Pea Soup

Pea Soup

Many cookbooks contain a recipe or two for a pea soup. Known all over the world, people have been eating this soup since antiquity. There are even literary references to vendors selling hot pea soup in the streets of Athens, and Greek and Romans alike were cultivating peas ca. 500 to 400 BC. This innovative, super fast and easy recipe takes a bold new look at this old favorite and dusts off some of those old cobwebs. This time around the peas are partnered with creamy avocado and served with the legendary Tabasco hot pepper sauce. Because avocado is prone to enzymatic browning, i.e. turns quickly brown after it has been exposed to air, it is important to remember to drizzle some lemon or lime juice over the avocados right after they are peeled. When it comes to the nutritional value of the avocado, it contains several types of fats, and high intake has been shown  to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Ingredients: 

2 avocados

zest of 1/2 lime

1-2 tbsp lime juice

5-10 dl/ 2-4 cups vegetable stock

300-400 gr frozen peas

ca. 10  drops of Tabasco

pinch of salt

chives to garnish

Instructions: 

Halve the avocados, peel them, remove the pits and slice the avocado meat into smaller pieces. Grate some lime zest, and the halve the lime, too. Combine the avocado slices with the lime zest and juice in a pot, and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring it to a boil and add the frozen peas. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the soup in small patches in a blender until smooth and transfer to another pot. Check the taste and season with salt and Tabasco. Garnish with chives. You can also drizzle some olive oil over the soup.

Pea Soup

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Insalata di polpo

Insalata di polpo

This is an excellent dish for the upcoming holidays and could easily become your all-time favorite starter. Soft and tender, this festive octopus starter is marinated with the usual suspects – oil, lemon, salt and pepper, and chopped parsley – and is best served at room temperature. The lettuce and rocket leaves complement the fresh taste and provide you with something to chew. You can also choose to serve it as a main course with boiled potatoes. And although the octopus takes some time to prepare, this time the wait is definitely worth it. But if you serve this with Vermentino Italiano DOC white wine, it just becomes unbeatable!

Ingredients: 

1 kg/ 2.2 lb fresh octopus

olive oil for frying

2-4 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 dl/ 2/3 cup dry white wine

2-3 small carrots, sliced

celery stalks, sliced 

3-4 bay leaves

olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

minced garlic

chopped parsley

different types of lettuce, rocket etc.

lemon slices for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Toss the octopus into the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Discard water.

Cut the octopus into pieces and saute in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the wine, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, and stir well. Let the mixture simmer on a low heat for 90 minutes or until all the pieces are soft and tender.

Discard all the vegetables and let the octopus pieces cool down. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, minced garlic and chopped parsley together with the octopus pieces. Arrange different types of lettuce and rocket on a serving tray and add the marinated octopus pieces on top. Garnish with lemon slices.

Insalata di polpo

Couscous ai frutti di mare

Couscous ai frutti di mare

Couscous, a popular alternative to rice and pasta, is a grain made by rolling durum wheat flour with salted water to form tiny granules. In North African cuisines it is a basic staple that is traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew. The texture of couscous is somewhat fluffy, and it soaks up the flavors of other ingredients making it a very easy and versatile accompaniment to many types of dishes. Preparing couscous with a typically Italian seafood sauce is actually not as far-fetched as it may seem, because these light fluffy grains spread to Sicily and beyond already in the Middle Ages. By the mid 16th century couscous was known in other parts of Italy, too. Compared to pasta, couscous provides you with less protein but has slightly less calories, and when it comes to minerals, there are only marginal differences.

Ingredients: 

2.5 dl/ 1 cup water

olive oil

salt to taste

250 gr/ 9 oz couscous

a piece of butter

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

280 gr/ 10 oz tomatoes

1.5 dl/ 2/3 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

fresh flat leaf parsley

500 gr/ 17 2/3 oz seafood mix

200 gr/ 7 oz frozen peas

Instructions: 

Pour 2.5 dl or 1 cup of water into a pan, add a bit of olive oil and salt, and bring to a boil. Take the pan from the heat and add the couscous grains. Stir very well and let the couscous stand for about 2 minutes. Add the butter and reheat the couscous over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic until the onion softens. Add the chopped tomatoes and reduce the heat. Let the tomatoes simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, season with salt and pepper, parsley, and add the wine and the seafood mixture. Let the sauce simmer for further 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas almost at the end. Check the taste and add some seasoning, if necessary. Serve this dish hot, or alternative you might let it cool down for a few minutes.

Couscous ai frutti di mare

Salmorejo

Salmorejo

Are you searching for a good, refreshing dish? Look no further! Salmorejo, a.k.a. ardoria or porra, is a thick Spanish tomato soup consisting of tomato, bread, garlic, and olive oil. The tomatoes are pureed in a mixer together with the other ingredients, and the end result is served very cold – sometimes even with ice! – with hard-boiled eggs and slices of Serrano ham. Originating from Cordoba in southern Spain, the very tasty salmorejo is similar to the well known gazpacho, but it is thicker and creamier in texture. The hard-boiled eggs add something to chew, and the thin slices of the Serrano ham crown the taste. This is the dish for hot summer evenings, and it doesn’t even require any cooking.

Ingredients: 

3 cans of peeled tomatoes

200 gr/ 7 oz (stale) bread

2 garlic cloves, minced

2.5 dl/ 1 cup water

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 boiled eggs

slices of Serrano ham

Salmorejo

Instructions

Remove the crusts, and cut the bread into slices. Soak in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Once heavy with water, remove a little bread at a time and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Then break the slices apart into small, dry crumbs.

Puree the peeled tomatoes, soaked bread, and the minced garlic in a mixer or a blender. Drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix very well and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. The end result should be creamy smooth and dense.

Meanwhile, place the eggs in a pot and cover them with water. Slowly bring water to a boil over medium heat. After about 12 minutes, take the eggs out, and place them under cool running water to stop the cooking. Peel them and cut them into two equal halves. Garnish the soup with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, and serve it very cold with a halved egg and slices of Serrano ham.

Risotto all’ortolana

Risotto is essentially a peasant dish and, as such, it is one of the world’s most satisfying comfort foods. But because it absorbs many tastes and flavors, risotto can be served as a very refined and sophisticated dish, too. This hearty and peasantlike version showcases the rural, and very healthy, side. The abundance of the beans, peas, and other vegetables make it very rich in folate, iron, manganese and dietary fiber – all nutrients that can benefit your health in a variety of ways. After spending some time with the knife work you will have a dish that is at the same time fresh, creamy and light. The ingredients can be easily substituted with other vegetables, depending on what is in season and readily available. But don’t forget to try the creamy and buttery fava bean, it will add its own special taste and texture to the mix.

Risotto all' ortolanaIngredients:

300 gr/ 10 oz fava a.k.a. broad beans

260 gr/ 9 oz  fresh tomatoes, sliced

100 gr/ 3.5 oz frozen peas

3 dl/ 1 1/3 cups risotto rice (Carnaroli)

olive oil

2 stalks of celery, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 zucchine, sliced

1 onion, sliced

fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

salt and pepper

1 liter / 4 1/3 cups vegetable stock

140 gr/ 5 oz smoked pancetta, in cubes (optional)

freshly grated parmigiano

a couple of fresh basil leaves

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften a bit. Add the cubed pancetta and continue frying for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes, fava beans and the zucchini and keep cooking for about 10 minutes. Then, add the frozen peas with some fresh parsley and cook for further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the risotto rice and continue frying until the grains become glassy. Little by little, pour some vegetable stock and keep stirring. For Carnaroli rice it takes about 15 minutes to be al dente. Serve each plate with a couple of spoonfuls of parmigiano and fresh flat leaf parsley. Garnish with some basil leaves.

Risotto all' ortolana

Polpette di merluzzo

Polpette di merluzzo

Cod, which is mainly consumed in Portugal, Italy, Spain and Brazil, has been an important economic commodity in international markets since the Viking period (around 800 AD). Norwegians traveled with dried cod and soon a dried cod market developed in southern Europe, and this market has lasted for more than 1,000 years. Apart from the long history, cod differ from most fish because the fishing grounds are far from population centers. Since the introduction of salt, dried and salted cod, baccalà in Italian, has also been exported. The Portuguese began fishing cod in the 15th century, and in the 17th and 18th centuries in the New World cod became a major commodity, creating trade networks and cross-cultural exchanges. Cod is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B, potassium, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Ingredients: 

500 gr / 17 2/3 oz fresh cod, sliced

50 gr / 1 2/3 oz breadcrumbs

salt and pepper to taste

fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, minced

60 gr / 2 oz parmigiano reggiano

2 eggs

Instructions: 

Prepare the fish balls by mixing the sliced cod fillets in a blender until smooth. Combine the minced cod with the bread crumbs, parmigiano, minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. At the end, add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Roll the mixture into balls (diameter 1.5 inch/ca. 4 cm). Set the balls into a lightly oiled baking dish and bake in the oven, preheated to 180C/355F, for 20 minutes or until the surface has browned. Turn them from time to time. Serve the fish balls with a salad of your choice.

Polpette di merluzzo

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzos, have played a notable part in the Italian kitchen for hundreds of years. They are of Oriental origin and due to the fact that they require high temperatures during summer months, they are mainly grown in Southern Italy. When you use them in cooking, it is best to buy them canned. The commercial canning process doesn’t harm the flavor or diminish the nutritional value. You can also buy dry chickpeas and soak them yourself. In this case, make sure the chickpeas haven’t passed their use-by date, because the old ones won’t soften no matter how long they soak. Most chickpea recipes are actually winter recipes that require long cooking times. These dishes were ideal in the olden times when a pot simmering on a wood-fired stove kept the entire kitchen warm. If you are a true fan, also try Ligurian polenta-like panissa; or minestrone di ceci which is a creamy, hearty chickpea soup from the Abruzzo; or stewed chickpeas like in ceci in umido. Don’t forget about ceci alla pisana a.k.a. chick peas with greens and anchovies from Pisa, or cavezune which is ravioli from the Gargano peninsula made with a chocolaty chickpea filling.

Ingredients:

1 onion, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

2-4 dry chilies, deseeded and finely chopped

olive oil

200 gr/ 7 oz smoked pancetta, in cubes (optional)

500 gr/ 17 oz passata di pomodoro

350 gr/ 12 1/3 oz chickpeas

1 l/ 4 1/3 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

fresh flat leaf parsley

mezze maniche pasta

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Instructions:

Puree the onion, garlic and chili in a blender until smooth. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry this smooth mix for a couple of minutes. Add the pancetta and continue for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Add the passata di pomodoro and cook for another 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and cook still for further 5 minutes.

Like when cooking risotto, add some vegetable broth at a time letting the sauce simmer down and thicken for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with boiling salted water. Drain the pasta and mix it with the ready sauce. Garnish each plate with some fresh flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately.