artichoke.

7. To stuff the artichokes, begin by placing 2 to 3 tablespoonfuls of stuffing into the cavity of each artichoke to prevent the leaves from closing up over it. Then using your hands, fill each leaf with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of stuffing, starting at the outermost leaves and working your way toward the center. Try not to overstuff the leaves early on, in case you run out of stuffing by the time you get to the second artichoke. You can always go back and add more.

8. To cook the artichokes, use a large, deep saucepan and fill it with 3 inches of water. Add a whole sliced lemon and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the water. Place stuffed artichokes in the pan close together so they remain upright. Drizzle each with one teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to a simmer, keeping the pan partially covered, and cook for 40 to 60 minutes, or until leaves are tender.

9. To check for doneness, try pulling a leaf from the artichoke, it should come out easily. Too much tugging means it needs to cook more. You can also insert a long, thin knife into the center of the artichoke; it should easily go through to the heart. Lift the knife straight out so you don't cut the heart. Transfer cooked artichokes to a large plate or shallow bowl and let cool for 5 minutes before eating. Artichokes can also be kept warm by loosely covering with foil and eating within 15 to 20 minutes.

You might also like these Italian family recipes from Food Blogga:
Italian Chicken and Escarole Soup
Potato, Rosemary, and Gorgonzola Pizza
Penne with Italian-American "Gravy," Meatballs, and Sausage
Italian Pignoli Cookies
Italian Pizzelle Cookies

You might also like these artichoke recipes:
Stuffed Artichokes recipe (with Italian breadcrumb filling) from Hedonia
Stuffed Artichokes recipe (with capers and pancetta) from A Veggie Venture
Artichokes Stuffed with Smoked Salmon recipe from Jersey Bites
Ricotta Stuffed Artichokes with Lemon-Herb Oil recipe from Proud Italian Cook

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Indonesian Carrot Soup Recipe From New England Soup Factory Cookbook

Indonesian carrot soup DSC_0013

Rhode Islanders are used to temperamental weather. Last week during a respite from the floods, my dad called to boast that it was in the '90s -- 92 degrees to be exact -- and the first time this year that he turned on the AC in the car. When my mom got on the phone a few minutes later she said they were expecting snow the next day. That's New England weather for you -- unpredictable.

Perhaps that's why New England is home to so many delicious, seasonal, soul-soothing soups. No matter what time of the year it is in New England soup always tastes just right. Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein prove this point deliciously in their New England Soup Factory Cookbook, which includes over 100 soup recipes. The recipes run the gamut from classics like lobster bisque to ethnic specialties like Tuscan Ribollita.

Thanks to our dear Rhode Island family friend, Jo-Ann, I am the proud owner of this wonderful cookbook which includes a stellar recipe for vegetarian Indonesian Carrot Soup made with creamy coconut milk, minced fresh ginger, and sherry.

With its velvety texture and mixture of sweet and spicy ingredients, such as honey and crushed red pepper flakes, it makes an ideal springtime soup that crosses the threshold from snow-covered streets to daffodil-lined sidewalks.

If you don't have your own Jo-Ann, then I recommend finding one soon. Sure, you'll receive thoughtful gifts like cookbooks, but more importantly, you'll have a true friend for all seasons, no matter how fickle the weather gets.

Indonesian carrot soup
Garnish soup with either fresh cilantro or lightly toasted shredded coconut.

Indonesian Carrot Soup from New England Soup Factory Cookbook
Makes 10-12 servings
Print recipe only here.

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled (I omitted)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I used closer to 2 tablespoons)
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery
3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons ground yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons ground corinader
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups vegetables stock
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup honey
2 cans (16 oz each) coconut milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (I used 4 tablespoons)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat a stockpot or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, ginger, onion, celery, and carrots. Saute for 10 minutes. Add the curry, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, stock, and sherry. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 35 minutes (I did it for about 20 minutes).

2. Remove from the heat and add the honey, coconut milk, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Puree the soup in the pot using a hand blender or working in batches with a regular blender until smooth. Add more honey if you like a sweeter soup.

Here are more springtime recipes you might enjoy from Food Blogga:
Baby Artichoke and Asparagus Risotto
Savory Sausage and Fennel Galette
Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry-Mango Salsa
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Citrus-Sage Glaze
Strawberry and Cardamom Crumb Cake

Here are more delicious carrot soup recipes you might enjoy:
White Carrot Soup recipe from Real Epicurean
Coriander Carrot Soup recipe from Soup Chick
Catch All Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup recipe from 80 Breakfasts
Carrot and Celery Root Soup recipe from The Nourishing Gourmet
Gingered Carrot and Pinto Bean Soup recipe from Lisa's Kitchen
Moroccan Chermoula and Carrot Soup recipe from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eat.Drink.Read. A Culinary Event to Support Literacy

If you can read this post, then you are fortunate enough to do something that nearly half a million adult San Diegans cannot do: read.

That's why renown local chefs have teamed up with the San Diego Council on Literacy to present a delicious fundraiser called “Eat. Drink. Read." that will be held on Wednesday, April 28th.  

Guests will wine and dine at Sushi Performance and Visual Art Center while socializing with featured guests, Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver, authors of Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World and chefs at The Marine Room. Drinks will be provided by Cafe Moto, and appetizers will come from popular San Diego restaurants including Urban Solace, Starlite, Suite and Tender, The Marine Room, Ono Sushi, and Cafe Sevilla. 

Eat. Drink. Read. will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28th with a silent auction from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 and include wine, beer and appetizers. All proceeds will go directly to the San Diego Council on Literacy by funding instructional books needed to train literacy tutors as well as providing children's books for low-income families. In the past year, the San Diego Council on Literacy has been able to serve more than 73,000 adults and children around San Diego County by offering partner literacy programs. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to  www.eatdrinkread.com.

I hope to see you on the 28th!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Recipe for Springtime Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas

farmers' market baby artichokes 0014

According to In Style, shades of gray, scarlet, and yellow are hot this spring. I, however, prefer green and purple, as in fresh English pea green and baby artichoke purple. Apparently, so do San Diego's farmers; our farmers' markets have some of the most stylish looking artichokes around -- ranging from petite purple baby artichokes to hefty, celery green Big Heart artichokes.

Despite their diminutive size, baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes with a full-bodied, earthy flavor. They simply don't grow as large as Globe or Big Heart artichokes because they're picked from the lower part of the artichoke plant. As a result, the characteristic fuzzy choke isn't all that fuzzy and can be eaten. Indeed, other than a few tough outer leaves, the entire artichoke is edible. (Learn more about baby artichokes here.)

Baby artichokes are delicious in many dishes ranging from risotto and pasta to salads and soups. Paired with Italian Farro or emmer, as in this Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas, baby artichokes are exceptionally stylish.

dry farro beans

Farro is a wonderfully chewy, nutty flavored whole grain that has been used for over 6,000 years. Although used extensively in Italy, where it has been enjoyed since ancient Roman times, farro has only recently gained popularity here in The States.

Farro isn't always easy to find in grocery stores. The best place to buy farro is at an Italian market or deli. Otherwise, try organic markets or online sources. Know that farro is expensive: a 15-20 ounce bag ranges from $6-10. Once you taste it, though, you'll understand why it's pricey. Cooked farro is a delicious cross between bulgur and wheat berries -- firm, chewy, nutty, and satisfying. If you can't find farro, then barley or spelt make good substitutes.

By the way, if any In Style editors are reading this, don't worry, I'll be donning scarlet shortly, as in rhubarb scarlet.

springtime farro with baby artichokes, mushrooms, and peas

Springtime Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup uncooked farro
8 baby artichokes, or 2 regular sized ones
The juice of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sliced white button or cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cannelini beans, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh or unthawed frozen peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons lightly toasted pistachio nuts
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Soak farro in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain. Place in medium pot, and cover with 3-4 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Lower to a rolling boiling, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Cooked farro should be firm and chewy but not hard. Drain any remaining water, and place in a bowl.

2. Meanwhile, fill a medium sized pot with water and the juice of 1 lemon (which prevents the artichokes from oxidizing, or turning brown), and bring to a boil. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves from the artichokes. Trim the tops and the bottoms, and slice into quarters. Boil for 3-4 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and plunge in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mushrooms and shallot, and saute 5-7 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add wine. Allow alcohol to burn off for about 5 minutes. Add the cooked farro, beans, broth, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir well, and cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, or just until peas begin to soften. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, cheese, and pistachios. Drizzle servings with extra virgin olive oil.

You might also enjoy these whole grains recipes from Food Blogga:
Farro and Grilled Vegetable Salad
Warm Bulgur Salad with Beets, Fennel, and Oranges
Mediterranean Wheatberry Salad with Lentils and Chickpeas

Here are more farro recipes you might enjoy:
Spring Farro Risotto recipe at Kitchen Sink Recipes
Spiced Farro with a Hint of Cheese recipe at Consumable Joy
Fruity Farro Salad with Lemon Chicken recipe at London Foodie in New York
Farro Salad with Asparagus, Red Bell Pepper, and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette recipe at Kalyn's Kitchen

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

10 Fun and Delicious Reasons Why You Should Visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for Wildflowers

wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  0048

It's that time of year again, when Southern Californians get themselves all in a tizzy over springtime wildflowers (or colorful weeds, as this New England native calls them).

The mecca of Southern California's wildflowers is Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California's largest state park and home to some of the most spectacular wildflowers around.

wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 0055

We recently took a road trip to Anza-Borrego to admire the wildflowers, and even I was impressed. So pack up your car and head over to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park soon before the flowers are gone. Go mid-week if you can to avoid the heavy weekend traffic.

Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:

1. On the drive to the desert valley, you'll pass idyllic pastures with scores of roaming cows, many of whom will moo personally for you.

mooing cows in Julian, CA

2. You'll spot flowering cacti so intensely colored that they look neon. You'll also take an absurd number of pictures as you roam through the desert collecting sand in your shoes.

flowering cactus in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  0009

3. Along the way, you'll stop to smell the flowers. And if you're (un)lucky like my mother-in-law, you'll have someone (like your son, Jeff) there to capture the moment with a picture of you, and a daughter-in-law (Susan), who will post it on her blog.

smelling the wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

4. You'll forget all about the picture when you spot a great, little roadside stand in the heart of the valley selling fresh fruit. You'll buy a box of plump, sweet, fresh Medjool dates, half of which will be eaten by the passengers in your car on the ride home.

buying Medjool dates in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

5. You'll buy enough citrus to feed a scurvy-stricken militia. (A 15-pound bag of freshly picked pink grapefruit is $4!)

fresh grapefruits and oranges

6. You'll stop in the quaint town of Julian, where you can roam historic buildings and do some antique shopping.

Old Town Julian, CA

7. You'll treat yourself to a piece 'o pie at the famous Julian Pie Company. Just be sure to call first, because the last thing you want to see after you've spent the entire day anticipating a big slab of warm Dutch apple pie with cinnamon ice cream is this sign:

Julian Pie Company in Julian, CA

8. You'll end the day by having your picture taken among a sea of yellow daffodils.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

9. When you get home with your 15 pounds of pink grapefruit, 10 pounds of navel oranges, 5 pounds of blood oranges, 3 pounds of lemons, and 1 pound of kumquats, you'll start searching for recipes online to use them all. Save yourself some time, and try these recipes featuring citrus:

Chili-Lime Fruit Salad
Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, optional)
Orange, Walnut, and Chocolate Chip Muffins
Glazed Meyer Lemon and Blueberry Cream Scones
Camembert and Kumquat Chutney Toasts
Wild Arugula and Blood Orange Salad with Prosciutto
Warm Bulgur Salad with Beets, Fennel, and Oranges
Tilapia with Zesty Blood Orange and Mango Salsa
Shrimp Tacos with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
Orange Delight Cookies
Italian Almond and Orange Torte with Blood Orange Compote

10. If you've got some soft or bruised oranges, don't discard them. Juice them and make a blood orange vodkatini or this lovely Italian Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary.

juicing blood oranges

The olive oil in this cake makes it exceptionally moist, while the rosemary and blood orange juice and zest add earthiness and tang. It makes a simple yet sophisticated mid-afternoon snack with a glass of wine and some fine cheese.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary
Yields 8-10 slices
Print recipe only here.

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
The zest of 2 small blood oranges
The juice of 1 small blood orange (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Coat an 8-9-inch loaf pan or 9-inch round pan with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in the olive oil and milk.

4. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until thoroughly blended. Gently mix in the rosemary, orange zest, orange juice, and black pepper.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15-20 minutes before removing the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

10 Minute Meal: Rigatoni with Pancetta, Chestnuts, and Marsala Wine

rigatoni with pancetta, chestnuts, and marsala wine DSC_0007

When it comes to flavoring Italian dishes, the usual suspects come to mind -- garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Yet, pancetta, an Italian unsmoked pork belly that is cured with salt and spices such as fennel, nutmeg, and pepper, may just trump them all.

This once humble cured meat, sometimes referred to as "Italian bacon," is currently di rigeur. Pancetta can be found in panini with buffalo mozzarella, in broth for mussels, in pastas, such as carbonara, in winter vegetable mashes, such as smashed potatoes, and on pizzas and flatbreads. Cooked pancetta, which lacks bacon's smokiness, infuses dishes with a sweet, spicy, and salty pork flavor.

Sliced pancetta for sandwiches is available at most major supermarkets. Many recipes, however, call for diced or chopped pancetta, which usually means a trip to an Italian deli is in order. (While you're there, you might as well pick up some sharp provolone and Sicilian olives.) Ask for the slab of pancetta to be cut about 1/4 - 1/3-inch thick. When at home, use a very sharp knife to cut it. You won't need to add oil to the skillet when you cook, as it will cook in its rendered fat, becoming irresistibly crisp and chewy.


This Rigatoni with Pancetta, Chestnuts, and Marsala Wine is an exceptionally easy yet sophisticated mid-week meal that will make you feel like you're dining in an Italian restaurant. The entire dish can be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta -- about 10 minutes. This recipe is all about balancing contrasting flavors so they create harmony: smoky chestnuts and spicy pancetta is tempered by sweet and smooth Marsala wine.

Rigatoni with Pancetta, Chestnuts, and Marsala Wine
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

1 pound rigatoni
8 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2/3 cup Marsala wine
8 ounces cooked chestnuts, quartered
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to directions, until al dente.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add pancetta. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Add shallot and cook 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add Marsala wine; cook for 2 minutes. Add chestnuts, herbs, and salt and pepper.

3. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss until well coated. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Garnish with additional fresh herbs, if desired.

You might also enjoy these pasta recipes from Food Blogga:
Sicilian Sardine and Broccoli Rabe Pasta
Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter
Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta (Made with Fontiago cheese.)

Here are more delicious pancetta recipes you might enjoy:
Goat Cheese with Pancetta recipe at Chez Us
Fennel Pancetta Pizza recipe at Stephen Cooks
Chicken, Pancetta, and Swiss Panini recipe at Panini Happy
Orecchiette with Broccoli and Pancetta recipe at Amateur Gourmet