sharing (Italian) food to enjoy life

Archive for December, 2009

Prosciutto Sushi Revisited

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 22, 2009

Last time I went for sushi the presentation was amazing and the crunchiness of the dragon rolls added an interesting texture.  I have tried to create this inside my prosciutto “sushi” by crisping up some thinly sliced onions and putting about three strands in the middle with the asparagus.

We had people in for a quick appetizer last Sunday before going out.  The “sushi” went over well, however I felt the onion flavour was a bit too subtle, and I need a bit more “CRUNCH”. I love the visual of the tower in the middle, but it is big and needs to be shared with a good friend. Here is the revised:

  • Boil 18-21 spears of asparagus, undercook slightly and plunge into cold water when done to stop the cooking. Lay on a towel to dry as much as possible.
  • Meanwhile thinly slice an onion cut in half lengthwise, break the strands apart and fry in olive oil until just crispy, be careful not to overcook or they will get burnt or be a bit bitter.
  • Lay out two slices of prosciutto, slightly overlapping them. Lay on arugula, 6-7 spears asparagus across the seam and spread the fried onion six strands thick with the asparagus. (The arugula protects the prosciutto from absorbing the moisture of the asparagus.) You will need 6-8 slices of prosciutto
  • Roll the prosciutto around the asparagus as tight as possible. Slice across the roll; leave the end longer for a tower.
  • You will end up with 15-20 pieces depending how thick you slice.

I also added some crumbled Asiago with a balsamic glaze and a bottle of champagne. I received a bottle as a gift, clearly above my usual level. I decided I would prefer to share food and expensive wine with people that appreciate it rather than wait for a special occasion.


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(Pro-shu-toe), How to Order

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 18, 2009

We did a little survey, it turns out 67% of Canadians can’t spell prosciutto; and good luck finding the best prosciutto blog on the web when you are looking for jimmy “proscooter”.

I don’t know how many people can’t say it, I think this actually holds some back from ordering at the deli service case. If that’s you, order with confidence:  “14 slices of ‘pro-shu-toe’ sliced as thin as you can”. A few guidelines:

  • Usually the server will hold up the slice to show you how thin it is. The key measure is the drape or limpness of the slice; it should hang in all directions.
  • The setting depends on the slicer; you want the lowest setting it will go to with the slice staying intact.
  • The end of the ham gets smaller, this is okay if you are using for a sandwich, but not if you are using in an appetizer.  Don’t be shy to ask for a large slice if that is what you need.
  • Most delis will lay the slices flat and beside each other. Once the layer is full, they will put on a layer of cellophane and continue with the next layer. When I was in Italy they sometimes draped the slice in almost a flower, several beside each other and the same layer of cellophane after the layer was complete.

I like to have a pre-sliced package in the fridge, unopened for emergencies, the rest of the time I order from the service case so I can get the exact thickness, actually the thinness I prefer. Check out this quick video to realize how much the average person knows about prosciutto, and for a smile:


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Nadia and Rita’s Throwdown

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 16, 2009

Bobby Flay be careful, the challenge has been laid down for simple Italian appetizers in our office. During a, dare I say, idle conversation in the hall, a few of us at work came up with the idea of an appetizer competition.  Well actually Rita came up with the idea and Nadia and I thought it would be fun.  Amazing what some competitive juices can create, and we think the tasting and judging of each other will generate even more than the usual lunch laughter.

It started with my failed attempt with a bread-maker.  They are idiot proof, yes it did look like bread, but my family let me know how good it tasted, one piece each, the rest went moldy.  I’m thinking of just using the mix function and then cooking more as a baguette with some interesting things inside, yes I’ll try prosciutto to start.

I guess it will start in January, I promise to share the idea and the laughter.

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Discover and Share as a Company

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 14, 2009

Last week we had a “tapas” style holiday celebration in the Humber Room at Humber College.  They closed off the room for us and served us seven different appetizers, with a neat mini frozen chocolate mousse to finish.

The chef who developed the recipes is Austrian, so there were some very “non-Italian” Italian ideas; that had many people asking for the recipes. I have outlined the most popular two here, with my own two cents on how to modify or simply them.

Smoked hot Calabrese on a roesti with fried onions and sour cream


2 Pc Potatoes large (peeled and fine julienned)
    Vegetable oil for cooking
    Butter for cooking
  TT Salt and pepper
Heat up a frying pan and add a little bit of vegetable oil. With a spoon arrange the potatoes in the frying pan in small roestis. (pancakes) . Season with salt and pepper. The roestis shouldn’t be thicker than 1 cm. When the roestis brown on the bottom add the butter and flip them over. Brown them on the other side too. When the are nice and crispy transfer them onto a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper.
2 Pc Sautéed onion julienne
Put the sautéed onions on the roesti.
200 G Smoked calabrese
Cut the calabrese into a 3cm x 3 cm sticks and smoke them till they have a good smoky flavour. (30 – 45 Min.) Slice them thin and put in top the sautéed onion on the roesti with it.
200 Ml Sour cream
Put the sour cream into a squeeze bottle and garnish the sausage with it.


I will be making a version of this over the holidays, but plan to skip the smoking, use Sopressata over Calabrese and give the Sopressata a super fast fry on only one side.

  • Cooking really brings out the spice of the Calabrese, I feel it then overpowers the other flavours. You can buy Sopressata or Calabrese at the deli case or in a small piece in the self-serve section. For this recipe you want it to be about 5mm/1/8” thick, so should not buy the pre-sliced.
  • I will put the pan on high and quickly fry one side for about 20-30 seconds.  This will give it a crispness, but leave the meat in its more natural dry cured state.

Pancetta with du puy lentils and speck

100 G Butter
200 G Pancetta small diced
1 Pc Onion peeled and fine diced
6 Cloves Garlic chopped
½ Pc Carrot peeled and small diced
3 Twigs thyme
1 Stalk Celery washed and small diced
100 Ml White wine
100 G Speck
6 Pc Pancetta  slice ¼ “ thick and pan-fried (not crispy)  for garnish.
  TT Salt & pepper
  TT Chopped herbs: chives and parsley
  TT Lemon juice
2 Cups Cooked du puy lentils


1)      Melt the butter and pancetta in a rondo.

2)      Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery and thyme and develop the flavours. Add white wine and simmer till the vegetables are soft.

3)      Add speck and cooked du puy lentils and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and herbs.

4)      Arrange the lentils in a Chinese spoon and garnish with chopped herbs and a slice of pan-fried pancetta.

This is an amazing combination of flavours; you have never had lentils this good. A couple things:

  • It’s not always easy to find speck, you can buy pre-sliced smoked prosciutto, (which is what speck is), and julienne.  I will add the speck at the very end so it is warmed, but not cooked.
  • I will use olive oil instead of butter, because that’s how I cook.
  • I will make half the recipe, because this will be one of several appetizers I serve.
  • I will use a regular soup spoon, because I don’t have the fancy china ones – maybe a good Christmas gift.
  • I will buy a can of lentils as I don’t have any idea what “du puy” lentils are.

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Forgotten Simplicity

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 8, 2009

I was visiting some friends on Sunday and brought a wedge of aged Asiago cheese. I suggested crumbling pieces with a light dripping of a balsamic glaze. Don just sent a note saying it tasted great, and I am left wondering where the idea came from, and that I should try it myself.

Here are some great sites that provide a little more information, wine pairings and history on this beautiful cheese from the Veneto region of Italy.



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The log cabin

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 4, 2009

I think this is the most elegant presentation of the basic prosciutto and breadstick, great for the holiday season.  Gerardo, who is studying to be a chef at Humber College, invented this.  Well, he was the first person I ever saw “build” it, thank you.

To enjoy the most:

  • Prosciutto at room temperature
  • Half a slice per breadstick
  • Use the good, thin Italian breadsticks
  • Share with family and friends

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The Soup Season is upon us

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 3, 2009

Nothing can beat pasta fagioli soup on a cold day, especially when people drop in uninvited.  My recipe has been revised at least five times, but not for awhile now.  What makes it so good is that:

  • I mash half the white kidney beans and stay away from those “mealy” red kidney beans.  The mashed beans gives a “chowder” texture to the broth.
  • I cook the pasta, usually ditali or tubetti, separately and add it in just before eating.  If you don’t do this, your left-over soup – I always make a large batch – will have bloated and soft pasta the next time.
  • I use pancetta, never bacon.  Bacon is pumped full of water that needs to be boiled off before you get any sizzle, it has no magic, no flavour.  Pancetta has been dry cured, removing most of the water in the curing room and receiving the incredible taste of dry aging.

I use a medium sized pot, heat the oil, sauté the onions and pancetta, neither should be crispy or browned.  Just before the onions and pancetta are done I add the crushed garlic. I find adding the garlic earlier makes it go bitter. If you are a spice fanatic, add some crushed chilies with the onion or use hot pancetta.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 4 ounces pancetta diced medium, (about twice the size of the onions, half the size of a bean)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

Add two cups of chicken broth, half a can of white kidney beans, with all the liquid. Next add the sliced carrots and quartered tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile mash the rest of the white kidney beans with a potato masher and add to the soup.  A perfect mash is not required, the beans will continue to breakdown in the simmer.  Cook until the carrots are just done.

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1  19oz  can white kidney beans, I’m sure you can soak dry beans overnight, but I never have
  • Two medium sized carrots, sliced ¼” thick
  • 6-8 small plum tomatoes, quartered, I use canned tomatoes imported from Italy to get the full tomato taste and sweetness

Cook the pasta in a separate pot.  Always use lots of water.  Cook to al dente, or even just less. Strain and douse in cold water to stop the cooking.

  • 1 cup ditali or tubetti pasta

Serve the soup in the biggest bowls you can find, add the pasta to the soup.  Save the left over soup and pasta in separate containers.  Salt and pepper to your taste.  The broth and pancetta mean salt is not required for most people. Usually takes about 20-25 minutes to prepare. I find some kids don’t like the beans; in that case you can mash or puree the whole can of beans. Feel free to put in green stuff if you like the look.  A lot of people put sage in their pasta fagioli, I think it overpowers the subtly of the beans.

Pasta fagioli is a specialty of Tuscany; it pairs beautifully with the wine of the region, Chianti, and nice crusty Italian bread.

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