Friday, January 28, 2022

Spoja Lorda

These little squares of stuffed pasta are called “spoja lorda” and are rarely seen outside of Italy. Even in the region of Emilia Romagna, where they’re from, they hard to find outside the province of Ravenna. The name, derived from the local dialect, is from “sfoglia sporca” or dirty pasta, harkening back to times when scraps were used to make the pasta and the stuffing. The stuffing is spread thinly across the pasta, just enough to “dirty” the pasta, and they’re traditionally served in a broth. Some may split open during cooking, “dirtying” the broth as well.

I normally use a food processor to mix my pasta dough, but was feeling the urge to make it all by hand recently. I used a mix of 00 flour, all-purpose flour and semolina flour, but I don’t recommend using all three for this pasta, especially not the hard, durum semolina, which made it very difficult to roll. Semolina is a coarser, more yellow flour that’s also higher in gluten and protein. It’s great for tagliatelle, spaghetti or pappardelle, but not so much for stuffed pasta. Next time, I’m going with the softer, 00 flour that I normally use when making ravioli or anolini.

It’s fun to make the dough the old-fashioned way, creating a “volcano” and incorporating the flour and the eggs.

Start out using a fork until the dough becomes too stiff. Then use your hands to knead it until it’s smooth. Let it rest at least a half hour while you prepare the filling.
The traditional filling is made with a soft cheese like squacquerone or stracchino, nearly impossible to find in the U.S., although ricotta would be fine too. However, I wanted to try it with some mortadella, ground up in the food processor and blended with mascarpone and parmigiano. If mortadella isn’t your thing, or you want a vegetarian version, using a mixture of ricotta and parmigiano.
If you decide to try this filling (and I recommend you do), add more mascarpone if the mixture seems too stiff to spread.

Since I wanted to make these the old-fashioned way, that meant I was determined to roll it out by hand too, instead of using my pasta machine. I soon had to enlist the help of my husband however, because the semolina in the dough made it really resistant to rolling by hand and my wrists and arms were complaining. (It’s also why pasta made with semolina holds up so well in cooking too, instead of turning mushy.) Let gravity help make the rolling easier and let part of the dough hang over an edge of your counter or pasta board, turning the dough a quarter of the way after each roll or two with the rolling pin.

When the dough is thin enough to see your hand through, spread the filling over half of it. Fold the dough over the filling.

Then using a pastry or pasta crimper, cut strips about 3/4″ across.

Then cut the same width in the opposite direction.

They really do remind me of puffy little Cheezits crackers.

Simmer and serve in broth.

And sit down to a beautiful bowl of spoja lorda.

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Spoja Lorda
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 3 cups 00 flour
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. mortadella
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • a small grating of fresh nutmeg
  1. Make the dough either by hand or with a pasta machine.
  2. Roll out into a large circle by hand or with a pasta machine, until it’s thin enough to see your hands through it.
  3. Place the mortadella, mascarpone, parmesan cheese and egg in a food processor with the salt and nutmeg.
  4. Whir until smooth.
  5. Spread the mortadella mixture over half of the pasta dough and then fold the unfilled dough over the filled portion of the dough.
  6. Press dough gently to remove any air bubbles.
  7. Using a pasta cutter, cut into small squares about 1 inch across.
  8. Cook the pasta gently in a chicken broth and serve when done.
  9. Alternately, cook the pasta gently in water, then add to a pan with butter and sage.
  10. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Roasted Carrot Soup

What could be more warming on a cold day that a bowl of hot soup? Carrots are so ubiquitous and most people use them only as a raw vegetable in salads, or boiled as a cooked vegetable. Sometimes they’re roasted, elevating their flavor a few notches. This soup plays off that theme, with the roasting adding great depth of flavor, and the cumin spice adding a warmth without too much heat. I didn’t add any cream, and you won’t miss it either. To thicken it, I used some leftover cooked brown rice, but if you haven’t got any leftover rice, just add some uncooked rice and simmer the soup until the rice is tender.

A crucial part of the flavor also came from the broth I made using these leftover parmesan cheese rinds. I always have some in my freezer, and I add one or two rinds to nearly every soup or stew I’m making. But this is the first time I made a broth using mostly rinds, with some aromatics thrown in too (carrot, celery, fennel frond, onion, garlic and bay leaf). If you don’t have any rinds, feel free to use a purchased vegetable or chicken broth for this soup instead.

While the broth was simmering, I roasted the carrots, by slicing them in half and placing them on a cookie sheet, tossed with a little olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or so. They’ll soften as they roast, so the soup won’t need much cooking. After the carrots are roasted, sauté a shallot in olive oil, then add the roasted carrots, some of the strained parmesan broth, the leftover rice and some seasonings. Cook it for 20 minutes, or slightly longer if using uncooked rice. Pour everything into a blender or Vitamix and purée until smooth. Be careful with hot liquids in a blender. They have a tendency to burst from the top, so pour in a little at a time for blending. Put everything back in the pot and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve the soup with a smattering of croutons, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar to take it over the top. You’ll never look at a humble one-pound bag of carrots in the same way again.Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Roasted Carrot Soup
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 1 pound of carrots, cut in half and roasted in 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups parmesan broth (directions below, if not, use vegetable broth or chicken broth)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice (I used brown rice, but white is fine)
  • If you don’t have leftover cooked rice, add 1/4 cup of uncooked rice to the soup instead
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • home made croutons
  1. Cut the carrots in half and roast them in a pan smeared with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Roast them at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the roasted carrots, the strained parmesan broth, the rice, and the seasonings.
  5. Cook everything together in a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and using either a blender or a stick blender, puree everything until silky smooth.
  7. Serve with droplets of aged balsamic vinegar and croutons.
  9. -12 parmesan rinds
  10. stalk celery
  11. carrot
  12. clove garlic
  13. frond of fennel (optional)
  14. -7-8 cups water
  15. Place everything in a stock pot and let simmer for one hour.
  16. Strain and use as directed above.
  18. Trim the crust off some sturdy bread and cut into small cubes.
  19. Cook over medium high heat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until browned and crispy.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Zucchini Crusted Haddock with Orange Salsa

Just in time for the January “let’s-eat low-cal-but-delicious” comes this recipe from Michele at “Our Italian Table.” As soon as I saw it, with its accompaniment of blood orange salsa, I knew what would be on our dinner table the next night. I made some adjustments, using haddock instead of cod, since my fish market has been selling really fresh wild haddock lately. Halibut would also be delicious here. I would have used the blood oranges called for in the recipe, but I had cara cara instead, and they worked just fine. But I’ll look for blood oranges next time, since they would add even more color. I added a little red onion and parsley, since I didn’t have the thyme the recipe called for, but other herbs would work great too, including chives or cilantro.

Use a mandoline to slice the zucchini very thinly and place the slices atop the fish, which has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper too, then a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of cornmeal. Don’t try to tuck the slices under the fish or you’ll be asking for trouble.

When the fish comes out of the oven, the slices are then pliable enough to easily tuck them under. A lot of liquid was released from the fish and the zucchini, but cooking the fish over parchment paper makes for easy cleanup.

While the fish is cooking, make the salsa using either blood oranges, cara cara or any other orange you like. Peel the orange with a knife, then cut supremes (no, not the Motown group, but orange sections) in between each membrane.

I served it with some saffron rice and broccoli and it was not only a colorful meal, but a delicious one that was waistline-friendly too.

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Zucchini Crusted Haddock with Orange Salsa
Author: Ciao Chow Linda by way of Our Italian Table
  • 3/4- 1 pound haddock, cod or halibut
  • thin slices of zucchini
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil
  • cornmeal to sprinkle on top
  • 2 oranges (cara cara or blood oranges)
  • a slice of red onion, finely chopped
  • minced parsley (or chives, thyme or cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
  • salt, pepper
  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  2. Lay the fish on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  3. Slice the zucchini paper thin, either with a mandoline or by hand.
  4. Layer the slices over the fish, overlapping them like fish scales.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of cornmeal.
  6. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
  7. While the fish is cooking, make the salsa by segmenting the oranges and mixing with the rest of the ingredients.


Monday, January 3, 2022

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Winter is upon us here in the northeast U.S. and that means hunkering down with hearty, comforting meals, including this stuffed cabbage. All the work is done upfront, and then you just sit back and wait for the oven to do its thing. You don’t even need to boil the cabbage first in order to remove the leaves. A really easy trick to separate leaves is to put the whole head of cabbage in the freezer overnight.The next day, when you want to make the recipe, remove the inner core with a knife.

The leaves will peel off easily. Savoy cabbage is my favorite, but ordinary green cabbage is good too in this recipe.

I like to make a stuffing using three kinds of ground meat – beef, pork and veal. I also like to use brown rice but feel free to use white rice if you prefer – or even farro. Make sure the rice is cooked and cooled before adding it to the meats. Mix all the ingredients well. Cut out the tough center rib of the cabbage and place some of the stuffing inside the leaf, tucking the excess all around. Place the rolls seam-side down in an oven-proof casserole that’s been spread with some tomato sauce.

Spoon more sauce over the cabbage rolls, along with a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.
Bake for one hour, or until the cabbage rolls are tender. 

The sauce may be too liquidy because the cabbage releases a lot of water. If that happens, remove the rolls from the pan and reduce the liquid in a saucepan. Alternately, if you add more tomato sauce and mix it well with the more-liquidy sauce in the pan, that should thicken it too

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1 1/2 pounds -2 pounds ground meat (I like to use a combination of beef, veal and pork)
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked (I used brown rice, but any kind of rice would work fine)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • one clove minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated, with aa little reserved for sprinkling on the top
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • homemade tomato sauce (about 2 cups)
  1. Place the cabbage in the freezer overnight.
  2. It will be easy to peel the leaves off without having to boil them first.
  3. Peel off the leaves and remove the center, hard rib and discard it (or use it for soup)
  4. Boil the 1/2 cup rice in water as per instructions. (It takes longer and more water to cook brown rice)
  5. Let the rice cool.
  6. Mix the ground meats, the cooled rice, the egg, the cheeses, the parsley and the seasonings.
  7. Place a small amount of stuffing in the center of each cabbage leaf, and roll the leaf around the filling.
  8. Spread a casserole with some tomato sauce, and place the cabbage rolls into it, seam side down.
  9. Fill the casserole completely with the rolls, then cover with tomato sauce, a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, uncovered, then remove the cover and bake another ten minutes.
  11. This will allow some of the liquid from the cabbage to evaporate.
  12. If the sauce is still too liquid, remove the cabbage rolls from the casserole and reduce the sauce over a burner until thickened.
  13. However, sometimes just stirring the liuqidy part of the sauce with the thicker part tin the pan, after you remove the cabbage rolls, will accomplish the same thing.