Sicilian Orange and Fennel Salad

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Fennel peak season calls for a one-of-a-kind Mediterranean recipe.  Healthy, fresh, crunchy, delicious and very simple to prepare. It makes for a great light lunch or the perfect side to a roast chicken or fish.

Italians love fennel and use it in a variety of dishes, making the best of all its parts, from the bulb to the flowers and seeds. And it isn’t just a matter of taste. Think of Finocchiona, the traditional Tuscan salami: the fennel seeds help preserve it while adding their characteristic flavour.  Its is rich in vitamin C, fibers and several essential nutrients for our diet. It also has unusual phytonutrients that give it ample antioxidant and immune-boosting capabilities.

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Ingredients:
3 large fennels (try and find them with the green tips)
3 oranges
2 spring onions
2 tbsp Capers in salt
2 tbsp pitted taggiasca olives
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp ground pepper

Method:
Finely chop the fennel, fennel tips and spring onion and place in a bowl. Peel the oranges using a knife, trying not to waste the fruit but taking away the white bitter outer layer. Slice the oranges, keep the juice and add to the bowl. Add capers with salt, olives, Evoo and pepper and mix well. The salad can keep for up to one day, but is best when just made.

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Buon Appetito!

All the colors of Pasta

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Next time you make your own fresh pasta at home why not experiment with different natural colorants? Seasons have so many ingredients to pick from and eating seasonal is the best excuse to get creative and cook with what’s available. Right now during winter you can get plenty of vitamins, fibres and antioxidants from veggies such as beetroot, which will turn your pasta pink or purple, and fresh spinach if you want it to turn green. In summer try with tomatoes or basil! Squid ink – which can be sourced year-round – will turn your dough charcoal black, cocoa powder a nice earthy brown, while turmeric and saffron bright yellow. It’s fun, gets kids excited about a healthy meal and can be the next trick to impress your guests at a dinner party. Start out with your classic fresh pasta recipe and add the following proportions:

  • Beetroot, spinach, tomato: ½ ounce every 100g flour (For the vegetables boil until soft, squeeze out the extra water, blend and weigh)
  • Cocoa, turmeric: 0,2 ounce every 100g flour
  • Squid ink: if fresh, one bladder is more than enough every 200g of flour. You can also find it dehydrated in powder (use same proportions as cocoa)
  • Saffron: A pinch of pistils diluted in a few drops of warm water every 100g flour

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Need a refresh to our fresh pasta recipe?
Yield: 6 people

Ingredients
Unbleached, unenriched semolina flour, 200 g (approx. 7 ounces)
Unbleached, unenriched white wheat flour (cake flour), 0 type, 200 g (approx. 7 ounces)
Large pasture raised eggs (280 g) 4

Method
On a clean surface, make a pile out of flour and form a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add colorant. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading using your hands. If flour does not fully incorporate into the dough add one or two tablespoons of water. (Be careful not to add too much!) In the case of beetroot, spinach and tomato the opposite may occur, you can add a little semolina flour if the dough is too sticky.

Dough is very sticky at the beginning and becomes more elastic and smooth after around 4 minutes of kneading. Once the dough is formed, continue kneading for 3 more minutes to allow the dough to reach its maximum elasticity and firmness. Long kneading is important in order to develop the gluten in the flour and to prevent dough from tearing apart later on. Dust work surface with flour if needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Roll dough into a ball shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

The traditional way of rolling out the pasta is by using a simple wood rolling pin, so even if you don’t have a pasta machine don’t be intimidated to make fresh pasta at home. Dust working surface with flour and start rolling dough one piece at a time. After every roll, make a quarter turn and repeat the same movement until you have achieved the desired thickness. (Approximately the thickness of a playing card). After achieving the desired thickness of the dough, start cutting the pasta into desired shape. Make sure to dust dough on both sides so it doesn’t stick to itself.

Buon appetito!

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Noble Fat, There’s an oil for that!

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It’s olive harvest season! Between October and early December – depending on variety, geographical position and production style – all across Italy the mature fruits are manually picked and taken to the mills. Pressing them as quickly as possible preserves all of their goodness and all the year’s work comes to an end, from tree to bottle. Did you know that 100kg (220 lb) of olives produce just 12.8kg (28 lb) of EVOO? It’s a very expensive extraction, but it’s totally worth the work…

One of the rare cases when something delicious is at the same time extremely good for you. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is one of the most nutritious vegetal oils, an unbeatable condiment, one of the main pillars of the so-praised Mediterranean diet. A noble fat good for flavor and for your health – rich in natural antioxidants as well as vitamins E and K and beneficial fatty acids. When pure and extra virgin, it contains a number of active components that have a protective action towards the cells of our organism, slowing down their ageing process and strengthening their resistance to free radicals (carcinogens).

The olive tree is very unique, it can live for centuries resisting heat and droughts, cold winters and harsh conditions. Naturally, it only grows in specific geographical areas of the globe between the 30° and 45° parallel, basically going from Marocco to France. At the heart of the Mediterranean. Today there are some plantations in other areas in the world with similar climates, such as Australia and South America.

Olives are just like grapes: considering just Italy it counts over 400 different indigenous varieties growing all over the country. Some are more prone to hilly inland conditions, some to steep terraces on the coasts of Liguria and others that reach the furthest northern tip at the feet of the Alps, on lake Garda. We can talk of an actual terroir for EVOO just as we do with wine. There is the right one for every food pairing. For example a delicate seafood dish can’t get overpower by a strong and spicy EVOO from Puglia. One would rather choose a delicate and subtle flavor, like the Taggiasche olives in Liguria. A full bodied and piquant EVOO from Sicily is unbeatably paired with comfort dishes such as brisket or a bean soup.

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Freshly picked Bianchera variety olives

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Olive producer in Sicily, testing the ripeness of the fruit

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The biodiversity of EVOO’s, the perfect fit for each dish

Tips on how to choose your EVOO – make sure to choose Extra Virgin, when it’s just Olive Oil or Virgin it was most probably made using chemical processes, from second choice olives and the natural beneficial properties are just not there! And let’s not get started on aroma and flavor. Also when buying European EVOO’s you can look for DOP certification labels that are an assurance of qualitative standards.

Tips on how to store your EVOO – Being unrefined, it’s a delicate product and some important details must be considered when storing it. The enemies of EVOO are light, air and heat – this is why the bottles of good olive oil are made from dark glass (the darker the better) and why at home, if you are not going through a vast quantity of EVOO, it is better to use small bottles, which minimize the exposure to air. Keeping the bottle close to the stove or in direct sunlight is also not good because of the heat exposure.

Back to school Italian lunch box

In need of some inspiration for creating balanced, healthy  yet tasty meals for your kids? Here are some quick Italian inspired recipes.

Mozzarella lollipop

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Ingredients

4 mozzarella ovoline
4 cherry tomatoes
4 cocktail sticks
2 tablespoons of basil pesto (check our blog to learn how to make your own at home or find it already made at Bellina’s Market)

Method

Roll the mozzarella in the pesto.
Carefully thread the tomato half way through the cocktail stick and top with the mozzarella.

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Zucchini pancakes

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Ingredients
1 large zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Shred zucchini , and squeeze excess water with your hands, Mix with flour in a medium size ball. Mix in the cheese. Add egg, salt and pepper.
Heat oil of choice in frying pan over medium heat. Using a spoon scoop a spoon of the batter into the hot oil.
Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after the first side has browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Great to serve with a scoop of Greek yogurt as a snack or light lunch.

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