Hello my friends how have you been?
I hope my message today finds you and your beloved safe and healthy. I am over the moon at announcing that my new cookbook entitled “Festa Italiana” is in press and available to pre-order!
I am sorry for having disappeared for a while, but so much has happened in the last few months and literally every minute has been dedicated to this marvelous project.
Back in March, I had no idea that so many of you would have raised their hand to help in the making of Festa Italiana.
Within the span of a few months over 150 people have formed an amazingly dedicated team of recipe testers, editors and fundraiser donors who have all contributed to give us hope and help us to resist as a business until, hopefully, life and travel will return to some level of normality and we can work again.
Words can’t even express my gratitude. My sincere wish is that Festa Italiana will also give you hope and a reason to celebrate in your kitchen with those you love.
What you need to know about Festa Italiana
The cookbook, which is written in English, is a follow up of “A Kitchen with a view” with 260 pages of beautiful photos, detailed guides to making bread, pasta and polenta, recipes spanning from simple everyday feasts to great recipes for special occasions as well as history, myths and legends about the Italian holidays and festivals throughout the year.
We should receive the printed books sometime next week. Meanwhile we are preparing to ship them to you as soon as possible so, if you like, you can use them for gifts for the upcoming holidays.
More details are available in the cookbooks page on our main website.
This month’s recipe: chickpea soup with rucola
At this time of the year, a mix of beans and green vegetables in soups is an almost daily treat in this house. If you have joined any of my cooking classes in fall and winter you have probably tasted a version of this dish.
I prefer to combine the beans and greens after they are cooked to retain the texture and flavor of all components of the recipe. The difference between this style of soup and a salad is in the amount of broth you decide to add to the finished dish.
In this case, I use rucola (arugula/rocket), which is beautifully fresh and spicy right now and perfect to offset the sweetness of chickpeas. A drizzle of freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil, if available, is a superb addition but you can also add some spice with a hint of fresh chopped chili pepper if you like.
I invite you to adopt this recipe as a template. Use different varieties of beans and combine them with steamed spinach, Swiss chard or cavolo nero. Sauté the cooked vegetables briefly in olive oil, garlic and fennel seeds, then add the beans as explained below. Obviously, rucola needs no cooking.
150 g (5 oz) dry or 450 g (16 oz) cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
250 g (1/2 lb) fresh rucola
For the vegetable stock:
1 celery stick
1 small tomato
Use the vegetables whole or cut into large chunks
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
extra virgin olive oil, best quality
Optional: 1 slice toasted bread or stale bread per person, torn in bite size pieces.
If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight, then rinse and drain. Place beans in a pot and cover with at least 10 cm (4 inches) water. Add the stock vegetables – non need to chop – cover and simmer until tender. This will take 1 to 3 hours, depending on age and size of the beans.
If using cooked beans, boil the stock vegetables in water for 10 minutes. Add beans to the stock and boil 10 more minutes. This step is needed to add flavor as canned beans are often bland. If you are cooking the beans in advance, cool and refrigerate or freeze until needed.
For best results, assemble the soup just before serving.
Trim and wash the rucola, dry it in a salad spinner, then chop roughly. Toss with your best olive oil, salt and pepper.
In a shallow pan sauté the fennel seeds and minced garlic in one tablespoon olive oil over low heat, until lightly sizzling. Increase the heat, add the chickpeas with a few ladlefuls of their cooking liquid and coat in the flavored oil.
Season with salt and black pepper and bring to low boil, then remove from the heat. Place the rucola into the bowls shaping it like a “nest”, then ladle the soup inside the rucola’s nest, add toasted bread – if using – and drizzle with your extra-virgin olive oil. For a touch of color, decorate the soup with the tomato used to cook the beans or diced fresh tomato. Serve immediately.