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Sautéed Rapini (Rapini Saltati)

In Vegetables On May 26, 2011 1 Comment

Have you ever tasted steamed or boiled rapini and found its taste slightly bitter? Make this leafy vegetable as we Southern Italians do and I’m sure you’ll love it.

Italians know that rapini must be sautéed with garlic and olive oil in order to tone down its pungent flavor. Here’s my family’s special recipe. Add some fresh, crusty bread to your dining experience and let me know what you think.

Buon Appetito!

Prep time: 10 to 12 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

1 bunch fresh rapini (also known as broccoli rabe or rape)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup chicken broth (or water for vegan recipe)
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt

1. With a knife, remove and discard one inch from bottom tips of rapini. Cut the remaining rapini stalk lengths into thirds. Wash and spin dry the rapini twice; set aside.

2. In a 6 or 8-quart saucepot on a stove burner set on high, heat the oil with the garlic slices. When the garlic starts sizzling, stir it with a wooden spoon. Sauté the garlic about 1 minute or until it turns golden.

3. Immediately transfer the saucepot with the garlic and oil to a cold burner and let cool about 2 minutes. Add the washed and spun rapini to the garlic and oil. Cover the saucepot, return it to the hot burner set on high heat and sautée the rapini 1 to 2 minutes, turning it over with tongs.

4. Set heat on medium high and add ½ cup of water or broth. Cook, uncovered, for an additional minute. Stir in the salt.

Serve rapini as a side dish to meats, fish, chicken or turkey. Alternatively, simply enjoy the rapini with fresh bread (be sure to soak the bread in the rapini broth).

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Penne with Cilantro Pesto & Edamame

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 28, 2011 0 Comments


Although I don’t enjoy getting my hands full of dirt, I love grabbing kitchen shears and heading to my husband’s organic herb garden. Just last week, I looked for some fresh basil so that I could make traditional basil pesto, but harvested bunches of parsley and cilantro instead. By adding edamame to my novelty pesto sauce, I created this aromatic and exotic pasta dish.

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes (for pesto); 8 to 10 minutes (for cooking pasta & edamame)
Makes: 1 to 2 cups Cilantro Pesto
Serves: 4 to 6

For the Cilantro Pesto:
2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
2 cups lightly packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and hearts removed
1½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole, natural almonds (skin on)
½ cup extra virgin olive
½ cup vegetable oil

1. Measure cilantro and parsley leaves; set aside.

2. In a food processor, grind the garlic and the salt.

3. Add cilantro and parsley leaves and process until finely chopped.

4. Add the almonds and grind.

5. Combine both oils in a measuring cup and, with motor running on low speed, pour the oils in a slow, steady stream until a paste or “pesto” forms.

6. Transfer the pesto to a glass jar and gently spoon extra vegetable oil on top to seal (this prevents blackening). Cover with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerate.

For the Pasta:
1 pound penne pasta (or other short variety)
¾ to 1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1½ cups frozen edamame
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (optional)

1. In a 5-quart saucepot, bring 3½ cups water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt; cook on medium-high, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. After 8 minutes, add frozen edamame to the pasta during the last minute or two of cooking.

3. Meanwhile, spoon 2/3 cup Cilantro Pesto into a large glass or porcelain serving bowl; set aside.

4. When pasta and edamame are cooked and drained, toss them immediately with the pesto in bowl. Taste and adjust salt and extra virgin olive oil level. For a creamier consistency, add 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream.

5. Serve in individual bowls. If desired, sprinkle lightly with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese – too much cheese will conflict with the distinct aroma and flavor of cilantro.

Wine pairing: Chilled Pinot Grigio (white) or Bordeaux (red).

Notes: If a stronger cilantro flavor is desired, change the amounts of cilantro and parsley – use 2½ cups cilantro and 1½ cups parsley leaves.

Each time pesto is taken out of the jar, be sure to add a thin layer of vegetable oil to remaining pesto in jar. Seal the jar and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Text and Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

A Side of Carrots & Green Beans

In Vegetables On February 16, 2011 2 Comments

It’s February and we should start thinking about summer – the sun, the beach and – wait a minute – the bathing suits, too? Whether we’re happy with last year’s G-string size or not, now is definitely a good time to stop eating and get moving.

Accordingly, I brainwashed myself into believing that sweets can be replaced by salads and vegetables. One of my fav’s is a carrot and green bean dish that I grew up with in Italy. All you need for this is a little salt, pepper, garlic and extra virgin olive oil to boost the natural sweetness of these two veggies.

Should I get caught in a restaurant in the next few weeks, rest assured that you’ll hear me ask my server for fish or chicken, “a side of carrots, green beans – and bring the olive oil, please”.

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4

1/2 pound fresh green beans, tips discarded
3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic Cream*, for drizzling (optional)

1. Place green beans in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

2. Cook 2 minutes or until beans are crunchy-tender.

3. Drain and place beans in a large glass or porcelain bowl. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, place carrots in same 2-quart saucepot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

5. Cook for 1 minute or until carrots are crunchy-tender.

6. Drain carrots and add to the beans in bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately as a side to fish, chicken or steak. Drizzle with a little balsamic cream (optional).

*Balsamic cream is a thick, glazed reduction of dark balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy. It is made from the Trebbiano grape and is aged in wooden barrels for several years. There are two varieties of balsamic vinegar: the dark and light variety. Both the cream and the vinegar can be found online at Amazon.com®.

Text and Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Obika Mozzarella Bar, Los Angeles (Century City)

In Nancy's Articles On September 24, 2010 6 Comments

If Italy is not in your immediate travel plans and you’re craving fresh mozzarella di bufala, I’ve got the solution for you – Obika Mozzarella Bar.

Upon my recent return from Italy, I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh, high quality mozzarella at Obika in Los Angeles. At Obika’s grand opening on September 14th, I tasted the Fried Breaded Mozzarella di Bufala, Mozzarella Rolls with Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon and Arugula, and the Affumicata (literally, “smoked mozzarella di bufala”).

Already established in Milan, London, New York, Tokyo and Rome, Obika Los Angeles has fresh mozzarella flown in from dairy farms (located in the southern region of Campania, Italy) three times a week. The mozzarella is made from fresh buffalo milk and has a creamy, luscious texture – a true delicacy!

Five days after its opening, I went back to Obika and had lunch – everything tasted fantastic and I was so pleased with the different ways in which the mozzarella is served, as well as with the selection of wines and foods. One of my favorites is the Layered Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana.

For my incurable sweet tooth, I tasted Ricotta Mousse with Honey, Orange Peel and Pine Nuts; and Tiramisu. I was impressed because I tasted pure, fresh ingredients – hallmarks of “homemade” Italian flavors. Wow!

Obika is high on my list for great food, atmosphere and service.

For more information, check out Obika’s website at http://www.obikala.com

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

When in Rome, Eat Spaghetti

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On August 25, 2010 4 Comments

There’s no doubt about it – the inspiration for publishing this family dish came from the movie, Eat, Pray, Love®. Spaghetti has never been high on my list of favorite pasta varieties. However, when I saw Julia Roberts slurping up that succulent spaghetti in Rome, “mi è venuta una gran voglia di mangiare spaghetti” or, “I suddenly got the craving for spaghetti”.

Here’s the spaghetti and sauce recipe I was raised with in Italy – it’s easy, fresh and sweet. Please promise that after making this tomato sauce, you’ll ignore all jarred, ready-made sauces forever!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

3 pounds large red heirloom tomatoes (about 10 to 12 count)
6 to 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, whole
Dash freshy grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 to 7 fresh basil leaves, whole or slivered
1 pound spaghetti
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1. Quarter the tomatoes, remove and discard seeds.

2. In a food processor or by hand, coarsely chop the tomatoes and set them aside in a large bowl.

3. In a 2-quart saucepot, heat the oil and stir fry the garlic cloves until they turn golden brown.

4. Remove saucepot from heat. Pour the chopped tomatoes over garlic and oil in saucepot and bring to a boil. Stir in the grated nutmeg.

5. Cook tomato sauce on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the fresh basil, set aside and keep warm.

6. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart saucepot, bring water to a boil. Add spaghetti to boiling water.

7. Using tongs, push the pasta into the water as it softens. Set heat on medium and boil the pasta 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente or crunchy-tender.

8. Drain pasta and transfer it to a large glass or porcelain serving bowl. Add 3 ladles of tomato sauce and stir gently.

9. Serve pasta in individual bowls and top with some tomato sauce. Ask guests to add their own grated cheese.

Wine pairing: Fiano di Avellino (white); Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese (reds).

Buon Appetito!

Note: To avoid overcooking, begin tasting pasta after 6 minutes cooking time (since each pasta variety has a different density, cooking times will vary).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real