cookies · Italian recipe · leftovers · no-dough · sweet

Ecco Una Collezione Italiana

una gelateria di Venezia

High time for gelato here in St Petersburg, cannot believe we have almost arrived at the early days of summer – this change in the nature is always swifter than the long and winding road from winter to spring. The fragrant bird cherry trees this year got all covered in sparkling white blossom without the inevitable cold days that usually follow (there’s a folk saying that as soon as cheremukha – bird cherry – blooms, the cold days come back for a bit) – nature has decided to skip it. And the white nights are getting closer, with people getting a little bit crazy – as it always happens – especially in the night when it’s as light as day.

After ‘feeding’ you with some delicious Greek memories, ecco an Italian collection (with a Swiss guest). Perhaps you will agree with me that there is something earthy in Italian cuisine, think about: thick creamy risotto that brings you satisfaction already while cooking and stirring this rice infused with wine, nutritious spaghetti with copious tomato sauce, cheesy oozy pizza, aromatic pesto… and so many other tremendously delicious things (even not touching meat and fish, there’s a true paradise for vegetarians). For me, if I want something rich, substantial and at the same time loaded with fresh high-quality produce, I immediately think about something from the diverse Italian cuisine. I haven’t been to Italy much, but I managed to get to know the food via my friends and other Italians that I met on my way. They do know how and what to eat!

What unites all the three recipes is that they are very profumati – fragrant, that is. Let’s start with bread, certamente, the essence of our life, – this rustic loaf is actually a Swiss recipe but taken from an Italian blog:

Pane Svizzero del Contadino

A year agoBread, Soup and Crackers with some ideas on what to do with leftover bread and Koulouria of Thessaloniki

Pane Svizzero del Contadino (Swiss Peasant Bread) adapted from ilpane.blogspot.com will make a super fragrant and rich in colour mini loaf. Translated with the permission of Tamara (grazie!) + my remarks are in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g whole rye flour, stone-ground – well, I used regular rye flour
  • 100 g whole wheat flour, stone-ground
  • 100 g white flour (0 type for Italy) + more for dusting the loaf – I had to use more
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150 ml lukewarm milk
  • 150 ml lukewarm water – I used 100 ml, did not need the remaining 50 ml
  • 15 g fresh yeast 

Method:

Pour lukewarm milk and 100 ml water in a bowl, crumble in the yeast and dissolve it. Place all three types of  flour in a mixing bowl (I kneaded by hand) with soda and salt, mix. Pour the liquid mixture in the middle and start kneading. You should get soft dough but not sticky, so adjust the flour / water accordingly. Keep kneading for 5 minutes.
Leave the dough to rise for about 2 hours (I left it for even more), covered with plastic foil and in a warm place.
Knock back the dough, place it on a slightly floured kneading surface and, form a ball, roll it in flour mixed with just a bit of soda (you could use Irish flour here if you can find it – have never heard about it! this is how they make Irish soda bread…). Place the floured ball on a baking sheet and cover with plastic foil (or a bag), leave it to rise for about an hour (here again it was a longer rise).
Preheat the oven to 230 °C, on the lowest rack / bottom of the oven place a pan with water to create steam. When you’re about to put the loaf in the oven, remove the plastic, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife creating diagonals, and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom (I would have baked it for even less than 30 minutes). It will keep for several days and you can also freeze it (but it’s so small you’ll eat it sooner!).

Pane Svizzero del Contadino

I like the rustic appearance of this loaf and the dense crumb – and the colour

Pane Svizzero del Contadino

with the direct sun light it looks even better with its rough checkered top creating these ‘peaks’ when you cut the loaf through

Pane Svizzero del Contadino

This is where the fresh yeast went which I actually wanted to use for something Russian, ooops, but if you wish, use dried yeast. However, I suppose the fresh yeast also adds something to the overall aroma. Plus the baking soda, I think, is also ‘in it’, as it is also ‘on it’ – the loaf is dusted with flour mixed with soda. Now that I think about it, I also increased the rising time – and that means the fermentation was longer, which definitely added some more flavour from rye and whole wheat.

Pane Svizzero del Contadino

Result: This bread is really profumato – I couldn’t tell exactly what it reminded me of but the bread was so fragrant – both when I baked it and haha when we ate it! It will suit both breakfast and lunch, very nicely combined with cheese and soup (the author of the recipe suggests jam – which I think I also tried ; ).

***

This aromatic bread would go very well with… an international risotto! I had some Greek white wine, Russian rice and cheese, non-identified zucchini and… an Italian recipe! Dedicated to coffee & zucchini girl Sarah : )

risotto con zucchine

Risotto con zucchine (Risotto with zucchini / courgettes) adapted and translated from www.gustissimo.it will make a creamy chewy risotto, and will make you enjoy already the process of making it! 

Ingredients:

  • 250 g rice – I used short grain Kubansky rice
  • 2-3 zucchine romane – a short thin type of zucchini / courgettes – I took a medium 1 + fried another one sliced for the decoration
  • 1 vegetable broth cube – I used broth from soup + water + … water from spaghetti! Sure you can use potato water too.
  • 1 onion
  • 160 ml of vino bianco secco (dry white wine) – I used Cretan wine
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 40 g of grated ParmigianoI used some Russian cheese instead
  • 1 bunch of parsley – I used some of our weird vanilla basil
  • extravergin olive oil – Greek, of course
  • salt, pepper – I did not add pepper as the broth was really hot, although I added some Italian seasoning (a mixture of herbs)

Method:

Wash and trim zucchini, then cut them in cubes (cubetti, please!).
Prepare the broth and keep it simmering at low heat, it will be used throughout the cooking.
Finely chop the onion and sauté in butter in a large pan (I used a wok).
Add enough oil and the cubed zucchini and mix. After about 5 minutes add rice, cook it for several minutes and pour wine over, then a  laddleful of broth.
Mix well and keep cooking at low heat adding the broth from time to time when it evaporates (be careful, it tends to do it quickly!). Check for salt. At the end, increase the heat to evaporate the excess liquid (the whole process is quite lengthy but really, I get so much pleasure, there’s something therapeutic in it! And the slowly evaporating wine enhances the experience : ).
Serve the risotto with enough parsley and cheese. Grind some pepper over the dish (I also sautéed a smaller courgette, sliced, at very low heat).

Attention: For this recipe you’d better use a broth cube without added glutamate (just make your own broth with some vegetables or use water from boiled potatoes / pasta, it will add even more starchy element).
Ideas and variants: You can enrich this risotto by adding saffron to the sautéed onion (perhaps that will be even more Italian 😉 because by adding herbs and the broth already infused with vegetables and pepper, I surely changed the overall flavour of my risotto, but we enjoyed it anyway).

risotto con zucchine

The Kubansky rice which I used in this recipe is cultivated in the Krasnodar region – I used to avoid it before as this sort is for milky rice porridge I did not like at all… tastes change when you change something else, I also used to avoid the local huge zucchini until I came to France and sampled some of the tender sorts.

Result: Apparently enjoyed even by my Dad who doesn’t like those courgettes much. What I liked was that while the extra courgette slices on top were soft, the chopped ones inside the risotto were quite chewy – all this goes well with the thick texture of risotto, the subtle wine flavour and melting cheese on top of it all!

For more recipes with zucchini / courgettes see Κολοκυθοτυρόπιτα (Kolokithotiropita, Corgette & Cheese Pie) or Tarte aux Courgettes, Feta et Ricotta or Χανιώτικο μπουρέκι (Courgette and Potato Boureki or pie from Chania, Crete) – all very fine recipes, with or without dough / crust.

***

And something sweet to accomplish our Italian journey…

The same Greek white wine I used for the risotto, also went well with into these flavourful biscuits (say, a leftovers idea!):

Ciambelline al vino

Ciambelline al vino (Wine Donuts) translated and adapted from profumodilievito.blogspot.it (I couldn’t get into contact with the author but I will try again) will make lots of soft sugary biscuits which have a very subtle wine flavour and a crunchy sugary crust.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g flour (00 type in Italy)
  • 100 g potato starch
  • 150 g sugar
  • 30 g extravergin olive oil
  • 80 g seed oil (peanut, corn, sunflower) – I used sunflower oil
  • 100-110 g vino bianco – Greek white wine
  • 1 tsp of baker’s ammoniaI had none of this so used baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • sugar for sprinkling
  • anise seeds – optional – I did not use them

Method:

Sift and mix the dry ingredients, add the rest of the ingredients. Knead as you will a shortcrust pastry, wrap in plastic foil and leave in the fridge for several hours.
Roll the dough into ropes thin as your little finger, bring the two ends together creating a donut, dunk in milk and then in sugar (optionally mixed with ground anise seeds), and place the biscuits on a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake at 170°C until they get browned (which they hardly did in my case), about 15-20 minutes, with the door opened just a little bit (with inserted skewer for example). – I did try to bake the first larger batch in such a manner but it took more than 20 minutes + I moved the sheet up and closed the door completely for a couple of minutes. The second batch took 15 minutes in a closed oven – and still they were not much coloured.

Ciambelline al vino

As in the recently tried Greek recipe of Koulourakia, these biscuits are made with baker’s ammonia – the leavening agent which was used before baking soda and powder. I substituted it with baking powder which perhaps resulted in them getting over-puffed in the oven and crumby in texture, but I’m not sure.

Result: Soft, crumby, sugar-crusty and flavourful. Use your favourite wine and enjoy – with tea or wine ; ) !

Ciambelline al vino

We were in the car rather late and a huge crimson sun was setting in the back, creating a rich coloured halo around it. With some +20 and a warm wind it was as if we were in some southern city (Krasnodar region?). It rains half day and then it’s oh-so summer here now!

bird cherry tree in blossom

{Bird cherry tree near my home – already without its flowers today}

Buon appetito!

G.

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2 thoughts on “Ecco Una Collezione Italiana

  1. amore, that swiss bread looks amazing. I forgive you for not having sent it to us ONLY because you just started a new job (congrats!!) 🙂
    have a look at the news on my blog and I wait for some of your baked yummies this June (new job or not!). and thank you for all the nice things you always say about Italy and Italians.
    did you see… I went to a market in Rome, but I did not quite find what I was looking for…

  2. Ciao Barbara, sono un po’ in ritardo con ‘tutto cibo’ questa settimana! Yes, I’ve read about the market… mi dispiace! And also realized there’s a new Panissimo edition online and I’m completely out of it this time! Thank you for your words, I’m going to make up for my absenteeism soon! =)

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