Friday, September 07, 2007

Appropriately, Still On the Italian Flavour!

A few years back, I lived and worked in Ingham for a short while. Ingham, for those of you who are not aware, is in North Queensland. Early Italian migrants settled there and to this day, it is very “Italian”. Each year the townsfolk hold an “Italian Festival”. Rich cane fields surround the lush area. Just to the east is the southern tip of Hinchinbrook Island and the Hinchinbrook Channel. Fishing and crabbing are popular and generous pastimes for the locals and visitors alike. I was cooking in an eater’s paradise. Italians love their food. They eat with gusto! And with Ingham being very ethnic Italian, I never ceased to be amazed by the appetites of the diners for whom I cooked. Almost every day we did upwards to and oft times over 200 for lunch, only to turn around and do it all over again in the evening. Mix that together with functions and having to prepare for “outside” private parties where the customer would turn up at the rear kitchen door with their vans ready to be loaded with containers full of food, there was little time to catch one's breath! I remember one function I did where there was an abundance of food presented, which, by the way, was quickly consumed. Desserts were laid out for the choosing, but also, the Italian ladies had arrived earlier setting up their own long table filled with the most delectable-looking (and tasting) sweets I had ever encountered before or since. They had spent the previous days preparing recipes handed down by the Nonnas and Grand-Nonnas and so on before them.

So in a salute to all things Italian, which is think is very important at this time, I’m sharing with you a couple of Italian-influenced recipes. I hope you get the time to make them for yourselves and enjoy them with friends and loved ones. And if there are no “loved ones”, you’ll soon have them knocking down your door, if you present these at your table!

Veal Saltimbocca alla Romana (Pork fillet can be substituted if you don’t eat veal)

6 - 8 thin (or pounded) veal scallops, 10 - 12 oz (350 gr) total weight
3 - 4 slices Prosciutto, sliced in half
12 - 16 slices Gruyère or provolone
12 - 16 large, fresh sage leaves
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup Marsala
1/2 cup beef stock
1 cup chopped fresh or canned drained Roma tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet. Quickly brown veal scallops on both sides. Remove and put on an oven-safe platter. Add Marsala, beef stock and tomatoes to skillet and let simmer while you assemble the Saltimbocca. Place 2 sage leaves, a slice of ham to cover the veal and 2 slices of cheese, trimmed to fit, on each veal scallop. After sauce has simmered and reduced a bit add the tomato paste to thicken it. Spoon a bit of the sauce on and around the veal. Put the saltimbocca into a 250F (125C) for 10-15 minutes. This allows the cheese to melt, the ham and sage to cook a bit and the flavors to blend. Remove and serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Veal Marsala:

1-1/2lbs (750g) veal scallops, sliced 3/8-inch thick and pounded to ¼-inch, salt, freshly ground black pepper, flour, 2 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ cup Marsala, ½ cup chicken or beef stock, 2 tablespoons soft butter.

Season the veal scallops with salt and pepper, then dip them in flour and vigorously shake off the excess. In a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the scallops, 3 or 4 at a time, and brown them for about 3 minutes on each side. After they have browned, transfer them from the skillet to a plate. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, leaving a thin film on the bottom. Add the Marsala and ¼ cup of chicken or beef stock and boil the liquid briskly over high heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Scrape in any browned fragments clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the veal to the skillet, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, basting the veal now and then with the pan juices.

To serve, transfer the scallops to a heated platter, Add ¼ cup of stock to the sauce remaining in the skillet and boil briskly, scraping in the browned bits sticking to the bottom and sides of the pan. When the sauce has reduced considerably, and has the consistency of a syrup glaze, taste it for seasoning. (You can add some thickened cream at this stage, if you like. Stir until amalgamated and “cooked in”.) Remove the pan from the heat, stir in 2 tablespoons of soft butter, if not adding cream; pour over veal. You can add sliced mushrooms when making the sauce, too, if you so desire.

La Pastiera (A Traditional Neapolitan Easter Cake)

1/4 Pound Skinless Cooked Wheat, 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour, ½ cup pure icing sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon orange juice, 8 tablespoons unsalted, cold butter, cut into small pieces, ¼ cup milk, 6 eggs, 1 tablespoon grated orange rind/zest, 1 teaspoon lemon extract, 2-1/2 cups white sugar, 2lbs (1kg) ricotta, 2 tablespoons candied citrus peel, cut into tiny dice, 2 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds, 1 egg white, beat with 1 tablespoon water for topping

Preheat the oven to 150C ( 300F). Mix together the flour, and icing sugar. Make a well in the center, and add the two egg yolks, and orange juice. With your fingers, mix in the butter until the dough is in pea sized pieces. Add just enough milk so the dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch. Place the dough in the bottom of a deep 10 inch pie pan. Trim excess dough around edges and reserve for topping. If the dough is too soft to roll, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, orange zest, lemon extract, and sugar. Add the ricotta and mix well. Stir in the cooked wheat, candied fruit and chopped almonds. Mix well. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared pie pan. Using the remaining dough, cut strips about 1 inch in width, and place them in a crisscross pattern over the cheese. Brush the strips lightly with the egg and water mixture, and then bake the pie for about 1 1/2 hours until lightly browned on top. Cool before serving.

Cooking Your Own Wheat: Take 1/4 pound skinless wheat (available at healthfood stores) and soak it overnight in cool water in the refrigerator, changing the water three times. Cover with lightly salted water in a heavy saucepan, and cook for about 1 hour. Drain, and rinse the wheat in cool water in a sieve. Use as needed

Strawberry Bruschetta

4 thick slices whole-wheat bread (you could even use thick slices of panetonne for this)
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups sliced or diced hulled strawberries
4 tablespoons mascarpone (Italian cream cheese)

Toast bread in a toaster. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the mixture begins to bubble, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add strawberries and stir until juices begin to exude and the berries are heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Spread 1 tablespoon mascarpone on each piece of toast. Top with the warm berries. Sprinkle over some icing sugar if you desire.

Speaking of “panetonne”, I have a story to tell you about panetonne. I’ll include it further chapters of my “Italian Invasion”, so keep your eyes peeled!

By the way, I'm making cannelloni later. I'll be filling the tubes with a mixture of ricotta, chopped parsley, chopped spinach, diced bacon, pine nuts, grated cheeses and, need I say, garlic.I'll lay the tubes on a tomato salsa, then top with the remaining salsa and finished off with grated cheese.


  1. I had saltimbocca in Philadelphia last week. It was great.
    I'm not sure what to think of Strawberry bruschetta but I do like the look of the cake.

  2. I love saltimbocca...and it's a while since I've had or made it...I think I'll have to put it on my list of "what to cook next"!

    I think the strawberry bruschetta would be good with a bit of strawberry syrup drizzled over the bread first, before topping it...or I believe using panetonne or even thickly-cut raisin or sultana bread would be great substitutes.

  3. Oh, my word, that food looks (and sounds) to die for!

  4. Oh wow! They look wonderful. I think I would need to accumulate a lot of lettuce credits before that lot!

  5. Aha...I've gotten hungry just looking at them and writing about them, I've already filled my cannelloni and it's in the oven ready for a late lunch-early dinner! ;)

    Start accumulating, Lee! ;)

  6. your Italian food conjoured up a memory...

    when my kids were very young, my neighbor who was Italian became a "go for coffee sunday morning" to me.. she always had home made sauce going for me to taste.. then there was her mom who would have home made Italian sausage hanging to dry (ooof, to die for).. and around Easter it was the Salami Pie! Soooo goood! You could only eat a small piece but dang it was good lol..

  7. The food is lovely....... Now on to the other delicacy, that Italian Stallion! Desert perhaps LOL

  8. I started my new temporary job and I want to apologize for not commenting lately, I have been coming to read now and then. I couldn't resist with the wonderful food on this post to make a comment. I really enjoy reading your stories and want to encourage you to continue the great work.


  10. There is something magical about the way Italian's approach food, isn't Deslily...glad I could help bring back fond memories for you. :)

    I'm letting you digest all of that first, AW....leaving the best 'til last! ;)

    No need to apologise, Sandra. I hope the jobs going well for never know it may grow into something more permanent...or something else may come from it. Good luck! It's always good to see you. Thanks. :)

    They're on their way, Lady Di...I'm afraid I made quite a pig of myself over them so there isn't a lot left, but enough to fit into an envelope! ;)

  11. I'll drink to that! Ital women always bring a dessert along, even if you tell them you are making one, and I think that's great, as you can have a bite of so many delights that way! Fabulous photos and recipes, Lee.

  12. Hey there, experience it first-hand now that you're residing in Sicily...I envy you! Glad you like the recipes et al. :)

  13. Strawberrry bruschetta...that's different. May have to give that a go sometime.

    I love Italian food and for some reason or other, I feel a deep connection to Italy. I have always wanted to go there and I will in the next few years.

    Maybe I was an Italian in a past life...!

  14. Dang it Lee,

    You did it to me again!

    I just had dinner, and now look at these delectible pictures I'm hungry again!


  15. There is something special about all things Italian, I agree, Robyn. :)

    Sorry to do that to you, Janice! ;)

  16. Anonymous4:37 AM

    Lee - Every thing looks and sounds so delish - you make my tummy grumble!

    Now please tell us the part two of the story w/ Andrea. We're on pins and needles!


  17. G'day Elizabeth....I'll soon be putting up the next chapter about the Andrea story.....very soon. ;)

  18. I don't mind the 'to be continued' stories but sometimes looking at the food and recipes can be sheer torture. :(

  19. Hehehehehe...Oh! The torture, gto! ;)