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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Salud! at Whole Foods: Spring in Italy

Italy in spring… foods at their freshest.  Creamy Artichoke Soup with Parmesan Crisps, Roasted Leg of Lamb, Vegetable Sauté with Israeli Cous Cous, Ricotta Tart with Berry Compote & Mascarpone Whipped Cream.

When I saw this class offered at Whole Foods, I jumped at the chance to take it.  And since Himself was going to be home I signed him up too! 

This class was taught by guest teacher Dan Maggipinto, chef at Caffe Nonna in Nashville.  http://www.caffenonna.com    I must say, of all the guest instructors I’ve taken classes under at Whole Foods, Chef Dan is now my favorite. 

We broke into teams and each team was given a recipe to prepare for the evening. 

Our team consisted of a man who had been to culinary school, Himself and me.  To say we hummed along wouldn’t be bragging.  LOL   Our recipe was Vegetable Sauté with Israeli Cous Cous.   

The cous cous we used was a new type for me.  Pearl cous cous… it is larger than what I normally use.  It was cooked in saffron water.  Isn’t the color fantastic?  Smelled wonderful too. 

He gave pointers over what were in the recipes… such as using a small pan to brown off meat before roasting.  A small pan keeps any rub you might have on the meat from burning if it flakes off. 

Filling the ricotta tarts. 

After everything came together, Chef Dan carved the lamb roast.

The parmesan crisps right after they came out of the oven.  Oh my, these could quickly become addictive!

Artichoke Soup with Parmesan Crisps.

Roasted Leg of Lamb over Vegetable Sauté with Israeli Cous Cous

Ricotta Tart straight out of the oven…

… and dressed for dessert!

CREAMY ARTICHOKE SOUP WITH PARMESAN CRISPS

Olive oil for sautéing
4# Artichoke hearts (thawed if frozen or rinsed and drained if canned) rough chopped
2 leeks (white portions only) sliced thin
1 Tbsp fresh garlic chopped
2 potatoes (peeled and chopped)
4 cups chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock)
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
1 small container Mascarpone cheese (reserve some for garnish)
Chives/Italian parsley/lemon zest for garnish (zest/chop together)
Heat your favorite soup pot on low-medium heat.  Add the olive oil, garlic and leeks and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Add the potatoes and sauté for approx 5 minutes, stir well.  Now add the artichokes, stock and lightly season with the salt & pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes.  The vegetables should be done at this point.
After the vegetables are tender you can either puree in a blender in small batches (if using this method allow to cool).  Or use a kitchen immersion blender and puree well.  Now add 1/2 of the mascarpone cheese and blend well.  Check seasoning, adjust if needed.
Re heat if needed and ladle into bowls.  Top with a little mascarpone cheese and herb gremolata mixture.

PARMESAN CRISPS
1 cup Parmesan cheese (make sure it is GRATED and NOT shredded!)
Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Pre heat oven to 400 F.
On a parchment paper lined sheet pan place 20 heaping tablespoons of the parmesan cheese.  Make sure they are a couple of inches apart.
Lightly pat each pile flat with the back of a spoon.  They should be in a circle. 
Bake for about 3-4 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool.  (Before completely cool they can be formed into shapes such a bowls, rolls, etc).

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