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DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Arancini!

January 13, 2021

Our RecipeOfTheWeek is Donna Franca's Arancini!
Arancini are Italian snacks consisting of a ball of rice coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried—a staple of Sicilian cuisine. The most common fillings are: al ragù or al sugo, filled with ragù (meat or mince, slow-cooked at low temperature with tomato sauce and spices), mozzarella, and often peas and butter, filled with ham and mozzarella or besciamella.
A number of regional variants exist which differ in fillings and shape. Arancini al ragù produced in eastern Sicily have a conical shape inspired by the volcano Etna

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INGREDIENTS:
• 3 cups Rice
• 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
• 1 cup mozzarella
• 3 eggs 1 for rice mixture and 2 beaten for coating the rice balls
• 1/8 tsp salt
• dash pepper
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
• 2 cups oil for frying
• marinara sauce for dipping

HOW TO MAKE:
Prepare the Rice according to package directions. When the rice is ready, allow it to cool and then put it in a large bowl and stir in 1 egg, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Use your hands to form into small balls.
Beat two eggs in a bowl and dip the formed rice balls in the egg.  Roll the rice balls around in the bread crumbs until they are completely covered.
Place the oil in a pan so that when the arancini are added, the oil will cover or nearly cover them. Heat oil until it is 350 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, drop in balls in batches of four until they are cooked through and the outside has turned a deep golden brown.
Remove the arancini balls from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. If you'd like, you can warm up some marinara sauce for dipping and serve the sauce with the rice balls.

Buon Appetito!

HOMEMADE RECIPES: Torta al Testo (Crescia)

December 29, 2020

Our RecipeOfTheWeek is Donna Franca's Torta al Testo (Crescia)!

Torta al testo, also known as crescia, is a traditional unleavened bread hailing from the heart of Umbria, in central Italy. Its origins date back to the Roman Empire, when these round flatbreads were cooked on large brick disc called testum. These days, the name testo refers to the cast iron pan on which the torta ––a word otherwise associated with ‘cake’–– is traditionally cooked.
Lacking a testo (or similar pan), the next best thing on which to cook this torta is a pizza stone. In a hot oven, the torta is ready in a matter of minutes and with very little hassle. Truly, it couldn’t be easier to make.
Torta al testo is best enjoyed freshly made, as a snack or antipasto, alongside your favourite cured meats and cheese. Pecorino and prosciutto di norcia are natural pairings.
Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

INGREDIENTS:
• 500g of plain flour
• 1 pinch of sea salt
• 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 20ml of extra virgin olive oil
• 250ml of water, lukewarm

HOW TO MAKE:
In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, stir together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the oil and water and knead until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Cover it with a tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Place a pizza stone inside to heat up, too. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Dust your work surface with flour and, using a rolling pin, roll out the first piece into a thin disc. Pierce the entire surface with a fork to avoid it puffing up while cooking.
Carefully lay the disc on the hot stone (use the rolling pin to help with this operation) and bake for 8–10 minutes. Remove the torta from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Serve warm or at room temperature, with cured meats and cheese
Buon Appetito!

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Strudel

December 15, 2020

Our Recipe of the week is Donna Franca's Strudel!

You may not think of strudel as a classic Italian dish: The name strudel isn't even Italian, but rather German. This is what makes regional Italian cuisine so interesting. The country's geography – its borders, its landscape - factors into the character and traditions of each region.

Apple Strudel - a dessert of apples, pine nuts, and raisins or currants rolled up in paper-thin pastry - is the defining dish of Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region. This autonomous province borders Austria to the north and is squeezed between the Veneto and Lombardy regions to the south. Knowing this - and that the region was part of Austria until after the first World War - helps explain why this Austrian favorite is also beloved in Italy. 

In northern Italy, such as the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, you can find strudel in various forms. But the Trentino way is very much like what you find in Vienna: a thin, somewhat-flaky, and crisp pastry that gives way to something soft when eaten at room tempearture a few hours after baking.

Despite the look, this is actually a rather simple dessert to prepare and won't take nearly as long as you might think.

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1. FOR THE STRUDEL DOUGH:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted(55g)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (200g)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup water, lukewarm (80ml)

2. FOR THE APPLE FILLING:

  • 1/3 cup golden raisins, 50g
  • 2 Tbsp rum
  • 4 medium apples
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, (100g)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped (30g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

3. TO ASSEMBLE:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (90g)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, (30g)

 

HOW TO MAKE:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine melted butter, flour, salt, and lukewarm water. Mix at medium speed about 1 minute until a smooth and elastic dough forms.
In a small saucepan (with a lid) bring water to a boil then remove the pot from the heat, empty the pot and dry it with a dish towel. Line the pot with a sheet of parchment paper, put the dough into the pot and put the lid on. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine raisins and rum. Let sit for 30 minutes. Then discard the rum.
Peel, core, and cut the apples into small stripes (batonnets, see image above). Combine apples with lemon juice. Add cinnamon, sugar, raisins, almonds, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
Lay a thin kitchen towel preferably with a pattern flat on the counter. Sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out as thin as you can. Brush it with a little bit of melted butter.
Then use your hands to carefully stretch it until it is about 18x12 inches (45x30 cm) big and you're able to see the pattern of the dish towel through the dough.
Brush half of the melted butter over the rolled out dough. The long side should be facing you. On the right side of the rectangle, leave a few inches space, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs top to bottom over the dough in a 6-inch thick line. Leave a 2-inch margin at the top and bottom of the strip.
Pile the apple filling on top of the breadcrumbs. Use a slotted spoon so the liquid stays in the bowl. Fold the 2-inch margin at the top and bottom of the dough over onto the filling then roll up the strudel from the short side with the help of the towel. Tuck the ends. Carefully transfer the Strudel to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with a little bit of melted butter.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the lower third of the oven, until lightly golden on top. Brush strudel with remaining melted butter every 20 min while in the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes then sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Buon Appetito!

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Fritule

December 1, 2020

Our RecipeOfTheWeek is Donna Franca's Fritule!
Croatian fritters or “Fritule”  are miniature doughnuts that are traditional along the Dalmatian coast. They are a favorite Croatian Christmas treat, as well as being eaten during Carnival season and Lent, the period before Easter. Today, they make a great breakfast or coffee snack and are served in many areas of Croatia.

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 8 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup raisins (dark)
• 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
• 1 apple (tart, grated)
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 3 to 4 cups water (room-temperature)
• 3 cups oil (more or less as needed, for frying)
• Optional: powdered sugar for dusting

HOW TO MAKE IT:
Grate the apple. Proof the yeast by dissolving it and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 cup of warm water (not over 110 F). When it foams, pour into a large bowl and add flour, salt, raisins, walnuts, grated apple, and zest, and mix well. Add 3 to 4 cups water, or as much as necessary to achieve a cake batter consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
In a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven, heat oil to 370 F. Carefully drop tablespoons of batter into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd. Fry until golden on the bottom. Turn over once to brown both sides.
Remove the fritules with a slotted spoon onto layers of paper towels to drain. Repeat until batter is finished. Sprinkle fritule with powdered sugar while still hot, if desired.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Buon Appetito!

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Sicilian Swordfish!

November 17, 2020

Our Recipe of the week is Donna Franca's Sicilian Swordfish!

Swordfish Sicilian Style is kind of a deceiving name for this dish, considering that swordfish is prepared so many different ways in Sicily. Dishes like Stuffed Swordfish Rolls and Swordfish coated in breadcrumbs and grilled are also very typically Sicilian just to name a couple. But, this tasty lemon, oil, garlic and white wine sauce just never fails remind us of Sicily!

You can prepare this on the grill also. Just cook the fish plain on the grill, and heat up a saute pan either on the side burner or the other side of the grill. When the fish is just about done transfer it to the pan, pour over the marinade, and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is reduced down.
Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

INGREDIENTS:
• 4 Swordfish steaks
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• juice of 3 lemons
• 1/4 cup white wine
• salt & pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE:
Combine oil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice and white wine in a small bowl.
Place swordfish in a lightly oiled baking dish and cook under broiler for around 5 minutes.
Flip swordfish and cook for 5 minutes.
Pour sauce over fish and cook for 5 more minutes.
Transfer swordfish steaks to serving plates, spoon marinade on top and serve.
Buon Appetito!

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Crostata Amalfitana

November 4, 2020

Our Recipe of the week is Donna Franca's Crostata Amalfitana cream and sour cherries!

For its unmistakable friability and for the fullness of flavor, this tart brings the summer to the tables of the Neapolitans, cheering them with the sweet and unique taste of spring black cherries.

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

For the pastry:
• 125 gr butter
• 125 gr sugar
• 250 gr flour
• a pinch of salt
• a bit of lemon peel
• 2 egg yolks
• 1 spoon of baking powder
• 100 gr marmalade of cherries or cherries in syrup
• icing sugar to garnish

For custard:
• 4 yolks
• 40 grams of flour
• 100 grams of sugar
• 400 ml of whole milk
• vanillin or peel of half a lemon

HOW TO MAKE:
Prepare the short pastry by placing the flour with the sugar and softened butter on a pastry board. Knead and add the salt, the grated lemon peel and the egg yolks and continue to knead until it becomes a well-mixed ball of dough. Put in the fridge to cool and meanwhile prepare the custard.
Put the lemon peel or vanillin in the milk put on the fire in a saucepan to heat or microwave.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with sugar and flour (or the same amount of potato starch if you prefer to make it lighter); add to this mixture the previously heated milk, continuing to mix with a wooden spoon. Put everything back on the fire and let it go until the cream is dense, smooth and without lumps. Let it cool well.
Now all that remains is to spread the 2 / 3 of shortcrust pastry on the bottom and sides of a low buttered cake tin or covered with parchment paper, filling it with the cream and adding spoonfuls of the sour cherries or cherries. With the remaining part of the shortcrust pastry we form small balls to be placed over the jam to cover the entire surface. Bake at 180 ° for 15 minutes, until the top of our tart is cooked. Dusting with plenty of powdered sugar will be the last step before serving it with a good liqueur.
Buon Appetito!

Olive Picking Adventure in Italy!

October 28, 2020

As the clocks fall behind by one hour on both sides of the Atlantic and daylight shortens, Italian farmers are preparing for the annual olive harvest ritual.   The olive groves are abuzz with activity.   Farmers spread netting beneath each tree to collect the crop, then either comb or knock the olives from the branches.  Olive trees are very obliging and there are plenty of branches to hang onto while combing the branches. A ladder is used to harvest the tree’s upper branches.

Once completed, each net is carefully folded; the olives are transferred to baskets and then transferred to the olive press for extraction of this green gold.  The olive oil is obtained through a simple process of pressing chilled olives.   

The first pressed olives are crushed and pressed only once, producing the highest quality and purity which qualifies as extra virgin.  Extra virgin olive oil contains the most nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins of any other classification of oil. Not to mention the intoxicating grassy aroma and nutty, smooth taste are unparalleled. Fresh olives will produce fresh oil.

Sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude: these are the five ingredients according to Italian folk tradition creates the ideal habitat for the olive tree. We treasure extra virgin olive oil for its nutritional and salutary virtues. The extra virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats, it helps to assimilate vitamins A, D and K. It contains essential acids which slow down the aging process, helping vascular and intestinal functions.

There are 11 proven benefits of olive oil supported by scientific research:

  1. Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats.  Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects and is a healthy choice for cooking.
  2. Olive oil contains large amounts of antioxidants.  This helps fight inflammation and help protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation — two benefits that may lower your risk of heart disease!
  3. Olive oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil contains nutrients that fight inflammation. These include oleic acid as well as the antioxidant oleocanthal.
  4. Olive oil may help prevent strokes.  Several large studies demonstrate that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.
  5. Olive oil is protective against heart disease.  Extra virgin olive oil has numerous benefits for heart health. It lowers blood pressure, protects “bad” LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation and improves the function of blood vessels.
  6. Olive oil is not associated with weight gain or obesity.  Consuming olive oil does not appear to increase the likelihood of weight gain. Moderate intake may even aid weight loss.
  7. Olive oil may help fight Alzheimer’s Disease.  Some studies suggest that olive oil may combat Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
  8. Olive oil may reduce type 2 diabetes.  Both observational studies and clinical trials suggest that olive oil, combined with a Mediterranean diet, can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  9. The antioxidants in olive oil have anti-cancer properties.  Preliminary evidence suggests that olive oil may reduce cancer risk, but further studies are needed.
  10. Olive oil can help treat rheumatoid arthritis.  Olive oil can help reduce joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. The beneficial effects are greatly increased when combined with fish oil.
  11. Olive oil has antibacterial properties.  Extra virgin olive oil has antibacterial properties and has been found to be particularly effective against Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacterium that can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.

Come join us next season for an olive picking adventure tailored to your needs!  We offer this experience throughout the Italian peninsula and its islands, many on small family run properties where you can mingle with the locals.

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Focaccia

October 20, 2020

Our Recipe Of The Week is Donna Franca's Focaccia!
Learn how to make a thick, soft, and fluffy focaccia. It’s not dense or chewy at all. This focaccia has a fine crumb and a tender crust, which makes it a perfect side for BBQs, the perfect bread to go along with hummus, or simply to use for an Italian-style sandwich.

The Latin root of the word focaccia is 'focus' and refers to cooking by a fireplace or hearth Literally a focal point for the family, a place where dough was baked over hot stones, fire and ashes.
A flat bread then which shares a common ancestry with many ancient peoples, from Etruscans and Greeks to Egyptians and the tribes of the Levant.
Interestingly, the flat bread of ancient Sicily was called 'pitu', a variant of the Greek 'pita' and more than likely the word which evolved into 'pizza'.
Nevertheless, focaccia is not pizza and is about 2000 years older, a sort of missing link between traditional flat bread and pizza. Above all it is distinctly Italian.
Or more precisely, Genovese, where the word 'fugassa' in the capital of Liguria means bread and was certainly in use from the 13th century as a reference to the classic focaccia of the city.

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 cup plus 1 tbsp (255 ml) warm water
• 2 teaspoons (5 g) active dry or instant yeast
• 1 ¼ teaspoons (8 g) fine salt
• 2 tablespoons (25 g) olive oil
• 3 cups (400 g) all purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing bowl and pan
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or other herbs)
• A few sprigs of fresh thyme, optional

HOW TO MAKE:
Add warm water to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and wait until dissolved (30 seconds for instant yeast, a few minutes for active dry yeast). Add oil and salt.
Add roughly half of the flour and vigorously stir with a cooking spoon for about 1 minute. Add the remaining flour and work it in with the spoon. When the ingredients come together, knead by hand for about 8 minutes, either directly in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface. The dough is rather sticky but if possible do not add additional flour, which makes the focaccia less fluffy.
Generously oil a clean bowl with olive oil. Put the dough in and turn it around until coated in oil. Cover the bowl tightly (with a lid or cling wrap) and let it rise until doubled, for about 30 minutes at warm room temperature (in summer). It will take a little longer when colder.
Line a 9x13 inch (33x23cm) pan with parchment paper and additionally grease with oil. Carefully transfer the risen dough to the pan and try to gently stretch it evenly without deflating the dough until it fills the baking pan.
Drizzle the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and evenly distribute it on the surface with your fingers. Sprinkle dried thyme over the dough, then dimple it with your fingers.
Let the dough rise a second time for 20-30 minutes until notably puffed. No need to cover during rising since the dough is oiled and won’t dry out. >> If you want to skip the second rise, see note.
Bake focaccia in the preheated oven at 400°F (200°C) until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool baked focaccia bread for at least 10 minutes before slicing, better a little longer.
Top with fresh thyme if you like and cut into slices. Enjoy!
Buon Appetito!

La Dolce Vita at an affordable price Apericena

September 25, 2020

Italy is known for its rich cultural, historic  heritage, natural beauty, friendly locals, awesome food and wines. One of the country’s favorite pastimes, the Aperitivo, has evolved to the Apericena.  Just order your favorite libation, and you will be treated to s sumptuous informal dinner included with your drink This hybrid cocktail time includes various hot and cold entrees, salads, bruschetta, panini, pasta, rice, sweets all included in the price of your cocktail or beverage. If you happen to be near a caffe’ or bar from 4:00PM – 7:00PM, you can experience this tasty new trend with the locals. It is best to ask where the best Apericena is to be found, and suggest you go there early to savor the best selection. Prices vary form Euro 8,00 to Euro 12,00 per person. That gives you plenty of cash for another Italian delicacy, gelato! Buon apericena!

September in Italy is Vendemmia Time!

August 26, 2020

Ah, September in Italy!   The temps are more comfortable, the summer crowds have dissipated,  and now it is time for the vendemmia, or harvest!  Not just any harvest, the grape harvest!   When driving past vineyards during this month, you can almost taste the final product, the pungent, musty  smell of ripened grapes permeate the air.   This harvest takes precedent over more mundane matters such as politics and soccer matches.

Grape picking is an arduous, meticulous task.   Manned with scissors, a basket, sun hat and plenty of sun screen, the farmers and their families meander from vine to vine, carefully cutting each cluster of grapes and placing them in the basket.  Once full, the baskets are carried to the tractor’s  cargo hold.   More modern large scale wineries use grape harvesting machines, however most small vineyards still take the time to hand pick their grapples.

After spending time gathering the grapes, most farmers prepare a massive lunch banquet, many are al fresco under the trees, with antipasti, pasta dishes, roasted meats, vegetable side dishes, fruit, dolce and of course accompanied with plenty of wine!
If you are dreaming about experiencing first hand in a vendemmia, Donna Franca Tours can arrange this for you in different parts of the peninsula or islands, please contact us for details!

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