italian

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

Veggies Farinata

My happiest time of everyday is sipping wine and munching on snacks in late afternoon.  People usually start aperitivo around 7-ish but I start mine a little earlier meaning let’s say around 5ish at home before I start preparing for dinner.  That’s because I am still semi-unemployed.  Yes, semi- it is.  Marco's business keeps me pretty busy sometime.  ;)

Due to my utmost passion for aperitivo, I’ve also been exploring to pair my glass of prosecco or white wine with somewhat healthier snacks such as oven roasted chips and roasted chickpeas.  I recently got a bag of chickpea flour and since it was my first time, I spent a bit of time doing some research.  And that’s when I learned about farinata.  Some people call it socca, some call it cecina or torta de ceci depending on the region.  Well, my source, and that is Marco (who else), calls it farinata but after I added those vegetables on it, it shouldn’t be called farinata anymore.  But who cares.  It was delicious!  That’s all it counts.  So hey, chickpea flour has become our new best friend.  

Veggies Farinata

Servings: 2 small farinata (I used a small 8 inches ovenproof skillet)

Preparation Time: around 40 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

1 cup chickpea flour 

1/2 - 1 cup water (depending on your flour)

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for cooking 

Toppings: 

3-4 thin sliced eggplant

2-3 tbsp diced capsicum

2-3 tbsp thin sliced red onion

6-8 olives

2-3 tbsp grated mozzarella *optional for vegans

Instructions: 

  1. To make the mixture, whisk together chickpea flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, and water in a large bowl.  Let the mixture rest for 20-30 minutes.  
  2. Preheat the oven at 200ºC.  Preheat the skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.  
  3. Once the skillet is hot, remove it from the oven.  Pour 1/2 of the mixture to the skillet and assemble the toppings except for the grated cheese.  Bake for about 10 minutes then add the grated cheese and bake for another 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and ready to serve.   
  4. Repeat the same steps for the second slice of farinata.  

Ingredients to make a simple farinata are: 

1 cup chickpea flour 

1/2 - 1 cup water (depending on your flour)

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for cooking 

To make the mixture, whisk together chickpea flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, chopped rosemary, and water in a large bowl.  Let the mixture rest for 20-30 minutes.  

Preheat the oven at 200ºC.  Preheat the skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.  Once the skillet is hot, remove it from the oven.  Pour 1/2 of the mixture to the skillet and assemble the toppings except for the grated cheese.  Bake for about 10 minutes then add the grated cheese and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  

veggies farinata

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Some say the simplest dish is the hardest dish to master.  I was asked recently what my favorite Italian dish was and I answered aglio, olio e peperocino with no hesitation.  I think the person who asked this question was disappointed with my unimaginative answer.   

But do hear me out though…  I chose this dish for a number of reasons and they are just as simple as its ingredients.  This pasta is quick and easy to make.  It doesn't require a bankroll and it certainly doesn't require a lot of utensils or crazy steps.  And sage, for some odd reasons, was so much easier for me to find in Hong Kong.  The entire cooking process can be done within 10 minutes.  It is filling and definitely healthier than instant noodles.  Plus it’s got so many little tweaks that you could do to elevate the dish to a whole new level.  Honestly, I could never get tired of making it and eating it.  The possibilities are immense and every family does it differently here in Italy.   

So here is my humble rumble version of aglio, olio e peperoncino.  I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do.  

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year! :D

Servings: 1 person

Preparation Time: less than 5 minutes

Cooking Time: less than 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 small sprig of sage, finely chopped

1 small anchovy *optional*

1/2 tsp dried chili flakes

1/4 cup grated parmesan

100g pasta (spaghetti/tagliatelle/linguine) 

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil;  cook pasta according to its packaging label.  Drain the pasta approximately 1 minute before it turns al dente.  Reserve a small cup of the pasta water for later. 
  2. Preheat a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp olive oil on medium heat, cook garlic, anchovy, chili flakes, and sage 2-3 minutes.  Stir occasionally to avoid burning the garlic and reduce heat ifnecessary.  
  3. Add the cooked pasta with a ladle of pasta water to the frying pan.  Sprinkle a generous amount of grated parmesan and mix well.  Season.  Heat off.  
  4. Transfer the pasta to a plate, add a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan before serving.  Enjoy!