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Italian kale soup: the ribollita

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Lacinato kale (called cavolo nero, literally “black cabbage”, in Italian and often in English as well) is a variety of kale with a long tradition in Italian cuisine, especially that of Tuscany. Therefore it’s also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm.

Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries, and it is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita soup. Lacinato kale, like most other kale varieties are usually blanched first and then sautéed with other flavorful ingredients for instance in Campanian cuisine anchovies are often added. It is commonly used in pastas and soups, but can also be eaten raw, in a salad.

In Dutch, it is called zwarte kool (black cabbage) or palmkool, referring to the palm-like shape with the leaves growing from the stem, especially after the bottom leaves are harvested.

The cultivar version of kale is very popular among gardeners because of its color and texture, and was listed amongst the plants Thomas Jefferson (president of USA) recorded in his 1777 garden at Monticello villa. The plant grows to a height of two feet, with blistered leaves often over one foot in length each and two to four inches wide. The “straplike” leaves are typically harvested from the bottom of the stem, leaving the remainder of the plant resembling a palm tree.

Kale in the kitchen: ribollita or minestrone soup with kale

In Tuscan cuisine, lacinato kale is often used in ribollita (“twice cooked”), a thick, hearty soup made up of ingredients cooked for a meal the day before.

This soup is made with potage, bread and vegetables. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans, cabbage, kale, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, beans, chard, celery, potatoes and onion. Its name literally means “reboiled”.

Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins. It was originally made by reheating (i.e. reboiling) the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. Some sources date it back to the Middle Ages, when the servants gathered up food-soaked bread trenchers from feudal lords’ banquets and boiled them for their own dinners.

You can also have delicious and healthy vegetable dish on your table in about 15 minutes. Heat up olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a big pan. Throw in the leafy green kale (cut) and coat them all with the oil. Add a little water and bring it to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan. In a few minutes take off the lid and let the water evaporate. Sauté the wilted greens in the garlic-infused oil until they’re tender.P1170132

 

 

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Stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce

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The cabbage roll is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, Eastern Europe, and Iran, as well as  West Asia and Northern China.

Meat fillings are traditional in Europe, often beef, lamb or pork seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables are often included. Pickled cabbage leaves are often used for wrapping, particularly in Southeastern Europe. In Asia, seafoods, tofu, and shiitake mushroom may also be used. Chinese cabbage is often used as a wrapping.

Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling which are then baked, simmered, or steamed in a covered pot and generally eaten warm, often accompanied with a sauce. The sauce varies widely by cuisine. In Eastern Europe, tomato-based sauces or plain sour cream are typical. In Lebanon, it is a popular plate, where the cabbage is stuffed with rice and minced meat and only rolled to the size of cigar. It is usually served with a side of yogurt and a type of lemon and olive oil vinaigrette seasoned with garlic and dried mint.

My cabbage roll is filled with beef (minced meat) and accompanied with tomato sauce. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: 1 big, white cabbage, 400 g minced beef (not too fat), 1 egg, 2 tbsp breadcrumb, 3 twigs thyme, 1 clove garlic, 3 carrots, 1 big, sweet onion finely chopped, 200 ml tomato juice, 8 peeled tomatoes (or 2 cans of tomatoes), 3 parsley, 3 tbsp oil, pepper and cayenne pepper

Directions:

Pull to leaves of the cabbage.
Bring to boil half liter of water in a pan and blancher the cabbage leaves circa for 10 minutes. Sieve and pat leaves dry with a kitchen paper.
Add egg and bread crumble to minced meat, season with salt and pepper and add the chopped thyme, the cayenne pepper and the garlic. Form four balls from meat.
Roll them into cabbage leaves, tight. If it is necessary fix them with toothpicks.

Cut the peeled tomatoes into small slices. Steam onion and carrots in 3 tablespoons of oil for four minutes.
Pour the tomato sauce over and add the finely chopped tomatoes as well.
Let sauce simmer for circa 20 minutes.

Spoon the tomato sauce into a fireproof dish and place the cabbage rolls on.
Cover with alufoil (tinfoil) and let it bake for 30 minutes in 170°C.

When the time is up scatter some finely chopped parsley.gevulde_koolbladeren_met_rundergehakt_4

 

White wine mousse with grapes

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Ingredients: 6 egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, 3/4 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel, vanilla extract, 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Directions: Place egg yolks, and sugar in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel bowl. Add grated lemon peel and a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract to the yolk mixture. Pour in the white wine. You can use sweet Vermouth or Tokay muscatel wine.

Half-fill a pot with water, bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Set the pan or bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the custard mixture, making sure that the water does not boil. This ensures that a gentle, even heat thickens the mixture without curdling it. Whisking traps air in the yolks for a light, fluffy mixture.

Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture triples in volume, froths up and becomes pale. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the container of custard out of the pot. Slightly thickened, the custard can be used as a sauce. Longer cooking will thicken the custard further, giving it the texture of mousse. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to its container.

Serve the custard. Whisk heavy cream until it forms soft peaks; add the whipped cream to the cooled custard and use a whisk to gently fold them together. Reserve some of the whipped cream to serve on top.

Ladle the mousse into individual glasses. Serve with whipped cream, grape berries, and/or cookies.

 

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The favorite dessert of the Autumn: the lost bread with fruits

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Ingredients:

1 bread, (at least 2 days old), 4 eggs, 200 ml cream, 2 tbsp sweet liqueur, rum or Calvados, 60 gram sugar, 2 apples (peeled and sliced), 2 pears (peeled and sliced), butter to smear

Recipe

Preheat the oven for 180°C. Peel and sliced fruits.

Whisk the eggs add sugar (pour alcohol to sugar) and cream. Stir well.

Smear an oval form/ pan with butter. Cover or layer pan with the sliced bread and fruits. Arrange fruits overlapped each others. Pour over bread and fruits the egg and cream mixture.

Bake the lost bread circa 20 minutes in the oven. Serve in luke warm or warm.

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Italian Oyster mushroom antipasti

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The oyster mushroom is a common edible mushroom. It was first cultivated in Germany as a subsistence measure during World War I and is now grown commercially around the world for food. It is related to the similarly cultivated king oyster mushroom. Oyster mushrooms can also be used industrially for mycoremeditation purposes.

The oyster mushroom is one of the more commonly sought wild mushrooms, though it can also be cultivated on straw and other media. It has the bittersweet aroma which is also characteristic of bitter almonds.

The oyster mushroom is frequently used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cookery as a delicacy. It is frequently served on its own, in soups, stuffed, or in stir-fry recipes with soy sauce. Oyster mushrooms are sometimes made into a sauce, used in Asian cooking, which is similar to oyster sauce. The mushroom’s taste has been described as mild with a slight odor similar to anise. The oyster mushroom is best when picked young; as the mushroom ages, the flesh becomes tough and the flavor becomes acrid and unpleasant.

Oyster mushrooms are widely cultivated and used in Kerala, India where a wide variety of dishes are prepared from them. Oyster mushrooms are mainly cultivated in large clear polyethylene bags with buns of hay layered in the bags, and spawn sown between the layers.

Oyster mushrooms are also used in the  Czech and  Slovak contemporary cuisine in soups and stews in a similar fashion to meat.

Oyster mushrooms contain small amounts of arabitol, a  sugar alcohol, which may cause gastrointestinal upset in some people.

Italian oyster mushroom

Ingredients: 300 gr oyster mushroom, 2-3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 cloves of garlic, grated or pressed, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 100 ml white wine

Clean and wash mushrooms thoroughly. Heat oil in a frying pan, add mushroom and fry it for 2 minutes. Meanwhile add grated garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over white wine and balsamic vinegar. Flavor with thyme. Soaté for 5 more minutes. If it’s necessary pour water over mushrooms. Serve it on a salad with fresh, crispy baguette.P1160365

 

 

Rice pudding with prune-plum mousse on the top

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Rice pudding is a dish made from rice mixed with water or milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon and very often raisins. Variants are used for either desserts or dinners. When used as a dessert, it is commonly combined with a sweetener such as sugar.

Such desserts are found on many continents, especially Asia where rice is a staple. Some variants are thickened only with the rice starch, others include eggs, making them a kind of  custard. Rice puddings are found in nearly every area of the world. Recipes can greatly vary even within a single country. The dessert can be boiled or baked. Different types of pudding vary depending on preparation methods and the selected ingredients.

For instance in the Nordic countries, rice porridge is a common dinner, and sometimes breakfast. It is made as a warm dish from rice, cooked in milk. When served, it is commonly sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and a small knob of butter, and served with milk or fruit juice. In Scandinavia, rice pudding has long been a part of Xmas tradition, in some countries referred to as Yule porridge. In Finland it is common to eat the Christmas rice porridge with a sauce made of dried prunes. But my recipe is a further development of the rice pudding. I inherited it from my grandma. The special twist in the recipe that the rice pudding is covered by plum mousse! It’s divine! Here it is:

Rice pudding with plum mousse

Ingredients: 3/4 cup uncooked white rice, 2 cups milk, divided, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, beaten, 2/3 cup golden raisins (optional), 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (This recipe may also be made using Splenda instead of sugar. Use 1/3 the amount. This is an easy way to enjoy this great creamy recipe but cut down on the sugar and calories.)

for the foam/mousse: 2 eggs, 1 tbsp sugar, fresh plums (or compote, jam), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon clove powder. If you happen to choose the fresh fruit then put the fresh fruits into a blender flavor with cinnamon and sugar, lemon zest and make purée from them!

Methods

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir rice into boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a clean saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg, and raisins; cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
  3. Pour the finished rice pudding in a fireproof or unbreakable porcelain bowl. Whip the egg whites until stiff, flavor with sugar. Add 2 tablespoons jam or cooked plum compote, stir plum to egg whites. Pour over this mousse the top of the rice. Smear it evenly. Place rice pudding back into the oven and cook for 10 more minutes. Leave dish until the foam begins to blush. Serve it immediately!P1160923

 

Cabbage “lasagna”

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Ingredients: 2 pounds ground beef, or pork & beef mixture, 1 large onion, chopped, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 cups cooked rice or cooked potatoes, 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled, 1 medium head cabbage (2 pounds), shredded, 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or grated Gouda, parmezan, 200 ml sour cream, 1 egg, coarsely ground pepper, optional, 1 vegetable stock

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, crumbling beef, until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. Stir in a bit of bouillon and add next six ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in rice and bacon; remove from heat.

Add one egg to sour cream, stir well. (you can replace sour cream with cream)

Boil some water in a pot and cook the cabbage leaves for 5-to 6 minutes. Pat leaves dry.

Layer a third of the cabbage in a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Top with half of the meat mixture. Repeat layers; top with remaining cabbage. Pour remaining bouillon and sour cream + egg mixture over top. ( I fried a couple of leaves in some oil and place on the top of the layered minced meat and cabbage and flavored with balsamic vinegar. It gave an extra good taste to dish) You can grate cheese on each layers.

Cover and bake 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. If desired, sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper or marjoram.P1160866