Nice, France, Imperia, Italy and Olive Oil School Part 3

This is my 3rd year in a row (lucky me!) attending Olive Oil Taster’s school at ONAOO in Imperia, Italy. This is my second year of a 3 year Professional Olive Oil Tasters Course.

Imperia, Italy is located in the northern part of Italy about an hour and a half south of Nice, France. A group of us have been attending together since the first year and have become friends and a support team on this surprisingly difficult journey. I have flown in to Florence, Milan and this year Nice to get to Imperia. I had never been to Nice and was looking forward to enjoying our short stop on the way home.

First stop is London Heathrow where I meet friends from Toronto and Hong Kong…of course there is time for a glass of Champagne at Prunier it doesn’t matter that it is 7:25 am! this is how we roll baby!!

There are some great shops and restaurants and I really love to stop by Fortnum and Mason because you can enjoy a perfect cuppa and you can browse their pretty shop. I want to buy everything but, settle for a box of Princess Grey

We land in Nice to meet our last travel buddy from Vilnus, Lituania. The pastries in the airport are stunning. Oh wait! a stop before we get on the train for…you guessed it Champagne. Even on the train we celebrate the glory of being here!!

While everyone else gets settled in their rooms I must say hello to this pretty little town!

“Buonasera Imperia!”

The old olive tree by the port

Ok, now that we have arrived we either need a nap from the “red eye” flight or wait…coffee and something dolce!! Yes, but remember if you are in Italy you can have a macchiato which is a coffee with just a spoon of crema but, don’t order a cappucino after breakfast. They will give it to you but, they will be shaking their heads the whole time. Italians only drink cappucino at breakfast.

This is such a cute little seaside town. You arrive in Porto Maurizio which is glorious town on the water but, we take a taxi to it’s sister city on the other side of the river called Imperia Oneglia.

After we check in to the Hotel Rossini which is a great little hotel that has comfortable accommodations and a nice breakfast bar. Everyone who goes to to ONAOO stays here because you can walk to school everyday.

An apperitivo at Gusto and of course when you have a drink they bring you something to nibble on.

Time for dinner I chose not to have a nap and hold out as long as possible and now I am hungry as a bear (un orso! in Italian) we are disappointed because our favorite little pizzeria is closed for renovations. It is the middle of Feb and a good time since there are not many tourists but, we are bummed none the less. We head over to a great little pizzeria and pasta place. I recommend the pasta over the pizza but, all of it is good and cheap. The pasta is made and brought to your table in giant fry pans! The wine is good and we meet more friends.

The first day of The Professional Olive Oil Tasters course and there are people from Norway, France, China, Lituania, Canada, US, Taiwan, Switzerland and Italy. We start with a few tastings. I am constantly amazed at how complicated and difficult this is for me. I never come to the table thinking I am good, I have nailed this. Why? well because you are smelling for defects and fruitiness of the oil to begin with. If you smell something you need to taste it to assess the oil. You swish it all over your mouth and smile wide and suck air to the back of your throat. You sometimes need to do this a few times and make sure the sample gets right to the back of your tongue where you taste bitterness (a positive attribute of good oils) and also to get the sensation of pungency or the peppery kick that can make you cough (this is also a positive attribute and when it makes you cough this is a good thing!)

I am tasting for perhaps a subtle defect or even multiple defects which I need to define as a number to give it a strength value. I need to determine which defect it prevalent and then which others are present. If the oil has no defects I am tasting to see if I can determine if the olives are ripe or were they green (usually this part is detected in the smell )  what do I think the oil tastes like? cut grass, tomato leaf, artichokes, green almonds etc… this is not easy I have to define the level of fruitiness on a scale, I have to define the bitterness and pungency on the scale and if there are defects they also need to be defined. There are over 2000 cultivars of olives and they taste different. In Italy what makes them so special is not that they make the best oils in the world BUT they are the only country that has over 500 cultivars within it and this diversity can make some remarkable oils.

Professor Servili spoke with passion and excitement about the chemistry of olive oil and why is is just simply unique in the world of oils – there is no other oil in the world that has sensory analysis, none! and it is truly remarkable in its powers . I cannot believe how interesting I find even the chemistry and milling aspects of this glorious product.

Yay! Lunch at Gusto a few minutes from school. We always enjoy the local specialties like Trophie “tro-fee ay” which is a typical pasta served in Liguria made with pesto (this is where Pesto is from!) green beans and potatoes, or lasagna bolognese or lasagna with pesto.

Day 2 – we tasted 37 different oils some with defects, some great and let me tell you if you are always looking for and describing defects at the point of identifying good oils you really will struggle to find the good characteristics that define spectacular balanced oils. Then we have a mini test with 6 oils to identify which are the pairs. Once again not as easy as it seems you start basically by smell and only taste after you think you have it correct.

Once again I am sad it is over so soon!

We have another year of 4 Skype tasting classes and then next year is the scary part. We are tested to see if we pass and it is a low proportion of people that pass. I am freaking out already because I really want to pass.

We always have a beautiful dinner at the nicest restaurant in Imperia Oneglia at Salvo Cacciatore.

The Procuitto is sliced so thin it dissolves on your tongue like salty candy floss!

A salt cod and potato croquette

Truly one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had! Anchovies, pepperoncino, olive oil, breadcrumbs lemon juice and zest!

Fresh ravioli with herbs and a drizzle of their own olive oil. A lovely mild Taggiasca typical varietal of this area.

You must stop into Crema di Gelato at least once if only to look at how spectacular their desserts are!

who am I kidding! I can’t just look.

We check in to the West End Hotel at night and start walking to find a restaurant for dinner. We are lucky and find a wonderful one.

For now back to Nice for dinner and tomorrow a full day of exploring and eating. Valentines Day!

A cute little restaurant we just stumble upon!

Hot brie cheese with honey.

The most beautiful tiny baguette, they really do understand great bread in France!

Arugula, chicken breast and potato puree with TRUFFLES!!!

Steak and frites!

Steak tartare and a fresh salad. It is an enormous portion!

On the way home we stumble across  the Nice Carnival parade at 11 pm at night!! crazy but wonderful!

Bonjour!

Our last day and it is a glorious morning! the hotel is located on the Promenade des Anglaise and wow what a view of the Cote d’azur (you will see later why they call it the blue coast!)

We are taking a walking food tour and I am excited and hungry.

The tour begins in the old flower market.

Look at the amazing variety of glace fruit in this beautiful shop window.

Bottles of olive oil….it is lovely to see the beautiful oils however, clear bottles and light are the enemy of olive oil.

Citrus fruit trees!

Olive trees

glace fruit- they are super sweet, too sweet for me (except I love the chestnuts)

These were some pretty chestnuts from in Imperia!! YUM

candied flowers – perfect on a cupcake!

giant artichokes!

saucisson with cognac and wine!

Hazelnuts and clementines …reminds me of childhood Christmas table.

Breads

pizzelle

Gorgeous cakes and perfect macaron!

Cheese and truffles! heaven.

so many salts to choose from!

we shop at the market and stop for breakfast. An orange beignet (donuts!)

orange fougasette bread. I loved it.

une noisette cafe! a typical coffee – with just a splash of milk.

A local speciality is a sweet cake make from swiss chard, pine nuts and raisins called Tourte aux Blettes. Very good!

A few moments on a Sunday morning to stop in this  pretty little church. I say a blessing and send good thoughts for a friend who has recently lost her Mother not far from here.

Our last stop is a cute little shop created by the owner of L’Occitane. There are many local olive oils and other food products.

We set up a small table at the back of the shop and enjoy the best goat cheese I have ever had, some tapenade, pizzelles, glasses of perfect rose and fig syrup and water. It has been a perfect tour and our guide Dorothy has been wonderful!

This is their selection of medium oils (which we all think is MILD…we are hard core!)

Tapenades!

chocolate covered olives….I don’t know!

Of course Lavender!! we are in the south of France.

A pretty olive tree in the middle of the city!

Climbing many steps to get to the view  of the city.

We hike up to the remaining part of the castle and are rewarded with a phenomenal view!! I absolutely have fallen in love with Nice!

An aperitif on the beach after a spectacular day.

A fancy Valentine’s dinner at Jan.

Love potion!

Warm bread can you smell it?

A perfect mouthful of crab and mozzarella foam.

Salmon

One perfect ravioli

A perfect fillet mignon.

candied cucumber and pomegranate ice

cheese, nuts, grapes and dried meat

a gorgeous panna cotta  with chocolate and fruit to dip in shaved chocolate sand.

Dinner at Jan a Michelin star restaurant for a special Valentine’s meal. I am sorry my sweetheart is not here with me however, I am grateful my olive oil dream team and I are enjoying a wonderful evening.

Life is filled with wonder and excitement. How lucky am I to learn new things meet new people and experience the joy of discovery and travel!

I count my blessings as I fall asleep… very very full!

Socca or Farinata -Chickpea pancakes

In the Ligurian region of Italy Farinata is a typical snack and Socca is a street food snack found near the Italian border in Nice. There are slight variations all over and you can make these plain with the basic ingredients or I like them with the addition of lots of pepper, some garlic and even a sprinkle of fresh Parmesano Reggiano on top. They are often made in a wood fired oven and in order to add a bit of smokiness to these homemade versions I have added a bit of cumin.

Perfect with a glass of sparking Prosecco or Rose as they do in France. They are typically served in paper cones to soak up any excess oil.

You will need:

  • 1 cup Chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Viragi from Italy. (lots more to fry with)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic -minced very finely

To finish

  • more salt and pepper
  • a bit of finely zested lemon
  • a few gratings of freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano

Step 1: In a large measuring cup (which makes it easy to pour) add chickpea flour, water, lemon juice, salt, cumin, olive oil, pepper and garlic. Whisk and leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Step 2: Heat oven to broil and make sure rack is close to the top element. I make these in a small regular fry pan (not a non-stick pan or any pan that cannot safely go into the oven) Many people use a large pan or even a round pizza pan. I use the small pan because I want to easily flip the pancake over to get it browned on both sides and the small pan is just easier to control. Heat your pan in the oven or on the stove to get it very hot. Once the pan is very hot I pour 1-2 tbsp best EVOO in the pan and swirl. Pour in an even layer of batter and swirl as if you are making a crepe. The batter should immediately start to sizzle around the edges like when you make Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers.

Step 3: cook under the broiler until the pancake starts to get brown spots – you need to watch these or they will easily burn.

Step 4: Carefully remove your pan from the oven and flip the pancake. Return to the oven and cook until it is as browned as you like. Remove to a cutting board and sprinkle with more salt and pepper, lemon zest and some grated Parm! Cut into pieces and eat while hot!

Step 5: continue making the rest of the batter in the same way.

PS I have also made them in a hot non-stick pan on the stove and although they do taste better in the oven they are much easier to make on the stove. It is like cooking crepes. Always remember to add lots of oil and make sure the pan is very hot before you start to add the oil and batter. 

Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Biscotti

I always try to replace butter with Olive Oil when I can and most times the swap works out quite well. These rich, deep chocolate, almond biscotti are not too sweet but, the addition of the chocolate drizzle on top made them perfectly decadent. They can be sliced thin for a very dry, hard biscotti, which is perfect for dipping into steaming mugs of hot coffee or make a thicker slice wrapped in pretty cellophane for a special treat.

These are Big Pete approved which is saying something since he is pretty picky.

You will need:

 
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder -best quality
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt – I used a chocolate sea salt but you can use plain as well
  • 1/2 cup Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used a Oltremonti from Corsica, France
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (the best quality you can get)
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • an additional 1/2 cup chocolate chips for melting drizzle topping
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

 Step 1: in a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Sift the cocoa powder into bowl to remove any lumps. Combine all dry ingredients with a whisk.

Step 2: in another bowl add olive oil and sugar and mix until it resembles wet sand. Add 2 eggs and  vanilla paste if you can find it (regular real vanilla extract if you can’t find the paste) Whisk hard for a full minute. You can of course use a hand mixer but, I like to make it an arm workout!

Step 3: add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until it gets too stiff then turn out the whole mess and incorporate on the counter.

Step 4: when the flour is added add the chocolate chips and almonds. I basically roll them and press them into a dense paste. Form a log and press top to make a long log. You can make this thicker or thinner depending on whether you want thin slices or think logs.

Step 5: place log onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can form the log directly on the paper if you do not wish to move it. If it sticks you can use a spatula to loosen it for moving onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven for 5 minutes. (this is what is looks like after 30 minutes)

Step 6: with a very sharp serrated knife saw the logs into individual biscotti. If you do not have a good sharp knife you may want to use sliced almonds in the recipe.

Place the slices on their sides and bake another 10 minutes, then flip over and bake an additional 10 minutes.

In a small bowl over boiling water melt final 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Place melted chocolate in a bag, slice off end and drizzle over tops.

Coffee optional but definately recommended!

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

I made this bread replacing the butter that is normally part of the recipe with a mild buttery olive oil. It turned out exceptionally well and I will make this recipe again. Big Pete loved this sweet orange and lemon scented sweet bread so I knew it was a good enough recipe to share.

You will need:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg traditional dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can add part of this as vanilla sugar if you like)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mahlepi/mahleb (optional but makes it truly exceptional!)
  • 1/4 tsp mastic powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mild buttery olive oil – I used Oltremonti Extra Virgin from Corsica
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (organic if possible)
  • 1/2 orange juiced
  • 1/2  tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg plus 1 tbsp water for egg wash
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds or sliced almonds

Step 1: place milk in a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave for 30 seconds – should be slightly warm. Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and stir. Set aside 10 minutes to activate yeast.

Step 2: in a large bowl add dry ingredients: add 4 cups of the flour, sugar , salt, mahlepi and mastic. Stir to combine.

Step 3: in another bowl add wet ingredients: olive oil, eggs, orange juice, lemon and orange zests. Whisk to mix.

Step 4: add activated yeast to flour, start to mix with a wooden spoon (a couple of turns) then add the orange egg mixture. Mix well with the wooden spoon until it is too hard to continue, then turn out the entire mixture onto the counter.

Step 5: add the final 1 cup of flour as necessary until your dough no longer is sticky to the touch. It will take about 5-8 minutes to knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and becomes soft and smooth. I like to use a bench scraper to help clean the board as I mix.

Step 6: place a bit of the same olive oil in a large clean bowl, coat the dough and sides of the bowl with the oil to make sure it doesn’t stick to bowl once it rises. Cover with plastic wrap and leave until double in size. Approximately 2-3 hours.

Step 7: once doubled remove from bowl and cut into 3 equal pieces. You may need a bit more flour (but don’t use too much, it is easier to roll if it is slightly sticky)

Step 8: roll out 3 logs that are 2 feet (24 inches) long. Braid bread. Pinching ends to join. Lightly, cover the dough and let rise another 1 hour. If the dough is too dry you can brush a small amount of oil over top to avoid the plastic wrap from sticking to it.

Step 9: after proofing the second time. Take an egg and a bit of water and whisk. Brush top of bread with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over top. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Let it cool before slicing- I know it’s hard but, this step is important or you will squish the perfect interior.

Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Biscotti

I always try to replace butter with Olive Oil when I can and most times the swap works out quite well. These rich, deep chocolate, almond biscotti are not too sweet but, the addition of the chocolate drizzle on top made them perfectly decadent. They can be sliced thin for a very dry, hard biscotti, which is perfect for dipping into steaming mugs of hot coffee or make a thicker slice wrapped in pretty cellophane for a special treat.

These are Big Pete approved which is saying something since he is pretty picky.

You will need:

 
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder -best quality
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt – I used a chocolate sea salt but you can use plain as well
  • 1/2 cup Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used a Oltremonti from Corsica, France
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (the best quality you can get)
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • an additional 1/2 cup chocolate chips for melting drizzle topping
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

 

 Step 1: in a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Sift the cocoa powder into bowl to remove any lumps. Combine all dry ingredients with a whisk.

Step 2: in another bowl add olive oil and sugar and mix until it resembles wet sand. Add 2 eggs and  vanilla paste if you can find it (regular real vanilla extract if you can’t find the paste) Whisk hard for a full minute. You can of course use a hand mixer but, I like to make it an arm workout!

Step 3: add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until it gets too stiff then turn out the whole mess and incorporate on the counter.

Step 4: when the flour is added add the chocolate chips and almonds. I basically roll them and press them into a dense paste. Form a log and press top to make a long log. You can make this thicker or thinner depending on whether you want thin slices or think logs.

Step 5: place log onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can form the log directly on the paper if you do not wish to move it. If it sticks you can use a spatula to loosen it for moving onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven for 5 minutes. (this is what is looks like after 30 minutes)

Step 6: with a very sharp serrated knife saw the logs into individual biscotti. If you do not have a good sharp knife you may want to use sliced almonds in the recipe.

Place the slices on their sides and bake another 10 minutes, then flip over and bake an additional 10 minutes.

In a small bowl over boiling water melt final 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Place melted chocolate in a bag, slice off end and drizzle over tops.

Coffee optional but definately recommended!

 

Chocolate, Beet and Olive Oil Cake – Naturally Red Velvet!

This cake is good for your HEART and your SWEETHEART!! 

Make it with buttery extra virgin olive oil and beets to replace a bottle of red food colouring and it tastes like…..chocolate cake!! Crazy I know!

 You can top it simply with powdered sugar or a drizzle or even make it fancy with chocolate ganache (which is really just melted chocolate and whipping cream)

It can go from everyday to Valentine’s Day with a bit of chocolate icing.

You will need:

  • 225 grams/8 oz beetroot – cooked and grated/processed
  • 100 grams – good quality dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla (pure never artificial cause that stuff is made from wood! look it up!)
  • 1/4 cup hot coffee
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 1/2 cup good Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used a mild and buttery Oltremonti from France
  • 1 cup flour (all purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 1: Use an 8 inch spring form pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and lock. Butter and flour pan and tap out any excess. Set aside.

Step 2: Boil or roast beets. I used 2 small beets and cooked for approximately 1 hour until tender. Run the beets under cold water until you can handle them and cut off tops and bottoms and  rub off the skins.(PS. if you are lazy they actually sell cooked beets in grocery stores now!) Weigh beets and grate them by hand or just put them in a food processor for a few seconds until they are coarsely pureed.

Step 3: Take a bowl and place over a pot with a few inches of water. Chop chocolate into pieces and place in bowl. Heat pot on medium heat until chocolate starts to melt.Add butter and stir once melted enough to combine.

 Step 4: Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla and combine.

Step 5: Add hot coffee to chocolate and mix. Separate yolks and whites into 2 bowls. Add the yolks to the cooled chocolate and whisk in. (put the whites in another bowl and set aside) Add olive oil to chocolate and whisk until incorporated. Finally add beets and mix then set aside the wet ingredients.

Step 6: Whip egg whites until light and fluffy (few minutes) and they form stiff peaks.

Step 7: In another bowl  add dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. You can sift if your cocoa has lots of clumps or use a whisk to mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to chocolate (wet ingredients) and stir to just combine with a wooden spoon.

Step 8: Fold in the egg whites until just incorporated and then pour into prepared pan.

Step 9: Bake 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Let cool 10 minutes then un-latch spring form pan and let cool completely.

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You can just top with a dusting of sugar or mix the powdered sugar with a few drops of juice or water to create a glaze or make a chocolate ganache icing (which is the simplest icing in my opinion and only has heated whipping cream poured over chocolate chunks and stir…TA DA!!)

and guess what!! it tastes like CHOCOLATE CAKE!!

Shut the front door!!

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake

When I was a kid I remember having this Lemon Pudding Cake. It came in a box and when you baked it there was a cake on top and a pudding layer underneath. It was the weirdest cake. I have made one here using Meyer lemons. It is more of a kind of Souffle than a cake but, still lovely with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.  You have it eat it warm and you can make it in 4 small ramekins instead of an 8 x 8 baking dish for everyone to their own.

You will need:

  • 3 small Meyer Lemons – zested  finely and juiced (pits removed!)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs – separated at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp mild fruity olive oil (or butter melted and cooled if you like) – I used a Mild and fruity Lorenzo Biancolilla Olive oil from Sicily.

Step 1: heat oven to 300 degrees F and generously butter an 8×8 inch glass baking dish or 4 small ramekins if you want individual little cakes.

Step 2: finely grate just the outer zest of the lemons to make 1 tbsp of zest.

Step 3: squeeze the 3 lemons to get  1/3 cup of Meyer lemon juice (watch out for the pits!) I just squeeze over a sieve to catch any.

Step 4: In a large bowl add the dry ingredients: sugar, salt and flour. Mix and set aside.

Step 5: Separate egg whites from yolks. In another bowl add egg yolks, milk, olive oil (or butter) lemon zest and juice. Whisk to combine.

Step 6: Add liquid to flour mixture and combine to mix.

Step 7: Whisk egg whites until you get soft peaks.

Step 8: add 1/2 of the egg whites to start to incorporate, mix and then add the rest of the whipped egg whites and fold until mixed. Do not deflate. The mix will thin.

Step 9: pour into pan and bake until lightly golden 35-40 minutes.

Serve warm – you can also sprinkle top with powdered sugar to make it prettier. Not particularly pretty but, it is delicious.

 

Gennaro Contaldo’s Fried Stuffed Gnocchi

This is one of the nicest decadent treats I have had in a long time!! These are gorgeous little puffy pillows that have the perfect contrasting spicy Arrabbiata sauce and some Parmesan shavings on top. This recipe is Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe from You Tube for Stuffed Fried Gnocci, with Arrabbiata Sauce  If you have never seen Gennaro you simply much watch his You Tube videos, he is my favorite. I love his passion and love of good food. I think one of my favorite shows was on BBC Two Greedy Italians with Gennaro and Antonio Carluccio

This recipe is Gennaro’s recipe for the perfect Christmas starter. I think the recipe is just perfect. It takes a bit of time but, so so so worth it!! I promise you. You can also freeze the gnocchi (I tried it last night) and let them come to room temperature before frying them. I do not recommend boiling them because they are stuffed and get heavy. If you make them as he does they are puffy and gorgeous!!

COME ON!! It’s for Christmas, you don’t eat this everyday!! 

You will need:

Gnocchi Dough

  • 1.5 kg (4-5) Baking Potatoes – I used Russet you want dry not waxy potatoes.
  • 2 large egg yolks (save 1 of the egg whites)
  • 15-20 scrapes of whole nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 150 grams 00 flour
  • rice flour for dusting and rolling

Filling

  • 150 grams ricotta cheese
  • 50 grams finely grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 50 grams breadcrumbs
  • 100 smoked mozzarella – torn (I will show you how to make some if you can’t find it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 10 scrapes of whole nutmeg

Arrabbiata Sauce – ( this is my modified from original recipe for a smaller batch)

  • 85 grams sun dried tomatoes dry (not in oil)
  • 2 tbsp dry oregano
  • 1 tbsp (yes that much!) chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil – I used Pruneti Frantoio from Italy
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 150 ml water -added to blender – to thin out

Gennaro’s original recipe 

  • 300 grams sun dried tomatoes dry (not packed in oil)
  • 1 handful of chili flakes (yes he used that much!!)
  • 1 handful dry oregano
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 400 ml of olive oil
  • fresh parsley
  • salt to taste

To finish

  • chopped parsley
  • fried sage leaves
  • more grated Parmesan Cheese
  • bit of salt

Step 1: roast 1.5 kg. (4-5 large) russet potatoes in a 400 degree F oven for at least 1 hour to get potatoes very soft (I rub a bit of olive oil on potatoes)

Step 2: once potatoes are cool enough to handle (don’t wait until they are cold they should still be hot for ricing) peel skins and rice in a potato ricer or food mill. This tool is really the secret to the best mashed potatoes too..It’s like a giant garlic press. You place cooked potatoes in it and squeeze out the little squished pieces that look like rice!

Step 3: add egg yolks (keep 1 egg white for brushing on dough – food glue!), nutmeg, salt and pepper (it takes lots) and flour. Mix lightly with a spatula. I like to fold it like I am incorporating whipped egg whites into something. Just a few turns and then you can mix lightly with your hands before turning out everything from the bowl onto counter. You want to just gather all the flour and create a dough. You do not want to overwork or the gnocchi will become tough. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper.

Step 4: if you cannot find smoked mozzarella you can make your own! Add some food safe wood chips to a smoker box for the barbecue and light the wood on fire in your outdoor grill. Once the smoke starts going I place the ball of mozzarella on a plate/bowl next to the smoker box. Close the grill lid and let the wood smoke permeate the cheese. It will not melt the cheese if it is just a handful of chips you are burning. I remove the mozzarella after 5 minutes and it is smoky. Gennaro had a really nice charred one in his video!

Step 5: make filling in another bowl. Add ricotta, finely grated Parmesan, smoked mozzarella torn/squished into pieces with your hands, Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and egg yolks. Mix well. It should be on the drier side (like a paste) not runny. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  You can place in a piping bag or Ziploc bag with one end cut to pipe filling onto potato dough.

Step 6: Divide potato dough into 4. Roll one section into a thick rope (approx 24 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide) using plenty of rice flour to avoid sticking.

Step 7: press log with heal of your palm to flatten or use a rolling pin.

Step 8: brush with egg white.

Step 9: add a row of filling. My filling was dry enough that I could roll it out with my hands.

Step 10: roll the potato dough over the filling and gently seal and roll to encase with more rice flour.

Step 11: chop into 1 inch pieces or the size you like. Place finished gnocchi on a cookie sheet with lots of rice flour to avoid sticking.

Repeat for the other 3 rolls – this recipe is perfect for 4 rolls of dough and 4 equal rolls of filling.

Making the Sauce

Step 1: in a food processor add sun dried tomatoes and pulse to mince.

Step 2: add minced tomatoes to a saucepan along with chili flakes, oregano, salt, parsley and olive oil. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes to soften.

This is my addition Gennaro did not add water. 

Step 3: remove from heat and add to a blender. Add water and blend until becomes a thick chunky sauce. If you need to add a bit more water to get it to the consistency you like feel free. Taste and adjust salt. It will taste spicy but, it will mellow over time and the fried gnocchi go so well with the contrasting spicy sauce.

Fry the gnocchi in hot oil at 350 degrees F if you have a deep fryer this works well.  I  shallow pan fried (oil goes halfway up the gnocchi. I cooked them in good olive oil (cause it is a delicious unrefined oil and yes you can fry with it ) If you have a deep fryer this method is easier because you don’t have to fiddle and turn but, both work fine.

Quickly fry some sage leaves in a bit olive oil.

Serve on a pretty plate or cutting board. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, add some shaved Parmesan and decorate with some fried sage leaves. Dip or top the gnocchi with the sauce and prepare to be amazed!

Big Pete went out of his mind!! told me I could make those anytime I liked!!

Thank you Gennaro!!I love it.

I ate some and froze the rest. If you are cooking from frozen. Take out gnocchi and let come to room temperature making sure they are separated to avoid sticking together before frying.

Do not boil these they get heavy and are not gorgeous and fluffy.

Farro with Goat Cheese and a Medley of Vegetables

This is a delicious nutty salad with roasted or sauteed vegetables, farro, (also called wheat berries) some dried cranberries and some lovely fresh goat cheese. While the farro is cooking on the stove you can roast some veggies in the oven. Toss with some beautiful Olive Oil like the Viola Sincero oil I used. Makes a great lunch or dinner.

You will need:

  • 4-5 tbsp best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Viola Sincero from Italy
  • 1 1/2 cups farro
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries – chopped
  • 1 leek – sliced finely
  • 10 cremini mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 small fennel – shaved thinly on a mandolin
  • 4-6 small tomatoes – cut in half \
  • 1 garlic clove – minced finely
  • 3-4 oz of best quality fresh soft goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

I always like to gather all my ingredients together so I don’t forget something!

Step 1: in a large pot add 2-3 tbsp of great extra virgin olive oil like this Viola Sincero which is a Moraiolo from Umbria, Italy. You want something that is medium or robust to match this hearty salad.

Step 2: turn on heat to medium and add the farro and the chopped cranberries. Saute for 5 minutes to toast farro, stirring to avoid burning.

Step 3: add the water and let come to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 50 minutes until tender.

Step 4: shave fennel, slice leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic.

Step 5:  place sliced tomatoes on a plate with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and roast in a 425 degree F oven for 20-30 minutes or until partially dried and slightly browned. You could roast all the vegetables if you like in the oven. I would suggest making the pieces larger to ensure they all cook evenly in that case.

Step 6: in a hot saute pan with the remaining 2-3 tbsp olive oil saute leeks, fennel, mushrooms and garlic for a few minutes on medium-high heat until browned and cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 7: drain farro and add to a large bowl.

Step 8: toss vegetables with farro. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add a few more chopped cranberries for a chewier taste.

Serve on two plates dividing roasted tomatoes and adding some globs of fresh goat cheese and a final drizzle of fresh oil for an addition level of raw olive oil.

 

Olive Oil Cornbread

Cornbread can be dry but, not this one! It has lots of yummy olive oil to keep it moist. It is not too sweet and is perfect to add to a cornbread stuffing recipe. I love it warm with loads of honey!

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (mine was lemon salt)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey (if you like it sweeter you can add 1/2 cup )
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil – I used Domenica Fiore Reserva (don’t use cheap olive oil – if its cheap it is usually not even olive oil)
  • 1 tbsp butter to grease pan

Step 1: generously grease a square pan (8×8) set aside.

Step 2: get two bowls one for the wet ingredients and the other for dry. In one bowl add cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix and set aside. In the other bowl add eggs, honey and mix right away. (never leave eggs and sugar or the sugar kind of cooks the eggs)

Step 3: pour some great extra virgin olive oil like Domenica Fiore Reserva from Umbria, Italy. Mix well with a whisk. Look at that glorious colour!!

Step 4: add the wet to the dry mix and carefully mix only until just incorporated. If you mix hard you will get a tough bread.

Step 5: pour into prepared pan and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cut into squares and drizzle with gobs of sticky honey!