Sardinian Couscous with Clams

Fregola is a large, round Italian pasta that is similar to Israeli couscous and can be substituted in this wonderful recipe.

2 – 2 1/2 lb. clams
2 tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbs. tomato paste
3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry red vermouth
1 1/3 cups fregola
3 tbs. chopped parsley, plus more of sprinkling

Soak the clams in a large bowl of cold water to remove any sand. Discard any that do not close or are cracked.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot that has a lid. Cook the shallots until softened, a minute or two, then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the tomato paste, stock and vermouth. Stir in the fregola, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 10-12 minutes, or until the fregola is tender.

Drain the clams and tip into the pot. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes at a fast simmer until the clams open up. Discard any that don’t. Sprinkle in the parsley and ladle into warmed serving bowls. Top with a bit more parsley, to serve.

Serves 4

Lamb Steaks with Anchovies and Thyme

This lovely sauce would also be wonderful with boneless, skinless chicken cooked in the same manner.

1 tbs. garlic-infused olive oil
2 lamb steaks
4 anchovy fillets
leaves from a few thyme sprigs
1/4 cup rose or sweet vermouth

Warm the oil in a heavy skillet. Season the lamb and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or to your liking. Remove to a foil-line cutting board and wrap it.

Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the anchovy fillets until they begin to melt into the oil. Put the skillet back on the heat and add most of the thyme and the vermouth. Bubble to thicken slightly. Place the lamb steaks on a plate and add any of their juices to the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the lamb and serve sprinkled with the remaining thyme.

Serves 2

Chicken with Tomatoes and Peppers

Here is a comforting and satisfying stew that is done in under 30 minutes.

1 tbs. garlic-infused olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbs. Marsala
1 x 14 oz. can chopped tomtoes
1/2 tsp. sea salt flakes
1 x 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
cooked orzo, to serve

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and cook the shallots over a medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken with the dried oregano and turn them about in the pan. Add the Marsala and allow it to bubble for a minute, then tip in the tomatoes. Fill the tomato can half full with water, swill it around, then add to the pan with the salt. Continue to cook, uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thicken.

Snip the peppers into the pan and stir until they are warm. Serve over orzo.

Serves 3-4

Pork Chops with Fennel Seeds and Allspice

Fragrant with savory spices, these pork chops are a jot to make and a joy to eat.

2 pork chops, not too lean
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. celery salt
punch ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
2 tbs. garlic-infused olive oil
5 tbs. Marsala

Cut the rind and most of the fat off the pork chops. Mix the flour, fennel seeds, allspice, celery salt, cloves and a good grinding of pepper on a dinner plate. Dredge the pork chops in the mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet that the chops will fit snugly in and cook the pork chops for 5 minutes on each side. Tip in the Marsala and cook the pork chops for 5 more minutes. Remove to heated plates and bubble the sauce until thickened. Pour it over the chops and serve.

Serves 2

One-Step No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

This is the most brilliant ice cream ever! The addition of coffee liqueur insures that the mixture will not freeze completely, leaving you with a soft, instant-serve scoop of wonderment.

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tbs. instant espresso powder
2 tbs. espresso liqueur
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Put the sweetened condensed milk in a bowl and stir in the espresso powder and liqueur. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it reaches soft peaks. Fold the cream into the condensed milk mixture, then pour into an air-tight freezable container. Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

Italian Breakfast Banana Bread

What makes this different from ordinary banana bread is the addition of instant espresso powder. The coffee does not overwhelm at all; it’s subtle bitterness, most elegantly, enhances the sweetness of the banana. The bread is best eaten the day after it is baked.

3 medium, very ripe bananas (1 1/3 cups)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs. plain flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. instant espresso powder

Heat the oven to 325°F and grease a standard loaf tin. Slip a baking sheet into the oven.

Mash the bananas with the vanilla and salt, then beat in the oil. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the sugar. Mix the flour with the baking soda and the espresso powder, then beat into the banana mixture.

Pour into the tin, put it into the oven on the baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the edges are slightly coming away and the bread has risen. A cake tester should come out clean. Leave to cool, then wrap is foil and wait for at least a half day before slicing it.

 

 

 

 

 

Sicilian Cauliflower Salad

The mixture of sweet, Marsala-soaked raisins, salty olives and a delicate saffron-scented dressing gives ordinary cauliflower the star treatment. This is a fabulous make-ahead salad.

1 head cauliflower
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 cup water from a recently boiled kettle
1/2 cup golden raisins
5 tbs. Marsala
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup oil-brined black olives
3 tbs. toasted pine nuts
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Break the cauliflower into florets and put these in a saucepan that has a lid. Cover with cold water, add the salt and bay leaves, put the lid on, set the pan on a high heat and bring to a boil. Drain immediately and run under cold water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, put the saffron threads in a small bowl and add the boiled water. Let steep.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the Marsala and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.

Add the shallots and lemon juice to the saffron water. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.

Tip the still-warm cauliflower into a serving bowl and add the raisins and any Marsala, the dressing and the olives. Toss well and check the seasoning. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Toss in most of the pine nuts and parsley, then scatter the rest over the top and serve.

Serves 4-6

Romansco with Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon and Pecorino

Not only is this delicious, it’s most compelling characteristic is that the romanesco look like baby fir trees.

1 head romanesco
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary needles
1 garlic clove
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tbs. grated Pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese

Fill a large pot with water and put on to boil. Remove the florets from the romanesco and sort by size. Once the water boils, salt it and add the large florets. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the medium sized florets and cook for another 2 minutes. Finally, add the small florets and cook everything for 3-5 minutes, or until tender but still crisp. Drain well and place in a serving boil.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil, then add the rosemary and sizzle for a few minutes. Add the garlic and turn off the heat, Add the lemon zest and juice with salt to taste. Pour over the romanesco and top with the grated cheese. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6

Cod with Broccolini and Chili

Perfect for a kitchen supper for two, this lovely and light dish is ready in no time.

3 tbs. olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 oz. broccolini, trimmed
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 cod fillets (approx. 6 oz. each and no more than 1″ thick)
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped

Heat the olive oil over a low heat in a large skillet with a lid and add the anchovy fillets. Stir to melt the anchovies into the oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir for about 30 seconds before adding the broccolini. Tip in the wine or vermouth and let it bubble, then cover and let the broccolini steam for 7 minutes, until tender-crisp.

Season the cod, then add to the skillet and let it bubble for 3-4 minutes per side, or until just cooked through.

Serve in warmed bowls with the pan juices and topped with red chili.

Serves 2

Green Pasta with Blue Cheese

Four ingredients for instant comfort food.

8 oz. trottole verde or any curly pasta of choice
4 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
4 cups baby spinach leaves
3 tbs. chopped, shelled pistachios

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt it. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain.

Return the pasta to the pot along with the gorgonzola and spinach. Put on the lid and leave to sit without heat for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, put the heat on low and stir everything together, adding as much pasta water as you need to thin out the sauce.

Take off the heat, toss in about two-thirds of the pistachios, then divide between 2 warmed bowls. Scatter over the remaining pistachios and a good grinding of black pepper to serve.

Serves 2