The Incredible Ingredients – Trota alla Quinoa

I have probably stated this already before but making Italian dishes from Italian recipes really is also a part-time adventure when it comes to food shopping. Sometimes my attempts here in Helsinki are more successful and sometimes less. I am not sure into which category my latest trial falls (another recipe from the October edition of “La Cucina Italiana“).

My first part of the shopping adventure for this recipe took place in the vegetable section of a supermarket. It was my first time buying endives although I had eaten them before. I spent some sweaty minutes trying to locate them until I discovered that – for some horticultural reasons beyond me – somebody had given a complicated Finnish name for them (I thought the right word would be about the same as in English). Fortunately I was saved by the label of their package which was in English. However, I still don’t remember what the proper, mysterious Finnish word for endives was.

The next challenge was the fish. Although trout is actually one of the few species of fish that can be found in both Italy and Helsinki, it is still not widely available in all supermarkets here. This was also the case in the store that I visited but after consulting its fishmonger, we agreed that salmon was the best substitute available, and I think it did quite a nice job.

Finally, I was scratching my head when trying to understand the sort of quinoa listed for this dish (“soffiata”). My favourite on-line dictionary translated the word “soffiare” as “to blow” with examples such as to blow one’s nose. As preparing the quinoa through my nostrils didn’t exactly sound like one of the most appetizing (and grown-up) ideas, I resorted to just cooking the quinoa as instructed on its package before covering the fish with it. Now that I am less hungry (i.e. have more patience to Google things a bit more thoroughly), I learned that in fact the right translation is “puffed quinoa” which apparently can be bought as such but can also be made at home in a similar way to popcorn.

However, even if I failed to properly source two of the listed ingredients, I had a lovely meal at a little effort! I think I will definitely try this again though with that properly popped quinoa – as well as an English-Finnish dictionary to ensure I rediscover those endives!

Trout with quinoa

Serves 4

500 g trout fillets (without skin)

500 g lettuce

500 g endives

40 g puffed quinoa

1 spring onions

thyme

olive oil

salt, pepper

Cut the trout fillet into large slices. Season them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped thyme leaves. Roll the slices in the puffed quinoa and place them on an oven tray (covered with a parchment paper). Bake at 200C for ca. 10 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the spring onion, lettuce and endives. Cook them on a pan with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper on a high heat for 5 minutes. Serve with the trout.

The Proper Hearty Meal – Crostata con Patate e Pollo

Although I’m not a native English speaker, there are some words that I quite like in that language. One of them is “proper“. Whenever an Englishman uses that word, you immediately know that we are really talking about serious business here (usually involving a tradition of at least several centuries). Another example is “hearty” when used to describe a meal. In my mind, a hearty meal immediately gives me an impression of something very wholesome, comforting and – obviously – very calorific (hence ironically being an expression that probably most cardiologists do not fully support; at least if they are not mean and unemployed).

For me, a hearty meal is also a question of weather. In the summer months, you can practically subsist on veggies and berries. However, when the winter starts looming, suddenly you feel the growing urge to substitute all those six pack tummies as your fitness role models with the very warm- and cosy-looking shapes of seals.

I suppose I am not alone in this. In the Italian kitchen, the same seal idol phenomenon is visible in both the seasonality of the dishes as well as their regionality. The food from the most Northern part of Italy is typically heavier than that of the South, and during late autumn and winter months you seem to find more recipes such as the one that I’m sharing today (from the October issue of La Cucina Italiana).

This recipe is also ideal for colder months and lousy weather, as it takes hours to prepare… Yet it is certainly worth the efforts with a very comfort foody yet Italian taste. I am also happy to report that I have now prepared my very first Italian recipe of the level per esperti – and to top my happiness, it is a pie. Believe it or not!

Chicken and Potato Pie

Serves 6-8

600 g chicken legs and thighs

450 g boiled potatoes

200 g flour

200 g Ricotta Infornata (hard Ricotta cheese) or Provolone cheese (or another hard not overly strong cheese)

125 g butter

100 g rice flour

60 g walnuts

3 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp cane sugar

1 sprig of rosemary

12 chive scapes

2 tbsp grated parmesan

1 garlic clove

salt, pepper

Chop the walnuts into not too fine chunks as well as the chive scapes.

Combine both flours with the butter in a bowl and mix until you have small coarse crumbs (about the size of rice grains). Add the egg yolk, 1 entire egg, the cane sugar, a pinch of salt, the walnuts, the chives and the grated parmesan. Continue mixing for a few minutes until you have obtained a proper dough. Cover the bowl and store it in a fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Bone the chicken legs. Remove the skin of each leg and keep them for later use. Divide the flesh of the chicken legs into two parts thighs and legs. Cut the thighs into smallish pieces.

Take a blender and quickly mix the flesh of the legs (but not thighs!) in it. Add 80 g water, a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1 egg and continue blending until you have a smooth sauce (and please do not mix it up with a strawberry smoothie eventhough it looks like one..!).

Slice the chicken skin and fry it in a pan with a knob of butter, the rosemary sprig and the garlic clove (unpeeled) on a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the rosemary and garlic clove from the pan, and add the flesh of chicken thighs. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the cheese and the boiled potatoes.

Roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm thick round. Take a cake/ pie tin (with a diameter of 22 cm) and line it with parchment paper (including the base). Carefully move the dough into the tin. Remove the excess dough on the edges and keep it for decorating the pie.

Fill the pie by first adding a layer of cheese, followed by a layer of potatoes and a layer of the chicken leg sauce, and finally a layer of the cooked chicken thighs. Repeat until you have used all your ingredients (I had two layers of each). Try and create neat stripes of the excess dough and add them onto the top of the pie (I only managed to add two but in the picture of the magazine they had plenty – maybe they cheated…). Finally brush the pie with a beaten egg, and bake it in the oven at 170 C for 50 minutes.

Ricotta Respect – Penne Ricotta e Melanzane

I have been writing this blog for almost a year now. However, today I feel that I may be experiencing some kind of a writer’s block for the first time. On the other hand, it may not be such a bad sign if a recipe is so fabulous that it practically leaves you speechless (or writingless, but that’s not really a word, is it?)?

I am also in silent awe of the versatility of the ricotta cheese. It is amazing how well its very subtle flavour works in various dishes ranging from this pasta sauce to pastries and salads. And in this case the sauteed shallots and ricotta form the perfect union to base the rest of the dish on.

Finally, I suppose I do need to break my written muteness at least to share the source of this recipe. The name of the site translates as “Granny’s recipes”. So after all, even if my verbal skills are sometimes unreliable, you can at least always trust an Italian nonna!

Penne Pasta with Ricotta Cheese and Eggplant

Serves 4

320 g penne pasta

1 eggplant

1 tomato

1 shallot

200 g ricotta cheese

parsley

olive oil

salt, pepper

Thinly slice the shallot and saute it on a gentle heat in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Cut the eggplant into thin slices. Take another pan and heat it (without any oil) and cook the eggplant slices until it is crisp. Season with salt and remove from the heat.

Combine the ricotta with the sauteed shallot and let the mixture cook for 5 minutes on a low heat.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water and drain. Add the pasta to the pan with the shallot – ricotta sauce. Cut 3/4 of the fried eggplant into smaller slices and combine them with the pasta and sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and add one tablespoon of fresh parsley (chopped) and the tomato (sliced into small cubes). Serve warm and garnish the plates with the remaining eggplant slices.