Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The WOW Factor

Here is my second recipe using the best refrigerated bi-colored pasta on the market, Rana Fettuccine. As I have previously stated, it begins with the hand-rolled like texture of this delicious Italian original and ends with the firm bite I prefer in a pasta. I truly admire the work involved in bringing a product like this to the masses and kudos to Master Pasta Chef Giovanni Rana for this superior product, of which my freezer will never be without.

Creamy Lemon Fettuccine with Wild Salmon
Keeping it simple yet having a dish scream out taste is easier than one may imagine. Especially when you have a superior product. I have been blessed with Rana's Pasta and now I would like to bless each of you with a great summertime dish that is refreshing, simple and fantastic in that "WOW factor". Lemon touches all taste buds here, but still leaves room for the spinach flavor to come through from the fettuccine.
6 ounces ricotta cheese
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon-flavored olive oil*
8 ounces wild salmon fillets, skinless and cut into bite sizes
1(8.8-ounce)package of Rana Fettuccine(Paglia E Fieno)
Julienned bamboo shoots, optional

In a small bowl, whip ricotta cheese with lemon juice, fennel seeds and cayenne pepper until very creamy. Taste for salt and pepper and set aside. Over medium-high heat, add the flavored olive oil to a large skillet. When hot, gently place the salmon fillets and cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until gently cooked but still pink and translucent inside. Remove from oil: set aside.
Meanwhile, cook fettuccine according to package instructions and strain. Wipe skillet clean(you do not have to wash or remove any fond that may be sticking to the bottom of pan) and add ricotta cheese mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium heat while frequently stirring. Add the pasta and blend to coat evenly. Remove from heat and divide among two serving dishes. Top evenly with cooked salmon and garnish with some julienned bamboo shoots.

*Simply make your own by cutting thin strands of lemon peel from one lemon and adding them to a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Bring to scalding over low heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and use within 10-12 days refrigerated.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Italy. At It's Finest

Well, I received my package from Baltz Public Relations in NYC containing some samples of Giovanni Rana products. Lisa Mendeson, of Baltz, asked me to not only preview the products sent to me and forward them my honest opinion, but also to come up with some light and refreshing recipes using these items if I desired..... I so desired!
I have just spent almost a week in the kitchen, almost nonstop, tasting, picking apart and tasting all the products sent to me by Baltz and Rana and to tell you the truth, there is just no pasta out there that even comes close. Let's begin with the texture alone.
When you make your own pasta at home, no matter what type, the feel of the dough once rolled out cannot be compared to store bought. With a rough texture and elasticity that is spot on, homemade pasta is the best. But when I first opened Giovanni's 8.8 ounce package of Fettuccine, Paglia E Fieno to be exact.
I instantly thought someone just made this by hand. The texture was precisely what you would expect from homemade.
I am very conscious and knowledgeable of Italian fare(next to Yankee cuisine and possibly French, I think my expertise lies in Italian food preparation)and I know pasta. This, my friends, is pasta at its best. Without even tasting it, I could tell I was in for a treat. And then when I started reading the packaging, I noticed it took only 1 minute to cook. Well there was the devil in the writing, so I thought.
There was just no way pasta that has only a one minute cooking time can be top notch, let alone palatable. Boy was I wrong. Before I began my first recipe using this "Straw and Hay" fettuccine, which is what Paglia E Fieno literally translates to, I cooked it according to package directions and left it in the strainer without rinsing. After about 2 minutes, I reached for a strand of the spinach flavored strand and one of the plain variety. Both were already sticky, dry and ready to hitch a ride on any sauce it came into contact with. I plopped them in my mouth and low and behold, perfection!
Sounds like I am being paid by someone doesn't it? Absolutely not! If there was one detail with regards to this pasta that I didn't care for, here it is.........wait for it.....wait for it.....wait for it.....Nope. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
Spot on and bravo to Giovanni Rana for all his years in the kitchen developing his line of products that are number one in Italy and soon will be here in the U.S. as well.
So without rambling on and on about all the pasta and sauces I welcomed from Baltz Publicity, let me simply give you two recipes I came up with that I think truly accentuate this fine fettuccine. Sure I could have taken a sauce or two that also came in my "gift bag" and simply thrown them together, but I am going to not only savor each and every item but I would much rather create something original using only one item per recipe. So without further ado, here you go and mangiare.

Yankee Fettuccine Salmone

My inspiration for this dish came from summertime fare, healthy thinking and the Italian favorite which is Carbonara. I wanted the flavor of Carbonara, with the Yankee twist and the smell and taste of the rocky shoreline that us here in New England enjoy, as do my beloved Italian friends and chefs. I think you will enjoy not only the simple substitutions that take away some of the guilty pleasure of cream(found in Carbonara)but the subtle flavor of spinach that is perfect with the sweet, briny taste of mussels. I would have added fresh peas to the mix, but found it unnecessary with Rana's Paglia E Fieno.

1/2 pound fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded*
1(8.8-ounce)package of Rana Fettuccine(Paglia E Fieno)
1 cup reduced-fat or skim milk
3 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1/4 cup diced, roasted red bell pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

Steam or boil the mussels in 1-inch of water until they just open, about 2 minutes covered. Drain, cool and remove the meat from the shell: set aside. In a large pot, cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Leave in colander while preparing remainder of recipe.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the milk, egg whites, cheese and chives together well: set aside as well. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering over medium-high heat, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and red bell peppers and cook over medium-high heat about 10 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the mussels and cook for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring. Add the egg mixture and bring to scalding while constantly stirring. Add the fettuccine and toss until combined, tasting for salt and pepper. Remove to serving plate and serve immediately.

*You can just as easily substitute the fresh mussels for canned. Simply use 2(5-ounce)cans cooked mussels, drained well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dover-Foxcrofts Whoopie Pie Festival

I have been honored with receiving an invitation to judge for the second year Maine's Whoopie Pie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. I have also been asked to judge at this years Moxie Festival in Lisbon, Maine as well, and I must say, these are the two festivals I wouldn't miss for the world. Both scream Maine and who better to judge Maine cuisine than the master of Maine cuisine, The Yankee Chef(yeah, it may seem as though my head is getting big, but I promise it isn't). I just honestly believe there is no more knowledgeable chef when it comes to New England, especially Maine, food and the history of food than I am. I have lived, eaten and breathed it since a young teen, as my father and his father.
so with that said, let me give you the ultimate Whoopie Pie Recipe, Bubbly Chocolate Whoopie Pies. Now if I named it with the word Moxie in the title, I have a feeling my taste testing audience would shrink dramatically, so I won't tell you there is Moxie in it. Enjoy!!

Now this recipe has an initial step that MUST be done for a great Moxie flavor to be noticeable. Pour 12 ounces Moxie into a saucepan, over high heat, and boil until reduced to a half cup. It should take about 6 minutes and be syrupy when ready. Cool to room temperature before using in the following recipe.

2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
½ c. cocoa
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. Moxie*
1 stick (½ c.)butter or margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 egg
Filling, recipe below

Preheat your oven to 350° F. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa until well mixed. In another small bowl, mix the milk and Moxie. Using an electric mixer at high speed, beat together the butter, brown sugar and grated orange rind until fluffy and light colored. Next, add an egg and mix until it's mixed in evenly. Lower the speed on your electric mixer and alternate between adding in a bit of the flour mixture and a bit of milk until it is all mixed. On two large, greased baking sheets, place ¼ c. mounds of batter about two inches apart. Place in the upper portion of your oven. Bake about 11-13 minutes or until it bounces back. Remove from oven and cool on a rack or let stand for 5 minutes and remove to platter to cool thoroughly. Scoop filling onto one half of the Whoopie Pie cake and close with the other half.

1 ¼ c. confectioners sugar
1 stick (½ c.) butter or margarine, softened
1 t. vanilla
2 c. marshmallow cream

In a bowl, beat together your confectioners sugar, butter, vanilla and marshmallow using an electric mixer on the medium setting. You should mix until the filling is nice and smooth.

*The taste of Moxie is truly unequaled, but if you can't find this soft drink in "your neck of the woods", try a very good root beer.