I goofed! | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Am I an expert in cooking? Perhaps. Simply I like to say that I love to cook, cook well and I have done it for decades, but I have not come to perfection yet. I don’t have a sweet tooth for instance and sweets don’t come as good as I would like. The other thing I don’t do well is lifeless food, meaning diet food.
This past weekend I played around with juices. I produced very good fruit juices with fruit from the trees in my garden mixed with store-bought fruit and I did spectacular things. In fact I make colorful juices every weekend for my mornings delight.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

Valentina Fruit Juices

Yesterday, I wanted to try a new thing: vegetable juices and I goofed. I used too much of purple and dark green vegetables with the result of a non appetizing and very dark juice. The taste is OK, very earthy and healthy, but my eyes can’t bear to look at something this dark. “We eat with our eyes first” I know is a cliché, but it’s really true.

VeggieJuice

I used the following ingredients, all in the raw state:
½ red cabbage
½ bunch of celery stalks
4 radishes
2 avocados
2 bunches of broccoli
1 bunch of collard
6 carrots
salt to taste

I would have liked to obtain a colorful veggie juice and I should have used more of red, yellow, orange veggies than green or purple veggies.

Cooking is like painting, it’s all about balancing flavors, aromas and colors.
The difference is that a bad painting rarely can be remade into a new image. This time I goofed and made a bad painting with my veggie juice, but it is recyclable into a new food. I will use a few spoons into minestrone, beans soups and chicken broth. It will be delicious and so healthy. Nothing in my kitchen goes to waste. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being. Finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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A Wine Moment | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Cacc’e Mmitte sounds as an unpronounceable strange name for a wine and perhaps it is, but the flavor is unbeatable. It’s not a new discovered wine for me since I come from the same region of the wine, I am surprised to know that a few wine representatives now carry the Cacc’e Mmitte in their selection of wines for restaurants and pubs.
In the Southern Italian dialect form, this name refers to the easy drinkability of the wine after it has been freshly pressed and the easiness to refilled the glass with a wine that doesn’t need much aging.
In reality making this wine is an ancient procedure. In the remote times of south Italy, farmers rented all the wine making equipment for only one day to anyone who wanted to make wines, but the pressing process had to finish in one day to leave the premises free for the next person. At the end of the procedure the wine must was taken out of the wine pressing tanks “Cacce” and transported away to a new cellar premise, then a new tenant came in for one day and used the same tanks “Mitte” to crush their grape and produce a wine style of their liking.

The Cacc’e Mmitte is a D.O.C. wine originated in Lucera, in the Foggia district of Puglia region, where the Gargano shows off the beauty of the Adriatic cost.
In 1995 Italian laws set the D.O.C. label to protect names, origins, production methods and characteristics of Italian food and wine, therefore it stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin).

I love its ruby color and its intense aroma, its alcohol content is about 11.5%. What do we pair this wine with?

A few days ago, I tried it with Valdeón Due Leche Blue cheese from the Spanish region of León, wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves. It’s made with cow and goat cheese, hence the name due leche and I must say the odor is pungent, but an incredible bombardment of flavors happens when brought in the mouth. Needless to say we consumed a large piece of the Valdeón in a short hour and only two people.

Now take out your tulip shaped calyx, pour yourself Cacc’e Mitte wine, enjoy it with the Spanish Valdeón, add a few nuts and forget the world. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being. Finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Sweet Power Of An Onion | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I had a taste for grilled onions last Sunday. I was harvesting the produce in my small orchard, I thought it would be perfect to grill some of them while the pizza was cooking in the wood-burning brick oven in my garden. Grilled onions made into a salad sounded perfect, light and powerful for the sunny weather. (Click on each photo to view it larger).

BrickOven
(I built this brick oven in a very simple style, but it makes the greatest pizza and bread)

Onion is considered the truffle of the poor, it is a good antibiotic, a natural diuretic, a natural warm up as it produces warmth in the body and contains as many medicinal substances as a whole apothecary could have. It helps against cardiovascular diseases and we all like food believed to be aphrodisiac. Onion and white wine make a perfect potion of positive effect against cold, fever and cough.

Onions fed the builders of the Pyramids, the troops of Alexander the Great and Emperor Nero constantly munched on leeks to clear his throat.

I believe if we take onions away from the kitchen there is no gastronomic art. This was my roasted onion salad last Sunday.

RoastingOnions

On the stove, I grilled the onions first with only olive oil and marine salt. When grill marks formed on both sides, I covered the serving plate with arugula (from my orchard). On top, I laid circles of roasted onions, round slices of tomatoes from my orchard (we want to keep the same shapes for visual effect), I added a few green olives and a citronette emulsion made of lemons from my orchard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. I said “from my orchard” many times, that’s because I am very proud of being a city girl and know how to grow my own food. To me, it’s about being in control of what I eat.

I cannot make tasty and healthy food any more simple than this.

CipolleArrosto

There was a time when my parents would say “I will leave you on bread and onion!” when my brothers and I did something they didn’t like. With all the good proprieties onions carry, it would have been a nice punishment, but somehow it did not sound so good then.

I am here and always available for consultations if you need to build a brick oven, a kitchen spice garden, or an outdoor kitchen. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved



Valentina Cirasola
has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, and well-being. Finally, she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine dedicated to super healthy food, easy to make and wrote one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Loving Escargot | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

To kill them or to eat them! That is my question, my garden is so full of escargot.
If I ought to call them snails, slimy little creatures that destroy my plants and food crops, then I feel to kill them, but if I think of them as escargot, suddenly they become expensive and precious morsels.

Ancient Greeks and Romans appreciated escargot as a fine and delicate dish. Before cooking them, they purified their little stomach by leaving them to soak in milk bath for a few days until the snails got totally bloated and couldn’t get in their shells anymore. Purify them meant to eliminate any bitter grass or poisonous fungi (to humans) the snails had possibly eaten. The same practice goes on today.

The annals tell us that in 49 B.C. a certain Fulvio Lippino was the importer of snails from the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, Capri, from Spain, France and North Africa and supplied the large demand of the rich Romans.
Through the Middle Ages a plate of snails was well-regarded as a lean speciality. In fact, 3.5 oz. of snail meat without shells has only 0.4 protein and 0.05 fat, which means that calories are less than 65 per 3.5 oz. It is highly digestible, the meat contains water, salt and the shell transfers calcium and phosphorus to the meat. Snails are good food to protect against bacteria.

I thought that snails were one of the few poor food farmers could afford to eat. With rustic bread, a piece of cheese and a robust red wine their meal was complete, but at the beginning of 1800’s French chefs revived this little crawlers with the famous Escargot à la Bourguignonne, raising the price to a new height.

As I said earlier, before tackling the cooking it’s important to purify the snails from their saliva and impurities in their bellies. One way is to close them in a box with a lid well aerated on the bottom and leave them to dry for a few days; another way is to feed them corn meal until they are really fat (just like keeping them in milk) and can’t get back into their shells. Some people scald them in hot water. Whatever method you will choose, this process it’s important to eliminate the bitter taste and impurities.

Infinite are the ways to cook snails. My favorite way is with a light tomato sauce, easy and simple.
The only ingredients needed are:

Snails
Extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped garlic
Sun dried tomatoes (a few)
Chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Glass of white wine
A hand full of fresh basil leaves
Salt and hot chili pepper to taste

Sauté in olive oil snails with the shells, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Flavor with 1 glass of white wine and let it evaporate.
Add chopped fresh tomatoes. Season it with salt and chili peppers to your taste and cook for about 15-18 minutes.
Before serving, give it a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves.

This is the way my grandmother made them and has remained my favorite of all snail recipes from Puglia.

How To Eat Escargot

  • Snail tongs and a slender two-pronged snail fork are always at to the right of the plate.
  • Use the tongs to grip and hold the snail-shell in place.
  • Use the snail fork to pull out the meat from the shell.
  • Savor the escargot, then the sauce. Tear off a small piece of bread (usually a rustic type). Using the snail fork, dip the bread into the sauce. Enjoy the dish until the bread is gone. Trying not clean the plate completely it’s hard to do, but in a restaurant is not a good manner.
    Bon appétit. Ciao,
    Valentina
    www.Valentinadesigns.com 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
Check her two Italian regional cuisine books in this site on the Books page and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w  

Her new book ©Red-A Voyage Into Colors is about ready for publishing. Stay tuned!

Lambascioni Or Muscari, What Are They? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Some call them wild hyacinth bulbs, some call them wild onions, in Puglia we call them Lambascioni, the dialect form of the Italian word Muscari. Puglia, the southern region of the Italian boot is full of ancient food the rest of Italy doesn’t produce.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Muscari is a bulb that grows to ft. in. tall. The edible part is the bulb, the flowers (hermaphrodite) both masculine and feminine are self-fertile, they fall in the ground a self-reproduce. Insects also pollinate them and transport the seeds elsewhere. Some people might get them through pollination, but not knowing they are edible, they let them go unobserved.

People in the food business discovered Muscari or Lambascioni and now enumerate them among all the food delicacy, but I can assure you, it was the poor of the poorest food our agricultural people in Puglia ate for centuries.
If we think about it, poor people in the past were healthier than the rich, the nobles, the landowners and kings and queens. Poor people ate the produce of the land, raw or cooked in a simple way and enhanced the flavor only with the simple spices they grew in the land.

Muscari bulbs have a pinkish coloration, no smell and a very bitter taste at the raw state. I would not suggest eating them raw. It ‘a perennial plant, which blooms in delicate purple flowers until late May, have no scent, but the bright purple attract plenty of insects for its pollination. I plant them between other flowers, as they look so good in the garden. In my last photo below, I show my Lambascioni growing between a bed of arugula. The Lambascioni plant adapts to any climate and soil but prefers full sun and reproduces abundantly in well-drained clay soils. Fall is the best time to plant them, before the cold arrives.
Muscari have many properties, some of which are refreshing, diuretic and stimulant of the digestive organs; stimulate bile secretion, cleanse the intestines; useful for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol; it is an anti-inflammatory and is especially useful in cases of inflammation of the bladder and bowel. I can say that Lambascioni prevent and protect the intestines by freeing them from harmful substances and making more difficult the passage of bacteria in the blood.

To get the bitterness out, I leave the bulb in milk for about 15-20 minutes after I peel the outer shells and washed the dirt out, then I cook them in a few different ways, for example:

  • casserole of lambascioni with zucchini, potatoes and Parmigiano cheese;
  • lambascioni fritters in a tempura batter;
  • lambascioni roasted on the grill and eat them with fresh tomatoes and a hardy cheese;
  • lambascioni frittata with eggs and prosciutto;
  • lambascioni baked with sausages.

However, my favorite way is much simpler and it seems most people in family likes them the same way:

“take them out of the milk, as I said to get rid of the bitterness (discard the milk, please, it turned bitter by now), place them in a pot with salted boiling water and cook them until fork tender. Drain the water, transfer to a salad dish and mash them with the back of the fork to make a soft creamy mixture.  Add extra-virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, chopped Italian parsley, salt & black pepper or chili pepper, if you like a kick. Spread the delicacy on a fresh baguette warm or at room temperature. The slight bitter taste will not linger in the mouth, actually it is very pleasant and after about one minute or two, it is not noticeable anymore, as it changes into a sweet and pleasant taste”.  I assure you a good experience!

 

 

I have ordered the seed from Puglia and now living in California I will be the only one having them on my table spring and fall. Ciao.
Valentina
www.Valentinadesigns.com

 Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola has been in business as a designer since 1990. 
She has helped people realizing their dreams with homes, offices, interiors and exteriors. She designs landscape as a complement to the residential design concept as a unity. She loves creating gardens spaces that will serve the kitchen as well, other than beautification of exteriors. Check out her two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available in this site on the Books’ page and on:
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Three Wonder Words | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

“Wonderful Cookbook!!! I have three wonder words: Baked Ricotta Cheese. Just amazing. The recipes are simple to understand and the instructions are easy for me a home cook. She takes a hand full of ingredients and turns them into a feast. This cookbook is just as good as the first” ~ says the review from one of my reader Shannon L. Sigman of San Jose, CA – on my book ©Sins Of A Queen.

This is a book on Italian Appetizers and Desserts, but everything in there can also be made into easy meals. Baked Ricotta Cheese on page 51 is such an easy recipe that it’s almost a non-recipe. The only ingredients needed are fresh ricotta any olives, Italian prosciutto, or any ham, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Drain the water from the ricotta. Beat it to break the molecules, mix in all the ingredients. Butter a baking dish, lay the mixture in the pan and bake at 400˚ F for about 40-45 minutes. Serve it with a tomato salad, or mixed green salad. Don’t forget a piece of Italian bread and a glass of wine. Dinner cannot be any simpler than this. I kept my promises when I said I was going to write the simplest Italian recipes ever, especially thought for people living a busy life. That was my aim.

There are a few differences in the ricotta products you might want to know. Don’t get confused with Ricotta Salata, a salty ricotta aged for a few months and covered with a natural hard skin formed during the aging process. Ricotta Salata comes in a wheel and cuts in slices like any hard cheese. It goes well with salami, Italian cured prosciutto and grilled sausages, accompanied by a rustic salad. It’s a good rustic item to have among other appetizers.

The ricotta to use in my recipe must be the fresh type found in plastic tubs and sold in specialized cheese shops, where sometimes I am lucky enough to find it in straw baskets as it sells in Italy. The region of Puglia, in Italy produces the best fresh ricotta and related products. http://www.abbasciano.it/en. Fresh ricotta is a spoon type cheese, creamy and spreadable and contains a bit of water, thus is lighter. It is very good to eat when following low calories diet.

The difference in taste from the ricotta sold in supermarkets and the type sold in specialty cheese shops is like night and day.  Fresh ricotta is made from cow’s milk or sheep’s milk, the latter is a bit more fattening, but it has more body and a slightly salty taste. Both are good to use for savory cooking as lasagna, stuffed pasta with spinach and mushrooms, tarts, savarins, canapés and so much more. For sweets and cakes fresh ricotta is the best.


(Photo ricotta canestrata found on: https://www.italieonline.eu/da/italienske-oste-119.htm)

The day I plan to make fresh bread, I make also a trip to the cheese shop to get the fresh ricotta ready to go on that crunchy and hot bread from the oven.
It looks and feels like a hot volcano with a mount of fluffy snow on top and that’s the best way I can describe it in words.
Being very conscious of what I eat, cow’s milk ricotta is lighter and fluffy, it suits better my need and my taste. Yes, it is true, Italian people in Puglia eat as simple as this. Ciao,
Valentina

www.Valentinadesigns.com

 Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
She is the author of two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available on this site on the Books sections and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Her book on colors ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors is in the printing at this time and will be available soon.

 

 

 

Evolving Taste | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I thought I would have never said this but Italian taste for food is changing.

It has been over a decade that new emigrants are flocking to Italy as if it was the new land of opportunities bringing with them their culinary background and their culture.
Italians are now eating pizza with pineapple and cheese, or fried rice in place of risotto. Well, not everyone, fortunately food is one thing Italians are keeping away from corruption, but younger people, traveling to foreign countries more than the past generations are willing to try new food ideas.

I just could not help noticing the change in some of the original and traditional recipes. Cheese and fish cooked together was an absurd combination, it was viewed with skepticism and those people who attempted to do it were always criticized as not having a refined palate.


This is exactly what I observed in a restaurant on the Amalfi coast in Italy, a plate of fried anchovies sandwiched together stuffed with cheese and prosciutto in the middle. The waiter disregarding my dislike of anchovies paired with cheese went on and on trying to convince me that it was a good food and I had to try. I was up for the challenge. The food arrived piping hot and smelled really appetizing.

I must admit fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto was good and new.

However, I still believe if you want the taste the sea in the seafood, keep it simple and do not mix it with other food. Dairy products have a strong taste, no matter how light the product is, milk is milk. To me, milk fights with the delicate fish taste and leaves an after taste. The recipe of fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto is really easy, it’s up to you to try it and decide to like it or not.

Long live the blue fish, which is affordable and low in price, rich in calcium and omega 3 fatty acids.

(Above photo – http://www.scordo.com/recipe/fried-sardine-fillets-sarde-fritte.html)

To make stuffed fried anchovies all you need is:
10.5 oz of flour seasoned with thyme
10.5 breadcrumbs seasoned with thyme
3 whole eggs beaten
1 mozzarella chopped small
a few slices of Italian prosciutto
salt, black pepper to your liking
lemon juice
vegetable oil to fry

Keep each ingredients separate in various bowls. Add fresh thyme in the flour and breadcrumbs for an extra flavor.
Remove the interiors from the anchovies, wash and clean thoroughly.
Once the anchovies are butterflies (see my photo) place on the belly of each anchovy one thin piece of mozzarella and prosciutto and then close it with another anchovy belly down. Repeat until all the anchovies are paired up.
Pass the anchovy sandwiches in flour, than in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
Fry in the hot vegetable oil. Season the anchovies with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

 

Otherwise, the simplest way to fry anchovies is to butterfly them, pass in the flour, then in the beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs. I eat fried food every 4-5 months and I use a good vegetable oil that I discard afterwards.
Once in a blue moon is good, the metabolism needs a good slap every so often.

My two books are filled with easy fish recipes along with other Mediterranean diet recipes.
They are a super source if you want to stay off the mortal diets and want to eat healthy while you are enjoying food.
Please check them out in this site on my Books section.
They are also available on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Yes, I do design kitchens, wine cellars and other rooms, but I also design your palate. Love to hear from you. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
She is a speaker and a book author. Her new book on the subject of colors: ©RED – A Voyage Into Colors  is in production at this time and will be released very soon.
Stay tuned for the launch.

 

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