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Mostarda di Cremona and Stracchino cheese

(viewed 1209 times)

Today I propose you the most simple and tasty starting course I know: I'm greedy when I may eat it.
You need only two ingredients: 1) the Stracchino cheese and 2) a jar of "Mostarda di Cremona". Now I explain.
Stracchino in a very very fresh cheese, very tender, sometimes almost liquid. Mostarda di Cremona is a typical product of northern Italy city of Cremona: candied fruits in mustard seeds syrup, so it is sweet and hot. As much as it look a strange scheme, it is a paradise taste. I use it as starting course, in winter season. The contrast between the perfect white of cheese and the colors of fruits are a joy for eyes and the contrast between creamy cheese taste and sweet/hot fruit is unique. No other food can give you the same. I wait for your comments: you will love it! So simple, so good.

PS. Mostarda di Cremona is also very indicated with boiled meat, toghether with other accompaning sauces (green sauce, red sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, etc) and pickles.


6th Feb 2008, 10:49   comments (6)

The Polenta

(viewed 597 times)

The polenta is a typical food of mountain regions of northern Italy, based on corn flour. It is very simple but it takes a long time and effort to be prepared. But you can use some precooked flours and obtain a good polenta in few minutes. Various producers have an express polenta flour, try in your supermarket or in italian foodstores: it is a very cheap preparation.
Follow the indicazion on package and you cannot be wrong. Just a suggestion: if you want a richer product, use milk instead of water (or half milk, half water - it is my preferred dosage). You can obtain a harder or smoother polenta just controlling the amount of water (and/or milk): I prefer it a bit creamy, but it's up to your taste. Remember that it hardens as soon as it chills.

When polenta is ready, if you want to prepare something really tasty, cut in pieces your preferred cheese and stir them in the polenta adding also butter and grated parmesan cheese. Let it rest for a few minutes: you will love! Best cheese for polenta is undoubtly the Gorgonzola. It is a creamy blue cheese - a boast of northwest italians - you give it a try... please, do not use Roquefort or other blue cheese, they are usually too tasty and acid. Also avoid to use the Mozzarella cheese because it has no relations with polenta, it is too delicate and also have a real bad behaivour with hot temperatures (I mean REAL Mozzarella, not the lousy look-alike industrial products).

You can eat polenta in various ways: as soon as it is ready I love to take a cup of fresh and cold milk and put a large spoon of polenta inside, eating immediatly to feel the contrast between cold milk and hot polenta!
Second step I usually do is put another large spoon of polenta in my dish and hide inside some preferred cheese bits: then I wait eating something else. Five minutes later I return to my personal cheese polenta...

Usually it is eaten with saucy meat preparations, with sausages in tomato sauce, with mushrooms, and other saucy winter foods.
In some regions they wait for polenta to harden and cool, then cut in slices and grill them, to accompany main course of meat or seafood, in all seasons.

(Please note: we usually do not make any ad to industrial products, so consider the image of Polenta Valsugana just a suggestion - anyway it is good enough)

30th Jan 2008, 12:01   | tags:,comments (0)

A Discourse of Italian Meal

(viewed 857 times)
The meals of an italian family are quite structurated in a very
standardized way.

On a normal day:

1. First Course: Pasta, Rice, Risotto or Soup
2. Second Course: Meat or Fish with Vegetables
3. Cheese
4. Fruit
5. Coffee

On special occasion, or sunday:

1. Starters
2. First Course: Pasta, Rice or Soup
3. Second Course: Meat or Fish with Vegetables
4. Cheese
5. Fruit
6. Cake or Sweets
7. Coffee

In very special occasions:

1. Starters in abundance
2. First Course: two o three different
3. Second Course: at least two different, with various vegs
4. Cheese
5. Fruit
6. Cakes and/or Sweets
7. Coffee

Obviously, nowadays it is uncommon to eat this way twice a day, but
anyway all italian meals have this sequence: we never eat fruit (as
mexican do) or a salad (as many cultures do) at beginning of meal, and
we always eat cheese at the end, just before fruit. You are allowed to
swap fruit and cakes at your choice, a typical question is "Do you want
fruit or cake before?"
You must close the meal with an espresso, no way. Avoid the cappuccino:
never never a cappuccino after a meal (if you drink wine and then milk
your stomach goes upset, if you don't drink wine, well, the same...). I
know cappuccino is fantastic, but is a joy for the morning and sometimes
in the afternoon for a tonic pause, but not for ending a meal. No chance.
You may say we are conservative - yes it is. We are monotonous and
conservative (about food) and quite proud of it!
23rd Jan 2008, 15:52   | tags:,,comments (2)

The Risotto

(viewed 1235 times)

Risotto is a typical northern italian first dish: as you may argue is based on rice. In fact, it is a family of recipies that have in common the basic preparation. Probably it has been introduced in northern italy by spanish during XVI sec. - the way of cooking paella rice is almost identical.
Risotto is usally considered a difficult preparation, but it's not true: give it a try and in two or three tests you will be a master.
First, best rice for risotto is "carnaroli", so please do not try to make risotto with basmati or other kinds of rice. You need about 80-90 gr of rice per portion.
Second you need meat broth: if you can use a real broth obtained boiling various meat cuts (beef, chicken, bone) with onion, carrot, celery, parsley. We will give a recipe for broth as soon as possible.
Now I will explain the basic preparation, it will be the base for a lot of variations.

onion (white onion finely chopped, about one spoon for two portions)
white wine (one glass)
parmesan cheese freshly grated
salt and pepper

In a pan put some oil and the onion, an let it cook with very gentle fire: onion must not burn. When onion is transparent, put the rice and begin stirring until all rice has been enveloped by the oil/onion mixture, the add a glass of white wine and let rice absorb it completely, continuing to stir. Rice will reach a strange frictioning consistence: it is ok, now you add the boiling broth. Fire will always be gentle and never cover the pan.
In fact this is a key step: one school adds broth one ladle at a time and let rice absorb, then one more - a secon school put all the broth in the same time, give a stir and doesn't touch it anymore until finished. Obviously second way needs more experience, so no problem if you add stock time by time, only do not let the risotto get dry. This will last about ten minutes: add broth, gently stir and let rice absorb, and so on. When time has passed taste the rice: if you feel it a bit cruchy (only a bit) it is time to terminate: be sure that risotto is creamy, or add a bit more broth, switch off the fire, add grated parmesan cheese and a spoon of butter, give a final stir, cover the pan and wait 2 minutes. Then serve and enjoy!
From beginning of preparation it usually takes about fifteen minutes.

So, it is not so difficult, is it?
If you use champagne (if you can!) you obtain Champagne Risotto (or with othe dry sparkling white wines)
If you add saffron (five minutes before end), you get Milanese Risotto or Yellow
If you add mushrooms, you get Mushroom Risotto (you may use dried mushrooms, just put them in some broth or water for a while before using)
You also can do Mushroom and Sausage risotto, Artichoke risotto, Asparagus risotto or try with other vegetables. Usually, any added vegetable is chopped and added to the cooking pan about five minutes before end.

Finally, please remember: quality (taste) of broth is crucial for the final result; you may use cheap wine, but better not artifical broth. If you cannot prepare a real broth, at least season the powder broth with fresh vegetables as onion, carrot, celery, parsley and let it boil for a while. The taste of the broth is the main trick of this recipe.

A Discourse of Vinegar and Salad Dressing

(viewed 968 times)
In Italy, raw salad dressing is standardized (by use and time and tradition, I suppose): you put salt, then vinegar, give a turn and the add oil (as usual, extravirgin olive oil). Then turn "as a mad" - ready. Attention, the steps MUST be in this sequence. Do not ask why. That's it. If you reverse the steps the result may be insipidus or deform. Now the key point is vinegar: nowadays, since few years, the fashion is to use Aceto Balsamico (Balsamic Vinegar), that may be found easily in supermarket and abroad I think in specialized foodstores, but... but the fact is that what you buy is NOT balsamic vinegar at all. Real balsamic vinegar is a typical product of Modena area, and it is a very very long fermentation of wine that can last 20 or 30 years, the more the better.
You understand that no way it can be produced at industrial scale and the real Aceto Balsamico is very Very VERY expensive. What you can buy in supermarkets is actually an industrial mixture of vinegar, caramelized sugar and aromas. Quite artificial. In effect it is usually nicer then standard vinegar, in the mouth, but instead you can use different kinds of vinegars, like apple vinegar, rice vinegar and others. More, you can personalize your preferred vinegar inserting thyme, tarragon or garlic cloves and getting a more complex and aromatic product.

Making egg fresh pasta

(viewed 888 times)

For lasagne, tagliatelle, fettuccine, tagliolini, cannelloni and stuffed pasta as ravioli, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni, agnolotti, cappelletti, pansotti - you name it!

As you know, there are two main kind of pasta: the "hard wheat" (or normal) pasta we talked about before and egg pasta. While normal pasta is always from a producer, the egg pasta you can make it yourself. You just need the strange mechanic tool you see in pic. 3: I bought mine at Ikea (codename... PASTA), but you will find in any good kitchen tools store, I hope. It makes the job as easy and fast as we need. You may calculate that with a big egg you make two normal portions of pasta. A typical dose is eight to twelve eggs for one kilo of flour (it depends on eggs dimensions, flour quality, etc). Do this a few times and you will become a fresh pasta wizard! Pictures show a two egg preparation with 200 gr of flour, for three to four persons.


Flour 00
a pinch of salt

Part 1. Put ingredients in a bowl (or even directly on work top) and mix. Then with your hands work the dough for about five minutes (never, never, never add water at this step, only flour and eggs), then close it in the transparent film and wait for 20 minutes. Have a coffee and read newspaper, in the meanwhile.
Part 2. Fix the machine tool, regulate on step "1", cut a portion of the dough, flatten, pass it in the machine. Usually first passage is despairing: the dough brokens and you panic, but insist: fold in two ot three, an pass through the machine. Repeat ten to twelve times, approx. You should get a silky compact non sticky surface. This is our goal.
Part 3. Now regulate the tool to step "2" and pass the leaf you have obtained from part 2. Then regulate to "3", and pass, and go on until you arrive to the last "9" step of the tool (the thinner). You will obtain long stripes of about 70/80 cm: cut in half and then pass through your preferred size cutter of the machine (or cut by hand at your desired size), put some flour on the "nests" to avoid sticky effects and now you have done. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until finished.

Remember: this fresh pasta cooks in abundant salted boiling water, for not more than a minute. You can prepare one or two days before without problems.
I would like to tell you that this is one of best foods you may eat EVER, but you will discover it yourself.
Finally, first time you do this recipe, season the pasta this way: in a small pan put some butter (about 15 gr per portion) with some sage leaves, put on fire and get the butter brownish. Put on the drained pasta and add grated parmesan cheese, gently mix and ... mmmmh!

Cooking with salt

(viewed 1072 times)
Other than using it on food as usual, you can use salt for cooking in different ways.

1. To cook fish: heat the oven; in a pan put a layer of large grain sea salt, then lay down the unskinned entire fish with some lemon slices inside the belly, cover completly with other salt. Put in the oven and cook. Time will depend from fish dimensions - between 20 to 30 minutes.
Clean the salt and the fish skin and enjoy!

2. To cook meat: in a pan put a layer of large grain sea salt, put on fire and when you ear the salt sound (you will) put the meat steak on. After some minutes (it depend on how much cooked you like meat) turn the steak. When ready clean the faces of the steak from any salt grains, add pepper and taste. Gorgeous flavour!

3. A different preparation is well indicated for summer season. Take a fillet or other very tender part of beef, season with pepper and completly wrap with a deep layer of large grain sea salt, put in the fridge for 24 hours. Then take the meat, well clean from salt grains, slice very thin and serve. You will be astonished by the great taste and simplicity of this preparation.
19th Jan 2008, 23:54   | tags:,,comments (0)

A Discourse of Olive Oil

(viewed 711 times)
Olive oil is a basic ingredient of most italian food: its quality is
crucial for taste and health.
You should always use EXTRAVIRGIN OLIVE OIL: these word identify the best quality product. Preserve it in a dark and fresh place: direct light alters the product. Good oil comes from all the country of mediterranea area: Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and obviously Italy (and others as well).
Good oil is aromatic, tasty and when it is young it is also a bit spicy.
To test oil quality, toast a slice of bread and when still hot put some oil on and a bit of fine salt. So simple, so good!
19th Jan 2008, 23:37   | tags:,,comments (1)