Big news! Buns! Buns in the oven that is! So this should clear me of all blogosphere neglect as I know I have been a bit AWOL but it is totally justified! The Sirotti family is on its way to becoming 4 with another baby boy on the way!
I honestly haven’t been too gung-ho about food or eating lately, in fact everything turned me off and kinda made me wanna barf, which has made cooking and especially getting excited enough about food to take pics, write about it and post about it just nauseating thinking about it. But now that I am over the 3 month hump the skies have cleared, the clouds have parted and the sun is shinning and I am so pumped to start cooking again! I am so inspired, and hungry again – life is good!
I now promise you that I have oodles of recipes that I can’t wait to get to work on and share with you, so keep your eyes peeled for me here because I am going to be cooking up a storming and blogging all about it!
The first recipe I bring to you after my hiatus is an extra special one as it is from where I live (Vignola/Modena, Italy). I know that I never really post Italian food, nor do I really eat or cook much of it at home (what can I say, after 8 years living here it just doesn’t have the same appeal as it used to) but this time I am bringing you something so Italian that it must really just be considered Modenese (from the province of Modena) and is definitely something you have never had or probably even heard of unless you have visited this area. So as an ode to where I live, where my babies were and will be born and grow up, even though they will still be a bit American inside too, I give you this veganized version of tigelle (tea- gel- lay). Tigelle are a flat bread that gets its name from the stone, called a tigella, that was used as a weight to keep them flat as they cooked. These stones are sold with all kinds of pretty designs at markets, but they are used for decoration more than anything as they have been replaced by tigelliere (cast iron sort of griddles that close so you can flip them) and electric tigelliere (which look like sandwich makers). They are crunchy on the outside and soft, but not too full, on the inside. The tigella in itself is vegetarian (depending on who’s making it), made from milk, flour, yeast and a bit of olive oil, however what you put in them never are. They are typically eaten with affettati, meaning all kinds of cured and sliced meats, along with various cheeses and stews like the famous chicken cacciatora and cinghiale, or wild boar.
With this dough you can also make gnocco fritto (gn – like caNYon- o-co), which is also typical of this area. This is just fried tigella dough that has been rolled out and cut into squares then fried. This is obviously topped off with the same stuff.
Dessert with tigelle and gnocco fritto is always a generous smear of nutella and/or jam maybe with fresh cheese.
I didn’t get around to making the gnocco because, well, the first batch was a bit disastrous and didn’t rise so I was left with half the ingredients to make it again. The second time round I waited for the real Italian/Vignolese/Modenese in the house to get home and help me. I don’t know if that was a good or bad idea considering that it opened up a can of worms ‘American making tigelle, blah, blah, blah’ ‘you can’t do it this way, blah, blah’. So needless to say the so-called expert was happy to be of use and show his skills.
I guess I can now say that my hope to make Lucio’s Nonna Laura proud failed since Lucio ended up doing all the work and well 1. I have never made tigelle and 2. she is known as the queen of tigelle, the odds were really against me here!
Below you will find the recipe for tigelle along with various other sauces to put in them, feel free to experiment with whatever floats your boat. We’re already breaking the rules here so just go with whatever inspires you. The recipes for all the sauces and stuffings make enough to have leftovers with, which I think is great since they go so well in a pita or slapped on a sammich!
Yield: about 10
1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp salt
about 3/4 c. water
1. Activate the yeast by adding in the sugar and salt with a bit of the hot water (not too hot though!).
2. Once the yeast is ready to go, meaning it bubbles up and melts, then add in the flour and the rest of the water. Add a bit of water at a time, you may need a little more or less. You don’t want the dough to be too wet. Cover the dough and leave it to rise for about an hour (depending on the yeast package instructions).
3. Once it has doubled in size you can either roll it out and cut out circles with a glass (the Nonna way) or as many people do, you can pinch off pieces and roll them into balls and flatten them. Here the choice is yours, you can either leave them to rise again, which is what most people do and they do turn out better, or you can go ahead and cook them now if you can’t wait!
4. To cook them I realize that people outside of this area don’t have tigelle makers so just go with a griddle and if you can, put something heavy on top of them, if not they may just be a little puffier than the usual tigella.
The Evolution of the Tigelliera
Balsamic Caramelized Onions
2 yellow onions
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar*
Salt to taste
* this depends on the quality of the vinegar. We are lucky enough to live in the area where it is made and make our own (I will have to post picks of the set of barrels 🙂 and our friends give us a bottle or two every year from their own production that is 30 years old! It is sweet syrupy goodness! Ours is not there yet, and won’t be for a while!
1. Chop the onions roughly and saute with some olive oil. Here this also depends on how healthy you want it to be, when Lucio’s grandma makes this the onions are swimming in oil! Cook them until they are transparent.
2. Add in the balsamic vinegar towards the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Salt to taste.
This makes a lot but it is also great on sandwiches so you can easily use this leftover lots of other dishes.
Creamed Artichoke Hearts
1 heaping cup frozen artichoke hearts
1/4 c. cashews
1/4 tsp tarragon
1 garlic clove
juice from half a lemon
salt to taste
1. Steam or saute your artichokes. I steamed the to unthaw them and then sauteed them with a bit of olive oil.
2. In the meantime soak your cashews in hot water for at least 30 mins.
3. Drain the cashews and add all the other ingredients together and blend to the desired consistency. If you want it chunky add in a couple chopped up artichokes after you’ve blended it.
Eggplant Tomato Stew
1 medium eggplant
8 oz. of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves
4-5 basil leaves
4-5 fresh cherry tomatoes
salt to taste
1. Saute the chopped onion with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the eggplant after the onions have been going for a few minutes.
2. Once the eggplant is a bit cooked add in your can of tomatoes. Add in the garlic as well and any other spices you want.
3. You may have to add in a bit of water if the sauce gets too dry. When it all looks like it’s about done add in the fresh tomatoes, if desired. Cook for another 10 minutes. Finally add in the basil at the very end. If you want it to have more of a basil flavor you can add in the stems of the basil even from the beginning (these are the Italian ‘rules’ to basil cooking 101 :). Salt to taste.
Red Wine Poached Cinnamon Pears
1/8 cup red wine
a dash or two of cinnamon
1 Tbs jam
1. Cut the pear into cubes and saute with wine and cinnamon. Add in the jam towards the end, if you prefer less sugar, you can always us maple syrup, agave or stevia.
Strawberry and Nutella/Chocolate Sauce
This needs no explaining, I think the picture says enough. I just had to include it because it was so good. Just chop up some fresh strawberries or whatever fruit you fancy and top it off with some vegan nutella or chocolate sauce.