torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

for years i have been moulding risotto into various shapes, and serving slices of the resulting torta on buffets and summer party tables. i love to eat and serve risotto, and this allows us to enjoy it in a completely different, make-ahead kind of way.

these little rice babies are so adorable and perfect for a dinner party and especially for your vegetarian guests. if you know you’re having vegetarians over for dinner, make risotto a few nights before and do up some individuals. you can reheat them in just 20 minutes and serve a special dinner without any fuss.

feel free to experiment with vegetables too. rounds of roasted yellow and green courgettes or a fat slab of grilled eggplant would be divine in the bottom of the mould. and your risotto can change with the seasons as well.

torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

1 pint little tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 cups grated parmegiano reggiano
aged balsamic vinegar
white truffle oil

preheat oven to 450f. toss the little tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast on a parchment lined tray for 15-20 minutes, or until starting to colour and shrivel. set aside.

heat the water or stock to simmering. in a large pan, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil with half of the butter over medium heat. add the onion and garlic and cook stirring for 4 minutes. increase heat to high and add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper, stirring and cooking until mushrooms have released their water and have begun to colour, about 6 minutes. add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter. after drinking half the wine, re-measure, and pour it in the pan (you know you do this!) bring to a boil and stir until the liquid is almost gone. start adding hot water or stock to the pan, a couple of ladle-fuls at a time, stirring and cooking in typical risotto-making fashion. i taste throughout the process and stop adding water when the ice has some bite, and the rice is still rather soupy. it will thicken and cook further as it stands. add the cheese and remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. add a few drizzles of balsamic and some truffle oil. stir a few more times and then allow it to cool until the risotto has become less saucy and firmer. taste again and season as needed adding salt, pepper, or more truffle oil or balsamic or cheese.

line 6-8 single-serve vessels with plastic wrap and leave an overhang. i use ramekins, or stoneware timbale molds, or indian dahl bowls, whatever i have on hand. arrange the little tomatoes in the bottom, then spoon over the rice, right to the top. fold over the plastic, then chill until firm. overnight is best.

when ready to serve, preheat oven to 400f and line a baking pan with parchment. turn out the tortas and remove the plastic wrap. bake for 20 minutes, or until the little bambinis are hot and the bottom are sizzling and turning golden brown. serve hot with a nice salad, or some tomato sauce on the side.

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pretty pizza

pretty pizza

i make pizza about every other week using a techinque i’m happy with, dough that behaves itself and a simple sauce that tastes really good. pizza at my place is good fun, with everyone throwing on what they want. it’s delicious, but it ain’t exactly pretty.

i like the idea of a composed pizza. like a composed salad, you can taste each ingredient on its own. usually each piece winds up having 1 or 1 ingredients on it. the next piece is something completely different.

this antipasto pizza is topped with sundried and fresh tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, fresh basil, zucchini sliced on the mandoline, and some marinated mushrooms from a recipe i posted on the blog. cheese goes on the bottom to you can see the patterns and colours of the ingredients.

i didn’t take too much time arranging it all. i’d love to see someone go really nuts with this idea and make the world’s most beautiful pizza. the angelina jolie of pizza. today we’ll go with pretty, and that’ll do just fine.

pretty pizza

pretty pizza

make it pretty and compose your ingredients, or just throw them on there.

the starter for the dough needs to be made the night before, but if you want to be eating pizza in the evening, start in the morning and you’ll be fine.

olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
easy and flavourful pizza sauce (recipe follows)
rustic pizza dough (recipe follows)
toppings of your choice

easy and flavourful pizza sauce

1 can plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 400F. dump tomatoes into a 9″ glass baking dish and squish them with your hands. stir in the garlic and the basil. roast in the oven for 1 hour, or until tomato juice is reduced and thickened. place in food processor, and process until smooth. drizzle in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. makes 1 pint.

rustic pizza dough

makes enough for 4 12-inch pizzas. can be frozen after portioning. i’ve scaled it in grams for accuracy.

make the poolish (starter): in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 300g flour, 400mls of warm water, and 3g of instant yeast (about a teaspoon). Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. cover bowl with plastic or a towel and allow to ferment overnight, or 8 hours, minimum.

for the dough: to the bowl, add 1 kg of flour, 23g of salt, and 20g yeast. pour in 600mls warm water. place in mixer with the dough hook attachment, and stir on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. remove bowl from mixer and cover with a clean towel. proof in the bowl for 1 hour.

turn onto floured board and divide into 4 equal pieces, shaping into round balls. each piece will be roughly 530g. allow the dough to rest 10 minutes. (if freezing, wrap each piece well in plastic wrap, then pop into a freezer bag)

tear off a piece of parchment to cover a 12-inch round pizza pan with an overhang. press the dough to cover the pan. brush with olive oil and sprinkle the edge with salt, pepper, the dried basil and the dried oregano. spread with about 1/4 cup of the sauce (or more, if you like lots of sauce). add your toppings of choice. trim the parchment close to the pan.

preheat your oven as hot as it will go. mine goes to 550f, but many only go up to 500f. this is fine. place pizza on the lowest rack.

bake for 10 minutes. rotate pan and move from low rack to the higher one. Reduce heat to 400F and bake another 5-10 minutes or until bottom of crust is browed and feels firm.

rest pizza for 5 minutes, then slice.

chef’s note: i’ve had success cooking these on the bbq. heat grill as hot as it will go. divide the dough into eighths, and roll out. brush rounds with oil and season as above. place un-topped on grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. flip over, add sauce and toppings, and grill another 3-4 minutes, closing lid to melt the cheese.

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fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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