Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

We enjoyed this dish as a starter when in Milan, on a beautiful evening, eating al fresco and enjoying the wonderful combination of the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus, the slightly caramelised sugars as a result of grilling the asparagus and the salty and sweet cheese. A glass of Pinot Grigio was all we wanted.
In Milan we enjoyed grilled green asparagus, but it works equally well with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish to prepare when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer.

Wine Pairing

Serve with a glass of Pinot Grigio, a Muscat or Pinot Gris from the Alsace region or a rosé with character. The wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavors so it should be a bit complex.

What You Need

  • 3 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Peel the asparagus and cook or steam until slightly tender. Depending on the size we would say 10-15 minutes in the Russel Hobss steamer. Leave and let cool. Take a plate, add some oil to the plate and use it to coat the asparagus with oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Or use a contact grill for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very excellent olive oil.

Pasta with Sage

We love using wonderful Mediterranean herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, saffron and tarragon. So we couldn’t resist buying a large bunch of sage and cooking this very tasteful, simple and uplifting starter. Sage has been around for many, many years and is an essential ingredient in many countries, both for medicinal and culinary purposes. Its taste is somewhat soapy, with a touch of acidity, a little bitterness, subtle eucalyptus and slightly peppery. Did we mention unique?
Preferably use fresh, thin pasta or Japanese udon, lots of butter and your best olive oil when preparing this dish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2020, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. In general you’re looking for a light, aromatic dry white wine.

What You Need

  • Pasta
  • Butter
  • Bunch of Sage
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Melt the butter in a large pan, devein and chop the leaves, add the sage to the butter, stir. The butter should embrace the flavours and aromas of the sage. When the mixture is nearly ready (this will take only a few minutes) cook the pasta. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese. Keep a glass of the cooking liquid of the pasta, drain the paste, add it to the pan, mix, add some olive oil, mix, add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid and make sure the pasta is fully coated with sage, butter and oil. Perhaps some black pepper. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese and serve on a warm plate.

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

Cream, Cream and More Cream

Such a lovely and simple dessert! Provided of course it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. Cooked Cream. And preferably cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine. 
Fresh raspberries are preferred, but no worries, the frozen ones are also very tasty and suitable for making a coulis.

What You Need (for 4)

  • For the Panna Cotta
    • 500 ml fresh Cream
    • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
    • 1 Vanilla Bean
    • 25 gram Sugar
  • For the Raspberry Coulis
    • 250 grams of Raspberries
    • 25 grams of Sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of Water

What You Do

The recipe is for 6 panna cotta (actually we should say 6 panne cotte). Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and while stirring add the sugar until totally dissolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you remove all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add the leaves. Stir well until homogeneous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta cool and then store in the refrigerator until set. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
Heat the raspberries with the sugar and water. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Pass through s sieve (if necessary twice) making sure you apply some pressure but not too much. You don’t want pips in your coulis! Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis © cadwu

Tagliatelle with Artichokes, Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese

The Joy of Artichokes

We’re true fans of artichokes. Although available throughout the year, we especially love them in Summer. They come with various structures and flavours, an interesting shape and a beautiful flower. Have you noticed that the heart and the leaves have a similar yet different taste?
Artichokes also come with a challenge: how to serve them in an elegant way? One way of serving the small ones is as a salad; another way is using them as an ingredient in a pasta dish.
Let’s talk briefly about Pancetta: this is cured and dried pork meat, so not smoked. You could replace it with traditional bacon, but be careful not to use something heavy oak smoked.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Italian Corvina from the Verona region. This is a fruity wine, think red fruit (strawberries, cherries), only a hint of acidity, not too much tannins. We bought a bottle from Torre del Falasco. Great buy!

What You Need

  • 4 Small Artichokes
  • 75 gram of Pancetta
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Thyme
  • 100 gram of Fresh Tagliatelle
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Steam or cook the small artichokes. Let them cool, peel them and cut of the upper half. Cut the remainder in 6 or 8 chunks. Cut the pancetta in slices. Take a large skillet and warm. Add some olive oil and glaze the pancetta. It’s not the idea to fry the meat, the fat should not melt, only glaze. Now add the thinly chopped garlic and warm until the garlic is slightly soft. This may take a few minutes so an occasional stir is required. Now add the artichokes and the thyme. Stir very gently because the idea is that the artichokes remain intact.
Cook the tagliatelle (probably 4 minutes) and drain but keep some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese over the artichokes, stir, very gently, add one or two spoons of the cooking liquid, add more Parmesan cheese and more liquid. Now add some olive oil and the tagliattele. Check if this looks fine to you. If not add more liquid. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Serve on a warm plate with some extra Parmesan cheese.

Vitello Tonnato

Fish and Meat

Who came up with the idea to combine veal, tuna, anchovy, mayonnaise and capers?
The story goes that in the 19th century veal was prepared as if it was tuna. Sounds a bit far fetched, but tuna wasn’t eaten raw (at least not in Europe) but cooked in water with various herbs and then stored in brine or oil. Tha approach to prepare veal as if it is tuna was described in 1836 by the French Monsieur Burnet in his recipe Manière de donner au veau l’apparence et le goût du thon mariné.
In 1862 (according to Luca Cesari) a medical doctor from Milan was the first to combine tuna and veal.

Anchovy

Not a remarkable ingredient at all!
(Salted) anchovy has been used as a flavour booster in meat dishes and sauces for many centuries. For instance in the combination of leg of lamb with anchovy and garlic it will bring depths, umami and saltiness. When making a remoulade sauce you should not forget to add anchovy. And why not prepare a wonderful French Anchoiade? Or dip your vegetables in Bagna Cauda? And let’s not forget the joy of crusted bread with Tapénade (black olives, capers, garlic, anchovy and olive oil). What would a classic Caesar salad or a salade Niçoise taste like without the anchovies in the dressing? Such a useful fish!

Wine Pairing

The obvious choice is to drink a glass of Italian white or rosé wine with the vitello tonnato. A fresh wine, with a touch of acidity and not too complex, for instance a Bardolino Chiaretto or a Soave.

What You Do (Classic approach)

Given the origin of Vitello Tonnato the meat should be cooked in water with carrots, onion, leek, clove, bay leaf, thyme and pepper. The trick is not to cook it too long; you want a touch of pink in the meat when it is served. Keep some of the cooking juices to add to the sauce later on.
Create the mayonnaise by mixing egg yolks, lemon and a neutral oil (peanut or grape seed oil).

What You Need

  • 150 gram of Veal (top side or silver side)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • 75 gram of canned Tuna (in brine)
  • 1 Anchovy fillet (or 2 depending on your preference)
  • Lemon
  • Capers (in brine)

What You Do

We prefer to fry the meat, even if it’s historically and culinary incorrect. We think frying is quicker and gives you more control over the cuisson. Plus we feel that cooking the meat means losing flavours.
Fry the meat in a heavy iron skillet in some butter and olive oil. Not too hot! Sear the meat, lower the temperature and fry the meat until nicely rosé. Transfer the meat to a sheet of aluminium foil and let rest until lukewarm or cool. Wrap the foil around the meat, let cool and transfer to the refrigerator.
Just before serving, blender the tuna, the anchovy, a few capers, the juices from the meat (in the foil) and some lemon juice until completely smooth. Add some mayonnaise to a bowl, add a spoonful of the mixture and taste. Continue until you have the right balance. Thinly slice the veal, serve on a plate and top with the sauce. Make sure some of the meat is still visible. Decorate with the capers.

Vitello Tonnato © cadwu
Vitello Tonnato © cadwu

Insalata Caprese

Tomatoes

In 2013 the German culinary press characterised Dutch tomatoes as ‘wasserbomben’, let’s say ‘water balloons’. And they were right. Even more so, many tomatoes were, and still are, tasteless and watery. And since the Netherlands are in the top 3 of tomato exporting countries, you run the risk of buying a red balloon. Which is of course not what you want to do. So if you plan to make one of the simplest and tastiest starters ever, you have to find the best tomatoes ever. Or grow your own of course.

Mozzarella

Meaning Buffalo mozzarella, made from the milk of the Italian buffalo. Since 1993 it’s a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) and protected under EU law. It’s a young, moist, tasty cheese with a lovely soft, elastic but not chewy texture and it comes with a skin as a result of the shaping and pickling. The taste is more robust than mozzarella made from cow milk and it’s ideal for a salad. The cow version is best used for cooking. The smoked version should be ignored.

Basil

Someone should write ‘The Case of the Dying Basil’. A whodunit in which a clever detective will reveal why the basil plant you buy from the green grocer or supermarket will very likely die within 3 days, regardless what you do. And since they always die on us, we buy ‘fresh’ leaves.
The most used variety of basil is sweet or Genovese basil. Others are Thai basil (slightly spicy with a hint of anise) and red (or purple) basil (similar to sweet basil but more powerful). Alain Passard’s book Collages et Recettes includes a recipe for purple carrots with purple basil and cinnamon. Wonderful colours and a delicate taste.

Insalata Caprese

This salad stands or falls on the quality of the ingredients. And it requires the talent to keep things simple, so you have to stick to the 5 (five!) ingredients, meaning tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and pepper. The salad does not come with balsamic vinegar, lettuce, pineapple nuts, salt, honey, croutons, oregano, mustard or a vinaigrette. Five ingredients. That’s it.
You wonder why? Because this way the Insalata Caprese is at its best. Tasty, sweet, rich, moist, fresh and a reflection of Italy and of summer. Adding an ingredient will worsen the concept of the salad and reduce its taste.

Wine Pairing

We suggest an excellent rosé, one with flavour and depth. For instance Monte del Frà Bardolino Chiaretto 2018. You’re looking for a wine with delicate scents of berries accompanied by light and refreshing hints of green apples and subtle spicy tones. On the palate the wine should reveal juicy sensations of red berries along with an appealing and refreshing acidity.

What You Need

  • Two Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • One Ball (125 gram) of Excellent Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper

What You Do

Slice the tomatoes, slice the mozzarella and create the ‘tricolore’. Add fresh black pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Insalata Caprese © cadwu
Insalata Caprese © cadwu