Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canederli ai Finferli – Chanterelle Dumplings

Classic dumplings from the Veneto Alpine regions with rustic yellow chanterelle mushrooms gathered from the woods of these areas. Since we are in the fall season, it is a good time to make these soul-warming dumplings using ingredients gathered locally and produced in the region.

Canederli ai Finferli (Cantharellus cibarius Fr.) otherwise known in the states as, chanterelle mushrooms. Other names in Italy are gallinaccio, galletto, gialletto, finferlo o garitula. This mushroom is used in just about any way imaginable and is great preserved under vinegar or dried.

Prep time 25 min
Cook time 30 min

Difficulty: Medium

300 gr of day old or more, white bread (NOT Wonder Bread!)

80 gr of fresh mu
25 gr onion
15 gr fresh Italian parsley

1 clove garlic

3 eggs

50 gr flour

80 gr butter
80 gr Grana Padana or Parmigiano Reggiano
150 cc vegetable broth

olive oil extra virgin


Finely chop the onion and blond it a tiny bit of butter. Cut the bread into cubes and pour over these the boiling hot milk and let rest for half an hour.

Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms, cut them into medium pieces and sauté in a pan with oil and a small clove of garlic that has been lightly squished for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and salt to taste.

Add the chanterelle mushrooms to the bread, and then add the eggs, the f
lour, a portion of the grated cheese and the chopped parsley. Mix well and form medium sized balls (large meatballs). Cook them in the vegetable broth for 10-15 minutes, drain and arrange them on a plate and dress with a walnut size of butter and cheese.

Normally canederli are served in broth but with the mushrooms these are better eaten alone. Regular canederli are served in boiling hot broth and dressed with cheese, the preferred dish when shushing the slopes above Trento; Madonna di Campiglio and Cortina (hell all I need is cold weather to get me in the mood for homemade broth and dumplings).
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Real One-and- Only Spaghetti alle Vongole (bianco)

For those who wish to taste the authentic spaghetti with clams, this is the one folks; a never fail (unless the quality of the clams sucks), people pleaser and impression maker.
You may use spaghetti or spaghettini depending on one’s preference. Canned clams may be used but do not expect to have that fresh seafood flavor.

You will need:

350 gr spaghetti
1 kilo of clams or 200 gr of frozen or canned clams “al natural”
1 or 2 cloves of garlic depending on size
1 bunch of Italian parsley
dash of hot pepper (chili pepper)
Olive oil extra virgin preferably Tuscan
White wine

Soak the clams in fresh water for about 1 to 2 hours, changing the water at least 3 times during this period. Divide the amount of clams into half, half you will extract the meat out of and throw the shells away, the other half you will leave steamed open with the meat inside. After steaming, strain the clam water and set aside.
Take ¼ of the clam meat extracted and finely chop it as well as half the bunch of parsley and set aside with the other ¼ clam meat un-chopped.

Using 10 tablespoons of olive oil, sauté in a large wide low pan the finely chopped garlic with the dash or more (depending on tastes although this is not a dish meant to be spicy, just a hint) of chili pepper; as soon as the garlic begins to take on a little bit of color, add ¼ to 1/2 cup of good dry white wine (not vermouth) and let evaporate a bit. Add in a cup of the clam water and boil down until it is reduced a little more.

At this point over a lively flame, add the chopped and whole clam meat and parsley and boil quickly for 30 seconds then turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt. You should have at this point a reasonably liquid mixture.

Proceed with the cooking of the pasta, when al dente or just a tad before, drain and add the pasta to the clam mix, which you will have put back on the flame just before draining the pasta. Turn up the heat and sauté the pasta in the clam mix adding at this point, the clams in their shells; toss and mix for about 1 minute or more, the pasta should soak up some of the liquid. Serve in hot bowls with a garnish of chopped parsley and never ever add cheese to this; fish dishes are never garnished with grated cheese (major faux pas). ;-)

For those of you who like red clam sauce, that recipe will follow shortly.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Secrets from Pastry Chefs “What No One Ever Tells You."

About Chocolate and flour...

Two of the most important things pastry chefs must take into consideration when using chocolate is the amount of coco butter and the percentage. Usually, most chocolates found in supermarkets range from 30 to 40% coco butter and 50 to 75% cocoa mass. The more coco butter in the chocolate the better it is for glazing making it more fluid and more valuable. Clearly the higher the cocoa content (percentage) the bitterer the chocolate will be.

If you look carefully, you will find when the cocoa percentage is high the percentage of coco butter will be high as well because inside the cocoa mass is where a high quantity of coco butter resides. Beware of chocolate not containing coco butter but other ingredients used for the fat content; it is for this reason these other types of “chocolate” do not need mixing when melting.

Flour is another secret of professional pastry chefs. Flour is rated according to the amount of gluten, which is the measure of elasticity and resistance critical for bread making. Flour in Italy is classified into four types: Tipo 00 (7% gluten, used for pastry kitchens), Tipo 0 (9% gluten, best for bread making), Tipo 1 (10% gluten) and Tipo 2 (10% gluten). However this is not enough to understand flour and gluten, one must verify that the gluten quantity is coupled with it’s good qualities; the qualities given by the mills to the flour.
These three indices represent the characteristics of the various flours, these are: W, G and P.
W represents the energy absorbed in the deformation expressed in thousands of erg/g of kneaded flour. G indicates the capacity of the flour to swell thereby trapping air. P indicates the maximum resistance against the deformation and is an index of the tenacity of the dough.

The knowledge of these indices gives the flour its bread quality. For example, good bread flour would be as follows: W from 110 to 150 G from 16 to 18 P from 40 to 50
Pastry flour on the contrary, should be as follows: W from 200 a 250 best for cookies W above 400 is best for long fermentation pastries such as panettoni.

Flour should be stable and in equilibrium, meaning all three indices must fall within the average predicted values for the use of that particular flour. In the United States, when buying flour in the stores these values are not listed (although at times some percentages of protein are listed) and sometimes there is not a choice between flour and pastry flour. Over here in Italy, it certainly is fun when you have a friend in the pastry business willing to share some of the ingredients. ;-) Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Crisis of our Currency, the American Dollar.

The national debt has grown every single year since 1958. and it will equal the entire GDP some time in 2010. Call it a tipping point, call it decline, call it whatever one wants; it is a crisis of epic proportions.

Unfortunately, our nation's leaders are either oblivious, in which case they are fools, or they are powerless and cannot even save their own land, or they do not care, in which case they are not "leaders" at all. Instead, they are charlatans, pretending to embody the national interest but only driving the nation into a huge abyss.

Neither party has produced a plan to deal with this emergency, although the warning signs have been abundant for over a decade. And without a demonstrable will to boldly act, nations overseas will continue to make their own plans.

We now have global economies, not just the eastern block and the US and it is right to have these economies affecting us but the problem is, we are not evolving with our policies regarding spending and the inflation of the currency; America has just lost everything it has built, the stability and strength of it's monetary position. The dollar is involved with transactions the world over and when the Fed, Treasury, and Congress inflate the currency and expand our debt obligations the way they are, foreign nations know eventually their dollar holdings will be much less valuable. Combined, this includes trillions of dollars of reserves, treasuries, corporate bonds, and securities, and they will obviously want to dump them.

Who could blame them? We make bad decisions and then, in essence, ask foreign powers (who are often hostile) to pay for these decisions. So, what do we do? Do we steer the ship of state out of turbulent waters? No, we have continued to steer it toward the deep beyond, which means the run on the dollar is close at hand, perhaps even inevitable. Fear in our ability to pay back our debts will encourage that run where the capability and willingness by our nation's leaders could prevent it.

Since nothing has yet changed, (especially since the Wall St. & Bank crisis) the best Americans can do is stock up on gold and perhaps, canned goods and hold on tight because it is going to get worse.

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