Tag: capers

Sicilian Sfincione with Tapenade

Sfincione with Tapenade

Forget about thin and crisp, this pizza is thick and juicy! The Sicilian Sfincione is more like a focaccia, the dough is made with eggs and milk which gives it a bit of a sweet bread feeling. Its origin dates back to the late Baroque when the aristocratic Sicilian families liked to employ French chefs, the “Monzu” coming from the French Monsieur, some of them became famous Sicilian chefs. Here’s the beauty of culinary exchange between two cultures, they influence each other, they don’t confine each other but merge and evolve! If only cultural exchange was always so easy and well received!

In the beginning of the 18th century, these chefs started to influence Sicilian cuisine and left quite a few marks in the kitchen, also in the making of pizza. Eggs and milk, sometimes even butter, found their way into this famous dish and created completely different textures and tastes, like the popular Sfincione.

As there is already a French touch involved I thought I might as well continue working with it in the topping. I went for a rich Provençal tapenade made of lots of black olives, capers, anchovies, olive oil, brandy and lemon juice topped with thyme sprigs. It was great! This pizza is perfect for a picnic, as a starter or with a salad on the side. I love pizza, so much that I bake it every Sunday and this Sicilian variation is definitely a summer favourite!

Sfincione with Tapenade

 

Sfincione with Tapenade

 Sfincione with Tapenade

For 4 Sfincione (15cm / 6″) you need

For the dough

plain flour 500g / 1 pound
dry yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
salt 1/2 teaspoon
organic egg 1
milk, lukewarm, 250ml / 8.5 ounces

Combine the flour with the yeast and salt, add the lukewarm milk and egg and mix with your dough hooks for a few minutes. Continue kneading and punching with your hands until you have an elastic dough ball and put it back in the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) oven for 45 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4, stretch into thick 15cm / 6″ disks on a floured surface and cover with a kitchen towel. Let them rise while you continue the preparation for the tapenade.

 

For the tapenade

black olives 200g / 7 ounces
capers 40
anchovy, rinsed and dried, 2 fillet
olive oil 2 tablespoons plus more for sprinkling
brandy (or cognac) 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons
mustard 1 teaspoon
pepper
thyme 16 small sprigs for topping

Mix the ingredients for the tapenade in a blender and season with pepper to taste.

 

The Sfincione

Set the oven to 250°C / 480°F, my oven has a special pizza setting but you can use top / bottom heat as well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread a quarter of the tapenade on each pizza, put 4 thyme sprigs on top of each and bake for 6 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with olive oil immediately and serve warm or cold.

Sfincione with Tapenade

 

Sfincione with Tapenade

 

Sfincione with Tapenade

Sole Meunière with a Mediterranean Tomato Confit

Sole with Tomato Confit

I went out to buy meat and came home with fish. The displays in the shops and markets have a huge effect on my shopping, often even more than my shopping list! A very fresh looking sole from the Atlantic caught my attention and  I changed my mind, we’ll have fish on the table instead! Sole caught in spring, in May and June is supposed to be the best, its taste is finer than during the rest of the year. This one is my first in 2014 and I gave it a Mediterranean twist. Tomatoes, black olives, capers, basil, garlic and a little freshly squeezed orange juice, these are the ingredients for my Mediterranean sauce, a thick and fruity tomato confit.

To fry a whole fish can be a bit intimidating, especially when it’s as big as my sole, 650g (1.5 pounds) can be fiddly to flip around. I have a non-stick fish frying pan, a very convenient gift from my mother, which makes it much easier as its shape allows the fish to cook evenly. As long as your frying pan is big enough any other shape will do as well, I prefer non-stick as it needs less fat.

My sole is cooked whole, à la meunière coated in a thin layer of seasoned flour. The flour gave the recipe its name, meunière means miller’s wife in French. I sautée the fish on high temperature in lots of olive oil and butter for just 3 minutes on each side. To prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom I shake the pan several times. There’s a point of excitement involved in this recipe, and that’s turning the fish. You should always do it quick and with confidence, I did it with my fingers pulling the fish up from its fin. Some use 2 spatulas or even another pan which I think is not necessary, just be brave and it will work!

Sole with Tomato Confit

 Sole Meunière with a Mediterranean Tomato Confit

For 2 people you need

sole (whole), cleaned, rinsed and dried, 650g / 23 ounces (or 2 small ones)
plain flour for dusting
medium sized tomatoes, diced, 4
garlic, thinly sliced, 1 big clove
black olives, chopped, 4
capers, rinsed, 10
Balsamico vinegar 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon plus more to taste
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
butter 1-2 tablespoons

For the tomato confit, heat a splash of olive oil in a sauce pan on a medium heat and cook the tomatoes and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the olives, capers, Balsamico vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes (open) or until thick and soft. Season with vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper to taste.

On a large plate, season the flour with a little salt and pepper, toss the fish in, dust on both sides and shake off any excess.

In a large frying pan, heat a splash of olive oil and the butter on a high temperature and cook the fish for 3 minutes, shaking the pan 3-4 times. I cooked the white side first, some prefer to start with the dark side. Turn the fish with 1-2 spatulas (or from the fin like I did) and cook for 3 minutes on the other side until golden. If your fish is much smaller fry it for 2 minutes on each side only. Serve immediately.

Sole with Tomato Confit

 

Sole with Tomato Confit

Tuna Club Sandwich and the advantages of old fashioned traveling

Tuna Club Sandwich

When I visit my mother I usually take the train as I prefer to cross the country on the ground rather than in the air. I like this old fashioned, slow kind of traveling, when you see the different landscapes passing by, the busy train stations, cities and villages flying passed your window. You really feel the distance and enjoy the changes instead of just getting it done.

My choice of transportation has another advantage. Before I jump on my train back home, my mother and I follow one of our many traditions, this one started many years ago. We have a cappuccino, a glass of wine or champagne and a little snack at an elegant hotel right opposite the city’s famous, nearly 800 year old cathedral. Most of the time we sit right next to the windows of the hotel’s old fashioned bistro, always amazed by the sight of the imposing gothic building which seems to grow right into the sky. Sometimes we sit at the bar, on leather covered bar stools, surrounded by a couple strangers reading newspapers, served by waiters who are as elegant as the women and gentlemen sitting at the small tables quietly talking. It’s as if time stops at this place and I always loved it for this reason!

We enjoy our drinks and our last hour together before we go separate ways again. To feed my constant hunger I usually eat a snack as old as the hotel, a club sandwich. The earliest written proof of this sandwich’s existence is from 1899, the hotel opened in 1857 and the current building was completed in 1893. The classic recipe for a club sandwich is made with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Today I will share my club sandwich variation filled with a tuna dip mixed with gherkin, egg, capers, tomato paste and mustard, another one of my mother’s recipes.

Unfortunately our favourite hotel is closed for renovations at the moment and we’re still waiting impatiently for the reopening!

Tuna Club Sandwich

Tuna Club Sandwich

For  4 club sandwiches with 2 layers of tuna dip you need

white bread, toasted, cut in half, 12 slices
green lettuce 4 small leaves

For the tuna dip

tinned tuna in water, drained well (it’s best to squeeze the water out), 185g  / 6.5 ounces
organic egg, hardboiled and finely chopped, 1
gherkins, finely chopped, 2
capers, finely chopped, 7-10
yoghurt 7 tablespoons
olive oil 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon
liquid from the gherkin 1 teaspoon
mustard to taste
tomato paste to taste
salt and black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the dip with a fork and adjust the flavours to taste. Lay a leaf of lettuce on half a slice of toasted bread, spread with tuna dip, put another slice of bread on top covered with tuna dip and a final layer of bread, fix with a tooth pick.

Tuna Club Sandwich

 

Tuna Club Sandwich

 

Tuna Club Sandwich

 

Tuna Club Sandwich

Trout al Cartoccio

Trout al Cartoccio

Today I found some beautiful, fresh trout and they reminded me of the region where I grew up. Of the forest and its little streams meandering between trees, passing by the trout ponds which are close to my mother’s house. I decided to get two of them and cook them al cartoccio – in parchment paper – together with Tyrolean prosciutto, olives, capers, garlic and bay leaves.

Trout has a strong, earthy taste which makes it perfect to combine with other stand out flavours. The closed parchment paper package makes this union of tastes even more intense. As extreme as this combination may sound, it is a perfect match. The trout can take the smoky prosciutto, the bay leaf, the olives and capers without loosing any of its own qualities.

The best part is opening the hot paper package on your plate and smelling the different aromas. Dip some bread in the juices and enjoy with a glass of white wine!

Trout al Cartoccio

Trout al Cartoccio with Tyrolean Prosciutto, Olives and Capers

For 2 people you need

trout, cleaned, 2 each around 300g / 10.5 ounces
Tyrolean prosciutto, thin slices, 6
(or any other Italian prosciutto)
olives, green, 8
capers 2 tablespoons
garlic, quartered, 2
bay leaves 4
white wine 100ml
olive oil 4 tablespoons plus more to brush the parchment paper
salt and pepper

a small loaf of Ciabatta

parchment paper for the packages

Set your oven to 180°C / 355°F

Rinse and dry the fish, season with salt and pepper (inside and out).

You need to prepare 2 parchment paper packages for 2 trout: for each package put 2 layers of parchment paper on top of each other, each around 20cm / 8″ longer than the fish. Brush the top layer with oil.

Wrap each trout in 3 slices of prosciutto and place it in the middle of your oiled parchment paper. Put one bay leaf in the fish and one below. Fold up the sides of your package, twisting the ends without closing the top and fill with half of the olives, capers, garlic, olive oil and white wine. Close the top and fold twice. Repeat with the second trout.

Place both bags in a baking dish or pan and put in the oven for 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). You can tell the fish is done when its earthy smell starts to fill the air. Carefully open one of your packages, if you can lift the flesh off the bone with a fork it’s done.

Trout al Cartoccio