Nutella Brioche

For those of you who asked how to make the nutella brioche bread we posted about on social media a couple weeks back (Instagram link HERE), we wanted to show you how truly easy this recipe is, especially with a few semi-homemade tricks we've discovered.

We made our own brioche dough from one of our go-to's, THE JOY OF COOKING, but you can easily buy pre-made puff pastry or get this, Pillsbury crescent dough instead. So easy!

Here's what you'll need:

Dough of choice (if you're buying the pre-made stuff, make sure to have four sheets of puff pastry defrosted in the fridge or four cans of crescent roll dough)

1 jar nutella

1 egg

Sugar (optional)

That's it!

1. Once your dough is ready to go (homemade or not, we won't judge!), preheat the oven to 350˚F and place your jar of nutella into a bowl of hot water to soften - this makes spreading it so much easier, trust us.

2. Place dough on a well floured surface and divide into 4 equal balls. If you're using puff pastry or crescent roll dough, use one sheet/can for each layer.

3. Roll the layers of dough into 12" circles, about 1/4 inch thick.

4. Spread the first layer with nutella. If you're using the crescent dough or the puff pastry and want this to be a bit sweeter, we would sprinkle each layer with a little sugar.

 6. Place the second layer on top and cover with nutella. Repeat with the third layer, covering with nutella and then place the fourth circle on top - no nutella this time.

7. Place a glass in the middle of the dough as a guide and using a sharp knife, gently slice the dough into quarters. Next, cut into eighths, then sixteenths. It's much easier to do it this way than to try and cut the dough into sixteenths off the bat - trust us. Remove the glass.

8. Here's where it gets a little tricky but once you get the hang of it, it's very simple. Take two of the sliced parts of the dough in both hands and delicately twist them outwards twice. 

9. Repeat with all the pairs and you'll be left with eight pairs. Gently fold the ends of each pair underneath and connect them.

10. Make a quick egg wash by whisking together your egg and 1 Tbsp. water. Brush the dough liberally with the wash so that the finished dough comes out nice and shiny. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

And there you have it! Enjoy and buon appetito.

Valentine's Day Cocktail

We wanted to mix up something sweet for our sweetie this Valentine's Day but with a new baby at home, it needed to meet two important criteria - EASY and with ALCOHOL! This is one of our favorite cocktails, a recipe created by my Aunt Peggy who first tried this drink down at one of her favorite restaurants in North Carolina.

It's not too sweet, thanks to the balance that comes from the tart lemon juice and we love the Italian twist, with the rosemary simple syrup. We've added our own glamorous touch, with the sugared rosemary garnish. 

Ingredients - makes 1 cocktail

1 shot Citron Vodka

1 shot lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp. superfine sugar

First, make the rosemary simple syrup (which can actually be done up to 1 month in advance and stored in the fridge. How's that for a make ahead recipe?) Stir together the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Toss in four sprigs of rosemary and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 

Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let stand about 30 minutes or until cool. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container, discarding the rosemary sprigs.

Cover and chill.*

Next, make the rosemary garnish.  Dip your rosemary sprig in hot water, then generously sprinkle with superfine sugar. Let dry on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 45 minutes, until the sugar hardens.

In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 shot of Citron vodka, 1 shot of fresh lemon juice and 1 shot of your rosemary simple syrup. Pour into a martini glass and top with your rosemary sprig garnish. 

Cheers to your Valentine, whether it's your husband, sister, best friend, mom...or new baby!

*Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

New Year's Eve Party

It feels like every year around late-December, we start to think "what are we going to for New Year's Eve?" We're past the point of wanting to hit up a hot Hollywood club but aren't quite ready to have dinner at home and be asleep by 9 - so what to do? 

Why not throw a party? Since we throw quite a few feste in our line of work, we want the ones we host at home to feel like just the opposite - not work. We have our entertaining necessities that help us accomplish just that, and today we're sharing some of our secrets for an easy and fun New Year's Eve Party.

SCENT - As soon as guests enter a party, they should feel the atmosphere change. The lighting is crucial in setting the mood (low and soft) but equally important is the scent. In our house, as soon as Christmas time rolls around we pull out these candles. We're not usually fans of strong scents (reminds us of riding in a taxi with that "fresh car smell" hanging from the mirror) but you will swear that this THYMES FRASIER FIR CANDLE fragrance is actually emanating from your freshly cut Christmas tree. 

 

AWESOME MUSIC - Ok ok, we know we just said lighting and candles are the two most important elements to setting the mood at a party but how can we forget music?! No one wants to enter a quiet room especially during the holidays so we're helping you out by hooking you up with one of our favorite playlists from one of our favorite sites, REFINERY 29. Click here to check it out. 

 

THE FOOD - Tonight is not the night for a plated dinner, it's all about the buffet. And what doesn't look good presented on a big, heavy wooden board? We have several different shapes, sizes and materials so we can mix and match based on what we're serving. Our personal favorite is a board my father-in-law made so if you're DIY-inclined, make your own or pick up one like this on ETSY.

SHOP ITEMS LIKE THIS

We love to do one large salumi and cheese platter, that guests can nibble on throughout the evening - plus several small bites that can be enjoyed all night without having to be reheated. And don't forget dessert! 

SIGNATURE COCKTAIL - Besides a few bottles of bubbly for the midnight countdown, an extra special time of year calls for extra special libations. We love to serve one signature drink at our holiday parties. Now, don't go all crazy and make four different ones - keep it simple and delicious and you will have time to spend chatting with all your wonderful guests instead of manning the bar like a mixologist. We make a big batch of these Rosemary Bourbon Cocktails in a glass pitcher beforehand and guests can help themselves.

Multiply the following by how many guests you have:

  1. 1 sprig rosemary
  2. 1 shot bourbon 
  3. juice of 1/2 a lemon
  4. 1 Tbsp. good quality maple syrup 

In a pitcher, muddle the rosemary with the lemon juice. Add the bourbon and maple syrup and mix well. Refrigerate until the guests arrive and in the meantime, add a rosemary sprig garnish to each glass. Have the guests pour the drink over ice.

Cin cin!

GIFTS FOR THE GUESTS - We love to give our guests something to remember us (and our party!) by, so put together a little parting gift. What's better after a night of drinking and being out late, than waking up and not having to worry about breakfast? Our "Colazione Breakfast" Box includes our signature D.O.P. Kitchen granola, an Italian imported honey, a beautifully wrapped D.O.P. Kitchen Citrus Olive Oil Cake and a fragrant herb plant.  

We hope you've been inspired to host una festa this New Year's Eve and we wish you all a very very merry 2016!

 

 

 

 

D.O.P. Kitchen's Holiday Gift Guide 2015

The holidays are almost here and it's time to get shopping! We're sharing some of our favorite Italian inspired gifts that are sure to please anyone on your list. 

IL BUCO SPECKLEWARE PASTA BOWL - When you combine one of our favorite Los Angeles home goods stores with one of our favorite items of food, you have a winner! This pasta bowl is part of a beautiful collection imported from Italy and will make a gorgeous addition to anyone's holiday table.

FRANTOIO MURAGLIA EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL - Who doesn't like a little bling during the holidays? We are featuring this brand's oil in our Holiday Gift Box this year but Williams Sonoma has an exclusive offering in a copper metallic glass bottle. It's a beautiful and glittery present that doesn't just look good, it tastes good too.

SANTA MARIA NOVELLA CANDLE - Founded in 1221, this shop is a "must-stop" for us on any trip to Florence. We especially love their RELAX candles because who doesn't need a little help with that during the busy holiday season? Made from 100% beeswax, the scents of rosemary, cinnamon bark, lavender and orange will soothe even the most stressed out recipient.

UMBRIAN CLAY PURIFYING TREATMENT BAR - Since we can't teleport to a spa on the Amalfi Coast this season, we are settling for a little at-home pampering. We love this Umbrian clay face & body bar - perfect as a hostess gift or to stash in your guest room for holiday guests. Sourced in Umbra, Italy the bar is rich in minerals that have been the "basis of therapeutic treatments for centuries." 

ALESSI COOKIE CUTTERS - Alessi has been known for their design and aesthetic since the company's founding in 1921. They make some of the most fun and fabulous kitchen items around. These cookie cutters are shaped like iconic products from their catalog, so even your fashion minded friends and family will appreciate baking with them.

ITALIAN WINE COLLECTION - This is a gift we find ourselves giving over and over again because who doesn't love a wine tasting? Get creative and create your own collection with some of your favorite bottles and gift them in a pretty wooden wine carrier. We love this one from Etsy with the corkscrew opener on the side - what a cute touch!

 

PERSOL SUNGLASSES - I hope my husband isn't reading this because one of D.O.P.'s gift suggestions this year is what I'm getting him for Christmas! When we were living in Bologna, every man had a pair of Persol sunglasses (Persol comes from "per il sole" or "for the sun") and he has been coveting them ever since. I love these blue tinted ones.  Italian men make everything look cool, don't they? 

D.O.P. KITCHEN HOLIDAY GIFT BOX - How could we end our 2015 gift list with anything else? We take great pride in curating our boxes by pairing our most popular housemade treats with a selection of the finest Italian inspired & imported products. Click the link below to learn more or check out our GIFTS section of our website.

We hope you enjoyed our picks and wish you the happiest of holiday seasons! 

 

 

Cold Brew Affogato

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and one of our dear friends who is hosting her first "Friendsgiving," asked us recently for an easy dessert idea that could supplement all the pies that her nearest and dearest are bringing to her home. Since she will be handling the bulk of the meal prep, we wanted to give her a make-in advance idea that still had a bit of a wow factor when presented to the table. So we decided on affogato...with a California twist.

One of our favorite go-to desserts is the classic Italian affogato, which for those of you who are unfamiliar, is gelato that is submerged ("affogato" means "drowned" in Italian) in a shot of espresso. The hot bitter espresso melts the gelato a bit, and you are left with a creamy and delicious bowl of perfection.  

We decided to give ours a California spin by making it with cold brew coffee, instead of espresso. It's less bitter and acidic than its Italian cousin, and actually packs more caffeine per sip - which helps counter all that turkey tryptophan. 

Cold brew coffee has been the rage here in L.A. for a few years but it's becoming more mainstream. And you can see why! It's so easy to make and there truly is no better method for brewing iced coffee. 

Cold Brew Coffee Affogato

Makes about 32 oz. coffee, which is enough for 32 affogatos - but trust us, make it all and drink the rest! The only item you'll need that you may have to track down is some cheesecloth. 

Ingredients

3/4 cup coarsely ground coffee beans (we love the brand Lavazza but you can use whatever you prefer. Grind your coffee right before making this, if possible. )

4 cups water

vanilla gelato (about 6 oz. per person - our favorite supermarket brand is Talenti)

amaretti cookies (if desired - we prefer the crunchy variety on this)

Add your ground coffee to your container of choice - plastic, glass, ceramic - it doesn't matter. Just make sure it's deep enough to hold the water once you add it.

Gradually pour in the water and stir gently to ensure the coffee grounds are fully moistened. Cover the top with a piece of cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours. *Having made lots of cold brew coffee in my day, I cannot stress enough how important this step is - you cannot speed up the brewing process or you will be left with watery, tasteless coffee.

When ready to strain, remove the cheesecloth from the container and use it to line a fine mesh sieve. Pour the coffee through the lined sieve into whatever container you'll be storing your cold brew in (in this case, a nice pitcher if you're going to have it on your Thanksgiving table).

Store in the refrigerator until ready to use - it will last about two weeks if you don't end up drinking it all first.

To make the affogato, scoop two scoops of vanilla gelato into a small dish. A good tip is to pre-scoop right before your guests arrive and pop the bowls into the freezer. Pour about two tablespoons of the cold brew onto the gelato and if desired, top with some crumbled amaretti cookies. 

We love to pour the coffee tableside for more of a wow factor. 

Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is a celebration of food shared with the ones you love - what is more Italian than that? 


Easy Fall Dinner

It's not chilly very often in Santa Monica so when it is, we love to take advantage and throw on our Ugg boots, our down jackets and make warm and cozy dinners like this easy, rustic dish that's a go-to in our home. And now that it's a cold 60 degrees (yes, we know tomorrow will probably be 70), we are in the mood for comfort food!

What we love about this dish is what we love about Italian cuisine: quality ingredients thrown into a pan and allowed to meld together until, at the end, they take on a taste that is greater than the sum of it's parts.  It is one of the mysteries and wonders of Italian cooking.

Pork and fruit is a classic combination -- after all, what’s better than a pork tenderloin with fruit compote or a chop with a side of applesauce? We hope you enjoy this Italian riff on that delicious theme.

This recipe also happens to be adapted from a recipe by Johanne Killeen, who is one of the co-founders of our most favorite Italian restaurant in America - Al Forno. Last week, George Germon (the other co-founder and Johnanne's husband) passed away. So we are happy to make this dish in his honor.

"Roasted Sausages and Grapes with Polenta," Adapted from a recipe by Johanne Killeen

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds sausage (we like to use a mix of Italian hot and Italian sweet)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds seedless grapes, stems removed (whichever ones are sweeter, sometimes we use red, sometimes green, sometimes both!)

3 tablespoons dry red wine

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Extra-Virgin olive oil

2 cups polenta (not instant)

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tbsp butter

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Boil the sausages in a pot of water for 8 minutes in order to cook out the excess fat. 

3. Heat a large oven safe skillet or roasting pan on your stovetop over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the grapes, tossing to coat. Turn the heat up to moderate high and add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.

4. Transfer the sausages to the pan and nestle them amongst the grapes. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once, until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. While the sausage is cooking, start the polenta. Bring 6 cups water, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 Tbsp. Extra-Virgin olive oil to a boil in a deep, heavy pot (the "deep" part is important - polenta pops while it cooks and can cause not only a mess but a nasty burn). 

6. Add the polenta very slowly, whisking constantly to prevent lumps and immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting and simmer gently, stirring often to prevent sticking. The polenta will become very thick. 

7. After about 20 minutes, stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pot from heat and store covered, keeping it warm until ready to use.

8. Remove the pan of grapes and sausages from the oven and place it on top of the stove over a medium-high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the roasting pan. Allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter.

9. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with the polenta. Eat immediately, preferably in front of a roaring fire. Buon appetito! 


Balsamic Vinegar Is Not What You Think It Is

That title made you want to keep reading, right? What do you mean, it's not what you think it is? 

Most of the balsamic vinegars sold in stores is not really balsamic vinegar. Yep. When you pick up a bottle of balsamic, if there are two ingredients on the back of the bottle, you don’t have the real stuff (aka certified by the consortium of balsamic vinegar in Italy). 

The ingredient list should be singular: “grape must” and nothing else. Most vinegars we use on a daily basis have wine vinegar in them and often times, caramel and color, etc. to make them look like balsamic vinegar.

Vintage bottles.

The original, traditional product is produced only in Modena or Reggio Emilia from the juice of just harvested Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, which are crushed and boiled down to approximately 30% of their original volume and is called “must.”

The must is stored in a wooden barrel (chestnut, oak, mulberry, etc.) and aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of seven barrels.  The “battery” means that in each barrel, there is a little bit from the barrel before that.  At the beginning of the process, barrel one is filled.  The next year, what’s in barrel one is transferred to barrel two, and more must put in barrel one.  The next year, what was in barrel 2 goes into barrel 3; what was in barrel 1 goes in barrel 2, and so on, down the line.

The battery of barrels at Giuseppe Giusti in Modena.

The sixth and final barrel keeps being added to until after year 12.  That barrel (and that barrel only) is bottled (unless you're aging it to 25 years, which is the only other vintage offered of authentic balsamic vinegar) and the process starts again. 

The 12 year is usually notated with a red cap while the vecchio or old (15-20 year) has a silver cap. Extra-vecchio (20-25 year) has a gold cap. And there are only two bottle shapes approved by the consortium so if you don’t have one of those, you don’t have traditional balsamic.

The red cap!

Once you try the traditional balsamic, it will be impossible to buy the caramel-y, watery liquid they sell at the store. The balsamic vinegar approved by the consortium is dark brown and syrup-like in its consistency. It's acidic smelling but not overpowering. And it's perfectly balanced in flavor - sweet yet sour. 

The traditional balsamic should be saved for drizzling - and not just because of its cost! We pour it over vegetables, meat, fish, ice cream...it makes everything taste better.

The 12 year drizzled over our semifreddo.

The commercial grade balsamic you find in grocery stores is what we use when we're cooking with balsamic (heating it up, adding to salad dressing, marinating chicken) - just don't tell our friends back in Modena!

For a real treat, we love Giuseppe Giusti's extra-vecchio balsamic that we were lucky enough to taste when we were in Modena last - purchase it here and enjoy it for years to come.


Chocolate Chip Cookies Italian Style

You guys. This recipe is bonkers. It came out of a need to make chocolate chip cookies more decadent. HA! Just kidding. It came out of a desire to put an Italian spin on an American classic, which we do a lot of at D.O.P. Kitchen. The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to take the butter out to soften a few hours before you want to eat these things.

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from the classic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip recipe (why mess with success?)

Ingredients 

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla extract in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer until creamy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Tip: If using a stand mixer, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel after you've added the flour and before you turn it on so your dry ingredients don't go all over your kitchen.

P1050505.jpg

4. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Using a scoop (see pic, I use the #20), scoop out the dough, leaving space between the cookies as they expand quite a bit while cooking.

6. Dip your thumb into a bowl of warm water and use that finger to press a deep hole in the middle of your cookie.

7. Dollop 1 Tbsp. (yes, 1 Tbsp.!) nutella into the hole and then use your fingers to seal the cookie dough up and around the nutella.

8. Try and make sure there isn't any nutella coming out, as it sticks to the cookie sheet when baked.

9. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. See if you can wait to let them cool before you eat one. If you can't, that's ok...but if you can, let them cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Weeknight Pasta

I've had some requests for the recipe of the pasta dish we posted on Instagram this week - it's one of the easiest and fastest dishes you will ever make and it's perfect for a night when you're craving pasta but not craving the 5 hour cook time on a Bolognese sauce. 

It's especially easy because we always have a jar of roasted red peppers in our pantry. (My husband said to me Sunday, "wait, you don't roast those peppers on the grill?" Uh no, sorry to ruin your lovely image of me slaving all day so that you can have roasted red pepper pasta...) We use them all the time - on salumi platters, on sandwiches, in scrambled eggs...they're extremely versatile and just delicious.

Ideally, you want to use a jar of peppers that doesn't have a lot of added ingredients (like spices, seasonings, etc.) because we want to control the flavors of the sauce. But use what you have, don't go out and buy something special - that would defeat the whole purpose of this recipe. 

You can use any shape of pasta you have on hand - the only special tool you will need is a blender or a food processor for pureeing the sauce. And there you have it - our quick and easy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta.

Ingredients

1 pound pasta, any shape you’d like (I used mezzi rigatoni this past time because it's one of my favorites and I always have it on hand)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 jar (15 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup chicken broth

1 tsp. salt, divided

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus more for serving)

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

      Tip: Start your pasta water now so that you can cook the pasta as soon as this sauce is ready!       We like to use about 4 quarts water per pound of pasta.

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add your chopped onion and cook for about 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chopped peppers and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until hot, about 3 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat and transfer the pepper/onion/garlic mixture into your blender or food processor. Puree (carefully if using a blender, that top will want to pop right off) until smooth.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp. salt to your boiling water and add the pasta. Cook to al dente. Tip: Before draining your pasta, always reserve a 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water in case your sauce needs some loosening up after it's cooked.
  4. Using the same saucepan as before, heat 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat and pour the pureed sauce back into the pan. Add the broth, cream, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and stir to combine. Let it cook for about 5 minutes or until your pasta is done - it gets thicker and creamier if allowed to reduce a bit (and you have that pasta water set aside in case it gets too thick).
  5. Add the chopped basil and 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir before adding the cooked and drained pasta to the saucepan. Toss to coat.
  6. Serve with extra grated cheese, of course!

Pasta Primavera

Ah, tax day. As I waited in the interminable line at the post office yesterday to send off our returns (I’m not a procrastinator usually, I swear!), I thought about new beginnings. New year, new taxes to file…and a new season of vegetables. Saturday at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, there were so many gorgeous options to choose from – and two of our absolute favorites are part of April’s bounty: asparagus and peas. 

Zuckerman Farms’ asparagus are listed on pretty much every 'farm to table' restaurant menu in Los Angeles right now. And there’s a good reason – they’re delicious. They taste like asparagus! And if you’ve eaten asparagus from your local grocery store, you know what I’m talking about. They’re earthy, bright and tangy and they are perfect simply roasted with some olive oil, salt and pepper or blanched for two minutes in boiling water.

On Saturday, we also picked up some fresh peas from Tutti Frutti Farms that are super sweet, firm and the brightest green.

 Since we deserve a little reward after our long day/week/month of doing taxes, what better way than with a dish dedicated to new beginnings and the gifts of Spring. This pasta is creamy, lemony, light and fresh - and honors the flavors of this April’s seasonal produce.

“Spring Pasta with Peas & Asparagus” Adapted from Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS

1 pound pasta - we used penne but really any sturdy shape like rigatoni or mezze maniche will do

3 ounces pancetta, diced (bacon will work if you can’t find pancetta)

1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces

2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water and drained – you can also use frozen peas here and actually this most recent time, we supplemented our fresh with frozen

2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced finely

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (tip: zest your lemon before juicing!)

2 Tbsp. minced fresh Italian parsley

1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

  1. Cook the pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off most of the drippings from skillet, leaving a thin layer in the pan. Add asparagus and sauté about 3 minutes, until just tender.
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente but still firm to bite – it will continue cooking towards the end. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot.
  3. Add the peas and garlic to your asparagus and sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the vegetables, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, heavy cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and half of the basil to your pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid if needed – the sauce should be glistening and creamy.
  5. Season with a good amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle the pancetta and remaining basil on top. Serve with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired. And we desire!

There are several other delicious vegetables in season right now in California and all over the country that can be used in a pasta primavera or “spring pasta.” All it takes is a stop at your local farmers market to gather inspiration.

Learn more about Zuckerman Farms at http://zuckermanproduce.com/

Learn more about Tutti Frutti Farms at http://www.tuttifruttifarms.com/tuttifruttilocalmarkets.html

 

Our Italian Pantry

A girlfriend asked me recently, “what are your pantry must-haves?” Here at D.O.P. Kitchen, we are big believers in the necessity of quality ingredients to create quality meals. And the faster you can pull something out of the fridge or one of your cabinets, the faster you will have a delicious meal. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite pantry ingredients:

TOMATO PUREE or PASSATA

Our favorite brand, "Mutti."

Our favorite brand, "Mutti."

Our number one must have. Passata is simply the Italian word for tomato puree. It is completely different from the tomato sauce you purchase at the grocery store with ingredients added such as basil or garlic (not to mention the usual preservatives and chemicals) and it is made by cooking and straining (preferably Italian) tomatoes. The perfect base to many dishes, it doesn’t have any skins or seeds so it is quick and easy to use. Passata goes in our ragu bolognese, our baked eggs with ricotta, our meatballs with tomato sauce – it’s such a versatile ingredient, you can use it as the foundation for many dishes. On a night when we don't know what to make for dinner, this usually becomes the base for a pasta sauce with leftovers - roasted veggies, sausage, cured olives...whatever you have in the fridge.

BUY IT HERE: http://www.amazon.com/Mutti-Passata-Tomato-Puree-24-5/dp/B00BBSTMQS 

OLIVE OIL or OLIO D'OLIVA

Some of our pantry favorites, at the moment.

Some of our pantry favorites, at the moment.

 We know that “Trader Giotto’s” makes olive oil but that is not what we are talking about here :) If you follow along on our blog, you may have read our entry on extra-virgin oil and the importance of knowing where the olives that went into your oil were grown and processed. Good extra-virgin oil tastes completely different than most of the options you find in your regular grocery store that have probably been cut with vegetable oil or tampered with in other ways. Extra-virgin is an oil that you shouldn't cook with because you won’t taste any of the flavor properties once it’s been heated to too high a temperature. Drizzle it over fish or meat or use it in salad dressing. Whether you prefer peppery, fruity or floral notes, there’s an extra-virgin oil for you out there – and once you taste the good stuff, you can never go back. Which leads us to...balsamic vinegar.

BUY IT HERE: http://www.eataly.com/

 BALSAMIC VINEGAR or ACETO BALSAMICO

Tasting balsamico in Modena, Italy.

Tasting balsamico in Modena, Italy.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of grapes over many, many months. It is quite expensive and should list only one ingredient on the back of the bottle – grape must. Many balsamics on our grocery shelves are just vinegar with caramel coloring added so be careful! We love to pour the good stuff over ice cream or semifreddo and on top of our steak tagliata. For everyday use, we love the “Villa Manadori Balsamico,” created by the Italian 3-star Michelin chef, Massimo Bottura.

BUY IT HERE: http://www.olio2go.com/Products/Villa-Manodori-Artigianale-Balsamic-Vinegar__VM-002.aspx

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

In Parma, the cheesemaker cuts us a fresh piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano to try.

In Parma, the cheesemaker cuts us a fresh piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano to try.

 This truly is the ultimate Italian formaggio. It is a hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk and is named after the production area in Emilia-Romagna called Parma. At the grocery store, you will see lots of imitators with the label “Parmesan” but only the authentic product can be called “Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Look for a stamp on the side of the rind of the cheese to prove that it has been inspected and determined to have aged for at least 12 months and to be of a certain quality. After grating the cheese over pasta, eggs, and our pea-mint bruschette, we love to throw the rinds into soups and let them dissolve – imparting its rich flavor into every bite.

BUY IT HERE: http://www.cheesestorebh.com/

TOMATO PASTE or CONCENTRATO DI POMODORO

"Mutti" again is our favorite brand for tomato paste.

"Mutti" again is our favorite brand for tomato paste.

Yes, another tomato product! Tomato paste is a crucial ingredient in Italian cooking and is used to give depth of flavor to a dish. It is made by cooking tomatoes down until they become a thick concentrated product. You want to make sure to fry it for a few moments in your pan with some olive oil to cook off the “tinny” taste before combining it with your other ingredients. We use it in many of our pasta sauces, our chicken parmigiano, and our roasted vegetable panino. Again, we prefer the “Mutti” brand and we absolutely love the doppio concentrato version, which has a fruity and intense tomato flavor. 

BUY IT HERE: http://www.bristolfarms.com/

PROSCIUTTO

The inspector checking the prosciutto.

The inspector checking the prosciutto.

We always have a ¼ pound of thinly sliced prosciutto in our fridge. It is perfect to put on a panino or chopped up and thrown in eggs. Prosciutto is another one of those ingredients that is seriously supervised in Italy to guarantee the product’s age-old and high standards have been met. We buy prosciutto di parma, which is super silky and has amazing flavor. Even if you’re at a basic grocery store, ask the butcher to slice you a piece to try before buying and make sure that it isn’t dried out or overly salty. 

 BUY IT HERE: http://www.joansonthird.com/      

What Italian ingredients do you keep on hand? We'd love to hear!

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

This month, the annual extra-virgin olive oil expo (Olio Capitale) took place in Trieste, Italy. Visitors and professionals met with producers and tasted hundreds of oils. As this season’s batch come to market, we wanted to take a moment to focus on this delicious and versatile product. 

Tasting olive oils.

Tasting olive oils.

Each variety of olives have their own maturation cycle and of course, the seasons and weather can change the harvesting period from year to year. Mid-October thru December is the usual harvest period in Italy and the best olive oil is always made from olives that are picked by hand.

Olives ready to be pressed.

Olives ready to be pressed.

The larger producers use machines to shake the trees free of their fruit and the olives can get crushed and/or begin to oxidize faster when obtained thru this method.

The olives are transported in small crates with good ventilation so that mold does not form - but after 5 hours, the olives start to oxidize so it is crucial that the time between picking and pressing the olives is 4-5 hours.

Transferring the olives from the fields.

Transferring the olives from the fields.

The olives should be gently crushed and the paste softly pressed – the more the olives are pressed, the more acidity comes out which is why extra-virgin oil is always obtained from the 1st press of oil. At this point, the oil can either be filtered or not, depending on the producer's preference.

The beautiful, golden, extra-virgin oil straight from the press.

The beautiful, golden, extra-virgin oil straight from the press.

Olive oil is an extremely important export of Italy and they are the biggest consumer of the product in the world. But there is a crisis going on in the world of olive oil.

Much of the oil imported from Italy does not actually come from Italy, but from other countries like Tunisia and Syria. Some of the oil is sold “as is” but some is cut with cheaper oil to save costs, while others are mixed with vegetable oils to change the color or the flavor. The oil is sold in the United States (and other countries) with the label “Imported from Italy,” confusing the consumer and degrading the product.

These fraudulent practices have caused a drop in olive oil prices, which in turn is forcing some of the honest producers in Italy out of business. It is a major cause for concern in Italy, but also here in America – where it has become increasingly important to us to know where our food comes from and what is in it.

Never has it been more necessary to know where your olive oil is coming from than now. With many oils being blended with lesser grade product, we strongly recommend purchasing extra-virgin olive oil whose specific point of production is clearly known. Look at the label and check (with Italian oils) for a “D.O.P.” mark, which shows it came from Italy. Also, look for the location of the origin of the olives and not just “packaged in.”  

One of our extra-virgin selections for our gift boxes.

One of our extra-virgin selections for our gift boxes.

Last year, I received my 'Master Certification in Olive Oil' in order that D.O.P. Kitchen would be qualified to choose only the best oils for our customers & catering clients. Order one of our gift boxes today and try some of our favorite picks!

Lunchtime at D.O.P. Kitchen

My father has a thing about bread. Specifically, bread on sandwiches. It’s always too thick, too thin, too “bready” (I mean, it is bread!), too hard, too soft, too toasted, not toasted enough, the wrong ratio for the filling of the sandwich…the list goes on.

Simplicity is the key for him - a nice thin piece of bread, some meat, some cheese – perfetto. I'm more of a "load it on" type of girl. Extra peppers, extra cheese, extra mortadella...you get the picture.

But two years ago while we were living in Bologna, I finally began to understand the magic of such a simple sandwich when we were introduced to a specialty of Emilia-Romagna, the piadina

The piadina is an Italian flatbread made from (usually) flour, salt, water and lard. It’s cooked on a flat griddle and filled with a variety of sweet and savory options. We've heard some compare it to a tortilla or a pizza but it's actually quite different - and you have to taste one to understand. 

In Bologna after our Italian language class, my husband and I would walk to our favorite local piadineria and order the classic version of Romagna with wild arugula, prosciutto and squacquerone (a soft, fresh cheese that is unique to the region). We would stand outside with our friends and enjoy the slightly warm sandwiches, washed down with a Coca-Cola or an Italian beer.

A friend and I enjoying piadine in Bologna - this photo was taken with our terrible Italian cell phone, sorry about the quality!

A friend and I enjoying piadine in Bologna - this photo was taken with our terrible Italian cell phone, sorry about the quality!

Here in the States, it is almost impossible to find piadina and certainly harder to find a good one. So when our craving for a simple Italian sandwich needs to be satiated, we make piadine ourselves.

The most difficult part of this recipe is finding the lard and while we’ve made it with other types of fat (butter, oil), there is no debate on the difference lard makes to the end product. Call your local butcher or high-end grocery store to ask if they carry it.

Piadina Romagnola

Ingredients

3 oz. all-purpose flour

.35 oz. pork lard

1 ½ oz. whole milk (not ice cold, more room temperature)

1 ½ oz. warm water

pinch kosher salt

1/8 oz. baking powder

1. Place the lard in a mixture of the warm water and the whole milk. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of your stand-up mixer, add the flour, baking powder and salt (in that order). Remove the lard from the liquid (but reserve the liquid!) and add pieces of melted lard to the flour mixture.

3. Using a steel pastry blender, mix ingredients until incorporated. In a standing mixer fitted with the dough attachment, blend the flour and lard mixture at low speed while slowly streaming in the reserved milk/water liquid.

4. Increase the speed to medium-low and when the dough is almost in a ball, increase the speed to medium/medium-high and knead for until it forms into one mass (about 5 minutes).

5. Remove the dough and allow it to rest for 30 minutes, on a parchment lined and flour dusted sheet-pan covered with plastic wrap.

6. Heat a non-stick griddle over moderate heat. On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into 12 pieces and then roll them into small balls. 

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7. Roll out 1 ball of dough so that it’s about ½ inch thick (store the rest under plastic wrap until ready to roll).

8. Grill the piadina until lightly browned on the bottom (1-2 minutes) and then flip and brown the other side.

9. Once it’s ready, cut it in half. Add your choice of fillings to one half and top with the other. Fold in half again to eat (preferably while standing outside, with a cold drink!).

It’s a sandwich that would make even my dad happy – a perfect ratio of filling to bread - chewy, warm and lightly toasted. 

Our favorite piadina we enjoyed while in Italy is slathered with tangy, creamy squacquerone and topped with sheer, thin slices of prosciutto & a handful of peppery arugula. 

Our favorite piadina we enjoyed while in Italy is slathered with tangy, creamy squacquerone and topped with sheer, thin slices of prosciutto & a handful of peppery arugula. 

This recipe, like most we make at D.O.P. Kitchen, is just a foundation of which to build off. Try a filling of mixed greens with a little vinaigrette, or nutella and banana, or brie and watercress…or have a piadina party and set out several different options for people to mix and match and try. Buon appetito!

 

St. Valentine's Day

My sister lives across the country in Boston. For those of you who haven’t been watching the news lately, it’s SNOWMAGGEDON there. Since she'll be coming home for Valentine's Day, we decided to make her something a little special (maybe some fresh pasta will persuade her to move back to California!) – and this holiday is all about celebrating the people you love.

Whether it’s a boyfriend, wife, brother, mother, grandfather, best friend, niece, dog – everyone deserves a little extra sweetness on this February 14th. And if you’re in a romantic state of mind, they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – so why not combine both, with some heart-shaped pumpkin ravioli?

We have loved reading and cooking from the “Flour + Water: Pasta” cookbook and decided to adapt one of their delicious pasta recipes by using canned (oh, the horror!) pumpkin instead of taking a few hours to roast those gourds ourselves.

Now for those of you who almost stopped reading when I mentioned canned pumpkin, let me defend myself. Libby’s brand (the most commonly found) is 100% pumpkin - nothing else - and uses a strain of Dickinson pumpkins, with especially creamy flesh. It tastes very similar to butternut squash or zucca, which is the traditional filling used in the Bolognese recipes from which we usually cook. It’s a quick semi-homemade shortcut that doesn’t cut down on flavor but cuts way down on time, energy and cost.

Pumpkin Ravioli Adapted from Thomas McNaughton’s “Flour + Water: Pasta”

Ingredients

1 batch fresh pasta dough –

For a simple and easy to follow beat-by-beat description on how to make fresh egg pasta, we think this one is the best and the closest to the way we learned to make dough in Bologna. It's written by the Italian master Marcella Hazan’s son, Giuliano. http://giulianohazan.com/homemade-pasta-recipe/

For the filling:

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 15 oz. can Libby's pumpkin puree

olive oil

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

½ Tbsp. honey

½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

kosher salt, to taste 

For the sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 ½ Tbsp. pumpkin seeds

¼ tsp. olive oil

kosher salt, to taste

small handful fresh sage leaves

            freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for finishing

Instructions:

1.     Make your fresh pasta dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes under a glass bowl or wrapped in plastic. Never refrigerate or freeze your dough.

2.     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, cook, stirring constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color. The butter should have a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.     To make the filling, add the canned pumpkin to a food processor along with the brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and vinegar. Puree until smooth. The puree should have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. Spoon the puree into a bowl and fold in the cheese. Season with salt to taste. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to fill your ravioli.

4.     Roll out your dough using a hand cranked machine, a KitchenAid attachment (or if you're in the more advanced school, via the traditional method with a rolling pin).

5.     Make sure to work with one sheet of dough at a time, leaving your unrolled pieces under plastic. The biggest enemy to your dough is air. 

6.    Put about 1 tsp. filling at least 2 inches apart on your rolled out sheet (depending on your heart cookie cutter’s size. We used a medium one, about 2 inches long x 1 ½ inches wide at its thickest point). *Note: We like to use a a pastry bag or a plastic bag with an edge snipped off but a teaspoon measure is just fine - whatever you think will be easiest for you.* 

7.    Cover the sheet with another piece of rolled out dough and use your fingers to gently press out any air around the filling and to form a seal. If your pasta is too dry to seal, use a tiny bit of water around the edges to make it stick - but only if you must because water is going to make the pasta gummy.

8.    Press your heart cookie cutter around the filling and place the ravioli on a semolina dusted sheet pan. *Note: this pasta has a very wet filling so if you're not planning to cook it immediately, freeze it on the semolina sheet pans until hardened and then in a plastic freezer bag until ready to use.*

9.     Bring a large pot of water to boil – salt well (it should taste like the sea!) after it comes to a boil.

10.     In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

11.     Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. of the seasoned pasta water and 2 Tbsp. butter and bring to a simmer.

12.  Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, until almost al dente (about 2 to 3 minutes or about 4 minutes if frozen) add it to the pan along with the sage and swirl until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

13.  Reserve the pasta water and if needed, add a few more tablespoons of it to keep a saucy consistency. Continue cooking until the pasta is tender, about 90 seconds. Season with salt.

14.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

 This will make enough for a starter for 4 people or a main course for 2.

 Buon appetito and happy Valentine’s Day! 

Un Giorno di Nutella

Happy Nutella Day! Let’s be honest, though – every day is Nutella Day at D.O.P. Kitchen. We bake it into our muffins, dip bananas into its jar and slather it on our Nutella Blondies. And you, lucky reader, are about to be introduced to one of the easiest Nutella dishes you will ever make.

We love a good Ina Garten recipe and one of our favorites to pull out for cocktail parties is her “Savory Palmier” (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/savory-palmiers-recipe.html). For those of you who don’t speak French (ahem, me), palmiers are a French pastry in the shape of a palm tree or elephant ear.

They are composed of puff pastry, which is made with alternating sheets of butter and dough rolled over and over until you have about a hundred layers. If you’ve never made it before…well don’t start now, it is quite a pain in the culo, as we say in Italian. Thank goodness for us there are a few great pre-made puff pastry alternatives you can find in your local grocery store.

We especially love the Dufour brand, which here in L.A. can be purchased at Surfas (http://www.surfasonline.com/) or at Bristol Farms grocery stores. But trust us – you can’t go wrong with this recipe, even if all you can find is a generic dough.  

Nutella Palmiers Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics”

Ingredients

Jar of Nutella

1 frozen puff pastry dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

Super complicated ;)

1. Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold your sheet of puff pastry. Just a helpful tip - it’s key that the pastry is cold or it will be impossible to work with.

2. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it’s about 9 ½ by 11 ½ inches.

3. Using a spatula or a butter knife, spread the puff pastry evenly with nutella. Make sure the nutella reaches to all the edges and corners, you want every palmier to be filled with the chocolaty spread.

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*Another helpful tip – the first time we made these, we thought “obviously the more nutella the better” but when baked, it oozed out and wasn’t pretty. So less is more in this situation.

4. Fold two of the longer ends halfway to the center. 

5. Then fold again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch. We promise this is simpler than it sounds. 

6. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. 

7. We find them easier to slice once they’ve been chilled a bit so place the roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 45 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

9. Using a sharp knife, cut the prepared roll of puff pastry in ¼ inch thick slices and place them face up, 2 inches apart, on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets. Brush each one with a little egg wash (just 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water) to make them extra pretty and shiny.

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10. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. Serve warm, or however long you can resist popping them all into your mouth.

Once you’ve got this recipe down, it’s a fun one to modify with your favorite filling. Pesto, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Fontina cheeses, olive tapenade, cinnamon sugar – the options are as endless as your own creativity. Or do what we do and dip these nutella palmiers into more nutella. Perché no? Enjoy and Happy Nutella Day!

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The Two Francesca's

It’s been a busy week for us at D.O.P. Kitchen, spending time with one of our dear friends from Bologna who was in Santa Monica on holiday. While she was here, we of course had to make pasta – Francesca T.’s (yes, we are both Francesca!) family runs a successful gourmet tour business in Emilia-Romagna and they are pros, guiding novices and professionals alike (flour + water’s James Beard nominated Thomas McNaughton credits them in his cookbook). Check out the link below for more information on their company, Bluone - I wouldn't go to Italy without touring with the Tori's!

We decided to prepare strozzapreti, as we were running low on time and high on hunger. The name of this pasta literally means “priest stranglers,” which I find ironic and slightly hilarious for such a Catholic country as Italy. Oh, the blasphemy!

There are several anecdotes taking responsibility for this shape's title – gluttonous priests were so interested in the pasta that they ate it too quickly and choked; you kind of make a strangling motion as you form the noodles; angered wives would hope that the church landowners coming to collect rent would choke on the meal and not be able to receive payment…you get the picture.

We followed the traditional recipe from Romagna: ‘OO’ flour and water. Unlike most of the pasta we make from this part of Italy, there are no eggs in this dough. 

Francesca T. kneading the dough.

Francesca T. kneading the dough.

We let the pasta rest while we ran down to the bluffs in Santa Monica to catch the sunset – this was of course, Francesca T.’s holiday. We returned home, poured ourselves glasses of white wine, put on some music and got to rolling out the dough.

Francesca T. rolling out half of the dough, in the traditional method, by hand.

Francesca T. rolling out half of the dough, in the traditional method, by hand.

Francesca T. cut the pasta into equal sized strips (about ½ inch) and then one by one, we gently twisted the strips and pinched them into corkscrew shaped pieces. Unlike for example spaghetti or penne, this pasta does not have to be uniform in size or shape so it’s perfect for beginners.

Francesca T. and Mamma D. shaping the strozzapreti.

Francesca T. and Mamma D. shaping the strozzapreti.

When we were ready to eat, we boiled a big pot of water and dropped the noodles in for about 3-4 minutes and tossed them with a quickly made sauce of prosciutto, cream and passata (tomato puree). We finished the sauce with a large handful of Maggie’s Farms’ wild arugula, torn into pieces.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

A big bowl of homemade pasta, a glass of red wine, great friends. Nights like these remind us that a good meal is not necessarily about fancy ingredients or complicated techniques – it is about making something out of nothing and sharing it with the people you love.

Check out bluone.com for more information on Francesca T.’s family’s wine and culinary tours in Italy. 

Yes-cino

Last night it was raining in Los Angeles - such a rare occasion and one that befitted staying inside, getting cozy, watching a movie (“The Trip to Italy,” worth it for the scenery alone!) and sipping on some of our family’s homemade nocino.

Mamma D harvesting the green walnuts.

Mamma D harvesting the green walnuts.

When we were living in Bologna we first became acquainted with nocino, the Italian digestif. Ok, maybe infatuated is a better way to describe it.  This sticky, dark liquor is served after dinner in Emilia-Romagna and there are as many ways to make it as there are families in the region.

Traditionally, nocino is made on June 24th, which is the feast day of San Giovanni (St. John the Baptist) and right around the summer solstice. It is then left outside to steep until Christmas (6 months) when it is decanted and consumed or stored to age further. The most important and somewhat difficult ingredient to procure is the green walnut – that is, the walnut as we know it when it has not fully ripened.

Inside this green husk is the wrinkly walnut shell and inside that, the meat.

Inside this green husk is the wrinkly walnut shell and inside that, the meat.

The whole green walnuts are cut in half and placed in a large jar with alcohol, sugar and (depending on the recipe) spices. The bottles are stored outside in the rain, snow, or - in our case - hot California days for 6 months and are stirred about once a week with a large wooden spoon. It’s magical watching the clear liquid first become pale green and then a muddy, dark black.  

Can you believe how dark it gets?

Can you believe how dark it gets?

We always decant ours around Christmas and then let a majority of it continue to age for as long as we can resist drinking it. This year, we’re going to try and make it to seven months! Just kidding, we always make sure to store some for at least a year as it mellows out and becomes even more syrupy and smooth the longer you let it rest. 

Nocino is consumed as a digestif, in theory to aid digestion (or if you’re like our friend Jeni, it aids falling asleep ten minutes later). If you have never tasted nocino, the bitter-sweet tang and high alcohol content is reminiscent of an amaro (which is actually Italian for “bitter”). The unripe walnuts give it an earthy and aromatic flavor that is perfect to sip neat after a big meal on a cold night.  

You can find nocino at specialty liquor stores or if you’re feeling adventurous next summer, try and make some of your own. Legend has it that barefoot virgins should harvest the nuts but in case you don’t have any of those around to help, you can usually find green walnuts at your local farmer’s market in the early part of June.

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Cin cin!

Buon Anno!

Buon Anno (Happy New Year) from D.O.P. Kitchen! Welcome to our first blog post - and fortune willing, the first of many. The goal of this blog will be to regularly update it with what is inspiring (or interesting or delicious) to us, in the hopes that it’ll inspire you too.

It’s hard to see the holidays coming to a close for several reasons: ornaments being packed up, family heading back across the country…but mostly I’m sad because we will have to wait another year before the traditional holiday meals are again consumed. Like most Italian American families - heck, like most families in general - we have done a lot of eating since Thanksgiving, and New Years Day is no exception.  

New Years Day in Santa Monica

New Years Day in Santa Monica

In Italy, it’s customary on New Years to eat cotechino con lenticchie - sausage and lentils - as legumes and pork are thought to bring not only luck but wealth as well. And hey, who couldn’t use an extra bit of both?  This year though, we were anxious to put our holiday ham bone to good use and it is very, very cold in Santa Monica (ok fine, cold for Santa Monica) so instead of sausage and lentils, we instead decided to go with pork and beans. Pasta e Fagioli!

Growing up, Pasta e Fagioli was my absolute favorite soup and there is one version that has always been king (or maybe it should be queen) of them all: Marcella Hazan’s. Her cookbook is a reference guide we turn to time and time again in our family.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, she is widely credited with introducing Italian cuisine to American cooks in the 1970s.  And it’s not hard to see why.  This soup truly is the perfect symbol of Italian cooking – simple ingredients yielding layers of flavor.

I’ve transcribed the recipe from my mother’s copy of the book, including her additions and changes and penciled notes in the margin. I have not, however, included the grease stains and fingerprints all over this page - you’ll just have to trust me that this recipe has over the years been made many, many times in our family kitchens.

Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook”

Pasta e Fagioli

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup chopped carrot

1/3 cup chopped celery

1 ham bone, with some meat on it

28 oz. can canned Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed, with their juice

2 cups dried borlotti or cannellini beans*

6 cups beef broth (preferably homemade) or 2 cups canned beef broth (Swanson’s is the best) mixed with 4 cups water

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about a 3 inch piece)

salt and pepper

8 ounces pasta (we use fresh pasta scraps or dried macaroni)

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

*The night before, soak the dried beans. Put them in a bowl and cover them with cold water by 2 inches and let soak overnight.

  1. The next day, rinse and drain them and put them in a pot of cold water, covered by 2 inches, and bring to a moderate boil. Cover the pot and simmer until tender (about 40 minutes). Keep them in the liquid until you’re ready to use them.

  2. Put the onion in a stockpot with the oil and sauté over medium heat until pale gold.
  3. Add the carrot and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the ham bone and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring the vegetables and turning the bone from time to time.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juice, turn the heat down to medium low and cook for 20 minutes at a low simmer.
  5. Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the broth and/or broth/water and bring to a moderate boil. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind.
  7. Scoop up about ½ cup of beans and run them through a food mill and put them back into the pot or just smash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  8. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender. If it starts to get too thick, add more broth or water.
  9. Just before serving, add the grated cheese and the butter and swirl until melted.
  10. Serve with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side and a drizzle of finishing extra-virgin olive oil.
A beautiful piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, ready for the soup

A beautiful piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, ready for the soup

Now, traditionally you would follow this zuppa with a meat dish but we’re starting 2015 on a light note and focusing on our New Years resolution of simplifying – a beautiful bowl of soup, some crusty ciabatta and a glass of Sangiovese. As Marcella Hazan says, “It is possible even from the tumultuous center of the busiest life to summon up the life-enhancing magic of the Italian art of eating. What it requires is generosity. You must give liberally of time, of patience, of the best raw materials. What it returns is worth all you have to give.”

The finished product, drizzled with an extra-virgin oil from Tuscany

The finished product, drizzled with an extra-virgin oil from Tuscany

Sounds good to me. Happy New Year and tanti auguri (good luck).