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Insalata Caprese, Caprese (Bocconcini) salad

This may be the most famous salad in Italy.  This is the best example of Italian cooking that simplcity is complexity, lets the ingredients do all the talking. The Capri Island (about an hour ferry from Naples) also called the island of love where you’ll find some of the most beautiful people there.  I have been to Capri three times and I enjoy it every time when I go there.  Other than this unique salad, Capri is also known for it’s lemon liquor called “Limoncello”, Capri sandal, and Capri pant.

Caprese Salad_1

3x fresh vine-ripe tomatoes (any variety)
Bunch fresh basil
2-3 pieces of Bocconcini cheese (buffalo mozzarella) or mozzarella di bufala
Diced red onions
Capers
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Read further for my secret recipe for turning a $6 bottle of balsamic vinegar into a $80 bottle!
INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Slice tomatoes, 0.5 cm in thickness. Arrange flat on a dish.
2. Cut pieces of boccocini cheese, approximately 0.5 cm thick. Arrange one piece of cheese on top of each sliced tomato.
3. Slice fresh basil and dice red onions, sprinkle on top of tomatoes and Bocconcini.
4. Sprinkle capers, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Pour extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve dish chilled.

Note: To make my secret balsamic vinegar reduction dressing:

2x 500 ml Balsamic vinegar (inexpensive kind)

200 ml Maple syrup 

Pour balsamic vinegar and Maple syrup in a pot under high heat and reduce it to 500 ml.  When you see the big bubbles floating, it is a sign that it is about ready.  Let if cool off and keep in a bottle.  Also let it age for about two weeks before use.  This reduction will take the sharp taste out from the vinegar and suitable for salad or bread dipping.

B salad

 

Finocchio al Forno (Caraemizer Fennel)

fennel

I love fennel!  I love it in the summer time as a salad with a little white balsamic vinegar, sugar, and sea salt.   The unusual licorice flavor will surprise you the first time you eat it.  It is also good for your fiber intake and calorie count.  It takes more energy to chew and digest fennel than the whole calorie intake.  It is so easy to prepare and refreshing in a hot summer day after work.  I also love it in the fall when you need something warm and tender.  This caramelized fennel recipe is just the way you want it, easy, simple, and tasty.

Large Fennel                                        x2 (cut into eight wedges)

Extra virgin oil                                    9 tbps

Reggiano  Parmigiano Cheese        ½ cup (grated)

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper    small pinch

Bread crumbs                                           ½ cup

Shallot                                                          x1 (dice into small pieces)

Garlic                                                            1 clove (minced)

Broad leave parley                                   small bunch (chop into small pieces)

 To prepare the bread crumb:

Mix shallot, garlic, parsley and bread crumb in a small steel bowl.  Add three tbps of extra virgin olive oil and mix well.  Place the steel bowl in a pre-heated 375Fº oven for 20 minutes. 

To blench the fennel:

Put all the cut fennels into a pot of hot boiling salty water for five to seven minutes or until tender.  Drain the hot water out and put the cooked fennels into an ice bath immediately for five to ten minutes to stop the cooking process.  Take the cold fennels out the water and use a tea towel or paper towel to dry the fennels.  This is a critical step as you don’t want excess water when you bake it in the oven.

Putting it together:

Line up fennels in a baking pan.  Give it a generous dash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle half the cheese on top evenly.  Spread the bread crumb on top and sprinkle another layer of cheese.  Finish it with another dash of olive oil.  Put the fennels in a pre-heated 450Fº oven for 30-40 minutes or until caramelized. (should be golden color)  This is a very unusual recipe, the longer you cook it, the more caramelized, tasty and tender it gets.

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