Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

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Usually I love following the traditions: I believe in keeping the proportions and following the procedures even if new technologies can simplify everything: after all, I am not looking for the “correct” and perfect ways, I just need my food to taste like in the childhood. But sometimes, when life sends you a good set of ingredients, I feel like experimenting (anyway, there was no lasagna in my childhood). This time my inspiration was the autumn – keeping in mind that in English climate autumn vegetables must be the tastiest. So, actually, the queen of the autumn, pumpkin, seems like a perfect stuffing balanced with new tomatoes and some potatoes. Alternatively, pumpkin can be replaced with aubergines. The nature is smart, and apparently all autumn veggies tend to combine perfectly with each other.

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Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:
Onion_____________1
Potatoes__________ 500 grams
Pumpkin__________ 300 grams
Tomato pasta______ 3 tablespoons
Scamorza Cheese___350 grams
Brie Cheese________150 grams
Lasagna sheets
Parmesan ____100 grams
Rosemary
For sauce
Butter ______ 40 grams
Flour _______40 grams
Milk ________600 ml
Nutmeg _____a pinch
1. Cut onion and fry till golden, add cut potatoes and diced pumpkin and cook on the low heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato pasta, mix well and cook until ready. Add salt, paper, and rosemary to taste.
2. For the béchamel sauce melt the butter in a pot with thick bottom, add flour, mix it and fry for several minutes constantly mixing so that flour won’t stick to the bottom. Add warm milk, mix well, cook on low flame till it boils, after add salt, nutmeg, cover with the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes (till it becomes dense). Note: for lasagna the sauce shall be not as dense as you would cook otherwise.
3. Grease a baking dish, cover the bottom with béchamel, lay the first layer of lasagna sheets (it’s better if they don’t overlap), cover with béchamel, spread vegetable mix, add salt and pepper to taste, and slices of cheese. Repeat layers till all ingredients are used, cover with lasagna sheets, béchamel, sprinkle with parmesan. Bake on 180C (350F) for 45 minutes.

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Mushroom Risotto Pie or the Power of Leftovers

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When I came to Italy, I was amazed how horribly Italians waste food. My flat mates would throw away everything that they had not finished during the dinner; in my perspective you can eat the dish even the day after. From time to time I saw in the garbage a whole loaf of bread; that made me absolutely sick… At least you can give the bread to birds. The fist moths of living together with my Italian bf were a constant fight for the food leftovers – I told we wouldn’t through them away, which confuzzeled him a lot (confuzzeled = confused + puzzled). In general, I can though away only something that is gone, but I prefer to utilize everything before it is wasted. This has nothing to do with greed; it is a matter of respect.
My grandmother was just 4 when the war started – big enough to remember everything. She never spoke about the war, even though many of people of her age or older told us how important it was to keep on studying and helping adults in watching out the fire. The only thing she ever had told me about the war was bread related. She once, when I was a small girl, tried to explain me what was responsibility and that life requires trade-offs. She told me they got a piece of bread per day, and they were three: my granny, her sister and their mother (my grandgrandmother). Each day my grandgrandmother would split this tiny peace in three unequal parts. My grandmother told me, that she was a kid and she was so hungry, as she was growing, but already then she understood that she had right to take just the smallest part of the bread. Her mother was working hard, her sister was studying in school – in her eyes they needed the food more, than herself.

Those 125 grams

During the siege of Leningrad around 5,000 people per DAY died because of hunger only. The piece of bread, 70% of which was not even wheat, but wood shredding, was the only food for the citizens for 900 days. In total, over 800,000 died from starvation. There is no single person with a normal upbringing in St Petersburg who can through away a piece of bread. It has nothing to do with greed; just the price of this bread is way too high to afford putting it to garbage. It is like spitting in your own history. Each time, when you through away good food, you show fantastic disrespect to those people, who are dying because they don’t have it. Since when have people forgotten that for centuries food was synonym for life?
Well, back to the recipe now. What if you cooked too much of risotto? Next day it is not tasty anymore. Solution is an absolutely fantastic risotto pie.
Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Mushroom risotto leftovers or
Rice____________300 grams
Onion___________1/2
Dry mushrooms__ 30 grams
Goat Cheese_____100 grams
1. If you prepare risotto from scratch: put mushrooms into boiling water for 30 minutes. After drain, and save the water. Chop onion; pour oil in the pot, fry onion and mushrooms. Add rice; mix so that every grain is coated with oil. Pour in a splash of broth from mushrooms. Constantly mix till the water evaporates, add another splash then, mix till the liquid evaporates… Repeat this sequence till rice is cooked. Add salt, pepper to taste.
2. Transfer the half of prepared risotto/leftover risotto into the baking dish, put sliced soft goat cheese, sprinkle with dried oregano (any herb you like/have next to you) and cover with the remaining risotto. If you want, sprinkle with grated parmiggiano. Bake on 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes or till golden crust. Super good cold, hot, and on the next day.
For utilizing stale bread you can check stuffed courgettes recipe, for using rice check oven-baked rice, if you have some fried vegetables left roll them into strudel, a lonely cooked potato or a lonely baked aubergine will fit into Balkan cheese pie.

 

Lemon and Basil Pasta

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There is a famous Russian journalist, who dedicated himself to studying island cultures. He claimed, that as every island population developed in insolation, its culture and social norms are so distinctive, that it is not easy for continental people to understand them. As the examples he mentions Japan and UK (he spent 10 years in both countries and claims that British people are quite difficult to go alone with). I don’t know how true it is nowadays, but I am sure that this principle is not applicable to another large island – Sicily. It was conquered so many time, that it is rather a melting pot of people, traditions and cuisines. Specially distinguishing in this sense is Palermo region, which was under strong Arabic influence, and thus features couscous as a traditional dish. And it were Arabs, who brought lemons into Sicily – they started cultivated it on the fertile soil of Etna. Many people trust that exactly due to this volcanic soil and Sicilian lemons have these inimitable sweetness, which born the saying: “Lemons are not lemons unless they are from Sicily”.
Lemons are used in many traditional dishes, like famous Granita. But in the summer a popular dish is past with lemon, as it has rich, refreshing flavor.
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Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Spaghetti or tagliatelle_________400 grams
Olive oil______________________12 tablespoons
Garlic________________________2 cloves
Red chili_____________________1/2
Basil________________________a handful
Tomato______________________1 big
Lemon______________________ 2
Parmesan___________________40 grams
Butter_______________________20 grams
Salt, Pepper
1. Boil spaghetti in plenty of salted water till al dente. Drain, reserving a splash of cooking water.
2. Chop the garlic and chili; put olive oil into a pan, add garlic and chili and sweat on medium fire for about a minute.
3. One lemon cut in segments, grate the zest and squeeze the juice from another one.
4. Put pasta in the frying pan, add a little bit of cooking water, lemon segments, zest and juice, basil, and cut tomato. Stir, season to taste, and adjust the density with the remaining cooking water. Add grated parmesan and butter. Serve straight away.

Stuffed Zucchini

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This is another typical representative of Italian cucina povera from Liguria. Poor people all over the world tent to bake leftovers and stale bread, flavoring them with local typical products. Without any doubts, Liguria is one of the best spots on earth for fish-lovers: in any restaurant you can find the fresh fish of the day, and fishermen sell their catch right on the street like in good old times. A trip for Cinque Terre seems to be a journey into past: people still go fishing on their colorful boats, which their drag on the land overnight and place right on the street next to the house. It is amazing how people manage to live there, in the tough simplicity of a life without twitter, the last collections in the shops and other actually not so relevant things. Without the coverage of these digital epoch attributes, life there seems to be so real and genuine, that it becomes material, and you can see it hanging in the air, under the crowded markets, street musicians, bums, prostitutes, and churches. Liguria is a Northern region with all the smells, noises, mess, chaotic movements and problems of the South. But after Rome, it is the most beautiful place of Italy.

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But back to the recipe: of cause, it can be done with numerous variations. As I skip fish and anchovies, to keep it salty and rich in taste I add several spoons of sun-dried tomato pesto (you can find the recipe in my blog among earlier post).
Time of preparation: 40 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Zucchini______8 medium
Onions_______2
Bread________70 grams (third day bread)
Milk_________ 3 tablespoons
Pine Nuts____ 20 grams
Eggs________2
Anchovies___ 4 fillets (omit for vegetarian version)
Capers______ 2 tablespoons
Tuna________150 grams (omit for vegetarian version)
Marjoram____1 tablespoon (optional)
Parmesan___ 50 grams

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Coffee Panna Cotta

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Actually it should be reversed on plate but as I am lazy I served it right in the glasses

Time of preparation: 15 minutes Difficulty: Easy
 Ingredients:
  • Sugar ___________100 grams
  • Heavy Cream_____ 500 ml
  • Espresso_________150 ml, strong
  • Gelatin___________8 grams
  • Valilla____________1/2 teaspoon
 For coffee sauce:
  • Espresso_________80 ml
  • Chocolate________100 grams

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Simili Apple Pie

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Sisters Simili are twins from Bologna, who are famous for their recipes, based on the ancient food traditions of Bologna.

Time of preparation: 60 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
  • Flour______150 grams
  • Baking Powder_1 teaspoon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Butter_____50 grams
  • Sugar_____ 120 grams
  • Eggs______3
  • Pinch of salt
  • Milk_______100 ml
  • Apples____1kg
  • Cinnamon__________1/2 teaspoon

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