Team Tomato – Insalata Erbette e Tre Pomodori

I was cheering on behalf of Cucina Fintastica for Gli Azzurri yesterday to no avail. Stupid football. Stupid Uruguay team (apart from the tight compression shirts that is).

Fortunately I am also an avid supporter of another team that never fails: Team Tomato. This salad includes three types of them and with the help of avocado, feta cheese and toasted bread it doesn’t need any unjust red cards, corner kicks or skimpy outfits to become a sure winner! And who knows – maybe if somebody had offered this salad to that chap Luis Suarez before yesterday’s match, he wouldn’t have needed to sink his teeth into his fellow player…

Salad of Three Tomatoes and Herbs

Serves 4

(Wild) herbs

100 g tomatoes

100 g cherry tomatoes

100 g sun-dried tomatoes

1 avocado (+ some lemon juice)

100 g feta cheese in cubes

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

some slices of white bread

Chop the herbs and slice the tomatoes and the avocado (squeeze some lemon juice onto the avocado slices). Mix all ingredients together and season with oil and vinegar (+ salt & pepper) to your taste. Toast the bread. I used the bread as “croutons” but you can also serve it on side with some oil and vinegar.

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The Competitive Carrots – Carote al Latte

Having used quite a bit of different herbs in my cooking recently, today I found my fridge looking like a jungle. As I do not have a beautiful garden à la Jamie O. or James Martin where to transfer them, it was time to take some serious cooking action.

The first two herbs to catch my attention were sage and tarragon. The first fresh carrots have recently hit the stores in Helsinki and I thought that it could be a nice idea to combine them with either of these herbs. For further inspiration, I started browsing the web for Italian recipes with carrots and either of the herbs.

It seemed that Italian chefs are not very inspired by carrots at all (who can really blame them though when they have such a wide range of veggies from artichokes to yummy plummy tomatoes available!). I couldn’t find as many recipes as I usually can by adding a name of vegetable and one of the most frequent hits was the good ol’ “Italian classic” called carrot cake! However, another carrot recipe that did get frequent mentions on Google was a dish called carote al latte.

I chose this recipe since it also included a herb: parsley. Unfortunately parsley was pretty much the only herb that hadn’t found its way to the green wilderness of my kitchen within the past few weeks. I wanted to substitute that with either that tarragon or sage but couldn’t really make up my mind on which to use. Hence in the true competitive sprit of World Cup 2014, I decided to split the carrots into two teams and set up an exciting race between “Team Tarragon” and “Team Sage”.

“Team Tarragon” had a slightly weak start as I couldn’t really taste the tarragon in the otherwise fabulous sauce at all. Thus, it was quickly overtaken by “Team Sage”. Yet as the race went on I started to wonder if the flavour of sage was in fact slightly too overpowering. “Team Tarragon” stepped up its game by making me gradually appreciate its more subtle seasoning. The finish line was approaching and the competition was getting fiercer and fiercer… Finally, all I can say it was really a tie between the two teams. The only thing I do know for sure is that I ate those carrots in record time!

P.S. On World Cup 2014, I’m sure it goes without saying that Cucina Fintastica naturalmente supports Gli Azzurri!

Carrots in Milk

Serves 4

8 carrots

50 g butter

½ cup water

300 ml milk

pepper

1 bunch of parsley (or sage or tarragon or whatever herb team you feel like supporting)

salt

½ cup white wine

Clean and slice the carrots. Heat the butter in a pan. Once melted, add the carrots and gently fry them for a few minutes. Add the pepper, wine and water. Let the mixture cook until the wine and water have evaporated/ been absorbed by the carrots. Pour the milk into the pan and continue cooking at a low heat until almost all of the milk has also evaporated. Season with salt and a chopped herb of your choice.

Greatly Recommended – Ravioli di Zucca

There was a bit of a milestone in my path of food-blogging some weeks ago: I got a recommendation for a recipe for my blog! Coming from a reliable source of a fellow foodie, I was eager to give it a try. My friend also helped me prepare the dish which was certainly a bonus – especially considering that making fresh ravioli does have quite a few similarities with baking. And yes, all the ravioli in the picture were made by her. The ones I put together were of a shape that could be politely described as “creative” or “interesting” (along with “unphotogenic”).

Despite being previously unknown to us, ravioli (or tortelli) di zucca is apparently again one of those very traditional and famous recipes in Italy. We weren’t exactly right in season with our timing of cooking it since it is in fact also a typical dish to be made on Christmas Eve… However, since we aren’t Italians, we just simply enjoyed a lovely dinner without feeling any urge to belt out a couple of verses of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!

There is one nice twist about this recipe: it includes biscuits! The recipe I found recommended that you use amaretti biscuits which I managed to also find in Helsinki. They had quite a distinct almondy flavour although they do not necessarily include any almonds but only apricot kernels. My friend’s recipe on the other hand utilized the cantuccini biscuits. Apparently both work really well with the pumpkin. In addition, the union of sage, butter and parmesan to top the ravioli is just superb!

Pumpkin Ravioli

Serves 6

400 g flour (preferably “00” or durum wheat)

4 eggs

600 g pumpkin/ butternut squash (incl. shell, 400 g without it)

100 g parmesan, grated

40 g amaretti biscuits (or cantuccini)

bread crumbs (if needed)

nutmeg

salt, pepper

40 g butter

6-8 leaves of sage

Clean the pumpkin and cut it into slices. Remove the seeds. Place them on a parchment paper on an oven tray and cover with some tinfoil. Cook the pumpkin slices in the oven at 200C for 25-30 minutes until soft. Let them cool down.

In the mean time, prepare the pasta dough. Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Crack the eggs into the centre of your flour. Add a pinch of salt and start kneading the dough. Add a little bit of water if needed. Continue until you have obtained a smooth and homogenous dough. Roll the dough out with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. The dough should be fairly thin to be ready for the ravioli (you can check out e.g. Jamie’s tips on how to roll the dough well if you are unsure what to do!).

To make the stuffing, mix the amaretti biscuits, parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a blend. Peel the pumpkin slices, add to the mixture and blend well. If the stuffing seems too moist, you can add some bread crumbs to it.

Cut rectangle or round shapes of your pasta dough with a glass or some type of a rolling cutter (mine was a pizza cutter!). Add a little bit of the stuffing in the middle (do not exaggerate to be able to close the ravioli properly) of a dough slice. You can brush the edges of the pasta lightly with water. Place another dough slice on top and carefully seal the edges (my friend used a fork quite successfully for this purpose). Alternatively, you can roll out two big sheets of the pasta dough, add bits of stuffing within equal distances of each other on one sheet and then place the other sheet on top, and only after that cut the ravioli into shapes and seal their edges.

Cook the ravioli in salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes (usually they are ready when they start floating on the water). Make the butter sauce by melting the butter and adding the sage. Serve the ravioli with the sauce and freshly grated parmesan.