Category Archives: Cucina Povera

curried brown rice and peanuts pancakes

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Why throw away left over rice when you can get all the exotic flavors of India in these little pancakes? Make them with any kind of leftover rice, and serve them as an appetizer or for a light lunch with a green salad dressed in a sesame-ginger vinaigrette.

2 cups cooked rice – any rice will do, the photo shows pancakes made with brown rice
200 ml coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbs. minced ginger – 1 tbs curry powder
1 bunch green onions, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup all-purpose or rice flour
Tabasco or other hot sauce, optional, to taste

1. Whisk together rice, flour and coconut milk in large bowl. Stir in cilantro, curry and ginger. Add green onions, peanuts, and hot sauce, if desired, and mix well. Add a dash of salt.

2. Heat large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Drop 1/4-cup dollops of batter onto hot skillet. Smooth batter into flat rounds with spatula. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. Flip pancakes, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, or until both sides are browned and crispy. Remove pancakes to warm plate, and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve immediately (or let them cool and freeze them)

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Baked soup patties

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Baked soup? Yes, indeed.
It is an idea that struck me while I was contemplating what to do with some leftover lentil soup.

It’s simple, speedy, nutritious, and FRUGAL.

Perfect companion? Some pita bread, lettuce or chinese cabbage leaves and an yoghurt based sauce, like Tzatziki Sauce. (Use soy yoghurt if you are vegan)

* 1/2 cup parsley – chopped

* 2 cups lentils, chickpeas, peas or beans

* 1/2 cup bread crumbs

* 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1 teaspoon ground cumin

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or paprika

* 1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder

* Olive or sesame oil for brushing

Blend parsley, lentils, and bread crumbs in the blender or a food processor. Remove, place in a bowl and and the lemon juice, baking powder, all spices and mix well. Roll balls of dough into your palms and form them into patties. I used a cream scoop. Place on a oiled baking sheet and brush them with olive or sesame oil. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and crispy.

I love Cucina Povera* – Bread and Apple Pie

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Leftover bread? Any kind of bread will do. You can even mix types of bread.

Now, before giving you the recipe let me explain one of Cucina Povera’s tricky things. Since this cooking style bases itself on what is available in the kitchen, sometimes you have recipes without measurements – like this one.

In this case, for example, you have to use your cooking judgment based mainly on the amount of bread available and play along with it. In my opinion that’s the fun side of Cucina Povera. You become an alchemist, adding (or removing) ingredients until you strike gold. 🙂

Cut the bread into thin slices, dip in melted butter and milk. Cut the apples in rough pieces, place in a saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar, cooking until they soften. Butter a baking dish and cover it with slices of bread, spread a layer of apples and continue alternating layers until you finish with a layer of bread. Sprinkle every layer with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake in hot oven until golden. Before serving, you can sprinkle with Marsala, Port or an orange liqueur.

Possible alternatives – add raisins hydrated in warm water or rum, or chocolate drops. Apples can be replaced by bananas, pears, figs, any fruit of the season.

A rustic dessert, but delicious.

*Cucina povera – when you prepare each one of your dishes so that there is the least possible waste and ALWAYS use several smart ways to reuse the leftovers. Nothing goes to the trash bin before careful consideration. 🙂

In short – It is a way to cook where very few ingredients are purchased and NOTHING is wasted. Cooking with what you have to transform humble ingredients into dishes that are not only good but absolutely exquisite.

I love Cucina Povera: the frugal cook’s eggplant

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I made Babaganoush (eggplant patè) this morning. The recipe requires the eggplant to be baked and then the flesh to be scooped. At this point all cookbooks tell you to discard the peel. However, if you scoop the flesh carefully there’s always a thin amount of flesh left.

Being a true cucina povera cook, I have created a very tasty side dish with them.

After you have scooped carefully the flesh from the eggplants slice the skin in slices. You have no rules here except that you should add some salt to the skins. Apart from that you can season them as you like. One of my favourite seasonings is cumin, and chilly powder. Keep aside.

Make a Pastella – an Italian frying batter made of water and flour. I find Pastella wonderful because it does not soak up oil like a sponge and instead always gives you a very thin and deliciously brittle crust. It is perfect for frying vegetables.

Any flour will do, but I prefer using rice flour to add an extra crunchiness. I find it to be just the perfect flour for this kind of dish.

1 cup of water
Flour (any kind, in my case, rice flour)

Put the water in a bowl and add the flour little by little, constantly stirring the mixture. I am used to do it with my fingers so I can feel the consistency, but you can use a fork. When the tip of my fingers get coated or the batter has the consistency of sour cream you are done.

Dip the slices, a few at a time into the batter and make sure they get evenly coated. Lift them from the bowl and fry. The oil must be hot enough to sizzle on contact with the eggplant. Do not overcrowd the pan. Leave some space between the slices. When a fine golden crust forms on one side, turn the slices over and do the other side. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels.

You can serve it as a side dish or as an appetizer with any kind of salsa you like.

rice fritters

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A wonderful way to use leftover rice.

2 cups rice, cooked
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon garam masala (or curry powder)
3 tablespoons flour

Mix the ingredients together until well combined. Using a spoon pour the batter in small amounts in a small and deep saucepan full of oil and fry the fritters until evenly golden.

Remove from oil and place on paper towels.

Serve hot.

I love Cucina Povera* – Lasagna di pane (Bread Lasagna)

Leftover bread? Make Bread Lasagna.

“The filling can be whatever you want. You can use tomato sauce, bechamel sauce or a combination of both”

The recipe below refers to the lasagna pictured above.

Cut the crusts off the bread slices. If they are soft and fresh, you can dry them briefly in the oven but don’t let them get crisp or brown. Butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan generously. Spread tomato sauce or bechamel sauce in a thin layer in the bottom of the pan. Cover the bottom with a single layer of bread slices. Place them close together but you don’t have to fill every small crack or hole. Spoon about 2 cups of sauce onto the bread and spread it evenly.

For the photo above I made a layer of sliced zucchini (preferably mandolin sliced so they are really thin). Then a layer of eggplant. Sprinkled some Oregano and black pepper. Press down gently, then sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese evenly over the top. Repeat the layering. The last one has to be of bread. Cover the bread with 1 or more cups of sauce, spread evenly. Sprinkle another cup of cheese over the top of the lasagna.

Bake the lasagna covered with aluminum foil for about 45 minutes (Be careful not to let the foil touch the cheese). When ready, remove the foil and return the lasagna to the oven and bake until the top is deep golden-brown.

Let it cool a bit and cut in squares. Serve with green salad.

Yogurt in a thermos

Love yoghurt? Me too.
Don’t have a fancy yoghurt maker and the traditional homemade method (keeping warm wrapping on blankets, etc) seems to complicated for you? Me too.

Why bother making yogurt, I hear you ask. Well, it’s actually just too easy to make it not to do it! You decide what goes in and what stays out, controlling the fat and sugar content. PLUS PLUS: no preservatives, artificial colors or flavorings (unless you add them).

Have a thermos? A bottle, a mug or a big cup will do. A metal one is preferable but not mandatory.

You need:

Milk – the amount depends on how much fit in your thermos
1 tablespoon plain yogurt – room temperature
1 tablespoon powdered milk

Any type of milk will work for making yogurt. Whole, low-fat, skim, evaporated, raw milk, pasteurized, sheep or goat’s milk, or powdered milk. You can add sweeteners such as honey, malt, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, or artificial sweeteners as desired by your personal taste. Always add them after scalding the milk.

Scald the milk. Put it aside, let cool a bit. Test the temperature with (1) a thermometer (105-110 degrees F is ideal) (2) your fingers, if they do not melt when you touch the milk, it’s ok. Remove film from top and discard.

Add the starter. Add the powdered milk.

Incubate the yogurt. Pour the mixture in your thermos, close it and wait 4 to 6 hours. Do not shake or disturb during incubation. After 3 hours, check to see if yogurt is set by gently tilting the container. If yogurt is set and firm, place it in refrigerator and chill for 6 hours before serving. If not, continue to incubate.

In an airtight container, this yogurt will last for about 8 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze it for up to several months but smoothness will be lost after thawing. Not a problem if you use the yogurt in cooking, annoying if you want to eat it fresh. Plan accordingly.