italian

Vegetarian Canederli (Italian Boiled Dumplings) with Aged Cheese

Instead of going to the seaside, we celebrated our Ferragosto on the mountain this year.  Marco and I spent a week in Maranza, stayed at this bed&breakfast where his dad usually spends his holidays every year. The place has been around for possibly over forty years, run by grandma Rita who is now eighty-five. She still cooks and cleans, feeds her chicken and prepares a full blown meal for her guests every morning and night.  

And of course, we tried many kinds of mountain food, both sweet and savory while we were there.  One of my most favorites has to be canederli aka Italian boiled dumplings.  The original recipe that was served by Rita used speck(a type of prosciutto) as an ingredient.  I tried a few other vegetarian versions made with some aged mountain cheese at a few other restaurants. I knew I had to replicate this dish because it's such a brilliant recipe to use up our leftover vegetables and stale bread. 

So here is my vegetarian version of canederli and I hope you would give it a go if you have time because the taste is impeccable.  Don’t let its look fool you. 

Vegetarian Canederli with Aged Cheese

Vegetarian Canederli with Aged Cheese

 

Serves: 2 persons

Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

100-120g stale white bread, cut into small cubes (easy to absorb milk and get soften)

1 egg

250ml milk

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, grated

1 medium size carrot, cut into small tiny cubes

1 cup cooked sweet corns

1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped

1 cup formaggio grigio (may substitute with other aged cheese)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

3-4 tbsp chickpea flour or all-purpose flour*

500ml vegetable soup broth

extra-virgin olive oil

*adjust by adding more flour if the dough is too wet or reducing if the dough is not wet.  

Instructions: 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together bread, milk, egg, and season. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to wait for the bread mixture soften up then use your hands to bind everything together.  
  2. Preheat a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat, cook onion for a minute or two before adding carrots, corn, and zucchini.  Reduce heat if needed to avoid burning the vegetables. Season and cook the vegetables for about 10-15 minutes until moist is gone.  Turn off the fire and set the vegetables aside to cool off.
  3. Mix together the vegetables, bread mixture, chopped shallots, formaggio grigio, and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Compact the mixture into one large ball.  Let it rest for about 50-60 minutes with a towel covering the bowl.
  4. Add flour to the dough and mix again with your hands.  
  5. Form about 6 fist-sized dumplings by rolling each with the palm of your hands.  Make sure your hands are wet when you do that.
  6. Cook these dumplings in a big pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes. Remove the dumplings from the boiling water and transfer to a serving plate. On the other stove, heat up a pot of vegetable stock for serving later.
  7. Serve the dumplings with a ladle of vegetable stock and garnish with some grated parmesan, spring onion, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  

This is Rita's bed&breakfast overlooking different sizes of hills under the vast clear blue sky.

These are the real free range chickens living outside of Rita's b&b.  And they make some real GOOD eggs.  

First day: we went on an easier trail leading us from the alpine pastures to the mountain tops

We challenged ourselves with a steeper slope the following day and this was the rewarding view after 30 minutes of physical agony. Ugh.

On even days of the month, people could gather mushrooms between 7am to 7pm.  We couldn't get up early enough to hunt mushrooms but they are mostly found in places like this. I was told that they usually grow next to trees where humidity is fairly high with warm temperature.   

These were the mushrooms gathered by some of the other guests of Rita.

Creamy Asparagus & Fava Orecchiette

I’ve been absent for awhile.  Not that I’ve stopped cooking or anything, I was just busy exploring the city of Milano.  As spring is approaching, my hours of spending in front of the computer has obviously dropped a whole lot.  

I no longer need to wrap myself in thick layers or rely on Marco to drive me to places.  Milan is definitely growing on me.  I love the size of this city.  It's just right, not so big like New York or Tokyo and not too small like the village of Sai Bin Wai in Yuen Long or Castelfranco in Veneto.

How I spend my day usually depends on how nice the weather is. I cannot NOT go out and embrace the city on a sunny day especially on a Saturday.  Since cooking holds a huge part of my everyday life, shopping for grocery is a ritual that can’t be overlooked.  Every Saturday, Marco and I would go to the mercato (a fresh produce street market) by his office to get our veggies and cheese for the week, just like how most of the Milanese roll. 

Milan mercato

You have to go to these markets early to get the best,  As you can see, I got there pretty late.

Spring in Milan is beautiful.  I especially adore these flowers called Glicine.  Not only they look amazing, they make the entire neighborhood smells heavenly, too.  

My food inspector - Pierino the cat

Spring greens are in full bloom at mercato these days.  Who can really resist them? Here are the real simple ingredients for my orecchiette pasta dish.  

Serves: 1 person

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12-15 minutes

Ingredients: 

3-4 asparagus stalks, cut into small bits

1 small bowl fava beans

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 small bunch chopped fresh basil or mint

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 egg, whisked

1/4 cup grated Asiago

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 lemon zest and juice

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

  1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until 1 minute before it becomes al dente.  Reserve a small cup of the pasta water for later.  
  2. Preheat a saucepan with olive oil on medium heat.  Cook the garlic and chilli flakes for 1 minute.
  3. Add asparagus, fava beans, and basil, cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Season.  
  4. Add a small ladle of the pasta water to speed up the cooking.  Reduce the heat to medium-low with a lid on.  Simmer the vegetables for about 5 minutes.  Turn off the fire.  
  5. Mix in the cooked pasta, grated cheese, egg, and another half-ladle of the pasta water.  Stir well until the pasta sauce is creamy and smooth.  
  6. Garnish with some fresh basil, grated parmesan, lemon zest + juice, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil before serving.  Enjoy! 

Creamy Asparagus & Fava Orecchiette

Creamy Asparagus & Fava Orecchiette