Italian Nostalgia

When my beautiful sister, Mary, and I were in Italy, we fell in love with a Siena specialty: thick, glutinous noodles called Pici. We also discovered semifreddo; a wonderful "half-frozen" mousse-like custard.

I recreated Cacio E Pepe (Cheese & Pepper) using a variation of the recipe from the linked website, but used the pici noodles that I brought back with me instead of spaghetti noodles.

To accompany, we enjoyed a salad of organic baby arugula, radicchio, Roma tomatoes, crisp celery, walnut halves, quality olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar.

A decadent lemon and amaretti semifreddo topped with raspberry coulis was just the ticket for dessert. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

All of the above dishes were quite easy to put together, but tasted extraordinary.



Vegetable Pot Pie

This recipe might intimidate some for 2 reasons: homemade stock and homemade pie crust. But, never fear! I actually taught myself a lesson tonight... I had always thought of making vegetable stock as a huge endeavor because I've always made it in a large quantity, chopping lots and lots of vegetables, ladling it all out in the end to freeze, etc. I actually meant to purchase stock for tonight's vegetable pot pie, and when I came home realized I had forgotten it. But I'm so glad! Because the result was so much tastier as a result, and I learned that making a small pot of basic vegetable stock is a piece of cake. So, first things first:

For the stock: fill a saucepan with water. Add a cut up onion and some thoroughly washed leek tops, plus a bay leaf and a little salt. That's it. Bring to a boil, then let it gently simmer while you tend to the other business... (by the way it smells *really* good!)

Now, for the pie crust... I happened to have mine on hand because I made quiche the other night and the leftover crust was the entire inspiration for this meal... but if you don't have yours on hand, here's how to make it:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter. Mix egg, water and vinegar. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients. Gently mix, and form into 3-4 balls to chill.

The amount of crust you need for this recipe depends on how big you are making your pot pie, and the dimensions of your dish. I used about 2/3 for an 8" x 14" rectangular glass dish.

With your leftovers, I guess you'll just have to make a quiche. :)

Next step:

Chop up a variety of vegetables.

I used onion, celery, carrot, green beans, peas and red potatoes.

I didn't measure the quantities, but chopped about 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 rib of celery, a big overflowing fistful of green beans and about 7 *small* red potatoes. The peas of course were not chopped, and I think they would have measured to about 3/4 cup.

Saute the vegetables in butter, starting with the onion, celery, and carrot and adding the others after a few minutes. Add some salt and pepper and some Herbes de Provence, and continue to saute for about 10 minutes.

Then add some flour, about 1/3 cup. Cook for a couple of minutes to eliminate raw flour flavor. Then ladle in about 3 cups of the stock. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken the sauce, then pour into to a 9" x 13" or similar sized baking dish.

Now roll out your pie crust.

And lay it over the top of your baking dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve hot, and enjoy!