Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When in Rome eat like the Romans -Balsamic Porcini Flatbread flavored with Tartufo Oil

Malli's Post

This is Malli ....
I wish I lived on a farm with copious amounts of mushrooms to harvest. But I don't so I set up a basket at my farmers market and bought home a few kinds of mushrooms. It was then that I remembered my trip to Italy and the porcini mushrooms I bought home. At this point,  I have to share a few experiences from one of the best vacations R and I ever enjoyed together. A trip to Italy should be on every Travelers bucket list!
Last year, our trip started in the truly historic city of Rome with its artistic heritage dating back to the Etruscan times.....they say "when in Rome do as the Romans do" and that's exactly what we decided to do--- Eat Pizza...of course!!!  Three days in the religious city from the Vatican, Coliseum Roman Forum to endless walks in the city museums and fountains. Then onto Sorrento, Assisi, Positano and the drive through the gorgeous seaside mountain roads off the Amalfi Coast.

We drove across the countryside, farms and vineyards to  San Gimigniano a very small town atop a mountain with the best Gelato in the world...that is the actual name of the little store...and so true to the name! This was a drive from a busy city full of working folks to a small seaside town full of farmers and fishermen.  Tuscany at last....we had the great opportunity to have dinner cooked and served at a farm on a mountainside...Homemade antipasti, lasagna, ensalata, Homemade bread, eggplant rollitini,  risotto balls, olives filled with sausage, a simple tomato pasta and homemade wine. Once you have a meal at one of these farms you will notice the produce is just as fresh as it can be and I will never forget the taste of it on my tongue. Every homemade meal we were served at small farms were about 6-7 courses --small portions of delicious food which lingers on your tongue forever.

Once in Florence we were enthralled by Pisa and the leaning tower--it felt like I waited an entire lifetime to finally see it in real life!  Going to Pisa is just a half-a-day trip spending the rest of the day shopping around Florence and visiting the museums to see David. From Florence we drove to the most Romantic city in Europe.....Venice! Who says Paris is the most Romantic place on earth? Yes, it is beautiful at night and simply stunning but in a different way I think Venice has its natural calmness and romance.
The second I set foot in this city, scenes from the movie " The Tourist" came to mind. Mammoth waterways and gorgeous men singing their way maneuvering gondolas.  St Mark's square with flocks of friendly pigeons pecking for tidbits from tourists, a finely architectured palace and prison, the Bridge of Sighs where prisoners took a last look at the blue sky in the horizon before they were taken into their dark prison for  solitary confinement.

A  side walkway leads to historic hotels along which lines of vendors sell beautiful serene feathered masks, delicious gelato, Italian souvenirs, brand name leather purses and attractive jewelry. You can roam the streets of Venice forever. Our hotel was on a quiet island of Burano. This island is considered one of the top 10 most colorful places in the world. The houses are painted in different colors and their reflection on the surrounding waters makes it light up the island- the only mode of transportation is by boat or gondola even to the main city of Veneto. The island of Burano is famous for it's glass blowing factory and its fantastic creations including jewelry.

Back in Venice, we wandered off from the St Mark's Square and across the Piazza Rialto to the open marketplace and fish market. Our eyes were widened and amazed by some of the gorgeous sights....never seen such fresh produce especially tomatoes, mushrooms, grapes, pasta of every kind and color, sun dried tomatoes freshly drenched in healthy warm sun and basil that we could smell as we walked by. I was drawn to buy some of the best pasta, tons of dried porcini mushrooms, lemon scented olive oil, sun dried tomatoes with outstanding flavor, and many other products I stuffed my luggage with.  But, before I go on, I wanted to tell you that the recipe I am sharing with you today is one that I created simply to bring back those wonderful memories of Italy and all the places we visited.

Next, we moved from Venice to the Northern mountainous region of Italy called the Northern Lakes. The many small towns or villages located around the Italian Lake region to another small town called
Bristol at the Grand Hotel Bristol overlooking the oceans and Isola Bella.

Isola Bella is a small island with a huge Palace and gardens... Baroque Gardens are stunning overlooking the ocean and towards the Swiss Alps. Taking the ferry over the island, we got a clean picture of the Alps from the Italian side. A couple of days at Lake Maggiore and we bid farewell to Italy taking off from Milan airport to return home to the US.

A small reproduction of the traditional pizza into a flatbread satisfies many a pizza craving without us flying back to here it is:

How to turn this..........................

............into yummy slices of this......

Balsamic Porcini Flatbread flavored with Tartufo Oil

Sun dried tomatoes- 6-7 small or 4-5 large tomato halves.
Porcini Mushrooms- 1 cup
Portobella mushrooms- 2 cups
Garlic- 1 whole head roasted in oven
Flatbread- 3
Balsamic Vinegar- 1-2 Tblspns
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil - 3 Tablespoons (I used Tartufo or Truffle Oil)
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Now how to make this
Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1/4 cup water for about 20 mins.
Take the SUn dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and garlic along with enough salt and pepper and olive oil and process in a Food processor until coarsely ground to a pesto.
Saute the portobella mushrooms in a little olive oil with a little salt and pepper. add the Porcini after completed squeezing out all the water. Once the mixture comes together dry and all water has evaporated, remove from fire.

Take the flatbread and spread the tomato pesto generously over the surface. Warm in a heated oven after sprinkling the Flatbread with the mushroom mixture. Top with the shaved Parmesan and serve hot!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#293 Lunchtime: Stewed Chicken with Lentils and Chick Peas - By: V

This post is by V.....
Once again, a delicious dinner and dessert has me feeling guilty, and drove me to make a healthy lunch option, but I'll get to the culprit of my guilt after we talk about this healthy lunch recipe.  Please excuse the picture below....not the finest image of this dish, but I can assure you it's delicious.  I took this picture right as I was about to scarf down my lunch while working away.  Stewed Chicken with Lentils and Chick Peas with a side dish of Sauteed Brussels Sprouts.  Roasted brussels sprouts are always a delicious option.  I've done this before by splitting each sprout in half and tossing them in salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic.  Roasting the brussels sprouts in the oven (at a temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit) really brings out the both bitter and sweet flavors of the brussels sprouts themselves.  Now, I know for a lot of people brussels sprouts bring some horrible childhood memories and don't exactly make your mouth salivate, so this side dish could really be made with potatoes, turnips, any hearty vegetable.  

For the main part of the show we have the chicken which is cooked in a slow cooker.  Slow cooker cooking is great.  You get to put everything into one pot and let it slowly cook while you do other chores or be lazy and watch some good (or bad) TV.  Also, it comes with the added benefit of making your food taste like it has been slaved over because the slow cooking process draws out the flavors of the food.  

5 chicken breasts
11 oz. can of Chick Peas
9 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes
2 tsps garlic
1/2 cup - 1 cup of Red Lentils (Masoor Lentils)
3 cups of chicken broth
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp (or to personal taste) of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp salt

Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker, along with the broth, cumin, salt, and garlic.  Let the chicken cook on high for 30 minutes.  Add the chick peas and crushed tomatoes.  Let this continue on high for 1 hour.  Add the red lentils and red pepper flakes and allow the dish to finish cooking for another 30 minutes.  At this time the lentils should be cooked through and the chicken should easily fall apart.

This is great served over saffron rice or if you add some water and additional broth, you can turn this into a soup.

Side Dish - Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
1 bag of frozen brussels sprouts
7 strips of turkey bacon
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp olive oil

Dice the turkey bacon and cook till browned in a sauce pan.  Set aside.  Place the olive oil, garlic and ginger in a pan on low to allow the oil to take the flavor of the garlic and ginger.  Add in a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for flavor if you like.  Add in the brussels sprouts.  If you use frozen brussels sprouts, de-frost them by heating them for about 3 minutes in the refrigerator.  Add in the soy sauce and close the pan to allow the brussels sprouts to cook through.  This should take about 8 minutes.  Then serve.

Now, what gave me the sudden guilt to make this healthy dish, well, one of my favorite restaurants in Arligton, Chasin Tails :  This restaurant is known for its seafood boils styled in a Louisiana fashion.  I always order the 1 lb. of shrimp which comes in a bag with a potato and corn cob.  You get your choice of a sauce that everything is tossed in.  I generally choose the 'Oh Dang' option - which includes the original cajun, lemon pepper and garlic-butter sauce options, and then you choose your heat level.  I haven't been brave enough to try the n'awlins hot, but I get the hot version and that suits me just fine. For dessert, my friend S and I shared the beignets which come with a heavy scoop of vanilla ice cream and both chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.  Ummm, delicious!  See picture below for some evidence of its doughy, powdered-sugar deliciousness and for an idea of why the onset of guilt pushed me to make a healthy dish for my lunch the next day.  This seems to be a growing trend with me....

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