Orzo with Fresh Rainbow Carrots and Ginger

Orzo with Fresh Rainbow Carrots and Ginger

4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 piece of fresh ginger, grated finely (use based on your taste)
Sea salt and black pepper
4-5 rainbow carrots, grated large
1 pound orzo pasta
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh basil


In a small bowl, add the oil, zest and juice of limes, grated ginger, salt and pepper. Add the grated carrots and mix well.  Refrigerate about 30 minutes. Taste before adding the pasta, adjust seasoning as needed.

Cook the orzo in water or vegetable broth until al dente. Strain and cool. When ready transfer to a large bowl; add the dressing and fold. Lastly, add fresh basil on top and serve. 

While at the market, I couldn't resist these beautiful rainbow carrots; I quickly put them into my basket. I was immediately inspired by their vibrant colors. I have made many recipes using rainbow carrots; this is one of the recipes that can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Eggplant-Tomato Salad (Salad Zalouk) Alba’s Way

Salad Zalouk - Eggplant Tomato Salad

1 pound small eggplants, cut in small cubes 
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2-3 large tomatoes, diced
Pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon Raz el hanout, optional
Zest 1 large lemon
30-35 pitted green olives
25-30 capers in brine, drained
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh basil
Boil the egg plant in hot salted water, about 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Strain and cool.

In a large skillet, add the oil, garlic, and shallot. Cook on low heat until golden. When ready, raise the heat to high and add the chopped tomatoes.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the spices, salt, lemon zest, olives, and capers. Cook about a minute.  Add the eggplant; cook on low heat about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. When ready to serve, add the lemon juice and fresh basil, and fold.  

Easy and extremely flavorful….. Salad Zalouk, is a spicy eggplant dish, usually served as an appetizer or side dish with fish or meat. My version is a fusion of Moroccan and Sicilian.  I use the same spices; however I add the olives and capers so it mirrors the caponata.  I also don’t mash the eggplant as in the traditional recipe; I like mine chunky, with some texture. 

Fennel Cheese and Lemon Fritters

Fennel Cheese and Lemon Fritters (Fritelles)

3 medium fennels, stalks removed
2 large eggs, beaten
Sea salt
Black pepper
2 cups grated Pecorino cheese
Zest of 2 lemons
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cook the fennel in hot boiling salted water.  Cook until just tender.  Strain well and allow to cool. From the core, cut in half first. From the core cut into 1/3 inch slices. Dry well with paper towel.

Place the beaten eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl add the Pecorino cheese and zest together.

Dip the fennel slices in the eggs first, then in the cheese and zest mixture.  Add the oil to a large skillet and cook on medium heat until golden on the bottom. Turn once and cook the other side to golden. Be sure the slices are about 1/2 apart for best results.
 
fennel

Fennel is delicious eaten raw because it is refreshing to the palate. It can be served to whet the appetite if eaten as an appetizer with vinaigrette or simply sprinkled with salt.  Boiled or steamed with butter, and covered with grated Parmigiano, it makes a great side dish.  This recipe is served as an appetizer or side.  I make extra, so I can have leftover snacks.

Cannellini and Avocado Hummus

Cannellini Avodado Hummus

1 small can of cannellini beans, strained
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ripe avocado, peeled cut in large pieces  
2 tablespoons water
Salt to taste
1/3 cup toasted almonds


In food processor add cannellini beans, lemon juice, oil, tahini, ground cumin, and red pepper flakes; pulse a few times. Add the avocado and pulse again. It should be a thick cream. If it is too thick, add a little water. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. Drizzle a little extra olive oil on top and the toasted almonds. 

Cotolette alla Valdostana

Cotolette alla Valdostana (Chicken Cutlets from Valle D'Aosta)
8 thin slices chicken breast
4 paper thin slices of Prosciutto or rosemary ham
4 thin slices Fontina cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons cut in quarters
1 bunch Italian parsley

valleys and mountain - Valle D'Aosta, Italy

Gently pound the chicken slices between two pieces of wax paper to flatten evenly.  This flat type of meat is called cotolette (cutlets).

Lay a piece of the chicken on a working area; season with salt and pepper. Add one slice of ham and one slice of cheese on top.  Cover with another slice of chicken on top.   Repeat the process three more times.  

Add 1 ½ tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Drizzle remaining oil when adding the other pieces of chicken.  The oil should be added gradually as needed, not all at once.

Place the beaten eggs in a dish.  In another dish mix the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Begin by dipping the chicken in the egg on both sides.  Next, dip in the breadcrumbs shaking off any excess breadcrumbs.  When the butter and oil is hot, place a few pieces of coated chicken in the hot pan.  Let the chicken become golden on the bottom first before turning. When golden on both sides, transfer to a platter lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Squeeze with fresh lemon juice and top with minced parsley.


Valle D'Aosta, Italy


 If you want to prepare a special and enchanting dish, try my “Cotolette alla Valdostana ". It is delicious and perfect for those who love to try regional Italian recipes to bring to the table with a bit of tradition. This dish is liked by adults and children alike because the cutlets are stuffed with ham and sweet Fontina cheese. Simply serve with potatoes and a healthy lettuce salad.

The cutlets can be made with beef, veal, or turkey breast!

Baked Ziti and Fontina

Baked Ziti and Fontina
1 pound ziti                           
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided                                
1 cup heavy cream                                                                  
2 cups buttermilk                                          
2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese                              
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
Fontina Valdostana 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a deep baking dish. Cut 5 tablespoons of butter into tablespoon portions. Cut remaining 3 tablespoons of butter into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 3 minutes of al dente. The pasta is going to continue to cook in the oven, so you don’t want to overcook it. Drain, add 5 tablespoons of butter, mix well and set aside.

Warm the cream and buttermilk in a small pan on low heat.

When the pasta is ready, pour in the warm cream and buttermilk, and fold in the Fontina until it starts to melt. Add the grated nutmeg, 1 cup grated cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Spread the pasta mixture into the buttered baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Scatter the 3 tablespoons of cubed butter over the top. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned. When ready, sprinkle fresh parsley over the top, and serve hot. 


Valle D'Aosta, Italy


Fontina (DOP) is made in the Valle D’Aosta region of northern Italy.  It is the smallest region in Italy, with neighboring France and Switzerland, and surrounded by the Alps, green valleys, fresh water streams, and lakes. All of these elements are significant to the cows that roam free most of the year, except the coldest months of the year. These cows eat only the greenest grass, flowers, and drink the freshest water from the streams. Therefore, the milk that is produced is the very finest.  Fontina is made from whole raw cow’s unpasteurized milk. It takes about 3 months to age.  Only the perfect cheeses get the DOP seal of approval.  Please don’t mistake imitation Fontina wrapped with a red wax with this fontina from Valle D’Aosta. It doesn’t come with wax wrapper. Though it costs a lot more, it’s worth every bite, after all the Valdostani have been making it this way for over 500 years. 







Yogurt Carrot Sauce, No Mayo Required!

Yogurt Carrot Dip-Sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium whole carrots, cleaned and coarsely grated
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely grated

3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon Harissa sauce
1 large container Greek yogurt, strained overnight in refrigerator
Pinch salt & black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
In a large skillet warm the oil on medium heat.  When hot, add the grated carrots, onion; cook 7-10 minutes or until soft and somewhat golden. Add the garlic and cook about a minute. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and pepper flakes. Cook about a minute.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. You can add more spices to taste.

While still in the skillet, smash the mixture with a spatula. By smashed the mixture it will become creamier and more flavorful when added to the yogurt. When ready, add this warm mixture in a bowl with the yogurt and mix well. decorate with paprika and black olives.

Organic carrots fresh from the farm

This colorful carrot sauce/dip is a classic Turkish easy to make recipe.  Serve with pita bread, cucumbers, meats, and fish. Serve with grilled bread, other meze dishes, or as a side dish for grilled meat and fish. 

Easy Italian Apricot Marmalade Tarta

Apricot Marmalade Tarta 


2 ready-made pie crusts (or make from scratch)
1 ½ cups apricot marmalade
1 bay leaf
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place one pie crust evenly in a 9 pinch tart pan. Prick holes at the bottom of the tart pan. The crust will not be deep, about 1/2 inch in thickness.  

In a small pan, warm the apricot marmalade with the bay leaf, salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf, and transfer marmalade to the tart pan. 

Cut six to eight (½ inch) strips of dough with the remaining pie crust to cover the top of the tart pan. Create any design you like. Brush the dough strips lightly with egg wash and place in the oven.  Bake at 180° about 30-40 minutes or until the tart is golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.  Serve with whip cream or vanilla ice cream.
Apricot marmalade
Apricot marmalade is one of my favorite preserves. It is often used in Italy for pastries, cookies, and tarts. My apricot tart is a classic and simple Italian pastry that can be accomplished in just a few steps. It takes minutes to prepare and less than 45 minutes to bake. I like it for breakfast, as a dessert or a snack with tea or cappuccino.

Easy Cooking with Alba : Kumquat Marmalade

Easy Cooking with Alba : Kumquat Marmalade: Kumquat Marmalade 1 pound fresh kumquats (organic, if possible) 4 ¾ cups granulated sugar 3 ½ cups water, divided 2 bay leave...

Kumquat Marmalade

Kumquat Marmalade


1 pound fresh kumquats (organic, if possible)
4 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 bay leaves
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
Juice ½ lemon
1/2 (1.75-ounce) package powdered pectin

Cut the kumquats in half lengthwise, discard seeds.

In a large deep pan, combine sugar, 3 cups water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the bay leaves, salt and pepper, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Mix ½ cup of water and pectin together. Add to the pan, stirring well.  Bring to a boil, simmer and cook about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard bay leaves, and skim foam off top. Yields about 4 cups. 



kumuats


A kumquat is a small and charming citrus fruit that may seem useless. Eaten fresh, its peel and pulp, does not have such an invigorating flavor, and it is filled with giant seeds. As a food, it may not be as tasty, but as marmalade it has an exotic flavor. It is a delicacy to impress even the most discerning guest.


La Ribbolita Tuscan Soup

La Ribbolita Tuscan Soup

Original Recipe registered by Florentine Chapter of Academia Della Cucina

12 ounces dried white beans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 large carrots, diced
Fresh thyme
2 medium potatoes, cubed
12 ounces black cabbage, shredded
12 ounces Savoy cabbage, shredded
10 ounces Swiss chard leaves, shredded
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces day old crusty bread cut in cubes

Strain and add the soaked beans in 8 cups of boiling water with the bay leaves: cook until tender. Taste one bean to check if it is soft. Discard bay leaves. Strain and reserve all of the cooking liquid. Puree half of the beans.  Add the puree into the reserved cooking liquid.  Set the whole beans aside. 

In a pot, warm 6 tablespoons of oil, add the garlic, onion; cook until soft. Add the celery, carrot and thyme; cook briefly.

Add the potatoes, black cabbage, Savoy and Swiss chard. Dissolve the tomato paste in a bit of warm water, season with salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the pureed bean broth; cook over low heat about 1 hour.  At the end, stir in the reserved whole beans. Add bread to the soup. Cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.

Set aside to rest overnight.  Reheat the soup and drizzle with fresh olive oil.  Serve hot or lukewarm with a drizzle of oil and fresh grinded pepper. 

Eggs in Black Truffle

Eggs in Black Truffle
In a small skillet, on moderate heat, add sufficient olive oil to just cover the pan. When hot, add 2 organic fresh eggs.  Cook to your liking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and shave a little preserved truffle on top.
  
  
Fresh Black Truffle
A preserved truffle is not cooked in the same way as a fresh truffle. A fresh truffle is a living mushroom that gives off perfume for days after being discovered and it can be freshly shaved on almost any recipe. A preserved truffle needs to be used with eggs, in butter, cream, and béchamel sauces. I will be writing more recipes and more information about truffles.  I wanted to start with a basic simple recipe that anyone can make and enjoy.  

Fresh White Truffle 

Italian Spinach Sformato

Spinach Sformato


2-3 tablespoons basil olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 pound baby spinach, or frozen spinach thawed 
4 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
4 ounces whole ricotta
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
Roasted garlic sea salt, or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle aged balsamic vinegar
 
aged balsamic
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking loaf pan with parchment paper. Butter and season.

In a large skillet, add the oil and sauté onion until barely golden, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside in a bowl. Add the spinach in the same pan add quickly sauté for about 2 minutes.  If using thawed spinach cook until free of liquid. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the spinach to the bowl with the onion.

Add the beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, grated cheese to the bowl. Mix well; fold the ricotta a little time. Taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed.

Transfer and spread evenly in baking loaf pan. Bake about 30-35 minutes or until the sides become just golden. Allow to cool. Remove from pan.  Cut in slices and serve warm or room temperature. Drizzle aged balsamic on top.

Golden Beets and Burrata Salad

Golden Beets and Burrata Salad

4 fresh golden beets
Pinch sea salt
1-2 tablespoons blood orange olive oil
Fresh thyme
Drizzle champagne mimosa vinegar
1 Burrata Mozzarella



Trim the greens, and tops and bottoms of each beet. Rinse well. Place the beets in a large saucepan and add water to cover with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. When tender, place pot under running cold water until beets are cooled. You can test if the beets are done with a toothpick or the point of a small knife.  Do not overcook the beets. The skins can now be easily peeled off the beets. Slice the beets. 

In a skillet, add a little blood orange oil on medium-low heat.  Place the beet slices in the skillet and warm on both sides about a minute. Add the fresh thyme. Sprinkle some champagne vinegar and turn the beets around.  Remove skillet from heat.

In a large place, add your favorite greens at the bottom, then place the beet slices around the greens on the plate.  Top with Burrata and a drizzle of oil. 
Creamy Burrata


My two favorite foods in one plate, with my favorite oil and vinegar! Don't try this without the Burrata... I don't recommend it!

Alba’s Cream-Free Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup 


5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
4 cups frozen diced butternut squash
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cumin
1/2 teaspoon Raz el Hanout spice (optional)
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
Drizzle basil olive oil
 
Pearl Onions
In a thick bottom pan, add the broth, onions, and butternut squash on medium high heat.  When it boils, reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add the spices a minute or two before soup is ready. Reduce heat to low heat; place your smart stick (immersion blender) in the pan and blend until creamy.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if needed.  Place the smart stick again in the soup and blend for a few more minutes even if the soup is already creamy.  It will make it stay creamy.

Serve warm in bowls with a drizzle of basil olive oil.


Butternut Squash


No cream, no butter, no cheese; LOTS of flavor, all from the pantry and freezer to your plate!

Tip: If your soup is too thick, simply add a little more broth.  If the soup is too brothy, let it cook down on higher heat, remembering to stir as it thickens. 

Alba's Fresh Fig Marmalade

Fresh fig marmalade


30 fresh black mission figs
2 cups sugar
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all the figs in a bowl with cold water; gently rinse.

Remove the stems.  Gently remove the figs from the water and gently dry with paper towels.

Cut the figs in half, lengthwise and place in a glass container. Add the sugar; gently fold, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place the figs in a medium size saucepan. Tuck in the bay leaves, and add black pepper.  Cook on medium-low until it boils.  Reduce to low and cook uncovered for 15 to 18 minutes.  Figs should be soft not breaking apart. Stir occasionally and gently.

Transfer the figs, not the juice to a bowl. Keep the juices in the pan.  Cook the juices over medium-low until it reduces by half, stir often.  Remove the bay leaves.  Return figs to the thick sauce and gently fold. Allow to cool.  Transfer fig marmalade to a glass jar.  Serve warm or refrigerate up to a week.



Marinading figs with sugar overnight



Cooking the figs


Serve with pungent cheese, over a slice of cake, with prosciutto, or eat it right out of the jar!!!!

Honey Dew and Crispy Prosciutto

Honey Dew and Crispy Prosciutto

1 small ripe honeydew melon cut in bite-size cubes
½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
¼ pound paper thin sliced Prosciutto di Parma
3 tablespoons chopped arugula
Dressing:
5 tablespoons Secolari Arbosano extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Secolari Pear or Blueberry balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plain honey
Secolari fleur de sell
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the prosciutto in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until prosciutto is just crispy, turning only once.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing except the arugula. Whisk well to combine.
Arrange the melon on a platter, add the Gorgonzola and crumble the prosciutto. Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel.  Drizzle the platter with oil, then honey, and balsamic vinegar.  Add the chopped arugula on top. Serve immediately. 

Prosciutto


Refreshing, cool, crispy, sweet, savory, fruity... just a few adjectives to describe this recipe. You can certainly use any extra virgin olive oil and balsamic you like, however the products I used was for a cooking class at Secolari.. and can I say, it was quiet in the house while clients savored this dish. If you like to order Secolari products go to https://secolarievoo.nrostores.com/
Secolari Artisinal Oils and Vinegars

This is a great dish to serve as an appetizer or side for picnics, a summer BBQ, wedding showers, birthdays, and other special occasions. 

Quenelles Fabiene Style



 
Quenelles


The quenelle, a semolina dumpling, is a culinary specialty of Lyon, France. The quenelle dough is called “panade”, which is prepared mainly with semolina flour, eggs, milk, and water. The quenelle has a similar texture to the Roman gnocchi; however the quenelle has an elongated shape. The dough is first cooked and then cooled before shaping. They can be served with a tomato, crayfish, or béchamel sauce. Most popular is the Nantua sauce, made with crayfish, carrots, celery and a good cognac.

Grottes Les Balme
I discovered quenelles on my trip to France this spring. I spent two inspiring days at Fabiene, a very gracious lady, who lives in Les Balme Les Grottes, a beautiful town known for its grottes (caves). Fabiene proudly demonstrated how to make the quenelles for me.  For our first evening main course, Fabiene served the quenelles with chicken in a light sauce with morel mushrooms.   This simple dinner paired with a local red wine, made for an absolutely charismatic evening.

Quenelles Fabiene Style
(Serves 2-4)

4 ounces fine semolina
¾ cup whole milk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 ounce grated cheese (optional)
2 ounces unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil over medium heat. Pour in the semolina and quickly stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat, slightly cool first, and then add the eggs, salt and pepper.

Add water and salt to a large saucepan over high heat.

Meanwhile, place 3 tablespoons flour onto a plate. Form the dough approximately into 1-inch thick by 3-inches long sausage shaped logs. Roll each quenelle into the flour and set aside of a large plate or platter.

Poach the quenelles in the boiling water until they float. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a serving dish. Top with your favorite sauce.


Grottes Les Balme
I will be making quenelles for a dinner party soon and I think I will make them with a light seafood sauce.  I’m looking forward to experimenting various recipes with Fabiene’s recipe. Thank you Fabiene for two spectacular evening dinners at your lovely home.

Le Lavage in Le Balme Les Grottes